Presuppositionalism, Authority, and Sola Scriptura

The following came out of a discussion I had on a messageboard concerning evangelicalism, and leads into discussion concerning authority and THE rule of faith.

Whatever happened to the old idea that being an evangelical meant believing in evangelizing the Gospel to the world, believing in and supporting Church missions and local revivals? I hold to the old idea, I believe in a continual evangelizing of the world with the good news of salvation in Christ alone. And this work of evangelizing, should not be equivocated with secular politics [civil governments].

…evangelicalism, does not stand or fall on individuals, it stands as a principal, not effected any more than the preaching of the Gospel by a servant of Christ struggling with sin in their lives. Is the message of the Gospel therefore nullified if the messenger is not living a perpetually blameless life? By no means, God even uses foolish things.

Several posts later the thread starter, a person I will refer to as “Liberal Christian” makes the following comment:

Liberal Christian: “the holy scriptures do not appear to solve the issue between credobaptist and paedobaptist nor that between sacramentalist and their opponents and the difference between continuationist and cessationists is completely irreconcilable from the scriptures. It can’t be the rule of faith maybe a source of teaching but not THE rule of faith otherwise so many rules that oppose one another would not come from interpreting the same source.”

To which I respond:

So the argument is that because Scripture does not appear to the solve the baptism issue, therefore Scripture cannot be THE rule of faith? Therefore we must either choose a tradition as THE rule, or THE “God told me” rule? Nah man. Without Scripture as THE rule, everything is reduced to “he said she said” subjectivism, and subjectivism is no ladder to objective knowledge.

Liberal Christian response: “Your reasoning is eccentric at best. I say that scripture is not THE rule of faith and you conclude that therefore I have asserted that one of “tradition” or “god told me” is THE rule of faith. Absolute absurdity on your part.”

To which I respond:

Absurd that I did not frame it with every possible variation or option? Now that’s absurd considering what I was responding to. So tell me what you think THE rule of faith is, nvm you’ll likely say Scripture + tradition, which is absurd. To elevate tradition on the same level as Scripture, just begs the question, which tradition, and how do you come to such conclusion?

Liberal Christian response: “The absurdity is that you respond to a statement negating one proposed source of absolute authority as if it were a statement affirming a single alternative as the one source of absolute authority. That’s where the eccentricity of your reasoning lies. But to make the matter clear I am saying that scripture is an authority and that other things are also authorities.”

To which I respond:

Without the primary rule of faith, there are no secondary authorities.

Let’s rewind this a bit, you said; “It [The Holy Scriptures] can’t be the rule of faith maybe a source of teaching but not THE rule of faith otherwise so many rules that oppose one another would not come from interpreting the same source.”

The Holy Scriptures are objective meaning they exist outside of our own existence, that is to say they are independent of our existence. In them God reveals Himself in objective visible and audible manners and manifestations. God the Holy Spirt, gives objectivism to knowledge in interpreting Scripture. God Himself is the source of absolute authority and in His wisdom has chosen the only means to justify obtaining objective knowledge of anything, which is through the Holy Scriptures and illumination of the Holy Spirit.

The absurdity come in when making statements like; “It [The Holy Scriptures] can’t be the rule of faith maybe a source of teaching but not THE rule of faith otherwise so many rules that oppose one another would not come from interpreting the same source.” because you totally undermine any authority given to secondary authorities! Without the absolute authority of Scripture, man has no foundation for knowledge no axiom or basis for knowledge claims, no rule by means of measure for the person who claims “God told me”.

Liberal Christian response: “Why? I have two parents not just one and both are authorities – or were authorities when I was a child – so is the law in my society an authority and school teachers, university professors, pastors, friends, foes, the background culture, scripture, natural laws, and many other things. None is primary and even if one (or several) were primary that would argue against your claim that scripture is THE authority.”

To which I respond:

Equivocation fallacy and failure to make distinctions of hierarchy. As if all of those listed were competing for Ultimate authority. What a hoot!

Liberal Christian response: “I use careful reasoning, scripture, natural laws, experience, and dozens of other things. Fortunately when testing truth claims in religion there is time to hear, reflect, and pray before deciding a matter and even after deciding it is still possible to come back and reconsider the matter.”

To which I respond:

God performed a supernatural work in my heart called regeneration, the new birth, otherwise I would be lost in secular autonomous methodology.

Liberal Christian response:  You do know that the quote above really does come down to “god told me so”, don’t you?

To which I respond:

I know that apart from monergistic regeneration, a heart of stone cannot become flesh.

Liberal Christian response: “Isn’t Objectivism the name of Ayn Rand’s philosophy? Are you sure that the Holy Spirit gave that to anybody? Perhaps you meant to say “God the Holy Spirit gives objectivity to” now exactly what does “knowledge in interpreting Scripture” mean? My guess is that “knowledge” was superfluous in that phrase. So you’re saying that “God the Holy Spirt gives objectivity to a person’s interpretation of Scripture.”? But you can’t mean that since it just means “god told me so”. So what exactly did that sentence mean to you when you wrote it because it doesn’t support objectivity in interpreting scripture.”

