Evidence

Can it be proven that Christ is risen?

If Harry did not believe the Philadelphia Phillies won the 1980 world series, he would likely change his mind if it could be proven from Baseball Almanac. Similarly, if Harry did not believe Calvin Coolidge was the 30th President of the United States, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents would more than likely put the matter to rest for Harry. Similar examples could be given for state capitals, the location of famous rivers and so on. The point should be apparent. What one will accept as proof will depend upon what one accepts as authoritative.

The reason people are willing to change their minds on such matters after being confronted with a reliable, even an authoritative source, is because not much is at stake. It does not dramatically affect one’s worldview whether Calvin Coolidge rather than, say, Herbert Hoover was the 30th U.S. President. Just like it does not disrupt one’s worldview if one mistakes the winner of the 1980 World Series with the winner of the 1981 world series. Adjusting relatively inconsequential beliefs is not a matter of grave concern. Nothing major is at stake, other than perhaps a little pride.

In both cases, we may say that what was first in question by Harry was later proved true by a source worthy of acceptance. We may also say Harry became persuaded. Moving forward, we would do well to maintain a clear distinction between the objective nature of proof and the subjective nature of persuasion. The question before us is whether proof is ever dependent upon the result of persuasion.

Now what if Harry did not readily accept the testimony of a book on U.S. Presidents right off the bat? In other words, what if Harry was not immediately persuaded by an appeal to an authoritative book but then after further reflection realized the book must be correct. Obviously Harry’s disbelief would have given way to belief. Harry would have become persuaded by the proof for Calvin Coolidge as America’s 30th President. It is also noteworthy that the proof Harry would eventually be persuaded by never changed. Therefore, the proof itself did not become more persuasive. Rather, a valid proof with a reasonable premise (that such books are typically reliable) eventually persuaded. The variable was Harry. He changed. The proof remained constant. It did not change.

Lest we confound the objectivity of truth and what constitutes sound argumentation, we must maintain that Calvin Coolidge was objectively proven to be the 30th President of the United States prior to Harry becoming subjectively persuaded by the proof. If not, then objective proof would be dependent upon subjective results, in which case arguments could become sound (or go from weak to strong in the case of inductive arguments) after they are subjectively accepted, which would collapse proof into persuasion. It could not be proven to a philosophical skeptic that there is a tree outside the window or the cat is on the roof.

Putting this all together, if persuasion is a matter of what one will accept as authoritative and a sound proof is a matter of validly presented truth, then the resurrection of Jesus Christ can be proven from the Bible regardless whether the unbeliever rejects the authority of God’s word. If proving secular historical facts from fallible and potentially errant books is not dependent upon consensus, then how much more the case with facts contained in God’s infallible and inerrant Word? The issue at stake is what one will accept as authoritative.

Now obviously I would not expect an unbeliever to submit to the objective authority of God speaking in his Word without the Holy Spirit’s sovereign work of subjective persuasion, but neither should I expect a Christian to deny that the Christian worldview can be proven true from the Bible. Comparatively speaking (and whether one accepts it or not), we have it on greater authority that Christ is risen than Calvin Coolidge was the 30th U.S President (or the Phillies won the Series in 1980). Uninspired history books can err. God’s Word cannot.

At the heart of apologetic methodology is ultimate authority. How the authority of Scripture should shape the Christian’s defense of the faith is a matter of bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, (even as the Christian gives an answer for the hope that is in him, with meekness and fear.) How consistently the believer sanctifies the Lord God in his heart will determine his general apologetic methodology.

Antithesis

Unbelievers require a “neutral” investigation into the claims of Christianity. Unbelievers employ autonomous reasoning, i.e. reasoning from a mindset that does not acknowledge God’s epistemic Lordship over the possibility of human reason itself, without which unbelievers cannot judge whether the Bible should be deemed reliable for its claims let alone authoritative over all of life. Apart from judging the Bible from a throne of autonomy, the Bible and all it claims cannot be assessed as true. The problem with such a philosophical posture, which touches upon a concept that is difficult for both unbelievers and many believers to grasp, is that if the Bible must first be validated by the unbeliever as authoritative, then it cannot be intrinsically authoritative. Yet if the Bible is in itself authoritative by virtue of its divine origin, then no such human validation is permissible (or even possible when one is in submission to God’s word). As long as the unbeliever behaves this way – as long as he remains a judge of God’s word – the unbeliever remains his own authority, which means God‘s word is rejected while the unbeliever believes he is being neutral in his evaluation of that word. With hat in hand, God remains in the dock awaiting the unbeliever’s favor.

