Posts Tagged ‘presuppositionalism’

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/8/2014: Kurt Jaros

November 6, 2014

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast this week? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This week on the Deeper Waters Podcast, we’re going to be looking at some topics that Christians can divide over a bit and I’m going to be getting the perspective of my friend Kurt Jaros. Kurt has been on the show before and has in fact been a speaker at the Unbelievable? conference in the U.K. So who is Kurt Jaros?

KurtJaros

Kurt Jaros is the Director of Operations at Apologetics.com, a charitable organization that challenges believers to think and thinkers to believe. He is currently a Ph.D. student at Highland Theological College in Dingwall, Scotland. His doctoral dissertation will look at the doctrine of Original Sin in the writings of monks from southern France in the 5th and 6th century. He holds two Masters degrees in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, and Systematic Theology, from King’s College London.

He likes systematic and historical theology, philosophy of religion, and issues in Christian pop culture. Additionally, he enjoys political philosophy, economics, American political history and campaigns. He current resides in the suburbs of Chicago with his lovely wife and daughter.

So what all are we going to be talking about?

We’ll be talking about original sin some. (Last I checked, Kurt is against sin for all concerned) Kurt comes from a perspective where he has enjoyed debating in the Calvinist/Arminian debate. It’s one that I’ve tended to avoid, but if you’re interested in that kind of debate, then you might want to hear what he has to say.

We’re hoping as well that some of this can break off into the problem of evil. How does one deal with the supremacy of God in a world of evil from the perspective of someone like Kurt? Can it be dealt with?

Also, we’ll be looking at what Kurt has to say about the teaching of Pelagianism. If one rejects Pelagianism, can one call oneself a semi-Pelagian? How will this relate to the doctrine of salvation? What kinds of issues are at stake in this? How will all of this then tie back into original sin?

I’m also interested in having our discussion on inerrancy as well. Kurt and I have had several discussions about this topic and while we both believe in inerrancy, we both hold a view of it different from the traditional view. Those who have been interested in the writings that I have done on the Geisler debate will certainly want to hear this kind of discussion on inerrancy. We will also be discussing various items we have in the works for the debate on inerrancy.

Kurt’s a good friend of mine and I’ve enjoyed a number of comments he’s left on my Facebook page as well as much of the humor we share together. He also takes my blogs which I appreciate and shares them on his own group. If you don’t know Kurt, now’s your chance to get to know him. I hope you’ll be listening to hear what he has to say.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Faith and Reason, Three Views

August 18, 2014

What is to be the relationship between faith and reason in Christianity? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

What has Jerusalem to do with Athens? So was the question of Tertullian around 1800 years ago. Today, we are still asking that same question. What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens? How is it that faith and reason work together? Should we live in suspicion of reason? Should we welcome reason when it is used as tool for our faith, or are reason and faith remarkably similar both before and after conversion?

This is the question asked in this book edited by Steve Wilkens. 

Faithandreason

The book has there different views on it. One view is that faith and reason are in tension with one another. The other is that faith comes and then it seeks understanding. The next is that faith and reason are working together. Those who are familiar with me will know I naturally fall into the last camp where I see faith and reason as allies.

An aspect that made it all difficult however was the lack of a rigorous definition of faith. Too many times we talk about faith and we don’t define what the term means. Some writers did attempt to define it, but I wish there had been some set definition right at the start that all the writers would have agreed on prior to the writing.

The faith against reason approach I find the most problematic. It is more of a camp that I would think leans heavily on a presuppositional approach with what fallen man can and can’t do. It is a dichotomy that I really do not see in Scripture in that for all the talk about fallen man, it looks like Jesus appealed to these fallen men often in their reasoning capacity and asked them to believe the message that He brought.

In fact, the first sentence struck me as problematic when Carl A. Raschke in this section said “Christian faith and philosophy have for the most part been in tension for most of the last two thousand years.”

This is quite a difficult view to accept. Are we to say that truths discovered through reason have been in tension with Christianity for so long? I immediately found myself stunned at this sentence. In fact, it seemed quite dangerously close to the double-theory of truth. I am sure Raschke does not hold to that, but that is where my mind went immediately. If Christianity is the true faith and philosophy is seeking to give us true knowledge, won’t they work together?

Raschke when he gets to Aquinas just says that Aquinas accepted Aristotle carte blanche in order to argue vigorously for Christianity over the Muslims. This really ignores much of the impact of what was going on with Aristotle and gives the impression Aquinas just went along for the ride. Aquinas showed how it was compatible with Christianity, but even he jettisoned a number of aspects of Aristotle’s system.

So overall, I found this idea unimpressive and in fact problematic. If philosophy presents something true and Christianity does, there can be no tension.

The next essay was by Alan Padgett and it’s on Faith Seeking Understanding. There was much more of this to agree with and in fact, I was wondering what was so different about it and the last view that I do accept. The main difference is that in this view, reason really takes over once the faith has already done its work.

So let’s go to Craig Boyd’s view on a synthesis between faith and reason and why it is that I accept this.

My reasoning is simple. All truth is God’s truth. If something is true in the sphere of philosophy, or any other sphere for that matter, it will be true in the area of Christianity. Boyd points out that Christ and the apostles regularly point to the reasoning of their audience and why it is that they should accept the claims given.

Boyd also offers I think the most rigorous arguments going step by step about what faith is and what reason is and how different people view reason. He deals with misconceptions of reason and I think quite well points out that for the proponents of the first view who say that there is tension between the two, that essentially, the only thing people of that view can say to those who are outside is simply “Believe!”

For those interested in the faith and reason debate, this will be a valuable read and one that will benefit your study of it. It comes with my recommendation. My thanks to IVP for their generous gift to me of a copy for review purposes.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

A Response to James White On Defining Inerrancy

June 20, 2014

Has James White’s critique of my position in Defining Inerrancy been accurate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

By now, it should be no secret to readers of Deeper Waters that I am the co-author of the Ebook “Defining Inerrancy“. I thank everyone who has bought a copy and I hope many of you will write positive reviews on Amazon and your own blogs and web sites.

Some of you have also contacted me to tell me that James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries has apparently read our book and spoken about it on his latest podcast. I was not surprised to hear that the review was not a positive one, but at the same time, it is good to have press anyway.

So what is being said?

To start off, one line of White’s which I agree with is that of “If I’ve learned one thing from Norm Geisler it’s that I don’t want to be like him.” The more and more I have seen of this, the more and more I have been embarrassed by my former admiration.

In White’s review, he wanted to save most of what he had to say for the final chapter which happened to be written by me. When told about it I was told “Well he certainly got your viewpoint wrong.” Those who I shared it with who I consider mentors all were saying the same thing.

