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Biblical Presuppositionalism by Dr. Greg Bahnsen

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					BIBLICAL PRESUPPOSITIONALISM
  Greg Bahnsen, Kenneth Gentry, and Randy Booth




   Compiled and Digitized by Periander A. Esplana
                http://thebibleformula.webs.com
                 www.internetsecretbook.com
                    Greg L. Bahnsen, Ph.D.
                    September 17, 1948 -- December 11, 1995


                    Greg L. Bahnsen, (1948-1995),
                    was an ordained minister in the
                    Orthodox Presbyterian Church
                    and a full time Scholar in
                    Residence for the Southern
                    California Center for Christian
Studies. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the
University of Southern California, specializing in the
theory of knowledge. He previously received the B.A.
(magna cum laude, philosophy) from Westmont
College, and then simultaneously earned the M.Div.
and Th.M. degrees from Westminster Theological
Seminary. Dr. Bahnsen lectured to a broad range of
evangelical Christian groups at many colleges and
conferences. He was an experienced apologist and
debater, a clear and cogent teacher of the Christian
worldview who was devoted to training believers in
understanding and applying the Christian faith to
every area of life. He published numerous scholarly
articles, a number of well-known books, and has over
1,500 recorded lectures and sermons.
Articles By Greg L. Bahnsen

  APOLOGETICS

  PA001- "Revelation, Speculation, and Science",
Presbyterian Guardian 40:1, (December-January, 1970-
1971) [Origins not a scientific question]


  PA002- "Prolegomena to Apologetics", Synapse II
(Westminster Seminary, January, 1972)


  PA003- "The Impropriety of Evidentially Arguing for the
Resurrection", Synapse II (Westminster Seminary,
January, 1972


  PA005-Letter: "Awaiting Our Verdict?", Christianity
Today XVI:18 (June 9, 1972) [Response to J. W.
Montgomery]


  PA012-"On Worshiping the Creature Rather Than the
Creator", Journal of Christian Reconstruction I:1
(Summer, 1974) [evolutionary philosophy]
  PA013-"Evangelism and Apologetics", Synapse III (Fall,
1974)


 PA016-"A Critique of the Evidentialist Apologetical
Method of John Warwick Montgomery", (1974)


  PA017-Review: "Knowledge and Politics (by Roberto
Mangabeira Unger)", The Cambridge Fish (Boston)
(Winter, 1975)


  PA018-"Revisionary Immunity", [Technical discussion
of attempts to draw the analytic/synthetic distinction
and what their failure teaches us about apologetics.]
(1975)


  PA032-"Modern Materialism: The Disappearance Form
of the Mind-Body Identity Thesis", (Paper delivered to
the Evangelical Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA
1976)
  PA044-"Science, Subjectivity, and Scripture", [Are
Science and Logic Objective, Neutral, and Invariant?]
(1979)


  PA045-"The Encounter of Jerusalem with Athens",
Ashland Theological Bulletin XIII:1 (Spring, 1980) 37
pages [Exposition of Acts 17] (Available in book: Always
Ready- PA600).


   PA053-"Beware of Philosophy!", The Conqueror,
II:2(Nov., 1982) [Col. 2 does not forbid studying
philosophy]


  PA061-Review: "A Critique of Classical Apologetics",
Presbyterian Journal 44:32 (Dec. 4, 1985) [Response to
Gerstner & Sproul in defense of Van Til]


  PA062-Letter: "Bahnsen responds to Gerstner",
Presbyterian Journal 44:34 (December 18, 1985)
  PA064-"Machen, Van Til and the Apologetical Tradition
of the OPC", Pressing Toward the Mark, ed. C. G.
Dennison and R. C. Gamble (Phila. Committee for the
Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986)


  PA065-"225 Sample Questions for Presbytery
Apologetics Exam", 10 pp, (1986)


   PA072-Letter: "Response to John Robbins", Journey 3:1
(Jan-Feb., 1988)


  PA078-Letter: "Bahnsen Contra Flood/Robbins",
Journey 3:4-5 (July-October, 1988)


  PA079-Letters: Anthony G. Flood


  PA083-"At War with the Word: The Necessity of
Biblical Antithesis", Antithesis I:1 (Jan/Feb, 1990)
  PA089-"False Antithesis: A Critique of the Notion of
Antithesis in Francis Schaeffer's Apologetic" Antithesis I:3
(May/Jun, 1990)


  PA095-"Autonomy is No Ladder to Christ's Supreme
Authority" Penpoint I:1 (October 1990)


Apologetic series in The Biblical Worldview
(Available in the book: Always Ready PA600.)

  PA098-"Ready to Reason", (VI:12; December, 1990)


  PA099-"The Heart of the Matter: Knowing and
Believing", (VII:1; Jan, 1991)


  PA100-"Answering Objections", (VII:2; Feb, 1991)


  PA101-"Tools of Apologetics", (Part I-VII:4; Apr,
1991)(Part II-VII:7; Jul, 1991)
  PA103-"Apologetics in Practice", [Bertrand Russell as
example] (Part I-VII:8; Aug, 1991) (Part II-VII:9; Sep, 1991)


  PA105-"The Problem of Evil", (Part I-VII:10; Oct, 1991)
(Part II-VII:12 Dec, 1991)


  PA107-"The Problem of Knowing the 'Super-
Natural'",(Part I-VII:11; Nov, 1991) (Part II-VIII:1; Jan,
1992) (Part III-VIII:2; Feb, 1992)


  PA110-"The Problem of Faith", (Part I-Vol. VIII:5; May,
1992) (Part II-Vol. VIII:6; Jun, 1992)


  PA146-"The Problem of Religious Language", (Part I-
Vol. VIII:9 Sept. 1992) (Part II-Vol. IX:1 Jan. 1993) (Part III-
Vol. IX:5 May 1993)


  PA165-"The Problem of Miracles",(Part I-Vol. IX:7 July
1993) (Part II-Vol. IX:9 Sept. 1993)
  PA112-"A World Without Religion?", Penpoint I:2
(December 1990)


  PA115-"Dead Wrong", Penpoint II:2 (April, 1991)
[afterlife according to the movies]


  PA123-"Dr. Bahnsen Represents Christianity in
Dialogue with Islam and Judaism at Orange Coast
College", Penpoint Vol. II:6 (November., 1991)


  PA137-"The JFK Assassination and Apologetics",
Penpoint Vol. III:3 (May 1992)


  PA142-"Where the Rubber Hits the Road", Penpoint
Vol. III:5 (August 1992)


  PA143-"The Mind/Body Problem in Biblical
Perspective", (1972)
   PA166-"Cross-Examination: What Does it Mean to
Believe?", The Counsel of Chalcedon Vol. X:5 & 6
(July/August 1993)


  PA167-"Reflections on My Russia Trip", Penpoint Vol.
IV:6 (July-August 1993)


  PA186-"Dr. Bahnsen Debates Atheist Lawyer",
Penpoint Vol. V:1 (January 1994)


  PA191-"Van Til and Self-Deception", Penpoint Vol. V:8
(Sept. 1994) NOTE: [Reprinted Penpoint Vol. V:10
(December, 1994)]


  PA195-"Van Til's 'Presuppositionalism'", Penpoint Vol.
VI:1 (January, 1995)


  PA196-"Van Til's Challenge to Illegitimate Common
Ground", Penpoint Vol. VI:2 (February, 1995)
  PA197-"Van Til's Why I Believe in God", Penpoint Vol.
VI:3 (March, 1995)


 PA199-"Van Til's Call For a Distinctive Christian
Mindset", Penpoint VI:4 (April, 1995)


  PA200-"Van Til's Life and Impact", Penpoint VI:5 (May
1995)


  PA205-"Radical Empiricism Made Foolish", Penpoint
VI:10 (October, 1995)


  PA206-"Evidential Apologetics: The Right Way",
Penpoint VI:11 (November 1995)


  PA207-"The Crucial Concept of Self-Deception in
Presuppositional Apologetics", Westminster Theological
Journal LVII (1995) 1-31
  PA208-"Presuppositional Reasoning With False Faiths",
Penpoint VII:2 (Feb/Mar 1996)


  PA210-"Presuppositional Procedure", Penpoint VII:8
(September, 1996)


  PA212-"Another Cup of Coffee", Penpoint VII:10
(November, 1996)


  ETHICS

  PE011-Review: "New Theology No. 10 (M. E. Marty and
D. G. Peerman, eds.)", Westminster Theological Journal
XXXVI:3 (Spring, 1974)


  PE019-"Double Jeopardy: A Case Study in the Influence
of Christian Legislation", Journal of Christian
Reconstruction II:2 (Winter, 1975-1976)


  PE021-"Introduction to John Cotton's Abstract of the
Laws of New England", Journal of Christian
Reconstruction II:2 (Winter, 1975-1976) (Also in V:2;
Winter, 1978-79)


  PE029-"The Sin of Usury", Presbyterian Guardian
46:2(February, 1977)


  PE033-"No Interest from a Brother", Presbyterian
Guardian 46:8 (September, 1977)


  PE035-Letter: "About Law", Presbyterian Guardian
47:3 (March, 1978)


  PE036-Letter: "Comment on Chantry's Review of
Rushdoony", The Banner of Truth issue 178 (July, 1978)


  PE040-"The Authority of God's Law", Presbyterian
Journal 37:2 (December 6, 1978)


  PE041-"God's Law and Gospel Prosperity: A Reply to
the Editor of the Presbyterian Journal", (distributed by
the Session of St. Paul Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS,
1978)


  PE043-"M. G. Kline on Theonomic Politics: An
Evaluation of His Reply", Journal of Christian
Reconstruction VI:2 (Winter, 1979-1980)


  PE046-Letter: Response to R. Lefevre on abortion, The
Register (Santa Anna) (June 14, 1981)


  PE049-Letter: "Strong Complaint,&quote; Christianity
Today XXV:21 (December 11, 1981) [about a review of
Chantry's book]


  PE050-"Chantry on Law and Reconstruction", 1981
[Reply to Chantry's God's Righteous Kingdom]


  PE054-"The Theonomic Antithesis to Other Law-
Attitudes", (1982)
  PE058-"Theses on Divorce and Spousal Abuse",
[written for Special Committee of Presbytery] 1984


  PE059-Letter: "Puritans Were Theonomists", New
Horizons VI:1 (Jan., 1985)


  PE063-"Should We Uphold Unchanging Moral
Absolutes?", Journal of the Evangelical Theological
Society 28:3 (September, 1985) [Response to Chismar &
Rausch]


  PE071-"A Moral Checkup for Your Mouth", (Irvine, CA:
Covenant Community Church November, 1987)


  PE076-"What Kind of Morality Should We Legislate?",
The Biblical Worldview 4:10 (October, 1988)


  PE077-Foreword to The Debate Over Christian
Reconstruction by Gary DeMar (Atlanta, GA: American
Vision Press, 1988) [ethical failure of critics]
  PE079-"For Whom was God's Law Intended?", The
Biblical Worldview 4:12 (December, 1988) [shows O.T.
Gentiles were obligated to God's law]


  PE086-"Helping the Poor Without Feeding the
Beast,&quote; Antithesis I:2 (Mar/Apr, 1990)


  PE092-"Obscenity and Absurdity", Antithesis I:3
(May/Jun, 1990)


  PE096-"The Reaping Season", The Seventh Trumpet
V:4 (Sept/Oct, 1990) [consequences to society rejecting
God's law]


 PE097-"Henry Miller: The Life and Literature of
Obscenity", Antithesis I:6 (Nov/Dec, 1990)


  PE113-"War and Peace", Penpoint II:1 (March 1991)
  PE114-Study Guide: "A Christian View of War", (Irvine,
CA: Southern California Center for Christian Studies,
February 1991)


  PE116-"Modern Sexuality and Religious Sanity",
Penpoint II:3 (June, 1991)


  PE119-"Cross-Examination: The Unchanging Character
of God's Law-Part 1", The Counsel of Chalcedon XIII:4
(September, 1991)


  PE120-"Bigger Government, Yet Bigger Crime",
Penpoint Vol. II:5 (September, 1991)


  PE121-"Cross-Examination: The Unchanging Character
of God's Law-Part II",The Counsel of Chalcedon XIII:8
(October, 1991)


  PE122-"Sadistic Syndrome" and "Sexual Harassment,
Sexual Hypocrisy", Penpoint Vol. II:6 (November, 1991)
  PE124-"Cross Examination: The Universal Validity of
God's Law", The Counsel of Chalcedon XIII:9 (November
1991)


  PE125-"Interview with Dr. Greg Bahnsen", Contra
Mundum (No 2) [About theonomic ethics, civil
government, etc.]


    PE134-"Oppressive Religious Liberty", Penpoint Vol.
III:1 (February 1992)


  PE141-"Cross Examination: In Defense of Theonomy",
Counsel of Chalcedon XIV:5-6 (July-Aug, 1992) [Response
to critiques by J. W. Robbins]


  PE144-"The Theonomic Thesis in Confessional and
Historical Perspective", 1980
  PE152-"Pre-marital Sexual Relations: What is the Moral
Obligation When Repeated Incidents are Confessed?",
1992


  PE154-"Praying for a Russian Revolution", Penpoint
Vol. IV:1 (January 1993)


  PE157-"Rock-and-Roll Politics", Penpoint Vol. IV:3
(April 1993)


  PE164-"A Fraternal Reply to Nelson Kloosterman",
Christian Renewal Vol. XI:7 (June 14, 1993)


  PE170-"The Westminster Assembly and the Equity of
the Judicial Law",; Penpoint Vol. IV:7 (October 1993)


  PE174-"The Wacko in Waco", Penpoint Vol. IV:3 (April,
1993)
  PE175-Book Notices: "The Apocalypse", Lockman;
"Education vs. Idolatry", Perks; "Gay Militants",
McIlhenney; Dialog Over the Place of the Law,&quote;
Strickland, ed. (pp 3-4) Penpoint Vol. IV:4 (May, 1993)


  PE176-"Cross-Examination: A Biblical Standard for Civil
Law", The Counsel of Chalcedon Vol. XV:8 (October,
1993)


  PE177-"The Corpse of Communism", Penpoint Vol. IV:8
(December, 1993)


  PE179-"An Interview with Greg L. Bahnsen", Calvinism
Today Vol. IV:1 (January 1994)


  PE180-"What is Theonomy?", New Horizons, (April
1994)


   PE181-"Biblical Policy on Keeping Covenant with God
in the Education of Our Children", Penpoint Vol. V:3
(April, 1994)
  PE182-"In the Shadow of Sodom: Does the Bible Really
Say What We Thought About Homosexuality?",
Christianity & Society Vol. 4:2 (April 1994)


  PE187-"Recent Theonomic Discussion", Penpoint Vol.
V:4 (May 1994)


  PE188-"Review of Stephen Perks' Christianity and
Law", Penpoint V:5 (June 1994)


   PE189-"Landlady's Religious Liberty Upheld: Dr.
Bahnsen Had Testified in Her Behalf", Penpoint Vol. V:6
(July 1994)


  PE190-"Reconstructionist Voices from the Past",
Penpoint Vol. V:6 (Aug. 1994)
  PE192-Extemporaneous responses by Dr. Bahnsen to
written criticisms and critical questions over his thesis:
Theonomy in Christian Ethics, (1978)


  PE194-Letter: "Theonomy", New Horizons, Vol. 15:10
(November 1994)


  PE201-"The Ethical Issue of Trans-sexuality", Penpoint
VI:6 (June, 1995)


  PE203-"Religious Pluralism and Social Anarchy",
Penpoint VI:8 (August, 1995)


   PE209-Evaluation and Comparison", Penpoint VII:6
(July 1996)
  THEOLOGY

  PT004-"Limited Atonement", Synapse II (Westminster
Seminary, January, 1972)


  PT006-"Autographs, Amanuenses and Restricted
Inspiration", The Evangelical Quarterly XLV:2 (April-June,
1973)


  PT008-"Future and Folly", Chalcedon Report No. 97
(September, 1973)


  PT009-Review: "Method in Theology (by Bernard J. F.
Lonergan)", Westminster Theological Journal XXXVI:1
(Fall, 1973)


  PT010-Letter: "Year of Antichrist? Anno Domini!",
Presbyterian Guardian 43:4 (April, 1974)


  PT014-"Limited Atonement", Synapse III (Fall, 1974)
  PT015-"The Person, Work, and Present Status of
Satan", Journal of Christian Reconstruction I:2 (Winter,
1974)


 PT025-Rapture and Resurrection", Chalcedon Report
No. 125 (January, 1976)


    PT031-"The Prima Facie Acceptability of
Postmillennialism",; Journal of Christian Reconstruction
III:2 (Winter, 1976-1977) [theological plausibility and
historical heritage]


  PT034-"Inductivism, Inerrancy, and
Presuppositionalism", Journal of the Evangelical
Theological Society 20:4 (December, 1977) [Reprinted in
Evangelicals and Inerrancy, ed. Ronald Youngblood
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984]


  PT042-"The Inerrancy of the Autographa" Inerrancy,
ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing
House, 1979)
  PT047-"God's Good News", (Covenant Community
Church, July, 1981) [Evangelistic summary of Christian
theology with extensive biblical proof texts]


  PT052-"This World and the Kingdom of God", The
Reconstruction Report (Ashland, OH) 2:1 (January, 1982)


  PT066-"The Westminster Assembly (1643-1649): A
Brief Historical Summary", (prepared at Covenant
Community Church, 1986) [Describes the Puritan
Revolution and work of the Westminster Assemby]


  PT069-"Baptism: Its Meaning and Purpose", (Irvine, CA:
Covenant Community Church, November, 1987)


  PT074-"Confidence About the Earthly Triumph of God's
Kingdom", Journey 3:2 (March-April, 1988)
  PT084-"Church Government Briefly Considered",
Antithesis I:1 (Jan/Feb, 1990)


  PT090-Letter: "Cross Ex", Antithesis I:3 (May/Jun,
1990) [Dr. Bahnsen responds to critical letter about
church government]


  PT093-"The Concept and Importance of Canonicity",
Antithesis I:5 (Sep/Oct, 1990)


  PT117-"Cross-Examination: Particular Redemption",
The Counsel of Chalcedon XIII:4 (June, 1991)


  PT118-"Cross-Examination: Christ's Kingdom", The
Counsel of Chalcedon XIII:5 & 6 (July/August, 1991)


  PT126-"Dr. Bahnsen Addresses the Evangelical
Theological Society Annual Meeting", Penpoint Vol. II:7
(December, 1991)
  PT127-"Cross Examination: The Universal Lordship of
Christ", The Counsel of Chalcedon XIII:10 (December
1991)


  PT130-"Cross Examination: Fore-ordination", The
Counsel of Chalcedon XIII:11 (January 1992)


 PT131-"Cross Examination: Fore-ordination & Free
Will", The Counsel of Chalcedon XIII:12 (February 1992)


  PT132-"Cross Examination: Fore-ordination & Moral
Accountability", The Counsel of Chalcedon XIV:1 (March
1992)


  PT133-"An Interview with Greg Bahnsen by Byron
Snapp", The Presbyterian Witness VI:1 (February 1992)
[Re: Theological compromise, regulative principle, etc.]


  PT135-"Dr. Bahnsen Debates Sola Scriptura", Penpoint
Vol. III:2 (March, 1992)
  PT136-"Cross Examination: Objections to
Postmillennialism",; (parts I & II) The Counsel of
Chalcedon XIV:2(April 1992); XIV:3 (May 1992)


  PT139-"Cross Examination: The Place of the Jews in
Prophecy", The Counsel of Chalcedon XIV:4 (June 1992)


  PT140-"The Comprehensive Scope of Salvation",
Penpoint Vol. III:4 (July 1992)


  PT147-"Back At the Movies: The New Cowboy
Theology", Penpoint Vol. III:6 (October 1992)


  PT148-"Cross-Examination: The Covenant Keeping God
(parts I & II)", The Counsel of Chalcedon (October 1992)
(November 1992)


  PT150-"Cross-Examination: Practical Implications of
Covenant Theology",e; The Counsel of Chalcedon
(December 1992)
  PT151-"Judicial Theology", Penpoint Vol. III:7
(December 1992)


  PT153-"The Judicial and Substitutionary Nature of
Salvation", written for the North American Protestant
Church Council (1993)


  PT156-"Penal Substitution", Penpoint Vol. IV:2 (March
1993)


  PT158-"Gospel Prosperity and the Future of Israel",
Calvinism Today Vol. III, 2 (April 1993)


  PT163-"The Theological Battle Today Focuses on
Hermeneutics", Penpoint Vol. IV:5 (June 1993)


  PT168-"The Judicial and Substitutionary Nature of
Salvation", Crosswinds Vol. II:1 (Spring/Summer 1993)
  PT171-'Cross-Examination: Infant Baptism", The
Counsel of Chalcedon (Part I-Vol. XV:2, April 1993; Part II-
Vol. XV:3, May 1993; Part III-Vol. XV:4, June 1993)


  PT173-"A Reformed Confession Regarding
Hermeneutics", Draft March 15, 1993


  PT183-"A Reformed Confession Regarding Creation",
Draft May 18, 1994


  PT184-"Highlighting the Reformation While Pondering
a Supposed Protestant-Romanist 'Truce,'", Penpoint Vol.
V:5 (June, 1994)


  PT193-"If You Received This, the World Did Not End",
Penpoint Vol. V:9 (October, 1994)


  PT198-"The Ordination of Women: An Interview by
Byron Snapp", The Presbyterian Witness Vol. IX:1 (Spring,
1995) NOTE: [Reprinted in Penpoint Vol. VIII:1 (January,
1997)]


  PT204-"Theological Training for All Believers",
Penpoint VI:9 (September, 1995)


  CHURCH & CHRISTIAN LIVING

  PC007-"Mama Don't Take My Kodachrome Away", The
Good News I:2 (Manhattan Beach, Summer, 1973)


  PC048-"On Not Leaving Things at the Ramada Inn", The
Conqueror (Newport Beach, CA: Newport Christian
Schools) I:1 (September, 1981) [educational aid]


  PC051-"Learning to Read in High School", The
Conqueror (Newport Beach, CA: Newport Christian
Schools) I:2 (December, 1981) [educational aid]
  PC085-"Issue & Interchange: Tithing-Are We Obligated
to Tithe on Our Net or Our Gross Income?", [Net
Position], Antithesis 1:1 (Jan-Feb, 1990)


  PC087-"Is It Our Moral Obligation to Attend Church?",
Antithesis I:2 (Mar/Apr, 1990) [Also in monograph form]
NOTE: [Reprinted in Ordained Servant 4:2 (April, 1995),
page 40-42]


  PC088-"Issue and Interchange: Does Scripture Permit
the Use of Hymns Other Than Psalms in Worship?",
[Hymns allowed position], Antithesis 1:2 (March-April,
1990)


  BIBLICAL STUDIES

  PB020-"Law and Atonement in the Execution of Saul's
Seven Sons", Journal of Christian Reconstruction II:2
(Winter, 1975-1976)


  PB055-"The Exegesis of Matthew 5:17-19", 1983
[Response to critique by Fowler & Long]
  PB056-Major Article: "Hermeneutics in The Book of
Revelation", (1984)


 PB057-Major Article: "The Historical Setting of the
Writing of Revelation", (1984) [unfinished]


  PB075-Review: "Another Look at Chilton's Days of
Vengeance", Journey 3:2 (March-April, 1988)
  Articles by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

  PT550-The Man of Lawlessness


  PT551-Daniel's Seventy Weeks: A Study of Daniel 9:24-
27


  PT552-The Book of Revelation & Eschatology


  PT554-The Mode of Baptism


  PT555-Reformed Theology and Six Day Creationism


  PT556-A Brief Theological Analysis of Hyper-preterism


  PE551-Theonomic Ethics and the Westminster
Confession of Faith
  PE556-"Thou Shalt Not Destroy the Family",
(Harbinger)


  PE558-"Does Scripture Permit Alcoholic Beverages?",
(Antithesis)


  PT558-"Infant Baptism: A Duty of God's People",
(Counsel of Chalcedon)


  PT566-"In Defense of Creedalism", (Banner of Truth)


  PT567-"A Reconstructionist Answer to the Charge of
Anti-Semitism", (Dispensationalism in Transition)


  PT568-"Zechariah 14 and Postmillennialism", (Counsel
of Chalcedon)


   PT569-"The Greatness of the Great Commission",
(Journal of Christian Reconstruction)
  Articles by Randy Booth

  PA400-"A Living Apologetic: A Defense of the Faith
That Glorifies God",(parts I & II), Counsel of Chalcedon,
Vol. 16, No. 1 & 2, (Mar.-Apr., 1994).


  PA401-"Of Taste Buds: Calvin's Apologetic", Penpoint,
Vol. 7, No. 10 (Nov. 1996).


  PT402-"Privilege and Confidentiality: The Righteous
Use of Shared Information", Counsel of Chalcedon, Vol.
14, No. 9, (Nov. 93).


  PC404-"A Journey Home" (Baptism), Tabletalk, June
1998.


  PE400-"The Party's Over", An Open Letter for Christian
Unity, Chalcedon Report, No. 385, August 1997.


  PC400-"Reformed or Reforming: Which Way are We
Looking?", Counsel of Chalcedon.v
  PC401-"The Trivium in Biblical Perspective", The
Classis, Vol. 4, No. 1, January, 1997.
 PA001



PA001 Presbyterian Guardian 40:1 (December-January,1970-1971), © Covenant Media Foundation -- 800/553-3938.


                               Revelation, Speculation and Science
                                                            By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

It is one of those embarrassing historical ironies that modern science could not have arisen except in the atmosphere
of a Christian world-and-life view. Nevertheless, the scientific community today persists in playing the prodigal by
assuming an antagonistic stance against the Christianity of divine revelation. Hypnotized by Darwin's evolutionary
scheme and enchanted with the products of scientific technology, modern man has granted science a secularized
godship and bows before it in fetish idolatry.


The pitting of science against revelation is certainly odd. For, a certain state of affairs is needed for the scientific
endeavor to be meaningful or fruitful. The scientist must believe that the state of affairs is conducive to science, or he
would not venture into the scientific enterprise. He must believe that there is a world of things and processes that can
be known, and that he himself sustains a relationship to this world that allows him to know these objects and events.
But then, what reason can the scientist give for his belief that the state of affairs is actually conducive to science? Why
is the world such as it is and not otherwise?


The Predicament for Science
Here the scientist, who depends on the self-sufficiency of his logico-empirical procedures, is in a predicament. His
response is usually to make various hypotheses about the world and then point to the beneficial results that flow from
such hypotheses; he gives, can give, no reason for those hypotheses -- they just are, because they work. If pressed,
or if he is philosophically inclined, he may even go so far as to say that his "working hypotheses" have no reason
unless it be "chance."


In other words, the consistent naturalistic scientist seems to hold to an irrational set of beliefs about the state of affairs
simply in order that his "rational" scientific endeavor may get off the ground. It is rather obvious that prior to any
scientific endeavor we must begin either from speculation (about "chance" hypotheses) or from revelation. The
Scriptures (of the one Person who knows) reveal how it is that this world, and man in it, are such as to make scientific
endeavor meaningful. The state of affairs that exists is due to the creation and providence of the sovereign God. If
science (so-called) could actually refute the truths of Scripture, then there would be no actual basis for science at all.
The desire of the scientific community to pit its enterprise and conclusions against Christian revelation is ultimately
suicidal.


The Question of Origins
The antagonism between science and Scripture historically came to a head in the question of origins. The Christian
asserts that the world is conducive to the scientific task precisely because God created it that way. (And this creation
is revealed to be "nature," a completed work of God not subject to the continuing progressive development posited by
evolutionary theory). Even within the Christian community, remnants of this bitter confrontation are still evident in the
dispute between those who hold to a "mature" (completed) creation, and those well-meaning scientists and
theologians who would accommodate to the "science-in-vogue" by holding to "theistic evolution." Yet, it must be
remembered, the non-Christian naturalistic scientist considers the "fact" of evolution as the supreme case against the
Bible.



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 PA001



Despite the enthusiasms of modern science in pursuing study and research on the "origin of life," it must be
recognized that all questions of origins fall outside the realm of empirical science! The methodology of science is
simply not equipped to deal with events that are neither recurring or repeatable under experimental control. In the
matter of origins, where the scientist can neither observe nor experiment, one is left to depend either on guesswork
speculation or infallible revelation. The choice should be simple; for the Christian, it is.


Naturalistic science will usually retort that examination of present materials and processes enables us to extrapolate
backwards so as to determine what must have occurred. But here again, forsaking his own basic methods, the
scientist is speculating (not observing) on the course of historical development; he assumes (but cannot show
experimentally) that not only is nature uniform now but always has been, that processes seen today have always
worked as they do now. (The "theistic evolutionist" likewise assumes that today's processes must be basically similar
to God's creative activities. This, in effect, is to say that creation was "immature," that God did not finish his creative
work at a point in the past.) To pretend to answer questions about origins by extrapolating the observable present into
the unobservable past is to reason in a circle; it is to forsake the proper descriptive role of science and to make it an
arbitrary determiner of the past instead.


The Answer: the Triune God
The origin and nature of the universe depend upon the Triune God. The scientist cannot proceed without a prior belief
(acknowledged or not) in the sovereign Creator. Obviously also, the doctrines of creation and providence as found in
Scripture are mutually necessary; to believe the one is to believe the other. The scientist too must believe in the
controlling providence of God over the processes of the creation, or else he wouldn't be a scientist.


Years ago, David Hume noted that the scientists proceed on a scientifically unfounded, yet critically essential belief in
the uniformity of observable nature. Yet, he pointed out, there is no reason (beyond psychological habit) for the
naturalistic scientist to expect the sun to come up tomorrow. Science as an autonomous self-contained discipline has
no honest answer to Hume. But if science, properly conceived, subordinates itself to God's revelation, then it knows
why the sun will come up for it knows that God providentially controls all the operations of his created universe in a
regular and dependable fashion.


The scientist must presuppose a regulated universe, and in so doing he presupposes an ordered creation. Every
scientist makes certain basic assumptions about reality and knowledge, consciously or otherwise; and these thoughts
are religiously motivated: "That which is known of God is plainly seen in them, for God has revealed it to them. For
since the creation of the world His unseen attributes, not only His infinite power but also His divine nature, have been
perceived, being understood by the things created" (Romans 1:19-20).


The Question of Relationship
It should be clear at this point what the relationship between science and Scripture properly is. The presupposition of
any meaningful scientific endeavor is the truth of Christian theism as given in God's Word; if the world is not what
Scripture says it is then science is not possible. The sovereign God controls all the operations of his creation, thus
providing the uniformity we see in nature, a connection between the mind and the material world, a union of logic and
facts, and standards of absolute truth.


The relation between science and Scripture is not one of synthesis between two tentative theories; rather, it must be
one of subordination. If science is not subordinate of Scripture, then Scripture must be subordinate to science and
science itself will be autonomous. If science is independent of revelation, then nature must be assumed to be self-

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sufficient and containing in itself the principles for its own interpretation. Thus God is either identified with nature (the
error of pantheism) or is shoved out of the picture altogether (the practical result of deism). Either God is God, or
science deifies itself.


The activity of science is never impartial; there is always a substructure of metaphysical or religiously motivated belief.
If there were not, science would be futile, its feet firmly planted in mid-air. The naturalistic scientist claims to work with
"the facts." Yet even to speak of "facts" is to make some metaphysical declaration concerning the existence of
factuality itself. The only "honest" metaphysics for the philosopher who rejects God's revelation is an agnostic
solipsism, an "I-don't-know-and-it-can't-be-known-ism." Yet, if there is one metaphysics besides Christianity that the
scientist abhors, it is solipsism. But, on what basis can he discredit this "logical" position? What source of information
can refute it?


The Basis: Scripture's Truth
The only basis, the only presupposition, that allows for factuality and the scientific enterprise is the truth of Scripture.
Without the Bible, science has no order in nature to expect, and the scientist finds himself adrift between abstract
timeless logic and pure ultimate potentiality - or "pure chance." The world of actuality is only an accident, and the
"universe" (if there is such a thing) cannot be known since there is no known connection between sense experience
and analytic thinking, no reason why irrational dreams are not as true as rational thought.


The scientist must believe that he confronts a system when he does his work, or else the work would be futile. That
system is either the result of the purposeful plan of the sovereign God, or it is the reflection into the unknowable
"universe" of the ordering mind of man - which in its turn is equally unknowable. If the scientist refuses to presuppose
the truth of Scripture (which is actually an epistemological impossibility), he will have neither a true universe to
investigate or any reason to suppose he has the ability to do so. The Bible provides the only possible presupposition
for all thought and science.


We turn down a dark alley if we do not submit every discipline, every thought, to God's absolute authority. We must
begin with Scripture and let it interpret the scientific enterprise. The Word of Christ the Lord must be given first place in
everything. If we neglect to let Scripture govern every academic pursuit, we have fallen prey to the shifting sands of
human opinion.


The Archaic "Modern" Approach
Adam and Eve took the "modern" approach; they wanted to interpret the world apart from supernatural revelation. The
question of what were the qualities and nature of a particular fruit and what effects from eating it might result, were
"scientific" questions to be answered by independent research apart from the Word of an authoritative Lord. Why
should we repeat their error? It should be obvious that if man, before his disabling fall into sin, needed God's
supernatural revelation to interpret his world properly, how much more do we who live under the effects of sin! The
methodology of Adam and Eve, being inspired by Satan, has come to be exalted and followed by all unrepentant
sinners and is the substance of "science" as commonly conceived.


The only true science, the only science worthy of the name, proceeds from the truth of God's supernatural revelation
to fulfill its divinely given task of subduing God's creation (Genesis 1:28). To attempt science apart from God's Word
and authority is spiritual suicide for the effort itself and the scientist who attempts it. Man is never autonomous; he is
always a creature dependent upon his Creator God. In science, as in philosophy, culture, or politics, "except the Lord
build the house they labor in vain that built it" (Psalm 127:1).



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Greg Bahnsen, a junior at Westminster Theological Seminary is a graduate in philosophy from Westmont College
(Santa Barbara), [1970-1971].




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PA002Synapse II (Westminster Seminary, January, 1972), © Covenant Media Foundation -- 800/553-3938.


                                         Prolegomena To Apologetics
                                                            By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

The following is an excerpt from a personal letter by the author to a Christian student facing numerous dilemmas as a
graduate student in philosophy at a major university. Before entering into a lengthy discussion of the particular
problems being posed to this student, the author attempted to briefly set the stage or outline a framework in which
answers could be given. This preface is reproduced below.


I must say that I appreciate the intellectual straightforwardness of your letter; too often those of us with
fundamentalistic persuasions give credence to Marx's dictum that religion is the opiate of the people by sliding over
serious philosophical questions about our faith and settle for the good feeling it gives us. I can sympathize with the
dilemmas facing you and feel somewhat like a "fellow-traveler" in them. In my philosophical work I have come to see
the concrete truth of Col. 2:3 -- in Christ (who Himself is the Truth, John 14:6) are hid all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge. Without beginning and ending our intellectual efforts with Him all basis for history, logic, and science are
destroyed. The man who fights against the gospel, then, is working at ruining the very tools of destruction he uses.
Paul knew this to be the case. In 1 Cor. 1:18ff he tells us that those who foolishly portend the wisdom of the world see
the preaching of the cross (and I might add, all the necessary theological presuppositions which accompany that
preaching) as foolishness while in fact it is the power of God unto salvation (of mind as well as all else). "The
foolishness of God is wiser than men," and God "shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and will bring to nothing the
understanding of the prudent." Therefore, "where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?
hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?", I say a firm "amen" to Paul's question. Just look about you, and
look at the history of philosophy, and consider the personal lives of Christianity's cultured despisers, and you can see
how foolish the world's wisdom is! So we have scriptural warrant for a humble boldness about philosophical theology,
as I see it, for we can come to any question knowing that its solution is found truthfully in Christ. Paul does not tell us
to hide our heads in the sand when facing worldly philosophy, but to "reprove the unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph.
5:11). And he gives us direction as to how we are to do this as philosophers: "beware lest any man rob you through
philosophy, even vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the fundamental principles of the world, and not after
Christ" (Co. 2:8). Paul's warning is not against philosophy, but against humanistic philosophy, i.e. philosophical
thinking which begins with man-made assumptions and axioms, rather than beginning with the sure truths of Christ
and His word. Begin with what rebellious and sinful man calls "self-evident" and you end up with foolishness, or chaos,
or misery; but begin with the Word of God and all of life makes sense, every question has an answer (by which I do
not mean a "pat" answer!), and intellectual credence can be maintained.


Paul tells Timothy in his second letter (2:23-25), "Avoid foolish and undisciplined questions, knowing that they produce
quarrels, and a servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but must be gentle toward all, skillful in teaching, patient, one
who courteously instructs those who oppose themselves, if perhaps God may grant them conversion unto a genuine
knowledge of truth." The man who attacks the truth of God's word is opposing himself -- like a child who slaps his
father's face while sitting on his lap. If it were not for the father's gracious support, no one could insult Him! To oppose
the outlook of God's revelation is to work against everything that you are as a creature of God. Men know the truth
about God -- not a god, but the living and true God with all His divine attributes but attempt to suppress it (Rom.
1:18ff.). Paul says that God has revealed it to them (all of them!), and not left it up to natural theology or philosophic
argumentation; they know the truth about God inherently and confront it everywhere they look around their
environment: natural, social, psychological. The Almighty God is able to speak without stuttering, without ambiguity,
without confusion, and Paul declares that He has spoken. God (even outside the written word) has made his word
plain to all creatures made in His image. And because of their sin (which to recognize would entail too much emotional
trauma and changing of one's ways of life and thinking) they push down that revelation, putting a pseudo-god in the


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Creator's place (e.g. self-reliance, finances, intellectual prowess, etc.). Yet without that revelation from God there
would be no connection between the particulars of experience and the principles of logic, no uniformity to be
discerned in nature, no harmony between the one and the many (unity and diversity), etc., etc. So when men who
work from humanistic assumptions come to refute the gospel, they oppose themselves and are prevented from finding
the truth. Our reply must be from a different foundation, from the foundation graciously planted under us by God in His
saving mercy: His Word. Although our task may not be reciting memory verses (!), it is to represent the teaching of
scripture in the most clear and forcible way, showing its internal strength in contrast to the foolishness of humanism.
We never go over to our opponent's foundation except to do an internal critique of it; our weapons are not forged by
the enemies of God but by the Spirit of God. These alone can meet the onslaughts against our faith without wavering.
"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down
reasonings, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every
thought to obedience to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4-5).


In 2 Timothy Paul said that attacks on our faith come from fools (a word which did not have the belligerent tone that it
does in English), and scripture has a lot to tell us as to the nature of a fool's thinking: it rejects Christ's words, building
rather upon the sand (Matt. 7:26), it says there is not God (Ps. 53:1), it does not understand the depth and greatness
of the Lord's thoughts (Ps. 92:6), it levels charges against God (Prov. 1:22), it trusts in itself (Pr. 28:26), its way is right
in its own eyes (Pr. 12:15), it is self-confident (Pr. 14:16), its vision is bound to the earth (Prov. 12:24), it delights in
discovering itself (Pr. 18:2), it utters its own mind (Pr. 29:11), it despises wisdom and instruction (Pr. 1:7) it refuses to
know God and glories in man (1 Cor. 1-3), it suppresses the perspicuous revelation of God and honors a formation of
the creature instead (Rom. 1:22). Note Paul's words in 1 Tim. 6:3-5, "If any man does not consent to wholesome
words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is puffed-up,
understanding nothing, but diseased with respect to questions and word-quibbles, out of whom comes envy, strife,
blasphemies, evil surmising, perverse disputings of men with corrupted minds and destitute of truth."


So the type of philosophy which we as Christians are to avoid is rather clearly defined: that which begins with the
autonomous truths of men rebelling against God's truthful revelation about and within them, rather than presupposing
the axiomatic truth of scripture. When defending the faith we use the foundation God has provided, not the alleged
intellectual tools of autonomy. "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him and he be wise in his
own conceit" (Pr. 26:4). For the Christian saved by the grace of God, scripture is logically primitive; it is his
presupposition, his ultimate authority. Note that the charter verse of Christian apologetics (1 Peter 3:15) which says
"always being ready to set forth a defense to every one who asks you for a reasoned account concerning the hope in
you" begins by laying the foundation for such an effort in saying "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts!" Jesus Christ
must be given the pre-eminence (Col. 1:18) in our reasoning if we are to have an adequate and faithful apologetic.
Christ must be Lord over our thinking; every thought must be made captive to Him. Then the wisdom of the world will
become foolishness. A man's intellectual problems with the gospel are at base moral in character; that is why Paul
says in 2 Tim. 2:25 that conversion is unto a genuine knowledge of the truth. Before a man is regenerated he has a
knowledge of God but suppresses and distorts it (by mishandling it); after the Holy Spirit works a change in his heart
he has a genuine knowledge of the truth -- he is no longer an intellectual schizophrenic. The "new man" is "renewed in
knowledge after the image of his Creator" (Col. 3:10). So as Christian apologetes we have a humble boldness;
boldness because our philosophical theology based on God's revelation is mighty to the casting down of every
reasoning which opposes our Lord, yet humble because we did not work out the truth for ourselves but rather had our
eyes opened to it by God's gracious Spirit. Our thoughts are not creatively constructive, but receptively reconstructive
of God's -- that is, we "think God's thoughts after Him." On this basis we can find a proper solution to your dilemmas.




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PA003Synapse II (Westminster Seminary, January, 1972) © Covenant Media Foundation -- 800/553-3938.


  The Impropriety of Evidentially Arguing for the Resurrection
                                                            By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

It is indubitable that the resurrection of Jesus Christ has paramount significance for the history of redemption and for
Christian theology (cf. Rom. 4:25; 1 Peter 1:3). It is also clear that this resurrection must be held by the Biblical
Christian as one which took place in calendar time and involved Jesus' empirical body (cf. Luke. 24:39; 1 Cor. 15:4).
Moreover, a decisive refutation of the resurrection would shatter the validity of the Christian faith (cf. 1 Cor. 15:14, 17).
Hence the Christian's affirmation of Christ's resurrection is not an empty assumption, dreamy speculation, or a
timeless axiom. The Biblical faith is not indifferent to God's acts in history, nor is it pessimistic about evidences. The
dead bones of Jesus will never be found, and the believer need never fear investigation into the facts. All facts are
created facts which can be properly understood only when given the interpretation the Creator intends; as such, all
facts demonstrate the truth of Christianity. So any and all relevant evidence pertaining to Jesus Christ's resurrection in
history will be significant for the believer. And such evidence can have a role in his apologetical efforts.


However, a serious difficulty arises when the epistemological significance of the resurrection is separated from its
soteriological function. It is correct to hold that God's raising of Jesus from the dead saves us both from sin and
agnosticism, but it would be mistaken to understand by this that the epistemological problem could be handled
independently of the (broader) moral problem which is at its base. It is with regret that one notices neo-evangelicals
severing the justifying efficacy of Christ's resurrection from its truth-accrediting function. In reality, the latter is
dependent upon the former. Only as Christ's resurrection (with its ensuing regeneration by the Holy Spirit of Christ)
saves a sinner from his rebellion against God and God's word can it properly function to exhibit evidence for God's
truthfulness.


Evangelicals are often prone to generate inductive arguments for the veracity of Christianity based on the historical
resurrection of Christ, and such arguments occupy central importance in this apologetic. It is felt that if a man would
simply consider the "facts" presented and use his common reasoning sense he would be rationally compelled to
believe the truth of scripture. In such a case the evidences for Christ's resurrection are foundational to apologetical
witnessing, whereas their only proper place is confirmatory of the believer's presupposed faith. There is a certain
impropriety about attempting to move an opponent from his own circle into the circle of Christian belief by appealing to
evidence for the resurrection, and there are many reasons why the evidentialist's building a case for Christianity upon
neutral ground with the unbeliever ought to be avoided.


The first is the Lordship of Christ over the whole of the Christian's life, even his intellectual endeavors. Our every
thought must be obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), and only when He is set apart as Lord in our thinking will we be able
to offer a reason for the hope in us (1 Peter 3:15). The Christian cannot relinquish his submission to God's authority in
order to reason upon some alleged neutral ground. God makes a radical demand on the believer's life which involves
never demanding proof of God or trying Him. Even the Incarnate Son would not put God to the test, but rather relied
upon the inscripturated word (cf. Matt. 4). The Christian does not look at the evidence impartially, standing on neutral
ground with the unbeliever, waiting to see if the evidence warrants trust in God's truthfulness or not. Rather, he begins
by submitting to the truth of God, preferring to view every man as a liar if he contradicts God's truthfulness or not.
Rather, he begins by submitting to the truth of God, preferring to view every man as a liar if he contradicts God's word
(cf. Rom. 3:4). No one can demand proof from God, and the servant of the Lord should never give in to any such
demand (and obviously, neither should he suggest that such a demand be made by the unbeliever). The apostles
were certainly not afraid of evidence; yet we notice that they never argued on the basis of it. They preached the
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explained the meaning of the resurrection, its significance, its fulfillment of prophecy, its centrality in theology, its
redemptive power, its promise and assuring function - but they did not attempt to prove it by appealing to the "facts"
which any "rational man" could use as satisfying scholarly requirements of credibility. By trying to build up a proof of
the resurrection from unbiased grounds the Christian allows his witness to be absorbed into a pagan framework and
reduces the antithesis between himself and the skeptic to a matter of a few particulars. The Christian world-view
differs from that of unbelief at every point (when the skeptic is consistent with his avowed principles), and it is the only
outlook which can account for factuality at all. The Christian apologete must present the full message of Christ with all
of its challenge and not water it down in order to meet the unbeliever on his own faulty grounds.


Secondly there is a myriad of methodological problems which afflict an evidential argument for the resurrection which
is foundational rather than confirmatory of a presupposition. We note immediately that an inductive (historical)
argument rests for its validity on the premise of uniformity (past and present) in nature; this makes possible a
consideration of an analogy of circumstance. Yet the very point which the evidentialist is trying to prove is that of
miracle, i.e. discontinuity. So he is enmeshed in using a principle of continuity to establish the truth of discontinuity!
When the evidentialist seeks to exhibit that the resurrection very probably occurred as a unique truth-attesting sign he
is divided against himself. Furthermore, since inductive argumentation is dependent upon the premise of uniformity,
and since this premise can only be established by a Christian presupposing the truth of scripture (for Hume's
skepticism has yet to be countered on anything but presuppositional grounds), the "evidentialist's" argument is really
presuppositional at base anyway. The non-Christian has no right to expect regularity in nature and the honest skeptic
knows it; so an inductive argument for the historical resurrection could only have been probative force for one who
granted the truth of Christianity already. Next, we observe that probability is statistically predicated of a series in which
an event reoccurs on a regular basis; that is, general probability might be proven for a reoccurring event, but the
resurrection of Christ is a one-time event. Can probability be predicated of a particular occurrence? Not normally.
Again, we note that in recent years the crucial role of paradigms for factual argumentation has become evident (cf. T.
S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). Facts are "facts" for particular theories in which they function; hence
the fact of Christ's resurrection can be granted and understood only within the Christian paradigm or presupposition.
The rules of evidence and argumentation are not the same for a Christian and non-Christian; they will have different
authorities for final appeals, different standards of proof, different sets of considerations which are assumed to be
crucially relevant, etc. Hence a step by step argument from the supposition of the historical reliability in the
resurrection accounts and its denial is not possible. Another brief indication of difficulty in the evidentialist's attempt to
establish the resurrection of Christ is found in the logic of the argument if it be taken as intending to prove the
possibility of indeterminacy and oddity in the universe or history; such an argument would point to a world dominated
by chance, whereas the scriptures clearly present God as sovereignly controlling everything by the word of His power.
If oddity and chance become the crux of one's apologetic, then he has forfeited the orthodoxy of his witness. Finally,
once the evidentialist has failed to maintain that Christianity is the only adequate basis for a meaningful interpretation
of historical facts and not simply a working hypothesis which is "as plausible" as the next with respect to isolated facts,
and once he has lowered his sights by appealing to the probability of scripture's truth, then he has left the door open
for the skeptic's escape to considerations of possibility. If Christ only probably arose, then it is possible that the
evidence adduced has a completely different interpretation; even if certain facts seem to point to the probable
resurrection of Jesus, it is admitted that other evidence points to the disconfirmation of the gospel records! But this is
not the Christian position, for according to it there is no possibility that Christ did not arise; this is a foundational,
incorrigible fact as revealed in God's authoritative word.


Now even if the above considerations were put aside for a moment we would still have to see that the evidential
argument for Christ's resurrection is unsuitable as the crux for our apologetic. Under cross-examination most of the
considerations brought forth by evidentialists can be dismissed as overstated, gratuitous, or inconclusive. There is
little if any basis for holding to a resurrection as probably taking place in the past and arguing that the witnesses are
probably reliable is a completely different matter. It is also unsuitable for the intended aim of the argument, for the very
place that the witnesses could be mistaken, deceptive, or distorted might be the very event under question! But even
putting aside these things, the evidentialist may prove the historical resurrection of Christ, but he proves that it is
simply an isolated and uninterpreted "freak" event in a contingent universe. He is still stranded on the far side of
Lessing's ditch (i.e. the skeptic can grant that Christ arose and then simply ask what that odd, ancient fact has to do


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with his own present life and experience). The fact that Christ rose from the dead does not prove anything within the
neutral framework of an evidentialist's argument. Christ's resurrection does not entail his deity, just as our future
resurrection does not entail our divinity! And one could not argue that the first person to rise from the dead is God, for
on that basis Lazarus would have greater claim to deity that Christ! The evidentialist may prove the resurrection of
Jesus, but until he proves every other point of Christianity, then resurrection is an isolated, irrelevant, "brute" fact
which is no aid to our apologetical efforts. Only within the system of Christian logic does the resurrection of Christ
have meaning and implication; and that system of logical entailment and premises can only be used on a
presuppositional basis - you do not argue into it. In terms of the evidentialist's approach to the unbeliever, that skeptic
can accept the resurrection without flinching, for the resurrection is simply a random fact until a Christian foundation
has been placed under it. Furthermore, in the past men like Reimarus and Paulus have utilized the same enlightened,
scientific methodology as that of evidentialism and have concluded that Christ could not have rose from the dead. It is
terribly unwise for the Christian to stake his apologetic on the shifting sands of "scientific" scholarship.


Scripture itself should be enough to dissuade a person from depending upon evidential arguments for Christ's
resurrection. God's word makes clear that man's rebellion against the truth is morally, not intellectually, rooted. The
sinner needs a changed heart and Spiritually opened eyes, not more facts and reasons. Moreover, proving the
resurrection as a historical fact would have no effect as far as engendering belief in God's word. The only tool an
apologete needs is the word of God, for the sinner will either presuppose its truth and find Christianity to be coherent
and convincing (given his spiritual condition and past experience) or he will reject it and never be able to come to a
knowledge of the truth. "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from
the dead" (Luke 16:31). God's word is sufficient in giving the sinner the necessary witness which can lead him to
conversion; if he will not hear the inspired word of God, neither will he be moved by a human argument for the
resurrection. A proof of the resurrection is certainly no more powerful than the living and bodily presence of the
resurrected Savior before one's own eyes; yet we learn from Matthew 28:17 that even some of the eleven disciples of
Christ doubted while in His resurrected presence! When one is not ready to submit to God's self-attesting word, no
amount of evidence can persuade him - even compelling evidence for Christ's resurrection. When Christ met with two
travelers on the road to Emmaus and found them doubtful about the resurrection, He rebuked them for being slow of
heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken (Luke 24:25). Rather than offering them compelling evidence for His
resurrection (by immediately opening their eyes to recognize Him), He made their hearts burn within them by
expounding to them the Scriptures.


Therefore, for moral, methodological, material, and pragmatic reasons we should see the impropriety of arguing for
the resurrection of Christ in an evidentialist fashion. Although evidence has a part in the Christian apologetic, it is not
the pivotal and foundational part. While we may momentarily silence the belligerent claim of the skeptic by showing
that even on his tacit assumptions the resurrection is not a sheer impossibility (as evidence would indicate), our
central defense of the faith had better be made of stronger stuff. As Paul at Athens, we must demand a complete,
change of world-outlook and presupposition (based on the authority of God's word) and not just a mere addition of a
few facts.


(For further reading on evidences in apologetics see C. Van Til's Christian-Theistic Evidences)




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PA005Christianity Today XVI:18 (June 9, 1972) [Response to J.W. Montgomery]; Editor Eric J. Finley, © Covenant
Media Foundation -- 800/553-3938.


                                                 Awaiting Our Verdict?
                                                            By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

Inasmuch as J. W. Montgomery (Current Religious Thought, March 31) censured my essay, "The Impropriety of
Evidentially Arguing for the Resurrection," and at the same time advanced a representation of presuppositional
apologetics which is as confused as it is counterfeit, perhaps you would allow me to reply.


Contrary to Montgomery, presuppositional apologetics is neither a priorism nor pietism; it neither views fallen man as
without evidential reasoning ability nor faith as anything akin to blind credulity. Montgomery's scholarship is here
inaccurate. The presuppositional apologist is not indifferent to God's acts in history, and he certainly does not
discourage rational, scholarly research into history! What my essay was demonstrating, on the other hand, was that
evidential argumentation methodologically cannot and morally ought not become the crux or foundation of our
apologetical witness.


An apologetic such as Montgomery's cannot offer any assured hope to an age longing to hear the meaningful
affirmation, "He is risen!" Montgomery's case for the weakened profession, "He probably arose," is non-telling under
cross-examination and is easily faulted as statistically improbable, as using the assumption of uniformity to prove non-
uniformity (miracle), and (without scriptural presuppositions) as rendering the resurrection a freak event without
theological implications (such as Romans 4:25)....


Building our apologetic upon the rock-words of Christ and not foolish sand (Matt. 7:24 ff.), we must in repentant faith
renounce intellectual self-sufficiency which assigns God to the dock to await the creature's verdict. Not as Adam in the
garden or Israel in the wilderness, Christ obediently presupposed the truth of God's word when tempted by Satan to
adduce empirical proofs of God's veracity; he countered with authoritative Scripture: "You shall not put the Lord your
God to a test" (Matt. 4:7). The special status of God's word is that one is not to demand proof of it. This self-attesting
word must be central in our apologetic, for "if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded
though one should rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31).


North Wales, Pa.

Greg Bahnsen




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PA012Journal of Christian Reconstruction -- 800/553-3938. I:1 (Summer, 1974), © Covenant Media Foundation.



         On Worshipping the Creature Rather Than the Creator
                                                            By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

Darwinism dawned and cast its glaring rays upon the life of the English novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy. Hardy
discerned that the evolutionary theory was not a restricted biological hypothesis but a new worldview with profound
theological consequences, as illustrated in A Plaint to Man (from God):


         When you slowly emerged from the den of Time,
         And gained percipience as you grew,
         And fleshed you fair out of shapeless slime,


         Wherefore, O Man, did there come to you
         The unhappy need of creating me -
         A form like your own - for praying to?


         My virtue, power, utility,
         Within my maker all abide,
         Since none in myself can ever be...


         And now...I dwindle day by day
         Beneath the deicide eyes of seers
         In a light that will not let me stay,
         And tomorrow the whole of me disappears.


Evolutionary speculation was a direct assault upon the biblical doctrine of creation and thereby challenged the
existence of the personal, transcendent, sovereign God of Christianity. If man emerged from some supposed
primordial slime, the eventual implication could be nothing less than the death of biblical theism (and thereby the
death of man as man, as Hardy realized by his stoical pessimism in the grim face of blind chance - very unlike his
optimistic contemporaries). By impugning creation, the theory of evolution had significance extending beyond a narrow
biological concern to anthropology, sociology, culture, philosophy, and science in general. Of course Charles Darwin
was well aware of this fact. In one of his early notebooks he records the prophetic statement that his theory of
evolution would affect the whole of metaphysics.[1] About Darwin's The Origin of Species(1859) Josiah Royce
commented: "With the one exception of Newton's "Principia," no single book of empirical science has ever been of
more importance to philosophy than this work of Darwin."[2] Darwin called men away from the common presupposition
of a fiat, mature creation of all things by a personal God; by replacing this presupposition with that of evolution, Darwin
altered the entire direction and thrust of the next century's thinking. Will Durant observed about Darwin,


         It may well be that for posterity his name will stand as a turning point in the intellectual development of
         our western civilization... If he was right, men will have to date from 1859 the beginning of modern
         thought.[3]



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Since the advent of Darwin, modern thought has definitively turned to the metaphysical model of process and
alteration instead of substance and permanence, to becoming instead of being. Recent philosophy (and, trailing
behind it, recent theology) appears to have returned to Heraclitus and taken a second step into his river of the
metaphysic of constant flux. "The reaffirmation of change and the exploration of its structure is a salient feature of
contemporary thought."[4] Evolutionary and process speculation has become dominant, and the presuppositional
paradigms have been altered so radically, that the doctrine of creation by a transcendent God is rejected at the outset.


         Whereas in past centuries a theory of creation would be more expected than not, the present situation
         is dominated by an antimetaphysical bias, on the one hand, and by the antitranscendence bias of many
         of the leading metaphysicians, on the other. A theory of creation is now an anomaly.[5]

Darwin's prophecy has been fulfilled. Why has evolutionary speculation been so widely endorsed? Why has
Darwinism been successful in re-directing the whole field of metaphysics and theology? Two answers are readily
suggested. First, it might be that evolution was a scientific outlook that had sterling credentials a noteworthy and
definitive analysis supported by compelling evidence at every crucial juncture. That is, perhaps the theory of evolution
could not be ignored because it was backed by outstanding and empirically convincing argumentation. T. A. Goudge
sets forth just such an explanation; noting that Darwin was a "British biologist whose theory of organic evolution
revolutionized science, philosophy, and theology," Goudge goes on to say:


         Even if he had never-written The Origin Of Species(1859) and The Descent Of Man(1871), he would
         still be regarded as one of the great biologist of the nineteenth century. Of course, it was these two
         books which made him the initiator of a revolution in thought more far-reaching than that ushered in by
         Copernicus. He established beyond reasonable doubt that all living things, including man, have
         developed from a few extremely simple forms, perhaps one form, by a gradual process of descent with
         modification. Furthermore, he formulated a theory (natural selection), supporting it with a large body of
         evidence, to account for this process....[6]

That this answer to why evolution became so popular is devoid of credibility should soon be clear. Darwin was very far
indeed from demonstrating his theory "beyond reasonable doubt." A second explanation, however, is set forth by the
Apostle Paul in Romans 1:18-25. He says that all men inescapably know God the Creator. The eternal power and
divinity of the Creator are clearly revealed throughout the cosmic order of nature. Thus, man possesses definite
knowledge concerning the origin of the world and himself. However, as a sinner deserving God's wrath, man in his
unregenerate state constantly seeks to rid himself of his knowledge about the Creator; he wishes to avoid
confrontation with his Maker. Thus, man suppresses the known truth, seeks animmanentistic interpretation of the
world, and ends up worshipping the creation rather than the blessed Creator. Hence the unregenerate will seize upon
any speculation that he feels will aid him in his flight from God the Creator; he will even engage blatantly foolish
reasoning in order to avoid the known truth. And so, irrespective of the crucial flaws, inconsistencies, and nonsense
involved in the theory of evolution, man endorses and promotes the hypothesis as a way of suppressing the clear
truth. Cornelius Van Til writes,


         The Bible requires men to believe that God exists apart from and above the world and that he by his
         plan controls whatever takes place in the world. Everything in the created universe therefore displays
         the fact that it is controlled by God, that it is what it is by virtue of the place it occupies in the plan of
         God. The objective evidence for the existence of God and of the comprehensive governance of the
         world by God is therefore so plain that he who runs may read. Men cannot get away from this evidence.
         They see it round about them. They see it within them. Their own constitution so clearly evinces the
         facts of God's creation of them and control over them that there is no man who can possibly escape
         observing it. If he is self-conscious at all he is also God-conscious. No matter how men may try they
         cannot hide from themselves the fact of their own createdness. Whether men engage in inductive study


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         with respect to the facts of nature about them or engage in analysis of their own self-consciousness
         they are always face to face with God their maker. Calvin stresses these matters greatly on the basis of
         Paul's teachings in Romans.[7]

Created reality is revelational of the living and true God, and thus scientists deal with that which inescapably
communicates God (Psalm 19:1-3). Men are without excuse if they do not discover their Creator through the study of
natural facts.


         The apostle Paul speaks of the natural man as actually possessing the knowledge of God(Rom. 1:19-
         21). The greatness of his sin lies precisely in the fact that "when they knew God, they glorified him not
         as God." No man can escape knowing God. It is indelibly involved in his awareness of anything
         whatsoever. Man ought, therefore, as Calvin puts it, to recognize God. There is no excuse for him if he
         does not. The reason for his failure to recognize God lies exclusively in him. It is due to his willful
         transgression of the very law of his being...Of course, when we thus stress Paul's teaching that all men
         do not have a mere capacity for but are in actual possession of the knowledge of God, we have at once
         to add Paul's further instruction to the effect that all men, due to the sin within them, always and in all
         relationships seek to "suppress" this knowledge of God (Rom. 1:18, American Standard Version). The
         natural man is such a one as constantly throws water on a fire he cannot quench.[8]

The unbeliever will make every attempt to interpret the world and his experience in exclusively immanentistic
categories. Evolutionary speculation, from the philosophy of becoming through Darwinism to process thought, is just
such an attempt. The real issue is whether man must think God's thought after Him in order to understand the world
correctly or whether man's mind is the ultimate assigner of meaning to brute and orderless facts. Must we follow a
transcendent interpretation of all things based on God's clear revelation or can we settle for an immanentistic
interpretation involving a suppression of the theological truth which God has made clear to all men? By its attack on
the scriptural teaching of creation, evolution endorses the latter alternative. Evolutionary thought is popular because it
is a worldview which facilitates man's attempt to rid himself of all knowledge of the transcendent Creator and promises
to secure man's autonomy (especially his ability to interpret the "facts" oblivious to God) . Van Til correctly observes:


         The total picture we obtain from both modern science and modern philosophy is a complete rejection of
         the biblical notion of creation. It matters not whether this rejection comes in the form of an outright
         negation in the form of agnosticism or in the form of substituting another meaning for the word creation.
         As orthodox Christians we have to face the fact that we are at this point, as along the whole line of
         thought, out of accord with modern thought.... The assumption of brute fact is itself the most basic
         denial of the creation doctrine. And the assumption that man can of himself interpret brute facts is itself
         the denial of God as creator. We need therefore to challenge the very idea of brute fact. We need to
         challenge man's ability to interpret any fact unless that fact be created by God and unless man himself
         is created by God.[9]

Therefore, evolutionary speculation is popularly followed, not due to any sterling scientific credentials, but because of
the personal utility it offers in developing a desired philosophical-theological perspective. The doctrine of creation
stands in diametric opposition to that perspective. According to the Pauline analysis of unregenerate man's intellectual
and moral flight from God, a progression into apostasy is discernible. In Romans 1 we read that man responds to the
clear revelation of God by holding down the truth and refusing to glorify God; he willfully reverses reality in his
thoughts and bars (hinders) God's truth from his worldview (vss. 18, 21). This leads man into intellectual arrogance
even though he is forced to engage in foolish reasoning; he is willing to propagate preposterous schemes and
arguments to defend his reversal of reality(vss. 21b, 22). And in the long run man is driven to fabricate a substitute
God. For the living and true God who was barred from thought; this manufactured god will be fashioned from the
created order, so that unbelieving man ends up worshipping the creation rather than the Creator (vss. 23, 25). A short
study of the rise of evolutionary speculation and its effects will educe the same pattern as drawn by Paul, thereby
providing us with an understanding of its popularity and a light in which to view it.


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Precursors to the Advent of Darwinism
Three years before Charles Darwin was born, Johann Gottlieb Fichte declared: "The assumption of a creation is the
fundamental mistake of all false metaphysics and religious doctrine...."[10] Christianity is in error at base, for it teaches
that God created the world. To understand Fichte's prohibition of creation, it is helpful to remember the philosophic
milieu in which he wrote.


         The tenor of philosophy since Descartes has been to take man as the focal point of reason, and
         anything that transcends man's world as much as a creator of everything determinate is called
         unintelligible. Therefore, in a uniquely modern sense the problem of the relation between God and the
         world is an epistemological problem, the problem specifically of how man's reason can know something
         that transcends it.[11]

Immanuel Kant, obviating the meaning of his given name, elaborated upon man's inability to know God due to His
utter transcendence beyond sensory experience. In Kant's Critique Of Pure Reason(1781), the division treating
"Transcendental Dialectic" contains a section entitled "Critique of All Theology." Therein Kant explains why we are
prevented any knowledge of a transcendent God:


         All synthetic principles of reason allow only of an immanent employment; and in order to have
         knowledge of a supreme being we should have to put them to a transcendent use, for which our
         understanding is in no way fitted.[12]

Previously he had laid down the principle that no objects can be represented through pure concepts of understanding,
apart from the conditions of sensibility. For the conditions of the objective reality of the concepts are then absent, and
nothing is to be found in them save the mere form of thought. If, however, they are applied to appearances, they can
be Exhibited In Concreto, because in the appearances, they obtain the appropriate material for concepts of
experience.[13]


In the preface to the second edition (1787) Kant provided a handy summary of the "Transcendental Analytic." This
summary elucidates the previous quotes:


         That space and time are only forms of sensible intuition, and so only conditions of the existence of
         things as appearances, and that we can therefore have no knowledge of any object as thing, in itself,
         but only in so far as it is an object of sensible intuition, that is, an appearance - all this is proved in the
         analytical part of the Critique.[14]

Space and time are the forms of sensibility, and an object can be understood by us only if it meets the conditions of
space and time; synthetic reason can deal only with appearances, that is, concrete concepts of experience. Since God
is beyond space and time, He cannot be immanent to us, and thus He cannot be known through man's reason. The
concepts of understanding (viz., the categories) are only the subjective, ordering forms utilized by reason; of
themselves they are empty and cannot give knowledge of an object for thought - much less a transcendent object.
Hence experience must supply concrete material for the ordering of understanding, but God is beyond spatio-temporal
experience. Thus, Kant has erected a firm fortress against any knowledge of God the Creator.


         We are wont to understand by the concept of God...a supreme being who through understanding and
         freedom is the Author of all things...[However] through concepts alone, it is quite impossible to advance

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         to the discovery of new objects and supernatural beings; and it is useless to appeal to experience,
         which in all cases yields onlyappearances.[15]

As a noumenal object, God cannot be immanently known by man in or through phenomenal objects and thought; A
Creator God would transcend the spatio-temporal world; therefore, there can be no clear indication of His creative
operation in the experienced world, and man's intellect cannot know Him as Creator. No unambiguous revelation of
His divinity and creative power is possible. God cannot have contact with the phenomenal world.


The German pietist philosopher, C.A. Crusius, exercised an important formative influence upon Kant's thought, as
recent research has uncovered. Crusius stressed the limits of human understanding and rejected all theoretical
arguments for God's existence (two thrusts which are ironically contradictory); only moral evidence, according to him,
could lead us to God, a notion which is beyond the power of man's reason to understand; In these things Kant agreed.
Kant likely also learned from Crusius' teaching that God's existence is the necessary foundation for cosmology.[16]
When Kant, therefore, made God unknowable, he placed cosmology outside the limits of philosophical understanding
as well. Kant laid heavy strictures against any pursuit of speculative cosmology in the Critique of Pure Reason, having
abandoned his own youthful cosmological speculations, and subsequent to Kant the enterprise of cosmology more
and more took on a new countenance-a scientific task based upon observational findings.[17] Fichte, although early
trained in a pastor's home, was more greatly influenced by Kant, Lessing, and Spinoza, Fichte traveled to Konigsberg
to meet and consult with Kant, and he dedicated his Critique Of All Revelationto "The Philosopher" (intending by that
appellation Immanuel Kant) - although the reading public mistook the book, which was published anonymously at first,
to be by Kant himself. In light of Kant's rejection of any clear revelation of the Creator in the phenomenal world and his
denial of reason's ability to understand the notion of a transcendent Creator, we can understand Fichte's assertion that
the ground error of all false metaphysics and religion is the doctrine of creation. Post-Kantian German idealism
learned well the lesson that God cannot have any contact with the world as a transcendent agent or object of human
understanding. Kant taught that time applied only to phenomena. "It has objective validity only in respect of
appearances, these being things which we take as objects of our senses....Time is therefore a purely subjective
condition of our human intuition."[18] Fichte followed Kant in this conviction and concluded, "For pure reason
everything is at once; time exists only in imagination."[19] Thus the Ego was, for Fichte, outside of time. The moral will
has communion and union with the infinite Ego by achieving, thus the subject-object integration through action in
accordance with duty, unity of the primal Ego is restored. Since we attain essential oneness with this primal, infinite,
timeless Ego, it is not surprising that Fichte should write, "Divinity itself enters again into thee, in its first and original
form, as life, as thine own life that thou shouldst live and wiltlive."[20] From such a statement we can see the veracity
of Tsanoff's judgment, "The study of Lessing led Fichte to Spinoza, whose pantheism made a lasting impression upon
his own systematic philosophical development."[21]


Spinoza depicted the universe as an organic unity and denied a plurality of substances. Ultimate reality, as the one
Substance, is all-inclusive; every determinate being lies within the one substantial being. This Substance is infinite and
self-determining. Spinoza designated the organic whole of reality, the single substance, as God: "By God, I
understand that which is in itself and is conceived through itself"[22] That is, a notion of substance synthesized from
the medieval Aristotelian and Cartesian usages. Naturanaturans is simply God in se. Finite substance would be a
contradiction; substance is ultimate being, absolutely independent, self-caused and eternally self-sustaining.
Substance is in se, and everything is in it. Nature does have a multidimensionality, however, so that Natura Naturatais
"all that follows from the necessity of God's nature... that is, all the modes of the attributes of God."[23] God is both
thinking and extended substance; mental events and physical objects are attributes of God. Since "God" is the name
of the one unified substance whose other name is "Nature," the contrast between God and the world is obliterated; so
Spinoza spoke of "Deus sive Natura." Nature exhibits the qualities attributed to God. Spinoza's originality is seen
primarily in his willingness to accept the consequences of the unity of God andnature.[24] By this immanentistic
monism, in which God is equated with nature and all things are in God, the Creator/creature distinction completely
evaporates; the creation is given divine status.



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Kant's phenomenalism and Spinoza's pantheism were crucial influences on Fichte's thinking. In turn, Fichte's
philosophy aroused the interest of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was instrumental in landing a teaching position
for Fichte at the University of Jena. While a student at Leipzig, Goethe took great interest in the occult and religious
mysticism. In addition to occultism and Fichte, the other great influences upon him were the philosophies of Kant and
Spinoza. Goethe became one of Germany's most renowned men of letters: a poet, novelist, and scientist. Part I of
Faust, Goethe's masterpiece, appeared the year before Darwin was born. Like Spinoza, Goethe was a pantheist,
describing the universe as "the living garment" of God. He said that the universe expresses a creative force; however,
God should not be thought to cause or control the world: "What sort of God would it be, who only pushed from
without?"(Weltanschauliche Gedichte, 1815). Instead, God was the indwelling spirit of the world, its all-embracing
actuality. Thus, No. 807 in Goethe's Maxims And Reflections declares that "We are pantheists when we study
nature..." Arnulf Zweig comments that Goethe "held that God, being the inexorable order of nature, cannot have any
personality or be in any sense outside the natural world."[25] Against Spinoza, and in agreement with Kant, Goethe
maintained that reason cannot attain an adequate knowledge of God. Goethe concurred with the teaching of
determinism in both Spinoza and Kant, considering the idea of miracles (i.e., the immanent intervention in the world
process by a supernatural God) as a "blasphemy against the great God." Goethe's work in science is worth noting with
its relevance for evolution. He felt he had uncovered the secret principles by which nature operates, postulating that
there was a primal plant that was manifoldly transformed through the metamorphosis of organisms, which he
explained in turn by the principle that the whole of existence is "an eternal parting and uniting." Nature was constantly
driven in an upward ascent, according to Goethe. "This upward striving Goethe believed to be a universal
characteristic of nature. It Discloses itself...in the variations of similar organisms developing from a basic form."[26]
Charles Darwin was evidently familiar with and favorably impressed by Goethe's thought, for Darwin later described
him as a "pathmaker."


In connection with the pantheistic views noted in the discussion above, it would be appropriate to make mention of the
rise of panentheism in the philosophy of Karl C.F. Krause, a former student of Fichte's at Jena. Absolute Being, said
Krause, is one with the world but not exhausted by it. God is the primordial being, the unity of all that exists. Krause
said that the world was part of God, whose life is expressed through the organisms of the world and humanity. Reason
and nature were taken to be subordinate beings within God which were supremely integrated in humanity. Individually,
men have un-created and eternal souls; collectively, men should strive to imitate the divine life in the development of
their social organizations - culminating in history's goal: the actualization of cosmic union between nature, reason,
humanity, and God in an ideal League of Humanity. This evolutionary history, said Krause, is recapitulated in the
progressive development of individual persons (from embryo, to infancy, to youth, to maturity, etc.), both reflecting the
laws of divine organic life. The transition by which humanity would come of age was effected by two things according
to Krause: Spinoza's discovery of the nature of being, and then Krause's own development of that insight. Historically
the evolution of the divine organic life progressed from polytheism to monotheism, and then (in Krause's day) to
panentheism, the ultimate truth that everything exists in God. Krause viewed the world's existence as stemming from
the inner development of God's actuality, and he viewed individual men as partial embodiments of the divine -
scheduled to reach organic completeness as all men enter into a common life.[27] Such views would eventually be
echoed in twentieth-century thought as well.


Georg W. F. Hegel accentuated the theme of becoming, progress, or developmentalism found in the philosophers
previously surveyed. At Jena, Hegel completed his first major work, The Phenomenology of Mind, two years before
Charles Darwin's birth. It begins to become quite evident that Darwin lived in an age saturated with process and
evolutionary speculation. Hegel's universe was a unity of thought indwelt by universal Spirit, a rational whole with
Absolute Spirit as its final reality. Reason is both the substance and the infinite energy of the universe.[28] The key to
nature and history ,said Hegel, was to see them as the rational dialectic of the Absolute Spirit as it moves to self-
realization; that is, Absolute Spirit expresses a dialectic of being (from being to its antithesis, nothingness, and then to
the synthesis of both in becoming) by objectivizing itself in nature and history. Thus, Hegel calls nature a temple of
God filled by His presence.[29] In order to avoid abstraction, Absolute Spirit requires otherness, over against which it
can come to self-realization. From that perspective Hegel formulates a theory of the evolution of Absolute Spirit.


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         God as an abstraction is not the true God: only as the living process of positing His other, the World
         (which conceived in divine terms is His Son), and first in the Union with His other, as Spirit, can He be
         subject.[30]

Hegel borrowed the model of the Trinity from his days as a theological student at Tubingen and presented it as the
cosmic triad; he universalized the Trinity to embrace the entirety of world process. To understand this one must
remember that according to Hegel, not only does Absolute Spirit objectivize itself in nature and history, but it also
subjectivizes itself in individual, personal subjects, thereby allowing for union with God. For Hegel this means that
there is no separation between finite and Absolute Spirit; religion is God's consciousness of himself through man's
consciousness of Him.[31] Consequently, if Absolute Spirit is to attain its goal of self-realization in and through the
finite spirit which it immanently operates, the transcendent God of Christianity must be eradicated. In light of the
objectivizing and subjectivizing movements of Absolute Spirit, the Trinity can be cosmically reformulated. Eric C. Rust
describes this well in terms of Hegel's doctrine of creation:


         For him, the Christian doctrine of Creation points to the eternal production of objective nature and
         subjective spirit whereby the Spirit fulfills its movement to self-determination. The Spirit begets the
         World, and in so doing becomes the World. Hence for Hegel, the World is the Son. As the World in its
         centers as "subjective spirit" comes to know the Spirit in nature and in the historical expressions of
         "objective spirit," the Son comes to know the Father and so the Spirit turns to, itself. The Biblical
         doctrine of the Son or Word as the creative principle through whom all things are created and sustained
         becomes universalized and conceived in pantheistic terms. The World is no order created out of
         nothing, but itself an expression of the divine Being. The abstract Essence which is Spirit and
         indeterminate seeks determination as Son. The World comes into being as Son, to whom the Father
         presents himself as object. Through the speculative knowledge of the subjective spirits in the world; the
         Spirit moves back to itself, full circle. Such knowledge is the Holy Spirit.[32]

So creation for Hegel merely indicates that the world comes from God in the dialectical movement of God's own being.
The doctrine of the incarnation, similarly , merely symbolizes "this essential unity of the divine nature with human
nature."[33] Hegel was a diligent student of Spinoza in his youth; to Spinoza's pantheism Hegel added the theme of
process or becoming, thus fabricating an evolving God objectivized in the world and history. Saying that for Hegel "All
comes from God and all is in God," Schmidt correctly denominates Hegel's viewpoint as "dialectical Panentheism."[34]
What is distinctive is not so much Hegel's antitranscendence and pantheistic thrusts, but his clear emphasis upon the
dynamic category of historical process and becoming: God evolves through the unfolding of historical development.


In addition to the above line of thought (represented basically as German idealism),which was achieving widespread
cultural influence in Darwin's century, there was also the thrust of materialism. It is a very short step from Hegel's view
that the infinite is manifested in the finite to the view that it is a projection of the finite. Hegel's student, Ludwig A.
Feuerbach, took that step in his materialistic interpretation of his former professor. In Feuerbach, process descended
from the realm of self-determination by the Absolute Spirit to the level of determination by natural forces. His
naturalistic humanism emphasizes the movement from being to becoming without Absolute Spirit and places man's
temporal life at the center of the process. Feuerbach has a materialistic view of man: the ego was taken to be a real,
sensible essence, and indeed the body was the totality of man's existence. Man is what he eats, to quote his 1850
statement. Turning Hegel upside-down, Feuerbach denied that sensibility was "an attribute of the idea" and
proclaimed that "only a sensible being is a real, true, being." Thus in his famous work , The Essence Of Christianity.
Feuerbach conceded, "I am nothing but a natural philosopher in the domain of mind."[35] He retained an emphasis
upon historical process, but he made it a function of the natural world. Man was placed at the culmination point of the
natural process. "Man has his highest being, his God, in himself...in his essential nature, his species."[36] Feuerbach
confessed, "I, on the contrary, while reducing theology to anthropology, exalt anthropology into theology."[37] God is
simply a "wish-being," a projection of man's subjective longings. "Religion is the dream of the human mind."[38] And

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for Feuerbach, "The culminating point of the principle of subjectivity is creation out of nothing.... Thus the creation of
the world expresses nothing else than subjectivity, assuring itself of its own reality and infinity through the
consciousness that the world is created, is a product of will."[39] God and creation are together dissolved into human
subjectivity; therefore, preparing the way for the defection of later theologians, Feuerbach decrees "Certainly the act of
creation does not suffice to explain the existence of the world or matter (the two are not separable), but it is a total
misconception to demand this of it."[40] Creation by an objective, transcendent God is disqualified as an answer to
origins. God is nothing more than the projection into the void of humanistic man's highest ideals for himself. A further
insightful preparation for the destructive work of evolutionary speculation is found in Feuerbach's making
"Anthropology the mystery of Christian Theology."[41] With the undermining of biblical anthropology, then,
evolutionary thought would critically affect the whole of Christian theology. The Essence Of Christianitylater appeared
in English translation, being published in London five years prior to the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species. Marx
and Engels, following Feuerbach, transformed the dialectical process discussed by Hegel, regarding it as the
movement of matter. Engels said that with one blow Feuerbach "placed materialism on the throne again."[42] For
Engels the dialectical movement in nature was seen "as an historical process;"[43] thus, "the real unity of the world
consists in its materiality, and this is proved not by a few juggling phrases but by a long and protracted development of
philosophy and natural science."[44] Karl Marx received a doctorate from Jena in the year that Feuerbach's above-
mentioned work appeared in German publication; his thesis had been written on the early materialistic atomists,
Epicurus and Democritus. As an atheistic Hegelian, Marx viewed history as a dialectical process of development, and
he took criticism of religion as foundational to all true thinking. In 1848 he produced, with Engels, the influential
Communist Manifesto, an expression of dialectical materialism. Marx was living in London and studying at the British
Museum when Darwin's Origin of Species appeared. Forthrightly acknowledging affinities between Darwin's biological
evolutionism and his own dialectical materialism, Marx proposed that Das Kapital(1867) be dedicated to Darwin, an
"honor" Darwin prudently declined.


During the eighteenth century, materialism came to exercise a significant philosophical influence. The French
encyclopedist, Denis Diderot, adopted the Heraclitean theory of flux, viewing the universe as a single, dynamic,
physical system obeying immutable laws. He denied that any solution was reached in accounting for material
phenomena by postulating a supernatural Creator. Instead, the transformation of the universe from chaos to ordered
complexity was to be explained by the interaction of elementary particles. The historical development of life,
consciousness, and thought from inert matter "overthrows all the schools of theology," said Diderot. By 1754 Diderot
had devised a theory of natural selection (in "Thoughts on the Interpretation of Nature"); he hypothesized the
sensitivity of matter to adaption, denied inexplicable gulfs between the natural orders (inorganic, organic, plant,
animal, man), discussed the importance of inheritance of acquired characteristics in organic evolution, and (in
"D'Alembert's Dream," composed in 1769) asserted that d'Alembert differed from a cow in terms of his peculiar
evolution from parental germs. This monistic, energized, mechanized materialism was a clear foreshadowing of
Darwin.[45] "D'Alembert's Dream" was posthumously published one year before Darwin stepped on board H.M.S.
Beagle, where he began his investigations as a naturalist, ultimately leading him to write On The Origin of Species.
Along with Diderot, Julien de La Mettrie and Heinrich Dietrich d'Holbach both advanced the cause of mechanistic
materialism during the 1700's. The former envisioned man as a self-moving machine (L'homme Machine, 1748) and
advanced a theory of stimulus-response in organisms. The latter, writing Systeme De La Nature(1770)with such a
pronounced anti-religious thrust that it had to be published under false name(for both author and city of publication),
asserted that matter had been in eternal motion and that different worlds were developed, by uninterrupted causal
determination in nature, through different distributions of matter and motion. Four years prior to Darwin's publication of
Origin of Species, the German materialist, Ludwig Buchner, wrote his famous Kraft and Stoff, wherein he maintained
that all theories of supernatural creation must be rejected, that natural law is inviolable, and that motion is the eternal,
inseparable property of matter. His hard determinism forced him to reduce mind to brain and to advocate the release
of criminals from punishment. Buchner viewed Darwin's later publication as a striking confirmation of his naturalistic
monism and atheism; Darwin's system, he said, is


         the most thoroughly naturalistic that can be imagined, and far more atheistic than that of his despised
         predecessor Lamarck, who admitted at least a general law of progress and development; whereas,

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         according to Darwin, the whole development is due to the gradual summation of innumerable minute
         and accidental natural operations.[46]

Buchner was so impressed with Darwinism that he changed the subtitle of his own work in the fifteenth edition to
"Principles of the Natural Order in the Universe." Thus we observe that materialism (with its themes of
antitranscendence, monism, and dynamic process), was exercising a pronounced sway before and during the period
of Darwin. As seen in the previous survey, ideas and aspects of organic evolution were gaining popularity prior to the
time of Charles Darwin. Among the immediate precursors to Darwin should be included the following. Comte de
Buffon, who in the mid-eighteenth century challenged the classification method of Linnaeus, held that there was no
radicald is continuity between species or between animal and vegetable kingdoms; he denied divine teleology in
nature and in his main work , Histoire Naturelle, promoted the concept of a struggle for existence. Darwin designates
Buffon "the first author who in modern times has treated [evolution] in a scientific spirit."[47] Near the end of the
eighteenth century, Chevalier de Lamarck saw life as possessing an immanent evolutionary drive throughout the
historical process, formulated a law of use and disuse, and hypothesized the inheritance of acquired characteristics. A
contemporary of Lamarck, E.G. Saint-Hilaire, advanced the idea of inherited influence of the environment upon the
sudden production of new species (anticipating the later mutation theory of development). Robert Chambers
anonymously issued a two volume study, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, between 1843 and 1846, in
which he taught that a progressive complexity in living forms (as reflected in layers of sedimentary rock)pointed to the
operation of organic creativity; he also maintained that cosmic evolution was a fact. The book became remarkably
popular in amateur science circles, thereby drawing the wrath of the professionals. Herbert Spencer advocated a
Lamarckian theory of evolution in his book Social Statistics, published nearly a decade before Charles Darwin went to
print; survival of the fittest was a notion Spencer gave early endorsement. Another very relevant precursor to the
theory set forth by Charles Darwin was the teaching of his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin. In Zoonamia, he contended
that the whole of nature was a family having one parent, a "primal filament" which existed long ago; he said that
"evolution" was carried on by means of hereditary, acquiredcharacteristics.[48] The struggle for existence (depicted in
his poem, "The Temple of Nature") is resolved through the metamorphosis of organisms whose sensitivity is
stimulated by environmental factors. The key ideas of his grandson's theory were already present. It is to the credit of
the older Darwin that he recognized the nature and source of the evolutionary hypothesis: "This idea of the gradual
formation and improvement of the animal world accords with the observations of some modernphilosophers."[49]


In an age where philosophers were expressing their antitranscendence in decrees against supernatural creation,
where science was beginning to make an incursion into the field of cosmology, where a monistic elimination of the
Creator/creature distinction was being carried out, where the parallel thrusts of materialism and dynamic historical
process(developmentalism) were gaining prominence, one might think that theology was certainly averse to these anti-
creationist forces. But that would not be entirely accurate. In 1830 Friedrich Schleiermacher was accusing the Mosaic
account of creation of being a primitive, mythological notion and saying that the old record must not be treated
ashistorical.[50] He asked whether "the many revolutions in the province of philosophy as well as of the natural
sciences, do not necessitate other definitions; in which case we need have no scruples in completely abandoning the
credal expression."[51] This capitulation of the authority of the revealed Scriptures to autonomous thought is made
explicit by Schleiermacher:


         The further elaboration of the doctrine of Creation in Dogmatics comes down to us from times when
         material even for natural science was taken from the Scriptures and when the elements of all higher
         knowledge lay hidden in Theology. Hence the complete separation of these two involves our handing
         over this subject to natural science, which, carrying its researches backward into time, may lead us
         back to the forces and masses that formed the world, or even further still.[52]

He concedes to naturalistic science the sole right to answer the question of origins, and if science tells us that the
Bible and orthodox creeds are mistaken, then so be it. Science has the last word, not biblical revelation. And as if this
stance were not misguided enough, Schleiermacher goes on to mention, similar to the speculations we have


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examined above, the "evolving of the complex from the simple and of the organic from the elementary"; he says that
"living mobile being must have existed and undergone a continuous development."[53] As a further parallel between
Schleiermacher - the father of theological liberalism and the philosophical tradition surrounding him, we should note
that


         The theology of religious liberalism was a theology of divine immanence. Total divine immanence is
         pantheism and the leaven of pantheism has been found in Schleiermacher, the first great theologian of
         religious liberalism.[54]

Therefore, on all sides-philosophy, science, and theology - the way had been paved for the arrival of Darwinism in
1859. It is more than evident that Darwin's ideas were not novel; he simply painted a common philosophical and
antitheistic position with a superficial cosmetic of scientific respectability. Charles Hodge was already aware, just a
little over a decade after the appearance of Darwin'sOrigin of Species, that evolutionary speculation was surviving the
critical attacks upon it because of its "essential harmony with the spirit of the age...."[55] The acceptance of the theory
of evolution stemmed from the milieu created by philosophic opinion-speculation fostered by men like Spinoza, Kant,
Fichte, Goethe, Krause, Hegel, Feuerbach, Engels, Diderot, LaMettrie, d'Holbach, Buchner, and Schleiermacher;
Darwin's scientific surmises had been anticipated by men like Buffon, Lamarck, Saint-Hilaire, Chambers, Spencer, and
his own grandfather. Men were living in the age of Darwinism prior to the publication of Darwin's book. And the
philosophic developments which appeared subsequent to the acceptance of Darwin's theory of evolution had already
been manifested by 1859.


Evolution as a Religious Presupposition
Charles Darwin had early in his life defected from the study of theology at Cambridge. Instead, he said in his
autobiography, he had in him "a burning zeal to contribute to the noble structure of Natural Science."[56] From 1831 to
1836 he worked as a "naturalist, without pay" upon the H.M.S. Beagle as it voyaged through the Southern
Hemisphere. During the extended trip, Darwin polemicized freely with the ship's devout captain on religious matters
[57] and confirmed his doubts about the previous view of natural history, well illustrated by the assertion of John Ray
(1627-1705), English naturalist and theologian, that "the number of true species in nature is fixed and limited . . .
constant and unchangeable from the first creation to the present day."[58] Darwin formulated his fundamental theory
of evolution within two years of the end of the Beagle's voyage. By that time he had also declared the doctrine of
everlasting punishment to be "a damnable doctrine"[59] and rejected the veracity of the Gospels' miracle accounts. At
the time of writing Origin of Species, Darwin was a rigorous opponent of any divine intervention in the course of
nature; he called the doctrine of special creation "a curious illustration of the blindness of preconceived opinion"[60]
and banished any thought of divine control and direction (teleology) of historical development (cf. "no shadow of
reason can be assigned for the belief that variations... were intentionally and specially guided").[61] At best Darwin
was a deist (which is, even at best, a full repudiation of God's natural and special revelation), but he later abandoned
even this weak theological position for sheer agnosticism, saying "the whole subject is beyond the scope of man's
intellect.... The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us"[62] (thus admitting that his rationalistic theory
required an irrationalistic foundation). Interestingly, the man who formulated the theory of natural selection
simultaneously with Darwin, Alfred R. Wallace, broke with Darwin and announced that natural selection does not apply
to man or his mental powers and that a spiritual essence came into action at the appearance of man (thus holding to
theistic evolution: "A superior intelligence has guided the development of man in a definite direction, and for a special
purpose....).Darwin immediately, though quietly, decried this view as a failure of nerve and a disdainful hankering for
miracles.[63] Nothing was to interfere with the determinism of natural law, and nothing was to break the continuity of
man with the animal kingdom from which he evolved (i.e., man cannot be a unique being, a special creation - a view
which repudiates the clear revelation of God internal to man as created in God's image). This outlook is just as
essential to modern day evolutionism:




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         Teilhard points out that just as there is no absolute line of demarcation between the mega-molecule, the
         virus, and the living cell, so there is no absolute discontinuity between the animal's nervous system, the
         material support of its consciousness, and that of man.[64]

It is clear, not only from Darwin's adherence to rigid uniformity (regarding both natural law and zoological taxonomy),
but from his approach to biology as a neutral area of investigation, that his theory was a direct repudiation of Christian
theism.


         Darwin's wonderful image of the Tree of Life inspired biologists to see their subject as a unified field of
         study, while his example gave them the courage to think about it as a neutral field of study,
         untrammeled by extra-scientific conceptions.[65]

Darwin would keep nature untrammeled by God and His clear revelation. Scripture declares that God's omnipotence
and divinity are clearly revealed in the natural world; He is its Creator and Sustainer as well as the One in whose
image we are specially created. Darwin's outlook was an attempt to efface this influence and revelation by
suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.


Quite obviously, then, evolution is a theory with far-reaching religious implications and commitments; its theological
assumptions and effects cannot be overlooked. Evolutionists have understood the doctrine of creation as implying the
death of all autonomousscience,[66] and they affirm "it hardly needs saying that Darwinism is incompatible with any
literal construction put upon either the Old Testament or the New Testament."[67]Biblical creationism is accurately
pitted against scientific evolutionism in their outlook. The logical antithesis between the two[68] has always been
recognized. In 1873 President Barnard of Columbia University explained, "If organic evolution were true, then the
existence of God was impossible."[69] We saw above that the German materialist, Buchner, took Darwinism to
establish that conclusion. Only a year after the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species Dr. Asa Gray wrote:


         The proposition that things and events in nature were not designed to be so, if logically carried out, is
         doubtless tantamount to atheism.... If Mr. Darwin believes that the events which he supposes to have
         occurred and the results we behold were undirected and undesigned, or if the physicist believes that the
         natural forces to which he refers phenomena are uncaused and undirected, no argument is needed to
         show that such belief is atheistic.[70]

The Presbyterian theologian, Robert L. Dabney, made a similar observation, saying, "If you persist in recognizing
nothing but natural forces... it will land you, if you are consistent, no where short of absolute atheism."[71] Because
Darwinism attempts to obliterate or ignore the revelation of God the Creator in nature and man, Charles Hodge said of
it, "The system is thoroughly atheistic - as much as that of Epicurus and Comte.[72] By opposing the biblical account
of creation and denying the evidences for creation in the world, evolutionism was properly understood to be contrary
to Christian theism. Darwinism is a religious doctrine (since it teaches something about theology and revelation)
inclusive of biological speculation; it is in competition with the theological system of Scripture. T. H. Huxley, "Darwin's
bulldog," was an avid follower of the unity-of-science thesis, materialistic determinism (identifying mental events as
brain processes), and Spinoza's conception of god. Huxley fully realized that, by his endorsement of evolution, he had
to take up arms against scriptural teaching; he had chosen certain assumptions and methods and proceeded upon a
journey to explore the province of natural knowledge,


         yet I found that, whatever route I took, before long I came to a tall formidable-looking fence. Confident
         as I might be in the existence of an ancient and indefeasible right of way, before me stood the thorny
         barrier with its comminatory notice board - "No thoroughfare - By order, Moses."... The only alternatives
         were to give up my journey which I was not minded to do - or to break the fence down and go through it.


