A brief examination of Scripture will unveil, in particular, the central assumption of the existence of God (Gen. 1:1, Ps. 14:1, etc.). Never does Scripture seek to prove His existence; rather it presents His reality as the foundational starting point of Biblical theology. In light of this, it must also be understood that Scripture makes no case for a deity in general, but rather for a specific Deity, self-disclosed and explained to His desired extent in Scripture.

Therefore theism in the general sense is not an acceptable definition for the reality presented by Biblical theology, for it does not go far enough – as far as Scripture goes – in defining God Himself. Rather, it is Biblical theism, or the existence of the Biblical God that is the foundational reality upon which Biblical theology is built; and therefore an efficacious investigation (meaning one that will portray an accurate reflection of its Subject) of the revelation of God in Scripture requires, first and foremost, a certain belief in the God of the Scriptures.

GodKuyper recognizes the centrality of this truth, saying “Faith in the existence of the object to be investigated is the conditio sine qua non of all scientific investigation.”[1] Augustine suggested that man recognizes the imprint of the Divine upon man:

 

We ourselves can recognize in ourselves an image of God, in the sense of an image of the Trinity. Of course, it is merely an image and in fact, a very remote one. There is no question of identity nor of co-eternity nor, in one word, of consubstantiality with Him. Nevertheless, it is an image which by nature is nearer to God than anything else in all creation, and one that by transforming grace can be perfected into a still closer resemblance.[2]

 

Calvin likewise asserted that man has an innate awareness of Deity, saying,

 

There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. This we take to be beyond controversy. To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God has implanted in all men a certain understanding of His divine majesty.[3]

 

He has set eternity in our heart (Eccl. 3:11), and all are aware, and thus without excuse because He has revealed Himself to all men (Rom. 1:18-32).

Without the existence of God as Absolute, as the first and final reference point for reality, man could make no appeal to the laws of logic (which are generally understood to include (1) the law of identity – everything is what it is, and this can be affirmed; (2) the law of non-contradiction – everything is not what it is not, and this can be affirmed; (3) the law of exclusion – of two contradictory propositions one must be false and the other true, thus if one is affirmed the other must be denied; and (4) the law of reason and consequent – logical reason is followed by logical consequent, thus dealing with cause and effect. These four fundamental principles require absolute truth, which the atheist denies either in theory, practice, or both.

Appeals to intellect and morality, likewise ultimately require God to be the first and final reference point, as these elements also require origin in their absolute form from God. The atheist assumes these elements (logic, intellect, and morality), but yet interprets them in light of his own will. Thus he recognizes certain necessary Biblical premises, while rejecting their Designer. As Van Til noted,

 

…if God is not self-sufficient and self-explained then He is no longer the final reference point in human predication. Then God and man become partners in an effort to explain a common environment. Facts are not what they are, in the last analysis by virtue of the plan of God; they are partly that, but they partly exist by their own power.[4]

 

Ultimately, even the very premise of seeking to prove the existence of God smacks of humanism, as the creature seeks to ascertain the Creator by submitting the Creator to an empirical standard greater than Himself. Here the creature has the illusion of authority by neutrality of reason, when in fact there is no such neutrality.

The natural outworking of the Biblically theistic presupposition also assumes the veracity of Scripture as the revelation of God, since it is the Biblical God that we seek to understand. For the mere existence of a god in the abstract sense is not sufficient to answer the questions that are presented,_ nor does the idea of god in the abstract fit at all the character ascribed to the Biblical God of Scripture. It is therefore a prerequisite of Biblical theology to understand that God is, and that He is the source of all knowledge, not only regarding Himself specifically, but also regarding all truth. All truth, after all, will be seen to be God’s truth.

Regarding the existence of God, Greg Bahnsen said,

 

We can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary. The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything.[5]

 

Bahnsen’s statement underscores the importance of the foundations of epistemology in approaching the existence of God, and ultimately concludes that Biblical theism is the only beginning point for a consistent epistemology. The basic premise here is that the reality of God is inescapable and quite necessary as the starting point for any truly rational thought. Ultimately, the atheistic position, taken to its logical conclusion completely destroys all reason and science.

It is at this point helpful to view epistemological conclusions in order to (1) demonstrate the immeasurable chasm between the musings of the Almighty God and the fallen ramblings of the human mind (Is. 55:8-11) and (2) recognize that man will consistently rebel against the knowledge of the truth (Jn. 3:19), and even if he were to seek after God, he does not possess, in his fallen state, the ability to rightly appraise spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), therefore, only God can sufficiently draw man into the experiential knowledge of Himself (Jn. 6:44).

