-Daniel James Hole
With modern day skepticism many of the classical proofs of God’s existence have been unfairly dismissed without any real engagement. And this is no truer than with the 5 ways of Thomas Aquinas which have been thoroughly dismissed by people such as Dawkins and Russel without any good reason. And so many of these proofs have in a sense therefore been thrown into the shadows in the Atheist community. And so in light of this I will seek to briefly present the strength of the case of Aquinas’s forgotten first way.
The Tao and Important Details:
The Tao is a set of traditional values held by almost every society prior to its attackers around C.S. Lewis’ time. “The innovator attacks traditional values (The Tao) in defense of what they at first supposed to be (in some special sense) ‘rational’ or biological’ values.” From an apologetics and moral philosophy standpoint, we can classify The Tao as “objective” moral duties.
This implies moral realism which holds that there are moral facts about reality that can be known to humans, by which we are the moral agents who must follow these duties. It’s important to make a distinction that Lewis talks about implicitly in the text. There is a huge distinction between moral epistemology and moral ontology. Moral epistemology asks the question of how we know moral facts, while moral ontology asks the questions, what grounds these in reality. “Those of us who accept the Tao may, perhaps, say that they ought to do so: but that is not open to those who treat instinct as the source of value.”
Lewis points out that those who have objections to the Tao affirm that they have knowledge of it, but want to root it in anything other than religion. There is a clear moral ontological claim saying that the Tao is really rooted in instinct, which implies a biological evolutionary process by which we get the Tao. It’s important to note that Lewis refutes the innovators (logical positivists/skeptics) of the Tao and their moral ontology claims. Lewis himself does not give a grounding himself, but really defends that the Tao is real and is known. “In order to avoid misunderstanding, I may add that though I myself am a Theist, and indeed a Christian, I am not here attempting any indirect argument for Theism. I am simply arguing that if we are to have values at all we must accept the ultimate platitudes of Practical Reason as having absolute validity.”
In Defense of the Tao:
Lewis essentially argues that we are justified in believing in The Tao on the grounds of our reason. Ultimately, this is a type of intuition form of a prior knowledge for justification of moral facts. “Our duty to do good to all men is an axiom of Practical Reason, and our duty to do good to our descendant is a clear deduction from it.” It’s important to point out that this is justification for moral epistemology, not moral ontology. The innovators attack The Tao whether by trying to ground it in something that can’t do the job or rebelling against it.
One attack comes in the form of instinct, it’s used as both a grounding for the oughtness of The Tao and to deny it. Lewis points out that “Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people’. People say different things: so do instincts.” It’s important to note that instinct is not the same as intuition. Instinct is more rooted in biology and social condition for how our bodies of senses react to things.
A classic example of this would be the idea of fight or flight. If you see a tornado heading towards your location, you have an instinct to get away from the hurling, tumbling tower of death coming to you. So for the innovators, moral institutions are instincts that we have picked up by either Darwinian evolution or simply by the culture/environment that we grow up in. They give an instinct that really is a moral claim that assumes its own conclusion.
“We have an instinctive urge to preserve our own species.” That is why men ought to work for posterity.” The Darwinist would just simply point out that this doesn’t ground The Tao, but really is just an instinct we developed from the blind evolutionary process. Richard Dawkins affirms The Tao in the epistemological sense, but his ontology concludes that we developed moral intuition just like how we grew five fingers. We could have developed six fingers and developed rape as an instinct to help preserve our species.
A very good point that Lewis points out with the problem of the argument from instinct, is an argument from infinite regress. “But why ought we to obey instinct? Is there another instinct of a higher order directing us to do so, and a third of a still higher order directing us to obey it? An infinite regress of instincts?” Two more problems arise with the argument from instinct includes the is ought problem and the lack of explanatory power.
Trying to ground The Tao in a natural phenomenon or process is trying to ground the oughts into process, something that just is. All your doing is assuming the ought and plugging it into something that can’t explain it. The moral ontology can’t be grounded by natural means or by an unconscious process that just is. There’s nothing prescriptive about the blind Darwinian evolutionary process, it’s just descriptive. The second point to be made here is that this has no explanatory power. All it does is give a description of some moral epistemological claims, really does not tell us anything about the moral ontology of The Tao. Theists and Atheists can accept that The Tao came about by evolution (granting for the sake of argument), but the physical, descriptive process tells us nothing about moral ontology. The worldviews that interpret that data makes the moral ontological claims. Hence, grounding The Tao in instinct has no explanatory power of moral ontological claims.
