Saturday, January 15, 2005

Vox Apologia - Apologetics as experience...

Phil, at Every Thought Captive, is co-sponsoring a Vox Apologia with Razors Kiss. Their first question is, What does apologetics mean to today's church? We are emotional creatures... us humans. Whether it be the experience, the high, or the rush, we find ourselves genuflecting to the notion that the validity of our existence should be determined by the level of passion we experience. The Church is not entirely unaffected by such seductive thinking. However, Christianity is not a religion based simply on emotion. Contrary to how Christianity is typically pitched in the West, it is not grounded in the experience. Agape love, a core principle of the Christian religion, is initiated not by feeling, but by choice. This in no way negates the existence, or the importance, of the emotional aspect of Christianity. As I stated, we are emotional creatures... but we are also rational creatures. God has chosen to interact with humans through very rational means. Despite the fact that Jesus related to humans at an emotional level, we must not forget that he also taught them at a rational level. Furthermore, the very act of reading God's Word, that of the written text, can only be accomplished through rational activity. Fides et Ratio. A comprehensive understanding of the Christian faith reveals that the faith described in the scriptures is not a blind faith, but a faith supported by reason. If we are to truly understand just what it means to follow Christ, then we must see that following Him entails loving Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. In other words, Faith and Reason.


Bonnie said...

Yes -- and we worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Constance said...

I am all for rational thinking.
But if our emotions are not developed
and healed our rational thinking will be effected.
Most of our actions and decisions are emotionally based.
At some point, our emotions will always need to be dealt with regardless of how rational we have become.

symcrich said...

I agree that reason is an important part of Christianity. Reason also permits one to question the Bible and the dogma of religions to determine what is true in one's particular experience of God. Reason does not imply acceptance of anything just because the Bible and a church says so. I believe our Christianity is strengthened by using reason to explore what is true for one in the context of faith

Paul said...

Coming from the outside, one of the things that has impressed me most is the internal consistency and reason within your brand of Christianity. I often disagree with the conclusions, and interestingly even other Christian groups disagree, but there is clearly logic and reasoning present.

My criticism, hardly original to me, is that all of the reasoning rests on the huge leap of faith (not reason) that God exists. And that always seems to rest on "it stands to reason" which is not the same as being a reasoned conclusion.

Rusty said...

I agree that we need to have a balance between emotion and logic.

I would agree with you that, in the final analysis, the Christian steps out on faith to acknowledge God's existence. Where I would probably disagree with you is with regards to how that step of faith is categorized (i.e., a choice made blindly vs. a choice made from reason). I consider Ron Nash' description, from his book Faith & Reason, to be exquisite: As a Christian, I am interested in sharing my faith and my reasons for holding those beliefs. I have little use for misguided Christians who regard philosophy or science or any intellectual pursuit as somehow incompatible with Christian faith. I have little respect for uninformed Christians who think that reason and logic are threats to the Christian faith and who describe faith as some kind of irrational leap into a dark abyss.Also, I would argue that your analysis is not made from outside the boat I am sitting in. In other words, you yourself cannot hold to truth claims without also taking a step of faith. Despite your adherence to a system such as methodological naturalism, you are not able to establish that the belief that there is no God should be the default. If I am under no obligation to rationally justify God's existence, then you cannot rationally measure my huge leap of faith. Such a leap becomes mere opinion.

386sx said...

I would agree with you that, in the final analysis, the Christian steps out on faith to acknowledge God's existence.

Sometimes it's a good idea to hide the acknowledgement though, such as when one is trying to sneak religious apologetics into the educational system's back door under the guise of science. A clever strategy, for sure, but not very honest, I'm afraid.

Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools. (Phillip Johnson, American Family Radio, Jan 10, 2003 broadcast)

Kudos to the judge for not letting Mr. Johnson and crew take the logical implications of their world view to its logical conclusion.

Paul said...

I didn't really see the part of your comment where you illustrated that your faith is built on reason. I assume that the 'default' is no god because I assume the default for anything is nothing - If you ask me if *anything* exists I will assume not, until I see some evidence that it does (I don't need proof, just a preponderence of evidence). If you don't subscribe to that then I assume you believe that Yetis, Wargs and Pixies exist too?

Bonnie said... you exist?

My husband teases me sometimes about the people I "talk to" on the computer...he asks me how I know I'm not talking to...a Yeti, or a Warg, or whatever.

