Poll...Who utilizes what apologetic method?

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by nicnap, Apr 3, 2009.

  1. Classical/Evidentialist

    7 vote(s)
    7.8%
  2. Clarkian/Presuppositionalist

    12 vote(s)
    13.3%
  3. Van Tillian/Presuppositionalist

    51 vote(s)
    56.7%
  4. Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology

    2 vote(s)
    2.2%
  5. Other

    18 vote(s)
    20.0%
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  1. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    I would say that it is not clear to an unbeliever that the Bible is God's word because his thinking, governed by his sinful nature, doesn't comprehend it; the pieces don't fit together. Whether or not it is irrational, I wouldn't be able to answer right away, because there are differing views on what makes a belief or act irrational. I have not for myself decided what makes a belief irrational or not. I would say that disbelief in the Bible in conjunction with other beliefs (like, atheistic naturalism, for example) could be subject to undefeated defeaters and be self-defeating and irrational, I suppose, but whether or not disbelief in the Bible on its own is irrational, I am not able to answer at the moment. I have been saying that the Bible's being the word of God is not clear to the unbeliever, and yet I don't want to say that a man can be rational in disbelieving the Bible. I will have to get back to you,, unless you can suggest for me a criterion of rationality.

    Good enough I suppose! :)

    I wouldn't know if I interpret it differently than you or not. I don't have a set-in-stone opinion on the matter. I would find it hard, I'll say though, to believe that Friedrich Nietzsche or Daniel Dennet have some kind of belief in God deep down inside there somewhere; it seems to me that some people are quite convinced that this God person does not exist. I don't know. I would have to get back to you I suppose.

    But let's say there is not a desire in a person to believe any specific thing (like him willfully believing in Ares, for example), but only to believe anything but what he ought to believe (and given his circumstances, he comes to believe in Ares, maybe because he was born in 200 B.C. Athens and is told that Ares exists, perhaps). I don't think the sinful nature works in a person to do any specific sin, but rather to do any sin it can at any point in time. And so likewise, just as a person doesn't want to obey God's law (while he might not want to commit any one specific sin but rather commit whatever sin is available to him given his circumstances), he also doesn't want to believe that God exists (while he might not want to believe any specific sinful belief, but whatever sinful belief is available to him given his circumstances). So, this way the misuse of the sensus divinitatis can still be by the will of that person, although he did not will any specific belief (which I would likewise agree is not possible, though I am somewhat leaning on the fence on the position). What would you think of that?
     
  2. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    I was thinking this over and I believe I may have settled on a good basis. (Don't hesitate to point out any non sequiturs, as most of it is based on established theological principles rather than explicit Bible verses.) Essentially, there are two things to look at: 1. how believers treat the Bible, and how a Christian worldview involves the absolute, preeminent authority of Scripture, and 2. that it is wrong for people to reject the voice of their Creator, and thereby morally obligatory to accept His self-attesting voice in the Bible.

    1. Upon regeneration, a person completely submits himself to Christ and therefore to the Word of Christ. He completely embraces Scripture as the perfect, and perfectly authoritative, Word of God Himself. This is not viewed as merely a neutral act, or a morally indifferent shift; it is rather viewed as an awesomely good change. And how can it be morally good to accept the Bible as authoritative if people are not obliged to accept it as such in the first place? The moral goodness of an action by definition implies "ought" for that action.

    2. From the creation of Adam, mankind has always been compelled to accept the voice of God immediately and without additional consideration. The Fall occurred ultimately because Adam and Eve denied God's absolute authority. And if we are supposed to hear and follow our Creator's voice when it is directly spoken to us in the Garden of Eden, why would we not be supposed to hear and follow His voice when it is through Scripture? Sure, there are counterfeits, but that doesn't deny the perfect and self-justifying nature of our Creator's voice.

    It certainly is an awkward concept to espouse, that even the most ostensible atheists (such as the two you listed) have an actual belief in God. But I think Bahnsen covers this very adequately both in the appropriate chapter in Van Til's Apologetic and in this article on self-deception. (He seems to repeat himself in that article and add some superfluous historical information, so if you want the real essence of what self-deception is, I suggest you go near the very end to the summary. It contains all you need if you want to read that article.)

    I would give the same rebuttal I did in the last post -- purely speaking, no one gets any belief they have by choice. All beliefs are totally involuntary (although there can be a moral reaction to beliefs). Of course, there is still a sense in which beliefs are subject to desires -- e.g. a pagan twisting his sensus divinitatis to worship idols -- but those aren't actual beliefs in the deepest sense of the term, for they are merely professed and not believed in practice. (This is the case because they would have no grounds to believe in logic, morality, etc. without belief in the living God; therefore He is believed in practice.) So, when you say that a faulty belief-forming faculty in someone can create sinful beliefs in them, and that it's not a willful distortion of the already-possessed truth, you are saying that beliefs are chosen in the deepest sense -- i.e. both in profession and in practice -- which I would say is quite incorrect.

