Friday, December 03, 2010

BDK and Tim on Historical Evidence

This exchange gets very very good about the time Tim and BDK get into an exchange on what evidence would be sufficient to support belief in a resurrection.

It goes, though, to an important part of my enterprise in discussing historical evidence surrounding the foundation of Christianity. Any particular piece of evidence in the question of theism versus atheism, or of Christianity vs. non-Christianity is just that, one piece of the evidence. This includes, by the way, the problem of evil. I would be surprised, maybe even shocked, if historical evidence alone overturned BDK's overall commitment to a naturalistic philosophy. People change basic philosophies only when lots of things fall apart and typically, it's lots of kinds of things. The interesting claim here for me is that patient study of the whole issue will reveal is that there is something profoundly odd and surprising from a naturalistic standpoint in the whole history surrounding the founding of Christianity. You can admit that and say, "OK, but naturalism seems to me so well grounded otherwise, that I'm got to continue to believe that naturalism is true and that the whole story happened naturalistically, even if it's tough to imagine just how that could have been."

Lewis wrote about an atheist colleague being surprised at the strength of the historical case for Christianity.

“Then I read Chesterton’s Everlasting Man and for the first time saw the whole outline of Christian history set out in a form that seemed to me to make sense. Somehow I contrived not to be too badly shaken. You will remember I already thought Chesterton the most sensible man alive “apart from his Christianity.” Now, I veritably believe, I thought-I didn’t of course say; words that would have revealed the nonsense-that Christianity itself was very sensible “apart from its Christianity.” But I hardly remember, for I had not long finished The Everlasting Man when something far more alarming happened to me. Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. “Rum thing,” he went on. “All that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it really happened once. “… Was there no escape?”
by C. S. Lewis Surprised by Joy (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1942), pp. 223-224



VR: That atheist remained an atheist. But he thought the strength of the case for Christianity was stronger than he thought it would be. If you establish that with the argument, who knows where it goes from there.

11 comments:

GREV said...

Victor:

Nice.

I recall a definition about scientism from the book Body and Soul, in which the writer said he is persuaded of the case for a closed system because the alternative would be uncomfortable. Sounds like someone is not really willing to look at the evidence in this case.

There are things you can establish with the argument but the case only becomes closed when the Spirit of God moves the person to repentance. The evidence is there. People usually run, deny or whatever other term you want to use because of what is demanded.

The evidence is there. When in Acts 1:3, it is said that he Jesus was seen by them -- it literally means they eyeballed him. So, people were alive who knew this Jesus and saw what he did. The question is; will we believe and respond to what is demanded? That the world/the created order is no longer the centre of all reality but rather the One who causes all things to be and calls us to a life of what it really means to be human.

GREV said...

Victor said:
“People change basic philosophies only when lots of things fall apart and typically, it's lots of kinds of things.”

That in other literature is called coming to the end of yourself and being ready to change your thinking and turn around.

Walter said...


There are things you can establish with the argument but the case only becomes closed when the Spirit of God moves the person to repentance.


Do you feel that Holy Spirit moves all men or just the ones that are predestined to salvation?

mattghg said...

People change basic philosophies only when lots of things fall apart and typically, it's lots of kinds of things.

I know you've mentioned Cherterton already, but the following has to be worth quoting in this context:

If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question, why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, "For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity." I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence. But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts. The secularist is not to be blamed because his objections to Christianity are miscellaneous and even scrappy; it is precisely such scrappy evidence that does convince the mind. I mean that a man may well be less convinced of a philosophy from four books, than from one book, one battle, one landscape, and one old friend. The very fact that the things are of different kinds increases the importance of the fact that they all point to one conclusion. Now, the non-Christianity of the average educated man to-day is almost always, to do him justice, made up of these loose but living experiences. I can only say that my evidences for Christianity are of the same vivid but varied kind as his evidences against it. For when I look at these various anti-Christian truths, I simply discover that none of them are true. I discover that the true tide and force of all the facts flows the other way.
- Orthodoxy

GREV said...