Why must the "default" be "nothing?" Who decided that? In a world full of "somethings," it seems more likely to me that the default would be a "something else" rather than a "nothing."

On evidence...what is evidence? It comes in different forms. Why must you insist on a certain kind before accepting certain things?

Yes, Pixies do exist. There's one living in my house :-)

Rusty said...


My faith is not grounded apart from reason but is built up upon reason. For instance, the historicity of the documents we now know as the New Testament provide us with a very reliable indication that what we now read is what was originally written. The appearance of Jesus Christ, while encompassing the miraculous, is not presented as some mystical and enigmatic event, but is tied to real places, people and events. Another avenue of reason is the use of an apologetic such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Rationality, therefore, provides the basis with which a person can ultimately make a choice, by faith, to follow Christ. This is, in no way, a leap of blind faith.

With regards to your default, consider that before you can know anything, you must believe something. It’s all well and good that you assume that nothing exists until provided sufficient evidence… but at least admit that such an assumption can never be justified by the very methodology it uses. So, you’re entitled to believe that the default for anything is nothing, but you cannot demonstrate why it should be more than an opinion.

I do not believe in Yetis precisely for the very reason you posit – a lack of a preponderance of evidence. Do you see the difference with regards to my faith in Christianity? It’s not that I believe for no reason, but that I consider the reasons sufficient to justify belief. You, on the other hand, appear to consider the reasons insufficient to justify belief. As you have alluded to, we both use similar methods, but are coming to different conclusions.

Lastly, although I argue for rationality with regards to a foundation for faith, I take the same position as Ron Nash (and Alvin Plantinga) with regards to whether it is necessary to have evidence to make a particular belief rational. See an earlier post I did on the topic.

Paul said...

Bonnie - The default doesn't *have* to be to start with nothing. But I think we'd agree that you have to start somewhere. Now you can start by saying I know that there is a god, but then anything you use to prove it is self-fulfilling; you're finding evidence to back up your belief. So if the point (as decided by you) is to try to find whatever truth you think is out there, then follow what you experience and reason to wherever that leads.

Rusty - Can you tell me one of the miracles in the bible that is established historical fact? I don't deny that the people who wrote the bible were there at or around the time, and that many of the things they wrote happened. But it seems clear to me that many of the things they wrote didn't happen, or didn't happen as they were described. So establishing the historicity of parts of the bible doesn't tell us much, any more than if I wrote a supernatural account of something today and intertwined it with contemporary events it would make the stuff I made more true in 2,000 years.

Rusty said...


You miss the point by asking for some specific form of proof of miraculous activity.

I gave you a few examples (from the myriad) of how my faith is built on reason. That is a world apart from then asking for a particular proof of supernatural activity.

The resurrection of Christ is established historical fact. That you don't believe it is because of an a priori belief that people don't come alive again after dieing. You have chosen, for whatever reasons, to disregard the historically based evidence as presented in the New Testament (and other documents). This is no different from two jurors coming to different conclusions in a trial.

BTW, why limit your question to miracles? You could just as easily ask, can you tell me one of the events in 1776 Philadelphia that is established historical fact? All you could rely on would be historical records. Because of your refusal to believe that the witnesses 2000 years ago truly saw what they described, you reject it.

Paul said...

Jesus's resurrection isn't established historical fact. It's a story included in a book by a group of people trying to sell something. I doubt it for the same reasons I doubt that, to use an example from Canon's website, they offer "limitless control of camera functions":

1. It might be true, but every other camera I've ever heard of has some limits to their controls, if only to follow the theories of physics.
2. It might be true, but Canon just might be true to sway my decision in a biased fashion.

So, his resurraction may be a fact (the use of the word historical is redundant - it's either a fact or it isn't). But to be established we would need proof, or at least a preponderance of evidence, which we lack.

We know that Jefferson wrote most of the declaration of independence because he claimed to, others involved in the process (who weren't necessarily inclined to favor him) said so, we have drafts of the text he created, and we have a finished declaration. Paul Revere's ride is not an established fact, because while there are accounts of it, it appears they are largely self-aggrandizing tales. Notice that in both cases we don't have undoctored videotape evidence, or a surviving eyewitness, but we do have independent corroboration.

I'm not a biblical scholar, so I can't state that there isn't such evidence for Jesus' resurrection, but my understanding is that the accounts are either from his followers, or of the form "it is said that...", which could clearly come from those followers' passed on accounts. Interesting, suggestive of something, but not even close to establishing it as (historical) fact.