by Cornelius Van Til
Kant's View of Man
Kant's idea of man is best expressed in his own notion of autonomy. And the first thing to note about this idea of autonomy is that it cannot be stated without involving a construction of reality as a whole in terms of this autonomy. Of course Kant says that he starts merely from facts of experience. He wants no metaphysics. He starts from the fact of science. He starts from the act of the moral experience. But he finds these facts because he has from the outset placed them where they are in terms of his own autonomy. If man is autonomous, then he acts as autonomous when he is engaged in intellectual interpretation. That is to say, in assuming man's autonomy Kant virtually takes for granted the essentially legislative character of human thought. True indeed, it is precisely this legislative character of thought that he seems, at first glance, to oppose. Does he not reject the rationalist approach to the problem of reality? Would he, for one moment, agree with the "Dutch Jew" Spinoza that the order and connection of things is the same as the order and connection of ideas? Would he, for one moment, agree with Parmenides when he says, in effect, that by the application of the law of contradiction man's intellectual thought can determine the nature of reality. Was it not Kant who first taught us to take time seriously? Did he not limit the function of the intellect to a formal activity in relation to facts that must come to it from a realm of contingency? All this is true. But all this does not change the fact that for him intellectual thought does, in effect, legislate for the nature of ultimate reality. On Kant's view man's autonomous intellectual activity can tell us what ultimate reality cannot be. And to say what ultimate reality cannot be is, in effect, the same as to say that it can and must be. Kant's rejection of metaphysics simply leads him to the adoption of a new metaphysics.
Kant argues that man is free. This, he says, is a fact of experience. But if we are not to let this fact escape us, he argues, then we must protect it against all forms of determinism and rationalism. The worst form of determinism is for him such as is represented by the idea that God has actually created the world and actually controls the destinies of all men. We need to use the law of contradiction negatively and then we see at once, argues Kant in effect, that man cannot be free and determined at the same time. Surely, he says, in effect, I am very modest in comparison to the rationalists and the natural theologian. I have shown that the laws of logic must not be used positively. We cannot prove the existence of God. I use the laws of logic negatively when it comes to speaking of God. I am thus making room for faith.
In spite of this seeming modesty in the use of logic on the part of Kant, it must be maintained that he has excluded the possibility of the existence of God as effectively as have the natural theologians. The natural theologians excluded the God of Christianity by "proving" the existence of another god in his place. Kant excludes the Christian idea of God by "proving" that he cannot exist as the known creator and redeemer of men. Kant makes a universal a priori negative assertion on the basis of himself as autonomous about the impossibility of the existence and knowability of the self-contained God of Scripture. In other words, on Kant's view, the autonomous man can, by swinging the logician's postulate, determine what cannot be found in reality. And this applies to the world of the noumenal as well as to the world of the phenomenal.
Kant keeps God out of the world of the phenomenal by establishing the validity of science in terms of the ultimate organizing activity of the autonomous man. In other words, the man of Kant takes over, in effect, the functions of God as these are set forth in Scripture. On Kant's view, man's organizing activity, as this is expressed through the logical function of man, is assumed to be the final source of order in the facts of nature and history.
Kant also makes man the ultimate source in the realm of the noumenal. To be sure, he says that the free man is free because he listens to the voice of the categorical imperative. He says that man, freed from all involvement in nature, hears the voice "Thou shalt" and therefore responds and says "I can." Reality cannot, he argues, be of such a nature that anything should be required of the moral man that he cannot do. Therefore the story of the fall of man as we read it in Scripture cannot refer to a temporal fact at the beginning of the course of history. It must be symbolical of an act of freedom of the free man who exists as the homo noumenon above "nature." The biblical idea of original sin cannot be of any meaning to us unless we take it as a symbol of what takes place within the inward activity of man independent of the relativity and determinism of "nature." And if Christianity speaks of man's need of grace, then this cannot take away the fact that man has within himself the plenary power to improve himself. Man's radical evil cannot mean anything like the Reformed doctrine of total depravity. If it did, then we should drag the free ethical individual down from the noumenal realm of freedom into the predetermined relations of the phenomenal world. The whole message of Christianity, the story of the transition from wrath to grace in history, must therefore be symbolical of transactions that take place within the moral self as wholly self-dependent.
Here then we have the principle of inwardness that Kroner and many other theologians praise so much in Kant. It is this principle of inwardness according to which Kant is often said to be the theologian of Protestantism. It is this principle of inwardness that underlies the theology of Hordern and of DeWolf. It is this principle of inwardness that Kierkegaard has developed on the basis of Kant and has intertwined with the principle of Christianity so skilfully that it would seem to be able to deceive the very elect of God. But of this we cannot speak in this connection (cf. the writer's The New Modernism and his Christianity and Barthianism).
B. The Biblical View of Man
It may be asked at this point whether it is possible for anyone to escape setting the first fact of experience that he thinks he meets in an intellectual framework. And if not, why should we object to Kant's doing so?
We reply that it is indeed impossible for any man to make any statement about any fact of experience without doing so in terms of an all-inclusive view of reality. And we can only rejoice if there seems today to be some measure of appreciation of this fact, for to the extent that this is the case we need no longer concern ourselves with the idea of "neutrality." And to the extent that such is the case, we may start from the assumption that every bit of scientific search for facts already proceeds upon a basic view with respect to reality. Then we may evaluate all so-called non-Christian anti-metaphysical theories of science and philosophy as being, in effect, identical with a metaphysics of ultimate flux, a metaphysics of the night in which all cows are black. And then we may, for our purposes, think of all Christians opposed to the use of the word metaphysics as speaking of a terminological question only. All men presuppose, whatever the name they use for it, a synoptic view of reality as a whole. We continue to call it metaphysics.
We must now set the biblical view of man over against that of Kant. But are we not speaking of Calvinism? Why do we not then deal with the Calvinist view of man? The answer is that the center of Calvinism is its idea of making every thought captive to the obedience of Christ as he speaks in Scripture. Those who really believe that Christ speaks through his prophets and apostles in the Scripture do not set the autonomous man, the rational man, or the moral man above the Scriptures. Romanism and, to a lesser extent, Arrninianism do this: And Carnell followed their lead.
But if Scripture is thus self-authenticating, it is because Christ speaks to us through it. The Bible is, as it were, a letter from Christ to his people, to his Church. But Christ is God. He speaks to his Church so that his Church might speak to mankind. All men are men as standing in covenant relation to the triune God. It is Christ who says "I am the way, the truth and the life." He says this as the Son of God. God identifies himself as the "I am." There are no laws of truth, goodness or beauty above him to which he need or even can make reference. All law, in the "phenomenal" and in the "noumenal" realm alike, proceeds from him. Again, there are no facts of the world of space and time that act as an independent and therefore as a possibly or actually refractory power below him. There is no such thing as pure contingency. The very idea of possibility so far as man deals with it, gets its meaning from God as the self-referential, self-contained I am for he speaks in Christ. It is this God of pure inwardness in terms of which the Christian interprets himself and his cosmic environment.
