I have long worried about the evangelism community being like sheep without a shepherd, or a ship without an anchor tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, and by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Many of these evangelists had their start in following the method of evangelism invented by Ray Comfort where he asks, "Would you consider yourself to be a good person?" (Example) is a fantastic, biblical method, and is founded in solid truth in what he calls, "Hell's Best Kept Secret". But unfortunately many evangelists weren't drawn to this method because it was biblical, but because it was a method that seemed like it would win the world.
Of course, scripture teaches a clear slide into apostasy, where the world at the end will have practically no Christians, so Ray Comfort's method of presenting the gospel did not win the world (many souls, yes, but the world, no) and many evangelists, instead of admitting they could not win the entire world for Christ, sought out different and increasingly wicked methods to reap supposedly better results. Mark Cahill, for example, abandoned biblical teaching, teachers, and evangelists by embracing the idea that a simple prayer or choice can save a person. Others have fled to the political realm, many of these have rejected the return of Christ, and thus have made shipwreck of their faith. Others have wandered into HyperCalvinism, of waiting for people to come to Christ as God calls them apart any efforts of his saints. Others embraced the law and the Sabbath to say that God will bless you if keep his laws to the best of your ability. Some others even became atheists because they saw no results from the methods they were using, and because of the wicked draw of their own sinfulness. Some dove into evidentialism and made sinners the judge over God. And this list could go on and on.
The latest in these wicked methods is that of Sye Ten Bruggencate's "Presuppositional" Apologetics. It is in quotation marks because his method is not presuppositional, but that is what he calls it. Many examples will be given throughout this article, but the basic premise is that because absolute truth exists, things can be known, and that logic exists, there must be a God. It is reasonably a good foundation, but it ends there, not even mentioning Jesus or his gospel.
This article will prove to you that Ten Bruggencate's apologetics is a worthless evidential model, that he has ignored historic and useful presuppositional training, that he is in serious error concerning the Biblical teaching on knowledge and deception, that he fellowships with the American Vision cult, and that he has shown cult-leader-like tendencies, and has, through lack of gospel preaching, denied Jesus Christ. He is an enemy of the gospel and has deceived even the elect, and is doing severe damage to their ministries and the gospel witness they bear. Finally, this article will encourage you to use true presuppositional apologetics and to preach Christ and him crucified.
Foundation of Presuppositional Apologetics
and Ten Bruggencate's Departure
Presuppositionalism is found throughout the Bible (see esp Romans 1:16-32, Acts 14:15-17, Acts 17:18-31), it says that the Bible is true and sin exists and that all men need a Saviour. It says, "All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Romans 3:10)." and "I (Jesus) told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins (John 8:24)."
Presuppositionalism is the correct way to do apologetics. I recommend Greg Bahnsen's book, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended for an extrabiblical look at this method (I will loan you my copy so you do not have to support AV, my copy was free because the cover is damaged).
One of my major problems with Sye is that his method is not presuppositional, it is evidential on the fact that logic is not made of matter, or that you can be absolutely sure that absolute truth exists. Visit Sye's website, http://proofthatgodexists.org/, and see all of the evidence he uses. (I am not against evidence, but it must be based on the presupposition that evidence points to God, and I encourage you to realize that fact when you're using evidence). See this video of him using logic and knowledge as the evidence of God. "God is the necessary precondition of knowledge." Even the atheists he debates see that he is using evidentialism (see @ 1:38 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcwfvZHYQJE)
Pay attention especially in that video that Ten Bruggencate completely relies on the man he is debating to be able to understand and see God's evidence. He says, "I'm not trying to prove to you that a god exists, I'm trying to expose that you know this God and that you are without excuse for your sin against him." Bahnsen would freak out on Sye at this point, Bahnsen is clear that (p.51),
The man who follows the "wisdom" of the world...is unable to know the things of the Spirit and he cannot have the spiritual discernment to judge for the truth as long as he is steeped in unbiblical presuppositions...Fallen man is incapacitated from seeing things as they really are; he has incapacitated himself by suppressing rather than presupposing the revelation of God...Having the spirit of the world manifest in his reasoning, the unregenerate is unable to understand the things of God's Spirit.Ten Bruggencate utterly misses the spiritual side of apologetics, that fallen man is blinded. There are no lack of Bible verses to this effect, let me share a few with you, "sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me (Romans 7:11." Paul said that prior to his conversion, he had, "acted ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13)." He makes a damning statement to Sye's evidentialism when he states, "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)."
