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What is Common Sense Christianity?
- Simplicity the other side of Complexity -
F. Earle Fox
See also, The Bible & Truth-Seeking; sermon; Authority of the Bible in a Scientific World...
& Worldview Library; and especially the Master-Plan for the Road to Emmaus.
It has been said, "I would not give a plugged nickel for simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give a year's wages for simplicity the other side of complexity." Some people have worked through the complexities of life to find the deep simplicities within them. Hillsdale College has done that with politics and education generally (go to www.hillsdale.edu for their online courses on the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and a new one on The Western Heritage).
Finding that simplicity the other side of complexity is the aim of the Road to Emmaus and Common Sense Christianity. See the 3 Master Plans for the Road for starters. Finding that simplicity is not "over simplifying", it is getting down to the real core of something, its ultimate presuppositions, which then reasonably explain the complexities. The basic simplicities are usually metaphysical, those presuppositions which we all need to make common sense of the world around us.
Apologetics is the attempt to explain something, such as the Christian faith, reasonably. There are many, many persons all through Christian history who have engaged in such a project -- with differing success. The project of The Road to Emmaus is to help rewrite Biblical theology so that it can stand in the public arena to present its case in a compelling, common sense way, with no special appeals to blind faith, leaps in the dark, etc. That is the Biblical way. We must become truth-seekers before position-defenders. Truth-seeking is the only way to a true, common sense position.
Common sense Christianity rests on the notion that the basic entities of life are persons, not things, not atoms, quarks, or strings, but persons (see Personality, Empiricism, & God for the philosophical defense of this idea).
After the rise of science, things changed because science seemed (rightly) to have ways of examining things much more accurately and deeply. It was feared by many (they rarely said it this way) that if they had an honest examination, there was a chance that the evidence might go against Biblical faith, creeds, etc. So Christians tended to back up into arbitrary theories of intellectual and moral authority to respond to queries about the faith. Science and reason were suspect for many Christians.
That sometimes meant that they did not pay too much attention to clear logic or relevant empirical evidence. They might simply examine the text of the Bible for their proofs. If you are looking for what God might have said to the Hebrews at a certain time of their history, or other matters of the relationship between the Hebrews or early Christians with God, you had almost no recourse but to go to the Bible. The Bible is the primary history of that relationship.
But if you wanted to show that it is compellingly reasonable to believe that God exists, you will not find that kind of proof in the Bible. One can make a blind leap of faith, which the Bible never recommends unless, at least, you are compelled by emergency circumstances to leap one direction or another.
I do not believe that anything at all is infallible or inerrant other than God Himself, i.e., no created thing is infallible or inerrant. The Bible gives a picture of the Biblical God, of the Biblical worldview, and of the Good News. But it does not state a logical or an empirical argument to show belief in God to be reasonable. Rather, it tells the history of the Hebrew and then Christian relationship with God. The story is compelling because it does in fact reveal such a common sense God.
It does provide evidence indirectly, in that some of the things that happen in the Bible cannot be explained apart from the existence of a God who intruded Himself into their history. The existence of the Bible itself makes no sense unless the Hebrews had been visited by some such deity. They themselves began as pagans (Abraham in or near Babylon), so their change to being worshipers of a wholly different and opposed kind of deity needs an explanation. The best one by far is the one they themselves give -- that this new (to them) kind of God chose them.
But for a logical proof of the existence of God, one has to ask the metaphysical questions. The metaphysical, or the cosmological or worldview issues, sort out what kind of world we inhabit. There are two primary choices -- Biblical (an intelligent designer with intelligent designs) - or - Secular/Pagan (random chance as the explanation of why the world is what it is). Metaphysics tries to sort out which of those two might be the truth of the matter. The Biblical view wins hands down.
So, Common Sense Apologetics means explaining Common Sense Christianity -- which holds itself to intellectual
integrity by honoring (for starters) the two fundamental laws of intelligent discussion:
(1) the law of non-contradiction (a thing cannot both be and not be in the same time, place, and respect); and,
(2) the law of sufficient cause (every event must be explained by a cause sufficient to do the explaining).
Everyone uses these two laws all the time, just to make sense of their daily life. The difference between most of us and scientists is that the scientists pay close attention to the details. The rest of us more or less wing it, and hope for the best. That works most of the time, but sometimes we have questions which demand deeper study.
So, reason (discovery with our own wits) and revelation (hearing from God) both have their parts to play in the economy of God, and we must learn how to use each of them. They are not enemies, they are symbiotic, they feed each other. Neither reason nor revelation can survive without the other. Revelation requires reasonable study of its content. Moreover, reason requires a moral commitment to the truth, and only God by revelation can supply a moral order to which to be committed.
It is right to call this "common sense" Christianity because those two laws of intelligent discussion are being learned as basic common sense by children at very early ages. By at least 4 years old, children typically understand the difference between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong, and the nature of moral authority. When mother asks Johnny, "Did you put your hand in the cookie jar?" little Johnny maybe embarrassed but Johnny knows exactly what mother is asking for...., the truth. Johnny will not be able to define these concepts, but he will know them -- at his age level -- when he sees them.
Furthermore, little Johnny is already doing metaphysics, not studying it as in college, but doing it, as in perceiving the existence of mother, a person, a soul, "a someone for whom I am valuable". He is seeing something beyond the physical. Johnny is already a meta-physician -- (meta=beyond or beside + physics=the sensory world). Johnny does not see a pattern of sensory data from which he reasons or infers that "this is mother". He sees mother. He develops a personal relationship with her. That does not come as a reasoned conclusion, it comes intuitively. One senses it, one sees it.
These great metaphysical and moral issues are common sense stuff to the child and to God. Thanks to a very mistaken secularized and/or paganized culture, it is mostly we fallen adults who make hard work of it. But that is changing, thanks to increasing numbers of intelligently committed Christians. Again, we must become truth-seekers before position-defenders. Truth-seeking (whether academic or in the trenches) is the only way to a true, common sense position.
All of this is a part of the common sense approach to both science and religion.
NOTE: for a view of "common sense science", go to www.commonsensescience.org They are Christians who think they can rewrite scientific cosmology in a common sense way-- revising the anomalies in physics (relativity and quantum mechanics especially). Quite amazing, and I think they are succeeding.
Also, the Intelligent Design movement -- another "common sense" scientific project at http://www.discovery.org/
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Date Posted - 05/16/2012 - Date Last Edited - 06/27/2013