Answering the Question – “Does God Exist?” – Part 1

*Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe – October 19, 2020 – Pastor David Craig 

(Notes Adapted from Dr. William Lane Craig)

Does God exist? Here are 5 Good Reasons to Believe That God Exists:

  1. God makes sense of the origin of the universe.
  2. God makes sense of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.
  3. God makes sense of objective moral values in the world.
  4. God makes sense of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
  5. God can be immediately known and experienced.
  • C. S. Lewis once remarked that God is not the sort of thing one can be moderately interested in. If God does not exist, there’s no reason to be interested in God at all. On the other hand, if God does exist, then this is of uttermost importance.

3 Reasons Why God’s Existence Makes A Difference

Reason 1: Life is Ultimately Meaningless Without God

  • If God does not exist, life is ultimately meaningless. If your life is doomed to end in death, then ultimately it does not matter how you live. In the end it makes no ultimate difference whether you existed or not. Your life might have a relative significance in that you influenced others or affected the course of history. But ultimately mankind is doomed to perish in the heat death of the universe. Ultimately it makes no difference who you are or what you do. Your life is inconsequential.
  • Thus, the contributions of the scientist to the advance of human knowledge, the research of the doctor to alleviate pain and suffering, the efforts of the diplomat to secure peace in the world, the sacrifices of good people everywhere to better the lot of the human race—ultimately all these come to nothing. Thus, if atheism is true, life is ultimately meaningless.

Reason 2: Without God We Live Without Hope

  • If God does not exist, then we must ultimately live without hope. If there is no God, then there is ultimately no hope for deliverance from the shortcomings of our finite existence. For example, there is no hope for deliverance from evil. Although many people ask how God could create a world involving so much evil, by far most of the suffering in the world is due to man’s own inhumanity to man. The horror of two world wars during the last century effectively destroyed the 19th century’s naive optimism about human progress. If God does not exist, then we are locked without hope in a world filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering, and there is no hope for deliverance from evil. If there is no God, there is no hope of deliverance from aging, disease, and death. Although it may be hard for you as who are younger to contemplate, the sober fact is that unless you die young, someday you—you yourself—will be an old man or an old woman, fighting a losing battle with aging, struggling against the inevitable advance of deterioration, disease, perhaps senility. And finally and inevitably you will die. There is no afterlife beyond the grave. Atheism is thus a philosophy without hope.

Reason 3: If God Exists, You Can Know His Love Personally

On the other hand, if God does exist, then not only is there meaning and hope, but there is also the possibility of coming to know God and His love personally. That the infinite God should love you and want to be your personal friend! This would be the highest status a human being could enjoy! Clearly, if God exists, it makes not only a tremendous difference for mankind in general, but it could make a life-changing difference for you as well.

Now admittedly none of this shows that God exists. But it does show that it makes a tremendous difference whether God exists. Therefore, even if the evidence for and against the existence of God were absolutely equal, the rational thing to do, I think, is to believe in Him. That is to say, it seems to me positively irrational when the evidence is equal to prefer death, futility, and despair over hope, meaningfulness and happiness.

5 GOOD REASONS TO BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS:

(1) GOD MAKES SENSE OF THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE

  • Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Why everything exists instead of just nothing? Typically atheists have said the universe is just eternal, and that’s all. But surely this is unreasonable. Just think about it for a minute. If the universe never had a beginning, that means that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the existence of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions.
  • For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically, you get self-contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century, states, the infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea (David Hilbert, “On the Infinite,” in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam [Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964], pp. 139, 141).
  • But that entails that since past events are not just ideas, but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore, the series of past events can’t go back forever; rather the universe must have begun to exist. This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics.
  • In one of the most startling developments of modern science, we now have pretty strong evidence that the universe is not eternal in the past but had an absolute beginning about 13.8 billion years ago in a cataclysmic event known as the Big Bang. What makes the Big Bang so startling is that it represents the origin of the universe from literally nothing. For all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, came into being at the Big Bang.
  • As the physicist P. C. W. Davies explains, “the coming into being of the universe, as discussed in modern science . . . is not just a matter of imposing some sort of organization . . . upon a previous incoherent state, but literally the coming-into-being of all physical things from nothing” (ABC Science Online, “The Big Questions: In the Beginning,” Interview of Paul Davies by Philp Adams, http://aca.mq.edu.au/pdavies.html.).
  • Of course, alternative theories have been crafted over the years to try to avoid this absolute beginning, but none of these theories has commended itself to the scientific community as more plausible than the Big Bang theory. In fact, in 2003 Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin were able to prove that any universe which is, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have an absolute beginning. Vilenkin pulls no punches:
  • “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning” (Alex Vilenkin, Many Words in One: The Search for Other Universes [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p. 176).
  • That problem was nicely captured by Anthony Kenny of Oxford University. He writes, “A proponent of the Big Bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the universe came from nothing and by nothing” (Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence [New York: Schocken Books, 1969], p. 66).
  • But surely that doesn’t make sense! Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being.

