Monday, June 30, 2008

The Antithesis As It Relates to Apologetics

Believers and unbelievers operate according to fundamentally different, antagonistic, all-controlling principles, the one supernatural and the other natural (and there is no difference in this regard at the deepest level between advocates of non-Christian religions or so-called secular outlooks).

At base, this enmity is moral in character, resulting from the natural man's hostility to God and His Word and the believer's love for the same. This affects the outlook or worldview of the believer and the unbeliever, giving rise to two epistemologies, thereby obliterating any possibility that there should be any common notions between them.

Whatever common ground is to be found between believer and unbeliever, it is not in their professed systems of thought, but in what God speaking through Christ in Scripture says is actually true of men and things. Because the unbeliever is made in the image of God and is surrounded by God's handiwork, he knows that these things are so. Nevertheless, the unbeliever's principled opposition remains, causing him to suppress the truth that surrounds and hounds him, unless, of course, God sees fit to remove this enmity from him through regeneration of the Spirit, taking out his heart of stone and giving him a heart of flesh.

One Less God

"We are all atheists when it comes to other people's god or gods. The only difference between atheists and Christians is that we believe in one less god than you do."

Since atheists so often parrot the above (almost as if it were an inspired part of their canon or rule of faith), I am inclined to think it is intended to be more than just a joke that atheists tell to edify each other, and that they actually think it is some kind of a nascent argument for atheism. Assuming that to be the case, I have two observations

First, atheists are playing fast and loose with their own definition of atheism here (something they like to get on others for). The fact is, and it doesn't look as glorious when it is stated accurately, atheists only lack faith in all these other gods, but Christians outright deny their existence.

Second, atheists are all Christians when it comes to rejecting 99% of the epistemologies that other infidels have set forth (rationalism, empiricism, pragmatism, mysticism, etc.); Christians just go one step further and say the remaining atheist epistemology is false as well (and the same goes for atheistic metaphysical theories, ethical theories, axiological theories, aesthetical theories, etc.)

The Place of Reason In Apologetics

The explicit statements of Scripture, inferences from the truths of Scripture, and the approved examples of certain Biblical figures, all make it evident that reason has a place in apologetics, but its place varies according to the different senses of the word.

If by reason we mean the internal coherence of God's mind, which for us translates as the revelation of God found in the pages of Scripture, then reason is criteriological and thus occupies the highest place in apologetics. If, on the other hand, by reason we mean the use of our minds in the presentation of God's truth or in formulating arguments for God truth, then reason occupies a subordinate position. Such reasoning is to take as its starting point the truth of God's word, is to reason according to the method laid down in God's word, and is to conclude where God's word concludes. Reason in this sense is a tool to be used by the apologist in a way that is faithful to God.

Autonomous reasoning, that is, reasoning that does not take God's word but something else as normative - whether that laid down by a false god or some other creature - is anathematized in Scripture and philosophically collapses as arbitrary upon analysis.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

God the Son Brought Down the Rain From God the Father

"Then Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven." (Gen. 19:24; ASV, 1901)

Among the many passages of the Old Testament that provide support for the doctrine of the Trinity, passages that have been looked upon as significant in this regard from the earliest of times, are such as the one above that attributes the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah to the activities of more than one personal agent., each designated 'Jehovah' or 'God'. Just as surely as the church has found repose in verses such as this, so those outside of the church have (unsuccessfully) attempted to put them in a different - i.e., non-Trinitarian - light. As I have shown elsewhere, some modern Christians have capitulated on this as well, not by denying that the doctrine of the Trinity is found in the Bible but by denying that these passages in their Old Testament setting provide certain of the necessary indicia for Trinitarianism. Some go so far as to deny that these Old Testament texts speak to the issue at all, even when the full light of the doctrine as given in the New Testament is made to shine back upon them. Nevertheless, as will be demonstrated, the Old Testament does speak to this issues with sufficient clarity, leaving those who deny the Trinity in material breach of both Testaments.

