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Christian Civilization is the Only Civilization -

Part II: A Critique of Specific Disciplines and their Christian Reconstruction

 

Table of Contents:

 

Part I

Part II

 

 

            A person’s presuppositions color everything that he observes or contemplates.  Like glasses, they can either distort or clarify the world.  The presupposition of an absolute God has implications for all of life, just as the commitment to an impersonal universe has affected every area of life in modern culture.  In the remainder of this essay I will present introductions to the implications of the existence of an absolute God for several major disciplines.  A complete Christian reconstruction of the various disciplines would require exegesis and application of many individual Scriptural passages.  For the sake of brevity and focus I will avoid that, except for a few comments and works cited in the footnotes.  My focus is on the implications of the Christian view of the One and the Many for various disciplines in contrast to non-Christian views.

As explained in Part I, non-Christian worldviews suffer from an irresolvable tension between rationalism and irrationalism.  This is often expressed as the modern problem of objectivity versus subjectivity.  The Age of Faith is considered irretrevably lost, and now we are in the Age of Reason.  But the attempts at philosophical justifications of secular rationality have run into irrsolvable problems.  The attempt to be objective by relying on pure observation as the source of knowledge ran into the problem that a subjective, interpretative element could not be removed.  This has caused a swing toward embracing the subjective, but not as a new solution to explaining secular rationality but as the resignation of despair that there are no answers to the fundamental question of how we know things.  In our post-modern era, the reflexive leap back toward a defense of objectivity is, ironically, a leap of faith that there must be some solution to the problem of human rationality, even if no on has figured it out yet.

But there is a solution in the so-called irretrevably lost age of faith, although it must be a reformed understanding of faith that is built on the big "R" Protestant Reformation with its teaching of the sovereign Creator, which entails the removal of the Helenistic philosophical baggage of the form/matter dicotomy that became the rationalism/irrationalism tension of the modern age.  The Christian is able to acknowledge the subjective element in all interpretations of observable facts without having to accept irrationalism.  An interpretive element is part of any objective fact because all facts are the creation of an absolute Mind.  The subjective element does mean that everyone's interpretation is equally valid, for God's mind is the absolute, independent standard that defines what the facts are.

 

 

Art

            Defining art has been a perennial problem, but regardless of what the definition should be, regardless of whether the definition is in the form of necessary and sufficient conditions or in the form of family resemblances ala Wittgenstein, defining art is impossible in terms of non-Christian philosophy because defining anything is impossible if God does not exist.  Predication is impossible if God does not exist. To define art is to impose a unifying, abstract category on a diversity of sensible phenomena.  It is a matter of relating a unity to diversity.  It is flatly contradictory to begin with particulars that, by hypothesis, exclude abstract universals, and then try to relate these abstract particulars to abstract universals. [1]   There must be an eternal concrete universal in order for particulars and universals to be able to relate to one another.

Modern art has clearly favored the many in the dialectic tension between the one and the many.  The goal of modern art is to achieve greater freedom.  Having rejected the concrete universal God, modern artists have equated freedom with disorder.  Diversity becomes abstracted from all unity.  Freedom is achieved only to the extent that order is rejected.  Thus the modern artist is placed in the dilemma that achieving the goal of absolute freedom excludes the possibility of calling what he achieves “art,” or giving the creation any other evaluative term.  Artistic freedom becomes as stultifyingly uniform as pure order.  Gunther Stent observes how artistic revolution become self-defeating: 

 

As artistic evolution unfolds, the artist is being freed more and more from strict canons governing the method of working his medium of creative expression. The end result of this evolution has been that, finally, in our time, the artist’s liberation has been almost total. However, the artist’s accession to near-total freedom of expression now presents very great cognitive difficulties for the appreciation of his work:  The absence of recognizable canons reduces his act of creation to near-randomness for the perceiver. In other words, artistic evolution along the one-way street to freedom embodies an element of self-limitation. The greater the freedom already attained and hence the closer the approach to the random of any artistic style for the percipient, the less possible for any successor style to seem significantly different from its predecessor. [2]

 

As Stent’s quote suggests, the issue of the one and the many arises in relation to art with respect to its communicative function.  Although art may be produced for the purpose of the artist’s sole enjoyment, most often art is intended to communicate something to others.  If interpretations of art are purely subjective, then nothing can be communicated by art.  There could only be solipsism, each artist stuck in his own isolated world.  If art is to be a means of communication, there must be a universal human nature.  If humans come into existence from abstract particulars, then there is no basis for a unity in human nature that would allow communication.  If human nature arises Platonically, from abstract universals, then human nature will have no content.  On the Christian view there can be a unity among humans that allows for communication, by art or otherwise, because humans are made in the image of the Word – an absolutely rational, absolutely personal God.

Art often involves creating sensory-rich symbols, and a symbol is defined as a concrete, objective reality with an additional level of meaning beyond that reality.  But why should any collection of sensory inputs be able to refer to a higher spiritual, moral, or rational meaning?  Why should the paint, stone, sound waves or other material that constitute what is commonly called art be able to represent any meaning beyond themselves?  If the diverse world of sense experience is divorced from the unity of abstract concepts, then the sensory world can have no higher meaning, no more than beads without holes can be strung on an infinite string without ends. 

In terms of the concrete universal God, there is an answer to this problem.  As Van Til says, “Christ was the Logos of creation as well as the Logos of redemption. The things of nature were adapted by himself to the things of the Spirit. The lower was made for the higher. The lower did not just exist independently of the higher. And because all things are made by God, that is, through the eternal Logos of creation, we too can use symbolism and analogy and know that, though we must always look for the tertium comparationis in all symbolism, nevertheless it is at bottom true.  Without a revelational foundation all symbolism and all art in general would fall to the ground.” [3]   Only on Christian grounds is there justification for relating sensible phenomena to abstract rational concepts.

On the Christian view, humans are made in the image of the One who is the source of all beauty and moral perfection.  There is an infinite wellspring for the human artist to draw from for inspiration.  Yet some art that has received a great deal of media attention recently directly defames Christianity.  These works may be called art in a formal sense because they are sensory-rich symbols, but in another sense they are anti-art because they attack that which is necessary for the very intelligibility of art, the God of Christianity.  The artists who created these pieces are sitting on God’s lap in order to slap Him in the face because what they create would have no meaning if not for the One whom they attack.

Christianity is attacked in the name of freedom, but that freedom is an irrational freedom because it is a freedom that rejects all order, a diversity in abstraction from all unity.  The lawless, and especially in our day the pornographic, is exalted and the moral ideal of God’s law becomes a natural object of attack. [4]   By attacking that which is legitimate about Christianity, art is self-destructive. 

Challenging the present, corrupt institutions of power is often seen today as a necessary goal of art, and it is a legitimate goal of art in the Christian worldview, in which the source of art is ultimately not any corrupt human institution.  Because there is a transcendent, absolutely morally pure standard for art, art can display the moral courage to challenge the corrupt institutions of power in this world without self-destructing into an irrational freedom.  Even the church, as an institution composed of sinful humans, is a legitimate object of challenge by socially conscious artists. [5]  

Placing Christianity, ideally considered (i.e. God and His Word), ethically off-limits to criticism does not mean blinding one’s self to corruption.  Everyone has some ultimate standard of truth and beauty.  As ultimate, there is no higher standard to bring that standard into judgment.  Infallibility is an inescapable concept. [6]   If that ultimate source of judgment is said to be found in man and this world rather than in an absolute God, then the standard is self-destructive because the source of the standard is ultimately irrational.  Communicating an ethical message through art faces the same problems mentioned above of communicating any other meaning.  In a world of pure freedom, the artist's critical standard he intends to convey through his creation has no life or application beyond the moment it spontaneously arises in his own psyche.  But in addition to the problem of the one and the many, the lack of a transcendent ultimate standard of ethics undermines the possibility of any negative ethical judgment.  If all is one, if there is no transcendent standard of truth, then no ethical distinctions can be made.   There is no basis for distinguishing between truth and falsehood; ethical corruption is then equivalent to ethical virtue, darkness equivalent to light, ugliness equivalent to beauty.  Christianity, centered on the transcendent, concrete universal God, is the wellspring and ideal of all true art.

 

 

Civil Government and Law

Van Til has said, “There is no alternative but that of theonomy and autonomy” [7] – either God’s law or man’s self-made law.  If man is going to act like God and make his own law, he has two basic choices:  Abstract unity or abstract diversity.  Modern philosophy of law reflects this in presenting the two basic choices as between natural law and positivist law. [8]

There is such a thing as natural law because all facts of creation reveal a God who is the source of all law and whom we are obligated to obey.  However, natural law has traditionally been given an interpretation that entails anti-theistic views of the one and the many.  The premiere Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas is a prime example of one who makes such an error.  In his natural law argument for killing in self-defense he says, “Therefore this act, since one's intention is to save one's own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in ‘being,’ as far as possible.” [9]   From the fact that man is a being, Aquinas concludes that man ought to preserve his being.  But the attacker is a being too.  So why choose one being over the other?  In accordance with his endorsement of the Greek view of being and matter expressed elsewhere, Aquinas is saying that man has being to the extent that he participates in the divine Being.  This ultimate Being is an empty concept, because it is achieved by abstracting all diversity ("matter").  This empty concept of being in which humans allegedly participate provides no basis for making the distinction between “is” and “ought,”  no basis for a distinction between just and unjust beings, and thus provides no basis for killing an attacker rather than the attacked.  Evil, on this view, is non-being.  But complete emptiness and non-being are equivalent concepts, which means Good and Evil turn out to be the same thing. 

If goodness is being, then whatever is, is right.  Such a view is consistent with Charles Manson’s pantheistic philosophy, which he explains as, “I don’t think in goods or bads, just is’s, What it is, [10] and Marque de Sade’s naturalistic ethic in which it is right for men to dominate women just because they have the natural might.  Aquinas appeals to what is “natural,” but if a transcendent God is the source of law, nature is not itself normative.  The Christian view that God is transcendent is inconsistent with the Greek view of the Great Chain of Being (see diagram).   On the Christian view, nature cannot be appealed to as the ultimate source of law; nature can only convey what is normative.   Nature reveals God’s law; nature is not God.  Aquinas has fallen into univocal reasoning by appealing to the natural as normative.  The universal law defended by traditional natural law theory is an empty and useless authority.  But if there is a transcendent, concrete universal God, it is not necessarily true that every created being ought to preserve his being.  Some people deserve to die.  They should surrender to the authorities and meet their fate.  The Bible is clear on that. [11]

Natural law advocates often try to distinguish between is and ought by looking to moral positions on which all societies are in agreement, but the Bible does not support that as a standard for the will of God because all nations turned away from God after the Fall (Genesis 6:11; Romans 3:10-18), the wide gate is the path of destruction (Matthew 7:13), and as Romans 3:4 says, "Let God be true though every man a liar."  The unregenerate mind is set against God's law:  "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot" (Romans 8:7).  Sometimes natural law advocates look to what animals do as the standard for what is "natural" (and therefore good).   But, although animals can provide examples of comendable behavior (Proverbs 6:6), acting like wild beasts is often equated with wickedness rather than goodness in the Bible (2 Peter 2:12).   Nature suffers under the curse from the Fall of man (Genesis 3:17; Romans 8:20-22).  

