Quote of the Week

Today, we hear from C.J. Wright, who wrote a treatise in 1950 entitled Jesus the Revelation of God. He writes:

[T]here are types of so-called religious apologetic, which, distrusting the intrinsic claims of religion itself, seek to put in its place ‘external evidences’ and ‘institutional safeguards.’ How can light convince us that it is light except by what it does for us? We do not demonstrate that light is light by treatises, or by analyses of its constituent rays. It is only light to us when it illumines and quickens us…Anyone can, to his own satisfaction, confute the claim which Beauty makes, by saying, I do not see it; or the claim inherent in Goodness, by saying, I do not hear it; or the self-evidencing nature of Truth, by saying, I do not know it. But man does not create Goodness, or Truth, or Beauty; and to say that he cannot see them is to condemn himself, not them (quoted from Morris’s commentary on John, p. 390, fn. 13).

I would be very much interested in hearing whether you think Wright has overstated the case or not.

15 Comments

  1. roberty bob said,

    March 26, 2015 at 11:09 am

    When the church preaches the gospel, the church testifies — bears witness to — the light, the truth, the beauty of Christ. What we believers take for granted — as a given, as self-evident — is worth making a to-do of by pointing and by showing examples just as Peter did on the Day of Pentecost when he proclaimed “This is That . . . !”

  2. Stuart (OPC) said,

    March 27, 2015 at 11:00 am

    It’s an interesting quotation. I don’t know what larger framework Wright comes from. If he is saying light only “becomes” light to us (it is not clear that he does) apart from the objective reality that God is God and Jesus is objectively, light of light—then I think there is a problem (maybe a neo-orthodox sort of thing). However, the quotation may capture the reality that there is a “self-evidencing” side to God’s revelation. I have been thinking about this of late. Van Til believed in the immediacy and self-attesting nature of God’s revelation yet still used an apologetic that sought to uncover for the skeptic his non-neutral presuppositional stance. This sort of apologetic activity involves a kind of discursive activity or reasoning or transcendental argument. We are using language and uncovering fundamental distinctions. It might seem along way removed from the immediacy and self-evidency of “seeing” God in or through his works. I look at a sunset or stars at night and a sense of awe hits. My first word might be “Wow!” From “Wow” on, my language activity may become more discursive until I end up debating with a skeptic about beauty, a fine tuned universe, order, etc. The debate can end up killing the immediate “wow” experience or first impression. Yet discursive activity is necessary to avoid turning that “Wow” into idolatry (Doesn’t Apollo seem in fine form today wih his chariot). The debate or discourse – should aim at uncovering the fundamental issue, what does it mean to say “wow” and what is (what are) the precondition(s) for the discursive activity. If the skeptic want to say, “So what, I am inconsistent” when his presupposions and their ultimate insufficiency are revealed, that’s life. The Holy Spirit has to open the eyes of the blind or obstinate. Since the Holy Spirit generally works where Christ proclaimed, it maybe some evidentialists that talk about Jesus and the empty tomb while talking about evidence (as though neutral),will occasionally meet with better “results” than a presuppositionalist who gets lost in the discursive activity of identifying presuppositions–but that is not because evidentialism is a better apologetic position.

  3. March 27, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Maybe he overstated his case. But he probably did it to prove his point, which is a good one.

  4. roberty bob said,

    March 27, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Do we not preach so as to persuade men? If so, we must rely on the testimony of witnesses who are ready to set forth the evidence that they have gathered for the gospel truth. Even a presuppositionalist will do as much, unless he is content to preach only to the choir.

  5. Ron said,

    March 27, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    Induction, the basis for all scientific inference, presupposes the uniformity of nature, which is to say it operates under the principle of the future being like the past; yet the resurrection of Christ from the dead is contra-uniform since it does not comport with past experience. Our experience is that people die and are not raised three days later. Also, we’ve all met plenty of liars and those deceived into embracing false beliefs (even dying for false beliefs!) but we have never observed a single resurrection of the body. Accordingly, the lives and martyrdom of zealots need not lead us to conclude that Christ has risen. Consequently, drawing an inference based upon past experience as it pertains to the question of the empty tomb is not very useful. Evidentialism indeed fails as an apologetic. After all, given only the uniformity of nature coupled with personal experience, a more probable explanation for the empty tomb is a hoax put on by liars rather than a miracle put on by God. The same reasoning applies all the more to the virgin birth I would think.

    The fact of the matter is that we do not come to know that our Savior lives by examining the evidence according to some alleged neutral posture, for the facts do not demand the conclusion that Christ has risen. The facts are indeed consistent with the resurrection but the facts do not speak for themselves let alone lead us to the Christian conclusion, which is no conclusion at all but rather a starting point for apologetical discourse and belief. God speaks in order that we might interpret the facts aright. The fact of the empty tomb, therefore, is not what leads us to the “conclusion” of the resurrection but rather the empty tomb corroborates what we already know from God, that Christ is resurrected.

