Paul Kelly

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Hello everyone. I would like to discuss the usefulness of reformed epistemology when dealing with doubt.

Basically, RE allows an escape route from using arguments as the foundation for our faith. However, for the educated theist, doesn't this just push the question back another step? For now we must ask the question of whether we can base our beliefs in the properly basic way. Its not as if Plantinga's model is warranted in the basic way. For the educated Christian, the rationality of the Spirit's witness is still contingent on arguments and evidence.  But isn't the entire point of RE to escape this problem? At least to me, I don't see how any account can be given that totally frees the Christian from arguments and evidence. What do you all think?

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hatsoff

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Can reformed epistemology really help with evidential doubts?
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2010, 08:24:23 pm »
forthelord wrote: Hello everyone. I would like to discuss the usefulness of reformed epistemology when dealing with doubt.

Basically, RE allows an escape route from using arguments as the foundation for our faith. However, for the educated theist, doesn't this just push the question back another step? For now we must ask the question of whether we can base our beliefs in the properly basic way. Its not as if Plantinga's model is warranted in the basic way. For the educated Christian, the rationality of the Spirit's witness is still contingent on arguments and evidence.  But isn't the entire point of RE to escape this problem? At least to me, I don't see how any account can be given that totally frees the Christian from arguments and evidence. What do you all think?


A requirement for arguments and evidence is just a standard like any other, and not "correct" or "necessary" in any universal sense.  So, if a theist wishes to claim that his God-belief is exempt from such critical inquiry, then so be it.  Nobody can force him to change his mind about that.

However, I do not believe that's what Reformed Epistemology is all about.  Despite the name, it does not bear any resemblance, at least as far as I can tell from the SEP, to the Reformed idea that God has elected us through irresistible grace, or that we have come to knowledge of God through some such other non-rational or extra-rational means.  Instead, champions of Reformed Epistemology apparently wish to take a different approach, but one which still requires argumentation and rational discourse.  Only in their case, they try to show that God-belief is properly basic, rather than justifying theism through traditional arguments (e.g. WLC's KCA)---or so I gather from the SEP.

If they really are searching for some non-rational path to knowledge, however, then that's a matter of subjective values.  Do you want to have a rational basis for your beliefs or not?  Maybe you don't desire that.  Many people, however, myself included, place great value on reasoned thought, and we will be unimpressed by positions renouncing rational justification for beliefs.  I suppose you simply need to ask yourself whether or not you have similar values.

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Matthew1

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Can reformed epistemology really help with evidential doubts?
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2010, 01:03:52 pm »
forthelord wrote: Hello everyone. I would like to discuss the usefulness of reformed epistemology when dealing with doubt.

Basically, RE allows an escape route from using arguments as the foundation for our faith. However, for the educated theist, doesn't this just push the question back another step? For now we must ask the question of whether we can base our beliefs in the properly basic way. Its not as if Plantinga's model is warranted in the basic way. For the educated Christian, the rationality of the Spirit's witness is still contingent on arguments and evidence.  But isn't the entire point of RE to escape this problem? At least to me, I don't see how any account can be given that totally frees the Christian from arguments and evidence. What do you all think?


The idea isn't that you can never think about or reason about Christian belief. it's just that Christian belief isn't held on the basis of arguments.  Arguments may very well allow someone to take Christian belief seriously or may help someone with his doubts, but ultimately if the person believes it isn't by way of the arguments but by way of something like a natural sense of the divine or the work of the Holy Spirit. that's Plantinga's idea I believe.

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FNB - Former non-believer

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Can reformed epistemology really help with evidential doubts?
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2011, 02:40:08 am »
If they really are searching for some  non-rational path to knowledge, however, then that's a matter of  subjective values.  Do you want to have a rational basis for your  beliefs or not?  Maybe you don't desire that.  Many people, however,  myself included, place great value on reasoned thought, and we will be  unimpressed by positions renouncing rational justification for beliefs.   I suppose you simply need to ask yourself whether or not you have  similar values.

Are you saying it is irrational to believe properly basic beliefs on the evidence of experience? If so, how do you know the external world is real? Is it not by direct experience of it?


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hatsoff

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« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2011, 10:13:39 am »
emailestthoume wrote: Are you saying it is irrational to believe properly basic beliefs on the evidence of experience?


Not at all.  I'm only saying that if we want to be rational about our beliefs, then we need to have reasons to hold onto them.  Those reasons can take the form of inference from experience.  They might also take the form of properly basic beliefs---depending on is meant by that term, anyway.  I'm only pointing out that I want to have reasons for my beliefs, and that I expect Christians to want the same for themselves.  Since no good reasons for Christianity have ever been given, though, this is a serious problem.

