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Inescapable Truths

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Inescapable Truths

The following are not in any order of importance or priority.  In fact, they could be said to constitute a necessary whole with boundary conditions that are met by the parts, even though they are necessarily incomplete in number and expression.

 1. No person can avoid determinism or predestination.  His only choice is the means by which he is predestined. No one chooses their genes, their parents, or who teaches them early in their early life. By the time of their “age of accountability,” all choices are then conditioned (predestined) by those influences.  And without omniscience (knowing all possible options), the only knowledge from which to choose comes from these unselected choices.

Corollary.  On this basis, at best, man only has limited "free will."  Any freedom is conditioned by what he is and what he has been taught.  This situation could hardly be defined as "free will."

2. There are only two sources of morals and ethics, that is, what is right and wrong. You believe in yourself or a source outside of yourself that you totally trust. If you retain any choice of what is right and wrong, then you are still in control. If you yield completely to a source outside of yourself, then your only task is to learn that source and obey. The only trustworthy source outside of oneself is the Bible. So, the only true source of right and wrong is the Bible.

Corollary: Lordship. The only lord that one will ever worship is oneself or someone to whom one yields and gives total obedience. Only the God of the Bible has the qualifications for such sacrifice.

Corollary: Since there are only two sources of ethics, science ("what is") can never give an "ought."  See # 20 below.

3. Civil law is inescapably based upon ethics. (See the only two possible sources of ethics above.)  Thus, there are only two choices for civil law: rule by man's law (autonomy or a majority vote) or God's law, as found in the Bible.

4. Autonomy or infallibility of the self. (This aphorism could be considered a corollary of “sources of morals and ethics” above.) You either consider yourself infallible or you totally trust the knowledge of someone else. Any knowledge about which you say, “That is not right,” demonstrates you retain infallibility for yourself.

Corollary. Given the opportunity for such a power position, every person (apart from a working of the Holy Spirit) would be a dictator and tyrant. One need only note the vigor of any conversation about politics. Without power being limited by others, each person would implement total law and order according to their own ethical beliefs.

5.  Augustine of Hippo was correct, "I believe in order to understand."  Faith (belief) is prior to reason, as first principles or first philosophy. Thinking must begin somewhere, that is, a place to start one's thinking process.  Eventually, if searching continues, each person will find what principle governs all others: that will be his most basic belief or first principle.  Ultimately, there are only two faith positions: trust in one's self or trust in God's revelation, the Bible.  This position is also one of presuppositionalism.  See below.

Faith and reason (logic) are an inherent unity.  Faith (belief) in a most basic proposition comes first; for the Christian this belief is the truth of the Bible.  Once that belief is certain, then reason (logic) is applied for "understanding."  Thus, faith precedes reason, but reason develops the full extent of what that faith consists—all the truths about God, his universe, and His plan for all peoples.

Reason. A statement of faith (a proposition) must be reasonable, following the rules of logic and grammar.  That is, a statement of faith must be clearly coherent and understandable to others.

6.  The law of non-contradiction.  Among competing statements of truth, only one or another not considered can be true.  Also, included here would be the law of identity and the law of excluded middle.

7.  The Bible is the only truth that any man will ever know, and it is objective!  "Objective" means that it exists outside of the self.  While subjectivity may affect interpretation, the objective message has been settled for almost 2000 years.  The magnitude of this fact is lost in the common place of the Bible among us.

Corollary: Every man, as a unique subject, will have a different interpretation of God and His Revelation on several points.  No two people on earth ever agree on everything in which each believes.  However, there are two points on which no compromise is possible: (1) the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, as discerned from the best manuscripts and (2) the orthodox tenets of one's church.  Those of Reformed persuasion have recognized this reality in their "freedom of the conscience," as illustrated in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 20, Section 2.  See "Truth and Reality" below.

8.  Truth and reality are the same; truth is reality.  "I am the way, the truth, and the life."  Objective and Subjective Truth are one and the same in the Person of the Trinity.  They know with any distortion of objectivity, while they are themselves subjects.  "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One.

Corollary: See "The Bible is the only truth ..." above.  The mind of every person is unique to the extent that he will different from every other person on planet earth on several points of Biblical teaching.  While the Scriptures are objective, there is an interaction with one's conscience that the Reformed, in particular, have long recognized.

9.  Neither secular science nor creation science is truth.  Science is always temporary, inductive, temporal, and limited to theoretical or experimental design.  At best it is only a probability.

10.  That man is mortal has an immediacy that philosophers do not seem to appreciate.  That is, decisions about life and death, right and wrong have an immediate demand.   Philosophers "fiddle" while personal fires and death abound.

11.  Philosophers seem unwilling to simplify and condense.  They seem unwilling to do the hard work of actually constructing a coherent system, especially for the "common man."  They seem unwilling to write simply and summarize.  It would be greatly helpful if every philosopher had a complete glossary and a comprehensive list of synonyms.

