Dawson Bethrick, The Man Who Builds His House Upon The Sand

Bethrick’s most recent response to my post here – http://choosinghats.blogspot.com/2009/09/all-bethrick-all-time.html is frankly one of the poorest responses I have ever seen him make.

Objectivists, as I understand it, have never quite been accepted in the realm of academic philosophy (if you do not believe me, try to research the topic via philosophical sources; most encyclopedias do not even mention Objectivism or Rand). Their terminology is often extremely vague, and there is reason for this. Rand was after certainty in a world which told her, and everyone else, that there is no such thing. She presented ideas to counter this, to give people a place to stand that is peppered with pragmatism. Philosophy is not a joke or a game to Objectivists, they want something they can live and die by without worrying about the skeptic.

Of course, fiction books and obfuscation are not the route to countering, for example, the rigorous skeptical epistemologies found in the non-Christian schools I grew up in nor the atheistic and liberal Philosophy and Religion departments I did my undergraduate work in. If one is to be honest with oneself, he or she cannot simply hand waive the arguments which have been offered by the skeptics since the beginning of recorded philosophical inquiry. Thankfully there is good news for gentlemen like Mr. Bethrick. Christ offers hope for those who would find none in their allegedly God-less, directionless worlds. Christ offers certainty and knowledge as a response to the foolish wisdom of the world. All of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him.

Unfortunately Bethrick has continued his dishonest (or perhaps ignorant, though I do not know how this could be the case at this point in his “career”) denial of rather basic facts; substituting for reality his own arbitrary beliefs to try and escape from argumentation and the skepticism it leads to.

For example Bethrick writes that there is no such thing as a circular definition, which is just false. I invite the reader to study a little logic and he or she will come across discussions of circular definitions rather quickly. Even Googling “circular definitions” brings up a lengthy list. ( For example – http://www.onegoodmove.org/fallacy/circle.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_definition )

Bethrick often recommends books. I will return the favor and recommend Copi’s Introduction to Logic, which contains a useful discussion of this subject.

Upon studying the topic of definitions in the broader subject of logic, one may also discover that definitions are often provided by way of example. Bethrick claims that I have written something “patently false” when I state that he does not provide a definition for “previously validated’ by way of example. Calling something patently false with the result that it actually becomes such may be fine in Bethrick’s Peter Pan epistemology, but it does not work out so well in reality. As I explained, the illustration provided by Bethrick does not exemplify “previously validated” at all, which is what is needed if Bethrick seeks to define the term by way of example. Again, the “definition” provided is circular, it presents us with no new understanding of the term in question. Further, “the illustration only shows an alleged use of previous validation in science rather than showing what this process is or how it works.” Bethrick responds to this, “You didn’t ask me to show how it works. I was only responding to the questions which you had asked.” No, I did not ask him to show me how it works, I asked him for a definition of what it is. He may do this by way of a non-circular definition, example, obstensibly, etc. but the point is that he has done none of the above. It may help the reader to review my previous post concerning this.

I will not at this moment take the time to review what Bethrick said concerning whether or not previously validated (whatever that means, he still has not told us) facts can be unseated by newly experienced facts. It is possible I misquoted him. It is not important. If Bethrick thinks that new facts can unseat previously validated facts but do not ever actually do so then there is no pragmatic distinction being made. The argument remains the same.

The vacuousness of the next part of Bethrick’s response is equivalent to that of the part already discussed as Bethrick fails to see when the very arguments he uses apply to his own position. Recall, for example, that Bethrick submits in his illustration that the scientist, after having apparently tested or at least after having relied upon testimony of the testing of water, knows that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen. Now, I submitted that the scientist does not know this at all, for the scientist has only “previously validated” the elemental make-up of a particular sample of water in a specific time and place. Bethrick essentially equivocates on his use of the term “water” when he uses it in his illustration to refer to the specific sample of water and then uses it again to refer to water in a much more general, if not universal sense. The scientist does not know the elemental make-up of water as he has not tested water as such. It is, yet again, dishonest of Bethrick to act as though I have not provided a reason for the claim that I make that the scientist does not know the elemental make-up of water. Further, as mentioned, Bethrick’s questions would cut both ways anyway. We may simply turn the questions Bethrick asks around for him to answer, “How do you know that the scientist [does know this]? How do you know what someone else does or does not know?” Of course on Bethrick’s view I do not see how he can know that other people have the consciousnesses that I would presume are required for knowledge anyway, so asking questions like how one person knows what another person knows become even more interesting.

