Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Book Review (6): The Ultimate Proof of Creation

Lisle begins chapter 9, called “Closing the Loopholes,” by noting the importance of the “ultimate standard.” He says, “Everyone has an ultimate standard, whether he realizes it or not. If it is not the Bible, it will be something else.” Since this statement may seem questionable, Lisle defends it and concludes: “So we have established the following: (1) Everyone must have an ultimate standard (there is no “neutrality”). (2) An ultimate standard cannot be proved from another standard (since there is no greater standard, and appealing to a lesser standard is fallacious). (3) An ultimate standard cannot be merely assumed (otherwise, we couldn’t know anything at all). This leaves only one possible answer to the question of how an ultimate standard is proved. An ultimate standard must prove itself. It must be self-attesting. It must provide criteria for what is to be considered true, and by which all claims are judged – including the ultimate standard itself.”

Christians will immediately recognize that the Bible meets these criteria; but Christians and others may also recognize that this reasoning appears circular. Indeed it is circular. But Lisle points out two crucial things about circular reasoning: “1. It is absolutely unavoidable. 2. It is not necessarily fallacious.” Lisle carries out explanations for these assertions and claims that only the biblical creationist circular argument passes the tests of being a true ultimate standard, because it’s the only one that is not arbitrary. Non-Christian and unbiblical “circles of reasoning are ultimately self-defeating. They do not pass their own test.” Because the Bible is the only ultimate standard that remains standing at this point, Lisle defends it from antagonists, explains the place of faith as being “required for reasoning,” giving many examples, such as that “we must first believe that there are laws of logic before we can argue for them logically,” and discusses uniformity, uniformitarianism, and miracles in light of understanding the ultimate standard that all people must have.

Chapter 10, called “Apologetics in the Bible,” is the final formal chapter in Lisle’s book. There remains a conclusion and several appendices to follow, but here, the author discusses the proper ways to defend the Bible. He mentions the “evidence first” approach, which does not “rationally resolve worldview disputes.” Evidence is not our ultimate standard. Lisle also notes the “Bible first” approach, which is necessary, because the Bible is our ultimate standard. He discusses the Bible’s standard for reasoning and notes that despite the overwhelming evidence for the truth and authority of Scripture, evidence does not always convince people. Lisle gives the example of Lazarus and the rich man from Jesus in the Bible, where the rich man dies and just wants to issue a warning from hell for his friends on earth. But Jesus says, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

Lisle answers potential counters to his claims here, and then discusses the apologetic styles of Jesus and Paul (and on a lesser scale, Peter) in order to say that they used the “Bible first” approach. In other words, Jesus and Paul both had the Bible as their ultimate standard; they didn't begin their arguments with the evidence. Lisle ends the chapter by analyzing Paul’s success, noting especially, “(1) Some people mocked, (2) others wanted to hear more, and (3) some joined him and believed.” Because the Holy Spirit must convince people of truth, we should expect similar results from our conversations. Lisle concludes, “Ultimately, ‘success’ in apologetics really should not be measured by whether the critic comes to receive Christ. God has not called us to convert people into Christians; this is beyond our power. He has called us to give a defense of the faith. Whether a person ultimately receives Christ is between that person and God. But God will often use us as part of the process; we are to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15).

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