1. Have you been a Christian from childhood?
From about 12-13.
2. Did you convert to the faith? If so, please describe your conversion experience.
I heard the Gospel through the youth ministry of my church, and through the ministry of music. The music drove the words into my heart. I can remember several times when I was challenged to make it personal, to make a decision, and I usually took those challenges seriously. It’s hard to tell when and how God worked in my heart, but I would say that at age 10 I went to church mainly to play with my friends and to make fun of everything; at 14 I went there to glorify God and to grow in Christ.
3. Why do you believe in the existence of God?
If this question means, what caused my belief in God, I would say the Holy Spirit. If it means, what are the reasons why I believe in God, I’d say that there is variation: sometimes one argument seems more impressive, sometimes another. Fairly constant through my life, however, has been the thought that the impersonal cannot account for the personal; and if it cannot account for the personal, it cannot account for anything else, for our knowledge of all reality is inevitably personal: (1) Knowledge presupposes norms that are ethical in character, but only a person can warrant ethical norms. (2) Everything we know is based on the disposition of our personal intellectual faculties, which in turn are dependent on all other aspects of our personality: will, emotions, etc.
Apart from argument, though, there is the intuitive sense that the Bible is true and that the starry heavens reveal the Lord. That may be more fundamental than any argument. As Plantinga says, it is legitimate to believe in God without argument. God’s revelation just gets through.
4. Why do you believe in the inspiration of the Bible?
Again, there is something intuitive about this, what theologian’s call the “witness of the Spirit,” what some apologists have called the “ring of truth.” Of course the Spirit witnesses to the truth in the Bible itself, and that truth forms the logical ground of my belief. To expound that a bit: (1) Only Scripture, of all “holy books,” teaches a fully personal God. (2) Its Gospel rightly shows how a holy God must regard my own sinful heart, and it presents the only possible way to divine forgiveness. (3) That way of salvation involves written covenants. The covenant community has a written constitution that must be honored by its members. Scripture is in effect that covenant constitution.
5. How do you deal with Bible criticism?
(1) Much of it presupposes a naturalistic, impersonal view of the world, and I dismiss it appropriately. (2) Other times it is helpful in showing us the conventions of ancient writing, warning us not to impose our modern conventions on it. (3) Still other times, by showing me problems I cannot resolve, it encourages my intellectual humility.
6. How do you deal with scientific objections to the faith?
Science is not my long suit. To me it is important that (1) science, like all human thinking, is not neutral or objective, but makes presuppositions. (2) Many Christians with scientific training and good understanding have dealt effectively with the science/religion conflicts. I don’t follow any particular school of thought here. Sometimes I’m impressed by arguments of the Creation Science movement, other times by Hugh Ross, other times by John Polkinghorne and others. I do not believe in the easy separation of religion and science into two spheres that never overlap. Scripture is authoritative in all matters about which it speaks, including matters of interest to science. (3) As I look at popular expositions of most recent science—string theory, etc., it impresses me that much of it is counter-intuitive (though that does not, of course, necessarily make it wrong). That makes me wonder how much more of the conventional wisdom in science may one day be questioned. Science in 2006 is vastly different from science in 1906; why shouldn’t science in 2106 be similarly different? That warns us against taking present science as some kind of final or ultimate knowledge.
7. What other challenges to the faith would you like to comment on?
Most challenges to the faith arise out of ideology: postmodernism, neo-paganism (Jones), and evolutionary scientism being three examples. They all presuppose that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist, and they present paradigms which, taken consistently, overthrow all human knowledge.
8. At this stage of your spiritual journey, would you now give different reasons for your faith than when you began your pilgrimage?
When I began as a teenager, I assumed, as I had been taught, that the Bible was true, and that there were people in the church (John Gerstner was my hero at the time) who could answer those who thought otherwise. So my reasons for faith came from Scripture itself. That is still true, though I believe I can now articulate the Bible’s epistemology, and can answer the objections of unbelief, better than I could back then. But as I said above, the specific arguments that most impress me have varied from one point to another in my life.