Obviously my mind is not identical to the mind which is said to know and control everything, and Bethrick is well aware that I believe this. Again with the dishonesty. This aside, a mind need not be identical to another mind in order to receive information from it.

Bethrick fails to distinguish between causation and a particular causal process in his response, something I did not do in my post, as he writes, ‘How do you know that I cannot observe causation?’ in response to ‘Bethrick does not know the causal process…” Once he does this we can move on to topics like how his worldview supposedly allows him to observe causation and how his worldview supposedly allows for causality which is knowable. Based on Bethrick’s previous rampant redefinition of terms to suit his fancy I suspect we will be receiving some completely nonsense ‘description’ of causal processes made up in order to skate around the problems raised rather than to actually deal with them.

Bethrick writes: “I openly admit that I am neither omniscient nor infallible. But neither is he. So we’re in the same boat.” When I write, “Of course this is not true, as I believe in an all-knowing God who has revealed Himself to us and cannot lie” the referent of “this” is the statement regarding being in the same boat together. Is Bethrick really so ignorant of Christian beliefs that he thinks I am claiming omniscience for myself? Of course not. It is just more dishonest, empty rhetoric. I ask the reader to question why someone would need to constantly resort to this type of tactic.

Bethrick asks, ‘…what does merely believing “in an all-knowing God who has revealed Himself to us and cannot lie” have to do with anything?’ I trust that the reader is competent enough to understand the argument and that Bethick has no answer for it, hence the pretended ignorance. All-knowing, truthful God revealing His certain knowledge to us provides us with certain knowledge of what has been revealed. I am sorry, this is not difficult.

Once again I call upon Mr. Bethrick to repent from his sin and believe on the living Christ w


will not cast him away.

All Bethrick All The Time

I asked Mr. Bethrick what “previously validated knowledge” is, since he claims one can know a great deal based upon this, to which he responded, “Previously validated knowledge is knowledge that has already been validated, specifically in the context of new discoveries.”

Of course, circular definitions are definitions which are circular. I do not see that Bethrick ever actually defines what he means by previous validation in a non-circular way nor does he offer an example. He apparently attempts to offer an example of “previous validation” but the illustration only shows an alleged use of previous validation in science rather than showing what this process is or how it works. Additionally, the so called instance of previous validation offered turns out to be an illustration of something other than what he has already presented regarding previously validated facts. Bethrick has mentioned before that previously validated facts cannot be unseated by newly experienced facts while the current illustration is of an individual being able to move from previously validated facts to new facts that are presumably based upon or at least involve previously validated facts. Bethrick has not given us a non-circular definition or example of “previously validated knowledge” and has not illustrated that newly experienced facts do not unseat previously validated knowledge.

Bethrick’s illustration of an individual being able to move from previously validated facts to new facts based upon or involving previously validated facts is as follows:

“…when a scientist studies the flow tendencies of rain water in a particular valley, he does not have to begin every day of his research by discovering the elemental make-up of water. Once this has been discovered and validated, he can move on to exploring new discoveries. That water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, is knowledge that has, in the context of the scientist’s research, been previously validated.”

My problem with this illustration is that the referent of “this” in the second sentence of the illustration is to the elemental make-up of water. Bethrick writes that the elemental make-up of water has been discovered and validated, but this is incorrect. The elemental make-up of water on a particular day in a particular valley has been discovered by a particular scientist if it was discovered by the scientist at all and if Bethrick’s validation is the kind of process which can bring one to this kind of knowledge to begin with. The scientist in the illustration does not know what the elemental make-up of all water is or what the elemental make-up of other water is or what the elemental make-up of elsewhere water is or if the elemental-makeup of water which was previously validated has not changed since yesterday.

