Systematic Doxology:General disclaimer
The Christian faith does not stand or fall on the scientific views of the followers of Christ. This site does not claim the infallible final word on any scientific subject. Science is an activity of finite and fallen men. We seek to see the glory of God and perceive his wisdom and excellence in the work of his hands. However, we are limited by our own finite minds and the faculties of knowledge we have been given.
Philosophically this site is neither Empiricist nor Rationalist. It falls more in the school of the "Perspectivalists" such as John Frame and Vern Poythress. We do not believe that the fallibility of the human sense faculties leads us to abandon their use and adopt a total skepticism or even a strict form of mitigated skepticism limited to a-priori and deductive conclusions. Nor do we believe that the Rational mind alone is sufficient to produce a robust human knowledge. The small set of axioms from which deductive conclusions can be inferred does not leave you with more than a small quantum of knowledge regarding logic and mathematics and with no knowledge of the particulars of the world.
[<a href="/wiki/index.php?title=Systematic_Doxology:General_disclaimer&action=edit§ion=1" title="Edit section: Empirical Methods">edit</a>] Empirical Methods
Although sympathetic with much of the work of Gordon H. Clark and John Robbins, we do not, hold the same degree of doubt concerning the use of Empirical methods to produce human knowledge. God has created a world and men in it with senses that are "generally reliable". God himself has ordained that men are to use such Empirical methods as;
- just weights and measures - Pro 20:23, Pro 11:1, Pro 16:11; Lev 19:35; Deu 25:13-15; Amo 8:4-7; Mic 6:10, Mic 6:11
- judicial witnesses in civil and criminal cases - Exo 20:16; Lev 5:1; Num 35:30; Deu 17:6,5; Prov 14:25
- measurements in order to copy the heavenly tabernacle Exo 25:9,40; Heb 8:5
- the counting of times and seasons and years etc... - Gen 2:2-3; Exo 12:15; 20:10, 21:2, 23:11
- recognizing my wife and how she is different from another man's wife in order to not commit adultery - Exo 20:14
- recognizing and distinguishing my and my neighbors possessions and not coveting what is not mine - Exo 20:17
If moral culpability is made to depend upon the use of Empirical methods, and guilt before God arises when such knowledge is knowingly violated (e.g. false weights and measures) then we believe that it would seem un-Biblical to assign all sense activities to the skeptical back-burner.
The fact that the word "eyewitness" is used by the Apostles both of themselves and of the 500 others who saw the ressurected Christ,
seems not merely to serve as the content of the Scriptural axiom but, to present an apologia for the verity of the accounts. The statements are made in light of the fact that an eyewitness has some epistemological justification for his claims. If it has no such meaning, then indeed, it would seem meaningless to mention it.
However, we strictly reject Empiricism as an epistemology. Not all things empirical are Empiricism. The necessity of God given innate (from Latin natus - in born or born with) ideas and mental faculties is both Scriptural and seems logically inevitable, and the idea of abstracting concepts from sense data onto a Tabula Rasa (mind as a blank slate) is both a petitio principii (begging the question) and its own Reductio ad absurdum (reduction to an absurdity). That is, in order to abstract the concept of equality from two lines set next to one another, the ideas of equality and comparison (not to mention abstraction) must already be present in the mind. To say that something is equal is to place it in the class of an equivalence relation. This class must be prior to the classification of any object as being a member of that class. Thus to claim to recognize a property and call it equality, shows that one already has a concept of equality that they may recognize in a set of objects as a meaningful property. Furthermore, the class itself is not an empirical object, and so would seem a mere fantasy to an Empiricist and especially so to any Logical Positivist.
Plato seeing this, placed these ideas or classes, which he called "forms" in a realm of forms. A perfect store of ideal objects and concepts. Augustine placed these forms in the eternal ideas of the mind of God. However, for the Rationalist school, the debate must inevitably arise as to how the innate ideas or forms become actual instances of knowledge. For we know at least that we don't know everything. If then we don't know all the forms, and furthermore we grow in our knowledge through our life, how do these forms "instantiate" into actual knowledge. Is it a direct intervention of God? Is it -as Plato taught- a process of being "reminded" of the forms one had previously seen in a pre-existant state?
Thus the Rationalist school splinters into the various sub-classes of their answer to this question. Most would probably admit that men are not born with actual instances of the forms in their present consciousness. That is, they have no thoughts of justice or love or fairness or blue-ness etc... occurring spontaneously in their minds. Babies do not know about the world outside their own home nor about economics or physics or astronomy. Much less do men know about the cross of Christ or the predestination of the elect to eternal life by an inscrutable decree of God in the counsels of eternity.
How then do men come to know things? If we grant the notion of the forms, and place them in the perfect ideas of God, and God places his ideas in us as his image, then we must answer the question, "why don't we know all things at birth"?
