Reformed versus Arminian Dental Practice

Let us now note the difference between the way Mr. White and the way Mr. Grey approach the unbeliever, Mr. Black, with the gospel of Christ.

Let us say that Mr. Black has a toothache. Both Mr. White and Mr. Grey are dentists. Mr. White believes in a radical methodology. He believes that Mr. Black should have all the decayed matter removed from his tooth before the filling is put in. Mr. Grey is a very kind-hearted man. He does not want to hurt Mr. Black. Accordingly, he does not want to drill too deeply. He will, therefore, take only a part of the decayed matter out of the tooth and then fill it.

Naturally Mr. Black thinks this is marvelous. Unfortunately, Mr. Black’s tooth soon begins to decay again. He goes back to Mr. Grey. But Mr. Grey can never bring himself to do anything radical. As a consequence he is never able to resolve Mr. Black’s toothache problem.

Let us now suppose that instead of coming to Mr. Grey, Mr. Black had gone to the office of Mr. White. Mr. White is radical, very radical. He uses the X-ray machine to diagnose Mr. Black’s condition. He drills deeply. All of the tooth decay is removed. The tooth is filled. Mr. Black never need return. This simple illustration points out a basic truth.

The Bible says that man is spiritually dead in sin. The Reformed creeds speak of man’s total depravity. The only cure for this spiritual deadness is his regeneration by the Holy Spirit on the basis of the atoning death of Christ. It is therefore by means of the light that Scripture sheds on the natural man’s condition that Mr. White examines all his patients. Mr. White may also, to be sure, turn on the light of experience, but he always insists that this light of experience derives, in the first place, from the light of Scripture. So he may appeal to reason or to history, but, again, only as they are to be seen in the light of the Bible. He does not even look for corroboration of the teachings of Scripture in experience, reason, or history, except insofar as these are themselves first seen in the light of the Bible. For him, the Bible, and therefore the God of the Bible, is like the sun from which the light that is given by oil lamps, gas lamps, and electric lights is derived.

Quite different is the attitude of the Arminian. Mr. Grey uses the Bible, experience, reason, or logic as equally independent sources of information about his own and therefore about Mr. Black’s predicament. I did not say that for Mr. Grey the Bible, experience, and reason are equally important. Indeed they are not. He knows that the Bible is by far the most important. But he none the less constantly appeals to “the facts of experience” and to “logic” without first dealing with the very idea of fact and with the idea of logic in terms of the Scripture.

The difference is basic. When Mr. White diagnoses Mr. Black’s case he takes as his X-ray machine, the Bible only. When Mr. Grey diagnoses Mr. Black’s case he first takes the X-ray machine of experience, then the X-ray machine of logic, and finally his biggest X-ray machine, the Bible. In fact, he may take these in any order. Each of them is, for him, an independent source of information.

(Van Til, The Defense of Christianity)

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