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Reasonable Faith 1: How Do I Know Christianity is True?

02/09/2011

This chapter was pretty rough. Craig sort of undercuts the very reason I’d read this book. He is all about the primacy of faith, and believes that God exists through the “Self-authenticating” testimony of the Holy Spirit. I do feel that this shows some intellectual dishonesty. Craig again and again says that no evidence whatsoever could convince him otherwise. He also asserts that it is not lack of evidence that keeps people from being Christians, but a resistance to the Holy Spirit. It sounds to me like he already believed, and is simply creating elaborate rationalizations for what must be true. How can I trust his philosophy when he admits that he is primarily devoted to his beliefs, and not to following the evidence?

Kindle Notes:

Augustine confessed, “I should not believe the Gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church” (312)

He asserts that one must first believe before he can know.7 He was fond of quoting Isaiah 7:9 in the Septuagint version: “Unless you believe you shall not understand.” The fundamental principle of the Augustinian tradition throughout the Middle Ages was fides quaerens intellectum: faith seeking understanding (316)

there must be certain signs (indicia) of credibility that make its authority evident (325).

The principal signs adduced by Augustine on behalf of the authority of Scripture are miracle and prophecy (326).

He frankly admits that the books containing the story of Christ belong to an ancient history that anyone may refuse to believe. Therefore, he turns to the present miracle of the church as the basis for accepting the authority of Scripture. (344).

Note: From the start, Augustine held his faith for bad reasons. Perhaps an argument from authority, or an argument ad populi. Not a good start.

Rather, his appeal is still to the sign of miracle, not indeed the Gospel miracles, which are irretrievably removed in the past, but the present and evident miracle of the church (347).

Note: Given what we know today of world religions, his argument would not hold water if he were around, especially given the evident plurality of religions.

Rather he seems to mean that truths of faith surpass reason in the sense that they are neither empirically evident nor demonstrable with absolute certainty (363).

Note: Aquinas defends the more paradoxical beliefs inductively, not deductively, and also without the aid of empirical facts. Not unreasonable.

For example, although the existence of God can be proved from his effects, there are no empirical facts from which the Trinity may be inferred (365).

Thomas’s procedure, then, may be summarized in three steps: (1) Fulfilled prophecies and miracles make it credible that the Scriptures taken together as a whole are a revelation from God. (2) As a revelation from God, Scripture is absolutely authoritative. (3) Therefore, those doctrines taught by Scripture that are neither demonstrably provable nor empirically evident may be accepted by faith on the authority of Scripture (381).

Again the question arises: How do we know that the purported miracles or fulfilled prophecies ever took place? The medieval thinkers, lacking the historical method, could not answer this question (385).

Note: Once again, Aquinas lacked logical reasons to believe. Still, not progressing well.

Faith was essentially intellectual assent to doctrines not provable by reason-hence, Aquinas’s view that a doctrine cannot be both known and believed: if you know it (by reason), then you cannot believe it (by faith) (392).

Note: So faith is necessary in the inductive arguments for things that are not even in principle able to be confirmed.

For Locke, the chief of these signs was miracle. On the basis of Jesus’ miracles, we are justified in regarding him as the Messiah and his revelation from God as true (419).

Note: How can one distinguish one supernatural explanation for another? Seems Locke an others give their own beliefs extra warrant, but it doesn’t passs the OTF.

most thinkers of the century after Locke agreed that reason was to be given priority even in matters of faith, that revelation could not contradict reason, and that reason provided the essential foundation to religious belief (421).

Dodwell’s appeal is thus to the inner, faith-producing work of the Holy Spirit in each individual’s heart (432).

Note: Not much work to be done by the apologists on this view.

When the Word of God confronts a man, he is not free to analyze, weigh, and consider as a disinterested judge or observer-he can only obey. The authority of the Word of God is the foundation for religious belief (458).

Note: On Barth’s view, how could one accept hell?

But he characterizes such historical argumentation as “fatal” because it tries to produce proof for the Christian proclamation.21 Should an attempt at proof succeed, this would mean the destruction of faith (465).

Note: This makes the lame assumption that “faith” is a good thing. It also assumes the fact of God and works backwards from there. Why assume God in the first place? Why is faith necessary?

Plantinga maintains that belief in God and in the central doctrines of Christianity is both rational and warranted wholly apart from any evidential foundations for belief (505).

we commonly accept numerous beliefs that are not based on evidence and that are neither self-evident nor incorrigible. For example, take the belief that the world was not created five minutes ago with built-in memory traces, food in our stomachs from the breakfasts we never really ate, and other appearances of age. Surely it is rational to believe that the world has existed longer than five minutes, even though there is no evidence for this (518).

