Conversations from Campus: Cumulative Case 4

Rick Mattson Apologetics Leave a Comment


At South Texas College a philosophy professor asked me to present Christianity to his class.

They were studying world religions and the professor, an atheist or agnostic, thought I could speak for Christianity better than he.

I asked about guidelines. “None,” he said. “Just be honest about your religion.”

So I had 75 minutes to present a “cumulative case” for the faith.

As noted in recent blog posts here, I began with creation and design (cosmology and teleology), then moved to the historical Jesus, the reliability and credibility of the Bible, and finally to an argument from experience.

On the white board at the front of the room I depicted each piece of the argument as a stair-step leading upward toward a certain conclusion.

I’m pretty sure the professor expected me to put the word “proof” at the top of the staircase, as if I had just proven Christianity true.

But anyone who works with proofs in philosophy or theology (or even science) knows they are very difficult to establish. I certainly had not done so in an hour and fifteen minutes.

So I made a more modest claim. I wrote the word “convincing” at the top. I said, “Many thoughtful people find the case for Christianity compelling.”

Then I went on to explain how one becomes a Christian. As it turns out, several students were interested in connecting with our ministry at the college.

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Remember the power of the cumulative case, what theologian James Beilby calls “piecing together a series of converging arguments and evidences.” *

It’s the combination¬†of lines of reason and data that can be so powerful.

*James Beilby, Thinking about Christian Apologetics, p98.
For an overall cumulative case, see Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics.

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