It’s important to point out that White does say he agrees with Geisler on the interpretation of Matthew 27. It should be pointed out that so does my co-author. Holding thinks that this is a real event that happened. What’s my position? The interpretation of Matthew 27 is actually the focus of the Master’s thesis I am working on so at this point, I am claiming agnosticism. It would be foolish to give a public viewpoint before really digging in and doing the research directly.

The final chapter that White wishes to comment on is the chapter I wrote called “Lordship over Scholarship?” In giving a sense of it he says that I am quoting Geisler and says “Geisler says further ‘As evangelicals we must beware of desiring a table at the seat of contemporary scholarship which is riddled with presuppositions that are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity.’ “(White agrees 1000%)

White then wants you to hear my response.

“On the contrary, I think we should eagerly be desiring that. How are we supposed to make an impact in the world of scholarship if we don’t want a seat at the table. Imagine what it could mean for Christianity if Christians were seen as trusted authorities in each field. Instead of fearing antagonistic presuppositions, what happened to correcting them with real scholarship?”

White says that paragraph really concerns him and is muddled in an amazing way.

Not a shock that White hones in on presuppositionalism.

Now I am not a presuppositionalist at all, but it does not mean that recognizing presuppositions play no role whatsoever in my thinking. White thinks that to sit at the table of scholarship is to compromise and give in to the presuppositions and to say there is a moral neutral ground. He also says that it is saying we should lay aside our commitment to the absolute Lordship of Christ and to the radical elements of that.

I think those of you who know me well are recognizing that I have no desire to do something like that. White tells us that Geisler recognizes that sitting at the table of scholarship is doing that and then adds “But I don’t know where Nick Peters is coming from.”

At this point, it would have been better off if he didn’t know where I was coming from to try to contact me. I’m not hard to find. My blog is there. My own podcast is there. All of them are ways to contact me. If he has no idea where I’m coming from, all that needed to be done was to ask.

Instead, White will proceed to talk about a position assuming that that is mine even though by his own words, he does not know where I am coming from.

White says he hopes I am saying that we should be seeking to challenge those presuppositions, but that that wasn’t what Geisler was talking about.

It’s a shame White didn’t go with his first inclination of what he hoped I was saying. What he hopes I am saying is in fact what I am really saying in that chapter.

White repeats my saying how are we supposed to have an impact if we don’t sit at the table? White suggests that we do so by showing that the presuppositions that they accept are in fact incoherent and by critiquing their worldview. Now I would not do it in a presuppositional way, but I would in fact challenge them.

White then thinks that my statement about having a Christian be a trusted authority in each field is problematic. Can that be given outside of the worldview?

Sometimes, yeah.

Who is it that heads the Human Genome Project? A Christian like Francis Collins. What I am saying is simply what C.S. Lewis said. Imagine what it would mean if the most learned authority in any particular field was a Christian and that in order to learn about a position, unbelievers HAD to go to Christians because Christians put the best material out there.

“I want to learn law!” “Well read this book by this Christian lawyer.”

“I want to learn botany! “Read this book by a Christian botanist.”

“I want to learn economics!” “Read this book by a Christian economist.”

The Christians should be seeking to dominate academia and be the most learned people that they can be.

White goes on to say that there are many people who are embarrassed by the open confession of the Lordship of Christ over every area of knowledge.

Again, this is the kind of accusation that it would have been good to make absolutely sure of before making a statement about it. This especially since he has no idea where it is that I’m coming from and yet seems to know exactly where I’m coming from.

White has said how Dan Wallace endorses the book. I am sure Wallace would have told him as well that White’s position on me is false. In fact, on the same blog where Wallace reviews our book, he also has a link up to where he was interviewed by me on my show.

What is my position? My position is this. That if Christianity is true, and I am convinced it is, good research will show that it is true. If we are doing our history right, it will line up with Christianity. If we are doing our ethics right, it will line up. If we are doing our philosophy right, it will line up. If we are doing our science right, it will line up. If we are doing our hermeneutics right, it will line up.

Chesterton once said something along the lines that if Christianity is not true, it is of no importance. If Christianity is true, it is of great importance to everything out there. I agree entirely. Since Christianity is true, it means Christ has something to say about every area of our lives.

Thus, I am not just a husband. I am a Christian husband. I am not just someone who studies history. I am a Christian who studies history. Every facet of my life is to be submitted to Christ entirely. When I study, Christ has something to say. When I take Allie out on a date, Christ has something to say. When I watch TV or a movie, Christ has something to say. When I play, Christ has something to say. When I drive, Christ has something to say. (Probably has a lot to say to me then especially)

What will I do when I approach a non-Christian? I have told people they are allowed to have their own interpretation. Everyone does, and sometimes we’re wrong. What they are not allowed to do is have their own data. You do not get to dismiss data because it goes against your worldview. You do not get to give it a place it should not have because it goes with your worldview.

So what do I do when I come to the table? I talk about the data. Joe Friday is my kind of approach. Just the facts. Then we discuss the facts. This is also why I think it’s important to have a philosophical background so you can properly interpret the data. Suppose someone brings up miracles not happening for instance. I point to research done by Craig Keener in this field and say it does not work to just dismiss them because they disagree with your worldview. I’m not allowed to do that. Why should you be?

And while I am not a presuppositionalist, I spend plenty of time questioning the worldviews of people who I encounter as to why I should take the stance. As an Aspie, I really can’t stand it when I spot something that is an inconsistency and when people treat Scripture by a different standard than they do other historical works, I don’t bend on that.

Now if someone does not come to Christ if the evidence is there, then naturally there is some other reason they are not, be it emotional or volitional, and it would be foolish of anyone to claim emotions play no role in their thinking. We are all whole human beings and unless we have some condition such as being a sociopath, we are all affected by our emotions, though some are more affected than others.

What happens if we retreat from the world of academia? That’s what we did when evolution showed up. We made a knee-jerk reaction and we’re still paying for it today. When liberal scholarship showed up at our Seminaries, instead of facing it head on, we retreated and set up our own new Seminaries. Colleges, Universities, and Seminaries once firmly held by the Christian worldview are now bastions of secular thought.

I wonder how many people have been lost because of that?

Christ told us the gates of Hell would not stand against the church. Gates are defensive measures. We should in fact be the ones on the offensive and putting those who are not Christians on the defensive. To do that, we will have to learn the best ways of doing history, science, literature, philosophy, and any other field. We will have to climb to the top more and more and present the data that if anyone denies it, it is clear that they are someone who refuses to see. (Think of the Christ-mythers who put up the most ridiculous standards of history.)

