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).

1 comment:

  1. An excellent summary of the Van Tilian method. Thank you!


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