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         [73]

And so Huxley, preferring to stick to his autonomous presuppositions and aims, denounced the Mosaic teaching about
the creation of the world by the transcendent, personal God. Therefore, the popular reception of Darwinian evolution
came about because Darwin was riding the crest of a wave that was already crashing forcefully upon the shores of
nineteenth-century thought. There were two tides from which this wave surged. First, there was current philosophical
speculation for which he, by concretely embodying it in afield of venerated interest, gained the respectability of
purported scientific verification.


         As we have pointed out, in the nineteenth century the concept of development was in the air. Darwinism
         caught this interest and focused it on a specific biological problem; in doing so it brought to bear an
         immense amount of concrete evidence and so "proved"...what had earlier been only a philosophical
         hypothesis.[74]

Secondly, there was the ground swell of an urge to find a way of eliminating Scripture's creationist teaching and to put
out of mind the influence of God, Huxley admitted this freely:


         We wanted not to pin our faith to that or any other speculation, but to get hold of clear and definite
         conceptions. The Origin provided us with the working-hypothesis we sought. Moreover, it did us the
         immense service of freeing us forever from the dilemma - refuse to accept the Creation hypothesis and
         what have you to propose that can be accepted by any cautious reasoner?[75]

Whether true or not, Darwin's theory revealed a way to avoid creationism; Huxley hailed Origin of Species as "a flash
of light which, to a man who has lost himself in a dark night, suddenly reveals a road that, whether it takes him straight
home or not, certainly goes his way "[76] Wilbert H. Rusch has correctly analyzed the situation in saying:


         So it seems as if Darwin's prime claim to fame lies in this, that at the precise time when fear and dislike
         of God was on the increase he happened to synthesize the previous evolution theories into a single
         presentation, clothing it in a hypothesis that seemed adequate to explain the marvelous adaption of
         living things, by the mere action of natural forces, without the necessity of bringing in divine intervention.
         [77]

Almost a century ago, Robert L. Dabney concluded that, "'Darwinism' happens just now to be the current
manifestation, which the fashion of the day gives to the permanentanti-theistic tendency in sinful man."[78] By
comparing evolution's advantages to creationism, said George Bernard Shaw, "the world jumped at Darwin." Surely it
did. The first edition of Origin of Species, consisting of 1250 copies, made its publication appearance on November
24, 1859 - and sold out on the first day, much to the surprise of his publisher, John Murray, who had originally
suggested that Darwin write a book about pigeons instead of evolution.


As bringing together the rising philosophy of antitranscendent world process and the popular desire to eradicate the
teaching of Scripture, evolutionism was a religious position. As a new interpretive worldview, evolutionism was a
presupposition (rather than a scientifically established truth). Evolution was not suggested simply by an examination of
the known facts; it arose, as Darwin disclosed, only after a speculative, postulated theory had provided him with the
crucial plank for his own theory. In his autobiography he says that the supposition he needed for explaining specie
origination came when, "In October 1838, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population." T. R. Malthus
wrote two important essays on the principles of population wherein he expounded a supposed struggle for existence
that promised population doom instead of the utopian vision seen by some (e.g., Rousseau, who was known by
Malthus' father). Malthus was an alarmist who set forth a speculative thesis which, by myopic restriction of the factors


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playing upon population, has been demonstrated to be false in terms of biology and history.[79] Darwin says that in
reading Malthus, "it at once struck me that under these circumstances favorable variations would tend to be preserved
and unfavorable ones destroyed. The result of this would be a new species. Here then I had a theory by which to
work."[80] (Significantly , A. R. Wallace, the co-discoverer of the theory of natural selection, had also come to this
conclusion by reading Malthus, as he states in his autobiography, My Life), In Origin of Species he said, "it is the
doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetablekingdom."[81] Thus it turns out that
Darwin's biological insight stems from sociological guesswork (and a false guess at that). It comes as no surprise to
learn, then, that when Darwin got around to elaborating his theory of natural selection (for which the speculation of
Malthus gave the hint) he said, "In order to make it clear how, as I believe, natural selection acts, I must beg
permission to give one or two imanginar illustrations."[82] Darwin would not have had to beg his readers' permission if
he would have had biological evidence as backing for his theory. The fact is that Darwinism, despite its boast of
scientific proof, is a theory erected upon a speculative supposition and supported by imaginary evidence; it does not
establish historical factuality but merely gives us a "way of looking" at the world. Darwin, knowing that he had no direct
evidence for evolution, said that the theory was unsatisfactory unless its mechanism could be explained;[83] his
explanation (in contrast to that of Lamarck, which he unkindly ridiculed) was natural selection. Darwin's comment is
misleading: for a theory which merely shows how something might have happened would still be quite unsatisfactory
as grounds for holding that the process was historically operative and as a foundation for further research and
scientific conclusions. But that logical flaw can be overlooked. In the face of Jenkin's refutation of natural selection as
the explanation of specie origination[84] Darwin was forced to abandon even this possibility. Darwin wrote, "Fleeming
Jenkin has given me much trouble," and he later had to admit to Wallace: "Jenkin argued in the North British Review
against single variations ever being perpetuated, and has convinced me."[85] Not many people are aware that Darwin
was forced to retreat to Lamarck's notion of inheritance of acquired characteristics and the pangenes (Darwin called
them "gemmules")theory of Democritus (c. 400 B.C.). Democritus was refuted by Aristotle,[86] and Lamarckwas
refuted by Mendel's laws, August Weismann, and modern genetics.[87] It made little difference that Darwin had earlier
laughed at Lamarck's suggested mechanism. Explaining a mechanism was the only way to support evolution and the
theory of evolution had to be salvaged (even at the cost of possible embarrassment); it was not the facts but the "way
of looking": which was important. Thus, Darwin ran from imagination (Malthus) to imagination (natural selection) to
imagination (Lamarckianism), for men will rather be sent on a fool's errand than to obey and submit to the revelation of
the living God. The conflict between Darwinism and biblical Christianity was a conflict between presuppositions -
between foolish imagination and God's clear revelation. Because the evolutionary commitment ran so deeply in
people, they were ready to affirm Darwinism(i.e., anticreationism) no matter what the facts might be; the facts were (as
always)interpreted in the light of one's presuppositions. Within seven months of the publication of Origin of Species,
Darwin's book had been thoroughly refuted. In the June and July issues of Frazer's Magazine for 1860, William
Hopkins unmasked Darwin's pseudo-scientific demonstration, pointing out that Darwin had not adduced a single fact
in proof of his theory; Darwin's book was an instance of sheer philosophical speculation and not a treatise in serious
science. In the July issue of the American Journal for 1860, the internationally renowned naturalist, Louis Agassiz,
controverted the evolutionary theory from the geological record, saying that there was no evidence of transmutation
and uninterrupted blending of types but instead of definite specie classifications; he concluded:


         Until the facts of nature are shown to have been mistaken by those who have collected them, and that
         they have a different meaning from that now generally assigned to them, I shall therefore consider the
         transmutation theory as a scientific mistake, untrue in its facts, unscientific in its method, and
         mischievous in its tendency [p. 154].

In the Proceedings of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool during the Fiftieth Session (1860-1861), Dr.
Collingwood defends the criticism leveled by Agassiz against evolution in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History.
And thus within a year an abundance of stringent rebuttals of Darwin's book were being published. And the
evolutionists fully recognized their lack of scientific footing. In the fifth edition of Origin of Species, Darwin conceded
that "the several difficulties" with his thesis (including the geological refutation) were "all undoubtedly of the most
serious nature."[88] Huxley recognized the same:



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         In answer to the question "What does an impartial survey of the positively ascertained truths of
         paleontology testify in relation to the common doctrines of progressive modification?" I reply...It
         negatives these doctrines, for it either shows us no evidence of such modification or demonstrates such
         modification as has occurred to have been very slight.[89]

And yet these men continued to hold and propagate evolutionary commitments. So firm was Huxley's presupposition
of evolution that in one assertion he tells us that the utter lack of evidence for natural selection is surely no bias
against Darwin's views![90] In the course of a lecture before the British Association, Huxley demonstrated that
spontaneous generation had never been proven; yet he said that, if he looked into the far past, he expected to find
"the evolution of living protoplasm from not living matter."[91] Lack of evidence was no hindrance to belief in evolution;
this is evident. But why shouldn't a lack of concrete evidence hinder a belief in evolution? It is instructive to note how
Darwin answered objections to his theory. He granted that the difficulty with supposing mind to have evolved from
matter was "insuperably great"[92] and of supposing a complex organ like the eye to have developed through natural
selection was "enough to stagger any one."[93] He responded to these and many other tenacious defects by
appealing to "supposition,"[94] saying that "there is no logicalimpossibility"[95] in his supposition, and then depending
on the unlimited duration of "the long course of ages."[96] He says:


         The chief cause of our natural unwillingness to admit that one species has given birth to other and
         distinct species, is that... the mind cannot possibly grasp the full meaning of the term of even ten million
         years; it cannot add up and perceive the full effects of many slight variations accumulated during an
         almost infinite number of generations.[97]

That is, Darwin's only defense was to revert to the fundamental presuppositions of his thought: abstract formal logic
correlated with historical contingency. His imagination postulated an anti-creationist theory. The theory meets the
criteria of possibility(logic) and, given that chance is operative over an infinitely long period, anything can happen.
Therefore, evolution is indefeasible. However, a great price has to be paid for this Pyrrhic victory. The principles of
unity and identity involved in formal logic either cancel or they obviate any interaction with the principles of diversity
and difference involved in contingency, and vice versa. Either the particularity of the world is illusory or its intelligibility
is precluded. If evolution took place, then it cannot be understood rationally, if evolution can be understood, it cannot
have taken place. By founding his speculation in a dialectic of abstract unity and unrelated diversity, of rationalism and
irrationalism, the evolutionist impales himself on the horns of a relentless dilemma. He answers the difficulties with his
theory by retreating to ever greater difficulties; whereas it seems that the evolutionist was not predicating things truly
of man's origin, now the evolutionist cannot predicate anything at all. Not only was Darwin's theory a matter of
philosophical speculation rather than scientific investigation, it was a philosophy founded upon self-vitiating
presuppositions. Such is perennially the foolish price paid for suppressing the clearly revealed truth about God the
Creator. Thomas Kuhn explains that when a group of thinkers who endorse a particular model for their field (permitting
coherence between the various facts, methodological procedures and standards, evaluative norms, etc.) are
confronted with a disturbing anomaly which does not fit the pattern expected, novel thinking leads to the replacement
of the previous model. The older theoretical model, which had been useful for organizing and disciplining (through
methods and criteria) the field, is now replaced by a new paradigm which, while incompatible with the previous point of
view is not perplexed with the newly perceived anomaly, simply because the fundamentals of the field of inquiry have
been reconstructed in order to deal with the anomaly. As the title of Kuhn's book indicates, this is The Structure of
Scientific Revolutions.[98] The British physicist, John Tyndall, was a naturalistic agnostic influenced by the philosophy
of Fichte; he is well known from two famous speeches he delivered : "The Scientific Uses of Imagination" (1870) and
the Presidential Address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1874). He maintained that
although there is no evidence for spontaneous generation, one who believes in the continuity of nature must "cross
the boundary of the experimental evidence" and affirm that life and mind were latent in matter; in this way evolution
can replace the creation doctrine, (This would seem to require that "simple" matter was actually fantastically complex,
thus negating the "simple to the complex" theory of development.) However,



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         the process must be slow which commends the hypothesis of natural evolution to the public mind. For
         what are the core and essence of this hypothesis? Strip it bare, and you stand face to face with the
         notion, that the human mind itself - emotion, intellect, will, and all their phenomena - were once latent in
         a fiery cloud. Surely the mere statement of such a notion is more than a refutation.... Surely these
         notions represent an absurdity too monstrous to be entertained by any sane mind.... These evolution
         notions are absurd, monstrous....[99]


Despite this fact, Tyndall promoted evolutionary commitment with zeal. The acceptance of evolution would require a
radical readjustment of our patterns of thought in order to escape its appearance of absurdity. We must drop, said
Tyndall, the distinction between mind and matter and "consider them, in fact, as two opposite faces of the same great
mystery... the Eternal Fact of the Universe." This suggestion certainly flies in the face of a most obvious difference
between the attributes of mental processes and the attributes of material processes, and the difference between the
informal logic of mind-discourse and that of matter-discourse, but the replacement of the previous paradigm with a
new model is justified by the great need the naturalist has to affirm evolution. Tyndall tells us that men were ready to
alter their presuppositions in order to secure the evolutionary theory: "Without this total Revolution of the notions now
prevalent, the evolution hypothesis must stand condemned; but in many profoundly thoughtful minds such a revolution
has already occurred."[100] Along with this, we should add the observation that even T.A. Goudge concedes that
Darwinism was opposed at first because new modes of explanation, new conceptions, new procedures, and new
standards of proof were used to buttress the argument for evolution (i.e., it required anew paradigm of thought for
science); by 1880, however, says Goudge, the older model had been supplanted by the evolutionary one.[101] M.O.
Beckner concurs that the advent of Darwinism was accompanied by "differences between the climate of opinion - the
ordinary presuppositions, ideas about the proper pattern of argument, assumptions as to proper method, in short, the
worldview which separates pre-Darwinian science from that of today.[102] The acceptance of evolutionary speculation
was not grounded on any sterling scientific credentials which the theory could present; it required nothing less than a
"scientific revolution." In this way, evolutionary speculation came to exercise an influence upon philosophy -
encouraging it in its progressive obsession with an orientation toward process, Eric Rust points out:


         From being a useful concept for the understanding of biological delight of development, "evolution"
         came to be regarded as a model in the which the universe might be comprehended. The ambitious
         attempt of Herbert Spencer to construct a philosophical system in this way stands as an indication of
         how soon the "model" caught fire in philosophical circles.[103]

Therefore, we must conclude that the theory of evolution was taken to be a Presupposition in terms of which the
scientific evidence had to be interpreted, rather than a scientific proposal subject to the restraint of the evidence.
Kaminsky correctly observes: "It is fairly clear that the theory of evolution had the same logical status for Spencer as
the dialectic had for Hegel: no evidence was to be allowed to repudiate the doctrine."[104] This was undeniably the
case in Darwin's own day, and it is still the case today. Evolutionism has not surmounted the strong arguments that
were initially brought against it. It still cannot explain the mechanism of evolution, the taxonomic gaps of the fossil
record, avoid contradictions with known genetic principles, explain the appearance or (in light of entropy) eternality of
matter, the emergence of life, the emergence of self-conscious intelligence, or the emergence of morality.[105] The
modern evolutionist is just as gratuitous in his commitments as the evolutionist of last century ... For example,
Theodosius Dobzhansky claims to be able to explain evolution "if the assumption is made that life arose from matter
only once."[106] Dr. Thompson says in his Introduction to a current edition of Origin of Species "Personal
convictions... are presented as if they were proofs."[107] Scientists still recognize the inalienable laws of the theory; for
example, Paul Westmeyer declares: "Evolution is useful but it is amyth."[108] Yet evolution continues to be
propagated, as Paul Lemoine complains:


         The theories of evolution with which our studious youth have been deceived, constitute actually a


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         dogma that all the world continues to teach; but each in his specialty, the zoologist or the botanists
         ascertains that none of the explanations furnished are adequate.... It results from this summary that the
         theory of evolution is impossible.... But evolution is a sort of dogma which the priests do not believe, but
         maintain for theirpeople.[109]

The presuppositional status of the evolutionary theory is perhaps nowhere quite as obvious as in Pierre Teilhard de
Chardin. He says that even if all the specific content of the evolutionary explanation of life were to be demolished,
evolution would still have to be taken as our fundamental vision; defenders of evolution "must never let themselves be
detected into secondary discussions of the scientific 'hows' and the metaphysical 'whys.'"[110] Evolution has become
the unassailable, authoritative, logically primitive standard of truth: "Evolution has long since ceased to be a
hypothesis and become a general epistemological condition... which must henceforth be satisfied by every
hypothesis."[111] Instead of Jehovah's revelation, evolution has become the light in which men shall see light, for
Teilhard confesses his faith in evolution as "a Light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow."[112] We
had occasion above to indicate the religious character of this evolutionary presupposition. Jones noticed that scientists
had "elevated Darwinism to the level of a religious dogma,"[113] and Thompson concurs that "the concept of organic
evolution was an object of genuinely religiousdevotion."[114] The central thrust of the religion of evolution is to bar
God's revelation from the universe, and from man's thought.


         There is neither need nor excuse for postulation of non-material intervention in the origin of life, the rise
         of man, or any other part of the long history of the material cosmos. Yet the origin of that cosmos and
         the causal principles of its history remain unexplained and inaccessible to science.[115]

It would be better, according to evolutionary standards, to leave the question of origins unanswered than to confess
the existence of the Creator God. A classic example of just this sort of religious apriorism is Karl Marx's attitude. In the
early manuscript, "Private Property and Communism," part of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844,
he denied the legitimacy of the question, "Who begot the first man, and nature as a whole? I can only answer you:
Your question is a product of abstraction." These kinds of questions are dangerous to consistent religious
evolutionists; Evolutionary speculation, just as much as Kant's immanentistic phenomenalism, is the natural man's
ploy to keep the Creator's clear revelation suppressed and unacknowledged; Darwin gave illustration of this fact,
maintaining openly in his second book, The Decent of Man, that man did not have any instinctive belief in God and
denying that man's moral sense was God-given."[116]



Defection, Process, and Pantheism
One of the saddest chapters in the history of the rise of evolutionary philosophy and theology is the defection of so
many major theologians in the face of Darwinism's driving onslaught. The attitude of Arthur Conan Doyle, that
"Christianity must change or perish,"[117] was assimilated into the theological thinking of many men. By 1925
asymposium of clergymen declared unflinchingly that when science changes, so mustorthodoxy.[118] Another
"Babylonian Captivity" for the people of God had begun. Theologians declared that the question of origins had to be
settled by biology and anthropology, not scriptural exegesis.[119] The church was warned against resisting
Darwinism: "To call Himself reasonably well educated and informed, a Christian can hardly afford not to believe in
evolution.... And to announce that you do not believe in evolution is as irrational as to announce that you do not
believe in electricity."[120] Christian philosophers of religion like John Hick now proclaim that creationism "can no
longer be regarded as a reasonable belief."[121] Emil Brunner grants science a privileged position of safety, saying,
"We have to stress the fact that modern science (and this means the theory of Evolution) ought not to be opposed in
the name of religion."[122] Paul Tillich turns God's revelation away from the objective realm of the world altogether:


         Knowledge of revelation does not increase our knowledge about the structures of nature, history, and


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         man... For the physicist the revelatory knowledge of creation neither adds to nor subtracts from his
         scientific description of the natural structure of things.... If revealed knowledge did interfere with ordinary
         knowledge, it would destroy scientific honesty and methodological humility. It would exhibit demonic
         possession, not divinerevelation.[123]

Although Karl Barth wrote four volumes on the doctrine of creation, he decried any connection between his exposition
and the conclusions of science (Church Dofmatics,III/1, vii-viii)! Thielicke explains this outlook, saying, "Faith and
science do not contradict each other at all simply because the assertions they make lie upon completely different
levels."[124] What then are we to make of the biblical creation accounts? Their "truthfulness" has been salvaged and
made immune from attack, not by a presuppositional apologetic which forces their claims home to the heart of man as
the necessary condition of all knowledge and understanding, and as resting in the unavoidable and perspicuous
revelation of God in nature and Scripture, but by holding hat they are not historical accounts at all.[125] Indeed,
Ronald Hepburn says, "It is of only secondary interest whether the world had a literal beginning, a first moment."[126]
Supposedly the first text of God's inspired word is irrelevant to what follows! The real meaning of Genesis is not to be
found in cosmology any longer but strictly in subjective theological feeling, as Langdon Gilkey teaches in Maker of
Heaven and Earth:


         The Christian doctrine of creation, therefore, expresses in theoretical language those positive religious
         affirmations which biblical faith in God makes in response to the mystery of the meaning and destiny of
         our creaturely finitude. This is what the Christian means when he says, "I believe in God the Father
         Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." This is what the idea of creatio ex nihilo is essentially
         "about."[127]

According to Barth, the internal meaning of creation is the covenant of grace in Christ,[128] which is simply another
example of his severe Christomonism. This evaporation of historical declaration in Genesis and subjectivizing of its
teaching is one form of the theologians' utter deference to the forces of evolutionary speculation. The other form of
abject subjection to autonomous science which post Darwinian theology took was the reinterpretation of Christianity in
evolutionary categories. This kind of response to Darwinism began very early and later finds very striking parallels to
the thought of Teilhard. In 1876 M.J. Savage penned The Religion of Evolution in order to teach that the God who is
working in evolutionary process is both the beginning and the end thereof.[129] Two Scottish-born theologians, James
McCosh and Henry Drummond,[130] taught that the work of spirit was the last and highest operation in a series of
advances, that the whole system of nature is moving toward decreased quantity but increased quality, and that
evolution elevates man to the position of the final goal of life. Lyman Abbott made an attempt to synthesize Christianity
with evolution by saying that both evolution and theology aim to explain "God's way of doing things," which is really
only one way of doing things at base. "His way may be described in one word as the way of growth, or development,
or evolution...." The price of this bewitching compromise, the destination toward which this path of a golden mean
leads-the cash-value of this bargain - was the enslavement of theology: "In so far as the theologian and evolutionist
differ in their interpretation of the history of life... I agree with the evolutionist."[131] This shall always be the outcome
when a theologian abandons his firm presuppositional foundation and attempts to come to terms with his opponents
on (allegedly) neutral ground; in actuality the compromise is constantly enacted on the opponent's grounds, and the
theologian has lost his sure footing. This is something the present-day advocates of theistic evolution should reflect
upon with all due seriousness. They have everything to lose and nothing to gain by accommodating the theory of
evolution, for at base it is nothing less than a totally anti-biblical religious presupposition. It is hard to know what
legitimate grounds or motive Claus Westerman, for instance, could have in saying, "The concept of evolution is
included in the course of creation.[132] The proposals for theistic evolution by men like L. Harold De Wolf[133] and
Jan Lever[134] are accompanied by the infection of heterodox exegesis and theological aberration, which certainly
cannot bring health to the church and its dogma as hoped. R.A. Quebedeaux mentions that a group of younger
evangelicals in this day are evidencing an "increasing friendliness to modern science" through "mounting acceptance
of theistic evolution in some form."[135] The surrender of biblical epistemology to an internally incongruous, centaur-
like concept like theistic evolution manifests a lamentable theological shortsightedness. In light of the cultural


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aftermath of evolutionary thinking(for example, relativism,[136] decreased scientific integrity,[137] pragmatism,[138]
the suppression of the individual in the interests of race,[139] and secularization)[140], it is highly ironic to find such a
compromise in a group of men desirous of bringing the effects of Christianity to bear upon the world. Genuine
Christian reconstruction in all areas of life cannot begin to be accomplished without genuinely biblical building
materials. The former methods of theological defection from the epistemistic lordship of Christ, and from the
responsibility to maintain the faith once delivered unto the saints, were (1) abandoning the world, and (2)
subjectivizing exegesis. The later methods of defection were: (1) becoming absorbed in the world, and (2)
compromising exegesis. But by far the greatest capitulation to evolutionary speculation is expressed in the
contemporary move to draw God into the developmental process. Canon Charles Kingsley maintained that Darwin
allowed theologians to get "rid of an interfering God - a master-magician, as I call it," in favor of an "immanent, ever-
working God." Beckner correctly commented:


         The final step in this direction was to give God an even more intimate metaphysical connection with
         natural process. This step had been taken by previous philosophers - Spinoza and Hegel, for example;
         but it was repeated under the aegis of Darwinism by Bergson, Whitehead, and a number of Protestant
         thinkers.[141]

The development of process thought in this century and its absorption by recent theologians brings the anti-creationist
theory of evolution and its philosophic roots to full fruition in nothing less than pantheism. Benedetto Croce, the Italian
neo-idealist, maintained that the historical process of becoming (taught by Hegel) was the sole reality. His
immanentism made man the focal manifestation of thinking spirit, since individual minds were Spirit thinking, history
becomes philosophy, and philosophy removes from religion all reason for existing. Religion is submerged in the
process of history. The concept of emergence was introduced by C. Lloyd Morgan and Samuel Alexander.[142]
Morgan had studied under T.H. Huxley and felt that a philosophic metaphysic should be explicitly formulated to be
placed behind evolution. Both he and Alexander took evolution for their controlling metaphysical model and held that
life and mind emerged from space-time matter. At a certain point of complexity, the evolving matter takes on a novel,
qualitative attribute; thus, Alexander says that ascent takes place through complexity, but at each change of quality
the complexity gathers itself into a new simplicity. The two greatest intellectual influences upon Alexander were
Einstein and Spinoza (he said he would be content if "Erravit cum Spinoza" were written on his funeral urn). Spinoza's
pantheism came to expression in Alexander's view that deity is "the next highest emergent quality which the universe
is engaged in bringing to birth." "As actual, God does not possess the quality of deity but is the universe as tending to
that quality."[143] Thus, Alexander formulated the idea of the universe as "God's body" and believed in an evolving
deity.


Henri Bergson was born the year that Darwin's Origin of Species was published, and he was influenced greatly by
Spencer early in his life. He had interests similar to those of Wallace, for he was once the president of the Society for
Psychical Research. Ultimate reality is characterized by change, just as Heraclitus held, said Bergson; however,
ultimate becoming is not cyclic (as with the ancient Greek philosophers) but a directed process in time. Bergson
postulated an immanent "elan vital" (life-force) throughout the historical process. In contrast to Morgan and Alexander,
Bergson said that the direction of emergence was from the life-dynamic to matter (rather than from matter to life and
mind). In Creative Evolution,[144] however, Bergson revealed that his differences with the other two thinkers was only
a family squabble, for he affirmed a pantheism just as they did. Drawing inspiration from Plotinus, Bergson identified
God with the elan vital, a current of consciousness which penetrates matter and gives rise to living bodies as well as
determining the course of their evolution, the central purpose of which is man.


In connection with emergentism, it is noteworthy that its view that some events and changes are abruptly
discontinuous with the past is inherently at odds with the key assumption of organic evolution. (It was the element of
discontinuity - the mind of man - in Wallace's theory that so alienated Darwin.) This inconsistency has been unmasked
by Wolfgang Kohler; however, Kohler realizes that in order to account for those factors which inspired the formulation
of the emergentistic theory (especially mental qualities and events), he needs to hold to a form of pan-psychism.[145]


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In light of this resolution to the problem of accounting for mentality on the assumptions of materialism and the
continuity of natural development, the comment made by Charles Hodge a century ago was both astute and prophetic.
In response to the absurdity that mind should evolve from inorganic matter, Hodge said:


         If you only spiritualize matter until it becomes mind, the absurdity disappears. And so do materialism,
         and spontaneous generation, and the whole array of scientific doctrines. If matter becomes mind, mind
         is God, and God is everything. Thus the monster Pantheism swallows up science and its votaries.


In terms of the history of thought Hodge was exactly right. Materialism and evolutionism, in order to account for mental
qualities in reality, have been pressed to either emergentism (and ensuing pantheism) or to panpsychism (which is
functually equivalent to pantheism). Evolutionary materialism evolves into pantheism! Alfred North Whitehead was one
of the most significant logicians, mathematicians, philosophers, and scientists of this century; he was born only two
years after the appearance of Darwin's first book. According to his metaphysic, the universe is an organism of events
(rather than a collection of material things spatio-temporally and externally related - as in the "fallacy of misplaced
concreteness"). He thought that evolutionary philosophy repudiated materialism in favor of a process view of reality,
wherein the "actual entities" or ultimate facts of nature are events, grouped into an interconnected network of
apprehensions. Mind pervades everything, and every event has a feeling for everything else; here, then, is
panpsychism again. Eternal objects, for Whitehead, are dynamic essences which "ingress" in actual entities and give
them their differentiated natures by supplying a subjective aim for the event and integrating its feelings into a
"concrescence." Whitehead takes creativity to be ultimate reality, and so each actual event is self-creative. God is a
unique actual event, the first emergent of creativity, the principle of concretion (the arranger of the eternal objects).
There is a physical pole in God, His experiencing of the actuality of historical events; by this He acquires realization of
His consequent nature. This sounds somewhat like Hegel's Absolute Spirit which moves from abstract being through
dialectic to self-determination. Also like Hegel, Whitehead says that "the world lives by its incarnation of God
initself."[146] This might also be likened to a dynamic version of Spinoza's Substance: "God and the World are the
contrasted opposites in terms of which Creativity achieves its supreme task of transforming disjoined multiplicity... into
concrescent unity."[147] Whitehead has developed a pantheism of creativity wherein God and the world are mutually
necessary (the former as the arranger of eternal objects, the latter as the consequent nature corresponding to God's
primordial being). God is an evolving event, the "great companion - the fellow sufferer who understands."[148]
"Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within, the passing flux of immediate
things."[149]


Process philosophy, then, has a heavy element of religious dogmatizing in it. Whitehead claimed to have fused
religion and science, emotional and conceptual experience, in his one-substance ontology. His metaphysic was based
on descriptive generalization; he formulated his system to satisfy rational demands, to challenge (as a scientist) the
assumptions of traditional physics, to make human feeling the root metaphor of a universally extended worldview. His
theology was based on religious and moral intuition, asserting that a dipolar and finite god was involved in reciprocal
interactions with world process. Whitehead seemed to hold out something for every school of thought. Later in the
twentieth century, a theological cult would develop around Whitehead's thought, and even though it had abandoned
biblical epistemology and metaphysics, it would present itself as salvaging Christian thought. Whitehead was in the
same tradition as Alexander, Lloyd Morgan, and Bergson; his reputation ranked with Russell and Carnap. He was not
anti-metaphysical; he did not fault God-talk. However, Whitehead's renowned philosophy could restore religion only by
replacing the living God with a no-god, a "nothing," a "wind and confusion," which "made not the heavens" and thus
cannot save (Isa. 41:24,29; 45:20; Jer. 10:11). Long before process philosophy was made the source of a new
theological tradition in America, C. Van Til had discerningly warned that Whitehead's philosophy could have no
beneficial influence on theology (no more than idolatry could revive Old Testament Israel). In The Princeton
Theological review XXV, 2, for April, 1927, Van Til concludes his review of Whitehead's Religion in the Making by
saying:




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         For Theism it is important that God be not thus conceived as a universal realizing Himself in historic
         particulars; Theism's God is the self-sufficient creator of the "epochaloccasions," or historic particulars.
         Our conclusion is that Dr Whitehead's thought underneath its scintillating and even cryptical expression,
         conceals a strongly antitheistic tendency. When he made time and change a necessary aspect of all
         reality he gave possibility an independent metaphysical status; God could be no more than an aspect,
         an "element" or a "function" in reality as a whole. Theism makes God the source of possibility; only thus
         can the transcendence as well as the immanence of God be maintained; only thus is God qualitatively
         distinct from man; only thus is He personal; only thus is He God (p. 338).

In a previous portion of this study we noted that the philosophic precursors of Darwinism had associated with them a
strong movement toward eradicating the distinction between Creator and creature and, in some cases, explicit
pantheism. It is now evident that the philosophic successors to Darwinism embody this pantheistic theme as well.
Evolutionism is a syndrome of beliefs and assumptions, a syndrome inclusive of (or tending toward) reducing God to
the level of immanent world process or elevating the created order to the status of divinity. It is only to be expected
that when twentieth-century theologians explicitly endorse evolution or process philosophy as their central model, the
pantheistic (and panentheistic) motif should clearly stand out and command our attention.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a trained scientist, a Jesuit paleontologist, and speculative theologian. By the time of
his ordination, he was an avid reader of Bergson and later had association with the Bergsonian scholar, E. Le Roy. He
held that matter at all levels has a psychic as well as physical aspect, by which he means (similar to Whitehead) that
consciousness pervades all reality:


         We are logically forced to assume the existence in rudimentary form (in a microscopic, i.e., an infinitely
         diffuse state) of some sort of psyche in every corpuscle, even in those(the mega-molecules and below )
         whose complexity is of such a low or modest order as to render it (the psyche) imperceptible.[150]

Everything in the universe has a conscious inner force and a material external face("coextensive with their Without,
there is a Within to things"); the inner power is intangible and does not halt materialistic mechanism.[151] Energy is
the most primitive stuff of the universe and is responsible for the forward movement, the evolution, the increased
complexity of all things.[152] This complexification is accompanied by an involution of consciousness (greater internal
unity and concentration) and thereby by qualitative jumps in development.[153] The process of human history is
understood in these evolutionary categories. They also indicate the future of man. The noosphere (the thinking layer
of evolutionary development where man now is) shall become involuted(through social interiorization) and converge
upon a hyperpersonal unity of all things in God: the "omega point."[154] Man's "grand option" is to confront his destiny
and take responsibility for spearheading evolution to a higher synthesis, a universalized and collectivized unity of
mankind (beyond outdated individualism and nationalism ) created through the energy of love which shall
"superpersonalize" men.[155] Omega is this involuted point of total integration, "a superior form of pantheism."[156]
The universe's evolution is climaxed in the Universal Christ:[157]


         Instead of the vague centre of convergence envisaged as the ultimate end of this process of evolution,
         the personal and defined reality of the Word Incarnate, in which everything acquires substance,
         appears and takes its place.[158]

Christ is the inner principle of this process, the omega point reflected into the process and directing it by His spirit (that
is, love). Thus, the universe is moving toward incorporation in Christ: Christogenesis. All men live in "the divine milieu";
that is, we are all surrounded by "an omnipresence which acts upon us by assimilating us in it, in the unity of the Body
of Christ."[159] The world is in process, moving toward synthesis at the divine omega point; correspondingly Christ is
completing himself in this process: "everything has continued to move because Christ has not yet completed His own
forming.... The mystical Christ has not yet attained His full growth."[160] The goal of evolutionary history is nothing but


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the union of God and mankind in a suprapersonal, Christocentric pantheism. Of course, in actuality, Teilhard has
achieved neither a Christian nor a unified outlook ; by avoiding Scripture's testimony, assuming that the scientific
enterprise is intelligible apart from God's revelation, and including all things in the process of incarnation, Teilhard has
committed himself to a dialecticism as severe as that previously found in Darwin's thinking. Pure contingency and pure
staticism are juxtaposed, nature (man's past) and freedom (man's present) stand over against each other; naturalism
and idealism confront one another. Teilhard attempts to synthesize these contrary poles, but he can do so only by
introducing another dialecticism: evolutionary pantheism.


         Since he insists that, as a scientist, he starts from the bottom, he can only project an absolute. And a
         projected absolute is no absolute. Teilhard knows that he needs a platform above human experience
         from which to view experience and relate its various aspects intelligently to one another. He tries to
         project such a platform but when he tries this his platform disintegrates into pure indeterminacy.... So
         far then as with his activism Teilhard leaves the necessitarianism of Thomas behind he does so by
         falling into pure irrationalism and indeterminism. And so far as he does not want pure irrationalism he
         can save himself from it only by the reintroduction of some of the Thomistic rationalism and
         determinism... The final issue then is between / those who hold and those who do not hold / that God
         has identified himself discernibly in history in Palestine as the creator and the redeemer of men.... It
         goes without saying that the final question therefore is whether the approach adopted by neo-orthodox
         Protestant and Roman Catholic thinkers is in any wise intelligible. If man's intellect itself is derived, not
         from the creative fiat of God but from the cauldron of Chance, then what is the difference between right
         and wrong and how is intellectual contradiction possible? Predication of any sort is then out of the
         question... And all would end in a mystery that is meaningless unless with Luther and with Calvin we
         presuppose the God who has really created and who does really control all things... and who has
         revealed himself directly in the I-it as well as in the I-thou dimension as the Saviour of both.... The true
         primacy of God and of his Christ cannot be found in the way that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin seeks for it.
         His Christ is but a vague ideal of the would-be autonomousman.[161]

Van Til has here insightfully taught that Teilhard's system of evolutionary speculation is neither good science, good
philosophy, nor good theology. Apart from the presupposition of God's work as Creator of the world and Governor of
history, a presupposition rooted in His revelation in the space-time realm (nature, Scripture, Christ), one cannot
rationally order the facts or trust that man's intellect is competent to understand anything at all. Metaphysical chaos
and epistemological darkness are thus central to Teilhard's evolutionary thought, and thereby the saving Christ of
history is lost altogether. By not starting with the God who creates, Teilhard is prevented from knowing the God who
redeems (from intellectual futility as well as spiritual death).Evolutionary theology, by its dichotomy between nature
and grace, and then its contrived mystical-temporal synthesis, proceeds to destroy both nature and grace. Modern
process theology is also in diametric opposition to biblical orthodoxy. Process theology completely deprives God of
any transcendence whatever. Somewhat parallel to the demiurge of Plato's Timaeus, the god set forth by E.S.
Brightman is charged with the task of subduing inchoate matter. Here you do not have strict pantheism; however, you
do have a god which is completely immanent in the historicalprocess.162 This is kind of a half-way house to process
theology which, reflecting the speculation of Krause (discussed above) affirms panentheism. The thrust of this outlook
is summed up in the title of E. Baltazar's book, God Within Process. Not only is God within process, but "God literally
contains the universe."163 Thus, both God and the world (internal to Him) are subjected to time; H.N. Wieman
declares that God is purely temporal.[164] As such He is subject to becoming, and the world He contains is a
dynamic, changing process - as taught by Whitehead. God evolves. According to Hartshorne, the universe, even at
the physical level, is fundamentally psychic; everything has a mental pole. H. W. Robinson had maintained that
"'Matter' must be ultimately spiritual, however much lower its level of reality than 'Mind'...."[165] and various thinkers
who have attempted a reconciliation between science and religion in recent years have been encouraged by the
prospects of a panpsychic position.[166] Undergirding these proposals is the rejection of dualism and affirmation of an
organic monism. Hartshorne writes that "All in some fashion respond to their environment.... The whole gamut of
levels from atoms to man is for science basically one system."[167] Organisms, which all reflect a kind of internal
social structuring, at the various levels of complexity have different capacities for adaptation and response to their
environment; at the highest level one finds God, who is supremely adaptive to situations. His absoluteness is not a


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static quality but resides in His utter relativity-hence the title of Hartshorne's book, The Divine Relativity.[168] And if
God enters into relations with the world, then He cannot be transcendent to it; rather, He is finite and limited. For
Hartshorne, there cannot be a "purely timeless or immutable existent."[169] God is a dipolar uniting of being and
becoming: the world process constitutes the life of God, and God is the all-embracing memory of the world. "If the past
once for all 'has been what it has been,' then something does preserve, and as it were remember, all that
happens."[170] This certainly precludes any Chalcedonian Christology; instead, the deity includes within itself all the
contraries of human experience (every aspect or attribute of reality along with its contrary is correlativized in God).
[171] Yet God is not restricted to the aggregate of cosmic psychical-objects. While He is constantly surpassing himself
in His advancing experience (world history), He yet has an abstract internal essence expressing superior social unity
(symbolized by the Trinity) - which is just the difference between himself and man, the former maximally realizing a
purposive unity which is only partially realized in the latter.[172] However, God's purpose does not mold the historical
process; He grants freedom to the world, allowing it to be partly self-made. His omnipotence is simply His supreme
relativity.[173] Therefore, in Hartshorne's panentheistic vision, God is enriched by the experience of the creature and
in this way grows in His own experience - which is symbolized in the incarnation.


John B. Cobb, Jr., has recently become very popular in the circles of process theology. Like Hartshorne, Cobb thinks
of God in social terms as a cumulative temporal succession of experiences.[174] Basically, in process thought the
creation has been drawn up into the being of God and robs Him of transcendent distinctness. It differs from
naturalism, not by asserting God's transcendence, but by holding that He is the universe's "ground" (like the
germinating and nourishing condition for a seed); natural evolution could no more be self-sufficient than a fetus could
be its own womb. God is the enveloping context which brings out the potentialities of the universe.[175] As the
panentheist, W.E. Hocking, argued, nature stands over against me and my desires, forcing me to relate and adjust to
its character; in this sort of opposition to me nature takes on the aspect of "Other Mind" (God).[176] Thus, nature and
historical process are taken to be aspects of God, the context out of which the universe develops. Such a concept
assumes man's freedom and nature's autonomy, for although God is the originating and directing ground of natural
process, "neither human free will nor the normal processes of nature are subjected to, or interrupted by, divine
compulsion."[177] And hereby God is stripped of any significant, special attribute altogether. Process thought had
already deprived Him of any transcendent being, identifying Him with immanent historical development (plus His
abstract unified purpose added to a permanent memory of the world); now He is stripped of any transcendent power
which we might have thought to reside in that pole of God which spreads beyond the cosmic aggregate of organisms
(viz., His abstract purpose and permanent memory). He contains the world within himself, but it is yet open-ended and
completely contingent with respect to its development.[178]


God has been depersonalized and deposed of sovereign, directive power. As Van Til warned with respect to
Whitehead, in process thought God disappears. The result is that the world, which has had divinity conferred upon it,
is left in tension over a nature/freedom dichotomy. Simone Weil, whose conception of nature as an agent of my
personal growth (through the risks it poses) has affinities to that of Hocking, says that only a false god could be
capable of wielding all power; the true God does not rule the universe but "leaves two other forces to rule in his place.
On the one hand there is blind necessity attaching to matter, including the psychic matter of the soule, and on the
other the autonomy essential to thinking person."[179] The same dialectical motif was found in Teilhard. It is equally
destructive of intelligibility, natural order, and the good news of Christian theology when it appears in process
speculation. The process theologian says God can be known only by analogy to the natural order, not by direct
revelation (as though He were sovereignly able to present clear, absolute truth about himself to us in the midst of
historical process and relativity); and thus God must of necessity reflect the attributes and limitations of man and his
world rather than being a self-contained personality with incommunicable attributes (as though He were a
transcendent, sovereign Creator of this world which is not indispensable to Him). God cannot unconditionally and
clearly reveal himself to man, and yet the process theologian alleges to know God well enough to completely
immanentize Him within temporal process, and to identify the universe as an aspect of Him. Such a self-vitiating
procedure is inherent in every system which begins by denying the unavoidable revelation of God about him self. The
metaphysical dialecticism and the epistemological dialecticism of process theology require each other.


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Critical Appraisal
In considering the question of origins and the controversy which has developed around it, the Christian should not
overlook the teaching of Romans 1. In the introduction to this essay two competing explanations for the popularity of
evolutionary thought were proposed. Having surveyed and analyzed the rise of evolutionary speculation, we can now
see that evolution has not been accepted because of its sterling scientific credentials, but because (in accordance with
Paul's teaching) men seek to suppress the clear revelation of God the Creator and will latch onto any theory, however
foolish, which offers to aid them in this task. Evolution is a religious presupposition substituted for man's knowledge of
his Maker. The syndrome which Paul associates with unbelieving thought was noted to embrace three things:
repudiation (suppression) of God's revelation at the outset, retreat to foolish reasoning, and refabrication of a god out
of the created order. Evolutionary philosophy evidences this syndrome. Post-Kantian philosophy ex hypothesi
precludes a clear revelation of God in the realm of space and time; Fichte condemned creationism as the ground error
of all take metaphysics, and Huxley clearly indicates that men desired some theos (like evolution) which would relieve
them of the truth about creation. Philosophy was characterized by preposterous speculations, and a scientific
revolution was the only thing that could salvage the imaginary thesis men personally needed. The immanentistic
developmentalism (Hegel) prior to Darwin was accompanied by an obliteration (as in Spinoza) of the distinction
between Creator and creation; pantheism (Goethe) and panentheism (Krause), with an emphasis upon the material
order (Feuerbach). Darwinism simply lent scientific overtones to the antitranscendent process speculation prior to him.
In turn, this new "scientific respectability" (despite refutations) fostered the incorporation of the concept of God into
materialistic process speculation (Alexander), panpsychic vitalism (Bergson), and creative pantheism (Whitehead).
Not only did theologians retreat from defending biblical cosmogeny (Barth, et al.), and synthesize Christianity to
evolutionism (Savage, Westermann, etc.), but they even supplanted Christian theology with evolutionary pantheism
(Teilhard) and process panentheism (Hartshorne). The creation ended up being worshipped rather than the blessed
Creator. The pattern drawn by Paul has certainly been followed: flight from God's clear revelation to foolishness and
an exaltation of the creature above God.

The biblical teaching on Creation and evolutionary speculation stand in stark antithesis to each other. Contrary to
God's word, evolution and evolutionary theology postulate a god who is not independent and free, not immutable, not
personal, not sovereign, not transcendent, and not super natural. According to revolutionary thought the world was not
ex nihilo created as good, but eternal matter developed through a wasteful process of trial and error to bring man to
where he is now; cosmological randomness (chance) is asserted to deny divine providence, and then natural
determinism is correlated to it in order to deny supernatural intervention (miracles). Man is not unique but is
continuous with the animal and inorganic world; hence, not being the specially created image of God, man's ethics
must be guided by naturalism and utilitarianism rather than the revealed law of God. For evolution, the fall of man is
ontological rather than ethical and historical; if anything, man ascends in history rather than lapses. Christ is a mystical
ideal, and Jesus is part of the development of nature - not supernaturally incarnate. Man's salvation, in evolutionary
motifs, does not involve eternal life and reconciliation with God but elevation (either in being or in natural
development) and socialization; it is accomplished not by grace but by forces resident in nature. In terms of
eschatology, evolutionary theology teaches that man is to become co-creator with God, learning to control nature and
thus to determine the future course of evolution; the state of glory is attained not at a historical consummation but in
the collectivized society directed by elite men. At each point, evolutionary speculation falsifies biblical teaching. To
undermine the scriptural doctrine of creation is to undermine Christianity in toto, and this is because (as we saw
above) evolution is not a restricted biological theory but a pervasive and religious worldview having a presuppositional
status with its adherents. The evolution of evolutionary speculation, from Kant to Darwin, was an obvious necessity,
given the intellectual imperatives of cosmological evolutionism. It is not surprising that very early in his academic
career, at age 31, Kant published a book on cosmology - a distinctly evolutionary cosmology - Universal Natural
History and Theory of the Heavens (1755 ). The study, according to one recent commentator, "has won for itself an
assured place as a milestone in the history of astronomy andcosmology."[180] Yet the book was forgotten for a
century. Published anonymously, the printer immediately went bankrupt, and the copies were never sold to the
generalpublic.[181] Understandably, "It had to wait for more than a century for its true greatness to be
appreciated."[182] Precisely... it had to wait for the Darwinian revolution to accomplish its task - a task set forth by


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Kant in the very first chapter of the Universal History. It was quite legitimate, he argued, to construct a natural history
(which in the context of eighteenth century thought meant a hypothetical history - a "history without facts")[183] of the
universe. Newton's laws are best applied in the vast reaches of the heavens. "It seems to me," he wrote, "that we can
here say with intelligent certainty and without audacity... "give me matter and I will construct a world out of it!" i.e. give
me matter and I will show you how a world shall arise out of it."[184] All it takes, he tried to prove in his study, is
millions and millions of centuries - the creative hand of immeasurable time. He then set forth the great task for all
evolutionistic biological scientists, one which was understood in the mid-eighteenth century to be mandatory if
evolution were to be scientifically demonstrated:


         But can we boast of the same progress even regarding the lowest plant or an insect? Are we in a
         position to say... "Give me matter, and I will show you how a caterpillar can be produced." Are we not
         arrested here at the first step, from ignorance of the real inner conditions of the object and the
         complication of the manifold constituents existing in it? It should not therefore cause astonishment if I
         presume to say that the formation of all the heavenly bodies, the cause of their movements, and, in
         short, the origin of the whole present constitution of the universe, will become intelligible before the
         production of a single herb or a caterpillar by mechanical causes, will become distinctly and completely
         understood.[185]

The Darwinian bandwagon was filled with men who wanted desperately to believe in a god of their own creation. That
God must be, preferably, an impersonal god, a god who in no way interferes with the activities of the external
universe, but at all costs, a god infinitely remote in time. Even the impotent god of Kant's Universal History, who was
reduced merely to the incessant creation of matter - an autonomously evolving matter was too powerful for Kant in his
post-critical years.[186] Nevertheless, the evolutionary impulse of Kant's early speculations stayed with him; that
impulse was basic to the revolt against Christianity from the mid-eighteenth century to Darwin. It was Darwin's gift of
hope, rather than the quality of his evidence, that captivated the minds of his readers. Though his Orginhad to be
revised and reworked again and again, in order to deflect (he hoped) the sharp and overpowering criticisms lodged
against his theory(driving him back into Lamarckianism at the end), nevertheless the hope remained. "give me matter,
and I will show you how a caterpillar can be produced." Men wanted to believe that the combination of limitless eons
of time, autonomous impersonal matter, and totally random forces might forever banish God from His creation - and,
most importantly, from the day of judgment. Darwin offered them hope; he offered them the scientific answer that
would at last reduce biological processes to mere mechanism. Machines, in the final analysis, are not subject to
judgment, for they are not bounded by any ethical law greater than survival. Even the violation of this command - the
law of survival - at most leads to the void of nonexistence, not the eternal reality of personal judgment by a personal
God. The Darwinian revolution was the capstone to a century-long quest; the holy grail of evolutionary speculation had
at last been found by a peculiar hypochondriac who once devoted eight consecutive years of his intellectual life to an
exhaustive study of barnacles.


When biblical faith comes into conflict with the autonomous outlook of a scientific or philosophic theory, the Christian
can respond by: (1) maintaining a double-truth perspective (e.g., the Averroists), (2) drawing dichotomies (e.g.,
Aquinas' nature/ grace; Kant's phenomena/ noumena), (3) holding that one truth is being seen in two ways (e.g., Eric
Rust),[187] (4) adjusting his faith according to the dictates of science (e.g., theistic evolution), or (5) by declaring that,
as Scripture teaches, God's revelation and truth are the necessary epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions
of all science and philosophy. The last response is the proper one. When God's word is contradicted, as is particularly
evident in the area of creation, two worldviews are (at base) what stand in conflict. One of them requires speculative
and self-defeating assumptions; this is seen in the case of evolution (e.g., Darwin's rationalistic explanation requires
an irrationalistic foundation; Huxley professed to be "agnostic" about ultimate origins but certain that the Bible was
wrong; Goudge holds, as cosmological tenets, both that nature is uniformitarian - always and everywhere operating by
the same laws - and that change is a fundamental feature of nature - including nature's laws). The other worldview
gives a basis for an orderly world that can be explored and subdued to God's glory, a basis for rational understanding
and application, and a basis for bringing the facts and reason into fruitful, meaningful, non-arbitrary relation. The
former worldview moves from foolish speculation to a worship of the creation in some form. The latter brings one to


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bow before the transcendent and immanent Creator and Redeemer of the world.


Men assuredly know that the latter worldview and procedure is the one that is true and ought to be followed. With
respect to origins, the question is beyond scientific speculation and a matter of divine revelation and religious faith.
[188] The natural world communicates the truth to all men from God (Rom. 1:l9-20). As a result of man's epistemic
and moral condition, faith (indeed, saving faith) is the basic requirement for a proper acknowledgment of the answer to
origins: "Now faith is... a conviction of things not seen.... By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by
the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear" (Heb. 11:1,3). There is no lack
of explicit, special revelation about creation; Scripture mentions it over seventy-five times. Thus, men have the answer
to origins but (aside from regeneration) suppress it. The Christian who encounters speculative theories (like evolution)
which are fabricated to help suppress the clear truth about the Creator must presuppositionally challenge those
theories rather than cooperating in such suppression and thereby accommodating to them; he must appeal to man's
better knowledge, demonstrate the foolishness of trying to avoid God's revelatory truth, and work toward the
opponent's conversion (inclusive of "change of mind") and faith (trusting the Lord more than sight and in order to
understand). The man who opposes God's word needs to be saved from intellectual and spiritual futility, from vain
imagination and creature-worship; and this can be accomplished only by dealing with him at the root of the problem
(namely, his espousal of a worldview which, though destructive of rationality, factuality, morality, and humanity,
protects and encourages his flight from God). The origin of his difficulties is (or includes) his misdirected view of
origins. Thus, he must be forcefully confronted with the presuppositional and revelational worldview of creationism.


The biblical doctrine of creation ex nihilo requires a proper distinction between Creator and creature, and denies the
eternality of matter; it refutes both pantheism and materialism. It teaches that the world is derivative, contingent, and
glorious only as reflecting its Creator's glory; thus the world cannot be exalted to a place of idolatrous worship. On the
other hand, it prevents disrespect for the natural world (exploitation),cruelty to the animal kingdom, and disdain from
the human body. Creation ex nihilo assures us that things have a beginning (rather than moving through eternal return
cycles) and that time is not illusory; genuine importance can attach to events, and history can be characterized by real
progress. Nature is also taught to be orderly, intelligible, and profitable to man's end of glorifying God; thus, nature is
worthy of study in order that it be subdued to kingdom purposes. Creation ex nihilo grounds man's authentic freedom
within the sovereignty of God, substantiates the perspective of morality in the world, and undergirds man's aesthetic
creativity. Creation ex nihilo proclaims the sovereignty, freedom, transcendence, goodness, and immanence of God;
all things being in His wise control, meaningless mystery does not surround everything, and man can (by thinking
God's thoughts after Him) attain knowledge. Further, God is not repulsed by the material world or neglectful of it; He
can care for our needs, attend to our prayers, enter our world in His incarnate Son, send His Spirit into our hearts, and
promise effectual results for His kingdom in history. These are but a few of the main doctrinal tenets which creationism
sets forth. It is a worldview able to lay siege effectively to all apostate competitors at every point.


However, men can arrive at the perspective of the creationist position only by submitting unconditionally to God's
revelation. The truth is clear from nature (leaving all men without excuse) but can be acknowledged only through the
work of grace, leading men to trust the Savior and yield to the truth of His word. Men must believe the inspired and
infallible truth of Scripture. This is offensive to the modern mentality and even to modern theologians. Nels Ferre, Emil
Brunner, and Reinhold Niebuhr are among those who explicitly charge that we who make the Bible an authoritative
teacher in social, historical, and scientific matters are guilty of "bibliolatry."[189] And thus the battle lines are clearly
drawn. We have seen in this study that those who suppress the revelation of God and deny creation ex nihilo as a
literal, historical truth are led into foolishness and an idolatrous erasure of the distinction between Creator and
creation. On the other hand, those who refuse to submit to God's word in the area of origins regard those who do as
guilty of bibliolatry. It appears, then, that two religious positions stand over against each other: the religion of
humanistic autonomy and the religion of biblical Christianity. Each accuses the other of idolatry. The Christian must
see the situation clearly. The choice between evolution and creation is at base religious. Nothing less is at stake than
the charge of worshipping the creature rather than the Creator. An answer to origins weighs idolatry in the balance.
"The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, these shall perish... They are vanity, a work of
delusion" (Jer. 10:11,15).

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[1] See J.C. Greene, The Death of Adam (Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1959), p. 307.


[2] The Spirit of Modern Philosophy, 2nd ed. (New York: Braziller, 1955), p. 286.


[3] Great Men of Literature (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1931), p.22.


[4] Milic Capek, "Change," The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (EP hereafter), ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan
Publishing Co., 1967), II, 78.


[5] Robert C. Neville, God the Creator (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), p. 7.


[6] "Darwin, Charles Robert," EP, II, 294.


[7] The Defense of the Faith (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1955), p. 254.


[8] Ibid., p. 109.


[9] "Christian-Theistic Evidences," an unpublished class syllabus (Westminster Seminary, 1961), p. 106.


[10] Von seligen Leben (Berlin, 1806), p. 106.


[11] Neville, op. Cit., p. 1.


[12] Unabridged ed., trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965), B664, p. 528.


[13] Ibid., B595, p. 485.


[14] Ibid., Bxxv-xxvi, p. 25.


[15] Ibid., B660, 667, pp. 526, 530.


[16] Cf. Giorgio Tonelli, "Crusius, Christian August," EP, II, 269-270.


[17] Miltin K. Munitz, "Cosmology," EP, II, 237-238.


[18] Kant, op. Cit., B51, pp. 77-78.


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[19] Grundlage der Gesammten Wissenschaftslehre in Sammtliche Werke (Berlin: 1845), p. 217.


[20] Die Anweisung zum seligen Leben, oder auch die Religionslehre, cited in EP, III, 195.


[21] Radoslav A. Tsanoff, "Fichte, Johan Glttlieb," ibid., p. 193.


[22] Cf. John Wild, ed., Spinoza Selections (Boston: Scribners, 1930), p. 94.


[23] Ethics (I, 29 schol.), trans. W.H. Whitge and A. H. Stirling (London: Oxford University Press, 1927).


[24] H.A. Wolfson, The Philosophy of Spinoza (New York: Meridian Books, 1960), pp. 331ff.


[25] "Goethe, Johan Wolfgang Von," EP, III, 364.


[26] Ibid.


[27] Cf. Arnulf Zweig, "Krause, Karl Christian Friedrich," EP, IV, 363-365.


[28] G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. J. Sibree (Dover Publications, 1956), p. 9.


[29] G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of Nature (Dover Publications, 1956), p. 247.


[30] Ibid., pp. 47-48.


[31] G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures in the Philosophy of Religion, trans. E.B. Speirs and J.B. Sanderson (London: Kegan
Paul, Trench, Trubner & So., 1895), I, 33.


[32] Evolutionary Philosophies and Contrmporary Theology (Phladelphia: Westminster Press, 1969), pp. 52-53.


[33] Lectures in Philosophy of Religion, III, 108.


[34] Cited in G.F. Thomas, Religious Philosophies of the West (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1965), p. 280.


[35] Trans. George Eliot (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), p. xxxiv.


[36] Ibid., p. 281.


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[37] Ibid., p. xxxviii.


[38] Ibid., p. xxxix.


[39] Ibid., pp. 101, 109.


[40] Ibid., p. 110.


[41] Ibid., p. 336.


[42] Cited by Hayden V. White, "Feuerbach, Ludwig Andress," EP, III, 192. Cf. Gary North, Marx's Religion of
Revolution (Nutley, N.J.: Craig Press, 1968), pp. 42-44.


[43] Frederich Engels, Feuerbach: The Roots of the Socialist Philosophy, trans. A. Lewis (Charles H. Kerr & Co.,
1919), p. 102.


[44] Frederich Engels, Anti-Dühring, trans. Emile Burns (International Publishers, 1939), p. 54.


[45] Cf. Norman L. Torrey, "Diderot, Denis," EP, II, 397-403.


[46] Sechs Vorlesungen uber die Darwin'scle Theorie, 2nd ed. (Leipzig, 1868), p. 125.


[47] The Origin of Species, Everyman Library (London: J.M. Dent, 1956), p. 7.


[48] (Boston: Thomas & Andrews, 1803), I, Preface, 572 (cf. Chap. 39, "Of Generation").


[49] Cited by T.A. Goude, "Darwin, Erasmus," EP, II, 296.


[50] The Christian Faith, ed. H.R. Mackintosh and J.S. Stewart, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), pp. 143,
151.


[51] Ibid., p.145.


[52] Ibid., p. 150.


[53] Ibid., p. 154, 155.




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[54] Bernard Ramm, A Handbook of Contemporary Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,
1966), p. 64.


[55] Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., [1871-1873]1968), II, 15.


[56] Cf. Goudge, "Darwin, Charles Robert," Ioc. Cit.


[57] Cf. H.E.L. Melersh, FitzRoy of the Beagle (Mason & Lipscomb 1974).


[58] Cited by Green, op. Cit., p. 128; cf. C.E. Raven, John Ray, Naturalist, His Life and Works (Cambridge: University
Press, 1942). Ray's other works are worth noting for their theological commitment: The Wisdom of God Manifested in
the Works of Creation, 4th ed. (London, 1704); Three Physico-Theological Discourses, 3rd ed. (London, 1718).


[59] Interestingly, T.R. Malthus, from whom Darwin derived the crucial theoretical model in which to explain evolution,
also rejected the doctrine of hell (after a long devotion to the natural theologian and proto-utilitarian, William Paley).


[60] The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for
Life, 5th ed. (London, 1869), p. 571.


[61] The Variations of Animals and Plants Under Domestication (New York: 1868), II, 515-516.


[62] Cited by Goudge, op. cit., p. 295.


[63] Morton O. Beckner, "Darwinism," EP, II, 300-301; cf. T.A. Goudge, "Wallace, Alfred Russell," EP, VIII, 276.
Interestingly, Wallace was fascinated by and engaged in spiritualism and physical research.


[64] Michael M. Murray, The Thought of Teilhard de Chardin (New York: Seabury Press, 1966), p. 18.


[65] W.T. Jones, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1952), II, 924.


[66] Ronald Campbell Macfie, Theology of Evolution (London: University Press, 1933), p. 103.


[67] Beckner, op. Cit., p. 304.


[68] This antithesis admits of no synthesis as long as one refrains from reconstructing the antithetical members.
Admittedly some have tried to synthesize evolution to creation as the mode of God's operation; however, this requires
a reconstruction of the antithetical member under discussion (viz., biblical creationism). Some creation ideas might be
made evolutionary, but the biblical teaching could be made so only by a discriminating (rather than unconditional)
subject to the words of Christ or by a candid spurning and remodeling of orthodox hermeneutics. Robert L. Dabney's
words should ever be kept in mind in this regard:

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         Other pretended theologians have been seen advancing, and then as easily retracting, novel schemes
         of exegesis, to suit new geologic hypotheses. The Bible has often had cause here to cry, "Save me
         from my friends." . . . As remarked in a previous lecture, unless the Bible has its own ascertainable and
         certain law of exposition, it cannot be a rule of faith; our religion is but rationalism. I repeat, if any part of
         the Bible must wait to have its real meaning imposed upon it by another, and a human science, that part
         is at least meaningless and worthless to our souls. It must not expound itself independently; making
         other sciences ancillary, and not dominant over it [Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids:
         Zondervan Publishing House, [1878] 1972), p. 257].

[69] Cited in Loren Eisley, Darwin's Century (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1958), p. 193.


[70] AtlanticMonthly, October, 1860, pp. 409, 416. That the protasis of Gray's conditional is satisfied can be seen not
only from the quote at note 61 above, but also from Gray's own articles in Atlantic Monthly for July, August, and
October, 1860; Huxley saw Darwin's book as the death blow of teleology: "Criticisms on The Origin of Species" in Lay
Sermons &Addresses (London, 1870), p. 330; cf. EP, II, 295, 304.


[71] Op. Cit., p. 261.


[72] Op. Cit., pp. 15, 16.


[73] Science and Christian Tradition, cited in Jones, loc. Cit.


[74] Jones, op. Cit., p. 921.


[75] Cited in W.C. Dampier, A History of Science (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1944), p. 299.


[76] Life and Letters of T.H. Huxley, ed. Leonard Husley, 2nd ed. (London: 1903), I, 245-246.


[77] Darwinism, Science and the Bible," Darwin, Evolution, and Creation, ed. Paul Zimmerman (St. Louis: Concordia
Publishing House, 1959), p. 22.


[78] Op. Cit., p. 37.


[79] See Kenneth Smith, The Malthusian Controversy (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951) and R. J. Rushdoony,
The Myth of Overpopulation (Nutley, N.J.: Craig Press, 19690, pp. 22ff.


[80] Cited in Jones, op. Cit., p. 922.


[81] 6th ed. (New York: A.L. Burt, n.d.), p. 60.



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[82] Ibid., p. 83 (italics added).


[83] W.R. Thompson, Introduction to Everyman edition, The Origin of Species (London: J.M. Dent, 1956); cf. Beckner,
op. Cit., p. 297.


[84] Fleeming Jenkin, "Origin of Species," North British Review XLVI, 1867, pp. 149-171. An individual showing a
variation more favorable than that of his neighbors would soon lose it by crossing.


[85] Francis, Darwin, ed., Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (London: John Murray, 1888), p. 379.


[86] For example, if acquired characteristics are transferred to one's descendants by means of pangenes from the
various parts of the body which enter the male semen, how could a child born to a man who lost a limb be born with
both limbs?


[87] Cf. H.G. Cannon, Lamarck and Modern Genetics (New York: 1960); Rusch, op. Cit., p. 24; Bolton Dividheiser,
Evolution and the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969), pp. 224ff.


[88] Op. Cit., p. 383.


[89] Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews (New York: Appleton, 19879), p. 225 (italics added).


[90] Lay Sermons and Reviews, p. 323.


[91] Athenaeum, September 17, 1870, esp. pp. 376, 378.


[92] The Origin of Species, 5th ed., p. 545.


[93] Ibid., p. 251.


[94] Ibid., p. 550.


[95] Ibid., p. 251.


[96] Ibid., p. 564.


[97] Ibid., p. 570.


[98] 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).

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[99] Althenaeum, September 24, 1870, p. 409.


[100] Ibid., (italics added).


[101] Op. cit., pp. 294-295.


[102] Op cit., p. 302.


[103] Op. cit., p. 67.


[104] Jack Kaminsky, "Spencer, Herbert," EP, VII, 527.


[105] Enough literature is availableon these persistent problems in any theory of evolution that there is little need for
rehearsal of them here. Generally reliable titles are available from Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.,
Concordia Publishing House, and the Creation Research Society.


[106] "Species after Darwin," A Century of Darwin (London: 1958), p. 22.


[107] Loc. cit.


[108] "Twentieth Century Mythology," Chemistry, January, 1965, p. 17.


[109] Encyclopenie Francaise (Paris: Librairie Larousse, 1937), V, 82-83.


[110] TheVision of the Past, trans. J.M. Cohen (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), p. 123 (italics added).


[111] Oeuvres, II (1956), p. 298, cited in Piet F. Smulders, The Design of Teilhard de Chardin, trans. Arthur Gibson
(The Newman Press, 1967), p. 30 (italics original).


[112] The Phenomenon of Man, trans. Bernard Wall (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), p. 241.


[113] Op. cit., p. 925.


[114] Science and Common Sense (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1937), p. 229.


[115] George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution (New York: New American Library, 1951), p. 135.



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[116] The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, [1871] 1952), p. 593.


[117] A. Conan Doyle, The New Revelation (London, 1918), p. 70.


[118] Evolution in the Light of Modern Knowledge: A Symposium by a Group of British Philosophers and Clergymen
(London: Blackie & Son, 1925), p. 486.


[119] For example, Laparent, "Prehistory," in A. Robert and A. Triscott, Guide to the Bible (Paris: Desclee & Co.,
1955), II, 42.


[120] Stanley Beck, "Science and Christian Understanding," Dialog, Autumn, 1963, pp. 316, 317.


[121] Philosophy of Religion (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1963), p. 37.


[122] Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption (Dogmatics II), (London, 1952), pp. 39, 41.


[123] Systematic Theology (London: Nisbet & Co., Ltd., 1951), I, 143.


[124] How the World Began (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1961), p. 64.


[125] Tillich, op. cit., p. 280.


[126] "Creation, Religious Doctrine of," EP, II, 252.


[127] Cited by Ramm, op. cit., p. 29.


[128] Dogmatics in Outline (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), pp. 50-64.


[129] (Boston: Lockwood, Brooks & Co., 1876).


[130] Cf. McCosh, The Religious Aspect of Evolution (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1890); Drummond, Natural
Law in the Spiritual World (New York: James Pott & Co., 1904), and The Ascent of Man (New York: James Pott & Co.,
1894).


[131] The Theology of an Evolutionist (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1897), pp. 9-10.


[132] The Genesis Accounts of Creation (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964), p. 17.



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[133] A Theology of the Living Church (New York: Harper & Bros., 1953).


[134] Creation and Evolution (Grand Rapids: Internation Publications, 1958).


[135] The Young Evangelicals (New York: Harper and Row, 1974).


[136] Cf. Jones, op. cit., p. 925; Edwar Caird, The Evolution of Religion (Glasgow: 1893), I,ix-x.


[137] Thompson, loc. cit.


[138] Philip P. Weiner, Evolution and the Founders of Pragmatism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1949); John
Dewey, The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1910).


[139] Jacques Barzun, Darwin, Marx, Wagner (London, 1942), p. 106.


[140] Deitrich Bonhoeffer, "The Non-religious Interpretation of Biblical Concepts," A Reader in Contemporary
Theology, ed. J. Bowden and J. Richmoond (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967), esp. pp. 111-112.


[141] Op. cit., p. 304.


[142] See C. Lloyd Morgan, Emergent Evolution (london, 1923) and Samuel Alexander, Space, Time and Deity, 2
vols. (London: Macmillan & Co., 1920).


[143] Ibid., p. 361.


[144] Trans. Arthur Mitchell (New York, 1911).


[145] The Mind-Body Problem," Dimensions of Mind, A Symposium, ed. Sidney Hook (New York: Collier Books,
1961), p. 32.


146] Religion in the Making (London: Cambridge University Press, 1927), p. 140.


[147] Process and Reality (London: Cambridge University Press, 1929), pp. 492-493.


[148] Ibid., p. 497.


[149] Science and the Modern World (London: Cambridge University Press, 1932), p. 238.



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[150] Teilhard, Phenomenon of Man, op. cit.


[151] Ibid., pp. 56, 62.


[152] Ibid., pp. 42, 64, 65.


[153] Ibid., pp. 76, 301; cf. Man's Place in Nature, trans. Rene Hague (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), pp. 17-36.


[154] Phenomenon of Man, pp. 322, 259.


[155] The Future of Man, trans. Norman Denney (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), pp. 40, 54, 119; Phenomenon of
Man, p. 222; Man's Place in Nature, p. 100.


[156] Phenomenon, pp. 259, 322.


[157] "How I Believe" (Peiping: H. Vetch, 1936).


[158] Future of Man, p. 154.


[159] The Divine Milieu (New York: Harper and Row, 1960), p. 101.


[160] Future of Man, p. 305.


[161] C. Van Til, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Evolution and Christ (Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing
Co., n.d.), pp. 36, 41, 42, 43, 44.


[162] For example, E.S. Brightman, "A Temporalist View of God," Journal of Religion 11 (1932).


[163] Charles Hartshorne, The Divine Relativity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964), p. 90.


[164] The Source of Human Good (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946).


[165] Henry Wheeler Robinson, The Christian Experience of the Holy Spirit (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1930), p.
84.


[166] For example, Karl Heim, Christian Faith and Natural Science, trans. Neville H. Smith (London: SCM Press,
1953); The Transformation of the Scientific World View, trans. W.A. Whitehouse (London: SCM Press, 1953); H.H.
Farmer, The World and God (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1935).


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[167] The Logic of Perfection (New York: Open Court, 1962), p. 213.


[168] Op. cit., p. X.


[169] Reality as Social Process (Free Press, 1953), p. 134.


[170] Charles Hartshorne, William L. Reese, Philosophers Speak of God(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953),
p. 509.


[171]Ibid., pp. 2-4.


[172] Divine Relativity, p. X; Man's Vision of god (Willett, Clark, & Co., 1964), pp. 36-37, 234, 237.


[173] Divine Relativity, p. 136; Reality as Social Progress, p. 136.


[174] Cf.A Christian Natural Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965).


[175] E.R. Baltazar, "Teilhard de Chardin: A Philosophy of Procession," Continuum (Spring, 1964).


[176] The Meaning of God in Human Experience (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944), esp. p. 265.


[177] Peter Hamilton, The Living God and the Modern World (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1967), p. 226.


[178] Hartshorne, Divine Relativity, pp. 88-90


[179] Waiting on God (London: Collins, Fontana Books, 1959), p. 114. Weil's corresponding conception of creation
conforms to the pattern traced by Hardy's poem with which this article betgan; she says, "On God's part creation is not
an act of self-expansion but of restraint and renunciation" (p. 101). Assuming man's naturalistic and evolutionary
origin, the contact of God with the world and His influence upon it are increasingly doubted - until God's recession
from sovereignty becomes itself identified with the concept of creation! This same odd logic might as well eventually
identify God's disappearance with His presence.


[180] Milton K. Munitz, "Introduction," Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens, by Immanuel Kant (Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan Ann Arbor Paperback, 1969), p. v.


[181] Ibid., p. vii.


[182] Ibid., p. viii.


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[183] Robert A. Nisbet, Social Change and History: Aspects of the Western Theory of Development (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1969), chap. 4.


[184] Kant, Universal Natural History, p. 29.


[185] Ibid.


[186] Ibid., p. 151.


[187] Science and Faith (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 286-287.


[188] See my article, "Revelation, Speculation and Science," The Presbyterian Guardian 40 (December, 1970), no. 1.
Max Planck correctly states that "Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature, in Where is Science Going?
(London, 1933), p. 217. A.C.B. Lovell said in The Individual and the Universe (London, 1959) that when we discuss
the ultimate origin of matter we "cross the boundaries of physics into the realm of philosophy and theology." The
analysis given by Charles Hodge is noteworthy:


         From the nature of the case, what concerns the origin of things cannot be known except by a
         supernatural revelation. All else must be speculation and conjecture. And no man under the guidance of
         reason will renounce the teachings of a well-authenticated revelation, in obedience to human
         speculation, however ingenious. . . . Science as soon as she gets past the actual and the extant, is in
         the region of speculation, and is merged into philosophy, and is subject to its hallucinations [op. cit., p.
         22].

Biblical revelation is as well-authenticated as anything could be, being authenticated by God himself (cf. Westminster
Confession of Faith, I.4).


[189] Cf. Ramm, op. cit., pp. 23-24.




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Synapse III (Fall, 1974), © Covenant Media Foundation, 800/553-3938


                                          Evangelism and Apologetics
                                                            By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

The very reason why Christians are put in the position of giving a reasoned account of the hope that is in them is that
not all men have faith. Because there is a world to be evangelized (men who are unconverted), there is the need for
the believer to defend his faith: Evangelism naturally brings one into apologetics. This indicates that apologetics is no
mere matter of "intellectual jousting"; it is a serious matter of life and death - eternal life and death. The apologist who
fails to take account of the evangelistic nature of his argumentation is both cruel and proud. Cruel because he
overlooks the deepest need of his opponent and proud because he is more concerned to demonstrate that he is no
academic fool that to show how all glory belongs to the gracious God of all truth. Evangelism reminds us of who we
are (sinners saved by grace) and what our opponents need (conversion of heart, not simply modified propositions). I
believe, therefore, that the evangelistic nature of apologetics shows us the need to follow a presuppositional defense
of the faith. In contrast to this approach stand the many systems of neutral autonomous argumentation.


Sometimes the demand to assume a neutral stance, a noncommittal attitude toward the truthfulness of Scripture, is
heard in the area of Christian scholarship (whether it be the field of history, science, literature, philosophy, or
whatever). Teachers, researchers, and writers are often led to think that honesty demands for them to put aside all
distinctly Christian commitments when they study in an area which is not directly related to matters of Sunday worship.
They reason that since truth is truth wherever it may be found, one should be able to search for truth under the
guidance of the acclaimed thinkers in the field, even if they are secular in their outlook. "Is it really necessary to hold to
the teachings of the Bible if you are to understand properly the War of 1812, the chemical composition of water, the
plays of Shakespeare, or the rules of logic?" Such is their rhetorical question. Hereby the demand for neutrality arises
in the realm of apologetics (defense of the faith). We are told by some apologists that they would lose all hearing with
the unbelieving world if they were to approach the question of Scripture's truthfulness with a preconceived answer to
the question. We must be willing, according to this outlook, to approach the debate with unbelievers with a common
attitude of neutrality - a "nobody knows as yet" attitude. We must assume as little as possible at the outset, we are
told; and this means that we cannot assume any Christian premises or teachings of the Bible. Thus the Christian is
called upon to surrender his distinctive religious beliefs, to temporarily "put them on the shelf," to take a neutral
attitude in his thinking. Satan would love this to happen. More than anything else, this would prevent the conquest of
the world to belief in Jesus Christ as Lord. More than anything else, this would make professing Christians impotent in
their witness, ineffective in their evangelism, and powerless in their apologetic.


The apologetical neutralist should reflect upon the nature of evangelism; such reflection demonstrates that (at least) in
the following seven ways evangelism requires a presuppositional apologetic.



In attempting to bear glad tidings to the unbelieving world, the neutralist is
robbed of his treasure
Contrary to neutrality's demand, God's word demands unreserved allegiance to God and his truth in all our thought
and scholarly endeavors. It does so for a good reason.


Paul infallibly declares in Colossians 2:3-8 that "All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ." Note he

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says all wisdom and knowledge is deposited in the person of Christ - whether it be about the War of 1812, water's
chemical composition, the literature of Shakespeare, or the laws of logic! Every academic pursuit and every thought
must be related to Jesus Christ, for Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). To avoid Christ in your thought
at any point, then, is to be misled, untruthful, and spiritually dead.


To put aside your Christian commitments when it comes to defending the faith is willfully to steer away from the only
path to wisdom and truth found in Christ. It is not the end or outcome of knowledge to fear the Lord; it is the beginning
of knowledge to reverence Him (Prov. 1:7; 9:10). Paul draws to our attention the impossibility of neutrality "in order
that no one delude you with crafty speech." Instead we must, as Paul exhorts, be steadfast, confirmed, rooted, and
established in the faith as we were taught (v. 7). One must be presuppositionally committed to Christ in the world of
thought (rather than neutral) and firmly tied down to the faith which he has been taught, or else the persuasive
argumentation of secular thought will delude him. Hence the Christian is obligated to presuppose the word of Christ in
every area of knowledge; the alternative is delusion. In verse 8 of Colossians 2, Paul says, "Beware lest any man rob
you by means of philosophy and vain deceit." By attempting to be neutral in your thought you are a prime target for
being robbed - robbed by "vain philosophy" of "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" which are deposited in
Christ alone (v. 3). The unbeliever's darkened mind is an expression of his need to be evangelized.


Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 that to follow the methods dictated by the intellectual outlook of those who are outside of a
saving relationship to God is to have a vain mind and darkened understanding (vv. 17-18). Neutralist thinking, then, is
characterized by intellectual futility and ignorance. In God's light, we are able to see light (cf. Ps. 36:9). To turn away
from intellectual dependence upon the light of God, the truth about and from God, is to turn away from knowledge to
the darkness of ignorance. Thus, if a Christian wishes to begin his scholarly endeavors from a position of neutrality he
would, in actuality, be willing to begin his thinking in the dark. He would not allow God's word to be a light unto his path
(cf. Ps. 119:105). To walk on in neutrality, he would be stumbling along in darkness. God is certainly not honored by
such thought as he should be, and consequently God makes such reasoning vain (Rom. 1:21b). Neutrality amounts to
vanity in God's sight.


That "philosophy" which does not find its starting point and direction in Christ is further described by Paul in
Colossians 2:8. Paul is not against the "love of wisdom" (i.e., "philosophy" from the Greek) per se. Philosophy is fine
as long as one properly finds genuine wisdom - which means, for Paul, finding it in Christ (Col. 2:3). However, there is
a kind of "philosophy" which does not begin with the truth of God, the teaching of Christ. Instead this philosophy takes
its direction and finds its origin in the accepted principles of the world's intellectuals - in the traditions of men. Such
philosophy as this is the subject of Paul's disapprobation in Colossians 2:8. It is instructive for us, especially if we are
prone to accept the demands of neutrality in our thinking, to investigate his characterizations of that kind of
philosophy.


Paul says that it is "vain deception." What kind of thinking is it that can be characterized as "vain"? A ready answer is
found by comparison and contrast in scriptural passages that speak of vanity (e.g., Deut. 32:47; Phil. 2:16; Acts 4:25;
1 Cor. 3:20; 1 Tim. 1:6; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:15-18; Titus 1:9-10). Vain thinking is that which is not in accord with God's word.
A similar study will demonstrate that "deceptive" thinking is thought which is in opposition to God's word (cf. Heb. 3:12-
15; Eph. 4:22; 2 Thess. 2:10-12; 2 Pet. 2:13). The "vain deception" against which Paul warns, then, is philosophy
which operates apart from, and against, the truth of Christ. Note the injunction of Ephesians 5:6, "Let no man deceive
you with vain words." In Colossians 2:8 we are told to take care lest we be robbed through "vain deceit." Paul further
characterizes this kind of philosophy as "according to the tradition of men, after the fundamental principles of the
world." That is, this philosophy sets aside God's word and makes it void (cf. Mark 7:8-13), and it does so by beginning
with the elements of learning dictated by the world (i.e., the precepts of men; cf. Col. 2:20, 22). The philosophy which
Paul spurns is that reasoning which follows the presuppositions (the elementary assumptions) of the world, and
thereby is "not according to Christ."



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The neutralist overlooks that antithesis between the Christian and non-
Christian which explains why the believer is in a position to aid the
unbeliever
In Ephesians 4:17-18, Paul commands the followers of Christ that they "no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in
the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance
in them, because of the hardening of their heart." Christian believers must not walk, must not behave or live, in a way
which imitates the behavior of those who are unredeemed; specifically, Paul forbids the Christian from imitating the
unbeliever's vanity of mind. Christians must refuse to think or reason according to a worldly mind-set or outlook. The
culpable agnosticism of the world's intellectuals must not be reproduced in Christians as alleged neutrality; this
outlook, this approach to truth, this intellectual method evidences a darkened understanding and hardened heart. It
refuses to bow to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over every area of life, including scholarship and the world of thought.
Every man, whether an antagonist or an apologist for the Gospel, will distinguish himself and his thinking either by
contrast to the world or by contrast to God's word. The contrast, the antithesis, the choice is clear: either be set apart
by God's truthful word or be alienated from the life of God. Either have "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16) or the "vain
mind of the Gentiles" (Eph. 4:17). Either bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5) or
continue as "enemies in your mind" (Col. 1:21).


Those who follow the intellectual principle of neutrality and the epistemological method of unbelieving scholarship do
not honor the sovereign Lordship of God as they should; as a result, their reasoning is made vain (Rom. 1:21). In
Ephesians 4, as we have seen, Paul prohibits the Christian from following this vain mind-set. Paul goes on to teach
that the believer's thinking is diametrically contrary to the ignorant and darkened thinking of the Gentiles. "But you did
not learn Christ after this manner!" (v. 20). While the Gentiles are ignorant, "the truth is in Jesus" (v. 21). Unlike the
Gentiles who are alienated from the life of God, the Christian has put away the old man and has been "renewed in the
spirit of your mind" (vv. 22-23). This "new man" is distinctive in virtue of the "holiness of truth" (v. 24). The Christian is
completely different from the world when if comes to intellect and scholarship; he does not follow the neutral methods
of unbelief, but by God's grace he has new commitments, new presuppositions, in his thinking.


Attempting to be neutral in one's intellectual endeavors (whether research, argumentation, reasoning, or teaching) is
tantamount to striving to erase the antithesis between the Christian and the unbeliever. Christ declared that the former
was set apart from the latter by the truth of God's word (John 17:17). Those who wish to gain dignity in the eyes of the
world's intellectuals by wearing the badge of "neutrality" only do so at the expense of refusing to be set apart, by God's
truth. In the intellectual realm they are absorbed into the world so that no one could tell the difference between their
thinking and assumptions and apostate thinking and assumptions. The line between believer and unbeliever is
obscured.


No such compromise is even possible. "No man is able to serve two lords" (Matt. 6:24). "Whosoever therefore would
be a friend of the world maketh himself, an enemy of God" (James 4:4).



The nature of conversion is not continued neutrality and autonomy, but faith
and submission to the Lordship of Christ
When one becomes a Christian, his faith has not been generated by the thought patterns of worldly wisdom. The
world in its wisdom knows not God (1 Cor. 1:21) but considers the word of the cross to be foolish (1 Cor. 1:18, 21b). If
one keeps the perspective of the world, then, he shall never see the wisdom of God for what it really is; thereby he will
never be "in Christ Jesus" who is made unto believers "wisdom from God" (1 Cor. 1:30). Hence faith, rather than self-
sufficient sight, makes you a Christian, and this trust is directed toward Christ, not your own intellect. This is to say

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that the way you receive Christ is to turn away from the wisdom of men (the perspective of secular thought with its
presuppositions) and gain, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:12-16). When one
becomes a Christian, his faith stands not in the wisdom of men but in the powerful demonstration of the Spirit (1 Cor.
2:4-5).


Moreover, what the Holy Spirit causes all believers to say is "Jesus is Lord" (1 Cor. 12:3). Jesus was crucified,
resurrected, and ascended in order that he might be confessed as Lord (cf. Rom. 14:9; Phil. 2:11). Thus Paul can
summarize that message which must be confessed if we are to be saved as "Jesus is Lord" (Rom. 10:9). To become a
Christian one submits to the Lordship of Christ; he renounces autonomy and comes under the authority of God's Son.
The One whom Paul says we receive, according to Colossians 2:6, is Christ Jesus the Lord. As Lord over the believer,
Christ requires that the Christian love him with every faculty he possesses (including his mind, Matt. 22:37); every
thought must be brought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).



Therefore, the evangelistic apologist must come and reason as a new man if
he is to direct the unbeliever; his argumentation must be consistent with the
end toward which he aims
We note that the unqualified precondition of genuine Christian scholarship is that the believer (along with all his
thinking) be "rooted in Christ" (Col. 2:7). Paul commands us to be rooted in Christ and to shun the presuppositions of
secularism. In verse 6 of Colossians 2, he explains very simply how we should go about having our lives (including our
scholarly endeavors) grounded in Christ and thereby insuring that our reasoning is guided by Christian
presuppositions. He says, "As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk in Him"; that is, walk in Christ In
the same way that you received him. If you do this, you will be "established in your faith even as you were taught."
How then did you become a Christian? After the same fashion you should grow and mature in your Christian walk.
Above, we saw that our walk does not honor the thought patterns of worldly wisdom but submits to the epistemic
Lordship of Christ (i.e., his authority in the area of thought and knowledge). In this manner a person comes to faith,
and in this manner the believer must continue to live and carry out his calling - even when he is concerned with
scholarship, apologetics, or schooling.


Therefore, the new man, the believer with a renewed mind that has been taught by Christ, is no more to walk in the
intellectual vanity and darkness which characterizes the unbelieving world (read Eph. 4:17-21). The Christian has new
commitments, new presuppositions, a new Lord, a new direction, and goal - he is a new man; and that newness is
expressed in his thinking and scholarship, for (as in all other areas) Christ must have the preeminence in the realm of
apologetics and evangelism (Col. 1:18b).



If the evangelist is to be compelling in his witness he must stand on a firm
foundation of knowledge
God tells us to apply our hearts unto His knowledge if we are to know the certainty of the words of truth (Prov. 22:17-
21). It is characteristic of philosophers today that they either deny that there is absolute truth or they deny that one can
be certain of knowing the truth: it is either not there, or it is unreachable. However, what God has written to us (i.e.,
Scripture) can "make you know the certainty of the words of truth" (vv. 20-21). The truth is accessible! However, in
order to firmly grasp it one must heed the injunction of verse 17b: "apply your mind to my knowledge." God's
knowledge is primary, and whatever man is to know can only be based upon a reception of what God has originally
and ultimately known. Man must think God's thoughts after Him, for "in thy light shall we see light" (Ps. 36:9).


David's testimony was that "The Lord my God illumines my darkness" (Ps. 18:28). Into the darkness of man's

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ignorance, the ignorance which results from attempted self-sufficiency, come the words of God, bringing light and
understanding (Ps. 119:130). Thus Augustine correctly said, "I believe in order to understand." Understanding and
knowledge of the truth are the promised results when man makes God's word (reflecting God's primary knowledge)
his presuppositional starting point for all thinking. "Attend unto my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding in
order that you may preserve discretion and in order that your lips may keep knowledge" (Prov. 5:1-2).



The neutralist forgets the gracious nature of his salvation
To make God's word your presupposition, your standard, your instructor and guide, however, calls for renouncing
intellectual self-sufficiency - the attitude that you are autonomous, able to attain unto genuine knowledge independent
of God's direction and standards. The man who claims (or pursues) neutrality in his thought does not recognize his
complete dependence upon the God of all knowledge for whatever he has come to understand about the world. Such
men give the impression (often) that they are Christians only because they, as superior intellects, have figured out ore
verified (to a large or significant degree) the teachings of Scripture. Instead of beginning with God's sure word as
foundational to their studies, they would have us to think that they begin with intellectual self-sufficiency and (using
this as their starting-point) work up to a "rational" acceptance of Scripture. While Christians may fall into an
autonomous spirit while following their scholarly endeavors, still this attitude is not consistent with Christian profession
and character. "The beginning of knowledge is the fear of Jehovah" (Prov. 1:7). All knowledge begins with God, and
thus we who wish to have knowledge must presuppose God's word and renounce intellectual autonomy. "Talk no
more proudly: let not arrogance come from your mouth, for Jehovah is a God of knowledge" (1 Sam. 2:3).


Jehovah is the one who teaches man knowledge (Ps. 94:10). So whatever we have, even the knowledge which we
have about the world, has been given to us from God. "What do you have that you have not received?" (1 Cor. 4:7).
Why then would men pride themselves in intellectual self-sufficiency? "According as it stands written, He that glorieth,
let him glory in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:31). Humble submission to God's word must precede man's every intellectual
pursuit.


Apologetics is evangelistic in nature. The apologist deals with people who have darkened minds, running from the light
of God, refusing to submit to the Lord. The apologist must not demonstrate the same mind-set by striving for a
neutrality which in effect puts him in the same quagmire. He must aim for the conversion of the unbelieving antagonist,
and thus he must discourage autonomy and encourage submissive faith. The apologist must evidence, even in his
method of argumentation, that he is a new man in Christ; he uses presuppositions which are at variance with the
world. He makes the word of God his starting point, knowing that it alone gives him the assured knowledge which the
unbeliever cannot have while in rebellion against Christ. The non-Christian's thinking has no firm foundation, but the
Christian declares the authoritative word from God. If he did not, he could not evangelize at all: he could only pool his
ignorance and speculation with the unbeliever. In doing so the Christian would be robbed of all the treasure of wisdom
and knowledge which is deposited in Christ alone. Besides this, the apologist who attempts to show his intellectual
self-sufficiency by moving to a position of neutrality in order that he might "prove" certain isolated truths in the
Christian system forgets that grace alone has made him the Christian that he is; he should, instead, continue to think
and behave in the same manner in which he received Christ (by faith, submitting to the Lordship of Christ).


Therefore, in light of the character of evangelism, the nature of the unbeliever, the nature of the regenerated apologist,
the nature of conversion, the nature of genuine knowledge and salvation, the Christian apologist ought to use a
presuppositional approach in his defense of the faith. The evangelistic character of apologetics demands nothing less
"But set apart Christ as lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give
an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and respect," (1 Pet. 3:15); "we do not war according to the
flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses,
destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God - we are taking every thought
captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

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PA016(1974), © Covenant Media Foundation -- 800/553-3938.


  A Critique of the Evidentialist Apologetical Method of John
                      Warwick Montgomery
                                                            By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

By means of three parables J. W. Montgomery attempts to supply some reason for drawing back from
presuppositional apologetics.[1] After examining his critique of Van Til's position, we shall turn to a (non-parabolic)
analysis of Montgomery's own.


A. A Non-Telling Parabolic Critique
It is quite important when one is defending his position against criticism which comes in the form of a parable to make
sure, at the outset, that the parable is not in fact a parody which counterfeits his position. That is, quite simply, the
argumentative parable must be appropriate to the question at hand; it must accurately reflect the point of view being
criticized. For instance, one gets himself into a very misguided tangle if he, when confronted with John Wisdom's
parable of the gardener as used by Antony Flew, does not begin by pointing out that, contrary to the terms in which
the story is told, the evidence for God's existence is far from ambiguous or vague. The Christian contention is in fact
that the evidence for God's existence is unavoidable and clear, so much so that all men are without excuse for
rebellion against the truth about God. Now that puts things in a much different light than the parable would suggest.
Thus one must not be deceived by clever stories into arguing a modified form of his position. Parables are not
themselves to be ruled out as argumentative instruments, but as with any such instrument, they must be properly and
appropriately used.


1. Seeing Through Tlon
This brings us to the first parable used by J. W. Montgomery against Van Til. It is an interesting story, but after all
inappropriate and, thereby, inconsequential as an argument against presuppositionalism. In the first place, unlike
Montgomery's story, the non-Christian does not, in fact, have the ability systematically to falsify the world as it reveals
the living and true God. In his suppression of the truth every unbeliever is inconsistent (and it he were not, this would
be the crack of doom); thus in actual practice the non-Christian escapes what, in principle, would be his total inability
to interpret things properly according to his espoused presuppositions. Secondly, contrary to Montgomery's allegation,
in the presuppositionalist outlook the "facts" are indeed powerful to stop the non-Christian's falsifying interpretation -
that is, no one can make "reality yield." However, the state of affairs in the world (even as revelatory of God) does not
deprive man of his freedom to rebel against God. The process of suppressing the clear truth and attempting to
substitute a different outlook (an attempt always mitigated by the power of God's revelation in the "facts") is precisely
such rebellion; even though the unbeliever knows better in his "heart of hearts," he nonetheless has been granted the
ability to oppose the truth. Thirdly, Montgomery's parable overlooks the fact that, as presuppositionalists maintain,
common grace restrains the sinful rebellion of the unbeliever (and hence his falsifying interpretations of the "facts").
Therefore, the "facts" are a clear revelation of God, the non-Christian is free to attempt suppression of the truth, that
suppression is never completely successful (due to the power of revelation and common grace), and yet the rebel
thinker can stubbornly remain with his espoused presuppositions (avoiding an outward admission of the truth by
various intellectual maneuvers and emotional patterns of coping, none bringing him genuine satisfaction).
Montgomery's parable, then, fails to distinguish between what the non-Christian actually knows and what he pretends
to know, between what happens in his system in practice and in principle. The unbeliever is always the image of God
who lives on borrowed capital, as Van Til has continually stressed, and thus sinners can be reasoned with on a
presuppositional level. Their "Encyclopedia of Tlon" is never a match for the revelation of God in creation and


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Scripture.


