Book Plunge: Hardwired

What do I think of James Miller’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Hardwired was for me a mixed bag. I agree with much of what was said, but the methodology didn’t seem to strike me right. I do agree that mankind is hardwired for God, designed if you will, to find His purpose in God alone. Yet I disagree with the approach that Miller takes.

Those who read me regularly know I come from a more classical/evidentialist approach to apologetics. I have my arguments for God’s existence and then I have my arguments for the resurrection of Jesus and I leave it at that. I also have had my own major concerns with a presuppositionalist approach.

That’s what struck me the most about Miller’s approach. He does not come out as a presuppositionalist, but that is where I saw him leaning the most. This was particularly evident when he said approaches taken like those in “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel are not going to work.

Now this I disagree with entirely. Miller has a problem with the idea that we need to become scholars in the field to understand Scripture. For a basic understanding of Scripture, you don’t need to be a scholar. The central message anyone can pick up. For an informed understanding, well you simply need to be more informed. While you don’t have to be a scholar yourself, you certainly need to learn from them.

It struck me as odd in fact for Miller to state something against this kind of approach when throughout the book he uses evidences and apologists from a perspective he would not agree with such as William Lane Craig.

I venture that the problem is not the approach. It is not the information. The problem is the people. The people just don’t care enough and while Miller does point to how things are known through an internal understanding, I wish to suggest that that could in fact be part of the problem. People are making decisions based on internal subjective views rather than the objective evidences.

For instance, what is the basis for marrying someone? It is how you feel supposedly. What happens when the day comes that you don’t feel any love? Well you move on with a divorce. Why are you to give in the church? Because you “feel led.” (Terminology not in Scripture at all!) If anything, our culture is too feelings oriented. (Consider also how often we say “feel” when we really mean “think.”)

The normal verse, Romans 1:20, used in this idea, in fact works best with an empirical approach much like my own. How does it say we know God? It is not by the things that are within, but it is by the things that are seen! We know God exists based on the evidences.

It was problematic as well to have Miller be so opposed to the idea of the blank slate. This is the belief that man is born without knowing anything. There is no a priori knowledge. On page 48, this is called a relatively new idea. What is the new idea is in fact epistemology. There have always been ideas on how we know what we know, but there being a branch called epistemology is rather new. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas all talked about knowledge of course, but they did not have formal theories in a category called epistemology.

Miller writes about how we have an internal GPS, a God Positioning System. For Miller, this is opposed to the blank slate. Yet a Thomist like myself who believes in a blank slate has no problem with the idea of a GPS like that in us. The two work hand in hand. In classical Thomism, all that one seeks after is the good. Some don’t make it to the ultimate good, but they all want that which is good.

This can include our hardwiring in fact. There is nothing contradictory in the idea. The problem I was having then was seeing this either/or paradigm being put out where you either believe in a blank slate or you believe in a GPS. One can have a GPS and still have an empiricist approach that rejects a priori ideas. If Miller wants us to choose between the two, this will hurt his approach.

For Miller, the hardwiring is evidence we already know God exists. For my position, we’ve been presented with enough evidence that there’s no basis for the denial to begin with. Miller on page 33 says some won’t come to God still because of pride and having to confess sins and matters of that sort.

Yet isn’t that a problem with any approach? There is no silver bullet in evangelism after all! There is no argument that will convince everyone because everyone is different and some people have hardened their wills. There are all manner of doubts that can occur. Miller gives the impression that other apologetic methods only interact with the head and not with the heart. As he says on page 153 “Traditional apologists think they can satisfy the mind without engaging the soul.” I wonder how this can be said since an evidentialist like Gary Habermas spends so much time talking about emotional doubt and how the emotions affect how we view the evidence.

That having been said, I do think Miller offers many good arguments that seem rather evidentialist. I also think he has some excellent questions which I think would be good for small groups wanting to discuss this.

My main concern is still that I would really like Miller to realize that this is a rather both/and. It’s a mixture of the head and heart both and that can come through internal experiences to be sure, but also through outward evidences. The problem in the church is not the methodology so much but rather the mindset of the church.

Now as for much of the material in the book, otherwise, it is excellent. I did not find much I disagreed with, but yet I found it odd that all this evidence was amassed when an evidentialist approach was disagreed with at the beginning, an approach might I add, I see the apostles themselves using with their claims to eyewitness testimony.

If you want a good experiential argument for why one should be a theist, I think you’ve got an excellent idea. I would just hope in further works that if Millers want to go against the blank slate idea, that he does deal with it in a more rigorous fashion. I, a Thomistic empiricist, have no problem with man being hardwired and having a blank slate both.

In Christ,
Nick Peters