The Failure of Popular Christian Apologetics:  Part One of a Review of Andy Stanley’s “Irresistible”

Irresistible

Pastor Andy Stanley wants to be rid of having to defend the Old Testament.    The thrust of his book is that he sees the Old Testament as an unnecessary drag on the New Testament gospel, so he wants to unhitch the Old Testament from the New, allowing the gospel of the New Covenant to sail on unimpeded.  But his approach is a copout, a lazy and shallow way to deal with the apologetic issues raised by the Old Testament.  Don’t like the Old Testament?  Pastor Stanley says to just pretend that it’s not part of the Bible!  His approach misrepresents what the New Testament teaches and diminishes the power of the gospel.  His approach to apologetics represents the failure of the popular approach to Christian apologetics to defend the truthfulness of the Bible.

In the second century, Marcion of the church at Rome also proposed unhitching the Old Testament from the New.  He even said that the god of the Old Testament was a different god than the god of the New Testament.  The old god was mean and judgmental; the new god is loving and gracious.  Marcion was widely denounced by church leaders as a heretic, and his heresy now goes by the name Marcionism.  Pastor Stanley does not go so far as to say that the two testaments teach two different gods, but he views the character of God changing radically from the mean and judgmental one in the Old Testament to the loving and gracious one in the New.  He is on very dangerous ground.

I am going to offer a brief exegetical response to one of Pastor Stanley’s main claims about Christians and the Old Testament, but I will spend most of the time on critiquing his apologetic methodology.   I will follow up with additional posts on his exegetical claims.

 

Paul rejected the Law of Moses:

“Paul did not consider the law of Moses the go-to source for Christian behavior.” (130)

“Paul never leverages the old covenant as the basis for Christian behavior.” (209)

“The Ten Commandments have no authority over you.  None. To be clear: Thou shalt not obey the Ten Commandments.” (136)

Except, among the hundred-plus times that Paul quotes the Old Testament in his letters, many times Paul appeals to the Law of Moses and other passages in the Old Testament as the standard for Christian behavior:

  • 1 Timothy 3:16-17 – The Old Testament in general is ethically authoritative for Christians.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:9, 13-14 and I Timothy 5:17-18 – Deuteronomy 25:4 and the Levite system of support under the Law of Moses justify financial support for full-time preachers of the gospel.
  • 1 Timothy 5:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:1 – Appeals to two or three witness law from Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15 and Numbers 35:30.
  • Ephesians 6:2-3 – Appeals to Exodus 20:12, to honor your father and mother
  • 1 Timothy 1:8-11 – Criminals laws of the Law of Moses are binding under the New Covenant.
  • Romans 12:17-21 – Don’t repay evil with personal vengeance, appealing to “it is written” in Deuteronomy 32:35 and Psalm 25:21-22.
  • Romans 13:9 – State authorities are God’s servants, so obeying the Ten Commandments should keep you out of trouble, and the Ten Commandments are summarized by Leviticus 19:18: “love one your neighbor as yourself.”
  • I Timothy 2:11-14 – Authority of men rather than women to teach in the church is based on the Genesis account of creation and fall of Adam and Eve.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:15-16 – Do not unite with a prostitute based on Genesis 2:24 teaching that “the two will become one flesh.”
  • Ephesians 5:31-33 – Husbands love your wives as your own bodies based on Genesis 2:24.
  • Ephesians 4:26 – “Be angry and do not sin” – a quote from LLX version of Psalm 4:4.

Pastor Stanley says, “Jesus issued his new commandment as a replacement for everything in the existing list. Including the Big Ten.” (196)  But in Romans 13:9 Paul says (like Jesus says in Matthew 22:40) that the Ten Commandments and other laws of the Old Testament “are summed up” by “love your neighbor,” and a summary does not annul the details that it summarizes.

How did Pastor Stanley miss all these passages?  The only one in the list above that he even mentions in his book is 1 Timothy 3:16. (168)  That’s irresponsible.  (A more accurate name for his book than “Irresistible.”)  And how does Pastor Stanley handle 1 Timothy 3:16?  By claiming that “Paul did not consider the law of Moses the go-to source for Christian behavior” (130); therefore 1 Timothy 3:16 cannot mean what it seems to mean.  But Paul does exactly what Pastor Stanley claims he didn’t do.  And 1 Timothy 3:16 is clear that Paul is appealing to Old Testament moral standards, about “training in righteousness . . . to be equipped for every good work.”

And of course, not only do we have to look at what Paul wrote, but also what Jesus said, and He said that He did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17).  I will address the Sermon on the Mount in more detail in a subsequent post.

 

A Textless Christianity:  The Failure of Traditional Apologetics to Defend Scripture 

Once upon a time, a group of textless Jesus followers, sandwiched between empire and temple, defied both. The credibility of our faith is not contingent upon the credibility of the events recorded in the Jewish Scriptures. (306)

As passages such as 1 Timothy 3:16-17 teach, the Old Testament was the Bible for the early church.  So, after Christ’s resurrection and before the New Testament books were written, the church had less text than it would have later, but it was not textless.

Pastor Stanley’s attacks on the text of Scripture continue with statements like these:

 “Resurrection is the horse. The Bible is the cart.” (299)

“The credibility of our faith is not contingent upon our text being infallible or inerrant. It rests securely on an event [the resurrection of Jesus – MW].” (306)

“In light of the post-Christian context in which we live, it’s time to stop appealing to the authority of a sacred book to make our case for Jesus.” (302-303)

“I’m convinced the entire Bible doesn’t have to be true for part of it to be true.” (305)

 

Notice that with these statements and the one above about the early church being “textless,” Pastor Stanley is not only dismissing the Old Testament as indefensible, he will not stand up for the inerrant truth of the New Testament either.  He is unhitching both Old and New Testaments as the foundation of the Christian faith and completely basing the Christian faith on the empirical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.  He mentions this alleged error in the New Testament:  “In all likelihood, John expected to see his friend return in the clouds during his lifetime.”  (222)