Thus there is no consistent epistemology other than that which presupposes the existence of the Biblical God. In fact, there is no truth, logic, or fact without the existence of the Biblical God. As Van Til suggests, “unless you believe in God you can logically believe in nothing else.”[6] Any argument for the existence of God that does not begin with His existence is wrongheaded.

Historically, various arguments concluding positively in favor of the existence of God have been made, however, most of these arguments share the same flaw in their beginning assumptions.

The Ontological Argument suggests that since man possesses being and the idea of God, He must exist. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), in his Proslogion, postulated that God was that “than which no greater can be conceived.” John Frame characterizes this argument as follows:

 

Premise 1: God has all perfections.

Premise 2: Existence is a perfection.

Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.[7]

In this argument, the very idea of existence attests to the existence of God.

The Cosmological Argument asserts that a first cause is necessary for the existence of every finite thing, and the logical First Cause is God. Thomas Aquinas offered, in his Summa Theologica, five “proofs” for the existence of God, the first three of which are cosmological.

The Pantheistic Argument perceives God as all and in all. That there is anything at all necessitates His existence. This is a type of ontological argument used in particular by Parmenides, Spinoza, and Hegel.

The Teleological Argument is the metaphysical argument from design. The order of the universe provides evidence that there was a Designer. In particular, that non-thinking entities can function in harmony of purpose seems a strong evidence for the reality of a Designer.

The Moral Argument, the argument from the existence of morality, points to the existence of absolute morals and is indicative therefore of a Primary Moralist.

These arguments lack a sound epistemological grounding. While at best they serve to demonstrate probabilistically the existence of God, at worst, due to the failure to acknowledge Solomon’s definition of sound epistemology, they give rise and credibility to atheistic arguments which deftly identify the logical flaws in the theistic arguments. In essence, by seeking to prove the existence of God, the failure here is in assuming an empirical standard to which He must submit. Logically, if such a standard exists to which God must be submitted, then it is that standard itself which must be greater than God. Seemingly here would be presented greater argument for the non-existence of God than for His existence. One argument does not possess such intrinsic flaws:

The Transcendental Argument seeks to demonstrate the reality and necessity of the existence of God by arguing, in particular, the impossibility of the contrary. It is the only basic argument which argues from God’s existence rather than to His existence. While the other arguments suggest the probability of God, only this one demands the necessity of God. Knudsen aptly summarizes Van Til’s use of the transcendental argument and his presuppositional approach:

 

Van Til’s apologetics pointed in two directions at once. It tried to show that it is only on the foundation of Christian presuppositions that meaningful discourse is possible. It also tried to show that the failure on the part of non-Christian thinking to attain the true starting point of thought means that it is impaled on the horns of a dilemma. Its attempt to interpret everything according to a criterion acceptable to the autonomous man means that it is driven inexorably to the opposite, namely, to an irrationalism in which meaningful discourse has become impossible. No matter what the difficulties may be, considered in detail, there is the possibility of a meaningful approach to thought and to life only when one is entrenched solidly behind the walls of a full-orbed expression of the Christian theistic position. The method is, then, not to reason to the full theistic position from a standpoint outside of it, but to stand within the Christian theistic position itself.[8]

 

A presuppositional approach to the existence of God will uncover dualisms in the universe in several senses: first, the personal versus the impersonal; second, singularity versus plurality; third, the rational versus rationalism; and fourth, the absolute versus the relative. These dualisms pit principles of Biblical theism on one side, and all other philosophical and religious conclusions on the other. These dualisms do not provide proof for the existence of God. These are not arguments for his existence; rather they illustrate in a practical way the lucidity of the transcendental argument. In a sense, these dualisms provide a picture of where the two opposing philosophies (the one beginning with God, and the other beginning without Him) lead.

c

 

This article is an excerpt from Prolegomena on Biblical Hermeneutics and Method, 2nd Edition, by Christopher Cone (Tyndale Seminary Press).

[1] Abraham Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 1980), 48.

[2] Augustine, City of God, 11:26, translated by Marcus Dods, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, edited by Philip Schaff (1886 reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1988), 2:220.

[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:43.

[4] Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969), 12.

[5] “The Great Debate: Does God Exist?” Dr. Greg Bahnsen versus Dr. Gordon Stein At the University of California, Irvine, 1985.

[6] Cornelius Van Til, Why I Believe in God (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, n.d.), 20.

[7] John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1994), 114.

[8] Robert Knudsen, “Progressive and Regressive Tendencies in Christian Apologetics,” in E.R. Geehan, ed., Jerusalem and Athens (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980), 340.

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