He writes, “Perhaps Bolt thinks I need to go out and test every raindrop that has ever fallen on earth in order to be ‘certain’ that rain is composed of water droplets. With such requirements for any generalized certainty, it seems to be an unattainable commodity”.

Well yes, it is unattainable for him, and not just certainty, but for probability as well. He posits that this is the same for those receiving knowledge from a supernatural source, which of course it is not if that source knows and controls everything.

How does Bethrick try to deal with his problem here? He writes, “But if we understand the causal process which produces rain (cf. condensation of water vapor in the atmosphere), why would such tests be needed?” Of course, Mr. Bethrick does not know the causal process which produces rain, for not only can he not observe causation, he does not know that the same causal process produces all rain. He then asks if people who depend on and collect rain water for their survival need to perform such tests. The answer is contingent upon what he means by “need”.

Bethrick writes, “I openly admit that I am neither omniscient nor infallible. But neither is he. So we’re in the same boat.”

Of course this is not true, as I believe in an all-knowing God who has revealed Himself to us and cannot lie. Bethrick apparently thinks it would be clever and profitable to ask questions like, “What if your God could lie though? What if your God does not know everything? What if your God has fur?” but as has already been explained to him multiple times now, I believe in the Christian God who neither lies nor lacks knowledge nor has fur. It has become evident that Bethrick cannot answer the arguments presented based on this conception of God and so he must resort to setting up a straw man and attacking the presuppositional argument by substituting another god that none of us believe in to begin with. At this point it has become clear that Bethrick is just dishonest when it comes to this part of the argument.

Bethrick does not accept that newly experienced facts may unseat previously validated knowledge. I do not see that it would be difficult to illustrate that newly experienced facts may unseat previously validated knowledge however, which would of course have the interesting result that the prior fact was not knowledge after all. Let us suppose that the scientist tested and determined that the water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen then woke up to find that while he had dreamed this, the world, which included water, was really very different and water was made up of different elements, elements which were not even on the Periodic Table of the Elements in his dream world. Perhaps there is no such Table in the real world that he did not experience prior to waking up. We thought we had validated the fact that Pluto is a planet. Now if we can be wrong with respect to all sorts of similar things and indeed often are, why can we not be wrong with respect to essentially everything in similar fashion?

If the world is as Bethrick posits that it is then there is always a possibility that some hitherto unknown fact may radically change our apparent knowledge of the world as it is now. This fact may be related to something as seemingly insignificant as where the end of a sentence is in a Greek manuscript or it could be an extremely significant fact with huge consequences for what we know. How do we know that new information will fit with old rather than overturn it? The truth is that we do not know this at all if the world is as Bethick submits that it is.

Bethrick invites me to produce some fact or facts which will overturn a piece of his knowledge, however the argument does not rest upon exemplary facts, which would miss the whole point, but upon the possibility that there are such facts. We know that there are such facts with respect to some parts of knowledge, why not with respect to other parts of knowledge? The argument does not require that I produce any facts to overturn what we know about rain. If Bethrick does not know that there are no such facts, then he cannot claim to know what he does concerning rain. Bethrick does not know all facts, hence he cannot claim to know what he does concerning rain.

Bethrick makes the following amusing statement in a last ditch effort to wish away the reality of skepticism he is forced to accept for sake of consistency with his own program. He states,

“I do not ascribe [I think he meant to write “subscribe”] to the epistemological model which equates “possibility” with whatever the human mind can imagine. I can imagine breathing water, but I do not accept it as a possibility that I will ever be able to breathe water. To affirm a possibility, one needs at least some evidence to support it, and no evidence against it.”

