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February 26, 2022 12:01 am
In their attempts to deny the existence of God, many atheists violate basic logic--and we must be willing and able to call them on it. Today, R.C. Sproul outlines four foundations to knowledge that are necessary for any reasonable discussion.
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When Nicodemus approached Jesus, but he said something quite profound.
We know you are a teacher sent from God or you would not have been able to do the works that you do not what Nicodemus was saying is that I'm connecting the dots here that there has to be a supernatural cause behind the works that you are performing or those works could not be done using sound logic and reason to come to the conclusion when it comes to explaining and defending her faith logic and reason can be trusted.
Our thanks for joining us for Renewing Your Mind of the Saturday I believe.
Well today Dr. RC Sproul continues his series defending your faith and will discover that from page 1 on in Scripture we find an assumption that the laws of logic are at work in the universe were dazed and the task of apologetics of giving an intellectual defense of the truth claims of Christianity. One of the first things that we have to grapple with in terms of our strategy of developing an intellectual defense has to do with the science of epistemology and I know that's a strange sounding word to many people, so I want to take a few moments today to explain what epistemology is and why it is so important to the whole science of apologetics. So let's put the word on the board. Epistemology EPI S TEM OLOGY epistemology is that subdivision of philosophy that focuses its attention on this basic question that so important, how do we know what we know.
How can we verify or falsify claims to truth. We're doing with this all the time I say something to you and you say what how do you know and I said well I know because and I give a defense like the reason that I tried to substantiate that claim by appealing to some basis of knowledge and some people say why don't believe in God because God is invisible unless I can see them taste and touch and smell of her here. I'm not going to believe in it because that person says as far as I'm concerned, the only knowledge that is adequate knowledge is knowledge that can be tested through one or more of the five senses another person says wait a minute I'm from Missouri. And even if I see it, I'm not going to believe it. Unless you can demonstrate to me with the kind of certainty you get from mathematics because I know eyewitnesses to things people are often mistaken and they are deceived by what they think they say they hallucinate, and so on. So the only proof I will submit to his of the rational sort of the formal sort such as you get in mathematics at the level of 2+2 = 4, and so that first group of people are people who put the accent on the senses. The second group that I just mentioned, put the accent on the mind and on the processes of formal recent and so when we come to the question of truth we have to say will what are the elements that are necessary for us to know that anything is true now. There been many different approaches to this question of epistemology and particularly as it relates to apologetics. Some people forget that the only adequate apologetic is one that is rooted and grounded in historical information that is known through the five senses other say no that's a less than adequate method. The only real way to prove the existence of God is through rational deduction and other say a pox on both your houses. The only real way you can know about God is through assuming it at the outset, as a necessary presupposition for all knowledge, and so on and so there's a difference in the house here of what mixture of these concerns are necessary in order to establish a sound defense of the Christian faith I were to come at this somewhat backwards. I'm coming at it backwards into senses in the first way I'm coming at it backwards is as follows many years ago I was teaching a senior level course in seminary in Philadelphia Temple University.
I had an elective course for my students on historic atheism and in that course as a matter of academic requirements are required that the students read the primary sources from the most formidable atheists of Western theoretical thought people like Jon Stewart mill people like Karl Marx. People like Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Walter colophon and others.
And as we examined the primary sources of these prodigious scholars who were atheists we paid close attention to the way in which these opponents of theism established their negative case and by looking at this from the back door, I noticed a pattern emerging in the pattern that emerged was this that I found that virtually every one of these atheistic thinkers or philosophers. At one point or another in their arguments against theism attacked one or more of four basic epistemological premises and let me explain what they are the four foundational principles of knowing that were attacked either in part or in whole by the atheists were first of all, the law of non-contradiction are sometimes called the law of contradiction, that is, in order to destroy the case for God. Some philosophers argue against the very foundational laws of reason itself, such as the law of contradiction. The second one which was quite often attacked as we will see later, is the law of causality were sometimes called the law of cause and effect, and we will look separately at that element of epistemology.
The third one that was attacked was what I call the principle of the basic reliability of sense perception. Now what were talking about when I talk about sense perception is what I said a few moments ago that our senses are five senses how we see with our eyes are here with our ears or touch with their hands or smell or so on.
