5/04/2007

Logic and God, Part 2

Many contemporary believers do not feel the need to have a rational basis for their Christian faith. For example, Robert Webber’s comment in Ancient-Future Faith (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1999, p. 185):

…Christianity is not provable outside itself through the scientific
method. One must come to the Christian faith believing that it is true and embrace it as such without any dependence on data outside the faith. Christianity requires trust, a believing embrace, a willingness to step inside its story apart from any dependence on historical, scientific, or rational persuasion.



So, according to Webber, Christianity requires a blind leap of faith for entrance. I always think of the Indiana Jones movie where he must jump across a chasm not knowing whether there is anything to catch him as he falls. When he jumps, he falls onto a bridge that was hidden from view by exquisite camouflage. Is that kind of leap the requirement, or are there reasons to believe what we believe?

Let’s look at R. C. Sproul’s thoughts in his book Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2003, p. 24-25):

Today we have been infected by something called “fideism.” Fideism says, “I don’t need a reason for what I believe. I just close my eyes like tiny Alice and take a deep breath, scrunch up my nose, and if I try hard enough, I can believe and jump into the arms of Jesus. I take a blind leap of faith.” The Bible never tells us to take a leap of faith into the darkness and hope that there’s somebody out there. The Bible calls us to jump out of darkness into light. That is no a blind leap. The faith that the New Testament calls us to is a faith rooted and grounded in something God makes clear is the truth … The task of apologetics [when a Christian makes a case for
the truth of Christianity] is to show that the evidence that the New Testament calls people to commit their lives to is compelling evidence and worthy of our
full commitment … We honor Christ by setting forth the cogency of the truth claims of Scripture, even as God himself does … the Spirit does not ask people to put their trust and faith and affection in nonsense or absurdity.


So, is Christian faith a blind leap, or a step onto something visible and solid? If it is true that:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their measuring line goes out through all the earth, and their
words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19: 1-4a, ESV)


And that:


For what can be known about God is plain to [the unrighteous], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:19-21, ESV)


Then it follows that knowledge about God and His being is readily available from the world around us. The problem is not that the Christian faith is unreasonable or that it requires our brains to be checked at the church door. The problem is that we do not want to know the truth. We suppress knowledge that is plain to all because we do not like the implications. We might have to repent of the sins that we love so much. We might have to turn to Christ in faith, despairing of our good works that make us so proud of ourselves. It is our task as believers to anticipate the concerns of those outside the faith, address those concerns, and urgently communicate the requirements of repentance and faith.

Not all would agree with the views expressed here. I think specifically of those who would follow presuppositionalism, the system developed from the works of Cornelius Van Til. John M. Frame does a good job of presenting this view. Many in the Emerging church conversation would find their concerns with truth both anticipated and directly addressed by this system of thought.

Van Til and company do not completely satisfy. God’s existence can be proved from the evidence presented by Him in His creation and general revelation. (We can think of reason itself as something God reveals to all through His world. Reason and logic correspond to reality as we find it.) I find traditional arguments for God’s existence conclusive. I also find the basics of reason upheld and affirmed by the Bible, God’s revelation to us.

God used words to communicate his message to us. We must expect that God would choose a method that would be successful. The interpretation of words requires four things:
1. Basically reliable sense perception - You must be able to hear or read the words.
2. The laws of logic - The law of non-contradiction, the basis for all the laws of logic, must be upheld or the words are not understandable. This law states that A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship. Otherwise, the words could mean one thing and another thing at the same time and in the same way. Nothing would be communicated.
3. The law of causality - We must assume that air pressure causes disruptions in the air that propagate as sound waves to our ears, or light reflected on a light-colored page will highlight dark-colored, non-reflective letters.
4. Analogical language - Language conveys reliable language about God. He reveals Himself to us, but not all of Himself.
The classic proofs of God’s existence can be affirmed with just those tools. Other references such as Classical Apologetics (Sproul, et. al., Grand Rapids, Michigan: Academie Books, 1984) have established these four tools in a more refined way.

Presuppositional arguments are compelling at another level, however. They present a good argument that laws of logic require a rational being as their foundation. This is the transcendental argument for God’s existence. It has won debates in the past.

Someday all Christians will gather around the throne of the God who is, was, and will be. This God knows everything (all things that are, all things that will be, all things that could have been but were not, and all things that could be but will not be). May all of us glorify Him in our thoughts as well as our actions.

(Much of the general trend of thought of the above post was inspired by R. C. Sproul, Jr.’s book Tearing Down Strongholds: and Defending the Truth (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, P and R Publishing, 2002.)

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