The Enlightenment is Dead: Chapter 5 – Unity, Diversity, and Covenantal Knowledge: The Solution to the Problem of Knowledge

If we can't get outside of language, then . . .


Given that all facts are interpreted facts, if the human mind were autonomous, then everything outside the human mind would be unintelligible. The human mind would be trapped in a solipsistic cage, unable to know the irrational, external world.  On the other hand, given  that all facts are interpreted facts, there can be a world of intelligible facts external to human cognition only if there is an Absolute Knower, one who has interpreted the facts of the world prior to human interpretation.   The Absolute Knower would have to be independent of the human mind, but also the source of the human mind and the particulars of sense experience in order to provide a bridge between human thinking and the facts of the external world.   

While I have provided an inductive survey of non-Christian philosophy for a limited period of history in the previous chapters, the matter can be put in universally exclusive, deductive terms that give us a logically necessary conclusion regarding the existence of God for the possibility of science.  There are two basic options regarding the philosophical issue of the one and the many, that is, regarding the source of unity and diversity in the world.  There is the affirmation that the one and the many are eternally related, or there is the denial of that proposition, requiring the one and/or the many to originally exist in abstraction from the other.  Since either the one or the many in abstraction from each other cannot be the object of rational thought – a pure blank or pure chaos – the basic choice is between an ultimately rational universe in which the one and many are eternally related, or an ultimately irrational universe in which the one and/or many are originally in abstraction.  Christianity affirms the first one; atheism the second.  Regarding the second choice, there are three possible variants:  (1) the abstract one (unity) can be said to be the source of all that exists, (2) the abstract many (diversity) can be said to be the source of all that exists, or (3) they each originally exist in abstraction from the other, and then combine to form the intelligible world.

Rather than trying to explain rationality in terms of the ultimately non-rational, or more accurately the irrational, what should be obvious is that the solution to the problem of knowledge and intelligible experience is to start with rationality as the ultimate source of the universe.   Rather than combining the two irrational elements of chaos and blank unity to form the rational world, we must assume that unity and particularity are eternally related to each other.  On this view, all facts are interpreted facts from eternity past.  This entails omniscience for the Creator of all that exists.  The Absolute, the concrete universal, is not merely a distant goal as in Hegel’s philosophy, but the eternally existing source of all that comes to pass in history.  All things that happen, every fact and its meaning, are planned from all eternity in the mind of God.[1]  This is the Christian view of God, particularly the Augustinian/Calvinist view.  It is reinforced by Trinitarianism because the doctrine of the Trinity is that God is irreducibly both one and many.  The three persons are genuine particulars in God.  They cannot be reduced to mere modes of one divine person in the orthodox view.  Yet they are one God, analogous (only to an extent, of course) to a corporation, which has legal personhood as a single entity, yet is owned and controlled by several individual persons.  With the one and the many equally ultimate in the nature of God, knowledge and rationality are possible.

The Greek philosopher Parmenides held to variant (1), arguing that all is one and that all diversity of experience is an illusion.  The Greek philosopher Heraclitus held to variant (2), arguing that all is flux.  He famously said that a man can’t step into the same river twice because it’s not the same river and it’s not the same man.  This is also what modern, naturalistic empiricism reduces to, as reflected in the quotes from Bertrand Russell above (“I think the universe is all spots and jumps, without any unity, without continuity, without coherence or orderliness or any of the other properties that governesses love”).  Kant is a representative of variant (3), trying to combine the two abstractions in the mind of autonomous man to account for knowledge.  This variant can also be seen in the teaching of Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle.  Though Plato emphasized the one, and Aristotle emphasized the many, they both held that abstract form (the one) and abstract matter (the many) combine to form the intelligible world.   The Platonic/Aristotelian view of God cannot be equated with the Christian Trinitarian view of God (contrary to Thomas Aquinas), in which the one and many are eternally related as one God in three Persons.  Christianity and Platonism/Aristotelianism both recognize the necessity of unity to the world, but Plato and Aristotle’s unity was an abstract unity rather than a concrete universal, so their unity is unable to account for rationality.

