Gospel For Life

Training and building disciples for Christ

Christ has Absolute Authority in all Areas of Knowledge

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][1]

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

(Eph. 2:1-3).[ii][2]

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][3]

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][4]

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][5]

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

starting point.[vi][6]

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

redeemed men).[vii][7]

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

Scriptures.

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][8]

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

chance).

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

predication.

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][9]

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

of history.

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

God.

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

Him.

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

real.

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

man’s heart.[x][10]

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][11]

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

epistemic authority:

“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

knowledge.

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][12]

 

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

faith.

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][13]

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.

Endnotes:

[i][1] Edmund P. Clowney, “Preaching the Word of the Lord: Cornelius Van Til” Westminster Theological Journal, (1984) 46:240.

[ii][2] Greg L. Bahnsen, Evangelism and Apologetics,(http://lonestar.texas.net/~rhanks/siteGallery/BahnsenEvangelism%20and%20

Apologetics.htm), p. 86.

[iii][3] Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, (Atlanta: American Vision, 1996), p. 21.

[iv][4] Ibid., p. 8.

[v][5] Scott Oliphant, “The Consistency of Van Til’s Methodology” Westminster Theological Journal, (1990) 52:34.

[vi][6] Ibid., p. 44.

[vii][7] James F. Stitzinger, Apologetics and Evangelism, (The Master’s Seminary, 1999).

[viii][8] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1955), pp. 126, 127.

[ix][9] Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetics, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1998), pp. 306, 357, 382.

[x][10] James F. Stitzinger, Apologetics and Evangelism, p. 70.

[xi][11] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 29.

[xii][12] James F. Stitzinger, Apologetics and Evangelism, pp. 35, 36.

[xiii][13] Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 92.