I. Who Christ is depends upon Christ’s self-identification.
A. Christ’s testimony concerning His mission and His message was never divorced from claim to be the only begotten Son of God (Jn. 5:18; 10:33-36).
B. He continually punctuated His discourses with the authoritative claim that He was from heaven – and that His message and arrival were not as a result of His own initiative (See John 3:13; 5:30. If Christ is who He says He is, then all speculation is excluded, for God can only swear by Himself (Heb. 6:13).
C. God’s Word declares that faith in the self-attesting Christ of the
Scriptures is the beginning, not the conclusion, of wisdom. Paul
ineffably declares in Colossians 2:3-8 that “All the treasures of
wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ.”[i]
D. To reverence the Lord and fear Him is the beginning of knowledge
(Prov. 1:7; 9:10). Christ is the starting point of every academic
pursuit. He is the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6).
To begin an academic endeavor without acknowledging Christ in the
world of thought is to be misled, untruthful and spiritually dead
II. The believer is obligated to presuppose the word of Christ in
every area of knowledge; the alternative is delusion.
A. In Colossians 2:8, Paul says, “Beware lest any man rob you by
means of philosophy and vain deceit.” To be “robbed” is to suffer
loss as a result of embracing “vain philosophy.” It is to
lose Christ in whom alone are deposited, “all the treasures of [God’s]
wisdom and knowledge.”[iii]
1. “Vain philosophy” is any world view that does not find its starting
point and direction in Christ. Paul warns against the kind of
philosophy accepted by the world’s intellectuals – its origin is the
traditions of men. This kind of thinking does not begin with the
truth of God and the teachings of Christ.
2. Vain philosophy refuses to bow to the Lordship of Christ over
every area of life, including scholarship and the world of thought.
3. Greg Bahnsen observes, “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.”[iv]
B. The true believer directs his trust toward Christ, not his own self-
sufficient sight and intellect. When a person receives Christ by
faith, he turns away from the wisdom of men (the perspective of
secular thought with its presuppositions).
1. When a person turns to Christ by the illumination of the Holy
Spirit, he gains the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:12-16).
2. Therefore, to become a Christian is to submit oneself to the
Lordship of Christ. It is to renounce autonomy and come under
the authority of God’s Son. What the Holy Spirit causes all
believers to say is “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor. 12:3).
3. The Word of God is the starting point for all wisdom and
knowledge. It is the Word of God alone that gives certainty of
knowledge. The unbeliever can never have this certainty while he
is in rebellion against Christ.
C. The Biblical starting point for all knowledge affirms that God created
every fact and that Christ interprets every fact. God knows
exhaustively every fact in relation to every other fact.[v]
1. Argument by presupposition asks, “Which method, which starting
point, which conclusion is alone tenable?” Starting point, method
and conclusion are always involved in one another. To argue for a
truly biblical method of apologetics is to argue for a truly biblical
2. One starts with the God of Scripture, thus one’s method always
presupposes the God of Scripture.
3. The Biblical starting point for all knowledge:
a.) What the Bible says about God and His relation to the universe
is unquestionably true on its own authority.
b.) God exists apart from and above the world and controls
whatever takes place in the world.
c.) Everything in the creation displays the fact that it is controlled by God.
d.) The objective evidence of God’s existence and control is clear and inescapable in the universe.
e.) If a man is self-conscious at all he is also God conscious.
f.) Men are always face to face with their Maker.
g.) God has clearly revealed Himself both in nature and in the Scriptures.
h.) Man has no excuse for not accepting this clear revelation.
III. Numerous inconsistencies mark the unbeliever’s starting point.
A. Glaring inconsistencies are inherent in the sinner’s commitment to
use autonomous reason as the starting point in the pursuit of
certain knowledge. Some of those inconsistencies are as follows:
1. One cannot argue ultimate truth independently of the
preconditions inherent in it. In other words, where would one
find a neutral vantage point from which he could discover and
embrace an ultimate starting point? An attempt to do so would
be like saying that Newton was not under the influence of gravity
until he actually discovered its laws.
2. Theism is the only starting point for intelligibility and meaning.
The unbeliever’s moral and epistemological problem is that he
has the wrong authoritative starting point. The unbeliever
alleges that his autonomous reason is self-evidencing. As such,
he deifies his own reasoning processes. By so doing, he views his
mind as ultimate, able to provide the standard to judge all truth
claims, including those of Almighty God!
3. The natural man does not distinguish between God’s thoughts
and his own thoughts. He makes God a correlative of himself.
