American Vision teamed up with popular Christian apologist Sye Ten Bruggencate to produce a well-received documentary, showcasing the “Presuppositional” apologetic methodology. It’s called “How to Answer the Fool”, and features a series of Sye’s apologetic encounters at universities and on radio talk shows, interspersed with segments of narration and instruction from Sye.
This documentary was a big deal in the Presuppositionalist community. It’s been quite a while since the last major product was released. Since Dr. Bahnsen passed away, this school of apologetics has been coasting along on fumes, suffering from infighting, squabbling, and attempts to repackage it.
But then Sye comes along. He’s gifted at presenting this methodology to laymen, so they can follow the knot they’re being tied into. He doesn’t lapse into sophisticated philosophical jargon, nor does he attempt to intellectually bash the poor kids he approaches. Instead, he speaks their language. He meets them on their level.
This leads to a criticism I have of Sye’s methodology, though. He’s “boiled down” the method so much that, in situations where expounding on his argument (or applying it more broadly) is needed, he fails to do so, choosing instead to stick to his programmatic mantra “what is truth? what is truth? what is truth?”
During a radio show, some snotty professor tries to corner Sye by noting that Sye has no paradigmatic linguistic approach to the text of Scripture whereby he might authoritatively comment on its contents.
In situations like this, I always ask: if you suspect that I can understand your question (which you imply by the fact that you’re asking it to me), then why suspect that I can’t understand God? If I can understand you, why can’t I understand God? Instead, Sye retreats to his comfort zone and demands the snotty radio professor provide an epistemological accounting of truth…which exasperated both the professor and the atheist antagonists featured on the show.
Nevertheless, it’s fun to see Sye confound arrogant college students, who believe their enlightened “materialism” is the end-all view of reality…when, as a matter of fact, the American education system is producing students with very little education at all.
But while this was fun to watch, the pacing of the narrative, and the jumpy splicing (you’re on a campus one second, in a house church the next, on a stage the next, and so on), make it difficult to follow sometimes. Also, there’s nothing new offered to the seasoned presuppositionalist.
All that said, though, it would make a fairly entertaining introductory video for someone who is dedicated to learning the methodology. If it’s viewed half-heartedly, however, the novice may not gain much from it at all. Further – there is no bibliography; no suggestions about where to go to learn more. We’re left with the impression that Sye, himself, created and developed all this on his own, and is the sole proponent.
What about the rest of us? What about Dr. Bahnsen, or Van Til? Or John Frame? Seems to me, it would have been very easy for the film makers to run over to Reformed Theological Seminary in Florida and grab a quick interview with Dr. Frame, or maybe run up to RTS in Charlotte and talk with James Anderson. They could have made more of a narrative out of the entire thing.
Still – it was very entertaining to watch and I hope God blesses Sye’s ministry.