via www.Bible.org , a study by myltiple authors.
Classical apologists seek to show that the Christian worldview is rational or reasonable and therefore worthy of belief. The characteristic approach they take to accomplish this task is a two-step or two-stage argument. First, classical apologists seek to demonstrate that theism—the general type of worldview that affirms the existence of one personal Creator God and that is associated historically with Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—is true. Arguments of a deductive logical structure—‘proofs’ in the usual strict sense—are typical of this stage, although many apologists in this tradition also use empirical arguments (especially for creation) and claim only to show that there are good reasons to think that God exists. In the second step or stage of the apologetic, the classical apologist argues that, given the existence of God, the evidence for Jesus Christ and the inspiration of the Bible are sufficient to show that Christianity is true. At this stage the arguments are usually more inductive, and in fact are typically identical to the sorts of arguments used by evidentialists in regards to such subjects as the resurrection of Christ.
William Lane Craig explains the method in just this way. He acknowledges that the main argument he favors in support of belief in God does not prove everything we might like about God, but is rather proof “simply of a Personal Creator of the universe, and then the argument can proceed from there.” Has this Creator remained distant and aloof from the world that he has made, or has he revealed himself more fully to humankind that we might know him more completely? Here one moves to the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be the unique personal revelation of such a Creator. It will then be the Christian evidentialist’s turn to take over the oars from the natural theologian.
C S Lewis narrowed it down to 3 worldviews
Scripture as Conclusion
One of the most fundamental questions concerning apologetic method is the role that Scripture plays in apologetic argument. In general, classical apologists seek to make the existence of Scripture as a body of inspired and authoritative writings the conclusion of the whole apologetic.
For example, B. B. Warfield argued that the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture were the conclusion toward which apologetics worked, not its presupposition or starting point. “In dealing with sceptics it is not proper to begin with the evidence which immediately establishes Inspiration, but we should first establish Theism, then the historical credibility of the Scriptures, and then the divine origin of Christianity.” On the basis of the divine origin of Christianity, one may then go on to argue for the inspiration of Scripture.
Warfield’s placement of Scripture at the end of the apologetic argument is reflected explicitly in the structure of some textbooks on apologetics from a classical approach. Norman Geisler’s Christian Apologetics is a perfect example.3 Geisler discusses apologetic methodology in Part One and argues for the existence of God in Part Two. In Part Three he presents an apologetic for Christianity per se, beginning with a defense of the belief in the supernatural (chapter 14) and continuing with a defense of the possibility of knowing that God had intervened supernaturally in history (15). Next, Geisler defends the historical reliability of the New Testament (16) as a prelude to giving an argument for the deity and authority of Christ (17). Only after all this has been established does he conclude with a final chapter on the inspiration and authority of the Bible (18). “The evidence that the Bible is the written word of God is anchored in the authority of Jesus Christ.” As we saw in our overview of Geisler’s apologetic in chapter 4, the inspiration of Scripture is the twelfth point in his 12-point argument for Christianity.
