Posted in Apologetics, By Weylan Deaver, Doctrine, Uncategorized

Deaver-Rodriguez Debate Now Available To View

This four-night debate is about how the Holy Spirit helps the faithful Christian. It was held at the building of the Fort Sam Houston church of Christ in San Antonio in July 2019.

Joshua Rodriguez (Fremont, California) affirmed: “According to the scriptures, the Holy Spirit only indirectly influences the heart of the faithful Christian.”

Mac Deaver (Sheffield, Texas) affirmed: “According to the scriptures, the Holy Spirit directly influences the heart of the faithful Christian.”

All eight hours are available to view for free at this link.

Posted in Apologetics, By Mac Deaver, Uncategorized

Is It Epistemological Agnosticism Or Not?

By Mac Deaver

Recently, in response to my criticism of Derek Estes’ Master’s Thesis conclusion that certainty must be rejected from the concept of “knowledge” as an essential trait (which criticism I presented in my article, “I Am Probably Writing This Article”), I received a very cordial email from Derek. I do indeed appreciate the tone of the response.

Just here I will respond to that email.

Derek wanted “to provide just a couple of points of clarification” regarding the issue between us. I had claimed that to reject certainty as a characteristic of knowledge amounted to giving up knowledge itself. Derek had claimed that “certainty” was not an essential part of the definition of “knowledge.”

Now in response to my response, Derek in offering his clarification makes two points. His first point is to suggest that it is not the case that the only alternative to certainty is epistemological agnosticism. And his second point is to say that while he had affirmed that subjective certainty is not essential to knowledge definition, he had also claimed that knowledge was still possible if objective certainty exists.

Regarding the first point, Derek says that it is not true that the only alternative to certainty is agnosticism (and by this, he and I both are referring to epistemological agnosticism). I hasten to affirm that just here Derek is absolutely wrong. We either can know (and by this I mean know with assurance that the conviction held is correct) or we cannot know. Does Derek know that he holds the view on his concept of knowledge that he does? If he does, then I claim that he must be certain that he knows that he holds that view. How can he possibly know that he holds the view without being certain that he holds the view?

Regarding communication, let me offer just a few truths. (1) Communication (oral or written) is possible only if words have meaning. Sentences are intelligible if words or connected in such a way as to present the expression of a thought. (2) Words have meaning as we use them, thus defining them or inserting rational content into them. (3) In matters of great significance, precision of meaning or definition is necessary. (4) In everyday discourse the definition of words may be altered or refined or even changed. But with regard to the Bible, we must, in order to know what God teaches, reach the definition of the words that he used when the Holy Spirit wrote Scripture. We have to know what God originally intended. (5) So, any modification of definition today is useless if it cancels or contradicts the intended meaning of the original term in Scripture. If there were never an intended meaning of the original term, then whatever that term was, it was not a discernible word with meaning. (6) The modification of the original definition by redefinition is not mere refinement, but constitutes rather a cancellation of original meaning if in the “refinement” the originally intended meaning is denied.

But even in everyday language as well as in Sacred literature, the words “I know” and “I do not know” are used in a way that clearly distinguishes the ideas entailed in the propositions that they compose. Furthermore, the distinction that obtains between the two propositions is logically one of contradiction. And since contradictory statements cannot both be true and cannot both be false, then if one by an attempted redefinition of the word “know” attempts to deny the obvious meaning of the two contradictory statements, he is denying the contradictory nature of the concepts that the propositions express.

Now, consider the following True-False statements or propositions, remembering that every precisely stated proposition is either true or it is false per the “law of excluded middle.”

  1. T/F I know.
  2. T/F I do not know.
  3. T/F I know, and I am certain that I know.
  4. T/F I know, but I am not certain that I know (that is, I claim to know while at the same time asserting that I may not know at all).
  5. T/F I know, and I do not know.
  6. T/F I do not know, and I am certain (that I do not know).
  7. T/F I do not know, but I am not certain (that I do not know—I may, after all, know).

Now, think about these True-False statements as related to the alleged question of the existence of God. Apply these propositions to that issue. So, regarding God’s existence:

  1. T/F I know that God exists.
  2. T/F I do not know that God exists.
  3. T/F I know that God exists, and I am certain that I know that God exists.
  4. T/F I know that God exists, but I am not certain that I know that God exists (that is, I claim to know while asserting that I may not know at all).
  5. T/F I know that God exists, and I do not know that God exists.
  6. T/F I do not know that God exists, and I am certain (that I do not know that God exists).
  7. T/F I do not know that God exists, but I am not certain (that I do not know that God exists; after all, I may know that God exists).

Now, keeping in mind that whatever the definition of “knowledge” is, it remains the same throughout its use in the above propositions. Let us look then at what we face.

Statements #1 and #2 cannot both be true, and they cannot both be false. One of them must be true, and one of them must be false. If one knows that God exists, it is not possible for him not to know that God exists. If he does not know that God exists, it is not possible for him (at the same time in the same way in the same sense) to know that God exists.

With regard to statements #3 and #4, whatever the legitimate definition of “knowledge” is, the word “certain” explicitly adds assurance to the claim so that the claimant is saying that he cannot be wrong about his statement: God exists, and the claimant knows it for sure. Statements #3 and #4 are also contradictory in their relationship. Both cannot be true and both cannot be false, and one of them must be true, and one of them must be false.

Now, statements #6 and #7 are both denials of the “knowledge” of God, whatever “knowledge” is. #6 is the claim that I do not have knowledge that God exists, and that I am certain that I do not have knowledge that God exits. #7 is the claim that I do not have knowledge that God exists, but that I am not certain that I do not have knowledge that God exists (after all is said and done, I may know that God exists).

The relationship between #6 and #7 is somewhat curious. #6 is the claim of the non-knowledge of God with the additional claim that the non-knowledge claim cannot be wrong. In one sense, this is a strong epistemological denial. The claimant is saying that he does not know that God exists, and he is certain of his claim that he does not know. He is not certain of God’s non-existence, but he is certain of his non-knowledge of that existence even if God’s existence is ontologically actual. He knows that he does not know that God exists.

And #7 is again the denial of the knowledge of God but with the additional explicit claim that the first claim of non-knowledge could, after all, be a false claim. He is not sure whether he does or does not know that God exists while claiming that he knows. #7 entails two claims, but both claims cannot be true and both cannot be false. #7 is irrational because it is self-contradictory. #6 is an admission that he really or assuredly or certainly knows that he does not know that God exists. Whether God exists or not, the claimant is affirming that he is not aware of conclusive proof of that existence, but he is aware of his own lack of knowledge as to the proof of that existence.

The relationship between statements #6 and #7 is also contradictory, but the contradiction appears in the last part of the compound statements. In #6, the claimant is saying that he is certain that he does not know that God exists, and in #7, the claimant is saying that he is not certain that he does not know that God exists (the implication is that he may, after all, be certain). The contradiction here appears in the claim regarding certainty. Again, #6 and #7 are contradictory in their relationship. The claimant cannot be both certain and non-certain as to his knowledge of the existence of God. Oddly, in #7, the claimant declares that since he is not certain that he knows that God does not exist, he is implying that he may “know” (whatever that word means) that God exists without at the same time realizing that he does. He knows but he does not know that he knows! This is the implication that knowledge, at least in some cases, can be a non-recognizable intellectual and psychological condition. The implication is that one can know without knowing that he knows. But this is not true. One can know something without remembering that he does, but it is impossible to know something without at the same time realizing that he does. It is impossible and thus irrational to say that I know that I am writing this article, but at the same time to say that I am not aware or do not realize with certainty that I know that I am writing this article.

Now, after all of the above analysis, look back at statements #2 (I know, but I am not certain) and #5 (I do not know, but I am not certain). By comparing these two propositions, we see the error involved in the claim that one can have knowledge without having certainty. Again, now, apply the statements to the issue of God’s existence.

  1. T/F I know that God exists, but I am not certain that I know that God exists.
  2. T/F I do not know that God exists, but I am not certain that I do not know that God exists.

What do we have? We have two compound propositions. In #1, while affirming that I know that God exists, I am also denying that I am certain of the accuracy of that knowledge claim. In #2, while declaring that I do not know that God exists, I am admitting that I may be wrong with regard to my own certainty. In #1, an affirmation of knowledge is made regarding the existence of God, but the certainty regarding that knowledge of his non-existence is denied. In #2, a denial of the knowledge of God’s existence is asserted, but the certainty of the initial assertion is also denied.

