Friday, August 28, 2009

4th Principle of Knowledge

7th, defendingfaith, 09-26-08

The fourth principle of knowledge: the analogical use of language

Welcome back to our pursuit of Apologetics. There is in this journey, a basic aspect of necessary conditions for knowledge that we haven’t covered yet. Today we will discuss the Analogical use of language. You might think this is a most esoteric term to the lay person as it relates to knowledge and apologetics in our day. So today what is this issue all about. Remember that these studies came out of our inductive study of atheism. The classic arguments that the greatest minds have waged against Judeo-Christianity. And that there are certain elements of their thinking that were consistently present in the critics, which were the denial of one or more of these four principles of knowledge.

Now we come to the last of the four, the aspect of language.

In the 20th century in the contemporary philosophy of this period we saw a shift to a concern with human language. And in the midst of this shift came a controversy that is know as the God-talk Controversy. You may not be familiar with this but what came out of this is was a movement in theology called “Theothanatology “ or the “death of God movement.” All sorts of philosophers and theologians were announcing this death declaration. What was behind this concept was a crisis in the philosophy of language. It had it’s roots, first of all, with a group in Great Britain which was called Logical Positivism. In this movement one of the central theses was the central principle of the law of verification. Well, we all know how to verify something. But this word comes from the word “truth” and it means to authenticate and show that something is true. If I make a claim and I don’t back it up my claim is not verifiable. If I can prove the claim then I have verified it.

This principle stated that only those statements are deemed to be true and can be verified must be done so -- empirically. Or, only statements that can be verified are empirically true statements. Now to show that something is true on can use sense perception to show it is true. So for example, if I say there is gold in Alaska the only way I can prove that this is true is to go to Alaska and find some gold. Then I can demonstrate that it is empirically true. The five senses determine that it so.

This had a tremendous influence on these communities of thinkers. Until somebody said, with what should have been obvious from the out set, that the law of verification, itself, can not be verified empirically. It is simply a gratuitous premise. And with that this school of thought somewhat retreated. But not completely, for in spite of that stumbling block, the guns of ‘verification’ and their criticisms were to take aim on historic theism. With their emphasis to the respect, in their minds, to language about God.

analogy of gold in Alaska

Critics were saying that statements about God cannot be proven in anyway scientifically. Because no one can see or touch God. You can’t subject God to a test either in the laboratory or other analysis. The idea of God remains unprovable, unverifiable, but also un falsifiable. (As an aside; a lot of Christians use this technique also to not have to reckon with logical thinking) Many Christians take comfort in the idea that things that they say they believe cannot be proven false. But something that cannot be proven false does not mean that it is true. For example, if I tell you I believe in ghosts and someone asks me if you have seen some and I say of course. Do we have any scientific evidence for ghosts? You might say no but there is a reason for that, ghosts don’t like scientists. Any time that scientists come around with measuring devices to detect the premise of ghosts the ghosts leave because it is apart of their ghostly nature to flee from scientists. Therefore scientists have never been able to verify them. That somebody deposit’s a believe like this can neither prove or disprove the truth of his premise. But neither can anybody prove him wrong. The impossibility of falsifying his statement is built into the premise. That is what you would call cheating in the theoretical realm of thought. In this vocation it is harder to falsify a statement than to verify one. Let’s revisit our analogy of gold in Alaska. We have stated how we can prove there is gold there. But what if he says there is no gold up there. How would you falsify that claim? Go up there and look around a while? Does that prove that the statement is false? But what does it take to prove the false case; that you must search all of the territory and at every depth. And if you excavated the whole area and said there was no gold, therefore, we (the scientists) falsified the statement that there is gold in Alaska. But they will say you missed a grain in Denali. Go search again you haven’t proven you case. Anyway, it is much harder to falsify than to verify.

However with logic it is an other matter

So this is what they say; since there is no physical prove for God’s existence and following basic rules of verification statements about God are at best emotive. That is, language about God is emotive. When I say I believe in God I am not saying anything meaningful about what exists outside of me all I’m doing is telling you something about me. That I believe and have emotion or passion bound up with the idea that God exists.