9. Looking back over your life as a Christian, how would you say that your faith has evolved over time. How, if at all, does your lived-in faith differ from when you were younger?
God has given me more humility, more knowledge. I have always been awkward in many kinds of social situations, and that has made it difficult for me to share the gospel with people. That is still a problem for me, but I think that God has been working with me on it, very gradually. Although there have been ups and downs, I think my faith has become more and more inseparable from my thoughts and actions. I have also become more and more comfortable with the Reformed way of thinking, but more and more at odds with those who are unwilling to test Reformed ideas by the Bible.
10. Unbelievers often point to the elusiveness of God. In your personal experience, including your experience with other Christians, can you point to any examples of God’s providential presence?
It’s hard to identify the hand of God precisely, when, like me, you believe that everything comes by his hand. But I’ve seen some remarkable “coincidences.” For example, there was a “perfect storm” of factors that gathered in 1999 to move me to RTS, a move that made my ministry far more fruitful: Among other factors, (1) drawing to the end of some ministries we were involved in, (2) need to make some changes for the children, (3) negative factors at my previous place of employment, (4) a remarkable welcome by RTS.
Often the hand of God is more visible in hindsight. God didn’t provide a wife for me until age 45, but looking back on that, and on our family life since then, I can see that that was just the right time for it all to start.
11. Since you’ve been a Christian, have you undergone a crisis of faith? If so, how did you work through it?
Not really. I’ve had my ups and downs. I had my hardest times during seminary and grad school years. Not really a crisis, but doubts about my place in the Kingdom—doubts more about myself than about God. My response was just prayer and pressing on. Eventually the fog lifted
12. In your observation, why are most unbelievers unbelieving?
Because they want to maintain their own autonomy: intellectual, ethical, emotional.
13. In your experience, what’s the best way to witness to unbelievers?
I really have never been very good at it, frankly. My best witnessing is done in books, and by helping potential evangelists to respond to the questions of unbelief. But in California we did show hospitality to many non-Christians, even having them stay in our home. We practiced friendship/hospitality evangelism. The results were not humanly impressive, but seeds were sown. I still think that to reach non-Christians today it’s important to befriend them, not just to bombard them with arguments. But if they want and need arguments, we should address those as they come. If all they need is evidences of the Resurrection, for example, I would provide them with that. If they want or need to talk epistemology, I would get into presuppositions and such.
14. Christian apologetics tends to settle into certain stereotypical arguments and formulaic emphases. Do you think there are some neglected areas in how apologetics is generally done today?
My fellow presuppositionalists need to learn to present evidences without embarrassment, and without ten pages of epistemological prolegomena. We also need to learn to write winsomely, with literary skill, like Pascal or C. S. Lewis. In oral conversations, I think apologists should learn better to go with the flow—to interact with the twists and turns of someone’s thought as it moves along. Sometimes we will need to deal with the inquirer in a personal or psychological way, sometimes with a syllogism. Sometimes we need to help the nonChristian see how beautiful it would be IF the Christian faith were true—then deal with his objections. Tim Keller is very helpful here.
The “intuitive” sense that God is real, which I mentioned above, can possibly be communicated more vividly and persuasively through novelistic or poetic writing, rather than argumentative prose. More Christians should attempt that.
15. What do Christian parents, pastors, seminary and/or college professors most need to teach our young people to prepare them for the walk of faith?
Young people need to learn the Bible, first of all. But they need to learn how to apply it to all aspects of life. The Navigators’ Topical Memory System was a good beginning for me in that respect. Further, young people need to know their enemy, and how to respond to the challenges of our time. Most of all, kids need to have godly examples, people who are able to disciple them in intellectual and practical areas.
16. What devotional or apologetic reading would you recommend for further study?
Well, my own books, of course! And those of Van Til and other presuppositionalists. Some will benefit greatly from C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, as I did, though aspects of their thought need correction. Devotionally, I’ve been helped much lately by books of John Piper and C. J. Mahaney. One presuppositional writer who deserves more attention is Bill Edgar, who is culturally aware, and who has a disarming, thoughtful way of representing the Reformed Faith.