A Modern Danger Among Christians? A Refutation.
You might be an
1. You believe or
use the phrase, “All truth is God’s truth” or you believe that
Scripture should be “integrated” with
psychology, sociology, or
any other area of knowledge.
2. You “believe”
that modern science can answer problems of abortion,
illegitimate births, poverty, health, and other “social”
3. You believe that
people should be counseled by psychologists or psychiatrists.
4. You are not
skeptical of modern medicine, or you are a
strong advocate of
some form of alternative medicine.
You believe that somehow abortion is a separate moral
issue for the practice of medicine.
5. You believe that
your vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch do not ever
6. You believe that
you understand yourself, or you believe that you understand
yourself better than God does.
7. You believe that
all religions have some element of truth, "lead to God," or
8. You voted for
9. You voted for
10. You believe that
the mind has no knowledge or categories at birth (innate).
11. You believe that
civil government should be involved in welfare, public education,
postal service, the United Nations, Social Security, and most
everything else that it does.
12. You believe that
music and memory are simple processes of the mind.
13. You believe that
“facts” are knowledge or that they are true.
14. You believe that
“seeing is believing,” as when Doubting Thomas touched and felt
15. You believe that
“colors” are real.
16. You believe that all the functions of the mind
are simply chemical and physical actions in the brain.
Note: These "ifs" are used fairly loosely, but you will
see their relevance in the following discussion.)
There seems to be a reality for everyone, regardless of their
intellect, that is, what is real are solid objects.
These solid objects in themselves are what philosophers call
That is, the universe is only made up of things that I can
sense: touch, see,
taste, hear, and smell.
The “most real” of objects are those with which I can
make contact. I run
into a wall, not just touch it—a solid, resisting
A hot stove will cause blisters if I touch it.
The sun will blind my sight if I look into it.
The smell of dog poop on my shoe surely gets my
attention! The taste
of a lemon will pucker my cheeks.
A lightning strike within a short distance pounds my
events are common everyday occurrences.
Who would argue that these striking sensations are not “real”
and constitute “reality?” This world is where we live, move, and
have our being, is it not?
Most of our waking moments deal with this world.
John Frame, one of today’s great theologians, said:
Right now I believe that there is an evergreen tree outside my
window…. I cannot imagine any epistemologist ever persuading me
that my belief about the evergreen tree is false.
There must be something wrong with any theory that
requires me to abandon such a belief.
Then, there are the comments of one of the most Reformed of
philosophers, Ronald Nash, with his only criticisms of Gordon
One major difficulty with Clark’s theory is its obvious
incompatibility with all kinds of human knowledge not attainable
in the way he describes. I know, for example, that my wife
exists; but I see no way of deducing the true proposition that
reports her existence from anything in the Bible. I also
know that in 1948, Lou Boudreau led his American League team in
batting with an average of .355. Surely anyone who could
deny that humans can know such propositions is using the word
knowledge in a very idiosyncratic way.
So, empiricism is defended by men who are solidly Reformed with
strong credentials in philosophy.
Further, we have to work to provide for our own and family’s
food, shelter, and clothing.
We have to sleep to give our senses and our bodies the
rest that it needs.
We use physical tools to enhance this existence.
where we “live and move and have our being” in this material
What Is Empiricism?
What Questions Does It Not Answer?
Empiricism, as philosophical defined, is knowledge that is gained through the five
human senses (named above).
This definition would also include all that
claims as knowledge, as science is no more than structured
situations in which the five senses are enhanced with
Examples are given above.
Frame “knows” that the evergreen tree is there.
Nash “knows” his wife and “knows” the batting average of
a particular person in a particular year.
Science was convinced that Newton's laws of physics were "true"
until Einstein's relativity, quantum, and chaos theories.
These are empirical observations and inferred conclusions
or reasons deduced from them.
However, we immediately meet a problem with this physical
objects cannot answer the following questions.
Why do I, as a person, even exist?
Indeed, what am I in my most basic being?
What work should I do?
Do I work at that which will provide the most income or
do I work only enough to provide my basic needs?
Do I go through life alone or do I marry?
Why should I not just steal, rather than having to work?
If I marry, should haIve children?
Oh, what is the purpose in having children?
They are a great bother and expense!
Will I just become worm food when I die?
Or, is there the faintest hope of life beyond death?
cannot answer these questions.
No ought nor reason can be determined from what is, that is, from
physical objects or persons.
So, empiricism fails to answer the most important
questions in life.
The physical objects of the universe, as "real" as they are,
cannot prove their own reason to exist.
So, empiricism fails
as a philosophy of life.
It fails as the ultimate epistemology to know purpose and
the “what” may be answered, we are left with when, where, how,
who, and why?
