Cornelius Van Til and Belief in God

Cornelius Van Til

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Cornelius van Til was a Christian Philosopher, Presuppositional Apologist and Reformed Theologian born in Grootegast, The Netherlands, in 1895. If you are not familiar with him, I highly suggest reading his works such as The Defense of the Faith, A Christian Theory of Knowledge  or even his biography Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman. Further, Presuppositional Apologetics (also referred to as Reformed Apologetics) may seem very foreign to you, but it is the apologetic school that believes that Faith in God is the only basis for rational thought. This approach emphasizes the presentation of Christianity as revealed – based on the authoritative revelation of God in Scripture and in Jesus Christ. Its most common forms find absolute and certain proof of Christianity in the absolute and certain character of the knowledge that God has and that He has revealed to humanity. (For further reading about apologetic systems read Ken Boa and Robert Bowman’s Faith Has Its Reasons)

I recently read his pamphlet Why I Believe in God and was greatly encouraged by his sound defense of his believe in the existence of God. In his speech he not only accurate states the position of the non-believer, but also hints that Christians themselves have not done the best job preaching Christ. Here is what he says:

We were so anxious not to offend you that we offended our own God. But we dare no longer present our God to you as smaller or less exacting than He really is. He wants to be presented as the All-Conditioner, as the emplacement on which even those who deny Him must stand.

And again he says:

The fact that so many people are placed before a full exposition of the evidence for God’s existence and yet do not believe in Him has greatly discouraged us. We have therefore adopted measures of despair. Anxious to win your good will, we have again compromised our God. Noting the fact that men do not see, we have conceded that what they ought to see is hard to see. In our great concern to win men we have allowed that the evidence for God’s existence is only probably compelling. And from that fatal confession we have gone on step further down to the point where we have admitted or virtually admitted that it is not really compelling at all. And so we fall back upon our testimony instead of argument. After all, we say, God is not found at the end of an argument; He is found in our hearts. So we simply testify to men that once we were dead, and now we are alive, that once we were blind and that now we see, and give up all intellectual argument.

I highly encourage you to take some time to read through his argument Why I Believe in God and to evaluate your current efforts in ‘apologetics’. May we not be so conscious of not offending man that we lose sight of offending God. Do not be discouraged brothers and sisters. It is through the Bible that God speaks to those he has called. We are mere vessels for His use. May we seek to honor God and His word by setting forth to study it and speaking it in a logical manner in order that we may be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. (1 Peter 3:15)

Aid Turned Hindrance?

Faith in some experience devoid of theological or biblical content–no matter how powerful–is not New Testament Christianity.  Those called to Christianity in general may believe nothing in particular. But faith resides in particulars. Some churches seem to think that doctrine is a concern for those of a certain intellectual bent, but unnecessary for most Christians.  Interest in doctrine amounts to something like an intellectual hobby.  Others steer clear of doctrine for fear of argument or division in the church.  Both factors indicate a lack of respect for the Christian believer and an abdication of the teaching function of the church.

– Albert Mohler –

I was recently sitting in a coffee shop when I picked up on a conversation between two women, presumably Christian due to the nature of their conversation. As the conversation progressed the topic moved towards Christian movies and how certain movies influenced them individually. I was astounded as they stated how certain concepts from the movies had shaped some of the ways they understood Scripture and how the movies had impacted their beliefs. What?

To be sure, media has enhanced ministry in the last twenty years. Never before has the church had the ability to spread the Gospel in such a rapid and effective manner as it enjoys today. Media has become an indispensable aid to the church; even to the point that mission agencies have sought ways in which to provide the same media material to missionaries and churches around the world. (i.e. Jesus: He Lived Among Us and The JESUS Film Project) What great tools have been afforded the church in our day!

However, have these aids become hindrances?

I have noticed a disturbing tendency in the church of America as of late in which Christians rely on slogans picked up from books and videos to form their theology rather than dedicating themselves to the earnest study of Scripture. As stated above by Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, many churches believe that the work of developing and studying theology is for certain intellectuals, such as the professor and pastor, but certainly not for the average Christian. This view of theology is detrimental because it falsely asserts that theology is a secondary aspect to the Christians walk and thereby believes that theology is not necessary for the ‘normal Christian walk’. What is missed in this assumption is that the Christian life cannot be lived without some form of theology driving it. Therefore when the theology behind their walk is not based on Scripture, other things will take its place. This proves detrimental because what comprises their theology is a melting pot of random existential experiences and insight from a myriad of authors who may or may not agree with one another.

