Reflections on Biblical and
Christian Philosophy

Home

Search

Table of Contents: What Is Here! (Site Map)

Glossary: A Concise Christian and Biblical Philosophy

How Is This Site Different?

Inescapable Truths

Quick Hitters: Penseés

Bible Texts and Philosophy

Important Bible Words

Musings of the Author

About the Author

Biblical Worldview21

Contact the Editor or Webmaster


 

The Bible Destroys the Strongholds of Epistemological Speculation

 

Since Thales in the 6th century B.C., numerous theories of epistemology have been proposed over those 2500 years.  There are the realists, the idealists, the materialists, the intuitionists, the anti-realists, the natural scientists, the rationalists, the empiricists, the feminists, and hundreds of others with their particular slant on “how one knows.”  The situation borders on incredulity when one considers the forceful dogmatism of many of these theorists in the diversity of their profound disagreements. There is no significant agreement among major theorists, much less their neo-disciples and variations on original themes.  But, guess what—communication (more or less) continues.  Papers continue to be written; lectures given; books written and read by the millions, not to mention news reporters around the world and casual conversations among the seven billion people on planet earth.  Communication is taking place—mostly—in spite of profound theoretical diversity.  How can this reality be in light of profound epistemological disagreement?

 

How often do epistemological theorists attempt to bridge this gap in theory and practice?  Something must be sufficiently common in these scholastic and everyday activities to allow communication to occur.  Even the postmoderns with their deconstruction of grammar and language and their choice of  narratives communicate in propositional statements!  What, then, can we conclude from this divorce of theory and practice?

 

First, there is some reality that transcends epistemological speculation.  Second, any one idea or method of epistemology is a as good as any other.  If you balk at this conclusion, what can you bring in argument with which someone else of equal or greater stature does not disagree?  Houston, we have a stalemate and my conclusion stands.   

 

Third, for all the talk of “truth-bearers,” the old propositional form is absolutely necessary, and dare I say it, universal.  All the challenges that might be brought to bear on this conclusion cannot be discussed here.  But I will mention one: symbolic logic.  I contend that symbolic logic fails in its intent.  First, its communication can take place only among a select few who can follow its meanderings.  If an elite is necessary to understand epistemology, what hope is there for is use by the common man, or even the scholastic who is not familiar with symbolic logic.  Further, at some point the symbolic logic must be translated back into communicable form, and we are back to the old familiar form of propositions.  It just might be that in this “logical process,” a juggling and obscuring of propositional manipulation is taking place.

 

For my project, I considered asking several philosophers to give me their ten most challenging obstacles in epistemology.  Then, I began wondering, “What if I do not consider their choices as challenging as mine? How can I argue against those challenges that I consider to be inferior?  After all, every epistemological endeavor is quite individualistic—even philosophers with considerable agreement always differ in some ways, perhaps small or perhaps major—more on individual beliefs later. No one in my audience is going to agree with a choice of obstacles whether from the ten most recognized epistemologists in the world or those of my own choosing.  So, why not choose my own?”  Now, that makes me an easy target for you and for others.  “Who is this guy who thinks that he can make better choices than those who are world-renown?”  But, I shoot back, “Is that not what we all do?  Who hesitates in their own minds or in conferences such as these to differ with the ‘experts of the world?’”  Many papers here at this conference confirm my notion.

 

Thus, my project is to consider the “agreed-upon Scriptures” as a text that overcomes major epistemological challenges sufficiently to bear directly on epistemological discussions.  “Agreed-upon Scriptures” is my term for the 66 books of the Bible that are “agreed-upon” by the three major branches of Christianity: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant.  While each of these branches adds to this core, these 66 books are “agreed-upon.”  Thus, they are my focus, but it does not take much effort to realize that my conclusions bear on the other additions of authority that each branch chooses.  I will not go into those here, as these discussions have centuries of literature, not less in the 21st.  My project is not to consider the various traditional and current apologies for Scripture, such as, extant manuscripts, textual agreement, congruence of texts, and so forth except as they apply to these obstacles.  Further, my project is not a “proof,’ it is merely an argument that “If everything that is allowed today to be discussed as valid considerations in epistemology, then Scripture by over-coming these obstacles should be more at the center of these discussions.”

