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Every Thought Captive: A Study Manual for the Defense of Christian Truth Paperback – January 1, 1980
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"Presents Reformed (or Van Tillian) apologetics in genuinely popular language. . . . In this respect, Pratt's book is something of a breakthrough. I would expect and hope that this accomplishment will give the book a wide hearing." --John M. Frame
"Richard Pratt has written a manual to help ordinary people engage in apologetics along the lines of Van Til's approach. In the process he has translated the philosophical terminology of Van Tillian apologetics into everyday language. . . . both sound and stimulating." --Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
About the Author
Richard L. Pratt Jr. (MDiv, Union Theological Seminary; ThD, Harvard University) is president of Third Millennium Ministries. He was a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary for over twenty years and is the author of Pray with Your Eyes Open, He Gave Us Stories, and Every Thought Captive.
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Pratt has little use for evidential apologetics (pp. 72-80) believing that such arguments are unproductive. He opts instead for Van Tillian’s presuppostionalism (pp. 81-98). The four closing chapters provide specific biblical defenses against common objections by unbelievers. He suggests two broad approaches—an argument by truth and an argument by folly, both based on Proverbs 26:5. The argument by truth has three steps:
1. The Christian should admit his answers rest on his commitment to Christ.
2. Evidences from Scripture should be given.
3. The unbeliever is shown that his rejections of these evidences is due to his commitment to independence (that is, he is his own authority).
Arguments by folly also has three steps:
1. The unbeliever should be shown that his rejection of truth rests on his assumption of his own authority, which cannot be justified.
2. The specific objections he has are self-defeating.
3. The Christian should demonstrate to the unbeliever that his positions are futile because of his commitment to independence. He must be challenged to forsake his commitment to independence.
"Every Thought Captive" is a helpful distilment of Van Tillian apologetics written in understandable language—something Van Til was never accused of.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel
At the outset of this study manual on apologetics, Pratt rightly notes the words of the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 10:5: "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." Arguably, this is a verse about how to do apologetics that is quite often overlooked. Fundamentally, this is what the pursuit of apologetics for the believer is all about. While certainly providing a defense of what we believe is also of utmost importance, providing that defense should not come at the expense of the necessity to destroy any though or speculation that takes aim at the things of God. In order to wage war against ungodly thoughts and ideas, one must first understand what building a firm foundation on God's word is all about.
Pratt aptly comments "The Bible is both the foundation upon which our defense must be built and one of our beliefs which must be defended. All too often, this twofold role which the Bible must play is forgotten. Well-meaning Christians lose sight of the foundational character of the Bible and tend to build their defense on mere human wisdom and reasoning. The Word is placed, as it were, on the roof of their structure and is supported by apologetics." He further elaborates on this concept noting "As followers of Christ, we must remember always to build out defense of the Christian faith on the sure foundation of the Bible. If we do so, there will be no weight too great to be supported; no wind too strong to be resisted." This is a very important element for those engaging in apologetics to understand. Given that apologetics should be a practice of all believers to one degree or another, it is vital for followers of Christ to grasp that apologetics apart from a firm foundation of Scripture is not apologetics. In reality, such an approach is far too often what takes place in the apologetic community, specifically the appeal to human reasoning as subservient to Scripture. That backwards approach is presented by Pratt as wholly incorrect and resting on shaky ground at best.
Another important element presented by Pratt of understanding how to properly define and practice apologetics is that of understanding who God is and how we related to Him as His creation. Pratt describes this as the "Creator-creature distinction". This concept is vital to apologetics for a number of reasons which Pratt does an excellent job of elaborating. For instance, our perspective on origins stems from this distinction. This is because "Man can understand himself and the creation surrounding him only as he recognizes the Creator-creature distinction revealed there and sees the will of God more clearly through his observation of creation." Even our understanding of biblical concepts such as the character of man, both before and following sin, as well as that of redemption, stem from this Creator-creature distinction. Those in the apologetics community who solely depend on human reasoning and arguments based on logic must recognize something Pratt ably declares, namely that "Logic is not God and it should never be given the honor due to God alone. Truth is found at the judgment seat of God, not the court of logic."
After providing this necessary foundation for apologetics, Pratt spends the remainder of this study manual providing valuable tips for engaging the non-believers positions on a number of key matters, including the deity of Christ, the existence of God, the problem of evil, the resurrection of Christ, the validity of Scripture, sin, origins, eschatology, and general matters of faith. As Pratt moves through those issues, he does so by constantly returning to the aforementioned Creator-creature distinction that forms the locus for his apologetical approach. In each element of his approach, Pratt not only provides valuable responses to popular tactics of the non-believer, more importantly, he roots his recommendations on the solid foundation of Scripture, essentially practicing the very methodology he teaches the reader.
At the end of each chapter, Pratt provides the reader with additional study questions focused on reiterating the material in the chapter as well as assisting the reader with tools to engage the topic at hand in greater detail. I always enjoy such study questions and books that include that element are ones I find to be most helpful and something I will return to in the future. Every Thought Captive is a journey into the presuppositional or "Van Tillian" approach to apologetics, one rooted in the belief that God and His word should form the basis for any defense or discussion of biblical truth. It is a work that everyone engaged in apologetics, meaning every believer should read and take note of this book as the concepts and principles provided by Pratt will serve the reader well when the time comes for them to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."