Category Archives: Apologetics

A Reformed View of Apologetics, Part 2

One of the assertions of a Reformed view of apologetics is that apart from God’s revelation, man cannot account for anything, or as Van Til once put it: “…the atheists cannot account for accounting.” It is the “voluntary revelation” of a gracious God that leads us to think His thoughts after Him. Once again Van Til:

He must therefore be known for what He is, and known to the extent that He is known, by authority alone.[1]

The Christian Reformed apologist can rightly boast that his system or method for apologetics endeavor is far superior to his opponent. The Christian argues presuppositionially; God is the all in all of apologetic encounter. Though our apologetic is superior, there is a humbling sense when we acknowledge that we are solely dependent on God’s grace in revelation for our interpretation of the world.

When we spouse this position, some may say that it is theologically immature to assume things before we enter into a formal discussion. However, the reality is that no one enters into a discussion neutrally. We all reason presuppositionally! For the Thomist, “human reasoning” is his presupposition; for the Reformed thinker, God is the presupposition. Van Til summarizes this:

Psychologically, acceptance on authority precedes philosophical argument; but when, as epistemologically self-conscious grown-ups, we look into our own position, we discover that unless we may presuppose such a God as we have accepted on authority, the Moment will have no significance.[2]

Part 1 A Reformed View of Apologetics

[1] Van Til, Cornelius. Common Grace. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1947. pg. 8.[2] Van Til, Cornelius. Common Grace. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1947. pg. 8-9.

A Reformed View of Apologetics, Part 1

Editor’s Note: In these posts, I have tried to offer a simple introduction to Presuppositional apologetics. Many in our day are unaware of the incredible influence of Professor Cornelius Van Til. These posts serve to distinguish the Reformed View of apologetics from Thomistic approaches and to encourage Christian thinkers to self-consciously presuppose God’s existence in every apologetic encounter.

Just as Calvinism distinguishes itself from other systems of thought in the area of cultural transformation,[1] so too, does Calvinism differ itself in the area of epistemology.[2] The superiority of the Reformed tradition over other philosophical approaches to epistemology is even clearer when we examine the foundation of their thinking.

We are how we reason; we reason how we were made to reason. Though Christian humanity is filled with dignity, we are also filled with sin. This is what some call the “noetic effects of the fall.” Simply put, our minds are in the “valley of the blind.”[3] Our new humanity rescues us from our autonomous epistemology. It is for this very reason that we are to think as God intends us to think.

180px-cornelius_van_til.jpgThe Reformed tradition differs substantially from Roman Catholic, Arminian, and atheistic thought.[4] All three of these systems begin their reasoning process from an autonomous framework. They all follow a Thomistic[5] approach to reason, and hence, do not begin as God intends them to begin. God’s intention is that the Christian begin his thinking with God’s counsel as the presupposition of all reasoning. The consequences of denying God’s counsel as a presupposition to all thought is disastrous. As Van Til summarizes:

Romanism and Arminianism[6] have virtually allowed that God’s counsel need not always and everywhere be taken as our principle of individuation. This is to give license to would-be autonomous man, permitting him to interpret reality apart from God.[7]

The Reformed thinker cannot fathom reality apart from God’s revelation. On the other hand, autonomous man cherishes-for the sake of reason-non-Christian presuppositions. Our standing before God is one of gratitude. We are grateful that God has redeemed our minds to think His ways and not ours. As Van Til powerfully concludes:

The Reformed believer knows that he himself has been taken out of a world of misinterpretation and place in the world of truth by the initiative of God.[8]


[1] See my articles on Abraham Kuyper on the Abraham Kuyper archive list.

[2] Epistemology refers to “how we know things.”

[3] This is the language used by Cornelius Van Til.

[4] For instance, consider atheist George Smith’s methodology. In his debate with Professor Bahnsen he stressed that his philosophy is Aristotelian. This form of reasoning was later picked up by Thomas Aquinas.

[5] By Thomistic, I mean the works of Thomas Aquinas, who strongly emphasized the use of natural reason to come to theistic conclusions.

[6] Arminianism is a system of doctrine that teaches that man has the free will to choose or reject God, and his salvation is dependent on a cooperative effort.

