Finding insight in Alister McGrath’s Mere Apologetics

by Marilyn Stewart

Apologetics aims to convert believers into thinkers and thinkers into believers.  – Alister McGrath

Prove it. Prove that God exists.”

This challenge is not uncommon from a generation weaned on the make-believe T.V. world of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation where cases resolve neatly after hot shot investigators simply collect “evidence.” The “evidence doesn’t lie,” the audience is instructed weekly.

But is that true? Doesn’t ALL evidence have to be interpreted? And is the evidence found under a microscope or in a lab the only evidence that counts? Are the New Atheists correct when they insist there is no “proof” for God?”

In Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith (follow the link and get it right now for only $2.51!), theologian and scientist Alister E. McGrath addresses this challenge  as he lays out an A to Z pathway for becoming a skilled apologist for the Christian faith.

It turns out, many of humankind’s dearest and most heart-felt causes, including our beliefs about the fundamental rights of humans, cannot be “proved.” McGrath writes in his chapter “The Reasonableness of the Christian Faith”:

In 1948, the United Nations reaffirmed its ‘faith in fundamental human rights.’ Important though this belief might be, the statements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights cannot be proved, logically or scientifically. Nor can the belief that oppression is evil, or that rape is wrong. You just can’t prove these things.

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Others agree. McGrath points out that atheist philosopher Richard Rorty—whom he calls the greatest American philosopher of the twentieth century—said when addressing the American Philosophical Society years ago that it would be hard to believe in anything, even physics and democracy, if philosophical grounding was required.

Rorty’s point? “That we can commit ourselves to the great worldviews of our time without absolute proof,” McGrath explained.

Justice, democracy, and beliefs about human nature, values and purpose are all ideas that cannot be proved logically or scientifically, yet are reasonable to believe. And we do. Countless people have devoted their lives to these causes because they believe them to be right and important, McGrath points out.

Atheism, as well, stands on beliefs that cannot be proved.

McGrath writes that atheist Christopher Hitchens often charged that “God is not good” and “religion is evil,” yet both statements are moral values that ultimately rest on unproved beliefs…

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Finding insight in Alister McGrath’s Mere Apologetics – DEFEND Mag