But, of course, Pastor Stanley is most concerned about intellectual and moral defects in the Old Testament:  “When it comes to sexual purity, the Bible is a mixed bag with mixed messages. The New Testament isn’t.  But the entire Bible, especially the Old Testament, certainly is.” (240)  Pastor Stanley says that “The Bible says-based faith” requires unbelievers to “check their brains, their interest in science, or their justice instinct at the door.” (274)  “When skeptics point out the violence, the misogyny, the scientific and historically unverifiable claims of the Hebrew Bible, instead of trying to defend those things, we can shrug, give ’em our best confused look, and say, ‘I’m not sure why you’re bringing this up. My Christian faith isn’t based on any of that.’” (290)  Whereas the Old Testament says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, . . .  true, and righteous altogether” (Ps. 19:7,9), and the New Testament says that “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good“ (Rom. 7:12) and that under the Old Testament “every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution” (Heb. 2:2), Pastor Stanley says, “In the Old Testament, God played by the rules of the kingdoms of this world.” (163)  He says that when he talks to people who have left the faith because of something in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, “I assure them I don’t believe what they don’t believe either.” (277-278)   Really, Pastor Stanley?  Tell us exactly what you reject as falsehoods in the Old Testament.

But despite these statements denigrating the Old Testament, Pastor Stanley wants to reassure us that the Old Testament is inspired:  “I’m not suggesting the two testaments are not equally inspired. My point is they aren’t equally applicable. (103)  This kind of “inspiration” is certainly not the plenary and verbal inspiration historically upheld by Christians.  That kind of inspiration guarantees the Bible’s infallibility, both Old and New Testaments.  Pastor Stanley rejects biblical infallibility.  His view of inspiration also entails a diminished view of God, who was somehow hindered from teaching truth to the world He created.  In an interview with Michael Brown, Pastor Stanley presents his case as merely one of emphasis for the purpose of evangelism.  He says, “To win someone to Christ, start with the Gospel of John, and the rest of the Bible follows.”[1]  But the quotes just cited from his book clearly convey that he thinks that the Old Testament conveys falsehoods.

To say that “Resurrection is the horse. The Bible is the cart” means that we believe the Bible because of the evidence for the resurrection, we don’t believe the resurrection because of the Bible.  But if that is true, then the Jews had no reason to believe the Scriptures given to them through Moses and the other prophets before Christ was resurrected from the dead.  Hopefully, the absurdity of the claim is obvious.  If Pastor Stanley’s claim were true, then I would not be able to cite passages where Jesus and His disciples validate Jesus’ ministry and the meaning of His resurrection by appealing to the Old Testament.  The early Christians did not merely recount empirical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection as Pastor Stanley would have us do.  Jesus and his disciples defended the resurrection by proving that the Old Testament predicted Jesus’s life and resurrection (e.g., Matt. 16:21; Luke 24:25-27; Acts 2:16-36, 17:1-3, 18:26-28; 1 Cor. 15:3).  Jesus said, for example, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47).  The Old Testament prophecies provided the context, laid down “line upon line” (Isa. 28:10) by God over the course of over fourteen hundred years, in order to correctly understand what Jesus’ resurrection meant.  After all, other people were raised from the dead (e.g., John 11:33-34; Matt. 27:52-53; Acts 9:36-43), but those resurrections did not have the same meaning as Jesus’ resurrection.  Outside the biblical worldview, a resurrection would mean nothing more than a strange occurrence in a world with a lot of strange, unexplainable things that happen from time to time.

Pastor Stanley responds to examples of appeals to Scripture to support the resurrection by claiming that early Christians only appealed to the Old Testament when they talked to Jews, because Jews had respect for the Old Testament.  He cites Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17 as an example of preaching to Gentiles, and he claims that Paul avoided appealing to Scripture here.  Pastor Stanley asks rhetorically, “Why not give ’em chapter and verse?” (312).  Well, genius, there were no chapter and verse divisions in the Bible back then, not until they were added over a thousand years later.  Paul could have said “it is written in the Hebrew Scriptures that . . .”, but doesn’t.  Is that really that significant since Paul appeals to Scripture by informing the Greeks of the contents of Genesis 1 through 11?  He tells them about the creation of the universe by the one true God, the creation of Adam as the first man, and then the dispersal of the nations across the globe from the Tower of Babel (Acts 17:24-27).  The Greeks did not believe in that account of history.  Many of them believed in eternal cycles of history, with humanity being reconstituted with each new cycle.  If anyone questioned Paul about where he got his view of history, he would have to say the Jewish Scriptures.

Paul’s statement that “he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed” (v. 31) is essentially a one-sentence summary of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah ruling the world.  If Paul was later asked by those who wanted to hear more (v. 32) and those who joined him and believed (v. 34) where he got the idea that this resurrected man is appointed the judge of all humanity, he would have to respond that his source is the Hebrew Scriptures, like Psalm 110, Daniel 7, and Isaiah 9.  Being resurrected from the dead does not inherently mean that you are the ruler of the world since other people were resurrected apart from that significance.

Further note that, while Pastor Stanley would unhitch the Old Testament from the gospel, the Apostle Paul appeals to Genesis 1-11 to make his case for the gospel to Gentiles in Athens.  According to Paul, the Genesis account of creation is the foundation of the gospel (as can also be seen in his letters, such as Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49).  Yet Pastor Stanley says that the New Testament teaches “a version of faith that had nothing to do with the creation account or the history of the Jews” (321).

Last, notice that in his speech at Athens, Paul does not provide empirical evidence that the Messiah rose from the dead.  He simply asserts it. Does that mean that Paul rejected appealing to empirical evidence?  (Some people have made this argument against the use of empirical evidence.)  No, because he does so in 1 Corinthians 15:5-6 (while also saying that Christ died for our sins and was raised on the third day “according to the Scriptures” in verses 3-4).  Therefore, we should be cautious about saying, “Paul did not mention x in his sermon in Athens; therefore Paul rejected appealing to x when witnessing to Gentiles.”  Paul’s sermon in Athens was very brief, with just a few bullet-point highlights of the gospel message, with an emphasis on denying the Greeks’ polytheism.

