No one I know has read this book yet. This is probably because most of the people I know have not realized that this book is available. Thanks to Brian Knapp for bringing this to my attention.
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
This was written by C.S. Lewis. Now what in the world did he mean by this? Hopefully, this short piece will help you understand what he meant by this, if I have understood him correctly and if I am right that I can relate to what he meant by this statement.
Lewis says that he can see Christianity. By this I take him to mean that he believes in Christianity and experiences the truth of it. We can see the sun when it rises and so we believe that it has risen, though I would not suggest staring at it for too long.
Lewis also says that he sees everything else by Christianity. By this I take him to mean that he believes in Christianity because it is the way to understand everything. We can see everything when the sun rises and so we believe it has risen.
There either is a sun or there is not. If there is a sun, then it is necessary for seeing. If there is not a sun, then we are in darkness and cannot see at all. Let’s suppose that the sun has not risen though. Let’s go so far as to think that the sun does not exist. We cannot see the sun or anything else. We are in the dark.
How does this relate to whether or not God exists? Well, either God exists or He does not. If God exists, then things are as He says that they are. If God does not exist, then things are as we say that they are. There is no other position. Either God is ultimate, or we are. The reason I still believe in the Christian God is the same reason that C.S. Lewis illustrated for us, if I have interpreted him correctly. There are two positions, Christianity and non-Christianity. Christianity says that things are as God says that they are, and interprets everything in light of this. The position that is the opposite of Christianity is non-Christianity, and it says that things are as we say they are, and interprets everything in “light” of this.
My contention is this: Christianity is necessary to understand things just like the sun is necessary to see. On the other hand, non-Christianity is not reasonable because nothing can be understood if we think that it is true. Non-Christianity is like having no sun; we are left in darkness. The reason I am still a Christian is because it makes sense while non-Christianity does not. I know that this is a strong claim, but I plan to support it in this little piece. To do this we will need to pretend for a moment that non-Christianity is true.
As non-Christians, we would want to make moral judgments. One of our strongest arguments against Christianity might even be that a good and powerful God would not allow so much injustice in the world. This seems like a great way to look at the world and a great way to argue until we stop to give our position a little more thought. If we determine what justice is, then it is dependent upon what we say it is, and once we make it dependent upon what we say it is, there is no reason to really suppose that anything is unjust, since we could just as easily say that unjust things are not unjust. This is not how we think though. We cannot help but think that there is some sort of standard for justice outside of us. Either there is such a standard or there is not. If there is not such a standard, and we think that there is, we are irrational and our seemingly wonderful objection to Christianity fails.
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. … Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying that it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless–I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.” – C.S. Lewis
As non-Christians, we would not only think justice and morality to fall to this problem, but laws of thought as well. The standards used to evaluate arguments and reasoning are the laws of logic. If God is not the standard of what is logical and what is not, then we are. If we define what is logical and what is not, the laws of logic themselves become dependent upon us, and there is no reason to think that one thing is logical while another is not aside from our saying, “because I say so”. Our ability to think in any meaningful fashion is lost.
As good non-Christians we will also believe that we are the products of evolution that was not guided by God. Evolution has everything to do with the way organisms behave. Natural selection weeded out those groups that did not behave in a beneficial way. The reason we are here is because our ancestors behaved in a way that they were able to survive. It seems reasonable to say that when our ancestors had true beliefs, they behaved in a beneficial way, but desires also affected their behavior. Think of an ancestor who really desired to pet a raging elephant. His desire was to pet the elephant. The ancestor believed that the best way to pet the elephant was to run away from it. His belief was that running away from the elephant would get him into the position to pet it. What happened? The elephant charged at our ancestor, who wanted to pet the elephant, but thought that the best way to do so was to run away from the elephant. So our ancestor ran away from the elephant and survived. His behavior benefited him in terms of survival, but he still had a false belief. There are so many different situations like this that we can think of; so many possible combinations of desires and false beliefs that we cannot know whether or not we have evolved in such a way that our memory, perception, and reasoning are reliable and produce true beliefs when functioning properly. Since evolution that was not guided by God is one of our beliefs that is produced by our reasoning, we cannot know whether or not unguided evolution is true. So if we think that we are the products of unguided evolution then we have to reject our belief in unguided evolution or doubt that we are the products of it. This means that the belief in unguided evolution defeats itself, since it has to be rejected if it is accepted, and so it is irrational to believe in naturalistic evolution. All of our beliefs come from our memory, perception and reasoning though, so it also follows that we cannot know anything at all if we believe in unguided evolution. C.S. Lewis recognizes this problem as well. He says, “If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes…it cuts its own throat.”