    The preceding two paragraphs of mine were a repetition and fleshing out of what I already said in my earlier post, so now I'll respond more specifically to something I found interesting in your last paragraph.

    In a paper I wrote for my philosophy of religion class, I attempted to construct a philosophy of the will that made determinism and moral responsibility necessarily intertwined. Without replicating the paper here, I just wanted to say that I think physical circumstances play a significant role (as you noted), but that a person's desires in those specific circumstances would prompt him or her to carry out a very specific action. For otherwise, free will would ensue, but free will is philosophical impossible. There has to be a specific desire prompting a specific action (although the external circumstances and the physical capabilities of the agent play a role), or otherwise determinism would not be true and God could not be sovereign. Although, none of what I just said is necessarily inconsistent with what you said.

    I would agree with you that specific antitheistic beliefs are not determined solely by our sinful nature. This should be obvious given that a large amount of unbelievers in a given area or time period will hold the same unbelieving worldview, evincing some sociological factors at play. This probably has a lot to do with crowd mentality as Satan attempts to overthrow biblical thinking and philosophy.

    Anyway, yeah, I wrote a lot, so I'm going to pipe down now. It's been very edifying discussing this with you.
     
  3. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    Perhaps having no other God before God would make the act of holding his Word as authoritative a moral imperative, although I wouldn't know for sure; this does not include the fact that the Bible is clearly his word, though...

    Yes, it is true that it is good to listen to God, but that does not mean that the ESV on my desk is plainly and obviously his word, which it seems to me is what you are asserting.

    I will have to read those! Thanks!

    Surely some beliefs come about by choice, though perhaps not directly; I should think it possible that a person might want to believe certain things, like perhaps I'll want to believe in paedobaptism and accept it without much questioning on the basis of a psychological desire to distance myself as much as I can from my Baptist parents, say, out of rebellion. I might want to believe in paedobaptism, and read up on the topic, and soon become a convinced Presbyterian. Likewise, a sinful human might want to not believe in God out of a deep-down desire to rebel against God, and might want to believe anything but; and in this sense, he can twist the sensus divinitatis into producing false beliefs in himself.

    Also, I suppose I have to disagree with your strict presuppositionalist approach; I don't think that anyone has proven that it requires belief in Yahweh to have grounds for logic, morality, etc. I am sure you have read critiques of presuppositionalism and perhaps can respond to them in a manner I might not be able to rebut, but that is the basis of your response, so, with much hesitation and anxiousness regarding your reply soon to follow, I will continue...

    I understand you as saying essentially this: that a pagan who believes in false-god x does not actually believe in x, but on some subconscious level believes in Yahweh because his behavior is inconsistent with belief in x and consistent with belief in Yahweh. I don't see how the fact that his behavior is inconsistent with his belief in x means he does not actually believe in x. I should think I truly believe that God has commanded me to repent of my sins and live in newness of life, etc., but often times my behavior is inconsistent with the fact. Does that mean I do not really believe that God really commanded me to repent, etc.? I should think not. Likewise, that a pagan is inconsistent with his beliefs does not mean he actually does not believe them; just that he is not consistent.

    Also, I think it possible that there might exist another worldview W out there that could properly account for laws of logic, morality, science, etc., that is simply undiscovered or undeveloped; or perhaps a worldview W2 that is identical to Christianity except different in some trivial detail, like being a quadrinity instead of a trinity. And in this way, the "impossibility of the contrary" does not prove the truthhood of Christianity as you and I espouse it.

    But the circumstances are prior and determining of the sinful act to be committed, and not the other way around. I don't commit sin S1 in a situation in which sin S2 is the only one possible (say, I don't commit murder when I have sex with a woman outside of marriage). The circumstances are deciding of the sin to be committed, while the will simply responds and takes advantage of the situation.

    You can reply that it was the will's desire to bring a person in those particular circumstances; for example, a man's desire to commit adultery brought him into the situation in which he committed the sin. But likewise I should say his desire to commit adultery was determined by his circumstances at that point in time, as well: his being on the computer late at night watching p0rnography, or perhaps at a party where he notices another woman, or whatever. And this process can be continued back all the way to the birth of a person, in which he is put into a specific circumstance that will determine his desires from then on. So I will assert that it is the situation a person finds himself in that will determine his sin of choice, and so a person being in circumstances that would coerce him to desire to believe falsely in Shiva, for example, would believe so only because of his determining circumstances.

    Perhaps what I have said is superfluous and there is no disagreement, but just to assert more clearly what I mean to say: a person may desire to believe in false-god 'x' (out of rebellion towards God, perhaps) and given his circumstances which dictated what specific sin-desire would be instantiated, he would thus abuse his sensus divinitatis into producing a false belief. So, his sinful desires to believe in something other than God might have been brought about and awakened in a situation in which he can produce false belief in Shiva, for example.