At this basic point then the Christian and the Kantian position stand diametrically opposed to one another. The autonomous man of Kant says I am and allows nothing more ultimate than itself. The Christian says I am in terms of Christ and God as the great I am. It is Descartes or Calvin. It is Kant or Calvin.
The would-be self-contained man of Kant cannot, of course, be self-contained. To attain to its vaunted independence or freedom it has to "cut cables" with its environment altogether. Kant's autonomous self has to wrestle itself free from the disfiguring detritus of the sensuous realm in which it is, by chance, involved. And this free man has to accomplish its freedom by means of an intellectual effort which, because it is an intellectual effort, sucks man back into the sensuous realm. On Kant's view man is not free unless he has wholly extracted himself from the realm of nature. But he has to do this by means of a ladder constructed with materials taken from the realm of nature. And he has to set this ladder upon the realm of the phenomena as this has already been constructed by a form that rests in man as noumenal or free. If Kant could only, for a moment, borrow the God of Christianity to have him uphold nature long enough for him to escape from it, it would perhaps help him. But no, in that case he would want no freedom by way of an escape from nature. Then he would want freedom that is freedom in and unto Christ.
In other words, the free man of Kant is not free unless he has cut all cables with the phenomenal world, which world he has first given the only order it has by virtue of the form that proceeds from the free self. And the free self can give the phenomenal world no order because this free self exists only by virtue of negation of that world.
There can then be no possible meaning to the idea of freedom as Kant develops it. Kant's free man is free only when he is wholly unknown even to himself. And when he is in any degree known to himself, he is to that extent not free.
From the Christian point of view, the effort of Kant in the construction of his free man is, therefore, quite the opposite from what Richard Kroner asserts it to be. Kroner thinks of the principle of inwardness as it finds expression in Kant's idea of freedom as being in accord with biblical principles. Says Kroner: "Kant's ethical principle is in accordance with the gospel which emphasizes throughout that not the effect of our doings but only the purity of our heart matters in the sight of God." Kroner refers in this connection to the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5:8: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" and to similar passages.
Kroner's assertion on this point sheds the clearest possible light on the basic difference between a theology such as Hordern and DeWolf represent and such as was held by the Reformers. The new Reformation theology and the new Liberalism are basically new because they virtually ascribe the same position to Kant's primacy of the ethical as does Kroner.
The traditional Reformation theology would look at the matter quite otherwise. It would see in the assertion of Kant's idea of self-sufficient ethical inwardness, as this underlies Kant's idea of ethics and therefore as it underlies his total approach to all reality, nothing better than an expression of the basic ethical hostility of covenant-breaking man to the living God and to the Christ whom he has sent to save men from this very thing. In other words, the most basic ethical choice is that between the interpretation of man in terms of his own self-sufficient inwardness or in terms of God's self-sufficient inwardness as revealed in Scripture.
It is well that at this juncture the similarity between Kant's view of inwardness to that of Socrates be pointed out. When Socrates meets Euthyphro, he is happy indeed. Here is a young man ready to give him a definition of the holy. But soon the usual disappointment returns. The abundance of his wisdom has made Euthyphro indolent. Socrates wants an intrinsic definition of the holy. He is not concerned with the biographically interesting but logically meaningless question of what gods or men think of holiness. "The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods." Socrates wants a definition of the holy or the good regardless of what gods and men may say about it.
Here then is the principle of ethical inwardness operative in Socrates. Kant expresses the same principle more fully and more consistently when he says: "Our ethics must be precise and holy. The moral law is holy not because it has been revealed to us. Its holiness is original and our own reason is capable of revealing it to us. This fact makes us ourselves the judges of the revelation, since holiness is the highest, most perfect good which we can derive from ourselves, from our understanding." This idea of independent holiness prevails through all of Kant's ethical writings. In fact it forms the basic principles of everything he says on ethics. Man, argues Kant, is a member of a kingdom of ends. And he belongs to this kingdom "as sovereign" so that he is "not subject to the will of any other."6 When God is to be obeyed, it is because God points us to a good that is above him. "The concept of a divine will, determined according to pure moral laws alone, allows us to think of one religion which is purely moral as it did of only one God."
Brief reference may also be made to Plato. Kroner thinks that, as far as the Greeks are concerned, the principle of inwardness has been best expressed by Socrates. Kroner thinks of Plato's penchant for metaphysics as evidence of a measure of departure from the tendency toward the primacy of the ethical so beautifully expressed in Socrates. But from the point of view of traditional Protestantism, the position of Plato as well as that of Socrates is one of pure immanentism.
What basic difference is there between the idea of the good as visualized by Plato and the idea of the good as visualized by Socrates? They have in common the all-important point that, in their view, man's ultimate good is not to be traced to the expression of the will of God to man. Plato may look for good as above man, in the sense of existing in a world of ideas by itself. Let us say that if Socrates had known of such a desire on Plato's part, he would not have shared it. But neither would Socrates agree with the Sophists. He sought for or assumed a universal element as present in his moral consciousness. Both Socrates and Plato (a) exclude God's will as the source of the delineation of what is good for man, and (b) both seek for an objective idea of the good as in some sense reaching beyond the will of the individual man. Both therefore seek for objectivity, but both seek it independently of God's will for man. For Plato and Socrates alike the "first principle" of ethics is found in man as autonomous. For Plato as well as for Socrates, the good, as objective, is virtually nothing more than a projection of the self-sufficient moral consciousness of man. Kant merely carried out more consistently than did either Socrates or Plato the principle of man's complete independence from God. For Socrates, for Plato and for Kant the simple Christian teaching that for man the good is that which God, on the basis of his holy nature, calls good, and evil that which he calls evil, would be tantamount to a destruction of the purity of the ethical principle.
Herewith, thinking again of Kroner, we are bound to maintain that the Kantian idea of pure inwardness is, in effect, an attempt on the part of man to take the place of God. Kant only carries forward the principle of Socrates and the principle of Plato.
As then the Christian builds his view of man, he does so unashamedly on the basis of the Christian story. This story is the story of the covenant. Man was created as a covenant-keeper, but he soon became a covenant-breaker. When we say he became a covenant-breaker, we mean by that that all men after Adam through the fall of Adam, the first man, came into the world as covenant-breakers (Rom 5:12). Here human choice is so significant that the action of the first man colors the nature of the actions of all later men. All later men are under the wrath and curse of God because of Adam's rejection of the word of God's love and command. And they daily add to their sinfulness by their constantly renewed disobedience. But then come the glad tidings of the grace of God in Christ. He who thought it not robbery to be called equal with God because he was God humbled himself to the death, even the death of the cross. And he who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Substitution! What a horrible idea! says Kant. How can you take this story of the transition from wrath to grace as being historical? Indeed, say Hordern and DeWolf, take it symbolically and we will all accept it. As long as your story does not insult us as morally self-sufficient men, we can readily use it. In fact, we even have to use some such story. Is it not true that, though we exist independently of this story and above it, we must yet communicate with one another and with our projected God by means of the sensuous world, and therefore by way of symbolism or allegory, in short, by means of a story? We all need the story. But we must all demythologize the story we use. That is, we must all say that the story stands for something that really takes place within the self-sufficient moral subject. Then, and only then, all is well.
