Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, March 12, 2007

Apologetics in Action

Visiting with the Secular Humanists

As a brief introduction to what you are about to read in this post, I believe it is important for Christians to develop a consistent apologetic framework in order to offer not only a defense of the Christian worldview before an unbelieving world, but also to engage unbelievers personally with the gospel. This conviction is what I have been attempting to outline in my series on apologetic evangelism.

(Those interested in the series can find it by scrolling down the page and locating it in the sidebar).

Additionally, I believe the apologetic principles outlined in what is commonly called presuppositional apologetics are the only ones exegetically derived from scripture, capable of defending the Christian faith, and shaking loose the unquestioned faith commitments shaping the epistemological foundations of the unbeliever's view of reality.

That being stated, talk of exegetically derived presuppositionalism and epistemological foundations can be esoteric philosophy to the average church going Christian. In a nutshell, when they hear words like presuppositions and epistemology, they glaze over and assume a blank appearance that is like staring into the eye of a chicken.

"Whatever happened to just telling sinners that Jesus loves 'em and has a wonderful plan for their lives?"

It is helpful to be able to move apologetic methodology out of the realm of the philosophical and theoretical and into real world of the practical. In order to help this transition, I wish to post testimonies of individuals who have put their apologetics into action. The first examples I will post come from Sye TenBruggencate from Canada who runs the Proof that God Exists website. He has been attending the monthly meetings of his local secular humanist club and writes up his encounters in a brief news letter he sends out to a list of friends. I have been both encouraged and informed as I have read his reports, so I asked him if I could have permission to post them on my blog and he graciously said yes.

There are currently 4 reports. I will post the first two in this post, and the next two sometime in the future, maybe next week. Except for the removal of personal names so as to protect the "innocent" as it were, and a few style additions to make them look good, I have left them unedited. I believe Sye's encounters provide an excellent example of one modeling the employment of presuppositional apologetics.

Report #1

Well I just got back from my first "Humanist Association" meeting. It was interesting. There were about 30 in attendance, and I think I was the youngest. Most were seniors.

The topic was "Religion and Prejudice: Cause or Cure."

Well it was quite apparent from the outset that both the speaker and the group felt that fundamentalist religion was the cause of prejudice. Surveys were presented that bore out the position of the speaker. I interjected and asked if it wasn't true that the surveys were based on the presupposition that all religions were wrong and that the position of the survey makers was right. I stated that if the people who took the survey were wrong, then their view towards other religions could certainly be construed as prejudiced.

There was a quote in the flyer they handed to me: "Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." - (Denis Diderot).

I read this to them (with a slight twist) and asked if that would not be considered a highly prejudicial statement in their group: "Men will never be free until the last atheist is strangled with the entrails of the last humanist." The leader of the group appeared shocked until I revealed the source of the quote. The point being that their own group was just as prejudiced, if not more, than the groups they were calling prejudiced.

I also got into a few discussions with some of the attendees during the coffee break, and after the lecture, including one with the presenter. I have no doubt that it was the first time they were presented with the idea that they all held logic, science, and human reason on blind faith. One fellow I was talking with (he said he was a scientist) stammered for quite some time after I confronted him with that proposition, until finally saying, "Well our faith is nothing like faith in God." To which I replied: "I agree with you, it's far worse, it's blind."

Anyhow, that's a brief summation of the meeting. I managed to make a few points throughout the night, and it sure appears that those in attendance have never been confronted with their own arguments turned back on them. I hope that some seeds were planted, and I look forward to the next meeting. The people were quite cordial and did invite me back.

Report #2

Tonight I attended my second 'Humanist Association' meeting. They meet monthly, and I thought it would be a good idea (not to mention my calling) to bring them a Christian perspective. I mentioned the first meeting to a number of people, and interest was expressed in the goings on there. There were about 40 in attendance tonight and the ages were more spread out than the largely senior group of last month.

At tonight's meeting parts of a television special on Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion (among other books), was shown. Needless to say, I took a lot of notes. The special began with Dawkins' claim that faith was 'non-thinking,' and that there was 'no well demonstrated reason to believe in God.' Much of the rest of the special was tearing down the extremism of religion and building up evolution.

I knew from the last meeting that I would not be allowed to ask many questions in the Q & A session, so I tried to get right to the heart of the matter. I stood up and thanked those present for inviting me back to their meeting, and for the kindness they showed to the lone Christian (as far as I knew) attendee.