Pastor Stanley did not come up with this “resurrection first, Bible-at-the-periphery” approach on his own.  He is following the lead of several currently well-known Christian apologists.  William Lane Craig of the Reasonable Faith apologetics ministry holds that inerrancy “doesn’t stand at the center of the Christian faith. It is not one of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith;” rather, “it stands somewhere near the periphery.”[2]   And in another place, he says, “Questions about the historical reliability of these ancient Jewish texts just has no direct bearing on whether God exists or Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.”[3]  Likewise, Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason apologetic ministry says, “inerrancy is neither necessary for salvation nor necessary to prove the truthfulness of Christianity.”[4]  Mike Licona says, “I believe in biblical inerrancy, but I also realize that biblical inerrancy is not one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. The resurrection is.”[5]  But he doesn’t really believe in inerrancy:  “You may lose some form of biblical inerrancy if there are contradictions in the Gospels, but you still have the truth of Christianity that Jesus rose from the dead, and I think that’s the most important point we can make.”[6]  Norman Geisler has opposed these comprises of the inerrancy of Scripture, even though he is an advocate of the same basic apologetic method that the others adhere to.[7]

How is an evidentialist like Pastor Stanley able to defend the infallibility of Scriptures?  The evidentialist builds his case piece by piece from the empirical evidence.  So to prove the infallibility of Scripture, he would have to provide empirical proof of the truth of everything said in Scripture, and that would include statements about both heavenly visions and earthly history.    That is an impossible demand.  In other words, the evidentialist cannot defend the infallibility of Scriptures.

In an interview, Pastor Stanley says that he was trained in “Classical Apologetics” (which I’ll refer to as “traditional apologetics”)[8] by such men as Norman Geisler and Charles Ryrie.[9]  If advocates of traditional apologetics feel the need to stop defending major doctrines of historic Christianity, and this seems to be the logical consequence of the traditional method rather than a deviation from it, then they need to find another approach to apologetics, one that actually does the job it is supposed to do – fully defend the Christian faith.

Some traditional apologists get their epistemology (theory of knowledge) from the prevailing consensus in the scientific establishment.  Stephen Meyer, a leader of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, writes, “ID is not based on religion, but on scientific discoveries and our experience of cause and effect, the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past.“[10]  These apologists think that they are able to get a hearing from atheist scientists because they share neutral common ground with atheists on the subject of epistemology.  But the epistemology of the modern scientific establishment is naturalistic empiricism, and naturalism excludes the supernatural as part of its definition of science.  Consequently, these Christian apologists are basing their arguments for the existence of God on an assumption that excludes God.  Game over.  The Christian loses.

Some others, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, adopted Common Sense Realism, in which common sense beliefs were supposed to function as the basic principles of knowledge.  But what counts as “common” is not absolute.  It is a statistical determination of what the majority believe, which can change from generation to generation.  And even those beliefs that are found to be common in some limited set of data that has been collected may be so only from at a superficial level, where common terminology hides many shades of differences of meaning.  George Marsden describes the Common Sense approach as one in which “Christian and non-Christian thought were seldom distinguished according to first principles. Only the conclusion of either faith or skepticism was thought to matter.”[11]  No necessity for God’s existence can follow from the shifting sands of common sense.  But further, if God is the Creator of all things, then we should not be able to explain knowledge apart from His existence.  To assume that some things in life can make sense even if God did not exist is to assume that God is finite, related to some things in life but not others.  Therefore, a common sense theory of knowledge excludes the God of the Bible, the one about whom it can be said, “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom. 11:36).

And still other traditional apologists, even many Protestant ones, have fallen in love with Thomas Aquinas, who relied on Aristotle.  Aristotle held to a sort of empiricism, but it was based on the Form/Matter scheme held by many other Greek philosophers.  The view was that matter, the source of diversity in the world, and Form, the source of unity for the world, have separate origins.  Aristotle designated the Unmoved Mover as that pure form that is the source of unity; but as a pure, abstract unity, this Unmoved Mover is not the living, active God of Scripture.  The Unmoved Mover is a static, impersonal abstraction, an “it.”  The Unmoved Mover does not know the world, did not create the world, and could not create the world because it could not contemplate the changing material world and interact with it.  Since it does not know the world, it cannot provide any revelation, whether infallible or fallible.  The only thing that it can “communicate” is Being, but in the realm of human life on earth, Being is mixed with non-being, from which matter arises, to form the realm of Becoming.  Since humans live in the realm of Becoming rather than Being, all truth is in the process of changing.[12] To use Plato’s analogy, in this life we are all still in the cave looking at distorted shadows of the Good rather than looking at the Good undistorted.  Consequently, even if the Unmoved Mover’s communication of Being is taken to be a communication of Truth, it could never be infallible Truth, only distorted Truth.  Like the apologists who depend on naturalistic empiricism, the Thomists are basing their arguments for the existence of God on an assumption that excludes God – the God of the Bible anyway.

The God of the Bible can communicate infallible truth in the historical realm because He created that realm and guides its course.  Earthly history is not an alien realm to the Creator of heaven and earth.  God is able to proclaim His message to His creatures exactly as He intends it to be proclaimed, even through a prophet who is in rebellion against Him (e.g., Balaam, Num. 22-24; and Caiaphas, John 11:49-52).

The failure of the evidentialist approach to the resurrection used by well-known apologists is on display in recent debates between the Christian apologist and academic scholar Michael Licona and the skeptical academic scholar Bart Ehrman.  In a 2018 debate, they were supposed to debate whether the New Testament was historically reliable, but they both agreed on the errors in the New Testament![13]  Licona was willing to concede, for example, that Luke’s account that “a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1) was unhistorical because there are no records of this event in ancient literature other than Luke.  The mere absence of evidence was taken as evidence of absence because Licona conceded to the rules of secular academia.

In a radio debate in 2011, Ehrman insisted to Licona that “you cannot apply historiographic methods in order to explain that a miracle happened” because “it is invoking something outside our natural experience.”[14]  Therefore, even if there is strong evidence that Jesus came back to life after being crucified, the historian is prohibited from saying that “God raised Jesus from the dead.”  That would be a move away from history to faith, Ehrman said.  Consistent with that principle, Ehrman said that if he saw that someone was decapitated, had his head reattached, and then lived on earth another 2,000 years, as a historian he would just say that “it’s weird,” but he couldn’t call it a miracle. Licona conceded that historians should be “worldview independent,” including being neutral on the question of the existence of God.  He then gave his summation of the historical evidence as that most probably “Jesus was raised from the dead, and be very happy to leave the cause as a question mark.”  By leaving the cause of the resurrection a question mark, Licona is essentially granting Ehrman’s demand for a naturalistic approach to historical research.