    I have this strange feeling that nothing I've written is relevant to the discussion...
     
  4. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    But how can it be a moral imperative if the answer is hidden and unknown? This would seem to be contrary to the fact that God gives an outlet in every moral situation or tribulation (1 Cor. 10:13). If there is no ability to submit to God's revelation even when the desire is present and the Bible is right there in front of us, then how can we be held morally responsible for not doing so?

    Furthermore, if upon being regenerated it becomes obvious to all children of God (i.e., their eyes are opened) that the Bible is truly God's Word, then does it not follow that it is obviously God's Word even to those whose eyes are sinfully closed? Regeneration is subjective, affecting us, and not objective, affecting the Bible's perspicuity.

    Although I wasn't very clear about it, the point that I wanted to make is that if the Creator's voice was self-attesting in Eden, why wouldn't it also be self-attesting now through Scripture?

    It is true that you can want to believe in something, but that will not effect an actual belief in the subject by itself. Your desire to be a paedobaptist could spark you to read into the topic and find persuasive arguments, but your desire itself could not create any belief. Although, I guess that if there were no contrary evidence in your mind, it could totally create a belief. Moreover, it could affect how you treat the evidence and counterarguments. Your desire to be a paedobaptist could make you much more willing to denounce any arguments you might see against it and embellish any arguments you see for it, when in reality the credobaptist arguments could be superior. In that sense, then, desires could totally effect belief. You are certainly right about that. But this does not show that our cognitive faculties can themselves create a sinful belief--for in such situations (i.e., situations in which the evidence presented points to an obvious conclusion), the correct belief is right before our eyes, and our faculties distort that, thus going back to the point I was trying to establish from the beginning.

    This is such a deep and interesting topic! So many distinctions have to be made, and so many examples have to be accounted for.

    In the case of God, we have clear evidence before us, and an explicit suppression of the truth. "What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Rom. 1:19-20). While many beliefs can be put into the same category as being a paedobaptist or choosing who is the best sports team--such that there may not be ample evidence in front of us to move one way on a topic, or there may not be any evidence possible to sway us--the belief in God is expressly set down in Scripture as being "clearly seen." The knowability (note: not comprehensibility) of God is a universal thing, and it confronts men at every juncture of life. The perspicuity of this can put a different spin on your example of paedobaptism:

    Say that there is a passage in the Bible that says, "Never baptize an infant; a profession of faith is required for baptism," and this passage was very well known, not obscure at all, and clearly in favor of credobaptism. If you then desired to believe in paedobaptism, although you were very often confronted by the perspicuous truthfulness of credobaptism, it might be possible for your belief in paedobaptism to actually exist (i.e., belief both in profession and in practice). But it would be much more difficult to effect--and of course it would mark quite an obstinate sinfulness in you (hypothetically, not saying that you are obstinate by any means).

    However, if God is as foundational as the Bible says He is, then there is no possible way anyone could not believe in Him in practice. He would disallow it by His Spirit, restraining people's rebellion. Thus, I would say that two factors are crucial in demonstrating that all men believe in God and that they distort his truth (rather than receiving sinful beliefs automatically). These two are the obviousness of God's authority and position as Creator-Judge, as revealed to men's minds through nature; and the impossibility of disbelieving in God in practice.

    -----

    You hinted at this earlier: we are getting a ways off track. (Correct me if I'm wrong in the proceeding summary.) Originally, you said that you believe that our sinful cognitive faculties can themselves create sinful beliefs--that such beliefs are notably not distortions of a preexisting belief in God, but initially and automatically sinful. I responded by saying that such would destroy moral responsibility and pointed out to the fact that there has to be some sort of ability to do otherwise, mentioning ability of desire, etc. You responded by saying that beliefs can be formed by our desires as well, and therefore choices and beliefs are structurally the same; therefore if we have cognitive faculties which produce initially-wrong beliefs, we are still responsible for them. As I noted above (but not in my earlier posts, where I took a (wrongly) more adamant stance), I agree that some beliefs can be ultimately effected by desires; such as a belief that the Braves are the best baseball team ever, or that a girl really does like me; but there is still a great deal of our beliefs that are confronted by evidence. This shows that our desires can play a part in crafting or molding wrong beliefs when we are given evidence to support a particular proposition, and we either embrace or suppress that evidence (and therefore that proposition). But it does not establish that such faculties can create beliefs.

    Lastly, I don't think the fact that our desires can have a huge effect on our beliefs (as in paedobaptism, determining the best sports team, or in finding whether a girl likes a boy) really points to the fact that we can be responsible for beliefs that are initially sinful (i.e., not secondary; not distortions). What it does demonstrate is that we can mistreat the evidence in front of us and not take a rational approach to finding truth, and that some of our beliefs can therefore be immoral--because we arrived at it by a dishonest means. But what it does not mean is that we can be responsible for initially wrong beliefs. I think this non sequitur is the result of our collective straying from the topic.