Against all of these notions the following provides a case for the historic Trinitarian understanding of Genesis 19:24, first from the Old Testament and then from the New Testament. The view of the present paper is the same as Leupold's who saw this downgrade trend over fifty years ago:

"We believe that the view the church held on this problem from days of old is still the simplest and the best: Pluit Deus filius a Deo patre ="God the Son brought down the rain from God the Father", as the council of Sirmium worded the statement. To devaluate the statement of the text to mean less necessitates a similar process of devaluation of a number of other texts like [Gen.] 1:26 and only by such a process can the claim be supported that there are no indications of the doctrine of the Trinity in Genesis. We believe the combined weight of these passages, including Gen 1:1,2, makes the conclusion inevitable that the doctrine of the Trinity is in a measure revealed in the Old Testament, and especially in Genesis. Why should not so fundamental a doctrine be made manifest from the beginning? We may see more of this truth than did the Old Testament saints, but the Church has through the ages always held one and the same truth." (H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids,Michigan: Baker Book House, 1942)
Update: This article, in full, is now available on the Answering Islam website at the following link. Click here.

Let Us Make Man In Our Image

[The following is the TOC and INTRO to one of two monographs (so far) on the Trinity. If you want a hardcopy of the entire document or both of them (shipping fee applies), then contact me through my e-mail: If you want to download them for free, go to]

By Anthony Rogers

Table of Contents

I. Introduction……………………………………………………………………3

II. The Prima Facie Case for a Trinitarian Interpretation…………………………..5

III. The Old Testament Case for a Trinitarian Interpretation……………………….8

IV. The New Testament Case for a Trinitarian Interpretation……………………..19

V. Answering Alternative Interpretations/Common Objections.....………………36

VI. Summary and Conclusion……………………………………………………..42

I. Introduction

Is it right to insist that the plural pronouns of Genesis 1:26 and similar passages (i.e., Gen. 3:22; 11:7; and Isaiah 6:8) demand a Trinitarian interpretation? That these passages do demand such an interpretation was the prevailing if not also the unanimous view of the church in the early, medieval, reformation, and post-reformation periods; it has been denied in the history of the Church only by heretics. The exception to the above seems limited to the modern period where it has become fashionable among many otherwise orthodox commentators and theologians to deny a Trinitarian interpretation or to offer alternative explanations of these texts as either possible or probable.

It will be my contention in this paper - over against modern detractors as well as heretics of all ages - that these passages in their immediate setting require recognition of personal plurality in the Godhead, and that they at least point in a trinal direction. Furthermore, when the whole of Old Testament revelation is taken into consideration, it is not only possible to construe that plurality in a trinal fashion but it is the only consistent way to interpret it.

After laboring to prove the above, this interpretation will be shown to be that of Christ and His apostles. The present writer knows of no higher authority and neither does anyone else, all denials notwithstanding. Christ’s interpretation ought to be received for what it really is: final. As Moses, the author of Genesis 1:26, said: “to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Gen. 49:10)

The Point of Contact

Metaphysically believer and unbeliever share all things in common, for all reality was created by and is subject to the control of God. Psychologically the unbeliever knows this at some level, but epistemologically he deceives himself and says otherwise.

So in one sense believers and unbelievers share everything in common (i.e., metaphysically), but in another sense they share nothing in common (i.e., epistemologically). It is the schizophrenic behavior of the unbeliever - psychologically relying upon the knowledge of God that he has all the while professing an anti-theistic independence in the realm of knowledge - that provides the believer with a point of contact in the unbeliever.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


A presupposition is an elementary assumption, a belief that we are more committed to than another belief, we would reject it only if it was found to be in conflict with another or other beliefs that are taken to be more elemntary or more basic than it. An ultimate presupposition is something that we are committed to "come what may". We grant to ultimate presuppositions the highest level of immunity; all other claims stand or fall before it, depending on whether they comport with it or not.

As with other terms, so with this one, the word presupposition has been used differently and is to be carefully distinguished from these other uses. An ultimate presupposition is not an axiom, if by axiom we mean an arbitrarily chosen and unprovable starting point; it is, rather, a belief that is transcendentally necessary. An ultimate presupposition is also not a hypothesis, something that is tentatively put on the table until all the results are in; it is held to be true from first to last. Finally, an ultimate presupposition is not a belief that is merely rational to hold, rather, and this is all-important, it is the very criterion of rationality, that in terms of which we evaluate everything else.

