Of Modern Apologetics: The value of philosophical arguments for the existence of God in relation to the Gospel


Preface:

After years of developing this thought, I finally put pen to paper, so to speak, and composed a formal essay regarding a great problem that I see in modern-day Apologetics. The catalyst in my passion for this subject came from a great mistake made by our brothers, Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, when they challenged to prove God’s existence without using the Bible (they were eventually met in the challenge by Brian Sapient and “Kelly” of the Rational Response Squad) and struggled. I pray that this would both serve as a testament of my own faith and an exhortation for others to an abandonment of everything but faith, for it is by grace through faith! Glory to God in the highest, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Within the church, Apologetics has gained enormous popularity and, more so, among modern-day Christians; yet, in the pursuit of a solid, intellectual means to defend Christ’s church from pollutants, many have undertaken to defend the truth with a means which has been made far less through the removal of a Gospel-centered witness. The foundations for many of the philosophical arguments are found within the depths of the scripture and this relationship is, sadly, hardly ever stressed. It is for this reason that one’s witness is easily weakened and, without the stress on this foundation, why the matter ceases to be about another’s salvation, degrading instead to solely winning the individual fight between competing mental faculties. The shame of it all is the implication, which shows a certain shame of the Gospel, that is a fear of losing intellectual credibility with those who do not believe; however, if even a rudimentary study of God’s word is maintained, the foundations of such philosophical arguments would not only be understood fully, but would enhance the overall message of both the necessity of God’s existence and that of redemption through Christ Jesus, man’s blameless Savior.

David once wrote that “the heavens declare the glory of God” and “the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1). Later, his son, gifted with wisdom, wrote that much like how “water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man” (Pr. 27:19). Furthermore, Paul writes in a similar manner at the beginning of his letter to the Roman church, in that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” and that after their refusal to serve the true God, He gave them over to their sinful hearts and depraved minds, from which came “sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another,” having also been “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity” (Rm. 1:20-31). These, together, reveal a dichotomy, of sorts, regarding the separation between the visibly extrinsic qualities of God’s intervention on our existence or the effects of the cause and the intrinsic qualities of man, that is, how man acts in relation to existence; the philosophical arguments in question all fit into these two categories.

Arguably, out of the entirety of the arguments which are commonly presented, the most common is that the universe in which we live could not have come from nowhere. It is no far stretch to believe, however, that many who pose such a claim do not fully grasp just how profound of an argument it truly is. The words of David and Paul instantly echo through the mind that the heavens declare God’s glory and intervention and that His invisible qualities are understood from what is seen. Known as the “Cosmological Argument,” it explains that, just as all things which exist in the universe have been caused to exist, so too does the universe require a cause for its existence, for nothing is self-created; this immediately addresses notions of a static, unchanging, or endless universe. The companion to this is far more relevant, though, and addresses the potential for an infinite regression of causes or “movers” as being logically absurd. Arguing from motion, it states that, while the universe in which we live requires a cause, the required cause must be first uncaused or, rather, a mover who is first unmoved by another. The ultimate claim is that if there were an infinite regression of movers, each particular mover would exist as an intermediate mover who is moved by another, but if each mover is an intermediate mover there would then be no primary mover and, thus, nothing would be first moved. These common arguments, while logically sound, do not address the personal nature of the Creator, but rather indicate a general, creative element.

The intent never stops to merely provide an understanding of the existence of a general, creative element for our creation, but that said “creative element” is actually shown to be a personal and intentional Creator, through what is known as the argument from morality. It is the contention of the Christian or, at least, should be, that morality is founded on the will of God and some even go further to argue that the very core directives in how we are to act are founded in the command to be holy, for God is holy (Lev. 11:44-45; 1Pe. 1:16), which is to say that the foundation of morality does not solely spring from God’s commands, but from His very existence. God is holy and we were commanded and meant to be holy, for it is God who created us and, after doing so, saw that His creation was good (Ge. 1:31). Nevertheless, the common form of the argument states that there are indeed objective, moral laws, by which we are to abide and which also transcend the various generations and cultures of the world and against which natural man essentially acts (Rm. 3:23). Man is judged to be a wickedly selfish and sinful creature who is blinded to his own sin (Pr. 4:19; Jn. 3:19; Rm. 1:21-31; Gal. 5:19-21); this leaves the apologist with a firm, biblical platform from which to assert that the objective moral law is not just revealed in its transcendency among cultures and generations, but specifically as a biblically attested truth. The underlying point to this supplementary argument, though, is that the creative force is not merely a general force of creation, but a personal and intimate Creator who deeply cares about that which He created.

All in all, the problem of the arguments rest in the stripping of the very biblical foundations of faith which support the aforementioned arguments. Modern-day Apologetics, in the path that it has taken over the last two hundred years, has ignored an important question from the skeptic, which came as a consequence of the problem: how can the Christian lay claim to possess the absolute truth in light of these proofs? While these proofs certainly develop in such a manner as to point to an intelligent Creator, they do not, alone, assert the existence or validity of the God of Abraham and, more so, the existence of Jesus and His deity. How shameful! To care so much about intellectual credibility that the matter of essential faith is almost wholly ignored is loss and weakness.

Thomas, that most rational disciple, said to his fellow brothers when confronted with word of Jesus’ resurrection, said that he would not believe unless shown the very wounds of the resurrected Lord. A week later, Jesus appeared to him saying, “Peace be with you! Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” To which Thomas responded, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas’ requirement for belief was fulfilled, but Jesus spoke further to the method through which all men should believe, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:24-29). The Christian must accept that man will not be reasoned into heaven and there is no man who may go through logical deduction, for it is by grace that one would be saved through faith and not from their own work, it is the gift of God. Further, it is the revelation by God to the heart of man, as it is written, “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 2:8; Mt. 16:13-20).

What then is the value of the philosophical argument? It rests on the intellectual validation of one’s faith, which is why it is the Gospel which is of primary importance. One’s witness should never rest on the intellectual or rational, but rather the possibility of offense, in which one will either believe God’s word as truth or become wholly offended. Where then is the philosopher, the wise man; where is the scholar? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world? There should be no shame in faith, nor in presenting faith as of primary importance because of its perceived foolishness in the eyes of the world. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and the weak to shame the strong (1Co 1:27). The Word is the sole essential component to the witness and all else is secondary. May the people of God remember the Gospel which is the power of God to the salvation of mankind, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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