This is where media comes into the argument. Media has vastly changed how Americans process information. Due to the sheer volume of media that people are exposed to in a given day, much of their thought processes are formed by tidbits of information rather than a complete, well thought-out argument. Anymore, communication is merely about what is said, rather than what is said and how it is said. As a result, we substitute how something is said with how it is interpreted by the hearer which leads to a plethora of various understandings. Finally, this reliance on tidbits of information in order to form our thoughts has resulted in lazy research. Many people no longer study for themselves. They leave the task of understanding and articulating complete arguments to the academic.

In the church, the problem is the same. The average Christian has no interest in theology or deep study of Scripture. Many arrive to church merely wanting the ‘take-away’ value and want little to do with the details of Scripture. As a result, churches use media as succinct ways to give the congregation brief theological insights and to spur deeper individual study. While this seemed like a good tactic since those in the congregation were accustomed to media, is appears that it has created a further problem. Many Christians rely on the short media presentations to form their theological beliefs.

Unfortunately, many within the industry that create these resources are not orthodox believers. Take for example The Passion of the Christ, which was a blockbuster for Christians and has been treasured by Christians around the world. What is totally overlooked by Christians is the fact that the film is infused with Roman Catholic Tradition, and many Christians now believe that some of the aspects of the film (i.e. Satan bearing a child, God shedding a tear, Judas being harassed by Demons, and Claudia providing linens to Mary the mother of Jesus to clean the blood from the scourging) are found in Scripture.

Christians have become incredibly lazy in their understanding of Scripture. We have settled for the path of least resistance and accepted all too easily what we find in ‘Christian’ Media. Many Christians have settled for the little pieces of information they receive, labeled biblical despite how unbiblical it may very well be, not realizing how detrimental and contradictory their ‘theological’ system has become. For this adoption, they pay a dear price in not understanding the Gospel they claim to believe as well as not being able to articulate that Gospel to those who ask. What tragedy has gripped the church and robbed it of precious understanding of its God and Gospel.

I pray that Christians will realize how they have crippled themselves and will seek to intimately know and understand God. Second, I pray that churches will begin to teach their congregations theology, not from a video or curriculum, but from Scripture alone. Third, I pray that Christians will learn the Gospel in order that they can provide an answer for the hope that lies within them. Finally, I pray that Christians will begin to carry out discernment when deciding what media to absorb because the mere title ‘Christian’ defines so little anymore.

So what about you? Do you turn to Scripture when trying to understand theology, or have you relied upon what Hollywood and publishing houses have produced? Can you articulate the Gospel you claim to cling to? Has your Christian walk become a melting pot of conflicting ideas and opinions not derived from Scripture?

What will you do to change?

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature – for those whose sense have been trained to distinguish between good and evil. Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

– Hebrews 5:12-6:2 –

Central Asia Missions Update

Not too long ago I posted about my calling to Central Asian missions. Since then I have been in talks with several missions agencies to see which way the Lord directs. With this has also come much research about a particular nation I am looking at. Due to the nature of the political and religious climate in Central Asia, prudence dictates that I remain silent as to the specific nation I am looking at.

All five countries that comprise Central Asia are ‘closed’. This means that in order to enter the country, you cannot come as a ‘missionary’, rather you must come through some other means. For most this means entering as a business man or women, or as a teacher such as TESOL.  As I was doing my research I discovered that there is a great need for teachers, not only of English, but also basic academics. This is rather exciting news, but it would require a bit more work in graduate school to accomplish qualifying for that form of entry.

Things to Pray for:

  • Continuing discussions with Mission Agencies
    • There is an agency that would like to see me at their April meeting. I would love to go, but I do not know if funds will allow such a trip.
  • Continued guidance in preparation for the field via graduate school at Southern Baptist Theological
  • The ability to remain debt free in graduate school in order that I can go straight to the field and not be hindered by debt
  • Confirmation that the way I found to gain access to the country is indeed the will of the Lord
  • Determining if I should train in TESOL or pursue a different Academic field to teach

Ministry Update

Since its inception, the ministry of Solid Anchor has been to ‘Evangelize the World and Reclaim the Church’. Work on the latter half of the goal is ever-growing and continuing as I preach wherever the Lord gives opportunity. This aspect of ministry is vital due to the large-scale issue in the church of a lack of dedicated, serious believers. Too many in the evangelical church either know little or nothing of their faith, live world consumed lives, or they have become overwhelmingly passionate and zealous without a basis of true Biblical Theology. The work of ‘Reclaiming the Church’, which is stated in such a way to highlight the work of exposing and correcting false teaching, will continue as long as the Lord leads.

