As Christians, We Need Better Answers (Forensic Faith)

When asked, “Why are you a Christian?” most Christians provide the same answers that believers of every other theistic worldview offer. Are these answers good enough if everyone can use them to explain their commitment to a particular worldview? J. Warner Wallace challenges viewers to develop better answers to one of the most important questions anyone can ask a Christian. All believers must accept their duty to make the case for what they believe as described in the book, Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith.


MORE…


What Is Faith? Is It Blind? Or Is It Trustworthy? (Updated)

I just wanted to update the below a bit with a great explanation of how theists view evidential propositions about God as compared to agnostics and atheists. Tim Stratton makes a great short example of what is being discussed in the below — but clearer: “ATHEISM: LACK OF BELIEF OR BLIND FAITH?

Many atheists claim that their atheistic beliefs are just as viable as my theistic beliefs. Typically, the following scale (or something similar) is provided:

1- God exists (100% certainty)
2- God probably exists (51%-99% certainty)
3- Neutral Agnostic (50%/50%)
4- God probably does not exist (51%-99% certainty)
5- God does not exist (100% certainty)

I have claimed to hold to proposition (2) as a theist. Because of a cumulative case of coherent reasons (backed up by evidence), I believe theism is probably true with extremely high degrees of certainty (say, 97% certainty). Although I am not 100% certain (but have justification to believe God probably exists), it is quite reasonable to put my faith in what is probably true. This is why Christian theism is a reasonable faith.

Many atheists ignore the plethora of arguments and evidence for God and attempt to make the same move on the other side of the scale. However, they run into the same problems I discussed above. If they claim to hold to proposition (4), then they need to provide coherent reasons (backed up by evidence) as to why they think atheism is “probably true.” Why has the belief needle moved from (3), neutral agnosticism, to proposition (4)? If there are no logical answers then the atheist holds this view for no good reason at all (especially while ignoring the cumulative case for the existence of God). Indeed, their commitment to this definition of atheism is still nothing but a blind faith.

I reside when discussing apologetics with persons in category two. If I feel moved to pray a sinners prayer with a person, I am speaking from category one, and the person who is inviting the Holy Spirit into their life is falling into that category as well. “… fundamentally, the way we know Christianity to be true is by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit.” Tim’s whole post is worth reading


How Atheists View Christian’s Faith


Dawkins Faith Atheist 330

  • Faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument. ~ Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York, NY: Marine Books, 2008), 347.

  • Faith in the prayer-hearing God is an unproved and outmoded faith. There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, the immutable [i.e., unchangeable] truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or moral absolutes. ~ John Dewey

John Dewey, “Soul-Searching,” Teacher Magazine, September 1933, p. 33.

  • There are those who scoff at the schoolboy, calling him frivolous and shallow. Yet it was the schoolboy who said : “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” ~ Mark Twain

Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips: A Book of Quotations (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2009), 116, cf. faith.

Betrand Russell 330

  • I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue. The harm that is done by a religion is of two sorts, the one depending on the kind of belief which it is thought ought to be given to it, and the other upon the particular tenets believed. As regards the kind of belief: it is thought virtuous to have Faith—that is to say, to have a conviction which cannot be shaken by contrary evidence. Or, if contrary evidence might induce doubt, it is held that contrary evidence must be suppressed. On such grounds, the young are not allowed to hear arguments…. The consequence is that the minds of the young are stunted and are filled with fanatical hostility both to those who have other fanaticisms and, even more virulently, to those who object to all fanaticisms. ~ Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (New York, NY; Simon and Schuster, 1957), vi.

(See response to Russell’s “induce doubt” portion at bottom)

According to the A Manual for Creating Atheists, faith is:

  • “pretending to know things that you don’t know”
  • “belief without evidence”
  • The author calls faith “an unreliable epistemology”
  • a “virus”
  • and calls for a process and agenda that will “ultimately eradicate faith”.

(Bullet points via The Confident Christian)Boghossian Atheist 330

Two Definitions of Faith

The words we use are important. They can help us see clearly, or they can confuse, cloud, or obscure issues. I’ll now offer my two preferred definitions of faith, and then disambiguate faith from hope.’

faith /fāTH/

1. Belief without evidence.

“My definition of faith is that it’s a leap over the probabilities. It fills in the gap between what is improbable to make something more probable than not without faith. As such, faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities.”

—John W. Loftus, “Victor Reppert Now Says He Doesn’t Have Faith!” (Loftus, 2012)

If one had sufficient evidence to warrant belief in a particular claim, then one wouldn’t believe the claim on the basis of faith. “Faith” is the word one uses when one does not have enough evidence to justify holding a belief, but when one just goes ahead and believes anyway.

Another way to think about “belief without evidence” is to think of an irrational leap over probabilities. For example, assume that an historical Jesus existed and was crucified, and that his corpse was placed in a tomb. Assume also that eyewitness accounts were accurate, and days later the tomb was empty.

One can believe the corpse was missing for any number of reasons. For example, one can believe the body arose from the dead and ascended to heaven, one can believe aliens brought the body back to life, or one can believe an ancient spirit trapped in the tomb merged with the corpse and animated it. Belief in any of these claims would require faith because there’s insufficient evidence to justify any one of these particular options.

Belief in any of these claims would also disregard other, far more likely possibilities—for example, that the corpse was stolen, hidden, or moved.

If one claims knowledge either in the absence of evidence, or when a claim is contradicted by evidence, then this is when the word “faith” is used. “Believing something anyway” is an accurate definition of the term “faith.”

faith /fāTH/

2. Pretending to know things you don’t know.

Not everything that’s a case of pretending to know things you don’t know is a case of faith, but cases of faith are instances of pretending to know something you don’t know.’ For example, someone who knows nothing about baking a cake can pretend to know how to bake a cake, and this is not an instance of faith. But if someone claims to know something on the basis of faith, they are pretending to know something they don’t know. For example, using faith would be like someone giving advice about baking cookies who has never been in a kitchen.

As a Street Epistemologist, whenever you hear the word “faith,” just translate this in your head as, “pretending to know things you don’t know.” While swapping these words may make the sentence clunky, “pretending to know things you don’t know” will make the meaning of the sentence clearer.

To start thinking in these terms, the following table contains commonly heard expressions using the word “faith” in column one, and the same expressions substituted with the words “pretending to know things you don’t know” in column two.

Faith Columns - Peter Boghossian 680

Peter Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists (Durham, NC: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013), 23-26

  • I regard faith as religious belief which is held without evidence. If someone thinks that a bus will arrive on time per its schedule, then that person has trust or confidence, not faith. I don’t use the word faith except to mean non-evidential religious beliefs. I work hard to identify the evidence, so faith for me is an lazy, easy way out.

~ Logicel

(See the response to “has trust or confidence” portion of Logicel’s definition at the bottom)

faith_full

~ The Good Atheist

(See a professor comment on this definition at the bottom)


Letting Christians Define Faith


faith 1. Objective body of truth in the Bible, the creeds, the definitions of the universal councils, and/or the teachings of the church. 2. Positive, subjective, and personal allegiance to and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Faith exists in constant tension with three other elements: works, reason, and knowledge. In Protestant scholastic theology, faith is viewed as a threefold process: notitia (knowledge of what is to be be­lieved), assensus (intellectual acceptance of the truth of what is believed), and fiducia (personal commitment to that truth).

The first involves reception of the message of the gospel. The second involves objective accept­ance of certain theological concepts and historical events. Theologians call this fides quae creditur (the faith that is believed), comprising erkennen (recognition) and assensus (assent). Assensus includes confidence in God’s promises and trust in the events recorded in the Scripture. Peter Lombard pointed out that assensus alone is fides informis (incomplete faith).

Authentic faith must include a second aspect—a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. Theolo­gians variously call this fides qua creditur (faith by which one believes), fides formata caritate (faith formed by love), bekennen (acknowledg­ment), and fiducia (trust in what is believed). Fiducia also involves obedience to God’s Word, perseverance in God’s will, and love for God’s people (John 3:36; Rom. 5:1-5; 1 Cor. 13:2; 1 John 3:1o). Thus Christians not only live because of faith but they also live according to the faith (Rom. 1:16-17). Faith is in one sense a human act, but it is also at the same time a divine gift.

George Thomas Kurian, ed., Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2001), cf. faith, 292-293.

  • I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers, that imposes upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.

Morimer J. Adler, “A Philosopher’s Religious Faith,” in, Kelly James Clark, ed., Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of 11 Leading Thinkers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 207.

  • Certain words can mean very different things to different people. For instance, if I say to an atheist, “I have faith in God,” the atheist assumes I mean that my belief in God has nothing to do with evidence. But this isn’t what I mean by faith at all. When I say that I have faith in God, I mean that I place my trust in God based on what I know about him.

William A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona, Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), 38.

  • Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence… It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule. That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion.

– John Lennox

Personal saving faith, in the way Scripture understands it, involves more than mere knowledge. Of course it is necessary that we have some knowledge of who Christ is and what he has done, for “how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom. 10:14). But knowledge about the facts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for us is not enough, for people can know facts but rebel against them or dislike them. (Rom. 1:32; James 2:19)….

In addition to knowledge of the facts of the gospel and approval of those facts, in order to be saved, I must decide to depend on Jesus to save me. In doing this I move from being an interested observer of the facts of salvation and the teachings of the Bible to being someone who enters into a new relationship with Jesus Christ as a living person. We may therefore define saving faith in the following way: Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal lift with God.

This definition emphasizes that saving faith is not just a belief in facts but personal trust in Jesus to save me…. The unbeliever comes to Christ seeking to have sin and guilt removed and to enter into a genuine relationship with God that will last forever.

The definition emphasizes personal trust in Christ, not just belief in facts about Christ. Because saving faith in Scripture involves this personal trust, the word “trust” is a better word to use in contemporary culture than the word “faith” or “belief.” The reason is that we can “believe” something to be true with no personal commitment or dependence involved in it. I can believe that Canberra is the capital of Australia, or that 7 times 6 is 42, but have no personal commitment or dependence on anyone when I simply believe those facts. The word faith, on the other hand, is sometimes used today to refer to an almost irrational commitment to something in spite of strong evidence to the contrary, a sort of irrational decision to believe something that we are quite sure is not true! (If your favorite football team continues to lose games, someone might encourage you to “have faith” even though all the facts point the opposite direction.) In these two popular senses, the word “belief” and the word “faith” have a meaning contrary to the biblical sense.

The word trust is closer to the biblical idea, since we are familiar with trusting persons in everyday life. The more we come to know a person, and the more we see in that person a pattern of life that warrants trust, the more we find ourselves able to place trust in that person to do what he or she promises, or to act in ways that we can rely on. This fuller sense of personal trust is indicated in several passages of Scripture in which initial saving faith is spoken of in very personal terms, often using analogies drawn from personal relationships. John says, “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12). Much as we would receive a guest into our homes, John speaks of receiving Christ.

John 3:16 tells us that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Here John uses a surprising phrase when he does not simply say, “whoever believes him” (that is, believes that what he says is true and able to be trusted), but rather, “whoever believes in him.” The Greek phrase pisteuo eis auton could also be translated “believe into him” with the sense of trust or confidence that goes into and rests in Jesus as a person. Leon Morris can say, “Faith, for John, is an activity which takes men right out of themselves and makes them one with Christ.” He understands the Greek phrase pisteuo eis to be a significant indication that New Testament faith is not just intellectual assent but includes a “moral element of personal trust.” Such an expression was rare or perhaps nonexistent in the secular Greek found outside the New Testament, but it was well suited to express the personal trust in Christ that is involved in saving faith.

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 709-711.

Although suffering as a prisoner for proclaiming the gospel, Paul was not disillusioned or in despair. Why? Because of his faith. As he testifies to his faith, its essential elements become clear. “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because Iknow whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I haveentrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:11-12). Truth about God can be known. Zeal for God without knowledge (of the Redeemer) did not suffice for monotheistic and moral Jews (Rom. 10:1-2). Neither did worship of an “unknown God” atone for the cultured Athenians (Acts 17:23-31). In contrast, Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:21).”

The faith that saves is directed away from human educational, cultural, and religious achievements to the Creator, whose redemptive plan has been preserved and publicized in Scripture. Faith comes by hearing the message of special revelation now affirmed by the written Word of God, the hearer being convinced that “Jesus is Lord” and trusting in him (Rom. 10:4, 8-11, 14). Faith involves knowledge (notitia), persuasion (assensus), and commitment (fiducia). These three elements of faith are operative, not only when one first believes the gospel and trusts the Savior, but also in a growing faith throughout the Christian life.

Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demerest, Integrative Theology, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 168-169.

  • There is more than enough evidence on every hand from every department of human experience and knowledge to demonstrate that Christianity is true… It is the faith of the non-Christian [that] is externally and internally groundless.  They are the ones who leap in the dark.  Some, like Kierkegaard, have admitted this

Robert Morey, Introduction to Defending the Faith (Orange, CA: Christian Scholars Press, 2002), 38.

  • When I was undertaking my doctoral research in molecular biology at Oxford University, I was frequently confronted with a number of theories offering to explain a given observation.  In the end, I had to make a judgment concerning which of them possessed the greatest internal consistency, the greatest degree of predictive ability.  Unless I was to abandon any possibility of advance in understanding, I was obliged to make such a judgment… I would claim the right to speak of the ‘superiority’ of Christianity in this explicative sense. 

“Response to John Hick,” by Clark Pinnock, in More Than One Way? Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, Revised ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1996), 68.

See also: 

 Click To Enlarge

Faith Geisler 1

Faith Geisler 2

Faith Geisler 3

Faith Geisler 4

Faith Geisler 5


Misc. Responses


Here is the response to Russell’s position:

Often, however, the cause of our doubt isn’t what you might think. It isn’t necessarily the strength of the arguments that rattles us, but the way they resonate with the unbeliever in each of us (what the Bible calls the “old self”). We hear Tokyo Rose’s voice and she seems to make pretty good sense sometimes. Yet more often than not, if we look closely at the atheist’s arguments, we find that there is little substance. Seeing this can change the argument’s frequency and therefore break its spell.

Believers often worry that their doubts signify the rapid approach of full-blown unbelief. But as pastor and author Tim Keller puts it,

Faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.

All thoughtful believers—even those whose faith is mature—encounter doubt. Not a single person has had unadulterated faith.

In any case, it certainly won’t do to ignore your doubts, and defusing them will only strengthen your faith. To be sure, doubts can be strong enough to become a trial in your life; but like all trials, they’re meant to refine faith, not stifle it.

Mitch Stokes, A Shot of Faith: To the Head (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), xvii.

Here is the response to Logicel’s position:

…faith isn’t a theory of how to know things: “Faith is not an epistemological category. It is not a way of knowing something. Faith is a way of trusting something.

“Faith is trusting in that which you have reason to believe is true. Once you have come to believe that something is true, using reliable epistemological means, you can then place your faith or trust in those things.”

~ William Lane Craig (Christinaity Today)

Here is the Comment from Professor Gray:

The definition above of faith is ha-larious! Thanks for posting it. I’m using it to show how ignorant people are about the term, faith. It is totally opposite of the real meaning that it makes quite a contrast. Faith is the substance of things believed based on evidential material, eye witnesses reports, and logical reasons to hold something as true. Those who have “faith” without the evidence are deluded and would believe anything. It is like someone believing that one species evolves into another species without any transitional evidence. Even with no evidence they continue to believe its true! Now that fits your poster’s definition. Anyway, thanks for the post. I am getting a lot of laughs by using it in my presentations.

Were the Founders Religious? (Joshua Charles)

Very happy for my “cyber friend” to be in the Prager-U mix!

What did the Founding Fathers believe about religion? Were they Christians, or just deists? Did they believe in secularism, or did they want Americans to be religious? Joshua Charles, New York Times bestselling author and researcher at the Museum of the Bible, explains.

