Monday, September 05, 2016

The Big Bad Wolf

This is a sequel to my previous post on Andy Stanley:

To recap, Andy's sermon was directed at apostates. In particular, cradle Christians whose belief in the historicity/inerrancy of Scripture was a "house of cards" because they were raised in fideistic churches where they got faith-based answers to fact-based questions. So when they went to college, Prof. Big Bad Wolf blew down their house of cards. 

1. There's a grain of truth to what Andy says. Ideally, it's good to bring the conversation back to Jesus. 

2. But sometimes we need to begin where people are. Andy says the people he's addressing left the faith because their 
questions never got answered. They were not allowed to ask certain questions. 

Yet ironically, Andy is now doing the very same thing. He deflects most questions about the inerrancy/historicity of the Bible. He wants to steer the conversation back to Jesus. 

But this means that when young people in his congregation ask questions about the inerrancy/historicity of the Bible, their questions are disallowed. Their questions don't get answered. They're only permitted to ask questions about Jesus. 

3. Apropos (2), when people like Andy duck questions about the inerrancy/historicity of Scripture, that's counterproductive. People can tell that's intellectually evasive. If they have doubts about Scripture, and they see Andy dodging tough questions, that confirms their doubts about Scripture.

4. Moreover, a Jesus-centered approach can't avoid questions about the inerrancy/historicity of Scripture. Prof. Wolf can raise all the same kinds of objections to the Gospels:

i) He will say the Gospels contain contradictions and historical blunders. 

ii) He will say the miracles of Jesus are unbelievable. 

It's arbitrary to act as if the Bible in general is fallible and unreliable, but suddenly becomes trustworthy when reporting the words and deeds of Jesus. 

5. Likewise, Prof. Wolf will say Jesus was wrong to believe in:

i) The creation account (Gen 1-2)

ii) Noah's flood

iii) Jonah and the whale

iv) Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch

v) The miraculous destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

vi) A personal Devil

vii) Demonic possession

viii) The Exodus (i.e. manna from heaven)

ix) The historicity of the patriarchs

x) The fate of Lot's wife

xi) The prophet Daniel

xii) The fast-approaching end of the world

Andy's Jesus-centered approach requires its own apologetic. 

5. Andy's approach isn't surprising. By his own admission, it's a reactionary stance, provoked by his own upbringing. But his approach is deeply misleading: 

i) A lopsided preoccupation with objections to Scripture puts Christians on the defensive. That one-sided focus makes it easy to feel that Christians on the losing side of the argument. It acts as though atheism is the default position. The standard of comparison. 

That's natural for cradle Christians like Andy, since the Bible is their frame of reference. Therefore, the debate may feel like a losing battle. Seems like inerrantists can only resort to rearguard actions.

ii) But his reactionary stance neglects two or three considerations: There are multiple lines of positive evidence for the Bible. 

iii) By contrast, there's no positive evidence for atheism. Rather, the argument for atheism boils down to the alleged lack of evidence for an interventionist God. The apparent randomness of world events. And it only takes a few counterexamples to overturn an argument from silence. 

iv) Objections to Scripture are dwarfed by objections to atheism. A consistent atheist must deny many fundamentals at we normally take for granted. A consistent atheist must deny intrinsic right and wrong. Must deny the significance of human life. Must deny abstract objects like logic, numbers, and possible worlds. Must deny that human reason is reliable. Indeed, must deny that physicalism can even make room for minds. 

6. Every Christian needn't be a Christian apologist. Christians vary in their intellectual aptitude and educational opportunities. For many Christians, the argument from religious experience is sufficient. Suppose a woman is a lifelong Christian. She's not an intellectual. She's not highly educated.

But over the years she's prayed to Jesus, and on a few occasions she received unmistakable answers to her prayers. For her, that's reason enough. She prayed to Jesus and Jesus answered her. 

No one knows all the answers. Certainly atheists don't know all the answers, although atheists do have an abundance of wrong answers. 

The better part of wisdom is discerning the difference between the answers we can't live without and the answers we can live without. 

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