Friday, October 31, 2014

The Radical Nature of Biblical Christianity

1 John 1:5–7 (NASB95)
God Is Light
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

The Radical Message of Biblical Christianity

John begins this pericope with "Καὶ ⸉ἔστιν αὕτη⸊ ἡ °ἀγγελία" which is literally, "And this is the message." The independent clause seems straightforward enough but let's dissect the component parts in order to understand the meaning the author is attempting to convey. One cannot help but wonder "what" is the message and why it is "the" message. To begin with, one must examine ἡ °ἀγγελία, pronounced, he angelia. "The message" is in the predicate nominative position. The predicate nominative serves to either identify or qualify the word it modifies. In this case, John seems to be qualifying the message as the message that was heard from Him, Christ. It is the same message which is being announced to the readers. The houtos is a forward pointing reference focusing the attention of the reader on the importance of the message. In NT times the idea of message was necessarily connected with the concept of sending forth. A message from one party transmitted though a mediate to another party was hardly possible without the mediate also being sent with the message. In this case John seeks to distinguish the message from other messages by qualifying it as the message which we heard from Him! Christianity does not bring several messages with it. Christianity announces one and only one message: the message which it has received from Him, Jesus Christ! This is the message that we heard from Him as opposed to the message of the secessionists that have gone out from us.

The message of Christianity, as is the case with any message contains very specific content. The message that John and the elders heard from Christ was not fluid. It was not changing. It was a fixed message which means that it possesses fixed, stable, unchanging content. Jude told his audience that they should earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Note that Jude never hinted at several versions of the faith but rather indicated that the faith was the one and only faith. The apostles did not hand down several faiths or several different versions of the faith. Once again, the faith speaks to the apostolic tradition being handed down to the churches.

The apostle Paul informed the Corinthian Christians that the word of the cross, or the message of the cross is the power of God unto salvation. Jesus said that you must be born again. John wrote in his gospel that we are born of God. Paul told us that the supernatural aspect of the Christian message would lead to unregenerate men concluding that such a message is literally moronic. 

The radical message of Christian begins with the supernatural, sovereign, self-contained ontological Trinity of Scripture creating all that is to include mankind. Man, being deceived by the serpent, believed that he could carry on his project autonomously, determining on his own the nature of reality, how we can know things about the nature of reality, and how we ought to live our lives. This autonomous behavior was an outrageous attempt by man to deny his complete and utter dependence of God for all things. This resulted in the divine curse and humanity fell headlong into a totally depraved condition in desperate need of redemption. The God of Christianity, the only God that is, planned to redeem men even before mankind rebelled. Christ would be that redemption through which all men must be redeemed. Man's final rejection of Christ's redemption would result in eternal damnation and ultimate ruin. That is the radical message of Biblical Christianity.

The Radical Nature of Biblical Christianity

John tells us that the message of Christianity includes ὅτι ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν, that God is light. Now, this is an easy thing for anyone to say, even in modern culture. False Christians, shallow Christians, hedonistic, western, naturalistic, rationalistic, American Christians are constantly running around quoting this verse without a clue as to what it means. In what sense does John mean that God is light. John juxtaposes light with darkness in contrast to one another for a reason. Is. 5:20 helps shed some light on how the Jewish mind thought about light and darkness and how these terms are used elsewhere in the sacred writings. God, in prophetic utterance through Isaiah warns the Jews not to call good evil and evil good and equates this practice with substituting light for darkness and darkness for light. "The more we examine the principles and actions of men, the more shall we find that this system obtains among them both in theory and practice." We see this in modern American Christianity and in western European Christianity where the Christian religion has been reduced to the whims, experiences, and shallow desires of people that have never encountered the Christ of Scripture. 

The nature of Christianity transcends temporal reality and is anchored in the very being of the ontological Trinity of Scripture. Christianity is more than a confession even though the confession in proper context, is difficult if not impossible to over-emphasize. Christianity is more than a building and a gathering coupled with some ancient rituals. Christianity is more than a custom even if one's culture was supposed to have been founded in Christian principles. John understood this very well when he used the language of light and darkness. In fact, over 33% of the appearances of light occur in John's writings. John says the one who hates his brother is in darkness until now. On the other hand, the one who loves his brother walks in the light. Jesus said that He is the light of the world, men who follow Him will not walk in darkness. Clearly, light and darkness speak to the Christian ethic. The radical nature of Biblical Christianity is simply this: If faith, ~darkness. Darkness, therefore ~faith. A lifestyle that reflects a continual breaking and ignoring of God's holy commandment is a lifestyle that is utterly devoid of faith.

Modern claims of American Christianity and Western Christian, for the most part are wholly lacking in the sort of Biblical content that accompanies authentic Christian faith. Outward works or involvement with social causes and doing good deeds become nothing more than masks people wear to convince others that they really do care about what God cares about. Christianity is a religion that, the participation in, requires supernatural action that no human can perform. 

