“When Satan tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit, he tried to persuade her that God’s announcement of the consequences of such an act would not come true [an irrational claim]… On the other hand, when Satan tempted Eve, he virtually asked her to become a rationalist. He asked her to take the position that she needed not to obtain any information about the course of factual eventuation from any source but her own mind” (Christian Apologetics, Cornelius Van Til, p. 154).
“The dilemma that confronts the non-Christian methodology in general, and that of modern phenomenalism in particular, is therefore that either one must know everything or one cannot know anything… And what is called scientific knowledge is a cross between knowing everything about nothing and knowing nothing about ‘everything'” (Christian Apologetics, Cornelius Van Til, p. 156).
The twin evils of superstition and craven fear
When we don’t go to God with good, believing hearts, and instead follow our own superstitious religiousish mumbo-jumbo, we sin in two ways:
1. By worshipping a fake and lame-o God.
God has told us what he’s like. He’s actually spoken. In Jesus we were with God himself. What does superstition do? It looks in the other direction and says, “Oh, hi God!” A superstitious person may put on a solid looking religious act, bow themselves, raise their hands, pray until they sweat, do the whole show, but they’re not looking at God and honouring God–they’re honouring not-God; really, they’re honouring themselves and their imaginations.
Many people think, “If it sounds spiritual, and I use the G-word often, all the religious people should applaud me and stop asking me so many questions.” But true worshippers know fakery when they see it. Worship of the real God conforms to God’s will. Since God is the same yesterday, today and forever, worship and obedience just doesn’t change from person to person, according to their likes and dislikes.
Approaching God is not like approaching a church potluck: “Pick what you like, leave what you don’t, and enjoy your very own God!” Like our elder brother Lactantius said long ago, “No religion is valid which is not also joined to truth.”
2. By thinking we can approach God on tip-toes, and only when we have to.
Superstitious people don’t like God — they fear him. They know he’s a Judge that loves good and hates evil. If they had their choice, they’d do away with God all together. After all, no God means no judgement.
Buuut, that darn God-stamp (or seed of religion) just can’t be suppressed or erased, and so the ever present God-stamp stays, and stays scary.
So, some are willing to do the religious thing from time to time, because they imagine, “That’ll keep God distracted for a while!” But this kind of “spirituality” isn’t sturdy; fear will only hold you back from sin so much — you’ll find ways to give in, and refuse to bring every last sin to God to terminate.
“A truly Protestant method of reasoning involves a stress upon the fact that the meaning of every aspect or part of Christian theism depends upon Christian theism as a unit. When Protestants speak of the resurrection of Christ, they speak of the resurrection of him who is the Son of God, the eternal Word through whom the world was made” (Christian Apologetics, Cornelius Van Til, p. 149).
“…if man is not autonomous, if he is rather what Scripture says he is, namely, a creature of God and a sinner before his face, then man should subordinate his reason to the Scriptures and seek in the light of it to interpret his experience” (Christian Apologetics, Cornelius Van Til, p. 140).
“…as the infallibly inspired revelation of God to sinful man, [the Bible] stands before us as that light in terms of which all the facts of the created universe must be interpreted” (Christian Apologetics, Cornelius Van Til, p. 139).
An awareness of God is common to all
No human needs to be taught that there’s a God and that we’re his creatures. It’s in our guts. If you meet people five thousand miles in any direction, whether they live in a dark forest or a remote dessert or on a high mountain, they know there’s a God; they don’t need you to tell them about him.
That’s why wherever you go, you’ll find people who bow down to statues, visit temples, and pray. Whether they believe in one God or lots of gods, people can’t seem to shake “God”!
God stamped this feeling on all of us, and it can’t be wiped off.
So it’s pretty silly when someone tries to explain the stamp of God by saying, “There’s no stamp! This is what happened: a long time ago, some dude just made up the idea of God; probably to control people and get stuff from them!”
Now of course people have tried to use the stamp to scare, control, and take stuff from people. But it’d never work if people weren’t already convinced there was a God! These rotten thieves were at least smart; they tapped into something everyone’s already got.
Now some people totally deny God. “There ain’t no stamp on me!” they say. But such people usually start to grow something else: superstition. And superstition makes a person act pretty strange. They’re scared of the sound of a falling leaf! They knock on wood! They flip through a card deck think the cards are telling them things! If it’s not God out there, it’s open season. Explaining the stamp away just opens us up to a million far more zanier beliefs.
Humans can keep the feeling of God away with as much success as someone can keep a sealed sheep intestine filled with air under the water by first making sure it’s put down real deep.
The seed of religion is perverted by self-will
We can call this stamp of God-feeling “the seed of religion.” Everyone’s got it planted in them. This seed tells us that because there’s a God, a bunch of other things are true too: we’re his creatures, all good things come from him, we’ve failed to honour and thank him, and, we should only do what he wants.
But you and I don’t like that. We want to be our own boss. And because we’re selfish soil, the seed planted in us gets tainted. We can’t remove the seed, and because we’re selfish, it can’t produce what it should. Instead of producing whole-hearted holiness and a simple love toward God, we do just enough to get God off our back. We might even put on a big religious show, but really, we’re just doing this to keep our hearts far from him.
“…the Reformed apologist maintains that there is an absolutely valid argument for the existence of God and for the truth of Christian theism. He cannot do less without virtually admitting that God’s revelation to man is not clear” (Christian Apologetics, Cornelius Van Til, p. 134-5).
“[On the naturalist’s] assumption his own rationality is a product of chance. On his assumption even the laws of logic that he employs are products of chance. …[Therefore] Christian theism… is the only position that gives human reason a field for successful operation and a method of true progress in knowledge” (Christian Apologetics, Cornelius Van Til, p. 132).
After ten years on air, one reality TV show points out there’s still a market for ceremonial cleanliness.
It’s an American show, but it’s sprouted regional versions all over the world. Because ceremonial purity is something everyone, everywhere wants.
The show is called (you might have guessed it), Say Yes to the Dress.
It’s about the journey of brides-to-be and their families, seeking the perfect wedding dress at Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan, NY. To see an episode is to see a purification ritual:
People go on pilgrimage from all over the world to seek the temple (Kleinfeld’s). There they hope to find what will cover their blemishes and inadequacies and make them beautiful and clean. In this sacred space, the priests (Mara, Ronald, and Randy) greet the pilgrims and assess their needs. The pilgrims are astounded by the special knowledge, wisdom, and craft of the priests. The pilgrims have journeyed far and are willing to pay great sums to the priests in order to gain access to the clean white robes they seek. The brides are willing to make sacrifices of time, emotion, and money, for where else can they be covered and made pure?
If you’ve ever seen the show, you know there’re problems: Sometimes, as the pilgrim’s insecurities and fears mount, they retreat from the temple. Sometimes they find what they’ve been seeking, but the cost of the white robes are too high. Sometimes they desire even greater purity and beauty, and so say “No” to the dress, and seek another temple and another priesthood.
Now there’s a reason why shows like these don’t have in-depth follow-up. While each episode has a very happy ending, we all know the dress didn’t actually solve any deeper issues. Despite the personal sacrifice, the brides’ hearts remained impure; they continued to be dogged by the same guilt, shame, envy, anger that they had before they came to Kleinfeld’s.
And their circumstances were unchanged; they still had difficult relationships, crazy demands at work, health problems, etc.
It seems there are some things that even a really really white dress can’t solve.