2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 5:16–2, A Christian Direcgtory, Apologetics, Evidentialism, Presuppositionalism, Puritan, Revelation, Richard Baxter, St. Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, William Lane Craig
Baxter’s directions to the unconverted require presupposition that we all know God to exist:
I suppose thee to be one that knowest that thou didst not make thyself; …I suppose, therefore, that thou does confess that there is a God; for there to be the eternal, infinite Being, and the most powerful, wise, and good, and the first cause of all created being, and power, and wisdom, and goodness, and (with the subsequent relations to the creature) to be God.
(Christian Directory, I.I.4). Baxter makes a series of arguments in this presupposition. First, he argues to the presupposition of the other: I suppose you know and confess that God exists. However, this statement is actually more complex than may first appear.
I will presume that you know that you did not make yourself: Let us consider what this entails:
If something exists, then it was created/made by a creator.
Therefore, you were created.
This argument is a modus ponenes: If A, then B. A. Therefore, B. However, Baxter structures the argument in such a way as move toward his primary point: The nature and function of the Creator. In making his argument in such a manner, Baxter is not being a bare bully. Rather, he begins with a good biblical assertion: God exists, and his existence is demonstrated by creation (Rom. 1:18-25). Note that the argument is not necessarily structured around some particular detail of creation as proof for God: rather the argument seems to be based more generally in the fact of existence, being itself. That something exists is evidence of God.
This argument is known as the cosmological argument. In its current form, it would be stated thus:
1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.
This can be found in William Lane Craig’s piece in Christianity Today,”God is not Dead”, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/july/13.22.html
Craig also discusses the Kalam argument which more closely matches the version of the argument made by Baxter, above.
The next sentence in Baxter’s argument concerning the “first cause” is a reference to Thomas Aquinas’ version of the cosmological argument. The reference to “eternal, infinite Being” may be an oblique reference to St. Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God.
Thus, it is interesting Baxter takes a presuppositionalist position, We both know God exists — and yet states it in a way evidences arguments for the existence of God. Baxter’s position is thus not only biblically sound (the Bible starts with the presupposition that God exists) and yet he demonstrates that his position is capable of reasonable demonstration: Such arguments do not create faith, but they do demonstrate that Christian faith is not illogical or absurd (however, difficult or mysterious a doctrine such as the Incarnation or the Trinity).
What about the man who insists that God does not exist? What of a rabid atheism? Baxter continues:
If thou wilt deny that there is a God, thou must deny that that thou art a man, and that there is any man or any being.
The denial of God is a denial of the image of God upon humanity. The intrinsic value of human beings lies in the image of God upon humanity. Should we deny that basis, then human beings become utilitarian objects: You exist for the good which you can do for me. Arguing to consistent moral demands becomes impossible — or at least arbitrary — very quickly. It becomes impossible to ground good in anything other than my personal desire. Ethical argument become emotional appeal. You may like or dislike something, but you cannot say that it is evil or good.
The denial of “any being” seems to mean that a denial of God is as absurd as denying one’s own existence.
Finally, it must be noted that the atheist claim that God cannot be found is in a manner true: God is personal and cannot and will not be found like a rock or bird. Sand can be found at the beach, but God will not found in the same manner. For the atheist to say that he cannot see God, is to say nothing more than a man who suppresses the knowledge of the wrath of God cannot and will not know God — even in the blinding light of Creation (Rom. 1:18-25). Wallowing in sin debases the mind and corrupts the heart.
However, the atheist is wrong to think that God cannot be found. God will be found only in the expression of the Father, in the revelation of Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-4):
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Corinthians 5:16–21 (ESV)
Interesting, I plan to read Baxter’s work sometime and I’ll keep an eye out for this…it’s always neat to see incipient forms of Presuppositionalism in those earlier than Cornelius Van Til…