This past summer I read through Norman Geisler’s book, If God, Why Evil? and noticed that in it he appears to commit the formal fallacy of denying the antecedent. I won’t bother with rehashing the details of that now; you can read that short post here.
Some time after that post appeared Richard Howe (Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary) took the time to comment on my post and we were able to briefly chat about it at the national conference of Evangelical Philosophical Society in Atlanta last November. In his post Professor Howe notes “The critic [that’s me!] pointed out (I think correctly, taken in one way) that Geisler’s argument, when cast into predicate or quantificational logic this way, commits the fallacy of denying the antecedent.” I was glad to read this since I highly respect Geisler’s work and didn’t expect to see such a basic fallacy in one of his books. After publishing the post I half-expected to be informed that it was me that made such a basic mistake. But, it turns out, I was right. Well, kind of. Continue reading
In Paul M. Gould‘s splendid “Essay on Academic Disciplines, Faithfulness, and the Christian Scholar,” he defends what he calls ‘Perspectival Factualism’ as the best approach for a Christian to adopt towards her academic discipline. I raise some questions for Prof. Gould’s proposal. Finish reading Dr. Davis’ post on the Evangelical Philosophical Society website here.
• Visit Dr. Davis’ personal website: www.richbdavis.com
In the last twenty to thirty years there has been an enormous increase in the number of people engaged in various apologetics-focused ministries. Though it would be hard to trace this increase to any one single person, if you were to make a list of the four or five most influential apologists during that time, Norman Geisler would certainly have to be included on it. For me personally, his co-authored (with Paul Feinberg) book Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective was the first book in philosophy I ever read and I found it quite helpful. In general, I think today’s aspiring apologists would be well served to model their careers after Geisler.
Overall, I think this rise in apologetics is a good thing. The Christian worldview is being attacked from all sides and the Church needs people who are equipped and able to respond to these attacks. Unfortunately, the quality of some of the arguments by Christian apologists simply doesn’t pass muster. This puts us in an interesting position because we now need to not only respond to those attacking the Christian worldview, but we also need to carefully evaluate the specific arguments of our fellow apologists. Because we agree with their conclusions it’s tempting to ignore fellow Christians’ bad arguments for the existence of God or bad responses to non-believers’ arguments against the existence of God. However, it’s important that we evaluate these arguments too so as to not bring reproach on those arguments that are actually pretty good.
Norman Geisler is not typically one whose arguments stand in need of critique. However, even the best of philosophers can make mistakes from time to time and so, in the spirit of trying to ensure all our defenses of Christianity are the very best, I offer a small critique of an argument Geisler presents in his book If God, Why Evil?
Bishop Berkeley (d. 1753) once suggested that the surest way to refute atheism and defend religion was to deny the existence of matter. It stands to reason. The atheist holds that there is no God, and matter is all there is. Therefore, if there are no material objects, atheism couldn’t possibly be true. Exactly so. However, we’ve never met anyone who didn’t consider this idealistic cure far worse than the materialist disease. John Wilkinson, youth pastor and author of No Argument for God (IVP, 2011), seems to have taken a page directly from Berkeley’s playbook. Continue reading
Does apologetics help or hurt our witness? According to David Fitch, not only does evidence-based apologetics hurt the church, it ultimately collapses in the face of postmodernism. Apologetics is disingenuous, presumptuous, depends on an agenda-driven science, undermines a person’s conversion, and makes Christians defensive. In this series of four posts, Rich Davis shows how (at every point) Fitch’s case is built on biblically and philosophically unsound arguments.
In a fascinating exchange (Mar 8/14) on Julie Roy’s Up For Debate program on Moody Radio, David Fitch, Professor of Theology at Northern Seminary (Chicago), squared off against Nancy Pearcey, Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist, on the question “Do Apologetics Help or Hurt Our Witness?” (see here). We’ve previously discussed (and found wanting) Prof. Fitch’s postmodern complaints against evidential apologetics: that it relies on the authority of a biased form of science, is guilty of being presumptuous and disingenuous, and undermines a person’s confidence in their own conversion. Bold claims, to be sure, but not properly established. Continue reading
David Fitch is no friend of traditional, evidence-based apologetics. In his 2005 book, The Great Giveaway, he singles out Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, Creation Science, and defenders of inerrancy for pointed criticism. Their approach “wanes” in effectiveness if we at once embrace a postmodern perspective. Further, their arguments naively rely upon the “authority and objectivity” of science, thereby “training the new believer to trust science more than the Scriptures of the church.” This effectively “undermines Christian authority in a person’s conversion”  Clearly, these are serious charges and not to be taken lightly. If Fitch is right, McDowell, Strobel and company should really cease and desist from their apologetic speaking, training, and writing lest they cause even further harm to the church. Continue reading