Apologetics

Introduction

What is apologetics?

Apologetics is the defense of the Christian worldview.

 

Do not apologists sometimes go on the offensive?

They do and thus the distinction between negative and positive apologetics.

 

What is the difference between these?

Negative apologetics is playing defense.  It involves answering the objections that people make against faith in God and the Christian religion.  Positive apologetics is presenting a case for believing in God or the Bible.  Think of it as going on offense.

 

What are the various worldviews competing for our attention here?

At a bare minimum, all the worldviews can be reduced to either atheism or theism.  Some would want to include in this agnosticism which is simply the idea that we can’t know which worldview is correct.  Atheists assert that there is no deity or supernatural; theists believe that there is a God.

 

Is is possible to prove the truth of either of these worldviews?

It is not possible to prove either of these with the kind of certainty which we would expect in a mathematics.  This is deductive reasoning which always gives us perfect certainty.  In the real world, however, we do not live by deduction.  We must base our beliefs on induction which only gives us some degree of probability.  We have to weigh evidence and let it lead us to the truth.

 

Does not a syllogism give us truth that cannot be doubted?

It does, but we can only prove the truth of both premises by an induction.  For example, consider the following syllogism:

  • Premise:  All birds have beaks;
  • Premise:  My pet parrot has a  beak;
  • Therefore, My pet parrot is a bird.

Note that if both premises can be proven to be true, then the conclusion is a necessary truth; i.e. it cannot not be true.  But how are we to prove the truth of both premises?  This can only be done by an induction and thus can only prove the premises to be probably true.  Thus, as Butler said, we must accept probability as the guide to life. source

 

How do we proceed then to discern which of these worldviews is true?

We hold up each worldview next to the world which we know and experience.  Which of these worldviews best accounts for or explains the reality which we see around us every day?  This is how we decide.  Perhaps it is best to think of it as a crime scene.  We approach the world as a detective.  When a detective comes to a crime scene, he sifts through the various details of the scene to try and find clues which might lead him to identify the criminal and his motives.  For instance, if the detective finds a bleeding body which was clearly murdered and yet finds $1000 cash sitting in plain view near the body, he would assume that the crime was not a robbery.  The criminal must have had some other motive.  In the same way, we come to our world and put each worldview to the test.  Does it adequately explain reality as we experience it?

 

Why is there anything?

What is the first of these realities which we experience in this world?

The first thing we find in our world is simply the world itself.  Why is there any reality at all which we can experience?  The age old question is why there is something rather than nothing?  Which worldview best explains the existence of anything at all?

 

How do the worldviews answer this question?

The theists assert that God is eternal and has the power of bringing something out of nothing.  Atheists must rest content with the idea that this something which we now experience arose out of nothing.  Lawrence Kraus wrote a book attempting to explain this.

 

Why do theists assert that God is eternal?

They reason this way.  If ever there was a time when there was really nothing, then there would be nothing now.  No thing can come from nothing.  If this is true, then clearly there must be some being who is eternal and who has the power of creating stuff.

 

Perhaps this universe itself is eternal.

There are two problems with this.  First, if the universe itself is eternal, then it is difficult to understand where our minds came from.  How could human minds with the ability to reason come from matter?  Second, nearly all physicists agree that this universe had a beginning at some point in time which they identify with the big bang.  Pearson says it very concisely: “Now if there be anything which had a beginning, there must necessarily be something which had no beginning, because nothing can be a beginning to itself.” source

 

Does atheism have anything better to suggest here?

Atheists usually assert that the universe is a brute fact; a fact which has no explanation.  The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy gives the following two options:

If one speaks about the universe, then either it exists because it is caused (e.g., brought about by the intentional act of a supernatural being) or it is inexplicable (the universe just exists; its existence is a brute fact; it has always existed, though perhaps through many phases). This is the question that traditional cosmological arguments connected to natural theology address.  source

Hence, if you are an atheist, you must believe that something can really come from nothing.

 

Why is there truth?

What is the next thing we find in our world which we expect our worldview to explain?

Truth or information.

 

What is truth?

Truth is a quality of propositions.  When a proposition makes an assertion that corresponds to reality, then people call this a true proposition.  See more here.

