This is my part of an interaction I had with an atheist. They claimed over and over that my claims of revelational epistemology were nonsense. I hope you find encouragement in reading through my comments and that they help you more faithfully share the gospel.
Revelational epistemology is a valid field of philosophy. Philosophers such as Val Til, Bahnsen, White, and Lisle did or are teaching this branch of Christian thinking. So, my statement is not nonsensical…in fact, it is the reason we can actually determine ideas to have rational value in the 1st place.
God revealed Himself in creation. Even Dawkins recognizes this fact even though the idea of design by God is abhorrent to him. Dawkins conjured up the contradictory idea of “bottom up design” in an attempt to explain the clear design of the universe out of philosophical convictions…not scientific ones
God revealed Himself in the Bible. The Bible claims to be the Word of God, & it records many prophecies that, once fulfilled, have verified its authenticity. The Bible also records historical events that forensic scientists have over and over corroborated the truthfulness of the recordings.
God revealed Himself in Jesus. Jesus claimed to be God during his earthly ministry. His claims make him either a liar, a lunatic, or the LORD of glory. Which do you think Him to be? His appearance, life, and resurrection both fulfilled numerous old testament prophecies and verified his claims of divinity. Recognizing these facts and repenting of one’s rebellion against the Creator brings forgiveness and abundant life.
Now, to get to the consistency of one’s WV. For Christians, all of these elements are both internally and externally consistent:
matter – God is outside of time/space and brought all of the cosmos into existence (John 1). Because of the curse of sin, we would expect to see decay, suffering, and death in anticipation of God’s ultimate victory (Isaiah 11)
truth – God claims to be source of truth (John 14:6, Prov 26:5)
laws of logic/reason – Laws of logic are unchanging, abstract, and universal. God provides a foundation for LoL because He is immutable and transcendent
Unchanging physical laws, uniformity of nature, induction – Like laws of logic, these laws are abstract and unchanging…like God
morality/human value – Mankind is created in God’s image so has great value (Gen 1:27, Matt 22:37-40)
Generally reliable senses – Although perverted by the curse of sin, senses still function to glorify God, so Christians would expect them to be generally reliable
Human consciousness – God breathed life into humanity (Gen 1:27)
Human ability to comprehend matter, truth, physical laws, morality – It is expected that humans be able to comprehend the things of the universe and abstractions because by doing this, humans bring glory to God.
You can dislike this line of argumentation, but it is illogical & irrational to claim that my WV lacks internal coherence. It is also externally consistent because it solves the problem of induction, provides a truth anchor and has verification through the Bible and Jesus.
“IF you say something like “X Y and Z are true, therefore I believe that God has revealed himself, ergo these other things are true”, then perhaps a conversation could be had”
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the fundamentals. Since God is my ultimate authority, there is no HIGHER authority by which to compare his revelations. He is my epistemological foundation. But it is because He provides this foundation that we can evaluate things using logic, science, evidence to determine things to correspond to rationality or not.
You very much want the ambiguous term “evidence” to be your epistemological foundation except that to evaluate evidence, you have to justify laws of logic, truth, and morality for the evaluation to make sense. Besides, everyone interprets evidence according to their worldview. So, evidence makes a poor epistemological foundation.
I’ve struggled with how to communicate the inherent contradictions of worldviews that do not start with the unchanging, unbound, transcendent Creator revealed in creation, the Bible, and in Jesus.
This is not the perfect communication medium, but if a picture is worth 1000 words, it assists with pointing out the inconsistency when naturalists assume certain aspects of reality. Based on their assumptions, to give a proper satisfactory explanation (justification) for the following components of reality, they must borrow from the Christian Worldview.
Truth – how it can be known for certain
Absolute Laws – math, physics, chemistry, laws of logic, thermodynamics
The following is an interview I conducted with Dr. Assumptîon after he evaluated the evidence of the successful resurrection of a thousand year old fossil from its icy grave.
ApoloJedi: Thank you, Dr. Assumption for agreeing to give us your scientific analysis of the evidence of the fossil resurrection. Did I get your name correct?
Dr. Assumptîon: Actually, it’s Ass-oomp-shee-ohn
Dr. Assumptîon: Swiss
ApoloJedi: Excellent. Please tell us a little about your scientific analysis of the fossil revival.
