Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Neo-Calvinism Part 2: Philosophy

Another aspect to Neo-calvinism that is detrimental to truth is it's view of philosophy. Kuyper is a leader in the line of thought referred to as presuppositionalism. Through his influence, men like Herman Dooyeweerd, Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen have built a system of confusion that has leavened so much of the lump that today it seems to be the majority report amongst sovereign grace advocates. Even in circles where his other views are questioned or denied, his philosophy is accepted carte blanche. This is evident in that the major Reformed Seminaries staunchly proclaim it and it is not unusual to see Reformed churches holding study groups on the issue. Presuppositionalism says that all truth must be presupposed and cannot be proven, as all evidence used to prove a truth must be interpreted by one's "worldview" and due to the fall we cannot interpret properly. They claim those who hold to the traditional Reformed position are using human "vain philosophy". This view, however, is the one holding to vain philosophy as it seeks to accomplish what no man can do and denies the divinely ordained order or means of grace.


Cornelius VanTil preferred the label of Transcendentalism to Presuppositionalism. This according to him encapsulated the view better. You may also see it referred to as TAG or the Transcendental Argument for God. At the root one must transcend the material world in order to understand it. The more proof you have for God, the more you disprove the God of the Bible. This is a system of confusion and as 1 Corinthians 14:33 tells us God is not a God of confusion. It is ultimately a resurrection of gnosticism. Gnosticism is a heresy that has two main emphases. First, it says that the physical realm is evil and to be holy one must deny it for the spiritual realm. Second, because of the first, one cannot learn by physical means but must transcend to the spiritual realm for truth. Knowledge in gnosticism is intuitive and not learned! Thus, although gnosticism by definition means knowledge, it's knowledge is a secret knowledge known only to the initiated few, a mysticism that claims to be on a higher plane of existence than the rest of us. Examples of this include the meditationist whose "ohms" take him to the higher plane, the monk living in the monastery to keep himself from the the stain of the world and the charismatic churches that seek truth in visions and dreams despite the Bible's command to "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God"(Col. 2:18,19). God, in contrast, declares in his Word that "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge"(Psalms19:1,2) and in Romans 1:20 we read "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse". God demands two witnesses(Deut. 19:15) and has provided us with two witnesses to His glory in the general revelation of creation and the special revelation of Scripture(Deut. 4:26).


Neo-calvinism also subjectifies truth. Instead of being an objective goal, truth becomes dependent on your "worldview" which will be different for everyone. You even choose your own axioms according to this view. In contrast to this, however, nature teaches us the test for truth is the law of non-contradiction, the law of causality and the general reliability of the senses. Non-contradiction is a self-evident truth in that we know that God(or anything) cannot exist and not exist at the same time. The law of causality teaches us that every effect must have a cause. The general reliability of senses teaches us that although there are occasionally illusions and mirages, we can generally trust our 5 senses. We should start with these axioms and build the foundation for a proper worldview. We must in fact start with these because we cannot transcend to a higher plane barring divine intervention (2 Cor. 12:1-3, Rev. 1:10).


The most damaging effect of this line of thinking is that it dichotomizes faith and understanding and infers an implicit faith. Implicit faith is the teaching that you can simply state an agreement with something or someone although you do not understand it. An example would be taking your car to the mechanic and telling him to fix whatever is wrong with it. While this may be okay for your car, the Bible teaches an explicit faith or a knowledgable faith as is seen in it's equating faith with the knowledge of the truth (e.g. 1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Tim. 3:7, and Heb. 10:26). Neo-calvinism is quick to quote Augustine's famous dictum "I believe in order to understand". Faith becomes void of understanding as one must believe in order to understand. What then do you believe? Is this necessary? Do I have to believe in the Muslim Faith in order to understand what it says or can I reject it because I understand it? The gospel is the good news unto salvation and is not presupposed. God uses the foolishness of preaching (1 Cor. 1:21)to open blind eyes as faith comes by hearing and is not a intuitive leap in the dark.


We do not worship an "unknown God" like the pagan religions (Acts 17:23). God is clear to us through both His creation and revelation. We must start where we are at and grow from there. Even our Lord God and Creator, Jesus as a man had to grow in wisdom(Luke 2:52). Neo-calvinism is fideistic and circular in its reasoning. It's anti-intellectualism left unchecked will cause the downfall of many Sovereign Grace Seminaries and Churches. For further reading on this subject, I heartily recommend Classical Apologetics by R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner and Arthur Lindsley, Reason For Faith by John Gerstner, Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul and from a different perspective, Where In The World Is The Church by Michael Horton.

1 comment:

mandolinartist aka amanda said...

Romans 1:19-20 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

2 Peter 1:16 "were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

1 John 1:1-2 "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;"