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April 20, 2021 12:01 am
If God and the universe were one and the same, we could not talk meaningfully about God at all. Today, R.C. Sproul looks at pantheism's language problem.
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Today on Renewing Your Mind.
The God I'm talking about here. If he does exist. All of your unbelief all of your disinterest in him does not have the power to annihilate him when we were discussing the existence of God were talking about the objective existence of God, not my subjective feeling about it. Welcome to the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. We will good to be with us in our world today.
There is a battle over the dictionary subtle changes to the language can have a big impact on the underlying meaning of the word today. Dr. RC Sproul continues his series on Christian apologetics and helps us recognize the errors we find in these modern attacks on language. There is a aspect of basic necessary conditions for knowledge that we've yet to cover. I mentioned that there are four law of non-contradiction. The law of causality.
The basic reliability of sense perception. We've covered those three already and the fourth one. You will recall, is the principle of the analogical use of language. Now this is probably the one that seems the most esoteric perhaps to the layperson who is engaged with issues relating to apologetics in our day, so I want to do today is try to explain what this issue is all about. You remember that these elements or principles came out of our inductive study of atheism. When we looked at those who rejected classical theism and listen carefully to the arguments that were waged against Judeo Christianity and I said that there were certain elements of thinking that were present in the critics of classical theism such as the denial of the law of non-contradiction or the denial of causality and so on. And now we come to this question of language in the 20th century in the contemporary philosophy of the. We saw a shift in philosophy to concern with human language and in the midst of this shift in philosophical focus came a controversy that's known as the God talk the God talk controversy now, you may not be familiar with that but one of the things that came out of the God talk controversy was a movement in theology, called field and otology. Now there's a word for you see a thin otology night. Maybe Devon even heard that term. How many of you here and never heard of the terms, the earth, and otology.
Okay nobody, sort of, well, that's the fancy word for the death of God.
How many of you heard of the death of God movement now were beginning to become familiar little bit with it.
We heard philosophers and theologians announcing the death of God in the 60s while what was behind that movement of the death of God was a crisis in the philosophy of language that had its roots.
First of all, with a philosophical school that emerged in the 20th century coming out of Great Britain called logical positivism and in logical positivism. One of the central theses was a principal that was called the law of verification or the principal of verification and we know what it means to verify things to verify coming from the word veritas meeting truth is to authenticate or show that something is true.
If I make a claim and I don't back it up. My claim is as yet not verified. If I can prove the truth of my claim.
Then I have verified it. Now, the verification principle that grew out of logical positivism was this principle that only those statements are deemed to be true that can be verified empirically or stated another way, only statements that can be verified empirically are true statements not to verify a statement empirically would be to show it to be true through sense perception that is by seeing, hearing, or so on. If I say to you, there is gold in Alaska.
The only way I can prove that that statement is true is if I can go to Alaska and find some gold there.
I scientifically prove I empirically demonstrates that there is gold, thereby finding it and showing it to you so that you can see it with your eyes, feel it with your fingers and so on. That's what we mean by empirical verification, something demonstrated to be true by the senses. The five senses. Now this principle of verification made a tremendous impact in the philosophical community for a while until somebody observed what should have been obvious at the beginning that if the only statements that are true are statements that can be verified empirically, then that would mean that the law of verification itself was not true because the law of verification can't be verified empirically.
It is simply a gratuitous premise and so then that school thought sort of retreated with little bit of egg on their face, but despite that stumbling block in that obvious error there with the principle of verification. Still, the guns of criticism were leveled against historic theism with respect to language about God and the critics were saying that statements about God cannot be proven in any way scientifically because no one can see God. You can't subject God to attest to, or to a laboratory analysis, and so the idea of God remains unprovable unverifiable and not only unverifiable but also on falsifiable.
Now that's a critical thing.
A lot of Christians take comfort in the idea that things that they say they believe cannot be proven false. And just because something cannot be proven false does not mean that it is true. For example if I say to you that I believe in ghosts and somebody says will have you ever seen one say no, but I believe there there would we have any scientific evidence of ghosts, and I say well know, but there's a reason for that ghosts don't like scientists and anytime scientists come around with any kind of measuring devices that could possibly detect the presence of ghosts that ghosts leave because it's part of their ghostly nature to flee from scientists and so therefore, scientists have never been able to verify them or it's like saying that there little men made out of green trees to live on the opposite side of the moon, who have the same kind of allergy to telescopes and anytime a telescope is pointed in their direction there.
Make sure that they're out of the way and that's why we never see them that he see somebody posits a belief like that. He could neither prove the truth of his premise, but neither can anybody prove them wrong because the impossibility of falsifying the statement is built into the premise to say that now that's what we call cheating in the theoretical realm of thought, and so we understand in philosophy that in many cases falsifying a statement is much more difficult than verifying.