Sye comes across as yelling at a blind man (or woman; See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQbL-dhuuCA) in a maze every time the blind man bumps into a wall (see also @ 2:50 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcwfvZHYQJE). This is why Paul writes to Timothy, "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24-26)."
There is no gentleness in Sye's argument, nor any effort in his videos to get to the gospel. His website is devoid of a gospel message, and in my extensive research though it, I did not even see the name Jesus used. It ends with a declaration that arriving at the intellectual acquiescence of God's existence is his goal. His website sends you to the Disney Channel (which accidentally gets closer to the gospel than Sye ever does, see The Gospel According to Disney) if you select a certain link on his website, because he's only interested in debate and has no care if you go to Hell or not or if Jesus receives the glory or not (I base this on the evidence of what he makes public). He does no better than those who convinced Anthony Flew to be a deist, as many walk away from Sye maybe convinced in the evidence of God's existence, but unless they repent of their sin against the God who has blinded their minds, and put their faith in Jesus Christ, they will go to Hell. That is not victory. In fact it may be worse for this opponents (Luke 11:24-26).
Recently an atheist monument was setup in Florida, and granted, it does humorously look like a toilet, but Sye, instead of preaching the gospel, attempted to place a toilet seat upon it (see Atheists Unveil Monument) adding unneeded offense, quarrelsomeness, and argument. Thank God that Eric Hovind stood up and preached Christ and him crucified, for Christ is not without a witness.
Finally, Sye Ten Bruggencate fellowships with some of the most wicked heretics operating today, the Federal Visionists at American Vision, and the gospel deniers at Crown Rights Media. Seven years ago when many current evangelists were being trained by Ray Comfort, the idea that a person is saved by their baptism would have lead to outcry and the idea that Christ returned almost 2,000 years ago and is waiting for the world to become perfect would have been scoffed at and the errant people called to read their Bibles. But as evangelists are swept along by every wind of doctrine, these strange and blasphemous things are accepted (compare Thoughts on the Covenants). This Presbyterian heresy is prevalent today and is destroying ministries and suppressing the gospel. Therefore I warn you to flee from Sye's evidentialism and preach the gospel to a lost and dying world.
The Gospellessness of the Message
Dan Phillips says what is missing in Sye's message better than I can; he says masterfully,
Sye seems to focus on utterly destroying the unbeliever and his worldview, period. Winning the unbeliever to a God-centered worldview (conversion) does not seem to be the priority.A lack of gospel preaching is one of the most dangerous things a preacher can do. If we are evidentialists or presuppositionalists, or we have everything else wrong, we cannot get the gospel wrong (Philippians 1:15-18, esp 18).
You see very little appeal, very little bridge-building, very little outreach. Paul's concern that he might win as many as possible (1 Cor. 9:19-22) isn't at the fore.
One of the most dangerous debates that is lauded today is the Greg Bahnsen versus Gordon Stein debate. There has been a lie perpetuated that this is one of the most crushing defeats of atheism in modern times. If you listen to the audio or read the transcript you'll see that no-one wins this debate, because Bahsen utterly balks on preaching the gospel. In fact, Stein comes closer to the gospel in his mockery of it.
I searched and searched for a video of Ten Bruggencate sharing the gospel, and I had many of his supporters looking as well. Granted, he does occasionally come close, but he is yet to preach a solid biblical presentation. I can share three semi-gospels with you that I have found, but the most clear is Sye's video, "Pray for Franco", this is a weird, unbiblical, muddle of Pelagianism (don't choose Hell) and HyperCalvinism (If God is speaking to your heart & I hope you're a sheep). No presentation in scripture of the gospel assumes that a person is elect or not before commanding them to repent, see especially Acts 17:30, "He commands all people everywhere to repent..." Notice as well that Sye emphasizes other things over salvation, such as salvation of knowledge and reasoning. The gospel is hard to find in Sye's preaching, and when it is found, it's only a portion of the gospel, which is no gospel at all.
This is a common problem in the Federal Vision movement, they cannot preach the gospel well because they do not know the gospel nor practice sharing it. See two videos by Federal Visionists where the gospel is destroyed and their own souls are forfeit, Joel McDurmon and Gary DeMar.
The goal of every Christian is to properly preach Christ and him crucified. This message saves some, and it hardens others, but it is the central theme of most importance in the Bible. When I asked Sye to do a better job of preaching the gospel, he asked me to stop being a jerk (his ad hominem attack proving that he does not care about the purity of the gospel). Dan Phillips writes one of the most damning things against him, "Often, Sye takes a phrase and simply repeats it until he's kicked off a show or his hearer walk[s] away in a rage." No Christian should EVER consider that a victory, for the offense of the cross, not our own impudence, should be the reason people walk away and rage against us.
