I recently saw a blog post arguing that anything not 100% certain be true, may, in fact, be false, and allows only for “uncertain confidence” and conclusions. But because One who does know all things has personally revealed truth to us, then we can have absolute certainty.
This is an attempt to establish an absolute argumentative “proof” of God.
This leads to a citation of late Reconstructionist leader Greg L. Bahnsen
“. . . the apologetic task will consist, not of externally verifying the Christian presupposition but, of applying it by (1) bringing God’s truth and commands to bear upon the lives of unbelievers, appealing to the image of God in them (distinguishing between present remnants of man’s original nature and the ever-present nature of fallen man), pointing out that every fact of the world bears witness to God, and (2) doing an internal critique of the non-Christian’s system, calling down its idols, and pointing out the absolute necessity of Christian presuppositions if logic, factuality, history, science, and morality are to have any meaning, validity, and application at all. The Christian apologetic will not concede intellectual ground to Christianity’s cultured despisers or allow them to exploit theoretical foundations to which they have no legitimate claim without depending on the Christian faith. Thus, part of the Christian’s reasoned defense of the faith will be an aggressive offense.”
This is the basis of the argumentative tactics of presuppositionalism, as outlined as one of the pillars of the movement known as Reconstructionism, founded by a guy named Rousas Rushdoony, with other notable leaders as Gary North and the late David Chilton (the one who kept trolling Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in An Age of Hunger with a frequently updated Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators).*
The centerpiece of this whole system is Romans 1:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools…
And the rest of the chapter goes on to describe all the sinful actions these ‘blinded’ people would increasingly fall into. Of course, this is plugged right into the “moral decline” of America (and perhaps some other Western nations) Christians have long decried.
Based on this, all the doubts about God and the (understandably hard to verify invisible) spiritual world that people struggle with, are dismissed as a sort of lie we tell ourselves; “holding the truth in unrighteousness”. Everybody really “knows the truth”, and thus has the ‘duty’ to “respond” in order to be covered by the Gospel’s means of forgiveness!
On one hand, this ideology is Calvinist (which is another of the pillars of this view, as Rushdoony, et al. claim). Yet it outdoes Pelagianism in its legalism. It’s essentially all about what we give to God, in “making” Him Lord.
So this even extends over to politics. In fact, this camp tells us to “make” Christ “Lord” over the nation, and more moderate forms of faith, even conservative variations, are criticized for letting down the guard, and thus actually being the real cause of the moral slide.
So you see articles saying a lot of the stuff I would agree with, and have cited leaders like Horton on, regarding how the Church has often slipped on doctrine, making it more man-centered, and thus led to the shallowness in the Church today, and a watered down gospel that has no effect. You’ll even see criticism of Republicans as no better than Democrats, and that Christians worship America too much.
Yet, then, they are focusing a lot on the evils of “socialism”, but simply accusing the Right as being bad simply for having compromised with it, and thus taking a side in the issue (unlike Horton who points out that communism and capitalism are “both twin sisters of modernity” and “equally destructive to the soul if not the pocketbook”). Also, familiar sounding mention of “generations of abandonment of Scripture as our true guide in detail in every realm of life” (and this on a national level, apparently not just the church), as if some previous generations once had it all right and truly followed scripture in all areas.
Hence, there’s an obvious [ultra-right] political agenda behind the nice sounding “neutral” (critical of both sides) position.
So along with the political views comes the notion that no proofs are needed for God.
Not sure of all their views on all of the other doctrines, but the way this could be used, is, if a young-earth Creation position is absolutely necessary for God’s Word to be true [as many radical conservatives argue], but the scientific evidence doesn’t line up? That’s just an excuse; you know it’s true, for God has shown it to you in your heart, but you suppress this, in order to hold on to your sin and have no “accountability”. (Notice, “accountability”. Again, the whole battle is over our “duty”; what man must ‘give’ to God).
