The Myth of Neutrality

I. Unbelievers place pressure upon believers to be “neutral” in their

approach to Christian apologetics.

A. Christian scholarship is frequently pressured to put aside commitments that are distinctly Christian.


B. The pressure comes in the form of an appeal to be non-committal on

the truth of Scripture. (The Christian apologist is pressured to

search for truth under the guidance of acclaimed secular thinkers.)

C. Those who exert the pressure often affirm that the only way to be

open minded is to be non-committal. (Christians are urged to

retreat from their dogmatism and assume with the unbeliever an

attitude of “nobody knows yet.”) [i][1]

D. Christians are pressured to leave the Bible out of the discussion to avoid being accused of having preconceived ideas. (When the unbeliever insists that Christianity must “pass the test of science,” he is appealing to a truth criterion built upon human autonomy.)[ii][2]

II. The nature of reason makes neutrality impossible.


A. Facts are inseparable from their interpretation. They cannot stand

alone. When men reason about facts, they always understand them in terms of a broad, unified whole or system. The question is,

“which system gives meaning to the facts of the universe?”[iii][3]

B. Without a unified system or whole, facts are meaningless. Man cannot reason, live, nor deal with truth apart from presuppositions. Without presuppositions, attempts to reason would take place “in a vacuum.” (All thinking begins somewhere – at a primitive starting point or presupposition. Faith in presuppositions enters at the very beginning of the process of selecting and organizing facts. By the nature of the case, presuppositions are held to be self-evidencing and self-authenticating. The question is, “which system of thought provides an adequate foundation for reality?” “What is the basis for an orderly universe?” “Why is our state of affairs conducive to rational thought?” All men have presuppositions, none are neutral.)[iv][4]

C. Neutrality is impossible because facts and evidences are interpreted

by means of one’s world view. Debate a non-Christian long enough,

and it will become evident that the disagreement is not over truth

claims, but over one’s method of knowing. Disagreement over what

one claims to know is in reality due to a conflict in world views.

(Believers and unbelievers are both analyzing reality from within

their world views. Thus, there is no neutral ground because they

are always true to their frameworks. Unbelievers hate God. They

choose a philosophy that doesn’t leave room for the God of the Bible.

The unbeliever has chosen a world view that lets man be the

determiner of reality.)[v][5]

D. In terms of epistemology, the believer has nothing in common with

an unbeliever. (Epistemology deals with how we think about reality and how we account for it. Epistemology asks, “how do we justify our claims to know?”)

1. The believer and the unbeliever have opposing philosophies of fact and opposing philosophies of law.

Believers and unbelievers are in total disagreement about the

structure of reality. When viewing reality, there are only two possible reference points: either the sovereign Creator is ultimate or chance is ultimate.)[vi][6]

2. In the temptation of our first parents in Eden, Satan cast doubt upon the reliability of God’s revelation. In essence, Satan told man to rely on his own reason; to exalt himself above God and His Word. The temptation was a solicitation for man to become his own god by becoming his own origin of truth, justice, morals, meaning and beauty. Satan did not mock or contradict man’s reason. He did not suggest that he should distrust it. Satan offered a temptation which would enthrone man’s reason above God and His Word; above all that is holy.[vii][7]

E. Reason is not an abstract neutral faculty. It is a capacity planted in

us by God that enables us to receive divine revelation, and as a result, think truthfully.

1. The unbeliever sees his own mind as ultimate. Therefore he denies the Scriptural assertion that a man can know nothing apart from God’s revelation. Man’s intellect and powers of reason are not ethically neutral. Man’s intellectual sin reveals itself in the field of knowledge. Christ died to subdue us to Himself holistically – it is a subduing that begins with the intellect – Matt 18:3, 4).[viii][8]

2. When men insist that reason is a neutral faculty instead of a tool of divine revelation, it reveals a particular bias -- namely that they regard the intellect to be an autonomous judge. Every unbeliever is committed to apostate presuppositions which are lived out unrighteously. Thus, reason cannot be relegated to some neutral category or authority.[ix][9]

III. The nature of the sinner makes neutrality impossible.


A. When men take a neutral approach to knowledge, it is characterized

by a vain, darkened mind (Eph 4:17, 18). A neutral approach in philosophy is condemned by Scripture because it does not begin with the truth of God. “Neutrality” takes its direction from the accepted principles of the world’s intellectuals (Col 2:8).