Religion’s “Smart People” Problem (Reasonable Faith)

(Transcript of the above) What a great video! Here is a recent passage that is somewhat saying the same things as part of the above segment has:

One last thing. I have long been fascinated by how many people who hold a religious faith do so because they discovered it in adulthood, not because they were raised in it by their parents. Indeed, claims such as “You’re only a Christian because your parents were!” have always smacked to me of desperation, on a par with “You’re only pessimistic because you’re English.”102 It’s also an ill-tempered Rottweiler of an argument, for it can quickly turn around and bite your own hand; after all, if it were true, it would apply to atheists too. I have no idea what Dawkins’s daughter, Juliet, does or does not believe – but if she is an atheist like her father, I hope she isn’t having to fend off argumentative Anglicans dinging her around the head with sound bites like “You are only an atheist because your daddy is.” Or maybe Dawkins displayed incredible philosophical consistency and raised her as a Mennonite, just so he couldn’t be accused of foisting his beliefs on his child.


[102] As James Branch Cabell quipped, the difference between a pessimist and an optimist is that an optimist believes that we live in the best of all possible worlds; a pessimist fears that this may be true.


Andy Banister, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: Or, The Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments (Oxford, England: Monarch Books, 2015), 78-79.

Reasoning of Revelation ~ Thomas C. Oden

  • Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology: Volume One: The Living God (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 375-404. (Abbreviations at the bottom)
  • One should include my “What is Faith” post with this reading.

The Reasoning of Revelation

Does revelation elicit and require its own kind of reasoning? To what extent can the study of God expect to be reasonable? Does faith risk something essential to itself when it tries to be reasonable in the world’s terms?

No study of God is complete without dealing with the limits and resources of human reasoning in God’s presence. Four issues in par­ticular need to be investigated: (1) At what points can or must the inquiry into God appeal to reason? (2) What is meant by reason, and why is radical skepticism finally untenable? (3) Could any disclosure of God occur without reason altogether? (4) Does faith reason in its own unique way?

Must the Study of God Appeal to Reason?

Reason (dialegomai, ratio), as classical Christianity understood it, includes all the capacities of the soul to behold and receive truth (Augustine, Letters CXXXVII, NPNF 1 I, pp. 473-80; cf. Letters 120.1, FC). These include intellectual, emotive, and volitional (thinking, feel­ing, and willing) aspects of the self, insofar as all these faculties enter into the discernment and interpretation of the truth (Augustine, Con f. IV.1 ff., NPNF 1 I, pp. 89 ff.).

The Participative Premise: Reasoning out of a Community

Christian study of God requires a risk-taking effort to enter into and explore that context in which the relevant data are found. The data of the religious communities cannot be effectively evaluated or even heard if we do not enter into the sphere of that community’s life

its prayer, its confessional memory, and its acts of self-giving love. Those who elect to stand aloof from that worshiping community will have lost the chance to understand it from within. As one cannot undergo psychoanalysis merely by reading books, but only through analysis—so too, theology.

The study of God is not well grasped as an individualistic inquiry apart from a community that seeks to embody and celebrate it. In studying any discipline, one must enter into its language, artifacts, instruments, data bases, symbols, graphs, and diagrams—whatever that particular discipline requires—and live with those resources for a while, taking them seriously. Likewise, a participative element is required in Christian theology (Pss. 95:2; 34:8; Matt. 19:15-22; Acts 11:5; Teresa of Avila, Life I, pp. 17-20; cf. Calvin, Inst. 1.1-3; Bucer, De Regno Christi III, LCC XIX, pp. 200-207; Wesley, WJW V, pp. 185-201; XI, pp. 237-59).

Christian reflection well expounded should be reasonably intelligi­ble to an educated person who is not a Christian (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, ANF I, pp. 194 ff.; Athenagoras, A Plea for the Chr., ANF II, pp. 123-49). But its evidences may not be completely plausible, persuasive, or even meaningful to one who has not made any participative effort, or to one who has not at the very least atten­tively listened to someone else who has made that integrative effort and lived it out in his or her own daily behavior (Clare of Assisi, Rule, CWS, pp. 209-25; Calvin, Inst. 4.15). It is a psychological axiom that our behavior authenticates our belief system so radically that we trust people’s behavior far more than what they say they believe (James 1:23, 24; Clement, First Epis. IX ff., ANF I, pp. 7 ff.).

Theological reasoning involves at least a tentative sympathy with the data to be understood. That does not suggest an uncritical, naive, gullible acceptance, but rather an attitude of receptive, imaginative open-mindedness that examines facts without hardened, preconceived cynicism. Though Christian teaching does not expect a prior radical commitment to everything the church tradition has said, it does re­quire some capacity for at least tentative openness to Holy Writ and holy tradition, in order to give it a chance to speak its own word, to declare its distinctive self-understanding (Augustine, The Catechising of the Uninstructed, chaps. 5-9, NPNF 1 III, pp. 288-92). Within this framework, the hearer is challenged to approach Christian teaching with a kind of risk-taking willingness, to be dissatisfied with cheap solutions, and to probe the deeper dimensions of internal consistency in the community that lives out of mystery, while seeking to reason as well as possible out of the mystery revealed (Augustine, The Usefulness of Belief, X.23-XVIII.36, LCC VI, pp. 310-18).

Christian teaching seeks to correlate a wide range of data, and therefore overlaps with companion disciplines (Augustine, The Teacher, LCC VI, pp. 69 ff.). It is something like sociology in that it requires complex data gathering and the interpreting of socially shared symbols and experiences. Sociology has methods, insights, and problems that overlap with those of anthropology, history, economics, and political thought (C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination; cf. Tho. Aq., The Division and Methods of the Sciences, Q5, pp. 3-50). One cannot bracket out a small area of data and say: This is the absolute matter, subject, or text of sociology into which no other discipline can enter. The study of God is like this. It searches for proper balance in an extremely wide range of historical, psychological, moral, and religious input (Clement of Alex., Strom. II, ANF II, pp. 347-79). It is a broad-ranging intellec­tual exercise, yet a specific discipline with a single center—God’s address through Jesus Christ and through Israel, as that word is made relevant to the whole range of other modes of human knowing, feeling, and acting.

Theology is a joyful intellectual task because the source of its task is the source of profoundest joy (Tho. Aq., ST I-II Q2-5). At the moment at which one feels one’s theological endeavors becoming tedi­ous and heavy, one may have forgotten that the center of the effort is the joy of God’s presence—the ground of true happiness, the end of human despair. The God-inquiry furnishes the mind with its most radical challenge: God. It offers an unparalleled opportunity to think consistently, constructively, and fittingly about the One who gives life: this extraordinary, unduplicable being, God, who ultimately enjoys the penultimate goodness of creatures (Gen. 1:18-31).

Empathic Listening for Consistency

How may we weave our way through the fine distinctions that affirm reason as useful gift, yet with appropriate self-limits in the presence of the holiness and power of God?

Systematic theology is a critical discipline devoted to discovering, clarifying, understanding, defending, and extending the truth that is implied in the experience of the Christian community, the truth of God’s self-disclosure as remembered in Scripture and tradition. Re­sponsible discourse about God addresses the thoughtful, self-critical mind as it seeks clarity in understanding God. This inquiry wants to avoid obscurantism or evasion under the guise of piety, yet take seriously the energies of piety’s own modes of reasoning (Anse1m, Concerning Truth, TFE, pp. 91 ff.; cf. Proslog., preface, pp. 103-5).

Christian theology necessarily requires the rational exercise of thinking, because it is by definition reasoned discourse about God, modestly framed in terms of the immeasurability of its Subject (Gre­gory Nazianzen, Orat. XXVII, First Theol. Or., NPNF 2 VII, pp. 285-88). Seen from the viewpoint of the university or the encyclopedia, theol­ogy is a discipline. As such it requires self-critical reasoning about the word of God delivered through Scripture, liturgy, proclamation, and counsel.

Theology has long been suspected of being slightly too simple and far too difficult, a reputation well-earned on both counts. It is only part of the modern quandary concerning theology that much of the language of Christian confession is delivered through premodern cos­mologies, prescientific views of the world (Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology, pp. 5 ff.). The conflict of cosmologies is not as deep as the conflict between faith and unfaith in the hearer. Even when clothed in the latest language and symbols of modernity, Christianity with its “Word made flesh” cannot remain completely nonoffensive (Kierke-gaard, Training in Christianity, pp. 79 ff.). Since classical Christianity is a tradition of exegesis, it has from the second and third centuries faced the awkwardness of having had its eternal Word spoken and echoed through various views of the world—dated understandings and misunderstandings of nature, psychology, and society that in turn differ widely from current conceptions of causality, physics, and real­ity. Christianity’s problem with what we call modernity is one that Christianity has faced many times before with many other “moderni­ties.” Bultmann wrongly imagined that the gulf between modern and premodern consciousness was larger than other gulfs the traditions of exegesis have managed to bridge (EPT I, II, passim). Our contempo­rary problems of cross-cultural communication do not pile higher than those faced by Athanasius, Augustine, John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas, or Luther. Each had to struggle with making archaic lan­guage and symbol systems accessible to their own “modern” hearers of the fourth, seventh, thirteenth, or sixteenth centuries (cf. Athanasius, whose Festal Letters were mostly written amid massive persecu­tion; Augustine, whose City of God was written amid the collapse of Rome; Gregory the Great, whose Pastoral Care was written amid con­tinuing attacks upon Rome from both the north and the east; John of Damascus, whose Orthodox Faith was written in the then-new Muslim world, etc.).

A major obstacle to the modern hearing of classical Christian rea­soning is an inveterate modern chauvinism that assumes that modern consciousness is intrinsically superior to all premodern modes of thinking; conversely, all premodern thinking is assumed to be intrins­ically inferior to modern consciousness. That premise is deeply in­grained in the pride of modernity. In order to begin to hear the distinctive reasoning of the classical Christian consensus, that recal­citrant cultural egocentricity must be circumvented. How? The student of God must learn how to enter with historical empathy into archaic, seemingly outmoded, premodern frames of reference, accurately trying to hear what a text or a person is trying to shout as from a distant hill. The fact of distance does not mean that the message is in error.

It remains a problem of reason and will (being willing to reason, and reasonably willing) to learn how to employ empathic imagination to get into another frame of reference, to understand somebody else who thinks with different categories and out of different language frames—chiefly Hebrew, Greek, and Latin but also at various periods Aramaic, Coptic, Arabic, German, French. Classical Christian writers have preached and taught in all these symbol systems and more. They have often transcended their own thought world and embraced other symbol systems in the service of the truth (among the best exemplars: Paul, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Raymond Lull).

In listening for the internal consistency of the deep nuances of classical Christian reasoning, we face complex problems of cross-cul­tural translation of meanings readily available in one period but almost inaccessible to another. An intellectual effort is required by the serious student of God’s revelation who must take in a wide range of data, listen to strange voices, place text in context, and pray for the guidance of the Spirit (Augustine, On Chr. Doctrine III, NPNF 1 II, pp. 556-73). The task requires rigorous understanding not only of Scripture but also of the tradition that remembers Scripture; in addition it requires the gift of putting all into a personally meaningful, internally cohesive formulation that corresponds to one’s own experiencing process (Au­gustine, Con f. VI, NPNF 1 I, pp. 89-101; Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care, ACW, passim). All of that requires thinking; Christian faith cannot simply appeal to mystery or refer itself uncritically back to immeasurable divine wisdom.

Scriptural Teaching Concerning Reason

The biblical writers welcomed reason that is open to the evidences of faith. Isaiah appealed to his hearers: “Come now, let us reason together” (1:18, KJV). Prophets such as Amos denounced idolatry and greed for its unreasonable stupidity (Amos 3:14-4:3). It is the fool, not the wise one, who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1; cf. Pss. 53:1; 92:6).

Paul spoke to his Corinthian audience as persons “of good sense” (1 Cor. 10:15, “of discernment,” TCNT). He protested against the opponents of faith as those who were “unreasonable” or “wrong­headed” (2 Thess. 3:2, KJV, NEB). The writer of the letter to Colossians prayed that they might receive from God “all wisdom and spiritual understanding for full insight into his will” (Col. 1:9, 10). Jesus him­self reasoned by analogy through parables, and often reasoned from pragmatic evidence.

Biblical faith has been poorly described as contrary to reason or inaccessible to any kind of rational analysis or critical judgment. This has encouraged obscurantism to parade as faith, and fidism to refuse to give or seek any reasons for faith. This stands contrary to the apostolic counsel that believers be prepared at the proper moment to give reasons for the hope that is in them. “Be always ready with your defence whenever you are called to account for the hope that is in you, but make that defence with modesty and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

The early Christian writers followed the biblical assumption that reason was to be utilized positively within appropriate bounds in the discussion of revelation. Athenagoras declared that “natural reason is chiefly and primarily adapted . . . to delight unceasingly in the con­templation of Him who is” (Resurrection of the Dead XXV, ANF II, p. 162). Clement of Alexandria (Strom. VI.12, ANF II, p. 503a) and Origen (Ag. Celsus 1.13, ANF IV, p. 402) argued for the inner affinity of faith and reason. Augustine formulated the relation with precision and wide influence: “If thou hast not understood, said I, believe. For understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore do not seek to under­stand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand; since ‘except ye believe, ye shall not understand”‘ (Augustine, On Gospel of John, tractate XXIX, NPNF 1 VII, p. 184, quoting Isa. 7:9; cf. Hooker, Laws of Eccl. Polity 111.8).

Classical Christian exegetes sought to communicate both the im­portance and the limits of reason. They tried to avoid the rationalist exaggeration that reason is omnicompetent, thereby leaving no role for revelation (Tertullian, Apol. XLVI, XLVII, ANF III, pp. 50-52). They also resisted the opposite exaggeration, that reason is completely un­done and incompetent in the presence of the mysteries of religion (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho II, ANF I, p. 195). A balanced, discriminating statement of the proper function of reason in theology requires firm grounding in Scripture and tradition (Clement of Alex., Strom. V.12-14, ANF II, pp. 462-76).

Feelings, passions, and emotive flow cannot substitute for analysis, observation, logical consistency, and historical awareness. Uncritical emotion may mislead, as Amos recognized in the irony of those who without reason “feel secure on the mountains of Samaria” (Amos 6:1, italics added). Modern psychological consciousness often finds it eas­ier to talk about inner feelings than to provide a reasonable analysis of the motives of emotive life. One need not deny the importance of the emotive life in order to affirm the need for reason (Catherine of Genoa, Spiritual Dialogue, CWS, pp. 91 ff.; J. Edwards, On Religious Affections).

The plague of personalistic pietism has been the unconstrained notion that what is really important about God is only “what I feel about it right now.” As a result, what one must finally trust comes down to little more than “gut feelings” and changeable, often self-assertive, emotive states—not the manifestation of God, not Scripture, not the historical experience of a community. Feeling disclosure is a primary objective in the intensive group experience. However useful, that in itself is incomplete; one’s feelings may emerge out of cruelty, deception, or inordinate anxiety, for example. Classical Christian teaching asked for more than feeling-disclosure. It asked for rigorous, critical reflection, within the bounds of humble contrition, concerning the self-disclosure of God and its relevance for everything human.

Classical Christian teaching sought to nurture and assist this ca­pacity for careful analytical reflection to avoid Christians becoming “slaves to passions and pleasures” (Titus 3:3; John Chrysostom, Hom. on Titus V, NPNF 1 XIII, pp. 535-40). Without the constraint of sound moral reasoning, the passions are prone to become “licentious” (2 Pet. 2:18), “ungodly” (Jude 18), “worldly” (Titus 2:12), or “dishonorable” (Rom. 1:26). Even the law, which is good, is prone to awaken “sinful passions,” as Paul knew: “While we lived on the level of our lower nature, the sinful passions evoked by the law worked in our bodies, to bear fruit for death” (Rom. 7:5; cf. Maximus the Confessor, Four Centuries of Charity 111.50-64, ACW 21, pp. 182-85).