I’ve told my wife several times that we could reclaim America for Christ easily. What would it take? Christians waking up. Christians getting up and actually doing something instead of secluding themselves from the culture entirely and running into their little safety bubbles. I’ve written about this in this post. When Christians retreat, it’s no shock that the world gains a stronger voice.

And of course, we absolutely don’t surrender in our convictions. Of course, not every hill is worth dying on. If the hill you are willing to die on is pre-tribulationism or the age of the Earth or the usage of tongues in the church today, then you are fighting the wrong battle. Your position in fact is to be fought on the hill that says the triune God revealed Himself in Jesus of Nazareth and that when Jesus died, the Father raised Him from the dead. Jesus is now king of this world.

We are to follow the Pauline principle of defeating arguments and bringing them under the Lordship of Christ. It’s not a question of Lordship or scholarship. It’s both. Our Lord is not honored by poor scholarship. He is not honored by poor science. He is not honored by poor philosophy. We are to give him the best of our labors and that includes the best of our academic and intellectual endeavors.

I hope this sets the record straight. For those who wish to think I am compromising on Christian principles after listening to White, who has absolutely no idea where I’m coming from, I hope this sets the record straight. I also hope you’ll realize that while I seek to give the best, I will fail repeatedly at this as will all of us and this is where I depend on those inside and even outside the faith to correct me. As Benjamin Franklin said “Our critics are our friends. They show us our faults.” If an unbeliever can point to a legitimate error in a position I hold, I need to respond to that somehow just as much as if a Christian does it.

After all, if one sits at the table, one had better be prepared to make the case that needs to be made.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response to Joseph Mattera

May 19, 2014

Is “God’s Not Dead” built on a faulty foundation? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Now it’s not a secret that I did like the movie “God’s Not Dead.” In fact, I wrote a positive review of it that can be found here. Does that mean the movie was perfect? Absolutely not! Does it mean it uses the arguments that I would use? Absolutely not! If I had been the one doing the writing, I would have used different approaches and arguments. For instance, I would not use science but I would use metaphysics and I would make the emphasis also be on the resurrection of Christ.

Still, as I said in my review, I am thankful that the conversation got started. Some people have critiqued the movie, but one critique that really points to a problem not in the movie but in some of the apologetics community is that of Joseph Mattera, the overseeing bishop of resurrection church in Brooklyn. His review can be found here.

Let’s go through and see what is said.

“The problem with this movie is that it bases the defense of Christianity on the false modern (Enlightenment) assumption that human reason is the final and highest arbiter of truth, thus setting it above God’s revelation of Himself in the Scriptures. Hence, this movie illustrates how the basic assumption of contemporary apologetics is faulty, because if our faith is upheld and proven by human reason, then unlearned Christian students attempting to use the arguments in this movie are also vulnerable in the future to an atheistic professor who could easily take advantage of their scientific and philosophical ignorance and poke holes through these basic arguments.”

Already, I hope many readers are realizing that there is a presuppositional bent here that is going to be more strongly seen as we go through this piece. So how does it start? It is the claim that human reason is the final arbiter of truth.

This is false. To begin with, what is meant by human reason? There is simply reasoning. Now someone might say “but God says that His thoughts are not ours nor are His ways our ways.” Yes. Do you know what that passage is about? It is about how God does forgive the wicked and love them, which is not the way that we do. It’s contrasting moral behavior. It’s not making a claim about knowledge.

I know a number of things that God knows. So do you. I know 2 + 2 = 4. So does God. I know that the world exists. So does God. I know that Jesus rose from the dead. So does God. I know that God exists. So does God. If God does not know these things, then we certainly cannot say that they are true for if they are not true in the mind of God, they are not true period. Truth seeking is ultimately just thinking God’s thoughts after Him.

Note also the irony here. The whole piece is in fact then saying “Your human reason cannot be the arbiter of truth and I am going to make a case that I want you to examine with your reasoning to see if it is true.” Now of course, there will be Scriptures presented, but how does one study the Scriptures? Does one study them reasonably or unreasonably? You cannot escape reason under any circumstances! Reason is not the enemy! Bad reasoning is the enemy!

Furthermore, we are not the arbiter of truth. If I reach the conclusion “God does not exist”, that does not mean that I have made it the case that God does not exist. It means I have made it the case that as far as I’m concerned, God does not exist. I do not determine truth, but I do determine what I will believe to be true.

Now could an atheistic professor poke holes through some philosophical and scientific arguments. Sure. Yet notice this. Any argument that is true cannot truly have a hole poked through it. A bad argument for that position could, but not a true argument. It could be of course that the person cannot defend the argument well or does not understand it, but the problem is not with the argument, but it is with the presenter and the critic of the argument.

What does that mean then? That we give up on arguments? Not at all! It means that we better study our arguments and that means that yes, we critique our own arguments. We who are apologists need to point out arguments that do not work. I don’t want to send someone out into the evangelism field with an argument that I think is faulty. That embarrasses the Gospel. I want to send them with an argument I think works.

“However, even more troubling is that even if a Christian wins a debate in apologetics, they really lost in the realm of ultimate truth, since they placed the foundation of the Bible upon modern empirical science, which means their presuppositions are actually the same as atheistic humanists. Christians who try to prove their faith by human reason have fallen into the false modern assumption that ultimate truth can be proven empirically by the five senses. Can you picture Jesus, the apostle Paul or the Old Testament prophets trying to bring conversions about by making a case for God based on contemporary human reason and science?”

Well actually, yes. Yes I can. Mattera’s inability to do so I think only shows a lack of imagination on his part. Jesus used parables and the events of the weather to talk about His generation and convey truths to them. He used truths they understood to explain truths they didn’t understand. Paul used the illustration of a seed in the ground to explain the resurrection. Rudimentary science of the day to be sure, but science nonetheless.

In fact, we can go further with Paul. Paul says the existence of God is made clear and how is that so? By the things that are seen. How do you get the knowledge of things that are seen? That’s done empirically, meaning with your five senses. One of the big mistakes of our age is assuming that empirical means scientific. All scientific thinking is empirical, but not all empirical thinking is scientific.

I also do think some ultimate truths can be known through the five senses. I think the existence of God can be known that way, such as through the five ways of Aquinas. Yet even Aquinas himself said that if it were not for special revelation, few would reach this knowledge and even then they would have it mixed with many errors. Practically the only one who got really close was Aristotle.

Yet Aquinas was an empiricist in the same tradition as Aristotle. He believed human reason could reach these truths, but he did not for a second discount the role of special revelation. His first section in the Summa is in fact on sacred science. Now Mattera is free to say he does not find the five ways convincing. He is also free to try to give a reason why and I am free to respond.

