Check out True Forms apologetic interview w/ yours truly. HERE
Check out True Forms apologetic interview w/ yours truly. HERE
Ten Bruggencate’s How to Answer the Fool
review by Mike Robinson
When I joined the staff of Collegiate Action Mission as an evangelist in 1982, the group, and the apologetics’ movement itself, was a fusion of different methodologies (evidentialism, C.S. Lewis’ work, Francis Schaeffer’s apologetics, and classical).
But then came Bahnsen. And suddenly, on the one side, there were ultimately only two apologetic approaches. One group was composed of evidential and classical approaches–people that anybody following contemporary apologetics would be familiar with. They spent a lot of time learning about all the evidences and proofs for the Christian faith. They upheld proof as their highest apologetic value. They admired Josh McDowell, R.C. Sproul, and Norman Geisler. In apologetic encounters, they worried that without presenting the evidence the unbeliever may not be convinced of the truth of Christianity.
But there was another sort of apologist, who is less familiar. This was the Bahnsenian presuppositionalist—biblical and intellectual heir to Augustine, Calvin, and Van til. This sort of apologist didn’t see evidence as a battleground between men and truth. Instead, the presuppositionalist wanted to preserve the biblical revelation of God–that which functioned as the epistemic starting point, in which the different ontic layers were nestled upon each other and all reposed upon God and scripture. Deny God, and in principle, one can know nothing at all.
Because they were biblical, they tended to believe that reason, proof, and evidence should be interpreted through biblical presuppositions. They believed that people should repent and come to Christ, but doubted that autonomous individuals have the ability to do this alone, unaided by revelation and the Holy Spirit. So they were intensely interested in creating the sort of apologetic that would press people to acknowledge that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
Recently many diverse apologists have taken the presuppositional approach seriously and place it as one more arrow among others in their apologetic quiver. This kind of apologetic diversity Sye Ten Bruggencate will have nothing to do with. For him: God is, all men know it, and an apologist must press the absurdity of those worldviews that reject Christianity. It is best to be guided by scripture and honor God above the wishes of men.
And in Ten Bruggencate’s new apologetic video How to Answer the Fool one sees the presuppositional approach deployed on the front lines. Sye and other apologists take the Van Tilian method to universities, radio stations, debates, and the streets. Herein the viewer can watch a formidable debater take on all challengers as he uncompromisingly defends the truth of God in Christ.
This is an enjoyable and educational video.
Sye discusses with various people the arguments for the existence of God. The scenes and arguments are short, concise, clear, and convincing. Some tough philosophical arguments are presented in simple ways with numerous analogies and illustrations to help the viewer understand the truth.
If you are:
1. Wearing the glasses of rigid atheism:
Then you need to watch this video. Nonetheless, it may disrupt your sleeping patterns until you repent and come to Christ—on God’s terms.
2. Open to see what’s up with presuppositional apologetics:
Then watch it—and you may actually come to learn more about apologetics and the power of truth.
3. A believer:
Then watch this video—it will build-up your faith.
As a teaching tool and as something to watch for enjoyment, this DVD is a delight. It is professionally produced and edited. All in all, this is a great DVD for quick information about important aspects of presuppositional apologetics and it is a fine tool that all budding apologists should purchase. I recommend this video for students and study groups as well as pastors.
You may purchase the American Vision video HERE
Review by Mike Robinson author 24 presuppositional books and eBooks including Reality and the Folly of Atheism. Purchase the eBook Here
The Authentic Holy Book: The Bible or the Qur’an part I
By Mike Robinson
A crucial reason one should esteem Christianity over Islam is that the Bible predates the Qur’an by many hundreds of years and there is not one passage in the Qur’an that explicitly and plainly claims that the Bible is unreliable, changed or corrupted. There are numerous verses in the Qur’an that reckon the Bible as true and that it is the word of God. Islam’s holy book esteems the Bible as God’s word and the Bible was written before the Qur’an. Moreover, the two books disagree on God’s nature and the path of salvation. Clearly one should take the Bible over the Qur’an.
1. The Bible ascribes a different nature for God, and a completely dissimilar way and means to salvation than Islam.
2. The Qur’an affirms the Bible (Muhammad directed Christians to follow the Bible they had in the seventh century in Qur’an verses: 2:40-42, 89,126; 3:3,71, 93; 4:47; 5:47-51, 69-72; 6:91; 7:157; 29:45,46; 35:31).
3. The Bible is correct on the nature of God and salvation, not the Qur’an.
Many Muslims will deny premise two and will refer you to some Quranic or Haddith passages that suggest the corruption and undependability of the Bible. Yet, in light of the affirmative verses, that suggestion appears to lead to incongruity.
As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Islam, along with every non-Christian religion, has one basic miscalculation in touching salvation: Its followers are trying to reach God, find God, and please God through their good works, sacraments, and rituals.
Christianity is God reaching down to man. Christianity claims that Christians have not found God, but that God found them. God decreed the directive for the Son of God to descend from Heaven to live and then die on the cross to pardon His people. Man-centered religion cringes at this thought. It insists that we try to be good enough to earn divine acceptance. It tries to put its followers on religious treadmills. Nonetheless, laboring to do those proper religious works and to clean up one’s soul is no real solution.
There are some who trouble you, and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:7-9).
Every false religion lacks the capacity to expiate one’s spiritual record of sin. Only Jesus can, that is why Jesus came to earth, to love and to die. Self-centered religion tries to conform and reform to earn salvation. Jesus Christ transforms through real forgiveness and empowerment by the Holy Spirit. False deities cannot provide complete forgiveness and eternal hope.
God is a Self-contained Being: Aseity
Some non-Christian systems (as the polytheistic religions and modern philosophical “personalisms”) posit personal gods of one kind or another, but those gods are not absolute in the sense of being self-contained. Other non-Christian systems accept absolute realties of various kinds, but those absolutes are not personal. Only in the biblical teaching are absoluteness and personality combined in the Supreme being.” 
First and foremost among the attributes, we, therefore, mention the independence or self-existence of God. … He is self-contained rationality.
Allah leads astray whomsoever He wills (Sura 14:4).
Allah is the best of deceivers (Sura 3:54).
Yahweh is a “self-individuated Spirit.” The Triune God is “self-contained fullness” and “absolute personality.” Christian theism assents to a deity who is self-contained and personal. Islam teaches that their deity changes his mind, deceives, and he can lie. Additionally, he lacks immutability, and thus is deficient of aseity. The biblical God has aseity. This means that God has self-existence, self-sufficiency, and He’s not dependent or contingent upon anyone or anything. The power of His being is within Himself. “God is self-sufficient or self-contained in his being.”
Allah is not a personal being or a thing since he is “not like anything.” Thus he cannot be personal. Furthermore, he is inscrutably arbitrary in his decrees. In some ways the Islamic god seems fickle and capricious. This notion yields inconsistency and change; for Allah can do anything, including lie. He can deceive and mislead. He cannot ground changeless things for he is not bound to a nature. Changeless things, such as mathematics, logic, and moral law, exist and these require that which cannot change and cannot lie: the changeless biblical God.
The Sufficiency of the Triune God
The sovereign God is not someone who is beyond reach or beyond knowing.
Van Til stressed the interlinking of God’s attributes in that the “immutability of God is involved in his aseity.” Since God is self-sufficient, He does not need to change like the Muslim deity. There must be a foundation, somewhere, that is unchanging and has aseity. Van Til illuminates this: “We must rather reason that unless God exists as ultimate, as self-subsistent, we could not know anything, we could not even reason that God does not exist, nor could we even ask a question about God.” There must be a certain, absolute, self-sufficient, and unchanging basis for the intelligibility of our world: Yahweh. He must exist to account for the unchanging and transcendent laws of logic. Allah cannot supply the required pre-necessities for absolute and unchanging realities. Only the Lord God can. Even if Allah could account for the laws of logic, there is no basis for using such laws (since Allah is arbitrary and deceptive) to understand and interpret the world. Such laws simply would not apply. The true God alone has the ability and character to provide that which is necessary to make sense out of reality.
