Saturday, February 15, 2014
The God Who Cannot Not Exist
Either God is antecedent to possibility or possibility is antecedent to God. In the former case, God cannot not exist, while in the latter, it is possible that God does not exist. My experience in the area of apologetics is admittedly limited. However, I have had formal training in both classical and presuppositional apologetics. Norman Geisler was my teacher in the classical method while my work in presuppositional apologetics began with interactions with reformed friends and then I took it up as part of my Th.D. work at Tyndale Theological Seminary under Paul Henebury. On the basis of the experience I do have, it is my guess that many if not most apologists engaged in apologetics would not think my opening disjunctive to be anything profound. After all, classical apologetics, with its approach, is very satisfied and even confident that it can show, through rational argumentation and historical evidence that God probably exists. In other words, it is probably the case that the statement “God exists” is probably true. I believe this way of thinking contradicts sound doctrine and compromises the integrity of the gospel message.
My objective for writing this post is to urge you to turn your interest to a very specific question about the approach of Christian apologetics known as the classical method. And that question is simply this: Does the Bible reveal to us God as the kind of God that could not exist? Is the God as described in the Bible the sort of being that as such a being, it is possible for Him not to exist? I intend to demonstrate that the revelation of the characteristics and attributes of God expressed in Holy Scripture are entirely and wholly contradictory to any apologetic method that concludes anything other than the necessary existence of the self-contained triune God of Christian theism. In other words, any system of thought that concludes only that God probably exists, regardless of the degree of that probability, not only fails as an apologetic method, but also betrays the clear teachings of Scripture regarding the nature and attributes of the God who is there. In short, the classical method does not do justice to Christian theism as revealed in divine revelation.
The view that, on the one hand affirms that the revelation of God to man is so objectively clear that it is not rational for men to reject Christian theism, and on the other hand embraces the position that the evidences for the Christian faith are such that Christian theism is only probably true is a glaring contradiction. If it is possible for Christian theism to be false, then it is not irrational to conclude that it is false. The concept of probability in such arguments is the difficulty one encounters when they try to quantify the degree of probability. What does the formula look like when we place the evidence for Christian theism into the algorithm? How can we tell that the calculation gives us at least 50.1%? I have even heard some classical men throw out 90% or 95%. But surely such numbers are arbitrary and without ground. In addition, it is unquestionably incongruent with the revelation of God in Scripture to claim that God’s perfect self-disclosure, His revealed truth, lacks sufficiency of evidence. Regardless of how one slices it, probability, regardless of its degree, falls short of certainty.
Presuppositionalism holds that the non-Christian worldview is at its foundation, irrational. Man is not only cursed spiritually and ethically, but he is also cursed epistemologically. Not only is the natural man ethically and spiritually depraved, his reasoning is depraved. Presuppositional apologetics, consistently derived from a reformed understanding of Scripture leads to the transcendental necessity and epistemic certainty of Christian theism. [Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, 600]
Is the existence of God only possible?
The biblical version of Christian theism affirms the transcendental necessity and epistemic certainty of the self-contained triune God. God cannot but exist. Any view to the contrary is unequivocally incongruent with biblical theology and therefore sound Christian philosophy. What I have just given you is a statement about the one true God revealed in Scripture. What does an argument for this sort of claim look like? What is available to me as a Christian from the beginning, for me to make this claim, and second, to prove, or defend it. Many, if not most Christian apologists rely on human philosophy to grapple with this question. Moreover, many academic men spread their reliance on philosophy through the academy like a disease. Notice that I said they rely on human philosophy. The starting point for this premise cannot be anything other than Holy Scripture. A Christian epistemology has its epistemic authority anchored in Scripture. Any epistemology that drops its anchor elsewhere is simply not Christian. I am not contending against philosophy as a matter of fact. I am arguing that philosophy is not the primary tool or reference point for Christian truth. That seat can only be occupied by Scripture alone! All philosophizing must be subservient to Scripture, and it must recognize the superiority of the fields of biblical languages, exegesis, and theology. Philosophy must be the product of sound biblical theology.
When we talk about Christian apologetics and concept of God, we are not speaking in general terms. Classical apologists such as William Lane Craig and Norman Geisler believe that Christians must establish that existence of theism in general before they can begin to provide historical evidence and rational arguments for Christianity. I will avoid the philosophical complexities of this approach and point out that Christian theism does not rest upon the idea of theism in general. We are not seeking to prove Aristotle’s finite unmoved mover. Christian apologetics is not interested in proving that some god exists. Moreover, Christian theism does not hope to establish that Christianity is very probably true. Christian apologetics, if it is consistently Christian, seeks to proclaim and defend that One Triune God of Scripture. Christian apologetics seeks to show that everything has its source in the God of Christian theism.