[7] Van Til, Cornelius. Common Grace. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1947. pg. 7.

[8] Van Til, Cornelius. Common Grace. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1947. pg. 7.

Greg Bahnsen speaks on war…

bahnsen.jpeg Professor Greg Bahnsen, whose death 10 years ago was a defeat for the Christian Apologetic world, but a victory for God’s great providence, has left us with some great treasures in a myriad of topics. In a radio interview recorded months after the Iraq War in 1991, Bahnsen elaborates in what is to be a thoroughly Biblical foundation for going to war. This discussion is found in more detail in a three-part series on “Just War” found in the Covenant Media website. These will be two summaries of his many points. Further, due to the relevant nature of his arguments, they can also be applied to the current war in Iraq.

1) Does the US have the right to police the world and save humanity from their dictators? Bahnsen answers that in no place in Scriptures does God ever grant the right for a nation with greater power and wealth to send their armies to other nations in order to save them from their chaos. Bahnsen further notices that in the Kuwait scenario, the troops were not even allowed to celebrate their religious holidays (Christmas) due to the Islamic laws of the land. In other words, nations around the world want the support of the U.S. but do not want to grant them religious freedom once they are there to aid them. Here is where Bahnsen is brilliant. He argues according to Scriptures that a nation’s top priority is to protect his/her own citizens (Romans 13) before protecting others citizens from other lands. As a side note, we are all aware that though the U.S. has not been struck again since 9-11 we have been and are being invaded every day by illegal immigrants and educational tyranny by the secular elite who are inherently anti-American.

Bahnsen concludes this section by stating that nations want the privilege of citizenship (meaning they want the same protection due to American citizens), however, they do not want the responsibilities of citizens (that is, they do not want to submit to the authority of those saving them nor do they want to allow their deliverers any rights; whether religious or otherwise). Simply, to use a Biblical analogy, they want a king’s army without giving allegiance to the King.

2) When do we have the right to attack? Here Bahnsen is clear and cogent. The right to attack is only when there has been sufficient evidence of threat against our nation. Of course, the obvious question arises: “When can we know that there is a clear threat?” In this case, Bahnsen acknowledges the difficulty inherent in such a question but notes that unless the citizens of a nation are not clearly in danger, then warring against another nation is un-Biblical. One example of such a clear threat (to use a modern analogy different from Professor Bahnsen for the sake of relevance) is if Iran declared that they have in their possession nuclear bombs and are ready to strike the U.S. within three weeks. In this case, Bahnsen affirms that preemptive strikes are necessary and desirable for the protection of the nation’s citizens.

As anyone who reads can see that these arguments can be perfectly addressed in the current war on terror or in Iraq (which is supposedly where the war should be fought first). The question at stake is not whether Saddam Hussein should be tried for his crimes, (my opinion is that since there is such clear evidence he should be charged and executed immediately) for everyone in their right minds agree that he should be taken out of power; the true question is: “Has God granted the right for any nation to spend their citizens’ money (and as we know much more than was originally intended), their citizens’ lives and much more to defend another nation?” These questions and more must be addressed if we are to develop a clear Biblical view of war.

Gary Habermas’ Interview with former atheist Anthony Flew

180px-antony_flew_headshot.jpg A Brief Section From The Interview
HABERMAS: Tony, you recently told me that you have come to believe in the existence of God. Would you comment on that?
FLEW: Well, I don’t believe in the God of any revelatory system, although I am open to that. But it seems to me that the case for an Aristotelian God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence, is now much stronger than it ever was before. And it was from Aristotle that Aquinas drew the materials for producing his five ways of, hopefully, proving the existence of his God. Aquinas took them, reasonably enough, to prove, if they proved anything, the existence of the God of the Christian revelation. But Aristotle himself never produced a definition of the word “God,” which is a curious fact. But this concept still led to the basic outline of the five ways. It seems to me, that from the existence of Aristotle’s God, you can’t infer anything about human behaviour. So what Aristotle had to say about justice (justice, of course, as conceived by the Founding Fathers of the American republic as opposed to the “social” justice of John Rawls) was very much a human idea, and he thought that this idea of justice was what ought to govern the behaviour of individual human beings in their relations with others.
HABERMAS: Once you mentioned to me that your view might be called Deism. Do you think that would be a fair designation?
FLEW: Yes, absolutely right. What Deists, such as the Mr. Jefferson who drafted the
American Declaration of Independence, believed was that, while reason, mainly in the form of arguments to design, assures us that there is a God, there is no room either for any supernatural revelation of that God or for any transactions between that God and individual human beings.
HABERMAS: Then, would you comment on your “openness” to the notion of theistic
FLEW: Yes. I am open to it, but not enthusiastic about potential revelation from God. On the positive side, for example, I am very much impressed with physicist Gerald Schroeder’s comments on Genesis 1.10 That this biblical account might be scientifically accurate raises the possibility that it is revelation.