Apparently suggesting that other peoples’ gods have fur and redefining terms at will is not enough for would-be autonomous Bethrick, as he now gets to decide what is possible! I do not find this to be very “objective” at all. Since Dawson Bethrick does not accept that it is possible to ever be able to breathe wa


r, it is therefore impossible that he will ever be able to breathe water. Never mind that we can imagine a world in which Bethrick can breathe water, never mind that there is nothing at all logically inconsistent with Bethrick breathing water, and never mind that upon consistent Bethrick presuppositions we cannot determine that breathing water will be physically problematic at some time in the future; no, Dawson Bethrick is the sole determiner of what is possible and impossible! Bethrick said it, I believe it, and that settles it! I for one am glad that Bethrick did not live in the past and believe that Earth is flat, as it would have forever been impossible that it should be otherwise. Imagine back-in-the-day-Bethrick experiencing the flatness of Earth and never hearing of planetary motion. No evidence to support Earth being other than flat, and no evidence against earth being flat either, so forget the possibility that Earth is as we know it to be now. Forget cars and the Internet as well. I am sure if we pressed this further we could come up with all sorts of interesting results, but it suffices to say that Bethrick, in his sinful autonomy, wants to be like God, determining what is possible. He does this even at the expense of leaving every definition offered by Webster’s for “possibility” and “possible” behind, the same dictionary he uses to try and justify his calling God a magical being. Why start being consistent now though?

By the way, the Bible never uses such a term as “magic” to describe God and neither should Bethrick, first because Bethrick inconsistently appeals to Webster’s on the definition of this term but not “possibility”, second because he apparently misunderstands the definition he cites anyway, as said definition mentions extraordinary power or influence which is “seemingly” from a supernatural source, (What supernatural *source* is God *seemingly* from according to the Bible?) third because “magic” is a noun, not an adjective, fourth because the adjective related to the noun is so closely related to the noun that it falls prey to the same problems of labeling the God of the Bible as “magic”, and fifth because the term is clearly intended to conjure(since we are talking about magic) up in the mind of the reader a picture of evidentiary status like unto fantasy creatures which is to beg the question. God does not cast magical spells, but he does command men everywhere to repent.

I asked Mr. Bethrick how he knows that water might not turn into merlot the next time he drinks it.

He states that his answer is simple. His answer is that he knows this by a means of knowledge. This is almost as enlightening as “previously validated” meaning “validated previously”. He goes on to specify that he knows this through his reason. Okay, so far so good, but how does Bethrick know through the use of reason? He goes on to say that he uses a method called logic. I would ask Mr. Bethrick which law of logic he utilizes to know that water might not turn into merlot the next time he drinks it, but it appears that he has once again redefined a term. Bethrick describes logic as “an objective method of integrating new knowledge with previously validated knowledge”. How do you know your water won’t turn into merlot? “Well the answer is simple, I know through an objective method of integrating new knowledge with previously validated knowledge.” Most of us have encountered something like this answer in a field at least once. It really is a simple question. Where is the simple answer promised? I do not see how drinking a glass of water has a great deal to do with new knowledge as far as what we are concerned with here, and in any event Bethrick has not explained how he integrates his knowledge with what he has already validated, whatever “validated” means. It is not that Bethrick cannot be certain about the water remaining water, it is that he cannot know at all that it will. He moves on to attempting to set up another straw man concept of a god that Christians do not believe in only this time he wants us to believe in a god who is malevolent and has a tattoo of Silent Bob on its stomach.

A bit of a rant.

We are, essentially, an accident. The universe is a given, we know not its origin or whether or not it even had one though we have made some good guesses concerning the topic. From the mix of things came the first life. We do not know how. All we know is that we are here now as the result of an incredibly long chain of consecutive moments derivative of the contingent particulars of existence. Everything we are is the result not of random chance, but of biological evolution guided as it were through natural selection colliding with genetic mutations and drift, though for all pragmatic purposes we might as well say this is random, the mechanisms of evolution are only hypocritically personified.