The Biblical view of natural law is that God gives everyone a conscious to follow the "work of the law written on their hearts" (Romans 2:14-15) but conscious becomes heardened without God's grace (Romans 1:21-32).  God reveals Himself through creation (Romans 1:20), and moral reasoning from the perfect state of affairs prior to the fall is valid (Matthew 19:8), but humanity suppresses the revelation from creation (Romans 1:18).  The God against whom man has rebelled governs all areas of life, thus man’s rebellion against God involves all of life.  Therefore, God’s redemptive revelation to man must establish the ethical ideal for all of life, and the Holy Spirit must renew man's mind to follow God's revealed law in all areas of life.  Given the state’s monopoly on use of the “sword” to govern, state power is especially liable to great abuses in a world of sinners.  Following God’s guidance on the proper authority and limits of the state is, then, all the more important.

Some Christians have argued that natural law could at least be a source of laws for the State for those enlightened by the Holy Spirit to discern those laws, without Christian office holders being so "narrow" as to have to search the Bible for justification for laws and policies. But they fail to realize that even before the Fall, God did not leave Adam with natural law as his sole ethical guide; He revealed right and wrong through special revelation (Genesis 2:16-17).  How much more after the Fall is special revelation needed for ethical guidence.  God never intended natural law to be a sufficient source of moral standards.

In summary, traditional natural law theory fails because 1) it attempts to incorporate non-Christian concepts that are incommenserable with the Christian view of God and that reduce to absurdity, 2) it does not take sin seriously enough, by holding that sinful societies will express agreement with God's law in nature without the aid of redemptive, positive revelation and the redemptive work of the Holy Spirit on the mind of man, and 3) it mistakenly believes that natural law was intended to be a sufficient source of moral standards, especially for the State. In defense of God operating as behind a mask by ruling over the State through natural law, Martin Luther allegedly quipped that he would prefer a wise Turk to a foolish Christian as a ruler.  The preference may be valid, but it does nothing to disprove that a wise Christian would be better than a wise Turk.  Through common grace, a Turk (a non-Christian) may be a good ruler in many ways, but his beliefs about the ultimate nature of the world are in opposition to the source of all justice.  Only a wise Christian would seek out the clearest and most perfect standard of justice:  Biblical law.  Scripture is profitable to instruct in righteousness so "that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17, emphasis added).

One the other hand, the positivists claim that there is no law prior to man.  Man should make law purely based on a “scientific,” empirical investigation of the facts.  They are utilitarians.  In his famous essay “The Path of the Law,” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes says that the study of law is the study of “the prediction of the incidence of the public force through the instrumentality of the courts.” [12]   He says that “the man of the future is the man of statistics and economics.” [13]   He takes the view of “our friend the bad man,” [14] who does not care for rights or morality; he only looks to the material consequences, whether he will be fined or imprisoned, or just set free with a warning.  Evolution, Holmes says, knows nothing of moral absolutes; the ultimate source of law is man’s instincts for self-preservation and pleasure that are his evolutionary inheritance. [15]   He says that on the basis of such a view of law, our concern should be to reform law for maximum deterrence, not to conform to an abstract principle of justice. [16]  

Holmes’s view has the typical problem of utilitarianism, that there is no basis for establishing a goal by which utility can be measured (see the Ethics section).  On the basis of non-rational sense experience, no unifying goal that ought to be pursued can be derived.  What behaviors a society seeks to deter is completely arbitrary.  The bad man has just as much right to further his goal of killing and plundering as others have to pursue the goal of protecting their life and property.  What the law defines as “right” is just a matter of who has the might to wield the force of the law’s sanctions.

Both traditional natural law theory and legal positivism fail to provide a justification for the ethical legitimacy of State law.  Neither one can account for law.  Both are empty authorities, allowing might to define right.  They both fail because they both reject a transcendent, concrete universal God as the basis for law.  Only in terms of Christian theism can the universals of law apply to the particulars of experience and can there be a distinction between is and ought.

People in modern times have been conditioned to react with revulsion to the word theocracy, often mistaking it with a form of government (like an ecclesiocracy, where the church rules over the state) rather than a philosophy of government (see Christian Views on Church and State).  But given the existence of an absolute God, it is inescapable that states are obligated to be theocracies in at least a general ethical sense.  The word “theocracy” means God (Greek – theos) rules (Greek – kratos).  An absolute God is the origin and sustainer of all that exists, including the state and its concepts of justice.  Affirmation of an absolute God entails denial of human autonomy (self [autos] law [nomos]).  The connotations of the word theocracy often include ecclesiocracy (rule by the church clergy over the state) and establishmentarianism (state favor and financial support of a particular denomination).  But theocracy does not necessarily involve either of those.  In terms of the general definition just noted, theocracy is compatible with institutional separation of church and state (thus a rejection of ecclesiocracy) and disestablishmentarianism.

The state must submit to the authority of God, and the state must look to the Bible for the content of what God has authorized.  The next question is which parts of the Bible the modern state is obligated to follow.  Everything in the Law of Moses?  Just the New Testament?  Or what? 

The Biblical worldview rejects moral evolutionism.  God is omniscient; therefore He can never be confronted by new facts.  Because history can never outrun God, there is no necessary reason for His commandments to become outdated.  Therefore we should approach the issue of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments with the presumption of ethical continuity.  Situations can change so that a particular law ceases to apply, but the Bible itself must establish when that occurs.  The situation to which a law applies is part of the law.  The necessity to submit to God’s laws, therefore, entails the necessity to submit to God’s authority to determine when or if a particular law will no longer apply at some point in history.  Atheists often claim that if you hold to the continuing authority of any particular law in the Old Testament, like the condemnation of homosexuality has an abomination (Leviticus 18:22), then you must hold to the continuing authority of all Old Testament laws, like the prohibition against eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10). But there is no reason that God can't say that some laws in the Old Testament are for a limited historical situation, and others are historically universal obligations.  Beyond the presumption of continuity, determining whether a particular Old Testament law has continuing validity under the New Testament is an exegetical matter. [17]

In the minds of modern westerners, the word theocracy often conjures thoughts of a powerful police state that uses violence to coerce converts to Christianity.   Actually, the Biblical view is closer to libertarianism than statism.   The existence of an absolute God entails a limited state.  Pagan worldviews reject the distinction between Creator and creature and thus have no truly transcendent authority beyond man.  The problem of the one and the many becomes the problem of anarchy versus totalitarianism when applied to the state.  If each individual man is the ultimate authority, then there is anarchy.  If collective man, the state, is the ultimate authority, then there is totalitarianism. Freedom can only exist at the expense of order, and order only at the expense of freedom.  R.J. Rushdoony explains the inherently totalitarian nature of atheist political philosophy:

 

Humanistic law, moreover, is inescapably totalitarian law.  Humanism, as a logical development of evolutionary theory, holds fundamentally to a concept of an evolving universe.  This is held to be an “open universe,” whereas Biblical Christianity, because of its faith in the triune God and His eternal decree, is said to be a faith in a “closed universe.”  This terminology not only tends to prejudice the case; it reverses reality.  The universe of evolutionism and humanism is a closed universe.  There is no law, no appeal, no higher order, beyond and above the universe.  Instead of an open window upwards, there is a closed cosmos.  There is thus no ultimate law and decree beyond man and the universe.  Man’s law is therefore beyond criticism except by man.  In practice, this means that the positive law of the state is absolute law.  The state is the most powerful and most highly organized expression of humanistic man, and the state is the form and expression of humanistic law.  Because there is no higher law of God as judge over the universe, over every human order, the law of the state is a closed system of law.  There is no appeal beyond it.  Man has no “right,” no realm of justice, no source of law beyond the state, to which man can appeal against the state.  Humanism therefore imprisons man within the closed world of the state and the closed universe of the evolutionary scheme. [18]

 

In contrast, the Christian view, with its absolute ontological distinction between Creator and creature, does not allow either the individual or the state to be divinized to be the ultimate authority.  The Christian worldview allows both freedom from and authority for the state.  Since only God possess ultimate authority, the authority of any human institution, whether church, state, family, or an individual, is limited by the authority of God.  The state has authority to act where God has given it jurisdiction (authority, literally, to speak [diction] law [juris]), and cannot act beyond that limited authority.  Church, state, family, and individual have their own spheres of limited authority under God, and thus serve as checks and balances against the potential abuses of each other.

On the Christian view, the state cannot effect conversion by force.  The authority to use force is limited to the restraint of outward evil only.  A thief may see the light when he feels the heat of a just punishment by the state, but ultimately a changed heart can only come by an individual making that decision under the conviction from the Holy Spirit.  This is in sharp contrast with materialistic atheist political philosophies like those of Hobbes, Marx, and Skinner, which claim to be able to change the inner person by changing the environment.  The consequence of such a view is that the populace of any state become Pavolovian dogs being conditioned by their statist masters. [19]    The authority of the state on this view is not one of moral right, but of material might.  The individual responsibility of every human being before God is the only possible basis for individual freedom from the state as well as the moral responsibility of the individual to the state.

 

 

Ecology

            Ecology and civilization have been regarded as in great conflict in modern thinking.  This is a logical outgrowth of the dialectic tension between the one and the many in non-Christian thought.  Non-rational nature, on the one hand, and the rational categories of human thought that create human civilization, on the other, are treated as alien to one another.  Some environmentalists known as anarcho-primitivists have tried to be so consistent with one/many dualism that they have called for the destruction of human civilization in order to save the environment, reverting human life to the level of the "noble savages" of the “Stone Age.”  When Rousseau decided that he would live consistently with his nature-exalting, technology-rejecting philosophy, he threw away his watch.[20]   Many hippies of the 1960’s and 70’s followed his example.   Anarcho-primitivists claim that for life to revolve around such systematic and minute divisions of time is “unnatural,” and hence unethical, because it involves the imposition of abstract rational categories onto nature.[21]  The invention of precision time-measuring instruments has been essential to the progress of modern civilization.  They serve to increase work productivity and are necessary for scientific measurements, which lead to technological advances.

            Ironically, many environmentalists are also scientists.  As scientists they attack Christianity as antithetical to science; but then as environmentalists, they attack Christianity and the Dominion Mandate of Genesis as the impetus for modern technological advances that destroy the environment. These contradictory criticisms reflect the unresolvable logical tensions that are inherent in unbelieving thought rather than truly reflecting problems of Christianity.

            Genesis is actually an example of the positive relationship between ecology and civilization that exists when the one and the many are not in dialectic tension.  The Dominion Mandate of Genesis is not a command to destroy the environment through man’s use of natural resources for his own selfish ends.  Adam is commanded to “tend and keep” (Gen. 2:15) the garden of Eden.  He is told to tend it, not have a hands-off approach.   He is told to keep it, not destroy it.  The sub-human creation was not intended to be left alone.  It was intended to be developed by man.  Creation is the product of an absolutely rational Mind, thus there is no inherent conflict between the material world and abstract rational thought.

