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Monday, May 09, 2005

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.

Post a Comment


22 Comments:

At 5/09/2005 5:16 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Ugh how annoying. I used the bold option on a bunch of different parts of this blog entry, but the bolded words are almost unnoticable. What I mean is that its almost impossible to tell that they are bold. I'm gonna have to start using a different method of making certain words stand out, but I dont wanna use italics. :(

 
At 5/09/2005 6:29 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

If one upholds faith, how can one know what reason is in the first place ? Faith by definition only applies to subjective constructs (such as God's will). I suppose a Christian could argue that rationality is not a subjective construct, but I don't know how.

 
At 5/09/2005 6:43 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

They could just say that they have "faith" that rationality is not a subjective construct, and then they wouldn't need to support their assertion.

But for them to do that, they would have to know what faith really means, and so far it seems that they don't.

 
At 5/10/2005 7:11 AM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

Nice blog AK

 
At 5/10/2005 9:41 AM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Aaron: "What I want to see from Manata and other Van Til-ers is consistency."

You'll only see genuine consistency from Christians when they step outside the epistemological chaos of their mystical worldview and onto the bedrock of non-mystical premises. Of course, they have to do this any time they want to achieve any life-relevant goals. For prayer does not feed empty bellies, nor will it protect them from the elements.

 
At 5/10/2005 10:25 AM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

BB
For prayer does not feed empty bellies, nor will it protect them from the elements.

Well, over the weekend my wife had really bad pain in her lower abdomen. We went to the emergency where she works and one of her co-workers is extremly charasmatic - she prayed over my wife with a lot of trembling - no kidding. [I sat off to the side ignoring the stupidity.] As she was leaving she looked back and said "You'll be OK." You know what - the prayer worked! It was just a urinary infection.

See - prayer works!

 
At 5/10/2005 11:06 AM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

"See - prayer works!"

Undoubtedly the prayer reversed the lethal wounds that threatened her life and turned them into something treatable with antibiotics. Yep! I'm a believer now!

 
At 5/10/2005 11:55 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

CAD, thanx!

BB, speaking of consistency, I saw this video clip last night of Pastor Deacon Fred, the founder of Landover Baptist Church (who doesnt love them?!!?) and In a speech he gave to some atheist convention, he said (to paraphrase):

God offers us unconditional love. And all we have to do to get this unconditional love is follow every demand he makes of us.

LMFAO I just about fell off the chair!

Consistency is the Bible's mortal enemy.

 
At 5/10/2005 11:56 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

So am I onto something with the "blind faith" vs. "faith" argument? Can anyone here differentiate between normal faith and blind faith?

 
At 5/10/2005 12:28 PM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

Well, I think the difference between the two is the idea that their faith is "observable" in that they can point to insances within the Bible. Their faith is not "blind" because they have been given a glimpse of what is "beyond."

Check this out because I think it basically covers the same ground.

http://www.messiahtruth.com/experience.html

The idea for the Christian is that he thinks that these men in the gospel observed an historical event. Their faith, then, is not some kind of "blind faith" in nothing - their faith is "grounded" in history.

Does that answer the question?

In essence their faith is nothing more than having faith in someone elses observations and conclusions. I think this is why Christians - or any religion claiming a holy book - make special pleading a part of their argument. By calling into question tradition one cuts off a "reasonable faith."

 
At 5/10/2005 1:16 PM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

In addition to my above post:

I posted my incarnation blog on a different discussion board and the answer was something similar to what you are asking.

Paragraph 1
Firstly, and this may come as a surprise to many church-goers, Christian dogma, or systematic theology, has been developed by a process of observation. Granted, that observation has focussed on the Bible (the observed history of God's dealings with man) and it has been augmented by the experience of the church, but observation none the less. The point is that the church did not start with a theory and then try to kludge the facts to fit the theory.

CAD comment
The Bible is taken as literal history of God relating to man - reason comes into play when dealing with theology and whatnot. The purpose of reason is to merely sift through what God has told man and not necessarily to understand nature and the world - that's a side benefit.

Paragraph 4
To generalize then, systematic theology is an explanation of the reality, but it is not the reality itself. This is something that I call 'model theory' - the system is a model of the reality but it is not the reality itself. The corrolary is that models always fail at some point; there will always be something that they don't adequately describe or address; it is a necessary and inherent part of the nature of the model.

CAD comment
And here is where it becomes obvious that when the bible does not jive with reality we say that the bible is giving us a picture of the beyond - the platonic idealism "stuff."

End sentence last paragraph
True, we need to ponder on what the incarnation is, and we should not excuse lazy thinking, but the true heart of Christianity is Christ. He does not change however much our explanations fail him.

CAD comment
It is not that the belief is invalid - its that man is incapable of discerning the reality that exists beyond - his reason is flawed. Therefore, the Christians faith is not "irrational" because it is grounded within the cartoon universe of their own version of "historical events."

 
At 5/10/2005 2:48 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

What is the difference between faith and blind faith ? I don't see any. All you're doing is repeating the same thing when you say it is "blind".

