DoctorIssachar

Lessons In Apologetics, Part 1: Introduction & Agnosticism

Recommended Posts

For anyone pursuing a degree in Apologetics that was given a dollar for every time they were asked "What is that, learning how to say you are sorry" upon answering the question of what it is that they study so many times, many would have financed a considerable portion of their academic pursuits. Unfortunately, such ignorance as to what exactly this theological discipline entails symbolizes the neglect the defense of the faith has fallen into in the contemporary church and is one of the reasons that everywhere the believer and student of religion turns today they find Christianity losing considerable ground both within and without its boundaries to a wide variety of opponents and adversaries. To the serious student of this field of study, one of the best tools around which to build a fundamental understanding of the discipline's ins and outs is "Christian Apologetics" by Norman Geisler, one of the field's foremost living practitioners.

 

Basic to any academic discipline is the approach or methodology which scholars and researchers apply to the subject matter. The field of Apologetics is no different. Geisler lists the methodologies to knowledge in general and about God in particular as agnosticism, rationalism, fideism, experientialism, evidentialism, pragmatism, and combinationalism. In the course of his analysis, Geisler evaluates each in terms of their epistemology regarding religious matters and how these approaches stack up under the weight of being scrutinized by their own criteria.

 

The first approach to knowledge of God is agnosticism. Coined by T.H. Huxley, the term agnosticism means "no knowledge" and thus contends one is unable to know anything about God (13).

Agnosticism is itself divided into two branches. The one holds that not yet enough conclusive evidence pointing in one direction or the other regarding the existence of God has been gathered. The other holds that God is not knowable.

 

Of the agnostics that claim God is not knowable, this claim is based upon their understanding of the nature of knowledge. Drawing upon David Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and A.J. Ayers' Language, Truth, & Logic, these agnostics have divided the tree of actual knowledge into two branches.

 

The first variety of valid statements are analytic statements meaning they are valid by the terms of their definitions. For example, all bachelors are unmarried. The second type of valid statements are known as synthetic and are what we would refer to as matters of fact as they are about empirically gathered data (17).

 

Geisler writes of the agnostic views regarding talk about God, "For the term 'God' is neither analytic nor synthetic; that is, it is neither offered by the theist as an empty contentless definition corresponding to nothing in reality nor is it filled with empirical content since 'God' is allegedly a supraempirical being. Hence, it is literally nonsense to talk about God (18)."

 

To the aspiring apologist hoping to present an objective case for the Christian faith beyond how warm and fuzzy Jesus makes their innards, it may seem that the agnostic methodology has struck an early and potentially crippling blow to this noble effort. However, a bit of careful reflection may even the scales once more between the agnostic and the Christian.

 

The lofty sounding name given to this epistemology of language is the Verification Principle. If the Christian turns the Verification Principle back on itself, one sees it is self-referentially incoherent as the concept cannot live up to its own criteria as the Verification Principle is neither purely definitional or merely a statement of fact.

 

Thus to remain consistent, the agnostic must admit that, since our knowledge of the empirical and metaphysical realms is limited, by definition of man's own finitude, this understanding cannot be totally comprehensive. Of those unwilling to admit God may exist in those reaches man cannot fully fathom, Geisler writes, "And there is simply no way short of omniscience that one can make such sweeping and categorical statements about reality...Hence total agnosticism is only self-defeating. Only an omniscient mind could be totally agnostic and finite men do not possess omniscience (27)."

 

By Frederick Meekins

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good post DoctorIssachar.

 

I've always disliked the term apologetics for the very reason you pointed out in your opening paragraph. It makes it sound like we are apologizing for our faith. While those of us who are familiar with apologetics know this is not true some people who are not familiar with the term may initially believe that to be the case.

 

I am unfamiliar with the book by Geisler you referenced so I would enjoy hearing more from you about the subject. Particularly what you have gathered from your studies of apologetics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi, Doc!  Thank you for the post!

 

I'm a poor apologist.  I've found that most folks that inquire about my beliefs are not really looking for insight or enlightenment, but for an opening to opine that my faith is unfounded and/or false doctrine.

 

I know what I know...

