The Whole Christ

"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17)

Top 5 Apologetics Myths

I have recently been reading Cornelius Van Til’s “Christian Apologetics” and it has really got me thinking about how the Church ought to be interacting with the world on some of today’s hot topics. I think all too often we are prone to affirming certain parts of the secular worldview without properly considering the consequences. So here are five things which the good Christian apologist should never agree with the secularist about. There are probably many others, but here are just a few.

1) “Both of us believe in the laws of science”

We should never affirm that any such impersonal, unchangeable ‘laws’ exist (cf 2 Peter 3:3-4). By agreeing with the secularist on this matter the apologist is basically affirming a materialistic worldview from the outset. Contrary to this, we must insist that God directly and personally governs the universe through his Spirit (eg. Psalm 104); the ‘laws’ of science are merely conventions which God is free to break whenever he so desires.

2) “Both of us are honestly pursuing the truth, we have just come to different conclusions”

The Apostle Paul does not reason this way. He insists that those who deny the gospel are fools (Romans 1:22-23) and that they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18-19). Deep down in his heart of hearts, the secularist knows that Jesus is Lord of the universe and he is doing everything he can to actively suppress that truth. He has become so accustomed to doing this that he has become blind (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) and hard-hearted (Ephesians 4:17-18).

3) “The existence of God is a complex issue”

Psalm 19 teaches that the existence of the triune God is crystal clear from the world he made; that creation is constantly screaming the good news about its Creator and about his graciousness towards us. It is our sinfulness which blinds us and keeps us from recognising this self-evident fact.

4) “We should begin outside of faith and the Bible and investigate these issues independently”

The secularist is not capable of investigating anything independently because they are blind. They need to recognise the reality of their sinfulness through hearing the good news about God’s grace revealed in Jesus (Romans 1:16-17). The apologist is not seeking to win an argument, but to lead a non-Christian to repentance.

5) “Faith should be a private matter”

Christianity is about proclamation. You cannot be a Christian and be quiet about it. The Apostles did not keep silent even after violent persecution (Acts 4) and neither should we. We would be hypocrites if we failed to speak out against the sinful practices of the world, if we did not denounce evil and rejoice in good. This applies in the ‘political’ sphere just as much as in the ‘personal’ one. Jesus is lord over all the kings of the earth (Psalm 2).

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14 responses to “Top 5 Apologetics Myths

  1. NotAScientist 6 June 2012 at 8:35 pm

    If you start off calling those who disagree with you ‘blind fools’, you won’t be winning any popularity points or intellectual respect.

  2. thetotuschristus 6 June 2012 at 10:28 pm

    NotAScientist, welcome to the blog!

    Respect is not what I am here for. I don’t mean any of this as a personal attack upon anyone, I am just trying to live and reason consistently with my beliefs.

    I might ask what evidence you could bring to me that anything that I have said here is not true?

    To me, a universe governed by Jesus makes more sense of the existence of morality and of logic. It explains how reality is fundamentally personal, rather than simply material (not that I am putting the two in conflict of course!).

    • NotAScientist 7 June 2012 at 12:56 pm

      “I might ask what evidence you could bring to me that anything that I have said here is not true?”

      Not true in what sense?

      The Bible says all sorts of things, many of which you have quoted. Whether the Bible is correct about those things is another matter. And my general answer would be ‘no, it’s not true.’

      “To me, a universe governed by Jesus makes more sense of the existence of morality and of logic.”

      And to me, a universe that provides no good evidence for the supernatural is more likely to not have the supernatural, than for the supernatural just to be ‘hiding’.

  3. thetotuschristus 7 June 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Well, do you agree with any of the following:

    1) There are impersonal, unchangeable scientific laws which govern the universe
    2) Human beings are usually capable of honestly pursuing the truth
    3) It is not clear cut from the nature of the universe that the Christian God exists
    4) We should investigate the nature of reality by starting outside of the bible and the Christian faith
    5) Faith ought to be a private matter

    I am contesting all of them. Do you have any evidence that any of them are true?

    Regarding your second point, I would suggest that you are assuming what you want to prove. I believe that the existence and the love of Jesus Christ is the most obvious thing in the world and that deep down in your heart of hearts you know this to be true. Sure, I often find it hard to believe myself, but that is because I am prone to being blinded by my own sinfulness, just as you are.

    • NotAScientist 7 June 2012 at 8:29 pm

      “1) There are impersonal, unchangeable scientific laws which govern the universe”

      I find this statement to be badly worded. (I don’t intend that to be an insult, so I hope you don’t take it as such.)

