17
Jul
2012

Worldview, Culture, and Eschatology

Nathan Sasser, Assistant Director of Academic Affairs at the Pastors College for Sovereign Grace Ministries and PhD student at the University of South Carolina, comes on the program to talk about worldview, epistemology, culture, politics, eschatology, and the upcoming Clash conference.

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23 Responses

  1. Thanks for the discussion. For a future episode, it would be interesting to explore the differences between a Reformed understanding of worldview, Kuhn’s paradigms, Berger’s plausibility structures, and Foucault’s concept of episteme.

  2. Overall was a great show.
    On a side note, am I the only one who has never read or even heard of a 2K proponent that believes the earth is to be annihilated? Granted I know there is a spectrum in 2K but that was news to me. Or that ones conscience is unaffected by sin. 😕

  3. Jason D, thanks for these excellent points.

    As for the first point, about annihilation, I had in mind this statement: “Our earthly bodies are the only part of the present world that Scripture says will be transformed and taken up into the world-to-come.” –David VanDrunen, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, p. 66.

    For the second point, VanDrunen certainly believes that the conscience is distorted by sin. But as far as I can tell, he thinks that the true deliverances of conscience can be recovered, without any help from special revelation. The question I was trying to raise is this: without having recourse to Scripture, how do we figure out what are the true deliverances of the conscience, and what are sinful distortions?

    1. Thanks for the reply,… I read through that book and didn’t catch that,… I’ll have to go back to that part. Thanks. Enjoyed both shows you’ve been on. Soli Deo Gloria!

  4. Hermonta Godwin

    Nathan,
    Would not we understand the difference between sinful distortions and true deliverances of conscience by general revelation? It seems that Romans 1 is useful to defend the position that one can understand general revelation without an appeal to special revelation. Otherwise, one would be able to use the fact that they either never saw a Bible or never had it explained clearly, as an excuse for their evil actions.

    Hermonta

  5. Hermonta–great question. Part of knowing but suppressing/exchanging the truth about God (Rom. 1:18-25) is knowing his decree but doing and approving the opposite (Rom. 1:32). So yes, we do know God and his law and are thus responsible, but no, we won’t adequately report and acknowledge this natural revelation until we come to know God in Christ through the Scriptures.
    This raises another good point though–natural theology and natural law are part of the same package. If one is possible without special revelation, then so is the other. I’m curious whether 2K/NL proponents are also bringing back a Thomist-style natural theology, and if not, why not?

  6. Hermonta Godwin

    Hi again Nathan,
    I think the central issue is why unbelievers will not acknowledge the God that is revealed in General and Special revelation? Is it because general revelation is not sufficient/clear etc on how one should act or believe, or is it due to rebellion against what is clearly revealed in general revelation? In the former case, it does not make sense to attempt to hold people responsible for their evil actions because they really cannot know any better until they are introduced to the Bible and have it properly explained. In the latter case, a Christian should be able to explain from the created order only, how the unbelievers are behaving irrationally in their rejection of what God has clearly revealed since the only problem was the rebellion and the Christian is no longer in such a rebellious state.

    I am not a Thomist but you are correct that NT/NL go together, Neither should be feared but instead both should be embraced.

  7. Nathan Sasser

    Hermonta, this is all lucid and well-said. IMO the problem is that natural theology (and natural law) must begin with implanted (immediate, spontaneous, involuntary) knowledge of God. Once this implanted knowledge of God is suppressed or disputed, no direct argument for God is available (pace Thomas). All acquired knowledge of God (through active ratiocination and discursive argument) presupposes the premises supplied by the implanted. That’s why Van Til takes his indirect, transcendental approach. This is the only way to debate the irrationality of starting-points.
    For Thomas, natural law and natural theology can be argued from non-theistic premises; there is no implanted knowledge of God, nor is the implanted knowledge materially relevant to theistic or moral proofs. This is the key point I wish to dispute. If you wish to construct a NT/NL that does start with implanted theistic premises, I won’t fight with you.

  8. Hermonta Godwin

    Nathan,
    Why must NT begin with implanted knowledge of God? I personally only assert to implanted concepts: temporal vs. eternal, finite vs. infinite etc. The biggest problem that I have with Van Til and TAG is that it does not start at a basic point and then proceed. Questioning whether the Bible is the Word of God is not incoherent while doing the same with LNC is. Therefore in order to avoid fideism, one must first deliver an argument for the Bible being the Word of God (and what that presupposes – The God of the Bible’s existence etc) before one wishes to make the claim that all other worldviews are irrational.

