Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Ultimate Reference Point: God or man

In short, here is what we are doing in presuppositional apologetics and what I think every Christian should do. First, we are providing the atheist an account for the hope that is in us according to 1 Peter 3:15. We are under no obligation to provide them with an account that meets their finite and ungodly demands for evidence which is according to their false standards. Their demands may be dismissed out of hand. They have no right, nor any authority to make such demands. If man is the ultimate reference point, which man is it?

 We argue that Christian theism is true and as such is the only worldview that provides the necessary preconditions for the intelligibility of human experience.

We assert that if there is intelligibility, God exists. If there is no God, then nothing in human experience is genuinely intelligible. This means anyone arguing against God’s existence is actually presupposing God in order to argue against God. This is exactly correct.

The transcendental argument asks what else must be true in order for a particular claim to be true. Hence, we argue that Christian theism is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. And the contrary is only impossible if it involves contradiction. Hence, every version of the non-Christian worldview involves contradiction and is therefore impossible.

We step into the shoes of the unbeliever and ask him to provide us with an account of reality, of knowledge, and of morality that are consistent with one another. His metaphysic of pure chance makes it impossible for his own theory of knowledge and reduces his theory of morality to radically subjective nonsense. Whatever theory he invents, he always runs afoul in morality because he finds it impossible that morality can be transcendent, something that morality must be if it is to retain any meaning whatever.

Once we show the unbeliever that his position is self-refuting or involves contradiction, and hence reduce his view to absurdity, we ask him to see things from the Christian point of view.
We begin with the infinite, eternal, self-sufficient triune God of Scripture. And from there we show how God created all things, holds all things together, controls all things and that from this God all things flow. In Him we move and have our being. We show that we can have genuine knowledge because God reveals the truth about reality to us in nature and in Scripture. We show that morality is in fact transcendent and no human is above the divine moral law which is itself a reflection of God’s perfect nature.

We expect the unbeliever to reject this God because the unbeliever wants to make himself the ultimate reference point for reality, for knowledge, and for morality.

We realize that Peter did not command us to subject ourselves to the ungodly demands of unbelievers to meet their arrogant and ungodly standards. (1 Peter 3:15) We also realize that unbelievers hold the preaching of the cross of Christ in utter contempt. (1 Cor. 1:18) We realize that we do not shatter unbelieving worldviews with sophisticated rhetoric and clever logic. (1 Cor. 2:5; 2 Cor. 10:3-6) We understand that the world comes to Christ, not through their wisdom, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • Atheists are enemies of the cross of Christ and of God. (Rom. 8:6-8).
  • Atheists are not able nor willing understand the message of the gospel. (1 Cor. 2:15)
  • Atheists operate with an unregenerate mind that is useless and lacking in content.      (Eph. 4:17)
  • Atheists minds have been blinded by the god of this world. (2 Cor. 4:4)
  • Atheists will only come to Christ if the Lord opens their minds to respond to preaching of the gospel. (Acts 16:14)

We engage the world in order to stop the mouths of the critics and the skeptics. We engage the world because we love God and seek to glorify Him in all we do. We engage the world because Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not converts. No, they are not the same thing.

Christian apologetics is first and foremost giving the non-Christian an account of the hope that is you through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This activity involves a positive proclamation of truth as well as it’s defense and in many cases it also involves the dismantling of the non-Christian system confronting it.

Unbelief is about the substitution of God for man as the ultimate reference point in human predication. We see this ultimate reference point reach it’s pinnacle in atheism. From this pinnacle, as it moves down toward the jungle if you don’t mind the expression, it begins to take on more nuanced and subtle expressions.

For example, while sitting on a plane in Charlotte this week, waiting to deplane, a lady sitting next to me was complaining to her friend sitting next to her about people that emphasize that boys and girls are different. She made the statement that as soon as her son says he won’t wear pink, she will dress him in pink from head to toe. I could not help but wonder where the child’s dad was in all this. The story is a perfect example of modern culture seeking to take the throne of human predication for it’s own self and reconstruct and engineer cultural norms. This mom was her own reference point and no one else, especially no God would impose such a foolish idea on her that boys and girls are different.

We see this same phenomenon in Denver, CO. where young kids and teachers are walking out on the school system because the board favors a more positive portrayal of American history than the current one which paints America in a very negative light. The teachers and mindless teenagers who blindly follow them insist in this case on being the ultimate reference point even for history.

