“This little formula, A is A and if you have A it is not non-A, is the first move in classical logic. If you understand the extent to which this no longer holds sway, you will understand our present situation.” Matt Smith writes in his book, “Reasoning with the Unreasonable: A Biblical Case for Presuppositional Apologetics”. Addressing the challenges that face many apologists today, he believes that ineffective communication is due to a “…culture without a shared epistemology.”
Published in 2001, Matt Smith’s “Reasoning with the Unreasonable” isn’t a terribly recent book. However, at only 88 pages, it’s a short read that really packs a punch and makes you think.
While I don’t consider myself a person who strictly adheres to presuppositional apologetics (I fancy myself as one in the “Classical Apologetics” camp described by R.C. Sproul) Yet, I feel that there is a valid point that many presuppositionalists make and as Smith states in his book, “Undiscussed presuppositions abound, and people tend to talk past one another.” And this book gets down to the brass tacks of that premise.
Smith starts off by saying, “The main challenge of apologetics in this generation is communication. This is largely due to the impossible scenario whereby two opposing views are unable to communicate their idea to one another through any shared epistemological method.”
He goes on to say, “Though there is indeed a disagreement about the ontology of goodness or personhood, the problem is that there are no agreed upon parameters by which to settle the issue. Any discussion about ontology is hampered by an inability to communicate through a shared arena of knowing.”
Reading this, I couldn’t help but think of all the times that I would try to discuss the cumulative case for Christianity with skeptics and felt like we were talking past each other.
Smith goes on to point out:
“When Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, they agreed upon a shared epistemological test to decide the issue. Though there was an ontological confrontation between two world views, there was a shared epistemological methodology set forth to communicate the winner. This is not so in our culture today.”
Ultimately, Smith urges apologists to follow the Apostle Paul’s method in dealing with other worldviews. He implores us to keep in mind the end goal of proclaiming the gospel.
“Athenian philosophers were not putting their own worldview up for discussion. Rather, they seemed to want to hear Paul’s worldview under the rubic of their own presuppositions…Paul did not simply assert his worldview either. Rather, he deconstructed the presuppositions of their worldview, demonstrating their inability to know true truth regarding the ontological nature of God and man, while he showed the superiority of his own worldview and his own epistemology.”
Considering that the book is only 88 pages long, even if you don’t consider yourself a “presuppositional apologist”, it’s still a great book to pick up. It’s always time well spent getting to know the views of other apologists and their methods and Matt Smith’s book, “Reasoning with the Unreasonable” is no exception. There were so many thought-provoking quotes that it was hard to choose which ones to share. While it does delve into some “philosophical” and “academic” language, the concepts are still kept rather accessible. I highly recommend it.