Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Impossibility of the Contrary



We must point out to them that univocal reasoning itself leads to self-contradiction, not only from a theistic point of view, but from a non-theistic point of view as well. It is this that we ought to mean when we say that we must meet our enemy on their own ground. It is this that we ought to mean when we say that we reason from the impossibility of the contrary. The contrary is impossible only if it is self-contradictory when operating on the basis of its own assumptions.[1]

I realize that philosophy students will argue that just because Christian theism rules out other views, that does not mean that Christian theism is vindicated. After all, two contrary propositions may both be false. Moreover, others are ready to inform us that the proposition God exists is in fact not an analytic statement and therefore predicate logic would show that two contraries can both be false, and hence proving the impossibility of the contrary essentials proves nothing. In addition, others will unwittingly take up Kant's position that existence is not a property and argue along these lines. But I think all this rambling is philosophical poppycock. It is the product of an undue influence of pagan philosophy on a subject that rightly belongs to biblical theology. Moreover, I do not think that Christians are under an ethical obligation to answer the philosopher in a way that meets with the philosopher's approval. In other words, we need not unduly concern ourselves with the fact that philosophers and skeptics insist on a philosophical approach to our answer. Our concern is with God's imperative in such matters, not the respect of pagan philosophers. That being said, I would like to provide a different sort of defense for how Presuppositional Apologetics employs the transcendental argument.

First, I wish to talk about what the argument is not claiming. Presuppositional apologetics is not claiming that the reason we believe Christian theism is true is because of the impossibility of the contrary. Logic is not the basis for faith. The basis for our faith is the divine revelation given in Scripture. We place our faith in Christ, in God, on the basis of the authority of His word as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to know and understand it.

Second, PA is not using logic to demonstrate the existence of God. The argument is using God to demonstrate why logic is even possible. Transcendental arguments take on (roughly) the following form: For x to be the case, y must be the case because y is the necessary precondition of x; since x is the case, y must be the case.[2] For logic to be the case, God must exist because God is the necessary precondition of logic. Since logic is the case, God must be the case. We can apply this to the whole of human experience and state it this way: in order for there to be intelligibility of human experience, God must exist since God is the necessary precondition of all human experience. Human experience is intelligible; therefore God must be the case. In other words, the only plausible explanation for the phenomenon of laws of logic is Christian theism.

What the transcendental argument asks of the non-Christian worldview is that it provide a rational basis for its understanding of human experience. What must be true in order for the non-Christian worldview's claims that human experience is intelligible apart from Christian theism? The transcendental argument in Presuppositional apologetics uses a reductio ad absurdum to demonstrate that the non-Christian worldview reduces to self-contradiction. It eventually becomes rationally indefensible.

The solution to this problem is not located in philosophy. Repeatedly, for some reason, Christian apologists think that it is. As a matter of fact, it is not. The solution to this problem is revealed in Scripture, believe it or not. Now, I realize to those intellectuals concerned with academic respectability and for the rest that simply relish the idea of being smarter than the rest of us, my suggestion likely rings hollow, naïve, and far too simplistic to be of any value. In answer to that line of reasoning my response is even simpler: I don't care. All I care about is providing a truthful answer using a method that honors God. If that method happens to be simple, and not wrought with one philosophical complexity after another, then so be it, or maybe, even better!

Romans one and the indefensible position of the non-Christian worldview.

ναπολόγητος is a fascinating word used by Paul in Romans 1:20 to describe the status of the arguments among those that either reject the existence of God or corrupt God's existence as revealed in Scripture. The lexical sense of the word means inexcusable. In essence the word is the negation of another Greek word πολογίαν, which we know basically means to "defend oneself" according to BDAG. Essentially, Paul is claiming that all men have been given such clear understanding and knowledge of God's existence that they are without any excuse not to embrace that truth. When Christian apologists encounter non-Christians, the whole point is that the Christian provides an answer or defense of his faith to the non-Christian while the non-Christian is supposedly providing rational argumentation or a defense for why he rejects Christian theism. That is the general thrust of what is taking place in these exchanges be they one on one, or on the street corner, in the tavern over a beer, at lunch, or in a formal debate.