Van Til remarked that “God is absolute. He is autonomous.” Man cannot be autonomous (not subject to the rule or authority of another) and the Muslim doctrine of Allah implies that Allah cannot be autonomous. For strict autonomy one must have true personality (Allah is not a person and lacks personality), aseity, self-rule, and supreme sovereignty which only the true God has.
God as Truth is Yahweh
That by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie. … This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast… (Hebrews 6:18-19).
For I am the LORD (Yahweh), I do not change (Malachi 3:6).
I know that that Yahweh, dissimilarity to Allah, provides all a priori essentials for the necessary epistemic elements utilized in all thoughts, knowledge, and achievements. The God of the Bible has genuine ontic attributes of omniscience, immutability, omnipotence as well as aseity (He has universal authority & reach) thus He has the ontological capacity (His nature) to be the ground for general principles, immutable laws, universal operational aspects of human thinking and understanding. In Christian theism God can be known (John 17:1-3; Romans 1). Moreover, a position that denies Yahweh as the epistemic (knowledge) foundation cannot be true, thus whatever evidence or proof one ascertains, must be discerned and processed with the rational equipment that arises from Christian theism and the worldview that is sourced by the Triune God.
The true God is the elemental requirement for knowledge, proof, evidence, and logic. He is the a priori truth condition for the intelligibility of reality. This is the case inasmuch as the immaterial, transcendent, and immutable Triune God supplies the necessary pre-environment for the use of immaterial, transcendent, universal, and immutable laws of logic utilized in all knowledge pursuits. Christian theism is the pre-essential truth condition for the grounding and understanding of knowledge. Christianity is true not only because it seems more probable than its antithesis, but because it supplies the basis for knowledge.
Muslims presuppose the rational necessities that the Christian worldview underwrites while they verbally deny it. What are the compulsory conditions that make thought possible? Yahweh supplies those truth conditions to establish the rational parquet for intelligibility. Van Til called this “method of implication into the truth of God a transcendental method. That is, we must seek to determine what presuppositions are necessary to any object of knowledge in order that it may be intelligible to us.”
Christian Theism and Salvation
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalms 103:12).
Christianity supplies salvation certainty. The truth that Christ provides salvation freely and keeps those He saves is guaranteed. Through the cross, God removes the believer’s sins as far as the east is from the west. If one lived in San Diego and wanted to travel as far west as possible, where would he go? When he started out west he could land in Hawaii, but the Philippines are still west of that, from the Philippines he could go west to China, and from there France, and then further west to New York and back to San Diego. How far west must he travel to reach the east? It is immeasurable and infinite. And so are his transgressions removed as he trusts in Christ. His transgressions are infinitely eliminated by the infinite atonement through the cross. That is good news that the Muslim faith and all other religions cannot deliver.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness (Romans 4:5).
Allah loves not transgressors (Sura 2:190).
All people require a spiritual cleansing. Only Jesus Christ and His death on the cross can wash away all their sins. Jesus died and rose again. No one else has done that for sinners. Van Til presses: “If God was to continue communication with His creature, it was either to be by condemnation or by atonement.” God through His mercy provided a perfect and effectual atonement through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Believe on Him and you will be saved.
Allah loves not those who do wrong (Sura 3:57).
He loves not creatures ungrateful or wicked (Sura 2:276).
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs, according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).
Access to God
The curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. We have the access to our Father that no one else can have. We come to God’s throne spotless, redeemed. … In Him, we have become the righteousness of God.
The Qur’an says, “To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath Allah promised forgiveness and a great reward” (Sura 5:9). Ask the Muslim if he is doing enough good deeds to receive salvation on Judgment Day. Remind him that his repentance must be perfectly sincere for the Qur’an says, “O ye who believe! Turn unto Allah in sincere repentance!” (66:8). Only if the man, who is sincere, may receive forgiveness. Without faith in Christ, how can one know that one is sincere enough to be forgiven of God? The real solution is Jesus who paid for our sins on the cross, once for all. Thus Christians are safe and filled with hope in Him and do not have to fret about doing enough good works to be accepted (Romans 4:5). Christians do good works for the sake of love and gratitude.
Jesus vs. Muhammad in the Qur’an
Considering that Islam claims that Muhammad is the last and greatest prophet, it appears inconsistent that the Qur’an asserts the following concerning Jesus Christ in contrast to Muhammad:
- Jesus was born of a virgin (Sura 19:16-35): not Muhammad.
- Jesus is a Spirit from God (Sura 4:171): not Muhammad.
- Jesus is the Word of God (Sura 4:171): not Muhammad.
- Jesus was sinless (Sura 19:19): not Muhammad.
- Jesus gave life to the dead (Sura 3:49 and 22:73): not Muhammad.
- Jesus is coming back again as a sign of the hour of judgment (Sura 43:61): not Muhammad.
- Jesus performed many miracles (Sura 3:49 and 100:110): not Muhammad (Sura 29:47-51).
- Jesus is the Messiah (Sura 4:171): not Muhammad.
There is something exceptional about Jesus Christ; even the Qur’an avows such. No other prophet or false prophet has His divine nature and accomplished what He did and taught what He taught (John 1:1, 10:30, 5:18, 8:24, 8:58, 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:16; Col. 1:16-17, 2:9; Matt. 22:42-45; Mark 14:64). Buddha, Joseph Smith, Krishna, Sun Yung Moon, and Muhammad never did what Jesus Christ did. Jesus died for our sins and rose again on the third day. He performed many miracles. He claimed to be God and demonstrated His deity.
Growth through Love and Truth
Jesus promised that His Church would grow from a small mustard seed to a worldwide movement and it has: from eleven followers to billions of Christians in every country in the world. The movement of Jesus, Christianity, grew large and fast by the power of love, truth, peace, and self-sacrifice. Islam generally grew by the sword. Muhammad and his followers killed many Jews, Christians, and Pagans as they plundered their towns. Islam advanced by the use of force: Christianity through love and hope.
Jesus is the Messiah: the Christ. We can examine a pre-Christian and pre-Islamic source (not the New Testament or the Qur’an) to find the definition of the Messiah: the Old Testament. It, including the Torah, proclaims, asserts, and implies that the Messiah would be God (Psalms 110; Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, 43:10-11; Genesis 1:26, 3:22; Zechariah 10:12,12:10; Daniel 7:13-14; etc.). Jesus is the Messiah (John 4), so Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah as well as God (also see Revelation 1:7-8; 22:7 and 13; Hebrews 1).
Jesus: The Truth
Prediction is hard, especially when it’s about the future (Yogi Berra).
The Qur’an instructs “Seek knowledge, in China, if necessary” (Sura 39:12). One should go where the evidence leads. There were 333 Prophecies about the coming Messiah written in the Old Testament before the birth of Christ. All these came true in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. No other religious leader or prophet ever had massive predictive material written about their life before their birth. Jesus had countless fulfilled predictions about His life to attest to His claims as the Son of God. His virgin birth was predicted several hundred years before He was born. Islam attempts to use about a half-dozen Scriptures in an attempt to verify Muhammad’s claims. The Mormons attempt to misinterpret five or six Scriptures for the same reason in regard to Joseph Smith. Jesus did not have five or six; He had hundreds of clear and unambiguous prophecies that predicted events in His life before they occurred, even hundreds of years before His birth.