We can summarize our argument thus far as follows:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
  • Given the truth of the two premises, the conclusion necessarily follows. From the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe. It must be uncaused because we’ve seen that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. It must be timeless and therefore changeless—at least without the universe—because it created time. Because it also created space, it must transcend space as well and be immaterial, not physical.
  • It must also be personal. For how else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect like the universe? If the cause were a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without the effect.
  • For example, the cause of water’s freezing is the temperature’s being below 0˚ Centigrade. If the temperature were below 0˚ from eternity past, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity. It would be impossible for the water to begin to freeze just a finite time ago. So if the cause is permanently present, then the effect should be permanently present as well. The only way for the cause to be timeless and the effect to begin in time is for the cause to be a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time without any prior determining conditions.
  • For example, a man sitting from eternity could freely will to stand up. Thus, we are brought, not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe, but to its personal Creator.
  • Isn’t it incredible that the big bang theory thus confirms what the Christian theist has always believed: that in the beginning God created the universe? Which makes more sense: that the Christian theist is right or that the universe popped into being uncaused out of nothing?

(2) GOD MAKES SENSE OF THE FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE 

FOR INTELLIGENT LIFE.

  • During the last 40 years or so, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. Scientists once believed that whatever the initial conditions of the universe, eventually intelligent life might evolve. But we now know that our existence is balanced on a knife’s edge. The existence of intelligent life depends upon a conspiracy of initial conditions which must be fine-tuned to a degree that is literally incomprehensible and incalculable.

This fine-tuning is of two sorts:

First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, you find appearing in them certain constants, like the gravitational constant. These constants are not determined by the laws of nature. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for these constants.

Second, in addition to these constants there are certain arbitrary quantities which are just put in as initial conditions on which the laws of nature operate, for example, the amount of entropy or the balance between matter and anti-matter in the universe. Now all of these constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life-permitting values. Were these constants or quantities to be altered by a hair’s breadth, the life-permitting balance would be destroyed and life would not exist.

  • For example, the physicist P. C. W. Davies has calculated that a change in the strength of gravity or of the atomic weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe. The cosmological constant which drives the inflation of the universe and is responsible for the recently discovered acceleration of the universe’s expansion is inexplicably fine-tuned to around one part in 10120.
  • Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of the Big Bang’s low entropy condition existing by chance are on the order of one out of 10 10 (123). Penrose comments, “I cannot even recall seeing anything else in physics whose accuracy is known to approach, even remotely, a figure like one part in 1010 (123)” (Roger Penrose, “Time-Asymmetry and Quantum Gravity,” in Quantum Gravity 2, ed. C. J. Isham, R. Penrose, and D. W. Sciama [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981], p. 249).   And it’s not just each constant or quantity which must be exquisitely finely-tuned; their ratios to one another must be also finely-tuned. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers. Now there are three possibilities for explaining the presence of this remarkable fine-tuning of the universe: physical necessity, chance, or design.
  • The first alternative holds that there is some unknown Theory of Everything (T.O.E.) which would explain the way the universe is. It had to be that way, and there was really no chance or little chance of the universe’s not being life-permitting.
  • By contrast, the second alternative states that the fine-tuning is due entirely to chance. It’s just an accident that the universe is life-permitting, and we’re the lucky beneficiaries. The third alternative rejects both of these accounts in favor of an intelligent Mind behind the cosmos, who designed the universe to permit life.

Which of these alternatives is the most plausible?

  • The first alternative seems extraordinarily implausible. There is just no physical reason why these constants and quantities should have the values they do. As Paul Davies states,
  • “Even if the laws of physics were unique, it doesn’t follow that the physical universe itself is unique. . . . the laws of physics must be augmented by cosmic initial conditions. . . . There is nothing in present ideas about ‘laws of initial conditions’ remotely to suggest that their consistency with the laws of physics would imply uniqueness. Far from it. . . . . . . it seems, then, that the physical universe does not have to be the way it is: it could have been otherwise” (Paul Davies, The Mind of God [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992], p. 169).
  • For example, the most promising candidate for a T.O.E. to date, super-string theory or M-Theory, fails to predict uniquely our universe.
  • In fact, string theory allows a “cosmic landscape” of around 10500 different universes governed by the present laws of nature, so that it does nothing to render the observed values of the constants and quantities physically necessary.
  • So what about the second alternative, that the fine-tuning of the universe is due to chance?
  • The problem with this alternative is that the odds against the universe’s being life-permitting are so incomprehensibly great that they cannot be reasonably faced. Even though there will be a huge number of life-permitting universes lying within the cosmic landscape, nevertheless the number of life-permitting worlds will be unfathomably tiny compared to the entire landscape, so that the existence of a life-permitting universe is fantastically improbable.
  • Students or laymen who blithely assert, “It could have happened by chance!” simply have no conception of the fantastic precision of the fine-tuning requisite for life. They would never embrace such a hypothesis in any other area of their lives—for example, in order to explain how there came to be overnight a car in one’s driveway.
  • Some people have tried to escape this problem by claiming that we really shouldn’t be surprised at the finely-tuned conditions of the universe, for if the universe were not fine-tuned, then we wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it!
  • Given that we are here, we should expect the universe to be fine-tuned. But such reasoning is logically fallacious. We can show this by means of a parallel illustration. Imagine you’re traveling abroad and are arrested on trumped-up drug charges and dragged in front of a firing squad of 100 trained marksmen, all with rifles aimed at your heart, to be executed. You hear the command given: “Ready! Aim! Fire!” and you hear the deafening roar of the guns. And then you observe that you are still alive, that all of the 100 trained marksmen missed!