However, there are things that Aquinas would also agree could not be known through human reason and I would agree with him. Aquinas said human reason alone could not tell you that the universe had a beginning. While I might be iffy on that one, we would both agree that human reason could not tell you that God is a Trinity or that Jesus died for you. I may look historically and know Jesus died on the cross. History alone cannot tell me He died on that cross for my sins. I need God to say that to me.

It is part of Mattera’s mistaken dichotomy to think all knowledge of God comes through human reason or it comes through special revelation. I think the case of Paul in Romans 1 and 2 clearly rule out the latter position. Some knowledge comes through both places.

As for our presuppositions, my presupposition is that there is a world outside of my mind that exists and that human reason is generally reliable. If you doubt any of these, there is no other place to go for escape. You can never establish the material world exists if you start with being doubtful that it does. You can try to claim special revelation to say that it does, but why choose one revelation over another? If you deny reason right at the start, then you have no means by which to examine any case whatsoever. These must be granted or there can be no discussion. These are the same truths that are made clear to an atheistic thinker as much as a theist thinker.

“The innate and creational evidence for God is so great that the Bible never even attempts to prove His existence but starts the Scriptures by saying “In the beginning, God …” Psalm 14 says that the fool has said in his heart there is no God. Romans 1:21 teaches us that all professed unbelievers are really secret believers. The prophets of the Old Testament, along with the New Testament apostles, were able to spread faith due to the incredible power they had with God, due to earnestly seeking His face and speaking to people with prophetic power and conviction (1 Thess. 1:4-5). When Paul spoke at the Areopagus in Acts 17, he didn’t bother debating with his audience on their own philosophical grounds but assumed the biblical worldview, preached the risen Christ, and disparaged their prevailing polytheistic assumptions. Even when he quoted their poets, he quoted them in the context of the vortex of the biblical story without subsuming the biblical story to Greek philosophy!”

Much of this is true, but what if Paul had encountered a Richard Dawkins in his day. Are we to assume he would have just got out the Bible and preached to him from it? I suspect Paul would do what he did at Mars Hill. He would speak the language of Dawkins. Paul in speaking at the Areopagus never claims his audience is in denial. He instead makes a case based on evidence that they could see (Empirical) and leaves it to them to decide. (Human reason.)

Yes. The Bible never makes an argument for God’s existence, but technically, it never makes an argument for the resurrection, which is the central doctrine of Christianity. The Gospels are written to record that which was already known about Jesus for the church to have. They were meant to provide further certainty and not new information. 1 Cor. 15 starts off with the resurrection not to convince the Corinthians who already believed Jesus was risen, but rather to start off with the common ground in authorities that were trusted.

Nowhere in Paul do we find that people are suppressing the truth about the resurrection of Christ. That is not part of common knowledge and it would be bizarre to say the ancient Amalekites were suppressing the truth that Christ would rise from the dead.

“Furthermore, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:21 that the world through its own wisdom cannot know God. When we, as Christians, try to borrow from modernity and science to prove our faith, we actually lose the ultimate debate even if we win the temporary debate! At the end of the day, apologetics and science are OK as long as they are limited in their scope and their purpose is to understand the language of Babylon and inform our bridge-building conversations with humanists and atheists.”

Mattera unfortunately is unaware that Paul is using rhetoric very well in this passage to counter the claims of his opponents. What where those claims? They were the claims that a true Messiah would not be crucified and a true king would not be crucified. This is foolishness, but Paul says God uses what is foolish to instead shame the world and says Jesus is the Wisdom of God. (Which is quite a bit more since Jesus would be seen in Paul’s theology as the figure in Proverbs 8.)

Note also that I do not see the text as saying the world through its wisdom cannot know God but rather does not know God. It is not claiming knowledge of the existence of God can be known, but knowledge of the plan of God. With this, there would be no disagreement. If all you had was reason, you would not know God’s plan. That requires special revelation. Mattera is mistakenly thinking this passage is talking about the existence of God.

It’s nice to know that Mattera says apologetics and science are okay, but only as bridge builders. Now in part, I would say science cannot by itself get to the ultimate truth about God, because God is a metaphysical claim and not a physical one. Science can provide information, but the final gap is bridged by metaphysics. Apologetics can help get you there and that would be philosophical apologetics in this case. Yet keep in mind with the resurrection, apologetics is in fact defending what it is that God has already revealed. No historical apologist would say that by history alone, you could know the plan of God. You would need information from God’s side as well.

“If our faith rests upon ungodly Enlightenment presuppositions, we could be robbed of our prophetic power and could end up losing our faith since we are framing our beliefs on human reason, which assumes that logic has more weight than divine revelation. This also perpetuates human autonomy, which is the antithesis of both our faith and the biblical worldview.”

It presupposes nothing of the sort. With my metaphysical backing, I realize that my very existing lies in the hands of God. I cannot exist apart from Him. Without Him, I am nothing. In saying this, I am not saying logic has more weight than divine revelation. I am saying that divine revelation is logical and that if we use logic properly, we can understand it better. Note that logic by itself cannot get you truth. Logic can point out what is false, but it does not determine what is true. You need knowledge from the senses for logic to act on.

Mattera also says we could be in danger of losing our faith. If we do things wrongly, yes. If we also assume a presuppositional stance, we could be in just as much danger. Why not be a presuppositional Mormon? Why not be a presuppositional Muslim? Both groups would point to their Scriptures and could use analogous arguments.

“Lest anyone think I am promoting a form of fideism (faith without reason), I believe Christianity has a worldview that is the most logical and rational of all other worldviews. (Even an atheist has to assume theism when attempting to prove atheism since they have to borrow from the Christian worldview to function and even to debate, which is why some atheists admit they are “cultural Christians.”) One of the greatest proofs of the Bible is the impossibility of the contrary—that is to say, biblical Christianity makes the most sense in this world because it comports the closest to reality.”

And as anyone in the field knows, impossibility of the contrary is a code term that indicates a presuppositional approach. The problem is how many contraries are there? There is a potentially infinite number. He also says Christianity makes more sense because it comports the closest to reality. To this, I agree, but why should the atheist? The atheist obviously holds his view because he thinks it comports closer to reality. Doesn’t everyone? Who holds a worldview and would say “Yes. I am a Christian, but I do think the Koran has a better explanation of reality.” That would be bizarre.

But the question is, why should the atheist think this? The impossibility of the contrary? The atheist sees several several contraries and all of them have religion in common so hey, why not just chuck religion and go and be an atheist?

