Epistemology of Testimony
In the Word of God we have the testimony of God. We accept this testimony on faith. We are warranted in doing so. One might say that we have a testimonial epistemology.
Unbelievers often call the aforementioned testimonial epistemology into question. They question our accepting the Word of God on faith. They question the notion that we have the Word of God.
Frequently the aforementioned doubts stem from other testimony. So for example, a young person reads that naturalistic, macro-evolutionary biology is true and that he would be stupid or wicked for not accepting it. He realizes that this testimony conflicts with the testimony from God, and so he must choose between the two sources he has read.
Or a college student hears a professor say that the Christian Bible consists of dubitable books, dates, and authors which were arbitrarily selected by politically motivated men and included in our modern day versions. She realizes that this testimony ultimately conflicts with what she has learned both about and from the Bible, and so she must make a choice about which testimony she will receive.
The evidentialist apologist responds to the aforementioned difficulty by attempting to establish the reliability – even the general reliability – of Scripture. But assuming he can accomplish this task, the reliability of the Bible only gets us so far.
It does not follow from the fact that a text is reliable that it is also true. And it certainly does not follow that the text is the Word of God! After all, there are many texts in the world that are reliable, and perhaps even true, that are not the Word of God.
Moreover, the evidentialist would be taxed with far too lofty a burden in attempting to establish not merely the reliability, not merely the truth, and not merely the divine inspiration, but the interconnectedness of Scripture as well verse by verse – that is – one verse at a time!
The presuppositional apologist should respond to the aforementioned difficulty by proposing a Christian worldview in its entirety as the one and only solution to the problems of the unbeliever and evidentialist. A Christian worldview includes not merely the truth of the existence of God, but His revelation to us as well, and much else besides.
The various tenets of a Christian worldview are connected in virtue of the authoritative nature of God exhibited in His Word whereupon the worldview is based. It is likewise connected in virtue of its content. Finally, it is connected in virtue of its concrete nature, which is to say that it was not made up on the spot to seemingly resolve some difficulty, but has an actual religious text, adherents, commentaries, and theology.
The acceptance or rejection of Christianity is thus a package deal. One is either on board with all of it or one is on board with none of it.
Bottom to Top
The unbeliever and the evidentialist share an epistemology. They attempt to work from the bottom to the top. They assume the ability of fallen human beings to put the facts together in such a way that we may discern upon the basis of our own authority whether or not God is authoritative. The unbeliever does so because he or she is a non-Christian. The evidentialist does so because he or she has adopted a non-Christian epistemology.
Top to Bottom
The presuppositionalist works from top to bottom, accepting by faith the authoritative content concretely revealed in the Bible and setting it against those who would deny it. Not only does the presuppositionalist thereby have rational access to the evidences which only serve to confirm the reliability, truth, and inspiration of Scripture, but he or she also has the ability to point out the shortfalls of the aforementioned unbelieving/evidentialist approach to Scripture.
Assuming that any one fact in the universe is relevant (or connected) to any other fact in the universe, there is no way that humans given their finite (not to mention flawed) cognitive faculties can ever see a fact in relation to all of the others in such a way that knowledge is possible. One testimony will contradict another ad infinitum, and the unbeliever will at the end of his life rest unassured. The Christian, on the other hand, affirms the principles of knowledge set forth by the God of Scripture who knows every fact in relation to every other fact. It is not that the Christian can or ever will know everything, but rather that the Christian knows the One who does, and the One who has chosen to reveal what is sufficient for knowledge to us.
One response to “A Christian Epistemology of Testimony”
[…] 6.)A Christian Epistemology of Testimony–Excellent article by Chris Bolt on Presuppositionalism and the self-testimony of the Scriptures. […]
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