A Wake-up Call from Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872)

Accenting the accuracy of the scientific method, relying wholly on the assiduity of the rational subject, and with the omission of God from the scenario, it is argued with relative ease that Ludwig Feuerbach was in fact correct in his philosophical formulation. In 1843 Feuerbach wrote, The Essence of Christianity, an enchiridion for future theological thought if the Scriptures are not recovered by the Church from the historical critical advocating Academy. Following this methodology, what the Bible is does not come from God’s description and naming of Himself but from an idea generated in the mind of man. Feuerbach contends,

“Thus, between the divine revelation and the so-called human reason or nature, there is no other than an illusory distinction; — the contents of the divine revelation are of human origin, for they have proceeded not from God as God, but from God as determined by human reason, human wants, that is, directly from human reason and human wants. And so in revelation man goes out of himself, in order, by a circuitous path, to return to himself!” Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, 207.

Scientific method confirms the object predicated by the subject. If science is the method and God is the object, then the scientist will locate the god he has been looking for — a “God determined by human reason” and human desires. If there is to be a credible and compelling response to Feuerbach’s serious and long-standing rebuttal to the fundamental nature of Christianity, the minimal answer must be: 1) divine revelation is of divine origin and divine superintendence, given by inspiration from God; 2) that the content of divine revelation is determined by the witness of the Holy Spirit to the reason through the impelling Word according to the “good pleasure” of God; and 3) in this manner, revelation goes forth from God to do what man cannot do himself — redeem mankind through Christ.

Rather than admitting the logical error of depending on science or reason to determine divine things and reinforcing the authoritas of Scripture, the academy continues to fall further into the theological and philosophical void created by rejecting formal principium, Scripture. Post-critical ideology has been allowed to gain the high ground in the current theological apologia of the faith once delivered unto the saints and has sought to make any discussion, which does not readily accept post-critical presuppositions as normative, irrelevant to a meaningful exchange of ideas. While claiming that dogmatics is all that remains to express man’s concepts of God, either evangelical, Eastern, feminist, etc., the Christian community has, with the highest scholarly research and the erudite insight, defined the Bible as the property of a scientific enterprise. The Bible is conceived of as if owned as would be a house; to be bought and sold, enlarged or reduced, renovated or razed at the deed holder’s discretion, because there is essentially no difference between the Bible and a house in their mutual limitations to the historic and mundane. The post-critical “this-worldly” bible is best defined as man’s reflection of himself, or mankind’s discourse of his own self-evaluation in religious terms. Ronald B. Mayers notes and exposes the unnoticed effects of post-critical thought observing that, “

“The current zeitgeist is not so much a philosophy as it is the cultural milieu, the background for all philosophies and perspectives in existence. Life is no longer understood as dependent on a transcendent ruler of time and history. There is no infinite reference point…. Personal destiny is seen is beginning at birth and ending at death. In such a totally naturalistic world, theology herself adopts an ontological foundation that is so thoroughly secular that it too finds meaningless and undiscoverable any category of the transcendent.” Mayer, Religious Ministry in a Transcendentless Culture, 1980, 13-14.

If the historicists’ venture of trying to recover the autographa scientifically is the principal point of convergence for evangelical confidence in the Bible, then a doubtful present and a nihilistic future awaits the Church. Every science, by its nature, is unable to address unique antecedent phenomena. Such phenomena cannot be observed, reproduced, or tested. Indeed, if it were not for God’s own providential oversight, Scripture would be irrevocably lost.

Given the scientific approach to Scripture, if confined exclusively to empirical data, e.g.,  manuscript evidence, the Church, as Calvin puts it, “will be beset by the instability of doubt.” Indeed, even if the original words of God were stumbled upon through scientific means, because of the evolutionary nature of science, neither the critic nor the Church could ever be certain of the value of the discovery. The contemporary problem is the seeming disregard for the both the churchly exegetical and theological tradition in the formulation of publications, which, from a traditional perspective, are only pretentiously called, Bibles.

By omitting God from the paradigm, man is left to his own devices for distinguishing a Book of transcendent origin, which testifies that it is the very words of God and therefore the expression of God’s authority over any and all other self-imposed criteria. In other words, if the parameters for what is and is not God’s word are academically codified based on scientific rules as a casual perusal of current literature will support, the scholar and his ideas become the relative and provincial standard for knowing who and what God is. Post-critical scholarship, by imposing their wills and reconstructing the Bible, are through their perceived scientific successes, making God in their own image. To this academic trajectory Feuerbach would undoubtedly give a hearty, Amen.

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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