Archive for the ‘Covenental Apologetics’ Category

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A good response from Dr James Anderson regarding the reliability of sense perception!

“The same goes for induction.  Everyone (or nearly everyone!) in the debate takes for granted that inductive reasoning is generally reliable.  The real question is: Which worldview, theism or naturalism, can *account* for the general reliability of inductive reasoning?  In particular, which worldview can account for the inductive principle, i.e., the uniformity of nature in time and space? Theism can readily account for (a) the uniformity of nature and (b) our justified *a priori* belief in the uniformity of nature. Naturalism, not so much! No, this is confused.  The Christian doesn’t justify the reliability of the senses by appealing to Scripture.  Rather, the Christian argues that the *biblical worldview* (i.e., the worldview reflected in Scripture) can account for the reliability of the sense whereas the *naturalist worldview* cannot. ”

Read the full post below:

So I was just popping in the code to the security door to my work, and a thought struck me as to an analogy of the problem universals and particulars!

What is the nature of particular facts of our experience, and what is their relationship to one another and the universal laws that bind them together?

Van Til was fond of speaking of beads and string, and for the longest time I couldn’t understand what he was speaking about, but I eventually worked it out, hopefully this analogy will help too!

Think of each number on a keypad, like the one shown to the right, as each individual fact of our experience. The point of a keypad is to have a particular code entered into it, so that you can6761965591_5e434905a6_n open whatever it is you are wanting to use. The code here represents the interpretation of a particular fact of experience.  Let’s say the particular code that I have in mind has a 6, a 2, a 3 and a 5 in it (making it simple). If i tell you, ok, so what is the code to get into the door, you will note that there is a problem… What is the relationship of the numbers between each other? Is the code 6235? Is it 2356? What about 6352? etc! What about 223355566? What about 552663?

That is similar to the way our experience of facts of life would be, without a notion of the relationship of the facts one to another, except imagine  a near infinite keypad, with a near infinite code! Trying to put each individual fact in right relation to one another is simply impossible, unless of course, you were a person who was omniscient and knew what the correct code was all along!

This would be like having particularity over universals. You could only know a particular fact in isolation, apart from any other fact!

Consider the inverse, what if I gave you a blank keypad, and said that the relationship of the numbers together was in the shape of an L. What would the code be? 1478 you might think – but remember this is a blank keypad! The numbers could run in any order they wanted! In fact, who said anything about numbers? This keypad can have anything in all of reality on each button. So what is the code?

This would be like having universals over particulars. You could only know the universal laws that bind the particular facts together, but you wouldn’t know the content of the particular facts was!

In this way, God is the one who has the ‘code’ of reality, He has the original interpretation of the relationship of the facts to each other, and knows the particular facts themselves, so that everything hangs together in unity!

Numbers without relation = facts without relationship between them. eg: Random jumble of numbers without laws of maths or logic to give them any significance together.

Relationship of the keys without the content of what the keys are = universals without particular facts. eg:  All X are not Y –  but never knowing what the content of X or Y ever was. Were X Cats? Was Y dogs?

Now for some of us, we may not clearly have an idea of what a universal is and what a particular is, or may need something more general, so another example may help:

When I say, “I want you to think of the concept of a red fire truck”, you will no doubt be able to picture that in your mind. Now, does that mean that there is an actual fire truck in your mind? No, clearly not, you simply have had the experience of fire trucks in the real world that you have then conceptualised. Red fire trucks have the concepts of ‘redness’, ‘loudness’, ‘heaviness’ ‘rectangular’ ‘three dimensional’ ‘has wheels’ etc. All of these concepts put together is what helps you ultimately understand the main concept of ‘red fire truck’. But that concept itself is not an actual fire truck in the real world – its simple a concept in your mind. The question then becomes how that concept relates to particular individual fire trucks in your daily experience walking down the street.

Some types of universals to consider :

Immaterial laws:

Such as the laws of logic (law of non-contradiction, law of identity, law of excluded middle).

Relationships between facts:

Think of the red fire truck! How would you describe it? It has a ladder, a number of wheels, contains water, has a hose etc – in order to describe that fire truck, you have to pull in other facts of experience. A fire truck cannot be known in isolation, it can only be known relating to its particular constituent parts, which you will need to know what those constituent parts are, and how they relate to the fire truck itself, and the other parts of the fire truck.

Attributes of those facts:

So, the fire truck contains water. What is water? What are its attributes? “Wetness” “clarity” “tasteless” “odourless” – these are all immaterial concepts that we apply to particular facts of our experience.

Pulling all those things together, what makes a fire truck a fire truck? Who says so? Who determined it to be so? If it is man, we could never really know that what a particular fact was in and of itself, because we are not omniscient, we would need to know how it relates to everything else in reality, because you cannot know one particular fact in isolation from everything else, as everything else is in the web of facts. Is water always wet? Do we have all knowledge to say that in all of reality it is always the case that it is wet? However, there is one who has determined what a fact is, how it relates to other facts, how it relates to immaterial universal concepts and laws. Why is water always wet? Why can’t a dog be a cat? Because God has determined that a those things have particular attributes, relationships to other facts, and has a particular identity. It is then our job to find out this original interpretation given by God, to understand the relationship of a fact to another fact as God says it is, to understand the relationship of a fact to a universal concept as God says it is, and how that particular fact relates to universal laws as God says it is – our knowledge itself is true only as much as it relates to what God says reality is. If we stray from that, we can’t know anything at all.

