The Myth of Neutrality

Is it important to be taught in a distinctively Christian way? Does it make a difference to know Christ first before knowing the “facts”? Our first study in the Always Ready Study Group (ARSG) was focused for the most part on the idea of “neutrality.” This is easy for Christians to accept when it comes to “spiritual” issues: as a sinner either you trust in the work of Christ, or you accept the full wrath of God as punishment for your sins, but when it comes to mathematics, history, and science that’s different…right?

Truth: Correspondence or Coherence?
In Van Til’s book A Survey of Christian Epistemology, he talks about the theory of truth. On the one hand, you have those who claim that we can know a fact is true when we can verify that it matches reality “out there.” This is the Correspondence Theory of Truth.

On the other hand, you have those who claim that we know a fact is true when we understand and can explain that fact in relation to all other facts. Van Til uses the example of a “cow.” What is a cow? It is an animal. And what is an animal? It is a living thing, and so forth. We can follow this train of reasoning to see that we don’t understand a cow, an animal, life, and inanimate objects, unless we understand them all together and in relation to each other. This is the Coherence Theory of Truth.

Those are the non-Christian understandings of Correspondence and Coherence anyway. As Christians we can say that we hold to a theory of truth that has elements of both of these theories, and is closest to the Coherence Theory, but the Christian understanding of “coherence” is different. We see the problem raised by the Coherence Theory of Truth to mean that we cannot understand a cow, an animal, life, or indeed anything in the Universe unless we understand everything, and this means that only God can fully understand any fact. We then conclude that a fact is true and justified if it corresponds to God’s knowledge, and if we understand it in the way that God understands it in coherence with all other facts.

So, Christian School or Not?
Let’s come back around to our original question. Do mathematics, history, science, etc. need to be taught in a distinctively Christian way? The answer is: Yes. There is a qualitative difference between a Christian and non-Christian understanding of the same fact, and it comes down to the Christian understanding of the Coherence Theory of Truth. A non-Christian understands the War of 1812 as a random conflict that occurred when the will of one nation rubbed against the will of another, and sees nothing more to it.

However, a Christian understands (and seeks to understand) the War of 1812 as an act sovereignly decreed by God as He providentially guides history for His purposes, and must do so to understand it fully and correctly. If we’re missing that piece of the story, then we misunderstand the whole thing.

Similarly, the non-Christian struggles to explain how the abstract world of mathematics makes contact with the concrete world of reality. Why is it that we can use mathematics to build bridges and skyscrapers? The Christian sees mathematics as part of the whole orderly creation designed by God, and held together by the power of His word. Again, we see a fact in relation to all other facts in the Christian framework.

So we see that even if we set aside differences in the content of knowledge (i.e. the Christian knows the fact of the trinity, but the non-Christian does not) and method (i.e. the Christian understands the Bible as truth and the standard of truth, but the non-Christian does not), there is still a qualitative difference between the way a Christian and non-Christian understand the same fact. This is what we mean when we say there is no neutrality, and this is why we must say that a distinctively Christian education is necessary.


A Study of “Always Ready” – Part 1

Yesterday afternoon (or yesterday evening, depending on whether you live in Norway or not) the four of us here at Choosing Hats conducted our first Study of the book “Always Ready” by Dr. Greg Bahnsen. For those unfamiliar with the book, this is really the seminal work in presuppositional apologetics. Although the book doesn’t go down too far into the details, it definitely gives enough to get started with.

We thought we would try out a little experiment with this study, and so decided to record our conversation. Since we all live in different parts of God’s great big world, we relied upon “Skype” to bring us together into a virtual room for this study. We will eventually make a podcast out of this, but for now, just click on the link below to hear our study.

Skype-recorded Audio of Study

By the way, please feel free to leave any comments or questions you wish after listening to the audio. We would love to hear from you!

— BK


In the Church but not of it…

Sometimes it is as if no matter where I go, I cannot cease to be in the world.

Duh.

Where else would I be? Now, certainly I could lock myself up in my house or my closet…maybe move to Phoenix, Arizona and be an ascetic (oh wait, people actually LIVE out there!), but for the most part I am going to be in the world. That is not the difficult part of the little cliche, “We are to be in the world, but not of it”.

Being in the world does not mean living ungodly, saying stupid things, mutilating your body, becoming a pragmatist, accepting the world’s standards, or any other such nonsense. It is not that difficult to be in the world, really, unless you are a complete hermit.

