A Faithful Guide to Philosophy
862 Pages
English

A Faithful Guide to Philosophy

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A Faithful Guide to Philosophy is the only British Christian introduction to philosophy, a book that will be used as a course textbook and by church study groups and individual readers alike. It covers subjects of central importance to the Christian worldview, discussing the broadest range of topics covered by any Christian introduction to philosophy, and will be prized by many.

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Published 14 February 2019
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EAN13 9781725240322
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A Faithful Guide to Philosophy‘Peter Williams has provided an invaluable text for Christians who wish
to engage with philosophy. This isn’t the usual abstract overview, but
rather provides the reader with a human experience where their
commitment to Christ is nurtured and their needs as a learner are embraced
whilst also achieving academic rigour. Every Christian student of
philosophy ought to have this book both on their desk and at their bedside.’
Dr Trevor Cooling, Professor of Christian Education at Canterbury
Christ Church University and co-editor of the Journal of Education and
Christian Belief
‘A Faithful Guide to Philosophy is faithful, not only in the sense of being
reliable, but also in the sense of being infused with a Christian world
and life view. It is encouraging to see that this text is centered in natural
theology and the philosophy of mind, for these are two areas of vital
importance to the Christian faith, for which we must contend vigorously
in our increasingly secular society. Williams’ focus is well chosen and his
arguments interesting and persuasive.’
Dr William Lane Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy
at the Talbot School of Theology
‘Peter S. Williams is a sure-footed guide to philosophy in general, and
philosophy of religion in particular. He picks his way through knotty
arguments with exemplary clarity lightened by a dry sense of humour.
Although he is open about his own Christian commitment, he is equally
rigorous in his assessment of arguments for theism as he is with
arguments against. The addition of detailed bibliographies including YouTube
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and for Christian ministers and laypeople alike.’
Dr Daniel J. Hill, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy,
Liverpool University
‘This is an excellent book for introduction to the study of philosophy from
the perspective of the Christian faith . . . The writer models the “love of
wisdom” he recommends by his open, engaging and balanced approach,
and shows abilities as both a thinker and communicator. His discussion
with the New Atheists throughout the book makes it engaging and up to
date. Both teachers and students will also appreciate the resource list after
each chapter, pointing to a lot of high quality video, audio and written
material . . . The book clearly shows the importance of philosophy for
Christians, and the relevance of the Christian faith to philosophy.’
Bjørn Hinderaker, Assistant Professor at Gimlekollen School of
Journalism and Communication in Norway‘This book is a highly accessible, stimulating introduction to logic, the
nature of argument and philosophy written from a Christian perspective
by an author who understands his subject and knows how to
communicate it at the right level. This book, which is a delight to read and is full
of useful references to books, articles, websites and other media, has the
potential to de-mystify philosophy for a generation of young people and
provide an excellent resource to enable them to articulate their faith in
7%#'5"12',$)$5$#'.%)4#$).$'")'('5(8'12(1'#$/%)&1,(1$&'"1&',$(&%)(+9$ -
ness against all New Atheist claims to the contrary.’
Professor John C. Lennox, Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of
Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford
‘A Faithful Guide to Philosophy is an extremely well-researched book that
is tightly argued, excellent in topic selection, deep in coverage yet
readable in style. Williams had done a masterful job of producing a book that
is now a must read for Christians who want to explore the intellectual
underpinnings of their faith. I highly recommend this delightful volume.’
Dr J.P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Biola
University in La Mirada, California and author of
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A Faithful Guide to Philosophy
A Christian Introduction to the Love of Wisdom
By Williams, Peter S.
Copyright©2013 by Williams, Peter S.
ISBN 13: 978-1-5326-5674-3
Publication date 5/1/2018
Previously published by Paternoster, 2013


Cover images are from “Countenance Three”
by Makoto Fujimura and are used with permission from the artist. :2"&'+%%0'"&'#$#".(1$#'1%'12$'J2,"&1"()'&.2%9(,&'52%'4,&1'"99-/")(1$#'
the path of philosophy for me (especially William Lane Craig, Michael
Durrant, Norman L. Geisler, C.S. Lewis, J.P. Moreland, H.P. Owen,
Richard Swinburne and Keith Ward) and to my goddaughter, Abigail
Rebecca Price (b. 2011), in the hope that some day she’ll be blessed to
explore a little of the same path:
Open your ears, and hear the words of wise people,
and set your mind on the knowledge I give you.
It is pleasant if you keep them in mind
so that they will be on the tip of your tongue,
so that your trust may be in the LORD.
Today I have made them known to you, especially to you
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Forerewordrd b xy Angus Menuge xii
Preface xvii
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&& A212/$#,& \`[Foreword to the 2019 Reprint Edition
I - Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220 AD) took a dim view of
Christians dabbling in philosophy:
What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there
between the Academy and the Church; what between heretics and
1Christians?
Tertullian’s concern, amply justied by the emergence of various heresies, was
that philosophy may lead Christians to “turn away” from the truth of revelation
and to “wander o into myths” (2 Timothy 4:4). To show this is not just his
opinion, Tertullian cites St. Paul:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit,
according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the
world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
Indeed philosophy oen conicts with Christian teaching: the Epicureans were
materialists, David Hume attacked the credibility of miracles, and Daniel
Dennett attempts to explain religion away altogether.
So why should thoughtful Christians want a book like this one, that
introduces them to philosophy? Notice rst that Tertullian did not get the whole truth
of St. Paul’s admonition to the church at Colossae. While Christians are warned
to avoid captivity to worldly philosophy, this is contrasted with a faithful
philosophy “according to Christ.” St. Paul himself, trained in the Hellenistic diaspora,
was not above using philosophy to nd a point of contact with his audience, most
famously at the Areopagus. Paul refutes the worldly philosophies that would
conne the Creator and Sustainer of all reality to “temples made by man” (Acts
17:24). He acknowledges the truth of an ancient poet-philosopher’s saying that
in God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and uses a logical
. Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics, chapter VII. is translation is from the selection
available at: https://online.hillsdale.edu/document.doc?id=378. Foreword to the 2019 Reprint Edition
argument to show that God cannot both be our creator and an idol: “Being then
God’s ospring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver
or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (Acts 17:29).
In truth, no-one can avoid having a philosophy, so there is no question of
avoiding it altogether. In its broadest sense a philosophy or worldview is a global
perspective on reality that tells a person what exists, how they know, and how
they ought to live. ough many people live their whole lives with their personal
philosophy largely unconscious, they have one all the same. Either they believe
there is a real mind-independent world (like most people in the West) or they
declare it an illusion or a collection of ideas (as in eastern mysticism or idealism);
either they think that all objects are physical (like materialists), or they allow
immaterial entities like God, the soul, and moral values (like classical theists);
either they think that ethics is entirely a matter of personal or cultural opinion
(like relativists) or they think there are some xed moral standards (like moral
objectivists).
Completely renouncing philosophy is impossible: all it means is refusing to
recognize the philosophy one has. Ironically, if Christians do not notice their
philosophy, it increases the chances they will embrace doctrines contrary to Christ.
Consider, for example, how many Christians in the business world embrace
utilitarian and pragmatist views sharply at odds with Christian teachings about
morality and truth. Defenders of the First Amendment to the US Constitution
remind us that the best solution to false speech is more speech—speech refuting
the errors in contrary opinions and contending for the truth. If no-one can avoid
having a philosophy and there are many false philosophies arrayed against the
Truth, the best defence is deliberately to cultivate a faithful Christian philosophy.
at is the conclusion C. S. Lewis drew in a famous essay reecting on the
value of learning in the Second World War. How, he asked, could academics
devote time to scholarship when so many were suering and dying?
[H]ow can we...continue to take an interest in these placid occupations
when the lives of our friends and the liberties of Europe are in the
bal2ance? Is it not like ddling while Rome burns?
Lewis’s answer is that Christians are always living in a war—a spiritual and
intellectual war. Even in peace time, there is a battle of “principalities and powers”
that requires much armor, including the “belt of truth” (Ephesians 6). While not
every attack on the Christian is intellectual, Christians are called to love God
. C. S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time,” in e Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, Revised
and Expanded Edition (New York: Macmillan, 1980), 20.
xiiForeword to the 2019 Reprint Edition
with all their minds (Mark 12:30; Matthew 22:37), and to avoid conformity to
worldly thinking (Romans 12:2). To do this eectively, Christians must articulate
the implications of their faith, and master the analytic tools required to compare
and contrast that faith with rival worldviews.
Otherwise they are ill-equipped for a battle that cannot be avoided. While
the mind of Christ is a gi of grace, it is most eective when trained. Peter tells us
always to be prepared with a reason for the hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).
at takes work, and it means nding good reasons. Lewis concludes his essay
with an exhortation to educated Christians to develop a Christian philosophy:
To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet the enemies on
their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to
betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us
against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must
ex3ist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.
So any thoughtful Christian who has not studied much philosophy will benet
from a book like this one.
But why this book in particular? General introductions to philosophy are
legion, but most are not, like this one, concerned to develop and defend a Christian
worldview. Even of those that are—and there are many ne examples—none
accomplishes all of the worthy goals that this volume does. e remarkable
achievement of Peter Williams’ book is that he takes the reader all the way from a general
introduction to the nature and methods of philosophy to the current state of the
art in several areas of academic philosophy where Christian philosophers
contend against their critics, all the while remaining clear and accessible. is is not
easy! It would have been much easier to write a uniformly scholarly book for
fellow experts in the eld, or an oversimplied introduction that equips Christians
with the intellectual equivalent of water pistols, while their opposite numbers
brandish howitzers. Following the lead of C. S. Lewis, Williams does justice to the
best Christian arguments while using simple language and suppressing, as much
as possible, the technical jargon and formulae that only professional philosophers
understand; where unusual terms are unavoidable, they are clearly dened and
explained.
ere is also much that is unique in the specic content of this book. It
opens with a thorough examination of the relation between philosophy and
faith, so that readers can see that, handled correctly, philosophy can be a servant
rather than a critic of the faith. ere is also an excellent, clear and accessible
. C. S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time,” 28.
xiiiForeword to the 2019 Reprint Edition
introduction to logic that explains how arguments work, how to distinguish
the good from the bad, and how we should assess the burden of proof. us
equipped, Williams focuses on what are arguably the two most important issues
Christians need to think through: the nature of God and the nature of man. e
rst topic is explored by considering classical and contemporary versions of the
leading arguments for the existence of God—the cosmological, teleological,
moral, and ontological arguments, and the argument from religious experience.
Nowhere is the facile impression given that every formulation of every argument
is invincible; instead the formulations are compared to help readers select the
best version of the argument, if they are challenged to give a reason for thinking
that God exists or exemplies a great-making property. e second topic focuses
on recent work in the philosophy of mind which shows, contrary to many voices
in our post-Christian culture, that a materialist view of human persons faces
formidable objections. And there is a resurgence of dualism that takes seriously the
traditional Christian understanding that people have (or are) immaterial souls
with free will. What is more, several remarkable features of the human mind
(including the nature of consciousness, rationality and intentionality) provide
additional arguments for God and against materialism.
