Quick Hitters or Ed’s Pensées
(With some trepidation, I have used the title from Blaise Pascal's
do not claim to have a mind equal to his. I only hope to stimulate other
minds perhaps to consider and think through issues that they might
Philosophers strain at gnats (minutia or micro-sized
particles) while swallowing camels (concepts the size of planets).
Philosophers try to cast out the mite in the eyes of other philosophers
while not seeing the motes in their own eyes.
“Agree to disagree.” There can be only one right answer by the
law of non-contradiction. While
we must show brotherly affection when we differ, disagreement among
Christians is most serious. Failure to agree is failure to achieve
Christ’s mind on a matter. His mind is unity, and can only have one
answer. On a practical level, we cannot debate every issue endlessly.
However, perhaps the recognition that the failure of unity is the
greater problem than the issue itself.
Whether knowledge is true has no necessary correspondence to the
study that preceded. One interesting thing about any specific
knowledge is that whether it is true or not (that is, whether it
conforms to reality) has nothing to do with the degree of study for the
derivation of that knowledge. For example, the recently born-again
Christian can know the truth of Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior
simply from a few Bible verses as John 3:16. The most serious and
studied imam (Muslim priest) still knows and lives a lie. The
American Academy of Pediatrics, members of which, are specialists, have
taken a stand against spanking. The Bible (God) says that they stand on
a lie (Proverbs 22:15). One person may hear a stock pick in a casual
conversation that makes a great profit, while another spends weeks
studying and tracking a stock that eventually is a big loser.
In general, I strong advocate study to arrive at knowledge. But,
study alone does not guarantee knowledge that is true. (In reality, the
only truth that we will ever know is that of the Bible.)
He who attempts to integrate the Bible and any other knowledge
neither understands the authority of God’s Word nor ever arrive at
truth. By this statement, I do not disparage the difficulty of
understanding Special Revelation and General Revelation. They are two
languages that must be translated from one to the other. But superior
authority must always be given to Scripture on any point or subject to
which both speak with any relevance to each other.
The Bible narrows the field of philosophy to logic alone. Areas
of philosophy which are commonly agreed upon are logic, ethics,
metaphysics, and epistemology. The Bible, accepted as one’s first
principle, gives the philosopher his source of ethics, metaphysics, and
epistemology. Through logic and its derivative disciplines, the fullness
of God’s Word to man will come to be understood. Van Til and John
Faith is action taken, based upon knowledge. Whether that knowledge
is true will be determined by Reality (God’s Providence).
Ideas have consequences--only for those who believe them to be true.
And, belief (faith) does not exist in the absence of failure to act on
Faith and belief (believe, verb form) are not just synonyms, they are
identical in meaning, as they come from the same root word in the Greek
What did Doubting Thomas “believe” when he said, “I believe?” He
did not say, “I believe that You (Jesus) were dead and were
resurrected.” He did not say, “ You are powerful in being able to
overcome death.” He believed that Jesus was “My Lord and my God!” His
statement is several steps removed from a simple conclusion from the
empirical evidence. Thomas was reasoning syllogistically.
Empirical evidence in itself never causes belief. The evidence is
believed only on the basis of the prior assumption that inductive
reasoning and experimentation is valid.
God must “ordain whatsoever comes to pass,” from the smallest thought
to World Wars, because the contingencies for any one thought or event as
so complex that for any one to happen, they would have had to be worked
out in complete detail beforehand. (Quote from Westminster
Confession of Faith, Chapter 3, Section 1.)
God must “ordain whatsoever comes to pass,” from the smallest thought
to World Wars, because He said that He did, does, and will do--Ephesians
Bible students and theologians should learn more philosophy;
philosophers who are Christians should learn more Bible and theology.
Their knowledge in each area will be stronger for understanding
The problem of immediacy. Philosophers may discuss jots and
titles ad nauseum et ad infinitum, but most people need answers
today! Their bills must be paid; the conflict with spouses must be
settled, one way or another; they must vote for or against political
candidates; and, they are ever faced with the specter of death. They
need answers, and they need them immediately. Praise God in his
mercy and grace to give us His Word which is “sufficient” to answer
all of life’s problems and questions. Certainly, there is the
work of philosophers that is legitimate, but they should remember that
major decisions about life have to be made before their work is done!
Truth must exist or nothing else matters. If truth does not
exist, my opinions do not matter; why say them? If truth does not exist,
why listen to another person? If truth does not exist, I may not
complain about “the way things are” (the government, my church, my
spouse, my job or anything else). If truth does not exist, even hedonism
is condemned because I will never know that it is a worthwhile pursuit.
If truth does not exist, the only logical conclusion is suicide. But,
it is rare, rare in the history of mankind that one ever does that, so
the remainder of us must either reason illogically or we believe that
truth does exist.
All speaking is teaching or reminding of what one already knows.
Augustine of Hippo in “Concerning the Teacher”
On presuppositionalism vs. evidentialism: I defy you to start
anywhere without assumptions. I believe that my senses are
trustworthy. “I think; therefore, I am.” I am not dreaming, and
therefore will not wake up to find out a different reality. You are
there, and you are not silent. I believe that words have meaning. I
believe that I can trust my thinking. I believe that everything is a
dream and that I will wake up one day (to what?). I believe in nothing
at all. Assumptions, belief, axioms, starting points, or
If facts are self-interpreting, why do psychologists (and others)
interpret true conversion and repentance as anything but a miracle?
