I was introduced to Sye Ten Bruggencate of Absolute Apologetics when the men of my church sat down to watch “How to Answer The Fool” back in 2013. Sye teaches what he calls, “Biblical Apologetics”, where God’s word is placed above the word of the lost. In this apologetic, the evangelist does not elevate the unbeliever to the level of judge by attempting to convince him with evidence. Instead, the evangelist halts all arguments before they even begin by pointing out one glaring issue—logic and truth cannot be known apart from God revealing it to us. This is also known as presuppositional apologetics. Recently, I reached out to Sye to ask him five questions. I hope you’ll enjoy his answers as much as I did!
>j: One of the things I was warned against before coming to Boyce College was allowing myself to stop loving the lost. How can we remain loving and compassionate when evangelizing the hardest of hearts? How can a student of theology or philosophy do the same?
Sye: Thank you, Jonah, for the offer to give answers to your questions.
Salvation is of the Lord, not of an argument we win.
When engaging professed unbelievers, the thing that keeps my emotions in check is the realization that “there, but by the grace of God, go I.” We also must realize that salvation is of the Lord, not of an argument we win. Jesus did not say, “My sheep hear Sye’s really good argument,” He said: “My sheep hear my voice.” Rather than trying to win arguments, which, if you do apologetics right are already won, we must seek to win souls. In a recent sermon I preached on the topic of loving those you engage. Listen to it here. I said that if someone comes into one of your conversations with a lost person at any point and it does not look like you want them to be saved, you are probably doing it wrong. Yes, there is a place for rebuke, but too often that is the majority of some conversations.
>j: In my experience, I have found that a prideful heart changes the way I interact with others by making me slow to hear and quick to speak. With your videos becoming increasingly more viral, how do you fight pride? How do you keep pride from affecting the way you evangelize?
Sye: Pride is indeed a constant battle. I recall when I first took this apologetic to the streets and people were smacking me on the back at the end of the day saying things like “Man you creamed that guy!”, I reminded them that I was just an unworthy servant (Luke 17:7-10), and that it was God who defeated the man’s argument. I tell Christians that the beauty of this apologetic is that you will win arguments, but the danger of the apologetic is… that you will win arguments, and rather than give God the glory, you will be tempted to take it for yourself. Another favorite verse that helps keep me in check is 1 Corinthians 4:7 “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
>j: Evangelism requires boldness. Rejection and persecution are two things that have often made me hesitant to share the gospel with others. How would you counsel a young Christian who feels convicted to share the gospel with others, but is struggling with the fear of man?
Sye: First I empathize with them, as I fight this battle every time I go to evangelize. I recall the very first time I went to a university campus to hand out gospel tracts. It was a chilly day in North Carolina and some people were walking around in T-shirts. I had no problem telling them that they needed to put on a coat, but did you think I could tell them that they needed a Saviour? My fear just came down to pride of not wanting the people I engaged to lump me in with the freaks out there who profess Christianity but behave nothing like Christians ought to behave.
Scripture tells us that there are two types of people out there: sheep and goats. According to Scripture, goats do not become sheep; but as I mentioned, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.” Since we cannot know who the sheep and goats are, we ought to treat everyone like sheep, and rather than give them goat food, we keep the message consistent and feed Jesus’ sheep with the truth in the hope that He brings them home.
I think it is also important to realize that we are dealing with eternal beings and this quote from C.S. Lewis might put our fears in perspective: “That person that we pay little regard to will in their eternal state either be glorified such that if we saw them now we would be inclined to worship them, or in their condemned state would fear them.”
>j: A part of me cringes whenever I recall the first time I tried to share the gospel with someone. Certainly, the Lord can use my shortcomings to produce good things. Needless to say, however, it did not go well. Can you tell us about your first ever full-contact witnessing experience? How did it go? If you had the opportunity to talk to your younger self, what would you tell him to do differently?
Sye: Well, I already mentioned my first public excursion to intentionally spread the Gospel, and my fears related to that. I like to remind Christians, though, that God works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) and that includes our mistakes. We might say exactly the wrong thing to one person so that God could convict of us that thing so we get it right with the next person God puts in front of us.
I think in the past I was too concerned with winning the argument instead of “making Jesus sweet to people,” as my friend Dustin says. Instead of being duped into arguing evidences with what Scripture calls “fools,” those who employ a more Biblical apologetic are duped into arguing philosophy with them. I suppose I would emphasize the need to love the person you engage (and show it), but I am getting the impression that this is something we need to labor through before God hits us between the eyes with it.
>j: You have the opportunity to shape my mind and the minds of those reading; what books or other resources do you recommend that we get a hold of?
Sye: That’s a scary thought, but I do appreciate the encouragement. Indeed, all glory goes to God. Outside of Scripture, I did most of my learning through audio lectures by the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen that I downloaded from Covenant Media Foundation. As far as books go, I have a “Recommended Books” page on my website. For beginners, I’d start with Jason Lisle’s book: “The Ultimate Proof of Creation.”
Tweetable Thoughts from the Interview
- Salvation is of the Lord, not of an argument we win.
- If your evangelism is observed and it doesn’t look like you want them saved, you are probably doing it wrong.
- The danger of presuppositional apologetics is that you will win arguments and be tempted to take His glory.
- The fear of man boils down to pride. We don’t want to be cast with the freaks.
- Since we cannot know who the sheep and goats are, we ought to treat everyone like sheep.
- God works all things for the good of those who love Him and that includes our evangelism mistakes.
- We should not be duped into arguing evidences or philosophies with fools.