Monday, April 23, 2012

How biblical-minded Christians and Theists reason differently about God

In a riposte to this post, we note here how "theists" supposedly argue. According to this post (which is an excerpt from his forthcoming book),

Regardless of the course taken by naturalists, most sophisticated Christian theists refrain from dependence on a god-of-the-gaps form of reasoning. Rather, Christian scholars tend to appeal to God as an inference to the best explanation. This form of logical reasoning resembles the way detectives, lawyers, historians, and scientists reason. For example, scientists sometimes postulate ideas that are unobservable in order to explain the data that is observed (consider for example dark matter and dark energy). This approach posits the biblical God as the best explanation for all the significant realities in life.

Besides suffering from the fallacy of induction, and affirming the consequence, can anyone imagine the Bible stating:

"I am the best explanation and approximation of the way, the truth and the life" - Jesus

"In the beginning the best explanation is there was the Word..."

The Scriptures do not endorse this type of illogical nonsense, for good reason. Samples has not managed to escape the charge of "god-of the gaps" argumentation, for the primary method is still the same. God and His Word is not taken as the foundation, but rather autonomous reason is taken as the foundation for Samples' reasoning.

Inference to the best explanation works in historical and judicial fields because these fields are not about proving true truth, but rather constructing a plausible case. That is why supposed established history can be questioned if new discoveries are made, and legal cases re-opened if new evidences are found. To drag the Christian faith down to that level is to reduce it to a mere hypothesis, and a hypothesis no matter how solid is still a hypothesis which may be wrong.

The "god of the gaps" argument begins with autonomous reason, thus whatever is not open to reason or the senses (empiricism) or whatever combination of the two, is disregarded a priori. In such a rationalistic mentality, any mention of "god" is placed within the rationalistic framework, and therefore "god" is seen either as a crutch to inhibit further understanding (thus "of the gaps"), or as the author behind everything, which is seen by atheists as a crutch still. After all, having conceded the foundation of autonomous reason, why stop there?

Biblically minded Christians therefore do not reason like "theists." We start with God and His Word, not Man and his mind(s). We do not reason to God, but reason from God.

Credo ut intelligam

[HT: Triablogue]

6 comments:

Trinity said...

I tend to think there is a better way - the classical argument. Rather than starting with "autonomous reason", the classicist starts with a God-implanted reason. The only way to have a discussion with anyone is to presuppose reason. But true reason and logic are not based on man or autonomously formed by the mind of man. Rather, they are divinely given to man by our creator -- for the express purpose of knowing Him.
General revelation may be understood and conceeded by all, special revelation is only agreeable to the regenerate by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thanks!

PuritanReformed said...

@Trinity:

I think the classical argument presupposes a certain Christian worldview, not just reason. In this post-Christian world, or even in other parts of the world pre-Christian world, it just will not work.

Trinity said...

Actually, it's the other way around. It's the original post here that pre-supposes a Christian worldview.
It sounds like you may not be familiar with the classical argument, which presupposes a logic and reason that we are all endowed with by our creator. *Not autonomous human reason and *not special revelation/Christian worldviewism.

PuritanReformed said...

@Trinity:

if you are saying my post presupposes a Christian worldview, of course that is correct, but I do so explicitly as a presuppostionalist, not someone who pretends to be neutral.

The proposition that there is "a logic and reason that we are all endowed with by our creator" is itself not a universally held truth. Most people may naively allow you to presuppose them, but not those who have thought through the issue, esecially postmodern skeptics.

Not to rain on your parade, but so far I have not found any classical argument that I cannot poke holes in.

Trinity said...

Daniel, it may seem that to you that you've poke a hole, but only because you again misunderstand the classical argument.

The proposition that there is 'a logic and reason that we are all endowed with by our creator' is not a specifically Christian proposition. And is not a required presupposition to debate. What is required is that we presuppose the use of logic and reason, which only human beings possess. General revelation is a universal principal. Of course a consistent post-modernist rejects even this, but I have yet to find a "consistent" post-modernist who will even engage in such a dialogue (primarily because dialogue presupposes logic).

I appreciate what presuppositionalism can do to obliterate the beligerent atheist's position, but I have never found any of the arguments remotely persuasive or helpful when working with sincere unbelievers.

PuritanReformed said...

@Trinity:

Presupposing the use of logic and reason does not prove theism. It only proves that logic and reason exists. As John Frame (in this case correctly) said, beginning with the rules of logic will only give you more rules of logic. Or to cite more clearly:

"Nothing follows from the laws of logic, taken alone, except possibly more laws of logic. From propositions about our own mental states, nothing follows except further propositions about our own mental states. From the statement “there are objective truths,” nothing specific follows, and a statement that tells us nothing specific… is not a meaningful statement… Thus if knowledge is limited to the sorts of propositions we have just examined, we will know only about our own minds and not about the real world because our mental states often deceive us." (Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, p. 113)

To give an example of the failure of classical theism, see this previous post I did on the Ontological argument (http://puritanreformed.blogspot.com/2010/09/baic-flaw-in-anselms-ontological.html).

As for the persuasiveness of the various arguments, since we believe that salvation is through the power of the Holy Spirit alone, persuasiveness being subjective means nothing. There may have been people converted in Benny Hinn crusades, but are you willing to be utilitarian about the matter and think that there must be some truth in what Hinn says since some people may be converted then?

Apologetics is about truth, not so much persuasion. Apologists are not the Holy Spirit, and should not try to be God.