In treating the authority of Scripture as the conclusion toward which an apologetic is directed, classical apologists seek to avoid begging the question by assuming the authority of Scripture in apologetic arguments directed to unbelievers. These apologists argue that “reason must judge the credentials of any alleged revelation.”5 Doing so is not seen as arrogant or impious because, classical apologists explain, God gave us our faculty of reason and directed his revelation to it. Therefore God expects us to employ our reasoning abilities both to both recognize his true revelation and to detect the fraudulent revelations of other religions. As Stephen Neill put it: “Reason is not the affirmation of the arrogant autonomy of man, fashioning a universe according to his own ideas. It is that faculty in man which makes it possible for him to receive the revelation of God, to receive revelation in the form of the Word of God. But, to receive it, he must be humble, and ready to listen to God, whenever and however He speaks.”6
Classical apologists believe that human beings are responsible to use their reasoning faculties to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). They deny that testing revelations from God is a manifestation of human autonomy that elevates the mind as the final authority for truth. Rather, just as it is reasonable to look for credentials before submitting to a human authority in any given field, so it is reasonable to submit to the authority of revelation once it is shown to be well founded on the basis of God-given rationality. As Gordon R. Lewis argues, “To be responsible before the Bible, the unbeliever must have enough judgment to know why he should determine his lifestyle by Scripture rather than the Koran or the Book of Mormon. The use of systematic consistency to distinguish the Bible from the Koran in no way detracts from the Bible’s authority. It verifies the Bible’s claim above all competitors..Negatively, classical apologists seek to refute common objections to biblical inspiration. This refutation involves both direct answers to specific objections and observations about the assumptions or presuppositions of those who reject biblical inspiration or inerrancy. Geisler, for example, in Inerrancy, a book he edited for the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, contributed a chapter entitled “Philosophical Presuppositions of Biblical Errancy.” There he examines the modern neoevangelical drift from the historical biblical doctrine of inerrancy. He traces the current crisis in biblical authority to philosophical presuppositions derived from various unbiblical philosophies. Geisler’s thesis is that “contemporary neoevangelical denials of inerrancy borrow from one or more of these alien and unjustified philosophical presuppositions.” The solution to such antibiblical presuppositions, for classical apologists like Geisler, is to reexamine the worldviews of those who hold them and make the case for a theistic worldview in which the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture will not be philosophically scandalous.
Disproving Other Worldviews
A worldview is the sum of a person’s basic assumptions, held consciously or subconsciously, about life and the nature of reality. These assumptions or presuppositions are sometimes “only brought to mind when challenged by a foreigner from another ideological universe.”10 Classical apologists generally maintain that while there may be many internal variations, the actual number of basic worldviews is quite limited. James W. Sire catalogs and contrasts several of these in The Universe Next Door, and then comments:
The fact is that while worldviews at first appear to proliferate, they are made up of answers to questions which have only a limited number of answers. For example, to the question of prime reality, only two basic answers can be given: Either it is the universe that is self-existent and has always existed, or it is a transcendent God who is self-existent and has always existed. Theism and deism claim the latter; naturalism, Eastern pantheistic monism, New Age thought and postmodernism claim the former.11
There are different ways of categorizing worldviews because of areas of overlap. Sire devotes separate chapters to eight basic worldviews: Christian theism, deism, naturalism, nihilism, existentialism, Eastern pantheistic monism, the New Age, and postmodernism.12 Norman Geisler and William Watkins in Worlds Apart, another evangelical overview of worldviews, distinguish seven worldviews, and their list differs in some respects from Sire’s (deism, pantheism, panentheism, finite godism, polytheism, atheism, and theism). There is more overlap here than may meet the eye: Sire’s naturalism is the same worldview as atheism, and nihilism and existentialism are philosophies that seek to apply the atheistic worldview to human life. Moreover, pantheism includes both Eastern pantheistic monism and the New Age. Narrowing the options enables the apologist to show non-Christians the fundamental choices that need to be made. Once they realize there are only a few basic worldviews, the excuse that there are so many beliefs in the world drops away.
One way classical apologists demonstrate that the number of worldview choices is finite and manageable is by presenting the major worldviews as the conclusions to a series of choices between two opposing alternatives. Doing so also allows the apologist to identify the critical issues that need to be addressed in choosing a worldview. Here again the classical approach’s characteristic emphasis on logic is evident. The following chart presents this schema.(see chart above).
C. S. Lewis reduced the number of worldviews even further, to three. In broad terms, he held that most if not all people hold to some variation of three views of reality: materialism or atheism, Hinduism (of which Buddhism was a simplification), and Christianity (of which Islam was a simplification). For Lewis, the best options could be narrowed down to Hinduism and Christianity, and from there to Christianity alone because of the person and work of Christ.14
Having narrowed the worldview options to a manageable number, whether two, three, seven, or more, the classical apologist then examines the alternatives to theism in order to show that they are to be rejected. The basic strategy here is to show that these other worldviews are rationally incoherent. Other considerations may also be pressed (for example, that they are in conflict with certain facts, or that they are unlivable), but the characteristic emphasis of the classical approach to refuting non-Christian worldviews is to show that such worldviews are logically self-contradictory or self-refuting.