The Radical Change of Biblical Christianity

Jesus told Nicodemus that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again, or born from above. Christianity is not a religion one joins. It is not a system to which one simply decides to subscribe. People are not born or raised Christians. No man is a Christian apart from the supernatural external work of God upon the human person. Je. 31:33 informs us that the Christian law of God is written by God upon the human heart. God says that He will take out our stony heart and replace it with a heart of flesh. (Ez. 11:19) This is not lip service. It is not a nice metaphor for a naturalistic change of mind that one witnesses in other religions. Other religions mimic the Christian change, sort of. Christianity on the other hand is a radical change from the inside out. Paul tells us in Eph. 4 that Christians have put on a new self, not that we are just behaving differently. Both components are true. Christians behave differently because they ARE different. 

Paul tells the Corinthian Church: Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. Biblical Christianity, from the very start, at it's inception, is radically different from any other religion known to man. We behave differently because we are different. We have been born from above. We are born of God. The old self is being mortified while the new self is being renewed in the word of truth.

We must remember from the very beginning of any conversation with unbelievers and false Christians that Christianity is radically different. The message is radical. The nature of Christianity is radical. The change within the Christian is radical. It is not the result of superior argumentation, logically irresistible philosophy, or an amazing command of rhetoric on the part of pastors, evangelists or apologists. It is the product, and only the product of the self-contained ontological God of Scripture.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Presuppositional Approach to Evidence

Gary Habermas, representing the evidentialist method of Christian apologetics in the book, “Five Views on Apologetics,” remarks, “While we cannot sift though all the details here, evidentialists insist that there are a number of epistemological similarities in areas such as sensory data (perception), scientific theories, and the general rules and application of inference.”[1] 
From the start, this method compromises the antithesis put down in Scripture regarding believing and unbelieving thought. It has been said that if you are taking a long journey, you only have to start an inch off your mark to miss it by miles when the journey is complete. William Lane Craig tells us, “Apologetics is that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith.”[2] When Craig talks about a rational justification for truth, the Christian apologist has to step back and ask the question, “to whom?” If we mean rational to God, then we can buy into such a definition. But if we mean to the unbeliever, well, that is a different project entirely. Habermas and Craig are right that there is evidence and justification for believing that the God of Christian theism exists. Moreover, they are right that we must engage the unbeliever with the evidence within the context of rational discourse. However, there is clearly a variety of ways in which we may work through such a dialogue as we are thinking about and presenting that evidence. According to Cornelius Van Til and the presuppositional approach, there is really only one way to present the evidence that elevates the Lordship of God and takes serious the righteous demands of God on all of humanity.

Christian evidences have to be presented within the restrictions of the Christian doctrines of God, man creation, and sin. What is man? Originally created, man was perfect. He was capable of and willing to interpret the facts of the universe in light of God’s revelation, thinking God’s thoughts after him. Although he was finite, he was not rationally deficient. He was perfect, and perfectly capable of knowledge. Man’s epistemic problem was never his finitude. In contradistinction to the idea that man’s finitude is the problem, we believe that man’s epistemic problem entered upon the fall of our first parents headlong into the sinful curse. Now that man has fallen into corruption, into a depraved condition, his approach to the facts of the universe is remarkably deficient. Rather than submit to God’s prior interpretation of these facts as facts created by God for God, man now insists on interpreting all of reality according to his own standards of knowledge. Hence, the evidence for Christianity must be presented in a way that remains consistent with God’s plan, the original scheme, without compromising with the unbeliever in their epistemological rebellion against the Creator.

To begin with, Christian theism denies the idea of brute facts. Facts are not just there, independent entities waiting for the organizing principle of the human mind to come along and give them significance. Since the mind of fallen man is corrupted by sin, it is not capable of accomplishing such a lofty goal. In addition, unless the facts were facts in relation to one another and in relation to the whole, no one could possess knowledge of them to begin with. Facts are what they are first and foremost in relation to God. “In answering the fool a Christian apologist must aim to demonstrate that unbelief is, in the final analysis, destructive of all knowledge.”[3]

The evidences for Christianity regardless of whether they are historical or empirical or otherwise must always be presented as revealing God from the beginning. We do not argue from the evidence to God. We begin with God, with Scripture, with divine revelation in nature and show how that the evidence before us is everywhere revelational of the God we serve or reject as far as it goes. This method shows the unbeliever that not only is Christian theism rational, or just as rational as alternatives, but in fact it is the only system that does not end up destroying all rationality. The God of Christian theism is not the conclusion of our argument in which we being with supposed neutral facts about which both the Christian and non-Christian agree. We see the facts only in terms of their relationship with God and insist that unless they are viewed through that grid, they are not viewed correctly. And unless they are viewed correctly, they cannot be understood or known to be what they are.

