A Short Cumulative Case for Biblical Theism

Here is a small Cumulative Case for Biblical Theism.  I have left a lot of supplemental reading. Obviously much more can be said. But for now, I hope this helps.

Which God Shall I Pick?

1.Pantheism: (Hinduism/Buddhism)

  • God is not personal and knowable
  • The  universe is eternal and unchanging, without an end or a beginning (this contradicts the evidence for the beginning of the universe)
  •  If divinity and matter are mystically “one” ( you can’t have god without matter), how is the pantheistic god capable of producing the effect in question such as the origin of space?
  • Says the universe is a necessary being. But this makes no sense because we know the universe is contingent.
  • To bring a universe into existence means the cause would have a volitional will- they made a choice. This is a personal cause (i.e., Agent Causation). Will is one attribute that characterizes personhood.

2. Polytheism

  • Says there are more than one god.
  • Gods either came from nature or where at one time men and women who became gods.
  • Gods are thus finite and contingent.
  •  The Universe has always existed. This contradicts Big Bang cosmology.
  • They don’t account for the creation of the universe. All things come from the  universe, even Gods. Gods don’t exist apart from the universe, and the beings that do exist all have limited power which causes polytheism to not meet all the requirements.
  • Polytheism fails the Ockham’s razor test: “Entities  must not be multiplied beyond necessity.”

3. Other common internet objections: (i.e., Thor, Zeus, Santa Claus,  Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.)

  • These are created gods/they are part of the universe
  • They are contingent gods
  • The God of the Bible is necessary, not contingent, and he transcends the universe- he is not part of the universe! To compare the God of the Bible with Thor, Zeus, Santa etc. is a category mistake.
  • There is 0.0 evidence for Thor, Zeus,  Santa or FSM. Perhaps someone may find the evidence for the God of the Bible to not be sufficient, but that is not the same as having zero evidence. Those who say there is “no evidence,” or “zero evidence” have a very naïve view of epistemology  and classical theism.

4. Theistic God (i.e., Judaism/Islam/Christianity)

A Theistic God is  more likely to explain:(note: Thanks to Wintery Knight for some of these resources).

Because of these three theistic possibilities, we need to look at  Historical Revelation:

  • Revelation: a disclosure of something that has been hidden– an “uncovering,” or “unveiling.”
  • There are three  things are needed for a revelation to take place: God, a medium, and a being able to receive the revelation.
  • Communication : God does want to communicate with humans.

Why the need for revelation?

  • Man’s lack of knowledge: Aquinas offered a good case for the need for revelation. He set forth five reasons why we must first believe what we may later be able to provide good evidence for (Maimonides, 1.34):

1. The object of spiritual understanding is deep and subtle, far removed from sense perception.

2. Human understanding is weak as it fights through these issues.

3.  A number of things are needed for conclusive spiritual proof. It takes time to discern them.

4. Some people are disinclined to rigorous philosophical investigation.

5.  It is necessary to engage in other occupations besides philosophy and science to provide the necessities of life (On Truth, 14.10, reply).

  • Aquinas said it is clear that, “if it were necessary to use a strict demonstration as the only way to reach a knowledge of the things which we must know about God, very few could ever construct such a demonstration and even these could do it only after a long time.”Elsewhere, Aquinas lists three basic reasons why divine revelation is needed. 1.  Few possess the knowledge of God, some do not have the disposition for philosophical study, and others do not have the time or are indolent.2.  Time is required to find the truth. This truth is very profound, and there are many things that must be presupposed. During youth the soul is distracted by “the various movements of the passions.”3.  It is difficult to sort out what is false in the intellect. Our judgment is weak in sorting true from false concepts.

We also need to know the following:

  • Character of God: we need a concrete communication to establish the exact  nature of God’s character. Who is God and what is He Like?
  • The Origin of Evil/The Fall: Man needs to be educated concerning the reasons for our situation.
  • Man’s Origin: Without a clear revelation, people might think they are the result of a blind, naturalistic process instead of being created in the image of God.
  • Mankind’s Destiny: In the absence of a revelation, we might think that this life is all there is.

How would we defend the Bible is a true revelation of the true God?

  • We must admit that all the Holy Books contain contradictory revelations: To assert that the God of the Bible would give a clear revelation in the person of Jesus (33 A.D.) and then give another revelation 600-650 years later (Islam), which contradicts the one in 33 A.D is odd. Furthermore, what about the two other so-called revelations in the 1800′s (Mormonism and the Watchtower Society) that both contradict the Christian and Muslim claim. If anything, that would make the God of the Bible a very contradictory Being.
  • Wrong approach: The Bible is the Word of God because it says it is the Word of God (we quote 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Peter 3:15-16).  This is circular.

We would have to establish there is a God who can give a revelation to mankind: Theistic God (see above)

The Old Testament explains:

The New Testament explains:

The structure of the argument may be formalized as follows: Read a fuller form  from the book In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture here:

(1)  The New Testament documents are historically reliable evidence

(2) The historical evidence of the New Testament shows that Jesus is God incarnate/the Jewish Messiah.  God authenticated Jesus’ teaching/ claim to divinity by His miracles/His messianic speaking authority, His messianic actions, and His resurrection .

(3)  Hence, Jesus is God incarnate.

(4) Jesus (i.e., God incarnate) taught that the Old Testament is divinely inspired, and he promised the inspiration of the New Testament through his apostles.

(5) Therefore, the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is divinely inspired.