As Christians, we are not to be of the world. We are of Christ. All throughout Scripture we find two diametrically opposed views of the world: Christian, and Non-Christian. Read it for yourself and see. There is enmity between the woman’s seed and the serpent’s seed. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, fools despise it. You either hear Jesus or you are of the devil. The cross is wisdom and power or folly and weakness. You are saved from the wrath of God or you are condemned. There is no middle ground.

The sad thing I see happening in the best of churches and in Christian institutions is Christians rejecting the only standard we have to make sense out of anything, the Word of God. Now, I realize you are becoming bored reading this, for it is nothing new. There is nothing new under the sun, this is true. I am nevertheless shocked to hear the sorts of things which will follow coming from Christians who have been in the church for years and in some instances are leaders of large ministries and schools that are supposed to be orthodox.

Apologetics has been known to bring awful heresies into the Church in the past, and things are no different now from what I have observed. I am wearied by poor apologists, who will not simply give the Word of God its place.

For example, I listened to one discussion between the head of a Christian school and an atheist organization. The minister started the discussion with the idea that it is possible God does not exist and that it is possible that the Bible is not God’s Word.

Just think about that for a moment. Guess what? It gets much worse.

He called this “common ground”. Now, if you share “ground” in “common” with someone, then I would presume you are both on it, that there is something there which both parties believe. Is that not what the analogy is intended to convey? So what was the “common ground”? It was that the Bible is not inerrant. How can it be common to both parties if this man believes differently? This makes no sense!

Now I brought this to the attention of a student of this man. The replies I received almost knocked me out of my chair.

“But, you also cannot assume that a non-believer is going to use a believer’s text to believe.”

“You cannot use Christian ideas to persuade an Atheist to become or at least even see logic in being Christian. You have to use Atheistic ideas to show them how there is a possibility that there can be a God.”

“The problem comes when trying to get others to believe your beliefs.”

“You cannot get someone to see your viewpoint on an issue using your viewpoint on the issue.”

“[W]hen approaching a person that does not even believe that God exists, it would be ludicrous to present Scripture to them because it would be only words and no meaning.”

“Not everyone consciously realizes that God exists.”

“I just do not see how it is effective when the person does not believe that it is inerrant. It is hard for a person who does not consciously believe in God to believe that the Bible is His inspired Word.”

Are there alarms going off in your head? There should be. I read this sort of stuff and pray, “Oh God, what have we done? Who are we? Forgive us!”

We have left the Word of God and inserted our own. If the very Word of God cannot convince or persuade someone to become a Christian, then what can the poor words of other human beings do? What foolish thinking! I am not proposing that we become like the Mormons, telling people to only believe for the sake of believing, or that we should not have an apologetic. What I am proposing is that our “apologetic” has become an obstacle to the very things we seek to defend!

Read the Word of God Christians, and believe it!

It is not ineffective:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4.12)

It is not ridiculous to present it to the unbeliever. Even when Paul was on Mars Hill speaking to the atheistic philosophers he used Scripture:

The God that made the world and all thing therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth…giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. (Acts 17:24, 25)

He was paraphrasing the following passage from the Old Testament:

Thus saith God Jehovah, he that created the heavens and stretched them forth; he that spread abroad the earth and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it…(Isaiah 42:5).

There are no true atheists, people who do not believe in God:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is *plain to them*, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been *clearly perceived*, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are *without excuse*. 21For although *they knew God*, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1.18-23)

Plain to them

Clearly perceived

So much that they are

Without excuse

They knew God

Scripture is clear. Our common ground is not the teaching of the world! We are not to be of the world, though in it we must be. Our common ground is that this world, not the system run by Satan, but the physical creation, is God’s, and so are we. We are created in His image, all of us. This is our “common ground” with the unbeliever. There is no other. We have His powerful Word, which is true and loud and clear. Use it.

May we not make the mistake of letting those who are not of Christ pollute our thinking with theirs, whether it be in our thinking about the Word of God or anything else.


Zoroastrianism, Part 1

At base, there are only two worldviews, Christianity and non-Christianity. There are numerous instances of texts of Scripture which give rise to this understanding of worldviews. Of course, within the realm of non-Christian thought there are many manifestations of the non-Christian worldview. For example, Islam and agnosticism are two different manifestations of the rejection of the Christian worldview. These manifestations are what people typically refer to when speaking of worldviews. This may serve to raise some interesting discussions about the terms we use when describing the aforementioned entities, but for now we will set this issue aside.

