Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Dialogue on Epistemology and Christ's Lordship

This is a recent dialogue that I had with a person who professes to be a Christian yet whose reasoning is grounded upon humanistic principles. This is an example of what happens when a person's thinking is based upon worldly ideology rather than the self-consistent word of God.

Much of the dialogue has been left unedited. I only removed some superfluous comments and took out our names. The other person shall be known only by the initials "C.D.H." His comments will be shaded cyan.


If we are to forfeit reason at the foot of the cross then all is lost and I'm out.

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect, has intended us to forgo their use.
- Galileo Galilei

Wise words from a man of God who was ironically imprisoned by the Catholic Church for challenging the geocentric model of astronomy in favor of a heliocentric one. Should we learn a lesson from him or are we doomed to repeat the Catholic Churches mistake? If we find that Faith, and I mean the concept of " accepting things blindly," type faith, takes off where reason leaves off... then we find ourselves in a dead end. Only confirming what the "new atheists" think of Christians. How sad.


There's a difference between abandoning reason and having a self-consistent foundation on which we are able to reason from.

By all means, come let us reason, but let's not come with this ridiculous notion that our ability to reason is somehow autonomous.

So what do we base our reasoning upon? In other words, what should be our final authority?


Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
-Siddhārtha Gautama

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
- Buddha

I'm unsure what the final authority ought to be, but how can something be true if I can poke holes in it with my own common sense? I have had no reason to doubt the authority of the bible thus far, but establishing it as the objective frame of reference is an entirely different story. If the laws of logic are contingent upon God's personal revelation, then I will have no problem establishing it as my objective frame of reference. But if this position is bankrupt, then using the Bible as an objective reference is... utter foolery.


So, fallible human reasoning is the measure of all things? How very... humanistic...

The buddha quotes tell all. Your own reason, and your own common sense. With all due respect, good sir, men are not gods; our reasoning is fallible and thus cannot be the basis on which we can establish what is ultimately true and what is not.

Please note, I am not picking at you for the sake of theological nitpicking. It is just that if you are to confess Jesus as Lord, you ought to confess that He is Lord over our epistemology as well. After all, it is in only Christ "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:3, NIV)

So regarding what you said: How do you know if the divine revelation is bankrupt or not as an objective frame of reference? Easy: Verify its consistency. If the Bible is what is says it is, then it will not only be consistent with itself, but will also give us a consistent way of interpreting all facts (as opposed to interpreting the facts using our own fallible reasoning as the final frame of reference).

I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments... Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.
(Colossians 2:4,8, NLT)


Okay then... then what is to happen should scripture say something incoherent?


Then it is not a self-consistent objective frame of reference, and would thus prove not to be of God.

Here's my question: When you ask whether scripture can say something "incoherent," on what grounds can we say whether something is coherentor not?


I really am unsure as to how it logically follow that finding one flaw in Scripture = the entire thing is not of God. And to answer your question, simple common sense really...


"Your own reason and your own common sense" again?

Since you quoted Buddha, allow me to quote some *Christian* writers:

Do not, I beg you, bring in human reason. I shall yield to scripture alone.

In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, not the least part may be handed on without the Holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray by winning words and clever arguments. Even to me, who tell you these things, do not give ready belief, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce. The salvation in which we believe is not proved from clever reasoning, but from the Holy Scriptures.


*sigh* Warning: hypothetical situation... if the Bible clearly said 2 + 2 = 5, would you believe it? I wouldn't, and yes, my own reason, and my own common sense. What I know for a fact is that axioms exist and I am capable of comprehending them to some degree. Do I understand or know how they are here? No, they may be metaphysically necessary for all I know. But if they themselves disagree with what you hold to be their source, then what source is left?


That's precisely the point: Since truth is one, and is entirely self-consistent the Bible would never make a false claim such as "2 + 2 = 5." Once again, I would like to ask that you not turn the doctrine of divine Revelation into a caricature of itself.

Simple question: If Christ Jesus is Lord over all things, is He Lord over your epistemology and rational thought as well?


I'm ending this for the night... This is all going to go into pointless circles until I make up my mind on presuppositionalism. To be honest with you, right now.. it looks really, really dumb. If logic is metaphysically necessary, then no -- but if they are contingent upon the Lord himself, then yes.


I'm done for the night as well. We shall continue this some other time. But as for your last comment: Christ's Lordship admits of no exceptions. That includes logic and reasoning. We submit mind, body and soul to Him, and we ought not to allow any part of our life and thought to remain autonomous.

Here is my final exhortation to you: Think biblically, since "the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NASB)

That is all. God bless.


  1. Excellent, excellent post! You are at your best here. I look forward to more posts like this one which integrate your knowledge of history and Islam.

    Does C.D.H. not realize that Siddhārtha Gautama *is* Buddha? He was quoted as though he was two different people. The quotes are also full of problems.

    "I'm unsure what the final authority ought to be..."

    A consistent Christian cannot say this.

    "...but how can something be true if I can poke holes in it with my own common sense?"

    Easily if his "common sense" were wrong. There is not really such a thing as "common sense" by the way.

    "if the Bible clearly said 2 + 2 = 5, would you believe it?"


    "I wouldn't, and yes, my own reason, and my own common sense."

    The principle he is espousing here is that if anything - even the Word of God - were to contradict his "common sense" and "reason" then he would reject it. He is essentially a subjectivist.

    How can he ever be corrected? Why does he accept his "common sense" and "reason"? Is it because his "common sense" and "reason" dictate to him that he should? Then the entirety of his reasoning is fallaciously circular. If the entirety of his reasoning is plagued with a fallacy then how can he know that 2+2=4 and not 5?

    "What I know for a fact is that axioms exist and I am capable of comprehending them to some degree. Do I understand or know how they are here? No..."

    Hence his worldview cannot account for something as simple as 2+2=4. That's quite the concession!

    "But if they themselves disagree with what you hold to be their source, then what source is left?"

    The hypothetical is irrelevant. Apparently he also does not see that the hypothetical can be applied to his own position. His "argument" cuts both ways. Oops!

  2. In the first place, I don't even think the Bible can say "2 + 2 = 5" any more than it can say "there is more than one true God" or "Jesus was a sinner."

    Maybe that's just me... oh well... praise God that He cannot lie and that His word is always true.