If a claimant comes and announces that He’s a god or the way to God, he should provide some evidence. Jesus Christ came and provided a posteriori proof by fulfilling numerous predictions. Powerful evidence would be for a man to claim that he is from God, and before he arrived, there were preexisting documents written before he was born, which contained hundreds of details that were forecast about his future life. Later, these specific facts were fulfilled in his life. If a cache of predictive material is easy to produce, why hasn’t anyone else started a religion, which provided hundreds of fulfilled predictions to demonstrate divine prescience? The reason is obvious; no one has the ability but the True God.
The prophet Micah foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem; Isaiah foretold the type of birth that He was to have (Isaiah 7:14); Psalms 22 predicted His death on the cross, as did Isaiah 53. The prophet Daniel, in chapter nine, predicted the day that Christ arrived in Jerusalem. Many more events, people, places, and times were prearranged by Yahweh and made known to men and documented before the events occurred. Christ’s coming: the place, date, type of events were predicted on copies of the Old Testament dated centuries before Christ arrived with extra-biblical sources verifying much of the details of His life and death. Noteworthy is the fact that Jesus could not prearrange the self-fulfilling of many of these prophecies unless He was the sovereign God.
Only Christ is Risen
Frank Morrison, a lawyer, disdained Christianity so much that he set out to write a book disproving the resurrection of Christ. After months of research, digging, studying, reading, examining the evidence, he fell on his knees and trusted Jesus Christ as Lord. For the evidence, contrary to his stated goals, was overwhelming. He discovered that the proof for Christ was unassailable. He did write a book, titled Who Moved the Stone? and subtitled, The Book that Refused to be Written. Harvard law professor, Simon Greenleaf, wrote the text book on legal evidence, which was used for over a hundred years in American law schools. His tome taught the proper manner in which one ought to measure and discern evidence in court. Greenleaf was a skeptic and unremittingly blasted Christianity in his law classroom. One day, a student challenged him to investigate the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. He searched the evidence, examined it, investigated it, and became a Christian. The evidence for the Messiah was overwhelming to the expert on evidence. The founders of the multitudes of religions, once deceased, remain deceased, including Muhammad. Unlike any other, Jesus Christ rose from the grave.
Islam’s main motif for denying the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ is to claim that Jesus never died. Since he did not die, He never rose from the grave. That notion goes against all the eyewitness testimony. Even Christ’s contemporary enemies did not dispute His death.
Crucifixion and a Resurrection
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness … “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin” (Romans 4)
The true and living God is just and righteous. Only through Christ’s death on the cross can mercy as well as justice be satisfied. An eternal Messiah paying the price for our sins against an eternal God is the only solution for sin and depravity.
A six-pointed star, a crescent moon, a lotus—symbol or other religious symbols suggest beauty and light. The symbol of Christianity is an instrument of death. It suggests hope.
A simple framework to share with non-Christians is: Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude.
- Guilt: All men sin and are guilty before God.
- Grace: God extends His grace to men by sending His Son to die a vicarious death on the cross.
- Gratitude: The one who trusts in Christ is forgiven of all of his guilt and sin and now serves God out of gratitude for saving him.
Faithful witnessing to Muslims involves the believer heralding the judgment of the law on the lost, and then offering the grace of the gospel to those without Christ. An almighty sovereign God, full of awe and righteousness, is not what the world wants. But He is the God all people need. The Bible reveals that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Christians should press God’s truth on the Muslim with compassion and patience. We are not to dazzle them with rhetoric or blast them with an uncaring scolding. One must with compassion warn them. We should sincerely care for the state of their souls through the graceful preaching of truth and the gospel.
The critical reader should honor Christianity over Islam since the Bible predates the Qur’an by many centuries and there are numerous passages in the Qur’an that proclaim that the Bible is the word of God. The Qur’an names the Bible as God’s word and the Bible was revealed prior to the Qur’an. Moreover, the two books disagree on the nature of God and the way of salvation. Undoubtedly one should believe the Bible over the Qur’an.
see my Apologetics eBook that uses a unique approach to refute Islam Christian Philosophy Critiques Islam: Christian Theism and Presuppositions Refute The Muslim Concept of Allah HERE
1. Frame, Cornelius Van Til, p. 58.
2. Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, (P & R, Phillipsburg: NJ, 1974), p. 206.
3. Ibid.,Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 233.
4. Van Til, Defense of the Faith, p. 42.
5. Ibid., p. 42.
6. Van Til, Christian Apologetics, (P & R, Phillipsburg: NJ, 1976), p. 7.
7. K. Scott Oliphint, The Battle Belongs to the Lord, (P & R, Phillipsburg: NJ, 2003), p. 161
8. Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 102.
9. Van Til, Christian Apologetics, p. 7.
10. Keith Green, Make My Life a Prayer, (Harvest House, Eugene: OR, 2001), p. 141
11. Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, (Harper, San Francisco: CA, 1993), p. 21.
The Light, The Foundation, and the Necessary Upoluposis: God (part I)
The truth of Christianity is understood and proved by way of truth and presupposition. The Christian must uphold Scripture as the ultimate source of light and knowledge—all light and knowledge stem from God. The assured proof of Christian theism: except a man build upon its ontic ground as he presupposes the truth that flows from God, in principle, there is no proof of anything. Christian theism is proved as the ontological ground of the very notion of evidence and proof.
In your light do we see light (Psalm 36:9)
Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth: δῶς μοι πᾶ στῶ καὶ τὰν γᾶν κινάσω (Archimedes of Syracuse: Greek mathematician).
According to Pappus, Archimedes exclaimed in relation to the ability of the lever: “Give to me a place where I may stand and I will move the earth.” He only needed a place to set the lever’s fulcrum and it would be possible to move anything, including the earth. And this is the case when it comes to knowledge— including mathematics and science. The Archimedean locus of reference is an ontological truth required to rest one’s knowledge (epistemological) pursuits. What is needed is a first principle that has the ontological endowment to not only ground knowledge, but to account for it and its preconditions.
The Fall and Its Epistemic Effect
The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery. … The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
The fall of man recorded in Genesis plunged men into a state of moral corruption, depravity, and hopelessness. The noetic effects of sin affected man’s thinking which resulted in futility of mind and darkness of heart (Ephesians 4:17-18; Romans 1). Because of this futile mindset, men attempt to build their knowledge enterprise without an ontological ground that has the capacity to carry the required epistemic load. The loss of the immovable point of reference, in principle, leaves the ungodly devoid of a resource necessary to construct the knowledge enterprise. Without God, one cannot hoist the necessary a priori operation features of knowledge.
God is the Necessary Upoluposis
God … knows all things (1 John 3:20).
All things are properly said to be … supernaturally through infinite power (as from the terminus a quo and by the way of creation).
The argument for Christianity must therefore be that of presupposition. With Augustine it must be maintained that God’s revelation is the sun from which all other light derives. The best, the only, the absolutely certain proof of the truth of Christianity is that unless its truth be presupposed there is no proof of anything. Christianity is proved as being the very foundation of the idea of proof itself.
The Christian worldview supplies the fixed ontic platform as the sufficient truth condition that can justify induction, immutable universals, and the uniformity of the physical world. But materialistic atheism lacks such a fixed ontic platform and necessary truth condition. Consequently, it fails to provide the sufficient ground required to justify science and the investigation of the natural world. The true and living God subsists and accounts for the intricate and distinct interconnection of the particulars in the united cosmos. That is the reason many theologians have mused, “I believe in order that I may understand.” Van Til uses this illustration:
“We cannot prove the existence of the beams underneath the floor if by proof you mean that they must be ascertainable in a way that we can see the chairs and the tables of the room. But the very idea of the floor as a support for the tables and chairs requires the idea of beams underneath. But there would be no floor if no beams were underneath. Thus there is absolute certain proof for the existence of God… Even non-Christians presuppose its truth while they verbally reject it. They need to presuppose the truth of Christianity to account for their own accomplishments.”
