Why Machen Hired Van Til

For a variety of historical reasons American Presbyterians throughout the nineteenth century were fully committed to the Enlightenment and scientific methods as the surest means for arriving at truth. Though still believing in the authority of Scripture, the best—or at least the most widely accepted—way of demonstrating the truth of the Bible was by appealing to reason and Scripture’s harmony with nature and the self-evident truths of human experience.

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Why Should I Believe Christianity? by James N. Anderson

It goes without saying that I’ll recommend pretty much anything written by James N. Anderson of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.

Here’s my summary of his most recent book, Why Should I Believe Christianity?, available to members of Books At a Glance.

(You may also be interested in the summary of A New Kind of Apologist edited by Sean McDowell.)

Go ahead, sign up for an account! You know you want to.


The Virgin Birth

It’s Christmas time and that means it’s time for the History channel and a variety of other media outlets to play all of their best “the truth behind the Star of Bethlehem” “Jesus never existed and he was a very nice man” documentaries.

Inevitably you will hear or be involved in arguments about the virgin birth of Christ. Usually, on the internet, this means you’ll also be introduced to a myriad of sex jokes about Mary and Joseph.

In the spirit of holiday cheer, here are a couple of things to keep in mind, and perhaps share with those well-meaning jokesters intent on taking all the fun out of celebrating Christ’s birth.

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De-mythologising the mythology of Joseph Campbell.

Recently I was directed to a short video of Joseph Campbell giving an interview to give comment and know what my thoughts were. This is the video in question.

I found there to be a few issues with the kind of philosophy that was being proposed, certainly from that proposed in the video, and other aspects given elsewhere.

Mr Campbell proposes that the mind is a secondary organ, and that it must not be in control, lest it fall victim to following a particular kind of ‘system’. One could only speculate how he knows this is the case – is it the case that he has come to this conclusion by aligning himself to his ‘true nature’, or did he deduce this by using his mind? If he deduced it by using his mind, how can he be sure that the deduction he has made is not a part of that kind of system that he is critiquing?

What he fails to seem to note is that,  if it is the former, saying that someone will fall pray to a particular kind of system by having their mind ‘in control’ is just as much of a system as identifying that there are other systems out there that he is critiquing, thus his alignment to the true nature is just another system out there. The question then becomes, since he seems to be placing particular sociological systems in a negative light, ‘what then is the correct system?’. Furthermore, how does one determine what system is the right/true/good system? By what standard? Which then is to simply beg the question of how did one determine that the ‘standard by which you judge standards’ is correct?

Later, he says that what we should be doing is resisting the systems impersonal claims – which doesn’t seem to harmonise well with the rest of the impersonal claims that he has made.

Further, he states “if the person doesn’t listen to the demands of its own spiritual and heart life and insists on a certain program you’re going to have a schizophrenic crack up….”. This of course would seem odd if he was insisting on his own certain program? The fallacy of neutrality strikes again…

Where does all of this appear to come from? A quick look into Mr Campbells philosophical bent tends him towards a panentheistic view it seems. Panentheists suffer from some of the similar criticisms that Pantheists are subject to, not least being an amusing quote from CS Lewis:

“Pantheists usually believe that God, so to speak, animates the universe as you animate your body: that the universe almost is God … [Christians] think God invented and made the universe-like a man making a picture or composing a tune. A painter is not a picture, and he does not die if his picture is destroyed … If you do not take the distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course … some of the things we see in [the world] are contrary to [God’s] will. Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, “If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realise that this also is God.” The Christian replies, “Don’t talk damned nonsense.”C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 36-37. ( a further discussion to be found here : http://truthbygrace.org/are-we-bound-in-the-universe-by-a-supernatural-force/)

How does this relate to the Christian worldview? Well, from the get go it denies the Creator-creature distinction in almost every way – it pulls man up from where he is and places him inside God, and pulls God down from His transcendence and places him at the level of man (with little exception). This blurring of the lines leads to severe problems when it comes to moral issues as Lewis notes above – which then causes issues for Mr Campbell futher, since if all is really in deity, then where are the distinctions? Saying we need to get away from subscribing to particular systems, is utterly nonsensical, as those systems imply some level of distinction that is simply unsupported by the presupposition of a panentheistic bent, as all of those systems are in the divine. To paraphrase Bahnsen, “What exactly would ‘divine revelation’ look like? Me talking to myself?”