Coming to his actual point, Montgomery asks how the non-Christian interpretation of things is to be distinguished from
reality.[2] Although he has not established why this should be a problematic matter for Van Til, the presuppositionalist
can oblige him with an answer. Both Christian and non-Christian recognize the difference between their descriptions
and interpretation of reality (on the basis of linguistic terms and behavioral responses, if nothing else). Both are God's
creatures and suited to receive His revelation. Natural revelation constantly bears in upon them both, showing them
the truth about God; this is supplemented with God's verbal revelation of the truth. The non-Christian's suppression of
the truth (i.e., his reading things through colored glasses) is an ethical (not metaphysical) state of affairs; he distorts
the truth by willful choice and willfully persists in his rebellion (i.e., cements the glasses to his face). Therefore, the
unbeliever is able (though unwilling) to distinguish the sinful interpretation of things from reality, and God's revelation
ably distinguishes the two. The unbeliever can be shown to be wrong, for the choice of world-views is not a
subjectivist's guessing game but a matter of submission to or rebellion against the truth of God's revelation. But
perhaps Montgomery has more than this in mind when he asks his question; maybe he wants to know how we get the
unbeliever overtly to distinguish between a sinful interpretation and reality (i.e., to admit that he is wrong). If so, it is
likely that Montgomery forgets how complex a matter it is to bring a man to change his mind on fundamental or
important issues; people alter their beliefs for various reasons, and these various factors combine in different ways
and have different effects from individual to individual (this is true even outside of specifically religious questions). A
man can genuinely be shown the truth, be given justification for believing, and yet refrain from seeing it as the truth;
what amounts to justification or sufficient reason for belief will (both in theory and effect) differ between people.
However, keeping that complexity in mind, we can broadly indicate an answer to the extension of Montgomery's
question posed above. First, we need to notice how the unbeliever attempts to escape the truth about God; by
apostate presuppositions fostered in an unrighteous way of life (these are used to "naturalize" God's revealed truth or
pervert it into false religious systems). Second, notice why the unbeliever does this; inherited depravity, a stone heart,
and guilt-induced flight from God. Now if we intend to change the unbeliever's mind we should, realizing that he is
God's image and that he depends upon God's revelation to know any truth at all, press his espoused presuppositions
to foolishness - that is, work on those glasses which falsely "color" the facts. Appealing to the unbeliever's guilt
(violation of God's moral law) and his better knowledge (for the "facts" or actual state of affairs do reveal God to him)
we call on him responsibly to turn from rebellion against God to submission and obedience to the truth, looking to the
Holy Spirit to change his heart in order that he might submit to the authority of God's redemptive word (Scripture). That
realistically is how we get the unbeliever to distinguish Tlon from reality.


If the facts were "neutral" they would not provide the revelation necessary to distinguish sinful interpretations of the
world from reality; all interpretations would then be autobiographical impositions of meaning. Thus it is actually the non-
presuppositional viewpoint which endangers the possibility of meaningfully criticizing one another's positions, the
ability to distinguish error from reality, and the prophylaxis against successful myth-making. Moreover, by recognizing
the sinner's ability to suppress the truth and see things through colored glasses which he cements to his face, the
presuppositionalist acknowledges that "facts" or the state of affairs do not automatically determine the outworking of a
man's life in some pre-established pattern; the sinner is accounted as able to rebel against the truth or to submit to the
truth, to live in antagonism or obedience to God's revelation. Thus the presuppositional position reckons with the
freedom of men and the complexity involved in the conversion of their thinking; the issues of guilt and authority are
influential in presuppositionalism, while a non-presuppositional approach may not take proper account of the human
condition and the factors accounting for man's attempts to twist the facts (i.e., may not explain the very plot of
Montgomery's parable). Also, the presuppositionalist recognizes that the "facts" will only have argumentative effect
when the disputants are working upon the same presuppositions; otherwise the unbeliever will use a paradigm which
enables him to reinterpret all the evidence. Thus it is the non-presuppositionalist who would obliviously jeopardize the
feasibility of the believer and unbeliever criticizing each other's positions in any significant sense. All in all it would
seem that Montgomery's parable is really putting the pinch on his own position, not that of a presuppositionalist.


But let us supply even further attenuation for Montgomery's question. We have seen that the point of his parable ("how
is Tlon to be distinguished from reality?"[3] against presuppositional apologetics is far from trenchant in two suggested


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senses for the question (i.e., how are erroneous world-views and reality distinguishable in general principle, and how
do we get the unbeliever overtly to distinguish them?). However, perhaps Montgomery's question amounts to: how
can Mr. X adjudicate between the claim of the Bible and the claim of secularism ("which is the devil's city and which
the civitas Dei?"[4]). Now the question assumes that Mr. X is either a neutral bystander, a self-sufficient unbeliever, or
a convicted unbeliever. If Mr. X is taken to be a neutral bystander who is considering two hypotheses, there is no
practical need to answer the question, for such a situation is never instantiated (no one is ever neutral, but is always
caught up in the process of either opposing or obeying God's truth). If Mr. X considers himself autonomous in his
unbelief, his search for independent standards by which he can pass judgment upon God's revelation (i.e., as God,
determining good and evil) is a form of rebellion; hence he needs conviction of his waywardness as usual (this case
has been discussed before). Why should such a person as this believe the Bible as opposed to some other
alternative? Well, there are many "factual" and logical books on the market, so a "factual" and logical demonstration of
the Bible need not sway him as to its significance or uniqueness, and his sinful outlook will cause him to reinterpret the
"facts" and arguments about the Bible. Therefore, the foundational reason he should believe that the Bible is true is
because God (a genuine and unavoidable authority) says so; if he refuses to bow to the self-attesting word from God,
then he is led to moral and epistemological futility. It is this futility which we presuppositionally work on (so that the
"evidence" will really count and be given the correct interpretation). However, getting to the kernel of our attenuated
sense of Montgomery's question, if Mr. X is not proceeding in an autonomous attitude but has a true desire to find God
(i.e., has come under conviction) without being deceived by false religious options, then we need simply point him to
Scripture; for only the Bible's teaching on justification will suit the moral conviction of God's law, and only God's
revelation will be a suitable relief to his epistemological despair. There are no other answers once the right problem
has been realized! Everything else smacks of irrelevance except God's truth and grace. If Mr. X is under conviction he
does not need "evidential" arguments, he needs God's sure word.


Therefore, having seen the inappropriateness of Montgomery's parable ("The Universe of Tlon") in a critique of
presuppositionalism and the fact that his commentary upon the parable presents un-telling questions for a
presuppositional apologetic, we are forced to deny Montgomery's conclusion. People can criticize each other's
spectacles (presuppositions) and New Jerusalem is not interchangeable with Tlon for anyone[5]! If anything, the
parable puts the pinch on Montgomery's own non-presupposistional method. The presuppositionalist points out the
clarity and authority of God's revelation as well as the knowledge which each man eradicable has of God. Even in
rebellion the sinner cannot escape the truth about God. The final outworking of his autonomous presuppositions and
their end will be hell, and there God shall be clearly known! So no matter where a man may be along the way, the as-
yet-unconsummated attempt to escape God is itself a testimony to God. Whether the sinner lets the light of God's
revelation through in a conscious fashion, whether he attempts to block it out, or whether he inconsistently does a little
of both, he knows the truth about God. Whether in submission of rebellion the man confronted by the
presuppositionalist is seen as "knowing God."[6] This is the answer Van Til would begin with in reply to Montgomery's
misleading parabolic criticism, not the answer that Montgomery puts into his mouth[7] - an answer which is insufficient
precisely because it is incomplete.


2. Misleading Quotation
Perhaps this would be the place to make a methodological observation about Montgomery's critique of Van Til. We
noted earlier that parables in themselves are not illegitimate vehicles for making a point of criticism - as long as they
are appropriate. Now how is it that Montgomery comes up with the parable which he directs against Van Til? The
unsuspecting reader is led to believe that the parable is appropriate because it follows a lengthy quotation from Van
Til; however, in the way that Montgomery has handled Van Til's materials it becomes apparent that what we really
have is subtle straw-man tactics. By not paying attention to the context out of which he lifts the quotes, and by
arranging the quotes in a way suited to his intended criticism, Montgomery does not really allow Van Til to speak for
himself. Montgomery sets up the problem and then sets up the answer, trimming his opponent's writings to fit the
pattern desired. This is why he has ended up with an inappropriate parable in criticism of Van Til. As we see on pages
382-383 in Jerusalem and Athens, what Montgomery (via his parable) wants to make of the quotations from Van Til on
pages 380-381 is that, by avoiding an inductive or factual apologetic, Van Til's position loses the objectivity of


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evidence and the fruitfulness of argumentation. That this does not do justice to Van Til will be clear to anyone who will
bother to read the context from which Montgomery takes his quotations[8]. I offer a few examples:


         The Aquinas-Butler type of argument...concedes that since historical facts are "unique" nothing certain
         can be asserted of them,...It is compromising in the first place with respect to the objective clarity of the
         evidence for the truth of Christian theism...Men ought, says Calvin following Paul, to believe in God, for
         each one is surrounded with a superabundance of evidence with respect to him.[9]


Van Til criticizes Butler's apologetic for also overlooking that the sinner has an axe to grind, for proceeding as if "they
were not anxious to keep from seeing the facts for what they really are."[10] (Here we see that Montgomery's parable
proves Van Til's point - men will attempt to falsify the evidence!) The same criticism would apply to modern day
followers of Butler's method - e.g., Montgomery. Van Til says that the subjective element (which Montgomery's
parable takes to be paramount) comes into the picture in only a restricted sense,[11] and he says of the
presuppositional antithesis between believer and unbeliever:


         It does not mean that any one person fully exemplifies either system perfectly...So then the situation is
         always mixed. In any one's statement of personal philosophy there will be remnants of his old man...In
         the case of the non-believer this keeps him from being fully Satanic in his opposition to God...in
         principle there are two mutually exclusive systems, based upon two mutually exclusive principles of
         interpretation.[12]


Moreover the discussion from which Montgomery takes his quite had been used by Van Til in order to show what was
necessary in the argument between believer and unbeliever was to be "really fruitful"[13]. Consider further samples
from the immediate context of Montgomery's quotations:


         The objective evidence for the existence of God and of the comprehensive governance of the world by
         God is therefore so plain that he who runs may read. Men cannot get away from this evidence...
         Whether men engage in inductive study with respect to the facts of nature about them or engage in
         analysis of their own self-consciousness they are always face to face with God their maker.[14]


Van Til makes a point that "Every bit of historical investigation...is bound to confirm the truth of the claims of the
Christian position", and he affirms that the falsifying interpretations of the facts by the unbeliever is not something
unavoidable which the sinner cannot help doing: "...it is evident that by the sinner's epistemological reaction I mean
his reaction as an ethically responsible creature of God."[15] As before Van Til asserts of the non-Christian that "they
oppose God's revelation everywhere. They do not want to see the facts of nature for what they are"; and yet he also
says further, "It is asked what person is consistent with his own principles. Well I have consistently argued that no one
is and that least of all the non-Christian is...Neither do I forget that no man is actually fully consistent in working
according to these assumptions."[16] Montgomery has simply not taken all the factors into account when he selects
certain quotations from Van Til; those quotations must be understood in their context. When they are, it is manifest
that they cannot be used as raw material for the type of parable Montgomery contrives. Van Til's assertions, properly
read in context, certainly do not lead to the outlook of Montgomery's parable - which is precisely why it is deficient as a
critique of Van Til's position. It has nothing to do with Van Til's position, despite the misleading appearance created by
tendentious proof texting of Van Til's publications. Indeed, the problems which are evident in the parable (to
whomever they may apply) are themselves vanquished by Van Til's teachings in the very places from which
Montgomery quotes him!




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3. Collision With Credibility
Montgomery now turns from the spurious to the outlandish; having misrepresented Van Til parabolically, Montgomery
next alleges that Van Til's position is threatened with "solipsistic collapse."[17] Here Montgomery evidences that he
fails to understand either solipsism or Van Til, or both. Nowhere in Van Til's publications will anyone find teachings
that even remotely approximate the idea that he alone exists in a fundamental sense and that everything else exists
only in a secondary sense as his perception or thought; indeed one cannot find grounds for even vaguely associating
Van Til with the root phenomenalism (e.g., Esse est percipi) that leads to solipsism. The ironic thing is this: while
Montgomery has outlandishly charged Van Til with having a position that reduces, of all things, to solipsism, in fact
philosophers have usually seen solipsism as a threatening implicate of positivism[18] and methodological solipsism
has been correlated with the ego-centric predicament - which two things are much closer to (if not virtually
homogeneous with) Montgomery's own inductive epistemology! Not only is it outlandish for Montgomery to charge
Van Til with solipsism, but the parable which Montgomery produces[19] to go along with his charge contains an
alleged example of presuppositional apologetic encounter which itself is outlandish. If Montgomery expects to render
an effective critique of his opponents he is going to have to learn that ground rule one is to represent them in credible
and responsible fashion - and the encounter between the Shadok and Gibi[20] is far from that. While Montgomery
would have his reader falsely think that presuppositionalism advocates an unreasoning, sheer authoritarian,
apologetic argument that requires unreserved commitment on the part of the unbeliever before evidence can be
presented, anyone who will read Van Til in a responsible Christian fashion and in (at least) academic honesty will
easily discover that he holds:


         It must always be remembered that the first requirement for effective witnessing is that the position to
         which witness is given be intelligible...The second requirement for effective witnessing is that he to
         whom the witness is given must be shown why he should forsake his own position and accept that
         which is offered him.[21]


With regret we recall that presuppositionalism was given the same blatant misrepresentation by Pinnock[22] and that
Pinnock is of the same school as Montgomery (ideologically and institutionally); we exhort that school to realize that
neither trustworthiness nor erudition are supported by this kind of critique. The presuppositionalist is willing to listen to
constructive critique as long as the critic will at least give a fair representation of the position; outside of that there
would be no reason to listen.


To oblige Montgomery let us briefly respond to the parable, "Worlds in Collision." Is it possible that a religious
stalemate could be generated if an unbelieving position responded to the presuppositional position with exactly the
same line of argumentation? No. To show this we need only look at Montgomery's story. The Shadoks and Gibis
come from different planets; now the parable either envisions a monotheistic or polytheistic framework. If the latter,
there is no practical need to respond. Now in a monotheistic framework if the Shadoks and Gibis really say exactly the
same things to one another (with the exception of formal labels for God, etc.), then they are endorsing the same
religion and need no longer argue at all! That is, if the Christian presuppositionalist met someone who held to a Triune
God who is clearly revealed in nature, who created and sustains all things, who sovereignly decrees the course of
history, who sent the Son to die for the sins of the elect (who, being born in the sinful race of the first and
representative man, are totally unable to propitiate God's eternal wrath), who authoritatively revealed Himself in
Scripture and who sends the Holy Spirit to regenerate and sanctify His people, etc. - if he met someone holding such
a view who carried it out with the same responses and implications, then the only kind of argument he could have
would be a merely linguistic one. You see the problem with Montgomery's parable (beyond the fact that it does not
exemplify the actual transcendental argumentation a real presuppositionalist wold use) is that he does not give any
reason why "The two positions are logically incompatible...";[23] the rest of the story (e.g., each disputant repeating
exactly the same assertions as the other) is not consonant with that foundational premise or condition. Now if we
instead take that premise seriously and say that the positions to be described in the story are and must be
incompatible, then (not only is the story wrong-headed, but) the type of argument put into the presuppositionalist's


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mouth (whether Shadok or Gibi, take your pick) would not be that which appears at all. Instead the presuppositionalist
would seek to find out if the opponent has a theoretically justified epistemology (e.g., could answer the one and many
dilemma, substantiate the assumptions of non-contradiction and uniformity, etc.); he would attack at that fundamental
level, bringing in the moral culpability of the unbeliever (i.e., law violations), and showing the strength and justification
for his own world-view. If the opponent had the same approach in every respect, then we are back to the more
linguistic dispute already mentioned.


Montgomery's parable would only be telling against someone who endorses a bare authoritarian apologetic, someone
who holds to only a formal authority for his religion, someone who does no more than demand unthinking deference to
a contentless claim to dominion; two people with such an approach surely would have no evidence to appeal to in a
dispute with each other! However, Dr. Van Til's arguments have never seen that impasse, and the reason is simply
that his apologetic is nothing like that portrayed by Montgomery. Van Til is a Biblical Christian (who derives a
presuppositional defense of the faith from Scriptural teaching; Cf. II.E above), not a Moslem. Montgomery should
know the difference. And because Van Til is not a Dooyeweerdian (even of the Toronto I.C.S. brand), Montgomery's
example of the instantiation of the Shadok-Gibi impasse[24] is irrelevant as a critique of Van Til (since the illustration
deals with a Toronto Dooyeweerdian). Montgomery should also know the difference between these two - at least he
should have indicated that while a Dooyaweerdian does not think presuppositions can be analyzed or argued for in
any way, Van Til does. This noted, we would go on to caution that Montgomery's own alternative to the Zylstra-
Marcuse impasse should not be identified with Van Til's nor should it be considered very telling (e.g., R.M. Hare's
parable of the insane blik would be far from discomfited by Montgomery's inductive marshalling of the "facts"![25]).


So then, we have seen two parables generated by Montgomery go by the boards; the first was inappropriate, the
second was outlandish. What they had in common was a lack of basic understanding of Van Til's presuppositionalism.
That deficiency is also evident in the commentary offered by Montgomery between his second and third parables.[26]
Besides being misguided on Van Til's attitudes toward facts, evidence, aprioristic circularity, and positive
demonstration just as Pinnock was,[27] Montgomery fails to see that Van Til's apologetic claims that use of facts and
logic is not simply directed in a different direction on non-Christian presuppositions, but is in principle impossible. Thus
Van Til's opponents could not (contrary to Montgomery's idea[28]) "employ his own two-edged sword against him"; the
question is not that of mere personal volitions and commitments ("...right reason...begins with commitment to my
presuppositional starting point"), but which presuppositions will support the use of induction and deduction for anybody
who wants to reason at all. The unbeliever cannot turn Van Til's apologetic around, for that apologetic shows all world-
views except that of Biblical Christianity to be founded on presuppositions of an untenable rational-irrational nature;
non-Christian thinking is inherently self-defeating, while Scripture grounds rationality and factuality as well as their
fruitful interaction. Van Til does not merely show the unbeliever to be in a different volitional tower of personal
commitment, he shows the unbeliever stranded in epistemological futility; he then goes on to show the strength of
Christian presuppositions as founded in the authoritative revelation of God. Montgomery has really missed the point if
he thinks the unbeliever could use Van Til's presuppositional apologetic against him! We do not arrive at religious
stalemate with presuppositionalism (although the hardness of the unbeliever's heart can prevent him from turning to
the truth), we see revealed wisdom showing the folly of worldly foolishness. A world-view as treated in
presuppositional apologetics is not merely a matter of personal choice, it is also a matter of clear truth. Only a
presuppositional apologetic gets to the bottom of the sinner's thinking and rebellion; only a presuppositional approach
can effectively deal with both vain science (and its supposed factual foundations) and insane bliks (with their self-
defeating presuppositions). Against Montgomery, then, the Christian must insist that when world views collide, the
stakes are simply too high to operate anything but presuppositionally; this is the only preservative from having our
witness absorbed into the rationalist-irrationalist schemes of religious anarchy.


4. The Underlying Error
We would pause, before going on to Montgomery's third parable, to point out that in the two preceding parables
Montgomery erroneously assumes that, on a presuppositional outlook, there is no essential difference between the


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believing and unbelieving moral-epistemological condition. What we mean is this: in the first parable it is assumed that
believer and unbeliever have jaundiced vision in the same way or respects, and in the second parable it is assumed
that the believer and unbeliever are both making irrational, unthinking choices as to the truth. The moral condition and
the epistemological quandary have been taken as identical between Christian and non-Christian. On that misleading
assumption Montgomery has misjudged that one could criticize presuppositionalism by simply reducing it to the
problems of its opponents, by simply turning its approach around and directing it at Christianity itself. Thus
Montgomery would have the devil's city indistinguishable from the city of God (since everyone has jaundiced vision)
and would have the Shadok hopelessly encounter the Gibi (since everyone makes an ungrounded personal
commitment to a metaphysic on bare authoritarian grounds). Yet Montgomery's parables fail to draw certain
necessary distinctions and thereby render his criticism pointless; as noted earlier, Montgomery has simply been
jousting with a straw-man that he set up. Van Til's position is not subject to Montgomery's criticism because Van Til
does not maintain that the believer and unbeliever are in essentially the same moral-epistemological condition
(making it impossible to distinguish or argue for the truth).


Let us see where Montgomery has gone astray. His critical commentary on the first parable begins with the
assumption that there are no exceptions to jaundiced vision since sin is a universal condition.[29] There is a far-
reaching, though subtle, error here. It is unquestionable that if any man says he has not sinned he is a liar;[30]
however, there is a principial difference between the sinning of a believer and the sinning of the unregenerate[31]
Montgomery does not draw that distinction and so is mislead into thinking that believer and unbeliever are morally
incapacitated to the same degree, as if neither could see the kingdom of God;[32] the teaching of God's word is to the
exact opposite effect, saying that the unbeliever cannot discern the things of the Spirit[33] while that very Spirit of truth
teaches the believer all things.[34] The vision of the sinner is jaundiced, but in principle the vision of the believer is
transparent. Therefore, we must reject whole-heartedly the subtle but drastic error which conditions Montgomery's
critical commentary. Not only is the conditional premise of Montgomery's criticism untrue to Scripture, it is untrue to
Van Til's position. Montgomery has set up things in his parable and in his critical commentary so that both believer
and unbeliever would, to use Van Til's metaphor, have colored glasses cemented to their faces; however, had
Montgomery read Van Til's metaphor in its literary context he would have seen that Van Til maintains, while they both
have the facts in common, it is the sinner (not the saint) who has colored glasses on his nose[35]. Montgomery's
quote from Van Til[36] picks up immediately after Van Til makes this essential distinction; I hate to have to say this,
but it appears as if Montgomery is willfully deceiving his reader as to what Van Til's position is. I hope, contrary to
appearances, that this is not the case. But the fact remains that Montgomery's criticism (error cannot be distinguished
from reality if you are a presuppositionalist since there are no exceptions to jaundiced vision) is pointless since the
presuppositionalist does not hold to what Montgomery alleges.


The same criticism can be made with respect to Montgomery's second parable. There he portrays the believer and
unbeliever in the same epistemological quandary, being forced to a voluntaristic rationalism that cannot argue primary
truths since they are arbitrarily and irrationally chosen. This is not what Scripture teaches,[37] nor is it an implication of
Van Til's position. Montgomery would have his reader think that Van Til simply accepts that the difference in outlook
between Christianity and its opponents is a matter of irrational choice; however, one should note the "..." in
Montgomery's quotation from Van Til[38]. The excised material is far from insignificant. It refers Van Til's reader to a
dilemma he has been formulating throughout the book: one must accept either the "scientific method" as his
epistemological authority and thereby trim down or distort the Christian message, or he must accept the Christian
Scriptures as his epistemological authority and use science appropriately without compromising the Bible's message.
Van Til has demonstrated what the outcome is if one chooses to follow the first option; the method which appeals to
facts as if they were "brute" renders predication impossible[39] and cannot talk about "facts" at all.[40] It is now evident
what accepting the "scientific method" at all costs entails according to Van Til; it entails epistemological futility which
can be avoided on Christian presuppositions. Hence the difference of choice between the Christian and his opponent
is more than a mere matter of differing and arbitrary volitions; it involves the very salvaging of the epistemological
enterprise. That is why Van Til says "we need not worry too greatly" if the opponent intimates that Christianity is simply
a matter of irrational choice; that hint or suggestion overlooks the outcome of the unbiblical choice and thus the


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dilemma facing the unbeliever (as well as inductivist apologist), a dilemma which gives sufficient reason for affirming
Christianity. When Montgomery quotes from Van Til he conveniently omits Van Til's reference to that dilemma, making
it appear (contrary to fact) that Van Til would make a rootless choice of Christianity at all costs. One must recognize
the value of Van Til's formulated dilemma before he goes on to see Van Til's further distinction between the notice of
choice itself of the positivist and of the Christian, differing as to their respective presuppositions of autonomy or
election. Montgomery cites the second distinction but edits the first one out, and only in this way can it seem plausible
to turn the presuppositionalist's apologetic in on itself. Thus again Montgomery's criticism (Christianity cannot
successfully argue with unbelief if you are a presuppositionalist since the hopeless circularity of an arbitrary faith
commitment is seen at the base of both positions) is pointless since the presuppositionalist does not hold to what
Montgomery alleges (and intimates by editing his quotations). Montgomery has gone far afield by trying, in this
manner, to reduce presuppositionalism to the problems of its opponents; the presuppositionalist's sword is not two-
edged in Montgomery's sense at all (cutting against unbelief and belief equally well). By depending upon the self-
attesting truth of Scripture for its directives, presuppositionalism attempts to embody the power of that word of God
which is sharper than any two-edged sword!


5. An Ancient Apologetic Problem for Whom?
Having seen that Montgomery's first two parables and commentary have no critical strength since they are built up
from misrepresentations and erroneous assumptions and since they pose no problematic questions for
presuppositionalism, we move on to look at his third and final parable. It embodies the same syndrome of
misrepresentation and false accusation as the previous two (Van Til is called an "aprioristic apologist" who sends one
into "the cloud-cuckoo land of fideism" because he requires the unbeliever to accept Christianity before evaluating
evidence and thus cuts off all opportunity to determine its truth value prior to a mere volitional commitment[41]) and,
therefore, requires and deserves no further comment (the reader is again directed to III.A.1, especially numbers
9,10,11,12,14, 16,19,20,21). This much ought to be said: Christ our Lord delineated a very effective apologetic saying
that the world would know that He had been sent by the Father when it saw the love expressed among believers.[42]
How effective does Montgomery's apologetic then seem if he does not speak the truth in love[43] about his brother in
Christ but is so quick to think evil[44] that he bears false witness about him? Can't a Christian critic treat his Christian
opponent with fairness and respect what he actually stands for? Such mutual treatment is required if the world is to
know that we are disciples of Christ.[45]


Although Van Til does not represent the position attacked by Montgomery under his third parable, we shall oblige the
critic with a response lest it be thought that the above exhortation is merely a cloak to cover up problems with
presuppositionalism. In reciting "An Ancient Apologetic Parable"[46], Montgomery aims to criticize Van Til for
forgetting that the religious situation is pluralistic and (by cutting off evaluation of the various religious remedies before
commitment to the true one) does not render the non-Christian "without excuse." Is the presuppositionalist caught in
such a plight? Not hardly. He knows that the unbeliever is the image of God and created to receive and know his
Creator's voice. He knows that there is abundant objective evidence in creation to leave man without excuse for
disbelief and improper worship of God. He knows that the Bible is the self-attesting word of God which leaves the
unbeliever more culpable for continued rebellion because it clearly and sufficiently reveals God the redeemer. Thus
the presuppositionalist fears no competition from apostate religions. He alone has God's truth, the truth which all men
have been created to receive and the only message bearing convicting power. The presuppositionalist knows the
power of the Holy Spirit's operations in man's sinful heart. The presuppositionalist knows that all who deny God's word
have built their houses on foundations of sand. He knows that the foolishness of unbelief can be demonstrated and
contrasted to the wisdom of God. Hence he puts himself on his opponent's position for the sake of argument,
proceeding then to show where the presuppositions of that position take one (to folly; epistemological suicide,
skepticism, and the failure of all meaningful predication or understanding). The rationalism-irrationalism dialectic, the
lack of theoretical justification for methods and assumptions, the breakdown of all ethical structure, and numerous
other handles present themselves to the presuppositionalist as ways to drive the unbelieving position to futility; the
upshot will be that the unbeliever cannot meaningfully go to the facts or use reason based upon his presuppositions.
How then could he know anything? How then could he refute the Bible? How then could he entertain an


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understanding of alternative religious revelations? Then the presuppositionalist asks the opponent to place himself
upon the Christian position for the sake of argument, proceeding then to show where revelational epistemology takes
one (to wisdom, knowledge, and understanding). He shows the unbeliever why he can actually know God, how
Scripture explains his rebellion, and what the way of salvation is; the gospel hope is defended upon the authority of
God's word and with appropriate discussion of the unbeliever's sin. The Lordship of autonomous man is contrasted to
the Lordship of Christ, thereby showing the sinner to be without excuse and culpable for rebellion (epistemological and
ethical). While the Christian position grounds proper science and philosophy, accounts sufficiently for its knowledge of
God and the unbeliever's attitude, and carries the convicting power of word and Spirit, the unbelieving position is
sheer foolishness which accounts for nothing and carries no genuine conviction. This account is highly abbreviated
and generalized, but it does show that a presuppositionalist would not cut off evaluation of competing claims or leave
the unbeliever free to follow his subjective whims; genuine argument and comparison would take place, giving ample
warrant for the unbeliever's change of mind, yet without forsaking the Lordship of Christ in the noetic realm. Having
been presented with life and death, truth and error, blessing and curse, the unbeliever is called upon to submit his life
and thinking to God. Therefore, the presuppositional apologetic, while demonstrating the only context which can give
meaning to man's thought, does not expect a blind leap of faith of the unbeliever; no, rather the presuppositionalist
presents the only adequate ground for belief at all, a ground which is completely sufficient, authoritative, clear and
necessary; God's revelation in creation and word. The height of credulity is unbelief, not belief, if you follow out the
presuppositionalist's case, for he does not simply give probable grounds for belief (thereby justifying the sinner's
response; "well, then, there is possibility and reason to believe that Christianity is wrong" - leaving him with an excuse
for unbelief) but grounds which show belief to be necessary (for the epistemological enterprise as well as for salvation
since both depend upon a proper covenant relationship to God wherein He is Lord and we are His servants).
Montgomery's parable is certainly not disquieting to a presuppositionalist. If the Christian presuppositionalist were set
for the defense with a Moslem, he would not (contrary to Montgomery's suggestion) be reduced to demanding
personal commitment to Christ before the evidence could be weighed or the positions compared. Although the
Christian knows that the Moslem is in fact working on borrowed capital (resting in God's revelation despite espoused
rejection) he does not expect or demand immediate, unequivocating, admission of that fact at the very first move, the
primal outset of the conversation! The whole procedure of each opponent putting himself on the position of the other is
calculated to bring the unbeliever to a realization that he must be (and indeed has been) reliant upon God's revealed
truth to know anything; the authority of God's word as presented by the Christian is not simply formal, but bears its
own evidence inherently as part of its content. Thus the Moslem and Christian would not be reduced to urging blind
authorities at each other; they could genuinely debate with each other, even though it is at a transcendental level that
the presuppositionalist is driving home his argument. For instance the presuppositionalist might choose to show the
irrationalism-rationalism polarity in Islamic faith and then explain the Scriptural account for man's ability to receive
clear and authoritative word from God, giving this as the basis for thinking and argumentation (even that which is
taking place between the Christian and Moslem). The Christian could point to the Islamic doctrine of "mukhalafa"
which claims that God is so different from His creatures that it is impossible to postulate anything of Him; then it could
be added that the Moslem affirms the doctrine of "tanzih" as well, stripping God of all qualities of impermanence and
thereby rendering Him unable to be affected by the actions and attitudes of His creatures. God, then, for the Moslem
is far removed from man and unknowable (the irrationalist pole). Yet on the other hand the Moslem claims to know
God by means of the Koran, and he claims that by ecstatic enlightenment man can so fan his inner spark of divinity so
as to be fused in union with God's being. Hence God for the Moslem is completely drawn into the cosmos (man
himself) and made known in a book (the rationalist pole). Hereby we see how hopelessly dis-integrated the Moslem's
presuppositions are; he claims that nobody can know God but that the Moslem knows Him! He refutes himself out of
his own mouth. The Moslem's troubles are only beginning however. He expects men to submit to Allah, yet endorses
a doctrine of fate (wherein volition is meaningless). He sees a unity for history which destroys particularity, while the
basis for any historical variations (the arbitrariness of God's decree) undermines the unity itself. No wonder the
Moslem renounces philosophy and logic when it comes to the Koran! The Moslem is an irrationalist-rationalist who
can actually know nothing or even understand a divine revelation (his obligation is to simply recite the traditions). On
the other hand the Christian entertains a view of God such that He is sovereign Creator and Lord over the cosmos and
history; while He cannot be directly identified with anything in creation, He can come right into the world with a clear
revelation of Himself. He created man to receive that revelation; He redeems man from rebellion so as to receive and
obey it. His sovereign plan provides coherence to history, and His creating and guiding hand gives reality to
particulars; revelation is the foundation of meaningful thinking within God's creation, calling us to think His thoughts
after Him. Etc. Thus the case would be broadly developed, showing that there is every reason to accept the Bible (not

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the least of which is true guilt and alienation from God which the word of Christ takes care to remedy, a cure the
sinner inwardly knows that he needs) while there is no reason at all to accept the Koran. Foolishness and death are
set over against wisdom and life; autonomy is contrasted to the Lordship and authority of God which is clearly
expressed in His self-attesting revelation.


Much more could (and would) be said in an actual setting in life, but this much is given to indicate how non-
problematic religious plurality is to a presuppositional apologetic. The unbeliever, whether secular or pseudo-religious,
is prevented from any escape at all on the presuppositionalist approach; the unbeliever is shown that Christianity, far
from being irrational, is the only basis for rationality at all. Further, the presuppositionalist can distinguish systematic
theology from apologetics (contrary to Montgomery's allegation), but he does not believe that there are separate and
different epistemic authorities in the two! Moreover, just because he views all thinking as necessarily under the
Lordship of God, the presuppositionalist does not thereby fail to distinguish believer from unbeliever (as Montgomery
claims); he simply recognizes that all who are without saving faith nevertheless know (and hence believe in) God in an
unrighteous fashion - that is, they suppress the truth rather than submitting to it. All men know God (though in two
ways; in grace and in curse), and all thinking rests upon God's revelation (though in two ways; consciously and
obediently or hypocritically and rebelliously); guided by the same authority which governs His dogmatics the
presuppositional apologist would attempt to move men from the latter class (damning knowledge of God and
disobedience) to the former (saving knowledge and obedience). Thus the presuppositionalist distinguishes the
Christian from the non-Christian without improperly separating the authority inherent in his dogmatics from the
authority inherent in his apologetics; he comes in the self-attesting authority of God's word and points out that the
unsaved sinner is living on borrowed capital (which he is forced to do in the nature of the case). So once again we see
that Montgomery's parable and critical commentary present no problematic questions which the presuppositionalist
cannot navigate.


Before leaving the third parable, however, we must note that Montgomery's own proposal for encountering the
religious plurality of the world is far from suited for the task of Christian defense of the faith. He says the apologetic
alternative we should follow is that of the apostles and of Christ, offering objective evidence and "many infallible
proofs."[47] This incredibly suggests that we are to perform miracles and in the way that they did! However, in the next
paragraph Montgomery becomes a bit clearer and explains that we are to present evidence of the truthfulness of
Christianity for examination so that unbelievers will be without excuse under the pressure of the historical facts.[48] Of
course Montgomery completely fails to take into account that the Pharisees living during earthly ministry of Jesus had
far more than historical accounts; they saw the very miracles performed and yet did not believe in Him! And
Montgomery fails to realize that an inductive apologetic by itself is unconvincing (note Pinnock's failures above, for
instance) as well as inadequate to distinguish Christianity from other religions claiming past miracle-workers (the
arguments for accepting the Bible's accounts and rejecting others all reduce to arbitrariness or question-begging of
inductive premises alone). Moreover, false faiths have been known to be granted Satanic miracle-working powers (e.
g., the sorcerers and magicians of Pharaoh's court); yet this does not prove that they are the road to religious truth! A
historical basis, accounts of miracles, or even the actual miracles themselves are insufficient guides to the true
religious remedy of man's ailments. And even where the miracles were those of the true God, the whole audience was
not led to belief. So where has Montgomery gotten us in this religiously pluralistic world? Nowhere. And then even if
his arguments were said to establish probable truth (a premise which is unfounded) in Christianity, we would be left
with mere probability - which, again, leaves the sinner an excuse for his unbelief (i.e., there is some reason and basis
to call the Bible into question)! The sinner can legitimately "excuse" himself from whole-hearted commitment to Christ
for eternity if the inductive, historical apologetic proposed by Montgomery gets us anywhere at all (which it does not in
the face of alternative religious remedies). If it were not a mistake of tragic import because of the stakes involved one
might be slightly amused at Montgomery's impulsive yearning to "compare alternative interpretations of fact and
determine on the basis of the facts themselves which interpretation best fits reality."[49] What "facts" should the
unbeliever consider in order to be dissuaded from his process theology, from his animistic interpretations of natural
phenomena, from his transmigration-of-souls interpretation of death, or even from his avatar-interpretation of the facts
about Jesus? "Facts" as objective, empirical, historical events cannot by themselves affect any of these (or many
other) religious outlooks, for those outlooks would be willing to agree with Montgomery on the simple eye-ball


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inspection or historical examination of the phenomena; however, different interpretations are still being offered for
those agreed upon phenomena. Montgomery's apologetic has not gotten off the ground. Moreover, let us assume for
Montgomery's benefit that this world were not religiously pluralistic after all. In an imaginary world where only
Christianity offered religious interpretations for the 'facts' (in Montgomery's inductivist sense) the secularist would be
the only opponent of true faith. Now Montgomery goes to town, whipping out all the flashy research, adducing
exquisite probability arguments, appealing to nothing but what are accepted inductive procedures in all sciences
(since these have to be used to retain meaningful knowledge of the past and operating existence in the future). To his
dismay he would find that an educated critic could whittle down the impressiveness of that apologetic in short time; in
terms of probabilities and inductive procedures alone the case, for instance, of Christ's resurrection is most unlikely,
and there is nothing of any telling strength in the evidentialist's considerations to make one abandon the well
documented evidence and reasonable inference that cadavers do not revive (see the outcome of Pinnock's arguments
above in III.A.1). If you follow simple inductive apologetics out, the evidence is weak indeed; all the crucial factors can
receive very plausible explanations by the open-minded, yet "scientifically" honest, critic. But let us assume (to pursue
our imaginary world a bit further) that the evidentialist apologist could show the probability of Christ's resurrection to
the secularist (and not be encumbered with Hindu or any of the other religious interpretations); after all that
argumentation, and after all the leeway granted Montgomery in this imaginary world, still the unbeliever could justify
his non-Christian stance by means of his (salient) starting point or presuppositions. The world could be viewed as less
than locked into a natural uniformity of causes and subject at freak points to indeterminacy, in which case the
resurrection is highly unusual but scientifically neutral; or the only laws which might be cautiously taken into one's
inductive outlook might be statistical summaries, in which case the resurrection is simply one more (albeit odd)
statistic for the calculator. Or (taking another tack) the inductivist could be quite pragmatic and refuse to be affected by
the resurrection at all; after all, how does that strange occurrence in the past help me solve the practical problems of
the present (and the oddities of the past, says the pragmatist, do not infer anything about apple pie in the sky for the
future). Any number of other premises could be used to neutralize or naturalize Montgomery's sheer "fact" of the
historical resurrection (although it's really not "fact," just probability). Therefore, in the long run it seems that
Montgomery's third parable is actually destructive of his own apologetic approach. Montgomery does not take
seriously the religious plurality of the world and their various interpretative enterprises; he overestimates the power of
inductive procedures to adjudicate between interpretations on the basis of the facts and nothing but the facts, and he
allows the unbeliever to justify his continued rebellion of mind even after the facts have been demonstrated. Whether
in the real world or in the imaginary world (to oblige Montgomery) the unbeliever is not left "without excuse" if we take
Montgomery's approach to apologetics.


6. Failure to Find Scriptural Support
Leaving Montgomery's third parable behind us (devouring its master) we should not fail to observe that his allusions to
Scripture fall short of bearing up his apologetic method. Those he mentions are treated above in the evaluation of
Pinnock's appeal to Scripture.[50] As explained there, the fact that Christ and the apostles performed miracles does
not imply that inductive, historical validation of the Scriptural miracles is our central apologetic thrust. Far from it. God
expects us to accept the word and witness of the apostles on their own Christ-given authority. It is a grave thing not to
submit to the authority of apostolic proclamation (which is the source of our information, after all, about the miracles
and resurrection, etc.), for that proclamation is self-attestingly God's word. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and
Gomorrah (with all their inordinate immorality) on the day of judgment than for those who will not receive the words of
Christ's commissioned representatives.[51] Because God's word is self-attestingly authoritative and indubitable truth,
we see that when God sought fallen Adam in the garden He did not expect that Adam would have to verify His
existence, identity and veracity before coming to terms with the Lord. Instead of beginning with raw data that could be
fed into Adam's self-sufficient process of making truth judgments and satisfy him autonomously that God's word bore
at least a probable level of credibility, God directly addressed him with an indicting question, "Where are thou?"
Adam's sin (self-law) and rebellion (casting off God's authority over him, even over his noetic activities) was
immediately confronted. It is not God who needs an intellectual defense, but rather Adam! At the outset God demands
from Adam an admission of wrong. The question of authority is paramount. Adam had sinned, not by acting contrary
to inductive validation of God's hypothesis over against Satan's, but by bringing God's presupposed word into
question. Accordingly the Lord does not bow to Adam's pseudo-authority and assumed prerogative to judge; He does


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not correct Adam's inductive or deductive errors in evaluation and thinking, but rather He forces the matter of authority
("Who told you that you were naked?") and expects self-renouncing admission of guilt for violating the sovereign
command of the Lord. You see, the fall had not so altered human nature as to make man other than man (contrary to
Flacius). Man was still the responsible image of God who had an irradicable knowledge of God and knew His
Creator's word. If we assume that man's condition was now such that he needed autonomous verification of the Lord's
word we would (akin to Flacius) overlook man's true humanity and render him less than God's special creation in the
full Biblical sense; man would be viewed as fallen, yet not "without excuse" for disbelief and rebellion. Our apologetic
must not assume that man's responsible knowledge of God has been lost (thus requiring autonomous corroboration of
God's word to satisfy man's intellect). And at the other extreme our apologetic must just as much refuse to assume
(akin to Romanism) that man's intellect has been virtually unaffected by the fall, thus granting overextended trust to his
verification procedures and noetic abilities. Because the apologetic method set forth by Montgomery tends ironically
toward the types of error found in both Flacius and Romanism with respect to man's fallen condition, we must draw
back from it and follow the full Scriptural view of man in his actual epistemic and soteric exigency.


B. A Precautionary Word
Our examination of Montgomery's case against Van Til's presuppositionalism brings us to the conclusion that
Montgomery's parables misrepresent Van Til's position; furthermore, in his critical commentary Montgomery has
throughout failed to present viable considerations against presuppositionalism. Therefore, a presuppositional
apologetic has not been shown to possess any telling difficulties. To the contrary it appears that Montgomery's own
apologetic stance has been rendered feeble by his parables! The reasons for turning down Montgomery's conception
of the apologetic task can be further developed in the remainder of this reply. But just to make sure that there is no
misunderstanding of presuppositionalism inferred from the fact that inductive apologetics is criticized, let us take
special note of the fact that a presuppositional approach does not exclude the use or appreciation of evidences
(otherwise the excellent detail work done by men like Machen, Stonehouse, or Young would be senseless). However,
one must not fail to understand the relation between presuppositions and evidence. Everybody has presuppositions
and standards for judging; these presuppositions will themselves determine the strength and interpretation of evidence
that is presented. However, people are not systems of thought and perfectly consistent in all that they do; therefore,
the adequacy of presuppositions is sometimes doubted or examined, and people have been known to change their
criteria for judgment. Personal volition, emotion, style of life, and numerous other factors will affect how people get
along with their espoused presuppositions. This is quite obvious in the Christian life. For the Christian, God's
existence, goodness, veracity and the like are all presuppositional matters; belief in these things is part of the defining
characteristic of what it is to be a Christian. To call them into question is to call the genuineness of your profession of
faith into question; thus they have a kind of "a priori" status (though based on objective revelation) and determine how
we look at the world (i.e., are integral to our world and life view) and how we relate to states of affairs (i.e., interpret
and respond to the "facts:). Yet the believer is, in this life, always between the Garden and New Jerusalem; that is, he
is not in an unfallen condition, nor has he arrived at the point where he cannot sin. Adam was expected to not call the
Lord's word into question; in the consummation state we will in fact not call God's truth into question. However, in this
life we struggle in the process of sanctification; as sinners we hold our presuppositions imperfectly. The grace of our
God is made ever so manifest in the fact that He is willing to help our unbelief by verifying His word in history; He
helps us by giving evidence of His goodness and truth. That a posteriori evidence, however, functions as such only for
the believer, that is, within the framework of revealed presuppositions; the evidence God offers in history does not
affect the unbeliever, for his presuppositions are such that he suppresses and misinterprets the facts (as revelational
of the God with whom he has to do). To encounter unbelief one must understand and work at the root "foolishness"
that characterizes the outlook of the non-Christian. This does not mean that evidence is put aside or that the
unbeliever's questions (e.g., about the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch or the origin of Paul's religion) are treated
unresponsibly in obscurantist fashion. But it does mean that evidence alone (without a change of presuppositional
viewpoint) cannot significantly affect the non-Christian who "naturalizes," "rationalizes," and simply reinterprets things
when his basic commitment seems in jeopardy. The a posteriori evidence God offers has its significant affect in
helping God's people, in aiding their weak faith, in bolstering their religious outlook or commitment; while the evidence
is sufficient to condemn the unbeliever, it only has positive results in the thinking of the believer. This is why a scholar
such as Dr. J. Gresham Machen, whose historical research and inductive apologetical concerns are akin to
Montgomery's field of interest, recognized that his own primary audience was properly the church of Christ; an

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inductive approach has as its primary function the edifying and encouraging of God's people, not directly the
persuasion of the unregenerate.


         So I believe in the reasoned defence of the inspiration of the Bible...Its chief use is in enabling Christian
         people to answer the legitimate questions, not of vigorous opponents of Christianity, but of people who
         are seeking the truth and are troubled by the hostile voices that are heard on every hand...You see,
         what I am trying to do in such a lecture is not so much to win directly people who are opponents of the
         Bible as to give to Christian parents who may be present or to Christian Sunday-school teachers
         materials that they can use, not with those whose backs are up against Christianity, but with the
         children in their own homes or in their Sunday-school classes, the children who love them and want to
         be Christians as they are Christians, but are troubled by the voices against Christianity that are heard
         on every side. Yes, I certainly do believe in Christian apologetics...Certainly neglect of this work will be
         to the loss of countless precious souls.[52]


The effectiveness of the evidence is felt by the believer because he is thinking within the context of revelational
presuppositions, but the historical evidences are insufficient in themselves (even theoretically) to change the
unbeliever's mind because his thinking is guided by apostate presuppositions. If the non-Christian's presuppositions
are granted, then he has adequate reason to reject a simple historical apologetic built up from inductive evidences;
this is why our apologetic to the unregenerate must be made up of stronger material. However, we do not neglect the
historical evidences; they do have their use for the Christian. He uses them to edify other believers and to give honest
answers to detail questions from critics. In neither case though should he talk endlessly about facts and more facts
without discussing the philosophy of fact or presuppositions which render the facts meaningful. Therefore,
understanding the relation between evidence and presuppositions, the presuppositional apologist does endorse the
proper use of evidence. We insist that Christian faith, anchored in God, deals with the area of fact which is open to
scientific treatment.


C. An Assessment of Montgomery's Apologetic
With the message of the above paragraph fixed securely in mind we would go on to criticize the kind of inductive or
evidential apologetic Montgomery thinks should be central in our encounters with unbelief. In The Philosophy of
Gordon Clark Montgomery declares that one cannot begin with God without the benefit of "objectively discoverable
historical facts" (p. 383); Christianity's "fortunes are thus (for good or ill) bound up with the fortunes of history" (p. 385).
When one approaches the word of God he treats it as he would any other historical material;[53] although that would
appear to reflect something of an a priori decision (i.e., to refrain from accounting Scripture as the self-attesting divine
revelation which is, thereby, extremely different from "any other" historical material), Montgomery tells us that "it is
necessary for us to evaluate, without a priori, the particular evidence for each alleged event, no matter how unique it
is"[54]. The sort of event he has in mind here is a miracle (e.g., Christ's resurrection) such as would be recorded in the
Bible. Montgomery thinks that the historical method is the same for all, irrespective of their religious commitments[55] -
however, from the fact that he is continually criticizing the historical methods of other writers (e.g., Dilthey, et. al.) we
can see that Montgomery should say instead that the historical method ought to be (not is) the same for all. Using the
(allegedly) common and neutral method of historical investigation, Montgomery would ask the unbeliever simply to
consider the "facts" with his reasonable use of reason, thereby finding compelling support for the truth of Scripture;
making inductive argumentation which is rooted in evidence as foundational to his apologetic witness (rather than
confirmatory of Christian faith), Montgomery would demonstrate the resurrection of Christ in attempt to move his
opponent from the circle of unbelief by an irrestible case and perseverance of intellectually guided steps into the circle
of Christian faith. He putatively offers "factually compelling evidence for the Christian truth-claim"[56] and models his
apologetic on "objective evidence" which settles the dispute between the Christian and non-Christian "on the basis of
the facts themselves."[57] "Proceeding on the basis of empirical method as applied to history, one can inductively
validate the Christian revelation-claim and the Biblical view of total history."[58] As mentioned already, central to this
objective and inductive validation of the veracity of God's word is historical argumentation for Christ's resurrection. The


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resurrection argument is said to be the fundament upon which all other apologetic defenses rest.[59] Not only is it the
basis for taking Jesus Christ to be eternally divine, but the resurrection argument is so crucial to Montgomery's
thinking in religious disputes and so determinative for locating divine truth that he crassly challenges his opponents,
"I'm still calling for a resurrection on your part, or a deferral to the One who did rise from the dead"![60] The attesting
value of the resurrection, shown to be as much a "fact" as Columbus' discovery of America, is very great;[61] indeed,
Montgomery claims to have "shown that the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is over-whelming in its
force."[62] It should be clear to the reader by now what the basic thrust of Montgomery's apologetic would be. Insisting
that we begin agnostically with objective, historical facts, Montgomery would treat the Bible as any other document
and, without a priori, validate its truth by using the common empirico-historical method to evaluate the factually
compelling, objective, evidence for Christ's resurrection - finding the case for it to have overwhelming force. By what is
essentially a positivist method Montgomery would bring religious conviction to the unbeliever.[63] However, there is
every reason for us not to anticipate a revival resulting from the use of Montgomery's approach.


1. Defective As an Argument
In the first place, putting aside more basic difficulties, Montgomery's argument for the resurrection is faulty. He claims
to set forth "a very precise and confirmable argument,"[64] but on his own basis he offers neither precision nor
confirmation. He himself formulates the argument for us and advances it in a number of places;[65] we give the
rendering from The Shape of the Past:


         1. On the basis of accepted principles of textual and historical analysis, the Gospel records are found to be
         trustworthy historical documents - primary source evidence for the life of Christ.
         2. In these records, Jesus exercises divine prerogatives and claims to be God in human flesh; and He rests
         His claims on His forthcoming resurrection.
         3. In all four Gospels, Christ's bodily resurrection is described in minute detail; Christ's resurrection
         evidences His deity.
         4. The fact of the resurrection cannot be discounted on a priori, philosophical grounds; miracles are
         impossible only if one so defines them - but such definition rules out proper historical investigation.
         5. If Christ is God, then He speaks the truth concerning the absolute divine authority of the Old Testament
         and of the soon-to-be-written New Testament; concerning His death for the sins of the world; and concerning
         the nature of man and history.
         6. It follows from the preceding that all Biblical assertions bearing on philosophy of history are to be regarded
         as revealed truth, and that all human attempts at historical interpretation are to be judged for truth-value on the
         basis of harmony with Scriptural revelation.

When subjected to clear-headed cross examination the above case turns out to be non-telling unless one is
predisposed to believe the conclusion anyway. Montgomery's arguments for the above premises are not substantially
different from those used by Clark Pinnock, and we have already pointed out how easy it would be for an astute
unbeliever to disarm and refute these considerations[66] Montgomery fills out his argumentative skeleton (the six
steps just listed) in a number of places throughout his writings;[67] his considerations, just as with Pinnock, are readily
dismissed as overstated, inconclusive, or gratuitous. The reader is referred to a discussion of this matter in our
analysis of Pinnock. In addition to those observations, however, let us examine Montgomery's six apologetical steps
themselves.


a. An Audit of Each Step
The first premise suffers from an inferential hiatus and conspicuous exaggeration. Montgomery attempts to give
evidence pointing to the conclusion that we have in the extant New Testament documents an early picture of Christ;
from that Montgomery goes on (without any supervening explanation or indication that a huge jump in argumentative


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development is transpiring) to designate the New Testament documents "an accurate portrait" of Christ and "reliable
sources.[68] It should be easy to see, however, that the early character of a document tells us nothing about its
positive reliability and accuracy (Joseph Smith's famous "golden plates" have very early authentication, but this fact
certainly does not infer their trustworthiness - or even intelligibility for that matter!), or else two morning newspapers
which conflict in their reporting of an event would both have to be accounted as reliable. But beyond this Montgomery
is found overstating even the results of textual analysis. If he grants non-evangelicals an opportunity to be heard (and
he must if he is true to his boast of neutral, common historical procedures) there is very little reason to conclude, as
Montgomery does, that the evidence points to first-century, eyewitness accounts of Jesus. From an examination of
textual-critical evidence Montgomery claims that "competent historical scholarship must regard the New Testament
documents as deriving from the first century"[69] and that they "contain eyewitness testimony to the life and claims of
Jesus."[70] However, the concrete evidence certainly does not take one to those conclusions at all. Even as
conservative a scholar (relatively speaking) as Bruce Metzger indicates in a widely used, standard discussion of The
Text of the New Testament (Oxford, 1968) that the only fragment of the New Testament we possess which predates
circa 200 A.D. is papyrus 52, and it dates (based on the probabilities of script style) in the first half of the second
century. All competent scholars do not even agree on that early dating. And even if you follow the conservative
estimations you can get this fragment (with merely a portion of four verses) into the first century only by agreeing with
Deissmann's own evaluation, landing on his indication that perhaps the fragment is even as early as Trajan's reign
(although Deissmann's conviction was confident only to the point of Hadrian's reign), and then taking the very earliest
years of his reign (98 or 99 A.D.) as your target point. This is far from having a unanimous vote from competent
scholars that the New Testament documents are first century, eyewitness accounts! Instead you have one fragment,
in one stream of evaluation, with an individual's estimation, taken to its furthest intimation of a period of time, and a
choice of the earliest date within that period. But even this does not give eyewitness evidence. However, Montgomery
may mean to say that the evidence we do possess (from the first half of the second century and around 200 A.D., etc)
should take us in the direction of inferring the earlier, eyewitness sources for these later (presumably) copies (which
are supposed to reflect accurately their autographa). Yet even here Montgomery would have to be seen as
exaggerating: e.g., no competent scholar late-dates the Gospels, there is no doubt about their authorship, their dates
of origin are beyond a shadow of a doubt, there is no present day competent scholarship which denies the Pauline
authorship of that corpus of epistles attributed to him, the Dibelius-Bultmann type of criticism is widely recognized as
outmoded and wrong, and indeed the divine Christ has withstood critical reconstructions.[71] Now while these
evaluations are my own conclusions with respect to the New Testament, it is simply a distortion to say that the
scholarly world as a whole is also in agreement with evangelical convictions on these matters; in fact there are men
recognized as competent scholars who would dispute with evangelical conclusions. One looks in vain for the
indications of support for the conservative viewpoint from a majority of schools of thought. One wonders how
Montgomery could make the evaluations which he does in the above references when it is recalled that Thomas
Altizier challenged him to the very opposite effect in their dialogue[72] - thereby certainly giving the impression that the
vast majority of scholars would not accept the New Testament fully, as Montgomery does. Now I would fully agree that
these man ought to agree with Montgomery's evangelical evaluation of Scripture, its documentary reliability, and
eyewitness origin, but it is simply improper for Montgomery to represent those men as if they do accept those
conclusions! Therefore, on Montgomery's evidentialist platform (calling for common, neutral methodology to confirm
historically his argumentative premises), the first premise of his argument cannot be accepted; the range of historical
scholarship does not establish the early, eyewitness character of the New Testament, and even if it did this fact would
not infer the reliability of the accounts. And if Montgomery wants to restrict recognition of "competent" scholarship to
those men or works which come to evangelical conclusions, then he has abandoned his neutrality altogether!


When we turn to examine Montgomery's second premise we see that it contains two basic ideas: Christ's claim to
deity, and Christ's prediction of His resurrection. Remembering what was said about the first premise above, we have
to see that when probabilistic evidence is weighed, there is some probability that Jesus never made these claims and
predictions in the first place (i.e., it cannot be said with neutral, historical evidence that he did). Laying that crucial
point aside, we would go on to observe (in simulated unbelieving style) that even the historical accuracy of the gospel
records does not establish the authority or deity of Christ on his mere say-so. Moreover, the unbeliever need not be
persuaded by Montgomery's argumentative dilemma: i.e., Jesus was either a charlatan or lunatic, if not truly divine, or
his disciples were charlatans, lunatics, or naive exaggerators[73]. Now this is a false dilemma since there are other


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legitimate options (e.g., Jesus was teaching a new concept of God based on modified Eastern ideas, or an adoptionist
messianism, etc.), but even accepting the terms of the dilemma the unbeliever can readily choose any of the options,
while finding no obstruction in so doing from Montgomery's arguments.[74] Jesus or his disciples could have been
deceptive on this one point (in order to achieve a more lasting impression for their otherwise noble ethic), holding to
an end-justifies-means viewpoint (but of course prohibiting such leeway to their followers since, if everybody followed
the practice, a lasting maximization of good could not result), or they could have done it to shake down either
established Judaism (from its dead religious orthodoxy) or messianically imperishable Rome. On the other hand we
could view Jesus (or, easier, his disciples) as having mental problems, says the astute unbeliever. Montgomery says
we cannot avoid the conclusion that Jesus was a deranged schizophrenic who retreated from reality, and we cannot
account for the fact that a psychiatrist sees Jesus' teachings as a blueprint for successful living and mental health, if
He is not accounted as actually divine. The unbeliever's reply comes with no difficulty. Montgomery has to get away
from his hopelessly outdated conception of mental illness. That a man has a particular mental problem does not
necessarily mean he is irredeemably crazy or demented in everything he does or says; Jesus simply had one of many
personality hangups expressed in a very unique way (one which certainly needs counsel, but hardly "whitecoats"; after
all, his behavior is the key to treatment, and his behavior was far from psychotic). You call him a "schizophrenic"; so
what is in a label? Even more, this particular label is so broadly interpreted today in psychiatry that many doctors feel
it applies to all of us in one way of another. The same ploy can be directed at Montgomery's second point (the
blueprint of mental health). Or from a different evaluative perspective the unbeliever could simply say, "Well that just
goes to show you how messed up modern psychiatry is, when they will run after the ideas of Jesus!" On another hand,
one could reply that other "experts" would disagree, saying that Christian ethics is unhealthy for effective personality,
etc. Well on and on we could go, but the point is that one need not fall back from Montgomery's dilemma if he is an
"educated" unbeliever. The possibilities and motives for the disciples being deceptive are explained in the analysis of
Pinnock above.[75] They too could have had emotional problems while nevertheless having good intentions (thus
taking Jesus teachings to the world, thinking him somehow divine). Or they might have been misled by Messianic
expectations, though not of the "purer" strands discussed by Montgomery. Remember the Eastern and Roman worlds
were very eclectic, and there was much cross fertilization of messianic ideas (the unbeliever might say); this accounts
for the unique blend in the New Testament's messianic concept or confusion, depending on your viewpoint). Now
while the writer finds none of the simulated responses of the unbeliever satisfactory to him (and certainly disagrees
with them all), the fact remains that Montgomery cannot make any real point based on the claims of Jesus (or his
followers) when arguing from a neutral position with an astute sinner. There is very little probability value in
Montgomery's arguments if you are not inclined to agree with a Biblical perspective.


The second element of premise 2 in Montgomery's apologetic six-step was listed as Jesus' prediction of his own
resurrection. There are definite problems with this consideration as well. The first is this. Montgomery wants to point
out, as part of his demonstration of the resurrection and its significance, that Jesus predicted His own victory over the
grave; Jesus rested His very claim to deity and authority on this prediction of His resurrection (further, that prediction
would not only set up an interpretative context for the event, but it would serve to dissuade the critic from the idea that
the resurrection was merely a weird, unexplainable, biological mishap that nobody expected - least of all Jesus). So
this prediction is integral to Montgomery's argument. But Montgomery grants that the gospels were written from 30-65
years after Jesus' death[76]; taking these accounts "as nothing more than historical records"[77], how could we think
that these men were able to recall (with precision) the words of Jesus or His predictions? We are talking in the range
of half a century for memory lapse, imaginative embellishment, distortion, etc., and remember that the apostles would
have been in old age by then (between 60 and 95 years old). Moreover, two of the four gospels were not written by
apostles at all! So why should we trust the gospels that Jesus actually made these specific predictions or claims about
Himself? Montgomery's answer is that Jesus gave His apostles "the gift of total recall"[78]. In the place where
Montgomery says this, he recognizes that this answer assumes the deity and authority of Jesus; but to avoid circular
reasoning Montgomery says that Jesus' divine authority is itself established by historical confirmation of His
resurrection. That historical confirmation, Montgomery claims, "is accomplished by analyzing the New Testament
documents...as nothing more than historical records"[79]. However, we have seen that the prediction of Jesus' own
resurrection is itself part of Montgomery's argument for the resurrection and deity of Christ[80]. Thus the prediction is
integral to the resurrection argument, but the prediction can only be accepted as credible if the apostles had total
recall; yet total recall is an acceptable answer only if Jesus rose from the dead. So Montgomery's argument comes full


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circle! To avoid question-begging Montgomery must drop either (1) his making Jesus' prediction and claims as
recalled by the apostles integral to the argument, or (2) the idea that he is treating the New Testament documents as
nothing more than ordinary, common, unspecial records (for "total recall" over 65 years would most definitely be
extraordinary!). Any reasonable man would demand this sort of integrity from Montgomery; we must not reason in
vicious circles. Now if Montgomery chooses to drop #1, then we need not view the resurrection as having the
significance or interpretation given it by Montgomery (that is, Christ's resurrection could be a weird, unanticipated
mishap that does not confirm remarkable predictions or claims about himself); yet if Montgomery chooses to drop #2,
then we do not have a neutral, historically objective argument! Thus contrary to his claims, Montgomery's "historical
and philosophical demonstration" of the truth of Christ's resurrection does not have "an objective foundation which will
stand up under the most exacting criticism";[81] his "case for Christianity" fails to demonstrate the deity of Christ in a
religiously neutral fashion, for he cannot simultaneously have his neutrality and a deity-attesting resurrection.
However, even if we forget all of the above, forget the question-begging and resultant dilemma, there would still be a
crucial flaw in Montgomery's use of a prediction by Jesus to validate the Christian position. The problem is this: a
fulfilled prediction does not infer deity in any normal sense on unbelieving, methodological assumptions. We would not
say a man was God just because he correctly predicted what time he would get to work in the morning (looking at the
clock as he goes out the door), or even because he correctly predicted the value of his stock two months in advance;
neither proper evaluation of the factors involved in getting to work nor guess-work indicate divine character. But what if
the prediction is self-referential? Well we are not inclined to consider Harry Houdini as God are we? Indeed, far from
considering his amazing self-predicted escapes as proof of deity, we take them as indications of circus feats or
trickery. Moreover, even if someone tried to pre-interpret his self-referential prediction, we properly could question his
logic or suspect fraud or consider the prediction a "lucky guess." If some deranged person claimed that because he
was a bird he could jump out of the airplane and not die, we would be silly to consider him a bird just because he (as
others) did not happen to get killed when he hit the ground (an item for Ripley's "Believe it or not!" but certainly not a
validation of deity)! Thus from a neutral standpoint, a fulfilled prediction does not demonstrate deity in itself.


Therefore, we must consider premise 2 of Montgomery's six-step argument as faulty; there is no apologetical value
(the astute unbeliever will say) in either the claims of Christ to deity or His prediction of resurrection. Montgomery's
argument with respect to the claims of Christ is a false dilemma because (1) the critic has other legitimate options, and
(2) even the choices offered by Montgomery pose no real problem to the unbeliever; there is, then, no dilemma.
Montgomery's argument with respect to the prediction of Christ fails for two reasons: (1) it involves question-begging
taken in the whole context of his apologetic, and (2) even if it did not, it still would not carry the weight of any
apologetically significant inference. And to top thinks off, this second premise in Montgomery's argument (with its
mention of Christ's claims and prediction) is completely dependent upon the first premise (about the early date, and
hence trustworthiness, of the New Testament documents). But that first premise was seen to be invalid due to factual
exaggeration and unwarranted inference. So premise 2 is thoroughly debilitated.


When we come to premise 3 and go behind it to Montgomery's demonstration, we find the same faulty arguments
utilized by Pinnock above. Montgomery things the unbeliever should affirm the historical resurrection of Christ, for:
how do you explain the empty tomb otherwise,[82] how do you account for the growth of Christianity otherwise,[83]
and how could the disciples be considered psychologically or ethically capable of lying?[84] All three of these
questions are more than satisfactorily answered from the non-Christian perspective in III.A.1, and the reader is merely
referred there for refutation of Montgomery. The lack of any historical evidence against the resurrection is mentioned
by Montgomery,[85] but this consideration is erroneous and non-telling. In the very documents which Montgomery
takes as authentic we find testimony against the resurrection (e.g., the soldiers claimed that the disciples stole the
body, the religiously esteemed members of society were unconvinced and opposed the disciples, the Athenian
intellectuals scoffed, and many people were not compelled to believe). Moreover, even a genuine lack of evidence can
be explained either by the efficiency of the disciples' deceptive activities (i.e., committed the "perfect" crime when
stealing the body) or by the suppression of evidence once Christianity gained political leverage in the Roman world
(can anyone really doubt that this sort of thing was beyond the corrupt popes?). But all of this is really beside the
point. Belief in the resurrection cannot be built on an argument from silence, but rather the burden of proof is on
Montgomery to deliver solid evidence and show just cause for thinking that the empirical uniformity of nature has


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actually been broken in history. He cannot turn the tables and expect his opponent to disprove what appears to be a
scientifically ridiculous claim. Thus the lack of contrary evidence is (1) erroneous, (2) understandable, and (3)
apologetically insignificant. Montgomery is not beyond question-begging either in his argument for the resurrection.
His own predisposition to believe is quite evident when, in light of the fact that he does not think absolute certainty can
be arrived at either for or against the resurrection, he dismisses naturalistic explanations of the resurrection accounts
in the New Testament as "infinitely more improbable than the Resurrection itself."[86] But those holding to the
naturalistic accounts (e.g., the swoon theory) certainly think that a miraculous event is the thing that is infinitely more
improbable (and indeed there is far more statistical evidence from history and empirical accountability for men living
through execution attempts on rare occasions, especially when it has been a rushed attempt, than there is for men
coming to life three days after their death!). But even beyond the fact that Montgomery's arguments all fail to
demonstrate a historical resurrection of Jesus (on neutral methodological principles) there is the inferential hiatus
which ,is involved in alleging that Christ's resurrection evidences His deity or establishes His truthfulness.[87] The
movement of thought, "Resurrection, therefore God" or "Resurrection, therefore total infallibility," simply does not
follow. So even if Montgomery could demonstrate the historical resuscitation of a cadaver, his argument would still be
logically crippled. Indeed, Montgomery himself has to admit that his inferences could be unfounded;[88] and when he
goes on to say about contrary inferences from the evidence that "such probabilities are extremely small", his question-
begging is again evident. Montgomery's contention that Jesus' own explanation of His resurrection should be preferred
[89] is disputed in our discussion of premise 2 above. If a man happened to be the lone survivor from an ocean liner
which went down at sea, the only person who did not drown before rescuers arrived, should we accept his demented
conclusion, "well then, I must be in reality a fish"? Or imagine a woman living in Hiroshima and overtaken by surprise
with the dropping of the atomic bomb; the next thing she is aware of is being treated in a Red Cross hospital, the
doctors telling her that all her neighbors were killed and her city destroyed by the bomb. Now if she should conclude
that she must be the Sinto goddess, Amaterasu-omikami, because she survived the blast, would we think that she
was "in a better position to explain how this happened"[90] than the doctors? The unbeliever would answer with an
unequivocal "no!" Therefore, premise 3 in Montgomery's six-step apologetic must be rejected because: (1) his
arguments can be refuted, and (2) even if his arguments stood, the premise involves a breach of logic, an inferential
hiatus, which sabotages the train of thought. Moreover, premise 3 completely depends on the acceptability of premise
1, which has been undermined already, and so breaks down altogether.


In premise 4 Montgomery wishes to point out the rationalistic or scientistic presupposition which lies behind any
discounting of miracles a priori. To the opponent who argues that no amount of historical study could yield more than
a picture of Jesus as a very remarkable man, Montgomery says "This argument rests on the rationalistic
presupposition that God could not become man"[91]. But somehow Montgomery has overlooked that his opponent
can have exactly the same repudiation of Montgomery's own outlook; "Your argument rests on the mythological
presupposition that God could become man! Premise 4 is not going to stop the astute unbeliever. Montgomery offers
an example to show why one should reject Hume's a priori dismissal of miracles[92]; if you follow Hume, says
Montgomery, you would justify the Lilliputians' (imagined) refusal to believe in Gulliver's existence even though he
were right before their very eyes! But by failing to realize the significance of the fact that men today do not see the
resurrected Christ before their empirical eyes but must rest belief on written testimony, Montgomery can have his
example twisted around and directed at his position. The unbeliever might well point out that his own situation is not
akin to that of a Lilliputian who is called upon to believe Gulliver's existence (i.e., the non-Christian does not confront
Christ as did Thomas) but that his situation is really much more like that of Captain Pedro de Mendez who was called
upon by Gulliver to believe in the existence of the Lilliputians, et. al. (i.e., the non-Christian confronts testimony to the
most unusual sort of thing, a resurrection). When looked at from this perspective (which is really what took place in the
novel, not what Montgomery has to imagine might have taken place) and remembering how Gulliver argues so
strenuously for his veracity in the last chapter of the novel, the tables have really been turned on Montgomery!
Jonathan Swift published "Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, by Lemuel Gulliver" (i.e., Gulliver's
Travels as it comes to be known) in the form of an actual autobiographical travel adventure; except for a very few
close friends, nobody knew who the anonymous author really was. The "Travels" were accompanied by a testimony
from the Publisher, Richard Sympson which corrects all of the errors in the publisher's account of the travels. We have
all the trappings of an accurate historical account; historical circumstances (even dates and geography), eyewitness
accounts, character witness, an apology for the author's veracity, and even a correction of possible distortions! Now


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then, the unbeliever asks, is Montgomery prepared to believe in the existence of the Lilliputians, or does he discount
them on a priori philosophical grounds? The farce here is painfully apparent to all - because Swift's satire did come to
be known as just that: Swift's work (not Gulliver's), and a satire (not eyewitness history). Thus the unbeliever is not
disturbed by premise 4 in Montgomery's argument; he had reason (even before Swift's was revealed) not to assume
the existence of Lilliputians, and he has reason not to assume the possibility of resurrections. The difference between
himself and Montgomery, the unbeliever will say, is the difference between scientific scrutiny and mythological
credulity. Montgomery, no less than the sceptic, has his presuppositions of what is possible and what is not.
Furthermore, are we to believe that Montgomery would really have affirmed the existence of the Lilliputians had not
Swift's secret accidentally got out to the public? If he would not have, then Montgomery's presupposition is seen to be
not only unscientific (because it allows resurrections) but biased and inconsistent (because had Swift's secret not
been found out Montgomery still would not have allowed for the existence of the Lilliputians). And if Montgomery
would have believed in the Lilliputians you can be sure the non-Christian would write off his scholarly credibility
altogether! There is one final problem with premise 4. Even if Montgomery could establish that "history and not
philosophy must answer" whether miracles have happened[93], even if one could investigate the facts without an a
priori and determine objectively whether some alleged event is historical or not, we can still not avoid the truth that it is
philosophy, not neutral historiography, which determines what you make of the "brute facts." Thus a demonstration of
the resurrection might not be discounted by the willing unbeliever on philosophical grounds, but he still need not
interpret the resurrection as having the significance Montgomery attributes to it. Thus premise 4, like the previous
three, proves to be unsatisfactory: (1) it can be reversed against Montgomery's own position, (2) it could show him to
be tendentious in his conclusions, and (3) it is apologetically non-telling (since it does not challenge the unbeliever's
interpretation of history or the "facts").


Little needs to be said with respect to the obvious unacceptability of premise 5 in Montgomery's argument. From the
non-Christian's perspective, the assertion that "If Christ is God, then He speaks the truth..." amounts to simple
question-begging, for Montgomery's assertion assumes the Christian conception of God (who cannot lie, who is
omniscient, and who is inerrant in all His pronouncements). There are plenty of other conceptions of god to choose
from, and these conceptions do not include the idea of infallibility and complete honesty! If Christ is god in the ancient
Greek sense, then we might well wonder if his assertions are trustworthy or accurate at all. The unbeliever can easily
counter Montgomery's fifth premise with the questioning attitude of Plato's Euthyphro. Modifying the question in one
respect, but maintaining the same attitude toward the gods, the unbeliever can follow Socrates in wanting to know
what the truth is irrespective of whatever the gods may say. Therefore, the simple fact that Christ is formally
designated "God" does not imply anything with respect to his truthfulness or reliability about the authority of the Old
and New Testaments, the significance of His death, or the nature of man and history. Montgomery's premise begs the
very question at hand: whether the Christian teaching about the God situation is true or not. If one is really going to be
unbiased in his use of the empirico-historical method, if one is going to be objective in his approach to the simple
facts, then he cannot import the Christian idea of God at the presuppositional level. If our assumptions are only
methodological in character, not substantive, then we cannot allow a veiled presupposition of the Christian view of
God to confer truth on the Old Testament, the New Testament, the interpretation of Christ's death, the Biblical
teaching on man's nature, or the Biblical teaching on the nature of history. Montgomery must, in all intellectual
honesty, validate each of these items point by point with rigorous and painstaking inductive argumentation. Premise 5
is an illegitimate short-cut. The conclusion of Montgomery's argument comes in premise 6; its main thrust is this: "It
follows from the preceding that all Biblical assertions...are to be regarded as revealed truth..." But our analysis of the
foregoing argumentation, represented in premises 1 to 5, has shown each one of them to be defective, thus depriving
Montgomery of his conclusion altogether. It certainly does not "follow" from these five faulted assertions that the Bible
is correct in all that it says. The only thing which follows is the ineffectiveness of a neutral, inductive apologetic in
dealing with an astute sinner. One final observation should be made about premise 6 (Montgomery's conclusion to the
argument). Even if we put aside the fact that each of the previous five premises is unsatisfactory in itself, it still would
not logically follow that premise 6 is true. Montgomery's argument lacks the necessary transitions from premise to
premise to produce the sixth assertion by means of logical calculus. However, he admits that his argument does not
meet the demands of formal logic.[94] This of course is no credit to his argument! However, even granting him the
looseness of argumentation that he desires, the sixth assertion still does not "follow" in any reasonable sense, and this
is because of the numerous illegitimate inferences embodied in the previous five premises. The earliness of the New


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Testament documents does not infer their trustworthiness, and their composition by Jesus' disciples does not infer
their reliable recording of His words. The resurrection of Jesus does not infer His deity, and His deity does not infer
His truthfulness. Upright, inductive, and objective methodology demands that these assertions be made by anyone
who comes to the "brute facts" without substantive presuppositions inclined toward the acceptance of Christianity.
Thus premise 6 does not even loosely follow from numbers 1 to 5, even if we forget the various other difficulties
already noted in regard to those previous premises! Therefore, at every step along the way Montgomery's apologetical
argument is thwarted. It turns out to be neither "very precise" nor "confirmable."[95] (N.B. I would repeat that, while I
personally agree with the views expressed in Montgomery's six premises, it is from an unbelieving perspective and
based on "neutral" methodology that Montgomery's apologetic argument has to be seen as sterile.)


b. Conceptual Criticism
Having seen that Montgomery's intention is to produce an objective, historical and overwhelming argument for the
resurrection of Christ which does not use substantive presuppositions, we went on to examine that argument for the
resurrection with respect to its particular steps and backing, finding it not very overwhelming. We turn now to examine
that argument more on the level of conception (rather than particular outworking) in order to determine further its
effectiveness as an apologetic for the Christian faith.


1. Internal Conflict
The first comment we would make is that it seems Montgomery is unable to distinguish between the historic character
of Biblical events and the empirical historical method of ascertaining truth;[96] for example, he fallaciously moves from
the fact that the resurrection is objective Historie to a criticism of evangelicals like Ramm and Ladd for not thinking that
the resurrection has demonstrable, solid, historical facticity (in the modern sense) which must be established by the
searchlight of objective, historical criticism, thereby producing a rational, religious certainty apart from the internal
witness of the Holy Spirit! Secondly we note that Montgomery is involved in the troublesome inconsistency of using a
method of ascertaining truth which assumes the uniformity of nature (i.e., inductivism) in order to demonstrate an
event which proves the non-uniformity of nature (i.e., a miraculous resurrection)! Montgomery is enmeshed in using a
principle of continuity (between historical particulars, so that they be linked together in inductive argumentation) to
establish the truth of discontinuity (the uniqueness of the resurrection, not naturalistically caused). When Montgomery
wants to verify that the resurrection very probably occurred as a unique or miraculous event, he is divided against
himself. So we see that Montgomery's conception of apologetics incorporates fallacious inference as well as self-
vitiating inconsistency on the methodological level.


The dialectical tension in Montgomery's apologetic procedure is painfully evident. On the one hand he has to assume
that the world is such that argumentative probability resting upon inductive examination of evidence can be
established, but on the other hand he has to utilize metaphysical assumptions which will allow for uncaused, unique
events in history. His historical inductivism leads to probability judgments based upon the assumption of metaphysical
determinism (natural uniformity); hence he can objectively argue about historical events. But then the astute
unbeliever who also works in the area of historical study tells Montgomery that the uniformity of nature precludes a
resurrection from the dead, so Montgomery has to run to the other pole in his thinking and justify the possibility of a
miracle by assuming metaphysical indeterminism. But if this appears to deprive the resurrection of its significance as
well as our ability to verify it, Montgomery runs back to the former pole in his thinking: natural uniformity and
determinism. On and on the pattern continues; every time an opponent renders a crucial attack on Montgomery's
position he runs to the opposite corner, waiting for the counter-attack and then running back to the first corner. This
rationalism-irrationalism, determinism-indeterminism, continuity-discontinuity runaround might seem to be
apologetically valuable, protecting Montgomery from all angles of attack and rendering his position unassailable; since
there are contradictory elements in his system of thought he has an answer for anybody! He has his cake (miracles)
and can eat it too (probability). But far from being a boon to his apologetic, this dialectical tension in Montgomery's
position really renders it doubly weak, open to criticism from both directions, and assailable at both poles. His


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apologetic is scuttled at the point of his probabilism as well as at the point of his indeterminism. After we see this we
will have to conclude that, even at the level of conception, Montgomery's apologetic cannot establish the miraculous
resurrection of Christ as a validation of His deity.


aa. Probabilism Faulted
Let us first examine the use of probability in Montgomery's apologetic. He desires to show that Christ very probably
rose from the dead. To do this he chooses to follow the empirico-historical method, objectively examine the evidence
without any religious commitment one way or the other; hereby he would put a solid empirical base under the
Christian world-view. However, he recognizes that taking this route exacts its tolls; one simply cannot have certainty
with respect to knowledge of either history or the present[97]. Certainty can only be attained in mathematics and
formal logic, says Montgomery; all significant, synthetic knowledge about genuine states of affairs (past, present, or
future) must remain at the level of mere probability in the nature of the case. This distinction between analytic and
synthetic truths is central to Montgomery's plea for the acceptability of mere probability in historical judgments:


         Tillich missed the vital insight offered by contemporary analytic philosophy in its distinction between
         analytic (purely formal) and synthetic (content) judgments; only the latter, based on experiential
         investigation of the world, can provide substantive knowledge of reality. If one intends, therefore, to
         speak of religious or historical meaning, he must offer concrete evidence...Granted, only a high level of
         probability can ever be adduced in support of such synthetic claims; but to demand absolute certainty is
         to obtain pure formality and thus no knowledge of the world at all...All our verifiable knowledge of the
         world, present or past, is based on the sifting of experiential data, and just as in ordinary life we must
         constantly jump the gap between probability and certainty by faith, so in the religious realm we have no
         right to demand - much less any expectation of acquiring - a certainty transcending the probabilities of
         historical evidence.[98]


         Absolute truth...is possible only in formal logic...and these formal systems are absolute only because
         they are so defined and insofar as they stand independent of empirical experience. The moment the
         realm of experience is introduced, "absolute," "unalterable" results become impossible...[99]


         Only deductive logic and pure mathematics provide "apodictic certainty,." and they do so because they
         stem from self-evident formal axioms...involving no matter of fact. The moment we enter the realm of
         fact, we must depend on probability...[100]


         Only the tautology (if A then A) can be proved true, and proof of its truth is possible only because the
         tautology makes no statement of fact. In the case of every theory involving statements of fact, proof is
         impossible...Since this is so, all science and history - indeed all intelligent decision between alternative
         theories, beliefs, ideologies, must rest squarely upon probability. The rational man, when confronted
         with a problem of fact, must ask himself two questions: (1) What is the probable validity of the present
         evidence for and against the notion, (2) What is the probability of future data arising to negate the force
         of present evidence for or against the notion.[101]


With this analytic/synthetic distinction in mind, Montgomery asks "the rational man" to apply the inductive method to
the stuff of experience in order that he might know and affirm the truth of the Bible. But how can he be expected to
know and affirm such truthfulness if certainty is out of reach? Montgomery's answer amounts to this, "Who needs
certainty?" As Harvard logician Willard van Orman Quine has soundly pointed out, one doesn't need to put supports
under every inch of a roof in order to hold it fully and completely up."[102] Now the utterly amazing thing about


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Montgomery's deference to Quine in order to defend reliance upon probability, a reliance which Montgomery thinks is
necessitated by the analytic/synthetic distinction, is this: Quine is one of the key philosophers in recent years to have
impugned and confuted the very distinction between analytic and synthetic statements, between formal and empirical
science.[103] Here is one outstanding problem with Montgomery's system of apologetics. It is built upon a viewpoint
which is widely disputed and forcefully attacked today. By trying to defend his probabilism (in the sense of not needing
certainty) Montgomery has unwittingly backed right into the refutation of his notion of probabilism (as generated from
the analytic/synthetic distinction)!


Montgomery's apologetic use of probabilism, then, is unfounded. Logic is not merely formal and empty of substantive
content; indeed, as Quine argues, even the process of quantification holds the key to the ontological commitments of
our use of language.[104] And if simple logic betrays ontological viewpoint, how much more does empiricism! Pending
Montgomery's rehabilitation of the analytic/synthetic distinction as well as the neutrality of methodological assumptions
(e.g., logic and empiricism) in the philosophic journals, we must reject his apologetic dependence upon probability.
However, even laying aside these fundamental deficiencies, there are grave problems with Montgomery's view of
probability in defending the Christian faith. Montgomery claims that certainty and absolute truth cannot be possessed
except in formal logic or pure mathematics; he further says that religious decisions are one with ordinary-life decisions
and that probability is the guide to life (cf. the above quotations). Therefore, he concludes that, since probability is the
"guide of life" and "our Christian convictions based on historical uncertainties are...one with the rest of life,"[105] even
when it comes to the question of Christian faith "you have to act on this basis."[106]


         Granted, the basis is only one of probability, not of certainty, but probability is the sole ground on which
         finite human beings can make any decisions. Only deductive logic and pure mathematics provide
         "apodictic certainty"...The moment we enter the realm of fact, we must depend on probability; this may
         be unfortunate, but it is unavoidable, and since it does not keep us from making decisions in non-
         religious matters, it should not immobilize us when religious commitment is involved.[107]


However, the Bible-believing Christian must oppose Montgomery most strenuously on these points; Scripture's
outlook is most definitely not the same as Montgomery's probabilism. Indeed, the very heart of our faith would be
fatally substituted with an alien epistemology is we followed Montgomery, and the transplant would have religiously
lethal results. On accord with God's sure word we must stress and diligently defend the fact that we can have certainty
outside of logic and mathematics, that Christian faith is not one with ordinary-life decisions, and that probability is not
the guide to the Christian's life.


The Bible communicates to us matters of fact; yet, contrary to Montgomery, that factuality is not to be depreciated to a
mere level of probability. Basing our thinking on the apostolic word, we can "know assuredly (without doubt)" that God
has made Jesus both Lord and Christ;[108] we know this certainly, not just probably. The inspired gospel comes to us
that we might "know the certainty" of our Christian teaching.[109] Our conviction comes from the powerful Creator who
"hath shined in our hearts for enlightenment of the knowledge of God's glory in the face of Christ."[110] The eternal
Son of God has revealed the Father to us, and the result is knowledge[111], not probability. Our conviction does not
rest on flesh and blood, but on God[112]; therefore, we can have full assurance of the truth. The gospel comes not "in
word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and full assurance";[113] this is not mere probability which must
entertain some degree of doubt, but is "plarophoria" (Greek for full conviction, assurance, certainty, perfect faith limited
by no doubts). This Greek word is used by Ignatius in his letter to the Smyrnaeans in the expression "perfect faith in
the Lord" (1:1) and in I Clement 42:3 to say (so unlike Montgomery's probable resurrection) "fully assured by the
Lord's resurrection." The Bible speaks of our "full assurance of understanding"[114] and "full assurance of hope."[115]
With respect to faith Abraham is the father of us all,[116] and he was not weak in faith but had full certainty with
respect to God's word[117]. For us to fall back from following his example and to content ourselves with probability
(just like in every other mundane decision) would be sub-Christian. Instead "let us draw near with a true heart in full


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assurance of faith"[118], and "let us hold fast the confession of our hope unyieldingly."[119] In Christ we surpass
human probabilities and can have bold access in confident faith.[120] While the confidence of the godless is like a
spider's web,[121] "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence"[122] because "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of
knowledge."[123] Knowledge which is no better than probable is far from what the Lord promises us; we who put our
confidence in Jehovah may "know the certainty of the words of truth."[124] Montgomery is wrong to think that certainty
is limited to formal logic and pure mathematics; certainty of knowledge applies to the truthful word of God which the
apologist is defending! For the apologist to settle for mere probabilities is to go against the very certainty of truth in
God's word which he is defending. The renewed Christian would be undercutting his own character if, instead of
genuine knowledge, he thought he could only have probability with respect to Christianity; the believer, says the Bible,
has been "renewed unto knowledge."[125] He not only believes but knows the truth,[126] for the very nature of
salvation is a knowledge of the truth.[127] Thus we would not be true to ourselves either as apologists or as renewed,
saved, believers if we did not think we could have certainty of knowledge with respect to God's truth. "Ye shall know
the truth, and the truth shall make you free";[128] if we are restricted to probability judgments, our very liberation is in
jeopardy! Let us heed rather what John tells us: "I wrote not to you because you do not know the truth, but because
you know it."[129] His whole purpose in writing was to show believers that they can have confident knowledge of their
salvation.[130]. Now if Christ be not raised[131], then our faith is vain and we are still in our sins.[132] Consequently, I
John 5:13 certifies to us that we can have confident knowledge that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, not
simply a high probability that He did. Such an apologetic as Montgomery's would deprive us of the solid hope which
characterizes the apostolic proclamation of the resurrection; he cannot offer any assurance to an age longing to hear
the meaningful affirmation, "He is risen!" Against the idea that certainty can only be found in non-substantive formal
matters of logic and mathematics, the idea that Christian faith must rest in mere probability judgments, we boldly
affirm "we know that the Son of God is come and has given us understanding in order that we might know Him that is
true."[133] Let our attitude not be "It is highly probable..." but that which characterized the apostle Paul, "I know whom
I have believed, and have been persuaded..."[134]


We must also oppose the bringing of Christian faith down to the level of ordinary-life (Montgomery calls them "non-
religious") where we weigh fallible evidence, depend upon man's research and word, and make mistakes in
calculating conclusions. This is far from the situation in which we submit to the clear, sufficient, necessary, and
authoritative word of God for our eternal salvation! That word does not come with the force or mere probability of with
mere human prestige. Paul praises the Thessalonians because, when they heard his word from God, they "received it
not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God."[135] When it comes to Christian faith we are not dealing
on the level of questionable evidence, human argumentation, and probable truth; indeed we surpass the prestige of
human intellect and scholarship. Note these words from Paul: "And my speech and my preaching was not in
persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, in order that your faith might not be in the
wisdom of men but in the power of God...Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit from God in
order that we may know the things freely given to us by God...we have the mind of Christ."[136] The word from God
and faith which stands in His powerful demonstration are completely unparalleled in human words and demonstration;
a self-attesting revelation and internal testimony from the Holy Spirit produce the certainty of knowledge. Our Christian
convictions, then, do not (contrary to Montgomery) rest on uncertainties or yield only probability. Even if probability
were the guide of life, it would not be the basis for Christian faith. The Christian's thinking is not dependent on man's
teaching alone; in the area of divine revelation he has "an anointing from the Holy One" and knows all things.[137]
"The anointing which you received from Him remains in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you; but
as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things and is true and is not a lie, and just as He taught you, you
abide in Him."[138] In this very significant respect religious decision is not one with the judgments of ordinary life, not
being restricted to the probabilities of human thinking.


Furthermore, Montgomery is mistaken in thinking that probability is the guide of life for the Christian. We have already
seen that God's word provides the certainty of knowing the truth; mere probability is not what it offers. Now Christ is
the Word of Life,[139] and thus His words are Spirit and life[140] and the source of the Christian's life.[141] He alone


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has the words of eternal life[142] and His inscripturated word is also designated "the word of life."[143] The Scriptures
provide us with sufficient guidance for the whole of life,[144] and by means of Spiritual sanctification the believer
learns to prove the will of the Lord, receiving assurance in the particular decisions and situations of His life.[145] Thus
the Christian's life is squarely founded, not on probability, but on the word and the Spirit, just as believers worship God
in Spirit and in truth[146]. Life comes from Christ, is directed by His word, and aimed at His glory. The Scripture as the
word of life is our guide, for Christ said that we must build our lives on His word[147]. Everything that the believer
does, then, should be seen through the spectacles of the Bible's teaching. Since we have observed that the Bible
gives certainty, truth, and genuine knowledge rather than mere probability built on uncertainties, we cannot endorse
the idea that "probability is the guide of life." God's clear and authoritative word in the guide of life. When it comes to
scholarly decisions about what happened, say, at the battle of Waterloo, the believer might not have full assurance or
infallible judgment, but that does not mean that he surrenders the whole of his life to the dictates of probability. In the
most important sense, his life is still founded on the sure word of God; his certainty with respect to Scripture grounds
his research into nature and history. His tentativeness about conclusions in these fields does not undermine the
certainty with which he knows God's truthful word. To say that probability must be as far as we can go in knowing that
Scripture is God's word because our inductive studies elsewhere are often tentative is to have our thought move in the
wrong direction; Scripture should not be reduced the uncertainties of human thought. Instead human thought must be
directed by the life-giving word of God. If it is not, it becomes epistemologically futile. Human science and history have
their proper function within the context of the cultural mandate, and that mandate is rooted in God's clear and certain
word of truth. Human life, study, and science are guided by and founded upon, not probability, but the certainties of
God's revelation.


Therefore, we reject as out of harmony with the Scripture viewpoint the notions that certainty is restricted to deductive
logic and pure mathematics (it also applies to God's inscripturated word), that religious faith is one with ordinary-life
decisions (it is rooted in far better authority and demonstration), and that probability must be the guide of life (God's
word is instead the guide of life; even natural revelation must be approached via special revelation). The Christian
apologist must not sell his birthright of indubitable knowledge of God for the pottage of probabilism in epistemology -
no matter how alluring the autonomy of (allegedly) objective, inductive science may seem. Although we have made
the crucial observations that Montgomery's apologetic use of probabilism is (1) unfounded and (2) sub-Christian, we
should see that his problems are still not over, even forgetting what has been said already. We must add that the
attempt to defend the Christian faith by means of probability is (3) unworkable both as a method and as an effective
apologetic.


