Apologetics is a critical tool of Christianity that can be used powerfully if understood and applied rightly, and this starts with its relationship to theology. Van Til makes an excellent case for how Theology and Apologetics are often divorced because theology is understood as faith while apologetics is associated with reason. He argues that this is problematic because it inevitably elevates reason and makes it the highest mental standard, which is idolatry.

What should our approach then be?

Instead of divorcing theology and apologetics, both should come out of the text of Scripture. Furthermore, a correct understanding of the body of doctrine that comes out of Scripture, which gives us the fundamental framework of the Biblical worldview, is best defended when our defense, or apologetic, is framed by that doctrine.

It is true that the apologist, like the philosopher, geologist, etc. may not exhaustively use Biblical terms to communicate, but he should be operating from a Biblical worldview because it is the Biblical worldview alone that makes any field understandable. Reason does not make the different fields of life and study understandable because reason itself is dependent upon the Biblical Worldview as the only basis for intelligibility. A remarriage must occur.

As we intertwine apologetics and theology, we must use the most Biblical theology that best exegetes the text, which was best systematized by Calvin, Luther, and others during the Reformation. It is from these doctrines that we gain an acute insight into the nature of man and God. If we dismiss these doctrines, then our assumptions about man and God will be wrong, which will then negate what we are trying to defend or apologia. A Reformed understanding of God and man meets this challenge and propels us in the right direction apologetically.

Truly, man is dead in trespasses and sin. He is wicked and hates God by his very nature; his reason is bound to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Therefore, if we elevate reason as the standard to judge the Bible, then we have already lost the war before we have begun the first battle. By his fallen reason, man will always judge God to be wrong, which is why we must defend and proclaim the gospel as an entire worldview and expose the emptiness of the sinner’s worldview. In this, the unbeliever is called to repent and abandon his worldview because it is fruitless and substantiates nothing.

We are calling sinful man to repent of what he already knows is true; he is in rebellion and needs a Savior. The unbeliever possesses generally revealed truth because Scripture tells us that God is made evident in creation and that man suppresses this truth in unrighteousness, so he is culpable and without excuse or without apologia (which would be a direct translation). We are not convincing him of what he already knows but rather confronting him with what he denies. God is commanding him to repent of what he is suppressing. This moves the playing field from probability to certainty. God is not a strong hypothetical probable; rather, He is the absolutely suppressed certain. Exalting reason makes God probable at best, but our theology informs us that God is certain as man is explained to be suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. Man does not use his reason to be a conscientious objector of the truth; rather, he uses his reason to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Granting man reason without forcing him to substantiate said reason to begin with grants him what he wants: the authority to deny his responsibility to repent and submit to Him Who created him and Who demands his obedience and worship. We must not grant the unbeliever anything he cannot account for when starting from himself, which is nothing.

This is what Paul did in Acts. He commanded men to repent of their sin and suppressed knowledge of God, but he does not leave them hopeless. On the contrary, he then delivers further revelation of God in Christ. They knew they had rebelled against a Holy God as their consciences bore witness against them (Rom 2), yet they needed special revelation to know on Whom to Believe. Paul gave a proclamation of what men must do, and he did so from within and not from without of the Biblical worldview. He exposed what these men already knew they were suppressing concerning the God of Creation, and he then charged them to believe on Him Who is the only One Who can save them from their miserable fallen condition.

Paul did not try to convince sinners of the Biblical God by appealing to their reason. Instead, he used their ingrained knowledge of God that is suppressed to expose them and call them to repentance. This is very powerful, yet it is often overlooked because we have bought into the fallacious philosophy that man can establish truth apart from God. For this reason, we use various evidences to make a case for God and then try to let the unbeliever’s reason be the judge. That is, God and His Word are put on the stand, and human reason is the judge, which is idolatry. Furthermore, man, in his bent against God (including his reason), will always attempt some vain rescuing device. Exposing his ability to account for anything, even his ability to argue anything, eliminates his rescuing devices and leaves him naked and ashamed. He will either repent or continue to mock God with ad hominem attacks (unsubstantiated character attacks like those used at the charade we call the trial of Christ) in spite of his exposed nakedness.

God has already revealed Himself, so man is on trial, and he must make his case, yet he cannot even argue with and against God without stealing from the very God that He hates, for only God Himself is the fountainhead of knowledge, logic, reason, ethics, etc. Apart from Him, one cannot even argue against Him. It is in this exposing of man’s suppression of the truth in unrighteousness, which he already knows, that charges him to repent and believe on Christ for salvation. This is the gospel message by which the Holy Spirit works.

Apologetics is then not some vain attempt to convince the unbeliever to at least believe there is a God. On the contrary, it is an evangelistic proclamation and defense of the Biblical worldview against all other worldviews; it commands men to repent and put all their faith in Christ for eternal life. God is not presented as a hopeful possibility; on the contrary, the Biblical worldview is a train wreck that smashes into the idols of the unbeliever and crushes his puny excuses and pathetic rescuing devices in a vain attempt to reject a Holy Almighty God! Amen!