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The Importance and Necessity of Special Revelation - Part Two
Part Two Continued
In addition to numerous philosophical problems relating to interpretation, it should be clear that matter has nothing to say within the framework of non-believing philosophy. What could it say? Within this framework, matter is ultimately an accident and therefore meaningless. In addition to this problem, all men have a priori commitments, which are at work and from which truth or falsity is deduced. The question is not does man have these commitments, but what are they? Do these commitments acknowledge God in the reasoning process? If one starts with non-Christian premises it is impossible to arrive at biblical truth. For a conclusion to be valid it cannot contain information not stated in the premises. The non-believer cannot have accurate knowledge because his presuppositions, starting premises, or axioms, which govern interpretations, are false.
When non-believers seem to arrive at conclusions consistent with biblical revelation, it is by accident, inconsistency, or theft. Many times the non-Christian worldview steals the ethical conclusions from the Christian worldview. This borrowing or more properly stealing from the Christian worldview is why non-believers at times seemingly speak the truth without having the necessary presuppositions to arrive at the truth. The non-believer, because of the bankruptcy of his position, is forced to live on stolen concepts. Thankfully, many non-believers rejected Nazism's "final solution." In other words, at times, by God's common grace, the non-believer sees the reductio ad absurdum and horror of where his own philosophical commitments lead.
Since God is the creator, He gives the true interpretation of all things. All true interpretation must come to a grip with God's revelation, in which is found the meaning and interpretation of matter. When dealing with the difference between right and wrong one deals with specifics. Natural or general revelation is only good as far as it is intended. It is right and true as far as it goes. It is intended to show man that God exists and testifies of His eternal power and Godhead (Romans 1:18-20). General revelation testifies but its testimony is not intended to address specifics in the area of science, logic and ethics. It is to special revelation in the Bible that we must turn.
Any theory of knowledge that attempts to build a philosophy without God's special revelation (the scriptures) is doomed to failure. Reformed Christians believe that general revelation is sufficient to condemn man. Special revelation, i.e. biblical revelation, adds to man's culpability. God's purpose in general revelation is not to give man specific knowledge in many areas. To illustrate, matter does not give specifics concerning the difference between first degree murder and manslaughter nor adultery and fornication, or whether fornication (pornea) is a category under which adultery is defined. This is found in special revelation, e.g., in the case laws of the Old Testament.
As has been seen, Christians have a solid basis for knowledge. All men have God's moral law stamped upon their conscience. The diligent reader should consult Ronald H. Nash's The Word of God and the Mind of Man4 and his The light of the mind: St. Augustine's theory of knowledge.5 These two books explain and develop for the modern reader elements of Augustine's philosophy in the area of epistemology that is found in his De Magistro.6 These works deal with the mechanics of how the Christian receives knowledge into his mind. Man has a moral awareness of right from wrong, not learned from matter or uncertain sensations but from our mind being illuminated directly by God. We read: "That was the true Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world" John 1:9; and, "For in Him we live and move and have our being?" Acts 17:28a. God directly illuminates man's mind so he knows the difference between right and wrong. God's law is stamped upon our consciences. This knowledge gives man his moral awareness and is the result of man being created in the image of God.
In summary, to press non-belief further, it can be said the apostate worldview man has erected is full of contradictions. Oftentimes, if consistent with this materialist worldview, he cannot know anything, since consistent empiricism leads to agnostic skepticism which he then uses as a smoke screen or cover to justify ignorance and hostility to God's law. If not consistent with the philosophical conclusions of a materialistic worldview derived from sensations, he then claims as an atheist to have certain knowledge of right and wrong using his reason, alone which is in defiance to biblical knowledge. Philosophically unbelief vacillates between these two positions of knowing and not knowing. These two opposite poles of allegiance constitute a never-ending dilemma, thus revealing the futility of non-Christian epistemology. Does any of this affect the non-believer? No, the philosophy of non-belief presses on irrationally, certain of its uncertainty, oblivious of the self-refuting contradiction being advanced. To illustrate, for example, some non-believers claim absolutely that there are no absolutes. The philosophy of non-belief contradicts itself when it claims not to know (uncertainty, agnosticism) and to know (certainty, atheism). Both atheism and agnosticism are two sides of the same coin. Fallen man's contradictory uncertainty and certainty are manifestations of his epistemological and ethical rebellion against God.