First let us deal with Gordon Clark / John Robbins Scripturalism or the axiom of revelation. I am most sympathetic (or synological as the case may be) with this school of thought. The basic answer that Robbins gives to this question is that God directly intervenes to provide knowledge in the mind. How does this relate to Scripture? We know that we must look at and see and read the physical ink-words of Scripture or hear the human words vibrating on the air into our sensory organs. Does this mean that at last we are finally dependent on our sense experience even to have contact with the Axiom itself? Robbins says, no. God directly intervenes to transport the words of God into the mind. Much like how Christ said to Peter, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto you, but my Father which is in heaven."
However, a few questions arise.
- What about poor translations producing poor theology- e.g. the "New World Translation" of the Jehova's Witnesses
- How do we reconcile the need for obtaining referents to words in order to understand propositions- e.g. ants Proverbs 6:6
- Why do we need to learn the language in which the Scripture is written in order to know it? Paul contends that words of another language do not edify.
These all seem to point to a medium of empirical (not Empiricist) methods. There seems to be a dependence on certain sensations, which when deprived provide no gain in knowledge. So whatever may be supposed about this question, we must humbly recognize that at the very least God has ordained that his act of communicating his revelation is done through and not without empirical means. The only alternative seems to leave us with a sort of mysticism or neo-orthodox view of Scripture and revelation. I would see it as certain that the act of illumination is a "Divine and Supernatural Light immediately imparted to the soul by the Spirit of God." - Jonathan Edwards. However, we seem to undermine and not support the doctrine of the Bible if we say that this is not done through the ink-words of the physical text in the physical book. How do we know that this book is the Bible and how can we say that one text is an accurate copy and another spurious or forged? If the word of God is hidden behind and beyond the physical ink-words of the Bible and not connected to it, then I don't know how we can say that the Scripture is propositional revelation.
There seems to be a very subtle fallacy in going from the fallibility of sense perception to skepticism in regards to all sensations. The argument goes, if we know that the senses can fail, then we do not know when they are or are not failing. Therefore we can and should never trust them. Here again the rational school (not Robbins), fails to show how this ought arises from the is. Thus skepticism is invalid.
Again, this is not an argument for Empiricism. Empiricism is as or more bankrupt than Rationalism. However, not all things empirical are Empiricism. This is a false identity of the two, which leads to the false dilemma of either Empiricism or skepticism with respect to the senses.
Perhaps what leads Robbins to his position is his definition of truth. He believes that truth is propositional knowledge with no margin of error. However, I think that this definition is a species of equivocation or at least of confusion. What I mean by that is, that indeed truth is not error. And "no lie is of the truth." However, what are we to make of texts of Scripture like
- 2Chronicles 4:2 Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.
- This makes π to be 3.000000 not 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510......
- John 6:19 So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.
-about 25 or 30
- Luke 22:41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
- different men can cast a stone very different distances, and Luke says "about".
Robbins would affirm that Scripture is inerrant to the death. I do not doubt his love for Christ or his absolute commitment to the word of God. However, if the word of God is true and it provides margins and does not demand infinite precision as Robbins does in his definition of truth, then Robbins must admit that for something to be true it need not be of infinite precision or exclude all margin. His favorite illustration is that of fitting a line to a set of data points. He is correct that one could draw an infinite number of lines, each different, through the points. Indeed, any number of odd shaped curves could be drawn between any two points in order to account for them. But to overthrow something like F=ma because our measurements are not infinitely precise, or to say that any approximation is inherently false does not fair well for Scripture itself.
Thus I do not define Scientific truth as propositional knowledge with no margin of error. I admit fully the fallibility of science and its inability to produce absolute, un-approximate knowledge. However, to say that it is always false is something that Scripture does not support, indeed seems to undermine Scripture's own approximations.<a name="Induction"></a>
[<a href="/wiki/index.php?title=Systematic_Doxology:General_disclaimer&action=edit§ion=2" title="Edit section: Induction">edit</a>] Induction
The second great point of contention in the philosophy of science is the use of inductive reasoning to arrive at general laws from observations of a limited and non-exhaustive set of empirical observations. This is truly fraught with many frailties and in a purely philosophical sense could never produce knowledge. However, we are not starting where ancient philosophy starts. Namely, with man and his rational mind. As Hume argues, we have no epistemological right to believe that the future will resemble the past, or that we ever actually observe a single event properly causing another. However we are not left to ourselves in order to derive either the law of causality or that of the continuation of the cosmos.
God reveals that he has a set order imposed upon the physical world.
- Gen 8:22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
- Jer 31:35 -36 Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.
- Jer 33:20-21 Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers.
Indeed I think it bears warrant that the whole of Psalm 104 be quoted in full;
(1) Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
(2) Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:
(3) Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:
(4) Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:
(5) Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.
(6) Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.
(7) At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.
(8) They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.
(9) Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.
(10) He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills.
(11) They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst.
(12) By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.
(13) He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.
(14) He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;
(15) And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.
(16) The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;
(17) Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
(18) The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.
(19) He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.
(20) Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.
(21) The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.
(22) The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.
(23) Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.
(24) O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
(25) So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
(26) There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.
(27) These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
(28) That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.
(29) Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.
(30) Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.
(31) The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.
