Andy Stanley vs Jeff Durbin debate on "unbelievable"

All evidentialists use presuppositions and all presuppositionalists use evidence. The main presuppositionalist argument is we do not allow the hard hearted, dark in their own understanding, rebel unbeliever to be the judge of God while stealing from God; whereas evidentialist present evidences with the understanding that the unregenerate sinner has the capacity and the willingness to examine the facts with fairness, which Romans 1 rejects.
As for Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses etc… It is a myth that presuppositional apologetics doesn’t work on theistic religions or that the Quran, book of Mormon are on the same footing with the bible. Dr. Greg Bahnsen can attest to that. The Quran and the book of Mormon contradict themselves. The bible does not.

(Proverbs 2:6-8) “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who…”

(Colossians 2:3) "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…”

I don’t know about Durbin, but van Till simply took the noetic affects of sin too far. “You can’t reason with an unbeliever because his/her mind is too stained by sin to think rightly about God or the Bible.”

Edit: Put the last sentence in quotes because it represents van Till’s thinking, not my own.

No further than what the bible says.

(Ephesian 4:18) “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”

If you follow Wookin_Panub’s posts you will see the connection. Cornelius van Till is the philosophical root to presuppositional apologetics. Greg Bahnsen was his most well known disciple, and most probably Durbin learned it from Bahnsen.

Very astute!

Van Til is a hard read for many. I think it is because of the German way of communicating, (yes, I know he was Dutch) which has resulted in a lot of confusion, creating different forms of Presuppositional apologetics aka “Covenantal Apolegetics”

Hey, wait, you want me to do what??? haha.

I’ve read some van Till (he’s not as bad as Heidegger) and John Frame’s version of van Till. I’m aware of Bahnsen but had never heard of Durbin, so I didn’t want to put words in his mouth.

Heh! I resemble that remark :slight_smile:

Andy Stanley’s heart is in the right place but misguided, and in serious error. His doctrine is driven on the basis is that we do not need the bible in order to validate Christianity therefore people’s faith do not have to wobble on issues like creation, the flood, wall of Jericho, homosexuality etc… or as seminaries like to put it, “tensions”, because they are just to embarrassing to deal with. Andy is embarrassed by the bible, which is why he is trying so hard to diminish it’s value in Christendom in order that he could build a strong Christian foundation that does not need to stand on “ancient texts” because, if the text (Genesis) are proven wrong by science etc… then Christianity is merely a house of cards, but Andy Stanley’s foundation is hollow, because what he sought out to do is doing the exact opposite. He is in fact gutting the Christian foundation.

Thanks for tightening up your argument. I can follow it better.

Presuppositional apologetics has its place, for sure. Just as evidentialist apologetics does. Frankly, I have never met anyone drawn to faith purely by presuppositional apologetics. I am not saying no one can be drawn to faith, via presuppositionalism. I just do not know anyone who has been. I do not find it very compelling. Whereas I know plenty of folks, for whom evidentialism has been the initial tool that God sovereignly used to lead them to the Lord.

My main concern is the exegesis of Romans 1, that I often hear in presuppositional circles. It just is not very coherent to me. For years, I have been trying to wrap my head around the “presuppositional” exegesis of Romans 1:20-21: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

OK. So the presuppositional camp gets it correct that “their foolish hearts were darkened,” as the explanation as to why they reject the evidence. Can we at least agree together on that??

But the evidence that Paul speaks about, which has "been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.*… This all comes from Creation, and NOT from the Torah.

Paul is addressing the pagan mind. He does not address the Jewish mind until Romans 2, regarding those who know the Law.

Paul clearly has a natural theology in view, that is accessible via a common grace, available to believer and non-believer alike. This would include the Stanley/William-Lane-Craig/FrankTurek project of laying out the evidence for the Resurrection, that all can see. What I do not get about van Till’s project, that Bahnsen took up, and that folks like James White and Jeff Durbin promote today, is that I do not see a coherent theology of common grace, grounded in the Scriptures. It just all seems like question-begging to me, going round-and-round-and-round in a circle. Nothing linear. Nothing sequential. Perhaps I just have to read more van Till, but I am really stuck on how they get from Romans 1 to the full blown presuppositionalist program.