To which I respond:

You’re ripping the word out of context, it’s obvious, I defined what I meant by “objective” and used the term “objectivism” in the same context. How ridiculous is your attempt to tie my use of the word into something that I have no part of. Use a dictionary next time, preferably a philosophical one. In secular philosophy it can actually be traced back to Plato, however my use of the term has absolutely nothing to do with Plato or Ayn Rand or the anything of the sort, only the basic philosophical concept which I provided. But I really did not need to explain any of this did I? Yeah I get what you’re attempting, when all else fails, try to discredit…

Liberal Christian response: “I suspect this will fall on deaf ears but here is a definition of objectivism from a philosophical dictionary – as you requested.
(philosophy)

  1. the meta-ethical doctrine that there are certain moral truths that are independent of the attitudes of any individuals
  2. the philosophical doctrine that reality is objective, and that sense data correspond with it”

To which I respond:

So with the 2nd definition the next step is to look up objective. Have you never come across the phrase “objective truth”, as opposed to “relative”? Yes you have, and I’m onto your game.

Liberal Christian response: “Game? I am enjoying myself reading your posts. It is more a matter of entertainment than playing a game.

Wikipedia has this introductory material on Objectivism.

Objectivism is a philosophical system developed by Russian-American writer Ayn Rand (1905–1982). Rand first expressed Objectivism in her fiction, most notably The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), and later in non-fiction essays and books. Leonard Peikoff, a professional philosopher and Rand’s designated intellectual heir, later gave it a more formal structure. Peikoff characterizes Objectivism as a “closed system” that is not subject to change.

Objectivism’s central tenets are that reality exists independently of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness (rational self-interest), that the only social system consistent with this morality is one that displays full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform humans’ metaphysical ideas by selective reproduction of reality into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which one can respond emotionally.

Academic philosophers have mostly ignored or rejected Rand’s philosophy. Nonetheless, Objectivism has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives. The Objectivist movement, which Rand founded, attempts to spread her ideas to the public and in academic settings.​

It really doesn’t look like anything that God the Holy Spirit gave to anybody. It does look more like something that might come from Satan. But most likely it came from Ayn Rand’s mind.”

To which I respond:

By your [subjective] reasoning Aristotle invented the laws of logic…but there is a massive problem with that line of thinking.

Liberal Christian response: “I see, so unless I adopt Cornelius Van Til’s notion of presuppositionalism I cannot have any knowledge of anything at all, right …
I do know that presuppositionalism is absurd.”

To which I respond:

You assume that there is original knowledge, as though all knowledge does not originate with God. Nobody in the history of mankind has truly had an original thought, it is only because mankind is made in the image of God, that he has the ability to reason, to make inductions. Though Van Til popularized and gave technical formulation to, he had many influences which led to the revolution in Christian apologetics. It is the only consistently Biblical defense of the faith in opposition to all forms of non-Christian worldviews. I would never say a Christian cannot have knowledge of anything, I would say a Christian can definitely be inconisist with his Christianity, and even non-Christians know, but not without borrowing capital from the Christian worldview, that is they are not consistent with their own worldview, specifically with their ultimate source of authority. For example, for the humanist, their ultimate source of authority is man, which is nearly the definition of autonomy, and the foundation of subjectivism.

Liberal Christian response: “It wasn’t a revolution in apologetics so much as a Calvinisation of the apologetic approach of some Reformed/Presbyterian Christians. The approach isn’t very wide spread outside Reformed/Presbyterian circles and even then the Reformed are more enthusiastic about Kuyperian apologetics than they are about Val Til’s approach.”

To which I respond:

Kuyperian apologetics? Umm…yeah…not so much. Kuyper had more to do with the development of thinking in terms of worldviews, along with James Orr. One of Van Til’s greatest influences was a man by the name of Geerhardus Vos. More enthusiastic? I guess you’re not familiar with Van Til’s more famous students.

Liberal Christian response: “At least you believe that God did what you say. May others also believe something similar. But it is very subjective isn’t it? It’s all about what you experienced. That is pretty much the exact opposite of objectivity.”

To which I respond:

The Holy Spirit is not subjective, and He works to remove hearts of stone and form hearts of flesh. Further you seem to forget a couple of things. Christianity is a revealed religion, God revealed Himself, God attested to Himself, authenticated Himself. The whole reasoning your way to God bit is not found in Scripture. Which is not to say that God has never said to His people “come let us reason”, as a matter of fact, logic is accounted for in the being of God. My experience with the laws of logic tell me they are objective, Aristotle thought as much, but he usually gets credit for being first to put them into writing.

Liberal Christian response: “Perhaps Aristotle did invent the laws of logic. They seem to fit many observations in nature but they do not always exactly fit. They may be little more than a not altogether accurate summary of observed natural things.”

To which I respond:

With that admission, there’s not much left to discuss. I may as well be typing lajovneowanveoeuoyen slieuyeoruresnoyehyhiosh soeuseuoeureouroennodiu.

 

1 Cor 1:20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

Apologies for the format and layout of the conversation, it may be slightly out of order. I hope it might have some value to someone, maybe someone struggling with the authority issue.

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