Saturday, July 17, 2010

Authority and the "Heathen"

An agnostic friend has suggested that quoting Scripture in this blog is "preaching to the choir," and that if I really want to reach the heathen I should consider omitting it.  However, the theme of this blog is the presuppositional defense of Christianity.  Christian theism is defended as a whole, and is not a hypothesis to be established by anti-theistic and anti-Christian methodologies. Christian theism rests upon God's revelation in the Bible -- so I am perplexed as to how one can defend Christian theism without a Bible!  Would I first demonstrate the truth of the Bible based on a higher authority than God - an authority that exists independently of God, whether He exists or not?

My friend's suggestion is even more confusing given that he asserts, as do all agnostics, that there are no demonstrations or proofs of theism, or more generally that knowledge of God is not possible -- and so then, by a stronger argument, there could be no demonstrations or proofs of Christian theism.  On that view, don't quote the Bible and don't present any reasons for the defense of Christian theism, because the Bible may be false, reason is supreme and, thus, there is no defense of Christian theism.

That point of view sets up a game with a stacked deck.  How can one "reach the heathen" on such terms?  It's impossible!  On those terms, the heathen are unreachable -- by definition. Of course, the agnostic's assertion of "no proof" is itself a very huge claim about the nature of ultimate reality and of God's place (or non-place) in that reality (to be expanded at a later time).  As Van Til aptly put it, the issue is not between saying something about ultimate reality or saying nothing.  Rather, the issue is between saying one thing or saying something entirely different.  So then agnosticism, as a philosophy, is not "neutral" -- it has said everything about the type of God it might allow. And that God is emphatically not the true God of Christian theism. So much then for the supposed noble "open mindedness" of agnosticism.

You see, agnostics have an ultimate authority, too.  Agnosticism rests on the presupposition of the reliability and authority of autonomous human reason.  But when you challenge an atheist or agnostic to provide the basis for that authority, you will very likely be presented with a look of incredulity.   Some may even think you are denying logic and reason when you challenge them to provide the reasons (on the terms of their worldview) for the authority of reason. Of course Christians are not denying logic and reason.  Again, it is an issue of saying one thing or something entirely different.  On the agnostic's side we have autonomous human reason; on the Christian side we have reason as created in man's mind by God.  The latter is intelligible, the former is not.

Of course, material monism provides no basis for the existence of human reason.  In material monism -- in which all that exists is matter-in-motion evolving in time by way of random physical forces -- there is no room for human freedom.  And what is more, if there is no room for human freedom, there can be no room for free human thinking and reason, either.  So then, no matter how much Dawkins, Hitchens and others appeal to their "independent thinking" guided by the scientific method that led them to their "beliefs"  -- their "appeal"  is incredible and inexplicable.

Furthermore, material monism cannot account for human intentionality guided by adherence to abstract laws of logic/reason.  For in that view, all human "motions" are forced motions produced and determined by ultimate irreducible blind chance.  This "human reason" would have developed from a mindless and unguided universe of matter evolving by chance over time.  On that view, the material universe is mindless, purposeless, alogical, and absent of morals.  So then, materialism not only has no absolute morality and purpose (of all varieties), but it cannot even provide a basis for the existence of subjective morality and relative purpose that the atheist and agnostic alike fall back upon!

So then on the above analysis, neither atheists nor agnostics can account for the existence of reason and the scientific method that are their authorities.  A previous blog entry mentions Professor William Provine, an atheist who -- to his credit -- states openly that materialism leaves no room for human freedom.  As a typical atheist scientist who employs and  relies on the scientific method, he is an example of a walking, talking self-contradiction of atheism.  Professor Provine cannot, on one hand, be a free, independent thinker, guided by logic and the scientific method, and also be a purely and absolutely dependent physical system guided solely by mindless quantum mechanical chance. These two views are antithetical.  Materialism and physical laws are fundamentally a-teleological, while human planning and human reasoning via abstract logical principles are teleological.  Men do actions "in order to...."  Such are the internal contradictions of atheism.

Atheists and agnostics (the "heathen") are sinners in God's creation and need to be presented with their sin in all its manifestations.  Their prideful and irrational faith in autonomous reason and consequent unbelief and rejection of God is sin.  Whether they are "reached" is by grace -- and that grace comes from the God of the Bible.  So then, there are two issues at work here.  There is the apologetic task and there is evangelism -- both require the Bible.  It is true that in the course of the apologetic task, evangelism may also occur, but conviction and conversion are in the hands of God.

Should I not quote Scripture to defend the truth of Christian theism, and should I not quote Scripture to reach the heathen? What does God say?

"So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."  Romans 10:17.

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