Absolute v Abstract

The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God can be summarized as follows:

  1. Either (A) unity and diversity are related to each other from all eternity, or (~A) they are not originally related.
  2. If not (~A), either (~A.1) abstract unity is ultimate, (~A.2) abstract diversity is ultimate, or (~A.3) they are both ultimate in original abstraction from each other.
  3. Predication is the application of attributes to objects.
  4. Predication is logically consistent with A, where unity and diversity are eternally related (i.e., all predication is eternally determined).
  5. Predication is logically inconsistent with ~A.1, with abstract unity being ultimate because all attributes would be attributes of all objects, even attributes that are inconsistent with each other.
  6. Predication is logically inconsistent with ~A.2, with abstract diversity being ultimate because, without unity, no attributes could apply to any objects.
  7. Predication is logically inconsistent with ~A.3, with the unity and diversity in original abstraction from each other, because abstract unity excludes all diversity, and abstract diversity excludes all unity, and each of these is logically inconsistent with predication per 5 and 6.
  8. From 5, 6, and 7, ~A is false. Therefore, A.
  9. Unity and diversity being related from all eternity (A) describes the God of the Bible (by the Calvinist interpretation), who has determined the relationship of all objects to all attributes from all eternity.
  10. From 8 and 9, the existence of the God of the Bible is necessary for the possibility of predication. QED.

Since all facts are interpreted from all eternity according to the Christian view, there is no noumenal realm.  Empirical sensation and abstract concepts both contribute to human knowledge, as Kant saw the need to affirm; but the problem of man rationalizing the irrational is eliminated by eliminating the noumenal realm, which requires positing the absolute mind of the Creator.


Revelational Epistemology Saves Empiricism and Rationalism

The Christian Theistic theory of knowledge that I am presenting is not strict empiricism, although it gives a place to empirical knowledge, nor is it a rationalistic epistemology, although it gives a place to the contribution of the human mind to any knowledge.  This is a revelational epistemology because it asserts the necessity that all knowledge has its origin in God (not in the narrower sense of revelation as a voice we hear from heaven).  There can be universal order because there is a universal God.  Order applies to experience because the universal God created the facts as well as the concepts that apply to those facts.  Because man is made in God’s image, man can apply the concepts in his mind to the data of experience in a way that accurately reflects the nature of the external world.  The autonomy of God solves the problems of knowledge created by the idea of the autonomy of man.  The autonomy of man entails an ultimate irrationality to the universe, whereas the autonomy of God entails an ultimate rationality to the universe.  Rather than begin with the irrational, Christianity begins with the rational, so it doesn’t have the difficulty faced by the non-Christian philosophies of accounting for rationality in finite man.  The application of laws (unity) to facts (diversity) is only possible on the assumption that the concrete universal God exists.

Empiricism, Rationalism, Revelation

If the rules of scientific procedure are not to be mere arbitrary conventions in a game of fantasy, they must be connected to finding the Truth about the world.  Imre Lakatos observes that “One needs to posit some extramethodological inductive principle to . . . turn science  from a mere game into an epistemologically rational exercise; from a set of lighthearted sceptical gambits pursued for intellectual fun into a—more serious—fallibilist venture of approximating the Truth about the Universe.”[2]  The extramethodogical, the metaphysical, assumption of an absolutely rational Creator allows for that.  Christian theism allows for all facts to be logically related to one another in a universal system of truth.  There must be a universal system of truth in order for science to be a pursuit of truth rather than a game of fantasy.

Square of Opposition - Rationalism and Empiricism

Given this, Christian-theistic science is the only possible science.  Or to put it another way, creation science is the only possible science – although, I am not, here, making a claim about the means that God used to create nor how long ago He did it.  I am saying that science is only possible if an absolutely rational Creator is the source of all that exists.[3]  Most of the leading scientists of our day adhere to philosophical materialism and attempt to adhere to methodological materialism, the latter meaning that science only concerns itself with materialistic explanations, as if the material world were a closed system, even if it is not.  Some theists also claim that science should adhere to methodological materialism.  However, given the conclusions of my arguments here, scientists should adhere to philosophical theism and methodological theism.[4]  Science (the systematic interpretation of facts) is not religiously neutral, and the existence of the absolute Creator presented in the Bible, whose interpretation of the facts trumps all others, is necessary for the possibility of science.  “God is the presupposition of the relevancy of any hypothesis.”[5]

