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.