If nontheistic worldviews can be eliminated and theism established as the most credible one, this would reduce the number of viable world religions to three: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The classical apologist can then point to various evidences that Christianity is the true fulfillment of original (Old Testament) Judaism and that both Judaism and Islam fail to reckon adequately with the claims of Christ.
Although classical apologists argue that non-Christian religions as well as worldviews are false, they do not claim they are false in every respect. Rather, they typically argue that non-Christian belief systems incorporate significant truths, but also contain grave errors about God and his relation to the world, and so in the end must be deemed inadequate. Thus non-Christian belief systems do contain truth, but as a whole their final answers to life’s most fundamental questions are false. Again, the reason for acknowledging truth in other belief systems can be seen graphically from the worldviews chart: most of the worldviews clearly do make one or more right choices.
For example, C. S. Lewis frequently asserted that other religions contained much truth. “And it should (at least in my judgment) be made clear that we are not pronouncing all other religions totally false, but rather saying that in Christ whatever is true in all religions is consummated and perfected.”15 Geisler is careful to note positive features of such worldviews as pantheism, deism, and even atheism before presenting his critical arguments against those beliefs.16 The Calvinist theologian B. B. Warfield showed himself consistent with the classical tradition when he made much the same point as Lewis:
Christianity does not stand in an exclusively antithetical relation to other religions. There is a high and true sense in which it is also their fulfilment. All that enters into the essence of religion is present in them no less than in it, although in a less pure form. They too possess the idea of God, the consciousness of guilt, the longing for redemption: they too possess offerings, priesthood, temples, worship, prayer. Israel’s Promise, Christianity’s Possession, is also the Desire of all nations.17
The classical approach to refuting these non-Christian worldviews may be illustrated with pantheism. Most nontheistic religions have affirmed one of the many forms of pantheism, all of which in some way identify or equate God with the All—so that God is in some sense the ultimate and only Reality. Pantheism is closely related to monism, according to which reality is ultimately one and not many, a unity rather than a plurality. The rediscovery of Eastern (particularly Indian) culture and the promulgation of Eastern thought in the West have stimulated pantheistic thinking in Western culture, notably in what has come to be known as the New Age movement.
Geisler notes that pantheism is a comprehensive philosophy that focuses on the unity of reality and seeks to acknowledge the immanence and absolute nature of God. In spite of these positive insights, pantheism is an inadequate worldview because “it is actually unaffirmable by man.”18 Specifically, it is self-defeating for a pantheist to claim that individual finite selves are less than real. To assert “I believe that I am not an individual” is to utter a self-refuting statement (because it assumes the existence of the individual who says “I” while at the same time denying it). Pantheism wrongly assumes “that whatever is not really ultimate is not ultimately or actually real.”19 Pantheism also cannot adequately account for evil (its assertion that evil is an illusion is meaningless, since pain that is felt is real), and it is unable even to distinguish good from evil (since in theory all is one, nothing can be evil as opposed to good). Geisler also argues that to say that God and the universe are one says nothing meaningful about God and is indistinguishable from atheism.20
Proving God’s Existence
Disproving nontheistic worldviews and philosophies of life does not necessarily prove theism. Classical apologists, therefore, offer a variety of arguments in support of theism.
The complexity of religious knowledge, and the fact that it concerns a transcendent reality, makes proving God’s existence quite complex. There is considerable disagreement among apologists over the value and relevance of the theistic proofs. Immanuel Kant’s critique of the traditional theistic proofs continues to be influential, and most philosophers and theologians have moved away from the scholastic mentality of solid and unequivocal arguments for God’s existence. Classical apologists, while upholding the validity of most or all of the traditional theistic proofs, are generally more cautious about how compelling they are. They believe that arguments for God’s existence can show the reasonableness of belief in God even though they may be less than definitive or not persuasive to everyone.