So what do you get out of a method that just relies on historical evidence with alleged worldview neutrality?  You get a possible resurrection that has no spiritual significance.  To make the leap to faith amounts to abandoning science on this view because modern secularists define science as a search for naturalistic explanations.  By their definition of science, the possibility of the supernatural is excluded from the outset, before any evidence is examined.  Christians who concede to this cannot win the debate.  It’s like Charlie Brown and Lucy.  Whenever Charlie Brown tries to kick the football, Lucy pulls the football away, and Charlie falls flat on his back.  Likewise, when secularists assert the naturalistic definition of science and the Christian falls for that ruse, the Christian will be defeated every time, no matter how strong the evidence is.  The naturalistic definition of science is a veil covering the eyes of nearly the entire intellectual establishment in the world today and all the wanna-be intellectuals.  Right now, college students in nearly every college in the world are being taught by professors who are trying to pull that veil over their eyes.  The veil of naturalistic science prevents them from seeing the glory of the kingdom of Christ, but Pastor Stanley’s approach leaves that veil untouched.  So much for “irresistible.”

The presuppositional school of apologetics founded by Cornelius Van Til presents a different approach than that of traditional apologetics.   Van Til is often accused of opposing the use of empirical evidence in apologetics, but his concern was that evidence be presented along with a philosophy of knowledge that is consistent with the Christian worldview.  As he says here:

Historical apologetics is absolutely necessary and indispensable to point out that Christ arose from the grave, etc.  But as long as historical apologetics works on a supposedly neutral basis it defeats its own purpose. For in that case it virtually grants the validity of the metaphysical assumptions of the unbeliever.[15]

Van Til’s argument for the existence of God is what’s typically called nowadays “the argument from reason,” that God’s existence is necessary in order for human reason and an intelligible world to be possible.  It’s also called a “transcendental argument” because it addresses that a certain X is the necessary condition for Y, in this case that God’s existence is necessary for the possibility of rationality.  Van Til’s argument has, however, a specific content to it that is somewhat unique in that it appeals to the issue of the one-and-the-many and how that relates to the biblical nature of God in order to make this argument.  The argument is that there are two basic choices: 1) an absolute Mind must exist, in which all facts in history (the “many”) are related to the concepts (the “one”) that apply to them from all eternity, or 2) the universe is ultimately non-rational, and rationality could never arise in such a universe.  Concepts can only exist in a mind, and universal concepts could only have their origin in a universal Mind.  Concepts must relate to individual facts, so a personal Creator who is the source of all facts and all concepts necessarily exists for the possibility of rationality.  This kind of Creator can be called “absolute” because He is the origin of all facts and all the concepts that apply to them.  He created all things, and nothing exists apart from His will.

To give one example of what I am talking about, many prominent secular scientists in the twentieth century have remarked about the strange conformity of the physical phenomena that they observe to abstract mathematical laws.  Nobel Prize-winning physicist Eugene Wigner observed, “The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.” [16]  Albert Einstein said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”[17]  And Stephen Hawking asked, “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” [18]  God being an absolute Mind who is the source of the laws of mathematics as well as the empirical facts of the universe explains why the two fit together, and the assumption of an ultimately non-rational universe cannot provide an explanation of that.  Much more could be said about this argument, but I’ll have to move on to how this relates to the issue of biblical inerrancy.

Such an absolute God as proven by this argument, one who is the source of all facts and the concepts that apply to them, would be the source of all knowledge, and as such, He would be all-knowing (a.k.a omniscient).  There is no way that such a God could be mistaken about any facts.  In other words, the God that necessarily exists in order for knowledge and rationality to be possible is necessarily infallible regarding any subject whatsoever, whether science or souls.  If the argument is sound, then God must exist in order for there to be empirical evidence.  Consequently, there is no such thing as a religiously neutral fact.  The only possible facts are God-created facts.   The only objective way to view facts is to view facts as God-created.  This means that before we ever get to particular evidence for or against the truth of some historical claim in the Bible, reason requires that we assume the existence of a God who is necessarily infallible.  We can only have the “historical reliability of Scriptures” (as many traditional apologists like to talk about instead of the infallibility of Scriptures), if an infallible God exists.  Thus Van Til says, “the argument for the Scriptures as the infallible revelation of God is, to all intents and purposes, the same as the argument for the existence God.”[19]  On the presuppositional view, the doctrine of Biblical infallibility is deduced from the nature of the necessarily existing God rather than, as in the view of traditional evidential apologetics, being built up piecemeal by finding various empirical evidence that all the particular events described in the Bible really happened in history.

In terms of Van Til’s argument from reason outlined above, while we can say that God is necessarily infallible, the argument does not prove something as detailed as “the Bible contains 66 books.”  Determining the content of the canon of Scripture involves a number of factors.  Consistency with prior revelation from God that has been verified is part of the test (Deut. 13:2-3; Gal. 1:8).  In addition, the verification test includes several types of empirical evidence, such as fulfillment of prophecy and miracles (Deut. 18:21-22; Heb. 2:1-4).[20]  Then there is the empirical task of determining the accuracy of the transmission of the autographs in the various extant copies.[21]

Beyond the tests for canonicity, there are all sorts of historical claims that are made in the Bible; it would be impossible for finite humans to verify all of those.  A text that is found by the method outlined above to be the original words of God must be considered infallible, even if other historical references are unable to be confirmed.  Contradictions in Scriptures as a challenge to infallibility are handled in the same way.  Determining that a contradiction exists involves knowledge of ancient facts, particularly facts about how certain words were used in a particular ancient time period.  Resolving contradictions is a factor in determining canonicity, since consistency with prior revelation is given in Scripture as a test of canonicity.   But given that we are interpreting a long-dead language from long-dead cultures, from which we only have scraps of remains to examine and interpret, so that we have a greatly limited knowledge of the ancient culture and its language, some irresolvable contradictions should not be surprising.  A claim to revelation that commands, “Don’t worship Yahweh, the God of Israel,” is obviously disqualified as canonical.  But other statements in a claim to revelation may not be so clearly contradictory to prior revelation.  The other tests of canonicity may be very clear in that case, however, which provides warrant for regarding the revelation as genuine nonetheless.  And if it is genuine, it is infallible.