Impact on Others
Sye is having a terrible effect on others as well. Tony Miano is a great gospel preacher, but when he uses Sye's method, and never gets to the gospel. I would never have believed that Miano would press someone so hard with evidence that they would walk away without hearing of the Saviour. But here are two examples where he has, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL6N_VJFpXE & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvnC23UvtMM.
An ardent supporter of Sye Ten Bruggencate is Richard Mailly, during our conversation the man mocked the gospel and called me a minced curse word. Towards the end of our discussion he proclaimed, "Sye Ten Bruggencate is my master. I follow no other!" Surely he was being facetious, but this is the quality of person who is born from the arrogant evidentialism of Sye Ten Bruggencate, a man who has no reverence for the gospel or respect towards its ministers.
A dear friend of mine who sees merit in Sye's methodology made an excellent point recently, that it is "only useful for atheists." I would argue that it is useful for no-one, but this is an excellent point, that the brand of apologetics (not presuppositional) which Sye has adopted does not do well with the contrite. See the above video with Franco where Sye had no idea where to go when someone was humble. If your method cannot work in more than one situation, it is tremendously lacking. Look at the presuppositionalism in the Bible, it works for Jews and Gentiles, for wise and religious, for indignant and humble. Be prepared to give a reason for the hope that lies in you, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Many of those who have grouped to Ten Bruggencate have followed his rejection of evidentialists to such an extreme as to cut ties with great godly ministries. One of these people attacked one such ministry by saying Sye had taught her not to use "stupid arguments about bananas or the complexity of the eye." The ministry she is speaking of preaches the gospel often and boldly, and gains audience with many by using the incredible complexity of God's creation. Sye has gone so far as to call these ministries blasphemous. They are only using the vast corpus of creation to show the grandeur of God, and then to call them to repentance in the Living Christ, and yet Sye's followers are against them.
Finally, Sye is a divider of the brethren to the extent that he has one major characteristic of a cult-leader. Most cult groups encourage radical disengagement from family and friends. Criticism and truth is not the friend of the cult-leader, so cutting them off is absolutely necessary. When confronted by a Christian, Sye called for everyone who followed him to not follow his critic, and he went after supposed friends with a vengeance. One person only questioned whether Sye was right to say evidentialists were blasphemous, and he was instantly cut off from fellowship. It is cultic and it is dangerous, and I implore you to flee from Sye Ten Bruggencate and call him to repentance in the Living Christ and to hope in the saving work of God, and not in his vast intellect which is able to crush blinded atheists and make them twice the sons of Hell as himself.
There is nothing right about Sye Ten Bruggencate, he has bastardized presuppositional apologetics and has bastardized the gospel. He is a gangrene in the body and is destroying the fellowship and cohesion of brothers. He is so clearly an antichrist and cult-leader that if you name the name of Christ, you must flee from him, for, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19)."
Learn proper presuppositional apologetics aright, that the Bible is true, God is holy, men are not, and all are in desperate need of the forgiveness purchased by Jesus Christ on the cross and affirmed in his resurrection. Call all men to repentance and faith in the Living Christ.
Avoid the wickedness of Federal Vision, do not fellowship with those who think they are saved by their baptism. You do them no favors by pretending they are brothers, and for you, bad company ruins good morales. Never let a Christian tell you who you can and cannot be friends with, especially when they are bringing wounds rather than kisses (Proverbs 27:6). Emulate Jesus Christ in saying, "those whom I love, I reprove and discipline (Revelation 3:19)."
Judge ministries based on their adherence to the Bible, not on their results, for remember, Jeremiah had no converts, Noah had eight, and Jesus Christ could only count one-hundred-twenty prior to Pentecost. Mankind will go from bad to worse, this is no concern of yours, preach the gospel in season and out, plant and water seeds, and pray that God gives them the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Above all, know and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). This is the central theme of scripture, you must get it right, for if you miss it, your life and ministry will be counted complete loss. For further reading, see my article "What is the Gospel?".
Finally, something that edified me in the long hours of writing and researching this is a thought by Keith and Kristyn Getty who exhort us,
"Our call to war: to love the captive soul,
but to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight in faith and valor
When faced with trials on every side
We know the outcome is secure
And Christ will have the prize for which He died
An inheritance of nations"