Sunday, November 20, 2016

Myth of Neutrality and a Prejudicial Challenge.

A reader responded to my previous blog on Anti-theism and challenged me to show how I know that God exists without relying on the Bible.  It has been stated many times that such a proof is provided by the negative portion ("God exists because of the impossibility of the contrary") of the Transcendental Argument for God (TAG).  However, we have mentioned that, as Christians, we defend Christianity as a whole; not a truncated metaphysical theism (or Deism).  The God referred to in TAG is the Triune God of Christianity -- not a merely generic deity.

But first, we need to consider the nature of the unbeliever's challenge.

Such a challenge typically stems from metaphysical and epistemological biases -- i.e.,  unargued presuppositions.  The challenge is certainly intellectually anti-Christian. It may be motivated by a false belief that the Bible is contradictory and unreliable or falsely assumes that Christians adhere to the Bible as an arbitrary authority in blind faith.  But beyond that, it presupposes an unspecified method and some coordinate standard of knowledge by which the proof (or proof of anything)  would be judged. Based on remarks of typical unbelievers, perhaps by "show" he means deductive argumentation.  Of course, it is well known that deductive arguments only produce what is already contained in their premises.  (In other words, the conclusion is already contained in the asserted premises. That is why the conclusion is necessitated by the premises.) Or, he could mean "show" by the "scientific method" since he once intimated that only science produces "knowledge."  TAG (being a transcendental argument) is not properly an empirical (inductive) nor a deductive argument (as those are understood by the opponents of theism) and thus would seem to be disallowed by assumption and stipulation as producing knowledge of the sort acceptable to the respondent's presupposed epistemology - a biased non-neutral theory of knowledge that is antithetical to the Christian theory of knowledge and thus precludes Christianity.1  So the correspondent's attempt to impose an assumed non-Christian methodology is illegitimate. But not all things are known by way of inductive empiricism (sense perception) or deductive syllogisms (as understood by anti-theistic philosophies).2  Perhaps he merely means (ambiguously) provide some presumably neutral "reasoning." One can fairly ask: What are the non-Christian assumptions behind this putative "neutral reasoning"?

Unbelievers merely presuppose "reason" without a ground.   For them reason is conceivably just one more brute fact in a mindless and infinite sea of other unrelated brute facts.  None of these brute facts are necessarily dependent on God, of course.  Since it presupposes that human reason and rules of logic can exist apart from God it is, de facto, an atheist theory of knowledge. Such is blatantly not a neutral stance. The question is, ipso facto, a visible display of the "myth of neutrality" (or what Greg Bahnsen has called the "pretended neutrality fallacy"). In this regard, the unbeliever's underlying epistemology is patently non-neutral -- it is an atheist epistemology. An unbeliever views himself as the self-sufficient autonomous man; a man produced out of a sea of chance, by way of materialistic evolutionary processes, yet, nonetheless, now free from that very "chance" and using an ultimate and immaterial "eternal logic" to judge what can or cannot be the case. To an agnostic, maybe some sort of "god" may exist, but such a "god" is irrelevant to their use of reason and appeal to abstract logic. Again, that stance, in effect, presupposes atheism.

We again point out that on atheist (and agnostic) metaphysical presuppositions, there is no "reason for reasoning."   Human minds, consciousness, rational autonomy, abstract immaterial concepts, truth and knowledge, in general, would not exist in the world of material monism  -- where all that exists is matter moving according to physical causality. There is no justification for the atheist's appeal to induction and assumptions of causality (uniformity of nature), and no account of deductive logic or rational volitional minds springing from matter-in-motion.  In general, there is no philosophically sound account of (merely presupposed) autonomous "reason" that comports with atheist metaphysical presuppositions. If man is produced by necessity and chance, and there is nothing that transcends the material, then how can man be autonomous? If man was created by chance and necessity, he still is controlled by chance and necessity.3 The necessity and chance of atheist monism (of all varieties) is antithetical to human autonomy. In the atheist universe all events are ultimately the result of chance and are acausal -- this is metaphysical irrationalism. In spite of these metaphysical presuppositions, the atheist attempts to build his "rational" house on an infinite sea of irrational chance. Since this ultimacy of the irrational provides no explanation or justification for either inductive reasoning or the universal validity of logic, it is futile, on their terms, to use these methods as the basis of any "explanation." Thus, on the atheist's presuppositions, not only would  "reason" not exist --  nothing would be provable and nothing would be knowable.  The conclusion is that the atheist knows nothing. Atheism resolves itself in an ultimate and irremediable skepticism. These are some of the many refutations of atheism (and, a fortiori, of agnosticism). But let us proceed.

So then, as Christian apologists, we defend the objective truth of the totality of Christian theism.  Our positive argument takes Christian theism as a complete and coherent system, a total worldview,  that is defended as a whole.  That whole is based on, and thus includes, God's revelation and Christ testified to in the historical record in the Bible.  We don't defend a theism without Christ.   We defend Christian theism. This defense includes the Biblical doctrines of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, Christ's death and bodily resurrection, and Christ's atonement for sin, and the redemption of sinners.

The respondent's challenge is somewhat akin to challenging a geometer to prove the theorems of Euclidean geometry without using Euclid's axioms.4  That would be rather silly.   In the same way, the respondent's attempt to impose such a demand on Christians is, likewise, silly.   The challenge is based on a presupposed anti-theistic standard of truth ("epistemic authority"), a standard that is based on a viciously circular philosophy and that is not self-verifying.  It is a prejudicial, merely assumed and unproven standard, consequently, that standard is not normative.5  Further it is an epistemology that does not comport with the anti-theist's (whether atheist or agnostic) presupposed metaphysics.  (In fact, as has been repeatedly shown, such merely asserted epistemological claims, such as "only science yields knowledge," are self-refuting.)  At any rate, it is a truth that one cannot argue deductively from a false (inconsistent) system to a true (consistent) one, or from one system to its contrary.6  (This is one reason why one must argue transcendentally.)

Further, the God Who we know exists is not just a mere abstract concept ("the god of the philosophers") but the God of Christianity, the personal Triune God revealed in the Bible.  The respondent's challenge imposes an unbelieving and non self-verifying epistemological framework (his "rules of the game") to assess Christian truth.  It is an invalid invitation for Christians to step outside of our circle of authority and join him within his circle of authority. This challenge should be filed under, "Deducing Christian Theism from Atheism," right next to the file on "Squaring the Circle."  As Scripture states: "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him." (Prov 26:4).

In short, the challenge is: "I'll presuppose my worldview, but you can't presuppose yours!"  But then, as Van Til has remarked, we treat the unbeliever better than he is willing to treat us.  As Presuppositionalists, we do not impose any like demand on unbelievers.  Rather, we challenge them to explicate and show the consistency of their worldview (metaphysics, epistemology and ethics) on their presuppositions.

So then, how do we know the Triune Christian God exists?

We know that the Triune Christian God exists because of the impossibility of the contrary.   Positively, that the God of Christian theism -- revealed in the Bible and the creation --  is the necessary precondition for the intelligibility of human experience.  This is the Transcendental Argument for God (TAG) in a nutshell, and we argue via transcendental critiques of the unbeliever's worldview that show their presuppositions are self-contradictory.  This is necessary because of the radical and total antithesis of the opposing worldviews.   In Christianity, every man and every fact is dependent on God.  In atheism autonomous man is independent of God and no fact is dependent on God.  So then there is no neutral ground, no neutral epistemology and certainly completely antithetical metaphysics.  (The respondent's challenge is evidence of this. The challenge rejects Christian epistemology and embraces a groundless atheist epistemology and standards of truth.)

As Christians we do not engage in special pleading for Christian theism. 
For the sake of argument, we allow atheists to stand on their own ground to attempt to demonstrate the internal coherence of their worldview.   Every version of atheism (whether monist or pluralist) fails, on its own presuppositions.  They are self-contradictory and therefore false.

We allow the agnostics to stand on their own ground to attempt to demonstrate the internal coherence of their worldview.  Every version of agnosticism fails on its own presuppositions.

In all of the above cases, this fair challenge to unbelievers, to present the coherence and intelligibility of their worldview on their presuppositions has never been answered.   They are all false systems.  Their answers, when examined critically, resort to question begging and special pleading.   In addition, their philosophies all result ultimately in skepticism, provide no foundation for ethics, undermine truth, and render knowledge impossible -- on their account, it is not possible for them to know anything.  It therefore devolves to the Christian apologist to question the unbelievers and to stand on the unbeliever's ground, for the sake of argument, to show the contradictions of their presuppositions.   Each instance of these internal critiques, which is argued ad seriatim, is part and parcel of TAG. This conforms to Proverbs 26:5, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit."

As far as other non-atheistic philosophies (such as pantheism, eastern mysticism etc.) and non-Christian religions (e.g. Judaism, Islam), the apologetic procedure is methodologically the same.  Each is internally incoherent, destroys the possibility of knowledge and is self-contradictory based on its own presuppositions.  As Christian apologists, we do not impose external standards upon them; rather we critique them on their own ground.

In the end then, we present and defend the truth of Christianity as revealed in God's Word.   The God that we know exists is not an abstract "god," not a mere "god of the philosophers," but the eternal, personal God, who revealed himself in the world and in His Word.   The God who manifested himself in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to redeem sinners.  That is the God of the Bible.  The God of the historical record preserved in the Bible.  We defend Christian theism as a whole -- a complete worldview that is non-contradictory, is consistent, and accounts for all human experience.  This conforms to Prov. 26:4, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him."

In short, only Christian theism is consistent; nothing else is. Those who reject the Bible choose to believe the absurd in its place.

In closing, unbelievers who reject the Bible, no doubt, view themselves as "innocent truth seekers" within an ultimately random and meaningless reality.  They believe their unbelief has no moral consequences.  They are mistaken.  They are culpable in their unbelief and ignorance . Their every thought is enmity to God (Rom. 8:7). They are lost, sinful rebels in God's created universe and in need of a Savior.   Among other sins, they are earning their death every day by the sin of unbelief.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  

John 3:18-19 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

1 The stipulation to use an anti-Christian epistemology is to commit the fallacy of special pleading. As Bahnsen states in Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, "There is no way to use non-Christian language and logic to arrive at Christian utterances, conclusions, and behavior.” The unbeliever needs to justify his epistemology before demanding it as the standard.  
For example, neither the inductive method nor the deductive method are known by way of induction or deduction. That would be a viciously circular argument (for example, one could only deductively argue for modus ponens by use of modus ponens). Thus, on the unbeliever's presuppositions, induction and deduction are just assumed by faith and cannot be said to be known. Further, the unbeliever being an "epistemological loafer" willfully ignores the ground for these in his worldview. They are taken as brute unexplained facts, and hence are not known -- this is the anti-metaphysical bias of modern "science." So, when considered in this light, the challenge to show how I know is self-defeating and impotent on the unbeliever's viewpoint (his "theory of knowledge"). It is in this regard that Van Til stated that unless God exists nothing is provable.
To deny this is to smuggle in a principle of "discontinuity," contrary to the atheist's faith commitment to a presumed "uniformity of nature." On the other hand, the unbeliever maintains allegiance to his "uniformity of nature" to deny Christian miracles (cf. An Atheist's Miracle).
4 In comparing Biblical Christianity to Euclidean geometry the point of contact I am making is that they are both systems of thought and that the Bible is integral and necessary to the complete system of Christian theism as are the Euclidean axioms to that complete system. I am not suggesting that the Bible is taken as a mere axiom.
5 On this point it is worth paraphrasing Greg Bahnsen's challenge to the unbeliever to explicate how they know that their claimed standard is the right standard. The unbeliever has the following options: (1) He can admit that his standard of evaluation has no justification. In this case, his position is arbitrary and irrational; (2) he can argue that his standard is established by some standard outside of itself. In this case he is admitting that a new standard is more ultimate, contradicting his previously claimed "ultimate" standard. Finally, he can keep seeking a more ultimate standard. In this case he is trapped in an infinite regress with the result that his standard is unknown and unknowable, and thus futile; or (3) he can point to a truly ultimate, intelligible and self-verifying standard that explains all else, in that it is the ultimate standard beyond which no appeal can be made (as in Christianity which points to God, Hebrews 6:13). The point is that the respondent's challenge is groundless. [cf. Pushing the Antithesis, pp. 121,2]
6 In Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, Greg Bahnsen states it this way: “There is no way to use non-Christian language and logic to arrive at Christian utterances, conclusions, and behavior.”