In our own existence, we often ask hard questions and beg for interpretations of issues and events that continue to affect us. Many are those who continue to struggle to comprehend doctrines about the existence of God, the possibility that miracles do happen, the problem of evil and human suffering, religion, and science, and the existence of heaven and hell, among other complex issues.
The compelling desire to seek answers to our spiritual questions has evolved into a whole new and exciting field known as apologetics. The past few decades have witnessed a rebirth of Christian philosophers and apologists, who have continued to rely on a diversity of opinions and worldviews to argue and authenticate the existence of a supreme Deity known as God. This research paper aims at discussing and reviewing some of the Apologetic issues involved while drawing extensively on the book “Reason for the hope within,” edited by Michael Murray.
To understand theistic arguments better, it is imperative to first understand what the term means. Theism is a term taken from the Greek “theos” or “god”. It submits to a belief in one God who is worthy of worship, and surpasses the world, but has an active concern in it. It submits to the belief that God discloses his goals and objectives for mankind through using particular individuals, sacred writings, and miraculous events.
God, in theistic beliefs, is personal in that He can only be comprehended on analogies drawn from individuals. In theism, individuals can engage in a personal relationship with God, often petitioning Him through prayers. Theists prescribe to the fact that God, who is often referred to as “Thou” is worthy of worship since He is infinitely powerful, knowledgeable, and morally upright. This belief forms the basis of Christianity.
In the book Reason for the hope within, William C. Davis, a Christian philosopher defends a variety of theistic arguments that portrays the existence of God. Though the arguments are not water-tight, they provide a very good basis for belief in God (Murray, 1999). Below I attempt to offer a critical analysis of theistic arguments expounded by Davis.
In the argument, Davies amplifies the fact that some things might not have existed before – the contingent or dependable things. The contingent things owe their existence to something else. He points out the fact that some things that exist in the world are not dependent on other things. Something outside the chain of dependency must exist to explain the existence of all the other dependent things. This is the non-dependent thing. For those already in the know about God and the basis of his revelation, they say this non-dependent thing that controls and influence all the other dependent things is God.
Though the argument is good, there are two pitfalls identified by Davis. First, the non-believer might argue that the cosmos, which is the summation of all the contingent things, is an essential existent. Also, non-believers may argue that the Universe’s existence does not depend on anything else.
This argument originated from Aristotle’s concept of the prime mover. Thomas Aquinas added weight to the cosmological argument. Things that exist around the universe are products of a sequence of preceding causes. But this sequence cannot reel back forever. This brings us to the argument that there must be some initial cause of things we see in the universe which was not caused by anything else (Martin 1997). This explains the existence of God as the uncaused cause.
The claim that the cosmos is a necessary existent and the claim that the universe is a non-dependent contingent existent can make non-believers be reasonably undecided, thus make them have an independent reason to reject the argument in total. As such, the argument formulated by Davis can never be successful in changing the attitudes of non-believers towards the existence of God. A non-believer can argue that many things are infinitely contingent but there is nothing that can be a summation of all those things – at least mereologically (Murray 1999). In such a scenario, one may be talking the truth when saying that all contingent things in the universe are dependent on other contingent things.
A good wheat yield may be dependent on adequate rainfall, which may in turn be dependent on environmental conservation. But according to Murray, the argument that there is a non-dependent essential thing that seeks to explain the subsistence of contingent things may not be necessarily true.
Apart from Davis conception of standard theism and finite deism, there are other competing conceptions of the nature of non-independent things that can be invoked. The argument forwarded by Davies is not clear as to why non-believers should follow the Christians in their belief in the existence of God, the controller of all the other things. In equal measure, Murray (1999) suggests that non-believers too do not have a right to expound the alternative supernatural explanations on Christians. Thus he concludes that the argument forwarded by Davis lacks in substance in trying to contribute to positive apologetics and therefore cannot be used in trying to influence non-believers to embrace the idea of a supernatural God and turn them into Christians.
