Epistemology

The Primacy of Revelation, Part 2

Read Part 1.

The Importance of a Prolegomena, and the Importance of Having a Christian Philosophy

There are all kinds of philosophies which the Christian should avoid. The Apostle warns,

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)

The reference here is probably generic, referring to the various ideas floating around in Asia Minor in the day: eclecticism, syncretism, idolatry, superstition, and neo-platonic moralism. In the midst of it all there was and is a true Christian philosophy. In fact, anyone who is a lover of real sophia (wisdom), is going to love the philosophy of Jesus Christ, the Logos of God, the one who discloses God par excellence. Mature Christians become such, in part, by thinking biblically.

In one of his earlier books Francis Schaeffer made this pertinent remark about the reticence of Christians to think with their theology:

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The Interconnectedness of Philosophy, Theology, & Worldview

A worldview is the perspective through which one views the world. By definition, a biblical worldview is derived exegetically from the pages of the Bible. Philosophy and theology have long been perceived as rivals in worldview, but if we define those terms lexically and through a Scriptural lens, then we find no friction between the two disciplines. In fact, the two are complementary.

Philosophy as a discipline is recognized as “the systematic and critical study of fundamental questions that arise both in everyday life and through the practice of other disciplines.”* Philosophy the discipline is often confused with philosophy as a worldview. The discipline is informed by the worldview (or the perspective by which the philosopher is viewing philosophy), but the discipline is distinct from worldview.

For example, many of the early Greek philosophers set out to find answers to life’s great questions using only naturalistic evidences. To their credit, they were in part motivated by a desire to move away from superstition and unwarranted belief in a pantheon that was hardly explanatory. The naturalistic worldview of these thinkers shaped much of what we understand as philosophical inquiry, but it is important to note that it was their worldview that was naturalistic, not the discipline of philosophy itself.

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Epistemological Foundations for a Biblical Theology, Part 3

(The series so far.)

Four Pillars

Some years ago I published a paper, entitled “Presuppositional Dispensationalism,”1 in which I attempted to summarize the biblical epistemological model with the illustration of four pillars.

Pillar #1 is the existence of the biblical God. As the first principal, the God of the Bible exists, and not merely as one god among many, but as the One who has disclosed Himself in such a way that His exclusivity is unavoidable. Further, He is characterized above all else by holiness (Isa. 6:3, Rev 4:8), and all that He does is to be understood through that lens. The recognition of this first principle does not advocate faith as the sole or final source of understanding truth;2 rather it is an invitation to step into the biblical perspective, to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psa. 34:8).

Pillar #2 is the principle that God has divinely and authoritatively disclosed Himself for the purpose of His own glorification, through general revelation (creation, Rom. 1:18-20), special revelation (the Bible, 2 Tim 3:16-17), and personal revelation (Jesus Christ, John 1:1-18).

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Epistemological Foundations for a Biblical Theology, Part 2

Read the series so far.

A biblical epistemology

The first epistemological statement in the Bible is actually made by the serpent in the Garden: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). Satan prescribes knowledge through contradicting God’s design for knowledge. The fact that Satan chose epistemology as an early battleground underscores the strategic significance of epistemology in God’s design.

In this context Satan challenges Eve to consider a different starting point than God had prescribed, and if she does, Satan promises, Eve will have a better outcome—that her knowledge will be more complete, even to the point of making her godlike. While the actions Satan prescribed did result in particular knowledge (Gen 3:22), it was a distortion of God’s design for knowledge and resulted in tragedy and not blessing. These events invite the reader to inquire as to God’s ideal for human knowledge, and the answer is provided especially in the writings of Solomon, to whom it was granted to be exceedingly wise (1 Kings 3:12).

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Epistemological Foundations for a Biblical Theology, Part 1

Epistemology is the study of knowledge. It attempts to answer questions regarding the origin of human knowledge, and considers especially how we can know with certainty. Epistemological answers are basic and necessary building blocks of any philosophy, worldview, or belief system. In fact, of the four major components of philosophy and worldview (epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and socio-political thought), none can be adequately addressed until we answer the question of how we can know.

Regarding metaphysics, for example, we can’t make legitimate assertions about the character of God or the existence of the human soul until we first address how such assertions can be verified or falsified. Further, unless we have a means for validating ethical prescriptions as either worthy or unworthy, we have no warrant for choosing one prescription over another—especially when we encounter apparently competing or conflicting goods. And if we have no mechanism for authentication, then how can we even arrive at a definition of what is good in the first place? Finally, in socio-political thought, on what basis can we choose one system of government over another, or how can we determine whether a law is commendable? Without correct epistemological answers, there is no basis for our understanding or choosing one thing over another. In short, epistemology is really about authority, verifiability, truth, and certainty.

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Faith and Reason in Christian Perspective: Revelation and Reason

Read the series so far.

Having brought into the discussion the necessity of divine revelation as the presupposition of faith, we are faced with the question of how reason relates to this revelation. My answer to this question will have to be provisional for now. I hope to post separately on this subject in the future.

If faith truly appropriates the truth about God then it is clear that it can have no proper function apart from divine revelation. As “faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1), it responds to matters above the reach of the inductive sciences (1 Cor. 2:10, etc). Hence, from a Christian point of view, it is essential for man to have proper faith if he is to know his creational environment fully.

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Connected Truth: Abiding with Eternal Fact

tunnelRead Part 1 and Part 2.

In The Great Divorce a repentant liberal tells a stuffy and impenitent bishop that if he will rethink his pretensions about religion, he will take him to meet “Eternal Fact, the Father of all other facts.” The cleric disdainfully turns down the offer, preferring to remain under the delusion that “God” and “fact” do not dwell on the same plane of objectivity. It is a strange deception indeed which constructs a grand array of “facts” and suspends them over a bottomless chasm, but that is what sinners do with facts. They encounter them; they label and categorize them; but they attempt to ground them in the ether of a wholly impracticable worldview.

That is how I was before I met “Eternal Fact.” My dealings with Truth were occasional and, from my point of view, impersonal. And it was this impersonal view of Truth which gnawed away at me; for impersonal conceptions of Truth eventually depersonalize everything—even the viewer. They may seem impressive to our eyes for a while, but just as an attempt at landscape painting may please us until we set it alongside a Constable or a Monet, so truth without “the Spirit of Truth” gradually begins to look like a paltry thing. Truth (capital “T”); the kind that “shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32), springs forth from the “I AM” (Jn. 8:58).

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Connected Truth: The Claims of Truth

tunnelRead Part 1.

The Lord Jesus Christ not only brought with Him grace and truth (Jn. 1:14), but He was that Truth. His presence on our planet brought light to shine upon the darkness all around. Coming to Jesus is always a coming out of darkness into light. The light is His light just as the Truth is His Truth. By this I mean to say that there is no distinction between Him and what He brings. Since Jesus is the Truth just as much as He is the Word (Jn. 1:1-2) He must bring Truth.

It is not enough to say that He personifies truth. We must insist that truth cannot exist on its own independently of Jesus, His Father and the Spirit of Truth. Truth exists because God exists, If God did not exist truth would not exist, The idea of truth “out there”—truth to be agreed with as an impersonal standard, is impossible. Although it is seen that way within non-biblical worldviews, truth does not and cannot be attained without contact with the personal God—who is Truth.

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