This is not an exhaustive list of the reasons that non-Christianity is lost in darkness, but it is a good start. Christians believe that God created everything, including us. Things are what they are because of what God says they are in accordance with His plan, and we are His creatures who interpret everything in light of God’s plan. God has given us His moral will in Scripture so that we are able to judge wrong from right and unjust from just. God imposes the laws of thought upon us because we are created in His image as logical beings. God created our memory, perception, and reason as reliable guides to truth when they are functioning properly. So the many problems that face the non-Christian are not problems for the Christian at all. Non-Christians have no place to talk about what
s just and unjust, logical or illogical. In fact, unless a non-Christian actually believes that God exists (and wouldn’t you know it – Scripture says that everyone believes in the Christian God), he or she cannot make any sense out of anything at all!
Why am I still a Christian? I am still a Christian because Christianity alone makes sense. I believe in Christianity, not just because I can understand it, but because by it alone is there a possibility of my understanding anything else. Non-Christians know God as well and function as if they know that God exists, but they deceive themselves into thinking on the surface that they do not believe in God. It is just as Lewis further pointed out, “When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all.”
Continuing on with the conversation I documented below … here is the refutation I provided:
I want to answer two points in your testimonial – your pragmatic approach to belief in the reliability of senses, and the question of measuring leaps of faith. I will respond to these in reverse order, because you clearly appeal to the former in supporting the latter.
On measuring “leaps”:
In your testimonial you make the claim “your leap however is considerably wider than mine.” There are two points worth mentioning here. First, such a claim implies a standard by which you are evaluating our leaps; a ruler, if you will, by which you measure my leap and your leap, and come to the conclusion that mine is wider. Your appeal to this ruler also shows up in your criticisms of my beliefs – criticisms such as “I am not forced to accept things like virgin birth, miracle performance, raising the dead and resurrection from the dead …”, implying that it is somehow unreasonable for me to hold to such beliefs.
Second – and this is crucial to understand – your claim implies that the ruler that you are using is the ruler both you and I should be using. The implication of your claim therefore moves from descriptive to prescriptive, which immediately changes the nature of our discussion. No longer are we merely making opposing claims about simple facts; we are now debating the nature of reality itself; what is real, what counts as evidence, how we know things, etc.
Let me pause here for a moment because I suspect you might be tempted to say that you and I (and everyone else) are in fact all using the same ruler. I sense a hint of this in your claim that “we all, whether we will admit it or not, arrange our perceptions in like manner”. You seem to feel that everyone has the same toolkit, and that we all rely upon it in exactly the same way. Whether true or not, we must not lose sight of the distinction between merely trusting one’s senses, and appealing to that trust as the ruler by which we measure everything else. Let me make it clear that while you may do the latter, and while you may feel that others do, we don’t all do the same thing.
Back to the ruler. The prescriptive nature of implying that we should all be using the same ruler presents us with a real problem that needs solving. Why should we all measure our leaps against your ruler? What’s wrong with my ruler? What makes your more fit to the task? Are you able to demonstrate that your ruler is more appropriate?
After all, if there is no reason to choose your ruler over mine, then any claim that my leap is wider than yours is totally meaningless in an objective sense. What you are left with in the end is mere opinion.
So let’s see what you have offered by way of reason …
On pragmatism as justification:
Before digging into your reason for trusting your senses, I think it is worthwhile to point out the circular nature of that justification, if for no other reason than to head off any future complaints against me when I appeal to the Bible as a reason for believing what I do.
In answering my question as to why you trust your senses, you appeal to your own experiences, as well as reports of others’ experiences. You no doubt would agree that it is through your senses that you experience things, including those “reports of others’ experiences”. You are therefore making use of the very thing under suspicion in order to allay that suspicion. Now, if it were the case that the general reliability of our senses is “fundamentally true”, then obviously we would all have to assume their reliability in order to test their reliability. That is the nature of arguing for one’s ultimate philosophical commitments; one must employ them while arguing for them. If one was able to argue without employing them, then they aren’t ultimate (or “fundamental”) at all. So despite the circular nature of this appeal to your senses, it is reasonable if and only if it is true.
