Apologetics Is Broken

IMULATION  Theory was not what I expected to be talking about with a teenager at a recent conference. He sat quietly interested during the Q&A session, but never pitched a question of his own. At the close of the session I could tell he had a lot on his mind.

We sat together at lunch to get to know one another a bit. “What if we are living in a simulated reality,” he asked me. This is becoming more popular due to celebrities like Elon Musk who think it may well be our situation in life. If it is possible that a future generation could recreate the past through virtual reality, then it is likely that has indeed happened and what we experience as the world is really more like the Matrix. At least that’s the line of reasoning some offer as defense of the theory.

You might be surprised at my answer. “It is very plausible that we are living in a virtual reality,” I explained. “If God isn’t real, or if He hasn’t revealed himself, then this theory would be just as plausible as many other secular explanations of reality.”

The student explained how he realized that all the evidences he had been shown for creation could easily be just another programmed part of the simulated world that we call home. He understood that if we are in a virtual reality, all of things he was exposed to as evidences for the Creator would immediately be reduced to numerical quantities. There would be no way to tell if these were truly evidences of anything outside of the system, or just false bread crumbs left by future programmers.

He was right. This would be a possible way to interpret the evidences for creation. That is, if either God does not exist or if He does exist but has not revealed Himself. Without a God who reveals himself, this would one of many possible theories to make sense of it all. I do have to offer a quick quip from one of my colleagues who was recently asked about simulation theory, “Gee, a theory that says we owe all of our existence to someone way smarter than us . . . that sounds novel.”

The problem with building our apologetics off of physical evidences is that evidences do not interpret themselves. There are no such things as self-interpreting facts. We all have a grid (a set of presuppositions) through which we process, arrange, systematize, and interpret information. For the Christian, that grid is God’s revelation of Himself.

That’s one of the reasons I prefer presuppositional apologetics in general. Yet, we still have to be willing to deal with people’s questions and not just roll our eyes at the way their grid keeps them from seeing a biblical conclusion. There are many evidences for Christianity and we shouldn’t be afraid to use them. We just can’t trust them to win the day.

Still, I don’t like to describe myself as a presuppositional apologist for a couple of reasons. One is because I don’t think the central argument of presuppositional apologetics is sufficient to get a person to the God of the Bible. I think it becomes much more like classical apologetics, in terms of articulating the plausibility of Theism. The second reason I don’t describe myself as a presuppositional apologist is that many public leaders who describe themselves with this label come off as smug, demeaning, and uncharitable. I’d rather not automatically be seen as approving or identifying with them.

At the end of the day, all our methods are dependent upon Scripture and the work of the Spirit. As we see in the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in the third chapter of John’s gospel, without the work of the Spirit, no one can be born again. We should use all of the philosophical and historical evidences available to us, but we should never trust them. There are a number of theories that would reduce all of the evidences to a mere algorithm.

Unless the Spirit blows in like the wind, no one will be convinced (John 3:8). But as our apologetics are focused on the gospel, founded on the Scriptures, and fueled by the Spirit, who knows what can happen. Apologetics might be broke, but the gospel is doing just fine: It is the power of God unto salvation. Of this gospel, may we never be ashamed.

Photo Credit: Austen Distel at Unsplash.com.