Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Three-dimensional Theism

Natural theology has possessed various shades of meaning over the centuries. Under one of its contemporary definitions, apologists offer evidence for God’s existence, describe God’s attributes, or even derive doctrine based on reason and grounded in observations of the natural world. Many object to the embrace of natural theology to achieve these goals. For others, natural theology supports their Christian belief structure.

Some who promote natural theology mistakenly use it in place of God’s revelation of Himself in Holy Scripture. The special revelation of God given to us in the Bible, taken together with plentiful evidence from the natural world, amounts to a strong dual framework of evidence which points to the reality of God’s existence and highlights God’s attributes. To that dual evidence we may add the inner witness of divine reality present in every human being created in the Image of God. Each man and woman has an intuitive sense of divine reality to support our reasoned conclusions that the world around us manifests the existence of the Creator and communicates His character.

William Lane Craig, gifted theologian, Christian apologist, and philosopher, defends the Christian belief system in his writings and in frequent debates with atheists. He endorses the tenets of natural theology, offering plentiful evidence from scientific facts concerning the origin and fine-tuning of the universe. Craig uses other effective evidences for the reality of God, including the existence of objective moral values and the rational reality of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

In addition, Craig is a strong advocate of “properly basic beliefs.” He presents the argument that God can be immediately known and experienced directly, quite apart from evidence of the natural world. Properly basic beliefs are not contingent on empirical, physical evidence. In his debates, Craig touts such beliefs as entirely rational and reliable.

The combination of evidence from (1) natural theology (general revelation), (2) inspired scripture (special revelation), and (3) properly basic beliefs is a potent trio for establishing a viable belief in God. Some people rely exclusively on only one of the three, or perhaps two. It is significant that the Scriptures present all three as a three-pronged support structure for our belief system and Christian worldview. Psalm 19:1-2, II Tim. 3:16, and Hebrews 11:1-3 are not offered here as mere proof texts, but as a means to encourage readers to sustain a deeper study to reaffirm our belief in the reality of God.