On the illogicality of Positive apologetics

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Hungus, Feb 23, 2007.

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  1. Hungus

    Hungus Puritan Board Freshman

    So I have a fellow philosophy student who shames me by memorizing almost all of the Pauline texts and yet is agnostic. Last night while discussing apologetics with him he stated that one of the antinomies that causes him to find Christianity to be not rationally provable is the issue of positive (classical) apologetics. As stated by him:

    A rational approach to unbelief is irrational given that the source of regeneration and belief is faith which is inherently non-rational.

    Now my immediate response to him was that I agreed that the regeneration of the spirit as done by the Holy Spirit was not done for rational reasons from our perspective and that the reason that a positive apologetic is used is because God commands us to evangelize and has chosen to regenerate people upon hearing the words of Christ (Rom 10:17 "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.")

    Comments or suggestions on a reply?
  2. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    Whew, you may be watching some excellent angling by the Master Fisherman! He's not even examining Arminianism first.

    Is he talking about I Corinthians 1:20-25?
  3. Mathetes

    Mathetes Puritan Board Freshman

    A couple of problems, from my perspective

    1) faith isn't the source of regeneration...it's the other way around

    2) Christian faith isn't non-rational...it's a belief in that which can't be seen, not a belief in that which can't be known
  4. JKLeoPCA

    JKLeoPCA Puritan Board Freshman

    This is TRUE, as only fighting against the Arminian position, which is irrational.

    The Arminian holds that Faith precedes regeneration. Yet they stumble within their theology, as to how they have the ability, all the sudden, without regeneration.

    He is stating that:
    You cannot have a rational approach to unbelief, because the results (regeneration and belief) of the opposite (faith) is not-rational. So I hear him stating that because faith is irrational, so unbelief is also irrational.

    So faith is irrational only within the Arminian system because it is said to be neutrally subjective, and can or cannot be used by the individual. Faith then considers it's object as being presented to them as just an option. Faith or unbelief is then just result of the irrational but emotional choice of the heart.

    We, on the other hand, know Saving Faith to be of Knowledge, Assent, and Rest. These elements of Faith comprise a rational approach to both our definition of Faith, and of Unbelief. The one in unbelief is that way because of what he rationally cannot know, reason, or understand, the objective facts are foolishness to him. Yet that man in faith, has faith, as a result of being renewed to life, and has been given proper objective knowledge of Christ. I always go back to the whole chapter 2 of 1 Corinthians. I also like to use from the WCF the chapter on Saving Faith, or from the WLC Q&A # 72, What is Justifying Faith. In these he should be able to see that there are pleanty of rational things that the mind would have to reason about positively.

    You may want to back him up and let him know that he is basically attacking a straw man, because you would agree that a Faith that precedes regeneration is irrational. Let him start over again, and back up to define man in an estate of sin, and what does man in sin know, or can know.

    I hope that made sense?? :2cents:
  5. JKLeoPCA

    JKLeoPCA Puritan Board Freshman

    Here's an after thought.

    There could also be the sense that he is trying to just state that faith is irrational because it acts upon that which it cannot see. But it is not that faith see nothing at all, just does not see the fulfillment of what was promised yet.

    Still it would be an Arminian position to state that faith is the source of regeneration and belief. So to think it irrational that one can have a rational approach to unbelief, would mean that the reasoning mind, trying to present something to an unreasoning mind, is irrational (the living talking to the dead is irrational, But see Ezekiel 37). He may be then arguing that because faith is not seeing, and thus irrational (in his definition), it is also irrational to try to get someone who is unbelieving to rationally see the same thing. But God states that He will not work according to men’s wisdom, but according to His own, which makes men‘s wisdom foolishness and irrational at times.

    Positive apologetics do not rest it's assurance of success in it’s pure mental reasonings, but makes the best mental conclusions (reasons) it can, and leaves the rest to God (regeneration and the resulting faith). More so in preaching, one may plant and another water, but God gives the increase.

    :2cents: :2cents:
  6. Hungus

    Hungus Puritan Board Freshman

    By saying that faith is irrational, he means, in the context of our conversation, that one cannot by rational ascent become a christian. The Holy spirit must regenerate the individual and then they receive the gift of faith logically, but there is no logical ascent to the faith (being as it is a gift and not earned). Regeneration requires the work of the Holy spirit and so one cannot reason in a regenerated state.

    Tumeric I think you are correct in your apprisal that this is the same kind of situation as described in 1 Corinthians 1:20-25, but he us the greek seeking wisdom. Now Sroul and Gerstner argue that the proper aologetic is the classical approch using reason as opposed to presuppositionalism. He finds that inconsistant since reason and evidence do nought without revelation
  7. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    If your fellow student is critiquing Sproul and Gerstner (and Lindsley, I suppose), or critiquing what he calls the Classical methodology, or critiquing the Word of God, these are three separate things. I'd like to know which he is critiquing.