 

Obstacle One: To know anything, one must know everything

 

What is it mean  “to know?”  An individual has a gradual awakening through his childhood and young adult years that life is more complex than he realized.  There are major decisions to be made: what career to choose, whether to—and whom to marry, where to live, what friends to have, and what physical and metaphysical beliefs give meaning in this life, and whether there is life after death.  It does not take long to realize that wrong choices can come from wrong knowledge.  Consider what may be called “The Epistemology of a Flea” which I have considerably abbreviated here—a cute little story with powerful epistemological insight.

 

In meeting with his dissertation professor, a graduate student told his mentor that he wanted to present an epistemological proof of the non-existence of God by a study of John Donne's "The Flea." By providing an exhaustive treatment of one event, the existence of God, at least of the Christian variety, would be disproved.  First, the student spent three years doing historical research to “prove” that Donne’s treatment of the event actually took place.  But, his professor came back, “"All you've done is to describe the event itself. How did Donne arrive at his image of the flea as his marriage bed?”  You are going to have to do some work in neurology and cognitive science. Linguistics too, I suppose."  Over the next eight years, I worked in neuropsychology, cognitive science, metaphor theory, linguistics, psycho-linguistics, socio-linguistics, semiotics, and everything else that might give me a handle on the interaction of brain, language, and art.  But, then the professor gave a sly little smile, “"What about the flea? Have you considered what it experienced? Did it feel pain? What was it thinking?  I think you need to do some work on insect neuropsychology." The conclusion of the story is a scene where this “student” was writing in the foyer of a monastery where he was to become a novitiate—he had given up completely understanding the parody of a flea and its meaning in a particular situation.  He came to the conclusion that at most points, simple faith had to be exercised, and the greatest faith was to believe in the One Who does know all things.[1]

 

His epistemological project failed in two ways.  First, all knowledge is dependent upon all other knowledge.  In natural science, this dependency is seen in the Duhem-Quine thesis that all research depends upon prior research ad infinitum.  And, it is common to hear these scientists say that “the more we know, the more that we do not know.”  In linguistics, it is seen in the transition of words and languages over millennia of transition.  In mathematics, there is no universal proof by Gödel’s theorems.  The skeptic may think that he has an advantage, but a true skeptic must be know everything to refute anything.  And, my little story demonstrates the interconnectedness of all knowledge, for example, neuroscientists may want to develop new fields of neuroethics, neurotheology, and neuropsychology, but they are straight-jacketed by their own presuppositions, in spite of their fanciful, erudite, and high-sounding terms.  I will address this “scientism” next.

 

The Scriptures have the answer to this part/whole dilemma.  The God who is omniscient gives us considerable, but only partial knowledge of Himself, the kosmos, and ourselves that is fully coherent with that omniscience.  Being made in His image, we can understand that knowledge.

 

Obstacle Two: Ethics and Epistemology—Naturalistic Fallacies

 

Suppose that one came up with an inescapable method of epistemology—one that every philosopher alive could agree as certain—a truly universal and foundational epistemology. There would remain an obstacle that would be just as inescapable: how should that knowledge be used?  In a way, this confrontation of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, reflects our prior problem of universality.  Epistemology does not exist alone.  But, this focus on ethics illustrates a particular dimension: epistemology can be considered a category of ethics, or if this challenge is too great, epistemology must be guided and controlled by ethics.  For example, the scientific method is championed by those who do not know any better—primarily the professors in most colleges and universities outside the philosophy department, and often even there.  But no scientist, no matter how brilliant, is able to use that expertise to answer ethical questions.  The Nobel Prize came from the distress of Alfred Nobel when his discovery of dynamite was used in warfare to maim and kill, and not just for the construction of dams, roads, and other excavation projects. Was his invention of dynamite, “good or bad?”  We have the technology to perform heart transplants, but is it ethical so to do?  A paper at the 2012 SE meeting of EPS said, “No!”  We have the technology for space travel, but is it “right” to use taxpayer money for this endeavor?  Scientific expertise cannot answer these questions.

