Turning the Apologetical Tables

Most apologetics debates now center on the question of whether God exists.  In light of history this is a relatively new idea.  For much of human history the need for proof would be on the side of those trying to prove that God (or gods) did not exist.  The major question would be what is the nature of this God (or) gods and what does He (they) demand of me.  Such a change in questions is a result of the Enlightenment.  Many Enlightenment thinkers worked very hard to deny the existence of a supernatural realm and as a consequence supernatural beings.  Their success is evidenced by this unconscious assumption that God’s existence must be proved.

In his essay “God in the Dock” talks about this change.  Modern people place God in the dock, or the defendants chair for you non-British readers.  We demand to know why we should believe in him and what right he has to order our lives.  People before the Enlightenment realized they were in the dock and God was in the judge’s seat.  He was objective and they were subjective.

Will things ever go back to the way they were?  Perhaps if people realize that science can solve many problem but not the ones that matter most.  However, naturalism has deep roots.  Even most Christians live like they are in a naturalistic world, blind to the supernatural one that is equally as real and ever present.  That may prove to be the most difficult task, convincing ourselves of the fundamental reality of God’s existence.

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6 comments

  1. NotAScientist · April 21, 2011

    “Many Enlightenment thinkers worked very hard to deny the existence of a supernatural realm and as a consequence supernatural beings.”

    It’s kind of hard to deny something that doesn’t have evidence backing it up in the first place.

    Just because a lot of people believe something, even the majority, doesn’t preclude that thing from the burden of proof.

    • roadgeon · April 21, 2011

      NotAScientist,

      Sorry if the use of the word “deny” bothered you. I honestly assume that the existence of the supernatural is self-evident, just as you probably honest assume that it is self-evident that there is no such thing.

      Perhaps deny should instead refer to the beliefs held pre-Enlightenment. You are right in pointing out the logical fallacy of believing something is true because “a lot of people” hold to it. However if that “even majority” refers to most thinking people for the first two-thousand years of Western Civilization then don’t brush them aside so easily. Ignore them at your intellectual peril.

      Please forgive me for being so hard on Enlightenment thinkers and science, which I assume you value a lot. I recognize that the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution which followed did a lot of wonderful things for humanity like making vaccines and fertilizer (and not so great things like chemical weapons and bombs). I have no problem with science rightly used.

      Hope this was more than a drive-by comment and looking forward to some response.

      • NotAScientist · April 22, 2011

        “Sorry if the use of the word “deny” bothered you. ”

        It didn’t bother me. I just don’t think it’s the appropriate word.

        “I honestly assume that the existence of the supernatural is self-evident”

        This is clear. The lack of evidence would tend to contradict that assumption, however.

        “However if that “even majority” refers to most thinking people for the first two-thousand years of Western Civilization then don’t brush them aside so easily.”

        And most thinking people thought illness was caused by illness or demons during that time too. So what?

        You seem to have simultaneously tried to acknowledge the fallacy from popularity while simultaneously trying to employ it.

        It’s a fallacy. The entire world could believe something, and they could have believed it for the entire length of recorded history. But that, in no way, implies or suggests that thing’s truth.

        “I have no problem with science rightly used.”

        I tend not to trust people who emphasize that they want to ‘rightly use’ a tool.

      • roadgeon · April 22, 2011

        Perhaps I can offer you a line of reasoning to evaluate.
        1. I exist in the natural world.
        2. Everything which exists in the natural world has a cause. Simply something never comes from nothing.
        From here we have a few options, either:
        -I am the result of an infinite number of causes, which continue back into the infinite past. Time and matter have no beginning and no end.
        -I am the result of a limited number of causes. The first cause was someone or something outside the natural world in which the same rule of causality does not apply. Anything outside of the natural world is super-natural.
        -?

        Obviously I subscribe to the second one and consider it the most probable based on what I know of reality. And you?

        You appear to misunderstand the gist of my argument when referring to fallacy from popularity. Rather it is an appeal to ethos, credible authority. My “majority” or “many” include Plato, Bacon, Newton, Pascal, Galileo, Copernicus, etc. You know that science relies heavily on appealing to research done by x scientist whom one may never have met. While you may choose to reference Stephen Hawking, I choose Sir Isaac Newton. A scientist may disagree with the results of another scientist, but I repeat that it would be intellectually perilous to not seriously consider and disprove his or her findings.

        Your last response puzzles me a bit. Are you saying that there is no moral difference between using science to make biological weapons and using it to discover vaccines? Please correct me if I am wrong. What I was trying to say and did a poor job of was that science, specifically the scientific method, cannot tell us whether it is better to use the tool of science to make fertilizer which can help feed millions or make bombs which can kill millions. Neither can it tell us the purpose or aim of science. Like a calculator, it is only as smart as the idiot operating it. It is extremely powerful, but also limited.

      • sabepashubbo · April 27, 2011

        “It’s a fallacy. The entire world could believe something, and they could have believed it for the entire length of recorded history. But that, in no way, implies or suggests that thing’s truth.”

        This sounds like an absolute. Are you saying you believe in absolute truth?

  2. Caroline · May 2, 2011

    totally agree with you.

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