God reveals Himself in the world which He has made, in the holy Scriptures and in the Gospel of Jesus Christ His Son. In this three-fold way God reveals not merely information about Himself but HIMSELF. But if God reveals Himself so openly and plainly as this why are there so few that know Him? Why is His very existence denied and ignored by so many? The Bible gives us the answer to this question. It tells us that this prevailing ignorance concerning God is because of sin and the blinding power of Satan. If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them (2 Cor. 4:3-4).
In this present chapter we shall endeavor to give a short history of this satanic blindness of unbelief from earliest times down to the present day and show how it has affected the textual criticism of the Bible.
Under ancient forms of unbelief we include heathenism and the various philosophies that developed out of heathenism. These age-old errors may fittingly be called unbelief because they all involve the denial of God the Creator as He reveals Himself in the world which He has made.
Heathenism (the worship of many gods and idols) began as a satanic perversion of the divine ordinance of animal sacrifice. The Scriptures tell us that not long after the first sin of Adam and Eve Abel, their younger son, began to offer up animal sacrifices unto God. And this he did with God's approval as a sign and pledge of his faith in Christ, the promised Redeemer (Heb. 11:4). But Adam's elder son, Cain, was seduced by the devil (John 8:44) to offer God false, unbloody sacrifices and then, when they were not approved, to slay his brother Abel in a fit of jealous rage. And this sin, the Bible seems to indicate, was the beginning of a false sacrificial system which was continued among the descendants of Cain until the Flood, introduced again after the Flood by Noah's unbelieving son Ham, and then carried to the ends of the earth when the nations were scattered at Babel. At the instigation of the devil (Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37) in every land these heathen nations offered sacrifices and worship to the forces of nature, to spirits, to the souls of the dead, and even to birds and beasts and creeping things (Rom. 1:23).
In order to justify their false religious practices these heathen nations rejected God's revelation of Himself in nature and substituted all manner of foolish myths and absurd cosmogonies. The Hindus, for example, posited a golden egg as the source of this present world. (1) The early Greeks also derived the universe from a similar cosmic egg which was split in two, one half constituting the heavens and the other the earth. (2) And according to the Babylonian creation saga, the god Marduk constructed heaven and earth with the two halves of the monster Tiamet after he had killed her and mutilated her body. (3) It is to absurdities such as these that Paul refers in the passage just mentioned. Because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Rom. 1:21).
But although the heathen had rejected the true God, they could not escape the accusation of their consciences (Rom. 2:15) and the fundamental realities of the spiritual world. Studies in comparative religion indicate that in heathenism there were three areas of major concern. First, there was the menace of hostile spiritual powers. Demons were feared the world over, and charms and incantations were devised to ward off their malignant influences. In Babylonia especially these counter-measures were erected into a pseudoscience. (4) Second, there was the mystery of the after-life and the problem of providing for its needs. Some of the most characteristic features of Egyptian civilization stem from this interest. The embalming, the mummifying, the pyramids in which the dead kings were buried, all these were part of the care bestowed upon the dead. Third, there was anxiety over the judgment after death and the consequences of this great assize. In texts written on the inside of coffins and in inscriptions found in pyramids the Egyptians recorded their conceptions of the rewards and punishments which await men in the next world. (5) Similarly the Greek Orphic literature abounds in descriptions of fearful torments visited upon the wicked after death. (6)
In these heathen thought-ways there was undoubtedly much that was absurd. But, on the whole, the thinking of these ancient heathen was not nearly so foolish as that of modern materialists who derive mind from matter, who deny that there is any essential difference between right and wrong, and who have generated the present tidal crime-wave by their insanely obstinate contention that no one ought to be punished for anything he does but merely "rehabilitated." The heathen were more realistic than these modern unbelievers because they perceived that mind is spirit and that they themselves were spirits as far as their minds were concerned. From this they went on to reason, quite correctly, that there must be other spirits and that some of these spirits must be evil, seeing that there is evil in the world. They saw also that wrong must be avenged and that therefore there must be judgment and penalties after death.
At a much later date these ideas were developed by the Persian thinker Zoroaster (c. 650 B.C.) into an ethical dualism in which two uncreated beings strove together in perpetual conflict. One of these was the good god Ahura Mazda, the other the evil god Angra Mainyu. (7) It is probable, however, that Zoroaster borrowed from the revealed religion of the Israelites and especially from the biblical teaching concerning Satan, "the Adversary." We read in II Kings 17:6 that before the birth of Zoroaster captive Israelites were settled in the territory of the Medes and Persians, and it may be from them that Zoroaster obtained some of his conceptions.
Belief in the transmigration of souls has in all ages been a common feature of heathenism everywhere. This is the theory that after death the soul is reborn into another body, a notion which has dominated the thinking of hundreds of millions of Asiatics ever since it made its appearance in India some time after 1000 B. C. Hinduism and Buddhism are built upon it. Both these religions presuppose that man is caught in an eternally revolving wheel of birth and death, an endless series of reincarnations. How can a man escape this ceaseless cycle of rebirths? Two answers were given to this question.
The Hindus sought relief through the absorption of the human soul (atman) into the world-soul, which they called "the self-existent Brahman." This Brahman they regarded as the only reality. The material world which can be seen and touched was only an appearance. It was maya (illusion). By spiritual disciplines and ascetic practices it was possible for an earnest seeker to arrive at the insight that his individual soul (atman) was one with the world-soul (Brahman). When this mystic knowledge was attained, the cycle of rebirths came to an end. (8)
Buddha (557-477 B.C.), on the other hand, taught that salvation came only through the extinction of the human soul. Strictly speaking, he even denied that there was such a thing as a soul. He believed only in a succession of rebirths. Each existence depended on a previous existence just as one lamp is lighted from another. To terminate this cycle Buddha offered his famous eight-fold path. Those that followed this program would extinguish their desire for life and enter into Nirvana, a word which means literally, "blowing out the light." (9)
In China the two great molders of thought were Lao-tse (b. 604 B.C.) and Confucius (551-478 B.C.). Lao-tse was the founder of the Taoist system, the only native Chinese philosophy. He emphasized tao, the way of nature. He regarded the operations of nature as effortless and purposeless. The wise man therefore must conform to nature by living an effortless and quiet life. (10) Confucius, on the other hand was unphilosophic, occupying himself entirely with religious ceremonies and ethics. Filial piety was the essence of his ethical system. A son who respects and obeys his father will be a kind brother, sincere friend, and loyal subject. (11) The religion of China, however, antedates these two sages by many centuries and may be defined as a union of nature worship and ancestor worship, a mixture which encouraged the veneration of spirits of every kind. (12) It is probable that the great bulk of the Chinese people still continue in bondage to spirit worship despite the efforts of the present communist regime to replace this ancient superstition with the materialistic atheism of modern unbelief.
In contrast with Eastern thinkers, the early Greek philosophers were chiefly concerned with the external world, and this they interpreted in a materialistic way. Even God they regarded as in some sense material. According to Thales (c. 600 B.C. ), water was the basic constituent of the universe. To this underlying cosmic fluid he attributed a certain divinity, declaring that "all things are full of gods.'' (13) Anaximander (611-545 B.C.) believed that the universal was an infinite (boundless) something which was "immortal and indestructible, unbegotten and incorruptible." This boundless substance controlled the motion of all things, and in this sense Aneximander called it "the deity.'' (14) Anaximenes (d. 499 B.C.) regarded air as the basic substance underlying all things, and this air he spoke of as a "god." (15) Heracleitus (540-480 B.C.) assigned the primary place in the universe to fire, which he thought of as the universal reason (logos). (16) And two hundred years later this theory was revived by the Stoics, who also made fire the fundamental element and regarded it as the creative world-reason (logos spermatikos). (17)
These materialistic hypotheses led to the conclusion that nothing in the universe was permanent, since water, air, and fire were all subject to change. This meant, as Protagoras (c. 450 B.C. ) and other critics pointed out, that there was no possibility of permanent truth. (18) It was to combat such skepticism as this that the later Greek thinkers developed their idealistic philosophies. These idealists divided the universe into two worlds, the world of matter which was always changing and the world of ideas which never changed.
