Wednesday, August 22, 2018

What is Apologetics? Pt. 2c

[Continued from Pt. 2b]

by Hiram R. Diaz III

§ I. Internal Critique

Having addressed the nature of apologetics,1 the supremacy of Scripture over all of human reasoning,2 and apologetics as a means of communicating Law and Gospel to the unbeliever,3 we now turn to the ways we can apply what we have learned. When dealing with any objection to the Christian faith, it is necessary for us to remember that any objection is an implicit knowledge claim. For instance, a person may state the following –
I doubt that the Bible is true because x.
x can stand in for anything – an idea, a physical reality, a philosophical conundrum, a personal pet-peeve, etc. Whatever x is, it is presupposed to be known to be the case, whereas the Bible is not known to be the case. So we must challenge x, showing it to be incoherent.

x will be either an indirect reference to an presupposed belief, or it will be an explicitly stated presupposed belief. For example –
[Indirect] A. I doubt that the Bible is true because it teaches that snakes talked, and simple observation teaches us snakes don’t and can’t talk. 
[Explicit] A.1 I doubt the Bible is true because it contradicts empirical observation, which is always true.
The belief in each of these assertions is the same: Empirical observation is always true. Let us pull the assertion apart to show its absurdity.

§ Ia. Reductio Ad Absurdum

Firstly, therefore, we must point out that the assertion “Empirical observation is always true” is false because empirical observations do not have logical values (e.g. true or false). Propositions are capable of being true or false, but empirical observation is neither. Secondly, however, we can ignore the categorically erroneous nature of the unbeliever’s assertion that “Empirical observation is always true” for the sake of argument. Once granted, for the sake of argument, we may point out that since empirical observation is spatio-temporally limited, and all human observers are likewise spatio-temporally finite, it follows that no human observation can non-fallaciously infer that “Empirical observation is always true.” Thus, the belief is demonstrably false on these two accounts.

This is a simple refutation that does not require extensive knowledge of the more involved philosophical debates concerning not only the relationship of sensation to knowledge. It also does require the Christian to refute the implied belief of the unbeliever regarding empirical observation, namely that it is infallible.

Nevertheless, we may go another step further in our internal critique of the unbeliever’s stated belief that “Empirical observation is always true,” for it does imply that empirical observation is infallible, i.e. without fault. We may, therefore, further infer from this unstated presupposition the absurdities that follow thereupon, for granting that E represents the proposition “Empirical observation is always true,” it follows inexorably that
If E, then all empirically based knowledge claims are necessarily true.
And if this is the case, then it follows that the scientific method is based upon a false presupposition, namely that ¬E. More to the point, if E is true, then ¬E is false. And if ¬E is false, then the scientific method is based upon a false assumption. And if the scientific method is based upon a false assumption, then it follows that conclusions drawn empirical observation, as delimited by the scientific method, are false as well. The assumption that E, in other words, leads to the conclusion that the conclusions drawn from empirical observation in science do not constitute truths but falsehoods.4

Moreover, the unbeliever’s claim, let us remember, was that the Bible’s truthfulness is dubious because “it contradicts empirical observation, which is always true.” Thus, if it is the case that the Bible contradicts empirical observation and is, therefore, dubious, then it follows necessarily that any stated empirical observation that contradicts any other stated empirical observation of the same empirical reality thereby renders empirical observation dubious – even if the two observations come from the same observer.

In short, then, E is thought by the unbeliever to provide him with a standard by which he can judge the Word of God as being trustworthy or untrustworthy. However, E fails to do so for the following reasons.
1. E confuses categories, for empirical observations are neither true nor false. Only propositions have a logical value of either T or V. 
2. Empirical observation is always limited to the capacities of a finite observer and, therefore, cannot non-fallaciously establish universal assertions such as E. 
3. If E is true, then it follows that the scientific method is built upon a false assumption about empirical observation, namely that E is not true, or ¬E. 
4. If E is true, then it follows that conclusions drawn from empirical observations delimited by the scientific method (which assumes that ¬E) are false. 
5. If E is true, then any two observations of an empirical reality that contradict one another, even if authored by the same observer, inexorably leads to the conclusion that E ⊃¬E (If E is true, then ¬E is true), which is false.
§ Ib. Scriptural Critique

Having internally critiqued the unbeliever’s presupposition that “Empirical observation is always true,” we can now go on to show that the Scriptures also refute his position. We have noted that empirical observation is never true or false, for only propositions have such logical values. We must ask, then, whether or not empirical observation is always accurate. The answer to this question is, of course, no. On more than one occasion, the Word of God reveals that empirical observation is fallible. Given that E is a universal assertion, however, we need only one instance of fallible empirical observation in order to demonstrate that ¬E.

