Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Real-World Defense of Christian Theism

The evidence of Christ having miraculous abilities itself is very poor quality evidence which cannot be replicated or analyzed under controlled conditions, and the evidence he is God is even weaker.   Okay, the first thing we want to do is identify the claims in this very long sentence. Claim (1) is that the evidence for Christ’s miracles is of very poor quality. Claim (2) is that these miracles cannot be replicated. Claim (3) is that these claims of Christ miracles cannot be analyzed under controlled conditions. Claim (4) is that the evidence that Christ is God is even weaker.

There are a couple of paths available to the Christian as he or she evaluates these claims and develops a strategy for how to respond to them. Always remember that your goal is to drive the conversation in such a way so as to communicate the gospel. It is not primarily your mission to win the debate. You mission is accomplished when you deliver the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of how the conversation goes and irrespective of the outcome.

Option 1 is to take each claim, one by one, and break them down, refuting each claim as you go. For example, (1) confuses empirical evidence with testimonial evidence. Miracles are rare events by definition. A miracle is an event that represents an unusual change in the normal behavior of what we call natural laws. As such, a miracle is ipso facto not subject to empirical testing. If the claim that our evidence for Christ’s miracles is very poor is going to hold up, it must be demonstrated that the testimonial evidence is very poor. After all, the kind of evidence testing should fit the evidence for which it is designed. Now, this is not the same as testing the Word of God against an external standard. It is the Word of God to which we must turn in order to examine the evidence. And that evidence is impeccable. When we examine that evidence, we find that it is of the strongest quality. The manuscripts of the NT far outnumber their peers and the dates of these sources are closer to the actual events that any other ancient historical documents from antiquity. Moreover, we discover that the testimony is from numerous eyewitness accounts. Finally, we must also point out that this evidence is corroborated by secular documents as well. The evidence for Christ’s miracles is of greater quality and quantity than the evidence we have for any events from this era. Therefore, to say that the evidence for Christ’s miracles is of poor quality is patently false. Once again, I want to be clear that we are not using external standards to arrive at the conclusion that the New Testament is historically reliable. All we are doing is answering the question, is there good evidence for the miracles of Christ? When we look at both the quantity and quality of that evidence, we must conclude that such evidence exists and it is of the highest quality for its kind. This means that when Josh McDowell says that “The historical reliability of the Scripture should be tested by the same criteria that all historical documents are tested,” he could not be more mistaken. [Source: Evidence I]

Concerning claim (2), that the miracles of Christ cannot be replicated, this claim makes a basic category mistake. Historical evidence is not subject to replication. But is the fact that such evidence cannot be replicated good reason for considering of poor quality? I don’t think so. After all, there are all numerous things we would not be justified in believing if that were the case. For example, I believe that I went to the doctor this morning and had the unpleasant experience of an annual check-up. I can never replicate that experience. Does that mean I am justified in rejecting that belief? If that is the case we could hardly have justification for believing anything in human experience the minute it lapses into the horizon of history. From this we can conclude simply that our inability to replicate the miracles of Christ is no good ground to reject the evidence as being of poor quality. Claim (3) is equally a category mistake. How many beliefs do we hold that cannot be taken into the lab and analyzed under controlled conditions? The belief that every belief should must be empirically verifiable is itself not subject to empirical verification. Moreover, the claim falls victim to the infinite regress. If that belief must be verifiable, then so too must the belief that makes that claim, and that belief too, and the next one ad infinitum. Claim 3 fails the same as claims (1) and (2). Claim (4) is a different sort of claim altogether. The claim that the evidence that Jesus is God is weaker still than the evidence for the miracles of Christ is a bit more complex that claims 1–3. How shall we answer it? It depends on how a person comes to know that Jesus is God. How does one arrive at the belief that Jesus is God? When we examine the NT documents, it is abundantly clear (contrary to the wolves in seminary clothing), that Jesus claimed to be God. It is equally clear that Jesus’ earliest followers believed that He was God, claimed that He was God, and worshipped Jesus as God. And these earliest followers were Jews; not itself an unimportant aspect of this historical situation. Our first objection is that Jesus’ claims to be God do not equal evidence that He was God. That is absolutely true. Jesus’ claim to be God is no more evidence that He was God any more than my claim to be a Martian is evidence that I am one. We need something more to justify our claim that Jesus is God. What about the miracles? Jesus claimed to be God and Jesus worked miracles, therefore Jesus claim to be God must be true. Why? Others have worked miracles. Does this mean they were God too? You may say they didn’t claim to be God. That is irrelevant. It isn’t the miracle then that separates Christ as God but His claim. And we have already established that Christ’s claim to be God cannot serve as evidence in and of itself to convince us that He is in fact God.