A good way to summarize my concerns, is from evidentialist Paul Copan:

Presuppositionalist Scott Oliphint answers Copan’s concerns, but I confess, I still do not get it:

The crazy thing is that when folks like James White and Jeff Durbin go into evidentialist mode, which does happen, from time to time, as when James White defends modern Bible translation philosophy against the KJV-Onlyists, they are great! But then they just fall back on Bahnsen, as fast as they can, when they get into trouble, which just astounds me.

I find that their approach, in general, to secular non-believers, simply manages to tick people off prematurely. They blow up bridges unnecessarily, before they even get a chance of being built. Whether it is real or perceived, this approach makes Christians seem really arrogant, which does not appear to reflect the examples of witness in the New Testament.

Andy Stanley just wants to give folks a bridge, trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit to draw them across, to get to the other side. Stanley has some missteps in his argument, as I can readily admit, as found in Irresistible, but it seems to me sufficient to give him the benefit of the doubt, that he is trying to prod Christians in a better way, so that they can better love their neighbors, families, and friends, with the Gospel.

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I appreciate that you say that Stanley’s heart is in the right place. I think that Durbin’s is, too.

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I aim to please

Presuppositional apologetics has its place, for sure. Just as evidentialist apologetics does. Frankly, I have never met anyone drawn to faith purely by presuppositional apologetics. I am not saying no one can be drawn to faith, via presuppositionalism. I just do not know anyone who has been. I do not find it very compelling. Whereas I know plenty of folks, for whom evidentialism has been the initial tool that God sovereignly used to lead them to the Lord.

I, myself use to be an evidentialist, I deluded myself into believing if I can argue for A god, and not THE God, then the unbeliever would be able to make the connection and become a Christian, but after Anthony Flew, everything changed for me. When Anthony Flew announced that he was no longer an Atheist but a Theist based on the overwhelming evidence for the existence of God. It dawned on me that Flew was in hell, and no amount of evidence is going to sway any rebel sinner into Christianity.

Evidentialism IMO is not a Christian apologetic, because the apologist is not arguing for the Christian faith, just the existence of A god. They are Theistic apologists.

Presuppositionalism constantly points to the Christian faith by arguing that all wisdom and knowledge come from; not A God but only the Judeo-Christian God.

Evidentialist allows the hardhearted rebel sinner to be the judge of God’s existence, sovereignty etc… while scripture is clear that everyone is without excuse of knowing whether God exist. The evidentialist allows the unbeliever to have (the myth of) “neutral ground” in debate even though scripture says, “do not answer a fool according to their folly”

Presuppositionalism is a powerful apologetic, because it gives the unbeliever zero wiggle room. The unbeliever is cut off at his knees, because they are made to realize that they are stealing from God, standing on Judeo-Christian biblical worldview all the while denying Him.

The evidentialist tends to compartmentalize the evidence, theology, epistemology, philosophy etc…

The presuppositionalist makes an intertwined presentation driven by a mantra, “our theology drives our apologetics”
I love presuppositional apologetics, because it is God honoring. It defends and yet proclaims. That is not to say that it doesn’t have problems, mainly that like the evidentialist. Presuppositionalism tends to point to God, but not Jesus. I am still waiting for a Christ centered apologetic.

My main concern is the exegesis of Romans 1, that I often hear in presuppositional circles. It just is not very coherent to me. For years, I have been trying to wrap my head around the “presuppositional” exegesis of Romans 1:20-21: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

With respect, but why would you need to exegete Romans 1:20-21? Isn’t this self explanatory?

OK. So the presuppositional camp gets it correct that “their foolish hearts were darkened,” as the explanation as to why they reject the evidence. Can we at least agree together on that??

Most definitely!

But the evidence that Paul speaks about, which has "been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.*… This all comes from Creation, and NOT from the Torah.

Call me stupid. Isn’t the Torah the Old Testament and Genesis (creation) is in the Old Testament? I am not following?

Paul is addressing the pagan mind. He does not address the Jewish mind until Romans 2, regarding those who know the Law.

Paul clearly has a natural theology in view, that is accessible via a common grace, available to believer and non-believer alike. This would include the Stanley/William-Lane-Craig/FrankTurek project of laying out the evidence for the Resurrection, that all can see. What I do not get about van Till’s project, that Bahnsen took up, and that folks like James White and Jeff Durbin promote today, is that I do not see a coherent theology of common grace, grounded in the Scriptures. It just all seems like question-begging to me, going round-and-round-and-round in a circle. Nothing linear. Nothing sequential. Perhaps I just have to read more van Till, but I am really stuck on how they get from Romans 1 to the full blown presuppositionalist program.

