The Revisionists' Tooshies
Rev. Steve M. Schlissel
If there was one truth Dr. Cornelius Van Til pounded
home, it was this: there are no "brute" facts, i.e.,
there are no uninterpreted facts. None. Fallen man is not a pure
receptor of neutral data. How man interprets the "facts"
is determined by his presuppositions, the biases and inclinations
he brings to the knowledge enterprise.
Presuppositions may be likened to various things.
Presuppositions can function like preferences or tastes, as when
you approach a buffet. As you scan the buffet table, without even
thinking, you reflexively eliminate that which is distasteful
to you. You don't even register, say, the pickled carrots. You
move on to consider with your eyes only that which your appetite
tells you is in the running, and you choose from that. Your preferences
and tastes have functioned as a filter, as a presupposition.
Presuppositions may also be compared to your teeth:
potential nourishment, like potential information, must first
pass through the grinding process to be made suitable for consumption.
Moving along the same track, presuppositions may
be compared to your digestive system, performing nearly miraculous
functions: detecting, sorting, cataloging all sight unseen, while
you just go about your business.
It might even be said that a presupposition is
best compared to your tuchas. Yes, your tooshie, like a
presupposition, is always with you; it is behind and under everything
you do. Yet you do your lifelong best to keep it hidden and protected.
Moreover, you'll go so far as to make it utterly taboo to speak
about in polite company! We all know they are there, but we neither
expose them nor discuss them.
Well, we have to talk about them presuppositions,
that is, not tooshies. For all propositions are offered in terms
of one's governing presuppositions, and propositions accepted
as true are accepted because they are in accord with the same.
We will adjust heaven and earth to make something comport with
that which we will not give up. All data will be interpreted by
us in a way which serves and protects our fundamental, our core,
beliefs, our non-negotiable faith.
Naturally, Dr. Van Til explained how this dynamic is very much
operative in the sphere of religious conviction. Following God's
own testimony in Romans 1, Van Til reminded his readers that unbelief
in God was never for want of evidence. It was for want of faith.
As the Scripture says, "The wrath of God is being revealed
from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men
who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what
may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made
it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible
qualities, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly
seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are
Men (and here Paul is referring to Gentiles, who
until this time, had largely operated without benefit of God's
special revelation -- "the oracles of God," entrusted
to Israel) know God's testimony concerning Himself. They
know it, it is clear. They just don't like it. Therefore,
they suppress it. For to acknowledge God would cut away, at the
knees, their claim to autonomy and lead to the acknowledgment
that they owe God, He doesn't owe them.
"For although they knew God, they neither
glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking
became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened...They exchanged
the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created
things rather than the Creator -- who is forever praised. Amen."
The NIV well expresses man's contempt for God and His clear revelation,
at Romans 1:28: "they did not think it worthwhile to retain
the knowledge of God..." They suppressed God's self-disclosure
like passing by pickled carrots -- neither held any interest for
them, being out of synch with their tastes, their presuppositions.
The idea taught in Romans 1 and emphasized in
the writings of Dr. Van Til is that knowledge is not a one-dimensional,
flat affair. It is inescapably an ethical endeavor. Man is never
"neutral" in epistemology. Thus, it is proper to say
of unredeemed man that he knows God, yet, because of his reflexive
suppression of that knowledge (suppressed because it is
contrary to his fundamental presupposition of autonomy), he at
the same time does not know God. The unbeliever, therefore,
is not morally neutral in his unbelief. Rather, he is culpably
An illustration, often employed by Greg Bahnsen
to illustrate how presuppositions govern interpretation, tells
of the man who insisted he was dead. When he visited a psychiatrist,
the doctor tried all he could to persuade him of the falsity of
the man's proposition, to no avail. Finally he said, "Listen,
I know how to prove this to you. Dead men don't bleed. Let's prick
your finger and see if you bleed." The man readily
agreed. As the blood trickled from the patient's finger, the doctor
triumphantly said, "See! You are bleeding! Now what does
that tell you?" "It tells me," answered the patient,
"that dead men do bleed, after all."
