Intellectuals throughout history have given their views as to what the source, goal and nature of civilization is. The ancient philosopher Plato described a well-ordered civilization as a three-tiered hierarchy of philosopher-kings, the soldier class, and the merchant class. The philosophers are the kings because they are allegedly the most knowledgeable about the ideas of justice and the good. Hegel offered a comprehensive philosophy of life in which he said that the state is God, and the ideal of civilization is for all people to become unified under the State. Freud expressed the predominate view of 20th Century intellectuals when he said that civilization is defined by the degree that a culture rejects the psychological projection of a loving, divine Father as the explanation for the mysteries of the world and embraces rational, scientific, materialistic explanations of the world. In this essay I do not examine all of the competing explanations for civilization in detail. However, despite all their differences, all non-Christian views of civilization have a common point of view that allows for a single refutation that applies to them all and allows for a single proof (see the introductory quote from Van Til above) that Christian Civilization is the only rationally possible civilization.
Viewing the world in terms of unity and plurality being abstracted from one another, the atheist is trapped in an irresolvable dialectic tension between rationalism and irrationalism. In terms of his ultimate beliefs about the one and the many, the atheist`s descriptions of the world, in every statement that he utters, cannot be but flatly contradictory on its own premises. Predication and knowledge require both the one and the many, but since the atheist views these as abstracted from each other, he must be a rationalist (appealing to abstract law) and an irrationalist (appealing to abstract, isolated particulars) at the same time. The irrationalist must be a rationalist because nothing can be said about a purely indeterminate reality. And the rationalist must be an irrationalist because nothing can be said about a timeless, blank unity. Van Til explains:
The Sophists are as able to refute Plato as Plato is to refute the Sophists. For Plato`s highest law, his absolute universal is a purely empty form. If anything is to be said of it this must be done by making this form correlative to the idea of pure contingency. If Plato speaks he thereby becomes a relativist. He has then taken pure contingency into his pure absolute. He, as well as the Sophist, must, if he speaks at all, contradict himself in every word that he speaks. To make an appearance of justification for their predication on any subject the Sophist and the Platonist must take in each other`s washings. Pure form and pure matter or pure contingency are correlatives to one another. . . . But as to logical priority neither can make peace with the law of contradiction, neither can offer a positive foundation the basis of which the law of contradiction can be employed at all. It is only if the Christian position, with its teachings of the triune God as the creator and redeemer of men be one`s starting-point that one can speak without contradiction. Only in Christianity is skepticism answered.
When the atheist speaks directly about ultimate matters, the contradiction at the basis of his thinking becomes evident. As an irrationalist, emphasizing the many, the atheist will claim that we cannot know anything about ultimate reality. But even in that statement, the atheist is relying on the most extreme form of rationalism, for he is making a universal, negative claim about the nature of ultimate reality that it is unknowable and that Christianity cannot be true. He has been known to say, Christians are wrong because nobody knows ultimate truth. He is making an absolute statement that there are no absolutes.
As a rationalist the atheist will make the absolute, universal claim that the Bible has been proven wrong by science, allegedly the source of all genuine human knowledge and then as an irrationalist say that, because science is based on a piecemeal gathering of finite experiences, humans can never know absolutes. The atheist may try to get around this contradiction by saying that science proves that the Bible is probably not true but he fails to realize that probability depends on a universal claim that limits the number of possibilities. We can calculate the probability that a certain number will be rolled with dice only because we do not live in a world of chaos, in which dots might appear, disappear, or become something other than dots with each roll.
On the one hand the atheist will say that he is an opened-minded scientist and that anything can happen in nature, but then will say that nature operates according to unbreakable laws so that supernatural intervention into nature could never happen.
Likewise, the atheist believes that he has free will, but also believes that nature, in which he is wholly immersed, behaves according to unbreakable laws. But since this freedom is an absence of order, a pure contingency, and nothing can be said about pure contingency, the atheist is free only in so far as he has no knowledge of his freedom and to the extent that the atheist knows himself, he cannot be free.
In defense of freedom the atheist will denounce moral absolutes and the judgmental people who appeal to them, not recognizing that the pronouncement Do not judge is itself an absolute moral command and condemnation of those who judge. At one moment the atheist is denouncing judgementalism, and the next moment condemning capitalists and killers of a rare species of sucker fish with words of ethical judgment as absolute as those delivered by Moses from Mount Sinai. The rationalist-irrationalist tension of atheism results in the perpetual charade of atheists on university campuses, who, in pursuit of the cause of diversity and open-minded inquiry, try to silence Christians and invent a new code of moral absolutes currently known as political correctness.
Atheism`s rationalist-irrationalist dialectic tension is the Mother of All Contradictions because it undermines the very possibility of logic. Given that logic is unintelligible except on the assumption of the truth of Christianity, even to identify that atheism is self-contradictory on its own premises requires one to presuppose the truth of Christianity. Atheism presupposes Theism.
As finite creatures, we inevitably face contradictions that are merely apparent rather than real, but which we cannot resolve because ofJanus faced our limited knowledge, such as light having the properties
of both a wave and a particle, and God being one person in a sense and yet three persons in another sense. We can live with these contradictions. They don`t undermine the possibility of rationality because we assume that there is no ultimate contradiction. The mysteries are simply the product of our limited knowledge. The Christian can live with apparent contradictions because there is an absolutely rational God in whom it is possible to resolve logical problems that exceed the abilities of finite minds. Atheism`s rationalist-irrationalist tension undermines the possibility of rationality because, by hypothesis, there is no absolute mind in which logical problems could find their resolution. Consequently, though the unbeliever often makes ad hominem judgments about the hypocrisy of Christians, it is the unbeliever who is Janus-faced in all his ways, psychologically, epistemologically, and morally.
The non-Christian`s hypocrisy here is not a matter of failing to conform to their professed philosophy, but a matter of conforming to it, because logical contradiction is inherent in their philosophy. The atheist boldly makes the universal claim that God does not exist. The agnostic tries to be more modest by saying that God probably does not exist, or we cannot know if God exists. But the agnostic is still sneaking in universals: 1) The universal that we live in an orderly universe which allows the calculation of probabilities, or the more blatant universal that we cannot know if God exists, 2) either of which entail the universal claim that a certain type of God does not exist: A God who is inescapably known through every fact in creation, both in the observable world as well as in each person`s own consciousness, i.e. the Christian God. Van Til explains the hidden, inherent contradictions in the agnostic`s thinking:
[Agnosticism] is, in the first place, psychologically self-contradictory upon its own assumptions. Agnosticism wants to hold that it is reasonable to refrain from thorough epistemological speculations because they cannot lead to anything. But in order to assume this attitude, agnosticism has itself made the most tremendous intellectual assertion that could be made about ultimate things. In the second place, agnosticism is epistemologically self-contradictory on its own assumptions because its claim to make no assertion about ultimate reality rests upon a most comprehensive assertion about ultimate reality. . . . The alternative is not between saying something about ultimate reality or not saying anything about it, but that the alternative is rather between saying one thing about it or another. Every human being, as a matter of fact, says something about ultimate reality.
It should be noted that those who claim to say nothing about ultimate reality not only do say something about it just as well as everybody else, but they have assumed for themselves the responsibility of saying one definite thing about ultimate reality. They have assumed the responsibility of excluding God. We have seen again that a God who is to come in afterward is no God at all [i.e. a God that is not sovereign over all existence M.W.. Agnosti...