Challenging Unbelief and Exposing self-Refuting Contradictions by Jack Kettler
Positions claiming absolute certainty:
Consider the assertion: “there is no God.”
First, the Christian must point out that the unbeliever has not looked and cannot look everywhere for God. The unbeliever would have to possess the divine attributes of omniscience and omnipresence in order to make an assertion of this nature with any credibility. Moreover, since the unbeliever is finite, he cannot be certain of his assertion because proof for God's existence may be in a place where he has not looked. Therefore, the unbeliever has no ground to claim his assertion is correct because he in reality cannot be absolutely sure about his assertion. The unbeliever is saying; “You can’t know anything for sure.” The unbeliever cannot be sure of his own assertion without contradicting himself. Said another way the unbeliever is saying; “You can’t know anything for certain.” You reply by asking, are you certain of that? As you have just seen, the unbeliever has refuted himself.
The following comments by Cornelius Van Til on atheism are most instructive:
Even making the statement “God does not exist” would be impossible if God did not exist. No statement can be made about chaos, abstract plurality. Without any order to the world, words would never have a consistent meaning. “This is x” would be equivalent to “This is not x.” “God does not exist” would be equivalent to “God does exist.” The words “God,” “does,” “not,” and “exist” would suffer the same possibility of becoming their opposites, or anything else; nor would there be any relationship between any of the words. To say that God does not exist is to make a universal negative claim, yet on the basis of a plurality that excludes all unity, universal claims are not possible. On the other hand, on the basis of an abstract unity as ultimate, no words would have any content. Once again, “is” would be equivalent to "is not." All would be a blank. God, as a concrete universal, must exist in order for the statement “God does not exist” to be intelligible. Antitheism presupposes theism. One must stand upon the solid ground of theism to be an effective antitheist. Finally, agnosticism is morally self-contradictory since it pretends to be very humble in its insistence that it makes no sweeping conclusions, while as a matter of fact it has made a universal negative conclusion in total reliance upon itself. The “natural man” is at enmity against God. (1)
Positions claiming absolute uncertainty:
“We cannot know whether God exists or not.”
The Christian must show the unbeliever that though his position may seem safe and neutral on the surface, it is actually a bold statement about God and His world. The assertion is claiming that God has not made himself known in a way that should be accepted by everyone. The Christian must respond by explaining to the unbeliever that he has not searched everywhere to see if there is any clear evidence for God's existence. Moreover, the unbeliever is in reality unable to look everywhere without possessing divine attributes. The unbeliever is saying; “There is no certainty.” He cannot be certain of that without contradicting himself? Therefore, the unbeliever cannot be sure about his agnosticism and therefore, his position and objection is not valid. Again, as you have just seen, the unbeliever has refuted himself.
Cornelius Van Til speaking of Agnosticism says:
[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. Nevertheless, 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.]. Agnosticism cannot say that it is open-minded on the question of the nature of ultimate reality. It is absolutely closed-minded on the subject. It has one view that it cannot, unless its own assumption be denied, exchange for another. It has started with the assumption of the non-existence of God and must end with it. Its so-called open-minded attitude is therefore a closed-minded attitude. The agnostic must be open-minded and closed-minded at the same time. In addition, this is not only a psychological self-contradiction, but also an epistemological self-contradiction. It amounts to affirmation and denial at the same time. Accordingly, they cancel out one another, if there is cancellation power in them.
Incidentally, we may point out that, in addition to being psychologically and epistemologically self-contradictory, the agnostic is morally self-contradictory. His contention was that he is very humble, and for that reason unwilling to pretend to know anything about ultimate matters. Yet he has by implication made a universal statement about reality. He therefore not only claims to know as much as the theist knows, but he claims to know much more. More than that, he not only claims to know much more than the theist, but he claims to know more than the theist’s God. He has boldly set bare possibility above the theist’s God and is quite willing to test the consequences of his action. It is thus that the hubris of which the Greeks spoke so much, and upon which they invoked the wrath of the gods, appears in new and seeming innocent garb. (2)
As seen in the above self-referential statements by unbelievers asserting total certainty or agnostics in arguing for total uncertainty, we see that their statements are self-refuting. It is amazing to see how many times these kinds of statements are made by unbelievers.
Some of the numerous examples and responses to self-refuting contradictions made by modern day unbelievers and irrationalists:
“Only knowledge that can be empirically verified is true.” Can you empirically verify that statement?
“There are no absolute truths.” Is that statement absolutely true?
“All truth is relative.” Is the supposed truth you just asserted relative?
“You should be skeptical of everything.” Should we be skeptical of that statement?
“You ought not to judge.” Is that a judgment you just asserted?
Van Til best sums up the folly of modern unbelieving assertions about reality:
“Modern science boldly asks for a criterion of meaning when one speaks to him of Christ. He assumes that he himself has a criterion, a principle of verification and of falsification, by which he can establish for himself a self-supporting island floating on a shoreless sea. But when he is asked to show his criterion as it functions in experience, every fact is indeterminate, lost in darkness; no one can identify a single fact, and all logic is like a sun that is always behind the clouds.” (3)
Also, it problematic for non-believers, when they assert moral absolutes and omniscient statements within the framework of a materialistic system that does not allow absolutes. When finite man without Biblical authority asserts moral absolute omniscient statements, it is indefensible. Moreover, it should be noted the absurdity of atheism's claim when asserting, “there is no God.” The absurdity is this; it is impossible to prove a universal negative. Furthermore, when the atheist asserts that “there is no God.” When using the second question of the Socratic technique, “how do you know that?” reveals the failure of this unverifiable claim. With that, we can dismiss the non-believer's demand for verification, which they always demand of Christians. In regards to the agnostic claims of ignorance concerning the existence of God, it should be noted that this claim of ignorance is not an argument against the existence of God. Rather, it is a sign of epistemological bankruptcy and what could be described as a deficiency of knowledge.
Unbelievers argue in ways that are truly rational only based on the Christian world-view:
We cannot do without God any more when we wish to know about physics or psychology than when we wish to know about our soul’s salvation. Not one single fact in this universe can be known truly by man without the existence of God. Even if man will not recognize God’s existence, the fact of God’s existence none the less accounts for whatever measure of knowledge man has about God….Now if every fact of the universe is created by God, and if the mind of man and whatever the mind of man knows is created by God, it goes without saying that the whole fabric of human knowledge would dash to pieces if God did not exist and if all finite existence were not revelational of God. (4)
In closing, as Van Til observes:
It is the firm conviction of every epistemologically self-conscious Christian that no human being can utter a single syllable, whether in negation or affirmation, unless it were for God’s existence. Thus, the transcendental argument seeks to discover what sort of foundations the house of human knowledge must have, in order to be what it is. (5)
Van Til goes on to say:
We must point out that reasoning itself leads to self-contradiction, not only from a theistic point of view, but from a non-theistic point of view as well... It is this that we ought to mean when we say that we reason from the impossibility of the contrary. The contrary is impossible only if it is self-contradictory when operating on the basis of its own assumptions. (6)
Let it be widely known that:
"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God..." Psalm 14:1
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)
1. Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1970), xii.
2. Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1970) pp. 213,214.
3. Cornelius Van Til, Christian-Theistic Evidences (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1976), pp. 147-48.
4. Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1978), 14.
5. Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1970) p. 11.
6. Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970), p. 204).
“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: The Religion That Started in a Hat