Paul's approach was to begin with God and then proceed to argue that there is not even evidence to support the conclusion that God does not exist, or more precisely, the God revealed in Scripture does not exist. Paul says that the non-Christian worldview, in whatever shape of form it may take is so weak that it is without a defense, without an apologetic if you will. When the presuppositionalist says that Christian theism is true because of the impossibility of the contrary, it is exactly this that he should mean. God says it is impossible to defend any concept of God that is not distinctly based on His revelation, or the absolute reality of His existence as it is. No man has ever lived that could ever defend the proposition "God does not exist" or "the God revealed in Scripture does not exist." It is impossible to provide an adequate defense for such statement.

Biblical faith and epistemic certainty.

I will forego a discussion of the various concepts of certainty in preference for a biblical view of faith and how a proper understanding of the biblical concept of faith leads to certainty. Moreover, if you are more impressed with the philosophically complex arguments of epistemic and psychological certainty than you are with biblical certainty, I would encourage you to examine your heart and schedule a meeting with your pastor.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not see." Thus, it is best to take the clause in 11:1 to have an objective sense with the meaning “faith gives substance to what is hoped for,” and not a subjective sense that faith is the assurance that what is hoped for will come to pass (although this latter perspective is certainly true).[3] To understand faith in the objective sense is critical to how we might answer the question of certainty. Allen continues, As Lane pointed out, “faith” is objective because it bestows upon the objects of hope a present reality, enabling the believer to enjoy now the “full certainty of future realization.” Faith is the objective grounds upon which subjective confidence may be based. Such faith springs from a personal encounter with God. This kind of faith enables one to venture into the future “supported only by the word of God.”[4]

The Hebrew word 'āman is no less significant. The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament defines it in the following way: to confirm, support, uphold in the Qal, but in the Hiphal, it means to be certain, to believe in. This very important concept in biblical doctrine gives clear evidence of the biblical meaning of “faith” in contradistinction to the many popular concepts of the term. At the heart of the meaning of the root is the idea of certainty[5] In the Hiphil (causative), it basically means “to cause to be certain, sure” or “to be certain about,” “to be assured.” In this sense the word in the Hiphil conjugation is the biblical word for “to believe” and shows that biblical faith is an assurance, a certainty, in contrast with modern concepts of faith as something possible, hopefully true, but not certain.[6] This is quite contrary to the modern view of faith.

Conclusion

To claim that Christian theism is true because of the impossibility of the contrary is to claim that only Christian theism provides the necessary preconditions for the intelligibility of human experience. One by one, the metaphysic, epistemology, and ethic of every attempt to explain human experience outside of Christian theism reduces to absurdity. What you end up with is philosophers claim things like "stones have a level of perception," and every ethical system ever constructed apart from Christian theism reduces to subjectivist views or are radically arbitrary. We end up with brilliant minds claiming that we can't really know anything about reality and constructing the most convoluted arguments you could imagine to prove it. If that isn't a howler, nothing is.

"The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple." Ps. 119:130







[1] Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1969).
[2] See Michael Butler's article "The Transcendental Argument for God's Existence."
[3] David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), 543.
[4] David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), 543.
[5] Jack B. Scott, “116 אָמַן,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 51.
[6] Jack B. Scott, “116 אָמַן,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 51.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Teaching of the Two Ways



I realize it may sound narrow minded, arrogant, and perhaps even bigoted to some, but when you survey the possibilities for how human beings carry on their lives, it really comes down to just two paths. There are two roads that human beings may be found travelling upon and it has been this way since the beginning of humanity.

“You shall also say to this people, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.[1] Judah was facing a severe threat in the form of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. They turned to Jeremiah the prophet and to the LORD for deliverance. They were given one and only one choice. They could remain in the city and die, which would be the way of death, or they could leave the city and live, which was the path of life. God's anger had been kindled against the sinful behavior of Judah. I am always amazed at how often God's dealings with man in the OT is portrayed by atheists, skeptics, and liberals, as some sort of a monster, and how the wicked acts of men are entirely ignored. It used to be that when we saw the wrath of God reach such levels that we would immediately recognize the level of wickedness that led to that circumstance. For some reason, sin is dismissed and God is now a monster. God issued one choice to Judah: get out of the city and live or remain in the city and die. There was no other alternative. Life or death would hinge on one choice: stay or leave.