      There are ways in which the universe appears to function. Using science, we have determined to the best of our ability what these ways are, and have called them ‘laws’ because they appear not to change.

      “2) Human beings are usually capable of honestly pursuing the truth”

      Again, I think this isn’t worded very well.

      Are human beings capable of pursuing the truth? Yes. Do they? Sometimes. I try to.

      “3) It is not clear cut from the nature of the universe that the Christian God exists”

      It depends on how you define ‘Christian God’.

      There is no clear, unambiguous empirical evidence for the existence of the supernatural. If that’s what you mean.

      “4) We should investigate the nature of reality by starting outside of the bible and the Christian faith”

      We should investigate reality by looking at the evidence and seeing where it leads. Not deciding where we want it to lead and then looking for evidence to support our starting point.

      “5) Faith ought to be a private matter”

      You’ll have to define both ‘faith’ and ‘private’, as both have different meanings depending on how you use them.

      “I am contesting all of them. Do you have any evidence that any of them are true?”

      Well, read my responses and tell me what you think.

      “I would suggest that you are assuming what you want to prove.”

      You would be incorrect.

      “I believe that the existence and the love of Jesus Christ is the most obvious thing in the world and that deep down in your heart of hearts you know this to be true.”

      Again, you would be incorrect.

      If you must be taught something, then it isn’t obvious. And it seems very clear that children must be taught about Jesus Christ, they don’t come to knowledge about him or belief in him spontaneously.

      I don’t know what you mean by ‘heart of hearts’. But no, I am an atheist, and do not believe in any god or gods, Jesus included.

      “but that is because I am prone to being blinded by my own sinfulness, just as you are.”

      I don’t acknowledge ‘sin’ as a valid or useful concept. Nor is my belief or non-belief based on my morality (or lack thereof).

  4. thetotuschristus 8 June 2012 at 10:53 am

    (1) “Using science” means that you will only ever get unchanging ‘laws’ since that is all that the scientific method is capable of detecting. If the principles which govern the universe are not fixed and impersonal, the scientific method will never be able to show this since it is not designed for that purpose.

    (2) That is exactly what I am contesting. Do you have any evidence that human beings are capable of honestly pursuing the truth about God’s existence or character?

    (3) By ‘Christian God’ I mean the God revealed in the person of Jesus – the God who became a human being, died and rose again. The scientific method cannot detect the existence of such a God – that would be like trying to find diamond using a gold detector.

    (4) If human beings are blinded by their rebellion against God and are incapable of honestly pursuing the truth about God, then investigating the universe will get them nowhere. As a Christian, I believe that the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin can actually set people free from their spiritual blindness – and therefore it is the only place to start with regard to knowing God.

    (5) Fair enough, let’s leave this one.

    “Again, you would be incorrect.”

    Do you have any evidence for this claim? Children must be taught these things because they come into the world blinded by sin, just like everyone else. I am not suggesting that people innately know everything there is to know about God, just that they know enough to rebel against Him.

    “Nor is my belief or non-belief based on my morality ”

    Saying something doesn’t make it true. I believe that human beings are firstly personal and secondly rational. Ethics comes before rationality in my worldview. I believe that you are living in rebellion against God, no matter how much you insist that this is not the case. This is what I mean by “sin” I mean rebellion against God, manifested in our thoughts and actions.

    • NotAScientist 8 June 2012 at 1:45 pm

      “the scientific method will never be able to show this since it is not designed for that purpose.”

      Sure they will. The scientific method can show us if the laws of the universe are changing and unstable. I don’t see why it couldn’t.

      :”Do you have any evidence that human beings are capable of honestly pursuing the truth about God’s existence or character?”

      I think human beings are capable of honestly pursuing the truth about the universe. You see it when religious scientists, like Dr. Francis Collins or Dr. Kenneth Miller, accept biological evolution because of the science and the evidence, despite what their religions (Evangelical Christianity and Roman Catholicism) tell them.

      “The scientific method cannot detect the existence of such a God”

      Why not?

      If you were to die and then come back to life, we could determine it scientifically. If you were to change water into wine, we could determine it scientifically. Not all that hard to do, really.

      “and therefore it is the only place to start with regard to knowing God.”

      It’s clear we fundamentally disagree.

      “Fair enough, let’s leave this one.”

      That’s a shame. I felt we could find some common ground with that one.

      “just that they know enough to rebel against Him.”

      To suggest that babies know enough to ‘rebel’ against a god seems to be grossly overestimating the mental faculties of a child that age. And it makes me sad that you have to rationalize it that way to justify what seems to be a horrible tenet of your religion to me.