A frequent objection to the presuppositional method of apologetics is that it does not take into account the necessity of answering questions concerning other religions as opposed to atheism. There is a small bit of truth in this only because presuppositionalist apologists have traditionally focused the vast majority of their energies upon going after the “atheist worldview”. However, stating this is a long way from conceding that somehow presuppositionalism is inadequate to deal with “religious” manifestations of the non-Christian worldview. Such a concession is unnecessary not only due to its falsehood, but also because no other method is sufficient to take on the challenge of non-Christian religious worldviews. What other worldview would we stand upon? What do classical and evidentialist apologists, who speak of probability and hypotheses and “establishing some of the alleged attributes of a general concept of god” have to offer in terms of responding to religions that share the very doctrines they are supposedly able to establish through reason?

The point in bringing all of this up is to establish that we need not fear answering non-Christians of any type while standing upon our Christian worldview. We do not flee from religious sects, nor do we suddenly turn about and cease to utilize our sound methodology. Rather, we follow the same procedure of showing that our God of the Christian Scriptures alone provides the preconditions for any intelligibility whatsoever and that all manifestations of the suppression of the truth of God fail to render anything intelligible upon their own presuppositions.

Recently I was asked how I might approach the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. Since there are only just over 100,000 Zoroastrians in the world, I presume that the question was asked primarily as a means to uncover a specific example of how to deal with false religions via presuppositionalist methodology. There are only a handful of geographical locations in the world where one might come across someone who adheres to Zoroastrianism. Such questions should nevertheless be asked in order to see our apologetic in action in more specific contexts than what is offered in most current literature on the subject. Thus, the question and answer have practical merit. Aside from this it is worth noting that Zoroastrianism has long been taught about as being strangely and strongly parallel to Judaism and Christianity and as predating the latter two religions. These assertions are sufficient to raise questions and doubts in the minds of some believers. Indeed, raising doubts would seem to be the intention of many texts and teachers of this subject as it is with so many other secular philosophies imposed upon students through allegedly innocent, neutral academics.

So how does one deal with the challenges presented by Zoroastrianism? The general answer is that we approach it in the same way we approach any other version of non-Christianity. We shall set Christianity as a whole over against Zoroastrianism and see which is intelligible on its own terms. This procedure will involve a study of the concepts of revelation, God, humanity, sin, redemption, etc. The specific answer to the original question is the content of the next few installations pertaining to this subject. I hope to see you there.


What’s in the queue?

At the suggestion of Paul (Paul seems to have a lot of suggestions), the contributors to this blog will be starting a weekly discussion of presuppositional apologetics, centered around the book “Always Ready” by the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen.

The reason I mention this here is because we are planning on recording the audio from these discussions in order to post on the site. It is our hope that the questions raised and problems tackled in our discussions might be of use to others who frequent this site.

On another note, Paul also had the idea (see what I mean?) that we should organize a conference for Presuppositional Apologetics. I completely agree. Having never organized a conference before (let alone my office), I can see this as a real opportunity for “lessons learned”. We will rely totally on God’s grace as we pursue this venture. We also would ask for your prayers as we figure out the best way to approach this opportunity.

— BK


A Study In The Nature Of God’s Word (Authority) – Part 2

The nature of faith and knowledge

Some of you might complain about my goal to demonstrate the Bible as inerrant. You might say “Brian, doesn’t the Bible speak about faith? Isn’t that how we are supposed to approach Jesus Christ – on faith? Isn’t all of this discussion about ‘proving this’ and ‘demonstrating that’ simply unnecessary, based on what the Bible says about faith?” After all, we don’t know the Bible is inerrant, we just have faith that it is, right?

Well there is no doubt that scripture speaks about faith and belief. However, are we supposed to have faith yet never give any reason for that faith? Definitely not! In fact, the Bible speaks of more than just faith – it speaks about knowing things. Let’s look at 1 John 5:13:

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (NIV – emphasis mine)

Let me read it again, this time from the message, which I think makes the meaning that much easier to grasp

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion.”

John is stating that the reason he is writing is so that we who believe in Jesus as our savior can know that we have eternal life. He is telling us that the words he is writing are intended to give us certainty about our future. Now catch this all important fact – John is in essence telling us that the revelation of God, the very book he is contributing to as he writes, is sufficient to turn our faith into knowledge!

Now let me say this clearly so that we don’t miss it – if the Bible is inerrant, then what John is telling us here is that the very words of God revealed in scripture are able to move us from belief to knowledge. His revelation is just that powerful!

So how is this possible? Well, we need to take a moment and talk about the difference between belief and knowledge.

Can all beliefs be considered knowledge? No, I think we know that without thinking too hard, right? I might believe that it is dark outside, but I could be wrong. I have been known to be wrong, after all!

