God, Revelation & Authority Vol. 1, Chapter 14 5/5

Posted: February 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 Carl F.H. Henry’s thesis in volume 1 of his 6 volume magnum opus is as follows:

Divine revelation is the source of all truth, the truth of Christianity included; reason is the instrument for recognizing it; Scripture is its verifying principle; logical consistency is a negative test for truth and coherence a subordinate test. The task of Christian theology is to exhibit the content of biblical revelation as an orderly whole.

 Henry unpacks this thesis in six subsections. We have covered 5 and the 6th is, “The theology of revelation requires the apologetic confrontation of speculative theories of reality and life.” What does Henry mean? He goes on to write, ” 

By applying the laws of logic, the Christian apologist will mount internal criticism of contrary positions and expose the contradictions inherent in the axioms of secularism; he will thereby reduce to absurdity the successively proffered alternatives to Christian theism and force the intellectual abandonment of speculative views. At the same time, he will exhibit the internal consistency of the Christian axioms and show that evangelical truth far better accounts for any desirable facets of a proffered alternative while also avoiding its logical inconsistencies.” In other words, divine revelation enables its adherents to contend for the faith in the religious marketplace by demonstrating its logical consistency and coherence and the lack of such commendable attributes in competing truth claims.
Many theologians, following the influential thinker Karl Barth, argue that apologetics is a waste of time and that we must simply proclaim the narrative of Scripture and live out the story of Jesus.  Yet, while Christians certainly should tell the story and follow Jesus as closely as possible, we are rational beings who instinctively analyze competing truth claims.  Ignoring such a distinctly human characteristic is one of the fatal flaws of “Barthianism.”  For as Henry puts it, “If the Christian system of doctrine is true, than deductions derived from contrary axioms must be false.”  Truth makes exclusive claims–it is unavoidable.
Scripture itself recognizes the necessity of apologetics.  Paul reasons in the synagogues (Acts 17:17) and Jesus trumps the claims of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  And, of course, Barth’s rejection of exclusive claims is a truth claim!
Henry ends this important chapter writing,
In summary, Christianity is rational religion because it is grounded in the rational living God and his meaningful revelation. Secular theories elaborated independently of the truth of revelation either exaggerate or limit the nature of reason and thought and language in a manner that the Christian knows distorts the actual state of things. Not only the apostate abandonment of revelation as the basic Christian axiom in epistemology, but also weak and fallacious views of divine revelation as well, needlessly obscure the truth of evangelical theism. The truth of revelation is dimmed also by an unbelief in the authority and reliability of Scripture, since this dilutes God’s Word and speech. It is shadowed too by failure to expound the Bible logically and systematically, and by every accommodation of doctrinal heresy. Many baneful tendencies have settled over contemporary churches in a day when theologians are themselves at odds over the method of knowing spiritual truth, and over the criteria for verifying it. This confusion is an unavoidable penalty, indeed a divine punishment, for forfeiting the truth of revelation. If divine revelation is intelligible, as biblical Christianity insists, then God’s communication of truth and provision of information is its vital center. In that event, the revelational significance of concepts and words, and of propositional truth, is indispensably important.
Next up, chapter 15.

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