The presuppositional apologetic allows the Christian to overcome the compulsion that many traditional apologists seem to have to try to accommodate the views of the modern scientific establishment. Christians who advocate for a Big Bang and the earth being billions of years old often defend this position by saying that God’s works in nature can never contradict God’s word, so if science shows that the universe is billions of years old, then we shouldn’t interpret God’s word to contradict it.  We must find a way to accommodate God’s word to God’s works.  They often add that interpretations of God’s word are not infallible.  That’s true, but neither are scientists infallible.  Since God is absolutely rational, it is true that God’s works in nature cannot contradict God’s word, but science at any point in history cannot be said to conclusively understand God’s works in nature.  That would require omniscience of the scientists of everything in nature.  “Science,” after all, is an abstraction.  “Science” amounts to individual people, scientists, and their opinions about their areas of study.  Scientists, like all people, are finite, fallible, sinful human beings.  In our day at least, scientists are often at open war with their Creator.  They ”suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18) that God is “clearly” revealed “in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:20).

It is unreasonable to say that the Bible must conform to the scientific consensus at any point in history given that the consensus of scientists in the past has often been refuted by a later consensus of scientists.  For example, throughout most of history until the 1800s, nearly everyone believed in spontaneous generation, including scientists.  They believed that mice could come into being out of grain, maggots could come into being out of rotting meat, and frogs could come into being out of mud.  The decisive proof against spontaneous generation was Louis Pasteur’s experiment in 1859.  He devised a goose-necked bottle that allowed air to reach boiled broth in the bottom of a flask but trapped bacteria carried by dust in the air in the dip of the flask’s neck.  The broth remained germ-free.  That disproved spontaneous generation of germs from broth.   Genesis 1 says that God created all creatures on earth in six days.  Would Christians before 1859 have been warranted to reject the truthfulness of Genesis 1 by appealing to spontaneous generation?  I say not, even though the scientific evidence was not available to say otherwise.  They had sufficient reason to believe that Genesis 1 was divinely inspired despite the scientific consensus.  The Bible is the only revelation in the world that teaches an absolute God, and Genesis is the foundational book of that revelation.[22]

The same goes for the days of Genesis.  If the most reasonable interpretation of Genesis 1 is literal, 24-hour days,[23] then Christians should stand against the Big Bang cosmology because we have the more reasonable argument.  Science wouldn’t be possible if God did not exist, and the God that necessarily exists for the possibility of science is necessarily infallible.  If He says it was six literal days, then it was six literal days.

The famous philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn observed:  “[N]o theory ever solves all the puzzles with which it is confronted at a given time, nor are the solutions already achieved often perfect. . . .  If any and every failure to fit [data to theory] were ground for theory rejection, all theories ought to be rejected at all times.”[24]  Every major theory about our world has problems – gaps in the evidence and known evidence that could be understood as contradicting the theory.  That is true regarding both biological evolution and special creation, both the Big Bang and recent creation of the cosmos, both Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and post-Babylonian-captivity authorship of the Pentateuch.   The evidence for the traditional Christian views on these matters is much better than the secularists would have the public believe, and the secularists downplay evidence that presents problems for their views, but there will never be a time when everything is understood about the Bible and the ancient world so that every question about the Bible can be answered.  Whether atheist, Christian, or Hindu, humans are finite; therefore mystery is inescapable for any worldview.  What is a rational, scientifically-minded person to do?  They need to choose the view, first of all, that allows for the possibility of rationality and science.  And that is the biblical worldview.   The naturalistic worldview entails the view that humans are mindless bags of molecules.  It should be laughed out of court, but since it is the view held by all the “smart” people in our day, we have to address it.

The presuppositional method proves an absolute God, a comprehensive God.  Rather than negating the positive aspects of this world in order to arrive at a god who is an empty abstraction as with the Thomistic view, Van Til’s proof of God depends on God’s fullness.  His limitations are negated, not His attributes:  “we begin our thought about the infinity of God by insisting that the fulness of the being of God is back of the active fulness and variety in the spatio-temporal world.”[25]  This kind of God is the source of all knowledge.  This kind of God can know the future infallibly because He decrees the future completely.  The traditional method does not involve that kind of God, which forces it to adopt a piecemeal view of proving the Bible’s infallibility, which is not possible.  Pastor Stanley doesn’t mention the issue of Calvinism versus Arminianism in his book, but in other places, like his interview with anti-Calvinist Leighton Flowers,[26] he clearly rejects the Calvinist view that God foreordains all things.  Of course, Arminians think that Calvinism causes trouble apologetically.  They think that the view makes God responsible for evil.  But the apologetic problem with Arminianism is that it entails a finite God.  Calvinists believe that God is sovereign and that humans are morally responsible for their choices, but Arminians believe that God must limit His sovereignty in order to allow for human responsibility.  A limited God cannot have infallible knowledge.  He can’t know beforehand what choice a person will make if that choice is really undetermined.  The infallibility of Scripture depends upon, not only God’s determination of what his prophets would write, but also that particular events in history and the whole course of history would go a certain way.  The absolute God of Van Til’s argument, which is the kind of God taught in Scripture, is able to foreordain all the details of history; and of course, a finite god cannot.