Knowledge is belief on steroids, if you will. Knowledge is something much more powerful than just belief. Knowledge is actually true belief with a reason to back it up! Let me illustrate.

Consider the following two statements:

1) I believe that the Bible is inerrant

2) I know that the Bible is inerrant

I am sure you already recognize the difference in the “force” of these two statements. But let me make it a bit clearer for you, just to be sure.

Consider these two statements:

1) I believe that the Bible is inerrant

2) I know that the Bible is full of mistakes

Now, I think most of us realize that the second statement is much stronger in what it says than the first, especially when we see it worded in such a way as to contradict the first. The conclusion found in the first statement could theoretically be wrong, after all. To say you believe something is not to say it is necessarily true – it is only to say what you believe. However, to claim to know something is to claim that what you are stating is actually true. The first statement makes no claims about truth, but the second one does

We use the word “know” all the time in our every day conversation. In fact, we use the word very loosely most of the time. We say we “know” something when we really only “believe” it, although we might believe it very, very strongly.

Not too long ago the news reported that JonBenet Ramsey’s killer had been caught. Do you remember? A man named Mark Karr confessed to her killing. I remember people saying to those who doubted the news reports “I know he killed her!” When questioned as to how they knew, they replied “because he admitted to it!” Ask yourself this question – did they really know, or did they simply believe he did it? What they should have said was “I believe Mark Karr killed her”, or maybe “chances are pretty good he killed her”. After all, a confession is not a good enough reason to convict someone of murder.

And that’s the key word here, after all –”reason.” What separates belief from knowledge is the existence of one or more good reasons. If you told a group of people that you know there is a flying saucer hovering overhead right now, you can bet they are going to want a really good reason before they accept what you are saying, right? After all, the simple assertion that there is a UFO overhead isn’t a good enough reason to accept it as true. Is it?

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that the Bible has something to say about giving reasons for our beliefs. We have already seen that John has told us that we can know where we will spend eternity, if we believe in Jesus Christ. And we have just seen that knowledge requires a good reason, or else it is just a belief. Consider now what 1 Peter 3:15 says.

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (NIV)

Wow, look at that! As Christians we are commanded to be prepared with an answer. What kind of answer are we to have? We are to have an answer for the reason for the hope that we have. The Greek word for “answer” there is apologia, which is where the word “apologetics” comes from. It means a “reasoned statement or argument”.

So there it is – we are to be prepared with a reason for why we believe what we believe. Why? Because giving a reason is how we demonstrate, to others and to ourselves, that we know that the Bible is true. Providing a reason is how we move from faith alone directly to knowledge about God’s word.

Where knowledge comes from

Does the Bible give us any reasons to claim it is inerrant? What possible reasons could there be in the Bible that would give us the warrant to claim that we know the Bible is free from error?

Before answering that question, we must first consider the Biblical perspective on the source of knowledge. Unless we understand the Bible’s claims about what is necessary to know anything, we can never hope to formulate any sort of argument for claiming that we know the Bible is inerrant.

First, let’s consider Proverbs 1:7a.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (NASB)

Now if the Bible is inerrant (and we are assuming that presently for the sake of argument), then fearing God is the first step to knowledge. That is, we cannot know anything at all without fearing God.

What do we mean by fear? Well, the Hebrew word for fear in this verse is yir’ah {yir-aw’}, the most applicable definition of which means to respect and revere God. That means we must hold God up and bow our knee to him; we must respect him for who he is if we hope to know anything. In short, God must be the foundation we rest upon in giving reasons for what we claim to know. Intellectually, he must be our ultimate authority.

Next, let’s look at Colossians 2:1-3

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at La

od

icea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,
2that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (NASB – emphasis mine)

Now that’s a pretty long passage, but catch what it says at the end. Jesus Christ himself is the very center of all wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge finds itself in Jesus Christ. Now that’s kind of a strange idea, so let’s skip ahead to verse 8 of the same chapter as this will help us understand a little better what is being said.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (NASB)

Here we see that we are not to live our lives according to the philosophy of the world. Rather, we are to live our lives based upon a philosophy that is according to Christ.

It will be helpful for you to go back and read all of Colossians 2 at some point, including the verses between 3 and 8. For now, however, consider verse 8 in light of verse 3. Paul is telling us here to live our lives according to Christ, as wisdom and knowledge itself are found in him. That is, these treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found when we live our lives according to Christ.

Sound familiar? Remember Proverbs 1:7 from above? The starting point of knowledge is reverence for God. To put it another way, knowledge is not available to us unless we begin with God as our intellectual foundation.

