- Please Note: This Page Is In Progress
- Series Overview
Please Note: This Page Is In Progress
This means, among other things, that:
- Some of the content is not fleshed out, so you should not read more into things than exactly what is there.
- Some sections might have things marked as “TODOs” (e.g., questions or things that must be done). These TODOs should not be taken to be representative of truth in any respect, and indicate areas that need more research and thought. If you have particular knowledge in things related to these, you can help! (Please see: contribution guidelines).
- There probably will not be any section that pulls everything together in an easily understandable way.
This does not mean that:
- I am not firmly convinced of the veracity of all the content currently published. If I am not sure of something, I don’t push it to the website. (This doesn’t mean that I won’t ever change my positions if I come to learn that I am in error, but that I strive, as much as possible, to only push content to the website if I am absolutely certain that it is true).
- This page cannot be helpful to you in its present form. If you are aware of the limitations of the current state, you may find this page helpful long before I officially publish it.
A Word About Epistemology
By way of introduction, let me state that this series was originally going to to be titled “Christian Epistemology,” but after a good conversation with a philosophically inclined family member, I have decided to go with the bland-but-descriptive title “Christians and truth.”
Epistemology, as it it commonly defined, is the study of knowledge and justified belief. The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, on its page for epistemology, has the following to say about knowledge:
… [K]nowledge as [justified true belief]: S knows that p if and only if p is true and S is justified in believing that p. According to this analysis, the three conditions — truth, belief, and justification — are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for knowledge.
Translation: for you to really know something, the “something” has to be true, you have to actually believe it, and you have to be believing it for good reasons (have justified belief).
Broadly speaking, this series will only focus on what things are true (Christian sources of truth), the importance of actually believing these sources so as to obtain expriential knowledge (Gk. epignosis), and how we know that our belief in these sources of truth is justified. No other aspects of epistemology proper will be discussed, since they are rather tangential to the points at hand. It is important, however, to mention that other aspects of epistemology do exist, even other aspects of epistemology unique to the Christian point of view. I would encourage anyone so inclined to peruse the link above to get an idea of how complex human belief really is.
This series, in addition to only focusing on a subset of topics in epistemology, will be much less formal overall. Philosophy can be a bit daunting for people who aren’t familiar with the peculiarities of phrasing (not to mention the copious amounts of jargon). For example, the knowledge described by traditional epistemology is so-called “knowledge-that” or propositional knowledge. Thus, “knowing” is used in a very specific technical sense – not “knowing about” = “conversant with the content of,” but “knowing that” = “having justified true belief that.” Avoiding the label of epistemology will free me from an obligation to be precise in my wording of things because people won’t read the title and expect a philosophical turn of phrase. This is not to say that care won’t be taken or logic ignored, but simply that this series is written in simpler language and less precise arguments than what would be expected of true philosophical exposition.
Introduction And Purpose
For Christians, truth is obtained from God’s written Word, and from a relationship with the living Word, Jesus Christ. Science and related disciplines (all of which ultimately come from God) are sources of truth as well, but not the divine, spiritual truth that is the subject of this series.
The fundamental mechanics of Christians’ relationship with truth are really pretty simple. God has structured the universe in such a way that it speaks of His glory and eternal power (cf. Psalm 19), and has written eternity on the hearts of men. Collectively, these (and other) general sources of divine truth are known as general revelation. To those who respond to general revelation, seeking further knowledge of God, God provides special revelation in the form of His inspired Word – the Bible – and qualified and prepared teachers to minister it. These are the sources of truth for all Christians. We believe the truth obtained from these sources through the free will that comes from the image of God. We are justified in our belief because of the character of God and the promises He has made us.
The reason why more needs to be said is because complications arise. How exactly does one get truth from the Bible? How does one decide if a teacher is of God? Why do some people say that prophecy (which was previously an additional form of special revelation) is still in effect? Why is it that in our modern information age – wherein we have more potential to know the fullness of God’s revealed truth than any time before – an average Christian knows less truth? This series aims to answer these questions and others like them.
- About God, the Bible, the knowability of truth, and so forth.
Sources Of Truth
- General revelation and special revelation
- Forms of special revelation before the canon closed
- Inspiration: its implications and its importance
- The importance of the original languages and texts in determining truth (rather than translations)
- Basic hermeneutics – brief surveys regarding the impact that specialized knowledge has on interpretation.
- Systematic theology
- Church history
- Ancient history
- Knowledge of ancient cultures (Hebrew, Greek, Roman, etc.)
- The importance of context in determining meaning
- The proper functioning of teachers within the Church – acting as interpreters and explainers of the Bible.
- The gift of teacher in general, who can have it, how they should go about preparing for ministry, etc.
- Improper sources of truth
- Appeals to history and tradition
- Appeals to authority
- Appeals to popular opinion and consensus
- Hymns, liturgies, creeds, and other extra-Biblical materials
- Experience, particularly 3rd party reports
- The importance of epignosis in the Christian life; the difference between intellectual assent and spiritual truth learned, believed, and applied.
- The uncomfortable fact that lay Christians will not, in all circumstances, be able to discern truth on their own; eventually, they will have to “take someone’s word for it.”
- The importance for lay Christians of picking one teaching ministry to trust so as to avoid doubt and anxiety over what is true, and exactly what this means.
- How lay Christians ought to handle situations when seemingly earnest, well-educated Christian teachers take opposing views on important matters. Who should they trust?
- The so-called “fruit test” – how to tell good teachers from bad teachers
- The fundamental incomprehensibility of Christian belief to the unsaved, and what we should make of this fact.
- A review of the implications of inspiration
- A meditation on the character and promises of God