This same principle can be witnessed by the “gay Christian” movement. These people desire to be the ultimate reference point for what makes one a Christian. They will not have anything, especially Scripture, serving as the final authority over their thinking on this subject. They know better than the writers of Scripture and no one, not God, and certainly not thousands of years of biblical history will convince them otherwise. They demand to be the ultimate reference point.

The Christian gospel begins with the ultimate reference point of God speaking to us through Christ, in Sacred Scripture, by the power of the Holy Spirit. From this basic principle, the Christian proclamation and defense of the gospel must begin. It is here more than anywhere else that our difference becomes clear. A Christian apologetic that compromises in this area is doomed to compromise in every other area even if that compromise is so subtle that only experts can see it. Where Christian truth is concerned, there can be no compromise at any time, for any reason, with anyone, ever!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Beware: Impostors Abound

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. [NASB, 2 Jn. 7-9]

The writings of second and third John are perfect examples of first-century letters. There is an opening, a body, and a close. They were both very likely written in the early 90s from somewhere in Asia Minor, probably Ephesus. Second John may have been written to the elect lady the Church as a result of a delegation of leaders that had been sent by John to the Church. There seems to be a link between John’s concerns in 1 John and his concerns in 2 John. We think it is highly possible that 2 John is a follow up to the problem of the secessionists mentioned in 1 John 2:19. This group was led by false teachers to leave the Christian community over what appears to be a heretical Christology. It seems likely that John sent a delegation over to the Church to check on her and to provide support and encouragement over the issue. It seems that second John could very well have been John’s response to the report he received as a result of the delegation’s findings.

Building off what he had just previously said regarding love and walking in the divine commandment, John further alienates the secessionists of 1 John 2:19. He says, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world.” The impostors seem to be a clear reference back to those of 1 John 2:19 where he said that they went out from us because they were never really of us. The clause has a causal relationship with what precedes. In other words, the previous clause coupled with this one may read something like “walk in love in view of the fact that many impostors have gone out into the world.” John also helps us understand what his concept of love is: it is keeping the commandment. This helps us resist the all-too-common tendency to anachronistically read modern notions of love into the text. Who are these impostors? How do we identify them as impostors?

If we read the next clause we realize that John is using characterization in order to specify who he means: those who do not acknowledge that Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. In other words, the sect that has abandoned the Church held to a view of the person of Christ that was out of accord with apostolic teaching. It is believed by many that pagan philosophy had been mixed with apostolic teaching to produce a different kind of Jesus. Some of these influences can be traced back to the ancient teachings of Plato and others. It seems possible that an unbiblical dualism had infested certain areas of the Church and this influence led to beliefs about the humanity of Christ that were clearly beyond the teachings of the apostles. In addition to identifying the individuals, John does not hesitate to alienate this group by referring to them as: this is the deceiver and the antichrist. First the warning is issued. Second, the group related to the warning is identified. Finally, the group is marked with the most serious of marks: impostor and antichrist. Hence, we know that any teacher denying the full humanity of Christ is an impostor and an antichrist and outside the Christian community, within the sphere of the world, the sphere of Satan.

John then issues the warning to the rest of the group to keep watch over themselves. The Greek is in the imperative signaling a stern command. This is an idiom that points up to self-vigilance. The idea is that the community must be in a state of readiness, like a soldier who knows that an ambush is eminent. Such spiritual and mental sharpness requires a great deal of effort and energy. The Christian life is not like laying in a field of daisies waiting for God to bless you with you best life now. Nor is it about social and political activism where we can tally the number of homeless we helped or the elections we won. It is far more profound that any of these things. There is a darkness, an evil, that seeks to destroy the truth of God and the souls of men. It is as merciless as anything any Hollywood movie could ever imagine. This evil seeks to consume the souls of humanity and to destroy all that God calls good. In short, it seeks to destroy the gospel, the apostolic teachings and tradition of the Christian faith. John is concerned that the Church not lose what she has accomplished so far, but that she receive a full reward. In order to do this, she must reject not only the teachings of these impostors and antichrists, but she must reject them as well. This requires serious discipline and an undying loyalty to the cross, the gospel, and the teachings of Christ.

John then informs the Church that anyone who does too far and does not abide in the teachings of Christ, which the apostles have, goes too far and does not abide in God. “Does not abide in God” is an idiomatic expression designed to indict the secessionists. John is spending more time on this than usual because he wants to emphasize his point. Think about the degree of emphasis John is placing on this point. He has already called them impostors and antichrists. He has already said they went out from us. But that is not enough. This emphasis can only mean that John remains concerned with the threat to the Church even after the delegation’s visit. He now says with clarity that these people do not abide in God. For you modern readers that think belief and confessions are irrelevant and outdated, you should give special attention to this pericope of Scripture. It surely matters what you believe and confess about Jesus Christ.