Just like we are to center ourselves on God in a pursuit of knowledge, we are to center ourselves on his son Jesus Christ. Our philosophy (that is, our way of viewing the world around us) is to be centered on God and his son Jesus Christ, understanding that our very ability to know anything at all begins with putting God in the position of our intellectual authority.

This is a very important point to capture, because it answers the question of inerrancy for us.

The question of how we know the Bible is inerrant is ultimately tied to the question of how we know anything at all. The reason we can know the Bible is inerrant is the same as the reason we can know anything at all. But before we talk about what that reason is, we need to talk about the foundations of knowledge.

And we will take this up next time!


The Asparagus And The Ape – Part 2

One of the wonderful things about presuppositionalism is that one need look no farther than the very basic teachings of the Bible in order to get one’s answers about philosophical issues which worry and weary the unbeliever. One such problem before the unbeliever is how the essential assumption of human dignity is accounted for in a non-Christian worldview. Our society is ruminated with the implications of human dignity, and yet we saw in Part 1 of the treatment of this subject that there are fatal flaws in attempting to consistently adhere to both a non-Christian view of the world and the premise of human dignity. There are few other “sacred” or religious writings which contain self-attestation to divine origin the way Christian Scripture does. We will not look right now at every other account of origins contained in other religious literature. Such a treatment is beyond our purposes here. We will merely state that among numerous other insurmountable problems (whether scientific, historic, logical, or otherwise), these accounts do not claim to carry anywhere near the weight that the Genesis account itself claims to carry as being God’s revelation to humanity. It is noteworthy that Muslims and (modern day) Jews may exempt themselves from the problem of accounting for the human dignity which we all assume only by borrowing from the Christian account of origins as recorded in the Hebrew book of Genesis and it is obvious that this is precisely what they actually do. What is not always so obvious is that those of other “religious” or “non-religious” views either do the very same thing or as a result of failing to do so, fall right back into the problems raised in the last entry on this subject.

If we think of the unattainable goal of accounting for human dignity within a non-Christian view of things as a joke, the anti-intellectual, anti-scientific theory of naturalistic evolution is its rather large butt. Not only is there an ever present danger of overextending the concept of dignity by ludicrously applying it to other entities like asparagus and apes, but there is the increasingly worrisome truth that within the evolutionary scheme of things we are naught but misshapen blobs that are not even found at the “end” of said evolutionary “scheme”. This is about more than kissing universal healthcare goodbye (that is a joke), this problem results in unacceptable and unintelligible sociological consequences.

We need look no farther than the very basic teachings of the Bible in order to get our answers concerning the justification of the human dignity which is foundational to human experience.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the
heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping
thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in
the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And
God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the
earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the
birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that
is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You
shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every
bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that
has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
Gen 1:26-30 (ESV)

Just as people communicate with one another, there was communication within the triune God prior to the creation of the first person (and of course, there was communication within the triune God before the foundation of the world). The linguistic tool of pluralistic majesty is not found in such early Hebrew writings as the Pentateuch, and in actuality did not come into widespread usage until so much later in time that it is of no consequence to our study here except to the extent we have already taken it. God is not speaking to angels, for nowhere is it said of humans that we are created in the image of any other than God. Note also that we as humans are created in the image of God, a theological concept which is wider than what our focus will allow us to detail here. Suffice it to say that not only are we like God in many ways, but we are capable of many of the same things which God does as God due to the way He has made us in contradistinction to the way God has made other creatures. We are also given dominion over the rest of creation, as God has dominion over all of creation and us. Not only this; but the account of the creation of the first man comes at the end of an account of the creation of everything else other than man (and of course, God). Unlike the arrogant, speciest jellyfish of Ishmael, we are the pinnacle of God’s creation. We are something special, in that sense, or to put it in much less postmodern language, we possess dignity. Thus according to verse 26, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost agree with one another to create the first man in the image of God and as the pinnacle of creation with dominion over every other created thing.

We are given a detailed account of not only creation, but more specifically the first man, who was not produced in mass quantities like the animals, but rather was specially created in an intimate way by the God of the universe. The first man is commanded to subdue these creatures, and he even names them. All of this comes a little later in the Genesis account of course, which I encourage you to read again. The book of Genesis is the only true account of origins, and in it you will find many of the metaphysical truths necessary to make sense of the world as we know it. To reject the self-attesting Word of Christ is to engage in self-contradiction, for Christianity alone accounts for the very concept of dignity necessary for such rejection. Blobs do not write constitutions, and Jesus did not shed His blood for apes.


