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March 5, 2022 12:01 am
In an attempt to escape the truth of God's Word, many people deny the existence of objective truth altogether. Today, R.C. Sproul shows that rational thought supports the claims of Christianity, not the assertions of atheism.
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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind, but I find that the majority of students who walk in the door in the seminar today have already been convinced by the secular world, the truths can be irrational and that the Bible can be contradictory and still be the word of God and it's an astonishing thing that is an astonishing thing is that that's the case with the majority of students who were entering seminary, think of the broader culture. So how do we share our faith with the generation that denies the existence of propositional truth generation that believes in nothing there's Dr. RC Sproul, I began my teaching career at the college level.
In 1966 and that's getting to be a long time ago these days and you know over the years.
Over the decades living through the decade of the 60s and the cultural Revolution and then through the 70s and so on. I saw the gradual changes in the students that came into the classroom coming out of high school and college and then as I began to teach seminary could also discern the difference in the assumptions that students had when they came out of the colleges and in the seminary a few years ago.
Alan Bloom wrote a book that surprised everybody when it became a runaway bestseller entitled the closing of the American mind in which Prof. Blanc said that in the very first page of this book that 95% of high school graduates who enter the freshman class of universities and colleges today come to college already assuming a philosophy of relativism and he said that what happens in the following four years is that those assumptions that they come in to college with out of high school are now set in concrete because it's of the academic community in modern America has a mind that is closed to objective truth. The truth is not perceived as being subjective as a matter of preference.
Now that's bad news, and in one sense, and yet on the other hand, I say repeatedly that you might find 95% of people saying that their relativist but nobody is a relativist for more than 24 hours because you can't survive in this world really as a consistent relativist for more than 24 hours because you can't drive your car to an intersection and see a truck coming and say it's all relative, and I subjectively choose to believe that there's no truck coming down the highway and so I pulled in front of that subjective illusion of mine and I am alive violated and so people assume that even when they deny it a certain rational framework for the world in which they live. In fact, that assumption of an objectively rational framework for reality is an assumption that is necessary for any science to take place now. It was Aristotle who in his philosophical inquiry centuries ago developed theories of physics of chemistry of drama of ethics of biology and he was prodigious in the scope of his learning but in addition to the development of the sciences that he individuated he also developed what is called now since his work Aristotelian logic. Now, when Aristotle developed his theories of logic. He made the statement that logic is what he called the Organon of all science that is logic itself is not a science but rather logic is an instrument that is a necessary tool for all science. That is what Aristotle said was that logic is a necessary condition for meaningful communication. If I say, for example, that this piece of chalk is not a piece of chalk.
I cannot communicate anything intelligible to you when I make such a statement.
My favorite illustration. This took place when I was teaching in Philadelphia several decades ago and I had a senior class in philosophy there and apologetics and I said on one occasion I did this very illustration I picked up a piece of chalk and we were studying the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and con's analysis of different kinds of statements in a post to your judgments and so on. And I said okay give me various kinds of analytical statements know what kind of a statement is this, and I held up a piece of chalk and I said this piece of chalk is not a piece of chalk now. I was very careful to speak in hushed terms and deferral. My brow so that my statement would sound philosophically profound. This piece of chalk is not a piece of truck ride the Dean of our institution sitting in the class that they and so I asked her students what what does it mean in the fellow who was the valedictorian of the class.
He put his hand up and he said what you're saying is that that particular piece of chalk in your hand does not fully or to dissipate in the universal essence of chalk nests and and I said I said well which particular piece of chalk and he pointed to the one I was holding up. I said but it's that particular piece of chalk that I'm saying is not a piece of chalk, so why do you call it a piece of chalk and so he mumbled something and said and I said come on somebody help us out here in the Dean you know was getting embarrassed.
The students were looking him and asked him know what he thought about it. He said Bliss has to do with the old question of phenomena and race of realism in nominalism and on and he started playing games with all that kind of stuff with the intellectual concept of chalk nurses opposed to the objective reality of it.
He said this, not that it particular piece of truck is not objectively the piece of truck and I said but it's the subjective piece of chalk that I'm saying is not objectively a piece of chalk, so he cashed in his chips and gave up and I said, we can't spend much time on this sitting in the front row was the Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Norristown, Pennsylvania excellent student, a black man who would come from the streets of Philadelphia and I said help us a and the Bishop was moving all over his chair and getting more and more agitated. And I said come on help us out.
Bishop Walters, what does this mean when I say this piece of chalk is not a piece of chalk and he says I can't make no sense that kind of jazz and I said thank God there is one intelligent creature in this room.