Now, the question at this point is: what is the difference between the two statements regarding the definition of the word “knowledge?” If one can correctly say with regard to himself that “I know that God exists, but I am not certain that I know that God exists,” and another man can just as legitimately state, “I do not know that God exists, but I am not certain that I do not know that God exists,” then where is the distinction to be made between “knowledge” and “non-knowledge”? I affirm that the rejection of “certainty” as an essential component element of knowledge is a cancellation of any meaningful distinction between “knowledge” and “non-knowledge.”

Derek says that he isn’t an epistemological agnostic because in order to be such a person, he would have to “(1) have a definition of knowledge, and (2) believe there are no beliefs that satisfy that definition,” while he on the other hand claims to have a definition of knowledge and that there are many beliefs to satisfy that definition. My response is, as argued above, that any definition of “knowledge” which so redefines that word as to obliterate the difference between “knowledge” and “non-knowledge” is not a legitimate definition of “knowledge” at all, but is rather a denial of the possibly of knowledge itself. So, to say “I know” which amounts to the linguistic equivalent of “I do not know,” is no mere redefinition of the word “knowledge.” And one gets to that point by the cancellation of “certainty” as an essential trait of knowledge itself.

Derek reminds me that he never referred to brother Warren as an agnostic, and he would rather that I not refer to him (Derek) as such. But, first of all, brother Warren was never an agnostic regarding the existence of God, and he was never an agnostic epistemologically. Derek may claim that God exists, and he can try to claim that in some sense he knows that God exists, but in his thesis he denied that the knowledge of God is possible by rejecting “certainty” as a necessary component part of its meaning. He does not realize this yet, but in rejecting “certainty,” that is what he has done. Second, Derek may never have explicitly called brother Warren an epistemological agnostic, but on page 44 of his thesis he wrote,

“…if a person is both an internalist and a foundationalist, by his own definition, he cannot actually know anything and is doomed to radical skepticism; internalist foundationalism is self-defeating with regard to the belief that a person can have knowledge of at least some of his beliefs. If one believes that knowledge is possible, internalist foundationalism cannot be the answer. Thomas B. Warren’s epistemology, as I have argued, is a version of internalist foundationalism, and as such, it is subject to the infinite regress problem. Consequently, Warren’s epistemology is doomed to radical skepticism and, by extension, agnosticism as well…”

That is certainly, by implication, a claim that Warren was, without realizing it, an epistemological agnostic! I deny the claim, but that is the very claim that I make with regard to Derek: without realizing it, he is the one who is the epistemological agnostic. Derek attempts in his thesis to show high regard for much of Warren’s work in spite of his conclusion regarding Warren’s epistemology! Something is very wrong here. I appreciate Derek’s intended declaration of admiration for brother Warren’s work, but why should Derek respect the work of Warren given the fact that one of Warren’s major efforts in life was to prove that we could know with certainty that God exists? I do not understand this. And I submit that if Derek thinks that his use of “internalism” and “foundationalism” imply that Warren was an epistemological agnostic, then the terms, as Derek conceives of them, are either (1) inaccurately or inadequately described and/or (2) wrongly applied to brother Warren.

Now, to the second point of clarification that Derek made in response to my article, Derek states,

“I should perhaps clarify what I mean when I say that certainty is not a criterion of knowledge. As I say in my thesis, my claim is that we should reject the idea that certainty, as a subjective state, is a criterion of knowledge. That is, we should reject that in order for my belief to count as knowledge, I must have subjective, internal access to reasons such that my beliefs cannot possibly be wrong. This is different, however, from saying that my belief must not be objectively certain. This is a critical distinction. Obviously for a belief to count as knowledge, it must be objectively certain; a false belief cannot count as knowledge.”

Here, of course, the difference being asserted by Derek is that between “subjective” and “objective certainty.

First of all, I’m not sure what Derek means by “objective certainty.” It seems to me that what he means is “objectively true,” but that is not what he says. “Certainty” can exist only in a mind. Technically or logically speaking, “truth” is a trait of propositions. We distinguish between “truth” and “fact.” Truth applies to things said or written (language). Facts have to do with conditions, events, states of affair, situations, etc. That is, facts are not statements as such. It is a fact that I am writing this material. It is true for me to claim in statement that I am doing so.

Now, taking Derek at his own words, I ask, where does “objective certainty” exist? Since it can only exist in a mind, and if it cannot exist in my mind (since Derek denies subjective certainty), it must exist in someone else’s mind, if, as he claims, it does actually exist. But if humans need not have subjective certainty in order to have knowledge, and if objective certainty must exist (for human knowledge to be possible, per Derek), then it must exist in God’s mind. (This would imply, by the way, that per Derek’s argumentation, if humans can have knowledge without having certainty, then such “knowledge” still could only imply God’s existence).

So, we come to the realization that for us to have the right to make a “knowledge” claim, even though we may never be certain subjectively in our own minds as to the accuracy of the claim, God alone can, given the way that Derek argues. The objective certainty exists only in the mind of God. God has certain knowledge; we have only subjective knowledge (which may or may not be accurate) but it can be accurate only if it corresponds to the objective knowledge in the mind of God. This means, of course, that there is no human knowledge at all. God is the only one who knows anything (and, of course, he does know everything). Humans know nothing. The whole enterprise of research into the area of epistemology becomes both irrational and impossible. If we cannot be certain of anything because it is merely “subjective” certainty (it is my own personal, individual confidence), then certainty is not a trait of human knowledge, but I have already exposed this conclusion as false.

Furthermore, when Derek says that “certainty” can be a trait of human knowledge but not a necessary one, he is admitting that “subjective certainty” can be accurate and justifiable in some situations so that one can rightly claim to be certain of some things. This, would, of course, apply to atheists as well as theists. If certainty can exist in some human minds in spite of the fact that the knowledge claim is only a subjective one, then atheists have as much right to claim certainty (without admitting God who has objective certainty) as theists do. Notice what Derek wrote:

“Obviously for a belief to count as knowledge, it must be objectively certain; a false belief cannot count as knowledge. (Here Derek shows that he is using “objectively certain” as a reference to “objective truth” or “objective fact,” and these do not have the same meaning as “objective certainty” MD). But as any epistemological externalist would say that does not mean I must have subjective certainty. So if an externalist claims to know God exists (as many do, by the way), this is not a claim that God probably exists. To say I know that God exists, for an externalist, is to say that God objectively exists. And likewise, if I say I know I am writing this email, it is not to say that I am probably writing this email. I am either writing this email or I am not; there is no middle ground about that proposition. It is only to say that in order for me to have knowledge that I am writing this email, it is not required that I am certain I am writing this email. Maybe I am certain I’m writing this email (for the record, I am certain I am writing this email). That’s great! But it’s not required for me to know I am actually writing this email. It is, if you will, the epistemological cherry on top, but it’s not required. Likewise, maybe a person is certain God exists. If so, that’s also great! But it is not necessary for the belief to count as knowledge; there are other, less philosophically problematic criteria for what belief counts as knowledge.”

The just quoted reference conceptionally collapses of its own accord. A belief may “count” as knowledge without its actually constituting knowledge. Derek admits that he is either writing his email or that he is not. This is correct. However, when it comes to locating his intellectual relationship to that email (that is, coming to terms with whether he actually knows that he is or is not doing so), he claims on the one hand (1) that he not only knows that he is writing it, but that he is certain that he writing it, while on the other hand claiming (2) he could claim to know that he is writing his email without being certain that he is. I deny it, and as already by means of the true-false questions/statements above discussed, I have shown that he is actually in self-contradiction with himself by denying a conceptual (substantive/content) distinction between knowing and not knowing.