Walter said:
“Do you feel that Holy Spirit moves all men or just the ones that are predestined to salvation?”
Thanks for the question. Let's start with the easy stuff!
Allow the following to set some of the context of my reply:

Genesis 12: 5 The LORD took him outside and said, “Gaze into the sky and count the stars – if you are able to count them!” Then he said to him, “So will your descendants be.”
II Corinthians 5:20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!”
Galatians 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.
As a minister of the Gospel of Christ for about 20+ years now, Scripture is normative for me in many ways, especially in framing how I might respond to questions such as the one posed above.
So, indeed the Holy Spirit does move upon all people convicting the world of sin righteousness and judgement to quote the words of Jesus. So, the Spirit is active but for me salvation is due utterly to the calling of God in the life of each individual. So, though I am sympathetic to the merits of inclusive and/or universalist theologies I am not persuaded.

Allow this to serve as a summary. God calls. I know not who He is calling. Therefore, the free offer of the Gospel is made to all people.

So, the Spirit is moving over all the World and speaking to all people, but God knows in the mystery of His purpose who shall respond. And the response will be far more then anyone could ever imagine. Because all of this is for the display of the Glory of God. Too many people make a shipwreck of their inquiries out of trying to decipher exactly how it unfolds.

Walter said...

Allow this to serve as a summary. God calls. I know not who He is calling. Therefore, the free offer of the Gospel is made to all people.

I assume that you believe in monergism and unconditional election. As far as you understand it, the only people who will look at the evidence for Christianity and believe are those that have been chosen by God to receive help from the Holy Spirit, correct? IOW, those who are not chosen for salvation will never consider the evidence for Christianity to be sufficient to overcome skepticism due to our total depraved sin natures. Is this your view, or do you lean more to the Arminian side, where all mankind has been extended "grace" to respond to the gospel?

I am not really framing an argument--just curious.

GREV said...

Walter:

Thanks again for the inquiry.

I do identify more with the New Reformed perspective. I do find the Arminian perspective to be flawed in many regards. I recommend The Potter's Field by James White, in this regard. However, I welcome and work with people of different perspectives. Keeping in mind Paul's statement that as long as Christ is being preached one is glad. John Wesley would preach wise words regarding differences and working together at the funeral of the Calvinist revivalist preacher George Whitefield. Ben Franklin knew Whitefield well and their relationship is one of the interesting stories of American History.

But I have said on numerous occasions in church services, that I cannot and will not try to delineate where God's sovereignty starts and stops and humanity's response starts and stops. Hence my references above as I say -- God calls and as a person calls upon the name of the Lord they are saved.

Specifically, if grace is somehow present in each person to some degree and they can draw upon it at some point to respond to God's offer of salvation then the power of God to save seems then to be dependent upon the agency or action of the person. I cannot reconcile that with a clear statement that though the person is dead in sin, God makes alive. Opens our eyes to see what we need to do.

I hope I am not evading answering. I find these discussions just quickly decline into a war of words and misrepresentations and so I proceed cautiously.

Shalom

shiningwhiffle said...

People change basic philosophies only when lots of things fall apart and typically, it's lots of kinds of things.

This has been my experience in my own life (for multiple issues, and multiple times for some issues), and I've found nothing to make me think it false for most others.

Steven Carr said...

'This exchange gets very very good about the time Tim and BDK get into an exchange on what evidence would be sufficient to support belief in a resurrection.'

This is a good question.

What evidence would have convinced the recently converted Christians in Corinth who were openly scoffing at the idea of their god choosing to raise corpse?

Gareth McCaughan said...

shiningwhiffle, my own experience is different: of the people I know who've converted to or from Christianity, I'd say the great majority (including myself, obviously the case I know best) didn't have everything else -- or even anything much else -- falling apart at the time. I think I know exactly two people who changed their religious position on account of, or at least during, personal crises. One switched from Christianity to atheism (but has since become a Christian again); one switched from atheism, or perhaps agnosticism, to Christianity. I know a lot more who have converted or deconverted without any such impetus.

Victor Reppert said...

Gareth: So you're saying one-issue converts and deconverts are more common that I had thought?