Do not enter the path of the wicked And do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness And drink the wine of violence. But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.[2] Solomon gives us two paths here: the path of the wicked and evil men and the path of the righteous. The contrast could not be more pronounced.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.[3] Here we see once again that God has placed before Israel life and death, the blessing and the curse. Essentially, God has placed Israel in the position of one choice equaling two very different paths. Which path will they take? Have you ever wondered why God has not given us more choices? Why not three or perhaps a hundred paths? Why does it have to be blessing or curse, life or death, my way or death?

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.[4] There are two ways according to the Psalmist: the wicked and the righteous. The Lords the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish. These are sobering words indeed. The Psalmist informs us that there is the way of the righteous with whom God is intimate and then there is the way of the wicked, whom God will judge. We do not see a third option. We see only two paths. We see two roads. We see two different states and no more.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and bwealth.[5] Our Lord Himself also instructed us that we cannot serve two masters. There can be only one. We either love God or we hate God.

He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.[6] Jesus said he that is not with Me is ipso facto against Me. The one that does not gather with Jesus, scatters against Him. In other words, there is no neutral territory. You are not partly for Jesus and partly for modern progress. You are not for Jesus in one area and against Him in another. You are either for Him or against Him. And if you are against Him in any area, you are guilty of scattering against Him.

There are two ways, one of life and one of of death;3 but a great difference between the two ways. 2 The way of life, then, is this: First, thou shalt love God who made thee; second, thy neighbour as thyself;5 and all things whatsoever thou wouldst should not occur to thee, thou also to another do not do.[7] This is a section from the Didache, an early document in the Christian Church aimed at godly living.


Modern evangelicalism has found itself in a state of mass confusion. In fact, it is an incredibly arduous task just to find the biblical version of Christianity within her numerous communities these days. There are more versions of Christianity than one can possibly count within the evangelical camp, let alone in those camps that are outside evangelical thought. Indeed, the situation is so dreary that I am not sure it is even appropriate to refer to evangelical thought in the singular.

Gone is the ancient teaching of two ways. The notion of black and white has faded so much into the background that we even have fools for ministers coming out and encouraging Christians to serve the "grey god" as opposed to the traditional God of the back and white. Black and white seems oddly familiar, oddly similar to something else I recently read. Ah yes, I remember now: there are two ways and only two ways. There is the way of life and the way of death. There is the way of hope and the way of despair. There is the way of righteousness and the way of wickedness. Black and white we used to call it. Now, we have so-called preachers, pastors if you will, condemning concepts put forth and revealed by the very God they claim to serve. Indeed, their version of God turns out to be a different god altogether.

The radically anti-confessional bias within evangelicalism has not served to protect the movement from contaminated versions of Christianity, laden with heterodoxy and immoral behavior, as many hoped it would. To the contrary, it has served to open the floodgates to the very demonic programs it was hoping to keep out. In fact, many, if not most evangelicals are looking for new and exciting ways to reinvent Christianity from nearly the ground up. They are looking for those parts of Scripture they can keep as divine and those they can reclassify as human. They are examining if one has to believe that Jesus is God and if one even has to know Him to truly be Christian. They are even investigating ways they can redefine marriage and permit gay sex within the community so that they can continue being "respectable" in the eyes of the culture. It is an embarrassing, weak, and dishonorable goal that many evangelicals have, but it seems clear to me that the movement will continue toward its inevitable end of becoming completely irrelevant as a religious entity. Indeed, the movement is very close to achieving that state at this writing.

Christian communities, real Christian communities have no choice but to begin to return to the God of the black and white. This intellectual nod to the significance of Scripture while we ignore it in practice must come to an end. The quibbles over the bible being the Word of God, over Christ being divine, over eternal damnation, over the exclusive claims of Christ, over confession of sin and of Christ being required for eternal life, over human sexuality, and other basic Christian dogma must begin to end in excommunication of the unrepentant one. The confessions and creeds must be revived and the Church must insist that her members openly confess and embrace the basic tenets, the cardinal doctrines of historic Christian orthodoxy or else. Only then will we regain the integrity and credibility that reflects the image of Christ in our midst.




