© 1981, 1997 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Covenant Media Foundation, 800/553-3938
Let God Be True: A Brief Defense of the Christian Faith
by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
††††††† "Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.
††††††† As it is written:
††† ††††That You may be justified in Your words,
††††††† And may overcome when You are judged."
††††††† (Romans 3:4)
††††††† God calls upon Christians to "sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Pet. 3:!5). As we obey him we must defend the faith in such a way that it "sanctifies the Lord" in our hearts. We must defend the faith from a position of faith. Too many defenses of the faith cede the method of approach to the unbeliever and end up "proving" at best the possibility that a god exists ó not the certainty that the God of Scripture exists.
††††† Let us see how we may do this.
The Role of Presuppositions in Thought
The Uniformity of Nature and Thought
††††††† We exist in what is known as a "universe." The word "universe" is composed of two parts: the first part, "uni," means "unit, one." The second part, verse," indicates "diversity, varying parts." By this it is meant that we live in a single unified and orderly system which is composed of many diversified parts. These parts function coordinately together as a whole, rational system. We do not live in a "multiverse". A multiverse state-of-affairs would be a dis-unified, totally fragmented, and random assortment of disconnected and unconnectable facts. These unconnectable facts would be meaninglessly scattered about in chaotic disarray and ultimate disorder.
††††††† This concept is vitally important to science. For the very possibility of scientific investigation is totally dependent upon the fact of a "uni-verse" ó an orderly, rational and coherent system. If it were the case that reality were haphazard and disorderly there could be no basic scientific laws that governed and controlled various phenomena. And if this were the case there could not be any unity at all in either reality itself, or in experience, or in thought.
††††††† In such a multiverse each and every single fact would necessarily stand alone, utterly disconnected from other facts, not forming a system as a whole. Consequently, nothing could be organized and related in a mind because no fact would be related to any other fact. Thus, science, logic, and experience are absolutely dependent upon uniformity as a principle of the natural world.
Uniformity and Faith
††††††† But now the question must be raised: How do we know assuredly that the universe is in fact uniform? Has man investigated every single aspect of the universe from each one of its smallest atomic particles to the farthest comers of its solar systems and all that exists in between, so that he can speak authoritatively? Does man have totally exhaustive knowledge about every particle of matter, every movement in space and every moment of time? How does man know uniformity governs the world and the universe? Furthermore, how can we know that uniformity will be the case tomorrow so that we can conjecture about future events? And since man claims to have an experience of external things, how do we know our experience is accurate and actually conform to reality as it is?
††††††† Such questions are not commonly asked, but they are nevertheless vitally important questions to consider. The point of these questions is to demonstrate a particular phenomenon: it must be realized that any and every attempt to prove uniformity in nature necessarily requires circular reasoning. To prove uniformity one must assume or presuppose uniformity.
††††††† Is it not the case that if I set out to argue the uniformity of die universe because I can predict cause-and-effect that I am presupposing the uniformity and validity of my experience? How can I be sure that my experience of cause-and effect is an accurate reflection of what really happened? Furthermore, am I not presupposing the trustworthy, uniform coherence of my own rationality - a rationality that requires uniformity?
††††††† The issue boils down to this. Since man cannot know everything he must assume or presuppose uniformity and then think and act on this very basic assumption. Consequently the principle of uniformity is not a scientific law but an act of faith which undergirds scientific law. Thus adherence to the principle of uniformity - though basic to science - is an intrinsically religious commitment C. Presuppositions in Thought.
††††††† Scientists follow a basic pattern in discovering true scientific laws. First, they observe a particular phenomenon. Then on the basis of their observations they construct a working hypothesis. Next, experiments are performed implementing this hypothesis. Subsequently this is followed in turn by an attempt to verify the experiments performed. Then a verified hypothesis is accepted as a theory. Finally a well-established theory is recognized as a scientific law which governs in a given set of circumstances.