Actually, only the “why” seems to remain.
The when, where, how, and who will be determined by the
So, Where Does the “Why” Come From?
Do modern philosophers have the influence that is credited to
them? It would seem
doubtful, as few people read them.
What about the influence of academia?
Professors teach college students.
College students have no perspective on life: they have
barely begun their journey through it.
But, they do go out into the “world,” a few become leaders in
society and civil government, or at
least becomeparents who influence their children.
Who or what, then, influences others?
“Facts” sometimes do.
For example, there are the “facts” of global warming or
its denial. There
are the “facts” of plenty of oil, if drilling is done in the
right places. There
are the “facts” that we are polluting our planet and
more drilling will accelerate it.
There is the "fact" that "civil government is here
to help (save?) us. There is the "fact" that civil
government should provide public education.
How are facts analyzed?
evaluated with parameters that are not found empirically.
Dewey et al
planned to subvert the American educational system.
It was not really a philosophical movement—it was a plan
to control the minds of future generations.
What influenced Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, and other
could not have achieved what they did without considerable help,
that is, a corresponding
zeitgeist, at least within enough military officers and their men to
command and continue in power.
Such widespread evil cannot not exist in one man—he must have
the assistance of armies—armies made up of individuals who must,
for whatever reasons (fear, agreement, “go with the flow, etc.)
enable him to accomplish his destructive intentions.
Ultimately, everyone acts according to what they think will be
for their own good or that of their family--sometimes
called "happiness" in historical philosophical terms.
Then, how many act according to what will be "best" for
their culture, nation, or world?
For what did the Covenanters die?
They died for freedom to worship according to their
Why did people die during the French Revolution—for their
belief, as idealistic and hedonistic, as it was?
They died for their idea of freedom (which was actually slavery
People are willing to die for their ideas—ideas
Some theorists state that three to ten percent of (vigorous)
activists can influence, or even change the direction of a society
If one allows for an opposing three to ten percent, then
80 to 94 percent of people just muddle along and follow these
leaders. By contrast, the American colonies were perhaps 70
percent Calvinistic, even though they were of differing denominations: Presbyterian,
Episcopalian, and Congregational.
God can start a revival and a reformation anywhere and
anytime that He chooses, as He did with the Great Awakening in
America in the 18th century.
The “Facts” of Empiricism
The empirical world is where we live.
We have to plan, based upon the weather, the place of
solid objects that we have to go around, the likelihood that the
sun will rise tomorrow, etc.
But, as we have already presented, empiricism does not explain ultimate things or ethics.
difficult to deny.
claim that everything that is real exists in the mind.
I have difficulty with that.
If I pound my head against the wall, it hurts.
A solid head is pounding a solid wall.
Automobile crashes are sometimes grisly, as as are the
casualties in war. And,
if one survives these injuries, one may be crippled for life.
Crashes and crippling are very "real."
I have to live in my body, and others have to live in
theirs. Don’t talk
to me of all these results just being “in my head.”
Solid objects and bodies are just too
Then, there is a reality beyond my immediate presence.
I cannot see the Eiffel Tower, but it exists.
In sparse deserts or dense jungles, no person is there to
see anything. Yet,
if a person goes there, the dirt and the animals and the plants
are there. If things
exist only in minds, how can they be there until someone
arrives? No one sees
the other side of the moon, but it is “attached” to the side
that we can see. Of
course, these things exist in God’s mind, but then there is the
problem of how my mind perceives God’s mind when I go to those
places where I have never been before.
Idealism does not seem reasonable, either.
No, it is too much to accept that things and people only
exist in mind or minds.
(See the realities posed in the introductory paragraph.)
General and Special Revelation
The failure of empiricism to answer the serious questions of
life is also the problem of general revelation (nature) and the need for
special revelation (the Bible).
Empirical observation of the universe (general revelation)
reveals both grandeur and ugliness; tremendous power that can
create or destroy; rain that can water flowers and crops or
bring a flood that destroys lives and people; a sun that
provides warmth but will kill a person with sufficient exposure;
the tenderness of a mother with her child and the cruel death of
millions by dictators.
General revelation cannot explain these contrasts.
Special revelation can and does.
General revelation (GR) seems to have, what I would call, a
While GR does not discover “truth,” it has great applicability
in man’s world. One
does not have to know the “why” of gravity or any of the other “laws”
of the universe in order to send astronauts to the moon and
medications in medicine that “work” cannot be explained as to
“why” they work. How
electricity “works,” is not understood, but its use in modern
times is surely one of mankind’s greatest “helps” to his
existence. We could
say, then, that scientific study of GR is the means by which God
has provided for man’s Creation Mandate (Genesis 1).
