Friday, August 28, 2009

4 Steps Backward

3rd, 09

Four steps backwards

We are here today and thru this series to learn and to be able to give intellectual truth claims of and about Christ and Christianity.

science of epistemology

One of the first things we have to grapple with is our strategy of developing an intellectual defense. This will come thru the science of epistemology. And because you may not be familiar with this concept let’s take a few minutes to explain what it is and why it important to the science of apologetics.

It is a subdivision of philosophy that focus’s its attention on how do we know what we know. How can we either verify or falsify claims to truth. And in life we use this all time. You will say something and one will come back with “how do you know this to be so.” So you give a reason back and forth and so on. You want to substantiate your claim with some sort of basis of knowledge. We could split this into two groups:

1. So your first group will be those who put their accent on their senses. An example might be the person who claims there is no God because if God can’t be touched or seen and such, then it can’t be known. It must, they say, come thru the 5 senses.
2. The second group will put the accent on the mind and the process of formal reason. Like the Missourian who say prove it to me.

So when we come to the idea of truth, what are the elements that are necessary for us to know that anything is true. Now, there have been different approaches to epistemology and especially as it relates to apologetics.

1. The first are those who find the only method to be rooted and grounded in how it relates to the historical record and information that is known thru the 5 senses.
2. The next says , no-no-no, the only way to know is thru logical deduction.
3. Then there are those who think you have to presuppose or assume it from the first step or outset.

So there are in house differences that one will have to deal with in order to be able to establish a sound defense.

Okay, now Sproul is going to come at this slightly backward in two senses. So he gives an example of a class he gave at Temple University in which he lectured on Historic Atheism. An he gave an academic requirement that each student read the primary sources from the most formidable from western theoretical thought. People like John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, John Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Albert Kaufman and others. As we examined these prodigious authors, who were atheists, and their writings we found and paid close attention to the way in which these opponents of theism established there negative case. And looking at this from the back door they noticed a pattern emerging.

The pattern was that all these men in their arguments against theism attacked one or more of 4 basic epistemological premises.

Let’s explain or at least itemize what they are: The four foundational premises that were attacked by these atheists were:

1. The law of non-contradiction: In order to destroy the case for God some philosophers argue against the very foundational laws of reason themselves. This being the preeminent one.
2. The law of causality: You know what this is basically--cause and effect.
3. Basic reliability of sense perception: How are human senses working and what happens with them. The basic trust in the basic reliability of the senses. Not the perfect reliability.
4. Analogical use of language:

So quickly there you have them. Sproul will answer them in much more depth later. But by the back door you should understand that these esteemed atheists, these opponents directly of Christianity, of the last 150 years tried to dismantle it by negotiating one or more of these 4 principles of knowledge to their favor.

Never negotiate these 4 away

So let’s be careful, you who are reading this, that you develop a careful understanding of these 4 by never, yes, never, negotiating them away. For if you do you will be giving ground that may be fatal to your case to the non-believer and for God himself. For there are Christian apologetic systems out there today that do surrender one or more of these 4. Which Sproul thinks is a serious enterprise to be involved in and a flawed error.

This is the first back door method. One of induction and the process of seeing what the atheist saw as important to their case. How do they proceed and what their assumptions are in the development of their arguments. To see if those assumptions are sound.

The 2nd is to look and see what epistemological premises are assumed and used regularly by sacred scripture. Because it is scripture that is our final authority as Christians. The bible is concerned about ultimate truth is not a technical book on epistemology. The bible does not give us a philosophical analysis on how rationality relates to sense perception or how sense perception relates to the anagogic use of language. But as we proceed and how scripture develops we will see, therein, certain assumptions, or what Sproul is going to call here, pre-suppositions. Prior assumptions that the bible makes in communicating its content to whomever hears or reads it. These assumptions or suppositions are what come from God himself. So I assume they are built into to the creature as God has made that creature. As a thinking creature, as a sensing creature as a communicating creature and so on.

In the bible there is a tacit assumption of the validity of the law of non-contradiction. For it is assumed that the truth is not contradictory.
There is a discernible difference between obedience and the opposite. If God tells us to do A then we are not to disobey by doing non-A. We are not permitted to behave in a manner that contradicts what God commands. So, in the primary sense, we are to operate within the framework of this law of non-contradiction. Without this law, not one sentence in the bible would be intelligible. (He says more later, this time is just a reconnaissance mission. Were just going over the broad landscape.)

Is the law of causality assumed in the bible?

Every time an appeal is made in the bible to the evidential value of a miracle there is the assumption of the reliability of the law of causality. An example would be when Jesus spoke to those and said, “If you won’t believe me for my words then believe me for my works.” A divine cause for the supernatural results that came. For without this law being valid then the resurrection and all other things would be invalid. This is vital to apologetics.

Can we be deceived with our senses?

Sure. Augustine used a famous example to show the limits of reliability of sense perception. Which was the “bent oar” analogy. Where in a boat you put your oar in the water and in the light of day it appears to have been bent at the water line. Well we know it is, today, because light refracts but with just your senses at your disposal you would think it was physically altered. It appears that we can be deceived by apparent reality. This just proves that there are limits to our senses being trusted. But it doesn’t mean that our senses are altogether unreliable. For physical science rests on our ability to observe, test and examine conclusions.

Lastly, Analogies or similarities about God are not to be taken seriously because it can’t describe meaningfully or adequately about a transcendent entity.

This is where much of the discussion against Christianity in 20th century philosophy. Stating that religious statements don’t tell us anything about external reality they just tell us about ourselves. They just show us in emotive statements. Our emotions and religious feelings. But they have no counter part in objective reality. Because human language is inherently incapable of rising above the realm of humanity to speak about the meaning of a uncreated being.

So if Christianity is going to survive these attacks that come as the basis of language not being able to convey truth we have to construct some basis of ANALOGY as to how God is like us. In order for there to be meaningful discourse about him. An example of this type of analogy would be in the 1st book of the bible where it is said and asserted that God created man in His image. ….. And in his likeness. There is an analogy between the Creator and the creature. This, then, makes discussion about Him possible.

Next time and in subsequent episodes we will look at each of these 4 individually and see how each is important to the science of epistemology and the defense of truth.

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