We are animals. Some argue that there is this or that component to set us apart from the remainder of the animal kingdom, but this I think is just as much a result of the Aristotelian, Christian, Western lie that is constantly hammered into us by society. There is no goal in the evolutionary scheme of things; indeed there is no scheme at all. Naturalistic evolutionists are too often terribly inconsistent on this point. Understand that whatever component it may be which allegedly separates us from “lower” life forms is itself a product of the same processes which brought about everything else. We are wired by irrationality, our greatest thoughts being governed by passions. Can we do away with the Aristotle and commence with the Hume and Neitzche? Is it not about time that we recognize what we are?

It is not that it matters of course; it is simply that I am irritated by the constant emotionalism set forth by atheists as though it constitutes an argument. By all means, whine, we all deal with the psychological problem of evil, but do not think there is some standard of fairness in this world to which you may appeal. There is not. Not if things are as you claim they are.

A Very Brief Response To Bahnsen Burner Concerning Conditions Of Knowledge

Unfortunately I see the recent response from Dawson Bethrick (available on his blog) as a lengthy discussion of topics rather irrelevant to the points I raised in my post that he is allegedly responding to concerning Conditions of Knowledge. I am at a loss as to why someone familiar with the topic at hand would understand my post as something other than a discussion of problems related specifically to a materialist understanding of the world.

When we speak of ‘belief in a proposition’ we usually mean ‘belief that a proposition is true’, not a belief that the proposition itself exists! Beliefs may be based upon knowledge obtained prior to the formation of those beliefs (for example, the knowledge that a proposition exists). The discussion of concepts being entailed in beliefs presented by Bethrick does not strike me as being any sort of refutation.

When I write that beliefs are not reducible to being natural or physical things I do not mean anything like what Bethrick takes “natural” to mean. That is, he is guilty of equivocation. Of course “concepts are a natural part of the human mind’s cognition” in many senses, but not when we define “natural” as “physical” as opposed to “non-physical”. The term “belief” is itself a mental term. I do not see that even its use fits with a tenable materialist position. Now Bethrick may not be a materialist. If he is not a materialist I would love to hear it for this would prompt further inquiry regarding his doctrine.

Bethrick writes that beliefs are “mental integrations”. He thinks that this answers what beliefs “are”, but he has not stuck to the challenge. Are mental integrations physical (natural) or not? If he states that they are physical then he falls back into the problems already set forth in the original post. If he states that they are non-physical then he, by his own standards, fails to state what beliefs actually are with respect to his statement. That is, Bethrick is only pressing the problem further back. What about consciousness itself; is it physical? Again, natural objects do not possess the feature of “aboutness”.

Concerning truth is Bethrick of the persuasion that an “aspect of conceptual awareness” is physical or not? Is the “contextual correspondence to the objects of awareness” physical or not? Bethrick writes, “Truth is a relationship between the subject of cognition and its objects” yet also maintains that “the objects of consciousness are what they are independent of anyone’s conscious activity”. Perhaps this is a misunderstanding on my part but it looks like these two statements lead to a contradiction if they are not themselves contradictory.

Bethrick writes, “the ‘belief’ that it is snowing in Miami because you dreamed it is snowing there, is only objectionable if one assumes the primacy of existence, the view that the objects of consciousness are what they are independent of conscious activity, that the task of consciousness is not to create or alter reality, but to perceive and identify it”. Actually no, for if the world is as God says it is then whether or not it is snowing in Miami is not contingent upon the human consciousness in view here. Perhaps it would be better for Bethrick to stick with the “self-evident” nature of the primacy of existence rather than to try and prove it through such large leaps. Of course I do not quite understand the Objectivists’ more specific objection to Christian Theism at this point anyway, their theory being that consciousness itself exists and hence the axiom of consciousness does not in any way contradict the metaphysical primacy of existence. If this is the case then I do not see where the problem is with the Christian God as a conscious being according to Objectivist standards.

