Understanding and Then Faith

Imagine that the Apostle John approached you and said, “Believe in Jesus. Later I will tell you who he was and what he did.” What would be the content of your belief? Faith must be in something. A level of understanding precedes faith. Faith then opens the door for greater understanding.

Cornelius Van Til

A famous 20th Century theologian, Cornelius Van Til, argued the reverse. He argued that, unless God exists, no understanding can be possible to man.

In his Evidences (1935), he wrote, “The non-existence of God cannot be conceived if we are to retain meaning for our words” (13). He rejected any form of reasoning which “assumes the knowability of this universe whether or not God exists” (36).

In other words, we need to presuppose God in order to be able to think correctly about evidence for God. Unfortunately, this view is circular; it presupposes its own conclusion.

Knowledge does not start with presuppositions; it starts with observation. Ironically, Van Til’s argument fails because he assumes that assumptions are necessary to knowledge.

Actually, man learns about the world inductively, one observation at a time. A man does not need to make an assumption about the existence or non-existence of God in order to know the plain facts given to him by his senses.

As with the Apostle John, we must look at the data. We understand the facts, and then we believe.

John 20:30-31: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.