SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE and the Apologetic Method

Sye Ten Bruggencate

As I become more familiar with different apologists on the internet and watch them on You Tube, I learn what to do and what not to do. Sye Ten Bruggencate teaches me both. Its interesting how Sye really cages in his hosts and virtually stone-walls his dissenters by calling upon them to scale an epistemic wall that is impossible for them to do. His method is to call into question their inadequate epistemology and then demand them to abandon that tool or at least attempt get them to call ‘uncle’. The ‘pin’ is when he refuses to acknowledge their assumptions about ‘knowledge’ or ‘truth’ and demand via a (verbal stone-walling) as I call it; that only when they abandon their own presumptions about knowledge or truth can they be allowed to judge Sye’s claims about Christianity. I believe Sye wants to offer the planking necessary to build a new belief-platform, but I’ve not heard any of his debates get that far.

A couple of things to note:

1. I agree with Sye that the unbelieving mind cannot rightly judge the things of God, God himself or Spiritual things because they cannot know them.

2. I agree with Sye that the unbeliever must use the borrowed tools of Christianity or ‘from a world where an Almighty God exists’ in order to attack Christianity.

3. I agree with Sye that unbelievers have an unbridgeable gap between their assumptions of truth and knowledge and the ‘rightness’ of their criteria using their own personal epistemology based upon human autonomy.

4. I agree with Sye that unbelievers are not honest with themselves, nor have they adequately thought through what he asks them, nor do they fairly permit any other criteria that is not based upon skepticism and human autonomy.

There is no doubt much more we may also agree upon. Nevertheless I do have some things I do not feel is conducive to good apologetics. I think as Sye leads his hosts and debaters into this stone-wall it creates more frustration, and hence a rejection of Sye’s position rather than inviting them to consider it…even when Sye’s reasoning has truly stopped them in their tracks, I just don’t see Jesus leading his people into frustration.

I’ll just get to the point. As I see it, Jesus brings people to the end of themselves by revealing to their minds the truth that they have failed themselves, God and His word. But the gospel invite remains ever so bright and clear without any insinuation that their present state of mind must be re-worked first before they believe.

In short, its not a pre-salvation revamp of epistemology that gets the unbeliever to validate the Christian’s claims. What epistemic-revamp that does occur takes place in the transformed mind subsequent to salvation whereby the new believer can piece together the revelation of God and the world he lives in and begin to make sense of it.

Presuppositionalism is not about demanding the unbeliever to change his mind before he can make judgments. Yes, I understand what Sye is getting at, that folks like AronRa will publicly attempt to beat down Christianity with cat-tails and Sye is trying to show everyone atheism beats upon the anvil of God’s word with daffodil stems. For Sye and every other biblical apologist recognize the atheist attempts are worse than vain, they are ruining their own souls in the process.

It appears to me that the salvation of God comes to us, not because the abstractions of epistemology have been corrected, but because the person himself believes the claims of the person of Christ will forgive, love and accept them. Its personal not abstract reasons that convince. In saying this, I do not in anyway want to suggest God doesn’t have myriads of ways to work on the minds and hearts of people and God can use Sye’s method all he wants and get glory from it. Nevertheless there are things that red-flag in me and appear contradictory to sound evangelism/apologetics.

I don’t see that Sye is accomplishing the goal of evangelism. Apologetics is only a tool in which to conduct evangelism under another method. Though I can cheer on Sye when he stops the arrogant atheist debater…I am saddened the atheist walks away not feeling engaged but stone-walled, not challenged to consider Christ but challenged to re-work his belief-platform without the planks of God’s word to build with.

In all fairness and love towards my brother Sye Ten Bruggencate, I offer this critique for myself first, then for him and any others using his methodology. We as brothers and sisters in Christ are in this battle together, my admonitions are for edification and help.


Scientism an unsatisfying and unreasonable account of everything

This is a well done short article written by hertzsprung2012 dealing with the failings of Scientism. Those who endorse scientism are rarely ever able to defend it, but they sure do claim its the answer-all. Its a short read and worth the time.

52 Tips for Apologists

Just a word or two about Apologetics 315. This website is one of the best, I go there often to read up on many issues within Christian Apologetics. It hosts a wide variety of Apologists and Theological positions so you will probably find something there to your liking. This website is a deep mine and if you spend some time there it will yield an abundance of help to you. 

