As I mentioned in an earlier installment of this series, we must be on guard for when Bahnsen really means supernaturalism when he uses the word “metaphysics.” Supernaturalism has engulfed metaphysics so completely for Bahnsen that even he is not aware of the perversity of this insidious equivocation. He has sought to hide this by arguing that the “ultimate conceptual framework” that philosophers use to separate the intellectual wheat from the nonsensical chaff is not something we perceive directly. But anyone could have told you this. Indeed, there is a fundamental distinction between the perceptual and the conceptual levels of consciousness. But this distinction in no way invalidates the senses or annuls their epistemological significance, nor does it suggest that “the physical realm” was created by an act of consciousness. In his effort to protect Christianity from the growing “anti-supernatural bias” of modern academics, Bahnsen has swapped metaphysics as a study of being for metaphysics as a study in concealing the subjectivism of one’s worldview. This is accomplished by keeping things vague and ambiguous.
For instance, Bahnsen writes:
In the nature of the case the metaphysician examines issues transcending physical nature or matters removed from particular sense experiences. And yet the results of metaphysics are alleged to give us intelligible and informative statements about reality. That is, metaphysics makes claims which have substantive content, but which are not fully dependent on or restricted to empirical experience (observation, sensation). (Always Ready, pp. 181-182)
Notice how 'always ready' Bahnsen is to identify those means by which his supernatural claims are not supported:
For that reason the means by which metaphysical [i.e., supernatural] claims are intellectually supported is not limited to natural observation and scientific experimentation. Herein lies the offense of metaphysics [i.e., supernaturalism] to the modern mind. Metaphysics [i.e., supernaturalism] presumes to tell us something about the objective world which we do not directly perceive in ordinary experience and which cannot be verified through the methods of natural science. (Always Ready, p. 182; italics added)
With the development of science, thanks to the rebirth of reason which effectively put religion in retreat, many thinkers are now more critical about what they accept as truth, just as people who want to take care of their bodies are more critical about what they put into their bodies. So when they encounter claims which are not backed up by evidence and/or contradict knowledge that has already been validated, they naturally (and rightly) reject them, whether or not they find them “offensive.” In fact, it is typically the religionist himself who is offended when his claims are not accepted on his say so. After all, he accepted these same or similar claims on someone else’s say so, so it is very frustrating for him to find others who are not as unquestioning and uncritical as he is. Even worse, if thinkers arm themselves with fundamental principles which are impervious to the religionist’s anti-rational attacks (such as the primacy of existence), the religionist often becomes so inflamed that he resorts to name-calling (and some will even try to justify this behavior).
So we are finding that Bahnsen is no different in this respect. He is quick to point out the kinds of methods which will not substantiate or verify his supernatural claims, but he nowhere identifies any methods which will substantiate or verify those claims. This is most unhelpful to his own case, and yet he wants to slander those who don't readily accept such claims on his say so.
Of course, antipathy to metaphysics [i.e., supernaturalism] is even more pronounced in the case of Christianity because its claims about the entire scheme of things include declarations about the existence and character of God, the origin and nature of the world, as well as the nature and destiny of man. Such teachings do not stem from direct, eyeball experience of the physical world, but transcend particular sensations and derive from divine revelation. They are not verified empirically in a point by point fashion. Scripture makes absolute pronouncements about the nature of the real world as a whole. Biblical doctrine presents truths which are not circumscribed or limited by personal experience and which are not qualified or relativized by an individual's own way of looking at things. Such authoritarian claims about such difficult and wide-ranging matters are offensive to the skeptical mood and religious prejudices of the present day. The modern age has a contrary spirit regarding philosophical (especially religious) claims which speak of anything super-natural, anything "beyond the physical," anything metaphysical. (Always Ready, p. 182)
by Dawson Bethrick