As for the former aspect of the ministry, there really has not been a time where doors opened for the evangelization of the world for me. For much of my walk with the Lord unfortunately, the extent of ‘evangelizing the world’ existed solely in the realm of ministry and missionary support. However, the realization of the goal to evangelize the world is coming to fruition in recent days.

For the longest time I knew specifically that I was to plant churches, but whether that was to be here in the states or overseas, I never really knew. Within the past couple weeks, through the preparation of a sermon, I was deeply convicted through Scripture and prayer that I have a duty as a follower of Christ to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, meaning wherever He deems appropriate to send me, no matter where it may lead. Whenever I thought of missions and the possibility that I may someday take part in it, I always thought it would be nice to be in Europe. Indeed a society that was predominantly post-Christian would have proven challenging, but being in Europe would have had many pleasant benefits (not that those benefits are wrong). This changed though as I was preparing a message on Suffering for Christ based out of Philippians 1:29. The conclusion of the message was the suffering in the believer’s life was a gift from God that is to be accepted with the same joy with which we accept our Salvation. The burden throughout the message was that there is an estimated 6,000 unreached people groups and roughly 1,ooo,ooo,ooo people who have NO opportunity to hear the Gospel. This means that there is no church, no missionaries, scarce Christians, etc. The church has talked about these figures for years, yet scarcely anyone is going to these fields. Where are the men and women of God who will rise up and count their lives cheap for the Gospel of Christ?

It is imperative to me that I never preach a message to a people without being willing myself to follow through on the application of God’s Word. This is where the challenge for me came. I researched people groups, where they were located, the progress of reaching them, and sought to challenge the people to whom I was preaching to action. This is where I faced myself; rather, God showed me what I was to do and asked if I would practice what I preach. I would not say that I was given the ‘Macedonian Call’ but I was convicted and convinced by Scripture and God’s work in me through prayer that I am to plant churches overseas.

With most the unreached people groups living in the Asian part of the world, I began to look there and it was little time till I was moved towards Central Asia. Central Asia is composed of five dominantly Islamic countries that used to be part of Communist Russia; Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Kazakhstan has some amazing things happening as God works through Missionaries there, and believers are being added to the church each day. As for the other four countries, Christianity is among less than 2% of the population; for 3 out of those 4 it is less than 1%. This part of the world seems to be ‘forgotten’ as there is little mission work among them (confirmed through several conversations with missions agencies). The unique situation for each of these 4 countries lies in the fact that they are Post-Communist, Islamic dominated and Restricted Access (meaning that you cannot enter the country under the title ‘Christian Missionary’ but must enter through some other means such as TESOL and once you are in, your Christian work must be carried in a careful fashion). It is to this part of the world I have been burdened with.

I know not the specifics of what the Lord will do there. I know that in seeking to minister and bring the Gospel of Christ to a people who so desperately need to hear that I will most likely face severe opposition. I know without a doubt though, that the Lord will be with me. There are indeed many unanswered questions, but as I move forward peace is coming. Undoubtedly there is much to be done here in the church in America and I will continue to encourage, exhort, rebuke, correct, preach and minister in the church in America as long as the Lord allows, but I dare not stay here in the states permanently as people in Central Asia die in Islam without the knowledge of Christ.

Therefore, pray for me as I seek a Missionary Agency, continue to develop in this calling (specifically which country), seek out seminary training and wisdom as to how to enter the country He calls me to. There is much to look forward to and many new things to learn from the Lord. I am excited and at the same time humbled by this calling.

For the Souls of Men and the Glory of God

Soli Deo Gloria

Why Do You Wait?

Why do you wait, Dear Brother? Oh, Why do you tarry so long? Your Savior is waiting to give you a place in His sanctified throng.

What do you hope, dear brother? To gain by a further delay? There’s no one to save you but Jesus, There’s no other way but His way.

Do you not feel, dear brother? His Spirit now striving within? Oh, why not accept His salvation, and throw off your burden of sin?

Why do you wait, dear brother? The harvest is passing away; Your Savior is longing to bless you, There’s danger and death in delay.

Why not? Why not? Why not come to Him now? Why not? Why not? Why not come to Him now?

– George F. Root –