12.  Presuppositionalism.  The most basic belief of a lay person or a philosopher is stated as a proposition.  Because it is first (most basic), it is a presupposition.  If he chooses any statement (proposition) upon which to base that original statement, that more basic statement becomes his first principle (presupposition).  For example, the statement, "Facts speak for themselves," is a presupposition by the evidentialists.  Presupposition is always and inescapably prior to evidential or empirical claims.

Corollary.  Every person starts with an absolute—a most basic belief.  Whatever first principle a person chooses is his absolute because it controls all knowledge that that person considers to be true.

The particular of saved or unsaved.  Being regenerate or unregenerate casues a presupposition concerning the Bible, as either Spirit-breathed and the very Word of God or just another source of knowledge among all the others.  Again, there are ultimately only two systems of belief.

Corollary.   Circular reasoning cannot be avoided.  Since a true first principle is one upon which all one's other beliefs are derived, and true first principles are not provable, all systems of knowledge are built upon circularity.  The difficulty is getting one person to move to another's system in which argument can be made.  In Biblical regeneration, the person is convinced to believe that the Bible is true.

13.  At least one absolute exists.  Since "There are no absolutes" is self-refuting, there must be at least one absolute.  The same applies to "There is no truth."

14.  No one lives consistently with the beliefs of irrationalism, postmodernism and Eastern religions.  All peoples on planet earth plan their days on a regular cycle, a dependable universe, being able to communicate with others, and interact in the marketplace.

Postmodernism: For all their talk of narrative, the hermeneutics of suspicion, the impossibility of language, etc, the postmodernists use propositions, persuasion, language, etc. to present and defend their views.  They cannot live and function with coherence of their own beliefs.

15.  A person cannot consist of just chemicals or material substance.  Over the course of one's life, virtually all molecules in a person's body are replaced.  If memory or thought were linked only to those chemicals, then all  memory would disappear.  Who and what a person is, then, cannot be dependent upon those chemicals, thereby necessitating a spiritual (soul, mind, heart) component of every person that does not change.

16.  The philosophy of a theologian will unavoidably affect his theology.  The empiricist will give credence to experience, psychology, sociology, experts, and emotions on a par with, or even above, Biblical truth.  The rationalist will trust in apologetics to convince others of the truth of Christianity, deny the necessity of presuppositions (even will operating on his own axioms), and use philosophy to integrate or interpret Biblical truth.  The fideist (presuppositionalist, foundationalist) of Scripture, if consistent and coherent, will develop his theology systematically and accurately.

17.  A philosophy that has not been worked into a system is no philosophy at all.  Then, that system must cohere at every point in the system.  This failure means two things.  (A) Philosophers advocate a non-system that will have incoherencies.  That is, they advocate an incoherent system and isolated facts.  (B) They fail to see that any Christian (Biblical) system must be one as God is One, "Hear O Israel, the LORD our god is one!"

18.  "I do not believe ... that a Christian philosophy now exists that is reasonably adequate for the needs of the modern Protestant theologian."  (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, page 318.)  Frame wrote this statement in spite of a (more or less) positive review in his Appendix on the Reformed Epistemology of Plantinga, Wolterstorff, et al.  Frame's statement is a telling indictment of the prolific efforts or a plethora of Christians in philosophy, including the Society of Christian Philosophers and the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

19.  A Christian philosopher and his theology are inescapably interdependent.  For example, an Arminian will defend free will, as in incompatibilism, in both his theology and his philosophy.  One who is consistently Reformed will defend free will, as in compatibilism, and as posited by the Westminster Confession of Faith: "God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil" (Chapter IX, 1). 

20.  "What is" can never provide an ought.  Neither empiricism nor its supersensible counterpart ("the sciences") can derive an ought.  Scientific research studies "what is," but an "ought" can only come from personal or social opinion.  (Of course, the ultimate "personal" opinion is that of God Omnipotent.)  When scientists (including psychologists and sociologists) say that something "ought" or "ought not" to be, they have moved from the realm of their expertise (science) to the realm of personal opinion.  They have no more authority than the "man on the street" and infinitely less than God speaking through His Word.

No morality in an accidental universe.  Life that evolved from "chance" of random events can produce not right and wrong.  If everything is an accident, then there can be only accidental thoughts.  Rational minds cannot exist and neither can morals or ethics.

21.  Some kind of innate knowledge and ability to formulate categories is requisite to any knowledge at all.   A movie camera with no film or storage media would be unable to capture images.  So, there must be a structure by which images are stored.  Further, recorded movies can only play back what they recorded.  They cannot name or categorize objects.  Tabula rasa is unimaginable with today's knowledge of technology.  While the particulars of innate knowledge (categories, logic, concrete knowledge, etc. may be debated, the fact of innate knowledge is inescapable.