For example, let's go back to our analogy of gold in Alaska. If I say to you, there is gold in Alaska and I can verify that all I need to do to verify it is to go to Alaska and find some gold there than I've proven the truth of my assertion, but suppose somebody says there's no gold in Alaska or oppositely through somebody's going to prove that there is no gold in Alaska will know the words to falsify my statement that there's no gold in Alaska and so they go to Alaska and they go in the first time I look around the can't find any goal that prove that there's no gold Alaska know how much of Alaska would they have to examine the prove that there's no gold or all of Alaska.
Every square inch of Alaska how far deep down in the ground is Alaska. Go help Marty have to dig before you can say we've excavated all of Alaska and then you suppose you do that and after all is said and done, the Santa said well we excavated every square inch of Alaska couldn't find an ounce of gold. Therefore, we falsified the statement that there is gold Alaska and I sit and wait a minute.
How do you know that when you were shaking that sieve up there near Anchorage that dirt that you were checking out somebody didn't miss suspected gold fell through the sieve.
But go back and test again and you can do this forever. In other words, it's much harder to falsify empirically than it is to verify however with logic that's another matter. If something violates the law of contradiction. The argument is falsified and that's not too difficult but because of the problem we have with God that nobody's ever seen God, and we don't hear his voice. We don't have any scientific evidence, as it were for his existence are belief in God or faith in God is based on some kind of rational arguments apart from physical evidence or upon inferences drawn from that which we can see like the created universe. We look at the universe and we deduce from the universe, a creator who stands above and beyond the universe and who made the universe and the question is whether that kind of reasoning is valid reasoning and were going to get to that a little bit later on in this course. But in the meantime, what the critics and the skeptics in the middle of the 20th century were saying is, since there is no physical proof of the existence of God and following basic principles of verification statements about God are at best emotive that is language about God is merely emotive.
When I say I believe in God.
I'm not really saying anything meaningful about what exists outside of me. All I'm doing is telling you something about me that I happen to be a believer and that I have some kind of emotion or passion bound up with the idea that God exists, but I've told the story of a discussion I had with a college student several years ago who asked me if I believed in God and I said yes and I said well if you believe in God do pray to God and I suggest you sing about them yes and you go to church as I do all the things you read the Bible yes does that mean anything to you all. Yes, it's very meaningful to me and that college students, it will than for you. God exists, but the student said, but I don't believe in God.
I don't sing hymns. I don't say prayers. I don't read the Bible and I don't find the idea of God personally meaningful or significant to me at all. So for me, God does not exist the course. This is relativism with a vengeance and I said well were not talking about the same thing and she said what he main lesson will and I say and I assert the existence of God.
I am asserting the existence of a being who exists apart from me outside of me who's not a part of my subjectivity, or of my emotional makeup. I'm saying that that God mind proclaiming if in fact he does not exist apart from me. All my praying to him singing to him reading about him and finding meaning in believing in him does not have the power to create him. I'm simply deluded and wrong. On the other hand, God, I'm talking about here.
If he does exist. All of your unbelief all of your disinterest in him, and that you find him meaningless does not have the power to annihilate him. So that's what were talking and let's keep that in view, that when were discussing the existence of God were talking about the objective existence of God, not my subjective feeling about it. But we see this movement in theology and philosophy were saying that God talk may be reduced simply to human emotions and that statements about God say nothing meaningful about objective reality outside of the people who are making the claims lesson extremely skeptical approach to the idea of God in the have to ask what's behind that will one of the main things that's behind it was the struggle in philosophy and in theology. In the 19th century and in the 20th century. In the 19th century following the Enlightenment, we saw a massive attempt among philosophers and theologians to redefine religion to redefine historic Christianity, particularly in naturalistic term.
Remember that the single most important affirmation of the enlightenment of the 18 century the principle of enlightenment was this that the God hypothesis the idea of God is no longer necessary to explain the presence of the origin of the universe or the origin of human life. See before the Enlightenment even secular people were very much impressed by the classical arguments for the existence of God as a necessary postulate to explain the universe and to explain human life and it was only in the Enlightenment that a believable alternative to creation made an impact on Western thinking, particularly in Germany and England and in France with the French encyclopedias.
Not everybody in the Enlightenment.
Agreed with all of these principles in the most militant were the French encyclopedias and particularly the euro who defined himself as quote the personal enemy of God and what they were saying was that we no longer need to affirm the existence of God, because now through the advent of modern science. We know that the universe and human life and all these things come about through the principle of spontaneous generation that became the scientifically acceptable alternative to creation in the Enlightenment. The idea of spontaneous generation, namely, that things just pop into existence on their own later on in this course will take a close look at that concept. But for now I'm trying to explain where this crisis in language came from. So the 19th century. Following on the heels of this critique of theism in the Enlightenment, which was a critique of supernaturalism 19th century philosophy and theology sought to accommodate that kind of skepticism by reconstructing Christianity in naturalistic terms, so 19th century liberalism rejected anything supernatural in historic Christianity Old Testament prophecy that was advanced before events actually took place that was revised and thought well that that's just later editors reading back into the text their contemporary situations and so there's no real supernatural things such as predictive prophecy, the virgin birth of Christ was rejected because that would be supernatural.