It can and should be used in this way.
But this empirical methods does not determine truth or
right and wrong. It
must be used as God intended it.
Words That Are Synonymous or Associated with Empiricism
I have noticed in philosophy that there appears to be more
divergence that there actually is.
By putting terms together that are synonyms or
approximate synonyms, one may be better able to get an idea of
the application of a term.
Empiricism is the
overwhelmingly predominant philosophy of our day, even among
most Christian, including those of "academia."
The following are synonyms or approximate synonyms of empiricism:
Naturalism, science, scientism, scientific naturalism, idealism,
realism, scientific realism, evidentialism, existentialism,
subjectivism, experientialism, perception, scientism, logical
positivism, nominalism, universals, sensation, materialism,
physicalism, essence, object, real, substance, being, evolution,
humanism, secular humanism, secularism, conceptualism,
operationalism, functionalism, pragmatism, and monism.
This list is not presumed to be complete nor are all the words
considered to be precise synonyms.
The reader can make his own evaluation about how each is
relevant to the other. But this sort
of linking of words could greatly simplify philosophy (and
theology, for that matter), if it were presented occasionally.
Whether philosophers intend it or not, they obfuscate their
writings by an endless stream of new terms to demonstrate the
nuances of their positions.
Too often, they also fail
to define their terms, and when they do, they do not use them
consistently. If philosophers are not precise in their
language, how can they expect us to take them seriously.
Language, communications and logic should be their basic tools!
The Newborn Baby Cries, “I am cold!”
As a physician, I have delivered a number of babies.
Unless there is some serious problem at birth, they all
scream once they are out of the womb?
Why? How do
they know to scream?
Well, likely they scream because the room is cold.
They have gone from a 9-month existence in a cozy
incubator of 98.6 degrees to one that is about 65 degrees.
They are soaking wet from the amniotic fluid.
If you have ever gotten out of a hot shower and stood in
a room of that temperature, it is quite a shock!
The baby screams—so what?
Simply, how does the baby know how to scream?
It was just born.
By the concept of
tabula rasa, they should not know anything.
Yet, this simple act carries considerable knowledge.
While perhaps not a conscious thought as will come later,
the baby reacts to extreme discomfort to cry? Now, to cry it
must detect a cold sensation on its skin, and then coordinate
the breathing in of sufficient air by depressing its diaphragm,
then use the large muscle of the diaphragm in the opposite
direction to force that air back out through its vocal cords
that will result in a cry.
How does it know to do that?
Well, instinct is not really an answer, it is just another name
that the baby knows how to cry-scream.
The knowledge is already there at birth—it is
The baby also has considerable other knowledge.
It knows discomfort from comfort; it knows how to suckle
as his mother’s breast.
Later, it will manifest other motor skills.
It will learn to crawl when everyone else it sees is walking.
It will begin to remember things like its mother’s face,
faces of family members, and eventually to talk.
A baby does not “learn to talk” empirically.
It cannot visualize the connection between the vocal
cords and the brain of another person to know how to make
sounds. It has the
innate knowledge that himself is able to speak, as it observes
Papers and books have been written about what a baby is able to
do in its first year of extremely rapid changes.
However, at this point I only want to posit that a baby
is born with innate knowledge—an amazing and extensive knowledge that will allow
it to become educated and grow into an adult with similar
abilities as all other adults.
includes categories, such as those named by Aristotle, Kant, and
20th century psychologists. However,
I am not sure that a particular list of categories is important.
What is important is that innate knowledge, including at least
the ability of formulate categories, is inescapable.
Babyhood and Beyond: The Mind and Computer Memory
Consider a computer disk (CD).
If you find one laying on the floor, you can slide it into a
computer drive to see what is there.
You find that it contains a great deal of information.
How did that information get there?
It was placed on the disk when something was copied to
it. Even as we look
it over, we could add more knowledge ourselves (if the disk is
not full—here the analogy fails as the mind is never full).
So, with this disk there is the knowledge already present
and additional knowledge that may be added.
What is a prerequisite for a disk to retain knowledge?
It must be formatted—it must have a structure that allows
information to “stick” to it—to be retained for future
philosophers have postulated the human mind as a
tabula rasa—a blank
slate at birth upon which the empiric process through the senses
gains knowledge over one’s lifetime.
These philosophers did not know about computer disks, but
such modern day knowledge was not necessary to understand that a
mind had to be “formatted” (have
innate structure) in
order to retain anything brought to the mind for the senses.
Then, “something other” than the senses had to tell the
mind what to do with the information once it arrived in the
mind. That is, what
information to acknowledge, record, meditate upon, or consider
in any other way.
