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May 14, 2022 12:01 am
Is it possible to prove the existence of God? Today, R.C. Sproul shows that the evidence for God is so compelling and conclusive that unbelievers are left without excuse.
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We know that what the plug-in does according to Romans one is of the first walleye that he embraces is the denial of the eternal power and beauty of God and then his mind becomes darkened, and the more brilliant he is. The further away he moves from that first awareness of God, that he gets in nature.
We break through that barrier of denial like you for joining us for the Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind and we each week, we returned to Dr. RC Sproul series defending your faith to take comprehensive tour of classical apologetics more and more in our culture were finding people who flatly deny the existence of God through our focus today is how to make a rational case for his existence in our last session we talked briefly about the watershed moments in the history of theoretical thought when Immanuel Kant penned his critique of pure reason giving a comprehensive critique of the traditional arguments for the existence of God, and after that Kantian critique and the disintegration of the classical synthesis. The question that the church was left of faces will how do we now approach apologetics. How can we legitimately make a case for God without falling into the trap of problems posed by Kant and frankly there were several different approaches to this.
One of the main ones was what I've already defined as Phidias and more people try to just leap over the ditch or jump over the wall or go around and dig 100 through faith saying that we can't argue convincingly for the existence of God.
This is something that you just have to take on faith and that's the way not only many theologians have gone, but also many Christians have said to people when they raise objections to their personal faith. The why do you believe what you believe and I said well you just have to take it by faith and some even go so far as to say yet to take a leap of faith into the darkness, and hope that there's somebody out there that will catch you and that reminds me of one of my favorite illustrations that I used to hear from Jim Boyce where he told the story of the mountain climber who was high up on the wall of the mountain a couple thousand feet from the canyon floor when all of a sudden his rope broke and he started to fall and he reached out and grabbed a hold of a tiny little branch that was growing out of the rocks and he was holding on with all of his mind with one hand suspended 2000 feet above the ground and he could feel that the branch was coming loose from the side of the rock face and he lifted his eyes to heaven and cried out. Is there anyone out there who can help me and suddenly there was this deep voice coming out of the clouds saying I can help you.
Trust me let go of the branch and have faith that is in the mountain climber looked up at the clouds and looked down the canyon floor. Look back at the clouds.
That is there anybody else there that can help me. That's part of the problem of just going on blind faith. And even though the term faith has a highly valued meaning to biblical Christianity. There is a difference between that faith and credulity and foolishness. But again, people are saying that the way of the Christian world is the way faith not the way of reason, the ancient church father totally in raise the question rhetorically. What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens and he said I believe Christianity because it's absurd. Well if he means absurd from the world's perspective that's one thing but if he means really objectively absurd than that would be a serious slander against the character of God and against the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of truth. Others take the position that the way to reconstruct theism is through appeals to history many friends who are apologists who take this route, acknowledging that arguments from the field of history can never give you absolute proof, but only a high degree of probability based upon empirical investigation, but that that a high degree of probability gives you what's called moral certainty. My friend John Warwick Montgomery, for example, prefers this way of arguing arguing from history and particularly from the historical Jesus back to the existence of God and saying that the arguments from biblical history may not give you formal certainty such as is found in logical deduction, but certainly is evidential to such a degree that it leaves the person without any moral escape hatch and we say in the courtroom today when people are charged with serious crimes that the burden of proof is on the prosecution and they must prove that the person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And so those who were called evidential us who argue from history tried to show that the evidence of history so communicates and proves the existence of God that it is beyond a reasonable doubt and the evidence is so overwhelming and astronomical in its probability that only a fool would deny what it clearly manifests the problem I have with that is that I think there's a better way and that even if we have an overwhelming probability. The center still has that tiny little escape hatch where they can say well you didn't prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Maybe it's not reasonable for me to doubt it.
But you haven't proven your case conclusively and also there was a philosopher by the name of Lessing who in a similar fashion to Immanuel Kant's critique of the traditional arguments pose the metaphor of the great ditch that divides this world from the world of God, and he said that the contingent thing of events in history can never yield the proof of eternal things that was his argument that was very similar. So I said to Kant, but again this is one way that people approach the issue by reasoning from history and from evidence. In fact, I am frequently described in the world of apologetics as an evidential list and I've tried so many times to clarify that that's not where I'm coming from that I've given up on it and just let people call me an evidential lesson because I know what they mean by it. They think their only two kinds of apologist presupposition was where evidential us where there is really more than that and I would fall into the school of thought that is called the classical school of apologetics in the difference between the classical school and the evidential school assess the evidential us argue that the evidence drawn from history and elsewhere give you a high degree of probability for the existence of God where the classicist argues that proof of the existence of God is conclusive that it is in fact compelling that it is actual proof and leaves people without any excuse whatsoever. No, that's a very burdensome thing to claim that you can prove the existence of God absolutely because if you failed to do it then you have mud all over your face for having made the audacious claim that your proof is compelling, but I do think the classical apologetics achieves that goal of compelling proof. But before we get to the classical view. Let me mention another approach apologetics which has become the overwhelming majority report within reformed theology and that is the view of apologetics known as priests. Suppositional apologetics there's more than one variety of it. There is axiomatic presupposition wasn't it was championed by Gordon Clark.