In brief, four major arguments for God’s existence have dominated classical apologetics. The first is the ontological argument. First formulated in explicit terms by the eleventh-century philosopher Anselm of Canterbury, this argument reasons from the idea of God as the greatest, most perfect, or necessary being to the existence of that God. The second and third theistic arguments have ancient roots but received their classical formulation from Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, and are known as the cosmological and teleological arguments. The cosmological argument reasons from the existence of the world (Greek, cosmos) to the existence of God. The teleological argument (from the Greek telos, “goal”) reasons from the evidence of design in the world to the existence of God as the one who created things with a specific purpose or goal. The fourth major theistic argument emerged in modern times and is the moral argument, which reasons from the objectivity and absolute character of moral judgments to the existence of a transcendent God as the ground of morality.
One of the most vigorous twentieth-century defenses of the theistic proofs is The Resurrection of Theism, by the evangelical classical apologist Stuart Hackett. In this book Hackett defends the cosmological and teleological arguments specifically against Kant’s criticisms. He concludes that the traditional arguments for God lead “to the firm conclusion that theism alone actually poses a solution to the metaphysical problem.”21
Respect among philosophers for the traditional theistic arguments was at an all-time low for much of the twentieth century. In the late 1960s the Calvinist philosopher Alvin Plantinga helped revive serious interest among professional philosophers in the ontological argument. And in the early 1980s a detailed defense of the cosmological argument by the evangelical classical apologist William Lane Craig (a student of Hackett) prompted philosophers to take it far more seriously as well. The seriousness with which these and other theistic proofs are now viewed can be seen by reviewing academic philosophy journals such as Religious Studies and the International Journal of Philosophy and Religion.
Classical apologists are careful to issue certain caveats about the use of theistic proofs. One such caveat is that the theistic arguments as they are popularly understood are often invalid; that is, they need to be formulated carefully and rigorously if they are to be valid. Second, most people actually do not need to hear theistic arguments, since they are not atheists. What they need is evidence that God is the kind of God found in Scripture. 22
Another caveat, issued by classical apologetics in the Calvinist tradition, is that theistic arguments remind unbelievers of what they already know but have been trying to deny. Warfield, for example, argued that from one perspective everyone already has knowledge of God, though most do not own up to it. People cannot be completely ignorant of God, although they can completely ignore God.23 We cannot escape all awareness of God. “God is part of our environment.”24 The arguments, though, are still useful and valid.
This immediate perception of God is confirmed and the contents of the idea developed by a series of arguments known as the “theistic proofs.” These are derived from the necessity we are under of believing in the real existence of the infinitely perfect Being, of a sufficient cause for the contingent universe, of an intelligent author of the order and of the manifold contrivances observable in nature, and of a lawgiver and judge for dependent moral beings. . . . The cogency of these proofs is currently recognized in the Scriptures, while they add to them the supernatural manifestations of God in a redemptive process, accompanied at every stage by miraculous attestation. From the theistic proofs, however, we learn not only that a God exists, but also necessarily, on the principle of a sufficient cause, very much of the nature of the God which they prove to exist.25
We will now consider three of the four major theistic arguments, focusing on their classical formulation as philosophical proofs for God’s existence. (The teleological argument will be discussed in chapter 10.) Because of its continuing importance in the classical apologetic tradition, the cosmological argument will receive special attention.
The Moral Argument
The moral argument can be viewed as one aspect of a larger argument for God’s existence known as the anthropological argument. This broader argument reasons from certain aspects of human nature to the existence of God, and includes arguments from morality, aesthetics, human thought and reason,26 and the need for meaning, purpose, and hope.
The moral argument relates to the universality of moral experience and holds that unless there is a God, there is no ultimate basis for moral law. Classical apologists answer the objection that ethical judgments vary from place to place by arguing that, regardless of time or culture, there is a built-in concept of normative conduct, a universal sense of “ought” and “should.” It is true that people can acknowledge the moral law without seeing this as a theistic proof, but this does not mean that such a law could have real validity apart from God. The real thrust of this argument lies in the fact that when people express approval or criticism of the actions of others, they are behaving as if theism were true, that is, as if there are such things as absolute rights and absolute wrongs.27 Classical apologists typically argue that one would have to assume this position in order to criticize it as wrong.