    If in fact all other worldviews are incoherent, it should not matter with which premises that you begin, one should ultimately end up in the same place.

    1. mosquito

      Your last sentence is an embarassingly obvious non-sequitur. Your premise does not imply your conclusion. You are just baldly asserting that it does.

  9. Nathan Sasser

    Hermonta, I think if there IS implanted knowledge of God, it makes sense that it should constitute the necessary foundational premises for acquiring more knowledge of God. My case for the existence of of the implanted knowledge of God is the following: in Rom. 1:18ff., Paul argues that everyone actually does know God. The rest of the Bible also bears our the notion that no one has a neutral attitude towards God: the world is divided between lovers and haters of God, and both attitudes presuppose belief in him. The best explanation for universality of belief in God is that it occurs spontaneously, involuntarily, immediately when we perceive God’s handiwork. If knowledge of God arose only from discursive argument, then it would not be universal, since many people have not worked through the relevant arguments. Aquinas makes the same point, but concludes against the universality and hence implantation of knowledge of God.

  10. Hermonta Godwin

    Nathan,
    First, I don’t think there is an objective difference between having knowledge emplanted but then suppressed and not having knowledge at all. If someone said that they did not know the truine God of the Bible, all a Vantillian could do is repeat their claim that yes they do in fact know because they see the Bible as telling them that such is true.

    Next, my position is that one can suppress and be responsible for such suppression of things that they do not in fact know. For example think of a highway with speed limit signs. If a driver, looked away whenever they coming close to and pass such a sign, they would be ignorant as to what the speed limit of that area was. Would that be excusable when they are pulled over by the police? No. They would still, rightfully, get a ticket. Knowing God is not necessary for suppressing the knowledge of God. All one needs is a proper method to know God that someone was in rebellion towards doing.

    Next, it is true that people are not neutral towards God but instead either hate or love Him. However that does not imply that there is no neutral method by which those who love God can show the God haters that such actions are irrational.

    Next, we do not see universal belief in the Truine God (the only God that in fact exists). We see belief in a great deal of things besides the God of Scripture. Such does not imply that all such folks actually know God but instead are just twisting their belief in rebellion. It does imply that Bob Dylan was correct when wrote, “Gotta serve something.”

    1. Jay Ferrell

      Hermonta,

      In your analogy is God the speed limit? Because a more perfect analogy is God is the fact a limit exists and the person is acting in a way that he can ignore God’s existence and then go, “look there is no proof” The ticket is based on all know there is a limit and it is your duty to find out what it is and abide by it, not that the limit was not known.

      Also if the law of God is written on the hearts of men, then is that not knowledge of God being intrinsic to a persons existence? How about being in the image of God, would that not also qualify? How about non-believers exhibiting Godly characteristics, such as compassion, and love? are these not examples of how His image, law and knowledge of him are manifested in all men.

      1. Jay Ferrell

        Sorry can’t edit apparently.

        It should read “The ticket is based on all knowing there is a limit and it is your duty to find out what it is and abide by it, not that the limit was not known

  11. Nathan Sasser

    Hermonta, you’re a fantastic interlocutor. Thanks for honing in so clearly on the important points.
    You deny the possibility of one person simultaneously affirming and denying belief in God; I affirm this possibility. I know it’s a paradoxical and irrational state of affairs, but I think it is required by the biblical data according to which (1) everyone knows God and (2) people say in their hearts “There is no God” and go after idols. You’ve chosen to deny (1). On your account, (2) excludes (1).
    On your account, people are responsible for unbelief either because they once believed in God but then culpably, irrationally extinguished that belief; or perhaps they never believed in God, because they culpably, irrationally responded to the evidence for his existence. This account has its merits, but it does entail that not everyone knows God. And this is exactly what I think Paul and the rest of Scripture teach. So that’s a critical exegetical difference between us.

  12. Hermonta Godwin

    Nathan,
    I think it is easier to accept my position when one looks at in context of Romans 3, especially versus 10-12. The problem is that no one seeks after God, which is how He is found and known. There is also the problem of defeaters coming along to defeat the disputed implanted beliefs. Until those defeaters are rebutted or undermined, how can one still claim knowledge.
    But lets assume that you are right that the Bible does in fact teach that everyone knows God. Such would remain a fideistic position to put any weight on, unless one first justifies that the Bible is the Word of God and all that such a position presupposes. But if one does all that, then it would not matter if everyone already knew God or not. One could simply say, “Mr. you are acting irrationally for denying the truine God”.

  13. Your reading of Rom. 3:10-12 entails that no one believes in God (except Christians):
    a. God is only known through active seeking
    b. No one seeks God
    c. Therefore no one knows God.