Finally, John says that the one who remains in the teaching of Christ, that one has both the Father and the Son. This is surely intended to encourage the Church. The one remaining in the teaching of Christ keeps the commandment of God and engages in truly loving his neighbor. Sometimes modern Christians get this backwards. They think feeding the poor is loving their neighbor which is then defined as keeping the commandment which is then defined as being a Christian. Such thinking is turned upside down on its head by Scripture. Loving God always begins with keeping God’s commandment, not getting involved in social causes.

We learn several things from 2 John. We learn that it matters what we think and confess about Jesus Christ. We learn that there are impostors in the Church who are still walking in darkness even though they may be the most likable personality in Sunday school. We learn that false teachings and beliefs about Jesus Christ can be serious and even have eternal consequences. We learn that what someone confesses and believes about Jesus Christ can tell us something about the genuineness of their faith. We learn that submission to the teachings of the apostles is not an option for professing Christians. We learn that apostolic teaching bears the authority of Christ. We also learn that every Christian is to watch out and be on guard for false teachings and false teachers. This is a recurring theme in the NT. It is prominent throughout the teachings and commandments of nearly every book.

As a Christian, we do not have the option of tolerating false teachings in our churches nor in our homes for that matter. John wants them cut off not only from the Church, but from the community completely. He instructs the remaining Christians in the Church not even to have dinner with them or have them in their homes. He says that anyone who goes to far, that is, beyond the boundaries of apostolic teaching should be the object of rejecting and shunning should he fail to correct his thinking and submit to the authority of apostolic teachings.

This section in 2 John rarely receives serious attention in the modern Church. We are far too busy trying to grow the kingdom of God on our own to realize that we have a pasture that is crawling with wolves who are devouring the sheep right under our noses and we are too spiritually dim or too focused on our own agenda to even notice.

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. [2 Ti 1:13–14.]

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Consistently Biblical Apologetic

Every worldview makes truth-claims and must subject itself to scrutiny around those claims. Every worldview unavoidably operates on presuppositions that function as first principles. Some claim that first principles must be universally obvious to all. First principles are do not require proof because they are in fact first principles. The problem with this claim is that it cannot be demonstrated to be true, nor is it obvious to all. It is not self-evident that first principles must be universally self-evident. For all its usefulness, logic indeed has its limitations. The limitations of logic should not deter us from agreeing that every worldview has a starting point upon which it operates. It is the place where it begins to move the process of human reason forward. The contents of this blog are derived mostly from Van Til’s book, “The Defense of the Faith,” chapter twelve, “The Defense of Christianity.”

1.    Both the Christian and the non-Christian worldview make presuppositions about the nature of reality. Van Til writes, The Christian presupposes the self-contained God and his plan for the universe.[1] 

      On the other hand, the non-Christian worldview presupposes a world of chance. The Christian, knowing that the universe is the result of the creative activity of the self-contained God of Scripture interprets reality through the lens of the divine revelation of Scripture.

2.    The Christian understands that he cannot, simply by means of logic, legislate what reality should be says Van Til. The non-Christian takes a different approach. Out of one side of his mouth the non-Christian says that the universe is the product of chance, and hence, is not rationally constituted. But out of the other side of his mouth, he seeks to control and interpret the facts of reality by his use of reason, which must mean he believes the universe is, after all, rationally constituted.

3.    Both the Christian and the non-Christian claim that their respective positions are in accord with the “facts of experience.” However, the Christian understands the facts of experience to be what God has revealed them to be in Scripture. As Van Til puts it, he understands that the uniformity of nature is what it is because it is included in the plan of God. The non-Christian, to the contrary understands facts to have a nature different from any other fact. Here we see the presupposition of ultimate irrationality in the sense that the universe is the product of chance and chaos. Order and uniformity are simply said to be appearances at best and that, after the mind has made its contribution.

4.    Both Christian theism and the non-Christian worldview claim that their respective position is in accord with the demands of logic. The Christian claims this because he understands that every created fact is a fact created by the self-contained, rational God of scripture. The Christian story of Scripture echoes this truth from Genesis to Revelation. The non-Christian, on the other hand, also makes his claim to logic, but has no valid reason for doing so. His presupposition about the ultimate non-rationality of reality provides no ground for the rationality necessary to understand the true nature of the facts of reality.