Another idea thrown out in this chapter is the idea of Utilitarianism. “Where will he find such a ground? First of all, he might say that the real value lay in the utility of such sacrifice to the community. “Good”. He might say, meant what is useful to the community.” The Tao is grounded in usefulness and consequence. Lewis points out a reductio ad absurdum to refute this idea, “He may say ‘unless some of us risk death all of us are certain to die.” But that will be true only in a limited number of cases; and even when it is true it provokes the very reasonable counter question ‘Why should I be one of those who take the risk?” Ultimately, Utilitarianism can be used to justify atrocities that The Tao condemns. Nazi Germany justified their acts as arguing that the extermination of those unfit by Hitler is for the usefulness of “superior race”. Clearly, The Tao would not support this, since the most fundamental rule is treat others how you want to be treated.
Lewis concludes: “The truth finally becomes apparent that neither in any operation with factual propositions not in any appeal to instinct can the innovator find the basis for a system of values. None of the principles he requires are to be found there: but they are all to be somewhere else.” The Tao has to be grounded in something that can prescribe and not in things that merely describe. This grounding must be some personal and must have agency itself, sounds a lot like God, which Lewis would argue for in Mere Christianity.
Abolition of Man: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YLQ19FC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
Challenges presented to me from Cultural Apologetics?
There were not so many challenges to my approach of apologetics, just some interesting points that have made me change up my approach to apologetics. Not everyone’s starting points contain philosophical objections and historical objections to Christianity. Paul was a cultural apologist since he dwelt with the Jews and the Greeks on Mars hill from their starting points and not a particular apologetic method. Paul meets them at their starting points without compromising the Gospel. Many people’s rejections or objections to Christianity are not always in the epistemological realm. Rather, they have to do with culture and how some Christians have painted a hostile approach to modern day culture. “Christians tend to give Jesus moral and spiritual authority in their lives, but when it comes to gaining other kinds of knowledge, Christians tend to follow the rest of the culture looking to scientists or Hollywood instead (33).”
An example of this would be how some Christians condemn secular music because it is not Christ centered. What history shows is that the arts, like music, is due to many Christians during the Renaissance. The Christians who condemn secular music attack the music for its genre rather than its content. Someone’s starting point may come from a musical background, and so illuminating for them the ideas of Christians during the Renaissance and the Medieval church music presents the idea of the beatific vision. The beatific vision is a representation of stain glass photos and music to present the presence of God or for the non-believer a moment of transcendence.
The duty of the cultural apologist is to show the desirability of Christianity from a musical starting point or any starting point for that matter. The task can become difficult to not give up essentials of Christianity because someone’s rejection might be an essential to Christianity. A challenge for me is meeting some from cultural starting points because I’m not well equipped in culture. It’s also difficult to deal with objections to core points because the task of showing desirability is next to impossible until you get them to accept the core claims of Christianity they reject. Cultural Apologetics also emphasizes on the point that apologetics must be done biblically, with Gentleness and Respect (1 Peter 3:15). As a fallen person, this is a very difficult thing to do when someone comes from a hostile methodology in expressing their objections and rejections to Christianity. This is the task of Cultural Apologetics, to present the desirability and truthfulness of Christianity to each person’s starting point in a gentle and respectful manner, even if they come from a hostile attitude.
Most compelling points from the Cultural Apologetics?
“As John reports, ‘Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him’ (John 12:37) (40).” Gould points out here the Jews starting points were not looking for miracles. One could argue that the Pharisees were very egoistic in their practices of the Scriptures and wanted to be praised instead of being belittled and humbled like the tax collector. The point being, the starting point of miracles is not for everyone, but is still for some. Even pointing to the case for the resurrection will not convince everyone even if they see it as true. They have a starting point that is a barrier to them from believing in Christ.
A fairly interesting point Gould makes on the next page describes the necessity of the Gospel and how it’s related to everyone. “In the Bible we find not only the greatest story ever told but the greatest possible story ever told (41).” The idea of the God who is the greatest conceivable being, wanting to redeem those who need to be saved and are broken, dies the worse death in human history, and allows for atonement to everyone, is the greatest possible story to conceive. This is relatable to anyone who goes through pain (which is everyone), because they can relate to Christ since he went through the worst pain when he didn’t deserve it. This is a message that relates to all and everyone’s starting points can implement the Gospel when you approached it in the right cultural apologetical manner.
“The materialism, reductionism, scientism, naturalism, Darwinism, and nihilism of our day find their roots in the changing philosophical and cultural scene of the late medieval and early modern period (51).” All these worldviews are emphasized in our culture and pollute the minds of young thinkers and produces harmful starting points for the cultural apologist to approach. Cultural apologetics does not neglect refutations to these worldviews, but rather offers a gentle and respectful argument against these worldviews which show the desirability of Christianity. A positive case for Christianity from a cultural apologetic approach shows the desirability of the Gospel over these cultural worldviews.