(In other words, he envisions a god who is merely as large version
of himself – he does not revere the God of Scripture who is self-
existent, totally other, Almighty and Upholder of all existence
every moment.) He erroneously conceives of his thoughts and
God’s thoughts as pieces of the same pie. Thus, he puts himself
on the same level as God. This view makes God only one of many
“interpreters.” It destroys any distinction between knowledge that
is absolute (God’s) and knowledge that is derivative (that of
4. The natural man assumes that his thinking processes are normal. Yet at the same time, he embraces a naturalistic scheme of reality that precludes the interpretive, authoritative function of the Word of God. Though he poses as disinterested and objective, he fights against the claims of God upon him. He dreams of land where the 10 commandments are not in force and where he is not accountable to the holy God of the universe. (Escape from reason cannot be the foundation of reason. “The sinner’s god is always enveloped within a reality that is greater than his god and himself” Van Til.)
B. Closely associated with the unbeliever’s erroneous starting point is
his faulty philosophy of facts. The unbeliever’s philosophy of facts:
1. The unbeliever denies that every fact has meaning by virtue of its
place in the plan of God. The natural man denies that Almighty
God is ineffably carrying out His plan as revealed in the Holy
2. The unbeliever envisions a “chance” universe. Within
that chance universe, any fact can be tossed into the category of
pure possibility. (Under that contingency view, even the infallible
proofs of Scripture – those anchored in history and documented
by eyewitnesses – can be dismissed as occurrences within the
realm of possibility that have a naturalistic explanation. The
unbeliever’s commitment to a naturalistic world view prevents
him from seeing Christianity in the facts.)
3. The sinner uses a “chance” view of the universe to comfort
himself that there is no absolute, comprehensive, final judgment
of God. By espousing such a world view, the unbeliever
condemns himself to a contradictory view of reality.[viii]
4. His contradictions are evident – he holds that reality is non-
structural in nature, yet also structural in nature (i.e., he
assumes both the uniformity of nature and the ultimacy of
5. He sees reality as non-structured and on the other hand he
himself has virtually structured all of it! As a consequence, all
his predication is self-contradictory (predication – to provide a
basis for, to establish a concept, statement or action). This is
nothing less than man arrogating to himself the omniscience of
God. It is man projecting a pseudo-reality from his own mind.
IV. In the final analysis, all intellectual argument rests upon one of
two presuppositions: a.) man is the final or ultimate reference
point in human predication. OR b.) God speaking through Christ
by His Spirit is the final or ultimate reference point in human
A. No predication is truly possible if the natural world is all there is.
1. When chance is the governing principle, it destroys all predication
and certainty (the ultimacy of chance and contingency obliterates
the laws of logic and uniformity in nature and science). If chance
is ultimate, then chaos is foundational. Thus it would then be
impossible to assert uniformity in nature.
2. The natural man’s philosophy of facts is highly atomistic and
piecemeal. (By “atomistic” is meant that facts are treated like so
many trillions of atoms rolling around without meaningful
relation to one another.)[ix]
3. Atomism demands that each proposition be thought of as able to
stand by itself and as intelligible by itself. But, to assert that facts
be known apart from a system is highly irrational. (Without a
concrete universal, the connection between various judgments of
discursive thought could only be intuition. Intuition is not a
foundation for certainty and predication.)
B. Biblical theism demands that man’s knowledge be an analogical
replica of the system of knowledge which belongs to God. (Man as the
image of God functions truthfully when he uses God’s revelation to
interpret his world.)
1. Man’s knowledge serves as an analog of God’s knowledge – God’s
knowledge is original, absolute and unchanging)
2. Thus, all things are what they are in relation to God’s plan. (The
highest man can attain intellectually is to “think God’s thoughts
after Him.” Newton, Kepler, Boyle and numerous other believing
founders of modern science regarded their discoveries to be
thinking God’s thoughts after Him.)
3. The Christian does not talk about facts without talking about the
God who made them, constructed reality, gave testimony, rules
over the present order, sustains the creature and controls the flow
4. The Biblical philosophy of facts can be summarized as follows:
a.) God is the sovereign determiner of possibility and impossibility.
b.) A proper reception and understanding of the facts requires
submission to the Lordship of Christ.
c.)Thus the facts will be significant to the unbeliever only if he has a
presuppositional change of mind from darkness to light.
d.) Scripture has authority to declare what has happened in history
and to interpret it correctly.
e.) God knows every fact in the universe and gives them their meanings.
