Some Basic Principles for Christian Apologetics
The following are some of the notes for a book I’m writing on the moral argument for the existence of God.
In a debate on subjects where there are fundamental disagreements, a number of basic preliminaries must first be established before a meaningful discussion can take place.
A certain factory worker had the responsibility of blowing the whistle every day at precisely 12:00 noon. In order to be sure of the correct time, he set his own watch by a clock on the wall of a local jewelry store. After doing this for some time, it occurred to him that the jewelry store owner had to have some standard by which he could set his clock. Thus, one day when he was in the store, he inquired of the owner, “Sir, how do you know what time to set your clock?” The jewelry store owner replied, “Well, you see, on the other side of town there is a factory and every day precisely at noon they blow a whistle….”
What fundamental, ultimate, authoritative, interpretive touchstone principle is being used to evaluate life in general and when there is a debate over facts, motives, and morals in competing worldviews?
- Paul Davies, professor of Mathematical Physics, admits: “However successful our scientific explanations may be, they always have certain starting assumptions built in. For example, an explanation of some phenomenon in terms of physics presupposes the validity of the laws of physics, which are taken as given. But one may ask where these laws come from in the first place. One could even question the origin of logic upon which all scientific reasoning is founded. Sooner or later we all have to accept something as given, whether it’s God, or logic, or a set of laws, or some other foundation for existence. Thus ‘ultimate’ questions will always lie beyond the scope of empirical science as it is usually defined.”
- If anyone of these supposed standards (reason, logic, and science) is chosen, what ultimately legitimizes them as foundational starting points?
- How can they be accounted for given materialistic assumptions about the nature of reality?
- What are they checked against to know if they are valid standards of thinking or whether they are operating properly?
- If a person begins with a faulty premise (any premise will do), then his use of reason, logic, and science could lead logically, reasonably, and scientifically to the execution of the aristocracy and those associated with it, as happened in the French Revolution, or the extermination of an entire ethnic group, as happened in the Holocaust.
- Christians can account for reason, logic, and the scientific method (investigation) because there is something/Someone more fundamental that gives them meaning and allows them to work—the God of the Bible. “A proper epistemology [theory of knowledge] will thus give high weight to Scripture, observation, and logic. These are all God-given and will thus be in harmony; they form the touchstone of our knowledge.”
We are created in God’s image (Gen. 2:26–27) and can “think God’s thoughts after Him.”
- “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD” (Isa. 1:18).
- “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Pet. 3:15).
- Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2).
- “Now [Paul] himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews” (Acts 18:19).
- “Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding” (Prov. 32:9a).
- “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed” (2 Pet. 2:12)
Logic: “Secular thinkers cannot make sense of laws of logic. Many secularists hold to the belief of materialism. This is the belief that everything that exists is physical – like matter and energy. But laws of logic are not physical. They have no material substance, and no particular location in space. They cannot exist in a materialistic universe. Yet materialists continue to use laws of logic, despite the fact that they cannot make sense of them. Their thinking is contradictory, and therefore cannot be consistently true. This glaring inconsistency is typical of those who reject the Bible.”
The following is from
The Following is from the Greg L. Bahnsen/Gordon Stein Debate on the Existence of God
Dr. Bahnsen: I heard you mention logical binds and logical self-contradictions in your speech. You did say that?
Dr. Stein: I said it. I used that phrase yes.
Bahnsen: Do you believe there are laws of logic then?
Bahnsen: Are they universal?
Stein: They are agreed upon by human beings. They aren’t laws that exist out in nature. They are…
Bahnsen: Are they simply conventions then?
Stein: They are conventions but they are conventions that are self-verifying.
Bahnsen: Are they sociological laws or laws of thought?
Stein: They are laws of thought which are interpreted by men. And promulgated by men.
Bahnsen: Are they material in nature?
Stein: How could a law be material?
Bahnsen: That’s the question that I’m going to ask you.
Stein: I would say no.
Dr. Stein Cross-Examines Dr. Bahnsen
Stein: Dr. Bahnsen would you call good material or immaterial?
Stein: What is something that’s immaterial?
Bahnsen: Something not extended in space.
Stein: Can you give me an example of anything other than god that’s immaterial?
Bahnsen: Laws of logic.
- “I must turn aside now, and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up” (Ex. 3:3). Moses did not immediately assume the event was miraculous. He investigated the phenomenon.
- “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1–4).
- “So the other disciples were saying to Thomas, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving but believing.’ Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’” (John 20:25–28).
- “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Certain operating biblical preconditions are necessary for building a trustworthy and functional worldview.
- “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
- “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7).
What constitutes evidence and are they always convincing?
Some familiar examples
- Pharaoh saw all the miracles performed before his eyes, and he still did not believe enough to surrender to God’s sovereign will.
