Showing posts with label epistemology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label epistemology. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Terminology Tuesday: Coherentism

Coherentism: An epistemological theory holding that the justification for beliefs consists in the relations among the beliefs. A coherentist thus typically denies that there are any special propositions that are basic or foundational. Rather, the structure of beliefs is like a web in which some beliefs are more central than others but in which some beliefs give mutual support to others as part of a network. More radical forms of coherentism not only adopt a coherentist account of justification but also a coherentist account of truth, in which true propositions are those that would be part of an ideally coherent system of beliefs.1

1. C.Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 24.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Book Review: Epistemic Justification by Richard Swinburne

In Epistemic Justification (henceforth EJ) Richard Swinburne wants to answer two basic questions: first, what is justification, and second, what types of justification are worth having. While easy to state, the questions are very difficult to answer. This difficulty stems from several factors, including the history of epistemology, the failure to make distinctions, and the connections between justification, warrant, and knowledge.

The History of Epistemology
The basic point here is that justification (and ‘warrant’) have not been subjected to as much philosophical analysis as has ‘knowledge’. Thus what is often seen is that various models will agree on when knowledge is (not) obtained, but disagree on when justification and warrant are (not) attained.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book Review: Hume's Abject Failure by John Earman

In Hume’s Abject Failure, John Earman (henceforth JE) levels several complaints against Hume’s argument against miracles, of which I will focus on only one: Hume’s treatment of inductive reasoning.[i] JE takes some pains to stress that his critique derives from what he sees as objective flaws in Hume’s argument and not from an antipathy to Hume’s conclusions.[ii] JE poses a couple of criteria for an adequate epistemology—criteria which, he feels, Hume’s account of induction cannot meet.[iii]

JE argues that the most reasonable reading of Hume’s argument against miracles is as follows. Say we have seen a long succession of some event A occurring. Further stipulate that in all known instances of A, it turns out that A was also B. On JE’s reading of Hume, this makes the statement ‘All As are Bs’ a presumptive law of nature.[iv] This yields the conclusion that we should assign the likelihood that the next A will also be a B to 1. In other words, we should possess absolute certainty that the next occurrence will not be a violation of our presumed law of nature. Put into Bayesian terms[v], this can be expressed as follows:[vi]

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review: Warrant and Proper Function by Alvin Plantinga

In Warrant: The CurrentDebate, Alvin Plantinga examined various proposed accounts of warrant (that which turns true belief into knowledge) and found them all wanting. The most pervasive failing, as he saw it, was that the various accounts failed to incorporate a notion of proper function (henceforth PF).

In Chapter 1 of Warrantand Proper Function, Plantinga begins by fleshing out his theory of warrant. He argues that the concept of PF seems bound up with other, interdefinable notions: design, damage, purpose, normativity, and the like.  PF is applies to obviously designed artifacts (like cars or computers) but is a concept also employed in the biological and physical sciences. But PF is not enough for warrant. A satisfactory account of warrant must also incorporate considerations of cognitive environment, degrees of firmness with which a belief is held, that the cognitive faculty being deployed is ‘aimed’ at truth, and that the design plan is a good one (i.e., one that has a high objective probability of generating true beliefs). For example, our senses might possess PF in earth’s cognitive environment but not on another planet with very different laws of nature.[1] Warrant must also take account of the fact that some beliefs are more warranted than others because we hold them more firmly. If we hold belief A and B, and both are generated by cognitive faculties properly functioning on the basis of a good design plan successfully aimed at the truth,  but we hold one more tentatively than the other, the more firmly held one is more warranted and is more likely to be ‘knowledge’.[2] The point, one might say, of a particular cognitive module must be the production of true beliefs. If not, then a cognitive module might be functioning properly (and thus satisfying one of the constraints of this model of warrant) but not be aimed at true beliefs (and thus violate another constraint of this model).[3] If the design plan is a poor one, then the likelihood that the beliefs generated by it are untrue. If untrue, they are not knowledge and—by definition—cannot be warranted.[4]

Thursday, May 09, 2013

How to Be a Morally Responsible Skeptic MP3 Audio by Dallas Willard

Philosopher Dallas Willard makes the case that disbelief is not a stance to be taken lightly. Individuals have a responsibility to assume the burden of proof for their disbelief. Dallas Willard died on May 8, 2013 and will be missed by many. Find his books here.

