Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Presuppositional Approach to the Defense of Scripture Part 2 of ??

When we talk about defending the Christian claim that the Bible is the Word of God, what we are talking about is defending the idea that this specific "belief" about the Bible is actually justified. Now justification for truth claims can be an extremely thorny philosophical issue. My goal is to keep it as simple as possible. Generally speaking, when we talk about epistemic justification, we usually bring in concepts like a posteriori knowledge versus a priori knowledge, and analytic statements versus synthetic statements. If one is not careful, they can end up falling victim to the folly of attempting to use unregenerate, humanistic philosophy and criteria to justify the claim that the Bible is in fact the Word of God. The problem is that empiricism nor rationalism nor any other philosophical system can produce adequate epistemic justification for the claim that the Bible is the Word of God. To think that such a project is even possible exposes serious flaws in one's theological grid. Only genuine Christian theism presented faithfully and consistently as an entire system has the intellectual power to reach the standards necessary to demonstrate the truthfulness of the claim.

Quite frankly, an appeal to human reason and/or empirical data is inadequate to provide a sufficient defense to sustain the claim that belief in the Bible as the Word of God is actually true. To what then must we appeal if we are to demonstrate that belief in the Bible as the Word of God rises to the level of true knowledge? Is this belief self-justifying or can we offer justification for the belief that is itself self-justifying?

The nature of human knowledge, says the Christian worldview is, strictly speaking, entirely revelational in character. Since the state of affairs is what the Bible says it is, all knowledge must be revelational in nature. Everything that man knows about himself and about the universe, and indeed about God, he knows because God has made it known to him. The revelation of God to man is itself sufficiently clear. How man responds to that revelation however, is another matter altogether.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom. 1:20) The nature of man is such that unless God revealed something to him, he would know nothing at all about himself, about the universe around him, or about God.

“But revelation, after all, is the correlate of understanding and has as its proximate end just the production of knowledge, though not, of course, knowledge for its own sake, but for the sake of salvation.”[2]

Revelation is the sole key to any and all human knowledge. Calvin wrote,
“Nearly all wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists in two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”[3]
 Since God is creator of all that is, it necessarily follows that all knowledge is deposited in Him. “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” It follows that human knowledge is entirely dependent on God. Hence, the nature of epistemology, according to the Christian worldview, is revelational. The source for epistemology is God. The mode of epistemology is both natural and supernatural revelation. Human knowledge comes through God’s revelation in nature as well as God’s revelation in Scripture.

Knowledge means that 1) It is actually the case; 2) You believe it is actually the case; 3) You have justification for believing it is actually the case. [Halverson: A Concise Intro to Philosophy] When we apply this to the claim that we know that the Bible is the Word of God it looks like this: The Bible is the Word of God. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We have justification for believing that the Bible is the Word of God. If (1) is not the case, we would say that the claim to knowledge was mistaken. If (2) is not the case, we say that the person ought to know because they have good reason to believe the claim. If (3) is not the case, we would say that the person had a hunch or was lucky to believe a claim that actually turned out to be true, but real knowledge did not exist. True knowledge must meet all three conditions.

The temptation for the Christian in contemporary culture, in evangelism, and in apologetics is to feel some sense of duty or obligation to present the argument supporting belief in the Bible as the Word of God in such a way that it satisfies the demands or criteria of the world. For some reason we all feel it. If we are not careful, we fall into the trap of trying to make belief in the Bible as the Word of God rational in terms of how the unregenerate mind defines human reason. We search for historical evidence to satisfy the empirical demands and such evidence must come from external, supposedly neutral sources or it is ipso facto inadmissible. However, the Christian must give a reason for their belief about Scripture that is itself consistent with the Christian worldview. What we cannot do is violate the Christian ethic in our attempt to defend the Christian system of truth. But when we allow unbelievers to place the Bible in dock and judge it with fallible human reason, we are doing just that: we are violating the Christian ethic. We are judging that which we are commanded to believe. We are calling into question that to which we are supposed to wholeheartedly surrender. When we judge the Scripture in this way, it is our intellect, our science, our own wisdom that serves as the final authority in human predication. And this is the one thing we can never do if we are to be good stewards of the Christian gospel. 

Christians reject the idea that innate knowledge is impossible. Christian theism unreservedly claims to know with certainty that human knowledge is not the product of sense experience. Christian theism repudiates the notion that man can know the world as he ought to know the world apart from God. It is upon this presupposition that Christianity begins its defense of the belief that the Bible is the Word of God. The opponent will object with the retort that such an approach amounts to fideism. We will answer that objection in a future post.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ro 1:20.
[2]B.B. Warfield, Revelation & Inspiration (New York, NY: Baker Book House, 2003), 12.
[3]John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Louisville, London: Westminster John Know Press, 2006), 1:35.
[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Col 2:3.

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