|Taking Every Thought Captive|
APART FROM GOD, FACTS ARE MUTE
(An expose of the fallacy that “facts speak for themselves”)
by Jay Wegter
I. Anti-theism assumes that God has no bearing upon facts.
A. Anti-theism makes the naïve assumption that facts are there as the
ultimates at the outset. (Such vain reasoning is a function of
assumed human autonomy. For without God, the human mind
arrogates to itself the task of supplying unity between facts.)
1. The natural man thinks that he can supply the connection
between facts. He assumes that he is the final reference point in
predication. In order for man to succeed at relating facts, he
would have to be able to do the following:
a.) He must be able to make a system that allows him to see
exhaustively all of the relations between facts.
b.) He must reduce the facts that confront him to logical
relations. The individuality of each fact must be given up in
order that it may be wholly known by man.
c.) He must strive for exhaustive knowledge, in short, he must be
omniscient. (Man does not strive for exhaustive knowledge.
Why should he? His presuppositional commitment to a
temporal notion of reality attributes facts to chance.)
2. The natural man’s attitude about the interpretation of facts can
be summarized as follows:
a.) He considers himself the ultimate judge of what can or cannot
be. (He will not allow any authority to be above him revealing
what has or has not happened and what will or will not
happen in the future.)
b.) His assumption of autonomy works against an understanding
of God’s nature. He denies that God is sovereign controller of
all phenomena. The natural man denies that the universe is
created, controlled and redeemed by Christ.
c.) The above assertions imply a third: that man’s thought is
absolutely original. He assumes that the interpretation he
makes for himself will be true for him because his thought is
“legislative” with respect to his environment.
d.) The facts of man’s environment are not created or controlled
by the providence of God. They are brute facts (uninterpreted
and ultimately irrational because they exist in a universe
controlled by chance).
B. If the facts of the universe are not interpreted to the glory of God,
man is left with an atomistic concept of knowledge. In that system of
irrationality, facts have no meaningful relation to one another, no
1. There is not a single fact that can be interpreted rightly without
reference to God as Creator of that fact. Man cannot truly apply
the category of causality to facts without the presupposition of
2. The assumption of brute fact is the most basic denial of the
creation doctrine. (We need to challenge man’s ability to interpret
any fact unless that fact be created by God and unless man
himself is created by God.)
(Man’s “quarrel” with God is never about any fact or combination
of facts. The argument is about the nature of facts. Back of that
there is the argument about the nature of man. The unbeliever
denies that he is a dependent creature accountable to God.)
3. Brute facts are mute facts -- they are ultimately meaningless if
they do not reveal God. Like beads with no holes and a string
with no ends, unrelated, uninterpreted facts are the product of an
irrational world view.
4. All facts are God’s facts. God conditions and structures all
reality. In order for man to NOT see facts for what they are (God’s
facts), man asserts the non-createdness of reality. The natural
man’s assumption of brute fact is based upon his presupposition
about the nature of reality. 
5. Brute facts are facts that are unrelated to God’s plan. The
Christian world view asserts that there are no facts that are
unrelated to God’s plan. (Because there is one system of reality,
there are no brute facts.)
II. The most fundamental question in epistemology is, “Can facts be
known without God?”
A. Only God can give unity to the facts. The debate with the unbeliever
cannot be settled by a direct appeal to facts. The reason for this is
that only a final reference point can make facts intelligible.
B. Presuppositional apologetics exposes the following: One’s starting
point is not the same level of being as the facts to be studied.
(A transcendental argument determines the presupposition behind
the fact. The traditional method of apologetics sees facts as more
ultimate than one’s world view.)
C. The natural man sees facts as existing by their own power. The
unbeliever clings to this epistemology because it allows him to retain
1. If a person presupposes chance, he won’t be able to find
Christianity in the facts. (Although they study facts in depth,
more than 95% of scientists are unbelievers. Because
unbelieving scientists presuppose a chance universe, they deny
all the authority structures and relationships set up by God.)
