By Shafer Parker, Jr.
Some of you will have heard by now of the death of theologian and apologist Dr. Norman Leo Geisler on July 1, 2019. When he died, Dr. Geisler was just three weeks short of his 87th birthday.
He was amazing. Thanks to his evangelistic zeal and philosophical defence of the faith, he has been described as “a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham.” At the time of his death he was credited with having written or contributed to 127 books, as well as numerous papers on theology, ethics and philosophy. Moreover, his publisher has announced there are new works still in the pipeline. He may be in heaven, but he will continue to speak. Geisler also co-founded two seminaries, including Southern Evangelical Seminary (easily among the top five apologetics schools in the world) and Veritas International University in California.
But for readers of the FBB blog, Geisler’s greatness lies in the fact that he almost single-handedly invented the apologetics approach that forms the foundation of our Worldview course. The rest of this blog will discuss his approach, but if you want to read more about Dr. Geisler and his impact on the world start here.
Geisler was driven to apologetics because he sought to win souls to Christ. In this short YouTube video Geisler explains that as an older teenager trying to win converts on the street, he found himself “tied in knots” by a Mormon, a Jehovah’s witness and a drunk. Faced with two choices, either to stop sharing his faith or seek answers, he chose the latter, and the answers he found changed all our lives. His comprehensive proof of the Faith was published in 1990 in his book When Skeptics Ask. The book is great, but, as you will see, perhaps its most lasting contribution is found in an appendix where he boiled down his approach to 14 points. What you are about to discover is a logically sound, comprehensive “proof” of all the essential claims of the Christian faith, developed in the crucible of real-life witnessing experience. (My comments will be in italics)
1. There are self-evident truths (e.g., "I exist," "Logic applies to reality").
This statement cannot be denied. Even postmodernists, who officially reject logic, apply it ruthlessly when it comes to getting something they want from others.
2. Truth corresponds to reality.
This is the perfect response to those who argue that there is no such thing as truth, or that truth is entirely subjective. The objective reality of life may be held at bay for a season, but eventually it forcefully inserts itself into every person’s awareness. If you don’t believe me, just ask the skeptic who ate the poisoned jellybean. Oh, wait. You can’t!
3. Truth is knowable (all other views are self-defeating).
Obviously, if you say truth is unknowable, even that statement must be doubted, thus the truth rejector is defeated. On a more practical level, the person who claims that truth is unknowable is usually desperately trying to avoid it (think of Pilate as he raises the question of truth with Jesus in John 18:38).
4. One can proceed from self-evident truths to the existence of God.
The argument from Creation (proceeds from "I exist")
Not only is a Creator logically necessary (nothing can come from nothing), but the Creator has to be greater than every aspect of creation. The Creator of the universe must have more power than all the energy found in the universe, and if there are personal beings in that universe, their Creator must also be a greater person than the greatest of the created persons.
The argument from morals (proceeds from "Values are undeniable")
The argument from design (proceeds from "Design implies a designer")
Don’t buy into the lie that the universe only appears to be designed. It turns out that merely forming the necessary proteins for life and placing them in their proper order is naturally impossible, and not just impossible in 14 billion years, it would be just as impossible if you had 14 billion universes, each 14 billion years old. Bottom line: if a thing is impossible, then it is impossible no matter how much time you give it.
5. God is a necessary Being (argument from being).
6. My existence is not necessary (evident from the definition of a necessary Being).
You and I are contingent beings. That means we are not necessary for the universe to exist. It existed long before we were born, and it will likely exist long after we are gone. But whatever begins to exist must have a cause. Thus (and I’m shortening the argument considerably) God the Creator is the necessary being who caused the universe.
7. Therefore, theism is true (there is a necessary Being beyond the world who has created the contingent things in the world and intervenes in the world).
The objection from the problem of evil can be solved.
As we teach in our Worldview course (quoting Alvin Plantinga): “It is possible that God, even being omnipotent, could not create a world with free creatures who never choose evil. Furthermore, it is possible that God, even being omnibenevolent, would desire to create a world which contains evil if moral goodness requires free moral creatures.” Thus, evil is a corollary to goodness if God’s creatures are to be faced with real choices.
The objection to miracles can be solved.
If God exists, miracles are always possible, especially if those miracles are an outgrowth of what C. S. Lewis called “deeper magic,” spiritual and material principles that govern the universe, but that can only be known by revelation. This deeper magic will forever be unknown to such as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking.
8. The Bible is a historically reliable document.
History is an objective study of the past.
There is great historical, archaeological, and scientific evidence to confirm the reliability of the Bible. (Corollary: The Bible gives a reliable record of the teaching of Jesus Christ.)
Referring to archaeology’s impact on the historicity and accuracy of the Bible, someone has said, “Every time a shovelful of dirt is turned over in the Middle East, another skeptic bites the dust.”
9. Jesus claimed to be both fully human and fully God.
You have only to read the four gospels to realize this claim cannot be denied.
10. He gave evidence to support this claim (that He was both God and man).
The fulfillment of prophecy
His miraculous and sinless life
Jesus’ claim to divinity is proven by these three sub-points. For truly, no one could know the future or perform the kind of miracles Jesus did, including the resurrection, unless God be with Him. But to those who knew Him in the days of his flesh, Jesus was just as obviously a man, who grew weary and hungry, who expressed happiness and sorrow, and who could experience love, loss, anger and bewilderment exactly as any other man.
11. Therefore, Jesus is both fully human and fully God.
If you accept all that has been stated so far, what follows is inevitable.
12. Whatever God teaches is true.
13. Jesus (God) taught that the Old Testament was the inspired Word of God and He promised the New Testament.
14. Therefore, both the Old and New Testaments are the inspired Word of God.
Notice where Geisler’s logic ends up. He proves that Jesus is God (in flesh), who must be worshipped as God and obeyed as Lord. And how do we know what Jesus, requires of us? By reading and rightly interpreting the Bible that He affirmed as “[His] words that will never pass away” (Matt. 24:35).
Believing in Jesus as Lord is the end goal of the philosophy that undergirds the worldview we teach at Faith Beyond Belief. Dr. Geisler’s life verse was I Peter 3:15, which says we’re to “always be ready to give an answer to those who ask for a reason for our hope (in Christ),” and, for what it’s worth, that is also the key verse at Faith Beyond Belief. Please pray for us as we seek to take the truths first expressed by scholars like Dr. Geisler and show how to use them in everyday conversations. Now that Dr. Geisler has gone to His reward, may God continue to raise up others like him to make Truth relevant and powerful for the saving of souls in every generation.