My Story Part 3
So, I was now on a mountain with educated Christians of the Presbyterian stripe. We Presbyterians put a high price on being educated on everything under the sun. And me, already intellectually inclined, soaked up the atmosphere as if I were Sponge Bob Squarepants. I began to read philosophy, science, and just about anything I could get my hands on. I already knew about Lewis, but I was introduced to my favorite author and book of all time, JRR Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings. Instead of late night beer bong parties and screwing, we argued philosophy and theology late into the night. We even did this stuff on dates with girls.
And then, I decided to become a philosophy minor my sophomore year. I had been an English minor, because of my obsession with writing. But, philosophy had gripped me and wouldn’t let me go. I took every class available and read as many philosophers as you can imagine. Presbyterians, you see, don’t believe in editing our readings. And along with my study in philosophy, I was going deep into Presbyterian theology. It was the combination of those two things introduced me to two ideas that changed my life, covenant theology and presuppositional philosophy.
Both of these require posts of their own to describe, but I’ll try to some up each. Covenant theology is the idea that the whole Bible is about one thing, the story of God’s grace to sinners climaxing in the person of Christ. The theology sees the world through the lens of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration. That is, God created the world and made us in His image, we sinned, messed up the world and took a sludge hammer to the Image. Jesus came to restore us to being that image and now we can be what we were meant to be, stewards over the good creation He has made.
I can’t tell you how much that changed my life. I had been raised in a church environment that considered the world doomed for the fire. And because of that, we were taught this world didn’t matter much. The arts, sciences and thought were not really worthy pursuits for a Christian. I remember classes being cancelled in my Christian school because a “revival” had broken out in our school chapel and people just wanted to talk about their experiences. When, in reality, it was a great way to get out of class.
Now, I was being taught that God loved His creation and it was one of the reasons He sent Jesus. He wanted the Image bearers He created to come back to their original calling. Therefore, Christians could think, do science, do art, write history, take care of creation, and love people unconditionally. It transformed me as a person then and still does now.
Along with that, I picked up the philosophical system of presuppositionalism. I know, I know, I already hear everyone going nuts. But, usually I find that either people don’t understand presuppositionalism or they are reacting to what I call “negative” presuppositionalism.
Allow me to explain. There are two schools of thought in presuppositionlism. On one side, You have Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen while on the other you have Francis Schaeffer and Alvin Plantinga. Van Til and Bahnsen would argue that all knowledge comes from God and any pagan knowledge that doesn’t acknowledge this is essentially idolatry. Schaeffer and Plantinga also think that all knowledge comes from God, but they take more of Calvin’s line on it. That all truth is God’s truth and that we can appreciate truth even if it comes from a pagan source.
Ugh, even as I write the above, I know it’s a gross oversimplification. John Frame certainly presents a good picture of Van Til’s presuppositionalism. But, that’s way too much to get into here.
So, I came to accept the view that everyone had shards of truth in their worldview. The reason they had those shards is because they were created in the image of God. And because they were created in that Image, all humans, Christian or not, deserve my utmost respect and love.
But, also presuppostional thought allowed me to ask deep questions about the nature of reality, what people accept to be true or rather, assume to be true. Because this is at the heart of presuppositional thought, to get to the root of what people accept to be true without any real outside proof. For example, we all accept that science gives a good, accurate view of the natural world around us. What we don’t realize is how many questions that actually begs. This view puts a high value on the idea our sense can give us accurate knowledge of the world. We have no proof of that whatsoever. As much as we would like to think so, we can’t really prove that from a scientific point of view. A glaring example of this is the discovery of the Quantum level of reality. Everyone thought the world worked one way and we soon discovered that it, in fact, works another. Our senses told us one thing, but the reality is another. So, the question is, why do we trust our senses? Most of us would say, “well, we don’t’ really have a choice, do we?”
And that, is what presuppositional philosophy seeks to do, explore those base level questions. So, in exploring those base level questions, I realized that Christianity was the only thing that made sense to me. Christianity is the only worldview that could explain the world as it is, through science, history, and philosophy.
Ok, so, I hope you don’t mind, but I think I’m going to need more posts than four to explain all of this. I’m sorry. I thought I could do it in four. I think the next post will be why I think Christianity explains the world as it is, the post after that will be talking about Scientific, historical and emotional tensions in the Christian view of the world. Then, finally, dealing with the church. I hope this interests people.