There was a difference of opinion, however, as to what these unchangeable ideas were. The Pythagoreans (c. 450 B.C.) thought of them as mathematical ideas. (19) Socrates (470-399 B.C.) gave them an ethical connotation. (20) According to Plato (427-347 B.C.), these ideas were all summed up and included in the Idea of the Good, the supreme and immutable purpose of the universe. Late in life Plato added the concept of the World-Builder (Demiurge) that molds and shapes the world of matter, using the Idea of the Good as a pattern. Because of this many scholars have claimed that Plato believed in a personal God. But Plato himself warned that he was speaking mythically. It is probable therefore that Plato's World-Builder is merely a personification of his Idea of the Good, introduced by him to bridge the gap between the world of ideas and the world of matter and thus to provide a place in his philosophy for the physical sciences. (21)
(d) The Philosophy of Aristotle
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), Plato's most famous disciple, developed a philosophy which attempted to be neither idealism nor materialism but a fusion of these two tendencies. According to Aristotle, matter is mere possibility and ideas are the forms that limit and guide this possibility. Matter, he taught, never exists by itself but only in union with these forms that limit and guide it. Perhaps a reference to a children's guessing game may serve to illustrate these basic tenets of Aristotle's philosophic system. One child says, "I am thinking of something." Then the other child tries to determine what it is by a series of questions. "Is it alive? Is it an animal? Is it a vertebrate? Is it a mammal? Is it a meat-eating mammal? Is it a dog? Is it our dog Fido?" The something of which the first child is thinking represents Aristotle's matter. At first it has the possibility of being almost anything, but then it is limited successively by the second child's questions, which represent Aristotle's forms, until finally it takes definite shape as the individual, existing dog Fido. In some such way, according to Aristotle, the forms limit matter, dividing it into classes and sub-classes, until finally individual organisms are arrived at and brought into existence.
Thus Aristotle viewed the world as an eternal process. Always the forms are limiting matter, dividing it into classes, sub-classes, and finally individual organisms. Always matter is moving up through the forms until these individual organisms are brought into existence. Always these organisms are growing to maturity and passing away only to be succeeded by new organisms of the same sort which in their turn are produced by this same union of matter and form. Hence for Aristotle God was not the Creator who brought the universe into being out of nothing at a definite time. Like Plato, Aristotle conceived of God as merely the highest form or idea. According to Aristotle, God moves the world by being "the object of the world's desire." Matter moves up toward God through its union with the forms. In this Aristotle differed from Plato, who connected ideas and matter by having the World-Builder (Demiurge) come down to the world of matter from the world of ideas. (22)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ (Col. 2:8). Here Paul warns against the ever present danger of corrupting the truth of God with the false philosophies of unbelieving men, and even a brief survey of the impact of Greek philosophy upon the early and medieval Church shows how much this warning was needed.
(a) Philosophy in the Early Church
From the second century B.C. onward the influences of Greek philosophy were at work among the Jews, especially those that dwelt at Alexandria in Egypt. Here the renowned Jewish thinker Philo (20 B.C. - 42 A.D.) constructed a philosophic system which attempted to combine the teaching of the Old Testament with the theories of Plato and the logos doctrine of Heracleitus and the Stoics. It was in this last direction particularly that he sought a link between Greek philosophy and the sacred Hebrew Scriptures. The ancient Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) used the term logos to translate the Hebrew term dabar (word). Philo interpreted these biblical passages in a Greek sense. According to Philo, they refer to the Logos, the highest of all divine forces and the means by which God created the world, not out of nothing as the Bible teaches but in Greek fashion out of already existing substance. The Logos was employed by God to do this work because, Philo maintained, God Himself was too exalted to bring Himself into contact with defiling matter. (23)
The influences of Greek thought can be seen also in many of the heresies which plagued the Church in the early Christian centuries. One of the earliest of these was Gnosticism, which flourished around 150 A.D. Enlarging on the concepts of Plato and Philo, the Gnostics placed between the highest God and the world of matter many Eons or beings, including not only the Demiurge and the Logos but also Christ and Jesus, who were regarded as two separate entities. Other heretical views of the incarnation in the early Church are as follows: docetism, the theory that Christ's human nature was not real but merely an appearance; adoptionism, the assertion that Jesus was born a mere man and then became the Son of God through the indwelling of the Logos and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him at baptism; Sabellianism, the teaching of Sabellius (220 A.D. ) that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are merely three ways in which God has revealed Himself. And finally, these false doctrines culminated in the greatest heresy of all, namely, the contention of Arius (318 A.D.) that before the foundation of the world God the Father had created the Son out of nothing. (24)
Amid this welter of heretical teaching there was danger that the orthodox Christian faith would perish, but in the sacred Scriptures and especially in the Gospel of John God had provided the remedy for this perilous situation. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this "beloved disciple" had expounded the true meaning of the Hebrew term dabar and the Greek term logos. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). The reference was to Christ the eternal Son of God. He is the Word, the light of men (John 1:4), who was made flesh and revealed His glory (John 1:14). Guided therefore by these teachings d the New Testament Scriptures, the Church was able to formulate at Nicaea (324 A.D.) and at Chalcedon (451 A.D.) the true doctrine of the holy Trinity and of the incarnation of Christ. Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but one God. Two natures, divine and human, but one Person. (25)
(b) Doctrinal Decline—Priestcraft, Image Worship, the Papacy
The triumphs of the Christian faith at Nicaea and Chalcedon were followed by a long period of doctrinal decline in which errors of every sort multiplied and entrenched themselves. The power of the priesthood and the papacy steadily increased as the New Testament doctrine of the universal priesthood of believers was more and more forgotten. Out of veneration for the martyrs and their relics grew the worship of innumerable saints and images. The spread of monasticism induced thousands of misguided souls to renounce the world and in the shelter of cloisters and convents to seek to please God with all manner of ascetic practices and man-made disciplines. The saints who lived in this monastic way were thought to have done more than the law of God required and thus to have laid up extra credits with God. Drawing on these extra credits (the Treasury of merit), the popes claimed the power to sell Indulgences to less perfect Christians, shortening or remitting altogether their punishment in purgatory after death. Thus Christianity, a religion of God's free grace, had been transformed almost entirely into a religion of works. (26)
(c) The Rise and Progress of Mohammedanism
Mohammedanism is the earliest and largest of the cults which have followed in the wake of Christianity. Its founder Mohammed ( 570-632 A.D. ), like many other false teachers, claimed to be the Comforter Whom Jesus had promised His disciples (John 14:26). He made this identification by changing the Greek word Paracletos (Comforter) to Periclytos (Illustrious) and then equating it with his own name Ahmed, which also meant Illustrious. (27) He also claimed that the religion which he preached was not younger but actually older than either Judaism or Christianity, being a restoration of the original religion of Abraham and Ishmael. Mohammed called his religion Islam (surrender). Believers were to surrender to the will of God just as Abraham did when he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. They were also to renounce all idols and believe in one God just as Abraham (according to tradition) renounced the idols of his father Terah (Azer). Other religious duties were to pray five times a day, to give alms, to fast during the daylight hours in the month Ramadan (in which the Koran had been revealed), and to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca.
Mohammed proclaimed himself "the messenger of Allah and the seal of the prophets," in other words, the last and greatest of them. Among the prophets whom he claimed to supersede he included most of the outstanding biblical characters, for example, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Solomon, John the Baptist, and Jesus. He acknowledged the virgin birth of Jesus but denied His deity. "The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah. Allah is but one God. Far be it from Him that He should have a son." (28) Instead Mohammed deified his Koran which, he maintained, confirmed and superseded the Law and the Gospel that had been revealed to Moses and Jesus respectively. According to Mohammed, the Koran was a hidden, heavenly book which had been sent down to the earthly plane on a certain night of the month Ramadan. Beginning with that night, Mohammed claimed, the angel Gabriel read to him at intervals out of the Koran, one section at a time. As each portion of the Koran was made known to him, Mohammed would go forth and recite it to the people. They in turn would either write it down or commit it to memory, and from these written and oral sources the present Koran was compiled soon after Mohammed's death by the caliphs Abu Bakr and Othman. (29)
Orthodox Mohammedans (Sonnites) believe that the Koran is eternal and uncreated, subsisting in the very essence of God. According to them, Mohammed himself held this same view and called anyone who denied it an infidel. In spite of this, however, there have been Mohammedan sects that have disputed this doctrine, especially the Motazalites who very rightly pointed out that this deification of the Koran involved the belief in two eternal beings and thus denied the unity of God. (30) This controversy shows us clearly that the Mohammedan doctrine of Scripture is only a crude caricature of the true, trinitarian, Christian doctrine. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are eternal (Psalm 119:89) but not as an uncreated, eternal book. They are eternal in the same sense that God's decrees are eternal. They are the product of God's eternal act. They are the words of eternal life (John 6:68) which God the Father gave to Jesus Christ His Son in the eternal Covenant of Grace for the salvation of sinners. For I have given unto them the words which Thou gayest Me (John 17:8).