Atheism is impossible. When anyone attempts to escape the truth that God exists, he falls in a trap he cannot escape. This point is well made in Van Til’s fantastic illustration of a man made of water, who is trying to climb out of the watery ocean by means of a ladder made of water. He cannot get out of the water for he has nothing to stand on. Without God, one cannot make sense of anything. The atheist has nothing to stand on (a rational Archimedean locus of reference) and he lacks a rational apparatus to scale; an epistemic ladder that would allow him to view reality with clarity.
Only divine revelation has the epistemic authority to “trump” our natural intuitions about what is metaphysically possible and what is not.
Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.
Since God is the truth condition who has the ontological heft to carry the knowledge freight (knowledge and all the multitudinous tacit conditions it requires) the fear of the Lord paves the way for understanding epistemic issues and rights. The Lord is our ultimate commitment and the explanation of the method is governed by the assurance the God lives and is revealed by Christ. Yes, human depravity has made humanity’s autonomous reason incapable of anchoring its knowledge claims to anything immutable and objectively true. One needs God. God is the objective being with immutability and universal reach as attributes.
Bible is God’s Word
The conception of God is necessary for the intelligible interpretation of any fact.
God’s revelation of Himself in the 66 books of the Bible is the only valid escape from the skepticism that would otherwise logically result from the necessary, interdependence of metaphysics with epistemology. God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture provides not only ultimate epistemic grounding, but also gives the necessary metaphysical content for the foundation of all of man’s intellectual and spiritual pursuits.
Hundreds of actual incidents of prophetic fulfillment support the claim that the Bible is the Word of God (Isaiah 41:22-27; 42:8-9;44:7-8,24-28; 45:18-21; 46:10-11; 48:3-7). Only God has all the necessary attributes that give Him the infallible ability to forecast the future and to bring His forecasts to fulfillment. Christ Himself fulfilled over three hundred distinct Old Testament predictions including: His virgin birth in Bethlehem (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:3), His ministry as the Son of God in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-10), His entrance in Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9), His crucifixion (Psalm 22:16; Isaiah 53), and hundreds of additional predictions that were fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Beyond the concrete proof that fulfilled prophecy provides is the truth that all proof—proof of anything—requires God. It is more than difficult to prove anything, apart from Christian presuppositions, including the notion that there is a material world. Non-theists must attempt to prove such obvious truths apart from Christian presuppositions in order to make their case, but this leaves them without the required immutable universals. This is a problem that continuously appears when one attempts to prove anything without the necessary universal operational features of reason that only Christian theism provides. Such atheistic pursuits are not merely exceedingly difficult, but impossible within atheistic materialism.
- The Bible is the Word of God.
- It is impossible to prove that it is not the Word of God.
- There is proof that God revealed Himself in the Bible.
- Therefore, the Bible is the Word of God.
God and His revealed word supply men their only possible ground with the explanatory clout needed to account for human experience. The ontological barrenness of atheistic materialism is just one reason the Christian should never grant the natural man the right to determine the criteria for testing truth claims— atheistic materialism lacks an ontology with even a shard of explanatory power. Thus the Christian is to press the atheistic materialist’s failing and then drive him to the cross through the holy chastisements of the Law of God. God in Christ, through the power of the cross and resurrection, is the answer for everything men need.
For more see my innovative Apologetics eBook Truth and the Reason for God HERE
Part II coming soon.
- Pappus of Alexandria, Collection, Book VIII, Google Books.
- Westminster Shorter Catechism: Answers 17-18.
- Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, P & R.
- Cornelius Van Til: The Defense of the Faith, P & R.
- James Anderson: Paradox in Christian Theology. Paternoster.
- Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John Tractate XXIX on John 7:14-18, 6. A Select Library of the Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Volume VII by St. Augustine, chapter VII (1888) trans. Philip Schaff.
- Greg Bahnsen: Van Til’s Apologetic, P & R.
- Steve Hays: Triablogue 6/30/20.
• Archimedes of Syracuse (1999). Archimedes of Syracuse. The MacTutor History of Mathematics.
• Bahnsen, Greg (1996). Always Ready, Covenant Media.
• Bahnsen (1998). Van Til’s Apologetic, P & R.
• Charnock, Stephen. (, 2000), The Existence and Attributes of God, Baker Books.
• Engel, S. Morris (1994). With Good Reason, St. Martins.
• Frame, John (1987). The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, P & R.
• Frame, John (1987). The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, P & R.
• Garson, James (2006). Modal Logic for Philosophers. Cambridge.
• Girle, Rod (2000). Modal Logic and Philosophy, McGill.
• Goble, Lou (2001). The Blackwell Guide to Philosophical Logic, Blackwell.
• Hays, Steve (2011). Common Objections to Christianity, Monergism.
• Hughes, G.E. (1995). A new Introduction to Modal Logic, Routledge.
• Hunter, Geoffrey (1973). Metalogic, Campus.
• Lambert, Karel (1991). Philosophical Applications of Free Logic, Oxford.
• Lewis, C.I. (1946). An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation., Open Court..
• Lonergan, Bernard (1970). Insight, Philosophical Library.
• Plantinga, Alvin (2000). Warranted Christian Belief, Oxford Univ. Press.
• Poythress, Vern (1976). Philosophy, Science, and the Sovereignty of God, P & R.
• Quine, W.V.O. (1993). Pursuit of Truth, Harvard University Press.
• Stern, Robert (2000). Transcendental Arguments and Skepticism, Oxford University Press.
• Strawson, P.F. (1966). The Bounds of Sense, Methuen & Co.
• Stroud, Barry (1968). Transcendental Arguments, Journal of Philosophy 65.
• Tarski, Alfred (1961). Introduction to Logic. Dover.
• Turretin, Francis (1992). Institutes of Elenctic Theology. P & R.
• Van Til, (1980). Survey of Christian Epistemology, P & R.
• Van Til, (2007). Introduction to Systematic Theology, P & R.
see Domain’s Presuppositional Apologetics Links List HERE
The Pursuit of Truth and Ultimate Pre-Commitments
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see (Henry David Thoreau).
It’s easy to come to the conclusion that it is unproductive for fervent Christians and devout atheists to rationally argue with each other. This is the case since we interpret everything differently. In order to have a reasonable debate, there must be neutral ground, so that one of the contestants can say, “If you grant p, then you must concede q!” Ultimately, without conversion, fervent atheists and devout Christians never find p they can agree upon. In reality there is no neutral ground. The reasoned argument can never begin, because each sees everything from his own point of view through the lens of his own tightly held presuppositions.1 It is much more fruitful to contest presuppositions and ultimate commitments than to simply swap facts and concepts.
With this in mind, I propose two simple truths Christians should endeavor to place before the non-Christian:
I. Remember that God is not a probability: He is (Exodus 3:14). And He is the vital truth required for all rational thought. He is not a mere possibility. An ultimate epistemic criterion that has the explanatory power sufficient for general principles, unchanging laws, and universal operational facets of human thinking cannot be overturned merely by appeals to experience. It deals with the required pre-environment to make experience intelligible. Necessary truths as well as universal principles are essential to make experience coherent; yet one cannot appeal to experience to underwrite them, since experience is in constant flux. Nonetheless, intelligible experience presupposes necessary truths and universals principles. What can supply the a priori truth conditions for these truths? The Lord.
II. Placard the terror of the law on the lost, and then offer the grace2 of the gospel to those who fear the judgment due. All of us have sinned and the law reveals our sin and wickedness. Moreover, Christians are not to preach a controllable god, a god who is only there to meet the unbeliever’s needs. Such a god becomes a divine bellhop who must jump at our call. Much of the Christian world seems to be embarrassed by the true God, and they try to change Him into a more user-friendly deity. An almighty sovereign God, full of awe and righteousness, is not what the world wants. The Bible reveals that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). We should press God’s law on the sinner with compassion and patience. We are not to dazzle them with proud grandiloquence or blast them with an uncaring scolding. We must warn them. They are sinners in need of a Savior. We should sincerely care for the state of their souls through the graceful preaching of the law and the gospel.
