Confession and Apologetics: Modeling Scripture’s Method to its Message

My seminary professor of missions emphasized what is often glossed over when discussing and doing mission work: the Bible not only presents a message but a method of its delivery.[1]  Similarly, the Bible has its own method of apologetics (self-defense) to which we must defer: it presents itself as God’s Self-revelation to be received and accepted on its own authority.

Rather than try and prove the Bible is true before its Messenger could be considered worthy of an audience, we should presuppose that the Truth will speak for Himself and be heard through His Own recorded, gripping, powerful voice.[2]  Greg Bahnsen explains, “ … the message claiming to be from God would have to be its own authority … only God is adequate to bear witness to Himself or to authorize His own words.[3]  Thus Hebrews 6:13 documents how God proved the veracity of His words to Abraham by swearing by Himself, for there is no greater testimony than His own Self-attesting witness.  Robert Reymond points out that to insist on Scripture’s own self-authentication as sole and sufficient grounds for everyone’s believing and obeying it is in no way arrogant: “The presuppositional apologist  … does not believe that he can improve upon the total message that God has commissioned him to give to fallen men.”[4]

The Bible’s own verification of its being God-breathed should be our primary default.  Gordon Clark writes, “The first reason for believing the Bible is inspired is that the Bible claims to be inspired.”[5]  And so we see “Christ’s view of the Bible can very quickly be indicated.  Christ said: It is written!”[6]  A Biblical apologist thus grounds the warrant for his witnessing style in the same manner as the prophets: “Thus saith the Lord!”  Thus is the apostles’ example in Acts.  As Reymond declares, “ … the God of Scripture calls upon human beings to begin with or ‘presuppose’ him in all their thinking (Exod. 20:3; Prov. 1:7).”[7]

This presuppositional apologetic method is alone seen in Scripture and is clearly required in section four of chapter one in the Westminster Confession of Faith:  The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.[8]  This assertion is standard stuff.[9]

The confessions teach us not to try and support the Bible, but share it; not to prove it, but proclaim it.  We ought not invite people to feign autonomy and put God’s Word under a microscope, but instead require them to lay themselves under it and be examined, also presupposing their God-given dependence as well as ability to know when He specially speaks to them.  Clark writes:

“ … revelation is needed as the basis of a rational world-view … constructive thought must presuppose information that has been divinely given … man’s endowment with rationality, his innate ideas and a priori categories, his ability to think and speak were given to him by God for the essential purpose of receiving a verbal revelation, of approaching God in prayer, and of conversing with other men about God and spiritual realities.”[10]

Other presuppositions reflected in this chapter of the Confession are involved: everyone knows they have a Creator and are “left unexcusable” (section 1), yet all need the Holy Spirit’s enabling to savingly hear Him interpret and speak and rule through the Scriptures (sections 5-6, 9-10).

Let us not cater to man’s desire for proof that the Scriptures are the Word of God, for this approach supports a distanced skepticism.  Speak relevant Scriptures while relating “without apology” to foster immediate conviction whether it be pricking or cutting of hearts.  When some cover their ears at hearing Christ by His method, recognize they are getting His message.  Further, to start with or settle for less is unscriptural and irreverent: “… an argument that reduces revelational data to ‘brute data’ pointing at best to the possibility of God’s existence is a totally inadequate, even apostate, argument that Christians should not use or endorse … it is not God who is the felon on trial; men are the felons.  It is not God’s character and word which are questionable; men’s are (Job 40:1, 8; Rom. 3:4; 9:20).”[11]


Grant Van Leuven has been feeding the flock at the Puritan Evangelical Church of America in San Diego, CA, since 2010.  He is the adoring husband of Jennifer Van Leuven and a proud father of their four covenant children: Rachel, Olivia, Abraham, and Isaac.  He earned his M.Div. at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.

[1] Rev. Steven F. Miller, “Theology and Method of Missions”, Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (Pittsburgh, Pa.); see the author’s reflection of this class in a midweek lecture on SermonAudio by the same name here.  (Also relevant for consideration is Jay E. Adam’s argument that method and meaning are inseparable as related to Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) 28:3 in his The Meaning and Mode of Baptism; this author agrees with his assessment).

[2] This is not to rule out Reductio ad absurdum as a Biblical and helpful tool in leading someone to their knees so they will open their ears to Christ.  Indeed, as apologetic instructor Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason Ministries points out, Christians too often let others off the hook of their burden to prove their own assertions against the Bible and Christianity; to benefit from his “Columbo” guidance, see his “Tactics in Defending the Faith” lectures.

[3] Greg Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 1998) , 199.

[4] Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 147.

[5] Gordon H. Clark, God’s Hammer: The Bible And Its Critics, 2d ed. (Jefferson, Md.: The Trinity Foundation, 1987) , 2. See Scripture references for WCF 1:4, such as 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16; and 2 Pet. 1:21.  Clark next highlights how Scripture never contradicts itself (that is, it has no inconsistencies) as the second most important apologetic for divine inspiration, veracity, and authority; WCF 1:5 speaks of this as “the consent of all the parts”.

[6] Ibid, 125.

[7] Reymond, 143.  Read his entire section there in “Why I believe in the God of the Bible”, for an excellent juxtaposition of the ontological apologetic (which he says wrongly tries to prove God into existence) and the empirical apologetic (all versions of which he says are essentially the invalid cosmological argument) with the correct and Scriptural presuppositional apologetic (pp. 131-152). See also the article “Scripturalism” by W. Gary Crampton and anything written by Gordon H. Clark (especially Religion, Reason, and Revelation and God’s Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics) as well as Dr. Clark’s free “Defending the Faith” lectures via The Trinity Foundation.

[8] Underscore, GVL.  One who would aver an evidentialist apologetic would not only look past the method of Scripture’s own witness about itself and God, but would also mistakenly affirm subscription to the WCF in regards to section four of chapter one.

[9] See section 1:1 of The Second Helvetic Confession and Article 5 of The Belgic Confession per Reformed Confessions Harmonized, eds. Joel R. Beeke and Sinclair B. Ferguson (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999) , 10-14.

[10] Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1961) , 111, 135.

[11] Reymond, 140, 146.


Grant Van Leuven