Full MP3 Audio here. (from Veritas)


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga

In Warranted Christian Belief (henceforth WCB), Alvin Plantinga examines the conditions under which theistic and Christian beliefs possess warrant—that which transforms true belief into knowledge. His definition of warrant (defended at length in the prior two books in this trilogy) is as follows:
A belief has warrant just if it is produced by cognitive processes or faculties that are functioning properly, in a cognitive environment propitious for that exercise of cognitive powers, according to a design plan that is successfully aimed at the production of true beliefs. (Location 114 Kindle edition)
It is important to recognize that Plantinga’s goal in this book is not to argue for the truth of Christian belief, but for its warrant. Once the reader realizes this, it becomes clear why Plantinga introduces the distinction between de facto and de jure objections to theistic and Christian belief. A de facto objection attacks the truth of Christianity and is hence making a metaphysical or an ontological claim (e.g., God does not exist). Popular de facto objections are the logical problem of evil or that the attributes of God are logically inconsistent. De jure objections are epistemological in nature. For example, a de jure objection might hold that whether or not Christian belief is true, it is nonetheless unjustified or unwarranted to hold such belief. Plantinga sees the book serving two distinct functions:

On the one hand, it is an exercise in apologetics and philosophy of religion, an attempt to demonstrate the failure of a range of objects to Christian belief. …. On the other hand, however, the book is an effort in Christian philosophy…the effort to consider and answer philosophical questions from a Christian perspective. (Location 153 Kindle edition) 

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Review: Warrant: The Current Debate by Alvin Plantinga

Before summarizing Warrant: The Current Debate (henceforth WCD), it is helpful to understand, in broad outline, Plantinga’s Warrant trilogy[1] as a whole. In WCD, Plantinga surveys various naturalistic versions of warrant and, by examining scenarios in which the conditions for warrant posited by a given theory of warrant are met but knowledge is still lacking, teases out what the missing ingredients are. In the next volume (Warrant and Proper Function) Plantinga fleshes out his proposed definition of warrant and examines its adequacy by applying it to a baker’s dozen of our cognitive faculties (including memory, perception, and testimony). Along the way he notes that several of the aspects of his version of warrant fit better with theism than with naturalism. In the final volume (Warranted Christian Belief) Plantinga examines the role of warrant in theistic belief in general and Christian belief in particular.

In the introduction to WCD Plantinga lays his cards on the table: he is an externalist in epistemology. All kinds of subtle qualifications to the definitions of internalism and externalism can be found in Plantinga’s work, but the basic idea is that an internalist with respect to warrant is concerned with how things go with an individual ‘downstream from experience’. For example, an internalist may be most concerned not with what is going on in the environment external to the individual, but what is internal and (to some extent) under the control or present to the awareness of the individual. An externalist, as might be expected, places more emphasis on states of affairs which are external to the individual or outside the control or awareness of the individual. (Again, these are imprecise terms. At various places throughout WCD, Plantinga encouragingly notes the ambiguities and the need for multiple examples before a given definition in this area becomes clear). And, of course, there are multiple varieties and subvarieties of both internalism and externalism.[2]

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Terminology Tuesday: Epistemology

Epistemology: The branch of philosophy concerned with questions about knowledge and belief and related issues such as justification and truth. Some conceive of epistemology as an attempt to refute skepticism, the denial that knowledge is possible.

One of the major debates in epistemology is that of internalism versus externalism: Must the basis or ground that warrants a belief be internally accessible to consciousness? Another major debate is foundationalism versus coherentism: Are some beliefs "properly basic," or are all beliefs based on other beliefs in an interconnected web?

Some philosophers of religion have argued that critiques of religious belief as unreasonable are grounded in faulty epistemologies, theories of knowledge that if applied to fields other than religion would make knowledge impossible in those other fields as well.1

1. C.Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), pp. 39-40.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Philosopher Interview: R. Scott Smith

Today's interview is with R. Scott Smith, Associate Professor of Ethics and Christian Apologetics at Biola University (previous interviews here and here). He talks about his latest book, Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality (review here), defining naturalism, motivations for naturalism, methodological naturalism, ways of viewing reality, Darwinian views, the evolutionary argument against naturalism (similarities/differences), naturalism's ontological resources, some objections to his view, testing religious truth-claims, and more.