            Genesis provides a basis for environmental ethics.  Nature has value because it is God's creation.  He created it "good."  Any evil, including the evil of environmental destruction, is a result of the Fall of man, not the command of God to man to be fruitful and multiply.  The earth was made for man to populate.  Modern environmentalists see human population growth as an enemy of the natural environment, but it is sinful human populations that are destructive to the environment, not human population as such.  The Fall was primarily the alienation of man from his Creator, but because this Creator is absolute, sin and salvation involve more than just the human soul.  They include all of God's creation.  Man is also alienated from his proper relationship to nature, and nature is alienated from itself.  The Fall resulted in a curse on creation, underwhich it still groans, awaiting the final redemption of mankind in which all things will be made new.  As the redemption of man progresses, the healing of the earth's alienation progresses.[22]  Because man was planned to populate the earth, rather than being an accident of nature, a human population living in obedience to the Creator's laws will see nature yield its fruit in abundance.  Human population growth requires human use and management of minerals, water, plants, and animals, and many environmentalists would see this as environmental destruction.  But "environmental destruction" must be defined by God rather than being just any intervention of man into his natural environment.  As soverign Creator, God defines the purpose of everything's existence.  God imputes all value to created things.  God's moral predication is the necessary precondition for all human moral predication.  If God imputes value to a tree and commands man, "Don't touch it," then man should not touch it.  If God says burn the tree, it should be burned.  Human use of the environment in conformity to God's law is, by definition, not destruction.

            Many environmentalists will protest having to heed God's fiat commands to determine how to manage the environment, but naturalism cannot provide a basis for environmental ethics.  Animal rights and environmental justice are oxymorons in terms of the naturalistic philosophy that pervades environmentalism.  A "right" is not a material object.  Humans came from amoral nature; our existence is completely contingent upon it; yet environmentalists view human activity as unnatural, and hence immoral.  But if all is nature, nothing could be unnatural.  If humans destroy all other life forms, it is no more unnatural than if a giant meteor wiped out all earthly life.  The attempt to exalt the status of nature by viewing humans as "one" with nature, whether in terms of naturalism or pantheism, fails to provide a basis for environmental ethics because it excludes a trascendent standard, which means that there is no basis for making the is/ought distinction that is necessary for the distinction between right and wrong.  Exalting dirt to the status of man also means that man can be treated like dirt.  

 

Economics

            Like the tension in political philosophy between statist unity and anarchist chaos, economics faces the tension between economic centralization by the state versus the decentralization of the free market.  Socialism hopes to begin with the unity of state planning and then find a way to meet all the individual needs of people.  Libertarianism hopes to begin with the individual needs of people and then arrive at a universal voluntary market that increases every participant’s prosperity.   And then the “mixed economy” supporters want some of both state-imposed unity and free markets.  In order to defend their views, all schools of economic thought need to account for objective and subject value and a connection between the two.  They need to account for objective value as a guide for state economic policy and legislation.  They need to account for a connection between the subjective valuations of individuals and the objective price of a good or service.  But given their rejection of the concrete universal God, none of these schools of economics can succeed at offering a philosophically principled explanation of how the one and the many can fruitfully interact with each other.

The basis for unity for modern socialists, however, is not platonic rationalism.  As with all prominent schools of modern non-Christian thought, both the socialists and the atheist capitalists begin with the human mind and/or senses as the source of all knowledge and these human faculties having arisen from purposeless matter.  The socialists hope that now that rational humans have arrived on the scene after billions of years of purposeless evolution, in which goods were distributed to the strongest and the weaker were left to die, now purposeful humans, through the state, can direct the course of societal evolution and distribute goods equally to all members of human society. 

First, there is the obvious problem that survival-of-the-fittest evolution provides no basis for egalitarian “fairness.”  The atheist socialist says that all is nature, and then tries to create an economic theory that is an attempt to escape nature.  They try to derive an abstract, universal moral principle out of amoral particulars.

Second, there is the epistemic problem of the elite planners being able to know the constantly changing needs of all the individuals in society and being able to know enough about the constantly changing labor force and physical production resources to meet those needs.  The failure of state-directed economies to gain this knowledge results in what the libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises called “planned chaos.”  The centralized administration of the state is unable to grasp the myriad particulars of a nations economy.

What constitutes an economic need comes down to an issue of value priorities.  Let’s say that the socialists tried to establish value priorities on the basis of a purely subjective theory of value, trying to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number.  Achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number sounds like a great idea as the highest value priority, but different things make different people happy, and different things make the same person happy, or miserable, at different times.  On the basis of individual pleasure and experience as the ultimate source of knowledge and ethics, hedonism cannot account for fixed values or public values.  There is no way to make interpersonal comparisons of purely subjective utility.  On the basis of individual pleasure and experience, hedonism can provide no universal standard to say that the pleasure of one man eating cheese has any greater or lesser value than the happiness of an entire nation. There is no way to find a unified goal purely on the basis of the subjective determinations of utility of masses of individuals.  There would be no individual psychological unity over time that is needed for one person to rank his various pleasures and pains; and then there would be no basis for comparing those rankings with the rankings of other people.  In a world without ultimate rational unity, each mind would be an isolated world all to itself.  The constantly changing subjective preferences of the masses in terms of ordinal rankings – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. – could not be converted into objective, cardinal values.  And then there is no way for the finite socialist planner to compare (unify) the changing subjective preferences of the masses to a mountain of data on the changing supply of labor, with all the skills and competency levels of nations’ populace and available foreign labor, and data on raw material in that nation and the available raw material throughout the world, and data on physical production resources for all stages of production, and all the possible alternative uses of those resources (all without the use of money as a means of economic calculation) in order to come up with a cardinal value like 2.5 ration vouchers (the socialist version of money) for a gallon of milk. [23]

If values are objective, then there is the problem that, as non-natural universals, there is no basis for their existence in a universe which is said to be composed only of concrete particulars – here’s a chunk of matter, there’s a chunk of matter, and that’s all there is.  Even if abstract universals could arise in a materialistic universe, they would have no application to that universe because the universality is achieved precisely by the exclusion of particularity.  There could be no unifying plan developed by the bureaucrats that could apply to all the individual human and material elements of a national economy.   The futility of the whole atheist socialist program is the futility of Van Til’s man made of water trying to escape an infinite sea of water on a ladder of water.  Since there is no rational basis for elite statist planners to direct an economy fairly, the elites end up arbitrarily substituting their own will for everyone else’s, which means a totalitarian state that rules over a destitute and dieing people because the state could not direct the resources to meet the people’s needs.  Historical examples of such socialist nations in the Twentieth Century are numerous.

But atheist capitalism fairs no better.  If socialism results in planned chaos, atheist capitalism, with its philosophical starting point of the abstract individual, can only result in unplanned chaos.  Like socialism, it begins with impersonal evolutionary forces as the ultimate explanation for economics in human society.  But contrary to their claims, the naturalistic survival-of-the-fittest scenario does not entail a free market economic system.

Free market exchange requires property rights being respected.  Otherwise exchange of capital could be by brute force rather than by voluntary agreement.  But if value is purely subjective, there is no basis for saying that one person ought to respect other people’s property.  A truly consistent naturalistic philosophy of economics would allow everyone to take the possessions of others by brute force.  Survival-of-the-fittest economics could even result in a totalitarian state:  The fittest could so overpower all others that he makes them his slaves and himself the absolute ruler of the state, at least until others come along and take it all from him.  Demanding that you hand over your property or I'll shoot is Darwinianism; voluntarily exchanging property or services for other property or services is capitalism.  Free market capitalism depends on private property rights being universally valued and on the state enforcing the right to private property when thieves refuse to acknowledge its objective value.  Beginning with the abstract individual, atheist capitalism provides no basis for the universal value of property rights.

The atheist capitalist argues that capitalism is superior to socialism by appealing to empirical data that shows a greater gross national product (GNP) under capitalism than under socialism.  But on the basis of its purely subjectivist theory of value, there is no way to make such aggregate calculations of value such as the GNP.  There is no way to make interpersonal comparisons of purely subjective utility.  Who is to say that the people in one country have a greater quantity of pleasures than another country?  The atheist capitalist has no basis to say that a high GNP is even a value that ought to be achieved.  A radical environmentalist may value the environment so much that he would rather see human society revert to the Stone Age so that man can no longer destroy other species.  If value is purely subjective, there is no way to say that a high GNP is a higher value than environmental preservation.  That would necessitate value being objective, independent of any individual preference.

That aggregates of people ought to value the same thing, whether a high GNP or individual property rights, also presupposes a fixed human nature, but that is inconsistent with naturalistic evolution.  Marx argued that human nature is not fixed, and therefore economic systems should evolve as well.  As Gary North says, “What if the socialist argues that we are entering into a new era?  The old laws of capitalism, including bourgeois morality, are now being superseded by a new era of proletarian production, proletarian morality, and proletarian economics!  This is precisely what Marx and his followers have been arguing since the 1840’s.  This has been an extremely successful argument.” [24]   Given that atheist capitalists accept the premise of naturalistic evolution, they cannot avoid the reasonableness of Marx’s conclusion.

In terms of creating objective value out of a purely subjectivist theory of value, atheist capitalists have basically the same problem with price as the socialists have with ration vouchers.  On the basis of a purely subjectivist theory of value, values cannot be ranked for one individual over time because there is no basis for psychological unity over time; there would be no basis for comparisons of an individual’s preferences with other people’s preferences resulting in an objective price of $2.50 for a gallon of milk; then there would be no basis for an aggregate analysis of individual preferences into objective values like GNP; and then there would be no basis for saying that any aggregate economic outcome ought to be the outcome that all the masses of individuals should strive for. [25]

Atheist capitalists have promoted a so-called valueless economics.  It’s all about efficiency, they say.  But this argument suffers from the problem of utilitarian ethics in general:  Efficiency must be defined in terms of a goal, and a universal goal for society cannot be known on the basis of a purely subjectivist theory of value.  Abstract plurality cannot be the foundation for universals.  Atheist capitalism’s touting of valueless economics has historically given the moral high-ground to the socialists, who have vigorously promoted the moral value of statist wealth redistribution as being fairer to the weak than nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism.  Based on their common assumption that the material world is all that exists, neither the atheist socialist nor the atheist capitalist can account for the non-natural property of oughtness. But given the assumption of a universe that is ultimately impersonal, having no interest in the survival and prosperity of humanity, very few atheists have been willing to risk the well-being of humanity to an unplanned market, when, having achieved intelligence, man can now direct his own fate to some degree.  Having evicted the universal-personal God from the world, an all-controlling state is the next best thing.  The howling winds of an impersonal universe are just too frightening for humanity to trust its survival to an unplanned economy.  Søren Kierkegaard observed in his day:

      Just as desert travellers combine into great caravans from fear of robbers and wild beasts, so the individuals of the contemporary generation are fearful of existence, because it is God-forsaken; only in great masses do they dare to live, and they cluster together en masse in order to feel that they amount to something. [26]

 

North summarizes the problem with the atheist’s defense of the free market:  “If you cannot legitimately appeal to fixed human nature (evolutionism denies such a thing), and you cannot appeal to fixed moral standards (process philosophy denies any such standards), and you cannot appeal to the greater output of capitalism (no interpersonal comparisons of subjective utility are scientifically valid), then how are you able to defend the free market?  Who is going to pay attention?” [27]

The atheist universe is ultimately purposeless.  The universe does not care whether humanity prospers or even survives.  At any moment human civilization could be wiped out.  A cyclical view of time goes hand in hand with a purposeless universe.  As noted below, it was Christianity, with its ultimately rational and purposeful universe, that introduced the idea of linear time to the world. [28]   Time perspective has tremendous effects on economic progress.  Time is money; it is an irreplaceable natural resource.   One’s economic class is determined by one’s time perspective.  Those entrenched in the lower class have a present-oriented perspective.  They are willing to sacrifice a great amount of future goods for more immediate gratification.  This time preference for money results in high interest rates:  the lower class will go into debt with a high interest loan in order buy their beer and cigarettes.  A lender must charge higher interest rates to present-oriented people because of the risk that the borrower will default in his payments before the loan can be paid off.  And the present-oriented will not save and invest their money, therefore investment capital in a present-oriented society is in short supply.

