To the extent that attempts are made in order to distinguish between the “evidentialist” and “classical” schools of apologetics, in an effort to salvage the “classical” method, these distinctions nevertheless fail to dodge the criticisms leveled at evidentialism by Van Tilian presuppositionalists. It shouldn’t strike us as very coincidental that the problem presuppositionalists have with the classical/evidentialist methods primarily concerns the presuppositions of these methods. Furthermore, that practitioners of either the classical or evidentialist methods borrow aspects from presuppositionalism (which I would argue is inevitable as long as the practitioner is at least to some extent devoted to sola scriptura) does not entail an overlap between the methods themselves. What it does entail is inconsistency between principle and practice in the practitioner himself. And once again, as an aside, “using evidence” is not the same as “evidentialism” as a method, and so it isn’t inconsistent for a presuppositionalist to use evidence, so long as he is presenting it with definite biblical presuppositions in mind.
Probability theory and probabilistic logic are used to address the problem of uncertainty. In other words, the use of probabilistic reasoning presupposes a level of “uncertainty.” For many things in the world, we can and must use probabilistic reasoning, because we simply do not (and cannot) know many things for certain. For instance, we cannot know for certain that crackers exist behind a closed pantry door. We can surmise, given past experience (maybe we saw them there before the door closed), that it is likely they are still there. But, while our senses are reliable, they are not infallible. While our understanding of logic and science is generally uniform, we are not always conscious of the consistency with which we utilize those things. And so, there is a pervasive, implicit “likely” attached to every claim of truth or knowledge that we make, with notable exceptions. The only way to know anything for certain, then, is to know *everything* for certain at every point in time, infallibly. Or, take the word of One who does. The Bible and everything it contains can be known for absolutely certain as it is unequivocally the very Word of God of the Universe. For instance, we can know for certain that Jesus died on the Cross. To put the Bible aside and opt for some probabilistic standard is to reject the very authority of the Word of God. The existence of God should not be granted the same level of uncertainty that the existence of crackers in the pantry has. Indeed, we shouldn’t impose a level of uncertainty upon the existence of God at all because knowledge of God is qualitatively different from knowledge of physical (or more precisely, created) objects. To argue probabilistically for the existence of God is to say God’s own Word is not sufficient for knowledge of God.
To say, “There is a high probability that God exists,” is to say, “There exists at least some probability that God does not exist.” It puts a question onto that which Romas 1 says is unquestionable. Can this possibly be considered anything other than sinful? At this point I see no alternative.
As Joshua Whipps has skillfully articulated, the foundations of the evidentialist and classical apologetic methods as such rely on a Romanist conception of Natural Theology in contradistinction to the Reformed conception of the same. Both apologetic methods assume man’s autonomy in some sense, over against the sufficiency of Scripture. While the evidentialist method relies on the presentation of individual evidences (and “cumulative case” relies on the cumulation of these individual evidences), the classical method, while not using evidences individually, nevertheless refer to perhaps metaphysical concepts which are then offered as being “evident” or “self-evident.” However, with both “evidences” and “things that are evident or self-evident,” these methods still appeal to unbelieving man’s own standard of “common sense,” as it were, without taking into account the fatal disfiguring of man’s “sense” due to the effects of sin.
The heavens indeed declare the glory of God such that it is impossible for sinful man to deny God’s existence and glory without sacrificing all possible accounting for anything the man claims to know. But man’s divinely ingrained awareness of creation’s glory must be paired with no less than an authoritative proclamation of the Creator who set the heavens in place. But due to sinful suppression of this awareness, man is therefore disqualified from being an arbiter of truth. Though Calvinist classical apologists like R. C. Sproul certainly would deny that they consider man’s autonomous reasoning to be valid and sufficient in itself (something Calvinism clearly denies), when he and others like him offer a “self-evident” idea to an unbeliever, they are appealing to the same unbelieving standard of mere probability without recognizing the sinfulness of that standard. Otherwise, why should they expect any other answer from the unbeliever than “I disagree”? The evidentialist/classical apologist has inadvertently subverted God’s authority in granting the unbeliever that right because he has not established the proper Standard of Truth. The difference between classical apologetics and evidential apologetics is a mere practical difference. The same problem that exists with evidentialism is the same problem that exists with classicalism: A problem with Authority. Probability applies only where Uncertainty exists. For unbelievers, that’s everywhere. For us, it shouldn’t be.
Any questions and comments are welcome, as I understand there may be nuances needing made.
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