Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What is Apologetics? Pt.2


by Hiram R. Diaz III
§ I. Methodology
Having defined apologetics,[1] we will now turn our attention to considering how we are to intellectually defend the faith. This article, in other words, will be dealing with methodology. We understand that the faith is to be defended defensively and offensively, but how are we to do this? Before answering this question, we must look at the nature of attacks on the Christian faith. After doing this, we will proceed to answer what methodology we must employ when defending the Christian faith against the enemies of God.
§ Ia. Epistemology & Authority
Apologetics is, as we have noted, the intellectual defense of the faith against spiritual opposition to the it. We are engaged in war, and this implies that we are under some commanding authority. Christians are under the authority of God, who teaches us knowledge[2] through his Word. We do not derive our knowledge firstly from any other source than the Word of God. All authorities are subordinate to the Word of God by necessity, as we learn from the writer to the Hebrews. Discussing the assurance believers can have of their inheritance as children of God struggling against outer and inner corruption that seeks to destroy us, the writer states —
…when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.[3]
Here we are assured of our everlasting inheritance by the author’s referencing the fact that while men swear some authority higher than themselves in order to give a “final confirmation,” God “since he had no one greater by whom to swear...swore by himself.” This teaches us that God’s Word is the highest source of authority, for God cannot swear by some other authority which would grant his words a final confirmation.
The above situation regarding Abraham, we must note, is not limited to that one event, for there is no situation in which God’s Word is dependent upon some created and mutable thing for its confirmation. We do not argue to the truth of the Scriptures, therefore, but from the truth of the Scriptures. As believers in him who is the Truth, the unchanging and highest authority who could swear by no one higher, we test all things by his Word, and we subordinate all epistemological pursuits to this one — knowing the Word of God.
While the enemies of God are numerous, their ultimate authority is “self.” As the Scriptures state —
…every intention of the thoughts [fallen man’s] heart was only
evil continually[4]
And
        “…the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”[5]
The evil in fallen man’s heart is always self-serving. This has been the case since the fall. In seeking to sin, therefore, the unbeliever places himself above all authorities, serving as the judge of what is right and wrong, what is useful or useless, what is worthy of worship or not. Even when he is superficially under the authority of some false god, he has put himself there for self-serving ends, thereby demonstrating that his god is his belly.[6] 
And from this we must conclude that fallen man’s thoughts are constrained by the desire to be free from the authority of God. Man’s thinking is inherently self-serving apart from the grace of God. The apostle Paul explains this in detail in his epistle to the Romans, writing —
…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
[…]
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.[7]

Fallen man does not seek the truth; he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. Fallen man’s desire in all things is to pursue his own fallen interests, namely sin. Consequently, his thinking is always geared toward that end, even in the most mundane of activities. His authority is his self, and he subordinates all epistemological pursuits to his own sin-formed notions of what is good or bad, or wise or foolish, et al.

§ Ib. Asserting God’s Authority Vs. Fallen Man’s Authority
Since fallen man’s objections to the faith arise not from an honest pursuit of truth but the pursuit of his own rebellion against God, we do not subordinate the truth to the mutable and subjective standards that fallen man employs when it seems to best serve his belly (i.e. sinful appetites). Rather, we challenge the basis of his reasoning when he attempts to challenge the Christian faith, knowing that he is simply trying yet again to (a.)suppress the truth in unrighteousness and (b.)justify his past, present, and future rebellion against God — at least in his own depraved mind. We assert the authority of God’s Word over any other supposed form of authority.
Logically, it cannot be any other way. Every doubt raised against the Christian faith rests upon the assumption that some other epistemological means is more reliable/trustworthy than the Word of God. For instance, consider the following —
Person A: I believe that David was the King of Israel not only because of the testimony of Scripture, but also because there is archeological evidence for the existence of a man named David who ruled over Israel during the time period described in the Bible.
Person B: I’m grateful you’re at least trying to factually verify the Bible, but archeological data is hard to interpret sometimes. Statistically speaking, it’s more likely that the supposed evidence belongs to someone else named David, and not the King of Israel.
Person A: So you don’t accept the historical evidence?
Person B: I accept that it exists, sure. But if I’ve learned anything from history it’s that archaeological studies are at best possibly true. There is no archeological study that can absolutely establish any truth of the Bible, or any other book for that matter.
Note that Person A explains that there is extra-biblical support for his belief in David being the King of Israel, as described in the Bible, yet Person B reveals his lack of confidence in the archeological data by stating that his experience over time has revealed something to him that is certain, viz. Archeological studies are at best possibly true. What is true for Person B is the fact that archeology can only teach us what is possibly true. This implies that Person B thinks the conclusions he has reached over years of experience are more certain and, therefore, of higher epistemological authority than the findings of archeologists.
All skeptical attitudes toward any proposition are the same way. There are no universal skeptics. There can be none in reality, for every doubt raised against a particular proposition implies that the doubter is at least sure that he has good ground for doubting the proposition under consideration. The skeptic affirms a hierarchy of epistemological authorities, even if he denies that he does. He holds to a foundational belief or set of beliefs that inform how he looks at and scrutinizes beliefs and knowledge claims from every aspect of life.
In the final analysis, then, the conflict of spiritual warfare in apologetics is between God’s authority and man’s illegally assumed authority. Rather than subordinate himself to his Creator, he seeks to set himself up as a god, as one who defines good and evil. Our methodology, therefore, must be a demonstration that his ultimate authority, i.e. himself, is incoherent, contradictory, and parasitic on God’s general revelation. We must also demonstrate without our ultimate authority, namely the Word of God in general and special revelation, the unbeliever has neither an epistemological nor a moral grounds for objecting to the Christian faith.


[1] See Diaz, Hiram R. “What is Apologetics? Pt.1,” Biblical Trinitarian,
http://www.biblicaltrinitarian.com/2018/07/what-is-apologetics-pt1.html.
[2] cf. Ps 94:10.
[3] Heb 6:13-18. (emphasis added)
[4] Gen 6:5. (emphasis added)
[5] Gen 8:21. (emphasis added)
[6] cf. Phil 3:19.
[7] Rom 1:18-23.

3 comments:

  1. Th clarity in the words "man’s illegally assumed authority" is a great definiton of rebellion.
    This means any characterization of unregenerate man as "autonomous" is false. Not mentioning names...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Continued in Part 2b is a broken link

    ReplyDelete