In contrast, future-oriented people are more willing to invest in the future.  A society dominated by future-oriented people will save and invest so that loans are available in great supply, which drives down the price (interest rate) of loans. And the future-oriented are a lower credit risk; they can be counted on to make payments, which also drives down the interest rate of loans.  Over a period of time a society that is future oriented will be more prosperous than a society that is present oriented. [29]   But in the purposeless universe of atheism, there is no justification for being future-oriented.

Many non-Christian individuals today are prosperous and future-oriented.  But it is only Christianity that provides the justification to be future oriented.  With an absolutely rational God ruling the world, there can be an expectation of regularity – in nature, in standards of personal morality, and in civil law.  On non-Christian presuppositions, there is no basis for such expectations of regularity.  “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:32) is the only logically consistent view for a non-Christian to take.  By the (common) grace of God, many non-Christians are not that consistent.  But, lacking a rational justification for economic progress, a non-Christian civilization will have the seeds of economic destruction firmly rooted in it.  The arguments and actions of those who favor economically destructive, present-oriented views will not be easily resisted, since in terms of that society’s shared presuppositions, there is no logically valid case against such views.  The logical consequences of God-denying irrationalism and disorder will eventually bear fruit in history, making the future a riskier place, both psychologically and empirically, which will cause the price of the future use of money (interest rates) to increase, thereby drying up the availability of investment capital, which eventually stagnates economic growth.  There is no guarantee that every individual who becomes a Christian will become wealthy.  After all, material wealth is not the ultimate value for Christians; sometimes it must be sacrificed for higher values.  But material wealth is a blessing from God, and a self-consciously Christian civilization will naturally become abundantly wealthy. [30]

On the basis of a concrete universal God, there is no conflict between economic freedom and economic order, or between objective and subjective value.  As completely self-contained, God’s subjective values are also objective values.  In the world God creates, the objective value of individual facts is imputed by God, and as creatures made in His image, humans can and are supposed to reflect God’s imputation of value in their imputation of value.  On the basis of God as “the absolutely sovereign subjective Imputer of economic value,” [31] the subjective evaluations of an individual can be related to the subjective evaluations that that individual makes at another time, subjective evaluations of different individuals can be related to each other, and subjective evaluations can be related to objective values of facts in the external world.  There are objective values, like personal property rights and human prosperity, because there is a universal God.  Yet the universals do not exclude the significance of the particulars.  The valuations, calculations, and knowledge of individual actors in the free market are possible and significance because humans are created in the image of God.  As North says, “The constant factor in market imputations over time is therefore the image of God in men, as far as our assessment of other people’s imputation of meaning is concerned.  The ultimate constant is God’s evaluation of worth and His plan.  There is objective value in the universe, and men, to one degree or another, must conform themselves to, or react against, this standard of value.” [33]   The existence of the absolute God makes economic thought possible. [33]

 

 

Education

            Relativists, as relativists, can’t teach.  They have no knowledge to communicate.  They cannot say “this is true” about anything because that would be making an absolute statement.  Knowledge is completely relative to the individual person, so all relativistic teaching amounts to “Think whatever you want to think, and do whatever you want to do.”  Teachers who try to be consistent relativists end up teaching about a number of competing theories, but cannot tell their students what is true or what to do.  By trying to give equal validity to all points of view, they all hang in the air, none of them being shown to be connected to reality.  Pure subjectivism replaces objective knowledge.  On the basis of a denial of the concrete universal God of the Bible, nothing can be learned.  Either learning can never begin because the gathering of particular facts is done to the exclusion of a universal standard that could integrate the facts, or there is nothing to learn because the human mind is one with a universal mind.

            Because of the irresolvable dialectic tensions between the one and the many in non-Christian thought, if the non-Christian teacher is not teaching theories with no relevance to life, he is forced to teach a multitude of individual facts that are merely trivia because no connection is made between them.  “A teacher who concentrates on facts at the expense of universals will likely concentrate on the regurgitation of these facts at the expense of understanding them.  They will quickly be forgotten, not being tied to any universal organizing principles.” [34]   Because non-Christian teachers are made in the image of God, they are often inconsistent with such extremes, and Christian educators can fall short of their calling by not evaluating theories according to the Biblical standard or by teaching facts as if they were unrelated.

            Similarly, whereas non-Christian education has a tendency to focus on an academic education to the exclusion of vocational training, or vocational training to the exclusion of an academic education (John Dewey), the two are integrated in Christian philosophy.  “Learning is never for learning’s sake alone, but at every point it aims to fulfill the divine task given to man.  The ivory tower image of university training is thus inconsistent with Christian theism.  Academic education and vocational training are not antithetical or even supplementary but necessarily coexist.” [35]   Metaphysics is considered the epitome of irrelevance by modern, empiricist philosophy, but it becomes relevant to every area of life when the Great Metaphysical Being has sovereignly created history and has communicated concrete directions to mankind for how to function in this world.

            The university is the citadel of modern education, and the non-Christian worldview dominates it.  Yet the concept of a university is unintelligible in terms of the non-Christian worldview.  On the assumption that abstract particulars are the origin of all that exists, there could be no unity among the various fields of study to warrant the name “university.”  On the assumption that an abstract unity is the origin of all that exists, there could be no content to the various fields of study.

            The only theory of knowledge of that allows for the possibility of education is one that regards all facts as revelation facts.   And given the entrance of sin, the redemptive revelation of the Bible is necessary to set all areas of knowledge in their proper perspective.  God as the ultimate Teacher must be presupposed by all human teachers and pupils, since all human knowledge is receptively reconstructive of God’s original knowledge.  Sin severed the relationship between the ultimate Teacher and his vice teachers and pupils, but the grace of Christ, as communicated in the Bible, restored it.  “Thus there is no textbook more important than the Bible.  It is not merely a text alongside other texts, but it contains the interpretive principles to determine the content and structure of all texts.   It is the Light of all lights.”[36]   Or as Van Til says, “Whatever is in accord with Scripture is educative; whatever is not in accord with it is miseducative.  Difficult as it may be for both the teacher and the pupil to make out in individual instances how to apply this criterion, the criterion is plain and simple enough.” [37]   The Bible will not give all the details to be known in any particular academic discipline; it does not negate the need for research.  But the Bible is necessary to understand the facts in their proper context.  The necessity of the Bible for knowledge does not mean you do not have to go to Africa to learn about the animal life there, but it does mean that you should take your Bible with you to Africa

            To say that the existence of God is necessary for the intelligibility of any subject that might be taught is not to say that everything taught by secular schools is completely false.  A secular school may teach mathematics, for example, very accurately.  The instruction is false in the sense that, by denying the dependence of mathematics on God, whether implicitly or explicitly, mathematics is placed in a false context, a context that cannot account for the possibility of mathematics.  The secular school teaches mathematics accurately to the extent that it is inconsistent with its secular beliefs.  The unbeliever can count, but he cannot account for his counting. [38]   The same goes for all other subjects.  To truly understand any subject, the subject must be placed in the context of God’s comprehensive rule over His creation.

            The rule by which modern American education is run, and which is enforced by the courts, is that public education must be religiously neutral or have a secular purpose.  But God’s existence being necessary for any fact to be intelligible, neutrality toward God in any area of education is impossible.  There are no secular areas of life.  God rules over all.

            Neutrality would be possible in regard to a finite god.  The false assumption that the Christian God is finite, only relating to the subjective realm of faith, emotion, and morality, and independent of the so-called secular realm of reason, science, and state, has made the claim of religious neutrality in education appear credible, and indeed necessary, to the modern mind.  But to exclude a God that claims authority over all of life is not neutral toward that God but a denial of Him.  “Neutrality is negation.” [39]   Given the soundness of the argument for God’s existence above, God’s comprehensive authority is a rationally inescapable truth.

            Since knowledge is inconsistent with the denial of God, a secular school system has the seeds of its own destruction firmly rooted in its foundation.  Without a return to God, the pull to be consistent with its unbelieving principles will bring it closer and closer to destruction.  If there is not revival, God will bring judgment on educational systems that deny Him.  The decline of education in America is already a sign of God’s judgment.  The rise of private Christian schools and Christian homeschooling in recent decades has stemmed the slide toward further destruction.  The major motivation for the exodus from public schools has been that Evangelical Christians have understood to some extent the dependence of morality on God, and have recognized the obvious lack of morality in public schools.  Even non-Christians can easily see the decline of morality in the schools with the rise of teen pregnancy, drugs, and school shootings.  Morality is dependent on God, but that is not the whole story.  What Evangelicals have not widely perceived is that knowledge is equally dependent on God.   Explicitly Christian education, conceived broadly in terms of the entire curriculum being based on a comprehensive Christian worldview, and not conceived narrowly as teaching a Bible class along with secular subjects, is the only solution to the crises in modern education that can succeed in the long run.

 

 

Ethics

The standard ethics textbooks these days portray the landscape of ethical theory as a choice between two basic options:  Immanuel Kant’s deontology or John Mill’s utilitarianism.[40]  Deontology is a duty-based ethic.  Kant said that ethics should be concerned with norms that are chosen on the basis of logical consistency and without regard to consequences.  He taught that there is no authority above the human mind, so these norms must be chosen freely by the individual person.  Man is a law (nomos) to himself (autos).  Mill’s utilitarianism is a view in which consequences are regarded as the essence of ethics.  The ethical is equated with the practical – whatever experience shows will work best to achieve a desired goal.  Kant’s ethic is based on autonomous human reason, Mill’s on autonomous human sense experience.  Both approaches reject the authority of an absolute God as the basis for ethics.  Both views try to account for ethics in terms of the one and the many being abstracted from each other.  Kant appeals to the abstract unity of reason, Mill to the abstract diversity of sense experience. 

Yet both Kant and Mill try to integrate unity and diversity into their ethical theories. Like Plato and the Sophists mentioned above, they each must take in each others washing in order to make their views sound reasonable.  Kant wants abstract reason to apply to the world of sense experience, and Mill wants to derive universal ethical principles from the world of sense experience.  But because their starting point is the one or the many in abstraction from the other, they both fail.  They begin with the non-moral and non-rational as ultimate, and so must end there.  Van Til observed, “[I]f man tries to ‘liberate’ himself from the background of the absolute plan of God, he has to start his moral activity in a perfect blank, he has to continue to act as a moral blank and he has to act in the direction of a moral blank.”[41]  Kant correctly argues that universal laws of what moral beings ought to do cannot be derived from the changing world of sense experience of what is:  "For example, pure sincerity in friendship can be demanded of every man, and this demand is not in the least diminished if a sincere friend has never existed, because this duty, as a duty in general, prior to all experience lies in the idea of a reason which determines the will by a priori grounds."[42]  And Mill correctly argues that ethics derived from abstract reason could not provide concrete, workable ethical rules and must ultimately draw on sense experience:

    It is not my present purpose to criticize these things; but I cannot help referring, for illustration, to a systematic treatise by one of the most illustrious of them, the Metaphysics of Ethics  by Kant.  This remarkable man, whose system of thought will long remain one of the landmarks in the history of philosophical speculation, does, in the treatise in question, lay down a universal first principle as the origin and ground of moral obligation; it is this:  "So act that the rule on which thou actest would admit of being adopted as a law by all rational beings."  But when he begins to deduce from this precept any of the actual duties of morality, he fails, almost grotesquely, to show that there would be any contradiction, any logical (not to say physical) impossibility, in the adoption by all rational beings of the most outrageously immoral rules of conduct.  All he knows is that the consequences of their universal adoption would be such as no one would choose to incur.[43]

 

Both Kant and Mill are able to refute the other by pointing out how the other one wants to arrive at a point that is excluded by his premises.

