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Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Christian Reason for Celebrating Easter


Induction, the basis for all scientific inference, presupposes the uniformity of nature, which is to say it operates under the principle of the future being like the past; yet the resurrection of Christ from the dead is contra-uniform since it does not comport with past experience. Our experience is that people die and are not raised three days later. Also, we’ve all met plenty of liars and those deceived into embracing false beliefs (even dying for false beliefs!) but we have never observed a single resurrection of the body. Accordingly, the lives and martyrdom of zealots need not lead us to conclude that Christ has risen. Consequently, drawing an inference based upon past experience as it pertains to the question of the empty tomb is not very useful. Evidentialism indeed fails as an apologetic. After all, given only the uniformity of nature coupled with personal experience, a more probable explanation for the empty tomb is a hoax put on by liars rather than a miracle put on by God. The same reasoning applies all the more to the virgin birth I would think.

The fact of the matter is that we do not come to know that our Savior lives by examining the evidence according to some alleged neutral posture, for the facts do not demand the conclusion that Christ has risen. The facts are indeed consistent with the resurrection but the facts do not speak for themselves let alone lead us to the Christian conclusion, which is no conclusion at all but rather a starting point for apologetical discourse and belief. God speaks in order that we might interpret the facts aright. The fact of the empty tomb, therefore, is not what leads us to the "conclusion" of the resurrection but rather the empty tomb corroborates what we already know from God, that Christ is resurrected.

Similarly, we read in Scripture that a man named Saul who once opposed Christ became the chief apologist for the Christian faith. The way in which one will interpret the transformation of Saul to Paul will be consistent with one’s pre-commitment(s). Christians take the fanaticism of the apostle as corroborating what they already know to be true about the resurrection. The fanaticism of the apostle no more “proves” the resurrection of Christ than does the empty tomb. Moreover, neither the empty tomb nor the life of Paul proves the resurrection any more than it can disprove it by proving that a conspiracy to overthrow ancient Judaism took place evidenced by the hoax of the resurrection. The point is simply this. Naturalists will find their explanation for the apostle’s transformation and the empty tomb elsewhere, outside of the Christian resurrection interpretation. Similarly, the way in which one interprets the facts surrounding Joseph Smith will be according to one’s pre-commitment(s). If one is committed to a closed canon, then the claims of Mormonism will be deemed false.

Of course the tomb is empty, for Christ has risen. Of course the apostle Paul preached the resurrection of Christ with all his heart, soul and strength, for Christ has risen. Of course the Mormon religion is a cult, for Jesus is God and the canon is closed. Do we come to believe these things by evaluating supposed brute particulars in an alleged neutral fashion or are our beliefs already marshaled according to our pre-commitment to God’s word in general and the resurrection in particular? Do the “facts” speak for themselves or has God already exegeted the facts for us?

The reason one believes that Christ has risen from the grave is because God has revealed the truth of the resurrection. In fact, we don’t just believe God’s word on the matter, we actually know God is telling the truth. Yet, unwittingly, often times Christians do not speak the truth with respect to why they believe in the resurrection. Too often Christians will say that they believe in the resurrection because of such evidence, which if true would reduce one’s confidence in God’s say-so to speculation based upon supposed brute facts that (would) readily lend themselves to suspicion (when God’s word is not presupposed as reliable, true and one's ultimate authority). Christians need to lay hold of the fact that the “Word of God” is God’s word, and God cannot lie.

With the resurrection the former days of ignorance are gone (Acts 17:30); so our belief in the truth couldn’t be more justified since our justification comes from the self-attesting Christ of Scripture working in accordance with the internal witness of the Holy Ghost. We do not come to know Jesus lives by drawing inferences from uninterpreted facts in the light of past experiences but rather by believing with maximal warrant the word of truth. Indeed, we have a more sure word of knowledge. (2 Peter 1:19)

The Westminster Confession of Faith (chapter 1 paragraph 5) could not have been more on target in its reason for why Scripture's testimony should be believed:
"We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts."

Ron


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23 comments:

Joshua Butcher said...

Excellent post Ron. It is as we were lamenting in our last conversation - to become an evidentialist is to apostasize from God's Word at the outset and place man as the locus of interpreting reality. It isn't how the prophets and apostles addressed those opposed to God, and it should not be our manner of address either.

I often wonder too if evidentialism necessarily presupposes a rejection of God's double-predestination in accordance with the means of the preaching of His Word, which would also entail a synergistic belief concerning the redemption of men. If, as the evidentialist believes, men must be allowed the opportunity to decide for themselves if God be true, must not the evidentialist also believe that God's primary means of bringing men to faith or hardening them in rebellion is the proclamation of His Word? Must they not also believe that God does not, therefore, predetermine whom He shall draw and whom He shall harden, since it is contingent upon men to evaluate the facts for or against God's existence and nature for themselves?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Hi Josh,

I'll put your quotes in italics.