Sartre claimed that he became an atheist because a man stared at him in public. He felt uncomfortable and dehumanized by becoming an object of the long stare of a stranger. He then reasoned: God is omnipresent; hence God must have His eyes perpetually on Sartre. But he did not like God gazing upon him. Thus he denied God because of his quirky shyness. God is everywhere present and looks upon everyone always. He sees all the iniquity of mankind, and we should remind people of that fact. All their law breaking is observed and recorded. Sinners hate this fact, but their only means of relief is the gospel. They need Jesus Christ and His atoning death and resurrection. Press the law on the hearts of unbelievers and then preach the gospel for peace, forgiveness, and hope.
1. Presupposition: One’s primary rational principle. A preeminent belief held to be true and taken as a precommitment. It is the belief that is held at the most foundational level of one’s grid or web of beliefs. It is the lens through which one interprets reality; it is taken for granted and assumed in making a statement or a theory. It is one’s rational starting point; primary and fundamental assumption; and metaphysical foundation. Everyone has presuppositions—primary belief patterns that influence one’s thinking and outlook. Reason, logic, mathematics, knowledge, predication, and morality are only consistent with Christian presuppositions (see below for additional explication). Frame observed: “The lordship of Christ is not only ultimate and unquestionable, not only above and beyond all other authorities, but also over all areas of human life. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 we read, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (cf. Rom.14:23; 2 Cor. 10:5; Col. 3:17 & 23; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Our Lord’s demand upon us is comprehensive. In all that we do, we must seek to please him. No area of human life is neutral” (John Frame: Apologetics to the Glory of God). Presuppositions do not nullify one’s position—if it did all positions would be nullified, since all people hold to presuppositions regarding every idea they uphold. But what worldview provides the ontological and epistemic resources to account for intelligibility required to hold to presuppositions and to have a worldview? Strict naturalistic atheism fails. It falls short because strict naturalistic atheism lacks the ontological apparatus and tools to underwrite indispensable features of human experience (knowledge, logic, objective moral norms, etc.). God is the ultimate reference point and He provides all the resources required for intelligibility. Strict naturalistic atheism lacks the ontological machinery to underwrite the rational resources necessary for intelligibility needed to hold presuppositions.
2. Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
For a more thorough exposition on the importance of presuppositions in defending Christianity see my eBook (also in paperback) Proof for the Existence of God: Many Infallible Truths HERE
Some say Christians are Deaf and Blind to the possibility that God does not exist.
Atheists have asked:  If I could prove that God did not exist would you want to see the proof?
Question  is similar to the question:  If I could prove that 2 + 2 = 4 is incorrect would you want to see the proof?
Actually  is far less absurd than  since Yahweh furnishes all the a priori essentials required to prove anything—including 2 +2 = 4. He is the ontological necessity for proof itself. Yahweh has the actual ontic attributes of omniscience, immutability, and omnipotence (He has universal reach). Accordingly, He has the ontic capacity to be the ground for general principles, immutable laws, and universal operational aspects of human thinking and understanding. These features are utilized in the positing of proof and analyzing evidence. Moreover, a position that rejects Yahweh as the epistemic (knowledge) base cannot be true, thus whatever evidence one discovers, must be discerned and processed with the rational tools that arise from the worldview that streams from the Triune God.
I know the sun is there in all its power even if it isn’t shining. I know love exists even when I am far from my loved-ones. I know the ground of the earth exists even when I’m standing on carpet in my house. I know that God exists even when I don’t see Him face to face. Since God is the foundation for reason, He makes experience possible.
The true God is the elemental requirement for knowledge, proof, evidence, and logic. He is the a priori verity condition for the intelligibility of reality. This is the case inasmuch as the transcendent and immutable Triune God supplies the necessary pre-environment for the use of immaterial, transcendent, universal, and immutable laws of logic1 employed in all knowledge pursuits. Non-theism lacks the ontic resources to underwrite immutable universals (laws of logic, moral law, mathematical truths, etc.); hence worldviews based on non-theistic ultimate commitments result in futility because of their ontological weaknesses. In principle, non-theism, skepticism, and relativism cannot supply the necessary a priori truth conditions for the essential operational features utilized in all evidentiary techniques and quests.
 If God did not exist, would you want to know it?
Question  has difficulties that are similar to  and tumbles into incongruity.  asks questions that relate to ontology2 and epistemology3. Since God is independent, ontically He has aseity, He can account for universal immutable absolutes. Nothing else has the ontic capacity to underwrite these absolutes. So it is impossible for God not to exist, thus it is absurd to attempt to justify . God sufficiently supports, sustains and accounts for the obligatory perpetual functioning features required for intelligibility. The mere material cosmos (including the brains of men) as an ontic foundation leaves these necessary features unaccounted for— likewise the mutable minds of humanity. When it comes to truth4 we need to distinguish between studying truth as an issue of epistemology and looking at it as an issue of ontology: what sort of thing truth is and how truth is possible. Correspondingly, men can know that truth exists (epistemic matter). On the other hand, we can look at truth and what in general truth actually is (ontic matter). Indeed, truth would not exist if God did not exist.
- Laws of Logic: The Law of Non-contradiction (A~~A) and the Law of Identity (A=A).
- Ontology: The study of the nature of being; from the Greek word ontos. Ontology is the study and analysis of “existence,” or reality in general, in fundamental categories as well as relations thereof. Ontic actuality is predicated of a thing; one thing that is always predicated and essential is that the thing exists forasmuch as all things that may be intelligible are in the class of things that exist as material, abstract, mental, or spiritual kinds. Some scholars use the terms metaphysics and ontology interchangeably; some make distinctions. Selected views have metaphysics as a broader discipline that includes everything.
- Epistemology: The study of how we know what we know; the nature and basis of knowledge; the accounting and justifying of knowledge claims; and the sources and scope of knowledge. “What do people ordinarily mean, when they say that they ‘know’ something?” (Greg L. Bahnsen: Van Til’s Apologetic). A true belief (epistemic feature) reflects the way a thing really is or how reality really is (metaphysical feature), thus ontology and metaphysics relate to the knowledge process and its justification (epistemology). Consequently the knower must begin with a worldview that is the foundation for one’s epistemic position. Epistemic rights abide only in a system of knowledge that provides universals and invariants.
- Truth: Jesus declared, “I am the truth” (John 14:6) and in Scripture, the Lord Jesus said to the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 14:17). What is truth? Truth is that which is consistent with actuality and reality. It is genuineness, exactness, or verity. Truth, ontologically, is how reality really is. Ultimately, truth is that which conforms to the mind of God. Jesus declared, “I am the truth” (John 14:6) and in Scripture, the Lord Jesus said to the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 14:17). What is truth? Truth is that which is consistent with actuality and reality. It is genuineness, exactness, or verity. Truth, ontologically, is how reality really is. Ultimately, truth is that which conforms to the mind of God. Truth is a revelation of God Himself. God’s existence is necessary for the detection and encounter with truth because He is the springhead for truth. Truth is a revelation of God Himself. God’s existence is necessary for the detection and encounter with truth because He is the springhead for truth. “Truth is the agreement of our ideas with the ideas of God” (Jonathan Edwards). “Truth is thinking God’s thoughts after Him” (Cornelius Van Til).