Kant’s “categorical imperative,” that a moral act will be one that is capable of becoming a universal law for all rational beings, is reasonable on its surface at least.  What reasonable person would disagree that the same rules should apply to everyone?  Likewise, Mill’s utilitarian approach that moral acts are ones that maximize human happiness is reasonable on the surface.  What reasonable person would disagree that improving the lives of our fellow human beings is essential to ethics?  Both views have been appealing because they both have elements of the truth.  They are operating off stolen capital from Christianity.  Christ said that the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second to love your neighbor as yourself.   Christ taught respect for the absolute commands of God, and respect for individuals in their various needs.

Law and Love            Unlike Kant and Mill, Christ has a metaphysical and epistemological foundation in the nature of an absolute God that is logically compatible with his moral teaching of duty to moral law and concern for individual consequences.  Since the divine Christ is both the source of moral absolutes and of the direction of history, there is never a conflict between duty to law and achieving the best consequences.  As the Concrete Universal, God has perfectly integrated the moral law and historical outcomes.  Doing the right thing does not always immediately result in the best consequences, but eventually it always does.  The Final Judgment sets the record straight.

Kant cannot justify his rule of equal treatment for all humans on the basis of his philosophy because he cannot even know if other people exist.  According to him, all universals are a projection of the individual, autonomous human mind.  To know that other people exist would be to know things-in-themselves, the noumenal world, which is impossible on his view.  And even in his isolated, solipistic world, Kant cannot account for the integration of universals with particulars because his universal begins as a pure blank, excluding all particularity.

Utility or efficiency must be defined in terms of a goal, and a goal is a unification of a diversity of historical particulars; but abstract plurality cannot be the foundation for universals.  Mill’s view of ethics has superficial plausibility because he sneaks in a goal that cannot be justified on the basis of his philosophy.  He establishes the goal of happiness on the basis of his experience that all people have happiness as a goal:  "No reason can be given why the general happiness is desirable, except that each person, so far as he believes it to be attainable, desires his own happiness."[44]   Mill commits the naturalistic fallacy:  Just because people desire something does not mean that they ought to desire it.  If there is no difference between is and ought, then there is no point to debates about ethics.  Everything is right.  Ethics reduces to “do whatever you want to do.”  And furthermore, Mill cannot know the universal of what all people want on the basis of his empiricist epistemology that begins with abstract particulars. The existence of an absolute God is necessary for the possibility of ethical goals, and the transcendence of that God (i.e. the Creator/creature distinction) is necessary for making a distinction between people pursuing some goals that are good and others that are bad.

In terms of the human will, non-Christian philosophies are faced with a choice between a will that is free from all law, and thus equivalent to chance, or a will that is completely determined by amoral law.  Kant appealed to the complete freedom of the unknowable noumenal realm, while Mill said that the human will was completely immersed in the material, phenomenal realm, and thus completely determined.  In terms of both views, the human will originates from an amoral source.  A will that is free from all laws could never have an obligation to obey moral laws, and thus such a will could not be said to have a moral character.  "In the idea of pure contingency there is no room for any sort of criterion by which truth may be set over against falsehood."[45]  Kant admitted that the noumenal realm cannot be an object of knowledge, which means to the extent that man is free, he cannot know himself, and to the extent that he knows himself, he is not free.  In terms of the older Great Chain of Being view of Thomas Aquinas and others, the human will is free to the extent it lacks being, thus a free self is a self that does not exist (see diagram).  On the other hand, a will that is completely determined by amoral forces would never have moral responsibility for following or not following a moral law.  Like the free will, it also would not have a moral character.

Ignoring their inability to account for human responsibility on secular grounds, the doctrine of an all-controlling God is a major reason for atheists claiming the rational superiority of atheism over Christianity.  Even if Christianity has no answer for the problem of determinism versus free will, that merely puts it on equal footing with atheism on this issue.  It does not give atheism an advantage.  But in fact Christianity does have advantages over atheism on this issue.  At least in terms of Christianity, the source of the human will is moral, whereas the source of the human will on secular views is devoid of moral character.  Both moral law and individual choices can have rational and moral significance because unity and diversity are equally ultimate in God.  And whereas atheism has no basis for the distinction between is and ought because all is one (e.g. "nature"), on the Christian view the human will is ontologically distinct from God, which provides a necessary element for the possibility of the ethical distinction between is and ought.  This does not answer all the mysteries of the interaction of the divine will and human will, but if my argument is sound that the existence of an all-controlling, absolute God is necessary for the possibility of human rationality, then the only alternative to the Christian teaching on human responsibility is complete irrationalism.  If we have the possibility of rationality, we can live with the mystery of how God foreordains the responsible acts of men.[46]   If we have the impossibility of rationality, we have nothing whatsoever.  Christianity may have a problem explaining the existence of evil and irrationalism on the basis of an absolutely good and rational Creator.[47]   But non-Christians have a problem explaining evil and rationality on the basis of an ultimately amoral and non-rational universe.  They have no basis for outrage at God for allowing evil, because evil would not exist in a world without God.  All would be meaningless.  The suffering of children is meaningless, not an occasion for moral outrage, if atheism is true.  The objective assessment that certain acts are evil presupposes an absolute standard of goodness by which to judge that those acts have fallen short of goodness.

That an absolutely good God controls all the particulars of history guarantees that good will triumph over evil, and that the evil that occurs in history ultimately serves a good and rational end.  But if such a God is rejected, what is one left with?  In his popular book When Bad Things Happen to Good People Rabbi Harold Kushner, says that God is finite.  He is struggling against evil and chaos just as we are; He is just stronger than humans.  Kuschner admits that this means that good may not overcome evil, that chaos could overcome God, that the evil that occurs really is meaningless.[48]   The predication of moral terms like “good” and “evil” would not even be possible in such a universe, but just in terms of the implications that Kuschner admits about his view, it provides no basis for rational hope in the face of the tragedies in life that confront us all.

Despite the popular, prima facie appeal of both of the above secular views, the specialists in philosophical ethics know that neither view has been able to withstand rational scrutiny.  Despite the fact that Kantian deontology and utilitarianism are presented as the only two basic options that the intellectually informed would use to build an ethical theory, the failure of these options to provide a philosophically sound ethical theory is also acknowledged by intellectually informed members of the secular establishment of our day.  Yale law professor Arthur Leff says, “I will put the current situation as sharply as possible:  there is today no way of ‘proving’ that napalming babies is bad except by asserting it (in a louder and louder voice), or by defining it as so, early in one’s game, and then later slipping it through, in a whisper, as a conclusion.  Now this is a fact of modern intellectual life so well and painfully known as to be one of the few which is simultaneously horrifying and banal.”[49]   Although there has been a recent rise of applied philosophy, such as medical ethics, without a philosophy of ethics that can be defended, the application of philosophical ethics is pure sophistry, as atheist philosopher Kai Neilson observes:  “I hope I am a tolerably reflective chap but I don’t know right of wrong any better, or for that matter, any worse than a tolerably reflective check-out clerk. . . .  Post-positivist analytic philosophy in short gave us no distinctive philosophical basis for a critical ethics.  Instead the expertise of the post-positivist analytic philosopher is, as Richard Rorty has nicely put it, more like that of a lawyer."[50]   Neilson goes on to say that religious ethics is in a mess as well, but I hope to have shown that such is not the case for the Christian position presented in this essay.

 

 

History

            If the origin of history is abstract particulars, the events of history are meaningless and purposeless.  Since unity is denied from the outset, no fact has any relation to any other fact.  As ultimate, individual facts are elevated to values, but because the facts are in constant flux, values are constantly changing.  Whatever is, is right; and “is” keeps changing.  If slavery exists, then it is right.  A higher value that could bring slavery into judgment at the point in history in which slavery exists is excluded from the outset.  Later, slavery might be abolished; and then abolition would be right.  But without a moral standard that transcends history, no point in history can be said to meet a higher moral standard than any other.  Abolition of slavery would be different at best, not better.  Having excluded a transcendent, absolute standard of goodness, even when certain stages of history are said to be lower (borrowing from the Christian idea of progress), there is no basis for saying that the lower stage is less moral, whether that be a lower stage in the process of the State unifying the particulars of history as with Hegel, or a lower stage in economic class struggles as with Marx.  The idea of moral progress is denied by the presupposition of abstract diversity.

On the other hand, if the origin of history is abstract unity, then change is excluded.  Individual facts must be denigrated as illusions.  So again, history is meaningless.  Purpose in history requires multiple individual events of history serving the realization of a unified end.  Without a way to bring the one and the many into fruitful contact, the non-Christian historian is stuck with viewing history as nothing but multiple isolated events, or viewing history as a timeless blank.  Either way, meaningful history, rational history, is lost. 

            The Biblical view of history is thoroughly personalistic, moral and rational because an absolutely rational Person is the source of all diversity and unity in history.  Because the absolute Person transcends created history, there is a standard by which to judge the actions of people in history as good or evil.  Herbert Schlossberg explains:

 

The biblical view is that history had a beginning and will have an end, and that both the beginning and the end are in God’s hands.  Therefore, what comes between them is invested with meaning and purpose; the creator is not the prime mover of ancient philosophy, and the terminator is not the bleak exhaustion of resources or the running down of the sun.  Will and personality dominate everything and make history a moral arena.[51]

 

            That history is a moral arena is all the more true given the Fall and need for redemption.  Open any history textbook and see what it says about the beginning of history.  That will reveal the author’s philosophy of history.  Most likely a modern history textbook will talk about mindless molecules evolving into man.  The Fall into sin and Biblical revelation will be treated as primitive tribal myths that were gradually replaced by the scientific worldview.  However, as explained in Part I above, the historical Fall and the existence of a redemptive revelation from God following the Fall are the basis for any possibility of a rational interpretation of history.

            The redemptive revelation will be authoritative over the interpretation of history and not merely over the salvation of the soul because the One sinned against is the ruler over all history.  Since God rules over every area of life, rebellion against God affects every area of life, and God’s redemptive revelation will speak to every area of life.  The goal of history, and the goal of all things, is the glory of the absolute God; therefore those who are in rebellion against God will interpret history according to false principles.  The miracle of redemption and the renewing of the mind through the knowledge gained from the redemptive revelation are essential to a true interpretation of history.  Not that non-Christian historians are never able to say anything correct about history, but what truth they do express will only be because they are inconsistent with their unbelieving worldviews.