“Vain” thinking is thinking that is not in accord with the Word of God. It is philosophy which operates against the truth of Christ (Rom 1:21). All thinking that begins with the presupposition of autonomous reason is vain and condemned by God (Eph 5:6). When the non-Christian insists upon neutrality in the world of thought, he is operating upon principles of unbelief.[x][10]

B. Human rationality is blinded by sin to the truth of God (2 Cor 4:3,

4; Eph 2:1-3; 1 Jn 5:19). Spiritual blindness eliminates the possibility of common ground in respect to the truth of God. The unbeliever’s spiritual blindness means that he has no common cognitive commitments or understandings with a believer. To allow the unbeliever to set debate ground rules of neutrality only delays the exposure of his sin. God’s grace must first confront the sinner in his unbelief so as to convict his heart of the infallible truth of Christianity.[xi][11]

C. The sinner uses reason to “insulate” himself from the claims of God.

The unbeliever’s preference for a chance universe is not the result of scientific research, nor is it simply an error in judgment. He has intentionally chosen a world view that enables him to deny (suppress the truth of) his creaturehood, God’s claims, and God’s moral authority. The unbeliever has an axe to grind; he wants to hold fast to and justify his independence from God. The claims of God necessarily destroy the notion of neutrality. God’s claims do not leave human autonomy in tact. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Luke 11:23).[xii][12]

D. The unbeliever’s world view is hostile at every point to the Christian

philosophy of life.

1. The natural man’s working epistemology (method of knowing) is totally informed by his ethical hostility toward God. His heart disposition of enmity involves a satanic principle that is opposed to God (Col 1:21).

2. The natural man is not fully conscious of his own position toward God and His truth. Outwardly, he assumes the posture of an objective truth seeker. In reality, he is an enemy of God with a conflict within him. On the one hand, he has an inescapable sense of deity by virtue of the fact that he is made in the image of God. On the other hand, he suppresses the truth of God because of the false principle of human autonomy. Granting a position of neutrality only serves to conceal the autonomy lie.[xiii][13]

IV. The nature of God’s revelation makes neutrality impossible.


A. When a man sets up his own authority for what is true and what is

not, he becomes the epistemological authority and not the Bible.

Neutrality turns authority over to the unbeliever. It puts God on trial. By contrast, Scripture never submits to another standard of truth other than itself. If Scripture submitted to another standard of truth, then the authority of Scripture would rise no higher than the extra-biblical standard.

B. It is inconsistent for a Christian to claim that the Bible is the

ultimate source of authority, and then for the sake of debate, be

neutral toward it. All facts are God’s facts. They must be

interpreted by the Word of God. Only the Holy Scriptures are the

ultimate intellectual standard. [xiv][14]

C. Opposition to Christianity is not merely confined to doctrinal points

contained in Scripture, nor is it merely the natural sciences opposing supernaturalism. Those who oppose Christianity war against the whole biblical manner of conceiving of the world and man’s place in it. The Bible presents the Christian world view as comprehensive. The Scripture authoritatively interprets the cosmos and all things natural and moral. The Word of God encompasses the entire universe and our part in. Neutrality ignores God’s truth regarding the whole and instead diverts the argument to particulars.[xv][15]

D. The Word of God infallibly answers every ultimate question.

Granting neutrality constitutes an unnecessary surrender of

absolute truth. The believer has submitted to Christ’s

epistemic authority. It is disloyal to Christ to set aside His

authoritative answers to ultimate questions for the sake of debate. Christ is the believer’s philosophy for every ultimate question. The Christian apologist should not relinquish his devotion to Christ’s epistemic authority for the sake of argument.