Furthermore, how does Mattera know this? He knows it by looking at reality and comparing it to the Bible, which is using reason and an empirical approach. How does he know his Bible is accurate? Using reason and textual criticism. How does he answer the objections the Bible is inaccurate? Using reason and historical criticism. In the end, I would say that Mattera actually uses my approach far more than he realizes.

Do I also agree the atheist has to borrow from the Christian worldview? Absolutely. Do I think that they do so knowingly? That would be nonsense. Contrary to what might be though, presuppositions do play a part in thinking. We must always watch ours. The problem with the presuppositional approach is it makes this central. Presuppositions are changed by evidence, which is why I take a more evidence-based approach.

“In spite of this, at the end of the day, all of our logic is circular since human reasoning is finite and subjective. (Only God is absolutely objective.) Thus, no one can prove or disprove the existence of God; the best a Christian can do is show probabilities. (God cannot be proved empirically. However the arguments for design and the supernatural make Christianity’s teachings the most likely to be true of all competing religions and humanistic beliefs.)”

And with this, Mattera shoots himself in the foot big time. If all our logic is circular, then his whole argument is circular and why should I care about it? Of course, this is also presuppositionalism at work. I do not at all hold that logic is circular. You are not using logic to prove logic. You are starting with logic because that is where we all must start.

And by the way, I do not think all a Christian can do is show probabilities. The five ways of Aquinas, for instance, are deductive arguments that if the premises are followed through will end in certainty. Historically, the arguments are probable, but if Christianity is true, the best research will end with Christian cases being far more likely.

“At the end of the day, if a person can be talked into becoming a Christian by clever logic-based apologetics, then someone else (e.g., an atheist) with more knowledge and skill in logic could come along and talk the new Christian out of their faith. This is why, according to John 3:3-5 and John 6:44, all humans need a personal/experiential encounter with the risen Lord Jesus in order to be truly converted!”

Yes. That is a danger. What is the solution? To abandon logical arguments? No. The solution is the Scriptural command to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. The solution is serious discipleship. If Christianity is true, a true look at evidence will support that. If someone reasons me out of it because it is false, I owe them my thanks and gratitude.

Ultimately also, Mattera’s position rests on something I cannot provide for myself. I cannot make Jesus act in an encounter with me. I cannot make myself have a grand experience with Jesus. I can however reason to the conclusion. I can assure Mattera there was a day and time I did confess to Christ my need for forgiveness and ask Him to be my savior. My certainty of that encounter however was greatly enriched by my study of philosophy and history. Could someone have talked me out of it in that time? Perhaps, and I can show him many ex-Christians who have been talked out of it. (And I consider it a cop-out that all of those Christians were conveniently never Christian to begin with. By that standard, I don’t think any of us could know we’re Christians today.)

I conclude that the problem with Mattera lies in his approach that is really contrary to Scripture and would be fine at convincing people who agree with him, but will not work outside of that. I find that presuppositionalism too often spends more time defending itself than Christianity. I certainly hope one day Mattera realizes this and goes for a more classical approach that has served the church well for centuries.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is The Cold Case Still Valid?

January 16, 2013

What can be said to the Gospel Coalition’s review of Cold Case Christianity? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Someone in the CAA (Christian Apologetics Alliance) brought to my attention a review of Cold-Case Christianity by the Gospel Coalition’s Gus Pritchard. It’s my thinking that Cold-Case Christianity could be one of the most powerful books to advance the gospel in some time and realizing that Jim Wallace is probably a busy guy, I figured I’d have the fun of dealing with someone who wants to go after the book.

Pritchard starts by saying that his thoughts on the book were like winning the lottery. It might seem to bring some happiness at the start, but in the end, it will only lead to misery. I take it to mean that we might think this is a good argument at the beginning, but in the end we will see that it will not reach those people it is designed to reach.

Well for that, we will have to wait and see, but many people have come to Christ by reading something like Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ.” I suspect many will come to Christ through Wallace’s book, or at least move further on their journey or even just get started. This is the kind of book that Greg Koukl, Wallace’s employer now, would say could “put a rock in their shoe.”

Pritchard is not totally negative. He does affirm that Wallace has good thoughts on reasoning skills. This is something I agreed with as well. He also does say the book is entirely readable, which is something else I agree with. The second item he agreed with, and I saved this for last for soon to be obvious reasons, was the importance of recognizing our presuppositions.

Yeah. It’s clear where this is going.

So for the start, I am going to state my presupposition. I am going to presuppose the evidentialist view and presuppose that the presuppositional approach does not work.

Glad we got that out of the way.

Let’s look at what Pritchard himself says:

“First, Cold-Case Christianity places far too much emphasis on the role of extrabiblical sources. No doubt there is a legitimate role for biblical archaeology and extrabiblical writing from antiquity. Christianity is, after all, a faith firmly rooted in human history. But there is a grave danger when truth is suspended because of an apparent lack of corroboration from extrabiblical sources. And Wallace, I’m afraid, wanders too close to this dark side of apologetics.”

The dark side of apologetics? Did I somehow step into a Star Wars universe?

Yes. How horrible to show that the Bible is backed up by sources outside of it. How terrible to show that these events did not happen in a vacuum. Thankfully, no one in the Bible took this approach.

Except for the fact that when the gospel was being preached, there were no gospels per se and there were no epistles. Paul told Agrippa that the events done weren’t done in a corner. In other words, investigate the claims for yourself! The early testimony was eyewitness testimony. Sources like Tacitus and others show the eyewitnesses were right! This was not done in a corner! This was done out in the open! Archaeology helps us confirm the biblical writings and shows that unlike the pagan myths, these events were rooted in a place and time. Is there some danger that our faith will be destroyed by outside sources?

It really becomes a fideistic approach. If your worldview is true, you should have no problem putting it to the strictest scrutiny. If it is not, then you will have a problem. No Christian should fear further research into what they believe. No Christian should have a problem with extra-biblical sources. Now I do agree there is a problem with stating that EVERYTHING must be backed extra-biblically. I think this is a prejudice we too often have where nothing in the Bible can be considered historical unless it’s verified somewhere else. A gospel account alone could count as a historical claim itself that can be investigated, and indeed is in NT scholarship, but where we can get extra-biblical evidence, I’m all for it.

Pritchard goes on to say:

“All of chapter 12, for instance, is devoted to proving the Gospels have external corroborative evidence—“evidence that are independent of the Gospel documents yet verify the claims of the text” (183). Wallace then addresses the historicity of the pool of Bethesda and makes another worrying statement: “For many years, there was no evidence for such a place outside of John’s Gospel. Because Christianity makes historical claims, archaeology ought to be a tool we can use to see if these claims are, in fact, true” (201-202, emphasis added).”