If Williams had stopped there, his book would still have been an excellent
and unique contribution. But he also includes a nal section that considers
several important topics on which Christians oen fail adequately to reect,
weakening their witness to unbelievers and their defence against critics. Today, it is
commonplace even for Christians to assume that beauty is subjective, something
only in the eye of the beholder. But Williams shows that there are deep
connections between beauty and goodness, and hence with divinity itself. Again,
Christians are oen atfooted in their response to science, and commonly place their
scientic and Christian beliefs in separate compartments, as if God had created
two unrelated worlds. Williams shows there are more constructive options that
allow Christians to integrate science and faith in their worldview. Finally, due
consideration is given to the logical and evidential problems of evil. Citing the
leading scholars on these issues, Williams shows that, while evil is undoubtedly
an existential problem that tries our faith, it is not a decisive argument against
the Christian faith.
An appealing feature of this book is its inclusion of visual aids (diagrams
and tables), and its recognition of dierent learning styles: in addition to books
and articles in traditional print format, it lists on-line videos, audio les, and
papers. Together with its accessible and winsome style, this maximizes the book’s
xivForeword to the 2019 Reprint Edition
usefulness for a wide audience, including students, teachers, ministers and
professionals, and, one hopes, thoughtful secularists and skeptics who may be
wondering if there just might be something to the Christian faith. Aer reading
this book, it is a good idea to leave it out in plain view where an open-minded
unbeliever may nd it.
is is just the sort of book Christian parents should give to children bound
for University, where they will face a barrage of non-Christian (and
anti-Christian) philosophies that undergird and inform the majority of academic
disciplines today. Without it, those children will be surrounded by “philosophy and
empty deceit” in forms they cannot even name, and so cannot begin to defend
themselves against. But in addition to helping students to recognize ideas
contrary to Christ, this book also gives Christian students the tools to analyze and
answer bad philosophies, and to contend for the Truth, Goodness and Beauty at
the heart of a Christian worldview.
I warmly commend this volume. And I hope and pray it strengthens the
intellectual armor of many of the people of God.
Angus Menuge
President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society
May, 2018
xvPreface to the 2019 Reprint Edition
T “” from the ancient Greek words philos, which
refers to loving a friend, andsophia, which means “wisdom.” To be a philosopher
means to be “a lover of wisdom.” As such, a philosopher is dedicated to the wise
pursuit and dissemination of true answers to signicant questions through the
practice of good intellectual habits.
1Everyone has a philosophical worldview that forms the foundation of
2their way of life, that is, their spirituality. Few people take pains to
philosophize about the wisdom of their worldview. However, the contents and
intellectual habits of our minds, coupled with the choices, commitments and
attitudes of our hearts, issue in behaviour that characterizes (and re-enforces)
our spirituality. us, philosophy is an integral component of any spirituality,
3including Christian spirituality.
A philosopher seeks to understand, defend, and disseminate truth and
wisdom by thinking carefully and arguing well, “speaking the truth in love”
(Ephe4sians 4:15). ese attitudes and activities, and the tools and virtues they require,
are integral to the spiritually formative disciplines of learning and teaching. For
5the Christian, these disciplines include bible-study and preaching, systematic
6 7and philosophical theology, and apologetics (a discipline that encompasses
8“persuasive evangelism”).
Christians are called to love God with theirmindsas well as their hearts
9and their strength (see Mark 12:30-31). e apostle Paul urged his readers: “Do
not conform...to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing
of your mind. en you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his
good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2, my italics.) Moreover, the New
Testament highlights the need for suitably qualied Christians to engage in the
spiritual warfare of deposing “arrogant ‘reckonings,’ and every stronghold that
towers high in deance of the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5,
Weymouth New Testament). Luke recounts how Paul once spent three months at a
particular synagogue “arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God” (Acts Preface to the 2019 Reprint Edition
19:8). Paul described himself as “defending and conrming the gospel”
(Philippians 1:7). As C.S. Lewis wrote: “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other
10reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”
So, why study philosophy?First, because philosophy is unavoidable and
it’s wiser to have a studied opinion than an unstudied opinion.Second, because
our philosophy is part-and-parcel of our spirituality. ird, because philosophy
plays an indispensable role in the spiritually formative disciplines of learning
and teaching.
Christians are not necessarily duty-bound to study philosophyformally.
Nevertheless, disciples of Christ should all heed the call “to work out the salvation that
God has given [us] with a proper sense of awe and responsibility.” (Philippians
2:12, J.B. Phillips), and studying philosophy can certainly help us do that.

I’m grateful to Wipf and Stock for re-printing A Faithful Guide to Philosophy, an
occasion that aords me the opportunity to recommend some books that have
11appeared since its original publication in 2013 (in this footnote: ). In addition
to those thanked in the original text, I’d like to thank: those who so generously
12endorsed the book, Brian Auten (www.apologetics315.com) , Hannah Harris,
Makoto Fujimura (www.makotofujimura.com) for his art, and Angus Menuge
13for his foreword. Last, but not least, I’d like to thank Peter Byrom, for
overseeing my video introductions for each chapter of this book, available on my
YouTube channel:
• ‘Faithful Guide to Philosophy Vids’ @ www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQ
hh3qcwVEWjOb0R9HAHn1S4EdCEJuLhk
e “description” for each video introduction contains a link to a playlist for
that chapter. I periodically update these (and other) playlists available on my
YouTube channel:
• www.youtube.com/user/peterswilliamsvid/playlists?view=1&ow=grid
Videos in which I appear are gathered together into the playlist “Peter S Williams
Videos”:
• http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQhh3qcwVEWgmFh_mVg
G9rrQl-jXyJk-z
xviiiPreface to the 2019 Reprint Edition
My podcast contains a good many talks on a wide variety of philosophical topics:
• http://podcast.peterswilliams.com
• https://itunes.apple.com/mt/podcast/peter-s-williams/id287585586?mt=2
Links to both my Podcast and YouTube channel (as well as free papers, and
more) can be found at my website:
• www.peterswilliams.com
Finally, while I still agree with most of what follows, there are places where I’d
14put things a little dierently today. is should underline the fact that I invite
an inquisitorial attitude from readers, and that I’m less concerned that they
accept everything I say than that they combine a love of philosophy with a love
of God. As Paul Copan writes: “Undertaking the study of philosophy should
be an act of worship...when we undertake philosophy in Christ’s name, our
desk or reading chair becomes an altar, yielding ‘a fragrant aroma, an acceptable
15sacrice, well-pleasing to God’” (Phil 4:18).
Peter S. Williams
Southampton
April 2018
Endnotes
1. See: YouTube Playlist, “Understanding Worldviews.” www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL
Qhh3qcwVEWhCn7rqlW7UsvFNRjQ9wxoH; James W. Sire, e Universe Next Door: A Basic
Worldview Catalogue, h edition (IVP, 2009).
2. See: Peter S. Williams, “Apologetics in 3D—’Input’ at Trondheim Frikirke” (2018) http://
podcast.peterswilliams.com/e/apologetics-in-3d-input-at-trondheim-frikirke/ &
“Apologetics in 3D: Persuading Across Spiritualities With the Apostle Paul,” eolos (2012:1) www.
bethinking.org/apologetics/apologetics-in-3d.
3. See: YouTube Playlist, “Discipleship & Spiritual Formation.” www.youtube.com/playlis
t?list=PLQhh3qcwVEWhGSK1x6H3qeqzefB8hmvvM; André Comte-Sponville, e Book Of
Atheist Spirituality: An Elegant Argument For Spirituality Without God (Bantam, 2007); Philip
Sheldrake, Spirituality: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2012); Peter S. Williams,
“Apologetics in 3D – ‘Input’ at Trondheim Frikirke” (2018)
http://podcast.peterswilliams.com/e/apologetics-in-3d-input-at-trondheim-frikirke/; “Apologetics in 3D: Persuading Across Spiritualities
With the Apostle Paul,” eolos (2012:1) www.bethinking.org/apologetics/apologetics-in-3d
& Understanding Jesus: Five Ways to Spiritual Enlightenment (Paternoster, 2011).
4. See: James W. Sire, Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling (IVP, 2000);
W. Jay Wood, Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous (IVP, 1998).
xixPreface to the 2019 Reprint Edition
5. See: YouTube Playlist, “Preaching” www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQhh3qcwVE
Wijz8HKf3ms2rm5SLiwASZu; Peter S. Williams’ Sermons, http://podcast.peterswilliams.
com/?s=Sermon; Timothy Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2015).
6. See: Simon Oliver, “Why study systematic theology?” https://youtu.be/Pjy88BunBwE;
YouTube Playlist, “Philosophical eology” www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQhh3qcwVEW
gObDfdGSUz-JGV9bFVu-sF; James K. Bielby ed., For Faith and Clarity: Philosophical
Contributions to Christian eology (Baker, 2006); William Lane Craig, e Only Wise God: e
Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Wipf & Stock, 2000) & Time And
Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship To Time (Crossway, 2001); Stephen T. Davis, Christian
Philosophical eology (Oxford, 2016); Brian Hebblethwaite, Philosophical eology and
Christian Doctrine (Blackwell, 2005); omas V. Morris, Our Idea of God: An Introduction to
Philosophical eology (University Notre Dame Press, 1991); Huw Parri Owen, Christian eism: A
Study in its Basic Principles (T&T Clark, 1984).
7. See: YouTube Playlist, “What is Apologetics?” www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQhh3q
cwVEWg57uXDiNEu_QRCQB1Ic4tP;
Peter S. Williams, “Apologetics in 3D – ‘Input’ at Trondheim Frikirke” (2018) http://podcast.
peterswilliams.com/e/apologetics-in-3d-input-at-trondheim-frikirke/;
“Apologetics in 3D: Persuading Across Spiritualities With the Apostle Paul,” eolos (2012:1)
www.bethinking.org/apologetics/apologetics-in-3d; Ken Boa & Rob Bowman, Faith Has Its
Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith (Paternoster, 2006)
www.apologetics315.com/2009/03/faith-has-its-reasons-by-ken-boa-rob.html; Scott R. Burson & Jerry L.
Walls, C.S. Lewis & Francis Schaeer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Inuential
Apologists of Our Time (IVP, 1998); Sean McDowell ed., Apologetics for a New Generation: A Biblically
& Culturally Relevant Approach to Talking About God (Harvest House, 2004); James E. Taylor,
Introducing Apologetics: Cultivating Christian Commitment (Baker Academic, 2006); Joseph D.
Wooddell, e Beauty of Faith: Using Aesthetics for Christian Apologetics (Wipf & Stock, 2010).
8. See: Peter May, “Persuasive Evangelism”
http://peterswilliams.podbean.com/mf/feed/rgbexb/May_Feuer_2016.mp3 & e Search for God: And the Path to Persuasion (Malcolm Down,
2016); Nick Pollard, Evangelism Made Slightly Less Dicult, new edition (IVP, 2004).
9. See: J.P. Moreland & Mark Matlock, Smart Faith: Loving Your God With All Your Mind
(ink, 2005); J.P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind, 1st edition (NavPress, 1997).
