Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Presuppositional Defense of Scripture - Part 4 of ???

As a reminder, the question we are asking in this series of articles is this: “Is the claim that the Bible is the Word of God, True?” Some say that it is. Others say that it is not. Still others simply say they do not know. There are some who say that some of it is and some of it is not. Finally, there is the skeptic that says we simply cannot know. Traditionally, Christians have attempted to answer this question using empirical and historical evidence along with rational argumentation. In His book, “When Skeptics Ask,” Norman Geisler outlines his argument for the Bible as follows:

God Exists.
The New Testament is a historically reliable document.
Miracles are possible.
Miracles confirm Jesus’ claim to be God.
Whatever God teaches is true.
Jesus, who is God, taught that the Bible is the Word of God.
Therefore, the Bible is the Word of God.

As you can see, one has to prove a lot, in Geisler’s method, if one is to prove that the Bible is in fact the Word of God. The skeptic will have to concede that God exists, that the NT is historically reliable, that miracles are possible, that miracles confirm Jesus’ claim to be God, and that God does not lie, and finally, that Jesus taught that the Bible is the Word of God. And these are the sorts of things that the skeptic is certainly unwilling to accept. Now, I am not saying these arguments are bad arguments in and of themselves. I believe every one of them. That is not the problem with Dr. Geisler’s method. The problem is that Dr. Geisler makes the mistaken assumption, as do all classical apologists as far as I can tell, that the manner in which the skeptic justifies beliefs is identical to that of the Christian. This is, after all, a rational argument designed to appeal to rationalist justification for accepting beliefs or claims to knowledge. It seems that Dr. Geisler’s argument is constructed in a manner that is precisely designed to meet the unbelieving criteria of the skeptic. The skeptic replies, “prove it” to each one of these propositions. And when the skeptic says, “prove it,” she has some very strict criteria for what qualifies as proof.

                In order to illustrate why this argument is insufficient at the outset, we need to look no further than the claim that miracles are possible. In the mind of the skeptic, miracles are not possible. The argument that miracles are possible most assuredly means that the skeptic is not holding to a skeptical worldview and that would mean she isn’t a skeptic at all. If it is true that we must show that miracles are possible before we can show that the Bible is the Word of God, then we must examine the argument for the possibility of miracles.          
In contradistinction to this way of answering the question, the presuppositional approach would object to the very ground for the skeptics challenge from the start. In order for the skeptic to mount a challenge against the claims of Christian theism, to include her claims about the Bible, she must demonstrate that her skepticism can offer the necessary preconditions to make the human experience intelligible. She must be able to demonstrate that her skepticism offers genuine, true knowledge. But if the Christian can show that her skepticism reduces to absurdity, he has effectively eliminated her challenge to the Christian claim by showing her methods to be foolish and implausible. In this case, we don’t even get to the question before us. The skeptic is eliminated before she can launch her derisible assault against Scripture. For the younger generation familiar with levels in video games, you know very well you must pass level one to advance to level two. The skeptic must pass level one, which is the Christian’s criticism of the skeptics own basic presuppositions. The Christian need not worry, because when this is done correctly, no non-Christian can effectively get pass level one.
                The presuppositional defense of Scripture begins with Christian theism’s understanding of the nature of God’s sovereignty. This is no piece-meal, building block approach where we first demonstrate that God exists and then step by step seek to conclude that Scripture is the Word of God. Van Til comments on Warfield’s view on Sovereignty and Scripture,

For him the classical doctrine of the infallible inspiration of Scripture was involved in the doctrine of divine sovereignty. God could not be sovereign in his disposition of rational human beings if he were not also sovereign in his revelation of himself to them. If God is sovereign in the realm of being, he is surely also sovereign in the realm of knowledge.[1]

Christian theism, without reservation, affirms the doctrine of absolute divine sovereignty. Christian theism affirms that Scripture is God’s special revelation to those whom He has called unto Himself. Who would argue that God could not or would not be sovereignly and intimately involved in His own self-disclosure? Is it reasonable to accept the theory that God was either unable or unwilling to provide an adequately well-defined and sufficient revelation of Himself to humanity in the form of His Word? Such a preposterous scheme would mean the demise of anything remotely resembling Christian theism.
The transcendental argument for God, which shows Christian theism to be true because only it provides the necessary preconditions to make the human experience intelligible, is at the heartbeat of this question. If Christian theism is in fact true, then all that it teaches is true as well. Notice, I did not say all that proponents of Christian theism claim it teaches is true. If Christian theism is true, and Christian theism claims that the Bible is the Word of God, then it must follow that the Bible is the Word of God.
            I will end this post at the place where our answer to the question, “Is The Bible the Word of God?” must begin. Greg Bahnsen liked to structure the argument in the form of a disjunctive. Either A or ~A. Either Christian theism or not Christian theism.

A v ~A
The argument seeks to show that if Christian theism is not the case, then human intelligence is not the case. But human intelligence is the case. Therefore Christian theism is not not the case. In other words, because human intelligence is the case, Christian theism must be the case. Why? Because only Christian theism provides the conditions necessary for human intelligence. There is no other view for the Christian to hold. The necessary precondition for the intelligibility of human experience is the Christian worldview. All other views reduce to absurdity. Hence, the Christian worldview contends that since God is the author of all reality and of all knowledge, His Word serves as the final reference point for what qualifies as true knowledge and what does not! It is impossible to conclude that the Bible is the Word of God unless we begin with the view that Bible as the Word of God. I should say it is impossible if we want to be consistent in how we reason. We will pick up on this theme in my next post, which should conclude this mini-series nicely.

[1] Cornelius Van Til and Eric H. Sigward, The Articles of Cornelius Van Til, Electronic ed. (Labels Army Company: New York, 1997).

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