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FNB - Former non-believer

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« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2011, 04:20:07 pm »
I'm only pointing out that I want to  have reasons for my beliefs, and that I expect Christians to want the  same for themselves.  Since no good reasons for Christianity have ever  been given, though, this is a serious problem.

Though I don't agree this is the only reason for believing, for Christians why cannot the reason be direct experience of the Holy Spirit, as your direct experience of the external world is the reason you believe it exists? I have never seen an argument for the existence of the external world that would cause me to hold the belief that there exists an external world. In short, I hold the belief in the external world based on experience, not any argument. Don't you as well? Its the same logic behind both. Though you seemed to agree with this in your first sentences, in the part I quoted from you, you seem to not. I apologize if I am misunderstanding, if I am, perhaps you could clarify this for me.

Cheers.

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hatsoff

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« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2011, 04:45:48 pm »
emailestthoume wrote: Though I don't agree this is the only reason for believing, for Christians why cannot the reason be direct experience of the Holy Spirit, as your direct experience of the external world is the reason you believe it exists? I have never seen an argument for the existence of the external world that would cause me to hold the belief that there exists an external world. In short, I hold the belief in the external world based on experience, not any argument. Don't you as well? Its the same logic behind both. Though you seemed to agree with this in your first sentences, in the part I quoted from you, you seem to not. I apologize if I am misunderstanding, if I am, perhaps you could clarify this for me.


Maybe you think I'm saying that personal experience does not make for good evidence, but let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth!  In fact, experience is, at bottom, the only evidence we could possibly have for anything.

The thing is, even if we took them at their word, Christians never report any experiences which justify god-belief.  After all, what experiences could possibly help us accomplish that incredible feat of inference?  Now, it could be that the Holy Spirit is working in them to force them to believe, but this would not be a rational process.  In such a case, the Holy Spirit would have bypassed our rationality by implanting belief directly.  What the Holy Spirit can never do is implant justification, yet we need justification if we want our beliefs to be rational.

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FNB - Former non-believer

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« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2011, 01:19:30 am »

Maybe you think I'm saying that personal experience does not make for good evidence, but let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth!  In fact, experience is, at bottom, the only evidence we could possibly have for anything.

The thing is, even if we took them at their word, Christians never report any experiences which justify god-belief.  After all, what experiences could possibly help us accomplish that incredible feat of inference?  Now, it could be that the Holy Spirit is working in them to force them to believe, but this would not be a rational process.  In such a case, the Holy Spirit would have bypassed our rationality by implanting belief directly.  What the Holy Spirit can never do is implant justification, yet we need justification if we want our beliefs to be rational.


You say that personal experience can justify belief, in fact you say "at bottom, the only evidence we could possibly have for anything." Yet you say that Christians cannot experience God to justify their belief in God as grounds for it. But by definition it is only available to Christians after all. And I am not speaking of getting goose bumps or having a chill go down my neck. I am speaking of direct experience of the divine Holy Spirit Himself.

But you seem to think that one could not make justifiable rational inferences from this experience, perhaps because it is not a thought per-say. On the contrary. Let me explain. If you were to taste honey you would naturally conclude that it is sweet and of a certain texture (perhaps thick). However it is not the implantation of any thought in your head at the moment of tasting that makes you conclude it is sweet. Rather, it is the physical experience of tasting the honey by which you make a justifiable rational inference that it is sweet and of a certain texture.

Likewise, when I experience God, it is an experience not of the implantation of any thought, but by direct experience, just as in the case of honey, I can justifiably conclude certain properties of the thing experienced (in this case, God). This is how I conclude that He is loving, merciful, and graceful. Such a thing, as I explained, is both rational and justified. What I have said does not necessarily mean a Christian God, but with a man (or woman, idk) such as yourself who debates Christians, I would be more than happy if you grant me that my experiences justifies such conclusions about God. If you will do that, I could move on to explain how it could justify more distinctly Christian beliefs.

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hatsoff

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« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2011, 07:38:06 am »
emailestthoume wrote: You say that personal experience can justify belief, in fact you say "at bottom, the only evidence we could possibly have for anything." Yet you say that Christians cannot experience God to justify their belief in God as grounds for it. But by definition it is only available to Christians after all. And I am not speaking of getting goose bumps or having a chill go down my neck. I am speaking of direct experience of the divine Holy Spirit Himself.