The Christian view can be understood as the mirror image of Kant’s “Copernican Revolution” that placed the human mind at the center of the universe as the autonomous, original source of knowledge.  In the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God that I am arguing for, the autonomous God rather than autonomous man is placed at the intellectual center of the universe as the original source of all knowledge.[6]  The Christian view is solipsistic in the sense that there is no other autonomous mind except God’s.  All other minds exist because of God’s ex nihilo creation of them, and thus are completely dependent on Him for their existence and functioning.  On the Christian view, the one and the many are eternally related in the mind of God, whereas on Kant’s view the human mind creates knowledge from the raw (i.e. irrational) material of abstract unity and plurality.  On the Christian view, the human mind is receptively reconstructive of God’s original knowledge.  Humans are to think God’s thoughts after Him, applying His absolute word to particular situations.  On Kant’s view, the human mind is creatively constructive of knowledge, trying to create a rational world from the infinite sea of irrationalism from which it has emerged by chance.[7]

That God’s mind is the only autonomous mind and God’s world the only world nevertheless overcomes the problem of solipsism.  God can communicate with man because man is created in God’s image.  The mind of man is created to be able to receive communication (revelation) from God.  Humans can communicate with each other about their experience because they have a common Creator who created a common world for them.  Humans can gain knowledge of the facts of the external world as the facts truly are, “in themselves,” because the facts are the creation of an absolutely rational mind, in whose image man is created.  The facts of the world and the mind of man are fitted to one another.  All facts are interpreted facts, but this does not dissolve into an irreconcilable pluralism of subjective viewpoints because there is one right interpretation – God’s.


Personal Knowledge and a Personal God

While I have referred to the view that I am presenting as revelational epistemology, the view has also been called covenantal epistemology.  The world in which we live is a gift from God.  This means that knowledge of this world should be pursued through gratitude and obedience to the Creator.  This gift and the appropriate response that produces human knowledge amounts to a covenantal relationship between God and man.  The world, as God’s creation, reflects who God is, like any work of art reflects the mind of the artist. To fail to see this is to put all knowledge in a false context and leads to many false pursuits of knowledge.  Secular epistemology is covenant-breaking epistemology.  Secularists are not completely consistent in their rebellions against God, otherwise they would abandon any pursuit of knowledge.  But they hold to a principle, their rejection of God, that undermines all knowledge.

Christianity has depersonalized the world in the sense that it has denied that the world is a living organism and denied that multiple gods rule various parts of nature as they please.  But it still teaches an ultimate personalism in that God is an absolute Person who rules the world. Modern secularism has sought to depersonalize nature by keeping the belief in universal laws of nature that Christians of the scientific revolution promoted, while denying the existence of the Lawgiver behind those laws.  In terms of epistemology, this has meant depersonalizing knowledge by limiting knowledge to data and propositions.  Secular epistemology has been a failure, so we should seek a renewed understanding of how knowledge is personal.  The writings on knowledge and science by Michael Polanyi and others that build on his work are helpful in this regard.[8]

Here is a very brief outline of ways in which knowledge is personal.  One way that knowledge is personal is that all facts and their meanings are created by God, a personal, thinking, speaking God.  The Trinity’s equal ultimacy of the one and the many is reflected in creation.

A second way that knowledge is personal is that it is normative.  Simply recording all data inputs does not get science very far.  Scientific investigation requires isolating the relevant data inputs and ignoring the rest.  Learning to be a scientist requires learning the difference between the two.  It involves learning the standards of the profession.  It involves learning what the profession will accept as “science” and what the profession will dismiss as myth.  It involves learning what the profession regards as the ethical standards that must be followed, such as whether torturing people is an acceptable way to collect data, which raises the question why humans have some value not possessed by other lumps of molecules.  The concept of norms implies the transcendent, an “ought” that transcends what “is,” and that ultimately requires a transcendent, personal God (as I discuss more fully in the second section of this book).