So what is the reason you appeal to your senses? In short, your reply boils down to pragmatism. You give a number of different examples, and then summarize as follows:
“The point here is obvious; If we are to survive, we must trust and pay attention to our senses and what they have to say.”
Why do you trust that your senses are reliable? Survival. Now at face value, that certainly seems like an admirable goal to pursue. I think it is fair to say that most of us pursue that goal every day, and I also think it is safe to say that trusting our senses helps us achieve that goal. But what if your goal is something else? What if your goal is to become a popular author, and a belief in Extraterrestrials allows you to accomplish that? Or what if your goal is to eliminate anyone different than you, and a belief that they aren’t human beings allows you to accomplish that goal? Does that mean that any of the aforementioned beliefs are true? Not necessarily. There is no logical correlation between a belief providing you the means to accomplish a goal, and that belief being true. Add to this the fact that there are often multiple beliefs that allow us to achieve the same goal, and those beliefs can actually contradict one another, it should be obvious that pragmatism isn’t a valid arbiter of truth.
See, when I asked you for a reason as to why you trusted your senses, I wasn’t asking for a reason in the sense of a motivation; I was asking for a logical justification. If mere motivation were all that was required as a reason, then I wouldn’t expect to hear any complaints against those who believe in God and the Bible (or prayer, which was the original topic), as belief in these things no doubt gives people the wherewithal to accomplish a variety of goals (whether we agree with them or not).
Pragmatism is not logical justification, and so no reason has been given as to why we should all adopt your ruler (a trust in empiricism via our senses in combination with analytical constructs such as mathematics and logic) as a foundational test for reality and truth. Instead what we are left with is … you guessed it … opinion. Merely a belief that has yet to be justified.
On the next step:
The problem with simply sharing opinions is that one never moves from belief to knowledge; one never moves from claiming something is so to being able to demonstrate that what one says is actually true. So I will ask again only worded a bit differently this time around – what is it about your foundational presuppositions that gives you the warrant to speak with such force about your beliefs when, if your foundational presuppositions are truly representative of all that is available, your beliefs are nothing more than mere opinion?
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly [deserves], That he not be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26.4-5 NASB)
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him.
Every unbelieving objection to faith stems from a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the teachings of Christianity. To illustrate this point, think of driving on the left hand side of the road. Most of you all would think that it is absurd to drive on the left hand side of the road, but that is only because you do not live somewhere like England, where driving on the left hand side of the road is the norm. When things are pulled out of their context they cease to make sense. The same is true for claims meant to be understood in terms of the Christian worldview which supports them. Objections are often a result of attempting to make the Bible say something that it is not saying to begin with.
Answer a fool as his folly [deserves], That he not be wise in his own eyes.
Also, unbelieving objections to Christianity are possible only when elements necessary to make them are borrowed from Christianity. When non-Christians make arguments against Christianity they appeal to things that can only make sense if Christianity is true. If someone argues against Christianity while assuming that it is true then that person is refuting his or herself. We will turn now to some specific objections to see these two principles in play.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him.
Unbelievers often object to miracles in a mocking tone. They will say that miracles are not possible, so things like the virgin birth and the resurrection could never have happened. Let’s place miracle claims in their context. God created the entire universe and sustains it every moment of every day. He is the ultimate cause behind every secondary cause we see in the universe. Cannot a God like this work to have a woman give birth to a child without sexual intercourse? Can He not raise someone from the dead? Given that the God of Christian Scripture exists there is no reason to think that these things never could or never did happen and every reason to think that they have.
Answer a fool as his folly [deserves], That he not be wise in his own eyes.
I said that unbelievers have to assume Christianity true to even make these sorts of objections though. How is the unbeliever doing that in this case? Usually, when pressed to provide an explanation for why miracles cannot happen, the unbeliever responds by saying that miracles violate the laws of nature. The very simple response to this is that without God there are no laws of nature. God orders the universe the way that it is so that typically women do not have babies without having sexual intercourse and men are not raised from the dead. We observe things like this over and over and over again and formulate general principles to describe them. If there is no God back of everything to bring it about that things continue to happen in an orderly fashion then there is no reason to think that any future experience of like events will ever result in the same effects.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him.
