Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Pragmatic Use of Arguments for God
One of my favorite books on any argument for the existence of God is Caroline Franks Davis’ The Evidential Force of Religious Experience. I re-read it recently and came upon a number of awesome insights I hadn’t even marked the first time (how’s that as a case for re-reading books?)! One pertained to the notion that some theistic arguments might be successful, but not useful when it comes to trying to provide evidence to a skeptic:
Some arguments which have been proposed in favor of theism… suffer so many defects or are so controversial that they do not contribute a great deal to the theistic case. (242-243, cited below)
The point is not that all the arguments which may fall into this category are in fact irrational or mistaken (though some may be!), but rather that the usefulness of the arguments are hampered, in particular, by the controversy surrounding said arguments. The central thrust of her passage here is that some arguments may inspire so much objection (even if reasonable), that bringing them up may not contribute to a dialogue. I think this point is fascinating, though the philosophical side of me cries out saying “But if the argument is sound, why not use it!?” I wonder, however, whether this is the right approach.
Are there some theistic arguments which–apart from their soundness–are simply not useful in the case of presenting an apologetic? Should we base our use of these arguments on their utility in that case, or simply upon the logical soundness of the arguments? Which arguments might fall into this category?
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Caroline Franks Davis, The Evidential Force of Religious Experience (New York, NY: Oxford, 1989).
Jesus says to love God with your:
Couldn’t it be the case that various people have roadblocks at different places? That would make some arguments work well for some folks and other arguments work well for others. I do worry that a lot of apologetics ignores (1), or makes it not-important, as if our intellect is less fallen and less corrupted than our hearts.
It strikes me that many arguments for God are purely intellectual and even of the “timeless truth” variety that Emil Brunner lambastes in Truth as Encounter. God wants a relationship with us via his son; how are we to convince people he exists and is love without a strong heart-component? I suppose some people could understand ‘love’ as purely intellectual, but if that is not ultimately transformed to all of (1)–(4), I worry.
Would the moral argument fall under this category? I find it very compelling, but discussions with people seem to be fruitless because it’s hard to get your head around it.