Neutral Reasoning: Impossible

The notion of neutrality in reasoning is the idea that we can approach ultimate matters or matters of ultimate commitment (such as God's existence, the truth of the Scriptures as the Word of God, the Resurrection of Christ), in a presupposition-less, nobody-knows-as-yet attitude; however, this is impossible for several reasons:

1) The Bible says that all men positively know God and other things related thereto, all denials notwithstanding. This is not neutrality.

2) The Bible says that unbelievers have an axe to grind - i.e., they are committed in advance to misreading everything around them. It also says that believers are to favor a God-oriented view of all things. This is not neutrality.

3) All men, believers and unbelievers, are finite creatures, who, of necessity, must begin their reasoning somewhere. Men will begin either with God or with themselves as ultimate. This is not neutrality.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The True Shahadah

"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)

The words of Christ cited above are made up of several easily discernible notions, notions that are just as fundamental to everything Christian as they are contrary to all things Islamic. The disparity that exists here readily appears when a comparison is made between the foregoing statement of Christ and the fundamental confession of Islam, the so-called Shahada: "I witness that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah."

This article has been moved to the Answering Islam website. To read the rest of it, go here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Some time ago my wife and I discussed the need for a good guard dog for the times when I am away and she and the kids are at home.

At first she wasn't big on the idea, but she eventually agreed. However, we had very different things in mind for the kind of dog we wanted. My main criteria was that it couldn't be a kick-me dog (and the bigger the better); my wife's concern was it had to be good with the kids. That means that I was thinking Mastiff and she was thinking Chihuahua.

After a lot of research we found a breed we agreed on and that met both of our wishes. We agreed to get a Bullmastiff, a really big dog that is known to be very good with kids.

After waiting for some time we finally found a breeder we liked and waited for the puppies to be born so we could choose the one we wanted. I originally wanted a fawn or red-fawn male but the litter only had two males and both were brindle. The rest were girls - there were three of them - but at least they were fawns. Since we didn't want to wait any longer, we chose a female from the three and had her flown from Arkansas to Nevada.

We named her Shiloh. So far she has proved herself to be everything we wanted. She is good with the kids and protective and is growing by leaps and bounds. Here are some pictures for those who are interested.

Here she is as a puppy at about two months old.

Here she is at 5 months

Here she is at 6 months

Monday, June 16, 2008

Canada, the gay, the beautiful

In light of the Boisson affair/debacle, Canada should consider revamping its national anthem. My own proposal, though they may want to have it tidied up by someone with more lyrical ability than myself, is that it take something like the following form:

O Canada!Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command.

(O Canada! Our home and native land! True erotic love between thy sons command)

With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North strong and free!

(With lusting hearts we see thee fall, the True North limp and bound!)

From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

(From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee)

God keep our land glorious and free!O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

(God vacate our land that it may be free! O Canada, free from religion and morality)

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

(O Canada, we stand on guard for thee)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Adumbrations of the Trinity in the Old Testament

Scripture speaks of God in both the singular and the plural; singular when the being or essence of the Godhead (or one of the persons in particular) is in view, and plural when more than one or all three persons of the Godhead are in view.

The Unity of God

While the Bible clearly and consistently sets forth one God to the exclusion of all others, the word used for the oneness of God also allows for an understanding that in His innermost being God exists in a trinal fashion, i.e. as one God in three persons.

Accordingly, rather than use the Hebrew word ‘Yachid,’ the word for a single, indivisible unit, which is the word preferred by post-Christian Jews (q.v., Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith), the Bible uses the word ‘echad’ (e.g., Deut. 6:4), a word that is most often used in the Bible to indicate a plurality subsisting in unity (q.v. Gen. 2:4, etc).

Plural Nouns

Furthermore, although there are perfectly good words in Hebrew to use for "God" and "Lord" that are singular, and although Scripture does sometimes use such words, it also uses and even favors words that indicate that God is also more than one in some sense. This practice makes sense on Trinitarian assumptions and is not at all the way unitarians or polytheists would naturally express their understanding of God. For example,

1. God: The most common noun for “God” in the OT takes a plural form. It is usually modified by singular words. For example, the first verse of the Bible says: “In the beginning God (Heb. Pl. Elohim) created (Heb. Sg. Bara; Lit. = He created) the heavens and the earth.”