C. Christ’s absolute authority in all areas of knowledge refutes the
sinner’s three point premise. The unbeliever’s three point premise
addresses the areas of knowledge, authority and the nature of reality:
1. Man and his intellect are autonomous.
2. Reality is based upon chance and contingency.
3. The mind is the ultimate reference point and by logic, the limits of possibility in the universe may be determined.
D. God asserts that the reality He has created displays a plan. Without
the knowledge of God, each man is in his own world by himself.
1. The natural man’s epistemological isolation is based upon his
suppression of the truth of God.
2. The sinner does not wish to keep God in remembrance – this is the
posture of a covenant-breaker; he assumes self-consciousness is
intelligible without God-consciousness.
3. The natural man’s “reality” is greater than God. The natural
man’s effective tool of suppression is to embrace the sphere of his
own “reality” in which God is finite. (A finite god is not a
comprehensive judge, he permits man to retain his autonomy.)
4. The unbeliever treats his manufactured “reality” as authoritative.
Therefore, when he dialogues with a believer, he assumes that his
interpreting of a fact independently of God is identical in value (even
in content!) with the believer’s interpretation which depends upon
V. The matter of knowledge is an ethical issue.
A. In order to give man true knowledge about God, it was necessary for
Christ to die for mankind; thus making the matter of knowledge
an ethical issue (not merely intellectual).
1. When an unbeliever rejects Christ, he also rejects Christ as
Interpreter of the world. John 19:7 says, “The Jews answered
him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He
made Himself out to be the Son of God.”
Knowing God in Scripture is knowing and loving God – this is the
true knowledge of God (Jn. 14:15).
2. Faith is not merely an informed judgment, nor is it assent to
propositions. Faith is right adjustment to, and surrender to, the
righteousness of God.
3. Faith has a moral basis – it issues from a heart that is set right
toward the moral authority and rule of the Creator.
4. True repentance begins with the mind’s acknowledgment that
thinking is dependent upon God. The repentance process puts a
halt to man’s judging of God. In repentance, the intellect is
brought under the mind of God (as revealed in the Bible). The
repenting man begins consistently thinking God’s thoughts after
5. The Word of God shows the unbeliever that his world view self
destructs. Repentance involves desisting from one’s cherished
independence and autonomy. The Lord of the universe demands
intellectual repentance (the surrender in repentance involves a
radical admission that the absolute source of knowledge and
certainty belong to God alone, man is utterly dependent).
6. Faith is not merely an informed choice, it is a decision joined to
repentance (repentance is a radical turning from sin and self to
God). Faith is filled with self-renunciation BECAUSE, it looks
away from self as the source of knowledge and deliverance.
B. A battle front exists between the self-contained God of Scripture and
the self-contained mind of the natural man.
1. As a hater of God, he does not want to hear about God. The
claims of God upon man in His image are too disturbing to
seriously entertain (Note God’s testimony concerning man –
creaturehood, law-breaker, universal guilt, eternal ill-desert).
2. Man has a vested interest in silencing the Biblical testimony
concerning his own guilt, depravity and undone state. The natural
man’s antipathy to the truth of God goes far beyond suppression –
it harbors a secret desire to destroy God’s revelation.
3. By suppressing the truth, man opposes himself and his eternal
welfare. Contrary to the lie in Eden believed by our first parents,
there is no reality apart from God and His truth. (Modern man’s
love of the lie finds its expression in pluralism. In pluralism, there
is no certainty, only a plethora of morally equivalent opinions.)
4. When sin is seen in view of the inescapable character of God, it is
indeed terrifying. For the cycle of suppression will not function
once the impenitent man faces his Judge. The he will acknowledge
what he has known all along – that God’s claims in every area are
5. Hell begins after the impenitent dies – that is when a lifetime of
suppression is confronted with the truth that cannot be
suppressed. The individual who dies without faith and repentance,
perishes in a state of being an enemy of God in the mind (Heb.
9:27; Eph. 4:17).
C. God’s compassion in salvation deals with the darkened mind of man.
1. God’s mercy is evidenced in His giving of Christ to the world. God’s
plan to save man by His sovereign grace has to be revealed; man
cannot learn it from nature (nature, red in tooth and claw, does not
provide the message of redemption through Christ – only the
Scriptures reveal God’s sovereign mercy).
2. Only by regeneration through Christ’s Spirit is the suppression
cycle broken. God’s remedial work in Christ pierces the darkness of
3. Christ’s victory in the life of the individual cancels a man’s alliance
with Satan (Col. 1:13). Redemption is not solely the realm of the
supernatural and the metaphysical.