Plantinga’s account is that a belief is warranted for a person just in the case his cognitive faculties are, in forming that belief, functioning in an appropriate environment as God designed them to. The more firmly such a person holds the belief in question, the more warrant it has for him, and if he believes it firmly enough, it has sufficient warrant to constitute knowledge (564).

The extended account postulates that our fall into sin has had disastrous cognitive and affective consequences. The sensus divinitatis has been damaged and deformed, its deliverances muted (573).

Plantinga therefore affirms that “according to the model, the central truths of the Gospel are self-authenticating”; that is to say, “They do not get their evidence or warrant by way of being believed on the evidenetial basis of other propositions” (582).

Note: This argument seems to break down to “If God exists as assumed, than my beliefs are properly basic.”

I think that Dodwell and Plantinga are correct that, fundamentally, the way we know Christianity to be true is by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit. Now what do I mean by that? I mean that the experience of the Holy Spirit is veridical and unmistakable (590).

When a person becomes a Christian, he automatically becomes an adopted son of God and is indwelt with the Holy Spirit (604).

Note: Does this make observable or testable changes?

every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist (623).

Note: Maybe this is the test.

Thus, although arguments and evidence may be used to support the believer’s faith, they are never properly the basis of that faith. For the believer, God is not the conclusion of a syllogism; he is the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelling within us. How then does the believer know that Christianity is true? He knows because of the self-authenticating witness of God’s Spirit who lives within him (647).

Note: A non-rational argument. On what grounds can we claim the holy spirit to be self authenticating? I would be curious to see that claim defended.

According to Paul, natural man left to himself does not even seek God: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God” (Rom 3:10-11 ESV) (659).

Therefore, when a person refuses to come to Christ, it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God’s Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God (665).

Jesus affirms that if anyone is truly seeking God, then he will know that Jesus’ teaching is truly from God (671).

Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa (695).

Note: Dangerous belief system.

But how is the fact that other persons claim to experience a self authenticating witness of God’s Spirit relevant to my knowing the truth of Christianity via the Spirit’s witness (703)?

Note: Maybe you should be a little more skeptical of your subjective experience. Duh.

First, the Christian needn’t say that non Christian religious experience is simply spurious. It may well be the case that adherents of other religions do enjoy a veridical experience of God as the Ground of Being on whom we creatures are dependent or as the Moral Absolute from whom values derive or even as the loving Father of mankind (716).

Note: Not when the truth claims re contrary to each other.

In fact, non-Christian religious experience, such as Buddhist or Hindu religious experience, is typically very different from Christian experience (720).

Note: They are similar in important ways. Unverifiable, providing info in line with previously held beliefs. Perhaps there are other similarities. This question is worth knowing more deeply.

But more importantly, the fact that a non-veridical experience can be induced which is qualitatively identical to a veridical experience does absolutely nothing to undermine the fact that there are veridical experiences and that we are rational in taking our experiences to be veridical (728).

Note: It makes the positing of a holy spirit unnecessary if there are situations where we can expect that these experiences would occur without the holy spirit being there.

let me suggest two theological reasons why I think those Christians who support the magisterial role of reason are mistaken. First, such a role would consign most Christians to irrationality. The vast majority of the human race have neither the time, training, nor resources to develop a full-blown Christian apologetic as the basis of their faith (734).

Note: The truth is that most people are irrational to hold their worldviews.

I once asked a fellow seminary student, “How do you know Christianity is true?” He replied, “I really don’t know.” Does that mean he should give up Christianity until he finds rational arguments to ground his faith (738)?

Note: Yes! Seriously! It’s only intellectually honest.

Therefore, the role of rational argumentation in knowing Christianity to be true is the role of a servant. A person knows Christianity is true because the Holy Spirit tells him it is true, and while argument and evidence can be used to support this conclusion, they cannot legitimately overrule it (746).

Note: And non-believers are the ones who get accused of sneaking in naturalistic assumptions. Craig unapologetically shoves unfalsifiable assumptions that his faith is true.

Since we cannot hope to persuade everybody, our aim should be to make our cumulative apologetic case as persuasive as possible. This can best be done by appealing to facts which are widely accepted or to intuitions that are commonly shared (common sense) (845).

Note: This appeal to intuition seems pretty weak as a basis. Why do philosophers use it so much?

Conclusion In summary, we’ve seen that in answering the question “How do I know Christianity is true?” we must make a distinction between knowing that it is true and showing that it is true. We know Christianity is true primarily by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Spirit. We show Christianity is true by presenting good arguments for its central tenets (889).

But should my arguments seem weak and unconvincing to you, that’s my fault, not God’s. It only shows that I’m a poor apologist, not that the gospel is untrue. Whatever you think of my arguments, God still loves you and holds you accountable. I’ll do my best to present good arguments to you. But ultimately you have to deal, not with arguments, but with God himself (895).

Note: I’m right. Even if I sound stupid and wrong, I’m still right, just presenting it wrong.

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