Filling In Lessing’s Ditch

Lessing’s ditch is a term used to describe a view of Gotthold Lessing (1729 – 1781) which argues that there is a ‘ditch’ between history and eternal truths that cannot be crossed. As a result, revelation in history is not possible, for historical truth cannot be demonstrated. Furthermore, he drew a distinction between the accidental truths of history and the necessary truths of reason. This view “grew out of his conviction that rationalism could be the only universally acceptable mode of understanding the world,” and thus he was “convinced that the bible could not be trusted as a source of description of any truth, let alone the truth of God.”


Lessing outlined the concept of the religious “Proof of Power”: How can miracles continue to be used, Lessing asked, as a base for Christianity when we have no proof of miracles? Historical truths which are in doubt cannot be used to prove metaphysical truths (such as God’s existence).

1.) Lessing is denying that one can reach eternal truths. However, by affirming this Lessing has contradicted himself by reaching his necessary one eternal truth that allows him to insist that no one else can reach eternal truths.

2.) If there is a impassible ditch between history and eternal truths that cannot be crossed how does Lessing know that there are eternal truths that one might try to cross over to? Lessing’s statement presupposes the existence of something that he himself suggests can’t be known. If eternal truths can’t be known than it can’t be known that they might exist to know. What we can’t say we can’t say, and we can’t whistle it either.

3.) We do have the best of proof of miracles because God’s Word says that Miracles happened. There is no need for more proof. There can be no greater or better proof. Lessing, presupposes his own autonomous word as being legislative. By Lessing’s autonomous word God’s Word is ruled out a-priori. However, God’s Word is authoritatively self-attesting and so if God’s Word says it is Revelation and if God’s Word records Miracles then Miracles have all the proof they need to be accepted and Revelation in history is indeed, not only possible, but certain. There is no ditch.

4.) In order for Lessing’s ditch to be impassible one has to presuppose anti-Christianity in order to prove anti-Christianity. If one presupposes that God’s Word is not authoritative, and if one presupposes that God cannot speak in time and space history, then it is indeed the case that Lessing’s non-God God can’t cross over Lessing’s ditch. Lessing, by locking God out of His universe, proves that God is locked out of His universe. That is an analytic statement wrapped inside a tautology, and accomplished under the canvas of alleged neutrality.

5.) Scripture teaches that by Christ all things consist.

 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things are held together.

Scripture teaches that Christ as God’s creative and sustaining Word is the point of integration for all reality. If Scripture is accurate than no ditch can exist between history and eternal truths as both find their point of integration and existence in Christ. To suggest that their is a ditch between the accidental truths of history, and eternal truths that exist would be, by necessity, to deny both Scripture and the person of Christ as the point of integration of all reality.

6.) What can a “accidental truth of history” even mean if that accidental truth is cut off from eternal truth? Anything cut off from eternal truth can have no weight of truth about it unless one is using the word truth in a totally specious manner. Indeed, without eternal truths giving gravitas to accidental truths of history all those accidental truths are, in the words of Henry Ford, “just one damn thing after another,” which anyone can shape to their pleasing.

7.) Lessing’s ditch presupposes a God who is so transcendent He has lost contact with His creation. This kind of transcendence is not the transcendence of Biblical Christianity, instead it is the transcendence of Islam’s God, Allah. It is also the transcendence of neo-orthodoxy. Biblical Christianity posits a God whose immanence does not negate His transcendence. He is a God nearby by coming near to us in Christ. If God were transcendent the way Allah is or the way the God of Barthianism is Lessing would have a ditch he could not cross. However, the transcendence of Christianity allows for no ditches because of the doctrine of God’s immanence.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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