C. Kant's Kingdom of Ends
We recall at this point that we are basically seeking to discover why it is that Hordern and DeWolf teach an adulterated Christianity. And we are seeking to discover why it is that Carnell constantly defeats his own purposes as he seeks to bring a true Reformation theology to men. Instead of challenging the idea of human autonomy that underlies a theology such as that of Hordern and DeWolf in terms of the Christian story, Carnell, as well as they, starts with it. Moreover, we are concerned with these three men as representative of current movements of thought. We have found that there is no significant choice between the theology of Hordern and the theology of DeWolf. We have also found that there would be no significant choice between the theology of Hordern and DeWolf and theology of Carnell if the latter were true to his method. His method would devour his "story."
We may well speak of the Hordern-DeWolf-Carnell method. For the method of all three is based upon the modern freedom-nature scheme. And this scheme is based on Kant's idea of man as autonomous. This method requires the death of the Christian story.
So far in this chapter we have dealt with this autonomous man. But we have dealt chiefly with one aspect of him. We have seen him assert his freedom. And we have seen that this freedom means complete isolation. Afraid of God, the autonomous man seeks to hide from God. But there is no hiding from God. The free man of Kant would be like Admiral Byrd at the south pole if, after having arrived there by means of equipment made with the help of others, he had cut all his lines of communication with them and lived alone with the penguins. In other words, Kant's free man would be free only if he could live and move and have his being in a vacuum. As soon as he re-establishes his communication with other men, he is no longer free. This it is that constitutes Kant's ethical dualism.
But what can and will this free man do after he has once cut himself loose from the sensuous world? What will the free man do after he has found his freedom? Of course we do not grant for a moment that he has ever found any true freedom. Kant's ethics constantly relate the moral life of man to the world of the sensuous as well as to the world of freedom. Kant's free man would be a blank to himself is he were really free in his own sense of the term. He would be dead. He could make no choice between good and evil. There would be for him no difference between good and evil.
But let us for the sake of the argument suppose that Kant's free man has reached his freedom. Then what will he do? But must he do something? Can he not merely twiddle his thumbs? No, because his freedom is the freedom of act. Therein precisely his freedom is to be found. Only in terms of act, argues Kant, can he escape the determinism involved in all theoretical knowledge.
Now the result of the action of the free man, as conceived by Kant, are before us in his ethical Writings. This result is a new heaven and a new earth on which righteousness shall dwell. It is the kingdom of ends in which all true human beings are true persons and as such regard all other human beings as true persons. And a society composed exclusively of such free men, of such good men, deserves to be completely happy. So the free man of Kant constructs a god to whom he ascribes almighty power as well as absolute wisdom and goodness. This God will follow the instructions given him by the free man and will see to it that the condition of all men will eventually be what it ought to be, that is, what good men deserve.
It is thus that the ethical dualism of Kant is replaced by his ethical monism. This ethical monism signifies, argues Kant, that the religious and moral values of men have been preserved. It means that the world of nature, in spite of all the relentless determinism that we see and know to be operative in it, will finally, somehow, because of the imperative of the free man, be subject to the spiritual interests of good men. It means that the last enemy which is death will be swallowed up in victory. The free man's predicament, due to the fact that he is involved in the realm of the sensuous and therefore to that extent not really free, is completely solved. The radical evil, somehow proceeding from the free man who is good so far as he is free, has been overcome. The free man has projected a God as his father, a Christ as his substitute and a Holy Spirit as his regenerator. Thus he has raised himself from the dead and behold, he lives for evermore! The free man has sent his Christ before him in order to prepare a home with many mansions, goodly mansions, enough for all good men. Carnell's "decent society" is but a reflection of Kant's kingdom of ends.
Shall we look at this primacy of the ethical as merely an innocent utopia? Scripture does not speak of such utopias as being innocent. It speaks of the men who make them as desperately wicked. Is not the whole utopian dream based on the assumption that man is not a creature and is not a sinner? Is not the whole dream based on the idea that Christ is not the redeemer of men? Is not this dream like unto that of the Pharisees when they rejected Jesus the Christ through whom alone they themselves could be set free from sin, as standing in their way while they marched on to the fulfilment of their kingdom of the Jews?
To sense more deeply that Kant's kingdom of ends is a dream and at that a wicked dream, we need only to look at him as he constructs it step by step.
(1) The Internalization of Sin
If Kant's kingdom of ends is to be realized, then it is first of all necessary to remove the biblical idea of sin. And the method of removal is that of internalization. The biblical narrative with respect to the origin of sin must be dehistorized, that is, "demythologized." What does it mean when the apostle says that all men are under sin and that none are righteous? Is this not true? Of course it is true. But it is true only if it is internalized. We can speak of the origin of sin or evil, says Kant, "either as an origin in reason or as an origin in time." Of course Kant chooses for the idea that sin has its origin in reason rather than in time. "If an effect is referred to a cause to which it is bound under the laws of freedom, as it true in the case of moral evil, then the determination of the will to the production of this effect is conceived of as bound up with its determining ground not in time but merely in rational representation; such an effect cannot be derived from any preceding state whatsoever." 10
And why is it of absolute importance that we do not find the origin of evil in time? The answer for Kant is that to do so would be to find it in nature. And nature is the field of natural causes. Evil must spring from man as free. It would be a contradiction to say that sin had its origin in time.
When we think of any individual man today, we must not think of his sins as springing from something historically inherited. Of all the explanations of the spread and propagation of evil among men, "the most inept is that which describes it as descending to us as an inheritance from our first parents." Evil must be traced to the will of each man. And this will is free in the sense of not being determined by natural causes. Therefore "In the search for the rational origin of evil actions, every such action must be regarded as though the individual had fallen into it directly from a state of innocence. For whatever his previous deportment may have been, whatever natural causes may have been influencing him, and whether these causes were to be found within him or outside him, his action is yet free and determined by none of these causes; hence it can and must always be judged as an original use of his will." 12
Each man is, so to speak, his own Adam. But then Adam must not be thought of as the first man of history and he must not be thought of as having sinned against a commandment of God that came to him from without. That is, we must not take the Genesis account, which says that God spoke to Adam with respect to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as being historical. To regard it as such would be to make the arbitrary will of God the source of the distinction between good and evil. Man must not even be thought of as being created by God so that his sense of the difference between good and evil is placed within him by God. That would still be heteronomy. And the world about man must in no sense be thought of as created by God and as being a fit vehicle through which God makes known his will to man. How could the eating or not eating of the fruit of a tree, an object in the realm of nature, ever have any moral significance for the free man?
Kant speaks a great deal about the categorical imperative. Man, he says, is good only if he has a good will. That is to say, he is good only if his heart is pure. And his heart is pure only if he does what he does because he sees it to be his duty to do it. If he did something because he was promised a reward for doing it, or if he refrained from doing something because he was threatened by God with punishment for doing it, then his motive would not be pure. His motive is pure only when the good he does is from respect for the moral law as such.
