In the sixth chapter the focus is on the practical antithesis between the worldviews discussed up to this point. As was the case in previous posts, I’m going to be documenting notes from the chapter that I think are worthy of attention.Continue reading
The fifth chapter of the book focuses on comparing and contrasting various worldviews outside of the Biblical worldview of Scripture. The purpose for doing this is to demonstrate different characteristics that some of the more popular worldviews hold to and how they contrast to the Christian one.
There are two central tenets that are the focus of this chapter:
- Examples of several worldview options.
- The presuppositional cores sustaining those worldviews
The author expounds that Hinduism is a family of merged religions arising out of a thoroughly pagan backdrop. One source describes Hinduism as, “Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder.” Another key attribute of this worldview is the belief in millions of deities that are typically derived from objects found in nature. Hinduism aligns well with the New Age movement and mysticism and views all reality as relative since Hinduism believes that reality is an illusion.
Behaviorism is school of psychological thought developed by B.F. Skinner. The key concept in this school of thought that all human behavior can be attributed to the concept of “operant conditioning”. This basically says that human behavior is the result of of response to pure environmental factors such as our experiences and our senses. The material world is the ultimate endgame and all our motivations revolve around getting the most fulfillment from the material world. Since man is simply the result of his conditioned environment, there is no responsibility for actions taken since there is no moral code attached to this system of thought.
The next world view is the infamous worldview of Marxism. Marxism is an atheistic, socio-political belief system that teaches the material world is the ultimate reality and that religion is an illusion. The author quotes the American Heritage Dictionary’s definition of dialectical materialism on which Marxism is based as,
“The Marxian interpretation of reality that views matter as the sole subject of change and all change as the product of a constant conflict between opposites arising from the internal contradictions inherent in all events, ideas, and movements.”
Adam Schaff summarizes the maxim of Marxism as, “Mans is a product of society…it is society that makes him what he is.”
The last worldview system that the author examines in this chapter is existentialism. Existentialism is concerned above all else with freedom and self-expression. This system essentially boils down to feeling over thought, experience over logic, and the like. The author leaves some valuable quotes:
- “To kill God is to become god oneself: it is to realize on this earth the eternal life of which the gospel speaks.” –Albert Camus
- “If God exists man cannot be free. But man is free, therefore God cannot exist. Since God does not exist all things are morally permissible.” –Jean Paul-Satre
The author is trying to get the Christian apologist to think through the foundational beliefs of these various systems to understand how they oppose Christianity and how they are internally inconsistent.
Bahnsen, Greg, “Prolegomena To Apologetics“, https://www.cmfnow.com/articles/PA002.htm
Ravi, N.S.R.K, “Hinduism“, https://www.namb.net/apologetics-blog/hinduism/
The fourth chapter of the book focuses on the different components that comprise a worldview. They are the building blocks of a worldview and without any one of them you can not have a complete worldview and this is why it’s so important to define each one and to expand upon each level to under the questions that they need to answer.
Another key factor that each of these worldview building blocks serve to show how utterly non-sensical the Atheist worldview is in that since it cannot accept order in the Universe and therefore is left to attribute every event to chance he cannot justify in what he observes.
The study on what is the nature of reality. Beyond the physical as in laws of logic & science.
Metaphysics seeks to address three core questions:
- What does it mean to exist?
- What is the nature of man? Is he free? Good? An animal?
- What is the nature of the universe? Is it objectively real? Or is it simply appearance?
Metaphysicians seek to understand the world as a whole.
What Metaphysicians study is actually Christian theology in secular dress.
God is the ultimate ground of all reality. – Gen 1:1, Exodus 20:11, Neh 9:6, Rev 4:11
The study of the nature and limits of human knowledge.
Epistemological inquiry focuses on four class of questions:
- What is the nature of truth & objectivity?
- What is the nature of belief and of knowledge? What are their relationships? Can we know and yet not believe?
- What are the standards that justify belief?
- What are the proper procedures for science & discovery? How can they be trusted?
The unbeliever will not be able to rationally to account for the order of the universe which he experiences, since he is committed to the fate of chance.
There is no way to account for reason in the non-Christian system.
Studies right & wrong attitudes, judgments, and actions, as well as moral responsibility and obligation.
Focuses on four main areas of concern:
- What is the nature of good and evil?
- What are the standards for ethical evaluation?
- What about guilt and personal peace?
- How do we attain or produce moral character?
For the non-Christian there is no sure basis for ethics.
The chapter can be best summed up in this Atheist Creed crafted by Christian scholar Steve Kumar:
There is no God.
There is no objective Truth.
There is no ground for Reason.
There are no absolute Morals.
There is no ultimate Value.
There is no ultimate Meaning.
There is no eternal Hope.
Bahnsen, Greg, “The Concept and Importance of Canonicity”
Butler, Michael R., “A Truly Reformed Epistemology”
The third part of the series has to do with as the title suggests, defining worldviews. The actual definition for what a worldview is plays a critical role in understanding the presuppositions one brings to the table for interpreting reality, knowledge, and ethics.