Furthermore, when he says that he knew that he was writing the email and was certain of it, but that he could have known that he was writing the email without being certain of it, I would submit that an atheist could just as correctly use the concepts of “knowledge” and “certainty” to declare that (1) he knows that God does not exist and that he is certain of it, but that he just as correctly could claim that (2) he knows that God does not exist but that he could make that claim without his being certain of it. Thus, Derek’s dismissal of “certainty” as an essential trait of knowledge eliminates the distinction between a theistic atheist (a man who says that he does know that God does not exist), and a theistic agnostic (a man who says that he does not know whether God exists or not because such knowledge is impossible). So, regarding the “law of excluded middle” consider:

  1. T/F Derek knows that he was writing the email or he did not know that he was writing the email.
  2. T/F If he knew that he was writing the email, he was certain that he was writing the email (Derek claimed this).
  3. T/F If he did not know that he was writing the email, he could not be certain that he was writing the email.
  4. T/F If he was not certain that he was writing the email, he did not know that he was writing the email.

How would it be conceivable (though he claimed such could be accurate) that Derek could know that he was writing the email without being certain that he was? Such a contention, I submit, is an unintended but actual assault on the concept of human reason. Words (and thus their meanings) are being abused in order for such a position to be advocated. Language is being turned against itself; irrationality is the result.

Now, let us consider a few more True-False statements/questions that help to pinpoint the relationship between faith (belief), knowledge, and certainty as to their conceptual connection in Scripture. Consider the following:

  1. T/F Faith with certainty is or can be knowledge (Derek admits this).
  2. T/F Faith without certainty is or can be knowledge (Derek claims this).
  3. T/F With faith one can please God (Heb. 11:6).
  4. T/F Without faith one can please God.
  5. T/F Knowledge is essential to salvation (1 Tim. 2:4; John 8:32).
  6. T/F Knowledge is not essential to salvation.
  7. T/F If knowledge is not essential to salvation, then certainty is not essential to salvation.
  8. T/F If knowledge is essential to salvation, then certainty is essential to salvation.
  9. T/F If certainty is essential to salvation, then faith (belief) entails knowledge.
  10. T/F If faith without certainty is knowledge, and if faith is essential to salvation, then knowledge is not essential to salvation though faith is (that is, faith without knowledge pleases God). [But John 8:32 and 1 Tim. 2:4 show that knowledge is a requirement for salvation! See the relationship of faith (belief) and knowledge in John 6:69].
  11. T/F If knowledge is essential to salvation, and if faith is essential to salvation, then certainty is essential to salvation (cf. Acts 2:36; 13:34; 17:31; 2 Tim. 3:14; Col. 2:2; Rom. 4:16; 2 Pet. 1:10, 19).

Now, according to Heb. 6:11, Col. 2:2, and 2 Pet. 1:19, for example, we have justification for speaking of “degrees” of certainty. We do, after all, at times have the right and, perhaps, the need to ask someone, “Just how certain are you?” But we do not find in Scripture justification for non-knowledge of the saving gospel of Christ. When Derek claims that knowledge does not require certainty as an essential component part of its definition, then he eliminates any degree of it at all, and this is clearly wrong. This is where a breakdown between knowledge and non-knowledge occurs.

Finally, I would like to make an observation regarding the significance of the history of the denial of knowledge and, thus, the denial of certainty. It is interesting to me to observe the fact that by way of Abilene Christian University through the efforts of the late J. D. Thomas, longtime head of the Bible Department and much respected professor, the view was advocated that while we must have faith, we cannot have knowledge. Now more recently, by way of Abilene Christian University again and through a Master’s Thesis, the view is advocated that while we can have knowledge, that knowledge does not essentially or necessarily entail certainty. The first view (that of J. D. Thomas) states explicitly that we cannot know truth. The second view (that of Derek Estes) states implicitly that we cannot know truth by its rejection of certainty as an essential characteristic of knowledge itself. Both views were staunchly confronted and passionately refuted by Thomas B. Warren whose epistemology Estes was considering.

Posted in Apologetics, By Mac Deaver

I Probably Wrote This Article (An Exposure of Epistemological Agnosticism)

By Mac Deaver

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me a digital copy of a Master’s Thesis written for Abilene Christian University by Derek Estes. It was published in 2016. The thesis is entitled, “Epistemology in the Churches of Christ: An Analysis and Critique of Thomas B. Warren.” I was very interested in the thesis since I have long been interested in epistemology, and since brother Thomas B. Warren was a great friend of my family and a dear friend of my father, and one of my teachers. As I have stated before, other than my father, no one has influenced me more as to the work that I now try to do.

Now let me state at the beginning that I am not opposed to anyone’s analyzing the epistemology of Thomas B. Warren. And I appreciate the courtesy extended to brother Warren by Derek Estes as he writes of him. But it is the crucial mistake that Estes makes that calls forth this short piece.

This is not a lengthy analysis of Estes’ thesis. It is but a brief effort at showing why it is that Estes is very wrong to find fault with Warren’s view that knowledge entails certainty. On page 41 of his thesis, Estes states the most crucial and objectionable part of his thesis. He reaches the conclusion that Warren was wrong in his epistemology in that his view of knowledge was that knowledge is characterized by certainty. And Estes declares that the idea that knowledge entails certainty must be rejected.

This position is old, false, dangerous, and irrational. It is old in that Estes’ paper is a mere modern expression of old epistemological agnosticism. It is false because epistemological agnosticism unintentionally presupposes the possibility of knowledge in order for it to even be expressed as a legitimate epistemological position to be considered. It is dangerous because to the degree that the agnosticism is absorbed by the church, our effort at the defense of the faith is ruined. There can be no justified defense of the gospel if the gospel cannot with certainty be known. It is irrational in that the very concept of epistemological agnosticism is an unintended attack on the laws of thought (the law of identity, the law of excluded middle, and the law of contradiction, as well as the law of rationality), the laws that intuitively govern human thinking and reason. (For a good treatment of these basic principles of rationality, see Lionel Ruby’s Logic—An Introduction, pp. 262-268).

No one can be an epistemological agnostic, as Estes would have us all to be, without being irrational. And what is it that Estes leaves us with? Probability. This is the same false position taken by others before him including J. D. Thomas at Abilene Christian University years ago. One can get Thomas’ book, Facts And Faith with a copyright of 1965 and read for himself the details involved in the attempt to justify epistemological agnosticism (though Thomas never called his view that) and mere “probability” knowledge, which Thomas argued is all that we can have. Thomas, among the various errors advocated, stated, “Never will Christian faith be dissolved into complete certainty, however, and we must expect that there will always be a degree of contingency” (p. 269). Also, “If Christianity and all its demands could be proved, there would be no need for faith” (p. 269). Thomas declares, “We must remember that no philosophical or reasoned argument can absolutely prove that God exists, neither can science ever speak significantly either for or against the existence of God” (p. 234). Thomas thinks that atheists have a “faith” and that Christians have a “faith” but that the Christians’ faith is more probably correct. The Christian “…falls short of absolute certainty, but he has more certainty than anyone else. The Christian faith is the most reasonable, the most rational of all. ‘It makes more sense’ than alternative faiths, even though its extra upreach be ‘irrational’” (p. 277).

Without exploring all the errors that Thomas promoted in the field of Christian Apologetics, let it be clear that at ACU there has been a history of epistemological agnosticism long before Estes wrote his paper in another defense of it.

But now, let me briefly show why it is false to contend that knowledge does not entail certainty. This is not to say that everything we claim to know is an actual justified claim, but I am saying that a justified claim to know must entail certainty. It cannot be any other way.

What would be the conceptual distinction between knowledge and non-knowledge (ignorance) if certainty is no trait of knowledge? In other words, exactly how would one describe the difference between knowing and not knowing if certainty is not an essential characteristic of knowing?

If Estes’ view is correct that knowledge does not entail certainty, then when someone says, “I know,” he is also saying, “I am not sure.” And “I am not sure” means “I am not certain.” What does it mean to claim both that “I know” and “I am not certain”? “I am not certain” means “I do not know for sure” or simply “I do not know.” Estes creates the confusion that one can “know” without at the same time being sure that he does. But how would this constitute knowledge? If “I am not sure” can mean “I know,” then what is meant by “I am sure” and its relationship to the claim that “I know”?

Or again, if knowing does not entail certainty, then how could we rightly identify not-knowing (ignorance) from non-certainty? Can one be ignorant of something and claim knowledge of that something at the same time? Of course, he can. But can he be ignorant and claim knowledge correctly at one and the same time? Of course, he cannot, if rationality exists (that is, if a man’s mind is in intellectual reach [contact] of reality).