    And I'll definitely take responsibility for moving the topic so much, seeing as I never know when to stop typing. :(

    So, as a quick summation of everything I just wrote:
    1. Desires can affect our beliefs, but purely in a reactionary sense.
    2. Sometimes we are confronted with evidence that should make us believe in a specific proposition (e.g. if overwhelming evidence is given for paedobaptism); sometimes there is no evidence either way (e.g. determining which of two cars is better when they are equal).
    3. In the first of the previous two, we are obliged to accept that proposition, but we can embrace or suppress it. In the second, I would say we are obliged to withhold judgment on the topic, but our desires can push us a single way (e.g. if a person with whom you want to agree picked one of the cars as better than the other).
    4. There is an outrageous amount of evidence confronting men at every point, making it obligatory for everyone to believe in Jehovah as the Creator of the universe.
    5. Yet, this is sinfully repressed by man's sinful cognitive faculties -- not created initially sinful.

    Phew. Sorry about the length Steven. This topic rules.

    I agree with you that much more work needs to be done in demonstrating the shortcomings of unbelieving philosophies (and the excellency of Christian philosophy) rather than assertions of these things. But for now, I'll appeal to you as a Christian brother: If God is sovereign over everything, then would He not also be sovereign over our very existence and reasoning and ethics? If logic truly is an outworking of His very character, then any rejection of Him in practice would be a rejection of logic, which is impossible to carry out. And if this is true (again, regardless of its being convincingly demonstrated by apologists, based rather on Scripture), then is it not true that no one can disbelieve in Jehovah in practice and remain a functioning human being?

    It would still be accurate to say that the pagan believes in those deities, but it is still important to make the distinction so that it can be understood in what senses they believe in God and in what senses they do not. But you are correct in saying that it would be wrong to say "Pagans believe in Christ" without significant qualifications.

    (Also, as a bit of a sidenote, I would not say the belief is subconscious, for that tends to remove moral responsibility, but you still get the idea I'm getting at.)

    This objection reminds me of many objections that I hear from a select few people on Facebook. I expect to in the future write myself a paper or Facebook note entitled, "Crushing Childish Objections to Presuppositionalism." I consider them childish because most of the people (not you) who espouse them do so very arrogantly, as if they understand the entirety of presuppositionalism and have just exposed a fatal flaw, and more importantly because such objections by unbelievers replace any type of sincere effort for them to construct a real unbelieving philosophy--they lean on objections like, "I'll just believe in the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and Dog" in order to justify their unbelief, when it does not do so by any means.

    I think we are mostly in agreement here. I totally agree with you the significant role that circumstances play in sin; I just wanted to stress that given a specific situation, and given a specific moral character (i.e. a specific inclination or desire), only one possible sin will result. There has to be situations in which only one action is possible for humans; otherwise God could not be sovereign.

    I totally agree with this. :) I just want it to be known that when the sensus divinitatis is abused, it is a distortion of the already present evidence that God is sovereign and that Jehovah is Lord, and not a sinful anti-Christian belief made automatically.

    I've committed the more grievous error of writing a ten-page paper in one post... :(
     
  5. Turtle

    Turtle Puritan Board Freshman

    "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
     
  6. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'll have to say, Ben, that I think we are mostly in agreement. I've perhaps added qualifications to my original assertion, but I think you and I think alike.

    I will respond another time because I'm on my lunch break from work and won't have adequate time to respond in full.
     
  7. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    That sounds excellent.

    I do have a question, though: why are you on lunch break at such a late hour? Are you not in Phoenix right now?
     
  8. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    Yep. First argument ... I remember it well.

    It is amazing how much trouble a mathematical mind can get you into when talking about theory vs. practice.

    What is amazing, is that we both agree that a person would be a totally sociopath if they were consistent outside a Christian world view.

    I find myself holding to a view of the world that starts with axioms that God exists, and is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him. Add to that what we know is subservient to what God knows ... a bow of the head to VT and heartfelt thanks to him as well. But I also know that axiom sets can be logically consistent, even if they are untenable from a life perspective. Math; you got to love it.
     
  9. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm working an afternoon shift, so it's "lunch"... :p

    Does clarity imply ability? Is someone only "able" to submit to God's word if it is clear and plain that it is God's word? I should think not. It is not clear to Abraham why he should listen to God when he asks him to sacrifice his son, I should think, but yet he still ought to listen to him.

    Here you might have a better point than above. It could be that the Bible is not clearly God's word to us because it's on a different "wavelength", I suppose you could say; it is an entirely different line of reasoning (folly to the Greeks, a stumbling block to the Jews...) and so despite the moral command to submit to it, it might not be clearly God's word to anyone because each person holds to different conceptions of what God is, and the God of the Bible does not resemble the false god they believe in.

