When it comes to presuppositional apologetics, many seem to think that it’s only effective for various forms of atheism. As I’ve demonstrated in my articles about the Koran and the Book of Mormon, this is simply false. The worldview of the Old and New Testaments provide the preconditions that make reasoning of any kind intelligible. Again, anyone who denies the God of Scripture becomes “vain in their reasonings.” (Rom 1:21)
But what specifically do we do with a religion such as Hinduism? As always, we “answer the fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Prov. 26:5)
The worldview of Hinduism is, in part, revealed in documents called the Upanishads. Before diving in, however, I need to make a point about worldviews and definitions. Cornelius Van Til points out somewhere (I think in “Introduction to Systematic Theology”) that, in principle, believers and unbelievers cannot really agree on the definition of a simple word like “is”. This is because, in the Christian scheme, “to be” means to be either Creator or creature, so there are two kinds of being. In nonChristian schemes, “to be” means to exist in a basically chance universe, so there is only one kind of being.
The same is true for the terms “immanence” and “transcendence”. In Christianity, “immanence” means that God’s nature is so clearly revealed in Creation that it is impossible for image bearers to be unaware at any moment of His existence. (Rom 1:20) “Transcendence” means that there is a complete separation between Creator and creature. (Gen. 1:1, Ps. 146:6)
In Hindu philosophy, these terms mean something quite different. “Immanence” means that Brahman, the supreme cosmic spirit, is identical with reality. “Transcendence” means that Brahman is completely unknowable. In other words, the Hindu concept of immanence contradicts the Christian concept of transcendence, and the Christian concept of immanence contradicts the Hindu concept of transcendence.
What difference does this make, apologetically speaking? Plenty. Let’s take a look at some of the passages in the Upanishads. Brahman is identified with the universe and Atman is basically the word for soul. “Brahman is all and Atman is Brahman.” (p. 83, Penguin classic edition) “Know the Atman as Lord of a chariot; and the body as the chariot itself. Know that reason is the charioteer; and the mind indeed is the reins.” (p. 60) But Brahman is also considered to be the creator. “Brahma was before the gods were, the Creator of all, the Guardian of the Universe.” (p. 75) Thus the Hindu concept of immanence: Brahman, or God, is identified with all of reality. “In truth Brahman is all.” (p. 79)
But other parts of the Upanishads indicate Brahman is completely unknowable. “There the eye goes not, nor words, nor mind. We know not, we cannot understand, how he can be explained: He is above the known and he is above the unknown… What cannot be spoken with words, but that whereby words are spoken: Know that alone to be Brahman, the Spirit; and not what people here adore.” (p. 51) And “This Atman… is immeasurable and beyond all thought… He cannot be seen by the eye, and words cannot reveal him.” (p. 80) If Brahman cannot be known by the “words, nor mind” then just what are the Upanishads? “Words cannot reveal him” and “Brahman is in eternity above ignorance and knowledge.” (p. 93) And since Brahman is identified with Atman, and Brahman is all of reality, then not one single truth can be known of reality in terms of Hindu philosophy, yet the text continually refers to the concept of truth!
This is confirmed by what the Upanishads say about “maya.” The introduction in the Penguin classic edition says the “maya” means “illusion” (p. 13) and then later on the Upanishads themselves say “Know therefore that nature is Maya…” (p. 92). All is illusion. Nothing can be known for sure. Quite the opposite of what the Bible teaches about God. His existence is so obvious that only a fool denies it! (Ps. 14:1) Not to mention that the Upanishads cannot make sense of morality. They appeal to moral absolutes (p. 81) while simultaneously denying their relevance (p. 80).
Hinduism is a truly impoverished philosophy. If Hinduism were true, then there is no truth, and thus Hinduism would have to be rejected. This is a clear example of Lewis’ vivid metaphor of one who argues against God’s existence (the God of Scripture, that is) cuts off the tree branch that he is sitting on.
You can get your own copy of the Upanishads at Amazon here. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0140441638/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Five questions I would like to ask Hindus
1. On what basis would you accept or reject Christianity?
2. Is rationality possible in Hinduism?
3. Is there a basis for science in Hinduism?
4. Does man need salvation?
5. Is Brahman knowable, without requiring complete omniscience?