Potential Objections:

Contradictions: Remember genre issue; Ancient vs modern historical methodological considerations.

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3 thoughts on “A Short Cumulative Case for Biblical Theism

  1. Ed Atkinson October 29, 2014 / 9:15 am

    Hi Chab, helpful material here, thanks.

    It seems the whole chain to get you to Biblical Theism depends on this link in the chain: “The New Testament documents are historically reliable evidence”.

    When I have tried to dig a bit and debate with you on the details of this claim, I have found that you have no response to key historical evidence we get from the text.
    https://chab123.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/what-did-the-disciples-see-a-closer-look-at-the-resurrection-appearances/

    https://chab123.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/is-jesus-really-the-messiah-three-messianic-expectations-at-the-time-of-jesus/

    After those exchanges I am now more clear that the New Testament documents are historically unreliable as evidence for what they claim regarding Jesus. Others can read our exchanges and make up their own minds.

    Al the best, Ed

  2. chab123 October 29, 2014 / 10:25 pm

    Ed, sorry, I did answer your questions, Whether you understand it is another issue. You want to debate one text – Matt 21 and act as if that settles whether the NT as not being reliable. That’s pretty silly. And it isn’t worth discussing anymore. You already agreed with me about the minimal facts. So that shows me you agree the NT can allow us to know with what Bart Ehrman says here:

    1. Jesus died by crucifixion: Ehrman says: “One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate” (see The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, pgs, 261-262).

    2. Very shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them: Ehrman says: “Why, then, did some of the disciples claim to see Jesus alive after his crucifixion? I don’t doubt at all that some disciples claimed this. We don’t have any of their written testimony, but Paul, writing about twenty-five years later, indicates that this is what they claimed, and I don’t think he is making it up. And he knew are least a couple of them, whom he met just three years after the event (Galatians 1:18-19).” ( see The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, pgs, 282).

    3. Within a few years after Jesus death, Paul converted after a personal experience that he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him: Ehrman says: “There is no doubt that [Paul] believed that he saw Jesus’ real but glorified body raised from the dead.” (see see see The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, pgs, 301).

    Now we tried to debate what accounts for the appearances. But you seem to keep jumping to ‘interpretation’ and then assume there is no fact/event that grounds the interpretation. You tend to think you really did the homework and you showed they had subjective visions. But you simply didn’t display an exegetical background in that area so I moved on. I kept repeating myself and we were talking past each other. Second, no matter what exegetical evidence is given, you will always try to punt to some hallucination theory. I mean, you’re a naturalist and that’s all you have.

    I have debated this topic 100x over and it really boils down to one’s metaphysical starting points. So as I said I don’t find naturalism as a ground for reality, so we are back to metaphysics. So it is time to move on. There is a lot of talking past each other on the internet and I don’t find these discussions to be that productive. That is why I tend to not like to do much of this via the internet. I even turn off my comments from time to time. In the end, you can sit on there and try to debate and say “heads I win, tails you lose.” But in the end, I feel as if some (and I emphasize some!) of what is said in City of God by Augustine is what I see here:

    “If only the weak understanding of the ordinary man did not stubbornly resist the plain evidence of logic and truth! If only it would, in its feeble condition, submit itself to the restorative medicine of sound teaching, until divine assistance, procured by devout faith, effected [sic] a cure! In that case, men of sound judgment and adequate powers of exposition would not need to engage in lengthy discussion in order to refute mistakes and fanciful conjectures…The result is that we are forced very often to give an extended exposition of the obvious, as if we were not presenting it for people to look at, but for them to touch and handle with their eyes shut. And yet, will we ever come to an end of discussion and talk if we think we must always reply to replies? For replies come from those who either cannot understand what is said to them, or are so stubborn and contentious that they refuse to give in even if they do understand…You can see how infinitely laborious and fruitless it would be to try to refute every objection they offer, when they have resolved never to think before they speak provided that somehow or other they contradict our arguments.”

    As we look at this quote, I’m saying you’re contentious. But I am not going to keep replying to your comments every time you post something.

    I already posted a list for suggested readings about the NT. https://chab123.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/what-can-we-know-about-jesus-10-suggested-readings/

    And I left suggested reading on the Resurrection of Jesus: https://chab123.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/15-suggested-readings-on-the-resurrection-of-jesus/

    And reader on here can go through our New Testament resource. Many of the objections to the NT are on there. https://chab123.wordpress.com/what-can-we-know-about-jesus-resources-on-the-historical-jesus-and-historicity-of-the-new-testament/

    And anyone that would think the entire messianic prophecy argument fails because of Matthew 21 is naïve. https://chab123.wordpress.com/answering-jewish-objections-to-jesus/

    Shalom!

  3. Ed Atkinson October 30, 2014 / 12:51 am

    Thanks Chab.

    Don’t worry about a long exchange on this one, I don’t have major ideas that I need testing in discussion. I’m happy to just tidy up some misunderstandings and leave it there – as I said, others can make up their own minds.

    I regard the Matt21 text like a small clue at a crime scene, you cannot build a case on it alone but within other evidence it points powerfully to a conclusion.

    Yes, I agree with those minimal facts and to me they don’t indicate a real resurrection. I do punt to some kind of hallucination theory (with plenty of tradition development between the hallucination and the gospel text, and a wide definition of hallucination) but I don’t agree that it boils down to one’s metaphysical starting point.

    Great City of God quote by Augustine – thanks.

    Cheers and thanks for the reply, Ed

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