2. The believer and the unbeliever do not have a common method of
a.) When the unbeliever interprets the world, he sees every fact
through the lens of his own autonomy. He views reality as
consisting of a non-created or purely contingent factual
space-time cosmos and a non-created, timeless, abstract
principle of logic.
b.) The presuppositionalist rejects the idea of a common ground
of interpretation. Such common ground would be a
meaningless absurdity. Can any one intelligently assume
that he is both a creature and not a creature, a sinner and
not a sinner?
III. Only a Christian philosophy of facts can explain facts.
A. Only a universal can give meaning to facts. The question is, which
universal can state or give meaning to any fact? There is only one
such universal, the God of Christianity.
1. The Christian’s view of reality is based upon his view of being.
God is the ultimate reference point for all knowledge. God’s
control of all things demands the coherence of knowledge.
a.) Every transaction in the realm of knowledge necessarily has an ultimate reference point. God’s knowledge is the basis for all coherent thought.
b.) The coherence of God’s thought is the very foundation of human knowledge. (It is the apologist’s task to show the unbeliever that he has no intelligent philosophy of fact.)
c.) Only the Christian can claim ultimate rationalism. The
interpretation of all things by God’s revelation is the basis for
unified rational thought.
2. A coherent world view is the condition of knowledge.
a.) The Christian must argue that the unbeliever’s outlook
renders pivotal concepts such as fact, reason, experience,
science, necessity, meaning and morality unintelligible due the
incoherence of the unbeliever’s world view. (The apologist
seeks to remove the unbeliever’s foundation by reducing his
world view to absurdity.)
b.) The absurdity of autonomous philosophy is described by Van
Til: “If you have a bottomless sea of chance, and if you as an
individual, are but a bit of chance, and if the law of
contradiction has by chance grown up within you, the
imposition of this law on your environment is, granted it could
take place, a perfectly futile activity.”
c.) Christianity is the only position that does not take away the
very foundation for intelligible scientific and philosophic
procedure. (The unbeliever actually has been working and
thinking in terms of two conflicting world views. He openly
acknowledges the autonomous view but does not wish to
acknowledge the theistic world view which he needs to make
sense out of language, math, science, history, logic, ethics,
and everything else in his experience and reason. The
unbeliever professes his autonomous point of reference, but
suppresses knowledge of God.)
B. Facts are what they are by virtue of their place in the plan of God.
1. God’s plan is necessary to make sense out of both “causation”
(natural explanation) and “purpose” (teleological explanation).
The whole meaning of any fact is exhausted by its position in an
relation to the plan of God. NOTE: At Scripps Institute of
Oceanography unbelieving researchers devote countless hours of
post graduate work studying certain species of sea life. For all
their effort, they come not one bit closer to discovering
“causation” and “purpose.” In essence, a grade school Christian
student knows far more when he says “God created that fish
(causation) for His glory (purpose).”
2. To say that some facts may be known without God is the opposite of the Christian position. The unbeliever’s spiritual blindness is evident, for he is optimistic that his study facts without God will result in true knowledge.
3. The issue is not, “What can unbelievers do intellectually?” The
issue is, “Can unbelievers give an account of facts within their
world view?” The unbeliever cannot make the object of
knowledge intelligible by means of his world view.
C. The effort to evade God is never successful intellectually. Attempts
to gain knowledge without stopping the suppression of God’s truth
will always result in absurdity, vanity and folly (Rom 1:18-25).
1. No proof for God and the truth of His revelation in Scripture can
be offered by an appeal to anything in human experience that
has not itself received its light from the God whose existence and
whose revelation it is supposed to prove.
2. God’s revelation in nature, together with God’s revelation in
Scripture, form God’s one grand scheme of covenant revelation
of Himself to man. The two forms of revelation must therefore be
seen as presupposing and supplementing one another.
Revelation in Scripture and revelation in nature are mutually
meaningless without another and mutually fruitful when taken
D. Unity of knowledge (a central principle of man’s cultural task) is
only possible if God is ultimate. (God is ultimate being, ultimate
knower, ultimate reference point/ starting point, ultimate
1. Unity of knowledge cannot be obtained by a compromise of
principle between those whose ultimate point of reference is
God and those whose ultimate point of reference is man.