Points of Curiosity; new changes to my apologetics method and an example of a cultural apologetic approach:
I use to consider myself just a cumulative case apologist, but this book has changed my perspective to endorse a combination of both cumulative case apologetics and cultural apologetics as my new methodology. Cumulative case apologetic says that there are multiple pieces of evidence for Christianity that makes an overall case for its truthfulness. By adding a cultural approach, we add the approach that we draw a specific piece of evidence for Christianity relating to someone’s starting point. Using that piece of evidence (cultural, historical, scientific or philosophical), you show the truthfulness and desirability to that person’s starting point.
Argument from Desire:
1. Out natural desires have a corresponding object that satisfies them.
2. There exists in us a natural desire, the desire for transcendence, that nothing in the material cosmos can satisfy.
3. There exists some object beyond the material cosmos that can satisfy this desire.
4. The Transcendent object of our longing is God.
5. God exists.
A new argument for God’s existence to me is played out from pages 75- 79 of the text. It has four premises and a conclusion that use desires of the transcendent and roots those desires in God. Premise one is defended by pointing out natural desires for hunger and thirst which is point made by C. S. Lewis when he defended this argument. We have a natural yearning for something higher than the physical things we see around as that is transcendental in nature like the good, the beauty, and the truth. The conclusion ultimately grounds God for the reason why we have these transcendental experiences and desires.
Of course, this does not get you Christianity. From a cultural apologist approach, we can argue that Christianity through general revelation best satisfies as the explanation for these desires. If someone’s starting point are these desires, then the cultural apologist can use this piece of evidence to lead towards Christianity to get the conversation started. The argument from desire is one piece of evidence among many that makes the case for Christianity. This is just one example among many that make the case for Christianity and for showing the desirability of the Gospel to anyone. Cultural Apologetics is a book that every apologist and Christian needs to read up there with books like Reasonable Faith and Evidence That Demands a Verdict.
Cultural Apologetics by Paul Gould: https://www.amazon.com/Cultural-Apologetics-Conscience ImaginationDisenchanted/dp/0310530490/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr
People come at the text from anti-Trinitarian positions.
For some, the Trinity is hard to fathom and use that lack of understanding in their exegesis. Be sure to check out my video to whether the Trinity is Illogical to help clear up misunderstandings about the Trinity.
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
- “I and the father are one”.
- “You being a man make yourself out to be God”.
- Jesus would have corrected them if had meant something else.
- Stoning for Blasphemy (Lev. 24:16).
- Jesus would have known this because of his knowledge of the Jewish scriptures and law.
But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” For this reason, therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His Own Father, making Himself equal with God.
- “but also said that God was his father, makes himself equal to God”.
- Why would they conclude this?
- Jesus claimed to still be working since his father is during the Sabbath.
- No mere man could claim this, unless he is equal to the father.
- To be equal to the father is to share the same essence.
“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Personal Relationships “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you”
- Any time Jesus says “you have heard it said, but I say to you”.
- Reference to the Law and Old Testament Scriptures.
- On what Authority would he have to change, expound upon, or add onto the law revealed to Moses by the Father?
- If only he is equal to the Father and has the same essence”.
Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”
- “You shall have no other God’s or Idols before me” (Exodus 20:3).
- Jesus excepted worship (Matthew 14:33, John 9:38, Matthew 28:9).
- Acts 14:11-15.
“When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”
-Revelation 19:10 Angel denies worship from John.
-Jesus only should be worshiped if he has the same nature/essence as the Father, which is the essence of the Godhead.
Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
- Thomas makes clear that he thinks Jesus is God.
- Jesus does not deny this, yet embraces it and excepts this title.
- If he didn’t, then Jesus would have corrected Thomas.
- In the Greek, Θεός means God.
Is the Trinity Logical?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G1FV8dtaLw&t=191s
For further points: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02HrIogiIrQ&t=8s
For Further Reading:
Evidence That Demands A Verdict: Pages 172-194
On Guard: 183-218
I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist: 327-354
J. P. Moreland in his forward writes, “In a recent Barna pool… They identified six reasons for the exodus (millennials leaving the church). (1) The church is overprotective and fails to expose people to anti-Christian ideas. (2) The church’s teaching is shallow. (3) The church is antagonistic to science and fails to help believers interact with scientific claims. (4) The church treats sexuality simplistically and judgmentally. (5) The church makes exclusivist claims. (6) The church is dismissive of doubters (13).”