The Asparagus And The Ape – Part 1

“It was nothing to brag about, just a sort of squishy blob…”

The mysterious squishy blob described above is a character in the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. The blob lives “half a billion years ago”. Ishmael, a story telling gorilla, relates the details of the blob’s environment.

Nothing at all stirred on the land, except the wind and the dust. Not a single
blade of grass waved in the wind, not a single cricket chirped, not a
single bird soared in the sky…Even the seas were eerily still and silent, for
the vertebrates too were tens of millions of years away in the future.

However, there is an anthropologist on the scene who questions the blob about its creation myth, to which the blob replies, “I want you to understand that…we are a strictly rational people, who accept nothing that is not based on observation, logic, and the scientific method”. The anthropologist is fine with this and desires the talking blob to proceed by telling him about its story of origins. The blob continues with something quite similar to the account we are told concerning evolution, though it is not specified where life began. The anthropologist thus stops the blob to ask whether life began on land or in the sea, to which the blob responds, “I can’t imagine what you’re gibbering about. The dirt and rocks over there are simply the lip of the vast bowl that holds the sea”, obviously revealing the blob’s mindset that the world consists not of land and sea, but rather of sea alone, at least in terms of importance. The anthropologist apologizes and prods the blob to continue.

“Very well,” the other said. “For many millions of centuries the life of the
world was merely microorganisms floating helplessly in a chemical broth. But
little by little, more complex forms appeared: single-celled creatures, slimes,
algae, polyps, and so on.

But finally,” the creature said, turning
quite pink with pride as he came to the climax of his story, “but finally
jellyfish appeared!”

Obviously the story told by the blob parallels the current story of an evolutionary history. As I read this I thought, “Brilliant!”. Human pride is far too ambitious when it comes to defining itself as significant in the context provided by our alleged beginnings. Indeed, there is more than pride involved here, for the assignment of any value at all to living things, much less human beings, raises some serious questions as to the justification of such value assignments. Daniel Quinn has pinpointed a serious problem with the evolutionary scheme of things; the non-Christian account of origins which currently permeates our world. Essentially this problem is that we are not what we think we are. Ultimately one must accept that there is no way to account for human dignity if one has accepted the view of the world that has become so popular as of late.

The argument Quinn might make, as well as philosophers like Peter Singer (whom I will not be specifically addressing here, but perhaps another time) and religious practitioners like the Jain; is that life itself has value and should be respected. An emphasis on human dignity to the exclusion of other living things is thus really a sort of inconsistency which needs to be addressed. Some recent news articles provide examples of such a step actually being taken.

Spanish parliament recently voted as a majority to “extend” rights to apes. Under new laws, apes will be considered alongside humans as having such rights as life and freedom. It will be illegal to have apes to use in circuses and films. This strikes many as odd, yet there really seems to be nothing to separate humans out from animals as inherently possessing more value. There may be such a thing as human dignity, but this needs to be extended to cover animals as well. While it may be intuitively repulsive, the idea that apes and other animals possess the same value, dignity, and rights as humans is a pretty consistent step within the non-Christian’s view of the world.

We need not stop with apes though. As eastern religions have observed, life itself, regardless of what kind of life it is, need be understood as possessing the same value as human life. In other words, plants are just as dignified as people. Asparagus is on par with apes. As already mentioned more people seem to be taking note of this and attempting to institute change.

A team of Swiss ethicists have decided that plants are entitled to the same respect given any other entity possessing dignity.

A “clear majority” of the panel adopted what it called a “biocentric” moral
view, meaning that “living organisms should be considered morally for their own
sake because they are alive.” Thus, the panel determined that we cannot claim
“absolute ownership” over plants and, moreover, that “individual plants have an
inherent worth.” This means that “we may not use them just as we please, even if
the plant community is not in danger, or if our actions do not endanger the
species, or if we are not acting arbitrarily.”

Notice that plants, such as asparagus (mentioned in the title of the article this is from), are deemed to have an inherent worth just like human beings are. Further, this entails that plants are actually, in some sense, worthy of our moral obligation and possess rights. This appears to be nothing short of crazy, but it also appears to be rather consistent with the worldview we are looking at here.

One of the most important assumptions we as human beings make is that there is such a thing as human dignity. A plethora of crucial elements of human experience are contingent upon the reality of human dignity. For example, the time to elect a new President in the USA is fast approaching yet again, and the media will not talk about much else. Those who choose to think deeper in their political philosophy than what the media and cultural climate will allow will inevitably, whether knowing it or not, think in terms of human dignity when it comes to contemporary political issues. While much of the activity surrounding the process of getting a new President into office will inevitably consist of shallow, oft repeated sound bytes, there are those still who think a bit deeper about what it is they are actually taking a part in. This inevitably involves thinking about rights. Every discussion of “rights” in the current political discourse is reducible to a position on human dignity. In other words, human dignity is not something only philosophers squabble about in ivory towers; it is of tremendous practical bearing.

