An Apologetics Primer

My church group began discussing ideas about an apologetics course this summer.  I’m wondering what kind of books to use.  Nothing too advanced.  And I don’t want this to become a “different styles of apologetics.”  Those discussions are usually as fruitful as sucking a gas pipe.  But I have found the following to be good in getting you to think about thinking.

My goal is not to “prove” anything or say x apologetic method is good.  I just want you to be good at thinking, and thinking about thinking.

Moreland, J. P. Love Your God with all Your Mind.  The place to start.  I’ve read it probably half a dozen times.  I used to buy it on the cheap and give it away.

Moreland, J.P.  Kingdom Triangle. Never quite gained the importance of his other book, but in many ways the argument is more focused.

McCall, Thomas.  An Invitation to Analytic Theology.  This will teach you how to break down an issue.

Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil and Knowledge and Christian Belief.  After Plantinga atheists realized they could no longer say that evil made the Christian worldview contradictory.

Clark, Kelly James.  Return to Reason. Plantinga’s lieutenant, so to speak.  Read this before you dive into Plantinga.

Clark, Kelly. ed. 101 Philosophical Terms You Need to Know.

Plantinga’s Theses (Does God Have a Nature?)

Theses the analytical theses in his monograph.  It should make following along easier. It should be obvious that these 71 theses are not “71 propositions about God.”  Some are trivial and others are clearly false.  But throughout Plantinga’s narrative he will generate a proposition to show that a particular view has a contradiction, or to set up a future argument.

I laid out these theses because it is getting fashionable in some Reformed social media circles to set forth Aquinas’s view on divine simplicity as the only possible view and that Plantinga rejected classical theism.  Of course, I believe both claims to be false.

  1. God transcends human experience.  We cannot observe or in any other way experience him (this is Kant’s view)
  2. Our concepts do not apply to God.
  3. For any properties and in God, God’s having is identical with God’s having Q, and both are identical with God.
  4. States of affairs x’s having and y’s having Q are identical iff x’s having P is equivalent (obtains in the same possible worlds as) y’s having Q and x = y.
  5. God is sovereign and exists a se.
  6. God is alive, knowledgeable, capable of action, and good.
  7. If (5), then (a) God has created everything distinct from himself, (b) everything distinct from God is dependent upon him, (c) he is not dependent on anything distinct from himself, and (d) everything is within his control.
  8. If (6), then there are such properties as life, knowledgeability, capability of action, power and goodness’ and God has these properties.
  9. If God has these properties distinct from him, then he is dependent on them.
  10. God is a necessary being.
  11. God is essentially alive, knowledgeable, capable of action, powerful and good
  12. If (11), then there are such properties as life, knowledge, capability of action, power and goodness, and God could not have failed to have them.
  13. If (10) and God could not have failed to have these properties, then they could not have failed to exist, arenecessary beings.
  14. If God has some properties that exist necessarily and are distnct from him, then God is dependent on these properties and they are independent of him, uncreated by him and outside his control.
  15. If there is a property with which God is identical, then God is a property.
  16. No property is alive, knowledgeabl, capable of action, powerful or good.
  17. X depends on y iff y’s existence is a necessary condition of x‘s existence.
  18. x depends upon y for P iff if x has P and some proposition or state of affairs relevantly involving y is a necessary condition of x’s having P.
  19. Either Jim Whittaker or the Pope can climb Mt Everest.
  20. Either god or Bertrand Russell created the world is a necessary condition of God’s creating the world relevantly involves Betrand Russell.
  21. I exist.
  22. I have been created.
  23. X depends on y for P iff there is an action A such that y’s performing A is a logically necessary condition of x’s having P.
  24. It’s false that the Taj Mahal is red but not colored.
  25. Any omniscient being knows something.
  26. If God is sovereign and exists a se, then every truth is within his control.
  27. Red is a color.
  28. The proposition all dogs are animals’ is distinct from the proposition ‘all animals are dogs.’
  29. No numbers are persons.
  30. 2 x 4 = 8
  31. It’s not the case that all men are mortal and some men are not mortal.
  32. It’s not the case that God has created creatures that he has not created.
  33. God has created Descartes, but Descartes has not been created.
  34. It is impossible that God has created Descartes and Descartes has not been created.
  35. Possibly p.
  36. Possibly possibly p.
  37. Necessarily, 2 x 4 = 8.
  38. Since God has infinite power, there are no necessary truths.
  39. No particle has both an instantaneous position and an instantaneous velocity.
  40. 2 x 4 = 7.
  41. God has infinite power.
  42. That God has infinite power entails that no propositions are necessarily true.
  43. No propositions are necessarily true.
  44. The proposition ‘if God is infinitely powerful, then there are no necessary truths’ is a necessary truth.
  45. If God has infinite power, there are no necessary truths.
  46. If God has infinite power and if God has infinite power there are no necessary truths, then there are no necessary truths.
  47. God has made p true and has created in us a powerful tendency to believe p; we do believe p; and if we believe p we know p.
  48. We don’t know p and p is in fact false.
  49. 2 + 1 = 3.
  50. If, if p then q, and p, then q.
  51. God knows that he does not exist.
  52. God is omnipotent.
  53. If God is omnipotent, then his power is absolutely unlimited.
  54. If his power is absolutely unlimited, then he could make (51) true.
  55. If he could make (51) true, then (51) could be true and is possible.
  56. (51) is possible.
  57. God is sovereign.
  58. If God is sovereign, then everything is dependent on him.
  59. If everything is dependent upon him, then every truth is within his control.
  60. If every truth is within his control, then (51) could be true and is possible.
  61. (51) is not possible.
  62. There is a property that both exemplifies itself and does not exemplify itself.
  63. Whatever the Bible teaches is true.
  64. The Bible teaches that (61) is false.
  65. God has a nature.
  66. There are some necessary propositions.
  67. God has some property P.
  68. 7+5=12.
  69. God believes (68).
  70. Necessarily 7+5=12.
  71. It is part of God’s nature to believe that 7+5 = 12.