To quote Van Til on this point:

“If the creation doctrine is thus taken seriously, it follows that the various aspects of created reality must sustain such relations to one another as have been ordained between them by the Creator, as superiors, inferiors or equals. All aspects being equally created, no one aspect of reality may be regarded as more ultimate than another. Thus the created one and many may in this respect be said to be equal to one another; they are equally derived and equally dependent upon God who sustains them both. The particulars or facts of the universe do and must act in accord with universals or laws. Thus there is order in the created universe. On the other hand, the laws may not and can never reduce the particulars to abstract particulars or reduce their individuality in any manner. The laws are but generalizations of God’s method of working with the particulars. God may at any time take one fact and set it into a new relation to created law. That is, there is no inherent reason in the facts or laws themselves why this should not be done. It is this sort of conception of the relation of facts and laws, of the temporal one and many, imbedded as it is in that idea of God in which we profess to believe, that we need in order to make room for miracles. And miracles are at the heart of the Christian position.”

This would probably be a very easy question to answer, and yet at the same time, a fairly lengthy question to answer.

I will try to keep this as accessible as possible, and translate a lot of the jargon that gets used when talking about these things into more readily understandable ideas and explanations.

The easiest answer is: everything.
(rom 1:20: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.)

Everything is evidence for God’s existence. And not just any God either, specifically the Triune God of the Christian Scriptures. We do not try to argue for a kind of generic theism, nor should we do so as we do not believe in a generic ‘minimum-attributes’ God, we believe in the Christian God!

There is not a single rock, blade of grass or sub atomic particle in this universe that isn’t evidence for God’s existence, and we shouldn’t be neutral about that, as if we would assess the evidence from a neutral standpoint and make a conclusion that God does indeed exist, and the evidence justifies that! Not only is that immoral, but it is impossible as we shall see later.

To quote C S Lewis:
“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.””

Our natural temptation is to rally a bunch of evidences together (like the complexity of the human eye or other things), or theistic arguments (see Here as to why the theistic arguments when normally presented simply do not work) to answer this question and give them to an unbeliever, the problem is though, that an unbeliever doesn’t need more evidence. Not only that, but the believer, by doing these things is placing more certainty on those evidences than God’s existence, reducing God to ‘probably existing’ – even if this is a high probability, we do not serve a probable God, we serve a certain God. Further an unbeliever already has all the evidence he would need to know that God exists, but is suppressing the evidence that he already has:

Romans 1:18-20 : For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 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.

An unbeliever, according to God, has enough evidence through creation to know that He exists, but an unbeliever, in unrighteousness, suppresses that knowledge. The question then is, what good will it do to heap on more evidence? It would be like trying to put out a fire with petrol – any evidence that you give to an unbeliever will simply be suppressed further, or re-interpreted according to how they view the world (as one atheist said in regards to Christ’s resurrection, “Weird stuff happens!”).  What they will try to claim to do is to stand on neutral ground, that their position is the neutral one, and that the believer should do the same and both look at the evidence from the same point. The problem is, that is assuming the very thing that the believer should be challenging an unbeliever on – their starting point and fundamental assumptions. The believer should challenge an unbeliever, and show them that given their starting point, given their assumptions, they couldn’t even argue with the believer about evidence! Everyone has worldview, there is no neutral position, a person is either for Christ or against Him (matt 12:30) in some other version of unbelief.

To quote Greg Bahnsen:
“It should come as no surprise that, in a world where all things have been created by Christ (Col 1:16) and are carried along by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3) and where all knowledge is therefore deposited in Him who is The Truth (Col. 2:3; John 14:6) and who must be Lord over all thinking (2 Cor. 10:5), neutrality is nothing short of immorality. “

So let us examine this problem of neutrality.
Neutral_GroundLet’s think of an analogy first ( all analogies break down at points, but bear with me for this example):

If I poured  water into a glass in front of a group of people, and filled it half way and asked the age old question “Is this glass half empty, or half full?”, I suspect I would get differing answers. Some would say half empty, some would say half full.

Why is there a discrepancy between their answers?  The glass hasn’t changed, nor has the water or air content – and yet a number of people in a room cannot agree whether or not the glass is half full or half empty!

Why is it that two people can look at a particular fact, and come to wildly different conclusions?

Well, no doubt, when you look at certain things in your life, like the glass, you see things in a particular way, and another person views them in another way, yet the fact that you are looking at remains the same. The only thing that has changed is the person viewing the fact. Everyone has a way of viewing the world, or a ‘world-view’.