 

Immanuel Kant with his categorical imperative and C. S. Lewis with his Tao had some of the best arguments for a universal ethic, but their “universality” failed because disagreements remain.  Scripture has powerful arguments for itself here.  It is a definitive approach, perhaps with more casuistry than any other system.  It is the majority opinion in the world today.  And, most importantly and ultimately, “Thus says the Lord.”   Augustine saw that authority was absolutely necessary for living practically and theoretically, why not accept the authority of Scripture from the omniscient God?  Yes, interpretation is a problem, but interpretation is central to all epistemological endeavors, so we gain nothing by making interpretation a separate issue.  Scripture has major claims to authority that no other source of knowledge has.

 

Obstacle Three: The Great Debate of Our Day—Scientism vs. All Other “isms”

 

The logical positivism of the early 20th century met a simple and shattering refutation in its being a performative contradiction—that is, its claim to deny any knowledge other than what was derived empirically was inescapably not derived from empiricism.  Yet, today we have the developing fields of neuroscience, already noted, in which the attempt is being made to derive theology, ethics, psychology, and who knows what else from studies of neurophysiology.[2]

 

Scientism may be defined as the presupposition that “in the dimension of describing and explaining the world, science is the measure of all things, and of what is that it is, and of what is not that  it is not.”  Or, “the view that only natural science deserves full and unqualified credence”—to quote two noted authors—one in the 1960s and one in the 1990s.[3] 

 

I said that scientism opposed all other –isms, but is that statement accurate?  The Bible speaks of light and darkness, of God’s way and man’s way, of regenerate and unregenerate peoples, truth and falsehood, etc.  Two opposing forces, two epistemologies—naturalism vs. supernaturalism. I contend that the only truly opposing epistemology to scientism is Biblical Christianity.  For example, Intelligent Design,[4] classical theism, and natural theology, ethics, and law are half-way measures to Biblical Christianity.  Again, Scripture only speaks of two oppositions, and it is our duty as evangelical to specify what those battle lines are.

 

For the past two years, I have spent a great deal of time studying the philosophy of science.  I am amazed to find that its arguments are not utilized more frequently in the evangelical community.  With natural science as the atheists only hope in epistemology, to refute natural science is to refute the overwhelmingly dominant epistemology of our day.  Its vulnerability was vividly demonstrated when the physicist Paul Sokal submitted an article that was published in Social Text, “a leading North American journal of cultural studies.”[5]  Sokal describes his article as a “parody” and  “liberally salted with nonsense,” yet “it sounded good” and “flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.”  Sokal employed “scientific and mathematical concepts in ways that few scientists or mathematicians could possibly take seriously.”  So much for the objectivity of science.  One can twist the so-called “most objective of sciences” for one’s preferred ethics.

 

Obstacle Four: Failure to Apply Logic

 

In the multiple “logics” of our day, Aristotelian logic has fallen by the wayside.  However, this departure is premature and ridden with fallacies.  Practically, as I have said, we cannot avoid logic—grammar, syntax, and communication require it.  Even that enemy of Christianity, Frederick Nietzsche stated, “I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.” Certainly, I cannot begin to discuss all that a coherent application of logic requires.  Thus, I give only one example.

 

Postmoderns love to state, “There are no absolutes,” or “Truth does not exist.”  But, again we have a performative contradiction.  For either statement to have any meaning, each must  contradict itself.  The first becomes an “absolute” statement, and the second becomes a true statement.  The law of noncontradiction inescapably demands that the opposite be true, “There is at least one absolute.”  There are two, and only two ways out of this dilemma.  The first is to simply say, “Well, there must be another explanation that we do not understand.”   This way is that of irrationality.  To choose it is to choose that language only means what I or some group says that it means, as in a group of scientists who argue for scientism—which I will address below.  That way also is the modern pluralistic notion of multiple truths and multiple ways to God.  It is the way of meaninglessness and politically, eventual totalitarianism—one ideology will always rise to prominence and damn the to others.