 

If I cannot prove that that which I know to be true is true...

If I fail to answer all queries adequately...

If I fail to assuage an inquisitor’s doubts...

If my most persuasive rhetoric fails to entice even sympathetic listeners to comprehend and "see" the simplistic beauty of my faith,

Then an antagonist might infer by my failings that denunciation and annulment of the principle tenets of my faith is justified.

But my inability to convincingly communicate an ideal in no way negates the Truth...

 

The fault is in me, not the doctrine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎9‎/‎20‎/‎2018 at 8:43 AM, DoctorIssachar said:

For anyone pursuing a degree in Apologetics that was given a dollar for every time they were asked "What is that, learning how to say you are sorry" upon answering the question of what it is that they study so many times, many would have financed a considerable portion of their academic pursuits. Unfortunately, such ignorance as to what exactly this theological discipline entails symbolizes the neglect the defense of the faith has fallen into in the contemporary church and is one of the reasons that everywhere the believer and student of religion turns today they find Christianity losing considerable ground both within and without its boundaries to a wide variety of opponents and adversaries. To the serious student of this field of study, one of the best tools around which to build a fundamental understanding of the discipline's ins and outs is "Christian Apologetics" by Norman Geisler, one of the field's foremost living practitioners.

 

Basic to any academic discipline is the approach or methodology which scholars and researchers apply to the subject matter. The field of Apologetics is no different. Geisler lists the methodologies to knowledge in general and about God in particular as agnosticism, rationalism, fideism, experientialism, evidentialism, pragmatism, and combinationalism. In the course of his analysis, Geisler evaluates each in terms of their epistemology regarding religious matters and how these approaches stack up under the weight of being scrutinized by their own criteria.

 

The first approach to knowledge of God is agnosticism. Coined by T.H. Huxley, the term agnosticism means "no knowledge" and thus contends one is unable to know anything about God (13).

Agnosticism is itself divided into two branches. The one holds that not yet enough conclusive evidence pointing in one direction or the other regarding the existence of God has been gathered. The other holds that God is not knowable.

 

Of the agnostics that claim God is not knowable, this claim is based upon their understanding of the nature of knowledge. Drawing upon David Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and A.J. Ayers' Language, Truth, & Logic, these agnostics have divided the tree of actual knowledge into two branches.

 

The first variety of valid statements are analytic statements meaning they are valid by the terms of their definitions. For example, all bachelors are unmarried. The second type of valid statements are known as synthetic and are what we would refer to as matters of fact as they are about empirically gathered data (17).

 

Geisler writes of the agnostic views regarding talk about God, "For the term 'God' is neither analytic nor synthetic; that is, it is neither offered by the theist as an empty contentless definition corresponding to nothing in reality nor is it filled with empirical content since 'God' is allegedly a supraempirical being. Hence, it is literally nonsense to talk about God (18)."

 

To the aspiring apologist hoping to present an objective case for the Christian faith beyond how warm and fuzzy Jesus makes their innards, it may seem that the agnostic methodology has struck an early and potentially crippling blow to this noble effort. However, a bit of careful reflection may even the scales once more between the agnostic and the Christian.

 

The lofty sounding name given to this epistemology of language is the Verification Principle. If the Christian turns the Verification Principle back on itself, one sees it is self-referentially incoherent as the concept cannot live up to its own criteria as the Verification Principle is neither purely definitional or merely a statement of fact.

 

Thus to remain consistent, the agnostic must admit that, since our knowledge of the empirical and metaphysical realms is limited, by definition of man's own finitude, this understanding cannot be totally comprehensive. Of those unwilling to admit God may exist in those reaches man cannot fully fathom, Geisler writes, "And there is simply no way short of omniscience that one can make such sweeping and categorical statements about reality...Hence total agnosticism is only self-defeating. Only an omniscient mind could be totally agnostic and finite men do not possess omniscience (27)."

 

By Frederick Meekins

 

Since God is not knowable to the finite mind -- then God is not knowable.  God is also irrelevant and without meaning.

 

:sigh2:

 

For what little it's worth, I was ordained as a minister by the Apathetic Agnostic Church.  (02/20/2002).  The Church motto is --

"We don't know and we don't care."