"Excellent post Ron. It is as we were lamenting in our last conversation - to become an evidentialist is to apostasize from God's Word at the outset and place man as the locus of interpreting reality."

First off, thank you.

I don't think I would employ the term "apostasize" in the same breath when speaking about apologetics, even if the opposing apologetic has no legitimate grounding. Such a choice of words could easily be misconstrued as suggesting that evidentialists are apostate regarding their orthodoxy because they are evidentialists, which need not be the case.

"I often wonder too if evidentialism necessarily presupposes a rejection of God's double-predestination in accordance with the means of the preaching of His Word, which would also entail a synergistic belief concerning the redemption of men."

I'm sorry but I see no logical correlation.

"If, as the evidentialist believes, men must be allowed the opportunity to decide for themselves if God be true, must not the evidentialist also believe that God's primary means of bringing men to faith or hardening them in rebellion is the proclamation of His Word?"

No, I would think not. I think you meant the opposite, which you convey below when commenting on my "crucial omission." :)

"Must they not also believe that God does not, therefore, predetermine whom He shall draw and whom He shall harden, since it is contingent upon men to evaluate the facts for or against God's existence and nature for themselves?"

Again, this would seem to be unfounded and without correlation. Many a high-Calvinist has been an evidentialist and the latter does not impinge upon the former in any logical way.

As for your second post, which I will address here but didn't bother to publish: You wrote "I spotted an error in the second paragraph. There is a crucial omission that would be better stated: 'If, as the evidentialist believes, men must be allowed the opportunity to decide for themselves if God be true, must not the evidentialist also DENY that God's primary means of bringing men to faith or hardening them in rebellion is the proclaiming of His Word?"'

An error?! I thought it was an "excellent post"! :)

At the risk of sounding defensive, which I'm truly not, let me get out the tweezers. That something can be "better stated" does not necessarily imply an error, something incorrect. Also, the notions of "crucial omission" and "better stated" do not seem to comport because if there was indeed an omission then it would not be a matter of stating it better but rather stating it in the first place. :-) I think we need to be more charitable toward the evidentialist camp, even though their apologetic does bring reproach upon the Lord. One can believe in "evidence that demands a verdict" yet consistently maintain that salvation is only through the proclamation of God's word. The former does not impinge upon the latter in a logical way. But if you think it does, then simply consider that one can believe in evidentialism and presuppositionalism, in which case the latter would satisfy your condition for high-Calvinism.

My brother, I think you're trying to pin too much on a bad epistemology and in doing so trying to argue Calvinism over Arminianism.

Best wishes.

Ron

Joshua Butcher said...

Ron,

Thanks for the reply. The "crucial omission" was my own, not yours; as was the error in the second paragraph (second paragraph of my own reply).

Thanks for clearing up the faulty logic as well. I probably should have made a phone call rather than a post, since I was tossing it out rather casually rather than thinking through it before posting.

That said, I'll offer an apology here to any of your evidentialist readers who happen to stop by.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Too funny, Josh. Now that you said that, let me say that I thought you must have been having a brain cramp or that you were beginning to fade late in the evening. :)

Ron

Joshua Butcher said...

Often my contentious ways impact my own thinking Ron. I sometimes argue myself into error. I'm still learning to keep some things to myself :-D

Anonymous said...

A pertinent post for this season, Ron. Fitting, too, that you should mention Joseph Smith shortly after stating that some men do die for a lie, for that is exactly what happened to him.

>>Many a high-Calvinist has been an evidentialist and the latter does not impinge upon the former in any logical way.<<

You don't see any inconsistency? Wouldn't you agree that given Arminianism man's beliefs are formed independent of God's sovereign determination? And since they are formed freely, man himself must be the interpreter and orderer of his world, in which case God is not the epistemological authority? I don't think it's a coincidence that "presuppositionalist Arminian" is a rare breed. As for Sproul, how does one hold to total depravity and then claim that man can interpret facts neutrally?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

I was dealing with this premise: “Must they not also believe that God does not, therefore, predetermine whom He shall draw and whom He shall harden, since it is contingent upon men to evaluate the facts for or against God's existence and nature for themselves?"

That premise can be reduced to: If evidentialist in one’s philosophy, then Arminian in one’s soteriology. The reason that premise is false is because Arminianism is not a necessary condition for Evidentialism. If that premise were indeed true, then it would follow: Calvinism (negation of Arminianism), therefore, Presuppositionalist (the negation of evidentialist). Yet as I pointed out above, being a Calvinist is not a sufficient condition for being a presuppositionalist. The former need not produce the latter in any logical sense.

If one’s Arminiansim is due to exegetical errors, then such a faulty exegesis need not logically impinge upon one’s appeal to Scripture as the ultimate justification for knowledge, reality and ethics. If one’s Arminianism is due to ethical considerations having to do with God’s “fairness” in electing sinners unto life, such an unethical posture need not carry over for any logical reason to the justification of one’s metaphysic and how it relates to epistemology.

