Monday, June 13, 2005

Supreme Systematic Apologetics

The title, by itself, has claimed almost what i am going to blog about.

On the fateful night of 11 June 2005, Saturday, that supposed to be a regular date has turned out to be a ground for the formulation of a proposition of an ultimate classical apologetic against all non-theism. As i was presenting the hypothesis of the existence of God to a fellow existential 'marxistial' atheist at a coffee shop in the midst of Orchard Road, the contraction of this supreme apologetic proposition came.

All this while I was facing the difficulty of bringing the arguments from general revelations to special arguments; in order to reach the particularism of the divine Existence. I had always ended up with an unmoved Mover or an uncaused Cause. Therefore there are times when i would prefer Presuppositional Apologetics rather than Classical ones, as tried to polemize because it seems that the Presuppositional stance is directed to special revelation instantly. But the weakness of it is that most defeaters find it difficult to play with the presuppositional rules. It is difficult for defeaters to presuppose the opposite and in a way, this is not a fair play. Though we can't get a total unbias stand but Presuppositional Apologetics involved a degree of bias that is too high for most skeptics. They can't cope with it. And that evening was the time for this agony to be ended.

The formulation of what i called Supreme Systematic Apologetics is a combination of Systematic Theology and Classical Apologetics. I think there might have been a handful of apologists that have thought of this, but i have yet came across any of their books, therefore it is important for me to draft it down for my own reference.

Systematic Theology + Classical Apologetics = Supreme Systematic Apologetics


Classical Apologetics which was championed by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Anselm, Al-Ghazali, and contemporaries scholars such as William Lane Craig, J.P Moreland, Alvin Plantinga, Norman Geisler and Stephen Meyer & his team at Discovery Institute has established itself firmly by integrating Natural Theology with divine revelation. But this school has been considered weak by presuppositional apologist Cornelius Van Til. One of his reason was that, to its best, Classical Apologetics can only point to that someone/something behind this whole existence, which in this case, is still far away from upholding Christian Theism. He has a point and must not be taken for granted.

The Supreme Systematic Apologetics might sounds a little out of place for "Apologetic", as part, means 'systematic argumentative discourse in defense'. So, why a redundant "Supreme Systematic Apologetic"? Might as well be "Supreme Apologetics".

Simply because SSA is more systematically precise than regular Classical Apologetic and Presuppositional Apologetic. It is something like a "--" sentence (negation on a negated sentence).

SSA has been arranged into 7 different stages. Each stages represent by an argument that play its role in reducing and negating worldviews. It acts as to get the best out of Natural Theology through Systematic Theology. It uses the latter to extract with more precision in categorizing areas within Natural Theology that are revealing the nature of the divine Being.

Stage 1
Cosmological argument
- This argues for the need of a cause in everything that has a begining in its horizontal nature and a need of a sustaining cause in its vertical nature.

Stage 2
Teleological argument
- This argues for the unfathomable intelligence that the Cause possess through observing it effects that is Nature.

Stage 3
Morality argument
- This argues for a moral law Giver that care about Right and Wrong.
- This Being must also be good in nature.
- This argument distinguish the natures of Good and Evil.
- Atheism is completely crippled if arguments reached this stage.

Stage 4
Epistemological argument
- This argues for the ground for truth, the nature of knowledge and its limit and validity.
- This argument reveal the reasonableness that the existing divine Being possess.

Stage 5
Ontological argument
- This argues for the necessity of this Being and its simplicity, perfection and singularity.
- Pantheism, finiste godism, polytheism, and panentheism are all completely crippled at this stage.

Stage 6
Joy argument
- This argues for the ability of the divine Being to satisfy its creation's hollowness.
- Though this is the least strong argument among the previous ones, for it can be disbelieved easier, but it it difficult to be eradicate.
- Even atheist such as Betrand Russell admited this in his letter to Lady Otto.
- Agnosticism can be disproved at this stage.

