On December 15th, Eric Hernandez and I appeared on Joe Wyrostek’s, “What Do You Believe?” Podcast. I really enjoyed having a discussion with Eric, and I found him to be of good temperament throughout the entire debate. It is uncommon for a classicalist and a Clarkian apologist to engage in such a format, and I think that everyone watching got a good idea of what such a dialogue would look like.
I thought Eric asked some pretty interesting questions. He questioned me on whether or not that the proposition, “I’m baking a cake,” is an opinion. He threw me for a loop was when he asked, “Do you know that it’s an opinion?” I had to give some pause because it is a question that I never pondered. I thought this was the toughest question he asked in the entire debate, and I found Eric to be more formidable than any other person that I have engaged, and I do think there were some areas that I could have done better in, but I would think that everyone who has ever been in a debate is familiar with that feeling.
What I thought was telling and really highlighted the insufficiency of Eric’s apologetic methodology was when he used the Prophets of Baal and Elijah as an example. Elijah proposed that the he and the prophets of Baal would set up an offering. Eric said that Elijah used evidence to show that God was real when God rained fire down on the sacrifice. I then asked him to picture himself as a Prophet of Baal, and I asked him how a Prophet of Baal would have known that this fire was from the Christian God if Elijah hadn’t told him about it. Eric admitted that he wouldn’t have been able to know. I think this was the moment that the deficiency of trying to demonstrate God apart from the Bible was the most evident.
There were other issues as well that I think were problematic such as the problem of induction (which Eric never gave a solution for), and his insistence on inferring propositions from a non-propositional source such as sensory data. He also failed to give a definition of logic; he instead deferred to the laws of logic as their definition, but that is not a definition; the laws of logic are just examples of logic. I defined logic as the science of necessary inference, but Eric did not seem to like that definition, and that lead the discussion to two people who were talking past each other. We never quite got to hear how a classical apologist would arrive at the conclusion of the Christian God, but I suspect that Eric was not interested in having a discussion about epistemology.
Of course, I believe that I had the upper hand throughout the discussion, but I have no doubt that he believes that he had the upper hand. As Joe pointed out towards the end of the discussion, it was as if Eric and I had different rules on how to do philosophy. From the discussion, this was readily apparent.
I think that this discussion was good for both sides. It is rare that people get a chance to hear the Clarkian viewpoint, and though I found Eric’s answers to my objections to be inadequate, I think it was clear that Eric had answers because he probably had already given these issues some thought. He views his answers as sufficient, but I don’t view his answers as sufficient. This is just the product of disagreement.
I made a point throughout the discussion that Christians have a lot of options when it comes to apologetics. Indeed, Christianity is under attack from all sides. Because of this, I don’t want Christians to feel like they have to do apologetics my way. I don’t expect everyone to be an expert in epistemology. God has given us all different aptitudes in different areas. Some excel in science, others in philosophy, and some may be interested in history and textual criticism. It’s good to have Christians that have different approaches to defending the faith and who specialize in different areas. My apologetic methodology would appeal to someone who is concerned about epistemology. Eric’s apologetic methodology would appeal to someone who is concerned about evidence. I suppose that I hold an unpopular opinion amongst my Clarkian brethren when I say this, but classical apologetics does have its place in church history, and as inadequate as it may be, it is clear that God has still used classical apologetics for his glory. After all, Wiliam Lane Craig, a classical apologist, was a big factor in me getting to where I am today in my spiritual walk.
Overall, I enjoyed the discussion and I think that it will be beneficial to a lot of people. There will be people who state who they believe won the debate, but in the end, Eric, Joe, and I are ultimately on the same side.