Everyone has a world-view, spoken or not – you may not have even thought about it, and are happy to live life as it comes, but if I were to ask you questions about it, you could probably tell me some things about what you believe or know to be true. Everyone has different experiences growing up, they have different beliefs about life, about morals or ethics, and about reality in general: What is the nature of reality? How do we know the things we know about it? All of these things contribute to the way that we view the world and the things in it – remember the glass of water? No one is unbiased, or ‘neutral’ in these things. We all have lens through which we view the world.

If we had a dispute about the price of a particular bar of chocolate that was at a particular shop, you and I could simply go down to the shop to see what the price was. Fairly straightforward! But not everything in life is this simple is it? We don’t solve a math equation simply by looking at it do we? No, we use our minds and logic to try to work that out. Nor do we measure the air pressure in the atmosphere by simply looking up, or trying to use logic to solve it as we would the maths equation – we’d need some instruments to do that.

All issues in life are not resolvable in the same way, so when we ask the question “What is the evidence for the existence of God?”, what is the method that we are using to determine what is and is not evidence? Enter our worldview again!

Each of us has a fundamental belief as to the basic nature of reality. Is reality only matter in motion? Is there a supernatural aspect? Is reality an illusion?  etc…

This also influences how we know things – it would make no sense for someone who believes that reality is only matter in motion, only physical things and them moving, to use a supernatural method of finding something out – because for that person, the supernatural isn’t matter and motion, its something outside of those categories.

Inversely it would make no sense for someone who believes that they know things by a supernatural means to think that the basic nature of reality is matter in motion, because that belief wouldn’t follow from the method of knowing. Both of these things influence each other and work in tandem with each other. This is why someone who believes that reality is just matter in motion would use the empiricism to find out what exists. Empiricism is the idea that only that which can be perceived by our senses can be known (“Ill believe it when I see it” kind of attitude). Likewise, a person who believes that empiricism is the only way to know things, would be limited to looking for things that are just matter in motion. The supernatural is precluded at the get go, because it isn’t known by empiricism, nor is it simply matter in motion, it is outside of those categories.

There are many different views that control and determine the way we will consider facts in the world. None of these facts, like the glass of water, are without interpretation – the way we view the fact is interpreted by our worldview.

So given that we all have a worldview, and all facts and evidences in reality are interpreted through those particular lenses, how do we know which lens is right, how do we know which worldview is right? What worldview would allow us to know things truly? What worldview would enable us to be consistent in the way we believed the world was in principle, and how we lived in it in practice?

The question is not so much about which facts (or evidences), when evaluated, show God’s existence, but rather, it is a question of which worldview even allows for evaluation of facts to be done in the first place. There is no point in asking what the evidence for God is if we don’t even have a worldview that can allow for the evaluation of evidences!

Ill explain:

In our worldview, there are beliefs that we don’t hold very dear to our hearts, those which, if challenged, or wrong, wouldn’t really change anything in our lives. If you believed that the price of the chocolate bar was £1, and that turned out to be wrong, that isn’t really going to shake your whole belief system! However, there are beliefs that we do hold very dear and close to our hearts – some so close that we don’t even think about them, they are just assumed to be true without much, or any questioning. These would be things like : are your senses reliable? Are your reasoning faculties valid? What is reality? How do i know what reality is? There are many many other aspects and assumptions that are so foundational to a person’s life and living, that if they were undermined, would throw their entire web of beliefs into confusion. These particular beliefs are called ‘presuppositions’. A worldview is a network of presuppositions.

If you were to picture what a worldview looked like, it may be a like a spider’s web. At the edge sides, you have individual beliefs – if one of those snapped, it wouldn’t really affect the whole web very much. But what about the corners? Or the centre? Those things that hold up the rest of the web! If one of those snapped, the whole web would be ruined! In the same way, if our presuppositions are shown to be false, the whole system of beliefs, (including those that influence the way we interpret facts and evidences) comes to ruin.

The question of the existence of God does not come down to individual instances of reality, to facts, or evidences, the question over the belief of God’s existence will come down to a battle over competing presuppositions. Which network of presuppositions, or worldview would allow us to even evaluate evidences, or even ask that question itself?

The Christian contention is that only the Christian worldview has the necessary presuppositions to make sense of the world, to make sense of our daily experience, the things that we take for granted, and allow for the evaluation of evidences. If rejected it would make nonsense of those things, and render them impossible.

To clarify: “We are claiming that the truth set forth in God’s revelation describes the way things really and truly are in the world. That is, we are saying that what God says about the world is the way the world really is. Any view or position that opposes what God has said is therefore, by definition, false and does not “fit” with the way the real world is…
This means that the views of any who remain in unbelief are, in reality, illusions. They do not and cannot make sense of the world as it really is.” – Scott Oliphint, Covanental Apologetics, Page (52)”

As the Dutch theologian Van Til wrote: “The proof of the existence of God is that without Him, you couldn’t prove anything.”

In part 2, we will look at the results of what we have just discussed, and an example in practice!

Presuppositional Apologetics and World Religions.

Epistemic Circularity.

Presuppositional Apologetics Interview (apologetic practice) with Mike Robinson.