Having given my thoughts and refutations to Stanley’s claims in my previous posts, I wanted to climb up to look at his book from 30,000 feet. Stanley’s thesis is that the church in the west has an apologetics problem. I believe him on this point. Not too long after I finished Irresistible Ligonier Ministries released their 2018 survey results on the state of doctrine in the United States. You can check it out here. It is shocking and saddening to see such incredible confusion about essential Christian teaching. As if the point was made clear enough, popular conservative commentator Matt Walsh said that he didn’t understand how anyone could be a young earth creationist.
I mean really, the sun was created after God separated light from the darkness so we should not take it literally… because there couldn’t have been light since there is no sun. Apart from a fair amount of his twitter explanation being an argument from personal incredulity mixed liberally with some chronological snobbery, he reveals that even the thought leaders of Christianity don’t understand how to do biblical apologetics. I understand Matt is a Catholic, but he is riding behind the wave of William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, and others. Namely, human understanding of science and philosophy should trump the biblical text. These are the things we place over the authority of the Scriptures in order for us to define what is true and untrue in the Scriptures. Or another way to put it, lets subject God’s word to secular rules and methods of defining truth… which doesn’t even believe that object truth exists.
So, let’s use this as an example problem and try to solve it via Stanley’s method and then by presuppositional apologetics.
The Stanley Approach
So how would Stanley try to work this apologetic question out? In my experience, and I would assume most Christians, this is a pretty sticky wicket with our secular friends. How can they believe Genesis, or the Bible in general, when it says that God created the earth in six days, not to mention he did it in the wrong order (light before sun, etc.).
The Stanley approach would be the following:
“It doesn’t matter how God created the earth. We don’t put the foundation of our faith in ancient creation stories. In fact, the whole of the Old Testament was fulfilled in Christ so we don’t need to look to it at all. It doesn’t hold any authority over our faith.”
“All we need to know is that Matthew says Jesus rose from the dead. So does Mark, John, and Luke as well. Also Paul tells us that he rose from the dead too. We don’t need the Bible to tell us that. In fact, the Bible wasn’t put together until the fourth century A.D. so once again it’s not the basis of our faith. This is a great example of something Christians should not be holding on to.”
So where does that leave us? Is that really an answer to the question? Not only does it not answer the question, but it leaves a void that will be filled by the secular answer. The universe is 13.8 billion years old, everything in it exploded into being by chance (divine chance if that makes you feel better), and through the struggle of natural selection, we are just lucky to be here. There is no real Adam. There is no real Eden. There is no real fall. There is no real serpent. There is no real flood.
This is starting to sound like a Jordan Peterson lecture…
Now Stanley may really believe these things or he may not, but his approach to engaging with a secular millennial on this question leads them to believe that none of those biblical commitments are important. Let’s just get them to Jesus and the rest will take care of itself, right?
Yet there may be a sharp secular person, lets call her Sally, who applies some consistency to Stanley’s apologetic. She might respond:
“So it is okay for me to not trust the Bible on the creation, on the exodus, on the Israelites destroying the Canaanites, etc? I don’t have to believe Moses, Joshua, or any of the other OT writers because they Christian faith isn’t built on an old covenant? If God was so unreliable with his dealings with Israel, why should I now believe Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? Why should I believe Paul? If God could get it wrong with Moses, why trust the New Testament authors? I get that you say the Bible shouldn’t tell me so, but isn’t Matthew writing the words of God? If God is true then shouldn’t his speech be truthful? Why is it okay for him make mistakes in the OT but we are suppose to trust what he says in the NT? If God didn’t part the Red Sea why should I believe that he rose from the dead? Which is harder?”
I’m not sure where Stanley would go with that. He might circle back to fulfillment and replacement again. He might press deeper into the minimal facts argument and say the preponderance of the evidence gives us a good probability that Jesus rose from the dead. Sally might bring up that the preponderance of the evidence of human history is that no one has ever risen from the dead.
In just taking a short look at it, Stanley’s apologetic falls apart. The Bible either stands or falls. You can’t have the gospel accounts stand as truthful and then say the miracles of Elijah are dispensable. Either God truthfully and consistently acts in space and time or he doesn’t and he is a made up fraud.
A Presuppositional Response
How might the same objection be responded to by someone who holds the Bible as the supreme authority and as consistently truthful?
First and foremost, we should address the shoddiness of the evidence. If the basis of your argument why God could not create in six days is because there was light before the sun was created, the argument should be rejected out of hand:
God is light (1st John 1:5). God’s presence brings light. There is not a need for the sun in order for light to be present. God can create light at anytime he so chooses. There will be no sun or moon in the New Heavens and New Earth either for the glory of the Lord will be the light.
With that out of the way, we can actually push back on the presuppositions of the objection. Why can’t this person believe God created in six days? Because the secular answers have become the accepted truth of our time. Yet, that same secular worldview believes all of this universe was created by random chance. The lotteries of this universe being the kind that supports human life are astronomical. We are talking 1 out of 1 x 10 to the 50th power kind of stuff for each one. If just one of the insane amount of fortunate chances (scientific constants, DNA, size and placement of the earth, etc.) went wrong then human life would not exist. So what is harder? Believing that we as a species just got incredibly lucky, as in beyond beyond lucky, or that all the design we see in this universe points to the God of the Scriptures. How many secular millennials, even with college degrees, have really thought through the implications of their own worldview? The truth is not many. This weakness is even felt by scientists who need to construct the multiverse theory in order to try and increase the probabilities.
You see, the materialist position seems strong because it is accepted ad populum. If you pop the hood and look inside you begin to see that not very much is holding it together. It is far more effective, from an apologetic standpoint, to show how that materialist worldview is inferior then trying to strip the Bible away in order to make it more palatable to a secular audience. For instance, you might engage this millennial about why she even cares to know how the earth was formed? Why does she feel that God was unjust or evil in having the Israelites wipe out the Canaanites? If there is no God, then why should an animal created by random chance care about such things? What is the definition of evil that allows such a creature to critique other creatures that lived in a different time and place? A materialist worldview is woefully inadequate to answer any of these questions, and in fact such a person has to borrow from a Christian worldview in order to attack it.
The truth from a Christian worldview is if God is God, then he can do whatever he wants. He is the only free agent in this universe. God could make the world in six days and out of the scientific (materialist) order because he was making a bigger point. He is a story teller and he doesn’t waste his lines or the lines he gives to his creation. To a further point, if God is God, then he can make a donkey talk, an ax head float, part the Red Sea, or three days later rise from the dead. By holding the Scriptures together we get a miraculous God who does miraculous things to save his people. If we remove all that we have the balance of probabilities.