Bethrick is missing my point here though. Even if the “primacy of existence” is assumed, why is it objectionable to suggest that there may be knowledge of snow in Miami based upon a dream? Why is it wrong to think this way? We are speaking of knowledge of facts, not facts themselves. We are not speaking of whether or not it actually is snowing or not in Miami. Bethrick appears to confuse these two categories.

A friendly chat in simple terms.

Chris: You are an unbeliever?
Unbeliever: I’ll say for argument sake that I am.
Chris: For argument sake?
Unbeliever: Yes it’s complicated. lol
Chris: How so?
Unbeliever: I’m confused. Put it that way.
Chris: I see. Would you say you believe in God?
Unbeliever: I’m open to the possibilities.
Chris: So, you attend church every other Sunday?
Unbeliever: No. I stopped going to church.
Chris: That does not sound very safe. Or open.
Unbeliever: You’re right.
Chris: So really, you live as though there is no God?
Unbeliever: I haven’t really been seeking.
Chris: So what would it take? For you to believe?
Unbeliever: Some evidence I guess.
Chris: Like what kind of evidence?
Unbeliever: Enough evidence for the entire human race to see and accept.
Chris: So for you to believe in God, you would need the entire human race to believe?
Unbeliever: No Chris.
Chris: Now wait. Oh. You would not need the whole human race to believe?
Unbeliever: No I wouldn’t.
Chris: “Unbeliever: Enough evidence for the entire human race to see and accept”. I am not sure I understand.
Unbeliever: If the evidence was that plain to see.
Chris: I see. Well, have you ever come across people who have good evidence for something, something which seems obvious to you, but they still do not agree with you or believe?
Unbeliever: How do you know a God exists? Yep I have.
Chris: There were other factors involved in those situations right?
Unbeliever: Yea.
Chris: So then it is not unreasonable to think that God may have revealed Himself through evidence like you are talking about, plain evidence, but some other factor keeps people from believing in God, right?
Unbeliever: How do you know a god exists Chris?
Chris: Did you catch my last question?
Unbeliever: Yes Chris can you just answer my question? If you had to convince someone that there was a god how would you do it?
Chris: Well sure, I am getting there. 🙂
Unbeliever: Ok.
Chris: It is not unreasonable to think that God may have revealed Himself through evidence like you are talking about, plain evidence, but some other factor keeps people from believing in God, right?
Unbeliever: How do you know that god exists Chris? You’ve got a month to convince someone who is terminally ill…how do you do it? Maybe I’m looking at it wrong it’s more about believing I guess.
Chris: By the impossibility of the contrary.
Unbeliever: Having faith no one can really know right?
Chris: God has revealed Himself as you mentioned, but people do not accept it because of another factor. That factor is sin.
Unbeliever: How do I know god inspired the bible and that it is something other than human?
Chris: Because it claims it of itself and if that claim is rejected one ends up with unintelligibility. Might I ask how you know anything at all?
Unbeliever: Through experience. The brain.
Chris: I see.
Unbeliever: Which is not really functioning at the moment.
Chris: Have you ever had further experience correct what you learned from experience in the past?
Unbeliever: Could we talk in simpler terms? I’m not as intellectual I perceive. For my benefit Chris.
Chris: Yes.
Unbeliever: Sorry.
Chris: I will try to keep it in as small of words as possible.
Unbeliever: I know you’ve got better things to do.
Chris: Okay, you said you know things through experience right? And you said that sometimes, new experiences correct what you learned from old experiences, right?
Unbeliever: No not really.
Chris: “Chris: Might I ask how you know anything at all? Unbeliever: Through experience.”
Unbeliever: Ok yes Chris.
Chris: So my thing with that is this…You can never know anything, because it is always possible that some new experience will completely change everything you thought you knew before.
Unbeliever: Yes I agree.
Chris: You agree that you cannot know anything?
Unbeliever: Yep.
Chris: Do you know that you cannot know anything?
Unbeliever: Yea I can understand the concept.
Chris: Well let me present my side and then I can go to bed…God knows everything.
Unbeliever: Who is god?
Chris: He reveals Himself to us.
Unbeliever: Who wrote that book the bible? Can god see me? Right now?
Chris: I do not have to worry that some new experience will come and overturn my old ones completely, because God already knows the ultimate things and has revealed them to me. The opposite of this is skepticism.
Unbeliever: Oh ok.
Chris: In other words, if I do not start with God, I cannot know anything.
Chris: Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (NASB)
Unbeliever: Ok fair enough. Anyway thanks Chris.
Chris: That’s about all I have time for tonight. 🙂