Davis (36) argues that there are dependently existing things in the universe. In more than one way, the universe is orderly to a remarkable degree. The aesthetic and moral value appears to be a purposeful attribute of the world (36-37). He argues that human beings are intelligent, conscious, possess dependable cognitive senses aimed at truth, appreciate beauty, and possess a sense of wit. To him, all these occurrences explain the existence of God more profoundly than metaphysical naturalism. He argues that all unique cosmos features calling for explanation seem to reflect on the existence of God more than metaphysical naturalism (Murray 1999).
However, non-believers may want to question the association of intellect, cognitive sense, and appreciation of beauty with belief in God. Does it mean that people who lack the mentioned qualities cannot in any way appreciate the existence of God? This cannot be true as we have seen deaf and intellectually challenged people accepting that God exists.
In ensuring that his arguments carry some weight, Davis makes use of the overarching principle that the most excellent explanation is one that best fits the evidence. Using an example, he states that people may dispute the fact that the earth is bulging at the equator and flattened out at the poles (Oblate spheroid) despite the fact that it is so. Like a contemporary person who may insist that the earth is flat, the non-believer will also deny the existence of God even after reflecting on the orderliness of the Universe (Murray 1999).
According to Murray (1999), one weakness of this argument is the assumption that metaphysical naturalism and Christianity are equally simple hypotheses. Non-believers may never agree to such an assumption thus the argument serves no role in trying to explain the existence of God. It is highly unlikely that this argument can support the idea that Christianity is superior to metaphysical naturalism. Christians argue that God created the world out of his own free choice. But this argument doesn’t explain the “freeness” of God’s decisions. How does He choose to accomplish one task and not do another? What are the standards set by God for doing one thing and not doing the other? Can Christians explain why God created a cosmos of dependable existents instead of doing the opposite? These questions make the explanatory advantage of Christianity cease upon closer scrutiny. Dependence of things on other things cannot be simply explained through the existence of God as Davis assumes.
Secondly, Christians are in no superior position to explain why aesthetic and moral values appear to be a purposeful feature of the world more than the metaphysical naturalists. According to Murray (1999), Christians lack clarity in explaining how this is connected with the existence of God. The argument by Davis that metaphysical naturalists feel threatened by the fact that aesthetics and morality enterprises are common human activities lacking in apparent survival values cannot challenge non-believers to change their attitudes. These are just brute evolutionary accounts of aesthetics and morality that do not offer Christians a distinct advantage over non-believers.
Another pitfall of the argument is the claim by Davis that non-believers often offend and infuriate the Christians by refusing to recognize personal testimonies of people who have experienced God’s presence (Murray 1999). But such experiences may be dependent on compromised faculties. The non-believers can also hit back and take offense by being compared to those individuals who believe that the earth is flat despite popular knowledge.
Like Christians, rational non-believers also draw an inference to the best explanation based on available evidence and are very much unwilling to be swayed by any evidence that cannot be proven. Non-believers, therefore, see a mismatch in Christians’ reasoning faculties and the reality in thinking that there is a God who controls all the activities of the universe. Believers also perceive non-believers in equal measure when they try to deny God’s existence.
His argument of contingency fails to hold much weight in that the sequence of causes could go on forever if everything is caused by something else. And if indeed it is true that everything is caused by something else, the argument can succeed without one necessarily believing in the existence of God. Also, Davis argues that God is vital in explaining the existence of the cosmos but it fails to offer a valid explanation as to why God exists.
God, evil, and suffering
This is another key area of Apologetics. Murray (1999) uses Daniel Howard-Snyder’s works in discussing the above topic. In his works, Howard-Snyder argues that there is no justification whatsoever for God to permit unprecedented evils in the world.
He argues that God does not exist because if He does, there could be a reason as to why He allows so much evil in the world. Horrific evils happen in the world on daily basis and no reason or a combination of reasons can justify why God allows this to happen. He uses illustrations of P and 1. In P, he argues that God is not justified by any reason that we know of to permit so much evil in the world rather than allowing a lot less. In 1, he says God is thus not justified by any reason to permit so much evil in the world rather than a lot less. However, Howard-Snyder thinks that there are very good reasons to view the above arguments as bad inferences.
The philosopher intensively uses Rowe’s Noseeum supposition to justify the inference from P to 1. This assumption rest on the premise that we would likely understand the reasons as to why God is justified to permit so much evil in the world.
