Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Christian apologetics

Christian apologetics is the process of defending the faith by constructing rational arguments to particular predefined doctrinal conclusions, and presenting those arguments as a defense of the faith. The presentation of the arguments may either be in the form of monologue (such as through printed publication in a forum where no responses are possible) or in a dialogue, where the only acceptable outcomes are a revision of the steps of the arguments, but not the ultimate conclusions.

Sometimes, those involved in the process do not even bother to make sure their apologetic arguments are consistent with each other--they engage in a shotgun approach of throwing out whatever arguments they can come up with to reach the desired conclusion.

Examples of this may be found at Tom Wanchick's "Christian Fighter" blog. In a discussion of an essay by agnostic Paul Draper, Wanchick notes that "Draper goes through the arguments for theism and naturalism and finds the cases for both worldviews equally compelling. Neither has a clear advantage." But then, Wanchick notes:
But Draper makes an interesting statement at the end of his contribution. He notes that this situation with the ambiguous evidence appears almost intentional, as if humans have been given enough evidence to find God, but not enough to give them utter certainty regarding His reality.
In other words, the fact of the ambiguity is itself evidence for theism. But Wanchick goes on to say:
I disagree with Draper in that I think the evidence for theism is far greater than any purported evidence for naturalism. Thus, theism is the clearcut winner. But even granting his point, the Christian position comes out on the winning end.
Wanchick's has thus argued that (a) there is an ambiguity, which is evidence for theism, and (b) there is no ambiguity, theism is the clearcut winner. He clearly favors (b), which is inconsistent with (a), but he seemingly still wants to advocate (a), since it leads to a conclusion he favors, as he writes that "the apparent ambiguity seems intentional," implying that he thinks the ambiguity exists. (Thanks to Einzige for pointing out this last point--Wanchick really does seem to advocate both contradictory positions.)


Einzige said...

But, hey, it's "The Good Fight."

So, what's wrong with a little inconsistency when you're defending the faith, right?

Jim Lippard said...

Wanchick has offered a clarification in the comments on his blog--he asserts that to the non-Christian mind, there is an ambiguity, but to the Christian, the evidence clearly favors theism.

Jim Lippard said...

Wanchick's position allows that it is possible to see the evidence as favoring theism or as equally balanced between theism and naturalism, but seems to reject that it is possible to see the evidence as favoring naturalism, as that would cause his argument (a) to fail.

Is there really anything more to this than the following: if you see the evidence as favoring theism, you will therefore be a theist; if you see the evidence as ambiguous and near-equally balanced, you will therefore be agnostic; if you see the evidence as favoring naturalism, you will therefore be a naturalist.

Well, actually, there is, since there are theists who take the fideist position, holding a theist view even if they see the evidence favoring nontheism over theism. Christian apologist William Lane Craig is one among many who have explicitly endorsed faith over reason.