We find one such instance in John 12:27-29, where we read –
Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
Note here that what is heard is divinely revealed to be the voice of God the Father, but those who hear the voice, barring the apostle John, are capable of misperceiving (a.)its nature and (b.)its source. John states that “the crowd” does not hear a voice but thunder (as per (a.), i.e. misperception of the thing itself), while he states that “others” heard a voice, but the voice of an angel (as per (b.), i.e. misperception of the thing’s source).

The voice of God struck the ears of all the persons mentioned by the apostle; nevertheless, there were three distinct and incompatible observations made. Since what sounded was the voice of God, it could not be either thunder (i.e. a non-voice) or the voice of an angel (i.e. a non-divine voice). Either John, or “the crowd,” or the “others” were correct; they could not all be correct. Therefore, Scripture demonstrates that empirical observation is fallible. This further implies that if man does understand what he has heard, it is because God has given him the understanding of the nature of what he has heard, as well as its source.

Consequently, not only is the unbeliever unable to coherently assert that E, seeing as E is logically incoherent, he also faces the difficulty of accounting for how it is that any of his empirical observations are accurate. The Bible does not falsely assert that E; rather, it demonstrates that ¬E. More than this, it reveals that God is the one who determines whose empirical observations will or will not be accurate. If the unbeliever has made any accurate empirical observations, he has done so by the mercy of God.

§ Ic. Concluding Remarks

The unbeliever’s assumption that “Empirical observation is always true” has been shown to be internally incoherent, and contradicted by the Scriptures. The Scriptures reveal that the proper functioning of man’s body and mind, which includes their working-together in the conscious experience of the observer, is due to God’s merciful action. The unbeliever’s belief in the accuracy of an individual’s empirical observations has no basis in that individual’s observational infallibility, moreover, as the unbeliever’s own acceptance of the scientific method implies. It follows, then, that the unbeliever cannot claim that the Bible contradicts empirical observation without contradicting and condemning himself.

We have shown that the unbeliever’s position is absurd and leads inexorably to the conclusion that truth cannot be known. However, we have also shown that the Scriptures explain not merely the fallibility of empirical observation, but the reason why empirical observation is accurate at any time – namely, because God shows mercy toward those made in his image by giving them some accurate empirical observations. If they can see, hear, touch, taste, or feel what truly has empirical existence, it is only because God has given them the ability to do so.

If accurate empirical observation is due to the working of God, therefore, whatever assertions one grounds in accurate empirical observations are true only because they have been revealed by God. The unbeliever is, in other words, attempting to use the truth revealed to him by God (about some empirical object x) against the very one who has given him that knowledge when he claims that his empirical observation has led him to conclude that the Word of God is dubious.

And this is patently wicked.

But even in this, the mercy of the God rejected by the unbeliever is shown to him. For if the unbeliever is accurately hearing words and, what is more, understanding the meaning of those words, he is being given understanding of just how bad his condition is, and how he can escape the judgment of God.

[Continued in Part 3]

4 This requires some explanation, which was left out in order not to distract the reader from the main points being made. If E, then it follows that all empirical observations about any object x are all true. Thus, any scientifically established assertion about x which, of a necessity, either (a.)rejects, (b.)excludes, or (c.)treats as negligible other assertions about x derived from empirical observation implies that such assertions are either unnecessary to understanding the truth about x (per (a.), i.e. rejection), or have nothing to do with understanding the truth about x (per (b.), i.e. exclusion), or will not alter the truth about x (as per (c.), i.e. reductio ad transibat). Given E, however, neither (a.) nor (b.) nor (c.) are possibly the case. Therefore, every scientifically established assertion about some object x is false.