Dr. Assumptîon: It’s my pleasure, Mr. Jedi. Before, I begin, I want to construct a framework from which we evaluate the evidence. Scientists have to observe and make conclusions based on what is repeatable and demonstrable rather than relying on myths and pseudo-science. I have to prefix my comments with the proper scientific foundation because certain creationists have taken the evidence for this fossil resurrection and used it for their own nefarious purposes.
ApoloJedi: Most appreciated Dr. We wouldn’t want to have the thought police shut us down for spreading creationist propaganda. Please continue.
Dr. Assumptîon: So, in 1988 a group led by Patrick Epps and Richard Taylor used scientifically-developed tools such as ground-penetrating radar and snowmobiles to discover 8 large metallic objects, which we now know to be the fossils buried deep in the ice of Greenland. It wasn’t just deep…the fossils were covered with over 250 feet…that’s over 75 meters in scientific lingo…of snow and ice. About 2 years after the discovery of the fossils, the team returned to the grave to “unearth” their discovery. With additional scientifically-developed tools, these men and their team were able to melt a 4 foot-wide hole in the ice all the way down to the metallic fossils.
ApoloJedi: Excuse me, Dr. Why did the team look for metallic fossils in a place covered in ice?
Dr. Assumptîon: There were some myths that have been propagated by creationists that historical documents can trump scientific measurements, and they were taking the long-shot odds of trying to prove them correct. I want to show that a scientific evaluation of the evidence indicates that while they did get lucky with their discovery, they were completely wrong in their conclusions.
ApoloJedi: I see
Dr. Assumptîon: To shorten a long story, the scientific team was able to carefully disassemble one of the fossils, bring the pieces up through their 1.26 meter hole, and then reassemble the thousand year old fossil.
ApoloJedi: Sorry to interrupt again. How do you know the fossil was 1000 years old?
Dr. Assumptîon: I was just getting to that. We know from science that ice layers accumulate in such a way that can be measured for age. Each year there is an annual layer of snow/ice, and to determine the age, we just have to count the individual layers for the exact age. So, while I said 1000 years, I was just rounding up. The actual age of the recovered fossil is actually only 930 years old. We have a photo of a scale-model recreation of the expedition
Dr. Assumptîon: While the creationists wanted to identify the metallic fossils as P-38 Lightnings built by Lockheed in 1942, scientists MUST reject pseudo-science and go with the evidence. The evidence of over 900 layers invalidates the creationist’s mythology.
ApoloJedi: So, if the fossil was not a world war 2 era propeller-driven fighter as it appeared to be, what were your scientific conclusions?
Dr. Assumptîon: Because creationists are blinded by their pre-conceived notions of the historical validity in their holy book and applying it to all situations, scientists must go with what we can observe. We have observed that a single ice layer forms every year…so if the fossil was buried under more than 900 layers, then it is clear that we must choose scientific conclusions over mysticism.
ApoloJedi: Do you think that science supports the theory that Vikings in about 1000AD used this aircraft to get from Norway to Greenland?
Dr. Assumptîon: Pseudo-scientists would try to tell you otherwise, but the evidence supports the Viking theory. It is a clear example of convergent evolution, which tells us that disparate sources developed the same “solution” under similar selection pressures. When the civilizations of the Vikings in Greenland were lost to natural selection, the need for this particular fossil’s solution was lost until the 1940s when similar selection pressures brought forth the similar solutions we saw by engineers at Lockheed. And this is totally supported by the evidence. The fossil clearly was not as advanced as the Depression-Era P-38Hs, which sadly have once again succumbed to the forces of extinction.
ApoloJedi: You said earlier that this fossil was revived. Can you get into that?
Dr. Assumptîon: Of course. Smart scientists hammered out the dents in the Viking aircraft, re-assembled it, filled it with aviation fuel, and it flew just like it did 900 years ago.
ApoloJedi: Well, you’ve got some interesting theories, and I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us today.
“If there were evidence for God, I would believe.”
