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The Last Temptation

of Christians
A Defense of the Faith
Part IV
[Editor's note- We continue Dr.
Gentry's final response to "Mr. Gray,"
which began in the May issue.]
Your reference to 2+2-4 was most
interesting, for that opens up the whole
matter, again, of the nature of reality
(what is) and the foundation of episte-
mology (how we know what is). The
neutrality postulate of mathematics,
which you apparently hold, is false. On
what ultimate philosophical base may
we assert 2+2==47 Not all philosophies
will tolerate 2+2,.4; thus this statement
is not philosophically neutral. Philoso-
phically it should be noted that only a
world-view conunitted both to a meta-
physical plurality in the world and a
metaphysical unity can sustain even
this most simple arithmetical truth.
Thus, mathematics immediately en-
gages one in the metaphysical debate
over unity and plurality, the one and the
many. Which is more ultimate, the one-
ness of the Universe or its manyness?
Further, we should ask how we know
''2" exists? Thomas S. Kuhn (The Struc-
ture of Scientific Revolutions) and
Michael Polanyi (PersoiUll Knowledge:
Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy)
demonstrate that "agreement" regarding
mathematical truths is partially due to
the intentional exclusion from interna-
tional mathematical symposia of certain
philosophical systems. Radical mon-
ists, such as Hindus, believe in the ulti-
macy of unity ("All is one" is that
chant that has done so much for the
development of Indian culture). They
assert 2+2== 1. Evolutionary relativists
see Chance as the womb and foundation
of being and consequently of know-
ledge. Hence, irrational Chance is the
floor upon which the rational world and
coherent knowledge is supposed to
stand!
But on a Trinitarian foundation we
have the Creator God who stands and
speaks as the floor of reality. Based on
the original model of the Trinity, ortho-
dox Ctuistianity asserts the equal ulti-
by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
macy of the one (the Trinity) and the
many (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). It
also posits the absolute character of
God and is set against any relativistic
view of the universe. It also holds to a
God Who has created both the world and
man's mind, which corresponds to the
world. Hence, there is a unity to the
world, as well as particularity; there are
absolutes, as opposed to relativism.
Man's mind can (on the Christian
foundation) know. I am not saying,
"Only Christians believe 2+2==4." But I
am saying that because of our epistemo-
logical foundations, orthodox Chris-
tians have a reason for 2+2=4, and a
monistic or an evolutionary worldview
does not The Orthodox Christian world-
view gives meaning to our experience
because the rational God of Scripture
created a rational, logical, mathematical
universe allowing for meaning and or-
der.
Regarding your statement in para-
graph six: "Until I read your Reedy
River bulletin, I was not clear as to just
how far apart we are," I would have
thought that when my initial letter
noted that I was "Reformed" you would
have realized I held to the basic creed of
Reformed thought: the Westminster
Standards. And in those Standards we
find reference to the six day creation of
Genesis. I (As I write, I am humming
the 1960s pop tune: "Time, time,
where did you go?" I wish there were
time to get into these matters further.)
You seem to suggest that I am an ob-
scurantist in regard to scientific truth in
that you use a term that is value laden
and pejorative in the modem context,
when you ask how am I not a "Biblical
literalist" and later you speak of "Bible-
thumpers" (apparently a reference to
Christians with my own convictions).
As I begin a quick answer let me ask
you something in all honesty (since
you brought this matter up): Have you
read any of the scientific literature from
a creationist perspective? I am not talk-
ing about tracts put out by radio evan-
gelists, but the serious scientific jour-
nals of Creationist science?
Again, my Christian worldview
(drawn from the words of Scripture)
allows for and explains the uniformity
principle of science. The most basic
maxim for scientific inquiry involves
the regularity of the universe and the
correspondence of reality with man's
capacity to know. But the evolutionary
philosophy of Chance cannot explain or
provide for either. You mention, but do
not describe (this must be why your
letters are always shorter than mine!),
the evidences from archaeology (the
study of ancient cultures. How does that
prove evolution from one kind of crea-
ture to another?), biology, botany, and
paleontology (which involves the fossil
record). It is interesting that biologists
are able to classify animal and plant
life. Were multi-billion year old evolu-
tionary gradualism true, it would seem
that there would be a universal grada-
tion of life forms, rather than distinctly
different life forms. Has it ever alarmed
you that paleontologists date rocks by
the type of fossil embedded in them and
they date the fossil by the kind of rock
they are in? This is a vicious circle,
which is even admitted b1' many pale-
ontologists and geologists.