No unregenerate man will truly accept the claim that Jesus was God based off external historical evidence or testimony. The reason for this is simple: And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. (2 Co 4:3) Men do not evaluate natural evidence or arguments and then, after careful scrutiny and consideration decide that Jesus Christ is God or it is highly probable that Jesus is God based on the evidence. A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Ac 16:14) You see, unless the Lord opens the heart to respond to the gospel, men will not believe. Therefore, the evidence that Christ is God is hopelessly weak to the unbeliever, granting their criteria for what qualifies as good evidence. Men believe that Jesus is God by faith, through faith, a supernatural faith granted only by God to His elect. These are the ones that Jesus said the Father would give to Him. Unless we get our theology straight, we will never get our apologetic encounters straight. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Je 31:33) Notice that God is writing His law within their hearts. This is the work of God in those who are elected to the New Covenant community. “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. (Je 32:40.) God is the subject acting upon the objects of the New Covenant, placing His law in their hearts as well as His fear. One professor admits that the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is of high quality and does not dispute it. His counter is that it does not follow that just because Jesus rose from the dead, that does not mean Jesus was God. It simply means that something very peculiar happened concerning this Jesus and given enough time, science will solve the mystery.

Option 2 is to place begin by placing the opponent on the defensive. This is accomplished by looking at each claim and asking what must be the case in order for that claim to be true. Why do we need to justify our beliefs? This points us up to the question of human reason and the laws of logic. Human predication is capable of being rational and it is capable of being irrational. But what must be true in order for such a state of affairs to obtain? Why is human predication possible to begin with? How does the unbeliever defend his belief that all beliefs require some sort of, or a certain kind of evidence. Better yet, what does a certain state of affairs have to obtain before we accept a belief? If the laws of logic are the laws of human thought, so to speak, then what can the unbeliever offer in his attempt to vindicate his belief in such things? If the unbeliever is correct in his claim about the origins of man, life, and the universe, then he indeed has quite a task before him. He must claim on one hand that belief in a random universe is justified while at the same time claiming that belief in something like laws of logic is justified. But the idea of laws, of uniformity, of normative states of affairs is untenable with the state of affairs that the unbeliever claims he is justified to believe actually exists. The unbeliever has to provide a rational defense for his ability to infer from one fact to another in a universe where facts are not connected to each other because, on the unbeliever’s own worldview, the whole system is a not a system at all. It is an accident of nature. Uniformity and law-like concepts are intelligible in such a conceptual scheme. In order for the unbeliever to progress in his knowledge and to engage in any kind of predication whatsoever, he must presuppose the Christian worldview. Belief that a purely random event got us going is not capable of justifying belief in the rationality of inference which requires the sort of event that is just the opposite of the one the unbeliever claims has obtained. Perhaps I will come back to this in my next post and most into a more focused presentation of TAG. Stay tuned!

There are many external sources of Christ’s miracles all saying pretty much the same things.   And there are other viable explanationsfor what you claim have been reported as miracles of which none of the accounts are original documentation but copies of copies from an age where 90% of the population was illiterate and believed the mentally ill were talking to the gods and epileptic seizures were caused by demonic possession.   Occam’s Razor:   Your believe system cannot tolerate scrutiny or doubt, you need to have absolute authority to secure your position to dictate what others are allowed to believe.   Doubt and uncertainty are what leads to insight and new knowledge.   All you offer is stagnation… a high price so you can feel secure. Knowledge is not stagnant or rigid, in fact it is very ephemeral.   Yes it is a Constitutional issue because it is necessary to always question authority, and you are working very hard to sell a system where your ideology is unquestionable. If there is any dissent you simply claim it can be ignored or oppressed by a decision making process that you cannot demonstrate exists outside of your head and you claim is the ultimate authority.   So until you can demonstrate its not all in your head, it can be dismissed.

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