Yes. Obviously a horrible remark. If we are to approach the unbeliever and tell them examining the case of Christianity will show it to be true, what is wrong with saying we will abandon it if it is false? In fact, if someone becomes convinced that Christianity is not true, they shouldn’t remain a Christian. I would also contend that that person has made a mistake in their research somewhere along the way.

Christianity is a faith that is rooted in evidences so we should be able to use evidences to demonstrate it. I have often been told by those of the presuppositional bent that the approach is used all the time in the Bible. The problem is I can’t find one. I get told passages like “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Yes. It is. Wisdom refers to godly living. It doesn’t refer to confirming the gospel to be true. When I look at the apostles in every case, I see them pointing to evidences. These evidences can vary. With Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, they did use the Old Testament, because this was a source that was already accepted, much like one could use the Koran in evangelizing Muslims, or the Book of Mormon in evangelizing Mormons. With the Gentiles that weren’t God-fearers, they would point to eyewitness testimony as well as do miracles. Each of those are evidentialist!

Let’s continue with Pritchard:

“In other words, Wallace seems to suggest we cannot affirm the truth of the Gospel accounts without the stamp of approval from archaeology and other extrabiblical sources. Such reasoning is dangerous, not least because it cannot affirm the inerrancy of the Bible. But also, it places the final court of appeal in the realm of extrabiblical sources rather than of God’s all-sufficient, all-powerful Word.”

There are some statements that I think are made to sound holy, but really aren’t. In fact, I think it gets to be an idolization of Scripture. We have this idea that when the Bible refers to the “Word of God” it means the Bible. I seriously doubt this. The Bible usually uses the term “Scriptures” instead and the Word of God refers either to Jesus or some command of God. Of course, in that sense, Scripture is the Word of God, but it is false to take the usages of the term in the Bible and give them a meaning never intended. In fact, it often turns the Bible into a magic book.

For instance, how many times have I heard someone say “God’s Word will not return to Him void.” The implication is that if you go out and give Scripture, it will produce results. (Kind of like how the devil quoted Scripture to Jesus?) No. The words of the Bible are not like words in a magic book that have an independent power on their own.  Of course, Scripture is something powerful, but like anything else, it must be used properly. You do not just go out there and read Scripture and get results.

Pritchard says that this cannot affirm the Inerrancy of the Bible. As we have said numerous times here, Inerrancy can become a sort of sacred cow that people think they must protect, which to me produces more problems than it solves. For instance, if it must be the case that Inerrancy is to be true for Christianity to be true, then you are really saying history cannot confirm the Bible. We cannot take an independent historical approach and confirm that Jesus rose from the dead. We have to take a leap of faith into Scripture. If Christianity is a historical faith, how could it be that it could not be confirmed historically, especially when the first hearers of the gospel were told to go out and investigate it!

Second, apologetics becomes a “Stump the Bible Scholar” game where if there is one contradiction that the person cannot solve immediately, then all of the Bible is to be thrown out. Are we to say that if there is a contradiction based on how many horses king Solomon had (Which there isn’t) then nothing in the Bible is true? It means Jesus didn’t exist? It means He didn’t rise? That the truthfulness of Luke depends on the truthfulness of the writers of Kings and Chronicles?

It is sad that I have seen Christians saying this. I have seen them say that if there is an error in the Bible then Christianity is not true and Jesus did not rise from the dead.

Friends. The Bible is extremely important. It is the greatest testimony we have to the life of Christ. It is our great guide for matters of faith and practice.

But the Bible did not die on the cross for you.

The Bible is not the sacrifice for your sins.

The Bible did not rise again.

You are out there getting people to come to Jesus. You are not out there getting people to come to Inerrancy. Now if I find an error in the Bible, will I have to change my view of Scripture? Yeah. I would. I would not throw out the baby with the bathwater. I also do not expect to find such an error after over a decade of doing this kind of work and seeing most every contradiction umpteen times.

The position assumes the Bible is in a vacuum and we have to handle it differently from other texts to show it is true. No. I say that if you handle the Bible the exact same way you handle other texts, it will come out on top. The Bible usually gets a different treatment because it has great claims about Jesus and it treats miracles as real. The Bible requires a call on someone’s life and that is something that is resisted.

After this, there is the usual talk about how people are really God-hating rebellious sinners and aren’t capable of examining the evidence. It’s a wonder then how Wallace came to the faith or someone like Lee Strobel or C.S. Lewis or others. Aren’t these included in the category of God-hating rebellious sinners? Are we going to get into a “No True Scotsman” approach now?

The reality is some people will reject every piece of evidence that is given to them. Some people do not want Christianity to be true and will resist it. This is not doubted by anyone I know. Some will be open though. Some people really are searching for something. A book like Wallace’s could be what reaches them.

Let’s also note other benefits of this.

First, it will help the Christian who is struggling. Some Christians want more than a feeling in their hearts. In fact, I think every Christian should want more. If all you have is a personal testimony and how you feel, then why not be a Mormon? If you point to anything beyond personal testimony and feelings, then you are being evidentialist in your approach.

Second, in the public arena, it might not change the opponent, but it can shut him down, which I think is a goal to seek for. There are people who want to destroy our flock like wolves go after sheep. If they are not interested in truth, then you’re not aiming for them. Just shut them down somehow. To see the arguments of the opposition shut down publicly can be and has been a source of encouragement to the Christian.

Third, it helps those of us who are arguing to more regularly learn the evidences. Nothing helps you memorize the material like having to use it again and again. The more you have to say this stuff, the better you get at it.

If the person is open, they will come. If they are not, they will want. I do not see how this would be a problem even with a Calvinist approach. One can say that none will come until the Father draws them but the means of drawing could be a good evidentialist argument.

I conclude by still holding that Wallace’s book is one that I think should be given to those who are seeking truth on a regular basis. I look forward to hearing about it being conveniently “left” on an airplane seat or in a hotel lobby for the curious reader. I look forward to church’s doing book studies of this book. I look forward to college and seminaries using it in apologetics classes.

Thus, I cannot accept Pritchard and while he hesitates to recommend Wallace’s book, I hesitate even more to use Pritchard’s approach. (Of course, I could just be a rebellious God-hating sinner.)

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Pritchard’s review can be found here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/book-reviews/review/cold-case_christianity

D.A. Carson and Presuppositionalism

May 1, 2012

Has D.A. Carson given us a sound proof of the existence of God? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

First off, my thanks to the people of Asbury Seminary who when they saw through Ratio Christi that I needed a new computer came to the rescue and today, I am writing this blog on a new computer, making it the first one on this one. I look forward to seeing what all this computer can do.