Those are the senses, and I right now and seeing this gentleman over here in the first row and I having a perception of him through my eyes. That's a sense perception, and though I may be deceived and he may be a fig Newton of my imagination. I still have a basic trust in the basic reliability of my senses that I don't have to believe in the perfect reliability of my senses, but at least they are basically reliable and so that's the third principle, and the fourth one which may sound very strange and arcane to you is what I call the analogical use of language. Now I'm going to take the time to develop each one of these for and demonstrate why they are so crucial to any serious defense of Christian truth claims, but all I'm doing at this point is saying that by the back door by looking at the critiques offered by the most formidable opponents of Christianity and of theism. Historically what I've said is that the pattern that emerges by atheists or from atheists is that they will negotiate. Usually one usually more than one of these four principles of knowledge and the reason I want to list them at that is that I try to encourage Christians who were seeking to defend the Christian faith to be very careful at this point in developing their own defense of Christianity that they never negotiate any one of these four principles because if they do they are giving ground that may be fatal to their case to the non-believer and I also have to add us in the side and is a parentheses that there are many Christian apologetics systems out there that in fact do negotiate one or more of these premises are principles which I think is a very serious error in their approach to apologetics now. I said that there were two backward ways in which I sought to establish these nonnegotiable principles of knowledge and one was by the inductive process of examining the historic atheists and see how they proceed. See what their assumptions are in their development of their arguments and see whether those assumptions are in fact sound the other premise that I adopted was to look and see what epistemological premises are assumed and used regularly by sacred Scripture is in the final analysis, it is the Scripture, that is our final authority. As Christians, and the Bible, though it is massively concerned about truth and about ultimate truth is not a technical textbook on epistemology the Bible doesn't give us a philosophical analysis of how rationality relates to sense perception or how sense perception relates to the analogical use of language we don't get that kind of stuff in the Bible. And yet, as we examine the Scriptures and how the Scriptures proceed, we see that there are certain assumptions or what I'm going to call here presuppositions, prior assumptions that the Bible makes in communicating its content to whomever hears it, and those assumptions or suppositions are suppositions that come from God himself that, I assume, therefore, are built in to the creature as God has made the creature as a thinking creature as a sensing creature as a communicating creature and so and we see, for example, that in the Bible there is a passive assumption of the validity of the law of non-contradiction, because it is assumed the truth is not contradictory and that there is a discernible difference between obedience and disobedience between righteousness and unrighteousness between Christ and the Antichrist, and therefore we are held accountable by our maker.
For if God tells us to do a that that means we are not allowed to disobey that by doing on a that is, we are not permitted to behave in a manner that contradicts what God commands or contradicts what he forbids, so that in order to be obedient to the word of God in the first instance, one has to operate within the framework of the law of non-contradiction without the law of non-contradiction, not a sentence in Scripture would ultimately be intelligible member to try to demonstrate that further. In our next the session, but for now again were just doing a reconnaissance over the landscape here to show you the basic premises that you ought never to negotiate now what about the law of causality is that assumed in sacred Scripture will every time an appeal is made.
For example in the Bible to the evidential value of a miracle. There is the assumption of the reliability of the law of causality. If Jesus says to his disciples, if you don't believe my words. Believe me, for my work's sake, or when Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and said teacher, we know that you are a teacher sent from God or you would not have been able to do the works that you do not what Nicodemus was saying is that I'm connecting the dots here.
I'm saying that there has to be a supernatural divine cause behind the works that you are performing or those works could not be done.
And I happen to think that Nicodemus was reasoning in a sound manner. At that point but again when the Bible says look here's the miracle Christ comes out of the grave. The dead rise and we are supposed to draw conclusions from that of a divine cause for the resurrection. If we say that anything can cause anything or that anything can happen even without a cause, then the evidentiary value of the resurrection, or any of the miracles of Christ or the miracles of the Old Testament saints would have no value so that from page 1 in the Scripture to the end. There is this assumption of the law of causality, which again I will develop more fully in a separate lecture and show how the law of causality is so vital to Christian apologetics.
Third, the basic reliability of sense perception again.
Even if we grant that we can be deceived with our senses.
St. Augustine, for example, use a famous example to illustrate the limits of the reliability of sense perception with his famous bent or analogy, the bent or analogy was taken from those who used oars in their vessels that they would take out on the lake rowboats is at work in antiquity, and you've all been in rowboats where you put your order in the water in the middle of the noonday sun and you look down into the water where you can see the blade of the ore beneath the surface of the water and from where you're sitting.
It looks as sure as anything that the ore is bent because of the refraction of light and so on and so, from your perspective.
Sitting in the boat and if you know a thing about the laws of light and refraction, all that sort of thing you would come to the conclusion that you had a battle or and that's the way in which our sense perceptions can deceive us. I look at this audiences here today and if I put my thumb up in front of my eye, like an artist is measuring perspective in distance and so on. I close my left thigh and put my thumb in front of my right eye and I see the gentleman the back row and I see that my thumbnail now conceals his whole head I could come to the conclusion that's Tom Thumb back there in the back row that his head is not as big as my thumbnail.
