In a case argued just this month.
As we had to break off, Dr Luke had just read from the story in Ac 27 on how democratic government can be manipulated, and how that can lead to disaster if the people are not alert and vigilant to do the sound.
Now, we have to turn to Kurt Godel, speaking for modern intellectuals of theistic bent (and assisted by our lawyers, Morison and Greenleaf).
Dr Godel, looking every inch the shy C20 professor, stepped to the wall.
He shyly smiled, then said, I hope you don't mind -- it will not mar the wall, and this is the next best thing to a chalk board.
He said, I think Francis Schaeffer had a good way to summarise what we are facing, and so let me extend one of his Line of Despair diagrams.
He then quickly laid out a diagram with notes on the wall, just by writing with his finger-tip. In glowing letters and lines, this is what we saw:
(Now I know what the Babylonian king must have seen and how he
must have felt that night in 539 BC, when the ghostly hand appeared and wrote on the wall!)
Belshazzar's Feast (Rembrandt, 1635)
Dr Godel then said, before I comment, I need to make a personal point.
Back in the 1940's I scribbled out a line of argument to God's reality in one of my notebooks, then showed it to a student about 1970. He copied and circulated it, and from that time on, the argument has been back on the table. I see where other related arguments, cosmological, teleological, moral, from reason and so forth have also been back on the table.
That's a good -- though limited -- thing, but I think Paul has somewhat to say to that sort of exercise.
Paul nodded, and said, as you know . . . :
Rom 1:1 [I] Paul, [am] a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord . . .The chief warrant for the reality of God is the gospel and the resurrection of our Lord in fulfillment of the scriptures, such as Isaiah 53. Luke, isn't that what you noticed when you summarised my speech to the Athenian elites, in Acts 17?
Could you give it to us, again?
Luke duly cited:
Ac 17: 16 . . . while Paul was waiting . . . at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.
17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”-because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.”
21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said:
Paul at Athens (Gebhard Fugel, cf. GCI)
“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.
23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription,
‘To the unknown god.’
What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and
have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.“‘For we are indeed
Paul nodded.30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. [ESV]
Funny, it wasn't when I pointed out that the Athenians, guardians of the intellectual tradition, had to admit to ignorance on the first point of all knowledge -- the root of being, that they hit a wall. It wasn't when I pointed out that God has given us signs aplenty in the world around us of his reality and goodness. It wasn't even when I pointed to the words of their own poets and thinkers.
No, it was when I got to what is backed up by over 500 witnesses, most of whom were then still alive. And scriptures publicly accessible for centuries before the fact.
That was what seemed folly to the professedly wise and it was what seemed offensive to those who saw a hanged man -- not a military deliverer from their colonial overlords -- as accursed. But, God's foolishness is wiser than man's wisdom, and the curse taken by the redeemer is the blessing we can now have through him. All of us who trust in God by his Scriptures, the same trust that Abraham had. Whether Jew, Arab or Gentile, black, red, yellow, brown or white.
Morison nodded gravely, and said (again):
[N]ow the peculiar thing . . . is that not only did [belief in Jesus' resurrection as in part testified to by the empty tomb] spread to every member of the Party of Jesus of whom we have any trace, but they brought it to Jerusalem and carried it with inconceivable audacity into the most keenly intellectual centre of Judaea . . . and in the face of every impediment which a brilliant and highly organised camarilla could devise. And they won. Within twenty years the claim of these Galilean peasants had disrupted the Jewish Church and impressed itself upon every town on the Eastern littoral of the Mediterranean from Caesarea to Troas. In less than fifty years it had began to threaten the peace of the Roman Empire . . . .