I now have my speakers hooked up which they hadn’t been so I took some time to watch a video sent to me by Adam Tucker of Ratio Christi who appreciates my work on looking at presuppositionalism. The video is a four minute one by D.A. Carson on if God exists. There will be a link at the bottom.

Let’s start with some positives. First off, we all owe a great debt to Carson for the work that he has done in biblical studies over the years. While I disagree with his presuppositionalism, I do acknowledge the work that he has done for the kingdom that will be a benefit for generations to come.

I also do not question his great desire to see conversion as he calls it take place. Personally, I don’t prefer to speak about conversion but more about discipleship, but I know what Carson means by the term so I will not quibble hairs at this point.

Looking at his video, Carson makes many of the same statements. To begin with, he says that we are assuming that we can know something independently of God. Now as a Christian, I do agree that God is the basis of all knowledge. I have no problem with that idea. What I have a problem with is coming to the unbeliever as if that is something that is already known.

There are a number of philosophers who will say they know many things while being atheists, and I agree with them. They do not find the presuppositional answer convincing and I’d say the reason they don’t is presuppositionalism strikes me as a modern idea based on having absolute certainty only even on such questions as “Do I exist?” or “Is reason valid?” Sorry, but to ask the question of if reason is valid means from the get go are we going to use the first tool we’ve got or not? Will the conversation continue reasonably or unreasonably?

Descartes would be pleased. Others before him would be surprised the question is even asked. This is not to say there’s anything wrong with the question of reason. I do agree that if we are merely the result of a cosmic accident, it would seem odd that we trust our reasoning, but that is only after much argumentation.

For the older philosophers, you could not start with an idea and get a fact, and I agree. This is why I reject the ontological argument. You cannot start with an idea of God and then get to the real God. An idea does not become a fact in that way.

Carson then tells us that to ask the question is to put us in the judgment seat and making God merely the end of a syllogism. This kind of statement is repeated which is saying something for a video only four minutes long. To begin with, as a classical apologist, I find it insulting to say I treat God merely as the end of a syllogism. Once I reach God, I must come to grasp with what it is I have reached rather than just saying “Well that was fun. What’s the next argument?”

Second, we are not in the judgment seat in the sense that our judgment determines if God exists or not, but rather in the sense that we decide if we think the evidence is conclusive enough for us that God exists. Everyone knows that either God exists or not regardless of what we think. God can exist and the world have nothing but atheists. God can not exist and the world be full of nothing but theists.

Carson does ask questions about how someone would explain numerous X’s. As soon as he’s done this, he’s no longer in presuppositional mode as the person is being asked to make a judgment on a kind of evidence. Even the presuppositional argument itself is presented as an evidence.

Carson also says that arguments for God’s existence are not done this way in the Bible with atheists. I can only think of one part in the Bible where atheists could be addressed and that is in Acts 17. Frankly, we also don’t know much about what he said, but from what we have, he does not ask them the basis of their knowledge.

Carson then tells us about how many people will just read the Bible and God will open their eyes. No Christian will deny this. To say this happens is not the same as saying this is the only way a conversion takes place. It can also be done through good argumentation. Also, the early Christians were not converted this way. They could not read the story of Jesus as the gospels weren’t written yet. Even if they had been, few of them could read so they would again have the same problem.

The problem in the end is while the approach can consistently explain the questions that we have, consistency does not equal correspondence. Because there is a solution that works, it does not mean that that is indeed the true solution. The only way we can know is if it corresponds to reality.

In conclusion, I do applaud much that Carson has done, but there are good arguments for God’s existence and the resurrection as well. We need to use them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

D.A. Carson’s talk: http://www.realapologetics.org/blog/2010/07/14/da-carson-and-presuppositional-apologetics/

Coherency And Truth

June 14, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we’re diving into the ocean of truth. Lately we’ve been looking at presuppostionalism and I think tonight I’d like to wrap that series up as there are other topics I am wanting to look at more now. Let’s conclude then by looking at the idea of coherency.

Someone like Bahnsen can go to the atheist and say “Do you have an answer for how it is possible to know anything?” “Do you have a grounding for morality?” “Can you really be sure based on your worldview of anything at all?” If the answer is no then Bahnsen can say that his worldview does in fact explain things.

Indeed, it does have explanatory power, but there is more to having a true worldview than explanatory power. A fun exercise to do with a presuppositional work is to go through and see how many times you can change references to God or Christ to be “Allah” and that the argument still functions the same way.

Hence, the problem. A Christian can use the argument. A Muslim can. A Jew can. Another kind of theism could. The approach using a transcendental argument does not prove just Christian theism. In fact, I think the transcendental argument does have some value, but the problem is that when we start saying that only Christianity can explain the transcendental argument, then we start biting off more than we can chew.

Historical apologetics of some kind are absolutely essential. We have to be able to make the case that Jesus rose from the dead. We cannot make the case that God exists and therefore Jesus rose from the dead. It is more likely that we could go in the reverse. If we can demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead, then this gets us closer to evidence that God does in fact exist.

The point is that we cannot simply have coherency. Consider a detective who enters upon a crime scene. He has a coherent theory on who did the crime and why they did it, but unfortunately, he has no evidence. When the detective brings the suspect to court, no one will accept it without hard evidence. It could be his theory does explain everything, but having an explanation of everything is not the same as being able to show that that explanation is true.

Now coherency is important in that if a theory is not consistent with itself, then it cannot be true. Coherency is necessary to truth, but it is not sufficient. None of us would be wanting to go sign up at Hogwart’s if we knew that there were no contradictions in the Harry Potter stories.

My conclusion in all of this is that I see a sadly flawed approach and the usages I’ve seen of it thus far have been depressing. I recommend Christians become familiar with the historical and theological arguments. When you read authors of another methodology, be sure to honestly examine them. Just because a side agrees in the conclusion does not mean that they’ve taken the best way to get there.

We start a new topic next time.

Presuppositionalism and Certainty

June 13, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve been spending much of our time lately looking at presuppositionalism. I’d like to begin wrapping things up now and the first step in doing that will be to look at the question of certainty and how it relates to the epistemological basis for presuppositionalism.

Do you know anything? If so, how do you know that you know what you know? For the presuppositionalist, the answer is that you cannot know anything unless you are able to ground it in the triune God who is the basic presupposition of understanding anything. If you do not have that grounding, then how could you know anything at all?

Most of us however do think that we know things even if we cannot exactly say how we know them. The idea of knowing how one knows first is far more Cartesian than anything else. Descartes wanted to start with a method for establishing knowledge and come to something that could not be doubted and he got the cogito which goes “I think, therefore I am.”