10. C.S. Lewis, “On Learning in Wartime” ine Weight of Glory and Other
Addresses(MacMillan, 1980), 28.
11. I recommend (but don’t necessarily always agree with) the following volumes:
Paul Copan, A Little Book For New Philosophers: Why And How To Study Philosophy (IVP
Academic, 2016) would make a good companion to my Preface, Introduction and First Chapter. e
second edition of J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian
Worldview (IVP Academic, 2017) would be a good follow-on volume.
See also: William Lane Craig, On Guard for Students (David C. Cook, 2015) and Stephen T.
Davis, Rational Faith: A Philosopher’s Defense of Christianity (Lion, 2017). ere’s some good
philosophical material in Norman L. Geisler’s Christian Apologetics, second edition (Baker
Academic, 2013).
Alvin Plantinga’s Knowledge and Christian Belief (Eerdmans, 2015) is a simplied digest of his
Warranted Christian Belief. On the subject of Plantinga, see Jerry L. Walls & David Baggetteds,
xxPreface to the 2019 Reprint Edition
Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: e Plantinga Project (Oxford University Press, 2018).
Also on God’s existence see: J. Warner Wallace, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective
Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe (David C. Cook, 2017).
For a debate on God’s existence (featuring William Lane Craig vs. Alex Rosenberg) see
Corey Miller & Paul Gould eds, Is Faith in God Reasonable? (Routledge, 2014).
On the ne-tuning design argument see: Rodney Holder, God, the Multiverse, and Everything:
Modern Cosmology and the Argument from Design (Routledge, 2016); Geraint F. Lewis & Luke A.
Barnes, A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
On design in biology see: David L. Abel, Primordial Prescription: e Most Plaguing Problem
of Life Origin Science (Longview Press – Academic, 2015); Douglas Axe, Undeniable: How
Biology Conrms Our Intuition at Life Is Designed (HarperOne, 2016); Tom Bethell, Darwin’s
House Of Cards: A Journalist’s Odyssey rough e Darwin Debates (Discovery Institute,
2017); David Klinghoer ed., Debating Darwin’s Doubt (Discovery Institute Press, 2015); Matti
Leisola & Jonathan Witt, Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey from Darwin to Design (Discovery
Institute, 2018) and Robert J. Marks II, William A. Dembski & Winston Ewert, Introduction To
Evolutionary Informatics (World Scientic, 2017).
On miracles (a subject not covered herein) see Robert A. Larmer, e Legitimacy of Miracle
(Lexington, 2014).
For an introduction to atheism see Michael Ruse’s Atheism: What Everyone Needs To Know
(Oxford University Press, 2015).
For a critique of the “New Atheism” see Khaldoun Aziz Sweis, Killing God: Answering the Seven
Most Common Objections from the New Atheists (CreateSpace Independent, 2016).
On the philosophy of mind, see: Jonathan J. Loose et al eds, e Blackwell Companion to
Substance Dualism (Wiley Blackwell, 2018); atheist Mary Midgley’s attack on the materialistic
account of human nature in Are You an Illusion? (Acumen, 2014) and Alfred R. Mele’s defence of
free will in A Dialogue On Free Will And Science (Oxford University Press, 2014).
On the philosophically mediated integration of the sciences with theology, see the
Zondervan Dictionary of Christianity and Science (Zondervan, 2017), in which I have several articles.
See also: Jonathan Bartlett & Eric Holloway eds, Naturalism And Its Alternatives In Scientic
Methodologies (Blyth Institute, 2017); Allan Chapman, Slaying the Dragons: Destroying Myths
In e History Of Science And Faith (Lion, 2013); Charles Halton ed., Genesis: History,
Fiction, or Neither? (Zondervan, 2015); J.B. Stump ed., Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent
Design (Zondervan, 2017); Roger Trigg, Does Science Undermine Faith? (SPCK, 2018) & Beyond
Matter: Why Science Needs Metaphysics (Templeton, 2015); John H. Walton, e Lost World of
Adam And Eve (IVP, 2015).
On the problem of evil, see Trent Dougherty & Justin P. McBrayer eds, Skeptical eism:
New Essays (Oxford University Press, 2014) and Michael Rea ed., Evil and the Hiddenness of
God (Cengage Learning, 2015).
Good selections of writings in the philosophy of religion are collated by Michael L.
Peterson et al eds, Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, h edition (Oxford, 2014) and
by Michael Rea & Louis Pojman eds, Philosophy Of Religion: An Anthology, seventh edition
(Cengage Learning, 2015).
Gregory Bassham ed., C.S. Lewis’ Christian Apologetics: Pro and Con (Brill Rodolpi, 2016)
features debates on key Lewisian themes, including the argument from rationality, the moral
argument, the problem of evil and my debate with the editor on theistic arguments from
desire. A further defence of arguments from desire against Bassham’s critique, available from
my website, is my paper “In Defence of Arguments from Desire” (2016) www.peterswilliams.
com/2016/11/02/in-defence-of-arguments-from-desire/.
xxiPreface to the 2019 Reprint Edition
Readers may also nd material of interest in Michael Ward & Peter S. Williams eds, C.S.
Lewis at Poets’ Corner (Cascade, 2016) and Peter S. Williams, Getting at Jesus: A Comprehensive
Critique of Neo-Atheist Nonsense About the Jesus of History (Wipf and Stock, 2019).
12. e rst part of this preface is based on an article Brian was gracious enough to
published on his website in 2013.
13. See: Peter Byrom, “Confessions of a Former Atheist” https://youtu.be/o24lL6yK-Fs.
14. For example: I’d tweak my denition of spirituality to include “assumptions” amongst
the possible contents of the mind, and I’d discuss God’s knowledge in terms of his maximal
epistemic greatness.
15. Paul Copan, A Little Book for New Philosophers (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic,
2016), 119–20.
xxiiIntroduction
A Faithful Guide to Philosophy
The pursuit of wisdom especially joins man to God in friendship.
1Thomas Aquinas
:2"&'+%%0'%@$,&'V('6("126-9';-"#$'1%'W2"9%&%W28X'+%12'")'12$'&$)&$'12(1'
2I seek to represent my subject accurately and that I write as a
philosoW2$,'52%'6%99%5&'Y$&-&'%6'K(Z(,$12>'M'#%)X1'%@$,'('2"&1%,".(9'%!$,!"$5'
3of philosophy or a supposedly neutral review of other philosophers’
"#$(&>'[(12$,B'M'%@$,'(11$)1"!$',$(#$,&'(';%%#';,%-)#");'")'W2"9%&%W2 -
ical method and a range of philosophical topics of particular relevance to
the Christian worldview. Above all, I hope readers will fall in love with
philosophy and more in love with the Divine Subject who is the Ultimate
Object of the quest upon which we are about to embark.
I invite an inquisitorial attitude from readers:
Questioning means that your mind is hungry. If your body isn’t hungry,
you won’t eat, and if you don’t eat, you won’t grow. If your mind is not
2-);,8'D'"6'8%-'#%)X1'2(!$'5%)#$,'()#'12$'#$&",$'1%'0)%5'D'12$)'8%-'
5%)X1'(&0'\-$&1"%)&B'()#'"6'8%-'#%)X1'(&0'\-$&1"%)&B'8%-'5%)X1'4)#'1,-12'
D'()#'12(1'/$()&'12(1'8%-,'/")#'()#'&%-9'()#'&W","1'5%)X1';,%5>':,-12'"&'
4your mind’s food.
If you disagree with a conclusion, you must think my argument for
it commits a logical fallacy and/or that it rests upon at least one false
truth-claim. Those are the rules to which every disagreement should pay
respect. As the apostle Paul says: ‘Test everything. Hold on to the good’
(1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Part I (The Love of Wisdom) covers the nature and basic tools of
philosophy. Chapter 1 introduces philosophy as the love of wisdom. It
also looks at truth, knowledge and the relationship between faith and
reason. Chapter 2 looks at how philosophical arguments are supposed
to work. By illustrating a clutch of fallacies with quotes from prominent ntroduction
atheists, chapter 3 will show that certain so-called ‘sceptics’ could stand
a few lessons in logic.
<(,1'MM'N=%/$'?,;-/$)1&'6%,'7%#R'")1,%#-.$&'4!$'18W$&'%6'12$"&1".'
argument: cosmological, teleological, moral, ontological and experiential
N#%)X1'5%,,8'"6'8%-'4)#'&%/$'%6'12$&$'1$,/&'%@3W-11");>'I!$,8'&-+]$.1'
has specialist language, and philosophy is no exception. I’ll explain as we
go along). We’ll meet several other arguments for God in the context of
topics introduced by parts III and IV. As Peter Kreeft observes:
:2$'\-$&1"%)'%6'7%#'>'>'>'"&')%1'('&."$)1"4.'\-$&1"%)'>'>'>'12%-;2'&%/$'&."$)1"4.'
evidence is relevant to it . . . It is not a historical question . . . though some
historical evidence is relevant to it . . . It is a philosophical question, a question
about wisdom. Is it wise or unwise to believe we have an invisible Creator
5and Lord?
I think it’s wise to believe in God. Indeed, as a Christian I don’t just
believe in ‘an invisible Creator’, but in a God who personally invites us
to engage in an eternal relationship with him in and through Jesus Christ
(see my book Understanding Jesus: Five Ways to Spiritual Enlightenment,
Paternoster, 2011). History brings relevant data to the table here, but what
we make of historical data depends upon our philosophy.
<(,1'MMM'N:2$'<2"9%&%W28'%6'U")#R'"&'(+%-1'12$'4)"1$'/")#&'%6'$/+%#"$#'
persons. We’ll look at the relationship between mind and body, see how
mind points to God and investigate free will.
Part IV (Broadening Our Horizons) begins with the nature of beauty
and some arguments for God from beauty, before addressing key
objections to theism having to do with the relationship between science and
theology and with the existence of evil.
These chapters are laced with questions designed to cement and
deepen your understanding, as well as summary points and
recommended resources to watch, listen to and/or read. Each chapter ends
with some recommended resources (if you don’t know where to begin,
follow the * symbol). Many of these resources are online, and while the
URLs were correct at the time of writing I can’t guarantee their longevity.
It may be simpler to enter the author and title into your favourite ‘search
engine’. I don’t agree with everything I recommend, but at the very least I
think it has stimulating content. As these resources indicate, there’s more
to be said both for and against the thesis advanced herein than can be
covered in the space available.
This book is based, with permission, upon material written between
2008 and 2011 for the Good Book College’s short course modules on
‘Philosophy and Christian Belief’ (cf. www.thegoodbookcollege.co.uk/).
xxiv iIntroduction
I’d like to thank everyone who provided me with support and feedback
during the long writing and rewriting process, especially: Helen Thorne
(for editing much of the original material), commissioning editor Dr Mike
Parsons (for championing this project at Paternoster), copy- Mollie
Barker, production manager Peter Little, Chris Knight, Phil Lenton,
Sophie Lister, Luke Pollard, Lizzie Pollard and my parents.
Peter S. Williams
Southampton
March 2013
xxvPart I
The Love of Wisdom
Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason,
because bad philosophy needs to be answered.
