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What evidentialism is not

I often identify myself as an evidentialist in the realm of religious knowledge. I find, however, that there are some misconceptions floating about as to what evidentialism is or entails. Herewith, some hopefully useful clarifications.

1) Evidentialism is not the position that emotions are only for people who are stupid.

Evidentialism should not be confused with a Spock-like philosophy that feelings and emotions are to be scorned and avoided. Rather, our personal relationship with Jesus Christ should be based on facts and evidence. We can trust Jesus because we have reason to do so. This gives us the freedom to commit ourselves emotionally and psychologically to God.

The problem arises when one bases one's beliefs upon one's emotions. That ordering leaves one vulnerable to emotional and other arational appeals from other religions. It also leaves one vulnerable to losing one's faith when the emotions are no longer there. Get it in the right order, and then connect the prose and the passion. That's what Christianity is all about.

An analogy from marriage may help: We can rightly be vulnerable with our spouses because we have good reason to trust our spouses. Vulnerability and emotion are very important in a good marriage. It would, on the other hand, be extremely foolish to "gin up" trust in a spouse or prospective spouse by making oneself vulnerable and thereby prompting emotions of total commitment that have no rational basis.

2) Evidentialism is not the position that only extremely intelligent people can have good reasons for believing Christianity to be true.

I want to linger on this point a bit so as to drive it home. Because those of us who are into such esoteric fields as probability theory and analytic philosophy tend to discuss and analyze arguments for Christianity in those terms, we can easily either get the impression or give the impression that a Christian who doesn't think of the arguments in those terms has no evidence. That is incorrect. For example, a person can be seeing the force of such internal signs of verisimilitude as undesigned coincidences without being able to give a probabilistic analysis of them. There is a tremendous amount of tacit reasoning that takes place and that is not irrational because it is inexplicit. "Grandma," the hypothetical unintellectual, sweet lady at your church, may be seeing a lot more about the credibility of the gospel narratives than she has ever articulated explicitly.

Something similar could be said about the argument from design, which struck Whittaker Chambers non-philosophically but powerfully, in an "all at once" fashion, when he was looking at his little girl's ear as she sat in her high chair.

The same is true of other arguments as well. Indeed, the argument for a First Cause is supposed to work via some fairly powerful a priori intuitions, and there is no reason to believe that a non-philosopher cannot be accessing the intuition (e.g.) that nothing comes from nothing even if he cannot discuss it in philosophical terms.

It is all too easy to assume that ordinary Christians in the pew have no evidence favoring Christianity, but this is an exaggeration. It probably arises out of philosophers' and apologists' own own involvement in researching every detail in depth. There's nothing wrong at all with being detail-minded, and it's good for some people to do that additional research, but it does not follow that everyone who has not done so is operating sans evidence.

3) Evidentialism is not the position that the only people who are going to heaven are those who can defend their faith.

Here I think the discussion may be plagued by an ambiguity on the term "justification." Epistemologists use the word to refer to having reason to believe something or being rational in believing something. Theologians use the term in a completely different sense to mean, roughly, having the guilt of one's sin taken away. The two senses must not be confused.

As far as I can tell, one can be justified in the theological sense without being justified in the philosophical sense. I see no reason to think otherwise. To put it more bluntly, a person who believes in Christianity irrationally but does, in fact, believe what he needs to believe, is committed to Jesus Christ, confesses his sin, and asks for God's forgiveness is on the road to heaven and is cleansed of his sin. One may call this an intellectual felix culpa, so to speak.

As a good evidentialist and apologist, I hasten to add that such a person is in a precarious position. (By this I reveal that I do not hold to a simple "once saved always saved" soteriology.) Especially in the present milieu where wolves are seeking to devour this sheep at any moment, the convert ungrounded in evidence is in great danger. A good shepherd (pastor, priest) or Christian friend should try to strengthen his grasp on the "reason for the hope that is in him" post haste.

