I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Saturday, January 2, 2010

WORLDVIEW 104: The Principle of Antithesis, pt. 1

Because I’ve been so sloth in following up posts on this topic, I thought a bit of review would be in order. I’ve also linked the former posts in the series for convenience.

In the first entry on the subject of worldview, we saw that the fact of worldview is ubiquitous in human experience. Everyone has a worldview. This stems from the truth that all people are made in the image of God, and since God has a worldview, so to speak, so too does every creature bearing his image. In the second entry, WORLDVIEW 102, we attempted to define worldview, using the contributions of various scholars, and concluding with Abraham Kuyper’s definition.

In the third post, finally, we concluded that every worldview has its “touchstone proposition,” its “root” principle, that one ultimate presupposition from which all others come and are brought into constant relationship with; and that most ultimate heart commitment, that root principle, is an attitude toward one’s relation to God, the controlling premise of all other inferences and beliefs. Hear Kuyper again on this point. “Thus I maintain that it is the interpretation of our relation to God which dominates every general life system [i.e., worldview]” (Christianity: A Total World and Life System, 10). It is this fundamental principle which every other truth claim is determined to be in some measure believable or else flatly false within the context of the given worldview.

Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matt 12:30), and that a person cannot serve two masters (7:24). These, and scriptural statements like them, immediately throw everybody on the horns of a dilemma. So, as C. S. Lewis rightly concluded in The Problem of Pain, "From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the centre is opened to it." In other words, there are really only two worldviews available, and these are—in their respective fundamental principles—in diametrical opposition to one another. See this article for a fuller demonstration of the theme of a biblical view of the antithesis.

This diametrical opposition or antithesis is essentially absolute. Now, this needs qualification, I know. What we mean by absolute antithesis is that, at the root of the respective worldviews—their original, fundamental principle—there is comprehensive contrariety. The Christian outlook accepts Lewis’ dilemma above and adopts the theocentric, i.e., God-centered principle as its foundational starting-point, submitting to the God of Scripture as the final authority; the rejection of the Christian perspective is necessarily, then, the positive adoption of the latter principle—a self-centered perspective, or more generally, an anthropocentric presupposition, wherein man is taken to be the starting-point for up building the entirety of the worldview, and consequently, the ultimate authority.

Therefore, at the very root of the respective outlooks, there is, as Kuyper said, a struggle for primacy, a wrestling match engaged in mortal combat, warring over the question of absolute primacy and authority. One begins and ends with man as its ultimate reference point; one begins and ends with the triune God of the Bible as its ultimate reference point. And because there cannot exist two beings with absolute and universal authority, there is absolute and universal antithesis between those who claim the prerogative and power of the position of primacy and ultimate authority.

In addition to this, there is the fact that the fundamental presupposition of a worldview is profoundly personal, beginning as it does in an attitude or disposition rather than a mere premise of one’s intellectual assent. The antithesis is comprehensive and holistic, reaching to the furthest bud on the longest branch that grows out of the root principle. Thus, the antithesis between the Christian worldview and all others is one which is absolute, leaving no room for compromise; and it is comprehensive, leaving no area of human experience or endeavor, no intellectual domain or discipline, no question of what is real, right, reasonable, or remedial is untouched by the absoluteness of this essential antithesis.

In principle, then, there is no “partnership...fellowship...accord...portion” or “agreement” between the Christian worldview and any other competitor (2 Cor 6:14—16). One begins by submitting to and worshiping the Creator-Controller-Redeemer God in Christ, the other worships and serves the creature; and each has its relative corollaries and consequences, which spring up from its fundamental root (Rom 1:18ff; Gal 5:16ff). There is no area of neutrality between these two warring world and life systems.

However, if all this were true, someone might object, then it would follow that Christians are utterly insolated and isolated from the unbelieving world around them, thus leading them to an unqualified pietism. Further, it seems that consistency with this principal antithesis would preclude any and all dialogue with non-Christians, since, supposing such were true, there would be no commonality, no neutral ground, no point of contact between the adherents of those who espouse the contrary systems.

Admittedly, there is some sense in which we would respond to these apparent problems with an emphatic “Yes, that’s right." But, on the other hand, nothing is further from the truth. As paradoxical as it might sound, consistency with the principle of antithesis is alone that which provides the point of contact necessary for trans-worldview communication. That is why this particular point of our look at worldview will come in parts, this one being only the first of several. This point needs careful attention and illustration.

In the next part, therefore, we’ll make the qualifications required for resolving these and other objections with the principle of antithesis, and hopefully give some clarity to the issue.

Until then, blessings in the thrice-holy God be yours!


  1. This reminds me of Van Til. It also reminds of this article from Christianity Today. The article is primarily a book review of Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman, by John Muether. The article itself is entitled "Remember the Antithesis! Cornelius Van Til Never Forgot It." Here's the link:


  2. Thanks for the link, Steve. That seems like it would be a great book. I have and have read William White Jr’s Van Til: Defender of the Faith, it was quite interesting. When you said that the post reminded you of Van Til, I’m left wondering. Van Til was known well for two things: 1) his never forgetting or relaxing the antithesis, and 2) his brutality of the English language and confusing conceptualizing.

    So, I’m wondering in which sense my post reminded you of him. Granting what a generous spirit you are, I’ll assume it was the former;)

    Blessings to you!