Common Apologetic Arguments

1. Cosmology:
– The universe has a beginning. Therefore, the universe has a cause, as it cannot be infinite.
– The first cause must be an ‘uncaused cause’; timeless, spaceless, etc. The cause must be beyond space and time, because it created space and time. The cause cannot be physical, because it created all matter and energy. But there are only two kinds of non-physical cause: abstract objects or minds. Abstract objects do not cause effects, therefore it must be an abstract mind.
– A natural (of nature) cause cannot be the cause, because it is circular logic to believe that nature created nature. Therefore, only a supernatural cause remains plausible, namely, God.
– “Who created God?” This question assumes that everything requires a cause; but only dependent, contingent things require causes to depend upon, and contrarily, God is independent, necessary, and eternal.
– The Christian worldview contends that God has no beginning; rather, he is eternal and outside of time, and therefore able to create the universe. The atheistic worldview contends that the universe has a beginning; thus, it came out of nothing. God can plausibly be eternal, as he is not restricted within the human concept of ‘time,’ and as such, requires no beginning. The universe, restricted within time (as Big Bang proponents assert that the Big Bang created time), cannot plausibly be before itself. It must have a transcendent cause outside of itself.

2. Teleology:
– God created the world with absolute, transcendent purpose: to manifest His glory in creation and reconcile His elect unto Himself. A world without God is a world without purpose; Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Camus, etc. all recognized that without a transcendent Creator or Being, there is no purpose in this world or in life at all (nihilism).
– The world we live in has fine-tuned constants, laws, and ratios (just a few among many are listed below) that make sense in a purposed world. They are utterly unexplainable in a fatalistic, purposeless world (i.e. atheistic).
      + The strong nuclear force
      + The weak nuclear force
      + Electromagnetic force
      + Cosmological constant
      + Gravitational constants
      + Ratio of masses for protons and neutrons
      + Laws of planetary motion (Kepler)
      + Laws of motion (Newton)
      + All other scientific constants, laws, ratios, etc.
 – There are specific, arbitrary quantities: constants and quantities fall into an infinitesimally narrow range of life-permitting values (e.g. if the weak nuclear force were different by 1 x (10^100) degree, then life would not be possible; if Earth were 5% closer to Sun, the water from the oceans would boil up, and if it were 1% farther away from the Sun, then the oceans would completely freeze over, etc.).
– There are 3 plausible explanations: physical law, chance, or design:
      + Not due to physical law, because constants and quantities are independent of the laws that they themselves are.
      + The mathematical odds for chance are trememendously high. Some have calculated the odds as ‘low’ as 1 in 1 x (10^10’s), while some have calculated the odds as high as 1 chance in 1 x (10^282). [Dr. Hugh Ross, astrophysicist, Probability for Life on Earth, 2004]. Either way, banking on pure chance is not precisely ‘rational’, as most atheists claim.
      + These scientific constants, laws, ratios, etc. are consistent with the ontological, epistemological, and logical coherency of God (within the Christian worldview).
– Therefore: you may place faith in the belief that the universe, sustainment and consciousness of life, perfectly arbitrary scientific constants/laws/ratios, etc. are derived from chance, or God.

3. Morality:
– Objective moral values are defined as: moral values that are true independent of the belief of human beings.
– Basic syllogism:
      1) If God does not exist, then objective, culture-transcending moral values do not exist.
      2) Objective, culture-transcending moral values do exist.
      3) Therefore, God exists.
– There can be no other plausible explanation or justification for the existence of moral values, or standards for what is regarded as “good” and “evil.”
– Our personal, subjective moral values (i.e. our different ‘moral compasses’, our different beliefs in what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’) do not negate the existence of objective moral law. This principle is demonstrated in the following example: If a math teacher delivers a test to her students with a single question, “What does 2+2 equal?”, and the students all return different answers (one student calculates the answer to be 5, another finds it to be 9.5, another finds it to be -3, and so on), must the teacher conclude that there is no objective answer? No. Likewise, just because we may return different moral beliefs, this does not negate the existence of objective moral values.
– A claim to objective moral values does not necessarily mean that we know what the objective moral values are, explicitly. But our lack of knowledge of them has no bearing on their existence, just as our lack of explicit knowledge of the laws of gravity or the laws of planetary motion did not negate their existence before Newton and Kepler ‘discovered’ them. Just as the teacher in the aforementioned example knows the answer to be 4, we know basic moral values such as “Murder is wrong,” and “Rape is wrong,” and “Theft is wrong,” and “Love is good,” and “Selflessness is good,” and “Kindness is good,” and so on. These values were not invented by man, just as we would not say that Newton and Kepler invented the laws of science.