            The centrality of redemption to a true interpretation of history validates the use of Christ’s birth as marker by which to measure history into years B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini).  The use of B.C.E. (Before Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) are products of a supposedly inclusive, neutral, non-Christian approach to the study of history.  Given that Christ truly is Lord of history, and that all non-Christian approaches to the study of history undermine the possibility of rationality, the use of B.C.E. and C.E is anti-Christian and irrational.  Yet, in a sense, the use of B.C.E. and C.E. still reflects a debt to a Christian interpretation of history because they are still applied to years as measured from the birth of Christ.  C.E. means "Christian era" for all practical purposes.[52]

            The secularists often borrow the idea of progress from Christianity, and much of the attraction of their visions of the future derives from their appeal to human free will to make the next transition in history happen.  Hegel viewed the “great man” of history, like Napoleon, as the one to cause change.  Marx condemned the exploitation of one class by another in the economic stages prior to the final stage of classless communism, and he urged lower classes to "unite!" against the oppression.  But having rejected the concrete universal God of Christianity, human free will is either an illusion or an element of chaos.  If chaos, there is no reason to think that free will would cause progress to the next inevitable stage in history because the concept of chaos excludes the possibility of having a unified direction.  

            The moral purpose that drives history serves as a radically different tool for the interpretation of the events of history than those employed in secular philosophies of history.  Plato viewed moral failing as simply a lack of knowledge; therefore those who know the Good will always do it.  History progresses as greater knowledge of the Good is gained, the masses being led by those with the greatest knowledge of the Good, the philosophers.  But in the Christian theistic interpretation of history, God is inescapably known through every fact of creation and through a knowledge of God that is implanted in every human mind.  Men have an apparent ignorance of the truth because they suppress it (cf. Rom. 1:18-23).  They know the good, but do not do it.  Because God is the source of truth and men are in rebellion against God, historical progress toward the goal of greater enlightenment requires divine redemption.  Non-Christian civilizations may make some progress for a time as they are upheld by God's common grace.  But sustained progress requires redemptive grace.  Only reconciliation with God can make sustained obedience to God possible.  History progresses in terms of obedience to God.  Civilizations collapse because of disobedience to God.  History is progressing toward a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  The garden that man is commanded to keep and tend at the beginning of history becomes a great city, the City of God (cf. Rev. 21 and 22).  Moral progress brings progress in economics, science, and statecraft – created areas of life that secularists treat as ultimate concerns, and thus become idols, having taken the place of God.  Those who are not with God will be left in the dustbin of history, which is swept into the lake of fire at the end of history.

The idea that history is purposeful and linear, going from past to present to future, is so natural to modern minds that few realize that at one time practically all the world held a contrary view.[53]   A cyclical view of history was the standard view throughout pre-Christian civilizations.  On this view, everything that has happened will happen again; the same people will appear again; historical progress is impossible.  If anything arises in history that is truly new, it is a product of the realm of Chaos, a complete monstrosity.  The cyclical view reflects a dialectic tension between abstract unity and diversity.  The unity of history is the product of a unity that excludes all diversity.  It is a timeless, changeless unity.  To escape the unrelenting wheel of history was to escape into an eternal timelessness.  The eternal was a mindless timelessness as well:  The eternal could not be known because it was a pure blank.

This eternal timelessness must be contrasted with the Christian view of the eternal, although the influence of Greek philosophy on Christian theology has brought a great deal of confusion in this area.  Thomas Aquinas equated the Christian God with the unmoved mover of Aristotle.  But Aristotle’s unmoved mover (or “movers”- Aristotle once said there were as many as 55 of them.) did not create the world or even know the world.  The unmoved mover is the source of unity for the world; the source of diversity is matter, which had an independent origin.  Following Aristotle, Aquinas said that to accurately think about God’s nature in comparison to the created world, we should follow the method of negation, in which all particular qualities (the elements of “matter”) are subtracted from the created thing. The result is that God’s nature is characterized as an empty unity.  Thus Aquinas is forced to say that we cannot know what God is, only that He exists.[54]   But since all content of God’s nature has been negated, His nature is equivalent to nothingness.  Thus, saying that God exists is equivalent to saying that nothing exists.

The God of the Bible is not an immobile, impersonal, abstract unity.  He is a living, moving God.  He acts – in created time and in eternity.  God, as an absolute sovereign, is outside of created time, and time is not more ultimate than He.  But that should not be confused with the Greek view of timelessness.  God has a temporal nature:  He is eternal.  God is changeless in the sense that He has a plan that comprehends all particulars.  There are never new facts that God learns; therefore He never has a need to change His plan.  But within that plan are foreordained changes both in Himself and in His creation.  God’s own activity is completely self-determined. The unity and the change in created history are determined by the divine One and Many.  To accurately compare God’s nature to created things, we should not subtract particulars, but subtract the limitations of created things.  In terms of time, this means that, while created things exist for a limited time, God exists for an infinite time.  We do not subtract the particular succession of moments from God’s nature, but extend them infinitely.55

 

 

Journalism

            Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once observed, "It's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper."

Every journalist must make judgments about which events count as newsworthy, and which ones don't.  These judgments involve assumptions about what counts as knowledge and what is ethical, even when the decision is made to present several points of view.  Journalists have usually tried to avoid the Procrustean bed of saying that what is newsworthy is simply what they decide it is, yet the predominant answer of journalists to the question of what is news and fit to print has changed at different periods in their industry's history.

            The beginnings of modern journalism and its commitment to objectivity in the United States is often traced back to the beginnings of the penny press in the 1830s when newspapers began to seek a large audience.  In order to appeal to a large audience, the newspaper had to report in a way that was not biased toward any particular group.56  But unlike the journalism in the twentieth century, this objectivity was usually accompanied by a commitment to Christianity: "New York City alone boasted fifty-two magazines and newspapers that called themselves Christian, . . . [and] from 1825 to 1845 over one hundred cities and towns had explicitly Christian newspapers.  The facts, though, are irrefutable, once they are dug up:  In the early nineteenth century, American journalism often was Christian journalism."57

            A philosophical shift occured in the late 1800s to a thoroughly secular view of objectivity. A general anti-religious attitude began to pervade the newsroom; ethics were utilitarian rather than Christian:

    Thus, while turn-of-the-century reporters were unattuned to the ways in which their own values shaped their perspective of "the facts," they were eager to accept the position that wishes should submit to facts, soft dreams to hard realities, moralism to practical politics and religion to common sense.  Dreiser was probably typical in being attracted to reporting by what he called its "pagan or unmoral character" which he contrasted to the "religionistic and moralistic point of view" of the editorial offices.58

 

In this period journalists hitched themselves to the rising respect for science, particularly a positivist view of science.  As the authors of the first draft of history, newspaper reporters were in direct contact with the empirical facts of history, and empiricism was seen as the essence of science:  "Reporters in the 1890s saw themselves, in part, as scientists uncovering the economic and political facts of industrial life more boldly, more clearly, and more 'realistically' than anyone had done before."59  In The Sociology of Journalism, Brian McNair writes:

    Positivism became the dominant methodology - the dominant ideology   - of science, because of its success in underpinning and facilitating the achievements of the scientific revolution. . . .  As the social science disciplines (history, sociology, economics) developed in the nineteenth century, they too pursued a positivist approach in an effort to acquire the prestige and legitimacy of the natural sciences.  And by the mid-1800s so too did the emerging profession of journalism, as creator of "the first draft of history", and aspiring to status and credibility beyond that of the merely literary:  journalists wanted to believe that they could stand apart from the real world, observe it dispassionately and report back with "the truth."  In the late nineteenth century, for the first time "concern for a definitive historical reality appeared in the journalistic sphere."60 .

 

Objectivity was understood to mean "examination of the facts observed, and not being influenced by any preconceived theory."61  (Although these journalists imposed their preconceived notions on their reporting of the Scopes trial under the claim of defending scientific objectivity62 )

            But there came a third change in the idea of objectivity among journalists in the 1920s with the rise of public relations.  To the frustrations of journalists after the pure, uninterpreted facts, "News appeared to become less the reporting of events in the world than the reprinting of those facts in the universe of facts which appealed to special interests who could afford to hire public relations counsel."63  Unable to keep facts and the interpretation of facts separate, objectivity became the balancing of multiple subjectivities — try to give all sides to the issue a voice.64

            But are all sides equally credible?  How can it be morally responsible for a journalist to give equal weight to all sides when one side is ignorant, irrational, or maybe downright malevolent?  Rita Braver of CBS news oberved, "When I cover drugs, it would be absurd for me to look for a person who says PCP is good for kids."65  This realization became widespread among journalists at the end of the 1960s and marks a fourth stage in the journalistic view of objectivity.66  The quintessential proponent was "Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson, whose columns shamelessly revealed his own thoughts and moral judgments, no matter how insulting they were to the people he reported about.  The view of objectivity as pure sense experience allowed no place for values, which are not material objects to be observed.  But journalists are humans with strong views of right and wrong.  They had to find a way to fit moral critiques into their stories. This came to a head during the social upheavels of the 60s and 70s.  As Thompson put it, "You can't be objective about Nixon."67  The shift in the meaning of "better living through chemistry" from the cold scientific rationalism of the 50s to the lovefest psychedelic subjectivity in the 60s could not help but effect journalists, who shared the liberal mindset that characterized this period of history.

            Neverthess, in 1979 Herbert J. Gans could still say, "Although journalists may not be aware of it, they are perhaps the strongest remaining bastion of logical positivism in America."68  Journalists are caught in an inescapable tension between rationalism and irrationalism.  They still regard empirism ("science") as the purest form of knowledge, but they must admit an inescapable subjectivism in their reporting, and even find that value judgments must enter into their writing at times in order to maintain professional responsibility.  Whichever of the three secular views of objectivity a journalist takes, he sees himself as striving for objectivity rather than allowing the bias that he is so often accused of.  What he fails to see is that bias goes beyond deciding which stories are newsworthy, which experts to quote, and what labels are used or not used to describe those who are quoted; rather, the journalists views of objectivity are themselves biased, and a philosophically bankrupt bias at that.

            Regarding objectivity as positivist, empiricist epistemology, Schiller says:

    Also untenable is the assumption that, as Alden Williams puts it, bias may be properly thought of "as deviation from an unttainable but theoretically conceivable condition of unbias" (1975:191).  A vast literature, embracing numerous research areas, now agrees that to conceive of the ideal of objectivity as the lack of bias is to misconceive it.  In science and philosophy Polanyi (1962) and, from a different perspective, Habermas (1971) concur that such a definition of objectivity "deludes sciences with the image of a self-subsistent world of facts structured in a lawlike manner; it thus conceals the a priori constitution of these facts (Habermas 1971:69).69

 

All observation is theory-laden.  The positivist would call the theory part "bias," but it is the only way to have facts at all.  It is not a question of theory vs. no-theory; it is a question of which theory.  There is no theoritical neutrality.  True bias, in the sense of distortion of the facts, comes in because of false theory.  Therefore it would be better to distinguish between the "a priori constitution of the facts" and bias, which allows us to say that bias is not inescapable; it's just wrong to try to escape bias by completely separating fact from theory.  Christian Theism is the only worldview that allows for the possibility of facts.  Because humans are finite, our understanding of the facts can always be distorted, even apart from the issue of sin.  But because the Absolute Knower reveals truth to us, we can know things truly even though we can never know anything exaustively.