52 Tips for Apologists

by Brian Auten


52-tips-for-apologistsThis month marks 5 years of blogging at Apologetics 315. With that in mind, I went back to review a guest post I did with Cloud of Witnesses three years ago to see if the advice I offered then still sounded good to me. The question was: “What advice do you have for those who want to learn more about apologetics?  What kinds of attitudes and character traits should Christians adopt as they use apologetics in conversations with skeptics?”
Here’s was my answer, in 52 Tips for Apologists:
As a learner myself, I am on the lookout for good advice for learning more. My advice to others would vary depending on how involved in apologetics someone wants to get. It is such a wide subject, dealing with theology, philosophy, history, textual criticism, science, culture, evangelism, etc. Everyone is going to have a different level or area of interest, so my advice here is for those who want to learn as much as they can on the subject. Here are the things that I would have told me when I first got interested in apologetics:
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1. Be first a person of prayer with a goal to know the Lord.
2. Be a continual reader.
3. Know both sides of the issues.
4. Listen to as many good lectures as possible.
5. Listen to every debate you can get your hands on.
6. Learn from the best debaters.
7. Learn from the worst debaters. (what not to do)
8. Find a mentor if you can.
9. Apologetics is not a boxing match; it’s walking along side another in dialogue.
10. You’re not in it to win arguments; you are in it to win people.
11. Be mindful of your spiritual life above your apologetics studies.
12. Allow your apologetics studies to be worship unto the Lord.
13. Your wife doesn’t want to hear about your online debates.
14. Don’t talk about apologetics at the dinner table, unless you are with apologetics buddies.
15. Find like-minded friends to fellowship with and reflect on apologetic issues…
This is a repost from Brian Auten’s website Apologetics 315.

Is Testimony a real Apologetic?


I’ve been told by successful apologists that testimony is a weak and subjective method to offer the skeptic reasons to believe. Further, it’s devoid of a good argument used to prove God, Jesus Christ or the validity of Christianity. It seems obvious to the apologist that because the skeptic dis-believes all religions equally and holds human testimony as personal preference that method has no reward.  So, the apologist abandons testimony because of the skeptic and of course other apologists are using the logic-track as their method, the intuitive thing to do is presume testimony is off the table. Relational Apologetic is poo-pooed and testimony has become irrelevant. The more I look at this subject the more interesting it becomes.  Things do not progress with the skeptic and agnostic like we believe they should…seeing the apologist has accommodated himself to the mindset of the skeptic. As I look deeper into the needs of the skeptic and unbeliever I find all the signs that they need relationship, they need a human-story to relate to that opens the door to inviting in another person. Not just any person, but a person of faith.

Well, it seems the apologist should take a tip from Joshua, for the walls to come down we must circle the city. I’ve been on a circular journey of leaving testimony to prove apologetically the things of God by taking the path of logic, evidence, philosophy, argument and theories; after lengthy study, I am striving to master these, or at least attempt to gain a solid grasp of these methods of delivering truth and reason, I’m trying to get in the zone so to speak. Yet the biblical apologist now sits down and begins to read the scriptures and listen to Christ speak in the gospels; the astute apologist recommends that we look carefully at the apologetics of Christ that offered no syllogism and no advanced philosophical jargon; instead, narrative and ontological challenges to their preconceived ideas. Christ speaks from the authority of scripture paired with the existence and watchful eye of his Heavenly Father.

What then? Why the very idea of testimony becomes more relevant than ever and suddenly the apologist has recovered its value because it’s relational to the hearer. So after a long dutiful journey into discovering apologetics, all of the above logic, evidence, philosophy and argument really only prepare the apologist to speak confidently in relational terms to the unbeliever. In short all of the acquired knowledge is needed to shore up the in-confident speaker; the unbelieving listener need not know or understand the depth of knowledge the apologist has.  It’s credibility not credential where grace is given. Fortunately the grace of God brings wisdom, having been instilled by the Holy Spirit to equip the apologist to engage relationally a person who is as far away from you logically, philosophically and biblically as one can get. The sinner is dead spiritually, the Apologist is alive in Christ.

This I believe is a good insight; equipped to engage relationally instead of engaging academically alone. It’s the constant pitfall of the apologist to be argument-centered in his thinking. Now in all fairness remember many times the apologist is engaging someone who is antagonistic to him and has no interest in befriending the apologist. I think we apologists understand this because the undercurrent of dis-similar worldviews denote opposition and mentally causes the drawing of the proverbial line in the sand and dares each other to step over.

So, where do relational apologetics begin to come into play? It comes into play when the apologist determines how he is going to engage the skeptic. Either from the outset of the discussion or at some point later, the apologist makes the move to care for the person, not just for the ‘truth’ that he is attempting to express; now there is much written on this subject so I won’t digress into it. But my input along these lines considers the human interaction.

I believe Christ considered the human interaction because His Father considers all things, the depth of God’s understanding is beyond our comprehension, yet within that consideration is care for the human condition. Jesus knows humanly and divinely the depth of sins destruction within the psyche of people. Jesus engaged argument and excuses because behind it is a person using those things to hide from God. He was after them, the victory of divine truth over human confusion is so vast it’s not worthy of debate. But to the Christian apologist coming out of a world of lies and deceptions it’s not bare fact it’s an increase of faith. The Christian apologist is escaping the lies of the world and learning to tell the truth in a myriad of new ways. The central focus of the Christian worldview can get lost in philosophy, truth, evidence and more; but I am seeking to remember Christ is the central focus. My apologetics must not be compartmentalized into a specialized format where it morphs into high-resolution explanation of all things apologetic. My Christianity is my apologetic to everyone listening and watching.