Now what would you conclude?

  • “Well, I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised that they all missed. After all, if they hadn’t all missed, then I wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it! Given that I am here, I should expect them all to miss.” Of course not!
  • You would immediately suspect that they all missed on purpose, that the whole thing was a set-up, engineered for some reason by someone. While you wouldn’t be surprised that you don’t observe that you are dead, you’d be very surprised, indeed, that you do observe that you are alive. In the same way, given the incredible improbability of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life, it is reasonable to conclude that this is not due to chance, but to design.
  • In order to rescue the alternative of chance, its proponents have therefore been forced to adopt the hypothesis that there exists an infinite number of randomly ordered universes composing a sort of World Ensemble or multiverse of which our universe is but a part. Somewhere in this infinite World Ensemble finely-tuned universes will appear by chance alone, and we happen to be one such world.

There are, however, at least two major failings of the World Ensemble hypothesis:

First, there’s no evidence that such a World Ensemble exists. No one knows if there are other worlds. Moreover, recall that Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin proved that any universe in a state of continuous cosmic expansion cannot be infinite in the past. Their theorem applies to the multiverse, too. Therefore, since the past is finite, only a finite number of other worlds can have been generated by now, so that there’s no guarantee that a finely-tuned world will have appeared in the ensemble.

Second, if our universe is just a random member of an infinite World Ensemble, then it is overwhelmingly more probable that we should be observing a much different universe than what we in fact observe.

  • Roger Penrose has calculated that it is inconceivably more probable that our solar system should suddenly form by the random collision of particles than that a finely-tuned universe should exist. (Penrose calls it “utter chicken feed” by comparison in The Road to Reality [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005], pp. 762-5.) So if our universe were just a random member of a World Ensemble, it is inconceivably more probable that we should be observing a universe no larger than our solar system.
  • Or again, if our universe were just a random member of a World Ensemble, then we ought to be observing highly extraordinary events, like horses’ popping into and out of existence by random collisions, or perpetual motion machines, since such things are vastly more probable than all of nature’s constants and quantities’ falling by chance into the virtually infinitesimal life-permitting range.
  • Observable universes like those are much more plenteous in the World Ensemble than worlds like ours and, therefore, ought to be observed by us. Since we do not have such observations, that fact strongly disconfirms the multiverse hypothesis. On atheism, at least, it is therefore highly probable that there is no World Ensemble.
  • So once again, the view that Christian theists have always held, that there is an intelligent designer of the universe, seems to make much more sense than the atheistic view that the universe just happens to be by chance fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of intelligent life.

We can summarize this second argument as follows:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
  3. Therefore, it is due to design.

*You can subscribe to Valley Baptist Church San Rafael on YouTube to hear the Apologetics lectures from the series: Knowing What and Why You Believe, as well as Pastor David Craig’s sermons on the book of Daniel in the Series: Going Against the Flow of Culture.

Resources On Apologetics From Dr. William Lane Craig

Dr. William Lane Craig’s website: www.reasonablefaith.org

Cowan, Steven, and Stanley N. Gundry, eds. Five Views On Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. (W.L. Craig presents the case for the Classical View).

Craig, William Lane, and Joseph E. Gorra. A Reasonable Response: Answers To Tough Questions On God, Christianity, And The Bible. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013.

Craig, William Lane. Does God Exist? Pine Mountain, GA: Impact 360 Institute, 2014.

Craig, William Lane, & Meister, Chad. God Is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009.

Craig, William Lane and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong,. God? A Debate Between A Christian And An Atheist. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

_______. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.

_______. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010.

_______. The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. Eugene, OR: Wipe and Stock Publishers, 2000.

How To DO Apologetics?