William Lane Craig argues for a view called Molinism that attempts to account for the Bible’s teaching that God controls what happens in history while also allowing for libertarian free will (that human choices are not determined by God).  The claim is that God considers all the possible ways that events could go in history, to include what choices people would make in particular circumstances, and then out of all of those possible “worlds,” God actualizes the world that is the best out of all the possibilities.   Of course, we can often predict what choices someone will make in certain circumstances if we know that person well, based on choices that the person has made in the past.  But God’s prediction of human choices before any choices are made can’t rely on a past knowledge of choices.  Furthermore, usually predicting choices that others will make is far short of an infallible knowledge of the future choices people will freely make.  While asserting that God can infallibly know what people would choose in certain circumstances without determining those choices, Craig admits that Molinism does not explain how God could do that:

If someone insists, But how is God omniscient? I am not even sure what that kind of question means. . . . God just is essentially that way. He has just essentially the properties omnipotence, omniscience, moral perfection, eternity, and so forth. So I don’t see any reason to think that it is logically impossible for God to have an innate knowledge of these counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which would give him knowledge of how anyone would freely choose in any set of circumstances.[27]

The Calvinist has the answer to the question of how God knows the future, including people’s choices:  He foreordains it.  The Molinist denies that answer as the basis for God’s knowledge of people’s future choices, leaving the Molinist without the biblical answer.  The Molinist will probably respond by saying that the Calvinist view still leaves us with the mystery of how God is able to foreordain human choices in a way that allows humans to be morally responsible.  And the Molinist would be right.   But that puts the mystery and the knowledge where the Bible puts it, rather putting us in the position of the Molinist view that creates a mystery where the Bible gives us knowledge (Ps. 139:16; Acts 2:23, 4:28; Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:4-5, 11).  There is no clearer passage giving us the knowledge that God foreordains our moral choices than Romans 9.  Paul says, “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (v. 18).  Paul then anticipates the objection that this statement will bring from many people:  “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’” (v. 19).  Does Paul respond to the hypothetical question with “You misunderstood what I meant”?  No.  He doubles down on predestination:   “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”  (vv. 20-21).

God’s guidance of men to commit evil acts to fulfill His purposes is often done in a way that is indirect, like giving Joseph a dream that would make his brothers jealous, resulting in their decision to sell Joseph into slavery, so that eventually Joseph could save his family from famine (Gen. 50:20).  But however God did it, the results were in no way left up to chance so that events could have occurred other than how God planned them.  God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).  And as God says through Solomon:  “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1).  And as God says through Isaiah:

I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.  (Isa. 46:9-11)

 

The True Source of “Irresistible” Christianity

Ever since the Protestant Reformation, Reformed theologians have been emphasizing the Bible’s teaching on what makes Christianity “irresistible.”  It is the “I” in acronym TULIP – irresistible grace.    Apart from the Holy Spirit, “no one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11).  Apart from the Holy Spirit, no one would come to Christ and be saved by their own free will:  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44); “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John  6:65).  But if God chooses to save someone, God’s grace is irresistible.  Such a person will unfailingly choose to accept Jesus:  “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37).  What Jesus describes as being “born again” or “born from above” in John 3 is described as a heart transplant or circumcision of the heart in the Old Testament.  (Jesus tells Nicodemus that His teaching on being born again is an Old Testament teaching: “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” – John 3:10.)  For example, “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them” (Ezek. 11:19; also Deut. 30:6; Jer. 24:7, 32:39-40; Ezek. 36:26-27).  God has to perform a heart transplant in order for a sinner to be changed so that he desires to follow God.  A person can’t perform a heart transplant on himself, any more than a person can choose to be born, the first or second time.

Furthermore, the Bible says that God has chosen the preaching of God’s word to be the occasion of changing people’s hearts.  The Holy Spirit opens people’s ability to understand the truth of God’s word and accept it as true.  As Luke describes when Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45; cf. Eph. 1:17-18).  By separating evangelism from the Scriptures, Pastor Stanley undermines the key to evangelism, the only thing that can make Christianity “irresistible.”  He undermines the Holy Spirit.  Of course, the Holy Spirit can enlighten anyone in whatever circumstances He wants.  But the normal way that God has ordained that sinners become born of the Spirit is through the preaching of the Word of God.  Remember, it is the Holy Spirit who produced the Bible:  “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21); “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16).  We can’t make salvation more desirable to sinners by changing God’s word, because a “conversion” that is repelled by God’s word is a false conversion:  “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:1-3).  Paul charges Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2-4).  And what is this “word” that contains “sound teaching”?  Paul had just defined that:  “All Scripture” (2 Tim. 3:16).  Pastor Stanley turns people away from the Bible because he thinks that the Bible is keeping people away from Christ.  He never mentions in his book the problem of sin as a reason for unbelievers resisting salvation.  But the Bible teaches that man’s sinful nature is the primary reason people resist God – not Christians acting badly and definitely not because God acts badly in the Old Testament.

Van Til also points out that special revelation has always been part of God’s gift to humanity.  Even in the garden in the state of innocence, God decided that He should give special revelation to Adam to give him moral guidance.[28]  God told Adam to be fruitful and multiply, rule over the creation, work and guard the garden, and eat of any tree in the garden, except for one.  After the Fall, special revelation became all the more important because 1) natural revelation does not give information about redemption (Rom. 10:14), and 2) sinful men suppress natural revelation (Rom. 1:18-23), requiring a clearer revelation to give a light to the path (Psalm 119:105) of sinful humanity.  Christians should not pretend that they come to the evidence of the resurrection without the “bias” of what the Bible teaches.  A “bias” toward the truth is nothing to be ashamed of.  As Thom Notaro explains, a faithful Jew living at the time Jesus walked the earth would not examine the evidence for Jesus’ Messianic claims from a standpoint of religious neutrality.  He would presuppose the existence of the God of the Bible and interpret the empirical evidence provided by Jesus in the light of God’s previous revelation that predicted the Messiah.[29]  Anyone who approaches the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ, or anything else, with the bias of naturalistic empiricism should be ashamed because they are basing their reasoning on a failed, irrational, science-undermining theory of knowledge.

 

Putting Away Childish Apologetics

Maybe the people that come to Pastor Stanley’s Atlanta church are often persuaded to become Christians merely by showing them historical evidence of the resurrection.   That’s great.   But many of the atheists that I interact with have been presented with the historical evidence, and they remain unpersuaded.  Like Bart Ehrman, their main objection to Christianity is that belief in miracles is unscientific.  They define science as a search for naturalistic evidence.  Merely presenting empirical evidence does not overcome that objection.  To address that objection, the Christian needs to be able to present a Christian view of science and show why the atheist view of science reduces to absurdity.  They still may not be persuaded to convert, but at least their objection will have been answered.  The early church did not win tens of thousands of people to Christ just by presenting the empirical evidence that he rose from the dead, and neither should we.   At the very least, they presented the Bible’s view of the world’s history and the Bible’s prophecies about the Messiah as support for their empirical claims about the resurrection of Jesus.

