Calvary Church

4216 West 204th St, Matteson, IL – 708-481-8300
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    Epistemology – a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.  How do we know what we know?

    As we deal with an ever more secularized society, we, as those who seek to follow Jesus Christ, will find ourselves increasingly labeled as those who think in nonsensical ways.  For example, popular pundit Bill Maher views us as being irrational people who have electrical fires going off in our heads.  He and other folks believe that they alone use reason and that everyone else is a bit off.  Actually, they think that we are a lot off.

    We are accused by the Maher bunch of believing in “fairy tales” like the virgin birth, the resurrection, Noah’s ark and the Nephilim of Genesis 6; events that are non-sense.  Admittedly, there is nothing about these events that we can prove in any way.  How can you look back 2000 years and prove scientifically that Jesus rose from the dead.   Seeing that this sort of event cannot be empirically tested, nor “peer reviewed”, it must be false.  When is the last time that any of us saw someone raised from the dead after being killed by experts and placed mummy-like in a tomb?  Since this event is by nature impossible, unrepeatable and unverifiable, we are told that it must be viewed as mere myth, a fairy tale that you tell to children, like Santa Claus.  At least Santa doesn’t throw you into Hell if you are naughty.

    The difficulty in this kind of Maherian rationale is that it allows only one means of knowing about anything: empiricism.  Empiricism, in its current form, holds that knowledge can only be gained through observation, experimentation and reason.  In other words, science is the only way to know anything.  If we cannot experience it with the senses, if we cannot place it in a test-tube or if is it does not make sense to the rationale people, then it is to be rejected outright as nonsense.

    There are many difficulties with this epistemology, this exclusionary means of knowing.  Allow me to entertain a few of these difficulties. 

    1. You cannot empirically prove that empiricism is the only means of knowledge.  There is no way to step away from the empirical method to test this, seeing that no other means of knowing can be allowed a priori by which to evaluate its validity.  Although the intent of empiricism’s exclusivity is to avoid uncertainty and subjectivity, this exclusivity completely devalues the philosophical branch of metaphysics as a waste of time. It allows no competition.

    2. Empiricism demands individual, personal demonstrations of knowledge.  Nothing can be taken on a hearsay basis.  For example, the testimony of the apostle John is written off as lunacy or a lie when he says “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the word of life.” (NIV)  Although John has passed on a written record of his empirical findings, his work is scoffed because the content of the testimony fails the reason test of the reasonable elite.  Because what John records here and elsewhere is deemed unreasonable it is condemned as “fairy tale” material.  At the same time, the elite demand that we all take it as indisputable that evolution is happening because some scientists say so.  Very few of us have the time or resources to gather the empirical data ourselves, so we are called upon to trust their conclusions, they being the elite rationalists and all. 

    3. Empiricism has often led to erroneous conclusions.  One need only look at the past science, now totally rejected, that labeled those of African descent as being mentally inferior to their Aryan counterparts.  Is coffee good or bad for us?  Java-science on this is in near constant flux, which it should not be if it is science.

     I have confirmed with some empiricists that science is proven to be reliable because it so often proves itself to be in error.  Although this sounds very unreasonable and downright silly, empiricism’s adherents place their full faith that science will eventually get all of the right answers, repudiating and refining today’s scientific dogma with the revised truth of tomorrow which will, in its turn, be sacked by next week’s findings. “We know that such-and-such is completely correct and true! Well, that is until we find out more and revise our ‘truth.” This seems like telling others what a good driver you are because you have had so many accidents, assuring them that tomorrow’s driving will be better.  I have noted that the grand Theory of Evolution is subject to constant and often large scale revision in the light of the latest findings which overthrow the conclusions of yesterday’s findings.  Yet it is held to be true to the point of affecting nearly everything within western culture. 

    4. As I have already alluded to, empiricism tends to entrust true knowledge to a small group of mental elites whom we are all supposed to trust simply due to their superior mental prowess.  We are supposed to take as a given that these elites are governed by nothing other than a pure desire for unfettered and uncorrupted knowledge.  If you are not in the elite peer group, then you have no place to question their findings.  To question them is to proclaim your ignorance and intellectual inability.  I always question the elite.

    The Empiricists accuse us of being irrational because our epistemology allows for knowledge that is beyond mere science.  We allow for the revelation of God through Scripture and personal experience governed by proper Biblical interpretation/hermeneutics. Biblical interpretation is not a subjective, but rather an objective science.  Texts have one meaning which can be discerned, not personalized meanings to individuals contrary of the writer’s intent.  If someone takes a text to mean other than what the writer intended, they are wrong.  Their interpretation is not valid.

    My experience is subjective to you, but objective to me.  I can confirm answered prayer and personal interactions with God that are not subject to scientific investigation, but are subject to Biblical inspection.  (For example, if I hold that Jesus wore Nike water walking shoes, I will not find a Biblical ground for this and it should be dismissed.) I accept these experiences, as well as the Biblically consistent experiences of others.  We have no elites to dispense knowledge to us, but rather we are each accountable to become experiential experts in the Faith.

    When you are mocked by the Empirical Elites, remember that they cannot allow themselves to seek or entertain in other’s knowledge that is beyond their current science.  Despite the testimony of those who experienced the flesh and blood Jesus, they refuse to accept this “irrational” belief because their system of knowing, their epistemology, allows them no other option.

    We know more.

    Addendum:

    Can we absolutely prove empirically anything about Jesus to the satisfaction of the devoted skeptic?  No. We must therefore prove demonstratively everything about Christ. Live worthy of the calling you have received.

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