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Kenneth Samples on the Compatibility of Faith and Reason

Riddleblog has posted audio from Kenneth Samples lecture in his series on “Historic Christianity’s Seven Dangerous Ideas”.

The talk, delivered on May 7 at Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, is entitled “Faith Makes Sense:  The Compatibility of Faith & Reason”. In the lecture, Dr Samples gives an overview of arguments for God’s existence, including arguments from cosmology, objective morality and abstract entities.

Download the lecture here.

Kenneth Samples is a senior research scholar at Reasons To Believe (RTB) and teaches at the Academy and Adult bible study classes at Christ Reformed Church.  He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference and has also written several articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal.

Faith and Doubt

“A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenceless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart sceptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.

Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts – not only their own but their friends’ and neighbours’. It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them. Only if you struggle long and hard with objections to your faith will you be able to provide grounds for your beliefs to sceptics, including yourself, that are plausible rather than ridiculous or offensive. And, just as important for our current situation, such a process will lead you, even after you come to a position of strong faith, to respect and understand those who doubt.”

Tim Keller, The Reason for God (Hodder 2008), pages xvi-xvii.

Is there salvation outside Christianity?

Wintery Knight has pointed out a helpful summary by Stephen Notman of the classic title in the Zondervan Counterpoints series on Christian theology, Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. Edited by Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips, the book surveys the different approaches in reconciling religious pluralism with the exclusive claims of Christ.newbookcover

Traditionally, the debate has been characterized by the positions of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism. The title includes a fourth position; agnosticism (defended by Alister McGrath). Here is a quick run-down of the positions in the debate:

  • Exclusivism/Particularism: This view maintains that the central claims of Christianity are true and only those who explicitly place faith in the Christ of the Bible are saved. Salvation cannot be achieved through the claims or structures of other religions. It is important to point out that exclusivists do not say that every religion is wrong in every respect, but that only where other religions contradict the self-disclosure of Christ, they are wrong. This is defended by by R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips.
  • Inclusivism: This view can be broken down into different positions. Generally, inclusivists affirm the truth of fundamental Christian claims, but nevertheless appeal to the love of God and insist that God has revealed Himself, even in saving ways, within other religions.  All who are saved are in fact saved on account of the person and work of Jesus Christ, but conscious faith in Jesus is not necessary: some may be saved who have never heard of him, and may respond positively to the light they have received.
    • Soft inclusivism (Agnosticism): Unconvinced by the clarity of teaching of Scripture on whether those outside Christianity are truly condemned, advocates allow for the faint possibility that God may save some who have never heard of Christ – so long as these individuals respond to God’s grace in Creation and entrust themselves in repentance and faith. Some also go further in arguing that there is biblical reason to be hopeful and not simply agnostic about the possibility of salvation for those outside Christianity. Alister McGrath puts forward a version of soft inclusivism in the book.
    • Hard inclusivism: This view differs from radical pluralism in that it does argue for Christ as the absolute basis of a person’s salvation. But while Jesus may have been God’s principal plan of salvation for humanity, it is argued that salvation itself is not unavailable in other religions. Unlike exclusivism or soft inclusivism, this view emphasizes believing, but not believing in Christ. Jesus is therefore ontologically necessary, but not epistemologically necessary. Some hard inclusivists will also concede that God may yet use other religions as instruments of his salvation. Clark Pinnock argues for this position.
  • Religious Pluralism: This view relativizes every religious claim. According to it, no religion can advance any legitimate claim of superiority over any other religion. Every religion has the same moral and spiritual weight, and offers an equally valid path to salvation. John Hick has been one of the leading voices of this position, and he defends it in Four Views.

Read Stephen Notman’s summary of the debate in the book.

Although no longer recent, the book remains a significant effort to represent the strongest positions and the strongest advocates for those positions. R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips put forward a convincing exegesis of the important texts (Acts 4:12; John 3:16, 18; Romans 10:9-15; and John 14:6; 17:20) and provide a robust defense of the traditional Christian position. For anyone who has pondered these questions, Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World is an excellent introduction.

For further reading on the topic, Ronald Nash’s Is Jesus the Only Savior? is a great book, or Paul Copan’s article If you had been born in another country, is it at all likely that you would be a Christian? The latest issue of Philosophia Christi also features a dialogue on religious pluralism with scholars Keith Yandell, Paul Moser and Paul Knitter.

