I just wanted to bring something to the table here and discuss how we go about doing apologetics. This blog post is born out of a Facebook post I made in an apologetics group. As I’ve immersed myself in philosophical study and as I look at how some do apologetics (just in general), I’m slightly uneasy about how some go about it.
I think a lot of times many tend to take all the arguments from different philosophers and strip them, unknowingly, from their philosophical implications and just kinda mash them all together and use them alongside one another. I see this a lot with just general apologetics. I think the picture above highlights my view on apologetics: Who cares whether this argument leads to something heretical, wrong, inconsistent, or something true and correct? Let’s just present this argument and see if you agree so I can convince you.
For instance, if you follow some of craig’s arguments, you have to accept some of his metaphysical underpinnings that may be inconsistent with, say, an argument from another philosopher that has a different metaphysical underpinning. It’s like mixing all the different foods on your plate into one big mess.
A more concrete example would be when some try to employ some of Aquinas’s 5 ways, while simultaneously using ID arguments for God’s existence. Philosophers like Edward Feser and Ric Machuga have argued that the metaphysics is inconsistent. Basically, if people employ some of the 5 ways of Aquinas, which is heavily rooted in AT metaphysics, it’s inconsistent to then appeal to ID arguments for God as well since the 5 ways and ID arguments are operating out of entirely different metaphysical systems that almost cancel each other out. Here is Feser explaining it:
I don’t hate on ID. I was a huge fan of the project and I am still sort of sympathetic towards what they’re doing. But because of metaphysical commitments, I’m not as accepting as I once was.
Another example that I’ve seen is some people have used explicitly natural law arguments against homosexual acts, but then when it came to contraception, the argument was rejected. It just seemed a bit inconsistent in how one went about defending the faith.
I think that many times the metaphysical/philosophical underpinnings are ignored and they can have some interesting implications on God and our views without us even knowing. I guess my worry is that if we accept argument X, it has implication Y and implication Y may not be the best way to go. Doesn’t necessarily mean argument X is wrong or bad, but it may be if implication Y does get us away from tradition or from scripture.
See this post as well: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/greek-atomists-and-god-of-paley.html
Now, one person tried to defend himself against my observation by simply saying that he isn’t interested in working out all the different distinctions, and that he can leave that up to the philosophers to argue in their ivory tower. He continues in saying that basically his job is just to lead people to a designer or creator. To lead people and give them a general idea. While I admire this approach very much, and I think it’s good that we try to lead people, I don’t think it’s, what’s the right word, fully intellectually honest, or rather, it seems almost intellectually lazy to not think out the implications of different arguments, and to just superficially accept them and dish them out. What happens when people use these different arguments for God’s existence? Well, it shapes and molds their view of God. They may pick up some views here and some there that are almost entirely incompatible, and because it leads them to a general designer, it’s ok. If we can do this in apologetics, why not in theology? Why not in philosophy? Let’s just string together all the arguments we can and throw them into the mix and ignore distinctions as long as it gets us to where we want.
So what? What’s my point? Simply, I’m all for having arguments for God’s existence, strengthening the believer, and giving reasons. I’m just a bit bothered by the lack of consistency and the fact that it just looks like we’re trying to score points. I think we should go about apologetics a bit more systematically and think a bit better about it. One friend of mine put it this way, “We should present Christianity in the context of an integral, coherent worldview. Muddling a bunch of conflicting arguments doesn’t do justice to the truthfulness of Christianity.” And with this I definitely agree. I feel like we really aren’t doing justice to Christianity when we go about doing pop apologetics and throwing 53,000 different arguments at people when some of them are inconsistent and conflicting with one another. I think this is where Christians must employ the virtue of temperance, as well as being assisted by the Holy Spirit, in engaging in apologetics and employing arguments. If we’re going to defend the faith, let’s not be intellectually lazy, but let’s be intellectually honest and present a rigorous and coherent case for Christianity.