The Christian’s Role and the Role of the Law

In recent years my love for apologetics has grown immensely. I have dedicated many hours to studying ethics, logic, and apologetic methodologies. One person who has greatly influenced me by use of wit and theological precision has been Greg Koukl. He is president of Stand to Reason. This ministry has done tremendous service to the Kingdom. The ministry has a very qualified staff and focuses its attention on issues like homosexuality, abortion, and giving a reasonable answer in defense of the faith. Koukl has a tremendously affective way of reaching and communicating truth to people. Last year at the Evangelical Theological Society I had the opportunity to meet Greg and was elated to know that he was a gracious man with a heart for truth. I highly recommend their ministry and in fact, anyone can subscribe to their monthly newsletter called: Solid Ground.

In the latest edition of Solid Ground, Greg has written a piece on the role of morality in society. In the section entitled, The First Goal of Law, Mr. Koukl says that, “Laws are not primarily meant to change hearts, but behavior, and they accomplish that very well.” He elaborates further that laws can be a helpful tool in changing people’s hearts. As he puts it:

When someone tells me that laws can never change a fallen person’s heart, I ask them if they apply that philosophy to their children. Does the moral training of our children consist merely of preaching the Gospel to them? Wouldn’t we consider it unconscionable to neglect a child’s moral instruction with the excuse that laws can never change a child’s rebellious heart? Don’t we give them rules to obey, then threaten them with punishment for disobedience?

Koukl brings up an important point which is needful to discuss. The matter of morality and its application to society finds little time in modern pulpits. In fact, the truth of the matter is that some do not even believe we are called to proclaim God’s commandments. They have told us that morality only brings spiritual death and can cause no change whatsoever. In the Scriptures, of course, we discover that the law is our tutor to bring us to Christ, through whom our hearts can be transformed. But still the question arises: Can morality transform the heart? There are at least two ways to answer this question. First, laws can never bring redemption to the soul. The truth is the law is not intended to bring regeneration. The law (man-made law) will not be able to reach the heart of society with a message that brings life. Secondly, in a very real sense the law does bring life and sanctifies the heart. David speaks of the law as “perfect,” “lamp unto his feet,” “a light unto his path.” The law of the Lord is the law that changes the soul. It brings metaphysical conviction; one that shreds the human pride to misery for in the law of God people must live holy lives. The unbeliever must submit to the commandments of God and bow before Him. The law of God serves as a pre-evangelistic tool to bring depraved hearts to the mercy of God.

Greg Koukl speaks of the application of an active Christianity. He begins his article by noting that:

Since the Gospel alone transforms lives, some Christians wrongly conclude that political involvement is a waste of time. This myth of political passivity presumes that the Great Commission is our only responsibility. It’s not.

Greg is absolutely correct. Political passivity has caused the decline of many nations, including this one. In the 19th and 20th century, Christian inactivity in the face of utter injustice did not communicate that the church was pure because it didn’t get involved in politics, rather, it communicated an approval of slavery and racial prejudice. The same can be said of today while 30 million unborn babies die every year. Koukl states: “Our past unwillingness to be involved in ‘politics’ has been a blight on the Church ever since.” This unwillingness is the cause of so much damage and ungodliness in our society. The Great Commission demands that we teach “all things that I (Christ) have commanded.” This is not a reference to Jesus’ Sharing the Gospel 101 class, but directly and indirectly to the law of God. The law as it was exposed in the synagogues. The civil and moral sanctions required by our Lord to be observed and obeyed.