You think the nation founded itself by evil? (Slavery and conquest)? They were blessed by God, (who “appoints the boundaries of the nations” and) who gave those heathens into their hand, and the righteousness of the Puritans, and the great civilization they built up are evidence of God’s Providence, and you know it. You should be “thankful”, instead of critical. (Though it’s OK for them to be critical of the “evils” they see, today).
Of course, the flipside of that is that all the sin they are in the same breath complaining about had to have come from someone else; everyone else. Hence, they are the only ones qualified to rule the nation, and they will keep badgering the political debate until the sinners of the world give them their rightful rule.
Continuing from today’s previous article (Rob Bell Controversy and the search for alternatives to Hell, link at bottom), from
Emergent teachers have been chipping away at the bible for a long time. They twist the meaning of scripture and offer “alternative” interpretations of what the Word of God clearly states. It is a continuation of satan’s original temptation in the Garden of Eden: “Did God Really Say…?”
This repeats a common misreading of that passage, based on the assumption that their traditions (or readings of scripture) are as clearly “God’s word” as what He spoke to Adam. Everyone loves to refer to Satan in the Garden saying “Has God said…?” anytime a cherished doctrine is disputed, but they all forget about him also tempting Jesus (the “second Adam”) with “Has NOT God said…?” (not in these exact words, but nevertheless, complete with a scripture quote!)
So that means you cannot take a proof-text for a given teaching and hold it up as a definite statement from God, like His face to face instruction in the Garden. So questioning “did God really say that” is not only not wrong in this age, it is necessary by Biblical mandate (Acts 17:11, 1 Thess.5:21).
Because we are not receiving direct revelations from God, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, and we are millennia removed from the last such direct revelation. We receive the truth from equally fallen men, and they do not always present it perfectly. Even God’s written Word can be twisted in meaning (2 Pet. 3:16) to teach all sorts of things, taken out of its context; in which case, it is something He did NOT say! (And isn’t this exactly what they’re right here accusing others of?)
The originally intended “truth” will then seem like an “alternative interpretation”. This has happened before; as Catholicism (whether Roman or the undivided Rome and East) once defined “historic orthodoxy”, yet Protestants broke away from them, with what they even called “private interpretations” (which would seem to be what one scripture was warning specifically against, but we had to come up with a different understanding of that).
So we had better question whether God had said something when people come speaking in His name!
The entire problem is, that the Church often said “God DID say that!”, and not only was it something God actually didn’t say, it was an unnatural lie. (Sexual repression even in marriage, sexism, racism, world is flat, at center of universe, etc. —all taught as Biblical truth, or “God’s Word”! Let alone the stuff Protestants reject, especially salvation by works).
This is what everyone is reacting against, but fundamentalists don’t understand, and only tell us to go back to the old ways.
So Satan was the just as much the author of putting words in God’s mouth, as he is of questioning what God has said. (See Prov.30:6, Rev.22:18)
Primary proof-text examined
But the whole context of Romans is actually ISRAEL, whom God “showed” Himself to, by special revelation (from the burning bush to the appearance of Christ Himself), through the Law and the Temple system (referred to as “the world”); not “general revelation”, as is being assumed. v.19 says “…that which may be known of God”. It was people who ONCE KNEW Him, and THEN lost that knowledge, not people who were never aware of “knowing” Him (except in some deep “subconscious” sense as they are suggesting).
This is evident from the start of chapter 2, where he shows that he is addressing people who follow “the Law”, and thus “judge” with it. This is not describing everyone.
(And note, verses 7 and 13, where salvation ⦅justification/”eternal life”⦆ is clearly placed on works; “doing good” itself; “doing” the Law; with no mention of “faith” or even “repentance” of any previous sins, “unto remission”; directly contradicting what most would believe, and acknowledge as Paul’s central teaching.
There must be a particular context here that is being missed for this to harmonize with the rest of his writings).