BTW, Sproul is not an evidentialist. His apologetic is “classical.” The cosmological, teleological and ontological arguments are deductive, not inductive. The problems with those arguments are many, not the least of which is the conclusions exceed the scope of the premises. Moreover, causality, purpose and being cannot be defended apart from Scripture.

Wouldn't you agree that given Arminianism man's beliefs are formed independent of God's sovereign determination?

No, that statement is too all-encompassing. Arminianism has nothing to do with the totality of man’s beliefs. Arminianism pertains strictly to matters relating to Soteriology (and soteriological beliefs). A Molinist, for instance, who does not ground God’s knowledge of morally relevant creaturely choices in God’s sovereign determination can maintain without impinging upon his doctrine of “Middle Knowledge” that we must begin with Scripture to defend the resurrection.

…And since they are formed freely, man himself must be the interpreter and orderer of his world, in which case God is not the epistemological authority?”

You are arguing: If Arminian, then Evidentialist; whereas Josh suggested: If Evidentialist, then Arminianism, which is a different beast altogether.

"I don't think it's a coincidence that "presuppositionalist Arminian" is a rare breed.

Indeed, and most Baptists are dispensational, but the former doesn’t demand the latter. Let's call them cousins, not father and son. In other words, the one doesn't produce the other but there is some family resemblance.

Cheers,

RD

observers said...

It seems you are making the same mistake as David Hume. These unalterable laws of experience cannot be said to be unalterable because we have not evaluated all of human experience.

Reformed Apologist said...

You've misunderstood both the Scotish skeptic and me. Hume opposed the rationality of inferring the future from the past. Whereas I have a revelational epistemology that saves the rationality of metaphysical inference based upon past experience.

observers said...

I thought you were adopting Humes argument against miracles to argue against evidential apologetics.

observers said...

A middle eastern Prince may have never heard(or experienced) ice. Would it be fair for him to discount its existence?

observers said...

I'm not denying that Hume was skeptical of inductive inference. Or that God's providence can account for uniform experience.


I'm just trying to understand whether evidentialism really fails because it "presupposes the uniformity of nature, which is to say it operates under the principle of the future being like the past; yet the resurrection of Christ from the dead is contra-uniform since it does not comport with past experience.". I was just trying to show that an individual's experience isn't sufficient to dictate what are unchanging laws of nature.

Reformed Apologist said...

Evidentialism fails on several fronts. The part you quoted is a very narrow slice of the failure.

Experience is indeed valuable as is inductuve inference. Yet notwithstanding a robust apologetic will *account* for these things according to something more informative, special revelation.

observers said...

I think I was confusing the "discontinuity out of continuity" argument with Humes " Miracles aren't possible " argument. This conversation is based on my misunderstanding. I apologize.

observers said...

From my understanding you're saying that from uniform experience we should extremely doubt that a miracle occurred. To where Hume said miracles cannot occur.

Anonymous said...

What's your thoughts on this video?
https://youtu.be/3aJEc2stHAQ

Reformed Apologist said...

No time for 20 minute video under these circumstances. I'd prefer to try to address your view of the thesis. Fair enough?

Anonymous said...

Induction isn't a formal argument , but a Movement of the mind. From what is observed in particular instances to universal rule. Then, he claims induction has levels.
First level-Induction proper which we automatically start categorizing the world. ( abstracting concepts, essences, attributes, etc)
Second level (recognition) basically we recognize the first level. Also, in the first level our minds apprehend the world( without contradiction). Second level is we focus on putting thing in non contrary categories. Third level(rigorous) is we take the other levels and get scientific laws(kinds where we grasp the essence of a thing).
Fourth level is when we made arguments to convince others. Fifth level is probability( The accidentals). Basically, they think Aristotelian metaphysics answers the problem of induction. That induction isn't distinct of deduction. Here's the syllogism they supply:
P1 All observed A's are P's
P2 All observed A's are M's
P3 All M's is the observed S's (by conversion of the minor premise)
C Therefore all M's are P's
Tried to keep it sort.

Reformed Apologist said...

Gibberish

Anonymous said...

My mistake, s is next to a. "P1 All observed A's are P's
P2 All observed A's are M's
P3 All M's is the observed A's (by conversion of the minor premise)
C Therefore all M's are P's"
Is there a fallacy I'm missing?

Reformed Apologist said...

It's a big mess. Don't waste your time.

Anonymous said...

Yeah a fried sent it to me. As you can tell it was those who worship at the shrine of Aristotle sent it ( Roman Catholics). I've heard of scholarly arguments for induction a priori or a posteriori but never this.

Anonymous said...

Like right from the start I thought it was dumb because first He denies induction is an argument and then he provides an inductive (the deductive) argument.