Why did it win? . . . .We have to account not only for the enthusiasm of its friends, but for the paralysis of its enemies and for the ever growing stream of new converts . . . When we remember what certain highly placed personages would almost certainly have given to have strangled this movement at its birth but could not - how one desperate expedient after another was adopted to silence the apostles, until that veritable bow of Ulysses, the Great Persecution, was tried and broke in pieces in their hands [the chief persecutor became the leading C1 Missionary/Apostle!] - we begin to realise that behind all these subterfuges and makeshifts there must have been a silent, unanswerable fact. [Who Moved the Stone, (Faber, 1971; nb. orig. pub. 1930), pp. 114 - 115.]Paul then picked back up:
Rom 1: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.Greenleaf chimed in, when we see the error of the skeptic, selective hyperskepticism, the issue is not evidence or warrant, but willingness to listen to the evidence or warrant. He then continued:
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools . . . [ESV]
In examining the evidence of the Christian religion, it is essential to the discovery of truth that we bring to the investigation a mind freed, as far as possible, from existing prejudice, and open to conviction.Dr Godel, who had been listening attentively and nodding silently, then turned back to the wall- turned- board.
There should be a readiness, on our part, to investigate with candor to follow the truth wherever it may lead us, and to submit, without reserve or objection, to all the teachings of this religion, if it be found to be of divine origin. "There is no other entrance," says Lord Bacon, "to the kingdom of man, which is founded in the sciences, than to the kingdom of heaven, into which no one can enter but in the character of a little child."
The docility which true philosophy requires of her disciples is not a spirit of servility, or the surrender of the reason and judgment to whatsoever the teacher may inculcate; but it is a mind free from all pride of opinion, not hostile to the truth sought for, willing to pursue the inquiry, and impartiality to weigh the arguments and evidence, and to acquiesce in the judgment of right reason. The investigation, moreover, should be pursued with the serious earnestness which becomes the greatness of the subject--a subject fraught with such momentous consequences to man.
It should be pursued as in the presence of God, and under the solemn sanctions created by a lively sense of his omniscience, and of our accountability to him for the right use of the faculties which he has bestowed.
In requiring this candor and simplicity of mind in those who would investigate the truth of our religion, Christianity demands nothing more than is readily conceded to every branch of human science. All these have their data, and their axioms; and Christianity, too, has her first principles, the admission of which is essential to any real progress in knowledge.
"Christianity," says Bishop Wilson, "inscribes on the portal of her dominion 'Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in nowise enter therein.' Christianity does not profess to convince the perverse and headstrong, to bring irresistible evidence to the daring and profane, to vanquish the proud scorner, and afford evidences from which the careless and perverse cannot possibly escape. This might go to destroy man's responsibility.
All that Christianity professes, is to propose such evidences as may satisfy the meek, the tractable, the candid, the serious inquirer." [Testimony of the Evangelists, Opening remarks]
He briefly noted that Paul, an Asiatic, Diaspora Jew who was a Roman citizen and who came from a centre of learning, Tarsus, then went to another -- Jerusalem -- to study under Gamaliel, embodied the central synthesis that formed Western Civilisation as we know it.
No wonder, he then said, that so many are so hostile to him, as they want to sweep away that foundation, the frame of thought that in the end from small and derided beginnings, prevailed in Athens and across the Roman world then has in the past half millennium [never mind the decidedly mixed blessings provided by the sins of Christendom [cf. here on]), come to dominate the globe.
Now, Schaeffer's summary of onward history of ideas and impacts on culture, was not without some flaws -- he sends his apologies (especially to Catholics who admire Aquinas); but in the main with minor adjustments, it is useful.
The pivotal challenge is that we need adequate ground for our worldviews, just as a proof in mathematics or logic must have premises resting on reasonable and acceptable axioms. Such a ground must answer aptly to the evident facts, and it must also be powerful in explanation -- not having to be forever patching yet another leak, nor simplistic and forcing us to lop off and try to ignore what does not fit. It must also be coherent.