The only proper way for Christian apologists to use the evidence for Christian theism is to begin with God and with the standard of God’s revelation as the only source for epistemic justification. Every other approach places autonomous, fallen, sinful man in the position of being the judge even of that which is holy. Such an approach is a true compromise of the gospel and lessons the demands of God upon His own creation.

[1] Gary B. Habermas, Five Views On Apologetics, ed. Steven B. Cowan; Stanley N. Gundry (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 97.
[2] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth And Apologetics (Wheaton, ILL: Crossway Books, 1984), 15.
[3] Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, fifth printing ed (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2002), 57.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Self-Deceptive Nature of Unbelief

“Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”[1] 
The great theologian of the reformed faith, John Calvin claims that all men know themselves because all men essentially looked up and beheld as it were, the face of God. In other words, there are no true atheists. All men know that God exists. The apostle Paul informed the ancient Christian church at Rome that God’s invisible attributes have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made so that the unbeliever is without a rational defense for his unbelief. Paul went on to say that even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God. All men, according to Paul know God.

Contrary to the claims of certain schools of apologetics, Paul did not say as some claim, that all men ought to know God exists if they just examine the facts and let those facts speak for themselves. Such an assessment is based on a non-Christian view of reality, namely, that brute facts actually exist and that autonomous human reason is capable of interpreting those facts apart from God. According to Christian theism, all men actually are in possession of true knowledge of God. They are not in possession of enough evidence that they ought, from a neutral examination of that evidence, to conclude that God probably exists. Instead, they know God exists. They have the knowledge that God is there, in nature, in their conscience, all around them.

The apostle Paul went on to say that all men handle this knowledge of God in the very same fashion. They become futile in their speculations. The Greek word translated futile is metaioō. Louw-Nida says it means to become useless and worthless. The word that futile modifies is dialogismos, which means to think or reason with thoroughness and completeness. The word appears nineteen times in the LXX canon. It is most often translated from the Hebrew word maḥăšābă. The basic idea of the word is the employment of the mind in thinking activity. Reference is not so much to “understanding” (cf. bîn), but to the creating of new ideas.[2]
All men know God but all men have become useless or worthless in their thought process. Paul tells us that all men engage in the harmonious “suppression of the truth of God in unrighteousness.” They’re “foolish hearts has been darkened.” It is impossible to suppress something that you do not have. To suppress something means to prevent someone from doing something by restraining or hindering it. All men must be in actual possession of the truth in order to suppress it. And according to Paul, they are actually in possession of true knowledge of God while at the same time suppressing that knowledge.

The unbeliever engages in the psychological phenomenon known as self-deception. James informs us that men can paralogidzomai heatous, delude themselves.[3] John also mentions this phenomenon in 1 John 1:8 where he writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” Clearly, self-deception is a concept taught in Scripture even though professional psychologists and philosophers disagree about its existence. The apostle Paul reveals that Satan has blinded the mind of the unbelieving so that they might not see the gospel and repent. (2 Cor. 4:4) He also informed us that unbelievers are governed by the futility of their mind, darkened in their heart, and excluded from the life of God. He informed us that the unbeliever is ignorant, stubborn, morally desensitized, and given over to sensuality. Van Til writes, “The unbeliever is the man with yellow glasses on his face. He sees himself and his world through these glasses. He cannot remove them. His interpretation of himself and of every fact in the universe relating to himself is, unavoidably, a false interpretation.[4]

[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Louisville, KY: The Westminster Press, 1960), Vol. I, 35.
[2] Theological Workbook of the Old Testament Waltke.
[3] James 1:22-24
[4] Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings &​ Analysis (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&​r Publishing, 1998), 421.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Impossibility of the Contrary

Is it possible to prove that the God of Christian theism actually exists? If so, what sort of proof is required to prove this sort of God exists? The field of Christian Apologetics offers a stunning variety of methods for proving that the God of Christian theism exists. However, not all methods hit their target and most methods in fact, fail to do the one thing they should seek to do above all else: honor the God they seek to prove exists. It is precisely this that the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til sought to do above all else.

Cornelius Van Til sought to prove that the God of Christian theism existed by demonstrating that all of human experience would be unintelligible, especially human predication, if in fact the God of Christian theism did not exist. The method employed by Van Til rejected the approach of other apologetic systems whose conclusions at best only show that God exists on some scale of probability.

In other words, proving that it is highly probable that God exists simply does not comport with the sort of certitude and demands found in the biblical text. The biblical text claims to be God speaking, and as such takes God’s existence for granted, and vigorously demands that all of humanity acknowledge God as sovereign Lord over all that is. The Scriptures never appeal to finite man as the ultimate standard by which it’s content should be judged nor does it ever encourage man to “check it out” for himself and see what he thinks. Nothing less will do if the Christian apologist truly seeks to employ an apologetic that is fully honoring to God by being consistent with the theology revealed in the biblical text.