One of the reoccurring themes you will notice through this blog series is Bahnsen’s emphasis on the myth of neutrality. This becomes even more apparent when defining what a worldview actually is. In each of the major domains of a worldview you must assert truth’s in each area and this itself removes the option of neutrality. An assertion has only a binary conclusion; true or false.
Bahnsen defines a worldview as:
“A worldview is a network of presuppositions(which are not verified by the procedures of natural science) regarding reality(metaphysics), knowing(epistemology), and conduct(ethics) in terms of which every element of human experience is related and interpreted.”
Another quote worth providing is viewing the Christian faith as a complex system:
“We must recognize that the Christian faith is a complex system of mutually-supported, interwined beliefs filling out a broader interdependent worldview.”
Like in Systems Engineering each component affects the overall health of the whole system, so each element of a worldview affects that worldview as a whole. Each subcomponent functions as a link in the chain and if one link is inconsistent with the others the system will break down. The Christian faith is no different, which is why the Bible must be the only rule for faith, life, and apologetics, otherwise Christianity will self-destruct on the sand of human autonomy.
Bahnsen, Greg, “Worshipping the Creature Rather Than the Creator”
Hurd, Wesley, “Me and my Worldview”
Nickel, James, “Mathematics: Is God Silent?”
Stump, James, “Science, Metaphysics, and Worldviews”
I had acquired through a friend on Twitter, a copy of Greg Bahnsen’s, “Pushing the Antithesis“. As such I have decided to publish a blog post for each chapter. This is the first of twelve blog posts. Each post will consist of some key bullet points along with some recommend reading links where available.
As the chapter title suggests, Dr. Bahnsen puts to bed the supposed “neutrality” that anyone has let along the Christian.
The main points to be observed from this chapter are:
- This “neutral” approach is neither biblical nor effective.
- Christians must not set aside their faith commitment even temporarily in an attempt to approach the unbeliever on “neutral ground”.
- If you don’t start with God as your basic assumption, you can’t prove anything./
- The assumption of God’s existence required to all reasoning.
- Evolution theory is taken for granted throughout the college curriculum, just as it is in all aspects of modern though and experience.
- Modern education is effectively subliminal advertising for atheism.
- The university and the media supposedly encourage neutrality by urging tolerance of all views.
- But we are all aware that the Christian view is seldom given equal tolerance.
- The Christian who strives for neutrality unwittingly endorses assumptions which are hostile to his faith.
- Simply put, you cannot adopt a position of neutrality toward God if you are to remain faithful to Christ.
- The Bible claims infallible and obligatory authority which demands commitment to its truth claims.
- Such neutrality actually amounts to skepticism regarding the existence of God and the authority of His Word.
- He (Satan) suggested that she must remain neutral in order to decide who was right, God or Satan. She did not accept God’s word as authoritative and conclusive, but as a true neutralist, determined for herself which option to take. (Gen 3:4-6)
- Robert South (1634-1716) said, “He who would fight the devil with his own weapons, must not wonder if he finds himself over matched.”
- Van Til – “there simply is no presupposition-free and neutral way to approach reasoning.”
- A true biblical apologetic does not set aside Christ from our hearts, but sets apart Christ in our hearts.
Bahnsen, Greg L., Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith
Gentry, Kenneth L., Jr., Defending the Faith: An Introduction to Biblical Apologetics
One of the most important aspects of any aspect of Christianity is that it is itself a complete system. Try to isolate any one component from the system and the same is no longer consistent. We see good example of this expounded by Greg Bahnsen in his book on Van Til’s apologetic in regards to B.B.Warfields method of apologetics:
“We thus see two things about the philosophical (epistomological) perspective which Warfield encouraged the apologist to take: it should be (1) outside of a commitment to Scripture and (2) in agreement with the right reason of the unbeliever-in a word, autonomous.”
Here we see two grave mistakes; one in that God’s authoritative word is not relevant at the outset of our dialogue with the unbeliever and two that Scriptures themselves must bow down to the rationality of the unbeliever before they can be accepted. So right out of the gate the Christian apologist who takes this approach is already defeated since the whold foundation for which he/she stands (The Holy Scriptures) is removed as a foundational basis for the apologetic and therefore it’s just a matter of whose rationality is more convincing.
I hope you can see another danger in this approach and that this approach is reduced to mere opinion and probability among may ideas. Of course this will fail from a pure reasoning standpoint with the unbeliever, because the unbeliever has become vain in his reasoning (Romans 1:21), and he cannot receive the things of the Spirit, because they are foolishness. (I Cor 2:14)
Let us remember that apologetics just like theology, evanlgelism, and philosophy are all part of a single system derived from the single authoratitive source of God’s Word.