If we have reason to doubt the assumption, then we have every reason to reject the conjecture from P to 1. According to Murray (1999), Howard-Snyder comes up with two straight grounds for being cynical about Rowe’s Noseeum assumption. First, it takes the insights achievable by restricted, imperfect individuals as a sufficient indication of what is obtainable in the way of reasons to an omnipotent, omniscient being. Secondly, it entails trying to resolve whether there is a “so-and-so in a territory the extent and composition of which is largely unknown to us” (Alston n.d.).
Due to limitations on expertise or extent of view, varying analogies seem to give weight to the suggestion that God has reasons beyond our understanding for allowing so much evil and suffering in the universe. This view seems to point to the fact that we lack the experience needed to comprehend why God allows all this evil. In other words, God is not bound in any way to explain or reveal to us why He allows so much evil in the world. But a hawk-eyed person would always want to question why He is not bound to reveal anything to us yet He loves us so much and would want us to be like Him.
According to Howard-Snyder, it should not surprise us if periodic progress in the discovery of intrinsic goods by individuals has ever existed. To this effect, some intrinsic goods affecting human beings may not have been discovered. Such inherent things may comprise concepts of evil and suffering and why God allows them to go on unchecked in the universe. We may be unaware or ignorant of such things but God is never ignorant of them. He furthers his argument by stating that it is always reasonable to suppose that it is extremely difficult for us to assess the inherent goodness of a certain state of affairs basically because of the complex nature of such a state of affairs. Thus there exist complex reasons that we cannot comprehend that justify God to permit so much evil and suffering in the world.
According to Murray (1999), the arguments of Howard-Snyder can make a noteworthy contribution to the concepts of negative apologetics. Non-believers can view this line of thought as relevant in how Christians all over the world rationally respond to awful evils. Christians are aware that God exists but are short of answers as to why He allows so much evil to happen to them and to the word. In such a case, using the arguments of Howard Snyder may help quell some of the questions posed by non-believers. Christians may not have discovered why God permits a lot of evil in the world. Such a discovery may be out of their expertise and view. The complex reasons involved in justifying God to allow so much evil in the world cannot be comprehended by ordinary people.
But the weaknesses of the argument are there for all to see. First, it will be quite difficult for non-believers to embrace Christian values and beliefs if such values offer no justifications whatsoever in God allowing the kinds and amounts of dreadful evils found in the world. It would be also a tall order to ask non-believers to believe that a Christian God exists if, in essence, they are not likely to have any insights into the motives, reasons, or values of God.
How will the non-believers accept a hypothesis of God’s existence if the reality is too complicated and their knowledge of inherent values too limited as the argument seem to expound? The prospects for positive apologetics will be very dim if we have no proper way of determining God’s decisions or determining the value of the Universe. The scripture and revelation alone cannot in any way help us understand the existence of God (Murray, 1999).
Non-believers claim that the existence of evil and suffering is an effective argument against the existence of God. According to Christians, God should always be all-powerful and loving. Despite His good uniqueness, He seems pretty much unwilling or unable to prevent the awful evils and suffering present in the world. Thus despite Howard-Snyder’s assertions, non-believers are at will to conclude that God is not all-powerful or He does not exist at all, not to mention that He does not love as Christians assume.
But non-believers miss the point when they argue that God intended the universe to be both perfect physically and morally good. This, according to Christians, is not the purpose as to why God created the universe. They can argue their point by suggesting that God wanted to provide a medium where spiritual beings can either choose to reject or love God. It would have been too hard to make this option if all the moral options in the universe were restricted to only good options. In simple terms, one could not have had the chance of choosing between good and evil if evil didn’t exist in the first instance.
Modern-day Christians may argue that God makes his people suffer so that they may humble their hearts towards God and never forget him. Howard Snyder argues that God allows us to suffer and to be affected by evil because we would not have any freedom if He didn’t allow us to suffer. According to the believers, people tend to forget God and all that he has achieved for them when they are having good times. As such, they take their focus away from God and start to sin.