V. The nature of the debate makes neutrality impossible.


A. When the unbeliever is allowed to set the terms of the debate, the

Christian loses the authority to challenge the unbeliever’s autonomy. To set aside distinctly Christian commitments in the interest of neutrality is immoral. It constitutes a form of thinking of which the world approves (James 4:4). To acquiesce to neutrality as a ground rule of the debate is to miss the biblical point of contact with the unbeliever. It is to assume that all the sinner needs is religious information, rather than antithesis. (The biblical point of contact centers upon God’s claims upon the sinner. Divine claims are addressed to the unbeliever’s intellect, will and conscience.)[xvi][16]

B. Christians have a world in common with unbelievers but not a world view in common with unbelievers. The true point of contact with the unbeliever is his sense of deity which he is unable to fully suppress. The world we have in common with the unbeliever is controlled by God and is constantly revealing God. The commonality Christians share with unbelievers is that both are made in the image of God and are surrounded by God’s creation.

It is all common ground, but none of it is neutral ground.

Denial of neutrality secures commonality rather than destroys


C. When a man assumes the position of ultimate reference point, he puts himself in a position to not understand God’s truth.

Conceding neutrality only deepens the unbeliever’s spiritual dilemma of darkness and vain thinking. By contrast, a presuppositional approach in apologetics is consistent with the point of contact enjoined by Scripture. The Christian apologist will not grant the legitimacy of the unbeliever’s starting point. Instead he will drive home the antithesis by uncovering the unbeliever’s rebellion against God.[xviii][18]

D. The Christian apologist cannot leave the unbeliever’s controlling

presupposition of autonomy unchallenged. Neutrality denies the antithesis that exists between sources of authority. Either God or the sinner is the ultimate reference point. When in the interest of dignity, the Christian apologist concedes to the pressure to assume neutrality, he erases theantithesis between the believer and the unbeliever. The Scriptures constantly emphasize the antithesis between the believer and the unbeliever. The world’s antipathy toward the Christian is because the believer is of the truth – John 17:14-17. Neutrality is an egregious compromise of the antithesis as defined by Scripture.[xix][19]

E. Neutrality implies that we live in an open universe. It implies that a comprehensive divine system does not control the universe.

1. In an open universe, facts issue forth from the womb of possibility. They are new for both God and man. God too must “wait and see.” He cannot interpret reality for man because He has not interpreted for Himself. As a consequence of the supposition of an open universe, man must be neutral and God must be within the universe.

2. Christian theism holds that for God all the facts are in. God knows the end from the beginning. There are no new facts to God. History is but the expression of the purpose of God. In order for man’s interpretation to be correct, it must correspond to the interpretation of God. Man’s synthesis and analysis rest upon God’s analysis. Man the truthful interpreter is constructively receptive, he thinks God’s thoughts after Him.

3. Neutrality makes God a correlative of man. Neutrality depicts God and man as having the same order of thinking with the same categories of thought.


[i][1]Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready (Atlanta: American Vision, 1996), 3, 4.

[ii][2] Michael Kruger, “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics” The Master’s Seminary Journal, 12:1 (Spring 2001): 72.

[iii][3] Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, 7.

[iv][4] Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., Let God Be True: A Brief Defense of the Christian Faith, 57, 58.

[v][5] Michael Kruger, The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics, 76.

[vi][6] Scott Allen Will, Absolutely No Common Ground?, 67.

[vii][7] Robert A. Morey, “Is ‘Natural Theology’ a Form of Deism?” Journal of Biblical Apologetics,1:1 (Fall 2000): 26, 27.

[viii][8] Greg L. Bahnsen, A Critique of the Evidentialist Apologetical Method of John Warwick Montgomery, 3.

[ix][9] Greg L. Bahnsen, VanTil’s Apologetic, Readings & Analysis (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1998), 156, 157.

[x][10] Bahnsen, Always Ready, 8-12, 17.

[xi][11] Scott Allen Will, Absolutely No Common Ground?, 63.

[xii][12] James F. Stitzinger, “Apologetics and Evangelism TH 701” (The Master’s Seminary, Sun Valley, CA, 1999), 84-88.

[xiii][13] Scott Allen Will, p. 74

[xiv][14] Michael Kruger, pp. 79-81.

[xv][15] Jerry Solomon and Rick Wade, “World Views, Parts I & II” (Richardson, Texas: Probe Ministries International, 2000), 1:3, 2:2.

[xvi][16] Kruger, p. 75.

[xvii][17] Scott Allen Will, pp. 69-73.

[xviii][18] James F. Stitzinger, pp. 22, 24, 84.

[xix][19] Greg L. Bahnsen, pp. 7, 8.