The transcendental argument for the existence of God proves that God exists by demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary. The contrary is impossible because it involves self-contradiction. The non-Christian worldview is intellectually powerless to bring together the irrationality of brute facts and the rationality of a universal organizing principle to make those facts meaningful. Hence, knowledge and all rationality is destroyed if one accepts the basic commitments of the non-Christian worldview.

The method takes a two-step approach. First the Christian places himself in the unbeliever’s shoes in order to see how well the unbeliever’s conceptual scheme stands up under an internal critique. Van Til asks the unbeliever to show how human experience, any human experience, could be intelligible if the basic commitments of the unbeliever are actually true. In other words, if the universe is a product of pure chance, which is what it must be if God does not exist, then how is it possible for the unbeliever to speak about such things as universals when such a state could only produce individual particulars unrelated to anything else in the universe?

Van Til proved the truthfulness of Christian theism by use of the transcendental argument and he showed us that Christian theism is true precisely because of the impossibility of the contrary. Because the non-Christian worldview is self-refuting in multifarious ways, and since it is contrary to the Christian worldview, it is impossible for it to be true. If it is true that the non-Christian worldview in all its various stripes and versions is impossible, then it follows that the Christian worldview must then be true. The argument is a disjunctive syllogism. Either Christianity or ~ Christianity. ~ ~ Christianity, therefore, Christianity. The opponent may object that there are more than just two options. But framing it the way that Van Til does, this is not the case. At bottom there are only two possible worldviews: either God is sovereign or man is autonomous. Either Christianity is true or it is false. The transcendental argument shows that it is impossible for Christian theism to be false by demonstrating that the very experience necessary to deny it actually must presuppose its truthfulness.

As a reminder, these posts are not aimed at those who are well acquainted with the presuppositional method. Rather, it is aimed at those who are just getting their feet wet in the field of Christian apologetics.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Transcendent and The Transcendental

Transcendent and transcendental are two theological terms that can be easily confused. The best way to understand the difference is to understand the respective meaning of the terms, and perhaps even more importantly, how they relate to one another.

When we say that something is transcendent we are saying that it is beyond the limitations and ordinary range of human experience. We are referring to a state of being that is above and beyond the normal limitations of the material universe. God is a transcendent being, which means that God extends beyond the limitations and ordinary range of human experience and the material universe.

John Frame writes, "The concept of transcendence builds on biblical texts that describe God as "most High" (Gen. 14:18-22; Deut. 32:8) or "high and lifted up (Isa. 6:1)." [Frame, Systematic Theology, 39] We don't hear much about God's transcendence in American Pop-Christianity. Nevertheless, the only philosophically defensible version of Christian is the one expressed in Scripture. American culture has hi-jacked Christianity and transformed it into a man-centered psychological mechanism designed to serve the urges, whims, and desires of greedy, materialistic Americans. To be sure, American culture is not alone. Christianity has always been subject to the perversions of every culture in which it finds itself. Yet, it cannot be over-emphasized that Christian apologists must seek to defend the particular God of biblical Christianity in particular. The particular God of Christian theism is the absolute God who transcends space and time. This God can only be defended using a very specific method if we are to avoid proving that God is nothing more than the pagan finite god of the Greek philosophers.

It is easy to confuse the transcendent with the transcendental. When we say that something is transcendental we are usually referring to a concept in philosophy. Transcendentalism is a system of philosophy that emphasizes the spiritual and the intuitive above the empirical and the material and even perhaps the rational. For the purpose of this project, transcendental refers to a very specific method for arriving at truth claims. “One of the rhetorical effects of a faithfully executed apologetic is that the unbeliever proves to indirectly affirm the truth of the Christian worldview as he relies on induction, logic, predication, and other tools to construct a position that so thoroughly undermines them.”[1] 
It is the nature of the transcendental argument to indirectly prove that the unbeliever’s inductive and/or deductive approach actually destroys itself by showing that the very foundations for his epistemology are unintelligible and self-refuting of the ultimate commitments necessary for his own conceptual scheme. In other words, his later beliefs refute his earlier or more basic beliefs. 

The inductive method begins with the supposed brute facts of the universe and from those facts moves through a series of arguments to a particular conclusion. The inductive approach seeks to provide conclusions that are highly probable. The degree of probability is in direct correlation to the strength of the evidence supporting the claims. Contrary to induction, the deductive method seeks to provide rational certainty about specific claims. Provided an argument is valid, that is to say that if the conclusion follows logically from the premises, and provided that the premises are true, it follows that a deductive argument is sound and certain.

Van Til would take strong exception to Christian apologists using either method. Both methods rely solely on the natural man’s ability to organize brute facts in the universe and reason correctly about those facts apart from and independent of God. The Christian apologist, precisely because he is defending the claim that there is an absolute, self-contained, transcendent God, cannot possibly rely on induction and deduction to argue for such a God. The very transcendent nature of God requires a very different method if it is to be faithful to the God it seeks to announce and defend.

