Saturday, April 21, 2007

Rob: "Here's why.." or Chang's 'Fatal Flaw'

This is an attempt to capture my friend Rob's sentiment on the previous apologetic strategy I mentioned a few days ago. (He is not prone to blog and he is away this weekend helping with Campus Crusade in Blackburg-VA Tech).

The reason why he rejects Chang's Engaging Unbelief: A Captivating Strategy from Augustine and Aquinas is because Augustine was basically an evidentialist (arguing from historical and archaeological evidence) and Aquinas (Thomist himself) is a rationalist. Rob, who attended Westiminster for a short while, is a strict presuppositionalist and holds to the VanTillian approach. Well, as I read Chang's strategy and shared some of it with Rob, it seemed that Chang was unique in his reading of Augustine and Aquinas. Read as a literary narrative form, Augustine's argument is much less evidential and historical, while Aquinas is much less "Thomist" than traditionally declared by most philosophy scholars. Okay, so now we're interested.

Chang calls his framework "taking every thought captive" which involves three simple modes:
1. entering the challenger's story
2. retelling the challenger's story
3. and capturing that retold story within the gospel metanarrative.

The goal of his strategy is to show the tragic tension or the tragic flaw in the challenger's story, a tension that Chang (along with N.T. Wright and J. Richard Middleton) believe can only be resolved in the gospel. His approach assumes "The ability of the gospel metanarrative to take in all rival stories."

At this point Rob is uncomfortable because he does not believe that evidential or rational common ground exists to enter and retell the other's metanarrative. He still holds that only a presupposition that starts with the true nature of God and His Word is valid.

At this point I tell him that I still like Chang, because he makes a good point in that our post modern America no longer holds guaranteed judeo-Christian foundation that recognizes authority in general or especially absolute truth found in the Bible.

So, I go into this long explanation about how Aquinas specifically engages the story of the scholars who have been taken captive by the philosophical reasoning of Islamists who were well versed in Aristotelian ethics, logic, and polemics. The universities were splitting theology from the other academic departments because the theologians refused to engage the rationalists. (sound familar?) Therefore, Aquinas spent the first three chapters of the Summa Contra Gentiles proving -1 the existence of God, 2- His role in creation, and 3 - evidence of His Divine providence. All three of these chapters drew from the challenger's own pet materials and sought to build bridges based on what Aquinas perceived as common ground. After having been convinced of what we call today "General Revelation" from the first 3 chapters, Aquinas then moves the challenger into Chapter 4 - Salvation (or Special Revelation)- using scriptural references almost exclusively as his source material.

Okay, so we end the discussion with Rob being open to considering this type of strategy, but still doubtful. And I agree to delve further into the distinctions of his approach - VanTillian presuppositionalism.

This morning, I got to page 112 and Chang revealed his own tragic flaw. And for me this is sincerely a fatal flaw:
He is willing to give up "common ground" to critical territories that can never be conceded:
- Creation!
- The Fall!
- The Depravity of man!
- The Inerrancy of Scripture!
and maybe more, but I had to stop reading at that point. Ughhhhh.

I guess this is why his work has disappeared and was not widely read or accepted.
A pity really, because I thought it started fairly strong. Oh well, I guess this is a good reminder that every thought truly must be taken captive and conformed to God's infallible Word.

You were right again, Rob!

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