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A Theological Basis of Conservatism, Part 4

This entry is part of 7 in the series

"A Theology of Conservatism"

Read more posts by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

In this series, we are establishing a theological foundation for conservatism, specifically the objective nature of aesthetic judgments. See part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

Sin is a rejection of the aseity of God.

The theology of the aseity of God may well seem utterly abstract; to combat that misperception, I’d like us to consider now that all sin can legitimately be understood as a denial of the aseity of God. The clearest illustration of this principle is found in Van Til’s explanation of the Fall:

It follows then that the attempt to be neutral is part of the attempt to be antitheistic. For this reason we have constantly used the term antitheistic instead of nontheistic. To be nontheistic is to be antitheistic.

The narrative of the fall of man may illustrate this point. Adam and Eve were true theists at the first. They took God’s interpretation of themselves and of the animals for granted as the true interpretation. Then came the tempter. He presented to Eve another, that is, an antitheistic theory of reality, and asked her to be the judge as to which was the more reasonable for her to accept.

And the acceptance of this position of judge constituted the fall of man. That acceptance put the mind of man on an equality with the mind of God. That acceptance also put the mind of the devil on an equality with God. Before Eve could listen to the tempter she had to take for granted that the devil was perhaps a person who knew as much about reality as God knew about it. Before Eve could listen to the tempter, she had to take it for granted that she herself might be such an one as to make it reasonable for her to make a final decision between claims and counter-claims that involved the entire future of her existence. That is, Eve was obliged to postulate an ultimate epistemological pluralism and contingency before she could even proceed to consider the proposition made to her by the devil. Or, otherwise expressed, Eve was compelled to assume the equal ultimacy of the minds of God, of the devil, and of herself. And this surely excluded the exclusive ultimacy of God. This therefore was a denial of God’s absoluteness epistemologically.

Thus neutrality was based upon negation. Neutrality is negation.1

Satan’s temptation of Eve in the Garden presented a direct challenge to man’s duty; not only did the serpent press Eve to disobey God’s command, but he embedded a more subtle attack within this temptation. If God is who he claims to be, his word about the nature of the Tree must be correct; the Tree is what it is because God has said that it is that way. Therefore, God’s prohibiting Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree must also be right; even if they do not understand why, God knows. (As an aside, we have just articulated the foundations for moral absolutism.)

Satan encouraged Eve to consider the possibility that God’s word on the matter may not be final. Satan wished Eve to think of herself as a knower at the same level as God; her interpretation of the Tree may well be just a valid as God’s. In accepting the serpent’s suggestion, Eve obliterates the Creator-creature distinction: God is no longer right just because he is God; instead, his is just another interpretation, alongside of Eve’s and Adam’s and Satan’s.

We must note that this rejection of God’s revelation is equivalent to a rejection of God’s being what he claims to be. Our sin (as much as Eve’s) is not merely a rebellion against God’s commands; it is an open declaration that we do not believe that God is prior to us and more ultimate than we are; he is not the sort of being who determines the nature of all created things. Our sin is an assertion that we believe that we are on the same level of being as God; we deny the aseity of God.

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About Michael Riley

Student of theology, apologetics, and Christian affections. Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Wakefield, Michigan.

  1. Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969): 20–21. Paragraph breaks added. []