C.S. Lewis, ‘The Weight of Glory’
Philosophy, remarks Alvin Plantinga with dry wit, is ‘just thinking hard
1about something.’ So ‘doing good philosophy will be a matter of learning
2to think well.’ Logic helps us think well, and ‘while many modern
anti-theists argue for the irrationality of religion, Jesus is an exemplar of
3reason, rationality and logic.’ Christians should emulate Jesus’
rationality as well as his morality'D'")#$$#'12$&$'\-(9"1"$&'(,$'")1$,9")0$#'N.6>'
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and entitled Logic: Or the Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry after Truth with
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text of its time, the standard one used at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and
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5in some twenty editions.’ Horner invites his audience to describe the
book’s author:
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philosopher, a logician. No one has suggested that the author was likely a pastor,
a theologian or a devotional writer. Or a writer of hymns. Yet the author of Logic
was all of those. His name is Isaac Watts . . . composer of such beloved works
as ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ and seven hundred
/%,$>'A$'5(&'(9&%'('W(&1%,'")'(.1"!$'/")"&1,8'()#'('&";)"4.()1'12$%9%;".(9'()#'
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Horner comments: ‘Those were days when Christians did not simply
assume that one must choose between a sharp mind and a passionate A Faithful Guide to Philosophy
7heart.’ Indeed, a passionate heart should be partially devoted to a sharp
mind, for as Proverbs observes: ‘Desire without knowledge is not good
D'2%5'/-.2'/%,$'5"99'2(&18'6$$1'/"&&'12$'5(8eX'NETSP' NIV) and ‘The heart
of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out’
(18:15 NIV). We should pray with the psalmist for God to teach us
‘knowledge and good judgment’ (Psalm 119:66 NIV). Amen.
21. Philosophy and Faith
The fear [i.e. awe] of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise
wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7).
Introduction: Searching Questions
1.1 What Is a Philosopher?
1.2 What Is Truth?
1.3 What Is Knowledge?
1.4 What Is the Relationship between Christian Faith and Philosophy?
1.5 Philosophy, Natural Theology and Beyond
Conclusion
Introduction: Searching Questions
Let’s begin with some searching questions:
f' Why should you believe in God when the world’s so full of pain?
f' Do you need to believe in God in order to be a good person?
f' How can you believe in God when there isn’t any evidence?
f' Does having faith in God mean ignoring reason?
These are the typical sorts of questions people ask about theism (belief in
God), and honest questions demand honest answers. Talking of honesty,
don’t Christians ask like these that deserve honest answers?
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^5A Faithful Guide to Philosophy Philosophy and Faith
life at its deepest, along with the best information possible on the most
10important matters.’
Philosophers seek to know and defend truth by thinking carefully and
arguing well. As medieval philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas
5,%1$S'V12$'15%6%9#'%k.$'%6'12$'5"&$'/()'l"&m'1%'/$#"(1$'()#'&W$(0'6%,12'
11. . . truth . . . and to refute the opposing error.’ According to the Bible,
people are created in the ‘image’ of God (Genesis 1:26) and so are all
#$&$,!");'%6',$&W$.1>'O-1'12$'V;%9#$)',-9$X'NH$!"1".-&'ETSEL^'U(,0'EPSaER'
(WW9"$&'%)98'1%'W$%W9$^' it doesn’t apply to ideas. Some ideas are better than
others, and should be treated as such. Applying the golden rule to ideas
12is the central mistake of postmodernism. For instance, the idea that all
ideas are equal is much worse than the idea that all ideas are not equal.
Hence philosophy is ‘the critical examination of the basis for
fundamental beliefs as to what is true, and the analysis of the concepts we use
13in expressing such beliefs.’
Of course, people disagree about which fundamental beliefs are true
and how best to articulate them. Christians must remember that they
should be ‘speaking the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15). Because we love our neighbour as ourselves, we should tolerate our
neighbour’s right to believe and argue for things with which we disagree. But
toleration doesn’t mean celebration. Indeed, one can only tolerate that
with which one disagrees: ‘Tolerance of the views of others [means] that
even though we might think those views wrong and will argue against
14 them, we will defend the rights of others to argue their cases.’ Proverbs
27:17 says:
As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.
There’s a sense in which the philosopher welcomes disagreement, but
only as a means to the end of discovering truth. The wise make their pursuit
of truth a communal activity: ‘philosophy is best done among groups
15where there is an authentic spirit of friendship or camaraderie.’
Philosophy is an art developed through practice. Philosophy isn’t
so much about learning a body of knowledge as it is about learning
good intellectual habits (of course, philosophers trust that good
intellectual habits increase our long-term chances of learning and defending a
body of philosophical knowledge). These good intellectual habits are
studied by rhetoricB'12$'(,1'%6';%%#'(,;-/$)1(1"%)'#$4)$#'+8'?,"&1%19$'
16as ‘the detection of the persuasive aspects of each matter.’ Rhetoric also
encompasses the principles of how best to communicate these objective
observations. Hence, as Stratford Caldecott comments: ‘Rhetoric . . . is
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bA Faithful Guide to Philosophy Philosophy and Faith
contrast, is a “second-order” activity, one that examines the
assump201"%)&'98");'+$2")#'4,&13%,#$,'(.1"!"1"$&>X
Once you’ve learned the rules of logic (cf. chapters 2 and 3),
philos%W28'"&'&"/W98'('/(11$,'%6'(WW98");'12$/'%!$,'()#'%!$,'(;(")'1%'#"@$,$)1'
&-+]$.1&^'52".2'"&'('+"1'9"0$'&(8");'12(1'%).$'8%-X!$'9$(,)$#'/-&".(9')%1( -
1"%)'()#'12$'4);$,");'%6'()'")&1,-/$)1B'+$");'('/-&"."()'"&']-&1'('/(11$,'
%6'(WW98");'12(1'0)%59$#;$'1%'%)$'W"$.$'%6'/-&".'(61$,'()%12$,e'<2"9%& -
ophy is an artistic discipline, and for the Christian it should be a spiritual
discipline. After all, Jesus endorsed the idea that true spirituality requires
one to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and . . . with all your
mind and with all your strength’ and to ‘love your neighbour as
your&$96X'NU(,0'EPSaFBaEB'/8'"1(9".&^'.6>'U(112$5'PPSaQBaT^'H-0$'EFSPQ^'b$-1$, -
onomy 6:5). Horner comments: ‘We use our minds for distinguishing
between truth and falsity, learning, evaluating, memorizing,
communicating, planning, inventing and deciding. In fact, we use our minds in
doing everything else that we do. Loving God with our mind, then, is all'%6'12%&$'12");&'D'12$'+$&1'5$'.()B'6%,'12$';9%,8'%6'7%#B'(&'()'
21expression of gratitude, love and worship of Him.’
Christians can and should philosophize with the ‘mind of Christ’:
To have ‘the mind of Christ’ . . . is to embrace and inhabit a way of life, within
a set of divine and human relationships characterized by faith, hope, and love.
To do philosophy with Christ’s mind is, minimally, to have Christ-like
attitudes, but it is also to work out the meaning of faithful, hopeful, and loving
relationships in one’s present circumstances . . . This involves philosophical
(.1"!"1"$&'12(1')%1'%)98'(,1".-9(1$'()#'#$6$)#'+$9"$6&'>'>'>'+-1'(9&%'%@$,'1%'J2,"& -
1"()'.%//-)"1"$&'12$'.9(,"4.(1"%)B'")1$,W,$1(1"%)'()#'.,"1".(9'(WW,("&(9'%6'12$",'
22beliefs.
Our ‘mind’ or ‘understanding’ is an essential element of our spirituality,
for as Glen Schultz explains: ‘At the foundation of a person’s life, we
4)#'2"&'+$9"$6&>':2$&$'+$9"$6&'&2(W$'2"&'!(9-$&B'()#'2"&'!(9-$&'#,"!$'2"&'
23actions.’ Thus Paul urges: ‘Do not conform . . . to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to
1$&1'()#'(WW,%!$'52(1'7%#X&'5"99'"&'D'2"&';%%#B'W9$(&");'()#'W$,6$.1'5"99X'
(Romans 12:2, my italics). However, we can’t engage our minds without
thereby engaging our whole selves. As Paul Copan observes: ‘the quest
6%,'5"&#%/'"&)X1'/$,$98'")1$99$.1-(9'6(.13;(12$,");^'"1X&'(9&%'(' virtuous
and spiritual endeavor, requiring certain attitudes and character
quali24ties.’ What Bill Smith says of Christian spirituality actually goes for all
spiritualities: ‘spirituality is holistic in the truest sense. It encompasses
reason and feeling . . . we need to proclaim and live a [spirituality] that
8 9Philosophy and Faith
integrates the mind (orthodoxy), the heart (orthopathy) and the hands
25 26(orthopraxy).’ All spiritualities (including atheistic spiritualities) can
be analyzed in terms of this three-part structure.
Fig. 1.
Spirituality =
Practices'Nj,12%W,(g8S'?.1"%)&'D'V&1,$);12XR
!
Attitudes'Nj,12%W(128S'?11"1-#$&'D'V2$(,1XR
!
Worldview'Nj,12%#%g8S'O$9"$6&'D'V/")#XR
Fig. 2. The relationships between spirituality, the transcendental values
and rhetoric
Transendental Classical Spirituality Judged by Communicated
byValues Rhetoric
EthosActions Judged by Goodness
by
PathosAttitudes Judged by Beauty Communicated
by
LogosBeliefs Judged by Truth
by
As theologian Alister McGrath comments:
We cannot allow Christ to reign in our hearts if he does not also guide our
thinking. The discipleship of the mind is just as important as any other part of
the process by which we grow in our faith and commitment. The defense of
the intellectual credibility of Christianity has become increasingly important
in recent years, not least on account of the rise of the new atheism. We must
see ourselves as standard-bearers for the spiritual, ethical, imaginative and
intellectual vitality of the Christian faith, working out why we believe that
.$,1(")'12");&'(,$'1,-$'()#'52(1'#"@$,$).$'12$8'/(0$'1%'12$'5(8'5$'9"!$'%-,'
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[\A Faithful Guide to Philosophy Philosophy and Faith
1.4 What Is the Relationship between Christian Faith and
Philosophy?
Truly loving God with your mind means being intentional about your
intellectual life, learning to think well.
44David A. Horner
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45absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence.’ Dawkins is right
to object to holding beliefs ‘in the teeth of evidence’ (assuming that
the counter-evidence is strong enough). However, he is wrong to think
that ‘faith’ means belief in the face of overwhelming counter-evidence.
McGrath comments that Dawkins’:
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fact, it is itself an excellent example of a belief tenaciously held and defended
‘in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence’ . . . the classic
Christian tradition has always valued rationality, and does not hold that faith
involves the complete abandonment of reason or believing in the teeth of
evidence. Indeed, the Christian tradition is so consistent on this matter that
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46trust’ from.