Society is necessarily permeated with the assumption of human dignity. Human life has value and hence is to be respected, which entails that there is an ethical dimension to human dignity as well. Human dignity is appealed to in matters of law, justice, politics, morality, funerals and many other important features of society. Surely there is good reason to adhere to this almost universally held belief in human dignity, but what is it?

The assumption of human dignity has led honest inquirers to search for a way to account for it. This leads one to realize that, given the non-Christian’s view of the world and the actuality of the dignity of humans, there is little reason to suppose that other living things do not likewise possess such dignity. To reject this is speciesism. We have observed several examples of attempts to avoid speciesism, but the deeper and more pressing question under all of this is how human dignity is accounted for at all in a non-Christian view of the world. Humans are not the end
or

goal or purpose of evolution. We are foolish to think there is much special about us. Indeed we are foolish to think that we possess a shred of dignity or value. If the world is as non-Christians would have us believe it is then we are nothing more than deluded, egocentric blobs.

The assumption of human dignity is unaccounted for and unintelligible given the wider context of unbelieving, non-Christian thought. In Part II we will examine what Scripture has to tell us with regard to human dignity and value.

_ _ _
Daniel Quinn. Ishamael. Bantam. May 1, 1995. Pgs. 54-56.

Martin Roberts. Spanish parliament to extent rights to apes. http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSL256586320080625?feedType=RSS&feedName=scienceNews&rpc=22&sp=true

Wesley Smith. The Silent Scream of the Asparagus. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/065njdoe.asp?pg=1


A Study In The Nature Of God’s Word (Authority) – Part 1

God is good and is worthy of our praise.

You know, this seemed to me like an appropriate place to start, even though this is a phrase that is considered somewhat of a cliché by many these days. However, if we don’t begin with a confession of who God is, then we will be tempted to look for some other starting point in our study of his word. We might be tempted to look for some greater authority than God himself as seen through his written revelation to us, and so that is why I say once again that God is good and is worthy of our praise. I also begin with this confession because it is very applicable to what we are going to consider.

The subject at hand is something I am very passionate about – the study of the nature of God’s word. Now what do I mean when I speak of the nature of the Bible? Well, when the Bible speaks about itself it makes some rather impressive claims. It claims to be the inspired, inerrant, authoritative word of our creator. These are remarkable claims, and if they are true, then we have a very remarkable masterpiece from God right here in our hands – wouldn’t you agree?

You may have heard it said in your church that the Bible should be the ultimate authority in our lives. I agree with this completely, and feel it is something we should all try to understand and embrace. At the same time, however, I have found no topic which I have studied for to be a greater challenge than that of the nature of the Bible. After all there are many more learned and scholarly individuals than I who have devoted much of their lives to studying this very thing, and yet can’t seem to come to consensus on this subject.

Two basic views on the inerrancy of scripture

There are those who feel, as I do, that the Bible is an amazing masterpiece that God himself has inspired. We feel that the Bible is inerrant in the original autographs, that is, the original documents which were penned by those who God inspired. We believe, furthermore, that God himself has providentially maintained his written word since its inception, despite the fact that he has seen fit to use fallible human beings as the means to translate, organize, and duplicate it. We furthermore believe that the meaning and intent found in those original documents still persists today in the various translations we call “the Bible”, despite the existence of minor errors that may have been introduced along the way.

On the other hand, there are those Christians who believe that the Bible, although practical for guidance in many areas, is merely a collection of the writings of ancient men who (at the time) were simply sharing their own ideas as to what God meant to them. From their perspective, there was no divine inspiration, neither has there been divine guidance as it has been duplicated. Because of this, it contains historical, geographical, and scientific errors, meaning that it is “errant” rather than “inerrant”. According to these individuals, this does not mean the Bible is entirely worthless; rather it means that the scripture needs to be interpreted in light of what modern scholarship has determined to be real and true. Rather than being the ultimate authority in the lives of these men and women, it becomes simply another document which ultimately bows its head to the greater authority of man’s collective wisdom.

There are no doubt other perspectives of the Bible that fall somewhere in between.

Given this diversity of opinion, it should be no surprise that answering the question of the true nature of scripture is a challenging undertaking. It is, however, a topic of extreme importance to us if what the Bible says about itself is true.

