In a recent video, James White discussed what Biblical Apologetics is and why he uses the methodologies he uses. During the course of the video, he mentions a debate between Greg Bahnsen and RC Sproul in which they debate the differences between apologetic methods. I was confused as to who was arguing for what position so I went and found the original debate online.
After listening to the debates I found that I agree with both Dr. Bahnsen and Dr. Sproul. Dr. Sproul was arguing for Evidential Apologetics and Dr. Bahnsen argued for Presuppositional Apologetics. It turns out that Dr. James White is on the side of Bahnsen's. I was surprised that White and Sproul disagree on the value of Evidential Apologetics though they both agree and respect one another on many things. Bahnsen brought up a great deal of important points. I think he has a point that we can't answer people according to their folly in that using their logic is counter-productive because without God you can't reason correctly. Nothing makes sense without God. At the same time I think Sproul is right that it's difficult to reach people who do not take the Bible as a literal authority if you can't show that God exists and has the right to hold us accountable without using the Bible. I have been accused of "circular reasoning" more often than I'd care to count. I think both men agree in more ways than they disagree.
I find the weakness of the Evidential approach is that it seems only good to really explain that there has to be a god and not necessarily the God of the Bible. It takes a lot to make that connection and not everyone is adept to it. And if you are not careful atheist will eat your lunch on that. For example, Christopher Hitchens tripped up Frank Turek a little bit on this in their first debate. The other problem I see is that it does not seem that neither Jesus nor the Apostles used this method. But I have to admit that it does work to help some understand and believe God's word so I don't think we should throw it away. I think that one of its strengths is that you can appeal to facts and objective truths outside of the Bible to point back to the Bible. However, I think it poorly addresses the "Problem of Evil" and the reality of suffering.
As for Prepositional Apologetics, I think it has the full strength of the Bible behind it. I often find myself leaning on this especially when people are attacking the Bible's validity and veracity. The only problem is that I think Sproul is right it opens one up to the charge of circular reasoning and although people like Bahnsen, Douglas Wilson, and James White can answer and deflect that charge, I don't think that most people are ready to answer that really well. One of the things it does very well is answer the Problem of Evil.
At the end of the day I think that both methods are needed in my tool box. I tend to find myself following Sproul's example of using objective evidence to show that the Bible should be believed and yet when the Problem of Evil using the same arguments that Bahnsen uses. Sproul does the same. I heard him do it live last year when he gave a lecture in the Bay Area in answering the question "Why bad things happen to good people?" I don't think either man won this because they weren't really disagreeing on a fundamental level. I think we need to listen to the people we are witnessing to and then based on where they are use the methodology that works best to truthfully give them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.