            Does the unavoidable connection between fact and theory mean that there can be no distinction between news stories and editorials?  No.  Just as the the distinction between natural science and theology is a matter emphasis,70 so news stories can emphasize the empirical facts while editorials emphasize the writer's moral views.  But it must be remembered that God is a fact as certain, or more so, than any observable fact.  Without God, no words in any part of a newspaper would have any meaning.  God's existence is necessary for the possibility of predication.

            Objectivity turns out to be something that is very foreign in some respects to what the secular journalist conceives it to be.  Objectivity requires the assumption that God's existence is a fact and that He has revelaed Himself in the Bible.  Objectivity still means that the facts are investigated thoroughly, but it means that the meaning and signficance of those facts are determined by God's word.  Since the truth of the Bible is necessary for there to be any facts, interpretations of facts that are contrary to the Bible must be regarded as false (think of the controversies like creation vs. evolution and the historicity of Jesus).  Objectivity still means that all points of view are reported, but it means that the Bible's teaching about God's point of view is absolutely authoritative, rather than the journalist acting like Eve and taking "for granted that the devil was perhaps a person who knew as much about reality as God knew about it," which assumes "the equal ultimacy of the minds of God, of the devil, and of herself."71   Objectivity allows the journalist to include his or her own moral views of the events being reported, as long as those moral views are derived from God's word, rather than making the philosophically bankrupt assumption that morality can be based on the journalist's autonomy from God.

 

 

Mathematics

            A Christian view of mathematics seems absurd to many people.  It is often cited as the prime example of the folly of integrating academics with Christian theology.  "That two plus two equals four has nothing to do with whether God exists!"  However, this view displays an ignorance of philosophical issues that have been debated for ages.

            One of the earliest known philosophers was Parmenides.  He was a strict rationalist and taught that, since the changing world perceived by the senses is contradictory (e.g., A becoming B), all plurality is an illusion.  Everything is one.  On the basis of such a philosophical commitment, 1+2 does not equal 3; it equals 1.  Everything equals 1, a pure emptiness.

            Another early philosopher was Heraclitus, whose famous saying was panta rei, all things flow.  You can’t step into the same river twice.  All unity is an illusion.  On this view, there can be no mathematical laws, or any other laws.  Language and mathematical symbolism would have no fixed meaning.   Experience would have no regularity, so that apples might disappear or turn into something else while they were being counted.  In short, such a view destroys the possibility of mathematics, as well as rationality in every area of life.

            Naturalistic empiricism dominates the present age, and this worldview emphasizes particulars over universals.  Mathematics cannot be built on such a worldview.  A person can write "3" on a piece of paper so that it can sensed empirically.  But if the "3" is erased, does the number "3" no longer exist?  No, because the numeral "3" (the symbol) is not the same as the number "3."  Yet by strict empiricism, there is no number to know if nothing sensible exists.  The atheist takes the existence of such things as mathematics, logic and morality for granted, yet they are excluded on the assumptions of his worldview.  Numbers, laws of logic, and moral laws do not grow on trees; they cannot be isolated in test tubes.  They are not material objects.

            There are many numbers and mathematical concepts that are further beyond our experience than threeness, such as complex numbers, abstract algebra, and thousand-sided objects.  We can understand what a thousand-sided object is even though we have never had an experience of one.   Most people have experienced three apples, but who has experienced 2,646,123 apples + 10,126,484 apples = n apples?  We can solve the equation for n, not because we have experienced the result, but because we follow abstract laws of mathematics. 

            Atheists often answer that we generalize from experience to the more complex mathematical concepts; however, generalization goes beyond what is strictly experienced (see my comments on Hume, above).  In generalization general rules are applied to experience to produce a generalization involving the particulars of experience.  This process is not possible in terms of a worldview that excludes universals from particulars from the outset.

            Conventionalists try to solve the problem by saying that mathematics is simply how our society uses language.  But this is an appeal to abstract universals that have no connection to the particulars of experience.  Since universals are arbitrary on this view, two apples plus two apples might equal five apples in some other society.  On the conventionalist view there is no reason to expect different societies to be able to communicate mathematical knowledge to one another so as to promote the development of global human civilization.  Furthermore, advocates of this view want us to believe that mindless molecules produced finite minds that are then supposed to produce abstract concepts that can be known to apply throughout the universe.  The conventionalist view turns out to be just another failed attempt to relate universals to particulars.

            Beginning with unity or plurality in complete abstraction from the other cannot yield rationality, only the void and chaos.  Only on the basis of the existence of a concrete universal God, in whom unity and plurality are eternally related, is mathematics possible.

            Another implication of Christianity for mathematics is the ethical use of mathematics.  Because ultimate reality is amoral in the non-Christian worldview, there is no basis for ethics every coming into existence.  Thus in the non-Christian worldview there are no ethical restraints on the use of mathematics.  There is nothing to say that cooking the books is wrong on such a view.  Only because the ethical is ultimate in the Christian worldview is it possible to have ethical restraints in the use of mathematics. [72]

 

 

Psychology

            To believe in a concrete universal God is to believe in a cosmic personalism.  An absolutely rational, absolutely self-conscious Being determines whatsoever comes to pass in the world.  In contrast, modern psychology is committed to a cosmic impersonalism.  The impersonal is ultimate and determines the nature of everything else that happens and exists in the world.  Modern psychology explains human rationality and self-consciousness by means of the irrational and subconscious.[73]   The adult is explained in terms of the child; they are both explained in terms of the unconscious; and the unconscious is explained in terms of purposeless matter.  Thus “the modern concept of integration of personality is an integration into the void.” [74]   As a sinful and finite being, there is, to be sure, an irrational and subconscious aspect to man’s personality.  But that aspect is the ultimate explanation in the view of modern psychology; whereas a personal, rational God is the ultimate explanation in the Christian worldview.  Man’s personality is integrated by God.  “God has related man’s self-conscious to his subconscious life; his childhood to his maturity.  Every activity of every aspect of the human personality, at any stage in its development, acts as a derivative personality before the background of the absolute personality of God.  Man is an analogical personality. . . . Man before God is the only alternative to man in the void. [75]

            The completely self-conscious, concrete universal God has created man as a derivative one and many.  Man’s being is integrated in terms of the material and the spiritual, the sensible and the rational aspects.  The Christian concept of the soul is often confused with the Greek concept.  In the Greek view, the soul is one’s finite rational being that is trying to escape from abstract diversity of pure matter (and ultimately non-being) up to pure being at the top of the Great Chain of Being.  The one and the many are defined in abstraction from each other, thus they can never be integrated.  The rational soul must escape the body and the sensible world.  The Christian rejects the “primacy of reason” in this sense.  The material world has its origin in God as much as the spiritual world does. [76]   Psychological fulfillment is not a metaphysical assent up the chain of being, but an ethical conformity in all aspects of man’s life, both material and rational, to the will of the transcendent, concrete universal being, God.

            Freud’s psychology suffers from a dialectic tension between the one and the many, or rationalism and irrationalism, as expressed in his concepts of the id (the many, irrationalism) and the super-ego (the one, rationalism).  Freud has explained religion in terms of a father complex, a wish-fulfillment that there be a loving, divine Father in order to cope with a mysterious, frightful world, and this father-complex is derived from a drama of jealousy, murder, cannibalism and incest in the primal horde of humanity’s evolutionary past.   As pointed out above, Freud is describing the irrationalism inherent in his own atheistic worldview.  He is explaining man’s personality in terms of an ultimate irrationalism.  Freud calls the amoral, primordial energy in man’s psyche that is a remnant of his evolutionary past the “id.”  Out of this origin from non-rational matter, a principle of abstract law somehow develops in human society, the “Super-ego.”  The “ego” mediates the conflict between these two opposing, but equal, forces.  On the one hand, Freud claims that a one-world dictatorship, a “dictatorship of reason,” [77] like Plato’s vision of philosopher-kings, is necessary to restrain anarchy and advance civilization.  This totalitarian state would replace European Christian civilization, but have “the same sanctity, rigidity, and intolerance, the same prohibition of thought in self-defense.”[78]   “Human civilization,” he says, “rests upon two pillars, of which one is the control of natural forces and the other is the restriction of our instincts.  The ruler’s throne rests upon fettered slaves,” and adds that the sexual instincts in particular are strong, savage, and anti-social. [79]  

One might conclude from that that Freud would favor laws restricting sexual behavior.  Yet Freud was a leading advocate of sexual freedom, that the id, the amoral, is natural and therefore normal.  He said that “I stand for an infinitely freer sexual life.” [80]  He championed the decriminalization of homosexuality. [81]   He saw himself as one of the mob that turned to the fertility cult worship of the golden calf in opposition to Moses and the law he brought from God. [82]   Freud denied the reality of sin against God, but having reduced guilt to biology and anthropology, he found no escape from the angst of guilt.  Through his therapy Freud only offered peace of mind through an understanding of the tension, the “substitution of something conscious for something unconscious.”[83]  Since this world is all there is, there can be no salvation from it, only an irresolvable, inescapable dialectic tension between the id and the Super-ego, immaturity and maturity, total barbarism and totalitarian civilization, irrationalism and rationalism, chaos and order. 

            There can be no responsibility to the void, to the amoral and non-rational.  Man is morally responsible because he was created by an absolute personality and as a mature personality:  R.J. Rushdoony explains:

 

If man in his origin is a product of a long evolutionary past, man is then best understood in terms of the animal, the savage, and the child.  However, since man was in his origin a mature creation, his psychology is best understood in terms of that fact.  Man’s sins and shortcomings represent not a lingering primitivism or a reversion to childhood but rather a deliberate revolt against maturity and the requirements of maturity.  By ascribing to man, as humanistic psychologies do, a basic substratum of primitivism and racial childishness, this revolt against maturity is given an ideological justification; the studied and maturely developed immaturity of man is encouraged and justified.  If man is reminded that he was created in Adam into maturity and responsibility, his self-justification is shattered. [84]

 

The revolt against maturity results in a psychological suppression of the requirements of maturity and the One who requires it.  Two can play at the game of using wish-fulfillment as the origin of beliefs.  In terms of the ultimate rationalism of the Christian worldview, the atheist belief can be explained in terms of an anti-God complex, clearly evident in Freud, that there be no God to bring man into judgment for his sins. The Cainitic wish (as in Cain and Abel in Genesis 4) is the Christian’s substitute for the Freudian wish. [85]   Being in rebellion against God, man suppresses God’s revelation wherever he finds it, and he finds it in every fact in creation, including in himself.  Thus the anti-God complex involves a person’s suppression and self-deception concerning the truth of his own nature.  The non-Christian must deceive himself even concerning that fact that he is deceiving himself about his God-created nature.  “Self-deception involves deception of the self, by the self, about the self, and for the sake of the self.” [86]

            Modern psychology regards feelings of guilt as an artifact of man’s primitive, religious past.  The solution is to convince one’s self of the irrationalism of those feelings and affirm one’s autonomous self-worth.  But given an absolute God against whom man is in rebellion, feelings of guilt can reflect genuine guilt.  The means of achieving a sense of self-worth and general psychological health is to recognize the reality of that guilt, seek God’s mercy, and live according to the commandments of God.  The solution must lie in trusting in God rather than trusting in self.  An autonomous self-worth is a meaningless self-worth.  As a product of an impersonal universe, man has no more worth than dirt.  Value has no meaning in such a universe.  To claim to have autonomous self-worth is to deceive one’s self; it is an irrational self-exaltation.  The only self-worth that could possibly have meaning is in terms of a worth derived from the absolutely personal God.