If one could not be certain of a knowledge claim that is inaccurate (or false), and if he cannot be certain of a knowledge claim that is accurate (or true), then there is no knowledge at all (whatever you call it or how you describe it). Man’s mind is out of touch with reality. There is no sanity; there is no reason; there is no recognizable truth.

How does the statement, “I know but I’m not sure” differ from the statement, “I don’t know”? Estes’ view is that both can be rationally uttered and that a real conceptual distinction can be drawn between them. But can it? Consider the following true-false assertions:

  1. T/F Knowledge is not knowing. [If you answer “true,” you attack the law of identity.]
  2. T/F Non-knowledge (ignorance) is not knowing [True.]
  3. T/F Knowledge is knowing without knowing. [If you answer “true,” you attack the law of contradiction.]
  4. T/F Knowledge is knowing. [True.]
  5. T/F Knowledge is knowing without evidence to justify knowing. [False. To answer “true” would be saying that guessing is equivalent to knowing.]
  6. T/F Knowledge is knowing with evidence to justify knowing. [True. Warren taught us that knowledge is “justified, true belief”.]
  7. T/F To know means to be fully and justifiably sure. [True. When one is convinced by his intellectual contact with information and that reason has reasoned correctly about it, then certainty must follow. This is the way that rationality functions.]
  8. T/F One can claim to know without being fully and justifiably sure. [True, by drawing a premature conclusion or by lying.]
  9. T/F One can claim not to know when he really does know. [True, by telling a lie or by refusing to admit the force of the laws of thought.]
  10. T/F There is no conceptual distinction between one’s making a knowledge claim while being fully and justifiably sure and making a knowledge claim while not being fully and justifiably sure. [To answer “true” is to attack all the laws of thought, thereby denying the possibility of human rationality. That is to say, if one answers “true,” he is implying that the laws of thought either do not exist or that they are not applicable to human reason. That would mean then regarding “the law of identity” that something is not itself and a true proposition is not true, and it would mean then regarding “the law of excluded middle” that it is not the case that something is or is not itself or that a precisely stated proposition is either true or false, and it would mean then regarding “the law of contradiction” that something can be and not be in the same sense at the same time or that a precisely stated proposition can be both true and false in the same sense at the same time.]
  11. T/F There is an evidential difference between one who is fully and justifiably sure and one who is not fully and justifiable sure. [True.]
  12. T/F If there is no evidential difference between one who is fully and justifiably sure and one who is not fully and justifiably sure, then there is either no such thing as knowledge or whatever “knowledge” is, it cannot be conceptually distinguished from non-knowledge (ignorance). [True.]

In further exploration of the suggestion that “probability” is what we are stuck with, let us mention that probability actually presupposes certainty just as evil presupposes good and falsehood presupposes truth. There is no getting around this. The very idea that one cannot know (for sure) anything is preposterous because the claim being made, to be considered as a serious suggestion at all, first of all must be an actual and recognizable claim (or, a claim that is fully and justifiably recognized to be a claim being made). And, furthermore, the claim to be considered as a serious suggestion presupposes that the claim has been made. Claims do not make themselves! When someone says that he is probably correct (but that such a conclusion is the best that he or anyone else can do), he is also affirming that he, himself, has made the claim. If he is asked if he is certain that he has made the claim, he either answers in the affirmative or the negative. If he answers affirmatively, he is in self-contradiction to his claim. If he answers negatively, he admits that his claim is not merely a probability claim but that it is worthless for it cannot ever be known for sure to be true.

We all need to understand that the affirmation of a probability claim is at the same time an admission of the possibility of the accuracy of the contradictory. In other words, to claim that God probably exists is to admit at the same time that it is possibly true that God may not exist at all. So, to affirm that some proposition is probably true is to affirm at the same time that, after all, it may be false.

It is sometimes said that the “God Question” (Does God exist?) is the most important question that there is. But this is not true. It is true to say that God is the most important entity in ontology (reality), but the most important question is whether or not we can have knowledge (whether he exists or not). What would our position be if God exists, but we are incapable of knowing it? Our agnostic brethren think we are still all right. But they are wrong—seriously wrong!

If someone claims that all we have is “probability” truth and “probability” knowledge and that he can say such because he has only probability knowledge with regard to his own state, we reply that he is merely playing games with himself and is implicitly denying the very laws of thought by which he is able to make a recognizable claim in the first place.

Let us raise a few more questions for Derek Estes:

  1. T/F I, Derek Estes, know (I am certain and cannot be wrong about it) that I wrote a paper on Thomas B. Warren’s epistemology to fulfill my requirements to receive the Master’s Degree from Abilene Christian University.
  2. T/F I, Derek Estes, do not know (I am not certain and may be wrong in my view) that I did write a paper on Thomas B. Warren’s epistemology to fulfill my requirements to receive the Master’s Degree from Abilene Christian University.

Now, if Estes says that #1 is true, then he denies what he affirmed in his criticism of Thomas B. Warren (that is, instead of rejecting the idea of certainty as a characteristic or trait of knowledge, he now accepts it). But if he says that #2 is true, he is calling into question his own conscious awareness. He is consciously denying awareness of which he is aware. He is employing his own self-consciousness to deny itself. This is not only simply epistemological agnosticism regarding the existence of God, but with regard to everything including himself. This is an unintended attack on human sanity! Furthermore, he is caught in an ontological contradictory state. While being fully and justifiably aware that he wrote the paper (since he remembers doing it), he must now claim, to be consistent with his rejection of certainty as a characteristic of knowledge, that he is not sure that he wrote it.

But what if he tried to stay consistent and suggested that he is not really sure that he wrote his paper because, after all, memory can fail us? Well, let us see—

  1. T/F I, Derek Estes, remember writing the paper.
  2. T/F I, Derek Estes, do not remember writing the paper.

Surely, he will claim #1 to be true or render himself ridiculous. But what if he says that the claim is still not certain because at times we think we remember what we only imagine, and sometimes we do not remember what, in fact, we have done. Well, we could then ask Derek if he is certain about this analysis. That is, we could ask him if he is sure or certain that at times we think we remember only what we imagine, and that at times we fail to remember what we have done. If he kept on claiming only “probability” knowledge, he would increasingly remove himself further and further from cognitive reality and from being taken seriously at all. He would be entrenching himself deeper and deeper in his unintended and confused attack on human rationality and the very concept of sanity itself. When one unintentionally attacks the “laws of thought” he is destroying the distinction between sanity and insanity! He is denying human rationality. He is attacking the relationship that exists between evidence and perception, conception, and reason. The reason that one cannot be aware of his own insanity (that is, to be actually insane is to be in a psychological condition that is not recognized for what it is) is that the laws of thought make sanity possible. One cannot “make sense” out of his insanity if he is really insane.

Now, what if Estes were to attempt to modify his view and dodge the force of the above true-false questions by saying that, in further consideration, we do have the right to claim absolute and infallibly correct knowledge (knowledge about which we cannot be wrong) about some conclusions empirically derived (that is, information that we receive through the five senses), but that we still cannot be sure about anything that is beyond the physical (which would entail any conclusion about God)? We would then affirm that this simply is not true, and its falsity is delivered via its own content.

Let us imagine that Derek were to modify his view and suggest that some things derivable from the five senses provide us with information so that we can make knowledge claims that are certain. (It might be good in passing to note that J. D. Thomas admitted, and rightly so, that science can provide us with no certain knowledge. Warren taught his students why this is so. The scientific method entails an invalid argument form. [See Ruby, pp. 274-276]).

But what if Estes were to change his mind and suggest that science can provide certain knowledge, but that since God is not the object of the scientific method, his existence (if he does exist) cannot with certainty be known? Consider the situation that he would then face:

  1. T/F I, Derek Estes, now realize that we can have some knowledge about some things but that the knowledge claims that we can make with certainty have to do with the physical and not with the metaphysical.
  2. T/F Since, God, if he exists, would not be physical, then his existence or non-existence cannot be known.

But do you see, dear reader, the problem with such a scenario? If one were to attempt to claim that all knowledge claims that are certain are restricted to the empirically derivable, then we would have to reject this theory of restriction that says certainty is possible only with physically derivable information (information derived through one of the five senses), since the theory itself is not derivable from such a source. It is a theory not received through one of the five senses. In other words, it is a metaphysical theory that contradicts itself!

