apologetics, Historical Apologetics

Manual of Christian Evidences: Fisher Chapter 1 Guided Reading

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A picture I took of a path through the woods. All rights reserved.

I am leading a guided reading of the Manual of Christian Evidences by George Park Fisher. It is freely available online and will serve as a base for discussing Christian apologetics throughout this series. The chapters are short and readable. I encourage you to join in by reading the chapters and commenting with your thoughts. When I discuss the book, I will be citing page numbers from the edition linked above.

Chapter 1

It is always important when reading a non-fiction book to find the thesis. What is it that George Park Fisher is trying to accomplish with his Manual?

Spoiler alert (har har): the answer is that he’s trying to establish the veracity of “the New Testament histories” (2). I think a valuable question to follow such a statement up with is “so what?”

Suppose Fisher succeeds, and shows that the NT histories are trustworthy, would not some scholars continue to argue that this doesn’t demonstrate the miraculous contained therein (as I’m sure Tim can attest, given his recent debates with Bart Ehrman)? That is, would not many historians say we can trust the NT documents as history, but we need not trust the miraculous therein?

I think a possible response to this is actually found in another work by a dead apologist, J.J. Blunt. In his “Undesigned Coincidences,” he notes that “by establishing the truth of ordinary incidents which involve the miracle, which compass the miracle round about, and which cannot be separated from the miracle without the utter laceration of the history itself, goes very near to establish it.” (J.J. Blunt, “Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings both of the Old and New Testaments: An Argument of their Veracity” (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1855), 9-10).

Interestingly, this is not so much the tactic Fisher uses going forward. He could defend the value of such a study by noting that because of the way some of the miraculous accounts are embedded in those NT histories, we cannot excise the miraculous without making the whole thing nonsensical. That is, the miraculous is itself part of the history. However, he opts for a different approach, as we will see in the coming chapters.

What do you think of this as a  response? What other responses might be possible? Moreover, what other points in this chapter came to mind for you?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Apologetics Read-Through: Historical Apologetics Read-Along– Here are links for the collected posts in this series and other read-throughs of apologetics books (forthcoming).

Dead Apologists Society– A page for Christians interested in the works of historical apologetics. There is also a Facebook group for it.

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

9 thoughts on “Manual of Christian Evidences: Fisher Chapter 1 Guided Reading

  1. I thought this might be fun but, alas, given just the first sentence in Chapter 1 alone, I cannot participate because I find his basic premise morally corrupt. The whole aim of his book, he said, is to prove that the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus are true and, as such, that Christianity has a supernatural, divine origin and sanction. In stark contrast to this, my views adhere to a Reformed theology which takes for granted the authoritative truth of God and his enscripturated Word. In other words, Christians ought to receive the divinely inspired canon of Scripture as our final authority and only infallible rule of faith and life. As set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the authority of Scripture (on account of which it ought to be believed and obeyed) does not depend upon the testimony of any man or church, but entirely upon God, its author who is truth itself. Those who seek to establish the credible truth of the Bible on some basis apart from the Bible are thereby demonstrating that it’s not their final authority. Whatever their extrabiblical basis happens to be, that is their final authority. This is not for me. On my view, the truth of God and his revelation is a presupposition we reason from, not a conclusion we reason to.

    Posted by johnmbauer | July 4, 2019, 8:17 AM
    • Yes, apologetics methods are very different depending on the perspective. To be fair, many Reformed people through history did not adhere to a presuppositional approach, for it didn’t exist. If you have some recommended early reading, perhaps I could pick a presup book soon!

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 4, 2019, 9:08 AM
      • For a light (albeit powerful) introduction to the importance of maintaining Scripture as our final authority in all things, including apologetics, I highly recommend K. Scott Oliphint, The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending the Faith (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003). For a compelling and comprehensive introduction to presuppositional apologetics, I highly recommend K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013). By describing the apologetic task as “covenantal,” Oliphint boldly indicates a christological approach to apologetics through steadfast fidelity to Scripture as God’s Word. He is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

        Posted by John Bauer | July 5, 2019, 12:33 AM
      • Yeah I’ve read Covenental Apologetics. I’ve read most of Van Til, some Frame, and a decent amount of Bahnsen. Was wondering if there’d were any earlier works. I was pretty sure it was pioneered by Van Til.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 5, 2019, 7:01 AM
      • Cornelius Van Til did pioneer covenantal apologetics, basically, but he was standing on the shoulders of such esteemed predecessors as Abraham Kuyper. Worth checking out.

        Posted by John M. Bauer | July 7, 2019, 12:22 AM

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