Deeper Waters Podcast: 10/19/2013 Benjamin Wiker

What’s coming up on tomorrow’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A few years ago when living in Charlotte, my roommate gave me a copy that I had been looking at in a bookstore. It could have been a coincidence for all I know for I never mentioned my interest to anyone, but he got the book for me for my birthday. It was a book called “Ten Books That Screwed Up The World And Five Others That Didn’t Help” by Benjamin Wiker.

At that point, Wiker became a favorite writer of mine, even though we do not agree on everything, I find his style engaging and witty and he is the kind of author who I find just “Tells it like it is”, a quality that I admire in a writer.

So when it came to finding guests for my show, I thought that I should get in touch with Wiker, who I had spoken to after an apologetics conference one year. (I could also point out that this was an apologetics conference that I made the suggestion to the guy heading it up to get him)

Wiker agreed to come on the show and suggested that the best topic of discussion would be a book that he had written recently called “How To Think About God On A Plane.” Readers of Deeper Waters should recognize that name. I blogged on that book not too long ago as you can see here.

I certainly encourage you to tune in to this show to get to hear Wiker for yourself and even beyond this book, recommend you check out his other books. (I’m still itching to read the one about 10 books that every conservative must read.) The purpose of the plane book is, as the blog says, to give you something that you can read in a short time and be able to use to talk with the person sitting next to you.

And ironically, the show could last longer than the plane flight itself or even longer than it would take you to read the book.

Wiker in this book has interacted with religious claims and biblical claims (Somewhat. The book focuses more on natural theology rather than making a case for YHWH or the Trinity specifically) and philosophical claims and scientific claims. Despite its short length, it also packs within it a powerful argument. As we discuss the book on the show we will get insights into the nature of the history of science and religion and the philosophical perspectives that have helped shape the debate and reached a conclusion that we could reach in the time of a plane flight, that God does indeed exist.

I hope that you’ll also be wanting to come along for the ride on this journey. The show will be airing from 3-5 PM EST on Saturday, October 19th. The call in number if you want to ask Dr. Wiker a question yourself is 714-242-5180. The link can be found here.

Enjoy your flight!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Can We Study God Without Scripture?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve been looking at the topic of presuppositionalism lately and tonight, I’d like to look more at the topic of natural theology in this area and see if we can truly study God without special revelation.

Theology is the study of God. God can be studied either through special revelation or general revelation. Suppose you have a new neighbor move in. How can you know this person? You could know them by studying humanity in general and that would give you some information about the person, or you could get to know them simply by ringing the doorbell and letting them tell you about themselves.

Can we know God by only the first way? To an extent. You will get some true beliefs if you do natural theology right, but your certainty of them can be lacking and it will not be as efficient as God revealing Himself. However, let us not be too quick to throw out natural theology as useless.

The way we study God in natural theology involves what is called metaphysics. Now metaphysics is one of those terms that’s often tossed around in philosophical circles, but it is not really defined. However, if you use it, you can get the impression of being an intellectual and sound really cool while just using the term as a catch-all.

Let’s go ahead and explain metaphysics then. Metaphysics is the study of being as being. Physics is the study of material being in motion. Angelology is the study of angelic being. Zoology is the study of animal being. Botany is the study of plant being. You get the idea of where this is going.

Metaphysics has that contrast because while the other sciences study a particular type of being, this science studies being as it is. There is no doubt that a physicist could very well, and likely does know very well, more about matter in motion than the metaphysician, but the physicist likely will not know as much about that matter in motion as being. (Particularly if he’s a new atheist.)

Note that metaphysics is NOT the study of God. However, God is included in the subject of metaphysics. How? Let’s go back to your neighbor again. Studying anthropology will involve having your neighbor be a subject of that study, but your neighbor is not the particular object of that study. Anthropology does not exist to tell you about your neighbor in particular but your neighbor as a human being. Metaphysics tells you about God based on His relationship to being.

For Aquinas, God’s very essence IS being. Whatever it means to be is to be found in God and so studying being as being will give information about God. All being is true, good, and beautiful, for instance. From these, Aquinas did develop numerous doctrines of God, though of course not original with him. The main one after existence was simplicity. God’s existence IS his essence.

Note that in looking at natural theology, Aquinas does not cover concepts like the Trinity, although he believes in them. These cannot be known through natural theology. Consider for a parallel studying history. By history, you could know that Jesus was crucified on a cross even without the New Testament. You need revelation however to know that Jesus died for the sins of the world. A simple study of history apart from the revelation of God being read directly or communicated through others would not reveal that.

So can God be studied without Scripture? Yes. Will it be as good? No. Still, it is important and we must remember our reason is not antithetical or opposed to Scripture, but a tool God gave to help us understand Him and His revelation better.

Presuppositionalism and Natural Theology

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve been doing some reading lately on the topic of presuppositionalism and seeing the kinds of arguments that are used by presuppositionalists. Much of the discussion centers around natural theology and before going on, I’d like to have a good blog on what exactly natural theology is.

Theology comes from the Greek and it refers to the study of God. There are two ways usually seen that God can reveal Himself. All Christians agree in special revelation. This is revelation that is specific, propositional, and is not immediately accessible by all. The two main ones are Scripture and Christ. Of course, one could say the Old Testament prophets were also giving special revelation in their time that was written down for us.

General revelation is more tricky. There are some Christians who deny it and it’s not just presuppositionalists. Karl Barth for instance denied any knowledge of God through general revelation. General revelation is non-specific, being general, it is not propositional, but it is accessible to everyone.

The main texts for a belief in general revelation in Scripture are Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:18-21. If any of these do teach general revelation, then we can say that Scripture affirms general revelation. Note that in saying this, the claim is not being made that general revelation is salvific.

Natural theology is the study of God based on general revelation alone. What can be known about God? Note that the object of study is the same. We are using our reason to study God and the main tools we are using are philosophical in nature. When a theologian studies God in Scripture, the subject is the same, but the means of study is different.

For instance, suppose you are studying man. You could study anatomy and get an understanding of the man’s body. You could study psychology and get an understanding of the man’s mind. You could study anthropology and get an understanding of man is in the category of human beings. All of these are studying man, but they are studying man using different means and in different ways.

Natural theology for our starting purposes could contradict Scripture hypothetically. I am not at the start assuming the truth of Scripture. However, let us keep in mind that it is important to us if natural theology does in fact agree with Scripture. The claim is that it is necessary that natural theology gives us a view of God that is like that of the one found in Scripture in that it does not contradict the God of Scripture, but it is not sufficient to establish that the God of Scripture is the true God.

So what all can be known through natural theology? What does the Bible really say about it? Is it really an important tool? These are questions that I plan to address as we continue our look at apologetic methodology and seeing if the classical approach is still valid or not.

We shall continue tomorrow.