Now this rather lengthy introduction has been
included because presuppositionalism provides us with a way to
explain the otherwise inexplicable, viz., the most disturbing,
modern instance of historical revisionism: holocaust revisionism.
Holocaust revisionism claims, variously, that
the Holocaust never happened, or that it has been greatly overstated,
or that it wasn't peculiarly a war against the Jews, or that their
"benevolent and gracious" Fuehrer knew nothing about
whatever atrocities there may have been. These, if they
happened, were perpetrated by a small handful of renegade German
officials who did not act out the mind of their Leader. Uh-huh.
It has been asserted, with good warrant, that
no crime in history has been as well documented as the Holocaust.
The war against the Jews, from 1933 to 1945, is attested by film
(both moving and still), thousands of documents, and innumerable
eyewitness accounts, proffered by both perpetrators and victims.
This notwithstanding, the end of the war saw the
almost immediate appearance of Holocaust deniers and revisionists,
particularly in France. Only a few crackpots gave any ear to these.
In the last 20 years or so, with a radical decline in the ability
of Americans to exercise critical thinking, the pseudo-history
of revisionists has captured an increasing number of obviously
When the Jewish scholar, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt,3
saw in the early 90s that Holocaust revision was becoming a veritable
trend, she wrote a book: Denying the Holocaust: The Growing
Assault on Truth and Memory. One of the "scholars"
exposed by her as incompetent was David Irving, a revisionist
author who had built a reputation among some as a historian of
merit. Mr. Irving decided to sue Dr. Lipstadt for libel. The charges
were filed in 1996 in England (her book had been published there
in 1994), because in England the burden of proof in libel cases
is on the defendant.
The case ended in April 2000, with a crushing
defeat for Mr. Irving. The British court found for the defendant,
Dr. Lipstadt. It found that Mr. Irving was, in fact, a very lousy
"historian." Aside from having no college degree at
all let alone an advanced degree in history Mr. Irving was found
by the court to have deliberately ignored facts which were contrary
to what he wished to find, misrepresented facts which did not
comport with his predetermined ends, and suppressed documents
which suggested that his thesis was false. One could hardly ask
for a starker restatement of Romans 1 applied to Holocaust denial:
deliberately ignoring what is right in front of you, misrepresenting
what you can't ignore, suppressing what you don't like. The mind
of fallen man is facile at self-deception!
Well, of course, in a fallen world, what's a fact
for one is a fiction for another. Holocaust revisionism is but
one example of the epistemological morass which is overtaking
Western Civilization in its apostasy. Giving up God means being
given over to futility. As St. Paul said, "For although they
knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to
him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts
were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools."
It is not the purpose of this article to review
the evidence proving the Holocaust, nor the preposterous propositions
of the revisionists who deny or mitigate it. This can be done
by a perusal of a few Internet sites, and by following the links
contained therein.4 In the case of Mel Mermelstein
which became well-known when Leonard Nimoy made it into the movie,
Never Forget! California Superior Court Judge Thomas T.
Johnson took "judicial notice" of the Holocaust, ruling
that "The Holocaust is not reasonably subject to dispute.
It is capable of immediate and accurate determination by resort
to resources of reasonable indisputable accuracy. It is simply
Rather, it is our concern merely to point out
that we have in this instance yet another proof of the Van Tilian
notion that knowledge is anything but a neutral operation. People
believe, not necessarily what is true but, what they want
to believe. The fact that not a single scholar of note can
be found who endorses or supports their absurd theories is regarded
as indisputable proof of their theories! In an epistemological
universe governed, as ours is, by presuppositions, all "facts"
are incorporated to align with our presuppositions.
Why didn't the defendants at Nuremberg, instead
of claiming that they were "just following orders,"
plead that there was no Holocaust at all? Because, the revisionists
say, they knew they were being railroaded and were trying just
to "cop a plea." How do we account for the numbers tattooed
on the arms of survivors? Mr. Irving says they did it themselves
to make money off their allegations. What about the memories of
survivors? Mere fantasies. What about the footage caught on film?
Rare instances of atrocities performed by underlings, without
the Fuehrer's knowledge or approval.
