Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Defence of Christianity Against a Proud Scoffer

In answer to a believer's query about science and the Bible, I referred to this website: http://www.creation.com.

A scoffer replied by comparing the highly qualified and intelligent authors of the material on this website to "The Banana Man" (so quickly that I concluded that he had in fact not even looked at the website), and advised me to only pay attention to "REAL scientists", by which I supposed he meant, those who attempt to explain the world in a materialistic framework regardless of how awkward and self-contradictory the fit becomes. To answer this challenge for the sake of the believer who had first made the query, not for the professed atheist (since if one denies the Bible outright, it is impossible to prove anything to them, and irrational to try to do so, and therefore argument with them is unprofitable), I responded:
Absolutely, of course I prefer the theories of scientists who dare not contradict God, who created everything and was there when all was created. Since those who deny Him, who is the Author of all truth and history, are nothing but willfully ignorant fools (Rom. 1:18ff), then of course I would be insane to take their proud imaginations seriously. If they deny the very first principle of all knowledge, then surely all their speculation is worthless. What need could I possibly have to pay heed to their vain attempts to ignorantly explain what is now seen, within such a self-contradictory and godless framework, intent on calling God a liar. But while men can lie and be deceived, it is impossible for God to lie. And those who call Him a liar are calling themselves, who are mere creatures, the Authors of truth; yet without God there is no truth. But they were born as wicked men only a few short years ago, are finite, and their lives are like the flower that fades and withers away quickly; they were not there to tell how things came to be. But God is from everlasting to everlasting, infinite in power and knowledge and wisdom, He was there, and none else.
The professed atheist then attempted to criticise the Christian faith on the basis that:
  1. It only believes what reaffirms its presupposed ideas.
  2. These ideas cannot be based upon "tangible evidence".
  3. It is therefore, "deliberate stupidity".
Again, lest anyone be fooled by these empty and self-contradictory words, I responded:
Blind and godless Empiricism is also a presuppositional belief. The difference is that there is no man who has not heard the witness of God in their own consciences (and therefore their denial of it is universally self-evident, no matter how much evil men deny it), and since the Lord has graciously granted me faith, I believe God's testimony which is greater than any other, and indeed is the only way in which I can test all other witnesses, and see the world as He does, and apart from which, all my own interpretations would be merely groundless stabs in the dark. Hence, I have nothing to discuss with such lying fools as you, unless you assert that God alone is the authoritative Author of all truth, and denounce your own feeble understanding, in order to learn from Him how we are to interpret the data and evidence which He has set before us.
Not content with this (of course), the God-hater dug himself a deeper pit, by denying that his empiricism was presuppositional, and calling it rational instead (as if the latter did not demand the former)! And then he gave a definition of empiricism which he presented as a vindication of his philosophy, rather than its very indictment, which it actually was. He then also claimed that his criticism of Christianity was "kind and gentle", and that he was speaking for my benefit, and asked me to do the same as if he were willing to be persuaded (but of course, only upon his own presuppositional grounds of godless materialism, which is the very thing I refuse to do, and would consider wholly irrational), as if I had not already laid before him his errors. Since the believer responded by giving his own definitions of materialism and of theism, which were unsatisfactory, and did not display the folly of the professed atheist, nor the Bible's evaluation of such scoffers and their godless philosophies, I finally responded at length:

Materialism: Trusting in your own experiences and your own interpretations of those experiences, while willfully denying God's trustworthy testimony.

Biblical Theism: Trusting in God alone, by whose Word all our experiences must be tested and interpreted.

"I'd really hope someone would extend a hand of knowledge to me" - the Roman Catholics once put the Bible on their forbidden book list, but to you, I am sure it is readily available - even in your own language. How much less excuse then, you have for inventing your own theories about why the world is the way it is, when you refuse to learn from the Creator who is the only One whose testimony can be trusted altogether.

The natural world indeed speaks powerfully about the greatness of the divinity and power of God (Psalm 19; Rom. 1:18ff), and God has even given us eyes, ears and all the other senses by which we can perceive the created things and thereby know of the wisdom, divinity, and power of the One who created them. This witness is sufficient to leave us without excuse for our wickedness in not glorifying Him as God. No wonder then that many in our day deny this.

Yet if we deny this, by what means do we suppose we can trust anything we observe? What reason would we have to put any confidence in our senses? Would we not simply then we left adrift in nihilism, perhaps "I think therefore I am", and all our experience may be simply a dream? Therefore the atheist contradicts himself, when he speaks of empirical rationality, because if there is no God who does not lie, and who has created all things, and who has given us these senses, then there is no reason to presume that anything is real. This is why atheism, contrary to the popular, yet foolish misconception of it, is actually the death knell to all scientific endeavour, while true Christianity is its very foundation. And this is true both philosophically, and historically. Science was given birth by Christianity which believes in one Almighty God who created all things and orders them according to natural laws which only He may alter by miraculous works which display His sovereignty over these laws. Without this, all is merely proud, blind speculation, as I said.

But He has given a far greater light in the Scriptures by which we might see things as they truly are and understand God's purpose for them in His eternal will to glorify the Son through the salvation of the company of the predestinate by Him. By these Scriptures we understand the origin of the world, and the history of it (including the flood by which the world that then was, perished by water), and the purpose of it for the glory of God. And by these Scriptures too, it is revealed to those whom God grants the gift of faith, how we are to be saved from the terrible wrath which we deserve - and there is no greater blessedness than to have been given the knowledge and assurance of this. Those who believe these Scriptures are the only ones who can really tell about why things are the way they are (but even then, only to a very limited extent), and why things work the way they do.