22.  Truth resides apart from rationalism and empiricism, realism and idealism, and faith and reason.  Rationalists failed to accept empiricism.  Empiricists have failed to accept rationalism.  Idealists fail to accept realism.  Realists fail to accept idealism.  Fideists have failed to accept rationalism.  Rationalists have failed to accept fideism.  If each opposite is incompatible, then combinations of each will not work either.  Thus, truth resides apart from each of these philosophies and is found in Special Revelation.

23. Life cannot come from non-life.  Those believing in evolution want to say that life came from non-life, but that belief is impossible.  The most simple living cell (or virus) manifests a complexity and metabolism that is not even conceivable in the physical world.  Probability and long time intervals cannot apply here.  There is an impenetrable barrier between life and non-life.  Were the atheists not dependent upon this proposition to deny God, life arising from non-life would be laughable.  Minimally, it is foolish... the fool has said in his heart that there is no God."

Some characteristics of life.  Life involves complex metabolism.  For animals, it involves movement.  For most living things, life includes reproducing its own kind.  Life assimilates both inorganic and inorganic materials as food.  After using them, waste is produced.  All life exists in the complexity of life on planet earth and in the universe.  Thus, life arriving from non-life is totally unreasonable and not even within the realm of possibility.

24.  It is possible to communicate with language.  For all the arguments on the inadequacy of language, it is language that is used to deny the possibility of language!  Billions of communications by word, writing, and other means occurs daily, if not hourly.  Are their problems and complexities of language?  Of course.  But let us not deny the tremendous pragmatic value of language. 

25.  We can trust our senses most of the time!  God has given us wonderful senses and a "real" world that corresponds beautifully to them.  The problem, as in discussions of empiricism above and elsewhere, that our sense experience cannot tell us what is right and wrong (ethics).  Neither is it a foundation for truth (knowledge) because truth must have a foundation that is infallible as it presents itself to our understanding.  Also, we must always be aware of the occasional fallacy (the black swan and other entities) that intrude into an otherwise orderly and predictable world.  Anti-empiricists (including myself), however, have perhaps been too critical of empirical and experiential reliability.  On a day to day basis, such knowledge is necessary and expeditious.  Everyone just needs to learn where it is helpful and be aware of its potential for harm.  (That this concept is #25 demonstrates that I have been too harsh in the past.)

26.  The hermeneutical circle of the postmoderns is valid.  One of the greatest truths of postmodernism (yes, I can recognize truths there!) is the hermeneutical circle.  While many evangelicals, and my brothers Reformed, like to speak of objective eisegesis, no one can never entirely remove his or her personal presuppositions from one's hermeneutics.  With the hermeneutical circle, one goes to Scripture (or any other source of knowledge), learns something, and this new knowledge inescapably causes his next visit to the same text (or any other text) to be changed by the perspective of that change in his or her presuppositions.

27.  Matter had a beginning or is eternal.  Leibniz had it right, "Why is there something rather than nothing?"  Either matter is eternal, and therefore, the cause of all things, or matter had a beginning and was created by a power greater than it.  For all the Big Bang theorists, both Christian and pagan, inescapably there had to be "something rather than nothing" for the Big Bang to occur.  And, necessarily, there had to be a First Cause to create matter--the Creator with all the attributes given to Him in the Bible.

28.  Emergence is God hidden in plain sight.  With all the effort expended on the "hiddenness of God," emergence places Him in plain sight.  Emergence is the great leap of properties of the whole when contrasted with its parts: atoms and atomic particles, living cells and an (as yet) unknown complexity of subcellular parts, tissues made up of millions of cells, organs and their tissues, a whole creature and its organs, the solar system and its planets, the universe and its (almost) infinite structures, and more, much more.  For all the discussion of supervenience, boundary conditions, organizing principles, and intelligent design, it is inescapably the God of Christian Scripture that makes emergence possible because everyone agrees (by definition) that emergent properties cannot come from the parts of the whole.  That conclusion rules out natural properties, so one is left with a supernatural explanation, and from an "inference to the best explanation," that God is necessary.

Wager on the transcendent.  George Steiner's "wager on the transcendent" in his boo, Real Presences, has a similar origin in thought to that of emergence.  How can language, art, and other "human" values and meaning exist with the immanence of the supernatual, i.e., God Himself?

29. Nihilism is nonsense.  Nihilism is the belief that there is no meaning in the universe. This statement is an oxymoron—a performative contradiction. The statement itself is presenced to have meaning—to promote a worldview to others. Thus, it is self-contradictory and meaningless. By the law of noncontradiction, its opposite is true: “there is meaning in the universe,” so let us be on the search for finding it!

 

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The idea of "inescapables" came from R. J. Rushdoony's Infallibiilty: An Inescapable Concept.

These "inescapables" are an ongoing work.  If you have suggestions for additions or disagreement with those posted, please email me at epayne7@comcast.net.

 

 

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