 
At 5/10/2005 4:42 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

"What is the difference between faith and blind faith ?"

The "difference" is that one is approved by the one making the distinction, while the other isn't. But neither is any less blind than the other, since both rest on thwarting man's mind.

 
At 5/11/2005 2:00 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Aaron-

Excellent post. I recall that in my conversation with Gene Cook, he seemed very hesitant to admit to a worldview based on faith. In fact, if you examine the transcript, you see that Gene says the following:

Zach: If we can’t- if we can’t judge the Word of God, then what good is it?

Gene: No, you can judge- you can judge it…

Zach: It may, in fact, be wrong, and…

Gene: No, I’m sorry. We can judge it and I do judge it, but I only judge it, and find it to be totally consistent with what it’s saying that the world in which we live in.

Zach: But that’s because you’ve already accepted it as truth- you can’t see it as any other- as anything else but truth. Do you see what I’m saying?

Gene: I… suppose it’s convinced- it’s because I’m convinced that… it is truth, I haven’t been presented with any evidence.

Zach: OK, but now you’re saying you’re “convinced.” Now, that implies that you saw some sort of evidence.

Gene: Yes. That’s right- when you say that “faith is the opposite or the antithesis of reason,” I’m saying, “No, it’s not.” That’s- what you’re describing is fedeism.

So, apparently you're not off base at all, Aaron. This supposed distinction between Christian faith and "blind faith" is made all the time by Christians, and it does nothing but trip them up.

 
At 5/11/2005 7:11 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Exactly Zachary. They are loathe to admit that their faith is, indeed, without evidence (the very definition of the word). For they of course have the goal of refuting atheist's claims and backing up their belief in God with evidence.

They want to somehow show that the reality of this existence conforms with their worldview, but to do so is to betray their "faith."

I also like the argument regarding Biblical characters, and how none of them had faith in God. According to the Bible, they had evidence. Evidence such as talking flaming bushes, parting oceans, angels that visit and that are visible and touchable, etc... So most of the Biblical characters didnt have faith in God, because their belief was (allegedly) evidenced.

Totally insane this religious shit is. Totally, utterly, insane. I like how you tripped up Gene Cook in that debate in regards to faith. When I eventually get myself into a formal debate, I will definitely be using "faith" and the definition of it to argue against theism. Its a good tool for exposing theism for what it really is..

 
At 5/11/2005 7:12 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

And what the fuck is Van Til even saying when he mentions blind faith and rational defense????

Does Van Til ever define faith? Does he distinguish in any of his writings the difference between blind faith and normal faith? Are there any Christian apologists who address these faith issues? They all seem to take it for granted without explanaion from what I can see.

 
At 5/12/2005 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

You guys have got to be kidding me...

This is almost too funny.. Let's use the dictionary definition of faith to disprove christianity, nevermind what the bible says about faith.

 
At 5/17/2005 2:59 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

And what exactly does the Bible say about the definition of faith?

This is an invitation for you to destroy my pathetic dictionary-based faith argument. Why dont you do it?

Why do you insist that my argument is worthless, but you refuse to DEMONSTRATE it? Whats with the unsupported assertions?

 
At 5/17/2005 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

Aaron this has been discussed. Get over yourself.

Your argument begged the question and was a strawman to start with and like I said before I will not do your homework for you. You have your work cut out for you. So try again.

 
At 5/17/2005 7:27 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

"Aaron this has been discussed."

Where? not in this comments section. And in the other comments section, you made unsupported assertions. Youve given me no Bible quotes.

"Your argument begged the question and was a strawman to start with"

What makes it a strawman? You have merely asserted that its a strawman but you didnt explain why. I used the faith word in consistency with Van Tils own use of it, which also corresponded with the dictionary definition of it.

"and like I said before I will not do your homework for you. You have your work cut out for you. So try again."

What homework is this that I should be doing? Refuting my own statement? Sorry. I did my homework already. I quoted Van Til and I quoted the dictionary. Those two entities are the subject of my post. It is Van Til and his defense of faith that I am cirticizing in this blog entry, not the Bibles use of faith.

So far my faith criticism remains unrefuted. Protested? Yes. Promised to be destroyed? Yes. Actually destroyed? No.

 
At 5/18/2005 2:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

Aaron's been on a rampage ever since his buddy got destroyed in Poway, California. I think he's trying to prove things to himself, anaonymous. So, let the little guy figure out what he believes and what lifes all about.

 
At 5/20/2005 4:49 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Anon said:

"Aaron's been on a rampage ever since his buddy got destroyed in Poway, California. I think he's trying to prove things to himself, anaonymous. So, let the little guy figure out what he believes and what lifes all about."

Incorrect. I have been on a rampage ever since the 12th of September, 2001.

I never attempt to prove anything to myself. The reality of a godless universe proved itself to me. What Im trying to do is to get you to engage in meaningful dialogue about the meaning of "faith".

And it seems that if anyone is trying to prove anything, it is YOU trying to prove your worldview to yourself. But you make the mistake of trying to prove it by throwing around ad hominem attacks at me, rather than address/refute the assertions made in my blog entry about faith.

 

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