    Similarly, we read in Scripture that a man named Saul who once opposed Christ became the chief apologist for the Christian faith. The way in which one will interpret the transformation of Saul to Paul will be consistent with one’s pre-commitment(s). Christians take the fanaticism of the apostle as corroborating what they already know to be true about the resurrection. The fanaticism of the apostle no more “proves” the resurrection of Christ than does the empty tomb. Moreover, neither the empty tomb nor the life of Paul proves the resurrection any more than it can disprove it by proving that a conspiracy to overthrow ancient Judaism took place evidenced by the hoax of the resurrection. The point is simply this. Naturalists will find their explanation for the apostle’s transformation and the empty tomb elsewhere, outside of the Christian resurrection interpretation. Similarly, the way in which one interprets the facts surrounding Joseph Smith will be according to one’s pre-commitment(s). If one is committed to a closed canon, then the claims of Mormonism will be deemed false.

    Of course the tomb is empty, for Christ has risen. Of course the apostle Paul preached the resurrection of Christ with all his heart, soul and strength, for Christ has risen. Of course the Mormon religion is a cult, for Jesus is God and the canon is closed. Do we come to believe these things by evaluating supposed brute particulars in an alleged neutral fashion or are our beliefs already marshaled according to our pre-commitment to God’s word in general and the resurrection in particular? Do the “facts” speak for themselves or has God already exegeted the facts for us?

    The reason one believes that Christ has risen from the grave is because God has revealed the truth of the resurrection. In fact, we don’t just believe God’s word on the matter, we actually know God is telling the truth. Yet, unwittingly, often times Christians do not speak the truth with respect to why they believe in the resurrection. Too often Christians will say that they believe in the resurrection because of such evidence, which if true would reduce one’s confidence in God’s say-so to speculation based upon supposed brute facts that (would) readily lend themselves to suspicion (when God’s word is not presupposed as reliable, true and one’s ultimate authority). Christians need to lay hold of the fact that the “Word of God” is God’s word, and God cannot lie.

    With the resurrection the former days of ignorance are gone (Acts 17:30); so our belief in the truth couldn’t be more justified since our justification comes from the self-attesting Christ of Scripture working in accordance with the internal witness of the Holy Ghost. We do not come to know Jesus lives by drawing inferences from uninterpreted facts in the light of past experiences but rather by believing with maximal warrant the word of truth. Indeed, we have a more sure word of knowledge. (2 Peter 1:19)

    The Westminster Confession of Faith (chapter 1 paragraph 5) could not have been more on target in its reason for why Scripture’s testimony should be believed:

    “We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”

  6. roberty bob said,

    March 28, 2015 at 11:13 am

    “The reason one believes that Christ has risen from the grave is because God has revealed the truth of the resurrection.” — Ron

    Right. The truth — the reality of — Christ’s resurrection was first revealed in Moses and the Prophets, as the Apostle Paul attests in Acts 26 . . . .

    “And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our Fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night . . . . Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?”

    “I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what Moses and the Prophets said would happen — that the Christ would suffer, and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles . . . . What is am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.”

    I agree that the Holy Spirit alone can persuade a person of the truth of God’s Word — of God’s promise come true. However, did not the Apostle Paul in this testimony point to the public evidence that was available? The suffering, dying, and rising of Christ did not occur in some secret corner, but out in the open. There were eye-witnesses who could give their accounts of personal contact with our risen Lord.

    “The facts do not demand the conclusion that Christ has risen.” — Ron

    So, the Apostle Paul, in his testimony, made no reference to any facts?

  7. Ron said,

    March 28, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    “The facts do not demand the conclusion that Christ has risen.” Ron

    “So, the Apostle Paul, in his testimony, made no reference to any facts?” RB

    RB,

    I’m not sure we agree on the nature of facts as opposed to interpretation of facts. In this context, the empty tomb is a fact. Resurrection is an interpretation of a fact. The apostle exegeteed the facts when referencing them. After all, what is the resurrection aside from its soteriological context? Tell me, can you deduce resurrection evidentially? Of course not.

  8. Ron said,

    March 28, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    RB,

    I typed that while on the run. Sorry for the way it was stated. I was too curt.

    The suffering, dying, and rising of Christ did not occur in some secret corner, but out in the open.

    Again I have to disagree. The “rising of Christ” was not seen. What was seen was Christ before and after the cross. Christians believe that he was seen after being resurrected from the dead. Unbelievers who acknowledge the historical Jesus at best believe that he was seen because he hadn’t really died. The point being, how one interprets the “facts” will always be according to his presuppositions.You believe Jesus lives, and as a Christian you consider that a non-negotiable fact. I agree, it’s a non-negotiable fact. But we mustn’t equivocate with respect to our philosophy of fact. It’s only a fact of Scripture that Jesus is risen. It’s a Christian fact we might say. However, it’s not a “fact” of alleged neutral evidence. Inference is governed by presuppositions. In a word, unaided reason cannot interpret the fact of Christ’s appearances as a resurrection fact.

  9. roberty bob said,

    March 28, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    “The empty tomb is a fact.” — Ron

    Which of the following are facts?

    1) that Jesus’ was taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb, with a stone then rolled in front of the tomb’s opening to keep him securely inside?

