Douglas Groothuis

Defending Christian Faith, September 21, 2004




(section skipped in lecture is below)



I.          Can We Rationally Establish the Existence of God?


A.        Objections to natural theology (arguing for God from nature).  See Douglas Groothuis, On Pascal, chapter 6.


1.         The Bible gives no such argument; therefore, we should not.  See D. Groothuis, “The Biblical Omission Argument,” Asbury Theological Journal (Fall 1997).  The Bible’s authority does not rule out these kinds of arguments under some conditions.


2.         Finite beings cannot prove an infinite God.  Confuses metaphysics and epistemology.


3.         Theistic arguments cannot compel belief in God, so they are pointless


a.         What is an argument and what is “proof”?


b.         Rationality (Moreland, 13)


1.         Rationally permissible (within epistemic rights):  weak rationality


2.         Rationally compelling (believe or be irrational):  strong rationality


c.         Deductive and cumulative case arguments for God


d.         Good arguments—logically and existentially.  Person-relativity of arguments.


e.         Why natural theology may not compel belief


1.         May be a bad argument in itself (or a bad version of a good argument)


2.         Truth of premises is not understood by S


3.         Force of the reasoning is not understood by S


4.         Argument may be understood but rejected for moral reasons.  “I don’t want to believe it.”


f.          The problem of skepticism (Pascal).  Skepticism indicates the noetic effects of sin; it does not undermine natural theology, but gives impetus to it and to the search for God.  See D. Groothuis, On Pascal, chapter seven.


4.         No need for natural theology because we can believe in God as “properly basic” (Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief).  Still may be needed for doubters or unbelievers who do not believe in this way.


5.         It is not the God of the Bible, but an abstract, philosophical deity.  The argument would establish several necessary attributes of the biblical deity.


6.         Because God is, by definition, invisible; there is no good reason to believe in God (Moreland, Scaling, 226 – 228)


a.         The claim is self-refuting:  You cannot see propositions


b.         Counterexamples of things that exist but cannot be seen:  values, subatomic particles, propositions, minds, numbers, etc.


c.         Category mistake:  God is not knowable in this sense


d.         There are other ways to perceive realities than by the senses:  intuition, inference, etc.




I.          Apologetics for Postmoderns (D. Groothuis, Truth Decay, chapter 7.  See also James Sire, The Universe Next Door, chapter 9)


A.        “Postmodernist Christians” on Mars Hill (161 – 162)


B.         Truth in the marketplace


C.        The hidden dangers of “relevance” See the prophetic book by Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness (Baker, 1993).  See review by D.  Groothuis on Denver Journal.


D.        True spirituality:  truth for the soul and community.  See Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality and J.P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind


E.         Exposing postmodernist nihilism


F.         Postmodern diversions and the testimony of human need.  Blaise Pascal.


G.        Rudiments of apologetic method


1.         Essential truths of logic (soft foundationalism)


2.         Basic forms of reasoning are universal


·        Propositions affirmed at Mars Hill


H.        Appeal to the best explanation in apologetics concerning postmodernism


1.         Postmodernist worldview is self-refuting, unlivable, and so on.


2.         Universe is contingent/created, not eternal; it is designed, not accidental


3.         God is the basis of objective moral law


4.         Christianity best explains the human condition


5.         Christian experiences best explained by the Christian God


6.         Christianity is historically grounded


All religions must have their founders, teachers and prophets, and it does not matter if some of these are anonymous or if the historian proves that one or another name amongst them was legendary.  Traditional Christianity, however, claims to be an historical religion in a more technical sense; for certain historical evens are held to be part of the religion itself—the are consider to have a spiritual content and to represent the divine breaking in upon history.  To a mind which accepts this a revelation—as giving an authentic insight into the real nature of things—there can be no doubt that the whole character of religion itself is seriously affected by the fact.  In Christian belief the scriptural revelation, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection are events which happen in time but it is claimed that they have an extra dimension, so to speak, and they carry a fullness of meaning calculated almost to break the vessel that contains it.  To the limit that is possible with finite things we regard them as capturing into time a portion of eternity. 


7.         Jesus is without peer and paramount in human and cosmic affairs


8.         Christianity is the highest stakes proposition:  heaven or hell


9.         Christianity gives meaning and satisfaction to life


I.          Two apologetic models:  William Lane Craig, Phillip Johnson


J.          Subjective engagement and objective truth  


K.        Egalitarianism and postmodernism (see D. Groothuis, Truth Decay, chapter 9; Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Women Caught in the Conflict [Wipf and Stock reprint, 1997] and Good News for Women [Baker, 1997], R. Groothuis, R. Pierce, eds., Discovering Biblical Equality)


1.         Traditionalism/patriarchalism (women restricted from certain leadership roles in the home and church solely because of their gender) is rejected by most contemporary people.  An apologetic obstacle.


2.         Traditionalism is logically and exegetically suspect


a.         Women leaders appear in the Bible as positive models (Judges 4 – 5; Acts 2:17)


b.         The traditionalist idea that women are “equal in being, but permanently different (that is, inferior) in function” is illogical.


c.         Therefore, egalitarianism is more rational than traditionalism and also a better apologetic approach than traditionalism