2. Lord: The most common noun for “Lord” (Heb. Plur. Adonai) in the OT also takes a plural form. As with the above it is usually modified by singular verbs, adjectives, etc.

3. Creators: Even as Scripture insists that God created all things by Himself (Isa. 44:24), it also speaks of Him as our “creators”: “Remember also your Creator (Heb. Plur.) in the days of your youth…” (Ecc. 12:1)

Plural Pronouns

Not only plural nouns but plural pronouns are also used for God. The most famous examples follow; these passages show a remarkable interplay or alternation between singular and plural words.

Gen. 1:26 “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’”

Gen. 3:22 “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us,…’”

Gen. 11:7 “’Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language,…’”

Isa. 6:8 “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’”

Nota Bene: 1) Certain translations, such as the NASB used above, capitalize words that refer to God. Us and Our are capitalized. 2) Only God can do what is spoken of in these verses (create, judge, and commission prophets), so God cannot be referring to any creatures here, whether angels or men. 3) Pre-Christian Jewish believers interpreted these verses along Trinitarian lines, as seen in the Aramaic Targums. 4) The New Testament provides its own inspired commentary of this Old Testament phenomenon of God speaking in the plural, as can be seen by a comparison of Isaiah 6:1-10 with John 12 (which speaks of the Son) and Acts 28 (which speaks of the Holy Spirit). 5) All extant post-apostolic sources see in these passages indications of the Trinity (e.g., Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc.). 6) For a lot more on these passages, see here.

Plural Verbs

“And it came about, when God caused me to wander [Heb. Plur. Taw-law, “they caused me to wander”] from my father’s house…” (Gen. 20:13a)

“He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself [Heb. Plur. Gaw-law, “revealed themselves”] to him when he fled from his brother.” (Gen. 35:7)
“Surely there is a God who judges [Heb. Plur. ‘They judge’] on earth.” (Psalm 58:11)

Plural Adjectives

“…You will not be able to serve the LORD, for He is a holy God [Heb. Plur. Elohim Kedoshim, ‘They are a holy God’].” (Josh. 24:19)

Concluding Comment

Many more examples could be given for the phenomenon of God speaking of Himself and being spoken of by others in terms that bespeak both the essential unity of God as well as His personal diversity.

Say what they will, this is decidedly not the way a unitarian or a polytheist would write or speak of God. Trinitarians alone are comfortable with such language, for Trinitarians alone believe that God is both one and many.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Heavenly Whatchamacallit:
A Plea for Contentment

Many atheists feign a desire to merely argue against the general notion of a god, being unconcerned with and having no special antipathy for any god or gods in particular. Some Christians are also willing to make the case for a god of some sort or other.

In spite of how they would like it to appear, the reality is that all the wrangling over the existence or non-existence of a god is tentative or preliminary to the real aim of atheists and theists, for a nebulous being with no definite nature, attributes, and character and no concrete revelation as to what he/she/it expects or promises, is hardly offensive to the one or worth loving to the other. Furthermore, such a god is not and could not possibly be known, whereas the true God, the God of revelation, is inescapably known; indeed, He is inescapably loved or hated. The sooner all parties come to terms with this the better. Accordingly, as the following will labor to make plain, atheists are not content to attack, any more than Christians are content to affirm, a Heavenly Watchamacallit.

Atheistic Discontent

When it comes to atheists, an attack on “theism in general” should be seen for what it really is: a warm-up; their real interest is to get to the living God. Consider the following three examples.

First, there is the example of atheist B. C. Johnson. In his book The Atheist Debaters Handbook, Johnson, after an inordinate amount of calisthenics (often necessary to psych up the more timid) spent on attacking theism generally, finally writes:

"Having discussed theism in general, we may now turn our attention briefly to a prominent example of theism: Christianity. Here we will see theism in action and examine some of the moral absurdities it appears to encourage."[i]

Second, in Atheism: the Case Against God, well-known anti-theist philosopher George Smith in what is considered by many to be the Pilates of atheism (i.e., the most popular workout for atheists),[ii] had this to say about the aim of his book:

"This book is a presentation and defense of atheism. This is not a sympathetic examination or interpretation of religious doctrines; it is a straightforward critique, philosophically and psychologically, of the belief in a god, especially as manifested in Christianity."