(This “something other” is not directly the discussion at
hand—refutation of empiricism is.
Yet, with empiricism gone, what is a source of knowledge?
We have just seen that innate knowledge is one source.
We have posited some forms of innate knowledge, but have
not even made an attempt to be explain or discuss how extensive
this knowledge might be.
That discussion is beyond my intent here—but it
needs to be done sometime.
Where else might knowledge come from?
Traditionally, sources of knowledge have been empiricism,
rationalism, innate, and belief.
There are problems with all of these.
Rationalism is not so much a source of knowledge, as
reasoning from what is already known.
Belief is entirely subjective, as the believer chooses
what to believe on whims, “evidence,” testimony, correspondence,
coherence, and pragmatism.
All these directions are too much for the present matter.
I will continue with empiricism and take up the problem
of knowledge in these other areas soon. I have formulated
some ideas on epistemology here:
Knowledge: A New Look at an
Perhaps you are starting to get the picture.
empiricism is impossible without innate knowledge and the
structure that knowledge requires for it to be retained
(remembered) and categorized
Look up from this page.
What do you see?
You will see a large number of objects (particulars),
but an almost unlimited number of characteristics of those
objects (universals). Now,
observe what you see: a window, a chair, a file cabinet, a rug,
a picture on the wall, the ceiling, etc.
Now, look more closely at one object—I will choose a
chair. What size is
Does it have rollers or fixed legs?
What fabric does it have?
Does it have arms? Is it an “easy” chair or a desk chair?
What color is it?
How are you able to focus on one particular object or any
one of its characteristics?
The decision to focus your mind on an object, even to
consider its finest details is a decision not based upon
empiricism. In fact,
empiricism makes no
of a microscope or telescope.
Both have images (information, knowledge) pass through
them, but nothing is retained.
The senses only transport information to the mind/brain.
And, empiricism cannot tell you when and for what to use them.
OK, you want to stop reading now?
You want to go to the refrigerator and get something to
What would make you stop reading to get a snack?
what makes you decide that satisfying hunger is a priority over
reading? You say
that you learned to satisfy your hunger from experience
Well, why do you get up at this particular moment?
Why not wait a little longer—you will not die of
starvation to wait—you
may not even be uncomfortable to wait?
Why now? Your
experience cannot answer that question
for this moment. Likely,
in the past you have snacked when you were extremely hungry,
only mildly hungry, or even when you were already full from a
Why, then? Why, now?
Empiricism cannot answer those questions.
Memory is impossible
with empiricism alone.
OK, I see the chair.
I go to bed, get up, and see the same chair.
But how do I know it is the same chair?
I have to remember it from the day before.
Empiricism can account for my seeing the chair each time,
but what enables me to remember the chair from the day before?
If an image is presented to a blank surface (tabula
rasa), what causes it to “stick” so that it can be retained
later? A blank piece
of paper can be used as a camera to face our “chair”, but it
will not record it.
An image of a chair, however, can be recorded by a digital
camera because it has the structure (the formatting).
Unless something has the structure to record images, they
are not retained.
Unless the mind/brain has the structure to record (“remember”)
images, it is not able to do so.
The mechanism to record has nothing to do with images
presented to it by sensory data—it is a structure that is
Not only must a mental picture be retained, it must be
“recognized” to be the same image or a different image that was
seen at another time.
Even with images placed side by side, universals and
particulars determine whether that image is recognized as the
same of different from a previous one.
Empiricism only “sees” or “hears,” it neither records nor
compares and contrasts.
cacophonous, not musical.
A melody is made up of individual notes that have a
particular sequence and variation in pitch.
Empiricism only allows a momentary hearing of individual
notes. By the
occurrence of the next note, the previous one is gone.
In order to have a tune, one must remember the
immediately prior notes
and compare and contrast them, several at a time, to discern
the tune. Imagine
the complexity of a symphony—how would simple observation of
individual sounds and notes be put together on an empirical
form a conclusion, that is, become "science."
All objects, when dropped, fall to the floor or ground.
We have seen that empiricism cannot “remember” from one
object to the next—much less can empiricism infer that all
objects will fall, if dropped.
Empiricism only observes, it cannot project into the
future what has happened in the past.
Those events have not yet happened to be observed!
Then, how can empiricism discern that all objects on
earth should fall, if dropped.
Even greater, how can empiricism conclude that objects
dropped on Mars or any other planet will “fall.”
Empiricism can only “know” what is presented by the
senses—the senses have not been to all parts or the earth, much
less to the ends of the universe.
explain why objects float in space and do not fall.
Empiricism can say
nothing about supernatural reality.
By definition, empiricism can say nothing about what cannot be
definition, then, “supernatural” is beyond the senses.