Why do I believe the Bible to be such a remarkable masterpiece? Simply because I believe that the Bible is just what it claims to be; the inerrant, inspired, authoritative word of our Creator. You may have a different opinion than this, and it is for this reason that I am writing this. Your view of the Bible will have a great bearing on your understanding and acceptance of what you hear in your church, if your church preaches from it. Your view of the Bible will in fact determine how you view yourself, how you view the world you live in, and how you view God himself.

So I will stress this once again. If the Bible is true, it is crucial for each of us to come to terms with what it is saying. If the Bible is really the inspired, inerrant, authoritative word of God, then we had better be confident in how we feel about those claims.

So why should we believe the Bible is inspired? Why should we believe it is authoritative? Why should we believe it is inerrant? We can actually answer all three of the questions by answering the last; the question of inerrancy. After all, since the Bible itself claims to be inspired, and since the Bible itself claims to be authoritative, if it turns out to be inerrant then those claims of inspiration and authority that are found within it are obviously true.

So that’s the question before us – why believe that God’s word is the masterpiece it claims to be? Why believe that the Bible is inerrant?

How to answer the question?

Let’s consider first how we might go about answering this question. To put this in context, let me share with you what I was taught as a young Christian. Perhaps some of you heard this very statement when you were growing up:

“We believe the Bible is inerrant because God tells us this in the Bible”

Now, we should hardly be surprised when such reasoning as this doesn’t convince many that the Bible is what it claims to be. After all, a mere claim to divine revelation isn’t reason to believe the text in question is of divine origin. Consider just how many books have been written that make this claim! They can’t all be inerrant, as they contradict each other.

For that matter, consider how many people there are wandering around the streets of most major cities who claim to be Jesus Christ himself! Do we simply accept their claims? No, a mere claim to divine revelation cannot establish a text as divine in origin, anymore than a mere claim to being divine can establish one as being God.

So it almost sounds as if we need to look outside of scripture for reasons to believe that the Bible is what it claims to be. As a matter of fact, many Christian apologists do just that. Over the years, many have presented arguments based on historical evidence, arguments based on evidence about the universe around us, geological and archeological arguments, and even arguments based on “pure reason” in an effort to establish God’s word as divine in origin and therefore inerrant. They have appealed to something outside of the Bible in order to prove the Bible is God’s own revelation.

I believe this is entirely the wrong approach.

You recall earlier we stated that the Bible claims to be our ultimate authority. Because of this, there is a fundamental problem with looking outside the Bible for reasons to believe the Bible is inerrant.

The problem resides in looking at something other than the Bible as a way to establish the ultimate authority of scripture. How could one ever hope to succeed at this? Presenting an argument for the ultimate authority of the Bible based on something outside the Bible is a contradictory notion.

Why? Because whatever that standard is outside of the Bible which establishes the Bible as our “ultimate” authority would end up being more ultimate and more authoritative that the Bible itself! Appealing to something outside of scripture would demonstrate that the claims of scripture itself need to be verified against whatever that standard is in order to be believed. That means this standard that is appealed to in order to validate scripture, whether historical, archeological, or whatever then becomes more ultimate than the Bible. That standard is what is ult

im

ately used to weigh the claims of the Bible in order to see whether they are true. Thus the Bible is no longer ultimate, as it is subordinate to this other standard.

Only one way to validate scripture

So what are our options as Christians when confronted with the question of Biblical inerrancy? As we have already seen we can’t simply appeal to a mere claim of authority found in the Bible, as any book can make that sort of claim. We also can’t appeal to anything outside the Bible either, as that would disprove the very thing we are trying to establish, that the Bible is the ultimate standard.

In order to demonstrate that the Bible is what it claims to be, there is only one thing we can do – appeal to the Bible itself as a whole. We must look beyond the mere claims of authority in the Bible, while nonetheless still looking in the Bible. There must be something else found in the Bible, beyond a mere claim of authority, that can prove to us that the Bible is authoritative.

Now I am painfully aware that what I am suggesting here is not going to be acceptable to those who don’t already claim to be believers in the Bible to at least some degree. It will still be seen as assuming the truth of that which I am trying to demonstrate – something known in logic as “circular reasoning”.

But here’s what I ask of you – bear with me over the next few days and weeks as we work through this. Allow me to assume that the Bible is true just for the sake of argument (after all, unless you can objectively demonstrate it is false, then you have to admit it might possibly be true), in order to demonstrate to you why it must be true. And when we get to the end, I promise I will have an answer for those who don’t want to assume, even for the sake of argument, that the Bible is true.

Stay tuned!

— BK