Archive for the ‘Evidentialism’ Category

Converstation Starter – Probabilities and God

August 19, 2010

Joe Carter at the “Evangel” blog has post up in which he discusses the idea of calculating the probability of God’s existence (link to post). The basic approach is start with some a priori probability of God’s existence and then adjust the probability based on evidence. Here’s the fundamental problem with the approach: in order to adjust the probability based on the evidence, one must assign a value of significance to the evidence.

For example, “the existence of evil” is evidence. Does the existence of evil make it more or less likely that God exists? Typical atheistic responses are that this evidence makes it very unlikely that God exists.

On the other hand, there is “recognition of moral good,” which also evidence. Does the recognition of moral good make it more or less likely that God exists? Typically, Christian evidentialists try to argue that this evidence is more consistent with God’s existence than with all alternative theories.

The problem, of course, is that one can’t really get at the appropriate weights for the evidence. It’s intuitively obvious that the existence of one tiny injustice is one kind of “existence of evil,” and the reign of Stalin is a much larger example of the existence of evil.

That doesn’t mean that the article or the idea of using probabilities is absolutely useless. It can be a useful conversation starter. It can help you break the ice with an atheist friend. It may even serve as a launching pad to explain to your evidentialist friend (whether Christian or Atheist) the systemic problems of evidentialism.

Ultimately, all the evidence that exists is evidence of God’s existence, because all things were made by Him, and without him was not anything made that was made. The existence of evil is not contrary evidence any more than the existence (so to speak) of darkness is contrary evidence to the sun.

The fact that someone even comes to the mistaken idea that there is a “problem of evil,” is evidence of the fact that God has given them a sense of right wrong – the very fact that they pose a question to his existence is evidence that He exists.

So while I don’t think that there is much apologetic value in the calculations – perhaps as a curiosity it may have some evangelical value to provoke thought among our atheists friends.

– TurretinFan

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By the Mouth of Two Witnesses – Presuppositional vs. Evidential Apologetics

June 23, 2010

Describing her experience in Dr. Caner’s Theology 201 class, Klo22 writes that they learned:

In addition, there are two approaches to apologetics. The first is evidential which represents the concept that Jesus died for the whole world. This is what I believe. The other approach is presuppositionalism which exemplifies the concept that Jesus died only for the elect.

(source)

Apparently describing the same class, faith_to_move writes:

We also discussed the various approaches to apologetics. I do not agree with the presuppositional view. This approach is often known as the Limited Atonement approach. Believes that Christ only died for the elect, and that only the elect can understand the evidence. They must first agree on certain presuppositions before the Gospel can be effectively presented.

I would definitely agree more closely with the evidential view: which would be commonly defined as a General Atonement approach. Basically, the evidential view says that Christ died for the world (John 3:16, right) and that each living soul has a God-shaped hole that can only be filled by God. Therefore, each person is created in the image of God (imago Dei) and can be shown using evidence that a personal God loves them.

(source)

These are not accurate representations of the presuppositional and evidential approaches. The evidential approach attempts to argue that the “majority of the evidence favors my view,” (William Lane Craig and many atheists argue this way) whereas the presuppositional approach attempts to show the superiority of the presuppositions associated with Christianity as contrasted with those of opposing views (Greg Bahnsen famously argued this way).

Neither approach has anything directly to do with the atonement or the scope of the atonement. While presuppositional apologetics is dominated by Reformed apologists, there are also Reformed apologists who apply an evidentialist approach, or other approaches, such as the so-called “classical” approach.

The only way to tie presuppositional apologetics to the atonement is to note that the doctrine of the Limited Atonement is the only doctrine that does not lead to self-contradiction. However, I trust that Dr. Caner is not willing to concede that point.

In fact, I did not initially believe that Dr. Caner had really made claims like the ones indicated in the quotations above, because I have seen the entry in The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, a book that Dr. Caner co-edited. That entry (see here and scroll forward to the sub-section on evidential apologetics) would not lead one to the views expressed above, whether or not that entry is itself totally accurate, and that entry is attributed to Ergun Caner himself.

So, I don’t know what to say. I understand that the book I’ve linked to above is also a textbook for the course. If so, may I encourage folks taking the course to read the textbook rather than relying on the lecture?

-TurretinFan


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