††††††† Thus the basic pattern of scientific activity is this: observation, hypothesis, experimentation, verification, theory and law. Christians agree whole-heartedly with the validity of this scientific methodology. We accept the notion of a uniform universe which allows for Such.
††††††† Physicist Thomas Kuhn, in his 1962 work entitled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, noted that scientists must work from certain preconceived ideas, certain presupposed concepts about things in order to begin formulating their theories and performing their experiments. That presuppositions are always silently at work is evident in that the scientist when dealing with a particular problem selects only a few basic facts to consider while rejecting or overlooking numerous other facts. They perform certain types of experiments while neglecting others, And they do this in keeping with their presuppositions. One of the most basic presuppositions held by scientists is the one of which we have been discussing: that the universe is in fact one orderly, logical system. Were this not assumed then science could not even get off the ground.
††††††† But, as a matter of fact, there am numerous presuppositions that all men hold to that play a vital role in all human thought and behavior. The various presuppositions held by men govern the way we think and act all the way down to how we select and employ specific facts from the millions presented to us each moment. The presuppositions we hold are the foundation blocks upon which we build out way of understanding the world about us. Presuppositions are the very basis for what is known as our "world-and-life" view.
††††††† A "world-and-life" view is the very framework through which we understand the world and our relation to it. Everyone necessarily has a particular way of looking at the world, a "world-and-life" view, that serves to organize things about the world in his mind. "Mis world-and-life view must be founded on basic presupposed ideas that we hold to be truth. We begin with certain presuppositions and go from there in our learning, communicating, behaving, planning, etc.
The Impossibility of Neutrality
††††††† Everyone holds to presuppositions. No one does - or can operate from a vacuum. We simply do not think or behave "out of the blue." It is impossible to think and live as if we were aliens having just arrived in this world from a radically different universe, totally devoid of all knowledge of this world, absolutely objective and utterly un-predisposed to ideas about truth: People behave in terms of their basic world-and-life view which best implements their conceptions regarding truth.
††††††† Whether we are defending our moral behavior or rationally explaining something, we are working within the context of a particular, concrete way of looking at the world. This is our system of thought and behavior. This is our world-and life view. Our world-and-life view then is an important tool which organizes our way of looking at the world in terms of our specific presuppositions.
††††††† Consequently, neutrality in thought is impossible. Each person ó the philosopher and scientist included ó has his own bias. This bias has predetermined the facts on the basis of his presuppositions. Yet it is almost always the case that scientists claim to be presenting neutral, unbiased, impartial and objective facts in his research. But man is not and cannot be truly objective and impartial. All thinking must begin somewhere! Thus all thinking must have some fundamental, logically primitive starting point Or presupposition. At (he very least we must presuppose the reality of the external world, the rationality of mental activity, the compatibility between external reality and the mind, and the uniformity of nature, i.e., the law of cause-and effect As noted previously a certain faith is necessary in the selection and organization of the several facts chosen from the millions presented By the very nature of the case, then, presuppositions are held to be self-authenticating or self-evidencing.
††††††† Facts are inseparable from their interpretation. Facts cannot stand alone. "They must be understood in terms of some broad, unified whole or system. They must be organized in our rational minds in terms of their general relationships to other facts and principles. This leads us then to our most basic question: Which system can give meaning to the facts of the universe? Which system of thought can provide an adequate foundation for reality? Why is our state of-affairs conducive to rational thought and behavior? What is the basis for an orderly universe?
World-Views in Collision
††††††† When we contrast Christian thought with non-Christian thought we must realize that we are not contrasting two series of isolated facts. We are not comparing two systems of truth sharing a basically similar outlook with only intermittent differences at specific turns. We are contrasting two whole, complete, and antithetical systems of thought. Each particular item of evidence presented in support of the one system will be evaluated by the other system in terms of the latterís own entire implicit system with all of its basic assumptions. Each fact or piece of data presented either to the Christian or the non-Christian will be weighed, categorized, organized, and judged as to its possibility in terms of the all pervasive world-and-life view held.
††††††† Consequently, it is essential to see that the debate between the Christian and the non-Christian is between two complete world-and-life views - between two ultimate commitments and presuppositions which are contrary to one another. Two complete philosophies are in collision. Appealing to various scientific evidences would be arbitrated in terms of the two mutually-exclusive and diametrically opposed, presupposed truths held by the systems.
††††††† Thus the debate between the Christian and the non-Christian must eventually work its way down to the level of oneís ultimate authority. Every series of arguments must end somewhere; oneís conclusions could never be demonstrated if they were dependent upon an infinite regress of arguments and justifications. So all debates must terminate at some point, at some premise held as unquestionable. This is oneís foundational starting point, oneís presupposition. The question which surfaces at this point is this: Which system of truth provides the foundational preconditions essential for observation, reason, experience, and meaningful discourse? Thus, which faith system will be chosen; the Christian or the non-Christian?
The Christian System And Presuppositions
††††††† What is the Christianís starting point? What is his most basic presupposition upon which he builds his entire world and-life view? Where do we begin our argument?
††††††† Christian thought holds as its logically primitive, fundamental, all-pervasive and necessary starting point or presupposition, the being of God who has revealed Himself in Scripture. Thus our presupposition is God and His word. "Me Scripture, being His own infallible word, reveals to us the nature of the God in whom we Mist.
††††††† God is self-sufficient, needing nothing outside of Himself at all. All else in the universe is utterly dependent upon ,Him. God is
all-powerful, fully capable of creating the entire universe. God is personal, thus giving meaning to the vast universe. And God has clearly and authoritatively revealed Himself in Scripture, so we may build upon His word as Truth.
††††††† The entire Christian system of thought is founded solidly upon this God; the all-ordering God of Scripture. We presuppose God for what He is. If God exists and demands our belief in Scripture, we cannot challenge or test Him in any area. We recognize the independence of God and the utter dependence of man and the universe. Thus we do not have to exhaustively know everything to be sum. God knows all things and has revealed to us in His word the truth of uniformity (Gen. 8:22; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3) and all
other truths we need to build upon.
The Non-Christian System and Presuppositions
††††††† Against this presupposed system, what does the non-Christian presuppose as ultimate truth? What does the secularist have to offer as its ultimate authority?
†††††† The non-Christian must ultimately explain the universe not on the basis of the all-organizing, self-sufficient, all-wise, personal God as his starting point, but by nebulous, chaotic, impersonal chance. He asserts that the universe was produced by a combination of impersonal chance plus an enormous span of time. Thus the ultimate starting point and the all-conditioning environment of the universe is time plus chance.
†††††† Consequently rational science is rooted in the irrationality of chance. The scientist cannot speak of design or purpose in the universe because there is no designer or purpose. There can be no goal or purpose in a random
††††††† Science must by the very nature of its non-Christian commitment assume facts are bits of irrationalism strewn about awaiting rationalization by man. Thus modem science is schizophrenic. On the one hand, everything has its source in random, ungoverned chance. On the other hand, evolution assumes all is not random, but uniform: that all is ungoverned, yet, nevertheless, is moving in an upward direction from disorder to order, from simplicity to complexity.
††††††† In this regard Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til has noted: "On his own assumption his own rationality is a product of chance. The rationality and purpose that he may be searching for are still bound by products of chance." To prove a rational universe by chance man must believe the rational is the product of, and is dependent upon, the irrational.
††††††† Not only is all of reality founded on chance, but this leaves man to be the final criterion of truth, Man - sinful, fallible, finite man - becomes ultimate in the non-Christian system.
Presuppositions Make a Difference
External Reality (Ontology)
††††††† When asked to give the basis and starting point for the orderly universe and all external reality, the Christian points to the self-contained, omnipresent all-powerful, all-wise God of Scripture.†††
†††† When the non-Christian is asked to give the basis and starting for the orderly universe and external reality, he points to literally nothing. All has risen from nothing by the irrational mechanism of chance. When asked if something can miraculously pop into being from nothing in an instant the non-Christian vigorously responds in the negative. Instant miracles are out of the question! But when asked if something can come out of nothing if given several billion years, the non-Christian confidently responds in the affirmative. As Van Til, has noted, the non-Christian overlooks the fact that if one zero equals zero, then a billion zeros can equal only zero.† Thus, the Christian has a more than ae1equate reason for the universe, whereas the non-Christian has no reason whatsoever.
††††††† The Christian establishes his theory of knowledge on the all-ordering omniscient God of Scripture. God has instantaneous, true, and exhaustive knowledge of everything. And He has revealed to man in the Bible comprehensive principles which are clear and give a sure foundation for knowledge. Such a foundation insures that what man does know (although he cannot know all things) he can know truly. Knowledge does work because manís mind as created by God is receptive to external reality and is given validity by God Himself.
††††††† On the other hand, the non-Christian must establish his theory of knowledge on the same foundation upon which he established reality; nebulous chaos and irrational chance. If followed out consistently the non-Christian theory of knowledge would utterly destroy all knowledge, causing it to drown in the turbulent ocean of irrationalism. There is no reason for reason in the non-Christian system The concepts of probability, possibility, order, rationality, etc., are impossible in a chance system.† Thus, the Christian has a sure foundation for knowledge, whereas the non-Christian has none.
††††††† When we consider the issue of moral behavior, bow we shall conduct ourselves, again the question must be settled in terms of oneís system.
††††††† For the Christian morality is founded upon the all-good, all-knowing, everywhere present, all powerful, personal, and eternal God of Scripture. His will, which is rooted in His being and nature, is manís standard of right. Since God is all good, moral principles revealed in Scripture are always relevant to our situation. Since God is eternal, His moral commands are always binding upon men.
††††††† For the non-Christian there is no sure base for ethics. Since reality is founded on nothing and knowledge is rooted in irrationalism, morality can be nothing other than pure, impersonal irrelevance. In such a system as presupposed by non-Christian thought there are no --- there can be no ó ultimate, abiding moral principles. Everything is caught up in the impersonal flux of a random universe. Random change is an ultimate in such a system, consequently ethics is reduced to pure relativism. Non-Christian thought can offer no justification for any moral behavior whatsoever.
††††††† To the question of whether or not there is any significance and meaning to the universe and to life, the "Christian confidently responds in the affirmative. There is meaning in the world because it was purposely and purposefully created by and for the personal, loving, all-ordering, eternal God of Scripture. Man came about as the direct and purposeful creation of the loving God. Furthermore, man was assigned a specific and far-reaching duty by God on the very day he was created. Man and his task must be understood in terms of the eternal God and His plan rather than in terms of himself and an environment of chance and change.
†††††††† Non-Christian thought destroys the meaning and significance of man by positing that he is nothing more than a chance fluke, an accidental collection of molecules arising. out of the slime and primordial ooze. Man is a frail speck of dust caught up in a gigantic, impersonal, multi-billion year old universe. That, and nothing more.
††††††† To the question as to which system is the most adequate to explain external reality, the possibility of knowledge, a relevant and binding ethic, and the, significance of man, the answer should be obvious. Actually the defense of Christianity is simple. We argue the impossibility of the contrary. Those who assault the Christian system must actually assume the Christian system to do so, If the God of Scripture did not exist there would be no man in the real world to argue, there would be no possibility of rationality by which an argument could be forged, and there would be no purpose in debate!
††††††† "Darwin said it well in his personal letter to W. Graham on July 3, 1881: "But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has always been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?"
†Paul also spoke well when he said in Romans 3:4, "Let God be true and every man a liar."
††††††† Cornelius Van Til, Apologetics syllabus (Chestnut Hill, PA:
Westminster Theological Seminary, n.d.), 63.
††††††† Cited in Rousas John Rushdoony, The Mythology of Science (Nutley,
NJ: Craig Press, 1967), 53.