Covenantal Apologetics by K. Scott Oliphint

The book is Covenantal Apologetics by K. Scott Oliphint. I read the 2013 Crossway paperback edition. I read it in the summer of 2020. 

I read this because I want to learn more about presuppositional apologetics. But as Oliphint says, we should call it covenantal apologetics. I first learned about this form of Christian apologetics from Jeff Durbin from the Apologia podcast. Covenantal apologetics is a more faithful apologetic. It starts with the presupposition that the God of the Bible exists which we all know by our own existence and the created world around us. Then it reasons out from there. It’s more faithful because it doesn’t argue like the pagans. The pagans presuppose that there is no God and then reason out from that view. Everyone upon being created by God has been brought into a covenant with God, and that comes with certain obligations to God. God has revealed himself to all men so we all know he exists and are without excuse for not believing (Romans 1:20) This covenant is what we appeal to when arguing for the existence of God. 

I actually got to speak with K. Scott Oliphint about his book. A friend of mine is his niece so she set up a little interview. Pretty cool.

Presuppositionalism began with Cornelius Van Til back in the 1920s. As Oliphint writes, 

“Van Til said at least two things about the right kind of argument. First, there is no neutrality. You cannot ‘prove’ the gospel simply by appealing to evidence or to some sort of logical demonstration, however sophisticated. Unless you embed evidence and logic in a framework that has authority, you have, in effect, sold the farm…the second thing, however, is that we may indeed build bridges to the unbeliever. Because unbelievers know God and have the sense of deity in them, we can appeal to that consciousness.”

One thing I greatly appreciated from Oliphint’s book is how he explains that everyone argues from their presuppositions. So that means everyone argues “circularly.” It’s just a matter of which circle you prefer to start with, which presupposition you start with. For example, if you asked an atheist, naturalist, materialist, why human reason is the best way to discover truth, he’d give you a bunch of reasons. Also, if you asked him why the scientific method is the best way to assess evidence, he’d have to show evidence as to why the scientific method is the best way to assess evidence. And around and around we go. 

Oliphint explains why covenantal apologetic is the more faithful apologetic. 

“In our defense of Christianity, we are successful to the extent that what we say comports with what God has said in his Word. Our goal in a covenantal apologetic cannot be the conversion of those to whom we speak. That is a goal that we cannot accomplish. It is our prayer; but should not be our goal. Rather our goal is to communicate, as persuasively as we are able, the truth of God himself, as that truth finds its focus in the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.”

It argues from the truth that God’s Word reveals to us. Evidential or philosophical apologetics teaches you how to dodge bullets. Presuppositional or covenantal apologetics teaches you how to disarm your opponent. 

There really wasn’t anything I disliked about this book. Maybe it is a tad “heady” or academic. 

If you like studying apologetics and defending the Christian faith, I highly recommend this book. It will teach you a more faithful way to share Christ with people. What we win people with, is what we win them to. If we invite people to Christ with godless or unbiblical argumentation, we’ve not actually won them to God or the Bible. 

I definitely recommend Oliphint over the works of William Lane Craig or Frank Turek. I’d also recommend the works of Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen.

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