What is Religious Truth?

The Bible refuses to allow men to be neutral regarding its claims. It even states why it is that men will not read it. God’s word gives such a comprehensive anatomy of human sin, that individuals are disturbed by what they read. That anatomy of iniquity is not only a description of sinful deeds but also of sinful motives, thoughts, and thought forms. Since cultures may be known in large measure by their thought forms, Scripture provides a critical assessment of human societies.

A movement that historians refer to as “The Enlightenment” would by scriptural standards, be titled a “darkening.” As a philosophic approach to life, it marked a new low point in man’s rejection of divine truth. The Enlightenment was supposedly “man’s emergence from a self-inflicted state of minority.” That “minority” consisting of reasoning that depends upon “guidance from someone else . . .” (NIDCC, p 343-4).

The thought forms systematized during The Enlightenment of the 18th century represent an attempt to formulate a worldview independent of God. The position that human reason is autonomous is one of the pillars of humanism. So thoroughly has this leaven of “pure reason” permeated western culture that every political-educational center in the western world now operates upon humanistic presuppositions.

The Scriptures declare that man is utterly dependent upon God’s revelation in order to know absolute truth. Therefore, for man to imagine that he has the capacity to take his own measure, provide his own meaning, carve out his own destiny, and determine his own moral course is the epitome of arrogance.

The claims of Christ are a frontal assault upon the mindset of humanism. For Jesus Christ claims to be the revealer of God (John 1:18), and He claims to be the incarnation of absolute truth (John 14:6). Modern men, like Pilate of old in the presence of Christ, flee from accountability before God by uttering, “What is truth?” But God’s truth permits no neutral ground. Pilate must either judge himself or judge Christ.

The Roman ruler’s capitulation sends the Truth Incarnate to the executioners. So also the natural man of contemporary culture judges God’s revelation in Christ to be unreliable and self to be authoritative. By usurping the place of God, men have arrogated to themselves the role of determining ultimate reality. The consequences are grave. The rejection of God’s revelation thrusts men into a perilous sea of subjectivism. Cultures that reject divine truth and law inevitably drift toward the jagged rocks of anarchy, oppression, pestilence and holocaust.

Historically mankind has sought ways to validate religious truth. “Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:22). But God’s validation of religious truth is the revelation of Himself in Christ. Not only in the discourses of Jesus is God revealed, but also in the works of Christ and in the character of Christ. But the revelation of Gods truth, wisdom and righteousness reach their most pivotal focus in the cross of Christ.

This presents a paradox to the mind of man. For the death of Christ does not immediately satisfy either the Jewish or Greek criterion for the validation of religious truth. The net effect is a radical humbling of human pride. For the reception of God’s wisdom in the revelation of His Son is not made to depend upon the accessibility of signs, nor is it made to depend upon human wisdom. The wise did not find the cross of Christ compatible with their wisdom and the Jews were not brought to faith by signs.

Both Old and New Testaments affirm that the knowledge of God is unattainable by the exercise of human reason and senses. Man by investigation cannot build an observation tower to view God, and then by reflection determine what is true about Him. God has closed off all of those avenues; “. . . The world through its wisdom did not come to know God . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:21).

An entirely new faculty is needed in order to apprehend the knowledge of God with absolute certainty. Having eliminated reliance upon signs, human wisdom, and that which can be perceived by the senses, Scripture states that the validation of religious truth shall be by another means altogether.

That new faculty needed is the Holy Spirit indwelling a man (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). Though God has provided abundant evidences that the Scriptures are the very words of God, “[The] full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and the divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word [of God] . . .” (The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. p 10).

Man is humbled by the scriptural proposition that the foundation for certainty shall not rest upon signs, wisdom, empirical evidence, or the scientific method. God’s special revelation in Christ and the Scriptures is the foundation for certainty concerning spiritual truth. Christ Himself is the epistemology of those who believe (Colossians 2:8). For Christ is God’s truth incarnate. He is the revealer of God. Those who receive His testimony of divine truth receive His Spirit as well.

Christ reveals absolute truth and the Holy Spirit validates absolute truth. By the knowledge of Christ through the Scriptures, the believer is given the Holy Spirit who continually validates the veracity of God’s Word.

