Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’m going to take the time now to return to my look at presuppositionalism. Mainly, the claim that one has to affirm the God of Christianity if they are going to be able to coherently affirm anything at all. To do that, I’d like to take a look at your typical Joe Canaanite in the ancient world around the time of Abraham.
This is a man who does not have a Bible yet at all. After all, Moses has not been born so he has no way of reading the book of Genesis, or any other book, save maybe Job. He does not have a personal prophet to him although one could say that in a limited sense, he has the traditions of his fathers that have passed down. However, he has no way of archaeologically confirming a flood or that even YHWH was the one who revealed himself to Noah.
What is it that he is to be told? He is to be told that he knows the truth of the God of Scripture and that he is denying it. Now I do agree that Romans 1 makes a strong case that one is aware of God by looking at creation. In many polytheistic cultures even if not all, there is belief in one high god who is supreme over all the little gods.
The problem is that Joe Canaanite cannot point to a Scripture that he is denying and he certainly can’t make statements like “God is triune” at this point. This is important since the presuppositional approach makes a constant appeal to the self-attesting triune God of Scripture. The same is also said of Christ, but what is it that this person can know of Christ really?
Now the question I have to ask is “Does Joe Canaanite know anything?” I see no reason to think otherwise. I think he can know who his parents are, where he lives, what his name is, what he had for breakfast, how to hunt wild animals, the names of the pagan deities that he worships, etc. All of these are knowledge claims that can be held by him.
Now does that mean that God is unrelated to knowledge? Not at all. If there was no God, there would be no knowledge. It is agreed by Christians that God’s ontological existence is necessary to explain reality, but having knowledge of God is what is disputed. Does one have to know God as a Trinity who revealed Himself in Christ in order to have knowledge? This would be a much more difficult claim to defend.
Joe Canaanite presents a problem. How could he have knowledge of the Trinity and Christ at the time he lives? Does he have some knowledge of God available to him? Yes he does. This is only a basic rudimentary knowledge however and likely it’s to be filled with errors. Your average Canaanite would not have the philosophical acumen to reason like Aristotle. (For that matter, your average and even above-average modern doesn’t either!)
Does Joe Canaanite still need to repent? Yes. Why? Because he has the moral law that he can have knowledge that he’s violated. The moral law consists of truths that we simply can’t not know. If you need an argument to convince you that murder is wrong for instance, it is quite likely you need more than an argument. You need a good therapist and I need to do the best I can to avoid you.
What about his salvation? I cannot answer definitively on that except to say that the judge of all the Earth will do right. For the time being, I can say that I have no reason to think Joe Canaanite can make no claims to knowledge and that he can have zero knowledge of God. How this happens will be worked out in future blogs.