Monday, February 12, 2007

Refuting Dallas Willard

I posted the following comment over at Joe Carter's evangelical outpost in response to a commenter named "George":


I did read both the article (Jesus the Logician) and Joe's brief missive regarding the nature of "The Project".

In both I was troubled to once again discover the nearly ubiquitous error of modern evangelicalism to which I pointed in my prior post.

Sadly upon review Dallas Willard is found to be firmly ensconced in the scripturally unsupported camp which purports that unregenerate man's reasoning yields perfectly acceptable, reliable and intelligible results, when in fact this position is roundly refuted by scripture.

See Dallas Willard's comments below, emphasis mine:

Jesus' aim in utilizing logic is not to win battles, but to achieve understanding or insight in his hearers. This understanding only comes from the inside, from the understandings one already has. It seems to "well up from within" one. Thus he does not follow the logical method one often sees in Plato's dialogues, or the method that characterizes most teaching and writing today. That is, he does not try to make everything so explicit that the conclusion is forced down the throat of the hearer. Rather, he presents matters in such a way that those who wish to know can find their way to, can come to, the appropriate conclusion as something they have discovered--whether or not it is something they particularly care for. Translation, "unregenerate man is capable of reasoning his way to ultimate truth."

Really? Is this supported by scripture? Indeed, it is not.

"A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." Yes, and no doubt Jesus understood that. And so he typically aims at real inward change of view that would enable his hearers to become significantly different as people through the workings of their own intellect. They will have, unless they are strongly resistant to the point of blindness, the famous "eureka" experience, not the experience of being outdone or beaten down.

Again, "(sinful) man's intellect" is sufficiently capable of apprehending Biblical truth. This defies philosophical example and revealed scripture, both of which refute this absurd contention.

In effect Mr. Willard claims that Jesus Christ, the eternal God, gave His appeal to the natural man's reasoning in an effort to invoke acceptance of His claims! At its core this is a statement that God Almighty subordinates Himself to the inspection and acceptance of sinful man's "reasoning"! Of course it is impossible and absurd to hold that both sinful man's reasoning (autonomous self) and the Creator God can be ultimate authorities!

No, sinful man's reasoning and God Almighty are not co-equal ultimate authorities. Sinful man must submit to the authority of God that he might reason properly. According to revealed scripture unregenerate man cannot reason properly apart from the revelation of the Christian theistic worldview. Man must abandon his wicked worldview in favor of "thinking God's thoughts after Him". This requires a radical departure from man's previous modus operandi, the "putting off of the old man" (repentance) and the assumption of an entirely new worldview (regeneration) or philosophy, namely Christian theism. This of course is not the work of men, but the work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus well knew this since it was under divine inspiration that the Apostle Paul gave his Mars Hill discourse wherein he unequivocally proved that unregenerate man's reasoning is not merely defective needing some "supernatural additive" in order to be whole, but rather that their entire system of reasoning is bankrupt and downright sinful!

Mr. Willard's methods are deeply flawed and will result (as I've previously mentioned) in "common ground" - so called - gained at the expense of reinforcing the unbeliever's claim to ultimate authority and failing to intellectually challenge the alleged self-sufficiency of his reasoning. For the Christian apologist this is too high a price to pay.

I personally believe Mr. Willard's proposal is a pernicious and deeply defective apologetical method.