Do You Want to Be A Christian Apologist? Part 2

I'm doing 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 second thing you must do is presuppose your particular historically situated culturally inherited faith and then defend it philosophically without taking the Bible seriously. What I have found is that Christian apologists regularly do this. Almost any meaningful idea can be defended philosophically. These Christian apologists need to come down out of the clouds and get down and dirty into the Biblical basis for their faith. Case in point today is Richard Swinburne and Victor Reppert.

In Richard Swinburne's book Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy he attempts to defend the Christian revelation claim as the one and only true revelation from the true God. In chapter five he argues that if God exists he needed to give human beings a propositional (or spoken) revelation. God needed to do this, Swinburne argues, to reveal to us exactly who he is, to explain why the world has so much suffering in it, to tell us what he has done about it, what he expects from us, and to warn us that we will be rewarded and punished based on our response to him. We need this revelation because this is the kind of important information we couldn’t learn on our own, he opines.

What Swinburne has done in arguing for this needed revelation is to do what all Christian apologists do (to some degree). He simply takes for granted his particular theology to make his case. Then based on what he takes for granted, and with a little sleight of hand, Swinburne happily announces in triumph, surprise of surprises, this is exactly what God did.

What Swinburne has done is nothing less than special pleading with regard to his theology. There is little to be surprised about once we grant Swinburne his theology for his argument to work. The problem is that his theology is based on the Bible and the Bible debunks itself. The evidence for his theology in the Biblical data just isn't there.

In Swinburne's book The Resurrection of God Incarnate he does the same thing. He presupposes his particular God concept and with it goes on to argue that if such a God exists then it's 97% probable he raised up Jesus from the dead.

The problem in both cases is that what we find in the Bible is not Anselm's God. Instead, we find a tribal warlike god Yahweh who was fathered by El the supreme god of the divine pantheon, who was given the people of Israel to rule over (note the "el" in Israel), who rose in human imagination to be the leader of that pantheon of gods, who had a body like other gods, who had sons like other gods (and therefore had a wife, the "Queen of Heaven"), who was modeled by the ancient imagination after the kings of their day who reigned from a distant abode above the sky (yes, above it!), and who depended on human efforts to sustain his kingdom. He then granted them a good harvest and sons for their obedience, yet destroyed them with droughts, pestilence, and death if they disobeyed.

If you wanted to read just one book on these type of subjects get Thom Stark's The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It)

I've repeatedly recommended Stark's book to Victor Reppert but he prefers remaining biblically ignorant of the basis for his theology as well, because Reppert does the same thing as Swinburne.

With regard to Satan, Reppert tries to defend his existence without looking at the biblical evidence in context with the views of the surrounding cultures of that day. I've argued for his willful ignorance on this issue right here. And on this topic I've recommended a book too: The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots

That Vic isn't interested in coming down from the clouds of philosophy to see the lack of biblical evidence for what he defends is being willfully ignorant. All he needs to do is be intellectually honest with his faith.

In a comment to him I wrote:

Jon D. Levenson, Professor at Harvard Divinity School in the Department of Near Eastern Studies and Civilizations, offered a great definition of what a critical scholar is when he wrote they “are prepared to interpret the text against their own preferences and traditions, in the interest of intellectual honesty.” See page 3 of his book "The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son."

In that book he argues that "only at a particular stage rather late in the history of Israel was child sacrifice branded as counter to the will of YHWH and thus ipso facto idolatrous" (p. 5). Why shouldn't all Biblical scholars be critical scholars?

Scholarship has shown that Moses did not write what is now known as the first five books of Moses, known as the Pentateuch. According to James D. G. Dunn, “it would be flying in the face of too much evidence and good scholarship to deny this basic affirmation: that the Pentateuch is the product of a lengthy process of tradition.” [James D. G. Dunn, "The Living Word" (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), p. 71.]

Professor James D. G. Dunn states it forthrightly: “We can speak of an overwhelming consensus of biblical scholarship that the present Isaiah is not the work of a single author. . . . It is not simply a question of whether predictive prophecy is possible or not. It is rather that the message of Second Isaiah would have been largely meaningless to an 8th century Jerusalem audience. It is so clearly directed to the situation of exile. Consequently, had it been delivered a century and a half before the exile, it would be unlike the rest of Jewish prophecy.”[James D. G. Dunn, The Living Word (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), pp. 69–70. For a further treatment, Dunn recommends David G. Meade, Pseudonymity and Canon (Tübingen, DE: J. C. B. Mohr, 1986)].

See this for more of the evidence.

All you need to do is take the Bible seriously.

As to Satan:

Professor of Biblical Theology Walter Wink informs us:
The original faith of Israel actually had no place for Satan. God alone was Lord, and thus whatever happened, for good or ill, was ascribed to God. “I kill and I make alive,” says the Lord, “I wound and I heal” (Deut. 32:39; Isa. 45:6–7; 1 Sam. 2:6–7).

It was not inconsistent, on the one hand, to believe that God might call Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt, and on the other hand, for God to want to murder him on the way (Exod. 4:24–26). When Pharaoh resisted Moses it was not ascribed to his free will, but to God’s hardening of his heart (Exod. 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17; Josh. 11:20, etc). Likewise, it is God who sent an evil spirit on Saul (1 Sam. 16:14–16, 23), and it was God who sent a lying spirit to enter the mouths of the four hundred prophets of Ahab (1 Kings 22:22; see 2 Sam. 17:14).


One possible translation of “Yaweh,” God’s name, is “He causes to happen what happens.” If, then, God has caused everything that happens, God must also cause evil. But God was also the God of justice (Gen. 18:25). So how could God be just and still be the one to cause evil? This was the terrible price Israel had been forced to pay for its belief that God was the primary cause of all that happens. Gradually God became differentiated into a “light” and a “dark” side, both integral to the Godhead. The bright side came to be represented by the angels, the dark side by Satan and his demons. This process of differentiation took a long time to complete. [Walter Wink Unmasking the Powers (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), pp. 11–44.]
Over time, the concept of Satan evolved from that of a heavenly public prosecutor to the leader of an angelic host at war with God and man. The original model for the figure of Satan may have been an Oriental spy, who in the absence of a state police served as the eyes and ears of the king. The whole notion of a “devil’s advocate” is that of a lawyer “who has the job of being an adversary in the interests of discovering the truth.”

Satan was transformed into the “Evil One” by two trains of thought, according to Walter Wink. First, since in Job we see Satan provoking God to bring on sickness, catastrophe, pillage, and death, it would not take long for the popular imagination to turn Satan into the New Testament “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). Second, there was a need to explain the origin of evil. The sheer massiveness of evil in the world pointed to a more malevolent source than puny human beings. The allusion to a fall of angels through supposed intercourse with women (Gen. 6:1–4) provided the seedbed of a whole new set of ideas that led to the idea of Satan and his fallen angelic host (see 1 Enoch 6–14).