To learn more about the ontological necessity of God see my new Apologetics eBook Christian Ontology: Apologetic Applications HERE
Descartes’ Dreaming Doubt: A Christian Solution
Selected similar features concerning waking and dreaming renders it plausible that a dream could appear as genuine reality. Descartes argues that similar thoughts men have while awake can occur while asleep. Inasmuch as it is plausible that a dream could feel real, then, for all men know, we are dreaming. For all we know, there might not be an external world men deem as “real.” I contend that Christian ontology and the presuppositions that extend from it provide a means to discern reality from a dream-state.
Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world? (Morpheus: The Matrix).
The French philosopher René Descartes in his struggle against skepticism wondered whether there might be an evil demon which is manipulating his thinking to make him believe that he has a body, that there are objects about him, and so on. Contemporary theorists of knowledge who want to appear au courant may conjecture instead about being a brain in a vat of chemicals stimulated with electrodes by some mad scientist or a body lying in the Matrix while inhabiting a virtual reality.1
Many children, but few adults, ponder the difference between the dream world and the real world. Fewer still ask: How can I distinguish between the real world I actually live in and the dream I had last night? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy observes: “Debates about precisely how similar waking and dreaming can be, have raged for more than two millennia. The tone of the debates suggests that the degree of qualitative similarity may vary across individuals (or, at least, across their recollections of dreams).”2 But you say: “I know the difference between my dreams and reality. Reality is real!” Perhaps. Maybe it’s self-evident. Nonetheless, that response appears to beg the question and rests on circularity.
The … similarity between waking and dreaming is sufficient to render it thinkable that a dream experience would seem realistic, even when reflecting on the experience, while having it. As Descartes writes: “every sensory experience I have ever thought I was having while awake I can also think of myself as sometimes having while asleep” (Med. 6, AT 7:77). … Since it is thinkable that a dream would convincingly seem as realistic (while having it) as my present experience seems, then, for all I know, I am now dreaming. … The method requires me to appreciate that my present belief (that I’m awake) is not sufficiently justified. …The First Meditation makes a case that this is indeed thinkable. As Descartes writes: “there are never any sure signs by means of which being awake can be distinguished from being asleep” (Med. 1, AT 7:19). The conclusion—that I don’t know that I’m now awake—has widespread skeptical consequences. For if I don’t know this, then neither do I know that I’m now “holding this piece of paper in my hands,” to cite an example the meditator had supposed to be “quite impossible” to doubt. … The aim of the Always Dreaming Doubt is … whether “sensation” is produced by external objects even on the assumption I’m now awake. … If I do not know that “normal waking” experience is produced by external objects, then, for all I know, all of my experiences might be dreams of a sort. For all I know, there might not be an external world.3
If a neighbor deceives you a few times, you will not believe him when he communicates something new to you. A person who is deceived by his dreams is in a similar situation. How do we know that dreams aren’t real and reality is the illusion? Perhaps one can rest on the quality difference between waking experience and dreaming. The waking experience seems different and more real to most people. Yet this seems a bit arbitrary and perhaps some people feel the opposite.
All these considerations are enough to establish that it is not a reliable judgment but merely some blind impulse that has made me believe up till now that there exist things distinct from myself which transmit to me ideas or images of themselves through the sense organs or in some other way.4
One can add that almost no one takes Descartes’ Dreaming Doubt (DDD) argument as a serious possibility; they live and communicate as if reality is that which is real. Even so, that fact is not an indubitable refutation of the DDD. So it fails to be the criterion needed.
Vividness and Reality
Descartes … did not directly attack Christian doctrine … but rather offered an approach to truth which would be followed by others to dethrone divine revelation … and replace [it] with the autonomous reasoning of man.5
What is the criterion to discern the distinction between dream and reality? Intensity or vividness? Probably not: dreams can be more vivid than reality to a person who had an exciting chase scene in a dream yet works in a boring factory job.
One can argue that dreams can be absurd or disjointed so a person can discern reality by applying that observation. Nope. Many times wakeful experience can also be disjointed and seemingly absurd. If a foreigner is dropped off in a cultural festival in an unknown nation, without knowledge of the language or culture, the experience may seem absurd. Or just turn on reality TV and one can quickly view absurdity.
Awake or a Dream? The TV Show
In the TV series Awake, a detective, his wife, and son, suffer a severe car crash. The detective wakes up. But he seems to live in two realities: In one, his wife is dead and his son lives. In the other, his son is dead and his wife lives. Psychiatrists in each reality tell him the opposite existence is a dream. Yet clues from these parallel lives leak into crime investigations, helping the detective solve them.6
The premise of Awake: Michael Britten is a cop who gets into a car accident, in which either his wife or his son dies. Whenever Britten goes to sleep in a world where his wife died, he wakes up immediately in a world where his son died. And vice versa. He shuttles back and forth between the two worlds. Awake asks the age-old question, “What is reality?” as it probes the notion that reality is what everybody agrees on, rather than something objective and external.7
- The cop, Michael Britten, in the show cannot discern the difference between his dream world and the real world.
- Is one world more vivid that the other? No.
- Does one world seem more real than the other? No.
- Are his sense perceptions more sensitive or active in one world over the other? No.
A plausible solution is given to Britten by one of his psychiatrists (he has a different shrink in each world). She goes to her computer and prints something out. She hands it to Britten and tells him to read it. It is a section from the U.S. Constitution. She asks him if he recognizes what he read. He tells her that he doesn’t. At that point she informs him that he read a section of the Constitution and asks if he had memorized the whole Constitution. He tells her that he hasn’t memorized it. She then points out that this world could not be the dream world because he did not know beforehand the writing that he had just read. So he couldn’t have put the information from the Constitution into this world subconsciously since he had never known this section of the Constitution. Thus his ignorance reveals that this is not the world he is currently making up in his dream state.
Exposing one’s ignorance by confronting them with unknown information appears to be a plausible way to help one discern that which is real from what one creates in one’s dream state.
Christian Theism: The Solution to the DDD
We should not simply discuss notions of “being” [ontology] or of “knowledge” [epistemology] in general without first recognizing that such notions take their place in two different contexts, two different “realities.”8
The Rhinoceros never dances with the monkey (Nigerian Proverb).
Christian Theism has the answer to DDD. Descartes wants to question sense experience and not our reason inasmuch as the laws of logic are in force in both the awake and dream realms. But one cannot play a pure epistemological game without ontological (nature of being/reality) commitments. Christian Theism does not go in the direction DDD attempts to lead. Christian Theism brings an ontological commitment to the Triune God. The ontological Trinity is acknowledged first because God is the ontic truth condition required to discern anything. God gave us senses and the ability to distinguish our dreams from reality. The manner in which God created us includes dreams. And men with properly functioning cognizance can easily and routinely discern reality from a dream state because God created men in this manner. Within the Christian worldview it is not conceivable not to differentiate dreams from real experience. If one disputes this, one has to attack the Christian worldview and it’s not possible to raise a successful attack against it (a detailed exposition is found in my book Reality and the Folly of Atheism). Deny the Christian worldview and one is left without a surefire way to recognize actuality from illusion.
Pure Rationalism cannot provide a cogent means to discern reality from dreaming. And it’s worse than merely being limited by the inability to distinguish actuality from a dream-state. Frame argues that “rationalism leaves us not with the body of certainties that … Descartes dreamed of but with no knowledge at all of the real world.”9 This is the case since rationalism is silent on matters that concern brute sense data. Christianity provides a potent answer to Descartes’ skepticism while Descartes’ program fails since he “does not show his existence to be intelligible at all.”10
Certain aspects of waking and dreaming indicate that it is possible that a dream may seem like genuine reality. Descartes argues that similarity between thoughts men have while awake can also transpire while one is dreaming. For all men know, there might not be a real world men consider “actual.” Christian ontology and its presuppositions supply the rational operational features needed to discern the difference between dreaming and genuine reality. So the Christian is not to concede and dance the pure epistemological dance. Ontology matters and Christian ontological commitments to God must be maintained; rhinos don’t dance with monkeys.