You particularly focus your adher-
ence to evolution on the "fossil evi-
dence." I cannot imagine a worse choice
of evidence. You ask: "Where in the
world did all that fossil evidence come
from?" Please consider: (1) Paleontolo-
gists note that in excess of 95% of the
world's fossils--in mountains and val-
leys--are found in water carried sedi-
ment. You may be able to answer your
own question for me: What agency do
you think I will point to that is capable
of explaining the agency of universal
hydraulic upheaval, inundation, aqueous
transMrtation, compaction, and lithifica-
tion that formed fossils? (Hint: See
Genesis 6-9) (2) The fossil record--des-
pite allegedly "billions" of years of
formation and millions of examples!--is
plagued by the lack of transitional
forms from one kind to another, it is
riddled with gaps. The evidence
preserved in the fossil record is of crea-
tures "after their kind," and not evolv-
ing kinds (please note I did not say
The Counsel of Chalcedon July, 1989 page 17
''speCies"). (3) Have you read the ~
ries of Goldschmidt's Hopeful Monster
or Stephen Jay Gould's Punctuated
Equilibriwn that are attempting to ex ..
plain the absence of transitional forms?
These men have postulated occasional
accelerated rates of transformation be-
tween kinds which is "too fast" for the
fossil record to record--because of the ab-
sence of evidence from the fossil re-
cords!
Regarding the question as to why I
deny being a fundamentalist, let me an-
swer: The term "fundamentalist" is pro-
perly applied to Christians of convic-
tions much different from my own,
such as Bob Jones University. Though
we hold the "fundamentals" of the ortho-
dox faith, we differ in several key areas--
areas that put me in the reformed camp
and them in the fundamentalist camp.3
Some of those areas include (in paren-
theses my view occurs ftrst): Soteriolo-
gy (Calvinism vs. Anninianism), cul-
tural involvement (a transformational
approach to culture vs. a separatist .ap-
proach to culture), eschatology (cove-
nantal postmillennialism vs. dispensa- .
tional premillennialism), ethics (thea-
nomic ethics vs. pietistic moralizing),
etc. Neither am I a "literalist" in the pro-
per sense of the term (not the news-
paper sense). The dispensational hennen-
eutic of literalism leads to a carnal con-
ception of Christ's kingdom (involving
gloriously resurrected believers living
on the earth with natural people; Quist
ruling on the earth in the future--and
failing!, etc.); I hold to the grammatico-
historical method of interpretation of
historic reformed exegesis.
Regarding my references to the prob-
lem of "knowing," I do not mean to
say, "Ken Gentry knows things that
Mr. Gray doesn't know." I am speaking
systemicly: Orthodox Christianity pro-
vides a flrm basis for epistemological
certainty, which no other system can
provide. Much of modem literature (see
Erich Fromm and Daniel Bell) recog-
nizes that modern man has lost epis-
temic certainty. That predicament is
what I refer to. Yes, such leads me to
"rigiditY." I rigidly believe "my Redeem-
er liveth." I rigidly believe it is wrong
"to go round stealing, murdering, belU"-
ing false witness" (paragraph 4, p. 2),
not, for instance, because of Karl
Marx's maxim "property is theft," ~ t t
because my Creator and Judge says,
"Thou shalt not steal," etc. I linow
these are wrong; these are undebatable
ethical truths because God says so.
How do you know they are wrong? I do
not see how your evolutionary relativ-
ism could let you resolutely affirm it is
wrong to do any particular thing:
Chance rules; all is relative. What be-
comes of the "surVival of the fittest?"
What if Nicolo Machiavelli were right:
"Might makes right." Or Stalin: "Men
are grasshoppers to be crushed."
