Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pushing the Antithesis - Book Review

an·tith·e·sis

noun \an-ˈti-thə-səs\ 1. the exact opposite of something or someone. 2. the state of two things that are directly opposite to each other

"Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."
(Matthew 12:30)

I got the book Pushing the Antithesis through American Vision's online store. It's based on Greg Bahnsen's teaching and written and compiled by Gary DeMar. In my opinion, and from what I've read of reviews online, it would have to be one of the best books there is on Presuppositional Apologetics.

It's well laid out and makes some of the more complex issues in apologetics understandable. In a nutshell, to push the antithesis means to show that biblical faith and unbelief stand in direct contrast. It is either God or absurdity - there is no neutral middle ground. It's not God or some other worldview that is almost as good as Christianity - it's the biblical God or ones worldview reduces to absurdity. If people don't start with God in their thinking then they absurdly cannot know anything - they cannot account for anything according to their worldview. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7).

Bahnsen and DeMar make it clear that a big part of our job in apologetics is to "push the antithesis" and show that if a person denies God that they cannot make sense of anything and end up with a foolish system of beliefs. As it says in Proverbs 26:4-5 "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes." 

In particular I found chapter 11 on 'The Problem of Universals' really helpful in better grasping the problem unbelievers have of reasoning from limited experience to universal concepts and laws. These things make sense in the biblical worldview but cannot be accounted for without God. We take for granted universal concepts and laws in order to function in the world and in order to have rational conversations - but without God there is no reason for these universals.

Another thing I found helpful was thinking about the question "Which worldview makes sense of the world we live in?" When we consider this we find that the biblical worldview alone can account for and make intelligible concepts like human experience, laws of logic, rationality, and human dignity.

The book also discusses many of the absurd results of rejecting God. Some of the more extreme and dangerous absurdities are things like widow burning, genocide, child sacrifice etc - without God there is no way to account for why these things are wrong. Understanding this has made it even clearer to me why as Christians we need to speak out against the sin of abortion which is a modern day holocaust and something that many non-Christians don't see it for what it really is - the murder of innocent children that God loves. 

In summary, if you only read one book on apologetics I'd say that this is the one to read.

Further Reading / Research:

5 comments:

  1. "It's not God or some other worldview that is almost as good as Christianity - it's the biblical God or ones worldview reduces to absurdity."

    Hello, I stumbled onto your blog from google. I'm a Christian and I think very highly of presuppositionalism. I was wondering, how do presuppositionalists show that Christianity and Christianity alone is true? As far as I can tell, TAG can show the absurdity at least of a worldview which denies God's existence, but can it do the same for quasi-Christianity (aka "some other worldview that is almost as good as Christianity?"). I find that most presuppositionalists say that they can prove absolutely that Christianity (and not "some other worldview that is almost as good as Christianity") is true. I was wondering how would a presuppositionalist respond to someone who believed in a quasi-christian worldview? Say, someone who agreed with almost every proposition in orthodox Christian doctrine except they added a person to the Trinity. My question isn't - could you show this person's belief to be false, but rather - can you show this person's worldview to be absurd? Wouldn't this person have the same theoretical resources for the preconditions of knowledge that a Christian claims to have? And isn't this person holding to a quasi-christian worldview (since the denial of the trinity is prima facie non-Christian). Isn't it the case then that a person can hold to a non-christian worldview which does not reduce to absurdity? Wondering what a persuppositionalist thinks about this thought. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment and questions. There are only two basic worldviews - God and "notGod". With all notGod worldviews we are to show that they cannot know what they profess to know. If a person said that they don't believe in the trinity then we need to ask them how they know that. Anyone who claims to be a Christian should hold to the Bible as their ultimate authority, so we need to do an internal critique of their worldview and show them from the Bible that what they are believing is in direct contradiction to God's word. When it comes to those who are in cults and really press them as to what their ultimate authority is you usually find that the Bible is not their authority - human traditions are - in which case they cannot know anything at all because they are not starting with the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). You may also find that if you ask them 'could you be wrong about everything you claim to know?' that they will say yes - in which case the discussion could be similar to talking to a professed atheist. I go through different worldviews in my website (www.godorabsurdity.com/other-religions.html, and also Sye has created a number of tracts that look at different cults and worldviews from a presuppositionalist approach at "121 tracts".

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the response! Yah I definitely agree. But if that's the case, then by "reducing to absurdity" what you mean is showing them that they misinterpreted the Bible or that what they believe contradicts their supposed source. But isn't that what baptists do to paedo-baptists (or vice versa)? When a baptist shows a paedo-baptist (or vice versa) that their view contradicts the Word of God, surely they are not reducing their opponent to absurdity (but let me know if you think otherwise). Typically I associate "reduce to absurdity" with showing how someone cannot account for the preconditions of knowledge, reason, logic, etc, and consequently how their worldview is ultimately absurd or absolutely irrational. Is it safe for me to say - given that understanding of absurdity - that the quasi-Christian worldview could be shown to be false, but not absurd? That what we have to rely on is not an argument about the pre-conditions of knoweldge, but exegesis? Thanks for your time

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It isn't about arguing over minor doctrinal differences such as infant baptism. If a person is in a cult that denies the trinity for example then often they will have other absurd beliefs but even if they don't we can show them from the word of God why they are not believing in the biblical God and therefore they cannot account for the pre-conditions of intelligibility which flow from the trinitarian God. Only the trinitarian God provides a foundation for the one and the many of human experience - specifics and universals. We know specifically about things in our own personal experience, but then we need to reason from those use universals to make generalisations about how all things in those specific categories are also like that universally. Also without the trinity we cannot make sense of the love of God - if the person believes in modalism or a monist view of God such as Allah then God is a lonely God that has not been living in an eternal and loving relationship within himself as a trinitarian God. When you ask a cult member why they believe what they believe you'll often find that they haven't thought things through clearly and that they'll be just believing what they believe because it's what their leaders have told them. When you show them from the word of God these issues related to their false doctrinal issues that are major issues you are challenging the very foundation of their worldview. Have you read my blog post on the biblical basis for presuppositional apologetics? (I'll add it to the bottom of the further reading list on this blog post). Jesus reduced the pharisees worldview to absurdity on a number of occasions and didn't just challenge their peripheral doctrines but criticised their core issues and at times Jesus put them in the horns of a dilemma by asking them presuppositional type questions.

      Delete
  3. “Only the trinitarian God provides a foundation for the one and the many of human experience - specifics and universals.”

    That’s what I’m wondering about. The critiques you give following this statement about non-Trinitarianism doesn’t apply (at least I don’t think it does) to the scenario I offered above of someone who holds to nearly all orthodox doctrine but adds a person to the Trinity. Such a person would be able to account for universals, particulars, divine and eternal love, and all the preconditions to knowledge and still have a non-Christian worldview. It seems to me that you can definitely show the person is wrong – just show that they have misunderstood scripture or otherwise have no biblical basis for such a view of God. But what I’m wondering is can you reduce the person’s worldview to absurdity (again given the understanding of “absurdity” above)?

    “When you show them from the word of God these issues related to their false doctrinal issues that are major issues you are challenging the very foundation of their worldview”

    Sure, but it seems to me that you aren’t reducing their worldview to absurdity (in the sense of not being able to account for the preconditions of knowledge). Would you agree?

    “Have you read my blog post on the biblical basis for presuppositional apologetics?”

    Just read it. My question here does not regard the Biblical basis of presuppositional apologetics, though I often think the Biblical basis is not as clear as some think. But I still appreciate many positive aspects of the approach. Thanks for your time!

    ReplyDelete