2. God’s knowledge is absolute, men must have God’s knowledge
in order to have their own knowledge. The only alternative is
folly. The natural man displays the vanity of his thinking when
contends that he does not need an absolute universal in order
to know with certainty. (It ought to be clear that the nature of
knowledge and the nature of reality are necessarily joined. If
they are not joined, knowledge has no rational basis. Ontology
has everything to do with knowledge, for in God, what is real is
rational. It is His omniscience that makes rational, unified
IV. The Creator-creature distinction gives us our starting point and
method for finding the meaning of facts.
A. The unbeliever takes the erroneous position that the law of reason
is the point of identity between God and man.
1. There is no single point of identity between the mind of God and
the mind of man . The difference between the mind of Creator
and creature is not merely quantitative, but qualitative. (God
knows a rose in a qualitatively different way than man. God is
the original Knower, He thought of the idea of a rose in eternity
and created it in time. Our thoughts will always be finite and
2. God’s being is “fundamentally other.” Man is but a derivative of
God, therefore the content of God’s mind is radically different
from the content of our own minds. We can never know what
God knows in the same way that God knows it. God lives wholly
above and beyond time. Any notion we apply to God will at best
be a finite replica of the same notion God has of Himself. (As far
as our conceptualization is concerned, we cannot think of
eternity otherwise than as the passage of years.)
B. Non-Christian thinking is univocal thinking. (Univocal refers to
man thinking independently of God. The unbeliever’s reasoning is
“univocal” in that he views knowledge as identical for God and
1. Our knowledge of the world is not univocal (the same as God’s),
but analogical (dependent upon the self-revelation of the
2. Univocal reasoning denies the foundation upon which analogy is
a.) It seeks to erase the ontological distinction between God and
b.) It rejects the authority of God and His Word.
d.) It is an abrogation of man’s covenant consciousness.
e.) It represents an effort to shed and flee from the temporal, finite
make up of man. (Human reason is enthroned by univocal
reasoning; “you shall be as gods.”)
C. Univocal reasoning reveals one’s view of reality.
1. When one attempts to reason univocally, one assumes that
reality is of one type. Therefore, when discussing ontology,
cosmology or even trees, one assumes that these categories are
the same for God at every point as for man.
2. By contrast, the Christian reasons analogically. Man is an
analogue of God, he is to think God’s thoughts after Him. When
the believer reasons about the complexities of human anatomy,
he reasons analogically. He declares along with the Psalmist
that man is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14).
a.) The unbeliever places God’s knowledge of the human body
and a doctor’s knowledge of the human body on the same
plane. As a consequence of arrogant univocal reasoning,
the unbeliever refuses to say of God’s knowledge, “[It] is too
wonderful for me” (Ps 139:6).
b.) The believer is careful to guard the following in his thinking
in order that his reasoning will be thoroughly analogical:
· He thinks under the authority of Scripture.
· He thinks as a being in covenant with God.
· He recognizes the finite, creaturely status of his thoughts. He regards his thoughts as derivative of their original (God).
· Consequently, his reasoning uses the law of non-contradiction.
c.) Analogical thinking is firmly rooted in the Creator-creature
distinction. Being is key, everything other than God is the
creation and the creature. We do not know one thing as
God knows, otherwise we would posit an identity between the
mind of God and the mind of man.
3. Univocal reasoning always leads to skepticism and self-
contradiction. Epistemological despair is the result of
suppressing the truth of God; the only source of certainty.
4. Univocal thinking assumes that a finite human can attain
a.) It is God alone who knows all knowledge simultaneously.