But the more popular view of presupposition is is that that was developed by Cornelius Van Til, late of Westminster theological seminary in Philadelphia where he labored for several decades and who has published much in this field and who was indeed a genuine giant and Titan of the Christian faith. The book that I co-authored with John Gerstner, and Lindsay, we entitled classical apologetics includes an one third of that book a comprehensive critique of presupposition wasn't so because of that book that Art Lindsley and John Gerstner, and I authored.
We have become engaged in ongoing dialogue within the reformed camp with respect to what is the preferred approach to doing apologetics and Dr. Van Til having written in the English language which was not his native tongue.
He was a native of Holland sometimes writes in a style that is somewhat difficult to follow and because of that, not only do his critics differ among themselves as to what he was actually saying but also some of his most noteworthy students differ in how they interpret him some of his students interpret Van Til as a fattiest, whereas I think is most able interpreter. The late Gregory Bahnson did not see Van Til as a fattiest, but saw him arguing a rational case for the existence of God and I'm not going to get into a lot of discussion right now about presupposition wasn't only to say by way of introduction that the presupposition approach says this that in order to arrive at the conclusion that God exists in order to prove the existence of God, you must start with your primary premise. Your first premise being the presupposition of the existence of God. In other words, that unless you start by presupposing the existence of God, you will never get to the conclusion of the existence of God and of course the immediate objection that is raised against that form of thinking is that that procedure of starting with the thesis that God exists and then reasoning to the conclusion that God exists, involves a classic fallacy of logic called the potentially open kepi fallacy or the fallacy of circular reasoning in the fallacy of circular reasoning occurs when the conclusion appears already in one of your premises say that the conclusion is already assumed up here and so this is a faulty form of reasoning which invalidates an argument and that's been the chief objection raised against pre-suppositional apologetics.
However, the defense that Dr. Van Til gave to that because he was certainly aware that that charge would be made against this approach. He defended it by saying that all reasoning moves in a circular fashion insofar as its starting point, its middle ground and its conclusions are all involved with each other, which is to say if you start with the rational premise and you reason consistently in a rational way. Your conclusion will be of a rational sort and so with that kind of definition. Dr. Van Til justifies his use of circular reasoning saying that that's no different from anybody else because all reasoning is circular. In that sense well of those of us who don't adopt this approach to apologetics defined in the justification for circular reasoning the commission of a second fallacy that is as deadly as the first one the first fallacy is the fallacy of circular reasoning, which in classic categories of logic invalidates an argument.
The justification for using circular reasoning involves the second fallacy, which is the fallacy of equivocation where a term changes its meaning in the middle of the argument when he justifies circular reasoning by saying that all reasoning is circular in the sense that its starting point in his conclusion of the similar sort. That's not what is meant by circular reasoning. We've all understood that a rational argument.
If it's going to be rational must be consistently rational through out and why call that a circle when in fact it's linear.
You begin with a rational premise you use another rational premise and you move an advance to a conclusion that is of a rational sort without running around in a circle. Now granted, there is a presupposition in rational argument. The presupposition of reason, the presupposition of the law of non-contradiction presupposition of causality in the other presuppositions that I've been setting before you in this class, including the basic reliability of sense perception and the analogical use of language. Now, those who defend Dr. Van Til here like Greg Bahnson are saying really what Van Til is getting at here is something a little deeper than a superficial exercise in circular reasoning.
What he saying is that if you want to assume rationality to even assume rationality involves two out of necessity, presupposing the existence of God, because without God there is no foundation for rationality. There is no foundation for trusting the law of causality.
There is no foundation for trusting the basic reliability of sense perception. So even though you don't admit it when you advocate reason you are already assuming the ground of that reason, which is God himself. So let's just be open and above board and say anybody who presupposes rationality is therefore presupposing the existence of God, and there simply disguising that and so I feel the weight of that because we certainly agree as classicists that it is true that if rationality is to be meaningful and if these presuppositions of epistemology that I'm talking about our sound. Then they scream for the existence of God.
But that's exactly what classical apologetics is trying to prove that if you want to be rational.