For more than one thousand years Mohammedanism was the chief external foe of Christianity. The death of Mohammed was succeeded by a century of conquest in which Syria, Egypt, North Africa and Spain speedily passed into the possession of his followers. Turned back at Tours by Charles Martel in 732, the Mohammedan menace remained quiescent for seven hundred years and then flared up again with renewed intensity after the capture of Constantinople in 1453 by the Turks. Under Suleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566) Turkish power extended deep into central Europe and dominated the Mediterraneen. It was not until the Turks were defeated in the great naval battle of Lepanto in 1571 that the tide began to turn against them.
These Mohammedan conquests, tragic though they were, clearly reveal the guiding hand of God's providence. In the first place, they served to isolate and preserve the True New Testament Text until the time came for its transferal to Western Europe. In the second place, by diverting the attention of the Roman Catholic powers during the first critical years of the Reformation they helped to save Protestantism from annihilation. And finally, it is possible that through these conquests the way has been prepared for the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Perhaps the coming national conversion of the Jews will include their Mohammedan neighbors, these sons of Ishmael who like unbelieving Israel are children of Abraham after the flesh but not after the Spirit. It may be that thus will be brought to pass the saying of Isaiah. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land. Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance (Isaiah 19:24-25).
(d) The Scholastic Philosophy—Faith and Reason
During the middle-ages the study of Aristotle's philosophy flourished greatly, at first among the Nestorians in Syria, then among the Mohammedans, then among the Jews, (31) and finally in the educational centers of Western Europe, where it developed into the Scholastic Philosophy. This was the attempt to harmonize the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church with the teachings of Aristotle, an effort which placed new emphasis on the relation of faith to reason.
The prevailing tendency of scholasticism was to make reason and faith independent of each other, the former ruling in the realm of nature, the latter in the realm of grace. It became customary to say that Aristotle was Christ's forerunner in things pertaining to nature and John the Baptist in things pertaining to grace. The schoolmen differed, however, as to the degree of separation existing between reason and faith. Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) denied that there was any real contradiction between faith and reason. Faith, he insisted, was not contrary to reason but above it. All the dogmas of Roman Catholicism, he maintained, either agreed with the philosophy of Aristotle or at least could not be proved false on Aristotelian grounds. Duns Scotus (d. 1308), on the other hand, admitted that the Roman Catholic dogmas were contrary to the philosophy of Aristotle but held that these dogmas should be believed in anyway on the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. In such cases Duns operated with two levels of truth. What was false on the level of reason was true on the level of faith. (32)
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) used Aristotle's philosophy as a foundation for the Roman Catholic religion of works. As has been stated, Aristotle taught that God moves the world by being "the object of the world's desire" and that matter moves up toward God through its union with the forms. Thomas applied this Aristotelian concept to the moral realm. Man strives for the highest end, and the highest end of all is to gain a knowledge or vision of God. Man attains this end through meritorious deeds and through the grace supplied by the sacraments of the Church. Thus not only in a physical sense but also in a spiritual way man moves upward in the scale of being toward God, the object of his soul's desire. (33) This is somewhat similar to the modern theory of theistic evolution, and many Roman Catholics today are attempting to bring Aquinas up to date by substituting evolutionism for Aristotelianism as the philosophic element in his system.
In philosophy and science, therefore, Roman Catholicism has followed its usual procedure of absorbing non-Christian elements rather than rejecting and refuting them. And the same has always been true in the political and ecclesiastical spheres. Today, for example, the Church of Rome is trying hard to draw Greek Catholics, Protestants, socialists, and even communists under its mantle in order that through the addition of these groups its ecumenical organization may become all-powerful. Hence the Roman Catholic conception of faith has always been that of blind obedience, the promise to believe whatever the Roman pontiff at any given moment officially decides must be believed.
In order, then, to understand the relationship of faith to reason we must first of all take a biblical view of our faith. If I really believe in God, then God is real to me, more real to me even than my faith in Him. For if it is the other way round, if my faith in God is more real to me than God Himself, then I am not believing but doubting. Hence in thinking about our faith and in describing it to others we must begin with that which is most real, namely, God. We must confess that God is, that He reveals Himself in the world, in the Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Christ, and that our faith in Him and in Jesus Christ His Son is not the product of our sinful, human minds and wills but the gracious gift of His Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:8). In this book, therefore, we are striving to present only this biblical and consistent view of Christian faith. This is why we defend the Traditional New Testament Text, the Textus Receptus, and the King James Version. In them God draws nigh and reveals himself.
After we take a biblical view of faith, we are then able to take a biblical view of reason and of its relationship to faith. Reason is the mental faculty by which we know the facts, the temporal truths which God establishes through His works of creation and providence. Faith is the spiritual faculty by which, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we lay hold on God Himself, the Supreme Truth, as He reveals Himself in and through the facts. Hence faith is not a "super-added" gift, as many of the medieval schoolmen supposed, not reason's cap and crown, but its foundation. We defend the Christian faith by showing that it is the only foundation on which the facts can be arranged and that all the attempts of unbelievers to substitute other foundations result only in confusion and chaos. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ (I Cor. 3:11)
Anselm (1033-1109), the "father of scholastic philosophy," was emphatic in his insistence on faith as the foundation of reason and knowledge. "I believe," he declared, "in order that I may understand. (34) But this biblical emphasis on the priority of faith did not long continue. For one thing, Anselm himself lost sight of it in his famous "ontological" argument for the existence of God. Taking a neutral view of his idea of God, he first regarded it as merely a part of his mental experience and then attempted to prove that it was a necessarily true idea. And in Anselm's successors, as we have seen, the Roman Catholic conception of faith as submission to ecclesiastical authority tended inevitably to place faith and reason in separate spheres.
Hence it was not until the Protestant Reformation that the reconciliation of faith and reason became possible. Then it was that believing scholars and theologians began to describe their faith consistently, taking as their starting point that which is most real to every true believer, namely, God, who reveals Himself in the world, in the Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Christ. Such a description opens the way to a better understanding of the intellectual implications of our Christian faith. We see that we are not only justified by faith but renewed in knowledge (Col. 3:10). By faith we lay hold on Christ, reason's only true and sure foundation. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life (I John 5:20).
What does God reveal in the word which He has created, in the holy Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Christ? Does He reveal Himself, or does He merely reveal information concerning Himself? This is a question of deepest interest to every earnest Christian. For if in nature, in the Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Christ God didn't reveal Himself but only information concerning Himself, our Christian faith would never bring us near to God. We would know certain facts about God, but we would not know God. We would believe in certain doctrines about Christ, but we would not believe in Christ as a Person. But thanks be to God that this is not the case. For the Bible itself teaches us that God's revelation is a revelation of HIMSELF, not of mere information concerning Himself.
(a) The Protestant Reformers and the Living Word of God
God reveals HIMSELF, not mere information concerning Himself. The Protestant Reformers understood this fact. To them the Bible was no mere book of doctrine but the revelation of the living God. In the Bible Christ revealed Himself. Martin Luther emphasized this in the preface of his German New Testament version (1522). "Briefly, St John's Gospel and his first Epistle, St. Paul's Epistles, especially those to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and St. Peter's First Epistle: these are the books which shew thee Christ and teach all which it is needful and blessed for thee to know, even if you never see nor hear any other book or any other doctrine." (35)
It is true that Luther in his zeal pushed this principle too far, even to the point of making some unfavorable remarks concerning Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation, alleging that these New Testament books did not present Christ clearly enough. But these were mere hasty criticisms which had no permanent effect on the development of Lutheran doctrine. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit Lutheran churches soon united in confessing their faith in the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments "as the only judge, norm, and rule, according to which, as by the only touchstone, all doctrines are to be examined." (The Formula of Concord, 1576) (36)
John Calvin also regarded God's revelation of Himself as a present reality which ought to guide and govern the whole of human life. This was the theme of the opening chapters of his Institutes, namely, God's revelation of Himself in nature, the clarification and amplification of this revelation in the Scriptures, and the certification and confirmation of this revelation by the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers. And in the French Confession (1559) Calvin and his followers gave a finished statement of their faith in the books of holy Scripture. "We know these books to be canonical, and the sure rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and consent of the Church, as by the testimony and inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, which enables us to distinguish them from other ecclesiastical books upon which, however useful, we can not found any articles of faith." (37)
(b) The Thirty Nine Articles and the Westminster Confession
The official position of the Church of England (Episcopal Church), as defined in the Thirty Nine Articles (1562), was in agreement with the Protestant Reformers as far as the authority of the Bible was concerned. "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church." (38) This Article was included in the Methodist Articles of Religion, an abridgement of the Thirty Nine Articles prepared by John Wesley and adopted by American Methodists in 1784. (39)
The first chapter of the Westminster Confession is generally regarded as containing the fullest exposition of the orthodox Protestant faith concerning the holy Scriptures. The section on the testimony of the Holy Spirit is especially notable and reads (substantially) as follows: "We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the agreement of all the parts, the purpose of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full explanation it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection of it, are arguments by which it abundantly proves itself to be the Word of God. But our full persuasion and assurance of its infallible truth and divine authority is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts." (40)
This Westminster Confession was adopted not only by Presbyterians (1647) but also by Congregationalists (1658) (41) and by Baptists (1677). (42) Some parts of the Confession were altered to agree with Congregational and Baptist convictions, but in regard to the chapter on the Scriptures all three denominations found themselves in complete accord.