God desires that those who bear a saving relationship to Himself, and thus to His truth, shall be fully assured and persuaded that they are in possession of absolute truth. A frequent theme in the Holy Scriptures is certainty concerning the knowledge God gives. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

At times God even condescends to swear by oath in order that redeemed men may have full assurance that His revelation is infallibly true (Hebrews 6:17-20).

The natural man’s ignorance of God is not absolute. By the general revelation of creation men may know something of God in an academic way. An incredible universe of beauty and diversity speaks of a Creator who possesses attributes of divine might and wisdom. Because man has a conscience that accuses or defends every moral action, man knows that God must be a righteous Judge who holds His creatures accountable. But to know God personally and not merely conceptually is only possible if a third element is introduced. That third element is Christ’s work as Revealer and Redeemer. No one possesses definitive knowledge of God unless he knows God as Creator, Lawgiver-Judge, AND Redeemer (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).

It is the lovingkindness of God that He has addressed so much of His revelation to man’s desire to know with absolute certainty. The very foundation of knowing spiritual truth for certain shall not rest upon the exercise of man’s innate faculties of sense and reason, for these are fallible. Christ Jesus Himself is God’s special revelation; in Him are all the treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3).

Miraculous signs may not be the foundation of religious certainty, but they were granted by God and were of value to the seeker during the times that God was giving new revelation. Jesus said, “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves” (John 14:11).

On Mars Hill Paul said to a Gentile audience that God, “. . . furnished proof to all men by raising Him [Jesus] from the dead.” (Acts 17:31). God has used the miraculous fulfillment of prophetic Scriptures to draw men to faith in Himself. (Acts 2:14-36).

God intends that men know Him personally, know His purpose for them, know His claims upon them, know the way to God, and know how to live before Him. What men desperately need is to understand first of all what God thinks of Himself and secondly what He thinks of men. The answer to both of these is found only in the Gospel. For the Gospel is the revelation of the mind of God and His disposition toward sinners. The Gospel is not merely the entryway to the knowledge of God, it is the ongoing basis for contact, favor, and growth in Him.

The Gospel as the mind of God is so radical and foreign to human understanding that it requires the faculty of the Holy Spirit implanted in man to fully comprehend it. Men have no compendium of knowledge and experience to draw upon by which to probe the mind of God. Nothing less than the illuminating ministry of the Spirit will suffice to give understanding. Without His anointing, men read the Bible with the “lights off.” The precious things of the Spirit of God are regarded as foolishness by the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Although the Holy Spirit performs a number of ministries in the believer, this article is concerned with His work in validating spiritual truth. When the Christian opens his Bible, he not only reads about God, he reads about himself. He reads about his position in Christ, his identity in Christ, his possessions in Christ, his privileges in Christ, his future in Christ, and his ownership by Christ. These realities are spiritually discerned. They cannot be perceived with certainty and finality apart from the work of God’s Spirit.

It is the Spirit’s ministry to convince a man that the supernatural truths he is reading about are beyond speculation. How vital this is. The sacrifices Christ calls a man to endure are joined to the conviction that his spiritual possessions consist of wealth beyond measure. The Spirit gives validation and full assurance to the believer that by union with Christ these possessions, though freely given, are his by legal right (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Only a person who has God’s Spirit living in him can know with certainty that he is the object of divine activity. Only a person indwelled by God’s Spirit can think God’s thoughts after Him. The Holy Spirit enables a believer to employ his own mind in the study of Scripture. In so doing He allows the Scriptures to dominate exceptionally in that man’s intellect, will, and affections. That man who by the Spirit’s ministry has a renewed mind is said to have “the mind of Christ”

(1 Corinthians 2:16). This rebuilt mind, which was formerly the tool of a full-time sinner, is the product of the Spirit’s validation of Scripture.

Billions of people attempt to determine religious truth for themselves. They lean on the broken reed of carnal reason. Scripture refers to that thought form as “the spirit of the world” (1 Corinthians 2:12). With man doing his own validating, no wonder phrases such as, “I’m glad it’s true for you,” or “I’m glad your religion works for you,” are so common. The countless souls who utter such absurdities are willfully ignorant of the fact that God in His wisdom and goodness has determined that there shall be but One who validates religious truth. He is God’s own Spirit.




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