Those who have been emotively grasped by the power of the Spirit to recognize the love of the Father through the Son do not merely feel without thinking. They owe it to themselves to seek whatever clarity is possible concerning the consequences of that experience (Tho. Aq., ST I Q78 ff., I, pp. 404 ff.). They may or may not reflect critically upon what inward religious experiences mean and require in such a way as to “conduct themselves wisely toward outsiders” (Col. 4:5, RSV), but those who do engage in such reflection tend to extend and deepen the meaning of the experience itself (Augustine, Conf. XIII, NPNF 1 I, pp. 192 ff.), even though reason seems always prone to overextend itself (111.6, NPNF 1 I, p. 63).

Reason and Certitude

Doubt and the Hunger for Certainty

It is understandable that a finite human being, troubled with the vicissitudes of life, should hunger for certainty in knowledge, or at least for high reliability, to whatever degree is possible. But how does one know? How is it possible to be sure that we know what we think we know? These are perennial questions of epistemology, but in cer­tain crucial times, especially amid sorrow, illness, and death, our usual rational explanations become stretched to their limit. As every pastor knows, these are the very times when theological questions are profoundly asked. These crucial moments make it exceptionally diffi­cult to answer the question, How do we know what we seem to know, or what we seem to know in part? Life constantly undoes our theories of knowing (Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel I, II, LCC XVIII, pp. 26-82; for much of what follows, I am indebted to Soren Kierkegaard, Concl. Unsci. Post., Reinhold Niebuhr, NDM, and L. Harold DeWolfe, TLC).

The act of pardon in the Christian service of worship announces, “You are forgiven.” But how does one know one is forgiven? Is there any relative certainty? Classical Christian teaching speaks of a circle of knowing: through the inner assurance of the Holy Spirit and the reliability of Scripture, the divine self-disclosure is knowable. But to what degree is certainty capable of being achieved in such statements? And if so, is it an empirical, or moral, certainty?

Multiple Levels of Reasoning

Christian teaching has long been aware of the difficulty of attaining rational certainty of any sort. All human reason, not theological reason alone, functions under the stubborn limitations of finitude and poten­tial self-deception.

Reason may be defined in a preliminary way as the capacity for internal consistency of argument based on evidence. Both deductive and inductive processes are combined in this definition. Reason can too narrowly be defined in either an abstract, rationalistic, nonexper-iential way or an excessively empirical, experiential way.

Rationalistic Method: Deductive Reasoning

Some rationalistic methods define reason in excessively nonexper-iential, nonsensory, and abstract ways. Descartes wanted to reason by cutting off all sense experiencing, by locking himself up in a stove, blocking all sensory input, so that exclusively on the basis of his own internal reason he could see if he could come to any reliable knowledge (Descartes, Meditations; W. Temple, Nature, Man, and God). Descartes is a prototype of one who wanted to block out the experiential and sensory side of the dialectic of knowing. When he realized that he was doubting, he reasoned: If he could doubt, then he must be thinking, and if he was thinking, then he surely must be. Therefore he came to what he regarded as reliable knowledge (that he existed) on a purely nonsensory basis. In time, that tradition of rationalism (as represented by Descartes, Spinoza, Wolff, and others) easily became overextended, and its claims unqualified and overweening.

Classical Christian reasoning, by contrast, has not characteristically proceeded by discarding sense experience. It wants to use its deduc­tive rational capacity, but only while utilizing to the fullest extent possible the inputs of sense experience, though admittedly there are finite limits to sense experience also. Reason depends, as Thomas Aquinas knew, upon sense perception, even though the senses may err. Thomas’s arguments for the existence of God all began with sense experience, by looking around at the orderly processes of nature, causality, contingency, and language.

No one is consistently able to exact the rigorous tests of sense perception in order to gain knowledge that is familiar to much ordi­nary daily experiencing. Suppose we are considering the notion of the number 1000 squared. We can in our minds instantly calculate a million in order to find that exact number accurately. But we do not have to stop to count those one million units. If we did we would take the demands for sensory validation too far. We take for granted a reliable structure of interpretation, a (rational) mathematical formula, 1000 x 1000, and trust the reasoning by which we square a number.

Thus in a sense we take it on the authority of those who have worked with mathematics for a long time (and perhaps have even counted those numbers), even though counting may seem absurd if we already know the formula. We often work confidently on the basis of such nonsensory rational ideas without feeling any need to “count” (to validate our reasoning empirically).

Scientific Method: Inductive Reasoning

The experimental method that we find in modern natural and behav­ioral sciences is based upon careful observation of change under con­trolled conditions on the basis of sense experience. Vast scientific and historical accomplishments have resulted from this experimental method. Yet this method has been alleged by some modern advocates (e.g., B. F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov, Karl Popper, A. J. Ayer) to be the only way to know anything. There is little doubt that Christianity can make admirable use of empirical data gathering and scientific experimenta­tion, but they are of limited value when we are talking about the central concerns of Christian teaching: the meaning of history, sin, grace, atonement, and sacramental life. The experimental method is useful when quantifiable objects are measured and changes observed, but God is not a quantifiable object. Christian teaching does not dismiss or deride experimental psychology, sociology, biology, or phys­ics. It has learned much and can learn more from the data of the experimental sciences, natural and behavioral, and does not object to those methodologies per se, where quantifiable objects are being investigated.

These sciences ordinarily seek to isolate a single variable and try to account through some kind of quantifiable data-gathering process for a demonstrable change in that single variable that is repeatable and that can be experimentally reproduced and validated in a laboratory. But can one utilize that method effectively when attempting to speak significantly to the question of the meaning of suffering, the forgive­ness of sin, or the overarching purpose of the historical process? The empirical method has limited usefulness in approaching poetry, liter­ary analysis, religious experience, or love, all of which are grasped intuitively by a Gestalt or pattern of looking at personal knowledge that is seldom subject to exhaustive empirical analysis. Christian teaching in particular is looking for a pattern at work in all human history, to grasp the meaning of history (Augustine, CG XVIII, NPNF 1 II, pp. 361 ff.), so empirical method can take one only incompletely toward this understanding.

Hence both these methods that are available to us have positive but limited value: a rationalistic method and an empirical method. Both are needed; both are insufficient to the subject matter of the study of God.

Pragmatic Reasoning

There is another type of reasoning, prevalent primarily in the American tradition, sometimes called pragmatic reasoning, which es­sentially judges the truth of a thing in terms of its results, practical application, or impact (William James, Pragmatism; Essays on Faith and Morals; C. S. Peirce, Collected Papers, vol. VI, par. 465 ff.). This method of reasoning also has been useful to a certain degree in Christian teaching about God, salvation, and community. For Christian truth hopes also to “work,” to turn into practical acts, to be applied. But what pragmatism tends to neglect is the level of the truth question that lies prior to its practical application. Pragmatism is not so much interested in asking whether a proposition or affirmation is true or false as in asking only whether it has a practical or useful effect of some kind (J. B. Pratt, What Is Pragmatism?). That is not as deep as Christian teaching seeks to go.

Convergence of Plausibility

The method of comprehensive coherence is yet another, more complex, type of classical pastoral reasoning. The search for comprehensive coherence is the attempt to grasp or see as most probably true that proposed solution to a problem which is on the whole supported by the greatest net weight of evidence from all quarters—deductive and inductive reasoning, logic and scientific method, historical reasoning, Scripture, and tradition. It is a centered intuitive act of drawing to­gether of insights or data from widely varied resources and searching for their interrelated implicit meaning or convergence of plausibility (Clementina, Horn. II, ANF VIII, pp. 229, 230).

The knowing of God is at times something like a detective story, but one in which the answer is crying out to be revealed, the clues lying about everywhere. Some of the evidence is circumstantial, some requires careful data gathering; other steps need clear reasoning, faith­fulness to credible sources, or sharp intuition. Comprehensive coher­ence is that kind of reasoning which says that the most adequate explanation of something is the one that brings into focus the most widely varied inputs into a single, cohesive, tentatively meaningful frame of reference. Intuitive reasoning based on facts seeks to ascer­tain whether the overall evidence is reasonable or not. It differs from strict laboratory or experimental conditions in its breadth, variety, and imaginativeness. Scientific experimentation tries to bracket out these broader intuitions and insights and focus upon a single, manipulata­ble, objective variable (cf. Anatolius, Fragments from the Books on Arith­metic, ANF VI, pp. 152, 153; Reinhold Niebuhr, NDM I, pp. 18-24, 104 ff.). But the single-variable approach can box the inquirer into a vision that is highly constricted.

The study of God, ironically, is distinguished from empirical sci­ence in that it seeks to account for the greatest possible number of variables, rather than a single variable. For this unique study asks about the meaning of history. This is one way of describing the central task of theology: to give a credible account for the meaning of history, creation to consummation, viewed as God’s story (Luke 1:3; cf. 1 Chron. 11:11; 2 Chron. 13:22; Ps. 81:10). To deny a hearing to any kind of data by a prior and arbitrary limitation of method risks losing that part of the truth. Historically, theology has been relatively more willing to investigate speculative hypotheses, eschatology, psycholog­ical intuition, paranormal phenomena, and moral conscience than have the behavioral sciences, which have often ruled out such hypotheses.

In pleading for an attitude of openness to evidence, Augustine remarked that “every good and true Christian should understand that wherever he may find truth, it is his Lord’s” (On Chr. Doctrine 11.18, LLA, p. 54). If God is the deepest truth (even though not fully fath­omed), wherever the truth appears, there is some evidence of God’s presence (Clement of Alex., Strom. 1.13, ANF II, p. 313). Truth has self-evidencing power (Clementina, Hom. 111.36, ANF VIII, p. 123). So theology can look for evidence anywhere.

However open to any truth one may be, any evidence may be distorted by human egocentricity and finitude, for all our perceptions are finite. We see the world from a very limited perspective. We ourselves have not lived for more than a few decades, yet human beings have lived in cities for at least twelve thousand years. Homo erectus is said to date back three or four million years, and the earth’s history perhaps four and a half billion years. Our sufferings for one another are placed by the historical reasoning of the New Testament in the context of the “purpose of God hidden for ages” (Eph. 3:9; cf. vv. 10-13; Col. 1:26).

The most perplexing problems of epistemology are rooted more fundamentally in the basic dilemma of human existence—human fin­itude, with freedom to imagine. The fundamental paradox of being a human being is the fact that we live in nature, and are restricted by nature, yet we are capable of self-transcendence, of life in the spirit. We are not explainable to ourselves merely in terms of naturalistic reductionisms, yet we are not transnatural or superpersonal angels or unembodied intelligences. Human existence is by definition a combi­nation of the natural and transnatural, rooted in nature and the causal order, yet with capacity for self-determination and self-transcendence.

This is symbolized in the Christian community by shorthand lan­guage: body and soul, or soma and psyche. There is no body/soul dualism, because in Scripture the psycho-somatic interface is kept so taut—the psyche is constantly affected by the body, and the body is nothing (except a corpse) without its living reality, the psyche. The soul is never in history unembodied (not even in the Resurrection!), and the body that lacks soul lacks life. The person (psycho-somatically, paradoxically conceived) is wrapped in causal chains, yet exists as free—finite, yet capable of transcending finitude. Human life is “a sort of connecting link between the visible and invisible natures” (John of Damascus, OF 11.12, NPNF 2 IX, pp. 30, 31).

This boundary location of the perceiver makes perception all the more difficult to fathom. Even though one knows one is perceiving something, one does not always know the depths or limits of the perception. Every human being has the task of holding both sides of that composite together in a meaningful way (Kierkegaard, Sickness unto Death, I.1, pp. 146 ff.).

Epistemology is that troubled inquiry that seeks to understand how we can possibly know anything. It reflects the tension of the larger human problem: finite freedom. Empiricism has inordinately focused upon data gathered by sensory experience. Rationalism has inordi­nately focused upon the reason that transcends the natural, that which gives order to this natural vitality. The history of philosophy reveals both tendencies in various combinations in various periods (Reinhold Niebuhr, NDM I, pp. 1 ff.). Empiricism may become exaggerated, in the form of a radical skepticism, so as to overemphasize the compe­tency of sense experience. Exaggeration of the power of reasoning may lead into a soft, fuzzy trap of abstract idealism, such as in Hegel. Regardless of which side comes to the fore, the problems of episte­mology remain rooted in the fundamental dilemma of being a human being.

Problems and Limits of Radical Skepticism

Dependence of Reason on Experience

This brings us full circle, surprisingly, back to the limits of radical skepticism. Our data are not infallible. This is true even in the natural sphere—for example, when you put a stick in the water and it appears to bend. To account for this, you have to discount the bent appearance of the stick. Our sensory apparatus is always having to make these kinds of adjustments and to apply checks to itself. We are the victims of optical illusions, mirages in the desert, delusions, and dreams. Even when our sensory powers are working under the most favorable conditions, we still see the world from quite a limited perspective.

From critics like Hume we hear doubt cast upon causality itself. We had assumed that we could always rely on the fact that effects are produced by causes, but Hume argued that this is merely a habit of mind—assuming that certain causes are going to elicit certain ef-fects—but that one cannot necessarily infer thereby that what now appear to be ironbound causal laws might not later be viewed with different eyes. Although overstated by Hume, this critique bids us be humble about the competency both of our capacity to reason and our capacity to rely upon sensory input (Hume, Dialogues Concerning Nat­ural Religion, Phil. Works II, pp. 411 ff.).

Moreover, if all claims to have received a revelation from God were to be automatically accepted, fanaticism would be welcomed, and the easy credit would lead to constant bankruptcy. Reason functions to sort out the legitimacy of claims of alleged revelation in the light of whatever one has already learned about God through comprehensive coherence (1 Thess. 5:21; cf. 2 Cor. 11:1-21).

Data received must often be corrected on the basis of subsequent experiences, and those experiences in turn await being corrected by later experiences, only to find that later experiences then have to be again corrected by earlier experiences, and so on (Jer. 5:3). The di­lemma deepens: How can we be assured that there are not yet-to-be-discovered important data that will challenge or contradict our cur­rently assumed reliable and constructive knowledge?

The Dependence of Reason on Unproved Postulates

We not only have practical difficulties with establishing sensory evidence in every discrete case, but our reasoning also depends upon assumptions and postulates to which no data-gathering process can appeal, and that no data-gathering process can establish and that no reasoning process can prove without assuming these postulates pre­cisely while the proofs are being attempted (Origen, De Princip., pre­face, ANF IV, pp. 239-41). Two examples are the intelligibility of nature and the principle of consistency.

One example is the elementary principle of the intelligibility of nature: Any attempt to communicate through language involves the assumption that we are living in an intelligible order. Yet how can one prove that assumption? It remains an axiom, an assumption that lies quietly behind our reasoning (Augustine, Soliloquies II, LCC VI, pp. 41-63).

Another assumption is the principle of consistency: If genuinely contradictory ideas can be true at the same time, then no argument for or against any conclusion has any force. Yet there is no way to establish that principle empirically, and no way to demonstrate it rationally without first depending on it (Anselm, Concerning Truth IX ff., TFE, pp. 107 ff.).

The Impossibility of Radical Skepticism

This takes us to the hypothesis of complete skepticism about know­ing anything. The ancient skeptic Carneades asserted that it is impos­sible to know anything at all. He thought that we must base any truth on premises that we already hold, and that if we attempt to prove the premises, we can only move back toward other premises upon which we base our proof (N. MacColl, The Greek Skeptics, cf. Augustine, On the Profit of Believing, NPNF 1 III, pp. 347 ff.). Thus we are pressed toward a total skepticism.