Often science is set over against religion as though the two are completely at odds with one another. This fails to take into account that God has created us with senses and reasoning abilities so that we might come to know God, the world, and ourselves; the three being tied up in one another. Scripture gives place to science. We do not merely jump about from conclusion to conclusion without observation and inferences and experimentation. Scripture does not have every answer to every scientific question and it does not ever state that it does. Insofar as Scripture does take a position on a scientific view however, the view expressed in Scripture is the true one. We must not misrepresent Scripture as being somehow opposed to science when it is not.
Answer a fool as his folly [deserves], That he not be wise in his own eyes.
Again, science is only possible because Christianity is true. There is no reason to think that our inward thoughts correspond to the outward world unless God made them do so and then told us that He did (which, He did). Science cannot support itself; the scientific method cannot be tested using the scientific method. Science is not the only way of knowing, it is based upon a supporting structure that includes principles like regularities in nature. The only way we can know that there are regularities in nature and that things will tend to be the same in future experience as they have been in past experience is if Christianity is true and God is governing this world. Otherwise, everything is random and subject to unpredictable and radical change which would completely undermine the scientific endeavor.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him.
If we define evolution as an inherently naturalistic process then it cannot be reconciled with the Christian faith. If we speak of evolution as being merely change over time involving observable mutations, gene drift and natural selection then we can of course accept it with no problems as we understand that this is God’s world and He is behind everything which occurs in it. The occurrences we have in view here are those which are a second layer of explanation in the realm of biology. If we ask how a car was started we can give many different types of answers which are all correct. For example, an electric system fired a spark which lit gas mixed with air to get the engine running. We might also say that Susie turned the key. We might say that God brought it about that the car should start. All of these are non-contradictory explanations on different levels and of different types of how the car was started. The same is the case in explanations of all of the different life we see all around us. (Please do not misunderstand me here; I am in no way arguing for “theistic evolution” as traditionally understood. The careful reader will note that I am making most of the point turn on how we even define “evolution”, which I think is correct. I do not mean to argue with respect to specific biological categories and do not pretend to be knowledgeable enough in that area to be able to do so.)
Answer a fool as his folly [deserves], That he not be wise in his own eyes.
Biological evolutionary theory starts with the existence of the universe and life to begin with but has no really satisfactory answer as to where any of it came from. The same is not true in the Christian worldview. God created the world and created all of the flora and fauna we see around us. God created humans in His image or likeness with higher faculties than all of the rest of creation that we might come to know Him. Our senses are designed to give us true information when they are functioning properly in a cognitive environment for which they are designed. If naturalistic evolution is true then we have no reason to think that it is true as our faculties may not be such that their activities result in the acquisition of true beliefs.
It has been awhile since I have had a chance to post, and so I thought I would take this opportunity to share a portion of a conversation I have been having on a discussion board. Although the discussion has gone on for awhile, and (I hope) will continue to progress, I thought I would post just a portion of my exchange, including my opponent’s “testimonial”.
To give some context to what you are about to read, the testimonial my opponent shares is in response to a challenge by me stated as follows:
Forgive me for rewording your assertions. I believe I have been true to the spirit of what you are saying, but please correct me if I have altered the essence of what you are saying:
1. Empirical events that trigger highly correlated brain states among most individuals are more than mere opinion.
2. Analytical constructs such as mathematics and logic that are defined by non-contradicting laws and exist primarily in the mind are more than mere opinion.
Tell me what now separates these assertions from your prior assertion that essentially nobody can be sure of anything. How is it you are sure that *these* assertions are “true”?
The assertions I mention above were derived from the ongoing conversation. What follows is my opponent’s response:
Well, its like this. When you cross a street and you see a speeding pickup truck heading forcefully in your direction, you step out of the way. Why? Because you trusted your senses and memories of past similar experiences. When you are faced with investing capital in some subset of stocks, you make a choice that reflects an expectation of success. Why? Because you expect your investment to behave in certain ways due to your understanding of the stock market and the underlying principles of economics. You make it a point to report to work exactly on time. Why? Because you’ve seen first hand or otherwise discovered about what can happen to one’s job when they disregard company rules. The point here is obvious; If we are to survive, we must trust and pay attention to our senses and what they have to say. It fuels, or should fuel any world-view because if it does not, the individual will soon find himself on the short end of the survival stick. To deny this simple fact is to sail on the river of denile. No one would take seriously any world view where this is not fundamentally true. It is based on repeated experiences of similar theme. We begin to learn these themes as we age, and the better we get at it, the stronger our chances to stay alive and thrive. It is all based on empirical events available to our senses.