    This would mean that knowledge of God is not just something which people lose, but something that they never attain in the first place. Is that what you intend to say?

    As for the fideism charge: implanted belief in God is self-evident, not without evidence. On the other hand, even if someone rejects this self-evident belief, Van Til and I still have recourse to indirect forms of argument, showing that without a foundational belief in God, no other beliefs are justified.

  14. Hermonta Godwin

    Nathan,
    I don’t have a serious problem with an implanted knowledge of God that is quickly extinguished when one is not actively seeking to know God and to further know the implications of the implanted knowledge. I don’t have a problem with the position that no one is born with the knowledge that the God of the Bible is the true God either.

    As a bonus, such a position as mine is able to make sense of what happened to Adam and why he fell. If implanted knowledge was sufficient, then the fall is inexplicable.

    Next, all claims of self-evidences are world-view based. Or according to some beliefs that a person holds, other beliefs follow naturally. If one does not hold the same sets of beliefs then one will consider different things to be self evident.

    As one gets into various arguments direct and indirect, without an appeal to the Bible, the Van Tillian distinctives begin to be lost.

  15. patrick

    Great discussion. I appreciate how irenic it was. The conference sounds interesting; will it be live streamed, or will videos of it be posted online sometime after?

    One problem with worldview talk was highlighted by this discussion. Other worldview thinkers would answer the questions Jared asked about worldviews quite differently. Across all the Christians writing about worldviews, there does not seem to be much consistency in what worldviews are, to what extent people hold them, what difference they make in ordinary professions, etc. E.g. some worldview writers would argue that Christians do, in fact, do plumbing, genetic analysis, truck driving (etc.) in a distinctively Christian way that is substantively different compared to how non-Christians do those activities (they rarely specify what that involves, though). Sometimes it feels like D.G. Hart’s arguments against the meaning(lessness) of the term “evangelical” count just as much against “worldview”!

    Jared and Nathan also brought up the non-Christian grounding for the laws of nature. There are many sophisticated theories non-Christians have developed which may turn out true—counter-factual theories of laws, anti-realist and reductionist theories (Van Fraassen—before he was a Christian!), Humean theories, Armstrong’s universalist view, etc. Even if Christianity is true, any of these might be the right analysis of laws. Comparatively, as far as I know in philosophy, there is is no “Christian” account of natural laws. You might even say Christians are operating on borrowed capital here… Yet why in apologetic discussions do Christians argue as if Christians are the only one that can justify natural laws (without actually arguing against extant theories of laws)?

    1. Jay Ferrell

      patrick,

      I would argue that worldview, or philosophy for that matter are not as prevalent in how one holds a wrench, or pen, but in the ultimate motivation behind doing so and what those goals are and the limits upon what they do.

      Let’s take the Christian plumber, he works to glorify God as a plumber, so he may not do certain jobs (maybe at a brothel), he may vet his suppliers so he doesn’t use businesses that don’t have his beliefs, etc… but first and foremost he does it to glorify God. Does that mean by default he is the greatest plumber of all? No, but his motivation for working and his work take on a Godly character. He has a firm belief in contract, in ensuring the price is right, not cheating his customer etc (and so do non-Christians, but is this the image of God manifesting itself in them?)… As is pointed out in the audio he can justify his actions and does so with God. But we can’t just limit the impact of worldview there, worldview impact all his decisions in a day and ultimately in his life.

      Some examples are relativism, value of diversity, legal abortion, etc…. so our plumber in his daily life follows his world view, and ultimately when taken with others determine such large issues. My world view prohibits me from going to Starbucks. If enough people shared my world view it would be out of business and Planned Parenthood would be out of a source of funding.

  16. Patrick,
    -thanks! and unfortunately no, the conference won’t be live streamed streamed or recorded.
    -I agree about the range of usage of “worldview.” I only intend to defend a Kuyperian/Van Tillian usage.
    -Laws of nature: you seem to be talking more about a metaphysical account of the laws of nature; I may have misspoken in the interview, but I only intended to be pointing out the epistemological problem of induction–what’s our justification for believing that there are regularities in nature? Obviously they’re closely related issues, and I’ve been trying to read up on the metaphysics of the laws of nature just this week for that very reason. I don’t see why a Christian account of the regularities of nature needs to borrow capital though–it seems to me like the biblical doctrine of providence gives us the main outlines.

  17. mosquito

    Your last sentence is an embarassingly obvious non-sequitur. Your premise does not imply your conclusion. You are just baldly asserting that it does.

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