Forrest Gump famously said that life is kinda like a box of chocolates. I’m not so sure about that. But I am convinced that apologetics arguments are kinda like a closet full of clothes. I offer this little pearl of wisdom as a response to Mike who asked: “can you state which apologetic arguments or family of arguments you consider the sturdiest?” (By “sturdy” I’m taking Mike to mean “best all around”.)
Now if I’m right that apologetics arguments are like a wardrobe of diverse garments, then it is as misguided to ask “which argument is the best all around?” as “which item of clothing is the best all around?” After all, there are not many days that you leave the house in a single one piece jump suit like Freddie Mercury used to wear. Most days you’re wearing several garments — a shirt, pants, socks, unmentionables, and so on. Nor does it make sense to ask which outfit is the best all around since the appropriateness of an outfit depends on the weather and the occasion. You might wear your one piece jump suit to the Sweet reunion concert (remember Sweet? They’re the 1970s British glitter band that sang “Ballroom Blitz”). But you don different clothing for a funeral or job interview.
All that is true if I’m right. But why think I am right? Why think that apologetics arguments are like a wardrobe of clothes?
The answer is simple. In the same way that weather and occasion require different clothing, so different people are persuaded by different arguments. One person is intrigued by the latest arguments from cosmic fine-tuning. Another finds the pull of a moral argument overwhelming. Still others are led to faith by, of all things, Pascal’s Wager (I know because I’ve met many such people, though they often don’t articulate the premises explicitly and have never heard of Pascal). And a few are even drawn in by the magnetic pull of the ontological argument. (Bertrand Russell was famously convinced by the ontological argument, at least for a little while.) And then there are those who leapfrog the “theistic step” altogether and find the sheer weight of evidence for the historical resurrection persuading them to become a Christian. So there is no best all around argument (or family of arguments).
Venturing into a new apologetics conversation is like going for an extended hike in the back country. What’s the best attire for such a hike? That’s tough to answer since the conditions could be anything from the warming rays of summer illumining the mountain flowers in an alpine meadow to blowing snow and zero visibility. In other words, bring your Gore-Tex jacket and your shorts, your thick woolen socks and a light T-shirt.
Okay, you get the picture. But still you’d like to know, what is the most versatile argument overall? Which argument is the equivalent of khaki slacks and a polo shirt?
Fine, if you’re going to press the point I’d say the two arguments with the most versatility are teleological/design arguments (in particular in their more sophisticated ID form) and good old-fashioned moral arguments. But still let the final lesson be this: when it comes to apologetics arguments, a diverse wardrobe is a good thing.