To make people realize that they cannot stay or live without him, He makes them suffer. Still, this is not a good defense for believers since non-believers will always question why God must result in causing very harsh sufferings to make His subjects remember Him. Some suffering results in death and thus non-believers will argue that it is illogical to cause death to people through suffering merely because you want them to remember you.
According to Howard-Snyder, the subject of evil and suffering continue to pose major problems for Christians and theists in general as it conflict when they believe in a God who is almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly excellent. In fact, suffering tends to harden the believer’s attitudes against God as the majority are at a loss to explain why God permits it to happen. Suffering has always been deeply depressing and deeply perplexing.
In many ways, it has led believers to develop a deplorable attitude towards God. They have often developed a deep mistrust and anger towards God for letting them suffer. An attitude of rebellion and bitterness towards God has been noted among believers who have suffered in one way or another. In many instances, they end up questioning the existence of God and view theistic beliefs as irrational, unwarranted, dubious, unreasonable, and intellectually suspect.
Arguments for atheism
In the same way that we have various arguments advocating for the existence of God, we also have a number of arguments that advocate against God’s existence. Atheistic arguments advocates for the latter. For beginners, atheistic arguments are broadly divided into two: a posteriori and a priori arguments. Those prescribing to a posteriori school of thought claim that if God existed, the world would be different from the way it is, and thus conclude that there is no God. Those in a priori school of thought for atheism say that there is some rational disagreement in the theistic conception of God, and thus it is highly impossible that God actually exists.
John O’Leary Hawthorne’s arguments covered by Murray (1999) seem to border on a priori school of thought. In his first core argument for atheism, Hawthorne argues that if theistic beliefs are of any significance, it is either because the theistic beliefs are a knowable a priori or there exists explanatory evidence or direct perceptual evidence for theism. But neither theism is a knowable a priori nor do we hold any explanatory or direct perceptual evidence for theism. Thus Hawthorne concludes that theism and theistic beliefs cannot purport to carry any weight.
Hawthorne furthers his arguments by using the premise of faith. He claims that the transformation of people into beings for whom the summation of the basic assertion of Christianity is immediately and primitively compelling is a result of the gift of faith. Through reflecting on this thought, it can be comparatively clear that the rationality of theistic beliefs requires neither accessibility by innate light of neither rationale nor evidence according to human beings.
To non-believers, the line between faith as a gift and illusion is so thin for anyone to comprehend. In modern times, we have seen church leaders predict occurrences out of faith only for them to turn into illusions. The story of the church leader who administered cyanide to his entire congregation on the illusion of meeting with Christ is still fresh on our minds. He ended up wiping out his entire congregation in his pursuit and false belief that his faith had instructed him to perform the action. However, according to Hawthorne (128), Christians should not in any way lose their theistic beliefs just because of a group of atheists who seem to be short of the gift of faith.
On his third premise for the above argument, Hawthorne argues that some religious experiences provide Christians with direct perceptual evidence for their theistic beliefs. Though non-believers will always question the evidence of such experiences, some occurrences in the world continue to point out the existence of a God. For example, there is a Franciscan nun who died over a hundred years ago and whose body has never rotten even though it has never been preserved conventionally. Such an episode reflects on the existence of God. According to Murray (1999), it is extremely hard to convince people to believe the Christian doctrines on the premises of their direct perceptual or their explanatory power.
It is thus understandable that theistic arguments in themselves lack the audacity to make Christian beliefs rational. For example, many Christians today are active churchgoers but continue to lack the gift of faith in their relationships with God. Going by the argument of Hawthorne (129), such Christians are inadequately placed to rationally treat something as evidence for theism. Thus the first assertion advanced by Hawthorne dims the prospects for positive apologetics as it becomes clear that no theistic argument can convince the non-believers to convert to Christianity by convincing those using irrational ideas and arguments.
Though not explicitly explained, Hawthorne’s second core argument borders on markers of the superiority of Christianity to other belief systems. How can we measure Christianity against other religions of the world or other belief systems such as atheism? According to this argument, clear markers are characteristically absent. There are many untamed religions in the world that base their belief systems on such issues as the fear of death, and Christianity is just one of the very many wild religions.
