Sunday, May 10, 2009

Knowledge: True Belief

One of the most fundamental and controversial topics of our day relates to how we may have knowledge that God exists. Did He create the cosmos we observe? Did He originate the laws which govern it? This blog presents scientific evidence as support for these beliefs. In my last post I made a strong case for the evidential approach based on the voice of God expressed in nature. I proposed that God speaks to us through the natural order as though with a voice and that the voice is intelligible to human observers.

The same evidential approach is used by theologians to strengthen belief in the authenticity and truth of scriptures and the events they describe. Archeological and literary documentation is eagerly sought from extra-biblical sources to affirm the accuracy of scripture. Evidentialists seek to confirm Genesis creation events and creation time scales by citing supporting scientific evidence for their explanations. Such evidence may fall short of proof beyond any doubt, but all agree that the standard of absolute proof for historical events is impossible. We may only claim that the preponderance of evidence leads us to a reasonable conclusion.

Achievement of true beliefs (knowledge) in the field of Christian apologetics is not a simple matter. There are other systems of epistemology which follow different paths to the acquisition of knowledge. One is called “reformed epistemology” which posits that belief in God is “properly basic.” That means humans may innately and intuitively hold a belief in God’s existence which needs no support from previous beliefs. Alvin Plantinga, a well-known Christian philosopher, defends such a belief as entirely rational, and has developed other convincing arguments that there are good reasons to accept theism as true. Another similar approach is presuppositionalism, which states that we cannot achieve a true belief about reality without first acknowledging the existence of God and the truth of the Bible. In our quest for knowledge, presuppositional apologists claim autonomous human reasoning from evidence is subject to error and unable to lead us to true beliefs.

So what are we to think? Is there a role for “properly basic” beliefs? I’ll answer by asking if our innate, intuitive sense of the reality of the Creator is valid. I think it is. Is there a role for presupposition? If we humbly acknowledge some deficiencies in our reasoning power and possible weaknesses in our evidence, we might agree that some conclusions, on occasion, may be subject to revision. In this “Science/Faith Connection” blog we will continue to adhere primarily to the counsel of I Thes. 5:21 (NIV): “Test everything. Hold onto the good.” Testing involves acquiring and evaluating evidence. In the 21st century, there has never been a better time to gather and evaluate evidence in order to acquire knowledge.