*#2 In the Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe – Pastor David Craig 

The Three Most Common Methods (Means or Ways) of Doing Apologetics

  1. CLASSICAL – Operates in a two or three-step process (philosophical, theistic, and evidential). Working from the vantage point of certain undeniable foundational principles, such as the laws of logic and self-existence, certain philosophical questions are addressed, such as truth, reality, meaning, and morality. Since belief in God as creator is essential for an individual to become a Christian (Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”), the primary goal is to help the unbeliever understand reality untainted by any false assumptions. The second step offers evidence for the existence of God, usually in the form of traditional theistic arguments and empirical data such as manuscript and archaeological evidence. 

(Notes adapted from House and Holden, Charts of Apologetics And Christian Evidences, Chart 8)

  1. EVIDENTIAL-Defends and supports Christianity as factual by applying historical evidence, including archaeological, bibliographical, and experiential evidence as well as rational evidence (philosophical reasoning with no need for empirical support, as when showing logical contradictions in statements). Truth claims of Christianity are believed to be reasonable and highly probable, though most evidentipalists believe there are no indisputable historical facts. Evidentialists use a one-step approach that demonstrates both God’s existence and which variety of theism is true.
  1. PRESUPPOSITIONAL– The presuppositional approach starts by assuming Christian truth about God and Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture and reasons from Christianity. The presuppositionalist apologetic to the unbeliever begins by reasoning “from” Christianity through special revelation (Bible). The presuppositionalist assumes the content revealed in Scripture to be true and encourages the unbeliever to do the same since these assumed biblical truths offer the only possible foundation and explanation for life and godliness—a framework on which to make sense of the world and God the way they actually exist. Due to the effects of sin, the unbeliever’s presuppositions are deemed irrational and inadequate to understand or explain the basis for religion, morals, communication, even beauty. In some instances presuppositionalists provide the tools for one to make sense of reality and show that Christianity offers the only foundation and framework on which to make sense of the world and God.

Criticisms of The Three Views:

(1) CLASSICAL – Overemphasis on reason appears to make an infinite God subject to logic and finite human reason, thus devaluing Christianity. God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts therefore man should not try to intellectual comprehend Him (Isaiah 55:8-9).

The Classical Response to This Criticism: God is not subject to our logic or finite human reason; only man’s theories and propositions about Him need to be tested by the rules of thought. Though God’s ways and thoughts are beyond our finite reason, they are not contrary to reason (Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” ; 1 Timothy 6:20, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge.”

Primary Exponents of Classical Apologetics:

Augustine of Hippo (Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, 354 – 430 AD), also known as Saint Augustine, was a theologian, philosopher, and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia, Roman North Africa. His writings influenced the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity, and he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers of the Latin Church in the Patristic Period. His many important works include The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, and Confessions.

Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. Major writings: On Being and Essence; The Principles of Nature; Summa contra gentiles; Summa theologiae.

C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) was a Irish writer and lay theologian. He held academic positions in English literature at both Oxford University (Magdalen College, 1925–1954) and Cambridge University (Magdalene College, 1954–1963). He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

R.C. Sproul (February 13, 1939 – December 14, 2017) was an American Reformed theologian and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. He was the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries (named for the Ligonier Valley just outside Pittsburgh, where the ministry started as a study center for college and seminary students) and could be heard daily on the Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast in the United States and internationally. Under Sproul’s direction, Ligonier Ministries produced the Ligonier Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which would eventually grow into the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, of which Sproul, alongside Norman Geisler, was one of the chief architects.Sproul has been described as “the greatest and most influential proponent of the recovery of Reformed theology in the last century.” Some of His Most Important writings are: *The Holiness of God; Chosen by God; Classical Apologetics; *Reason To Believe; *Defending Your Faith; Knowing Scripture; Essential Truths of the Christian Faith; Pleasing God; Enjoying God; Willing to Believe; The Work of Christ; Now, That’s A Good Question!; Faith Alone; Getting the Gospel Right; If There’s A God Why Are There Atheists?; The Glory of Christ; Not A Chance; God’s Love; The Consequences of Ideas; Does God Exist? ; What is Repentance?

Norman L. Geisler (1932 – 2019) was an American Christian systematic theologian and philosopher. He was the co-founder of two non-denominational evangelical seminaries (Veritas International University and Southern Evangelical Seminary). He held a Ph.D. in philosophy from Loyola University and made scholarly contributions to the subjects of classical Christian apologetics, systematic theology, the history of philosophy, philosophy of religion, Calvinism, Roman Catholicism, Biblical inerrancy, Bible difficulties, ethics, and more. He was the author, coauthor, or editor of over 90 booksand hundreds of articles. His most notable writings: *I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist; *Christian Apologetics; Christian Ethics; Apologetics in the New Age; The Big Book of Bible Difficulties; Introduction to Philosophy; Come Let Us Reason; Twelve Points That Show Christianity is True; Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.

William Lane Craig(born August 23, 1949) is an American analytic philosopher[5] and Christian theologian, apologist, and author.He is Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University and Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology (Biola University). His Notable Writings include: *Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics; The Kalām Cosmological Argument; *On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision; Hard Questions, Real Answers; The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus; Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time; Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; Learning Logic.