 

You don't get to define Agnostics, to Agnostics.  It's rude and it's irritating.

 

 

 

Edited by Jonathan H. B. Lobl
Perfection

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/23/2018 at 12:48 PM, cuchulain said:

my inability to disprove something is not proof of somethings existence.

 

Nor is my inability to prove something, proof of somethings nonexistence. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Dan56 said:

 

Nor is my inability to prove something, proof of somethings nonexistence. :)

 

And there we are.  We can't prove that God exists.  We can't prove that God does not exist.  That leaves us with -- So what?  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't believe in things until I have a decent reason to do so.  

 

I don't have to have perfect evidence, I don't have to have evidence that is iron clad.  

 

I don't believe in Unicorns because I haven't seen good evidence that they exist.  I don't believe in Zeus, contrary to the fact that I have seen lightning and that it has been in the past ascribed to the actions of said being.  I don't believe in Apollo, I see the sun though.  

 

No...I don't believe in the biblical version of God, either.  I have similar reasoning for not believing in the biblical God as I do in Zeus, or Apollo.  

 

I believe science.  I can point to Greek and Roman mythology and say...most everything in those books has turned out not to be true.  I can point to Christian mythology and say, while there are some historical accuracies in terms of cities that existed, and perhaps some of the people were around, I have never seen a burning bush nor had a divine voice descend from the heavens and tell me anything.  I have never seen prayer heal a severed arm or leg.  I have never seen a demon or anything remotely resembling this evil that Christians insist is so prevalent.  

 

I can point to science and say there are many flaws and errors created in scientific investigation, but at the least the scientists are open to the possibility that they are wrong.  I can point to the process in many things that I encounter on a daily basis, things that I use that are based on scientific principles, that without science couldn't exist.  This computer is a prime example, as is the internet.  As is the fact that I can see, because I wear contacts.  As is the fact that my daughter is alive today.  Science is inherently bound within so much of everything we do, and we see it work on a daily, even hourly basis.  

 

Some insist on calling this faith.  Firm belief in something for which there is no proof.  That is the very definition of faith.  Is there proof that Zeus produces lightning because he is angry?  No.  There are written testimonies from superstitious ancient people.  Is there proof that there was ever a burning bush?  No.  There are written testimonies from superstitious ancient people.  Is there proof that levetiracetam helps prevent seizures?  Yes.  It has been studied extensively, tested, gone through the scientific process...and it actually produces results that are reproducible.  So no...I don't have faith in science.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, cuchulain said:

I don't believe in things until I have a decent reason to do so.  

 

I don't have to have perfect evidence, I don't have to have evidence that is iron clad.  

 

I don't believe in Unicorns because I haven't seen good evidence that they exist.  I don't believe in Zeus, contrary to the fact that I have seen lightning and that it has been in the past ascribed to the actions of said being.  I don't believe in Apollo, I see the sun though.  

 

No...I don't believe in the biblical version of God, either.  I have similar reasoning for not believing in the biblical God as I do in Zeus, or Apollo.  

 

I believe science.  I can point to Greek and Roman mythology and say...most everything in those books has turned out not to be true.  I can point to Christian mythology and say, while there are some historical accuracies in terms of cities that existed, and perhaps some of the people were around, I have never seen a burning bush nor had a divine voice descend from the heavens and tell me anything.  I have never seen prayer heal a severed arm or leg.  I have never seen a demon or anything remotely resembling this evil that Christians insist is so prevalent.  

 

I can point to science and say there are many flaws and errors created in scientific investigation, but at the least the scientists are open to the possibility that they are wrong.  I can point to the process in many things that I encounter on a daily basis, things that I use that are based on scientific principles, that without science couldn't exist.  This computer is a prime example, as is the internet.  As is the fact that I can see, because I wear contacts.  As is the fact that my daughter is alive today.  Science is inherently bound within so much of everything we do, and we see it work on a daily, even hourly basis.  