My senses and my experience of others’ reports of their sensual experiences merge into my psychologically subjective experience that I use to understand and attempt to predict my world. And we all, whether we will admit it or not, arrange our perceptions in like manner (otherwise we would not last long). My ‘faith’ is built up from many related experiences that in certain ways are correlated, and reports from others that are not wildly divergent from my overall weltanschuang. I cannot therefore understand nor condone any apparent spurious decision to suddenly dismiss this function. I have no need to invent a construct that has no apparent manifestation or meaning in my own experience. I have never had anyone else demonstrate solid evidence to the contrary. If I had other experiences that DID in some way resemble some proposed abstract construct (like God), that could be a different story. But I haven’t. I build my world view on an on-going conversation with myself, the topic of which is always rooted in either what I’m encountering now, what I’ve encountered in the past, and possibly what I expect in the future. Its true I have faith in the continuity of my perceptions and concomitant world view, but so far my leap is kept at a minimum.
Your leap however is considerably wider than mine. I am not forced to accept things like virgin birth, miracle performance, raising the dead and resurrection from the dead when I have no experience of them, or any memory thread of something remotely related. There is no empirical experience with which to justify such claims outside their initial and singular claim. You are forced to justify a world view which accepts such outrageous claims by the only avenue available, that of large-leap faith. The problem however is that to justify a philosophy, based on large-leap faith, which denies the validity of any other – on faith alone – is a self-refuting system, given that another competing philosophy ALSO justifies their beliefs on some length of leap faith. To deny the validity of another religion, which justifies ITSELF by means of faith, is to refute its own basic foundation, which also happens to be faith. If you go before a judge for careless driving and you get off because your medication made you drowsy, you’d be a fool to turn around and tell the judge to throw me in jail for careless driving when I had been impaired from medication as well.
It is the sum total of our individual perceptions, based on a history of empirical experience and our brains evolved capacity to arrange these perceptions into related categories, and to cross-reference those perceptions to ‘go beyond’ the immediate. One is not required to understand oneself as something inherently evil or ‘sinful’ where the gory death of a deity is the only way to appease that same deity’s intolerance of our inherent badness. These concepts, while in no way exclusive to any given philosophical system or religion, require one to relinquish one’s fundamental orientation towards reason, based on learning and maturation of the brain in concert with empirical experience. That is where your world view fails. It fails because it requires your surrender of all of the things that you otherwise rely on to effectually manage your engagement with reality.
That is why I am not a Christian.
I will share my response in a future post. For now, read through what is said above, and see if you can find the problems inherent in this worldview.
Consider the argument that “everything which begins to exist has a cause for its coming into existence, and the universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause for its coming into existence”. Someone would have to know everything in order to even begin to show that “everything which begins to exist has a cause for its coming into existence”. Further, the argument just assumes that the universe has a cause because everything else does. Perhaps everything which begins to exist does not have a cause because the universe does not. Aside from these difficulties is the difficulty of proving that the universe indeed did begin to exist and has not existed eternally as many believe that it has.
Even if the argument works, what has it really shown? The universe has a cause…? So what? How do we know that this cause did not happen and then go out of existence? How do we know that it still exists? Why only one cause and not many others? What else can we really know about this cause? If someone honestly wants to show that the Christian God exists, this is not the argument to use, because it fails miserably. Even if the argument succeeds then it has proven the existence of any number of gods unlike that of Christianity. So those gods exist?
When we look around us we see design and should infer that there is a designer. One designer? Why not trillions? When I look at something which has been designed by humans I only know that it has been designed by them from experiencing the world around me, however I have never experienced God creating or designing the world. There are also many parties involved in the creation of most everything we see. So again, why only one designer? Aside from this, who is to say that it is the Christian God who has designed? How do we know that this designer is still in existence? The supposed design around us can be seen to stem from ancestry, so why can this not go back forever? It is not as though we make an inference to a direct designer being involved in a human being or a plant being born; it all came about through natural causes. Why should the whole world be thought of as being any different in this respect?