“But we realize even more clearly and definitively the distinctiveness of transcendental arguments when we contrast their logical character (that is, the truth-functional relation of their conclusions to their premise) with that of rational and empirical arguments.”[2] 
The transcendental argument for God then begins with uncontroversial aspects of human experience, such as morality, or love for instance, and claims that the existence of the Christian God is the necessary precondition of those experiences. TAG asks what has to be the case in order for x to be the case? The argument form basically says that for x to be the case y has to be the case because y is the necessary precondition for x.[3] 
The transcendental argument then explores what else has to be the case since human rationality is the case.

[1] B. A. Bosserman, The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014), 93.
[2] Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&​r Publishing, 1998), 501.
[3] See Michael Butler’s paper, The Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Irrational Atheism

Building off my last blog on the irrationalism of atheism, I think it is a good idea to provide some realist accounts of what happens when humanity moves deeper and deeper into the belief that all knowledge actually begins with the human person as autonomous rather than with God. In order to demonstrate the tsunami of irrationalism that is in the process of destroying whatever is left of reason, I want to point you to Houston, TX, the U.S. Military, the Public School System of the United States, Harvard University, and finally, another incident of gay bullying and intimidation at a Christian college. Truly, reason has been turned upside down on it's head. However, such a state of affairs is only to be expected if it is the case that God, the creator and sustainer of all that is, is the only true source of human knowledge and the basic necessity for human predication.

By now, most people have heard or read about the controversy in Houston, TX. The first lesbian mayor of a major US city has caused a firestorm of controversy by essentially ignoring the first amendment of the constitution of the United States which seeks to protect five very basic rights:

1. Freedom of religion and the expression thereof
2. The freedom of speech
3. Freedom of the press
4. The right to assemble
5. The right to petition for governmental redress

In the Houston situation, it seems that 3 of the 5 of these very basic undisputed and non-debated points of the first amendment are being trampled. Why? What is the issue? It seems that the city of Houston wants men who feel like women and women who feel like men to be able to use the public rest room of the gender the feel like they are rather than the one that science actually demonstrates them to be. This is not a difficult item to manage if only we just use our reasoning powers. Men should use the men's rest room because they are in fact men regardless of whatever mental health issues they may have. Would we allow a man to squat in the public park so long as he told us he felt like he was a dog?

In recent times, the issue of women in combat has been debated here in American culture. Once again, the debate has ignored the very basic purpose of a military: kill the enemy through superior soldiers, equipment, and technology. However, in this debate the basic purpose of the military is ignored in preference for a "higher" one: women's opportunities to advance up the military ladder. And since that right trumps the very purpose for a military in the first place, we politicize the issue and open our minds so far that our brains fall out and land right on Pennsylvania Ave. According to the Interim CRM Report dated October, 2014, 20 women have now attempted to pass the Marine's Infantry Officer Course and none have passed. The report sums their findings up with the following: Nothing produced by the research so far indicates that women can be physical equals and interchangeable with men in the infantry. What is amazing is the amount of time, effort, and economic resources it took to produce something that any norman human could have told them from the start, that is if they had allowed science rather than politics to dictate their answer: men and women are very different creatures with men as a class being physically superior to women and not by a small margin. While that statement may be politically incorrect, by all accounts, science is on my side.

Recently, a mother in the state of North Carolina attempted to have her child become a student of the public school system, kindergarten to be specific. After just a few short weeks, she went in to remove her daughter from the system and decided to homeschool her instead. But the mother was met with threats from the principle stating that the mother would be charged with truancy if she removed her daughter from school now that she is enrolled. After bringing in an attorney, the matter has been resolved but isn't that the problem. The mother had to bring in an attorney to do what she believes is in the best interest of her own child. What sort of reasonable person, especially an education professional, would think that mother did not have the legal right to take this action?

Recently, a group a Harvard University students were asked to pick which entity, the United States or ISIS, represented the greater threat to world peace. Almost to a kid, the Harvard brainy acts said the United States represented a greater threat to world peace than the terrorist group, ISIS. In fact, some of these intellectuals blamed America for the very existence of ISIS. My advice: get your tuition back. You don't have to go to Harvard to arrive at these sorts of idiotic conclusions.

Gordon College, a missionary training ground near Boston, MA continues to deal with persecution over it's desire to prohibit homosexual behavior among potential faculty members. Gordon is a Christian college and Christians reject homosexual behavior as sinful and prohibited and condemned by God. Yet, this did not stop the mayor of Salem from tearing up a contract that allowed the students to maintain and operate a tourist attraction, Old Town Hall, on the behalf of the city.

