Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Presuppositional Defense of Scripture - Part 3 of ???

At the most basic level, the nature of human knowledge is such that justification ultimately arrives at its terminus. From the top down, claims to knowledge are accompanied by a requisite justification in order for those claims to rise to the level of knowledge. However, such justification must reach a terminus in order to avoid the problem of requiring justification ad infinitum resulting in the obliteration of all hope for any knowledge at all. It is not difficult to see the necessity of justification for claims to knowledge. But then again, this is in no way to suggest that the criteria of justification are agreed to by all, but only that philosophers recognize that justification is required for most knowledge, but not all. What is not so easy to see is what knowledge looks like when justification reaches its boundaries. At what point do we reach the boundaries of collaborative justification to a self-vindicating justification for claims to knowledge? The Christian has a very distinct starting point for knowledge. This is the place where justification has no jurisdiction, at least not the kind of jurisdiction we have been talking about. In fact, here is where the idea of justification begins in terms of knowledge.The starting point for human knowledge is beyond the jurisdiction of human justification.

“What the Reformers held was that a believer is entirely rational, entirely within his epistemic rights, in starting with belief in God, in accepting it as basic, and in taking it as a premise for argument to other conclusions.”[1] 

At bottom, if knowledge is to remain secure, it must be anchored to something. Knowledge can only be as stable and secure as that to which it is anchored. In other words, knowledge must be anchored to something that does not itself need to be anchored to anything. The presuppositionalist would say that knowledge must be anchored to something that is self-justifying. This explains why knowledge, once it reaches the place of terminus for justification, no longer needs the service of justification, be it rational, empirical, or otherwise. It is nearly impossible to imagine finite knowledge ever being able, on its own terms, by its own nature, to reach the status of being self-justifying. If this is actually the case, and I believe it is, how then does knowledge ever attain the lofty status of being self-justifying?

Only knowledge that is anchored in a non-contingent and absolute being can be self-justifying. This is exactly what one would expect the state of affairs to be given the doctrine of God in Christian theism. In an open universe of pure chance, knowledge could never be fixed, stable, uniform, and secure. It would simply be impossible. Justification demands uniformity. However, uniformity lampoons an open and chance universe. 

To be blunt, uniformity is an outright and blatant contradiction of the theory of an open universe. An open universe frankly cannot provide the necessary preconditions to make human experience intelligible. The metaphysical starting point for the non-Christian worldview, namely an open universe brought about by pure chance rules out any possibility for genuine knowledge before the conversation can even begin. Hence, the nature of epistemology is such that it must be constructed upon something other than that which the non-Christian worldview builds it, finite, autonomous human reason.

For the Christian, we must examine how it is we know that the claim of Scripture to be the authoritative Word of God actually rises to the level of true knowledge. There are a number of ways that Christians and scholars have attempted to answer this question over the years. Indeed, it seems there are nearly as many ways sometimes as there are attempts. Moreover, some Christians actually postulate that how we answer this question is inconsequential, so long as we end up with the right answer at the end of the problem. A math teacher would say "show me your work" in an attempt to gauge your understanding of the problem as well as assess your approach to the solution. It isn't any different for the Christian when we are dealing with this problem. It is just as important for us to get to the right answer, the answer Scripture gives, as it is for us to get to that answer the right way, the way that Scripture says. (Hint, hint)

In my next post I will begin to look at some more traditional methods for how Christians have thought about this problem and attempted to answer it. I will criticize those method in the areas where I think they miss the mark and provide argumentation to support my criticisms. Included in those approaches will be the rational and empirical methods for defending Scripture. Finally, I will attempt to show how my epistemological blathering corresponds with how a Christian should think about defending Scripture and why it matters.

[1]Alvin Plantinga, Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), 72.

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