“If God were real, he would show me evidence of his existence”
I disagree with all of these statements for multiple reasons that I will point out below, but as often as they come up, I think it’s worth a little push-back to see if the claims can withstand a little scrutiny. Let’s address the claims to see why it is a category error to demand evidence for God.
To evaluate evidence one must be able to account for the preconditions necessary for evaluation. Only the Christian worldview provides these necessary preconditions. Without being able to justify the following 4 absolutes within your worldview, it is a category error to make one of the above claims.
Absolute Truth – If one hopes to evaluate evidence, they must be able to compare it to what is actually true. If there is not a truth anchor, one’s arbitrary truth claims will ultimately lead to an infinite regress or be internally inconsistent (Self-defeating).
Laws of Logic – Evaluating evidence requires the existence of invariant, universal, abstract absolutes. Since God is unchanging, rational, and transcendent, He provides the necessary foundation for laws of logic.
Morality – To honestly transmit observed results, one has to assume invariable honest transmission. At the very least you have to have faith in those transmitting conclusions that the empiricist is unbiased.
Uniformity of nature – To expect nature to be consistent requires assumptions that are inconsistent with a universe that is in a constant state of flux. Justification for unchanging natural laws that bind nature to uniformity requires abstract assumptions.
Everyone interprets evidence according to their worldview or epistemology. So, it logically follows that evidence cannot sway someone from changing worldviews from say naturalism to Christianity. Imagine an enlightened character in a video game saying, “There’s no game designer or there would be evidence. Game designer theory is a crutch for simple-minded bots who can’t grasp the reality that we are alone on this server. Their pre-Y2K thinking might be good for classic games like Galaga, but today’s games are driven by real scientific thinking not mysterious game-designers in some paradise-like Silicon Valley.” Any effort (short of actually entering the game Himself) by an external game designer to input new elements into the game, the ‘enlightened’ character could say that is part of the game and no game designer is needed to explain it.
Asking for natural evidence of the supernatural is irrational. This is related to item 2 above, because no matter what supernatural evidence is presented, someone who maintains a naturalistic worldview will always exclude supernatural causes. The excuse could be as simple as hallucination from bad mushroom pizza or as complicated as master-level illusion (David Blaine, David Copperfield…) In a recent debate, I asked my opponent what evidence could convince them of the supernatural, and he said, “Well, if someone were dead for a few days and then came back to life, I’d have to believe.” To which I responded, you mean like what Jesus did? My opponent remains unconvinced by the evidence.
Most of the time, a person who claims that there is no evidence for God is a naturalist. The high priests of the naturalists claim “We are literally star dust on a speck of a speck of a speck in a blind, pitiless, indifferent universe.” What does a speck of stardust care about evidence/truth/ANYTHING?
This point refers specifically to the 3rd claim from above “If God were real, he would show me evidence of his existence”. It is deplorable hubris of infinite proportion for any created being to expect the Almighty Creator to be subject to their petty whims. For a person to cry out, “I don’t like the revelations and confirmations that God has given. I want Him to do what I want…right now!” is dangerous audacity. It would be similar to a drug dealer in Sri Lanka shrieking “If The Pope doesn’t come sing at my birthday party, he’s not really the Bishop of Rome.” The Pope’s authority and office are not in question because of the insignificant droning of a foreign criminal.
For all of those reasons and probably many more, the person who claims that there is no evidence for God is making a category error.
God revealed Himself in his creation, in his Word, and by becoming a man: Jesus!
Jesus claimed that extraordinary evidence (even someone rising from the dead) is insufficient to convince someone of God’s existence (See Luke 16 below). If you do not start with the Creator (because of his revelation through creation/Bible/Jesus) you will not be convinced by evidence.
[Luk 16:19-31 ESV] 19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house– 28 for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’“
Praise God that by His Amazing Grace, we can know forgiveness for our rebellion!!!
This is my first “formal” debate. An agnostic challenged me via Twitter to defend my position on Christianity. Any constructive criticism is appreciated.
We agreed beforehand to answer the question:
Does Christianity or Naturalism Better Account For Reality?
But right from the start, my opponent waffled on defending the position in an attempt not to be cornered. But as you can see, he really didn’t arrive with any position or defense.
