Let’s start the week with some philosophical musings, shall we?
I’ve been considering some things this morning, and thought I’d share them with you. I sometimes get a little frustrated in conversations that are based in obvious, and easily proven, fallacious logic. It’s fallacious logic posited as rational, and because it’s so widely defined as rational, both the secular and Christian world gets sucked into it.
For whatever reason, I’m often asked to give proof for my faith. I’m asked for the evidence. I’ve even been told that if I try to give evidence for the Christian faith, I’m a bad Christian because Christianity is a ‘religion’ (let’s call it a worldview to escape the term) that is built and founded on faith. Skeptics confidently tell me that if I produce evidence, I’m not being very Christian. Christians have even told me that if I produce evidence for my beliefs, I’m not pleasing God, because Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please Him.
It seems that I find myself between a rock and a hard place… OK. Let’s smash some boulders, and perhaps expose some sponges masquerading as granite… I’ll get to the ‘Great Fallacy” in a few minutes.
If what I believe is true, there should be some sort of evidence to show it. I readily admit and proclaim this. If God created the universe, then what we see in the universe should indicate this. At the very least, what we see in the creation should not tell us that God did not create it. (I’m inferring the Judeo-Christian God that cannot lie.) In other words, if my beliefs are true, what we find in reality should not negate that truth. We should find rational and perhaps even empirical evidence to that truth.
I believe that we do.
Further, if Jesus really lived, taught, ministered, died, and rose again– all (partially) as a message from God, then that message should have been recorded for us. In other words, I should expect to find it reflected in history.
He did, and we do.
There is nothing wrong with the Christian finding and sharing this rational support for our faith.
Here’s the rub. None of that evidence is enough to empirically prove that God exists, that Jesus was His Son, that Jesus rose from the grave, that He ascended to Glory to build us a room in the Father’s house, that the Holy Spirit indwells us, that Jesus will return, or that any of us will go to heaven.
I’m sorry. You’re not going to get it. That’s not how God designed the world. That’s not how God designed His redemptive plan. That’s where faith comes in, and that’s why faith pleases God. God gave fallen man plausible deniability so that we can choose to worship ourselves, and thus fall fully under His wrath (go read Romans 1). He gave us some rational reasons to believe in Him, and the gift of faith to take us the rest of the way. If we choose to deny the idolatry of self and accept Him, we do so with pierced hearts, armed with the gift of faith.
So, for me, I never try to prove Christianity right– well, not anymore. It’s futile, and in my opinion as I grow in my walk, it’s counter to the gospel. Instead, I try to give the reasons that I consider my worldview to be rational, and then pray that they are led to the faith that is the next step.
In any event, I now refuse to get dragged into the empiricism fallacy. I just refuse to. If you ask me to, prepare to be rebuffed, and prepare to be rebuffed on very rational, logical, well-reasoned grounds. Let me explain what I call the “Empiricism Argument”.
This is the argument that professes that the only valid and acceptable form of knowledge is that which has been empirically tested and verified. (In other words, the only things that we can truly know, we have empirically verified with our physical senses.) It sounds pretty rational, right? It sounds like a strong argument– partly because at its face, it sounds believable, and partly because we’ve been indoctrinated into the logic for so long.
But it’s philosophical clap-trap. It’s easily rebuffed and exposed for fallacious reasoning. Don’t believe me? OK.
Prove it. Because if that’s what you believe, your beliefs demand that you be able to empirically prove it. If empiricism is true… If it is knowledge that is trustworthy, you must be able to empirically prove it. It has to live up to its own standards. It has to eat its own dog food.
The problem is that, in claiming that all truth must be empirically verified while the claim itself is empirically unverifiable, it proves itself wrong. If the empiricist statement is true, then it has proven itself false. It’s called ‘the internal consistency test’. And empiricism fails.
Please pardon me while I continue at a bit of a snail’s pace. I want this to be as clear as possible to as many as possible. So, I’ll show the fallacy another way. Note the logic:
For empiricism to be true, empiricism must be shown as true empirically. If empiricism cannot be empirically proven, then its claim fails on its own criteria. For it to be true, it must be accepted as false. It’s a logical contradiction.
Now, here’s the beauty of the Christian claims. Not only does Christianity claim that one can know truth of a non-empirical nature. Christianity claims that the greatest truths are known non-empirically. The greatest truths are known spiritually! This claim is in complete agreement with the rest of the Christian worldview (it’s internally consistent), and it’s completely rational.
Go read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.
Paul says that the wisdom of God is not accepted by unbelievers because it is not physically ascertained. It is spiritually ascertained. In other words, they are not empirically proven and experienced. They are spiritually proven and experienced– and they’re greater than anything the fallen world can formulate. The ‘foolishness’ of God is greater than the wisdom of man!
Here’s what Paul was alluding to: When a person takes that step of faith from empiricism, rationalism, etc to faithful acceptance, then they are reborn. They become a new creature and their spirit (which was dead) comes to life– and that newly born spirit is the fresh receptor for spiritual truths. Paul said that ‘His Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:16) As a Christian, you have new receptors! You can almost say that it then becomes empirically proven, because now you have new ‘senses’ that you didn’t have, and which the unbelieving world doesn’t have. The Spirit testifies the wisdom of God that goes beyond any philosophical reasoning that has been introduced by humanity alone.
Existentially? Do we really exist? The Spirit testifies that you do and you belong to God! Theologically? The Spirit testifies that God exists, and loves you as His child. How can we know truth? The Spirit testifies it.
I can think of one particular discussion with a secular philosopher, and he got pretty irritated with me for this line of reasoning. In our discussion, he was painted into a corner of whether he could know truth. I had forced the issue that, without access to anything outside of himself for reference, he could not know if his perceptions are true. He can never know what he thinks he knows. He admitted that he could not, and countered that neither could I, so we were at a stalemate. I told him that I can know truth because I have been spiritually born and God Himself ministers truth to me. God Himself tells me that my perceptions are real. I have something greater than myself and my perception to inform me of truth. Because I am spiritually alive, I have insight into that which he does not.
I promise I am not and was not being purposefully arrogant. I believe that I am and was just being honest and rational. And it is both honest and rational that even the ‘foolishness’ of God is greater than the wisdom of man– because empiricism will only get you so far. It will only get you to the questions. It can only get you to a decision as to whether you’ll have faith.
God takes you from there, and He does so in a very rational way.