J.P. Moreland (born March 9, 1948), is an American philosopher, theologian, and Christian apologist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California. His Major Writings consist of: *Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity; Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters; Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology; Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality; Body & Soul: Human Nature the Crisis in Ethics; The God Conversation: Using Stories and Illustrations to Explain Your Faith; Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique; Christianity and the Nature of Science; Consciousness and the Existence of God: A Theistic Argument; *Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul; The God Question; Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult: A Beginner’s Guide to Life’s Big Questions; The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism; The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering The Disciplines of The Good Life; In Search of a Confident Faith: Overcoming Barriers to Trusting in God; Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power; Does God Exist? A Debate with Kai Nielsen.

Tim Keller (born September 23, 1950) is an American pastor, theologian, and Christian apologist. He is the Chairman and co-Founder of Redeemer City to City, which trains pastors for ministry in global cities. He is also the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York, and the author of The New York Times bestselling books *The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (2008),Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (2014),and *The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (2008).The prequel for the latter is *Making Sense of GOD: An Invitation to the Skeptical (2016).

(2) EVIDENTIAL– Empirical evidences are interpreted through presuppositions and the framework of one’s worldview and therefore should be offered after the philosophical considerations have been addressed.

The Evidential Response to This Criticism: Evidence is not necessarily presented as self-evident conclusive verification; rather it gives good reason and high probability for one to conclude that the truths of Christianity are consistent with the facts. Many philosophical arguments, such as those offered to demonstrate God’s existence (e.g., cosmological and theological arguments) present premises which must be supported by empirical evidence.

Primary Exponents of Evidential Apologetics:

William Paley (1743 – 1805) was an English clergyman, Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. Major writings: Natural Theology; and *Evidences of Christianity.

Edward John Carnell (1919 – 1967) was a prominent Christian theologian and apologist, was an ordained Baptist pastor, and served as President of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Major Writings: *An Introduction to Christian Apologetics; The Case For Biblical Christianity; The Case for Orthodox Theology; Christian Commitment: An Apologetic; A Philosophy of the Christian Religion.

John Warwick Montgomery (born October 18, 1931) is a lawyer, professor, Lutheran theologian, and author living in France. He was born in Warsaw, New York, United States. Since 2014, he has been Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at Concordia University, Wisconsin,and continues to work as a barrister specializing in religious freedom cases in international Human Rights law.Major Writings: Defending the Faith in a Messy World: A Christian Apologetics Primer; *Always Be Ready: A Primer on Defending the Christian Faith; *Faith Founded on Fact: Essays in Evidential Apologetics; History and Christianity; Evidence for Faith; How Do We Know There Is a God?; Christianity for the Tough Minded; Where Is History Going?

Josh McDowell (born August 17, 1939) is an evangelical apologist and evangelist.He is the author or co-author of over 150 books. His book Evidence That Demands a Verdict was ranked 13th in Christianity Today‘s list of most influential evangelical books published after World War II. Major Writings: *More Than a Carpenter; *Evidence That Demands a Verdict; God-Breathed: The Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture; The Unshakable Truth; Evidence for The Resurrection.

Lee Strobel (born January 25, 1952) is an American Christian author and a former investigative journalist (Legal Editor of the Chicago Tribune). He has written several books, including four which received ECPA Christian Book Awards (1994, 1999, 2001, 2005)and a series which addresses challenges to the veracity of Christianity.He also hosted a television program called Faith Under Fire on PAX TVand runs a video apologetics web site. Strobel has been interviewed on numerous national television programs, including ABC’s 20/20, Fox News, and CNN. Notable Writings: *The Case for Christ; *The Case for a Creator; The Case for Faith; The Case for Miracles; The Case for Grace; The Case for Hope; God’s Outrageous Claims; In Defense of Jesus.

J. Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including *Cold-Case Christianity, *God’s Crime Scene, and *Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels. He has been featured as a cold case homicide expert on Fox 11 Los Angeles, truTV (formerly Court TV), and NBC.

(3) PRESUPPOSITIONAL– Presupposing the truth of Christian theism is arguing in a circle and lacks a basis to justify its assumptions as to why one should presuppose Christianity. The apostle Paul says that God’s existence and attributes can be “clearly seen” (Romans 1:18-20) since they have been “shown” to the unbelieving world through “the things that have been made” (nature). Therefore, the unbeliever’s problem is not one of not understanding the truth of God, but of suppression which leads to not receiving the truth.

The Presuppositional Response to This Criticism: The Presuppositional basis is not circular since its argument is transcendental, which demonstrates that proof is possible only because of God’s existence.

Primary Exponents of Presuppositional Apologetics: 

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) Abraham Kuijper, publicly known as Abraham Kuyper, was Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905, an influential neo-Calvinist theologian and also a journalist. His most influential writings: Lectures on Calvinism; *Common Grace; Pro Rege; The Work of The Holy Spirit.

