In connection with the fact of sin, from which the whole antithesis between truth and falsehood is born, this phenomenon presents itself in such a form that one recognizes the fact of sin, and that the other denies it or does not reckon with it. Thus what is normal to one is absolutely abnormal to the other. This establishes for each an entirely different standard. And where both go to work from such subjective standards, the science of each must become entirely different, and the unity of science is gone. The one cannot be forced to accept what the other holds as truth, and what according to his view he has found to be truth.
Thus, taken by itself, the triumph of Scepticism ought to result from this, and Pilate’s exclamation, “What is truth,” should be the motto of highest wisdom. But the process of history is a protest against this. However often Scepticism has lifted up its head, it has never been able to maintain a standing for itself, and with unbroken courage and indefatigable power of will thinking humanity has ever started out anew upon the search after truth. And this fact claims an explanation.
The philosophies of the world rob the treasure of truth which is found only in Christ.
Colossians 2:8 (ESV) “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Main Point 3: Disagreements between believers and unbelievers are systemic, world view disagreements, not isolated disagreements on a few points.
The Christian philosophy of life is all encompassing; Christians are to bring every thought captive to Christ. Therefore, an antithesis always exists between believing and unbelieving philosophies. Furthermore, the world and its way of thinking finds the Christian philosophy to be not only wrong, but foolishness:
1 Corinthians 1:22-23 (ESV) For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles”
The disagreement is systemic, meaning that at all points Christianity’s philosophy is set against worldly wisdom: both world views have radically different starting points, methodologies, standards of evaluation, conclusions, etc.
- For example, Agrippa’s difficulty in accepting the possibility of resurrection was not with the facts, but with his philosophy of life which precluded the possibility of resurrection.
- Furthermore, Paul warns Timothy that not everything that comes to you as “truth” is true knowledge.
Everyone has a world view (basic philosophy of life), and this world view sets the limits upon that which one accepts as real, true, etc. In college you will encounter many of the secular world views.
In this lecture, Dr. Bahnsen argues three main points:
- Unbelievers are not neutral.
- Christians ought not be neutral.
- Disagreements between believing and unbelieving philosophies are systemic, involving the antithesis between entire world views rather than mere disagreements on one or two points.
In part 4 (see parts 1, 2, and 3), Dr. Bahnsen continues discussing specific ways in which universities are not intellectually “neutral.” Part 3 introduced intellectual bullying and double standards, and we continue with the latter.
2. Double Standards and Hidden Agendas cont.
If you think that universities are objective, even-handed dispensers of neutral, agenda-free knowledge, you are “living in a fairy tale world.” Double standards exist both inside and outside of the classroom.
Inside the classroom, you need to be aware of the following considerations:
- Professors select both the questions and answers that he or she considers important to discuss in class.
- Professors select the books you are to read regarding those pre-selected questions and answers.
These selections are not neutral. Both in asking the questions and in seeking the answers unbelievers process life according to the tenets of their ultimate heart commitments.
On Christian terms unbelievers are more than merely “not neutral” in discussing man’s purpose in life, the purpose of the world, etc.; rather, unbelievers are hostile to God.
3. An antithesis exists between Christian and Non-Christian Thought; Unbelievers are hostile to God’s truth
The Scriptures are clear on teaching that unbelievers are not “open-minded, objective truth seekers.” Listen to Paul in Ephesians 4:17-19 (ESV):
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
Although in their thinking unbelievers are hostile to God and His truth, believers do not think this way. Rather, believers are to think according to God’s authority (vv. 20-24):
But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Review of main point 1: Unbelievers are Not Neutral
Bahnsen’s two main points on neutrality are simple: (1) “They aren’t;” (2) “You shouldn’t be.” Unbelievers are not neutral because:
- They use double standards,
- They selectively consider questions of truth based upon the confines of their secular worldview, and
- They have a worldview/mindset that is hostile to God.
In the last two sections, Bahnsen expounds his second main point, “You shouldn’t be.”
Main Point 2: Christians Should Not Be “Neutral”
Dr. Bahnsen turns to the following Scriptures to argue that Christianity’s epistemology demands that Christians think as Christians, and not as supposed “neutral” automatons. The following texts are by no means exhaustive, but they give a brief introduction to basic concepts in Christianity’s worldview.
In Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, He prays: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17 ESV).
- To be “sanctified” means consecrated or set apart by the truth.
- Because Christians are set apart or distinguished from the world by God, believers cannot be neutral. Rather, believers are to think according to God’s revealed truth which has “sanctified” them.
In Matthew 6:24 (ESV) Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.“
- Jesus’ point is that it is impossible to have two ultimate authorities governing your life. (By definition an “ultimate authority” precludes the possibility of neutrality.)
- Believers, then, are to think, feel, and live in obedience to the Sovereign Lord of all (which means believers cannot be neutral in their thoughts, affections, or actions).
Proverbs 1:7 (ESV): “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
- On Christian terms, attempting to be neutral forbids one from knowledge because the ultimate foundation of truth is God Himself.
- To know one’s self, one’s world, and ultimate reality correctly, the Christian’s starting point is the non-neutral fear of God.
Colossians 2:3 (ESV) “in whom [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
- Christianity does not just claim “religious” truths, as if the religious sphere of life is separate from the non-religious (i.e. the so-called “secular/sacred” divide). Rather, “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” includes “all” truth.
- Because, then, on Christian terms God is the owner of all truth, Christians cannot claim to be neutral in any area of life.
In part 3 (see parts 1 and 2), Dr. Bahnsen continues his lecture to high school students by giving specific ways in which university professors will seek to destroy Christian students’ faith with a supposed secular “neutrality.” What are some of these specific ways?
1. Intellectual Bullying
Antagonistic professors against Christianity will often intentionally use shaming and contemptuous techniques in order to put down their adversaries, such as deliberately talking over student’s heads, using obscure or highly technical vocabulary, showing off all the books and articles the professor has read on the topic instead of answering questions about the topic (i.e. “You are not smart enough to ask that questions or to hear my answer…”). How, then, can Christian students respond?
Our natural tendency will want to be clash intellectual horns in an attempt to meet strength with strength. But, bullying begets bullying. The only way out of this trap is genuine humility. When a professor intentionally speaks over your head, simply ask him or her to explain the new vocabulary, etc.
2. Double Standards and Hidden Agendas
Bahnsen quotes “Harassment Policies in the University,” a journal article by Alan Charles Kors (see Kors’ faculty bio; also see Kors’ The Shadow University as a related resource), to show that universities use such policies as pretexts to enforce political and ethical agendas upon students. There is no neutral moral basis for claiming protection from harassment; for, your protection as a student depends upon which social group you support and which you decry or critique.
To illustrate the non-neutrality of harassment policies Bahnsen refers to the “Piss Christ” controversy which showed clearly that at a university campus you can offend any group (especially Christians) in the name of “social criticism,” except those groups which the university deems as worthy of protection from such criticism. (i.e. You can put a cross in urine–a high offense to Catholics and Christians–and call it art, being protected in your speech by the harassment policy. But if you put a dolphin, homosexual rainbow, or any other ‘sacred cow’ symbol of secular humanism into urine, you would be guilty of harassment. Upon what basis is such a decision made? The university’s agenda, not some supposed “neutrality.”)
In part 2 (see part 1) of The Myth of Neutrality, Dr. Bahnsen begins to discuss the Christian view of neutrality according to the Holy Scriptures. He turns to the following passages:
- Jude 3 — God expects believers to contend for the faith.
- 1 Peter 3:15 — At any point, be prepared to answer for your hope in Christ.
According to Bahnsen, the key to confronting challenges to the Christian faith is found in 2 Cor. 10:4-5.
- Our weapons are not physical (i.e. guns, knives, violence, physical war, etc.).
- Rather, our mighty spiritual weapon is to bring every thought (our own and others’) captive to the obedience of Christ.
- Christians, then, display God’s mighty power when they think as Christians, and Christians cannot be “neutral” in their thinking; nor can Christians be intellectually lazy.
What about neutrality? Isn’t it wrong for Christians to assume or presuppose that Christianity is true? Bahnsen begins his answer by making two points on neutrality:
- Those who demand neutrality are not neutral themselves.