In the beginning God said let us make man in our image and in our likeness. Man is created in the image of God. The facts of the created universe are facts in terms of their relationship to God first. They can only be know as created phenomena related to God their creator, and then to one another. They can be truly known only in that sense. The organizing principle of the universe is the self-contained, self-sufficient triune God of Scripture. Humanity has rejected this view of reality. Instead, man is the beginning and head of all knowledge. Man has set up his idol of science and proceeded to arrogantly preach the scientific method, filled with limitations though it may be. And yet, when it suits him as it does in all the cases mentioned above, he does not hesitate (denying it while he does it), to abandon science due to other conflicting desires and urges.

What do we see in American culture? We see a prominent mayor of the 4th largest US city ignoring the constitution in preference for her own agenda. We see the US military caving in to the idea that the promotion of women in the military is of higher import than making sure that entity continues to be able to function as what it was designed to be: the greatest and most deadly killing machine the world has ever known. We see elementary school principles, themselves professional educators, wholly ignorant of the laws under which they operate and without any sensible judgment whatsoever in how they extend respect to the parents of the children they are responsible for educating. Finally, we see Christian colleges threatened to have their accreditation removed and their students losing valuable contracts because we have placed irrational, ignorant, tyrannical officials in office who could care less about the rule of law, the constitution, and certainly not the God to Whom they owe everything.

There you have it. Five cases in which atheistic or practical atheistic thinking leads to the most absurd positions imaginable. There can be no defense of the foolishness that now makes up most of American and Western European thinking on these matters. The abandonment of Christian values, even in a moralistic, temporal sense has very serious consequences. Those leading their respective cultures in these directions are simply demonstrating that they have given little to no reflection regarding the consequences that their actions are about to deliver. I am reminded of what Paul said to the ancient Thessalonian Christians, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο πέμπει αὐτοῖς ὁ θεὸς ἐνέργειαν πλάνης εἰς τὸ πιστεῦσαι αὐτοὺς τῷ ψεύδει, 12 ἵνα κριθῶσιν πάντες οἱ μὴ πιστεύσαντες τῇ ἀληθείᾳ ἀλλʼ εὐδοκήσαντες τῇ ἀδικίᾳ. "For this reason, God will sent them a deluding, misleading influence so that they might believe a lie, IN ORDER THAT, they all might be judged who were not believing the truth but taking pleasure in unrighteousness. God sends them a deluding influence with the result that they believe a lie and He does so for the purpose being to bring them under judgment. These are the times in which we are living. Why is God engaging in this sort of activity? It is because humanity has not loved the truth so as to be saved (2 Thess. 2:10). For this reason, God sends a deluding influence resulting in men believing a lie in order that He may execute judgment upon them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Irrational Atheist

Recently, I find that I am in constant contact with atheists. I had always thought that most atheists were of the intellectual sort, highly intelligent, good debaters and such. I have to confess that most of them that I talk to and even read are little more than rude and condescending boogers. Most of their arguments are sophomoric at best and juvenile at worse. Very few of them seem to be intellectually or philosophically honest and I suspect most of them know this to be the case even if they won't admit it.

Recently, in an aticle that appeared in The Atlantic, Crispin Sartwell admitted that "Not believing in God isn't always based on arguments - and that's okay." Sartwell admitted that the scientific worldview itself, naturalism, cannot be explained by science no more than religion can. At least he is honest about it. Sartwell admits that he is an atheist because of how he things about the universe which is ultimate derivative of his extremely limited experience. Sartwell says he sees the universe as a morally indifferent thing. Once again, at least he isn't trying to use chemical processes in the brain to establish a universal morality. Those who make such arguments always fail to tell us which brain.

"But for many people, belief comes before arguments." Sartwell goes on to say that the arguments are generally post-hoc rationalizations. He is right. The sad truth is that most atheists won't admit this, no, not in a million years. They arrived at their position only after examining all the available evidence and then after thoroughly and fairly examining Christian theism. At least that is what the overwhelming majority of atheists want us to believe.

The atheist claims that naturalism is the only worldview that makes sense. All knowledge comes through the senses we are told. But when we inquire as to what scientific proof we they have to offer, it all comes down to "that's just way it is." Well, I forgot the expletive but you get the gist. When we ask the atheist to defend morality he tells us that morality is nothing more than a self-preservation mechanism in the brain or a convention of society. He always forgets to tell us which brain or which society if right if there are differences. He also forgets to tell us where the survival instinct comes from and why all these molecules in motion are so afraid of dying. When the atheist is asked to provide an intelligible account of the relationship with the irrationality of individual facts and the rationalizing principle we mostly get little more than rhetoric mixed with a lot of poppycock and outright propaganda. 

Sartwell admits, "The idea that the atheist comes to their view of the world through rationality and argumentation, while the believer relies on arbitrary emotion and commitments, is false." I have made this point to many atheists only to be called insulted three ways to Sunday. Sartwell is right.