If facts are self-interpreting, why are there so many scientific
explanations about how the universe, and particularly life, came to be?
If facts are self-interpreting, how are the facts about which one is
Judgments of value that cannot be obtained by description. A
theory must precede the choice of facts.
A Christian, by definition, should believe in the infallibility and
inerrancy of the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit will not divorce the
Word of God, as both the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of John 1:1.
If evidentialism were true, all great philosophers would become
“Let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).
Faith is action taken, based upon knowledge. Saving faith in
justification is knowledge that Jesus Christ paid the price for one’s
sins. Saving faith in sanctification is action taken upon the commands
of God, or “trust and obey.”
Every man and woman on planet earth is a “person of faith.” While
I want to applaud the work of Christians in philosophy over the last
several decades, they have overlooked perhaps the most important fact
for modern times: that faith underlies every philosophy, worldview,
religion, cosmology, and -ism. Once this truth is established, the
debate become which faith will we as individuals, society, and
government life by.
Without a canon of Holy Scripture that is infallible, mankind is
hopelessly lost. Corollary: Without a canon of Holy Scripture that
is infallible, mankind’s hope for our woes is dependent only upon a
majority vote or the tyranny of a dictator--that is, no hope.
What happens when a person dies? There are only three
possibilities within all the world‘s religions and philosophies. (1)
He goes to heaven or hell. (2) Nothing. Since man is only a body, it
decays and that is the end. (3) He lives within a monism of the universe
without consciousness of self A variant of the latter is reincarnation,
but there is still no self-consciousness. (My thanks to Bill Jack for
Groups do not think, only individual persons do. But, groups may
prevent each other from thinking--group-think. Therefore, any
doctrine that depends upon a church body, involves a group-vote of
individuals, not the group itself. And, that is why Jesus Christ is the
only Head of the Church.
The word, “Christian,” must be restored to its original meaning,
“Christ ones.” That is, Christian is a person with a doctrinal
commitment to the Christ of the Bible, the 66 books that all of
Christendom agree are the “very word of God written.” As a member of the
Trinity, the Holy Spirit “breathed out” His Word. Therefore, to deny the
Scriptures as infallible and inerrant is to deny the Spirit. A denial of
the work of one of the Trinity is not “Christian.”
The Bible is every honest philosopher’s greatest desire: an objective
source of truth! Yet, in their lost or confused state, they do not
embrace their holy grail.
Reason challenges faith until faith has sufficient answers to rest.
Ideas have consequences. Eve was given an idea by Satan. Cain
had an idea. All the peoples of the earth had only evil ideas. The Tower
of Babel was an idea. Alexander the Great had an idea. Caesar Augustus
had an idea. The Pope Leo III had the idea to crown Charlemagne.
English nobles presented their idea to King John. The Council of Trent
had several ideas. Joseph Stalin had an idea. Adolph Hitler had an
idea. Pol Pot had an idea.
God’s Idea answered Adam and Eve’s Fall. The Great Flood was God’s idea.
He gave Adam the idea of a boat. Abraham had an idea revealed to him.
Moses had an idea revealed to him. David had an idea revealed to him.
Jesus knew that He is The Idea. Paul the Apostle had an The Idea
revealed to him. Augustine of Hippo had an idea revealed to him.
Martin Luther had an idea revealed to him. John Calvin had many ideas
revealed to him. John Knox learned an idea from John Calvin. The
Puritans and others took that idea and founded the United States of
America. God says that Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of
Lords--one day all the living and dead will know that Idea.
Definitions. One of the most important
elements of communication is precise use of definitions. Yet,
almost everyone is bored by definitions. Almost everyone is less
specific about definitions than is necessary for good communication.
Philosophers are particularly guilty about defining
words because they are their "stock in trade." But then, if they
defined their words, more people might understand them. That
result could be good or bad for either the
philosopher, his hearers, or both!
Philosophy for the "common man." If a
philosopher cannot reduce his theories into a language that the "common
man," then he has no claim to a hearing by anyone. One beautiful
dimension of the Bible is that its central message and its primary
instructions can be understood by any creature with a reasonably
Creation ex nihilo. "In the beginning
God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis
Rationality and Irrationality. Whether an
argument is rational or irrational is a matter or personal opinion, the
vote of a committee, or the Great Sez Who (authority or Authority).
The trivium and the tools of philosophy.
Classical education centers on the "trivium" of grammar, dialectic, and
rhetoric. The primary tools of philosophy correspond: definitions
and language, logical reasoning, and argumentation (practice of the
first two). Interesting!
Language is both adequate and inadequate for communication.
Language works great in most communications, especially where
the situation is person enough that questions and clarifications are
possible. However, in complex arguments shades of meaning can
considerably alter meaning. Perhaps this is the problem of
philosophy. Meanings of words are stretched beyond a precision
Everyone wants absolute proof. However, since
the Garden, God has chosen not to give us absolute proofs in this
earthly life. All knowledge exists by one's faith commitment.