 

The other way out is to accept logically that there is one absolute or one truth and begin to search for it.  All the fallacies of logic and the demonstrations of dozens of philosophers of science are sufficient to reject scientism, naturalism, and naturalistic science from the start.  Logically, and categorically, that leaves supernaturalism.  So, we search among supernatural explanations and choose the one has the best evidence.  Again, I contend for Biblical Christianity, for many reasons, but demonstrably the Christian West has produced the greatest eudaimonia—human flourishing—for men and women in the history of the world.  And, as we have departed that Biblical orientation have we been losing that eudaimonia.  Tragically, Christians for the most part have had a considerable contribution to that decline.[6]

 

Obstacle Five: “Objectivity” and the 21st Century Mind

 

In many quarters, the notion of “objectivity” is passé. However, as Mark Twain with whom I share a birth date, said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”  Since I am given to simplicity in this paper, I submit two options.[7]  First, if one does not claim certainty, then one has no claim at all.  Even 99.9 percent probability is still probability.  Second, if one claims certainty, he has moved to an absolute or totally objective position.  So, this postmodern notion of no absolutes is further refuted.

 

Kurt Gödel has said that the notion of provability is weaker than the notion of truth.  For example, he truth of geometric axioms is intuitive as truth.  If they were probabilities, then exceptions would exist and the whole system would fall.

 

What, then, do we find in the “agreed-upon Bible?”  The text is essentially unchanged since it was formulated into the canon.  In contrast to many artifacts of history, its text is more certain today than at the time of its first formulation.  With the discovery of additional manuscripts, such as the Death Sea Scrolls and hundreds of others of lesser quantity and quality, scholars are more certain that we have the exact text of the original autographs.  Minor variants exist, but none that affect any doctrinal interpretation of consequence.  Further, the Bible has survived numerous historical challenges, such as, whether writing existed at the time of Moses, the existence of the Hittites, and the walls of Jericho.  And, there are numerous other evidences with which you are most likely familiar.    

 

And for good measure, as we have seen, the Biblical text is the majority opinion on planet earth—a position that leads into the matter of authority. 

 

Obstacle Six: The Matter of Authority

 

Both moderns and postmoderns abhor “authority.”  And, yet in the “real world” where we began this paper, they live by authority in numerous decisions every day.   They ask neighbors what car, refrigerator, or television to buy.  They may read Consumers Report or another authoritative magazine.  They trust the authority of the persons that they read and quote.  They trust their own authority based upon nature and nurture over which they have no control.  They trust “why there is something rather than nothing.”  They trust (without any good reason) that they have a purpose and meaning in a cold, mechanical universe.  They trust their editors’ and their own judgments to filter out such articles as that of Paul Sokal!  And, in hundreds of other ways, they trust authorities of varying “authoritative” worthiness.

 

Augustine of Hippo struggled with this problem of authority relative to Scripture.[8]  He saw that we are always asking opinions of others whom we trust—that is, in whom we place authority.  He found that the Manicheans were founded not on reason alone, but basic principles of faith or trust in authority.  Indeed, he saw that any epistemology required supernatural revelation because all other authorities had human limitations.  This conclusion made it easy for him to accept the position that today we call “the inerrancy of Scripture,” simply because the God that he loved and worshipped wrote it.

 

So, “authority” as a way of life is inescapable.  Then, the problem simply becomes what authority is ultimate for me.  “Thus says the Lord,” then, becomes ultimately authoritative, its rightful place in the scheme of epistemologies.