Full Interview MP3 Audio (90 min)

Books by R. Scott Smith include:
• Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality
Virtue Ethics and Moral Knowledge
Truth and the New Kind of Christian: Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church

Subscribe to the Apologetics 315 Interviews podcast here or in iTunes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Terminology Tuesday: Doxastic Voluntarism

Doxastic Voluntarism: The philosophical doctrine according to which people have voluntary control over their beliefs. [...] Philosophers distinguish between two kinds of doxastic voluntarism. Direct doxastic voluntarism claims that people have direct voluntary control over at least some of their beliefs. Indirect doxastic voluntarism, however, supposes that people have indirect voluntary control over at least some of their beliefs, for example, by doing research and evaluating evidence.1

1. For more information, see doxastic voluntarism in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Terminology Tuesday: Foundationalism

Foundationalism: A term referring to any theory of knowledge that looks for a starting point or "foundation" on which to build knowledge. This foundation may take the form of an indisputable proposition or set of propositions on which knowledge can be constructed through the use of logical reasoning from the first propositions. Historically, René Descartes is credited with being one of the greatest foundationalist philosophers. Descartes begins his whole system of knowledge by affirming the now-famous dictum cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). Alternatively, some foundationalists (e.g., Friedrich Schleiermacher) have sought to construct knowledge on the basis of some supposedly universal human experience.1

1. Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 53.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Terminology Tuesday: Holism

Holism: A term used in epistemology for theories of meaning and justification that emphasize systematic interconnections. Theories that view meaning as determined by the relations that concepts have to each other, rather than by the referential relation of language to extralinguistic reality, are often called holistic. Coherentist, nonfoundationalist accounts of justification are also referred to as holistic. In both cases the image of a web is often used, with meaning or justification said to be a function of the place occupied in the web of concepts or web of beliefs.1

1. C.Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), pp. 55.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Review: Inference to the Best Explanation by Peter Lipton

Inference to the Best Explanation (International Library of Philosophy)Inference to the Best Explanation (2nd  Edition) by Peter Lipton  is a 200-page philosophy text dealing with the process of how we come to conclusions from the evidence available to us. The book is technical, yet readable. The first three chapters provide an initial survey of the problems of induction and explanation. The middle section explores inference to the best explanation, methods of induction, and compares other models of explanation. The final section deals with some problems and common objections to the inference to the best explanation (IBE) model. This review will provide a general overview of some of the key ideas presented in the text.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Book Review: The Elusive God by Paul K. Moser

The Elusive God: Reorienting Religious Epistemology by Paul K. Moser is a philosophy book dealing the question of religious epistemology (theory of knowledge). It addresses the topic of God’s apparent hiddenness or concealment. That is, if God exists, it is not necessarily obvious that He exists. In light of this fact, the book looks at the question of evidence that shows God’s existence and examines the type of evidence one should expect from a God that is hidden. This review will survey the primary theme of the book and offer a brief synopsis of some of the secondary themes.

Moser defines the idea of hiddenness: “Let’s say that God’s existence is concealed, hidden, or incognito for a person at a time if and only if at that time God’s existence fails to be not only obvious but also beyond cognitively reasonable doubt for that person.”1 He cites the Pensées in which Pascal says that any religion denying that God’s existence is concealed is false. The book seeks to answer, among other things, why God would be concealed. With the tools of philosophy and the confirmation of scripture, the author presents reasons that God’s reality would not be coercively obvious to all.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Skepticism & Epistemology - J.P. Moreland MP3 Audio

Philosophy J.P. Moreland presents a talk entitled: Skepticism & Epistemology. More lectures by Moreland can be found here.

Full MP3 Audio here. (1hr 15min)


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Can The Christian Know?

by Brian Auten

Christianity claims to be true. Christians believe it to be true. But can the Christian know that it is true? Moreover, can the believer who cannot prove Christianity to be true, legitimately say that he knows that Christianity is true? Our purpose here is twofold: to show that the Christian can legitimately claim to know that Christianity is true, and to explore how the Christian knows.

Truth and Belief
Before exploring the subject of knowledge, we must first define truth and belief. Truth can be defined as “that which corresponds to or adequately expresses what is real.”1 This is most commonly referred to as the correspondence theory of truth, which says that something is true if it comports, or corresponds, with reality. Truth has to do with the real. A proposition or statement is true if it accurately describes reality.