The inductive method and appeal to probability assumes the regularity or uniformity of nature and the operation of
cause and effect. Instead of viewing truth as deduced rationally from self-evident principles, the inductivist derives
truth from a generalization of particular facts. Now since the days of David Hume this simple outlook and its
assumptions have had no theoretical grounding (from an inductive, neutral perspective). Hume would have nothing of
presumptuous a priori reasoning; his method would be rigorously "scientific." However, his acute scientific analysis
undermined the inductivist's confidence altogether:


         When we infer the effects from causes, we would establish the existence of these causes...'Tis
         therefore by experience only, that we can infer the existence of one object from that of another...The
         nature of experience is this...a regular order or contiguity and succession with regard to /two species of
         objects/...We likewise call to mind their constant conjunction in all past instances. Without any farther
         ceremony, we call the one cause and the other effect, and infer the existence of the one from that of the
         other...From the mere repetition of any past impression, even to infinity, there never will arise any new
         original idea, such as that of a necessary connecxion; and the number of impressions has in this case
         no more effect than if we confin'd ourselves to one only.[148]


Thus Hume thought with respect to the notion of cause and effect that there simply was no impression "which


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produces an idea of such prodigious consequence."[149] What happens to probability then?


         'Tis therefore necessary that in all probable reasonings there be something present to the mind, either
         seen or remember'd and that from this we infer something connected with it, which is not seen nor
         remember'd...The only connextion or relation of objects, which can lead us beyond the immediate
         impressions of our memory and senses, is that of cause and effect; and that because 'tis the only one,
         on which we can found a just inference from one object to another. The idea of cause and effect is
         deriv'd from experience...probability is founded on the presumption of a resemblance betwixt those
         objects, of which we have had experiences, and those, of which we have had none; and therefore 'tis
         impossible this presumption can arise from probability...Now as we call every thing custom, which
         proceeds from a past repetition, without any new reasoning or conclusion, we may establish it is a
         certain truth, that all the belief, which follows upon any present impression, is deriv'd solely from that
         origin...Thus all probable reasoning is nothing but a species of sensation. 'Tis not solely in poetry and
         music, we must follow our taste and sentiment, but likewise in philosophy.[150]


Therefore, what men call probability is nothing more than personal taste and custom. Empirical examination does not
give evidence for the inference of causation; therefore, causal judgments are built on nothing but the psychological
habit of expecting regularity, and the supreme premise offered to justify this (the continuity between past and future
events, the uniformity of nature) is nothing but public custom. Thus all induction and probability judgments are reduced
to mere habit, and nobody can really take them seriously any more. Now Montgomery can either question Hume's
assumptions in some way (thus becoming a presuppositionalist and putting aside neutral inductivism for the time) or
appeal to popular opinion, showing that a majority of people believe in causation and trust probability (thus
surrendering to Hume's refutation, admitting that the apologetic for Christianity is merely subjective). The neutral
inductivist does not see the causal connection between two events, and he does not have knowledge of the whole
series of events (past and future) so as to summarize regular succession; he must conclude on his own terms that
there is no adequate grounds for belief in causation, natural uniformity, or probability. The extension of our knowledge
beyond immediate sensation had rested on the predication of future expectability, but since this required the
assumption of uniformity such an extension of knowledge was destroyed by Hume. The probabilism of Montgomery's
(putatively) neutral, inductive apologetic is undermined as well. Montgomery will certainly wish to dispute Hume's
point, but how can he on his own basis? (Note: although this should be obvious, I would point out that Montgomery's
writing against Hume, e.g., SP, pp. 288ff., pertains to Hume's argument against miracles, not his undermining of
probabilism; it is widely recognized that Hume was embarrassingly inconsistent in being a sceptic about causation yet
dismissing miracles on the basis of natural law - clear evidence of his irrationalism-rationalism dialectic! - but it is more
embarrassing to see a believer like Montgomery parallel Hume's inconsistency by appealing to indeterminacy to
permit miracles yet relying on probabilism, which involves uniformity, to defend them. Montgomery's reply to Hume's
anti-miracle polemic just underscores the critique of Montgomery's probabilism presented in this paragraph. Granting
indeterminacy and not answering Hume on this very point, how can Montgomery assign probability to anything with
any seriousness?)


On "neutral" inductivist grounds Hume has invalidated Montgomery's appeal to probability. However, even if we
magnanimously grant the soundness of an apologetic appeal to probabilities, there are further methodological
impediments to its use. Utmost among them is the problem of rating probability: how can you do it? To calculate the
odds in favor or against something we need to know all the factors involved, we need to know the context in which
particular evidence is seen in order to know the significance or weight of that evidence, we need to compute the
disconfirming against the confirming data, etc. That is, if the notion of probability is not going to reduce to a simple
matter of saying "Perhaps this happened," there must be a way to evaluate relative strength of evidence and arrange
different hypotheses in a scale - otherwise the notion of "higher" probability is pointless (and we are left with a mere
"perhaps"). Yet it appears that the process of rating probabilities accurately is impossible, for we never know the
precise extent of our ignorance. Indeed, outside of omniscience it is inherently an overestimation to think that you
have correctly computed the factors and arrived at an accurate appraisal of the probabilities in a historical judgment.
One might arbitrarily define the limits of a certain context in order to have a built-in "omniscience" with respect to that

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context (e.g., a card game, a statistical survey within set boundaries and using only pre-established parameters, etc.)
and thus calculate the probabilities, but no one has such comprehension of history and nature except God. Thus the
problem of accurate rating of probabilities would force Montgomery to reduce his claims to a simple "perhaps" (i.e., "I
can't be certain") or to a popular vote (counting how many people think hypothesis x has "higher' probability than
hypothesis y); in either case the unbeliever would not be told anything about the true state of affairs with respect to
God, the Bible, the resurrection of Christ, etc., but only something about the person or persons who thought the
"probabilities" higher for Christianity than against it. We would learn something about their mind-set, proclivities, and
commitments, but apologetics is more than a mere personal testimony about what satisfies someone! The vicissitudes
of rating probability (and thereby finding it a useful notion) are more than evident in the way that Montgomery tells us
adjudicate the strength of an hypothesis:


         The rational man, when confronted with a problem of fact, must ask himself two questions: (1) What is
         the probable validity of the present evidence for and against the notion, (2) What is the probability of
         future data arising to negate the force of present evidence for or against the notion...Thus one must
         make his decisions on probability, for the conclusions of empirical method are always hypothetical (to
         varying degrees, of course, depending upon the strength of present evidence and the probability of
         relevant new evidence arising).[151]


Now how does one go about determining "the probable validity" of the testimony from a historical writer? How is it to
be arranged on a scale with conflicting testimony? How much more probable is one than the other? Are there
established and agreed upon rating systems so as to avoid arbitrariness? Are these systems arbitrary themselves? Is
it possible to rate the probable trustworthiness of some testimony in isolation from cross examination? These and a
dozen more questions afflict the first criterion for determining the "varying degrees" of probability for a hypothesis. But
the second criterion is even more infeasible! How can anyone have any idea of what might or might not turn up in the
near or remote future as far as evidence? Who but God knows the future? Present evidence or testimony simply
cannot tip one off as to discoveries to be expected from archaeology or the rummaging of archives. The neutral
inductivist has no idea of the extent of evidence, its quality, or its character (confirming or disconfirming) yet to be
uncovered; he cannot even estimate the degree of his ignorance. So how is he to assign probability values with any
serious thought of being accurate?


This problem of rating probability leads right into the unworkableness of Montgomery's probabilism for an effective
defense of the faith. In rating the probability of Christ's resurrection as "extremely high,"[152] Montgomery bases his
appraisal on two things; "no contrary historical evidence has come," and "the possibility of future evidence arising to
negate the force of the now existing evidence for Christ's claims is almost too small to be entertained."[153] Can
Montgomery really think any educated person will take him seriously? Far from engendering scholarly esteem, the
proposal that extremely high probability can be rooted in the lack of negative evidence plus a peremptory
prognostication is nothing but unbridled enthusiasm and vacuous presumption of foresight. From the lack of certain
kinds of evidence and a feeling about what is likely to happen in the future, how can Montgomery be so sure, nay, so
dogmatic about an unparalleled reversal of natural operations once two thousand years ago (Christ's resurrection) or
the exhaustive inerrancy of the Bible autographa which nobody has seen for at least that long? The difficulty of rating
probability can also be approached from the perspective of statistics and uniqueness. One will note that probability
judgments (which are more than a "perhaps") are usually reached with respect to a series in which an event or
characteristic recurs on some regular basis that can be traced and computed. Thus general probability can be
assigned to something which is periodically repeated, but the resurrection of Christ is a unique, one-time event. As
such there is no way to estimate a positive probability for it. If anything, taking the series comprised of every death
throughout past history as your context, the probability that Christ rose from the dead (even granting a dozen other
similar reports from the past) would be incredibly low!


Of course then the question arises as to what exactly Montgomery is endeavoring to show probable: the resurrection's
historicity, or the veracity of the New Testament account? If he were to demonstrate that the resurrection as a

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historical event is highly probable, then it would cease being miraculous! If Montgomery is trying to show the accounts
of the resurrection to be very probably truthful, then he is involved in question-begging (since what we know of the
alleged authors elsewhere is still found in the book which is under question) and in the dilemmas of rating the odds of
someone's honesty (indeed, someone who lived nearly two thousand years ago and whose writings were subjected to
the unsure outcome of hand copying and ecclesiastical legend-making). From an agnostic, inductive standpoint
Montgomery's apologetic is very unconvincing. In a sense it could not be otherwise. Once we fail to maintain that
Christianity is the only adequate basis for a meaningful interpretation of historical facts and eventuation, once we
reduce it to simply a working hypothesis which is "as plausible" or more so than the next hypothesis about isolated,
particular facts, once we have lowered our sights by appealing to the mere probability of Scripture's veracity, then we
have left the door wide open and invited the skeptic's escape to considerations of possibility. Montgomery is forced by
the logic of his position to grant that there is some probability that Jesus did not rise; the unbeliever can (and does)
ring all the changes on that possibility of disconfirmation. For a neutralist approaching "brute" facts, even the evidence
confirming the resurrection can take on a wholly different interpretation in light of its possible misleading character,
and certainly the evidence pointing away from the outlook of the gospels will be central in his thinking. However, the
Biblical position is not that Jesus probably rose, but that there is no possibility that death should hold Him! The
resurrection is an incorrigible, foundational fact of the Christian faith; weaken its certainty and you are on the way to
(or moving in the direction of) rendering Christian faith vain and undermining man's assurance of his salvation from sin.
[154] The possibility of disappointment with respect to the resurrection of Christ indicates that our faith goes no further
than hoping in this life, and that would be most pitiable (the odds are high, but in essence you are still whistling in the
dark); contrary to this outlook is Paul's life-giving truth, his assured declaration, "But now Christ has been raised (an
accomplished fact, a standing truth) from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep."[155] All men are under
unreserved obligation to believe the Scriptural declaration of the resurrection when they hear it. However, on the basis
of mere probability no absolute, necessary obligation can be established; probability implies some reservation. Thus
Montgomery's probabilistic apologetic cannot confront the unbeliever with full authority (indeed, his probabilism would
seem to imply that there is nothing for which a man is under absolute and formal obligation to act upon - i.e., meaning
the dissolution of ethics since the authority or norm is theoretically always subject to a degree of doubt), and the
irresponsibility and sin of unbelief are granted some asylum.


The ineffectiveness of an apologetic which appeals to probabilities if further indicated by the fact that what is seen as
probable or improbable is settled by a person's presuppositions; thus an appeal to probability is futile until something
has been done to alter the presuppositional outlook of the unbeliever. Stanford Reid put this criticism against
Montgomery well:


         And after all, one's view of what is probable largely depends upon one's presuppositions. This
         Montgomery has admitted when he has stated that men will accept any wild idea rather than believe in
         Christ's resurrection. Exactly so! A probable proof proves nothing, for what one believes to be probable
         is to a great extent determined by one's assumptions.[156]


Probabilities should not be made the crux of our apologetic for the very reason that probabilities do not have a
"crucial" character; rather it is presuppositions which are decisive, marking final determination of an issue. (This is
illustrated in the course of our next criticism of Montgomery's apologetic use of probabilism). It was indicated in the
quotations from Montgomery above that he thinks a probability-oriented apologetic is suited for the "rational man"[157]
who confronts the facts and wants to make his decisions thereby. Montgomery would lead us to think that his
apologetic approach excels in reasonability and so promises effectiveness in dealing with intellectuals who will make a
reasonable use of reason. The "rational man" should find Montgomery's inductive defense of the faith most admirable.
Montgomery would also lead us to believe that the renowned analytic philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, supports the
search for a divine intervention, a revelation from outside the world, in human events which Montgomery's probabilistic
apologetic offers.[158] Philosophical thought today "manifests a passion for objective, empirical truth" just like
Montgomery,[159] and the recovery of confidence in historical objectivity stems from Wittgenstein-inspired insights.
[160] Wittgenstein even leads right up to the evangelical affirmation of verbal inspiration![161] Such an apologetical


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use of Wittgenstein certainly suggests that in him Montgomery finds the sort of "rational man" who would admire what
Montgomery does in his defense of the faith; Wittgenstein is portrayed as the "missing link" between unbelief and
Montgomery's apologetic.


         But the analytical philosophy movement - Wittgenstein's continuing legacy - has provided the tools by
         which early twentieth-century existential skepticism toward objective Biblical truth can be effectively
         countered, and the fact of "divine intervention" through Scripture meaningfully proclaimed.[162]


Now even apart from the gross misapplication and extensive misunderstanding of Wittgenstein demonstrated here, let
us look at Wittgenstein's own testimony and see whether he is impressed with Montgomery's sort of inductive,
historical, probabilistic apologetic for Christianity. Just how does the "rational man" respond to apologetical use of
historical probabilities? Favorably or not? Without in the least endorsing or dealing with the Kantian notion of religion
and revelation in Wittgenstein, let us consider specifically his evaluation of the Montgomery-like apologetic:


         He will treat this belief as extremely well-established, and in another way as not well-established at all...


         There are instances where you have a faith-where you say "I believe" - and on the other hand this belief
         does not rest on the fact on which our ordinary everyday beliefs normally do rest...


         These controversies look quite different from any normal controversies. Reasons look entirely different
         from normal reason.


         They are, in a way, quite inconclusive...


         A man would fight for his life not to be dragged into the fire. No induction. Terror. That is, as it were, part
         of the substance of the belief.


         That is partly why you don't get in religious controversies, the form of controversy where one person is
         sure of the thing, and the other says: 'Well, possibly.'...


         We don't talk about hypothesis, or about high probability...


         We could even talk of historic events.


         It has been said that Christianity rests on an historic basis.


         It has been said a thousand times by intelligent people that indubitability is not enough in this case.
         Even if there is as much evidence as for Napoleon. Because the indubitability wouldn't be enough to
         make me change my whole life.


         It doesn't rest on an historic basis in the sense that the ordinary belief in historic facts could serve as a
         foundation.

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         Here we have a belief in historic facts different from a belief in ordinary historic facts...


         Those people who had faith didn't apply the doubt which would ordinarily apply to any historical
         propositions. Especially propositions of a time long past, etc.


         What is the criterion of reliability, dependability? Suppose you give a general description as to when you
         say a proposition has a reasonable weight of probability. When you call it reasonable, is this only to say
         that for it you have such and such evidence, and for others you haven't?


         For instance, we don't trust the account given of an event by a drunk man.


         Father O'Hara is one of those people who make it a question of science.


         Here we have people who treat this evidence in a different way. They base things on evidence which
         taken in one way would seem exceedingly flimsy. They base enormous things on this evidence...


         I would say, they are certainly not reasonable, that's obvious...


         What seems to me ludicrous about O'Hara is his making it appear to be reasonable...


         I would definitely call O'Hara unreasonable. I would say, if this is religious belief, then it's all superstition.
         [163]


Thus by deferring to Wittgenstein, Montgomery has backed right into the repudiation of the idea that his apologetic
use of probabilism is either effective or reasonable. The "rational man" is far from respecting an apologetic for
Christianity which is staked on historical probabilities. He realizes that it would be ludicrous to think of such historical
uncertainties as adequate to settle the question of his eternal destiny! From an allegedly neutral, inductive standpoint
Montgomery bases enormous things on exceedingly flimsy evidence; that is why his "reasons" do not function in any
normal fashion. When historic evidence is brought to bear on religious decision, even "high probability" is not the
determining factor - indeed, probability is (in addition to being an illusion here) not the fitting mind-set for a religious
controversy ("You might be surprised that there hasn't been opposed to those who believe in Resurrection those who
say "Well, possibly" Wittgenstein, LC, p. 56 - apparently Wittgenstein had not run into the strange sort of reasoning
found in men like Montgomery who make the resurrection a question of probability!). According to Wittgenstein it is
inherently unreasonable to base religious decision on probability; the evidence does not convince you by bringing
probability-inspection to bear upon it, but the evidence takes on significance only in terms of presuppositions and a
form of life: "As it were, the belief as formulated on the evidence can only be the last result - in which a number of
ways of thinking and acting crystallize and come together."[164] Montgomery's (unwarranted claim to high probability
for Christ's resurrection, then, cannot be the crux of Christian apologetics even to the putative "rational man"; the
crucial factor, and the locus of the real encounter with unbelief, is presuppositional.


Therefore, with respect to the first dialectical pole in Montgomery's apologetical thinking (probability orientation) we
have found it to be unfounded (since it depends on the illegitimate bifurcation of analytic from synthetic judgments),


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sub-Christian (since it restricts certainty to logic and mathematics, reduces religious faith to any other kind of decision,
and fosters the notion that probability guides our lives), and unworkable as a method (since it is undermined by Hume
and impossible to calculate) as well as being unworkable as an effective apologetic (since it is uncritically enthusiastic,
shows Christianity to be possibly - perhaps very probably - wrong, provides asylum for unbelief, does not come across
as reasonable, and in reality must rely upon particular presuppositions to have argumentative force). The second
dialectical pole in Montgomery's apologetical thinking involves his appeal to indeterminism in order to protect the
possibility of miracles.


This side of his thinking fails to commend itself to us as well. Consequently his apologetic turns out to be doubly-weak.


bb. Indeterminism Faulted
We observe that Montgomery does not affirm the doctrines of divine foreordination and predestination; he is very
critical of those who do[165]Montgomery does not like thinking which is sovereignty-oriented[166] or which sees God
as the ultimate cause of everything.[167] He is opposed to approaching things from the standpoint of God's eternal,
sovereign decrees.[168] Indeed, not only does he hold back from asserting God's predetermination of all historical
events, Montgomery's espoused position would in principle discount any genuine predestination at all.[169] Instead
Montgomery holds that "in a relativistic universe nothing but logical self-contradiction is impossible!"[170] As a critical
historian Montgomery declares "nothing is impossible"[171]. And it is in terms of this "modern" attitude that
Montgomery would defend the possibility of miracles:


         But can the modern man accept a "miracle" such as the Resurrection? The answer is a surprising one:
         The Resurrection has to be accepted by us just because we are modern men - men living in the
         Einsteinian-relativistic age. For us, unlike people of the Newtonian epoch, the universe is no longer a
         tight, safe, predictable playing field in which we know all the rules. Since Einstein, no modern has had
         the right to rule out the possibility of events because of prior knowledge of "natural law."[172] (cf. WHG,
         p. 194n.)


Since Einstein's revolutionary theory of relativity, progressive scientists have abandoned the notion of natural law,
thereby providing Montgomery with an answer (i.e., indeterminism[173]) to Hume's argument against miracles;[174]
"The universe, previously closed by Newton, Hume, et. al. to the possibility of unique events, now opens to full
empirical investigation."[175] Thus Montgomery, the "modern man," maintains that in our open universe where nothing
is impossible a miracle cannot be precluded. Determinism, whether divine or natural, has been evicted, and the open
universe of indeterminism prepares the way for the coming of the Christian apologist.


Now we might be tempted to pursue a discussion of the modern scene in the philosophy of science in order that
Montgomery's misreading of its support for Christian apologetics would be seen. For instance, we recall the statement
by Bertrand Russell:


         There has been a tendency, not uncommon in the case of a new scientific theory, for every philosopher
         to interpret the work of Einstein in accordance with his own metaphysical system, and to suggest that
         the outcome is a great accession of strength to the views which the philosopher in question previously
         held.[176]


It is a bit tendentious for Montgomery to think that Einstein's thought opens the door to a recognition of miracles.
Russell, who is not even recent as a philosopher of science, certainly was well acquainted with Einstein's theory of

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relativity (having written the article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica on it); however, far from becoming tolerant to the
notion of miracles, Russell chided those believers who defended Christianity by appeal to indeterminism saying, "They
seem to have overlooked the fact, that, if you abolish the reign of law, you also abolish the possibility of
miracles..."[177] The renowned indeterminist, Werner Heisenberg, had this to say about the effects of modern physics
on religion:


         The general trend of human thinking in the nineteenth century had been toward an increasing
         confidence in the scientific method and in precise rational terms, and had led to a general skepticism
         with regard to those concepts of natural language which do not fit into the closed frame of scientific
         thought - for instance, those of religion. Modern physics has in many ways increased this skepticism .
         [178] (N.B. The way in which this skepticism may not have been increased, says Heisenberg, pertains
         to a new sense for "understanding" - something Montgomery would rightly shun.)


And even aside from the question of whether modern physics supports the possibility of miracles by means of
indeterminacy is the questionable truth of indeterminacy itself; for example, Mario Bunge sees the denial of a causal
nexus in the world as "a regressive attitude" that cannot avoid "the pitfalls of subjectivism" and which encourages
"fortuitism and its epistemological partner, namely, irrationalism."[179] Montgomery might do well to heed the advice of
C. S. Lewis: do not rest your apologetic on some recent development in science, even if it appears to be bearing you a
gift![180] Well, as we said, it might be tempting to pursue this kind of discussion here, but there are actually far more
crucial and foundational problems with Montgomery's defense of miracles by appeal to indeterminism. In the first
place, this undermines meaningful thinking altogether. In a universe which is completely contingent, completely
indeterminate, one could not rely upon any principles or universals; reality might be so altered in the immediate future
that our knowledge of nature could now mislead us and even our process of thinking could be transformed so as to
recognize things as logical which were not before. Yet on the other hand, in an indeterminate universe one could not
identify any particulars or himself, draw distinctions, or determine preferences between competing options; all the
appearances would be the fortuitous present-states of a universe that is ultimately mysterious. A system of truth could
not be generated, scientific investigation would be futile, and even the law of contradiction could not be meaningfully
used. Without an ultimate unity and interpretation for the particular facts of reality, and without an ultimate significance
and individuality for the facts which are unified, the thinker becomes stranded between pure contingency and
(correlative to it) abstract logic. Van Til has set forth this dilemma in many of his publications, and I have dealt with it in
II.B.2 and II.C.1 above.[181] If the universe is taken to be indeterminate in order to defend miracles, the apologist has
frustrated his own effort to bring men to a knowledge of God, for meaningful thinking or knowledge are precluded
altogether against the background of all-embracing contingency.


Montgomery would also undermine the miraculous character and apologetic significance of miracles by his appeal to
indeterminacy. In a universe where anything can happen because "the bludgeonings of chance" (W. E. Henley) forge
the shape of the past, present and future, a "miracle" is nothing but an accident, not the telling revelation of power and
meaning from the God who sovereignly directs the universe. Even if the position that says the universe does not
operate in a uniform or law-like fashion were not highly improbable, and even if Montgomery could give historical
evidence of a so-called "miracle," by appealing to indeterminacy, to indeterminacy Montgomery's foes force him to go.
A "miracle" is nothing more than the other accidents we expect to be sired in the womb of chance. Some accidents
impress some people, other accidents impress other people. Montgomery is forced to argue that a "miraculous
accident" is one which is unique: "The significance of a miracle.../lies/ in the fact that it is unique."[182] However, this
reduces to relativism since in an indeterminate universe all events are unique; what we take to be unique is due to our
perspective or inclination. Montgomery himself destroys the appeal to uniqueness when he applauds his conception of
natural law because "it p[laces all events, regardless of their uniqueness, on equal footing."[183] Indeed! No event is
actually more unique than another, but in terms of our historical study some oddities stand out from the usual run of
events; yet these "oddities" are, from a historian's perspective, on an equal footing with all the rest. Since history has
not yet terminated, since all the data is not in, and since no one individual has all the necessary information, we
cannot even predicate historical uniqueness (based on statistical analysis of occurrences of any event; no one can


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know what is a miracle and what is not if we accept Montgomery's notion of natural law as simple "description of what
is observed to happen in the universe"[184]! Lacking universal perspective, the apologist cannot be sure that the
resurrection is unique in fact; thus he cannot proclaim a "miraculous" resurrection. The resurrection is on "an equal
footing" with the sinking of the Bismarck, man's first step on the moon, and all other events! Trying to determine which
events are genuinely unique and which are not (i.e., which events are miraculous and which are not) is futile on
Montgomery's basis - as he himself unwittingly admits by saying "a historian, in facing an alleged 'miracle,' is really
facing nothing new. All historical events are unique"[185]. Thus every event is a miracle, but because there is no
distinction, no event is a miracle. Uniqueness cannot be known for sure, and even if it could the "miracle" would reveal
nothing beyond that very uniqueness itself. Even then, many of the things Christ did (e.g., healing) could not qualify as
"miracles" (i.e., unique events) since they were repeated on numerous occasions! Thus Montgomery's appeal to
indeterminacy to defend the Christian faith ends up nullifying the Christian faith: "miracles" are non-revelatory
accidents, unique events which cannot be known as unique and which (in fact) are not unique.


Montgomery's apologetic not only destroys the miraculous character of miracles, but it deprives them of any
significance whatsoever. If the resurrection took place in a relativistic universe where anything can happen, its
backdrop is that of chance; and based on chance nothing can be implied or signified. Moreover, in terms of
Montgomery's epistemology, the resurrection could only be as significant as any individual took it to be, for the
individual must interpret the "fact" for himself. Montgomery sees a "fact" as any unit of being which is capable of
bearing meaning," and the source of that meaning is made very clear; "Knowledge is the mind's construction of
meaning."[186] Man's mind, then, must construct meaning for the "fact" of the resurrection, a "blank" unit of being
which needs to be given color, significance, interpretation by the historian. Of course the resurrection loses all
apologetical value hereby, for its interpretation is autobiographically projected and the event can bear various (even
contradictory) meanings as different individual historians deign for it to have. Montgomery has made the resurrection
so "brute" that it no longer presents any important challenge to unbelief. Thus in terms of his cosmology and
epistemology Montgomery would efface the significance of our Easter faith. Even if Montgomery could verify the
historicity of the resurrection, he would prove only that it is an isolated and uninterpreted, "freak" event in a contingent
universe. The apologist is left stranded on the far side of Lessing's ditch; the accidental truths of history cannot be
bearers of revelation within my experience and cannot be used to demonstrate anything. The sceptic can grant that
Christ rose and then simply ask what that odd, ancient fact has to do with God, revelation, or his own present life and
experience. Rather than authoritatively crossing Lessing's ditch with the self-attesting eternal Christ who became
incarnate on our behalf. Montgomery simply digs the ditch a bit deeper (with the pretense of using an "evangelical"
shovel). From a neutral framework of thought the resurrection does not prove or imply anything (neither Christ's
divinity nor our future resurrection). Until the neutral inductivist like Montgomery proves every other point of
Christianity, the resurrection is an isolated, irrelevant, "brute" fact which cannot aid our apologetic effort or evangelistic
mission. The unbeliever can easily accept the resurrection without flinching on Montgomery's basis, for it is only a
random fact until a Christian foundation has been put under it. Only within a presuppositional framework can the
apologist argue that God raised Jesus, and that for our justification. Abhorring presuppositions, Montgomery cannot
argue these points. But if you cannot argue these truths, but only the resuscitation of a cadaver, why argue at all? We
are not interested in a mere historical oddity, we are interested in a resurrected Savior who can deliver us from sin's
guilt; it is this miraculous Messiah we set forth to the unbeliever, not an accidental event from history. An apologetic
which deprives the resurrection of its significance has thereby rendered itself inoperative.


Not only does the appeal to indeterminism undermine meaningful thinking plus the miraculous character and
significance of miracles, it undermines the Biblical orthodoxy of the apologist, thereby compromising his witness to the
truth. If oddity and chance become the crux of one's apologetic for miracles, he has simply argued for one element of
scriptural revelation by means of denying another. The question would then arise, whether he is defending the faith
which was once delivered unto the saints or not. Scripture clearly teaches that this universe and the history thereof are
not characterized by indetermincy and non-uniformity. On the one hand, we know that God causes all things
according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11), declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things
not yet done (Isa. 46: 9-11). As He has purposed so shall it stand (Isa. 14:24, 27) and He does whatever He pleases
(Ps. 115:3) even on earth and in the seas (Ps. 135:6), for none can stay His hand from doing according to His will in


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the hosts of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth (Dan. 4:35). God's sovereign direction applies to all things:
nature (e.g., Nah. 1:3; Matt. 5:45), animal creation (e.g., Matt. 10:29), nations (e.g., Dan 2:21; Acts 17:26), man in
general (e.g., Isa. 64:8), kings (e.g., Prov. 21:1), individuals (e.g., Ps. 37:23; Prov. 16:9; Jas. 4:13-15), man's power (e.
g., Deut. 6:17f.), man's birth and death (e.g., Gen. 18:14; Luke 12:20), man's spirit and heart (e.g. Hag. 1:14; Ps.
105:25; Acts 16:14), man's affection (e.g., Gen. 39:21; Ex. 11:3), man's beliefs (e.g., 2 Thess. 2:llf; Acts 13:48; Phil.
1:29), man's plans and decisions (e.g., Prov. 19:21; Jer. 10:23), even man's destiny, whether salvation (Rom. 9:10-24;
Eph. 1:4f; 2 Thess. 2:13f) or damnation (Rom. 9:13, 22; I Peter 2:8) There is nothing which is indeterminate or left to
chance: "The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of Jehovah" (Prov 16:33). On the other hand,
the natural operations of the world follow a determined pattern of regular succession - according to God's promise (cf.
Gen. 6:22; Jer. 33:20, 25). Therefore, to appeal to indeterminacy in one's apologetic is to forsake the biblical
orthodoxy of the position to be defended. As it has been pointed out in another place, Montgomery is straddling the
fence between the biblical outlook (e.g., Martin Luther) and the autonomous viewpoint e.g., Martin Marty); advocates
of both positions are struck with the inconsistency of Montgomery's inductive apologetic for authoritative revelation.
Marty would say to Luther about Montgomery, "I think he is really on your side...yet joins us in a method of inductivism
that presupposes a purely contingent universe," and Luther would say to Marty. "I am certain he is on my side...
However, he seems to think that he can at the same time also be on your side. He does not seem to realize that his
inductive method, as he uses it in common with the non-Christian analytic-positivists, implies, as it is implied by, a
metaphysics of pure chance. I hope he won't continue to try straddling the fence.[187] To defend Biblical miracles by
surrendering to the non-Christian metaphysic of indeterminacy is apologetically self-vitiating.


Therefore, the second dialectical pole of Montgomery's apologetic must be rejected just as the first pole was. His
appeal to indeterminacy undermines (1) meaningful thinking, (2) the miraculous character and apologetic significance
of miracles, and (3) the orthodoxy of his witness. This is a critical difficulty with Montgomery's inductive apologetic.
Failing to endorse the position that God predetermines all historical particulars, and claiming that his methodology
assumes that in history nothing is impossible, Montgomery holds forth a neutral, objective, inductive historiography.
However, if all facts are not what they are according to the sovereign plan of God, and if every fact is not pre-
interpreted by the Creator - that is, if neutral, fortuitous phenomenon are assigned meaning by the organizing mind of
man - then history would indeed appear to be sired in the womb of chance. In such a situation Montgomery could
neither identify himself to himself nor discover intelligible facts which function as evidence for anything whatsoever.
The universe and history would be unfathomable mysteries - even as all pagan religions, with their elements of fate,
maintain. Temporal eventuation cut loose from the God who declares the end from the beginning, who bears all things
along by His powerful word, and who works all things after the counsel of His own will (i.e., history separated from the
meaning and power of God, His revelation and sovereign plan) would be sound and fury, signifying nothing. History
would be worse than a tale told by an idiot. Without the presupposition of God's truthful word men try in vain to make a
contingent (irrational) world intelligible (rational), but a contingent cosmos cannot but be the home of ultimate
skepticism. An evidential apologetic which presupposes indeterminacy would be meaningless and sterile, impossible
as a reasoned defense of anything at all.


2. Dead-end Approach to Religious Truth
Finally we should observe that Montgomery's conception of apologetics is not only built upon a fallacious inference
and involves a self-contradictory, doubly weak dialectic, but it embodies a dubious and otiose approach to religious
truth. According to him religious claims are to be verified in two steps: (1) determine "that the writing had no internal
contradictions" and (2) determine, by exact fit to the facts of experience, that the alleged divine being "performed acts
unable or highly unlikely to be performed by mere human beings.[188] Now with respect to #1, Montgomery has
severely criticized Gordon Clark for taking this approach, and he admits that "It is conceivable that a systematically
consistent written work could be produced by mere human beings.[189] Thus this criteria is far from conclusive in
approaching religious truth, and it is somewhat canting for Montgomery to be the one setting it forth. With respect to
#2, it would be decidedly non-inductive for someone to delimit what could and could not be accomplished by "mere
human beings" before the end of history; thus on Montgomery's basis we could never use #2 to determine what the
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Fatima, and Ste. Anne de Beaupre (cf. Exod. 7:11).[190] Moreover, if (as Montgomery says) anything can happen in
history, the performance of amazing events has no supernatural significance. Therefore, neither criterion #1 nor
criterion #2 can function effectively to acquire religious truth, discriminate between the devil's city and the civitas Dei,
or verify a revelation or messenger from God. And these criteria do not fare any better if linked together, as Antony
Flew would be quick to observe;


         A failed proof cannot serve as a pointer to anything, save perhaps the weakness of those of us who
         have accepted it...nor can it be put to work along with other throw outs as a part of an accumulation of
         evidences. If one leaky bucket will not hold water that is no reason to think that ten can.[191]


So there would not seem to be very much point in using the approach to religious truth advocated by Montgomery;
one could analyze an alleged revelation for coherence and extraordinary events only to find out that his scrutiny was
much ado about nothing. "O! what authority and show of truth can cunning sin cover itself withal!"[192] Satan himself
can be transformed into an angel of light[193] who would have little difficulty passing Montgomery's test for religious
truth; if we are going to try the spirits to see whether they are of God, we need the apostolic word for our standard of
measurement.[194] It alone is rigorous enough to detect the many false prophets that have gone into the world.


We must conclude, then, that Montgomery cannot establish the historicity of Christ's resurrection or verify the divine
origin on the Bible to the satisfaction of any reasonable man who uses the empirical or scientific method. His
apologetic argument has been faulted in its specific outworking as well as in its conception. The former was defective
in each of its premises and did not have a conclusion which reasonably followed from the premises anyway. The latter
was disqualified for fallacious inference, dialectical tension (weak with respect to both probabilism and indeterminacy),
and an otiose approach to religious truth. Montgomery has simply failed to make good on his promise to provide a
factually compelling argument for the Christian truth-claim and to set forth evidence for Christ's resurrection which is
overwhelming in force; his kind of inductive apologetic is bankrupt as an argument. However, there is a further way in
which his apologetic fails to live up to his promise. In the introduction to our critique of Montgomery's apologetical
approach we saw that he not only claims to have an overwhelming argument, but he claims to be completely objective
in his methodology. He would have us think that his defense of the faith evaluates God's word like any other historical
material - by means of objectively discovered facts, the neutral historical method, and without a priori. We turn now to
an investigation of this aspect of Montgomery's apologetic in order to see that his defense does not commend itself to
us on this score either.


2. Defective as Presuppositionless Objectivity
A succinct digest of Montgomery's apologetical theory (and by implication his epistemological moorings) would be this:
"When world views collide, an appeal to common facts is the only preservative against philosophical solipsism and
religious anarchy."[195] The epitome of Montgomery's war cry against presuppositional apologetics and the central
girder of his own system is the primacy of "the facts and nothing but the facts" (as it were) in establishing truth-
judgments. The objective facts, objectively discovered, and objectively argued virtually become an incorrigible realm
for intellectual appeal, the fountainhead of any and all resolutions for disputes. Thus with the demand of the
positivistic, analytic philosophers for empirical verification of religious utterances, Montgomery takes this as the cue for
Christian apologetics to claim center stage - apparently being oblivious of the fact that verificationism (along with the
seemingly indefinable verifiability criterion) has long been discredited.[196] Plantinga remarks that verificationism is
entirely unsuccessful, and he goes on to make the relevant observation, "this makes the dizzy gyrations of those
theologians who accept it more puzzling than ever; perhaps they would do well to study it before rushing to embrace
it"[197]. Nevertheless, Montgomery plays right into the hands of the apostate positivists, offering them what he thinks
is verifiable, historical, objective, factual evidence that can convince any "reasonable man" (although the still
unconverted analytic philosopher, Antony Flew, is something of an anomaly). Montgomery chides men like Ramm and
Ladd for moving away from objective, critical historiography because they see the need for the Holy Spirit's internal

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witness, the significance of the covenantal community context of revelation, and the uniqueness of the resurrection as
a historical event,[198] Montgomery obtusely insists, "there are no degrees of objectivity...we must...courageously use
the language of objective facticity."[199] The resurrection must be verified by a method which is not encumbered with
presuppositions, a method which is fully objective and academically respected, a method which lets the facts alone
determine your outlook. No other factors can be influential. Montgomery is adamant that the theological theorist must
build up his views from the realm of "objective facticity."[200] He says that objective, scientific theologizing is
demanded by Christianity's historical nature, that we need concrete verification of all our inferences, and that success
for a theory depends on its ability "to fit the facts."[201] Using a notorious distinction, Montgomery maintains that the
apologist must move up from the I-it dimension to the I-thou plane,[202] that is, that defending the faith calls for
starting with impersonal "facts" and letting them lead you into the personal presence of God by their unavoidable
force. Theology is nothing less than science,[203] and science tried to fit its theories to "the irreducible stuff" of the
natural world.[204] Theology simply broadens the scope to encompass supernatural revelation as well as historical
phenomena (e.g., the resurrection).


Hence we have Montgomery's apologetic with its motto: that in all things objective, factual evidence might have the
preeminence. He is the very antithesis of "philosophical apologetics" and stands in stark contrast to
presuppositionalism. The central thrust of his thinking is the necessity, in testing for truth, of accumulating objective
facts and building them up piece by piece, in a neutral fashion, into a pattern of ultimate reality; added to this is the
evaluative centrality of these facts derived from undeniable perceptions (or reports thereof) and confidence in their
conversion power. If "the winds of scepticism" are blowing through the church with respect, say, to the Old Testament,
then Montgomery's apologetic takes our appropriate response to be an immediate quest for Noah's ark! His most
basic and unquestionable authority is historical facticity as interpreted by his own thinking; verification and appeal
cannot reach beyond this ultimate standard.


a. Theoretical Shortcomings
If Montgomery is found deficient at this point, the heart will have been cut out of positivistic apologetics (leading to the
subsequent re-evaluation of the proper place and function of evidence in Christian apologetics).


1. Unbiblical Apriorism
Now it is easy to see that Montgomery's approach is devastatingly unbiblical (e.g., "The beginning [not end] of
knowledge is the fear of the Lord,"[205]) for an aspect of the created world is placed authoritatively higher and taken to
be more sure than the Word of the covenant Lord.[206] However, going beyond even this, Montgomery's objectivism
fails to be upheld by the autonomous-minded philosopher-scientist of his day. Montgomery thinks that "facts," not
presuppositions, determine one's interpretation of history. Everyone, he contends, employs inductive procedures to
distinguish fact from fiction; the Christian and non-Christian alike are able to "compare alternative interpretations of
fact and determine on the basis of the facts themselves which interpretation best fits reality."[207] Here Montgomery
ignores the noetic effects of sin and completely obscures the centuries of debate over what constitutes "reality" (a
most magnanimous and ambiguous word!). In dealing with unbelievers, says Montgomery, the apologist should see
that "the starting-point has to be the common rationality (the inductive and deductive procedures) which all men
share."[208] It would have been helpful had Montgomery explained to us his reasons for making this statement
despite the destructive work of Kurt Gödel on deductivism and David Hume on inductivism. We are a bit surprised by
the universalism of Montgomery's assertion also - has this been empirically, factually verified or is it a full-blown, far-
reaching assumption? Montgomery thinks that the scientific method is the only way one can come to know truth
without having to refer to anything beyond the method (is he inductively sure of this?) and alone provides public
evidence which can compel assent (another unverified assumption!). Any authoritarian approach, even God's has to
be tested by outside measuring devices before its claims can be accepted (is it then an authority in this emasculated
sense?). Since Montgomery recognizes only the scientific method as valid, empirical reason must be the judge of


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divine revelation![209] His approach comes across as definitely unfaithful (recall Abraham) to the Christian outlook
and authority structure, as well as ironically dogmatic in the most a priori fashion (e.g., declaring that all human
knowledge uses probabilistic empirical methods). Nevertheless, even overlooking these crucial defects, Montgomery's
apologetical-epistemological framework has fallen out of repute among professional scientific theories. It borders on
anachronism. His approach is not only unsupported by the Christian viewpoint, it is greatly unsupported by the outlook
of non-Christians in this day as well.


2. Contemporary Incursions
We should note that there is no simple, direct argumentative method that carries the universal, compelling force which
Montgomery assigns to his inductive objectivism, and that "facts" are seen for what they are when taken as "facts for a
system" - that is, only in light of presuppositions (which Montgomery tacitly detests and feigns not to use) do
particulars take on meaning and significance. On the first score we look to Gilbert Ryle and Stephen Toulmin; Thomas
Kuhn has effectively argued against the Montgomery-mentality on the second score. Ryle accurately points out that
the positivists do not deal with logic as a whole, but only with one kind of logic: invariable, formal logic; however, there
are many arguments and investigations which turn on informal logic, and thus we must be cautious not to confuse one
pattern of operation for that which applies in a different field altogether. "There is no such animal as 'Science.' There
are scores of sciences...it is not necessary or expedient to pretend that they are fellow-workers in some joint but
unobvious missionary enterprise. It is better policy to remind them how different and independent their trades actually
are."[210] Indeed, it is most important to see the distinction between technical and untechnical concepts: "The welter
of technical concepts with which a scientist operates and the welter of untechnical and semi-technical concepts with
which we all operate are welters not of homogeneous, but heterogeneous concepts"[211]. And this in turn
necessitates a distinction between the logic which holds in one field and that which operates in another; informal logic
must be distinguished from formal logic, and the former must not be swallowed by the latter.


         . . .the settlement or even partial settlement of a piece of litigation between theories cannot be achieved
         by any one stereotyped manoeuvre. There is no one regulation move or sequence of moves as a result
         of which the correct logical bearings between the disputed positions can be fixed.[212]


Different fields work on different assumptions, and hence have different logics. Stephen Toulmin has gone on to point
out that the philosophy of logic in this century has been too much directed by mathematical ideals and thus bewitched
into thinking that logic is merely a mechanical calculus which operates upon propositions. Instead the various special
sciences establish for themselves different grounds for justification; different kinds of evidence are subjected to
varying evaluations from field to field, depending on what is accepted as proper argumentative "backing."[213]
Therefore, not only is Montgomery mistaken to think that the scientific method is the same for everyone (and to blur
the distinctions between natural science and history,[214] but he is misguided in thinking that some singular, simple
objective approach (a common rationality) can settle the differences between disputed interpretations on the basis of
the facts themselves - that is, that a neutral methodology and the irreducible stuff of experience are the only factors in
an argument.


But far more devastating to Montgomery's outlook than the work of Ryle and Toulmin is the challenging work of
Thomas S. Kuhn in the philosophy of science.[215] Whereas Toulmin demonstrated that logic and argument will differ
from field to field due to varying operations, standards and presuppositions, Kuhn has shown that logic and argument
varies even within a particular field of endeavor, between different schools of thought. We offer here an extended
summary of Kuhn's book. In opposition to the suggestive and implicit image of science and scientific development
given in textbooks, Kuhn demonstrates that a critical history of science does not support the concept of development-
by-accumulation at all, but rather a notion of tradition-bound periods succeeding each other via revolutions. Central to
Kuhn's thesis is the concept of paradigm: a significant scientific achievement sufficiently unprecedented to attract an
enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity and sufficiently open-ended to leave


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many puzzles for its practitioners to resolve The paradigm provides a model from which springs a coherent tradition of
scientific research as well as standards for scientific practice. The developmental pattern of science is usually the
successive transition from one paradigm to another by means of non-cumulative and extraordinary research episodes
wherein a new model, incompatible with the previous one, unlocks the riddles or anomalies generated by its
predecessor.


In the absence of a paradigm all facts pertaining to a given science seem equally relevant. The end of this pre-
paradigm period is signalized by the emergence of a body of intertwined theoretical and methodological beliefs
permitting selection, evaluation, and criticism as well as the formation of a specialized discipline (committed to the
newly received paradigm). The paradigm received was successful because it was able to solve acute problems and
promise success in selected, yet incomplete, examples. The articulation of these phenomena and refinement of theory
by means of puzzle-solving (according to restrictions which limit the nature and method of obtaining acceptable
solutions) constitutes the work of normal science. Agreement on a paradigm does not have to be accompanied by
agreement on the interpretation of it, and paradigms can be prior to, more binding, and more complete than any set of
research rules abstracted from it. Even though normal science does not aim at factual or theoretical novelties,
unexpected phenomena are repeatedly uncovered (especially by a newly developed apparatus which does not render
the precise expectation involved) and eventually recognized as anomalies for the paradigm, despite resistance. After a
pronounced failure in the activities of normal problem-solving, often a novel theory emerges in response to the crisis
(many times coming from someone who worked in another field previously). The transition into crisis and extraordinary
science begins when an anomaly comes to be regarded as more than just another puzzle for normal science. The
blurring of the paradigm (through competing articulations) and consequent loosening of the normal research rules
follows, along with explicit discontent, a willingness to try anything, recourse to philosophy, and debate over
fundamentals.


When it is acknowledged that the existing paradigm has ceased to function adequately in an exploration of some
aspect of nature, the older paradigm is replaced with an incompatible new one and scientific revolution has taken
place. Then follows the reconstruction of the field due to reconstruction of its fundamentals, change of criteria, and
alteration of concepts. Arguments between competing schools are bound to be circular since even the basic data is
viewed differently. The choice between competing paradigms is a choice between incompatible modes of community
life and so cannot be made according to normal science's evaluative procedures (its logic and experimentation) - for
those very procedures depend upon a particular paradigm, and it is the paradigm which is at issue. Reception of the
new paradigm often requires a redefinition of the corresponding science, its legitimate problems, and accepted
standards. Thus when two schools disagree, they will usually talk through each other in debating the relative merits of
their respective paradigms. The paradigm change re-educates a scientist's perception of his environment, rendering
his world of research incommensurable with the one previously inhabited (similar to a gestalt switch). The
interpretative enterprise does not correct a paradigm, but only articulates it. There is no neutral language of
observation, for the theory sorts out the perception from the flux of experience. Hence paradigms determine large
areas of experience by perceptually and conceptually subdividing the world in a certain way.


By referring only to that segment of work in past science which can be easily viewed as contributing to the solution of
the text's paradigm problems, science books persist in making the history of science look linear and cumulative. Such
a view (through selection and distortion) misrepresents the scientific enterprise and disguises the revolutionary nature
of scientific developments. It smothers the critical significance of presuppositions in scientific enterprises.


Competition between paradigms is, unlike disagreements in normal science, not resolved by proofs and evidence,
verification and direct argumentation. Differing standards and definitions, new relationships between central terms,
concepts, and experiments render a communication across the revolutionary divide inevitably partial. The transition
from one incommensurable paradigm to another cannot be made a step at a time by forced logic and neutral
experience. Incidental factors may influence the conversation (e.g., problem-solving ability, appropriateness or
aesthetic appeal), but counter considerations can always be adduced by a persistent opponent. The individual must


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be converted to a changed style of operations and methodology. The social resolution of the dispute results from an
increasing shift in the distribution of professional allegiances (the various individuals making their decision on various
faith-bases). Once the reception of a common paradigm has freed the scientific community from the need to re-
examine its first principles in a constant fashion, progress during a period of normal science will seem obvious and
assured. The victors in a revolution will always see their victory as nothing less than progress; that prophecy is self-
fulfilling since past formulations are junked and since the scientific community is the exclusive arbiter of professional
achievement. Science grows in depth, but not necessarily in breadth. The nature of scientific communities provides a
virtual guarantee that both the list of problems solved by science and the precision of individual solutions will
continually grow.


Kuhn's major accomplishment here was his demonstration that paradigms (presuppositions) play a determinative role
even in the field of science - a field long taken to be the grand illustration, the apex, of objective facticity. If this holds in
the field of science, how much more does it hold in the field of history! The historian does not have the scientist's
advantage of repeating experiments under controlled conditions, the historian's evidence is much more fragmentary,
and the historian is forced to accept certain evidence on unverified authority as well as to construct explanations by
speculative empathy and sympathy;[216] thus he is far from having the advantages of the scientist, and yet even the
scientist is crucially dependent upon paradigms. A fortiori the historian's objectivity must be dismissed. (But doesn't
Kuhn prove his thesis by historical evidence? Only to those who will step inside his paradigmatic circle! The opposition
given to Kuhn by those wishing to cling to their venerated "objectivism" only goes to illustrate Kuhn's very point; They
continue to portray the history of scientific inquiry as linear and cumulative, rejecting Kuhn's evidence as not meeting
their particular standards.)


It is a bit amusing to see Montgomery try to dismiss Kuhn's probing analysis by merely calling it "misinformed".[217]
Quite the contrary, it is Montgomery who persistently turns up being misinformed on the support he has for his
apologetic (recall his outlandish claims about the putative confirmation of the New Testament, his analytic/synthetic
distinction, his deference to Quine, his appeal to Wittgenstein, his argument from Einsteinian relativity, his dizzy
embracing of verificationism, etc.); faced with the choice between Montgomery's credentials and those of Kuhn,
between Montgomery's dogmatic, one line dismissal and Kuhn's closely argued and well documented treatise, is there
any doubt as to who is in the position of greater expertise? Montgomery's shallow treatment of Kuhn is all the more
conspicuous when we remember that the debate over objectivity in history per se has been raging for years now (with
objectivism far from being victorious). Montgomery is at a decided disadvantage in opposing Kuhn; he has little more
than a squirt-gun to overcome a flame-thrower! Robert S. Cohen has compiled an impressive list of the cultural and
social influences which have significant effect on science[218], and a compelling example of the non-objective
character of the scientific guild is afforded in The Velihovsky Affair: The Warfare of Science & Scientism,[219]
especially the chapter entitled "The Scientific Reception System." Even the logical-empiricist C. G. Hempel, who
exposits a subject-neutral approach to historical investigation, makes this candid concession:


         What will have to be taken into account in constructing or justifying inductive acceptance rules for pure
         scientific research are the objectives of such research or the importance attached in pure science to
         achieving certain kinds of results. What objectives does pure scientific research seek to achieve? Truth
         of the accepted statements might be held to be one of them. But surely not truth at all costs. For then,
         the only rational decision policy would be never to accept any hypothesis on inductive grounds since,
         however well supported, it might be false.


         Scientific research is not even aimed at achieving very high probability of truth, or very strong inductive
         support, at all costs. Science is willing to take considerable chances on this score. It is willing to accept
         a theory that vastly outreaches its evidential basis if that theory promises to exhibit an underlying order,
         a system of deep and simple systematic connections among what had previously been a mass of
         disparate and multifarious facts.


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         It is an intriguing but as yet open question whether the objectives, or the values, that inform pure
         scientific inquiry can all be adequately characterized in terms of such theoretical desiderata as
         confirmation, explanatory power, and simplicity and, if so, whether these features admit of a satisfactory
         combination into a concept of purely theoretical or scientific utility that could be involved in the
         construction of acceptable rules for hypotheses and theories in pure science. Indeed, it is by no means
         clear whether the conception of basic scientific research as leading to the provisional acceptance or
         rejection of hypotheses is tenable at all. One of the problems here at issue is whether the notion of
         accepting a hypothesis independently of any contemplated action can be satisfactorily explicated within
         the framework of a purely logical and methodological analysis of scientific inquiry or whether, if any
         illuminating construal of the idea is possible at all, it will have to be given in the context of a
         psychological, sociological, and historical study of scientific research.[220]


Reference could also be made to N. R. Hanson's Patterns of Discovery[221] to get a good look at the unsettled and
dynamic character of the research sciences as opposed to the calm and finished efficiency, the alleged objectivity, of
(what Kuhn calls) "normal science." The renown physicist, Max Planck, maintains that the presuppositions of the
scientist influence his method and condition his conclusion (cf. his Scientific Autobiography), and he is joined by
Michael Polanyi, Stephen Toulmin, J. Bronowski, and G. Holton in deflating the glorification of scientific objectivity. If
we step into the field of history, notable scholars like Isaiah Berlin, Leo Strauss, and R. G. Collingwood (to mention
only a few) would turn us away from the chimera of objective historiography; the fact is that the historian is not, and
cannot be, "a neutral mirror."[222] Now no listing of names can decide a dispute, but from an introduction to a few well
known thinkers and writers we can begin to see whether Montgomery stands on good ground in calling the
internationally recognized scholar, Thomas Kuhn, simply "misinformed." Montgomery might dismiss a college
undergraduate on that basis, but he lacks cogency when taking this facile approach to a man with Kuhn's stature.


In writing his valuable work for the philosophy of science Kuhn has not only exorcised the ghostly influences of
positivism in the physical sciences he has performed a valuable job in tearing the very core out of the position of
objectivism in historiography (a fortiori, and by development of the significance and function of paradigms). This is not
to say that the biblical Christian will not insist on differing with Kuhn at some points. For instance, Kuhn unnecessarily
moves from his accurate analysis of the way in which paradigms influence scientific endeavor to the renunciation of a
final, true account of nature. This would cut the ground out from under Kuhn's statements about problem-solving in
science, improvements and advances, etc., for without the possibility of an "ultimate true conception" (whether
possessed in every area by some man or not) it does not make sense to speak of "solutions," "advances" and the like.
"Adaption," "growth," and "improvement" presuppose the perfect ideal in the light of which something can constitute a
degree or stage. By relinquishing the idea that paradigm changes can bring the scientist closer and closer to the truth
(that is, by advocating an evolutionary but non-teleological conception of science) Kuhn has precluded a final
viewpoint on truth; thus he cannot really be sure whether a puzzle is not rather a fact, solution, or personal blunder.
Without an ultimate standard (however ideal) growth could be confused with, rather than contrasted to, regression;
these very distinctions would be nonsensical if a standard or criterion is sceptically abandoned. Moreover, the
Christian need not make the sharp distinction between greater control of the world and better knowledge of the world
that Kuhn does; to know something is to know how to react to it and use it. Indeed Adam's naming of the animals in
Genesis as well as the continuing cultural mandate would support the idea that increasing control of nature implies
increasing knowledge of it. Plus there is the fact that God has revealed certain fixed reference points of truth to us
(and He certainly knows the way the world really is). Thus the biblical Christian will not agree with Kuhn at every point,
but Kuhn's general analysis of scientific development and use of paradigms remains accurate. In developing a theory
the scientist does not simply collect and tie together generalizations about "facts" that are irreducible there. The
empirical inductive method does not proceed by constant accumulation of "incorrigible facts" because facts are
actually facts-for-a-paradigm. When the paradigm changes so do the observations and meanings previously utilized
(or, as the Christian would say, the real world is variously interpreted) even though the stimuli remain constant. The
paradigm determines one's evaluative procedures and accepted methodology, one's standards and expectations,
one's legitimate problems and range of solutions. Hence conversion to a new paradigm cannot be forced by logic and


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experimentation since the competing paradigms themselves circumscribe and define the procedures, "crucial"
experiments, criteria, etc.


Therefore Kuhn has exposed and disposed of the naivete of a Baconian approach to the world with its expectation
that simple empirical data can tell us the pure truth by immediate contact and generalization. We must judge also that
a positivistic apologetic such as that propounded by Montgomery has been made obsolete; hypothesis testing in
history is not simply a matter of fitting things to the commonly held "facts" (like the easy task of trying shoes on your
feet). The deceptive simplicity of Montgomery's approach blurs the crucial and relevant distinctions between
competing positions which work with divergent presuppositions; the fit-the-facts-syndrome, by reason of its disregard
of the acute factors in a dispute (especially over interpretative or highly significant, far reaching, matters) can lead only
to confusion between two schools (each being eager to adduce common and undeniable "facts," yet neither speaking
directly or relevantly to the other on the underlying or fundamental points that have produced the disagreement) or
bewilderment for the novice apologist (who is thoroughly basted and run over by unbeliever who is conscious of the
role and importance of paradigms). Kuhn has rendered Montgomery's objectivism defunct. This is not to chronicle the
death of "true truth" however; the presuppositional approach to knowledge, truth, and defending the faith allows for
both common paradigms between men and the function of factual evidence - it acknowledges that the world reveals
the true and living God at every point of natural and historical phenomena, not just selected "unique" events, and it
responds seriously to the fact that all men are created as the image of God. In looking about him, Montgomery should
realize that his method and position are not respected or supported by the self-conscious secularist any more than
they are by the biblical Christian (who finds epistemic authority in the word of the covenant Lord). The prevailing
philosophy of science should be forcing him to take a long look at presuppositionalism again, both for the salvaging of
genuine Christian apologetics and as a necessary corrective to the errors of a man like T. S. Kuhn. "The beginning of
knowledge is the fear of the Lord" - a message for positivists and positivistic apologists both.


3. A Modified Notion
I should judge that the traditional understanding of what is meant by "historical objectivity" is pretty well represented by
the attitude of Leopold von Ranke: one achieves historical objectivity by simply reporting what the sources reveal must
have happened, gathering and arranging this data into chronological order, and thereby allowing the facts to speak for
themselves and reveal their meaning. Nietzsche indicated what people think of as reporting the past objectively when
he said, "The objective men is in truth a mirror." And that Montgomery is willing to let his readers entertain this notion
of historical objectivity is evident from his assertion that "`confidence in history' is laudable if it means that...one
confidently endeavors to find the meaning of historical events by objective study of the events themselves."[223] It is
this (common) understanding of "historical objectivity" which has been successfully undermined by men like Thomas
Kuhn in their various indications of the very non-objective elements of even natural science. Of course the case with
history-reporting's non-objectivity is much more dramatic. The historian studies, not the direct phenomena, but the
sources which report the past. The historian must interpret his sources, attempting to reconstruct the past. He does
not simply accept the facts as a passive observer. He is faced with the chore of cross-examining his sources (which
cannot but be silent in response!), knowing what questions are appropriately addressed to the various types of
sources, knowing when he is pushing the sources too far for desired information, etc. Moreover, the historian's inquiry
must be directed toward a specific goal from its inception; he does not simply string together anything and everything
he learns about a certain period or event, but he is seeking particular kinds of answers to particular questions, certain
lines of evidence for various sorts of hypotheses, different conceptions of relevance, etc. History as a science is also
inherently value-impregnated. The subject matter itself is charged with a value orientation. The ordinary language
which historians use is quite a bit more than merely descriptive, and this is only to be expected since they cannot
properly reduce human history to the history of natural objects - to do so would be to screen out that which is peculiar
to humans: intentions, desires, motives, morals, etc. In approaching the evidence the historian is also forced to use a
criterion of selectivity, and this itself involves personal value judgments; such selectivity enters right into the historian's
attempt to find solutions, and not simply into his choice of problems to study. In this selectivity the historian either
utilizes a notion of historical causation or a standard of historical importance. In the former case his causal
explanations are not value-neutral, for he had to judge that certain conditions were relevant as causes and some were
not; furthermore, a causal analysis of human action and social history is itself a matter of assigning responsibility (thus

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involving moral judgment). If the historian follows out the idea of historical causation in his selectivity, then he is faced
with the selection between competing models of "explanation" (i.e., shall he seek to render covering laws as
suggested by Hempel, non-deducible generalizations as Gardiner, join-sufficiency conditions like Goudge, or
necessary conditions like Dray or Danto?). On the other hand if the historian's selectivity is guided by a standard of
historical importance (e.g., what is memorable, intrinsically valuable, etc.), then it is ipso facto the case that he is doing
more than simple description of the past. Thus in all these ways we see how strong the case is against the common
conception of objective historiography.


In the face of all these considerations Montgomery still wants to cling to the favorable connotations of "historical
objectivity," but he can keep his claim to "objectivity" only by reforming what the word means. That is, Montgomery
boasts of his historical objectivity, but when he is pressed with the myriad problems involved in that claim it turns out
that he has abandoned the common conception of historical objectivity (as represented above by Ranke and
Nietzsche). When Montgomery claims to be objective he is not claiming (even though he seems to be willing to let his
readers think that he is) to let the facts speak for themselves and to be simply a mirror for the unbiased truth. It turns
out that, following Watkins, Montgomery basically equates objectivity with criticizability.[224] This is best explained by
the notion of Passmore that the historian is objective in his judgements when he is subject to factual constraint and to
regular ways of settling disputes with other historians.[225] "Objective" is no longer the quality of a judgment but the
label for a particular method of arriving at the judgment. So what happens when another school of thought chooses to
label a completely different method "objective"? There simply is no far-reaching agreement between historians as to a
standard way of determining historical truth (e.g., contrast Dilthey to Montgomery). The notion of factual constraint is
not of much help here since human history is not simply a non-selective description of the history of physical objects;
human history is interpretative history. As Popper demonstrated in The Open Society, human historiography does not
come under the same constraint as is present in the field of physics. Thus Montgomery's truncated conception of
"objectivity" not only leaves us with little information as to the quality of a historical judgment (the conclusion of a line
of thought, rather than the method used to arrive at the conclusion), but it is not even viable as a genetic description.
Moreover, on Montgomery's basis it is not clear to me why the judgments of theatrical critics would not qualify as
"objective"; the critics are involved in interaction with various opinions, and factual considerations certainly enter into
their evaluations (e.g., did the actor remember his lines, stumble over the props, etc.). Thus theatrical reviews are
"criticizable" in the relevant sense. I surmise that Montgomery would respond that the judgments of theatrical critics,
while involving some factual elements, are mingled with many subjective, value-laden considerations and thus do not
qualify as "objective." In this case Montgomery would be adhering to the original notion of an "objective" judgment as
that which gives us "the facts and nothing but the facts." However, this notion of objectivity is the one which has been
thoroughly demolished by analyses of historiography such as were presented above. Historians simply do not give us
mere eyeball reports. The conclusions of historians are not "uninfluenced by personal perspective, presupposition, or
prejudice"; consequently they are not "objective" in the common and most important sense. As Montgomery wishes to
define "objective" (viz., criticizable) he clearly wants to guard Christian profession from the charge of obscuratism, an
unwillingness to hear contrary evidence or be shown wrong (i.e., to secure the "non-falsifiability" of Christianity in the
wrong sense). Christianity is not the figment of our imagination, a theory dreamed up without any concern for historical
facts, a projected ideal. However, as true as these things are, it should be obvious that what Montgomery has taken to
be "objectivity" (viz., factual constraint) is in reality simply the quality of being "cognitive." To say that "Jesus rose on
the third day" is a criticizable conclusion is to say that it is a cognitive conclusion - not necessarily an objective
conclusion. It is objective if it reflects a genuinely public and factual (true) state of affairs; it is cognitive since it is
theoretically falsifiable (i.e., it is not mere human speculation or emotional longing). Now the problem is this. Since the
majority of judgments made by people are criticizable (i.e., cognitive, falsifiable in one way or the other), Montgomery's
collapsing of "objective" into "cognitive" makes the statement, "historiography is an objective science," more than a
slight bit trivial. When people have esteemed historiography as objective they have customarily intended to elevate it
and impute to it a special status. If anything which is "objective" does not have that special status, then who cares? (N.
B. Lest it be thought that the presuppositionalist is making impossible demands for "objectivity" and thereby
committing the fallacy of vacuous contrast, the reader can pursue critiques, such as Dray's of this alleged fallacy as
well as a presuppositionalist's conception of objectivity as presented in the discussion of Pinnock above; basically,
"objective" is a quality of God's judgments, His revelations and our judgments when we think His thoughts after Him,
and "subjective" is a quality of thought when it is the projection of sinful, rebellious, autonomous man.)


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4. Pragmatics
In addition to the above mentioned, principial problems with Montgomery's alleged, apologetical objectivity must be
mentioned the fact that he, when pressed to defend his claim, resorts to pragmatic argumentation. In his book on
historiography Gordon Clark makes out a strong and thorough case against the "objectivity" of that field, showing that
absolute or fixed truth is not achievable therein. However, our concern here is not with the merits or demerits of
Clark's conception of objectivity, but with the reaction given to it by Montgomery.


         The moment the realm of experience is introduced, "absolute," "unalterable" results become impossible,
         but to argue that objectivity disappears at the same time is to ignore all the ordinary operations of life...
         The choice is very clear: formal perfection without empirical content, or the acceptance of empirical
         objectivity without putting impossible demands upon it.[226]


The problem with Montgomery's response is simply that wanting something to be so does not make it so! The fact that
people, in their ordinary operations of life, naively think their judgments are detached and "objective" does not mean
that we must grant that genuine objectivity has been attained. Montgomery does not want impossible demands to be
placed on the claim to objectivity; if they are, then the field in which Montgomery is interested loses its special status
or compelling truth. However, instead of saying why the rigorous demands Clark has in mind are improper,
Montgomery merely says that they are not expedient. Thus serious doubt is cast upon the alleged objectivity
Montgomery claims to achieve; if it cannot be demonstrated or supported by sound argumentation but only by appeal
to common practice, is it as "objective" as is claimed? A parallel might be drawn in the field of ethics. It might be
claimed by some thinkers that the requirement of perfect obedience to the law of God as a criterion of righteousness
places impossible demands on human beings; it might be said that the moment the realm of experience is introduced
"absolute righteousness" becomes impossible, but to argue that righteousness disappears at the same time is to
ignore all the ordinary operations of life. I take it that any evangelical Christian could see through such an argument.
The universality of sin cannot be used as a basis for lowering the claims of righteousness. Similarly, the pervasive
influence of personal considerations in historical judgments cannot be used as a basis for lowering the demands of
objectivity. Montgomery's only legitimate response to Clark would be a clarifying exposition of the genuine character of
objectivity, not an appeal to pragmatic considerations. Montgomery's reforming notion of objectivity has been dealt
with above, and Montgomery's appeal to popular practice proves nothing (except, maybe, the expedience of historians
claiming to be "objective"). Whether the assertion, "American rebels are responsible for the Boston Massacre," is
objective or not should be settled by something other than a popular vote or reference to the wanted policies of the
historians' guild.


b. Betrayal in Practice

1. Aprioris Disclosed
Beyond the theoretical problems inherent in Montgomery's claim to present an objective, compelling argument for
Christianity is the undermining of his alleged objectivity by the fact that he abandons it in practice. That is, it is more
than evident that (whether he admits it or not) Montgomery has his own supervening presuppositions as an apologist
and as a historian; he is not "a mirror," letting nothing but the indubitable facts speak for themselves. Even a cursory
reading of Montgomery's publications will demonstrate that he, far from objectively arguing every point, has his own
choice of authorities (e.g., Dray, Hempel, Pasmore, Watkins, Danto, etc.), men whose opinions Montgomery is willing
to abide by. Moreover, as any historian, Montgomery has his own basic definition of history:


         An inquiry focusing on past human experience, both individual and societal, with a view towards the
         production of significant and comprehensive narratives embracing men's actions and reactions in


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         respect to the whole range of natural, rational, and spiritual powers.[227]


Now certainly this definition predetermines how Montgomery will carry on his historical research and writing; the
definition, if nothing else, operates as a screening device and standard for evaluation as well as blueprint for
Montgomery's projects. Yet this definition could hardly be said to be "objective"; for one example, many people such
as materialists will not accept the assumption of spiritual powers as valid. By using the above definition Montgomery's
historiography operates with a particular bent from the outset. It is also quite apparent from Montgomery's writings
that, aside from the substantive presupposition of what constitutes history, methodological assumptions enter into
Montgomery's historiography.[228] Montgomery claims that these a prioris are "self-evident,"[229] erroneously taking
for granted that what is self-evident to a Christian will be the same as is self-evident to an unbeliever! Montgomery's
standard of self-evidency is a presuppositional commitment. A further indication that Montgomery has his own
presuppositions is given in his published acceptance of the test for hypothesis-making as laid down by E. J. Carnell:
production of "the best set of assumptions to account for the totality of reality."[230] Clearly the best set of
assumptions to account for all reality goes far beyond mere matters of scholarly method and embraces one's whole
worldview! If this were not the case (i.e., if methodological assumptions alone could account for the totality of reality),
then the methodological assumptions made by the positivistic apologist - assumptions which he expects any
reasonable unbeliever to endorse at the outset of their discussion - which can best account for the totality of reality
could just as easily be the possession of the unbeliever. Thus the believer and unbeliever would share the same set of
methodological assumptions - the same set of assumptions which best explain all reality - and yet not agree in
metaphysics, soteriology, etc.! That means that both believer and unbeliever would be the winner in the contest of
hypothesis-making. Quite obviously, the, the best set of assumptions which explain all reality must include more than
the mere methodological assumptions laid down by Montgomery. Montgomery, like everyone else, has metaphysical
presuppositions and not (as he claims[231]) simply methodological a prioris.


2. Scientific Method Evaluated
Indeed the very scientific method which is adopted by Montgomery as his a priori assumption, besides being
metaphysically and epistemologically anti-Christian, clearly betrays that he is far from detached or free from
substantive, material presuppositions (i.e., acceptance of the scientific method includes the acceptance of a body of
truth already). We should pause briefly to consider both of these points. The empiricist's adoption of the scientific
method commits him to a predetermined authority structure, a pattern of authority that does not do justice to the
authority of God's word. Montgomery baldly asserts that nothing is certain except the presuppositions of empiricism
and the data with which the empiricist works,[232] and on the same page he had listed the presuppositions of
empiricism as epistemological, ethical, and even metaphysical in content. The most important thing to notice here,
however, is the fact that Montgomery takes empiricism to be more certain (since it is the only thing which is certain)
than the word of the Lord; the authority of revelation is (at best) secondary to the authority of the scientist. Listen to his
candid disclosure:


         Even in the case of an alleged divine authority, it would be necessary to test by some means or another
         whether the authority is truly an infallible one before accepting as true all of its decrees. Thus authority
         must be rejected as a primary method of acquiring truth...Empirical or scientific method is the truly valid
         way of approaching truth...it is in itself capable of determining what authority to follow and what
         common sense beliefs and presuppositions to hold.[233]


God's authority must be established and endorsed by the primary authority of the empiricist; the intellect and research
of the scientist must prove God to be infallible. Not God's authoritative revelation, but scientific method is the truly valid
way to find the truth (this sounds more like secularism and negative criticism than biblical apologetics!). God's word
might be admitted into our thinking, but only as it is authorized by our thinking in the first place. For Montgomery,
authority cannot be the way to truth - that is, unless it is the authority of the empiricist! "Empirical of scientific method...


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alone can accomplish to the satisfaction of all what the other methods which we have discussed cannot."[234] Only
the scientific method is the way to truth; it has supreme authority. It even is allowed to lord it over the word of Him who
said "I am the way, the truth, and the life," the one "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,"
the one of who Paul said "that in all things He might have the preeminence." Not the word of Christ, but the word of
the empiricist has preeminent authority and foremost ability to lead to truth and knowledge - according to Montgomery,
that is. At this point it should be manifest that Montgomery's thinking is encumbered with personal opinions and
determinative presuppositions of the most significant sort. His foremost and aboriginal commitment is to the scientific
method aside from submission to Christ (at least this is what he portrays in his writing). The scientific method
determines what "authority" to accept, meaning that the scientific method must be used to establish its own authority?
No, for it obviously cannot do this. Thus Montgomery's commitment is a non-objective, pre-theoretical, religious
confidence. He cannot prove the authority of empiricism; he can only bow to it at the outset and expect others to do
the same. The scientific method is not allowed to destroy the (unscientific) presuppositions of empiricism or the
(assumed) authority of the scientist, and thus it is Montgomery's primary, unquestioned, personal commitment.


In an unpublished doctoral dissertation for the Toronto School of Theology Robert B. Strimple renders a short but
telling critique of J. W. Montgomery's commitment to the scientific method. Strimple's words from chapter one of his
dissertation, "Jesus and the Church; A critical Study of the Christology of John Knox," are worth quoting at length:


         Is Bishop Butler, then, through such contemporary disciples as Montgomery and Pinnock, to be the
         orthodox Protestant's guide as he seeks to answer the challenge which John Knox and other modern
         theologians have presented to biblical Christianity in terms of the problem of faith and history? It should
         have been clear from our very description of the background of this faith-history question in the modern,
         post-Enlightenment assumption of the authority of autonomous reason and the pure contingency of
         world history that our answer must be a vigorous "no."


         Montgomery seems to assume that the empirical historical method, since it involves a merely heuristic
         presupposition rather than a presupposition of "substantive content," is philosophically or religiously
         neutral and if only carefully and diligently employed will result in the verification of the Christian faith.
         Does Montgomery really expect the historian to use the historical method to call into question the
         authority of the historian? As Van Harvey puts it, "The historian does not accept the authority of his
         witnesses; rather, he confers authority upon them, and he does this only after subjecting them to a
         rigorous and skeptical cross-examination." - a cross-examination based on naturalistic criteria...


         Montgomery seems totally to overlook the fact that that method normally designated "historical" or
         "empirical" assumes, as Marc Bloch has so well demonstrated, a view of history's contingency and
         regularity which is fundamentally opposed to the Christian outlook....


         ....When a Biblical scholar examines the evidence for the virgin conception of Christ, his miracles, and
         his resurrection leaving an empty tomb, using "the `analogies' which historical research employs," how
         can it be expected that he will conclude in favor of the supernaturalistic biblical presentation?


         What the Reformed theologian must do is to challenge Knox far more radically than is possible for a
         Montgomery or a Pinnock, that is, to challenge him at the root of his thinking....


         But at the very outset we must affirm our conviction that the only way out of the crisis is the recognition
         anew of the absolute authority of Scripture and the bringing of every thought into captivity to the
         obedience of Christ (II Cor. 10:5). The basic flaw in the traditional defense of orthodox Christianity


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         represented in Montgomery and Pinnock is that it simply cannot do justice to the authority of Scripture.
         If the Scripture as "God-breathed" (theopueustos, II Tim. 3:16) revelation is as a lamp shining in a dark
         place (II Peter 1:19), then we must take this with radical seriousness. We must "switch on the light" if
         we are to see "facts" as they really are. We cannot continue to go rattling around in the dark. We cannot
         think in terms of the historical investigator, in Harvey's phrase, "conferring authority" upon the Bible. In
         that case, the seat of authority would pass from the text to the interpreter. But is this not exactly what
         Montgomery and Pinnock do when they invite the sceptic to "test" the Bible's claim to authority by
         canons not drawn from the Bible itself?


         ...Van Harvey, for example, /recognizes/ "how inextricably intertwined the historical and theological
         issues seem to be: and how this results in debates about the New Testament passing so easily "from
         judgments about fact to judgments about the presupposition of the investigator, from claims about
         results to counterclaims that these so-called results simply reflect the assumptions of the critic"....


         With striking clarity, Harvey recognizes the difficult (must we not say untenable?) position in which a
         suspension of his distinctive theistic position places the Christian. "If, however, the doctrine of
         inspiration and the principle of supernatural intervention are set aside, the apologist necessarily
         employs the canons of those with whom he is in debate" - "the general canons and criteria of just those
         one desired to refute." If the believer accepts the assumption that history can be understood altogether
         apart from God's selfrevelation Christ, if he agrees that man can see quite well without the aid of that
         "sun" - and without the "eyes" which the Holy Spirit in his regenerating work provides to sinners blinded
         by the noetic effects of the Fall - then has he not lost the debate before it has started? Yet unless the
         orthodox believer is willing thus to capitulate he is, according to Harvey, "intellectually irresponsible."
         "The accusation is not that the traditionalist lacks learning or does not possess the tools of scholarship
         but that he lacks a certain quality of mind." The "traditionalist," however, fears that another designation
         for that "certain quality of mind" is unbelief."


In this cogent statement and evaluation Strimple has brought out the heart of the matter: (1) Montgomery's "scientific
method" is not free from material assumptions, involving as it does presuppositions with respect to the condition of
man, the abilities and station of his mind, the God-situation, the type of demands God is allowed to make on man's
thinking, the question of whether men are in the dark without Christ or not, the appropriate way to respond to a
revelation from God, the metaphysics of world process and history, the function of historical analogy, the place and
capabilities of the historian, the seat of authority, the conditions of knowledge, and much more; (2) his empiricalistic
presuppositions, moreover, do not do justice to the authority of God speaking in His word, and (3) his assumptions
require capitulation to unbelief.


Because we have noted above that Montgomery rejects the authority of God as a path to truth in favor of empiricism
alone as certain and as the way to knowledge, we are most dubious of his attempt to distinguish between his position
and that of scientism.[235] At the most crucial juncture, as Strimple has indicated, Montgomery's commitment to the
scientific method clearly calls for him (in Montgomery's own words) to "operate on the non-Christian's territory"[236] -
an admission which should be contemplated as to its deep and thoroughgoing significance. Montgomery wrongly
thinks that the empirical method is the same for all men, irrespective of their presuppositions and application of
thought; this parallels his penchant to describe that method in deceptively vague and overgeneralized terms[237],
which in turn explains his misapprehended idea that scientific method applies not only to the physicist but also to the
work of the historian.[238] By blurring critical differences between unbelieving science and believing scholarship
Montgomery has been led to endorse an apologetical method which unwittingly lands him squarely in the enemy's
camp. Unfortunately, as must as he strains to differentiate his autonomous method from that of autonomous unbelief,
he is forever doing so as a P.O.W.




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The surprising thing is that, just as Montgomery should have realized how non-objective his scientific method is since
he admits that it is a variety of intuitive rationalism,[239] even so he should have realized that his apologetic method
capitulates to unbelief since he acknowledges that empiricism rests upon pre-scientific views concerning reality. As
Stanford Reid observes, after reviewing Montgomery's writings,


         In other words, despite his disclaimers, he is acknowledging that empiricism rests upon pre-scientific or
         naive views concerning reality that have come to the historian either by intuition or my authority whether
         human or divine.


         When one considers his critiques of other historians, one soon discovers that he takes for granted that
         their different starting points lead them to different conclusions. Thus he tacitly admits that no matter
         how "empirical" one attempts to be, one consciously or unconsciously assumes a whole metaphysical
         system. Presuppositions are inescapable.[240]


We see, then, that the alleged objectivity of Montgomery's apologetical argument has actually been abandoned in
practice; we have found evidence of Montgomery's own determinative presuppositions, especially in his endorsement
of the scientific method. The sad thing is that in his self-deceiving claim to objectivity Montgomery, because
substantive presuppositions are unavoidable, has been oblivious to the fact that he has absorbed the destructive
perspective of unbelief. By not carrying out the full implications in his thinking of apologetically serving a sovereign
God, Montgomery has ended up agreeing with Ernest Nagel in his objection to any idea based upon a theological or
metaphysical commitment for which no experimental evidence is invoked; appropriately, Nagel entitled the book
where this objection was expressed Sovereign Reason.[241]


c. Imperfections in Doctrine and Defense
In addition to the failure of Montgomery to achieve apologetical objectivity in both theory and practice we need to
observe the theological and apologetical inadequacies of his attempt to engender religious conviction in unbelievers
via the allegedly objective arguments of (positivistic) science and history. His problem is perhaps best seen as
originating in his failure to take account of the noetic effects of the fall. He speaks of a "common rationality" which all
men share,[242] thereby overlooking the critical differences between the fallen and regenerate mindset and spiritual
capabilities - not to mention the great gulf between their respective informal logics. So unaffected by his fallen
condition is man, as portrayed by Montgomery, that Montgomery can even say, "both those out of relation with God
and those in proper relation to him can compare alternative interpretations of fact and determine on the basis of the
facts themselves which interpretation best fits reality."[243] Quite to the contrary, "the natural man receives not the
things of God's spirit...he cannot know them because they are Spiritually examined."[244] The carnal mind is enmity
against God,[245] for the alienated unbeliever is an enemy of Christ precisely in his mind.[246] The person who is out
of a proper relation with God (i.e., alienated) simply is not capable of properly examining the facts of an objective
argument and coming to Christian conclusions; his mind has been blinded in darkness[247] so that he believes a lie
[248] and views the word of cross as utter foolishness.[249] Montgomery has (in practice) simply overlooked the fact
that the unbeliever's problem is not lack of information or an error in scholarly procedures; rather, it is sin.


As a result of not taking account of the noetic effects of sin Montgomery does not see the need for the work of the
Holy Spirit in apologetical argument. By means of overwhelming evidence, an objective and indisputable argument,
Montgomery would lead the unbeliever to faith.[250] Of his apologetic argument Montgomery claims, "It depends in no
sense on theology. It rests solely and squarely upon historical method, the kind of method all of us, whether
Christians, rationalists, agnostics, or Tibetan monks, have to use in analyzing historical data."[251] But the simple truth


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is that historic method (which is not the same for believer and unbeliever) is completely insufficient to bring man who
is lost in sin to repentance and saving faith in Christ as He is set forth in the gospel. Acceptance of the good news is
not a mere matter of intellect and empirical reasoning! Acceptance of the gospel message is impossible aside from
regeneration and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. Montgomery hardly ever refers to these necessities, as
observed also by Stanford Reid.[252] And in this case I do not believe we have an easily dismissable argument from
silence against Montgomery; his silence on the necessity for regeneration and the Spirit's internal testimony is a
conspicuous silence for one who has written so much on apologetics - even more, it is a culpable silence. This is a
significant and terrible oversight, both in terms of theological orthodoxy and Christian practice. One does not penetrate
to the heart of the problem if he as an apologist does not see that the human heart is the problem in those who have
not faith.


However, Montgomery's error extends beyond his flagrant oversight of the need for the Holy Spirit's operations in
apologetics. He goes so far as to criticize severely a man like Bernard Ramm for stressing the centrality and need of
the Spirit's internal witness[253] and when Clark and Van Til emphasize that the assured proof of the Christian
revelation is supplied by the inward work of the Holy Spirit, Montgomery accuses them of fideism[254]But to his
discredit, Montgomery's argument is in actuality with the word of God.


         No man is able to come unto me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up in
         the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that
         has heard and has learned of the Father comes unto me.[255]


         And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my
         judgments and do them.[256]


         Ye know that when ye were Gentiles ye were led away unto those dumb idols, howsoever ye might be
         led...No man can say "Jesus is Lord" but by the Holy Spirit.[257]


         God has from the beginning chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Holy Spirit and belief
         of the truth.[258]


         But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit...we received not the spirit of the world but the spirit
         which is from God in order that we might know the things that were freely given to us from God.[259]


         give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your heart
         enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of his
         inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe,
         according to that working of His mighty strength.[260]


         And my word and my proclamation were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the
         Spirit and of power, in order that your faith would not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of
         God.[261]


By not taking account of these things, and by excoriating those who do, Montgomery has crippled his apologetic and
virtually made it impossible for him to see any success in its use. Without the objective (i.e., not originating in the


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subject) and internal (i.e., not the external word to which witness is borne) testimony of the Holy Spirit and His
regenerating work the unbeliever's mind will never submit to God's word; only through the Spirit's work can a man be
taught of God, believe the truth, know the things revealed by God, and keep His judgments.


Coordinated with the Spirit's internal work is God's giving of faith to the unbeliever; the sinner, having a stone heart
and blinded eyes, comes to Christ not by willing demonstration and self-sufficient sight, but by faith.


         The fact is that Montgomery, convinced beyond all probability that Christ is his Savior and Lord, is trying
         to prove absolutely from objectively and empirically known history that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord
         for all who will come to him in faith. This he cannot do, for no one comes to Christ except he is drawn by
         the Father through the Spirit and the Word (John 3:3, 5; 6:63-65).[262]


It is far from fideism to insist that faith comes only when a person has been reborn from above. It is arrogance to deny
it. Hopefully Dr. Montgomery will not. The scientific method and its capacity to convert men's thinking ought to be re-
evaluated by Montgomery in terms of the Scripture presented above. It would not hurt also to re-evaluate them in
terms of his own experience and his own statements:


         In his debate with Professor Stroll of the University of British Columbia, he presented what he believed
         to be the empirical evidence for Christianity, but we have no evidence that he convinced Stroll at
         Vancouver any more than he did Professor Altizer at Chicago or Bishop at Hamilton, Ontario. The fact
         is, Montgomery's view of the nature and efficacy of the scientific method is wrong...Yet while he insists
         that Christ's resurrection can be proven scientifically as fully as Columbus' discovery of America, he
         also admits that many men will not accept it or its implications. Why? Because 1) they are not willing to
         do Christ's will (John 7:17), and 2) they are more interested in the present, than they are in the future
         life. But is not this an admission that the scientific method cannot bring Christian conviction without
         Christian assumptions?[263]


Moreover, not only has Montgomery overlooked the spiritual condition of man, but in his attempt to construct a
compelling apologetic from objective facticity and the scientific method he has overlooked the philosophical climate of
post-Kantian thought which, now more than ever, manifests that the apologetic issue is staked on metaphysical and
epistemological matters - as Van Til so succinctly demonstrated.[264] Before "objective evidence" can have any effect
upon the unbeliever his philosophic presuppositions must be altered; in terms of apostate thinking the "facts" of the
gospel are relativized, naturalized, generalized, demythologized, etc. - stripped of their genuine significance or
meaning. The self-sufficiency of the unbeliever, notably in the area of epistemology, determines how he responds to
the biblical record and apologetic evidence. Consequently, unless Montgomery directs his polemic to the
presuppositions of apostate thought he will get nowhere with the self-conscious unbeliever. Montgomery's "objective
evidence" simply will not be taken at, what the Christian sees as, its face value. The non-Christian's philosophy of
history, for instance, not only determines the selection and evaluation of the "facts," but provides the context in which
the very meaning of the gospel record is determined (e.g., personalistically, existentially, naturalistically, etc.). Thus
the "objective" apologetic promised by Montgomery - even if we forget that it is theoretically unsupportable, betrayed
in actual practice, and virtually oblivious to the need for regeneration - cannot be successful because it hastens to
"facts" in oblivion of the autonomous presuppositions of the unbeliever which "form" those facts according to a scheme
that chokes out the Christian message. If Montgomery will not focus on the critical, presuppositional nature of the
dispute between the Christian and the non-Christian his "objective facticity" will never have any place; that is, in terms
of the actual, determinative issues Montgomery would never get to his "objective facticity." The major hinderance to
belief (viz., autonomous presuppositions) will always obstruct the way of his apologetic argument from "the facts and
nothing but the facts." The defender of the faith can only be adequate to his task if his apologetic deals with more than
the "facts" without being less than objective (i.e., challenges unbelief from the perspective of God's objective word at
the presuppositional level).

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d. Self-refutation
Having observed Montgomery's desire to devise an apologetic approach which embodies a (virtual)
presuppositionless objectivity, we went on to demonstrate that such an approach is impossible in theory; it rests on an
a priori dogmatism and unbiblical outlook, is refuted by recent philosophy of science and logic, is inviable or trifling in
its truncated (reformulated) sense, and is defended in the long run by pragmatic considerations. Next we noted that
Montgomery himself is encumbered with his own presuppositions, and indeed that his endorsement of the scientific
method implies definite, material presuppositions - of a non-Christian character. Further, the overlooking by
Montgomery of the need for the Holy Spirit's work and the critical significance of presuppositions in altering the
unbeliever's thinking has been presented as indications of theological and apologetical inadequacies in Montgomery's
"objective" approach. Now finally we would observe that his presuppositionless objectivity is incriminated and refuted
by his own published assertions. As we go to these assertions the reader should recall that Montgomery's own words
were quoted previously to the effect that historic facts must be investigated "without a priori,"[265] that we must
courageously use the language of "objective facticity" and recognize that there are no degrees of objectivity,[266] that
appeal to facts is the only preservative against solipsism - in which case we must refuse to operate presuppositionally
and instead offer objective evidence to the unbeliever.[267] But it turns out that this is all a facade; Montgomery puts
on a front and promotes his apologetic as rigorously and purely objective, established with facts that are as hard as
nails. But he knows that for all his grandiose and boisterous claims, his "objective facticity" is a house of cards. His
vaunted presuppositionless objectivity as a historian and apologist is mere whistling in the dark; the astonishing thing
is that in Montgomery's writing he does so much whistling. It is astonishing because a careful reader will find that
Montgomery confesses (in a footnote) that "we must make assumptions to think at all:[268] and even concedes that a
final, unproven standard and source of knowledge is inescapable: "Obviously, one must either frankly admit that one
source is final, or establish a criterion of judgment over all previously accepted sources - which criterion becomes, ex
hypothesi, the final source!"[269]. He admits that the answers offered by historians to "What" questions depend on
"the larger issues of meaning and purpose that underlie specific historical investigations"[270]. By his own admission
Montgomery as a historian "clearly operates with a prior conception of human nature.../which/ stems from his general
philosophy of life."[271]


         It goes without saying, therefore, that a sound personal philosophy is of crucial importance for sound
         historical work...One's conception of human nature ultimately derives from one's religio-philosophical
         beliefs, and these need to be solid or one's historical study will suffer in the gravest possible degree.
         [272]


Exactly! Presuppositions do determine the soundness of one's historical research and judgments - presuppositions,
not allegedly "objective facticity." And even in the case of a question as to past fact, "What he /the historian/ takes to
be credible depends on what he conceives to be humanly possible."[273] This is what presuppositionalists like Van Til
have argued for years - to the frequent, published consternation of positivistic apologists. Yet now Montgomery grants
the far-reaching point. He also acknowledges that "Philosophy of history, in other words, derives from one's general
Weltanschauung" and that one's philosophy of history is in fact one's "Theology of history";[274] indeed, the central
problems of theology of history, for instance the issue of "historicity," are presuppositional in nature.[275] Thus
Montgomery relinquishes his "objectivity" (for which there can be no degrees); historical questions of fact depend on
underlying religious issues, the historian settles those issues out of a prior context of religio-philosophical beliefs, this
theological anthropology and theology of history, moreover, stem from a wider worldview that is forged
presuppositionally. The historian simply does not operate without a priori. A list of the a prioris that intrude themselves
in Montgomery's historical apologetic (i.e., presuppositions which go beyond the bare facts allegedly validated) is
disclosed by Montgomery himself.[276] Furthermore, and most tellingly, Montgomery surrenders to the fact that the
battle with unbelief is decided at the presuppositional level:



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         Historicism refuses to regard the resurrection as history...but this is no more than the result of
         rationalistic presuppositionalism concerning the nature of the universe...Our responsibility is to make
         sure that in the use of historical method scientistic, historistic presuppositions...are not surreptitiously
         smuggled into the picture disguised as objective historical method and allowed to determine the results
         of the investigation.[277]


         Putting it otherwise, the trouble with secular philosophy of history...is that the secularists have been
         deflected by their extra-historical commitments from looking at history objectively - and particularly from
         looking at the Christ of history objectively.[278]


It is not facts, but primarily presuppositions (e.g., rationalism, scientism, extra-historical commitments) that are
determinative in the debate with apostate thinking. Thus Montgomery should openly avow that the stakes are simply
too high to make the crux of our apologetic anything but presuppositional. We can only wish that Montgomery would
take to heart the full import of his comment at the end of the dialogue with Thomas Altizer:


         As Pascal said, there is enough evidence to convince anybody who is not set against it. But there is not
         so much evidence that a person can be forced into believing it if he simply will not.[279]


Precisely. And because the people with whom we carry on apologetic argumentation are set against the truth of God
and simply will not submit to Christ's Lordship, mere evidence fails to convince them. Thus we must go beyond the
evidence to the heart of the matter, to the presuppositions controlling that unbelieving response to the evidence. The
reason that Montgomery accepts the evidence and Altizier (for instance) resides not in Montgomery's superior
scholarly ability to handle historical questions, but in the presuppositions and renewed heart Montgomery brings to the
facts. If his apologetic were really "objective" in the sense that he portrays it (viz., without a priori; letting the facts
speak for themselves) he couldn't even convince himself of the gospel truth. His darkened mind would fare no better
than Altizer's.


e. Review
Therefore, Montgomery's apologetic fails to commend itself to us with respect to its alleged objectivity. That objectivity
has been faulted in theory, abandoned in practice, demonstrated theologically and apologetically inadequate, and
refuted out of Montgomery's own mouth. As a consequence the core of positivistic apologetics has disintegrated - just
as its outer rind (the specific inductive argument which is set forth) was rejected in its outworking (every premise being
defective) and in its conception (being vitiated by the dialectical tension between its probabilism and indeterminism).
Montgomery promised a compelling, inductive apologetic, but he has failed to make good on either its argumentative
strength or its objectivity. Even if the argumentative aspect of his apologetic could be bolstered and improved, and
insolvency of its objective aspect spells the demise of positivistic apologetics.