 

Obstacle Seven: Solipsism—The Problem of Other Minds

 

The best known epistemology to each of us is that of our own minds.  But each of our minds is isolated from all the others.  There is no “Vulcan mind-meld” that Gene Rodenberry invented for his Star Trek.  Of necessity, we must use “physical” senses to communicate our “meta-physical” thoughts and expressions.  Who of us has not dreamed of a reality such that we talk to others, try to run or jump, fly through the air, engage in warfare, or even have erotic experiences, only to awaken from them to be relieved to escape, or perhaps disappointed that the dream was not “real?”  The problem of other minds, which on one hand is no problem at all—you are here and so am I—we communicate.  On the other hand, proof of other minds is impossible.  I could be a brain-in-a-vat, deceived by Descartes’ demon, living in a computerized “virtual reality,” or just dreaming.  How can one know?  How can one be certain?  Solipsism, in spite of its short shrift in recent times, may the greatest obstacle to a certainty in epistemology.

 

But belief in God, and His Scriptures, overcomes solipsism with great certainty.  God created the universe and a history of mankind beginning with Adam for some 4000 years of chronicled history.  That history links with the more available historical records since the time of Christ.  It is simple for us to take that history, its interactions and warfare among peoples, and know its correspondence with our own reality.  God’s revelation of His Own Mind provides the reality of other minds and confirmation of a reality that we all experience.

 

The problem of the past—brief mention.  The problem of “proving” memory of past experiences is essentially the same as that of “other minds.” The Bible also confirms memory—otherwise, the past faces the same problems as the problem of other minds.

 

Obstacle Eight: Finding Reality in Common Communication

 

Paul Boghossian, Professor of Philosophy at New York University, has written what is anathema to epistemological texts—a short, easily readable book that dissects strong postmodern  arguments.[9]  I quote from a summary of the book:

 

Boghossian focuses on three different ways of reaching the claim that knowledge is socially constructed—one as a thesis about truth and two about justification.  And he rejects all three.  The intuitive, common-sense view is that there is a way the world is that is independent of human opinion; and that we are capable of arriving at beliefs about how it is that are objectively reasonable, binding on anyone capable of appreciating the relevant evidence regardless of their social or cultural perspective.  Difficult as these notions may be, it is a mistake to think that philosophy has uncovered powerful reason for rejecting them.[10]

 

Wow!  What Christian would have ever thought that a New York University Professor would endorse the Common Sense Realism of Thomas Reid.[11]  While there are considerable problems with this common sense approach (which I will mention very shortly), it is a powerful place in epistemology from which to start.  You and I are here at a conference where scholarly papers are being presented; that is, we are communicating with each other at a somewhat sophisticated level.  I mean, how much higher (or deeper, depending upon your preference) can one strive than Gödel, Quine, Duhem, and Gene Rodenberry?  We have labored for untold hours, travelled various distances, and spent needed money (especially in this economy) to communicate.  Communications works—mostly, as it is never perfect.

 

Further, the cosmos in which we live necessitates a certain thinking and behavior.  The Hindu mystic and the most withdrawn gnostic must in a mundane manner and on a daily basis—breathe, drink, eat, and perform bodily functions.  No matter how much they invent anti-reality scenarios, they don’t step in front of trucks, gravity holds them to the earth, diseases affect their bodies, and they barter in the marketplace.  The distortions of the drug-induced alcoholic and the psychedelic scenes of a person on LSD cannot avoid the” laws of nature”[12] with tragic life-changing or life-ending results.  Postmoderns may deconstruct almost everything, but they still must use the rules of grammar, and worse from their perspective—gasp!—propositions to communicate.  Yes, Virginia there is a demanding reality.

 

But before you think that I am unaware, there are considerable problems with common sense reality.  The atheistic scientist, the Hindu mystic, and the Biblical Christian interpret reality differently.  They have different purposes in living.  They have different perspectives on life, or non-life, after death.  So, I do not want to take this philosophy as a complete foundationalism, but I also think that the reality that is necessitated by the cosmos in which we live brackets phenomenologically what theories of epistemology are possible.  There is a real world subject to certain laws of thinking, communicating, and physical living.  Any philosopher who denies this limited reality lives hypocritically and coherently, should keep his mouth shut!

