A Simple Apologetic

This is an Apologetic ("reason to believe") that I have presented to the young people in my Youth/Student group, and it has been well-received. Like any apologetic, it will be ineffective for anyone convinced in an opposing paradigm. However, for those who are NOT convinced in any paradigm, this may be useful. This set of people would include those "shopping" for a truth model ("religion"), and Christians who are dealing with doubt.

You can contact me if you want to discuss anything you see here. However, if you are someone who is already convinced in an opposing paradigm or truth model ("religion"), I don't really care to debate. If you are not convinced by my arguments, I will not likely be convinced by yours, and we both have better things to do.

Note that this apologetic occurred to me (doubtless inspired by whatever influences I was under) some time ago, circa 2009. Since then (doubtless inspired by newer influences), I've adjusted my most-favored and most-rehearsed apologetic: see it here.

There either IS or there IS NOT a supernatural, nonmaterial dimension to reality.

If there is no supernatural, nonmaterial dimension to reality, then everything is material and natural. Matter and energy. Nothing else. This position is known as materialism or naturalism, and implies atheism and evolutionism.

Reasons to Reject the Proposition
"There IS NOT a Supernatural Part of Reality"

  • If everything is ultimately matter and energy, there is no meaning.
  • If everything is ultimately matter and energy, there is no place for values like love or trust or liberty.
  • If everything is ultimately matter and energy, there is no morality. This doesn't mean atheists aren't moral people; they usually are. But morality isn't implied by materialism, it has to be explained.
  • There is no mind. Personality, consciousness, and intelligence are other things that have to be explained by materialists as accidental byproducts of evolution.
  • Evolutionism has lots of problems. Even a lot of scientists recognize this. It is a "scientific fact" only to materialists.
  • Speaking of science, it's pretty clear that there was a beginning at some point in the past. Materialists have various scientific explanations for this (such as the "Big Bang"), but it doesn't fit real well that "everthing is matter and energy, except before the beginning, and the matter and energy just appeared out of nowhere".

The Supernatural either IS or IS NOT fundamentally Personal.

Some religions, such as Hinduism or Buddhism or many New Age faiths, hold that the supernatural realm is ultimately non-personal. Atman. The goal of the religion is to be reunited with the non-personal. Nirvana. Personhood is an illusion. The processes of reincarnation, karma, etc., operate mechanically with no guiding intelligence.

Note that there may be supernatural "persons" in these kind of religions, gods or demons or whatever, but they exist under the larger impersonal structure of the supernatural, and are subject to it. They are not necessary. Atheism is possible in such a truth model ("no supernatural" does imply "atheism", but "atheism" does NOT imply "no supernatural").

Reasons to Reject the Proposition
"The Supernatural IS NOT fundamentally Personal"

If atheism is compatible with an impersonal supernatural, many of the objections to atheistic naturalism will apply here, too.

  • If reality is ultimately impersonal, there is no meaning, values, or morality. These are attributes of persons. Even if persons like humans or gods exist, their attributes are subjective and transient, with no connection to the transcendent reality.
  • There is no mind. How can personhood be an illusion, when illusions are things persons have?
  • If a beginning to the material universe is hard to accommodate to materialism, the beginning of a mechanical supernatural dimension is even worse. The model of reality for classical Hinduism is infinite perpetuity; there never was a time when the universe did not exist in pretty much its present form. This does not seem to be the case. It is possible (likely) that a supernatural reality would exist independently of the time and space of the material reality, and therefore not need to have a beginning itself, but then the question arises of how an impersonal supernatural reality would create a material reality, or be so closely meshed with the eventual human part of a spontaneously appearing material reality.
  • An impersonal supernatural mechanism should not be geared toward "illusionary" persons. Yet the principles of reincarnation and karma certainly are. Why should an impersonal system care about karma (which seems to be a mix of "justice" and "morality", attributes of persons) to determine what "soul" (personhood again) gets inserted into what kind of living creature?

A Personal Supernatural would be in continuous communication with humanity.

1. The Person(s) at the foundation of supernatural reality is the source of mind. Mind (information) cannot come from non-Mind (matter/energy, or an impersonal supernatural), but it can come from Mind. We limited and contingent minds are generated from a larger and necessary Mind.

2. The principles of mind we recognize (personhood, meaning, values, morality) and prize in ourselves derive from the Mind who generated us.

3. Persons communicate. The transcendent Being(s) responsible for generating us would be bound (by the value of love for which It is the source for ours) to communicate with us. This communication would occur from the time of the original humans to the present.

Excluded: Deism

Deism is the idea that, yes, a God created the material reality, and we human minds in particular, but then left. The natural laws instituted at the beginning operate without supervision. God does not make additional input into it.

This is counter to the ideas that "Persons Love" and "Persons Communicate". God certainly would have communicated with us, from the beginning til now.

Excluded: Dead Religions

Zeus, Thor, Belisama, Molloch, and all the gods of the civilizations on seven continents all had their day, but that day ended. Yes, there are people today who are reviving the old religions, but certainly there were centuries, or millenia, where the old gods quit talking. If Zeus was a real Person, he would have been in continuous communication from prehistoric times to the present.

Excluded: Newcomers

If some prophet announces that God has revealed himself, even a God who has the same name as a previous God but with new characteristics, inconsistent with those known previously, it is a false God and a new invention.

It is not unreasonable that the actual Person(s) would communicate different things in different times to different people. However, if truth is a personal value that we created persons inherit from the foundational Person(s), then these different things will not be inconsistent. That is, the Person(s) will not tell us "A is true" at one point, but "Not-A is true" at another.

A God who does this is not a foundational Person, and a religion that promotes him/her is false.

The Judeo/Christian faith tradition is the correct truth model.

The only remaining candidate for a truth model that has a Supernatural Reality, Who is foundationally Personal, and Who has been in continuous and consistent communication with humanity from the earliest recorded times to the present is Judaism/Christianity.

Was the appearance of Jesus a new thing?
Is Christianity a "newcomer" religion?

Not if Jesus is consistent with the Old Testament

  • Jesus matches the Old Testament prophecies better than any other "newcomer" candidate.
  • Jesus (wrathful with the hypocritical Jewish religious leaders, kind and patient with everyone else) is consistent with the Jehovah of the Old Testament - there is no dichotomy between the "angry" Old Testament Jehovah and the "loving" New Testament Jesus.
  • Jesus claims to have fulfilled the Law of Moses, rather than abolishing it, and taught the correct way to interpret such laws as "observing the Sabbath" (no, it's not breaking the law to do good).
  • If the Resurrection was a historical event, then God certified Jesus' claim to Messiahship. There is considerable reason to believe the the Resurrection was indeed a historical event.

There's a lot more to be said about Jesus and Christianity than this, but that's beyond this Simple Apologetic!