A third way that knowledge is personal is that the human body is a subject of knowledge, not merely an object of knowledge.  Whether learning how to ride a bike, drive a car, or operate a scientific instrument, learning is something the body does.  Even philosophy involves the body in learning how to fluidly pronounce words like “a posteriori” and “epistemology.”  Bodily knowledge involves “tacit” knowledge (as Polanyi calls it) that cannot be fully described in a textbook.  Of course, concepts are involved in any activity as well.  All learning involves the integration of concepts and bodily learning, which finds its ultimate origins in the Creator who is both personal and universal and is able to integrate the human mind and body as a learning unit.  Concepts are themselves personal in that concepts can only exist in a mind, and something with a mind is a person.

A fourth way that knowledge is personal is that gaining knowledge involves personal commitment and transformation.

A fifth way that knowledge is personal is that it is communal – from birth and into maturity.  The journey of gaining knowledge begins with the face and voice of your mother.  It continues with other family members and then with teachers in your community.  Given the bodily and tacit nature of knowledge, not all knowledge can be transmitted by textbooks; students must be shown how to do things correctly, not merely told.  But part of the communal nature of knowledge also involves testimony. Until very recently, knowledge through testimony has been neglected and disparaged in much of Enlightenment philosophy because of an individualistic emphasis in such thinkers as Descartes and Locke.[9]  The whole point of the Enlightenment, after all, was to leave behind the Age of Authority.[10]  Given these aspects to the personal nature of knowledge, apprenticeship should be seen as an important method to transmit knowledge.  The computer-model of downloading knowledge does not account for all knowledge.  Given the existence of the Christian God, knowledge begins in the communion of the persons of the Trinity and continues in human communities under the providence of God (Prov. 2:6, 2 Thess. 2:10).  God is the source of all knowledge, and His testimony is completely reliable.  The testimony of humans, on the other hand, while important for the transmission of knowledge, is fallible and must be tested (John 2:24-25; 1 John 4:1).


Christian Faith:  Not a Leap Beyond Reason but an Appeal to Absolute Rationality

Seeing Christianity as the one asserting an ultimate rationality and atheism as defending an ultimate irrationality turns the tables on the popular distinction between faith and reason.  Mark Twain said that “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”[11]  Friedrich Nietzsche derided Christianity by saying, “‘Faith’ means not wanting to know what is true.”[12]  U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens defined religion under the U.S. Constitution by quoting the anti-Christian lawyer Clarence Darrow:  “The realm of religion . . . is where knowledge leaves off, and where faith begins.”[13]  Immanuel Kant said that “I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.”[14]  Although these non-Christians think that they are describing Christian faith, their definitions actually reflect a view of faith that is only true under atheism.  Rather than faith being a leap beyond reason, Christian faith is a leap toward reason, an appeal to the absolute rationality of God.  Since atheism depersonalizes ultimate reality, so that the human mind is the ultimate mind in the universe (or some other finite minds, like those of space aliens), when atheists appeal to an explanation beyond human reason, they are necessarily appealing to the irrational.  Faith that is a leap beyond reason, without any further qualification, is atheist faith, not Christian faith.

Likewise, Christian faith is opposed to the spiritual practices of Eastern religions, which teach that the path to spiritual enlightenment is through transcending reason and language.  Enlightenment is through concentrating on a meaningless sound, like “ohm,” in order to empty the mind and finally find complete silence.  For the Christian, ultimate reality is absolute rationality – not silence but the Word, the logos (John 1:1-3).  This God speaks to create the material world and to communicate truth so that we can understand the world.  This truth has been written in a book.  Spiritual meditation involves filling the mind with rational thoughts from this book, not emptying the mind.  “If God is Truth, if he can speak to us in rationally understandable words, then . . .  the way to know truth is to cultivate our minds and meditate on God’s word.  These theological assumptions constituted the DNA of what we call Western civilization.[15]

Unfortunately, many modern Christians have been confused about this and have viewed Christian faith in terms of the atheist worldview as a leap beyond reason.  It is true that the Bible says that “we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), but walking “not by sight” is not the same as making an appeal to the irrational, unless one equates rationality with the failed view that all knowledge is from sense experience.  Freud’s claim that the need for a heavenly father diminishes as scientific knowledge increases, until eventually the need for religion fades away like the smile on the Cheshire cat, is begging the question of atheism.  Freud is assuming the naturalistic, evolutionary worldview in his characterization of theistic belief.  God’s existence is the precondition for scientific knowledge, not an appeal to irrational mystery as an alternative to science.   Man is not evolving from non-rational matter into an intelligent being.  Man was created intelligent by an ultimate Intelligence.  History does not move from Mythos to Logos, as with the atheist worldview.  Rather, the Logos directs history.