A digression about children: If the convert is a child, this training will be done in stages appropriate to the child's age. Let us remember that a child is rational in a situation in which an adult would not be rational, for a child who has learned reasonably to trust his parents about mundane affairs has reason to trust them about religious affairs. An adult, more worldly-wise, knows full well that the person he is talking to may be knowledgeable and reliable in one area and out to lunch in another. He also knows that seemingly good and trustworthy people believe contradictory things about religion, which means that more is needed than a very basic level of trust in a person making a religious claim. This is just one example (many could be given) of the odd epistemological fact that a person who knows less may be more reasonable in believing some conclusion than a person who knows more.

In any event, the bottom line of point #3 is that evidentialism in apologetics is related only indirectly to the question of who is saved. In fact, even those who (alas) are explicit fideists and reject the need for good reasons for religious faith may well be justified in the theological sense. So this is not about, and never was about, what God requires for salvation.

4) Evidentialism is not the position that you have to set aside your Christianity while investigating it.

No evidentialist is telling a person who wakes up one day to the fact that he has little evidence for Christianity that he needs to tell God, "I'm setting aside my relationship with you, if you exist at all, while I go on a lengthy investigation of all of this. See you later, God." After all, if Christianity is true, this would be an insane thing to do. Moreover, honesty in investigation does not require that we start off in disbelief. Herewith an excellent quote from one of those excellent old writers, the 18th century Presbyterian minister John Leland,

It is not necessary to a just inquiry into doctrines or facts, that a man should be absolutely indifferent to them before he begins that inquiry, much less that he should actually disbelieve them; as if he must necessarily commence atheist, before he can fairly examine into the proofs of the existence of God. It is sufficient to a candid examination, that a man applieth himself to it with a mind open to conviction, and a disposition to embrace truth on which side soever it shall appear, and to receive the evidence that shall arise in the course of the trial. And if the inquiry relateth to principles in which we have been instructed, then, supposing those principles to be in themselves rational and well founded, it may well happen, that, in inquiring into the grounds of them, a fair examination may be carried on without seeing cause to disbelieve, or doubt of them through the whole course of the enquiry; which in that case will end in a fuller conviction of them than before. (A View of the Principal Deistical Writers, 1837 edition, p. 129)

Leland is right. No Christian should view himself as obligated, in the name of fairness and honest inquiry, to set aside his Christianity while he inquires into it. Inquiry and the acquisition of knowledge can proceed while continuing to be devoted to Christ. I believe that this misperception of evidentialism maybe part of why pastors and parents fear an evidential approach rather than welcoming it. (See this post.)

5) Evidentialism is not the position that, if you cannot answer every objection that can be or has been raised to Christianity, you are not rational in believing it.

This cannot be emphasized too strongly. The Internet and the world of books are filled with misleadingly phrased objections, foolish objections, objections based on misconceptions, honest but answerable objections--objections everywhere.

This is a function both of the importance of the subject and of the amount of time and energy that skeptics have devoted to it. It is not (repeat, not) an indication of inherent dubiousness in Christianity. The fact that someone can raise an objection doesn't make it a good objection or even an objection worth much concern.

Philosophers in particular are in some danger of forgetting this. We train philosophy students to "know the literature" and to spend time in their papers answering objections that have been raised to their own position. This is not wrong in itself, but it can give the false impression that, at a minimum, any objection that is brought up by someone "respected" is itself worthy of respect. The principle is incorrect even taken at face value, because plenty of people who are respected in the scholarly world have poor judgement when it comes to objections to religion, and some entire scholarly fields have accepted and incorporated bad methodology for a long time.

In the Internet age, this misconception about respecting any objection that others respect creates problems that go beyond granting too much credit to people on the basis of their scholarly credentials. For now, anyone with an Internet connection can get a following and be respected by someone or a group of someones and can even write a "book," and suddenly the ardent young philosopher thinks such a person might well be saying stuff worthy of concern.