The law of God is not to be taught or proclaimed to believers alone, but to all in the world. The message of redemption is not separated from the message of the law. Both law and gospel are inseparable. They find fulfillment in the hearts of men and women who by God’s grace come to love their Creator. Further, they are also proclaimed to those who despise their Creator. Christians are looking for a distinctly Christian society (Societas Christiana), not an appearance thereof, but the very essence of Christian religion. The King is seeking to bring all His enemies under His feet (I Corinthians 15:24-26). They will come due to regeneration or due to submission to the law that shall encompass the whole world.

Christ as King of Kings is not entitled to a part of the land, but to all of the land (Romans 4:13). Both Church and State must submit to the requirements of the law of the King. There is no neutrality. One cannot love both God and mammon.

Greg Koukl’s call to Christian activity is a noble call and a Biblical call. However, it seems to me that he errs in limiting the rewards of this application. In the section where he speaks of the myth of “the separation of church and state,” he says that,

Freedom of religion is the goal, and non-establishment is the means. The only way to have true freedom of religion is to keep government out of religion’s affairs. This provides for what Steve Monsma calls ‘positive neutrality.’ This view ‘defines religious freedom in terms of a governmental neutrality toward religion in which no religion is favored over any other, and neither religion nor secularism is favored over each other.

Greg’s quotation falters in several ways here. First, as his approval of Monsma’s quotation states “Freedom of religion is the goal.” Here there can be no question that this is the majority of the Christian’s perspective on the matter (at least for those involved in the political sphere). This idea crumbles since pluralism is antithetical to the Scriptures. Freedom of religion assumes that other religions are to be in par with the Christian religion. It also assumes that the Kingship of Christ (Christ reigns now seated on the right hand of the Father) is to be shared with other Kings such as Buddha, Muhammad, Ceasar or any other. If the Christian message is exclusive by nature, then the church must proclaim the reign of one religion and of one King alone. As R.B. Kuiper so eloquently has stated:

It must require of men everywhere that they acknowledge Him as Head of all things, as King of every domain of their lives. It must insist on Christian marriage, Christian education, Christian Science, Christian industry, Christian labor, Christian relationships between labor and industry, Christian culture, Christian recreation, Christian politics, Christian internationalism, in short, on a Christian society as well as a Christian Church (The Glorious Body of Christ p. 276).

Kuiper states what God demanded of His people before and after the Fall: that man have dominion over all things. Calvin himself in his writings laid down very clearly the principle of the separation of the functions of Church and State. They are related and mutually supportive, but also independent of each other. Though Church and State operate in two separate arenas of society, yet they both must submit to the same God, and this is not the god proposed by some, but the God of Scriptures.

Secondly, the quote ends by stating that “…neither religion nor secularism is favored over each other.” Again, this same error indicates the idea of freedom of religion as an ultimate goal of Christian activity. However, this is not the desire of Christ when he stated that the “gates of Hell will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18).” If by religion the author refers to any religion (pluralism), then I agree that neither pluralism nor secularism will prevail over one another for both must submit to the Christian message of salvation in Christ alone (Solos Christus).

Greg Koukl ends the article with a revealing quote. He quotes Philip Yancey in his article entitled The Other Great Commission, written in Christianity Today (p.136) that:

We have no mandate to ‘Christianize the United States – an impossible goal in any case. Yet Christians can work simultaneosuly toward a different goal, the ‘moralization’ of society. We can help tether the values and even the laws of society to some basis in transcendence.

Ask yourself the question as the end of this article approaches: What is the goal of ‘moralizing’ a society if society will be doomed? Yancey is not in any way referring to the use of God’s law to moralize society, but he is probably referring to bringing back prayers to public schools and things of that nature. But in either way, the idea of tethering “the values and even the laws of society to some basis in transcendence” is utterly absurd. Theism may be a prerequisite to Christian theism, but transcendent morality with no Trinitarian morality is no morality at all. Notice also his initial assumption when he says that “We have no mandate to ‘Christianize’ the United States – an impossible goal in any case.” Yancey is correct in affirming that we have no mandate to Christianize the United States, we as Christians who believe in the Triune Sovereign God have a mandate to Christianize the world by the power of the Gospel and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Micah 4:2 says: “‘. . . that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’ For from Zion will go forth the Law Even the Word of God from Jerusalem.” May our hearts be encouraged that the Father has promised the nations as a gift to the Son and the end will not come until all his enemies are under His feet. In the words of the famous Advent song: Let earth receive her king!