A good example of the moral argument in classical apologetics is the opening section of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Lewis begins that book by noting that human beings have the idea that they ought to behave in certain ways—what Lewis calls the Law of Human Nature—and yet they do not behave in those ways (26).28 After arguing that this Law is real and does not derive from human beings themselves but is instead “something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behaviour” (30), he asks what lies behind the Law. “We want to know whether the universe simply happens to be what it is for no reason or whether there is a power behind it that makes it what it is” (33). The Law shows us that there is such “a Power behind the facts, a Director, a Guide” (34). Lewis hastens to caution, “We have not yet got as far as the God of any actual religion, still less the God of that particular religion called Christianity. We have only got as far as a Somebody or Something behind the Moral Law. We are not taking anything from the Bible or the Churches, we are trying to see what we can find out about this Somebody on our own steam” (37). Lewis goes on to argue that we can infer that this Somebody is rather like a mind, one unyielding in his moral expectations of us, and one whose expectations we have failed to meet (37-38). This strategy of formulating an argument for a general notion of God prior to introducing specific Christian claims is characteristic of the classical approach.
The Ontological Argument
The ontological argument is the only philosophical theistic proof that reasons in a purely a priori fashion (from certain assumptions or ideas as given). The first form of this argument as developed by Anselm was largely ignored until René Descartes revived it in the seventeenth century. The Cartesian formulation was later refuted by Kant, but it continues to resurface in contemporary philosophy of religion, along with Anselm’s second form, which adds the concept of necessary existence. Influential advocates of some form of the ontological argument have included Charles Hartshorne (a process theologian who uses it to support a panentheist worldview) and Alvin Plantinga (a Reformed philosopher).29
There are many forms of the ontological argument, some too technical to discuss here. Perhaps one of the simplest forms (if any of them may be called simple) is based on Anselm’s second version of the argument as restated by various modern philosophers.30
1. The existence of a necessary Being must be either (a) a necessary existence, (b) an impossible existence, or (c) a possible but not necessary existence.
2. But the existence of a necessary Being is not an impossible existence because (so far as we can see) there is nothing contradictory about this concept.
3. Nor is the existence of a necessary Being a possible but not necessary existence, since this would be a self-contradictory claim.
4. Therefore, the existence of a necessary Being is a necessary existence.
5. Therefore, a necessary Being necessarily exists.
Although classical apologists employ a wide variety of arguments for God’s existence, most do not accept the ontological argument. Most apologists and philosophers continue to accept the rebuttal that the ontological argument commits the fallacy of deducing the existence of God from the concept of God. For example, the formulation given above can be criticized by alleging that all point 4 means is that if a necessary Being exists, his existence must be a necessary existence. This still leaves open whether a necessary Being exists in the first place. Most classical apologists concur with Geisler’s conclusion: “No valid ontological proof has been given that makes it rationally inescapable to conclude that there is a necessary Being.”31
The Cosmological Argument
The cosmological argument reasons from the nature of the world as temporal and contingent to the conclusion that an eternal, necessary being must exist. Proponents argue that if anything now exists, something must be eternal, or else something not eternal must have emerged from nothing. Since the notion of something emerging from an absolute nothing is generally considered absurd, the principal options are that either the universe is eternal or it is the product of an eternal and necessary being. Two main forms of the cosmological argument enjoy widespread support among contemporary classical apologists.
One form reasons from the fact of a beginning for the universe to the existence of a Beginner. This argument is known as the kalām cosmological argument, and was first developed by medieval Muslim philosophers. As articulated by William Lane Craig, the kalām argument is essentially a philosophical, deductive proof.32 It may be formulated as a series of logical alternatives, as follows.
