From Christianity Today: God is Not Dead Yet, by William Lane Craig.
This article explores the resurgence of belief in a personal God among professional philosophers. The classic arguments for the existence of God–the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments–have come back into favor in philosophy departments in American and British universities.
The opening paragraph reads:
You might think from the recent spate of atheist best-sellers that belief in God has become intellectually indefensible for thinking people today. But a look at these books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, among others, quickly reveals that the so-called New Atheism lacks intellectual muscle. It is blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy. It reflects the scientism of a bygone generation rather than the contemporary intellectual scene.
Craig gives a brief history of the rise of the scientism and verificationism that reigned in secular philosophy for decades, and how the dismissal of these philosophies has led to a comeback for Christian and theistic philosophies. He then outlines these four time-honored arguments for God’s existence. My favorite is the cosmological argument, which Craig outlines as:
1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.
The logic of this argument is sound. If premises 1, 2, and 3 are true, then the conclusion has to be true. Number 3 is obviously true, so Craig lists some arguments for the truthfulness of premises 1 and 2. He then goes through the other philosophical arguments in a similar fashion.
Part two of the Christianity Today article asks the question “Why Bother?” Some would say that that in our postmodern age, philosophical arguments don’t carry much weight. Craig’s answer is surprising, but I believe it is powerful:
The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that’s not postmodernism; that’s modernism! That’s just old-line verificationism, which held that anything you can’t prove with your five senses is a matter of personal taste. We live in a culture that remains deeply modernist.
Otherwise, how do we make sense of the popularity of the New Atheism? Dawkins and his ilk are indelibly modernist and even scientistic in their approach. On the postmodernist reading of contemporary culture, their books should have fallen like water on a stone. Instead, people lap them up eagerly, convinced that religious belief is folly.
Seen in this light, tailoring our gospel to a postmodern culture is self-defeating. By laying aside our best apologetic weapons of logic and evidence, we ensure modernism’s triumph over us. If the church adopts this course of action, the consequences in the next generation will be catastrophic. Christianity will be reduced to but another voice in a cacophony of competing voices, each sharing its own narrative and none commending itself as the objective truth about reality. Meanwhile, scientific naturalism will continue to shape our culture’s view of how the world really is.
Christians who depreciate natural theology because “no one comes to faith through intellectual arguments” are therefore tragically shortsighted. For the value of natural theology extends far beyond one’s immediate evangelistic contacts. It is the broader task of Christian apologetics, including natural theology, to help create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. It thereby gives people the intellectual permission to believe when their hearts are moved.
Wow. Let us think clearly for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace and Peace