The historical facts surrounding Jesus do not prove at all that God exists, even if it is shown that a resurrection occurred. Personal religious experience does not prove the existence of God, since it would therefore prove the existence of many other gods all inconsistent with one another since people of all different religious faiths claim experiences as well (just as the arguments mentioned above also do).
I do not think that any of this is very difficult to understand. These arguments are poor and yet Christians use them over and over again.
Many also insist that they will prove God’s existence without using the Bible, whatever that means. I have heard the argument before that all of God’s words are without error and the Bible is God’s words so the Bible is without error. The argument is valid but how can someone show that any of it is true?
How do you know that God’s words are without error and how do you know that the Bible is God’s words? I’ve heard all of the stuff about 66 books 1500 years over 40 authors manuscripts prophecies etc. but none of it actually shows in any way that the Bible is God’s words or that God’s words are without error.
The Christian God is also said to be all powerful and all good, yet evil exists. Why? The answer cannot be free will, because it would follow that either 1)there will be evil in heaven or 2) there will not be free will in heaven. Both of these are inconsistent with the explanation that the reason evil exists is because humans must possess free will (or else they are “robots”).
Why do you believe?
I can assure you it is not because of any of the traditional theistic proofs.
Something which is difficult to grasp in apologetic encounters is the massive role of presuppositions. Even those who would label themselves “presuppositional” struggle with this because it is so all-encompassing; presuppositions affect everything. Disagreements between Christians and non-Christians are always traceable to the presuppositions which each party would have as their own even if they do not claim such presuppositions as their own. Even a discussion of the presuppositional method of apologetics, especially with an unbeliever, will ultimately come back to the presuppositions of each party involved. The current discussion with Bahnsen Burner illustrates this nicely.
The Christian worldview is predicated upon a total commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of life including philosophy. There is a philosophy which is according to Christ and there is a philosophy which is not according to Christ. (Colossians 2.8) These two philosophies, or worldviews, are presented as the only two throughout Scripture, and there is no middle ground between them. There is p and there is ~p and there is no in between. Christians are to view everything in terms of its relation to Christ Jesus, and anything which is not in accord with Christ is considered anti-Christ. This is logically required by the teaching of Scripture. Christ is fundamental to Christianity.
Objectivism, on the other hand, takes its view of everything in terms of existence. As Bahnsen Burner writes, “At the fundamental level of philosophy is the issue of metaphysical primacy”. There is a philosophy which adheres to the primacy of existence, and there is a pseudo-philosophy which adheres to the primacy of consciousness. As mentioned before, Bahnsen Burner is essentially offering two circles of his own, a presuppositional model allegedly based upon his worldview. Bahnsen Burner takes issue with my bringing this up and writes, “I didn’t just blow in and say your illustration is wrong because it disagrees with Objectivism.” Of course, I never meant to imply that Bahnsen Burner hand waives my illustration because it disagrees with Objectivism anymore than I would imply that Christian presuppositional apologists engage in hand waiving by virtue of their method but rather mean to highlight the presuppositional nature of this encounter. He continues, “I pointed out that the division on which your illustration is based is not fundamental”.
Now then, upon which presupposition is Bahnsen Burner asserting this statement? It is not upon the Christian’s presuppositions as we can see from the brief description in the paragraph prior to this one. It is not upon neutral presuppositions providing obligatory norms for all worldviews either as this would itself be a worldview set forth in opposition to the Christian worldview leaving us in the same position we are in now. Rather, this statement is made from within the context of Objectivism. This has been shown in the discussion of what Christianity and Objectivism define as fundamental. The disagreement here is presuppositional in nature. Again, “It is based on a non-essential difference, and the various worldviews which you group together in contrast against Christianity are united according to a non-essential”. Non-essential according to whom? According to which worldview? Christ is considered essential to the Christian worldview within the Christian worldview, and any position which excludes Christ because He is “non-essential” is properly placed with other positions that do the same (again, within the Christian worldview). Now again, will non-Christians agree with this? Perhaps not, but in terms of the Christian worldview, taking it as a whole and being fair to what its teachings are, it is impossible to get around. The Non-Christian worldview is characterized by a rejection of Christ even though this may not be claimed by or emphasized by members of that worldview. Characterization involves more than emphases, it is not contingent upon them. For example, Christianity is characterized by a commitment to an independence to Allah, though this is certainly not often emphasized. It is easy to imagine a situation in which such a commitment to independence from Allah may be emphasized though, for example if a Muslim is dealing with a Christian. To insist that a position which is non-Christian (such as Objectivism) is not characterized by being non-Christian or committed to an independence from Christ or however else you may want to put it is absurd; one need equivocate upon the meaning of “characterized” in order to reach this conclusion even given the non-Christian worldview. The Christian may define characterization in the stronger sense of the word as Van Til does in the quote provided, but why this supposedly presents a problem for the Christian worldview is not clear.