In 1988, one Fred Leuchter of Massachusetts, who
passed himself as an engineer, was contracted to prepare a report
supposedly proving that the ovens at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek
could not have been "utilized or seriously considered to
function as execution gas chambers." It was hoped that Mr.
Leuchter's report would well serve the defense of neo-Nazis on
trial at the time in Canada.5 As it turned out, Mr.
Leuchter was discovered not to be an engineer at all, and his
methodology was labeled by the court as "preposterous."
He was later indicted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for
his imposture in misrepresenting himself as an engineer. Leuchter
was later arrested in Germany in 1993 for "inciting racial
hatred," left Germany on bail, and now has a warrant outstanding
for his arrest.
The point of all this is simple: when the facts
do not support a person's "deeply and sincerely held presuppositions,"
then facts suffer torture, not being admitted as they are found,
or not being admitted at all. The truth is that Holocaust deniers
are motivated, not by a love of truth but by something operating
on a different, a deeper level. There are generally one or more
of three prime motives pushing deniers on: 1) A passionate desire
to recover respectability for National Socialism (Nazism) as an
acceptable political alternative. 2) Anti-Zionism. Operating from
the conviction that Israel exists only because of post-Holocaust
sympathies, and determined to annihilate Israel as a political
entity, some see Holocaust revision as a necessary precondition
to changing the hearts and minds of Israeli-sympathizers. 3) Plain,
pure, vitriolic anti-Semitism.
These are the "tooshies" of Holocaust
revisionists which need to be exposed. Without seeing what's "behind"
their arguments, their efforts to revise history remain completely
inexplicable. Once their tooshies are exposed, however, their
true character shines like a moon.
1. Dr. Greg Bahnsen devoted much effort
to justifying, from a philosophical perspective, the Van Tilian
notion of self-deception. In fact, it was the subject of his Ph.D.
work at USC.
2. My profound thanks to Prof. John Drobnicki, librarian
of York College of the City University of New York, for his gracious
and invaluable assistance. He is familiar with the literature
of the deniers and the literature of the truth. According to Mr.
Drobnicki, among the notorious revisionists are: Austin App, Ph.D.
from Catholic Univ. of America (1929). He was active in several
German-American groups. App is the author of The Six Million
Swindle (1973) and A Straight Look at the Third Reich
(1974). Aside from the revisionist writings that appeared immediately
after the War (by Paul Rassinier, Maurice Bardeche, etc.), one
of the first denier books that caused a stir was: Did Six Million
Really Die? by Richard Harwood (1974). "Harwood"
was the pseudonym of Richard Verrall, a prominent leader in British
fascist/right-wing circles. The most famous work of denial is
The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, by Arthur R.
Butz (cf. title of this article), a professor of electrical engineering
at Northwestern. "To the untrained eye," says Prof.
Drobnicki, "Butz's book gives the impression of scholarship,
since it contains footnotes and he utilized many primary documents.
Many of the deniers who came after him base their work on Butz
and quote heavily from him." It has been said that Mr. Butz
does not teach his revisionist theories in the classroom, lest
his tenure be threatened.
3. M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University, Dr. Lipstadt
taught at UCLA and is currently Professor of Modern Jewish and
Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta.
4. Start with http://www.nizkor.org
, and http://www.holocaust-history.org
. See also http://www.skeptic.com/02.4.miele-holocaust.html
. There is, not surprisingly, a great deal of revisionist propaganda
on the web. Links from the sites mentioned above will lead you
5. I met my first revisionist in Canada in 1989 while
on a speaking tour of many cities in Alberta. I was puzzled when
his wife had warned me of her husband's "peculiar views,"
and that I should not take great offense. "What could
she be talking about?" I wondered. I soon found out.
It was not long afterward that I discovered him to be one of many
revisionists who seem to gravitate toward or grow in western North
Rev. Steve Schlissel has been pastor of Messiah's
Congregation in Brooklyn, NY since 1979. He serves as the Overseer of Urban Nations (a
mission to the world in a single city), and is the Director of Meantime Ministries (an
outreach to women who were sexually abused as children). Steve lives with his wife of 24
years, Jeanne, and their five children. He can be reached at