Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Advice to Apologists, Part 1

My advice to apologists is not meant to be all-inclusive, and it is not meant to be authoritative (on the level of William Lane Craig or Alvin Plantinga). Rather, it will simply be a collection of my observations and beliefs about some issues facing young, Christian apologists. Too often, we rush headlong into the project of apologetics without thinking some things through.

First, do not succumb to a type of “reverse confirmation bias.” I see this all too often. The young apologist, strengthened by his newfound intellectual rigor and study into Christianity, tends to believe that he can and will prove everything wrong. As he continues, he develops, sometimes unconsciously, the idea that if he cannot prove some objection to Christianity to be absolutely incorrect, then his faith will waver, and weaken. What happens from there is that each new objection that he cannot immediately answer counts, in effect, as evidence against Christianity. Either one of two results will occur: either he will spend the rest of his life running from intellectual fire to intellectual fire, trying desperately to put them out; or else he will eventually give up the faith altogether.

As an alternative, I would suggest that our faith is neither gained nor held by our own intellectual discoveries. In the first place, most of us do not credit the apologetic arguments with bringing us to faith (in the Christian sense). They may remove our intellectual barriers or even influence us strongly, or, in some cases, even bring intellectual assent. But Christian faith is much more than that. It is a matter of the will.[1] In the second place, we must adhere to the many biblical verses about the Holy Spirit’s revealing God’s truth to us (1 Cor. 2:9-12), and not being carried about with every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). In that case, then, we will have a rock-solid, unwavering commitment to biblical Christianity. 

Now do not misunderstand me: I am not suggesting that our own experience is how we would show an unbeliever that the Christian God is true, nor am I suggesting that if Christianity were shown to be false, that we should believe it anyway. Rather, I am saying that because we know Christianity is true, and because it is true, we have an internal justification for holding our beliefs. Instead of hand-wringing every time an objection is presented, we ought to have faith that it can be resolved. Why? Because of the many good reasons to believe, coupled with our internal justification!

Now, perhaps some skeptics will think there is something wrong (intellectually speaking) with this strategy, but it will be quite difficult to say just what. For it is not the case that we are saying a proof of God’s non-existence will simply be ignored. Nor is it the case that we are saying we can show God’s existence even in the face of such proof. Rather, all that is happening is that we are asserting one is justified himself in believing (based on properly basic beliefs, other arguments, individual experience), even in the face of such a so-called proof, provided he holds his internal justification (and prior beliefs) just as strongly or stronger than the so-called proof. Only if the proof overcomes this internal justification should Christianity be abandoned. But if Christianity is true, which we believe it is, then the proof will never outweigh this internal witness. All this is saying is that one’s own experiences can leave him justified in accepting God. This level of commitment to God is a commitment to truth (since God is truth). How does one cultivate that? That comes in the next article.
1 Besides, most of us cannot even say that we came to intellectual belief this way.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post Randy! When I was in some deep thought a couple years ago I came across that exact same understanding of our justification for faith. I also mentioned it when I met with Dr. Craig in January! That is, whatever proof is given (assuming it is a proof) that God does not exist (Or Christianity is false), such proof would have to be stronger and outweigh our primary evidence (experience of God) that God does exist!

    But what type of evidence COULD there be that would outweigh our experience? Well, for the true believing Christian, I don't think there can be any such evidence. And I don't think this is closed-mindedness. I just think of that movie Contact with Jodie Foster. Even in the place of very good evidence (everyone saw what happened and they had video and sound recording simultaneously) that what she experience didn't happen, the experience was so powerful and real that she is justified in believing in it because the recording and eyewitness evidence wasn't stronger than her experience.


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