The most basic ontological distinction in Scripture is between God on one hand and His creatures on the other.11
- William Lane Craig: http://egnorance.blogspot.com/2012/11/william-lane-craig-on-skepticism-and.html.
- Descartes: Meditations 3, AT 7:39-40.
- Douglas Kelly: Systematic Theology, vol. One, p. 249
- Whoa! www.MSN.com.
- K. Scott Oliphint: God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God, p. 170.
- John Frame: The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, p. 113.
- Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis, p. 510.
- Vern Poythress: Foundations of Christian Scholarship, p. 176.
Purchase my new eBook: Ontology: Christian Thought and Apologetic Applications HERE
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Article by Mike Robinson long time minister of Christ Covenant Church, Las Vegas, NV.
In Christ are Hidden All the Treasures of Wisdom: Kant’s Transcendental Program Falls Short
By Mike Robinson
Immanuel Kant maintained that men can know rational truths through a synthesis of human sense perception and reason utilizing man’s intellectual autonomy. He attempts to discard God as the proper foundation of human reason. Additionally, he rejects scripture as the ultimate means to know that sense perception is generally dependable. There are operational features of experience men presuppose in order to offer critical analysis; men come to analytical pursuits with some embedded understanding—background assumptions that make rational examination possible. Without presupposing the existence of God, one cannot account for analytic assessments. Linguistic truths and communication utilized within critical analysis would be impossible without the biblical God since analytical ventures utilize immutable universals which God grounds. One source of Kantianism insufficiency: it cannot account for the essential operational features of reason, thus it lacks explanatory power to account for critical analysis.
Don’t let anyone capture you with vain philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking, … rather than from Christ (Colossians 2:8).
Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects. But all attempts to extend our knowledge of objects by establishing something in regard to them a priori, by means of concepts, have, on this assumption, ended in failure. We must therefore make trial whether we may not have more success in the tasks of metaphysics, if we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge. This would agree better with what is desired, namely, that it should be possible to have knowledge of objects a priori, determining something in regard to them prior to their being given. We should then be proceeding precisely on the lines of Copernicus’ primary hypothesis. Failing of satisfactory progress in explaining the movements of the heavenly bodies on the supposition that they all revolved round the spectator, he tried whether he might not have better success if he made the spectator to revolve and the stars to remain at rest. A similar experiment can be tried in metaphysics, as regards the intuition of objects.1
Kant names his theoretical system “transcendental philosophy.”2 Kant’s transcendental idealism may have shaken the world, but in principle, it is arbitrary. This is the case since his Copernican revolution rests upon subjective human autonomy. The fatal flaw within Kant’s thought is the idea that the “knowledge transaction with respect to nature is complete without any reference to God.”3
Kant produced some valuable insights from his critical analysis (the epistemic need for the preconditions of operational features within human experience) but his scheme folds because he reposes his whole system upon ideas antithetical to scripture. “Van Til tells us that the very essence of knowledge is to bring our thoughts into agreement with God’s revealed Word.”4
Kant’s “Copernican revolution” was his doctrine that “objects must conform to our knowledge,” which seems to mean that certain basic features of the objects of our knowledge are due to the nature of our human cognitive faculties. We can know the world only “as it appears” to us; we cannot know it “as it is in itself.” The world as we experience it, the world of “appearances,” is thoroughly imbued with the forms of our perception (space and time) and the forms of our thought (the categories—the logical forms of judgments). The world as it is in itself may not be spatial or temporal… This “transcendental idealism” shook the foundations of all previous philosophy, and the reverberations have been felt ever since, not least in contemporary philosophical debates about realism and idealism.5
Kant maintained that we can know the principles that come from a type of synthesis of forms of human empirical sense and reason within man’s own rational autonomy. He rejects the very ground of human reason (God) and the means to know that human sensual functions are generally reliable (scripture).
Kant’s Moral Theory Miscarries
Kant’s moral metaphysic lolled upon human reason while he disregarded the Ten Commandments as God’s revelation and moral foundation. “As a preliminary to a Metaphysics of Morals … there is, to be sure, no other foundation of [moral] metaphysics than the critical examination of practical reason.”6 Kant attempted to ground universal moral duties on human reason. Nevertheless, human reason is flawed and disputable in contrast to God: the only possible source of universal moral duties. God is the unflawed one who indisputably knows all things. Kant again reveals his dependence on human autonomy whereas he values human dignity for the reason that men can obey only “those laws which they make themselves.”7 Kant’s ultimate maxim rejects God’s revealed law, for a man “ought never to act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law.”8 This is subjective and one can hold this in a relativistic manner as well. Most importantly the maxim ignores the truth of the Decalogue as it attempts to place men on a throne that decrees universal moral duties.
An important feature of Kant’s Copernican revolution maintains that the preconditions in the mind are required for the apprehension of the diverse phenomena of human sense experience. But Kant posits nothing with the ontic clout that can ground the preconditions obligatory for reason inasmuch as he “makes man the ultimate source.”9
While Kant declared that the moral law within is compelling proof of God’s existence, he rejected the moral imperative to attend church and worship God in community. He ignores religious duties inasmuch as “Kant radically rejected the idea of authoritative revelation from God and asserted the autonomy of the human mind … The human mind is to be its own supreme authority, its own criterion of truth and right.”10 Consequently Kant aims by the authority of pure reason to allow believing faith in the noumena. This appears to be a way for a rational source to rent reason from faith; an idea that today has almost universal appeal for secularists and occultists.
Kant and Man’s Autonomy
Van Til offered this analysis: “Although Kant professed a kind of theism and an admiration for Jesus, he was clearly far from orthodox Christianity. Indeed, his major book on religion (Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone) has as its chief theme that the human mind must never subject itself to any authority beyond itself. Kant radically rejected the idea of authoritative revelation from God and asserted the autonomy of the human mind perhaps more clearly than had ever been done before (though secular philosophers had always maintained this notion). The human mind is to be its own supreme authority, its own criterion of truth and right.” Kant falls as he posits the fallible and deficient human mind as the organizing source of intelligibility.
Kant’s practical philosophy leaves with this fundamental, thought-provoking ambiguity between the hope for gradual social amelioration, with the corresponding resolution to contribute to it, and a more religious viewpoint that sees our only ultimate hope in divine grace, given to us in so far as we acknowledge our finitude and our faults and resolve to be better human beings as best we imperfectly can.11
Kant has certain noble goals in epistemology, ethics, and social science but his program fails since it rests upon borrowed Christian capital (selected ethical goals; language, culture, etc.); capital that Kant not only comingles within his scheme, but makes it depend upon human autonomy.
Kant seems to suggest that human experience is intelligible because of the ability our own minds alone. Frame observes: “Kant argues that what makes our experience intelligible is largely; perhaps entirely, our own minds. We do not know what the world is really like; we know only how it appears to us, and how it appears to us is largely what we make it out to be.”12 Thus men do not really know what things are like—we only know how things appear to be. Consequently human reason supplants God as the creator and organizer of the world and human experience.
God Reigns in Epistemology
“Heinrich Heine called Critique of Pure Reason an executioner’s sword, a destructive, world-destroying thought.”13 However the all-powerful God reigns and He rules over everything including knowledge and epistemic pursuits forasmuch as “the Lord God Omnipotent reigns…” And His is “Faithful and True,” and “out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.”14 This battering includes all error and epistemic inaccuracy.
In contrast to Kant’s program, to truly know truth is to presuppose God in all our thinking. Men must honor God’s word as more important and more certain than any other truth (John 17:17). All law and rational criteria that knowledge requires are found in God revealed in the Bible (Colossians 2:3). God has universal power, position, and rule—and He provides the required a priori verity state of affairs for the universal laws of reason.15 This is an impregnable truth from a web of immutables, necessities, and universals that is unified and accounted for by Christian theism.