Originally I thought you might per-
haps be Barthian in your theological
method. But upon further correspon-
dence I suspect you are closer to the
Bultmannian methodology. You seem
to accept the Kantian dialectic, re-
moving the realm of the noumenal
from the realm that can be known. You
believe in the unknowable God; I be- .
lieve in the knowable God who has
sovereignly revealed Himself to me in
Scripture.
Regarding Joseph and Mary's sexual
relations: I have no doubt that after
Jesus was born they had such relations
The Counsel of Chaicedon July, 1989 page 18
(see Matt. 1:25). Several of his brothers
are mentioned in the New Testament
But my comniitment to "thus saith the
Lord" makes me "rigid" in my accep-
tance of the virginal conception and
birti! of Jesus--unless and until it can be
shown from Scripture that such is not
the case. I would agree with you that "a
lot of hamiful nonsense" has been
preached about sexuality. I would also,
with you, disdain an "excessive venera-
tion of Mary's virginity," but only in
that hers was not a perpetual virginity,
as per Romanism. She is no longer the
virgin Mary.
You ask (p. 2): "Come, now, do
you really believe that the NT is a full,
fleshed-out, day-to-day biography of
Jesus?" I don't believe I ever said
anything that implied such a deftnition.
The Gospels do not present a "full"
biography at all, and they don't pretend
to. Most of Jesus' life is passed over in
silence; such is not a "full, fleshed out"
biography. Even the emphasis on His
three years of ministry is not "day-to-
day" biography; highlights are men-
tioned. Furthermore, the record of Jesus
is not biographical, in the modern sense
of the term. In fact, the Gospel was a
new genre of literature created for the
exigencies of the situation. The Gos-
pels were theologically motivated
sketches of the life of Christ designed
for an evangelistic purpose (John 20:3Q-
31; 21:24-25; I John 1: 1,2), hence the
extreme concentration (about 25% of
the Gospel record) on the last week of
His life before the cross. But, having
removed your unduly defined (straw
man?) representation of my view of the
Gospels, it still remains that they were
dealing with an historical Cluist Whom
they asserted that they could behold and
handle (cp. 1 John 1:1). Their represen-
tation of Christ is considered true in an
historical sense, not in a mystical,
mytho1ogical, symbolic sense (note the
references to the green grass [Mk.
6:39], the standing position of John
Baptist in a particular instance [Jn.
1:35], etc.; these are eyewitnesses and
historical events).
You ask ''dO you honestly believe
that only a Biblical literalist can know
right from wrong?" You miss my
whole p<)int. My most fundamental
question in this regard is: How do we
authoritatively define what human ac-
tions are right or wrong? By what
standard shall we judge? The cannibal's
standard?Hitler'sstandard?Therelativis-
tic, evolutionary, shifting-sand, culture-
to-culture variant standard? You say that
"one doesn' t have to be a Bible-thumper
[a pejorative statement if ever I heard
one! but I know you intended no ill by
it] to know one doesn't go round steal-
ing, murdering, bearing false witness,
and all the rest" Joseph Fletcher, as a
true child of evolutionary thought and
the father of situation ethics, says "Law
ethics is the enemy." But you have
made reference to elements of God's
Law; you apparently believe in norma-
tive standards. Then moving beyond
that, my complaint. against non-Chris-
tian ethics is: There is no epistemolo-
gically valid grounding of right and
wrong judgments; there can be no pro-
perly grounded normative ethics in the
non-Christian system. Christians have
a metaethic (the Law of God) grounded
in their metaphysic (the God of Scrip-
ture Who created all things). Thus,
Christians have an ethic that avoids the
false dichotomies and dialectical tension
of non-Christian ethics, for God's Law
is transcendant (hence authoritative} and
immanent (hence relevant).
Sure, non-Christians may agree
with Christians and view certain things
as right and wrong obligations. But
they cannot say with authority that
such-and-such is right or wrong. And
when they point to something and agree
with the Christian ethic on the matter,
they are necessarily operating in a way
that is not epistemologically self-con-
scious. Tiley have no valid reason for
right-and-wrong judgments, which com-
ports with their metaphysic. They have
no valid metaethic to undergird their
ethical judgments.