(c) The Decline of Protestantism—Dead Orthodoxy, Pietism, Modernism
By the middle of the 17th century all the great Protestant creeds had been formulated, but instead of going forward in the strength of this achievement Protestantism entered soon after into a long process of decline which has continued unto the present day in spite of intervening periods of revival and missionary effort. One of the factors that brought about this decline was the development of dead orthodoxy. Many orthodox Protestants came to regard Christianity as mainly a system of doctrine set forth in a creed and confirmed by proof-texts taken from the Bible. Hence the Gospel was preached and taught in a cold, dead way merely as information concerning God and not as God's revelation of Himself. The result of this emphasis was all too often a dead faith, which, because it was centered on a creed and not on God Himself, soon withered away and was replaced by various forms of unbelief and finally by modernism.
The second factor in the decline of Protestantism was pietism. The pietists endeavored to combat the evils of dead orthodoxy, but in their protest against the misuse of creeds they went too far in the other direction. Their tendency was to ignore creeds altogether and to emphasize the feelings at the expense of the intellect. "Use your heart and not your head," was their slogan. The result was an unthinking emotionalism which left the door open to many errors and eventually to modernism.
God is truth. But He is also more than truth. He is a living Person. Therefore divine revelation is more than a revelation of the truth concerning God. It is this, but it is also more than this. It is God's revelation of Himself. In nature, in the Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Christ God reveals HIMSELF. When once we understand this and commit ourselves to God through Jesus Christ His Son, then we cut off all occasion to dead orthodoxy and pietism and arm ourselves to do battle against the modernism which results from these two errors.
Modern philosophy made its appearance immediately after the Protestant Reformation. The leaders of this new movement ridiculed both sides in the then current religious controversy. "Once there was a man," they quipped, "who had two sons, one Catholic and one Protestant. And so each brother converted the other, and God had mercy on them both because of their zeal." But in order to escape punishment these early modern philosophers denied that they were antichristian. They were only being impartial, they insisted, and unprejudiced. And from this claim has arisen the modern world-view, which has always pretended to be neutral and unbiased in all religious matters.
Weakened by dead orthodoxy and pietism, conservative Protestants of the late 17th and 18th centuries failed to resist the rising neutral world-view as vigorously as they should have done. Instead of taking their stand upon God's revelation of Himself in holy Scripture and pointing out that the neutral world-view is not really neutral but antichristian and full of contradictions, they began to adopt it themselves, especially in those areas of thought not specifically covered by their Reformation creeds, namely, philosophy and biblical introduction and above all New Testament textual criticism. Soon a serious inconsistency developed in the thinking of orthodox Protestants. At their colleges and theological seminaries especially students and teachers alike were torn between two world-views. In their study of systematic theology they maintained the believing world-view of the Protestant Reformation, but in their study of philosophy, biblical introduction, and New Testament textual criticism they adopted the neutral world-view of Post-Reformation rationalism. Today this illogical state of affairs is still being perpetuated in a few theological schools, but most of them have resolved the tension by becoming completely modernistic. The purpose of this book is to endeavor to reverse this trend by promoting consistently Christian thought especially in the sphere of New Testament textual criticism.
(a) Rationalistic Philosophy—Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz
The early modern philosophers were rationalists. They made reason (the thinking mind) the starting point of their philosophical systems. And of these rationalistic philosophers the very earliest was Rene Descartes (1596-1650), who is usually considered the founder of modern philosophy. Descartes is famous for his use of doubt as a philosophical method. (43) He began by doubting everything that it was possible for him to doubt. He doubted not only the existence of God but also the demonstrations of mathematics, the existence of the material world, and even the existence of his own body. Finally, however, Descartes came to something which he could not doubt, namely, the existence of his own mind. Even while he was doubting, he was thinking. Hence he could not doubt that his mind existed. "I think, therefore I am." This, he believed, was the rock-bottom foundation of certainty on which he could build his philosophical system. (44)
After Descartes had established that it was impossible for him to doubt the existence of his own mind, he reversed his reasoning. Discarding doubt as a philosophical method, he endeavored to argue his way back to certainty, using as stepping-stones the very convictions that he had previously doubted. He now asserted that the existence of God was not doubtful after all, because the idea of a perfect God which he had in his mind could not have come from an imperfect, doubting being like himself but must have been created in his mind by a perfect God. Therefore it must be that a perfect God exists and that the material world exists. For surely a perfect God would not deceive him by causing him to think that a material world existed if it did not in fact exist. (45)
But Descartes' attempt to regain his certainty through these arguments is very illogical. For if it is actually possible to doubt the existence of God and the material world and everything else except self-existence, then it is forever impossible to be certain about anything except self-existence. Everything else, having been doubted, must remain uncertain. Hence no Christian ought to adopt Descartes' philosophy since it casts doubt on the existence of God.
Two other famous rationalistic philosophers were Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) and G. W. Leibniz (1646-1716). They believed that through the use of reason alone it was possible to deduce the fundamental nature of God and the universe. Spinoza was a pantheist. Indeed the term pantheism was invented to characterize his philosophy. He believed that there was but one basic substance of which both God and the universe were composed. According to Spinoza, God is nature viewed as active (natura naturans), and the universe is nature viewed as passive (natura naturata). (46)
Leibniz believed that the universe is composed of simple substances or souls, which he called monads. In non-living matter the monads are unconscious, in a stupor, so to speak. In animals the monads are conscious. In human beings the monads are rational. As rational beings we acknowledge God as the sufficient reason or cause of our existence. The monads have no communication with each other but cooperate according to a harmony which has been pre-established by God. (47)
(b) Empirical Philosophy—Locke, Berkeley. Hume
The above mentioned rationalistic philosophers (Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz) conceived of thought as consisting chiefly of innate ideas which were implanted in the human mind at birth and which developed as the human mind developed. The philosophers whom we shall now consider were empiricists (from the Greek word empeiria meaning experience). They denied the existence of innate ideas and regarded thought as simply a series of mental experiences.
The first of these empirical philosophers was John Locke (1632-1704). (48) In his famous Essay on Human Understanding (1690) he sought to demonstrate that the ideas commonly thought to be innate were not really so since they were not found in idiots or children or savages, a contention which modern investigation has not substantiated. At birth, Locke asserted, the human mind is "white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas". (49) He believed that ideas enter the mind only through sensation (sense experience, e.g., seeing, touching, hearing, etc.) or through reflection ("the notice which the mind takes of its own operations and the manner of them"). (50) Hence, in his theory of knowledge, Locke came perilously close to maintaining that the mind can know nothing else than its own ideas. "Since the mind, in all its thoughts and reasonings, hath no other immediate object but its own ideas, which it alone does or can contemplate, it is evident that our knowledge is only conversant about them." (51) Locke, however, was inconsistent and so declined to develop his philosophy to the point of complete skepticism. He allowed the existence of the material world as the source of sense experience and even insisted that we can be certain of our own existence, of causation, and of the existence of God, conclusions which by no means follow from the premises which he laid down.