Craig himself offers the following simple form of the argument:
Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Craig argues that the first premise is “intuitively obvious” and should be accepted without trying to base it on something else.34 He then defends the second premise on both philosophical and scientific grounds. His principal argument here is a philosophical argument based on the impossibility of a temporally infinite past. The idea of time extending backward infinitely (what is known as an infinite regress), through an actually infinite series of moments or events, is said to be inherently irrational. Therefore, on a priori philosophical grounds, this argument concludes that the universe must have had a beginning.35 The third statement is a conclusion that follows necessarily from the foregoing two premises but leaves open the question of what this cause is. Craig offers additional philosophical and scientific arguments in support of the belief “that it is a personal being who caused the universe.”36
Although the kalām argument as originally formulated is a deductive philosophical proof, Craig and other classical apologists supplement this rather abstract argument with the scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning. The argument here is based on the virtual consensus among cosmologists that this beginning occurred in what is called the big bang. It has been pointed out that even if a series of big bangs were postulated (for which there is no evidence), it is clear that the universe would not oscillate through such a series from eternity.37
The second major form of the cosmological argument originates from Thomas Aquinas; its most notable advocate among contemporary apologists is Norman Geisler.38 Geisler developed a modified form of the Thomistic cosmological argument that begins with the premise, not that the universe must have had a beginning (as in the kalām argument), but that there are undeniably finite, contingent, and temporal things. According to Geisler, the kalām argument is suggestive but not demonstrative. In brief, his argument states that “if any finite being exists, then an infinite Being exists as an actual and necessary ground for finite being.”39 If the universe is contingent, it requires a cause—and its ultimate cause cannot be contingent because of the problem of infinite regress. (Note that both Craig’s and Geisler’s versions of the cosmological argument appeal at some point to the impossibility of an infinite regress.) There must be, then, an uncaused or necessary being. Geisler sets out the argument in several of his books; here is one of his earliest and simplest versions:
1. 1. Some limited, changing being(s) exist(s).
2. 2. The present existence of every limited, changing being is caused by another.
3. 3. There cannot be an infinite regress of causes of being.
4. 4. Therefore, there is a first Cause of the present existence of these beings.
5. 5. The first Cause must be infinite, necessary, eternal, simple, unchangeable, and one.
6. 6. This first uncaused Cause is identical with the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.40
Geisler explicates and defends each premise in detail, and then systematically argues that none of the usual objections validly apply to his restated cosmological argument. According to him, this argument from “existential causality,” while not rationally inescapable, passes the test of undeniability.
Opponents have raised a variety of objections to these arguments. For example, they claim that reasoning from the finite, temporal, or contingent nature of all things in the universe to the conclusion that the universe itself is finite, temporal, or contingent commits the fallacy of composition. This fallacy occurs when the attributes of the parts are attributed to the whole (for example, it would be a mistake to reason from the premise that all atoms are invisible to the conclusion that all physical objects, since they are composed of atoms, should also be invisible!). One answer to this objection is that arguments appealing to composition are often valid (for example, if all the pieces of a puzzle are red, the puzzle as a whole will also be red). Furthermore, at least some forms of the cosmological argument do not appeal to composition. For example, Geisler’s argument appeals to the existence of any or some finite beings; it does not require the assumption that the universe as a whole is finite.
Another criticism of the cosmological argument is that it moves from finite effects to an infinite cause. A finite effect, it is argued, requires only a finite cause. Classical apologists maintain that this criticism misunderstands the argument. It is true that a finite effect implies for itself only a finite cause, but such a finite cause must itself have been caused, and so forth. That is, a finite effect can be directly produced by a finite cause, but ultimately the whole reality of finite causes requires an infinite cause—an “uncaused cause,” as it is often called.
Yet another objection is that the argument begs the question by assuming what it sets out to prove. The kalām argument, in particular, is often criticized for reasoning from the inconceivability of an actual infinite series to its nonexistence. It is suggested that what seems inconceivable to the human mind is not necessarily nonexistent. Defenders of this form of the cosmological argument typically respond that the issue is not subjective inconceivability (what one person’s mind can conceive) but objective irrationality (whether the concept is rationally coherent).
The Deductive Problem of Evil