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How Do You Know?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 29, 2022 12:01 am

How Do You Know?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 29, 2022 12:01 am

Why do some people believe in God while others do not? Today, R.C. Sproul takes a critical look at the biases and prejudices that atheists must embrace in order to deny the existence of God.

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Throughout history people come to different conclusions on this question. How do we know what we know that not everybody has the same approach. Some people are skeptical saying you can't know anything for somebody in our day and age say the truth is relative and that truth is subjective and you wonder how you can even have a conversation with people like that because their ruling out of bounds any appeal to rationality this weekend. Renew your mind with introductory sees groceries the psychology of infusing sticking a critical look at the infants claim that religion is merely an attempt to meet psychological needs. Many in the academic world.

Take that skepticism even deeper.

They put their guns at the concept of knowledge itself. If we continue now with our study of the psychology of atheism.

You recall that in our last session, I mentioned that the whole question about the existence of God is loaded with all kinds of prejudicial and emotional baggage. Those of us who believe in God have to admit that we want the existence of God to be true, and yet the same time we know that in the history of theoretical thought some of the most brilliant philosophers and scientists have borne strong testimony to their own personal conviction that God exists.

You think of St. Thomas Aquinas or Augustine or Warner Vaughn Brawner Albert Einstein all kinds of people that we could parade as witnesses who carry the credentials of an enormous intellectual strength who do not hesitate to affirm their conviction of the existence of God and yet at the same time, who would to deny the intellectual brilliance of a man like David Hume or Jean-Paul Sartre or Ludwig Feuerbach. We could give a host of names of brilliant thinkers and brilliant scientists down through the ages who have emphatically denied the existence of God. So what does the poor person in the street do when they see these intellectual Titans disagreeing over an issue so foundational as the question of the existence of God. Well, that sometimes the dilemma that people face when they go to their doctor, in whom they have great confidence and trust in the doctor suggests that they have surgery for their malady and they go and get a second opinion and another doctor in whom they have great confidence as well. Cautions against it and the person has to try and weigh and balance the credentials of the experts and you all sing that in televised criminal trials where you have experts testifying on both sides of the question. So what you do, you just flip a coin or do you fall back in pond well the final analysis we have to test the reasons that examine the evidence and see who was making the more cogent case, but before we embark on that sort of discovery.

The first question I think we need to address. It is even more basic and that is the question why is it that people of such great credentials disagree on the question of the existence of God that we could ask the same question about any issue. Why is it that we find very intelligent people lining up on both sides of a debated point or debated question that we know that there is the fallacy in logic that is called the either or fallacy which is the fallacy of reductionism whereby you argue that an issue has to be either this or that when there's another alternative, a terse and quit as were.

And so the fallacy that is called the fallacy of the false dilemma is when you reduce the options to two when there could be three or four or five options. But when we get to the question of the existence of God there only are two options. Either God exists or he does not and to reduce it to those two alternatives is not to engage the fallacy of the false dilemma. He cannot be and not be at the same time in the same relationship. The reader must be a God or no God. Now why is I say do people disagree on this question. There lots of reasons why people disagree about certain things and we don't have time to explore every conceivable reason why people come to disparate conclusions about issues, but what I want to do is look briefly at the four major reasons why brilliant and capable people and in disagreement on significant issues.

What causes these disagreements to take place and I'll list them. First of all, and then give an exposition of each of them. The first reason why people may come to different conclusions about vitally important questions is that they are operating with different epistemologies and talk about what that means different epistemologies. The second reason why people come to differing conclusions about debatable points is the presence of formal errors.

The third reason why people come to differing conclusions on important issues is because of factual errors in the fourth reason, which is the reason were going to explore most heavily in this brief series is prejudice or bias malice. Take a look at each one of these individually. The first one I've noted is epistemological differences now before you choke on that word epistemological which I know is somewhat technical term may take the time to explain in the discipline of philosophy, one of the most important subheadings under a broader heading of the discipline of philosophy is the science for the study of epistemology and what epistemology is all about is the study of the question how do we know what we know so and epistemology is a particular theory of knowledge or theory of how we learn what we learn that we may not use this technical language but were aware of the question, how many times have you said something to somebody and they responded to by saying how do you know they're asking the epistemological question how do you know that new symbol, I sought I'm an eyewitness, and you are relying now heavily upon a sensory experience in Europe, healing to what you saw with your eyes or felt with your hands or heard with Yuri. That's part of epistemology or you may say will. The reason I know it is that I figured it out logically or mathematically.

I establish my premise and build a syllogism and came to an irresistible conclusion.

