Two false assumptions from “Natural Theology”

Many natural theologians I’ve dialogued with have this false assumption that unbelievers can actually reason to God through man’s philosophical arguments that don’t even defend or argue for the Trinitarian God of scripture. The worst part is, the Bible is left out as the foundation.

Scriptures like 2 Cor 5:11 are commonly used as if Paul was using a non presuppositional approach to his apologetic. It is assumed that the persuasion is through Paul’s own ability to create and present arguments. Some people argue that, in Jesus’ day, it was by people’s own ability to see Jesus perform miracles, but if that were the case then ALL people who saw him would be believers. That clearly wasn’t the case.

2 Corinthians 5:11

Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to PERSUADE others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.

It’s quite simple to see that it is God that gives people the understanding of scripture since the natural man can’t understand the things of God.

Luke 24:45

Then he (Jesus) opened their minds so they could UNDERSTAND the Scriptures.

It is God that reveals who the Son of God is and not flesh and bone.

Matthew 16:17

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was NOT revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by MY FATHER IN HEAVEN.

Another false assumption is that an argument is supposed to actually convince an unbeliever that God exists. Scripture is quite clear that everyone knows His existence and is without excuse according to Romans 1. And again, the natural man cannot understand the things of God.

If natural theology is looking for an irrefutable argument that proves his existence, then that is quite simple. Here it is…

1) Nothing exists or God exists

2) Something exists

3) Therefore God exists.

There is no need to try to convince people of something that can be easily proven and that God says they have no excuse for rejecting. As a presuppositionalist in my apologetics, I can rest in God’s word when He says it is the Gospel that is His power to save those that believe. If any unbeliever wants to impose their secular philosophy or is sincerely asking me for an answer, then I will respond as God has directed us according to 1 Peter 3:15 and Proverbs 26:4-5.

Bottom line, it is God that saves through His Gospel and not our arguments.

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8 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Kurt Jaros

    Kurt Jaros - April 5, 2014, 10:38 pm

    Hi Anthony, thanks for this post.

    I don’t think those verses support your case.

    In 2 Corinthians 5:11 Paul admits that they/we “try to persuade.” This means that they/we appeal to the intellect to think rationally about various arguments. This is also seen in Acts in a number of places. Paul “grew more capable, and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this One is the Messiah” (Acts 9:22). Luke tells us that every Sabbath, Paul “reasoned” in the synagogue and “tried to persuade both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4). He “entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, engaging in discussion and trying to persuade them about the things related to the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).

    In Luke 24:45 Jesus reasoned with his followers from the OT Scriptures to illustrate (read: prove) so they could understand what happened. After all, his disciples already believed he was the Messiah; they just didn’t understand what had happened before their very eyes. And notice how Jesus pointed to the Scriptures and reasoned with them; there was common ground between them from which Jesus could help them understand.

    In Matthew 16:17 we see that the Father revealed the truth to Peter. But how? By directly implanting thoughts into his head? Unlikely. Rather, the Father reveals truth through the Scriptures and messengers (prophets). This is seen in John 5:40, “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.”

    Lastly, thanks for the simplistic form of the argument from contingency. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_argument#Argument_from_contingency

  2. Profile photo of Anthony

    Anthony - April 6, 2014, 3:20 pm

    Thanks for your response Kurt. You proved my point. Reasoning FROM THE SCRIPTURES is extremely important. My argument stands that it is the Gospel that is convincing to those who are given understanding of it. Jesus reasoned from the scriptures, but only those who have understanding of them will trust in him for salvation and be convinced.
    Natural theology falls into the category of Proverbs 26:4, but those presuppositionalists, Jesus and Paul, always gave answers and reasons according to the scriptures… Proverbs 26:5 and 1 Pet 3:15 SANCTIFY the LORD, then give your answer…

    Natural theology supports the cosmological argument which only defends a god at best. Anyone who believes in a god is engaging in idolatry. They are commonly known as Deists.

    The straw man was constructed when you said that God implants thoughts in people’s heads. No. They must either read or hear preaching of the scriptures before God gives them understanding. Peter had read or heard that there should be a Son of God before understanding that it was Jesus. Jesus did the same to those who had read or heard the scriptures already (OT). Remember Paul and Apollos planted and watered, but God gave the increase.

