Can you believe what you see? think?

Last night, after a brief reading of Gordon Clark on John Locke, I became troubled by the ongoing battle between rationalism (all knowledge is derived from reason prior to experience) and empiricism (all knowledge is derived from experience with reason following). In the history of philosophy there exists a great divide between these two schools as well as an abundance of attempts to solve the problem of their relationship (with Kant as the most staggering example) from the position of subject and object.

Surprisingly, our Christian pre-commitments about the scope of both reason and experience, as subordinate to the nature and character of God, make an incredible stand in resolving the problem. Scientific observation can yield a limited probability among particulars, reason can deduce (or attempt to) fundamental unities, but both seem to fail where the other picks up. What now? Well, for starters, a system is needed that makes sense out of both logical ‘laws’ and ‘observed’ experience, the assumptions of both, that anything can be known and that the nature of the external world is uniform. Although hardly a man alive lives with such skepticism as to doubt it, one might rightly argue that apart from revelation any certainty beyond the immediate finite subject is impossible. This is why I love Nietzsche’s words, ‘that the concept of God would serve as utterly useless to us were we not in need of grammar.’

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3 responses to “Can you believe what you see? think?

  1. Justin Richter

    Good stuff. Hey G, have you read any thing by Stanley Grenz? His primer on post-mo has been great in outlining epistemological thought.

  2. christopherlake

    Greg, I might even say that apart from revelation, one cannot even be certain of one’s own existence. Not referring to special revelation (the Bible), necessarily, but the revelation that God puts in all peoples’ hearts of their created existence, and their relation to God as such. Obviously, this concept of doubting one’s existence, apart from God’s revelation in oneself, would seem insane to most people, but upon what basis?

    I was a philosophy minor in college, and thanks to God’s grace, I’ve seen that apart from God, philosophy just becomes more and more crazy. In the 1940s to the ’60s, existentialists were anguished about the supposed reality of the self in a meaningless world, and now, at least some postmodernists seem skeptical of the very concept of the self– other than *perhaps* as a social construction. However, if the self is a social construction, then *who* does the constructing– other “selves,” who themselves have been constructed by other “selves”? This type of thinking makes people laugh, I know (either in amusement or derision), but the questions are real and can actually send one to a very dark place, intellectually and emotionally, if they are not answered definitively. I know, from my own experience. Thank God for God, who saves us from all darkness, including epistemologically!!! Thanks for the post, Greg!

  3. Thanks J and Chris. As you may know, J, my MA thesis was on postmodernism so I made good use of Grenz. His primer is a great into to both the problems of post-modernity and their historical context. Chris, I totally agree man, start with human autonomy and end in unbridled irrationalism every time. This is why I’m SO thankful for J Frame, Bahnsen, Van Til, Clark and others who have boldly and lovingly pulled back the mask on secular presuppositions and their logical conclusions. Blessings guys, may we be kept humble and loving, shining forth God’s truth in word and especially in DEED.

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