[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Je 21:8.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Pr 4:14–19.
[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Dt 30:19.
[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 1:6.
[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 6:24.
[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 12:30.
[7] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Lord’s Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations,” in Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies, vol. 7, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 377.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pastor Craig Gross: Another Sympathetic Tone for Homosexual Sin


The Christian Post reports: 
Pastor Craig Gross of XXXchurch advises Christians to look beyond the "black and white rhetoric" about homosexuality and focus on the people most affected by the church's stance on surrounding issues instead.
In a recent blog post, Gross noted that while the church and companies like World Vision state their views on homosexuality, the ones who end up negatively affected are individuals caught in the gray area of the subject.
"I've said this before, but it needs to be said over and over: be quick to listen and slow to speak. Most people and companies issuing statements and talking about a definitive black and white God have never sat and listened to the people and lives on the other end of their statements," wrote Gross, also referencing World Vision's reversed decision on hiring same-sex married couples. "…You have to blow past the black-and-white rhetoric of the establishment and get down in the grey dirt with the outcasts. You know. What Jesus did."

Here we go again. We have another young, hip, wise-beyond-his-years pastor informing the Church about how wrong it has been on a basic teaching of Scripture. For starters, Gross engages in the worse sort of rhetoric before he even has the opportunity to employ that word to attack those that hold to a biblical view of sex. He uses the phrase "black and white" in its modern pejorative sense. But Gross knows that using the phrase "black and white" immediately places those who disagree with him in a very particular sort of light. It is not unintentional. He has a plan. You see, the Bible's teaching on sex is black and white. Second, Gross employs the word rhetoric in its modern pejorative sense, which is really unfortunate. That is, it is unfortunate that the word rhetoric has fallen on hard times. From the very start Gross is employing rhetoric of his own to paint his detractors in the worse possible light. Heaven forbid he should just make an argument and let the prudent judge it.

Gross does not employ reason in his argument. Rather, he is a master of persuasion, recognizing that arguments are won and lost on the emotions of our modern, western, non-critically thinking culture. Gross wants us to ignore God, ignore truth, ignore the sin, and focus on the pain and the struggle of the individual. The implication is that God is not a black and white God. In fact, Gross admits that there are very few things that he is black and white on himself. Now, this raises the question as to what those things are and more importantly, what is the basis for how Gross arrives at his black and white stance on those issues? Why is it that we can be black and white on some things and not others? And who says we can be black and white on some things and not others? Gross is so passionate about God not being black and white about things that he has started a website called "grey God." The site can be accessed here.

What God says matters. Otherwise, He wouldn't say it. It is an incredulous person that purports that God speaks but what He says is really not of significance. Worse still is the clergy that is foolish enough to contend that God actually has not really spoken at all. If what God says matters, then what God says about human sexuality matters. Now, I want to turn your attention to the biblically inept and logically absurd statements that Gross makes.

At the very beginning of his blog post he says, "I recently wrote a piece for Relevant talking about how Christians need to follow a Grey God instead of a Black or White God." Any student of logic will quickly realize the absurdity bound up in such a silly proposition. Then Gross goes on the say, in the same article nonetheless, "Let me say this clearly, Christians: we don’t need more statements and stances." What is wrong with this picture? First, at the very beginning of his article Gross took a new stance and made a new statement about the kind of stance Christians should take toward God. Moreover, this statement is self-refuting in that it is a statement against making statements and a stance against taking stances. It is obviously not something that has been well thought out at all.

In his argument about business and Christians taking a stand on the issue of homosexuality, Gross is again a walking contradiction. He is not asking Christians to not take a stand. He is actually, unwittingly asking them to take a stand. And it is a stand that is contrary to Scripture. I agree wholeheartedly that we must be sensitive to those that struggle with sin. After all, we all struggle with sin. Every last one of us. I must confess that I am a bit fuzzy on why we keep singling out homosexual sin. Oh, wait, I just remembered. It is because homosexuals are asking us not to help them with their sin by helping them overcome it. Most of them are asking us to help them with their sin by eliminating it as a sin. Other sins are not asking this of us for the most part. You see, the adulterers lobby has never approached the church and lobbied her to remove adultery from her list of sinful vices. Oh wait there is no adulterers lobby. Interesting.

As for Gross' advice around Christians needing to follow a grey god as opposed to a black and white God, my response is really quite simple: “You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. “You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth."[1] The God of Christian theism is One God. Christians do not pick and choose the kind of God that God is. Our God said to Moses, "I am that I am." I do not know which god Gross is talking about when he talks about a grey god. But I am absolutely certain that it is not the God of historic orthodox Christianity.


 




[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Dt 6:13–15.

The Bully Pulpit and a Culture of Intimidation

On the one side, we have the Christian community, and on the other side, we have the pagan community. The Christian community is made...