And so I came to this knowledge rationally or you may say I don't know how I know that it's intuition. I guess I just sort of sense that in my bones. I don't have time to process the myriad particles of database of information but I'm absorbing them all in this going through the mixture of my brain and my own experience in making a responsive and intuitive response. And that's how you answer the question hello I know or you might just appeal to authority say I don't know how I know, I know it that's good enough for me now what I say is that people operate on the basis of differing epistemologies. One of the ongoing debates in the history of philosophy has focused on the question of how does anyone know what they know. You may be heard terms like rationalism and empiricism or Platonism and Aristotelianism, which have hugely complex structures of thought built in them at all at the same time Aristotle and Plato differed fundamentally on the question, how do we know the 17th-century rationalists were called rationalists because they said that the primary way in which people know what they know is through the mind and they said that the mind has certain innate ideas born with knowledge on priority knowledge and that these categories are used to arrange and sort out all of the data bits of our experience into a rational system.

Mathematics is heavily rational and abstract in its approach. The 18th century saw I reaction against 17th-century rationalism, Ren Descartes, the father of rationalism once made the observation that once through pure logic.

He could get to the fundamental ideas of existence. What he called clear and distinct ideas that he wouldn't have to use telescopes or microscopes to create a worldview. He said he could crawl into his Dutch oven and didn't do's logically a whole life and worldview and remember all of the trouble Descartes went to to convince himself of his own existence of all heard the phrase call Geico ergo sum, I think, therefore I am. Why would he do something like that. Why would he labor over something that is so self-evident. Every other human being. You all believe that you exist. Why would you want to try to prove it well. Descartes was from Missouri he don't take anything for granted. He said I want to have a basic principle that is indubitable something that is incapable of being doubted something absolutely sure and certain, and he therefore went through a rigorous doubting process in a cynical way doubting every thesis that he could ever conceive of even doubted that he could see his hand in front of his face. He said maybe that's an illusion.

Maybe some demons making me think I'm saying my hand in front of my face sounds ridiculous to us but not ridiculous in terms of his own rigorous pursuit. He was trying to say I want to come to a truth that simply cannot be doubted. That presents the impossibility of the contrary truth so plain so clear and distinct that to doubted is to prove it. And so he asked himself while he was doubting.

The one thing I cannot doubt is that I'm doubting because if I doubt that I'm doubting what am I doing I'm doubting that in order to doubt.

I have to be thinking because doubt is impossible apart from thought and if I'm thinking there must be a thinker so he comes that this rudimentary conclusion I think therefore I am okay now. I got a premise to work on any support all this out logically because he didn't want to rest his case on what he observed with his eyes were heard with his ears because he had long ago learned that the senses can deceive us. We can be fooled. We can think that we see something and not really see it. It could be an illusion or it could be an error in perception I'm standing in front of a live audience right now and there's somebody sitting in the third row who used to be a policeman for the city of Chicago and I'm looking at him and and I noticed that his head is very small. It's smaller than the nail on my thumb because if I put my thumbnail in front of my close the other.

I I cannot skewer his head from my view. So from this perspective it must be that I'm looking at Tom thumbnail since that is smaller than my thumbnail know what's wrong with my thinking there I failed to take into consideration questions of depth perception distance and all of that but that's the way in which senses can deceive us. So Descartes wanted, and epistemology that sidestep all of the problems associated with sensory perceptions in the 18th century they say wait a minute.

The problem with rationalism is that you can conceive of something as being true logically and just because it's a logical possibility doesn't mean it's so there's nothing ideological about the existence of unicorns, but so far no one's been able to verify the existence of unicorns by hard data and so the 18th-century empiricists unless I can see it takes to touch it or smell it.

I'm not going to affirm its existence because if I want to get outside of my own mind and deal with the world around me to deal with you.

The only avenue that I have from my own mind to you is the avenue of my five senses my body is the threshold from my mind to the world around me. The only way I can interact with that world around me is either through seeing it or hearing it or tasting it, smelling it, touching, and that's with the empiricists of the 18th century were getting and so they said no. The primacy for knowledge is on the basis of observation and sense perception, not on the primacy of the mind. So you had two schools of thought that were competing over how we know that take the questions existence of God. The rationalists would say that the naked reasoning of the mind requires the idea of the first cause and ultimate being is a logical necessity in Paris comes at the questioner says may be logically necessary but show me him can't see them taste and touch up smell it, he can't be a part of scientific inquiry. Am oversimplifying at this point in order for us to be able to move along, but that's basically what the responses, and so you have differing epistemologies used by different philosophers and how they approach the first question how I know what I know will have an enormous bearing on the content they include. Ultimately in their knowledge, because if they rule out things that come through the senses or things that are learned through deduction. They have a reduced capacity to grasp the whole of reality. That's why Immanuel Kant then after the skepticism of 18th-century empiricism came along and tried to reconstruct epistemology and create a synthesis and show that if were really going to have knowledge both the mind and the senses have to be involved in the process and he said that's the way. In fact, we learn we learn that some children learn by experiencing things through the senses, and by thinking in some kind of logical manner so that this is why in the scientific method.