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of strong evidence to believe in. Indeed, sometimes it is belief in
some47thing that is contrary to the available evidence.’ Likewise, according to
A.C. Grayling, ‘faith is a commitment to belief contrary to evidence and
48reason.’ Both atheists misrepresent the story of doubting Thomas (John
PFSP`DaER'(&'$)#%,&");'V12$'W,")."W9$'12(1'"1'"&';%%#'1%'+$9"$!$'52(1'8%-'
49have no evidence to believe.’ However, Jesus commends people who
believe without having to see for themselves. He doesn’t commend those
who believe without evidence. Indeed, earlier in John’s gospel Jesus
challenged people to ‘believe on the evidence of the miracles’ (John 14:11, my
"1(9".&^'.6>'Y%2)'EES`PR>
Thomas wasn’t asked to believe without evidence. He was asked to believe
on the basis of the other disciples’ testimony. Thomas initially lacked the
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gives for recounting these events is that what he saw is evidence for the
truth of the gospel: ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence
of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written
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[] [bPhilosophy and Faith
&%/$'%6'12$/'+$.(/$'%+&1")(1$^'12$8',$6-&$#'1%'+$9"$!$'()#'W-+9".98'
maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and
had discussions'#("98'")'12$'9$.1-,$'2(99'%6':8,())-&X'N?.1&'ELS`^'ETSLDTR
f' Paul urges Christians to ‘stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be
infants, but in your thinking be adults’ (1 Corinthians 14:20)
f' Paul advises Christians: ‘Choose your words carefully and be ready
to give answers to anyone who asks questions’ (Colossians 4:6 CEV)
f' Peter commands Christians to ‘always be prepared to give an answer
to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you
have . . . with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15)
The Greek translated as ‘give an answer’ in 1 Peter 3:15 is apologia'D'6,%/'
which we get the word ‘apologetics.’ Apologetics isn’t apologizing in the
&$)&$'%6'&(8");'&%,,8e'?)'apologia is literally ‘a word back’, but the term
/$()&'('V#$6$).$X'%,'V!")#".(1"%)>X'?W%9%;$1".&'.()'+$'#$4)$#'(&'V12$'(,1'
of persuasively advocating Christian spirituality across spiritualities, as
objectively true, good and beautiful, through the responsible use of classical
57rhetoric.’ Apologetics is part of ‘spiritual warfare’ wherein we ‘demolish
arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of
God’ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Spiritual warfare ‘is against unbelief, not
unbe58lievers . . . [Its goal] is not victory but truth. Both sides win.’ The Bible is
clearly against belief contrary to evidence and reason. For example, Paul
says: ‘Test everything. Hold on to the good’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Norman L. Geisler and Paul D. Feinberg note that some Christians
are suspicious of philosophy and advise others to stay away from the
subject. However, this isn’t wise advice: ‘Christianity can stand up to the
intellectual challenge mounted against it. The result of such a challenge
should not be the loss of faith, but the priceless possession of a
well-rea59soned and mature faith.’ Failure to be aware of contemporary thought
patterns can have serious consequences for the Christian who avoids
philosophy, for ‘the Christian most likely to fall prey to false philosophy
60is the ignorant Christian.’ Indeed, in today’s message-saturated world
$!$,8%)$'5%-9#'+$)$41'6,%/'&%/$'W2"9%&%W2".(9'&(!!8>
Colossians 2:8 (ESV) warns against being taken ‘captive by philosophy
and empty deceit according to human tradition . . . and not according to
Christ,’ but this ‘is not a prohibition against philosophy as such, but against
>'>'>'('&W$."4.'6(9&$'W2"9%&%W28B'('0")#'%6'")."W"$)1'7)%&1"."&/'>'>'>'12$'#$4)"1$'
61article “this” in [the] Greek indicates a particular philosophy.’ Apostles
such as John and Paul clearly engage in philosophical activities (cf. John
E^'?.1&'EQRB'(&'#%$&'Y$&-&'2"/&$96>'7,%%12-"&'(,;-$&'12(1'Y$&-&X'%5)'-&$'
of reason ‘brings into serious question the indictment that Jesus praised
62uncritical faith over reasoning.’ With Mark Mittelberg:
17A Faithful Guide to Philosophy Philosophy and Faith
I would urge my fellow believers to not let go of one of the most important
things God has given us: logic, evidence, old-fashioned apologetics, which
Jesus often appealed to when he was questioned. He would say, ‘Don’t just
listen to my words, but look at my works, look at my miracles, look at the fact
12(1'M'(/'6-9499");'12$',%9$&'%6'12$'U$&&"(2'")'12$'W,%W2$."$&>'H%%0'1%'12$'6(.1'
that I will rise from the dead.’ And then to Thomas the doubter, he said, ‘Look
(1'12$'2%9$&'")'/8'2()#&'()#'")'/8'&"#$>'H%%0'(1'/$^'"1X&'Y$&-&>X'j!$,'()#'%!$,'
he pointed to the facts, the evidence, as did the apostles and other writers of
63Scripture.
1.5 Philosophy, Natural Theology and Beyond
Mortimer J. Adler observes that ‘more consequences for thought and
(.1"%)'6%99%5'6,%/'12$'(k,/(1"%)'%,'#$)"(9'%6'7%#'12()'6,%/'()&5$,");'
64any other basic question.’ Hence, after introducing the ground rules of
logic in the next two chapters, much of this book is dedicated to
examining various arguments for (and against) belief in God. For as John
65Wesley said in his ‘Address to the Clergy’:
Some knowledge of the sciences also, is, to say the least . . . expedient. Nay, may
we not say, that the knowledge of one . . . is even necessary next, and in order
to, the knowledge of the Scripture itself? I mean logic. For what is this, if rightly
understood, but the art of good sense, of apprehending things clearly, judging
truly, and reasoning conclusively? What is it, viewed in another light, but the
(,1'%6'9$(,)");'()#'1$(.2");^'52$12$,'+8'.%)!").");'%,'W$,&-(#");h'*2(1'"&'
there, then, in the whole compass of science, to be desired in comparison of it?
. . . Should not a Minister be acquainted too with at least the general grounds
of natural philosophy? Is not this a great help to the accurate understanding of
several passages of Scripture? Assisted by this, he may himself comprehend,
and on proper occasions explain to others, how the invisible things of God are
&$$)'6,%/'12$'.,$(1"%)'%6'12$'5%,9#^'2%5'V12$'2$(!$)&'#$.9(,$'12$';9%,8'%6'7%#B'
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The Catholic Church holds that ‘God . . . can, by the natural light of human
67 reason, be known with certainty from the works of creation.’ This
statement has generally been understood as giving the thumbs-up to ‘natural

12$%9%;8XB'52".2'Y%2)'<%90");2%,)$'#$4)$&'(&'V12$'(11$/W1'1%'9$(,)'&%/$thing of God from the exercise of reason and the inspection of the world
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[`A Faithful Guide to Philosophy Philosophy and Faith
* * *
Recommended Resources
Video
Fr. Barron. ‘Evangelizing Through Beauty’ http://youtu.be/bBMOwZFpZX0.
Geisler, Norman L. ‘Truth and Relativism’ http://youtu.be/kSLrK6cWcMM.
Groothuis, Douglas. ‘A Biblical View of Truth’ http://saddleback.com/mc/m/97a67/.
Lennox, John. ‘The Christian Use of the Mind’ http://johnlennox.org/index.php/en/
,$&%-,.$p12$r.2,"&1"()r-&$r%6r12$r/")#p>
tU%,$9()#B'Y><>'Vq("12'()#'[$(&%)X'555>!$,"1(&>%,;p:(90&>(&Wguep!pP_F>
— ‘What Is Truth?’ www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOJ9GDpQBUI&feature=related.
Neill, Conor. ‘The Three Pillars of Persuasion’ http://youtu.be/aEZWKkv48MY.
*Reynolds, John Mark. ‘Finding Christ in Culture’ http://vimeo.com/30333189.
— ‘The War of Worldviews’ http://youtu.be/6F5DE11X8yY.
Plantinga, Alvin. ‘Truth and Worldviews’ http://youtu.be/oz7zDliggYQ.
Strobel, Lee. ‘Faith Involves Doubt’
www.leestrobel.com/videoserver/video.php?clip=CCNT1687.
Willard, Dallas. ‘What Is Truth?’
www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7Mq6KNw9OQ&feature=relmfu.
*Williams, Peter S. ‘Apologetics in 3D’ http://vimeo.com/33805834.
*— ‘A Pre-Modern Perspective on Postmodernism: A Tale of Three Mirrors’ (Eastern
European Bible College)’ http://youtu.be/Mhf6-H6l2K4.
*— ‘Faith and Reason’ YouTube Playlist
www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQhh3qcwVEWgaO33qUCPRYWqkDn2nomC5.
Audio
7$"&9$,B' K%,/()' H>' VJ2,"&1"()&' ()#' <2"9%&%W28X' 211WSpp8%-12%6.+.>.%/pW%#.(&1r
item/21/27/Geisler+16+-+Christians+and+Philosophy.mp3.
Groothuis, Douglas. ‘Truth Decay’ www.thethingsthatmattermost.org/gallery06042006.
htm.
Horner, David A. ‘Apologetics 315 Interview’
http://j.mp/Apologetics315-InterviewDavidHorner.
Iona. ‘Wisdom’, from Journey into the Morn (Forefront, 1996)
http://youtu.be/TOXQFbHXYtM.
Moreland, J.P. ‘The Importance of the Christian Mind’ www.veritas.org/Media.
aspx#/v/62.
Ortberg, John. ‘Faith and Doubt’ www.thethingsthatmattermost.com/Sound/11-16-08.
mp3.
Willard, Dallas. ‘Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge’
www.thethingsthatmattermost.com/Sound/05-31-09.mp3.
*Williams, Peter S. ‘Understanding Spirituality: The Jesus Way’ (1st Delivery)
www.damaris.org/cm/podcasts/770 (2nd Delivery) www.damaris.org/cm/
podcasts/771.
20 21Philosophy and Faith
*— ‘Apologetics and Flourishing’ www.damaris.org/cm/podcasts/702.
— ‘Apologetics in 3D’ www.damaris.org/cm/podcasts/554.
*— ‘Blind Faith in Blind Faith’ www.damaris.org/cm/podcasts/618.
— ‘Interview on Apologetics in 3D’ www.damaris.org/cm/podcasts/556.
— ‘Introduction to Philosophy’ wwwg/cm/podcasts/527.
— ‘A Pre-Modern Perspective on Postmodernism: A Tale of Three Mirrors’ (Eastern
European Bible College) www.damaris.org/cm/podcasts/707.
— ‘The Values of Our Answers’ www.damaris.org/cm/podcasts/748.
Online papers
Copan, Paul. ‘True for You, but Not for Me’
www.bethinking.org/truth-tolerance/introductory/thats-true-for-you-but-not-for-me-relativism.htm.
Craig, William Lane. ‘In Intellectual Neutral’ www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?
page=NewsArticle&id=6597.
— ‘The Revolution in Anglo-American Philosophy’ www.reasonablefaith.org/site/
News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5352.
*DeWeese, Garry and Joseph E. Gorra. ‘Doing Philosophy as a Christian’ www.epsociety.