Yet, no true Christian would deny the reality of God.
More so, they would aver quite strongly that God is the
But “God is a spirit” and cannot be sensed.
Now, many Christians have argued that they sense Him in the
Bible. That is, with
their eyes they see words on the pages of the Bible that talk
about God. But that
claim is seriously naïve to any philosophical consideration.
Words on a page in the form of a declarative sentence are
formed by a mind that has written them.
The senses of the person writing them do not form the
words nor do they arrange the words on the page—his mind/brain
does. Then, the
senses of the reader transfer that declarative sentence into his
own mind. Reading is
a communication of mind to mind.
There is no knowledge generated by the senses.
They only transmit the symbols that comprise the thought.
The symbols are not the thoughts.
Empiricism is the
exact opposite of faith.
Faith is opposite to the old phrase, “Seeing is
are those who have not
seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the
evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
“For we walk by faith and not by sight” (II Corinthians
5:7). Seeing or
sight is perhaps the most common and pervasive empirical method.
But some might claim that the disciple, Thomas, believed because
he saw Jesus’ wounds.
Even with Thomas, empiricism (sight) alone did not cause
could have only concluded from Jesus’ wounds only that he had
somehow survived the crucifixion, that he was still mortal, and
would die again.
But, what did Thomas exclaim?
“My Lord and My God.”
How did Thomas conclude from
physical wounds to a
spiritual concept of
“My Lord and my God.”
That conclusion required much more knowledge than simple
observation of physical wounds.
It required conclusions from all that Jesus had said
during His ministry with them along with Old Testament
prophecies and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It also
required the “gift of faith,” otherwise Thomas could have
boasted about His great conclusion (Ephesians 2:8-9).
A Summary of the Flaws in Empiricism
provides only sensations that without innate categories and
storage ability for that
information to “stick” to some substrate and be organized on the
basis of universals and particulars, knowledge cannot occur.
Empiricism does not tell me what a “tree” is or what is
innate makes categories, and amazingly those categories
correspond to those of almost all other people!
2. Empiricism can
say nothing about what is right and wrong.
It only presents information and situations—it cannot say
what to do with that information or whether any action is right
or wrong. The
evergreen tree is “there”—why is it “there” and what do we do
3. Empiricism is
sometimes unreliable, as in optical illusions.
All empirical processes must have at least some degree of
suspicion that they might not be presenting
information that has "certainty.".
presents information that is highly, if not entirely, subjective
What shade of green is the evergreen tree?
Is it green to a blind person?
Is it green to a colorblind person?
Is it green in twilight?
What, then, is green?
Then, how do we know
that we are all seeing the same sensation "green?"
5. Empiricism cannot
establish what is normal.
Is the evergreen tree green because most people who see
it think that is green?
Then, “normal” becomes the majority vote.
Is that how we want to establish what is real?
6. Empiricism is unable to recognize either universals or
categories of the mind/brain allow the focus on
particulars and classification of universals.
provides no means for memory.
There has to be a “recording camera” to retain images.
And, there has to be a mechanism to compare and contrast
images on two separate occasions to “recognize” that they are
8. Empiricism does
not allow for musical composition and understanding.
Something other than the notes themselves must formulate
a sequence that we call rhythm, tunes, and music, that is,
memory of one note or several at at time in sequences of time.
9. Empiricism cannot
form a conclusion about any “sensed” events, whether random or
consistent. If I
walk into my garage and see a flat tire on my car, that visual
data alone does not tell me that I cannot drive my car and that
I must get it fixed before I can go anywhere.
cannot investigate the supernatural realm, arguably the most
important area of study if there is any meaning beyond the
“observable.” God is
a Spirit, and thus by definition, cannot be seen, felt, or
relies upon “images,” but Francis Galton (1822-1911) has
that a “good number of highly educated scholars and statesmen
have no imagery.”
There are two refutations here.
(1) If a “good number” of people have no imagery, they
could have learned nothing according to the empirical theory of
knowledge. (2) If
empiricism refutes itself, how can it be a basis for knowledge?
What’s the Big Deal?
So, Empiricism Has Flaws
The big deal is that
empiricism dominates the lives of Christians in this modern era. We
have seen that Ronald Nash is willing to disagree with his good
friend Gordon Clark on this one issue.
We have seen that John Frame “knows” that the evergreen
tree is outside his window.
We seem to function daily on the basis of empiricism
where we “live and move and have our being.”
Oops! I just
added another dimension—literally, another dimension—a
(physicalism, naturalism, scientism, humanism) dominates and
saturates the thinking of our age.