    What is his idea of what is and is not rational? And how does he view what faith is?

    If I may reword his critique:
    "A rational approach to unbelief is irrational given that the source of regeneration and belief is faith which is inherently non-rational."
    "The accusation of unbelief against an unbeliever is as equally non-rational as belief, since regeneration and belief is inherently non-rational."

    In other words, belief and unbelief are in the context of the faith that is granted outside the rational sphere.

    Is this what he is saying? There are a lot of things taken for granted here. But the most important thing, I suppose, is that God's existence does not depend on man's belief that He exists, as he supposes; nor can God's existence be rationally denied, as he supposes. Believing that He exists is not necessarily the same as belief and faith in God. For even the demons believe, and shudder; but they do not have faith. The same with the philosophers and their philosophies of this world: why do they bend over backwards to argue against the strengths of the Christian religion, if it is not true that they do believe and shudder? If they do not believe in this respect (as opposed to believing and having faith) then why all this attention to something inherently non-rational?

    No, Anselm was right: the world cannot deny God's existence and still be rational. On the one hand they have to acknowledge Him, just so on the other hand they can deny Him. There is no other explanation.

    What your fellow student is saying is contrived. It puts everything that is under examination into his definitional framework, even though he borrows the whole of it from another frame of reference. He cannot help but acknowledge both the Classical and the Presuppositional necessities that he claims to deny. In other words, to put it very succinctly, he is being irrational.
  8. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    Does he mean that a rational approach to *belief* is nonsensical because faith is non-rational? Thus, why do apologetics because people aren't saved by rational assent. This makes more sense.

    Anyways, I would respond that
    I. We are commanded to do apologetics
    II. Proof (and hence apologetics) is not about persuasion.
    III. There are many aspects of apologetics, and I think evangelism is one of them.
    IV. With respect to III, we have no idea who the elect are, so we should use apologetics on any given person.
    V. Apologetics is not just for non-Christians; it is for Christians as well. It can strengthen faith.
  9. Hungus

    Hungus Puritan Board Freshman

    a better way of phrasing things would be it is irrational to approach some one who doesn't believe with rational reasons for belief if belief is not something which can be imparted by rational reasoning.

    I agree with all your points Caleb with the addition that apologetics is also a condemnation of unbelief. The ultimate things in this instance seems to be that the non believer is unable to ascend rationally despite the evidence, be cause on one level he is unwilling and on another he is incapable.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2007
  10. unlearnedlearner

    unlearnedlearner Puritan Board Freshman

    1. The Holy Spirit is the source of regeneration, not faith, and faith flows from regeneration.

    2. I don't accept that a "rational approach to unbelief is irrational", because unbelief is at its root rebellion. Why is reason with a rebel irrational? His definition of faith, "rational", and "unbelief" are all unbiblical, so his critique doesn't apply to a Biblical worldview.
  11. Hungus

    Hungus Puritan Board Freshman

    Well all already know that the Holy Spirit is the source of regeneration, that is not even in question here.

    With regards to your second statement you might want to sound up your argument as it is at first glance pelagic. You are hopefully not suggesting that mankind can choose to cease his rebellion before the gift of regeneration and faith are you? I find your argumentation to be completely inapplicable since we are dealing with someone who does not have a biblical world view.

    Now continuing on...
    If the reformed position is correct (and I only phrase it that way for purposes of the argument) then man cannot ascend to faith. There is the issue of original sin and rebellion. It is only after regeneration that one may receive faith.

    Logically it works something like this:
    regeneration is a necessary condition for faith
    in predicate logic we would say:
    1) (F=>R) Faith [F] implies Regeneration [R]
    2) (R=>Whs) Regeneration [R] implies a Work of the Holy Spirit [Whs]
    3) (F=>Whs) 1,2 hypothetical syllogism
    4) (~Whs=>~F) 3 transposition

    Given this model the application of a positive apologetic (classical apologetics in this case) is irrational if the reason for the apologetic is to use reason to ascend to faith.

    Further if Sproul and Gerstner are correct, presupositionalism is contrary to scriptural mandate.
  12. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    My 2 cents worth;
    I don't think presuppositional apologetics is unscriptural, I think it's the method Scripture uses.

    Is this guy arguing that it's illogical to reason with someone when faith comes from a work of God rather than from reason? I'm not sure I understand his argument.
  13. Hungus

    Hungus Puritan Board Freshman

    Ultimately this non-regenerate person is arguing that neither Theism nor atheist are rationally ascendable and so agnosticism or rather the suspension of belief is the most warranted position to hold. his issue with the apologetic method is just one antimony he cannot overcome with pure reason.

