American evangelical theologian
- Although evidentialism provides some significant contributions to the apologist's task, nevertheless, as a test for the truth of a world view it is entirely inadequate. For evidence gains its meaning only by its immediate and overall context; and evidence as such cannot, without begging the question, be used to establish the overall context by which it obtains its very meaning as evidence.
- [F]acts and events have ultimate meaning only within and by virtue of the context of the world view in which they are conceived. Hence, it is a vicious circle to argue that a given fact (say, the resuscitation of Christ's body) is evidence of a certain truth claim (say, Christ's claim to be God), unless it can be established that the event comes in the context of a theistic universe. For it makes no sense to claim to be the Son of God and to evidence it by an act of God (miracle) unless there is a God who can have a Son and who can act in a special way in the natural world. But in this case the mere fact of the resurrection cannot be used to establish the truth that there is a God. For the resurrection cannot even be a miracle unless there already is a God. Many overzealous and hasty Christian apologists rush hastily into their historical and evidential apologetics without first properly doing their theistic homework.
- [C]ontrary to evidentialism, meaning is not inherent in nor does it arise naturally out of bare facts or events. Nothing happens in a vacuum; meaning always demands a context. And since the facts are admittedly distinct from the interpretation, it is always possible that in another context or framework of meaning the said facts would not be evidence for Christianity at all. For example, in the context of a naturalistic world the resuscitation of Jesus' corpse would not be a miracle but merely an unusual natural event for which there is no known scientific explanation but which, by virtue of its occurrence, both demands and prods scientists to find a natural explanation. Meaning, then, does not really grow out of the event by itself; meaning is given to the event from a certain perspective. The earthquake that an Old Testament theist believed was divinely instigated to swallow Korah (Num. 16:31 ff.) would undoubtedly be explained by a naturalist as geological pressures within the crust of the earth. What the New Testament claims was the "voice of God" in John 12 was admittedly interpreted by someone standing nearby as "thunder." No bare fact possesses inherent meaning; every fact is an "interprafact" by virtue of a necessary combination of both its bare facticity and the meaning given to it in a given context by a specific perspective or world view.
- [T]here is no way from pure facts themselves to single out some facts as having special, crucial, or ultimate significance. "Singling out," "selecting," "comparing," and the like are processes of the mind based on principles or perspectives one brings to the facts and not characteristics inherent in raw data. Events simply occur in a series; only one's perspective or view of those events can determine which one is to be honored over another with special significance. Not even unusual or odd events as such have inherently more significance than usual or common ones. For if that were so, anomalies would be more important than scientific laws and more human significance would be attributed to freaks than normal people. In fact, in the context of a random universe, even series of odd events bear no more significance than unloaded dice that roll the same numbers on several successive throws.
- [W]hether or not there is a God is precisely the point at issue. And it is invalid to appeal to "theistic evidence," that is, to allegedly miraculous events as a proof that this is a theistic world. That begs the whole question. If this is a theistic universe, of course certain odd series of events can be given special significance. However, the significance does not reside in the events as such but is attributed to them by virtue of the important overall context in which they occur, namely, the theistic context. But if this is a random natural world rather than a theistic world, neither the life of Christ nor any other unusual series of events has any more special religious significance than an odd series of combinations on a Las Vegas gambling table.
- The real problem for the Christian apologist is to find some way apart from the mere facts themselves to establish the justifiability of interpreting facts in a theistic way. No appeal to the mere events or facts themselves will aid in determining which of the alternative interpretations should be placed on the facts. Viewpoints and world views come from without and not from within the facts. Hence, facts or events as such cannot establish theism.