         The question then is: is Montgomery's rejection of presuppositional history correct? Is his professed
         historical epistemology consistently Christian? The answer to both questions would seem to be, no. He
         has to admit, despite all his deprecation of presuppositions, that no historian can or does carry on his
         work without presupposing a view of the whole of reality. His so-called objective, scientific methodology
         brings him only probability, largely determined by his own presuppositions. And finally his rational-
         positivistic approach completely ignores, if it does not specifically deny, the necessity of the
         regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in order that men have truly Christian presuppositions and so reach
         valid Christian conclusions. One cannot but feel that this rational-positivism largely stems from the fact
         that he wishes to avoid dependence upon the work of the Holy Spirit in speaking to a rationalistic world,

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         a position that is supported neither by the Gospels nor by the rest of the New Testament. His historical
         epistemology, therefore, seems to be contrary to a truly Christian approach.[280]


We must conclude that Montgomery's historical apologetic is debilitated and defenseless.


3. Defective in its Subjectivistic Core
However, when one looks deeper, Montgomery's apologetic may be in an even worse condition than indicated above!
Although it is his (defunct) objective argument that Montgomery spends nearly all his time presenting or discussing in
his books, it turns out that in actuality the structure of his apologetic shows itself to be experiential at base. This comes
as an initial surprise to anyone who is familiar with the reputation propagated for Montgomery by himself and others.
Despite all the stress on inductive proof, in the final analysis Montgomery defends the faith by appealing to personal,
subjective experience. Montgomery describes his own conversion as coming about by a two-step process: (1)
historical evidence, but then (2) a "resultant experiential (existential, if you will) satisfaction with the Christian world-
view."[281] His apologetic is actually structured on the same scheme: "The resurrection provides a basis in historical
probability for trying the Christian faith,"[282] emphasis supplied). "The argument is intended, rather, to give solid
objective ground for testing the Christian faith experientially."[283] The real or underlying proof of Christianity in
Montgomery's apologetic is self-satisfying experience - having Christ's claims attested existentially, for "God's word
will attest itself in his personal experience."[284] What then is the use of the inductive argumentation so adamantly
insisted upon by Montgomery? After all, the central proof of Christianity is made a matter of taste in Montgomery's
outlook. His defense of the faith, in the long run, comes down not to undeniable and unavoidable truth, but personal
(and must we not say relativistic?) satisfaction. So why the historical argument at all? For the apologist who wishes to
have his defense center on matters of truth and knowledge, Montgomery's explanation is more than a trifle bit
disheartening.


         ...the honest inquirer needs objective ground for trying it, since there are a welter of conflicting religious
         options and one can become psychologically jaded through indiscriminate trials of religious belief. Only
         the Christian world-view offers objective ground for testing it experientially; therefore, Christ deserves to
         be given first opportunity to make His claims known to the human heart.[285]


It is not that Christ has the certain and self-attesting truth which no man can avoid, but that a self-attesting personal
experience decides the religious issue, in which case we Christians must make sure that Jesus gets tried first. With
their unsophisticated longing to indulge personal experience, unbelievers must be sold on the idea that Jesus is the
one who should be given the first chance to satisfy them; this is the function of Montgomery's historical argumentation.
Without it the religious seeker might become exhausted with other experiences or even stopped along the way to
trying Jesus experientially; thus we must "catch his attention" with an impressive sounding claim to a compelling,
objective argument from history. Of course in taking this approach Montgomery has made a host of blunders: (1) if
personal taste is the final criterion in religious competition, then what's to make us think that personal taste (rather
than dry, academic, historical disputing) will not be the basis for choosing which religious options to experience first?
(2) If personal experience is the ultimate religious proof, then why shouldn't a plurality of religions be true since there
is an obvious, wide diversity of religious tastes in this world? (3) If an experiential trial decides whether a person will
become a believer or not, doesn't that person's endorsement of the religious option simply tell us something about that
person - rather than about the truth of what he believes? (4) If personal satisfaction is the test for which religion to
follow, what is the proper kind of satisfaction to use for your standard (emotional, aesthetic, physical, monetary, social,
etc.)? (5) If personal satisfaction decides the religious issue, is it not possible that Christ would provide one kind of
satisfaction and Buddha would provide another kind of satisfaction, thus recommending to us the "package deal" we
could have by becoming religious ecclectics? And on and on the questions could go, pointing out the dead end which
Montgomery's apologetic scheme (viz., use a historical argument to point the unbeliever to Christ first, and then settle
the issue experientially) runs into as a matter of course. But the really curious thing about Montgomery's experience-


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based apologetic scheme is that, although he clearly sees the deficiencies of such subjectivism in other approaches (e.
g., constructive religious empiricism), he is blind to them in his own thinking. Montgomery attacks constructive
religious empiricism as being impotent to acquire religious truth or lead to religious knowledge due to the subjective
data it works upon, the difficulty of analyzing religious experience, the tyranny of subjectivism[286]; especially
important is his observation that this approach to religious truth produces results which exactly correspond to the
presuppositions of those who employ it[287] - "it is a machine whose products reflect precisely the interests of the
operators who feed it the material they choose"[288]. Would that Montgomery realized that in carrying out this
trenchant critique he was simultaneously subverting his own apologetic scheme with its experiential anchor.


Having examined the main outline of Montgomery's apologetic we can summarize its trust and its breakdown.
Montgomery's program calls for an appeal (1) to objective validation of the resurrection by inductive argument, and
then (2) to subjective religious satisfaction. With respect to (1), his argument, both in practice and conception, has
been faulted throughout, and his objectivity - even by his own words - has been undermined. With respect to (2), his
approach is unworkable and - even by his own admission elsewhere - unable to achieve religious truth and
knowledge. Therefore, both pillars upholding Montgomery's apologetic have crumbled. Since both are deficient we
would be devoid of cogency if we thought the two pillars could buttress each other! Such an apologetic framework is
frankly in a state of collapse.


4. Defective Appeal to Scripture
Before concluding something should be said about Montgomery's loose and inaccurate allusion to Scripture allegedly
to support his apologetic program. Simply put, his problem is the same as Pinnock's; by reading particular verses out
of context he creates a pretext. The dismissal of this pretext can be pursued above in the discussion of Pinnock's
appeal to Scripture. A few specific notes can be made on Montgomery's own penchant to give his reader the
impression - without warrant - that Scripture calls for his kind of inductive defense of the faith. He says that the offense
of the cross is its evidential compelling power,[289] but this is hardly true to Paul's teaching. How could the cross be "a
stumbling-block unto Jews"[290] if its scandal is its proved facticity? After all, the Jews brought Christ to trial and
execution! The offense of the cross is its indictment of sin and its dying Messiah, things hard to accept by a Jew or by
anybody not convicted under the Holy Spirit's operations. Montgomery tries to give the impression that Thomas'
"prove it to me" attitude is sanctioned by Scripture when he says that John's statement, "these things have been
written that you might have life through believing," follows immediately upon Thomas' convinced affirmation of Christ's
Lordship[291]; but the fact of the matter is that the solemn pronouncement of our Lord, "blessed are those who without
seeing believe," intervenes between Thomas; conclusion and John's explanation for writing the gospel. The
implication is not that Scripture condones Thomas' attitude but that John's gospel has been written so that those who
do not see the resurrected Savior can have the blessing of belief. That's quite a reversal of Montgomery's point!
Montgomery claims that Paul's statement that 500 people saw the resurrected Christ and were still alive carries the
"implication" to go ask them about it,[292] but fails to explain how that implication fits the context of a doctrinal
passage being addressed to believers! The fact is that Paul is driving to the conclusion that he was the late-comer, the
last to see the resurrected Lord, the least of the apostles.[293] Moreover, Montgomery's supposed implication from the
statement that the greater part of the witnesses were still alive is hard pressed for an explanation of the fact that Paul
went on to say "but some are fallen asleep." That statement would (1) be redundant (since the indication of the
"greater part" being alive already presents this fact) and (2) weaken the "go ask them" implication. It is more likely that
Paul's statement ties in with the doctrinal discussion to follow since he there is concerned with the status of future of
the believing dead. Montgomery again misleads his reader in saying that the apostolic community "invited their
contemporaries to check the matter out for themselves"[294] with respect to Christ's resurrection. But in fact there is
no Scriptural evidence at all that the apostles or anybody else urged people to go prove the resurrection by inductive
research on their own. The apostles expected the fact of the resurrection to be believed on this own authoritative
witness. So we must demur when Montgomery so carelessly appeals to the Bible to bolster his apologetic method.


Genuine resurrection faith according to the word of God is not staked on inductive validation, for even when the

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resurrected Lord appeared to His eleven disciples, "some doubted"[295]. Indeed the spiritual condition of man is such
that "if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one should rise from the
dead."[296] Resurrection faith is a matter of presuppositional submission to the authoritative word of God. When
Christ met two travelers on the road to Emmaus and found them doubtful of the resurrection, rather than offering them
compelling empirical evidence (by causing them to recognize Him) He rebuked them for being slow of heart to believe
all that the prophets had spoken;[297] He made their hearts burn within them by expounding to them the scripture. If
men will not begin by acknowledging the truth of God's authoritative revelation, an empirical resurrection will not bring
them belief. This is the plain teaching of Scripture. The example of resurrection faith is found, not in doubting Thomas,
but in Abraham, the father of the faithful. Against all empirical probability or inductive reasoning Abraham offered up
his only begotten son, "accounting that God is able to raise men up even from the dead";[298] the nature of Abraham's
faith was an ability to believe against hope but according to what God had spoken, being fully assured that God was
able to perform what he had promised.[299] Such faith cannot be produced in a sinner's hardened heart by inductive
argumentation; it must be a gift from God[300] - not self-glorifying, intellectual works of man. "So faith comes by
hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ";[301] "faith is...a conviction of things not seen."[302] Therefore, "blessed
are those who have not seen and yet believe" said Christ to Thomas. Resurrection faith begins with a presupposition
about God's ability to raise men even from the dead - as it did with Abraham - not with inductive proofs. Hence our
apologetic should begin, as did Paul's, with a question of presuppositions: "Why is it judged incredible by you that God
should raise the dead?"[303] It must be rooted in the authoritative revelation of God, "saying nothing but what the
prophets and Moses did say should come"[304] because if men will not hear Moses and the prophets neither will they
believe the most compelling, factual demonstration!


D. Summary of the Critique
Due to the lengthy nature of the foregoing critique of Montgomery's apologetic it might be best to conclude by
summarizing, in outline form, the main points presented against his method of defending the Christian faith.


      ●   I. Montgomery promises an objective argument validating Christianity.
               r A. With respect to his compelling, inductive, argument:
                      ■ 1. It is faulted in its outworking.
                                ■ a. Every premise is defective.
                                ■ b. And its conclusion does not reasonably follow.
                      ■ 2. It is faulted in its conception.
                                ■ a. Fallacious inferences and inconsistency are embodied.
                                ■ b. Dialectical tension (contradiction) is evidenced:
                                          ■ 1) Its probabilism (uniformity) is
                                                   ■ a) unfounded
                                                   ■ b) sub-Christian
                                                   ■ c) unworkable as a method
                                                   ■ d) unworkable as an effective apologetic
                                          ■ 2) Its indeterminism (non-uniformity)
                                                   ■ a) undermines philosophical thinking
                                                   ■ b) undermines the miraculous character and significance of miracles
                                                   ■ c) undermines the orthodoxy of one's witness.
                                ■ c. An otiose approach to religious truth is used.
               r B. With respect to his alleged objectivity:
                      ■ 1. It cannot be supported in theory.
                                ■ a. It rests on unbiblical, a priori, dogmatism.
                                ■ b. It is refuted by recent (even unbelieving) philosophy of science and philosophy of
                                   logic.
                                ■ c. Its truncated sense is inviable or trifling.




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                                      ■d. It is defended finally by appeal to pragmatics.
                          ■ 2. It is abandoned in practice by Montgomery.
                                    ■ a. His presuppositions are easily disclosed.
                                    ■ b. His acceptance of the scientific method
                                               ■ 1) is metaphysically and epistemologically anti-Christian
                                               ■ 2) implies definite, material presuppositions.
                          ■ 3. It is theologically and apologetically inadequate
                                    ■ a. since it overlooks the need for regeneration
                                    ■ b. since it skirts the crucial issue of presuppositions
                          ■ 4. It is refuted out of Montgomery's own mouth.
      ●   II. In the long run Montgomery appeals to experiential satisfaction.
                 r A. But a host of blunders makes this unworkable as relativistic.
                 r B. And such subjectivism is confuted by Montgomery's own critique elsewhere.

Legend Of Footnote Abbreviations

AMD The Altizer-Montgomery Dialogue Chicago: Inter-varsity, 1967.

CTEv C.Van Til, Christian-Theistic Evidences Philadelphia: Westminster Theological Seminary, 1935, 1947, 1966
(syllabus). In Defense of Biblical Christianity vol 6. Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1978.

CTK C. Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed 1969.

DF C. Van Til, The Defense of the Faith Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1955.

Int. IAB "Introduction" by C. Van Til in The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by B. B. Warfield. Philadelphia:
Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948.

JA Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussions on the Theology and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til. Edited by E. R.
Geehan. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971.

LC Ludwig Wittgenstein Lectures and Conversations. Edited by C. Barrett. Berkeley: University of California Press,
1972.

PGC The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark Edited by Ronald H. Nash. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1968.

SP J. W. Montgomery The Shape of the Past Ann Arbor: Edward Bros., 1962.

TBLWR The Bible - The Loving Word of Revelation Edited by M. C. Terney. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968.

TC "The Theologian's Craft: A Discussion of Theory Formation and Theory Testing in Theology" (J. W. Montgomery)
Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, Sept. 1966.

THN David Hume A Treatise on Human Nature. Edited by Green and Grose. London, 1874.

WHG J. W. Montgomery Where is History Going? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969.

Footnotes

[1] JA pp. 380-392


[2] JA p. 382




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[3] JA p. 382


[4] JA p. 382


[5] cf. pp. 382f


[6] Romans 1:21


[7] JA p. 383


[8] i.e., on and around Int IAB, p. 20 and CTK, pp. 294f


[9] Int. IAB, pp. 20, 21


[10] Int. IAB, p22


[11] Int. IAB, p. 23


[12] Int. IAB pp. 24, 25 emphasis provided


[13] Int. IAB, p. 29


[14] CTK, p. 289


[15] CTK, p. 293


[16] CTK, pp. 294, 295


[17] JA, p. 383


[18] cf. E. S. Brightman, An Introduction to Philosophy. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1951, p. 78


[19] JA, pp. 384f.


[20] JA, p. 385




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[21] DF, p. 331


[22] On twenty-three central points; cf. III.A.1 above especially note numbers 2,9,10,11,12,17,18,19,20,21,23


[23] JA, p. 384


[24] JA, pp. 386f


[25] Cf. New Essays in Philosophical Theology, ed. A. Flew & A. MacIntyre. New York: Macmillan, 1955, pp. 99ff.


[26] JA, pp. 387f.


[27] cf. numbers 6,11,13,15,16,17,20,21,23 in III.A.1 above


[28] JA, p. 387


[29] JA, p. 382


[30] cdd. I John 1:8, 10


[31] I John 3:5-10; Job 15:16; Romans 8:7f


[32] cf. John 3:3-21


[33] I Cor. 2:14


[34] I John 2:27


[35] Int. IAB, p. 20


[36] cf. JA, p. 380


[37] cf. II.E above


[38] JA, p. 383


[39] CTEv, p. 35


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[40] CTEv, p. 52


[41] cf. JA, pp. 388f, 391


[42] John 17:21, 23, 26


[43] Eph. 4:15


[44] I Cor. 13:5f


[45] John 13:35


[46] JA, pp. 388f


[47] JA, pp. 389f


[48] JA, p. 390


[49] JA, p. 390


[50] cf. III.A.1


[51] Matt. 10:14f


[52] J. Gresham Machen, The Christian Faith in the Modern World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1936, pp. 63, 64-65


[53] Where is History Going? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969, p. 44


[54] The Shape of the Past. Ann Arbor: Edwards Bros., 1962, p. 292


[55] WHG, p. 53f


[56] JA, p. 392


[57] JA, p. 390




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[58] PGC, p. 388


[59] SP, p. 140


[60] The Altizer-Montgomery Dialogue. Chicago: Inter-Varsity, 1967, p. 73


[61] SP, p. 338


[62] SP, p. 237


[63] cf. Standord Reid, "Subjectivity or Objectivity in Historical Understanding," JA, p. 411


[64] The Bible-The Living Word of Revelation, ed. M. C. Tenney, p. 211


[65] SP, pp. 138f; PGC, pp. 388f.; WHG, p.35; cf. TBLWR, p. 211


[66] cf. III.A.1


[67] particularly in SP, pp. 139-141, 237-238, and in WHG, pp. 37-74


[68] WHG, pp. 52-53


[69] WHG, p. 49


[70] WHG, p. 53; cf. SP, p. 236


[71] SP, pp. 235, 237; WHG, pp. 41, 50; PGC, p. 381


[72] AMD, p. 89


[73] WHG, p. 63


[74] cf. WHG, pp. 63-69


[75] cf. III.A.1




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[76] cf. WHG, p. 49


[77] PGC, p. 511


[78] PGC, p. 511 cf., WHG, pp. 196f


[79] PGC, p. 511


[80] cf. SP, 138f


[81] SP, p. 138


[82] cf. SP, pp. 23gf; WHG, p. 72


[83] cf. SP, p. 236; WHG, p. 71


[84] cf. WHG, p. 43


[85] cf. SP, p. 236; WHG, p. 72


[86] WHG, p. 72


[87] cf. TBLWR, p. 213


[88] SP, p. 287


[89] cf. SP, p. 141, AMD, p. 94


[90] SP, p. 141


[91] SP, p. 141


[92] SP, p. 292


[93] SP, p. 237


[94] cf. SP, p. 139


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[95] cf. TBLWR, p. 211


[96] cf. WHG, pp. 114-116


[97] AMD, p. 94


[98] WHG, pp. 136f


[99] PGC, p. 379


[100] SP, p. 143


[101] SP, p. 229


[102] PGC, p. 390


[103] see, for instance, From a Logical Point of View. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1953, especially essays "Two
Dogmas of Empiricism" and "Truth by Convention"


[104] Word and Object. New York: M.I.T., John Wiley and Sons, 1960


[105] WHG, pp. 137f; cf. PGC, p. 390


[106] AMD, p. 95


[107] SP, pp. 143f.


[108] Acts 2:36


[109] Luke 1:4


[110] 2 Cor. 4:6


[111] Matt. 11:27


[112] Matt. 16:27


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[113] I Thess. 1:5


[114] Col. 2:2


[115] Hebrews 6:11


[116] Romans 4:1, 11, 16


[117] vv. 19, 21


[118] Hebrews 10:22


[119] v. 23


[120] Eph 3:12


[121] Job 8:14


[122] Prov. 14:26


[123] Prov. 1:7


[124] Prov. 22:17-21


[125] Col. 3:10


[126] cf. I Tim. 4:3


[127] I Tim. 2:4


[128] John 8:32


[129] I John 2:21


[130] I John 5:13




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[131] for our justification, Rom. 4:25


[132] I Cor. 15:17


[133] I John 5:20


[134] cf. 2 Tim. 1:12


[135] I Thessalonians 2:13


[136] I Cor. 2:4f, 12, 16


[137] I John 2:20


[138] v. 27


[139] I John 1:1


[140] John 6:63


[141] John 5:25


[142] John 6:68; cf. 8:51; 12:50


[143] Phil. 2:16


[144] 2 Tim. 3:17


[145] cr. Rom. 12:2; Eph. 5:8f; Phil. 1:10; Heb. 5:11-14


[146] cf. John 4:24


[147] Matt. 7:24


[148] A Treatise on Human Nature, ed. Green and Grose. London, 1874, vol. I, pp. 384, 388, 389


[149] THN, p. 377


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[150] THN, pp. 389, 391, 403


[151] SP, pp. 229, 266


[152] SP, p. 237


[153] SP, pp. 236, 237


[154] I Cor. 15:17


[155] I Cor. 15:20


[156] 156JA, p. 410


[157] cf. SP, p. 229


[158] TBLWR, pp. 206-211


[159] TBLWR, p.211


[160] TBLWR, p. 209


[161] TBLWR, p. 211


[162] TBLWR, p. 208


[163] Lectures and Conservations, ed. C. Barrett. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972, pp. 54, 56, 57, 58, 59


[164] LC, p. 56


[165] cf. PGC, pp. 369ff; JA, pp. 383ff.


[166] WHG, p. 142n


[167] PGC, p. 369




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[168] PGC, pp. 371, 372


[169] cf. Montgomery's anti-"double predestination," PGC, pp. 370f; WHG, p. 160n with Hodge's discussion of the
historic Lutheran denial of "double predestination," Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, Vol. II, part III,
chap. 14, paragraph 7, pp. 722-724


[170] SP, p. 11


[171] WHG, p. 72


[172] WHG, p. 71


[173] PGC, p. 380


[174] SP, pp. 290-292 cf., p. 121


[175] SP, p. 292f


[176] cited by P. Frank, Philosophy of Science. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1957, p. 176


[177] Why I Am Not A Christian, and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects, ed. Paul Edwards. New York:
Simon & Schuster, 1957, p.38


[178] Physics and Philosophy, The Revolution in Modern Science. New York: Harper & Row, 1958, p. 201


[179] Causality: The Place of the Causal Principle in Modern Science. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1959, esp. pp. 333-
353


[180] God in the Dock, p. 92


[181] cf. also the article by R. J. Rushdoony in JA, pp. 339-348), "The One and Many Problem"


[182] SP, p. 292


[183] SP, p. 291


[184] SP, p. 291



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[185] WHG, p. 71


[186] SP, p. 301


[187] JA, pp. 402, 403


[188] SP, p. 287


[189] SP, p. 287


[190] JA, p. 414


[191] God and Philosophy, p. 63


[192] Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV, Scene 1


[193] 2 Cor. 11:14


[194] I John 4:1-6


[195] JA, p. 388


[196] e.g., see Alvin Plantinga, God and Other Minds. Ithaca: Cornell University, 1967, pp. 156ff.


[197] p. 168n


[198] WHG, pp. 114ff.


[199] WHG, p. 116


[200] "The Theologian's Craft; a Discussion of Theory Formation and Theory Testing in Theology," Journal of the
American Scientific Affiliation, IVIII, Sept., 1966 p. 76


[201] TC, p. 69


[202] TC, p. 76



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[203] TC, p. 68


[204] TC, p. 69


[205] Prov. 1:7


[206] cf. II.E. above


[207] JA, p. 390


[208] JA, p. 391


[209] SP, pp. 264ff.


[210] Dilemmas. Cambridge: University Press, 1954, pp. 71, 81


[211] p. 92


[212] p. 126


[213] cf. The Uses of Argument. Cambridge: University Press, 1958


[214] cf. JA, pp. 409f.


[215] cf. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.2 Chicago: University Press, 1970, originally 1962


[216] cf. JA, p. 409


[217] PGC, p. 379


[218] "Alternative Interpretations of the History of Science" in The Validation of Scientific Theories, ed. P.G. Frank.
New York: Collier, 1961


[219] ed. Alfred de Grazia. NY: University Books, 1966


[220] "Recent Problems of Induction," in Mind and Cosmos, ed. R. G. Colodny. Pittsburgh: University Press, 1966, pp.
131f.


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[221] Cambridge: University Press, 1958


[222] cf. Charles Beard, "That Noble Dream," in The Varieties of History, ed. F. Stern. Cleveland: World, 1956


[223] PGC, p. 377


[224] PGC, p. 381); cf. WHG, pp. 194-195


[225] cf. PGC, p. 382


[226] PGC, p. 379


[227] SP, p. 13


[228] PGC, p. 388; SP, p. 141


[229] SP, p. 265


[230] SP, p. 241


[231] SP, p. 141


[232] SP, p. 266


[233] SP, p. 265, emphasis supplied


[234] SP, p. 265


[235] cf. SP, pp. 141, 267


[236] JA, p. 390


[237] e.g., SP, p. 258


[238] cf. JA, pp. 409-410



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[239] SP, p. 266


[240] JA, p. 409


[241] Free Press, 1954, cf. p. 32


[242] JA, p. 391


[243] JA, p. 390


[244] I Corinthians 2:12


[245] Romans 8:7


[246] Colossians 1:21


[247] cf. Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 4:18


[248] Romans 1:21, 25)


[249] I Corinthians 1:18


[250] e.g., SP, pp. 237-238


[251] WHG, pp. 53-54


[252] JA, p. 411


[253] WHG, p. 114


[254] PGC, p. 388; JA, pp. 384, 389, 391


[255] John 6:44-45


[256] Ezekiel 36:27




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[257] I Corinthians 12:2-3


[258] 2 Thessalonians 2:13


[259] I Corinthians 2:10, 12


[260] Ephesians 1:17-19


[261] I Corinthians 24-5


[262] JA, p. 415


[263] JA, pp. 409, 41


[264] see JA, pp. 392-394


[265] SP, p. 292


[266] WHG, p. 116


[267] JA, pp. 388, 390


[268] SP, p. 300-301


[269] TC, p. 69


[270] SP, p. 3


[271] SP, p.14


[272] SP, pp. 14, 15


[273] SP, p. 14


[274] WHG, pp. 183,184


[275] WHG, p. 186


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[276] SP, pp. 145-152, 266


[277] WHG, p. 116


[278] PGC, p. 376


[279] AMD. p. 95


[280] JA, p. 412


[281] WHG, pp. 38-39


[282] SP, p. 143


[283] SP, p. 140


[284] WHG, pp. 35-36


[285] SP, p. 140; cf. JA, p. 389


[286] SP, pp. 269-286


[287] SP, pp. 278-285


[288] SP, p. 281


[289] JA, p. 391


[290] I Corinthians 1:23


[291] AMD, p. 74


[292] AMD, p. 76


[293] cf. I Corinthians 15:2-9




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[294] PGC, p. 375


[295] Matthew 28:17


[296] Luke 16:31


[297] Luke 24:25


[298] Hebrews 11:17-19


[299] Romans 4:18-2


[300] Ephesians 2:8


[301] Romans 10:17


[302] Hebrews 11:1


[303] Acts 26:8


[304] Acts 26:22




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PA017The Cambridge Fish (Boston) (Winter, 1975), © Covenant Media Foundation -- 800/553-3938.


                                Demythologising Liberalism:
                           Greg Bahnsen reviews Roberto Unger's
                                   Knowledge and Politics
                                                            By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Knowledge and Politics, (New York: The Free Press, Macmillan Publishing Co., 1975),
336 pages, with index; $12.95, Reviewed by Greg L. Bahnsen, The Chalcedon Foundation, California.


Roberto M. Unger, who teaches at the Harvard Law School, has presented to the public what is in many respects a
fascinating book. Consider its breadth: psychology, social theory, religion, epistemology, politics, metaphysics, ethics,
and history (among other things) are all treated in an interwoven fashion. Consider its depth: every major philosopher
from Plato to Quine, in every major tradition, not to mention socio-political theorists from right to left, psychologists,
and modern theologians are discussed and footnoted. The author is obviously well-read, and he reads well. Unger
shows an understanding and insightfully relates the central themes of modern thought and politics. His book aims to
take on the entire ruling mentality of modern (i.e., post-Hobbesian) philosophy and social theory, and it climaxes with
an essay on God.


The author's grasp of material and his scope of treatment are astonishing. Moreover, his prose can be overpowering.
Consider the opening and closing paragraphs of his Introduction.


         In its ideas about itself and about society, as in all its other endeavors, the mind goes from mastery to
         enslavement, which imitates the attraction death exercises over life, thought again and again uses the
         instruments of its own freedom to bind itself in chains. But whenever the mind breaks its chains, the
         liberty it wins is greater than the one it had lost, and the splendor of its triumph surpasses the
         wretchedness of its earlier subjection... No one who has heard a whispered intimation of the power and
         greatness of theory will ever surrender to despair, not will he doubt that this sound of thought will one
         day awaken the stones themselves.


Without a doubt Knowledge and Politics is a grandiose book. Its intent is revolutionary, aiming to supplant the
paradigms of liberalism and establish a new mode of thought. All factors considered, the book should be read by
Christians studying in the areas of philosophy, social science, and psychology.


According to Unger, the time has come for a total criticism of what he designates the liberal system or mode of
thought - the tradition, which has dominated Western culture since the 1600's with respect to the conceptions of man
and society. This classical outlook, he thinks, cannot be remedied of its inevitable antinomies by the piecemeal
criticisms advanced by specialized sciences, for each partial critique tacitly accepts postulates of liberalism while
simultaneously rejecting others; however, the principles of liberalism (from psychology to political theory) are
interdependent. Thus partial critiques cannot get beyond the problems inherent in the system. Specifically, the
premises of liberalism lead to irreconcilable conclusions: "the house of reason in which I was working proved to be a
prison-house of paradox whose rooms did not connect and whose passageways led nowhere."




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A time for a total revolution in thought and political practice has arrived then. The tyranny of the classical theory of
liberalism must be broken. This tyranny is expressed in both the theory of knowledge and political theory; indeed,
these two areas are actually interdependent. The author contends that there is "a continuum of accessible truth that
bridges the distance from the study of knowledge to the understanding of individual conduct, from the understanding
of individual conduct to the science of society, and from the science of society to the exercise of political choice." In
my opinion, it is just here that Unger's brilliance is most evident. Throughout his book he reveals underlying
continuities between various metaphysical or epistemological stances and corresponding social and political outlooks.
The inter-relation of a person's opinions (from knowledge to politics) - over against a strongly departmentalized
conception - needs to be stressed and illustrated today, and Unger begins to fulfill that need.


Unger contends that liberalism's views in epistemology, psychology, and ethics can be reduced to a few basic
principles which depend upon one another in a quasi-logical sense. However, these principles produce antinomies
regarding the self and morals; thereby the idea of personality is subverted. Again, the moral beliefs and political ideas
of liberalism can be summarized in a few basic postulates which form a closed system, a system that results in an
antinomy regarding public rules and private ends. Further, the liberal principles of psychology and politics imply each
other, constituting a single body of thought, but one which is riddled with paradoxes. Unger attempts to relate these
difficulties in liberal thought to its misguided conception of the relationship between parts and wholes in knowledge
and in society. Finally, "to solve the antinomies of liberal thought, replace its view of parts and wholes, and work
toward a different system of psychological and political ideas, we must abandon the manner in which our modern
schools conceive the relationship of universals to particulars."


Only a short example of how the above contentions are elaborated is possible here. According to Unger, the modern
conception of nature rejects the doctrine of intelligible essences, thus leading to Kant's view that facts can be
perceived solely through the categories with which the mind orders experience. And yet liberalism believes that the
history of science is progressive, that a rational choice is possible among conflicting theories about the world. What
we see, then, is that liberal epistemology simultaneously holds that knowledge is theoretical (mediated by mental
constructs) and observational (directly in touch with the facts). What is basic here is the conviction that there is a
separation between the universal (e.g., the category of the understanding) and the particular (e.g., the objective
source of sensation).


Furthermore, liberal doctrine distinguishes reason from desire, and it holds the latter to be arbitrary. The final outcome
of such tenets is a clash between deontological and teleological ethical systems, both of which are demanded by
liberalism, and yet neither is adequate. Consequently, the concept of a person who has a continuing identity over time,
who shares a common humanity with others, who can alter his ends and be a unique individual, is destroyed by the
conflict between an ideal humanity (enshrined in a morality of reason) and a concrete humanity (enshrined in a
morality of desire). Schizophrenia results, only to be aggravated by the surrogate "personality" offered in one's social
role. To escape this quandry, says the author, we need to get beyond the idea of aggregation (everything is a sum of
its parts) and the primacy of the simple, wherein the complex and synthetic are always viewed as derivative and
contrived (whether in knowledge or in politics). But this requires a novel view of the relation of universals to particulars.
A similar discussion could be rehearsed with respect to rules and values in political thought.


Well then, what the author says is that liberalism, by rejecting intelligible essences, cannot escape antinomies in
knowledge and politics - antinomies which require and yet render impossible the separation of the universal (e.g.,
theory, reason, rules) and the particulars (e.g., facts, desires, values). He thinks that all the fundamental issues of
modern philosophy are variations on such antinomies: viz., form and substance must be both independent and
interdependent. As Professor Cornelius Van Til said over forty years ago, modern philosophy is broken over the
problem of "the one and the many" (cf. R.J. Rushdoony's The One and the Many, Nutley, J.J.: The Craig Press).


Unger finds a faint suggestion of the way out of liberalism's riddle in moral, artistic, and religious experience. He feels


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that the universal must always exist as a concrete particular, yet never be exhausted in its meaning or possible modes
of existence by any single particular instantiation of it. The universal is neither abstract and formal, nor identified with a
single concrete particular. "Instead, it is an entity whose universality consists precisely in the open set of concrete and
substantive determinations in which it can appear" - somewhat like a person (the universal) who is manifest in various
bodily ages and positions (the particulars). The author finds an example of this view in the Christian doctrines of
Incarnation and Resurrection. God, the infinite and universal being, became man, a finite and particular being;
resurrected men will be purged of everything finite and contingent and yet continue as individual beings in the next
world. In the book-ending essay on God, Unger says that the question of the universal and particular is, religiously
stated, the puzzle of immanence and transcendence. Liberalism can be surpassed only in the historical conjunction of
immanence (union) and transcendence (separation). Then can be realized Unger's theory of the self (as existing in
natural harmony, sympathy toward others, and concrete universality respecting internal ideals) and theory of organic
groups (communities with shared values and no antagonism between domination and individualism).


However, says Unger, the character of the world and of man's place in it make reconciliation between immanence and
transcendence necessarily and permanently impossible. The union of the two must be looked for in God. In his last
pages the author engages in the (ancient) via negative and (medieval) natural theology; he uses speculative thought,
reflecting on man and his imperfections, to determine what the perfect being, God, would have to be. If there is such a
God, he could not be man in history. The power of speculative thought, says Unger, stops here. Whether God exists,
as well as the salvation of men, can be known only by God's own direct self-revelation. Here philosophy, which is
sovereign in its own province, must end and give way to an immediate experience of the truth not amenable to
argument (religion).


         When philosophy has gained the truth of which it is capable, it passes into politics and prayer, politics
         through which the world is changed, prayer through which men ask God to complete the change of the
         world by carrying them into His presence and giving them what, left to themselves, they would always
         lack.


The author indicates that he looks for a revelation which will tell us how the opposition of humanity and nature are to
be overcome, how the conflict of self and others can be resolved, and "how our participation in Him might give us the
hope that we too might be able in another world to join together at last essence and existence, the abstract and the
concrete self." Saying that men look unceasingly for God, Unger ends with these telling words: "But our days pass,
and still we do not know you fully. Why then do you remain silent? Speak, God."


Knowledge and Politics is a remarkable treatise, but is has great weaknesses. Space does not allow the enumeration
of many of them. However, the reader should be aware that Unger is throughout attacking a non-existent entity; the
set of ideas he calls liberalism groups together too many strange bedfellows to be convincing. Despite his early
apology, the author does not overcome the problem that no one thinker accepts the liberal theory as he exposits it.
This greatly weakens his charge of antinomy in the alleged system of "liberalism" and his only recourse is to say that
his hypothetical system of thought (an admitted reconstruction) contains tenets which are not liberally mutually
entailed. Unger wants to speak of an analogy of logical entailment between them, but it is far from clear what this
analogy amounts to. It seems to give him what he wants in the way of criticizing liberalism, and yet rescues him from
the counter-criticism that he is attacking a straw-man.


Unger would have done better to simply say the object of his criticism was modern philosophy in its many guises,
rather than reducing this wide range of opinion to one alleged school. His criticisms at particular points are impressive,
but applied to the whole are unconvincing. In order to categorize all of modern philosophy we would need to expand
our label from liberalism to autonomous unbelief in the Christian Scriptures, and this category would include Unger
himself. Despite his suggestive idea of finding the resolution of the one and many problem (for epistemology and
politics) in God, it is obvious that he embraces an incorrect theology (God is treated as infinite being, into whose


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essence man might merge and be purged of finitude) and misguided methodology (granting autonomy to philosophy
in finding God, then seeking a nonrational experience in religion to complete the quest for the Deity). Yes, the problem
of the one and the many can only be answered in God. Yes, only in God's revelation can nature and humanity,
individuals and society, learn to exist in harmony. However, our answer and our salvation can only be found in the
Triune God of the Bible, the sovereign Creator who is ever separate from the creature and yet always active in us and
our world, the God of truth who has revealed Himself clearly to all men. By asking that God finally speak, and by
saying that God is personal If He exists, Unger exhibits his rebellion against the living and true God. Therefore, the
author has rightly seen the troubles of others but overlooked his own fatal mistake. As Van Til has compellingly
shown, unless one begins by presupposing the ontological Trinity of Scripture, he cannot be immune from the one-
and-many problem or from intellectual futility.


Therefore, Unger's book has many fine sections and suggestions. It does witness to the fact that modern philosophy
and politics can find their solutions only in God. But when we look at Unger's thought itself, it must be clear that the
Christian can in no way take him as "the straight man" for whom the apologist can now give "the punch line." Unger
has misconceived the problem as well as the solution; we must not only get beyond "liberalism," but beyond
autonomy. And that takes us beyond Unger to the rock-word of Jesus Christ, the transcendent Creator who became
immanent in history to be the Savior of man, his thinking and his society.




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PA018(1975) © Covenant Media Foundation -- 800/553-3938.


                                                  Revisionary Immunity
                                                            By Dr. Greg Bahnsen


Truth Insulated from the World of Contingency and Uncertainty
For those who are concerned to gain a knowledge of the truth about the world it has often been a depressing fact that
we are so prone to error. There are problems with perception, not the least of which include those of illusion and
perspectival variation; further there are problems with generalizations which arise from the irremedial incompleteness
of induction, the continual change and alternation of the world, and confidence-shaking differences of opinion.
Experience of the sensible, physical, extramental world betrays our trust in both theory and practice and thus
generates no firm conviction that what we report based on its credentials must be true. We just cannot be absolutely
sure when even our best efforts are not immune from revision or repudiation.


Understandably, then, philosophers have sought true statements which could not be otherwise - statements which are
unconditionally and universally true, which must be true, which cannot fail. Archimedes wished for a place to stand, a
firm point from which he could move the world. Likewise, epistemologists have explored everywhere for truths of
which they could be certain; since these statements, unlike the contingent character of the world as well as our
experience of it, would be in some sense necessary, they would be truths immune from revision. However, when
philosophers finally settled on such truths it was (they thought) at the expense of the world-moving significance which
Archimedes desired. Informative power was sacrificed for certainty, the reason for this seems to be that, according to
a reigning tradition in philosophy, statements which must be true are statements which do not depend upon empirical
argumentation for their justification. Being cut off from any required contact with experience, such truths cannot be
informative about the extramental world which is known through one's experience of it.


Traditionally, three classes of truths have been taken as insulated from the world's a priori truth, necessary truth, and
analytic truth. A priori truth is set in contrast to a posteriori truth, a distinction indicating different ways of knowing true
statements. A statement is knowable a priori when its truth, given an understanding of the terms involved, is
ascertainable by a procedure which makes no reference to experience; being nonempirical, an a priori statement can
be justified independently of experience. By contrast, an a posteriori truth is derived from experience; its terms cannot
be fully understood and applied, nor can its validation be accomplished, apart from experience. A statement is
knowable a posteriori when it is true, can be known, and has no nonempirical procedure of justification. Hence a
posteriori truths are empirical and inductive in character, and as such (we are told) can only be known as probably
true. To illustrate the contrast sketched here: "All vixens are female" is knowable a priori, whereas "All vixens kill
chickens" is, if true, knowable a posteriori. The latter can be justified only by information acquired through experience
(beyond that needed for an understanding of the statement), but this is not so for the former.


According to the commonly endorsed outlook we are now examining, a posteriori truths must be contingent, for how
could experience (which is limited, and the particular content of which we just happen to have) tell us something which
strictly must be so? However, although contingent, the a posteriori truths are compensatingly synthetic; they extend
our significant information about the world. The virtue of a priori truths, it is said, is that their veracity is ascertainable
by examination of the statements alone; an a priori truth provides its own verification and thus is true in itself. Because
a priori truths would be true in all possible worlds, they are (unlike a posteriori contingencies) necessary in some
sense. However, according to standard doctrine, this virtue has the following drawback: a priori truths do not express
matters of fact (since factual matters could have been otherwise than we find them in our experience) but merely
relation of ideas. Accordingly, a priori truths are not synthetic, for if a statement gives genuine information about the


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world, how can one know that it is true except by observation of the world? If one does not have to resort to some
specific experience of the world to validate a statement - if he can know a priori that it always holds true and hence is
necessary - that statement must be analytic.


We turn, then, from the a priori distinction to a consideration of necessity and analyticity. A necessary truth, as
opposed to contingent truth, is one which could not be otherwise; if a statement is necessarily true, its negation cannot
be true (i.e., where "S" is a necessary truth, "It is possible that not-S" cannot possibly be true). Necessity is an older
and more intuitive notion than analyticity, the latter being a technical philosophical notion introduced to account for
necessity. Historically, necessity has been seen as carrying significant metaphysical baggage. Necessary truths have
been accounted for in terms of essence (Aristotle), God's existence and nature (the medievals), concepts (Leibniz
among others), etc. However, the perspective which has emerged dominant in the history of modern philosophy, a
perspective popularized at least from the time of Hobbes, is that necessity should be accounted for in terms of
language (or a set of concepts somehow underlying it). Here the seed was sown which would be reaped in the
twentieth century when linguistic analysis came forth as the determined opponent of metaphysics. From the new
linguistic slant, a statement which could not be false was one whose truth followed from the meanings of the
constituent words. Accordingly, if the meanings of the words changed, what the words express (or what we are talking
about) would also change. This linguistic account of necessity brings us to analyticity.


The view that there is a sharp distinction to be drawn between truths which are analytic and truths which are synthetic
is the modern counterpart to the ancient distinction between essential and accidental predication. For Aristotle a
necessary truth is one which is essentially true - that is, a statement expressing the essence of an object or a principle
common to all science (e.g., "All men are rational animals"; the law of excluded middle in logic). With the rejection of
Aristotle's scheme of essences came the elimination of necessary truths about the extramental world; the essences
were replaced with ideas or concepts, and necessity was restricted to their interrelations. Thus factual statements
about the world, standing in opposition to necessary truths, had to be identified with contingent truths henceforth. The
shift from essences to concepts is quite evident in the early modern period of philosophy, especially in Leibniz's
distinction between truths of reason and truths of fact, and Hume's distinction between relations of ideas and matters
of fact. In contrast to factual truths about the world, necessary truths (of reason, or of ideal relations) are such that
their denials involve a self contradiction.


So then, necessary truths depend on the principle of contradiction. By means of definitions of the constituent terms,
necessary truths can be reduced to the law of identity (e.g., "All vixen are female" becomes an identical proposition
when "female fox" definitionally replaces "vixen" - thus, "All female foxes are female"). This appeal to definitions (or
meanings) has drawn the comment of one modern logician, Willard Van Orman Quine, that meaning is what essence
becomes when it is divorced from the object of reference (e.g., the living, breathing vixen in the world) and wedded to
the word (e.g., "vixen"). This criterion for isolating necessary truths (a criterion which, in critic passing, has
competitors, and which must in turn account for the necessity of the logical laws on which it depends) precludes any
synthetic truth from qualifying as necessarily true, for the denial of a statement of empirical fact involves no
contradiction. Consequently, the modern view of necessity restricts it to non-synthetic, that is, analytic statements
(those which express relations of ideas, concepts, or meanings).


Our examination of the three classes of truths which are taken to be insulated from the world, therefore, has brought
us to this conclusion: all a priori truths (justifiable independently of experience) are necessary truths (their denials are
contradictory), which in turn are restricted to analytic truths (true in virtue of meaning relations and logical laws). The
popular perspective is that there are no synthetic a priori (necessary) truths. And this is to say that the only statements
which must be true - and thereby immune from revision - are analytic statements. Only analytic truths escape the
epistemic dangers of experience as a path to the truth, or to put it another way, the only infallible truths are analytic
truths. Thus you can gain certainty only be sacrificing the synthetic character of your statements; infallible truths tell us
nothing significant about the world and do not extend our genuine information about any extramental state of affairs.
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your statements. The analytic/synthetic distinction is crucial to this claim.


A Popular Philosophical Prejudice and its Consequences
A sharp distinction between analytic statements (whose truth-value can be determined by an analysis of the statement
itself) and synthetic statements (whose truth-value must be determined extralinguistically, through empirical
confirmation) has been advanced in the twentieth century by many philosophers and their schools (not excluding
some evangelical apologists) - most conspicuously by linguistic conventionalists and positivistic reductionists. That the
a priori truths are coextensive with the analytic truths has gained widespread agreement and has almost attained the
status of a popular platitude; it is unwittingly imbibed and authoritatively pontificated by students and professors of
philosophy, amateur and professional.


A priori truths, being independent of any particular experience, are not thought to be absolute in character but rather a
matter of linguistic convention (about how we choose to speak of the world), from which we drive the necessity of such
statements. The truth of an a priori statement derives solely from language; when the language is known, the truth of
the a priori statement is simultaneously known. Thus a priori truths (distinguished from a posteriori truths in terms of
the way of knowing) are known independently of experience because they are analytic (distinguished from synthetic
truths in terms of the grounds for determining truth). Like Kant, it is held that the fixed order we associate with the
world is not independent of the thinker (or today, speaker), but unlike Kant, there are no synthetic a priori truths. The
other side of this modern coin is the insistence that all meaningful assertions which are not analytically vacuous of
information about the extramental (extralinguistic) world must be verified, if at all, empirically. Anything that is to count
as evidence for a statement - (the possibility of there being such evidence constitutes the statement as synthetic in
character) - must be a matter of observation or sense experience.


A rather straightforward declaration of the modern prejudice is found in chapter III of An Analysis of Knowledge and
Valuation (Illinois: Open Court, 1946) by C.I. Lewis:


         Every statement we know to be true is so known either by reason of experience or by
         reason of what the statement itself means. There are no other sources of knowledge
         than on the one hand data of sense and on the other hand our own intended meanings.
         Empirical knowledge constitutes the one class; all that is knowable independently of
         sense experience - the a priori and the analytic - constitutes the other, and is
         determinable as true by reference to our meanings.


Traditionally a statement which can be certified by reference exclusively to defined or definable meanings is called
analytic; what is non-analytic being called synthetic. And traditionally that knowledge whose correctness can be
assured without reference to any particular experience of sense is called a priori; that which requires to be determined
by sense experience being called a posteriori. . . . The thesis here put forward, that the a priori and the analytic
coincide, has come to be a matter of fairly wide agreement. . . . There are no synthetic statements which can be
known true a priori. . . . Apart from what is thus logically necessary, we know facts of existence only by experience
and through induction.


Holding to the analytic/synthetic distinction in the manner described above is not a neutral or impartial conviction with
which all philosophical positions need to agree. Indeed, it commits one to an extensive, substantive, philosophical
position in its own right - an outlook and method which have notable consequences.




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To treat some statements as "analytic" and others as "synthetic" is: (a) to discriminate between the statements of your
belief-system and treat them separately (judging each claim one by one, in isolation of the others) rather than to
consider and test the corporate system as a whole; (b) to hold that some statements are such that their denial can be
ridiculed as a failure of understanding, and thus that these statements are immune from revision; (c) to hold that such
statements are not only unfalsifiable but also non-informative, make no difference to what is true about the world, or
are trivial; (d) to "flatten out" all the other statements of your system - the informative ones - so that each is treated as
on the same footing as all the rest of the significant claims of the system, thus recognizing no privileged status for any
statement (or any degrees of basicness, importance, centrality, immunity, etc.) but rather feigning both willingness to
abandon any claim as easily as any other and impartiality in subjecting each and every statement to the same
procedures and standards; (e) to hold that the meaningful, informative, and impartially judged statements of your
system have been justified in an empirical manner (experience being the test for truth-claims); and (f) to use the
preceding epistemological convictions and standards to govern and critically determine what substantive beliefs about
reality you endorse - that is, "philosophic methodism" (or decreeing the priority of criteria over the determination of all
accepted beliefs about the world, instead of the priority of some beliefs over the determination of the criteria to be
used in accepting further beliefs).


Implications for Apologetics
What are we to make of the analytic/synthetic distinction? Is it acceptable? I believe not, and I believe that it is far from
innocuous in relation to Christian apologetics. As a weapon of philosophic discussion, this distinction will consistently
mislead people. It is a pernicious idea that every truth that is significant is exclusively determined by empirical
(observational) procedure, consigning the remainder of the truths (as well as all necessity) to the conventions of
language. To hold such an opinion is well concealed ax-grinding.


That it is wrong to draw the distinction in the common fashion is evident from what philosophers have done with it,
namely, to oppose the infallible truth of God's revelation in Scripture. If what the Bible says is to be genuinely
informative (if it is to make a difference to experience), then we are told that it must be verified by the privileged
standards of empiricism - which means Scripture cannot have all of its claims confirmed (leaving the believer to leap
from history to metaphysics), and even those which might pass scrutiny cannot be taken as infallibly true but at best
probable. On the other hand, if what the Bible claims in the realm of metaphysics and not only history is to be taken as
immune from revision, then we are told that it cannot be genuinely informative about reality (i.e., synthetically true), or
cognitively meaningful and significant, or anything but an arbitrary and trivial convention. The Christian is impaled on
the horns of a (false) dilemma: choose to abandon an infallible metaphysic or accept a trivial religious opinion. If the
Christian faith is to be intellectually respectable it must abandon the claim to revisionary immunity, become
subservient to an ultimate authority outside the system, and be willing to have its claims divided up and judged one by
one.


With so much at stake it is only natural that the apologist ask the philosopher for the exact nature and rationale of the
analytic/synthetic distinction. How are statements to be isolated as analytic? What is it precisely to say that some
statement is analytic? Is there a distinct class of such truths? What point is there to having such a separate class of
statements? We shall soon see that the analytic/synthetic distinction has been obscurely drawn and is itself an
insupportable dogma which is accepted in advance of, and is in fact used to navigate, the important questions of
philosophy.


Therefore, it behooves the Christian apologist to examine the analytic/synthetic distinction as it has been used (or
abused) in philosophy. In so doing he will also gain an important insight into the character of belief-systems, the
testing of statements within such systems, and the realistic place of empirical procedures in the resolution of
conflicting claims or systems. Moreover, a study of the analytic/synthetic distinction will enable the believer to
understand the essential infirmities and confusions that undergird the two central philosophical polemics against the
faith in this century: (1) verificationalism, and (2) the absence of falsification conditions. Hence a study of the analytic/


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synthetic distinction will (positively) indicate important features of argumentation between conflicting viewpoints, and
(negatively) it will help the Christian to see the faux pas committed by the cultured despisers of the faith in this
century.


The Challenge and Prerequisites of a Satisfactory Answer
The clarity and genuineness of the analytic/synthetic distinction is crucial to the philosophic perspective and method
which has been sketched above. The infirmity of the former spells the failure of the latter. Thus what we need to do at
this point is simply ask for an explanation of the analytic/synthetic distinction. Can this distinction be plausibly drawn
and clearly laid out?


Distinction ought to be made where they are called for, and indeed this is a great part of the task of philosophy: to split
significant hairs. But we ought to avoid making unnecessary, unfounded, or confused distinctions which, due to the
consequences they have for decisions we make, can lead us into arbitrariness and mistake. It is another great task of
philosophy, where unwarranted distinctions have been pontificated and unwittingly endorsed, not to let sleeping
dogmatists lie. What good is a distinction that is not distinct? If an alleged distinction does not clearly distinguish one
thing from another, the "distinction" is hardly justified and, indeed, may carry latent dangers if we unwittingly trust it to
be doing the task it pseudo-confidently claims to do.


Is the analytic/synthetic distinction clear? Is there a class of truths which are exclusively and uniquely "synthetic" (or
"analytic") in nature? Supposedly, analytic truths are those whose truth or falsity depends solely on the meanings of
the words with which it is expressed; an analytic truth, as distinguished from a synthetic truth, is one whose truth
derives from language alone and thus can be determined simply by consideration and analysis of meanings in the
light of logical laws. Such statements which are true ex vi terminorum ("by virtue of the terms") are insulated from the
world of experience; they would hold true of every possible world and thus impose no limitation on what we hold to be
actually the case. An analytic truth is independent of all particular experiences. Therefore, while we can know a class
of statements with absolute certainty, they do not tell us anything interesting about the world. Revisionary immunity
can be found for some statements of your belief-system, namely, the "trifling propositions" (as Locke called them). Is
this perspective lucid and defensible?


What we should see is that the analytic/synthetic distinction is not really understood by its proponents. The cleavage
between these alleged kinds of truth is ill-founded and does not make sense. We ought to maintain that there is no
unique and discernable class of statements such that everybody must endorse them since they are true in virtue of
language alone and independently of fact. To exhibit this I shall begin by asking, how we are to conceive of,
characterize, or define the analytic truths? We need to have a satisfactory answer to this question in order to be able
to identify the truths which are analytic. For instance, I do not know whether the statement, "Nothing can be red and
green all over at the same time in the same respect" is analytic or synthetic, and this indecision does not very
plausibly point to an inadequate understanding of the meanings of "red" and "green" on my part. The trouble, instead,
is in understanding "analytic." And thus the proponent of the distinction needs to explicate the notion of analyticity.


There are certain definite requirements placed on any attempt to explicate analyticity which is to be adequate for the
present purposes. Proposed ways for drawing the analytic/synthetic distinction should not be empty, that is offering no
analysis whatsoever but, in effect, merely restating the distinction. A proposal should not be question-begging or
circular, appealing to that which analyticity is designed to explain in order (in turn) to explicate analyticity itself; thus a
proposal should in effect provide a further, independent account of necessity (and a statement should be identifiable
as analytic independently of accepting it as necessary). Moreover, the proposal should not assume notions which
themselves ought to be analyzed, which are in the same need for explanation as analyticity, or which depend on
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An acceptable proposal must also allow us to identify in advance the analytic statements, not waiting for a complete
enumeration of them by some philosophical pope. Involved here is the obvious requirement that a proposal teach us
to isolate clearly and successfully all of the analytic truths (not just a portion of them); that is, the proposal should not
be metaphorical or intuitive in nature, nor should it be a mere stipulation, but rather it ought to provide an effective
means of empirically justifying any attribution of analyticity to a statement. This requirement further specifies that a
non-formal or non-stipulative explication will be testable in natural language, the same language in which the
distinction is philosophically utilized. Furthermore, when any proposal effectively demarcates a well-defined class of
analytic truths from truths in general, it must both include the commonly accepted, paradigmatic, preconceived
illustrations of analytic truths (e.g., "All bachelors are unmarried males," etc.) and exclude accepted "synthetic"
statements in order that it avoid ad hoc arbitrariness and qualification.


Then again, an adequate proposal in the present situation will have to be one which is devised in the context of
conventionalism's claim that all necessary truths are analytic; the proposal must not allow for synthetic a priori truths.
The proposal must draw the analytic/synthetic distinction absolutely and not leave it a matter of degree. The proposal
should render analytic truths unrevisable and unreasonable to reject (irrespective of a man's beliefs, except about
meanings of words). Finally, and most obviously, any satisfactory proposal for distinguishing synthetic from analytic
truths must not appeal to groundless or false claims.


Keeping these minimal requirements in mind, we will see that the dichotomy between analytic and synthetic truths is
an unwarranted and infelicitous one. We will do this by means of the following consideration of the main proposals
which have been advanced for defending the analytic/synthetic distinction.


1. Examples and linguistic competence. Some philosophers have hoped to support the analytic/synthetic distinction by
citing (allegedly) clear examples of the contrasting kinds of truths and pointing to the general agreement of those who
appear to use the distinction competently. It is supposed that where there is general agreement regarding the
application of a classification (viz., "analytic") to an open reference class, that classification must be grounded in a
genuine distinction. But of course this proposal falters over the untestable assumption that its examples are indeed
clear and that the users of the distinction to whom it alludes are indeed competent ones. Moreover, it is at bottom an
appeal to intuition; if no warrant for the intuitions of analyticity is forthcoming, the fact that there are these "intuitions"
or that a few clear examples can be produced is suitable only for the philosopher's autobiography (telling us
something about him, but not about the distinction in question).


How does one learn this maneuver of distinguishing analytic from synthetic truths if it is not immediately obvious to
him? Could the student ever conceivably refute his teacher's identification? Can some people be more competent than
others in this distinguishing procedure? Such questions as these uncover the inadequacies of the present
unexplicated appeal to a genuine distinction. But its central problem is its failure to actually clarify the analytic/
synthetic distinction, which is what the original challenge asked to be done. One convincing way to show that
something exists is to exhibit it - give a clear and usable account of what it is and how to recognize it. The current
consideration of examples and linguistic competence does not do this. We are still left asking, just what is the nature
of the analytic/synthetic distinction?


2. Conceptual containment. Kant taught that analytic truths are those where the predicate is already conceptually
contained in the subject. This was Kant's psychological account, which was supplemented by his logical account (or
criterion) listed below. For Kant an analytic judgment is such that "what is thought in the predicate-concept" has
already been "thought in the subject-concept." The statements in quotation in the previous sentence are unclear (for
instance, how do we identify and individuate them?), and Kant does not discuss them. Further, Kant leaves the notion
of conceptual "containment" at the metaphorical level. Yet even if Kant had clarified the notion of one thing-which-is-
thought being contained in another thing-which-is-thought, we would have to observe that Kant's account of analyticity


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is restricted to truths of the subject-predicate form; as such it excludes applied logical truths (e.g., "Jam is seedless or
is not seedless") and relational sentences (e.g., "A father is older than his son"). Thus Kant's proposal was intuitive at
base and incomplete at best.


Based on his account, Kant maintained that synthetic judgments could not be reduced to analytic judgments (the
distinction must be absolute). However, he based his claim on the fact that synthetic judgments contain predicates
which we know apply to the world, but such a fact would be insufficient to guarantee the distinction. For why should
such a predicate not also be "contained in the subject-concept" of the proposition in which it appears (that is, why
shouldn't it form an analytic judgment)? To say that a certain predicate has application to the world is a semantical
comment which tells us nothing as to whether the predicate has certain syntactical relations to other concepts. Thus
Kant has not adequately insured that the analytic/synthetic distinction is tight.


Moreover, since Kant said that an empirical concept could not be defined (giving it a real essence) but only given its
conventional signification (which is liable to change with increased knowledge or changed interests), he could not
consistently teach (as he attempted to do elsewhere) that "All bodies are extended" must be analytic, while "All bodies
have weight" must be synthetic. Instead, the analytic/synthetic distinction at this point would have to be merely
conventional and arbitrary, not absolute. The relativity of what will count as an analytic truth is also evident from the
fact that Kant sought to determine them by the connection between concepts-which-are-thought, for a shift can take
place in people's conception of things; concepture connections will hold only relative to a given system of thought.


3. Self-contradictory denials. As mentioned above, Kant had a dual account of analyticity; his second or logical
approach has been advanced by many other notable philosophers (e.g., Leibniz). It lays down the criterion that an
analytic statement is one whose denial is self-contradictory. However, in the broad sense needed to explicate
analyticity, the notion of self-contradictoriness is just as much in need of clarification as that which it supposedly
explains; as Quine puts it, "the two notions are the two sides of a single dubious coin." For example, consider "It is not
the case that all men are rational animals" (i.e., the denial of a commonly accepted instance of essential predication or
conceptual containment). Is the statement self-contradictory? It is not clear how we should answer, for syntactical
inspection of the specimen shows us nothing like "A and not-A".


It might be thought, then, that at least this criterion of self-contradictoriness applies to the logical truths expressed in
our language (that is, statements which are true under all reinterpretations of their constituent parts other than the
logical particles: "and," "or," "if, then," "not" and other syncategormatic terms). Obvious examples come to mind: "no
unloaded gun is loaded." But just as obvious are many infelicitous examples. Two psychologists might well argue (and
empirically justify) different responses to: "No unhappy man is happy." The fact is that natural languages have
sentences, like "Business is business," whose denials produce a contradiction in symbolic logic ("A and not-A") but not
in ordinary use; thus these sentences must also be tested empirically and not merely in virtue of the conditions
established by their terms. The logical truths cannot be adequately translated from any natural language, although it is
easy enough (or rather, there is a clear enough procedure directing us) to find them in formal systems. This is to say
the criterion presently under consideration will not help us to isolate successfully all and only the analytic truths in
English (or any other natural language). In ordinary discourse you cannot read a contradiction right off the verbal
symbols, and thus there are not truths which are independent of fact (true simply in consideration of the statement
itself). You cannot decide which statements are those whose denials are contradictory without just begging the
question.


But the advocate of the analytic/synthetic distinction might reply that the criterion (that self-contradiction characterizes
the denial of an analytic statement) is satisfactory if we will but take consideration of "the sense" of the words in
specimen sentences. Thus the sense of "man" in "Every man is a rational animal," the possible double sense of
"happy" in "No unhappy man is happy." etc. are such as to indicate whether a denial of the statements is contradictory
or not - and thus whether the statements are analytic or synthetic. But this recourse involves reference to notions like


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sense, definition, and synonymy - which, as we will see below, is question - begging as an explication of analyticity.


The only response that would then be open to the advocate of the present proposal would be to take self-contradiction
in a psychological rather than strictly logical sense. That is, when "analytic" statements are denied by someone, other
speakers of the language have a feeling of oddity or bewilderment or humor (etc.). However, this approach is
inadequate since: (1) not all speakers in a community will in fact have the same reaction to such denials, and you can
only choose the trustworthy ones by question-begging; (2) this approach does not distinguish the feeling had when
firmly believed "synthetic" statements are denied, from the feeling produced by the denial of an "analytic" statement
(thus rendering the analytic/synthetic distinction obscure); and (3) since there will be degrees of discomfort produced
at the denial of various analytic statements and various synthetic statements, a radical distinction cannot be
maintained.


4. True by virtue of meaning and independently of fact (three suggestions). Kant's views about conceptual
containment have been restated, trying to make his point somewhat more acceptable. His intention we are told is
captured by saying that in an analytic judgment, what we mean by the predicate is already included in the meaning of
the subject. The meaning of the words used to express a statement make an analytic statement true without further
recourse to the facts of experience.


This proposal leads us to ask about the nature of meanings then. How are they individuated? When do two
expressions have the same meanings then. How are they individuated? When do two expressions have the same
meaning or different meanings? Just here it is important to remember that two nominal expressions can denote (or
name) the same thing but differ in meaning (e.g., "the morning star" and "the evening star"; "four" and "the number of
the gospel"), and two predicates (general terms) can have the same extension (the class of all entities of which the
general term is true) while yet differing in meaning (e.g., "creature with a heart" and "creature with kidneys"). Thus the
meaning of terms cannot be identified with their referents. We need to separate the theory of meaning from the theory
of reference. So then we again ask, what are meanings? Given an Aristotelian bent, we might suggest that, although
meanings pertain to linguistic forms and not entitles, still the meaning of a term names the essence of the entity (or
entitles) referred to by the term. However, things have essences only relative to a particular kind of description. Notice
that for the class of things referred to by "rational animal" is identical with the class of things referred to by "featherless
biped", and yet we do not say these previous two expressions have the same meaning. Therefore, the notion of
essence assumes meaning (via descriptions, or how things are spoken of) and cannot then give the latter its
foundation.


It will turn out that when we engage in giving the meaning of some utterance we are simply presenting a synonym for
the term in question. Thus theory of meaning might be concentrated on the study of the synonymy of linguistic
expressions. Even here, though, the proposal that analytic statements are true in virtue of meaning will be
unsatisfactory since the notion of synonymy is just as much in need of clarification as that of analyticity. The attempt to
supply this deficiency will be deferred until the next proposal for consideration.


At present we might turn to another attempt to utilize the previously suggested characterization of analytic truths which
emphasizes, not the true-by-meaning aspect of it, but rather the independence-of-fact side of it. In recent years Rudolf
Carnap has suggested that analytic truths are those which are true under every particular state-description (i.e., under
every exhaustive assignment of truth-values to the noncompound statements of a language, thus enabling us to
establish the truth-values of any complex statement by accepted logical laws). However, this attempt to specify
analyticity is unsuccessful in natural languages since they contain (extralogical) synonym-pairs (such as, "bachelor"
and "unmarried man"; "vixen" and "female fox"; etc.). Because the terms, say, "bachelor" and "married" are
semantically dependent on each other, the state-description approach will undoubtably fail to pick out the class of
analytic statements. The reason for this is that there will be a particular state-description which assigns the truth-value
of "true" to the noncompound statement, "Harry is married," as well as to the statement, "Harry is a bachelor." Under


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this state-description it is not true then, that "All bachelors are unmarried men"; and because the previous statement is
not true under every particular state-description, it cannot be analytic. However, this statement is commonly taken as
a superb illustration of an analytic truth. The present approach must thus be dropped for it too stumbles over the
problem of synonymy.


A final way in which the original idea expressed at the beginning of this section has been set forth is as follows:
analytic truths are such that they can be translated into logical truths (or, to put it another way, they can be reduced to
logical truths by definition). We are told here that when definitional equivalents are replaced in an analytic statement, it
will turn out a logical truism. Again, there are serious problems with this. First, this account will suffer from the same
infirmities as that which said analytic truths can be identified by the self-contradictory nature of their denials; these are
discussed above. Second, even forgetting the previous difficulties, the proposal at hand makes the truth of analytic
statements depend, not simply on the meaning of the terms involved (as claimed), but also on the validity of the laws
of logic. This raises the question of how to resolve conflicts over these laws, and even further it forces us to ask about
the status of (firmly accepted) logical laws. Clearly, they too cannot be taken as "analytic" since the position now
considered has undertaken to characterize analyticity in a way which itself involves reference to these laws of logic;
circularity was to be avoided. Yet if they are synthetic, analytic truths cannot be discerned (as claimed) independently
of fact (i.e., matters which form the substance of synthetic statements). And yet, if they are neither analytic nor
synthetic, the needed rigidity of the distinction breaks down.


Third, what is the source of the necessity of logical truths? We must ask this because, if such truths are contingent
after all, then "analytic" truths cannot be explicated in terms of logical truths and in the long run remain necessary or
independent of empirical investigation. So then, what is a logical truth, and how is it necessary? In the earlier phase of
his philosophic career Wittgenstein tried to give a criterion of logical truth in terms of the notion of tautology (viz., a
proposition true under all truth-values of its constituent statements as well as under every truth condition revealed in
the truth tables.) This, along with Carnap's notion of L-truth, is a refined version of Leibniz' notion of "true in all
possible worlds." The difficulty is that Leibniz was speaking of all "logically possible" worlds here, and to know what is
logically possible one must already understand the notion of logical truth. Thus the characterization offered is circular
and has little explanatory value. Quine has elucidated a truth of logic as one whose truth depends only on the logical
constants (particles) employed; it remains true on every reinterpretation of the statement's constituent terms aside
from these logical constants. Descriptive terms, then, are inessential to logical truths. But what counts as a logical
constant? Without a general account (which we have not been given) we must depend on someone's enumeration of
them - which, to the advocates of the analytic/synthetic distinction, would unacceptably reduce logic to a matter of
(perhaps linguistic) convention. Gilbert Ryle suggested that logical constants are topic-neutral concepts (neutral, that
is, for any and all subject matters). The logical powers of these are the sole support of truths of logic, where logical
powers are discerned by the entailments advanced by such topic-neutral concepts. Obviously, then, since the notion
of entailment presupposes logical necessity, reference to the logical powers of topic-neutral concepts cannot serve to
explain logical necessity.


Moreover, an account of the necessity of logical truths would have to manifest plausibility in the face of disagreements
over the logical laws which are to be accepted: For instance, intuitionist logicians are suspicious of the law of double
negation and the law of excluded middle. The law of excluded middle has been rejected by the ancient Epicureans (in
arguing with Stoic logicians), some medieval scholastics (in dealing with the question of statements which express
future contingencies), and modern physicists (who concern themselves with the philosophical aspects of quantum
mechanics). It is subject to challenge on the basis of some metaphysical positions, such as an element of Aristotle's
philosophy (viz., a thing can be both potentially red and potentially not-red) and of Hegel's philosophy (viz., defining
things in terms of their negations). Further, there is the whole question of many-valued logics; for instance, three-
valued logic (true, false, indeterminate) turns out true to form, yet rejecting classical negation and excluded middle
(bivalence). Then again, we can note that ontological interest attaches to deviations in standard quantification theory
(as found in the intuitionists). Therefore, given the unsettled questions of how to identify the genuine logical laws and
account for their necessity, the suggestion that analytic truths can be isolated by definitional reduction to logical laws
cannot be smugly accepted. It is not at all clear that this procedure would enable us to demarcate the analytic truths


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after all, or to do so by analysis of statements themselves, or do so in such a way that no "reasonable" man would
dissent.


As a fourth problem with the current suggestion that analytic truths are those true by definition, we can consider the
(implicit, if not explicit) inference that anyone who rejects such definitional truths forfeits his claim to reasonableness.
"Kinetic energy is one half the product of mass and velocity squared" is the kind of statement currently accounted in
physical theory as a definition. Yet without changing the extension of the term "kinetic energy," scientists after Einstein
reasonably rejected the definition held by scientists prior to Einstein. Both groups talked about the same thing (forms
of energy and its behavior), but one group revised the definitions of the other group in a nontrivial sense. It thus
appears that definitions are revisable in principle without sacrificing reasonableness, with the result that two
reasonable men can derive different sets of analytic truths. The only way to salvage the absolute distinction between
analytic and synthetic truths would be to somehow qualify the type of definition to which reference is made - and in a
way which accords with the requirements previously elaborated for the advocates of the distinction (e.g., proposals
must not be ad hoc or question-begging).


A fifth and final infirmity afflicts the suggestion to pick out the analytic truths by seeing which statements can be
reduced to logical truths by definition of constituent terms. How is the translation to be accomplished? How do we find,
for example, that "bachelor" is defined as "unmarried male"? One might think it a simple matter to consult the
dictionary. But a lexicographer must already know what counts as a correct translation (definition), and he then
determines what should be entered in his dictionary on the basis of his observation of a natural language. That is,
dictionary entries are observed synonymies; they have been glossed because someone believes that a relation of
synonymy holds between a term and another expression. It goes without saying, then, that such (fallible)
observational beliefs about particular synonymies cannot serve as the ground of synonymy in general. We still need to
be told what it is for two expressions to be synonymous if the present proposal for explicating the analytic/synthetic
distinction is to accomplish its goal. We need to know on what basis dictionary entries are satisfactory. Thus, what
interconnections are necessary and sufficient in order for two linguistic utterances to be properly taken as
synonymous? Just as with the first suggestion (dealing with meanings) and the second suggestion (dealing with state-
descriptions) which were discussed in this section of our study, so also the third suggestion drives us to inquire about
the notion of synonymy. Can it rescue the analytic/synthetic distinction?


5. Synonymy as interchangeability salva veritate. The chain of steps used to explicate the analytic/synthetic distinction
now brings one to explain likeness of meaning or definitional equivalence in terms of the synonymy of two
expressions. This, it is next maintained, can be accounted for as the interchangeability of two expressions (e.g.,
"bachelor" and "unmarried man") in statements which make use of them, such that there is no change of truth-value
(salva veritate, as Leibniz said).


Now in order for this criterion to work we need to stipulate some qualifications. We shall not here be concerned to deal
with the interchangeability of two alleged synonyms in statements which are about one of the expressions itself (e.g.,
how many letters long it is) nor interchangeability of the two expressions in psychological associations, poetic quality,
etc. Our attention is rather focused on direct use of undivided linguistic units (not fragmentary occurrences within an
expression) and sameness of meaning or objective information (import). Synonyms need not be alike in accidental or
incidental matters (e.g., whatever just happens to be the length, sound or other stylistic feature of an expression; or
whatever just happens to be the attitude, beliefs, or feeling someone has about the expression). That is, what is
presently relevant for our consideration is the cognitive synonymy of unfragmented expressions. At this point we might
quarrel that it is unclear as to what constitutes the indivisible identity of an expression (wordhood, propositionality),
and that there is no evident rule for separating the informational and immaterial features of an expression. But let us
ride along on our intuitions or rough and ready understanding. The main point at hand is the claim that analytic truths
can be identified as those which can be turned into logical truths by exchanging synonyms for synonyms in the
specimen statements. In turn, cognitive synonymy is allegedly accounted for as interchangeability salva veritate.



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It is crucial that the account of cognitive synonymy allow us to pick out all and only the analytic truths. Again, cognitive
synonymy must be understood apart from prior appeal to analyticity itself (i.e., the account of cognitive synonymy
cannot presuppose analyticity). Moreover, used as a criterion for selecting analytic truths, the present proposal must
not only show specimen statements to be true (in a general sense), but true in the special sense of "analytically true".
Remembering these things, we will not be far from seeing the inadequacy of the present proposal for delineating
analytic from synthetic statements. That proposal tells us that the truth-values of statements in which two synonymous
expressions occur are left unchanged when these expressions are substituted for each other; in analytic statements
this exchange of synonyms allows the statements to become truths of logic. For instance, we find that "bachelor" can
replace "unmarried man" (and vice versa) in any sentence without altering that sentence's truth or falsity; thus the two
expressions are synonymous. This indicates in turn that "All bachelors are unmarried men" is an analytic truth
because "unmarried men" can be replaced with "bachelors", thus resulting in the logical truth that "All bachelors are
bachelors."


But imagine now that we are using the extensional language of elementary, first-order logic; it contains predicates
(general terms for attributes and classes of entities, as well as transitive verbs), nominal expressions (singular terms),
descriptions, and syncategormatic logical terminology (for quantification and connecting atomic statements), but it
excludes counterfactual (subjunctive) conditionals and modal adverbs. In such an extensional language any two
predicates will be interchangeable salva veritate just in case they are true of the same objects (i.e., extensionally
agree). This fact exposes the inability of the present proposal to distinguish analytic from synthetic truths, for many
synthetic statements are not failed by this test. For instance, "creature with a heart" and "creature with kidneys" will
preserve truth when exchange for each other in sentences where they occur; hence we are driven to say that "All
creatures with a heart are creatures with kidneys" is an analytic truth - contrary to preconceived illustrations.
Moreover, we have no assurance that the extensional agreement of "bachelor" and "unmarried man" rests upon
meaning instead of a mere accidental matter of fact (as with heart-kidneys creatures). "All bachelors are unmarried
men" is true, but is it an analytic or synthetic truth? The present criterion cannot tell us. Therefore, in an extensional
language interchangeablility salva veritate fails to provide us with a sufficient condition of cognitive synonymy of the
sort needed to derive the analytic truths.


The analytic/synthetic advocate will, of course, protest at this point that his criterion has been forced to fail by the
restrictions we placed on the kind of language we would use (viz., extensional). The advocate will note that when our
language is enriched to include the modal adverb, "necessarily", then interchangeability salva veritate does provide an
adequate criterion of cognitive synonymy and thus completes the identification of analytic truths. In the enriched
language any analytic truth is such that it can be prefaced with the adverb, "necessarily". Hence "Necessarily all
bachelors are unmarried men" passes the test of analyticity (as we would expect in advance), and "Necessarily all
creatures with a heart are creatures with kidneys" does not qualify as analytic (again, as we would suspect). The latter
is still a truth when "necessarily" is dropped from it, but it is accordingly a synthetic truth.


However, this response by the advocate will simply not do. His success in drawing the analytic/synthetic distinction
depends wholly on the availability of the adverb, "necessarily". But does that adverb really make sense? Is it
intelligible and clear in its import? Just here the reader must remember the overall history of our present discussion!
The notion of analyticity was originally introduced, we should recall, precisely in order to explicate the notion of
necessity. Now we are being told that analyticity can be explicated by reference to necessity. The whole affair has
degenerated to question-begging. The advocate of the analytic/synthetic distinction has given us an account of
cognitive synonymy in terms of the effects of interchanging expressions in certain contexts (with the aim of thereby
delineating analytic truths); however, he has insisted on making these contexts those which are characterized by the
modal adverb, "necessarily". But since analyticity was intended to explicate necessity, it turns out that the previously
mentioned test-contexts cannot be specified without a prior understanding of analyticity. And if we already understand
the notion of analyticity, why are we striving so diligently to make clear a criterion for it? Do we really understand the
notion after all? If so, where is the noncircular account of it? Necessity and analyticity have been impoverished
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The preceding criticism can be put another way. The obscurity of the analytic/synthetic distinction can be (delusively)
removed only if circularity is introduced into the account. Analytic truths are explicated in reference to cognitive
synonymy and logical laws; synonymy is then explicated by reference to interchangeability salva veritate - recognizing
that the only language where this criterion will work is one in which first order classical logic has been expanded to
include the adverb, "necessarily". Thus cognitive synonymy actually takes as its criterion, interchangeability preserving
necessity. But if the notion of necessity can be explained only by reference to analyticity, then the criterion becomes
interchangeability salva analyticity. So we are left with a procedure for identifying analytic truth such that it includes a
criterion of synonymy, which in turn already depends on our ability to identify the analytic truths!


The present proposal can be satisfactory only if the necessary statements are identified in advance of the analytic
statements, and yet this independent criterion of necessary truth must so happen to pick out the analytic truths as
well. That is, when analyticity and necessity are independently explicated, the class of analytic truths must
nevertheless turn out to be the same as the class of necessary truths. If the class of necessary truths happens to be in
actuality larger than the class of analytic truths, then the criterion of interchangeability salva veritate (where
"necessarily" is prefaced) will pick out too many truths as analytic; should it be smaller, it would pick out too few truths
as analytic. Thus only if the class of necessary truths is restricted to the class of analytic truths will the proposed test
identify all and only the analytic truths in the long run. Hence you must assume the two classes to be identical, and
you must characterize necessary truths in such a way that you do not automatically characterize analytic truths at the
same time. Otherwise we would be left wondering just what is the separate property of necessity by which analyticity
is found.


However, the assumption just mentioned will always jeopardize the autonomy of the characterization just mentioned.
The restriction implicit in that assumption precludes there being necessary synthetic statements. But consider this
case: "Necessarily all colored objects are extended," and "Necessarily all objects reflecting light between specified
wave lengths are colored"; therefore, "Necessarily all things reflecting light between the specified wave lengths are
extended." The negation of this conclusion cannot be true, and yet the conclusion seems to be a synthetic truth which
is not true merely in virtue of meanings or synonymies (i.e., "extended" does not mean "reflecting light between
specific wave lengths"). Prima facie we have a necessary synthetic truth. One could know to disqualify this example
as a synthetic truth only if he was previously committed to the assumption that all necessary truths are analytic. Thus
one would be able to shore up the current proposal for distinguishing analytic from synthetic truths (with its
dependence on interchangeability preserving necessity) only by having a previous understanding of the distinction
being clarified. In effect he would be relying on what is supposed to be proved. On the other hand, the advocate could
know to disqualify the preceding example as a necessary truth only if he previously saw how necessary truths were
distinctly characterized from the characterization of analytic truths. What then is the characteristic of necessity which
sets it apart from analyticity? If there is none, then the project of picking out a unique class of analytic truths would be
accomplished by the present methodological proposal merely by subterfuge.


6. Stipulation and linguistic convention. The previous attempts to account for an analytic/synthetic distinction have
rested on the notions of logical truths, conceptual containment, meaning, definition, and synonymy. Aware of the
inadequacies of these approaches, we can turn to a different direction of explanation. Someone might say that we
must pretend that natural languages are like artificial (or formal) languages in which the status of analyticity is clearly
understood as that of a convention or explicit rule about the use of expressions. (Of course, artificial languages are
such that their "rules" can be arbitrarily reversed, thus making no expression inherently analytic; this fact is
conveniently de-emphasized.) Although there are no set "rule books" at hand in a natural language, people still
behave as if there were such a rule book, or as if the formalized rule book that would be constructed by ordinary
people is the same as the rational reconstruction offered of the natural language by scientists and philosophers.


But, after all, we must be skeptical here. Is this "explanation" of analyticity in natural language really plausible? How


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could we establish when people act as if they had (or did) something which in fact they do not have (or have not
done)? The notion of analyticity in a formal language cannot establish the presence of an analogous notion in an
informal language; the possibility of the notion might just be created by the very character of the formal language - a
character not shared by natural languages. In a formal model, moreover, analytic truths are those which are true by
actual stipulation; in carrying this notion over into natural languages, one is immediately thwarted by the fact that
analytic statements in them are not literally made true by some stipulation. In this regard the analytic/synthetic
distinction fares no better than the imaginary "social contract" story.


Furthermore, even when some statements are actually stipulated as true in a natural language, these truths do not
always retain a conventional character but come to have systematic import like other truths which happen to be
discovered (e.g., Einstein's stipulation that simultaneity in a reference system should be defined by the constancy of
the light velocity). That is, not every stipulation produces an analytic statement on a par with "All vixens are female."
Sometimes the same stipulated definition will function as an arbitrary point in one period, only to become a truth
treated in the same manner as experimentally derived conclusions in a later period. Hence to explain analytic truths as
those which are stipulated as true is of questionable interpretation, application, and value.


Some logical positivists were tempted to hold that analytic truths are actually empirical propositions about the way in
which words are used. However, while analytic statements might have this revelatory effect, it is hardly plausible that
this is the main function or intended use of them by speakers who mention them. Analytic truths cannot be used to
make clear the meanings of their constituent terms if, as suggested previously, the truth of an analytic statement
depends solely on the meanings of its constituent words. This would be an equivocal use of analytic truths. As
linguistic observations or as indicative statements of any sort, the truth of alleged analytic statements is important; this
truth, we are told, can be discerned by considering the meanings of words in the statement. But that will not lead us to
a well grounded decision as to the statement's truth or falsity if in fact the statement itself is needed in order to clarify
the meanings which we are to consider.


Likewise analytic truths cannot be veiled rules for linguistic use. Rules cannot be true or false (in the sense of
imperatives). So also, if an analytic truth is made true in virtue of linguistic rules, it cannot itself be the expression of
those rules. And it is hardly plausible to revise the position and say that analytic truths are actually veiled statements
of obligation. Similar comments to those made about the views that analytic truths are about words, or are rules, are to
be made about the view that analytic truths are about concepts. They cannot be about concepts and, as well, be true
in virtue of the nature of the concepts involved.


It might then be thought that analytic truths are such that each one has "behind it" another proposition which states a
convention for the use of the terms in the analytic truth; such statements about linguistic conventions would
supposedly explain the necessity of analytic statements. It must be noted, however, that such "background"
statements would only serve to determine whether some specimen statement is analytic; they would not as yet explain
what it means for a statement to be "analytic". Further, much more has to be said about the unique relation holding
between these "background" statements and the analytic statements, for as yet no sharp distinction has been drawn
between analytic and synthetic statements. Supposedly, even synthetic statements are such that they have "behind
them" other statements which express a convention for the terms utilized in the synthetic statement. Admittedly, they
are not determined to be true solely in terms of these expression of linguistic convention, but they are not independent
of them either; on the other hand, analytic truths are not determined to be true solely in terms of these expressions of
linguistic convention either, for they rest upon the truths of logic as well.


Moreover, any truth whatsoever can be said to have an expression of linguistic convention backing it up (e.g., "This
society's terminology does not conventionally allow it to be said that flowers bloom anytime but in Spring" is the
expression of a convention which grantees the truth of the statement "Flowers bloom in Spring"). When the advocate
of explicating analyticity in terms of linguistic conventionalism demurs, saying that such expressions of linguistic


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convention are not genuine or are observationally false, then he can be challenged to lay down the criteria for a
genuinely linguistic convention (as opposed to the other types of convention) which are pseudo-transformed into a
statement of linguistic convention) and to justify the alleged nonempirical nature of analytic truths (since it now
appears that the truth of such statements depends on other statements, whose own status must be empirically
confirmed as true or false).


Of course, most importantly, it can be questioned whether it is literally true that there are convention-expressing
statements "behind" each analytic truth. To retreat to an affirmation that these background statements are "implicit" in
analytic statements brings one's position exactly into the same light as the stipulation-view with which this section
began. How are we to know that this is not simply an imaginary story (like the fable of the social contract again)
devised to rationalized one's prejudice for certain statements or a particular outlook over others? The affirmation of
"background" statements for analytic truths, statements which are not only lying in the background but doing so in an
"implicit" way begins to sound rather suspicious indeed. The grounds and criteria for such claims need to be
scrutinized. And even if we were to be satisfied about them, the present proposal would still fail to explain the
unrevisable nature of analytic truths. Finally, the present proposal will need to vindicate itself of the accusation that, in
the long run, it is a vacuous account which merely disguises a restatement of the analytic/synthetic distinction.


Whatever analytic truths might be, the customary use and loose characterization of them prevents us from holding that
they are stipulations, statements about word usage, rules for word usage, statements about concepts, or statements
with convention-expressing backing. Such proposals only serve to increase one's conviction that the advocates of the
analytic/synthetic distinction do not even themselves understand the distinction. But perhaps the fault lies not so much
with these people as with the crippled notion they are trying to mobilize.


7. Unreasonable denials. Still another attempt to draw the analytic/synthetic distinction says that an analytic statement
is any sentence for which a person's dissent is sufficient to conclude that he does not understand the sentence. It is
important to observe here that it would be no good for the current proposal to maintain that a man who rejects an
"analytic" sentence is said not to understand the relevant language used. Such a criterion could simply be taken to tell
us something about the use of the word "understand," and would preclude drawing a sharp and belief-neutral
distinction since it would be traced according to personal dispositions to use the words "analytic" and "synthetic". The
present proposal is stronger than that , for it would encourage us to conclude that the dissenter from an "analytic"
statement does not understand the relevant language used to express the statement. But would this stronger criterion
succeed in making the analytic/synthetic distinction in the way previously prescribed? I think not, and that is because
under it the confident and clear decisions could not be made which are necessary to isolating the analytic statements.
How do we know when someone's dissent from a statement is muddled? To do so would require interpreting his
rejection of the specimen statement and deciding whether he might not have more insight on this matter than you.
Consequently, the current criterion is unworkable at best, arbitrary at worst.


A similar kind of proposal to the foregoing is that analytic statements are truths which it could never be rational to give
up. Similar difficulties afflict it as well. How shall we pick out those thinkers whose reactions to statements are to be
taken as "rational"? Can such selection be done without begging the main question at hand and nevertheless
preserving the commonly regarded "analytic" truths? Can this approach allow analytic statements to be identified in
advance of enumeration? Can the application of the criterion be taught to the untrained? If the "reasonable" thinkers
are chosen ahead of time, will this test show the set of analytic truths to be well established and unrevisable? It would
appear that the obvious answers to these questions, where not mere matters of groundless speculation, point away
from the credibility of the analytic/synthetic distinction as presently conceived. The reason for this is that there is no
commonly recognized absolute necessity about the adoption or use of any particular conceptual scheme over that of
another; intellectual history is marked by the conflict of basic paradigms in the philosophical outlook of people. Thus
no isolated truth is evident from a mere grasp of the linguistic components constituting its expression - which is to say,
there is no statement which inherently must be accepted by any intelligent thinker. Indeed, what people (and even
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to have the same status as experimental statements which are to be abandoned under appropriate experiential
conditions - if not simply relegated to the heap of anachronism.


For example, Kant thought he was saving science by exhibiting the conceptual necessity of the principles of Euclidean
geometry and Newtonian physics, both of which were subsequently brought down from their privileged positions by
revolutionary developments in math and science. Hence it seems rather unwise to identify an "analytic" truth as a
statement that no rational scientist or philosopher can ever give up. Revisionary immunity cannot simply be elicited
from statements in themselves. Which statements are taken as necessary will be relative to the body of accepted
beliefs. Within a system of knowledge-claims the espoused necessary truths will be those granted a special status of
immunity with little argumentation of an obvious sort. And even within the set of "necessary truths" there will be some
which, for some thinker(s), are less necessary than others. For instance, a person might view "All cats are animals" as
analytically true, as well as "All vixen are female." Yet he could still exhibit or profess more willingness to abandon the
one rather than the other; something might look like a cat but an automaton, he says, but no male fox could be
classified as a vixen. However, the opposite approach is open to us ("Apparent vixen are more likely to exhibit male
characteristics than that anything which passes as a cat should fail to be an animal"). Such matters are not settled by
mere analysis of the statements themselves or simple experimentation.


Hume treated the laws of Euclidean geometry as analytically true, for he thought the human mind could not conceive
of their falsity. In terms of his theory of the relations between our ideas, Hume thought it was impossible to imagine
straight lines not conforming to Euclidean definitions and laws; no experimentation could overthrow these claims. A
new theory had to be developed before classical geometry could be challenged, and the time came when in fact
Riemannian geometry was accepted as a serious rival to Euclidean. What was analytic for Hume eventually became a
debatable question. And this did not occur because the meanings of words had been slyly changed. (Of course,
anybody who is going to insist that meanings were altered will need to resolve the problems of meaning identity and
difference which were raised above.) In terms of actual scientific experimentation, the Euclidean will deny that there is
a limited number of "places" through which one could travel in space; without changing the meaning of "place" the
Reimannian will endorse the limitation (thus disagreeing with the Euclidean). The two geometers are not talking about
different things; rather, they have different theoretical beliefs. Thus some "reasonable men" have repudiated what
other "reasonable men" have said is analytically or necessarily true. Similar comments could be made respecting the
shift from the Newtonian definition of kinetic energy to Einstein's revised definition (without taking the two men to have
been talking about different things) or about the history of the causal principle before and after the advent of quantum
mechanics. What one should conclude is that, in these and other cases, holding some statement to be analytic (or
necessary) amounted to treating it with preferred status; it would not be allowed to be overthrown by isolated
experimentation, although the advent of a new overall theoretical outlook might tempt one away from his faithfulness
to the original statement. Betrayal of commonly accounted "analytic" truths is not inherently precluded; such a "truth" is
just one more, albeit privileged, statement within a belief-system. Hence the present explanation of analytic truths as
those whose denials are unreasonable is unacceptable.


The dogged advocate of the proposal, however, might ad hoc qualify his criterion such that matters of physics and
geometry (among others) are excluded; that is, analytic truths must be restricted to purely linguistic and logical
matters. But beyond the obvious defect that this is a prejudiced rescuing technique, the new proposal will have shifted
the problem from distinguishing analytic from synthetic truths to the problem of distinguishing truths which are purely
linguistic from those which are otherwise impure. This brings him right back to unanswered problems which have been
examined above. The feeling that the truths of logic must somehow demand acceptance, even if all else fails to be
immune from revision, is one which does not accord well with the history of the discipline. The debates between Philo
and Diodorus, between the Stoics and Epicureans, among medieval scholastics, etc. must not be forgotten; the law of
excluded middle, as noted previously, has not received unanimous endorsement, being repudiated, for instance, by
three-valued logic (which, it must be noted, does not alter the meanings of the values "true" and "false" and still attains
formal adequacy). In the case of intuitionist logic (which again does not redefine the logical connectives) we find the
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Holding on for all he's worth, the advocate of our present approach to analyticity might respond that, whatever we
make of most of the truths of logic, at least the most fundamental laws of thought - identity and noncontradiction -
cannot be forsworn. But even here some modern logicians have maintained that in the face of the most radical kind of
chaotic and recalcitrant experience, we would have to be willing in the long run to revise these basic truths also.
Pretend that personal experience refused somehow to conform to the law of noncontradiction, which we can, in a
limited way, factitiously imagine: e.g., try what you will, when you look at some figure from every particular angle, the
figure continually exhibits the features of both circularity and rectangularity - no matter how much you blink your eyes;
or, no matter which way you look, and no matter how many empirical predictions you test, you cannot escape the fact
that you are simultaneously experiencing what it is to be being in your car and not in your car - to great psychological
consternation. In such situations you might not be considered unreasonable to eliminate the law of noncontradiction
from your accepted truths.


"But," says the analytic/synthetic advocate in a last ditch effort, "the debates alluded to in logical theory through the
centuries have all exhibited ignorance on the part of one faction or another, and the modern logicians who can
imagine a context for abandoning the laws of thought are themselves in such-and-such a manner mistaken." However,
this very response will refute the present proposal, for right here the advocate of the analytic/synthetic distinction will
be admitting that logical truths are in fact not such that no "reasonable" man would deny them (or their necessity). The
dispute between the advocate and the opponent of the necessity of logical truths exhibits in itself that reasonable men
can disagree over them. The advocate of the analytic/synthetic distinction has only one recourse to salvage his
position at this point: dismissing his opponent in a name-calling, question-begging fashion as "irrational". It is evident,
though, that this description can only mean that the opponent does not endorse or insist upon the beliefs held as most
basic by the advocate.


In the context of argumentation over very central or ultimate beliefs, when the philosophic chips are down, there need
be no agreed upon, significant, and inherent distinction to be drawn between the various fundamental beliefs held in
one system of thought or any other. No statement has in itself the power to guarantee its general acceptance with
revisionary immunity. Men who differ in their basic beliefs will, for that very reason, be able to dispute which truths
must be accepted by any thinker who has a claim to reasonableness. In such contexts it is futile to classify statements
- especially in the area of men's presuppositions - as either "analytic" or "synthetic".


8. Criteria of application (two suggestions). The time has come again to back off one proposal and bark up another
tree in search of analyticity. A new suggestion would be that to know the meaning of a word or statement involves
knowing the criterion (or criteria) of its correct application or utterance. Thus "analytic" truths could be discerned on the
basis of what people would say under certain situations about a word or sentence; to be specific, in the absence of the
criterial feature(s), they would be unwilling to use the expression in question. However, when a commonly associated
feature of an expression is missing and people continue to use that expression, this is evidence that the feature is not
necessary to the expression. We might put the matter as follows. When people would continue to affirm a sentence or
apply a term in the absence of some common feature, the statement "If S, then F" (where "S" is the sentence in
question, and "F" is the affirmation of the relevant feature or truth) and the statement "All T are F" (where "T" is the
term being considered, and "F" is the associated feature) would both have to be classified as synthetic truths at best.
But when people would not continue to assent to these statements due to the absence of the mentioned feature, then
the statements should count as analytic truths. The assumption in all this is that (at least some) expressions have
fixed and univocal criteria for correct application.