It should be noted especially that if the good will is to be good for Kant, then the law that issues its command must not be taken to be the law of God in the Christian sense of the term.
In referring to the categorical imperative Kant often speaks of it as standing above man. But he is sure that it must not rest in God. If it is spoken of as the law of God—and Kant is quite willing to speak of it in this way—then it must be made plain that the god whose will is expressed in the law is himself a construct of the moral consciousness of man. For Kant the moral law, for all practical purposes, is the law that the moral man proposes to himself. This means, of course, that this law is equivalent to the idea that the self-sufficient moral man sets as an ideal of permanent moral order for himself. He further expects that all other moral men will do likewise. Then they and he together can form the kingdom of ends.
Even though Kant is outspoken on the fact that the whole moral transaction is internal to the free man, independent of and above the realm of nature, he says that his view accords well with that of Scripture. And having said this, then the process of allegorization makes its beginning. Hordern and DeWolf have learned their lesson well from Kant on this point.
Let us look for a moment at Kant's charge against those who hold to that most "inept" of all explanations of evil by tracing it back to an actual event in time. The charge is that this is contradictory. An act cannot be both determined and free at the same time and in the same respect. Is it someone who knows the nature of reality exhaustively that is speaking here? Of course not. Is it even a rationalist who at least claims that the order of nature is the same as the order of ideas who is speaking here? No, Kant is no Spinozist. He has repudiated that sort of rationalism. And he has repudiated it in the name of the idea of pure contingency. The activity of the intellect, he argues, is fruitless unless it considers itself as purely formal and as operating in correlativity with pure contingency. Yet now he argues against the idea of an historical origin of evil as though he were as pure a rationalist as was Spinoza. He is saying, in effect, that man cannot be responsible in relation to the laws of the created world if these are thought of as ordained by God.
It is useless to object at this point and say that Kant is using the law of contradiction only in a negative way. For, even by this supposedly negative use, he is in effect asserting in a priori fashion that reality cannot be of such and such a nature.
Moreover, what is the foundation on which Kant stands when he makes the assertion that the origin of sin cannot be historical? He says it is on the basis of his experience of freedom that he stands. But this freedom, as earlier noted, is itself an intellectual construct. It is the fruit of the operation of the same law of contradiction and of the same negative use of that law that he now applies to the idea of the temporal origin of sin. By that operation he found that freedom was at least possible. And he found it necessary because the opposite was contradictory. In other words, his idea of freedom is the product as well as the source of his intellectualistic efforts. These efforts are therefore assumed to be legislative for the nature of intelligible reality. And by that token Kant's own notion of freedom, to be known as such, must be wholly determined and therefore not free. This is not to say merely that Kant's own position is against the law of contradiction. It is not merely to say that it is self-contradictory. It is rather to say that on his position the law of contradiction can have no application to reality at all.
Kant himself admits that there is, on his view, "no conceivable ground from which the moral evil in us could originally have come." When he says this, he is giving us the moral equivalent of the idea of pure contingency in the realm of nature. But to compound contingency with abstract universality, whether in the realm of nature or in that of morality, is not merely to court but to embrace disaster. In appealing to the "rational man," the "moral man," the "axioms of a decent society" and indiscriminate "love" Carnell throws the Christian story into the dilemma of the modern Moloch, as it has been built by Kant and as worshiped by Hordern and DeWolf.
This modern Moloch is the only alternative to accepting the biblical narrative with respect to the origin of sin as historical. Not that the Christian position can explain this origin. Christianity does not pretend to explain the origin of sin any more than it pretends to explain the possibility of responsibility of man in the framework of the plan of God presented in Scripture. The Christian accepts his entire view of things on authority. But he knows that those who are unwilling to live by this authority have nothing on which to stand when they oppose it. And he knows that the intellect of man needs to stand on the foundation of Christian teaching if it is not to be isolated from all factuality. In other words, it is only when the power of the intellect, the logical function, is surrounded with the facts of the universe as created and controlled by God, that it can operate at all. This operation will then consist in finding as much order in the created universe as is possible for man as the image of God to find. But this operation will then not assume the legislative power of the intellect, and in so doing end up with crucifying the intellect itself. In short, Kant's objection to the historical origin of sin has to stand upon the notion of a freedom which is purely negative and is therefore nowhere to be found. Secondly, this objection has to assume the legislative power of the human intellect as much as any determinist has even done. Thirdly, Kant has to admit the failure of his intellect in trying to reach its goal because of the fact of pure contingency. That is to say, Kant's supposed advance upon earlier forms of philosophy is found merely in the fact that he has combined an abstract rationalism such as that of Parmenides or Spinoza with that of an equally abstract brute factualism such as that of the most extreme process philosophers of history. This is all that anyone who does not start his thinking on the presupposition of the God of Christianity and his revelation through Christ speaking in Scripture can do. All men do their thinking on the basis of a position accepted by faith. If your faith is not one which has God in Christ speaking infallibly in Scripture for its object, then your faith is in man as autonomous. All of one's reasoning is controlled by either of these presuppositions.
When therefore Kant objects to a historical origin of sin, he is merely applying to the question of evil the methodology involved in his assumption of human autonomy. He is bravely rejecting the Christian view because he finds it to be contradictory. But he himself has to fall back on an utterly irrationalist notion of the foundation for rational activity. Only if one presupposes God as the one in whom rationality and being are coterminous and coextensive can he use the laws of logic at all. And if he does this, he knows better than to attempt to determine what is possible or impossible in reality by means of these laws. The Christian has a God whom he as a creature cannot fully comprehend. God says I am and is able to fully justify this assertion. He is able to make it stand because only on the basis of this assertion does the thinking and willing activity of man have any possible meaning at all. The Christian gladly accepts the idea that he cannot logically penetrate the idea of man's responsibility and his place in the plan of God. But Kant has brought God as well as himself down into utter darkness. He has no foundation on which he can make any assertion stand.
(2) The Internalization of Grace
In what has just been said, the pattern of Kant's dealings with the teachings of Christianity was set. Every fact or doctrine of Christianity must be internalized. The idea of redemption as well as the sin of man must be internalized, that is, "demythologized." This holds for what Christ has done for us in his death and resurrection as well as for what his Holy Spirit does within us in regenerating us and giving us faith. In other words, the whole of man's sin and his redemption from sin is assumed to be an exclusively internal affair, an affair internal to man as self-sufficient. Of course, as always, Kant is driven to think of the free man as, in spite of his freedom, involved in the realm of the sensuous. And so his redemption must to that extent be redemption or release from the sensuous. But strictly speaking the free man is free precisely because he is wholly distinct from the sensuous. Therefore he is already saved by virtue of his existence as free, and his redemption is a tautological assertion of his autonomy. And this assertion is the basis for his repeated opposition to everything historical in connections with redemption. "Man himself must make or have made himself into whatever, in a moral sense, whether good or evil, he is or is to become. Either condition must be an effect of his free choice; for otherwise he could not be held responsible for it and could therefore be morally neither good nor evil."