Review: McCall, Invitation to Analytic Theology

This is an old review, but I thought I had already posted it.  I hadn’t.

Despite it’s relatively simple-sounding and generic title, this book is unique in offering both a model for analytic theology as well as a brief crash course in certain debates. There are a handful of books (Richard Muller’s Dictionary is one) that could replace a seminary class. This is one of them.

McCall begins by dispelling myths about analytic theology (hereafter AT). AT doesn’t *necessarily* entail univocal language, substance metaphysics or naivety about church history (though that probably is true about analytic philosophy–JBA).

McCall makes clear that AT doesn’t entail the following

  1. A univocal view of language (25). (NB: Does William Alston hold to univocity?  Cf. Divine Nature and Human Language, pp. 17-117).
  2. AT entails natural theology (26).
  3. AT is naive about the history of doctrine.
  4. AT is apologetics for conservative theology.  Depends on what we mean by “conservative.” Plantinga, for one, has advanced problems of divine simplicity; yet, it probably is true, pace the current leadership of the Society of Christian Philosophers, that analytic theologians are committed to Christian orthodoxy and ethics.
  5. AT relies on substance metaphysics (30ff).  The battle isn’t between pre-Kantian and Kantians, but between Kantians and post-Kantians.  It is possible to read Kant and remain unconvinced.
  6. Analytic Theology isn’t spiritually edifying.

The true gold-mine of the book is McCall’s “Case Studies” dealing with metaphysics, compatibilism, and evolution. Particularly, one gets a refreshing survey of what it means for something to have an essence (kind-essence, Individual essence, common properties, merely human, fully human) and how this pays significant dividends for Christology.


Analytic Theology and Scripture

How does the Bible control and authorize analytic statements?  McCall offers an interesting model that can be applied elsewhere in theology (55ff). Let P be a primary true proposition.

RA1: The Bible contains propositions that explicitly assert P.

RA2: The Bible contains propositions that entail P.

RA3: The Bible contains propositions that that are consistent with P and suggest P.

RA4: The Bible contains propositions that that do not entail ~P, and is consistent with P (it is neutral with respect to P)

RA5: The Bible contains propositions that entail neither P nor ~P, but suggests some Q that is inconsistent with P.