Now then, according to the Christian worldview, does Objectivism fit into the Non-Christian circle? Bahnsen Burner’s own words and attitude give us a good look at the answer to this question, so I will let them speak for themselves. My prayer (oh how I bet an Objectivist winces at that) is that the readers will be able to see what I am trying to get across, which is the reality of two worldviews on display here in complete opposition to one another. Remember that Christians are to view everything in terms of relation to Christ Jesus and anything which is not in accord with Christ is considered anti-Christ. That having been repeated, is Objectivism committed to Christ or opposed to Christ? Let us take a quiz.
“The thing that is most characteristic of the philosophy of the unbeliever is its presumption of moral and intellectual autonomy from God.” (Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, p. 109.)
According to Christianity and its affirmation of the Lordship of Christ in every facet of life, are the following statements written in opposition to Christ? Answer “Yes” or “No”.
“Notions of imaginary, non-existent beings are simply irrelevant and have no place in identifying fundamental principles of a rational worldview.”
“A worldview premised on the primacy of consciousness (such as Christianity) can only obfuscate truth and seek to replace it with a fantasy.”
“Your ‘Christ’ is neither here nor there.”
“An Objectivist’s position on Christ is simply not *fundamental*”
“Objectivism is not characterized…by ‘Ultimate commitment… to Christ of Scripture’”
“Objectivism does hold independence as a cardinal virtue”
“A so-called ‘commitment’ (whether ‘ultimate’ or ‘fundamental’ or ‘primary’) for or against your god is simply not a concern whatsoever to Objectivism.”
“the one worldview which is positioned wholly and consistently on the primacy of existence (namely Objectivism).”
“some atheists (like Objectivists) affirm the primacy of existence”
Very well, the encounter here is presuppositional in nature. It appears Bahnsen Burner and I cannot agree on even the most basic (there is a joke in there somewhere) things. Where do we go from here?
The answer to this question is the subject of the next blog post in this series…
Scripture has much to say about the fool, especially in its Hebrew poetic and wisdom literature. Proverbs paints the picture of a fool as one who shuns wisdom and will not listen to instruction. The fool rejects any kind of discipline and even gloats about his folly. The fool despises God, who is the source of wisdom and knowledge, and shows Him no reverence. There is no fear of the Lord God before the eyes of the fool.
Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (NASB)
Proverbs 14:15 The naive believes everything, But the sensible man considers his steps. (NASB)
Proverbs 17:7 Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, Much less are lying lips to a prince. (NASB)
Proverbs 1:22 “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge? (NASB)
Proverbs 28:4 Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, But those who keep the law strive with them. (NASB)
Proverbs 18:2 A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind. (NASB)
Psalm 14:1 For the choir director. [A Psalm] of David. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good. (NASB)
Psalm 53:1 For the choir director; according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,” They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good. (NASB)
The passages above are only a small portion of all of the things Scripture states about the fool but they are sufficient to reveal much of the character of the fool. The term “fool” in Scripture describes a particular type of person, it is not just an instance of empty name calling. The fool turns away from the fear of the Lord and finds him or herself enveloped by futility in thought, word, and deed.
In the last two passages we are told that the fool says in his heart, “There is no God”. Recognize that when this was penned, there was no idea of a “general theism” or other such nonsense. When the Bible speaks of God, it means the God of the Bible, not some general theistic god found at the end of a philosophical proof. This means that while the atheist is certainly a fool by biblical standards, so are all others who constantly hold the truth of God down and seek after themselves, becoming corrupt and practicing injustice according to their lack of a tenable worldview.