Of course, as the origin of evil for Kant is a mystery, so the origin of man's escape from it is also a mystery. "How it is possible for a naturally evil man to make himself a good man wholly surpasses our comprehension; for how can a bad tree bring forth good fruit?" The only thing that Kant can fall back on in explanation for the origination of goodness in an evil man is the presupposition that throughout "a seed of goodness still remains in its entire purity, incapable of being extirpated or corrupted.…"17 "The restoration of the original predisposition to good in us is therefore not the acquiring of a lost incentive for good, for the incentive which consists in respect for the moral law we have never been able to lose, and were such a thing possible, we could never get it again." It is the moral law that commands us to be better men. And "when the moral law commands that we ought now to be better men, it follows inevitably that we must be able to be better men." 19
It is thus that Kant internalizes the "works of grace." The idea of an historical origin of grace is as little acceptable to Kant as is the idea of the historical origin of sin. In other words, the entire story of sin and redemption as told in Scripture is acceptable as long as it is wholly internalized. Kant has no objection at all even to the idea of the miraculous so long as miracles are, in due time, internalized. For "it bespeaks a culpable degree of moral unbelief not to acknowledge as completely authoritative the commands of duty.…" Did not Jesus teach this internalist view of grace when he upbraided those that wanted to see signs and miracles if they were to believe?21 And Kant has no objection at all to the idea of a church dispensing the means of grace if only these means of grace are used to help men in the process of their internal self-improvement.
(3) Kant's "Summum Bonum"
It is therefore by the process of internalization that Kant is able and glad to make use of all Christian teaching. But by this internalizing process he expects at last to accomplish something of an external nature. He expects to be able to establish an equivalent of the new heaven and the new earth of the Christian religion. And this must be not only in the realm of freedom but also in that of nature. The question now is how Kant accomplishes that miracle. Obviously it is by a tour de force, by a miracle such as Christians could never accept, a miracle of the idea of pure form not only coming into contact with but changing the realm of nature into a paradise for the good man.
3. Christian Methodology
Earlier in this chapter, we have spoken of a truly Christological and biblical methodology. This method, we argued, is involved in, as it is a part of, the Christian message. The Christian message must not be bruised in the machinery of a non-Christian methodology. How can this be prevented? It can be prevented only if the fruitfulness of the method employed is seen to rest upon the message it is the means of bringing, and only if it is made clear that any form of non-Christian methodology is self-frustrating.
A. The Self-Authenticating Christ
If then the Christian seeks to bring the Christian story to men, he must point out to them that unless this story be what it claims to be then there is no answer to the question how men can learn anything in any field of interest. We have heard Henry say that in his book on Apologetics Carnell presents the "Biblical view of God and the world, as alone to resolve the dilemmas of the modern mood." In reality, Carnell has done no such thing. He has merely presented Christianity as the best hypothesis the "rational man" may use in seeking "systematic consistency" for himself. Nowhere does Carnell evaluate the "rational man" and his method of "systematic consistency" in terms of the self-authenticating Christ. Carnell sets the "rational man" as judge over the Christ. He should have set Christ as the judge over his "rational man."
The Christian story centers about Jesus Christ who said: "I am the way, the truth and the life." As Christians we accept these words on his authority.
We accept these words of Christ as they come to us by way of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The words "Christ says" and "the Bible says" have, for us, essentially the same import.
When Christ says that he is the way, the truth, and the life, he addresses us as sinners. As such, we are blind and hard of heart. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it" (Jer 17:9)? The answer is that Christ knows our hearts; that he bore the penalty of eternal death due us for our sin, by taking our place on the cross; that he arose from the grave for our justification; and that he gave us his Spirit who takes the things of Christ and gives them unto us.
I know that the Father has sent him (Jn 3:16) to save me and that the Father has given me to him. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (Jn 6:37).
I know that I belong to my faithful Saviour with body and soul. When he returns in glory he, my Saviour, will change my "vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil 3:21).
I know too that Christ came to save his people from their sins. Christ came to save his church. So I am saved as a member of his church.
Still further I know that Christ saved and saves his church, his people, that they may be a blessing to the world. The promise was to Abraham, that through him and through his seed all nations should be blessed. And Christ is the seed of Abraham. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Gal 3:16). "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (Jn 3:17).
And it is the world that will be saved. Satan and all the powers of hell cannot prevail against the kingdom of heaven that Christ established and is establishing. Having finished his work on earth, our Saviour said to his disciples: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Mt 28:20).
To be sure, there are those who will not enter into the kingdom of heaven because of their unbelief. Said Jesus: "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him" (Jn 6:56). But "Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him" (Jn 6:64). Jesus also knew that those that believe not are blinded by the god of this world. Says Paul, speaking for his Lord: "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid in them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (2 Cor 4:3–4). Finally, Jesus knows that they who believe do so by the grace of God and not because they are in themselves in any wise different from other men. All men are, as sinners, blind and hard of heart. Speaking of believers, Paul says: "Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (Eph 2:3).
The "natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14).
Faith is the gift of God. Those who believe have been born from above, born of God, born again unto knowledge. Astounded at the unbelief of those who saw him, heard him, and watched him perform his miracles, Jesus said: "Therefore said I unto you, that no one can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father" (Jn 6:65).
It is this "Christian story" that is "alone able to resolve the dilemmas of the modern mood." The dilemmas of the modern mood are the false dilemmas of all non-Christian thought. And all these dilemmas reduce to one. They are all based on the assumption that man is the ultimate reference point in all his interpretation. It is the would-be self-sufficient, this would-be autonomous man that sets himself up as judge above the claims of the self-authenticating Christ. The one issue that lies back of all other issues is that between the self-authenticating man and the self-authenticating Christ.
(1) Faith and Reason
There is a life and death struggle between these two. There is first the civitas Dei. Its citizens have given their hearts to the selfauthenticating Christ. In him they find their answer to all their problems, both intellectual and moral. Then there is, second, the civitas terrena. Its citizens have given their hearts to the self-authenticating man. In him they seek, though they never find, the answers to all their problems, both intellectual and moral. There is a whole-souled commitment in both cases. The argument between them is utterly existential.