Authority and Reason

Christianity unabashedly teaches that knowledge comes from authority.  This is anathema to the atheist.  The Enlightenment was born out of motto, as Kant said, of “think for yourself.”[16]  But saying that knowledge comes from authority does not amount to blind faith in an authority figure.  The Christian’s faith in God’s authority over knowledge is very much like the faith that people put in a world-renowned chemist.  If we ask the world-renowned chemist a chemistry question, we can be confident that he knows what he is talking about.  Everyone depends on knowledge from authority.  I have never been to the Katmandu, but I’ve heard of people going to Katmandu, and there are enough people who have claimed to have been there and who should know what they are talking about for me to accept on their authority that there is a real place called Katmandu.  Christians put their faith in God’s knowledge because we have good reason to think that He knows what He is talking about.  And better than the chemist, God is all-knowing and the very source of all knowledge.  The existence of such a god is the precondition for the possibility of knowledge.  Christian faith can involve a leap beyond human reason in some cases, with the “human” qualification being all-important.  But we make this leap because there are sound reasons that are accessible to humans to believe that an all-knowing God exists and that He communicates truth to humans.  Because we have God as a source of knowledge, we can stand against sinful, abusive, finite people who want us to believe what they say based on their claim to authority.   If “think for yourself” means not placing ultimate trust in human authority, and that truth is not determined by majority vote, then it is a good rule to follow.  “Let God be true, though every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).  The Protestant doctrines of Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone) and Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone – as the ultimate authority) are the Archimedean fulcrum and lever that challenge every human authority.

Christianity is, in a sense, the most rationalistic philosophy possible because an absolutely rational being determines everything that exists and happens.  Any compromise with the sovereignty of the absolutely rational Creator is a submission to irrationalism.  Denial of God’s sovereignty entails that an ultimate irrationality determines the nature of the universe.  Atheistic rationalism is an illusionary rationalism.  It asserts the sovereignty of the autonomous mind of man over all of reality.  But because man is finite, to make its claim even superficially believable, it must deny the reality of the human experience of an unending variety and flux of particulars, too large and varied for the finite human mind to fully understand.  The denial of the reality of particulars in order to assert the autonomy of the human mind reduces experience to an illusion.  The only reality left is a changeless blank.  And yet the blank unity must somehow arise from the chaotic flux of nature, or be eternally independent form the flux (as in Greek philosophy).   Christianity does not need to deny change and the massive, mysterious complexity of the world in order to affirm the world’s rationality.  All universals and particulars find their origin in the concrete universal God.  For Him, there are no mysteries.  With this kind of God, we can, in Rorty’s words, “hold reality and justice in a single vision.”  With a God who is the source of the subjective and objective, and who made us in His image, we can recognize that all theory is empirically underdetermined – that all facts are interpreted facts – while still holding to an objective, independent world of facts that our minds can know.  Without such a God there could be no human civilization, and the more our world self-consciously embraces God, through His redemptive mediator Jesus Christ, the more civilization will develop into the ideal of knowledge, justice, and beauty.

The choice for worldviews comes down to two:  theism and atheism.  Either the nature our world is ultimately determined by a self-conscious Mind, or it is determined by the non-rational.  If the non-rational is ultimate, then all the problems of explaining knowledge that have come to focus in modern philosophy will arise.  If the non-rational is ultimate, various types of finite minds might also be posited to exist, even ones called “gods.”  In this sense, ancient Greek and Roman mythology was atheistic – the gods ultimately originated from chaos.  The non-rational was ultimate.  Polytheism is essentially atheism.  Many modern atheists believe in space aliens with minds greater than human minds, and it is popular to regard the gods of ancient mythology as space aliens (e.g., Thor in the Marvel movies).[17]  Regardless of the terminology and variations about the origin and nature of the finite minds that might exist, the beliefs of polytheism, that space aliens exist, and that humans are the highest intelligence in the universe are all part of one worldview holding to an ultimately non-rational universe.  Whether the ultimate finite minds are called gods or are mere humans, the same philosophical difficulty is faced of explaining how the rational can arise in a universe that is ultimately determined by the non-rational.  The theistic position, the only one that is really theistic, does not face a problem of explaining knowledge.  Knowledge is never created from the non-rational.  Knowledge exists eternally.  Humans are receptively reconstructive of God’s original knowledge rather than creatively constructive of knowledge in an ultimately non-rational world.