            However, just because guilt feelings can be genuine on the Christian view does not mean that there are never false feelings of guilt.  These false feelings of guilt are a product of judging one’s self-worth by autonomous human standards rather than God’s standards.  By trusting in God, a person is freed from the guilt manipulation of sinful men who create their own standards of right and wrong in order to oppress others.

            In contrast to the medical model or the behaviorist model of secular psychology, Christianity offers the moral model. [87]   The moral model includes medical treatment and behavioral counseling in terms of motivations, standards and goals prescribed by God’s law and achieved by God’s power.  Mental health is a product of living in harmony with one’s Creator.  Sin against God is the cause of mental illness.  This is not to deny that much mental illness is a physical illness of the brain that can be relieved by drugs or surgery.  In the fall of the whole human race in Adam, the loss of man’s relationship with his God produced conflict between man and every aspect of God’s creation:  within man himself, with other men, and with the material world. [88]   The curse on the creation is a product of the Adamic Fall into sin (cf. Gen. 3:17-19; Rom. 8:19-22), and natural science, which can bring a cure to physical ailments of the brain, is a product of the comprehensive restorative implications of Christianity being realized in a civilization.  A restoration of man’s harmony with God produces a restoration of man’s harmony with the material creation.  Where there is not a biological cause of mental illness, the solution will be more directly a matter of moral counseling. 

A change in behavior is essential to mental health, but the Christian worldview presents a different motivation, standard and goal of behavioral change than secular behaviorism. The motivations for human behavior lie beyond just physical pleasure and pain, especially as meted out by a totalitarian government of psychological manipulators as per Freud and Skinner.  God created the physical, so it is not inherently evil; and God can use physical pleasure and pain as motivations to human behavior; but the motivation of human behavior also includes a supernatural regeneration of the soul that produces love for God and His law. [89]   Since the atheist views man as the product of an ultimately impersonal universe, he cannot account for moral responsibility on the part of man.  Man is nothing but a bag of molecules, and however much the blob would like to evolve into a god, changing a man’s choices ultimately amounts to nothing more than making molecular changes.  As the creation of an Absolute Person, man is morally responsible and is not completely subject to the molecular manipulation of his choices. The standard for behavioral change is not autonomous human feelings or autonomous human rules, but the law of God.  And the goal of behavioral change is not greater human pleasure and less pain as an end itself, or some other autonomous vision of human utopia, but the glory of God by means of all people on earth displaying greater love for God as measured by obedience to God’s law. [90]

It should be obvious that the moral model of Christian counseling is contrary to the non-directive Rogerian therapy that has been embraced by large segments of the modern church.[91]   Whereas Carl Rogers said that the most important issue in counseling is a client’s feelings and that focus on data and problem solving should be avoided, the moral model requires the counselor to examine feelings and data, and provide direction for solving the client’s problems.  Like Freud, Rogers saw a psychological conflict between man’s evolutionary inheritance and the norms of modern society.  His theory is that evolution has given humans the traits and habits they need to survive, so each person knows inside what is best for him.  But, he said, society imposes an environment that is alien to the one in which man evolved. Society's laws do not accommodate the true inner nature of each individual.  Since man is basically good, the client has the answers within himself.  Therefore, Rogers reasoned, for the therapist to direct the client toward a solution to his problems would be impersonal rather than personal; and furthermore, the client will become dependant on the therapist rather than self-sufficient if the therapist gives direction to the client.[92]

Rogers’ approach entails a denial that man is a creature and a sinner before an absolute God.  Although the Christian acknowledges that human society can impose rules that are contrary to the nature of individuals, God’s law is necessarily personal, because man is created in God’s image.  God, the eternal One and Many, created the individual and the individual historical circumstances in which an individual finds himself; therefore God’s law is always perfect for every individual in every circumstance.  Rogers sets individuality over against all law.  Each human is a unique collection of matter, and all external, universal rules of behavior are alien to him.  But on the Christian view, man, even in an unfallen state, fully acknowledging the natural revelation of God about him and within him, would look to God as the ultimate source of law.[93]  Being finite, man could not be the ultimate source.

The need for external guidance is made all the more acute because man is a sinner.  Although the sinner has the truth within him to an extent through natural revelation, as a sinner that truth is the object of suppression, distortion and self-deception. Dr. William Coulsen, an associate of Rogers', says that the results of their therapy made them realize their tragic mistake of ignoring the sinfulness of human nature:  ". . . we didn't have a doctrine of evil. As I've said, Maslow saw that we failed to understand the reality of evil in human life. When we implied to people that they could trust their evil impulses, they also understood us to mean that they could trust their evil impulses, that they really weren't evil. But they were really evil. This hit home again for Rogers in the 1970s. . . ."[94]   The moral direction given by the therapist need not result in dependence upon the therapist, as long as the therapist respects the Creator/creature distinction, teaching the client to be dependent on God as the only unfailing hope rather than placing ultimate dependence on failing man.

 

 

Science

Because science plays such a large role in the modern atheist’s understanding of the debate between atheism and Christianity, I had to address the issue specifically in the main part of this essay.  There I argued that an empiricist theory of knowledge fails to account for the possibility of knowledge and science.

An issue that is closely related to modern atheism’s commitment to an empiricist epistemology is the idea that there is a clear line of demarcation between science and religion.  In the words of Galileo, “The Bible teaches how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”  Or as a leading modern evolutionist and Marxist has put it, science and religion are “Non-overlapping magisteria," or "NOMA" for short (“magisteria” meaning teaching authorities).[95]   More specifically, the idea that verifiability separates science from religion was very common through most of the twentieth century and continues to be to this day.  However, not only does such a view make the fallacious distinction between reason and faith mentioned at the beginning of this paper, philosophers of science in the latter half of the twentieth century, the “post-positivistic analytic” era of philosophy, have admitted their failure to justify such a view.  Atheist apologist Kai Nelson states:

 

While for Hans Reichenbach or Bertrand Russell or Ernest Nagel, there was a commitment to clarity in the service of a scientific world-perspective, for post-positivist analytic philosophers, there is no clear rationale for their clarifications:  there is no philosophical knowledge to be gained, no demarcation of science from metaphysics or ideology to be drawn, no systematic representation of our concepts to be constructed or critique of our society to be made.  Post-positivist analytic philosophers afford us no hope of the gaining of a framework from which such a critique could be carried out.  There is no clear conception of what the demand for clarity should come to. [96]

 

A.J.Ayer, a leader among the logical positivist philosophers in the twentieth century, admitted the failure.  Speaking of the “Vienna Circle,” a group of influential logical positivists, he says,  “The Vienna Circle did not accomplish all that they once hoped to accomplish.   Many of the problems which they tried to settle still remain unsolved.” [97]

            So what went wrong?  Knowledge could not be completely reduced to sense experience.  This can be seen in the very definition of science.  The definition of science was not derived from isolating a physical substance called “science” in a test tube.  It was not found growing on trees.  “Science” is an immaterial, universal concept.  That science requires empirical verifiability is not itself empirically verifiable – which leads to the absurd conclusion that science is not scientific.  The commitment of twentieth-century intellectuals to the materialistic faith, that the isolated particulars of sense experience are the source of all knowledge, logically excluded the possibility knowing abstract universals, like the definition of science.

            To put it another way, the problem of the science/religion dichotomy is that verification that a claim is true requires some standard of truth by which to judge the truth value of the claim in question.  But being committed to finite experience of isolated particulars as the source of knowledge, the logical positivists could find no absolute truth to serve as that standard.  Certainty of anything was rejected, or at the least, logical consistency with their basic commitments required the rejection of certainty.  Some select “truths of science” were assumed to be absolute in practice, but again, logical consistency with their theory of knowledge would not allow knowledge of absolutes.  With no fixed standard, verification is impossible.  An empiricist epistemology can provide no fixed standards.

            As the failure of logical positivism became clearer in the latter half of the twentieth century, the "post-positivist" philosophers such as Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos, and W.V.O Quine pointed out that all facts are interpreted facts.  Scientific revolutions do not occur purely because new facts are discovered, but because new paradigms are used to interpret the facts.  Lakatos used the example of a Newtonian scientist:  If an experiment brought into question Newton’s laws, a person committed to Newtonianism might question the reliability of the measuring instruments rather than give up his belief in Newton’s laws. [98]    Different people have their “web of belief” structured differently.  Different people can have different beliefs that are more central and strongly held onto, and and people differ on which of their beliefs are more peripheral to the web, and so more easily abandoned.   Counter-evidence can be diverted to defeat a less strongly held belief in order to preserve a more strongly held belief.  Because different people have their webs of belief structured differently, one cannot tell beforehand which belief someone will abandon.

            While it is true that all facts are interpreted facts, the recognition of this truth by secularist post-positivists only highlighted their inability to account for science and verificationism.  Any interpretation of facts developed by autonomous, finite minds (assuming such minds could arise from the ultimately non-rational in the first place) would be completely arbitrary.  The discovery of a new fact would never be decisive because, lacking omniscience, the scientist’s new fact of today can always be overturned by tomorrow’s new fact.  On the basis of human autonomy, whether based on empiricism or rationalism or some combination of the two, any regularity of nature that a scientist might conceive has no better standing than any ancient mythology.  The autonomous human mind can provide no Archimedean fulcrum, no absolute that ought to be central in the web of belief and serve as a judge over other beliefs.  With anyone’s web of belief being as good as anyone else’s, there is no basis for distinguishing between the beliefs of a person who is commonly regarded as insane and the beliefs of a tenured college professor, much less make a distinction between religious beliefs and scientific beliefs.  Once again, an ultimate commitment to isolated particulars has excluded universals, resulting in the very possibility of science being undermined.[99]

            A common objection by modern secular scientists to biblically-based science is that the latter is anti-scientific because religion declares some areas of knowledge and inquiry off-limits.  That some events are miracles, that they were not brought about by the observable laws of nature, means that humans are limited in knowing how they were brought about.  However, that some events are miracles and thus beyond scientific inquiry does not mean that science is not possible in all other circumstances.  The God of the Bible has, in actuality, promised that He will maintain uniformity in natural processes as a general rule (Gen. 8:22).  Admittedly, an absolute, self-determined God could, in actuality, perform miracles so often that no regularity of nature would be discernable; but if the argument for Christian Civilization above is sound, the existence of such an absolute, self-determined God is necessary for the possibility of science.  Excluding a miracle-performing God does not leave one with a world of uniform natural law, but a world of either pure chaos or a unity devoid of all content, or an insoluble mixture of both.  While the theistic view puts the processes of miraculous events and all other knowledge that God chooses to withhold from humans beyond the capability of human discovery, these things are ultimately rational, having their origin in an absolutely rational God; whereas, in terms of non-theistic worldviews, any lack of unity must be regarded as irrational, having its origin in irrational chaos.

            In refusing to accept that some knowledge is off-limits, the secular scientists want the possibility of grasping all knowledge, of being omniscient. [100]   Their hubris is their downfall.  By grasping for all knowledge, the secularists lose all knowledge.  Only on the basis of an absolute, originally omniscient God, upon whom humans are totally dependent for their knowledge, is science possible.

 

 

 

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. 

Romans 11:36