Conditions of Knowledge

In order for you to know something, it must be true, you must believe it, and you must have some kind of warrant for it.

Believing occurs inside of you, and belief is “about” something. My computer desk cannot be about some other idea. A piece of raw meat cannot be about Hector Berlioz. However a belief can be about Hector Berlioz. “Hector Berlioz wrote thematic music” is a belief about Hector Berlioz. It would appear that desks, meat, and other such natural objects do not share this feature with beliefs (“aboutness”). It appears that beliefs are not reducible to being natural or physical things.

Truth is the same way. Truth has no mass, charge etc.; no scientifically measurable qualities. If you define reality as being composed of nothing other than what is physical, material, natural, whatever; then you have neither belief nor truth available for you to use in your understanding of knowledge. Yet knowledge requires these two things, as I have already mentioned.

You also need to have warrant if you are going to have knowledge. It is not enough to just happen to believe something that turns out to be true; that is not knowledge. For example, if you believe that it is snowing in Miami, and it really is, but you believe it because you had a dream that it is snowing in Miami, then you do not have warrant and also do not have knowledge. If you see that it is snowing in Miami though, then you have warrant. There is a right way and a wrong way to believe things.

The trouble is, a person who does not believe in the Christian God has no basis upon which to say that there is a real “right” or “wrong” to anything. Not only is there no room for belief and truth, but there is not room for a standard of right and wrong ways to come to believe something or to continue to believe something. The concept of beliefs having or lacking warrant is necessary for knowledge, but the concept is inconsistent with what non-Christians want to say about the world.

Christianity allows for these three parts of knowledge without much difficulty.

To have knowledge of something you must believe it, it must be true, and you must have warrant. Non-Christians are left without a basis for any of these three things and these things are inconsistent with non-Christianity. If Christianity is false, then we cannot know anything. Clearly we have knowledge, so Christianity is not false, it is true. If you deny that Christianity is true then you deny that you can have knowledge and so you defeat yourself.

Do we know anything at all?

If we are going to be able to think about anything at all, we have to start somewhere. Where do we start then, and why? If we do not know, then can we think anything at all (intelligibly)?

There appears to be no universal consent on any fact of existence; facts do not appear to speak for themselves, they must be interpreted, else everyone would agree and as already said they do not.

You have made mistakes before, why not again? How do you know that you are not making a mistake even now? Remember those things you felt so certain of, then a new fact came along and overturned everything you believed so strongly? What is to guarantee that there is no fact out there which you have not discovered and never will which would completely overturn everything you believe to be true?

We all know how fallible the senses are. They are easily affected by emotions, health, alcohol, distance, etc. The senses are often impaired. How do we know that our senses are keen enough to gather information that we need from the world? Dogs can hear things that humans cannot. How do we know that we even have enough senses to understand the world? There are animals with no eyes that appear to live happily everyday without a worry of what they are missing. What if we are missing important senses that we need to truly understand the world? How do we know that we are not?

Even if we have an entire world set out in our mind, how do we know that this is the way the world really is? That is, how do we know that our conceptual map matches the external world, or that there even is an external world? We cannot step outside of ourselves. How do we judge our cognitive or sensory tools?

Do we know anything at all?

There is an appeal to a higher standard, higher standard, higher standard, etc. This cannot go on indefinitely or else nothing is explained. There are some things we just have to believe before we ever begin to think. The Christian’s highest standard is God. There is no one else above God.