In many churches across the world, Sunday service sermons always contain messages warning believers and non-believers alike to repent or face eternal death upon their demise from this world. In a local church I frequent, the preacher is always warning people to faithfully pay their tithe contributions or face death by destruction. Such brute suppositions according to the argument always give atheists a strong footing and thus conclude that such belief systems, including Christianity, should not be taken seriously.
But to Hawthorn, the non-believers also subscribe to systems of belief that base their arguments on irrational things that are not in any way related to the belief systems. Their belief systems also contribute substantially to the evils found in the world today. A thief who is a non-believer will cause an equal measure of pain and suffering to his victims like a thief with Christian orientations. To this effect, Hawthorne (134) argues that basing our arguments on such scenarios will often bring misleading notions.
Though the arguments favoring atheistic arguments seem to be shaky, the people who subscribe to its doctrines seem to be rising by the day, especially in the modern academic community. This perhaps can explain the rise and dominance of Scientology religion among the American intellectuals and movie stars in recent times.
In his critical analysis, Murray (1999) argues that it does not make any sense for somebody to expect more or fewer incidences of atheists in the modern scholastic community than one would expect in any other population whose connection is not determined by details about spiritual belief. Atheists are also found in other groupings, just like Christianity is found in all social groupings. In fact, in the contemporary United States, wealthy people and movie stars compromise the largest proportion of atheists. Also, Hawthorne should not have worried about the shaky arguments that support atheism.
The argument for atheism seems to portray Christianity as a doctrine that seeks to internalize the element of fear on its subject to command adherence. People are continually been warned about a great fire that will consume them eternally if they fail to repent their sins. To atheists, this is just mere wishful thinking. They view Christianity as some emotional crutches for the weak individuals and those who cannot be able to comprehend the reality of life without God.
This contribution was made by Robin Collins. In his argument, Collins says that major Eastern religions have offered viable alternative worldviews to Christian theism. Such religions include Buddhism and Hinduism. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam share some doctrinal core values, which the Eastern religions aim to offer viable alternatives to. Collins (215) argues that positive claims made by both the Mahayana school of Buddhism and the Sankara School of Hinduism about reality are incoherent. Secondly, he argues that the doctrinal core of Christian theism is more reasonable and believable than that of Theravada Buddhism.
Lastly, Collins suggests that the Madhva and Ramanuja theistic schools of Hinduism offer philosophically viable alternatives to Christian theism – at least superficially. Accordingly, Collins (216) concludes that the major challenge posed by major world religions to Christianity lay in providing alternative notions of God’s relationship to the world and His actions in human history. Apologetic challenges among major world religions should not entail challenging the beliefs that a person, all good, and omnipotent God do exist.
Murray (1999) does not agree with Collins’s conclusion that emphasis should be laid on providing alternative conceptions and notions of the relationship between God and the world. It should be noted that Karma, reincarnation, and other realities and universes are some of the key elements propagated by major Eastern religions. Eastern theism, as Murray notes, presupposes that for one to receive salvation, he must be liberated from the “cycle of rebirths and its associated karma.
To this effect, it is yet unclear why non-believers would want to presume the doctrinal core of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity is evidently more reasonable than alternative reflections which reject vital parts of that core and incorporate Eastern religious elements instead. The majority of the Eastern religion’s law claims to be both an Evil god and a good God. For example, consider a scenario where an all-powerful and all-knowledgable but evil God created a multiplicity of universes in which there exists a cycle of rebirth and associated karma involving cross-universe recycling, whereby all conscious creatures start their first cycle in the cosmos that we presently occupy.
Based on this account, on what basis then should non-believers look at this view as lacking by comparison to the doctrinal core of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? They lack any basis whatsoever. In the same vein, Christians may as well have proper reasons to think that such a view advanced by Eastern religions lacks in strength compared to Western theism doctrinal core.
On my own analysis, I will agree with Robin Collins that the positive claims made by both the Mahayana school of Buddhism and the Sankara school of Hinduism are incoherent. Buddhism makes use of several concepts, including Moksha or liberation, yoga or asceticism, and dharma or natural duty. In Hinduism, it is often very difficult to come up with any universal practice and belief, though prominent themes include samsara, moksha, dharma, and karma. These concepts are as incoherent and lack rational thinking as the Christianity concepts of life after death and salvation. They border on spirituality rather than rational thinking thus cannot be used in any way to advance positive apologetics.