Belief can be described as a positive cognitive acceptance of something to be true. Belief tends to be propositional. That is to say, when a person believes, he is taking a proposition to be true. For example, the proposition “there is a cat in the tree” may be true or false. If a person takes the proposition to be true, then that person holds the belief that the cat is in the tree. Obviously, if there really is a cat in the tree, the belief is true. But if there is no cat in the tree, the belief is false.

Belief that something is true must be distinguished from belief in a person or ideal. Belief in carries a meaning more akin to trust and somewhat similar to faith. Often, belief that must precede belief in. For example, to believe in God, one must first believe that God exists.

With truth and belief properly defined, some distinctions can be made. First and foremost, belief does not make something true. Belief is subjective and independent of the actual state of reality. Second, the basic definition of belief should not be confused with the common religious term of belief (a sort of religious commitment). To mix these terms will create misunderstanding and lead to false conclusions. Belief, in our current use, is cognitive acceptance of a proposition’s truth.

What is Knowledge?
There are various kinds of knowledge, such as knowing how to do something, or knowing a person. For our purposes, we are dealing with knowing that. This kind of propositional knowledge is most commonly defined as “justified true belief.” In other words, knowledge must meet three requirements: 1) the proposition must be believed; 2) the proposition must be true; and 3) the knower must have some degree of justification in their belief. This standard definition of knowledge is what we are dealing with when determining what we know.

To say that a person has good justification for their belief simply means that they have good or adequate reasons to accept that a thing is true. As philosophers William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland explain:
…justification (or warrant) for a belief amounts to something like this: one has sufficient evidence for the belief, one formed and maintained the belief in a reliable way (e.g., on the basis of his senses or expert testimony and not by palm reading), or one’s intellectual and sensory faculties were functioning properly in a good intellectual environment when he formed the belief in question.2
So for something to meet the criteria of knowledge, not only must it be true and believed, but the person must have arrived at that belief not by unthinking happenstance, but by legitimate processes. Craig and Moreland continue: “Because it includes the notion of justification or warrant, [knowledge] involves believing what one epistemically ought to believe, believing what is right to believe, believing what it is intrinsically valuable or warranted to believe from an intellectual standpoint.”3

Knowledge and Certainty
Many may equate knowledge with the idea certainty. However, a very clear distinction must be made between knowledge and certainty. We can know what we are certain of, but certainty is not necessary for one to know. As Craig and Moreland explain:
If someone knows something, it does not necessarily mean that the person has complete certainty about that thing. “Being completely certain” in this context means “is logically impossible to be mistaken about.” This is a pretty high standard for knowledge. It requires it to be logically impossible for someone to be mistaken about
a claim before one can know the claim in question.4
If one requires certainty as a criterion for knowledge, one could soon be crippled in a quick descent into complete skepticism. In that case, one might even begin to doubt mathematical certainties through distrust of one’s own ability to reason. The seventeenth century French philosopher Rene Descartes doubted to the point of knowing only one thing for certain: that he was doubting, or thinking. Hence his dictum, “I think, therefore I am.” However, one need not embark upon a Cartesian quest for certainty in order to know a thing. Knowledge properly defined does not require full certainty.

Some things are known to varying degrees of certainty. As Francis Schaeffer observed, “we do not need to have exhaustive knowledge of a thing in order to know truly.”5 Some things are self-evidently known, such as the fundamental laws of logic. We know that A cannot equal non-A at the same time in the same manner. Mathematical truths are known with mathematical certainty. One could say that these are unquestionably true. One can know with certainty that they themselves exist; a truth that is actually undeniable. Yet other truths are known without any mathematical demonstration, such as certain moral truths. All people know particular things to be right or wrong, not through external proofs, but intuitively. We can know that we love and we can know that we are loved: “…simple knowing is still knowing even if it is not for certain.”6

Still, one may believe something to be true yet not claim to know that thing to be true. In such a case, probability plays a role in one’s process of justification. For example, one may have many good reasons to believe a proposition to be true, yet still have a few reasons to be tentative. In this case, one believes based upon an assessment of probability, but this reasonable probability does not warrant a claim to know. One might say that something is probably true, and therefore believe it without claiming to know.

And finally, all knowledge can be doubted – even certain knowledge. One may know something with certainty, yet doubt it if questioned by another. For example, suppose someone knows the date of his wedding anniversary. A friend questions this fact, causing him to momentarily doubt the specific date. Upon examination, he concludes that his knowledge was correct. Through the process of doubt, his knowing was confirmed through reflection and verification. Still, doubt does not equal lack of knowing.

