Evidence that demands a worldview: or how apologetics requires a metapologetics

Image result for evidence that demands a verdictThe new edition Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World, edited with his son Sean, recently caught my eye on Amazon. The first edition did that over 40 years in Christian Publications’s bookstore in Manhattan (8th Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets).

Gabriel Monheim (1936-2015: this pic is circa 1979-80), who preached on Wall Street, recommended it to me in 1978. The occasion was my asking questions that someone (certainly an ex-Marxist graduate philosophy student) might have about the Bible.

The McDowells’ 700+-page tome is a compendium of orthodox Christian answers to (mainly) historical and archaeological objections to belief in the Bible as the Word of God written and to the many propositions that this belief logically commits the believer. That is, it’s a contribution to apologetics.

Mainly, but not exclusively. To address new versions of perennial philosophical objections the McDowells have added six chapters: “The Nature of Truth,” “The Knowability of Truth,” “Answering  Postmodernism,” “Answer Skepticism,” “Are Miracles Possible?,” and “Is History Knowable?”

Complementing this approach to apologetics for me are the works of Norman  Geisler (PhD, Loyola, 1970; b. 1932), whom I met at the 1982 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. Geisler starts with defending theism, grounding his premises in principles that one cannot coherently deny. He then defends the historical reliability of the Bible. On its basis he argues for the deity of Jesus. Whatever Jesus teaches is true, and He taught the divine inspiration of the Old Testament and promised an inspired New Testament. Image result for norman geisler

Geisler’s apologetical method is commonly labeled. “evidentialist.” It’s also categorized as “classical” as distinct from the “presuppositional” approaches of Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) and Gordon H. Clark. (1902-1985).

Image result for cornelius van til

But facts bear an evidential relationship to each other only if certain background conditions obtain. They connect (a) facts to each other causally and (b) each of them to our evidence-weighing minds (c) within a world created by God. That’s the worldview that grounds the premises of sound classical apologetical arguments. It would take me years to accept that from Van Til (above, on the steps of Federal Hall, Wall & Broad, NE corner, 1978, the year I met Monheim; the man in front of him, resting his chin on his left fist, is my old friend Eric Sigward. ). My reading and interacting with Greg L. Bahnsen (1948-1995) made the decisive pedagogical difference.

God has (as it were) encoded these conditions into every human mind (Genesis 1:27; John 1:6; Romans 1:18-20), even minds that reject the Bible. The worldview expressed in the Bible, and only that one, explicates them. The Bible confirms as divine revelation what every human knower tacitly and spontaneously works with, but can justify (when justification is called for) only on the basis of the Bible.

When apologists argue with an unbeliever about, say, the authorship of Isaiah, they should be prepared, at a moment’s notice, to foreground the conditions of intelligible discourse.

Continue reading “Evidence that demands a worldview: or how apologetics requires a metapologetics”

God: “behind the scenes” (or “under the floorboards”) of every argument

My lifelong interest in arguments for and against the existence of God was never the same once it dawned on me that unless the God of the Bible exists, there wouldn’t be any such thing as argumentation (and therefore no theistic argumentation).

A study of Cornelius Van Til Image result for cornelius van tiland his interpreter Greg L. Bahnsen occasioned that dawning.

Not even “God does not exist” is intelligible unless God exists.

Image result for greg bahnsenRare is the philosopher who, inferring God’s existence from the existence or character of the world, asks whether inference itself would be possible in a non-theistic world. If it isn’t, then theistic inference is redundant. Our ability to investigate is itself a divine intention.

Professions of atheism are spiritually insincere because they result from the affirmers’ suppression of their basic awareness of God’s existence. (Romans 1:18-20) We all know the latter as incorrigibly as we know that the world has existed for millennia independently of any of us, a world that has included billions of human selves.

Further, one knows the existence of God, the world, and other selves “primordially,” that is, neither by deduction nor by induction, but prior to any deduction or induction one performs. (See my discussion of Augustus Hopkins Strong’s notion of “first truths” here.)

Continue reading “God: “behind the scenes” (or “under the floorboards”) of every argument”

Bernard Lonergan’s “Insight”: on becoming an intellectually fulfilled theist

“Well, they’re deductivists. And you know what I think of deductivists.”

That’s how Bernard J. F. Lonergan, S.J. (1904-1984) answered when I asked him about the Austrian school of economics.

Yes, I did know what he thought of them. More on that presently.

On June 22, 1983 I was on the campus of Boston College, engrossed in an afternoon session on Lonergan’s then-unpublished “Essay in Circulation Analysis, the economics section of that year’s Lonergan Workshop. (An unofficial edition circulated among Lonerganians.) My aunt, the late Anne T. Flood, Sister of Charity, Ph.D. (Catholic University of America; dissertation on Bishop Christopher Butler and Lonergan) beckoned me from the hallway.

Would I like to meet the great man?

I didn’t return to the classroom.

Patricia “Pat” Coonan, who had known Lonergan since 1945, drove us from Chestnut Hill to Weston, where he was convalescing at the Campion Center. When we arrived, it wasn’t certain that Lonergan was up to a visit. We might have to turn around.

But soon he was ready [my diary shows] and greeted us [from his hospital bed] with a smile. Pat introduced me to the master, and I managed to comport myself properly. I did not interview him, but I did tell him about myself, what his work has meant to me, and even raised the question [of] macroeconomics with him when Pat brought up her difficulties with the “Circulation Analysis.” Lonergan stressed his own macroeconomic approach, not seeming to be aware that [Ludwig von] Mises’ and [Murray N.] Rothbard’s “microeconomic” approach has addressed the “Depression” argument against the free market.

Image result for bernard lonerganIn the aftermath of the Great Depression, immersed in theological studies and spiritual formation between his profession of vows in 1924 and ordination in 1936, Lonergan produced that manuscript. In the ‘70s, after his methodological work was done, he returned to it.

Continue reading “Bernard Lonergan’s “Insight”: on becoming an intellectually fulfilled theist”

Eric Voegelin: no debate without accord on existential order

“What ‘banged’?”

That was the derisive reaction of Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) to someone’s mentioning the prevailing cosmology, the Big Bang theory (not to be confused with the television comedy whose theme song’s lyrics encapsulate the disordered cosmology Voegelin analyzed*).

He asked that rhetorical question on March 26, 1983 in Newton, Massachusetts during a Friday night-Saturday afternoon conference arranged by organizers of the annual Lonergan Workshops. (During that year’s meeting in June I’d meet Bernard J. F. Lonergan, SJ, whose mind I revered as much as Voegelin’s.)voegelin

Being a Rothbardian libertarian, I could hardly resist asking Voegelin about the seminars that Ludwig von Mises led in Vienna in the twenties. Smiling, Voegelin said he appreciated learning from Mises that inflation is not an increase in prices but rather the central bank’s increase in the money supply not commensurate with an increase in production of commodities. (A government may politically “freeze” prices, but then the economic effect of the inflation, that is, of the physical increase, is a shortage of the goods whose prices were frozen.) 

At the cocktail hour I asked Voegelin (I paraphrase from memory) how he could communicate with scholars whose grasp of the historical material was far below his (among whom he did not number Father Lonergan, but I certainly include myself). “With a kind of controlled irony,” he deadpanned. 

Continue reading “Eric Voegelin: no debate without accord on existential order”