Jeff Cook’s New Kind of Apologetics

Gotta watch this … I hope Jeff’s book will be widely read.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Percival

    I liked the style of the video and the approach, but I was confused about the message. How is a tricycle race down a hill about meaning? It seems to be a metaphor for being out of control, but is that the same thing as random purposelessness? Not to me. I need to watch it again I guess but my kids are saying we need to go to the pool now!

  • http://mpzrd.blogspot.com Marshall

    It bothered me considerable that people are laughing as the 5-year old heads hit the pavement. Is anybody actually listening???

    No, I don’t think I’ll get the book.

  • Steve

    Nothing really new here expect presentation. William Lane Craig covers this concept of a meaningful life and an existence of purpose, meaning, and value in his argument on the absurdity of life without God’s existence found in his “Reasonable Faith” (chapter two) and his book “On Guard” (also chapter two).

  • Chris Oakes

    @Marshall – Curious if you have any young children? I have two, and have found myself laughing at certain things my kids have done, things which made them cry initially. I did listen, and I laughed, because I realize that falling off a tricycle is a minor pain in a long life, one that should be laughed about, if not initially, then eventually.

  • http://www.everything.org Jeff Cook

    Steve (3). The title is pre-empting the content of the book, specifically Chapter 2 in which I try to develop a anti-foundationalist apologetic, and chapter 3-8 which is a theodicy. I’ll be writing more about them this summer. Peace.

  • http://www.everything.org Jeff Cook

    I should say, 3-8 is in part a theodicy. Far more going on there.

  • PJ

    I didn’t really get how the approach is going to be a “new kind of apologetics.” Sounds a lot like classical apologetic methodology.

    Also, I agree with Steve #3, the story is odd (a Rob Bell-esque random story) that doesn’t really work its way into the overall point. I’m sure it was a funny, though sad, scene. However I didn’t see how that leads up to the questions and resolution of the questions.

    As a specialist in the field I don’t, generally, see new methodologies being proposed in texts like this. Instead I usually find a pre-existing methodology simply explicated and given a new coat of paint. Is this going to be more like the classical method, or evidential, or presuppositionalist? One cannot tell but generally most popular entries like this aren’t actually a “New Kind” of anything. Mostly rehashed methodology given a new name that laypeople just aren’t familiar with, though those of us in the biz can tell the difference.

  • PJ

    An anti-foundationalist apologetic Jeff?

    I doubt this is actually anti-foundationalist, but are you trying to assert some kind of post-foundationalist or coherentist epistemology as the framing structure for your proposal? Or will this primarily be a response to a strong foundationalist epistemology? I don’t even know how someone can do apologetics from a coherentist position. However if you’re suggesting there is a post-foundationalist approach (ala Pannenberg, van Huyssteen, and Shults) then this might be intriguing. I’ve suggested a post-foundationalist approach before but haven’t been able to get beyond the theory of knowledge. Of course Plantinga and others have proposed (in their Reformed epistemology) a supremely better moderate foundationalism which brings together their theodicy and cosmology.

  • http://mpzrd.blogspot.com Marshall

    @Chris, yes I raised two boys, now adults. I know what you mean about laughing at them crying. Last night at church one of the three y-o’s was majorly upset because another child spoke sharply to her about drinking out of his soda; we chuckled at her histrionics while her Dad carried her over to where her soda was.

    The mass bicycle wreck is something else altogether. Kids “catching an edge” and flying into each other, going “over the curb”, ending up “under cars”? That isn’t a simple tumble off a tricycle on the sidewalk. I don’t think you’re visualizing the scene Jeff is actually describing, and neither are the people in the soundtrack who laugh louder and louder all the way to the end of the story. It seems to me that Jeff’s point in the second half is how our “velocity” in a mechanistic world accelerates us into desolate scenes of hopelessness and horror, from which our only recourse is to turn to God. So where is the dawning consciousness of horror in the first part? It’s just twee ha ha all the time while children bleed, and the theological point just appears, free-floating.

    Chaplin Mike was complaining the other day about the lack a “theology of suffering” that desensitizes people to the real world. It’s a good comment but I don’t know why he picks on Charismatics. When you read/preach on your Bible, do you also clean up the groady parts, like when Joshua orders the utter waste of Jericho and all it contains?

