Friday, November 17, 2006

Faith and Reason

I've been reading Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, by Dr. William Lane Craig. In the opening chapter, he draws a distinction between knowing that Christianity is true and showing that Christianity is true. He says that we know Christianity is true ultimately because the Holy Spirit reveals that it is so. He says, however, that we can show Christianity to be true to an unbeliever by use of reason. Using Luther's categories, Craig distinguishes between the magisterial use of reason (placing reason over what the Bible says) and the ministerial use of reason (using reason to support and explain to others why what the Bible says is true).

In my own experience, I think Craig is essentially correct. While I regard my faith to be completely reasonable, and - in fact - I find my faith strengthened by reasonable arguments and evidence, it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit that brought me to saving faith.

How can this fact be used in apologetics? Because saving faith is a result of one's openness to the witness of the Holy Spirit, it relieves the pressure on the apologist to "make the perfect argument." Obviously, we should strive to make our arguments the best they can be, but a hard-hearted unbeliever may reject even the best argument; and the sovereign Holy Spirit can make up the lack in even the worst argument to make it effective in a soft-hearted unbeliever. The most effective weapon in the apologist's toolchest, therefore, is prayer that God will soften hearts and open minds!

I'll leave you with Craig's advice:

"What, then, should be our approach in apologetics? It should be something like this: 'My friend, I know Christianity is true because God's Spirit lives in me and assures me that it is true. And you can know it is true, too, because God is knocking at the door of your heart, telling you the same thing. If you are sincerely seeking God, then God will give you assurance that the gospel is true. Now, to try to show you it's true, I'll share with you some arguments and evidence that I really find convincing. But should my arguments seem weak and unconvincing to you, that's my fault, not God's. It only shows that I'm a poor apologist, not that the gospel is untrue. Whatever you think of my arguments, God still loves you and holds you accountable. I'll do my best to present good arguments to you. But ultimately you have to deal, not with arguments, but with God himself.'" [William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 48.]