Today we continue with chapter sixteen of Read Along with Apologetics315, a weekly chapter-by-chapter study through Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Christianity by Douglas Groothuis. Please leave a comment on your reading below. This is where you can interact with others reading the book, ask questions, or add your own thoughts. Series index here. Click below for the audio intro, chapter 16 study questions PDF, and summary:
Chapter Sixteen: The Argument from Religious Experience
Chapter sixteen begins by pointing out that the Bible and Christianity claim that God has revealed Himself through various kinds of human experiences. The author describes the argument from religious experience, the form the argument takes (inference to the best explanation), then shows four categories in which these experiences may fall.
Groothuis explores various types of religious experiences arguments, such as the arguments from emptiness and divine longing, numinous experiences, and transformational experiences. Each are described and defended from their common objections and they are evaluated for their proper place in an overall apologetic for Christianity.
…if every experience had to be justified on the basis of some other experience, we would fall precipitously into a bottomless pit of infinite regress; the result would be that no experience would be justified as veridical. So if there is no good reason to reject the existence of God, these experiences should be taken as providing some evidence for God’s existence. (Christian Apologetics, p. 365)
All that can be claimed for veridical numinous experiences is that they involve an encounter with an external and personal being of transcendent significance. We cannot rest the entire case for Christianity on numinous experience. (Christian Apologetics, p. 374)
Religious-experience claims need to be weighed against other germane sources of evidence for or against a worldview. This underscores the fact that religious experience forms only part of a cumulative case for Christian theism. It should not be made to shoulder the entire burden of apologetics. The phenomena of religious experience, however, form part of the Christian apologetic mosaic. (Christian Apologetics, p. 379)
Someone may come to Christian faith for purely psychological reasons (say, to receive the love, acceptance and forgiveness never received from his or her father) and still hold a true belief. To dismiss this belief as false because it is psychologically motivated is a classic example of the genetic fallacy. The origin of a belief does not, in and of itself, disqualify the belief as being true. (Christian Apologetics, p. 383)
- How do you respond to non-Christian religious experience claims?
- How do Lewis and Pascal’s arguments from religious experience play a role in your apologetic?
- What do you think are the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the argument from religious experience?
Chapter Seventeen: The Uniqueness of Humanity: Consciousness and Cognition