The self-authenticating man has various disguises. He will appear as the "rational man" and demand that the Christian story must make peace with the laws of logic, as these are based on his vision of Goodness above God and man. He will appear as the "moral man" and demand that the Christian story make peace with the laws of morality, as these are based on his vision of Goodness above God and man. He will appear as the "scientific man" and demand that the Christian story must make peace with the facts of science. For these facts must be what the vision of the self-authenticating man says they can be. But in whatever guise he may appear, the self-authenticating man assumes that he is to be the judge. The vision originates with him. In his eyes he is the judge of the supreme court. All questions of law and of fact must be settled by him. He alone knows what they can or cannot be. According to his vision, the Christian story cannot be true. And his judgment is final. There is no repeal from his decision. How could there be? The self-authenticating man virtually takes the place that Christ has in the Christian religion. But where is the constitution by which even the chief judge of the supreme court must judge? The answer is that this constitution has been written by the chief judge himself. There are no "founding fathers" who based the constitution on the laws of God that they found impressed upon the world and themselves by their creator-redeemer. According to the vision of the self-authenticating man, the world is not and cannot be created and controlled by God. If he "finds" anything, it is pure contingency, pure chaos, that he finds. But he does not really "find" anything. He always "makes" as he finds. He moulds his "material" as he goes. He has made sure that this "material" contains no lumps. The material must be utterly pliable; hence the need of pure contingency. In particular, he makes sure that the Christian story cannot be true. He could not manipulate the Christian story without its breaking his machinery. The raw stuff of experience must be finer than the finest powder.
The self-authenticating man appears, at first glance, to be very modest. Has he not limited reason in order to make room for faith? Does he not disclaim all territorial ambition beyond the world of phenomena? Has he not even given up his own youthful ambition of controlling all reality by logic? Is he not restricting the use of the law of contradiction to the merely negative function of protecting his own borders?
The answer to such questions as these must be that the self-authenticating man cannot be modest. His vision is always the same. In this vision, he sees himself as God. He sees himself as alone able to determine what can be and what cannot be. He is, according to his vision, the source of all possibility. Even when, speaking through Kant, he limits reason to make room for faith, he first makes sure that the object of this faith cannot be the Christian story. Kant keeps the God of Christianity out of his noumenal as well as out of his phenomenal realm. Actually he could not do the one without at the same time doing the other. To make room for his own faith, the self-authenticating man must remove the Christian faith.
Thus, the "reason" of the self-authenticating man is the willing servant of the faith of the self-authenticating man. So far as he sincerely thinks that he is open-minded and therefore ready to follow the facts wheresoever they may lead him, he is self-deceived. He assumes that pure contingency or change is the matrix of all the material of all possible knowledge. He takes for granted that the facts to which he is about to apply his hypotheses cannot have been created by God and cannot be controlled by God. He thinks that the very possibility of progress in scientific knowledge requires the exclusion by assumption of the whole Christian story. The self-authenticating man assumes that only in terms of his totality-vision can law and fact come into fruitful union with one another.
It appears then that if there is to be any intelligible encounter between the Christian and the non-Christian, it must be in terms of the two mutually exclusive visions that each entertains. To appeal to the law of contradiction and/or to facts or to a combination of these apart from the relation that these sustain to the totality-vision of either, the believer or the unbeliever, is to beat the air. It is well to say that he who would reason must presuppose the validity of the laws of logic. But if we say nothing more basic than this, then we are still beating the air. The ultimate question deals with the foundation of the validity of the laws of logic. We have not reached bottom until we have seen that every logical activity in which any man engages is in the service of his totality-vision.
It is also well to say that we must follow the facts wheresoever they may lead us. But again we should note that all research into the realm of fact, on the part of any man, is in the service of his totality-vision. The self-authenticating man assumes that if the Christian story were true, then the scientific enterprise would be meaningless. Free scientific inquiry, he assumes, requires that there be no pre-interpretation of facts in terms of the Christian story. On the other hand, the Christian holds that the idea of free scientific inquiry is unintelligible except upon the presupposition of the truth of the Christian story.
When Carnell seeks to defend the Christian story by showing that it is in accord with the law of contradiction and that it is in accord with the facts as such, he is, apparently, unconscious of the fact that he is virtually admitting that the Christian story, to be true, must be true in terms of the vision of the self-authenticating man. And in that case it would not be true. One could wish that Carnell had been true to his deepest convictions.
He would then have challenged the vision of the self-authenticating man in terms of the vision of the redeemed man. He would then have shown that on Aristotle's view the laws of logic are suspended in midair. Aristotle sought to escape the position of those who, like Parmenides, assume that logic wholly controls the realm of fact. On that basis, Aristotle saw, one must hold that man is omniscient. And man can be omniscient only if all the facts that can possibly exist even in the future, are already known to him. Man must then not only be the infallible interpreter of the facts as they come to him, but he must think himself infallible because no fact can come to him which is not what he has in advance said that it must be.
But how shall we escape these "definition-mongers"? The only answer that Aristotle knows is to introduce the notion of brute facts, of pure contingency. Brute facts are non-created, self-existent facts. They are such facts as cannot tell the Christian story.
The significance of this point can scarcely be over-estimated. Aristotle agrees with the Parmenidean-Platonic view that knowledge is of universals only. "We suppose ourselves to possess unqualified, scientific knowledge of a thing, as opposed to knowing it in the accidental way in which the Sophist knows, when we think that we know the cause on which the fact depends, as the cause of that fact and of no other, and, further, that the fact could not be other than it is."
Here the self-authenticating man clearly assumes that there cannot be a God such as the Christian story tells about. The person speaking in this fashion takes for granted that there is no mind more ultimate than itself. On this basis there cannot be any such thing as revelation on the part of God to man. Aristotle assumes that if man knows anything, he knows its essence exhaustively.
Aristotle also sees that on this view of human knowledge one must, to be consistent, deny the reality of the world of time and change. Parmenides did this very thing. Plato was not quite willing to do it. And Aristotle is even less willing to do this than was Plato. He saw clearly that knowledge must, somehow, involve the idea of learning something new about the changing scene of life. Men want to know the why of things that come to be and pass away. They are interested in having knowledge with respect to "every kind of physical change."
If Aristotle's definition of knowledge is to stand, then new things that come to be and pass away cannot be created and controlled by the God Of the Christian story. For Aristotle, human knowledge is absolute knowledge. It is knowledge which penetrates the innermost essence of a thing. There cannot be a god who has any higher or deeper knowledge than that. To know the innermost essence of any one thing, one must know the innermost essence of every other thing that may possibly have an effect or bearing on this one thing. So the newness that Aristotle looks for in order to explain the process of the increase of knowledge must be the newness of pure contingency or Chance. And this is precisely the newness Aristotle introduces. "But chance also and spontaneity are reckoned among causes: many things are said both to be and to come to be as a result of chance and spontaneity."
But now the grin on the face of the Sophist begins to appear. Aristotle had spurned him. He said he was no better than a plant. If only he would lay claim to making a single intelligible statement about even one fact! He would then show him that absolute knowledge is already presupposed in such a statement. But now Aristotle has himself been forced to admit pure contingency into his system. What then remains of his boast to the effect that the position of the Sophists refutes itself?
Aristotle makes a desperate effort to escape from the pure rationalism and determinism of the definition-mongers. He is right in doing so. For, on their basis, all coming to be and passing away is unreal and therefore unknowable. On their basis, the knowing subject is absorbed into an abstract principle of being. But in running away from the rationalistic determinism of the Parmenidean point of view, he runs right into the camp of the Sophists. That is the only place where, on his own view, newness can be found. Then when the Sophists ridicule him, even as they welcome him, he hastens to seek escape from their domain. He realizes that "chance is unstable, as none of the things which result from it can be invariable or normal." But in vain he seeks to "inquire what chance and spontaneity are,"26 for if he could know what they are, they would no longer be what they are. They would then be normal, i.e., wholly known objects of knowledge.