Philosophers have made use of this notion of criteria-of-application in various ways so as to explicate the notion of
analytic truth. One such approach has been that a truth is analytic when (using the model of "All T is F") the criterion in
mind for the application of the subject expression includes the criterion in mind for the application of the predicate
expression. Leaving aside the question of how we are to individuate such mental objects, we must now ask: how can
you tell whether this inclusion is the case or not? The answer is that we are to perform an experiment with our


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imagination. See whether you can consistently think of the subject without the predicate; if you cannot, then the truth
is analytic. However, it is hard to see why this experiment would indicate anything other than an individual's personal
ability to imagine things. Some people might be so dull that they cannot even imagine the subject of a synthetic truth
without its predicate. On the other hand, when we have someone who claims that he can imagine the required
separation of subject and predicate in the case of a commonly accepted analytic truth, how are we to dispute the fact
with him? Have we been dull, or is he extraordinary insightful?


Moreover, we can ask just what it is for one mental criterion to be "included" in another. As with Kant earlier, this is
usually left at a metaphorical level. One attempt to exhibit its meaning has been to draw an analogy with the inclusion
of one set of travel plans within that of another. But this is a faux pas, and the analogy is dangerous to the advocate of
the analytic/synthetic position. We understand mental planning precisely because it is voluntarily constituted; we
choose to do certain things (in a certain order), thereby "creating" mental plans (to speak in the metaphorical sense
again). However, the inclusion of applicatory-criteria-for-terms in mind is said to be something objective which we
come to discern; it is not, according to the present thesis, supposed to be a matter of volition. Hence the analogy
tends to suggest, if anything, that after all is said and done, the inclusion of mental criteria is a relative matter
depending on personal stipulation. The analytic/synthetic advocate will likely just drop the analogy and say that the
supposed "inclusion" referred to among criteria-in-mind is either seen by you or it is not. That is, he says, the simple
end of the matter. Yes, but this retreat to intuition ends the matter too soon, for it is an admission of failure to explicate
the analytic/synthetic distinction under the requirements previously established.


Furthermore, it can be seriously questioned whether the criteria of application for a particular term are fixed in
advance of experience (as the present proposal for explicating analyticity assumes). Is it the case that statements are
necessarily true in themselves (analytic), and that we come to recognize a special pre-existing relationship among the
applicatory criteria for their terms (viz., inclusion) thereby apprehending the analyticity of the statement? This is
dubious. Someone may very well know how to apply the word "whale" accurately in each case that arises, and yet his
criteria for applying the word need not include the applicatory criteria for "mammal". In such a situation, even if the
man knows how to apply the word "mammal", and even though he never fails to use the word "whale" correctly,
nevertheless he could not (according to the proposed directions) discover through an examination of the operative
criteria for his terms that "All whales are mammals" is analytically true. The criteria for applying terms will be relative to
a person's store of knowledge. Someone with advanced training might view a whale as an aquatic mammal which
resembles a large fish, while another person might simply apply "whale" to instances of particularly large fish - and yet
the identifications of both turn out accurate. It seems inescapable that for the man who uses the simpler non-mammal
criteria, either "All whales are mammals" is not an analytic truth (thus, the necessity of its truth does not exist previous
to the acceptance of a certain outlook or categorization scheme), or it is not apprehended as such through an
examination of his criteria for the application of the constituent terms. Both consequences, which will be elaborated
below, are devastating for the proposal under consideration.


Someone might respond to the fact that, of two people, one includes the criteria for "mammal" among his criteria for
"whale" while the other does not, in the following way: these two individuals have different meanings for "whale". One
meaning involves the analyticity of "All whales are mammals," while the other does not . There are at least four major
defects in this device for rescuing the view that analyticity can be determined by apprehending the inclusion of
applicatory criteria for one word within the criteria for another word. First, recourse to the claim that people have
different meanings (as a device for explaining why an alleged inclusion-of-criteria may not be the case for everyone
who can correctly use the terms in question) brings you eventually back to the previous problems encountered in the
attempts to explicate analyticity either by synonymy or by stipulation. For, now, the criteria for meaning-identity and
meaning-difference must be given, or else the analytic distinction must be thrown up to arbitrariness.


Second, even if we should overlook the previous unpaid explanatory debt for a moment, this rescuing device will
undermine the original proposal that analytic truths can be discerned by consideration of one's criteria for applying
terms in a statement. The proponent of this view might say that, when the amateur whale-observer adopts the


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meaning of "whale" used by the educated whale-observer, then he can see that "All whales are mammals" is
analytically true. But here is the snag. While the amateur will now decide that the statement is an analytic truth, he will
not have done so simply by examining his criteria for applying the word "whale", but rather by adding to the criteria (in
adopting a new use of the word). That is, the educated applicatory criteria for "whale" will not be taught in some
independent manner, then leaving the amateur-become-student to go on and discover that the criteria for "whale" (in
the new, educated sense) so happens to include the criteria for "mammal"; instead, the educated sense of "whale" will
be taught precisely by teaching that "All whales are mammals" is a necessary (analytic) truth. Criteria-inclusion is
apprehended in the act of criteria- addition. Thus one does not discern the analyticity of some statements (by separate
discovery of criteria-inclusion which pre-existed); he is merely taught the analyticity of some statements (by the
stipulation of criteria-inclusion). Hence it turns out that criteria of word-application will not indicate some independently
constituted state of criteria-inclusion; pre-existing analyticity is not divulged by the proposed investigation procedure
after all.


Third, even aside from the fact that it shows analyticity not actually to be discerned by an investigation for criteria-
inclusion, the attempt to rescue the original proposal for distinguishing analytic truths through recourse to the use of
different meanings for the same term is a device which also surrenders the purported fact that statements are analytic
in themselves - that the set of analytic truths is fixed in advance, a set which is clearly and uniquely set apart from any
and all synthetic truths. We have been told that analytic statements are those which have the criteria for application of
the predicate term included in the criteria for application for the subject term. But then we saw that an accurate but
amateur observer of whales could not, based on a consideration of his criteria for applying the term "whale", discover
that "All whales are mammals" is analytically true. At that point it was replied that, if the amateur would adopt the
educated observer's meaning (use) of "whale" (which includes the criteria for "mammal"), then he would discern the
analyticity of "All whales are mammals." But this is just to say that a statement is analytic on a particular use of terms
(which might not even be the common, amateur use of them). Analyticity is thus relativized to a selected body of
knowledge or particular use of language. What should be the set of statements that count as analytically true (i.e.,
those exhibiting criteria-inclusion of the specified sort) is a relative matter; it cannot be determined in advance or in
virtue of the statements themselves. But the result is then that one man's analyticity is another man's syntheticity.


Since "analytic" means "analytic-on-this-usage" it is futile to distinguish analytic truth from synthetic truth. Let me
illustrate. Image a man who examines his criteria for the application of the term "monkey", and he finds included there
the criteria for the expression "eats bananas". Most people would agree that "Monkeys eat bananas" is a true
statement; however, for the man in question the statement is analytically true. It turns out that, no matter how good an
imitation of a monkey we find in other respects, if the creature refuses to eat bananas, our man will not apply the term
"monkey" to it. If he is told that the statement, "All monkeys eat bananas," is the sort of thing we usually deem a
synthetic truth, he can reply that it is an analytic truth on his usage. If anyone wants to retain the current suggestion for
identifying analytic truths and yet save the category from the jaws of relativity, he will need to set forth the criteria for
deciding whose analytic truths are the genuine ones. But this is at base the same task we set out to accomplish:
namely, to pick out the analytic truths in distinction from the synthetic ones. It thus appears that the present proposal
has advanced us very little toward the accomplishment of the task undertaken.


Fourth, it should also be questioned whether the rescuing device under consideration is accurate in its claim: namely,
that the amateur and educated whale-observers have different meanings for "whale". Although this was granted for
argument's sake above, we should now ask how anyone knows that these two observers have different meanings.
After all, the referents of the term are the same in all actual situations for both observers; they apply "whale" to the
same things, and thus it seems we would be justified in saying that the amateur nevertheless knew what the word
meant. The reply to this would undoubtedly invoke a hypothetical situation which would reveal that the application of
the word "whale" would differ, thus demonstrating the difference of meaning for the amateur and educated whale-
observer. If, for instance, a creature looking like a whale were to be found without mammary glands, the amateur
would continue to apply the word "whale" to it, while the educated observer would not. However, should the educated
observer surprise us and renounce the analytic truth that "All whales are mammals" (based on the finding of this non-
mammal, whale-like creature), then we must conclude - according to the present proposal - that he has changed the


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meaning of the word "whale". Previously, "whale" could not have been applied to a non-mammal, but now it is being
so applied. So we will be told: "The criteria have been altered in such a case. But as long as the meanings remain
unchanged, analytic truths can be discerned by apprehending criteria-inclusion (of the previously specified sort).
Therefore, analytic truths are never renounced; whatever is offered as a counter-example is in reality a case where
the meanings of words have shifted."


However, the above explanation may not be as plausible as it appears. Hypothetical situations will not actually tell you
whether the meanings of terms have changed or not; thus they will not exhibit that the criteria for applying terms is
fixed, or a fortiori that there is a pre-established relation of inclusion between the applicatory criteria of some words.
Consider this illustration. Three people agree that "All cats are animals" is true. Is it analytically true? Well, we are to
consider whether the criteria for "animal" are included in those for "cat", and supposedly a hypothetical situation will
tell us whether they are or not. So imagine that we discover that all the creatures which look and behave like cats are
(and always have been) automata. One person says, "Cats are not animals after all." A second person replies, "No,
there never were cats." A third person disagrees with both, saying "We should conclude, instead, that some animals
are automato." Who has kept the meanings of the terms in tact? Whose response evidences that he held "All cats are
animals" to be analytically true? On the other hand, held the statement to be merely contingently true, and then came
to change his belief that it was true at all? Clearly, this hypothetical situation raises a problem as to how we should
speak, but it is not at all clear which of the available options represents a decision to change our meanings and which
represents a change to beliefs. The reasons for the shift will be the same in either case. Therefore, the proponent of
the analytic/synthetic distinction has told us that an analytic statement (one whose terms bear a relation of criteria-
inclusion) can be denied only when the meanings of the terms have changed (thus altering the criteria-inclusion
relation), but we now see that this response still leaves it an open question as to which statements count as analytic
truths. For it is not clear that hypothetical situations will delineate changes of meaning from simple changes of belief.
Until the criterion of meaning-identity is made explicit, we still will not be able to discern the genuine analytic
statements.


Therefore, the criteria of application for terms (and relations of inclusion among those criteria) do not seem to be fixed
in advance of experience, and statements are not analytically true in themselves (and apart from empirical
knowledge). Whether "All cats are animals" or "All whales are mammals" are analytic or synthetic truths is
indeterminate. When there is agreement on the application of terms (e.g., "cats", "whales"), there can yet be
disagreement on the criteria of application. This disagreement cannot be clearly categorized as a difference in
meaning, rather than a difference in belief (even when hypothetical situations are alluded to). Hence reflection upon
his criteria of application for terms cannot tell an individual whether there is a pre-existing inclusion of criteria for
applying the terms in a true statement, and thus whether the statement is analytic or not. To discern an analytic truth
cannot be to apprehend the inclusion of criteria-of-application for terms, for apart from accepting a statement as
necessarily true there is no inclusion of criteria to "apprehend."


A second suggestion for distinguishing analytic truths which also turns on the notion of criteria-of-application for terms
can now be entertained. The previous suggestion had run afoul through its inability to distinguish natural laws from
analytic truths. Consequently, the new suggestion begins by distinguishing law-cluster concepts (those whose identity
is determined by a bundle of general laws, any one of which can be abandoned without destroying the identity of the
concept: e.g., "atom", "kinetic energy", "gravity" "whale", etc.) and single-criterion concepts (the terms for which are
applied on the basis of only a single, generally accepted criterion: e.g., "bachelor", "vixen", etc.). Next, the new
proposal sharply delimits the analytic truths which it aims to explain. The proposal is said to pertain only to analytic
definitions which are intuitive (not demonstrable), and more specifically to intuitive definitions of single words. For the
referents of these words no exceptionless natural laws happen to be known. Furthermore, acceptance of the analytic
definition has no consequences beyond that of allowing an interchangeable use of a pair of expressions (viz., a
definiendum and its definiens).


With these qualifications in mind, the new proposal is that an analytic definition can be discerned as one where a


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single word is identified with an interchangeable expression which serves as its only necessary and sufficient
condition (actually applied in practice) of identification. That is, the subjects of analytic truths must be one-criterion
words; the definiens in an analytic definition is a criterial feature or logical characteristic of the definiendum. A common
example is "All bachelors are unmarried men." Hence to distinguish analytic from synthetic truths requires us to
distinguish single-criterion words from law-cluster words.


A number of criticisms can be leveled at this suggestion. The most obvious is that it amounts to an ad hoc shoring up
of a position through extensive qualification, and what we are left with as analytic truths differs extensively from the
original, larger class of common examples. And even then the proponents of this approach to analyticity concede that
it admits of borderline fuzziness between analytic and synthetic truths. Moreover, we are told that some statements
can be construed as analytic (where, apparently, they are not normally taken as such). Thus the adjusted and restored
proposal still leaves the analytic/synthetic distinction rather indistinct.


But there are principial problems in arriving even at that point by this method. First, there is a certain irony about this
position. To know that "All A's are B's," one must know that B is the only general principle that applies to A, by which A
can be identified conclusively. If there is some natural law relevant to A, by which A is (or could be) identified by
someone with the requisite knowledge, then "All A's are B's" would not turn out to be analytic (since A would not be a
single-criterion word). So note the irony: the statements which are alleged to be utterly trivial and arbitrary - analytic
truths - require us to make an intelligent universal negative judgment (to the effect that no natural laws apply to this
case in hand) before they can be definitively identified. One must know the most in order to discern the least.


In defense, the advocate of the present proposal might take refuge in the consideration that there is no good reason to
suppose that there are natural laws associated with the subject terms of analytic truths; that is, the burden of proof is
on the critic of adduced analytic truths to give just cause for doubting that the word being defined is one-criterion in
nature. However, this "burden of proof" business is a tricky matter. One could easily turn the tables by contending that,
since the advocate is propounding the affirmative position that there is a unique class of statements which have a
peculiar nature about them and, as such, must be respected as immune from revision, the burden of proof is his own;
his claim is a far-reaching, significant, and existential one and consequently it cannot be expected to stand as truth
just as long as nobody undertakes to challenge alleged instances. Well, however one resolves the counter-charges
that "The burden of proof is on you," this much is indisputable: the present proposal leaves the isolation of analytic
truths as something which is relative to one's knowledge. It is certainly conceivable that someone could hastily
conclude that some true statement is analytic, when in fact this person simply lacks the education necessary to see
that other laws (beside the one stated) also apply to the subject term of the true statement under consideration (e.g.,
someone who reads only the first few pages of a physics or biology book). Now then, the difficulty will become that of
deciding when the truths we label "analytic" have been hastily labeled, and when not. Hence much further explication
is necessary before the present proposal will enable us to distinguish analytic truths from synthetic truths with any
confidence.


Furthermore, according to the present thesis, to identify an analytic truth one must first be able to identify a single-
criterion word (one which has only one necessary and sufficient condition for correct application). This raises the
troublesome matter of individuating criteria. Since so much rests on one's ability to discern a single criterion, the task
of laying down conditions for differentiating one criterion from another cannot be evaded. For example, "All bachelors
are unmarried men" is viewed as analytic just as long as being an unmarried man is the only condition for concluding
that someone is a bachelor. "But," someone might contend, "there is another criterion for the correct application of the
word "bachelor", namely: being an unwed male." If this counter-claim should stand uncorrected, then "All bachelors
are unmarried men" would fail to be analytically true on the present thesis. "Bachelor" would not be a single-criterion
word after all.


Obviously, the present position can be salvaged only by showing that "unmarried man" and "unwed male" are in reality


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only one criterion. But this means that one must be able to identify them as synonyms - which brings us back to the
troubles previously encountered in an attempt to explicate analyticity. To avoid these, the advocate of the present
thesis might attempt to construe identity of criteria behavioristically: when those who use one criterion do the same
thing as those who use another criterion, then in reality the two criteria are actually one criterion at base. The sad fact
is, though, that even those who hold to the same expressed criterion (say, "unmarried man") do not follow the same
behavior pattern in determining whether the criterion holds in a particular case. Some people might look for a wedding
ring on the left hand, some look for possible witnesses, and others check relevant state records. The single-behavior
test will not even work for the single expression of a criterion, then, much less for the multiple expression of a criterion.


To shore up his (already extensively shored up) position, the advocate might now say that one criterion is identical
with another if those who hold the one could do all the things done by those who hold the other, and vice versa.
However, unless the judgment, "Those using criterion A could do (even though they do not do) everything those using
criterion B do," is a grand instance of question-begging, it must be a prediction subject to confirmation and
disconfirmation. But since the judgment pertains to something which does not actually happen, it will be impossible to
confirm or infirm it in practice. But before we venture into the whole area of determining the truth of counterfactual
hypotheses (which we will discuss shortly), let us simply stop and take appraisal of where we are. It must be
overwhelmingly obvious that distinguishing analytic from synthetic truths has by this point become: (1) not at all a task
whose difficulty is commensurate with the alleged triviality of the statements in question, and (2) more importantly not
something which can be determined by reference to language alone (as was originally imagined with respect to
analytic truths). Moreover, the present course of the discussion is going to lead the advocate into the highly debatable
issues of the behavioristic approach to semantics; only by weathering the strong objections to that outlook would the
present thesis succeed (in the limited area left to it) at labeling some truths as "analytic" (after the extensive and
requisite empirical investigations into behavior). It is at best highly questionable whether behaviorism can be sustained
here, and thus the allegedly clear notion of analyticity has been explicated by sinking into the decidedly unclear
matters of behavioristic semantics. If this is the only direction the explication can take, then we are justified in
concluding that analyticity is not very well understood (at least at the present time) and cannot be expected to play an
important role in philosophical disputes.


A final problem remains to be discussed. It can be broached by pointing out that advocates of the single-criterion view
of analytic truths admit that single-criterion words can through historical development change their linguistic character,
becoming law-cluster words. For instance, on a previous understanding of "atom", the statement "Atoms cannot be
split" would express an analytic truth; however, after certain scientific developments and experiments, "atom" became
a term identified by a cluster of laws, such that one day "Atoms cannot be split" came to be viewed as a synthetic
statement - and a false one at that. Therefore, to know that a certain statement is analytic, we must be sure that its
subject term is presently a single-criterion word, rather than one characterized by a number of natural laws (or
symptoms) which could be used indicate the appropriateness of using the term in question. The emphasis lies on the
predicate expression being a criterion for the subject expression, not merely a symptomatic indication. The point can
be made in this fashion: even if there were exceptionless natural laws about bachelors, they could not be used to
conclusively determine who counts as a bachelor; the only genuine criterion of bachelorhood is revealed in the truth
that "All bachelors are unmarried men."


Thus we can see that, if analytic truths can be identified only by one who is able to identify single-criterion words, then
not only do we have the difficulty of individuation (discussed above), but also the problem of identification. We must be
able to distinguish, not only one criterion from another criterion, but also a criterion from a mere symptom. Briefly put,
what distinguishes synthetic symptoms from analytic criteria? (This question is a challenge to the present thesis about
single- criterion words as well as to the previous thesis about criteria-inclusion between words.)


The proposal seems to be this. Of the features which regularly characterize the occasions in which a word is correctly
used, some of the features could be reliable empirical correlates (viz., symptoms), while at least some other feature
will be attributable to the word's meaning, thus being logically characteristic and definitive of the word's proper use


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(viz., a criterion). Now then, how could these two kinds of features be distinguished from each other in actual
instances of word usage? We want to test whether a feature which obtains in all normal cases of a word's occurrence
does so in virtue of the word's meaning or not. Meaning is here explicated in terms of criterial feature(s); the list of
such logically characteristic features must not include those which a speaker does not rely upon in his willingness to
use the word in question. However, an obvious snag arises. There can be no evidential basis for identifying some
reliable feature of a word's usage as logically characteristic rather than empirically symptomatic. Because the feature
is, ex hypothesi, perfectly reliable, we could never actually observe a case where the word is properly used in the
absence of that feature. This fact is true of both criteria and symptoms of the word's usage, and thus observation
alone will not distinguish the two.


In response to this, advocates of the view being examined have appealed to anomalous situations and a speaker's
intuitions about what he would say under such situations. That is, a counterfactual hypothesis is set forth ("what if the
heretofore reliable feature were to be absent in some instance of the entity named by the subject term?" - e.g., "what if
we found cats which were automata rather than animals?"). If the speaker would still use the word in question, the
hypothetically missing feature of the word's usage. Allegedly, then, in situations where some of our relatively secure
beliefs (about features being invariably correlated with the correct application of a word) were to turn out false, what
we would say reveals the actual meanings of our words - which in turn determines the possible range of analytic
truths.


We see, then, that the analytic/synthetic distinction rests on the criterion/symptom distinction, and drawing the latter
relies upon the reliability of a speaker's intuitions about what he would say in counterfactual situations. The
confirmation of that reliability cannot depend upon observation - which is precluded by the terms of the question; since
these hypothetical situations never arise in the case of perfectly reliable features, there is no way to confirm
empirically what a speaker would say. Moreover, the reliability of the speaker's intuitions cannot rest on theoretical
confirmation, for we have no characterization of the criterion/symptom dichotomy which is independent of the reliability
of a speaker's intuitions (about what he would say in anomalous situations); without that independent theory there are
no confirmable or disconfirmable predictions about what would be said on the basis of the speaker's intuitive claims.
Consequently, the reliability of the speaker's intuitions is held to be supportable only when they derive solely from his
mastery of the language.


However, it is highly implausible that the reliability of a speaker's intuitions about what he would say under
counterfactual situations can be ascribed to (or held to be implicit in) his mastery of his language. To ask what we
would say should some of our beliefs (about reliable features accompanying correct word usage) prove false involves
asking what new beliefs would replace the old ones, and that all depends on what theories would be devised and
adopted under the anomalous situation. To decide what new beliefs should be endorsed, therefore, requires long and
serious inquiry at the time our expectations become misleading. Only at that time would it be evident how much of our
current belief-system and ways of talking would have to be adjusted to accommodate the new discovery. And there is
simply no good reason to think that an ability to predict the outcome of such investigation, theory reformulation, and
novel belief adoption, is implicit in a current mastery of a language. Hence it is quite implausible that a speaker
actually knows what he would say under anomalous situations. A knowledge of language will hardly give you good
grounds for deciding what beliefs will be adopted and what theories will be proven in the imaginary future of science!
Linguistic competence does not entail prophetic ability to say what theories would replace the currently entrenched
ones if a change in empirical generalization were uncovered.


Should the advocate of the present proposal become stubborn, insisting that a speaker's intuitions about what he
would say under counterfactual situations is always reliable, and that any alleged unreliable intuitions will turn out to
be unacknowledged equivocations, then we would rightly insist on support for these claims. We have already seen
above an attempt to rescue a proposed method of identifying analytic truths by explaining away falsifying illustrations
as instances of meaning-change; the same rescuing device is being invoked here. We are being told that a criterial
feature could be prophetically surrendered by a speaker only if the meaning of the term in question had changed. A


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speaker's intuitions about what he would say in anomalous situations is fallible, then, only if there has been an
alternation of meanings.


But, we must ask in reply, how can such a claim be supported? Can we clearly isolate and identify the cases which
are changes in meaning? To do so would presuppose some technique for determining meaning-change which is
independent of the speaker's intuitions about what he would say. However, if a standard for meaning-change could be
found independent of these intuited answers, the appeal to intuitions about what-the-speaker-would-say would be
superfluous. And if we do not have this independent technique, then the identification of meaning-change will rest
precisely on the same appeal to intuition which allegedly supports the criterion/symptom distinction - which is
obviously circular. As a matter of fact, a characterization of the distinction between logical and empirical features of a
word's correct usage, a characterization which is independent of an appeal to speaker's intuitions about counterfactual
situations, has not been set forth. (Recall, also, that it was indicated previously how difficult it is to decide what
responses to anomalous situations - e.g., cats being automata rather than animals - should be taken as changes in
belief, and which should be taken as changes in meaning.) Without an independent criterion of equivocation, there is
no reason to suppose that a speaker's knowledge of his language actually equips him to answer counterfactual
questions accurately. A speaker's claims about his hypothetical, future, linguistic behavior has no special freedom
from disconfirmation. Therefore, another popular attempt to distinguish analytic truths from synthetic truths must be
dismissed as inadequate.


Apart from the above discussion we can quickly and easily see why the previous proposal had to fail. Analytic truths,
we were told, were to be identified as those statements which asserted the single-criterion of a particular word (the
subject of the statement); moreover, a criterion had to be taken as a necessary condition for the correct use of the
word in question. Hence the ability to distinguish analytic truths relied on the ability to discern necessary conditions.
However, originally analyticity had been introduced to explicate necessity. With the previous proposal we have
actually taken a round about way to close a large circle. It has been simply assumed that there are no synthetic
necessary conditions for the proper use of a word; thus necessity and analyticity could be illusively used to explain
each other.


Both of the foregoing attempts to explicate analyticity have, in the long run, reduced to appeals to counterfactual
conditions. This in itself indicates the weakness of the two proposed ways of identifying analytic truths (viz., criteria-
inclusion, or single-criterion). To rest your explanation of analytic truths on the use of counterfactual conditions is
inadequate because the latter are just as much in need of explication as the former. The statement of counterfactual
conditionals is customarily used to explicate dispositions or tendencies - in the case at hand, the tendency to use
expressions in a certain way; they are supposed to help us determine what people (or things) would have done in
circumstances which have not actually occurred. Hence a counterfactual conditional statement has the usual "if...then"
form; however, the antecedent is false (as is evident from context or by the use of the subjunctive mood). For
instance, "If the gun had been loaded, then the duck would be dead." Now the problem is that of providing an analysis
of such statements which accounts for their conditional element (the sense in which the consequent follows from the
antecedent), which makes clear what is involved in finding out (determining) that they are true or false, and which
does not utilize irreducible (nonexplicable) modal notions such as possibility and necessity (since they are
objectionable to empiricism). This problem of analyzing counterfactual conditionals is especially acute in cases where
the counterfactual antecedent is a supposition which contravenes our beliefs (e.g., "If gravity did not hold on earth..."


A simple truth-functional analysis (where the truth-value of the logical connective is uniquely determined by only the
truth-values of the variables - the place markers in a logical formula which name expressions cannot be adequate for
counterfactual conditionals, for they are used in the material sense. This is unlike the everyday use of "if...then"
because the material sense does not determine the truth of the conditional on the basis of the interrelations between
the senses of the component sentences, but solely on the basis of the truth-values of the components. Hence the
conditional connective in formal logic ("If...then") is true under a given interpretation if either the antecedent is false or
the consequent is true. In this case, every counterfactual conditional statement would be true since they all have false


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antecedents: e.g., "If the gun had been loaded, the duck would be dead" or "...the duck would not be dead." Both a
statement and its contradiction would be true. However, counterfactual conditionals are used in philosophy in the
sense that a given antecedent will lead to only one determined consequent and not its contradiction. Thus we must
look for something other than a truth-functional analysis of counterfactual conditionals.


It has been suggested that counterfactual conditionals are asserted on the strength of certain presuppositions. That is,
these statements are really more complex than they seem on the surface. Specifically, counterfactual conditionals are
statements about what can be deduced (viz., the consequent) from a set of statements when the antecedent is added
to the set as a supposition. Hereby nothing turns upon the truth or falsity of the antecedent, just as long as it is
consistent with the set of presupposed statements. However, which set of statements is to be presupposed? In order
for the antecedent to be consistent with the set of presuppositions, the set will have to exclude some of the speaker's
beliefs, for the antecedent will ex hypothesis, as counterfactual, always be inconsistent with one's set of beliefs
(statements taken to be factual). So then, in the nature of the case counterfactual conditionals will be ambiguous. One
cannot decide that one state of affairs is the only possible one in accord with a false supposition, for whatever
interpretation is given, that supposition will conflict with some other beliefs of the speaker. For the speaker to suppose
the false antecedent, then, will call for him to alter other relevant beliefs, and this alternation will require extralogical
interpretation and selection.


When someone supposes a statement which is contrary to fact, there will be at least two other statements which he
believes and which are relevant to the counterfactual statement; these three will form an inconsistent triad. Some
means must be found for saying which of the two believed statements will have to be excluded on the acceptance of
the counterfactual. But there are no universally accepted or obvious grounds for such a decision; an impartial case
cannot be made out for preferring the exclusion of one belief to the exclusion of the other. Therefore, when we ask
someone what the consequence of supposing some counterfactual statement would be, his answer will reveal which
of two beliefs he takes as fixed and which he takes as more dispensable than the other. Taken a common example.
The Greek gods were deemed immortal, and Apollo was numbered among the gods. Now then, for someone holding
these two beliefs, what would follow from supposing that Apollo were a man? One person might say, "If Apollo were a
man, then Apollo would be mortal"; however, someone else could equally say, "If Apollo were a man, then one man
would be immortal." The decision between the former counterfactual conditional and the latter counterfactual
conditional will depend on one's life context, his presuppositions, his hierarchy of certainties; that is, it will depend on
which of his beliefs (about the gods, or about man) will be taken as more firmly entrenched than the other. There is no
easy, neutral, or universally evident way to settle disputes over which counterfactual conditional is the appropriate one
for a given supposition. You surely cannot tell simply by examining your language!


We conclude, then, that if the explication of analyticity rests on the use of counterfactual conditionals, the explication
will not enable us to pick out the analytic truths from the synthetic truths with any degree of assurance. Indeed, the
selection will be determined by one's structure (or ordering) of beliefs. In an attempt to rescue the move to
counterfactual conditionals one might interpret them, not as statements but as incomplete arguments which are
completed by a set of statements that sustain the conditional without actually implying it. That is, if we have good
reason for accepting a set of statements, and if this set does not undermine the antecedent of a counterfactual
conditional but sustains the (whole) conditional statement, then the counterfactual conditional can be advanced. Well,
then, when do we have good reasons for accepting the above mentioned set of presuppositions (which, in turn, could
sustain the conditional statement)? The answer to this question, we are told, will ultimately rest on the resolution of the
problem of induction. But notice where this brings us in our discussion. To support analytic truths by appealing to
counterfactual conditionals is to appeal to an argument which will have to be inductively convincing - which is just to
say that analytic truths are not very distinct from synthetic truths after all!


9. Null factual component. A final attempt to distinguish analytic from synthetic truths which aims to preclude synthetic
a priori statements is associated with logical positivism (reductionism) and the verificationist theory of meaning.
According to it sentences can be classified into two categories: those whose truth can be determined by an analysis of


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the sentence itself, and those whose truth can be determined only extralinguistically. The former class of statements
are true in virtue of logical form and meaning relations among the predicates used. (They can be known with absolute
certainty, but unfortunately they do not tell us anything interesting about the world.) The present thesis now needs to
explain its approach to meaning, an approach which will aim to make meaning depend upon sense experience.


According to the popular tradition, statements can be analyzed into a linguistic component and an extralinguistic
factual component (which is circumscribed by a range of confirmatory experiences). A statement is meaningful if and
only if it is either analytic or empirically verifiable; in the latter case the statement's truth of falsity would make a
possible difference to experience, whereas in the former case the statement's truth is trivial. The specific meaning of a
statement is the procedure followed to verify it, the empirical method used to confirm or infirm it. An analytic
statement, then, is a statement which is confirmed no matter what; in it the linguistic component is all that matters in
determining its truth. The present thesis holds that two expressions are synonymous if and only if they are alike in
their method of empirical confirmation. Thus a statement would be analytic if it were synonymous with a logically true
statement. The preceding proposal for distinguishing analytic truth from synthetic truths will thus depend for its
cogency on the verificationist theory of meaning and on reductionism (i.e., the view that any meaningful synthetic
statement can be expressed in observation terms or rewritten into an analysis of the experience needed to confirm it
empirically). On both counts the present view will be found wanting.


Verificationism says that a synthetic truth is meaningful if and only if it can (in a specific fashion) be empirically
confirmed or infirmed; any other true statement which lacks this specific verification-procedure is analytic. This
immediately raises the question of which methods of verification are to be accepted, and how conclusive the
verification or falsification must be. Vagueness at this point will erase any sharp analytic/synthetic distinction. There is
also a question about the status of the verificationist principle itself. If the principle is not empirically confirmed (which
it is not), then it would require that itself be viewed as a trivial definition; since its advocates are not inclined to accept
this alternative, the principle is either meaningless or a rationalization of prejudice. Beyond these initial troubles,
however, is the fact that the crucial attribute, "verifiable", has not been defined in such a way that any statement
whatsoever is precluded from being a meaningful, synthetic statement.


In his first edition of Language, Truth and Logic, (New York: Dover, 2nd ed., 1952) A.J. Ayer held that, where an
experiential or observation statement is one which records an actual or possible observation, a meaningful statement
is such that "some experiential propositions can be deduced from it in conjunction with certain other premises without
being deducible from those other premises alone" (p. 39). However, it was quickly pointed out that we can take any
statement whatsoever, "S", and place it in conjunction with "If S, then O1" (where "O" represents an observation
statement). When we do this, "O1" follows from the conjunction, and yet is not deducible from "S" or from "If S, then
O1" separately. Consequently, on this explication of verifiability, any statement could count as verifiable in a specific
fashion (even analytic truths!).


In an effort to remedy this situation, Ayer restated his verifiability criterion in a second edition of his text. There he
proposed that a meaningful, synthetic statement is one which is either directly or indirectly verifiable, where these two
modes of verification are understood in this way:


A statement is directly verifiable if it is either itself an observation-statement, or is such that in conjunction with one or
more observation-statements it entails at least one observation-statement which is not deducible from these other
premises alone; and...a statement is indirectly verifiable if it satisfies the following conditions: first, that in conjunction
with certain other premises it entails one or more directly verifiable statements which are not deducible from these
other premises alone; and secondly, that these other premises do not include any statement that is not either analytic,
or directly verifiable, or capable of being independently established as indirectly verifiable (p. 13).



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This second attempt, however, fares no better than the first, for it permits any statement ("S") or its negation ("not-S")
to be meaningful or verifiable. Now then, let us take as premise 1: "(not-O1 and O2) or (O3 and not-S)" and as premise
2: "O1". Neither of these premises will independently entail "(O3 and not-S)", whereas the conjunction of the two
premises does entail it - which means that "not-S" is directly verifiable. Now let us take as premise 3: "S". Premise 1 in
conjunction with premise 3 entails "(not-O1 and O2)". Hence "S" satisfies the criteria for indirect verifiability just in case
premise 1 does not independently entail "(not-O1 and O2)". If premise 1 does entail this conclusion, then either of the
disjuncts in premise 1 must entail the conclusion (according to standard logical laws). And thus if the second disjunct
of premise 1 entails the mentioned conclusion (which happens to be the first disjunct), then "not-S" is directly
verifiable. Hence the second disjunct of premise 1 ("O3 and not-S") does not independently entail the mentioned
conclusion, "not-O1 and O2" (i.e., the first disjunct of premise 1). Therefore, we see that "S" is indirectly verifiable and
"not-S" is directly verifiable - which is just to say that any and every statement can pass the verifiability criterion. And in
that case the verifiability criterion will not enable us to draw the boundary between analytic and synthetic truths.


We turn then from verifiability to reductionism. Forgetting the above inadequacy of the verificationist theory of
meaning, let us now ask just what is the supposed relation between a statement and the experiences which contribute
to or detract from its confirmation? One must know this if he is to understand the positivist view of statement
synonymy and thereby its approach to analyticity. Two answers have been suggested. First, it has been maintained
that every meaningful statement is translatable into a statement about immediate experience; that is, a meaningful
synthetic statement is actually a direct report of some sense experience. It becomes incumbent upon this position,
then, to specify a sense-datum language into which all significant


discourse can be translated statement by statement. Rudolf Carnap best attempted to do this in a specific and serious
fashion. However, his language was not strictly a sense-datum language; it included the notions of logic and pure
mathematics, and his ontology embraced sets (and sets of sets). Further, even his translation of the simplest
significant statements about the physical world were left in a sketchy condition. Moreover, most importantly, Carnap's
reductionism could not do what it was required to do. A paradigmatic statement of his treatment of attributes was
"Quality q is at point-instant x;y;z;t" (thereby specifying a three-dimensional and temporal location for the attribute). But
the connective "is at" remained an undefined, alien expression which was not eliminated in favor of sense-data. Hence
the reduction necessary to account for synonymy and (thereby) analyticity could not be carried out.


Consequently a second and common answer to the question posed in the above paragraph has been advanced,
saying that each synthetic statement has associated with it a unique range of possible sensory events such that their
occurrence tends to confirm the statement , while another unique range of experiences tends to detract from the
statement's confirmation. This is, of course, the central thrust of the verificationist theory of meaning. Now if it is
significant or meaningful to speak of single statements being confirmed or falsified one by one, in isolation from other
statements, then it can seem significant to speak of a kind of statement which is vacuously confirmed whatever may
happen - that is, an analytic statement. Reductionism amounts to the view that every meaningful statement if
confirmable (can be "verified") by a particular set of experiences or by every set of experiences; the former are
synthetic statements, while the latter are analytic. In the analytic statements the factual component is empty and the
linguistic component is everything.


However, to state matters this way is simply to restate the analytic/synthetic distinction all over again - to restate what
was to be explained in the first place. We are still left wondering how one goes about separating the linguistic
component from the factual component in any particular statement in a natural language. It has not yet been explained
what it is for the factual component in a statement to be null, or how it is that single synthetic statements can be
empirically confirmed. Indeed, the reductionist scheme collapses altogether once we recognize the fact that, as Quine
puts it, "our statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience not individually but only as a

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corporate body" ("Two Dogmas of Empiricism," From a Logical Point of View. 2nd ed., New York: Harper Torchbooks,
1961, p. 41).


Positivistic reductionism is at odds with the fact that whatever our experience may be, it is always in principle possible
to hold onto or reject any particular statement - just as long as we are prepared to make extensive enough revisions
elsewhere in our system of beliefs. No single statement is empirically tested in isolation from others, and hence any
statement can be made immune from revision if the person holding that statement is willing to make adjustments in
other beliefs relevant to the statement. (Recall examples given above regarding cats being automata, Apollo being a
man, the experience of logically contradictory things etc.) It is possible for a man to maintain some particular belief in
the face of all kinds of falsifying evidence; no matter what happens the belief can stand, for the man always has the
option of adjusting other statements of his system in order to account for the counter-evidence without touching the
privileged belief.


For instance, if his tactile sense tells a man that a reed which is extending above the surface of the pool of water in
which it grows is straight, the falsifying evidence of his visual sense (the reed appears either crooked or broken) will
usually not push him from his belief that the reed is straight. The tactile impression is granted a privileged status, and
the visual impression is accounted for in various ways (e.g., light refraction, etc.). However, it would be just as
possible for a man to maintain that the reed is really crooked, and then account for his tactile impression in various
ways. His system of beliefs faces experience as a corporate whole, and revision can strike anywhere; beliefs do not
undergo empirical scrutiny one by one. If the thing of which a man is most certain is that monkeys eat bananas, that
belief will not be tested in isolation of other claims. It is for that reason that a man can devise a reply to any counter-
example or empirical experience which might tend to suggest that some monkeys do not eat bananas; the man can
revise other beliefs instead of his claim about monkeys and bananas - even going to the extreme of appealing to
hallucination or to a wicked plot to deceive him, etc.


Positivism was misled by thinking that an isolated statement has a particular, unique correlate in sense experience
which necessarily and sufficiently confirms or infirms it. However, because no particular experience is necessarily
linked with some particular statement, it is misleading to speak of the empirical content of an individual statement and
to speak of a particular experience (or set of experiences) sufficiently confirming or falsifying a corresponding
statement. Because our belief-systems are under-determined by empirical observation, incompatible systems can
often accommodate the same set of direct observations equally well - even though the response to some particular
experience varies. Experience does not exhaustively regulate our knowledge-claims; nor could it do so. A conflict
between experience and our beliefs will occasion a readjustment somewhere in the body of our epistemic
commitments, but counter-evidence does not in itself show which of the statements in our network of beliefs must be
altered. There is great latitude of choice as to which statements to modify in the face of a single contrary experience.
Thus it is a theory as a whole, not any one of its constituent claims, that is subject to verifying evidence or counter-
evidence in observational experience. From person to person the adjusted portion of a theory can vary, from its
observation statements (dismissed as illusion) to its logical laws (now admitting of exceptions). The statements of a
system will be inter-connected in various ways, and thus a modification at one point will occasion changes elsewhere
as well. For these reasons it is mistaken to think that statements can be tested one by one in some indisputable
fashion.


We would conclude then that it is wrong to seek a boundary between statements which are verified by a particular
experience and those which are true come what may (i.e., verified by every experience). Any statement can be treated
as subject to revision, whether it be a law of logic (e.g., the law of excluded middle, revised in order to simplify
quantum mechanics) or the central paradigms of science (e.g., Kepler's revolution against Ptolemy, Einstein's over
Newton, Darwin's over Aristotle, etc.). Any statement can be treated as immune from revision (confirmed by every
experience); it can be held as true "come what may," just as long as we make drastic enough adjustments elsewhere
in the system. Even a direct observation statement can be held as true in the face of recalcitrant experience by
pleading hallucination or amending your logical laws, etc. Consequently, no statement is "analytic" to the exclusion of


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others. Within any particular system it is possible to distinguish the firmly entrenched statements which we are
extremely reluctant to give up from those which we are more willing and ready to abandon under certain experiential
conditions. However, there are no statements which in themselves depend for their truth on a direct confrontation with
experience, and there are none which in themselves derive their truth from language alone. There are simply more
and less entrenched statements, more and less significant statements, etc. Therefore, it is an illusion to distinguish
between individual statements which are immune from revision (analytic) and those which are subject to revision
(synthetic). The final attempt to distinguish analytic from synthetic truths must be dismissed as inadequate.


Conclusion and Consequences
It is now apparent that the attempt to find truth which is insulated from the world of contingency and uncertainty by
classifying some statements as analytic (and hence necessary and a priori) is a misguided philosophical maneuver.
The idea that truths can be divided into two classes namely, empirically significant yet contingent, or trivial yet
necessary and that infallibility pertains only to conventions of language is an insupportable dogma. The analytic/
synthetic distinction is not lucid or defensible; it has not been adequately explicated, and thus its application lacks
justification.


In the course of arriving at this conclusion about a pervasive philosophical prejudice we have uncovered many
valuable insights of epistemological significance. They bear repeating. Every thinker will grant a preferred status to
some of his beliefs or knowledge-claims; such statements in his system of thought are privileged in that they are not
allowed to be overthrown by isolated experimentation or simple experience. Within a particular conceptual scheme
there will be central paradigms of truth. These will be accepted as immune from revision as long as the conceptual
scheme remains unchanged. Little obvious argumentation is offered for these paradigms, but they are not arbitrary or
insupportable. These are substantive truths, even though they function somewhat like stipulated truths. These basic
convictions or presuppositions are not true in virtue of language, or words, or definitions alone; they have factual
content and significance. What a man will deem rational to give up will be relative to his belief system and its central
paradigms. Men who are taken to be "rational" will nevertheless differ among themselves on which truths should be
presupposed; differences of opinion evidence themselves even with respect to allegedly necessary and "analytic"
truths. Conflicts are even possible over the truths of logic. More broadly, different fundamental, central, or basic beliefs
will bring with the various standards of reasonableness; another thinker is thought to be "irrational" because his
outlook does not square with one's own basic beliefs or presuppositions. Of the beliefs in one's system of thought
some will be more, some less necessary; some beliefs will be treated as more fixed or entrenched than others, and
likewise some beliefs will be given up more easily than others. The statements of one's system of thought will not be
completely determined by empirical procedures, and they will not be tested one by one, in isolation of other
statements. When a central conviction or presupposition is altered, it will often be difficult to say whether this
represents a change of belief or a change of meaning; at the most basic level in one's thought meanings and beliefs
are not sharply separated.


What the above observations amount to is this. Different people will set apart different truths which are to be accepted
under any and all circumstances; these statements will be a subset of the whole system of beliefs. Because such
statements are centrally located within one's network of beliefs they will strongly resist revision; within that conceptual
system they will be given special treatment. They represent one's epistemological priorities or what he takes as
logically primitive. These principles are employed in making predictions, in judging other claims, in relating various
beliefs to one another, etc. One's system of thought as a corporate whole encounters the tribunal of experience, and
recalcitrant or falsifying experience will force revisions somewhere in the system. However there is no set portion of
the system which must be revised in response to some set experience; which beliefs will undergo alteration will
depend on the presuppositions which are being used - the presuppositions being the very least likely beliefs to be
revised. When the presuppositions are abandoned we have, not just a change in attitude toward particular facts, but
rather an extensive shift in one's concepts, standards, or paradigms.




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Simply given a true statement in some natural language, who can say whether it should rank as immune from revision
or not? Nobody can tell just from the isolated statement itself. It all depends on its place in a network of thought, its
position in one's conceptual system. Which statements should be taken as certain and granted revisionary immunity
cannot be determined simply by the notations of a language (as has been erroneously thought with respect to
"analytic" truths). Which points of truth can be properly taken as the firmly entrenched beliefs of a system of thought?
That is like asking which geographical points in a country can be taken as starting points for a trip. The entrenched
truths will vary from person to person, relative to one's manner of life, goals, experience, etc. Any statement can be
treated as immune from revision - immune no matter what a person observes (provided appropriate adjustments are
made elsewhere in his conceptual system). Deciding which statements among the competing claims should be and
properly are immune from revision is one of the most significant and difficult tasks of philosophy; the matter cannot be
easily resolved by appeal to a muddled distinction between analytic and synthetic truths.


The human epistemological condition, then, is characterized by adherence to presuppositions which resist falsification
and yet cannot be characterized as trivial. People have beliefs to which they will cling though everything else fails.
Their thoughts and lives are governed by such presuppositional beliefs; whatever is inconsistent with them is to be
eliminated. The presuppositions of a system of thought will be the standard of truth and evidence in it. They will reflect
a person's most basic commitments and will affect all areas of his life. Therefore, even though they will be taken as
certain (and not simply probable), they will be far from trivial or simply conventional. Indeed, when all of the superficial
cosmetic of objective and unemotional academics is stripped away, these presuppositions will be seen as matters of
passion and highest personal concern. The meaning of one's life is usually tied up with his presuppositional beliefs,
and consequently they make a difference in all of his concerns, behavior, thoughts, etc. Revisionary immunity here
does not imply that such presuppositions are informationally vacuous or insignificant! It is just because these beliefs
are granted revisionary immunity that they are significant, substantive, and far reaching in their effects.


It should be noted in passing that there are many degrees of revisionary immunity exhibited among the beliefs of one's
system of thought. That is, some beliefs are more, some less, firmly entrenched in our thinking. Each belief governs
one's behavior and reasoning to some extent, but those which are least extensive in their effect and least firmly
entrenched will be those which are the first to be revised or repudiated when his system of thought is challenged by
counter-evidence. Every new experience and all new knowledge will be fit into our system of thought in such a way
that a minimum of intellectual labor and of life-style alteration is necessary. The most firmly entrenched of our beliefs
will call for the greatest revisions throughout the system of thought and behavior, and thus they are relinquished last of
all. One will require more than usual counter-evidence before he will abandon his presuppositional commitments - if
he will abandon them at all (rather than suspecting the alleged "evidence" in some way instead). Furthermore, it
should be noted that two people can have the same presupposition and nevertheless develop differing systems of
thought on the basis of it; this is because their secondary commitments, experiences, philosophical abilities, training
and social influences will be different. Presuppositions have the greatest control over a system of thought, but they are
not the only factor in that system's development. Likewise, people who share presuppositions can respond to counter-
evidence in different ways; the desire for simplicity, minimal disturbance, and social acceptability can lead people to
seek consistency for their thoughts in different directions.


Analyticity and Apologetics
The above study and its conclusions have a special bearing on Christian apologetics. In the first place, the popular
notion that a statement is knowable only by empirical experience or by definition becomes untenable with the failure to
draw a cogent and sharp distinction between analytic and synthetic truths. The fact is that our substantive beliefs are
under determined by empirical experience. Human knowledge has a pervasively theoretical (or theory-governed)
rather than observational nature. This is not to underestimate the place of empiricism in epistemology or to say that
knowledge can be completely divorced from empirical experience. But it is to recognize that empirical procedures do
not, and could not, determine and justify all of a person's knowledge-claims. One's system of thought is regulated by
presuppositions which are more than trivial definitions and which surpass the warrant of direct observational
experience. There are statements which even the empiricist will claim to "know" and nevertheless cannot be classified

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as either "analytic" or "synthetic" (e.g., "There is a past," the laws of natural science, the principles of logic, moral
obligations pertaining to honest scholarship, etc.).


The two most popular polemics against Christianity in twentieth century philosophy have rested on the analytic/
synthetic distinction. Verificationalism declared that meaningful statements were either analytic or empirically verified
(synthetic); however, the numerous problems afflicting this attitude have been rehearsed above. The distinction it
relies upon is obscure, the standard of verifiability is such that any statement can pass its test, and the positivist
criterion cannot pass its own requirement. Seeing this, some philosophers continued to charge Christianity with
meaninglessness, saying that its adherents are reluctant to allow any experience to falsify its claims. Because nothing
is allowed to count as a disproof of Christianity's assertions, they are vacuous or meaningless, it was claimed.
Because nothing is at stake for the believer, nothing is really being asserted. However, it turns out that in actuality
every person has presuppositions which function in exactly the same way - even the philosopher who attacks the faith.
These presuppositions are such that, aside from a theoretical revolution in one's thought, no evidence is allowed to
count against them; they are held immune from revision. Yet these presuppositions are anything but trivial or vacuous;
they are highly significant and make all the difference in the world. The Christian can thus hold to the infallibility of
Scripture in the face of counter argumentation and (alleged) evidence without thereby reducing the Bible's claims to
analytic trivia. What Scripture says is "synthetically" true, even though it is "analytically" certain. The breakdown of the
analytic/synthetic distinction prevents the falsification-polemic against Christianity from having any force (unless it
undermines all presuppositions, anti-Christian as well as Christian). We are not compelled to choose between a
merely probable and fallible set of empirical claims and a meaningless or trivial metaphysic. Therefore, neither
verificationalism nor the argument from falsification conditions are telling against the Christian faith; all philosophers
have presuppositions which defy the analytic/synthetic distinction. And because that distinction is obscure and
unjustifiably applied, such presuppositions are in no jeopardy.


In the final analysis it turns out that everyone treats some statements as "analytic." That is, certain truths are thought
of as carrying their evidence inherently and are granted epistemological primacy or revisionary immunity. These
presuppositional truths control our concept of evidence and verification; they are paradigmatic and criterial. They even
govern what we deem to be possible (remember, to deny an "analytic" truth is to state what is impossible, for "analytic"
statements are necessarily true). Any reasoning or evidence which is adduced in order to refute these presuppositions
is itself called into question; revisions will be made anywhere else in one's system of thought before he will relinquish
his entrenched beliefs. To treat a statement as "analytic" means that it has ultimate authority in one's thinking and
governs his overall perspective. To treat the statement as a presupposition is not to make it uninformative or
meaningless. To utilize an "analytic" truth (or presupposition) is to show that one understands its full meaning, and
meaning is more than linguistic notations; it is part of a way of life. People, social customs, attitudes, practical use, and
much more are necessary to understand an expression in language. When one accepts a presupposition (or a truth
treated as "analytic") he makes a way of speaking, a context in life, and an application his own. That is why a
particular usage can be rejected without involving yourself in self-contradiction. To insist that "Business in not
business" is not self-contradictory; rather, it is a rejection of a particular outlook and way of life. There are no
sentences which derive their truth from language alone. The statements which a person treats as "analytic" or
presupposes reveal his basic life commitments. Because everyone has these basic beliefs, and because of the
function such presuppositions have in one's system of thought, apologetics will ultimately become a matter of
argumentation at this fundamental level.


Finally, the failure of the analytic/synthetic distinction indicates that the consequences of holding to it which were
enumerated earlier should be seriously challenged. Their repudiation has noteworthy implications for the practice of
Christian apologetics. It now appears that statements are not tested one by one or considered in isolation; rather,
systems of beliefs as a whole are subjected to scrutiny. Apologetics is not a matter of arguing over a few individual
statements here and there, but instead whole worldviews are in collision. The apologist's method of defending the
faith, then, must aim to undermine the unbeliever's corporate system of thought and establish the Christian
perspective as a whole.



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Next, no statement is automatically immune from revision; such immunity is granted in the context of a system of
thought. Necessary truth cannot be discovered in some impersonal world of language, and no truth is insulated from
the experiential world. The Christian will seek infallibility in the word of the living and true, personal God; His truth
makes a great difference to one's thinking and experience. It is immune from revision, not because of the nature of
language in some sense, but because of the nature of God Himself. Revisionary immunity can be found only in God's
personal communication, and it is misplaced when located in the trivial conventions of man. The analytic/synthetic
distinction has had the effect of sending men in search for certainty which is independent of God. Furthermore, by now
we would recognize the mistake in holding that statements which are granted an immunity from revision must be non-
informative and make no difference to the world of experience. To treat a statement as firmly entrenched is not to
empty it of its significance or content.


Moreover, not all statements are treated on an equal footing and uniformly subjected to the standards of empirical
evidence. Some statements in a system of thought are more basic than others and are evaluated in a different manner
than others; they are considered to have a special claim on our adherence because they regulate our standards for
evaluating further statements. Empirical considerations are never final in the testing and adoption of such basic
statements, but in fact empirical considerations actually rest on other commitments, are governed and evaluated by
more basic presuppositions, and cannot be expected in themselves to compel a revision or replacement of one's
presuppositions. The truths which one takes as paradigmatic and immune from revision will govern his
epistemological standards of evidence, justification, etc. Consequently, the apologist is misled if he attempts to make
empirical argumentation of philosophical methodism decisive for his defense of the faith. Only a presuppositional
apologetic will finally be adequate to the needs of the situation. In principle, logic and experience can be rendered
impotent at any particular point by the use of appropriate presuppositions, and thus if our evidence and reasoning are
to have force they will have to be rooted in considerations which are more central or fundamental. It is obvious that in
practice the claims which are made for empirical or logical arguments and their supposed decisiveness are
exaggerated; these claims would fare well in the presence of the traditional analytic/synthetic distinction. However,
that distinction does not withstand the challenge for explication.


With the sharp distinction between analytic and synthetic truths being repudiated, philosophy is no longer sharply
separated from science (i.e., a concern with essences or meanings is not divorced from a concern with facts).
Ontological questions come to be on a par with questions of natural science, for the boundary between the two is
blurred by the presuppositional nature of belief-systems. Scientific theories and metaphysical claims are involved in
the centralities of a conceptual system, and neither has a prior claim to credibility. An absolute distinction between
analytic and synthetic truths would give a special status to science; however, the failure of that distinction indicates
that neither science nor metaphysics is any more or less a matter of "fact" than the other. Considerations of truth and
knowledge are a function of presuppositions, and the nature of those presuppositions could be naturalistic for one
man but supernaturalistic for another. The resolution of their disagreement cannot be simply consigned to science and
logic, unless one is satisfied with veiled question-begging.


Knowledge is not simply a matter of observable phenomena and definitions. For the apologist to think that it is, he will
have a deeply distorted conception of what is required of him in defending the faith. The knowing process and the
objects of knowledge themselves will be misconceived. Clarifying the nature of your presupposed beliefs is the most
important step toward a satisfactory apologetic. We must become clear about the role played by presuppositional
truths in our system of thought before we can gain an adequate view of the world, knowledge, and disagreements
between various thinkers. One's view of what it is to have and to gain a particular view about the world, man, and God
will greatly affect his very view itself of the world, man, and God. Hence the apologist should be very mindful of the
implications of the breakdown of the analytic/synthetic distinction. That failure shows that revisionary immunity is a
function of presuppositions and thus that the defense of the faith (defending its immunity from revision) must be
presuppositional in character.




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PA032(Paper delivered to the Evangelical Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA. 1976) 16 pages,
© Covenant Media Foundation -- 800/553-3938.


                                 Empirical Research Cannot Rescue
                                  the Disappearance Form of the
                                     Mind-Body Identity Thesis
                                                          By Dr. Greg Bahnsen[1]




A Reprieve for Materialism?
Realizing that some formulations of the thesis that mental processes are identical with brain processes encounter
trenchant objections, Richard Rorty proposes a new statement of the materialist position in his article, "Mind-Body
Identity, Privacy, and Categories."[2]

Rorty portrays the identity theorist as impaled on the horns of a dilemma: either he holds to strict identity, in which
case mental processes and brain processes have all predicates in common, or he does not. If he does, then he ends
up making category mistakes and using meaningless expressions - e.g., "This brain process is false," or "This thought
is located six feet above the ground." But if he does not, then he has abandoned materialism for a mere correlation
between mental and brain processes.

J. J. C. Smart suggests that category mistakes can be avoided by translating sentences which seem to express them
into topic-neutral language, but Rorty finds this unpromising. Such a ploy would always be open to the demand to
provide a suitable translation, and then open to the criticism that the proffered translation was inadequate. The
materialist would need to "neutralize" the original assertion and then defend the adequacy of this translation by
appealing to criteria for translation which do not, somehow, approach the position of mere correlation again.

Nevertheless Rorty is not ready to abandon materialism, believing that there is a better way to express or formulate
the position. He calls his view the "disappearance form of the identity thesis" [hereafter DFIT]. In his assessment, DFIT
has the advantage of avoiding category mistakes, going beyond mere correlation, and avoiding disputes over
adequacy of translation. DFIT would thus be a strong expression of materialism, but not one subject to the common
linguistic objections of the non-materialist philosophers. The virtue of DFIT would be that it is philosophically plausible
and, as such, subject only to empirical confirmation or disconfirmation.

Rorty makes it clear that he aims simply to show that DFIT "makes sense," not that any prediction of its empirical
confirmation is true. That is, since DFIT is a proleptic claim, Rorty wishes to maintain merely that DFIT could be true.
He denies that current ways of speaking or any classification of linguistic expressions can block the results of
empirical inquiry. So then, if DFIT is to be discounted, it cannot be by means of philosophical considerations, but only
through the use of empirical methods. Rorty simply contends that DFIT is a sensible position to affirm, one whose
truth-status must be decided later.

Rorty's claim is important because it would salvage the materialist position for at least a time. If Rorty is right,
materialism still has a legitimate claim on our metaphysical attention and reflections. It cannot be dismissed without
the verdict of the scientists, and the "politically correct" scientific community of our day is strongly disinclined to
dismiss a materialist view of man and the world. Rorty wants us to believe that materialism is a viable position which
must be taken seriously. Non-scientists must not presume to reject materialism on philosophical grounds. The
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Rorty's claim is worth examining. Does materialism deserve a stay of life?

Let's ask, then, whether DFIT can be philosophically discounted in advance of empirical research. Unless I am
missing something, I believe that it can.




Statement of the Disappearance Form of the Identity Thesis
The central affirmation of DFIT is that sensations are nothing but physical processes (e.g., neurological and electro-
chemical brain events). Rorty wishes to affirms this without making linguistic category mistakes, as well as declaring
that linguistic schemes and analysis may not dictate what empirical science can or cannot find out about "what there
is." Remember also that DFIT is intended as a strong form of materialism which does not yield to mere correlation
between sensations and neurological/brain processes. The statement of DFIT must reflect this distinctive emphasis.

Unfortunately Rorty does not provide his own summary exposition of the minimal and key points of his DFIT, even
though such an exposition is prerequisite to testing the sensibility or plausibility of the position. There is reason to
believe, though, that we can summarize Rorty's position for ourselves without sacrificing fairness or adequacy. The
following elaboration incorporates the distinctive emphases above, and the basic tenet of DFIT is entailed by the
premises offered. It is thus formally adequate and does Rorty no injustice. DFIT may be summarized in this fashion:

         1.   Linguistic conventions and convenience have no relevance for ontological determinations.

         2. The meaning or sense of sensation terms [hereafter ST] is not identical with the meaning or sense of
         certain physicalistic expressions [hereafter PE] (i.e., the language of physics, using terms like 'mass,'
         'momentum,' 'electrical charge,' 'electron,' 'shape,' 'speed,' 'spatial location,' etc.)

         3. Between competing accounts of some phenomenon, the one with greatest simplicity (i.e., countenancing
         fewer entities) and least burdened with problems (i.e., unanswered questions) is the acceptable alternative,
         thereby falsifying the more complex and problematic account.

         4. As natural science advances we can, in principle, eliminate the referring use of ST in favor of PE without
         diminishing anything (such as ability to report, describe, explain or predict what there is) except linguistic
         convenience.

         5.   (Thus) The referent of ST is strictly identical with the referent of certain PE.

         6. (Thus) There are no sensations (i.e., there are no other determinations than those employed by natural
         scientists).
         7. Therefore, the referent of ST is identical with physicalistic states or processes.

It is not hard to see that 2.7 follows from 2.5 and 2.6 by an implicit disjunctive syllogism. The referent of ST and PE is
the same, as 2.5 indicates, and this referent is either a sensation or physicalistic state/process. But since there are no
sensations, according to 2.6, then the referent of ST and PE would have to be physicalistic. So then, Rorty's position
has not been stated in a way which immediately makes it vulnerable as a non-sequitur. DFIT follows from two of its
premises.

The other premises are crucial to DFIT as well. 2.1 guarantees that linguistic philosophy is not granted a magisterial
position to restrict empirical discovery (particularly the advance hoped for in 2.4). 2.2 guards Rorty's position against
charges of category mistake. Rorty openly denies that all attributes meaningfully predicable of sensations are also
meaningfully predicable of physicalistic states/processes. The identity which Rorty wishes to assert, then, is not
connotative but denotative (cf. 2.5). 2.2 also relieves Rorty of any need to produce adequate translations of ST into


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PE; he admits that ST (or mind talk) is meaningful, but he does not equate it with PE (or brain talk) with respect to
meaning.


Premise 2.3 is the guiding principle which allegedly justifies moving from 2.4 to 2.6. The nail upon which the entire
position hangs is premise 2.4, claiming that the purposes which were formally served conveniently by the use of ST
could inconveniently become served by PE. From 2.4 Rorty derives the corollaries 2.5 and 2.6 (which in turn entail the
conclusion, 2.7). 2.5 avoids the pitfall of mere correlation, and 2.6 is crucial to the materialist viewpoint. We can take
the above exposition, then, as an adequate statement of Rorty's DFIT. But as it stands it is unconvincing.




In DFIT the premise which is crucial to the materialist view, 2.6, cannot be
established in a way which is consistent with DFIT.
In DFIT Rorty argues that the referent of ST is strictly identical with the referent of certain PE (2.5). As it stands,
though, this premise could just as well support the refutation of materialism - as when we conjoin to it the premise that
'The referent of ST is identical with sensations' (rather than physical states/processes). In that case the referent of PE
themselves would turn out to be sensations! Wouldn't that turn the tables on the materialist? When the physicist is
expressing certain scientific findings, it would turn out that he is talking, not about physical states or processes in the
external world, but about his own personal (or somebody else's) sensations. Since sensations are mental phenomena,
the "physical world" - including the brain and nervous system of man - which is analyzed by the natural scientist would
in actuality be mental in nature (not physical) - opening the door to panpsychic and idealistic conclusions about reality.
This shows us what a dangerous premise 2.5 is. Instead of having psychology reduce to physics, we would have
physics reduce to psychology! Rorty can salvage his materialism only if he adds to 2.5 a denial of sensations (2.6).




1. The crucial premise cannot be established by the truthful substitution of
PE for ST because this would leave mere correlation between sensations and
physicalistic states/processes.
How might Rorty establish the non-existence of sensations? He might demonstrate that ST can be eliminated in favor
of PE because some physicalistic expression could always be substituted salva veritatae for the assertion mentioning
a sensation. And of course this situation could very well obtain if PE and ST refer extensionally to the same thing.
However, substitutability salva veritatae and extensional agreement would not demonstrate that there exist no
sensations. (As per Quine: 'creature with a heart' may indeed be substitutable salva veritatae with 'creature with a
kidney' without implying that kidneys do not exist.) It might just be the case that PE and ST refer to the same thing,
and that this thing contains both physicalistic and sensational aspects. If sensations are always correlated with
physicalistic states/processes, we would have an explanation of the substitutability salva veritatae without needing to
deny sensations at all. But mere correlation is not adequate for the position of maximal materialism, which closes this
path for Rorty.




2. The crucial premise cannot be established by the functional substitution of
PE for ST because the desired conclusion cannot be derived without violating
the premise that linguistics must be ontologically neutral.
Rorty could now attempt to establish that there are no sensations (2.6) by pointing to a peculiar feature of our
language and possible speech habits. He might, as premise 2.4 indicates, argue that all the linguistic functions of ST
can be replaced by PE without sacrificing anything but convenience of expression. In that case it is theoretically


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possible that advances in natural science will lead us to abandon all ST (mind talk) and exclusively use PE (brain talk).
The faux pas here is that such a consideration, used to establish the metaphysical conclusion that there are no
sensations, violates Rorty's own insistence (2.1) that linguistic conventions and convenience have no relevance for
ontological determinations. The line of thought under consideration moves from what is true about our language to
what is true about what there is. If that tactic is denied to Rorty's opponents (who relish refuting maximal materialism
by appeals to its resultant category mistakes given present linguistic usage), it must in fairness be denied to Rorty as
well (who appeals to future linguistic usage). The attempt to ground 2.6 in 2.4 is precluded by 2.1. Linguistic habit
must remain ontologically irrelevant.




3. The crucial premise of DFIT is mediated by another premise which has no
ontological relevance.
As indicated above, premise 2.6 in DFIT is derived from 2.4 in conjunction with the criterion stipulated in premise 2.3
(traditionally denominated "Occam's razor"). The soundness of 2.6 thus depends upon the truth or authority of those
premises upon which it rests. On the hypothesis that all ST could be eliminated by PE, does the simplicity of PE really
warrant the metaphysical conclusion that in reality there are no sensations? Notice here that "Occam's razor" is not a
statement of fact, but a directive - an exceedingly generalized directive at that. It assumes the quite questionable
cosmological law that nature is always characterized by economy and simplicity, never superfluity or unnecessary
complexity. (Does anyone have enough empirical experience to generalize in such a grandiose fashion?) There
seems to be plenty of reason to believe that the natural realm is not at all simple, a realm where everything is done in
the most efficient and least complex, least mysterious fashion conceivable (e.g., methods of conception, as with
salmon). One can wonder, then, whether the principle of non-superfluity is faithful to the actual state of affairs in the
world. If it is not, then it cannot reliably be utilized to determine what the metaphysical situation actually is. Rorty can
establish premise 2.6 only by resting upon a principle which is ontologically irrelevant. Simplicity and economy have
nothing to do with whether things (like sensations) are real or not.




4. The crucial premise, 2.6, is unwarranted or gratuitous, being grounded in a
claim which is false - the claim that sensation terms are unnecessary for
correct reporting and describing of what there is.
Rorty maintains that the elimination of ST from our language would have no effect upon our ability to describe things
properly. With the elimination of ST we might as well drop any thought of sensations themselves. It might be
inconvenient to substitute PE for ST, but the fact that the substitution can be accomplished shows how unnecessary it
is to suppose that sensations exist. Here is where we find the substantial backing for Rorty's DFIT. It only remains now
for natural science to carry out the task of eliminating ST in favor of PE. That done, we will conclude that there are no
sensations. What Rorty alleges, you see, is that as natural science advances there will no longer be any need to talk
about mental states (e.g., hearing the "Star Spangled Banner," perceiving the orange hues of sunset, the taste of soy
sauce, or knowing what day this is), for we will do just fine talking about the determinations of physics. Reports about
mental states (such as perceptions) will become superfluous and could be replaced by purely physical analysis
(electron and neuron talk).




1. The descriptive shortcoming of physicalistic expressions.
Rorty is just mistaken, I believe, in imagining that we lose only convenience if ST were dropped from our language. ST
are indispensable to describing the observable qualities of things. Without observation terms we would not be able to
describe the object of our experience fully; for instance, we would leave out the clearness and wetness of water, for no
theoretical sentence using PE can analyze that descriptive truth.

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PE could replace the ST used in describing features about things which are directly observed only if the PE were
synonymous with the ST. PE might non-synonymously explain and/or predict phenomena reported by ST, but PE
could describe the same phenomena as ST only if PE were synonymous with ST. Without synonymity, the two
sentences would be used to assert different things about the phenomena in question. The two sentences might
provide a way to speak of different aspects of the same phenomenon, but if those sentences have different senses,
they would not be describing the same aspect of that thing, namely its observable quality.

A physicalistic statement does not indicate the observable appearance of things, even if it is capable of explaining how
the appearance is mediated, stimulated, or recorded in the brain. No physicalistic expression renders the same
description of a phenomenon which the sentence with sensation terms does because - as Rorty admits in premise 2.2
- PE and ST do not have the same connotation or sense. Accordingly a brain process and a mind process do not have
all attributes in common (e.g., the intentionality or non-spatiality of the mental process). This dissimilarity indicates that
PE cannot replace all the functions of ST, and in particular PE cannot offer a complete description of the appearance
of things.

If ST were to be dropped, we would no longer be able to describe our sensory experience. What we are aware of
sensing (e.g. the redness or tartness of the apple) is not described by PE, for PE describes a state or process with
neurophysiological, chemical, electrical features and the like - features which are completely different from those
which we report about our sensations.


Indeed, people can accurately describe their pain (e.g. as burning or throbbing) without knowing the first thing about
neurophysiology or brain processes. So while the neurologist and his patient may be talking about the same thing (viz.
the pain experience), they do not describe it in the same manner. The most complex and sophisticated scientific
analysis of a phenomenon will never be equivalent to "ouch!" If the physician were to suggest to the patient who has
just exclaimed his pain that "what he means" is some scientific description of C-fibers, neurons, synapses, etc., the
patient would readily decline the translation. What he was talking about may be relevant to neurons, etc. in some
fashion, but he was quite clearly not talking about them, but about his pain.

As long as we take premise 2.2 in DFIT seriously, what is spoken of in premise 2.4 can never take place. Sensation
terms do not describe brain processes (not for most of us most of the time, anyway). Thus physicalistic terms which
describe states and processes in the brain cannot replace the sensation terms. PE could replace ST only if they were
synonymous, and they are not.




2. The implausibility of DFIT in saying what our describing is of
In order to escape the force of the above criticism Rorty must attempt to harmonize his theory with our practice of
describing things in our experience (e.g. burning pains, zebras, childhood memories, musical tunes, etc.). He argues
that when we use ST to directly report a sensory experience (like a pain) we are really giving a non-inferential report
about something in our brain or nervous system (like a C-fiber firing). Mind you, we are not aware of any of the
physicalistic determinations spoken of by the neurologist, but they are still what we directly report, according to Rorty.
(As Thomas Hobbes held of old, what passes for a description of the external physical world of bodies is but the
projection of one's internal physiology.)

The obvious defect with this claim is that I know how to give a direct report of physicalistic processes in the brain - that
is, I know what procedures would have to be followed in order to put me in a position to observe the processes of the
brain, and I know what kinds of terms I would use, as well as what kind of visual impressions I would associate with
those terms, etc. However, when I see a zebra or taste a dill pickle or experience a throbbing pain, I use sensation
terms (instead of physicalistic expressions) to describe them. Now, I realize the difference between the ST and PE,
and I willingly, self-consciously choose the ST instead of the PE. When having the experience I am introspectively
aware of my perceptions and their sensation determinations (i.e., the observable qualities of things) but of no


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physicist's or neurophysiologist's determinations whatsoever. The proponent of DFIT is at a loss to explain why I
ordinarily use ST and only rarely use PE, those rare occasions being when I observe brain surgery, discuss books
about subatomic particles, or like matters. It is beyond credibility that I - that nearly all linguistic users - should be so
pervasively wrong about the things we think we are describing. When I describe the taste of a dill pickle, neither my
intension nor my intention have anything to do with my brain. Rorty's attempt to say what my describing is of surely
seems to be an ad hoc attempt to rescue an absurd thesis.




Conclusion
As is often the case, we are better to follow our common "sense" than the philosopher's speculations.

The disappearance form of the mind-body identity thesis is not initially plausible. It seems that Rorty was not
warranted in advising that we must wait for the verdict of the scientific establishment before deciding whether the
materialist view is correct or not. The identity thesis is afflicted with the kind of faults which empirical research cannot
relieve. Because DFIT may be discounted in advance of further scientific developments, the worldview of materialism
should not be granted a philosophical stay of life.

[1] Dr. Bahnsen holds the Th.M. from Westminster Theological Seminary and the Ph.D. in philosophy from the
University of Southern California; he is presently the Resident Scholar at the Southern California Center for Christian
Studies. This paper was originally presented at the Evangelical Philosophical Society, meeting in Philadelphia on
December 28, 1976; it is presented here with minor changes.

[2] The Review of Metaphysics XIX (1965): 24-54.




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[Are Science and Logic Objective, Neutral, and Invariant?] (1979) 34 pages
© Covenant Media Foundation.


                               Science, Subjectivity And Scripture
                                         (Is Biblical Interpretation "Scientific"?)
                                                           By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

Science and logic are quite naturally matters of keen interest to evangelical scholarship, even more so than usual
in a day when hermeneutics looms large in theological discussion. A commonplace verdict on Biblical
interpretation, along with a popular imaginative portrait of science, occasion this paper. It surveys aspects of
contemporary epistemology with which we should be familiar and issues which are systematically basic to the
philosophy of science and logic. The aim is that we might stand on a more reliable footing in speaking for and
about our theological method and rationality as believers in the Lord of truth.


Scripture: Enigma Or Putty?
As an approach to the epistemological issues to which we are driven by hermeneutics today, we can consider a
commonly voiced objection against Biblical interpretation. In their day the Reformers stood firmly against the
demand for a priestly intervention between the Bible and a general readership, maintaining the prerogative and
effectiveness of private interpretation. Scriptural perspicuity meant that its literature was not so technical or
peculiar that some kind of "expert" was required to mediate its message to common men - whether that mediator
was an expert in the opinions of the Roman magisterium, allegorical fancies, historical subtleties, existential
insight, demythologization, or what have you. The Reformers were convinced that freeing the Bible from
authoritative interveners need not spell the end to finding any distance, specifiable, definite message in the
Scripture, for it was God Himself who communicated His own special word therein without obscuring His intent.
Biblical clarity, then, stood for a double guarantee: it was neither so complex as to be an esoteric enigma, nor so
formless as to be putty molded to any preconceived notion. The splintering of the Protestant church into so many
individual factions subsequent to that time, the multiplication of novel viewpoints without end, and the apparent
irresolvability of theological disputes among private interpreters of Scripture have given occasion, however, to the
critics of Christianity.



In his Critique of Religion and Philosophy, Walter Kaufmann contends that what holds Christianity together is
simply the common literary body of myths found in the Bible rather than a single particular message. "Christians
interpret these myths differently..., but all revere them."[1] Although current philosophy of religion has asked
whether Christian claims are not meaningless (since treated as unfalsifiable), Kaufmann's objection is ironically
that they are all too much filled with meaning. Biblical literature and Christian dogma are, according to him,
"overcharged with meaning," suffering from "an excess of meaning,' and thus "essentially ambiguous" - being full
of inconsistencies which opposing interpreters can cite against each other.[2] What the Bible says can be twisted
this way or that, depending upon the assumptions and disposition of the particular interpreter. Kaufmann claims:

All important decisions come before interpretation, and the selection and exegesis of the texts is dictated by the
prior convictions of the exegete.... Theology is the finding of dubious reasons for what the theologian has believed
all along.... Doing theology is like doing a jigsaw puzzle in which the verses of Scripture are the pieces: the finished
picture is prescribed by each denomination, with a certain latitude allowed. What makes the game so pointless is
that you do not have to use all the pieces, and that pieces which do not fit may be reshaped after pronouncing the
words "this means." That is called exegesis.[3]




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According to Kaufmann, this practice or ritual actually began right with the use of the Old Testament by New
Testament writers.[4] Christian theology and with it Biblical interpretation are governed by subjective
presuppositions which forever mold and remold an essentially ambiguous and malleable text. What Kaufmann, the
scholar, has said is actually a fair summary of what is a more general attitude, one which comes to expression in
serious and popular culture repeatedly. A Shakespearean character is made to say, "In religion, what damned
error but some sober brow will bless it, and approve it with a text,"[5] while Barbra Streisand sings "I was raised on
the Good Book Jesus - until I learned to read between the lines" ("Stony End").



In his book on the history of interpretation, R. M. Grant is not unfamiliar with the subjectivistic difficulty we have
noted. Edging close to Kaufmann, Grant agrees that a plethora of diverse meanings reside in the Biblical texts:
"The notion that there is a single meaning can be labeled as 'misplaced concretion.' ... There is no single,
absolutely final interpretation."[6] He recognizes the "exaggerated objectivity" of the nineteenth century critics of
Scripture and admits that every exegetical school has its theological axes to grind.[7] So obvious has the role of
assumptions, precommitments, or disposition in interpretation become that Grant states, "Today it hardly seems
necessary to insist upon the ubiquity of subjectivity."[8] So then, the subjectivistic problem is taken as an obvious
datum with which Christian scholars must wrestle.



Although it is commendable that evangelical thinkers do not wish to capitulate to the arbitrariness and relativism
which the subjectivistic aspect of interpretation threatens, it is to be feared that we can often hide from ourselves
the true proportions and strength of the difficulty. For instance, Sproul's book, Knowing Scripture, freely admits a
lack of agreement among Christian scholars concerning rudimentary principles of Biblical interpretation, but then
somehow treats the question of "Objectivity and Subjectivity" merely as though the subjective factor or element
can be restricted to finding a relevant application of the text to one's life subsequent to gaining an objective
understanding of it.[9] The problem posed by the function of presuppositions in the very hermeneutic by which one
first gains his understanding of the text cannot be brushed off simply with an encouragement to place a restraint on
our tendency toward eisogenis by checking with the work and expertise of other people (who have likewise been
guided by presuppositions open to dispute). We will gain little as evangelical scholars by ignoring the genuinely
difficult questions.



Returning to Grant, let us note how he treats the difficult question of subjectivity in interpretation. Historically, the
disapprobated tendency toward arbitrariness, relativism, or scepticism in human thought has been resisted through
development of epistemological and scientific positions. In view of Kaufmann's kind of criticism, then, it is hardly
surprising that Grant broaches the question, "Is biblical interpretation 'scientific'?"[10] He immediately insists that
the answer must be both no and yes. By that he means that the overall task of hermeneutics has two successive
phases, an earlier scientific analysis (vis., textual and literary criticism) and then a subsequent discussion (viz.,
historical criticism and theological synthesis) which "passes beyond" what may be considered scientific.[11] Even
here the subjectivity of interpretation can be "over-emphasized," says Grant, because the "hermeneutical circle"
can be broken by reason and tradition once we recognize that sola Scriptura is unacceptable.[12] Thus Grant
maintains that Biblical interpretation is in some ways "scientific," but in other ways (conspicuously in theological
synthesis) it is not.



Science: An Honorific Conception
An evaluation of Grant's claim requires that we understand his conception of what it is for a discipline to be
"scientific." His meaning is not obscured from the reader. Paralleling his no-and-yes answer to the question of


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scientific status, he had earlier written, "interpretation is always subjective as well as objective,: and then in
subsequent pages and throughout the book he expresses a series of contrasts wherein an unscientific aspect or
approach is set over against a scientific one. By noting the syndrome of scientific elements found in these
contrasts (the second member mentioned in the following list of couplets), we can discern Grant's meaning. He
endorses the "fruitful tension" between Spiritual interpretation by the believer and historical interpretation by the
unbeliever, between controlled and free investigation, between concentration on the "inner story' and on "the story
of the world outside," between the approach through Christianity-in-particular and humanity-in-general, and
between interpreting in terms of the "strangeness" of Biblical categories and in terms of one's own familiar
categories of thought.[13] In addition to these contrasts, Grant explains his conception of a "scientific" discipline
quite explicitly as one where "an observer free from presuppositions and prejudices can simply analyze" data and
then produce a "hypothesis to explain them" which need not compete with a "multiplicity of hypotheses" which are
equally tenable or be threatened with shakiness" under critical questioning.[14]



From these various indicators we can fairly summarize Grant's conception of a study which is "scientific" as one
free from personal prejudices (e.g., Spirit guided faith), uncontrolled by theoretical presuppositions (i.e., following
simple observational analysis by any human being, believer or not), and thoroughly agreed upon in its methods (i.
e., using a virtually uncontested, unshakey, and familiar set of principles). So then, a "scientific" approach is (1)
objective, (2) neutral, and (3) invariant. With it the arbitrariness, relativism, or scepticism threatened by subjectivity
in a discipline can be countered.



Grant's conception of "scientific" study is anything but idiosyncratic, for it reappears continually in literature. Ramm
tells us of those who disdain the influence of presuppositions and dispositions on interpretation, calling rather for a
"strictly controlled scientific exegesis" which uses "objective criteria." On the other hand, the New Hermeneutic
insists upon pre-understanding in approaching the text and the need for existential encounter with it, setting these
things over against the "neutral, objective, scientific approach" and investigation of the text.[15] These attitudes
toward presuppositionless study may be conflicting, but the conception of the contrast between study which is
"scientific" and study which is not is conspicuously similar. And that conception is not restricted to non-evangelical
writers either. In an article written for a collection of essays he himself would edit on Interpreting God's Word
Today, Simon Kistemaker gives great attention to his subject (even to the point of finely discerning of a tax-
collector's numerical interests in Matthew's gospel) and yet quite readily sets an approach which submits
presuppositionally to Scripture's self-testimony within the circle of faith over against "the inductive approach" (note
well the definite article and its significance here) which "view(s) the Bible objectively and scientifically" and thereby
makes truly critical investigations of Scripture.[16] As evangelical scholars we all to often can strain at technical
gnats, while swallowing philosophical camels. We can popularly, with Sproul, set "the inductive basis of historical-
empirical evidence" over against the simple alternative of "subjectivism,' and speak categorically of "objective
evidence rather than personal preference." We propound a certain view of science when we can speak singularly
and prescriptively of what "the scientific method demands," mention without flinching "the assured results of
modern scientific inquiry," find security in the defense that a Biblical doctrine "conflicts with no known natural
scientific law," and contrast the obscurantist theologians of the day with Galileo as though he were the model of
scientific objectivity and presuppositionless inquiry.[17] With Grant we portray "science" as objective, neutral, and
invariant.



The Want Of Justification
There is good reason to call into question the uncritical conception of science which has been encountered above.
Given the new prominence of hermeneutics today - which is broadly to say, of a general philosophy of knowledge
or science - and the dependence of theology's status and fate upon it, and given the dependence of one's answer
upon a conception of science in answering the challenge that Biblical interpretation is unscientifically subjectivistic,

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we also have good motivation for critically questioning that conception of science which has been encountered
above. We should see that science or theorizing in general cannot legitimately claim to be a fully and objectively
justified enterprise, any more than it can credibly be seen as an example of unity.



At least two separate models of science can be countenanced in the past and current history of Western
epistemology. I will call them the "foundationalist" model and the "pragmatic" model. Foundationalism, the more
traditional attempt to formulate theories which - in the face of scepticism's challenges - eliminate arbitrariness
(prejudice, relativism, unwarranted conjecture), aims to obtain cognitive certainty beyond psychological assurance
by anchoring one's beliefs in some kind of secure basis, certain unassailable propositions. From that foundation
we can conduct intellectual inquires according to strict and reliable methods of reasoning, admitting to our system
of thought no proposition which is not certified by the foundation or by other foundationally certified beliefs, and
thereby guaranteeing ourselves an accurate depiction of the world. Such a model of science has enjoyed
numerous devotees: Aristotle, Descartes, the logical positivists, and many more, but foundationalism is especially
seen as the banner of the Enlightenment. Reason must be given a secure starting point so that knowledge may be
gained in the absence of cognitive imperialism (arrogance, dogmatism, fideism) and in the face of critical
scepticism, thereby assuring that not all convictions have an equal claim to acceptance and, accordingly, requiring
that conflicts be settled by argument rather than passion or force.



Common-sense foundationalism is found in G. E. Moore's "A Defense of Common Sense," Wittgenstein's On
Certainty, and Malcom's Knowledge and Certainty. The position is that certain universal and compulsively held
beliefs about readily observable public facts/ (e.g., that there are other people) are basic and presupposed by all
other beliefs. As the final courts of appeal in all inquiries and disputes, these common sense beliefs are logically
beyond the possibility of correction. However such beliefs, we must recognize, offer a jeopardized - and thus
unsuccessful - candidate for foundational beliefs. They do not provide infallible knowledge, but only incorrigible
knowledge. As unavoidably imposed as common sense beliefs may be, there is no guarantee that things actually
are as they seem to us to be. In addition to this phenomenological weakness, this version of foundationalism
suffers great embarrassment by the faulty and conflicting ways in which common sense beliefs are identified and
enumerated.[18]



Perceptual foundationalism maintains that infallible basic propositions which transcend beliefs imposed upon us
and give an objective depiction of things are found in sincere, first person, present tense reports of perceptual
experiences (e.g., "I now seem to be seeing a yellow pencil"). Advocates would include Chisholm in Perceiving,
Firth in the Philosophical Review (vol. 61, 76) and Journal of Philosophy (vol. 53, 61), Butchvarov in The Concept
of Knowledge, and Pollock in Knowledge and Justification. They find the absence of any mediating agency
between the knowing person and the private psychological state of which he is aware a guarantee that
misinterpretation is precluded and one cannot be misled. The strength of direct perceptions is their non-inferential
character. The weakness of depending upon these alleged non-inferential certifitudes, however, is far more
compelling.



Perceptual foundations for knowledge are not universal; not every human being can perceive (e.g., the blind), and
not every use of perception turns out to be veridical (e.g., optical illusions). Our perceptions are not defeasible (by
reference, e.g., to "normal perceiver" and "normal circumstance") either, for we cannot be certain that we know
every possible distorting condition or even that none of the known ones presently obtains (since perception would
then be checked for normalcy by the possibly abnormal perceiving itself). The problems of delusion and illusion
preclude our having certainty that it is some external object, which is appearing to us in the way that we are
perceiving (e.g., the case of after-images).


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Wittgenstein's argument against the possibility of private language contends that the identification and
reidentification of one's own psychological states presupposes some public reference point, in which case the
report of a perception would not be the final foundation of knowledge. By arguing against the analytic/synthetic
distinction's viability, Quine and Watkins have indicated that neither term can be elucidated without reference to
the other, in which case conceptual and empirical components are unavoidably involved in every proposition (see
Quine's From a Logical Point of View and Watkin's article in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, vol.
10). Both Wittgenstein and Sellers (Science, Perception and Reality) have faulted the empiricist theory of concept
formation, wherein the forming of the association between a color and a word, for instance, would be paradigmatic
of direct knowledge. It has been pointed out that acquiring any one concept is possible only when the person
already poses other concepts (e.g., shape, sound, location, in addition to color) and can make judgments of
similarity and identity. If, then, concepts cannot be acquired one by one, non-inferential or direct knowledge is
precluded. With the breakdown of the analytic/synthetic distinction and the refutation of the empiricist theory of
concept formation, we must recognize that all observation is unavoidably theory-bound, never being purified of all
interpretation, and thus not being removed from the possibility of error (cf. Quine's Word and Object and Popper's
The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Conjectures and Refutations).



Of course, to speak counter-factually, even if pure and infallible perceptual foundations could be acquired, what
would be the secure or reliable method of reasoning by which we could build a system of thought outward from the
foundations? Deduction would not allow us to accept the most elementary universal propositions about physical
objects on the simple basis of particular perceptions; so we could not even be said to know, for instance, that all
crows are black. Probabilism or inductive reasoning can show neither that its required assumption (that nature is
uniform) is known with certainty nor that it is even probably true, for in that case it would offer an inductive
argument in order to warrant the very premise needed to warrant inductive argumentation. Falsificationism as a
method of reasoning abandons any hope of providing a criterion for being warranted by foundational certitudes; it
offers instead the weaker condition of a belief's being rejected according to the foundation. But even this
weakened approach is of little help to the scientist. No belief is understood in isolation of other beliefs, and no
belief meets the tribunal of sense perception individually. When a man who believes that he is dead is presented
with the counter-evidence that he bleeds, he can choose to abandon the belief that he is dead, or he can reject the
belief that dead men do not bleed (or any number of other beliefs which form of the context of the originally
mentioned belief). Therefore, falsification does not enable us to build a system of knowledge outward from
foundational certitudes, for those foundations can never decisively falsify any particular belief. In the context of
empirical science, the target for the arrow of modus tollens is hopelessly elusive (see Lakatos' article in Criticism
and the Growth of Knowledge, eds. Lakatos and Musgrave).



Failing to provide a secure starting point for reason or a reliable method for the growth of knowledge, the
foundationalist model of science succumbs to scepticism and leaves the justification of one's fundamental
assumptions an open question. The ideal of presuppositionless objectivity is shown to be an illusion, and the threat
arises that there is no ultimately rational way to decide between conflicting claims (e.g., between medicine and
quakery). Hence scepticism has emerged as a strong candidate in modern epistemology, being advocated by
Unger's ignorance and ultimately conceded by Harman's thought and Leherer's knowledge. The implication that all
systems evidence equal cognitive merit has been shamefully welcomed by epistemological anarchists (e.g.,
Feyerabend's Against Method) and fideists (e.g., Phillips' Faith and Philosophical Inquiry). If science is found
wanting in justification, then arbitrariness can no longer be countered or disapprobated.



To the sceptic's challenge that reasoning and its products are unreliable, a response more recent than
foundationalism has developed which can be called the pragmatic model. Here it is contended that, because


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scientific methods have been seen to have a greater potential for rendering beliefs that are true and successful
than other procedures, the standard for judging rationality should be the actual logic of scientific inquiry as
currently practiced. Some of the most prestigious philosophers of our day advocate such an answer (e.g., Quine,
Sellers, Popper), and certainly no intelligent person today wishes to deny the successes of science. Nevertheless,
there clearly exist(ed) people who would ordinarily be deemed rational and yet know (knew) nothing of the
scientific practices of our own culture or era, and it would be a resort to desperation to suggest that they are (or
were) not really "rational." More importantly, it has been shown repeatedly throughout the history of philosophy that
science itself rests upon presuppositions (e.g., general organizing principles of experience) which are neither true
by definition nor evaluated by experience (since it is their role to evaluate experience instead). This has been
observed in the case of Aristotle's categories, Kant's synthetic a priori principles, and Collingwood's absolute
presuppositions. That science depends upon presuppositions which in the nature of the case it cannot justify by its
own methods has been taught by Plato, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, and a host of others - so much so that it
ought to be a commonplace among students of philosophy by now. Therefore, to meet scepticism head-on and to
legitimate science, one will be forced to do philosophy - in which case, if the presuppositions of scientific practice
can be justified at all, philosophy would more appropriately deserve to be taken as the paradigm of "rationality."



The common justification for science and its assumptions which concerns us now is that scientific inquiries as
presently practiced are fruitful - solving important problems and enabling us to cope with the world. The
indebtedness of modern proponents of this answer to Pierce and C. I. Lewis is rather obvious. With science we
may better achieve our goals. The pragmatic answer rests, of course, upon the previous acceptance of a certain
goal, and thus at this point we must not become intellectually lazy but press on and ask critically about the
rationality or arbitrariness of that choice. We can grant the superiority of science's problem-solving tools only after
we are convinced that science is dealing with the right problems in the first place. So then, why should our goal be
that of coping with the environment, instead of the alternative or perhaps more weighty aims of mystical union with
nature, interpersonal rapport, appreciation of beauty, etc.? What justifies adherence to the particular goal chosen
by empirical scientists? Perhaps that goal is simply arbitrary - consequently reintroducing relativism and
scepticism.