But again, that's a matter of perspective and depth perception that we learn to adjust forks all the time. All it does is indicate the limits of sense perception. There are sounds out there that my dog can hear that I can't hear but nevertheless you know those sounds are their course you have the old argument that the philosophers make if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it doesn't make any sound or the even more modern version of that philosophical conundrum is that if a man says something in the forest and there's no woman there to hear him.
Is he still wrong. This has to do with the basic reliability of sense perception where you see if our senses are basically unreliable.
Then we could draw no true conclusions from what we observe, or what we hear or what we handle and this of course would be the end of the physical natural sciences that we are dealing with today that rely so heavily upon sense perception in the course. Science has long been well aware of the limits of sensation in limits of sense perception.
That's why some of the greatest breakthroughs in the scientific world have come through improved equipment that extend our ability to perceive such as the microscope that makes us see things that are invisible to the naked eye, and make us aware of all kinds of things that are really there that are invisible to the naked eye, but once we place them under the microscope we see what was previously unseen. Likewise, the telescope has radically changed our perception of the vastness of the universe because things that could not be seen by the naked eye are now clearly perceived through the use of that machine were that instrument that enhances our sense perception, but this is what the writers of the New Testament Peter for example, have already mentioned, said brother.
We declare to you, not cleverly designed myths, but we declare to you what we have seen with our eyes, and what we have heard with our ears. One of the most important aspects of the importance of the resurrection in the New Testament is that it's not that on Easter morning people came to the tomb and found the tomb empty and then therefore drew an inference from an empty tomb, saying he must be risen because we can't find him because there were be other alternative explanations for a missing body and certainly the last one you would reach reasonably would be that he had been raised know the testimony of the New Testament on Christ's resurrection does not rest upon inferences drawn from an empty tomb, but rather from eyewitness testimony.
We have seen him and that's why we declare these things to you as I witnesses and so the Bible appeals constantly to the basic reliability of sense perception in order to make its case about reality finally is this very arcane idea of the analogical use of language. Now that may sound a little bit technical, but is simply taken from the word analogy and we know what an analogy is. I trust that something is like something else. We point to similarities between two things in order to describe them.
The reason why this is so important is that many people argue that, because God is different from us.
Ultimately, that any attempt that we have to speak about him must be so much mumbo-jumbo because human language is never adequate to describe or to speak meaningfully about a transcendent being. In fact, this is been the focal point of much of the criticism against Christianity in 20th century philosophy, arguing that religious statements don't tell us anything about external reality they just tell us about ourselves. They are only emotive statements. They describe our emotions, our religious feelings but they have no counterpart in objective reality. Because language human language is inherently incapable of rising above the realm of humanity to speak meaningfully about a transcendent being and so if Christianity is going to survive these attacks that come at the basis of language we have to be able to construct some point of analogy some sense in which God is like us.
In order for there to be meaningful discourse about him.
That's why for example the very beginning of the Bible. It is asserted that God creates man in his own image and in his light's that there's an analogy there between the creator and the creature that makes discussions about him possibly will look at each one of these individually in the days to come so we could explore more fully how important each is to the defense and so we hope you'll join us each Saturday here as we continue Dr. RC Sproul series defending your faith. It's easy to see why we need training like this. The arguments against Christianity come from all sides. So we need to be prepared. Let me encourage you.
You don't need to feel inadequate when it comes to defending your faith. It takes some work to study and understand these philosophies, but you can have a working knowledge of them.
That's why hope you'll request our resource offer today.
It's RC's complete series on classical apologetics. It contains 32 messages on 11 DVDs and when you requested today will include a bonus disc that has the study guide for the series to request defending your faith when you go online to Renewing Your Mind.org you can also call us with your gift and 800-435-4343 Dr. Spruill had a wonderful way of explaining theology in a way that doesn't require a degree.
Words like imputation justification for the Odyssey and so on may sound intimidating but they need not be. That's what encourage you to listen to a podcast for modular ministries called simply put, each Tuesday my colleague Barry Cooper sheds light on a different biblical or theological term using helpful illustrations to apply to your life. It's a short easy listen and you can subscribe in iTunes or Google play work by visiting simply put podcast.com before we go. Here's a preview focal here next Saturday.
I find that the majority of students who walk in the door in the seminary today have already been convinced by the secular, that truth can be irrational and that the Bible can be contradictory and still be the word of God and it's an astonishing thing. I hope you make lists join us again next Saturday for Renewing Your Mind