  • http://www.everything.org Jeff Cook

    PJ (7-8). I didn’t name the post, and I suppose I’m not as familiar as you seem to be with contemporary apologetic approaches, so perhaps you can help us. My approach ends up relying heavily on Kuhn, James and Pascal. You may reject the anti-foundational categorization if you wish. I’d love to hear your designation.

    There is a coherentist element (which does strike me as anti-foundational–would you disagree?).

    I’m going to write on Plantinga’s approach soon, which strikes me as a circle the wagons kind of approach (with the exception of his evolutionary argument against naturalism).

    You’ll have to define “post-foundationalist” for me and why it differs from other schools.

    Peace.

  • http://www.godhungry.org Jim Martin

    The video is well done and I look forward to reading the book. After Jeff’s wonderful book on the seven deadly sins, I really have an appreciation for his work.

  • PJ

    Jeff, thanks for the reply. I’m a bit taken aback that you, admittedly, don’t have a lot of knowledge about contemporary apologetic method yet still desire to write an apologetic book about/against contemporary apologetic method. That seems dangerous.

    Truly the apologetics of fundamentalist and neo-fundamentalists differ from reformed and neo-reformed in both method, tone and content. (I’m guessing your response is largely coming from a discontentment with fundamentalism in general.)

    Also, and I say this as encouragingly as possible, I thought it was common knowledge that any time we reference something that is “anti-foundationalist” we almost always mean a coherentist epistemology. The academic literature I’ve been working in, and a colleague I asked agrees, almost always conflates the two terms. It is challenging, if not impossible, to propose a coherentist apologetic method that is able to faithfully (not fideistically) uphold a reasonable Christian philosophical theology when confronted with, say, humanist philosophy. I’m challenged to think of a way to do this that doesn’t capitulate essential beliefs.

    Finally, if you’re not aware of post-foundationalist epistemology that is really something a scholar (or even a popular entry) needs to be aware of before proceeding. This is an arising category that has been initially worked out and is a mediating position between (strong) foundationalism and coherentism. I’d be happy to interact with you more if you email me offline. It is a technical and necessary conversation.

    I’m more convinced that the Reformed Epistemological approach is better equipped to handle the contemporary challenges to Christianity via their apologetic method than the others. Yet there is value in other contemporary methods. Any text on this topic needs to have handled these issues or you’ll just discredit yourself with specialists in the field. The scholars you list are interesting (Pascal’s wager is a classical apologetic methodology cornerstone) but I don’t see them as being coherentist. Again, I’d be happy to go offline on this one with you.

    Thanks again for the conversation. :)

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    PJ (12) You write, “I’m a bit taken aback that you, admittedly, don’t have a lot of knowledge about contemporary apologetic method yet still desire to write an apologetic book about/against contemporary apologetic method. That seems dangerous.”

    I noted that you claim to have a high degree of knowledge here, that’s all. I didn’t claim ignorance. I was hoping for your expertise. But to your claim–why think my book is about contemporary apologetic method?

    You write, “It is challenging, if not impossible, to propose a coherentist apologetic method that is able to faithfully (not fideistically) uphold a reasonable Christian philosophical theology when confronted with, say, humanist philosophy. I’m challenged to think of a way to do this that doesn’t capitulate essential beliefs.

    The juxtaposition of faithfulness and Fideism is funny given the meaning of “Fides”. You may have to argue more here for me to see your point. (Not sure where you are seeing the disconnect.) Moreover, you may need to define or give your perimeters for “a reasonable Christian philosophical theology”. I don’t understand where you are landing on these fronts.

    You write, “If you’re not aware of post-foundationalist epistemology that is really something a scholar (or even a popular entry) needs to be aware of before proceeding.”

    Neither the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy nor the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy use/honor/advance that term. Wikipedia gives it a one sentence, fairly incoherent, definition. I was hoping you could help all the novices out.

    I’d be happy to speak with you further on this blog. Its not like we’re bugging anyone.

  • Luke Allison

    Jeff,

    Is this connected to your recent ebook?

  • PJ

    Jeff, thanks again for the reply. I always enjoy good conversation and hope we don’t end up talking past each other as can happen in these forums.