Again time and focus prohibit my
dealing with your references to private
property. You apparently disdain private
property rights (I wonder if you own
your car and house?). My theory of
civil and freedom rights, which is based
on God's law, promotes a free-market,
private property based economic theory,
while at the same time standing against
"crass materialism and 'Yuppiness' and
grasping selfishness" as "grossly
immoral." I agree with you that we
need a spiritual revival; but I believe we
need a Bible-based spiritual revival (I
am not talking of a "Holy Ghost Tent
Meeting Revivalism!").
Regarding your conviction as to the
moral superiority of socialism: since
when does government control of one's
lives and property become moral? I
thought you were against slavery; or
were you simply opposed to individual-
ist slavery? If individuals are going to
sin, how much more an aggregate of in-
dividuals given the "power of the
sword!" Where has socialism worked?
Consider the poverty and woe of citi-
zens of the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics. The hope for an onuribenefi-
cent State has been a miserable failure,
and I believe largely because of the reali-
ty of the Christian view of the univer-
sality of sin (the imposition of com-
munistic socialism on Ethiopia a decade
and one-half ago transformed that cui-
. ture from the "Bread Basket of Africa"
to a basket case--largely due to the de-
struction of free-market bargaining and
private property rights). Marx confident-
ly postulated anti-private property
views that would, he thought, end up
with the State withering away. But
where do we find the strongest, most
bureaucratized, tyrannical State imposi-
tion on a populace? In the Soviet
Union, where Marx's views of "scienti-
fic socialism" have been put to work,
under the banner of Marxist-Leninism.
Because of the impoverishing nature of
socialism, when it is tried to the degree
it is in the Soviet Union, it necessarily
becomes imperialistic: it needs new eco-
nomic blood to feed upon. The State
that says, "The earth is the State's, and
all it contains, The world, and those
who dwell in it" (cp. Psa. 24: 1) leads to
untold woe. It becomes a plague upon
society. Since you appreciate Camus,
perhaps you appreciate his The Plague:
at the end, after a valiant struggle to
drive away the rats, despair is the final
conclusion: "they will be back." Des-
pite socialism's historic failures (I con-
sider it a plague), I am afraid it will be
back!
I suspect by now all of your fears .
are confirmed: "Ken Gentry is a right-
winger of the worst sort!" But my view
of the Gospels, ethics, politics,
economic theory, mathematics, all flow
out of my view of God and Scripture.
And here I stand. I believe that my
Lord's Word grants an epistemological
foundation upon which to build a socie-
ty to His glory. Man's vain attempts
end in despair and failure.
I do very much appreciate your corres-
pondence--andfriendship! I look forward
to hearing from you again on these mat-
ters, if you so desire. Perhaps soon I
will get to where I will limit the vol-
ume contained in my letters. But it is
so difficult; sometimes you make asser-
tions without justifications or argumen-
tation--i.e. "I believe socialism is moral-
ly superior"--, whereas I am trying to
give you something of the rationale
behind my views.
Perhaps we can meet someday soon.
I do hope you might fmd time during
the day that we could meet I would en-
joy that.
May Christ be honored through our
interchange,
Ken Gentry
P.S. I would very much love to have
you read Herbert Schlossberg's Idols for
Destruction (Nashville: Thomas Nel-
son, 1983). It is an excellent analysis
of the Christian faith from a perspective
that I hold. You might want to call the
public library and get it
Endnotes
1 It should be noted that the text of
Genesis 1-3 is not written in poetic
style; it is written as historical narra-
tive.
2 "It cannot be denied that from a
strictly philosophical standpoint geolo-
gists are arguing in a circle. The succes-
sion of organisms has been determined
by a study of their remains buried in the
rocks, and the relative ages of the rocks
are determined by the remains of the or-
ganisms that they contain." (R.H. Ras-
tell, "Geology," Encyclopaedia Britan-
nica, vol. 120, p. 168)
3 See George Dollar, A History of
Fundamentalism in America (Green-
ville, SC: BJU Press, 1973}. Interes-
tingly, on the cover there is a picture of
a fist thumping the Bible! I thought
you would be amused at that. .Q
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The Counsel of Chalcedon July, 1989 page 19