Letter to an Atheist Friend…

Since it looks like we’re not going to mass-debate together, I thought a parting gift was in order. What sort of Christian would I be if I didn’t try to leave some bit of wisdom, or at the very least, condemn you to Hell a few times before parting? In lieu of a volley of Bible strikes I figured I’d give you this book by Cornelius Van Til.

Kant deconstructed the Ontological argument (sorry Plantinga)…David Hume demolished any form of the Cosmological argument (William Lane Craig be damned), and Darwin sufficiently neutered the Teleological argument, (Hugh Ross needs a tissue!) With all the traditional Christian arguments dealt with, how can an intellectual case for God be constructed? What would one even look like?

An unfortunate truth about the history of Christian thought is our propensity towards allowing secular philosophy to shape fundamental elements of our position. It is this weakness that causes the above listed arguments to fail. St. Augustine wasn’t immune to this either, though he did attempt to differentiate between the philosophy of Jerusalem, and that of Athens. What emerged was a truly Christian attitude often summarized in a famous statement:

I believe in order to know!

Unlike Thomas Aquinas, (who “knew in order to believe”!) St. Augustine saw faith itself as the foundation for all of our knowledge. This set the stage for later Reformed theologians, especially the Dutch reformers like Bavinck, Kuyper, Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven to construct their reformed theology based on a transcendental principal. From Christ, to Paul, to Augustine to Calvin, to the Dutch reformers, a strong view of faith has been developed…finding the most clarity and coherence in the statement given by Cornelius Van Til, (the late professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary.)

Within this reformed theological context, the traditional arguments can be reformulated in such a way that the classic deconstructions of them are no longer valid. Many naïve Christians refuse to believe that the classic arguments are weak. Atheists become used to responding to the futile attempts of these Christians to hang on to the validity of the classic arguments. However, when an atheist is confronted with transcendental reasoning, and the solid (coherent) theology of reformed orthodoxy…they are often caught off guard.

I hope that doesn’t happen to you, and so…I’m giving you Van Til’s most popular work “Defense of the Faith.” He demonstrates why a correct understanding of the Christian concept of God should be a vital element in defending the Christian faith. Unlike Aquinas, who started his defense by assuming the mind of man as the ultimate interpreter of reality (and then worked up from empirical data to God), the Transcendental argument says that the empirical data of our experience cannot make sense unless the Christian God were true to begin with.

Anyway…if nothing else, at least you’ll have a new book to add to the shelf.

Been fun!

Scott Terry

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