Also no less devastating, many examples could be given of non-believers asserting absolutes and omniscient statements within the framework of a system that does not allow absolutes. When finite man without biblical authority asserts absolute omniscient statements, it is indefensible. Also, it should be noted the absurdity of atheism's claim when asserting "there is no God." The absurdity is this: it is impossible to prove a universal negative. Furthermore, when the atheist that "there is no God" the second question of the Socratic technique "how do you know that?" reveals the failure of this unverifiable claim. So much for the non-believer's demand for verification. The agnostic claims for himself ignorance concerning the existence of God. It should be noted that this claim of ignorance is not an argument against the existence of God. Rather, it is a sign of epistemological bankruptcy and what could be described as a deficiency of knowledge, or a self-confessed mental condition.
In essence, fallen man has erected a closed system. His system is closed to God. He does not allow God to speak. Since man rejects the Creator, he has nothing within his closed system that he allows to speak with ethical certainty. He is left to himself. As long as fallen man excludes the biblical God from his system, he cannot know anything with certainty. Non-believing thought has no basis for absolutes. If there are no absolutes there can be no meaning attached to anything since everything could be said to be true and not true at the same time, which is unacceptable nonsense. Thus, fallen man is left with only endless matter, unintelligible sensations, or his atheistic apostate reason. This is the bankruptcy of atheistic materialistic humanism.
It is only the Christian that has a rational basis for knowledge. This is because we allow God to speak to us in creation and Scripture. Our system is not closed like the non-Christian. The Bible tells us about general revelation and man's requirement to worship the creator. The Bible tells us the specifics on how to worship the creator. It is only because we have special revelation that an intelligent conversation on these matters can be carried on. General and special revelations are biblical concepts. It would be impossible to have a discussion about these concepts without God's special revelation, the Bible, since biblical revelation is where the concepts appear. Clearly, without special revelation there would be no discussion of ethics, science, and logic with any certainty.
In conclusion, without the Bible, i.e., special revelation we would not be able to talk about the concept of general revelation. This is because, it is in Scripture we learn of general or creation revelation. The objector to my previous article recognized the truth of Christian revelation, but gave away unnecessary ground to non-belief by not fully grasping the effects of the fall and therefore missed the thrust of the argument, which was directed against non-believing philosophy. Our knowledge of general revelation is dependent upon special revelation. Therefore, special revelation is indispensable. The importance and necessity of special revelation is absolutely essential. Without special revelation we would be left in a swamp of autonomous empirical subjectivity which is where the non-believer finds himself. The non-believer is left in the dark as long as they suppress the truth of God that has been revealed to them. God has spoken. This is certain: God speaks to us in the Scriptures (special revelation) with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong. Consequently, the strength of the Christian worldview is clearly seen by the impossibility of the contrary.
End notes part two
4. Ronald H. Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Zondervan Corporation, 1982).
5. Ronald H. Nash, The Light of the Mind: St. Augustine's Theory of Knowledge, (Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1969).
6. Augustine, De Magistro in Augustine: Earlier Writings, Editor, John H. S. Burleigh, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, MCMLIII).
Mr. Kettler is an ordained Presbyterian Elder and the owner of Undergroundnotes.com where his theological, philosophical and political articles can be read. He has worked in corporate America for over 25 years and is now realizing his dreams as a successful home business entrepreneur. Mr. Kettler can be reached through his business site at: http://www.internationalhomebusinessonline.com.
Permission is hereby granted to reprint this article as long as my web site is retained in the biographical information.
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