That is a really good observation, and I must admit that it threw me. I love to see new things.
I believe the problem here is synergism vs monergism. The synergist focus is on what you call “common grace” (the believer) and the monergist focus is on God’s sovereignty. You are looking at Presuppositionalism through a synergistic lens, ergo, disjointed and circular.
Now, I love William Lane Craig and Frank Turek, but they are philosophers first and theologians second. William Lane Craig and Frank Turek buy into molonism, and while philosophical certainly isn’t biblical. Evidentialists tend not to be very good exegetes. James White and Durbin follow the mantra “our theology drives our apologetics”
I found it interesting that you believe that Presuppositional apologetic is circular, and you know what? You are right. But presuppositionalism exposes the truth that we cannot escape circular logic. God, himself cannot escape circular logic, because He is the highest authority, so when He says something is right, then if asked, why is he right? The answer is that He is God. What presuppositionalism tries to explain is that there are degrees of circular logic. The unbeliever leaning on his or her own understanding is in, what we call “a vicious circle”

A good way to summarize my concerns, is from evidentialist Paul Copan:

The Gospel Coalition

Questioning Presuppositionalism
Professor Paul Copan shares his concerns about Presuppositionalism as a viable option for a method of apologetics.

Presuppositionalist Scott Oliphint answers Copan’s concerns, but I confess, I still do not get it:

The Gospel Coalition

Answering Objections to Presuppositionalism
K. Scott Oliphint responds briefly to Paul Copan’s concerns about Presuppositionalism as an apologetic methodology.

There is a prejudicial bias developing as a result of most evangelical seminaries racing to engage a growing secular world on “neutral ground” and the weapon used is philosophy, a philosophy purged of the Christian bible, tradition etc… and presuppositionalism falls under that category. In seminaries today, if you even try to combine philosophy with scripture, you would be laughed at.
Furthermore presuppositionalism was constructed from a system of interpreting scripture. Van Til was a reformer, Bahnsen was a reformer, James White is a reformer, Durbin is a reformer. Seeing a pattern?
Believers that are Arminians, Semi-pelagianists etc… do not get it, because their understanding of scripture runs contrary to presuppositional apologetics construct. I, myself grew up an Arminian (Pentecostal) and I basically had to unlearn 70% of what I grew up with when I became a Calvinist, albeit, there are a few Arminians who actually use it, and yet fully reject Calvinism, which makes me scratch my head.
On the flip side. One of our great reformed soldiers of the faith, who went to be with the Lord Dr. R.C. Sproul detested presuppositional apologetics. I believe his love for Aquinas blinded him to it.

The crazy thing is that when folks like James White and Jeff Durbin go into evidentialist mode, which does happen, from time to time, as when James White defends modern Bible translation philosophy against the KJV-Onlyists, they are great! But then they just fall back on Bahnsen, as fast as they can, when they get into trouble, which just astounds me.

They do not go into evidentialist mode. They use evidence, which we all do.
The funny thing is that when you are immersed in presuppositionalim, you can never turn it off. I find myself using it even in politics, and I believe it is the same for White and Durbin. So when you say that they run to it when they get into trouble. Maybe, you just missing the subtle presuppositional parts in their debates

I find that their approach, in general, to secular non-believers, simply manages to tick people off prematurely. They blow up bridges unnecessarily, before they even get a chance of being built. Whether it is real or perceived, this approach makes Christians seem really arrogant, which does not appear to reflect the examples of witness in the New Testament.

I do not know if that is fair. I have seen people not get angry at presuppositionalists, I have seen people get angry at evidentialists, even Ray Comfort, one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. The bible is clear that we are to be gentle, respectful, civil in defending the faith. Is it the method or the message that ticks them off? One must wonder how much of it is the Holy Spirit convicting them. The bibles says, that all men are born hating God.

Andy Stanley just wants to give folks a bridge, trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit to draw them across, to get to the other side. Stanley has some missteps in his argument, as I can readily admit, as found in Irresistible, but it seems to me sufficient to give him the benefit of the doubt, that he is trying to prod Christians in a better way, so that they can better love their neighbors, families, and friends, with the Gospel.

