The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “Van Til”

Book Review – Mathematics: Is God Silent?

mathematics is god silent cover

by Marc Hays

Last year, my path crossed that of a mathematician named James D. Nickel. I traveled with my family to Cincinnati to hear him lecture at the Toward the Quadrivium conference, which was hosted by Classical Conversations, Inc.  In a single Saturday, Mr. Nickel took Cornelius Van Til’s epistemology and R. J. Rushdoony’s triune solution to the problem of the “one and the many” and applied these truths to the physical world around me. As surely as the triune God who lives has created the “stuff” that exists, He organized His work according to a pattern, and therefore, created it knowable. He has spoken words and He has spoken numbers.  He has revealed Himself and His beauty in both word and number, and He has hidden Himself and His beauty in both word and number. Mr. Nickel opened the doors to this world where number, sequence, pattern, unity, and plurality are perpetually speaking the beauty, goodness, and truth of God’s wonder-filled universe. Read more…

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A Prologue to Apologetics: A Layman’s Introduction to Presuppositionalism, Part I

Introduction

Both apologetics and evangelism have the same goal. Both witness to the truth of God’s word in Scripture to unbelievers. Both the evangelist and the apologist desire to be an instrument through which God powerfully draws a non-Christian to see and savor his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, in distinction from evangelism, apologetics seeks to defend Christianity against various attacks from unbelieving thought, whether religious or secular. Apologetics is a term derived from the Greek word apologia. This word refers to a defense, a reason for holding some conviction. In 1 Peter 3:15 the Apostle states, “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” An ever-present danger in this field of study is that of defending or ‘proving’ the existence of a generically defined God, what I’ll call ‘theism in general.’

We need to allow the conclusions drawn from biblical study and exegesis to set the parameters of how we go about defending our faith. We must present to those whom we wish to evangelize God as He testifies to Himself in the Bible. God has given us valuable, life-giving, information, and we shouldn’t edit his word. Any God other than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is an idol. So, if the Bible teaches a Trinitarian God, then we should settle for nothing less than persuading our listeners of that conviction.

In this introduction of apologetics we should cut the ‘apologetic pie’ into at least two pieces: defensive and offensive apologetics. Defensive apologetics is the apologist’s attempt to respond to attacks against the truth or/and rationality of the Christian faith. Offensive apologetics seeks to demonstrate the rationality, coherence, beauty, and truth of the biblical worldview. It presents positive reasons, and not simply defenses, why our listeners should adopt the Christian worldview as opposed to all the other philosophies of life available to them.

In summary, we’ve quickly looked at three things. First, apologetics is the form of Christian witness that seeks to engage in both rational defense as well as present rational proof for the truth of Christianity. Second, Christian apologetics, in order for it to be worth its salt, needs to defend Christianity as it’s presented in Scripture, not a generic, or possibly watered-down fashion that makes it easier for the unbeliever to accept. And last, the practice of apologetics can take one of two forms, defensive and offensive apologetics. The former “blocks” attacks against the faith, and the latter constructively builds a case for the Christian worldview.

The message of the apologist

Now that we’ve drawn a quick sketch of the discipline of apologetics, let’s take a quick look at what Scripture says about “the big picture.” After all, we need to know what it is that we’re called upon to present and defend. Here are a couple of notable points:

The ultimate purpose of God in history is to display His own beauty, majesty, and glory throughout the nations for His own exaltation and the good of His people. While mankind was created morally upright and pleasing to God, the sin of our first parents (Adam and Eve) has destroyed the fellowship that was enjoyed in the Garden of Eden. When our first parents rebelled they lost, and therefore could not pass on to us, that which would promote peace and joy with God, that crucial aspect of divine-human interaction, namely spiritual life. The results of the Fall had cosmic repercussions. Sickness, decay, ‘natural’ disasters, and death have affected us all in one way or another. On the individual level sin has ravaged us at our very core, the image of God that we bear. Since in one way or another we reflect who God is in everything we are (this is what is means to be created in God’s image), a defacing of this image likewise taints every aspect of our being. Our mind, will, and emotions are all effected in such a fashion that we now are quite comfortable in exalting just about anything to the status of godhood, whether that be self, money, image, sex, or power.

God is not pleased. We were created in order to reflect and echo His beauty, to “love God and enjoy him forever.” As rebels against His purposes, slandering His character and using His image to misrepresent Him, we must be punished; and rightly so. Since God is an infinite being, the very fountainhead and supreme standard for goodness and love, then to despise, revile, and reject Him is an equally infinite crime; it is cosmic treason!

Yet (thankfully!) God has not left us in this dismal state. God chiefly asks but one thing of us, obedient childlike trust. As the One who created both us and the universe around us God knows exactly what it is that we need. We can liken God to a doctor who knows just what ails us and provides life to all who would follow His prescription. Unfortunately mankind has decided either 1) we’re not really diseased, or 2) we’re not really that diseased and can help ourselves. We can’t follow either one of these paths. We trust not only in God’s diagnosis but also His cure. We look to the perfect life, which demonstrated the truth of God’s supreme value and worth, and to the punishment-absorbing death of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Carpenter who walked the dusty roads of Palestine two thousand years ago.

It is our firm belief that in the Bible, God speaks to us of only one way of connecting our cancer to His cure, namely a loving and trusting reliance upon the completed work and guidance of God’s only unique Son, Jesus Christ.

