Sunday, February 26, 2012

Apologetics in black and white

In this weeks Apologetics class we are looking at different approaches to apologetics. These might be classified into three categories, depending on whether they stress revelation, creation, or personal experience.

1. Presuppositionalism stresses revelation.
The principal modern exponent of this was Cornelius Van Til. Earlier practitioners would include Augustine, Calvin, and Abraham Kuyper. More recents include Francis Schaeffer and John Frame. It proclaims the Gospel as true without need for justification by reason which is corrupted by human sin. I discuss it in more detail below.

2. Evidentialism stresses creation, building arguments based on historical and scientific evidence that is available to all.
Proponents or practitioners include Josh McDowell, William Lane Craig, John Lennox, and C.S. Lewis.
In practise particular emphasis is given to the historical reliability of the New Testaments documents and evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.

3. Experientialism stresses personal experience and the limitations of dry rational argument and intellectual assent to truth statements or propositions. Being a Christian involves a living relationship with God. Historical exponents would include Blaise Pascal, Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and Emil Brunner.

I can't say that I favour one approach over another. They all have strengths and weaknesses. However, I do have a concern about the justification given by some of the proponents. Some of them seem to make very strong categorical black and white statements to support their case. Here are a few concerning presuppositionalism [as paraphrased by Andrew Reid in the course notes]
sin has tainted everything, including the mind, and therefore no arguments or evidence will be able to persuade a person 
If we maintain that humans can come to know God through reasoning, then we find ourselves in the position of denying a basic biblical truth that humans need to be dependent upon God in all things,  
[a point of contact] is impossible since Christians and non-Christians have totally incompatible world views 
[presuppositional apologetics should] only use reason to demonstrate that all reasoning rests on one or the other of two presuppositions. It can either rest on the truth of Scripture or on the supremacy of unaided (or `crippled') reason.
I just think there are a lot more shades of gray than this.
In some ways, this very "logical" approach seems to very modernist, i.e., embedded in  Enlightenment presuppositions and the value/supremacy of self-evident truths and logic. This is rather ironical.

Sin has corrupted reason. But that does not mean that reason is useless. [Sin has corrupted democracy, but that does not mean it is useless!] Perhaps reason and argument needs to be used to get a person to the point that they are willing to consider an alternative view and look at the Bible. Perhaps the sovereign God can be working through such a process. Humans do need to be dependant on God in all things. But that does not preclude us making use of worldly devices. I need to depend on God for my health and healing but part of trusting God in this may mean trusting the doctor and modern medicine to heal me!

1 comment:

  1. Maybe the retreat to black and white categorizations is a reaction to the disregard for truth, biblical doctrine and logical or fair reasoning in the culture at large and occasionally the pulpit. Last year in reading "Reasons for God" by Tim Keller I was struck by how many popular truisms espoused to avoid Christian commitment are self-refuting. But I think we believers do some of the same. Take the first of Andrew Reid's presuppositionalist statements. It is an assertion that all human assertions are unable to persuade. Presumably this assertion persuades no one so it is unclear what is is attempting to accomplish? The second statement likewise (I think) is pointless since it constitutes *reasoning* that we should only rely on God, not reasoning, for everything. So reasoning is used to dissuade from reasoning.