Is Apologetics Possible? Roy Clouser's Objection

28 September 2020

Christian apologetics is the discipline that defends Christianity by responding to objections raised against it and by offering arguments in support of it, such as a philosophical argument that God exists.

But is this second role possible? Assuming that God exists, can a philosophical argument be used to show that He exists? Some people don't think so. For example, Roy Clouser, who is professor of philosophy at the College of New Jersey, argues that no philosophical argument can "prove" God's existence. He says the following:

Whatever can be proven using the laws of proof—whether mathematical or logical—is not the creator of the laws of proof by whom they were brought into existence. So without realizing it, the thinkers who tried to prove God's existence ... unintentionally demoted him to what is in fact a creaturely level of existence. And this is why I say that whatever can be proven would thereby not be God.[1]

So, according to Clouser, arguments in favour of the existence of God reduce God to a created being because they assume that God depends on the laws of logic. In other words, such arguments assume that God exists only if His existence is logical. However, because God completely transcends reality, created laws of logic cannot be used to demonstrate His existence. Such apologetic arguments, therefore, end up concluding to a non-transcendent being that is certainly not God. In other words, it is not possible for created laws, or philosophical arguments, to prove a transcendent Creator.

Is Clouser's objection to apologetics successful? I don't think so. Setting aside Clouser's assumption that the laws of logic are created as opposed to being grounded in the being of God, Clouser assumes that God designed the "laws of logic" in such a way that they cannot establish His existence. But why think this? Surely an all-powerful and all-loving God can, and perhaps would even desire to, make His existence knowable through logic. In fact, in Romans 1:19–21, Paul teaches that God's existence can be known through creation. Paul does not exclude logic from "creation". Moreover, many theistic arguments, if successful, do establish God's transcendence, necessary existence, moral perfection, incorporeality, ultimate wisdom and self-revelation in Christ. Therefore, it seems somewhat more plausible that God created the laws of logic in such a way that logical arguments do not demote God to the status of creature but, rather, support the doctrine that God is the only ultimate, independent reality.

Consequnetly, we can use logic or philosophical arguments in order to show that God does, in fact, exist.


NOTES

  1. Clouser, Roy A. "Can We Know God Is Real?" Dordt College, Iowa, January 2009. http://www.allofliferedeemed.co.uk/Clouser/CanWeKnow.pdf, 3.