Quill and writing

The Contemporary Church is V – Vain

St Paul’s letter to the Romans addresses very practical application of the first eleven chapters in chapter 12.  There we read, ‘For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith’ (v3). Now this is much easier said than done. Why? Because we are inclined to think and judge all things autonomously – independently of God’s own criteria. This was Adam and Eve’s catastrophic mistake back in the garden!

Eric Hovind[i] posted a very short video on my YouTube subscription feed recently.  It lasted just 90s.  In it he declared, ‘Christians need to relearn the simple discipline of reading their Bibles and conforming their thinking to what God says instead of making the Bible conform with their own way of thinking.’  That is the remedy I am advocating throughout these Theses. Our failure to self-consciously do so constitutes pride in the noetic realm (i.e. in our thinking). And Scriptures warns us that ‘as a man thinks, so is he’ (Prov 23:7). That is to say, what we carelessly allow ourselves to think inevitably spills over into the practical way we end up living.  Our thoughts are like seeds which grow upwards and outwards. Thereafter, as Jesus warned, bad fruit would develop showing that the tree itself was intrinsically diseased – or perhaps deliberately poisoned! The psalmist says precisely the same thing in Ps 127:1 – ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.’

How many school projects superficially prosecuted under a Christian banner have later been shipwrecked due to the lack of care by those in charge in supposedly presenting children with an authentic Biblical worldview? By way of illustration, a Christian teacher reaches for a Geology textbook to help explain the different types of rocks to his class. He learns that certain metamorphic rocks undergo structural deformation and reconfiguration through the exertion of heat and pressure deep within the Earth’s crust over millions of years. The diagrams, labels and large, bold font used in the page title (“The Rock Cycle”) everywhere reinforce the secular journals and peer-reviewed papers readily persuading him that the so called ‘science’ must be true. And so, the lesson proceeds with young, impressionable minds subtly corrupted. What happened? The pastor/minister of that Church failed to provide his congregation with a comprehensive ‘Biblical worldview’ in which facts are not ‘brute’ but rather must comport within a holistic Biblical paradigm in which their attendant significance is constrained by Scripture. As Van Til stressed, only in the light of God’s interpretation does any fact possess objectivity (see Ps 36:9). Why? Because God is the author of all facts and therefore knows the true meaning of them all comprehensively. Our job as covenant children is to learn to think ‘analogically’ so that our own thinking conforms with God’s. We must learn to do what Johannes Kepler described as ‘thinking God’s thoughts after him.’

But autonomous (univocal) thought abounds within the contemporary Churches. We are wholly unaccustomed to bringing ‘every thought captive to Christ’ (2Cor 10:4). This example from Geology is but the tip of the iceberg. It was my training as a scientist at university, coupled with my determination to follow Christ with integrity, that quickly alerted me to the need to pursue my professional studies with a textbook in one hand and my Bible in the other. What is puzzling is that it took me more than twenty-five years to realise that the same modus operandi was required if I was to properly comprehend say Mathematics, History, Astrophysics, Archaeology, Psychology or Jurisprudence, etc. I have since learnt (through reading truly godly thinkers!) that the primary issue today is no different to what it was back in the sixteenth century Reformation – Sola Scriptura!!

In reality then, the real stumbling block to advancing God’s kingdom in the nations (Matt 28:18ff) is pride. Whereas Jesus declared that all authority in heaven and on earth – including that which is able to supply authoritative interpretation of all facts – is supplied by Christ alone in Scripture. It is the Church’s task to assert the basis for all true knowledge lies exclusively in the Bible. Here’s the point rehearsed a little differently: only One who possesses comprehensive knowledge is qualified to supply the meaning of any particular fact. God possesses such total knowledge; therefore, He alone must be trusted to supply its true significance. Whence the desperate need for Church leaders to become acquainted with Van Til’s writing. The great value of Van Til’s work is twofold: (i) he effectively silences the pretensions of unbelief showing that autonomous thought leads inevitably to absurdity (self-contradiction and arbitrariness) and (ii) he demonstrated that only Christianity provides the necessary precondition for making intelligible human reasoning.

This might seem radical, but it is nothing more or less than what the Scriptures actually teach. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Van Til taught that autonomous reasoning is like trying to scale a ladder made of water within an infinite shoreless ocean – it can’t be done! We need to exercise radical humility as covenant keeping children at every step we take in our quest for true knowledge. Our task is not easy but, with practice, we can begin to build a biblical paradigm of reality (i.e., metaphysics) in which Christ is central and in which the Scriptures serve as a necessary map and compass for every conceivable consideration.

God promises to teach us himself along the way: “His secret counsel is with the upright” (Prov 3:32). St Paul clearly warns against acquiring knowledge apart from God’s revelation – “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph 4:18). Again, He exhorts us: “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.” (Prov 2:1-5)

What God requires of us is that we learn to take His Word much more seriously. We need to swallow our pride and learn afresh to live and think every moment of our lives with reference to the Bible. Jesus thwarted Satan’s temptation quoting Deuteronomy: “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).

[i] Creation Today 2022