George Berkeley (1685-1753) and David Hume (1711-1776) carried Locke's principles to their logical conclusion. Berkeley, who later became Anglican Bishop of Cloyne in southern Ireland, used Locke's philosophy as the basis of his famous argument against materialism. He contended that only spirits and ideas exist. Matter does not exist, he maintained, because we do not experience matter but only our idea of matter. Hence matter is God's idea, and the creation described in Genesis was not a creation of matter but only a creation of spirits (angels and men) with whom God could share His idea of matter. (52)
Hume pushed on to other extreme positions. He denied not only the existence of matter but also his own self-existence on the ground that he was not able to experience his self but only his ideas. Likewise, he denied causation, asserting that he could not experience it but only a succession of events in time. (53)
(c) Critical Philosophy—Immanuel Kant
The skepticism of David Hume concerning causation stimulated Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), one of the world's most influential thinkers, to develop his critical philosophy, an investigation of the powers and the limitations of the human mind. (54)
In his Critique of Pure Reason (1781) and his Prolegomena (1783) Kant dealt with the problem of human knowledge. (55) According to Kant, we cannot know things as they are in themselves but only as they appear to us in our human experience. Whenever our minds begin to speculate about things as they are in themselves apart from our human experience of them, we run into antinomies (contradictions). We find that there are two sides to each question. Arguments of equal validity can be found to support either the thesis (affirmative) or the antithesis (negative), so that we cannot determine which side to take. Hence we can know nothing certain concerning things as they are in themselves. Certain knowledge, Kant insisted, is confined to the realm of experience. Space, time and causation are valid concepts because they are facts of our experience.
Such, in brief, was Kant's reply to Hume. But many subsequent philosophers have denied that Kant really refuted Hume, because Kant simply assumed what Hume denied, namely, that the human mind experiences causation. Also many subsequent philosophers have accused Kant of inconsistency. He seems to imply that things in themselves are causes of human experience, and this would make causation not merely a fact of experience but also one of the things in themselves of which we can know nothing certain.
In his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and his Critique of Practical Reason (1788) Kant discussed the concepts God, freedom and immortality and their relation to the moral law. (56) According to Kant, it is impossible either to prove or to disprove the existence of God intellectually, but it is helpful to have a rational faith in God as a moral Governor who will reward us in a future life in proportion to our worthiness, our conformity, that is, to the moral law. But we must not think of God as a Law-giver or of the moral law as determined by God's will. Obedience to such a law, Kant maintained, would not be true worthiness. It would be heteronomy, obedience to the law of another. In order to be truly free and worthy, Kant insisted, a man must be his own law-giver. He must be autonomous. He must obey only the moral law which his own reason supplies, the categorical imperative which orders him to behave as he would wish everyone in the whole universe to behave. "Act as though the maxim of your action were by your will to become a universal law of nature." We must obey this categorical imperative for duty's sake alone, not from any other motive, not even out of regard for God.
In his Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793) Kant attempted "to discover in Scripture that sense which harmonizes with the holiest teaching of reason," (57) that is, with his own philosophy. According to Kant, Adam's sin is an allegory which symbolizes our failure to obey the categorical imperative for duty's sake alone. Regeneration is the resolve to give this imperative the required single-minded obedience. Satan represents the evil principle in human nature. The Son of God is a personification of the good principle. The kingdom of God is "an ethical commonwealth." It will come on earth when the transition is made from an "ecclesiastical faith to the universal religion of reason."
(d) The Philosophy of History—Georg W. F. Hegel
Georg W. F. Hegel (1770-1831 ) developed his philosophy of history as an alternative to the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant. (58) More clearly than most subsequent thinkers Hegel discerned the basic fallacy in Kant's approach to the knowledge question. Kant's critical philosophy, Hegel observed, was an attempt "to know before we know." (59) In other words, Kant tried to isolate the human mind from the rest of reality and analyze it all by itself. This, Hegel pointed out, is a mistake. We can know nothing certain about the human mind unless we know something certain about the whole of reality, of which the human mind is but a part. We can not know a part until we know the whole.
Instead, however, of receiving by faith God's revelation of Himself in nature, in the Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Christ and finding in this revelation the necessary universal knowledge, Hegel turned his back on the orthodox Christian faith and sought the solution of his problem in a pantheism similar to that of Spinoza. Philosophy, Hegel maintained, must be a system. "Unless it is a system a philosophy is not a scientific production." (60) At the center of Hegel's philosophic system is the Idea. This Idea is the Absolute. It is not logically dependent on any other idea, but all other ideas are logically dependent on it. Hence the Idea is the logical ground, or explanation, of the universe.
According to Hegel, philosophy is divided into three parts. "I. Logic: the science of the Idea in and for itself. II. The Philosophy of Nature: the science of the Idea in its otherness. III. The Philosophy of Spirit: the science of the Idea come back to itself out of that otherness.'' (61) The reason for this three-fold division of philosophy was Hegel's belief that the universe is constantly engaged in a threefold process which Hegel called Dialectic (a Greek philosophical term signifying the discovery of truth through discussion). Logic is continually converting itself into Nature (the material world) and then returning to itself as Spirit. Thesis (affirmation) is always transforming itself into antithesis (negation) and then coming back as synthesis (a combination of the two). Hence, according to Hegel it is "narrow" and "dogmatic" to assume that of two opposite assertions the one must be true and the other false. We ought rather to recognize, Hegel insisted, that in such cases both propositions contain elements of higher truth.
Hegel regarded human history as the third phase of the universal process (Dialectic). Human history is the Idea returning to itself as Spirit It is Spirit seeking to know itself. According to Hegel, the essence of Spirit is freedom. Hence freedom is the theme of human history. History, Hegel taught, is divided into three periods. First, the period of the ancient, oriental nations who were governed by despots and knew only that one (the despot) was free. Second, the period of the Greeks and Romans who were free themselves but kept slaves and so knew only that some are free. Finally, there is the period of the Germanic nations, who live under constitutional monarchies and know that all men are free. For Hegel freedom was inseparably connected with the State and reached its most perfect form under a constitutional monarchy. "The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth." (62)
(e) Philosophy Since Hegel—Neo-Kantianism. Existentialism
During the latter part of the nineteenth century there was a trend away from Hegelianism back to the philosophy of Kant and his completely untenable position that it is possible to know something certain about a part of reality without knowing anything certain about reality as a whole. Various schools of Neo-Kantians adopted distinctive attitudes toward this fundamental problems. (63) At Marburg they attempted to solve it by denying that there is any reality outside of human experience. At Heidelberg they ignored it, concentrating rather on Kant's doctrine of the will and the categorical imperative. At Goettingen A. Ritschl and his followers pursued a similar course in the theological field. "Theology without metaphysics," was their slogan. God is love and only love. It was in this sense that the Ritschlians called God Father. Christ they conceived of as the Founder of the Kingdom of God, the ethical commonwealth described by Immanuel Kant. They regarded Him as God, but not really. Only in the sense that for them He had "the value" of God. (64) This Ritschlianism was preached vigorously in the United States by Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) under the title of "the social Gospel" and became the quasi-official theology of the Federal Council of Churches. (65) As such it was a factor in the socialistic legislation of the New Deal era.
Existentialism is a philosophical movement begun in Denmark by Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). Kierkegaard's leading thought was that the different possible conceptions of life are so sharply at variance with each other that we must choose between them. Hence his catchword either/or. (66) Moreover, each particular person must make this choice for himself. Hence his second catchword the individual. Life is always pressing on and forever leading to new possibilities and new decisions. Hence we ever stand before the unknown. We cannot be sure that the future will resemble the past. Hence a logically connected philosophy such as Hegel's is impossible. Our choices must be made by jerks and leaps. Only thus, Kierkegaard insisted, will we do justice to our individual existences. (67)
Existentialism was revived after World War I by Jaspers (1883-1969) (68) and Heidegger (born 1889) (69) and popularized after World War II by Sartre (born 1905). (70) Like Kierkegaard, these philosophers emphasized the individual life situation of each human being and its possibilities, the necessity of choosing between these possibilities, the background of death and nothingness and the accompanying dread and nausea, the choice itself and the freedom obtained by this act of will. These factors they regarded as the necessary components of authentic existence. In the theological field the leading existentialist was Karl Barth (1886-1968) who equated the experience of existential choice with the Christian doctrine of revelation. It is, he maintained an encounter with the hidden God. (71)
As the modern age progressed, more and more unbelievers threw off the cloak of neutrality in religious matters, openly disclosing the underlying atheism, and this trend has continued until finally it has become dominant everywhere. This rapid growth of atheism illustrates the impossibility of being neutral toward God's revelation of Himself in nature, in the Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Christ. When men start their thinking from this neutral position, atheism is always the logical consequence.