Subtle Unorthodoxy

In our time, knowledge of the incarnate Christ can become very perplexing. Some who have been faithful church attendees for years still lack true orthodox understanding of who Christ is. I have been exposed to Gnosticism, tri-theism, bi-nitarianism and other forms of heresy in a church setting.

Beyond all these, I would like to mention briefly one that is fairly subtle. This is concerning the eternality of the logos (the word). The 4th century Creed of the church, the Nicene Creed, deals briefly with the matter of the incarnation when it says: … “came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man…” The Creed implicitly denies any variation on the status of the Logos prior to his incarnation. It “was made man!” When? When He came down from heaven.

James White makes this point clear when he states in the Forgotten Trinity that, “The Logos was not eternally flesh. He existed in a non-fleshly manner in eternity past. But at a blessed point in time, at the Incarnation, the Logos became flesh. The eternal experienced time (p.59).” The Apostle Paul establishes a starting point for that event when he says: ” But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law (Gal. 4:4 ESV).” Here Paul reiterates what he taught in Philippians 2 regarding the estate of the incarnated Christ. The flesh of the Son composes his hypostatic union. Indeed, we can say that the Son did not always possess two natures, but only when the fullness of time arrived did humanity become an essential part of who Jesus was and is and ever shall be.

In order to understand Christ we must realize that fleshness is a necessary requirement for his earthly mission. It was not needed prior to his entrance into the cosmos. This knowledge will keep us from falling into the subtleties of unorthodoxy.

What do you believe that you can’t prove?

As a Trinitarian Christian, apart from special revelation, I cannot prove the existence of a Triune God who revealed himself as a man who is both deity and humanity (commonly known as hypostatic union). I am not saying that God as the supreme Being and designer cannot be proven (as Anthony Flew discovered), but what I do affirm is that the God revealed in Scriptures cannot be proven. He cannot be identified through empirical data alone. Though matters of archeology, sense perception, law of causality and so on can lead us to a proper understanding of general revelation, Scriptures alone can draw us to what is not known through these methods.

This morning the New York Times had a fascinating analysis of what current thought is in the world of physics, biology, psychology and so on. This is how the question was posed: What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?”This was the question posed to scientists, futurists and other creative thinkers by John Brockman, a literary agent and publisher of The Edge, a Web site devoted to science. The site asks a new question at the end of each year. Here are two excerpts from the responses, to be posted Tuesday at
Professor David Meyers, Psychologist, Hope College; author, “Intuition”answers the same question saying the following: As a Christian monotheist, I start with two unproven axioms:

1. There is a God.

2. It’s not me (and it’s also not you).

Together, these axioms imply my surest conviction: that some of my beliefs (and yours) contain error. We are, from dust to dust, finite and fallible. We have dignity but not deity.

And that is why I further believe that we should

a) hold all our unproven beliefs with a certain tentativeness (except for this one!),

b) assess others’ ideas with open-minded skepticism, and

c) freely pursue truth aided by observation and experiment.

Richard Dawkins
Evolutionary biologist, Oxford University; author, “The Ancestor’s Tale”

I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all “design” anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection. It follows that design comes late in the universe, after a period of Darwinian evolution. Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.

Philip Zimbardo
Psychologist, emeritus professor, Stanford; author, “Shyness”

I believe that the prison guards at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, who worked the night shift in Tier 1A, where prisoners were physically and psychologically abused, had surrendered their free will and personal responsibility during these episodes of mayhem.

But I could not prove it in a court of law. These eight Army reservists were trapped in a unique situation in which the behavioral context came to dominate individual dispositions, values and morality to such an extent that they were transformed into mindless actors alienated from their normal sense of personal accountability for their actions – at that time and place.
See for more quotes.