This is really the humorous conclusion of this chapter’s trajectory thus far: The reason no philosophy has been able to teach or embrace a complete skepticism is that it is impossible to do it. To believe that nothing can be known is to believe that even the meaning of that belief cannot be known. If you believe that you can know nothing, you have to be skeptical also of that belief (Tho. Aq., ST II—II Q60, I, pp. 1448, 1449). So even the most radical skepticism stumbles back with an internal contradiction. Even if you should try to teach the notion that nothing can be known, you are involved in an absurdity, because to teach it would be to assert that you know something. Skepticism is the yielding of the mind to a conviction of the impossibility of certainty, accom­panied by a complacency about such a condition. Since skepticism believes that there is no truth, it must itself be classified as a faith in the reliability of ignorance (Pope, Compend. I, p. 48; DeWolfe, TLC, I). This insight helps theology to move through and beyond the morass of skepticism.

Though absolute certainty is not deductively or inductively attain­able, complete skepticism is even more logically absurd, and cannot be maintained in practice. It is unreasonable to lay a radical demand upon ourselves, as we proceed theologically, to prove everything empirically, as some scientific and philosophical critics of religion ex­pect. But that is no excuse for not taking as seriously as possible the evidentiary process so as to try to bring into our consciousness as many factors as we possibly can that will appeal to a comprehensively cohesive form of reasoning.

Historical Reasoning

This is why the predominant form of reasoning in Christian the­ology has been a somewhat different form of reasoning, namely, his­torical reasoning. The Old Testament view of reasoning about God is historical in scope and method. Yahweh repeatedly refers to himself in distinctively historical terms: “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exod. 3:15, 16; Mark 12:26) and often rehearses to the Israelites the mighty deed he has done in history (Joshua 24:2-13; Ps. 136).

God meets us not just in our inner thoughts but in history, dem­onstrating the divine presence and power through events (Deut. 11:1-4; cf. 1 Cor. 2:4). “The Lord is righteous in his acts; he brings justice to all who have been wronged. He taught Moses to know his way and showed the Israelites what he could do. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, long-suffering and forever constant” (Ps. 103:6-8). That the Lord is compassionate and gracious is known by recollecting God’s historical activity (Irenaeus, Ag. Her. V.21, 22, ANF I, pp. 548-51; Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. Lect. VI, NPNF 2 VII, pp. 33-43).

One who wishes to get in touch with God’s demonstration of his justice and mercy in history must look candidly at universal history and learn to reason about all of history from the vantage point of a special history—Israel’s. To know Yahweh at all one must look partic­ularly toward the distinctive ways in which Yahweh has become self-revealed in history. The Hebraic way of reasoning is to tell a story. History telling or narrative is the distinctively Hebraic way of reasoning—a highly complex mode of theo-historical reasoning (Ezra 1:1-4; Neh. 1:1-4; Amos 1:1-5).

Hegel employed a different kind of historical reasoning. He theo­rized that reason is manifesting itself in historical processes, so that what is going on in history he called Absolute Reason unfolding itself. This historical reason, he argued, displays a recognizable logic that can be seen in every discrete historical unfolding. His effort centered upon seeking to understand the logic of history. The pattern he rec­ognized recurrently was that of a force followed by a counterforce, and then a synthesis made possible by the conflict of those two energies. The same form of reasoning is found in Hegel’s psychology and polit­ical thought, epistemology and metaphysics. Everywhere Hegel looked he saw this kind of reasoning in history working itself out in thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Scripture does not argue for this sort of predictable logic, yet Hegel’s fundamental idea (however unbiblically rationalized) is derived from Hebraic historical consciousness. It is a unique type of reasoning—reasoning derived from history, especially the history of God’s mighty deeds (Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel VII, I, pp. 321 ff.; Augustine, CG XVI, NPNF 1 II, pp. 309 ff.; cf. Hegel, Reason in History; Kierkegaard, Concl. Unsci. Post.).

Ordinarily the final meaning of a person’s or nation’s history is only knowable at the end of the story. One cannot write a definitive biography of Gandhi until his life is over. A living person or nation could always take a new turn, and make subsequent choices that would bear upon the meaning of the whole. Suppose the meaning of human history is to become knowable only at its end, as virtually all late-Judaic apocalyptic writers assumed (the Books of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Baruch, and War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness), for apokalypsis refers to the final uncovering of meaning that had been hidden.

Jesus was born into a community saturated with expectations that the end of a grossly distorted history would eventually reveal its meaning, however disastrous the present may be (cf. Daniel, 2 Esdrus, and the Assumption of Moses). Suppose, however, that an event oc­curs in history that reveals the meaning of the end before the end. This is what happened in Jesus Christ—his incarnation, crucifixion, and res­urrection, the one mighty deed of God that bestows significance upon all human deeds (Lactantius, Div. Inst. IV.25-30, ANF VII, pp. 126-34).

Supposing that such a revealing event had occurred in history, would it not be necessary that it be followed by a remembering com­munity, one that sought to preserve the meaning of the whole histor­ical process revealed in that event? Would it not be understandable if a community of celebration followed that event that remembered it, shared in it, and proclaimed its meaning to all who would hear? (Methodius, Three Fragments, Hom. on the Cross and Passion of Christ, ANF VI, pp. 399-401).

Such a community has emerged in Christian history, reasoning out of this event, seeking to make it understandable in each new cultural-historical context. Through a gradual process of canonization, the documents witnessing to this event became received as Holy Writ, attested by the Spirit as a reliable point of contact with the originative event through which the meaning of history—God’s Word to humanity—became clarified. Something like this process occurred in the historical Christian community. Each phase of history has required astute historical reasoning (e.g., Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho LXXXII—CXLII, ANF I, pp. 240-70). Each new situation of the church has demanded a modestly revised form of historical reasoning—the recollection of revelatory events amid these particular new historical conditions. Hence, theological reasoning is historical reasoning.

What Purpose Does Reason Serve in the Study of God?

There are five classical explanations of why reason is required in any revelation: Reason is needed to receive the truth, distinguish truth from falsehood, reveal reason’s own limitations by pointing beyond itself, interpret the truth, and transmit it to new generations.

TO RECEIVE REVELATION

A revelation can be made only to a potentially rational being. Stones do not receive revelation. Without reason even the most obvious revelation could not be apprehended or grasped. If God wished to reveal the truth to a stone, it would first be necessary to create in a stone some capacity to understand, or the capacity to reason, in order for it to receive the revelation (Tho. Aq., ST II—II Q2, II, pp. 1179-88; Gamertsfelder, Syst. Theol., p. 126). One must assume in any revela­tion both the capacity to apprehend truth and the active openness of the mind to the truth offered. Reason helps faith to understand the content of what is to be believed (Augustine, WAS, p. 59).

TO DECIDE WHETHER OR WHEN REVELATION HAS OCCURRED

All alleged revelations cannot be taken seriously. Some are patently spurious, fraudulent, or manipulative claims (Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies, VII, ANF V, pp. 100 ff.; Kierkegaard, Authority and Revela­tion: The Book on Adler). The community has to sort out which self-proclaimed revelations are true and which are not. When a murderer claims that he acted by divine revelation, faith must utilize its rational-analytical capacity to sort out what is alleged to be true through divine revelation, though falsely, as distinguished radically from that which, by a larger process of comprehensive coherence, can be consensually received and understood as truly God’s own revelation (Tho. Aq., SCG 1.3, I, pp. 63 ff.).

Reason is required in order to judge the evidences of religious claims to revelation (Clement of Alex., Strom. VI.7-11, ANF II, pp. 492-502; Wesley, WJW VI, pp. 350-61; Hodge, Syst. Theol. 1.3, pp. 58, 59). The evidence must be fitting to the truth purported. Truth con­veyed through history requires historical evidence plausibly set forth. Truths of nature require natural, empirical, scientific evidence. Truths of the moral sphere require moral evidence. The “things of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5) require the self-evidencing assurance of the Spirit (The Pastor of Hermas, II, comm. 10, 11, ANF II, pp. 26-28). In this way sound reasoning and faith’s response to revelation do not contradict but complement each other.

TO SHOW THE REASONABLENESS OF THAT WHICH REASON ITSELF CANNOT ATTAIN

Augustine wrote:

God forbid that He should hate in us that faculty by which He made us superior to all other living beings. Therefore, we must refuse to believe as not to receive or seek a reason for our belief, since we could not believe at all if we did not have rational souls. So, then, in some points that bear on the doctrine of salvation, which we are not yet able to grasp by reason—but we shall be able to sometimes—let faith precede reason, and let the heart be cleansed by faith so as to receive and bear the great light of reason; this is indeed reasonable. (Letters 120:1, FC)

It is through reason that we may see that reason points beyond itself. It is reasonable that right reason know its own limits. Reason serves faith by pointing both beyond itself and to its own limits (Augustine, Sermons on New Testament Lessons LXXVI, NPNF 1 VI, pp. 481 f.; cf. LXVII, p. 465).

TO INTERPRET AND APPLY REVEALED TRUTH

Even if a community had received divinely revealed truth, and recognized it as such, it must still use reason to discover the implica­tions of this truth amid its historical context, expressed in its own language. Even after we have learned that God is revealed as just and requires justice, we still must ask what that justice means for us and how it is to apply to our particular situation. This requires reason (Tho. Aq., SCG III. 121-22, pp. 141-47; Wakefield, CSCT, pp. 20-22; Gamertsfelder, Syst. Theol., p. 128; DeWolfe, Theol. of a Living Church). It is by reason that the believer learns to utilize analogies in the service of the truth, to make observations from nature and history, and to remove doubts by setting forth reasonable arguments. The teachings of faith are exhibited, clarified, and made rhetorically persuasive by good reasoning (Augustine, Con f. XI.25-31, NPNF 1 II, pp. 172-75).

Reason helps remove objections to belief (Augustine, Letters CII.38, NPNF 11, p. 425).

TO TRANSMIT THE MEANING OF REVELATION

To transmit truth to another, one must employ reasoning. To com­municate from one rational mind to another, one must presuppose the rational capacity of both speaker and hearer. Reason is needed if one seeks either to understand or to make understandable the truth of Christian faith. No preaching, teaching, or apologetics can occur with­out some rational capacity. By reason, faith’s wisdom is correlated with the insights of philosophy, history, political ethics, psychology, and other sciences (Clement of Alex., Strom. IV.18, ANF II, pp. 518-20).

Hence, reason is needed to receive revelation, to distinguish be­tween true and false revelation, to help us to believe what we cannot see, to interpret the truth of revelation in the present, and to transmit revelation to emergent historical situations.

Authorized Prerogatives of Reason

No one can be required to believe absurdities. The mind is God-given and has a responsibility to reject falsity. If a claim of religion requires that which negates or contradicts a previous, duly authenti­cated revelation of God, it is to be rejected as false religion, and inconsistent with faith’s reasoning. Paul went to great lengths with the Galatians to urge consistency of teaching with the original apos­tolic teaching: “But if anyone, if we ourselves or an angel from heaven, should preach a gospel at variance with the gospel we preached to you, he shall be held outcast” (Gal. 1:8).

God would be inconsistent as just and good if, holding human freedom responsible for its moral conduct, God provided neither suffi­cient means for human beings to recognize the moral good nor any evidence of the divine will. If human beings are to be held responsible for themselves, they must have some capacity to know the good, and to recognize their own failure to do good. “How could they invoke one in whom they had no faith?” asked Paul. “And how could they have faith in one they had never heard of?” (Rom. 10:14). Yet unbelief does not arise out of ignorance alone. It arises willfully because “men preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

The earliest Christians were warned against naiveté: “Do not trust any and every spirit, my friends; test the spirits, to see whether they are from God, for among those who have gone out into the world there are many prophets falsely inspired” (1 John 4:1). Furthermore, a standard of judgment is given: “This is how we may recognize the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2).

Christian faith concedes to reason what is rightfully its due. God does not reveal himself to irrational, but rational, creatures, capable of distinguishing between true and false evidence. Revelation does not imply faith in the absurd or impossible, or faith based on ignorance. Christian faith opposes anti-intellectual obscurantism as much as it does extreme skepticism. Faith resists a blind fidism that believes without examining the evidence; and a defensive skepticism that believes only its doubt of the credibility of all evidence (Tho. Aq., SCG 1.4-7, pp. 66-75; Wesley, WJW VI, 350 ff.; Hodge, 1.3, pp. 54, 55).

The Tendency of Reason Toward Egocentric Distortion

Although reason is intended to be put to good use, it is prone to distortion. The intended uses of reason have been divided into three categories: First, reason functions as an organic part of faith’s reflection upon itself, as in the right use of logic, grammar, rhetoric, induction, and deduction. It is necessary to use reason, for example, to translate Scripture into various languages (Augustine, On Chr. Doctrine; Justin Martyr, First Apol., ANF I, pp. 159-87). Second, reason has crucial apologetic functions, assisting faith in stating reasons for its conclusions where doubts about it have arisen (Justin Martyr, Hortatory Address to the Greeks, ANF I, pp. 273-90). And third, reason has a polemical use in the correction of error by argument (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Her., ANF V; cf. Gerhard, Loci I, p. 76; cf. DT, pp. 36, 37). None of these functions would be possible without the use and application of rational criticism.

Yet reason since the fall has been blind, proud, vain, wrapped in error and self-deceit (Rom. 1:21; 1 Cor. 3:1; Gal. 4:8; Eph. 4:17, 18). Fallen reason is not able, without grace, to lift itself up to a recognition of the divine mysteries (Matt. 11:27; 1 Cor. 2:14-16). Hence reason may become harnessed for evil as well as good. Reason may be uti­lized by egocentricity to more profoundly oppose revelation, faith, hope, and love (Rom. 8:6; 1 Cor. 2:11 ff.; 3:18-20; cf. R. Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society). Fallen reason stands in need of repentance, cleansing, and conversion, so that it too might become captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). Hence, because of its self-decep­tions, natural reason unaided by grace is not to be viewed as an adequate rule for judging faith or revelation (Gerhard, Loci II, pp. 362 ff.; cf. DT, p. 34).

The rational capacity of Adam and Eve (symbolic of all humanity) is twisted by pride, anxiety, guilt, and self-assertion. Thus our re­markable rational capacity has become, to some degree, an instrument of sin, guilt, and death. We use reason to promote wrongdoing and to do evil. The biblical notion of distorted, alienated, self-assertive reason has increased the realism of the Christian understanding of humanity. Nonetheless, the right use of reason is thought by most classical exegetes to be useful and necessary—not as a rule of faith, and never as absolute judge of faith, but as an aid to faith’s reflection upon its source and ground. “Theology does not condemn the use of Reason, but its abuse and its affectation of directorship, or its magis­terial use, as normative and decisive in divine things” (Quenstedt, TDP I, p. 43, in DT, p. 35).

Whether Faith Has Reasons That Reason Does Not Know Faith

The term faith (pistis) is utilized in the New Testament with several levels of meaning. Faith is

  • the recognition through the active life of the Spirit of, “the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 Kjv)
  • an active trust or confidence, as when one asks “in faith, nothing doubting” (en pistei, meden diakrinomenos, James 1:6)
  • a belief, trust, and assurance in God’s righteousness in Christ that is active by love and yields the fruit of good works
  • the act of believing; for example, when one says, “I believe” (Apos­tles’ Creed) one is saying “I have faith that . . . “
  • a body of truth confessed as necessary for salvation, as in “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3, Kjv), or the Christian religion for which the believer contends (1 Tim. 6:12)
  • reliability, or constancy in fulfilling one’s promises, as when Paul speaks of the “faithfulness of God” (Rom. 3:3)
  • trust in the intelligibility of the cosmos that premises scientific inquiry (Ps. 89:1-8)
  • obedience, or the obedience of faith, which stands ready to be guided by duly constituted authority (Rom. 16:26)

All these varied shades of meaning cohere, interflow, and coalesce in Christian teaching concerning faith (cf. Ambrose, Of the Chr. Faith, prologue, 1.4; II.Intro.; II.11, 15, NPNF 2 X, pp. 201, 206, 225, 236, 240; Augustine, On Psalms LI, NPNF 1 VIII, p. 195; Luther, Freedom of a Chr., ML, pp. 56-61; TDNT; TDOT). Faith includes the capacity to discern by grace the things of the Spirit, and to trust in the reliability of the divine Word (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. Lect. V, NPNF 2 VII, pp. 29-32). Faith embraces the complementary meanings of the trust­ing frame of mind that has confidence in Another and the trustwor­thiness that can be relied upon (Tho. Aq., ST I—II Q1-13, I, pp. 1169-1233; Calvin, Inst. 3.2).

