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Reasons For Rejecting Evidentialism

An Unbiblical View Of Man

Warfield's "Princeton apologetic" is just a representative of a larger school of apologetics called traditional evidentialism.  This school stands historically on the Protestant side with Joseph Butler's (1692-1752) Analogy of Religion.  This school's major error is that it ignores man's fallen nature and assumes man is capable of assessing spiritual issues correctly and without much bias.

This assumption is completely unbiblical, as we have already shown.
  • What word does Paul use in Romans 8:7-8 to describe man's natural disposition?
  • How does Paul describe our mind, understanding and heart in Eph. 4:17-19?
  • What are the scriptures to the natural man according to 1 Cor. 2:14?
Until the Holy Spirit regenerates him he will not and cannot recognize Christ and the Scriptures for what they are.  He will not and cannot hear his "Master's voice" speaking to him in Scripture.  And he has not the capability, even if he were of a mind to do so, to seek the true God.  Any and every truth about God, coming to him by whatever means, apart from the Spirit's convicting, saving, and illuminating work, he immediately suppresses in the form in which it comes.  And when his darkened understanding has restructured it, the original truth emerges in his consciousness dressed in the covenant breaker's manufactured clothing of falsehood that points in turn to an idol that he then worships and that in turn leads him to run to all kinds of immoral excesses, spiritual pride, and sinful self-righteousness.  Therefore, because they ought to acknowledge the true God and worship him as their Creator but do not, "they are without excuse [anapologetoous]" (Rom. 1:20) - Robert Reymond, Faith's Reasons For Believing, p. 268

Probably True?

We have already discussed the problem with probability arguments in the past lesson.  But it is important to know that evidentialist usually use a combination of inductive and deductive reasoning.  Their use of inductive (empirical investigation) opens the door to meaningless probability.  The evidence provided by this method is at best only probable and at worst meaningless to the unbeliever.

Modern Day Example: R. C. Sproul's Reason to Believe (previously titled Objections Answered)
  • Premise A - The Bible is basically reliable and trustworthy document
  • Premise B - On the basis of this reliable document we have sufficient evidence to believe confidently that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
  • Premise C - Jesus Christ being the Son of God is infallible authority
  • Premise D - Jesus Christ teaches that the Bible is more than generally trustworthy; it is the very Word of God
  • Premise E - The word, in that it comes from God, is utterly trustworthy because God is utterly trustworthy.
  • Conclusion - On the basis of the infallible authority of Jesus Christ, the church believes the Bible to be utterly trustworthy, i.e., infallible
Problems:
  1. Sproul can not simply assert premise A, he must demonstrate it, which by any estimation is an enormous task.  Think of all of the thousands of supernatural events described in the Bible.  If any one claim is not true it would throw into question the whole book.  How can someone go about proving that the transfiguration occurred as described in the Bible?  Would have to rely on eye witness (only have Peter in 2 Peter 1:16-18).  But, Peter's testimony includes a reference to a supernatural voice from heaven.  So, you would have to establish the existence of such a voice.  Then you have the question of whether the voice was from God.  It could have been a demon trying to mislead Peter.  The problems of empirical investigation mounts.
  2. Because premise A is probable at best and because premise B is based on premise A, we must remove "confidently" and insert "possibly" from premise B ("we have sufficient evidence to believe that Jesus Christ is possibly the Son of God").  In fact, we need to insert the word "possibly" in all of the succeeding  premises and the resulting conclusion "the church believes the Bible to be possibly trustworthy". 
Does the unbelieving world accept premise A?  Take, for example, the work of the Jesus Seminar.  Wikipedia writes "The Seminar concluded that of the various statements in the 'five gospels' attributed to Jesus, only about 18% of them were likely uttered by Jesus himself" (the 5th gospel is the gnostic book of sayings called the "Gospel of Thomas").

Consistency As A Test

Edward John Carnell in his book, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics, relies upon internal consistency.  A document's claim to truthfulness must pass a test of internal consistency and external consistency with all historical, archaeological, sociological and scientific data.  Can a book be internally consistent and still be wrong?  Carnell still leaves the problem of external consistency up to man.  Francis Schaeffer also uses systematic consistency as a test of truth in his The God Who Is There.  He states two tests for a proof (scientific, philosophical or religious)
  1. Theory must be non-contradictory and must answer the question
  2. We must be able to live consistently with the theory (must conform to what we observe)
Has anyone seen the movie The Matrix?  In the Matrix, what did the red pill do?

Circular Reasoning

What about the charge of circular reasoning?  If we appeal to the self-attesting Scripture as authoritative, aren't we using circular reasoning?  Isn't this a blind leap of faith?  For example:
  • document 1 self attests that it is authoritative
  • document 2 self attests that it is authoritative
  • document 1 conflicts with document 2
Which one should we choose?  Or could they both contain error and be unreliable?  "That the Bible claims to be the Word of God is not enough to authenticate the claim.  But the fact that the claims is made is significant indeed.  If the Bible is trustworthy then we must take seriously the claim that it is more than trustworthy." - R. C. Sproul, Objections Answered, p. 31.

We would agree with Sproul that just because a document claims to be the Word of God doesn't mean that it is the Word of God.  We would be making a blind leap of faith.  But our faith is not blind, it is faith that is made certain by the witness of the Holy Spirit.  1 Cor. 2:10 "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God."  John 10:27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."  But notice that Sproul rejects the certainty provided by the Spirit in place of the reliability of a document established by empirical investigation ("If the Bible is trustworthy..."). 

So, our faith is not a blind faith.  We know which self-attesting document to trust in because of the witness of the Holy Spirit.
  1. The Bible self attest that it is authoritative
  2. The Holy Spirit attest that the Bible is authoritative
Is there really any other option?  Who is more reliable than God Himself when giving witness to His own revelation?  Can man be trusted?
This is hardly reasoning in a circle.  It is simply recognizing that God alone can properly bear witness to his Word, that man is a creature before him, and that salvation is by grace.  The Christian is what he is by the grace of God.  His faith is not the result of a fideistic "leap of faith" but rather the inevitable response to the sovereign regenerating work of the Holy Spirit who works by and with the self-authenticating truths of God revealed in Holy Scripture. - Robert Reymond, Faith's Reasons For Believing, p. 272.

God has brought us from death unto life.  And it is only then that we realize that we were once dead.  We believe in order to understand.  The Westminster Confession of Faith says about the same thing in WCF I.4
The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.


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