First problem? It’s doubtful. Because there is thinking, that means there is a thinker who exists and that thinker is an I? What could be said is that thinking exists. There were numerous philosophers in Descartes’s day that raised the objections to him.

Second, was this really the way to go? Do you really have to have total and absolute certainty in order to be able to establish something as true? For instance, I believe that I can tell you what I had for breakfast this morning and be totally correct. How could I establish that to you with certainty? I have no idea. However, I can think of no real reason to doubt it.

The counter to Descartes is to think of foundational beliefs instead. It is not that you begin with how you can know something, but you begin with what you know and then you think about how you know it. There are a number of propositions that you can be given and when asked how you know that they are true, you eventually say “I just do!”

From what I see in the presuppositionalist approach, the idea is to go with the doubt of Descartes instead and ask how someone knows something apart from God. The response to give would be “I have no reason to doubt it. Can you give me one?” Now I’m not against asking someone how they know something and I think if you can give reasons for doubt, by all means do some. Doubt can be a very powerful weapon.

However, I am against an epistemological approach that bases itself more on doubt than on truth finding. I have not seen an epistemological method given yet from the presuppositional approach. In all of Bahnsen’s “Van Til’s Apologetic” there is no epistemology mentioned. There is just the assertion that reality needs to be grounded in the triune God. Now I agree that God is the basis for reality and it is all grounded in Him, but we need more than just saying “It is.”

Thus, my first major objection is this idea of absolute certainty. By all means, be as sure as you can in your beliefs, but do not make it a statement of saying that unless you can absolutely positively know something without a shadow of a doubt, you do not know it. The presuppositionalist approach if they want to hold to their arguments needs to have an epistemology in it.

 

Glorious Circles?

June 11, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve lately been looking into the topic of presuppositionalism. Tonight, I’d like to look at the idea of circular reasoning. I think that those of us who are classical and evidentialists do rightly charge the presuppositional camp with circular reasoning. The problem I see however is that the presuppositional camp freely admits this.

Don’t believe it? Consider what Greg Bahnsen says in “Van Til’s Apologetic” on page 518. In stating the way that he answers the charge of circular reasoning, Bahnsen says:

Our answer to this is briefly that we prefer to reason in a circle to not reasoning at all.

He later states on the same page that:

Reasoning in a vicious circle is the only alternative to reasoning in a circle as discussed above…

John Frame says on page 305 of “Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of his Thought” that:

Such circularity is unavoidable, and it exists on both sides of the debate.

Indeed, presuppositionalists seem to revel in the circularity. For instance, on the Unbelievable broadcast, through Premier Christian Radio, Sye Tenbruggencate in round 2 of a debate with Paul Baird was told that his reasoning was circular to which he answered, “What’s wrong with that?”

Only everything.

To begin with, circular reasoning does not cease to be circular reasoning just because it’s about God and fallacies do not cease to become fallacies ever just because the subject matter one is thinking about is God. A fallacy is a fallacy is a fallacy. God is not glorified when we misuse our logic in his service.

Second, it does no good to say that the argument is not viciously circular. This is a distinction without a difference. In other places, a presuppositionalist would be very quick to point out when an unbeliever was engaging in circular reasoning, and they should rightfully do so. The problem is that the rules seem to change for them. I have long deplored how atheists can often make Christians have to prove every claim they have but when it comes to some theories like a multiverse, all of a sudden we don’t have to have proof for that. All sides should agree on the ground rules for debate and follow accordingly, and those ground rules are the proper use of reasoning first off.

Now it could be said that we are circular in assuming reason. The reply to this is to say that we do no such thing. Reason is what we have to start with. To assume it would be to take it for granted. However, if I am told that I should question reason at the start and see if it’s a valid starting point, how am I to do that? Do I do see reasonably or unreasonably? If I am told to go to Scripture first, am I to conclude that that is what I should do reasonably or unreasonably?

If we said “Begin with revelation” then we have to ask “Which one?” Should I begin with the Hindu or the Buddhist or the Christian or the Muslim or the Mormon revelation? (I do realize that in pantheistic faiths and some Eastern thought that the idea of revelation is a problem, but for now let us approach each faith as if we were uninformed.) If we believe God’s Word can stand any test, then we should not hesitate to bring any test to it and we should not believe that we have to assume it in order to see its truth.

We conclude then that any system that engages in circular reasoning is faulty and to be avoided. This does get us into epistemological issues and I plan to address those more next time.

But Isn’t Man Depraved?

June 11, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve lately been looking at the apologetic method known as presuppositionalism. Tonight, I’d like to get somewhat into doctrinal waters and deal with the objection from some that fallen man is incapable of knowing the truth about God.

Now there are extremes here as some have said that it is impossible for fallen man to reach right conclusions. This seems like a stretch however as in the Old Testament, we are told that the wisdom of Solomon was even greater than the pagan kings, implying that those pagan kings were pretty wise. As we have shown, pagans were held accountable for moral laws they ought to have known they were violating.

What about saying that fallen man can be right about other things, but that he can never be right about God? This would also seem to be problematic. For instance, many of us would agree with a number of statements made about God by Greek philosophers. The word “omnipotent” does not show up in the Bible, but we do not hesitate to use it to describe God seeing as we believe He is all-powerful and that has also been because of philosophical thinking in light of Scriptural revelation. Of course, the philosophers made a lot of mistakes, but considering all they had was reason and no Scripture, they did quite well.

We could also ask about fallen angels. Does the devil know that God exists? Does he know that God is triune? Does he know that God is omnipotent and omniscient? If any of these is yes, it would seem to be that we have a problem seeing as if anyone is fallen in all of creation, then it would certainly be the devil.

I am highly aware that presuppositional writers do state that they admit that fallen man can know things, but the question to ask is why is the cut-off line so arbitrary? Why suddenly stop it at God? If a lost person says “I do not know which God is the true God yet, but I know that whichever God created things, he has to be extremely smart and extremely powerful.” While we would say that he did not go far enough in what he said, we would not think that the unbeliever who said this was wrong.

Am I denying that man is fallen? Certainly not. One can be a Calvinist (Not saying I am, and I’m not saying I’m not) and still not be a presuppositionalist. In fact, many critiques of presuppositionalism have come from within the Calvinist camp. It is my contention that the fallenness of man will relate more to the will than to the intellect. Having a pure will would not necessitate being a super genius. The will is that which will effect how the intellect is used and we all know how good we are at reasoning to conclusions we want or don’t want to be true.

We are not forced to say that man’s intellect is so fallen that it cannot grasp the truth, even about God. Now how that fallenness is taken care of, be it in a Calvinistic or Arminian sense, I leave up to the reader to decide. At this point, I just want to say that I do not see the claim about fallen man having much weight.