Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Colin Adams
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  • Tuesday, October 30, 2007

    Skeptical of Scientific Apologetics Alone

    And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)

    While there are several great resources for examining science from a Christian worldview, there are many other well-meaning but fallacious organizations that misuse science in an attempt to prove God by pure naturalism. Science is but one of many areas that can be used to glorify God, but any attempt at evangelism through science alone is doomed to failure, for the following reasons:

    1.) The question of the existence of God is not merely a scientific question.
    It is a philosophical question (and even this is limited in its effectiveness). Approaching God from a scientific perspective alone will always fall short. While I agree that there are many scientific reasons to believe in God, I am reminded of a quote I heard years ago that continues to ring true. “For the believer, no evidence is necessary. For the non-believer, no amount of evidence will suffice.” While the naturalist will make the claim that he will believe in God if God were to merely show Himself in the heavens, or if God were to perform some supernatural miracle before his eyes, it just isn’t true. Instead, the non-believer will simply insist that there is a natural explanation for these things not yet discovered, and accuse believers of adopting a “god of the gaps” philosophy to explain those things which we otherwise can’t explain.

    2.) Scientific evidence ignores the supernatural aspect of believing faith.
    While scientific apologetic methods do indeed have their place, they are unfortunately misused and overused, with disastrous results. In fact, most evangelical apologetics today focus solely on scientific arguments (and questionable scientific arguments at that). Between, fallacious scientific arguments and bad soteriology, well-meaning evangelicals have adopted a sort of “Science Evangelism”, which is totally devoid of the life-changing message of the gospel. This misuse of apologetics is a common problem today. However, as we can see from the Scripture above, true faith must come from the Father who is in Heaven. Without this Divine and Supernatural Light, no one will be able to obtain faith. Apologetics may be necessary to “... destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This may pave the way for a presentation of the gospel, but apologetics themselves have no saving power. No one has ever come to Christ by losing a debate, but rather by being born of the Spirit.

    3.) Scientific evidence cannot prove or disprove the existence of God.
    This is especially true in the eyes of a non-believer. By their standard, science cannot allow supernatural explanations for anything. Consider the following quote from atheist Richard Lewontin.

    “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” - Richard Lewontin, “Billions and billions of demons,” The New York Review (January 9, 1997), 31.

    Thus, while we can point to some major scientific problems in the atheistic worldview, these problems alone do not prove the existence of God.

    4.) Scientific Apologetics assumes a naturalistic worldview by default.
    In scientific debates concerning the existence of God, the theist is automatically on the defensive against the atheist. The scientific approach is left to try and prove a supernatural God by natural means. The atheist, on the other hand, is free from such a task. He is never forced to defend his use of universal, invariant laws. He never has to explain how such laws can exist in a purely material universe. He never has to explain how the human mind, being an accident of biochemistry, is capable of perceiving such laws, or assuming any type of inductive reasoning. While the atheist cannot account for any of these things, the scientific approach already grants them to be true.

    5.) Scientific evidence can change.
    Just within the past year, we have seen some archaeological discoveries hit the news. First, the Ossuary of James was uncovered to provide powerful support for the accuracy of the Biblical Text. Then, just before Easter, the Tomb of Jesus was allegedly discovered that would have been the death blow to Christianity. As it turned out, both of these were frauds. However, consider what kind of faith a person would have if his beliefs were built on this type of evidence alone. This person would be like the double-minded man in James 1:8, “unstable in all his ways”. A genuine, unwavering faith needs to be given from above, not through debates over vain philosophy and empty deceit

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