4. Miracle of the resurrection:
– The resurrection of Christ is inexplicable by any historical or natural cause. No natural cause leaves only a supernatural cause (that is, a miracle). A miracle implies a miracle-giver (that is, God). Therefore, God exists.
– The typical argument against the occurence of miracles goes as such: “Miracles don’t happen because miracles don’t happen.” Granted, this circular logic is never stated as explicitly as I’ve phrased it, but this is the fundamental premise of the argument. Circular logic, nevertheless.
– 3 minimal facts of the resurrection pass the historical tests (early attestation, eyewitness testimony, multiple attestation, extra-Biblical resources, etc.):
      + Empty tomb: (1) “Was it really empty?” Firstly, even the initial enemies of Christianity never disputed the claim that the tomb was found empty. All they tried to do was explain why it was empty. Secondly, if Jesus’ body remained in the tomb, then why did the enemies of Christianity not simply produce the body to dispel the disciples’ claims? (2) “Could the body have been stolen?” Only 3 groups could have plausibly stolen Jesus’ body: the disciples, the Jews, or the Romans. Had the disciples stolen the body and then claimed Christ was resurrected, they would not have held to this (or any) lie to the point of death. Had the Jews stolen the body, all they would had to have done to disprove the Christians’ claims was produce the body. Had the Romans stolen the body, they too, would had to have only produced the body to disprove the Christians’ claims. (3) “Was he really dead?” The description of his prolonged torture before his body was placed in the tomb demonstrates he was undoubtedly dead, yet even if he were to (impossibly) survive the torture, he would not have the strength to move the stone, overtake the guard(s), travel away, etc.
      + Appearances: (1) Christ first reportedly appeared to women (Mary and Mary Magdalene). This would mean nothing to the contemporary, but in the 1st century, with such incredibly low views of women, nobody would regard their claims seriously. If the entire story was falsified, why would they have relied on a testimony that would never be accepted or believed? (2) Christ appeared to his disciples, who preached it and died for this belief.
      + Early belief in the resurrection: If the disciples had simply made up the idea of the resurrection, all they had to do was recant their supposed lies to save their own lives. They did not, and thus all 11 (excluding John) were martyred. To think that 11 men would foolish die for a lie that they gained absolutely nothing out of, essentially requires more faith than to believe that Christ was raised from the dead.
     + Also see The Case for Christianity

5. Ontological argument
This argument goes back to bishop Anslem of the 11th century, and is rather difficult to follow if you’re not familiar with what philosophers mean by ‘possible’ and ‘actual.’ It stands or falls on the very first premise. For better understanding, I’d refer you to the video at the bottom. The argument is as follows:
– 1) It is possible that a maximally great being (i.e. God) exists.
– 2) If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
– 3) If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
– 4) If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
– 5) Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
– 6) Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
– 7) Therefore, God exists.

6. Properly basic belief in God:
Personal experience is properly basic: it’s just like the belief in the external world, or the presence of other individual minds, or that the world didn’t start 5 minutes ago and things just happened; it’s properly grounded in experience. Some 2 billion or so Christians claim a personal, experiential relationship with God. In the absence of defeaters, those experiences are valid.

