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The Noetic Effects of Sin 

Empiricism, induction, the scientific method, and its many other synonyms have wreaked havoc among Christians and non-Christians alike.  More on this subject will be added here, but for now see the following and Refutation of Empiricism and Its Dangers.

 

The only remedies for the noetic effects of sin are regeneration of the soul and a thoroughgoing systematic,  Biblical epistemology and worldview.  More will be added here later.  For now, see:

 

Regeneration

 

Regeneration, Faith, and Sanctification in a Biblical Epistemology

 

Biblical Worldview

 

Adam Thinking in Paradise without the Noetic Effects of Sin

 

Abraham Kuyper

“Whenever you reason with others about anything, you assume an ability in yourself and in them to think logically.  You do not hesitate for a moment, wondering if what you hear and see exists as you observe it.  As a rule, you go through life with a feeling of complete certainty.  We have not ceased being reasonable creatures because of sin, and as we compare our existence with that of animals, we are fully conscious of the superiority our reason has given us.  The power we have gradually acquired over the animals and the whole world is so plain as to convince us that our research and thinking are sound.  It cannot be denied that the darkening of sin is noticeable here.  How many are not terribly weak in logical capacity?  How many errors do we not constantly find in our reasoning?  How often is our observation deceived by appearances?  How slowly do our investigations plumb their full depths!  How hard have we not studied for an exam or for a job without any inspiration of holy enthusiasm?  All this, however, amounts to a partial break, not a complete obstruction.”

 

No, the real darkening of sin is found in something completely different, in our having lost the gift to comprehend the true context, the proper coherence, the systematic unity of things.  We now view things just outwardly, not in core and essence; hence, also, each thing individually, not things together in their connection and origin in God.  (Ed: the Biblical concept of truth, as each thing related to Creation and The Creator)  That connection, the coherence of things in their original relation with God, can be felt only in our spirit.  It does not lie in things outside of us and therefore could be well considered only so long as our spirit stayed in vital connection with God and could trace the thought of God in that coherence.  Precisely this characteristic our human mind possessed at its pure creation, and precisely this is lost when sin cut off the vital bond uniting us to God.  As a dog or bird sees the bricks of a palace, the wood and plaster, maybe the colors, but comprehends nothing of the architecture, the style, the purpose of the rooms and windows, so we stand with darkened understanding before the temple of creation.  We see the parts but no longer have an eye for the style of the temple, no longer can guess at its architect, and so can no longer understand the temple of creation in its unity, origin, and destiny.  We are like an architect bereft of his sense who once could grasp the building as a whole but now peeping from the window of his cell, stares fixedly at walls and peaks without comprehending the motif…”

 

Science does not only consist of examining wood, stone, and metal but becomes essential science when it knows how to capture the whole as in a mirror.  The darkening of sin thus does not concern the knowledge of details, but science in its higher and more noble conception.  As long as non-human creation is studied independently of God, then science still produces its miracles by a careful analysis of things and not by a search for laws governing their movement.  But you cannot reckon so with man.  Instead, you will come to face spiritual questions that bring one into contact with the center of spiritual life, i.e., with God.  Then all certainty disappears as school stands over against school, program against program, until full-blown despair at last overcomes the investigators.  They will still make some progress in knowledge of the human body and of what comes forth from the mind in a material way, but as soon as they tread on real spiritual ground, everything runs on guesses and assumptions, on the supersession of system by system, and finally on doubt and skepticism.”

 

“Common Grace in Science,” in James D. Bratt, Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, pages 449-450)

 

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Scott Oliphint's book review of  Stephen K. Moroney: The Noetic Effects of Sin: An Historical and Contemporary Exploration of How Sin Affects Our Thinking. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 1999. 

 

"In spite of its brevity, its ambitiousness, and its attempt to move across (at least) two different disciplines, this book is helpful in its brief analyses of the particular figures chosen.  The reader is left, however, in the end with a cursory understanding of the problem and an all-too-brief discussion of the issues involved.  In that sense, the book glosses a very important topic.  On the other hand, one who wants to look into these issues, particularly in the Reformed tradition, would gain some benefit by beginning with this brief study."

 

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Vern S. Poythress' review of C. John Collins, Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003.

The following breaks into the review where it mentions the noetic effects of sin.  Note that where living things, and especially man, are concerned science loses virtually all "objectivity."

 

"Are Christian and non-Christian versions of science distinct? Collins quotes approvingly from B. B. Warfield's statement about science:

 

Sin clearly has not destroyed or altered in its essential nature any one of man's faculties, although ... it has affected the operation of them all.... No new faculties have been inserted into him by regeneration; and the old faculties common to man in all his states have been only measurably restored to their proper functioning. He is in no position therefore to produce a science different in kind from that produced by sinful man. (p. 146)

 

What do we say about Warfield's reasoning? A lot depends on what sort of alterations or restorations of faculties he has in view. True, regeneration does not impart superhuman intelligence any more than it gives us Superman's X-ray vision. But no one is saying otherwise. Scientific reflection can nevertheless give birth to a difference in "kind," when autonomous human assumptions have radically affected the foundations of a science. Collins illustrates the effect later in the book when he shows the difference between intelligent design on the one hand, and dogmatic naturalism defending purposeless evolution on the other. Here we have a radical difference between two approaches to the science of historical biology. Presumably this striking difference is not what Collins or Warfield meant by "different in kind." But then clarification is needed, lest Christians uncritically accept the current configurations of science. When should Christians pursue a radical change in the configuration of science? When would a more subtle change in the understanding of the meaning of science be more appropriate? It is not easy to say, because the noetic effects of sin are deep but subtle. Again this problem asks for another book."  For the complete review, see here.

 

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False limitation of the noetic effects of sin to salvation.

“The darkening of the human mind by sin, so that a special influence of divine grace is needed for understanding and obeying biblical truth” (I Corinthians 1:18; 2:12-14; II Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 4:17-18) (“Brief Glossary of Theological Terms” from Theology Primer: Resources for the Theological Student by John Jefferson Davis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981)

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Also, see The Noetic Effects of Sin: A Review Article (Stephen Moroney's book).

 

 


 

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