Faith does not occur without grace: “Yes, it was grace [chariti] that saved you, with faith [pisteos] for its instrument” (Eph. 2:8, Knox). When grace enlivens reason, reason is not subverted but empowered. Human reasoning, by grace, appropriates divine truth without ceasing to be human reasoning. When reason discerns the truth God speaks, it does not do so without God’s grace. God cannot be comprehensively grasped by any human reason, but some aspect of God can be grasped by faith’s reasoning which leads not to a false God or an illusion of God, but truly to God insofar as God becomes accessible to human knowing (Basil, Letters, To Amphilochius, CCXXXV, CCXXXVI, NPNF 2 VIII, pp. 274-79).

Since faith is the discernment of spiritual truth, faith is not sepa­rable from reasoning, rightly understood. Rather, faith is a way of reasoning out of God’s self-disclosure, assisted by grace. In faith the reasoning is directed to the things of the spirit, rather than to empir­ical data. Hence it is impossible to have faith without reasoning, or belief without any form of thinking, although our thinking is always inadequate to its infinite Subject. Since faith enlarges human vision, the logic of faith is an enlarged, not a diminished, logic (Tho. Aq., SCG 1.1-9, I, pp. 59-78).

The struggle of Christian teaching against various exaggerated rationalisms is not a struggle against reason but against the misappli­cation of reason—such as when reason is made the sole judge of revelation, or when reason completely refuses to credit true revelation. There can also be an overdependence upon speculative reasoning, or a distorted technical reason that functions without moral constraints. Hence excessive rationalisms pervert the function of reason and thereby undermine the appropriate service of reason to the study of God. Rationalism can turn into a tight and uncritical dogmatism just as religion can.

Classical Christian writers have sought to show that faith does not conflict with right reason, that there is harmony between revelation’s historical way of reasoning and reason’s respect for all the evidence, and that human reasoning is made more plausible and whole when the premise of historical revelation is received. But Christian reasoning cannot proceed without the assistance of grace and the premise of revelation.

The Data Base of Faith’s Reasoning

If authority of Scripture and tradition are objective criteria of the­ology, then faith and reason must be considered as subjective criteria, but in different ways. For as Scripture is definitive for tradition, so does faith set the context and bounds in which faith’s historical rea­soning operates.

Unless we cling to the absurdity of rejecting the benefit of any experience of any others, our reasoning must depend upon some external authority. This is true of scientific reasoning, which is de­pendent upon the consensually shared authority of induction, obser­vation, hypothecation, and deduction.

In theology, the inductive data base of experiences and observations is mediated to us from many others—countless examples of faith, suffering, martyrdom, and witness stretching over many centuries, relayed to us through unwritten and written sources. It is the lan­guage of this community’s experience with which theology has pri­marily to deal. Among the written sources are those consensually designated by the community as canonical Scripture, as authoritative witness to the revelation of God. The Holy Spirit guides the preser­vation and guarantees the trustworthiness of scriptural witness. Scrip­ture rightly interpreted remains the reliable guide to revelation upon which faith is based. Reason cannot proceed without the testimony of Scripture. Reason has its data base in Scripture as tested through tradition and experience.

However great may be the differences between philosophy and theology, as different as are reason and revelation, these two spheres are not locked in endless antagonism. One thinks in the light of natural intellect, the other in the light of God’s self-disclosure in history. Both think either toward or from the truth.

It is from a surprising quarter, seventeenth-century Lutheran Scho­lasticism, that the faith/reason relationship is most beautifully stated: “Anyone who would deny those things which are visible in a greater light because he had not seen them in the smaller, would fail to appreciate the design and benefit of the smaller, so also he who denies or impugns the mysteries of faith revealed in the light of grace, on the ground that they are incongruous with Reason and the light of nature, fails, at the same time, to make a proper use of the office and benefits of Reason and the light of nature” (Johann Gerhard, Loci II, p. 372, in DT, p. 33).

Faith’s Presentation of Evidences to Reason

The revelation given by God is addressed primarily to faith, and only in a secondary sense to reason. Faith receives the self-evidencing divine disclosure in the special certitude constituted by trust and by assurance through the Spirit. However, this same faith is then charged with the task of gaining the assent of unbelieving hearers in the world (Athenagoras, A Plea for the Chr., ANF II, pp. 123-48; Tatian, Address to the Greeks, ANF II, pp. 59-84). As faith receives revelation, so faith then seeks to pass on the evidences of revelation to others, utilizing reason where appropriate to state, clarify, and present these evidences (Augustine, Ag. the Epis. of Manichaeus I—V, NPNF 1 IV, pp. 129-31).

In addressing faith primarily, revelation addresses a human faculty seated in the human constitution, the faculty of believing. This faculty is at work, accepting the truth on sufficient evidence, wherever human knowing occurs, and especially spiritual knowing (1 Cor. 2:11-16; Heb. 7:14-25; 11:1 ff.).

Believing is that faculty that “makes us certain of realities we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). It enables the heart to recognize “the truth as it is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21). No other human faculty is sufficiently com­petent to recognize this truth. For faith is to the unseen world what the senses are to the visible world (Maximus, Four Centuries on Charity 111.92-99, ACW 21, pp. 190-92). Faith is the eye that sees what the senses cannot see, the ear that hears what the senses do not hear. One who lacks this eye and ear “refuses what belongs to the Spirit of God; it is folly to him; he cannot grasp it, because it needs to be judged in the light of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:14; Gregory Nazianzen, Or. XXVIII, NPNF 2 VII, pp. 290-91).

Faith in God is not alien to the human condition, because “the Spirit of God himself is in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding” (Job 32:8). This Spirit already at work within us discerns the truth, receives its evidence, and celebrates its veracity (Augustine, On Trin. IV.22-32, NPNF 1 III, pp. 85, 95). The coming of Jesus is like the coming of a light that is offered to “enlighten every one,” even though some prefer darkness (John 1:9-12). The Revealer “knew men so well, all of them, that he needed not evidence from others about a man, for he himself could tell what was in a man” (John 2:25). Since God empathized with our limitations, he radically adapted the evidence of revelation to the human condition, so that even amid our self-assertive deceptions we might be able to recognize the truth incarnate and the Spirit of truth (John 1:14; 16:13).

One who prejudicially resists this evidence has “a distorted mind and stands self-condemned” (Titus 3:11). Such persons “defy the truth; they have lost the power to reason, and they cannot pass the tests of faith” (2 Tim. 3:8).

Faith Is a Way of Reasoning

In this way the Scriptures viewed faith as sound reason. Hence faith and reason are deeply bound and melded together in inextricable spiritual kinship. The same Spirit who has called forth faith also awakens reason to receive “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints” (Col. 1:26), a mystery reason of itself cannot fathom. The evidences of God’s self-disclosure that faith recognizes, faith now calls upon reason to rec­ognize and credit. In this way the judgment of the mind is given the honor of examining the evidences of faith. While faith is raised up to receive and embrace revelation, reason is bowed low to behold its self-giving love. Faith does not despise reason, but presents those evi­dences for revelation in history that are understandable to reason (Wesley, WJW VI, pp. 351 ff.).

But what are these evidences that faith presents to reason? They are Scripture’s recollections of the divine self-disclosure in history. Through the presentation of these evidences, the believer is taught to “be always ready with your defence [pros apologian, ready to provide reasons] whenever you are called to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). Luke wrote his Gospel as “a connected narrative” (diegesin) for Theophilus, “so as to give you authentic knowledge” (epignos, Luke 1:4) of the coming of the Saviour (Luke 2:11). So every believer, and especially everyone in public ministry, needs to be sup­plied with such “authentic knowledge” to provide credible reasons concerning the reliability (asphaleian, certainty) of that in which they have been instructed (Luke 1:4). It was just such “an outline of the sound teaching which you heard from me” (2 Tim. 1:13) that Timothy was instructed to keep before him, so that the reasons for faith might be readily available to him.

The Clementine Recognitions (mid fourth century) commended the process of asking hard questions of faith, requiring faith to reason about itself:

Do not think that we say that these things are only to be received by faith.

but also that they are to be asserted by reason. It is not safe to commit these things to bare faith without reason, since assuredly truth cannot be without reason. And therefore he who has received these things fortified by reason can never lose them; whereas he who receives them without demonstrations, by an assent to a simple statement of them, can neither keep them safely, nor is certain if they are true. . . . And therefore, according as any one is more anxious in demanding a reason, by so much will he be the firmer in preserving his faith. (Recognitions 11.69, ANF VIII, p. 116)

The Trustworthiness to Which Trust Responds

Faith is not merely intellectual assent to propositions about God. Faith (pistis, fiducia) is an entrusting of oneself to someone or something that is regarded as trustable (John of Damascus, OF IV.10, NPNF 2 IX, p. 79). One can think of this by analogy by asking oneself: Who do I trust and why? To answer that question autobiographically is to reflect profoundly upon one’s relationships with others.

We learn to trust certain people because they make themselves known as trustworthy. I may live through a history together with another in which I know that whatever that person tells me will be dependable. I would never know that, hence never trust that person, unless there were a concrete history (including names, dates, and pivotal events) of trustworthiness that revealed that person’s reliability.

So it is in the Christian community, that one’s trust in time is placed in that Source and End of all things—God—as that eternal One who has become known through a historical process as unfail­ingly trustworthy. That is the story the Bible tells. The events are remembered as revealing the trustworthiness of God to Israel. The Bible witnesses to that history, to elicit that kind of trust (Ps. 40:1-4; Augustine, On the Psalms XL, NPNF 1 VIII, pp. 119-28). Such trust is not based upon abstract propositions, nor is it based upon psycholog­ical feelings about ourselves.

Christian faith is not a faith in faith. The central predicament of introverted pietism is faith based on faith itself, moving, like a dog chasing its tail, in a frustrating circle. Sound faith is based upon that which calls forth faith—a history of trustworthy relationships through which the other (human partner) or Other (divine partner) becomes somehow known as trustable. Words in themselves cannot engender that trust. It takes a history. Such a faith is not based upon projections of need or rhetoric or conceptualities, however good, but upon a history in which God has made himself known as caring partner and has shared his existence with us faithfully (Athanasius, Ag. the Arians 11.14.6-11, NPNF 2 IV, pp. 351-54; John Cassian, Conferences XIII.7-12, NPNF 2 XI, pp. 425-30).

Reasonable Acceptance of Legitimate Authority

The classical ecumenical writers argued that the acceptance of le­gitimate and reasonable authority is itself an eminently reasonable act, for both scientific and religious knowledge. When the believer trusts the church’s authority to discern and canonize Scripture, distill from it the creed, and propose a rule of faith as a guide to scriptural truth, that is viewed as a reasonable act. “It behooves us to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord’s Scriptures” (Irenaeus, Ag. Her. V.20.2, ANF I, p. 548).

Amid the horrors of persecution, Cyprian observed that whoever is able to call God Father, must first call the church Mother (Epistles LXXIII.7, ANF V, p. 388). If reasons appear that make it clear that the church’s judgment has become untrustworthy, or its consensual judg­ment misguided, then the believer has a duty to question that author­ity. Such a predisposition toward ecclesial trust does not imply an abandonment of reason; rather, it assumes that the community is merely providing the believer with evidence for consideration, reflec­tion, and testing against other forms of knowing. This predisposition to ecclesial trust is the very thing most lacking in the Protestant psyche; the whole basis for the Reformation being a “hermeneutic of suspicion” toward the Roman church (cf. Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy, pp. 20 ff.).

Children conditionally accept the word of their parents and teach­ers who are seeking to present them with evidence that they then can duly examine, test, and draw their own conclusions about. Educators do not normally regard that act of conditional acceptance as irrational but rather as a reasonable openness to evidence under competent guidance. It is far less reasonable to suppose that the child must begin with a consistent attitude of radical distrust, as in a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” toward those who are seeking to permit the child to ex­amine evidence.

Similarly, the knowledge received through Scripture and church tradition remains subject to further exploration, experiential confir­mation, and amendment by subsequent evidence. To depend upon Holy Writ and holy church for supplying the very evidence with which faith deals does not imply sacrifice of intellect, however, but a reason­able act of openness to evidence.

The Possibility of Faith

How is faith possible? We do not attain faith by simply saying we ought to have it; we do not logically derive it from deductive premises. Rather, faith comes by trusting in God by the power of the Spirit (Ps. 26:1). It is by faith that Abel’s sacrifice was greater than Cain’s, that Enoch was carried to another life, that Noah built the ark, that Abra­ham left Ur to go where he had never been, that Sarah conceived, that Isaac received the promises, that Moses left Egypt (Heb. 11). Faith walks by trusting and not always by seeing (cf. 2 Cor. 5:7). “Commit your life to the Lord; trust in him and he will act” (Ps. 37:5). As we learn to trust others by taking risks, so we learn to trust God, step-by-step, by risking trust. Those who will not risk small steps of trust will find the larger vision of God’s trustability implausible (Luther, Freedom of a Chr., ML, pp. 56-61).

Faith is not simply poured down our throats without any choice of our own. It is at times a risk-laden choice amid hunger, fire, war, and death. But we do not get very far reasoning about God until we somehow enter into that sphere in which faith in God’s historical revelation is taken seriously—hence the world of Scripture, of the celebrating community, of preaching and sacrament. There again and again we meet others who have taken risks in relation to that trust­worthy One, and again and again, according to their witness, God makes himself known as trustable (Cyprian, Treatises III, On the Lapsed, ANF V, pp. 437 ff.).

All this remains subject to critical reflection. A broad historical data base, imagination, and critical reason all have been richly em­ployed by historical Christianity. As we test out the trustability of God, trust is given a chance to grow. Such is the testimony of Jewish and Christian communities. It is only in the process of risking trust that God’s trustworthiness becomes credible.

Faith is indeed possible, because we know that in this community God has been trusted. Nonetheless, since faith remains a risk-laden decision, no one can do it for any one else. Just as nobody can die for anybody else, nobody can believe for another (Luther, Eight Sermons, WML II, p. 391; cf. Freedom of a Chr., ML, pp. 66, 67).

In any event, life demonstrates that faith of some kind is necessary (Theophilus, To Autolycus 1.8, ANF II, p. 91). We in fact do not live as free self-determining persons without trusting something, without casting our reliance upon something that renders our existence worth­while, plausible, and meaningful (H. R. Niebuhr, RMWC, pp. 124 ff.).

For we cannot be human beings without making choices. The very essence of choosing involves risk, and where risk is, there is some form of trust, even if misguided (Kierkegaard, Either/Or II; Judge for Yourselves!).

People admittedly can have faith in what is unreliable, or untrue, or incompletely true, or untrustworthy. It is reasonable that our faith be attached to that which is more rather than less trustworthy, that is based upon a larger rather than a smaller range of comprehensive coherence. Such a rational duty would apply to every person who has the capacity to reason. For God did not give us the capacity for reason in order that reason be abused, but used (Clement of Alex., Strom., VII.6 ff., ANF II, pp. 531 ff.).


Abbreviations


ACW Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation. Edited by J. Quasten, J. C. Plumpe, and W. Burghardt. 44 vols. New York: Paulist Press, 1946-1985.

AF The Apostolic Fathers. Edited by J. N. Sparks. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1978.

AFT Agenda for Theology. Thomas C. Oden. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.