Thoughts on Post-Modernism

I have been doing some significant work on the topic of postmodernity and its application to the current theological scenario. Since the blog world has been largely important in shaping my thinking on these matters, I have here posted Doug Wilson’s blog on the current discussions on Postmodern thinking. It is a superfluous task to engage on such issues with an unfounded approach. Postmodernity is much more than a period in the corridors of history, but it is a life view. It cannot be diminished to “subjectivity” or “abstract art.”

In order to build an articulate worldview we must engage as many ideas as possible. It may even be that in the end of the day our worldview spectacles (Calvin used this language to describe worldview thinking) may be slightly blurred because of the dust from other forms of thinking that have crept into our world. Nevertheless, the only way to construct an appropriate view of life is to be willing to explore a variety of ideologies which at first may be contrary to your system of thought. At least in my tradition (Reformed) I know my limits. In my case, anything that in any way betrays a Triune foundation falls short of what I need to enhance and beautify my worldview. Without a doubt, any worldview that seeks to deny any tenet in the Apostle or Nicene Creed has already suffered considerable damage. Since thought and meaning cannot exist without divine truth, any worldview that lacks these tenets is doomed.

I do realize that in modern societas Christiana the role of experience has been diminished to a powerful indication of knowing God’s will. Something similar to “pray real hard and if you cry real hard then EUREKA!” Of course, this approach to experience is far from Biblical truth. However, on the other hand, we do not want to make experience simply a faulty didactic tool; we want to make experience a part of the wholeness of our worldview. Our fault has been in assuming that only our understanding of the text or culture is the only source of knowledge, but I propose that it is only one source of knowledge. Hence, a thoroughly Biblical worldview encompasses all forms of thinking, emotions and practices.

I believe a truly post-modern (post-modern here is used as a current phase in history, not necessarily the movement per se, though it is almost impossible to define postmodernism as a movement) dogmatic (or construction) must be tri-perspectival to borrow Frame and Poythress’ language. It should encompass right thinking (doctrine), right behavior (practice), and right experience (emotions etc.).

One last point is that a worldview formulation is not made to be individualistic, but applicational. As John Frame puts it: “Theology is only theology when it is applied.” In this sense I applaud Abraham Kuyper (Dutch thinker) in that he sought to build a Biblical worldview that could be applied to all areas of life and society. Most of the Westminster professors in the 70’s took Kline’s position on “intrusion” and assumed that society, culture and the political sphere were matters of secondary importance and the church and family should take preeminence. Kuyper, on the other hand, saw that education, politics and all aspects of society were under the lordship of Christ and, therefore, should submit to His Lordship. That is, Kuyper saw family and the church inextricably related to education and all facets of society. To him Calvinism (by that he meant much more than TULIP, but the wholeness of Calvinistic worldview thinking) was the source of all knowledge, meaning God is the foundation of history to which all of created kosmos must submit.

Though I find much Dutch apologetics nearly fideistic, I do concur with Kuyper’s application of ethics to all of life. As Bahnsen once stated: “If something is considered moral, then it must be universal.” In other words, if it is not universal it cannot be moral. Morality in America must be the same morality in Africa. All aspects of life including the government, church, and family must follow one code of law. Of course, the outworking of law and ethics to the civil magistrate and other facets are not always cut and dry, but the point still stands. Anyway, I think this is a good place to start building a proper view of life.

Knowledge and Blood by Douglas Wilson

Topic: Postmodernism

I mentioned a few days ago that we have to avoid all forms of unbelief, whether in modernist or postmodernist guise. This requires a distinctive Trinitarian epistemology. Consider this some preliminary doodling.

One of the problems with this kind of discussion is that it tends to be limited to academics, and epistemic certainty becomes something you can demonstrate (or not) in a classroom. Reduced to this, certainty becomes a function of personality, logical acumen, bombast, and so on. But what about epistemology in the Bible? While it is lawful to discuss such things in a classroom, and (with direct permission from the Holy Spirit) it might be okay to write a book on it, things look very different in Scripture.

In the Bible, when the Word comes, the faithful are described as receiving it, or as believing it, or as bearing witness to it. And certainty is measured in these life terms, measured in blood, and most emphatically not measured in terms of haunting self-doubts. When we begin with the problems of interpretation, we often never get to what the Bible presents so breezily, which is faith. When we begin with faith, we come to understanding. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, not the end of it.