I said I fold everybody in this class with my hushed voice and speaking nonsense. But this man recognized immediately that it was a con game and that I was making a statement that was fundamentally unintelligible of people do that all the time and what I did was purposefully violate the law of non-contradiction and in so doing, as I violated the law of non-contradiction by saying this chalk is not this chalk. I made a nonsense statement and I had plunged into a sea of absurdity and irrationality.
People do it all the time and if they talk boldly while they do it. They get away with it. And yet you see this in a million friends and as we continue our course here on apologetics. I will try to show you time and time again how this law of non-contradiction and the principles of logic are violated in attempts to undermine Christian theism once had a discussion with a fellow who had been the valedictorian of Carnegie Mellon institution in chemical engineering and he was arguing against the existence of God.
We were sitting at a table in a restaurant and he began by saying boldly that there is no scientific evidence or rational evidence for the existence of God and so I began to engage with him in discussion and took him to the place where he recognized as well as I recognize that logic required him from the premises, we had agreed upon to agree to the conclusion that God exists, but he refused to go there and I said how can you resist that conclusion and he said to me, I grant that the argument is compelling and that logic demands that I must affirm the existence of God, but I don't believe in logic.
Now I know this, that if I would've walked into that restaurant before having had that discussion with the scientist and said to him upfront.
Do you believe in logic.
He would a set of course it's half of the scientific method. How can I be a scientist and deny the rules of logic.
That's what he would've set but I didn't ask that in advance.
But as we are in the midst of this argument and he saw that logic required for him to affirm something he didn't want to affirm. He retreated to the position of denying the validity of logic and I said fine so you don't believe in the law of non-contradiction said no. I said good so I stopped right then and there and say another word, and he continued to probate canoes talk to me and I ignored him.
I just sat there and ate my dinner and he was getting more annoyed at me because he was speaking I wasn't answering us responded, and finally I looked up and I said, would you please pass me the salt and he reached over and picked up the salt shaker and handed to me and he said here so woo hoo you and you can distinguish between a saltshaker that is a saltshaker not a saltshaker at the same time the same relationship as it actually you do believe the law contradiction, because I could have a meaningful discussion with you as long as is not about God, if I want to talk about saltshaker's.
Then all of a sudden you become rational see one of the philosophers that I study when I was in seminary, made this observation that it's easy for people to deny the validity of the law of non-contradiction, but that all denials of the law of non-contradiction are forced and temporary they are forced and temporary.
That is, people only denied the validity of this law when it suits them when they want to avoid a conclusion that they don't want to have to embrace and I've learned a long time ago in theological discussion of philosophical debate that one the opponent denies the law contradiction.
The arguments over I don't want to go any further.
If the person says I don't believe in rationality. I can say fine at least you are saying that your alternative to Christian theism is by your broadcast manifestly irrational and that's all were trying to show in apologetics that if you're going to be rational. If you're going to be reasonable and you have to affirm the existence of God and if the only way you can escape the existence of God is by denying rationality, then go ahead and do it. That's what were trying to demonstrate in the first instance. But what is most critical in our day is the triumph of your rationalism, not over the secular mindset, but over the Christian community where we've seen the impact of existential philosophy have pervasive inroads into Christian thinking so that even in seminaries today when I walk in the door. I find that the majority of students who walk in the door in the seminary today have already been convinced by the secular world that truth can be irrational and that the Bible can be contradictory and still be the word of God and it's an astonishing thing, but in the Orthodox theology. For example, two of the leading exponents of it. Karl Barth and Amo Bruner, who were massively influenced by existential thought, particularly the philosophy of Soren Kierkegaard who argued the truth of subjectivity in the 19th century have taken this new position towards reason it's not all that knew all the way back at Tertullian and the early church. Tertullian raised the question, what does Jerusalem have the do with Hassan and what Tertullian wanted to do was to free Christianity from any undue influence from Greek philosophy and since Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and it was Aristotle who defined the rules of logic people early on on to say, that's Greek stuff that's not Christian stuff. Christianity is free from the rains imposed upon it by the categories of Greek thought. But I remind people that Aristotle did not invent logic anymore than Columbus invented America. All he did was discover the rules that were already there that are built into the human mind. What are the necessary conditions for human beings to be able to carry on meaningful discourse he discovered and defined principles of reasoning. The built into your humanity by your creator by the God who is not the author of confusion who is not irrational nor absurd. But the God who speaks to us is a God who speaks in a coherent, meaningful, intelligible way that the word of God is meant to be understood by God's creatures and a necessary condition for that understanding is that God not speak to us with a forked tongue were in contradictions. However, as I mentioned a few moments ago the AdVent and the influence of the Orthodox theology through the influence of Karl Barth and Amo Bruner has been massive in our day the first 20 years of the 20th century.