It is equally true that Christians do not come to Christianity by rationality or argumentation. Christians are not the products of family, environment, and society. That's how we get hypocrites and false converts. John tells us very well how Christians are made: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." Christians are not the products of their parents. They are not the products of their own free will contrary to what most American Christians assert. Christians are born of God, by the will of God, as a result of the work of God the Holy Spirit applying the gospel of God the Son, Jesus Christ, to their heart. Otherwise, they are not Christians. 

The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10, that Christians must make a confession of Christ as Lord and that we must literally believe that God literally raised Christ from the dead in order to be saved. This confession took place at the very entrance into the Christian group. Now, to modern minds in western culture, confessions don't mean much. They are unfortunately a dime a dozen. But in the Greco-Roman-Jewish world of Paul, they were one of the most significant events in a person's life. The use of the tetragrammaton (Yahweh) by early Jewish Christians is extremely significant. Larry Hurtado writes, "Romans 10:9-13 is particularly worth noting. Paul here commends the act of "confessing" (homnologeo) with the mouth that "Jesus is Lord" (Kyrion Iesoun), which is to be accompanied by heartfelt belief that God has raised Jesus from death; Paul portrays these acts as having salvivic consequences (vv. 9-10). that the confession is a ritual act in the context of worship is indicated by Paul's adaptation of Joel 2:32 (LXX 3:5) to describe the action."

The creed of creeds in the Christian Church is known as The Apostles Creed. The Creed dates back to as early as the second century and was known to Irenaeus and Tertullian. "As applied to a creed, it was a sign or test of membership in the Church. Assent to the creed or symbol was required of those who were being baptized." For early Christianity, there was far more to identifying with the Christian group than there is today.

I say all this about the confessions and the creeds to point out that most atheistic arguments against the Church are either based on exposure to a false Christian or Christianity or a complete misunderstanding of the teachings of Christianity. The rest of the arguments are just a reflection of their hatred for the God of Scripture. They have stiffened their resolve to follow along the path of Satan in his full rejection of the Creator. 

In the end, Sarwell tells us that he loves this world's beauty and that he hates its suffering. But as Al Mohler said, and I agree, to acknowledge beauty is to presuppose a standard by which beauty is measured. And such a standard simply cannot exist in a God-less universe or in an atheistic worldview. And that in and of itself is an irrational position in and of itself.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Gary Habermas: A Generation of Skeptics Are Open To The Resurrection

A Presuppositionalist Responds

I live in Charlotte, NC, not far from Southern Evangelical Seminary. In fact, I took my very first course in Christian Apologetics at SES when Norman Geisler, the founder of SES, was the professor, back in the early days. Every year, SES sponsors a large conference on apologetics right here in the Charlotte area. That time has recently come and gone with the usual program designed to help Christians defend the beliefs of Christianity. Apparently, one of those lectures was put on by Dr. Gary Habermas, not a newcomer to the conference by any stretch of the imagination. Dr. Habermas has distinguished himself over the years in his focus on evidential apologetics, specifically around the resurrection of Christ. He has so distinguished himself that the article by the Christian Post that I am about to spend some time referencing, called him an “expert” in the resurrection event. I cannot help but wonder what credentials one has to possess in order to be an acknowledged expert on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At any rate, the Christian Post has given us a glimpse into Habermas’ approach to the defense of the resurrection and I wanted to share my response with you in the hope that it may help you see some of the problems that I think Habermas’ approach presents.

Habermas believes that a generation of skeptics is now open to the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Habermas’ method is interesting. He apparently uses only the evidence that his critics will allow in order to make the strongest possible case for the resurrection. Habermas throws out the evidence that the critics reject. In other words, if a critic denies the authenticity of a Pauline letter or a gospel account, Habermas concedes and allows the critic to set the parameters for the discussion. In fact, in the Christian Post article here we see that Habermas has tossed out nearly 50% of the Pauline corpus. We have to ask if this is a good strategy and whether it is in keeping with Christian principles.

Should Christian apologists allow the critic to set the standards for what evidence is acceptable and what evidence is not? Is it ever okay for the Christian to “pretend” that the unbelieving skeptic is right in their view of epistemic justification? Can we dismiss Isaiah or Job, or Genesis 1-11 even to pretend with the critic that they are not what they claim to be?

Christians are bound to defend the entire corpus of Christian teachings, not just one aspect of it. If we permit the critic to dismantle or disallow any of the biblical evidence, why would we think they would stop at any point along the way until they have destroyed or disallowed all of it?

There are many problems with Habermas’ method but I only want to talk about the two that I think are most obvious. The first is the underlying presupposition that facts are neutral, even and especially the historical fact of the resurrection. The second is that Christians somehow have the luxury of defending Christian theism piecemeal. Christian theism is a very broad system and must be defended as a whole from the foundation up. The teachings of Christianity are part of a system that makes sweeping claims about reality, epistemology, and ethics and those claims are interdependent on one another and as such they must be defended within the entire system of which they are a part. In other words, Christians are not to defend the historical event of the resurrection apart from its theological implications. And without the theological implications, the resurrection is nothing more than a fascinating story of how the atoms worked differently in the case of this fellow known as Jesus Christ.