 

Some insist on calling this faith.  Firm belief in something for which there is no proof.  That is the very definition of faith.  Is there proof that Zeus produces lightning because he is angry?  No.  There are written testimonies from superstitious ancient people.  Is there proof that there was ever a burning bush?  No.  There are written testimonies from superstitious ancient people.  Is there proof that levetiracetam helps prevent seizures?  Yes.  It has been studied extensively, tested, gone through the scientific process...and it actually produces results that are reproducible.  So no...I don't have faith in science.  

 

" Is there proof that there was ever a burning bush? " -  Dictamnus albus

".... scientists are open to the possibility that they are wrong. "  Thanks for the laugh!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

so the bible wasnt referencing a miracle with the burning bush story?  really? or are you beinng dishonest with that piece?  i dont believe that plant talks...and isnt it consumed?  clearly you try to obfuscate the truth, that there is no evidence of a burning bush SPEAKING....didnt think i'd have to specify the important part of that story, but some simply cant grasp context i suppose.

Edited by cuchulain

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎10‎/‎12‎/‎2018 at 9:15 AM, cuchulain said:

so the bible wasnt referencing a miracle with the burning bush story? (YES, IT IS CONSIDERED A MIRACLE)

really? (YES, REALLY!)

or are you beinng dishonest with that piece? (REALLY? DISHONEST? HOW SO...??? IS PROVIDING INFORMATION TO ILLUMINATE THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION DISHONEST?)

i dont believe that plant talks... (THE PLANT ITSELF DOES NOT SPEAK. GOD SPEAKS FROM WITHIN THE BUSH)

and isnt it consumed? (NO. READ THE INFO ON IT, AND YOU'LL DISCOVER WHY IT ISN'T CONSUMED)

clearly you try to obfuscate the truth, (THE TRUTH, EVEN WHEN CRYSTAL CLEAR, WILL NOT BE UNDERSTOOD BY THOSE UNWILLING OR UNABLE TO PERCIEVE THE TRUTH.)

that there is no evidence of a burning bush SPEAKING.... (NOW WHO'S BEING OBTUSE?? THE EVIDENCE IS THERE, THAT YOU HAVE CHOSEN TO IGNORE OR NEGATE THE SOURCE OF THE EVIDENCE DOES NOT MITIGATE IT'S VERASITY.

didnt think i'd have to specify the important part of that story, but some simply cant grasp context i suppose.

(IF THE QUESTION OR PREMISE IS POORLY PRESENTED, IT'S THE FAULT OF THE INQUISITOR, NOT THE RESPONDENT.)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, cuchulain said:

Show evidence of a speaking burning bush.

My mission in this life is to get MYSELF through it without causing others harm in any way....

When the opportunity to help another comes along, I’ve been ever-ready to assist, but I'll not drag anybody where they don't want to go....

I offered a plausible explanation for the phenomena... It appears your mind is not amendable.

You have decided what you want to believe, and I have neither the time nor patience to coax you into enlightenment.

Again, my mission in life is to get MYSELF through it.... you, sir, are on your own.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Songster said:

My mission in this life is to get MYSELF through it without causing others harm in any way....

When the opportunity to help another comes along, I’ve been ever-ready to assist, but I'll not drag anybody where they don't want to go....

I offered a plausible explanation for the phenomena... It appears your mind is not amendable.

You have decided what you want to believe, and I have neither the time nor patience to coax you into enlightenment.

Again, my mission in life is to get MYSELF through it.... you, sir, are on your own.....

Yyou offered a plausible explanation for talking plants?  I think you have an issue with dishonesty...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, cuchulain said:

You offered a plausible explanation for talking plants?  I think you have an issue with dishonesty...

 

There's no plausible explanation for God, He said from the burning bush; " I Am That I Am " (Exodus 3:14). From that perspective, everything that exist is a miracle. I see all of creation as a miracle, so a non-consuming burning bush is no more miraculous than anything I can see and understand. If you saw a bush growing on Mars, you might consider it a miracle because there is no plausible explanation of how that could happen. But that same bush growing on earth is nothing spectacular because we've excepted that things grow in the environment we're in and understand. There's no evidence for something beyond our understanding, we simply accept God from the evidence of creation, and believe "With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

 

Jesus told nonbelievers that the only evidence (sign) they would get was that after 3 days in the tomb, he would physically raise from the dead. No one could produce his body after 3 days, but the evidence did not suffice because there was no plausible explanation of how it could be so.. We accept God by faith because our limited understanding can't comprehend all that He is. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No plausible explanation I know, but my knowledge limits do not automatically confirm it must be god, merely that I don't know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎10‎/‎22‎/‎2018 at 11:14 AM, Songster said:

My mission in this life is to get MYSELF through it without causing others harm in any way....

