[Much of this material is based on Richard Pratt, Every Thought Captive (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1980).]
- Once as a teenager, I put a baked potato wrapped in foil in the microwave; sparks flew.
- When you use something contrary to its design, you cause problems.
- Last lesson: we are designed to depend on God in our knowledge.
- What happens when we don’t? It causes problems.
- Non-Christian worldviews are not true to reality; always collapse on themselves.
I. Unbelievers claim absolute certainty.
- Kant: “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another.”
- Key word: autonomy
- The autonomous pursuit of knowledge = putting oneself in God’s place
- The originally autonomous pursuit of knowledge: Genesis 3; rebellion in the garden
AUTONOMY AND CHRIST’S LORDSHIP
- But is this a claim to absolute certainty? Don’t many unbelievers acknowledge uncertainty?
- There is no neutrality in the face of Christ’s claims to lordship.
- Christ’s claims for himself:
- John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
- Matthew 28:18: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
- Matthew 8:21-22: “Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’”
- Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
- Final judgment focuses on Jesus: Matt. 7:23: “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
- C.S. Lewis: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
- Refusal to submit to his lordship = absolute certainty that he is not Lord over you.
- You are confronted with the claims of this man; refusing to submit to him is to rebel.
- Unbeliever claims absolute certainty that he need not depend on God’s revelation
II. Unbelievers are left with total uncertainty.
THE PROBLEM OF FINITUDE
- Where does the unbeliever turn when he has turned away from God?
- He is finite, limited, and thus totally uncertain in his ability to find truth in himself.
- Two aspects of this uncertainty:
(1) No one can investigate everything personally.
- What if there is evidence that disproves your belief in a place you can’t access? How would you know?
(2) The unbeliever cannot give an account for the truth he does know.
- Unbelievers know many true things, but can’t explain sufficiently how they know.
- They are living on borrowed capital.
- Result: unbelievers are absolutely certain and totally uncertain; caught in a dilemma.
(1) The certain unbeliever
- Imagine an atheist: claims there is no (or insufficient) evidence that God exists
- His life testifies to his claim of absolute certainty that Christ is not Lord over him.
- But has he personally investigated every part of the universe? Analyzed every fact?
- How could he possibly know that there is no God? Is he equipped to draw that conclusion?
- On top of that, how does he explain his moral instinct? What makes something “right/wrong”?
- How does explain how he knows anything at all?
- Example: are our thoughts just products of physical processes (like hallucinogens)?
- Or have we been equipped with the ability to transcend physical process and know?
- C.S. Lewis: “A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound – a proof that there are no such things as proofs – which is nonsense. Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldane: ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true . . . and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.’”
- Bottom line: the atheist’s impersonalist worldview cannot account for personhood.
- He is claiming absolute certainty but holding to a position of total uncertainty.
(2) The uncertain unbeliever
- Imagine an agnostic: claims that we can’t know whether or not there is a God.
- In fact, he is claiming absolute certainty that God has not made himself known sufficiently.
- Good question: How certain is he that we must be uncertain about God?
- The person who claims that we cannot know anything about God is claiming to know at least one thing about God: that he cannot be known. But how would he know that?
- He is committed to absolute certainty, but in his autonomy has been left totally uncertain.
Conclusion: Exposing the Dilemma for Unbelievers
- Seek to expose (gently) the self-contradictions in the unbeliever’s worldview.
- Show him that, ultimately, he cannot arrive at truth autonomously.
- Offer an alternative way of thinking:
(1) Dependent certainty: God has spoken, and we can trust his Word.
(2) Dependent uncertainty: God has not revealed everything to us, so we can acknowledge our limits.
- Dependence in our knowledge fits our experience of how we know most everything else.
- Example: How do you know that George Washington was the first President of the USA? You weren’t there to witness it, but you trust the testimony of others.
- We weren’t designed to attain knowledge on our own, in any realm of life.