Charles Darwin provided a mechanism to leave God out of
the picture. Today,
the theory of evolution dominates every area of study: the
natural sciences, medicine, psychology, genetics. sociology,
economics, history, criminology, penology, education, art,
politics, civil law, and virtually all other categories..
And, Christians largely are also empiricists.
Yes, they have fought against evolution.
Yes, they have fought against abortion.
But even in these areas they often fight empiricism with
empiricism. We have
“creation science,” but what is it but another form of science.
All science is necessarily empirical by definition.
So, creationists have designed a science that they think
“fits” with the Bible.
But even they do not agree among themselves.
involves interpretation of empirical evidence.
Christians interpret it one way; humanists interpret it
another way. Young earth
creationists interpret it one way, and old earth creationists
interpret it another way. It is
not the facts that differ, but their interpretation.
We also have “Christian” education.
But this education is remarkably similar to “secular”
(most?) Christian schools seek accreditation by secular bodies.
Their teachers are trained in secular colleges and
Seminary students are required to have several years, if not a
degree, in some institution of higher learning, most of which
They are indoctrinated in naturalism,
that is, empiricism--a world of study without God.
There is “Christian” psychology.
Here, these “professionals” are trained in secular
institutions and licensed by secular states and institutions.
Rarely, do they have equivalent training in the Bible and
theology. What does
that imbalance say about the importance of each area?
Here is not the place to present the flaws in all the areas of
worldview that Christians have erred.
However, I have
definitively described more than 20 areas of knowledge and
scholarship from a Biblical perspective on my website, “The
Biblical and Christian Worldview for the 21st
But it is the place to show that
the thinking of Christians.
Perhaps, if more Christians understood that empiricism
utterly fails as a philosophy of knowledge and of sound thinking
(epistemology), they will be more willing to consider that their
approach to these areas of knowledge may need re-thinking.
Of course, elsewhere I have argued for the centrality of
the Bible in all matters.
Taken together, the philosophical and Biblical argument
is considerable, if not beyond refutation!
What, Then, Is the Place of Empiricism?
Certainly on an everyday basis empiricism functions well.
(On this basis, it has been called "operationalism.")
When Frame considers his evergreen tree, most people will
recognized it as such and not begin to “prove” that it is not
really what it seems to be.
He may ask people to admire its beauty.
He may use it for an illustration in his classroom for
his excellent lectures or writings.
He made observe that it needs fertilizer.
He may have it cut down to replace it with flowers.
But he should consider, more than he has stated here,
that there are serious problems with “knowing” that the
evergreen tree is there.
While that image is
functional, it is a
representation of reality that is a tenuous, nay an impossible,
basis for truth. I
have listed ten major problems with empiricism.
While these may seem remote to the simple statement about
an evergreen tree, they become eternally important concerning
issues of truth.
observed to occur to a person.
But as we have seen, empiricism cannot make the
conclusion that every person will die.
Empiricism cannot make any conclusion at all.
So, the most important issue facing man—his
mortality—cannot be known empirically.
Worse, if a person
could know about his mortality, empiricism could not tell
him what it means or even whether he should be concerned about
But every man is
concerned about death!
“knows” that every person dies.
He “knows” that bad things, even eternal things can
happen after he dies.
He even knows about Heaven and Hell.
But none of these things has he observed, that is, known
He knows them intuitively or has “learned” them from
Even the pure "naturalist" knows that
his life will end!
I am trying to paint as strong a picture of the limits of
empiricism because it must be destroyed as a basis for truth in
order for the full application of Scripture (special revelation) to be known and applied on planet earth.
All science is based upon empiricism, but it is not
science that forms the conclusions.
The statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics that
spanking is a terrible thing to do to a child is not based upon
empiricism but the beliefs of the governing body.
The decision of the American Psychiatric Association in
1973 to make homosexuality “legitimate” had nothing to do with
any scientific studies—it was merely the vote of a board
pressured by homosexual activists.
In fact, scientific empiricism cannot determine what
studies itself will pursue—those with money, political, and
social persuasion determine what studies are done.
The place of
empiricism is simply to provide information to the mind for
its decisions that have to be made.
It is only a means to present information to the mind for decisions about value and ethics.
Empiricism never provides for how that information is
analyzed and used.
The place of empiricism
is functional—providing information to enhance the decisions and
efforts of everyday life.
Empiricism can provide the information for the
implementation of The Creation Mandate—when guided by Biblical
provides the information—Biblical ethics evaluates its utility
and consistency with the Word of God.
Pediatrics can determine what antibiotic to use in ear
infections, but it cannot tell parents how to raise children.
Psychology may develop techniques for interacting with
counselees, but it can never establish what is right and wrong
can challenge us that “the unexamined life is not worth living,”
but it cannot determine what behaviors of that life are honoring
to God and neighbor.