%,;p-&$,49$&pb$*$$&$rb%");r<2"9%&%W28rM)1$,!"$5>W#6>
Fellows, Andrew. ‘Recovering Goodness, Beauty and Truth’ www.labri.org/england/
,$&%-,.$&pF_F_PFFLp?qFPr7%%#)$&&rO$(-18raIC`qI>W#6>
7$"&9$,B'K%,/()'H>'V:2$'K(1-,$'%6':,-12S'<(,1'j)$X'555>()0$,+$,;>.%/p?,1".9$&pr
PDFArchives/theological-dictionary/TD1W1099.pdf.
v'V:2$'K(1-,$'%6':,-12S'<(,1':5%X'555>()0$,+$,;>.%/p?,1".9$&pr<bq?,.2"!$&p12$% -
logical-dictionary/TD2W1099.pdf.
Marian, David. ‘The Correspondence Theory of Truth’ http://plato.stanford.edu/
entries/truth-correspondence/.
*Moreland, J.P. ‘Academic Integration and the Christian Scholar’
http://ai.clm.org/arti.9$&p/%,$9()#r")1$;,(1"%)>21/9>
— ‘Christianity and Non-Empirical Knowledge’
www.jpmoreland.com/articles/christianity-and-non-empirical-knowledge/.
— ‘How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done about
M1X'555>0");#%/1,"();9$>.%/p#"&.-&&"%)p/%,$9()#rI!();j!$,J%//O"+9$>W#6>
— ‘Philosophical Apologetics, the Church, and Contemporary Culture’ www.afterall.
net/index.php/papers/23.
— ‘What Is Knowledge?’ www.jpmoreland.com/articles/what-is-knowledge/.
Moser, Paul. ‘Christ-Shaped Philosophy: Wisdom and Spirit United’ www.epsociety.org/
-&$,49$&p(,13U%&$,wPFwPLJ2,"&13=2(W$#wPF<2"9%&%W28wPT>W#6>
Plantinga, Alvin. ‘Advice to Christian Philosophers’ http://ai.clm.org/articles/
W9()1");(r(#!".$>21/9>
— ‘Christian Philosophy at the End of the 20th Century’ www.calvin.edu/academic/
W2"9%&%W28p!",1-(9r9"+,(,8p(,1".9$&pW9()1");(r(9!")p.2,"&1"()rW2"9%&%W28r(1r12$r
$)#r%6r12$rPF12r.$)1-,8>W#6>
v'V=W","1-(9'?-1%+"%;,(W28X'555>.(9!")>$#-pEP_12p5%91$,&1pWr+"%>W#6>
Weitnauer, Carson. ‘How Churches Can Respond to Doubt’ www.apologetics315.
.%/pPFEPpFLp2%531%3;$13(W%9%;$1".&3")38%-,3.2-,.23PraF>21/9u/%,$>
*$&9$8B'Y%2)>'V?)'?##,$&&'1%'12$'J9$,;8X'211WSpp5$&9$8>))->$#-p]%2)r5$&9$8pEF.9$,;8>21/>
*"99"(/&B'<$1$,'=>'V?'=.$W1".(9':$('<(,18X'211WSppW2"9%&%W28)%5>%,;p"&&-$&pP`p?r=.$W -
1".(9r:$(r<(,18>
21A Faithful Guide to Philosophy Philosophy and Faith
*— ‘Apologetics in 3D: Persuading across Spiritualities with the Apostle Paul’, D4&):-).
(2012:1) pp. 3-24,
www.bethinking.org/what-is-apologetics/advanced/apologetics-in-3d.htm.
Books
Beckwith, Francis J., William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, eds. To Everyone an Answer: A
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and the Necessity of Apologetics’.
Beilby, James and David K. Clark. Why Bother with Truth? Arriving at Knowledge in a
Skeptical Society (Norcross, GA: RZIM, 2000).
Boa, Kenneth and Robert Bowman Jr. B!%'4"7!."E'."+&!.)2.F"E2'&1$!'%@&"5==$)!;4&."')"
Defending the Christian Faith (Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2006)
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Clark, Kelly James, ed. Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of 11 Leading Thinkers
(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1993).
DeWeese, Garrett J. Doing Philosophy as a Christian'Nb%5)$,&'7,%!$B'MH^'Mi<'?.(#$/".B'
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Evans, C. Stephen. Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion (Downers
Grove, IL: IVP, 2002).
Groothuis, Douglas. On Jesus (London: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2003).
— Truth Decay: Defending Christianity against the Challenges of Postmodernism (Leicester:
IVP, 2000).
Horner, David A. Mind Your Faith: A Student’s Guide to Thinking and Living Well (Downers
Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011).
Kostenberger, Andreas, ed. G4!'&@&$"7!==&2&0"')"D$,'4H (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005).
Koukl, Gregory. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions (Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).
Levin, Margarita Rosa. ‘A Defence of Objectivity.’ Pages 549-559 in Classics of Philosophy:
Volume III – The Twentieth Century'N$#>'H%-"&'<>'<%]/()^'jg6%,#'s)"!$,&"18'<,$&&B'PFFER>
McGrath, Alister. The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind
(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2010).
Moreland, J.P. The Kingdom Triangle (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007) cf.
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— Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Colorado
=W,");&B'JjS'K(!<,$&&B'P)#'$#)B'PFEPR^'6%,'E&1'$#)'.6>'555>)(!W,$&&>.%/p"/(;$&p
pdfs/9781576830161.pdf.
*— and Mark Matlock. Smart Faith: Loving Your God with All Your Mind (Colorado Springs,
CO: Think, 2005).
Morris, Thomas V., ed. God and the Philosophers: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason
(Oxford University Press, 1994).
U-$292%@B':"/'()#':%##'i>'H$5"&>' Authentic Communication: Christian Speech Engaging
Culture (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010).
Pearcey, Nancy. Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals and
Meaning (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2010).
Reynolds, John Mark. When Athens Met Jerusalem: An Introduction to Classical and Christian
Thought (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009).
Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (New York:
HarperOne, 2009).
22 23Philosophy and Faith
Williams, Peter S. Understanding Jesus: Five Ways to Spiritual Enlightenment (Milton Keynes:
Paternoster Press, 2011).
Wood, W. Jay. Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous (Leicester: Apollos, 1998).

232. Making a Good Argument
Another part of my trade, too, made me sure that you weren’t a priest . . . You
attacked reason . . . It’s bad theology.
1Father Brown
Introduction: Common Ground
2.1 The Laws of Reason
2.2 The Noetic Structure of Basic and Non-Basic Beliefs
2.3 Properly Basic Beliefs
2.4 Faith in Reason
2.5 How Arguments Work
2.6 Three Tests for a Good Argument
2.7 How Strong Is Your Argument?
Conclusion
Introduction: Common Ground
When Paul wanted to talk about Jesus with fellow Jews, he began where
they were: on the common ground of the Hebrew Scriptures. When he
wanted to introduce Jesus to Greeks in Athens, the Hebrew Scripture
was no longer common ground. Paul still began where his audience was,
2but he quoted from Greek philosophers and poets (cf. Acts 17). Paul’s
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! Look for common ground when arguing
Some common ground takes the form of language, or culture (like the
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common ground runs deeper than that: ‘philosophy, whatever else it
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is a great victory in itself, because it is a response to what is best. To recognize
an argument as sound, and to defer to it, or to grasp the justice of another’s
6cause and to make way for it, are likewise victorious defeats.
2.1 The Laws of Reason
Philosophers often disagree concerning what the truth about reality is,
but this disagreement presupposes that there is such a thing as ‘truth,’
that humans can know truth (even if we don’t know how we know),
that beliefs that contradict the truth are false and that self-contradictory
beliefs (e.g. ‘I know it is true that knowledge is impossible’) cannot be
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poses a fundamental agreement about truth, knowledge and the rules by
which they can and should be pursued.
Aquinas pointed out that from the mere acceptance that there is a fact
followed the truths of logical thought. He observed that a ‘something’ is
a something rather than a nothing. He therefore insisted that along with
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enters the possibility of contradiction (i.e. ‘No, it isn’t’). That is, the reality
of being entails the nature of truth (correspondence with being) and
falsehood (contradiction of being). As G.K. Chesterton explains, the instant we
admit that ‘there is an Is’:
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a thing cannot be and not be. Henceforth, in common or popular language,
there is a false and true. I say in popular language, because Aquinas is nowhere
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The basic laws of reason, revealed by the recognition that ‘there is an Is’,
include:
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YbA Faithful Guide to Philosophy
How fundamental a belief is in one’s noetic structure depends upon
how many other beliefs are based upon it. The more your noetic structure
would change if you gave up a belief, the more fundamental that belief is
for you. A belief in the usefulness of the umbrella isn’t particularly
fundamental in anyone’s noetic structure.
Some beliefs in one’s noetic structure are unsupported by any other
beliefs. These are ‘basic beliefs.’ A basic belief is a belief ‘that one holds
12but not on the basis of other beliefs that one holds.’ Basic beliefs form
the foundation of one’s noetic structure. For example, your belief that
‘being rained on makes you wet’ probably isn’t something you believe on
the basis of other, more foundational beliefs. Rather, it’s something you
believe simply because you remember getting wet in the rain. Indeed,
memories and perceptual beliefs are both prime examples of basic belief.
Perceptual beliefs are acquired immediately, without being based upon
other beliefs: ‘one simply":20.")2&.&-*"I&-%&@%21 the sky is blue when one
is in the appropriate circumstances: one is outside, one looks at the sky, and
13the sky is blue.’ Likewise, I don’t argue my way to the conclusion that I
2(#'.%@$$'5"12'6,"$)#&'8$&1$,#(8>'M'&"/W98' remember'#,")0");'.%@$$'5"12'
friends yesterday.
Notice that while I could'(,;-$'12(1'M'2(#'.%@$$'5"12'6,"$)#&'8$&1$,#(8'
(e.g. by doing some forensic science), I don’t need an argument in order
to make my memory-based belief that I did (or your belief that I did,
based on my testimony) a rational belief. Some basic beliefs simply are
not held on the basis of other beliefs, even though they could be. Other
basic beliefs (e.g. belief in the laws of reason) cannot be held on the basis
of other beliefs. Either way, basic beliefs provide a basis for holding
other, ‘non-basic’ beliefs. Such ‘non-basic’ beliefs are, of course, always
held on the basis of other beliefs (and however long or short, the chain
of beliefs always track back to basic beliefs). Hence: ‘Some of our beliefs
are basic, beliefs not believed on the basis of other beliefs we hold, and
some beliefs are non-basic, beliefs that are acquired and maintained by
14the evidential support of other beliefs.’ In the case of basic beliefs,
15V%)$'&"/W98'4)#&'%)$&$96'+$9"$!");'12$/'")'.$,1(")'.",.-/&1().$&>X By
contrast, one always comes to hold non-basic beliefs on the basis of
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considering arguments.