Third, there is prominent atheist philosopher Michael Martin who wrote what appears to be an atheist’s guide to body building, i.e. a scholarly attempt to defend atheism. Noteworthy is the fact that Martin, unlike Johnson and Smith, seems to have little time for dumbbells and goes straight for the big iron. He said the following about the aim of his book, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification:

"My object is not utopian. It is merely to provide good reasons for being an atheist. Atheism is defended and justified…My object is to show that atheism is a rational position and that belief in God is not…I confine my efforts to showing the irrationality of belief in the existence of the Hebrew-Christian God, a personal being who is omniscient, omnipotent, and completely good and who created heave and earth."[iv]

So, from roundabout and run of the mill attempts like Johnson’s, through popular works like Smith’s, to more direct and scholarly efforts like Michael Martin’s, atheists belie their indifference to Yahweh, showing that they are not content until their ultimate hostility is directed at “Christianity”, “especially” at “the Hebrew-Christian God.” It may be the direct route of the few or the circuitous route of the many, but it is the specific God of Biblical revelation that all are aiming at in the end. The reason for this is simple: He is the only true God.[v]

Christian Discontent

As has been said, many theists are also willing to argue that “a god” exists, but even these are not content to leave it at that. After all, there is always the planned “second step” where it is hoped they can move from a bland god to a brand God. The examples could be multiplied many times over, but that of the otherwise venerable C. S. Lewis[vi] should be sufficient to make the point.

Good British gentleman that he was, Lewis would first try to gently nudge his audience in the direction of a god, rather than confronting them with the living God at the outset. He said,

“Do not think that I am going faster than I really am. I am not yet within a hundred miles of the God of Christian theology. All I have got to is Something which is directing the universe, and which appears in me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong.”

However, as a Christian Lewis was not content to end with “mere theism”, He wanted to conclude with “mere Christianity”. Consequently, he said a little later:

“When I chose to get to my real subject in this roundabout way, I was not trying to play any kind of trick on you. I had a different reason. My reason was that Christianity simply does not make sense until you have faced the sort of facts I have been describing.”[vii]

The Excluded Middle

Since both atheists and theists ultimately set their sights on the living God, the question naturally arises: “Why bother with this ‘other god’ that no atheist is really content to argue against and no theist is content to argue for? Why doesn’t everyone just cut out the middle man and go straight for numero uno?”

Underlying all of this, or so the fear/hope seems to be, is the idea that if you allow an elephant to get his nose in the door it will not be content until it comes all the way in. The atheist appears to fear that by leaving the door open to the possibility that a god exists they are also leaving the door open to the God, and He, above all, is not welcome in their homes. The theist appears to share this fancy; consequently, he believes that he must keep the door open so that the living God may eventually be permitted or have an opportunity to enter in.

However, it is just because He is the only true God that general theism is a fallacy. The God of the Bible appears in any room He pleases, regardless of whether the door is opened with a welcome mat or locked with a “Do Not Disturb” sign; in fact, He doesn’t even care if there is no door at all (this only means that there is no exit for the unbeliever).