What is built into the unbeliever’s make-up is something from which the unbeliever cannot extricate himself. That is, there is an ethically driven intellectual bias, a deep seated antithesis that rejects the authority of God’s voice in Scripture (and nature!). If God’s Word is authoritative, then it may not be judged. It must be obeyed for what it truly is, God’s word. But like Eve who placed God’s word on the same level of Satan’s and then rose above both to judge what is true, so it is with the posture of the unbeliever. He sits in the place of God.

It is not as though in conversion the unbeliever chooses to grant approval to God’s word and then by way of reason decides for himself to submit to what he himself has decided to be authoritative. Rather, in biblical conversion God subdues the sinner’s will, causing him to believe and to receive God’s word aright, as authoritative. (Then from a recreated posture of belief and submission, the believer can can choose to submit to the authority of what Scripture has to say.) Since we don’t choose to accept truth, the converted sinner doesn’t choose to believe and receive God’s word as being authoritative. Instead, by the grace of God the sinner’s rejection of the voice of God is overcome whereby he finally receives it for what it really is, the authoritative Word of God. 

As noted above, the unbeliever cannot free himself from his bondage and rebellious stance against God and his word. He is not neutral toward God. He is at enmity with his Maker. And although the apologist needn’t necessarily inform the unbeliever of this rebellion, it is nonetheless something of which the apologist should be aware lest his apologetic methodology likely suffers.

 

Apologetical Foundations

If God is the being that Scripture claims, then man’s knowledge must correspond to God’s knowledge if there is to be any human knowledge at all. Not only must man’s knowledge correspond with God’s, Scripture informs that God makes human knowledge possible. Human knowledge obtains when God enables us to think his thoughts after him on a creaturely level.

Yet when the believer engages the unbeliever on the question of God’s existence the unbeliever cannot rid herself of her moral rejection of God as a necessary precondition for the very possibility of knowledge. In her professed desire to be objective in her pursuit of the possibility (or actual existence) of some greater truth, she prejudicially dismisses God as the one who makes intellectual pursuit possible! Due to the effect of the fall, the unbeliever is anything but neutral in her approach to the question of God’s existence. The unbeliever presupposes at the outset that the requisite tools of rational investigation (e.g. logic, inference, memory etc.) and the context in which they function (e.g. reality and providence) are not God dependent. In other words, the unbeliever‘s bias is that any mind-world correspondence is perfectly intelligible apart from any reference point other than the finite human mind itself. Little if no consideration is given to the question of why the subject and object of knowledge should correspond, or how there can be a fruitful connection between the knower and the mind-independent external world that can be known. By the nature of the case, the unbeliever imagines that if God exists, he must be discovered through autonomous reason that is capable of functioning apart from God. In doing so, the unbeliever not only rejects a God who must make reason possible – she actually is not even seeking such a God at all! The unbeliever is seeking a god who does not make knowledge possible and has not plainly revealed himself in creation, providence and grace. The unbeliever is seeking an idol of her own making.

Given such antithesis between God and man, what sorts of things might the Christian want to be cognizant of when engaging the would be atheist? God willing, I’ll take a look at some of those things in the weeks to come.

Christianity, a Philosophical Worldview

Christianity isn’t an addendum to life, a past time of sorts or hobby that one may pick up for a while only to drop later should life become too busy. Rather, Christianity is a philosophical view of all of life. It’s the web through which a believer interprets God, men and things. In a word, Christianity is a full-orbed worldview. As such, Christianity isn’t merely a Sunday ritual or a moral code to live by. It’s much more than that. Christianity is something the believer simply cannot live without. That’s because all believers realize (to one degree or another) that when it comes to faith and practice Christianity has true answers to all things answerable. It’s only by wearing the spectacles of Christianity that one begins to make sense of reality, knowledge and ethics. As an all inclusive worldview that is consistent, coherent and explanatory it should not be surprising that Christianity explains creation, fall, redemption and consummation. In other words, Christianity informs us of how we got here, why things are such a mess, how things get put back together and where life is heading. There are no competitors to Christianity. It is the revelation of God.