RA6: The Bible contains propositions that entail ~P.

RA7: The Bible contains propositions that which assert ~P.

RA8: The Bible contains propositions that assert P and assert ~P

RA6-8 are incompatible with orthodoxy, yet RA1-5 are compatible and are far more robust than stereotypes of inerrancy.

Christology

Abstractionism:

Individual essence (haeccity): set of properties one must have for this distinct individual.  The full set of properties possessed by that person in all possible worlds in which that person exists.

Kind-essence: the full set of properties individually necessary and sufficient for inclusion in that set.

Common human properties: a property possessed by many or most humans.  Most humans can have a property without its being essential.

Essential human properties: an object has a property essentially iff it has it and could not have not had it.  It belongs to kind-nature.

Merely human: to exemplify only that kind-essence of humanity.

Fully human: to exemplify the kind-essence of humanity.

How does the two-minds approach account for Jesus’s being omniscient per divine yet nonomniscient per human?  Thomas V. Morris suggests an asymmetrical accessing relation.

Concretist Accounts

The “natures” are reified, not properties.

Every primary substance (Fido the Dog) has a secondary substance-kind (caninity) that pertains to it without which it could not exist (104).

For every primary substance x, there is only one secondary substance-kind K that pertains to x through itself and is essential to it.

Unfortunately, this rules out the incarnation, since there can’t be more than one secondary substance-kind to a primary substance.

Medieval theology modified this Aristotelianism: it is possible for a primary substance x that is essentially of a substance-kind also to possess/be/come to be of a substance kind K’ (where K is not the same as K’) contingently and non-essentially (105).

Concretists affirm a part-whole (mereological) account of the Incarnation.  There

He gives a wonderful rebuttal to theistic evolutionism simply by showing how sloppy their language is. Thus, the whole point of analytic theology.

My only criticism of the book is the lack of survey on how to get started in AT (e.g., which texts to read first).

Review: What Sort of Human Nature?

Medieval analytic philosophy gets to the heart of the problem:  If Christ has two natures, one of which he assumed as a human nature, and if he is consubstantial with us in our humanity, yet our nature is sinful, how is Christ not sinful?  Saying he chose not to sin doesn’t answer the question, as merely possessing a human nature tainted by sin makes one guilty. human nature

The short answer to the question is that we only need to show that Christ is fully human, and a tainted human nature is not necessary to the definition of what it means to be human.  Yet this reveals the deep octopus of questions that occurs at the intersection of anthropology and Christology.  Marilyn McCord Adams sets forth several questions on this topic and shows how (and why) the medievals answered the way they did.

Themes

(1) Metaphysical size-gap between God and man.
(2) There is a top-down pressure to regard Christ’s human nature with maximal perfection.
(3) Christ assumes something from each of man’s fourfold states. He has to have something to guide human beings into Beatific glory.

Adams interprets Chalcedon as defining person: Per 451, Person = supposit = individual substance (Adams 8). Other questions that arise: how much did the human soul of Jesus know?  Did it experience defects? If so, what kind?  Was it impeccable?

Anselm denies Christ is born in original sin. If he were, then he would be personally liable.  Anselm says Christ’s human soul was omniscient, yet he doesn’t explain how a finite human mind could have infinite cognitive capacity (17).

Lombard on Christ’s human knowledge: “Once again, Lombard charts a via media: the scope of Christ’s human knowledge matches the Divine, but the created act by which it knows will not be so metaphysically worthy or furnish the maximal clarity of knowledge found in the Divine essence. Even so, it will enable the soul of Christ to contemplate each creature clearly and as present and will include a contemplation of God as well” (21).

Conclusion:

The book admirably serves as a fine example of analytic theology. Adams plumbs the issues and shows the tensions and advantages in each theologian’s position.  I do feel the book’s conclusions were rushed at times, but given that it is actually a lecture and an essay, I suppose that can’t be helped.