Karl Barth published his rumor brief in his commentary on Romans, which was described as a bombshell that fell on the playground of the theologians and in his epistle to the Romans.
Dr. Barth made this observation.
He said until or unless the Christian is able to affirm both poles of a contradiction that Christian has not yet gone to maturity so that the mark of maturity. According to Bart for Christian was to be able to affirm both sides of a contradiction in an long in the same path. Amo Bruner, his compatriot in his little book bar height all spaghetti known truth as encounter made this observation that became famous in the theological world quote contradiction is the hallmark of truth see it's a slight step from St. contradictions are permissible their allowable we can have them can live with them ready to be able to embrace them and then the light we embrace them, but we glory in them because of the very hallmark of truth. Now let's apply that principle to the Scriptures. My favorite application.
That is to go back to Genesis 3 where God speaks Adam and Eve in the garden and God sets before Adam and Eve certain principles. He says of all the trees of the garden you may freely eat the one he sets off limits is that if you eat of that tree you shall surely die. If we translate that into logical categories. What God is saying to Adam and Eve is if a then B if you eat, you will die. That's the construction then the serpent comes along and after some seductive inquiries to Eve that were somewhat crafty. He proceeds to the heart of the issue and says to Eve, you will not die but you will become as God's right so what the serpent says to Eve, is if you eat if a then non-be now, let's assume that out of the were schooled in Aristotle's University and Adam looks at that and says he will expensive wait a minute, Mr. serpent that's a direct contradiction from what my creator said a few moments ago ha ha but I learned my theological lesson that the contradiction is the hallmark of truth and since the one who speaks this contradiction is the serpent and since the contradiction is the hallmark of truth, the serpent must be an ambassador for the truth must be a representative from God.
And so if that's the case, and if I'm really going to be a mature child of God, able to embrace both poles of a contradiction. Not only may I eat from this tree. But what I must eat from this tree. In order to be an obedient mature Christian not what I try to do here is to reduce this principle to absolute absurd because, if contradiction is the hallmark of truth.
As I said earlier, there's no way you can possibly differentiate between truth and falsehood between truth and lie between good and evil, between obedience and disobedience between godliness and ungodliness between Christ and the Antichrist. What you tell me that you can embrace both poles of a contradiction. Are you going to tell me that Christ can be Christ and Antichrist the same time and in the same relationship, dear friends, nothing is more seductive to the truth of God, than to cut away at the very fiber of truth itself. Know the law of contradiction and logic has no content to it. If you embrace logic you're not embracing any information or content or the premises. All logic does is major the relationship between premises between propositions so that if I make two statements we can see whether their consistent, coherent, or if they're contradictory you apply the tools of logic to see whether my conclusions really follow from my premises, for example, in the classic syllogism, all men are mortal. Socrates is a man who got the first premise got the second premise yet to propositions here how they relate will logic tells you that if all men are mortal and if Socrates is the man then there is no if to the conclusion if all men are mortal. Socrates is a man than manifestly Socrates must be mortal, and so the truth of your conclusion is determined by the validity of the argument, and there are rules that measure the relationship of ideas. Logic is like a policeman that God has put in the brain of human being to blow the whistle to recognize the lie whistle blows when things don't compute just like your computer goes wacky when you ask it to be irrational. So God has built into the human mind. A function of rationality. That is a test of coherency a test of rationality and at the very heart of the Christian affirmation is that though the content that we get in the Bible goes far beyond what we can learn to rational speculation.
It's based on divine revelation that divine revelation is not come to us packaged in absurd the word of God is not irrational.
It is addressed to creatures who have been given minds that operate according to God created us and that includes our minds.
He created language and he created our ability to understand that means when God speaks truth in his word, we can understand rationally. We just heard a message from Dr. RC Sproles classic series defending your faith in it, or see looks at the history of apologetics and introduces that reason and logic can be our allies in defending Christianity and the secular world.
It is one of RC's most popular series and we would like for you to have all 32 lessons simply send a gift of any amount to look at her ministries along with your request. You can do that email@example.com work when you call us at 800-435-4343. There are 11 DVDs in this collection plus a bonus disc that contains all the audio files for the series, plus a copy of the study guide reading suggestions, study questions, and an outline for each lesson just request defending your faith when you call us again.
Our number is 800-435-4343 or if you prefer to make a request online or address is Renewing Your Mind.org next week. RC will address what are those questions that that really causes our heads to wake is God's eternal, or did his existence have a starting point. I hope you'll join us next week for Renewing Your Mind