Dr. Cowan has answered a few more questions relating to his upcoming book as well as apologetics in general. If you missed the first set of Q&A, go here for a recap. Dr. Cowan earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from University of Arkansas (dissertation: Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: A Compatabilist Reconciliation), as well as the Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Steve’s teaching focus has been on Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Ethics, Theology, Apologetics and World Religions. Dr. Cowan’s latest book (In Defense of the Bible) is a collection of articles defending biblical authority against skeptical attacks. The comprehensive work is coming out in July 2013.
You’ve recently edited an apologetic book defending the authority of the Bible. Do you think the authority of the Bible and doctrines connecting to that such as the inspiration and perspicuity of Scripture have fallen to the wayside in popular apologetics? If so, why has this occurred?
Apologetic treatments of the RELIABILITY of the Bible have been a staple of popular apologetics for some time and it continues to be so, but to a lesser degree. Or it might be more accurate to say that the focus has shifted in the last couple of decades. Most of the attention biblically has been on the historicity of Jesus, responding to the likes of the Jesus Seminar which argues that the Gospels are mostly mythical and thus reveal very little of the historical Jesus. Also, there’s been renewed attention on the pagan myth theory–the idea that Jesus’ virgin birth, death, and resurrection are stories borrowed from pagan myths. Defenses of the reliability of the Bible in recent years have tended to be narrowly focused around these issues.
One reason (but not the whole story) for this lesser focus on the Bible’s reliability has been the shift in apologetic methodology to what Gary Habermas and others call the “minimal facts” approach. Using what are called the criteria of authenticity, those engaged in historical Jesus study can establish the historical authenticity of a great deal of the Jesus narrative without even assuming that the Gospels are generally historically reliable much less divinely inspired. Even Jesus resurrection can be show to be true in this way. So, a significant apologetic case can be made for the main contours of the Christian faith without a detailed defense of the reliability and authority of Scripture. This development has been very good overall–it keeps people from dismissing major Christian claims by dismissing the Bible. But, it does leave something of a hole in our defense of the faith. There is a need to defend the authority of Scripture more directly and fully, and that is what the book Terry Wilder and I have edited is designed to fill.
How can or should Christians use the Bible in their apologetic endeavors and encounters with unbelievers who deny its authority? What is unique about your upcoming book?
I address these questions together because there is a connection between them, though it may not be apparent. If one is doing apologetics with someone who does not accept biblical authority, then of course one cannot (usually) just quote to Bible in order to establish some premise. An exception to this, though, is when we point to the Bible to show that what it says about the world, life, and the human condition is true to our experience. That can be a valuable endeavor–the Bible gives a plausible explanation for why things are the way they are, and offers a solution to the human plight.
But, it is also possible to appeal to the Bible using the minimal facts approach I mentioned earlier in order to show that the Bible is divinely inspired. As I mentioned before, one can use this method (appealing to isolated Gospel texts that can be authenticated using the criteria of authenticity) to show that Jesus rose from the dead. On can also use it to show that Jesus claimed to be God incarnate (and thus his resurrection is likely God’s stamp of approval on his life and teaching). One can then go on to show (as I do in the article I contribute to the book) that this resurrected Lord taught that the Bible, Old and New Testaments, is divinely inspired.
That is one unique aspect of our book. Others are: (1) Doug Geivett’s response to the charge that it is logically impossible for God to speak to humans, (2) Paul Wegner’s and Dan Wallace’s discussion the Bible textual integrity that includes new data and responses to Muslims, Mormons, and skeptics who challenge that integrity, (3) William Dembski’s discussion of the Bible and science, (4) Paul Copan’s and Matt Flannagan’s treatment of the Canaanite “genocide,” (5) and Darrell Bock’s thorough response to teh Gnostic gospels.
How has apologetics enriched your own walk with the Lord?
I’m sure it has done so in some imperceptible ways. But one that I am aware of is the increased confidence I have in the truth of the message of Christ that we preach. My faith is stronger because of my study and doing of apologetics. Though I have struggles and doubts just like everyone, those are usually short-lived and less intense than they otherwise would be. Also, studying natural theology has deepened my wonder at the God of creation, and my studies in defense of the Bible have increased my biblical knowledge and thus my knowledge of Christ.
What apologetic resources should young apologists be reading?
I could recommend quite a bit here, but here’s a short list, in ascending order of difficulty:
- Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind
- Nancy Pearcy, Saving Leonardo
- Craig, Moreland, & Beckwith, To Everyone an Answer
- Groothuis, Christian Apologetics
- Komosweski, Sawyer, & Wallace, Reinventing Jesus
- Cowan, Five Views on Apologetics
- Cowan & Wilder, In Defense of the Bible
- Moreland & Wilkins, Jesus Under Fire
- Craig, Reasonable Faith
- Copan and Moser, The Rationality of Theism