In the Modern Era, in which all things needed to be proven by way of Reason, the very existence of God was questioned by atheistic moderns and defended by theistic moderns. The major modern theistic arguments were these:
- Ontological Argument: If you can conceive the concept of God, then God must exist (most popularly articulated by Anselm).
- Cosmological Argument: If the universe exists, then it had a cause (see William Lane Craig).
- Teleological Argument: If things that are designed are so for a specific purpose (end, telos), then the universe infers intelligent design as well and thus an intelligent designer (see William Paley).
- Moral Argument: If we know good from evil, valuing the good over evil, then there must be a Being that is the embodiment of ultimate good (most famously voiced by C.S. Lewis)
- Cumulative Argument: Looks at all the above and says, “It is likely that God exists” (see Richard Swinburne).
Now, in a Postmodern Era, I think that the notion of the existence of God may be something that we can simply assume already exists in the hearts and minds of people (there may be staunch atheists in postmodernity, but I think they may be fewer and fewer as the postmodern turn shows the deficiency of an atheistic, scientific worldview). The notion that we can build TO a belief in the existence of God from some foundational belief relies too heavily on modernism's Foundationalism, and as Nicolas Wolterstorff wrote, "on all fronts foundationalism is in bad shape. It seems to me that there is nothing to do but give it up for mortally ill and learn to live in its absence" (Wolterstorff, Reason Within the Bounds of Reason [Eerdmans, 1976]). After all, according to Wolterstorff, there are precious few beliefs that can properly take their place among the foundations. "If there are few such foundational beliefs, then there is a precious thin evidential base to support the rest of one's beliefs" (Kelly James Clark, summarizing Wolterstorff's view of foundationalism in Return to Reason [Eerdmans, 1990]).
Therefore, a postmodern apologetic will harken back to a Augustine's "I believe in order to understand." In other words, a postmodern apologetic affirms that there is no certainty apart from faith, and the only kind of understanding possible for us humans grows in the environment of faith.
It will also harken back to a Reformational Epistemology, one that reflects Ecclesiastes 3:11, “God has set eternity in the hearts of men."
John Calvin wrote:
“There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. If ignorance of God is to be looked for anywhere, surely one is most likely to find an example of it among the more backward folk and those more remote from civilization. Yet there is, as the eminent pagan says, no nation so barbarous, no people so savage, that they have not a deep-seated conviction that there is a God. So deeply does the common conception occupy the minds of all, so tenacious does it inhere in the hearts of all! …There lies in this a tacit confession of a sense of deity in the hearts of all…From this we conclude that it is not a doctrine that must first be learned in school, but one of which each of us is master from his mother’s womb and which nature itself permits no one to forget.” (as quoted by Alvin Plantinga, "Reason and Belief in God" in Plantinga & Wolterstorff, Faith and Rationality [Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1983])
Alvin Plantinga, the great Reformed thinker of the 20th Century, maintained that the notion, “God Exists,” does not need to be proved, for it is foundational in and of itself. He affirmed the idea that there are "Basic Beliefs" and "Nonbasic Beliefs," but whereas according to classical modern apologetics, belief in God is a "Nonbasic Belief" (that which must be argued to), Plantinga showed that belief in God is indeed a “Basic Belief”—that man has a basic, innate belief in God (see the essay cited above).
This, I think, should be the way to do postmodern apologetics concerning the existence of God.
NEXT: Incarnational Apologetics
technorati: emerging church, spiritual formation, postmodernity, apologetics