Theology Thursday – Theism (introduction and background)

Today we kick off what will be a semi-regular series here on the Pillar of Truth blog; Theology Thursday!  In our life apart from the internet, we spend a lot of time preparing lessons for Sunday School classes and sermons.  This series will serve as an attempt to translate some of what we’ve taught and learned into blogging.

 

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,” {Rom 1:18-22 NASB}

 

The best argument we can make to demonstrate the existence of God (Theism) is to make the same argument the Bible makes.  The worst thing we can do is make a circular argument such as the following:

P:  The Bible is says God existscircular_reasoning
P:  God wrote the Bible
C:  Therefore God exists

 

The truth is that arguments like this are nothing but foundations of sand.  They get us nowhere with atheists because most atheists see them for what they are.  We can make presuppositional arguments all day about the Bible being an authority and being able to stand on its own.  Those arguments are true, but if one doesn’t acknowledge the Bible as an authority, then they aren’t going to accept the Bible as the final word on anything simply because we insist on it.

Now, if Scripture had said that the best case for God’s existence was that the Scriptures exist, then we should not bother making a different argument.  If the Bible itself said that an unbeliever must accept it as an authority to speak on the matter before anything else, then we’d simply offer that.  But, as you can see from Romans 1, the Bible makes a different argument for God’s existence; and not only that, but it makes the argument to unbelievers themselves.

Nonetheless, we can’t make the mistake of overcorrection and begin to treat Scripture as just another book with truth claims; just one hypothesis among other equal hypotheses.  The reason is because the Bible claims something very different for itself; asserting to be 1) inerrant, 2) sufficient for life and Godliness, and  3) the very Word of God Himself.  That makes it a very different kind of book, and not just another in an endless line of equal texts.

Let’s pause and note the tremendous amount of thinking we must do in the realm of epistemology before even examining the subject at hand.  We have to think through how we know what we know and how to demonstrate this knowledge.  This sort of foundational thinking has implications and will effect us throughout the entire process of examining any theology.  We have here two positions that, in a harmonious manner, stand as boundaries for our thinking.  We must break out of a simple confessional motif in arguing this point (i.e. “the Bible says so”), but we should not go so far as to treat the Bible as anything less than it is.  Between those two boundaries is an entire lifetime full of thought.

Therefore, we must ask:  How do we reconcile the two positions?  The answer is to acknowledge both of the following axioms, and their necessary conclusion:

 

P:  God given logic and reason cannot bear a circular argument.  
P:  God inspired Scripture is the only truth claim that can be reliably believed and thus, it stands above all human works.
C: Therefore, we must make the logical argument that Scripture makes.  

 

general-revelation1We as Christians know the logical arguments found in the Scriptures to be authoritative and true.  We can regularly demonstrate their veracity and reliability.  So then, for the unbeliever who does not acknowledge the truth and authority of Scripture, we can and should openly invite them to examine its claims for themselves and have every confidence that Scripture will stand any fair test any unbeliever can put it through.  In short, and with all due respect to good brothers who disagree, we should do Bible Studies with atheists.

 
 
 

The Bible makes two claims regarding the existence of God:
  1. The general knowledge we have about God is evident “within” even the wicked, and this is the direct result of God making it evident.
  2.  Creation unmistakably demonstrates its creator, so much so that those who observe it are without excuse.

Both of these claims are often summed up and labeled as “General Revelation”.  General Revelation can be extrapolated to mean that even those who have never heard of the Bible, Jesus, or Christianity before can know that there is a God and have a sense of their own shortcomings to that God’s perfection.  General Revelation goes hand in hand with its counterpart, Special Revelation.

BiblesSpecial Revelation does not share the universal nature of General revelation.  It is the things specially revealed in Scripture that need to be explained and taught; things not obvious to any normal person.  While General Revelation is rather limited (albeit sufficient for its purpose), Special Revelation is much more expansive.  General Revelation only goes so far.  It merely serves as an alarm bell of sorts to the person that they, for example, didn’t crawl out of a puddle millions of years ago; and that they aren’t righteous and good.  But that’s as far as General Revelation will go.  The person can know they need a Savior, but that Savior’s identity is the job of Special Revelation.  Since Special Revelation is not universal, but must be taught, the burden falls to the church to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…”

Nevertheless, we can deal entirely in General Revelation when arguing for Theism because when we look to the Bible for Special Revelation of the existence of God, we find that it points back to General Revelation.  Therefore, when arguing for the existence of God, let’s simply make the logical argument the Bible makes: There is a Creator and each person knows they’ve offended Him.

Next time, we’ll examine those two claims found in that argument in greater depth.


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