apologetics

Apologetics and the Search for Truth

Apologetics must be not only a defense of but also a search for the truth. A parallel I would draw is one I heard in the movie, “The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon.” In that movie, they discuss the role which Mormon apologists have taken on: that of defending a falsehood, and essentially just telling believers they must keep the faith and ignore/lie about the evidence. Christian apologists must never allow themselves to value fideism over reasoned faith. If conclusive evidence undermines an article of faith, it must be abandoned.

What am I suggesting? Apologetics is not just a static defense of each point of Christianity, rather, it is a defense seeking truth. Some will immediately bristle upon reading this and argue there are some beliefs Christians cannot compromise. I agree. There are truths, which, if shown to be false, would lead to the falsehood of Christianity. But if evidence existed which conclusively proved God did not exist, then Christianity would be false, no matter what we would desire. That said, it seems to me that there is an overwhelming weight of evidence showing that God does indeed exist. Not only that, but there is a  huge amount of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. So again, we return to the position of the apologist: defending truths.

Perhaps an example might help draw out the implications of my points. Take Young Earth Creationism. Many apologists continue to defend this position, yet there is conclusive evidence both in the cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang and in the dating of rocks on earth and from space that the world is much older than a Young Earth position would have us believe. Not only that, but throughout the history of Christianity, a Young Earth position has not been a serious article of faith. The conclusive evidence against the Young Earth position should lead Christian apologists to continue to seek to understand the world God created–along different lines as necessary.

It is telling that Paul himself wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that “…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” He goes on to clearly explicate the implications of this historical fact for Christianity. Christianity is based upon seeking truth. If it were the case that central truth claims of Christianity were factually incorrect, than “our preaching is usless” and “so is [our] faith.” Christian apologists should therefore continue to seek truth, and defend it. The order of operation is not: pick a belief, decide it is true, and defend it. Rather, the apologist must operate in a completely opposite fashion: seek to discover truth, believe in  that truth, and defend it.

So, fellow apologists, I issue you a challenge: let nothing be unexplored. When you get the questions you cannot answer, do not fall on fideism, but investigate the truth. All truths are God’s truths, and we should not fear them.

To those who detract apologetics as a defense of falsehoods, I also issue a challenge: Have you actually explored the truth claims of Christianity? Have you engaged the arguments for theism? Have you investigated the evidence for the Resurrection of Christ? If not, you also need be consistent–leave no stone unturned in your search for truth.

While there almost certainly are apologists who defend their specific theological point against any and all scientific and philosophical evidence, what I am suggesting is a methodological apology: one which actively defends truth, but without putting all the weight upon one position; one which continues to seek truth, wherever it is found; a methodology which not only defends the truth, but finds it. What is truth? That which God has wrought.

SDG.

——

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

12 thoughts on “Apologetics and the Search for Truth

  1. The “old earth theory” is generally held by those who seek to align the Bible with science and the theory of evolution. Evolution is a myth, and most of the science behind it is junk. Christians generally accept science that backs up biblical claims, but if the science seeks to disprove God’s word, as the “old earth theory” does, then the science is not truth.

    God spoke, and there was creation. There is no reason for a “big bang” as evolutionists claim.

    Posted by David Knight | November 21, 2011, 2:03 PM
    • I think what you’re arguing is a non sequitur. Even if evolution is false, the universe could still be phenomenally old. Furthermore, I (and many theists I read on the topic) hold the old earth view not because we are trying to justify evolution, but because 1) several church fathers explicitly allow for an old earth view; 2) the text doesn’t necessitate a young earth reading (contra YEC arguments); 3) the cosmic background radiation, dating of meteorites and earth rocks, etc, etc, all suggest an ancient universe; 4) the Big bang provides powerful evidence for a creator (see my posts on the Kalam Cosmological argument: http://jwwartick.com/2011/04/30/kalam/,

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | November 21, 2011, 5:35 PM
      • “1) several church fathers explicitly allow for an old earth view”

        If no church fathers allowed for an old earth view, would the evidence you listed in (3) be enough to cause you to hold an old earth view? Just curious how much you’d let the opinions of others with presumably no knowledge of that evidence sway your interpretation of the evidence.

        “2) the text doesn’t necessitate a young earth reading (contra YEC arguments)”

        If you thought the text necessitated a young earth reading, would the evidence you listed in (3) cause you some cognitive dissonance until you determined how to interpret the evidence to agree with the scripture, as the YECers seem to do?

        Posted by Brap Gronk | November 21, 2011, 9:02 PM
      • Regarding 1, I don’t think I can epistemically evaluate said position, because it is not the case. Also, I’m not sure what you mean by “…how much you’d let the opinions of others with presumably no knowledge of that evidence sway your interpretation of the evidence.”

        Regarding 2, I don’t think the Young Earth position does accurately interpret Scripture. In fact, as I’ve argued elsewhere, I think it makes God into a deceiver.