Two quotations from the older writers are relevant to an over-focus on answering objections. First, one that I quoted in the older post, from George Horne, an 18th century bishop:

In the thirty sections of their pamphlet, they have produced a list of difficulties to be met with in reading the Old and New Testament. Had I been aware of their design, I could have enriched the collection with many more, at least as good, if not a little better. But they have compiled, I dare say, what they deemed the best, and, in their own opinion, presented us with the essence of infidelity in a thumb-phial, the very fumes of which, on drawing the cork, are to strike the bench of bishops dead at once. Let not the unlearned Christian be alarmed, “as though some strange thing had happened to him,” and modern philosophy had discovered arguments to demolish religion, never heard of before. The old ornaments of deism have been “broken off” upon this occasion, “and cast into the fire, and there came out this calf.” These same difficulties have been again and again urged and discussed in public; again and again weighed and considered by learned and sensible men, of the laity as well as the clergy, who have by no means been induced by them to renounce their faith. [snip]

Many and painful are the researches sometimes necessary to be made, for settling points of that kind. Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject. (emphasis added)

As Horne implies, Christians have answered the same objections over and over again, yet they keep coming back up as if new. Moreover, answering objections can take much longer than the original statement of them, even if the objections themselves are based upon "pertness and ignorance."

You are not lazy or a poor investigator if you cannot give an answer right now to every objection that comes up. Nor are you therefore unjustified in continuing to believe that Christianity is true. The mere existence of some objection you have not yet answered does not amount to a prima facie refutation of your position. Herewith the 19th century English archbishop Richard Whately:

Similar to this case is that which may be called the Fallacy of objections; i.e. showing that there are objections against some plan, theory, or system, and thence inferring that it should be rejected; when that which ought to have been proved is, that there are more, or stronger objections, against the receiving than the rejecting of it. This is the main, and almost universal Fallacy of anti-christians; and is that of which a young Christian should be first and principally warned. They find numerous ‘objections’ against various parts of Scripture; to some of which no satisfactory answer can be given; and the incautious hearer is apt, while his attention is fixed on these, to forget that there are infinitely more, and stronger objections against the supposition, that the Christian Religion is of human origin; and that where we cannot answer all objections, we are bound, in reason and in candour, to adopt the hypothesis which labours under the least. That the case is as I have stated, I am authorized to assume, from this circumstance,—that no complete and consistent account has ever been given of the manner in which the Christian Religion, supposing it a human contrivance, could have arisen and prevailed as it did. And yet this may obviously be demanded with the utmost fairness of those who deny its divine origin. The Religion exists; that is the phenomenon. Those who will not allow it to have come from God, are bound to solve the phenomenon on some other hypothesis less open to objections. They are not, indeed, called on to prove that it actually did arise in this or that way; but to suggest (consistently with acknowledged facts) some probable way in which it may have arisen, reconcilable with all the circumstances of the case. That infidels have never done this, though they have had 1800 years to try, amounts to a confession, that no such hypothesis can be devised, which will not be open to greater objections than lie against Christianity. Elements of Logic, 1870, pp. 144-45.

The phrase "the fallacy of objections" should become common currency among apologists and their students and should be guarded against with vigilance. This, for two reasons: First, as Whately implies, the evidence for Christianity is very strong and tough. It is emphatically not just "one premise away" from being refuted. On the contrary, it is the very nature of a good empirical argument that it overjustifies the subject in believing its conclusion. Hence, even if we don't know why Jesus said this or what the correct resolution is to that putative contradiction (for example), this does not mean that our entire edifice is trembling, any more than that is the case for a well-justified scientific theory.

Second, apologists and students should come to recognize the shape of the argumentative landscape. This will include recognizing objections according to the class into which they fall, which will in turn result in a tough-mindedness that remains unshaken by the next thing one happens to read. The well-versed apologetics student should be able to say, "Wait a minute. Are you really implying that the disciples thought Jesus was risen from the dead because this would make him resemble some pagan God? That's absurd," and should know enough of the history of 1st century Palestine, as well as enough of human pscyhology, to know why this is absurd and hence to be scarcely slowed by it in his progress. He should be able to say, "Ah, another argument from silence" or "Oh, I see, that's another manufactured contradiction."

He should recognize that our not knowing why Jesus made some comment (such as asking the disciples if they have swords and then later telling Peter to put up his sword), so far from being a problematic objection to Christianity, is a plausible mark of the authenticity of the narrative. For, whatever Jesus meant, forgers and legend-makers are unlikely to stick pointlessly inexplicable and apparently conflicting comments into the mouths of the figures whom they are making larger than life. This jujitsu move, whereby the skeptic's bullying objection is seen to be an argument for the narrative, should be familiar to every student of Christian apologetics. I do something similar in this post where I discuss the surprisingly "kingly" portrayal of Jesus in the early Lukan account of the words of the angel at the annunciation and of the Song of Zechariah.