    I’m curious what the nature of your book will be then as the title reflects a “new approach” to apologetics, which inevitably will have to be, at some level, methodological. When I hear a title that contains the phrase “A New Kind of _____” there is an immediate note that this is a redrawing of traditional categories and recasting of methods. (Consider all of the Emergent “A New Kind of” titles that all proposed new methods.) Even in the brief interaction we’ve had you mention that there is a desire to cast an “anti-foundationalist” apologetic. At the basic level this is a methodological discussion. Apologetics necessitates method as it is a practical discipline. Anyways, that is my take on it.

    I’m glad you got the pun about faithful and fideist. That was my intention. :)

    One thing that might help our conversation is that I don’t have a problem with foundationalism…when properly applied. I think we end up in some odd (again) fideism if we embrace strong foundationalism (even though they claim to be, ultimately, rationalists.) However I think moderate foundationalism, ala Plantinga and Alston, is more tenable given our epistemological context (I reject that postmodernism is culturally feasible.) Now if you desire to offer a coherentist, or non-foundationalist, or anti-foundationalist approach you’ll likely be working with individuals like Tracy, Quine, and Ullian. My challenge to whether this kind of system is usable in apologetic method is simply that it lacks a feasible ground. (Thus my moderate foundationalism) I don’t believe coherentism provides a framework (they would say web) for discovering truth, instead it allows truth to deviate into a community centered, contextually based quest for rationality. Apologetics (as we consider it historically and contemporarily) often stands against the community and context. It ends up being liable to a radical relativism due to its incommensurability. As we’re seeing in this discussion, often basic terminology is never able to be distinguished between individuals. While anti-foundaitonalism can be convenient for short-term argumentation it lacks the rigor and ground for a sustained, long-term deployment in an effort to provide a basis for rationality. (Anyways that’s my take)

    I know Grenz and Franke wanted to be considered non/anti-foundationalist, but given their proposal in “Beyond Foundationalism” I think they’re more weak foundatiionalists than anything.

    Post-foundationalism is field in the midst of the two disciplines. I’d encourage anyone interested to go and read Pannenberg, van Huyssteen, Shults, and others. Basically (and this won’t do it a bit of good) the idea here is that it is a discipline which admits the contextuality of how tradition informs our epistemic and non-epistemic values while also pointing beyond the contemporary conversation and allows for a broader interdisciplinary conversation to broaden theological paradigms. (I got a lot of that from van Huyssteen’s work, pg 4ish) Honestly one of the things that is appealing about this model is the move away from a naive realist epistemology and allowing for a critical realist test for truth. This isn’t completely convincing but it is an alternative and some good work is being done in formulating more effective and robust understandings of this paradigm.

    I don’t know if post-foundationalism is a better method for apologetics but it certainly trumps the bland a priori relativism of anti-foundationalism. A challenge is that while post-foundationalism asserts an a posteriori method I’m not certain that is ultimately better than what moderate foundationalism proposes in a religious test for rationality. More specifically as it relates to, say, Reformed Epistemological Method in apologetics, why not start with the sensus divinitatis? Why must we begin a quest for rationality in ambiguity and incredulity towards a metanarrative when historically it is clear that almost all peoples have sought, and do seek, some divine presence as formative to their understandings of epistemological certitude?

    Anyways, I think just swatting at the foundationalism of much of modern apologetics is like shooting missiles at an asteriod plunging towards earth. They’ll just bounce off. But if you drill down to the core and drop a big ole bomb there you’ll save the planet, get the girl, and construct a more significant system which can be deployed. (Yes that was one long illustration using Armageddon.)

    One of the challenges of contemporary apologetics, where foundationalism can be largely seen, is that it is more fideistic than it is rational. I think that is something which needs to be addressed. However when we get into the sophisticated apologists like WL Craig and JP Moreland there is something beyond the strong foundationalism which is helpful. I’ve sat in a local church where some guy gets up and has a slideshow “proving” God exists using logic and evidences that are all rooted in an a priori commitment to foundationalism that never really gets off the ground. That kind of stuff is silly and not helpful. I’ve also sat through too many arrogant presentations of the YEC position that basically say if you don’t believe this you’re anti-Bible and anti-God. That’s idiotic. But there are reasonable answers and reasonable models out there.