But you seem to think that one could not make justifiable rational inferences from this experience, perhaps because it is not a thought per-say. On the contrary. Let me explain. If you were to taste honey you would naturally conclude that it is sweet and of a certain texture (perhaps thick). However it is not the implantation of any thought in your head at the moment of tasting that makes you conclude it is sweet. Rather, it is the physical experience of tasting the honey by which you make a justifiable rational inference that it is sweet and of a certain texture.

Likewise, when I experience God, it is an experience not of the implantation of any thought, but by direct experience, just as in the case of honey, I can justifiably conclude certain properties of the thing experienced (in this case, God). This is how I conclude that He is loving, merciful, and graceful. Such a thing, as I explained, is both rational and justified. What I have said does not necessarily mean a Christian God, but with a man (or woman, idk) such as yourself who debates Christians, I would be more than happy if you grant me that my experiences justifies such conclusions about God. If you will do that, I could move on to explain how it could justify more distinctly Christian beliefs.


I would suggest that as soon as you begin to talk about experiences  of the Holy Spirit, you have taken for granted that we can infer  the Holy Spirit causes those experiences.  Take your honey analogy, for  instance.  When we have a taste of honey, we may well conclude that  honey is sweet.  But this conclusion is based on a pre-existing  understanding of what honey is (and this comes essentially from our mental models of the physical world which develop in infancy).  In other words, it depends on the  assumption that we know there is some existing thing called honey, and  that it might be the cause of us having the sweet-tasting experience.  

So if you already believe there is a God, then perhaps you could begin  to decide for which experiences He is responsible and which He is not.   But we don't automatically get to infer that God exists from those  experiences.  Instead we need a careful and reasoned inference.  Unfortunately, we have insufficient evidence to justify such an inference.

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troyjs

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« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2011, 08:05:34 am »
Epistemologically, if we begin with the assumption that God may or may not exist, then it is impossible to reasonably infer either way. This is the case even with things seemingly fundamental as arithmetic and geometry. In Calvinism, our knowledge of God is innate and a priori. We are not born with a 'tabula rasa', or a blank-mind, which begins to learn through the medium of the senses. It is fascinating to see how many Christians are empiricists. An epistemology must be self-verifying, or circular, in order to be consistent, just as logic must be logical. In this way, if the Christian's epistemology leads him to believe that his belief in God comes from the Holy Spirit, then it would be inconsistent for him to believe otherwise. For if he did believe otherwise, he would be believing something according to a different epistemology, and therefore not thinking as a Christian. Why should he think in accordance to non-christian presuppositions? To think that our belief in God, may not come from God, is to assume non-christian presuppositions. How then do we choose which presuppositions, or first-principles to adhere to? It is logically impossible to be certain, unless there is a God, and God chooses for us. The  Christian, or at least the Calvinist, maintains that the atheist already has innate knowledge of God, he is just in rebellion against his creator, and is self-deceived to believe that God does not exist.
Knowing one thing, yet believing it's negation, is the pinnacle of irrational thought.
“Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christ” -- John Calvin.
“I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels” -- John Calvin

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FNB - Former non-believer

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« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2011, 07:06:09 pm »
I think Troy makes a good point. I'd respond more but I think he already did a good job. Not that I think his is the only possible response. I think it is possible that the greatness of the thing experienced is perhaps sufficient to justify belief. And after all in Christian belief, man is made in the image of God, God is a personal being, and we make judgments based on our apprehension of the intentions of persons all the time. It is not as if you are asking someone who has never tasted anything to taste honey and infer its sweetness. It is more like someone who has tasted things which are mildly sweet being given something which is so sweet it is clear that it was concocted by a professional chef. And with the "spirit" experience it is even greater, for the analogy of sweetness represents holiness or love, which are feeling which can be translated to qualities of a personal being.


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Namo

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« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2011, 11:23:26 am »
Hatsoff,

Have you had the inner whiteness of the Holy Spirit?


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innerbling

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« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2011, 07:18:54 am »
The problem with autonomous human reasoning without revelation and some form of reformed epistemology is that it is arbitrary in its nature. This is because we do not see the structure or the ontic nature of the world with our senses but we must infer it from incomplete and finite data. So the agnostic/atheist cannot rationally justify his worldview but has to make subjective pronouncements about ontology.

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innerbling

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« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2011, 07:32:01 am »
For the educated Christian, the rationality of the Spirit's witness is still contingent on arguments and evidence.  


One must understand that if one wants to remain intellectually integrous doubt should never undermine reasonableness of the world. Thus the educated Christian should understand that if he rejects rationality of the Spirits witness he rejects rationality as there is no other epistemology that can give us non-arbitrary knowledge.