Do You Want to Be A Christian Apologist? Part 1

I'm beginning a series of posts dealing with the way recognized Christian apologists argue for their faith. I'll number them and tag them all with the phrase "Christian Apologetics" so you can have a link to them in reverse chronological order. So, let's say you want to be a Christian apologist, someone who defends the Christian faith. Then what must you do? The first thing you'll want to do is miscaricaturize your opponent's arguments to the point of failing to even try to understand them, or feigning ignorance as to what they are, and/or being willingly ignorant of them. Doing this will allow you to create straw man versions so they are easily dismissed. Case in point today are the recent arguments of Randal Rauser and David Marshall.


Dr. Rauser miscaricaturized two arguments of mine. In The End of Christianity I had written:
I agree with the Protestant criticisms of the Catholics as well as the Catholic criticisms of the Protestants. I agree with the fundamentalist criticisms of the liberals as well as the liberal criticisms of the fundamentalists. In addition, I agree with the Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish criticisms of Christianity, as well as the Christian criticisms of their religions. When they criticize each other, I think they’re all right.
Rauser said this is a “baldly incoherent, reckless, and indefensible claim.” He wrote:
Let’s think about this for a moment. Christians criticize Muslims for denying the historical crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. According to John, since this is a criticism of Islam he agrees with it. In other words, he agrees that Jesus was crucified and rose again! But before you get too excited note that Muslims criticize Christianity for calling Jesus God since there is no God but Allah. Since this is a criticism of Christianity John agrees with it and thus believes there is no God but Allah. And Hindus critique Christianity and Islam for rejecting the doctrine of reincarnation so John must agree with that as well. But of course Christians and Muslims critique Hinduism for accepting the doctrine of reincarnation so John must accept that as well.
My response:
I have read some of Rauser’s more scholarly stuff and what he usually does is to go through a few possible interpretations of an argument leading up to the most charitable interpretation before criticizing it. I know this is the blog world but he didn’t try to do anything like that with my argument, so let me help him. I meant that when they criticize the basis for each other’s faith I agree with their conclusions, and quite probably their reasoning as well. It doesn’t mean, nor should it, that I both agree and disagree with the claim that Jesus did not die on the cross. I cannot possibly believe all of that which these mutually different religions believe. That is definitely NOT being charitable with what I intended to say. If he really thinks I did, then I find it extremely odd he would ever consider co-writing a book with someone as ignorant and inconsistent as he portrays me, but he did.

When I say that I agree with the criticisms of other religionists against each other, I never said I agreed with all of them, no siree Bob, just the fatal ones. When Orthodox Jews argue against the Christian belief that Jesus arose from the dead, I agree with their conclusions and quite probably agree with their reasons for rejecting it as well. When Christians argue against Mohammed flying through the night on a winged horse, or that the Koran is not the divinely inspired text it claims, then I agree with their criticisms too. Such things like that. That is, when these different religions are skeptical of other mutually exclusive extraordinary religious claims of supernatural powers, answered prayers, and claims of miracles, I agree with them all. Comprendo? When they are being skeptics then I agree with them.

Evangelical Christians show how other religions and how liberals are wrong. I agree with those critiques, the ones not based on the Bible. And guess what? Even evangelicals do my work for me. Just take a look at the four/five views books published by Zondervan and Baker books. Look at the book "The Nature of the Atonement" edited by James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy. I agree with the criticisms of each view presented for the most part. They debunk themselves. I also agree with the criticisms of evangelicals by others. Link.

A second case also comes from Rauser so I'll just link to it where he tried to find some inconsistency with how I argued concerning Satan.

For a third case, Dr. David Marshall argues that David Hume's argument against miracles is a circular one. When commenting on a debate between Arif Ahmed and Gary Habermas on the resurrection of Jesus, Marshall opines:
Sorry, I didn't find Ahmed's openning argument particularly impressive. He was just recycling Hume, whose arguments against miracles have long since been refuted. He was arguing in a circle: "We know this miracle didn't happen, because we know no miracle ever happens." And how do we know that? Because we've dismissed all actual cases of them, based on our a priori dogma that they don't happen, basically.

If we're talking about what "we" know, which Ahmed does a lot of, I have much more direct reason to believe that miracles happen, than that murders ever happen.
My response:
Robert J. Fogelin in his book "In Defense of Hume" dismisses this objection and claims it is a gross misreading of Hume. He says, “Hume nowhere argues, either explicitly or implicitly, that we know that all reports of miracles are false because we know that all reports of miracles are false. . . . Hume begins with a claim about testimony. On the one side we have wide and unproblematic testimony to the effect that when people step into the water they do not remain on its surface. On the other side we have isolated reports of people walking across the surface of the water. Given the testimony of the first kind, how are we to evaluate the testimony of the second sort? The testimony of the first sort does not show that the testimony of the second sort is false; it does, however, create a strong presumption—unless countered, a decisively strong presumption—in favor of its falsehood.” Fogelin concludes with these words: “That is Hume’s argument, and there is nothing circular or question begging about it.” Link.

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