4. Redemption deals with reality. The believer’s universal, eternal,
ultimate is not an abstract principle, but an ABSOLUTE PERSON!
The Person of Christ authoritatively answers every ultimate
question (a sampling of ultimate questions: What is man? Where
did he come from? Why is there evil? What is man’s purpose and
destiny? Does God exist? Is there an after life?).[xi]
5. God’s testimony concerning the nature of reality runs contrary to
every manmade theory of reality. The Christian affirms that his
eternal God who is prior to the universe made all things out of
nothing (Only the Christian is in touch with reality).
6. Blaise Pascal summarizes the comprehensive nature of Christ’s
“Not only do we only know God through Jesus Christ, but we only
know ourselves through Jesus Christ; we only know life and death
through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ we cannot know
the meaning of our life or our death, of God or ourselves. Thus
without Scripture, whose only object is Christ, we know nothing,
and can see nothing but obscurity and confusion in the nature of
God and in nature itself.”
D. In Christ, man finds the true wisdom and true knowledge he lost in
the fall (1 Cor 1:30; Col 2:17). In Christ, man realizes that he is a
creature of God and that he must not seek for comprehensive
1. In Christ, man finds reconciliation in that Christ was offered up as
a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice. Christ’s work as priest cannot
be separated from His work as prophet. (Christ fulfills His
prophetic office in the work of restoring the believer to the
knowledge of God and His truth.)
2. As King, Christ subdues the believer to Himself. In connection
with His work as Priest and Prophet, Christ died to subdue man
and give him wisdom.[xii]
3. God has placed in Christ all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge (Col 2:3).
a.) It is the Christian alone who has “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor
2:16). As such, he is able to appraise all things, and he is able
to think God’s thoughts after Him (1 Cor 2:15).
b.) The Christian’s mind is renewed by Scripture. Therefore he
steers clear of every philosophy that has its origin in the world
(Col 2:8). Christ alone is the saved man’s epistemology ( Ps
36:9; Jn 8:12).
c.) Though the Christian’s knowledge is finite, through Christ his
epistemology is that of ultimate rationalism.
4. Christ is Creator, Lawgiver, Sustainer, Redeemer and Judge. He
entered human history to declare God to man (Jn 1:18). Christ is
the eternal “utterance” of God. Through Christ, God has spoken
authoritatively and finally (Heb 1:3).
E. Abraham is the foundational believer in the Old Testament.
His faith typifies the kind of faith that saves a person. He is the
divinely designated example of the true believer – all who savingly
believe subsequent to him emulate his faith (Rom. 4:17).
1. Abraham did not walk by intellectual self-sufficiency.
Autonomous, empirical “sight” is not the source of reliance of true
2. Belief begins with a presuppositional conviction about the veracity
of God’s Word. Abraham submits to the a priori dependability of
God’s Word, thus his faith is a paradigm for all who follow.[xiii]
3. The life of Abraham is consistent with the fact that God’s truth is
anchored in historical events.
a..) God “mediated” the giving of His inscripturated truth through
human history – that is He revealed Himself and gave His
oracles in the context of redemptive history.
b.) Biblical theological truth is not speculation, nor is it “upper
story” metaphysics, it is reality. The revelation of God’s truth is
grounded in real events in history such as the fall, the flood,
the exodus, the giving of the law, and the birth, death, and
resurrection of Christ.
[i] Edmund P. Clowney, “Preaching the Word of the Lord: Cornelius Van Til” Westminster Theological Journal, (1984) 46:240.
[ii] Greg L. Bahnsen, Evangelism and Apologetics,(http://lonestar.texas.net/~rhanks/siteGallery/BahnsenEvangelism%20and%20
Apologetics.htm), p. 86.
[iii] Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, (Atlanta: American Vision, 1996), p. 21.
[iv] Ibid., p. 8.
[v] Scott Oliphant, “The Consistency of Van Til’s Methodology” Westminster Theological Journal, (1990) 52:34.
[vi] Ibid., p. 44.
[vii] James F. Stitzinger, Apologetics and Evangelism, (The Master’s Seminary, 1999).
[viii] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1955), pp. 126, 127.
[ix] Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetics, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1998), pp. 306, 357, 382.
[x] James F. Stitzinger, Apologetics and Evangelism, p. 70.
[xi] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 29.
[xii] James F. Stitzinger, Apologetics and Evangelism, pp. 35, 36.
[xiii] Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 92.