The whole of Aristotle's tremendous effort in his various works is expanded in trying to make sense of the idea that man, on the one hand, has absolute knowledge and, on the other hand, has no knowledge at all. Aristotle was trying to solve the Meno problem, but could not solve it. How is man's own learning by experience to be made intelligible to himself? It cannot be done by pure rationalism. It cannot be done by pure irrationalism. It cannot be done by overlapping pure rationalism with pure irrationalism, Aristotle's best efforts and his great vision, notwithstanding.
Why did not Carnell point out this fact? Why did he ask us to make peace with the law of contradiction as Aristotle set it forth? Why did he not point out that when the law of contradiction is applied in terms of Aristotle's vision, this law swallows up not only all the "objects" of man's knowledge but himself as the knower of those objects as well? Why did not Carnell point out that in terms of Aristotle's vision all the changing facts of changing human experience are not merely unknown but unknowable?
To be sure, in the progress of hie thought, Carnell toned down the requirements of logic. In some of his later writings he describes the law of contradiction as having a negative rather than a positive function. But this does not help matters at all. Kant's theory of knowledge and being is a modern, as Aristotle's was an ancient, form of combination of abstract formal logic applied to purely contingent material. Kant, as well as Aristotle has his totality-vision. And in his case, as well as in that of Aristotle, this vision is that of the self-authenticating man. This is far more obviously so in the case of Kant than in the case of Aristotle. The principle of inwardness and self-sufficiency that is inherent in the notion of the self-authenticating man finds its most overt expression in Kant and his followers.
Kant has given up appealing to any form of objectivity such as the Greeks had. He openly asserts that any final unity between fact and law must have its source in man as its source. To get unity in the field of science, argues Kant, man must press the categories of himself as the knowing subject on the raw stuff of experience. But man cannot cover all the raw stuff that surrounds him. Pure contingency is like a bottomless and shoreless ocean. Yet no knowledge is really knowledge so long as it is threatened by pure contingency. So Kant needs the idea of an absolute God. But he must not know such a God. Kant, even more so than Aristotle, fears the definition-mongers. To keep from going about in circles with Spinoza, the modern equivalent of Parmenides, Kant introduces contingency with a vengeance. But then to keep from getting lost in pure contingency, Kant has to flee back to Spinoza.
Kant's vision is one in which scientific progress is intelligible, while yet the whole scientific enterprise is subservient to the moral and religious ideals of a kingdom of love. This kingdom of love is a kingdom in which the self-authenticating man loves himself above all else and all others like himself.
But Kant's vision is a mirage. And in terms of his vision the Meno question still remains unsolved. If you have a bottomless sea of Chance, and if you, as an individual, are but a bit of chance, by chance distinguished from other bits of chance and if the law of contradiction has by chance grown within you, the imposition of this law on your environment is, granted it could take place, a perfectly futile activity. To speak of limiting reason so as to make room for faith is meaningless unless the activity of reason be first shown to be intelligible. And this cannot be done on any basis short of the Christian story.
When Paul was confronted with the consummation of Greek thought, he challenged its wisdom in the name of the Christ, whom he met on the way to Damascus. And this Christ was the one who died and rose again from the dead, outside the gates of Jerusalem. We cannot do less than did Paul. We dare not curry favor with the self-authenticating man. We dare not claim that the Christian story is "in accordance with logic" and "in accordance with fact" in terms of the vision of the self-authenticating man. We must rather call him to repentance. We must insist on his unconditional surrender to the self-authenticating Christ. But we must do that in the interest of his finding himself, of his finding meaning in science, in morality, and in religion. We must do that in the interest of his participation in the victory of the all-conquering Christ.
(2) The Nature of Revelation
When Hordern sets forth the main tenets of his New Reformation theology, he speaks of the need of holding to the transcendence of God. "God in his freedom chooses when and where he will be made known.…" Involved in this freedom of God is "the Reformation doctrine of salvation by grace." And immediately connected with this Protestant doctrine of salvation by grace, he says, is that of sola scriptura. In Scripture, God himself tells us "what he has done" for sinners.
Still further, Hordern finds that with God thus taking the initiative in the salvation of man, the latter finds that his reason "which could not take man to God, is now liberated in the service of God."
These are indeed Reformation words. But when, in fairness to Hordern, we take them in the total framework of his thought, they have lost all Reformation meaning. For in fairness to Hordern, we must not identify his totality view with any such view of God and his revelation as would identify it with anything that happened in history.
Hordern wants to be a kerygmatic rather than a philosophical theologian. In this respect, he sides with Barth as over against such men as Paul Tillich. Even so, when Hordern reaches the point where he describes the nature of the revelation he believes in, his description involves the complete capitulation to the self-authenticating man of the modern freedom-nature scheme.
To make certain that his view of revelation and the primacy of faith will be acceptable to the self-authenticating man he, first of all, disavows every taint of fundamentalism. Not for all the world would a kerygmatic theologian believe something about God because the "Bible says so." The New Reformation theology is no fideism. It does not operate with credentia. Following Barth, Hordern "does not call us to swallow some set of doctrines or conclusions."31 Barth "witnesses to the fact that God is made known to man through faith." "Knowledge of God has to be given us, for we never possess it within ourselves."33 "Logic tells us nothing by analogy." With Barth we need the "analogy of faith."35 Faith "implies both fides, a cognitive relationship, and fiducia, a trustful decision to commit oneself." "The Christian faith is not something that goes beyond what reason attains; it is a perspective within which reason works." 37
If now we glance at Hordern's perspective or vision, we soon discover that it is, as earlier noted, that of Kant's primacy of the practical reason. Hordern seeks to maintain the "objectivity of revelation through Scripture." But this objectivity of revelation must itself be expressed "in the light of the new situation that we face because of historical criticism and modern thought in general."39 Cauda Venenum. In the tail, we find the sting. Modern thought has taught Hordern what it has taught Kant. Modern thought has taught Hordern that human knowledge, so far as it pertains to the world of space and time, is composed of the imposition of abstract categories upon a bottomless shore of contingency.
Not that Hordern has actually shown that science is intelligible in terms of a combination of pure contingency and pure form, a combination effected by a man who is himself composed of the same combination. Hordern merely assumes that Kant has proved the intelligibility of scientific procedure. But Kant has not shown it and could not show it. An abstract logic that would, if it could be applied to fact, kill fact, and purely contingent matter that would, if it could be brought into contact with logic, lose its contingency, cannot be brought into fruitful union.