How certain am I that in the observance of the Lord’s Supper, the bread and wine do not turn into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus? In a classroom discussion, how can I answer this question? I could hold my hands apart six inches and say, “This much,” or perhaps, in a rhetorical flourish, I could stretch my arms all the way out and say, “This much.” But the martyrs who suffered under Bloody Mary had a different calculus entirely (and a far more biblical one). They sealed their testimony with their blood.

Related to this (the flip side of it, really) concerns what you are willing to kill for. A number of years ago, I served on a jury in a murder trial. We convicted the accused man, and the biblical standard we were operating with was that we had to be convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But note how loaded with epistemological concerns that phrase is. Beyond a reasonable doubt — what is that? But since this was a jury room, and not a classroom, we were dealing, in principle, with a man’s life. How certain must we be then? The same principles are involved in going to war, drafting certain kinds of legislation, and so on.

We are called to believe, receive, bear witness, and act. When we act, there will be costs (at least in the real world). The issues of certainty are always issues that always revolve around cost. The problem with modernism is that it was willing to act on false principles and a false foundation, not bearing witness to Christ, and therefore it has been convicted of epistemic arrogance. But the problem with postmodernism is an identical one — it is also not willing to believe the story of Christ’s actual resurrection from the dead, a story that therefore defines and subordinates all other stories. To use the jargon, if Christ’s resurrection is not a metanarrative, a reigning metanarrative, then we are all still in our sins. And since the postmodern “incredulity to all metanarratives” includes this, it is also convicted of the arrogance of unbelief.

The problem is not that some Christians are now telling us that the Bible is more than a bundle of propositions. We know that, and have been saying it for years. I myself have been pummeling the epistemology of the Enlightenment (with shouts of exuberant joy) for some time now. But then along come some evangelical poseurs, using the obvious faults of modernism as a pretext for adopting something just as bad and twice as silly. So I says to myself, I says, let us rise up and smite that thing, hip and thigh. Let us hew it to pieces before the Lord.

The Bible presents a grand story, a narrative. But here is the rub. We believe the story, we receive it. We bear witness to it. It is the story. It is the ultimately true story.

This is a Trinitarian epistemology because Jesus is the full revelation of God, the exact image of His being. God revealed Himself in Christ. If you have seen Me, Jesus said to Phillip, you have seen the Father. And Jesus, among many other things, was the First Witness, the Faithful Witness, the Preeminent Martyr. How certain was He of His identity? How firm was His grasp of those tricky passages in Isaiah about the suffering servant? And when the voice came from heaven, and others heard only thunder, how can we measure His response? In short, how do we evaluate Christ’s epistemology? His blood not only saved His people, but His blood also showed us a way of knowing. We are to imitate Him.

What is a Worldview?

Worldview thinking seems to be almost exclusively a task of the intellectual elite, however, the truth is, that all of us have a worldview whether we know it or not. Worldview thinking is rare today because very few in the pews are willing to deal with it. In fact, to think to establish a Biblical worldview we must learn to understand what it is.

Here is a simple definition for all of us as we seek to establish a coherent thinking that submits completely to the Lordship of Christ. My definition may have variations, but I find it helpful nevertheless:

A worldview is a set of glasses that everyone has from the time a person is born. As a person grows in age and in knowledge a person’s focus becomes narrower, not that he limits his ideas, but that all the ideas and concepts in his life (which he has been bombarded with in school, work, family gatherings etc.) are put together into a coherent system. Hence, he now sees the world from a selective pair of glasses, and everything he sees he will be able to determine whether it is good or bad, useful or not useful and so on.

Of course, the main reason many people do not have a coherent worldview is because there are many difficulties that hinder God’s people from thinking about it.

*Lack of clarity in academia and society, Example: I think this but you think that.

*People have not learned how to think critically, but rather accept all things without questioning authorities.

*Churches bore people with messages, which they have all heard.

*People don’t consider the context or environment in which they live.

*People are bound to only the New Testament and treat the Old as a story book with no relevance to contemporary life.

*People have lost their joy in the beauty of Creation, redemption etc.

It is my contention that unless we learn to deal with these issues first we will not even begin to think about thinking Biblically.