What Are the Dangers of Empiricism?
I set out to demonstrate that empiricism is faulty as a means of
“knowing”—that empiricism is not a means to truth.
In this process, I have actually gone beyond my original
intention to the extent that
empiricism gives no
knowledge at all.
Going back to the computer analogy, the pixels on a
screen are not knowledge—they represent possible knowledge to be
assembled by the mind.
Software, that is, programming, determines which pixels
get on the screen, and software determines what is done with
Our minds, software and hardware, must make sense of the sensory
images presented to it.
Our minds actually determine what is presented to our
minds—review above how we focus on particulars and universals.
Then, we determine what we will remember, and what we
will not. After a
particular moment, we have to “remember” those images, but
memory is not something that empiricism does.
We compare and contrast—again, not a function of
empiricism. And what
we do with that information—the right and wrong,
ethics—certainly does not come from empiricism.
Empiricism, then, is no more than a feeder system—a camera that
feeds the mind various sensory input of sights, sounds, smells,
taste, and bodily sensations via the skin.
It is our minds that makes decisions about this
Some Practical Applications of Destroying Empiricism
The focus of everyday events becomes not “what I see,” but what
is right or wrong about the information that is presented to my
mind. Every day
events become moral or ethical decisions.
The importance of Frame’s evergreen tree is not whether
it is “there,” but its relevance to moral decisions—what is to
be done with it? The
importance of Nash’s wife is not so much whether she is “there,”
but his ethical responsibilities towards her.
And, what significance is a batting average—very little
in the grand demonstration of God’s Providence.
On a different level,
Christians’ reliance on empirical studies alone needs to come to
Christians in psychology, medicine, philosophy, sociology,
economics, politics, and other disciplines must not equate
Biblical truth with empiricism.
When one sees that empiricism cannot determine truth,
then the proposition, “All truth is God’s truth,” as it is almost
always intended in reference to empiricism, is seen to have
holes the size of moon craters and without meaning at all.
Then, this conclusion
should cause Christians in these fields to study the Bible more
than they study empirical studies.
Yes, they will need to know the empirical studies of
their field to interact with others there, but they will realize
where truth actually comes from.
Virtually all matters of policy and application are not
made based upon empirical studies, but the preferences of
individuals and groups in those fields.
(See the illustrations given above.)
Television and “surfing the net” are empirical "feeders" of
information that is organized into its being antithetical to the
truth of Scripture.
Yet, how many hours do Christians feed their minds with “the
world, the flesh, and the devil.”
And, somehow they expect to overcome this knowledge with
sitting in Sunday School, a momentary “quiet time,” and
preaching that they mostly do not retain, study, or reflect
Empiricism is the
“world, the flesh, and the devil” whether on an everyday level
or on a “professional” level.
It is the enemy of
God’s truth. Yet,
many if not most, of His people continue to worship at its
altar. Some of the
best minds in Christendom worship at its altar.
If Christians who are philosophers and theologians
recognized this reality, then they could alert laymen to its
dangers. A revival
and reformation could be started.
The Word of God, the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, is
truth, not empiricism.
The sooner that we recognize our error, the sooner that
Christianity can be advanced.
Empiricism and Apologetics
apologetics is evidentialism.
For example, there is considerable empirical (evidential)
data (facts) for the validity of the Scriptures.
1. Its virtual
universal acceptance as truth by Christian churches (except for
those of liberal persuasion who should not claim the name
2. The virtual
agreement of 66 books of the Protestant Bible.
While anti-Christians point out “inconsistencies” and
“contradictions” in the Bible, these are mostly fabrications and
One cannot find just two
scholars who agree on everything, much less over 40 authors
over more than 2000 years!
3. The large number
of Old and New Testament documents that are highly consistent
and date back closer to the time of Christ than other documents
of historical value.
If one accepts that Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Julius Caesar, and
others lived and that we have “knowledge” of them, consistency
would require that the Biblical accounts be accepted, as well.
4. Jesus could not
have done and said the things that He did unless He was whom He
said that He was—the Son of God and a Person of equal standing
with God Himself.
5. The only
reasonable interpretation of Jesus’ disciples’ response to His
resurrection is that it happened the way that the Biblical
accounts said that it did.
6.+ Many other “evidences” could be named.
Now, the question that the evidentialist must face is, “Why do
not all people accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?”
Virtually everyone accepts historical accounts of other
persons and events of history readily and without question.
They accept modern “facts” on evidence that does not
begin to approach the evidences that I have named.
So, why to some “believe,” as Doubting Thomas did, and others do not?
What is it within the person that causes him to believe?