    For Sproul and Gerstner's argument as to why presuppositional apologetics is in error take a quick read of "classical apologetics"
  14. Hungus

    Hungus Puritan Board Freshman

    Then you are reading a different thread. I am not going to restate the argument but the presumption hinges on a belief that classical apologetics seems to imply in its form that one can show evidentially of the existence of God and thereby rationally ascend to that belief.
    This statement is not even on the table, it is recognized by both parties
    Again, this is not on the table. The specifics of the hypothetical event are in the first paragraph of the post you replied to
    But he doesn't. Both parties recognize and understand that faith can only come after regeneration and hence the debate.
    Yes this is a function of Apologetics, but is not on the table as per the previously mentioned situation
    See my reply to #1
    Yes, this is precisely his position. In fact is you will re read the described situation you will see this plainly. He asserts that neither theism nor atheism can be rationally justified and that the weight of each argument is relatively equal. He therefore postulates that one should suspend judgment on the matter
    He has a concern about committing the conditional fallacy, but it is more a rejection of foundationalism and reformed epistemology
    Again the argument is that a positive apologetic makes this error and is therefore irrational FOR THE SPECIFIC EVENT OF APPEALING TO THE UNREGENERATE.
    Hence the issue of his rejection of foundationalism
    His terms are very explicit. if there is a fault it should be mine in not properly restating the background and conditions of the statement.
  15. Hungus

    Hungus Puritan Board Freshman

    I am intentionally double posting, so my apologies if anyone finds this offensive but it seems best.

    Ultimately I think that his argument is sound for his specific case. The issues hang on the use of classical apologetics, which to the unbeliever seems to do only 2 things:

    1) Lay a foundation for knowledge upon regeneration.
    2) Condemnation of the unregenerate.

    Apologetics for the believer is a completely different situation as theism is axiomatic due to regeneration.

    Man rejects the rationality of scripture and creation due to:
    1) his fallen nature
    2) his active rebellion.

    Man cannot ascend to belief / faith due to the first and will not due to the second.

    So at the current time I find it best to accede to his argument of the misapplication of apologetics as being able to allow man to rationally ascend to faith/belief.

    The only way that he is going to be able to be reached fully is the same way that every man is reached fully, by regeneration by the Holy Spirit at which time his axiology will change.
  16. Hungus

    Hungus Puritan Board Freshman

    Obviously you and I are missing each other at a fundamental junction, likely at the part of it being an argument from a non regenerate view, but I am not certain. If anyone else desires to ring in feel free but I am not going to go back over things again with you Paul. Thank you for your comments, but I have to say I cannot use them in this debate.

  17. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse "The Brain"

    Hello Gentlemen,

    I am going to jump in here. Hungus, I think Paul Manata was spot on. Allow me to explain. You stated that your friend’s argument against classical apologetic method was…

    Given the context, your friend understands classical apologetics to be “a rational approach,” and that in some sense this is flawed because “the source of regeneration and belief is faith which is inherently non-rational.” So, what is the argument you friend is really making? The conclusion to whatever argument he is making is this:

    Conclusion: Classical apologetics is irrational.

    One of the premises for your friend’s argument is…

    Premise 1: The source of regeneration and belief is faith.

    Another premise is…

    Premise 2: Faith is irrational.

    Paul Manata has already pointed out that premises 1 and 2 do not lead to the conclusion. He also has pointed out that both premises 1 and 2 are problematic. Now, in order for this argument to really go through, we need to add the following premise.

    Premise 3: Classical apologetics is the source of regeneration and belief.

    If classical apologetics is the source of regeneration and belief (premise 3), and if the source of regeneration and belief is faith (premise 1), and if faith is irrational (premise 2), then classical apologetics is irrational (conclusion). However, Paul has already pointed out that premise 3 is problematic. In other words, the argument your friend is making does not even get off the ground. Not one of his necessary premises is true. Hungus, I think you would do well to reconsider what Paul said.


  18. Hungus

    Hungus Puritan Board Freshman

    No and No. Sorry, I do not at this time have the time to formally state his axiology and step back through his premises. Further, As I have already stated I have a working solution to the problem at hand. If I have time after finishing my hermeneutics paper and doing my philosophy of language reading and studying for my exam on wed and fixing my breaking computer I will do so. At the best it will be friday before I have time.
  19. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse "The Brain"

    I was hoping to hear back from Hingus. I guess we answered all his questions. :um: It's nice to know that we have made one more disciple...and twice as worse as us! :eek:

  20. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    Brother, We are given faith through the Holy Spirit. We logically cannot come to God. By our very nature we are like the natural man who does not understand the thigns of God. Only when regenerated can we then understand. As faith being a gift, we are given it, we do not come to it on our own.

    It seems like you are trying to make him understand something when in fact as a natural man he will always argue his point until changed by the Holy Spirit if chosen by God.
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