Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How Confident can we be?

I admire and respect men like Greg Koukl and would recommend his Radio show/Podcast to anyone who is interested in hearing a defense of the Christian faith in light of opposition. However, I cannot say that I am in full agreement with Mr. Koukl in the area of "absolute assurance" as far as our Christian beliefs are concerned. Of course, I agree that there are plenty of things in which we cannot have absolute assurance of. But wouldn't Mr. Koukl agree that there are plenty of things that we can have absolute assurance of? I'm sure he would. For instance, isn't the Law of non-contradiction something that we can have absolute certainty of? Of course, for without it and other laws of logic (such as the law of excluded middle, etc.) we can have no degree of intelligibility for which we can view the world and our experiences.

But when it comes to the Christian faith and those tenants by which we stake our eternal salvation (such as Christ's death, burial, and resurrection), we can't have the same "absolute assurance." But why not? Of course, Mr. Koukl along with many other Christians would not view the Bible as an Axiom. Instead, it is based on believing something in light of adequate or sufficient reasons. Though i'm not suggesting that Mr. Koukl and others like him shouldn't believe in Christianity merely based on adequate reasons, I believe that Christianity is far more than reasonable, as someone like William Lane Craig would characterize it.

Consider the words of the apostle Paul:

“Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument…See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:3, 8)


If Christ is really where "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" are "hidden" or found, then on what basis can we place our epistemology in something else, namely, human reasoning? This is not meant to be a discussion of whether Christianity is true or false necessarily, but what your epistemological foundations should be if you are a Christian. For the Christian (and for everyone else, I would also argue, though not for the strict purpose of this blog), if your epistemology is not grounded in Christ, then you have a flawed axiom. That is, there is no biblical basis for which one begins with human reasoning and finds "adequate" reasons for believing that Christianity is true. Instead, the Bible should be your axiom, the very basis for which we can have absolute logical laws at all! For without it, you are subject to what Paul says of the pagan Gentiles, who do not worship the God of the Bible:

“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” (Ephesians 4:17-18)


12 comments:

Samuel said...

"isn't the Law of non-contradiction something that we can have absolute certainty of?"

No. It's an axiom. We accept it out of necessity and because it's considered self-evident; but we can't be absolutely certain that it is true.

It's just taken to be universally true - in other words, it's acceptance is arbitrary. This doesn't mean it's false, but rather that we can't be absolutely certain of it.... it's not demonstrable by proofs or deduction - but just agreed upon.

Samuel said...

Arbitrary might have been the wrong word - but it's not a proved or demonstrated principle. It's just something we accept as a starting point.

Mike Felker said...

Sam, thanks for your comment. In a materialistic worldview, I don't see how one could be certain of anything at all. In addition, I don't see how a universe that is strictly limited to matter in motion can produce axioms such as the laws of logic to begin with.

Dusman said...

Samuel said,

"We accept it out of necessity and because it's considered self-evident; but we can't be absolutely certain that it is true."

If logic is not "true" then rabbits are cars and the universe can exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense.

Rejecting the abstract, universal, and immaterial laws of logic as true for all people, places, and times leads to absurdity and insanity. You are right to say that we must first assume the laws of logic in order to use them, but doing so arbitrarily is irrational because any belief requires some sort of justification if it is to be considered rational. Dawkins argued in his The God Delusion that religious belief is delusional. I say "Amen" to that if the "religion" one chooses causes them to deny that logic is true.

“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” (Ephesians 4:17-18)

Samuel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samuel said...

Dusman, I will give a simple reply.

If classical logic IS true, then Jesus Christ cannot be 100% man and 100% God.

Dusman said...

Hi Samuel,

I'll answer simply too:

P1 - If Jesus' two natures are kept distinct within His one person as Scripture affirms and historic orthodoxy explains, then He is 100 % God and 100 % man without mixing those two natures within His one person.

P2 - Scripture affirms that Jesus' two natures are kept distinct within His one person (John 1:14; Phil. 2:5-11).

C - Therefore, Jesus is 100% God and 100 % man without mixing those two natures within His one person.

See here for further study: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/AskPastorJohn/ByTopic/46/1796_How_can_Jesus_be_both_God_and_man/

chaz said...

Mike,

It seems to me that to accept the Bible as your axiom requires a previous assumption you first accepted as an axiom, namely, that the writers were telling the truth. And even then you gave some credibility to some kind of criteria to come to believe that.

Samuel said...

"If Jesus' two natures are kept distinct within His one person as Scripture affirms and historic orthodoxy explains,"

Forgive me, but that just sounds like semantic wankery.

"Jesus is 100% God and 100 % man without mixing those two natures within His one person. "

Semantic wankery aside.... a whole is 100%. When you add 100% + 100% you get 200% which is more than a whole. The Jesus math isn't adding up for me.

Samuel said...

oh I should note it sounds like semantic wankery because what does it even mean to "keep two natures distinct within one person?" And how can you have two 100% natures that don't mix within one person?

I guess I'm just too indoctrinated into a modern worldview where people are reduced to bodies and brains to understand the difference between "natures" and "persons" and "essences".

Mike Felker said...

Chaz, I would say its an all-in-one package. It would be like accepting the laws of logic as your axiom, but only after you have assumed that they were true. But i'm not saying that can't come to an axiom with other presuppositions, or that you can't do so in a step-by-step action. Certainly, I did.

Dusman said...

Hi Samuel,

Jesus is not a 200% Jesus because the reference to "100% God" has to do with his divine nature remaining just that in the incarnation, completely divine, without merging His divine nature into his human nature to make one "new" kind of nature. To suggest such is to implicitly adopt the old heresy known as "monophysitism", i.e., the idea that when Jesus came in the incarnation the two natures (divine and human) merged together to make an entirely new singular "nature" that was neither completely divine nor completely human. The ecumenical council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) dealt with this heresy. Here's the creed they developed to refute it:

Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these "last days," for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness.

We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten - in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the "properties" of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one "person" and in one reality. They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.


The term "nature" and "essence" refer to the same thing, it's the "stuff" of any thing; i.e., what it is made up of. "Person" (when speaking of Trinitarianism) refers to the individual centers of consciousness within the Being of God that are distinct one from another as to their personages yet share the same one essence. This is how you can have the 3-in-1 idea of Trinitarianism without creating a formal contradiction.

Also, if you don't mind, please explain to me how something can be full of "semantic wankery" without logic being true? If logic is not true I could easily say, "Doesn't matter . . . it's not a contradiction because contradictions aren't really true since logic doesn't really exist; which means that I can make it up as I go."