Don't Be A Hyper-Calvinist When It Comes to Apologetics


The hyper-Calvinist gave one of history's most famous preachers headaches.  Charles Spurgeon was accused of not truly following Reformed doctrine because he evangelized and preached to the lost, which the hyper-Calvinists believed betrayed a mistrust in the Holy Spirit to do its work.

Today, a good decade and change since Christianity Today took note of the growing number of the "Young, Restless and Reformed," I notice a lot of young (or young-ish) Calvinists state they believe in evangelism but rarely get around to it.  I see them huddled together arguing doctrine (or at least playing "Calvin scholar ping-pong" i.e., "but John Frame wrote...""Yes! but Michael Horton wrote..." and so on and so on while they are surrounded by the lost.  

This shadowy hyper-Calvinism extends to the field of apologetics.  Anecdotal as it may be, I cannot count the number of Reformed twenty somethings who can articulate the Gospel better than seasoned church goers but treat apologetics as a waste of time or, even worse, unbiblical. 

Yet, apologetics is firmly Scriptural.  Peter wrote, as translated in the ESV, "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect," (1 Peter 3:15).

In his commentary on this passage, the late New Testament scholar Paul Achtemeier points out "in your hearts honor Christ the Lord" or "set apart" (hagiazo) is a Greek imperative (in other words, a command) and that the rest of the verse points out how to fulfill Jesus' order (keep in mind before anyone sends me a Twitter DM that "Achtemeier was no evangelical!" that D.A. Carson (who is both an evangelical and thoroughly reformed) wrote in his New Testament Commentary Survey that Dr. Achtemeier's work on 1 Peter is first rate!).

Furthermore, I find it troubling that so many contemporary Calvinists who are at least vaguely familiar with the esteemed works of the Puritans, Spurgeon, and on and on, haven't a clue as to the work and impact of Gordon Clark, Cornelius Van Til, Francis Schaeffer, Greg Bahnsen, K. Scott Oliphant, etc.  All were or are first rate Reformed apologists!  

Some are shocked to learn that John Frame has written quite a lot about apologetics.  More are familiar with Dr. James R. White's podcast/online show but few follow him down the presuppositional path while they tacitly admit, like most Christians, that they don't know how to answer basic objections to the Christian faith. 



It is true that, generally speaking, Calvinist apologists conduct their business differently than Classical or Evidential defenders of the faith.  Most Reformed guardians of "the truth once and for all delivered to the saints" are "presuppositional" (more on that later).  But, like any endeavor, the only way to truly get to know the subject is to dive in with both feet.  I heartily recommend that any of my covenantal readers at least go to Youtube and check out "The Great Debate" between the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen vs. atheist professor Dr. Gordon Stein or at least give the excellent talks by Dr. Voddie Baucham at Dallas Theological Seminary a go.  If these peak your interest, spend a little of that tattoo, craft beer, dark roast coffee cash and purchase a good introduction like Dr. Baucham's latest book or the slim volume "Every Thought Captive" by Dr. Richard Pratt. 

I'll expand on how presuppositional apologetics works later and why it is important for both evangelism and for the culture at large, so tune back in soon.  Lord willing, I'll be back.