The Folly of Neutrality

By: Elias Ayala
(M.A.T. & M.DIV)

neutralityAs with tossing a double sided coin, beginning the task of apologetics in a neutral fashion is a losing battle. The idea that we need to lay aside our biases as our opponent lays aside his or her biases is quite the illusion. For at first glance, such an approach seems to be the fair an objective way to go, however upon closer analysis you will find that not only is neutrality in our thought unbiblical, it is literally impossible. That’s right, to be neutral, especially when talking about something as foundational as the existence of God is a fairy tale. In reality, everyone has their biases. As I am fully committed to the truthfulness of the scriptures as my ultimate authority, the unbeliever is likewise committed to his or her ultimate authority in which neither of us is willing to give up. As a matter of fact, to agree to a “neutral” stance on the issue of God is to already concede the argument to your opponent; for it provides him with the intellectual justification for denying your arguments in favor of God’s existence.

Conceding to neutrality on the issue of God’s existence actually reduces the question of whether God exists to probability and grants the unbeliever the right to claim that objective knowledge can be gained apart from God, an idea which the scriptures repudiate. In other words, such an approach implicitly says that God’s existence is one possible hypothesis among many, and that in order to test this hypothesis we need to look at the evidence for and against His existence. This is done with the hopes of proving that God probably exists. Many apologists have been happy to use this approach in defending the faith while not recognizing that first, it is unbiblical (which I will explain momentarily), and second, that it is actually impossible. Consider what some apologists have said:

  • Douglas Groothuis: We are to present the Christian view to the unbeliever “as a large scale hypothesis”, or as the “best hypothesis.”
  • Norman Geisler: We are to present the Christian view “as most reasonable.”
  • William Lane Craig: “Using the methodology of classical apologetics, one seeks to show that Christian theism is the most credible worldview
  • J.P. Moreland: In his book on apologetics he hopes to, “Contribute to making the belief that the Christian God exists at least permissible.”

Do the scriptures speak of God as “the best hypothesis” or “as most reasonable” to believe in? Further still, does the Bible present a worldview that is the “most credible” or “at least permissible”? To ask the question is to answer it, however, let’s allow the scriptures to speak for themselves. For it seems quite clear what the Bible teaches concerning the certainty of our faith, and the necessity of God for our knowledge, and the fact that all men know God and are without excuse:

Certainty of our Faith:

  • (1 John 5:13): “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
  • (1 John 5:19): “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
  • (1 John 5:20): “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him, who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”
  • (John 16:13-15): “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak in His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak, and He will disclose to you what is to come…All things that the Father has are mine; therefore I said that He takes of mine and will disclose it to you.”

Necessity of God for Knowledge:

  • (Proverbs 1:7): “The beginning of knowledge is the fear of the Lord. Fools despise wisdom and instruction”
  • (John 14:6): “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”
  • (Colossians 2:3): “In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

All Men Know God and are without Excuse:

  • (Romans 1:18-21): “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness of men, who suppress the truth in unrightousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

What do the above passages teach us if anything? First, as believers, we have a full assurance and certainty of our faith. How could we not if it is God Himself revealing the truth to us through the power of the Holy Spirit? Secondly, to have true knowledge one must begin with the fear of the Lord, for not to do so would be equivalent to “despising wisdom and instruction.” Furthermore, since we are told that in “Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” it is necessary to assume this, for if we do not, our arguments in favor of the Christian faith would not give us true knowledge for it did not derive from the treasure source of Christ as its foundations. Thus, to use a method of defending the faith that presupposes some other standard of gaining knowledge that does not have Christ at its source, to then prove that Christ is in fact who he claimed to be, which in turn proves that he is in fact the source of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; our conclusion would conflict with the very method we used to reach our conclusion, namely that “in Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Such an unbiblical method would prove to be intellectually self destructive. Lastly, if the scriptures teach that all men know God and our without excuse, then how can the apologist use a method of apologetics that presupposes man’s ignorance of God. To do so would contradict the very scriptures we wish to defend. Thus the scriptures seem to invalidate the presuppositions that many apologist assume in their method.

The believer then is to defend the faith in a way that does not contradict the teachings of scripture; for to do so is not to “sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts”, the very prerequisite for defending the faith (1 Peter 3:15). Furthermore, such a method grants the unbeliever an intellectual independence from God thus giving him an excuse to reject the ever present revelation of God which is everywhere found and apprehended. Thus to adopt the illusion of neutrality is impossible, unbiblical, and immoral.

Ultimate Authorities:

The truth is no one is neutral, against the fence, or undecided on the issue of God. For to claim neutrality is to already evince a bias towards Christianity which demands that we not be neutral. Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). Likewise, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). The same is true in our intellectual life. We can choose to have Christ and His Word as our intellectual foundation, or we can have some other standard. However, if Christianity is true, what can be a higher standard than God Himself?

At first glance this sort of reasoning may appear circular, that is to say, it seems to suggest that we are to assume the very thing we are trying to prove, namely, the Christian worldview which includes the existence of a personal God who has revealed Himself. To this it must be admitted: Guilty as charged! This is indeed a circular argument; however it is nothing like what many are familiar with, namely the logical fallacy of “begging the question”. For while it is in fact a fallacy to beg the question, or assume the thing you are trying to prove, it is not a fallacy when one is speaking about an ultimate authority. An ultimate authority in one’s reasoning deals with that which all other argumentation is built upon.Everyone has an ultimate authority and thus everyone commits in this sense circular reasoning. In fact in order to prove anything at all, one must have some ultimate intellectual starting point by which to begin one’s reasoning. For instance, if I were to try and prove some argument “A” which would represent some proposition, one could simply ask how I know that argument is true. To validate argument “A” I would then appeal to some other argument, which we can call argument “B”. But once again it may be asked how I know argument “B” is true, I would then appeal to another argument “C”, and on and on I would go ad infinitum never validating the conclusion of my argument unless I appealed to some intellectual starting point which is taken as an authoritative given. In other words, I would never prove any argument unless I began my argument from the foundation of some ultimate unquestionable intellectual starting point. To illustrate how everyone must reason this way, an excerpt by theologian John Frame would be helpful:

“Every philosophy must use its own standards in proving its conclusions; otherwise it is simply inconsistent. Those who believe that human reason is the ultimate authority (rationalists) must presuppose the authority of reason in their arguments for rationalism. Those who believe in the ultimacy of sense experience must presuppose it in arguing for their philosophy (empiricism). And skeptics must be skeptical of their own skepticism (which is the Achilles’ heel of skepticism). The point is that when one is arguing for an ultimate criterion, whether Scripture, the Koran, human reason, sensation, or whatever, one must use criteria compatible with that conclusion. If that is circularity, then everyone is guilty of circularity.”

Since this is unavoidable, what then should be the ultimate authority in the believer’s reasoning? Since we profess Christ to be Lord over every aspect of our being, than nothing less than His self attesting Word should be the ultimate criterion. In other words, as servants of Christ, it is the Word of God and the worldview it presents that is our ultimate standard. The truth of God’s Word which is the foundation of our worldview as believers informs everything else we argue for. Since our worldview includes the existence of an all knowing, all powerful, and all encompassing personal God, it is He, as our intellectual ultimate that dictates what is and is not possible. Since, in His self attesting Word it is declared that “In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3) than we continue to be consistent by arguing and reasoning with that assumption. To do otherwise would be inconsistent and intellectual idolatry. “For we are to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

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