When the opportunity to help another comes along, I’ve been ever-ready to assist, but I'll not drag anybody where they don't want to go....

I offered a plausible explanation for the phenomena... It appears your mind is not amendable.

You have decided what you want to believe, and I have neither the time nor patience to coax you into enlightenment.

Again, my mission in life is to get MYSELF through it.... you, sir, are on your own.....

That you believe God spoke through a burning bush does not make such a statement plausible.  That is the only point I have found where you might have made a point about a burning bush speaking, or God speaking through said bush anyway...it is a statement.  It is not evidence.

 

Do you really have evidence that God spoke through a burning bush?  If so...please share.  For clarification, I will define evidence.  The available body of facts indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.  Now I will define fact.  A thing that is proven to be true.

 

So...I would appreciate seeing evidence that God spoke through a burning bush.  First, you will have to prove that the event actually happened.  Second you will have to prove that it was God and not some other entity.  Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎10‎/‎28‎/‎2018 at 2:22 PM, cuchulain said:

That you believe God spoke through a burning bush does not make such a statement plausible.  That is the only point I have found where you might have made a point about a burning bush speaking, or God speaking through said bush anyway...it is a statement.  It is not evidence.

 

Do you really have evidence that God spoke through a burning bush?  If so...please share.  For clarification, I will define evidence.  The available body of facts indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.  Now I will define fact.  A thing that is proven to be true.

 

So...I would appreciate seeing evidence that God spoke through a burning bush.  First, you will have to prove that the event actually happened.  Second you will have to prove that it was God and not some other entity.  Good luck!

 

 

My computer has been off line for a few weeks.  I'm back.

 

You are arguing with people who only care about faith.  Not reason.  Not evidence.  Not facts.  Not external reality.  Only faith.  Nothing good will come of this.  For your own sake, I urge you to let it go.

 

:wall:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎10‎/‎28‎/‎2018 at 2:22 PM, cuchulain said:

That you believe God spoke through a burning bush does not make such a statement plausible.  That is the only point I have found where you might have made a point about a burning bush speaking, or God speaking through said bush anyway...it is a statement.  It is not evidence.

 

Do you really have evidence that God spoke through a burning bush?  If so...please share.  For clarification, I will define evidence.  The available body of facts indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.  Now I will define fact.  A thing that is proven to be true.

 

So...I would appreciate seeing evidence that God spoke through a burning bush.  First, you will have to prove that the event actually happened.  Second you will have to prove that it was God and not some other entity.  Good luck!

1. You have not defined "true"

 

2. You actually made the initial claim that God did not speak through a burning bush. Therefore the onus is upon you to provide evidence of your claims. If you cannot that is fine but  nobody is under any obligation to disprove your claims.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎10‎/‎22‎/‎2018 at 2:28 PM, cuchulain said:

Yyou offered a plausible explanation for talking plants?  I think you have an issue with dishonesty...

I thought I had posted a reply to this post a couple weeks ago... evidently my lengthy response was not entered (or perhaps deleted?).

First of all, your inference that I have been purposely misleading or dishonest is insulting and indicative of the inferior caliber of your character...

I offered a plausible explanation for the "burning bush". You're free to discount whatever you desire, but your denial in no way negates the facts that a plant may indeed ignite and burn without being consumed.

I did not claim that the plant itself was capable of vocalizing anything. God spoke to Moses from WITHIN the bush... Your inability to consider the possibility that YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING does not in any way negate the account as written, nor does it affect my views (or that of millions of others).

Your ignorance may be excusable...

Your arrogance and ill-mannered attitude is not.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now