    That irrefutable disjunctive syllogism had nothing to do with the cosmological argument. The question isn’t whether or not we should be reasoning, but rather, what are we reasoning about and is the bible our foundation. It was for Jesus and Paul…

    • Profile photo of Kurt Jaros

      Kurt Jaros - April 8, 2014, 8:36 pm

      Hi Anthony,
      Actually, using Scripture doesn’t prove your point because I’m not the one arguing for the exclusivity of Scripture for all truths (like my pagan neighbor’s belief that a tree exists outside his house). And, as you admit, using Scripture is irrelevant because the only thing that works is for “those who are given understanding of it.” So, it doesn’t actually matter what one says, but just that God regenerates the person. I don’t affirm that position and think it is mistaken.

      “Anyone who believes in a god is engaging in idolatry.”
      Not quite. Moses worshiped a god; he worshiped the true god named YHWH.
      But I think what you mean to say is people who worship a generic god.

      I get what you were doing with the disjunctive syllogism. Unfortunately for you, the argument is a simplified form of the argument from contingency.

  3. Profile photo of Anthony

    Anthony - April 11, 2014, 5:28 pm

    What does your response have to do with what I posted? I never admitted that “using scripture is irrelevant”.

    ///”I’m not the one arguing for the exclusivity of Scripture for all truths”///

    I’m arguing that scripture must be our foundation for our arguments, because it is the Gospel that is the power of God to salvation for those that believe. Not arguments grounded in secular philosophy.

    ///So, it doesn’t actually matter what one says, but just that God regenerates the person. I don’t affirm that position and think it is mistaken///

    My whole argument from the beginning has been that IT DOES MATTER what one says. Why are you trying to corner me into a position I never held? THE GOSPEL SAVES

    ///“Anyone who believes in a god is engaging in idolatry.”
    Not quite. Moses worshiped a god; he worshiped the true god named YHWH.
    But I think what you mean to say is people who worship a generic god.///

    “a god” in scripture is never YHWH. A generic god is the type of god the cosmological argument tries to argue for.
    Idolatry at best. There are some natural theologians that will claim success when they get someone to believe in a deity.

    In addition to that, idolators will join forces with natural theology and it’s secular philosophy. Muslims, JW’s, Mormons, etc. all love that arguement.

    The natural theologian is typically inconsistent with the way they may worship God in church by believing that “Nothing can separate them from the love of God”, but their arguments/apologetic method are grounded in secular philosophy and are headed in the wrong (unbiblical) direction.

    A generic god isn’t capable of keeping anyone at anytime in any kind of love.

    ///Unfortunately for you, the argument is a simplified form of the argument from contingency///
    ???

  4. Profile photo of Todd

    Todd - April 15, 2014, 1:17 pm

    1) Nothing exists or God exists
    2) Something exists
    3) Therefore God exists.

    The first premise is unlikely to be accepted by anyone without supporting argument. I wouldn’t call this argument, as it stands, “irrefutable.”

    Why is it a “false assumption” to suppose that natural theology can change the belief of an unbeliever?

    If by “generic god” you mean a personal creator of the natural order, it is simply false to claim that anyone who believes in such a being is a Deist. Deism rejects God’s post-creation intervention in the natural order, but a believer in God, a “mere theist” is not committed to that.

    If the Trinitarian God is in fact the personal creator of the natural order then the mere theist and the Trinitarian believe in the same God, since that definite description picks out exactly one being. They simply believe different things about him. It may be heresy to believe certain things about God, but I don’t see how it can be idolatry. Doesn’t idolatry involve the worship of something or someone other than God.

    Of course, a mere theist might believe in God but not be inclined to worship him. That’s possible but not essential to mere theism. Indeed, a Trinitarian might believe in, but not worship, the Trinitarian God. Belief in itself does not entail worship.

  5. Profile photo of Anthony

    Anthony - April 15, 2014, 3:51 pm

    Not accepting the syllogism and actually refuting it are two separate issues. The point was presenting an argument for God’s existence is quite simple, but convincing someone to believe in a way to worship Jesus Christ is up to the Holy Spirit through the gospel. Not us through secular philosophy.