Herman Bavinck (Born in1854, Hoogeveen, Drenthe – July 1921, Amsterdam) was a Dutch Reformed theologian and churchman. He was a significant scholar in the Calvinist tradition, alongside Abraham Kuyper and B. B. Warfield. His most influential writings: Reformed Dogmatics (4 Volumes); *Christian Worldview; Reformed Ethics; Our Reasonable Faith; Saved By Grace.

Cornelius Van Til (May 3, 1895 – April 17, 1987)  was a Dutch-American Christian philosopher and Reformed theologian, who is credited as being the originator of modern presuppositional apologetics – a Professor for many years at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. His most influential writings: *Christian Apologetics; The Defense of the Faith; An Introduction to Systematic Theology; Christian Theistic Evidences; Common Grace And The Gospel; Why I Believe In God.

Gordon Clark (August 31, 1902 – April 9, 1985) was an American philosopher and Calvinist theologian. He was a leading figure associated with presuppositional apologetics and was chairman of the Philosophy Department at Butler University for 28 years.  His most influential writings: Logic; Predestination; God and Evil; An Introduction to Christian Philosophy; Religion, Reason, and Revelation; *Christian View of Men and Things; The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God.

Greg Bahnsen (September 17, 1948 – December 11, 1995) was an American Calvinist philosopher, apologist, and debater. He was a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and a full-time Scholar in Residence for the Southern California Center for Christian Studies (SCCCS).   His most influential writings: *Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith; Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended; Van Til’s Apologetic.

John M. Frame (born April 8, 1939 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is an American Christian philosopher and Calvinist theologian especially noted for his work in epistemology and presuppositional apologetics, systematic theology, and ethics. His most influential writings: *Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief; Christianity Considered: A Guide For Skeptics and SeekersCornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought; Systematic Theology; The Doctrine of God; The Doctrine of the Christian Life; The Doctrine of the Word of God; The Doctrine of the Knowledge of GodA History of Western Philosophy and Theology; Theology in Three Dimensions; We Are All Philosophers; Nature’s Case for God; *No Other God; Salvation Belongs to the Lord.

RESOURCES COMPARING APOLOGETICS METHODOLOGY

Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman Jr. Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith.  Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2005

Gordon R. Lewis. Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims: Approaches to Christian Apologetics. Chicago: Moody Press, 1977. (Unfortunately Out of Print)

Brian K. Morely. Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015

Contributors: William Lane Craig (Classical), Gary R. Habermas (Evidentialist), John M. Frame (Presuppositional), Kelly James Clark (Reformed Epistemolgy), Paul D, Feinberg (Cumulative Case). Five Views of Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

EVIDENTIAL VERSUS PRESUPPOSITIONAL APOLOGETICS

These two systems of apologetics are mutually exclusive approaches, whereas the other systems are complementary approaches, often borrowing from each other’s methodology. Evidentialism reasons for or to Christian truths; presuppositionalism reasons from Christian truths.


EVIDENTIALPRESUPPOSITIONAL
Nature of ManDepravity is total, it is extensive (to every part), but not rendering mankind’s faculties  unresponsive to GodDepravity is total, it is extensive (to every part), it is intensive (rendering every human faculty unresponsive to God
Image of GodDamaged in manDamaged in man
Spiritual DeathLikened to “sickness,” “blindness,” and “impurity”Likened to a corpse
Unregenerate MindAble to perceive spiritual truthUnable to perceive spiritual truth
Unregenerate WillAble to receive salvation only through the Holy SpiritAble to receive salvation only through the Holy Spirit
Nature of LogicApplies to all reality, finite and infiniteApplies only to finite reality; infinite reality is beyond logic
Apologetics and EvnagelismSees a distinctionSees no distinction
Purpose of ApologeticsTo present evidence to the unbeliever and to persuade through logical evidenceTo defend the Christian faith, while recognizing no common ground with the unbeliever
Value of Apologetics to the UnbelieverTo give evidence and reasons for faithNone
Value of Apologetics to the BelieverTo confirm in the faith and render faith credible to the unbelieverTo confirm in the faith

*Another Great Apologist who is hard to categorize would be Ravi Zacharias:

Ravi Zacharias (March 26, 1946 – May 19, 2020) was an Indian-born Canadian-American Christian apologist.Zacharias was the author of more than 30 books on Christianity,including *Can Man Live Without God?; Beyond Opinion; The End of Reason; The Real Face of Atheism; Deliver Us From Evil; Has Christianity Failed You?

*You can watch the Lecture by Pastor David Craig on YouTube and Subscribe to the Valley Baptist Baptist San Rafael Channel; there are also many sermons available as well. See you there!

What Is Apologetics?