      “Saying something doesn’t make it true. ”

      Agreed. Which is why I don’t believe apologists or the Bible.

  5. thetotuschristus 8 June 2012 at 6:52 pm

    “It’s clear we fundamentally disagree”

    I think we are getting somewhere with this discussion.

    On the scientific method:

    The scientific method detects trends and patterns; it is not designed to account for miracles. If a scientist were to observe a miracle (like water turning into wine), they would try to repeat the experiment in order to find the mechanism which caused the change. They would assume that there must be a naturalistic explanation, even where such an explanation were incredibly unlikely. Consider how utterly implausible Abiogenesis is, and yet scientists continue to insist that there must be a naturalistic explanation for it.

    I don’t believe that the scientific method is the ultimate arbiter of truth. My own personal position on evolution is that it cannot sufficiently account for human morals, and since morality is more important than finding regular patterns in nature (in my worldview), I reject it. Obviously I cannot isolate this argument from the fact that it also contradicts the bible.

    “grossly overestimating”

    It’s only a gross overestimation if you proceed under the assumptions of a secular worldview. Under Christian assumptions, it makes perfect sense. Just because something is horrible, that does not mean it is not true. Better to be honest about the way things are than to try and sugercoat them.

    “I felt we could find some common ground with that one“

    Well that is good to hear.

    I should add to all of this that your style of argumentation assumes that you believe truth matters. Would you agree then with the following statement?

    “Human beings ought to be truthful”

    I am not convinced that you have any philosophical foundation for agreeing with such a statement. By insisting that the scientific method is the ultimate arbiter of truth, you cannot have ethical absolutes like this one, as they cannot be accounted for by your worldview. Your moral attitudes betray the fact that deep down you know better.

    The evidence for Jesus is literally astounding. From the death-and-resurrection patterns we see in the sun, the tides and the seasons to the events of his birth story portrayed in the constellations, it is clear that the whole of creation cries out in praise to its maker.

  6. Peter Hardy 23 June 2012 at 8:31 pm

    I haven’t read the above discussion. Chris we’re disagreed a lot about a lot of things before but it’s hard to imagine disagreeing with you more than I do here. Well I very much agree with your sentiment in 1 but you cannot practically go about denying the laws of science in your witnessing or people will run screaming. This is one of those issues regarding God that *is* extremely complex and requires gradual, long-term reflection. Your only point I agree on is 5.

    I’d be interested to know your opinion on whether it is better to argue from God to Jesus or from Jesus to God, but I suspect from 4 that it would be the latter (unreasonable in my opinion).

    I suppose underlying all this disagreement the question I would want to ask is if you really think that non-Christians are that foolish and that blind, and that the truth of Christianity is immediately obvious to everyone, what is the point in witnessing to them? I know you *have* to witness to them because of the great commission, but doesn’t your view make the great commission pointless?

  7. Peter Hardy 24 June 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Actually, upon reflection I do agree with you about 1. We need to be clear that we don’t believe God has created absolute Laws of nature which he then proceeds to violate and interfere with (which wouldn’t be very rational of him), but rather that God’s Spirit is always active throughout his creation. But obviously there are ‘laws of nature’ in the sense of statistical regularities which God fixed at the beginning to permit stability and other qualities necessary for evolution. This account of laws of nature was around in philosophy before quantum mechanics but has become a lot more popular since due to Heisenburg’s Uncertainty Principle.

  8. thetotuschristus 26 June 2012 at 6:57 pm

    I think you’ve got my point in 1. Belief in a personal God entails belief in a personal universe, there’s no two ways about it… “they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord” (Acts 12:10).

    Regarding Jesus to God and vice versa, it depends what you mean. If by Jesus you mean the Jesus of Genesis 2-3 who banished Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden (the eternal Son) then yes, you have to start with him if you want to know the Father. But if you mean that humans couldn’t have really known God until he came in the flesh, then no. Also, it is certainly possible to know the Son through secondary means and the Father through him.

    Regarding perhaps your most central objection, on why we should witness to the spiritually blind and deaf, it is because the gospel has the power to liberate people from their spiritual death. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) And this gospel is the message that the crucified and risen Jesus is now seated in heaven and rules over all. I appreciate that you probably won’t agree with any of this, but would you at least agree that this is what the Apostle appears to be saying?

  9. mikebull1 18 September 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Permission to reblog this post?

  10. Pingback: Apologetics Myths | Bully's Blog

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