God’s mental processes established the laws of logic. His
providential laws of causation uphold the creation, His
orderliness is the basis for inductive science.
b.) God made our senses and reasoning faculties to be accurate,
but limited probes of objective reality. God alone is the
“Fisherman” whose “net” catches all “fish” (knowledge).
c.) We are gifted with an imitation of His net that will catch
many fish. But countless fish are too small for the mesh of
our net. And innumerable fish are too big for our nets. God
has told us what categories (of knowledge) these “fish” are so
that we won’t be presumptuous enough to fish for these. No
fish are too large or small for God’s net. My net is made in
the image of God’s net. But mine is creaturely, finite,
limited. The fish which only God’s net can catch are not
5. God’s incomprehensibility is infinitely inexhaustible.
a.) Man’s ignorance is not primarily from finitude. Man’s ignorance is due to the infinite ontological “chasm” between self-existent God and the creature.
b.) Paradoxes and antinomies will not be resolved by more knowledge or even exhaustive knowledge. If the paradoxes could drop away by more information, then the Creator-creature distinction would drop away as well. (Univocal reasoning “flirts” with the concept of the divinized mind. It attempts to insert the temporal into the eternal.)
V. A fact can only have the meaning that Scripture ascribes to it.
Facts are only interpreted truthfully by the knowledge of God.
A. The apologist must always maintain that the “fact” under
discussion must be what Scripture says it is in order to be
intelligible as a fact at all.
1. The apologist must present his philosophy of fact with his facts.
The presuppositional apologist does not need to present less facts
in doing so. He will handle the same facts, but he will handle
them as they ought to be handled. (It’s futile to talk endlessly
about facts without ever challenging the unbeliever’s philosophy
2. The evidentialist mistakenly assumes that facts can be
considered apart from an interpretive system.
a.) Frequently the apologist is challenged by the unbeliever, “Let
the facts speak for themselves.” The natural man often
appeals to the realm of empirical science as a zone “free from
b.) On the contrary, all empirical observation and observation is
laden with theory. Modern scientific description is itself
explanation. When researchers describe the simplest facts,
the description presupposes a system of metaphysics and
c.) A person cannot even be a scientist without a philosophy of
reality. (Our battle is always over philosophy of fact.)
Christianity does not need to take refuge under the roof of a
scientific method independent of itself. Rather than assuming
a defensive posture, the apologist can assert that biblical
Christianity offers itself as “a roof” to methods that would be
B. Every starting point involves faith.
1. Even the description of facts requires a starting point. A starting
point always involves a commitment to presuppositions.
2. The anti-theist claims that man can have true knowledge of a
fact without the “fact” of God’s existence. Thus, the starting
point is man himself. His starting point and method are solely
from himself. (By contrast, the theist knows that knowledge of
any fact presupposes the existence and knowledge of God who
created the fact and Christ who interpreted the fact in
3. All men do their thinking on the basis of a position or perspective
that is accepted by faith. If your faith is not in God who speaks
infallibly in His Word through Christ, then your faith is in man
as autonomous. “All of one’s reasoning is controlled by
either of these presuppositions.”
4. Underlying the natural man’s discussion of facts is his
commitment to his particular method of knowing. His theory of
knowledge (epistemology) is but a part of a whole network of
presuppositions he maintains. His presuppositions include
beliefs about the nature of reality (metaphysics) and his norms for
living (ethics). A key point for the apologist to understand is that
the unbeliever (when espousing his autonomy) treats his method
of knowing, reasoning, proving and learning as normative.
C. All the facts are in for God, therefore we must accept His
interpretation of them. (In an open universe with a finite god, a
“new fact” may appear at any time.)
1. In order for man’s interpretation to be correct, it must correspond
to the interpretation of God. The accuracy of man’s synthesis and
analysis rest upon God’s analysis. Our thought is receptively
2. To be neutral in method is to suggest that the universe is open for
God as well as you. It implies that system is non-existent. It
infers that synthesis is prior to analysis for God as well as for
man. It places God within the universe.
3. If facts are not viewed through the lens of the plan of God, they
will be viewed through the lens of possibility. (Chance and
possibility are like a bottomless pit. The skeptic can toss any fact
into its dark depths while uttering, “without a system, anything is
D. Every fact of the universe must be Christologically interpreted.
1. Christ came to save the world. His work is of cosmic significance. Therefore through Christ and His word, an authoritative interpretation is given to mankind of the whole cosmic scene. Thus, every fact in the universe must be Christologically interpreted.