Carnell draws the applicable antithesis: “It is safe to conceive that Christianity and Kantianism are diametrically conceived for, whereas the latter looks upon motives that appeal to the ego as wholly unworthy and immoral, the former is founded squarely upon an appeal to the ego.”16 With their overlooking of God in the knowledge field, in principle, Kantians must adopt positions that disallow certainty, necessity, and universality. In the end, they must surrender not just the laws of reason, but epistemology, ontology, ethics, and everything in human experience—that which Kant strained to rescue.
Kantianism cannot justify universals, immutables, and necessities; and most factions do not seek such. Christian theism offers the rational man the foundation for the possibility of making assertions, even an assertion against Yahweh. Considering that the Triune God is the only possible epistemic ground, He is the lone source for immutable universals that are utilized in all assertions. The ground necessary for assertions must supply the explanatory power sufficient for general principles, unchanging laws, and universal operational facets of human rationality and intelligibility. The God of the Bible has these ontic credentials. Even the discussion of His existence presupposes that God lives. Without God, one cannot account for the laws of reason used in any conversation regarding the existence of God.
An ultimate epistemic criterion that has the explanatory power sufficient for general principles, unchanging laws, and universal operational facets of human thinking cannot be overturned merely by appeals to experience. It deals with the required pre-environment to make experience intelligible. The laws of logic are necessary to make experience coherent; yet one cannot appeal to experience to underwrite them, since experience is in constant flux. In contrast, the laws of logic are inviolably constant. Intelligible experience presupposes the laws of logic. Thus, A is A (Law of Identity: LOI) and A cannot be A and Non-A at the same time in the same manner (Law of Non-contradiction: LNC). What can supply the a priori truth conditions for these immutable laws? The Lord.
God your Savior … the Rock … (Isaiah 17:10).
Ultimately, a changeless, omniscient, omnipotent rational underpinning and infrastructure is required to understand and account for human experience: the immutable God. It is good news that Yahweh is the necessary constant that is required for the intelligibility of human experience.
God is the Truth
That by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie. … This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast… (Hebrews 6:18-19).
In contrast to Kantianism, I maintain that Yahweh furnishes all a priori essentials for the necessary epistemic equipment utilized in all knowledge and achievements. Yahweh has the actual ontic attributes of omniscience, immutability, and omnipotence (He has universal reach) thus He has the ontic capacity to be the ground for general principles, immutable laws, and universal operational aspects of human thinking and understanding. In Christian theism God can be known (John 17:1-3). Moreover, a position that rejects Yahweh as the epistemic (knowledge) base cannot be true, thus whatever evidence one discovers, must be discerned and processed with the rational tools that arise from Christian theism and the worldview that streams from the Triune God.
The true God is the elemental requirement for knowledge, proof, evidence, and logic. He is the a priori verity condition for the intelligibility of reality. This is the case inasmuch as the immaterial, transcendent, and immutable Triune God supplies the necessary pre-environment for the use of immaterial, transcendent, universal, and immutable laws of logic utilized in all knowledge pursuits including critical scrutiny. In principle, Kantianism cannot supply the necessary a priori truth conditions for the immutable universals (laws of logic, moral law, mathematical truths, etc.) hence it results in futility because of its internal weakness.
The Pre-essentials for Intelligibility
In Van Til’s view, only Christian theism provides the conditions that make such rational discourse possible. Therefore, the unbeliever’s very decision to argue against God refutes his position. The self-refutation is found not directly in the content of the assertion, but in the decision of a speaker to state that assertion (John Frame).
Kant’s view, valuable as it was, would, if tested by its own standard, defeat itself.17
Kantians presuppose the rational necessities that the Christian worldview underwrites while they verbally reject it. What are the obligatory conditions that make thought possible? The Triune God furnishes those preconditions to establish the rational flooring for intelligibility. Van Til called this “method of implication into the truth of God a transcendental method. That is, we must seek to determine what presuppositions are necessary to any object of knowledge in order that it may be intelligible to us.”18
Frame advocates God as the only suitable epistemic fount in his contrasting Kant with Van Til: “For Van Til, God is the Creator, the world is his creature. Over and over again in class Van Til would draw two circles on the blackboard: a large circle representing God and a smaller circle below representing the creation. He insisted that Christianity has a “two-circle” worldview, as opposed to the “one-circle” worldview of secular thought. Secular thought makes all reality equal. If there is a god, he is equal to the world. But in Christianity God is the supreme Creator and therefore the supreme authority over all human thought. Kant told us to ignore the demands of any alleged revelation external to ourselves. Van Til tells us that the very essence of knowledge is to bring our thoughts into agreement with God’s revealed Word.” God has moral and epistemic authority since He is God; additionally He alone has the ontic attributes required to furnish the preconditions necessary for reason, objective moral values, and critical analysis.
Background Rational Assumptions
There must be many things we presuppose in order to offer critical analysis; all men come to the critical enterprise with some tacit understanding. All those basic assumptions make critical inquiry possible. And without presupposing the existence of God, one cannot account for analytic quests. Language and communication utilized within these quests would be impossible without the biblical God since analytical ventures utilize immutable universals (LNC, LOI, moral law, mathematical truths, etc.) which God grounds. One cause of Kantianism failure: it cannot account for the essential operational features of reason, thus it lacks explanatory power to account for analytical criticism.
- Norman Kemp-Smith, trans. Immanuel Kant: Critique Of Pure Reason (NY: Bedford, 2008).
- Otfried Hoffe, Immanuel Kant, (Albany, NY: Suny, 1994), p. 32.
- Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 1998), p. 344.
- John Frame, Cornelius Van Til, www.frame-poythress.org/cornelius-van-til
- Leslie Stevenson, Ten Theories of Human Nature, (NY: Oxford, 2004),p. 114.
- Lewis White Back, Kant: Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, (Upper Saddle, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995), p. 7.
- Stevenson, p. 115.
- Bahnsen, p. 345.
- Stevenson, p. 115.
- Matthew Altman, A Companion to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2008), p. 28.
- Book of Revelation 19:6-15, NKJV.
- The Triune God is absolutely required because He is unchanging, universal in knowledge, aspatial, transcendent, and immaterial; and the laws of logic are unchanging, universal, aspatial, transcendent, and immaterial. The laws of logic are necessary for all assertions, investigations, ethics, evidence, and knowledge; hence, Yahweh provides the indispensable a priori truth conditions to make sense of our world and experience.
- Edward J, Carnell, Introduction to Christian Apologetics, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 330).
- Bahnsen, p. 354
- Ibid, see pp. 344-356 for Bahnsen’s analysis of Van Til’s view of Kantianism.
Article by Mike Robinson, Granbury, Texas. Robinson is long time minister at Christ Covenant Church.
The Glory of God A Se
… My claim is this: If God is a se and self-consistent, a single sufficient condition for a thing’s glorying God is for a thing to be not God. (I’ll leave aside for now the question of whether God a se glorifies himself, which is why I haven’t called this a necessary condition.) That is, if God is a se and self-consistent, he exists necessarily as triune and personal rather than as abstract and impersonal; he is, we might say, a self-existent positive ontological fact: God is. And self-existence is exclusive to him. If all that is true, necessarily, all (other) things glorify him. Here’s a brief explanation.
If it is true that contingency cannot explain itself (the principle of sufficient reason), all contingent things are in some way derivative of and dependent upon the self-existent, triune, personal God. Therefore all things but God bring glory to God in the obvious sense that they ‘owe’ their existence to him. To put it perhaps crassly, God was ‘first’, and in the end, he’ll be the last one standing. “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom 11:36). In terms of moral properties, this would mean that both good and evil glorify God, that even sin glorifies God. I think this is uncontroversial. …
continue Nate Shannon’s potent essay HERE