The Whole Christ

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

Transcendental men

If you’ve never visited Peter Leithart’s blog before, I warmly commend it to you. I recently read an old post by him on beauty and its relation to apologetics, which can be found here. In it, he argues that the beauty inherent in nature points to the existence of an ultimate beauty – Christ. The argument from beauty is the most neglected of the three transcendental arguments and yet it is probably the most important.

Here are the three transcendental arguments for the existence of God.

1) The argument from morality – the existence of objective morality cannot be adequately accounted for without presupposing a Christian worldview.

2) The argument from logic – the existence of logical laws, of objective truth, cannot be adequately accounted for without presupposing a Christian worldview.

3) The argument from beauty – the existence of beauty cannot be adequately accounted for without presupposing a Christian worldview.

As Jesus said, “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).

One of the main reasons why the argument from beauty is neglected is because it is less objective than the other two. I think though, that suspicion of it is probably rooted in modernism, rather than in Christianity. Let us not forget that postmodernism acted as a useful counterbalance against the liberal thinking of modernistic enlightenment-era Christianity. We need to see the Christ of Christianity as Isaiah did, as a God of Glory and Beauty (Isaiah 6).

Consider this – most Christians in the UK are women. A Tearfund report from around ten years ago suggested that 2 in every 3 Christians are female. I don’t know if that figure is still accurate, but I think it says something about British men. It suggests that they don’t get the beauty of the gospel like women do.

Many have suggested that the Church is too feminine and needs to become more ‘manly’ to appeal to men. Whilst that may be partially true, I think there is an inherent danger in labelling the dullness of British liberal evangelicalism as “feminine”. It carries the implication that women are dull and lifeless, whereas men are fun and exciting, which couldn’t be further from the truth! Let us not forget that the Holy Spirit is the feminine person of the Godhead, the glorifier, and that it is through the Spirit that we come to know Jesus.

I think that there is a much simpler reason why the men left the Church: sex. One of the main reasons why men refuse to accept Jesus is because they don’t want anyone to have control over their sex lives. Many non-Christian men I have spoken with have even been very open about this as the reason why! The apologetic answer to the problem is not to concentrate solely on the more logic-orientated arguments for Christianity, which will only evade the deeper issues. Rather, we must unashamedly set forth the beauty of Christ first and foremost, displaying it in our words and actions, so that the word of the gospel of Christ might be made flesh in us.

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3 responses to “Transcendental men

  1. Peter Hardy 25 July 2012 at 10:13 am

    This is great. Hmm, regarding the “danger in labelling the dullness of British liberal evangelicalism as ‘feminine'” – obviously I don’t have to tell a mathematician that just because 2 out of 3 Christians in Britain are women doesn’t mean that most evangelicals are. I’d’ve thought it would be more balanced than other denominations.

    Still more obviously, these arguments apply to broadly to theism rather than narrowly to “a Christian worldview”. Of course one may argue that they are brought out more strongly by Christianity.

    While the argument from beauty is overlooked because it is less objective as you say, I think that the argument from logic is the most complicated and most powerful of these. This is interwoven with issues to do with the intelligibility (or comprehensibility) of the cosmos and has been popularised in philosophy by Alvin Plantinga’s ‘The Self-Refutation of Naturalism’, an article which builds on C. S. Lewis’ statement that if evolutionary naturalism is the whole of the truth then we have no guarantee that any of our beliefs are justified since our cognitive faculties are only directed towards survival and not to the apprehension of knowledge.

    Another strand to the argument from logic is the defence against the sceptic’s problem of induction. There is no reason to believe that nature generally works in the same way at different times and at different places -a belief necessary for science- unless this is imposed uniformly from a higher source. In popular apologetics these parts of the argument have been put well by John Lennox. See for instance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnX-42AGevg

    The most unfairly overlooked aspect of Leithart’s 3 ‘transcendental arguments’, however, is that objective morality (which I actually think is possible -albeit rather unlikely- without a God) implies not only the abstract cosmic mind of the arguments from the origin and fine tuning of the cosmos, but crucially a morally concerned consciousness.

  2. thetotuschristus 25 July 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Absolutely Peter, the statistics for evangelicals may well not be the same. I made the assumption that if there are as many as 2 women per man in the Christian circles, then it’s extremely likely that there are still more in the evangelical world (even if to a lesser degree). But who knows for sure? I don’t even know who Tearfund counted as a ‘Christian’, although I suspect that ‘regular churchgoer’ is what they were referring to. I don’t know if Catholicism is dull as I am mostly unfamiliar with it. From my limited experience of it, I would say that it seems quite fun, but hey, what do I know?

    All of the transcendental arguments are very important, my emphasis was on the fact that God is first and foremost to be loved, not obeyed or understood (not that we can really detach those things from each other, but you know what I mean). When I say “cannot be adequately accounted for without presupposing a Christian worldview”, the emphasis is on the word “adequately”. There are many gods out there, but only the beauty of Christ can captivate the heart in the fullest sense.

    • Peter Hardy 25 July 2012 at 11:17 pm

      Of course one is also reminded of Chesterton’s famous statement that Christianity is to be believed not only because it is true but also because it is beautiful and good.

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