The format of the debate was to have a 5 minute closing, but since there was a debate scheduled right after ours, the moderator chose to end our debate prematurely. This was my prepared closing:
“As we have heard hear tonight, naturalism is unable to account for reality. Because we have heard no consistent justification for the 8 necessities for explaining reality, it is a worldview that is insufficient for determining truth.
But my purpose for being involved in this debate is to share the gospel of Jesus the Messiah. All of mankind has rebelled against God’s holiness. God’s perfect creation is perverted by sin. We see the effects of the curse of sin all around us: Lying, stealing, adultery, murder are not just pragmatically wrong, socially wrong, or wrong because they cause harm…although they do harm. They are ultimately wrong because they lie about the character of Almighty God. God, who revealed himself through creation, the Bible, and in Jesus is truthful, content, faithful, and kind. His judgment for rebellion is based on righteousness. But God made a plan to redeem those who would repent of their rebellion. In fulfillment of prophecy God became man as Jesus and took on the punishment for sin that each one of us deserve. By his grace, those who repent of their rebellion, will be forgiven and live the abundant life that Jesus promised. He is worthy of all praise.”
Determining your authority in matters of worldviews and ultimate truth are not much different today. People tend to choose the authority that would grant them the greatest perceived amount of freedom. The choices seem to be limited to scientism or revelation from God. Can science be the ultimate arbiter of truth? Can science answer all of the origins questions regarding matter, energy, laws of logic, morality, mathematics, origins, biology, chemistry…? Scientism falls short in explanatory power in those categories
The other option is God’s revelation. The omnipotent Creator has revealed himself through the prophets (scripture) and most recently through Jesus (Hebrews 1). The One who perceives reality perfectly has revealed history in a trustworthy manner such that we can know his revelation to be true. The writers of the old and new testaments (including the recorded words of Jesus) believed the scriptures to be a true recording of history.
Today, many scientists have assumptions and present models that require interpretations of evidence which are in direct conflict with the history revealed by the Creator. When those conflicts arise, which authority determines truth?
Many Christian apologists take the view that scientism is the ultimate authority and should determine how to interpret God’s special revelation. William Craig is such an apologist. In his most recent blog post, Dr. Jason Lisle reveals the inherent contradictions with Christians upholding scientism as the ultimate authority.
Dr. Craig: But YEC as a hermeneutical hypothesis is quite another matter. I want to approach the text with an open mind, despite the terrifying prospect that YEC might actually be correct as a hermeneutical hypothesis. In that case, we would face some very hard choices. Given YEC’s failure as a scientific hypothesis, we should have to conclude that the Bible teaches scientific error and therefore revise our doctrine of inspiration to accommodate this fact. That is a route one would prefer not to take.
What do you do when the Bible clearly teaches something that is at odds with the opinions of the majority of scientists? Craig’s answer is clear: you accept that the Bible is wrong! Such an answer is very revealing. What is the ultimate standard for Craig’s faith? It cannot be the Bible…Therefore, when there is a conflict between God’s Word and the popular opinions of man, the presuppositional Christian says, “Let God be found true though every man be found a liar!” (Romans 3:4)…From this, we conclude that Craig is strongly motivated to interpret Scripture in a non-exegetical way in order to accommodate his unjustified presupposition of the big bang. May I humbly suggest the reverse? I advise Craig (and everyone else) to let God be true, to take His Word as written, in grammatical historical context, and then use God’s Word to discern which of man’s ideas are virtuous, and which are fallacious. Why not base our thinking on the infallible, and use this to evaluate the fallible?
His closing remarks highlight the critical issue:
Do we interpret the Bible to align with our view of the world, or do we adjust our view of the world to align with the Bible? How you answer that question will reveal the true standard of your faith.
William Craig seems determined to give his apologetic in defense of a general theism that has the backing of naturalistic scientific assumptions. From this foundation, He feels free to interpret the Bible on the latest interpretation of evidence and cultural preference. What will happen to his apologetic when the latest assumptions are changed to accommodate new interpretations of evidence?
Dr. Lisle encourages Christians to uphold God’s revelation as the authority, and letting that authority control the assumptions held for interpreting evidence.
Scientific interpretations of evidence change over time:
Prior to the 1500s, scientists believed and modeled that the earth was the center of the solar system. – Falsified