 

Review: God Incarnate

I’ve gotten to the point that if someone asks me for a basic book on Christology, I point them to Oliver Crisp. Any of his works. I learned more Christology from this book than in my week long Christology course in seminary. Crisp’s stated goal is to use to the tools of analytic theology to focus on key areas in Christology. Show problems and point to solution. He succeeds magnificently.

crisp
try to find the picture where he has a beard

The Election of Jesus Christ

Standard received Reformed view: the sole cause of election is the good pleasure and will of God (Crisp 36). Turretin and others want to deny the claim that Christ’s foreseen merit is the ground of predestination.

Moderate Reformed view: Christ is the ground of election in just one important sense. God decrees election, and he decrees that Christ be one of the ends. Here is where the MRP view points out a tension in the standard treatment: if all of the ad extra works of the Trinity are one, Logos must also be a cause of election, and not just a means.

This section could have done more. I think he pointed out a key insight of the Moderate Reformed group, but he didn’t deal with Bruce McCormack’s reading of Karl Barth (he acknowledged it, though). There is still blood on the ground from the “Companion Controversy.”

Christ and the Embryo

This is where the money is. Chalcedonian Christology demands a pro-life position. If you aren’t willing to use your theology to fight a war to the death against Moloch, then go sit down. This honor isn’t for you. And it gives sometimes strange (yet welcome) implications. For example, human personhood and human nature aren’t the same thing. Christ is fully human, but not a human person.

We need to be clear on this, otherwise we fall prey to Apollinarianism. All humans are created with something like a built-in God-shaped port that the Word can upload himself at the moment of conception. Where this divine upload takes place, the Word prevents the human nature from becoming a human person (107). In other words, if God the Son doesn’t “upload/download” himself into human nature’s hard drive, then personhood begins at conception.

While the demons at Planned Parenthood probably don’t care about Apollinarianism, that line can work well against those who claim a high church conciliar Christology, yet are scared to fight this war. I have in mind the Rachel Held Evans and Calvin College faculty.  If you don’t believe personhood is live at conception (be it divine or human), then you are an Apollinarian.  Now, that should bother the “ancient/liturgy/conciliar” crowd. If you are in that group and you reject the Apollinarian implication, then you probably don’t need to be voting Democrat.  I am not saying you should be Alt Right and posting Crusader memes, but you need to move in that direction.

Materialist Christology

The upshot: not all alternatives to substance dualism are physicalist. Global materialism: the idea that all existing things are essentially material things; there are no immaterial entities. Christian materialists do not necessarily hold this view, as they would acknowledge at least two existing immaterial entities: God and angels.

Global substance dualism: all existing things are composed of matter or spirit (mind), or both matter and spirit. This position can include Christian materialists-about-the-human-person.

The problem in question: can a Christian materialist about the human person hold to Chalcedonian Christology? It initially appears not, as Christ’s has a rational soul? If Christ’s divine mind/soul were to substitute, then Apollinarianism would follow.

Reductive materialists: a human’s mental life can be reduced to some corporeal function.
Non-reductive materialism: the human’s mental life cannot be reduced to some corporeal function.
Property Dualism: a substance that has some properties that are mental and some that are physical.
Substance: a thing of a certain sort that can exist independently of other things of the same sort, has certain causal relations with other substances, and is the bearer of properties (145). A property is an abstract object that either is a universal or functions like one.

Crisp probably should have said why property dualism is false while he was at it.  Nevertheless, a simply grand book.

Review Thomas V Morris Idea of God

This is a toned-down version of his Logic of God Incarnate and in many ways it is just as powerful and more accessible..  With the exception of his take on foreknowledge and eternity, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

Leadlight Window St Anselm
Founder of analytic theology

Furthermore, this book is a skillful exercise in analytic theology.  Morris invites us to think deeply on what we mean by God.  And we mean by God:

God is the greatest possible array of compossible great-making properties.

Morris explains some of the terms:

Great-making property: a property it is initially good to have.
Compossible: a set or array of properties is compossible if it is possible that they all be had by the same individual at the same time, or all together.

Morris’s take on God’s knowledge starts off well and cuts finite goddism off at the knees:

If God has to depend on any intermediary for knowledge, then this defeats creation theology: God would then be the creator of the intermediary, yet also lacking the knowledge of what he creates.  Morris then defines two useful concepts in analytic philosophy: de re and de dicto.