Recently I posted an illustration which I use when presenting presuppostional apologetics in an introductory fashion, asking for corrections where due and suggestions on how the illustration might be made better. The first response I received serves to confirm that which is communicated through the illustration as the response is from a non-Christian. The objections raised about the illustration are based upon a particular manifestation of the non-Christian worldview known as Objectivism. In essence, Bahnsen Burner, the nick of the individual responding to the original post, appears to “agree” with me that there are two worldviews but delivers this message from within the context of his own Objectivist worldview. Thus the illustration is faulted for being in disagreement with Objectivist categories.
Bahnsen Burner argues (http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2005/07/only-two-worldviews.html) that assuming “the whole spectrum of philosophies can be divided into two fundamentally opposed categories, that which is Christian in nature…and that which is not Christian in nature…implies a global uniformity within Christianity that simply does not exist”. It should be forthrightly acknowledged that there is not a “global uniformity” within Christianity, but it should at the same time be pointed out that global uniformity within a worldview is not necessary for the presuppositionalist’s purposes. Just because a particular person or group might identify him/her/itself as Christian does not mean that the identification is correct, nor does it mean that the presuppositionalist must extend the Christian worldview to accommodate sub-biblical views. It is no secret that presuppositional apologists such as Van Til and Bahnsen were very forward with their adherence to the specifically Reformed camp of Christianity as it is the truest expression of what Scripture teaches. Recognizing this significantly narrows the term “Christian worldview” in the context of presuppositional apologetics. On a pragmatic level those things which Christians would take to be fundamental aspects of their worldview and are agreed upon by virtually every individual referring to him or herself as a “Christian” are often all that are appealed to in a presuppositional encounter with an unbeliever anyway. Bahnsen Burner’s pointing out that that there are minor disagreements within the Christian worldview is hardly an argument against Christianity, especially when this disagreement may be accounted for within the context of the Christian worldview. Disagreement, even amongst believers, stems from sin. When Bahnsen Burner asks, “Are the thought patterns of the ‘original knower’ so tangled that its mouthpieces should be caught up in endless internal bickering when ‘thinking’ the original knower’s thoughts ‘after Him’?” he disregards the clear answer Scripture provides. Not even all believers think God’s thoughts after Him all the time. Has this point really been lost on Bahnsen Burner? The Bible is clear concerning the perfect nature of the thoughts and words of God. It is the sinful creature who does err and redemption found in Christ alone is the way out. An interesting question is what causes disagreement amongst those in the Objectivist camp and what is offered as a solution according to the same camp, but this will not be dealt with further here.
Bahnsen Burner writes,
“The descriptor ‘non-Christian’ could feasibly apply to a wide diversity of worldviews such as Hinduism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Taoism, Existentialism, Dialectical Materialism, Zoroastrianism, eastern occultism, animism, monotheism, deism, pantheism, rationalism, skepticism, etc., and yet the only thing that would hypothetically link these utterly different conceptions of the world together would be that they are not identical with the flavor du jour of Christianity preferred by the defending apologist, which is certainly not a fundamental.”
Only part of this statement is correct. The term “non-Christian” does apply to all of these. This is the only part of the statement that is correct. All of these views of the world are in fact the same in terms of their rejection of the Christian worldview, which is sufficient to warrant the non-Christian label (duh), and this is most important for the present discussion. As a side note, the non-Christian nature of these various manifestations of the non-Christian worldview is most certainly not “the only thing that would hypothetically link these utterly different conceptions of the world together”, mostly because it often turns out that they are not so “utterly different”. There are only so many ultimate questions available to any worldview with a finite number of “possible” answers. It may be inferred that many answers to ultimate questions provided by different conceptions of the world will overlap with one another and when studying them such is found to actually be the case. For example, major differences between Eastern and Western thought are often highlighted in textbooks, but this would not be if it were not for the similarity of certain schools of thought within each of these geographical locations.
The illustration of the two worldviews, Christian and Non, is critiqued based on Objectivist presuppositions, obviously entailing that the two parties involved in the discussion are not going to agree! “Metaphysical primacy” is assumed to be at the “fundamental level of philosophy” and, so far as one can tell, to be the main emphasis of an epistemological discussion. It is said that Christians mistakenly assume the primacy of consciousness which is defined as “the view that consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over objects distinct from itself in one capacity or another (or, in the case of the Christian god, in all capacities)”. Bahnsen Burner would thus offer a presuppostional model of his own based upon Objectivism. It is this presuppositional model which he uses in critiquing the aforementioned illustration which gave rise to this discussion.
More to come…