You've got to affirm the existence of God because the very reason that your presupposing demands the existence of God. But we have to show people that ended and we don't think it's a good strategy to us to model the argument by saying what you have to start with the existence of God in your premise in your argument in order to prove it because in the other guy says well I'm going to start without the premise of God and I'm going to end up in meaninglessness and now what you have is a tie and as they say. That's like kissing your sister and were not interested in that kind of experience so the biggest objection I have.
Frankly, besides these logical errors.
The presupposition was is that nobody starts with God except God. You can't start in your mind with God.
The knowledge of God unless you got where we say you start is with self-consciousness and from self-consciousness you move to the existence of God. You don't start with God consciousness and moved to the existence of the self, by necessity, human beings thinking with human minds must start with where they are with their brain.
Now the objection that comes to that is that we are capitulating to secular pagan ideas of thoughts. I remember debating this point with one of the advocates of presupposition realism in a public meeting almost 30 years ago where this particular professor was very exercised when I said that you have to start with self-consciousness and he said that that's on biblical because that what I'm doing is assuming the autonomy of the self rather than the sovereignty of God and that this is exactly what Adam and Eve did in the garden of Eden when they rebelled against God, and that it is a sinful fallen corrupt way to start reasoning by beginning with the self, rather than with God. And I said him I would certainly agree that if my first supposition. My primary premise in reasoning was the autonomy of myself that I would be guilty of everything you say that I would be indeed already embracing paganism and I could only end up if I were indeed consistent with the deification of the self and the rejection of God, but I said we don't start with the autonomy of the self, but simply the consciousness of the self and I reminded my friend that Augustine himself said that with self-consciousness always comes immediately and awareness of finitude that the moment that you're aware of yourself as a self you know you're not God. That's what Calvin argued at the same time and I'm saying that the idea of autonomy where you're a law unto yourself is not contained in the idea of self-consciousness. If it were he would indeed be sinful to start at that point.
What were saying is that the beginning with self-consciousness is a given to creaturely necessarily place any self can start with their thinking. You cannot start in your mind. With his thought, or with my thought was God's thought the only thing you start with is your own self awareness, and from there you move because you are a self and you will soon discover that you are not autonomous at all. And that's what were saying that if you begin with self-consciousness and you reason correctly so far from ending in autonomy you will in fact end by necessarily affirming the existence of God. Again, this is a very brief overview because this dialogue goes on and on and on.
And we've had several discussions among ourselves and this is an intramural debate among reformed thinkers who, apart from this approach to apologetics agree on. Basically all the doctrines of the reformed faith, but disagree on what is the proper way to proceed strategically and theologically in our defense of God. The fear among presupposition list is that in arguing rationally and empirically that we give too much away to the pagan world that a course, the fear of the classicists for the presupposition. This is to give too much away.
They give the pagan an excuse for not believing in the existence of God, because the pagan can see that their approach violates principles of rationality, but one thing we all agree on is that the construction of the existence of God is certainly the most important single premise in the building of a person's life and worldview and that we know that what the pagan does according to Romans one is that the first lie that he embraces is the denial of the eternal power and deity of God and then his mind becomes darkened, and the more brilliant he is. The further away he moves from that first awareness of God, that he gets in nature and so we all agree in the supreme importance of establishing early on in our apologetics.
The existence of God. That's the first thing that has to be established. We agree that God is first in the order of being obviously with the disagreement is what comes first in the process of knowing we say God is first in order being my first in the order of and in our next class. I will begin to demonstrate how classical apologetics constructs its case for the existence an important distinction there between classical apologetics, and presupposition will apologetics good. You joined us for the Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Each week we returned to Dr. RC Sproul series defending your faith.
Christians are called to give an answer for the hope that is within us, and in 32 messages. RC looks at the history of apologetics and helps us defend the historical truth claims about Jesus, we be glad to send you this 11 DVD set when you give a donation of any about to leader ministries. You can reach us by phone at 800-435-4343 but you can also go online and give your gift it Renewing Your Mind.or when you receive it, you'll discover a bonus disc that contains the audio files for the series, plus a digital copy of the study guide. Again, the title of the series is defending your faith in advance, let me thank you for your generous donation of any amount, but had the privilege of speaking to many of you have attended our conferences over the years and I'm always encouraged to hear your appreciation for ref net different not familiar with ref net it's our 24 hour Internet radio station that features the teaching of Dr. scroll all of leaders teaching fellows and other trusted pastors and teachers to listen, download the free ref net app work. Listen on your email@example.com and before we go. Let me take a moment to thank you for your continued prayers and support of this ministry. They are vital to our mission here at Wigner ministries.
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