What Does the Christian Claim to Know?
Christianity presents a comprehensive model of reality: a worldview. At its core, Christianity claims that God exists and Jesus is the savior of all who put their trust in him for salvation. For the believer to make a knowledge claim about Christianity is not to affirm every particular doctrine that could be constructed under a Christian system. Rather, when the believer says he knows Christianity is true, he is claiming to know particular central claims to be true, such as, “God exists,” and, “Jesus has saved me,” while also knowing the worldview as a whole is true. The Christian claims to know the central truths of the Gospel, while simply believing other basics based upon good reason.

How Can the Christian Know?
Depending on what one claims to know, there are different ways of knowing. Not all things are known the same way, through the same method. Knowledge is justified based on the nature of the claim. As Moreland points out, “what counts as adequate grounds will vary from circumstance to circumstance, depending on whether the context is art and beauty, chemistry, the reality of whether an event happened in history, knowledge that God is real, and so forth.”7

Some hurdles seem to appear along the path to knowing that God exists or that Christianity is true. The objections seem substantial enough. One could say that God’s existence cannot be proven; therefore one cannot know that he exists. One could also say that historical evidence is not clear enough to prove the resurrection of Christ without a doubt. In addition, it could be asserted that religious experiences of salvation can simply be reduced to an emotional event. However, the fact remains that just because a thing can be doubted does not mean it cannot be known.

Let us consider a few of the many factors that contribute to the overall case for the truth of Christianity. Factors such as the design and beauty of the universe, eyewitness testimony, historical events, personal experiences, and arguments from reason can give one adequate reasons and justification to believe that Christianity is true. However, even though these may be compelling, they may not be convincing. Christian evidences do not cause someone to know that God exists. They are adequate and reasonable grounds for one to believe that God exists or that Christianity is true, but independently they fall short of furnishing knowledge.

So how can the Christian know that God exists, that Christianity is true, and that Jesus has saved him? This knowledge comes by way of what is referred to as the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul speaks of the inner knowledge that comes by the Holy Spirit upon conversion:
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14 NIV)
Paul makes reference to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer again in Romans 8:16: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Moreover, the apostle John confirms this to be the case: “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. … And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5:10-11 NIV) Craig explains the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer:
“Thus, although arguments and evidence may be used to support the believer’s faith, they are never properly the basis of that faith. For the believer, God is not the conclusion of a syllogism; he is the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelling within us. How then does the believer know that Christianity is true? He knows because of the self-authenticating witness of God’s Spirit who lives within him.”8
At this point one may object that if something cannot be verified to be true, then a knowledge claim cannot be warranted. However, remember that there are different ways of knowing. One way of knowing is by intuition, as is the case with much moral knowledge. Intuitively, we know that rape and child abuse are wrong. Although this cannot be externally proven, nevertheless it counts as valid knowledge. Yet objections may not be raised concerning moral knowledge, because it is often shared to a similar degree.

The problem that Christianity faces in claiming an inner witness of the Holy Spirit is that such knowledge cannot be externally proven. So can a knowledge claim that is not externally demonstrable be considered true knowledge?

Consider an example: suppose a savant (whom we’ll call Chris) is gifted with a profound and unique ability to make mathematical calculations without consciously processing the equations mentally. (Such savants, like British-born Daniel Tammet, are alive today.) And suppose a lengthy mathematical equation is presented to Chris. He immediately knows the answer, as he has a special endowment, or intuitive ability, to see the answer internally.

Now suppose someone without this endowment (whom we’ll call Skip), who knows nothing of this savant’s special ability, hears him claiming to “know” the answer. Instinctively, Skip may say, “You can’t know that.” But the only way Skip could prove Chris’s inner knowing to be illegitimate would be to produce a calculator proving the savant’s answer to be false. However, Chris does know the answer. In fact, the answer is mathematically certain. Surely, Chris is satisfied with knowing the answer, yet there is no external means to legitimize this method of inner knowing to the non-savant. The only resolution in this case would be to describe how this endowment functions.