!"Non-basic beliefs depend upon other beliefs, but basic beliefs don’t
28 29Making a Good Argument
2.3 Properly Basic Beliefs
As a matter of fact, a basic belief isn’t held on the basis of other beliefs
(even if it could be held on the basis of other beliefs). However, the mere
fact of being held basically doesn’t necessarily make a belief rational or
‘warranted’ (let alone true). We might say that although a given basic
belief isn’t supported by other beliefs, it should be, in the sense that it
is irrational in the absence of such non-basic support. For example,
someone might have a basic belief that a certain set of numbers will come
up trumps in next week’s lottery. The mere fact that this belief is basic
(i.e. isn’t supported by any other beliefs they hold) doesn’t mean that it’s
(',(1"%)(9'+$9"$6e'<2"9%&%W2$,&'12$,$6%,$'#"&1");-"&2'+$15$$)'+(&".'+$9"$6&'
that are and are not properly basic, where being ‘properly basic’ means
being ‘a belief that it is rational to hold basically’ (i.e. without supporting
beliefs).
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friends yesterday for my memory-based belief that I did to be reasonable.
Hence, unlike a basic belief that a certain set of numbers will win next
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‘properly basic belief’, a basic belief that’s prima facie (i.e. ‘on the face of
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because I remember doing so.
!"A ‘properly basic belief’ is any belief that’s rational to hold without its
being based on any other beliefs
Like memory-beliefs, fundamental moral beliefs are ‘properly basic’:
‘Somewhere in one’s moral reasoning one reaches a set of beliefs that are
+$(,$,&'%6'")1,")&".'!(9-$^'12$8'(,$')%1'!(9-$#'(&'('/$()&'1%'&%/$'%12$,'
end or for some extrinsic reason. At this level one reaches one’s basic
16moral beliefs.’ Many other kinds of beliefs are properly basic: ‘There
are, for example, elementary truths of logic . . . There are certain
mathematical beliefs. And there are certain framework or fundamental beliefs such
as I&-%&*"%2"!2"&?'&$2!-"9)$-0J"I&-%&*"%2"'4&".&-* , etc. These are foundational
17beliefs that we typically reason from and not to.’
In short, many beliefs appear to be rational without their being based
on other beliefs (even if some of them can be based on other beliefs). Such
beliefs are ‘properly basic’ or ‘warranted’ beliefs.
The existence of some properly basic beliefs in our noetic structure is a
necessity. As Roy Clouser argues:
29A Faithful Guide to Philosophy
it is impossible that the only beliefs we have the right to be certain about are the
ones that we have proven . . . First, if everything needed to be proven, then
the premises of every proof would also need to be proven. But . . . it makes
)%'&$)&$'1%'#$/()#'12(1'$!$,812");'+$'W,%!$)'+$.(-&$'()'")4)"1$',$;,$&&'%6'
proofs is impossible. So when the premises of an argument are themselves
in need of proof, the series of arguments needed to prove its premises must
eventually end with an argument whose premises are all ‘basic’, that is, not
in need of proof . . . not all beliefs need proof, and proving anything depends
on having beliefs that don’t need it . . . A second reason why not every belief
needs proof is that the rules for drawing inferences correctly . . . cannot
themselves have proofs because they are the very rules we must use in order to
prove anything. If we were to use them to construct proofs of themselves, the
proofs would already be assuming the truth of the very rules we were trying
1%'W,%!$e'=%'W,%%6&')$$#'+$9"$6'")'-)W,%!$)' rules as well as premises that we
18can know without proof . . .
Clouser uses the term ‘intuition’ to describe ‘our [fallible] capacity to
,$.%;)"Z$'('&1(1$'%6'(@(",&'(&'")'6(.1'12$'.(&$'()#'1%'6%,/'12$'+$9"$6'12(1'"1'
19is so without any mediating process of reasoning.’
A properly non-basic belief is a belief it is within one’s epistemic rights
(‘epistemic’ comes from the same root as ‘epistemology’, meaning ‘theory
of knowledge’) to hold on the basis of the relationship between other beliefs
that one has an epistemic right to hold. For example, because I believe that
Socrates is a man and that all men are mortal, I am within my epistemic
rights to hold the non-basic belief that Socrates is mortal. A properly basic
belief is a basic belief that one is within one’s epistemic rights to hold in a
basic manner (e.g. without its being held in a properly non-basic manner). For
example, because I remember that rain is wet, I am within my epistemic
rights in believing that rain is wet.
While it would obviously be irrational to pick basic beliefs at random
(since we know this is an unreliable method of belief formation), the class
of properly basic beliefs is nevertheless larger than the basic laws of logic
beloved of the ‘rationalist’ or the basic data of sense impressions beloved
of the ‘empiricist.’ Beliefs that appear to be properly basic should be
accepted as such ,2'%-"!20",2-&.."'4&$&"%.".,K;%&2'"$&!.)2"')"0),I'"'4&8A"
Many properly basic beliefs are open to defeat by stronger evidence, but
the burden of proof is always on the sceptic rather than the believer.
Properly basic beliefs that aren’t open to defeat by stronger evidence
because they cannot be doubted (e.g. because they are self-contradictory
to doubt) might be called ‘inescapably properly basic’ beliefs. Not all
properly basic beliefs are inescapable (perhaps you could prove I was
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\[A Faithful Guide to Philosophy
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21proof lies with the interlocutor . . .
Many of our beliefs appear to be properly basic and require no argument,
even if they can be argued for. Some of our properly basic beliefs (e.g.
in the laws of logic) cannot be rationally doubted (and hence cannot be
(,;-$#'6%,R'D'12$8'(,$'V")$&.(W(+98'W,%W$,98'+(&".>X
!"An ‘inescapably properly basic’ belief is a properly basic belief that’s
self-contradictory to doubt
Other properly basic beliefs can be doubted, but the burden of proof
always rests with the doubter.
!"The burden of proof is always on the person who doubts a properly
basic belief
Whether one is debating the merits of a basic belief, or thinking about
non-basic beliefs, the ability to argue well according to the laws of reason
is key for the practice of philosophy.
2.5 How Arguments Work
Humans communicate many things in many ways (e.g. with spoken
and written words, pictures, sign language, body language, and even
with music). Sometimes we communicate ‘propositions.’ A proposition
is a proposal about how things are. In other words, a proposition is the
claim that a particular understanding of reality is true. For a particular
understanding of reality to be true is for it to correspond to the facts.
For example, asked if I am happy, I may claim that I am. I may claim
this by nodding and smiling, by saying or writing ‘I’m happy’ in various
languages, etc. However I make this claim, my claim has the same
‘propositional content’ (that I am happy). If I claim to be happy when I am
happy, my claim is true. If I claim to be happy when I am not, my claim
is false.
Philosophers pay particular attention to our use of language to discover
and express truth. Because language can communicate more than ‘body
language’ it can also miscommunicate more. You probably wouldn’t
mistake my smile for my name. But if I say ‘I’m happy’, you might think
‘Happy’ is my name rather than my frame of mind (perhaps I know a girl
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\_ \^Making a Good Argument
1) Fred is a human
2) Eventually, all humans die
3) Therefore, eventually, Fred will die
4) Fred will die eventually (the conclusion of the previous syllogism)
5) Dead men don’t talk
6) Therefore, eventually, Fred won’t talk
It would be more usual to condense such an argument like this:
1) Fred is a human
2) Eventually, all humans die
3) Eventually, Fred will die
4) Dead men don’t talk
5) Therefore, eventually, Fred won’t talk
Here step 3 in the argument (‘Eventually, Fred will die’) is both the
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2.6 Three Tests for a Good Argument
A philosopher considering an argument will ask whether it passes three tests:
f' Are all the premises clear (intelligible and unambiguous)?
f' Does the conclusion really follow (with logical validity) from the
premises?
f' Are all the premises true?
If the premises are unclear, then either no argument has been given
(because it’s unintelligible) or the argument is in danger of being invalid
due to an ambiguity in its terms (in which case one would want to see
how the argument fares when this ambiguity is ironed out).
If the premises are clear but the conclusion doesn’t follow from them,
then the argument is unsound due to logical invalidity. Committing a
logical ‘fallacy’ like this makes the argument ‘fallacious.’
If the premises are clear and the conclusion would be true if the
premises were true (the argument is logically valid), but one or more of the
premises are not true, then the argument is still unsound.
For an argument to work, everything'")'"1'2(&'1%'5%,0^'"6']-&1'%)$'12");'
goes wrong, then the argument fails. Think of the three tests above as
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Yes
Unsound
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Yes
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NoAre all the premises
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Yes
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\] \bMaking a Good Argument
questions. If we’re sure that the answer is ‘yes’ in every case, then we
should be sure that the conclusion is true. But suppose we are only pretty
sure that Fred is a man (rather than an alien). In that case, we could only
be pretty sure about our on the basis of this argument (we might
nevertheless be sure about the truth of the conclusion on other grounds).
For an argument to be a good argument:
it isn’t required that we have 100% certainty of the truth of the premises. Some
of the premises in a good argument may strike you as only slightly more
plausible than their denials . . . But so long as a statement is more plausible than
its negation, then you should believe it rather than its negation, and so it may
serve as a premise in a good argument . . . The question is not whether the
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the question is whether the denial is as plausible or more plausible than the
23premise. If it isn’t, then we should believe the premise.
We might think that Fred is probably a man because he looks like a
man, and things that look like men usually are. But suppose someone
presented us with an argument strong enough to convince us that that
premise 1 (‘Fred is a man’) is probably false (they might show us a video
of an alien putting on its realistic-looking ‘Fred’ disguise). Nevertheless,
we might argue:
Premise 1) ‘Fred’ is biologically alive
Premise 2) Everything biologically alive dies
Conclusion) Therefore, ‘Fred’ will die
Whether or not Fred is an alien, we can be more certain of Fred’s eventual
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it is to doubt that he is a man (Fred’s being alive is a more
fundamental belief within our noetic structure than is his being a man).
An argument asks one to choose between:
a) accepting the conclusion
b) rejecting the clarity of at least one premise
c) rejecting the logical validity of the argument
d) rejecting the truth of at least one premise
You could think of an argument as a set of weighing scales with a
conclusion in one balance pan connected via the logical mechanism of the scales to
two or more propositions in the remaining balance pan. A good argument
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\a \`Making a Good Argument
Conclusion
Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli summarize how arguments work:
The inherent structure of human reason manifests itself in three acts of the
mind: 1) understanding, 2) judging and 3) reasoning. These three acts of the
mind are expressed in 1) terms, 2) propositions and 3) arguments. Terms are
either clear or unclear. Propositions are either true or untrue. Arguments are logically valid or invalid. A term is clear if it is intelligible and
unambiguous. A proposition is true if it corresponds to reality . . . An argument is
27valid if the conclusion follows necessarily from the premise.
They observe: ‘To disagree with the conclusion of any argument, it must
be shown that either an ambiguous term or false premise or logical fallacy
28exists in the argument.’ Of course, the fact that an argument is unsound
doesn’t necessarily mean that its conclusion is false, only that the
conclusion is unsupported by this particular argument.
* * *
Recommended Resources
Video
Craig, William Lane. ‘What Is a Properly Basic Belief?’ http://youtu.be/4b7pQ3v4T2A.