For example, and when you went to school and the teachers told you that there was a scientific method.

What did they mean by method what the science mean the basic meaning of the word science is knowledge, so the scientific method is a method or a way of getting knowledge and classically the scientific method has two dimensions to it. The formal and the material the rational or the empirical the deductive and the inductive that is the scientific method rests both on the reasoning processes of the mind and on the gathering and analyzing, organizing and measuring of all kinds of sensory data. We don't just take pictures of the stars. We also use mathematical calculations and draw inferences from that data using deduction.

So both induction and deduction are integral to the scientific method and that's what Kant was getting as well as the Enlightenment philosophers who argued that the task of science is to find the logic of the facts that little expression. The logic of the facts, the so-called analytical method of knowing involves two aspects, the mind, which brings the logical aspect to it and the compilation of data which is what I call the facts and not everybody has the same approach. Some people are skeptical, epistemologically saying you can't know anything more to somebody in our day and age say the truth is relative and that truth is subjective and you wonder how you can even have a conversation with people like that because their ruling out of bounds any appeal to rationality because they allow for the possibility of irrational reality that the contest is going on. Even now in the scientific community, not to mention the theological and the philosophical. So what I've done today is to try to show you that one of the major reasons why great thinkers come to different conclusions about important issues is that their operating on different systems of thought. Everyone has a theory of knowledge.

Everybody has a way of coming at problems in trying to solve those problems and and come to conclusions about issues. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what is my epistemology on the kind of person that asked that question of himself all the time. I keep coming back to the questions of epistemology. How I know what I know I sometimes will write a list of 10 things that I know I know for sure because there's so much about which I'm not sure.

And then I find I talked my friends tell me 10 things that you know for sure, and they'll write down their little list of 10 things they know for sure and I find out some of them say I know for sure something is exact opposite what I have on my list that I say I know for sure. I know for sure the regeneration precedes faith that all my Arminian friends are absolutely convinced that faith receives regeneration voting. That's what I'm asking you to do. I'm asking not simply to write on a piece of paper.

10 things you know for sure what you think about how you know simple questions out in that's not Jersey's role in the think we get a glimpse there of RC's wonderful sense of humor and a very relatable way in which he taught the importance of knowing why we know what we know RC is taking us through his series. The psychology of atheism this week on Renewing Your Mind. And that would lead you to be with us in 15 lessons. RC explains that the issue is not intellectual it's moral as the apostle Paul tells us in the first chapter of Romans sinful man suppresses the truth about God and seeks to live in unbounded freedom. It's important for us as believers to be equipped to respond to the claims that atheists make so I hope you'll request our resource offer today when you give a donation of any amount to later ministries we will send you Dr. Sproles book. If there's a God, why are there atheists will also provide you with a digital download of the full series that were hearing this week. There are 15 messages in all and you can request them when you go online to Renewing Your Mind.org or when you call us at 800-435-4343 one of her teaching fellows Dr. Steven Lawson weighed in on this issue at one of our ligand or conferences in the listless and what he had to say whether different kinds of atheists, and there is the intellectual atheists who claims that there is no God but in reality he knows that there is God. There is also the religious atheists who have said no to the one true living God as presented in the Scripture, and chooses to go after God's of his own making her gods had been invented by other men and then there is also the practical atheists who actually believes that there is a God, but chooses to live his life independent of God, that's helpful to know as we interact with skeptics in the those who claim to be atheists. This really underlines our goal with later ministries to help you know what you believe what you believe it how to live it and how to share it. If you'd like to continue your study. I hope you'll contact us soon and request Dr. Sproles book along with a digital download of the series were featuring this week. Our phone number again is 800-435-4343 but if you prefer to go online to make your request. Our address is Renewing Your Mind.org clears a preview of Dr. Sproles next lesson we as human beings as well-trained as we may be in the science of logic are still capable of making incorrect inferences and errors in deduction. And that's one of the reasons why great minds will come to different conclusions about significant issues because somewhere along the way somebody's made a logical leap and so they come to a different conclusion. I hope you'll join us tomorrow as we continue the series. The psychology of atheism here on Renewing Your Mind


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