To begin with, Habermas’ appeal to historical evidence assumes that both skeptics and Christians operate under the same philosophy of fact and that assumption is categorically false. Under Habermas’ assumption, we all interpret the resurrection of Christ the same. And that is simply not the case. It does not follow that if there was something like a resurrection that that event must be interpreted the way Christian theism interprets it. And if it is possible for there to exist more than one interpretation of that agreed on historical event, then we end up with the possibility of a resurrection outside of its theological context. And what good will such a resurrection do the skeptic or the critic? For that matter, what good will it do anyone other than the curious scientist bent on trying to develop a naturalistic explanation for it? John Frame says as much when he writes, “For theistic proofs will not, any more than historical evidences, accomplish their purpose without the presupposition of a biblical worldview. As I mentioned in my reply to Craig, without the biblical God there is no reason to suppose that there is a rational, causal order leading to a first cause.” [Five Views, 133]

The resurrection is only meaningful within the framework of its Christian theistic interpretation. Habermas seems to think that critics espousing a non-theistic framework will be forced to cry uncle and abandon their worldview for Christianity. Such a view assumes there is no ethical component in the unbeliever’s outright rejection of the Christian gospel. And that is precisely the objection that we seem to ignore in these conversations, and it matters more than any of the ancillary objections we hear from the skeptic and the critic alike.

Second, we have to grapple with the ethical aspect of Habermas’ approach. At the end of the day, there can be only one ultimate reference point for human predication. We have a choice to make and it is the choice that confronted our first parents in the Garden: either man will serve as the ultimate reference point for what passes as true knowledge or God will serve as the ultimate reference point. Since Christian theism teaches that man is a creature, created in the image of God, and that God is the absolute, independent, self-contained being and source of all that is, we cannot possibly entertain the notion that finite man could ever sit in judgment of the nature God’s revelation. Man could NEVER come up with a standard by which to measure the claims and demands of God placed upon him. Imagine what God’s response to Adam would have been if Adam, in response to God informing him that he is a created man, said, well hang on and let me test your definition of me using the scientific method to make sure that I am what you say I am: a man created in your image. It is precisely this attitude that we are grappling with when we are preaching and declaring to the sinner the gospel of God. Fallen man insists on interpreting the facts according to his philosophy of fact, which places man in the center, as the autonomous and ultimate reference point for what counts as a fact and how any fact should be interpreted. Until we deal with this disagreement, we shall not have dealt with the critic’s objection to any fact of Christian theism, to include the fact of the resurrected Christ.

In summary then we must ask what makes for a strong case? Allowing the critic to outline what evidence will be permitted and what evidence will be rejected? This places the critic in the driver’s seat as the ultimate reference point, as the final authority for what should be believed and what should be rejected. Essentially, this contradicts Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 1. Paul tells us that the word of the cross is foolish to the debater, the pagan philosopher, and the experts. Habermas seems to think it is right for us to remove the thing that makes the gospel foolish so that it will be more acceptable. However, the very thing that make the gospel foolish is also the thing that makes it powerful: the supernatural work of God on the heart and mind. The gospel is infused with the power of light and it enlightens all those whom God opens their eyes to see. As a result, our faith stands in the power of God, not in the sophisticated philosophical arguments or the rational evidences as a result of the cleverness of men.

The Christian must communicate the gospel in a way that the demands of the Creator are felt rather than allowing the creature to lighten the load by serving as their own reference point for what should be believed even when it comes to “this saith the Lord.”

Cornelius Van Til wrote, “It is only to be expected that, in matters of ultimate commitment, the intended conclusion of one’s line of argumentation will also be the presuppositional standard that governs one’s matter of argumentation for that conclusion – or else the intended conclusion is not his ultimate commitment after all.

It seems to me that Habermas’ ultimate commitment is not to the inscripturated revelation of God as it is. Otherwise he would be unwilling to pretend that some of “thus says the Lord” is not really “thus says the Lord” for argument’s sake. It is never a stronger argument to throw out evidence just because it is evidence the skeptic rejects. Think about that and let it sink in. Habermas has unwittingly said that if we cut out parts of evidence derived directly from divine revelation we actually strengthen our argument. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is God, not man, who determines what passes for evidence. We never strengthen our arguments when we pretend that some parts of God’s evidence is not actually good evidence. We only compromise the evidence and the truth it reveals when we do that. And we lesson the demands of a sovereign and holy God upon the lives of fallen, rebellious, and arrogant man. Essentially, we weaken and downgrade the thunderous message of “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”