    2) that the stone blocking the entrance of the tomb with contained Jesus remained in place until sometime early Sunday morning?

    3) that the instant Jesus breathed his last / yielded up his spirit, the rocks split and the graves opened, and many of God’s holy people came out of their graves, and after Jesus’ resurrection they entered the Holy City, where many people saw them?

    Mary Magdelene and the other Mary hurried from the tomb to tell the disciples. Suddenly Jesus was there in their path. He gave them his greeting. ??

  10. Ron said,

    March 28, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    RB,

    What is a fact is if you don’t interact with what I’ve written this discussion has little value.

    Curious, how acquainted would you say you are with the inductive nature of evidentialism; the deductive fallacies of Thomistic proofs and the transcendental nature of Van Til?

  11. Ron said,

    March 28, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    “1) that Jesus’ was taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb, with a stone then rolled in front of the tomb’s opening to keep him securely inside?”

    That is not a fact that any Christian should believe as necessarily true let alone base his hope upon. YSurely there were means by which the stone could have been removed and guards paid off. But even so, if the stone could not have been rolled back then you’d have to know that by way of revelation, not experience. Please tell me you’re not basing your hope in Christ upon inductive inference – let alone inductive inference that is predicated upon a non-uniformity of nature!

    If a high dignitary was pronounced dead with his body guarded but later it was observed he was no longer in his tomb, would you infer resurrection or hoax? The latter I’m sure. Yet you know Jesus lives. Consequently, you must be interpreting the fact of the empty tomb according to Christian presuppositions and not unaided reason.

  12. roberty bob said,

    March 29, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    When I read the Gospel telling of the events linked to the dying and rising of our Lord Jesus, I take what I read as a factual accounting of what truly happened. As a Christian believer, I am predisposed to accepting all of it as truth because my God has proven himself to be at all times and in every way true. As a Christian believer, I do not need evidences such as the empty tomb to convince me that Christ is risen indeed.

    Nevertheless, it does appear to me that the Gospel [and this year I’ve been doing my devotional reading in the Gospel According to Matthew] is careful to show that when a particular event happens, there are onlookers mentioned who could be sought out as reliable witnesses. When, for example, Jesus’ [dead?] body is carried from the cross by a man named Joseph and laid in that man’s rock hewed tomb — with him then rolling a large stone across the entrance — Matthew makes sure to mention that Mary of Magdala and the other Mary sitting opposite the grave observing the act. Well, Ron says “that is not a fact that any Christian should believe as necessarily true let alone base his hope upon.”

    I, too, would believe that the Lord is risen indeed without the burial act of Joseph being mentioned. In that sense, my hope is not in need of that fact. Yet, Matthew the Evangelist was careful to record every act, citing the onlookers who could substantiate the act.

    So, that leaves me wondering.

    “The empty tomb is a fact.” — Ron

    What else passes the “fact” test?

    I think that the acts that I cited in #9 are just as much facts as the empty tomb is a fact.

  13. Ron said,

    March 29, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    RB,

    Giving you the judgement of charity, you are unwittingly bearing false witness with respect to quote of mine you cited and the context in which it was offered.

    In any case, you are at least a latent evidentialust. Be of good cheer though. In a sense, Evidentialism is just one rung above so-called “Reformed Epistemology”. Rather than hoping that Christianity is not irrational and, therefore, a respectable position to hold (within the philosophy department at Calvin College for instance), why not recommend to the unbeliever to settle for the best explanation of the relayed facts (until such time better explanations comes forth. Or have they already from the likes of Paulus and Reimarus?).

    If we could deduce Christianity apart from presuppositions, then the preaching of Christ would not have been foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews. Yet I trust you’re merely arguing that Christianity is highly probable and not actually deducible from the supposed neutral facts; whereas I would say that the epistemic justification for probability itself is put forth in the same Scriptures that not only disclose the facts of the empty tomb but also interpret them authoritatively, in the context of redemptive history.

  14. Ron said,

    March 29, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    “1) that Jesus’ was taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb, with a stone then rolled in front of the tomb’s opening to keep him securely inside?”

    I responded:

    “That is not a fact that any Christian should believe as necessarily true let alone base his hope upon. Surely there were means by which the stone could have been removed and guards paid off.”

    In other words, the security of the tomb and integrity of the guards is no foundation for faith – as you yourself admit. Accordingly, it has little or no relevance to our apologetic. Or, do you really want someone to base his hope upon the integrity of guards, the probability of death and the security of the tomb?

    RB, I’ll engage you on the phone and only on the phone.

  15. roberty bob said,

    March 29, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Is Evangelist Matthew arguing for the “probability” of Christ’s resurrection, or is he carefully setting forth a chain or evidences that might persuade his own countrymen that the one they had crucified had risen indeed?

    I believe it is the latter.

    I have never been interested in arguing that the Christian Faith is highly probable. I take it for granted — as a given — that God is true, so it follows that the inspired ministers of His Word reveal God’s facts with the divinely authoritative interpretation.

    I do not know what is meant by a neutral fact.


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