*#1 in the Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe by Pastor David Craig 

“When I find something in my faith difficult to believe, it often helps to consider how the alternative is *more* difficult to believe.” ~ Gavin Ortlund

What Is Apologetics? (Some Definitions)

“The discipline that offers an apology, or defense, of Christianity. Apologetics (from Gk. apologia, ‘defense’) both defends the Christian faith from its detractors and clarifies misunderstandings of it. In the early church, the apologists wrote to Roman elders who were persecuting the church and argued the case that Christians should not be punished or killed, because they were doing nothing wrong. They also clarified misunderstandings such as charges that Christians were atheists, cannibals, and committers of incest. Apologetics deals with arguments for the existence of God, the reliability of Scripture, evidence for the resurrection, the problem of evil, and more.” ~ Greg R. Allison, The Compact Dictionary Of Theological Terms, Kindle Loc. 269

“Apologetics, in its most basic form, is the practice of offering an appeal and a defense for the Christian faith. In other words, apologetics, through word and deed, answers both why a person can believe (defense) and why a person should believe (appeal). The goal of apologetics is to clear away the debris of doubt and skepticism in order to make a path for the gospel to be heard.” ~ Joshua D. Chawtraw and Mark D. Allen, Apologetics At The Cross, p. 17.

“Apologetics is concerned with the defense of the Christian faith against charges of falsehood, inconsistency, or credulity.” ~ Steven B. Cowan, Five Views On Apologetics, p. 8.

“Apologetics has to do with defending, or making a case for, the truth of the Christian faith. It is an intellectual discipline that is usually said to serve at least two purposes: (1) to bolster the faith of Christian believers, and (2) to aid in the task of evangelism. Apologists seek to accomplish these goals in two distinct ways. One is by refuting objections to the Christian faith, such as the problem of evil or the charge that key Christian doctrines (e.g. the Trinity, incarnation, etc.) are incoherent. The apologetic task can be called negative or defensive apologetics. The second, perhaps complementary, way apologists fulfill their purpose is by offering positive reasons for Christian faith. The latter called positive or offensive apologetics, often takes the form of arguments for God’s existence or for the resurrection and deity of Christ but are by no means limited to these.”  ~ Steven B. Cowan, Five Views On Apologetics, p. 8.

“That branch of Christian theology that has as its aim the reasoned advocacy of the Christian faith. It includes both positive arguments for the truth of Christianity and rebuttals of criticisms leveled at it.” ~ Millard J. Erickson, The Concise Dictionary Of Christian Theology, p. 14

“Apologetics is the branch of theology that offers a rational defense for the truthfulness of the divine origin and authority of Christianity, In the classic sense of the word, ‘apologetics’ derives its meaning from the Greek word apologia, which means ‘defense.’ A judicial term, it describes the way a lawyer deliberately and rationally presents a verbal defense of a particular claim. Or, more precisely, apologetics is to ‘speak away’ (apo = away, from; logia = speech, word) the charge brought against an individual (Acts 25:16; 19:33; 22:1; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11; 1 Peter 3:15; Philippians 1:7, 16; 2 Timothy 4:16).” ~ H. Wayne House & Joseph M. Holden, Charts of Apologetics and Christian Evidences

“(Gr. apologetikos, ‘suitable for defense’) The endeavor to provide a reasoned account of the grounds for believing in the Christian faith.” ~ Donald K. McKim, The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms 

“Apologetics provides well-reasoned evidences that empower nonbelievers to choose Christianity rather than any other religion. Apologetics can be used to show the unbeliever that all the other options in the smorgasbord of world religions are not really options at all because they are false. Apologetics can remove mental roadblocks that prevent nonbelievers from responding to the gospel. Apologetics not only provides a defense for the faith but also provides security to Christians. Believers can be sure their faith is not a blind leap into a dark chasm, but rather an intelligent decision founded on fact. Apologetics does not replace faith; it grounds our faith…Apologetics demonstrates why we believe and what we believe.” ~ Ron Rhodes, 5-Minute Apologetics Today, p. 12.

“Christian apologetics is simply the presentation of a case for biblical truth, most notably the central truth of Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior. But a richer, more relational and more humble definition must include the central concern of apologetics: Christian apologetics lays before the watching world such a winsome embodiment of the Christian faith that for any and all who are willing to observe there will be an intellectually and emotionally credible witness to its fundamental truth. The success of any given apologetic argument is not whether it wins converts but whether it is faithful to Jesus.” ~ James Sire, A Little Primer On Humble Apologetics, Kindle, Loc. 197)

Two Aspects of Apologetics

Within the task of defending the faith there emerge at least two distinct aspects. (1) The destructive or defensive aspect The destructive or defensive aspect seeks to “dismantle” or explain away arguments against Christianity.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

[Paul addressing overseers/elders/pastors in the church] “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” ~ Titus 1:9-11

(2) The creative or offensive aspect offers evidence and proofs to support arguments for the truthfulness of the Christian faith.