Stage 7
Revelational argument
- Until here, the leftover worldview would be Monotheism (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). Thus this stage argues within itself. It is an argument that can only be done based on comparing each of the different Monotheistic revelations within itself.
- Each of these revelations have to deal with Origin, Morality, Meaning, and Destiny. It has to be consistent within itself and the 4 categories.

Norman Geisler, BECA, Systematic Theology vol.1
Lee Strobel, Case for Faith, Case for Creator
JP Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundation for Christian Worldview
C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity


perr said...

i would have to read this many times to understand it.
wooman, dates are also never just regular.

The Hedonese said...

You may be interested to know that I'd shadow-boxed with Stephen Tong's Van Tilian disciples here recently:

(Thread: Real Jesus?)

If I may comment on SSA, it seems to me that it's what people would call 'The Cumulative Case" approach adopted by Stephan Evans. You can find out more in Cowan's 5 views on apologetics.

Normally classical apologists will use arguments 1-6, to prove

1. God exists and
2. miracles are possible.

Then they prove 7, by showing that bible is historically reliable, Jesus claim to be God and vindicate his claim by resurrection.

3. Bible is God's word

So its called '3-step method'. Some would minus step 2, like Habermas, called evidential approach.

In practice i find these steps unwieldy, play by ear lar.. heheh...

Presuppositional approach, as modified by John Frame, doesn't need too much 'bias' though cos' he incorporated the use of evidence within a transcendental framework... (Faithful Van Tilians may hate him for it)

In brief Frame describes how it works...

"Christian theism is the presupposition of all meaning, all rationality, all intelligible discourse... we could not know the world at all unless it had been designed for knowledge. If the world were nothing but
matter, motion, time, and chance, we would have no reason to think that the ideas in our heads told us anything about the real world. Only if a person had designed the world to be known, and the human mind to know it, could knowledge be possible."

jack said...

Frame is a true disciple of Van Til, but his books are expensive and hard to get. sigh~

Wow, wut a systematic approach to apologetics. Too systematic for my flavour. Just also had a "regular date" with a materialist marxist atheist..hehehehe...and was also, coincidently, doing a "hypothesis of the existense of God" (wutever that means).

I did the "play-by-ear" method lah, first trying to seduce her blain, but felt that it was not really adequate cause she is not the philosophical type. She just wanted a lot of evidents from science which i failed miserably to produced (due to my lack of exposure to Strobel..hehehehee. I did however unpeal her pre-programmed worldview to make her at least suspicious of her strongly held materialism and marxism.

Because her held-belief were too strong, i felt necessary to "attack" first before presenting. Also I believe we ought not to be the only party in the dock. When i've managed to dig out a big of sand from her blain, i quickly introduce some of our Christian thought as new blueprint for whatever her old ideas were meant to do.

Bible study with this chap tire me sometimes, coz i am bombarded with so many questions. I decided therefore to take the shortcut and hit repetatively at the blain, emotion and experience. dunno if this is a correct dichotomy, i guess Christ's offer to us must neceesarily satisfy the three, if indeed they can be thus divided. :D (me not like joshua, who systematically draft out his stances and methods).

Finally, after all said and done, I must now say, Salvation Belongeth unto YAHWEH.

Sze Zeng said...

Thanks for the comments, hedonese.. i will check out stephen evans.

Jacksaid, same situation here... well, almost the same...hahaha... but not yet.... "already but not yet"... hahahahahahha didnt know doctrine of the Kingdom applies to this kind of situation too..

The Hedonese said...

hey i got case for creator for RM19.95, always knew that it would be cheaper one day.

A lot of free stuffs by Frame is here:

Paul Feinberg represented Cumulative Case too...

Evans' "Why Believe? Mystery and Reason as Pointers to God" is a less technical, more friendly booklet. Nice for gifts to frens. He also wrote some philosophy of religion books when evangelicals are not too strong in the academy

Sze Zeng said...

RM19.95!!!!! u r so lucky, man. Luck is really by ur side

The only different between SSA and 'Cumulative Case' approach is, i think, that SSA is more systematical precise and more elaborate in establishing the entire view of theism. But of cos, this doesnt mean SSA is a better one than 'Cumulative', just that it is for the 'skeptics' of skeptics. SSA's weakness, i think, would be of its longer elaboration which is rather exhaustive for both the defender and the defeater.