But many great scientists have been non-Christians!

Atheists have no claim in terms of their atheistic principles for being the guardians of science.  What, then, to make of the many important contributions of atheists to scientific advancement?  The argument that modern science is the product of the Christian worldview does not mean that all learning and scientific advancement in history has come from Christians.[18]  Several non-Christian cultures contributed a variety of discoveries used by the pioneers of Western science, and many, or even most, scientists today are non-Christians.  This is a product of what theologians call “common grace”:  Because people who do not believe in God are nevertheless made in the image of God, living in God’s world, restrained by God from being fully consistent with their unbelieving, science-destroying presuppositions, they can still contribute much to civilization’s progress, even though they don’t experience special (saving) grace.  Non-Christian scientists continue to believe, for example, in the uniformity of natural law, even though the empiricist epistemology that they profess provides no basis for it; and because of their inconsistency on this point, they can be productive scientists.  Because they live in God’s world, atheists have to “backslide” in their atheism to be productive scientists or to function in any area of their lives.[19]  Only Christianity provides the philosophical basis for science, and the rise of Christian influence was necessary for the birth of the scientific revolution in Western culture by clearing away some of the anti-scientific beliefs that hampered science in non-Christian cultures.[20]  Non-Christian scientists today operate off of stolen capital from Christianity in assuming things like the uniformity of nature and linear time, even though they have rejected the necessary philosophical basis for such beliefs.  Their attempts to attack God through science depend on the very God that they attack.  They are like a kid who must climb on his daddy’s lap in order to slap him in the face.[21]

Given that science is not possible without God, even atheistic scientists prior to the birth of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago must be said to have operated off of stolen capital from Christianity in a sense.  Jesus Christ represents the God, and is the God, who created all things and rules all things for all of history.  The idea that Christianity began de novo two thousand years ago is a shallow, distorted understanding of Christianity.  Christianity has eternally existed and is universal in the sense that the God of Christianity has always existed, has created everything that exists, and directs the entire course of history.  It is the nature of God as He is in Himself, rather than any particular miraculous intervention at a point in history, that is the unique doctrine of Christianity that establishes its truth as necessary for the very possibility of human rationality, and thus as necessary for the possibility of human civilization.

[1]  The problem of infinite regress does not arise for the view that I am presenting because you can’t get more ultimate than an absolute God, one that is necessarily the source of all universals and particulars.   For more on the difference between this argument and that of Thomas Aquinas, see Michael H. Warren, Jr., “The Scope and Limits of Van Til’s Transcendental Argument: A Response to John Frame,”

[2]  Imre Lakatos, “History of Science and It’s Rational Reconstruction,” in Foundations of Philosophy of Science:  Recent Developments, ed. James H. Fetzer (New York: Paragon House, 1993), pp. 387-88.

[3]  I am not arguing, for example, that a young earth is necessary for the possibility of science.   I discuss the necessity of believing the truth of biblical revelation in regard to any subject that it mentions, including the scientific and historical, below.  God can communicate more details in a direct revelation than will be revealed by a philosophical argument for the existence of God.

