Thomas Aquinas represents Rationalism which propounds that Christianity could be proven by pure logic which includes the theistic arguments for God’s existence: cosmological, teleological, anthropological, and the ontological arguments. These arguments for the existence of God in theory came from Thomas Aquinas. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was a Roman Catholic theologian whose Summa Theologica, was declared by Poe Leo XIII to be the official doctrinal statement of the RCC in 1879. Aquinas was influenced by the Greek philosophy of Aristotle and his famous a posteriori argument from effect to cause. The classical arguments for God’s existence as discussed by Ryrie, in part, follow Aquinas’ famous Five Ways or proofs for God’s existence. Here is a summary of Aquinas’ Five Ways or five rational arguments.
Dr. Bowman has excellent notes entitled A Theological Investigation of Evangelical Apologetics in which he classifies evangelical apologetics into four groups. I would suggest you purchase these notes from our book store. The first group is Rationalism. This is the group in which Aquinas would fit. The three other groups are semi-rationalism, semi-persuppositionalism, and presuppositioalism.
Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways or five rational arguments for the existence of God
The argument from motion: All things in motion need a Mover
The cosmological argument: All effects have a Cause
The argument from contingency: All things exist in dependence
The argument from perfection: There is an increasing degree of perfection among things
The teleological argument: The observable design in the world suggests that there must be an intelligent Designer
Semi-Rationalism is represented by Edward John Carnell, who believes that Christian Evidences are necessary to prepare the sinner for the gospel. When I think of this view, Romans 1:16 comes to my mind where Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.”
Edward John Carnell wrote An Introduction to Christian Apologetics, A Philosophic Defense of the Trinitarian-Theistic Faith and he taught apologetics at Fuller Theological Seminary. Carnell taught that Christian Evidences are necessary to prepare the sinner for the gospel. His methodology for witnessing to a Type B agnostic who sincerely has intellectual problems with Christianity includes the following steps.
First, present evidence, such as archaeological proof, to prepare the sinner for the gospel. According to Carnell you dare not start with the gospel until you have answered all of the intellectual difficulties.
Second, if the sinner is impressed turn to the Scripture.
Third, if the sinner is unimpressed use logic and pure rationalism.
Fourth, if the sinner is still unimpressed, stop and go no further.
When Carnell was a freshman at Wheaton College, under the philosophy teacher Gordon Clark, Carnell stopped witnessing at the street meeting when certain men asked him questions about Christianity which he could not answer. What do you think he should have done?
Semi-Presuppositionalism is similar to the Semi-Rationalism view. Semi-Presuppositionalism has a little more dependence on God than Semi-Rationalism. Semi-Presuppositionalism believes Christian Evidences may be used by God.
Bernard Ramm in his book Protestant Christian Evidence explains: “Apologetics and Christian evidences are not the gospel, but if a man has a prejudice against the gospel it is the function of apologetics and evidences to remove that prejudice” (Bernard Ramm, Protestant Christian Evidence (Chicago: Moody Press, 1953, p. 15). I do not have a problem with God using Christian Evidences or Apologetics to remove the prejudices but God is not limited to Apologetics or Christian Evidences to remove the prejudices.
Lee Strobel in his The Case For Christ interviewed archaeologist John McRay on the role of archaeology in apologetics. McRay’s response was as follows. “Archaeology has made some important contributions, but it certainly can’t prove whether the New Testament is the Word of God” (Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, p.95). Can God use archaeology to enhance the reliability of the New Testament with an unsaved critic? He can! But God is not limited to using archaeology to remove the critic’s prejudice. If God is limited to archaeology in removing prejudices then why did He wait until the 20th century to confirm the Bible through archaeology or other Christian Evidences. This means that 1st century believers did not have such confirmations.
The final category in the Chart of Evangelical Apologetics is Presuppositionalism. This view is represented by Cornelius Van Til, F. F. Bruce, and modern theologians like Dr. Robert Reymond, Dr. John Whitcomb, and Dr. Hoyle Bowman.
Let me start with a few quotes: “Like his first-century predecessors, the apologist of today must confront men with the truth about God – Creator, Provider, Lord of history, Judge of all – and His command to repent” (F. F. Bruce, The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959, p. 48).
“The so-called theistic arguments (ontological, cosmological, teleological) do not really prove the existence of God. One must already be a Christian before these theistic arguments would have any confirming weight” (Hoyle Bowman, A Theological Investigation of Evangelical Apologetics P.B.C. notes, 1970, p. 29).
The Presuppositionalist assumes that God exists (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 14:1; John 1:1; and Heb. 11:6) and has already convinced sinners that He exists. Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”
The Presuppositionalist believes the sinner is totally depraved and totally blind to the gospel (2nd Cor. 4:4a) and only the Spirit of God using “the glorious gospel of Christ” (2nd Cor. 4:4b) can opened satanically blinded eyes.
The Presuppositionalist follows the example of Paul in Acts 14:1-18 at Lystra with the unsaved pagans.
1. Paul first preached the gospel and not a rationalistic argument (14:7).
2. Paul assumes they believe in the existence of a higher being (14:15).
3. Paul’s apologetics started with special revelation in verses 15-17 which allude to Gen. 8:22; Ps. 4:7; and Isa. 25:6.