    Because now it is not a voice coming from a person near to you, but writing that has been translated and put into the vocabulary and language of a specific community at a specific time in history. It might not be so clearly God's word that way.

    Perhaps it could be said that the desire to believe in anything but Yahweh might exist "below the surface", so to speak. I don't think that anyone, at the moment they sin, for the most part, is aware of the fact that they want to break God's law at that very moment. Perhaps all they want to do is to commit sin S1, unaware even that it might be a sin or that they are breaking God's law. Though of course they do commit the sin out of rebellion towards God, they might not be aware of the fact at the moment. Likewise, I think it possible that a person might desire to disbelieve in Yahweh and believe in Allah, for example, though not be aware of the fact, and in this sense, the belief in Allah just "was formed" in him, without his knowing that he wanted to believe it.

    Well likewise, disbelief in Yahweh could be exactly the sort of obstinate, absurdly stubborn disbelief as you outlined above in the paedobaptism example. But perhaps the desire to disbelieve in Yahweh, because of all the implications of believing in him, is much much stronger than the desire of this particularly rebellious fellow to believe in paedobaptism. And so it could appear more regularly and more intensely and perhaps more easily.

    Sounds good I suppose, I more or less agree. I will say again what I said above, though: it is possible that the desire to disbelieve in Yahweh might not be in the immediate consciousness of a person when put in the situation to disbelieve in him, and so it is possible that a person might say that the sensus divinitatis produced in him a belief in Allah or Shiva, or whatever.




    As for the presuppositionalism discussion, we'll have that another time.
     
  10. caddy

    caddy Puritan Board Senior

    Van Tillian/Presuppositionalist
     
  11. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    First, thanks for (severely) reducing the length of your post compared to mine. :cool:

    Yes, clarity really would imply ability, and vice versa. If it is clear that the Bible is God's Word, then people would be prima facie mistaken in not accepting it as such immediately. And as I said above, if there is no way to know which claimed revelation is God's (by the self-attesting marks of deity), then no one can be plausibly held responsible for not doing so--such would be equivalent to making a multiple-choice test question with no discernible answer and marking people wrong for choosing the wrong option.

    The example of Abraham is not one in which he's being held responsible when he's not sure the message is from God. It does not fit into the category above. His example is one where the command is definitely from God, and he knows it, but he's not sure of its purpose. The "muddiness," so to speak, is not in whether the revelation is truly from God (it obvious is, and Abraham knows it), but in the specific ethical obligation God gave him, namely to kill his son.

    That the Bible does not comport with the unregenerate hearer's worldview is indisputable. But I would not say that is a criterion for the obvious voice of our Creator coming through it. Those are simply two different spheres of discussion -- the different worldviews offered in Christianity and unbelief, and the obviously divine nature of the Bible.

    So, to restate my position from above, if the only change in regeneration is our personal inclinations towards Christ and His Word, then that would mean that unregenerates simply reject the obvious nature of the Bible, thus retaining that the Bible is still obviously God's Word. It does not mean that the Bible is objectively not self-attesting to them, since no property of the Bible is affected by a sinner's personal regeneration.

    First (in case you're implying this counterargument), it's not the case that there could be no counterfeits for God's revelation when He spoke directly. Demons and perhaps Satan himself, I am sure, could be deceiving people into thinking they are hearing things from God. Therefore, in case a counterargument might be that spoken revelation is straightforward while written revelation has several false books, I would argue that God's personal voice still sticks out in either situation. It is self-attesting.

    Second, just as you could recognize a good friend's handwriting and terminology over against a stranger's, so you could easily recognize your infinite Creator's breathed words in Scripture. The disparity between God and any other counterfeit author (e.g. Joseph Smith or a demon) is more than enough to distinguish between an obvious revelation of God, with marks of deity, and a counterfeit.

    Although I know very little about the whole debate, what you have brought up is a huge chunk of ethical philosophy, whether anyone does evil knowing he is doing evil. Where I saw it mentioned, the Christian author vehemently rejected it, and it seems to go contrary to my personal experience, so I'm not the biggest fan of it.

    However, in response, I would have to say that awareness must exist in a sense, because a sin that is completely subconscious and apart from any willed action of our own is simply not a sin. We do not necessarily have to be aware that an action of ours is a sin, but to be unaware that we're actually carrying out the action (e.g. your example of disbelieving in Yahweh), and still be held responsible for the action, is an impossibility. Therefore it would still be the case that a belief cannot form as "initially sinful" (i.e., not a distortion of the already-present truth), because it would have to be based off a subconscious or purely latent sin, but such a "sin" is impossible.

    And that's my point -- such obstinacy would have to be against a correct belief or correct proposition of which the sinner is aware.
     