[i] Johnson, P. 109
[ii] Pilates is the exercise fad that appears to have replaced, or at least surpassed, Tae-Bo in popularity. Before these there was Jabez and WWJD. Er, um, maybe I am getting my fads confused.
[iii] (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1989), p. ix. Just a few pages later, Smith says, “Also, it is necessary to mention that I employ the term “god” in two ways. I use it with a lower case ‘g’ (god) to refer to the general idea of a god, i.e., the general notion of a supernatural being, apart from any specific characteristics. I use the term ‘God’ (with an upper case ‘G’) to refer specifically to the God of Christianity, along with its various attributes, such as omnipotence and so forth (p. xii).
[iv] Martin, p. 24.
[v] It would be a mistake to conclude from the limited focus of this article that only atheists belie the real object of their hate when they surreptitiously turn from a consideration of a vaguely defined deity to focus the brunt of their hostility on the full-orbed God of revelation; this is true of every ideologue and religionist on the planet. The natural man, acknowledged atheist or otherwise, hates God (Ex. 20:5; Deut. 5:9; Jn. 15:18-25; Rom. 3:9-19, 8:6-8, et. al.) In fact, as Christians have known for millennia, all men hate God so much that if they could get their hands on Him they would crucify Him.
[vi] Those things that contribute to Lewis’s “otherwise venerable” status do not include of course his low view of inspiration, his own contemptible view of the imprecatory Psalms, or his Arminianism. For trenchant insights and a response to such things as they relate to apologetics, see Cornelius Van Til, Christian Theistic Ethics (Philipsburgh, New Jersey: P&R, 1980), p. 84-88
[vii] Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 20. Later Lewis makes a similar comment: “We have not yet gotten as far as the God of any actual religion, still less the God of that particular religion called Christianity. We have only gotten as far as a Somebody or Something behind the moral law.” p. 23
[viii] Ibid, p. 24

Quotes On Defending Distinctively Christian Theism Over Against Some Kind of General Theism

"But God also designates himself by another special mark to distinguish himself more precisely from idols. For he so proclaims himself the sole God as to offer himself to be contemplated clearly in three persons. Unless we grasp these, only the bare and empty name of God flits about in our brains, to the exclusion of the true God." (John Calvin, Institutes,

"The apostle Paul lays great stress upon the fact that man is without excuse if he does not discover God in nature. Following Paul's example Calvin argues that men ought to see the true God, not a God, not some supernatural power, but the only God in nature. They have not done justice by the facts they see displayed before and within them if they say that a God exists or that God probably, exists." (Van Til, Apologetics)

"Christianity offers the triune God, the absolute personality containing all the attributes enumerated as the God in whom we believe. This conception of God is the foundation of everything else that we hold dear. Unless we can believe in this sort of God it does us no good to be told that we may believe in any other sort of God or in anything else. For us everything else depends for its meaning upon this sort of God. Acordingly we are not interested in having any one prove to us the existence of any other sort of God than this God. Any other sort of God is no God at all and to prove that some other sort of God exists is to prove that no God exists." (Van Til, Apologetics)

"They walk in the midst of this world which is an exhibition house of the glories and splendors of God, full as it is of the works of his hands, and they ask, mind you, whether God exists. They profess to be open minded on the question. They say that they will follow the facts wherever these may lead them. But invariably they refuse to follow these facts. They constantly conclude that God does not exist. Even when they conclude a god exists and that with great probability, they are virtually saying that God does not exist. For the true God is not surrounded by, but is the source of possibility. He could not possibly not exist. We cannot inteligently think away God's existence." (Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, ch. 5)

"We do not do justice to this passage [Rom. 1] by merely saying that all men or most men believe in a god or believe that God probably exists. Paul says that the revelation of the only existing God is so clearly imprinted upon man himself and upon his environment that no matter how hard he tries he cannot suppress this fact." (Van Til, Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 93))

"This means that God, not some sort of God or some higher principle, but God, the true God, is displayed before men." (Van Til, Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 100)

"...the Christian apologist does not argue for just any kind of abstract, general theism ("a god of some sort or other"), but rather for the specific conception of God revealed within the Christian Scriptures." (Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis, p. 31)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Christianity, the Rise of Philosophy, and the Problem of 'the One and the Many'

The worldview provided in God’s revelation is the conceptual framework in terms of which all things make sense and are accounted for. Convinced of this, many Christians have reveled in the observation that science was born in the context of Western Christendom and as a direct result of the efforts of individual Christians. Similar observations have been made about other grandeurs introduced into Western society by Christianity in the areas of civil government, jurisprudence, education and much else. Notwithstanding, some Christians have been pained by the fact that philosophy did not arise from Christian soil, a fact that has driven some to search out all manner of strained explanations.

While it can be disputed that philosophy arose in all respects first with the Greeks, there is really no need for Christians to be perplexed by what truth there is in saying it was bequeathed to us by them. It is after all an unwitting indication of the truth: God has made foolish the wisdom of this world. Because of rejecting the truth about and from God, the human race has been given over to an unending list of philosophical problems, and – short of exercising repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – humanity is without any means of extirpating itself from these problems or of finding any solution to them.

