Establishing the Boundaries of a Biblical Worldview

epistemology

If you want to know what’s wrong in the world today, it’s tempting to answer that with a single issue. In reality, there are many things that contribute to the state of the present world.

Not least of these, however, is critical thinking or, rather, the lack of it.

There are some who will make all kinds of excuses why logical thinking should be abandoned or denied. Some do it on the basis that this is “Greek” thinking and we should be “Hebrew” in our thinking, the implication being that “Hebrew” thinking somehow does not demand the same kind of logic. This view of Greek and Hebrew, however, has the wrong point in mind, for this is not the real distinction between Greek and Hebrew thought. It is the outcome of our logical thinking that illustrates our presuppositions, and these are either biblical or they are not.

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How does an atheist know when he is speaking the truth?

When an atheist confronts the Street-Preacher the discussion must eventually turn to the question of epistemology: how you know, and how you know that you know what you claim to know.

The initial problem the Street-Preacher will encounter with the atheist is either ignorance of the meaning of the word epistemology, or else he will meet an atheist who has been in philosophy classes and will most likely tell the preacher that a discussion on epistemology is a waste of time.

In order to move the discussion in the right direction, however, the Street-Preacher just needs to keep asking one question, “How do you know that?” And then wait for a reply.

If the Street-Preacher is fortunate enough to get a reply, he will rarely get an answer to this question. He will be given words that cannot be construed as a reply to the question. And that’s because the atheist doesn’t understand what is being asked.

It is important, then, to make sure the atheist understands and comprehends that the Street-Preacher is not asking what the atheist might know, but how he knows what he claims to know. For example, an atheist might reply that he knows that 1+1=2, and when asked how he knows it, he might reply that this is a ‘verifiable’ proposition. If that answer is given, however, the Street-Preacher needs to recognize that he has not been given an answer to his question. What he has been told is the process which is open to the atheist that the atheist alleges answers the question.

But as soon as the Street-Preacher asks yet again, “how do you know that ‘verifiable’ identifies how a person knows something,” you can see that the atheist’s answer does not address the how question at all. Often the atheist will come up with yet another response, and suggest he ‘knows’ because the issue is agreed to by 93% of current scientists. And so the atheist needs to be asked again, ‘how do you know that 93% of the scientists are correct?’ Or, ‘how do you that 93% is the cut-off point rather than 95% or even 99.9%?’

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In any discussion with an atheist, there will come a challenge to the believer to present “proof” for the existence of the ontological Trinity, the God of Scripture. Having already rejected revelation’s record that the universe itself is evidence for the biblical God, they confine themselves to “scientific proof”, the idea that the only valid proofs are those that come via the senses — empiricism.

The key issue between atheist and theist is the nature of evidence and the use of logic.  Included in such a discussion has to be the subject of “fallacy.”  What is a “fallacy”?  The key in any discussion, then, is to get to the question of “proof”. This is how one discussion transpired, after the question was asked by the atheist to provide a proposition and its evidence.  For him, there was no such thing as an absolute truth.

THEIST: There is absolute truth. Proof? This statement cannot be denied without accepting the proposition itself.

ATHEIST: Then give the proposition, then the proof. This is your word game, play it well!

T: I just gave the proposition and I gave the proof.

A: You failed to give the proof. Do not lie.

T: No, I gave the proof. You seem incapable of understanding the nature of proof.

A: I told you I needed proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I have a reasonable doubt that absolute truth exists, and therefore saying that I have to accept absolute truth to disprove absolute truth is circular reasoning. You have failed so far!

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When Knox met with Mary, a philosophical debate emerged that echoes the modern era

knox

The period: Sometime after August 19, 1561, A.D.
The Topic: What is Truth
The Battle: Epistemology. How can I know?
The Tools: Mind, Will, Conscience, and the Word of God.
The Debaters: Mary, Queen of Scotland, and John Knox

There had been a long build-up to the meeting of these two key historical figures. Queen Mary, whose reign as Queen of France only lasted a year (1559-1560), returned from France to take over the throne of Scotland. She had, with the encouragement of her cousins, the Guises, the intention to secure for the realm what was, in her opinion, the true faith. John Knox, on the other hand, had been busy encouraging the Protestant faith throughout Scotland. He had an open door from Edward VI, whose death at age 16 ended Knox’s free reign on Protestantism. With the throne vacant, and being next in line for the position, Mary’s return August 19, 1561, was bound to lead to a meeting between two stubborn protagonists. They locked horns on the subject of epistemology: How do you know what is true, and how do you know it is true.

In a series of point and counterpoint argument, Queen Mary is presenting her case and John Knox is responding. Her Highness had suggested that she was willing to defend her view of the Church of Rome for she thought it to be the true church of God. Knox responded to the challenge.

Facts … don’t change anyone’s view of the world or themselves.

Now Descartes was yet to be born, and Berkeley and Hume cast a long Empirical shadow that blocked the view all the way to Immanuel Kant, who would not appear for another 200 years. But here was an early presentation of the Cartesian solution to the philosophical problem of epistemology: What is truth, and how do you know what is true? As Descartes was to do half a century later, Mary figured that as a royal personage, a thinking lady of class, with education and means, she could and should be the arbiter of what is true about these matters. Cogito ergo sum was her motto. She omitted Descartes’ more humble Dubito ergo cogito; cogito ergo sum—I doubt, therefore I think; I think, therefore I am. The Queen was not the doubting type. She had no doubts about her opinion in these matters.

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Does the Unbeliever Have a Handle on Things?

According to the believer, all the facts of the universe are what they are because God made them that way. Thus, in the mind of God, all facts are related. The world of nature, thus, is therefore revelatory of God.

According to the unbeliever, the facts of the universe are what they by chance, and they are certainly not revelatory of any God. If the facts of universe are in any way related, they do so by sheer accident, not by design. But the scientists will apparently be able to discover the abstract facts of the universe and eventually tell us how they are related.

And just how will they do that? For if the universe is what they say it is, they cannot get off the ground in determining the nature of the very first fact and how it might be related to anything else. For unless they know one fact exhaustively, they can’t be sure they can move to the next fact to get a connection which they would also have to know exhaustively so that they are certain they have the right relationship defined.

But their dilemma is great. How can the unbeliever be certain that his mind and its alleged rationality is in fact rational? And how does he know that his perceptions of objects is in fact a real perception and not just something he has imagined? And how can he claim that the laws of logic, which according to him are themselves abstract ‘facts’, be shown to have any connection to the other facts of the universe?

It is thus only because the Bible is true on the nature of factuality—God created—that the unbelieving scientist makes any progress at all.  For if he follows his own principles, he won’t get very far.