To avoid arbitrariness and question-begging an external justification becomes necessary, forcing the pragmatist to
go outside of epistemology and "naturalize" his procedures. This justification is descriptive in nature, claiming that
a given agent succeeds in getting to his given goals if he adheres to a given system or method. When the agent is
an individual and the goal is dictated by self-interest, epistemology is reduced to psychology (e.g., Quine's
"Epistemology Naturalized" or Paget's Genetic Psychology). If the agent is a species and the goal survival,
epistemology reduces to biology (e.g., Popper's Objective Knowledge and Toulmin's Human Understanding).
Taking the agent as a social class and the goal as its domination over other classes, epistemology reduces to
sociology or history (e.g., in Marxist epistemologies and the sociology of knowledge). When the agent is a culture
with the goal of serving its conventional aims, epistemology is reduced to anthropology (e.g., Winch's The Idea of a
Social Science). The trouble with all of these naturalizing epistemologies - which reduce to one branch of
descriptive science or another - is that they answer the request for a justification of science by skirting it.
Epistemology is a normative endeavor, not simply a descriptive enterprise which connects agents, methods, and
goals. The quest for justification is an evaluative one just because the alternative goals need to be appraised as to
their respective values. The recommendations that epistemology be naturalized are but contemporary confessions
of despair in solving ultimate issues of justification, leaving us without a way to rationally criticize or warrant our
goals.[19]



The Lack Of Unity
If the common conception of science as a presuppositionless and strict discipline which overcomes sceptical


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relativism by offering justification for its assumptions and procedures is now recognized as mythical in character,
the view of science as a settled and invariant manner of argumentation fares no better. The whole field of meta-
argumentation (or the philosophy of logic) has been opened up for valuable discussion since the days of Russell
and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica and the early Carnap's teaching. In that former era the formalization of
logical notation and the formal, concise statement of the principles of logic, as well as the defense of the logistic
thesis that mathematics can be reduced to simple logical truths which display a true-under-all-circumstances
character in virtue of their triviality (saying nothing informational about the world of experience), engendered the
view that logic is a formal calculus which does not vary from one field of study to another. From that position the
logical positivists went on to hold that all factual claims must be verifiable by set empirical methods, which would
likewise break down distinctions among the various sciences - once scholars rejected the residual superstitious
premises of certain disciplines (such as the assumption of an "inner world" studied by psychology). What arose
was the movement for a unified science which portrayed the academic division into branches of study as a pure
convenience since all empirical sciences were fundamentally one in method. The settled and unitary character of
science, however, could not long be maintained.



In Dilemmas Ryle accurately observed that the positivists were not dealing with logic as a whole but only with a
subsection of argumentation - one which turned on the meaning of certain terms like 'some', 'all', 'and', 'or', etc.
That is, invariant "formal" logic had been allowed to swallow up the whole domain of informal logic, wherein
arguments turn on different terms and concepts. The investigations and arguments which commonly occupy
scholars in the various scientific disciplines display a pattern in each respective field that is now followed in others.
Accordingly, Ryle said:



            There is no such animal as 'Science.' There are scores of sciences . . . . It is not necessary or
            expedient to pretend that they are fellow-workers in some joint but unobvious missionary
            enterprise. It is better policy to remind them how different and independent their trades actually
            are. . . . The settlement or even partial settlement of a piece of litigation between theories cannot
            be achieved by any one stereotyped maneuver. There is no one regulation move or sequence of
            moves as a result of which the correct logical bearings between the disputing positions can be
            fixed.[20]



There are, then, many logics and not simply one single calculus for weighing arguments.



The Uses of Argument by Toulmin[21] furthered the case against taking logic as a formal calculus to be the whole
of the discipline, thereby absorbing every kind of "logic" into a mathematical ideal or subordinating it to such
purposes. It is descriptively rare for the various branches of science to use the formalized, mathematical ideal of
logic, and even there it is a confused practice to identify or conflate analytic arguments (wherein confirmation rests
solely upon the backing) with deductive arguments (which make no effort to establish new warrants) and then with
formally valid arguments (in which the conclusion merely rearranges the terms found in the warrant and data
premises). Logic should be likened to a court of law which establishes procedures for evaluating different kinds of
evidence, for the obvious fact about working logic is that argumentation differs according to the subject matter in
view. All arguments will use warrants (hypothetical in nature) as a kind of major premise, particular data as a kind
of minor premise, backing for warrants (factual and categorical) in the face of rebuttals, and arrive at conclusions.
However, from field to field, different types of backing will be appropriate, and there will be varying criteria for
evaluating justifications. Arguments in the various fields will use the same vocabulary of "necessary," "probable,"
and "possible" to describe the force of different argument conclusions; however, the criteria for using those terms
will vary. Consequently, with each scientific discipline utilizing its own patterns of seeking certainty, and with


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conclusive arguments no longer being artificially restricted to unsubstantial subject matters (unempirical
formalities), inter-field variance should be recognized as to what counts as "good argumentation."



Some recent philosophers of science have argued further that within a particular scientific discipline it is not
possible to make a decisive choice between equally coherent alternatives as to methods and conclusions (see
Polanyi's Personal Knowledge and Hanson's Patterns of Discovery). In particular Kuhn's Structure of Scientific
Revolutions[22] goes beyond inter-field variance in science to establish the fact of intra-field variance as well;
argumentation will differ from school to school within a particular field of science. To understand the working
history of science, Kuhn speaks of incommensurable paradigms which espouse unique views on the basic issues
of a field, offer a model for problem-solving, stipulate fixed points of conviction, and constitute a disciplinary-matrix
of commitments to particular standards and methods. When such a paradigm triumphs over its competitors within
a field of science, it launches a period of "normal" scientific activity and investigation where series of problems are
dealt with according to the pattern assumed by the paradigm. However when normal science runs into, not simply
counter-examples, but disturbing anomalies which are sufficiently complex to render the paradigm unworkable or
unsatisfactory, the subsequent tension within the field of study will stimulate renewed debate over basic
epistemological questions and encourage random experimentation to be carried out. Eventually, when the old
paradigm is set aside - not without various non-rational means of resistance being utilized to preserve it - a
revolution within the field takes place which may be likened to a gestalt switch, a new paradigm gaining
ascendancy with its own standards of evidence, pattern for procedure, etc. Due to the reconstruction of its
fundamental concepts and criteria, a reconstruction of the field of study itself is actually accomplished. Because
competing paradigms are incompatible and weigh evidence or argumentation differently, the new paradigm does
not succeed by direct verification; competitors argue with each other at cross currents until incidental and "non-
scientific" factors influence a conversion to the new outlook, style, and methodology.



We have surveyed two widely held models of science: the foundationalist model and the pragmatic model. Neither
could be said to be successful in offering a complete and objective justification for beliefs and methods in the
scientific quest for knowledge. We have also surveyed the progressive recognition that rational argumentation and
scientific method are anything but universal, settled, and invariant from field to field or from school to school. Our
survey has led us a great distance away from the ever popular conception of "scientific" study as objective, neutral,
and invariant which is all too easily promulgated in present day theological literature. Hoping to defend the realistic
truth of their commitments by acquiescing to, and then working with, this fictional ideal - guarding whatever
"scientific rationality" they could against charges of subjectivity and relativism - theologians have come to swallow
proverbial "pie in the sky" of a more genuine variety.



Logic: Last Ditch Stand?
At this point it might easily be thought that the want of justification and lack of unity which have been encountered
throughout the other scientific disciplines is at least uncharacteristic of formal logic. Surely there one can find a
consensus on rational, objective method which attains certainty of its own (limited) kind. Such minimal confidence
that one kind of reasoning achieves the strict, presuppositionless invariant ideal of scientific objectivity is
commonly expressed in our evangelical literature of both a scholarly and popularizing variety. The repeated
sentiment is that formal logic has a unique ability to generate absolute epistemological certainty. It is a neutral and
settled discipline. The extent to which evangelical writers in apologetics, for instance, have been captured by this
picture of logic needs to be widely appreciated. It is virtually a platitude in our circles - serving, I fear, to confuse
and intimidate believers regarding important issues of epistemological certainty pertaining to their faith (and its
defense).




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Two important and conflicting approaches to apologetics are represented by Montgomery and Clark; yet their
attitude toward formal logic is in harmony. Montgomery speaks of "the common rationality (the inductive and
deductive procedures) which all men share," and he insists that the "distinction between analytic (purely formal)
and synthetic (content) judgments" shows that "to demand absolute certainty is to obtain pure formality and thus
no knowledge of the world at all." Pursuing this discredited philosophical prejudice that there is a common scientific
method which recognizes a distinction between formal-analytical and empirical-synthetic truths, he expresses the
reverent view of logic as unalterable and as yielding absolutely certain proof. "Only deductive logic and pure
mathematics provide 'apodictic certainty,'" "absolute truth. . . is possible only in formal logic," and "only the
tautology (if A then A) can be proved true." By way of contrast, "the moment the realm of experience is introduced,
'absolute,' 'unalterable' results become impossible," so that "we must depend on probability," for "in the case of
every theory involving statements of fact, PROOF is impossible."[23]



Likewise Clark teaches that, while certainty is impossible with empirical science, memory, common opinion, etc.,
the laws of logic cannot be questioned since they are universal, necessary, and known a priori. The eternal
principles called logic are "the prerequisites of all argumentation," being basic to every aspect of theorizing if
"irrationalism" is to be averted. So settled is logic for Clark that he sees it as "God thinking" and as "the basic
image of God in man." To deprecate or curb logic is, accordingly, pious stupidity, irrationalism, and sin. Any
improvements which are to be made in the science of logic, moreover, "must build upon Aristotelian principles."
For Clark, therefore, logic is "the most certain of all principles" and "the only legitimate test of reason"; "there is no
method of understanding superior to deduction."[24]



Even scholars who do not align with Montgomery's extreme empiricism or Clark's extreme rationalism come to
propound this extreme view of logic. For instance, the moderate Carnell restricted demonstration to logic,
mathematics, and geometry, asserting that historical study could yield only probability and not geometric certainty.
The price logic pays for its objective, settled, and certain status is that of being confined to trivial formality. "Pure
demonstration is operative only within a system of formal symbols, as in logic and mathematics." "As we move
from formal truth . . . to material truth . . . the threat of prejudice intensifies and the likelihood is dispassionate
judgement abates."[25]



The view of logic suggested by these representative writers is not the sole possession of those engaged in serious
evangelical scholarship at a fundamental level; popularizing presentations indicate its prevalence as well. Sproul
tells his audience that logic is the uniform "basis for all science," and repeatedly he speaks as though there are
obvious and settled "canons of logical, formal analysis" which constitute "the test of logic" (singularly expressed);
thus it is important at a primary level that one understand logic and thereby avoid the unacceptable "problem of
ignorance of the laws of logic." Those laws are explicitly portrayed as restricted to "formal truth" and "internal
consistency," as well as being "objective" and "non-negotiable." These standards are beyond reasonable question
but limited to formal certainty. "The only way we can have absolute philosophical certainty about anything is in the
pure formal realm. Now unfortunately that doesn't get us into the real world. And as soon as we get into induction
we get into the level of uncertainty . . . . That word 'certainty' is used at least two different ways: (1) in terms of
philosophical, rational demonstrability which is compelling. Now unfortunately, only formal logic and deduction can
do that" (with the second sense for 'certain' being that of psychological assurance).[26]



Hoover similarly speaks of deduction as "the most certain form of proof," and as "perfect proof" which renders
"inescapable conclusions." Analytical propositions, he asserts, are "absolutely certain but singularly uninformative,"
even as Russell and Whitehead had said. Still logic is the necessary basis for all argumentation which (even in the
synthetic realm) is to be meaningful.[27] Examples could be multiplied further of this basic "conformism" to the

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settled science of formal logic which suggests that it "is and always will be all right just as it is." As Wolterstorff
further observes (painfully but accurately), given such a conformist attitude "contemporary Christian thinkers are
brothers under the skin with the logical positivists"[28] - all the more when the attitude endorses implicitly the
formal/empirical dichotomy and is tied to a unity of science outlook.



The attitude is so easy to acquire in secondary literature and introductions to formal logic, and is so cherished for
various reasons, that a serious look at the actual phenomena of logical study, if one has the stamina to carry it out,
holds the potential for an awakening which can be described as nothing other than rude. It makes us realize that
absolute certainty, full justification, widespread agreement, and presuppositionless neutrality have been mistakenly
taken for granted regarding formal logic. Serious confusion and disagreement within the discipline of logic threaten
it as a model of scientific study, for key conflicts seem irresolvable, especially in the absence of any clear account
of the proper object of logical study and the appropriate evidence for claims about it.



The apparent unity of logic which has been presented to many people is usually achieved through revisionist
surveys of the field and through sociological prejudice. The "logic" which has been of interest to scholars
throughout history is in fact many things, although some writers would hardly let on that it is so. Twenty-three
centuries of Indian (Hindu and Buddhist) logic are commonly omitted altogether, despite the significant fact (among
others) that therein the three traditional laws of thought from Aristotle have varying validity depending on whether
we deal with negations of the nisedha (e.g., 'He will-not love') or paryudasa (e.g., 'He will not-love' or 'Not-he will
love') varieties. The "logic" of thought-hygenic interest (Descartes), of all-encompassing philosophic interest (Kant,
Hegel, Bradley, Husserl), of empirical interest (Mill), of mathematical interest (Boole, De Morgan), and of formal
interest (Russell and Whitehead) are rarely even mentioned for distinguishing. Logics which deal with other basic
concepts than quantity, disjunction, etc. are easily ignored by popular writers (e.g., Deontic, Doxastic, Modal
logics). And even when we restrict our attention to recent, Western, formal logic - first-order, predicate logic with
truth-functional connectives - the illusion of unity often arises either from an unwillingness to raise questions, a
concession to pedagogical utility, or from exclusion of those who hold divergent convictions from an academic
guild (seeing opponents as not even qualifying as true "logicians" or as being too preposterous to invite to
academic conferences on logic).



Because formal logic has been the focus of the most intense philosophical research over the last decades, we will
discuss issues germane to it. The unimpressiveness of the prima facie agreement on many logical rules or
calculations here should be appreciated, not only because the material identification, translation, or interpretation
of formal laws in natural languages (e.g., English, German) remains corrigible, but even more because the truisms
on which logicians have agreed seem utterly impotent in settling (or even tending to settle) the major quarrels
which lie immediately beyond those truisms. That "formal logic" is a "science" in the honorific sense will turn out to
be a pretense of huge proportions. It will be assumed here that our alleged "science" minimally aims to explicate in
precise terms the various intuitive notions of "logical truth" and then by means of rational evidence pick out those
truths for codification in a formal system by which the validity of arguments can be tested. It will turn out, though,
that there is serious disagreement as to what logic is about and, accordingly, how logician's claims should be
warranted.



Let us begin, however, simply by inquiring, what are logical truths, and how is their necessity to be characterized?
Wittgenstein's characterization in terms of tautologies (true under every interpretation of component propositions in
the truth tables) and Carnap's characterization of L-determinates were revisions or explanations of what Leibniz
meant by "true in all possible worlds." Quine wrote that logical truths are such that their truth depends only on the
logical constants (syncategormatic terms) employed, rendering consideration of their descriptive terms inessential.


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Ryle saw logical constants as topic-neutral concepts which are supported solely by their logical powers, as
discerned in the entailments which they advance. The trouble with one and all of these characterizations is that
they will explain what constitutes a logical truth only to those who already understand the notion, for it is repeatedly
used or assumed in the characterizations themselves (e.g., Leibniz was interested in all logically possible worlds,
Quine gives no general characterization of logical constants but simply enumerates them, and Ryle's interest in
entailments assumes the very logical truths which are to be explained).



Well, whatever "logical truths" are, let us at least ask which truths are the logical truths. The history of logic does
not encourage us that an agreed upon list can be formulated by all "reasonable" men, for to our embarrassment
this history is strewn with bitter controversies and conflicts. The reason for this situation is not hard to find: it turns
out that the choice of logical truths is affected by numerous other kinds of questions, for instance the place of
ordinary language analysis, the role in intuition, the selection of a metaphysical entity as the subject matter of logic,
the understanding of reference, or of modality, or of temporality, the adequacy of nominalistic analyses of "all"
statements, the nature and function of the three traditional laws of thought, etc. Not all of the disagreements can
even be valued as profitable in a heuristic fashion. If one approaches logical study reverently, expecting sober
agreement and stability of approach, he will have to become acquainted with the conflicts separating De Morgan
and Hamilton, Mansel or Bradley and Boole or Jevons, Dewey and the logical atomists, Quine or Carnap and
Strawson or Wittgenstein.



Philo and Diodorus argued over how to define implication, (respectively) in a truth-functional or temporalized
sense, even as William of Sherwood and Peter of Spain would disagree later. Ramus hotly disputed the syllogisms
of Aristotle, Valla opposed the third figure of standard syllogistic, the fourth figure was eliminated by Averroes,
Zabarella, De Morgan and Jevons, and the whole issue of the syllogism was a fertile ground for continuing debates
between the Cartesians and Schoolmen. Should singular propositions be admitted to syllogistic (Hospinianus,
Russell) or made equivalent to universal ones (Leibniz, Wallis, Euler)? Are logical operations of subtraction and
division uninterpretable (Jevons, Schroder) or significant (Venn)? Should a proposition such as 'All A is B' be
interpreted extensionally as 'All A's are contained in B' (Hamilton, De Morgan, Boole) or intensionally as 'Property
A contains property B' (Leibniz, Lambert, Jevons, Bradley)? The question of whether universal or categorical
propositions have existential import, overlooked by Aristotle, could not be ignored after the discussions of Abelard,
Leibniz, Venn, Brentano, and others. Discord has existed over negative terms, definite descriptions, and null
classes (as the writings of Russell alone testify). Not only must we countenance these and other disagreements in
the study of logic, we must observe that there has been no general agreement even as to the method by which the
disagreements could be settled. Since these disagreements define effect the acceptance of logical rules or the
validity of arguments, they are surely unsettling in a field allegedly characterized by invariant, obvious, and
absolute proof.



The tendency will be for the dogged advocates of an honorific view of the discipline of logic to retrench, I suppose,
and contend that at least the "three laws of thought" are objectively certain and beyond question. Identity,
contradiction, and excluded middle will be the new, restricted realm of certainty. But little hope can be offered for
this revised confidence in "scientific" objectivity and agreement. The ancient Epicureans were vigorous in rejecting
the law of excluded middle against Stoic logicians. Medieval scholastics, considering the question of truth in
statements expressing future contingencies, were led to reject excluded middle (and to suggest a many-valued
logic, as did Peter de Rivo). And modern physicists who have been concerned with philosophical aspects of
quantum mechanics have also rejected the traditional law of excluded middle in logic. Although some metaphysical
positions cast doubt upon the acceptability of the law (e.g., an Aristotelian view of potentiality in which a thing can
be both potentially-B and not potentially-B, or a Hegelian view where things are historically defined over against
their negations), it is particularly in terms of an epistemological outlook that the law has been found unacceptable
in the last century by the intuitionist school of mathematics or logic (e.g., L. E. J. Brouwer, A. Heyting, in


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Philosophy of Mathematics, eds. Benacerraf and Putnam).



Intuitionist logicians propound a strong form of verificationism, saying that only propositions which can actually be
recognized as true or false can be admitted to be meaningful; it is not enough to know what the conditions of
verification could conceivably be, if we could never be in a position to tell whether the verification is actually
accomplished or not. This emphasis leads to unique explanations of the logical constants, resulting in a whole new
network of inferences which repudiates classic cases of inferential proof. In particular the truth-table definition of
'or' becomes inadequate, for it just may happen that we are not in a position to be warranted in asserting A or in a
position to be warranted in asserting B. Even if B is taken as the negation of A, we cannot a priori assume that we
must be in a position either to verify or to falsify just any claim; some claims are simply undecidable. Consequently
the intuitionist school of logicians reject the law of excluded middle, the law of double negation, and proof by
reductio ad absurdum (i.e., deducing a contradiction from the negation of your thesis). Indeed, scholars working on
many-valued logics (in contrast to the bivalent traditional logic where every proposition is either true or false) have
shown that any number of values can be assigned to the truth tables as an interpretation of a formal system of
logic, and the system will attain formal adequacy nonetheless. Intuitionist and deviant logics are evidence that the
traditional laws of thought are unsuccessful candidates for parade examples of the objective and invariant certainty
of formal logic.



Now then, we do not have a rational and certain answer to the question, what are logical truths? Nor do we have
such an answer for the question, which are the logical truths? There are embarrassing conflicts over those truths,
so we cannot help but go on and ask how logicians come to know or be confident about any particular logical truth.
Russell and others have contended that these logical truths are known a priori, independent of experience. Why,
then, is there no universal agreement among reasonable men about them? When, then, do paradoxes arise in
their use? For instance the theory of sets, which is fundamental to modern formal logic, allows for the set of all sets
which are not members of themselves; this creates a contradiction because the set in question, if it is a member of
itself, is not a member of the set mentioned, whereas if it is not a member of itself, then it IS a member of the set
mentioned - thus either way, it is both. Apart from ad hoc rescuing devices, this self-contradiction in the very
foundation of formal logic allows for the deduction of any and all propositions, which is more than unacceptable for
a system of logic. Furthermore, if logical truths are justified a priori and are thereby universal, unchanging, eternal
truths, why should they in fact (or why should they be thought to) apply repeatedly in the realm of contingent
experience? Why should they be assumed to have anything to do with history, or why should reasoning about
history have these "laws of thought" imposed upon it? Moreover, it is strange that, for an a priori system like
elementary logic ( containing only truth-functional compounds and singular sentences or existential and universal
generalizations involving individual variables), it has been proved that it is impossible to gain a decision procedure
for judging the validity of the system as a whole (cf. A. Church, Journal of Symbolic Logic, 1936).



The justification of logical truths along a posteriori lines was proposed by Mill; we gain confidence in them through
repeated experience, which is then generalized. Of course, some of the suggested logical truths are so complex or
unusual that it is difficult to believe anyone has perceived their instances in experience. But even restricting
attention to the others, it should be seen that if their truth cannot be decided independently of experience, then
they actually become contingent and lose their necessity. Why should a law of logic which is verified in one domain
of experience be taken as true for unexperienced domains as well? If the a priori and a posteriori lines of
justification for logical truths are unconvincing, perhaps these propositions or rules are purely a linguistic
convention about certain symbols (Ayer, Wittgenstein); the laws of logic would not be taken as inexorably dictated,
but rather we impose their necessity on our language. Why, then, are not contradictory systems deemed equally
rational? Why are arbitrary conventions like the logical truths so useful in dealing with problems in the world of
experience? It is certainly odd, also, that if the system of elementary logic is conventionally chosen, there should
be a proposition which is true (of which we are intuitively convinced) and yet unprovable according to the axioms -


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which is what Godel famously demonstrated (in his article, "On Formally Undecidable Propositions . . . , " originally
1931).



Although the preceding discussion only suggests a program for cross-examining various alternative ways of
justifying logical truths, it does give some reason to think that this issue is not an absolutely clear and certain
matter in philosophy, and it does remind us that the approaches taken to the question are far from uniform. If the
question cannot be clearly answered, we can well go on to ask, does the logician have a rational basis for his
claims? When we consider that the lectures and essays by logicians are not likely filled with an uninterrupted
series of tautologies, we can examine those propositions which he is most concerned to convey (e.g., "The
Barbara syllogism is a valid form of argument," "A proposition has the opposite truth value from its negation"), and
at least ask the more general question, what type of evidence does he have for such teachings? Is it the same as
the sort of evidence utilized by the biologist, the mathematician, the lawyer, the mechanic, the artist? How different
is it from these types of evidence? Anyone who reads the relevant contemporary literature in the philosophy of
logic will once again be impressed with two things regarding such questions about the type of evidence available
for logicians' claims: first, some authors fail even to reflect upon them, and second, among those who do there is
rank Disagreement. Is this really the paradigm of objective, settled, rationality?



The variant approaches to the type of evidence we have for logicians' claims really traces back quite naturally to
another question for which logicians offer conflicting answers - namely, the metaphysical question of what kind of
entity is mentioned in logicians' claims. If categorically distinct types of objects are thought to be involved, then
necessarily categorically distinct modes of cognition or methods of verification will be claimed as well. For
instance, should a materialist and a spiritualist agree as to the evidential basis for the claims they will make, one
would surely be confused. Plato's realism and rationalism go hand in hand, just as do Hobbes' nominalism and
empiricism. Thus metaphysical commitments regarding logicians' claims will be quite relevant to the types of
rational support logicians offer for those claims. (Those who wish to resist this truth should consider if their view,
that the nature of reality has no bearing whatsoever on logical truths and functions, is not itself a highly dogmatic,
metaphysical commitment.)



When we turn to the specification of the ultimate subject matter in the study of logic, we find unquestioned
invariance (e.g., Pierce claimed that there were at least a hundred definitions of logic). To the general question,
what basic type of entity is mentioned in logicians' claims?, traditional answers include: (1) inferences, which are
comprised of judgments made up of concepts (e.g., L. J. Russell, Wm. Thomson, J. G. Hibben), (2) arguments,
comprised of propositions made up of terms (Bolzano, Mill, Bosanquet, W. E. Johnson, C. I. Lewis), or (3) proofs,
comprised of sentences made up of names (Hilbert, Carnap, Quine). Especially today in the philosophy of logic do
the best minds in the field, by their own admission, talk about utterly different things with radically divergent kinds
of properties, relations, and modes of cognition. As to the entity which is mentioned in logicians' claims, Frege took
the bearer of truth to be a proposition (cf. Mind, vol. 65; Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege, eds. Geach and
Black) which was existing independently of thought and discourse as a non-sense-perceptible object "grasped" by
a special mode of cognition. Strawson takes it to be a statement, an act of utterance involving words, reference,
and some kind of internal relations to appropriate circumstances (cf. Introduction to Logical Theory); it is not
independent of thought and discourse, but it is non-sense-perceptible. A third major kind of answer offered today
holds that the bearer of truth is a sentence, an event of utterance comprised of the physical phenomena of sound
sequences interrelated by conditioned response (e.g., Quine, Philosophy of Logic; Word and Object); contrary to
Strawson, they have no internal relations and are not immaterial, and contrary to Frege, they are not existing
independent of discourse. As the fundamental entity dealt with in logicians' claims, classes or sets are proposed by
Putnam (cf. Philosophy of Logic); although they are seen as abstract, it is awkward to think of them as the bearers
of truth.



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The unsettled nature of the discipline of logic is nowhere more clearly indicated than in the fact that the leading
scholars in the field cannot even agree as to (1) what their claims are about, or (2) what kind of rational evidence
can be offered for those claims. What little, trivial agreement might appear to be found in certain token inscriptional
sequences similar from writer to writer (e.g., "If A is B, and if B is C, then A is C") are emptied of any rational
significance by differences which are as fundamental as those that have been noted. Morris Cohen, in A Preface
to Logic, freely admits: "if by logic is meant a clear, accurate, and orderly intellectual procedure, then the subject of
logic, as presented in current textbooks, comes near being the most illogical in our chaotic curriculum."[29] Logic
does not turn out to be an invariant field of elementary self-evident beliefs and set procedures by which all
reasonable and educated men have arrived uniformly and with absolute certainty at agreed upon truths, rules, and
evaluations of arguments. Nor has it been found that logic sustains relationship to all other fields of study
(including epistemology and metaphysics) which is solely and uniquely a one-way foundational relationship to
them; we have seen that epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions significantly influence positions taken
in "formal logic" - in which case the discipline can hardly be said to be utterly neutral and objective. The last ditch
stand for the honorific conception of "science" which was introduced earlier, lifting high the banner of formal logic,
must now raise a white flag. Even as with the other disciplines of scholarly study, logic is found wanting in
thorough justification and lacking in unity. Given the honorific conception, not even formal logic can truly count as
"scientific."[30]



Return To The Bible
When we finally return to Kaufmann's critique of theology and its interpretation of Scripture as utterly plastic or
arbitrary, we can understand how Grant's conception of "scientific" study has unfortunately controlled his approach
to hermeneutical subjectivity. In the first place, if "science" - the traditional prophylactic to scepticism and relativism
- is taken as presuppositionless, neutral, and invariant, then Grant would naturally succumb to the thought implicit
in criticisms like Kaufmann's, that diversity of approach and the influence of presuppositions are a threat to the
"scientific" status of Biblical interpretation. Second, the "objectivity" of interpretation will have to be secured by (1)
artificially dividing the overall hermeneutical enterprise into an earlier "scientific" phase and later personally
subjective phase, and (b) gaining restraint upon the later "theological" phase of this enterprise by surrendering sola
Scriptura - that is, breaking the hermeneutical circle by the introduction of autonomous reason and tradition.



The problem, of course, is with Grant's quite incredible conception of science. Neutral, agreed upon,
presuppositionless objectivity in method and conclusions is simply not to be found in science or logic. To point this
out is not, moreover, to discredit science and logic. Nor is it to capitulate to subjective relativism. There is a reality
independent of man's mind, conceptions, and beliefs. That reality can be known; we can arrive at true beliefs about
it which, from among the welter of conflicting claims, can be warranted by good and non-arbitrary evidence. The
normative enterprise of epistemology, in its discussion of justification or rational decision-procedures for conflicting
claims to knowledge, should not be "naturalized." Nor do we need to abandon the cognitive certainty of a secure
starting point (despite psychological insecurities or personal penchants to disagree about it) in abdication to
voluntarism, fideism, obscurantism, unwarranted conjecture, blind prejudice, relativism and scepticism. The
question is not whether Biblical interpretation or any other disciplined study can hope to qualify according to some
mythical conception or ideal of "science," but rather, what realistically constitutes acceptable science.



If - as we should - we view science as the prophylactic to scepticism, and if - as we should not - we continue to
conceive of "science" as objective, neutral, and invariant, then our preceding discussion of science and logic will
indeed make epistemological despair inevitable. Thus we can accept the conclusion, or we can question the
premise of scientific neutrality. In doing the latter, the presuppositional character of theology and hermeneutics (as


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well as variant approaches or conclusions) will not in itself pose a detriment to their scientific status. The critic
would have to go beyond that point in order to have any real point at all.



Our goal should be to formulate a realistic and faithful evangelical view of science which (1) can acknowledge the
crucial function of presuppositions in all theorizing (even Biblical interpretation), and yet (2) preserve non-
arbitrariness by gearing justification procedures to the subject mater in question, while (3) providing the necessary
preconditions for rational study in any area whatever. Science, even as general epistemology, is geared toward
justification of claims, for knowledge is more than simply true belief: it is true belief held on good evidence.
Accordingly, science is by its very nature rule-governed, thereby eliminating personal subjectivism and
arbitrariness. Commitment to such regulated warrant of claims will function within a broader context of one's view
of himself, the world, standards, etc., so that the elements or principles of the regulating warrant-procedures will
comport with each other and be suitable to the subject matter. In this way a community of method is created for
resolving disagreements, and to some degree a more general "way of life" (e.g., a way of thinking, living,
interacting, studying, arguing, applying results) is recognized. If the basic outlook of a way of life or scientific
community is that an extra-personal, definitive, set object of cognition is pursued by its participants, then with
suitable caution, humility, and correction the conflicts which arise will always in principle be resolvable. What in
descriptive practice appear to be equally coherent yet incompatible alternatives within a field of study or a school
of thought cannot in reality be such; re-examination and further study are prescribed. In the foregoing general
sense, evangelical Biblical interpretation - despite interschool and intra-school disagreement - is fundamentally a
science. Ramm puts it this way:



            Hermeneutics is a science in that it can determine certain principles for discovering the meaning
            of a document, and in that these principles are not a mere list of rules but bear organic
            connection to each other.[31]



In light of the very subject matter for interpretive study - a written revelation from God which claims for itself clarity,
sufficiency and ultimate authority in thought and behavior - the Reformers found their regulating hermeneutic within
Scripture itself, which meant that its claims could not be contested, its parts could not be made contradictory, and
its sense had to be the normal (rather than reconstructed) sense found in historico-grammatical context and
according to literary genre in question. Contrary to Grant, hermeneutics does not become a science by suspending
presuppositions or by acquiescing to some authority, commitments, or method lying outside Scripture. Pursuing
sola Scriptura does not imply that one is being "unscientific."



What, then, can we say about conflicts between different scientific communities - between those which submit to
Scripture as clearly interpreting itself and those which challenge that position? How can such a conflict be settled?
Only by a general examination of their fundamental, determining presuppositions. And here, if any discipline is to
have its scientific status preserved against arbitrariness, relativism, and scepticism, it will be forced to return to the
Bible's message about God, the world, man, standards, etc. The justification of fundamental assumptions is not to
be left an open question, and yet just because the assumptions in question are fundamental their warrant must be
indirect - not suspended for examination according to even more fundamental beliefs (which is excluded in the
nature of the case), but warranted in a way which exemplifies and applies them. This will be the "transcendental"
method of arguing from the impossibility of the contrary, and it can conveniently focus on those very assumptions
which we have already noted to be crucial to science and logic: e.g., perception, induction, organizing principles of
experience, necessity, abstract entities, unity and diversity in reality and thinking. Personally and psychologically
some people may not commit themselves to Biblical presuppositions, but these will be the same people who are at
a loss to salvage science in the face of sceptical relativism. It remains to be seen how any unbelieving philosopher


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can give an account of science and logic without an arbitrary "leap of faith."



What we take to be the appropriate tools of interpretation, then, is determined by our conception of the Biblical
message, and those tools in turn warrant, refine, and extend our conception of the message. This hermeneutical
circle is presuppositional in method, and yet it is confidently scientific in character. Our confidence in the
perspicuity of Scripture (based on its own self-testimony) and the validity of the hermeneutical position appropriate
to the Scripture is transcendental in character. Without them, all areas of knowledge would have to be taken as
uncertain, obscure and relative - meaning the decisive defeat of all science and logic. Moreover, the differences
which arise in interpreting the Bible, whether they be minor differences within a theological circle or major
differences between believing and unbelieving readers, are not contrary to the Bible's testimony to its own clarity.
This is because the Biblical message does not assure us that Scripture will contain no difficulties for intense study,
nor does it guarantee that interpreters will not be careless, lazy, sinful, or guilty of reading into the text - and
thereby in need of more perfect submission to the rules (narrowly, the rules for proper handling of the text, or
broadly, the rules for intellectually and practically submitting to the Biblical "way of life").



So then, is Biblical interpretation "scientific"? No, if one means that sola Scriptura must be abandoned so as to
acquiese to an allegedly objective, invariant domain of autonomous reason. No, if one means (counter-factually)
that any science will be characterized by freedom from presuppositional commitments and by pervasive
agreement on methods and beliefs. Does Biblical interpretation then become arbitrary and relative? No, it is as
scientific as any other discipline. Indeed it supplies the very preconditions for all the other sciences. Discarding the
illusion that "science" is marked by settled, invariant, and presuppositionless objectivity, we can not only recognize
that Biblical interpretation is genuinely scientific, but we can further see that it is in fact the tool of the very "queen
of the sciences."



[1] Walter Kaufman, Critique of Religion and Philosophy (New York: Harper and Row, 1958), p. 207.


[2] Ibid., pp. 180, 181, 182, 226-227, 369-370, 373, 377.


[3] Ibid., pp. 211, 212, 219.


[4] Ibid., p. 225.


[5] The Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene 2.


[6] Robert M. Grant, A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible, rev. ed. (New York: Macmilan Co., 1963), pp.
197, 201.


[7] Ibid., pp. 178, 163.


[8] Ibid., p. 196.


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[9] R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1977), pp. 11, 37-40. Only later in
a different setting is it countenanced that subjective involvement plays a role "not only for the purpose of personal
application of the text but for understanding as well" (p. 66).


[10] Grant, Short History of Interpretation, p. 190.


[11] Ibid., pp. 191, 193.


[12] Ibid., pp. 196, 186, 201-202.


[13] Ibid., pp. 11, 12-15, 203-204.


[14] Ibid., pp. 190.


[15] Bernard L. Ramm, "Biblical Interpretation" and "The New Hermeneutic," Hermeneutics by Bernard L. Ramm
and Others (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1971), pp. 20-21, 136, 138.


[16] Simon Kistemaker, "Formation and Interpretation of the Gospels," Interpreting God's Word Today, ed. Simon
Kistemaker (n.p.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1970), p. 79.


[17] R. C. Sproul, "The Case for Inerrancy: A Methodological Analysis," God's Inerrant Word, ed. J. W.
Montgomery (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1974), pp. 248, 250: Objections Answered (Glendale, CA: G/L
Regal Gooks, 1978), pp. 45, 22, 23, 24, 33; cf. Knowing Scripture, pp. 73-74. Quite a different picture of Galileo
emerges in chapters 6-11 of Paul Feyerabend's Against Method (London: Verso, 1975).


[18] The infallible/incorrigible distinction may be pursued in William Alston's "Varieties of Privileged Access,
"American Philosophical Quarterly 8 (July, 1971). I have criticized Wittgenstein's common-sense position on the
quest for certainty in "Pragmatism, Prejudice, and Presuppositionalism," Foundations of Christian Scholarship, ed.
Gary North (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1976).


[19] This altogether too brief survey of foundationalist and pragmatic models of science has drawn upon the
convenient portrayals found in John Kekes, "Recent Trends and Future Prospects in Epistemology,"
Metaphilosophy 8 (April/July, 1977): 87-107, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1976), chapters 4-6.


[20] Gilbert Ryle, Dilemmas (Cambridge: University Press, 1954), pp. 71, 81, 126.




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[21] Stephen Edelston Toulmin, The Uses of Argument (Cambridge: University Press, 1969).


[22] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d ed., enl. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1970).


[23] John Warwick Montgomery, Where is History Going? (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1969), pp. 136-137,
168; The Shape of the Past (Ann Arbor: Edwards Brothers, 1962), pp. 143-144, 229.


[24] Gordon H. Clark, in The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark, ed. Ronald H. Nash (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and
Reformed Publishing Co., 1968), pp. 37, 67-68, 74, 76, 89, 96-97, 122, 126; "Special Divine Revelation as
Rational," Revelation and the Bible, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 37; A
Christian View of Men and Things (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1952), p. 308; Dewey (Philadelphia:
Presbyterian and Reformed, 1960), pp. 67-68.


[25] Edward John Carnell, An Introduction of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), pp.
104-106, 113-114; The Case for Orthodox Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1959), p. 25.


[26] Sproul, Objections Answered, pp. 25, 26, 33, 107, 111, 112; The Psychology of Atheism (Minneapolis:
Bethany Fellowship, 1974), pp. 31, 35; Tape: "Rational Christianity and the Analytical Method" (Feb. 12, 1977.
Reformation Study Center, Los Altos, CA); Tape: "The Sproul-Bahnsen Debate" (Dec. 1, 1977, Reformed
Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS).


[27] Arlie J. Hoover, Dear Agnos: A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), pp. 41-43.


[28] Wolterstorff, Reason Within Bounds, p. 20.


[29] Morris Cohen, A Preface to Logic (New York: Meridian Books, 1957), pp. 15-16.


[30] Much of the preceding discussion has been drawn directly and heavily upon an excellent, forthcoming article
by Dallas Willard, "The Continuing Crisis in the Foundations of Logic"; it has also profited from the discussion of
the philosophy of mathematics in Vern Poythress, "A Biblical View of Mathematics," Foundations of Christian
Scholarship, ed. Gary North (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1976). The "History of Logic" can be conveniently
scanned in the same named article in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan
Publishing Co., 1967) 4: 513-571.


[31] Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 3d rev. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970), p. 11.




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                                 The Encounter of Jerusalem With Athens
                                                                Greg L. Bahnsen


    What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the
    Academy and the Church?... Our instructions come from “the porch of Solomon”.... Away
    with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic
    composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus...!

So said Tertullian in his Prescription against Heretics (VII). Tertullian’s question, what does
Athens have to do with Jerusalem?, dramatically expresses one of the perennial issues in
Christian thought—a problem which cannot be escaped by any Biblical interpreter, theologian, or
apologist. We all operate on the basis of some answer to that question, whether we give it
explicit and thoughtful attention or not. It is not a matter of whether we will answer the question,
but only of how well we will do so.
What does Tertullian’s question ask? It inquires into the proper relation between Athens, the
prime example of secular learning, and Jerusalem, the symbol of Christian commitment and
thought. How does the proclamation of the Church relate to the teaching of the philosophical
Academy? In one way or another, this question has constantly been before the mind of the
church. How should faith and philosophy interact? Which has controlling authority over the
other? How should the believer respond to alleged conflicts between revealed truth and
extrabiblical instruction (in history, science, or what have you)? What is the proper relation
between reason and revelation, between secular opinion and faith, between what is taught
outside the church and what is preached inside?
    This issue is particularly acute for the Christian apologist. When a believer offers a reasoned
defense of the Christian hope that is within him (in obedience to 1 Peter 3:15), it is more often
than not set forth in the face of some conflicting perspective. As we evangelize unbelievers in
our culture, they rarely hold to the authority of the Bible and submit to it from the outset. The
very reason most of our friends and neighbors need an evangelistic witness is that they hold a
different outlook on life, a different philosophy, a different authority for their thinking. How, then,
does the apologist respond to the conflicting viewpoints and sources of truth given adherence by
those to whom he witnesses? What should he think “Athens” has to do with “Jerusalem” just
here?
Christians have long disagreed over the proper strategy to be assumed by a believer in the face
of unbelieving opinions or scholarship. Some renounce extrabiblical learning altogether
(“Jerusalem versus Athens”). Others reject Biblical teaching when it conflicts with secular
thought (“Athens versus Jerusalem”). Some try to appease both sides, saying that the Bible and
reason have their own separate domains (“Jerusalem segregated from Athens”). Others attempt


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a mingling of the two, holding that we can find isolated elements of supportive truth in
extrabiblical learning (“Jerusalem integrated with Athens”). Still others maintain that extrabiblical
reasoning can properly proceed only upon the foundation of Biblical truth (“Jerusalem the capital
of Athens”).

The Biblical Exemplar
Now it turns out that the Bible has not left us in the dark in answering Tertullian’s important
question. Luke’s account of the early church, The Acts of the Apostles, offers a classic
encounter between Biblical commitment and secular thought. And appropriately enough, this
encounter takes place between a superb representative of “Jerusalem”—the apostle Paul—and
the intellectuals of Athens. The exemplary meeting between the two is presented in Acts 17.
Throughout the book of Acts Luke shows us how the ascended Christ established His church
through the apostles. We are given a selective recounting of main events and sermons which
exhibit the powerful and model work of Christ’s servants. They have left us a pattern to follow
with respect to both our message and method today. Thus, it is highly instructive for
contemporary apologists to study the way the apostles, like Paul, reasoned and supported their
message of hope (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). Paul was an expert at suiting his approach to each unique
challenge, and so the manner in which he confronted the Athenian unbelievers who did not
profess submission to the Old Testament Scriptures—like most unbelievers in our own culture—
will be noteworthy for us.
We know that Paul’s approach to such pagans—for instance, those at Thessalonica, where he
had been shortly before coming to Athens—was to call them to turn from idols to serve the living
and true God and to wait for His resurrected Son who would judge the world at the
consummation (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1-10). In preaching to those who were dedicated to idols Paul
naturally had to engage in apologetical reasoning. Proclamation was inseparable from defense,
as F. F. Bruce observes:

    The apostolic preaching was obliged to include an apologetic element if the stumbling-
    block of the cross was to be overcome; the kerygma... must in some degree be apologia.
    And the apologia was not the invention of the apostles; they had all “received” it—
                                             [1]
    received it from the Lord.


The currently popular tendency of distinguishing witness from defense, or theology from
apologetics, would have been preposterous to the apostles. The two require each other and
have a common principle and source: Christ’s authority. Paul’s Christ-directed and apologetical
preaching to pagans, especially those who were philosophically inclined (as in Acts 17), then, is
paradigmatic for apologists, theologians, and preachers alike today.
Although the report in Acts 17 is condensed, Luke has summarized the main points of Paul’s
message and method.

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But is this Paul at His Best?
Some biblical interpreters have not granted that Acts 17 is an exemplar for the proper encounter
of Jerusalem with Athens. Among them there are some who doubt that Paul was genuinely the
author of the speech recorded in this chapter, while others think that Paul actually delivered this
speech but repudiated its approach when he went on to minister at Corinth. Both groups, it turns
out, rest their opinions on insufficient grounds.
A non-evangelical attitude toward the Scripture allows some scholars a supposed liberty to
criticize the authenticity or accuracy of its contents, despite the Bible’s own claim to flawless
perfection as to the truth. In Acts 17:22 Luke identifies the speaker of the Areopagus address as
the apostle Paul, and Luke’s customary historical accuracy is by now well known among
scholars of the New Testament. (Interestingly, classicists have been more generally satisfied
with the Pauline authenticity of this speech than have modernist theologians.) Nevertheless,
some writers claim to discern a radical difference between the Paul of Areopagus and the Paul
of the New Testament epistles. According to the critical view, the Areopagus focuses on world-
history rather than the salvation history of Paul’s letters, and the speaker at Areopagus teaches
that all men are in God by nature, in contrast to the Pauline emphasis on men being in Christ by
         [2]
grace.
These judgments rest upon an excessively narrow perception of the writings and theology of
Paul. The Apostle understood his audience at Athens: they would have needed to learn of God
as the Creator and of His divine retribution against sin (even as the Jews knew these things from
the Old Testament) before the message of grace could have meaning. Thus the scope of Paul’s
theological discussion would necessarily be broader than that normally found in his epistles to
Christian churches. Moreover, as we will see as this study progresses, there are conspicuous
similarities between the themes of the Areopagus address and what Paul wrote elsewhere in his
letters (especially the opening chapters of Romans). Johannes Munch said of the sermon: “its
                                                                                              [3]
doctrine is a reworking of thoughts in Romans transformed into missionary impulse.” Finally,
even given the broader perspective on history found in the address of Acts 17, we cannot
overlook the fact that it, in perfect harmony with Paul’s more restricted salvation-history
elsewhere, is bracketed by creation and final judgment, and that it finds its climax in the
resurrected Christ. The speech before the Areopagus was a “plea for the Jewish doctrine of
                                                                                                    [4]
God, and for the specifically Christian emphasis on a ‘Son of Man’ doctrine of judgment”                  (not
                                                                                                          [5]
an “idealized scene” printing a message about man’s [alleged] “dialectical relation to God”).
The Paul on Areopagus is clearly the same Paul who writes in the New Testament epistles.
Did Paul suddenly shift his apologetical strategy after leaving Athens though? It has sometimes
been thought that when Paul went on from Athens to Corinth and there determined to know
nothing among the people except Christ crucified, repudiating the excellency of wisdom (1 Cor.


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2:1-2), he confessed that his philosophical tactics in Athens had been unwise. Disillusioned with
his small results in Athens, Paul prematurely departed the city, we are told, and then came to
Corinth and became engrossed in the word of God (Acts 18:5), never to use philosophical style
        [6]
again. This outlook, while intriguing, consists of more speculation and jumping to conclusions
than hard evidence.
In the first place, Paul is herein portrayed as a novice in Gentile evangelism at Athens,
experimenting with this and that tactic in order to find an effective method. This does not square
with the facts. For several years Paul had already been a successful evangelist in the world of
pagan thought; moreover, he was not of an experimental mindset, and elsewhere he made plain
that favorable results were not the barometer of faithful preaching. Besides, in Athens his
results were not completely discouraging (17:34). And of a premature departure from Athens
the text says nothing. After leaving Athens, Paul can hardly be said to have abandoned the
disputing or “dialogue” for which he became known at Athens (cf 17:17); it continued in Corinth
(18:4), Ephesus (18:19), and Troas (20:6-7)—being a daily exercise for two years in the school
of Tyrannus (19:8-9). It is further inaccurate to project a contrast between post-Athens Paul,
engrossed in the word, and Athenian Paul, absorbed in extrabiblical thought. Some Greek texts
of Acts 17:24-29 (e.g., Nestle’s) list up to 22 Old Testament allusions in the margin, thus
showing anything but a neglect of the Scriptural word in Paul’s Athenian preaching!
Mention can again be made of the enlightening harmony that exists between Paul’s writings, say
in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 1, and his speech in Acts 17. The passages in the epistles help
us understand the apologetical thrust of the Areopagus address, rather than clashing with it—as
the subsequent study will indicate. Finally, it is quite difficult to imagine that Paul, who had
previously declared “Far be it from me to glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal.
6:14), and who incisively taught the inter-significance of the death and resurrection of Christ (e.
g., Rom. 4:25), would proclaim Christ as the resurrected one at Athens without explaining that
He was also the crucified one—only later (in Corinth) to determine not to neglect the crucifixion
again. We must conclude that solid evidence of a dramatic shift in Paul’s apologetic mentality
simply does not exist.
What Luke portrays for us by way of summary in Acts 17:16-34 can confidently be taken as a
speech of the Apostle Paul, a speech which reflected his inspired approach to Gentiles without
the Bible, a speech consistent with his earlier and later teachings in the epistles. His approach
is indeed an exemplar to us. It was specially selected by Luke for inclusion in his summary
history of the early apostolic church. “Apart from the brief summary of the discourse at Lystra...,
the address at Athens provides our only evidence of the apostle’s direct approach to a pagan
                [7]
audience.” With respect to the author’s composition of Acts, Martin Dibelius argues: “In giving
only one sermon addressed to Gentiles by the great apostle to the Gentiles, namely the
Areopagus speech in Athens, his primary purpose is to give an example of how the Christian
                                                                           [8]
missionary should approach cultured Gentiles.”                                   And in his lengthy study, The Areopagus

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Speech and Natural Revelation, Gartner correctly asks this rhetorical question: “How are we to
explain the many similarities between the Areopagus speech and the Epistles if the speech did
                                                                                              [9]
not exemplify Paul’s customary sermons to the Gentiles?” In the encounter of Jerusalem with
Athens as found in Paul’s Areopagus address, we thus find that it was genuinely Paul who was
speaking, and that Paul was at his best. Scripture would have us, then, strive to emulate his
method.

Intellectual Backgrounds
Before looking at Acts 17 itself, a short historical and philosophical background for the speaker
of and listeners to, the Areopagus address would be helpful.
Paul was a citizen of Tarsus, which was not an obscure or insignificant city (Acts 21:39). It was
the leading city of Cilicia and famed as a city of learning. In addition to general education,
Tarsus was noted for its schools devoted to rhetoric and philosophy. Some of its philosophers
gained significant reputations, especially the Stoic leaders Zeno of Tarsus (who cast doubt on
the idea of a universal conflagration), Antipater of Tarsus (who addressed a famous argument
against Carneade’s skepticism), Heraclides of Tarsus (who abandoned the view that “all
mistakes are equal”), and Athenodorus the Stoic (who was a teacher of Augustus); Nestor the
Academic followed Athenodorus, evidencing thereby the variety of philosophic perspectives in
Tarsus. The city surely exercised an academic influence on Paul, an influence which would
have been broadened later in Paul’s life when he came into contact with its culture again for
some eight years or so, three years following his conversion. In his early years Paul was also
educated by Gamaliel in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3), where he excelled as a student (Gal. 1:14). His
course of study would have included critical courses in Greek culture and philosophy (as
evidence from the Talmud indicates). When we add to this the extensive knowledge of Greek
literature and culture which is reflected in his letters, it is manifest that Paul was neither naive
nor obscurantist when it came to a knowledge of philosophy and Gentile thought. Given his
background, training, and expertise in Scriptural theology, Paul was the ideal representative for
the classic confrontation of Jerusalem with Athens.
Athens, the philosophical center of the ancient world, was renowned for its four major schools:
The Academy (founded ca. 287 B.C.) of Plato, the Lyceum (335 B.C.) of Aristotle, the Garden
(306 B.C.) of Epicurus, and the Painted Porch (300 B.C.) of Zeno.
The outlook of the Academy was radically altered by Arcesilaus and Carneades in the third and
second centuries before Christ; respectively, they moved the school into utter skepticism and
then probabilism. Carneades relegated the notion of god to impenetrable mystery. When
Antiochus of Ascalon claimed to restore the “old Academy” in the first century B.C., in actuality
he introduced a syncretistic dogmatism which viewed Stoicism as the true successor to Plato.
The Platonic tradition is remembered for the view that man’s soul is imprisoned in the body; at
death man is healed, as his soul is released from its tomb.
This anti-materialist emphasis was somewhat challenged by Aristotle’s Peripatetic school, which

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denied the possibility of immortality and invested much time in specialized empirical study and
classification of the departments of knowledge. The influence of this school had greatly
weakened by the time of the New Testament. However, its materialistic proclivity was paralleled
in the atomism of Epicureanism.
Democritus had earlier taught that the universe consisted of eternal atoms of matter, ever falling
through space; the changing of combinations and configurations of these falling atoms was
explained by reference to chance (an irrational “swerve” in the fall of certain atoms). This
metaphysic, in combination with an epistemology which maintained that all knowledge stemmed
from sense perception, led the Epicurean followers of atomism to believe that a naturalistic
explanation of all events could and should be given. By their doctrine of self-explanatory
naturalism the Epicureans denied immortality thereby declaring that there was no need to fear
death. Moreover, whatever gods there may be would make no difference to men and their
affairs. Epicurus taught that long-lasting pleasure was the goal of human behavior and life.
Since no after-life was expected (at death a person’s atoms disperse into infinite space), human
desires should focus on this life alone. And in this life the only genuine long-term pleasure was
that of tranquility—being freed from disturbing passions, pains, or fears. To gain such tranquility
one must become insulated from disturbances in his life (e.g., interpersonal strife, disease),
concentrating on simple pleasures (e.g., a modicum of cheese and wine, conversations with
friends) and achieving serenity through the belief that gods never intervene in the world to
punish disobedient behavior. Indeed, whatever celestial beings there are, they were taken
merely as dream-like images who—in deistic fashion—care nothing about the lives of men.
Thus Philodemus wrote: “There is nothing to fear in god. There is nothing to be alarmed at in
death.” The Epicureans were, as is evident here, antagonistic to theology. Epicurus had taught
them to appeal to right reason against superstition. Accordingly Lucretius denied any need for
recourse to “unknown gods” in order to explain the plague at Athens or its alleviation.
Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school, agreed that sensation was the sole origin of knowledge,
and that the mind of man was a tabula rasa at birth. However, against Epicurean materialism,
he taught that reason governs matter in both man and the world, thus making man a microcosm
of the universal macrocosm. Man was viewed as integrated with nature—man’s reason seen as
being of a piece with the ever-living fire which permeates the world order. This was the “Logos”
for the Stoics. As a kind of refined matter that actively permeates all things and determines what
will happen, the Logos was the unchanging rational plan of historical change. Nature’s highest
expression, then, was reason or the world-soul, being personified eventually as god. In addition
to this pantheistic thrust, Zeno expounded a cyclic view of history (moving through conflagration-
regeneration sequences) which precluded individual immortality. Being subordinated to
immanent forces (the divine world-soul and historical determinism) the individual was exhorted
to “live in harmony with nature,” not concerning himself with matters which were beyond his
control. If life was to be conducted “conformably to nature,” and reason was nature’s basic
expression, then virtue for man was to live in harmony with reason. The rational element in man


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was to be superior to the emotional. Epictetus wrote that men cannot control events, but they
can control their attitude toward events. So everything outside reason, whether it be pleasure,
pain, or even death, was to be viewed as indifferent. Stoicism gave rise to a serious attitude,
resignation in suffering, stern individualism, and social self-sufficiency. In turn, these
achievements produced pride. Aratus and Cleanthes, two pantheistic Stoics of the mid-third
century B.C., viewed Zeus as a personification of the unavoidable fate which governs man’s life.
Later Stoics either abandoned or modified much of Zeno’s teaching. For instance, a century
after Cleanthes, Panaetius essentially became a humanist who saw theology as idle chatter; and
a century after Panaetius another Stoic leader, Posidonius (Cicero’s instructor), opted for a
Platonic view of the soul, the eternality of the world (contrary to the idea of conflagration), and
the dynamic continuity of nature under fate. The famous Roman Stoic, Seneca, was a
contemporary of Paul.
A final line of thinking which was influential in Athens in Paul’s day (mid-first century A.D.) was
that of the neopythagoreans. In the late sixth century B.C. Pythagoras had taught a
mathematical basis for the cosmos, the transmigration of souls, and a regime of purity. Mixed
with the thought of Plato, the Peripatetics, and Stoicism, his thought reappeared in the first
century B.C. with the neopythagoreans, who emphasized an exoteric and mystical theology
which took a keen interest in numbers and the stars. The neophythagoreans influenced the
                                                                                              [10]
Essene community as well as Philo—Paul’s other philosophical contemporary.
In Paul’s day Athenian intellectual life had come to be characterized by turmoil and uncertainty.
Skepticism had made heavy inroads, which in turn fostered various reactions—notably:
interaction between the major schools of thought, widespread eclecticism, nostalgic interest in
the past founders of the schools, religious mysticism, and resignation to hedonism. Men were
turning every which way in search for the truth and for security. On the other hand, over four
hundred years of philosophical dispute with its conflicts, repetitions, and inadequacies had left
many Athenians bored and thirsty for novel schemes of thought. Thus one can understand
Luke’s accurate and insightful aside to the reader in Acts 17:21, “Now all the Athenians and the
strangers sojourning there spent time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new
thing.” The curiosity of the Athenians was indeed proverbial. Earlier, Demosthenes had
reproached the Athenians for being consumed with a craving for “fresh news”. The Greek
historian, Thucydides, tells us that Cleon once declared, “You are the best people for being
deceived by something new which is said.” With this background let us now examine Paul’s
apologetic to secular intellectuals.

Paul’s Encounter with the Philosophers
Acts 17:16-21 (American Standard Version)
     (16) now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he
     beheld the city full of idols.
     (17) so he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the


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       marketplace every day with them that met him.
       (18) and certain also of the epicurean and stoic philosophers encountered him. And some
       said, what would this babbler say? Others, he seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods:
       because he preached Jesus and the resurrection.
       (19) and they took hold of him, and brought him unto the Areopagus, saying, may we know
       what this new teaching is, which is spoken by thee?
       (20) for thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what
       these things mean.
       (21) (now all the Athenians and the strangers sojourning there spent their time in nothing
       else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing.)

In the early 50’s of the first century Paul was on something of a “missionary furlough,” waiting in
Athens for Silas and Timothy. (Luke’s rehearsal of this situation, Acts 17:14-16, is confirmed by
Paul’s own account in 1 Thess. 3: 1-2). However, his brief relief was broken when he became
internally provoked at the idolatry of the city, being reminded anew of the perversity of the
unbeliever who suppresses God’s clear truth and worships the creature rather than the Creator
(Acts 17:16; cf. Rom. 1:25). Paul’s love for God and His standards meant he had a
corresponding hatred for that which was offensive to the Lord. The idolatry of Athens produced
a strong and sharp emotional disturbance within him, one of exasperated indignation. The
Greek word for “provoked” is the same as that used in the Greek Old Testament for God’s anger
at Israel’s idolatry (e.g., at Sinai). The Mosaic law’s prohibition against idolatry was obviously
binding outside of Old Testament Israel, judging from Paul’s attitude toward the idolatrous
society of Athens. Paul was thinking God’s thoughts after Him, and strong emotion was
generated by the fact that this “city full of idols” was “without excuse” for its rebellion (Rom. 1:20)
—as also had been Israel of old.
The profligate Roman satirist, Petronius, once said that it was easier to find a god in Athens than
a man; the city simply teemed with idols. Visitors to Athens and writers (e.g., Sophocles, Livy,
Pausanius, Strabo, Josephus) frequently remarked upon the abundance of religious statues in
Athens. According to one, Athens had more idols than all of the remainder of Greece
combined. There was the altar of Eumenides (dark goddesses who avenge murder) and the
hermes (statues with phallic attributes, standing at every entrance to the city as protective
talismans). There was the altar of the Twelve Gods, the Temple of Ares (or “Mars,” god of war),
the Temple of Apollo Patroos. Paul saw the image of Neptune on horseback, the sanctuary of
Bacchus, the forty foot high statue of Athena, the mother goddess of the city. Sculptured forms
of the Muses and the gods of Greek mythology presented themselves everywhere around Paul.
[11]
    What is today taken by tourists as a fertile field of aesthetic appreciation—the artifacts left
from the ancient Athenian worship of pagan deities—represented to Paul not art but despicable
and crude religion. Religious loyalty and moral considerations precluded artistic compliments.
These idols were not “merely an academic question” to Paul. They provoked him. As Paul
gazed upon the Doric Temple of the patron goddess Athena, the Parthenon, standing atop the

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Acropolis, and as he scrutinized the Temple of Mars on the Areopagus, he was not only struck
with the inalienable religious nature of man (v.22), but also outraged at how fallen man
exchanges the glory of the incorruptible God for idols (Rom. 1:23).
Thus Paul could not keep silent. He began daily to reason with the Jews in the synagogue, and
with anybody who would hear him in the agora, at the bottom of the Acropolis, the center of
Athenian life and business (where years before, Socrates had met men with whom to discuss
philosophical questions) (v.17). Paul’s evangelistic method was always suited to the local
conditions—and portrayed with historical accuracy by Luke. In Ephesus Paul taught in the
“school of Tyrannus,” but in Athens his direct approach to the heathen was made in the
marketplace. Paul had already approached the unbelieving Jews and God-fearing Gentiles at
the synagogue in Athens. Now he entered the marketplace of ideas to “reason with” those who
met him there. The Greek word for Paul’s activity recalls the “dialogues” of Plato wherein
Socrates discusses issues of philosophical importance; it is the same word used by Plutarch for
the teaching methods of a peripatetic philosopher. Paul did not simply announce his viewpoint;
he discussed it openly and gave it a reasonable defense. He aimed to educate his audience,
not to make common religious cause with their sinful ignorance.
Paul was well aware of the philosophical climate of his day. Accordingly he did not attempt to
use premises agreed upon with the philosophers, and then pursue a “neutral” method of
argumentation to move them from the circle of their beliefs into the circle of his own convictions.
When he disputed with the philosophers they did not find any grounds for agreement with Paul
at any level of their conversations. Rather, they utterly disdained him as a “seed-picker,” a slang
term (originally applied to gutter-sparrows) for a peddler of second-hand bits of pseudo-
philosophy—an intellectual scavenger (v. 18). The word of the cross was to them foolish (1 Cor.
1:18), and in their pseudo-wisdom they knew not God (1 Cor. 1:20-21). Hence Paul would not
consent to use their verbal “wisdom” in his apologetic, lest the cross of Christ be made void (1
Cor. 1:17).
Paul rejected the assumptions of the philosophers in order that he might educate them in the
truth of God. He did not attempt to find common beliefs which would serve as starting points for
an uncommitted search for “whatever gods there may be.” His hearers certainly did not
recognize commonness with Paul’s reasoning; they could not discern an echo of their own
thinking in Paul’s argumentation. Instead, they viewed Paul as bringing strange, new teaching to
them (vv. 18-20). They apparently viewed Paul as proclaiming a new divine couple: “Jesus” (a
masculine form that sounds like the greek iasis) and “Resurrection” (a feminine form), being the
personified powers of “healing” and “restoration.” These “strange deities” amounted to “new
teaching” in the eyes of the Athenians. Accusing Paul of being a propagandist for new deities
was an echo of the nearly identical charge brought against Socrates four and a half centuries
          [12]
earlier.   It surely turned out to be a more menacing accusation than the name “seed-picker.”
As introducing foreign gods, Paul could not simply be disdained; he was also a threat to
Athenian well-being. And that is precisely why Paul ended up before the Areopagus council.

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In the marketplace Paul had apologetically proclaimed the fundamental, apostolic kerygma
which entered on Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18; cf. Acts 4:2). This summed up God’s
decisive saving work in history for His people: Christ had been delivered up for their sins, but
God raised Him for their justification (Rom. 4:25) and thereby constituted Him the Son of God
with power (i.e. exalted Lord; Rom. 1:4). As mentioned previously, Paul’s approach to those
who were without the Scriptures was to challenge them to turn from their idolatry and serve the
living God, whose resurrected Son would finally judge the world (cf. 1 Thess. 1:9-10). This was
the burden of Paul’s message at Athens.

    Paul was determined to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ and Him crucified....
    in His resurrection through the power of the Creator there stood before men the clearest
    evidence that could be given that they who would still continue to serve and worship the
    creature would at last be condemned by the Creator then become their Judge (Acts
    17:31)....No one can be confronted with the fact of Christ and of His resurrection and fail
                                                                                               [13]
    to have his own conscience tell him that he is face to face with his Judge.

It was specifically the aspect of Christ’s resurrection in Paul’s gospel that elicited a challenge
from the philosophers. At this they hauled him before the Areopagus Council for an explanation
and reasoned defense of the hope that was in him (cf. 1 Peter 1:3; 3:15).
Luke tells us that Paul was “brought before the Areopagus” (v.19). The Areios pagos literally
means “‘the hill of Ares” (or “Mars’ hill”); however, his referent is not likely a geographical feature
in the local surrounding of the agora. The Council of the Areopagus was a venerable
commission of the ex-magistrates which took its name from the hill where it originally convened.
In popular parlance its title was shortened simply to “the Areopagus,” and in the first century it
had transferred its location to the Stoa Basileios (or “Royal Portico”) in the city marketplace—
where the Platonic dialogues tell us that Euthyphro went to try his father for impiety and where
Socrates had been tried for corrupting the youth with foreign deities. Apparently the Council
convened on Mars’ hill in Paul’s day only for trying cases of homicide. That Paul “stood in the
midst of the Areopagus” (v.22) and “went out from their midst” (v. 33) is much easier understood
                                                                                                      [14]
in terms of his appearance before the Council than his standing on the hill (cf. Acts 4:7).
The Council was a small but powerful body (probably about thirty members) whose membership
was taken from those who had formerly held offices in Athens which (due to the expenses
involved) were open only to aristocratic Athenians. This Council was presently the dominating
factor in Athenian politics, and it had a reputation far and wide. Cicero wrote that the Areopagus
assembly governed the Athenian affairs of state. They exercised jurisdiction over matters of
religion and morals, taking concern for teachers and public lecturers in Athens (and thus Cicero
once induced the Areopagus to invite a peripatetic philosopher to lecture in Athens). A dispute
exists over the question of whether the Areopagus had an educational subcommittee before


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                                                               [15]
which Paul likely would have appeared.        But one way or another, the Council would have
found it necessary to keep order and exercise some control over lecturers in the agora. Since
Paul was creating something of a disturbance, he was “brought before the Areopagus” for an
explanation (even if not for a specific examination toward the issuance of a teaching license).
The mention of “the Areopagus” is one of many indicators of Luke’s accuracy as a historian.
“According to Acts, therefore, just as Paul is brought before the strategoi at Philippi, the
politarchai at Thessalonica, the anthupatos at Corinth, so at Athens he faces the Areopagus.
                                                                                               [16]
The local name for the supreme authority is in each case different and accurate.”
Paul appeared before the Areopagus Council for a reason that probably lies somewhere
between that of merely supplying requested information and that of answering to formal
charges. After indicating the questions and requests addressed to Paul before the Areopagus,
Luke seems to offer the motivation for this line of interrogation in verse 21—the proverbial
curiosity of the Athenians. And yet the language used when Luke says in verse 19 that “they
took hold of him” is more often than not in Acts used in the sense of arresting someone (cf.
16:19; 18:17; 21:30—although not always, as in 9:27, 23:19). We must remember that Luke
wrote the book of Acts while Paul had been awaiting trial in Rome for two years (Acts 28:30-31).
His hope regarding the Roman verdict was surely given expression in the closing words of his
book—that Paul continued to preach Christ, “none forbidding him.” An important theme pursued
by Luke in the book of Acts is that Paul was continually appearing before a court, but never with
a guilty verdict against him. Quite likely, in Acts 17 Paul is portrayed by Luke as again
appearing before a court without sentencing. Had there been the legal formality of charges
against Paul, it is inconceivable that Luke would not have mentioned them or the formal verdict
at the end of the trial. Therefore, Paul’s appearance before the Areopagus Council is best
understood as an informal exploratory hearing for the purpose of determining whether formal
charges ought to be formulated and pressed against him. Eventually none were.
In the same city which had tried Anaxagoras, Protagoras, and Socrates for introducing “new
deities,” Paul was under examination for setting forth “strange gods” (vv. 18-20). The kind of
apologetic for the resurrection which he presented is a paradigm for all Christian apologists. It
will soon be apparent that he recognized that the fact of the resurrection needed to be accepted
and interpreted in a wider philosophical context, and that the unregenerate’s system of thought
had to be placed in antithetic contrast with that of the Christian. Although the philosophers had
used disdainful name-calling while considering Paul in the marketplace (v. 18), verses 19-20
show them expressing themselves in more refined language before the Council. They politely
requested clarification of a message which had been apparently incomprehensible to them.
They asked to be made acquainted with Paul’s strange new teaching and to have its meaning
explained. Given their philosophical presuppositions and mindset, Paul’s teaching could not
even be integrated sufficiently into their thinking to be understood. This in itself reveals the
underlying fact that a conceptual paradigm clash had been taking place between them and


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Paul. Given their own worldviews, the philosophers did not think that Paul’s outlook made
sense. As Paul stood in the midst of the prestigious Council of the Areopagus, with a large
audience gathered around from the marketplace, he set himself for a defense of his faith. Let us
turn to examine his address itself.

Paul’s Presuppositional Procedure
Acts 17:22-31 (American Standard Version)
     (22) and Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus, and said, ye men of Athens, in all things
     I perceive that ye are very religious (margin: somewhat superstitious).
     (23) for as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar
     with this inscription, to an Unknown God. What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set
     forth unto you.
     (24) the God that made the world and all things therein, he, being lord of heaven and earth,
     dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
     (25) neither is he served by men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself
     giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
     (26) and he made of one every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth, having
     determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation;
     (27) that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he is
     not far from each one of us:
     (28) for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets
     have said, for we are also his offspring.
     (29) being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the godhead is like unto
     gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and device of man.
     (30) the times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that
     they should all everywhere repent:
     (31) inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness
     by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that
     he hath raised him from the dead.

It must first be noted that Paul’s manner of addressing his audience was respectful and gentle.
The boldness of his apologetic did not become arrogance. Paul “stood” in the midst of the
Council, which would have been the customary attitude of an orator. And he began his address
formally, with a polite manner of expression: “You men of Athens.” The magna carta of Christian
apologetics, 1 Peter 3:15, reminds us that when we offer a reasoned defense of the hope within
us, we must do so “with meekness and respect.” Ridicule, anger, sarcasm, and name-calling
are inappropriate weapons of apologetical defense. A Spirit-filled apologist will evidence the
fruits of the Spirit in his approach to others.
Next we see that Paul’s approach was to speak in terms of basic philosophical perspectives.
The Athenians had specifically asked about the resurrection, but we have no hint that Paul
replied by examining various alternative theories (e.g., Jesus merely swooned on the cross, the
disciples stole the body, etc.) and then by countering them with various evidences (e.g., a weak

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victim of crucifixion could not have moved the stone; liars do not become martyrs; etc.) in order
to conclude that “very probably” Jesus arose. No, nothing of the sort appears here. Instead,
Paul laid the presuppositional groundwork for accepting the authoritative word from God, which
was the source and context of the good news about Christ’s resurrection. Van Til comments:

    It takes the fact of the resurrection to see its proper framework and it takes the framework
    to see the fact of the resurrection; the two are accepted on the authority of Scripture
                                                                                  [17]
    alone and by the regenerating work of the Spirit.

Without the proper theological context, the resurrection would simply be a monstrosity or freak of
nature, a surd resuscitation of a corpse. Such an interpretation would be the best that the
Athenian philosophers could make of the fact. However, given the monism, or determinism, or
materialism, or the philosophy of history entertained by the philosophers in Athens, they could
intellectually find sufficient grounds, if they wished, for disputing even the fact of the
resurrection. It would have been futile for Paul to argue about the facts, then, without
                                                                          [18]
challenging the unbelievers’ philosophy of fact.
Verses 24-31 of Acts 17 indicate Paul’s recognition that between his hearers and himself two
complete systems of thought were in conflict. Any alleged fact or particular evidence which was
introduced into the discussion would be variously seen in the light of the differing systems of
thought. Consequently, the Apostle’s apologetic had to be suited to a philosophical critique of
the unbeliever’s perspective and a philosophical defense of the believer’s position. He was
called upon to conduct his apologetic with respect to worldviews which were in collision. The
Athenians had to be challenged, not simply to add a bit more information (say, about a historical
event) to their previous thinking, but to renounce their previous thoughts and undergo a thorough
change of mind. They needed to be converted in their total outlook on life, man, the world, and
God. Hence Paul reasoned with them in a presuppositional fashion.
The basic contours of a Biblically guided, presuppositional approach to apologetical reasoning
can be sketched from scriptures outside of Acts 17. Such a summary will give us sensitivity and
insight into Paul’s argumentation before the Areopagus.
(1) Paul understood that the unbeliever’s mindset and philosophy would be systemically contrary
to that of the believer—that the two represent in principle a clash of total attitude and basic
presuppositions. He taught in Ephesians 4:17-24 that the Gentiles “walk in the vanity of their
mind, being darkened in their understanding” because of their “ignorance and hardened hearts,”
while a completely different epistemic condition characterizes the Christian, one who has been
“renewed in the spirit of your mind” and has “learned Christ” (for “the truth is in Jesus”). The
“wisdom of the world” evaluates God’s wisdom as foolishness, while the believer understands
that worldly wisdom “has been made foolish” (1 Cor. 1:17-25; 3:18-20). The basic commitments
of the believer and unbeliever are fundamentally opposed to each other.


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(2) Paul further understood that the basic commitments of the unbeliever produced only
ignorance and foolishness, allowing an effective internal critique of his hostile worldview. The
ignorance of the non-Christian’s presuppositions should be exposed. Thus Paul refers to
thought which opposes the faith as “vain babblings of knowledge falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20),
and he insists that the wise disputers of this age have been made foolish and put to shame by
those called “foolish” (1 Cor. 1:20, 27). Unbelievers become “vain in their reasonings”;
“professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:21, 22).
(3) By contrast, the Christian takes revelational authority as his starting point and controlling
factor in all reasoning. In Colossians 2:3 Paul explains that “all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge” are deposited in Christ—in which case we must be on the alert against philosophy
which is “not after Christ,” lest it rob us of this epistemic treasure (v. 8). The Old Testament
proverb had put it this way: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge, but fools
despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). Accordingly, if the apologist is going to cast down
“reasonings and every high thing exalted against the knowledge of God” he must first bring
“every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5), making Christ pre-eminent
in all things (Col. 1:18). Upon the platform of God’s revealed truth, the believer can
authoritatively declare the riches of knowledge unto believers.
(4) Paul’s writings also establish that, because all men have a clear knowledge of God from
general revelation, the unbeliever’s suppression of the truth results in culpable ignorance. Men
have a natural and inescapable knowledge of God, for He has made it manifest unto them,
making his divine nature perceived through the created order, so that all men are “without
excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20). This knowledge is “suppressed in unrighteousness” (v. 18), placing
men under the wrath of God, for “knowing God, they glorified Him not as God” (v. 21). The
ignorance which characterizes unbelieving thought is something for which the unbeliever is
morally responsible.
(5) Given the preceding conditions, the appropriate thing for the apologist to do is to set his
worldview with its scriptural presuppositions and authority in antithetical contrast to the worldview
(s) of the unbeliever, explaining that in principle the latter destroys the possibility of knowledge
(that is, doing an internal critique of the system to demonstrate its foolishness and ignorance)
and indicating how the Biblical perspective alone accounts for the knowledge which the
unbeliever sinfully uses. By placing the two perspectives in contrast and showing “the
impossibility of the contrary” to the Christian outlook, the apologist seeks to expose the
unbeliever’s suppression of his knowledge of God and thereby call him to repentance, a change
in his mindset and convictions. Reasoning in this presuppositional manner—refusing to become
intellectually neutral and to argue on the unbeliever’s autonomous grounds—prevents having
our “minds corrupted from the simplicity and purity that is toward Christ” and counteracts the
beguiling philosophy used by the serpent to ensnare Eve (2 Cor. 11:3). In the face of the fool’s
challenges to the Christian faith, Paul would have believers meekly “correct those who are
opposing themselves”—setting Biblical instruction over against the self-vitiating perspective of


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unbelief—and showing the need for “repentance unto the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).
[19]

As we look further now at Paul’s address before the Areopagus philosophers, we will find that
his line of thought incorporated the preceding elements of Biblically presuppositional reasoning.
He pursued a pattern of argument which was completely congruous with his other relevant New
Testament teachings. They virtually dictated his method to him.

The Unbeliever’s Ignorance
As Paul began his Areopagus apologetic, he began by drawing attention to the nature of man as
inherently a religious being (Acts 17:22; cf. Rom. 1:19; 2:15). The term used to describe the
Athenians in verse 22 (literally “fearers of the supernatural spirits”) is sometimes translated “very
religious” and sometimes “somewhat superstitious.” There is no satisfactory English equivalent.
“Very religious” is too complimentary; Paul was not prone to flattery, and according to Lucian, it
was forbidden to use compliments before the Areopagus in an effort to gain its goodwill.
“Somewhat superstitious” is perhaps a bit too critical in thrust. Although the term could
sometimes be used among pagans as a compliment, it usually denoted an excess of strange
piety. Accordingly, in Acts 25:19 Festus refers to Judaism, using this term as a mild reproach for
its religiosity. It is not beyond possibility that Paul cleverly chose this term precisely for the sake
of its ambiguity. His readers would wonder whether the good or bad sense was being stressed
by Paul, and Paul would be striking a double blow: men cannot eradicate a religious impulse
within themselves (as the Athenians demonstrate), and yet this good impulse has been
degraded by rebellion against the living and true God (as the Athenians also demonstrate).
Although men do not acknowledge it, they are aware of their relation and accountability to the
living and true God who created them. But rather than come to terms with Him and His wrath
against their sin (cf. Rom. 1:18), they pervert the truth. And in this they become ignorant and
foolish (Rom. 1:21-22).
Thus Paul could present his point by making an illustration of the altar dedicated “To an
Unknown God.” Paul testified that as he “observed” the Athenian “objects of worship” he found
an altar with an appropriate inscription. The verb used of Paul’s activity does not connote a
mere looking at things, but a systematic inspection and purposeful scrutiny (the English term
‘theorize’ is cognate). Among their “objects of religious devotion”’ (language referring to idol
worship without any approbation) Paul finally found one which contained “a text for what he had
          [20]
to say.”     Building upon the admission of the Athenians themselves, Paul could easily indict
them for the ignorance of their worship—that is, any worship which is contrary to the word of
God (cf. John 4:22). The Athenians had brought Paul before the Areopagus with a desire to
“know” what they were missing in religious philosophy (vv. 19, 20), and Paul immediately points
out that heretofore their worship was admittedly of the “unknown” (v. 23). Paul did not attempt to
supplement or build upon a common foundation of natural theology with the Greek philosophers


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here. He began, rather, with their own expression of theological inadequacy and defectiveness.
He underscored their ignorance and proceeded from that significant epistemological point.
The presence of altars “to unknown gods” in Athens was attested by writers such as Pausanias
and Philostratus. According to Diogenes Laertius, such altars were erected to an anonymous
source of blessing. For instance, once (ca. 550 B.C.), when a plague afflicted Athens without
warning and could not be mitigated by medicine or sacrifice, Epimenides counseled the
Athenians to set white and black sheep loose on the Areopagus, and then to erect altars
wherever the sheep came to rest. Not knowing the specific source of the plague’s elimination,
the Athenians built various altars to unknown gods. This sort of thing was apparently common in
the ancient world. The 1910 excavation at Pergamum unearthed evidence that a torchbearer
who felt under some obligation to gods whose names were unknown to him expressed his
gratitude by erecting an anonymous altar for them. Deissmann’s conclusion bears repeating:

    In Greek antiquity cases were not altogether rare in which “anonymous” altars “to
    unknown gods” or “to the god whom it may concern” were erected when people were
    convinced, for example after experiencing some deliverance, that a deity had been
                                                                                               [21]
    gracious to them, but were not certain of the deity’s name.

The Athenians had a number of such altars on Mars’ hill alone. This was testimony to the
Athenian conviction that they were lorded over by mysterious, unknown forces.
Yet these altars were also evidence that they assumed enough knowledge of these forces to
worship them, and worship them in a particular manner. There was thus an element of subtle,
internal critique in Paul’s mention of the Athenian worship of that which they acknowledged as
unknown (v. 23). Moreover, Paul was noting the basic schizophrenia in unbelieving thought
when he described in the Athenians both an awareness of God (v. 22) and an ignorance of God
(v. 23). The same condition is expounded in Romans 1:18-25. Berkouwer notes, “There is full
agreement between Paul’s characterization of heathendom as ignorant of God and his speech
on the Areopagus. Ever with Paul, the call to faith is a matter of radical conversion from
                             [22]
ignorance of God.”       Knowing God, the unregenerate nevertheless suppresses the truth and
follows a lie instead, thereby gaining a darkened mind. Commenting on our passage in Acts 17,
Munck said:

    What follows reveals that God was unknown only because the Athenians had not wanted
    to know him. So Paul was not introducing foreign gods, but God who was both known, as
                                                            [23]
    this altar shows, and yet unknown.

The unbeliever is fully responsible for his mental state, and this is a state of culpable ignorance.
That explains why Paul issued a call for repentance to the Athenians (v. 30); their ignorant


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mindset was immoral.

The Authority of Revelational Knowledge
Having alluded to an altar to an unknown god, Paul said, “That which you worship,
acknowledging openly your ignorance, I proclaim unto you.” There are two crucial elements of
his apologetic approach to be discerned here. Paul started with an emphasis upon his hearers’
ignorance and from there went on to declare with authority the truth of God. Their ignorance
was made to stand over against his unique authority and ability to expound the truth. Paul set
forth Christianity as alone reasonable and true, and his ultimate starting point was the authority
of Christ’s revelation. It was not uncommon for Paul to stress that the Gentiles were ignorant,
knowing not God. (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:20; Gal. 4:8; Eph. 4:18; 1 Thess. 4:5; 2 Thess. 1:8). In
diametric contrast to them was the believer who possessed a knowledge of God (e.g., Gal. 4:9;
Eph. 4:20). This antithesis was fundamental to Paul’s thought, and it was clearly elaborated at
Athens.
The Greek word for “proclaim” (“set forth”) in verse 23 refers to a solemn declaration which is
made with authority. For instance, in the Greek papyri it is used for an announcement of the
                                                                   [24]
appointment of one’s legal representative.      It might seem that such an authoritative
declaration by Paul would be appropriate only when he dealt with Jews who already accepted
the scriptures; however, whether dealing with Jews or secular philosophers, Paul’s
epistemological platform remained the same, so that even in Athens he “proclaimed” the word of
God. The verb is frequently used in Acts and the Pauline epistles for the apostolic proclamation
of the gospel, which had direct divine authority (e.g., Acts 3:18; 1 Cor. 9:14; cf. Gal. 1:11-12).
Therefore, we see that Paul, although ridiculed as a philosophical charlatan, presumed unique
authority to provide the Athenian philosophers with that knowledge which they lacked about
God. This was far from stressing common ideas and beliefs. How offensive the Pauline
antithesis between their ignorance and his God-given authority must have been to them!

    They were sure that such a God as Paul preached did not and could not exist. They were
    therefore sure that Paul could not “declare” this God to them. No one could know such a
                                            [25]
    God as Paul believed in.

Paul aimed to show his audience that their ignorance would no longer be tolerated; instead, God
commanded all men to undergo a radical change of mind (v. 30). From beginning to end the
unbeliever’s ignorance was stressed in Paul’s apologetic, being set over against the revelational
knowledge of God.



Culpable Suppression of the Truth
Paul reasoned on the basis of antithetical presuppositions, a different starting point and

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authority. He also stressed the culpability of his hearers for that ignorance which resulted from
their unbelief. Natural revelation certainly played a part in his convicting them of this truth.
However, there is no hint in Paul’s words that this revelation had been handled properly or that it
established a common interpretation between the believer and unbeliever. Rather, Paul’s
references to natural revelation were made for the very purpose of indicting the espoused beliefs
of his audience.
His allusion to their religious nature has already been discussed. In addition, verses 26-27 show
that Paul taught that God’s providential government of history was calculated to bring men to
Him; they should have known Him from His works. Paul’s appeal to providence was
conspicuous at Lystra as well (Acts 14:17). The goodness of God should lead men to
repentance (cf. Rom. 2:4). Acts 17:27 indicates that God’s providential governance of history
should bring men to seek God, “if perhaps” they might feel after Him. The subordinate clause
                                                               [26]
here expresses an unlikely contingency      The natural man’s seeking and finding God cannot
be taken for granted. Citing Psalm 14:2-3 in Romans 3:11-12, Paul clearly said: “There is none
that seeks after God; they have all turned aside and together become unprofitable.” Returning
to Acts 17:27, even if the unregenerate should attempt to find God, he would at best “feel after”
Him. This verb is the same as that used by Homer for the groping about of the blinded Cyclops.
Plato used the word for amateur guess at the truth. Far from showing what Lightfoot thought
                                                                                                 [27]
was “a clear appreciation of the elements of truth contained in their philosophy”      at Athens,
Paul taught that the eyes of the unbeliever had been blinded to the light of God’s revelation.
Pagans do not interpret natural revelation correctly, coming to the light of the truth here and
there; they grope about in darkness. Hence Paul viewed men as blameworthy for not holding
fast to the knowledge of God which came to them in creation and providence. The rebellious are
left without an excuse due to God’s general revelation (Rom. 1:19-23).
Paul’s perspective in Acts 17 is quite evidently identical with that in Romans 1. In both places he
teaches that unbelievers have a knowledge of God which they suppress, thereby meriting
condemnation; their salvation requires a radical conversion from the ignorance of heathendom.
G. C. Berkouwer puts it this way:

    The antithesis looms large in every encounter with heathendom. It is directed, however,
    against the maligning that heathendom does to the revealed truth of God in nature and it
                                                                                          [28]
    calls for conversion to the revelation of God in Christ.

So it is that Paul’s appeals to general revelation function to point out the guilt of the unbeliever
as he mishandles the truth of God. He is responsible because he possesses the truth, but he is
guilty for what he does to the truth. Both aspects of the unbeliever’s relation to natural revelation
must be kept in mind. When evidence is found of the unbeliever’s awareness of the truth of
God’s revelation around and within him, Paul uses it as an indicator of the unbeliever’s

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culpability, and the apostle shows that it needs to be understood and interpreted in terms of the
special revelation which is brought by Christ’s commissioned representative. Where natural
revelation plays a part in Christian apologetics, that revelation must be “read through the
glasses” of special revelation.
In Acts 17:27, heathen philosophers are said at best to grope in darkness after God. This inept
groping is not due to any deficiency in God or His revelation. The philosophers grope, “even
though God is not far from each one of us.” Verse 28 begins with the word, “for,” and thereby
offers a clarification or illustration of the statement that God is quite near at hand even for
blinded pagan thinkers. The unbeliever’s failure to find God and his acknowledged ignorance is
not an innocent matter, and Paul demonstrates this by quoting two pagan poets. The strange
idea that these quotations stand “as proof in the same way as biblical quotations in the other
                            [29]
speeches of Acts”        is not only contrary to Paul’s decided emphasis in his theology upon the
unique authority of God’s word, but it simply will not comport with the context of the Areopagus
address wherein the groping, unrepentant ignorance of pagan religiosity is declared forcefully.
Paul quotes the pagan writers to manifest their guilt. Since God is near at hand to all men, since
His revelation impinges on them continually, they cannot escape a knowledge of their Creator
and Sustainer. They are without excuse for their perversion of the truth. Paul makes the point
that even pagans, contrary to their spiritual disposition (1 Cor. 2:14), possess a knowledge of
God which, though suppressed, renders them guilty before the Lord (Rom. 1:18ff.).
Paul supports this point before the Areopagus by showing that even pantheistic Stoics are aware
of, and obliquely express, God’s nearness and man’s dependence upon Him. Epimenides the
Cretan is quoted from a quatrain in an address to Zeus: “in him we live and move and have our
being” (Acts 17:28a; interestingly, Paul quotes another line from this same quatrain in Titus
1:12). The phrase “in him” would have denoted in idiomatic Greek of the first century (especially
in Jewish circles) the thought of “in his power” or “by him.” This declaration—”By him we
live...”—is not at all parallel to Paul’s theology of the believer’s mystical union with Christ, often
expressed in terms of our being “in Christ.” Rather, Acts 17:28 is closer to the teaching of
Colossians 1:15-17, “in him were all things created...and in him all things consist.” The stress
                                                                                               [30]
falls on “man’s absolute dependence on God for his existence,”         even though the original
writing which Paul quoted had aimed to prove that Zeus was not dead from the fact that men live
—the order of which thought is fully reversed in Paul’s thinking (viz., men live because God
lives). Paul’s second quotation is introduced with the words, “as certain of your own poets have
said.” His use of the plural is further evidence of his educated familiarity with Greek thought, for
as a matter of fact the statement which is quoted can be found in more than one writer. Paul
quotes his fellow Cilician, Aratus, as saying “for we are also his offspring” (from the poem on
“Natural Phenomena,” which is also echoed in Cleanthes’ “Hymn to Zeus”). Paul could agree to
the formal statement that we are God’s “offspring”. However, he would certainly have said by
way of qualification what the Stoics did not say, namely that we are children of God merely in a


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natural sense and not a supernatural sense (John 1:12), and even at that we are quite naturally
“children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). Yes, we can be called the offspring of God, but certainly not in the
intended pantheistic sense of Aratus or Cleanthes! Knowing the historical and philosophical
context in which Paul spoke, and noting the polemical thrusts of the Areopagus address, we
cannot accept any interpreter’s hasty pronouncement to the effect that Paul “cites these
                                                                                               [31]
teachings with approval unqualified by allusion to a ‘totally different frame of reference.’”
Those who make such remarks eventually are forced to acknowledge the qualification anyway: e.
g., “Paul is not commending their Stoic doctrine,” and he “did not reduce his categories to
          [32]
theirs.”
Berkouwer is correct when he says “There is no hint here of a point of contact in the sense of a
preparation for grace, as though the Athenians were already on the way to true knowledge of
        [33]
God.”     Paul was well enough informed to know, and able enough to read statements in
context to see, that he did not agree with the intended meaning of these poets. He was certainly
not saying that these philosophers had somehow arrived at unqualified, isolated, elements of the
truth—that the Zeus of Stoic pantheism was a conceptual step toward the true God!

    This is to be explained only in connection with the fact that the heathen poets have
    distorted the truth of God.... Without this truth there would be no false religiousness. This
    should not be confused with the idea that false religion contains elements of the truth and
    gets its strength from those elements. This kind of quantitative analysis neglects the
    nature of the distortion carried on by false religion. Pseudo-religion witnesses to the truth
                                         [34]
    of God in its apostasy.

 Within the ideological context of Stoicism and pantheism, of course, the declarations of the
pagan philosophers about God were not true. And Paul was surely not committing the logical
fallacy of equivocation by using pantheistically conceived premises to support a Biblically theistic
conclusion. Rather, Paul appealed to the distorted teachings of the pagan authors as evidence
that the process of theological distortion cannot fully rid men of their natural knowledge of God.
Certain expressions of the pagans manifest this knowledge as suppressed. Within the
philosophical context espoused by the ungodly writer, the expressions were put to a false use.
Within the framework of God’s revelation—a revelation clearly received by all men but hindered
in unrighteousness, a revelation renewed in writing in the Scriptures possessed by Paul—these
expressions properly expressed a truth of God. Paul did not utilize pagan ideas in his
Areopagus address. He used pagan expressions to demonstrate that ungodly thinkers have not
eradicated all idea, albeit suppressed and distorted, of the living and true God. F. F. Bruce
remarks:

    Epimenides and Aratus are not invoked as authorities in their own right; certain things

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    which they said, however, can be understood as pointing to the knowledge of God. But
    the knowledge of God presented in the speech is not rationalistically conceived or
    established; it is the knowledge of God taught by Hebrew prophets and sages. It is
    rooted in the fear of God; it belongs to the same order as truth, goodness, and covenant-
    love; for lack of it men and women perish; in the coming day of God it will fill the earth ‘as
    the waters cover the sea’ (Is. 11:9). The ‘delicately suited allusions’ to Stoic and
    Epicurean tenets which have been discerned in the speech, like the quotations from
    pagan poets, have their place as points of contact with the audience, but they do not
    commit the speaker to acquiescence in the realm of ideas to which they originally belong.
    [35]


Paul demonstrated that even in their abuse of the truth pagans cannot avoid the truth of God;
they must first have it in order that they might then distort it. As Ned B. Stonehouse observed,

    The apostle Paul, reflecting upon their creaturehood, and upon their religious faith and
    practice, could discover within their pagan religiosity evidences that the pagan poets in
    the very act of suppressing and perverting the truth presupposed a measure of
                              [36]
    awareness of it.

 Their own statements unwittingly convicted the pagans of their knowledge of God, suppressed
in unrighteousness. About the pagan quotations Van Til observes:

    They could say this adventitiously only. That is, it would be in accord with what they deep
    down in their hearts knew to be true in spite of their systems. It was that truth which they
    sought to cover up by means of their professed systems, which enabled them to discover
                                                               [37]
    truth as philosophers and scientists.

Men are engulfed by God’s clear revelation; try as they may, the truth which they possess in
their heart of hearts cannot be escaped, and inadvertently it comes to expression. They do not
explicitly understand it properly; yet these expressions are a witness to their inward conviction
and culpability. Consequently Paul could take advantage of pagan quotations, not as an agreed
upon ground for erecting the message of the gospel, but as a basis for calling unbelievers to
repentance for their flight from God. “Paul appealed to the heart of the natural man, whatever
                                  [38]
mask he might wear.”

Scriptural Presuppositions
In Acts 17:24-31 Paul’s language is principally based on the Old Testament. There is little
justification for the remark of Lake and Cadbury that this discourse used a secular style of
                                                                                    [39]
speech, omitting quotations from the Old Testament.                                        Paul’s utilization of Old Testament

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materials is rather conspicuous. For instance, we can clearly see Isaiah 42:5 coming to
expression in Acts 17:24-25, as this comparison indicates:

    Thus saith God Jehovah, he that created the heavens and stretched them forth; he that
    spread abroad the earth and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the
    people upon it...(Isaiah 42:5). The God that made the world and all thing therein, he,
    being Lord of heaven and earth...giveth to all life, and breath, and all things (Acts 17:24,
    25).