    I don’t get the presuppositionalism of Van Til and a lot of the young, restless and Reformed crowd. I believe apologetics requires engagement, should be dialogical, and is only a viable model when the Holy Spirit is able to work in the hearts of those who are hearing. That said I also think the blind materialism of too many scientism adherents is just as discrediting as a terribly proposed YEC argument.

    This is getting long and I hope it is helpful. Let’s definitely continue the convo. If we were having this face to face hopefully you’d see that my attitude and voice is one of compassion and encouragement. I’m not intending on being hyper-critical or angry. Sometimes my vocal inflection never makes through the keyboard. :)

  • CGC

    Hi Jeff and PJ,
    I can see where people might need to ground their apologetics into some kind of epistemology but doesn’t that kind of change the whole direction of apologetics to a kind of Christianity that is basically a mental construct or philosophy in which we have seen happen historically for centuries? Jeff may be onto something with anti-foundationalism with this concern? But if we call it anti-foundationalism, doesn’t epistemology still rule in apologetics and isn’t that part of the problem? And what about knowing that is not rational but beyond rational or more intuitive? Or as Pascal said, “the heart has reasons which reason will never know.”

    Maybe Jeff is onto something?

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    PJ,

    I agree. I’d love to have a good conversation.

    The book is titled “Everything New: One Philosopher’s Search for a God Worth Believing In”. The Title comes from Revelation and God’s pronouncement over his world: “Behold I am making Everything New”. The subtitle reflects the theme of the book, which is focus on the arguments that led me toward following Jesus.

    On an antifoundationalist apologetic – these were the kinds of arguments that worked for me, and I simply restate them. Whether they are valid/critique-able/utter failures is certainly debatable. I recount them for others who have asked to know why I bright kid like me still believes in fairytales.

    I’ll tell you what, much of the argument you are putting forth through your response is simply saying “if you go this way… here are some difficulties.” May I invite you to buy the book. Take a look and, if necessary, give a critique of the content. I would LOVE to talk to you on that front. The stuff that will be most interesting epistemologically/apologetically is in chapter one and two. In fact you can see the entirety of chapter one on Amazon.com’s “look inside” function.

    I think you have a lot of great things to say about epistemology that are worth wrestling through. My short answer is that presuppositions seem unavoidable (you can’t begin with what is proven, only with what is believed), and if so what one presupposes will determine the trajectory of the deductions. That is the primary problem at hand, in my mind, in the search for truth and God. This problem is why those from theist and non-theist camps often talk past each other, and unfortunately or not it means we start the quest for insight from loose, subjective perspectives. Given that reality, how do you encourage the common non-Christian to consider Jesus.

    That is my book in short.

    Much Love Friend!

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    (14) Luke. Hey man. I released a short piece called King which is chapter 6 of Everything New. Does that help?

    (16) CGC. I think this is wise. Practically speaking, I know of only one person, besides myself, who came to faith because of arguments. Apologetics ought to move and target more broadly the whole person and not simply the left side of their brain. Peace!

  • CGC

    Great wisdom Jeff,
    Thanks!

  • Steve K

    Hi Jeff,
    I look forward to reading your book in full. The trailer/preview on Amazon leads me to believe it will be a helpful beacon on this stage of my journey. Thanks.

    On a side note:
    In the amazon preview there is a quote by Einstein with a slightly-humorous error:
    “Thinking, feeling, and acting are not free but are just as casually (sic) bound as the stars in their motion”.

  • http://www.everything.org Jeff Cook

    (20) Steve

    Ha. True. I’ve looked at that a few hundred times and didn;t catch the mistake.

  • http://www.goodnewsokoboji.com Anthony Parrott

    Great trailer and looks like a great read. Our church is currently using “Seven” for our summer sermon and small group series and it is shaking lives up (in a good way)! Please believe me when I say that we’ll be taking a look at this with great enthusiasm!

    As for the illustration at the beginning, Cook states the purpose of it: it reminds him of velocity. Velocity (speed + direction) is a pretty good metaphor for life and what God hopes to change about it.


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