A concept of the primacy of faith based on "modern thought," as Hordern conceives of it, requires the idea of a god who is wholly unknown and unknowable and at the same time exhaustively known. Barth does not hesitate to accept the consequences of "modern thought" for the idea of God and revelation. He does this by saying that in Christ God is wholly known and at the same time wholly hidden. Hordern virtually accepts this Barthian reinterpretation of the self-authenticating Christ of Scripture in terms of the self-authenticating man. The result is that this Christ himself needs saving while yet he cannot be saved. The result is that both faith and reason must operate in a vacuum. It is not he who believes in the self-authenticating Christ, but he who, with Hordern, does not believe in him whose position is reducible to absurdity. With the help of "modern thought," Hordern hopes to escape the "fantastic" position of those who believe that Christ speaks directly in the Bible. He thinks that on this view "each reader of the Bible becomes a pope who can interpret infallibly." Yet the followers of the self-authenticating Christ always disclaim infallible interpretation. They merely claim that the Son of God has actually come into history and has, through his spirit, actually explained the meaning of his person and work for the salvation of man and given it to his church in the Scriptures. The followers of this Christ, sinful and finite as they are, cannot produce in the best of their creeds an infallible interpretation of the Word of Christ. More than that, if the followers of Christ did have an infallible interpretation of Christ, it would be because they did not differ from Christ. In that case they would not need Christ. Christ could do nothing for them.
But this virtual identity of all men with Christ, which Hordern, in effect, ascribes to the traditional believer in Christ, is what he, really assumes in his own view. Hordern simply does not realize that anyone can think otherwise than on the assumption that if something is known by man, it must be known exhaustively. It is this rationalist-determinist assumption that keeps him from formulating any view of the nature of revelation except such as stands as wholly irrational over against what is known by man. And it is this same rationalist-determinist assumption that keeps him from bringing his God of pure contingency—he calls it transcendence—into contact with the world of history without forthwith destroying his identity and the uniqueness of his person and work. On the perspective or vision of "modern thought," man's activity of reason rests on his faith in himself as ultimate. Man sins against himself and saves himself from this sin against himself by projecting a Christ from himself as he revolves upon himself.
It is the self-authenticating Christ who in mercy saves us from such meaningless gyrations within ourselves. He shows us that in all our efforts as ultimate self-interpreters we are actually opposing the salvation that he offers. Every bit of supposedly impersonal and neutral investigation, even in the field of science, is the product of an attitude of spiritual hostility to the Christ through whom alone there is truth in any dimension.
(3) Who is the Fanatic?
Finally comes the question of criterion or standard. If Hordern reinterprets the Reformation in terms of "modern thought" when he deals with "faith and reason" or with the "nature of revelation," we can scarcely expect him to do anything else when he deals with the question of criterion. He thinks of the traditional view of revelation as directly found in Scripture as a "fantastic One."
Hordern warns us against following the first fanatic we meet. Let not the fundamentalist think that because the New Reformation theology is against a priori thinking about God, it is ready to return to a position of one who says, "The Bible says so" and if you do not believe the Bible you make God a liar. Let not the fundamentalist think that because Hordern is willing to speak of the self-authenticating character of revelation that he has given up "critical thinking." "Critical thinking" must always be the final judge of the claims of revelation. Without the help of "critical thinking," we would soon, with Alice in Wonderland, be able to "believe six impossible things before breakfast." 42
Traditional apologetics thought of the question whether God exists as being "analogous to the question, Are there cookies in the jar in the cupboard?" But now that we have the "ultimate perspective" given us by Kant—Hordern speaks of God—now we know that revelation cannot be identical with any such "propositions" with respect to Christ as are found in Scripture. We must start by saying that in the phenomenal world no revelation can be identified as such. God must be wholly unknown or we do not know him at all.
From all this, it is clear that Hordern has no self-authenticating revelation at all because he has no revelation at all. His God is by definition wholly unknowable. And when, mirabile dictu, he becomes known, he is wholly known and always has been wholly known. Why will not Hordern see that he is in no position to look with scorn upon the traditional view of revelation and of its self-authenticating character. Hordern has to place his guns on water without bottom as he seeks to shoot at the "fantastic" position of those who say "The Bible says so." In fact, if the revelation of God were not what Calvin indicates it to be, always and everywhere present to man and always pressing upon him, then Hordern could not even find a plausible argument for opposing it. Hordern's opposition to the traditional view of the self-authenticating character of revelation presupposes its truth.
There is no need now to discuss DeWolf's views on (a) faith and reason, (b) the nature of revelation, and (c) the question of criterion. It has earlier been shown that DeWolf's methodology does not differ basically from that of Hordern.
What we must lament once more is the fact that Carnell did not point out that the wisdom of man has been made foolishness with God.
By forsaking him who is the way, the truth, and the life the "world" strangles itself. Its method is fatal to the entire enterprise of human interpretation. How then may the "world" be saved? Only by adopting the method that is involved in the Christian story. It is this that Christians must tell the world. They must offer Christ as the way, the only way by which men may be saved. To offer Christ as the way is to call men to repentance. It is sin to seek for truth anywhere without seeking it through Christ as the only way. The wrath of God rests upon us if, in seeking truth, we ignore and reject him who alone is truth. The search for truth is an existential matter. One's attitude toward Christ is always involved. Our every thought in science, in philosophy, and in theology must be made captive to the obedience of Christ.
(4) The Conquering Christ
The ultimate source of truth in any field rests in him. The world may discover much truth without owning Christ as Truth. Christ upholds even those who ignore, deny, and oppose him. A little child may slap his father in the face, but it can do so only because the father holds it on his knee. So modern science, modern philosophy, and modern theology may discover much truth. Nevertheless, if the universe were not created and redeemed by Christ no man could give himself an intelligible account of anything. It follows that in order to perform their task aright the scientist and the philosopher as well as the theologian need Christ.
It is man with all his cultural interests and tasks who needs the Christ. But Christ, the Saviour of the world, wants to be accepted as the Lord of men. Men do not accept him at all for what he is unless they accept him as such. For men cannot accept him as Lord except by grace they receive the desire to do so. No one comes to the Father except through the Son and no one can come to the Son except the Father draw him.
So long as we do not dare to tell the "natural man" this fact we have not really brought the Christ to him. Unless we do this we have not really offered the world what it most desperately needs. The world by its wisdom knows not God and not knowing God it knows not the world. If then Christians are to be of help to the world even in the field of science, of philosophy as well as in the field of theology, they must confront men with Christ.
In Christ alone the Meno problem has been solved. In Christ alone human experience becomes intelligible.
If there is a case for Calvinism, it is only in so far as it presents the Christ of the Scriptures to men as the Saviour and Lord in every field of human endeavor. Every individual "Calvinist" should be the first to admit that he himself falls far short of doing this as he ought. He should, therefore, always repent of his own sins before calling on others, Conservatives perhaps, to join him in presenting Christ to the world without compromise. Christians have no ready answers, no easy solutions, to the many problems of the scientist, the philosopher, and the theologian. Christians are not wiser than are other men. They have no information that is not available to other men. But by grace they have learned to see that the self-authenticating Christ is the presupposition for the intelligibility of the scientific, the philosophical, and the theological enterprise. No one has shown how learning by experience is possible by any other method than that which presupposes man and his universe to be what Christ in his Word says it is.