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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Christian Apologetic Witness to a Friend

The following is a response to one of my high school friends who is not a believer in Jesus Christ:

Hi, Kevin,

I think you're being inconsistent. You claim to believe in a scientific worldview on the one hand while on the other claiming to have a vital connection to the divine through your own mystical and subjectivist person experiences--a sort of "ineffable" experience you can't explain in words.

The current state of science is based mostly on the philosophy of logical positivism, pioneered by Comte. Logical positivism's main premise is that we can assert nothing as true that cannot be experienced directly through the five senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing and seeing. That would mean that since God cannot be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or heard in any literal means then God cannot be proved or disproved and therefore isn't "real" in any humanly possible way.

Basically, the assumption of science is materialistic. There is nothing that exists except the material world and what we can directly observe from below as humans. Hence, the only possible conclusion from a scientific or positivistic view is that God only exists in the imagination. This means that your "experiences" are merely hallucinations or delusions and subject only to yourself.

The problem with logical positivism is it doesn't give due attention to other issues like language and mathematics, both of which operate largely in conceptual terms that occur only in our thoughts. Abstract thinking is not strictly empirical, in other words.

When it comes to the concept of direct revelation from God via Holy Scripture and Jesus Christ, the philosopher Immanuel Kant said that it was impossible to know anything about the noumenal or spiritual realm since all we can know has to be known through reason and reason alone. This put Christianity and every other religion outside the realm of verifiable truth if we accept the criteria of logical positivism and Kant's theology.

However, Christianity itself has been inconsistent on how to approach an "apologetic" or philosophical defense of the Christian faith. Anselm, for example, said that faith precedes reason and after one comes to faith then and only then faith may use a "sanctified" reason to seek further understanding of the Christian faith.

Thomas Aquinas represents the other major school. Aquinas said that reason may lead to faith apart from any special revelation like Holy Scripture or a belief in God or in Jesus Christ. Hence, Aquinas formulated the traditional/classical arguments for God's existence we know as the cosmological argument and the teleological argument. The cosmological argument is based on Aristotelian philosphy where there was assumed to be a first cause or prime mover in the origin of the universe. So tracing cause and effect backwards to the first cause should lead one to the conclusion that God was the first cause. The teleological argument is the argument from design. The universe is so complex and so intricate that it must have had an intelligence who designed it.

Anselm also formulated one of the classical arguments for the existence of God. The ontological argument is based on Anselm's idea that since there is no higher concept that can be thought of except the concept of a perfect being possessing attributes of perfection, that being must in fact exist otherwise we could not have thought of such a concept in the first place. Essentially, Anselm's argument is based on being or ontology. It's a Christian adaptation of Platonic dualism. Basically, behind the material world is a spiritual realm of perfection that makes the material world possible. Hence, God exists because there is something here instead of nothing.

Of course modernism, postmodernism, and scientific positivism have all basically destroyed the credibility of these arguments for most people in our culture and time. There are variations on these arguments like C.S. Lewis' moral argument, basically a version of the ontological argument. But most modern people cannot accept any view that they see as unscientific. But that virtually makes religion something that isn't "real." Basically, religion is just man's creative imagination whereby he or she makes God to be what he or she wants to conceive Him to be.

The implication of this is that your idea of God is meaningless and so is mine. There is no God except in your mind. This world is all there is. You live and then you die and beyond that there is nothing. Religion according to that view is just man's way of coping with his mortality and the threat of non-being that confronts us all. In fact, one of the postmodernist theologians of the liberal German continental brand, Paul Tillich, wrote a book called, The Courage to Be." His book was written during the time of the first world war when the overly optimistic theology of the liberal left was disputed by the reality of man's inhumanity to man. Man apparently is not basically good nor evolving to a higher civilization and humanity.

Maybe Christianity is caricatured, ridiculed, and outright ignored at times. I'm far from a "fundamentalist." I am in favor of utilizing reason while fundamentalists reject reason altogether. I also believe that Christianity and science go hand in hand, as most Enlightenment and pre-Enlightenment history shows convincingly. Newton and most other Enlightenment era scientists were theists of one brand or another.

It's only when we reach the postmodern era that atheism begins to exert itself as superior, by presupposing certain things, and placing the burden of proof on religion to prove otherwise. I for one do not think atheism has a superior place de facto since it cannot answer the most basic questions of being and existence. And we should not forget that both philosophy and theology are sciences that deal with reason and abstract thinking, despite the logical positivist attack on such.

I believe that Christianity is the only religion which is based solidly in history and on historical events that can be substantiated by eyewitness testimony. Not only this, but modern western civilization and modern science as we know it began with the Christian worldview that God's creation is a real material world, not merely an illusion as in the Hindu worldview. A real material world can be objectively studied and understood precisely because it is unchanging and consistent because God Himself is unchanging and sustains it by His hand. This is precisely why virtually every pre-20th century scientist was a theist of one brand or another, many of whom where orthodox Christians.

I hope this helps. I will be sending you a related article on the theological commitments of many of the pre-20th century scientists.

Sincerely yours,

Charlie

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