In fact, Pastor Stanley thinks that several of Christ’s apostles were illiterate, so any theology deeper than what an illiterate person can understand is illegitimate:   “How would your version of faith hold up under the scrutiny of that mostly illiterate but oh-so-brave generation of Christians?” (321)  In an interview, he explains further, “Peter and John were illiterate. . . .  If ‘deep’ is information and ‘deep’ requires literacy, we’re not talking about the dynamic we find in the New Testament.”[30]  It’s strange how Peter and John were able to write books and letters in Greek if they were illiterate.  In Peter’s speech in Acts 2, he quotes Joel 2:28-32, Psalm 16:8-11, and Psalm 110:1.  In Acts 4 he quotes Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16.  Even if Peter memorized these passages by listening to someone else read, that means that Peter spent a lot of time being taught by someone who could read.  Pastor Stanley basis his claim on this verse:   “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated [ἀγράμματοι], common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).  But the same claim was made against Jesus:  “The Jews therefore marveled, saying, ‘How is it that this man has learning [γράμματα], when he has never studied?’” (John 7:15)  Yet Jesus was able to walk into a synagogue and read the scroll of Isaiah (Luke 4:17).[31]  Jesus often taunted the Pharisees with “Have you not read?” (Matt. 12:3, 5; Matt. 19:4; Matt. 22:31; Mark 12:10, 26).   And it’s important to note that what the Jewish leaders heard Peter and John say in Acts 4 was contrary to Peter and John being unlearned.  That’s why they were “astonished.”

Some scholars have estimated the literacy rate in Israel around the time of Jesus at 10-15%, although “the exact literacy rate amongst ancient Jews cannot be determined.”[32]  A lot of speculation goes into those estimates.  Literacy rates are difficult to determine because most ancient writings don’t survive to modern times, especially given the war of Rome against Israel that destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  But there is archeological evidence that even prior to Israel’s exile to Babylon, literacy was common even in small settlements of Israel.[33]  The Jews were People of the Book like no other, so literacy was highly valued in that culture.  The Jewish historian Josephus, writing in the latter half of the first century A.D., says that Jews took pride in teaching all of their children to read:

“Above all we pride ourselves on the education of our children, and regard as the most essential task in life the observance of our laws and of the pious practices, based thereupon, which we have inherited” (Ag. Ap. 1.12 §60)

“(The Law) orders that (children) shall be taught to read, and shall learn both the laws and the deeds of their forefathers . . .” (Ag. Ap. 2.25 §204).

So this whole claim about Peter and John being illiterate is baloney, and the conclusion drawn from it, that Christian theology should be no more sophisticated than what illiterates can understand, is baloney as well.  The author of Hebrews directly contradicts Pastor Stanley’s claim.  He says that Christian maturity requires understanding more than just the basic doctrines of the Bible.  He rebukes his audience for being like babes who need milk rather than solid food because “you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12).  The goal is to be “mature” (Heb. 5:14) which means to “leave the elementary doctrine of Christ” (Heb. 6:1) – that is, to be able to understand more in-depth doctrines than just the basic ones like “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Heb. 6:1).    Similarly, in Ephesians 4 Paul says that the goal of teachers in the church is to have the members of Christ’s church achieve “mature manhood,” which includes not being carried away by deceitful doctrine (Eph. 4:11-16).

Maturity in doctrine is required for someone to be a leader in the church:  “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9)  Pastor Stanley fails this standard.  He does not “hold firm to the trustworthy word.”  He’s lost faith in the bible, but he’s still preaching.  For Paul, sound doctrine is “all Scripture” (2 Tim. 3:16), particularly the Old Testament, which Pastor Stanley rejects. Rather than rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine, he has folded under atheists’ criticisms of the Bible.  His exegesis of the Bible is downright irresponsible as I showed regarding his claim that Paul does not appeal to the Old Testament as a standard for morality.   Pastor Stanley does not qualify as “a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 3:15).  I don’t want Pastor Stanley to be dismissed from his church, if possible.  At the least, though, he needs to take significant time off for the next year or more to study theological works outside his Arminian/Traditional Apologetics comfort zone.

The way that the first-century church expanded so quickly was not because they preached a dumbed-down theology suited for illiterates.  Neither will the modern church challenge the secular culture by preaching a dumbed-down theology suited for illiterates.  The church will challenge the modern secular culture only when it confronts the secular culture at all levels with the comprehensive claims of God’s word.  The modern culture needs to be confronted with the fact that they have nothing without Christ and His word, which includes the Old Testament – not science, not ethics, not reason, not this world or the next.

__________________________________________________________

[1]  “Dr. Brown Interviews Pastor Andy Stanley,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7Jcu03lJso.

[2]  “What is Inerrancy,” (12/15/08) https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/what-is-inerrancy/.  In another lecture, Craig acknowledges that the doctrine of inerrancy is not arrived at inductively but rather deductively.  However, Craig basis this on Jesus’ attitude toward the Scriptures and doesn’t mention how the nature of God plays a part in the issue of inerrancy.  He says that he believes the Bible because of Christ, not believing Christ because of the Bible. “Doctrine of Revelation Part 8: The Difficulties of Biblical Inerrancy,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8c_imrGvMM.

[3]  “#522 Should OT Difficulties Be an Obstacle to Christian Belief?”  4/16/17 https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/should-ot-difficulties-be-an-obstacle-to-christian-belief.

[4]  “Is Inerrancy Necessary?,” (6/18/12) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tmlarRL1VE.

[5]  “HBU’s Licona addresses Bible’s ‘contradictions’,” http://www.bpnews.net/39699.

[6]  Ibid.

[7]  For example, see https://normangeisler.com/mike-licona-on-inerrancy-its-worse-than-we-originally-thought/.