Ag. Against

Alex.  Alexandria

ANF Ante-Nicene Fathers. Edited by A. Roberts and J. Donaldson. 10 vols. 1885-1896. Reprinted ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979. Book (in Roman numerals) and chapter or section number (usually in Arabic numerals), followed by volume and page number.

Angl. Anglicanism, The Thought and Practice of the Church of England, Illustrated from the Religious Literature of the Seventeenth Century. Edited by P. E. More and F. L. Cross. London: S.P.C.K., 1935.

Apol. Apology

Apost. Const. Apostolic Constitutions. Or Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. ANF, vol. 7.

Arndt A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich. (Translation of W. Bauer, 1953.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957.

BC The Book of Concord, (1580). Edited by T. G. Tappert. Philadelphia: Muhl-enberg Press, 1959.

BCP Book of Common Prayer (1662). Royal Breviar’s edition. London: S.P.C.K., n. d.

BPR Book of Pastoral Rule. Gregory the Great. NPNF 2 X.

BQT Basic Questions in Theology. 3 vols. W. Pannenberg. Philadelphia: West­minster Press, 1970-1973.

Brief Expl. Brief Explanation of the Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer. Martin Luther„ in WML, vol. 2, pp. 351-286.

BW St. Anselm: Basic Writings. Translated by S. N. Deane. LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1966.

BWA Basic Works of Aristotle. Edited by R. McKeon. New York: Random House, 1941.

Catech. Catechism or Catechetical

Catech. Lect. Catechetical Lectures. Cyril of Jerusalem. NPNF 2 VII. Or FC 61, 64.

CC Creeds of the Churches. Edited by John Leith. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1979.

CCC Creeds, Councils, and Controversies. Edited by J. Stevenson. London: S. P. C . K. , 1966.

CD Church Dogmatics. Karl Barth. Edited by G. W. Bromiley, T. F. Torrance, et al. 4 vols. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1936-1969.

CDG The Christian Doctrine of God. William Newton Clarke. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912.

CFS Cistercian Fathers Series. 44 vols. to date. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Pub­lications, 1968—.

CG City of God. Augustine. NPNF 1 II.

CH Church History. Eusebius of Caesarea. NPNF 2 I. See also EH. Chr. Christian, Christians

CLRC Courtenay Library of Reformation Classics. 5 vols. Appleford, Abingdon, Berkshire, England: Sutton Courtenay Press, n.d.

COC Creeds of Christendom. Edited by P. Schaff. 3 vols. New York: Harper & Bros., 1919.

Comm. Commentary. Or Commonitory. Vincent of Lerins. NPNF 2 XI. Compend. Compendium. Or Compendium of Theology. Thomas Aquinas.

New York: Herder, 1947. Or Compendium of Christian Theology.

William Burt Pope. 3 vols. New York: Phillips and Hunt, n.d.

Concl. Unsci. Post. Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Soren Kierkegaard.

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1944.

Conf. Confession. Or Confessions. Augustine. LCC VII. NPNF 1 I. FC 21. CPWSF Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. 24 vols. to date. London: Hogarth Press, 1953—.

Crit. Pract. Reason Critique of Practical Reason. Immanuel Kant. LLA.

CSCT A Complete System of Christian Theology. Samuel Wakefield. New York: Carlton and Porter, 1862.

CSK The Cell of Self-Knowledge. Seven Early English Mystical Treatises (including Divers Doctrines, Katherine of Seenes, and Treatise of Contemplation, Mar­gery Kempe). Edited by E. G. Gardner. New York: Duffield, 1910.

CSS Cistercian Studies Series. 68 vols. to date. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Pub­lications, 1968—.

CTC Christianae Theologiae Compendium. Johnannes Wollebius. Edited by Ernst Bizer. Neukirchen: 1935. English translation by John Beardslee, in Reformed Dogmatics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977.

CUP Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Soren Kierkegaard. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1941.

CWMS Complete Writings of Menno Simons. Edited by John C. Wenger. Scott-dale, PA: Herald Press, 1956.

CWS Classics of Western Spirituality. Edited by Richard J. Payne et al. 30 vols. to date. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978—.

CWST Complete Works of St. Teresa. Teresa of Avila. Edited by E. Allison Peers. 3 vols. London: Sheed and Ward, 1946.

DCC Documents of the Christian Church. Edited by H. Bettenson. New York: Oxford, 1956.

DG The Doctrine of God. Herman Bavinck. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1977.

Div. Inst. Divine Institutes. Lactantius. ANF VII.

Div. Names Divine Names. Dionysius (Pseudo-Dionysius). Translated by C. E. Rolt. London: S.P.C.K., 1975.

Dogm. Dogmatic

DT Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Heinrich Schmid. 3d ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1899.

DTh Dogmatic Theology. Francis Hall. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1907-1922.

Eccl. Ecclesiastical

ECF Early Christian Fathers. Edited by H. Bettenson. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.

ECW Early Christian Writers: The Apostolic Fathers. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth. London: Penguin Books, 1968.

EH Ecclesiastical History. Eusebius of Caesarea. FC 19, 29.

EL Everyman’s Library. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1910—.

Epis. Epistle

Elem. Theol. Dog. Elements theologiae dogmaticae. Francois Xavier Schouppe.

Brussels: H. Goemaere, 1863.

EPT Essays Philosophical and Theological. Rudolf Bultmann. New York: Macmillan, 1955.

ESS Exercitationes sacrae in symbolum. Sacred Dissertations. Hermann Witsius. Translated by D. Fraser. Utrecht: 1694. Edinburgh: A. Fullerton, 1823.

ETA Examen Theologicum Acroamaticum (1707). David Hollaz (or Hollatz). Leipzig: B. C. Brietkopf, 1763.

Exhort. Exhortation

Expos. Exposition

FC The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation. Edited by R. J. Deferrari. 69 vols. to date. Washington, DC: Catholic University Press, 1947—.

FEF The Faith of the Early Fathers. 3 vols. to date. Edited by William A. Jurgens. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970—.

FER The Fathers for English Readers. 15 vols. London: S.P.C.K., 1878-1890.

FGG From Glory to Glory, Texts from Gregory of Nyssa’s Mystical Writings. Translated by H. Musurillo. New York: Scribner’s, 1961.

Mystical Writings. Translated by H. Musurillo. New York: Scribner’s, 1961.

GC Of God and His Creatures. Thomas Aquinas (abbreviated translation of Summa Contra Gentiles). Translated by Joseph Ricaby. Westminster, MD: Carroll Press, 1950.

Her. Heresies

Hex. Hexaemeron

Hist. History

Hom. Homilies or Homily

HPC A Harmony of Protestant Confessions. Edited by Peter Hall. London: J. F. Shaw, 1842.

Inst. Institutes of the Christian Religion. John Calvin. LCC, vols. 20, 21. References by book and chapter number.

Inst. Instruction, or The Instructor. Clement of Alexandria. ANF II.

1W The Inspired Word. Luis Alanso Schoekel. New York: Herder and Herder, 1965.

JJW Journal of John Wesley. Edited by N. Curnock. 8 vols. London: Epworth, 1938.

KC Kerygma and Counseling. Thomas C. Oden. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978.

KJV King James Version, 1611

LACT Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology. 99 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1841-1863.

LCC The Library of Christian Classics. Edited by J. Baillie, J. T. McNiell, and H. P. Van Dusen. 26 vols. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953-1961.

LCF The Later Christian Fathers. Edited by H. Bettenson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970.

LF A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church. Edited by E. B. Pusey, J.

Kebel, J. H. Newman, and C. Marriott. 46 vols. Oxford: J. Parker, 1838-1875.

Literal Interp. of Gen. Literal Interpretation of Genesis. Augustine. CWS.

LLA Library of Liberal Arts. Edited by Oskar Piest. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs Merrill, 1951—.

Loeb Loeb Classical Library. Edited by T. E. Page, et al. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1912—.

LPT Library of Protestant Thought. Edited by John Dillenberger. 13 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964-1972.

LT Loci Theologicorum. Martin Chemnitz (1591). 3 vols. Frankfurt: N. Hoffmann, 1606.

LW Luther’s Works. Edited by J. Pelikan and H. T. Lehmann. 54 vols. to date. St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1953—.

LXX Septuagint (Greek Old Testament)

Metaphy. Metaphysics

ML Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings. Edited by John Dillenberger. New York: Doubleday, 1961.

MPG Patrologia Graeca. Edited by J. B. Migne. 162 vols. Paris: Migne, 1857-1876.

MPL Patrologia Latina. Edited by J. B. Migne. 221 vols. Paris: Migne, 1841-1865. General Index, Paris, 1912.

MTEC Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Vladimir Losskii. London: J. Clarke, 1957.

MWS Ministry of Word and Sacrament: An Enchiridion. Martin Chemnitz (1595). St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1981.

Myst. Mystical, or mystery

NBD The New Bible Dictionary. Edited by J. D. Douglas et al. London: Intervarsity, 1962.

NDM Nature and Destiny of Man. Reinhold Niebuhr. 2 vols. New York: Scribner’s, 1941, 1943.

NE A New Eusebius: Documents Illustrative of the History of the Church to A.D. 337. Edited by J. Stevenson, (based on B. J. Kidd). London: S.P.C.K., 1957.

NEB New English Bible

NIV New International Version

NPNF A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. 1st Series, 14 vols. 2nd series, 14 vols. Edited by H. Wace and P. Schaff. References by title and book or chapter, and subsection, and NPNF series no., volume and page number. New York: Christian, 1887-1900.

OBP On Becoming a Person. Carl R. Rogers. Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1961.

ODCC The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross. Revised by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974.

OUED Oxford Universal English Dictionary. 10 vols. Edited by C. T. Onions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1937.

OF On the Orthodox Faith. John of Damascus. NPNF 2 IX. FC 37.

Or. or Orat. Oration or orations

Phi. J. B. Phillips. The New Testament in Modern English.

Phil. Philosophy

Phil. Frag. Philosophical Fragments. Soren Kierkegaard. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962.

Prescript. Prescription.

Princip. De Principiis. Origen. ANF IV, pp. 239-384.

Proslog. Proslogium. Anselm. Translated by S. N. Deane. In BW.

Prov. Providence

PSG Philosophers Speak of God. Edited by Charles Hartshorne and William L. Reese. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953.

PW Practical Works. Richard Baxter. 23 vols. London: James Duncan, 1830.

RD Reformed Dogmatics. Heinrich Heppe. Translated by G. T. Thomson. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1950.

Ref. Dogm. Reformed Dogmatics. Edited by J. W. Beardslee. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1965.

Relig. Religion

RMWC Radical Monotheism and Western Culture. H. Richard Niebuhr. New York: Harper & Bros., 1960.

RPR Readings in the Philosophy of Religion. Edited by John Mourant. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1954.

RSV Revised Standard Version

Sacr. Sacrament

SCD Sources of Christian Dogma (Enchridion Symbolorum. Edited by Henry Denzinger). Translated by Roy Deferrari. New York: Herder, 1954.

SCG On the Truth of the Catholic Faith, Summa contra Gentiles. Thomas Aquinas. 4 vols. (with sub-volumes). Referenced by book, chapter, and page number. New York: Doubleday, 1955-1957.

SDF The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Translated by Benedicta Ward. London: A. R. Mowbray and Co., 1975.

The Argument from Reason ~ David Wood

(H/T ~ Debunking Atheists)

….Darwin thought that, had the circumstances for reproductive fitness been different, then the deliverances of conscience might have been radically different. “If . . . men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill  their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering” (Darwin, Descent, 82). As it happens, we weren’t “reared” after the manner of hive bees, and so we have widespread and strong beliefs about the sanctity of human life and its implications for how we should treat our siblings and our offspring.

But this strongly suggests that we would have had whatever beliefs were ultimately fitness producing given the circumstances of survival. Given the background belief of naturalism, there appears to be no plausible Darwinian reason for thinking that the fitness-producing predispositions that set the parameters for moral reflection have anything whatsoever to do with the truth of the resulting moral beliefs. One might be able to make a case for thinking that having true beliefs about, say, the predatory behaviors of tigers would, when combined with the understandable desire not to be eaten, be fitness producing. But the account would be far from straightforward in the case of moral beliefs.” And so the Darwinian explanation undercuts whatever reason the naturalist might have had for thinking that any of our moral beliefs is true. The result is moral skepticism.

If our pretheoretical moral convictions are largely the product of natural selection, as Darwin’s theory implies, then the moral theories we find plausible are an indirect result of that same evolutionary process. How, after all, do we come to settle upon a proposed moral theory and its principles as being true? What methodology is available to us?

  • Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 70.

See more at my post: Evolution Cannot Account for: Logic, Reasoning, Love, Truth, or Justice

Greg Gutfeld’s “Agnosticism”

In his book, How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct (p.96), and in an article in National Review, as well as intimating the same in the above video, Greg Gutfeld said this:

This is important because it removes the sweaty veneer of ideological excess. While I love it when I’m certain about something, I realize those are rare moments in life. You cannot be certain about all things. As an agnostic, I do not call myself an atheist, because, to put it simply, “I don’t know.” For all I know there is a god, and it’s some dude in Jersey named Ned. True, I’ve pretty much discounted this theory — Ned has bad skin and a Beatle-do, qualities rarely associated with the divine. But the point is: I can’t be 100 percent sure. So I punt.

I will comment on his “agnosticism” in a bit, but first…

While I have enjoyed his contributions to Conservatarian though, I have to say this is one of the worse positions I have seen him take. And let me be clear… I am saying this NOT because he rejects “God” (Ned), but that he puts criteria on a position that is impossible in most fields of study (physics, biochemistry, philosophy, politics… you name it).

Making wise decisions always depends on various factors even though it does not provide us with 100% guarantee. So since we are primarily dealing with evidences garnered from history, science, philosophy, fulfilled prophecy, and the like… there is no silver bullet.

BUT…

There is a way to approach this as almost all person’s do (in their personal life or professional life). Just like a case in court so-to is the cumulative gathering through reason and logic evidences in a way that a strong case for God is made.

Even in a court situation, a case is made that sways a jury one way in order to not make a life-or-death ruling (in the case of a 1st degree murder trial), but to make a choice “beyond reasonable doubt.” Here is a great comment in an article on Stand to Reason’s site:

The jury is asked if the evidence shows that the defendant is probably guilty.

It is to the evidence introduced in this trial, and to it alone, that you are to look for that proof.

The standard of probability is not “100% certainly guilty”; it is “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

A reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant may arise from the evidence, conflict in the evidence, or the lack of evidence.

If you have a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant not guilty. If you have no reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty.

Evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s it. That’s all. Nothing about faith.

In life, not just in the jury box, we are forced to make decisions with incomplete information, but we are never forced to go beyond evidence.

Andy Banister explains this concept with a walk through the woods:

It is easy to see that Mr. Gutfeld is creating an impossible plateau for one to reach that no field of study, whether the sciences or law (except maybe mathematics), can ever dream to attain. Perfection ~ something Greg should be familiar with rejecting and warning others about. That is, Utopian ideals and goals. In making this impossible 100% claim he defines God in such a way that evidence for His existence — not Ned, but the real Creator of the space-time-continuum — is defined out of existence. Greg essentially presupposes that God out of existence.

To wit, I will turn my attention to Greg Gutfeld’s “agnosticism.” He has repeatedly said “I don’t know.” In the video at the top of this post he says right after the “practical joke” comment “that we will never know.” That is not an agnostic position. Professor Budziszewski explains:

“To say that we cannot know anything about God is to say something about God; it is to say that if there is a God, he is unknowable. But in that case, he is not entirely unknowable, for the agnostic certainly thinks that we can know one thing about him: That nothing else can be known about him. Unfortunately, the position that we can know exactly one thing about God – his unknowability in all respects except this – is equally unsupportable, for why should this one thing be an exception? How could we know that any possible God would be of such a nature that nothing else could be known about him? On what basis could we rule out his knowability in all other respects but this one? The very attempt to justify the claim confutes it, for the agnostic would have to know a great many things about God in order to know he that couldn’t know anything else about him.”