Guest Post by Joe Torres. Mr. Torres earned an M.A. in Christian Thought at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He blogs at KingdomView

A Cup of Poison to the Lips of Liberalism

English Speaking Justice

Are you a liberal?  G. P. Grant thinks you’re insane if you’re not. In his 1974 book, English-Speaking Justice, he proposes,

“Liberalism in its generic form is surely something that all decent men accept as good—‘conservatives’ included.  In so far as the word ‘liberalism’ is used to describe the belief that political liberty is a central human good, it is difficult for me to consider as sane those who would deny that they are liberals.”

Is this merely semantic quibbling? Without any more being said, I suppose, yes, it would be nothing more than a violation of Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “not quarrel about words” (2 Tim 2:14), but what if in the end it isn’t?  To quarrel about words would be like quarrelling about anything else—fruitless. To be succinct with our words would be to be like God, who has revealed Himself using words that mean one thing, therefore not meaning something else.

In his 1955 work, The Defense of the Faith, Cornelius Van Til states, “the ‘what’ must precede the ‘that’; the connotation must precede the denotation; at least the latter cannot be discussed intelligently without at once considering the former.”  In other words, how can we know what we’re talking about unless the words representing the ideas we’re discussing mean one thing instead of another?  Van Til asks how we can discuss the existence of a god, if the god in question has no definite attributes.  The ‘what’ must precede the ‘that’.

In our current political landscape, ‘liberal’ has become synonymous with ‘Democrat’, while ‘conservative’ equals ‘Republican’.  G. P. Grant argues that perhaps the Republican relationship with conservatism is accurate, but the Democratic comparison should be with ‘progressivism’ instead of with ‘liberalism’.  For the Democrat, liberty is not the goal as much as progress is, and if progress is the goal, then it is one that can never be reached.  A traveler can never arrive at their destination, if the only reason to go on the trip is to be in a state of perpetual motion.

100 years ago, G. K. Chesterton summed-up progressivism in his work, “Heretics”.   He wrote,

“It is not merely true that the age which has settled least what is progress is this ‘progressive’ age. It is, moreover, true that the people who have settled least what is progress are the most ‘progressive’ people in it. The ordinary mass, the men who have never troubled about progress, might be trusted perhaps to progress.”

So when Barak Obama ran on the monoplankular platform of “Change” in 2008, the election’s outcome showed that Americans were indeed progressivists and not liberals at all.  “We don’t care where you take us, Mr. Obama, as long as you get us out of here.”  As his two terms have progressed, we’ve found President Obama to be quite the conservative as he maintains many of Bush’s policies that he pledged to “change”, and quite the opposite of a true liberal as he’s sought to repossess American liberties granted by America’s Fathers in her Constitution.  While admitting that the word ‘liberal’ has come to mean only ‘secular liberal’, Grant stresses that this does not change the fact that the underlying foundations of liberty and freedom remain constant.   Since liberty is still the opposite of tyranny, the word ’liberal’ is has become a misnomer– a glaring misnomer that we’re now stuck with.

In Part IV of English-Speaking Justice, Grant gets to his most salient point by describing Roe v. Wade as the “cup of poison to the lips of liberalism”.  He elegantly shows that between two members of the same species, the “right” of the one to exist should outweigh the “right” of the other to enjoy privacy and comfort.  However, the high court’s decision to refuse the term ‘person’ to one still in utero, reveals that modern liberalism is not about human rights at all.  Humans in the womb and humans outside of the womb are still both humans by scientific definition, but the modern liberal agenda set this empirically verifiable fact aside and replaced it with an abstraction of ‘personhood’ that allowed them to cater to a constituency that furthered their political agendas instead of one that didn’t.

Dr. Roberta Bayer, at Patrick Henry College, has summarized Grant’s analysis this way:

“Although the court claimed to be confining its decision to the categories given by the American Constitution, interpreted within a liberal world view, it still found a basis ‘for denying the most elementary right of traditional justice to members of our own species.”  Thus, the justices must have held certain philosophical assumptions about being (nature) that were genealogically connected to some other philosophical tradition, a tradition neither guided by the Constitution, nor by what might be known scientifically about the development of the fetus in utero.  In fact, the evidence of science would have made it more, rather than less, reasonable to hold that the fetus is a distinct individual with a given nature.”

Whereas American liberalism had been fighting for ‘justice’ and ‘equality’ for nearly 200 years, Roe stands in a stark contrast to those noble concepts.  All that had been gained for equal human rights might as well be trampled underfoot, for the salt has lost it’s savor. All of the arguments for equal rights between slaves and free men;  all of the arguments for equal rights between women and men;  all of the arguments for equal rights between blacks and whites are totally eclipsed by the court-sanctioned murder of the most vulnerable members of our species.  The 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, has to be the most inegalitarian U. S. document ever written, and it was the product of the liberal left–the ‘champions’ of equal rights.

Based on Grant’s definition of a ‘liberal’ as “someone who believes political liberty is a central human good”, the pro-life movement has out-liberalled the liberals by mammoth proportions.  How can a so-called liberal deny the weakest members of its species the right to exist and still lay any legitimate claim to be a defender of liberty and equality?  They can’t.  They have placed the poisoned cup to their lips and drunk deeply.  Liberalism is dead, and the death has been ruled a suicide.

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