Epistemology, apologetics, "feel-good religion," and evolutionary creationism


(Daniel Mann) #1

JacksonC, I too am deeply troubled by Christie’s answer to you:

“Let’s be honest. Any foundation for “why Christianity is true” can ultimately be deconstructed. There is no argument or proof that can get you from skepticism to faith. At the end of the day, Jesus is Lord, or he isn’t. But you are only going to be convinced Jesus is Lord by personally encountering Jesus. There is no path to Jesus via science, logic, or philosophy.”

This is representative theistic evolution accommodation. You are totally right that we do need some forms of proofs. I am the biggest skeptic in the world and had experienced great periods of doubt, insecurity, and even suicidal thinking until I became cognitively grounded in the faith.

I’d be glad to dialogue with you about the many compelling reasons to believe.


Former YEC now depressed and confused
(Daniel Mann) #2

Christy, I just wrote a lengthy response to you. I am concerned that if what you have written is true, then it spells the death of the Christian faith as just another feel-good religion:


#3

Hi Daniel, this is a straw man. @Christy can speak for herself but I saw nothing in her post indicating that we do not have good evidence for Christianity, and certainly nothing in her post that indicated faith ought to be rooted in feelings.


(Christy Hemphill) #4

Actually, what you are responding to was representative of post-modern epistemology. Evolution had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Well, obviously I think your concerns are overblown, but I will be happy to think over and respond to your concerns when I have some free time.


(Chris Falter) #5

Hi Daniel -

I appreciate the humor in the naming of your blog. Nice touch!

In your post you stated:

Generally, we prove the unknown or the uncertain by what we already know as fact. However, the TE has gutted the Bible of any defense for its truth claims by claiming that the Bible only speaks authoritatively in areas of theology and spirituality and not when it speaks about the physical world.

Consequently, Christianity has been reduced to a blind leap into the darkness of uncertainty

This is a false dichotomy. You personally believe that the only two choices are a strict inerrancy and blind uncertainty, but your belief does not make it so.

There are many areas of knowledge that the Bible does not address. Set theory. Particle physics. Nuclear fusion. Double-blind experiments. Calculus. Alveoli. I could go on and on and on. Stating that God’s revelation of Himself in the Scripture is intended to give us teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness – so we can know Him, love Him, and share His love with one another – rather than scientific knowledge is consequently the obvious application of 2 Timothy 3:16.

Our certainty comes from Whom we know, not what we know.

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” - I Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV) [emphasis mine]

I am not claiming that studying arts, science, and apologetics has no value whatsoever, or that it is unimportant to a life of faith. Jesus did command us, after all, to love the Lord our God with all our mind as well as with all our heart, soul, and strength. What I am saying is that we need to cling ferociously to Christ, as Jacob clung to the angel, but hold other forms of understanding more lightly.

@JacksonC -You came to the Biologos forum voluntarily, so I assume you are interested in hearing what we have to say. If you do not wish to continue listening to us, I would not compel you to do so. However, I would strongly encourage you to listen to what Paul said about the foundation of our faith:

“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?”

Paul seems to be saying: where is the apologist and his “incontrovertible proofs”? But he’s not done speaking the Word of God; let’s keep listening:

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” - I Corinthians 1:20-25 (ESV)

The epistemological value of apologetics, on the one hand, versus knowing Christ, on the other, is quite obvious in this passage. Put this Scripture into practice, and you will do well.

Blessings,
Chris Falter


(Jon Garvey) #6

Do we still do post-modern epistemology? Prospect Magazine pointed to a retrospective exhibition on postmodernoism in 2011 as evidence for its demise, and the author hoped it was being replaced by authenticity and truth.

Alan Kirby in 2006 had also described postmodernism’s demise in 2006 in Philosophy Now, but less sanguinely described its replacement as Pseudo-modernism - the cult of mediocre participation.

Os Guiness, pretty much in touch with the trends in society since I was a teenager, said last year that postmodernism mainly lives on now in theology departments - a prime example, as he said, of Christians “buying high, and selling low” behind the curve of fashionable ideas.

I agree none of that’s to do with evolution - but then pseudo-modernism isn’t much interested in that either. One really has to go right back to modernism to recover the authority of the scientific narrative, as postmodern irony doesn’t seem to fit much better with that than it does with the authority of Scripture.

It’s so hard to keep up with the latest epistemology - maybe easier for dinosaurs like me: I rejected modernism 50 years ago at school, and never really caught up with postmodernism until I read Foucault and couldn’t take him seriously. As for pseudo-modernism, I don’t even own a mobile phone!


(Chris Falter) #7

I should have known! I never see typos in your posts.:smile:


(Jon Garvey) #8

OMG! LOL! DGMSOF! (“Don’t get me started on Facebook…”) :joy:


(Christy Hemphill) #9

I think it’s post-post-modern now. Or post-foundationalism?


