Chesterton on the Convincing Accumulation of Evidence

From Orthodoxy:

If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, “For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity.” I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence. But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts. The secularist is not to be blamed because his objections to Christianity are miscellaneous and even scrappy; it is precisely such scrappy evidence that does convince the mind.

I mean that a man may well be less convinced of a philosophy from four books, than from one book, one battle, one landscape and one old friend. The very fact that the things are of different kinds increases the importance of the fact that they all point to one conclusion.

Now, the non-Christianity of the average educated man to-day is almost always, to do him justice, made up of these loose but living experiences. I can only say that my evidences for Christianity are of the same vivid but varied kind as his evidences against it.

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  1. It sounds like Chesterton was a follower of Thomas Aquinas. Thomas believed that there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses. The Scriptures clearly refute this idea.
    Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
    Rom 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
    Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
    Rom 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    Verses 19 and 20 teach innate knowledge of God. That is why all men are without excuse. Even those who are blind, deaf and dumb or in a coma from birth are without excuse.

    The problem I see with the apologietics of Chesterton and many others today is that apologetics has become a defense of science, evidences or reason and not a defense of “the faith once delivered to the saints”. The question that we must first ask ourselves is what is “the faith” that must be defended. I believe “the faith” is the set of propositions contained in the Bible and their logical consequences that may be deduced from the Bible. “The faith” that must be defended is completely intellectual and the sole source of that faith is the Bible.

    We can use science and reason to help our opponent realize that their arguments are mere foolishness, but we can never prove “the faith” with science, empiricism or reasonable arguments alone. The words of Scripture must be the foundation for our defense of the faith in accordance with Sola Scriptura. We defend the Scriptures with the Scriptures. It is the example set down for us by Jesus and the apostles in the Scriptures.

    If we do a careful study of Acts 1:3 and ask ourselves what Jesus used as “many infallible proofs” we may be surprised.

    Acts Chapter 1 follows Luke Chapter 24. Luke is the author of both books and describes to us in Luke 24 what the many infallible proofs of Acts 1:3 is referring to.

    Luke 24:1-30 have the disciples confronted by many “evidences” including
    vs 2 – the women saw stone tolled away from the sepulchre
    vs 3 – the women saw the body of Jesus was gone
    vs 4-6 – the women saw and heard the testimony of two angels
    vs 11 – yet they “believed not”
    vs 12 – Peter saw the empty sepulchre and linen cloths and “wondered”
    vs 13- 24 – two of them saw and spoke to Jesus
    vs 25 – Jesus says to them, “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken”
    vs 27 – Jesus expounded the Scriptures to them, “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (they still did not understand or believe)
    VS31 – “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight.”

    The disciples did not believe any of the signs (empirical evidence) and were not able to “reason” (vs 15) their way to faith ( a belief in the truth statement of the Scriptures) until Jesus opened their eyes to the truth.

    The same happens in vs 35-46

    vs 36 – Jesus stands in their midst and speaks to them.
    vs 39 – Jesus presents his body to them to handle (empirical evidence)
    vs 40 – Jesus show them his hands and feet.
    vs 41 – “they yet believed not”
    vs 44 – Jesus reminds them of His “words which I spake unto you”…”which were written in the law of Moses and the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me”
    45 – “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures”

    What we see repeated here is that the disciples and apostles saw the signs (the empirical evidence) and tried to “reason” to understand but it was all futile. The “infallible proofs” were not the empty sepulchre, the grave clothes, the angels or Jesus standing in their midst showing them his hands and feet but the words (truth, faith) of the scriptures (the law of Moses, and in th prophets, and in the psalms). Jesus had to open their eyes (understanding) to the truths of the scriptures, the faith.

    So we must begin our apologetics by by learning from the Master and defend the “faith” with the scriptures (the written word of God) and wait for God to open the eyes of their understanding. Providing proofs for God or the resurrection or arguing from science or reason will never lead to a conversion. Only the “faith” as written in the Scriptures, expounded and defended, along with the power of God to open eyes of their understanding will lead to conversions.

    1Cor 1:22-23 For the Jews require a sign (empiricism), and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (rationalism) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.

    Sola Scriptua in theology
    Sola Scriptura in apologetic

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