The Hedonese said...

Perhaps one other difference is, as far as I understand it, SSA is a series of 7 stages/arguments meant to build on each other to come up to a conclusion...

Let's say if we got stuck with the cosmological argument, we may nid to settle it b4 moving to the 2nd?

whereas Cumulative Case, while making use all the usual theistic proofs, emphasize on the cumulative weight of all these arguments put together... so even if an individual argument fails, the rest of the arguments would still carry the case through? :)

Sze Zeng said...

Yes, hedonese, that is the difference between SSA and Cumulative Case.

Therefore for SSA to really live up to its title "SUPREME systematic apologetics", the apologist has to be very tactful with each stages of arguments. If not, SSA will only turned out to be a Cumulative Case approach.

But if apologists could master SSA, then it would be a stronghold in defending trinitarianism agaisnt other worldviews,at the same time, maintaining its exclusiveness and truthfulness. This is SSA's supremacy.

Anonymous said...

The only difficulty is, IF at any point the apologist fails to convince the whole program stops there... heehheh...

Gary Habermas argues that we can use a 'minimal fact' approach, use the simplest approach possible... bcos the more steps, the harder your task

He'd say, "Forget Step 1-6, go straight to miracles (resurrection) and prove Jesus' claim to be God"


Sze Zeng said...

hmm..then i would have to say to Habermas that there is no point to prove JEsus's miracles (ressurection) and His claim to be God when miracles and God are not presupposed in the first place, since everything can be explained 'naturally'.

To defeat naturalism atheist, i think, we have to strike on Naturalism first in order to prove Christ being the supernatural.


The Hedonese said...

in this case, Habermas may try to refute naturalistic explanations ie hallucination, mistakes, faint

:) He will try to do so on historical evidences and describe how critical scholars have sucessfully destroyed each other's theories... ie how Strauss debunked Schleimacher's swoon theory, and Keim destroyed Strauss' hallunication theory... and legend theory destroyed early NT creeds etc..

Sze Zeng said...

hmm.. hard way, i would say.

Because it is difficult to get the listeners to listen if habermas is insisting on Christ being God, where in the first place, the listeners hav no right idea of what kind of God that Habermas is advocating. To them God may just be another kind of god or some other gods.

I believed that, unless the right idea/ definition of God is cleared, it is kind of difficult to argue about him being incarnated as a man and resurrected miraculously after that.


The Hedonese said...

Oh, u got the 5 views book.. heheh... good investment..

Btw Sivin posted an article on Emergent apologetics, very similar to Kelly James Clark's views.

OK abt Habermas, find the section by Bill Craig where he says that he AGREES in the one-step method BUT thinks a fuller stronger case is made when we include the theistic proofs... it's interesting how they converge

oh ya, try out Plantinga's Two Dozen theistic proofs...

Anonymous said...

This unpublished evaluation is interesting...

Alvin Plantinga's Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments


crucendo said...

This would be an interesting project!
I think It would be good to incorporate other important strategies as well, to make it an Exhaustive Systematic Apologetic:
You could start off with strong, logical arguments for God (at this point, "God" would be defined in a very general sense, perhaps as Aristotle/Aquinas' "prime mover"), and then move toward developing a more developed definition of God on the basis of certain implications necessarily entailed in the nature of the arguments for God's existence (e.g. God is timeless/eternal because the cosmological argument places God outside of a temporal location etc.).
You could then include a philosophically rigorous "Coherence of Theism" section, based on the previous section's arguments for God's existence. This section would be valuable as an apologetic, because it is often asserted (even after impressive classical arguments for God's existence) that the theist hasn't defined/identified the object they're trying to prove (i.e. God).
You could then go into a section on Christ, building on historical resurrection scholarship, and work like that of Swinburne in "Incarnation of God."
I actually really want to develop something like this myself.
Good Job!