Total Church 20: Apologetics – the Wager

This is part 20 of our series Total Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. Blame and credit for these posts must be shared by the Wednesday morning Total Church reading group:

This chapter has at its heart a call to reconsider the limits of modern apologetics (defence of the faith).

The Wager:

Strangely enough this is best seen through 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal’s famous Wager.

“If you ‘bet’ on the existence of God and find at death he does not exist then you have lost very little. But if you ‘bet’ instead on God’s non-existence and discover at death that God does exist, then you have lost everything eternally.  His point was not to demonstrate the profitability of  ‘betting’ on God, but to expose the unbeliever’s inate hostility to God.  Betting against God is contrary to self-interest and counter-rational because it is driven by deeper impulses than reason.” (p163-164)

This is the problem with much modern apologetics.  It is a reasoned, rational response to the questions that people ask.  It is an attempt to provide rational proof for the truth of Christianity.

This is not a call to abandon attempts to prove the rationality of Christian belief, but rather a call to recognise the limitations of rational apologetics.

The Enlightenment’s rejection of revelation has less to do with the championing of reason over revelation (as Pascal shows).

“The underlying issue was a rejection of the possibility of revelation, but a rejection of the actuality of revelation.  In other words, the underlying problem is not revelation per se, but what is revealed – our need for a Saviour.” (p161)

As Nietzsche has recognised – all philosophy, no matter how strong its claims to rational grounding, is “ultimately a justification for the way we want to live our lives… The movement is not from metaphysics to morality…  It is not that we reluctantly concluded that there is no God and then worked out how we should live in such a world.  No, the movement is from morality to metaphysics.  We want to be free from God’s rule and so we construct a world-view in which God is absent.  As Nietzsche puts it, “God is dead… and we have killed him.” (p162)

Next post: Luther’s theology of the cross and apologetics.


~ by John on December 23, 2008.

4 Responses to “Total Church 20: Apologetics – the Wager”

  1. […] Part 1 of the chapter on Apologetics here. […]

  2. […] Part 1 (Pascal’s Wager) and 2 (Luther’s Theology of the Cross) of this chapter have shown us that unbelief is not primarily an issue of the mind but an issue of the heart. […]

  3. […] my thoughts and review here, here and […]

  4. […] Timmis talk about “Relational Apologetics” in their book Total Church (my thoughts here, here and here) (also Tim’’s post on the Resurgence […]

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