The point I am making here is that evidentialism is not, never has been, and never should be an intellectual game of whack-a-mole. It is not a matter of trudging through a landscape of endless objections, answering one and then plodding on to tackle another. And if that is what students think it is, then the sooner they are disabused of this notion the better. Rather, they should be encouraged to lift up their heads and see the landscape at large. They should be taken up to a mountaintop and shown the lie of the land. They should come to see the objections and replies they already know as part of a pattern so that they can fit objections they encounter into the pattern. This will be immeasurably strengthening to their faith.

Withal, we cannot neglect prayer. For it is undeniable as a matter of individual psychology that what strengthens one person may unsettle another and that a young person who is taught as well as possible by excellent teachers may nonetheless feel unsettled and confused. He may misevaluate probabilities, or it may prove surprisingly difficult to convey that clear image of the lie of the land to some given individual. Some people may be susceptible to falling into the fallacy of objections however often they are warned against it. This is all true. But none of that is a telling objection against the evidential approach, for the true brittleness of a fideistic faith is a greater danger still.

I propose that those of us who are interested in evidential apologetics should be talking among ourselves about how we can avoid conveying the false images of our approach discussed here and strengthen earnest young people attracted to it. These are matters of eternal significance.

Comments (21)

Hi Lydia,
This is a good piece, but I'm a bit alarmed at the tentativeness of point #3. Does *anyone* seriously think that someone who truly trusts in Christ for salvation (even if that trust is 'philosophically unjustified') will be lost? If not, then I'd be much more clear in saying so without qualification, since ambivalence on this point is likely to reinforce all of the negative stereotypes about evidentialism that you've taken such pains to refute.
-Neil

Let me clarify: I did not mean that a fideist might be damned for being a fideist. I simply meant that being a fideist is not (obviously) a sufficient condition for salvation. I suppose someone could be a fideist and also a heretic in some other, salvation-blocking way. Or one could be a fideist for a while and then become a deconvert and, if one thinks this is possible, lose one's salvation. In other words, the "may well be" was not indicating that I think one might really be damned just for fideism. It meant only that I think that a fideist, like an evidentialist, might in the end be damned *for some other reason*. I hope that is clearer.

As far as whether anyone ever thinks that you have to have intellectual justification to go to heaven (in other words, why did I make point #3 at all?), I think a caricature of evidentialism like this is sometimes implicit in certain criticisms of evidentialism. How cruel of God to "require" people to have evidence, etc. In response to that criticism I have sometimes in other discussions made the distinction between being justified theologically and being justified epistemically, and other people have told me that it is a helpful distinction and was new to them. Therefore, I wanted to put it into this post in case it is helpful to someone else.

Thanks, Lydia. That's a helpful clarification.
-Neil

I recall to mind the thousands of Jews converted to Christianity on Pentecost Sunday. They did not have all the lengthy arguments overcoming this or that or whatever objection to Christ, yet on the day of their baptism they were justified. Many of these, probably most of them, might have been material heretics about some features of Christian faith, like those features it took us centuries to sort out in discerning 3 persons all of one nature and substance in God. But those defects in their grasp of the truth weren't defects that defeated faith, real faith in Christ, salvific faith with hope and charity.

Tony, that's an interesting topic: What did one "have to believe" during the transitional period when the church was being formed? I think doctrine "developed" very rapidly--perhaps within a year or two, no more--as far as the deity of Jesus and the Trinity. But the day of Pentecost was still _very_ early, and those who accepted Jesus as Messiah on that day would have had no reason to accept the Trinity. It is therefore entirely plausible that their salvation in the eyes of God was, creedally speaking, construed under the Old Covenant.

Further teaching would have been forthcoming with time.

I think there is quite a difference _now_ when there is no doubt that Christianity is its "own thing" (not simply Judaism cum a named Messiah, who might be a man for anyone knows) and when this is widely known.