Plantinga, Alvin. ‘Sure Faith without Proof or Argument’ http://youtu.be/oygakf85XUE.
— ‘What Is a Properly Basic Belief?’ http://youtu.be/f7377jU2a8Y.
*Williams, Peter S. ‘Critical Thinking’
www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQ3qcwVEWjunXMo96VWNyJgx-XAn8fp.
Audio
Nash, Ronald. ‘The Law of Non-Contradiction’
www.biblicaltraining.org/law-non-contradiction/christian-apologetics.
*Williams, Peter S. ‘A Good Argument’ www.damaris.org/cm/podcasts/731.
— ‘That’s a Good Argument’ www.damaris.org/cm/podcasts/596.
Online papers
Auten, Brian. ‘A Basic Logic Primer’
www.apologetics315.com/2009/05/basic-logicprimer.html.
Clark, James Kelly. ‘Religious Epistemology’ www.iep.utm.edu/relig-ep/.
39A Faithful Guide to Philosophy
tv'V*"12%-1'I!"#$).$'%,'?,;-/$)1X'555>.(9!")>$#-p(.(#$/".pW2"9%&%W28p!",1-(9r
9"+,(,8p(,1".9$&p.9(,0r0$998r]p5"12%-1r$!"#$).$r%,r(,;-/$)1>W#6>
*Chesterton, G.K. ‘Philosophy for the Schoolroom’
www.chesterton.org/discover-chesterton/selected-works/the-philosopher/philosophy-for-the-schoolroom/.
Moreland, J.P. ‘How Did Jesus Argue? Jesus and Logic’ www.scriptoriumdaily.
com/2007/08/06/how-did-jesus-argue-jesus-logic/.
Plantinga, Alvin. ‘Intellectual Sophistication and Basic Belief in God’ www.leaderu.com/
truth/3truth03.html.
v'V[$(&%)'()#'O$9"$6'")'7%#X'211WSppW2"9%&%W28>)#>$#-pW$%W9$p(99pW,%49$&pW9()1") -
ga-alvin/documents/ReasonandBelief.pdf.
Willard, Dallas. ‘Jesus the Logician’ www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=39.
Books
Adler, Mortimer J."7)9"')"L=&!MN7)9"')"O%.'&2 (New York: Macmillan, 1983).
— and Charles Van Doren."7)9"')"+&!0"!"P))MF"D4&"Q-!..%;"/,%0&"')"E2'&--%1&2'"+&!0%21 (New
York: Touchstone, rev. edn, 1972).
*Carter, Joe and John Coleman. 7)9"')"5$1,&"O%M&"R&.,.F"O&!$2%21"S&$.,!.%)2"*$)8"7%.')$(T."
Greatest Communicator (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009).
DeWeese, Garrett J. and J.P. Moreland. S4%-).)=4("U!0&"L-%14'-("O&.."V%K;,-'"W Downers
Grove, IL: IVP, 2005).
Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald Brooks. Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical
Thinking (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1990).
Geisler, Norman L. and Paul D. Feinberg. Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1997).
Moreland, J.P. and William Lane Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview
(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2003).
Shand, John. Arguing Well (London: Routledge, 2000).
Stokes, Mitch. 5"L4)'")*"B!%'4"')"'4&"7&!0F"P&"!"Q)2:0&2'"P&-%&@&$"%2"!2"51&")*"Q$!2M("5'4&%.'."
(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012).
403. Making a Bad Argument
The study of logic increases one’s ability to understand,
analyse, evaluate, and construct arguments.
1C. Stephen Layman
Introduction
3.1 Self-Contradiction
3.2 Formal Fallacies
3.2.1 Modus ponens !"#$"%&'()"*++,"+-"./0*12345
3.2.2 Modus tollens"!"#6"%&'()"*++,"+-",)2712345
3.2.3 Disjunctive syllogism – DS
3.3 Combining Forms
3.4 A Dozen Informally Bad Ways to Argue
3.4.1 False dilemma
3.4.2 The genetic fallacy
3.4.3 Ad hominem
3.4.4 The abuse of authority
3.4.5 Rash generalization
3.4.6 Begging the question
3.4.7 Double standard
3.4.8 Shifting the burden of proof
3.4.9 Equivocation
" 89:9;<"#1=>=123"?@@.*4="0.A+0
3.4.11 Argument from ignorance
3.4.11.1 Gaps, ignorance and God
3.4.12 Straw man
Conclusion
Introduction
Suppose you responded to a request to provide some reason for belief
in the existence of God by stating, ‘The Cosmological Argument . . . is
a philosophical argument for the existence of God which explains that
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Unfortunately, this way of putting the argument is fallacious. That
is, it fails to support its conclusion because it commits a logical fallacy.
The problem in this instance is that if ‘everything has a cause’ then any
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cosmological argument contradicts itself.
This chapter will provide you with a working knowledge of some common
ways in which arguments can go wrong. Let’s start with the most important
way in which an argument or assertion can go wrong (the fallacy committed
by the cosmological argument examined above): self-contradiction.
3.1 Self-Contradiction
If a statement applies to itself and fails to meet its own conditions for
truth or rationality, then it’s ‘self-contradictory’ and it cannot be true. For
example, the claim ‘There is no truth’ is self-contradictory, for it is a
truthclaim (a claim that reality is a certain way) which claims that it is true that
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According to physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow,
‘philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern
developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers
3of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.’ But as John C.
Lennox points out: ‘Hawking’s statement about philosophy is itself a
philosophical statement. It is manifestly not a statement of science: it is
a metaphysical statement about science. Therefore, his statement that
4philosophy is dead contradicts itself.’
The claim ‘You should never believe anything without evidence’ is
self-contradictory. If we ask why we should believe it, no evidence can
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ask, ‘And why should we believe that?’) The assertion that we should
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to meet its own standard of rational acceptability. In other words, this
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believe anything on account of evidence).
Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote:
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But what about invalid'(,;-/$)1&h'H$1'-&'4,&1'%6'(99'.%)&"#$,'12,$$' valid
forms of syllogism and the formal logical fallacies that might be made
when using them:
3.2.1 Modus ponens!"!#$!%&'()!*++,!+-!./0*12345
In modus ponens one !K$8. that the truth of an antecedent (i.e. prior)
truth-claim (P) ought to lead one to !K$8 the truth of a consequent
truth-claim (Q), and one !K$8. the truth of the antecedent truth-claim
(P) in order to thereby !K$8 the truth of the consequential truth-claim
(Q). The antecedent truth-claim (P) is, as it were, the ancestor of (that
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syllogistic form:
1. If P then Q (#$$Q)
2. P
3. Therefore, Q
For example:
1. If it is raining (P) then it is wet (Q)
2. It is raining (P)
3. Therefore, it is wet (Q)
Or:
1. If you have faith in Jesus Christ (P) then you are saved (Q)
2. You have faith in Jesus Christ (P)
3. Therefore, you are saved (Q)
Jesus implicitly used this modus ponens form of argument when
responding to John the Baptist’s question: ‘Are you the one who was
to come, or should we expect someone else?’ (Matthew 11:3). Jesus
sends John a message: ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and
see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy
are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is
preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on
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_^A Faithful Guide to Philosophy Making a Bad Argument
For example:
1. If it is raining, then it is wet
2. But it isn’t wet
3. Therefore, it isn’t raining
Or:
1. If Jesus’ claim to divinity was insincere (P), then he was a bad man (Q)
2. But Jesus was not a bad man (~Q)
3. Therefore, Jesus’ claim to divinity was not insincere (~P)
Which is to say that Jesus’ claim to divinity was sincere.
The formal fallacy associated with MT is called denying the antecedent:
1. If P, then Q
2. Not P
3. Therefore, not Q
For example:
1. If it is raining, then it is wet
2. It isn’t raining
3. Therefore, it isn’t wet
But of course, it might be wet without rain (perhaps a water main has
burst).
3.2.3 Disjunctive syllogism – DS
In a disjunctive syllogism one claims concerning some particular
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then one claims that all of the alternative answers &?;&='")2&" are false,
in order to justify the conclusion that the only remaining answer must
be true. This is an indirect way of arguing for something by a process of
elimination. The simplest form of this type of argument is when there are
only two competing truth-claims, and so the elimination of one
necessarily concedes victory to the other, like so:
1. Either P or Q (PvQ)
2. Not P (~P)
3. Therefore, Q
46 47Making a Bad Argument
For example:
1. Jesus’ claim to divinity was either insincere or sincere (PvQ)
2. Jesus’ claim to divinity wasn’t insincere (~P)
3. Therefore, Jesus’ claim to divinity was sincere (Q)
But of course, there may be many alternative options that need to be
taken into account, like so:
1. Either P or Q or R or S or T
2. Not P or R or S or T
3. Therefore, Q
The formal logical mistake to watch out for with a DS is a contradiction
between the conclusion and the second premise. For example:
1. Either P or Q
2. Not P
3. Therefore, P
Premise 2 and the conclusion can’t both be true since the claim that they
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Fig 1: Formally valid and associated formally invalid argument forms
Modus Ponents Modus Tollens Disjunctive
Syllogism
Formally Valid If P, then Q Of P, then Q Either P or Q
P Not Q Not P
Therefore, Q Therefore, not P Therefore, Q
Formally Invalid Of P, then Q If P, then Q Either P or Q
Q Not P Not P
Therefore p Therefore, not Q Therefore, P
3.3 Combining Forms
The more likely mistake with a DS syllogism is reliance upon a false
dilemma (wherein P and Q are not the only alternatives and so eliminating
P doesn’t justify the conclusion Q). For example, the critic might suggest
that Jesus’ presumed claim to divinity could be legendary (i.e.
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_`A Faithful Guide to Philosophy Making a Bad Argument
than from its logical form or structure: ‘Formal fallacies are types of
deductive argument that instantiate an invalid inference pattern [see above].
Informal fallacies [see below] are types of . . . argument the premises of
11which fail to establish the conclusion because of their content.’
3.4.1 False dilemma
A false dilemma occurs ‘when someone sets up a dichotomy [a choice]
in such a way that it appears there are only two possible conclusions
12when in fact there are further alternatives not mentioned.’ For example,
atheist Roy Hattersley argues as follows:
God is in this room because God is everywhere. ‘Well, if God’s in this room,
what does he sound like?’ Well, you can’t hear him. ‘If God’s in this room,
what does he look like?’ Well, you can’t see him. ‘If God’s in this room, what
would he feel like if you touched him?’ Well, you can’t touch him. And then
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not being in this room?’ And there’s no answer to the question. And that’s
good enough, for me, to convince me that he isn’t in this room, or anywhere
13else.
Hattersley’s argument uses a disjunctive syllogism:
1. Either God can be detected directly by our physical senses, or he
doesn’t exist
2. God can’t be detected directly by our physical senses
3. Therefore, God doesn’t exist
This argument is formally valid (there’s no contradiction between the
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However, premise 1 is a false dilemma. Premise 1 should read:
1. a) Either God can be detected directly by our physical senses, or he
doesn’t exist, or God exists without being directly detectable by our
physical senses
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2. God can’t be detected directly by our physical senses
is:
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