Thursday, May 8, 2014

Foundations: There Can Be Only One



A foundation is the underpinning or establishment of a structure. There is one and only one foundation per structure. Moreover, the nature of a foundation is such that there can only be one. Not only is this true with physical structures, it is also true of noetic or rational ones as well. Your and my thought process rests upon a foundation of some sort. It is also true that not all foundations are equal. Some foundations are stronger and have a greater degree of integrity than others.

Over at “The Briefing” Al Mohler is talking about a young lady whose video about her own abortion has gone viral. Emily Letts counsels women at Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey. Emily decided to make a video of her own abortion and is using that video to send a message to women all over the country. That message is simply that the guilt women feel for murdering their unborn babies is nothing more than the product of society. My purpose for referencing this story is to identify and examine the foundation of Emily’s ethic. Not only does Emily’s ethic permit the murder of an innocent child, it condemns the guilt that women feel for such reprehensible behavior. In just 25 years of existence, Emily has determined that guilt is really the product of society. So Emily is busy making women that murder their babies feel guilty for, well, feeling guilty. You see, Emily is so uncritical in her thinking that she does not realize that she is actually “guilty” of doing what she criticizes for doing; inflicting guilt on people who’s behavior doesn’t measure up to her standard.

Due to the glaring contradiction in her arguments, it is impossible to determine Emily’s ethic, but it is not impossible to identify her foundation. Because Emily, out of one side of her mouth claims that abortion or murder, is justifiable under certain circumstances, but out of the other side of her mouth claims that no one ought not to feel guilty, we know that her ethic is not private. For the same reason, we know Emily’s ethic cannot be cultural relativism. Whatever Emily’s ethic is, it must be transcendent because at a minimum she is imposing a moral imperative on all women that murder their unborn baby. They ought not feel guilt. They ought not pay attention to claims that abortion is immoral. Women ought to view abortion as their natural right. None of these imperatives are consistent with naturalism or any other system so far as I can tell.

Emily’s foundation is Emily. At the end of the day, Emily decides what is not only right and wrong for her, but what ought to be right and wrong for the rest of us. She is the master of her own fate, the captain of her own ship. For what its worth, I am convinced that Emily did not do what she did because she sees some sense of virtue in it (as warped as that idea is). No, I, for one do not buy that for a nanosecond. Emily’s abortion video is her attempt at a claim for fame. Modern Americans hunger and thirst for fame like a vampire for blood and just like a vampire, they have no sympathy for the victims that might serve to quench that thirst. It cost a baby her or his life.

Now, I use Emily’s story as an illustration for my overarching subject of the concept of foundation. At bottom, every individual human lives their life according to a basic foundation that they have embraced. “The Protestant doctrine of God requires that it be made foundational to everything else as a principle of explanation. If God is self-sufficient, he alone is self-explanatory. And if he alone is self-explanatory, then he must be the final reference point in all human predication.”[1] The epistemic foundation for all predication is either man or God. If it is God, Christian theism necessarily follows. If it is man, well, just about as many ideas as there are individuals follows. It is indeed one or the other. It cannot be both.

On the other hand, if God is not self-sufficient and self-explanatory then he is no longer the final reference point in human predication. Then God and man become partners in an effort to explain a common environment. Facts then are not what they are, in the last analysis, by virtue of the plan of God; they are partly that, but they partly exist in their own power. The human mind, then, need not subject itself to the revelation of God as absolutely authoritative for him. Man may then defer to God as to an expert who has had greater experience than himself, but he need not make all thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.[2] If God is self-sufficient and self-explanatory, then He is the final reference point in human predication. If Christian theism is actually true, God must be the final reference point in human predication. Because Christian theism claims that God is the source of all human knowledge, then it follows that knowledge is only possible because God makes it possible. If man could know independent from God, apart from God, this would falsify the basic claim of Christian theism that all individuals are creatures dependent on God for all things including knowledge.

The essence of the non-Christian position is that man is assumed to be ultimate or autonomous. Man is thought of as the final reference point in predication.[3] Either God is the foundation of our worldview or man that foundation.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”[4] Jesus believed that God speaking in Scripture serves as the foundation for all of human experience. The result for making something other than God our foundation, according to Jesus, is disastrous. Jesus tells us that unless we make God our reference point for all of life, our end is ruin. There is no hope for metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics apart from God. There is no hope for life, for meaning, for purpose, for wonder, or for good, apart from God.

Either God is the standard by which man is measured and all of creation, or man is the standard by which God and His Word are measured. If all knowledge does not have its source in God, then man, on his own steam will have to create a system that makes sense. Man must, in short, be virtually omniscient. He must virtually reduce the facts that confront him to logical relations; the “thingness” of each thing must give up its individuality in order that it may be known; to be known, a thing or fact must be wholly known by man.[5] How can man ever know he hit his target where knowledge is concerned? Can he ever account for how or why he knows anything at all to be the case?

To the Colossians and about the Laodiceans, Paul wrote “that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.[6]






[1] Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1969).
[2] Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1969).
[3] Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1969).
[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 7:24–27.
[5] Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1969).
[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Col 2:2–3.

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