- Because Christianity is non-neutral by definition, Christians cannot be neutral (i.e. 2 Cor. 10:4-5).
Though a bit dated (i.e. notice the reference to Schwarzenegger’s 1991 movie, Terminator 2), Dr. Bahnsen’s lecture to a group of high school students, The Myth of Neutrality, introduces basic concepts in Christian apologetics that are sorely needed in current Christian discipleship.
The main concept introduced in these lectures is the antithesis between Christian and non-Christian thought and life. Part 1 of Bahnsen’s lecture introduces the problem by raising the question to the high school students: Are you ready to deal with professors and classmates who will scorn your beliefs, holding you and your faith in contempt?
The Myth of Neutrality, Part 1:
כִּ֤י אִ֥ם בְּתוֹרַ֥ת יְהוָ֗ה חֶ֫פְצ֥וֹ
“but in the Yahweh’s Torah is his [the blessed man’s] delight”
The reasons why the blessed man has been described negatively with three “does not” phrases in verse 1 is now made plain in verse 2: the blessed man has a different delight. The force of the contrasting conjunction (כִּ֤י אִ֥ם) is not to be read as an if, but as a because.2 The person who is God-blessed cannot listen to the lies of the wicked, live the lifestyle of sinners, or rue God (and His people) with mockery because the God-blessed person’s heart has been changed. Because the blessed man’s heart delights in the infinite perfections of God’s instruction, he cannot even listen to the world’s instructions, follow the world’s ways, or join in the world’s mocking of God.
Both the broad meaning of “Torah” (“teaching”) and its more narrow reference (“God’s law” as in the Mosaic law)3 are helpful for understanding this phrase on Christian terms. This exact phrase occurs only one other time in the Psalter (Psalm 119:1), and it is found four times elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible (2 Ki. 10:31; 1 Chr. 16:40; 2 Chr. 31:3f; 2 Chr. 35:26). The sense from these texts is that “Torah of the Lord” refers specifically to the Mosaic law and broadly to the entire Pentateuch.
Psalm 119, the entirety of which extols the Torah, clearly shows parallel imagery to Psalm 1:1-2 (“blessed”; “way”; “walk”; “law of the Lord”). The other passages deal with Israel’s kings and their responsibility to rule in accordance to Yahweh’s Torah. The parallels in these non-Psalter passages to Psalm 1:1-2 also are striking when thinking of the latter in terms of the king’s responsibilities: Yahweh’s king is to reject the counsel/advice of the wicked (but to follow the counsel of Yahweh’s Torah), to reject the way of life of Torah transgressors (but to promote Yahweh’s Torah way of life) , to reject positioning himself among those who scoff God (but to worship God according to Yahweh’s Torah). In short, the blessed man is a Torah-based man who orders his entire existence according to God’s word.
This word’s basic meaning is “to feel great favor towards something.”4 The overflowing sense of delight is seen in how this word is used elsewhere in the Psalter in relation to Torah (Ps. 40:8; Ps. 119:70, Ps. 119:77, Ps. 119:92, Ps. 119:174). God’s Torah is that which enraptures the heart’s longing for satisfaction. The sense in this phrase is that he whose cup of joy is overflowing is he whose heart is delighting greatly in God’s law as it is most specifically portrayed in the Mosaic laws.
In sum, the godly, blessed man is set in antithesis to the ungodly. The godly man cannot think, live, or speak like the ungodly, for the godly man cannot help but think, live, and speak according to God’s instruction/law!
- To see the Hebrew text you need the free Ezra SIL SR unicode font. [↩ back]
- See the fourth use of כִּ֤י as explained in TWOT: “In Hebrew kî [כִּ֤י] is used in four ways: to introduce an objective clause especially after verbs of seeing, saying, etc. and translated “that”; to introduce a temporal clause and translated “when” (some of these are almost conditional clauses, thus making “if” appropriate); to introduce a causal clause, “because, for, since”; and with ‘im [אִ֥ם] to express the reason why some case might not occur “except, but rather.” ” [↩ back]
- See TWOT entry 910d for תּוֹרָה [↩ back]
- See TWOT entry 712b for חֵפֶץ . [↩ back]