  12. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    I won't bother quoting it, but I will say this regarding the discussion of the Bible being clearly God's word: it seems to me that the notion of "clarity" is an entirely viewer-relative concept. I think it possible that to the believer and to God, the Bible is clearly his word, and yet to the sinner it (seems to him) clearly is not, or perhaps it is not clear that it is by any means, because perhaps he only sees things through his sinful lenses. Yet I should think it true that such a person would be still be held responsible for disbelieving in the Bible's truth claims and ignoring its ethical commands.

    So to be a sin, an action must be contrary to the commands of God as written in the Bible, and the person committing the sin might would need to have been able to do otherwise, and the person must be aware that he is committing the action, but not necessarily that the action is a sin? I would agree with that, and would say this: that a person can subconsciously cause himself to disbelieve in Yahweh, and in this sense, relative to himself, it would seem that the belief in any other false god was spontaneous or sudden or just produced in him by his cognitive faculties, and this would be a sin if he is aware that he is disbelieving in Yahweh and believing in any other false-god.

    But it might not seem to the person committing the sin of disbelief in the appropriate circumstances that it is clear that God exists given his circumstances. He simply finds himself observing complex underwater life systems and comes to the conclusion that they evolved some 13 trillion years ago, or whatever. The idea that God exists might never go through his mind, and yet I should think he is still responsible.
     
  13. Michael Butterfield

    Michael Butterfield Puritan Board Freshman

    Now this is the real answer! :amen: Let the Lion loose! :agree:
     
  14. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Well, if the sinner views things only through sinful (and therefore immorally self-imposed) lenses, then it seems pretty clear to me that the objective clarity of the Bible is being shut out. If there is a light and a person claims not to see it because he closes his eyes, the light is still objectively shining.

    You could again bring up the "different wavelength" aspect, but at that point you'd have to concede that the different wavelength is imposed upon the sinner's own sight, reverting back to the paragraph immediately above.

    They would have had to do otherwise in the compatibilist sense, not the libertarian sense, yes. I really, really want to stress that I am not positing free will here.

    I'm sorry; I'm not sure what you're telling me here. You say that the person is subconsciously causing himself to disbelieve in Yahweh, and that it would be a sin if he is aware that he is disbelieving in Yahweh. Are you attempting to set these two equal? Are you saying that the subconscious disbelief in Yahweh is free from moral responsibility? I apologize; I just don't get what you're saying.

    Interestingly enough, I would say that the proposition does come up but can be immediately suppressed. God's natural revelation perspicuously and adamantly reveals His status as Creator to all rational creatures, but it is extremely easy for sinners to suppress the truth in unrighteousness and deceive themselves. The atheist might say that it never comes into his mind, but his sinful cognitive faculties are always at work. If creation really does clearly reveal God's attributes, as I believe Romans 1 says it does, then it is the case that atheists are confronted by the existence of a sovereign Creator even when viewing underwater life, and that this proposition runs through their mind in some sense that involves moral responsibility. I would not say it's subconscious, but I would say that self-deception occurs. Atheists can make themselves believe they do not believe a specific proposition when they have already intellectually assented to it.
     
  15. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    I am doubtful that there is any sort of thing as "objective" clarity; clarity is relevant so long as there is an observer, and of course the clarity of an object is relative to that observer. For believers whose minds are being "rewired" if I may use that phrase, the Bible becomes clearly God's word because their minds are becoming more and more like Christ's. For an unbeliever, whose minds don't understand and comprehend the line of reasoning and such in the Bible, the reason of God, it is not clear at all that this should be the revealed written word of X, where X is their conception of what 'God' is like.

    I'm saying I think it possible that a person might not be aware that he is trying to disbelieve in Yahweh, but he may be aware of his belief in Shiva or Allah, and so it would be sin. And in this sense, he can say that the belief was simply produced in him, because he was not aware of his desire to believe in it and disbelieve in the Christian explanation.

    I find it hard to think that the proposition does come up in their mind. I am doubtful that it ever does. I would say that while they are not conscious of it, they are purposefully trying to disbelieve that Yahweh created the coral reef and purposefully believing in any other explanation Y. I am skeptical that an atheist is aware of his purposefully choosing to find any other explanation for the created order.
     
  16. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Before looking at Romans 1 to see how the clearness of general revelation is mentioned, I just want to deal with this concept of clarity per se. I cannot dispute with your saying that the concept of clarity requires an observer -- for an illumination is always clear to someone -- and the clearness perceived by the observer depends on the observer to some extent -- for the observer can have his eyes opened or closed, or some other similar factor can be different. But I cannot help but think that this necessarily depends upon a specific level of objective clarity that must exist prior to the impartation on the observer.

