Driving Blind on a Highway to Hell
Paul Manata over at Press The Antithesis loves Van Til. He also loves to quote Van Til and use him as a tool for defending his faith. But I think that both Manata and Van Til are a bit confused about faith (among other things).
Manata, in his most recent blog entry, "The Root of The Problem With Auburn Avenue Theology?" quotes Van Til a couple of times. I would like to focus on this quote in particular:
"Positively Hodge and Warfield were quite right in stressing the fact that Christianity meets every legitimate demand of reason. Surely Christianity is not irrational. To be sure, it must be accepted by faith, but surely it must not be taken on blind faith. Christianity is capable of rational defense." (Common Grace and the Gospel, p. 184)
I changed around the italics to emphasize the portion of the quote I want to focus on: the part about faith, blind faith, and being capable of rational defense. Incidentally, Mr. Manata seemed to have some confusion regarding the definition of faith in the last cross-examination segment of his recent debate with Derek Sansone.
The dictionary provides two definitions of faith (relevant to the Van Til quote). They are:
1. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
2. [O]ften Faith Christianity. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
The first definition refers to the uncritical acceptance of a worldview. The second definition refers to belief in the honesty or sincerity of God's will, but presupposes the acceptance of the worldview itself without any defense of said acceptance. I think its pretty obvious that Van Til and Manata are not referring to the belief in God's truthfulness when they refer to faith, but instead they are referring to the acceptance of the Christian worldview as true. For if the second definition were to be applied to their arguments, then it would seem that they would be arguing not for the existence of God, but for his honesty. Obviously, God's honesty is not the issue, but His existence is, and the first definition of faith is what is applicable here: belief in a worldview (namely Christianity). And finally, we all know that Christian apologetics isn't about God's honesty, but about his existence. I will therefore use the first definition of faith in my critique of Van Til and Manata.
Van Til attempts to distinguish between "faith" and "blind faith" in the quote. But I contend that there is no distinction between the two. Faith is belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, and therefore, it is blind faith. Even if your faith is based on numerous talking voices in your head, it is still blind faith, for it does not rest on anything you perceived by any of your senses. No matter how you cut it, faith is, by definition, unevidenced. And unevidenced faith is what Van Til was referring to when he said "blind faith."
Van Til assumes his readers all know the difference between "faith" and "blind faith," but I think that, in actuality, Van Til didn’t really know the difference between the two. I don't think Paul Manata knows the difference either. Both of these people (Manata and Van Til) think that their faith in a Christian God is not "blind" (in other words, that it does rest on logical proof or material evidence), and furthermore, they think that they can present this logical proof or material evidence (as Van Til indicated when he wrote "...Christianity is capable of rational defense.") to support their faith. This, of course, is folly.
To defend a position with logical proof or material evidence is to quite specifically not have faith, for faith is belief in a position without logical proof or material evidence. If I have material evidence of the existence of my Mustang, then I do not have faith in my Mustang by definition. Instead, I have knowledge of my Mustang; knowledge based not on faith, but on material, quantifiable, logical, and independently verifiable evidence.
Paul Manata and Van Til find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they have faith in their religion, then their faith is without logical proof or material evidence per the definition of the word, and their faith is therefore blind. Hence, their faith is not capable of rational defense. (I challenge anyone in the comments section to differentiate between "faith" and "blind faith" without destroying the definition of the word).
But if Manata and Van Til have logical proof or material evidence for their religion, then they quite specifically do not have faith, and therefore do not meet the requirements for salvation as set forth by their messiah.
How can you have faith in the existence of something if you have independently verifiable evidence for it? Faith is totally abolished when you have evidence. Faith is taken by assertion, and is therefore "blind," but rational defense requires more than faith to back it up; it requires logical proof or material evidence.
To sum up my anti-faith argument, and to touch on it's implications, I will offer a list of points:
1. Faith is belief in something without logical proof or material evidence.
2. Faith is "blind" in that it has no logical proof or material evidence.
3. Rational defense of a worldview requires logical proof or material evidence.
4. (Blind) faith is not capable of rational defense.
5. If you can provide a rational defense for your worldview, then you do not have faith in your worldview, because your defense is based on logical proof or material evidence.
6. The Christian worldview states that faith (blind acceptance without logical proof or material evidence) is required for salvation.
7. (Assuming the Christian God exists) either Manata and Van Til cannot rationally defend their Christian worldview, or they are going straight to Hell.
What I want to see from Manata and other Van Til-ers is consistency. They should either apply their Christian dictates to their lives, and admit that they have "blind faith" in a position that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, or they should deconvert to materialistic atheism, and hold the one worldview that is rationally defendable by logical proof and material evidence. Because right now, these apologists are speeding in the carpool lane on a Highway to Hell.