        Finally, I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to argue here. The argument style you’re presenting asks me to epistemically dive into positions which don’t exist–I don’t have cognitive access to a world in which the church fathers unanimously assume and/or only advocate a Young Earth position, which makes it difficult to evaluate how I myself would react to such a world. I’m not arguing for epistemic relativism here, of course, rather, I’m simply trying to point out that I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | November 21, 2011, 9:37 PM
      • I would also hold forth the notion that an old earth/universe is actually more consistent with scripture than a young earth is. Also, David Knight, I would suggest that your statement that “The ‘old earth theory’ is generally held by those who seek to align the Bible with science and the theory of evolution” is false. There are a great number of old earth creationists that deny evolution.

        And, if I may humbly suggest, your statement that “There is no reason for a ‘big bang’ as evolutionists claim” may be an ad-hominem rather than a reason. What I mean is, it sounds like your approach is to lump an old-earth together with evolution, so you can attack it. But in reality, lumping those two together to attack an old earth does not actually address the reasons why a Christian should believe in an old earth.

        I’d be delighted to talk more with you about it!

        Take care,
        Greg

        Posted by Greg Reeves | November 21, 2011, 9:40 PM
      • Thanks for the insightful comment, Greg! I think you got exactly at what I’m trying to say. But this is exactly the kind of point I’m trying to make in this post: we can’t a priori decide what we think is true, and then defend it at all costs. Rather, truth is something that is revealed to us through nature–something we can only understand because God set it up in such a way (Psalm 19).

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | November 21, 2011, 9:51 PM
  2. @J.W., where I was headed with my questions was this: In keeping with the original post, shouldn’t point #3 in your original reply to David Knight be all that matters? That’s the only one that says, “I believe X because that’s where the evidence leads me.” Here is an admittedly non-generous phrasing of your other three points:

    1) I believe X because the early church fathers also allowed for belief in X.
    2) I believe X because my interpretation of the Bible allows for X.
    4) I believe X because it supports the existence of a creator.

    Wouldn’t any argument over points 1, 2, or 4 quickly get away from the evidence regarding X and head toward fideism?

    Posted by Brap Gronk | November 22, 2011, 7:53 AM
    • It seems that you’re making your point in an epistemological vaccuum. Of course, no one’s beliefs form within an epistemological vaccuum. I think that your use of “evidence” here may make that quite clear. Granting theism–which one must if one is debating about one particular Christian belief over and against another–my point 2) makes sense not because, as you admittedly disingenuously phrased “my interpretation of the Bible”…. rather, as I have left unestablished (because it is not at all the point of this post), the contextual and linguistic evidence suggests an Old Earth reading. So your rephrasing of point 2 doesn’t capture the point. First of all, it’s not my interpretation, it is an interpretation favored by the contextual and linguistic evidence–i.e. specific usage of Hebrew words along with knowledge of the Temple theology found throughout the Bible. Second, granting theism, the contextual and linguistic evidence provides clarification of the text, and therefore encourages an old earth position over and against a young earth position.

      Regarding 1, I’m not sure how much stock I personally put into the church fathers as authoritative, but YECs often argue that various church fathers do not allow for a YEC position, and so OEC should therefore be rejected. Against this, there is evidence found in various church fathers’ writings which suggests the old earth position. This is, of course, a rebutting defeater. It is an epistemological undercutter for the YEC position.

      Regarding 4, this is a pragmatic argument. The strength of pragmatic arguments is highly questionable, but there does seem to be at least some justification for holding beliefs pragmatically, particularly in the absence of defeaters. (Cf. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatic-belief-god/#PraArg). Given that we have other good evidence for the Big Bang (which we do–empirical and philosophical), then the pragmatic argument just adds a bit more weight.

      So if you put the points in a vaccuum, then I grant they aren’t very strong. However, that is philosophically disingenuous and, in fact, fallacious. Beliefs are held against a backdrop of other beliefs. If theism is true, then the argument from the text of the Bible is very much evidential–and the opposite is true if not.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | November 22, 2011, 5:53 PM
      • “Regarding 1, . . . It is an epistemological undercutter for the YEC position.”

        OK, I see where you’re coming from there. It’s reasonable to present different arguments to a YECer than you would to someone who is simply undecided or just curious about the age of the universe. I may have been a little anxious to take your points out of their context (replying to a YECer) and expect them to stand on their own, since all I need is the evidence you present in point 3.

        Posted by Brap Gronk | November 22, 2011, 8:12 PM
  3. I want to thank Mr. Wartick, Mr. Gronk, and Mr. Reeves for all of the comments that you have provided on this issue. It has been my pleasure and great reward to read them all. I have learned a lot. Please continue gentlemen, I’m listening and learning.

    Posted by David Knight | November 23, 2011, 2:59 AM
  4. Seek truth first, before anything. Since Gpd is truth, we can’t commit idolatry :)
    Praise God! Only as an apologist do you realize the value of truth.

    Posted by Exodus35 | November 29, 2011, 11:35 AM

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