- The ten spies and the response from the nation: “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them…. We went into the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there” (Num. 13:2 and 14:27–28).
- The rich man and Lazarus: “And [the rich man] said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But [the rich man said], ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But [Abraham] said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead’” (Luke 16:20).
- The miracles of Jesus and the religious leaders still wanted Him killed.
- “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps. 19:1). Christians would maintain that the creation itself is ample physical evidence for the existence of God and His created order.
Contrary Evidence Is Considered to be Non-Evidence and Dangerous
- “There are no alternatives to evolution that are science,” and all the “alternatives are religious”?
- Any evidence submitted to the contrary will be dismissed as inadmissible.
- Any evidence that might be considered “religious” will be dismissed as inadmissible.
- John Maddox, editor of Nature magazine for 20 years, wrote an editorial with the title “Down with the Big Bang” in which he described the theory as “philosophically unacceptable.”
- Maddox feared that the Big Bang theory, to use Michael Behe’s take on his views, had “extra scientific implications.” For Maddox, the Big Bang conjures up images of metaphysics that gives credence to creationist theories.
- Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time, wrote, “Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention.”
- Carl Sagan: “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” How does he know this? He doesn’t.
- Anything that is not by definition a part of the cosmos does not exist; it’s not evidence.
- If you or I present something as being outside, above, or beyond the cosmos as being real (e.g., God), then according to Sagan, it does not exist and cannot be entered into evidence.
Religion vs. So-Called Objective Science
- Evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould has written: “The stereotype of a fully rational and objective ‘scientific method,’ with individual scientists as logical (and interchangeable) robots, is self-serving mythology.”
- “Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit in this one complaint . . . the [i.e., creationists] are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”
- Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895), in addition to being called “Darwin’s Bulldog,” was also known as “Pope Huxley.”
- “Huxley personalized ‘nature,’ referring to it as ‘fair, just and patient,’ ‘a strong angel who is playing for love.’”
- Huxley’s great-grandson, Julian Huxley (1887–1975), “conceded that his beliefs are ‘something in the nature of a religion,’” and described his humanist beliefs as “The New Divinity.”
- Biologist Lynn Margulis has referred to neo-Darwinism as “a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon biology.”
- Stuart Kauffman observes that “natural selection” has become so central an explanatory force in neo-Darwinism that “we might as well capitalise [it] as though it were the new deity.”
- “When [Carl] Sagan excludes even the possibility that a spiritual dimension has any place in his cosmos—not even at the unknown, mysterious moment when life began—he makes accidental evolution the explanation for everything. Presented in this way, evolution does indeed look like an inverted religion, a conceptual golden calf, which manages to reek of sterile atheism. It is little wonder that many parents find their deeper emotions stirred if they discover this to be the import of Johnny’s education.”
- “It is the universe that made us…. We are creatures of the cosmos…. Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed, not just to ourselves, but also to that cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.”
- “The ocean calls. Some part of our being knows this is from where we came. We long to return. These aspirations are not, I think, irreverent, although they may trouble whatever gods may be.”
- “Our ancestors worshipped the sun,” Sagan argues, “and they were far from foolish. It makes good sense to revere the sun and the stars, because we are their children.”
Notice the faith-based subtext of the statement “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be”
- Sagan believes “the cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”
- He certainly doesn’t know it from experience or scientific discovery.
- His sample is too small, and his reference point too limited to make such a dogmatic claim in the name of science.
- It was Sagan who became associated with the phrases “billions and billions” (a reference to the number of stars in the universe) and Pale Blue Dot (a reference to the near insignificance of the earth when compared to the vastness of space).
- Sagan made his dogmatic assertion about the “billions of stars” and what might lay beyond them while standing on the Pale Blue Dot called Earth.
- “This means that many people may rightly call themselves atheists meaning that they do not believe there are any gods (‘a-theist’ means literally ‘no-god’), but they will still have a religious belief if they regard anything whatever as the self-existent on which all else depends.”
The Myth of Neutrality: “Beware of the man who tells you that he will explain—fully explain—any complex human action or event by resort[ing] to ‘coldly objective,’ ‘empirically verifiable,’ ‘statistical data.’ He is deceiving himself, and perhaps seeking to deceive you. For in the first place we do not all see the same event in exactly the same way, let alone interpret it the same way—not even events which do not involve the complicating factor of human purpose.”
The Necessity of Defining Terms
- “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t—till I tell you…. When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,” said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.’”
- The first step in any debate is to ensure that the debate is about an agreed upon definition of a topic. For example, the word “democracy” has numerous meanings, everything thing from a government of the people, by the people, for the people to mob rule.
- The word “evolution” has a number of meanings, some of which are specifically designed to obscure the debate.
Continue reading Some Basic Principles for Christian Apologetics …
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