There was a discussion Sproul had with a student some years ago who asked him if he believed in God. Sproul said yes and the student went on to say do you pray and sing and read about God? The answer was yes. And all these things are meaningful? Yes Sproul said. The student’s conclusion was that for Sproul, God exists. But I don’t believe in God. And find nothing meaningful about the existence of a God. So for me God does not exist. Sproul says then, this is relativism with a vengeance. He says, to the student we are not talking about the same thing. When I assert the existence of God I am asserting the existence of a being that is apart from me. Outside of me and not apart of my subjectivity and emotional makeup. All my singing and praying and attending does not have the ‘power’ to create him. If it did, I’m simply diluted and wrong. But if the God I’m talking about does exist all of your unbelief and disinterest in him does not have the ‘power’ to annihilate him.

an extremely skeptical approach to the idea of God

Let’s keep this in view. When we talk about God we are talking about the objective existence of God and not my subjective feeling about him. This movement reduced ‘talk of God’ to human emotions. Therefore they claim, statements about God say nothing meaningful about objective reality outside of the people who are making the claims. Now that is an extremely skeptical approach to the idea of God. You have to ask what is behind that. Well, one of the main things behind it was the struggle in the 19th and 20th century to redefine what religion was. With movements having a massive impact in trying to change historic Christianity. In naturalistic terms. Remember, the single most important affirmation of the Enlightenment of the 18th century was, the very key to the Enlightenment, that the God-hypothesis (the idea of God) is no longer necessary to explain the presence and the origin of the universe or the origin of human life. Before the Enlightenment most secular people were very impressed with the classical arguments for the existence of God and as a necessary postulate to explain the universe and human life. The Enlightenment produced a believable alternative for creation and made an impact on western culture and thinking to this day. Not everyone certainly agreed with all these new principles but the emphasis was that they no longer needed to affirm the existence of God. The second key was, science makes known that life and the universe came and come about through a process called ‘spontaneous generation.’ That became the scientifically acceptable alternative to creation. The claim that things just pop into existence on their own. (later in this course we will take a close look at this concept.) But, here, I’m trying to explain how and where this crisis of language came from. The 18th century, following on the heels of this original criticism, sought to accommodate this criticism by reconstructing Christianity in naturalistic terms. Then 19th century liberalism rejected anything supernatural in historic Christianity. They used revision tactics to state that the old testament was written not before an event but after and as an after action report. No real supernatural events just editorial comment. All aspects of intervention were rejected as mythological accretions into the historic documents. The emphasis, then, as it matriculated into society, became for Christianity just the platitudes of love of others and a sociological agenda of humanitarianism. All this taking place on the natural sphere with no need to have a vertical need for believe in a creator. This was the concept of a naturalized religion. This was then married to the philosophy of the 19th century to the rising establishment of evolution or what is called immenetistic. The theology, then, that came to prevail was pantheistic. God is not something that is beyond and distinct from the universe but, if God exists, he exists as a part of this universe. We understand pantheism in it’s simplest form to mean: everything is God, God is all and all is God.

If everything is God and all is God, then, the word God does not refer to anything in particular

Now think of that statement linguistically. If everything is God and all is God, then, the word God does not refer to anything particular. If it refers to everything in general it refers to nothing in particular. The word has no particular significance. This concept of immanence brought a crisis of language. Whether you could speak meaningfully about God at all. This provoked a crisis in theology and philosophy in the 20th century against liberalism and there was an attempt to reconstruct the ascendance of God. A sense in which God is above and beyond the universe and the stream of history. This renewed emphasis of trying to redeem Christianity from liberalism and restore the supernatural. Now when one attempts to correct the errors of your predecessor you can make the pendulum swing too far in the other direction and to an over correction. This is what happened when they came up with the notion of ‘Wholly Other.’ God is so different from the universe we must flee from identifying God at all with the universe, as pantheism does. He exists totally away from nature. God is completely different from the human.

Now as well meaning as this may seem, it paved the way for an even worse crisis of how one uses language about God. So in our next session we will see how this came to pass.

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