2. Only the world view that centers upon the Person and work of Christ can render facts intelligible to sinful men. (Even when we investigate a fact, we cannot come up with “truth” that does not correspond with God’s truth in Christ.)
E. A transcendent argument determines the presupposition behind the
1. The starting point is never the same level of being as the facts to
be studied. The transcendental method exposes the world view
behind the facts. When seeking to uncover the foundations for
the “house of human knowledge,” it behooves the apologist to ask
questions that reveal a person’s world view:
· What is the nature of things that are real?
· How does the world operate?
· Where did it come from?
· What is man’s place in the world?
· What is man’s nature?
· Are there moral or epistemological norms that are not chosen by the individual?
· What are the criteria for truth?
· What are the proper methods of knowing?
· Is certainty possible?
2. When interpreting facts, we never grant to our opponent that
human categories are ultimate. If we compromise at that
juncture (by granting the ultimacy of human categories), it
destroys the self-consciousness of God. God’s absolute self-
consciousness is inseparable form His authority as final
interpreter of facts.
3. The apologist emphasizes that God’s mind is the final point of
reference. We are to press the non-Christian to be
epistemologically self-conscious. To the glory of God, we contrast
his philosophy of fact with the Christian world view. (We use
the transcendental method to expose the inconsistencies of the
unbeliever’s world view. The natural man’s system is not a
system, it is the opposite of God’s truth.)
 Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1998), pp. 520-523).
 Ibid., p. 717.
 Ibid., p. 310.
 Ibid., p. 378.
 Ibid., p. 379.
 Ibid., pp. 380, 381.
 Ibid., pp. 376, 382, 384.
 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, pp. 259, 260, 308.
 Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, pp. 524, 525.
 Ibid., p. 519.
 Ibid., p. 466, 467, 539,
 Ibid., p. 716.
 Ibid., pp. 396-399.
 Ibid., p. 421.
 Ibid., p. 38.
 Ibid., p. 109.
 Ibid., p. 111. Cited by Bahnsen from Cornelius Van Til, The Reformed Pastor and Modern Thought, (Philadelphia: P&R Publishing, 1971). pp. 30, 31.
 Cornelius Van Til, The Case for Calvinism, (Philadelphia: P&R Publishing, 1963), pp. 141, 142.
 Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, p. 114.
 Ibid., p. 172.
 Ibid., 171-174.
 Ibid., p. 514.
 Ibid., p. 211.
 Ibid., p. 195.
 Ibid., p. 723.
Jim Halsey, “A Preliminary Critique of Van Til: The Theologian” Westminster Theological Journal 1:39, (Fall, 1976) p. 123, 128, 129.
 Ibid., p. 122.
 Ibid., p. 125.
 Ibid., p. 126.
 Scott Oliphant, “The Consistency of Van Til’s Methodology” The Westminster Theological Journal, 52 (1990), p. 45.
 Jim Halsey, “Critique of Van Til,” p. 125.
 Ibid., p. 122.
 Ibid., p. 124.
 Ibid., p. 127.
 Grover Gunn, ”Epistemology 101” (from a lecture given by T E Grover Gunn at Christ Presbyterian Church, Elkton, MD, March 10, 1997). Transcript available at http://capo.org/cpc/apolo42.htm. Pp. 2-5.
 Halsey, “Critique of Van Til,” pp. 128, 132, 135.
 Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, p. 529.
 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, pp. 317, 264.
 Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, pp. 640-42.
 Ibid., p. 644.
 Oliphant, “Van Til’s Methodology” WTJ, p. 34.
 Cornelius Van Til, The Case for Calvinism, 128, 129.
 Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, p. 263.
 Ibid., p. 702, 704.
 Ibid., p. 702.
 Ibid., pp. 652-655.
 Ibid., p. 215.
 Oliphant, “VanTil’s Methodology” WTJ, p. 36.
 Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, p. 512.
 Ibid., pp. 490-493.
 Ibid., pp. 229, 248, 700.
 Oliphant, “Van Til’s Methodology” WTJ, p. 39.