Furthermore, the study of things as they currently are and as they currently work, cannot tell us how things were in the past, or even how things will be in the future. In Scripture this notion is explicitly denied (II Pet. 3), because God did not leave things to continue as they were from the beginning, but everything changed at the fall of Adam, and about 1500 years later, this wickedness had manifested itself so universally that God destroyed the world by water, in order to preserve the church, and so the world that we now see is the aftermath, and quite different. If a bomb causes a building to explode in to dust, do we suppose that we can tell by looking at the aftermath how things were beforehand? Maybe certain things can be speculated upon, but all is vanity if it is denied that the explosion ever occurred.

This is one example of the proud vanity of those who speculate upon the past.

As for the future, if one denies God's providence in upholding the world by the word of His power (just as they deny that He created it by the word of His power), then they again have nothing but groundless inductive reasoning to go by and it is folly also to presume that all things will also continue as they are. But Bible tells us that though we ought to plan ahead, we ought to do so in the fear of God and prayer, because we do not know what a day will bring forth. We cannot say what will happen tomorrow because it is God who is the author of history not us; we can only say that if the Lord wills, such and such will happen (James 4:13-16), and we must study Scripture to understand the will of God, and we trust in His good providence for His people, knowing that He works all things for the good of those whom He has loved with an everlasting love (Rom. 8:28ff).

The Bible explicitly condemns this notion too in the same passage (II Pet. 3), as coming from the mouths of scoffers who deny the Flood and the first coming of the incarnate Son of God. It explains that Christ will certainly return on the last day, to end history and destroy the world, this time by fire, and to judge the living and the dead. And it explains also that Christ is not slow in coming, but He is carrying out the Father's will, that He will not lose one of those whom the Father has given to Him (how could He since He is omnipotent and has paid fully for their sins by His own infinitely worthy sacrifice? - John 6:37-40; Rom. 5:9). So He is not willing that any should perish; He will bring all His elect to repentance and faith before He returns in judgment.

I have written this in defence of the Christian faith against the scoffers which were prophesied beforehand, which were ordained to this condemnation, but I hope that God would bring all who read this to repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, rather than for greater condemnation to be poured out on them for denying it - but if that is the Lord's will, then so be it.
 I hope that believers readers will understand more fully that the Christian faith has nothing to fear from scoffers who irrationally boast about their rationality. As our Canons of Dordt say in head 3/4, article 4:
There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the differences between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.
It is sometimes amazing to observe what proud boasts men make with only their mere glimmerings of natural rationality, and how they use it, as with all their remaining "wholly polluted" faculties, in the service of sin and the devil, endeavouring with all their powers to hate God will all manner of contrived blasphemies, and to oppose the work of Christ in the salvation of His people. But every observation of this, rather than puff us up, should instead remind us that we are no different except for the grace of God, and so we ought to take occasion to be more humbled, and to be more grateful to God, and exalt Him alone.


Anonymous said...

"therefore argument with them is UNPROFITABLE"

Thinking this must just be a poor choice of words. Are you a "christian" merely for what profit you can obtain? I'm thinking that's probably not what JC had in mind.

Sorry, don't want to be a drive by attacker here, but that phrase really bothered me.


Wiseguy said...

Hi Gillian,

Thanks for your comment. I emphatically agree with the sentiment you expressed: "Are you a "christian" merely for what profit you can obtain? I'm thinking that's probably not what JC had in mind."

We must certainly not be Christians merely for our own personal gain. We must instead, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness."

I was not using the word "unprofitable" in this sense however. The question with this word is what profit or gain is being referred to?

Not my own. Theirs.

No argument can profit them, or help them in anyway, if they do not believe the Scriptures, because Scripture is the very foundation upon which such arguments would have to be based.

The Word of God cannot be proven, because it is itself the only means by which anything can be proven. There is no greater authority (or indeed any other authority at all) than the Word of God, and therefore, nothing by which it can be proven.

It is the Holy Spirit who causes us to believe the Word of God, not persuasive words or other means. Paul confessed that His preaching was of this nature:

"1And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." - I Cor. 2.

The rest of this chapter explains, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

And this accords with Christ's famous words in John 3: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Consider also, His story about Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16) which concludes: "29Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

Wiseguy said...

Therefore we must not waste time in fruitless argument, but rather, present the truth as it is, the authoritative Word of God, and pray to God for Him to quicken the hearers by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that they believe.

In this way we are not ashamed of the Gospel, like Paul (Rom. 1:16), because it is the power of God unto salvation. The Holy Spirit works through the official preaching of the Gospel by faithful ministers to effectually call those whom He has graciously chosen to give the promise of salvation.

Christ speaks about this too, in John 10 in which He contrasts Himself as the Good Shepherd with the strangers and hirelings. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep, and they hear His voice and follow Him, because they know His voice, and they do not follow the voice of strangers.

When the Pharisees oppose His teaching, He concludes, "26But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you."

Notice He does not say, "Ye are not my sheep because ye believe not." Christ knows His sheep, and His sheep know Him, but to the others He says, "Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you." These are the goats for whom the Good Shepherd did not give His life, and they therefore will be justly punished for their sins with everlasting punishment.

Of the sheep, Christ says, "27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
30I and my Father are one."

Christ will lose none of His sheep, because His Father is greater than all. Therefore we may be confident, and humbled that all our salvation relies not on our own will or any other works, but upon the immutable and Almighty will of God alone, who works in us, to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:13).

- Sam W.