Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Preeminence of Scripture

In presenting an argument for the truth of Christianity it is essential to know what is meant by Christianity. So the question at once comes up as to how this is to be discovered. This leads directly to the Scriptures.[1]

I suppose that one could make an argument that it is possible to know the truth for Christianity without dealing with Scripture, but I am not clear how such an argument would proceed. I am convinced that such an argument would, in the end, be reduced to absurdity. It seems safe then to take Van Til’s point seriously then. If the Christian apologist is going to defend the Christian worldview, then we must first understand what we mean by worldview and what we mean by Christian. I have already spent some time explaining that a worldview is a system that claims to provide a coherent structure of beliefs that correspond with the facts of reality that have obtained. That Christian theism makes such a claim is uncontroversial. So we must ask what is Christian theism. So far as I know, the authoritative source for defining Christian theism is Christian Scripture. There is no other authoritative source. Every other attempt is no different than me sitting around producing my own currency. We call this behavior “counterfeiting.” The only access we have to any knowledge of the truth of Christian theism is through Scripture. Hence, it follows that if we are to know the truth of Christianity, we must know something of Christian Scripture.

If we are to know something of the system of Christian theism, we cannot avoid the Bible. “It is this whole system of truth that is set forth in the Bible. The writers of Scripture were inspired by the Holy Spirit to set forth this system of truth. Thus the system is self-attesting.”[2] Because we are dealing with the sacred, the divinely revealed truth of God in the system of Christian theism, we are dealing with a system of truth that is the antithesis of the non-Christian approach to the same subject. Christians and non-Christians do not refer to the same standard when they are measuring truth-claims. They have fundamentally different, even opposing standards to which they refer. Greg Bahnsen writes, “In principle two complete philosophic systems or perspectives come into conflict when the veracity of the Christian faith is debated.”[3] This is unavoidable and should be more and more obvious with each step of progress that modern culture makes toward its ultimate goal of a purely secular society where man is god and there is no other. Why modern apologists prefer to begin the conversation far removed from this basic Christian commitment is more than a little puzzling.

Christian theism serves, proclaims, and defends the God only of Christian theism. “Nevertheless, all things will tend to this end, that God, the Artificer of the universe, is made manifest to us in Scripture, and that what we ought to think of him is set forth there, lest we seek some uncertain deity by devious paths.”[4] The knowledge of God comes only by way of revelation. And the revelation of God comes only from God Himself. Man is powerless to find God out. It is only by divine revelation in nature and in Scripture that man is acquainted with God in any sense whatever. Any god not matching the description of the divine self-disclosure of the one triune God of Scripture is a counterfeit, a fraud, a cheap copy produced by the deviant and innovative minds of rebellious men.

How can we know the truth of Christian theism? Herman Bavinck wrote, “No proofs and arguments, no religious experience or ethical satisfaction, after all, constitute the deepest ground of faith; they all presuppose a sturdier foundation on which they are built and from which they themselves derive their value.”[5] The ground of faith is nothing less than Christian Scripture. Hence, all knowledge is grounded in faith. And for the believer, their faith is grounded in the Scripture. Moreover, Scripture brings with it the sort of certainty that only that which is anchored in God can bring and in fact must bring. How could a revelation of God Himself produce anything less than certainty? The writer to the Hebrews calls it assurance and conviction. (Heb. 11:1)

The whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, informs the discipline of epistemology or the theory of knowledge.[6] It is simply epistemological suicide for a Christian apologist to take an alternative position. Yet, the numbers of those that do precisely this, far outweigh those of us that do not. Scripture is the Word, the living Word of God who is the Creator and Redeemer of men and of mankind. It presupposes that he to whom it comes is “… corrupted in his religious attitude and therefore in need of redemption. It would therefore be to deny itself if it recognized the natural man as its competent judge[7] Most modern apologists do not understand Van Til’s point because they do not argue at the level of worldviews and because they grant that one thing to man that God’s word emphatically denies: genuine knowledge apart from God. Modern apologists do not seem to understand that God’s word denies that men can possess knowledge apart from God and to grant that they can is to deny the very truth they are seeking to establish and defend. If Scripture is wrong about this teaching, then it is also wrong about the fallen state of man. And if it is wrong about the fallen state of man, the dominoes of Christian doctrine fall before the idolatry of human autonomy.

[1] Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1969).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready. (Covenant Media Press: Nacogdoches, TX, 2002) 71.
[4] John Calvin, Institutes. (Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, KY 1960); 71.
[5] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics. (Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI 2003) Vol. I, 563.
[6] Clifford McManis, Biblical Apologetics. (Xlibris Corporation: Bloomington, IN 2012) 213.
[7] Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1969).

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