From a Christian perspective, good and evil have very real criteria – either the fulfilment of the law of God, or it’s violation. God’s law is based on His own unchanging nature, therefore we have an objective unchanging basis for what determines what is morally right and morally wrong, however, without any defined boundaries as mentioned above, there is simply divine action, action, action, without any ability to ascribe moral value, because those values are not transcendant, they are all immanent, ergo a defining mantra for this kind of morality would be essentially “Whatever feels good, do it” (to steal from the Christian worldview to use the word ‘good’).

How would this be a problem from the Christian perspective?

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

It would seem that the bible has a dim view on the moral ability of the human heart to act upon what is right – therefore the idea of ‘Whatever feels good, do it’ will end in utter ruin, and one need only look at the results all around us today in al the suffering that we see.

The cure is to turn to Christ and be saved resulting in the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit to change our evil God-hating, sin loving hearts to love God and desire to do that which is objectively good and knowable – His Law.

When Possibility is Impossible: Answering a Rawlsian Ruse with Radical Retortion

In 1971 John Rawls wrote his famous A Theory of Justice in which he presented what is known as ‘The Original Position.’ The OP is a hypothetical state of affairs in which an individual operates from behind a ‘Veil of Ignorance’ in order to establish principles of justice for society apart from considerations of ethnicity, class, gender, and the like. This thought experiment stems from the radical autonomy present in Immanuel Kant’s work.

Enough about Rawls. Cornelius Van Til was a Christian apologist who likewise drew from Kant’s work, taking the transcendental method developed by Kant (and many others before him) and more broadly applying it to the entire Christian worldview. Van Til proposed the Christian worldview as the only worldview capable of rendering human experience intelligible.

Now, sharper non-Christians, and even some Christians who ultimately oppose Van Til’s method, point out the possibility of some worldview X which might render human experience intelligible. The problem with that move is the need to simultaneously establish some platform with which to posit said possibility. Let’s refer to this hypothetical platform from which we might posit a hypothetical worldview X as the OP.

The OP in this instance is very loosely analogous to the Original OP above, or to put it another way, the OOP, which is rather confusing…I leave it to those more familiar with Rawls to decide how close OP and OOP (I did it again) are to one another, and even if objections to OOP are likewise analogous to OP, given that I am at all right about the possible (there’s that word again) similarities between OOP and OP anyway.

In any event, the purpose of the OP is to avoid hypothesizing from a Christian or (specific) non-Christian worldview. But the epistemology of modality for the Christian is worldview specific, even ethically obligatory at points, whereas the non-Christian functions, or attempts to function, within her own epistemology of modality. Strangely though, when speaking of the supposed necessity of the Christian worldview in virtue of transcendental argumentation, both Christian and non-Christian often attempt to think about philosophical objections posed by the possibility of X from something like an OP.

A non-Christian cannot posit that anyone (even a Californian), might propose a worldview that has not yet been refuted by the presuppositional apologist. They can’t do that when their own worldview is demonstrably insufficient for rendering human experience intelligible. Nobody actually operates in accord with OP, nor should we, which says a great deal about our epistemology of modality. Frankly, assuming OP against one’s own particular non-Christian worldview in order to claim the possibility of some worldview X whereby the necessity of the Christian worldview for intelligible experience is undermined is not terribly persuasive, to say the least. To say more, it’s not a move that’s even available to the non-Christian. And it’s certainly not available to the Christian.

The concept of possibility itself does not function in virtue of OP, no epistemology of modality ‘exists’ in a ‘void.’ Possibility is tied to respective worldviews. Yes, so is truth, so is transcendental argumentation, and so on and so forth. I see no difficulty here. Epistemological (not logical) circularity is a necessary feature of a rational worldview. So I’m proposing a radical commitment to Christian presuppositions in Christian apologetics, and the use of radical retortion against any view which is opposed to the Christian worldview. But that’s nothing new, either in my proposing it, or in your reading about it, if you understand the fact of it having been proposed already in the works of Van Til.

The concept of possibility is itself worldview specific, not neutral. A non-Christian with ‘no place to stand’ isn’t within her epistemological rights in telling others where others might stand; that’s an unintelligible epistemology of modality.

Peripatetic 33 – Hypothetical Inception – Spencer Toy’s conversation, but with a real presupper

What would this conversation look like with a real presupper? Sorta like this.

A Fundamental Problem With A Fundamental Problem with the Presuppositionalism of Cornelius Van Til

Before anyone gets too excited by Haines’ upcoming critique of Van Til at SES (including Haines himself, I might add), it might be useful to point out a common mistake he has made in discussion of Van Til thus far.

The philosopher or apologist who is well acquainted with the modern and post-modern philosophy of Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger will recognize that Van Til’s system of apologetics is very much dependent upon these sources.

He notes this in the body of his announcement for his SES talk – but it might be illustrative to you to note that in his 28pg paper on Van Til, he says the following in footnote 21:

It is interesting to note that there seems to be a link between Van Til’s notion of interpretative structures and the hermeneutics of being of Martin Heidegger. There has never been a study showing that Van Til was influenced by Heidegger (and other post-modern existential thinkers such as Kierkegaard), and the frequent cry some presuppositionalists is that Van Til was not influenced by any non-Christian philosophers (In fact, if he had been, this would have been potentially detrimental to his system. Van Til, himself claims that he is not influenced by Idealism, Hegel, Existentialism or Phenomenalism, but only by simple Calvinism (Cf. Van Til, DF, 23.).).

He goes on to say, in the same footnote:

Secondly, it is evident, contrary to Van Til’s protests, that Van Til was indeed influenced by different aspects of the popular philosophical systems of his time (Cf. Van Til, DF, 137, 19fn80, 137, 113.) The attentive reader cannot help but notice the subtle similarities between Heidegger’s hermeneutics of being, and Van Til’s Presuppositionalism. That there is a probable connection between Van Til’s system and Heidegger’s hermeneutics of being can be shown as follows: It is common knowledge that Van Til was influenced by the Dutch reformed school of philosophy (There is no doubt that Van Til was influenced by Abraham Kuyper, but he was also influenced by thinkers such as Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven, both of whom were heavily influenced by Neo-Kantian philosophy, Heidegger, and Husserl (cf. Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, Christian Philosophy: A Systematic and Narrative Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2013), 243-244.) Also important for this question is that Van Til was familiar enough with Heidegger’s writings to be able to write a scathing attack on the Heideggerian notion of god (cf. Cornelius Van Til, “The Later Heidegger and Theology”, in The Westminster Theological Journal , 26:2 (May 1964), 121-161. Interestingly enough, Van Til’s
Presuppositionalist system shares, with Existential Phenomenology and Relativism, some basic foundational doctrines, namely the Kantian critique of knowledge (without going into too much detail we can note Van Til’s use of the Kantian distinction between the phenomenal world and the noumenal world (Van Til, IST, 83, 113. Cf. Van Til, DF, x, 32fn15, 71fn46, 91.)), and the hermeneutics of being (which is essentially the notion that all people necessarily interpret the world that presents itself to them through categories that they inherit in one way or another). For example, we find the influence and combination of Heidegger’s hermeneutics of Being, and of the Kantian critique of knowledge, in the works of a well-known Canadian post-modern theologian, Myron Bradley Penner, “In one sense, of course, hermeneutics is a kind of epistemology — at least insofar as it is a reflection on the nature and limits of human knowledge. (Myron Bradley Penner, The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2013), 70. Cf. Ibid., 11, 29, 67-68, 127, 147.) Let it be noted that to claim that Van Til’s dependence on the works of Kant and Heidegger therefore falsifies his system would be a genetic fallacy. However, if it turns out that the positions of Kant and Heidegger run into serious difficulties, then it may be possible that Van Til’s system falls prey to these same problems.

So, there are no studies which say this. But here’s an attempted argument. Fair enough. But it fails.

“It is evident” – ipse dixit.

Notice the “influences”, if you own the book. Go to these references. Take pg 137 as an example. Bradley, Kant. Now notice the start of last paragraph on the page, which continues on the next. “In reply we need only to observe that this way of escape is not open to the Reformed apologist.” Bradley, an idealist, is similarly treated. He is considering the *problems* with idealism, and showing the consequences which derive from such a position. Sure, he uses transcendentalists and idealists as foils. He uses lots of people as foils, no? Considering this as an “influence” – or as a “dependence” is exceedingly wrong-headed. See fn80 on pg 19. Think it through. Val Halsema is doing what? Why is he doing so? What is Van Til’s intent in mentioning his own critic? What is he responding to, and what is his general theme, throughout this entire response section? I have no idea what Haines is referring to on 113, and Haines doesn’t say. His references to IST are similarly inconclusive. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that he was looking for any and all references to philosophers in these two works, and saying that because he references them, he is influenced by them and/or depends on them. Just between you, me, and the fencepost – if he wants to try to prove this thesis, he would have done far better to actually interact with some of Van Til’s specifically philosophical material, instead of vaguely cherrypicking material which, on the main, has to do with reponses to his critics, or his comparisons of the Reformed system to that of major schools of philosophy, on a broad canvas.

Just as one additional tip, for those who might be as new to reading Van Til as Mr. Haines seemingly is: Van Til does a lot of “repurposing” of terms. He uses terms which he happens to like – but assigns different meanings to them. Intentionally. He is doing something a great deal like John does with Logos. What Mr. Haines mistakenly thinks is “reliance” is, in fact, a repurposing – and a redirecting – of certain aspects of a variety of systems which, in isolation, have some parallel within classical reformed theology. He is a trained philosopher – in a lot better school than most philosophers can claim, incidentally – who is also a trained theologian – and who is much interested in showing how the two fields are intertwined. You have to actually read his defenses against the accusations which the entire first third of DotF deals with, however. He gets these sorts of accusations *all the time*. He is, however, no longer around to defend himself – so, with all due respect, Mr. Haines – please, feel free to make more uninformed speculations. I’ll be happy to reply, and I’m sure there will be entire classes of grad students at WTS who will be more than happy to disabuse you of your conclusions, and that your speculative fiction will provide reams of papers in response. Don’t say, however, that I didn’t warn you.

There is no support for his first premise. I’ll leave Haines to attempt to find some, if he wishes. This attentive reader notes that Van Til had a great deal to say about Heidegger, (as well as Kant) in a great many places within his corpus – and that it might be educational for others to track those down for themselves – to save themselves embarrassment, at the very least. Here’s a hint: track down a copy of “A Christian Theory of Knowledge”. Esp. the blue volume, with the helpful index, which the other editions, to my knowledge, lack.

Mention, discussion of, or comparison to is not dependence. This is, essentially, the exact same argument that many, many people have made about Van Til and *idealism* – which, you might note, he discusses more than just about any other philosophical system. Eventually, you folks might figure out that he was very, very widely read – and that even y’all are going to run out of people he mentioned, eventually. Maybe then this will stop. There I go being optimistic again, though. By that time, the latest round will have forgotten that the first round existed. I’ll make sure to watch this upcoming talk, though. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you, David. This kind of stuff isn’t going to fly.

What is the evidence for the existence of God? (3/3)

In part 2, we had a look at a practical example, and briefly went over the “in practice/ in principle” distinction, as well as some criteria for evaluating worldview’s, however, it may be worth expanding these ideas themselves into another post to look a bit more in-depth at them, as well as some others.

In practice / In principle:

Why is the “in practice / in principle” distinction important? Well, it normally arises in response to an objection similar to this hypothetical:

“If God didn’t exist, you couldn’t know how to balance your budgets!”

To which an unbeliever could say:

“Yes, but I DO balance my budgets!”

Note the distinction between “know how” and “do”.

The issue is that in principle if the unbelievers worldview was correct, he wouldn’t be able to do this. But the very interesting part is his own confession, he does do these things. Why is this then? Because his worldview isn’t true, and he is, in fact, a creature created in God’s world, running under God’s rules, in God’s universe. An unbeliever has no choice but to do the general things that he does in his every day life, because He is created in God’s image and has been created in such a way as to achieve God’s plan and purpose for that person in the world. No one is an ‘in practice’ an unbeliever (say, an atheist), they all do things consistent with the Christian worldview, not the unbelieving one. As Van Til once said, (paraphrase) ” Unbelievers can count, but they cannot account for counting”.

Four criteria to look for:

In my previous post, i looked at some questions and areas to probe into and look for when discussing worldviews and people’s presuppositions:

1: Arbitrariness. Are there any unjustifiable claims being made?
2: Inconsistency. Does that belief contradict itself with another belief within that worldview?
3: What are the consequences of that in reality? Does it reduce to absurdity then taken to its logical conclusions?
4: What presuppositions would need to be true for us to make sense of a particular aspect of our experience, and does that worldview provide those presuppositions?

So, lets look at each of these a bit more, and maybe give an example of what this looks like:

1: Arbitrariness :

Normally an arbitrary statement is simply one that someone cannot ‘back up’ with another reason, it is simply stated out of personal preference or even random choice.

Lets say for instance, we have an unbeliever who states that because there are people in the world that have other ideas about a particular topic, it means you cannot know the truth of a matter. This would be a common sort of objection that may come from a post-modern person or a skeptic. Essentially they are saying you cannot know the truth of something because people disagree on a topic.

The statement to them could simply then be:

“Ok, but I disagree with you that we cannot know what the truth of a matter is, just because other people disagree.”

What we have done here is essentially taking on their standard of knowing something, (or in this case, not knowing something), and using it against their own position. We have generated a contradiction, because if they believe that people disagreeing on a topic means that you cannot know the truth or falsity of that topic, then all a person would need to do is disagree with them, because that then creates the very disagreement on the topic of “the know-ability of topics” that they said would mean that it couldn’t be known.

The arbitrary part could come in here:

A:”Yea, well, it takes more than just one person to disagree!”
B:”How many?”
A: “I don’t know.”

If they do not know how many people it takes more than just one, how can they know that statement itself is true? It is simply an arbitrary assertion.

2: Inconsistency

People can more readily see this one I think! Let’s take a moral example:

If there was a person who believed that sexual promiscuity was totally fine, and that really, in regards to morality, ‘anything goes’ and its all up to personal choice. However, if that person then came out and protested against pro-choice advocates, or against those who believed in the traditional view of marriage, and wanted to get them to abandon those views in favor of the persons own moral system, that person would be being radically inconsistent. Why? Because in one hand, they are saying that morality is ‘anything goes’, yet on the other hand, is passionately against people who hold contrary views to them. One one hand they are pushing for radical subjective morality, and on the other hand, they are pushing for radical objective morality that everyone should abide by. This is inconsistent.

Alternatively, in Islam, it references the fact that it is a further revelation from Allah, coming after the OT and NT scriptures. However, the Qur’an contradicts the OT and NT in many ways, not least the idea of a works salvation vs salvation by faith in Christ alone. The answer to this is that the Muslim would say that the OT and NT scriptures are corrupted – that they’ve been changed. The problem with this is that the Qur’an also states that Allah’s words are incorruptible. Such a defence of their views is inconsistent with the Qur’an and thus, is inconsistent. Not only that, but the Qur’an states that muslims are to read the gospels and see if it is consistent with the Qur’an – the Qur’an was written in the 7th Century, of which we have full copies of NT texts and know what the bible looked like at that time, so to state that it was corrupted is irrelevant, because we have texts from the same time that the Qur’an was written, so we can refer to those. These texts also refute the teachings of the Qur’an, showing that the Qur’an is inconsistent with both itself, and the scriptures!

3:  Consequences in reality

This one is similar to the second, and looks at what the results would be of someone’s thought’s. In a way, this is ‘playing out’ what their worldview states, and seeing what that would actually look like. Normally people are quite happy to assert that they believe in such things as evolution, or that the world is simply matter in motion as isolated explanations of why we are here, or what reality actually is, however, rarely do people think through the consequences of these thoughts consistently to their logical conclusions.

Let’s take an example that you may hear: “the survival of the fittest” for instance.

Many Darwinists would be happy to assert that we got here by natural selection, that the beings that were able to evolve to other species in reference to their environments or other factors survived, while those who were not so suited, died out, and thus, those who would survive can help produce other beings that are fitter and more adaptable and suited to their environments. They would see this as a positive change – a good thing.

However, on the other side of the fence, you have atheists contending for moral values, and helping the weak and the old or sick. However, the results of “the survival of the fittest” would reduce such moral actions to absolute absurdity – if the Darwinist was consistent (note this reference to #2), he would be fighting against the people who help those who are in those situations, because they are holding back the progress of evolution!

Further, if all that reality is, is matter in motion, that means that there can be no such thing as an immaterial ‘mind’, that all our thought processes must reduce down to simply chemical and physical reactions in our brain that are simply random. There is a problem with this however, because this means that in actuality, no one can state that an idea is any more true or false than any other idea, because one person’s brain reactions are simply different from another persons, and another persons, they are all subject to the way that their brain is acting, thus this destroys the idea of any kind of ‘will’, as they are subject to simply the laws of physics and chemistry out working themselves in their skull. Nor is there any ‘personality’, they have essentially reduced their activity in the brain down to shaking two different drinks together and seeing that one fizzes this way, and another fizzes a different way. Just two randomly different chemical reactions with no purpose. How can  they know that their brain ‘fizzes’ are reliable? That they are actually reflective of reality?

4: What presuppositions would need to be true for us to make sense of a particular aspect of our experience, and does that worldview provide those presuppositions? (preconditions of intelligibility)

Certain things in our life that we take for granted require certain things being true in order for them to be, or even certain things that we say without even thinking about it, require for us to make assumptions and have presuppositions about things.

For instance, looking back to part 1, we discussed the glass of water that was filled half way with water, with the question asked “Is this glass half full or half empty”.

Now, what does an answer to this question presuppose either way? What is the hidden assumption?

The reliability of a person’s sense perception – specifically, that their eyes are telling them correct information about the outside world.

The question then becomes, “OK, what things would have to be true in order for our senses to be reliable?”

The Christian can answer this, because we are created in God’s image, as actors in His world, and have been given responsibilities to outwork in this world, this necessitates having properly working sensory apparatus, and numerous times God has spoken to people, and expected them to hear his voice, and to interact with Him and others.

Can an unbeliever answer this question? Well, it depends on the unbeliever! If it were a Darwinist, then no, they couldn’t, because they would have no reason to believe that their senses were actually telling them correct information about the outside world, their senses simply were the product of random chance. (This very idea, of course, coming from the view of man’s reason that it is just a ‘fizzing’ brain, as we discussed earlier). If it were a Muslim, they could simply try to claim that Allah did the same as the Christian God, however, their worldview would fail based on the previous point of consistency. A worldview may be able to give explanations for individual necessary preconditions of our experience (ie, answering why their sense experience is reliable, or the laws of logic can work etc) – but the issue is not that it can account for one or two issues, but it must be able to account for all the issues, as well as being able to be hold up under the points that I’m mentioning in this post ( ie consistency, is it arbitrary? etc). A worldview need only fall at one hurdle for it to be false.

Or consider this summary about induction from Greg Bahnsen :

“All science rest upon inductive inference. It takes something that we have experienced in the past and projects it into the future. Here is an example, you get up in the middle of the night and you walk around and stub your toe. The next night you get up in the middle of the night and walk around and you’re careful to not stub your toe again. If stubbing your toe last night hurt, stubbing your toe tonight will hurt to. The way things were in the past in terms of causal relationships will be things you encounter in the future too. Can you see why all science depends upon this? If there were no uniformity in the natural world, then all of your scientific experiments would be waste of time. You could learn everything you wanted about chemical reactions on Monday, but on Tuesday everything would be different. Induction is simply the view that the future will be like the past. Future relationships between events will resemble past relationships between events.