In the second argument, it can never be proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Christian theism doctrinal core is more plausible than that of Theravada Buddhism. Some of the doctrinal cores of Christianity and some Eastern religions are indeed similar. For example, just like Christianity, Sikhism believes that salvation is tied to establishing a relationship with God and faith. They also believe that God is infinite, omnipresent, and without gender – a belief shared by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Another similar belief between Sikhism and Christianity is the popular belief that all that existed prior to creation was God and his will.
Christianity, just like Theravada Buddhism has continued to evolve in time and culture. In fact, this blending has brought about different schools of Buddhism. As already mentioned, Buddhism propagates for enlightenment. It encourages its conscious believers to develop in themselves a sense of unity and equanimity. To me, such core doctrines are just as important as the Christianity core doctrines of salvation and a belief in life after death.
As for Collins’s third assertion, there exists no evidence to point to the fact that the Madhva and Ramanuja theistic schools of Hinduism offer philosophically viable alternatives to Christian theism. The philosophy of Christian theism has its strong and weak points, just like the philosophy of Hinduism. Both philosophies bear a lot of loopholes which non-believers may want some clarification. To a certain extent, the clarifications are often absent.
The Madhva theistic school of Hinduism teaches that there is a fundamental difference between the ultimate reality, known as Brahman, and the human soul, known as Atman. They believe that Brahman is the only true reality. But such a philosophy is open to questions from non-believers about the status and reality (or illusion) of the other gods. The philosophy is at pain to explain to the world how the cycle of rebirth, also known as Punar-janma liberates the soul.
The philosophy of Ramanuja theistic school of Hinduism also lacks in content to qualify for the proposition made by Collins that it offers philosophically viable alternatives to Christian theism. Its core doctrines presume a plurality of individual souls which share the essential nature of Brahman and their identities remain intact even after liberation. Such a core doctrine cannot be said to be more philosophical than the Christianity core doctrine that suggests that, for one to save his soul and see God, he must confess all his sins and “carry the cross.” Carrying the cross here means to abide by all Christianity teachings and doctrines.
Divine providence and human freedom
The above are central values for any Christian believer. To this effect, Murray (1999) analysis the works of Scott A. Davison. Here, issues of the compatibility of human freedom with divine providence are discussed. Davison (237) argues that issues of divine power and divine providence are shrouded in mystery and controversy. There are so complicated, hard to access, and deep, to a point that no single individual can claim to have a mystery over them. Answers that people get will never satisfy our quest to know the truth about these issues. In our quest to question the nature of these issues of divine providence and human freedom, we should always be tolerant of individuals who hold dissimilar views from ours.
To this extent, I totally agree with Davison’s assertion because Christianity cannot in itself show evidence of divine providence yet it is one of its core doctrines. Believers have always associated the almighty and all-good God with the things they come across in life. A popular verse in the Bible denotes God as their provider and sustainer. But it all depends upon one’s faith and belief because a direct link of the providence between God and man has never been established beyond a reasonable doubt. One may also ask the question of who really provides for non-believers since they also enjoy all the things that Christians claim to have been provided for by God.
Davison raises two serious questions which guide his inquiry. First, if God has total providential control over the universe, how then can human beings claim to have control over anything in the world? This is the question of power. Secondly, if God has complete knowledge of the future, how then can human beings claim to have the freedom of choice? This is the question of knowledge.
The above are questions that often conflict with the faith and belief of Christianity. We all know that Christianity claims that God is the supreme provider. According to its doctrine, He brought the world from nothing during creation. They also believe that human beings can never be able to sustain the universe without the express contribution from God. According to Davison, God is involved in all the activities of every created creature.
But all those claims about God, according to my own analysis are open to question. First, it has never been evidenced how God brought forward the Universe from nothing. Secondly, we have evidence of atheists who continue to roam the world freely without the help of God since they don’t prescribe to the Christian faith and belief. Finally, it cannot be true that God involves himself with all the activities of created creatures as non-believers are creatures too but are not bound by the belief of an Omnipresent God.
