Posted by: gcarkner | January 27, 2015

Building Bridges…2

Robust Evidence and Argument that Have Currency Today

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There is a strong heritage of evidence and good argument, a multivalent discourse, to establish the credibility and viability of the Christian faith. It is a several stranded cord which represents centuries of work, research, and debate by scholars. There is a strong rational and empirical ground or space to discuss all the parameters of the Christian convictions and spiritual journey. It offers a rich array of evidence for the seeker and the interested skeptic or agnostic.

  1. Meaningful Religious Experience: This refers to the power of individual stories with God, divine encounters and personal transformation. Where has God met me in my human situation and pain? How has my faith made an impact on my life? Stories of other saints who incarnate love or radical pursuit of God (Mother Teresa, Jean Vanier, Francis of Assissi, Martin Luther). David Adams Richards a famous Canadian novelist has such evidence: God Is: my search for faith in a secular world. (bestseller). Two billion plus believers is quite a number to deceive from all walks of life, all cultures, all careers, and all levels of education and wealth.
  1. Philosophical Credibility Tests These include criteria of coherence, consistency, unity, comprehensiveness (more important in the early modern outlook or those oriented to Anglo-American philosophy and the laws of logic). What is the explanatory range and cogency of  the Christian worldview? How much of reality can it explain? Is it compatible or does it conflict with science and how so?  Natural theology uses the wonders of nature to point to a creative mind, a cosmic artist; human consciousness and moral bent to point to a cosmic mind or a moral ground of the good (e.g. Robert J. Spitzer, New Proofs for the Existence of God: contributions of contemporary physics and philosophy; Faith and Reason: Three Views. edited by Steve Wilkins; David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: being consciousness. bliss). Critical realism is a key term; it encourages critical thinking and an open mind.
  1. Historical Evidence or Verification Who was Jesus? Can we believe in his resurrection? What about the scholarship behind the Scriptural documents? What evidence do we have from archaeology of the Ancient Near East? (See Rodney Stark, One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism. He is a major contributor in research on Christianity’s social impact. See also David Bentley Hart Atheist Delusions: the Christian revolution and its fashionable enemies.) See also the new Christianity on Trial: a lawyer examines the Christian faith by W. Mark Lanier (IVP 2014). This tends towards the empirical test or the integrity of the Christian story.
  1. Practical/Pragmatic Test or Livability We might say to our friend, “That’s a clever idea of reality that makes you God, but can you live it out responsibly without hurting a lot of people?” It is one thing to think nihilistically, another to live it to its bitter end. Reality bites back: this is important for university students who love those all-night residence discussions. One can invent sophisticated views of the universe, but can we build any long-term relationship upon it? You may like the idea of a world without God and without morality, but you may also be the first to cry injustice if you or your family are violated in some way. One cannot have the proverbial cake and eat it as well.
  1. Special Revelation This includes the prophetic and apostolic records in Old and New Testaments. This is a really astounding set of records with millions of hours of top scholarship behind it. Bishop Lesslie Newbigin in Gospel in a Pluralistic Society says we need to inhabit or indwell the biblical story, be embedded and nourished by it thoroughly. Natural revelation in creation is not enough; otherwise Christian ethics would be full of violence and cannibalism, tooth and claw; we need natural and special revelation in balance (Alister McGrath, A Fine-tuned Universe: the quest for God in science and theology) What is the Creator like and what does he have for us, expect of us? What is the storyline, the human narrative of the Bible? Is there meaning beyond mere survival, beyond mere human flourishing? The human narrative is powerfully recast in the Bible; it suggests that we are hard-wired for community and benevolence.
  1. Love, Compassion & Community People need to witness the human good incarnated in Christian believers, a good which is sourced in the infinite goodness of God. Incarnational humanism can be impressive: (Jens Zimmerman, Incarantional Humanism; D. Stephen Long, The Goodness of God)). One’s apologetic has to include words and argument, but also more than words–integrity, hope, compassion. James Davison Hunter in To Change the World articulates a very powerful idea of faithful presence, a commitment to shalom, the well-being or human flourishing of others. Jim Wallis has a new book along this line which includes compassion and the transformation of society in the gospel of Jesus: The (Un)Common Good.People need both reasons of the heart and reasons of the mind: credibility and relevance.” writes scientist and theologian Blaise Pascal.

Our Experience Establishes this Conviction: Intellectual Credibility/Cogency + Personal Relevance + Demonstrable Moral Integrity –> promotes Serious Plausibility and Curiosity in the Mind of the Seeker. Click on the Apologetics Resources button on this Blog to get a taste of some excellent writing in this area and answers to your questions.

This multifaceted approach builds bridges and can rebuild the plausibility conditions for Christian faith in our late modern culture, in order to help people escape from Nihilism (a failure of culture). This is a trajectory of intrigue, attraction and engagement and hopefully down the road a life of faithful discipleship, meaning and joy. Willingness to deal with doubts and skepticism is vital. We are all some admixture or  combination of faith and doubt; it is a question of how we sort through both our faith and our doubt as a journey to maturity: See Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God. At the end of the day, we all have to make sense of our world and our experience. We can ill afford to keep our head in the sand and hope the issues will disappear.

~Gord Carkner

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