I get that and I can appreciate that, but we Christians can be unbalanced and scripture through the work of Holy Spirit brings us into balance. Andy is too much about love, love, love, and to be fair there are other Christians are just about truth, truth, truth. We must find a way to combine them both, and in order to do that we must have the whole council of God. Andy is just trying to make the Christian faith more palatable to believers and non-believers alike, but in doing so he is hiding the truth, and in a sense. He is lying to the very ones he is trying to help.

WOWEEEE!!! I must really like you, because I haven’t typed this much in years. God bless my brother God bless!! :sweat:

I love Andy. He is my pastor’s son? :grinning:

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I do not see the need to offer a rejoinder, other than to say that I am glad to hear that you feel comfortable with engaging on these important matters, at such a great length. It is more important to win hearts than it is to win arguments.

God bless you, too, my brother!!!

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I had a similar reaction when I read Van Til’s, “Why I believe in God.” I read it. I read it again, and still didn’t exactly understand it.

I register my agreement there, absolutely. This is the reason I “lean” presuppositionalist, and seriously approach people with a presuppositionalist’s presupposition… that the unbeliever that I engage will not see the truth unless they want to.

The scripture that is overwhelming to me personal,y in this regard is from the Lazarus parable…

They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

And even Lazarus own resurrection, that some of the Jewish leaders did not seem able to refute, did not lead them toward belief…!

From this, I totally get why we cannot simply offer evidences without dealing with the blind and darkened heart.

And the evidence of the resurrection used in different places. And Paul’s own testimony… wherein God saw Paul converted not by having someone tell him to trust the Scripture, but by giving him an experience of evidence to his senses. Or Jesus giving proofs of his resurrection in Acts 1:3… why did he not just have prophets tell people to believe the Bible? Why resort to “evidences”?

Personally, I like Kierkegaard’s take when it comes the balance of evidence and dealing with presuppositional belief (though he wouldn’t have used those terms), he sounds a lot like where I find myself… totally acknowledging the problem in the human heart, and that ultimately it is a question of moral choice involved… but a moral choice made in relation to some kind of evidence… his quote below was his exposition of Mt 11:6, where John asks if Jesus is the one, and Jesus responds by pointing to evidences, But adds, “blessed is he who is not offended…” Kierkegaard focused on the “presuppositional” element, i.e., the personal choice to commit to Christ’s claims… but recognized that this choice was made necesssry due to the evidences presented…

In Christendom, there has been a different practice. There those enormous folios have been written that develop the demonstrations of the truth of Christianity. Behind these, the demonstrations and folios, we feel perfectly convinced ourselves and secure against all attack, because every demonstration and every folio end with: ergo, Christ was the one he claimed to be. By means of the demonstrations it is just as certain as 2+2 = 4 and as easy as putting one’s foot in a sock. With this irrefutable “ergo“ which directly clarifies the matter, the assistant professor and preacher bid defiance, and the missionary confidently goes forth to convert the heathen with the aid of this “ergo.“ But not Christ! He does not say: ergo I am the expected one; he says, after having referred to the demonstrations: blessed is he who is not offended at me. That is, he himself makes it clear that in relation to him there can be no question of any demonstrating, that we do not come to him by means of demonstrations, that there is no direct transition to becoming Christian, the demonstrations can at best serve to make a person aware, so that made aware he can now come to the point: whether he will believe or he will be offended… You see something inexplicable, miraculous (but no more); he himself says that it is a miracle – and you see before your eyes and individual human being. The miracle can demonstrate nothing, or if you do not believe him to be who he says he is, then you deny the miracle. The miracle can make aware – now you are in the tension and it depends upon what you choose, offense or faith; it is your heart that must be disclosed.

Andy Stanley’s error is a result of man questioning the word of God. It is a result of man being afraid of man rather than God. Placing man’s authority over God but all the while claiming that they do not do that. When you do not use the whole council of God, it doesn’t make sense. Everything becomes incoherent, and yes, that includes the resurrection.

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@Wookin_Panub, or any of you in this thread who took an interest in the Stanley / Durbin exchange here, you should find this interview of interest. It is a “Word on Fire” interview with Catholic Bishop Robert Barron from just a couple days ago. He doesn’t mention Stanley, but he speaks of things that critics of Stanley would resonate with.

I have a lot of respect for Bishop Barron, so even while my inclinations still lie more on Stanley’s side, the Bishop has nonetheless given me more to think about on this.

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Interesting take from Rome’s perspective. I, myself do not like the terms “Judaizing” nor “Re-Judaizing”
My camp argues the sufficiency and the authority of scripture.