[8]  He means what can loosely be called traditional apologetics.  “Classical Apologetics” technically means the traditional proofs for the existence of God like those advocated by Thomas Aquinas.  This is distinguished from  Evidentialist Apologetics that Pastor Stanley is advocating in his book, although the latter is usually seen as complementing Classical Apologetics.

[9]  “Dr. Brown Interviews Pastor Andy Stanley,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7Jcu03lJso.

[10]  S.C. Meyer, “Intelligent Design is not Creationism,” The Daily Telegraph, London, 9 February 2006, www.discovery.org/a/3191, accessed 5 July 2015.  For more on this issue, see my essay, “Intelligent Design Leaders Promote a Naturalistic Epistemology,” Journal Of Creation, 29(3) 2015, http://www.christianciv.com/IDnaturalism.pdf.

 

[11]  George Marsden, “Scotland and Philadelphia: Common Sense Philosophy from Jefferson to Westminster,”

Reformed Journal 29/3 (1979), 8.  See also George Marsden. “The Collapse of American Evangelical Academia,” in Faith and Rationality (ed. Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff; Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), 219–64.

[12]  Cornelius Van Til, The Reformed Pastor and Modern Thought (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1980 [1971]), 92.  For more on Van Til’s critique of Aquinas, see my essay, “The Scope and Limits of Van TIl’s Transcendental Argument: A Response to John Frame,” http://www.christianciv.com/The_Scope_and_Limits_of_VTAG.pdf.

[13]  https://www.risenjesus.com/mike-licona-vs-bart-ehrman-2018.

[14]  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgcHGnjN1PQ.

[15]  Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 146.

[16]  Eugene Wigner, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,” Symmetries and Reflections:  Scientific Essays (Cambridge and London:  The MIT Press, 1970) p. 237.

[17]  Albert Einstein, “Physics and Reality”(1936), in Ideas and Opinions, trans. Sonja Bargmann (New York: Bonanza, 1954), p. 292.

[18]  Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, p. 232.

[19]  Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (1955), p. 125.

[20]  Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 128-29.  Also see Van Til, Psychology of Religion, p.123.  In many cases, the redeemed community existing at the time of the revelation would have the best vantage point to look at the evidence to judge whether the revelation was genuine, so that the redeemed community in later times must rely on the earlier judgments about revelation claims that passed the tests of canonicity.  On the other hand, later revelation can also confirm earlier revelation, as when Jesus affirmed the inspiration of the Old Testament and performed miracles and fulfilled prophecy to confirm that His message was from God.  Also, there is a harmony of teachings between the various revelations that compose the canon of Scripture that becomes more evident as more revelation is added.

[21]  Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge, p. 27-28.

[22]  Liberal Old Testament scholar Richard E. Friedman makes this observation:  “Biblical religion involves a different conception of what this one God is. In pagan religion, the gods and goddesses were identified with forces in nature: the sun, the sky, the sea, death, fertility, the storm wind.  Even in Akhenaten’s religion, whether it was fully monotheistic or not, Aten was identified closely with the sun. In Israelite religion, no force in nature can tell you more about God than any other. Yahweh is above nature and beyond it. . . .  We simply do not know of any people or any individual—Midianites or Akhenaten—who had such an idea of who and what God was.” The Exodus, HarperOne. Kindle Edition), p. 142. See also Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology (Phillipsburg, NJ: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1969), p. 11.

[23]  On the issue of the length of time stated or allowed by Genesis 1, I agree with one long-age advocate that young-earth creationists are mostly in agreement in their interpretation of Genesis; but old-earth Christians keep multiplying new interpretations of Genesis to justify their acceptance of Big Bang cosmology. (Benjamin D. Smith, Jr., Genesis, Science, and the Beginning: Evaluating Interpretations of Genesis One on the Age of the Earth (Carollton, GA: Theolosaurus Rex Publications, 2015), p. 17.  See my review of his book here:  https://christianciv.com/blog/index.php/2017/02/27/the-expanse-expanded/.)  He counts nine different old-earth interpretations of Genesis, including his own latest and greatest. (p.21)  The most obvious reason for this difference is that young-earth creationists are willing to conform their thinking to what the text says, while old-earth creationists have come to a view of earth’s history independently of the text.  If people keep insisting on trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, every proposal to make the peg fit will have major problems, so new proposals will have to be invented without end.

[24]  Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 146.

[25]  Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology. (Phillipsburg, NJ:  The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1979), p. 212 .  I should also mention that William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument arrives at God’s nature through negation. Because the universe is caused, temporal, spatial, and changing, the cause of the universe must be uncaused, atemporal, non-spatial, and unchanging.  See http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/cosmological_argument.html.

[26]  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWdoPMDD-pc.

[27]  “Does God Really Know What I’ll Do in the Future?” (4/3/16), https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/does-god-really-know-what-ill-do-in-the-future/.

[28]  Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (1955), 123.

[29]  Thom Notaro, Van Til & the Use of Evidence (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1980), pp. 109-123.

[30]  “Andy Stanley on Calvinism’s Impact in the Local Church” (Interview with Leighton Flowers, December 18, 2018), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWdoPMDD-pc.

[31]  The Greek word agrammatos that is translated “unlearned” in Acts 4:13 can have meaning that veers “between the meanings ‘unlearned’ and ‘incapable or reading and writing.’” William V. Harris, Ancient Literacy (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 1989), p. 5.

[32]  Catherine Hezser, Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), p. 496.   Bart Ehrman has mistakenly cited Hezser to say that the literacy rate was 3%.  See http://www.strangenotions.com/bart-ehrmans-botched-source/.

[33]  “In light of the evidence from all sources it appears that literacy reached beyond the palaces and temples of Israel and Judah to quite small settlements.” Alan Millard, “Literacy [Israel],” Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, p. 340, quoted in Richard Elliot Friedman, The Exodus, (HarperOne, Kindle Edition), p. 256 n.22, also see p. 94.

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2 Responses to The Failure of Popular Christian Apologetics:  Part One of a Review of Andy Stanley’s “Irresistible”

  1. Thank you so much for your post. I appreciate the defense of the OT. I have a whole series underway regarding the OT so your post is timely. Your whole post is well researched and thoughtful. Much appreciated.

  2. Pingback: Late February 2019 Presuppositional Apologetics’ Links | The Domain for Truth

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