(Steve Schaffner) #10

This is a tricky area, since people are very different and have different routes to faith. Speaking only for myself, if I had attempted to base my faith on proofs, I would have been compelled to abandon it long ago. Few things are worse for my faith than reading the arguments for faith that other people find compelling.


(Phil) #11

Great comments, and enjoyed the articles referenced (will watch the youtube later.) I am truly a dinosaur also, but find all this interesting, especially as living in Texas, we generally run a few decades behind cultural trends, though that is changing also with the internet. Culture never changes all at once, and in our local church, it still is pretty much modernistic, but with post-modern aspects, and I can see the youth especially moving into the Pseudo-modernism described.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #12

If it is just another feel-good religion, then it makes sense that it will (and should) die, right? Because despite its name it would not be from God. Gamaliel’s ancient wisdom still applies that those things not of God will go the way of passing fads. But if it is from God then it matters little what you or I think about it; our fuss and worry is just so much noise because with or without us --it will survive. The only question left for us is whether we will get on board with what God is doing or else be found fighting against God.

I’m generally more of the mindset that Steve (@glipsnort) expressed above, which is why I’m finding good challenges in a book a friend bought for me: “On Guard” by William Lane Craig. He builds the case that apologetics has been given a bad name (for some good reasons he wouldn’t deny) but that nevertheless we as Christians are too quick to sell the farm and just declare that all our beliefs must be mostly based on faith without hard evidence. Notice that I (and Craig) are avoiding the use of the word ‘proof’. He’s just talking evidence and probabilities, and saying that the Christian has a stronger evidential case than has usually been acknowledged and that we shouldn’t be so quick to soft-pedal our own case or leave well-reasoned argument off to the side in some sort of “fideistic humility”.

So perhaps that should go toward supporting valid concerns that you express here, Daniel. But make no mistake: when reason and argument are invoked, they must be valid and true, and must be dropped like a hot potato it is if it is shown to be false. That unwillingness to leave certain arguments behind is perhaps part of what makes so many Christians so gun-shy about apologetics now. Those tend to get remembered and come back to haunt.


#13

Don’t feel bad. The Rev. John Polkinghorne, FRS KBE is not connected at all to the internet. If you want to contact him you have to go through his former student. (But then again, he’s in his eighties.)


(Daniel Mann) #14

Chris, Thanks for engaging what I had written. However, the very verses that you have quoted are not against Biblical wisdom but “the wisdom of the world”:

• “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” - I Corinthians 1:20-25 (ESV)

Instead, Paul used Biblical wisdom and reasoning to win people to the faith:

• Acts 17:2-4 (ESV) And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.

• Acts 18:4 (ESV) And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

However, the TE has relinquished such argumentation by claiming that the Bible cannot teach reliably about the physical world.


#15

Daniel, You cut verse 20 short. The full is
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

Paul was not talking about knowledge of the natural world. In fact none of the verses you quoted are talking about the natural world.


(Brad Kramer) #16

Interestingly enough, RJS just posted some great thoughts on this exact subject today, on her blog. https://musingsonscience.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/the-wisdom-of-this-world-2/.

Here’s her main point:

There are certainly important lessons that we can and should take from Paul’s comments on foolishness of human wisdom. But it has little, if anything, to do with the scientific questions. It has more to do with the shape and focus of life and the need to focus on God and his wisdom and plan rather than human wisdom.


(Peaceful Science) #17

I am a Christian because Jesus rose from the dead. I encountered this living God in the evidence we find in history, the testimony of all believers, and my personal experience of Him. Nothing I find in science compares with this act of God to reveal Himself to the world and to me.


(Peaceful Science) #18

This is not a correct interpretation.

This was not Biblical wisdom at the time. The Bible was not formed yet. “Scripture” as he knew it was the Old Testament. He did use Scripture I am sure, but his focus was on Jesus. This was not Scriptural at the time.

So, I am echoing Paul when I write…


(Christy Hemphill) #19

Let’s look at what I said on the other thread in context, because the context matters.

My response that Daniel has taken such issue with was directed at someone who essentially said that the foundation of their faith used to be intelligent design creationism. That foundation had been demolished, and the person was asking what new thing to base their faith on.

So in response, I said

Daniel wrote:

First of all, how did the subject of evolution come up? We are talking about how we ascertain the truth about Christianity. @Daniel_Mann you may not believe this, but I hardly ever think about evolution when I read the Bible. They are not “married” for me. Scientific facts and biblical interpretation are two different domains. I believe that reality is coherent, so scientific facts and spiritual truths do not contradict each other, but they also don’t shape each other. My hermeneutical approach to the Bible was developed studying language, culture, and communication under Evangelical Bible scholars, most of whom could care less about the evolution/creation debate. It honestly never came up in a single Bible or theology class I ever took. I don’t think about germ theory, or plate tectonics, or meiosis when I’m reading the Bible either.