When God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater by whom to swear, He swore by Himself.

(Hebrews 6.13)

Ultimately we believe in the God of Christian Scripture who has revealed Himself to us through our being made in His image, through the things that are made (not design arguments, just by virtue of the things which are made), and through Scripture. This is the thing that we as Christians believe from the very start. It comes down to faith in this.

The non-Christian will whine about this! She will not accept Christ as Lord of her thought, she will refuse to start from the same place that we do, with the same belief that we do. The problem is that what follows from her unbelief does not get her anywhere. For example, consider the laws of nature which she has faith in. Laws of nature are merely descriptions of the way that nature has been observed to behave. There is absolutely no guarantee that nature will continue to behave the same way in the future that it has in the past. Our unbelieving friend constantly acts on the idea that nature will continue to be the way it has been in the past, but without any reason at all for doing so. So she is without any ground for her belief in the consistency of the laws of nature, and she is without anything else since there are not many beliefs one can derive from laws of nature.

Meanwhile what follows from our belief in God and Scripture is that God has created our minds in such a way that we come to know Him, ourselves, and the world (because knowing ourselves and the world ultimately result in our knowing God better) and so the belief he has given us that the future will be like the past matches with the world so that His ends (of us knowing things) is accomplished. We also know that God is an orderly God and have promises in Scripture that nature will continue to operate much the same way as it has in the past!

So yes, there is a faith which precedes reason. Many would call this blind faith, but as already correctly pointed out, we ALL must believe in something to start with or we get nowhere. The Christian faith is NOT irrational because it provides the very basis of rationality, while the non-Christian starting point that puts humans as the ultimate standard rather than God gets us nowhere in our thinking!

Christians start with the self-attesting Christ of Scripture and are to interpret all facts under the Lordship of Christ. There is disagreement among people about facts because people who have had their noetic structures affected by sin attempt to interpret facts as something other than what God says that they are. The more we practice our faith the fewer mistakes we make in the realm of thought as our thought becomes more in line with that of God and not of ourselves. There are no new facts to God since He knows all and created all and controls all, thus God gives us infallible information about things as they really are in His Word. God’s Word supplies a starting point for other inferences we may draw without going against Scripture. The senses are generally reliable because they were created by an all powerful God who desires for us to know Him. Knowledge of God comes through knowledge of the world, of Scripture, and of us. God would not have placed any important information that we need in order to know and worship Him outside of our senses. We have a sufficient number and quality of senses to understand the world as God intends. Further, God would not deceive us through making the world something other than what our conceptual maps tell us, for the most part, about the world, since He wants us to come to know Him through His world. We judge our cognitive and sensory tools based upon the objective view of God who stands outside of everything and sees all as it really is, then revealing what He wants to reveal to us.

So yes, we do know things. The non-Christian just does not have any consistent position upon which to stand and know things, whilst the Christian does.

Snakes and Slaves

Question: “I am curious what the valid response is to someone in regards of the talking snake. The apologetic response.”

Basically we can only know that the world has regularities because God is in control of it. If God was not in control of it, or did not reveal to us that He is, then we would not be able to predict that the next snake we encounter cannot talk. (It was a serpent by the way.) So if you reject the account in Scripture you have no reason to reject a snake talking. If you accept the account in Scripture then you know that a snake did talk. You also have grounds to say, based on past experience, that snakes usually do not talk because God controls nature in such a way that it exhibits regularity.

Question: ‘As for your male and female slaves whom you may have– you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you. ‘Then, too, [it is] out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession. ‘You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another. (Leviticus 25.44-46 NASB)

Have you heard the argument that “the Bible supports slavery”? What do you say to those people? ”

It does but you need to specify what kind of slavery and look at what practices the Bible condemns in slavery. There were actually options given in Scripture for slaves to stay if they wanted to after they had served for a certain amount of time! Indeed, there were slaves even being counted as covenant members in some instances. And what is the argument? Here is mine: On what grounds do you either condemn or approve of slavery apart from God?