Generation Z will be even worse with leaving the church than millennial's already are. Apologetics usually seen as just give arguments for the resurrection and God’s existence helps with some doubts and the apparent anti-scientific way of thinking in the church, but doesn’t deal with all doubts and reasons for why people leave the church. The shallow teaching of the church just sounds like any other religion and modern day people see Christ as another Zeus or pagan deity. Every person leaving the church may have similar reasons for leaving, but are always coming from different starting points. For example, many people may leave because they see what the church has to offer for the future, but not for the now. If the church mainly focused on the now of the Gospel instead of the future like Christ did, then less people in this area would see what Christianity has to offer for the now.
“The term “cultural apologetics” has been used to refer to systematic efforts to advance the plausibility of Christian claims in light of the messages communicated through dominant cultural institutions, including films, popular music, literature, art, and the mass media (20).” The focus is literally on culture instead of the typical philosophical arguments given for God’s existence. William Lane Craig seems to argue that cultural apologetics focuses on the negative side of apologetics. For example, if God does not exist then objective meaning, value, and purpose do not exist. Francis Schaeffer would take this point in his one step apologetics (aka. Presuppositionalism) and argue that one cannot live life without out belief in Christianity.
I however agree with Paul Gould with how he defines cultural apologetics. “I define cultural apologetics as the work of establishing the Christian voice, conscience, and imagination within a culture so that Christianity is seen as true and satisfying (21).” Christianity is a message for all people and has a timeless message to it. The apologetics aspect of the Gospel comes into play when someone asks you about the hope you have within you. This is what Saint Peter writes in his second epistle, which his cultural context was persecution on Nero. Everyone is coming from a different culture, context starting point that we most likely do not share. Gould gives us some helpful tips as how to do cultural apologetics in these types of conversations.
“In addition, a cultural apologist operates at two levels. First, she/he operates globally by paying attention to how those within a culture perceive, think, and live, and then she/he works to create a world that is more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful and enchanted. Secondly, she/he operates locally, removing obstacles to, and providing positive reasons for, faith so individuals or groups will see Christianity as true and satisfying, plausible and desirable (22-23).”
This will keep be emphasized, that everyone leaving or people you talk to about Christianity are coming from different starting points. Paul’s sermon at mars hill in Acts 17, comes from the starting point of worship. Paul does his homework and studied the Greek culture that he was in at Athens. Paul talks about the unknown God they worship as the Christians God and that he is knowable. Paul then provides the Gospels and points to the resurrections of Jesus to the Athenians.
As Christian Apologists, we need to know our “Athens” as Gould point out in his book. America’s “Athens” contains multiple worldviews like relativism, materialism, egoism, hedonism, secularism, and many other isms. Knowing these “Athens” will help us identify peoples cultural and contextual starting points. Doing this allows us to start the conversation and get to the core of why someone isn’t a Christian and employ the best reasons for why they should be a Christian is context to their starting points.
Gould gives us some more helpful tips and tasks as cultural apologists to help identify our “Athens” and people’s starting points. “First task of the cultural apologist-the task of understanding culture (24).” For our first task, we must listen to what the culture we are living is saying about Christianity and what the culture itself believes. The previous list of “isms” is a good starting point for practicing this first task. “Worldview analysis is necessary but not sufficient for a cultural apologetics (24).” This essential to cultural apologetics because to not understand competing worldviews is not listening and not understanding people’s cultural, contextual starting points.
“The cultural apologist works to resurrect relevance by showing that Christianity offers plausible answers to universal human longings (24).” As Aristotle points out, humans are rational, social beings that seek the transcendentals. The transcendentals are Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, also known as Logos, Pathos, and Ethos. Everyone’s starting points have hidden desires behind them associated with the transcendental in some way. The task here is to show how Christianity best offers relevance to people’s starting points that are associated with the transcendentals. “Cultural apologetics must demonstrate not only the truth of Christianity but also its desirability (25).” This is where cumulative case apologetics comes in by taking pieces of evidence of Christianity that relate to many people desirable starting points. For example, the argument from beauty shows that the aesthetic truths point towards Christianity along with the case of course. Everyone has aesthetic truths they hold dearly, but if their worldview(starting points) can’t satisfy that desire, then this is where cultural apologetics comes in. Cultural apologetics is a necessary component to apologetics that needs to be utilized in modern day apologetics to help spread Christian Truth Through Apologetics.
Cultural Apologetics by Paul Gould: https://www.amazon.com/Cultural-Apologetics-Conscience-Imagination-Disenchanted/dp/0310530490/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
1. Gould, Paul. “Cultural Apologetics”, 13.
2. Gould, 20.
3. Gould, 21.
4. Gould, 22-23.
5. Gould, 24.
6. Gould, 24.
7. Gould, 24.
8. Gould, 25.