    Take a light bulb for example. It doesn't make sense to say that it shines at a specific luminosity without presupposing someone's perception of that illumination; a light bulb must shine on or to something or someone else. And, of course, two observers of the same light bulb can perceive varying amounts of illumination, for one can have his eyes closed and another his eyes open. But still, this luminosity can be measured objectively, by how much it illumines some specific, "ideal" observer (ignoring measurable wavelengths, etc. for the sake of argument). Likewise, the clarity of Scripture is how much a completely "ideal" observer, one who is seeing with his eyes open so to speak, will perceive and understand it. And the Bible is obviously God's Word in that respect. This, especially in conjunction with the doctrine of regeneration (which is only a subjective change), really seems to favor that the Bible is objectively perspicuous in its attestation as the very Word of God.

    If the original beliefs that unregenerates receive are not displaying the existence (and wrath) of Jehovah qua Creator God, then again questions of moral responsibility arise. And this seems to run contrary to the suppression of the truth mentioned in Romans 1, as suppression presupposes possession.

    While I realize many unbelievers hate this doctrine -- I remember one castigating a presuppositionalist for denying that even the most ostensible of atheists is a "true" atheist who lacks all belief in God -- I simply do not understand how one could say they subconsciously disbelieve in Yahweh (if that's what you're trying to say). Subconscious activity is outside the realm of moral responsibility, and the suppression of the truth definitely indicates an active act of unrighteousness by unbelievers. Self-deception can play an inordinate role here, one that would make unbelievers think that they actually do not believe in Yahweh, or even care about believing in Him. Self-deception therefore accounts for the apparently obvious evidence that unbelievers do not go about espousing their hatred of God and disbelief in Him.

    I think what's important here is that we understand more about consciousness, subconsciousness, and moral responsibility. It is very possible for us to do things "without even thinking about them," yet still in a way that we are morally responsible, for example, looking lustfully at girls. (It is hard work to train one's eyes in the quest of sin-mortification!) We can do things automatically because we have conditioned ourselves to do so, and we therefore can commit these actions "under the radar," but not subconsciously, as that involves a complete absence of conscious activity. Likewise, atheists can simply have conditioned themselves to look over the perspicuous witness of God in natural revelation "without even thinking about it." They have learned how to deal with His face everywhere in such a way that it seems automatic to them, thereby making their suppression of the truth "under the radar" (therefore accounting for the experiential evidence), yet still in a morally responsible fashion (therefore accounting for the Scriptural evidence).

    So, I think we might actually have a good agreement here; I just need to be more clear in my terminology regarding consciousness and subconsciousness.
     
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Interesting thread.....


    In my experience I have never known an effective evangelist who purposely picked out one of these apolgetical methods and applied it in their witnesses.

    Perhaps, afterwards, we could say, "See, he is mainly using evidentialism like Josh McDowell...etc" but, sorry, I have never known anyone who was really big into apologetics that ever influenced large numbers of unbelievers into the faith. Mostly they strengthen those already in the faith (which also has its place and is also important).

    Actually, in my experience, the most effective evangelists were not even the ones that "witnessed" or had any sort of conscious method at all...they just had a pragmatic zeal and loved people. There is a book out called "Stop Witnessing and Start Loving" and this summarizes my views of what American churches ought to be doing.

    Also, these apologetical schools are all quite cerebral and I will strongly affirm that most folks who want to become Christ-followers do so because they are hurting - they become open to Christ and begin their journey of faith which culminates in the New Birth more often than not for non-cerebral reasons.

    They are not argued into the Kingdom - they are attracted by the beauty of Christ and by Christians as well.

    I will say it, again and again, most encounters where I have seen and I have known others to go from being unsaved to the point where the process begins where they become open and listening and attentive to the Gospel happened in the following situations:
    ---(1) not in a church nor on a Sunday,
    ---(2) During times of psychological stress and through someone who already has a relationship with the new "seeker" - not a cold contact or someone knocking on a door on a Tuesday Night,
    ---(3) through personal compassion and even simple prayer for a person

    ...................and then, only later - once the person was open - were intellectual answers introduced. I.e., relationship seemed to be THE key factor.

    ---(4) Public preaching was not the main means, but dialogue and close and intimate discussion with the person
    ---(5) Then, following this, many of these people became open to going to church and reading materials and making a profession and entering into the life of a church. The, these apologetical schools might be of help.


    So, if we are doing an After Action Review, for the purpose of initial witness to the lost, it matters little which of these apologetical schools you use. Only later, when the person begins digging deeper this all might matter, but if we are talking about evangelism and not discipleship of those who are already saved and already willingly under the public preaching of the Word, then I would say the best approach is (1) caring relationship and (2) prayer.
     
  18. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    What do we mean by objective clarity? Does it make much sense to say that something is objectively clear? How can it be that an object is clearly a(n) "X" even if no one is around to observe it as being so? These are interesting questions that would perhaps take a bit more than a few paragraphs to answer...