 

What is it about truth that must be accounted for?

First, that truth is absolute.  It applies to all people in all places and at all times.  Truth is not relative.  Second, all truth or information of any kind can only originate from a mind.  No object can assert a truth.  Truth only comes from a mind.

 

How does the theistic worldview account for the existence of truth?

Theists assert that there is a God who created this world and who created persons in His image with minds by which they are able both to discover truth and to assert and communicate truths.  God’s mind is eternal, and all His ideas are true.  The information which humans believe and communicate is only true in so far as it corresponds to God’s ideas.

 

How do atheists account for the existence of truth?

Atheists do not believe in a deity; and therefore, in their worldview, there is no eternal mind who might have brought truth into existence.  Hence atheists are driven to believe that:

  • there is no such thing as truth;
    • or if there is such a thing as truth, it is relative to each person;
  • there is no such thing as a mind;
    • or if there is such a thing as a mind, it must have evolved out of matter;
  • truth and information can originate from something other than a mind.

 

Why is this absurd?

Because even atheists live as though there were such a thing as truth.  They live as though people have minds.  They expect people to hear what they say, to understand it, and to act on it.  They do hold certain beliefs as true and others as false and that this truth or falsity is universal; i.e. it applies to everyone in all times and places.  Furthermore, no atheist has ever demonstrated how information can arise from something other than a mind.  The idea is absurd and no one can believe it.

 

Help me understand the claim that truth and information can only arise from a mind.

Consider two scenarios:

Suppose that one day at work, you accidentally bumped into a bucket of scrabble letters, and they landed all over the floor.  Suppose further that by some strange coincidence, some of the letters fell in such a way that they spelled the words “you are fired.”  Would it ever occur to you that your boss or someone else was trying to convey a message to you that you were now unemployed?  I suspect you would not feel this way.  On the contrary, you would recognize that it was just pure coincidence that the letters landed this way and that no message was intended and no communication was taking place.  In fact, you would probably have a good laugh at this incredible event and even call your friends over to witness it.

Take, however, the same scenario but now assume that after the letters landed all over the floor, your boss came in and rearranged some of the letters such that they read “you are fired.”  Now would you understand that this was not just a coincidence but that there really was a message being communicated?  I suspect you would, and the reason is simple.  Because some mind intentionally arranged those letters such that information was created and a message communicated.

The difference between the first and second scenarios is simple; there was no mind present in the first, and there was a mind active in the second.  This is what makes all the difference.  Truth and information can only originate in a mind.  Where there is no mind present, there is no information created or truth communicated.  Now the atheist must believe that everything in this world originated by pure coincidence, and hence, there is no way for an atheist to account for the existence of any information in our world anymore than there was any information created in the first scenario above.

 

Doesn’t all the information we encounter in our world originate in a human mind?  Where is there information that we can only trace to God’s mind?

Most theists believe that God has revealed Himself in the Bible; and thus, there is a deposit of truth there that comes from God’s mind.  Atheists, however, do not accept the idea that the Bible is God’s word.  There is another deposit of information, however, which science has discovered and which certainly did not originate in the human mind.

 

What is this?

This information is found in the DNA of any living thing.

 

Why do you call this information?

Because it has an alphabet which contains the blueprint for living things.  Portions of DNA are copied by RNA which then leave the nucleus of the cell and are read by ribosomes.  These ribosomes use the information contained in these RNA strands to grab certain amino acids which they form into new proteins which perform certain functions in the cell.  How does the ribosome know which amino acid to grab?  The order of the letters in the RNA tells it which amino acid is needed next.  Recall that the DNA alphabet is adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T).  The ribosome reads these letters three at a time, and thus knows which amino acid is needed next; see here.

 

What does this have to do with atheism and theism?

Because here we have a massive repository of information that did not originate in any human mind.  It could only have originated in the mind of a Creator.

 

Why is human life uniquely valuable?

 

 

Why are there miracles?

 

 

Why is there guilt?

 

 

Why is there fine-tuning?

 

 

Why is there a Bible?

 

 

Why is there evil?

 

 

Why is there religion?

 

 

Why are there atheists?