(a) Materialism—La Mettrie, Holbach, Moleschott, Vogt
Materialism, the view that only matter exists, is one of the most common forms of atheism. La Mettrie, a French physician, was an atheist of this type. In 1748 he published a notorious treatise entitled Man A Machine (72) in which he denied existence of the soul and ridiculed the natural evidences of the existence of God. Similarly, in 1770 Holbach published in Paris his System of Nature, which has been called "the Bible of materialism." In it he maintained that belief in God leads to priestcraft and persecution and interferes with natural morality. (73) And after the French Revolution such materialistic atheism became increasingly common. For example, Moleschott (1852) taught that thought is produced by phosphorus ("without phosphorus no thought"), and Vogt (1855) asserted that thought stands in the same relation to the brain as gall to the liver or urine to the kidneys. (74)
The principal argument of the materialists against Christianity has always been their demand that the relationship between soul and body be explained in materialistic terms. But this demand is inconsistent and absurd. For the soul by definition is spiritual. Therefore its relationship to the body must be spiritual. Hence it is illogical to demand that this relationship be explained materialistically. And materialism also involves many other absurdities. For example, if thoughts come from matter, then scientific theories about matter must themselves be forms of matter. And if thoughts are forms of matter, then even fanciful and absurd thoughts, such as golden mountains, round squares, centaurs and winged horses, must all be forms of matter and as such have a real and material existence or subsistence. Then a proposition must be a material substance and truth a physical or bodily state.
(b) The Origin of Life—Pasteur, Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel
During the 19th century the controversy between materialists and orthodox Christians shifted from the question of the relation of soul and body to the question of the origin of life. This change was brought about by the theory of evolution, which logically involves some type of spontaneous generation. At first this was no problem, for from the days of the ancient Greeks until the mid-19th century almost everyone believed that life could be generated spontaneously. For example, the famous Brussels physician Van Helmont (1577-1644) claimed to have generated live mice by placing a dirty shirt in a bowl of wheat germs and keeping it there for three weeks. William Harvey (1578-1657), the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, believed that worms and insects could be spontaneously generated from decayed matter, and Descartes and Isaac Newton held similar views. Even Lamarck mentioned the possibility of the spontaneous generation of mushrooms. (75) But in 1862 Louis Pasteur proved that no known form of life, not even bacteria, could be generated spontaneously, and evolutionists were compelled to adjust their theory to this new discovery. (76)
Some evolutionists made this adjustment by giving God a small part in the evolutionary process. God, they said, created the first germ of life, and then evolution did the rest. This was the view that Darwin had already advanced publicly in his Origin of Species. (77) Privately, however, he preferred a materialistic explanation of the origin of life, suggesting that life might have arisen from a protein compound in a warm pool in which ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity and other ingredients were present. (78) Huxley and Haeckel, Darwin's foremost disciples, believed that life had originated in the sea. When some slime was dredged up from the bottom of the ocean, Huxley proclaimed it the simplest form of living matter and named it after Haeckel, but later it proved to be only some inorganic salts. (79)
Present-day followers of Darwin, Huxley and Haeckel look eagerly to space science to confirm their views. In 1959, for example, Urey and Miller expressed their opinion that all the projected space flights and the high costs of such developments would be fully justified if they were able to establish the existence of life on either Mars or Venus. (80) And in the same year M. Calvin named the moon, Venus and Mars as three non-terrestrial environments which might possibly contain life or the traces of life. (81) But subsequent investigations have not encouraged these hopes. Astronauts have walked the moon and found it lifeless. Three American and two Russian spacecraft have sailed past Venus and sent back their reports. According to this new data, Venus is the hottest of all the planets with temperatures reaching 1,000 degrees F. thus rendering the existence of life impossible. (82) As for Mars, in 1976 this planet was canvassed very carefully for signs of life but with negative results. Two space craft were landed on Mars with equipment to test the soil and transmit the results to earth, but the experiments were inconclusive. (83)
What about the possibility of creating life in a scientific laboratory? Some materialists claim that this feat has already been accomplished. Experiments with viruses, for example, have sometimes been so interpreted. Viruses are minute particles which cause certain diseases. When they are not in the cells of an organism which they can infect, viruses seem entirely lifeless, even forming crystals after the manner of inorganic chemicals. But as soon as a virus penetrates a living cell, it reproduces (makes copies of) itself just as if it were alive. Viruses, moreover, consist of two parts, a protein shell and a core of nucleic acid (DNA or RNA). (84) In 1955 at the University of California H. L. Fraenkel-Conrat accomplished the remarkable feat of disassembling two breeds of the tobacco mosaic virus and then successfully combining the protein shells of one breed with the RNA nuclei of the other. But as Fraenkel-Conrat himself observed, this was not a creation of life but an analysis of biologically active structures in terms of chemistry. (85)
Other experiments have proceeded along similar lines. In 1957 A. Kornberg and his associates in St. Louis caused DNA nucleic acid molecules to reproduce themselves by mixing a small "primer" of DNA with a ferment (enzyme) taken from colon bacteria and then adding the proper building materials of nucleic acid (nucleotides). (86) And in 1965 Spiegelman and Haruna of the University of Illinois did the same thing with RNA nucleic acid, using a ferment (enzyme) taken from cells infected by a certain virus, a small amount of RNA as a primere - magnesium salts, and the proper building-materials. (87) But as Dobzhansky (1964) admits, such experiments, though very impressive, do not really involve the creation of life from non-living constituents, since some of the materials are taken from living cells and, in any case, no living cell is produced. (88)
(c) Positivism—Comte. Russell, The Vienna Circle
Positivism was a type of scientific atheism first advocated by Auguste Comte (1798-1857). His fundamental doctrine was the alleged three stages of human thought. The first stage, according to Comte, was the theological. As men passed through this stage, they were first fetish-worshipers, second polytheists, and finally monotheists. The second stage was metaphysical. In this stage men no longer referred phenomena to supernatural beings but to unseen causes, to occult powers or forces which can not be detected by the senses. But this stage, Comte believed, had also been outgrown, and thinking men had now entered the third stage of development, to wit, the positive stage. Men living in this third stage have come to recognize that there are no spiritual agencies in the universe, no efficient causes, nothing but facts discoverable by the senses, nothing but events which take place according to natural law. In this positive stage, Comte insisted, it has become evident that theological and metaphysical problems are insoluble and senseless. All that we ought to attempt is to discover and systematize the laws of nature. (89)
Comte's wide-ranging theories won him friends and adherents in England as well as in France. John Stuart Mill and the historian Thomas Buckle were numbered among his admirers. Of the later 19th-century positivists Kirchhoff and Mach, noted physicists, were especially prominent. And throughout the century there were many other scientists who, though they refused the positivistic label, yet by their contempt for religion and metaphysics showed themselves to be thoroughly imbued with the positivistic spirit.
Early in the 20th century, however, positivists began to discover that they had not really succeeded in eliminating metaphysical problems. They had only created a new one, namely, the problem of meaning. For if the religious and metaphysical ideas of the past are meaningless, how can positivists be sure that their own ideas have meaning? What is meaning? What does "meaning" mean? (90) The study of this question was given the name Semantics (science of meaning ).
Semantic studies were carried on first in England by Bertrand Russell in the early 1900's. A pioneer and outstanding authority in the field of symbolic logic, he applied this technique to the propositions of Kant and other great philosophers of the past in order to discover their meaning or lack of meaning. This procedure he called logical analysis. (91) Although Russell refused to be called a positivist, he leaned in this direction, and his achievements in symbolic logic had great influence on 20th-century positivism, so much so that it soon became known as logical positivism.
Shortly after World War I a group of logical positivists, usually spoken of as "the Vienna Circle", began to meet together at the University of Vienna under the leadership of Moritz Schlick, a professor of scientific philosophy there. (92) Ludwig Wittgenstein, who had studied logic under Bertrand Russell, was also influential in the group, although he never actually attended any of its meetings. (93) In Poland also during this same period similar groups were active. (94) Then during the 1930's interest in logical positivism spread to many lands, especially after the rise of Hitler to power, an event which had a scattering effect upon the whole movement. Many of its leaders fled to the United States and began to teach logical positivism and semantics in American Universities. And at the same time Alfred Korzybski, Stuart Chase, and S. I. Hayakawa introduced these subjects to the American public at the popular level. (95)
These semantic studies, however, have not led to any satisfactory conclusion. Positivists now maintain that meaning is a matter of convention. Whether you find meaning in a proposition or not depends on the semantic system which you adopt, the linguistic rules which you choose. Positivists say that they prefer to follow a semantic system in which only propositions, which can be verified experimentally, are meaningful. (96) But this is a purely arbitrary and subjective way to handle the question of meaning. If meaning is anything at all, it must be objective and independent of our wills. The Christian finds this meaning in God, his Creator, and in Jesus Christ, his Redeemer and Saviour.