Faith and Knowledge

There is no faith relation with Christ free of doctrinal content. The knower must have some knowledge of the known, or no relation exists. That seemingly redundant and self-evident statement should underlie the issue. Jesus Christ and our knowledge of Him are not in any sense coextensive. But one cannot have a relation with Him without knowledge, and that knowledge represents incipient doctrine…

If one does not believe the truths concerning the Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture, one cannot have any authentic relationship with Him. Doctrine, we eagerly concede, does not in itself save . . . But, on the other hand, one cannot truly worship Christ and seek to live as an authentic disciple and deny, denigrate, or neglect in any sense the biblical teachings concerning Him.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “Response,” in Beyond the Impass? Scripture, Intrepretation, and Theology in Baptist Life, ed. Robison B. James and David S. Dockery (Nashville: Broadman, 1992), page 249.

Are Faith and knowledge functionally opposite?

Greg Koukl of apologetics ministry Stand to Reason writes,

In an odd sort of way, Christians have abetted atheists in their efforts to cast doubt and even derision on believers. Here’s how.

Atheists have tremendous confidence that science will continue its record of silencing superstition. As knowledge waxes, foolishness wanes. Consequently, there’s no need for sticking God in the so-called “gaps.” Science will fill them soon enough.

Atheists are buoyed in their confidence by what they consider an inverse relationship between knowledge and faith. The more you have of the first, the less you need of the second.

Faith is merely a filler for ignorance. As knowledge increases, silly superstitious beliefs are discarded. As science marches forward, ignorance will eventually disappear and faith will simply dry up.

Simply put, faith and knowledge are functional opposites. The only place for faith, then, is in the shadows of ignorance.

Ironically, this same perspective has been promoted by Christians themselves. “If I know that God exists,” they challenge, “or that Jesus rose from the dead, or that Heaven is real, then where is room for faith?” Note the same inverse relationship between knowledge and faith held by atheists: Faith and knowledge are functional opposites.

This view is obviously false if you pause to think about it. The opposite of knowledge is not faith, but ignorance. And the opposite of faith is not knowledge, but unbelief. It’s certainly possible to have knowledgeable faith and ignorant unbelief.

More importantly, the knowledge vs. faith equation is not what the Bible teaches. In fact, Scripture affirms just the opposite. In this month’s Solid Ground, I lay out the case that biblical faith is based on knowledge, not contrary to it. Once you see the textual evidence, I think you’ll agree that faith and knowledge are compatible, shoring up our confidence in the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

With confidence in Christ,

Greg Koukl

(Greg recently has recently interviewed author David Berlinski about his book, The Devil’s Delusion that has just been released on paperback. This was very interesting discussion and recommended. Listen Here.)

Dr Matthew Flannagan on Belief without Proof

What: Dr Matthew Flannagan speaking on Belief without Proof

When: Tuesday 31th March – 7:00pm

Where: Lecture Room 2, Laidlaw College, 80 Central Park Drive, Henderson, West Auckland

Format: Talk followed by questions, answers and discussion.

Cost:  Free!  (Donation appreciated)

 

Dr Flannagan will address the objection that Christianity is irrational in the absence of proof. He will unpack this claim and offer an alternative method of looking at faith and reason demonstrating that lack of evidence does not make faith in God irrational.

Dr Flannagan holds a PhD in Theology, a Masters degree in Philosophy. His area of expertise is the interface between Philosophy and Theology, Applied Ethics and Worldviews. He is an adjunct lecturer in Philosophy for Laidlaw College, writes for the MandM blog and has nearly 15 years experience engaging and challenging secular culture both in New Zealand and internationally.

He is a former student President at the University of Waikato, has formally debated the Abortion Law Reform Association of NZ’s Dr Zoe During and the NZ Association of Rationalist Humanist’s Dr Bill Cooke; he has been published in several international journals of philosophy and has a personal reference from the then President of the Evangelical Theological Society in his resume.

He is used to speaking to a wide range of audiences so you will not need a PhD to understand him.

Thinking Matters – Auckland

 

Thinking Matters is a community of professional and lay apologists dedicated to offering credible reasons to believe and rationally answering objections to the Christian faith.

 Thinking Matters Auckland hold regular Apologetics seminars, showcasing New Zealand’s best Apologetic talents and screen DVDs of the world’s top Apologists defending the Christian Faith. Opportunity for analysis, discussion and questions follow each event.

 The seminars are held in Lecture Room 2 of West Auckland’s Laidlaw College, fortnightly on Tuesdays, from 7-9pm; there is no charge although donations are welcome. The seminars are accessible to all with an interest in Apologetics, suitable for teenagers through to adults and open to anyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.

 

For further information contact:

Madeleine Flannagan

09 835 1554

021 026 94751

Thinking Matters