Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fundamentalism vs Apologetics

As I mentioned previously, a friend claimed that apologetics seems to be at odds with fundamentalism. Through the course of the conversation we rabbit trailed and meandered through some other areas and miscommunications and even had trouble coming to an agreed on the definition of fundamentalism and the nature of faith. I thought it would be good to do my best to have a clear and concise explanation of my position on this.
Fundamentalism was explained in a previous blog article.
The best I could grasp it, the idea posed seemed to be that fundamentalism is based on faith and faith can't be based on evidence or it ceases to be faith. Since apologetics is the use of evidence, therefore, fundamentalists (like myself) would be inconsistent to "do" apologetics.
That may not be exactly what he was getting at, but I have heard this sort of idea before.
Christian Apologetics as was being used in our conversation I think is best summed up as "a reasoned support of Biblical truth using extra-biblical evidence."
Faith is a tricky thing and a point of much debate in theological and philosophical circles. My friend seemed to indicate (and I have heard this way of thinking before) that the very nature of faith is believing something in a vacuum of evidence (my words).I operate under the definition that Christian faith is reasonable trust in beliefs that have been demonstrated to be trustworthy.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so ... yes, AND because there is other extra-biblical reasons to believe that to be true.
The idea of apologetics comes from the urging we have to be ready and able to give a defense or explanation for the ideas, beliefs, principles, etc. that you adhere to.
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."
Can extra-biblical sources serve as evidence for biblical truth?
A reasoned argument for apologetics is that extra-biblical evidence is not proof that determines the truth of the Bible, it is evidence that describes the truth of the Bible. God's Word is not dependent on our ability to prove it to be true, however, since God created the world and everything in it, we should expect to find other evidences that agree with the Bible but which are not specifically from the Bible.
An analogy would be a crime. Say I am a citizen deemed to have impeachable character and generally considered by all to be honest and trustworthy (we're just pretending), and I stop a crime in progress. From my vantage point I saw the entire thing from the beginning until I stepped in. I saw the victim. I saw the perpetrator, who happens to also live down the street from me. I heard what was said, and immediately after the criminal fled, I was able to record the entire thing in exquisite detail in my journal. Now, my testimony alone may be enough to convince a jury and convict the criminal. Does that mean that the police shouldn't get fingerprints and check security cameras and check with other witnesses? Is the truth of my testimony dependent on other evidence being gathered? Does the use of these other evidences somehow undermine the strength of my testimony? Of course not. Those other evidences corroborate and lend support to the truth of the primary testimony given, but they have no bearing on whether it is actually true, maybe just whether or not a person will find it more believable.
In the same way, apologetics lends support and additional corroboration to the testimony of scripture, but scripture is not dependent on apologetics to be true or authoritative.
Since the Bible is primarily our source for truth, what does it have to say about using extra-biblical evidences (logic, reason, science, etc)?
God created the world (Genesis 1 and 2), and we know that to at least some degree knowledge about God is knowable from His creation (Romans 1:19-20).
While creation alone cannot point to the specific knowledge of Jesus Christ as the savior of the world on whom we must believe to receive forgiveness of sin, it does demonstrate the existence of God and certain qualities about Him and about us.
We are commanded to love the Lord not only with our hearts but also with our minds (Matt 22:37). Our faith is not only one of love but also entails a "sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). The whole point of the book of Proverbs is about being wise and not foolish in your thinking. "A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel" (1:5).
The case could be made that God Himself was engaging in the use of apologetics with Job, especially in chapters 38-40.
Jesus often used parables which involve use of logic and reason to explain a concept in a more mundane or  relatable way so it can then be brought into the greater religious context. He didn't just quote the Torah.

Peter in Acts 2 lays out the case and makes a defense (apologetics) for the reason Jesus came and died (and rose again) and why they need to put their faith in Him.

Acts 17 says that Paul "reasoned" with the Jews in the synagogue. 

Paul also makes frequent use of quoting other philosophers and sources, using people's own philosophies and traditions to help explain Christianity to them and make the case for Christ:

What it gets down to is this: If something is true, we do not expect to find only 1 place where it is supported and demonstrated to be true. If it is true that you are an honest person, I do not just take your word for it ... though you saying so would be true. I can check with your spouse, family, friends, co-workers, bosses, classmates, and find out if you are indeed an honest person. Evidence outside of you supports a truth claim about you.

In the same way, since the Bible is true, it is only rational that other things in life would demonstrate and point to the truth found in the Bible. And this is indeed what we see, and making use of those other evidences found in extra-biblical realms of knowledge to point back to the ultimate truth of God found in the Bible is not only consistent with a fundamentalist worldview, but it is a prudent and wise thing to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment