Apologetics to the Glory of God

The Phantom Menace

One of the complaints against the use of the Transcendental Argument for God involves a denial of the claim that there are fundamentally only two worldviews. The Christian claim is that all non-Christian worldviews have at root the principle of autonomy. Autonomy is not only rebellion towards the Christian God but an active suppression of the personal knowledge of Him and a turning away to worship the creature instead of the Creator. It is a rejection of the authority of the Creator over all of reality. Van Til illustrated this using Eve and her reasoning at the time of the Fall as recorded in Genesis.

Typically the complaint is that this idea of autonomy is not concretely held in all non-Christian worldviews. Islam, it is argued, may argue that their worldview is the ideal non-autonomous worldview since they try to make it clear that Allah is wholly transcendent otherness, that all mystery belongs to Allah even in the decision of the hour of judgment and that Allah has power over all things (Sur 16:77). The complaint against the idea of the principle of autonomy being held in common amongst non-Christian worldviews is furthered by virtue of the fact that the Christian appeals to Scripture in the first place to gain this idea of a fundamental two worldview clash. The Christian is participating in external critique and it is further stated that in order to use an internal critique one would need to find that fundamental concrete feature that all non-Christian worldviews hold and espouse.

In response to this objection we first take note that the transcendental argument as used by the Christian is from within the Christian worldview – not outside of it – and therefore the critique itself must be presuppositionally reasoned from that worldview. Secondly, the assumption that there must be some concrete principle or feature (autonomy or not) that is espoused positively by each non-Christian worldview seems misguided for the following reasons.

The Christian, in keeping with his presuppositions, must affirm that Christianity is true. One of the claims laid out by Christianity is that all forms of non-Christian thought exchange the truth for a lie (Rom 1:25). Christianity also claims God’s sovereignty over all of creation, including knowledge or intelligibility (Prov 1:7). So then, if the Christian worldview is true, then all non-Christian conceptions/worldviews must, by the nature of the case, create lies, in the Romans 1 and Genesis 3 sense. These lies are nothing but ethereal phantoms in the night in the Christian worldview. All of them have their root in the suppression of the truth and exchange for a lie. It seems in the end of the analysis that this complaint that concrete “positive” features of non-Christian worldviews, over and above autonomy, are needed in order to argue against non-Christianity as a whole, are nothing more than a request that the vain imaginings of self-deluded people must all in fact meet at some point.

Yet that one point – autonomy – is denied outright.

It would seem that this complaint could be answered by maintaining all of our presuppositional commitments and asking the rhetorical question: “On what basis do we have to reason that any particular phantom will be common among the debased minds of unregenerate man (Rom 1:28) over and above the idea of autonomy (see paragraph 1 definition)?”


4 responses to “The Phantom Menace”

  1. BK Avatar

    DB – it seems to me what you are saying is that we, as consistent CTs (Christian Theists), should not base our conclusion that all ~CT share something in common (i.e. autonomy) upon what they might happen to *espouse* to have in common.

    Instead, as consistent CTs, we should base our belief on what all flavors of ~CT share in common on what God tells us they share in common, rather than looking for something that all flavors of ~CT espouse to have in common.

    1. defectivebit Avatar

      Yes, it seems to be an issue of authority, and at the root of that, one of neutrality.

  2. Josh B. Avatar
    Josh B.

    How do we explain something lack the non-existence of human autonomy to non-Christians when the concept is so intuitive? Indeed, I make decisions with real consequences; it feels like it’s me who makes them. I think my thoughts. So on and so forth.

    Presuppositionalism makes sense in many regards, but I simply don’t know how to incorporate this point into my apologetic. Mention of the relevant passages of Scripture have been dismissed out of hand, as you might expect.

    1. C.L. Bolt Avatar
      C.L. Bolt

      It is not as thought God is thinking or acting for us. You do make decisions and you do have thoughts. Autonomy is thinking or acting as though either of these actions could be accomplished without reference to the Lord.

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