    It’s false to assume natural theology can convince someone of the biblical God. People can change their beliefs however they wish, but through the bible is where the special revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is made known, which is the power of God to save those that believe on the Son of God.

    Your argument that a theist and Trinitarian worship one being and may worship the same God is ignoring biblical revelation and commits a fallacy of sweeping generalization.

    God revealed Himself as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That there are three persons in one God. Still one being, but not unitarian like the theist or deist may believe. Islam is monotheistic as is Christianity, but Islam is committing idolatry, because Islam denies that Jesus Christ the Son of God, is God at all. There is an eternal consequence between Trinitarian and Unitarian worship.

  6. Profile photo of Todd

    Todd - April 16, 2014, 2:15 pm

    I agree that secular philosophy probably can’t convince someone to believe in God in such a way as to lead him to worship Jesus Christ, although the conversion of C.S. Lewis appears to have been the result of both secular philosophy and secular literary study of the NT.

    The premise “Nothing exists or God exists” is false if something exists that isn’t God. Since something does indeed exist that isn’t God, the premise is false and the argument is refuted. It’s valid, but not sound. An argument is refuted if it is either invalid or has at least one false premise.

    Yes, my argument that a mere theist and a Trinitarian worship the same God ignores revelation. Who is God? According to the mere theist, God is:
    1. The personal creator of the natural order.

    According to the Trinitarian, God is:
    1. The personal creator of the natural order.
    2. The person called Jesus Christ.
    3. The person called the Holy Spirit.

    The expression “The personal creator of the natural order” is a definite description. It has exactly one referent. Both the mere theist and the Trinitarian believe there is such a referent. That is, neither would deny the proposition that God is the personal creator of the natural order. Therefore, as a matter of sheer logical necessity, they both believe in the same God. The Trinitarian believes additional identity claims about God, but that doesn’t entail that the Trinitarian and the mere theist believe in the existence of different beings.

    An analogy: Lois Lane believes Superman is the man with super powers from Krypton. She doesn’t believe Superman is Clark Kent. Lana Lang also believes Superman is the man with super powers from Krypton. She does believe Superman is Clark Kent, which means she must also believe Clark Kent is from Krypton. The fact that Lana Lang believes an additional identity claim about Superman doesn’t indicate that she and Lois believe in a different man from Krypton with super powers.

    As I wrote above, I understand idolatry to be the worship of someone or something else other than God. If Muslims worship the personal creator of the natural order, they they worship the same God as Christians and Jews. Muslims and Jews deny that Jesus is the personal creator of the natural order. That’s a Christian heresy, no doubt about it, but it’s not idolatry. Perhaps there are eternal consequences for heresy as well; I don’t claim to know. One who believes the natural order is produced by some impersonal cosmic principle such as the Tao would be guilty of heresy too, and perhaps also idolatry if he worshiped that cosmic principle.

  7. Profile photo of Anthony

    Anthony - April 17, 2014, 5:11 pm

    If by secular literary study you mean reading the NT, then C.S. Lewis would have read about Christ and his gospel. Regardless what anyone wants to think, it is the gospel that saves Romans 1:16.

    As far as the disjunctive syllogism, all you have done is what I already did in the argument. You have rejected the first disjunct which has become the second premise in the argument. I agree that something can exist that isn’t God, but that isn’t a rejection of the second disjunct.

    The comparison you made between the theist and trinitarian only shows that we agree that a being is the personal creator of the natural order, but the only valid conclusion we can make is that we agree on that point. It does not exclude the possibility that we are referring to two separate beings.

    The following is important. It doesn’t mean I throw laws of logic out the window, but that my authority is scripture from God.
    And your authority seems to be your own ability to reason.

    Colossians 2:8-9
    Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.
    For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

    Because of the verses above I can know that all other gods are false.

    Belief in other gods is idolatry, Muslims included. The following verse is in direct opposition of what you are telling me.
    1 Chronicles 16:26
    For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.

    I will say though, that there is scripture that shows what you were talking about in the last two lines of your first post.

    Matthew 15:8-9
    ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
    They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”

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