 

Now, a reality necessitates a creator, or in other words, this reality necessitates a supernatural explanation—nature and its laws have to come from somewhere.  Supernatural explanations lead to supernatural religious explanations, which leads one to examine which of those best fits reality.  For me, Biblical Christianity is the best fit.

 

Immediacy in epistemology: rarely mentioned

 

I am going to shift from using the word “knowledge” to the word “truth.”  Studied philosophers may quibble with this shift, but knowledge and truth are really the same pursuit, and truth has a more particular application to my concern here.  Truth has a certain urgency that I have never heard from philosophers.  First, we do not have infinite time available to each of us on planet earth.  Second, not everyone is either interested in studying truth or has the tools of philosophy to pursue it.  Third, there are other obligations in life, such as, making provision for oneself and one’s family to eat, drink, and have clothing along with, a career to pursue.  Fourth, and most critical, death may be just around the corner.  There are thousands in America, and perhaps millions around the world, who die at young ages: car crashes, diseases, murders, and other untimely ends, so this imperative exists for persons of any age.

 

I submit that eternal considerations are important—eternally important.  Yet, when have you ever heard a college professor, especially a philosopher, urge his students, “Seek your answers to whether there is life after death with some haste!  Some of you will die shortly and will have never given it much consideration.”  Now, suppose some student was “lucky” to have such a professorial challenge, and equally important, that within himself he accepted the challenge as urgent for his own being.  Where could he go, say within a few weeks or months and consider all the various options?

 

Well, first, he could not accomplish that goal in a lifetime—there are too many philosophies and religions to study them all, so (somewhat logically) he could choose the major religions and philosophers, and rather competently accomplish that project within a year.  Then, at least he would have done what he could to immediately face his own death.

 

In this scenario, the Bible and the Christian faith would fare quite well.  But first philosophers and other professors, as well, who ignore this challenge are ignoring the most important issue for their students—life is finite, life after death is infinite!  There is an urgency to epistemological considerations that has eternal consequences!

 

Centrality of the Person: Mini-beliefs

 

I worked with a man on intellectual issues for 30 years.  I suppose that we discussed as many varieties of topics as any two men ever did.  We agreed on perhaps 90-95 percent of those topics.  But we still differed, some matters substantially, like the place of non-Christian rulers in civil government and the definition of “day”  in the first chapter of Genesis.  But, beyond significant issues, there are “lesser beliefs”, such as, “I believe chocolate ice cream is better… the best route to Anderson, SC is the one that I took… the Georgia mountains are the most beautiful in the world… Ford makes better cars than General Motors…. etc.  Every person has an amazing diversity of beliefs!  I think this fact has been ignored by many philosophers, but considered by many psychologists.  The human mind is almost infinitely diverse.  George Steiner, a literary critic and sometimes philosopher, states:

 

We normally use a shorthand beneath which there lies a wealth of subconscious, deliberately concealed or declared associations so extensive and intricate that they probably equal the sum and uniqueness of our status as an individual person.”[13]

 

Read that comment again...

 

Our minds are really a complexity of ideas, concepts, beliefs, and other forms of knowledge.  No two people on planet earth think alike.  Ponder that…  We could be identified by our beliefs, if we were able to map them, as is done with fingerprints and genetics.  It would be close to the truth to say that “we are our thoughts,” or as one Wise Man said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”  These mini-beliefs have many ramifications, not least of which is how any orthodoxy of thought can be achieved—because we all differ in our various Christian beliefs. Someone has postulated that there are now over 30,000 sects under the broad label, "Christian."  We should ponder what such an almost infinite variety of beliefs may have on epistemology and theology.  How can each variety of belief be stated so dogmatically?