Finally, let us observe that the nature of “probability” is such that it does not and cannot exist in external ontology. It is an intellectual calculation and as such exists in the mind only. Nothing occurring in nature does so by probability. “Probability” is an intellectual conclusion reached and exists in the mind of man. To affirm as the Bible clearly does that some things happen by chance (Eccl. 9:11; Luke 10:31-32) is not at all the equivalent of claiming that things that happened by chance only probably happened. To say that some things in the future will happen by chance is not to say that they will probably happen.

Also, we must remember that when we are talking about the existence of God, we are not talking about Someone whose existence could be merely an ontological possibility or a declared probability. As Anselm rightly claimed, God is the One greater than whom cannot possibly be conceived. “The non-existence, then, of that than which a greater cannot be conceived is inconceivable” (The Ontological Argument, edited by Alvin Plantinga, p. 18). He also said,

If it should be said that a being than which a greater cannot be conceived has no real existence, or that it is possible that it does not exist, or even that it can be conceived not to exist, such an assertion can be easily refuted. For the non-existence of what does not exist is possible, and that whose non-existence is possible can be conceived not to exist. But whatever can be conceived not to exist, if it exists, is not a being than which a greater cannot be conceived; but if it does not exist, it would not, even if it existed, be a being than which a greater cannot be conceived” (Ibid., p. 20).

It is true that Thomas B. Warren never did, in his formal encounter with Antony Flew, invoke the ontological argument of Anselm. He knew of the controversial history of that argument, but he also believed that a correct formulation of that ontological argument could be made. I know this is so because some time later I asked him about it. And even though he used only the cosmological argument, and the teleological argument, and the moral argument for the existence of God in his debate with Flew, when he used the word “God,” he was employing a term that, to him, necessarily or essentially had certain characteristics and whose existence was absolutely necessary (ontologically essential).

It would be good for us all to remember that on Wednesday night of the Warren-Flew debate in Denton, Texas, that Warren’s first true-false question for Flew was: “It is possible for God to be infinite in some of his attributes and finite in others.” Flew inaccurately and irresponsibly answered “True” (Warren-Flew Debate, p. 149).

Warren in response to such an answer replied, “I suggested a moment ago that Dr. Flew and I then are talking about different Gods. The God I am defending in this debate is infinite in all of his attributes” (Ibid.).

Warren was defending the concept of an infinite God! Under tremendous pressure, however, Flew began to deny the existence of a mere finite god, just as under pressure he began to advocate epistemological agnosticism rather than atheism! Flew began in the debate to relinquish bold atheism for a weak agnosticism. Unfortunately, Estes in his rejection of “certainty” is attempting to get us all to reject Warren’s bold claim by which Warren moved Flew from atheism to agnosticism! Of course, if Warren had believed what Estes has now concluded, he would never have defended the existence of God in formal academic combat with such a world renowned atheist as at the time Antony Flew was. Warren would never have been able to rout Antony Flew with the seeming ease that he did. When Flew years later surrendered his atheism for some form of theism, he referred to his encounter with Warren, but I do not think that he gave enough credit to Warren for Flew’s later shift in thought from atheism to, at least, some kind of theism. (See There Is A God—How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind, pp. 67-69).

Warren believed and willingly affirmed in his 1976 debate with Antony Flew: “I Know That God Does Exist” (Warren-Flew Debate, p. 131), and by “know,” among other things, he meant that he was certain! And he proved in that extraordinary discussion that he had a right and an obligation to be.

Posted in Apologetics, By Weylan Deaver

You can’t believe both Jesus and evolution

By Weylan Deaver

Much can be said in falsifying the theory of humans evolving from non-humans. The field of study in defense of the existence of God, the deity of Christ, and the inspiration of the Bible is called apologetics. This paragraph is not to delve into that overwhelming evidence, but, rather, to address the all-too-frequent tendency of people who say they believe the Bible, but also believe things that contradict the Bible, such as evolutionary theory. You cannot believe both Jesus and evolution. Why? Because Jesus explicitly contradicts evolution. Hear his words in Matthew 19:4-5, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (ESV). According to Jesus, from the very “beginning” there were male and female. In fact, from the beginning it was a man joined by God in marriage to his wife. If evolution is true, then Jesus is wrong. If Jesus is right, then evolution is a lie. Those who claim to accept the Bible need to be honest enough to accept what it teaches. Trying to twist biblical miracles into something that fits modern skepticism is a fool’s errand. If God created the universe, as Genesis 1 teaches, there is no reason in the world to doubt any miracle as described in the Bible. Jesus himself endorsed the Genesis creation account. Shame on us if we feel the need to compromise God’s facts to harmonize with Satan’s fiction. In the end, we will be judged neither by Charles Darwin’s theory, nor the invective of a Richard Dawkins or Bill Nye. Jesus claimed in John 12:48, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”

Posted in Apologetics, By Weylan Deaver, Uncategorized

New Book: The Hopelessness of Humanism

unnamedThe Warren Christian Apologetics Center has released a brand new title by Mac Deaver critiquing the shortcomings of the humanist outlook. Their website describes it:

This 82 page book is a response to James A. Haught, Editor Emeritus of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, West Virginia’s largest newspaper. For several decades, Haught has published materials advocating a skeptical philosophy of life. Mac Deaver, in The Hopelessness of Humanism, has shown the logical implications and the practical results of a society based upon atheism and agnosticism.

Published in April 2016 by the Warren Christian Apologetics Center, it can be ordered from them at this link.

Posted in Apologetics, By Weylan Deaver

An “Intelligent Design” debate review

By Weylan Deaver

On November 7, 2008 I attended a debate with my father and oldest son. It was held from 7:00-10:00 p.m. at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth, Texas. The discussion was billed as “The Great Debate: Intelligent Design and the Existence of God.” There were probably 600-700 in attendance.

The debate was sponsored by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Fort Worth. I assume this church wanted to spark interest in the community and spur people toward what they consider to be Christianity. If that were their goal, then the selection of speakers was quite curious, since there was not a single Bible believer on the panel. Of the four panelists, the only one who claimed to be a Christian was an ardent evolutionist who actually sided with the atheist against the concept that intelligent design (ID) theory has any usefulness for science.

Unlike a typical debate with each speaker behind a podium, this was more a round table discussion, with all speakers seated. Each was given twelve minutes to make an opening speech, then each speaker was allowed to ask another speaker a question. After a break, questions collected from the audience were asked of the speakers, during which there was give-and-take among the panelists. The four panelists were Dr. David Berlinski, Dr. Bradley Monton, Dr. Denis Alexander, and Dr. Lawrence Krauss, all of whom have impressive academic credentials and achievements unnecessary to document here.

Berlinski is a secular Jew and an agnostic. Ironically, he was there to represent the “Pro-ID Theist Position.” In the course of discussion, he made cogent observations and served to counterbalance the strident atheist sitting across from him. But the best he could do was poke holes in the anti-ID position, since he, himself, is not yet convinced that God really exists and/or that intelligent design has been proven. That the man closest to the truth (i.e. Berlinski) was a Jewish agnostic, we wonder why the Episcopal Church could not field a man to debate who was convicted of God’s existence, intelligent design, and even the inspiration of the Bible.

Monton was a curiosity. He was there to represent the “Pro-ID Atheist Position.” He began by describing himself as an atheist who believed there was evidence of intelligent design in the universe, that this evidence deserved to be taken seriously, and that this evidence should not — a priori — be ruled out as unscientific. He said the evidence was not enough to convince him that design exists, but that it was enough to make him less confident in his atheism. So, though he was there to represent an atheistic viewpoint, he seemed more agnostic than atheistic from the get-go. Monton, along with Berlinski, believes that ID ought to at least be considered by the scientific world. Furthermore, and most ironic, Monton actually argued that science should not dismiss the possibility of the supernatural as a legitimate explanation for certain phenomena!

Alexander was a disappointment. Of the four, he alone claimed to be a Christian. Yet, he fought tooth and nail (with soft-spoken British reserve) against the concept that ID has anything to do with science. To his way of thinking, if ID does not lead to experiments and doctoral dissertations, then ID is useless. Berlinski (the theistic-leaning agnostic) tried to convince Alexander (the theistic evolutionist) that a truth can have inherent value even if it does not lead to scientific experiments, but Alexander would have none of it. He has drunk deeply at the Darwinian well and, in his mind, has somehow wedded Christianity to evolution so that he thinks both can be true. Monton (the agnostic-leaning atheist) was taken aback that a “Christian” would argue against ID, since it would seem to be only natural that a Christian would be in favor of the concept.