In the Isaiah pericope, the prophet goes on to indicate that the Gentiles can be likened to men
with eyes blinded by a dark dungeon (42:7), and in the Areopagus address Paul goes on to say
that if men seek after God, it is as though they are groping in darkness (i.e., the sense for the
Greek phrase “feel after Him,” 17:27). Isaiah’s development of thought continues on to the
declaration that God’s praise ought not to be given to graven images (42:8), while Paul’s
address advances to the statement that “we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto
gold, or silver, or stone, graven by the art and device of men (17:29). It surely seems as though
the prophetic pattern of thought is in the back of the apostle’s mind. F. F. Bruce correctly
comments on Paul’s method of argumentation before the Areopagus:

    He does not argue from the sort of “first principles” which formed the basis of the various
    schools of Greek philosophy; his exposition and defense of his message are founded on
    the biblical revelation of God.... Unlike some later apologists who followed in his steps,
    Paul does not cease to be fundamentally biblical in his approach to the Greeks, even
    when (as on this occasion) his biblical emphasis might appear to destroy his chances of
                  [40]
    success.

Those who have been trained to think that the apologist must adjust his epistemological
authority or method in terms of the mindset of his hearers as he finds them will find the
Areopagus address quite surprising in this respect. Although Paul is addressing an audience
which is not committed or even predisposed to the revealed Scriptures, namely educated
Gentiles, his speech is nevertheless a typically Jewish polemic regarding God, idolatry, and
judgment! Using Old Testament language and concepts, Paul declared that God is the Creator,
a Spirit who does not reside in man-made houses (v. 24). God is self-sufficient, and all men are
dependent upon Him (v. 25). He created all men from a common ancestor and is the Lord of
history (v. 26). Paul continued to teach God’s disapprobation for idolatry (v. 29), His demand for
repentance (v. 30), and His appointment of a final day of judgment (v. 31). In these respects
Paul did not say anything that an Old Testament prophet could not have addressed to the Jews.
As the Lord Creator (cf. Isa. 42:5), God does not dwell in temples made by hand—the very same
point spoken before the Jews by Stephen in his defense regarding statements about the
Jerusalem temple which God himself commanded to be built (Acts 7:48). Both Paul and

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Stephen harkened back to the Old Testament, where it was taught that the heavens cannot
contain God, and so neither could a man-made house (1 Kings 8:27; Isa. 66:l). And if God is not
limited by a house erected by men, neither is He served by the sacrifices brought to such
temples (Acts 17:25). Paul undoubtedly recalled the words of God through the Psalmist, “If I
were hungry, I would not tell thee; For the world is mine, and the fullness thereof. Will I eat the
flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” (Ps. 50:12-13). The Areopagus address stresses the
fact that “life”’ comes from God (v. 25), in whom “we live” (v. 28); such statements may have
been subtle allusions to the etymology of the name of Zeus (zao in Greek, meaning ‘to live’)—
the god exalted in the poetry of Aratus and Epimenides. The genuine Lord of life was Jehovah,
the Creator, who in many ways was self-sufficient and very different from the Zeus of popular
mythology or of pantheistic speculation. God has appointed the various seasons (or epochs)
and boundaries of men (Acts 17:26)—even as the Psalmist wrote, “Thou hast set all the borders
of the earth; Thou hast made summer and winter” (Ps. 74:17). Paul’s mention of “appointed
seasons” referred either to the regular seasons of the year (as in Acts 14:17, “fruitful seasons”)
                                                                                               [41]
or to the appointed periods for each nation’s existence and prominence.      Either way, his
doctrine was rooted in the Old Testament—the Noahic covenant (Gen. 8:22) or Daniel’s
interpretation of dreams (Dan. 2:36-45). Another point of contact between the Areopagus
apologetic and the Old Testament is obvious in Acts 17:29. Paul indicated that nothing which is
produced by man (i.e., any work of art) can be thought of as the producer of man. Here Paul’s
polemic is taken right out of the Old Testament prophets (e.g., Isa. 40:18-20). No idol can be
likened to God or thought of as His image. God’s image is found elsewhere, in the work of His
own hands (cf. Gen. 1:27), and He thus prohibited the making of other pseudo-images of
Himself (“Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image...,” Ex. 20:4). Paul’s reasoning was
steeped in God’s special revelation.
Consistent with his teaching in the epistles, then, Paul remained on solid Christian ground when
he disputed with the philosophers. He reasoned from the Scripture, thereby refuting any
supposed dichotomy in his apologetic method between his approach to the Jews and his
approach to the Gentiles. In any and all apologetic encounters Paul began and ended with
                                                                       [42]
God. “He was himself for no instant neutral.”      “Like the biblical revelation itself, his speech
begins with God the creator of all, continues with God the sustainer of all, and concludes with
                                 [43]
God the judge of all.”     He had previously established his hearers’ ignorance; so they were in
no position to generate knowledgeable refutations of Paul’s position. He had also indicated his
authority to declare the truth; this was now reinforced by his appeal to the self-evidencing
authority of God’s revelation in the Old Testament Scriptures. Finally, he had established his
audience’s awareness and accountability to the truth of God in natural revelation. Paul now
provides the interpretive context of special revelation to rectify the distorted handling of previous
natural revelation and to supplement its teaching with the way of redemption.


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Pressing the Antithesis
The themes of Paul’s address in Acts 17 parallel those of Romans 1: creation, providence,
man’s dependence, man’s sin, future judgment. Paul boldly sets the revelational perspective
over against the themes of Athenian philosophy. The statements of Paul’s Areopagus address
could hardly have been better calculated to reflect Biblical theology while contradicting the
doctrines of pagan philosophy. Paul did not appeal to Stoic doctrines in order to divide his
                                                         [44]
audience (a ploy used in Acts 23:6).       Rather he philosophically offended both the Epicurean
and Stoic philosophers in his audience, pressing teaching which was directly antithetical to their
distinctives.
Against the monism of the philosophers, Paul taught that God had created all things (v. 24; cf.
Ex. 20:11; Ps. 146:6; Isa 37:16; 42:5). This precluded the materialism of the Epicureans and the
pantheism of the Stoics. Against naturalistic and immanentistic views Paul proclaimed
supernatural transcendence. As his listeners looked upon the Parthenon, Paul declared that
God does not dwell in temples made with hands (1 Kings 8:27; Isa 66:1-2).
God needs nothing from man; on the contrary man depends on God for everything (v. 25; cf. Ps.
50:9-12; Isa 42:5). The philosophers of Athens should thus do all things to God’s glory—which
is inclusive of bringing every thought captive to Him, and thereby renouncing their putative
autonomy. Paul’s teaching of the unity of the human race (v. 26a) was quite a blow to the
Athenians’ pride in their being indigenous to the soil of Attica, and it assaulted their felt
superiority over “barbarians.” Paul’s insistence that God was not far from any would deflate the
Stoic’s pride in his elitist knowledge of God (v. 27b). Over against a uniform commitment to the
concept of fate Paul set forth the Biblical doctrine of God’s providence (v. 26b; cf. Deut. 32:8);
God is not remote from or indifferent to the world of men.
Upon the legendary founding by Athena of the Areopagus court, Apollo had declared (according
to Aeschylus): “When the dust drinks up a man’s blood, Once he has died, there is no
resurrection.” However, the apostle Paul forcefully announced the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a
fact which assures all men that He will judge the world at the consummation (Ps. 9:8; 96:13;
98:9; Dan. 7:13; John 5:27; Rom. 2:16)—a doctrine which contravened the Greek views of both
cyclic and eternal history. The Epicureans were deceived to think that at death man’s body
simply decomposed, and that thus there was no fear of judgment; the resurrection refuted their
ideas, just as it disproved the notion that the body is a disdainful prison. Throughout Paul’s
address the common skepticism about theological knowledge found in the philosophic schools
was obviously challenged by Paul’s pronounced authority and ability to openly proclaim the final
truth about God.


Calling for Repentance and Change of Mindset
One can hardly avoid the conclusion that Paul was not seeking areas of agreement or common
notions with his hearers. At every point he set his Biblical position in antithetical contrast to their
philosophical beliefs, undermining their assumptions and exposing their ignorance. He did not

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seek to add further truths to a pagan foundation of elementary truth. Paul rather challenged the
foundations of pagan philosophy and called the philosophers to full repentance (v. 30).
The new era which has commenced with the advent and ministry of Jesus Christ has put an end
to God’s historical overlooking of nations which lived in unbelief. At Lystra Paul declared that in
past generations God “allowed all nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16), although now
He was calling them to turn from their vanities to the living God (14:15). Previously, God had
shown forbearance toward the sins of the Jews as well (cf. Rom. 3:25). However, with the
advent of Christ, there has been a new beginning. Sins once committed in culpable ignorance
have been made even less excusable by the redemptive realities of the gospel. Even in the past
God’s forbearance ought to have led men to repentance (Rom. 2:4). How much more, then,
should men now respond to their guilt by repenting before God for their sins. The lenience of
God demonstrates that His concentration of effort is toward the salvation rather than judgment of
men (cf. John 3:17). This mercy and patience must not be spurned. Men everywhere are now
required to repent. In Paul’s perspective on redemptive history, he can simply say by way of
summary: “Now is the acceptable time” (2 Cor. 6:2). As guilty as men had been in the past, God
had passed over confrontation with them. Unlike in Israel, messengers had not come to upbraid
the Gentiles and declare the punishment they deserved. God had “overlooked” (not “winked at”’
with its inappropriate connotations) the former times of ignorance (Acts 17:30). Whereas in the
past He had allowed the pagans to walk in their own ways, now with the perfect revelation which
has come in Jesus Christ, God commands repentance (a “change of mind”) of all men and
sends messengers to them toward that end. Paul wanted the philosophers at Athens to not
simply refine their thinking a bit further and add some missing information to it; but rather to
abandon their presuppositions and have a complete change of mind, submitting to the clear and
authoritative revelation of God. If they would not repent, it would be an indication of their love for
ignorance and hatred of genuine knowledge.
Paul’s appeal to them to repent was grounded not in autonomous argumentation but the
presupposed authority of God’s Son (v. 31), an authority for which there was none more ultimate
in Paul’s reasoning. Paul’s hearers were told that they must repent, for God had appointed a
day of final judgment; if the philosophers did not undergo a radical shift in their mindset and
confess their sinfulness before God, they would have to face the wrath of God on the day of final
accounting.
To whom would they have to give account? At this point Paul introduced the “Son of Man
eschatology” of the gospels. The judgment would take place by a man (literally, a ‘male’) who
had been ordained to this function by God. This man is the “Son of Man” mentioned in Daniel
7:13. In John 5:27, Christ spoke of himself, saying that the Father “gave him authority to
execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” After His resurrection Christ charged the
apostles “to preach unto the people and to testify that this is He who is ordained of God to be the
Judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). Paul declared this truth in his Areopagus
apologetic, going on to indicate that God had given “assurance”’ or proof of the fact that Christ


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would be mankind’s final Judge. This proof was provided by the resurrection of Jesus Christ
from the dead.
To be accurate, it is important for us to note that the resurrection was evidence in Paul’s
argumentation, it was not the conclusion of his argumentation. He was arguing, not for the
resurrection, but for final judgment by Christ. The misleading assumption made by many
popular evangelical apologists is that Paul here engaged in an attempted proof of the
resurrection—although nothing of the sort is mentioned by Luke. Proof by means of the
                                                                                                      [45]
resurrection is mistakenly seen in verse 31 as proof of the resurrection.    Others know better
than to read such an argument into the text and hold that detailed proof of the resurrection was
                                           [46]
cut short in Paul’s address.     He would have proceeded to this line of reasoning, we are told, if
he had not been interrupted by his mocking hearers. Once again, however, such an
interpretation gains whatever plausibility it has with an interpreter in terms of preconceived
notions, rather than in terms of textual support. F. F. Bruce remarks, “There is no ground for
supposing that the ridicule with which some of his hearers received his reference to Jesus’ rising
                                                                                               [47]
from the dead seriously curtailed the speech he intended to make.”          Haenchen says, “There
is no hint that Paul is interrupted”; the speech as it appears in Acts 17 “is inherently quite
                [48]
complete.”      Paul proclaimed that Christ had been appointed the final Judge of mankind, as
His resurrection from the dead evidenced. The Apostle did not supply an empirical argument for
the resurrection, but argued theologically from the fact of the resurrection to the final judgment.
For Paul, even in apologetical disputes before unbelieving philosophers, there was no authority
more ultimate than that of Christ. This epistemological attitude was most appropriate in light of
the fact that Christ would be the ultimate Judge of man’s every thought and belief.

The Outcome of Paul’s Apologetic
Acts 17:32-34 (American Standard Version)
     (32) now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said,
     we will hear thee concerning this yet again.
     (33) thus Paul went out from among them.
     (34) but certain men clave unto him, and believed: among whom also was Dionysius the
     Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Had Paul spoken of the immortality of the soul, his message might have appeared plausible to at
least some of the philosophers in his audience. However all disdained the idea of the
resuscitation of a corpse. When Paul concluded his discourse with reference to the resurrection
of Christ, such an apparent absurdity led some hearers to “sneer” in open mockery of Paul.
There is some question as to what should be made of another reaction mentioned by Luke—
namely, that some said they would hear Paul again on this matter. This may have been a polite


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                                                            [49]
procrastination serving as a brush-off,                            an indication that this segment of the audience was
                                                                   [50]
confused or bewildered with the message,                                  or evidence that some wistfully hoped that Paul’s
                                                         [51]
proclamation might prove to be true.        One way or another, it should not have been thought
impossible by anybody in Paul’s audience that God could raise the dead (cf. Acts 26:8), but as
long as this philosophical assumption controlled their thinking, the philosophers would never be
induced to accept the fact of the resurrection or allow it to make a difference in their outlook.
Until the Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner and brings him to repentance, his presuppositions
will remain unaltered. And as long as the unbeliever’s presuppositions are unchanged a proper
acceptance and understanding of the good news of Christ’s historical resurrection will be
impossible. The Athenian philosophers had originally asked Paul for an account of his doctrine
of resurrection. After his reasoned defense of the hope within him and his challenge to the
philosopher’s presuppositions, a few were turned around in their thinking. But many refused to
correct their presuppositions, so that when Paul concluded with Christ’s resurrection they
ridiculed and mocked.
Acceptance of the facts is governed by one’s most ultimate assumptions, as Paul was well
aware. Paul began his apologetic with God and His revelation; he concluded his apologetic with
God and His revelation. The Athenian philosophers began their dispute with Paul in an attitude
of cynical unbelief about Christ’s resurrection; they concluded the dispute in cynical unbelief
about Christ’s resurrection. However, Paul knew and demonstrated that the “closed system” of
the philosophers was a matter of dialectical pseudo-wisdom and ignorance. Their view that God
dwelt in impenetrable mystery undermined their detailed teaching about Him. Their view that
historical eventuation was a matter of irrational fate was contravened by their conviction that all
things are mechanistically determined, and so on. In their “wisdom” they had become utterly
ignorant of the ultimate truth.
Paul knew that the explanation of their hostility to God’s revelation (even though they evidenced
an inability to escape its forcefulness) was to be found in their desire to exercise control over
God (e.g., v. 29) and to avoid facing up to the fact of their deserved punishment before the
judgment seat of God (v. 30). They secretly hoped that ignorance would be bliss, and so
preferred darkness to light (John 3:19-20). So Paul “went out from among them” (v. 33)—a
statement which expresses nothing about his apologetic being cut short, and which gives no
evidence that Paul was somehow disappointed with his effort. Such thoughts must be read into
the verse.
The minds of the Athenian philosophers could not be changed simply by appealing to a few
disputed, particular facts, for their philosophical presuppositions determined what they would
make of the facts. Nor could their minds be altered by reasoning with them on the basis of their
own fundamental assumptions; to make common cause with their philosophy would simply have
been to confirm their commitment to it. Their minds could be changed only by challenging their
whole way of thought with the completely different worldview of the gospel, calling them to

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renounce the inherent foolishness of their own philosophical perspectives and to repent for their
suppression of the truth about God.
Such a complete mental revolution, allowing for a well-grounded and philosophically defensible
knowledge of the truth, can be accomplished by the grace of God (cf. 2 Tim. 2:25). Thus Luke
informs us that as Paul left the Areopagus meeting, “certain men clave unto him and
believed” (v. 34). There is a note of triumph in Luke’s observation that some within Paul’s
audience became believers as a result of his apologetic presentation. He mentions
conspicuously that a member of the Areopagus Counsel, Dionysius, became a Christian, as well
as a woman who was well enough known to be mentioned by name, Damaris. These were but
some converts “among others.” Ecclesiastical tradition dating from around 170 A.D. says that
Dionysius was appointed by Paul as the first elder in Athens. (In the fifth century certain
pseudepigraphical works of a neoplatonic character made use of his name.) However Luke
himself mentions no church having been planted in Athens, as we would have expected an
educated Gentile to mention if a church had been started in Athens. Indeed, a family residing in
Corinth was taken by Paul as the ecclesiastical “firstfruits of Achaia” (1 Cor. 16:15). Apparently
no church was immediately developed in the city of Athens, even though patristic writers
(especially Origen) mention a church being in Athens—eventually getting under way sometime
after Paul’s ministry there, so it seems. The earliest post-apostolic apologists, Quadratus and
Aristides, wrote during the time of Emperor Hadrian, and both were from Athens. However we
choose to reconstruct the ecclesiastical history of the city, it is plain that Paul’s work there was
not futile. By God’s grace it did see success, and his apologetic method can be a guide and
goad for us today. Would that we had the boldness in a proud university setting, enjoying the
highest level of culture of the day, to proclaim clearly to the learned philosophers, with their great
minds, that they are in fact ignorant idolaters who must repent in light of the coming judgment by
God’s resurrected Son.

Observations in Retrospect
(1) Paul’s Areopagus address in Acts 17 has been found to set forth a classic and exemplary
encounter between Christian commitment and secular thinking—between “Jerusalem and
Athens.” The Apostle’s apologetical method for reasoning with educated unbelievers who did
not acknowledge scriptural authority turns out to be a suitable pattern for our defending the faith
today.
(2) Judging from Paul’s treatment of the Athenian philosophers, he was not prepared to dismiss
their learning, but neither would he let it exercise corrective control over his Christian
perspective. The two realms of thought were obviously dealing with common questions, but
Paul did not work to integrate apparently supportive elements from pagan philosophy into his
system of Christian thought. Because of the truth-distorting and ignorance-engendering
character of unbelieving thought, Paul’s challenge was that all reasoning be placed within the
presuppositional context of revelational truth and Christian commitment. The relation “Athens”


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should sustain to “Jerusalem” was one of necessary dependence.
(3) Rather than trying to construct a natural theology upon the philosophical platform of his
opponents—assimilating autonomous thought wherever possible—Paul’s approach was to
accentuate the antithesis between himself and the philosophers. He never assumed a neutral
stance, knowing that the natural theology of the Athenian philosophers was inherently a natural
idolatry. He could not argue from their unbelieving premises to Biblical conclusions without
equivocation in understanding. Thus his own distinctive outlook was throughout placed over
against the philosophical commitments of his hearers.
(4) Nothing remotely similar to what is called in our day the historical argument for Christ’s
resurrection plays a part in Paul’s reasoning with the philosophers. The declaration of Christ’s
historical resurrection was crucial, of course, to his presentation. However he did not argue for it
independently on empirical grounds as a brute historical—yet miraculous—event, given then an
apostolic interpretation. Argumentation about a particular fact would not force a shift in the
unbeliever’s presuppositional framework of thought. Paul’s concern was with this basic and
controlling perspective or web of central convictions by which the particulars of history would be
weighed and interpreted.
(5) In pursuing the presuppositional antithesis between Christian commitment and secular
philosophy, Paul consistently took as his ultimate authority Christ and God’s word—not
independent speculation and reasoning, not allegedly indisputable eyeball facts of experience,
not the satisfaction or peace felt within his heart. God’s revelational truth—learned through his
senses, understood with his mind, comforting his heart, and providing the context for all life and
thought—was his self-evidencing starting point. It was the presuppositional platform for
authoritatively declaring the truth, and it was presented as the sole reasonable option for men to
choose.
(6) Paul’s appeal was to the inescapable knowledge of God which all men have in virtue of being
God’s image and in virtue of His revelation through nature and history. A point of contact could
be found even in pagan philosophers due to their inalienable religious nature. Paul indicated
that unbelievers are conspicuously guilty for distorting and suppressing the truth of God.
(7) In motivation and direction Paul’s argumentation with the Athenian philosophers was
presuppositional. He set two fundamental worldviews in contrast, exhibiting the ignorance which
results from the unbeliever’s commitments, and presenting the precondition of all knowledge—
God’s revelation—as the only reasonable alternative. His aim was to effect an overall change in
outlook and mindset, to call the unbeliever to repentance, by following the two-fold procedure of
internally critiquing the unbeliever’s position and presenting the necessity of the Scripture’s
truth. Through it all, it should also be observed, Paul remained yet earnest. His manner was
one of humble boldness.


[1]
      F.F. Bruce, The Defence of the Gospel in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans,


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1959), p.18.
  [2]
      E.g., H. Conzelmann, “The Address of Paul on the Areopagus,” Studies in Luke-Acts, ed. L. E. Keck
  and J. L. Martyn (Nashville: Abingdon, 1966), pp. 217ff. A. Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the
  Apostle (New York: H. Holt, 1931), pp. 6ff.
[3]
    Johannes Munck, The Anchor Bible: The Acts of the Apostles, revised by W. F. Albright and C. S.
Mann (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1967), p. 173; cf. Adolf Harnack, The Mission and
Expansion of Christianity (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1961), p. 383.
[4]
    Kirsopp Lake and Henry J. Cadbury, The Acts of the Apostles, vol. 4 (Translation and Commentary) in
The Beginnings of Christianity, Part 1, ed. F. J. Roakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake (Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House, 1965 [1932]), pp. 208-209.
[5]
    Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles, a Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971
[German, 1965]), pp. 528, 529.
  [6]
      E.g., W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons,
  1896), p. 252; cf. P. Vielhauer, “On the ‘Paulinism’ of Acts,” Studies in Luke-Acts, ed. Keck and Martyn,
  pp. 36-37.
[7]
    Ned B. Stonehouse, Paul Before the Areopagus and Other New Testament Studies (Grand Rapids:
Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1957), pp. 9-10.
[8]
    Martin Dielius, Studies in the Acts of the Apostles (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1956), p. 79.
[9]
    Bertil Gartner, The Areopagus Speech and Natural Revelation (Uppsala: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1955), p.
52.
[10]
      For further details on the philosophical schools of the Hellenic and Roman periods the reader can
consult with profit the standard historical studies of Guthrie, Brehier, and Copleston.
  [11]
       Cf. Oscar Broneer, “Athens: City of Idol Worship,” The Biblical Archaeologist 21 (February, 1958):4-6.
[12]
      For a comparison of the apologetical methods of Socrates and Paul see G. L. Bahnsen, “Socrates or
Christ: The Reformation of Christian Apologetics,” in Foundations of Christian Scholarship, ed. Gary North
(Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1976).
[13]
      Cornelius Van Til, Paul at Athens (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: L. J. Grotenhuis, n.d.), pp. 2, 3.
[14]
      Contrary to Haenchen, Acts Commentary, pp. 518-519, 520.
[15]
      For the affirmative position see Gartner, Areopagus Speech, pp. 64-65; for the negative see
Haenchen, Acts Commentary, p. 519.
[16]
      Lake and Cadbury, Acts of the Apostles, p. 213.
[17]
      Van Til, Paul at Athens, p. 14.
[18]
      Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge (Nutley, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed,
1969), p. 293.


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[19]
       For further discussion of the presuppositional method, refer to the earlier chapters of this book.
[20]
     F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, in the New International Commentary on the New
Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1955), p. 356.
[21]
     Adolf Deissman, Paul: A Study in Social and Religious History (London: Hodder and Stroughton,
1926), pp. 287-291.
[22]
     G. C. Berkouwer, General Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1955), p. 145.
[23]
     Munck, Anchor Bible: Acts, p. 171.
  [24]
       J. H. Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids:
  Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1950), p. 324.
[25]
     Van Til, Paul at Athens, p. 5.
[26]
     Henry Alford, The Greek New Testament (Boston: Lee and Shepherd Publishers, 1872), 2:198.
[27]
     J. B. Lightfoot, “St. Paul and Seneca,” St. Paul’s Epistle to the Phillipians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan
Publishing House, 1953), p. 304.
[28]
     Berkouwer, General Revelation, p. 145.
[29]
     Haenchen, Acts Commentary, p. 525.
[30]
     Gartner, Areopagus Speech, p. 188.
[31]
     Gordon R. Lewis, “Mission to the Athenians” part IV, Seminary Study Series (Denver: Conservative
Baptist Theological Seminary, November, 1964), p. 7; cf. pp. 1, 6, 8, and part III, p. 5.
[32]
     Ibid., part III, p. 2; part IV, p. 6.
[33]
     Berkouwer, General Revelation, p. 143.
[34]
     Ibid., p. 144.
[35]
     F. F. Bruce, “Paul and the Athenians,” The Expository Times 88 (October, 1976): 11.
[36]
     Stonehouse, Paul Before the Areopagus, p. 30.
[37]
     Van Til, Paul at Athens, p. 12.
[38]
     Ibid., p. 2.
[39]
     Lake and Cadbury, Acts of the Apostles, p. 209.
[40]
     F. F. Bruce, The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament, pp. 38, 46-47.
[41]
     Compare Gartner, Areopagus Speech, pp. 147-152, with Haenchen, Acts Commentary, p. 523.
[42]
     Berkouwer, General Revelation, pp. 142-143.

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[43]
       F. F. Bruce, “Paul and the Athenians,” p. 9.
[44]
     Contrary to E. M. Blaiklock, The Acts of the Apostles, An Historical Commentary, in the Tyndale New
Testament Commentaries, ed. R. V. G. Tasker (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1959), pp. 140-141.
[45]
     E.g., R. C. Sproul, tape “Paul at Mars’ Hill,” in the series Exegetical Bible Studies: Acts (Pennsylvania:
Ligonier Valley Study Center), tape AX-13.
[46]
     E.g., Blaiklock, Acts, Historical Commentary, p. 142; Everett F. Harrison, Acts: The Expanding Church
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 272.
[47]
     F. F. Bruce, Book of Acts, p. 362.
[48]
     Haenchen, Acts Commentary, p. 526.
[49]
     Harrison, Acts, p. 273.
[50]
     Lake and Cadbury, Acts of the Apostles, p. 219.
[51]
     J. S. Steward, A Faith to Proclaim (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953), p. 117.




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PA053
The Conqueror, Vol. II No. 2, © Covenant Media Foundation, 800/553-3938


                                                 Beware of Philosophy!
                                                             By Greg L. Bahnsen


Newport Christian High School has something virtually unique among the various private, Christian schools around
the country. It is an extraordinary feature of its required curriculum – a prerequisite for high school graduation which
few other schools enforce. NCHS is unique in that it offers a philosophy course for its high school seniors.

There was a time when nearly every college and university required its students to take at least one introductory
course in philosophy. Sadly, many colleges have lately altered such “old fashioned” notions about education and
dropped their philosophy prerequisites for graduation. Not surprisingly, America’s colleges have been turning out
graduates with little interest of proficiency in clear thinking, consistency, cogency, and depth of insight regarding a
world-and-life-view. Those who graduate from Newport Christian High School are already a step ahead of many
students from colleges which have amended their curriculum to suit the times.

But are they a step ahead with philosophy? An often abused test from the New Testament might suggest the
opposite, at least upon first reading. In Colossians 2 Paul writes: “Beware lest there be anyone who robs you by
means of his philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the elementary principles of the world, and not
after Christ” (v. 8) – robs you, that is, of “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” which are deposited in Christ (v.
3). With this kind of warning in the New Testament, why would a Christian school want to require the study of
philosophy? It might seem that we should rather avoid philosophy!

A closer and fairer reading of Paul in Colossians 2 will correct our misunderstanding, however. We notice, first, that
Paul does not prohibit the study of philosophy; rather, he warns us about it. Likewise, parents will warn their
teenagers about the dangers of driving, without prohibiting the use of the family car. Philosophy, like cars, can be
used in a constructive or in a destructive manner. Paul warns against the destructive potential of philosophy.

Secondly, we notice, upon re-reading, that Paul’s warning is not directed against all philosophy, but instead against a
particular kind of philosophy. Paul focuses attention on a certain kind of philosophy. Paul focuses attention on a
certain kind of philosophy which is given an extended description: it is “vain deceit” (empty and misleading), follows
“human tradition” (the accepted opinions of men), and is based on the “elementary principles of the world” (the
presuppositions of those in rebellion against God). This is the kind of philosophy against which Paul warns the
church. And well he should! Any philosophy which fits this description will indeed rob us of the treasures of
knowledge in Christ.

So then, Paul warns us against worldly philosophy which he has just described is this: it is not a philosophy which he
has just described is this: it is not a philosophy. We see, thirdly, that Paul refers to another kind of philosophy by
contrast. Above all, what he objects about the worldly philosophy which he has just described is this: it is not a
philosophy which is “after Christ.” Christ was Paul’s life and love, the starting point of his thinking and goal of his
behavior. Christ was central for Paul. Naturally, then, Paul could have nothing to do with a philosophy which was not
according to Christ nor submissive to His holy word.

Thus, we see that in addition to worldly philosophy there exists something which can be called "Christian
philosophy"”—philosophy which is “after Christ.” Although Colossians 2 warns believers about the destructive
potential of any philosophy which is not according to Christ, this scripture actually explains why we must study
philosophy.

We study philosophy in order to fulfill Paul’s command with greater efficiency and clarity. We study philosophy to
make sure that our presuppositions regarding reality, knowledge, and ethics are truly Christ-honoring
presuppositions. We study philosophy in order to see what kind of thinking we should not fall prey to in our culture. In

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short, we study philosophy to beware of misguided thinking and to commit ourselves to true thinking about man and
the world.

So then, NCHS has a required course in philosophy. Even if there were no such course in philosophy, however,
philosophy would still be taught at the school. Indeed, philosophy is being taught every day of the academic year at
those schools which have no set philosophy course. Philosophy is always being taught, in every course in a school’s
curriculum. You see, whatever the textbook or teacher in history, science, literature, math, foreign language, etc. says
is a reflection of some kind of philosophical view of man, the world, reality, knowledge, and life. These attitudes and
outlooks are always coming through, always being relied upon, always informing what is said. Every book and
teacher communicates a philosophy indirectly.

Thus, philosophy is taught everywhere that students take classes, and it would, accordingly, be taught at NCHS even
if there were no course on the subject. The difference at Newport Christian High is that we stop and take the time to
reflect upon the philosophy which is always being implicitly communicated to our students. We believe that unless
students take time to reflect upon major issues in philosophy (its presuppositions and implications), they will make
philosophical decisions by default – without adequate awareness or intellectual responsibility.

Everyone does philosophy, for everyone comes to views of reality, knowledge, and ethics. The difference between
“the philosopher” and the ordinary man in the street is simply one of degree. Everyone does philosophy, but not
everyone attempts to do it well. At NCHS we want to stop and reflect on what we should think and do as Christians.
We want to be explicit about our philosophy, so that we can have greater assurance that we are doing philosophy
well. Only then can we truly heed Paul’s warning to beware of worldly philosophy, for only then can we have a
confidence that we have committed ourselves to a “Christian philosophy” instead.

Beware of philosophy! The best way to do so is to study it.




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PA061Presbyterian Journal 44:32 (Dec. 4, 1985) [Response to Gerstner & Sproul in defense of Van Til],
© Covenant Media Foundation.


                               A Critique of "Classical Apologetics"
                                                           By Dr. Greg Bahnsen


Classical Apologetics, by R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids,
Mich. 1984, 364 pp., $12.95 (paper). Reviewed by Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, pastor, Covenant Community Church (OPC),
Placentia, Calif. and Dean of the Newport Graduate School.


Intellectual respect for Biblically-defined Christian faith is not prevalent in this age. For that reason alone Reformed
Christians should readily welcome any honest effort to clarify and strengthen our method of defending the faith, as this
book aims to do. We need each other's help in more faithfully practicing the common task of defending the Word of
our common Lord.


All three authors of this particular effort in apologetics are associated with the Ligonier Valley Study Center. They do
not indicate who wrote which sections of the book. Each author advocates Reformed Christianity, and that perks our
interest in their opinions on apologetical method. Since that issue is so tied to heavy questions in the theory of
knowledge, however, it is also relevant that none of the authors has an advanced degree in philosophy (and only
Gerstner has an earned doctorate at all - in church history).


The authors should be enthusiastically applauded for insisting that Christian faith is capable of a reasoned defense.
They will not compromise an inch with the destructive idea that heartfelt faith is without intellectual reasons - or the
idea that to be irrational is a religious virtue. They maintain that God commands believers to reason with unbelievers,
not simply proclaim that they must make a groundless, subjective choice. This is a sorely needed emphasis today. We
could not agree with it more. On their chosen method of reasoning in defense of Christianity, though, we must agree
much less. We must find it, actually, contrary to good reasoning.


About half of the text of Classical Apologetics is given to promoting and practicing natural theology, and about half is
given to opposing the presuppositional method as found specifically in Cornelius Van Til's apologetic. As the book's
subtitle indicates, it purports to be "A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional
Apologetics." In the end it succeeds at neither.


The book opens by identifying the object of its apologetical concern: namely, "The Crisis of Secularism" (chap. 1). The
central axiom of secularism - and key challenge to Christianity in our day - is the view that "All possible knowledge is
restricted to the temporal" (p. 7). The book's primary, self-defined task is, therefore, to refute that view. But it does
nothing like that. In fact, the question is not even raised again in this form.


The authors rather try to deal with it by proving the existence of "God." But given secularism's axiom, this is futile. The
only things we can know - and hence prove - are temporal in character. Accordingly, even if the authors prove the
existence of some "first cause" (which we call "God"), it will necessarily be part of the temporal order of nature! In
short, without analyzing and refuting the presupposition of secularism about what is knowable, the authors simply beg
the question they set out to answer.


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Beyond this, there is more than a little philosophical confusion in the authors' conception and method of proving God's
existence. For instance, to evade the charge of naturalism and the idea that man has an unaided intrinsic ability to
reach a knowledge of God, they hold that "natural theology" (the human activity of devising proofs for God's existence)
is reflection "dependent upon divine revelation" (p. 25). But since a "divine revelation" already assumes the existence
of God, the "natural theology" of our authors depends at the outset on what it is supposed to prove at its conclusion!
The "natural man" using his "natural reason" - for whom the proofs of natural theology are intended - does not look
upon the facts of nature as a "divine revelation" at all.


When the authors go on and try to demonstrate that the Bible itself endorses "natural theology," they are unable to do
so, for all the evidence they adduce pertains rather to "natural revelation." The Psalmist and Paul say absolutely
nothing about inferences and proofs devised by human reflection. Our authors seem not to be aware that they
ambiguously switch back and forth between the two concepts of natural revelation and natural theology. (If space
permitted, we might show how their portrayal of natural "theology" is conceptually unclear to begin with, especially the
notion of inferential reflection upon evidences which is not a complex theoretical reasoning process: pp. 44, 46.)


A concept which has somewhere been lost by our authors is that of man's total depravity, including the noetic effects
of sin. They tell us that rational apologetics as "pre-evangelism" can establish the cognitive clarification of Christianity
and bring the natural man to an intellectual assent, but to take him beyond that to a personal trust in the heart,
emotions, and will is solely the work of the Holy Spirit (pp. 21-22). Scripture teaches otherwise. The problem with
fallen men is not simply in their will and emotions. They have just as much "become vain in their reasoning" like fools
(Rom. 1:21-22). Will such "natural men" use their "natural reason" to receive the things of the Spirit? They cannot (1
Cor. 2:14). In terms of reasoning from nature to God, Paul said this about the natural man: "There is none that
understands; there is none that seeks after God" (Rom. 3:11). The work of the Holy Spirit is just as much needed to
bring intellectual assent as it is to produce emotional trust. By suggesting otherwise, our author's conception of
apologetics is untrue to their Reformed theology.


Their book on apologetics is flawed by a number of philosophical lapses as well. When positions taken by
philosophers are represented in the book, they are too often oversimplified, jumbled, or handled with little more than
slogans (rather than analysis). Their discussion of the (allegedly) "non-negotiable" and "virtually universal"
assumptions about logic, perception, and causality in the knowing process (pp. 77ff.) is painfully naive, interacting with
none of the modern epistemological problems surrounding empiricism, induction, or the foundations of science and
logic. For instance, the causal principle is "defended" against the stringent critique of Hume by replying that it is true
by definition (p. 83)! (Instead of asking whether every "event" has a cause, they merely assure us that "every effect
has a cause" is analytical.) This does not give the reader confidence in the book's philosophical discernment.


But for our purposes here, let us single out for examination our authors' cosmological proof of God's existence
according to the "traditional" method of "natural theology." They reason: "if something exists now, something exists
necessarily" - "something must have the power of being within itself" (pp. 115, 118). This line of thinking is logically
fallacious. It does not follow at all from "X exists" that "It is necessarily true that X exists" (or that "X exists
necessarily"). The reasoning is also unintelligible. Exactly what is "the power of being"?


We get closer to understanding what the authors are trying to argue when they claim anything that exists must have a
"sufficient reason" (p. 115). The problem is that this interpretation of their cosmological argument contradicts an earlier
statement of theirs: "we say not that everything has an antecedent cause but that every effect has an antecedent
cause" (p. 111). After all, as we saw above, the causal principle is simply a definitional truth! The critical question,
therefore, is whether anything that exists (or any event) is "an effect" or not! There is not force to an argument that
"God" is the "first cause" (or "sufficient reason") for the world, unless one first proves that the world is an "effect."



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Why shouldn't the unbeliever simply take the world as uncaused? After all, the "god" of the cosmological argument
does not need an antecedent cause; why not simply say the same of the world itself. And even if the things or events
in this world are all "effects" (how would one prove that?), why couldn't there be an infinite regress of purely natural
causes? After all, our experience of causation is limited to the natural world, so how can we extrapolate beyond
natural experience? The authors have no philosophically adequate answer and become a study in arbitrariness.


The authors claim that an uncaused molecule could not be contingent, but must exist necessarily and eternally (p.
119). But why? This is sheer prejudice, not argument. If a molecule appears randomly and without cause ("by
chance"), there is nothing in such an event itself which demands that the molecule necessarily appear, or that the
molecule never cease to exist.


On the other hand, if the molecule is thought of as part of an infinite series of contingent causes, our authors commit
an elementary logical fallacy by concluding that the chain of causes itself must also be contingent - and thus in need
of a cause: "nowhere is there to be found the power of being within the causal chain" (p. 120). However, logicians
realize that a property of something's individual parts is not necessarily a property of the whole. For instance, imagine
a 20-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty made out of plastic legos. The parts all have the property of weighing less
than an ounce. If I argue that, therefore, the whole Statue must weigh less than an ounce, my reasoning would be
readily dismissed as not worthy of serious attention. To argue that the parts of the world (the causal chain) are
contingent, and therefore the world itself is contingent (in need of a causal explanation), deserves no better response.


In the last half of the book, our authors turn to a critique of the presuppositional apologetic, especially as advanced by
Cornelius Van Til. Little of this discussion proves helpful or even relevant, however, because Van Til's
presuppositionalism is so badly misrepresented. Let me illustrate. According to the authors, Van Til is a "fideist" and,
as such, holds that God cannot be known through nature and theistic proof, but only by faith - a faith independent of
all rational evidence (p. 27, 34, 35, 185). But Van Til himself has explicitly criticized "fideism" for asking people to
believe in their hearts what they allow to be intellectually indefensible (Christian-Theistic Evidences, pl. 37). He has
taught that "There is objective evidence in abundance.... If the theistic proof is constructed as it ought to be
constructed, it is objectively valid, whatever the attitude of those to whom it come may be" (Common Grace, p. 49). He
refuses to follow Kuyper's view of the uselessness of reasoning with the natural man (Defense of the Faith, 1st ed., p.
363). He has said "I do not reject the theistic proofs," "historical apologetics is absolutely necessary and
indispensable," and "Christianity is the only reasonable position to hold" (Defense of the Faith, p. 256; Introduction to
Systematic Theology, p. 146; Common Grace, p. 62).


Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley have simply not taken the time to understand correctly what they have chosen to
criticize. They acknowledge that Van Til denies that his presuppositionalism is fideistic, but they claim to know better
(p. 1840). Indeed, the last chapters of the book go to great lengths to explain away all of the clear evidence that can
be found in the writings of Van Til, Frame, Notaro and Bahnsen which is contrary to their fideistic misrepresentation of
presuppositionalism. I am reminded that on the morning in 1977 after I publicly debated Sproul on apologetical
method, I read to him numerous quotations from Van Til in support of theistic proof, evidences, and rational
argumentation with the unregenerate. He was shocked to hear that Van Til had written such things. I am shocked that,
having heard, he continues to force the good professor into the mold of his preconceptions. This is unreasonable -
making a presupposition ride roughshod over the evidence!


The authors are quite harsh about Van Til's presuppositionalism. "The implications of presuppositionalism, in our
opinion, undermine the Christian religion implicitly" (p. 184). They end their book by ridiculing it: "The emperor of the
Land of Presuppositionalism where Van Til, Frame, Clar, Henry, and others live, has no clothes. Van Til is
embarrassed" (p. 338). In fact, it should be the authors of this uncharitable and false representation who should be
embarrassed. Anyone can knock down a straw man.


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For this reviewer, the authors have not begun to interact meaningfully with presuppositionalism. They do not seem to
understand it any better than we found them to understand the philosophical issues in constructing a theistic proof
according to traditional natural theology. In contrast to their weak effort, as well as in contrast to their misconstrual of
Van Til, presuppositional apologetics sets forth the intellectual challenge to all unbelief that "unless [Christianity's] truth
is presupposed there is no possibility of proving anything at all" (Jerusalem and Athens, p. 21). This is the furthest
thing from fideism. It is actually very Pauline (1 Cor. 1:20).


We rejoice that Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley stand with us in worshiping the Triune God. Their effort to defend our
common faith means well. But apologetics cannot be evaluated simply like an awkward Christmas gift received from a
child. It is not simply "the thought that counts" here. The stakes are simply too high. College students cannot expect to
respond to skeptical challenges with the kind of thinking found in this book and not suffer intellectual embarrassment.
The argumentation is too easy to discredit, totally apart from personal antipathy to Christianity.


The authors admit that their traditional apologetic "is sick and ailing" (p. 12). Judging from the case made in this book,
the diagnosis may be overly optimistic. We need not despair for a rational defense of the historic Christian faith,
however, if we but listen to the epistemological and theological lessons of presuppositionalism.


Finally though, should you purchase a copy of this book? If your interest is the actual practice of defending the faith,
you will be disappointed because reliable, logically sound guidance will not be found here. Even if our interest is the
intramural, specialized study of apologetical methods, you can find more adequate examples of what this book
attempts to do. And if you are interested in understanding or criticizing contemporary presuppositional apologetics,
save your money for another day.




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PA062Presbyterian Journal 44:34 (December 18, 1985), © Covenant Media Foundation.


                                     Bahnsen Responds To Gerstner
                                                           By Dr. Greg Bahnsen



In Dr. Gerstner's response to my review of his book (Dec. 4) he asserts that the review offers "mere allegations" as to
the book's apologetical position. This plea is weak, disregarding the review's many substantiating page references.


Gerstner asserts the book "already answers" the review's objections. This is dubious, for were it true, those objections
would not have been raised in the first place. For instance, contrary to his claim, there just is no "carefully worked out
argument" against Hume in the book. (Let Gerstner rehearse its premises for us.) The fact is, no philosophy
department would give passing marks to his "tautological" defense of the law of causality (p. 83). Hume has just been
misunderstood.


So has Van Til, Gerstner asserts the review was "without any criticism" of his book's treatment of presuppositionalism.
This was incredible, missing the most devastating criticism imaginable: that the authors thoroughly misrepresent Van
Til's position.


Gerstner asserts that the review "submits no proof" of such misrepresentation, somehow evading its direct quotations
from Van Til. Gerstner's suggestion that, regardless of how Van Til regards his own position, Gerstner understands
better the true character of Van Til's views is high-minded. Since "charity rejoices in the truth," Gerstner's persistent
misconstrual of presuppositionalism is just uncharitable.


For instance, at the end of his response, Gerstner says that Van Til's presuppositionalism would have the Holy Spirit
inwardly confirm what is "rationally absurd." This deserves a Guinness record for misrepresentation, Van Til himself
criticizes fideists because they "believe in their hearts what they have virtually allowed to be intellectually
indefensible" (Christian-Theistic Evidences, p. 37). According to presuppositionalism, the Holy Spirit opens eyes "in
the presence of inescapably clear evidence." We aim to show that "it is wholly irrational to hold any other position than
that of Christianity" (Jerusalem And Athens, p. 21).


Gerstner hardly does better in trying to defend his book against its philosophical defects. Space allows but one
example.


Reacting to the review's critique, Gerstner now wants to rewrite his cosmological argument, replacing the simple term
"something" with the more loaded expression "some eternal thing." (These are hardly equivalent in ordinary English or
technical logic!). However, his argument remains fallacious. If something so happens to exist eternally, it does not
follow that it "necessarily" exists. The philosophical issues are just not comprehended.


Moreover, Gerstner's cosmological argument still turns upon the expression "the power of being" - which, without
definition or explication reduces the "proof" to profound sounding gibberish. Can Gerstner explain himself?




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Gerstner is touchy about the review's passing (accurate) observation that the authors lack earned degrees in
philosophy. Granted, without such degrees they could still demonstrate academic competence by means of their
published work. But this book is just not an example.


In summary, Gerstner's response to my review has only served to reinforce the original evaluation. The review
observed that his book's philosophical case for theism is not cogent, and his portrayal of Van Til is inaccurate. The
same things have evidenced themselves in Gerstner's response to the review.


Rev. Greg L. Bahnsen

Placentia, Calif.




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PA064 -Pressing Toward the Mark, ed. C.G. Dennison and R.C. Gamble (Philadelphia, Distributed by permission of
The Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, © 1986).
Distributed electronically by Covenant Media Foundation.


                 Pressing Toward The Mark:
  Machen, Van Til, and the Apologetical Tradition of the OPC
                                                           By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

Apologetics gave birth to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and continues to be its legacy and reputation. The
modernism of the early twentieth century was not simply a theological variant within historic Christianity, not merely a
new version of Christian doctrine which retained at its center the evangel. It was, according to J. Gresham Machen's
analysis in Christianity and Liberalism,[1] a departure from the Christian religion altogether, abandoning the
proclamation of the supernaturalistic good news of redemption which had distinguished the Christian church
throughout history. Liberalism was simply another religion or philosophy of man in competition with the historic biblical
faith. Accordingly, the battle with modernism was more than "polemical theology" against an exegetically weak or
inconsistent school of evangelical Christianity. It was apologetics with unbelief.[2]


Apologetics and the OPC
Machen's confrontation with modernism and broad churchmanship at Princeton Theological Seminary and within the
Presbyterian Church in the USA - which in time gave rise to both Westminster Theological Seminary (1929) and the
Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1936)[3] - was thus apologetical in nature. Both institutions were founded in the effort
to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Accordingly, the
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology states: "evangelical Christianity in the Western world owes a large debt to Machen
and to the organizations he founded for their intelligent and courageous explanation of and stand for historical
Christian truth."[4]


Apologetics was used, then, in the providence of God to bring about the Orthodox Presbyterian Church fifty years ago.
Throughout its half century the Orthodox Presbyterian Church has retained a reputation for apologetics. This
reputation has been tied, not only to the interests and requirements of its ministers, evangelists, and teachers,[5] but
especially to the scholarly careers of two leading professors at Westminster Theological Seminary who were Orthodox
Presbyterian ministers: Machen himself (who died in 1937) and Cornelius Van Til (who retired in 1973).


It can be said without partisan prejudice that preeminence in the twentieth-century defense of biblical faith belongs to
the labors of Machen and Van Til - the former in historical studies, the latter in philosophical studies, as they interfaced
with Christian theology. Dr. Clarence Edward Macartney said of Machen: "he was the greatest theologian and
defender of the Christian faith that the church of our day has produced."[6] About Van Til Christianity Today said:
"Cornelius Van Til wanted to be a farmer.... Instead he became one of the foremost Christian apologists of our
time."[7]


So then, to understand and appreciate the outlook, history, and ministry of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church - even
more so than Westminster Theological Seminary [8] - one needs to be familiar (if not sympathetic) with the theological
perspective, apologetical distinctives, and scholarly efforts of J. Gresham Machen and Cornelius Van Til. It has been
Machen and Van Til who, as theologians and apologists, have given the denomination its early bearing and character.


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[9] As a social group the Orthodox Presbyterian Church has a self-conception and mindset which are rooted in, and
will continue to develop in interaction with, the distinctive stances assumed by Machen and Van Til in their teaching
and publishing ministries.


A House Divided?
These introductory observations bring us to an engaging question. If the intellectual identity of the Orthodox
Presbyterian Church is tied up with the perspective and influence of both Machen and Van Til, is not the denomination
a house philosophically divided against itself? William White honestly asks, "Did Machen understand how far from the
old Princeton apologetic the new Westminster apologetic really was?"[10] Others would turn that into a rhetorical
question. To many people, anyway, it has seemed that the apologetical approach taken by Machen was conceptually
at odds with the presuppositional methodology subsequently advanced by Van Til. In the thinking of such individuals
Machen's empirical tendencies do not comport readily with Van Til's philosophical peculiarities. The heritage in
apologetics bequeathed by these two Christian scholars, we are told, lacks inner harmony - like a conceptual
dissonant chord.


There is no doubt about this much: Machen and Van Til certainly manifested different scholarly specializations and
developed different emphases in their publications. Machen labored over detailed historical challenges to the Christian
faith, paramount illustrations being The Origin of Paul's Religion[11] and The Virgin Birth of Christ [12] - whereas Van
Til strove to counter the broader, underlying philosophical challenges mounted against the Christian understanding of
reality, knowledge, or ethics, as exemplified in his books, A Survey of Christian Epistemology[13] and Christianity and
Idealism[14] Machen waxed eloquent about the historical foundation of faith: "Christian piety must be grounded firmly
in historical knowledge."[15] Van Til argued that historical knowledge has philosophical preconditions which in
themselves drive one to Christian faith: "the conflict between those who believe in historic Christianity and those who
do not cannot be carried by a discussion of 'facts' without at the same time discussing the philosophy of fact";[16] "one
has to go back of the 'facts' of history to a discussion of the meaning of history."[17]


The intellectual temperaments, preparation, and interests of Machen and Van Til likewise led them in different
directions. Machen was fascinated and absorbed with the particulars of classical philology and ancient history, while
not feeling at ease in the rarified atmosphere of philosophical speculation. As a student, Machen distinguished himself
in classics, but once relayed to his older brother, Arthur, an offer of "$1,000 for a satisfactory exegesis of a single
page" of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.[18] On the other hand, Van Til's preparation and doctoral work were
devoted, not to the details of empirical science or historical study, but precisely to the broader and intellectually
necessary issues of philosophy; therefore he mastered, as a candidate at Princeton University, the complete works of
Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel in their original languages. He later wrote about the fact that historical investigation
bolstered the work of apologetics, but added this autobiographical note: "I do not personally do a great deal of this
because my colleagues in the other departments of the Seminary in which I teach are doing it better than I could do
it."[19]


The critical claim goes beyond what we have recognized here, though. It maintains that Machen was a practitioner of
the "Old Princeton" approach to apologetics[20] against which Van Til took a decided stand as a professor at
Westminster Seminary.[21] If that premise is substantially accurate, then some of Van Til's deepest reservations and
most critical comments about the traditional method of apologetics fostered at (old) Princeton Seminary would prove
to be against Machen himself - creating, in perspective and procedure, a momentous parting of the ways between the
two apologists. In essence, Van Til would have been correcting the methods of Machen[22] and striving to replace
them with a presuppositional approach alien to Machen's thinking. Their contributions to the defense of the historical
Christian faith are not simply different from each other, then, but are at diametric odds with each other. Van Til's work
would not complement that of Machen, but stand in fundamental conflict with it. The "apologetic tradition" of the


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Orthodox Presbyterian Church would actually turn out, in that case, to be two separate traditions standing over against
each other. Many think (at least on first appearance) that this is the actual state of affairs. I do not.[23]


It would be anachronistic and undiscerning, of course, to hold that Machen completely anticipated and clearly
expressed the very same transcendental, presuppositional challenge in apologetics as did Van Til, who merely
perpetuated it after Machen. Van Til's distinctive philosophical contribution and significant step forward in self-
conscious, apologetical methodology cannot be trivialized. Likewise, one cannot forget the immense admiration and
commitment Machen had for the grand theological reputation of Princeton Seminary, with its stalwart professors
famous for their propounding and defending of Calvinism as the truth of God, the purest and best exposition of the
gospel. Machen was indebted to this intellectual tradition, openly identifying himself with the outlook and scholarship
of B. B. Warfield[24] and Francis L. Patton, the first professor in the chair of "the Relations of Philosophy and Science
to the Christian Religion" and later seminary president, with whom Machen had a particularly close (and mutually
supportive) relationship.[25] When the apologetics chair created for Patton was vacated in 1892, it was assumed by
William Brenton Greene, Jr., who served both as Machen's instructor and later as his supportive colleague in the
seminary and presbytery.[26] It could be expected, therefore, that the attitude, concerns, and argumentation of
Machen would bear a close resemblance to that of his Princeton predecessors - making it understandable (though too
simplistic) that, not only might his theology[27] and his empirical concern with evidences[28] be readily identified with
theirs, but his conception of apologetics as well.


The situation was far more intricate than that. While not coming to a fully and systematically worked-out understanding
of presuppositional epistemology - much less shifting fields from his area of historical expertise to philosophical
defense of the faith (which presuppositionalism would not have required of him anyway) - Machen does seem, in a
manner unlike his Princeton mentors, to have recognized and appreciated that the insights of presuppositionalism
were the consistent and self-conscious end of thinking which is true to Reformed theology. Personal experience and
scholarly reflection brought him to a conception of apologetics - and of his own continuing work in historical defense -
which was an advance over old Princeton in various ways and a corrective to some of its weakest philosophical
distinctives. His own perspective on, and pursuit of, defending the faith were much more presuppositional than we
would expect from someone who conformed exactly to the old Princeton outlook.[29] In short, because Machen
moved away from the old Princeton conception of apologetics in a presuppositional direction, Van Til could applaud
and support his historical defense of the faith, even as Machen could appreciate and approve of the developments in
methodology and philosophical defense by Van Til. Any minor incongruities between (and even within) their two
scholarly efforts do not belie the basic harmony of perspective which runs through them both.


Some Relevant History
Rehearsing some history relevant to Machen and Van Til would lead us to anticipate that evaluation.[30] Eleven years
after Van Til's birth, Machen joined the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary (1906). It was during Van Til's
teenage and college years that Machen became known as someone who stood for the intelligent defense of the
historic Christian faith, publishing such engaging articles (among others) as "Jesus and Paul," "Christianity and
Culture," and "History and Faith."[31] The year Van Til entered Calvin Theological Seminary (1921), Machen's first
major book and apologetical masterpiece, The Origin of Paul's Religion, came off the press, elevating Machen in the
esteem of all who sought a Christianity capable of scholarly defense. Impressed with the noble faculty of Princeton
Seminary (Machen, Vos, C. W. Hodge, Wilson) and the international prestige of the University (with A. A. Bowman the
head of the philosophy department), Van Til transferred there the next year (1922), eventually earning the Th.M. from
the seminary in 1925 and the Ph.D. from the university in 1927.


During those five intellectually intense years he came to know and respect Machen, on a personal basis especially
while a seminary student, living on the same floor with Machen in Alexander Hall.[32] This time of contact between
Van Til and Machen was a momentous period in the latter's career. He published two major works important to the

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apologetical setting of the time, Christianity and Liberalism in 1923 and What is Faith?[33] in 1925. He constantly
wrote on themes of apologetical significance: "Is Christianity True?" (1923), "The God of the Early Christians" (1924),
"The Modern Use of the Bible" (1925), "The Relation of Religion to Science and Philosophy" (1926), "Is the Bible Right
About Jesus?" (1927)[34]. Also he often preached fervently in defense of the faith as stated supply (1923-1924) in the
First Presbyterian Church of Princeton.[35] Public focus during Van Til's seminary years was on events which would
embroil Machen in theological and ecclesiastical controversy; e.g., on Fosdick's notorious address, "Shall the
Fundamentalists Win?" (1922), on the signing of the "Auburn Affirmation" (1923).


In light of Van Til's admiration for Machen,[36] Machen's personal proximity, and the obvious bearing of Machen's
scholarship on Van Til's chosen interest in apologetics, it is unreasonable to think Van Til could be aware of Machen's
position and the details of his method of defense. Given Van Til's brilliance, it is unreasonable to think he did not
understand them.


It turns out that at the same time Van Til was making an equally strong impression on Machen. Van Til entered
Princeton as a middler,[37] having already studied under W. H. Jellema and reading the Dutch works of Kuyper. Could
Machen have missed this in his personal contacts and conversations with the Christian Reformed transfer student
from Calvin Seminary? (After all, during Machen's own years as a seminary student, his esteemed mentor, B. B.
Warfield, published a critical discussion of Kuyper's view of apologetics.)[38] Van Til's philosophical prowess became
readily apparent to his Princeton professors, more particularly by his writing the prize-winning student papers for both
1923 (on evil and theodicy) and for 1924 (on the will and its theological relations), as well as by his taking
simultaneous philosophy courses at the University each semester (with Machen hearing of A. A. Bowman's high
praise for his competence in metaphysics).


Two months before the granting of his doctorate, Van Til published in The Princeton Theological Review a discussion
of A. N. Whitehead's Lowell lectures for 1926, Religion in the Making.[39] The review clearly contained those lines of
thought for which Van Til's presuppositional analysis has come to be recognized throughout the years. Van Til
introduced his foil, significantly (especially in the old Princeton setting), as someone who "seeks to apply the scientific
method to religion." Crucial to his own approach, Van Til laid bare his opponent's presupposition: "experience and the
history of experience is his starting point." The prevailing sin of unbelieving philosophy was criticized: "the great line of
distinction between God and man is effaced"; i.e., no adequate Creator/creature distinction. Van Til complained that
God is, then, subjected to man's own autonomous judgment: "the Good is higher than God... This accords strictly with
his starting point which regards the moral consciousness as the judge of religion." But autonomous philosophy is not
equal to such a task, internally suffering from its own dialectical tensions, according to Van Til. Whitehead posited
process (change) as the basic feature of reality, trying "to get order and system out of this moving whole" by reference
to God. This is impossible, Van Til observed, since Whitehead's philosophy already "implies that God is subject to the
conditions of the world." Having offered an internal critique of the unbeliever's thought, Van Til finally pointed to the
only viable alternative. The Christian philosopher does not face Whitehead's major problem because the biblical God
is both transcendent and personal, "the self-sufficient creator" of the historic particulars (i.e., the source of both order
and change). Van Til's conclusion rings with the kind of note which is famous in his apologetical efforts: "Theism
makes God the source of possibility; only thus can the transcendence as well as the immanence of God be
maintained; only thus is God qualitatively distinct from man; only thus is He personal; only thus is He God."[40] So
then, from Van Til's very first published article his presuppositional direction of thought was manifest for all to see.


The following year (1928) Princeton Seminary invited Van Til to take a leave from his new pastorate and serve the
seminary as an instructor in apologetics - quite an honor, making him the youngest member of the faculty. His friendly
and godly hero, "Das" Machen, was pleased with the development and maintained a close personal relation with Van
Til and his wife during that year.[41] These words from a letter to his mother on September 25, 1928, leave no doubt
about Machen's endorsement of Van Til:



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         The best piece of news for some time is that Mr. Van Til, a recent graduate of the Seminary, has,
         despite Dr. Stevenson's vigorous opposition, been asked by the Directors' Curriculum Committee to
         teach the classes in Apologetics during this year, and has accepted. It is the first real forward step that
         has been taken in some time. Van Til is excellent material from which a professor might ultimately be
         made.[42]


In January 1929, Van Til published a review of two books by Bavinck, insisting that we must abandon the impossible
notion of a "neutral territory" of truth or study - making necessary schools which are self-consciously Christian in
starting point and goal[43] - "if we would truly employ all the means given us for the propagation and defense of the
faith."[44] One of the cherished assumptions and touted ideals of the old Princeton approach to apologetics could not
be accepted by Van Til. That was open for all to see, and Machen had excellent perception.


In May of 1926, the board of directors for Princeton Theological Seminary had extended to Machen a call to the Stuart
Professorship of Apologetics and Christian Ethics, which he accepted after some hesitation (especially over
transferring from the New Testament department). In the throes of the political fight over reorganization of the
seminary, though, Machen came to doubt the wisdom of his acceptance.[45] On June 20, 1928, he requested
permission from the board to withdraw his previous acceptance, which it did. Who then could take Machen's place?
The overwhelming approval of Van Til's work in apologetics could not have been more forcefully expressed by the
board of Princeton Seminary[46] than by what it did in the spring of 1929 - electing Van Til, after but one year of
teaching, to occupy the very chair of apologetics which Machen had turned down! On May 12 "Machen expressed his
intense gratification at this development, speaking of Van Til's special equipment for the work and his great success
with the students."[47] From this it is evident that Machen was conscious of, interested in, and personally applauded
the character and quality of Van Til's apologetical teaching.


On June 14, 1929, Machen communicated his determination not to teach under the reorganized board of Princeton
Seminary.[48] He was joined in this by Van Til. When plans were pursued that summer to establish Westminster
Seminary, Machen had his own opportunity to seek the very kind of man in apologetics he wanted. We can be sure
Machen recognized how crucial and determinative this position would be, especially in light of the "purpose and plan"
for the new seminary which Machen propounded at its opening exercises: notably, "we believe that the Christian
religion welcomes and is capable of scholarly defense." He considered no one else to be as suited and qualified to do
the work desired than Van Til. There was no doubt in his mind about the choice. Machen was so determined to have
Van Til be the apologist at Westminster that, when Van Til initially declined the invitation (even after a visit from O. T.
Allis to plead the cause), in August Machen himself traveled to Spring Lake, Michigan, to use all his influence and
persuasion to change Van Til's mind - like Farel pleading with Calvin to come to Geneva, Van Til recalls.[49] In
September Van Til joined the faculty, being asked to teach the same course material he had advanced at Princeton
earlier (including an elective in the history of metaphysics). It is manifest from what transpired, then, that neither
Machen nor Van Til found irreconcilable differences with each other's own conceptions and practice of apologetics.
They both made well thought out decisions to labor together.


There was plenty of opportunity over the next few years to understand even further the nature and practice of one
another's apologetical scholarship. Van Til would read Machen's stirring 1932 address: "The Importance of Christian
Scholarship,"[50] and hear Machen's famous radio talks in 1935 which were published as The Christian Faith in the
Modern World[51] and The Christian View of Man. In 1933 Van Til developed and clearly set forth his transcendental,
presuppositional apologetic in his first major syllabus at Westminster, Metaphysics of Apologetics.[52] The distinctive
tack taken by his presuppositional apologetic finds its finest and earliest statement right here. He reflected critically on
the empirical approach to religious truth in the syllabus, Psychology of Religion. Very importantly, Van Til produced in
1935, not only his quintessential statement of presuppositionalism which appears in the syllabus entitled Christian


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Apologetics, but also the syllabus with most direct relevance to the Old Princeton method of apologetics, Evidences.
All of these written studies, which abundantly advertised the presuppositional character and method of defending the
faith, were produced and discussed in the presence of Machen, a man who was consumed with enthusiasm for
Christianity's defense. He surely took note of the accomplishments and teaching of his chosen professor for
apologetics. Prior to Machen's death, Van Til also published a large number of magazine pieces, including some
twenty articles or reviews of important religious and philosophical books in the very periodicals which Machen himself
helped to establish, finance, and edit: Christianity Today and the Presbyterian Guardian.[53] At one point Machen and
Van Til enjoyed a two-day train trip together in which they talked at length with each other about apologetic method.


Therefore, Machen was hardly in the dark as to Van Til's point of view and method,[54] and Van Til could not have
been ignorant of Machen's. The scholarship and argumentation of these two apologists, who had known each other
for so long, could not have slipped the attention of each other. Nor can we credibly suppose that either of them lacked
the requisite scholarly powers to realize what the other was contending. Given their joint and eager dedication to
apologetical work, they would have been especially interested in the bearing of each other's line of thinking on their
own labors. And given their non-too-shy commitment to matters of principle and importance, we cannot believe they
would have swept any fundamental ideological conflict under the rug.


So then, our short rehearsal and integration of relevant details in their career exhibits, from the very fact that Machen
and Van Til chose to minister and teach together, that neither of them found in the apologetic propounded by the other
any root hostility to his own. William White justly records: "It is a known fact that Machen, as far as he comprehended
it, fully endorsed Van Til's thinking and gave it his hearty and unqualified backing."[55] If the two master apologists
themselves did not perceive tension between their two approaches, it would seem a high-minded and precarious
course for students of them to pursue some fundamental conflict between them.


The Objective Proof of Christian Theism
The temptation to suggest incompatibility between Machen and Van Til springs, it seems, from harboring misleading
assumptions about Van Til's view of such tools as empirical evidence and theistic proofs in defending the faith,[56] if
not from an equally misconceived notion of what Machen felt about them as well. These misrepresentations cannot be
justified in light of the published works of Machen and Van Til, but arise from faulty preconceptions of what their
positions must imply and from inadequate familiarity with their teaching.[57] To take just one of the many available
illustrations, Clark Pinnock has portrayed Van Til as maintaining that "it is not only useless, but wrong, to appeal to
theistic arguments or historical vindications in defense of the Christian faith: standing over against Van Til, he thinks,
Pinnock teaches that "a philosophy of Christian evidences which employs theistic argument and historical evidence is
needed lest the gospel be discredited as a grand and unwarranted assumption."[58] Efforts must be made, then, to
clarify and explain the matter,[59] looking first at the issue of theistic proofs and second at the issue of empirical
evidences for Christianity.


We should begin by observing that Van Til's criticism of the "theistic proofs" has always and only been directed
against the proofs as they were traditionally formulated, understood, and applied. Such proofs have erroneously
suggested that (1) the evidence for God's existence is ambiguous (so that there is some excuse for denying it or
holding that it is only probably true), (2) that there are matters which are epistemologically more certain than God
(from which one then moves on to prove, with less certainty, God's existence), (3) that the unbeliever's espoused
presuppositions about reality and knowledge are sufficient to account for the intelligibility of his experience and
reasoning (so that he has every philosophical right to question God's existence on his own terms), (4) that
unregenerate men can be intellectually neutral and open-mindedly fair about this subject (rather than unrighteously
and self-deceptively suppressing the truth), and (5) that the "god" which can be rationally proven may or may not be
the God of the Christian Scriptures (since we deal only with isolated truth-claims, one by one, not an all-embracing
worldview). In addition to the internal, philosophical flaws with the traditional formulations of a theistic proof,[60] Van


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Til finds these preceding assumptions to be theologically and philosophically unacceptable. Paul taught in Romans
1:18-22 that the very living and true God in all of his eternal power and divine character (contrary to 5) is so clearly
and inescapably revealed in man's experience (contrary to 2) that they all know God, and there is absolutely no
excuse for denying it (contrary to 1); nevertheless, all men strive to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (contrary to
4) and end up becoming vain and foolish in their reasoning (contrary to 3). For instance, they presuppose that all
events are random ("chance," freedom), and then turn around and insist on rigid explanation by means of scientific
laws (order, necessity); they presuppose that there is nothing but matter in motion (materialism), and then turn around
and call for adherence to the (non-materialistic) laws of logic.


Van Til realizes that there is no natural theology, if we mean that according to Romans 1 the created realm simply
provides uninterpreted raw data which merely makes possible, provided men rationally reflect upon it correctly, a
natural knowledge of God as the eventual conclusion of their reasoning. From the epistemological side, there is no
uninterpreted sense data ("no brute facts"); and from the metaphysical side, there is no logic free of commitment to
some view of reality ("no neutrality"). Theologically, men do not naturally interpret their experience of nature in such a
way as to reach and affirm correct conclusions about God. About the natural man, who "cannot know" the things of
God's Spirit (1 Cor 2:14), Paul said "there is none who seeks after God" (Rom 3:11). In that case we should not really
speak of natural theology, but rather of a "natural atheology." Until men are driven to abandon their intellectual
autonomy and to think in terms of the truth of God as their point of reference, they will never read the evidence
properly for God's existence, but Van Til adds, neither will they be able to make sense of any area of their experience.
The theistic proofs should not, therefore, cater to man's pretended autonomy.[61] It is important to stress the "basic
difference between a theistic proof that presupposes God and one that presupposes man as ultimate."[62]


Van Til's apologetic is based upon confidence in natural revelation, for Romans 1 teaches that the created order is a
conduit of constant, inescapable, pre-interpreted information about God, so that all men already possess an actual
knowledge of him at the very outset of their reasoning about anything whatsoever, a knowledge which makes possible
their use of evidence and reason. Van Til asserts that "the revelation of God to man is so clear that it has absolute
compelling force objectively, "and from that standpoint "I do not reject 'the theistic proofs' but merely insist on
formulating them in such a way as not to compromise the doctrines of Scripture."[63] Natural revelation is crucial to
the formulation of proof for God's existence: "God's revelation is everywhere, and everywhere perspicuous. Hence the
theistic proofs are absolutely valid. They are but the restatement of the revelation of God."[64]


Far from rejecting theistic proof, Van Til insists upon it, and in fact insists upon a very strong version thereof: "The
argument for the existence of God and for the truth of Christianity is objectively valid. We should not tone down the
validity of this argument to the probability level... Christianity is the only reasonable position to hold."[65] If men will not
intellectually acknowledge that they know and must presuppose God, their attempts to reason and interpret
experience (on some other espoused presupposition) cannot be made intelligible. Thus Van Til states his proof quite
concisely and forcefully: "The only 'proof' of the Christian position is that unless its truth is presupposed there is no
possibility of 'proving' anything at all."[66] In short Van Til's approach is to challenge unbelievers in the words of Paul:
"Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of
the world?" (1 Cor 1:20; cf. Rom 1:21).


If the debate with unbelievers comes down in principle to a conflict over ultimate presuppositions which control all
other reasoning and interpretation, though, does not all use of rational argumentation cease? According to Van Til, not
at all. This was the whole point of chapter XIV in A Survey of Christian Epistemology. It opened by saying "the
question that comes up at once is whether it is then of any use to argue about the Christian theistic position at all with
those who are of contrary convictions" (p. 183). Van Til forcefully refutes the notion that it is useless for the regenerate
to reason with the unregenerate, insisting that we must. "It is exactly because of out deep conviction that God is one
and truth is therefore one, that we hold that there is only one type of argument for all men" (p. 198). We must not
abandon rational debate with the unbeliever: "we cannot choose epistemologies as we choose hats... [as if] the whole


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thing is but a matter of taste"; rather, those who hold antithetical presuppositions "ought to be refuted by a reasoned
argument, instead of by ridicule and assumption" (pp. xiv, 23). Christian commitment is not intellectually ungrounded:
"Faith is not blind faith... Christianity can be shown to be, not 'just as good as' or even' better than' the non-Christian
position, but the only position that does not make nonsense of human experience."[67] Van Til does not permit the
argument for the truth of Christianity to be washed out into subjectivism:" There is objective evidence in abundance
and it is sufficiently clear. Men ought, if only they reasoned rightly, to come to the conclusion that God exists. That is
to say, if the theistic proof is constructed as it ought to be constructed, it is objectively valid, whatever the attitude of
those to whom it comes may be."[68]


Elsewhere Van Til is decidedly critical of the "fideistic attitude [which] comes to expression frequently in the statement
of the experiential proof of the truth of Christianity. People will say that they know that they are saved and that
Christianity is true no matter what the philosophical or scientific evidence for or against it may be.... But, in thus
seeking to withdraw from all intellectual argument, such fideists have virtually admitted the validity of the argument
against Christianity. They will have to believe in their hearts what they have virtually allowed to be intellectually
indefensible."[69] His commitment to a reasoned apologetic, rather than blind authority, is manifest: "It might seem
that there can be no argument between them. It might seem that the orthodox view of authority is to be spread only by
testimony and by prayer, not by argument. But this would militate directly against the very foundation of all Christian
revelation."[70] This brief discussion demonstrates how terribly misinformed is Montgomery's criticism that Van Til's
apologetic "gives the unbeliever the impression that our gospel is as a prioristically, fideistically irrational as the
presuppositional claims of its competitors."[71]


Since the argument with the unbeliever is finally over those presuppositions which control all other reasoning and
interpretation, what kind of argument can be rationally employed? It will be an argument regarding the preconditions of
all intelligible experience, logic, science, ethics, etc. - an argument "from the impossibility of the contrary."[72] For this
one must use the indirect method of argument: "The method of reasoning by presupposition may be said to be indirect
rather than direct. The issue between believers and non-believers in Christian theism cannot be settled by a direct
appeal to 'facts' or 'laws' whose nature and significance is already agreed upon by both parties to the debate. The
question is rather as to what is the final reference-point required to make the 'facts' and 'laws' intelligible."[73] To settle
that question, Van Til continues, the believer and unbeliever must "for arguments's sake" place themselves on each
other's position to see what their respective outworkings are regarding the intelligibility of facts and laws. Van Til put it
this way in his first syllabus:


         The Reformed method of argument is first constructive. It presents the biblical view positively by
         showing that all factual and logical discussions by men take place by virtue of the world's being what
         God in Christ says it is. It then proceeds negatively to show that unless all facts and all logical relations
         be seen in the light of the Christian framework, all human interpretation fails instantly. It fails instantly in
         principle.[74]


The Proper Approach to Evidences
When we turn from "theistic proof" to the subject of scientific and historical evidences for the Christian faith, we again
see how far off the mark Van Til's critics have been. Montgomery misrepresents him as presenting the unbeliever
"with an a priori dogmatic" instead of "the factually compelling evidence for the Christian truth-claim," and Pinnock
alleges that Van Til "refuses to have anything to do with ... rational arguments and empirical demonstrations." To hear
them, one is led to believe Van Til would "recoil from" presenting verifying evidence for the faith and "dismiss [the
unbeliever's] questions without a hearing."[75] The actual truth is that Van Til does not in the slightest reject the proper
use of inductive reasoning and empirical evidences in apologetics.




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Listen to what Van Til says about the phenomena of Scripture:


         The point is, we are told, that in an infallible Bible there should not be any discrepancies. There should
         be no statement of historical fact in Scripture that is contradictory to a statement of historical fact given
         elsewhere. Yet higher criticism has in modern times found what it thinks are facts that cannot possibly
         be harmonized with the idea of an infallible Bible. What shall be the attitude of the orthodox believer
         with respect to this? Shall he be an obscurantist and hold to the doctrine of the authority of the Scripture
         though he knows that it can empirically be shown to be contrary to the facts of Scripture themselves? It
         goes without saying that such should not be his attitude.[76]


The presuppositionalist is not allergic to employing empirical, inductive study according to the scientific method - just
the opposite:


         It is quite commonly held that we cannot accept anything that is not the result of a sound scientific
         methodology. With this we can as Christians heartily agree. ...The Christian position is certainly not
         opposed to experimentation and observation.[77]


Depreciation of [the] sense world inevitably leads to a depreciation of many of the important facts of historic
Christianity which took place in the sense world. The Bible does not rule out every form of empiricist any more than it
rules out every form of a priori reasoning.[78]


         The greater amount of detailed study and the more carefully such study is undertaken, the more truly
         Christian will the method be. It is important to bring out this point in order to help remove the common
         misunderstanding that Christianity is opposed to factual investigation.... The difference between the
         prevalent method of science and the method of Christianity is not that the former is interested in finding
         the facts and is ready to follow the facts wherever they may lead, while the latter is not ready to follow
         the facts.[79]


Such affirmations by Van Til fully comport with presuppositional thinking and method: they are not out of character or
inconsistent with the system as a whole. "Evidentialist" critics might jump back with the challenge, "Why, then, does
Van Til rule out the historical argument for the resurrection!" The question displays the blinding effect of
preconceptions again, for just listen to Van Til's own words: "Historical apologetics is absolutely necessary and
indispensable to point out that Christ rose from the grave, etc."[80] Not only is it indispensable in general, Van Til says
of himself in particular: "I would therefore engage in historical apologetics."[81] The plain and simple fact is that, from
the very start, Van Til's presuppositionalism has not been antagonistic to - or meant as a substitute for - evidences
and empirical reasoning in support of the historic Christian faith. He has always had tremendous confidence in them:
"Every bit of historical investigation, whether it be in the directly biblical field, archeology, or in general history is bound
to confirm the truth of the claims of the Christian position.... A really fruitful historical apologetic argues that every fact
is and must be such as proves the truth of the Christian theistic position."[82]


As was discussed above, Van Til lays strong emphasis upon natural revelation in his apologetic. Since he takes that
to be a clear communication from God through the facts of nature and history, one which leaves men guilty for
rebelling against God, it is altogether consistent that Van Til endorses the work of scientists and historians in offering
verification for the claims of the Christian faith. It is of particular value in, first, strengthening the confidence of
believers and, second, embarrassing unbelievers in their criticisms against the Bible's scientific and historical claims.
Evidences offer God's children the answers they need so as not to be intellectually troubled when hearing the learned


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objections of non-Christian scholars. Evidences can also silence the futile empirical objections of unbelievers to the
claims of Christianity, if not also "clearing away the mental debris" of intellectual prejudice (e.g., "only anti-scientific,
emotional superstition could lead some one to believe biblical claims") so that unbelievers can better hear and
consider the message of Scripture.


As indispensable and valuable as they are, though, it would be a misleading conception to think that evidences can
stand on their own in Christian apologetics. This should be obvious enough from what God's word teaches us. (1)
What people will think about the observed evidence is affected by non-observational beliefs (e.g., Matt 28:12-13, 17;
Luke 24:16, 31; John 21:12). (2) In dealing with the claims of Christ, nobody is truly detached and uncommitted one
way or another: "No man can serve two masters .... He who is not with me is against me" (Matt 6:24; 23:30). What one
presupposition sees as foolish, the other sees as wisdom (1 Cor 1:18-25). (3) The non-observational commitments of
the unbeliever (e.g., Ps 10:4; Rom 1:25; 3:11-12) are objectively foolish and lead to the destruction of knowledge
(Prov 1:22,29; Rom 1:21-22; 1 Tim 6:20) because "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov 1:7; cf. Ps
36:9). (4) All men inescapably have an inner knowledge of God (Gen 1:27; Rom 1:20-21; 2:15), the One whose
sovereign power and plan uphold the universe with regularity (Gen 8:22; Jer 31:35; Heb 1:3; Ps 33:11; Acts 15:18;
Dan 4:35), "working all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph 1:11). (5) Yet unbelievers are deeply hostile to
this knowledge and "suppress it in unrighteousness" (Rom 1:18-21), preferring to walk in the vanity of their minds and
darkened understanding (Eph 4:17-18). (6) That explains why it is that, regarding such empirical evidence as the
resurrection, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the
dead" (Luke 16:31; cf. 24:25-26). (7) Nevertheless, the objective revelation provided by God in the evidence of history
and Scripture is such that we can through the resurrection "know for certain that God has made this Jesus whom you
crucified both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36; Luke 1:4 says we can "know the certainty of the things" in which we have
been instructed, and cf. 1 John 2:3, "we know that we know").


To Van Til's epistemological credit, then, he has recognized throughout his scholarly career, not only the many
detailed errors in the outworking of the non-presuppositional (traditional) arguments from inductive evidence (say, for
the resurrection),[83] but more fundamentally the philosophical and theological truths (corresponding to the above list)
that: (1) all empirical observation is inescapably theory-laden (there are no uninterpreted "brute facts"). (2) The
acceptance and interpretation of what one takes as "factual" is not determined by sense perception alone, but in
interaction with one's fundamental philosophical convictions (there is no presuppositionless neutrality). (3) Empirical,
inductive study in itself has certain preconditions which can be intelligibly accounted for only on the presupposition of
Christianity (so that scientific and historical study wittingly or unwittingly assumes what believers are defending). (4)
What is assumed by the consistently non-Christian understanding of empiricism and induction[84] contradicts biblical
teaching as well as rendering empirical, inductive reasoning impossible in philosophical principle. (5) Unbelievers (like
believers) are not at all unbiased, impartial, without motive and goal, completely open-minded, and purely
disinterested in where they will be led by their handling of the empirical evidence. (6) If the unbeliever's espoused
presuppositions are not challenged, and if he holds tenaciously and consistently to them, he can for very good reason
refuse to be driven from his position by consideration of empirical evidences alone.[85] (7) Likewise, because the
believer's intellectual basis for certainty[86] about the claims of the Christian faith is broader than his (admittedly)
limited and fallible reflections upon the (admittedly) incomplete pool of available empirical indicators alone - which
would, if all by itself, require humble and mitigated conclusions - those claims (even about history and nature) should
not merely be considered or presented as probably true.[87]


In line with these insights Van Til states: "For any fact to be a fact at all it must be a revelational fact."[88] By thus
repudiating the idea of "brute fact" Van Til precludes an essential element of the traditional, non-presuppositional
approach to evidentialist apologetics, which holds that the objects of perception carry no inherent meaning or
interpretation and can be approached in a neutral fashion, without man's mind assuming any meaning or
interpretation. In that case the "facts" could disclose nothing whatsoever. There would be nothing within the facts or
within the mind of the investigator to determine objectively an order, relationship, specific quality or modality for these
random sensations. If facts signify nothing in themselves, they - whatever "they" amounts to! - cannot be used to test


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worldviews because they would be compatible with any number of conflicting (imposed) systems of meaning or
interpretation. Van Til's denial of "brute facts" and "purely observational" knowledge is in line with recent philosophical
criticism of the epistemological theory of empiricism as traditionally understood (eventuating in the distinctive tenets of
positivism). What complicates the apologetical situation, though, is that the non-Christian tries (unsuccessfully) to
suppress completely the evidential force of the facts by choosing and thoroughly applying presuppositions which run
counter to what these facts indicate; i.e., the truth (meaning) of Christianity. Apologetics is thus required to argue in
such a way as to strip away the autonomous and rebellious "glasses" through which unbelievers look at the
revelational facts. Accordingly Van Til's defense of the faith "argues that every fact ... must be such as proves the truth
of the Christian theistic position." The evidences, which are innumerable, must be presented in a manner which
compels a return to their true nature as confirmatory of Christianity.


How is this done? Van Til says it is indispensable to present empirical evidences to unbelievers, but he immediately
adds: "I would not talk endlessly about facts and more facts without ever challenging the non-believer's philosophy of
fact."[89] Philosophical (presuppositional) apologetics forms the context within which the use of evidences is
intelligible and forceful. Without recognizing his biblical presuppositions and their epistemological necessity, the
Christian cannot make sense out of his own apologetical argumentation with unbelievers based upon empirical
evidence. For instance, if he agrees to base his reasoning upon the assumption of complete contingency in history
(chance), then he cannot justify inductive, empirical thinking any more than his opponent can. Moreover, his appeal to
miracles is unintelligible (since there is no objective background of uniformity in terms of which an event is miraculous).
[90] Furthermore, if the apologist does not challenge the unbeliever's underlying philosophy, the appeal to empirical
evidences need not lead to anything like Christian conclusions. For instance, if you empirically argue with a naturalist
and convince him that the body of Jesus came back to life, he should - to be philosophically consistent - conclude that
there are (as yet unknown - natural factors which can biologically cause and rationally account for the resuscitation of
the dead.[91] With his presuppositions, he need not at all infer that a "miracle" occurred, that Jesus was "raised from
the dead," that he must then be the "divine Son of God," or much less that he was resurrected "for our justification"
and as a sign that "he will judge the world." None of these latter judgments are purely empirical in nature, and none of
them follows logically (within the worldview of basic system of thought of the naturalist) from the empirical item that a
dead body came back to life[92]. Consequently, Van Til has taught that "it is impossible and useless to seek to defend
Christianity as an historical religion by a discussion of facts only.... If we would really defend Christianity as an
historical religion we must at the same time defend the theism upon which Christianity is based and this involves us in
philosophical discussion" - a philosophical discussion where the "fact" of the resurrection is not artificially and sharply
separated from the "system of meaning" in terms of which it is inevitably understood.[93] Therefore, Van Til would not
in the least "disparage the usefulness of arguments for the corroboration of the Scripture that came from
archaeology" [for instance]; he would simply want to insist "that such corroboration is not of independent power."[94]


Because unbelievers self-deceptively espouse presuppositions contrary to those of the Christian, while nevertheless
in actuality knowing God and inconsistently living in terms of that suppressed truth, truth which constitutes the
Christian's acknowledged presuppositions,[95] they can understand the evidences presented by the believer and do -
if the Holy Spirit graciously removes their resistance to the truth - in some cases, on that basis alone, draw the correct
conclusion from the evidences. "We [should] present the message and evidence for the Christian position as clearly
as possible, knowing that because man is what the Christian says he is, the non-Christian will be able to understand in
an intellectual sense the issues involved. In so doing, we shall, to a large extent, be telling him what he 'already
knows' but seeks to suppress. This 'reminding' process provides a fertile ground for the Holy Spirit, who in sovereign
grace may grant the non-Christian repentance so that he may know him who is life eternal.[96]


However, if the unbeliever stubbornly and consistently clings to his espoused presuppositions and by means of them
resists the force of the evidence as confirming Christian claims, then we must of necessity (and as usual) make
explicit use of presuppositional argumentation. We must discuss the foundations of empirical study and inductive
method in order to show that Christianity alone saves any scientific, historical knowledge. "Christianity does not thus
need to take shelter under the roof of a scientific method independent of itself. It rather offers itself as a roof to


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methods that would be scientific"![97] We must aim to show the unbeliever that by striving to move away from the
revealed meaning indicated in the facts, he simultaneously moves away from the possibility of giving any account of
the intelligibility and possibility of scientific knowledge about nature and history. "What we will have to do then is to try
to reduce our opponent's position to absurdity. Nothing less will do."[98] For instance, the apologist "must challenge
the legitimacy of the scientific method as based upon an assumed metaphysic of chance."[99] At the heart of it all,
"the point is that the 'facts of experience' must actually be interpreted in terms of Scripture if they are to be intelligible
at all."[100]


In short, Van Til contends that: "I am unable to follow [Kuyper] when from the fact of the mutually destructive character
of the two principles [regenerate and unregenerate presuppositions] he concludes to the uselessness of reasoning
with the natural man.... Christianity is objectively defensible. And the natural man has the ability to understand
intellectually, though not spiritually, the challenge presented to him. And [contrary to Warfield] no challenge is
presented to him unless it is shown him that on his principle he would destroy all truth and meaning."[101]


We are thus brought back in our "evidentialist apologetic" to the same underlying strategy which is used more
generally for "theistic proof." Traditional, old Princeton apologetics separated the general defense of theism (step 1:
the proofs supplied in natural theology) from the more specific defense of Christian theism (step 2: scientific and
historical evidences). In Van Til's apologetic these find their proper, underlying unity in the presuppositional and
transcendental strategy of arguing "from the impossibility of the contrary" - arguing by means of an internal critique of
the unbeliever's worldview, and then presenting the only positive alternative, the Christian worldview, if the intelligibility
of experience or rational knowledge is not to be lost. Van Til puts it this way: "the true method for any Protestant with
respect to the Scripture (Christianity) and with respect to the existence of God (theism) must be the indirect method of
reasoning by presupposition. In fact it then appears that the argument for the Scripture as the infallible revelation of
God is, to all intents and purposes, the same as the argument for the existence of God." [102] Having and arguing for
the right presuppositions is, therefore, the fundamental requirement in defending the faith.


Machen's Agreement In Perspective
When one thinks of the reputation and accomplishments of Machen in the area of Christian apologetics, one thinks of
clear and cogent historical arguments for the truthfulness of the Christian faith. One thinks of outstanding work in
apologetical evidences.


The preceding analysis of Van Til's conception and method of Christian apologetics as it bears on "theistic proof" and
"empirical evidence" discloses that, although their personal career emphases may have been in different areas, there
is nothing in Machen's apologetical use of historical evidences which, as such, stands in conflict with Van Til's
approach to the defense of the faith. The main reason why some critics pit Machen's apologetic work against that of
Van Til is that they, without justification, construe Van Til to be opposed to any appeal to empirical evidence and to
any form of rational argumentation in apologetics. That not being the case (but a misreading on a massive scale),
Machen's argumentation from historical evidences may not reasonably be taken as diametrically at odds with Van Til's
method of argument. Van Til's outlook provides for (as no competing apologetical school can), encourages, and even
demands the use of those very empirical evidences which Machen mastered.


So, Machen utilized historical apologetics.[103] In harmony with him, Van Til says "I would...engage in historical
apologetics."[104] They were both committed to making use of empirical evidence, but, we might ask, did they have
the same conception of what they were doing with this empirical evidence? Did they have the same intention or aim in
developing arguments from nature and history? There might be an initial inclination to think that they did not. After all,
Van Til's point is that the correct use and persuasiveness of such evidences requires one to have the correct - the
Christian - outlook as his presupposition. Otherwise the evidences will not be accepted, not be interpreted accurately,


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and not even be made intelligible at all. This necessity of proper, revealed presuppositions in assessing the evidence
from history explains why historical apologetics is so convincing and beneficial to the faith of the Christian, but not
nearly so much so (by a wide, wide margin) with self-conscious unbelieving scholars. In some cases, to be sure, the
historical argument brings unbelievers to the Christian conclusion - but not ever with a self-conscious, intellectually
astute, and unceasingly determined unbeliever. At best in such cases, the historical apologetic is useful for
embarrassing the arrogant claims and anti-religious hypotheses created by unbelieving scholarship.


Because of Machen's tie with old Princeton and its tradition of scholarship, one might not expect him to have
conceived of his work in historical apologetics as requiring and resting upon Christian presuppositions, as Van Til
taught. After all, Machen's great teacher, B. B. Warfield, maintained that apologetics must appeal to a notion of "right
reason" which is independent of any commitment to belief or unbelief (neutrality), that apologetics must prove the
historical trustworthiness of the New Testament before proving its inspiration and then presupposing it in other
reasoning (autonomy), and that this kind of presuppositionally-neutral, historical apologetics is directed particularly at
unbelievers, having a positive - indeed, the major - part to play in their conversion.


         It is easy, of course, to say that a Christian man must take his standpoint not above the Scriptures, but
         in the Scriptures.... But surely he must first have Scriptures, authenticated to him as such, before he
         can take his standpoint in them.... [Faith is not] an irrational faith, that is, a faith without grounds in right
         reason.... We are arguing that faith is... necessarily grounded in evidence. And we are arguing that
         evidence accordingly has its part to play in the conversion of the soul.... And we are arguing that this
         part is not a small part; nor is it a merely subsidiary part; nor yet a merely defensive part... [but] rather a
         primary part, and it is a conquering part. It is the distinction of Christianity that it has come into the world
         clothed with the mission to reason its way to its dominion. Other religions may ... seek some other way
         to propogate themselves. Christianity makes its appeal to right reason.[105]


         Let is not be said ... we found the whole Christian system upon the doctrine of plenary inspiration. We
         found the whole Christian system on the doctrine of plenary inspiration as little as we found it upon the
         doctrine of angelic existences. Were there no such thing as inspiration, Christianity would be true, and
         all its essential doctrines would be credibly witnessed to us.... Inspiration is not the most fundamental of
         Christian doctrines, nor even the first thing we prove about the Scriptures. It is the last and crowning
         fact as to the Scriptures. These we first prove authentic, historically credible, generally trustworthy,
         before we prove them inspired.[106]


We might expect Machen to have the same old Princeton conception of, and goal for, his historical apologetic;
namely, to reason his way to dominion, to persuade intellectually unbelievers who do not presuppose the inspiration of
Scripture of the truth of Christianity by using historical evidence which is compelling in itself to the unbeliever's neutral
reasoning.

However, there is a remarkable passage in Machen's works where he reflects quite self-consciously and clearly upon
what he is trying to accomplish and why he engages in historical or evidential argumentation in defense of the faith.
This passage appears in two places, with slight variations between them, so Machen obviously felt it bore repeating.
He was quite open about his reason for engaging in apologetics, clearing delineating it and setting it before his
audiences on more than one occasion. What he said moved decidedly, even if with some remnants hanging on at
places, out of the Warfieldian camp and a long way toward Van Til's presuppositional conception of evidences. This
becomes manifest when we compare Warfield's words above with these from Machen's addresses, "The Importance
of Christian Scholarship" (1932) and "Shall We Defend the Bible?" (1935). As the dates indicate, this reflects his most
mature thinking, being toward the end of his life and career.


         Sometimes, when I have tried - very imperfectly, I confess - to present arguments in defense of the


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        resurrection of our Lord or of the truth, at this point or that, of God's Word, someone has come up to me
        after the lecture and has said to me very kindly: "We liked it, and we are impressed with the
        considerations that you have adduced in defense of the faith; but, the trouble is, we all believed in the
        Bible already, a