But I was simply sketching and leaving space for all of this to be worked out in any of my comments on that topic.

What _is_ interesting re. Pentecost is that Peter puts himself forward there clearly as a witness of Jesus' resurrection. Those who believed evidently found his testimony credible.

Peter's speech on Pentecost is particularly important as it undercuts any idea that a physical resurrection with detailed witnesses was a later addendum or accretion.

Someone was asking me on Facebook whether the layman would need to know additional church history to know that some apostles died for their testimony. I pointed out that the book of Acts, in sober and credible historical terms, shows them as _willing_ to die for their testimony again and again.

As a presuppositionalist I appreciate this article. I would also say that while many evidentialists are anti-presuppositional, evidentialism is not intrinsically anti-presuppositional. Evidentialism, limited by probabilistic principles, requires presuppositions for certitude. That is to say that any likelihood that some category of evidence results in a particular conclusion can be denied if it doesn't fit one's presuppositions. So appealing to evidence begs the presuppositional question. That doesn't mean that evidence isn't valuable. It's most certainly valuable. But it means that it's helpful to know how presuppositons influence how people apprehend the evidence, particularly as the matter is taught in the Bible.

That is to say that any likelihood that some category of evidence results in a particular conclusion can be denied if it doesn't fit one's presuppositions.

Well, I'd _prefer_ if possible not to launch into a debate over presuppositionalism, but no, actually, not.

It is possible to see in probability-theoretic terms that it is _irrational_ not to update one's probabilities based on new evidence, even if this means changing one's mind on something to which one was previously committed. To say that something "can be denied," of course, may merely be making a sociological or psychological statement. Certainly irrationality is possible. But as an epistemic matter, it is possible to show clearly that simply running to one's prior probabilities and ignoring evidence because it does not fit with one's worldview is unreasonable. I have discussed this matter in part in this previous post:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2014/05/there_are_no_slippery_prior_pr.html

I also address the issue of controlling assumptions in this post:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2014/07/more_on_arguments_from_signs_a.html

I note in this comment that a confusion on this point has currency both among Christians and non-Christians. (A reader, thinking that I was aiming the post solely at one person, challenged me to show that I was not simply aiming it at that one person.)

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2014/07/more_on_arguments_from_signs_a.html#comment-293922

Good post. Would you be willing to let a guest post on "What presuppositionalism is not?" I keep seeing that position mis-characterized as "not bothering with evidence," or some such like.

Lydia,

I just wanted to say that your article is exactly what I was hoping you would write at some point. Not to say in any way that I would have anticipated you to cover such points, but that the points that you did cover are very beneficial for the public at large to be aware of.

Thank you, and keep writing.

-Mark

Joshua, thanks. The topic sounds interesting, but thus far here at W4 guest posts have always been from friends or family members of contributors whose writing is already known to a contributor. Please feel free to write the post on what presuppositionalism is not and link it in this thread! I'm sure people will read it with interest. I do know of many presuppositionalists who discuss evidence for Christianity.

Mark Thomas, thank you so much!

Someone was asking me on Facebook whether the layman would need to know additional church history to know that some apostles died for their testimony. I pointed out that the book of Acts, in sober and credible historical terms, shows them as _willing_ to die for their testimony again and again.

Lydia, that's a good point. A potential Christian hearing evidence now for Christianity just isn't in the same position as the Jews on Pentecost. He isn't coming off the recent Passover, and the recent public events of Pilate putting a widely-seen rabbi / prophet / miracle worker to death. The evidence that comes from reading a Gospel or Acts simply has to strike him with different effects. This is why, among other things, the totality of the "evidence" includes things like the Gospel-bearing missionary giving up all hope of wealth and comfort and social position in order to serve others (i.e. the testimony of heroic good will toward others) combined with the missionary's personal life of sober virtue at home. And a miracle or two by said missionary, when accompanied by the above heroic good will and sober virtue, is also immensely effective. Certainly the miracle effected by God through the Apostles on Pentecost with being heard in each person's own language was part of the evidence.