Modern Christianity has run into numerous problems in its effort to defend the many truth claims of the system of Christianity for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that attempts are made to do so in piece-meal fashion. Additionally, many apologists subscribe to contradictory theological positions that are easily spotted by opponents of Christian dogma. Rather than focus on those reasons, I want to turn your attention to the devastating consequences of traditional or classical apologetics as it is the most popular approach for dealing with these objections to Christian truth. Once again, my focus remains on the same chapter in Van Til’s great work on “The Defense of The Faith.”

Van Til saliently lists a number of compromises in traditional apologetics:

1.    The traditional method compromises the Biblical doctrine of God in not clearly distinguishing his self-existence from his relation to the world. [2] The traditional method pretends that the non-Christian is okay to think of facts existing apart from God and as not being a created.

2.    The traditional method compromises the Biblical doctrine of God and his relation to his revelation to man by not clearly insisting that man must not seek to determine the nature of God, otherwise than from his revelation.[3] Natural theology assumes that man is capable of understanding the facts of the natural world apart from dependence on God. Hence, knowledge is not revelational in nature.

3.    The traditional method compromises the Biblical doctrine of the counsel of God by not taking it as the only all-inclusive ultimate cause of whatsoever comes to pass.[4] The attempt to mix human freedom with divine sovereignty has had devastating results not only for theology but for apologetics. The traditional approach fails to provide for a truly defensible position on the problem of evil. In that scheme, God has done what God cannot do, ceased to be the ultimate cause of all that occurs. The theory of middle knowledge is just one among several views that are simply not consistent with what Scripture reveals about God’s self-sufficient, absolute, and self-contained determiner of all that was, is, or ever shall be.

4.    The traditional method therefore compromises the clarity of God’s revelation to man, whether this revelation comes through general or through special revelation.[5] Facts can be understood as not testifying directly to the revelation of God in nature. They can be understood apart from “facts as being created.”

5.    The traditional method compromises the necessity of supernatural revelation in relation to natural revelation.[6] According to the tradition method, supernatural revelation provides for what was lacking from the beginning. Natural man was supposedly able to interpret natural revelation apart from supernatural revelation. But this is simply not the case. Supernatural revelation has augmented natural revelation from the very beginning.

6.    The traditional method compromises the authority of Scripture by not taking it as self-attesting in the full sense of the term.[7] This is the most damning, in my opinion, of all the criticism Van Til offers on the traditional method. The traditional method has no objection to subjecting Scripture to the scrutiny of non-Christian standards. The unbeliever is led to believe that he can sit in judgment of the credibility of the divine revelation, the very word of God itself. In so doing, finite, autonomous man sits is actually permitted to be the final arbiter of what can and cannot be accept as it relates to the claims of Christian theism. We have to build a bridge, the traditionalist says. We have to do the pre-work, they claim. What are the results of that pre-work?

In the end, when we compromise in this way, we end up destroying a number of basic Christian doctrines through compromise and in the name of biblical scholarship and supposedly reasonable apologetics. We end up with a watered-down, even fictional creation account. Adam and Eve are no longer historical figures but actors in a parable. There could never be a snake that actually spoke. The earth was not in fact created in six days. The idea of a global flood is simply dismissed. The entire book of Jonah is an embarrassment to Christianity. Jesus was a loving, caring, socialist who came to give us an example of how we should think and live: nothing more. The doctrine of the atonement as historically understood is described as cosmic child abuse.

The God of the Old Testament is nothing more than the projection of ancient Hebrews doing the best they could and even that was not very good. Jesus sat the record straight. The Bible is like any other book and can be judged and criticized the same as this blog. The exclusive claims of Christianity are narrow-minded and bigoted. Traditional Christians have been wrong for 2,000 years. They are nothing more than a bunch of hypercritical, closed minded haters. The notion of a literal hell is simply incongruent with the loving God that Jesus talked about. Sex is okay within any context so long as it involves loving feelings between the parties involved. To be sure, the notion that some book should be our authority is simply outdated, archaic and complete nonsense.

To be sure, the aforementioned beliefs are in one way, shape, or form taught and embraced not just in liberal churches, but in most evangelical churches, and even in some reformed camps. There is no rational defense for this brand of Christianity because it is no Christianity at all. It is liberal socialism with the label Jesus stamped on it and nothing more.

[1] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955).
[2] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955).
[3] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955).
[4] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955).
[5] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955).
[6] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955).
[7] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955).

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