Krauss was the staunch atheist, there to argue in favor of the “Anti-ID Atheist Position.” Unlike the two agnostic-leaning panelists (Berlinski and Monton), Krauss was completely secure in his convictions. Unlike the theistic evolutionist (Alexander), Krauss had absolutely no use for God or the Bible. Krauss was the bombastic, no-holds-barred, in your face atheist who was not embarrassed to say the most blasphemous things in an effort to make a mockery of Scripture. He was witty, obnoxious, and dominated more than his share of the conversation. Krauss bows at the altar of science, believing that science must inform religion, and never vice versa. Thus, if the Bible and current scientific theory ever clash, science should never be the one to reevaluate its conclusions to accommodate Scripture (rather, the Bible should be considered to be wrong). Krauss argued that God is not falsifiable; thus the concept of God has no bearing on science. Krauss argued from both sides of his mouth, on the one hand that scientific laws (e.g. gravity) are immutable, while on the other hand criticizing the suggestion that there is constancy in the universe (which, if it existed, would lend credence to ID theory). Though the subject of miracles was not explored to any depth, one can imagine Krauss (or any thoroughgoing atheist) using the perceived constancy of scientific laws as an argument against the supernatural. The fact that he argues against constancy when someone suggests that the observed regularity of the planets is evidence in favor of design only shows that this atheist wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Krauss was upset at the idea of ID being taught in schools because, to his thinking, evolution is a settled fact and to suggest that evolution is controversial would be lying to students. What Krauss fails to realize is that, if atheism is true, then he has no reason to value truth at all, and there is no more good in telling truth than there is harm in telling lies. Again, he wants it both ways: to kick God out of the picture while still trying to value truth — an unjustifiable position.

To Krauss, evolution is a proven, uncontested fact of science. He said there was much evidence proving this to be the case; yet, given opportunity, he refused to comment on the “origin of man.” Berlinski pointed out the arrogance of modern science, and Krauss came across (to me, at least) as exhibit #1 for science’s complete lack of humility as a discipline. Dr. Krauss would do well to back away from his idolizing of modern science. After all, it is very limited in what it can do. For example:

  • Science alone cannot give us a reason to value science.
  • Science alone cannot give us a reason to value truth.
  • Science alone cannot explain the nature of a “fact.”
  • Science alone cannot demonstrate an obligation regarding any fact.
  • Science alone cannot explain purpose.
  • Science alone cannot prove that we should reject lies.

Science must eventually defer to philosophy (and, dare we say, to revelation?), whether it likes it or not. Those who bow to the god of science fail to grasp where the more important truths lie, including truths about why science should even exist, how it could be useful, and the nature of the knowledge it seeks.

Overall, the debate was an intellectually stimulating disappointment, at least compared to what might have been. In 1976, Thomas B. Warren debated renowned British atheist, Antony Flew, on the existence of God (in Denton, Texas). Flew’s atheism suffered a relentless and withering attack from Warren, who deftly wielded religious, philosophic, and scientific truth in such a way as to leave Flew with the newfound notion that he was not going to say as much about God in the future as he had in the past. Amazingly, thirty-one years later (in 2007), Flew published a book making the case for why he changed to belief in God. Why couldn’t those who arranged this Fort Worth debate have found somebody willing to defend ID who was neither an agnostic nor evolutionist? The truth deserved a better defense than it got.

There is obvious design in the universe, and this design does point directly to a Creator. Moreover, we would even argue that the capacity and tendency to recognize design are — like the laws of thought — inherent in man’s mind. God made us to perceive design and expects us to use our design-perceiving nature when we analyze the universe. Consider two passages. “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (Heb. 3:4, ESV). A man who looks at a house and concludes that it was not designed is being false to the way God made him to think. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

I left the debate that night thinking of two passages, in particular. “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20). Here was a panel of men of erudition and the highest attainment of academia; yet, they all rejected the facts as stated in Genesis 1. Truly, some are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).

[Note: Earlier published on my personal blog, this review appears here for the first time.]

Posted in Apologetics, By Roy C. Deaver

We Can Know That God Exists

By Roy C. Deaver (1922-2007)

[Note: This piece by my grandfather was published in the July 1977 issue of Spiritual Sword (Thomas B. Warren, editor); at the time, he was serving as director of the Brown Trail Preacher Training School. —Weylan Deaver]

It is not unusual at all in our day to hear someone say, “Yes, but we cannot know that God exists. There is no way to prove that God exists. We are compelled to accept the idea of the existence of God by faith.” In response to special invitation I had taken the men of Brown Trail Preacher Training School to Abilene Christian College for the “Preachers’ Workshop.” One of the “buzz sessions” was on “Christian Apologetics.” Of the twenty-five men present in that session twenty-two of them were students at Brown Trail. I had the opportunity of making a few remarks about the meaning and nature of faith, the meaning and nature of knowledge, and the importance of being able to prove that God is, and that the Bible is the word of God. A member of the ACC faculty responded by saying, “There is no way we can prove the existence of God.”

Then again, just this past year, I went with our students to the workshop. The first lecture of the program dealt with the problem of knowledge and its relationship to the existence of God. The speaker—a highly educated, highly trained, exceptionally capable man—emphasized over and over that there is no way to be sure; there is no way to KNOW; there is no way to PROVE the existence of God. He made brief reference to the various arguments frequently used in efforts to prove the existence of God, but he stressed that these arguments were not adequate. He repeatedly declared that “These arguments take you down to this point but from there on you have to proceed on the basis of faith.” He said that this is the case because “There is no way to really know. ”

Immediately following this presentation there was a question session. I raised my hand, was recognized, and spoke as follows: “I would like to ask the speaker one question: Are you sure about that?” He recognized immediately the force of the question, stepped slowly to the microphone, and said: “No.” This admission, of course, destroyed his entire speech. But, his answer was really the only one he could give. If he had said “yes,” he would thereby have admitted that there is some process by which one can arrive at certainty with regard to at least some points. And, if he could follow that process and arrive at certainty with regard to that point, it just might be possible that I could follow that process and arrive at certainty with regard to other points.

Too, it should be pointed out that the brother who made the speech was misusing the word “faith.” That is, he was not using the word “faith” in harmony with the New Testament usage of the word “faith.” When this brother said, “These arguments take you down to this point but from there on you have to proceed on the basis of faith” he was stressing the idea that evidence will take one just so far, and from there on he must proceed upon the basis of accepting something with regard to which there is no evidence. And, to use the word “faith” in the sense of proceeding where there is no evidence is to use the word out of harmony with and contrary to the Bible usage of this word.

Others also are guilty of misusing the word “faith.” One brother, in insisting that we cannot know but that we can establish strong probability, declares that the man of faith behaves “as if” he knew. We would be inclined to ask the question: if the man of faith acts as if he knows, when in reality he knows that he does not know, why is not the man of faith a hypocrite? Further, why is not the man of faith an agnostic? The following quotations are from men whom I love and respect—men of marvelous educational background, men who love the Lord and His word, men who are personal friends of this writer. I am listing here their statements—not to embarrass them, but to try to drive home the point that many are using the word “faith” in a sense out of harmony with the Scriptures. Note carefully: “As indicated earlier, there is not enough evidence anywhere to absolutely prove God, but there is adequate evidence to justify the assumption or the faith that God exists.” “This choice or commitment is into the realm of the subjective, to be sure, since it transcends the objective and what can be clearly proved, and thus it is a leap of faith,” “Hence, it is more reasonable to take the short leap of faith required in Christian belief than it is to take the long leap of faith that is required in atheism. Absolute, dogmatic, unequivocable, complete evidence is often not possible, but a strong presumption is demonstrable.” “The evolutionist has a faith and I have a faith. I happen to believe that my faith is the more reasonable faith.”

