Now that we have an understanding of the importance of philosophical presuppositions, I want us to move to a consideration of the biblical, philosophical presuppositions out of which orthodox theologians work.
Now do not confuse these philosophical presuppositions with the hermeneutical or interpretive principles we discussed earlier in the course. We will be using some of the same terms in this discussion that we did in that one, which is why you could get confused. But this is a completely different matter.
Now then, the first presupposition for doing orthodox theology is Christian Theism. Orthodox Christian theology is based on the confessed existence of the one, personal, loving God revealed in the Bible, especially in the New Testament.
This biblical presupposition of Christian theism by itself excludes a whole host of incorrect ideas about God. For example, it eliminates polytheism, which is belief that there are many gods. Christian theism also bars atheism, which is a conviction that there is no God at all and agnosticism, which is a profound sense of doubt about God’s existence.
Another thing banned by Christian theism is the impersonal forms of theism found in the Eastern religions. The ultimate goal of the Eastern religions is to escape the on-going cycle of reincarnation. If and when one does escape, the result is absorption into the Absolute. The Absolute is totally impersonal; and to be absorbed into it is like the absorption of a drop of water into an ocean. Of course the biblical revelation tells us that we believers will have an eternal, personal relationship with the only, loving, personal God.
Also excluded is the perverted idea that God is evil or capricious. Obviously, a God who is love will be neither evil nor capricious.
I trust that the consequences of just this one presupposition effectively demonstrate two things. One, they demonstrate the power of presuppositions. Everything we presuppose, or assume, has dramatic consequences for what we believe. And two, they demonstrate why we need to know what it is we are presupposing, and why. Presuppositions are too important to neglect.
A second orthodox presupposition is realism. By realism I mean the biblical presupposition that there are separate, but real divine and non-divine realities. That is to say, God is real and exists apart from the non-divine. And the world, the cosmos, is real and exists apart from God and the perceptions of men. In addition, humanity is real and exists as part of the world.
This is another powerful biblical presupposition. It is not as blatantly taught in the Bible as theism, but it fits nicely into the total biblical revelation. It also excludes several non-biblical ideas. For example, it eliminates pantheism, the idea that the totality of everything equals God.
Realism also eliminates Platonism. Plato believed that this world is not real. It is only a shadow of the real, which exits in the realm of ideas. And of course, realism presupposes that this world is real.
Another idea barred by realism is naturalistic humanism. Naturalistic humanism is the rejection of the supernatural. And as you know the Bible assumes the supernatural.
Still another idea excluded by realism is subjectivism. Subjectivism, in essence, says that everything we perceive is constructed by ourselves. Since realism assumes that God and the world are real apart from our perceptions, subjectivism is excluded.
A third biblical presupposition has to do with knowledge. It says that knowledge, including knowledge of God, is possible. This presupposition precludes skepticism, which claims that knowledge is not possible.
A fourth biblically based evangelical presupposition is revelation. The Bible presupposes that God can and does reveal himself to humanity.
A fifth biblical presupposition is the concept of Miracle. God is not “locked out” of the world order that he created. He can, and on occasion does, intrude into the natural order in miraculous ways. When he chooses, he takes positive action within the natural world order in such a way that he becomes an additional causative factor in world events. He feeds new events into the natural order causing what we term “miracles.” In other words the world order though orderly, is not mechanistic in the sense of a closed system. It is regular–natural laws are in effect–but it remains flexible enough to allow novelty to be expressed by the purpose of God. This presupposition precludes Deism, the idea that God created the universe and then went off and left it to itself.
Sixth the Bible itself is the object of an orthodox presupposition. As G.E. Ladd puts it, “the Bible is the Word of God given in the words of men in history.” The Bible’s view of itself is that it is the inspired, authoritative Word of God.
Seventh and last, human freedom is a biblical presupposition. Human freedom of choice is real. Free choice is a causal factor in the complex human situation. God has given us the ability to make both good and evil happen by our free choices. And he rarely interferes with the consequences of our decisions.