7. Transcendental argument
– Only the Christian worldview can properly account for the existence of transcendent, objective laws (such as the laws of logic, the laws of science, the laws of morality, etc.). The grounding for their unchanging, abstract existence can only be accounted for within the ontology of God. An atheistic, naturalistic worldview cannot account for any transcendent, abstract laws of ideas. They clearly exist and were not and cannot be man-made ideas (that is, for example, Aristotle did notinvent the laws of logic, but rather ‘discovered’ or systematically outlined their existence).
– Only the Christian worldview can account for ‘epistemological consciousness’, or the ability to come to knowledge. If everything is naturalistic and the result of an unpurposed big bang, there is no explanation of how ‘life,’ or consciousness, can come from non-life. Essentially, we’re just physical and chemical reactions randomly reacting within the meaningless universe; no more conscious than a soda can fizzing up.
– Only the Christian worldview can account for the uniformity of nature. If everything is naturalistic, complete and utter chaos, and entirely subject to chance, we have no reason to believe that what has occured before will occur again (e.g. that things won’t randomly explode, that the laws of science will apply tomorrow as they did today, etc.). This concept has always been the greatest difficulty to history’s more adamant atheistic philosophers, such as Hume and Russell. Within the confines of God’s ordered, purposed creation, the uniformity of nature is actually plausible and possible. Within chaos and chance, the uniformity of nature is entirely impossible.
– 10 things science presupposes:
     + The existence of a theory-independent, external world
     + The orderly nature of the external world
     + The knowability of the external world
     + The existence of truth
     + The laws of logic
     + The reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth gatherers and as a source of justified true beliefs in our intellectual environment
     + The adequacy of language to describe the world
     + The existence of values used in science (e.g., “test theories fairly and report test results honestly”); (9) the uniformity of nature and induction
     + The existence of numbers.
     –  Justin Holcomb, Why Science Needs the Christian Worldview