Yes, it's amazing how much evidence is there in the first chapters of Acts. The death of Stephen, for example. The Romans _tried_ to avoid that kind of thing. They frowned on it, and later (around 62, I believe) there was actually a bit of trouble with the Romans when James the Just was killed by a mob in a manner very reminiscent of the killing of Stephen. But in this case, Stephen just got stoned to death, and there were no repercussions. After that Saul of Tarsus set forth on a rampaging persecution of Christians, and yet there were the apostles: Firm as stone and staying put in Jerusalem. Or the arrest of Peter in Acts 12 and Herod's execution of James the son of Zebedee in the same chapter. Things were looking pretty grim for the apostles, yet they just kept on. (I'm not saying that Stephen was an apostle, only that his death showed what could have happened to an apostle at any time.)

Thank you for writing this excellent post. It is very timely for me as I have recently entered into the realm of apologetics after struggling through an extended season of doubt myself. The concept of the fallacy of objections is particularly helpful. I think wolves employ this tactic to either (1) undermine the belief of those of us that are newcomers to apologetics and/or (2) undermine our credibility in the eyes of others that themselves do not have a category for the fallacy of objections. I have been targeted on Facebook by one of these wolves myself for those very reasons, I believe. It is very tiresome, to say the least! The discipline you encourage of keeping in mind the larger picture, or "lie of the land" as you call it, is indispensable when engaging in these kinds of interactions. I like to call it "keeping in mind the entire data set" (my father, a statistician, taught me this). May I post a link to your article on my blog? Thank you, again, and God bless.

By all means, link it all over! Thanks very much for your comments, Rebekah. You are exactly the sort of person to whom I hoped this would be helpful.

Hello. I really enjoyed your article, especially the last part about the fallacy of objections. I think the notion of reformed epistemology can be a great bridge between a fideism on the one hand and a rationalism on the other. Have you considered that?

Additionally, I would like to comment that I think that in no way is an evidentialist approach married to an Arminian soteriology. Calvinists and moderate Calvinists should absolutely still be committed to loving the Lord their God with all their minds for numerous reasons. One of these reasons could be that they fear that they do not truly believe in a saving sense and so that they need to examine themselves to see if they are truly Christians. However, that is a limited reason to do so because many Christians may be quite strong in their faith spiritually but lazy intellectually. From my perspective apologetics is important for the church, not merely to keep from falling away but also to strengthen their witness. The fact that many Christians are blissfully ignorant of these matters in some ways confirms that it is the testimony of the Holy Spirit that is ultimately the basis of their faith. Eventually, though, they may need to learn to draw from some apologetics to help someone or answer objections given by a loved one etc... And I absolutely agree that the the need for defending the faith really should be up their in our priorities as Christians.

I also think a high commitment to experiencing personal and corporate revival needs to be kept alongside apologetics. I notice that these two ideas are not often held close but often thought of as opposite trajectories.

In Christ,

Michael

This is Lydia at her best!

The remarks are cogent not merely in their own right regarding evidentialism, but meaningful in the current battle over the veracity of Christianity (and here there, indeed, is quite a lot of needless anxiety that all of Christianity will fall with the frightening arguments of the next Spong, Dawkins, Ehrman, or Hawking).

I was reminded of three essays I was made to read in an undergraduate evidences class on the ethics of belief. The first by William Clifford suggested that no belief could be responsibly held until and unless is was fully evidenced. The second was Pascal (another mathematician like Clifford) setting forth his famous "wager", which required no evidence at all after one simply calculated the existential risk of unbelief. The third was Francis Schaeffer who argued for the necessity only of sufficient evidence (like heeding a trusting voice while climbing the Alps).

Without a mention of any of these, Lydia addressed the concerns raised by them all. Also, I really liked the quote from George Horne!

Thanks again, Lydia.
John

Thank you, John, for your kind remarks.