[4]  John Lennox (God’s Undertaker, p. 37) rejects the term “methodological theism” because he sees it as irrelevant to “how things work” (operational science), as opposed to “how things came to exist in the first place” (origin science).  Yet in another place he recognizes that rejection of God undermines even normal operational science:  “he [God] is the ground of all explanation: it is his existence which gives rise to the very possibility of explanation, scientific or otherwise” (p. 48); and “By far and away the most devastating criticism of ontological reductionism is that it, like scientism, is self-destructive. John Polkinghorne describes its programme as ‘ultimately suicidal. If Crick’s thesis is true we could never know it. For, not only does it relegate our experiences of beauty, moral obligation, and religious encounter to the epiphenomenal scrap-heap.  It also destroys rationality.  Thought is replaced by electro-chemical neural events.  Two such events cannot confront each other in rational discourse. They are neither right nor wrong.  They simply happen… The very assertions of the reductionist himself are nothing but blips in the neural network of his brain. The world of rational discourse dissolves into the absurd chatter of firing synapses.  Quite frankly, that cannot be right and none of us believes it to be so.’  Precisely. There is a patent self-contradiction running through all attempts, however sophisticated they may appear, to derive rationality from irrationality. When stripped down to their bare bones, they all seem uncannily like futile attempts to lift oneself by one’s bootstraps, or to construct a perpetual motion machine.  After all, it is the use of the human mind that has led people to adopt ontological reductionism, which carries with it the corollary that there is no reason to trust our minds when they tell us anything at all; let alone, in particular, that such reductionism is true” (p. 57).

[5]  Rousas John Rushdoony, By What Standard?:  An Analysis of the Philosophy of Cornelius Van Til  (Vallecito, CA:  Ross House Books, 1958),  p. 187.

[6]  Although Kant described his own view as a Copernican Revolution in philosophy, the Christian view I am presenting here is better compared to Copernican’s revolution than Kant’s.  Copernicus dethroned man and his earthly habitation as the geographical center of the universe, whereas Kant placed man’s autonomous mind at the rational center.  The view I present places God at the rational center and man as a “satellite” around God.  (Although atheists often say that removing man from the center of the universe removed him from his exalted position, in the medieval Roman Catholic/Aristotelian scheme, Hell was in the center of the universe, under the earth, and humans lived one level away from Hell.  The realm of the divine was seen as the outer spheres.)

[7]  Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, pp. 26, 126; The Defense of the Faith (1955), p. 70.

[8]  Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (The University of Chicago Press,  1958).

[9]  C.A.J. Coady, Testimony: A Philosophical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

[10]   Where thinkers in the Middle Ages relied on Greek philosophy, they rejected testimony as knowledge, as C.A.J. Coady observes regarding Aquinas, “he declines to call testimony a source of knowledge since, under the influence of the Greeks, he sees knowledge as a product of an individual’s systematic reasoning from first principles.” 16

[11]  Mark Twain, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar,” Following the Equator (Hartford, Connecticut: American Publishing Co., 1897), p. 132.

[12]  Frederick Nietzsche, Antichrist:  Attempt at a Critique of Christianity, trans. Walter Kaufmann (1895), p. 52.

[13]  Wolman v. Walter, 433 U.S. 229 (1977).

[14]  Preface to the second edition of Critique of Pure Reason (1787).

[15] Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition, 2011), p.  82 (emphasis in original).

[16]  Kant wrote:  “Enlightenment is man’s release from self-imposed tutelage.  Tutelage is the inability to use one’s natural powers without direction from another.  This tutelage is called ‘self-imposed’ because its cause is not any absence of rational competence but simply a lack of courage and resolution to use one’s reason without direction from another.  Sapere aude! – Dare to reason!  Have the courage to use your own minds! – is the motto of enlightenment.”  Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment?, quoted in W.T. Jones, Kant to Wittgenstein and Sartre, pp. 7-8.

[17]  For more on polytheism, see Appendix B.

[18]  Contrary to Noah J. Efron, “Myth 9. That Christianity Gave Birth to Modern Science,” in Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion (Ronald L. Numbers, ed., Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), chapter 9.

[19]  Greg Bahnsen, “The Toothpaste Proof of God’s Existence,”

[20]  Michael H. Warren, “Christian Civilization is the Only Civilization – In a Sense, Of Course: A Restatement of Cornelius Van Til’s Argument for Christian Theism,” at

[21]  Cornelius Van Til, “Response by C. Van Til” to Herman Dooyyeweerd, Jerusalem and Athens:  Critical Discussions on the Philosophy and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, E.R. Geehan, ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ:  Reformed and Presbyterian Publishing Co., 1980), p. 98.

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