What is the meaning of “faith” in the Bible? How is this word used? Does “faith” (in the Bible sense) mean strong probability? Is it identical with assumption? Does it exist only in the absence of evidence? “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,…” (Heb. 11:4). “By faith Noah…prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11:7). “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance…” (Heb. 11:8). What does “by faith” mean in these statements? Were Abel, Noah, and Abraham guessing? Were they responding upon the basis of assumption? strong probability? acting where there was no evidence? The Bible declares: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, Biblical faith inherently involves; (1) the fact of the existence of God; (2) the fact of the existence of man; (3) the revealing ability of God to man; (4) the response-ability of man; (5) the testimony of God to man; (6) man’s proper response to that testimony. Faith—in the Bible sense—means taking God at His word. It means doing just what God said do, just because God said to do it. There is no Biblical faith where there is no testimony of God.

Faith does not mean absence of evidence. In fact, Biblically approved faith requires evidence. Where there is no evidence there can be no faith. God expects us to be concerned about evidence. The very existence of the Bible presupposes the need for evidence. John said, “…but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye may have life in his name” (John 20:31). We are not inclined in the least to criticize the attitude of Thomas. Rather, we have great respect and admiration for his attitude. His attitude was: “Without evidence I will not believe. Give me the evidence, and I will believe.” The Lord gave him the evidence. When Thomas saw the evidence, he declared: “My Lord and my God.”

Faith does not in all cases mean the absence of literal sight. Sometimes faith is clearly contrasted with sight (as in 2 Cor. 5:7), but there can be faith where there is sight. The Lord said to Thomas: “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed.” Many more of the Samaritans believed on the Lord because of His word (John 4:41). The fact of their seeing Him did not preclude their believing on Him. There can be faith where there is no sight. The Lord said to Thomas: “…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believed.”

Neither does faith mean the absence of knowledge. It should be shouted from the housetops that Biblically approved faith does not rule out knowing. Paul said, “being therefore always of good courage, and knowing that whilst we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord…” (2 Cor. 5:6). How did Paul know? “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Cor. 5:7). Here is knowledge which is the product of faith. Many of Samaria who believed on the Lord said to the woman: “Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). These said, “We believe” and “We know.” Faith does not preclude knowledge, and knowledge does not preclude faith. Peter said to the Lord, “And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God” (John 6:69). Paul said, “…for I know him whom I have believed…” (2 Tim. 1:12).

Can we know that God exists? The basic question underlying this question is: Can we know anything at all? For, if it is possible to know anything, then it is possible to know that God exists. Can one know anything? Is a normal human being capable of really knowing anything? To answer this question we must come to a knowledge of what “knowing” means. (Interesting sidelight: Is it possible for one to come to a knowledge of what knowing is? Would it be possible for one to know that it is impossible for one to know?)

The answer to this question (Can we know anything?) involves the whole field of study called epistemology. Epistemology is that field of study which deals with the origin, nature, methods, and limits of knowledge. The human being, in two basic ways, comes to have knowledge. We come to know (learn) by experience, and we come to know (learn) by contemplation. Knowledge which comes by means of actual experience is placed under the heading of SCIENCE. Knowledge which comes by means of contemplation is placed under the heading of PHILOSOPHY. The knowledge which comes by experience may be: mathematical, physical, biological, or social. If the contemplation is about the universe it comes within the realm of metaphysics. If the contemplation is about conduct, it comes within the realm of ethics. If the contemplation is about the beautiful, it comes within the realm of aesthetics. If the contemplation is about correct reasoning (the principles of valid reasoning), it comes within the realm of logic. This reasoning involves two kinds: inductive and deductive.

The Empirical philosophers insist that only real knowledge is that which comes by means of the physical senses. The Existential philosophers insist that there is no way that one can really know anything. We are insisting at this point that though it is certainly true that there is knowledge which comes by means of the physical senses, it is also true that there is knowledge which comes by means of contemplation. We are insisting that it is possible for one to know and to know that he knows by working (in thought) according to the demands of the principles of correct reasoning.

It is generally recognized that 7 x 7 gives 49. The “49” represents a conclusion arrived at by contemplation. But it is possible for us to know (and to know that we know) that 7 x 7 gives 49. Likewise, if one places a dime in an envelope, and then places the envelope in a trunk—we can know where the dime is. We can know that the dime is in the trunk. And, this knowledge we have by contemplation, rather than by sense perception. If it is the case that all men are mortal beings, and if it is the case that Socrates was a man, then we know that it is the case that Socrates was a mortal being. I recently said to my students: “If it is the case that the accute accent can stand on either of the last three syllables of a Greek word, and if it is the case that the circumflex accent can stand only on either of the last two syllables of a Greek word, and if it is the case that the grave accent can stand only on the last syllable of a Greek word—then it is the case that if the third (the antepenult) syllable of a Greek word is accented that accent will have to be the accute. And, you can know this, and you can know that you know it.”

The “law of rationality” holds that “We ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence.” Adequate evidence absolutely demands certain conclusions. We are not talking about assumptions. We are not talking about guesses, or speculations. We are speaking of that conclusion which is absolutely demanded by the evidence at hand. And that conclusion which is demanded by the evidence is a matter of knowledge. It is “knowledge” just as much as is the case with regard to sense perception. It is evidence at hand. And that conclusion which is demanded by the evidence is a matter of knowledge. It is “knowledge” just as much as is the case with regard to sense perceptions. It is this kind of knowledge in particular that we have in mind when we emphasize that we can KNOW that God exists. It is this kind of knowledge which is compelled by consideration of the facts: there can be no effect without an adequate cause; there can be no law without a lawgiver; there can be no picture without a painter, no poem without a poet, no design without a designer, no thought without a thinker, no engineering without an engineer, no chemistry without a chemist, and no mathematics without a mathematician.

It is not the purpose of this article to discuss in detail how we can know that God exists, but rather to declare emphatically that it is a fact that we can know that God exists.

Perhaps it should be pointed out that so far as concerns those who love, believe and respect the Bible there should be no problem on this point. For, the Bible frequently and emphatically declares that we CAN and that we MUST know God. The Lord said, “And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). John said, “I have written unto you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning” (I John 2:13, 14). In fact, in the book of First John the writer uses the word “know” (in some form) twenty-four times. Those who insist that we cannot “know” would do well to study carefully John’s writings.

Posted in Announcements, Apologetics

Deaver-Till Debate (on the alleged moral atrocities of the Bible)

On March 25-28, 1991 Mac Deaver debated the skeptic, Ferrel Till, on the campus of what is now Texas State University in San Marcos. Propositions centered on alleged moral atrocities in the Bible, whether they are real, and whether they disprove the Bible’s inspiration. The transcription has recently been reprinted by Christian Researcher Publications as a paperback book, including the four nights of speeches and charts. Copies can be ordered here.

Posted in Announcements, Apologetics, Doctrine

Deaver-Preston Debate

Mac Deaver debated Don Preston on March 13-15, 2008, as part of the Second Annual Carlsbad Eschatology Conference in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Preston affirmed: “The Bible teaches that the Second (i.e. final) coming of Christ occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.” Deaver denied.

Deaver affirmed: “The Bible teaches that the Second (i.e. final) coming of Christ will occur at the end of the Christian age.” Preston denied.

The entire debate is now online. At BiblicalNotes.com, click on the “audio” tab on the menu to listen.

Posted in Apologetics, By Mac Deaver

The Scientific Method: Two Problems

By Mac Deaver

I want to mention two problems with what has been termed the “scientific method.” But before identifying the problems let me assure the reader that I am well aware of the fact that the “method” has over many years resulted in much benefit to the human family. It is the method of trial and error. The scientist will imagine a working hypothesis or theory that he wants to test to see whether or not it can be identified as the given cause of a certain effect. He says to himself that if x is the case (my theory is correct as the cause of this certain effect), then y will follow. He runs his experiment and finds that y is, after all, certainly present. He then concludes that x is to be presently accepted as the cause of y.

Now, the first problem is a problem for atheistic scientists who view the so-called “scientific method” as the completely encompassing route to truth. There are those among us who decry the very concept of the metaphysical or spiritual reality. They claim that there is nothing but matter. For example, Sam Harris in his book, The Moral Landscape, even denies any spiritual person. There is no mind, according to Sam, distinguishable from a brain. Man is at most a brain without any spiritual or metaphysical agent to operate the brain. Matter is all that there is and so matter is all that matters!