(d) Cybernetics—The Philosophy of Automation
A new era in the history of materialism seems to have begun in 1948, for this was the year in which Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and world famous pioneer in the field of automation, published his well known book Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. The word cybernetics was derived from the Greek word kybernetike, which means the art of steering. Thus the title of the book conveyed Wiener's central thesis that there is no fundamental difference between animals and machines and that even human beings are basically mechanical. The principles, Wiener argued, that are valid in the realms of communication-engineering and automation can be applied also to human life. (97)
Wiener tells us that he was led to these conclusions through his work on anti-aircraft guns during World War II. These guns were aimed by computers which calculated the position of the enemy aircraft on the basis of statistical probability. If the gun failed to score a hit, radar-pulses would be reflected back to the gun both from its own bursting shell and from the enemy aircraft. (98) These radar-pulses would set in operation a correctional process called "feedback," namely an electrical current which was "fed back" into the gun's computer. This "feedback" would then correct the calculations of the computer and thus improve the aim of the gun. Computerized encounters such as these were regarded as contests between two machines, the automatic gun on the one hand and the enemy pilot and his aircraft on the other.
Wiener's work on anti-aircraft guns was soon utilized in the field of communication-engineering (telegraph, telephone, radio, television). In this realm also there is a contest between two opposing forces. The first of these is called information. When a message is received over a wire or over the radio waves, the exact content of the message is never absolutely certain. And so out of all the possibilities the most probable is selected by means of mechanical devices which operate on the principle of statistical probability. "Information" is the process by which this selection is made. The second and opposing process is called entropy, the scientific name for the electrical disturbances which break up the message and render its reception difficult by making all the possibilities equally probable. The use of Wiener's methods of computing probabilities provided a way to eliminate these electrical disturbances more completely and thus to improve the reception of messages.
Out of these principles of communication-engineering and automation Wiener developed his philosophic system. He regarded the history of the universe as a gigantic struggle in which entropy and information are pitted against each other. Entropy, he maintained, is the disintegrative force which dissolves the universe by making all the possibilities equally probable and thus doing away with all distinctiveness. Information is the constructive force which uses "feedback" (Wiener's new name for adaptation to environment) to make some possibilities more probable than others and thus to set in motion the process of evolution. Both human beings and machines are products of evolution. Human beings must be used humanly. Since they are high grade machines, they should be assigned tasks involving decision making. Boring drudgery should be reserved for machines of a lower order. But in the last analysis, according to Wiener, all human striving is in vain. Entropy must win the victory over information, and the history of the universe must end in chaos.
Wiener's cybernetic philosophy has been eagerly adopted by evolutionists the world over and now reigns almost supreme in scientific circles, but like all other materialistic thought structures it falls down when handled critically. What is back of the possibility out of which both entropy and information are said to flow? If nothing is back of it, why is there any possibility? Why isn't everything impossible? And what is back of the statistical probability which is said to guide both entropy and information? If nothing is back of it but chance, why isn't there chaos right now? Why don't all the possibilities become equally probable at this very moment? And in what sense can Wiener claim that his materialistic philosophy is true? For if materialism is true, then all ideas, theories and philosophies must be forms of matter or states of matter and as such cannot meaningfully be said to be true.
(e) Truth and Certainty, Probability and Error. Common and Saving Grace
Most modern scientists are convinced of one thing, however much they may differ in regard to other matters, namely, that science has no use for absolute or final truth. Professor Margenau (1963) of Yale is quite passionate, even violent, in his expression of this conviction. Science, he declares, harbors no absolute or final truth. Final truth, he asserts, is stagnant knowledge. Only a fool looks for it. Only a feeble soul insists on truth by revelation. (99) And others have expressed themselves similarly. For example, the eminent scientific philosopher Hans Reichenbach (1938) maintained that human knowledge includes no truth. "All we have," he said, "is an elastic net of probability connections floating in open space." (100)
But can the situation be as these scientists picture it? Can there be probability without truth? Is it possible to abolish truth and leave nothing but probability? Analysis shows that this is not possible. For when a scientist says that his theory is probable, he means that it is true that his theory is probably true. He does not mean that it is probable that his theory is probably probable, for this would be nonsense. In other words, probability makes no sense unless there is also truth.
It cannot be, therefore, that all propositions are merely probable. Some propositions must be permanently true. Otherwise the probability concept becomes meaningless. What are these permanently true propositions? God gives the answer to this question. The permanently true propositions are those propositions by which God reveals Himself in nature, in the holy Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Christ which is the saving message of the Scriptures.
God is the God of truth. Through Moses He proclaims Himself as such. A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He (Deut. 32:4). And Jesus tells His disciples, I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me (John 14:6). The significance of these biblical statements and many others like them is explained by the fact that the biblical word for truth is emunah, which means firmness, steadfastness, faithfulness. God is the Truth, the Supreme Reality on which all other realities depend, the unshakable firmness which supports the universe which He has created, the unchangeable steadfastness, the ultimate faithfulness. Truth is an attribute of God, one of the aspects of His infinite and eternal Being. His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations (Psalm 100:5).
If God is truth, what then is probability, and how does probability differ from certainty? In answering these questions we must remember that God is infinite and that therefore not all aspects of His revelation of His truth are equally clear to our finite human minds. Regarding the revelation which God makes of His operations in the kingdom of nature this is obviously so. Lo these are parts of His ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him? but the thunder of His power who can understand? (Job. 26:14). And in the realm of spiritual things also, in the study of the Scriptures, our limited human intelligence loses itself in wonder at the depths of the divine knowledge. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! (Rom. 11:33).
According to the Bible therefore, the difference between probability and certainty can be defined in the following way: Certainty is our clear perception of God's clearly revealed truth, especially His revelation of Himself in nature, in the holy Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Christ. Probability, on the other hand, is our dimmer perception of God's less clearly revealed truth. In other words, God's clearly revealed truth suggests further truth less clearly revealed, and this suggests yet further truth still less clearly revealed, and so we go forward until at last we stand before the unrevealed truth, namely, the secret things of God (Deut. 29:29). Similarly, statistical probability is the truth suggested, in varying degrees of clarity, by the statistical regularity which God establishes in the world and maintains by His providence.
But what about error and falsehood? Where do they come from? The Bible teaches us that Satan, the father of lies, is the ultimate source of both these great evils (John 8:44). From the very beginning down to the present time Satan has spread his falsehoods far and wide by means of doubt, denial, and deception. By casting clouds of doubt upon God's clearly revealed truth he makes it seem only probable. For example, Satan said to Eve, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Gen. 3:1). Did God really say anything like this? Then from doubt Satan brings sinners farther to an open denial of God's truth. Ye shall not surely die, Satan assured Eve (Gen. 3:4). And having thus prepared the way, Satan completes his work of deception by suggesting a false alternative to take the place of the rejected truth. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:5). By such false hypotheses and theories down through the ages Satan has ensnared the lost members of our fallen human race and made them his willing captives (2 Tim. 2:26).
By his deceits and stratagems Satan reigns over the minds and hearts of unbelieving sinners and over their civilization and culture. He is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). Yet even here he does not hold undisputed sway. For the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit exercises a restraining influence over the minds and hearts of sinful men which prevents their wickedness from attaining its full potential and thwarts the evil purposes of the devil. This influence of the Holy Spirit does not save sinners. It merely restrains their wickedness, often making them capable of an outward righteousness (Matt. 5:20). It is called common grace because it is bestowed upon all unbelieving sinners in common, both upon those who like Nicodemus later repent and believe (John 19:39) and upon those who like the rich, young ruler persist in unbelief and finally perish (Mark 10:22). To this common grace of the Holy Spirit is to be attributed all the relative truth and goodness that is to be found in unbelieving thought and life. When the Holy Spirit withdraws this restraining influence, public morality sinks to record lows, as in the days before the flood (Gen. 6:3), in the days of the Roman Empire (Rom.1:24), and also, it seems, today.