In his contribution towards human freedom, Davison endorses the Libertarian concept of free will rather than the Compatibilist conception. According to him, the former absolves God from the responsibility of moral evil, makes more sense of moral responsibility, and is needed for rational accounts for eternal punishment. In his third account, Davison distinguishes between three sets of control. First, for somebody to be in control of an event in the strongest case possible, he must be able to control the event without the independent contribution of any other person and can be able to prevent that occurrence from happening.
To me, this is ideally the free will were in your own capability; you are able to control an event without any external help or influence. In the same vein, he can be able to control that event from happening. But this will conflict with the core doctrines of Christianity as such a person can only be God. He is the only one, according to Christian beliefs, who is able to control one or all events without receiving help or influence from any single quarter. Thus I can say that Christianity puts the question of human free will in jeopardy since it claims that we all live under the whims of God.
Secondly, Davison claims that if a person cooperates with any other person in making an event happen, and that person could have prevented that event from happening, then that person has average control of the event. In relation to human freedom, that assertion may be correct in the sense that your will may not be wholly free if you cooperated with another person in bringing about an event. For the human will to be free, it needs to be unbound from any external influences. Thirdly, Davison argues that if a person did not bring about an occurrence of an event but could have prevented its occurrence, then such a person controls such an event weakly. This is also very true in relation to human will and freedom.
Based on the above taxonomy of conceptions, Davison came up with three theories of Devine providence. First, he argues that God controls every single event in a strong sense. To me, the believers can readily identify with such a conception as it reinforces their belief in an all-powerful and all-controlling God. But a clash of interests will generally arise in that Christians do believe that the devil is the cause of all bad things. If God is the controller of all the occurrences in this world, why doesn’t He control the devil so that he may not cause harm to His loving people? These are some of the questions that continue to dodge mankind and offer non-believers some food for thought.
In his second assertion of divine providence, Davison argues that God controls some events in the strong sense of the word, but he controls other events, particularly those involving free human choices in the middle sense. This, however plausible it might look will go against the doctrinal core of Christianity which presupposes that God is in control of our destiny. His assertion that God only exercises weak control over free human choices can find some comfort in the modern secular world but not in Christianity.
Finally, Davison came up with three views about God and His knowledge of the future. According to my own analysis, no assertion seems to hold water. In his first assertion, he claims that God cannot in any way know about the future because there is nothing to know about. This goes against the very Christian teachings that identify God as a supernatural deity who was there in the past, He is among us in the present, and He will be there in the future even upon our demise from this world. In this regard, such a view cannot be constructively used in positive apologetics.
His Second assertion about God’s knowledge for the future also lacks in detail and relevance. He argues that God is not in time and thus he cannot in any way know about the future. It is true that God can be seen as a timeless creature but this argument cannot be used to necessarily mean that God is out of touch with time. If we keenly follow the Christian doctrinal core, we will clearly see that He is the creator of everything, including time. Thus such an assertion cannot also positively contribute towards positive apologetics. The third assertion that God has prior knowledge of what free agents are because of his “middle knowledge of counterfactuals” is as blank as the second argument – at least from a Christianity point of view. According to Murray (1999), his package of ideas lacks consistency
Collins, Robin (n.d.), “Eastern Religions.” In: Murray, Michael J. [eds] Reason for the Hope within. Wm. B. Eardmans publishing company, pp 182-216.
Davison, Scott A. (n.d.), “Devine Providence and Human freedom.” In: Murray, Michael J. [eds] Reason for the Hope within. Wm. B. Eardmans publishing company, pp 217-237.
Davis, William C. (n.d.), “Theistic arguments.” In: Murray, Michael J. [eds] Reason for the Hope within. Wm. B. Eardmans publishing company, pp 20-46.
Hawthorne, John O’Leary (n.d.), “Arguements for atheism.” In: Murray, Michael J. [eds] Reason for the Hope within. Wm. B. Eardmans publishing company, pp 116-134.
Howard-Snyder, Daniel (n.d.), “ God, Evil, and suffering.” In: Murray, Michael J. [eds] Reason for the Hope within. Wm. B. Eardmans publishing company, pp 76-115.