I have been meaning to get back to Michael Shuman's remarks for a while:

On reformed epistemology, we have actually done quite a bit of work arguing against it. Our book defending internalist epistemology had Alvin Plantinga as one of its main foils.

http://www.amazon.com/Internalism-Epistemology-Architecture-Contemporary-Philosophy/dp/041577067X

I have an unpublished article (which I have deliberately left unpublished, as I think it is probably more accessible this way) saying some of the same things in answer to Plantinga at a more popular level:

http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/WhatGrandmaCantKnow.pdf

In fact, the title of that article has caused some confusion, I'm afraid, and this post is intended in part to fill the lacuna. Because of the title--"What Grandma Can't Know"--I think a lot of people hope that I will address the question of "Grandma," the hypothetical saintly layman without philosophical knowledge, and what she knows about Christianity. In fact, however, the article is a sustained argument against Plantinga's externalist epistemology. My point there about "Grandma" is that endorsing reformed epistemology is doing "Grandma" no favors, because it merely leads (though of course Plantinga would strongly disagree with this argument) to the conclusion that none of us can actually know anything. That is no help. In that article, therefore, I don't say for myself what I think Grandma does know or can know from the pew, and I wanted to say more about that here.

I'm certainly aware that reformed epistemology is not fideism, properly so called. Nor is it the same as van Tillian presuppositionalism. It is its own thing. But ultimately, I believe that reformed epistemology re-defines key terms (such as "rational") in ways that are utterly unsatisfactory and thereby undermines its own project of showing how Christian belief is rational.

On the Arminian question: You make a good point that apologetics can still be valuable to one who holds once-saved-always-saved for the sake of answering others and bringing them to salvation. However, I would argue that if one takes this particular instrumental view as one's sole reason for valuing apologetics and also holds to once-saved-always-saved, this does remove some motivations. For example, if one can get someone to accept Jesus by emotional appeal, then there is no reason not to do that. One doesn't have to worry about his deconverting after having received Jesus in a moment of emotion, since, even if he deconverts, he's still saved.

However, it's also worth remembering that the type of "pray to receive Jesus" soteriology I am targeting there is not _precisely_ the same as a Calvinist soteriology. It's more simplistic than is required by Calvinism. Paul Washer is a good example of a very different type of Calvinist, a more old-fashioned and grim Calvinist, who loathes the sinner's prayer and is always urging people to look for signs of their own election. I think a Paul Washer style Calvinist would have more reason to embrace evidentialism in apologetics to prevent deconversion from un-grounded faith, since deconversion would presumably be taken as a sign that one was not, in fact, elect.

Lydia,


This is a great post. One thing I've noticed regarding people that deny evidentialism/internalism in favor of Reformed epistemology, for instance, is because those that adopt Reformed epistemology (especially Plantinga and Craig) have sort of monopolized what constitutes evidence. The RE camp is often wont to say that evidence for Christianity is highly developed philosophical/historical literature and nothing else. People who read guys like Craig and Plantinga then sort of take this cake and run with it. I was recently just told that any view other than Reformed epistemology is 'unbiblical'. I've long held that probably most theists construct some type of natural theology in their minds, even if these arguments are a bit underdeveloped/primitive. You touch upon this idea concerning first cause arguments and the underlying intuitions that often jumpstart them. Evidence can be much more modest than most would assume.

Argh. Typing in haste...


*The RE camp is often wont to say that evidence for Christianity is the stuff we read about in highly developed philosophical/historical literature and nothing else.

In an exchange that we had with Plantinga quite some years ago in the pages of Philosophia Christi, he responded to the complaint that he had estimated, off the cuff, a low probabilistic impact for the historical evidence for the resurrection without discussing it in any detail. (This was one of our complaints.) He said that he "didn't have time to go back to seminary." So here was a highly regarded, brilliant philosopher literally saying that he couldn't be expected to know much of anything (really, he gave no details at all) about the evidence for the resurrection unless he *went back to seminary*. If that's the way one thinks, then of course the ordinary Christian in the pew has no *hope* of making use of that evidence to any good effect. What was astonishing was that he nonetheless thought he could make some kind of realistic estimate of the value of the evidence despite not bothering to familiarize himself with it.

Dr. Craig does _not_ do that sort of thing, though he does have reformed sympathies and unfortunately does sometimes say negative things about a robustly evidential approach, including the argument that robust evidentialism would mean that the ordinary Christian could not be justified.

By the way, this more recent post is also relevant.

http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2015/12/does_the_evidentialist_have_to.html

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