J. Budziszewski, found in Norman Geisler & Paul Hoffman, eds., Why I Am a Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe, revised ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 58

In other words… Gutfeld is showing arrogance by demanding 100% proof (that no jury demands), and by excluding God by defining Him in a way as to rig the outcome. As much as I respect him and his wonderful work… his position here is very childish. Not a position I would expect him to take… but ideology [his atheism] does tend to blind. And arrogantly so.

Sometimes the smartest skeptics give up what they wrongly view as faith for the most “childlike” reasons. For instance, Lewis Wolpert, who has too many letters after his name and is a very accomplished and respected developmental biologist, explained why he rejects God:

[I] stopped believing in God when I was 15 or 16 because he didn’t give me what I asked for. (Lewis Wolpert, “The Hard Cell,” Third Way, March 2007, p. 16)

During an interview, he also stated:

I used to pray but I gave it up because when I asked God to help me find my cricket bat, he didn’t help.

When asked by Justin Brieley (Unbelievable show episode, “What Does Science Tell Us About God?”):

Right, and that was enough for you to prove that God did not exist.

He replied:

Well, yes. I just gave it up completely.

(True Free Thinker)

While one would expect a meaty explanation that reasonable people would think about and come to a conclusion on… his reasoning is commensurate of a child’s reasons. Another well known skeptic, Bart Ehrman, doesn’t reject God because he found textual evidence against the Christian faith. He rejects God because there is suffering in the world:

“If there is an all-powerful and loving God in this world, why is there so much excruciating pain and unspeakable suffering?” He [Ehrman] says this “led me to question my faith when I was older. Ultimately, it was the reason I lost my faith”

(Dr. Clay Jones)

Bart’s way of dealing with this is basically the classical argument against God:

Premise 1: God is all-good (omnibenevolent)

Premise 2: God is all-powerful (omnipotent)

Premise 3: Suffering and evil exist

Conclusion: An all-good, all-powerful God could not exist since there is so much suffering and evil in the world. If he did, he would eradicate this evil.

Charles Darwin as well rejected God not based on evidence, but for theological reasoning:

  • That there is much suffering in the world no one disputes…A being so powerful and so full of knowledge as a God who could create the universe is to our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient. It revolts our understanding to suppose that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the sufferings of millions of lower animals throughout almost endless time? This very old argument from the existence of suffering against the existence of an intelligent First Cause seems to me a strong one; and the abundant presence of suffering agrees well with the view that all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection. ~ Charles Darwin, The Works of Charles Darwin, Volume 29  (Nerw York, NY: NYU Press, 2010), 121-122. (Review of Darwin’s God)

Darwin was using theological pressups to drive his research, here are the precepts:

I have argued that, in the first edition of the Origin, Darwin drew upon at least the following positiva theological claims in his case for descent with modification (and against special creation):

  1. Human begins are not justfied in believing that God creates in ways analogous to the intellectual powers of the human mind.
  2. A God who is free to create as He wishes would create new biological limbs de novo rather than from a common pattern.
  3. A respectable deity would create biological structures in accord with a human conception of the ‘simplest mode’ to accomplish the functions of these structures.
  4. God would only create the minimum structure required for a given part’s function.
  5. God does not provide false empirical information about the origins of organisms.
  6. God impressed the laws of nature on matter.
  7. God directly created the first ‘primordial’ life.
  8. God did not perform miracles within organic history subsequent to the creation of the first life.
  9. A ‘distant’ God is not morally culpable for natural pain and suffering.
  10. The God of special creation, who allegedly performed miracles in organic history, is not plausible given the presence of natural pain and suffering.

(Evolution News & Views)

This seems like a problem, but in fact, many atheists have abandoned this tactic. Why… through the work primarily of Alvin Plantinga. Here, Dr. Ronald Nash formulates WHY this syllogism is no longer a serious threat in philosophy:

Demonstrating the Consistency of the Theistic Set

After our brief detour into the differences between a theodicy and a defense, a short summary may help us get back on track. We have seen that the atheologian’s claim that the theistic set is self-contradictory remains nothing more than wishful thinking because of the atheologian’s failure to produce the missing premise required to show that the set is explicitly contradictory. Rather than rest on our laurels and live with the possibility that some atheologian might discover the missing proposition some time in the future, we have decided to see if we cannot beat the atheologian to the punch and actually demonstrate that the theistic set is consistent. Once done, this will eliminate any possibility of theism’s being shown to be logically inconsistent because of the existence of evil in the world. The method of demonstrating consistency requires that we add a premise (or premises) to the original set that logically entails the other proposition, which, in our case, is “The world contains evil.” In order to do the job, it is not necessary that our new premise be true or even that it be believed to be true. All that is necessary is that it be logically possible.

Consider, then, the following argument:

An omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God created the world.

God creates a world containing evil and has a good reason for doing so.

Therefore, the world contains evil.

Numbers 1 and 2 taken together do, of course, entail 3. Therefore, the propositions from our original theistic set that now make up 1 are logically consistent with the existence of evil. The only relevant question regarding 2 is whether it is possibly true. Obviously it is since it is not logically false. Therefore, the theistic set is logically consistent from which follows the impossibility of anyone’s ever demonstrating that it is not.


Ronald Nash, Faith & Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988), 189.

C.S. Lewis as well argues against this “evil universe” argument:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless -I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.


C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1952), 38-39.

So again, Bart’s rejection is dealt with handily, and shows his rejection is merely emotive in nature… devoid of any real substance. Similar to Greg Gutfeld’s position, his rejection is merely emotive in his reasoning. He is not worries about “evidence” per-se, but rather worried about some cosmic killjoy that may have a word with in regards to past or future hedonistic ventures. So his hiding arrogantly behind “I don’t know” is his crutch.

I have some really good books I can recommend to the person seeking good, well-thought-out, reasonable arguments detailing various forms of evidence for “faith”~

Post-Script,

May I also note quickly how a believer views faith as opposed to the faith Greg surely thinks is blind (and granted, some Christians are heppy with their “blindedness”):

Certain words can mean very different things to different people. For instance, if I say to an atheist, “I have faith in God,” the atheist assumes I mean that my belief in God has nothing to do with evidence. But this isn’t what I mean by faith at all. When I say that I have faith in God, I mean that I place my trust in God based on what I know about him.


William A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona, Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), 38.

AND, unless we forget the bottom line in this discussion through hubris, we should know that which we reject through feigned ignorance:

Evolution Cannot Account for: Logic, Reasoning, Love, Truth, or Justice

One of the most deep thinkers of the Founding Fathers, John Adams, noted that even “liberty” ~you know, one of the ideals impregnating our Founding Documents~ would be groundless if naturalism were true [among other things]:

Atheism—pure, unadulterated atheism…. The universe was matter only, and eternal Spirit was a word without a meaning. Liberty was a word without a meaning. There was no liberty in the universe; liberty was a word void of sense. Every thought, word, passion, sentiment, feeling, all motion and action was necessary [determinism]. All beings and attributes were of eternal necessity; conscience, morality, were all nothing but fate. This was their creed, and this was to perfect human nature, and convert the earth into a paradise of pleasure… Why, then, should we abhor the word “God,” and fall in love with the word “fate”? We know there exists energy and intellect enough to produce such a world as this, which is a sublime and beautiful one, and a very benevolent one, notwithstanding all our snarling; and a happy one, if it is not made otherwise by our own fault.

(See more context)

Ever hear an atheist say he’s a freethinker? Well, if atheism is true, an atheist, cannot be free nor would his thinking make any real sense. Frank Turek explains.

  • ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.’ (J.B.S. Haldane)”

These are some of my favorite quotes and dealing with “naturalism” and their logical end-result, consequences, or logical conclusions. Merely a combining of MANY quotes and a “not-so-few” videos.

Why Atheism Cannot Account for Logic and Reasoning from shirley rose on Vimeo.

If you read the threads of several of the blog entries on this site, you will see both atheists and Christians charging one another with committing “logical fallacies.”  The assumption both sides are making is that there is this objective realm of reason out there that: 1) we all have access to; 2) tells us the truth about the real world; and 3) is something we ought to use correctly if we want to know the truth. I think those are good assumptions.  My question for the atheists is how do you justify these assumptions if there is no God?

If atheistic materialism is true, it seems to me that reason itself is impossible. For if mental processes are nothing but chemical reactions in the brain, then there is no reason to believe that anything is true (including the theory of materialism). Chemicals can’t evaluate whether or not a theory is true. Chemicals don’t reason, they react.

This is ironic because atheists– who often claim to be champions of truth and reason– have made truth and reason impossible by their theory of materialism. So even when atheists are right about something, their worldview gives us no reason to believe them because reason itself is impossible in a world governed only by chemical and physical forces.

Not only is reason impossible in an atheistic world, but the typical atheist assertion that we should rely on reason alone cannot be justified. Why not? Because reason actually requires faith. As J. Budziszewski points out in his book What We Can’t Not Know, “The motto ‘Reason Alone!’ is nonsense anyway. Reason itself presupposes faith. Why? Because a defense of reason by reason is circular, therefore worthless. Our only guarantee that human reason works is God who made it.“

Let’s unpack Budziszewski‘s point by considering the source of reason. Our ability to reason can come from one of only two sources: either our ability to reason arose from preexisting intelligence or it did not, in which case it arose from mindless matter. The atheists/Darwinists/materialists believe, by faith, that our minds arose from mindless matter without intelligent intervention. I say “by faith” because it contradicts all scientific observation, which demonstrates that an effect cannot be greater than its cause. You can’t give what you haven’t got, yet atheists believe that dead, unintelligent matter has produced itself into intelligent life. This is like believing that the Library of Congress resulted from an explosion in a printing shop.

I think it makes much more sense to believe that the human mind is made in the image of the Great Mind– God. In other words, our minds can apprehend truth and can reason about reality because they were built by the Architect of truth, reality, and reason itself.

So I have two questions for atheists:  1) What is the source of this immaterial reality known as reason that we are all presupposing, utilizing in our discussions, and accusing one other of violating on occasion?; and 2) If there is no God and we are nothing but chemicals, why should we trust anything we think, including the thought that there is no God?

(Cross Examined)

Let’s consider a basic question: Why does the natural world make any sense to begin with? Albert Einstein once remarked that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. Why should we be able to grasp the beauty, elegance, and complexity of our universe?

Einstein understood a basic truth about science, namely, that it relies upon certain philosophical assumptions about the natural world. These assumptions include the existence of an external world that is orderly and rational, and the trustworthiness of our minds to grasp that world. Science cannot proceed apart from these assumptions, even though they cannot be independently proven. Oxford professor John C. Lennox asks a penetrating question, “At the heart of all science lies the conviction that the universe is orderly. Without this deep conviction science would not be possible. So we are entitled to ask: Where does the conviction come from?”” Why is the world orderly? And why do our minds comprehend this order?

Toward the end of The God Delusion, Dawkins admits that since we are the product of natural selection, our senses cannot be fully trusted. After all, according to Darwinian evolution, our senses have been formed to aid survival, not necessarily to deliver true belief. Since a human being has been cobbled together through the blind process of natural selection acting on random mutation, says Dawkins, it’s unlikely that our views of the world are completely true. Outspoken philosopher of neuro-science Patricia Churchland agrees:

The principle chore of brains is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing [the world] is advantageous so long as it… enhances the organism’s chances for survival. Truth, whatever that is, takes the hindmost.

Dawkins is on the right track to suggest that naturalism should lead people to be skeptical about trusting their senses. Dawkins just doesn’t take his skepticism far enough. In Miracles, C. S. Lewis points out that knowledge depends upon the reliability of our mental faculties. If human reasoning is not trustworthy, then no scientific conclusions can be considered true or false. In fact, we couldn’t have any knowledge about the world, period. Our senses must be reliable to acquire knowledge of the world, and our reasoning faculties must be reliable to process the acquired knowledge. But this raises a particularly thorny dilemma for atheism. If the mind has developed through the blind, irrational, and material process of Darwinian evolution, then why should we trust it at all? Why should we believe that the human brain—the outcome of an accidental process—actually puts us in touch with reality? Science cannot be used as an answer to this question, because science itself relies upon these very assumptions.

Even Charles Darwin was aware of this problem: “The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” If Darwinian evolution is true, we should distrust the cognitive faculties that make science possible.

Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow, Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 37-38.

….Darwin thought that, had the circumstances for reproductive fitness been different, then the deliverances of conscience might have been radically different. “If… men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill  their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering” (Darwin, Descent, 82). As it happens, we weren’t “reared” after the manner of hive bees, and so we have widespread and strong beliefs about the sanctity of human life and its implications for how we should treat our siblings and our offspring.

But this strongly suggests that we would have had whatever beliefs were ultimately fitness producing given the circumstances of survival. Given the background belief of naturalism, there appears to be no plausible Darwinian reason for thinking that the fitness-producing predispositions that set the parameters for moral reflection have anything whatsoever to do with the truth of the resulting moral beliefs. One might be able to make a case for thinking that having true beliefs about, say, the predatory behaviors of tigers would, when combined with the understandable desire not to be eaten, be fitness producing. But the account would be far from straightforward in the case of moral beliefs.” And so the Darwinian explanation undercuts whatever reason the naturalist might have had for thinking that any of our moral beliefs is true. The result is moral skepticism.

If our pretheoretical moral convictions are largely the product of natural selection, as Darwin’s theory implies, then the moral theories we find plausible are an indirect result of that same evolutionary process. How, after all, do we come to settle upon a proposed moral theory and its principles as being true? What methodology is available to us?

Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 70.

See also my post on logical conclusions in meta-ethics and evil (like rape), HERE:

…if evolution were true, then there would be selection only for survival advantage; and there would be no reason to suppose that this would necessarily include rationality. After a talk on the Christian roots of science in Canada, 2010, one atheopathic* philosophy professor argued that natural selection really would select for logic and rationality. I responded by pointing out that under his worldview, theistic religion is another thing that ‘evolved’, and this is something he regards as irrational. So under his own worldview he believes that natural selection can select powerfully for irrationality, after all. English doctor and insightful social commentator Theodore Dalrymple (who is a non-theist himself) shows up the problem in a refutation of New Atheist Daniel Dennett:

Dennett argues that religion is explicable in evolutionary terms—for example, by our inborn human propensity, at one time valuable for our survival on the African savannahs, to attribute animate agency to threatening events.

For Dennett, to prove the biological origin of belief in God is to show its irrationality, to break its spell. But of course it is a necessary part of the argument that all possible human beliefs, including belief in evolution, must be explicable in precisely the same way; or else why single out religion for this treatment? Either we test ideas according to arguments in their favour, independent of their origins, thus making the argument from evolution irrelevant, or all possible beliefs come under the same suspicion of being only evolutionary adaptations—and thus biologically contingent rather than true or false. We find ourselves facing a version of the paradox of the Cretan liar: all beliefs, including this one, are the products of evolution, and all beliefs that are products of evolution cannot be known to be true.

Jonathan D. Sarfati, The Genesis Account: A Theological, Historical, And Scientific Commentary On Genesis 1-11 (Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2015), 259-259.

* Atheopath or Atheopathy: “Leading misotheist [“hatred of God” or “hatred of the gods”] Richard Dawkins [one can insert many names here] often calls theistic religion a ‘virus of the mind’, which would make it a kind of disease or pathology, and parents who teach it to their kids are, in Dawkins’ view, supposedly practising mental child abuse. But the sorts of criteria Dawkins applies makes one wonder whether his own fanatical antitheism itself could be a mental pathology—hence, ‘atheopath’.” (Taken from the Creation.com article, “The biblical roots of modern science,” by Jonathan Sarfati [published: 19 May 2012] ~ comments in the “[ ]” are mine.)

