One of the critiques that I heard from the late Greg L. Bahnsen against other forms of apologetics (those in the non-presuppositional branch) is that they attempt to build a ladder to Jesus, and then once they got an individual to him, they’d throw the ladder away. For a very long time I pondered that statement. But one day the realization kind of hit me between the eyes. Before I tell you what that realization was, perhaps I should explain what he meant by building the ladder to Jesus.

A Caveat…

The evidential or classical Christian apologist uses various arguments that are philosophically, evidence based. Actually, this is true of all Christian apologetic methodologies. All use evidences. All use philosophical argumentation. All attempt to get the person to Christ Jesus.

Motivations and Ignorance…

If that is the actual desire of the person in question, then I cannot fault the individual. They are attempting to do a noble thing. However, while the motivation may be honorable, the method or manner in which they try to point people to Jesus is an ignorant pursuit. Whether it is willful ignorance or accidental, I cannot say without having first spoken to the person in question. But to show I am not being a jerk, please allow me to explain.

How the Argument typically goes…

“Before we get to Christ,” we got to get them to believe “x.” Then after we get them to believe “x” we can move on to “y.” This process goes on until Jesus is in view. The ladder is based on the possibility of an intelligent designer. The trustworthy nature of Scripture. Not necessarily inerrant or infallible, mind you, but good enough for most people to find believable. The pursuit in reaching the gospel is an unidentifiable number of steps. How many depends upon the person to whom the Christian apologist is witnessing.

Eventually, once it has been proved (not a certainty, but a strong possibility) that there is a god, that he is personal, that he has given us a fairly reliable revelation (both inscripturated and natural), and that we are sinners (although restraint will be used with that offensive word!) in need of a savior who has been identified as Jesus of Nazareth. A man that historical, and philosophical evidences show very likely that he died on a Roman cross (he didn’t swoon), arose three days later (no one stole the corpse), as has been testified about as resurrected and ascended by eyewitnesses (his disciples who more than likely didn’t lie for they were willing to die for what they were saying; and, it probably wasn’t an illusion for over 500 shared it). Once the case has been made through evidences and philosophical argumentation to the high probability of Jesus being God in the flesh, making possible the salvation of fallen humanity if they would believe in Him, then the ladder which got them there is no longer needed.

Underlying Problem…

What’s the problem with that approach? Why did Bahnsen mock it? Because it negates the meaning of being a true Christian apologist. There is a ladder that gets us to God the Father—it is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the first rung on the ladder and He is the last. He is the beginning of the journey to God and He is the end of the journey to God—the veritable Alpha and Omega!

The Real Ladder Understood…

The only ladder that the Christian apologist has been authorized to use is the Lord. Before we offer a reasoned defense to anyone who asks about the hope within us, we are called (commanded) to set Christ apart as Holy (1Pet 3.15). Jesus made this clear to His disciples on numerous occasions. He declared that “no one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14.6). He said that “no one knows the Father except if the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Luke 10.22).

We are told in Scripture that “faith [in Christ] comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ [of God]” (Rom 10.17). For God has chosen to speak through “His Son…He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1.3). His Word is the foundation (Matt 7.24) of wisdom and knowledge (Prov 1.7; 9.10; Col 2.3), and this is justified by the children of God (Luke 7.35), who are built upon this blessed cornerstone (Isa 28.16; 1Pet 2.7; also see Deut 32).

The Lord declared that evidences, even fantastic ones would not convince a person if they remained unconvinced by God’s Word (Luke 16.31). For the gospel is a spiritual truth that cannot be discerned by natural means (1Cor 2.14), but only by supernatural means (John 3.3). For it is utter folly to the world, but a demonstration of God’s power to those being saved (1Cor 1.18). And this gospel is not limited to a few select verses or a few books, but the entirety of God’s Word. The whole Bible—Genesis to Revelation—points to Christ so that those who believe might have life (John 5.39-40) by having faith in the one and only Son, without which (faith in Him and His Word), it is impossible to please God (Heb 11.6)

The Ladder of Presuppositional Apologetics…

The presuppositional method of apologetics starts with Christ and ends with Christ. The presuppositional method understands that Christ is the ladder, the first step and the last step. He is the only foundation necessary for faith. And faith is a work of God, the Holy Spirit, an act of unmerited grace and undeserving mercy upon those who are called the children of God. There is no need then to do away with the ladder which leads us to life, for that ladder is our Lord:

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim 2.5; cf. Gen 28.12-13).


Image by Gerd Altmann

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