 

Conclusion

 

I have presented some obstacles for all approaches to epistemological certainty which, when coupled with essential and profound disagreements throughout the history of philosophy, give uncertainty to the whole of the endeavor.  Within this lack of universal agreement, surely Scripture, as one source of knowledge, should be more central to epistemological discussions.  I have briefly demonstrated how Scripture overcomes major epistemological obstacles.  For these and many other reasons, I challenge Christians, especially those in academic and scholarly pursuits,  to realize the opportunity that exists for the insights and wisdom of Scripture in the ongoing emptiness of epistemological discussions.  Especially, I challenge the Evangelical Philosophical Society whose neglect of the Scripture in their flagship publication, Philosophia Christi, is all too apparent.[14]

 

 

Additional Relevant Thoughts

 

Examples of Scripture being ignored by Christian philosophers.   (1) Faith and Philosophy and Philosophia Christi.  (2) Papers presented by the EPS.  (3) Textbooks, both basic and focused, written by Christians.  (4) Topics: Intelligent Design, classic theism, philosophy of religion, defense of theism vs Biblical Christianity, etc. 

 

Subjectivity and objectivity—ontology, epistemology, and ethics unified in God.  Only God has omniscience—knowledge of every detail of Himself and His creation.  Therefore, only God can be totally objective, but being a Person, He is entirely subjective.  So absolute objectivity and subjectivity are inherently one in God.  Note too, that ontology, epistemology, and ethics are immediate and intuitive in God.  Moses asked, “Whom may I say is sending me?”  God answered an epistemological question with an ontological answer, “I am who I am?”  And, one attribute of God’s ontology and epistemology is His righteousness.  Thus, all the major branches of philosophy— ethics, epistemology, and ontology—are perfectly unified in God.  Thus, the Jewish Shema has great philosophical, as well as theological import, “Here O Israel, the Lord is our God.  He is One.”

 

George Steiner on the transcendence of language and communication.  "Any coherent understanding of what language is and how language performs, that any coherent account of the capacity of human speech to communicate meaning and feeling is, in the final analysis, underwritten by the assumption of God's presence.... the experience of aesthetic meaning, that of literature, of the arts, of musical form, infers the necessary possibility of this 'real presence' .... The wager on the meaning of meaning, on the potential of insight and response when one human voice addresses another, when we come face to face with the text and work of art or music, which is to say when we encounter the other in its condition of freedom, is a wager on transcendence."

                                                                             

"This wager – it is that of Descartes, of Kant and of every poet, artist, composer of whom we have explicit record – predicates the presence of a realness, of a 'substantiation' (the theological reach of this word is obvious) within language and form.  It supposes a passage, beyond the fictive or the purely pragmatic, from meaning to meaningfulness.  The conjecture is that 'God' is, not because our grammar is outworn; but that grammar lives and generates worlds because there is a wager on God."  (George Steiner, Real Presences, pages 3-4)

 

 

Endnotes


[2] And, this fascination with neuroscience has not escaped our own organization in that the EPS will devote an upcoming issue to neuroscience.

[3] J. P. Moreland, Consciousness and the Existence of God, (New York, NY: Routledge, 2008), 4.  The first quote is by Wilfrid Sellars, and the second is by Steven Wagner and Richard Warner.

[4] A topic for a plenary session at this conference.

[5] Paul Sokal, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” Social Text Spring/Summer, 1996.

[6] Interestingly, in Charles Spurgeon’s time, this loss of Biblical authority was called “the downgrade controversy.”  With the downgrade of Biblical authority comes a downgrade in human culture in every way.

[7] I must thank R. C. Sproul, Jr. in a DVD presentation for this simple but powerful argument.

[8] Warfield’s Calvin and Augustine.

[9] Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge: against relativism and constructivism, (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2006).

[10] Ibid., back cover.

[11] Note on what this is.

[12] There are no “laws of nature,” only our interpretation of the regularity of nature.

[13] George Steiner, After Babel, Third Edition, (Oxford University Press, England: 1998), 172-3 

 

[14] With only a few exceptions, each issue would agree with the requirements for the Gifford Lectures where Scripture is strictly forbidden.


 

Copyright ©2008 Covenant Enterprises
Site Design 2008 Adaptive Web Solutions