Even Darwin had some misgivings about the reliability of human beliefs. He wrote, “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

Given unguided evolution, “Darwin’s Doubt” is a reasonable one. Even given unguided or blind evolution, it’s difficult to say how probable it is that creatures—even creatures like us—would ever develop true beliefs. In other words, given the blindness of evolution, and that its ultimate “goal” is merely the survival of the organism (or simply the propagation of its genetic code), a good case can be made that atheists find themselves in a situation very similar to Hume’s.

The Nobel Laureate and physicist Eugene Wigner echoed this sentiment: “Certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.” That is, atheists have a reason to doubt whether evolution would result in cognitive faculties that produce mostly true beliefs. And if so, then they have reason to withhold judgment on the reliability of their cognitive faculties. Like before, as in the case of Humean agnostics, this ignorance would, if atheists are consistent, spread to all of their other beliefs, including atheism and evolution. That is, because there’s no telling whether unguided evolution would fashion our cognitive faculties to produce mostly true beliefs, atheists who believe the standard evolutionary story must reserve judgment about whether any of their beliefs produced by these faculties are true. This includes the belief in the evolutionary story. Believing in unguided evolution comes built in with its very own reason not to believe it.

This will be an unwelcome surprise for atheists. To make things worse, this news comes after the heady intellectual satisfaction that Dawkins claims evolution provided for thoughtful unbelievers. The very story that promised to save atheists from Hume’s agnostic predicament has the same depressing ending.

It’s obviously difficult for us to imagine what the world would be like in such a case where we have the beliefs that we do and yet very few of them are true. This is, in part, because we strongly believe that our beliefs are true (presumably not all of them are, since to err is human—if we knew which of our beliefs were false, they would no longer be our beliefs).

Suppose you’re not convinced that we could survive without reliable belief-forming capabilities, without mostly true beliefs. Then, according to Plantinga, you have all the fixins for a nice argument in favor of God’s existence For perhaps you also think that—given evolution plus atheism—the probability is pretty low that we’d have faculties that produced mostly true beliefs. In other words, your view isn’t “who knows?” On the contrary, you think it’s unlikely that blind evolution has the skill set for manufacturing reliable cognitive mechanisms. And perhaps, like most of us, you think that we actually have reliable cognitive faculties and so actually have mostly true beliefs. If so, then you would be reasonable to conclude that atheism is pretty unlikely. Your argument, then, would go something like this: if atheism is true, then it’s unlikely that most of our beliefs are true; but most of our beliefs are true, therefore atheism is probably false.

Notice something else. The atheist naturally thinks that our belief in God is false. That’s just what atheists do. Nevertheless, most human beings have believed in a god of some sort, or at least in a supernatural realm. But suppose, for argument’s sake, that this widespread belief really is false, and that it merely provides survival benefits for humans, a coping mechanism of sorts. If so, then we would have additional evidence—on the atheist’s own terms—that evolution is more interested in useful beliefs than in true ones. Or, alternatively, if evolution really is concerned with true beliefs, then maybe the widespread belief in God would be a kind of “evolutionary” evidence for his existence.

You’ve got to wonder.

Mitch Stokes, A Shot of Faith (to the Head): Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 44-45.

  • “Relativists aren’t interested in finding truth but in preserving their own autonomy. This isn’t a logical argument against relativism, of course. I’m just trying to point out that the true(!) basis for relativism is ultimately rooted in its motivation rather than in any good reasons or persuasive arguments.” — Paul Copan

This childish rejection of God in light of the evidence provided through the Book of Nature comes way of True Free Thinker, and shows the juvenile manner in which evidence is rejected in lieu of the ego:

…Lewis Wolpert simplistic dismissal of any and all intelligent design and creationism discoveries as “There is no evidence for them at all” is no less than an intellectual embarrassment and that he insists that “They must be kept out of science lessons” shows why he is the vice-president of an Atheist activism group.

And his dismissal of God is just as unimpressive, “There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of God.”

But what scientific, evidence based, academic, scholarly reasons does Wolpert himself offer for having become an Atheist?:

I stopped believing in God when I was 15 or 16 because he didn’t give me what I asked for. [1]

Keith Ward asked Wolpert, “What sort of evidence would count for you? Would it have to be scientific evidence of some sort?” to which the reply was, “Well, no… I think I read somewhere: If he turned the pond on Hamstead Heath into good champagne, it would be quite impressive”[2]. And yet, the historical record is that Jesus turned water into wine and that is still not good enough, is it?

[My addition: no it isn’t, some people like champaigne and not wine]

Lewis Wolpert also stated, “I used to pray but I gave it up because when I asked God to help me find my cricket bat, he didn’t help.” Thus, Justin Brieley stated, “Right, and that was enough for you to prove that God did not exist” to which Wolpert replied, “Well, yes. I just gave it up completely.”[3]

[1] Lewis Wolpert, “The Hard Cell,” Third Way, March 2007 AD, p. 17

[2] Ibid., p. 16

[3] From an interview on the Unbelievable show titled, What Does Science Tell Us About God?

…read more…

(For the above audio) Well respected [in evolutionary circles] University College London Professor (Emeritus) of Cell and Developmental Biology answers this, and explains that most people want more. And indeed, the Judeo-Christian God is the only answer to this conundrum. You can see how the answer to the problem actually resonates and responds to the truth of human need.

In other words, if naturalistic evolution is true, reductionism is also in play. Then we are determined by the chemical make-up, firing of synapses, and whole of historical events leading up to us controlling our actions. So one could ask in all seriousness, “how much does love weigh?”

It is a cold world, unbelief.

What is love? Here are two possibilities:

1) chemical reactions in your brain perceived as feelings of loyalty toward a single co-parent for the purpose of rearing a child together, at least until it’s weaned
2) the ultimate good, a reflection of the image of God upon humanity

Arguments often arise by using the same words to mean different things. One worldview (Christianity) views love as the ultimate good in the material world and beyond.

Let’s look at how love is viewed by two different worldviews: Christianity and naturalism.

On Christianity, love is ultimately:

a) the state of affairs existing prior to the creation of the universe, flowing between the Father and the Son via the Holy Spirit, the vehicle of love
b) the highest good
c) the ultimate goal, an act of worship.

On naturalism, love is ultimately:

a) the evolutionary mechanism to ensure the survival of children and the propagation of our species
b) a nice concept, something to distract you from the depressing thought of a meaningless existence
c) an amusing illusion

Your worldview will shape how you understand the concept of love…

…read more…

I wish to start out with an excerpt from a chapter in my book where I use two scholarly works that use Darwinian naturalism as a guide to their ethic:

  • Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1997).
  • Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000).

My incorporation of these works into my book (quote):

“Lest one think this line of thinking is insane, that is: sexual acts are something from our evolutionary past and advantageous; rape is said to not be a pathology but an evolutionary adaptation – a strategy for maximizing reproductive success….. The first concept that one must understand is that these authors do not view nature alone as imposing a moral “oughtness” into the situation of survival of the fittest. They view rape, for instance, in its historical evolutionary context as neither right nor wrong ethically. Rape, is neither moral nor immoral vis-à-vis evolutionary lines of thought, even if ingrained in us from our evolutionary paths of survival. Did you catch that? Even if a rape occurs today, it is neither moral nor immoral, it is merely currently taboo. The biological, amoral, justification of rape is made often times as a survival mechanism bringing up the net “survival status” of a species, usually fraught with examples of homosexual worms, lesbian seagulls, and the like.”

(pp. 7-9 of  Roman-Epicurean-ism-Natural-Law-and-Homosexuality)

Now, hear from other atheist and evolutionary apologists themselves in regard to the matter:

Richard Dawkins

(h/t: Atheism Analyzed) – A Statement Made by an atheist at the Atheist and Agnostic Society:

Some atheists do believe in ethical absolutes, some don’t. My answer is a bit more complicated — I don’t believe that there are any axiological claims which are absolutely true, except within the context of one person’s opinion.

That is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so are ethics. So, why is Adolf Hitler wrong? Because he murdered millions, and his only justification, even if it were valid, was based on things which he should have known were factually wrong. Why is it wrong to do that? Because I said so. Unless you actually disagree with me — unless you want to say that Adolf Hitler was right — I’m not sure I have more to say.

[side note] You may also be aware that Richard Dawkins stated,

  • “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.”

Stated during an interview with Larry Taunton, “Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist,” by Faith Magazine, Issue Number 18, December 2007 (copyright; 2007-2008)

Lewis Wolpert

From the video description:

Atheists Trying to Have Their Cake and Eat It Too on Morality. This video shows that when an atheist denies objective morality they also affirm moral good and evil without the thought of any contradiction or inconsistency on their part.

Dan Barker

This is from the video Description for the Dan Barker video below:

The atheist’s animal-level view of “morality” is completely skewed by dint of its lack of objectivity. In fact, the atheist makes up his own personal version of “morals” as he goes along, and this video provides an eye-opening example of this bizarre phenomenon of the atheist’s crippled psyche:

During this debate, the atheist stated that he believed rape was morally acceptable, then he actually stated that he would rape a little girl and then kill himself — you have just got to hear his psychotic words with your own ears to believe it!

He then stammered and stumbled through a series of ridiculously lame excuses for his shameful lack of any type of moral compass.

To the utter amazement of his opponent and all present in the audience, the gruesomely amoral atheist even goes so far as to actually crack a sick little joke on the subject of SERIAL CHILD-RAPE!

:::shudders:::

Meanwhile, the Christian in the video gracefully and heroically realizes the clearly objective moral values that unquestionably come to humanity by God’s grace, and yet are far beyond the lower animal’s and the atheist’s tenuous mental grasp. Be sure to keep watching until the very end so that you can hear the Christian’s final word — it’s a real knuckle-duster!

Atheist dogma not only fails to provide a stable platform for objective human morality for its adherent — it precludes him even the possibility. It’s this very intellectual inability to apprehend any objective moral values that leads such believers in atheist dogma as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Dahmer to commit their horrific atheistic atrocities.

Any believer in atheist dogma, given sufficient power, would take the exact same course of action that Hitler did, without a moment’s hesitation.

Note as well that evolutionary naturalism has very dogmatic implication, IF — that is — the honest atheist/evolutionist follow the matter to their logical conclusions, via the ineffable Dr. Provine:

William Provine

Atheist and staunch evolutionist Dr. William Provine (who is often quoted by Richard Dawkins) admits what life has in stored if Darwinism is true. The quote comes from his debate here with Dr. Phillip E. Johnson at Stanford University, April 30, 1994.

“We must ask first whether the theory of evolution by natural selection is scientific or pseudoscientific …. Taking the first part of the theory, that evolution has occurred, it says that the history of life is a single process of species-splitting and progression. This process must be unique and unrepeatable, like the history of England. This part of the theory is therefore a historical theory, about unique events, and unique events are, by definition, not part of science, for they are unrepeatable and so not subject to test.”

Colin Patterson [1978] (Dr. Patterson was Senior Principal Scientific Officer of the Paleontology Department of the British Museum of Natural History in London.)

People think evolution is “science proper.” It is not, it is both a historical science and a [philosophical] presupposition in its “neo-Darwinian” form. The presupposition that removes it from “science proper and moves it into “scientism” is explained by an atheist philosopher:

If science really is permanently committed to methodological naturalism – the philosophical position that restricts all explanations in science to naturalistic explanations – it follows that the aim of science is not generating true theories. Instead, the aim of science would be something like: generating the best theories that can be formulated subject to the restriction that the theories are naturalistic. More and more evidence could come in suggesting that a supernatural being exists, but scientific theories wouldn’t be allowed to acknowledge that possibility.

Bradley Monton, author of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design ~ Apologetics315 h/t

In other words, the guy most credited in getting us to the moon used science to get us there, but was a young earth creationist. His view on “origins” (origin science) is separate from his working science. Two categories.

Likewise one of the most celebrated pediatric surgeons in the world, whom a movie was made after, “Gifted Hands,” is a young earth creationist. And the inventor of the MRI, a machine that diagnosed my M.S., is also a young earth creationist.

Evolutionary Darwinism is first and foremost an “historical science” that has many presuppositions that precede it, making it a metaphysical belief, a philosophy, as virulent anti-creationist philosopher of science, Michael Ruse explains:

Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. . . . Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.

Michael Ruse, “Saving Darwinism from the Darwinians,” National Post (May 13, 2000), p. B-3. (Via ICR)

The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature. Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law [natural selection] did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all…. If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translator/annotator, James Murphy [New York: Hurst and Blackett, 1942], pp. 161-162. Found in: Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith [Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001], 206.

He thus acknowledged the need for any theory to allow that humans have genuine freedom to recognize the truth. He (again, correctly) saw that if all thought, belief, feeling, and choice are determined (i.e., forced on humans by outside conditions) then so is the determinists’ acceptance of the theory of determinism forced on them by those same conditions. In that case they could never claim to know their theory is true since the theory making that claim would be self-referentially incoherent. In other words, the theory requires that no belief is ever a free judgment made on the basis of experience or reason, but is always a compulsion over which the believer has no control.

Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2005), 174.

If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else. He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result…. They [determinists – I would posit any philosophical naturalist] want to be considered as rational agents arguing with other rational agents; they want their beliefs to be construed as beliefs, and subjected to rational assessment; and they want to secure the rational assent of those they argue with, not a brainwashed repetition of acquiescent pattern. Consistent determinists should regard it as all one whether they induce conformity to their doctrines by auditory stimuli or a suitable injection of hallucinogens: but in practice they show a welcome reluctance to get out their syringes, which does equal credit to their humanity and discredit to their views. Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them.

J. R. Lucas, The Freedom of the Will (New York: NY: Oxford University Press, 1970), 114, 115.

One of the most intriguing aspects mentioned by Ravi Zacharias of a lecture he attended entitled Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate, given by Stephen Hawking, who is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, Isaac Newton’s chair, was this admission by Dr. Hawking’s, was Hawking’s admission that if “we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free.”[1] In other words, do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms?[2] Michael Polyni mentions that this “reduction of the world to its atomic elements acting blindly in terms of equilibrations of forces,” a belief that has prevailed “since the birth of modern science, has made any sort of teleological view of the cosmos seem unscientific…. [to] the contemporary mind.”[3]

[1] Ravi Zacharias, The Real Face of Atheism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 118, 119.
[2] My own summation.
[3] Michael Polanyi and Harry Prosch, Meaning (Chicago, IL: Chicago university Press, 1977), 162.

What merit would attach to moral virtue if the acts that form such habitual tendencies and dispositions were not acts of free choice on the part of the individual who was in the process of acquiring moral virtue? Persons of vicious moral character would have their characters formed in a manner no different from the way in which the character of a morally virtuous person was formed—by acts entirely determined, and that could not have been otherwise by freedom of choice.

Mortimer J. Adler, Ten Philosophical Mistakes (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1985), 154.

If we were free persons, with faculties which we might carelessly use or wilfully misuse, the fact might be explained; but the pre-established harmony excludes this supposition. And since our faculties lead us into error, when shall we trust them? Which of the many opinions they have produced is really true? By hypothesis, they all ought to be true, but, as they contradict one another, all cannot be true. How, then, distinguish between the true and the false? By taking a vote? That cannot be, for, as determined, we have not the power to take a vote. Shall we reach the truth by reasoning? This we might do, if reasoning were a self-poised, self verifying process; but this it cannot be in a deterministic system. Reasoning implies the power to control one’s thoughts, to resist the processes of association, to suspend judgment until the transparent order of reason has been readied. It implies freedom, therefore. In a mind which is controlled by its states, instead of controlling them, there is no reasoning, but only a succession of one state upon another. There is no deduction from grounds, but only production by causes. No belief has any logical advantage over any other, for logic is no longer possible.

Borden P Bowne, Metaphysics: A Study In First Principles (originally published in 1882; London: Sampson Low, Searle & Rivington, 2005), 105.

“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.”

Mussolini, Diuturna (1924) pp. 374-77, quoted in A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (Ignatius Press; 1999), by Peter Kreeft, p. 18