(32) He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.
(33) I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
(34) My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.
(35) Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.
So what does this have to do with induction? Well, usually we are not operating on pure induction. It would be more descriptive to say that we are assuming a certain major premise and taking our observations as minor premises in a syllogism. For example, we assume the Major premise that there is uniformity in the "laws of nature", then we observe that some phenomena takes place, for example objects fall to earth, we then Deduce, that things fall to the center of every body everywhere. So induction, at least in philosophy of science could also be called presumptive deduction. That is, more than what is observed in any experiment is assumed and taken for granted.
The only alternative to admitting un-observed premises in science, is to return to Empiricism. Here one finds that he can never ground any of his conclusions in strictly observed data. He must always "leap" beyond the raw observables and posit some un-observed proposition. Rationalism, likewise has no sure way of getting at the data of the real world. We then are left with absolute skepticism.
Here Clark and Robbins rest satisfied with this. They say, "good riddance to bad rubbish" and allow this to be the final word on empirical science. However, we are not being either Empiricist or Rationalist when we receive our major premise from Scripture that God has a fixed order in his world, and then go out to discover the patterns in nature.
Furthermore, we are given other instances where God makes us responsible in the proper use of what could be called induction.
If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit. But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death. If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him. Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him. If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. (Exo 21:28-32) -KJV
Here moral responsibility is laid upon a man that, if he is aware that his ox has a habit of goring, he must pen him up. This is what many call the common sense view. This is the view that almost every man has before he encounters philosophy. It may be appropriate to observe that God has given this sense of things to man for a reason, as he does nothing without reason. That is not to say that all "common-sense" is true, but that it seems God has probably endowed men with a proper innate belief in the general reliability and use of his senses. If God makes man responsible unto death for such inductive reasoning as, "the ox gored" - "the ox gored again" - "the ox gored again" - and again and again and again ..., "therefore I must keep him penned up because he will keep doing this ", it seems that it cannot be false or improper to use such reasoning, seeing it is required by God himself.
All men, whether conscious of them or not, have philosophical assumptions they bring to scientific activity. The views on this website are shaped by the fundamental doctrine that the attributes and glory of God are displayed in manifold ways, in the works of his hands. We believe that both the cosmos and man were created with the purpose of the communication of the glory of God. The faculties of man therefore, we believe have a valid and "generally reliable" use towards this end. God has made his glory visible, and made mankind with the ability to see it.<a name="Scriptural_Standard-_Presuppositionalism"></a>
[<a href="/wiki/index.php?title=Systematic_Doxology:General_disclaimer&action=edit§ion=3" title="Edit section: Scriptural Standard- Presuppositionalism">edit</a>] Scriptural Standard- Presuppositionalism
The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are our final authority in all matters whatever, whether religious, scientific, social, historical, philosophical or any other matter. We believe in the full and absolute inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Though we do not claim to have the final word on everything the Bible says, and are open to correction in our interpretation. The Bible needs to be interpreted, but it is not UP TO INTERPRETATION. We do not make it say what it says, we need to understand what it says. We believe in the view of hermeneutics normally called "historico-grammatical", and in "authorial intent" in both its human and Divine aspects.
The "flavor" of this site is more didactic or teaching oriented than it is specifically polemic or defense oriented. Both are duties of the Christian church and both will be addressed in this site. However, because so much work has been done in the avenue of defense of the faith in other places, this site will not major on that domain. Rather, this site presupposes the Christian faith, the infallible and inerrant word of God and starts there. We do not so much seek to reason from science to God as from God to science. That is, we are directed by Scripture to go out and behold God's riches and wonders in this world. That is not to say that Creation does not play a pointing role toward God. It does, but our emphasis will be on expounding God's wonders from the basis of faith, rather than to specifically try to lay the foundation of faith.<a name="Rejection_of_Evolution"></a>
[<a href="/wiki/index.php?title=Systematic_Doxology:General_disclaimer&action=edit§ion=4" title="Edit section: Rejection of Evolution">edit</a>] Rejection of Evolution
We explicitly reject the idea of evolution in both the biological and cosmological realms. Although there may be some degree of variation within species, there is no transformation from one genus or species to another. Nor did the universe originate from an infinitely dense point of matter which exploded billions of years ago. The Earth is not a spawn of the Sun, nor is the moon a spawn of the Earth. God created the universe ex nihilo or "from nothing", that is, from no pre-existant materials. Neither matter nor energy are eternal. Time had a beginning along with the entirety of the physical universe. The universe is not ruled by chance, nor is it unruled. God rules every aspect of every thing in the entirety of the Universe and directs it toward the end for which He made it.<a name="Main_Goal"></a>
[<a href="/wiki/index.php?title=Systematic_Doxology:General_disclaimer&action=edit§ion=5" title="Edit section: Main Goal">edit</a>] Main Goal
Our main goal in this site is to present a view of the world that gives glory to God as its creator and sustainer. Starting at Scripture we are guided by it to see the glory of God in the heavens and his wisdom and handiwork in all of Creation.