Ancient-Near East Religions

     “Internet sites abound with alleged similarities between the events of the New Testament narrative, in particular the person and work of Jesus Christ, and ancient mythological accounts of gods. Horus, Osiris, Dionysius, Mithra: all allegedly share in characteristics which Christians uniquely attribute to Christ. What are we to make of these parallels?
     Superficial Claims
     First and foremost, it is necessary to recognize the superficiality of such comparisons. Alleged similarities are typically a mile wide and an inch deep, intended to confuse and mislead in an area in which very few are personally informed. Internet claims are simply recited without actually being researched. Here are a couple of examples of such distortions of the actual evidence:
     Virgin birth
     It is certainly true that a few myths and religions spoke of something which has been described as a “virgin birth,” but examination of the source texts reveal that such terminology is misleading and irresponsible. Those accounts are decidedly sexual in nature with a male deity procreating with a female (virgin or not in some cases) in order to produce a son. In other words, a male god is engaging in physical sex with a female woman. If a man (deity or not) has sex with a female, then it is not a virgin birth because she is no longer a virgin. To call this a “virgin birth” is simply irresponsible and misunderstands the nature of Christ’s virgin birth.
     For the Christian doctrine of the virgin birth, read in particular Luke 1:34-35. God did not sexually interact with Mary. The pagan pictures of “virgin birth” are extremely dissimilar to the biblical account of the conception of Christ in which the power of the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” Mary.
     The parallel is very weak and unconvincing at best.
     Resurrection
     What of the many other mythical accounts of dying and rising gods? Analysis reveals that this too is hardly analogous to the Christian doctrine of resurrection. Those “gods” rose again each year as part of the agricultural cycle not as a watershed moment in history. It is the historical account of resurrection that sets the Christian claim apart and it is the central question which must be answered. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is false (1 Corinthians 15) and should be discarded as such. But if He did rise, this reality has profound implications for us and our lives.
     The reality of the resurrection best accounts for the objective data that we have. We know for a fact that the early church professed the resurrection (i.e. it was not invented some years later). We know for a fact that the disciples were willing to lay down their lives for that message (i.e. this makes it extremely unlikely that they stole the body). No body of Christ ever surfaced. Why not? Did the Romans or Jews steal it? That is extremely illogical since it would have only intensified the claims of Christianity. Was it a random grave robber? We have absolutely no evidence for that. Though it might grate against man’s rational desire for natural explanations, the resurrection simply best explains what we know to be historically true. Denial of the resurrection demands great faith in speculative answers to the questions which are raised by the data of the 1st century.
     [For an in-depth analysis of the absolute uniqueness of the biblical account of resurrection, set aside a large portion of time to begin to work through N.T. Wright’s mammoth The Resurrection of the Son of God. Wright looks at pagan accounts in particular and analyzes the claim that Christianity merely borrowed the concept of resurrection from surrounding cultures. Wright evidences that the Christian conception of resurrection was totally dissimilar to the expectations of the Ancient Near Eastern culture of that time or previous. There is a marked contrast between the hope of Christian resurrection and the pagan desire for life after death.]
     The following summarizes the resurrection “parallels” quite nicely, “It is superficial and unfounded to say that the study of the history of religions has shown the dependence of the resurrection of Jesus on mythology. On the contrary, it is precisely the comparison with the history of religion that gives rise to the strongest objections to any kind of mythifying of the resurrection of Jesus.”
     When one examines the claims of pagan parallels, one finds the such comparisons are incredibly shallow. Ultimately, it is not the similarities that are incredible, it is the depth of dissimilarity. The uniqueness of the biblical portrait of Jesus is astounding.
     The Existence of Parallels
     Though many parallels are weak, the fact that there are some similarities still needs to be considered. We will limit our consideration to similarities pointed out within the text of the Old Testament for the sake of time as I have posted a few resources which deal more specifically with claims of parallels in the New.
     First, I think it is important to consider that many parallels are intentional devices on the part of the authors of Scripture to show YHWH’s superiority over, not similarity to, pagan gods. Biblical studies have shown indeed that the language of the Scriptures often alludes to surrounding myths in taking a polemical posture against those religions and their idols. The Scriptures were not given from within a vacuum devoid of context. In speaking against Baalism in early Israel, it is only fitting that the authors of the Scriptures use language that parallels and supersedes that which was used by proponents of Canaanite paganism. The Bible is full of such intentional engagement with false teachings. For example, many believe that Psalm 29 is intentionally aimed at displaying the superiority of YHWH to Baal. YHWH’s voice is highlighted (7 times in the 11 verses) and is described as a thunderstorm to evidence His great power. This is particularly enlightening when one considers that Baal was considered the “storm-god” whose “voice” was heard in storms. In using the same language and imagery of the pagan god, David is here elevating the voice (7 being a number of completion or perfection in Hebrew culture) and power of YHWH over that of Baal. Rather than simply borrowing from ANE (Ancient Near Eastern) myths, the Scriptures are using similarities as inroads to consider the superiority of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to the “gods” of the culture.
     Second, I think that in many cases parallels actually strengthen the case for the biblical account. For instance, the vast distribution of pagan flood accounts in the ANE should not lead us to conclude that there was no flood, but rather that something actually happened. If one were investigating a murder and witness A claimed to hear an explosion late at night, witness B testified to fireworks sometime after 11:30, witness C argued for a backfiring car about 12:05, and witness D described a gunshot at 11:58, you would not conclude that they were all colluding or lying. Only a foolish detective would consider the contrasting accounts to be necessarily contradictory. They instead carry the common theme of a loud bang sometime around midnight. Even more foolish would be to assume that nothing actually happened. Further investigation of the evidence would highlight whether indeed there was a gunshot wound and approximate time of death.
     What are we ultimately to make of the existence of some parallels? If the biblical account is true, then man and demons are rebellious resisters of the revelation of God. If so, is it not extremely likely that both would seek to corrupt the account by reinterpreting actual events? Pagan parallels do not disprove Christianity any more than a witness who swears that he heard a car backfire disproves a murder.”
     – Geoff Ashley, Jesus Christ and Pagan Parallels

     – William Lane Craig, Jesus and the Story of Osiris and Horus
     – The Divine Evidence, Alleged parallels between Jesus and pagan deities
     – Frontline Apologetics, Alleged parallels between Christianity and Mithraism
     – PhilVaz, Horus: an Egyptian copy of Christ?
     – ChristianThinkTank, Was Jesus Christ just a ‘copycat savior myth’?
     –  AlwaysBeReady, Analysis and Response to Zeitgest
     – Mark Foreman, Mark Foreman refuting Zeitgeist the Movie
     – John Piipo, Rough transcript/notes of Foreman’s presentation
     – David Anderson, Zeitgest Parallels
     – John Currid, Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament
     – Jeffrey J. Niehaus, Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology Paperback