Source of Quote: Van Til’s Apologetic – Greg Bahnsen
As Van Til goes on to say, if one does not begin with some such general truths (universals) with which to understand the particular observations in one’s experience, those factual particulars would be unrelated and uninterpretable -i.e., “brute”. In a chance universe, all particular facts would be random, have no classifiable identity, bear no predetermined order or relation and thus be unintelligible to man’s mind.
I recently ran across what I consider a good use case for applying this principle of Christian apologetic’s; On the Reformed Theology G+ forum someone posted the following question: Do you accept the idea of objective morality? If so, what is your criteria for morality that isn’t subjective (open to interpretation)?
Christianity asserts that it is the law of God as revealed in the Bible. This is not a subjective response as it’s an assertion of worldview and is not bound in a single subject or a few peoples opinion. We can also not treat the question of morality as say the shooting average of Lebron James. The rules of interpretation of shooting averages facts do not conflict with opposing worldviews, but of a basic understanding of mathematics.
When we interpret the facts of morality we are dealing with transcendence in that the object is not bound by space or time. For the non-theist that believes everything is essentially ‘matter in motion’ this is antithetical to his presuppositions for which he interprets reality.
So it’s not simply a matter of providing an argument that isn’t open to interpretation, but comes down to how one interprets the facts for which they are observing. And the method of interpretation is driven by their presuppositions.
From Greg Bahnsen’s “Van Til’s Apologetic”:
If the “facts” (external events or states of affairs) are completely a matter of “chance”- random and unconnected, having no rationale, no preestablished order,
Here we see that you can not separate the facts from the interpretation of those same facts. For example if you say that the human beings came into existence by the a process of N number of random mutations, but cannot justify the predication of the those mutations since the presupposition is that they (“the mutations”) have no relationship between one mutation to another since they are all random, you have failed to demonstrate a rational conclusion to the premise that human beings came into being through evolution. Or to put it into more simplistic terms, you have assumed what you are trying to prove.
The starting point for the Christian worldview is always the scriptures, but if you listen to Christians attempting to defend the Christian faith, they seldom start with the Scriptures. Instead they feel it is necessary to “put themselves in the mind of the unbeliever” in order to establish a “common ground” to have sound discourse with them. When this approach is utilized the battle is over.
Why would the battle be over with defending the Christian faith with this approach? The moment the Christian concedes(Even just for the sake of argument) they have already agreed that there is a possibility that God and the Bible may not be true. The Scriptures never grant the Christian such liberty. Let’s look at the verse below and see if we can apply it to our example above:
(ESV) John 8:24: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
Jesus was speaking to the Jewish religious leaders and you say he was engaged in an apologetic for the faith. He does not once concede and say, “OK, let’s just for sake of the argument I”m not who I say I am, namely the Son of God, who takes away the sins of the world…?” No, this is never once entertained, but the unbelieving leaders are forced to either accept His testimony and therefore to believe that he is the promised Messiah or they will perish in their sins. There is zero room for neutrality. And this is the point; to concede to the unbelievers position is to believe that God is neutral and we not from the Scriptures that this is not the cause. The Lords judgements are binary; we are either covenant keepers or covenant breakers. Saints or reprobates.
So this is why the presuppositional method of apologetics is the most faithful defense of the Christian faith to the scriptures. We have committed our way to the King of Kings and as Christ said in Matthew 12:30, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
I just finished reading an excellent book by John Muether on the life of Cornelius Van Til. it really was a really great read and a humbling one as well. From the recesses of the farm in Indiana that he grew up with and there was some entertaining parts as well. One that I found most comical was when Van Til was a child he decided it would be fun to shoot the neighbors chickens with a slingshot and there was the story of the his pastor wanting to rebuke him with a oven poker for causing mischief.
As he reached adulthood however his calling to the ministry of Christ became apparent with his sound intellectual gifts, talents, and zeal for the Lord. It is ironic how many similarities that are found between Van Til and Machen and the the vehemency with which his enemies attacked him. I got the impression it was almost an identical fight that Machen had with the liberals that were simply called neo-Reformed in which they were not really reformed, but attempted to pass themselves off as such. The attacks against his integrity were especially unfounded and there is case after case of his warm humility to all he was engaged with. His zeal never to compromise the “Christ of the Scriptures” is a lesson that the 21st century church needs to hear. Once you realize that any reinterpretation of Jesus is to deny the Christ of the Bible and thereby to shipwreck your faith. Van Til understood this and always remained consistent to this purpose. Those who were on the other side often judged him as intolerant and often attached more severe nouns to his name that I will expound on.
The final point to note is the synergy between Van Til the apologist and Van Til the churchman. He was always faithful to the church by means of pastoring the church that he was part of at every and any point that providence placed him. He was very faithful to the teaching of Sunday school and catechizing the children he was responsible for instructing. This is something that his critics never addressed and a good reason why he is so misunderstood.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to gain a greater understanding of the man, Cornelius Van Til.