That is a big challenge, and it is why the two-storey worldview problem emerged across the centuries. Schaeffer can be adapted, agaim, to show this. And he moved to the side and drew next to the first diagram, another:
This was the first form of the incoherence that emerged under those who overlooked the wider points Aquinas made. Nature eats up grace, and then nature eats up everything that really counts: coherence, reason and mind, even morality in the end.
No that that is any great surprise.
Plato, in the Laws, Book X, warned on exactly that, even from within a pagan scheme of thought. He won't mind my citing and giving a bit of a preview of what he will have to say:
[[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . .After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [[ --> In short, evolutionary materialism is hardly a new view, and it is no surprise, given the genius of Plato, that he saw the consequences long ago]. . . .
[[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[ --> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny.)]These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth.That is the pivotal problem.
They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ --> Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[--> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[--> such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . .
For centuries, it was grappled with, then about two hundred years ago, leading thinkers began to despair of solving it. Schaeffer's "line of despair" is apt.
Now, that dichotomy of the world has spread far and wide and the range of problems Plato predicted based on what he saw and heard in Athens in his youth, is coming to fruition yet again.
Strange, it is Marx who said that history repeats itself twice over, once as tragedy, the next time as farce.
The umpteenth time, must be as the theatre of the absurd.
So, if we are to avert the sort of shipwreck that happened in Acts 27 (or at least minimise damage), what must we do to restore our civilisation and the wider world that it dominates?
I think we can adapt another of Schaeffer's diagrams to see what is possible:
The challenge, gentlemen, is reformation, reformation based on understanding the irretrievably cracked foundation of ultra- modern, evolutionary materialist secular humanism, and where it ends.
Then, with at first a small and derided remnant, but across time a swelling tide, a sensible alternative can be built.
And, perhaps, one last little trick thanks to Heaven's hookup to the Web and the presence of Youtube.
Schaeffer's Whatever Happened to the Human Race, episode 1.
After we have to leave in a moment, you can watch it. Just click with your finger and it will work. And afterwards, you will be able to copy down my sketches.
Okay, here goes.
He then made a box with his finger and scribbled a url, and this popped up:
Just then, we heard a polite rap on the door.
On opening, an angel was there and said, it's time to go folks.
The visitors filed out rapidly, and I followed.
A whole squadron of angels.
Gabriel was with Pegasus, who had our guests on his back -- he is VERY large. John the Baptist was tickling his ear and Pilate was brushing his mane a tad. The others were looking for all the world like amusement park children looking forward to quite a ride.
Next to Gabriel were two angels, obviously his wingmen.
Another rather grim looking angel with drawn sword, was also flanked by two others. I noticed one had a scorch mark on his left wing. The other was our friend from earlier in the evening, who gravely nodded to me. He had a bit of a black smudge on his right cheek, as though he had missed a burn by a hair.
There were four more triplets of angels.
Gabriel said, I trust you had an excellent evening.
Michael here -- nodding to the other senior angel -- says we need to go now, so, farewell. And, fear not!Now you know why this blog post mini series.
Michael nodded, and then off to the south-west there was a veritable explosion of demonic shooting stars going down, closely followed by bursts of the same in a wider ring; with particularly heavy concentrations in the north and east.
Michel's wingmen pulled swords and the three zoomed up swoosh -- about as high as clouds would be, then paused.
Pegasus, led by Gabriel and his wingmen, with three triads in a ring slightly behind Pegasus went up next, and were below Michael.
After that the final trio went up in an obvious rear guard group. The whole formation rotated and then streaked off to the South West where the explosion of shooting stars had happened.
Faster than I can tell it, they were gone -- streak.
I looked for a moment, wondered at how they disdained to use Earth's West to East rotation to give some start-up speed, and then went inside.
I watched the video and copied off the sketches.
Then, it just simply faded out.
We, too, have our work cut out: calling out a remnant then restoring what is possible of a civilisation and world through the power of the truth. That, in a context where in an democratic age, we the people have a sobering responsibility to vigilantly guard and if necessary restore our foundations. Even, as George Washington had pleaded. END