What is Apologetics?

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The word appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the New Testament, and both the noun (apologia) and verb form (apologeomai) can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

No one can discover truth! Oh really?

One of the joys I have as a homeschool Dad, and as an apologist, is spending time training my daughter to respond to the objections people throw down using various books that we are studying. One book is a short little book by Norman Geisler and Joseph Holden entitled, Living Out Loud: Defending Your Faith. This book is a good primer for a discipleship setting for teaching an introductory to apologetics.

What prompted this posting and the next several postings has been our study in the book's chapter on, "What is Truth?" This is a foundational question that is always coming under the assault from the culture. In my time with my daughter, I have honed in on this fact that people still like to throw down objections to the definition of truth.

Those who are in the apologetics scene would agree that truth is that which corresponds to reality, and involves some cardinal laws like the law of non contradiction and the theories of correspondence and coherence.  But still today there are those who take a pragmatic approach to defining their own truth claims.

These views can relate to what works, what is based upon good intentions, or even basing truth on one's perspective. I am sure that I could write postings on all of these. However I want to address, in the next few postings, some of the barriers that people like to put down to avoid dealing with absolute truth. In this posting, I would like to address the objection, "No one can discover the truth!"

The Foundation of This Objection.

The foundation of the objection alleging that "no one can discover the truth," is grounded in agnosticism.  Agnosticism is "the position that neither affirms belief in God (theism) nor denies the existence of God (atheism)."[1] Both the book we are studying and other apologetics books show that there are different forms of agnosticism, ranging from a soft form of agnosticism to a "hard boiled agnosticism."

But despite the fact that agnosticism has a few different "flavors," non of which are sweet, this objection has some fundamental flaws to it. In fact, let's see how the claim self-destructs as we turn the claim against itself.

How to Answer This Objection.

First off the claim self destructs at its foundation of agnosticism.  Someone who professes to be an agnostic does not see that they know something about God. They know that they cannot know God. So agnosticism was a true position or worldview, the agnostic would not be able to make any statement whatsoever that contains the knowledge of God, including their own agnostic claim.

A second problem is that when an agnostic makes a negative statement, asserting that "he cannot know about truth or God" they are making a presupposition. That presupposition is that they have knowledge about truth and about God.

It is important to remember here that every negative claim presupposes positive knowledge. For example, negative statement like the car is not blue, assumes that they know something about what the blue car should actually look like or they could not be sure it is not blue. In like manner, agnostics must have some knowledge about God to say that he cannot know God, or else how would the agnostic know?[2]

Blowing the Roof Off the Claim

Sometimes turning the statement on itself is enough to put the objection to rest. How so? Let's look at the objection again.

It says, "No one can discover truth!" One thing is clear. Whenever we open our mouths, in most cases if not every case, we believe the statements we make about reality are true. So the statement "no one can discover truth" is a statement on reality.

So let's address it with some questions. Does the person making the statement believe that the statement is true? If the answer is "Yes" then how did they discover that truth statement? They obviously believe that the statement, "no one can discover the truth" is a true statement.

So in conclusion, this objection self destructs because it makes a statement while affirm itself at the same time. The person making the statement assumes the statement is true, and thus makes a statement that self implodes.

We will see this to be true in the coming postings as well.


Notes

[1] C. Steven Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2002), s.v. "agnosticism."

[2] Norman Geisler and Joseph Holden. Living Out Loud: Defending Your Faith (Nashville: Broadman Holman Publishers, 2002), 32.;  Let me invite you to find and pick up a copy of Norman Geisler's and Joe Holden's book Living Out Loud and take your teen or young person through this chapter on truth. I think you will find it quite a fun experience watching them connect with the material.

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