Archive for the ‘Evidentialism’ Category
I see a place for all the apologetic schools in defense of Christianity. There are some that are firmly entrenched in their particular school or tradition, and for the most part I understand where they are coming from. I happen to think the presuppositionatlists are head and shoulders above the other schools and I happen to agree that their approach is the most Biblical, and therefore the most God glorifying. However, I see a lot of value in the classical and evidentialist schools and I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bath water. From a personal perspective, intelligent design, the teleological argument, and the ontological argument had a profound impact on my life.
I think the main value of evidences are to bolster pre-existing faith by showing that our faith is not unreasonable, unjustified, or unwarranted. I think the main value of presuppositional apologetics is calling all non-Christian worldviews to task over the fact that they hold mutually exclusive propositions and cannot account for all things.
Perhaps its a silly analogy, but I liken apologetics to the three phases of football: offense, defense, and special teams. The presuppositionalists are on the offensive challenging false notions in other worldviews. The classical and evidentialist apologetists are defending the reasonability of the Christian faith. Then there are guys like Blaise Pascal, and Alvin Plantinga that specialize in kickoffs, punts, PATs, and field goals. Together they present a coherent, consistent, and believable Christianity that makes sense of existence intellectually, emotionally, and experientially.
Evidentialist Apologetics can be seen as a subset of classical apologetics mainly focusing on all the evidence supporting the Christian faith and its rationality. Evidentialists can be looked at in three main overlapping categories: those advocating A. Teleological Argument B. The Intelligent Design Movement (which borrows from the Teleological Argument) C. Those promoting the reliability and historicity of the Bible, Jesus, miracles, and the resurrection.
William Paley (1743-1805) was the first to popularize the Teleological Argument by reworking some of Aquinas’ fivefold argument. The argument is essentially that there is too much order, specialization, and fine-tuning in our world and the Universe for it to have been a product of mere chance. Therefore, an intelligent and wise being must have created all of these things. This being is God. The problem with Paley is that he employed the analogy of God as a watchmaker who set the laws that governed the timepiece in motion. Paley’s argumentation was critical for a young Darwin in seminary. The impersonal (nearly deistic) picture painted by Paley, led others (Darwin) to look for naturalistic laws that could in turn replace God.
The intelligent design movement is a movement of scientists, thinkers, and philosophers who are challenging scientific materialism (aka Naturalism or Neo-Darwinianism). The aim of the movement is to get a seat at the table on the discussion of origins of life. Many of their arguments are really quite sound science and present very damning (and in my view fatal) critiques of Darwinian macro-evolution. Michael Behe (1952-) in his book Darwin’s Black Box argues that on the microbiological level many different things have the characteristic of irreducible complexity. He employs the analogy of a mousetrap which has five pieces to it: platfrom, spring, hammer, hold-down bar, and catch(cheese). If you take away any one piece of the mousetrap then you have something that is functionally worthless, and therefore unable to catch any mice. The mousetrap is irreducibly complex and is in its most simple state with its five components and therefore it has no functional precursor. Behe then goes on to describe several things that have this characteristic of irreducible complexity, namely, the eye, flageullum, cilia, e. coli, adaptive immune system, and blood coagulation.
Reliability and Historicity of Bible, Jesus, Miracles, and Resurrection
F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) spent his entire life defending the historicity of the Bible against the tsunami of doubt cast by higher and lower Bible criticism. His New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable is an absolute classic and a fairly easy read. Josh McDowell (1939-) has written on the historicity of the person of Jesus in his popular book More Than a Carpenter. In a similar vein Lee Strobel (1952-) has written on the historicity and Biblicity of Jesus. N.T. Wright (1948-) has written probably the best defense of the resurrection of Jesus in his terrific volume The Resurrection of the Son of God. C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) has written many important apologetic works what lands him here is his defense of miracles.
Up next is a look at presuppositional apologetics.