I’ve seen an argument that the chapter is describing something universal, because it refers to and parallels the original “Creation” in Genesis. (“likeness/image”, relation to the animal kingdom, male/female difference. This is called the “intertextual echoes”). But scripture is often like that, with parallels; and it stands, if God is creator of the whole globe (and universe), then He is also creator of Israel, and Israel is the nation He chose to reveal Himself, and enact His plan through. So it’s like a microcosm of the creation of the universe.
That’s the context of this chapter, and in fact the whole book of Romans.
(It’s also key to understanding a lot of the prophetic ⦅apocalyptic⦆ terms, such as “world/earth”, and even “heavens”, that the eschatological system of “futurism” has taken, and used to change the meaning of a “soon” return of Jesus that some first century readers would live to experience, and stretch a 70th prophetic “week” into centuries, resulting in a tumultuous Church history full of corruption and schism premising itself on a “future” Kingdom of Christ to be established, while “the world” is presumed still “lost” and “hellbound” the whole time ⦅yet, “shown” the truth from God in all of this; and God is supposedly also made known in the life of the Church⦆.
Regular so-called “full preterism”, which many of the Reformed-based presuppositionalists such as the Reconstructionists hold, fares little better, taking the “time statements” of scripture ⦅”soon”, etc⦆ literally, and understanding “world/earth” properly as far as the time scope, but not as far as judgment and redemption. Hence, the “kingdom” seen in terms of a “dominion” mindset, rather than Grace).
The fruits of this mindset
Presupposionalism is the reason why we have so many different, adamant groups all claiming absolute truth; all “one-upping” each other (“emulation”; Gal 5:20-21) as “compromisers” or “rebellious” or even “false converts”, but all saying vastly different things. (Which rather than making God more clear and their beliefs more absolute, further waters down and clouds the truth, and makes it all look all the more relative).
But armed with the Romans 1 citation, they still charge “no excuse”, and everyone else’s lack of excuse becomes their excuse to continue in their sinful “emulations”.
It has influenced even many who are otherwise nowhere near the movement of Reconstructionism. I’ve run across people like this in the KJVO movement, and they’re not even Calvinist! (Like Terry Watkin’s “We do not argue; we do not debate, any mail not agreeing with our ‘scriptural’ position on ‘godly’ music will be promptly canned”; etc. to paraphrase).
So you just come up to people saying “this is true; I’m not going to debate with you, but you either accept it or you’re blind and on your way to Hell”.
It also brings to mind, the earlier point, people arriving on other’s shores to colonize them, saying “God told us to take your land, so just give it up, or we’ll kill you”. (And yet there was always a proof-text for these things).
So should everyone just accept what people like that say is the truth (and with the whole political agenda that accompanies it)?
I could imagine trying to reason with Muslim extremists, as we hear about a lot in the news these days, and have figured prominently for over a decade, and it would be a similar reaction. Try to tell them God has not called them to cleanse the earth of “infidels”, or force other nations out of their land by bombing and beheading; they’re going to adamantly insist what they are doing is “the truth”.
So all religions have a bit of presuppositionalism, unless you water them down, to the all inclusive “just peace and love”, which “fundamentalists” of all religions will criticize.
Does it really proclaim truth?
Presuppositionalism says the the proofs of God’s existence point directly to the Biblical God; but that everyone is suppressing this “clear revelation”, except the elect, who are granted the ability to believe.
But at the most, “general revelation” points just to “intelligent design”, but does not point to all the details about the Godhead, the work of Christ, etc. They will point to the “invisible attributes”, but these are not elaborated in the passage, beyond simply “eternal power and Godhead”. We normally think of “omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, holiness, truth, justice, grace, mercy”, etc. But all of this is not evident in looking at the design in nature either. (It was clearly evident in the Temple system, and the Law, however!)
Most people don’t say absolutely nothing made the universe; many say it is so beyond our comprehension, we can’t know (which actually fits to some extent, and especially “to whom shall ye liken Me?”, Isaiah 40:25). It’s religion (and I mean monotheism; Bible-based religion) that has often turned God essentially into a creature (in different ways), just as Paul mentions here!