It is possible, therefore, and useful to make a distinction between Truth and facts. Truth is eternal. It is an attribute of God. Facts, on the other hand, are the temporal truths which God establishes by His works of creation and providence. Facts are revealed by God to men through their thought processes, and in the facts God reveals Himself. Because of common grace unbelievers are able to know many facts. Often their knowledge of the facts is much more extensive than that of most believers. But since unbelievers reject God's revelation of Himself in the facts, their knowledge of the facts is incomplete, and their thinking is full of fallacies and inconsistencies.
When a sinner repents and believes in Christ, he is lifted out of the realm of common grace into the realm of saving grace. The Holy Spirit no longer merely restrains his sin but progressively eradicates it. The converted sinner becomes a new creature in Christ and acquires a new way of looking at every question (2 Cor. 5:17). He no longer sees the truth as unbelievers do in disconnected flashes but as an organic whole which has its center in God's clear revelation of Himself in nature, in the holy Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Christ. Beginning at this central point, he strives to follow this divine truth out into every sphere of thought and then to communicate this truth to others. Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee; that it may be displayed because of the truth (Psalm 60:4).
(f) Christian Truth Versus Godless Economic Theory
Currently there is perhaps no area of human thought in which the application of Christian truth is more needed than in the realm of economics and sociology, for it is here that Satan today seems to be making his most deadly impact. It is fitting therefore that we conclude our history of unbelief with a few remarks in this field.
The modern science of economics is generally considered to have originated with the Scottish philosopher Adam Smith, who in 1776 published a book that won him lasting fame, entitled, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. In this treatise Smith contended that there are three factors on which the wealth of any nation depends, namely, labor, capital, and the law of supply and demand. The operation of these three factors should be left to the control of private individuals without any government interference or control. "All systems either of preference or of restraint, therefore, being thus completely taken away, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord. Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest in his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men." (101) This principle of non-interference on the part of government has often been called the laissez-faire (hands-off) principle.
Adam Smith's famous book had far-reaching effects. For one thing, it transformed economics from a practical concern into an academic matter. Soon economics was taught in universities and written about in scholarly publications by theorists, many of them with little actual experience in commerce and industry. Then, as the years rolled by, these scholarly "economists" grew more ambitious. No longer content merely to teach and write but desiring to rule, they gravitated more and more toward socialism. Discarding Adam Smith's principle of laissez-faire, they founded organizations and political parties to work for state ownership and control of economic resources. One of the best known of these socialistic associations was organized in 1884 by a group of English radicals. Since their strategy was to bring about social changes gradually, they named themselves the Fabian Society after the ancient Roman general Fabius, who won a decisive victory through the policy of delay. Not less sinister, all through the later 19th century there lurked in the background the communist party of Marx, Engels, Bukharin, and Lenin, who developed Adam Smith's emphasis on the importance of labor into a program of world-wide revolution and world-wide governmental ownership and control allegedly for the benefit of the workers.
The catastrophic changes of World War I fanned all these smoldering embers into flames which reached our own country in 1933. Since that date the government of the United States has fallen increasingly under the domination of subversive elements (socialists, Fabians, communists) commonly called the "Liberal-left." With this Liberal-left at the helm, our American ship of state has met with disaster after disaster, especially in the international sphere. Since World War II communists have taken over Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, and parts of other regions such as Indochina, the Near East, Africa, and South America. More than one billion human beings have been enslaved. And when we come to armaments, the situation is still more frightful. In 1962 the United States had 2 1/2 to 10 times as much nuclear firepower as the Soviet Union. (102) In 1972, after the signing of the Salt I armament agreement in Moscow, Dr. Henry Kissinger acknowledged that the Soviets had a 3-to-1 advantage over the United States in explosive tonnage. (103) But the only response of the Liberal-left to this terrible danger has been to cancel the B-1 Bomber, delay production of the neutron bomb, and give away the Panama Canal.
For many years it has been evident that the long-term objective of the Liberal-left leaders is to bring about the surrender of the United States to the Soviet Union. This drastic step, they believe, is necessary in order to establish a World Government. In 1958 the U. S. Senate was thrown into furor by tidings of a book entitled "Strategic Surrender," which had been prepared by the Rand Corporation, the first and greatest of the federal government "think-factories," and distributed to the U. S. Air Force. (104) In 1961 a bulletin was prepared by the State Department proposing surrender of military power to a United Nations Peace Force. (105) This also was discussed in the Senate, but this time there was no furor. Instead the bulletin was defended by a liberal Senator as "the fixed, determined, and approved policy of the Government of the United States of America." (106) In 1963 a study was made by a group of 60 scientists and engineers headed by Nobel-prize-winning physicist Eugene P. Wigner in the area of civil defense. The group proposed a tunnel grid system which for the price of $38 billion would provide all U. S. cities of over 250,000 population with protection against nuclear attack. Their report was submitted to the Defense Department and placed in storage. (107) Similarly, on Feb. 9, 1967, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended a plan providing a thin anti-missile defense for the entire United States and added protection for the 50 largest cities. (108) A bill endorsing this plan was passed by the Senate 86 to 2 on Mar. 21, 1967, but Defense Secretary McNamara said it would be too expensive ($4 billion a year for 10 years), and so nothing was done about it. (109)
In 1969 appropriations were voted for two anti-missile sites, but only one was constructed, and even this was abandoned in 1975. In contrast, the Russians have a fully operative anti-missile system around Moscow. Most of their new factories are built away from large urban areas, and Russian society is now equipped to go underground at short notice, with immense shares of foodstocks buried. Missile sites also have been hardened to about 15 times the strength of those in the United States. (110)
If the projected "strategic surrender" of the United States to a Russian dominated United Nations actually takes place, Bible-believing Christians everywhere will be facing persecution and death, and the preaching of the Gospel will well nigh cease. Until Jesus comes, therefore we must do our duty as Christian citizens. We must expose and oppose the evil program of the Liberal-left and work for the re-armament and security of our country. All available resources must be allocated to this end. Wasteful programs must be discontinued.
Does this mean that we are to return to the economic doctrines of Adam Smith? Not quite. For Smith was a skeptic, a friend of David Hume, and because he was a skeptic he failed to appreciate, or even to consider, the most important of all the causes of the wealth of nations, namely, the blessing of God and the influence of Christian Truth. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6-33). Even earthly interests prosper best under the sunlight of the Gospel. This is why even unbelievers, even those who reject the Saviour whom the Gospel proclaims, prefer to live in Christian countries rather than non-Christian countries and in Protestant countries rather than in Roman Catholic countries. And the testimony of history is to the same effect. The Near East, for example, was once the richest region in Christendom, but after the Mohammedan conquest it speedily became poverty stricken. At the time of the Reformation Spain and Italy were the most wealthy nations in Europe, while England was poor and Scotland barbarous. Then the Gospel came to Britain, and this relationship was reversed. And in all North and South America the only wealthy nation is our own United States, in which alone (with the exception of the Protestant provinces of Canada) the preaching of the Gospel has had free course.
While defending our country, therefore, we must not forget to defend the Bible, for this is still more basic. Honesty, moral purity, and trust in God are the foundations of national and personal prosperity, and these fundamentals are taught only in the holy Scriptures. Two things have I required of Thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me (Prov. 30:7-8). But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).
(g) Victorious Faith! —The Difference Between Faith and Doubting
Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done (Matt. 21:21). Here Jesus promises us that if we have faith and doubt not, even that great mountain of unbelief which now encompasses the earth shall fall before us. But how do we obtain this faith? How do we know whether we have it or not? How can we tell whether we are believing or doubting? What is the difference between faith and doubting? The Bible answers these questions in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews.
He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11 :6b). If I truly believe in God, then God is more real to me than anything else I know, more real even than my faith in Him. For if anything else is more real to me than God Himself, then I am not believing but doubting. I am real, my experiences are real, my faith is real, but God is more real. Otherwise I am not believing but doubting. I cast myself therefore on that which is most real, namely God Himself. I take God and Jesus Christ His Son as the starting point of all my thinking.
This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith (1 John 5:4). In the past true believers won great victories for God through their faith. Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of aliens (Heb. 11:33-34). Today we also can be victorious through faith if we doubt not, if we take God and His revelation of Himself in holy Scripture as the starting point of all our thinking. In science, in philosophy, in New Testament textual criticism, and in every other field of intellectual endeavor, our thinking must differ from the thinking of unbelievers. We must begin with God.
(For further discussion consult Believing Bible Study, pp. 2-3, 219-222.)