An Old Problem

Greek philosophy was born from the recognition of a particular problem, a problem that, because of repeated failures to arrive at a solution, has, though much avoided in modern times because of its apparent insolubility,[i] remained very much with us to the present day. Speaking of this conundrum, William James said, “it is the most pregnant of all the dilemmas of philosophy,”[ii] and indeed it is. A careful study will reveal that this problem is at the bottom of many others. Accordingly, a failure to solve this problem is a failure to solve the others. The problem in view is that of “the one and the many.”

This problem asks, if reality is one and constant (i.e., if reality is characterized by unity and regularity), then how do we account for diversity and change? On the other hand, if the world is many and variant (i.e., if reality is characterized by diversity and change), then how do we account for oneness and constancy? And as the record shows us, “All attempts in philosophy to unify the diversity without diversifying the unity have ended in failure,”[iii] as have all attempts to diversify reality without also unifying the diversity.

An Older Solution

This problem is not one that would have naturally presented itself to a people who believed in and were in covenant relationship with the Triune God, a God who is both one and many. On the other hand, “The idea of one God in three Persons never crossed the pagan mind anymore than the idea that God could be both personal and infinite at the same time.”[iv] Whereas non-Christian conceptions of ultimate reality tended and still tend to conceive either of an ultimate unity that rules out genuine diversity or of an ultimate diversity that rules out true unity, Christians are in covenant with a God in whom unity is just as ultimate as diversity and diversity is just as ultimate as unity. This unity and diversity are reflected in the world that God made, and, to their frustration, the original philosophers sought to explain this world without reference to God and His Word.

“Because He created it [the world], its meaning is also created meaning, derived from Him who made it. This points us to the ontological trinity as the answer to the problem of the one and the many. Immediately we have a distinction which does not exist in non-Christian thought: we have a temporal one and many in the created universe, and we have an eternal One-and-Many in the ontological trinity, an absolute and self-complete unity… Since both the one and the many are equally ultimate in God, it immediately becomes apparent that these two seemingly contradictory aspects of being do not cancel one another but are equally basic to the ontological trinity, one God, three persons. Again, since temporal unity and plurality are the products and creation of this triune God, neither the unity nor the plurality can demand the sacrifice of the other to itself.”[v]

This is the most basic reason philosophy had its genesis elsewhere. With God’s self-revelation, as well as the implications of it for all aspects of created reality, God’s Old Covenant people could hardly have been expected to ask, “Given the ultimate unity of all things, how is diversity possible?” Conversely, it is hardly conceivable that they would have asked, “Given the ultimate diversity of all things, how is unity possible?”

Though God’s Old Covenant people would have been unlikely to conceive of the one and many problem, with the mass conversion of Gentiles to the Triune God in New Testament times the very opposite is to be expected. Indeed, it is to be expected that Gentile Christians would come to apply the fresh insights they had now graciously received, to this old conundrum under which they had previously labored and travailed all their lives. In this sense it might be said that the solution, to the extent that it was now recognized and applied as such, was a new, even a revolutionary, answer. It is precisely because the solution to this problem is to be found in God, and because a right answer to this question is the basis for all true knowledge and real progress in the world, that Western society has given birth to all the wonders that it has, inarguably outstripping every other culture on earth or in world history. Far from being a source of humiliation for the Church, the genesis of philosophy outside her fold really should be looked upon as further insight into the truth that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

[i] As one example, see the entry on “Metaphysics” in A Dictionary of Philosophy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984), edited by Anthony Flew: “...since no conceivable experience could enable us to decide between, for example, the statements that reality consists of only one substance (monism) or of infinitely many (monadology), neither serves any purpose in the economy of our thought about the world, and they are alike neither true nor false but meaningless.”
[ii] The Writings of William James, ed. by John McDermott (New York: Random House, 1967), p. 258
[iii] Scott Oliphint, source no longer remembered.
[iv] Robert Morey, The Trinity: Evidence and Issues
[v] Van Til, The Defense of the Faith