The Inner Witness of Holy Spirit
So from the above examples we can see that it is not out of the question to suggest that the Christian can have an inner witness of the Holy Spirit. In fact, this seems reasonable. First, Christianity claims that this is how the believer knows he is a child of God. Second, Christians attest to the experiential reality of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. And finally, not everyone has access to external evidences, compelling arguments, first-hand testimony, and the like. Assuming that God does exist, it seems reasonable for God to provide a sort of universal internal verification for those who are humbly seeking to know Him, yet do not have direct access to undeniable proof. The internal witness satisfies the believer with confident knowing, while not compelling the unbeliever.

In addition to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit for believers, the Bible speaks of the knowledge of God that has been given to all men. That is to say, Christianity claims that all men know that God exists, whether they acknowledge it to be true or not. Paul writes: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV) This makes it clear that through a combination of inner knowledge and external evidence, men have sufficient means to know that God exists. As Schaeffer put it: “The Bible’s emphasis is that there are good and sufficient reasons to know that Christianity is true, so much so that we are disobedient and guilty if we do not believe it.”9 Craig concludes:
“Therefore, we find that for believers and unbelievers alike it is the self-authenticating work of the Holy Spirit that supplies knowledge of Christianity’s truth. …And because this belief is formed in response to the self-disclosure of God himself, who needs no external authentication, it is not merely rational for us, but constitutes knowledge. We can be confident of Christianity’s truth.”10
Inner knowledge of God has been granted to all men, although Paul indicates that men “...suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” (Romans 1:18-19 NIV) This knowledge of the truth can be suppressed. Nevertheless, this knowledge serves to “level the playing field,” so to speak, so that all men have equal access to know God, no matter where they may be born or the evidence and information available to them. Not everyone has access to the evidences, but all have access to the Spirit.

Can the Christian Know?
So can the Christian know? Yes, the Christian can know not only that God exists, but that he is saved, and that Christianity is true. Moreover, his mind has been awakened to discern and understand spiritual truths. The Christian who loves the truth seeks to verify and authenticate the truthfulness of Christianity in order to gain confidence and understanding. Although demonstrable certainty is not attainable in this life, inner certitude is, as philosopher Norman Geisler points out:
Certainty…is in principle impossible when we are dealing with matters of experience, a part of which is the resurrection and our experience of saving grace. However, the reason that God demands total and unconditional commitment and that the believer holds so tenaciously to his belief in God and His love is that the believer has certitude concerning these beliefs. Certitude is that added assurance given to the believer by the internal witness or testimony of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirit to the truth of spiritual matters.11
The unbeliever has an intrinsic knowledge of God. Coupled with the evidence of creation and conscience, the humble man believes that God exists. In response to the Gospel and by the work of the Holy Spirit, he puts his faith (trust) in Jesus Christ for salvation. God regenerates the believer and through the inner witness Holy Spirit, the Christian knows he is saved. As Craig concludes, “We know Christianity is true primarily by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Spirit. We show Christianity is true by demonstrating that it is systematically consistent.”12 Through examination of evidences, the believer finds that Christianity is consistent, coherent, and complete as a worldview. For the Christian, faith is not a leap in the dark. Faith is trusting in that which one does not see, on the basis of what one has good reasons to believe and know to be true.

1 C. Steven Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 118.
2 J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p. 74.
3 Ibid., p. 83.
4 Ibid., p. 84.
5 Francis Schaeffer, Trilogy: He Is There And He Is Not Silent (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1972), p. 331.
6 Craig and Moreland, p. 85.
7 J. P. Moreland, The Kingdom Triangle (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), p. 130.
8 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 34.
9 Francis Schaeffer, Trilogy: The God Who Is There (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1968), p. 178.
10 Craig, p. 36.
11 Norman Geisler and Paul Feinberg, Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1980), p. 131.
12 Craig, p. 48.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why Should Anyone Believe Anything At All MP3 Audio by James Sire

Arguing that we must learn to make the fine distinction between reasons to believe and causes of belief, Dr. Sire examines the social, psychological, genetic, and religious theories of belief by employing this distinction to each category. Dr. Sire argues that what one believes must cohere to reality, and offers several arguments that the Christian faith is a system of belief that does just this.

Full MP3 Audio here.

Original media source here at Veritas.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Religious Epistemology MP3 Audio by William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig considers how the philosophical study of knowledge (epistemology) illuminates the validity of religious belief. Craig assesses how evidence, pragmatism, justification and warrant relate to religious belief and provides a description and analysis of Alvin Plantiga's 'Reformed Epistemology'.

Full MP3 Audio here.

Another great resource from


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