I addressed the group and asked if they agreed with Dawkins' statement that 'faith' was non-thinking. They did (nods and a few yeses). I then asked since their view is that faith was non-thinking, what should a worldview be built on if not faith?

One fellow answered "evidence."

I said: "You mean evidence and the human reasoning which interprets this evidence?"

Again, there was agreement.

Next I asked, "What is the evidence that your human reasoning is valid?"

Then it started :-)

One fellow (the 'scientist from the last meeting) said: "You're playing tricks on us." To which I answered, "No, I just want to know how you know that the basis of your worldview, your human reasoning, is valid." There were a bunch of non-answers about all that science has done for humanity, but no answer to my question.

I said, "I believe that science is valid as it is a gift from God, as is our human reasoning, I just wanted to demonstrate that you all accept the validity of your human reasoning on blind faith." I further stated that their human reasoning was not the only thing they accepted on faith, there was 'matter coming from non-matter,' 'life coming from non-life,' 'intelligence from non-intelligence,' and 'morality from non-morality,' to name a few. I closed by suggesting that before they condemn faith as the foundation for a worldview that they examine the faith within their own humanistic worldview.

Naturally there were a few jeers, but I was pleased that the meeting took a decidedly different turn, wherein the leader of the group even spent some time mentioning all the good that came from Christianity. He even went so far as to state that the best thing for Christianity was the Protestant Reformation.

I had a few interesting side discussions at the break, and after the meeting a number of people gathered around a discussion I was having with a professed agnostic fellow. He asked why I believed in Christianity. I said, among other things, that Christianity is the only religion that can rationally account for the preconditions of intelligibility and rationality itself. I said that the laws of logic are universal, invariant, and abstract entities, all of which can be accounted for in the Bible and nowhere else.

The fellow thanked me for coming and asked why I would go to a meeting like this. I said that here people cannot duck my questions, and that it was my calling to be there. He thanked me for coming and said that if Christians in fact believed that Hell was real that they should be attending meetings like this to convert those in attendance. I told him that I couldn't convert anyone. He did not understand where I was going with that but he did mention that I could provide guidance for people there to make their own choices. I thought rather than get into a debate on Calvinism, I would leave it at that. I gave him, and several other people the business card for my website www.proofthatgodexists.org

During my conversation with this fellow, the 'scientist' interjected. I asked him, the scientist, if he believed that evolution was true, and that our thoughts are mere by-products of the electrochemical processes in our 'evolved' brains. He did. I presented the 'Doug Wilson' argument of cans of pop. I said if evolution were true, than our thoughts would be like shaking 2 cans of pop and opening them. The fizz being the by-product of the chemical reactions of the pop. I said if our thoughts were like that, then his brain simply 'fizzed humanism is true,' and my brain fizzed 'Christianity is true,' and that arguing as to which fizz was 'right' would be senseless as we could no more change our thoughts than the pop could its fizz. He stated that he indeed did not believe in 'free will,' to which I answered, "then why are you arguing?" He left the conversation and the agnostic fellow said, "That's a good argument" (referring to the pop argument).

Anyhow, I did feel that my presence was less welcome at this meeting then the last, but I enjoyed the opportunity to be there and the hope that seeds were sown.



Blogger Reformed Gary said...

Interesting stuff, I just finished listening to Gene Cook’s Narrow Mind program with the evaluation of Greg Kokul’s (sp?) evidential approach. While I personally have had a positive influence from evidential apologetics, and think it’s important for addressing the questions of unbelievers the presupposition approach appears to be more biblical and God honoring.

It really makes you feel guilty to read comments like ‘if Christians in fact believed that Hell was real that they should be attending meetings like this to convert those in attendance’. I really feel God is working in my life but, sharing my faith is still very scary for me.

I've been reading for a few month's now and really enjoy your blog. It's been a blessing.

1:01 PM, March 14, 2007  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I appreciate the comments Gary.

I am not as down over the use of evidence as Gene may be. I think a Christian can appeal to evidence during an apologetic encounter just as long as he doesn't disregard his commitment to God and His Word and the evidence is in submission to our Christian worldview. Moreover, evidence is valid to use as long as it is not placed as the authority over the Bible. It functions as a way to provide an answer and in some cases, to shut the mouths of our detractors.

Check out my articles (if you haven't already) on apologetics 101. I have that listed in my side bar.


1:15 PM, March 14, 2007  

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