The proposition

(1) God is omniscient

Is necessarily true.  True in every possible world.  It has both de dicto and de re status.

G1: Necessarily, God is omniscience (de dicto status)

G2: God is necessarily omniscience (both de dicto and de re).

I am going to skip what Morris says about Molinism, Presentism, and Eternity.  His true skill is in Christology.  Is it logically incoherent to say that Jesus is both God and Man?  Morris shows that when we gloss our terms, there is no problem.  He writes,

“Divinity, or deity, we shall continue to construe as analogous to a natural kind, and thus as comprising a kind-essence, a cluster of properties individually necessary and jointly sufficient for belonging to the kind, or in this case, for being divine” (162).

Morris then capitalizes on the argument in several crucial sentences:

“An individual-essence is a cluster of properties essential for an individual’s being the particular entity it is, properties without which it would not exist. A kind.essence is that cluster of properties without which, as we have seen, an individual would not belong to the particular natural kind it distinctively exemplifies. Of necessity, an individual can have no more than one individual-essence, or individual nature, but it does not follow from this, and is not, so far as I can tell, demonstrable from any other quarter, that an individual can have no more than one kind-essence” (163).

Let’s cash this out.  Humans are sinful. Jesus was human.  Yet, Jesus was without sin, so how could Jesus be human?  Morris shows that sin is a common human property, but not an essential one (since it wasn’t there originally and won’t be there in heaven).  Further, we say that Jesus is fully human, not merely human.

Fully human: exemplifying all of the properties in the kind-essence humanity

Merely human: exemplifying only those H-properties.

Two Minds Christology

They stand in an asymmetric accessing relation.  Jesus typically drew upon his human resources.

This book is easier to read than Logic of God Incarnate, and can probably be found cheaper than Logic.  It ends with a short bibliography.

Initiation into Analytic Theology

The analytic method is a way of doing theology by clarifying terms.  There is nothing evil or sacred about it.  I am writing this to help students get their feet wet without getting turned off by multiple pages of mathematical notations and Baye’s Theorems.

Some of these are on analytic prolegomena, while others are forays into specific theological loci.

Beginner

Abraham, William.  Analytic Theology: A BibliographyRead it for free here.

Crisp, Oliver. Retrieving Doctrine.  Focused on topics in Reformed theology, but employs the analytic method. Very accessible.

McCall, Thomas. Invitation to Analytic Theology.  It’s exactly what it says.  The book was a treat to read. 

Morris, Thomas V. Our Idea of God.  Good primer on how to think about God from an Anselmian perspective.

Intermediate

Alston, William. Perceiving God.  Alston didn’t intend it as such, but this has a payout on the cessationism/continuationism debate.

Anselm. The Major Works.  It’s hard to imagine Philosophy of Religion without Proslogion and Monologion.

Augustine. The Confessions.  Specifically books 10-13 on time and creation.

Crisp. An American Augustinian. A leading analytic theologian meticulously examines WGT Shedd’s unique theology.

Crisp and Rea. Analytic Theology: New Essays in Philosophy of religion.  Some essays are classic.  Others are meh.

Helm, Paul. Faith and Understanding.

McCall, Thomas. Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? Have you ever come across an idea and despite its initial plausibility, it seemed off?  This book will show you why.

Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom, and Evil.  The layman’s version of Nature of Necessity.

Nash, Ronald. The Concept of God.  Nash took Plantinga’s Nature of Necessity and made it accessible for dummies like me.

Advanced

Craig, William Lane. Time and Eternity.  He moved to quickly on God’s relation to eternity.  Read Helm instead.

Edwards, Jonathan. Freedom of the Will.  Ok. I cheated on this one.  But Edwards’ defense of determinism is still worth reading.

Moreland and Rae. Body and Soul.  Fantastic defense of substance dualism.

Morris, Thomas V.  The Logic of God Incarnate.  Probably the most important book on Christology in the last 30 years.

Plantinga, Alvin. Does God Have a Nature? A critique of some versions of Thomism.  Still not sure what Plantinga’s conclusion was.

————. God and Other Minds.  Good discussion of natural theology.

Richards, Jay Wesley. The Untamed God.  Magnficent defense of essentialism.