Presuppositional Apologetics – Non-Christian Religions (Greg Bahnsen)

Why the Christian Worldview?

And that leaves only one option if you’re not going to be a Christian. Is that you have to have an alternative religious worldview. We say God’s the answer to all this. God created the physical world out of nothing. It’s God’s mind that’s been the basis for the laws of logic. It’s God’s character that gives us moral laws by which we live. So we have the preconditions of intelligibility within the Christian worldview.

Somebody says, “Yes, well, why the Christian worldview?” What is one of the questions that you want me to answer is, “Why does it have to be the Christian worldview? Why not just theism in general?”

There’s No General Theism

Okay, you’ve asked. So, I’m going to tell you. Because there isn’t any such thing as theism in general. It can’t be theism in general because there ain’t anything like that. There’s only particular versions of these. Okay? Every version of theism therefore needs to be treated as its own particular kind of worldview.

How to Answer Theistic Worldviews

And how do you answer the various versions of theism? In the same way that you’ve answered the materialist and the dualist: by doing an internal critique of that worldview.

How would that work? Well, to do an internal critique of a different religion, you’re obviously going to ask at least this question: “Why do you believe what you believe? On what authority do you do so?”

Arbitrariness

And if there is no answer to that question, then you’re dealing with something that is—look at number one—you’re ejected because now that’s just arbitrariness.

But you talk to some other religious point of view and you say, “Why do you believe this?” People say, “I don’t know. I just do.” Well, that’s arbitrary. So that’s no threat to Christianity. You say, “Oh. So you have arbitrariness or you have Christian rationality.” Those are the choices.

Well again, in apologetics, that’s all we need to reduce things to. If you wish to be rational, give a reason for the hope that is in you, you wish to be rational, you have to be a Christian. In order to be a—whatever it is—out here, you need to give up rationality and affirm arbitrariness.

Everybody can believe whatever they want. Of course, the arbitrary person has to allow you the same arbitrariness and everybody else. So there’s no apologetical argument with that kind of religion. You hear me?

Sure, we want to witness to such a person. Yes, such a person’s made in the image of God and really can’t successfully, able to live in this world apart from God. Yes, such a person is under the condemnation of God and has guilt and so forth. But there’s no apologetical argument with such a person because such a person is purely arbitrary.

Another Prophet

All right, well then, you’re going to have another kind of answer. An answer that says, “Well, because we have a great prophet who told us these things.” That’s the Confucian answer. They don’t call him a prophet. He’s a “wise man.”

You might think, “Okay, now what do I do? I’ve got Jesus. They’ve got Confucius.” Well, I’ve got Jesus and Jesus provides the preconditions of intelligibility—and it doesn’t sound real warm and pious, intimate to put it that way, but we’ve talked about this—Jesus gives me a foundation for wisdom, rather than foolishness.

What does Confucius have going for him? What does Confucius say? “Here’s what the nobleman is to do. The heavens declare this is what the nobleman is to do.”

Well, I have the right to say, “Well, Confucius, that’s just your opinion.” Back to number one. That’s rejected too because for everything Confucius said, Buddha said something. You know? And for everything in the Bhagavad Gita, you can find something that accounts, that fits in with the Dow. The fact that you have religious leaders or prophets or wise men are great people, saying things doesn’t mean there’s a good reason to follow what they’re saying.

The difference between Christianity and Confucianism, Buddhism, and so forth, is that Christianity’s got an apologetic. We don’t just arbitrarily choose Jesus over Confucius. We’ve got historical evidence, we’ve got philosophical evidence, we’ve got all kinds of reasons for believing what Jesus said, not the least of which is, “Our lives make sense and all the facts of history make sense within the Christian worldview taught by Jesus.”

That isn’t true for Confucius. In fact, it gets really bad when you come to the Bhagavad Gita. Here’s the Bhagavad Gita that many people say, “Well, they’ve got their religious book, you Christians have your religious book.”

Oh, not so fast. I mean, that’s what an amateur would say. If you’ve really done any reading or any study, it’s a big mistake to put the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita in the same category. Why?

In the first place, because the Bhagavad Gita doesn’t claim that a personal, sovereign, all-controlling God has spoken and this is the book that tells us what He said.

You know why the Bhagavad Gita doesn’t say that? Because it doesn’t believe there’s a personal, holy, sovereign God who can speak. And so, this book cannot be the result of God’s revelation in the personal sense that the Bible is.

That doesn’t mean the Bible is automatically right, but don’t think that the Bhagavad Gita is running in the same race as the Bible. They’re not doing the same thing at all. Moreover, when you start comparing the Bhagavad Gita as a worldview and the Bible as a worldview, the Bhagavad Gita destroys the possibility of the comparison because, you know, if the Bhagavad Gita is correct in what it says, there is no difference between it and the Bible.

Oh, and by the way, not to overstate the obvious, there’s no difference between you and the Bhagavad Gita either. There’s no difference between you and the book and the earth and the sky and the trees and everything. We’re all in this thing together, and none of the distinctions between sky and tree and stream and book and human being make any difference.

Indeed, none of the distinctions between logically sound and logically unsound, morally good and morally bad make any difference either. Oh no, it’s a huge mistake to think the Bhagavad Gita is running in the same race with the Bible. The Bhagavad Gita undermines all logic and reasoning, all morality, all human personality, all human choice.

So, what do we have left? We have the arbitrary religions that say Confucius say, Buddha say, so forth, and say, yeah everybody has an opinion. That’s just arbitrary.

You have the books that refute themselves like the Bhagavad Gita. There’s no rational basis for science or logic, given that worldview.