So, I’m sorry but this idea that I learned to approach Scripture the way I do from evolutionary science is just a flat out wrong assumption on your part. It’s not that I don’t think there is any way to prove the Bible’s claims, it’s that we fundamentally disagree on the method for figuring out what the Bible is claiming in the first place and whether or not those claims need to or can be “proven.” That disagreement is there before and after either of us expresses our beliefs about origins or science.

Daniel wrote

What provable, known facts do you use to show the truth of the following biblical claims?

  • Humanity’s sin separates them from relationship with God

  • Jesus’ death atones for my sin

  • I am united with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, through whom I participate in the death and resurrection of Christ and am re-created a brand new person

  • I am adopted into God’s own family as one of God’s own children

  • I will be physically resurrected with Christ in the Eschaton and live forever in an incorruptible body

None of the most important truth claims of the Bible (which I believe, by the way) can be proven with reference to historical or scientific facts. If you could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that every single historical or scientific “fact” in the Bible was completely true and reliable, it still wouldn’t get you proof that Jesus’ death takes away my sins and reconciles me to God. Do you honestly think that somehow all those claims above follow from the historical fact “the flood in Genesis was global”? I honestly don’t follow that line of reasoning.

This idea that the gospel is dependent on fact-checking the Bible and the Bible passing with flying colors just doesn’t ring true to me. The gospel depends on God being a trustworthy person whose revelation of himself in Scripture and in Jesus and by his Spirit is true. God is the source of truth. That is why the gospel is compelling.

The authority of Scripture comes from God, not from some one to one correspondence with Scripture and facts. All throughout the New Testament what is held out as the basis for the authority of the message (whether it is being preached by Jesus, or the disciples, or the apostles) is the demonstration of the Spirit’s power. How did they know that Jesus was the Messiah? The blind saw, the deaf heard, the lame walked. The preaching of the gospel in Acts was accompanied by miraculous signs.

The Bible is authoritative because the Spirit of God has claimed it as his word and works through it to save and sanctify his people. It has authority because of the Spirit’s power. 2 Peter 1:21: The prophets’ authority in Scripture is established because what they speak is from God, as they are carried along by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:2-5: Paul reminds people he intentionally forgot everything except Christ crucified, because the gospel doesn’t depend on his clever presentation of it or his persuasive arguments, but on the Spirit’s power. Romans 1:16: The gospel Paul is not ashamed of is not a list of correct facts, it is the power of God at work in people’s lives, saving those who believe.

Daniel wrote

Speaking of leaps… How in the world do you get that from anything I said? And, why are you acting like “personally encountering Jesus” is less than the pinnacle of everything? Like it is some sort of substandard consolation prize? What is the real prize in your conception, a robust life of the mind? Certainty? I’m sorry, but I’ll take knowing Jesus over being intellectually fulfilled or certain any day of the week. How am I the one with the compromised view of the gospel here?

When did we start rating the “validity” of people’s faith and when did faith become a competition? It’s not the quality of faith or faith experiences that saves a person, it’s Jesus.

No, it’s not when we reach a point where we know what we believe and why, if by that you mean “master a bunch of apologetic arguments.” Did you read the verse you typed out? We find great riches when we know Christ. That is the knowledge and understanding Paul is talking about here; it is the relationship with Christ himself. Encountering Jesus, if you will.

The rest of Daniel’s post I don’t think is worth responding to because it is just a bunch of baseless claims about my alleged thoughts and beliefs, things I never came close to expressing and conclusions that in no way follow logically from anything I did say. If you read what I write and come away with “her position is essentially the same as Richard Dawkins’,” I guess I question your reading comprehension skills.

As a final thought, to say that all other foundations for faith can be deconstructed is not even close to saying, “faith is blind and irrational and baseless” As Christians we put our faith in Christ. Any other resting place for faith is shaky and can fall. If you build your faith on DNA evidence of a designer, on the historical accuracy of the Old Testament, on the ontological argument for the existence of God, on the fine-tuning of the universe, or any other human intellectual construct, no matter how compelling it is, you have settled for a foundation that is not Christ. I am all for shoring up one’s confidence in the truth of Christianity. If a person is edified and spurred to love and good deeds by watching William Lane Craig duke it out with atheists, than by all means, more power to him or her. But at the end of the day, it’s Jesus only Jesus. I am not one bit ashamed of claiming that.


(Jay Nelsestuen) #20

Yes and amen. :clap: :clap: :clap: