As I read, study and contemplate the concepts and practical applications of Christian Apologetics my mind comes back again to the primary text so often used to call us to the task. The Apostle Peter is writing to “common” Christians as he instructs them in the midst of great political strife and real danger to themselves and their property. Philip Schaff tells us of the time of writing of Peter’s Epistles, “And Peter, in his first Epistle, which may be assigned to the same year (64 A.D.), immediately after the outbreak of the persecution, and shortly before his death, warns the Christians in Asia Minor of a fiery trial which is to try them, and of sufferings already endured or to be endured, not for any crime, but for the name of ‘Christians.’ ” (History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, Ch. VI) Peter speaks to them very directly as he says; “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1Pe 3:14-16 ESV) These Christians did not have time to take classes in the trends of philosophy or the subtle nuances of rhetorical devices. They were simply called to give a reasoned defense for the faith which they had come to embrace. John Calvin comments on this passage;
But it ought to be noticed, that Peter here does not command us to be prepared to solve any question that may be mooted; for it is not the duty of all to speak on every subject. But it is the general doctrine that is meant, which belongs to the ignorant and the simple (i.e. “common” Christians). Then Peter had in view no other thing, than that Christians should make it evident to unbelievers that they truly worshiped God, and had a holy and good religion. And in this there is no difficulty, for it would be strange if we could bring nothing to defend our faith when any one made inquiries respecting it. For we ought always to take care that all may know that we fear God, and that we piously and reverently regard his legitimate worship.
This was also required by the state of the times: the Christian name was much hated and deemed infamous; many thought the sect wicked and guilty of many sacrileges. It would have been, therefore, the highest perfidy against God, if, when asked, they had neglected to give a testimony in favor of their religion. And this, as I think, is the meaning of the word apology, which Peter uses, that is, that the Christians were to make it evident to the world that they were far off from every impiety, and did not corrupt true religion, on which account they were suspected by the ignorant. (Commentary on 1 Peter)
With this said, we may draw some parallels and some distinctions between ourselves and the Believers in Asia Minor in the first century. Like them we are called, one and all, to make a defense or an apology for our faith. We can also see that our primary apologetic or defense is the example of our lives; lives lived in faith and obedience and showing he fruit of moral purity and love to God and man.
The idea Calvin gives of the word apology may be a bit short of its complete meaning. The general understanding of the term in our own day is that it is a logical or reasoned defense that is in view here1. Other places in the New Testament it certainly carries the idea of a reasonable and stated defense. It is used of Paul’s defense of himself and his doctrine as he stood before the men of Ephesus (Act s 19:33), the crowd in Jerusalem (Acts 22:1) and Festus (Acts 26:24). In these cases, Paul defended his doctrine and gave testimony to the things Christ had done, including His death and resurrection. Therefore, I believe that like those Christians, we too should be able to answer our culture with reasonable statements defending the doctrines of the Christian Faith. However, on the contrary side of this, since we do not live in a superstitious culture like pagan Rome where a multitude of gods are worshiped by the majority of our fellow citizens, we need not only show that we really believe in and worship a God that calls us to moral purity and love, but also answer the questions and criticisms which our own culture directs toward us and the body of doctrine that we hold to.
One other parallel needs to be mentioned though, just like those Christians in Asia Minor were not apostles but “common” Christians, most of us are common Christians too. We certainly do not have the theological training and experience that the Apostle had (let alone his calling). Those Christians in Asia Minor were commanded to make a defense for their faith just the same. So, how does the 21st Century “Joe Christian” carry out this command?
I greatly appreciate the opportunities I presently have, and those I have had in the past, to dig deeper than the “common” Christian into these matters. I have read Justin Martyrs, Apology and his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, and Reformers like John Calvin in his Institutes, John Owen’s Biblical Theology, and Stephen Charnock’s Existence and Attributes of God. As for more recent defenders of the Faith, I have spent countless hours trying to grasp Van Til, Bahnsen, Frame and Schaeffer through a number of their books, treatises and articles. I have benefited from that time and grown in the certainty of my own faith and the knowledge of how I might best defend it. Yet, for the most part, it seems that when I try to communicate these vital concepts to “common” Christians it is like Beethoven trying to talk to me about music or Einstein giving me informal instruction on theoretical physics. I lack the frame of reference to make those discussions meaningful. Though I appreciate music and even play a little bit of guitar, I lack concrete understanding of music theory. For instance, what is it in a key signature that dictates where the sharps and flats should go? I have no idea! Though I know that I could not live without the laws of physics and recognize their value, I do not grasp the complex mathematical equations that explain them.
Just as I am grateful for Beethoven and Einstein, I am grateful for Van Til, Bahnsen, Frame and Schaeffer, as well as the thinking of men like Calvin, Owen, and Charnock who helped to lead these men to a Biblical critique of the field of Apologetics. These great minds stretch the limits of my thinking and their contributions to defending the faith are remarkable. Yet, I don’t know if I will ever be in a formal debate with someone of the reputation and learning of a Dr. Gordon Stein. It is far more likely that I will be defending my faith to a “common” skeptic. Just as I can entertain someone or lead worship playing a dozen or so chords and hopefully carrying a decent melody, I believe that one can carry a good argument based on the fundamentals that are not necessarily grasped in great detail at the technical level. As a pastor, it is my goal to help “common” Christians do the latter, not the former. In this paper, it will be my goal to make the concepts taught by these great men as tangible as possible to those “common” Christians. I will attempt to break down the general line of reasoning used by the big brains, and apply it to a question asked by a friend of mine who was recently stymied by an unbeliever. I believe that if I can teach my friend (and other “common” Christians) to begin with the right assumptions in their understanding of man and God and also to ask the right questions, that the answers will become, more of less, self-apparent.
Following Bahnsen’s Lead
It is my goal to follow the basic outline of Dr. Bahnsen’s argument in what is commonly called The Great Debate. However, he does not state the foundation of his reasoning at the outset but mentions it briefly at the close of the debate. Apologist John Frame says, “Good teaching proceeds from the known to the unknown. So a good apologist will want to have some idea of what an inquirer already knows about God.” (Unregenerate Knowledge of God). Bahnsen has certainly done his homework on this. In his closing statements he says this;
But, atheists, of course, use science and morality. In this argument atheists give continual evidence to the fact that in their heart of hearts they are not atheists. In their heart of hearts they know the God I’m talking about. This God made them, reveals Himself continually to them through the natural order, through their conscience, and through their very use of reason.
They know this God, and they suppress the truth about him. One of the ways that we know that they suppress the truth about him is because they do continue to use the laws of logic, science and morality though their world view doesn’t account for them. (pg. 35)
Frame covers the idea in a little more detail in his brief article, He instructs us that, “From this passage [Romans 1:18-32], we can understand the senses in which the unregenerate [non-Christians] do and do not know God. They know God as they are confronted by his revelation. Other Scriptures tell us that this revelation is found not only in the natural world, but in their own persons, for we are all made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). So God’s revelation is inescapable. But apart from the special revelation and saving grace of God, people exchange this truth for lies and engage in such wickedness that they become enemies of God, not friends.” (Ibid) So we must clearly begin with a knowledge that we are speaking to willful rebels, but rebels who are made in the image of God and who have an inherent knowledge of Him which they are suppressing. This is like speaking to an addict about dealing with his addiction. He knows the problem but he has convinced himself that it is a non-issue. “I can quit whenever I want” he says to himself. Yet he is caught and can’t see the truth of the matter because he really does not want to or is unprepared to deal with the consequences of such and admission.
Once we have the proper understanding of the skeptic’s mind, the discussion is, in essence, as a three step process, 1) Expose the “Myth of Neutrality,” 2) Uncover the Logical End of the Opponent’s Reasoning, and 3) Establish the “Biblical Worldview.” All the while, we must also be trusting that God will, by His grace, open the sealed crypt of their hearts. This seems to be the general method employed by Dr. Bahnsen in his debate with Gordon Stein.
Step 1) Exposing the Myth of neutrality. In his opening statement, Dr. Bahnsen analyzes Dr. Stein’s concept of evidence. First he points to the Nature of Evidence. He says of Dr. Stein;
“He writes, and I quote, “The question of the existence of God is a factual question, and should be answered in the same way as any other factual questions.”
The assumption that all existence claims are questions about matters of fact, the assumption that all of these are answered in the very same way is not only over simplified and misleading, it is simply mistaken. The existence, factuality or reality of different kinds of things is not established or disconfirmed in the same way in every case” (pg. 2-3)
Prejudice is evidenced in Stein’s statement. He has naturalistic and empirical standards that he imposes on the evidence.
Naturalism is the idea that nature is its own creator. There is no “supernatural,” Therefore, matter, plus time, plus space, plus chance accounts for all that is.
Empiricism is trying to explain the nature of the universe from the observable facts using our five senses, according to the scientific method.
These underlying concepts are framing the argument rather than seeking to answer the question of God’s existence. Based on the above concepts, there is no room for Him in their thinking. Therefore, the severe limitations of empirical standards of knowledge are intentionally disregarded by Dr. Stein. In his work, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, John Frame says this about Empiricism, under the heading Empiricism Too Limited;
If we consistently followed an empirical approach to knowledge, we would have to abandon many claims to knowledge that otherwise we would make without hesitation. (i) Empiricism cannot justify a general proposition such as “all men are mortal” or “F=MA.” Such general propositions always go beyond anything we can observe, because they encompass the whole universe. Similarly, the propositions of logic and mathematics, propositions that claim to be universally true, cannot be established on an empirical basis. (ii) Empiricism cannot justify any statements about the future, for no one has known the future by sense-experience, and so empiricism cannot justify scientific prediction. Thus we must either drastically limit the scope of what we call “knowledge” or else abandon empiricism. (iii) As Hume [David Hume was an 18th Century Naturalist Philosopher] pointed out, empiricism cannot justify any statements about ethical values. Statements about sensible facts do not imply anything about ethical goodness or badness, right or wrong, or obligation or prohibition. But…, epistemology [how we know what we know] is a subdivision of ethics, and knowledge depends on our adoption and use of ethical values. If empiricism cannot justify the language about empirical values, then it cannot justify any claim to knowledge. (iv) Therefore empiricism cannot justify empiricism. For empiricism is a view of how one ought (an ethical “ought”) to justify his beliefs, and on an empiricist basis, we cannot justify from sense-experience the proposition that we ought to justify our beliefs that way. (pg. 117-118)
Dr Bahnsen goes on to equate Stein’s idea of proving God’s existence with “finding a box of crackers in the pantry” saying, “Just think of the difference in argumentation and the types of evidences used by biologists, grammarians, physicists, mathematicians, lawyers, magicians, mechanics, merchants, and artists. It should be obvious that the types of evidence one looks for in existence of factual claims will be determined by the field of discussion and especially by the metaphysical nature of the entity mentioned in the claim under question.” (pg. 3) Even if we take the view that empiricism is valid, we must agree that Stein’s idea that a homogenous method of “facts and logic” is too simple to accommodate the evidence required in any particular field of inquiry, particularly the study of God and the question of His existence. But this is only the first part of the problem with the naturalistic, empirical approach.
Next, Dr. Bahnsen points to the way Dr. Stein uses logic to handle the evidence under his second headding, The Presuppositional conflict of World Views. He says,
I take it he wishes to judge hypotheses in the common sense – by tests of logical coherence and empirical observation. The problem arises when Dr. Stein elsewhere insists that every claim that someone makes must be treated as a hypothesis which must be tested by such evidence before accepting it. “There is to be nothing,” he says, “which smacks of begging the question or circular reasoning.”
This, I think, is oversimplified thinking and again misleading, what we might call the Pretended Neutrality fallacy. One can see this by considering the following quotation from Dr. Stein: “The use of logic or reason is the only valid way to examine the truth or falsity of any statement which claims to be factual.” One must eventually ask Dr. Stein, then, how he proves this statement itself. That is, how does he prove that logic or reason is the only way to prove factual statements?
He is now on the horns of a real epistemological dilemma (How can he really know?). If he says that the statement is true by logic or reason, then he is engaging in circular reasoning; and he’s begging the question which he [supposedly] forbids. If he says that the statement is proven in some other fashion, then he refutes the statement itself, that logic or reason is the only way to prove things. (pg. 3-4)
Dr Stein presupposes fundamental concepts (i.e., empirical data collected though the five senses and logic based on naturalistic bias as the standard of truth) and he limits the discussion with those presuppositions. Thus again, he is framing the discussion rather than discussing the issue at hand. If the evidence submitted does not fit his pre-commitments, then he rejects it without having given it serious consideration. Is this how “science” is really done? Do we establish artificial barriers to our research based on our own philosophical predispositions and call it neutral? This is as “circular” as any argument for the existence of God might be deemed. In his article A Van Til Glossary, John Frame defines a circular argument, “ (1) argument in which the conclusion of an argument is one of its premises; (2) argument assuming something that would ordinarily not be assumed by someone who didn’t believe the conclusion.” Stein’s pre-commitment to naturalism and empiricism certainly fit that definition.
Following those pre-commitments, he will unavoidably distort the data that he is given. Assuming neutrality, he spins the data to fit his method of interpretation. He believes that the data or “facts” speak for themselves. This is what Van Til called a “brute fact” (Christian – Theistic Evidences, Introduction). Van Til also said that they do not exist, at least from the limited, human perspective. Therefore, the bias of the naturalist is revealed when he is under scrutiny and the basis of his empiricism is shown not to be derived from a neutral position, but from serious, fact-altering presuppositions. His “world view” is the defining aspect of his interaction with and interpretation of the data. That world view must be recognized and acknowledged in order for the discussion to take place on the plane of reality. Again, Frame provides a definition for us, this time of the concept of world view, “(also, world-and-life view): A philosophy, particularly a metaphysic. A way of understanding reality that governs all thought and life.” (A Van Til Glossary) The biggest problem with a world view is that most people do not acknowledge the bias that results from them and they pretend that their view is actually neutral when it is not. Only upon acknowledgment their prejudices can we have an honest discussion.
Step 2) Uncovering the logical end of our opponent’s reasoning. Therefore we begin by establishing the fact that we all spin the facts to fit our predetermined scheme of the universe. The question is whether we can justify that spin. Once we have uncovered our opponent’s bias and the “myth of neutrality” is revealed, the next thing we must do is to examine how his pre-committments have affected his logic and have brought him to a wrong conclusion. Dr. Bahnesn does this by appealing to the concept of logic and the laws that govern it. He demands that Dr. Stein demonstrate how the naturalistic world view can account for this. Again, naturalism assumes that the universe is the result of matter moving randomly through time and space and producing everything by chance. If this is the reality that accounts for our universe, should we expect order or chaos? The laws of logic are universal, invariant and absolute as well as being non-material in nature. Simply stated, basic rules of logic tell us, “it is what it is.” A is always A no matter where you are in the universe and whether you actually experience A or not. And so, Dr. Bahnsen requests of Dr. Stein, “I’d like to know, in an atheist universe, how is it possible to have laws in the first place. And secondly, how it is possible to justify those laws?” (pg. 15) Dr Stein says they are simply “conventional” or concepts agreed on by men (pg. 11). Dr. Bahnsen therefore points out;
That is to say, in the atheist conception of the world, there’s really no reason to debate; because in the end, as Dr. Stein has said, all these laws are conventional. All these laws are not really law-like in their nature, they’re just, well, if you’re an atheist and materialist [naturalist], you’d have to say they’re just something that happens inside the brain.
But you see, what happens inside your brain is not what happens inside my brain. Therefore, what happens inside your brain is not a law. It doesn’t necessarily correspond to what happens in mine. In fact, it can’t be identical with what is inside my mind or brain, because we don’t have the same brain.
As the laws of logic come down to being materialistic entities, then they no longer have their law-like character. If they are only social conventions, then, of course, what we might do to limit debate is just define a new set of laws. and ask for all who want the convention that says, “Atheism must be true or theism must be true, and we have the following laws that we conventionally adopt to prove it,” and see who’d be satisfied.
But no one can be satisfied without a rational procedure to follow. The laws of logic can not be avoided, the laws of logic can not be accounted for in a Materialist universe. Therefore, the laws of logic are one of the many evidences that without God you can’t prove anything at all. (pg. 16)
Thus, in order for Dr. Stein (or anyone who subscribes to naturalism [materialism] and the use of logic to explain the universe through empirical data) to demonstrate his world view successfully, he must use laws which his world view cannot account for. His final answer regarding their existence is often in essence, “They just are” (pg.11) Dr Stein states “An atheist’s universe, then, goes on the basis of the fact that matter has certain intrinsic behavior patterns.” (pg. 17) Other atheists have stated this in a more technical form. One man named Stephen Weinberg points to the “anthropic principle,” which he calls “a nice non-theistic explanation of why things are as nice as they are.” The principle, in its weak form, states “that the laws of nature must allow for the appearance of living beings capable of studying the laws of nature.” (Steven Weinberg on Religion and Science) In other words, the fact that we’re here asking where we came from proves that nature can produce a man capable of asking where he came from. If that is not circular reasoning I don’t know what is. Incidentally, scientific laws are not the issue Dr. Bahnses has raised but the laws of logic.
Therefore, the Naturalistic world view comes up short because it must frame the questions according to its presuppositions in order to answer them coherently though it denies doing so. Calling logic a convention (a consensus or agreement among men or societies) it makes the foundation of its universal claims the limited capability of individuals who agree on the minute information they have been able to observe. It is, in reality, a leap of faith.
3) Establish the “Biblical Worldview. So, what then does the Bible Believing Christians have to say on the matter? Dr. Bahnsen tells Dr. Stein in cross examination,
…the statement that the laws of logic are intelligible within a Christian theistic universe has meaning because there are things which are, in fact, spiritual, immaterial, and have a universal quality, such as God’s thinking, and those standards that He imposes on people.
And so, again we can at least metaphysically make sense of invariant abstract entities in one universe, whereas we can’t makes sense of the at all in the other. (pg. 27)
As Christians, we also have a world view that is based upon presuppositions. One difference is that we admit that we are biased and do not pretend neutrality. The other is that Christian presuppositions better relate to and explain our experience as beings in the universe. As a matter of fact, they are the only ones that can make sense of the universe. They are the only ones that can provide an ought. Dr. Bahnsen uses what is called the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God in order demonstrate this. Frame defines it as; “an argument that seeks to show the necessary conditions for the possibility of rational thought or meaningful discourse.” (A Van Til Glossary) The argument is basically that without God you cannot have a rational discussion. He is the basis of logic and knowledge and so even to argue against His existence, you have to act like He is there, you have to use the logic and knowledge that He supplies.
How is this argument presented? First of all by demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary. This is what Bahnsen has done in showing Dr. Stein that a “materialistic” or naturalistic universe cannot account for logic and its laws. They simply say that they are, or that they appear to be. This refutes the idea that Empirical study of nature can authoritatively say that it is, in itself, sufficient to explain the universe because it must assume things that cannot be demonstrated by its own rules. Thus its very claim, that it is the explanation for knowing and understanding the universe, falls apart at the most basic level. If they will acknowledge this dilemma, then we are able to examine the same concepts with Christian presuppositions and in doing so, we are able to account for knowledge and logic that corresponds with the reality that we live in. John Frame puts it this way, “Apologists have often noted that we could not know the world at all unless it had been designed for knowledge. If the world were nothing but matter, motion, time, and chance, we would have no reason to think that the ideas in our heads told us anything about the real world.” (Transcendental Arguments) This is not just “Christian” thinking on the matter. Secular and atheistic philosophers have arrived at the similar conclusions. Assuming that the universe is purely “natural” they have concluded that we can only know what we know by personal experience. Dr. Bahnsen mentions this in one of the cross examinations and gets virtually no response from Dr. Stein; “ Hume suggested that there was no rational basis for expecting the future to be like the past, in which case Science is based simply on convention or habits of thought.” (pg. 28) Frame refers to this concept as “Subjectivism” on page 119 of his Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. He says, “Thus it seems that all knowledge claims are psychological states, and each of us evaluates those claims by a wide of range highly personal, individual criteria. There is no “objective” truth, truth that is publicly accessible by universally accepted criteria; that is there is only truth for the individual.”
Naturalism leaves us floating in a dark abyss. It turns the things that we, as creatures in the image of God, hold most dear into illusion. Knowledge, logic, morality, justice and even beauty, honor and love are just chemical reactions in the brains of cosmic collections of chemicals that have, by the remotest of chance, achieved consciousness. Ultimately we are left with a meaningless existence. Some have held to their atheism so much that once they realize this they say that this is the reality that we must live with. We can pretend otherwise, but that is all we can do if we choose not to accept this fact. On the other hand, as Christians, we have a Personal God who interacts with His creation. Yet, we have a transcendent God who is wholly other from the creation and who Governs it according to His own sovereign will. He is an omniscient, logical, moral, just, beautiful, honorable and loving God who imposes these things which we experience on His creation. These are things which we cannot divorce ourselves from because we are made in His image. This is the more coherent and only complete explanation for the world as we know it. It allows for ideas like logic and uniformity and a basis for true knowledge that aligns with nature and experience. It allows us to reason from that knowledge and make real conclusions that are meaningful.
My Friend’s Enigma
The question posed to my friend was essentially this. Is it possible, as in the Genesis account of creation, to have the plants live from day three when they were created to day four when the sun was created if it intended to be taken as actual history?
The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. (Gen 1:12-19 ESV)
Given the description above of the third and fourth days of creation according to the Genesis account, is it possible in such circumstances to have the plants live from day three to day four when the sun was created? Remembering our method from above first we remember that the questioner is trying to suppress the truth of God as His Creator.
Next we must show the him that he is not being neutral with his question as he assumes that he is. The only reason to ask this particular question is due to the presupposition that a naturalistic, empirical interpretation of data is the only right way to approach any alleged “fact.” After all, this is the intellectual air we breathe as people living in the 21st century and we think this way without questioning the basis of our thinking. It is obvious by the way the question is framed because of what it implies; i.e., Is it possible based on what we know (or think we do) about nature as we observe it…? So the questioner is imposing his world view onto the question without questioning the foundation of that world view. He is treating the origin of the universe like a box of crackers in the pantry even though he knows he cannot open the door and look at it.
Next, we need to show our questioner where his logic ultimately leads. If in fact, God did create the universe as described in Genesis, do we need to force these naturalistic assumptions on that act? I would say, absolutely not. That is not to say that natural process and empirical evaluations are not the standard of what we experience today. They are. But as we have seen above, they cannot explain anything that is universally true or that is either future or distant past because those things cannot be observed. They cannot give us any ethical information either, because data can only give us what is and not what ought to be, because by definition things must be observed in order to be acknowledged. In order to say anything more, we would really have to set our minds in the place of God and base knowledge and truth on what we can perceive with our senses and conceive with our brains. This is, of course, the natural bias of the fallen human person, to suppress the truth that God reveals to us through His creation which we are a part of.
Being unable to account for universal concepts through naturalism and empiricism, we cannot account for our method because it is either based on unobservable data (unqualified presuppositions) or the use of forbidden “circular reasoning” if we claim the source of knowledge to be the result of our method. Therefore, our questioner’s presupposition that God is forced to act according to naturalistic standards is, in itself a leap of faith. He assumes because God did something that he cannot understand that God must not really exist. Yet, he is willing to assume a lot of other stuff which he cannot account for, like the reality of his powers of observation and his own rational ability to assess the viability of his theories. This really smacks of arrogance.
The world either came from someplace or it has always existed. Even the most naturalistic of scientists believe that it began at a point in time (i.e. about 13.75 Billion Years ago). The biggest problem with taking the naturalistic path to explaining its origin is that, even in that case it requires some processes that are not “naturally” occurring today. Does life come from the non-living today? It certainly has not been observed. Some scientists ascribe the origin of life to the mutations of crystals or even the deposits of aliens (though they do not say where alien life came from). Evolutionist Richard Dawkins and others state these as viable possibilities in the documentary Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed.
The question then arises, Is it possible for the non-living and non-personal to generate the living and personal. Due to the limits of empiricism, scientifically speaking, the answer is an obvious “No.” Science has never observed anything like this. Therefore the naturalist resorts to the anthropic principal, i.e. “it must have because, after all, here we are!” His circular reasoning betrays his biased refusal to believe that there is someone in the universe who is greater and wiser than he is. If it is so, that everything that happens in the universe is a product of random chance, the chance results of the random motions of matter in space and time, he cannot account for anything more than he can observe. Personality and all that it implies is an illusion. Love, honor, justice, happiness, beauty, are absolutely meaningless. There is no cogency to the data that we have in the universe because we can never accumulate enough of it to make what we know certain. The naturalist really has no sound explanation for the existence or origin of the universe, only an, “it must have because it is and we are certain that God didn’t do it.” That is not an honest answer. It is an answer that assumes far more than it gives evidence for.
Finally, what is our answer from the Christian perspective? On the other hand, If the Christian presuppositions are followed, they lead us to the powerful and intelligent Creator who made the universe to reveal Himself to it and through it. He made man in His image and not only reveals Himself through the created order, but in the very heart, mind and conscience of man. This is not just a fairy tale, or as Dr. Stein calls it, a “Wishing Makes It So” kind of thing (The Great Debate, pg. 9). It is an explanation that not only allows us to see how plants could exist for a day without the sun (God has the power to make it so), but also how we can accumulate knowledge of the universe that actually accounts for the way things are even though we have a minute fragment of the data which the universe contains. We don’t know everything, but we know the One who does. We also know that He reveals to us what we learn so that it is part of His complete whole. His omniscient mind imposes this knowledge and the logic to make conclusions from it onto His creation and onto the minds of men who are made in His image. As we discover truth about the universe we are actually thinking God’s thoughts after Him. We have a basis for our knowledge that is outside of our finite minds. Other aspects of His image are also revealed to us, like love, honor, justice, etc. and we know by experience that these are a part of who we are.
This will probably not force any one to simply surrender and fall on their knees before the Holy God. Until a man admits that he is the enemy of God who willingly suppresses the truth of God as it is revealed to him, he will continue to live as though God does not exist. We can take the roof off of his proud assessment of his own knowledge and ability and show him its emptiness, but God must grant him repentance and acknowledgment of his rebellion.
We must remember that it is our job to give them a reasonable answer and to live in such a way as commends the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most men are willing to live in the dark abyss of meaninglessness rather than bow the knee to their Creator. They will be accountable for whatever light God has given them. Therefore our final appeal is not to their intellect, but to their conscience; to show them that as they explain God away by setting their own minds up in the place of God, they are like the child who sits on his father’s lap and slaps him in the face. They could not do so if he did not support them. They know their Heavenly Father because they are made in His image. The futility of their own power has been shown as they use the tools of logic, science and morality which God has given them to argue that He does not exist. Yet, in the midst of that rebellion, the God who created them offers to redeem them. He has sent His Only Son into the world of rebels to take the penalty of their rebellion upon Himself and establish them in their proper place as His creation. Only by His grace will they leave their rebellion and embrace Him as the Meaning and Source of all things.
It is my hope that pointing out man’s natural bent to suppress God’s truth which is evident to him through creation, dispelling the skeptic’s mythical notions of neutrality and then running both the naturalist and Christian world views out to their logical conclusions will be a simple yet helpful model to aid the “common” Christian in his discussions with his unbelieving friends and neighbors. It is my prayer that it strengthens my Brothers and Sisters in Christ in seeing the impossibility of accounting for anything without the God of the Bible. Also, that it may be used as a tool of God in the hands of some to humble proud sinners. For God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). Finally, that through humbling those sinners, by the grace of God, to bring them to the place of submission to Him and acceptance of His offer of the Gospel.
Bahnsen, Greg, and Gordon Stein. The Great Debate. N.p.: bellevuechristian.org, 1985. all. Web. 20 Dec. 2011.
Calvin John, Calvin’s Commentaries. Grand Rapids, MI. Calvin Seminary. Web.
Frame, John. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. Phillipsburg, NJ. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1987. Print.
Frame, John. A Van Til Glossary. N.p.: frame-poythress.org, 2000. N. pag. frame-poythress.org. Web. 20 Dec. 2011.
Frame, John. Transcendental Arguments. N.p.: frame-poythress.org, 2005. N. pag. frame-poythress.org. Web. 20 Dec. 2011.
Frame, John. Unregenerate Knowledge of God. N.p.: frame-poythress.org, 2005. N. pag. frame-poythress.org. Web. 20 Dec. 2011.
Linder, Douglas O. Steven Weinberg on Religion and Science. Kansas City: University of Missouri – Kansas City, 2005. N. pag. University of Missouri – Kansas City. Web. 17 Jan. 2012.
Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church. Revised ed. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2005. N. pag. 8 vols. Calvin College. Web. 19 Dec. 2011.
1bible.org defines apologetics as follows: The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used of a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The accused would attempt to “speak away” (apo—away, logia—speech) the accusation.1 The classic example of such an apologia was Socrates’ defense against the charge of preaching strange gods, a defense retold by his most famous pupil, Plato, in a dialogue called The Apology (in Greek, hē apologia).