Why believe? A sort of apologetics 101…

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

Why believe? Well, you already do. The question is really, what do you believe, and why?

The first big question is the God one. Does God exist, and if so does it matter?

Regardless of whether your answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the first part of the question, some faith is involved. Perhaps it is better to ask which takes the greater faith, to believe that God exists or does not exist. In the absence of definitive proof for either side, some faith is involved.

At the cognitive level, it is about assessing the evidence – where does the weight of evidence point? Those who are familiar with apologetics will know that there are various ways we can set about doing this. Steven Cowan’s book Five Views on Apologetics outlines the key approaches – classical, evidential, presuppositional, reformed epistemology and cumulative case. It’s the last of these that I find the most helpful.

For cumulative case apologists, the case for God’s existence (which most often precedes the case for the validity of Christianity, as if God does not exist, the latter question is usually considered redundant) does not rest on any single proof or argument from probability (such as an orderly creation or Jesus’ resurrection). Rather, the case for faith (and Christian faith in particular) is not unlike a lawyer’s brief. It pieces together several types of data or pieces of evidence and then formulates a hypothesis that better explains this data than any alternate hypothesis. Apologists using this approach argue that Christianity makes better sense of all the material available than does any other Worldview. It is the approach that best describes the method used by the legendary C.S.Lewis, and it is the method I plan to adopt as we wander over some of the evidence in the next few posts.

So what will we look at? It makes sense to begin by looking at the case for theism – which is the belief that God exists and that this God is the creator and ruler of the universe. Friday’s post will explore this. Later posts will then focus on some of the evidence that, in my opinion, suggests that it is more reasonable to believe that Christianity is true than to believe that it is illusionary. Some of these signposts to faith include the Bible, the life and teaching of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the existence of the church and the impact of Christianity on the world. While each could be covered in great depth, we’ll start at the 101 level – but feel free in your comments to escalate the conversation to dizzier heights.

Earlier I spoke about assessing evidence at the cognitive level. Important though this is, the heart has its reasons that the head knows not… (to slightly misquote Blaise Pascal’s sentiment). We’ll finish the series by looking at the role of experience in belief. Often treated with suspicion, it is the reason that most believe. Something has happened at a personal level, and while it may not be convincing to others, it is sufficiently convincing for the individual to change their belief, and to do so decisively. It is the realm in which faith becomes compelling – more than something to which we give academic assent, indeed something to which we give our life allegiance. For those who like fanciful terminology, for belief to make sense, orthodoxy, orthopraxy and orthopathy must coherently intersect. In other words, faith doesn’t really make much sense unless it is sound faith, backed by sound practice, backed by sound emotion… But that is probably the topic for another post.

Nice chatting…

2 Comments

  1. A common argument from atheists and skeptics is that if all things need a cause, then God must also need a cause.

    God is uncaused and uncreated — He simply exists.

    How do I know this? I know that from nothing, nothing comes. So, if there were ever a time when there was absolutely nothing in existence, then nothing would have ever come into existence. But things do exist. Therefore, since there could never have been absolutely nothing, something had to have always been in existence. That ever-existing thing is what we call God. God is the uncaused Being that caused everything else to come into existence. God is the uncreated Creator who created the universe and everything in it.

    • Good point you make there Paul. I guess some who are more skeptical would say it dodges the question, and most atheists would argue that it moves in the opposite direction. In other words, instead of presupposing a really complex being like God to start with, imagine something incredibly simple and small that simply is, and that slowly evolves to the universe as we now have it. Either way, both sides of the argument face the same mystery, we exist – and the reality of our existence confronts us with the question, is this a result of random chance, or is our existence the result of the intentional action of a supreme being, God. So do we have this really complex world because something really simply evolved into something far more complex, or was there a really complex pre existent being able to create at a high level of sophistication.

      I come out on your side of the argument – and am glad that I do, because the implications are enormous. Without an act of intentional creation, life is a result of essentially random chance, and if we are simply creatures of chance, the quest for meaning and purpose works from a false assumption that meaning and purpose can be found. True, we can chose to confer them upon life, but we do so in spite of (if this is an accidental universe) the arbitrariness of life.

      But I am running ahead of some future posts. Thanks for your thoughts.

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