Non-Christian, Theistic Worldviews

And then you have one other class of religions, the only one really is of interest in this race for the preconditions of intelligibility. Materialists can’t provide them. Dualists can’t provide them. The vast majority and vast majority of religions of the world can’t provide them.

But somebody says, “What about the Muslims?” Because they’ve got a personal God, they’ve got a revelation, they’ve got a book where it’s recorded. What about the Mormons? What about people like that?

And although in abstract, in terms of the general format or outline of what I’m presenting to you, you might think, “Okay, finally, we’ve gotten to a good competitor,” it turns out at the point where we get a good competitor, we have the easiest way of dealing with them.

How do you deal with those religions? You deal with them biblically. And the reason you deal with them biblically is because every one of them is committed to the Bible. There are no unique competitors with Christianity.

Islam

The only ones that appear to give us a run for our money are all dependent upon our worldview. Did you know that? The Muslim faith is based on the Quran. The Quran itself endorses the law of Moses, Psalms, and David, an the gospel of Jesus.

Muhammad said that the Quran is nothing more than the end of the revelatory process that began way back in what we call the Bible. And so Muslims, if they are true to the Quran, and they must be, because that’s one of the pillars, after all—Muhammad is the prophet of God—Muslims must be committed to the previous revelation of the Bible.

And I’m not saying this is an easy thing. Indeed, psychologically and socially, culturally, it’s a very hard thing. But logically, in terms of apologetic strategy, it’s an easy thing to answer how you deal with the Muslim. You deal with the Muslim biblically.

You go to the Quran and show the Quran endorses the Bible. Then, you go to the Bible and show that what the Quran says contradicts the Bible, so that on the Quran’s own terms, you must reject the Quran.

Let me run this past you slowly. I know time is out today, but I’ll try to slowly do this. The Quran says God revealed himself, Allah revealed himself, in Moses, in the law. So we go back to the law, which is endorsed by the Quran. In the law, Moses says any future prophet that comes along must be judged by the previous revelation that God has given.

So the Quran sends us to Moses. Moses says you must judge the Quran or any other prophet by previous revelation. Then, you point out that what the Quran reveals or claims to reveal is in conflict, indeed, in dire conflict with the law of Moses, the gospel of Jesus, and the Psalms of David.

And so the Quran can be refuted on its own terms. How do they conflict? Well, time won’t allow me to go into a full comparison at this point, but they conflict, first of all, in that according to the Quran, God cannot have a son, but according to the gospel of Jesus, God did have a son and his name is Jesus.

According to the Quran, people can be right with a law, to be right with God by doing good works. According to the law of Moses, nobody can be right with God, that we come into this world dirty and filthy and that’s why circumcision was taught to the Jews. No one enters this world except through an organ that has to be cleansed in the eyes of God and no one can be right with God without blood sacrifice. There’s no blood sacrifice in the Koran. There’s no need for blood atonement because your good works are to compensate for your bad works.

And so, in terms of their view of God and their view of salvation, Muslims stand in utter contradiction to the teaching of Moses and David and Jesus. And so, once again, the internal critique of Islam is it rests upon the Bible, it says. And so you can go to the Bible to refute the Quran.

Mormonism

How about Mormons? You say, “What do you do with Mormons?” Because they’re not like Muslims, a different religion. They’re some kind of version of Christian, yeah.

But, Mormons will all tell you what that the Bible is their book, and the Book of Mormon is just like the capstone of the Bible. It’s just another revelation the Christians have left out.

Well, but if they honor the Bible and the Book of Mormon, then you can argue with them by comparing the Bible and the Book of Mormon to show the Book of Mormon conflicts with the Bible. Now, what will Muslims and Mormons and all the rest—well, there aren’t that many—but in this narrow category of religions that ape Christianity, what will they do once you point out the Bible conflicts with their revelation or putative revelation?

The Reliability of the Bible

It never fails. They’ll turn around and say, “Well, then you don’t have the right Bible.” Right, the Muslims will say the Bible’s been corrupted and that in its original form it really did agree with the Quran.

Number one (arbitrariness). The only reason Muslims say that the Bible has been corrupted is because it conflicts with the Koran. They have no evidence of such corruption, no history of such corruption.

They say, “Oh, you Christians, you tampered with it.” Have you ever known somebody to accuse another person of his own sin? Takes one to know one? You know why Muslims think Christians corrupted the Bible? Now, of course there’s no evidence that they did.

As that as a matter of fact, the version of the Koran that we have today arises from a recension of the textual evidence in the third caliphate of Uthman. They called in all the conflicting texts and burned them upon pain of death.

So maybe, since they’ve done that, they think we’ve done the same thing, but there is no evidence. That surmises only from prejudicial conjunction. There’s no argument here. It’s just, “You must be wrong because we must be right.”

The Mormons will tell us, “Well, the Bible’s been corrupted and you really need the interpretation of Joseph Smith.” Yeah, but Joseph Smith’s the only one who saw the plates and only one given the miraculous ability to translate them. And about this Joseph Smith, you should keep in mind that he’s been twice convicted—and we know this—of being a con man in the state of New York. The con man became the prophet of God who tells us he alone has seen the gold plates and knows how to translate them and we should all now give up the public evidence of the Bible for this.

That’s asking too much for anybody to be reasonable in that way. Very quickly, at the end here of our session, what I’m getting at is even those religions that ape Christianity can be dealt with in terms of an internal critique of what they say. And so, I think presuppositionalism is not only a strong—indeed the strongest—argument for Christianity, it can deal with all comers as well.

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