What will happen if I let go of this marker? Let’s say that you have never seen this experiment done before. The good philosopher will say that we have no way of knowing. I will now do the experiment. Watch closely! (it drops). We are now going to do a second experiment. You now know that one time, 20 seconds ago, this fell when I let go of it. What will happen when I let go of it this time? You don’t know. The reason you don’t know is because you have no basis for inductive inference. You have no basis for knowing the future will be like the past. You say, “well that was 20 seconds ago with the same conditions.” But you are assuming under the same conditions that one event will lead to the same event. You are assuming the uniformity of nature.

Now I’m a Christian, the reason I’m going to the science lab today is because I know that there is a sovereign personal God who governs this world. He controls it and makes it regular so that I can have dominion over it. My question for you Mr. Atheist is why you are going to the science lab today?

What are some ways one will try to recover from the problem of induction? The atheist says that they live in a random universe. He has no right to rely on inductive inference. He has no reason to expect the uniformity of nature! If he has no basis for the uniformity of nature, he has no basis for doing science. He will often retort, “Well very probably will the future be like the past. The reason why it probably will is because it has always done so in the past.” The problem is that he has smuggled into the argument the thing he’s supposed to prove. When I say that the future will probably be like the past, I’m basing that upon past information. In the past, the future has always resembled the past. I want to know how in the future, the future will be like the past.”


In a nutshell, here could be a possible scenario:

You preach the gospel to someone, but the person retorts that they don’t believe in God, or that they don’t believe the Bible is true.

At this point a person could be asked why? What we are doing is trying to is unearth their ultimate authority, and ask questions about their worldview, to listen to them and try to put together in our heads, how it is that they view the world, to ‘step into their shoes’ as it were. When there, we are applying the above considerations in regards to things we are on the look out for!

The person could state well, they don’t believe it is true, because science has disproved the Bible!

You could at that point then ask them how they know it has disproved the Bible. You could also ask them what they believe reality is, and how they know things? These could be simply answers such as ‘the scientific method’ or ‘we know things because we can see and hear and use science to determine what is real’. All these things help us and give us clues as to how the person’s worldview sits together.

Now, if that were all you had, you’d already have enough to destroy that worldview. Why?

A: They don’t believe that God exists, therefore there is no such thing as providential care over the universe, and no personality governing things.
B: They believe that the way that they know things is through science. The scientific method generally assumes a materialistic outlook on life – you should clarify though if the person believes that this is actually the case.

If we look at number 4 in our above considerations, you could look at the teaching summary from Greg Bahnsen on induction, and how science presupposes the uniformity of nature, and how they can account for that given that there is no God.

If they cannot account for this (which they cannot – but may give away some red herring answers), then you can show them how Christianity DOES provide the necessary accounting in order to know that nature is uniform, and acts consistently, and how theirs doesn’t. This shows that the objection that they were raising against the Bible, was resting on a materialistic view of science, that cannot work because in order for it to do so, that view would have to have something to account for the uniformity of nature in order for science to even be done. Given their worldview, science cannot work, therefore their criticism against the Bible on the basis of that view of science cannot even be made. Think of this as pulling the rug from under someone’s view. You don’t attack the top of the Jenga tower, you analyse to see if the tower actually has any foundational blocks to it, and you point out the fact the tower they are trying to make has no foundation and crumbles.

Any objection can be treated like this, not just objections from science. Simply take the particular objection and ask the question, What is the possibility of X (where X is the standard used to object against Christianity, ie science, history, linguistics, etc) and ask, given their worldview, their view of nature and reality and how they know things, could those particular standards even work? We don’t attack the peripheral issue or specific ‘fact’ or ‘evidence’, we attack the standard they are using to assert the claim of that ‘fact’ or ‘evidence’, and thus undermine their ability to even make it.


One objection that comes up now and again is the idea of ‘well, just because my worldview might not be true, what about all the other worldviews, they could be true!’ or similar ideas.

It’s fairly straight-forward to deal with. On what basis did the person make the claim that those other worldviews could be true? How did they evaluate them? There is no escaping one’s worldview – even that statement itself is a product of their worldview, which means that it is subject to the same fault as any other statement that they have made once their worldview has been shown to be futile – they can’t know that other worldviews might be true, because that statement rests on their OWN worldview being able to make sense of reality – which it cannot.