    I would say that the notion of an ideal observer is entirely subjective; what would an ideal observer be except either (a) a person that sees it as we do, or (b) a person that sees it as it is really , or (b) a person that sees it as God sees it? In (a) and (c), it is still the subjective perception of a person; in the case of (b), how do we know that we don't see it as it is really? How can we think that it is even possible to observe something as it is really, without any subjective element at all? That would involve observing it without any "worldview" framework with which to fit in into; is there such a person out there? If it is possible, how do I know I'm not observing it objectively?

    I wouldn't know at what point in life those beliefs come up, or when the proposition "Jehovah is the creator of the universe, and it displays his power, etc." comes up in an unbeliever's mind to be immediately suppressed; but I do know that "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing", and that "the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned". And so in this sense, it would not be clear to any unbeliever that the ESV I have is the word of God.

    I did not say men subconsciously disbelieve in Yahweh; sorry if I am not being clear! :gpl: I said that there desire to disbelieve in him and, positively, to belief in false-god X in certain circumstances in which that sin is the relevant one--they may not even be aware of that desire at all. They might simply find themselves believing in Shiva, unaware of the fact that they are lying to themselves.

    Yes, this is what I was trying to describe above. :cool:
     
  19. TheFleshProfitethNothing

    TheFleshProfitethNothing Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't apologize for Christ:) I simpley; proclaim, declare, and contend for the faith.:doh:

    Oh! almost forgot! I'm not used to apologetics with mere natural brute beasts, as if I had the ability to give them the understanding of that which is beyond their understanding. I simply preach the gospel, unless I get wrapped up in some battle of intellectual reasoning with those who cannot rationally understand that which is otherwise irrational, though (it's ironic) that the gospel is completely RATIONAL, but only to those who are .....what?

    Take a wild guess...

    Check back later for the answers given;)
     
  20. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Obviously clarity presupposes an observer, but it doesn't follow that there is no standard of clarity that a rational observer ought to accept. And I would say that something is objectively clear or perspicuous if a rational observer can recognize it.

    Option (c) is what I would go with. And that's not subjective at all. In fact, it could not get any more objective than that. The new man, now regenerated, has the mind of Christ.

    I'm not sure I follow your reasoning that "in (a) and (c), it is still the subjective perception of a person." I realize that God is a subject. But all I'm doing right now is establishing what an ideal/rational observer is, not the objective clarity of something.

    First, I'd maintain that the fact that I do not know when exactly unbelievers would be confronted with those propositions is not disparaging to the point I'm trying to make.

    Second, the cross would be foolishness because the unbeliever has already (sinfully) selected an autonomous presupposition and is already interpreting information he is given through his unbelieving worldview. It does not follow that he was never confronted by propositions of Jehovah's sovereignty or status as Creator.

    So would you say that the desire to believe in a false god is more overt or prominent in their minds than the desire to disbelieve in Yahweh? And perhaps that the less prominent desire (the desire to disbelieve in Yahweh) would be an example of the "under the radar" but not subconscious actions of the unbeliever?

    If so, I would say we are in agreement. :D

    :):)
     
  21. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    I don't understand what you mean by a standard of clarity. I will just address this in the next paragraph.

    It would be fine if you would say that God's perception of an object X is the standard by which we judge clear perception of objects, but that doesn't mean that his perception is also not subjective. It can still be subjective (and I should think it is) but at the same time be our standard.

    What would you say it means to say that a person observes something objectively? If you say observe it how God observes it, then either (a): God also observes things objectively, in which case the question has not really been answered, or (b) God's perception of a thing is the standard and his perception is constant and unchanging, but that doesn't exclude the notion that it is equally subjective.
     
  22. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    I wouldn't say that the perception is subjective, but rather that whatever object God perceives -- or rather, some specific quality of an object -- would then be objectively perceptible. If God sees that the Bible is obviously His Word, then so should humans. If God perceives that the Bible is His Word, then the Bible must objectively possess some property such that any onlooker will undoubtedly notice that property. For if the object did not possess such a property, then God would be mistaken in perceiving such a property. And He cannot be mistaken.

    I think talking about a "person observing something objectively" can be misleading, as I am instead positing that some specific object has a property which is objectively perspicuous.

    Thus I would go with (b). If I have not explained myself clearly in the first paragraph of this post that I wrote (or if there are any fallacies (obviously)), then please do not hesitate to say so.
     
  23. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    I had a long response worded out, but I went in a circle and ended up back in the discussion of self-imposed blindness and so on.

    I suppose perhaps we can call it quits for this one :p
     
  24. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    That sounds good to me, Steven. I thoroughly enjoyed elaborating on my position as well as your helping me understand how our emotions and sinfulness play a role in what we believe.
     
  25. Oecolampadius

    Oecolampadius Puritan Board Sophomore

    It's good to see that Van Tillian Presup is winning the poll. :D
     
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