This was the point of the grotesque “Flying Spaghetti Monster” mockery atheists came up with about 10 years ago. In other words, that’s a hypothetical “intelligent being” that people could surmise created the universe, and form a religion around; it’s just as good as any others.
I guess presuppositionalists feel they don’t even have to address this, as I’ve never seen any attempt to do so, but that would be a perfect opportunity to proclaim why the God of scripture is far more superior and true than some monstrosity men purposely made up, out of common manmade objects, to prove a point.
Others will argue Romans 1 is focusing on idolatry and sexual sin (i.e. man’s relationship to the animals; often used in idolatry, and the relationship of the sexes), and this is then generalized as a complete proof of the God of the Bible, through “conscience”, discussed in chapter 2, if nothing else.
Then, it might be admitted that this is “incomplete” knowledge, but then, you are held “responsible” to ask for more, and then God will send someone to give you all the details about sin, and salvation in Jesus, so you can make the move to get the [conditional] covering.
Of course, this last part is going way beyond scriptural exposition, and it does say that “what CAN BE KNOWN” of Him, or “the knowable aspect of God” is what is “shown” through “nature”; so again, there is a particular context behind this passage that is being missed. (Peter warns that it is easy to misunderstand these deep teachings of Paul. So you HAVE to keep focus on the overall CONTEXT, not not just grab isolated verses that look like they say something relevant to the particular topic, let alone filter them through traditional “presuppositions” as people of all movements keep doing).
Paul’s point there was the contrast between the written “Law”, by which God had “showed Himself” to Israel, and how Gentiles did have conscience that achieves pretty much the same thing.
But Law alone does not lead to God (i.e. eliminate the separation; but instead, rather enforces it), as Paul takes great pains to show in the rest of the book, and epistles.
Our natures are so corrupt, it even twists the Law (as the Israelites he was warning in ch.2 did), and the Law only makes us more rebellious (as he shows in chapter 7).
This is why most people now cannot even bring themselves to try to impose a theocracy, as Reconstructionism wants. It’s also why watered down religion that says “it’s just peace and love” is accepted, while any religion with moral conviction it believes should be legislated to others (or even thrown in others’ faces, such as in certain religious displays in prominent places), is generally opposed.
They know any one of us could be wrong, being we “see in a glass darkly” (1 Cor.13:12). (Even Calvin said God gives reprobates false faith that He later takes away so they can perish).
Again, it is a very faulty approach, because ANYONE can just come up to anyone else and proclaim that, and that’s what many do; hence so much dissension in the religious world, rather than such “clarity” as they claim.
It’s just another device of sinful man to exalt themselves, using God.
More fruits of the doctrine: race and economic oppression!
*It should be noted that Chilton’s action goes right along with the old Puritan notion that wealth and “productivity” were signs of divine “election”. Tony Campolo The Success Fantasy, pp.143-144 points out, speaking of Calvinists such as the Puritans in early America, “…certain Protestants, particularly those in the Calvinistic traditions, have twisted Reformed theology in order to make wealth the evidence of divine election…there were some Calvinists who wanted concrete evidence that God had chosen them to be saved. The doctrine of predestination declared that God had already decided who would be saved and who would be lost. However, these Calvinists still wondered what the evidence or signs of divine election might be…Many Christians answered that the saved would know of their election because they would economically prosper. Thus, prosperity became the evidence of a right relationship with God.”
It is obvious a whole host of problems that would erupt later on could be traced to such an ideology. If wealth is a sign of God’s election, then right there, it figures right away that the “barbarian” Africans and Indians then are not only divinely cursed (as evidenced also by their demonic religion), but also their enslavement or eradication is justified. Chilton even argued that the poor nations are being kept down by God because they are “Godless”, and would not rule with godliness.
It was from here that a heavy reliance on the Old Testament came into play, with the account of the driving out or killing of the Canaanites ordered by God, and the preaching of prophets like Elijah becoming the models for the “Christian” mission, with Church and secular state going hand in hand.
