Saturday, August 23, 2008

Interview with Nathan Busenitz on "Reasons We Believe"

Interviewed by Andy Naselli

Nathan Busenitz (b. 1978) is an associate pastor and the personal assistant to John MacArthur at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. He is a faculty associate at The Master's Seminary, director of the Shepherds’ Fellowship, and managing editor of Pulpit magazine, where he frequently blogs. He has earned M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from The Master's Seminary and is currently pursuing a Th.D. in historical theology there as well.

He recently authored Reasons We Believe: Fifty Lines of Evidence That Confirm the Christian Faith (with a foreword by John MacArthur; Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). It's official publication date is August 31, 2008. More information about the book is available here, including a PDF-excerpt and the ability to browse the entire book online.

None less than John Frame has endorsed it:
Nathan Busenitz's Reasons We Believe stands out among apologetic texts in several respects. First, it is both comprehensive and concise, qualities one rarely finds in the same volume. Further, and more important, the book maintains a remarkable focus on Scripture itself. Though it does not neglect references to extra-biblical literature when appropriate, it might actually be described as the Bible’s own apologetic for itself. Therefore, the book shows how Christians can make use of traditional evidences and arguments within the Bible’s own framework of thought. Thus it brings presuppositions and evidences together, rather than placing them in competition.
John MacArthur writes in the foreword (p. 14),
Instead of starting elsewhere, Nathan Busenitz begins with the Bible, showing how God’s Word convincingly defends its own truth claims and then subsequently demonstrating how those claims are also confirmed by extra-biblical sources. Thoroughly biblical and meticulously researched, yet readily accessible and straightforward, Reasons We Believe belongs on every Christian’s bookshelf, whether you are looking to be equipped for evangelism or simply encouraged in the faith.
1. What is your book about, and who is its intended audience?
Reasons We Believe is a survey of fifty lines of evidence that confirm the Christian faith. The book starts with the Bible and asks the question, "What reasons does the Bible give in its own defense to confirm the truthfulness of its claims?" Then, after establishing each reason from Scripture, the book investigates how the claims of the Bible harmonize perfectly with external evidences from science, history, philosophy, and human experience. It was a joy to study (and then write about) how the reasons established for us in God’s Word are overwhelmingly confirmed by the evidence found in God’s world.

The book is really aimed at believers, confirming their faith and also giving them a tool for discussing the truthfulness of Christianity with their unsaved family, friends, and coworkers. At the same time, the book could be given to non-Christians, since it underscores both the truthfulness and exclusivity of the Christian gospel.
2. There are a lot of books on apologetics available. What distinct contribution(s) does yours make?
There are many other excellent books in print that defend the truthfulness of the Christian faith. I have benefited greatly from those books, and in fact reference many of them in Reasons We Believe. (For that matter, the fact that there are so many books available that use verifiable lines of evidence to defend the Christian faith is, in itself, a testimony to the truthfulness of Christianity.)

The distinct contribution that Reasons We Believe makes is, I believe, two-fold. First, it puts the emphasis first and foremost on Scripture, in contrast to many apologetic books that jump almost immediately to extrabiblical evidences (sometimes nearly bypassing the Bible altogether). Reasons We Believe does not ignore those extrabiblical evidences, but it discusses them only after first developing each line of evidence from Scripture. Thus, it places extrabiblical evidences in their proper place—as secondary confirmations of what the Bible itself authoritatively establishes.

Second, the book attempts to give an introductory overview of the many reasons that confirm the Christian faith. It is written at a popular level, and the fifty reasons are laid out in such a way that readers can easily skip to those parts that are of most usefulness or interest to them. The goal was to produce a book that was both biblical and scholarly on the one hand, and yet readable and user-friendly on the other.
3. Explain the way your book is organized and why.
The book is divided into five sections:
  1. Reasons we believe in God, that He exists and that we can know Him
  2. Reasons we believe in the Bible, that it is the Word of God
  3. Reasons we believe in the New Testament Gospels, that they are historically-reliable documents
  4. Reasons we believe in Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Savior of the World
  5. Reasons we believe in the resurrection, that God raised Jesus from the dead
There are ten reasons under each of these five sections.

The goal, again, was to create a resource that made a large amount of information readily accessible to readers. We also wanted to provide pastors and Bible study leaders with a straightforward outline for teaching their people about the veracity of the Christian message.
4. Why did you write this book? What's the story behind it?
This book was a joy to write because the evidence (both biblically and extrabiblically) overwhelmingly confirms the truthfulness of Christianity. In fact, the hardest part was cutting out material because there is just so much evidence available.

I wrote the book, in part, because my own study of apologetics (coming from a presuppositional background) left me with questions about how Christian evidences were supposed to fit into my apologetic grid, practically speaking. So, in a sense, this book was an attempt for me to bridge some of the gaps between what I love about presuppositionalism and what I simultaneously appreciate about the study of Christian evidences.

Of course, the book itself is not a philosophy of apologetics—it is instead a concise survey of these many lines of evidence written at a popular level.
5. (a) What is apologetics? (b) What are the major approaches to apologetics (e.g., presuppositional, evidentialist)? (c) What apologetic approach do you follow in this book?
(a) The term apologetics is from a Greek word that means to make a defense (cf. Acts 26:2; 1 Pet. 3:15). In Christian theology, apologetics seeks to give a reasonable defense for the truthfulness of Christianity.

(b) I’ve found the book Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan, 2000) to be a helpful overview for those who are interested in the major approaches: (1) classical; (2) evidential; (3) presuppositional; (4) cumulative case; and (5) reformed epistemological. A full discussion of the differences between each of these views would take a while, but one of the key issues (especially from a presuppositional perspective) concerns how much weight each system gives to extrabiblical evidences.

(c) Reasons We Believe seeks to approach Christian evidences from a presuppositional perspective (though the term “presuppositional” is not used in the book). So it starts with the Bible, surveying the lines of evidence that Scripture gives in its own defense. Insofar as those lines of evidence come from the Bible, we can be confident that they have God’s own authority behind them. The book then shows how those lines of evidence (having been established by the Scriptures) subsequently correspond to the facts of history, science, and human reason.
6. What are some of your forthcoming writing projects (short-term and long-term)?
Our church staff (lead by John MacArthur) is currently working on Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong: A Biblical Response to Today's Most Controversial Issues. This is a group project addressing contemporary issues and controversies from a biblical perspective (everything from global warming and the economy to same-sex marriage and online dating). I am contributing a couple chapters to that project, which is scheduled to be out by Shepherds’ Conference (in March 2009).

I also hope to do some writing on the Reformation principles of sola fide and sola Scriptura, but from an early church history perspective. Church history is a rich reservoir of evangelical theology. But, sadly, pre-Reformation church history is not often emphasized in Protestant circles (especially at the lay level). So I see a need for additional resources to be published in that area.
7. Many thanks, Nathan, for taking time to serve the readers of JT's blog with such helpful comments!
Thank you for the opportunity. I frequently read this blog and always enjoy the articles here. So this is a real privilege for me.