Every person has the same evidence—the same “facts.”
What causes a person to move momentarily
without any change in his
knowledge, before and after, from unbelief to belief?
It cannot be “evidence” or any form of knowledge because
that did not change.
Can “evidence” be the “straw that breaks the camel’s
(unbeliever’s) back (unbelief)?
Why do some people “believe” on a little evidence, while
others require a large amount of evidence?
The only answer can
be that an outside agency must convince them that such evidence
is true and a matter to which they should commit their lives
This change from within is consistent with all the above
that empiricism never determines truth.
It is not the evidence that convinces, but the work of
the Holy Spirit in a person’s life (John 3:1-17).
The “wind”—Holy Spirit “blows” where He will—not
according to evidence.
In regeneration, He gives the desire and the ability
to know that Scripture is truth.
Subjectivism and Predestination: Do You Want to Go There?
We have arrived at a place that many will not want to go.
Indeed, I may not have made a good argument to get here.
However, for those who are with me, so far, let see what we
Empiricism is only a technical mechanism—the senses
providing pixels of random images that the mind organizes,
stores, and uses according to innate and learned knowledge.
These same pixels
are organized, stored, and used differently from one person to
the next—including decisions for or against Christianity.
If the same
information is available to everyone, it is
the subject that must be different.
That is, each person is different.
Each person “organizes, stores, and uses this
information. But how
can it be that each person is different?
That each person is
different can only be explained by each having a different “nature and
nurture”—neither of which is chosen by the individual.
People, including professional philosophers, are always
trying to get around logic.
The postmodernists state, “There are no absolutes,” which
The Neo-orthodox do not like the Jesus who says that you must be
“born-again,” so they invent some sort of “personal encounter”
that is supposed to be more real than Jesus propositions and
their logical derivations.
Material behaviorists preach human revisionism when
their own logic can only conclude that nothing they say really
Logically, predestination is inescapable.
Logically, there are only two kinds of predestination:
Personal and impersonal.
Logically, only Personal predestination is possible,
only a Person can have purpose.
A universe with an almost infinite order of complexity is
only possible by a power that has the ability to create such
since we have seen that the universe is random nonsense without
the interpretation of mind, a Mind with almost infinite power
must have created persons and the universe.
Thus, we arrive at theism as the only logical possibility—a
Person (Mind) that is capable of creating human minds and the
universe in which it resides.
So, all that is left in our empirical journey is to
decide which brand of theism “fits” the logical mind best and
maybe it is a "perfect" fit.
Augustine had already made this conclusion in his
Christ is the light; he teaches all men, regenerate and
unregenerate (John 1:9).
Questions for Empiricists
This statement is not totally accurate, as both Frame
and Nash criticize empiricism elsewhere in their
However, without qualifications in statements, such as,
those that I have quoted, readers can read too much into
that these two men would make these statements in the
context in which they did
demonstrate a considerable affirmation of sense
“Ought” implies a necessary end, a goal, a finished or
completed desired state.
That raises a legitimate concern for research for
the whole point of research is openness to follow the
results of the evidence. This is perhaps the cornerstone
concept for evolutionary science. “Man” is not a defined
we can do, according to this line of reasoning, is state
the pathway the human species has followed up to this
point of its evolution.
categories of good or bad and the ethical “ought”
according to some end product (like pre-fallen Adam or
Christ as Man) is to run the risk of losing one’s
openness to read the results as they really are, that
is, to ignore evidence that does not fit with your
preconceived idea. We need to be able to demonstrate
that scientific research can be valid (and open) not
just with a biblical concept of Man but also and much
more importantly that empirical research cannot and does
not really exist outside of that framework.
The evolutionist’s horror of our point of view is
the energy that drives their ridicule.
John Locke was the first philosopher to suggest this
While it is not much discussed in philosophy,
tabla rasa vs. innate knowledge (and to what extent) is a major area
for philosophy to consider.
I am not endorsing “evolutionary psychology,” which
attempts to explain man’s knowledge and behavior.
It work, however, does provide empirical evidence
that empiricism cannot account for man’s knowledge and
Scripture is the true explanation.
Gordon H. Clark,
Clark Speaks from the Grave, (Jefferson, MD: The
Trinity Foundation, 1986.
Although the book is attributed to Clark, John
Robbins is actually the author of it, as he uses Clark’s
writings to refute certain authors and positions.
You may prefer “postmodern,” but that is merely a label.
I will discuss the problem that I have with any
focus on postmodernism elsewhere in this book.
See all the synonyms above.
I know that some writers distinguish between “moral” and
“ethical,” but I do not.
The “mores” of a society are not important—the
ethics of God’s Word are ultimately important.