If the people could not be enslaved for long, then other forms of oppression would continue. The elevation of the people to equal status in society would be like the Israelites mixing with the pagans, and here we see the roots of the nation’s racism and segregation.
Sure enough, many blamed the country’s supposed moral “downfall” on allowing the cultures to mix, and it even spreads into the Church in the form of the “contemporary versus traditional” debates. (Supposed ‘judgments’ on the nation in the form of terrorism and natural disasters are also said to be a result of this).
Ignoring certain “sins” and the real “judgment”
However, if this doctrine of divine election including prosperity were true, then “guilt” being “manipulated” (as Chilton and countless other conservative defenders of this system complain) should not even figure. For there is no “guilt” on their part, and you would think such a secure “election” would come with a divine assurance that they are in the right.
The fact that they have “guilt” that can be “manipulated” shows a conscience bothering them, despite all the the scriptural and philosophical engineering they have constructed over it. “Presuppositionalism” then is basically searing these consciences; allowing them to ignore them in favor of all of these rationalizations, while projecting the resultant “manipulated” feelings of guilt onto everyone else.
People today claim:
1) Obama is the worst president in history
2) He was only elected because of his race (by “reverse racists”)
3) Now get this one; he is so bad, that he is in fact God’s judgment on the nation!
If they really want to look at him that way, then, you never would have had any “reverse racism” and people electing him because of his race, if the race had never been oppressed and discriminated against in the first place. That’s the “national sin” that always gets excluded from all of these polemics on “divine judgment”. So if they think he’s so bad, then maybe he is God’s judgment on the nation after all, but not for the sins they think of.
But they’ll never look at it that way. Once again, the central creed is that the nation was following God in the beginning; hence being so materially “blessed”, and it was the turning away from the original values, by everyone else, that angered God, bringing “judgment”.
Racism then became replaced by class war, in which you still had one group on top, and others below. It was formerly drawn largely on race, but people could cross from one side to the other now. Those on the top side, were said to be “deserving” because of their “hard work”, (while still appealing to “divine providence”); while the poor are considered to be lazy.
Citing a so-called “Protestant work ethic”, the Christians often led this fight, to get the government to stop taxing the well-off so much, and supposedly giving it all to the “undeserving”. Hence the basis of the “Christian Right” with it’s “Christian America” concept).
A lot of these people will be foremost at condemning the likes of Osteen and the prosperity gospel movement, but it’s really the same principle. Do what’s right, and then God must bless you. The prosperity crowd may be looking at it synergistically (i.e. you can make this happen by your own free will choices), but to change it to a monergistic view (that you did right was evidence that God already favored you) is just a rehash of the same thing. You’re in the end still more “worthy” than others. (I would think attributing it to God would be even worse, because now this has Him “showing respect” to men; see Rom.2:11, Acts 10:34).
To repeat the closing point, all forms of presuppositionalism serve to exalt one group of men over other, and totally violate Grace; that salvation was by the faith of Christ, and not man’s works (not as earning salvation, nor by “proving” election).
People with views like this love to focus on “God’s glory“, which they essentially elevate above every other attribute (especially Grace), and justify any idea of divine action possible with it, but God says “My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8). Why do so many men think that what they call “election” effectively grants them this forbidden status?
Summary of in practice Foundation of Puritan/Reconstructionist beliefs
1) God’s primary attribute is His “glory”.
2) He is [apparently] glorified most by damning men to Hell
3) He traps men in this state by “ordaining” sin, and then holding them “responsible” for it and making them unable to even come to Him to be saved.
4) The Good News (Gospel, grace) is choosing a select few as exceptions to this condemnation, and granting them the ability to turn to Him to be saved.
5) This “regeneration” is manifest by good works (impossible to anyone else) and thus proves them right in what they believe and do
6) This also grants them prosperity in this world
7) So all problems in today’s society are others’ fault; God’s judgment of other people’s sins; (including making others equal and braking religious control over morality), and the mandate is to go back to the founder’s values.