When Moses was ordered by God to go to the Children of Israel, he wanted to know if they asked him who sent him to them, how he should answer them. This was God’s answer: God said to Moses, “aI AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Ex. 3:14) “Here God gives Moses his mysterious name in three forms: long (I AM WHO I AM), medium (I AM), and short (Heb. Yahweh, translated “Lord”). These are all related to the name Yahweh, which in turn has come relation to the very to be (ehyeh).” [Frame, Systematic Theology, 15] Essential the name has the sense of the “to be/to cause.” The idea is that God is the One Who Is and the One Who Causes.
“First, ancient Egyptians believed in a close relationship between the name of a deity and the deity itself. That is, the name of a god could reveal part of the essential nature of that god. In Egyptian texts that refer to different but important names for the same deity, the names are often associated with particular actions or characteristics, and the words used tend to sound similar to the names with which they are associated.”
Scripture nowhere entertains the philosophical concept of probability as it relates to the existence of God. God is seen as The One Who Is and Who Causes. In turn, one has to ask, how the concept of probability could even exist and be understood apart from “The One Who Is and Who Causes.” Probability requires the laws of mathematics to exist. And the laws of mathematics require uniformity, and a relationship between the particulars and the general to exist. Such a relationship can only be possible if Christian theism is true. Not only is mathematics possible, it is certain. My son will tell you that he is not probably studying slopes today. He most certainly is studying slopes today. This is the transcendental argument for God. If probability then God. No God, therefore no probability. Another way to state it is: If logic, then God. There is no God. Therefore, no logic. The result is that you cannot argue against God without presupposing God’s existence. In order for the concept of probability to exist, God must exist. In other words, God is the necessary precondition of probability. And if God is antecedent to probability, then probability cannot be applied to God without being reduced to absurdity. It follows exegetically, theologically, logically, and even philosophically, that God cannot not exist.
Is it irrational to refuse to acknowledge God?
The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:20 that the non-Christian worldview is without any rational defense. He writes, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἀναπολογήτους, or, “so that they are without a defense.” This word means the state of being without excuse in a legal sense. [NIDNTT, Vol. II, 139] The requirement for a man to stand in the court and be without any defense whatsoever is that the evidence before the court must be entirely irrefutable and impeccable and this state involves the wholesale culpability of the man that has been charged. If one takes Paul’s entire discourse in Romans 1-3 in context and seriously, it is difficult to see how they could read him differently than driving the point of culpability and guilt home to the Roman Church. Any degree of possibility that God may not actually exist would destroy the force of Paul’s argument. Paul has not said that men do not have good reason for refusing to acknowledge of God. He has not said that their arguments are not very strong for rejecting God.
The point I want to make is this: if it is possible that God does not exist and it is only probable that Christian theism is true, then there is always a reason and a defense, even if it is not a very strong one, for rejecting the Christian claims that God exists. However, this hypothesis is a direct contradiction of Paul in Romans 1. Philosophy runs head-on into theology and as we say in Jiu Jitsu, it end up getting submitted.
God’s existence is transcendentally necessary. And if God’s existence is transcendentally necessary, then it is indeed the epitome of irrationalism to refuse to acknowledge Him. When Paul says that man is without excuse, he has no defense for his refusal to acknowledge God, he is saying that God has already given man all the evidence that he could ever need to reach the right conclusion. Notice that God is the one that has already given men the evidence. Secondly, notice that men are in possession and of that evidence. They see it, the hear it, and they know it. “There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. This we take to be beyond controversy. To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty.” [Calvin, Institutes, Vol. I, 43]
“Modern philosophy in practically all its schools admits that all its speculations end in mystery. Speaking generally, modern philosophy (and science) is phenomenalistic. It admits that ultimate reality is unknowable to man.” [Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 127]
If there is human predication, then God exists. There is no God. Therefore, there is no human predication. Presuppositional apologetics uses this form of argument known as Modus Tollens to demonstrate that God is the necessary precondition even to argue against God. From this we see that it is exegetically, theologically, logically, and philosophically irrational to refuse to acknowledge God in all that we do.
I made two arguments in this post. I argued that it is biblically immoral and logically fallacious for a Christian apologist to affirm that God only probably exists and that Christian theism is only probably true. In addition, I posited that it is highly irrational for anyone to refuse to acknowledge God in all that they do. My reference point for this argument, the ultimate authority to which I referred was Moses’ encounter with Yahweh in Ex. 3:14 and Paul’s argument to the Roman Church contained in Romans 1-3. From that ultimate authority I employed exegesis, theology, and logic to arrive at my conclusion. It is my conviction that Christian apologetics has an ethical duty to Christ to follow this kind of model for defending Christian theism.