So I end up coming full circle, I am back to a starting point where I was as a young Christian with no apologetic knowledge at all. All I had was a testimony and short list of scripture I knew. But now after all this time I have arrived at testimony again; I am back with a full arsenal of academics, wisdom, knowledge and I’ve picked up along the way patience, long-suffering, love, kindness, gentleness, perseverance and compassion. But what is the real improvement? Is it academic knowledge? Yes I have that. Is it maturity in the faith? Yes I have a small piece of that. But more than all of that I have the ability to forget myself, to concentrate upon the person I’m engaged in discussion. I need not concern myself with winning; I’ve already won in faith and prayer and stand an overcomer in Christ. Now I come to do battle, for the souls of men I resist deceptions, because of compassion I patiently endure abuse, for loves sake I attempt to represent Christ to those who cannot see him in anything.

My prayer is that God opens their eyes to see Him. It’s not about me and my apologetics, it’s not about the war of words, it’s not about the terrible things the Atheist would do to Christians or the bible; it’s about being Spirit-led as a man of God who for the sake of Jesus Christ employs apologetics to win to him more worshippers.  Are these grandiose words? Yes they are and more than I can do alone, I count upon Christ to work in me these things I’ve stated. By faith I am a usable apologist to Jesus Christ.

It must be remembered as well that to do what I am suggesting is to become far too Christian for some Christians to endure. For the Atheist, agnostic and skeptic I cannot be too Christian. It may be that for the first time they get to see one in the flesh, not just hear about a hero of faith who died a martyr.

The final fine-tuning must be done by the Spirit of God, whereby the fruits of the Spirit manifest along with academic knowledge. The pairing of this apologetic knowledge and spiritual fruit delivers truth and love together the way Jesus did it. May the Spirit of God lead us into Christ-likeness being conformed into his image and bearing his fruit for the glory and praise of God.

Marvin Torgeson

Tactics by Greg Koukl Book Review


TACTICS  a game plan for discussing your Christian convictions
Publisher Zondervan 207 pages.
Gregory Koukl MA. Apologetics, Philosophy

Greg Koukl wrote a well done manual on how to engage people without turning the encounter into what he calls D-Day. The first couple chapters deal with getting Christians to realize debate, arguing, reasoning about someones beliefs that are opposed to theirs is not a bad thing. Greg tries to get the Christian away from fears and anxiety about flubbing the whole encounter and embarrassing themselves. I believe he does this by what comes next in Chapter 3 the Columbo tactic. Many of our young apologists will not remember Lt. Columbo from the TV series. It might even be worth the time to YouTube or Netflix an episode or two and see what Greg is talking about regarding the manner which Lt. Columbo uses to engage suspects.

Greg wants other Christians to chose his ‘modest goal’ that is to simply put a ‘stone in the shoe’; meaning he wants to get them thinking about their own failed views and think about why Christianity is defeating them.  Chapter 2 on Reservations deals with many of the mis-givings Christians have about engaging the non-believers outside of a few bible quotes. Greg does well to throw down that kind of pseudo-spirituality in my opinion.
One of the most important tactics is to engage people without making them angry. Seek to speak in such tones and ask questions in such ways that pulls down the chances the Christian might offend. The truth itself is offensive to the carnal mind and there is no way around that, but Greg is training us to engage people so that ‘we’ are not offensive.

Almost a third of the book is dedicated to the first portion of the game plan. The Columbo tactic is the primary way in which Greg engages people. He moves through getting in the drivers seat which helps you get control of the conversation. Afterwards he deals with burden of proof so that the unbeliever must carry his burden of proof openly rather than hiding them in assumptions. Leading the way is another section that will help you guide people to understand that hidden assumptions cannot shield them from truth.

Asking questions and learning about what the other person knows and affirms and what proof they have for their knowledge helps you to engage the person at their level, discussing things they claim to know. This is what is called drawing-them-out into the open. The heart of good apologetics is getting the non-Christian or dissenting Christian to voice their opinions with clarity. It gives us the opportunity to learn something we didn’t know as well as recognize flaws that are fatal to their truth-claims. Perfecting Columbo is a great chapter on how to deal with someone who is versed in questioning like you are. Greg helps us here to avoid getting stuck and put into a corner and forced to answer questions that lead into an ambush.

The second section deals with recognizing the fatal flaws in a persons argument. Greg spends the remainder of the book dealing with Suicide views, Greg goes through a comical section explaining the way suicide views work and if were honest we get shot down ourselves because we have all made this same kind of error.
There are many suicidal views that appear from other religions, science, philosophy, logic. All of these take the form of arguments against Christianity or Christ and Greg helps us to spot the form of them and turn these flaws against the dissenters. Taking the roof off is one of my favorites, Greg calls it reductio ad absurdum
it means reducing the argument to absurdity. The whole point is not to embarrass or demean the person, but to get them to recognize their flaws and how it is the Christian perspective is a better approach. Greg also deals with the Steam roller, a person who personality wise runs over you with temperament and verbiage  Then the Rhodes scholar who appears to know his subject but after questioning is shown to have piece-meal his arguments to support a bias.

Overall the book is excellent and well worth the read. Many of these things will seem obvious to skilled Apologist debaters, but there are so many tips the book can sharpen anyone’s skills. The final 8 quick tips are excellent and should be followed. This book helps me immensely and I appreciate Greg writing these things down for others to learn.