[Jesus’ appearing to the disciples after the resurrection and just before his ascension to heaven] “He presented himself to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” ~ Acts 1:3

[Jesus’ appearing to the disciples after the resurrection] See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” ~ Luke 24;39

“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.” ~ Romans 1:19-20

The Ancient Use of Apologetics

In secular society, the use of apologetics as a defense against the attack occurred as early as the 5th century BC when Socrates presented his own defense before an Athenian court, which was later chronicled by his student Greek philosopher Plato in The Apology. During the 1st century AD, Josephus offered an apologetic on the ancient origin of the Jewish religion in his Against Apion (AD 93-95). In the early years of the church, Justin Martyr (100-167) and Tertullian (155-235) are recognized as apologists through their writings—First Apology and Second Apology by Martyr and Apologeticum by Tertullian. Among  other apologists were Tatian, Athenagoras, and Theophilus. Their main task, as Christianity sought to gain acceptance as a legitimate religion within the Roman Empire, was to defend Christianity against attacks from within the Roman philosophical society and pagan religious culture. Irenaeus (AD 130-202) defended the faith (Against Heresies, AD 180) against Gnostic ideas that emanated from within the church.

The Biblical Use of Apologetics

The principal Scripture for describing and advocating apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15 which says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

A few examples from the Scriptures (there are many more):

  1. Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 in order to demonstrate Yahweh as the Most High God;
  2. God giving Moses evidence that God would speak through him in Exodus 4;
  3. Stephen giving a defense of the faith before his persecutors in Acts 7;
  4. Paul arguing for his faith before kings, magistrates, and philosophers in Acts 17 and 22;
  5. Paul and Barnabas gave evidence for God and said that idolatry was worthless in Acts 14:6-20;
  6. Jesus defending His claims and challenges of the Pharisees and Sadducees ( Matthew 22:34-46; John 5).

How About You?

What are five of the most important “Whats” you believe and “Why” do you believe them?

Examples:

What is the meaning of my life?

What is the essence of God?

What is the essence of humanity?

What are the reasons I believe what I believe about anything?

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why I am I a Christian and not… (an atheist, mormon, muslim, etc.)

Why do I believe there is a God?

Why should anyone believe what I believe? 

Next Step:

Write down your top 5 What’s and Why’s and come up with an apologetic for each!

*You can subscribe to the Valley Baptist Church San Rafael Channel on YouTube to watch the lecture for this video as well as sermons from Dr. David P. Craig.

Is God the Author of Evil?

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An Answer to God and The Problem of Evil

I form the light, and create darkness:

I make peace, and create evil:

I the Lord do all these things. ~ Isaiah 45:7 (KJV)

I form the light and create darkness,

I make peace and create calamity;

I, the Lord, do all these things.’ ~ Isaiah 45:7 (NKJV)

The One forming light and creating darkness,

Causing well-being and creating calamity;

I am the Lord who does all these. ~ Isaiah 45:7 (NASB95)

*Question Answered By Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe

What’s the Problem? According to this verse God “creates good and evil” (KJV, cf. Jeremiah 18:11 and Lamentations 3:38; Amos 3:6). But many other Scriptures inform us that God is not evil (1 John 1:5), cannot even look approvingly on evil (Habakkuk 1:13), and cannot even be tempted by evil (James 1:13).

What’s the Solution? The Bible is clear that God is morally perfect (cf. Deuteronomy 32:4; Matthew 5:48), and it is impossible for Him to sin (Hebrews 6:18). At the same time, His absolute justice demands that He punish sin. This judgment takes both temporal and eternal forms (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:11-15). In its temporal form, the execution of God’s justice is sometimes called “evil” because it seems  to be evil to those undergoing it (cf. Hebrews 12:11). However, the Hebrew word for evil (ra) used here does not always mean moral evil. Indeed, the context indicates that it should be translated, as the NKJV and other modern translations do, as “calamity.” Thus, God is properly said to be the author of “evil” in this sense, but not in the moral sense—at least not directly.

Further, there is an indirect sense in which God is the author of moral evil. God created moral beings with free choice, and free choice is the origin of moral evil in the universe. So, ultimately God is responsible for making moral creatures who are responsible for moral evil. God made evil possible by creating free creatures, but the free creatures made evil actual. Of course, the possibility of evil (i.e., free choice) is itself a good thing.

So, God created only good things, one of which was the power of free choice, and moral creatures produced the evil. However, God is the author of a moral universe and in this indirect and ultimate sense is the author of the possibility of evil. Of course, God only permitted evil, but does not promote it, and He will ultimately produce good through it (cf. Genesis 50:20; Revelation 21-22)

The relation of God and evil can be summarized this way:

GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF EVIL GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF EVIL
In the sense of sin In the sense of calamity
Moral evil Non-moral evil
Perversity Plagues
Directly Indirectly
Actuality of evil Possibility of evil

*Article adapted from The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe. Grand Rapids, MI., Baker, 2008.