And since science is the discipline that explores matter, then science is the vehicle whereby truth (all truth) is known if known at all. In other words, given this radical evaluation of reality, there is no truth accessible to man via any route other than science, and the method by which science discovers truth is the so-called “scientific method.” There is no domain outside the purview of this method since it is believed by atheistic scientists that there is nothing to be explored except matter itself.

But the first difficulty we raise has to do with the selection, identification, and application of this method. Just how is it that scientists have selected this method as “the” method for the discovery of any and all truth that is accessible to mankind? In the first place, if it is a method whose application is to matter only, then the method selected presupposes a metaphysical position with regard to the exhaustive scope of matter. For a scientist to affirm that “matter is all that there is” is not a materialistic declaration. It is an attempted description allegedly of all reality to be sure, and it is a claim that there is nothing besides matter, but the explanation itself is a purely metaphysical explanation. Rocks don’t talk. Monkeys can’t lecture. The very nature of rational explanation implies rationality (not merely a brain) and rationality simply cannot coherently be reduced to matter.

So, for one to say that “matter is all that there is” is to assert something in contradiction to the nature of the assertion. It is like saying, “I am not here.” It is a metaphysical attempt at denying the metaphysical. It is an explanation (whether correct or not), and the nature of explanation is such that it is not reducible to mere matter. A description of matter and an explanation of matter can never be matter itself. Matter cannot explain itself either by content or attempted rational explanation. A brain cannot explain itself. Brains don’t study brains. Minds can study both brains and other minds. Brains can be used by minds in offering explanations (and must be), but brains alone offer nothing by way of explanation any more than kidneys do.

In the second place, when atheistic scientists choose to employ the “scientific method” as their one and only tool for truth discovery, we must point out that their selection of this all-encompassing vehicle of discovery was not made by utilization of the method itself. That is, when they identified the “scientific method” as the alleged one route to all truth, they did not make the selection based on the use of that method at all. They did not use the “scientific method” in order to arrive at the conclusion that the “scientific method” is the route to all truth. And since they used some other means to arrive at that method, they have already implied by the selection of the method for use in science that there is some means of getting at some “truth” other than the method itself, since they used some other means to select the “scientific method” as the only way to find truth! Furthermore since they used some other means of arriving at the “scientific method” (other than the method itself) as the method of choice in truth discovery, that means that whatever it is that they used in order to select the “scientific method” is surely a more fundamental route and a far more encompassing route to the discovery of truth than the “scientific method” could ever by itself be.

The selection of the “scientific method” as the method of choice for science is a reasoned or rational selection made without the use of that method in the selection process. The “scientific method” was simply not employed in order to select the “scientific method” as the one and only method of truth discovery. And even for those scientists who are not atheistic, still it is true that their employment of the method is not based on the use of that method in the selection of that method.

The situation that I am referring to is very unlike the use of reason. We simply cannot identify and describe reason without employing it. We must in every attempt at the recognition and identification of the “laws of thought” always be utilizing them. However, it is not so with the so-called “scientific method.” And even though atheists want to claim that their method of discovery is the only means of discovery, yet their method was not discovered by means of the method! The selection of a trial and error method of truth discovery was not itself made based on any trial and error test for that method. Since the method itself is a metaphysical construct, it could not in and of itself be placed in a materialistic format for analysis. For someone to suggest that “if a is true, then y will follow, and y did follow; therefore, a must be true,” is an exercise in reason (be it right or wrong), and not simply an exercise in matter exploration by other matter. Consider the following points:

  1. Either the atheistic scientist has decided to use the so-called “scientific method” as the exhaustive approach to all truth by means of the “scientific method” or by some other means.
  2. The atheistic scientist did not use the “scientific method” to locate the method nor to elevate it to its alleged exhaustive role in truth discovery.
  3. So, the atheistic scientist decided to use the “scientific method” and prescribe the use of it for all truth discovery on some basis other than the method itself.
  4. This means that the atheistic scientist implies that the so-called “scientific method” is not the only way to discover truth!

The very idea of using the “scientific method” as “the” avenue to all truth is itself not discernible via the method. The method itself cannot possibly prove the non-existence of something outside the purview of that method of discovery. Materialism can never by a materialistic means prove the non-existence of the non-empirical (the metaphysical). In other words, the atheistic scientist who limits the discovery of truth to the “scientific method” has himself used some other criteria for giving that method its lofty and all-encompassing status. He has so elevated it but not by virtue of its all-encompassing nature, but because of his atheism!

The bottom line is that no scientist can defend the “scientific method” without reason. And when he does so, he admits that reason is superior to matter and very necessary in any explanation attempt. And when atheists attempt to claim that the “scientific method” is the one and only justifiable route to truth, they do so ignorantly and in self-contradiction since the employment by them of that route is because of a reasoned choice and not by means of some empirical trial and error vindication of the method itself. In fact, there can be no reasoned justification for the method itself, given the way that it is constructed. And that brings us to the second problem with the method.

The second problem with the “scientific method” has to do with the logical form of it. Consider the following illustration. Let us say that a couple decides to visit some nearby friends but without notifying their friends first. They get into the car and begin to drive. The husband says to his wife, “I hope they are home.” She responds, “We’ll know when we see the yard, for if they are home the yard will be mowed.” Then they get to the house and they see that the yard is mowed, and conclude. “They are home.”

Now, let us analyze what happened and put it into a strict logical form so that we can easily determine what was said and whether or not it was logical and conclusive. Let us use x for “if they are home.” And let us use y for “the yard will be mowed.” If we affirm x (they are home), then we could conclude y (the yard will be mowed). But the couple didn’t do this. They affirmed y (the yard is mowed) because they saw the mowed yard when they drove up to the house, and then they reached the conclusion that x (they are home). Now, let us suppose that they found no one at home. Even though they realized that their friends always kept up their yard work when at home (so that they had a right to say to themselves if x [they are home], then y [the yard will be mowed]), they were not counting on any explanation for a mowed yard other than the presence at home by their friends. But they found y (the yard is mowed) and yet they found non-x (the friends were not at home). Later, let us suppose, they found out that their friends had gone on vacation and had hired some yard workers to attend the yard while they were gone.

You see, the would-be visitors drew a conclusion not warranted by the evidence. They arranged their reasoning in this way: “If they are home, then the yard will be mowed. The yard is mowed. Therefore, they are home.” But then they found out that even though the yard was mowed, their friends were not at home. The argument—or, syllogism—looks like this:

  • If x then y (if they are home, then the yard will be mowed).
  • y (the yard is mowed).
  • Therefore, x (they are home).

And this is an illogical form. It is invalid. The conclusion is not established by the premises. And yet, this is the very form that is characteristic of the “scientific method.” Note this carefully. The “scientific method” entails an illogical or invalid form. And this means that the conclusion reached by using this form is not established! It is not proven! In a hypothetical syllogism (an “if-then” syllogism), we can either affirm the antecedent (what follows the “if”) or we can deny the consequent (what follows the “then”). The first form is called modus ponens; the second is called modus tollens. These are both logical or valid forms. But to deny the antecedent or to affirm the consequent is to construct an invalid form (see Lionel Ruby’s Logic—An Introduction, pp. 272-276). The couple in our illustration constructed an invalid form. They said: if x (antecedent) then y (consequent). That is, if they are home, the yard will be mowed. But then they affirmed the y (the yard is mowed), and concluded x (they are home). And this is an invalid form. They affirmed the consequent.

If a scientist tests his hypothesis and says if x is correct (if they are home) then y will follow (the yard will be mowed), and then he runs his test and finds that y is, after all, present (the yard is mowed), he concludes then that x is established at least as a theoretical cause (they are home) of y. But since the form is invalid, he has no right to reach a conclusion that is absolutely true. The whole process of his trial and error method is logically flawed. For y (the yard is mowed) may be caused by something other than x (their being home). There could well be another explanation for y (the yard’s being mowed).

It is sometimes reassuring that some scientists recognize the tentative nature of scientific claims and admit that they have not proven a position but only identified a possibility. Their conclusions they hold tentatively. However, some bold atheists and obsessed evolutionists overreach their findings and draw conclusions from their method that they deem beyond reproach. It is enough here for us to realize that no conclusion whatever reached via the “scientific method” can by that method be established as absolutely true.