Evidential Apologetics

by | Dec 16, 2016

Empirical/Inductive Apologetics

Evidential Apologetics begins with the evidence rather than with rational arguments and claims to follow the evidence wherever it may lead. Facts are able to stand on their own two feet rather than being subject to human interpretation. For instance, John Warwick Montgomery claims that facts are self-interpreting. But this claim is highly controversial with most philosophers and apologists rejecting it out of hand. Indeed, how can one explain the situation where two equally qualified scientists can examine the very same facts and walk away with two completely different views of what they are telling us? EA’s most characteristic feature is its specializing in propositional evidences, of which the historical variety is the most prominent, moving on to God and the truth of Christianity by what we have called the two-step approach.

Evidentialism is the view that belief in God is rationally justified or acceptable only if there is good evidence for it, where good evidence would be arguments from other propositions one knows. [Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, 70]

While classical apologetics takes a deductive approach to defending Christian theism, evidential apologetics takes a primarily inductive approach. Evidential apologetics argues that indisputable and absolutely certain proof of Christianity lies beyond human reach, but defends the view that truth claims of the faith are eminently reasonable. The thrust of evidential apologetics is to use facts that the non-Christian already agrees with, and to argue from those facts to (1) cast doubt on their own system while at the same time (2) employing them to demonstrate the likelihood of the truth claims of Christianity.

Evidential apologists place great emphasis on the resurrection of Christ. They argue that all the evidence for what happened surrounding the event, both before and after the fact, is best accounted for by a literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This takes us to the main goal of evidential apologetics: to demonstrate that Christian belief is reasonable. The approach examines the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and argues that the most reasonable explanation, given all the evidence, is that a literal resurrection took place. In other words, it is highly probable or more probable than not that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Therefore, it is not irrational to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. From this fact, evidential apologetics attempts to establish the credibility of the other claims of Christ. If Jesus rose from the dead, we should probably believe the things he said about himself. He said he was God. Therefore, we should believe that Jesus is God, because he rose from the dead.

Evidential apologetics presupposes the neutrality of human reason where evidence and facts are concerned. Men are fully capable of giving the evidence before them a fair examination. But this is like asking a criminal to provide an objective analysis of the evidence that will ultimately lead to the death penalty. The criminal will always interpret the evidence in a way that either proves his innocence of casts serious doubt on his guilt. This brings us to evidential apologetics dependence on natural theology.

Natural Theology

Natural theology claims that unregenerate men are fully capable of making right judgments and forming accurate conclusions about the truth of God and of facts about God. In the broad sense ‘natural theology’ refers to what can be known or rationally believed about the existence and nature of God on the basis of human reason and our natural cognitive faculties.[2] Natural theology then is the study of what can be known about God from nature. This would include not only nature in the physical world but the natural cognitive faculties of human beings.

This theory runs head-on into the following:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Co 2:14.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Co 1:18.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Ro 8:6–8.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Co 4:4.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Ro 1:18.

There is no such thing as brute fact.

There are no religiously neutral human beings.

All facts are subject to the interpretation of individual humans.

Meaning demands an interpretive context that is distinct from the facts and events. This means that evidential apologetics assumes the Christian worldview in its interpretation of the facts.

Evidential apologetics seems to be guilty of empirical dogmatism. Where is the evidence for the reliability of the senses? Where is the evidence for brute fact? For neutrality?

It is impossible to separate epistemology from metaphysics. One’s theory of knowledge is unavoidably informed by one’s metaphysical outlook.

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