R.C. Sproul has a five part (about 2 ½ hours) series on the veracity of the Scriptures. While there is much that is commendable in these lectures, and while the information is presented in an interesting and thought provoking manner, I think the good doctor has unnecessarily limited himself by adopting and holding closely to a classical model of apologetics. I’d like to explain why this is this case, so I’ll add a short critical review at the end. Nevertheless, to stress again, I found the discussion interesting.
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In part one of this lecture series, R.C. Sproul spends a good deal of time critiquing what appears to be the presuppositional position of apologetics. I say “appears to be” because he criticizes words and phrases often employed by presuppositionalists. And yet, as those words and phrases are fleshed out, one wonders if he understands presuppositionalism (which he surely does). The alternative, I suppose, is to say that he’s critiquing a strawman, or pure fideism wrapped in Van Tillian lingo. Either way I was a bit disappointed. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, at one point he pitted rationality against presupposing the Word of God as absolute, as though presuppositionalism repudiates the idea of presenting a rational defense of the Word of God, or that the argument for the self-attesting nature of Scripture is anything less than supremely rational. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least in my view of things.
In a nutshell, his problem with the view that the Scriptures are self-authenticating, or self-attesting, or that the authority of the Word must be presupposed, which is to say that there is no higher standard by which they can be judged, or that it is the ultimate starting point, rests on three objections. They are:
(1) This position is fallacious. It falls prey to vicious circularity.
(2) This position can’t handle competing “Divine Word” claims (i.e., Islam, Mormonism, etc.). How does one adjudicate between such supposed revelations?
(3) The Bible itself encourages people to test it on the grounds of evidence.
Regarding the first point, R.C. Sproul fails to recognize, or admit in this context, that all ultimate truth claims are necessarily circular. For example, how would you go about proving rationalism without presupposing rationality? Or prove the veracity of logic without being logical? Or empiricism without the reliability of sense experience? Circularity is unavoidable, and it’s unavoidable for glorious reasons.
Precisely because God is ultimate, reality reflects this ultimacy. If men or angels deify something, then it becomes an idol. And an idol always fails. It always frustrates. It exhibits contradiction. And it does not satisfy.
Let’s get right to the very bottom of things here. I can think of no better example than possibility itself to illustrate the point. Suppose an agnostic says, “Ah, yes, but how do you know? Isn’t it possible that God isn’t ultimate? Just admit that for me. Isn’t it possible, even conceivably possible, that God isn’t ultimate?”
Many will be tempted to answer yes. But when we better understand who God is and how absolutely crucial His nature is to epistemology, ontology and metaphysics, we will quickly recognize the agnostic’s hidden absolute. We will see that for him possibility is ultimate. Maybe we live in a matrix? Maybe we are a brain in a vat being led to believe there is this present reality around us? Maybe God is an evil being just tricking us to believe that he is really good. Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe. It goes on and on. It’s an infinite spectrum of ‘what ifs.’ But behind all of this, possibility is ultimate, not the God of Abraham. And when possibility is ultimate, knowledge goes out the door. You can’t know anything for certain. Nothing! Chance destroys knowledge. And as such, the agnostic lives in a frustrating, dialectic world of rationality and irrationality. Basically, possibility becomes an idol. But as with all idols, it cannot take the seat of God because it is a false god. And as such, it always collapses. It destroys itself. It leads to frustration and foolishness. Try it, friends. Try to show how you can know anything for certain apart from God.
I believe and know there is no chance in the universe. God is absolutely in control and His knowledge is perfectly exhaustive. Therefore possibility is not ultimate. Therefore we can know, because God can tell us how things really are. And if I doubt that, if I don’t plant both feet on this truth, I cannot know anything for certain. The preconditions for certainty disappear. I slip off into the void of self-consuming possibility. Therefore, God calls us to do what is absolutely best for us. Exercise faith and know that He is the great I AM. And that, I would urge R.C. to remember, is found in His Word.
Meditate on Hebrews 6:17-18, Colossians 2:3 and Proverbs 1:7.
Also ask yourself this question: Should Adam have set up a science lab in the Garden and tested God’s Word to see if what He said was really true? Think about it, how could Adam know for absolute certain that the Serpent wasn’t right? Couldn’t Adam have thought, “Is it possible that the Serpent is right and God isn’t?” Would he have to taste the fruit to really know?
Surely history has been teaching us in the most vivid way possible the utter folly of this kind of epistemological idolatry.
Well, now, I didn’t think I would ramble on this long. I’ll have to save comments on points two and three for a later date.