The atonement is a cosmic event was rejected because that would be supernatural. All the miracles of the Bible, both old and New Testament were rejected as mythological accretions into the historic documents and so on. No resurrection of Christ, but the meaning of Christianity now becomes love for your neighbor and having a sociological agenda of humanitarianism on the natural plane without any belief in the supernatural. Now this concept of a naturalized religion also was married with philosophy in the 19th century that was heavily evolutionary or what we call imminent to stick that is the theology that prevailed was pantheism's lease of God is not something above and beyond the universe. But if God exists, he exists as part of the universe and we understand the pantheism in its simplest form means everything is God all is God and God is all but nothing about that linguistically, if everything is God and God is all, then the word God itself does not refer to anything particular if it refers to everything in general. It refers to nothing in particular. So the term God has no particular meaning or significance. And so with this eminence concept. There was a crisis of language whether you can speak meaningfully about God at all.
Now this provoked a crisis in philosophy and theology, and at the turn of the 20th century there was a reaction in Europe against liberalism and an attempt to reconstruct the transcendence of God.
The sense in which God is above and beyond the universe and the stream of history and this renewed emphasis to try to redeem Christianity from liberalism and restore the supernatural, did what often happens in attempts to correct one error. The pendulum swings in the other direction to an overcorrection so that philosophers and theologians who were now studying God in his transcendence came off with language like this that God is holy father God is so different from the universe. We must flee so rapidly and strenuously from identifying God with the universe as pantheism does that we have to say that God not only is God not to be identified with nature.
Not only does he exist above nature.
But he exist totally above and beyond nature. Not only is he different from us, but he is says one German philosopher said Gollancz on the completely different and then the other phrase of the following generations refer to them in English as God's being holy. Other this attempt to salvage transcendence as well meaning is what paved the way for an even worse crisis about speaking meaningfully about God. Then the previous and will see how that role itself out in our next session.
St. Augustine said, God does not expect us to submit our faith to him without reason the very limits of reason, make faith, a necessity this week on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Sproul is helping us apply reason to our faith were featuring his series on classical apologetics called defending your faith now in her 50th year of ministry. It would be difficult to count the number of people who found this 32 part series helpful in engaging their friends and loved ones with the truth of the gospel. We like to send you this 11 DVD series when you contact us today with your financial gift of any amount you can reach us email@example.com or you can simply call us. Our number is 800-435-4343 and this week were also including a bonus disc containing the study guides for the series.
These will be a great help to you. If you're planning on using these videos a church in a Sunday school class or with a small group in your home. We will send you all 12 discs when you call us with your donation of any amount.
Her phone number again is 800-435-4343 and her web address is Renewing Your Mind.org. If you fail Dr. Stroh's teaching today helpful. Let me remind you that you can also hearing that many other faithful teachers every day on rough that that's our 24 hour Internet radio station and you can listen for free at any time when you go to ref that.FM or when you download the free ref net app. I think you can readily tell from today's message that Dr. Stroh was well-versed in logic and philosophy that are recently international conference and an opportunity to sit down with Dr. Stephen Nichols, who wrote a biography of Dr. Strohl and I asked him how RC developed an interest in a philosophy class in college and in the first class was on was John Locke, and RC is not tracking with this at all and actually he had Billy Graham sermons printed out and sit in the back of the class E threes Billy Graham sermons while the heat is been converted and any from the gospel in the Bible and sermons to be so exciting. But then another class day comes along. Sitting there and it's Dr. Thomas Gregory Westminster seminary trained PhD from University Pennsylvania philosophy professor there was Mr. college. He's lecturing on Augustine on creation ex knee hello and RC hears this he starts listening with one ear and all of a sudden he puts the Billy Graham sermons down and is listening with two years and he's he's hooked on philosophy he fishes class was down to the register changes his major to philosophy because he recognized the importance of the history of ideas. You mentioned defending your faith and I think his other book consequences of ideas.
It was really that study of philosophy that I think is part of the genius of RC scroll and it works into not only his theology, but also into his apologetics, and so he testified to that switching his major to philosophy made all the difference in the future trajectory of his ministry and of his writing will tomorrow.
Dr. Strohl will continue his series by pointing out the dangerous ideas of a prominent 20th century theologian may have contributed to a crisis of the church today and we need to be alert, so I hope you'll join us Wednesday for Renewing Your Mind