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Defining Epistemology

Defining Epistemology

By definition, of being a “STARTING point,” it cannot be deduced. Consider this from a 3 premise syllogism or chain syllogism. Where does the major premise come from that starts the argument? Or if we start with a syllogism and ask where does the major premise come from, one might say, “well it comes from this previous syllogism, or premise.” We can do this for a while, and we will have three options. The first, is to say it is an infinite regress. This ends up in skepticism, and thus denies the law of contradiction.[1] Second, is to say, “I do not know.” This seeming authentic answer hides the fact that you are really saying, “I know that I do not know.” This option is stupid and a self-contradiction, and thus, it has no existence. To know that we do not know is a contradiction. To be true, it must be false at the same time. It ends up in an infinite regress of affirming and denying the same thing.[2] This problem is not limited to thinking; rather, it has ontological implications as well. For example, try saying, “I do not exist”? “You” cannot do it without using “your” existence. This shows the ontological impossibility. That is, reality stops me from doing this contradiction. It does not, and cannot exist. A square circle does not exist in my mind or reality. The law of contradiction is not only a law of thinking, it is a law of reality. If you have a contradiction, you have something that has no existence. Such stupid, non-existence is to be dismissed and tossed in the recycle bins of our minds.

Now though these are called laws of thought, and in fact, we cannot think except in accordance with them, yet they are really statements which we cannot but hold true about things. We cannot think contradictory propositions, because we see that a thing cannot have at once and not have the same character; and the so-called necessity of thought is really the apprehension of a necessity in the being of things. This we may see if we ask what would follow, were it a necessity of thought only; for then, while e.g. I could not think at once that this page is and is not white, the page itself might at once be white and not be white. But to admit this is to admit that I can think the page to have and not have the same character, in the very act of saying that I cannot think it; and this is self-contradictory. The Law of Contradiction then is metaphysical or Ontological.[3]

Since the first & second options are a thinking and ontological impossibility, then consider the other. In this third option, if we keep going back, we must eventually hit the starting point or origin of knowledge. This starting point cannot be deduced, because it is a starting premise and not a conclusion.

There are some irrational comments about this floating around, for some anti-Christian commentaries say that a first principle is not “provable” in any sense. However, provable, in the context of philosophy, logic and doctrine has a strict meaning. It means a deduction. This is true, as far as it goes. However, just because something is not deducible does not mean it is not provable in the sense of giving a logical justification or warrant for why one should pick this first principle over all others.  For example, consider the aspect of the self-authenticating principle of the law of noncontradiction, that we just went over. It is not a deduction. It is not circular, because we never left from doing the law of noncontradiction.[4] Yet, it was justified as true because of its necessary and self-authenticating nature.

For a quick comment about this self-authentication of the LoC. It only works because we are only considering it on this narrow slice of reality, and we are ignoring some of the presuppositions that are needed to discuss this in the first place. For example, logic does not even give us knowledge about itself, because it is dealing with the structure of thought, and not the content (terms and premises) of thought. But more on this later.

And so, a worldview or system-of-thinking about the world, must start somewhere. The option of not knowing is implausible with reality. Thus, the next question is if your epistemology is a good one or a bad one. That is, does the starting point of your worldview make knowledge possible or not possible?

Some try to make this point vague or blur it by saying a worldview might be an interconnection of several starting points like a bridge with many supports. This appeal is a red-herring or sleight-of-hand fallacy, to divert attention away that their epistemology is in ruin. It is irrelevant, because even if so, some points would be more foundational than others; thus, if we were to discover one of these foundations were compromised, then the whole structure would fail.

For example, if one attempted to make a dual epistemology with the Scripture and something else “x,” and this “x,” was shown to be faulty, then it would falsify the scripture, which was said to have taught this hybrid epistemology.

Additionally, if one wishes to claim more than one starting point for knowledge, then if one of the epistemologies (K) makes a judgement about one of the other epistemologies (B bible), then in fact this (K) is a higher or more foundational starting point. It is the true starting point that judges the others. If empiricism (or my observations and emotions, or skin color (etc)) gives me additional knowledge that I use to judge the Bible, (if the Bible is correct on this point or that point), then empiricism is a higher starting point over the Bible. Empiricism would be my major premise in a syllogism.

In the quote below, Vincent is using the term “worldview,” but the context is relating more directly to the first principles or the presuppositional level of worldviews. His context is about “how a starting point is completely true versus only partly,” but the overall point addresses our present topic.

Suppose a given system of thought includes the following propositions: (1) X is a man, and (2) X is an accountant. If, in reality, (1) is true but (2) is false, how will a person know to affirm (1) and deny (2), unless he is already acquainted with X? Unless the system is completely true (or false), there is no way to tell which proposition is true (or false) without importing knowledge from outside of the system, and if one imports knowledge from outside of the system, then he would be evaluating the system in question by the second system from which he has gained the knowledge to evaluate the first.

That is, if worldview A is not complete true or false, then there is nothing within worldview A by which we can accurately judge a particular proposition within worldview A as true or false. If we bring in something that we know from worldview B by which we judge something within worldview A, then we are making worldview B to stand in judgment over worldview A. But if one has already obtained knowledge that is accurate, relevant, and extensive enough from worldview B by which to evaluate worldview A, then he cannot meaningfully learn anything from worldview A. He is judging it, not learning from it.[5]

To summarize, even in a so-called multi-structure of starting points, there will be one that is more foundational, and that stands first above the others to judge and evaluate them.  The question is, if the starting point of your philosophy makes any knowledge possible? If not, then not only do you not have a worldview to discuss, you do not even have the knowledge to discern “if cats are planets” and “if rocks are clouds.” You have nothing.

END NOTES

[1] This impossibility of infinite regress will rear its ugly head when dealing with other ontological issues, such as if matter always existed. It is not impossible to progress forwards in time for infinity; however, if matter was eternal, then today would have never reached. You cannot say ‘matter has existed for an unreachable amount of time,’ to then say, ‘it has now reached today’. As said before, a contradiction has no existence. How stupid men become when suppressing God’s truth.

[2] To affirm the proposition, “Adam is a man” (X), is to deny the contradictory proposition, “Adam is not a man” (Y, or not-X). Likewise, to affirm the proposition, “Adam is not a man” (Y), is to deny the contradictory proposition, “Adam is a man” (X). Now, to affirm both “Adam is a man” (X) and “Adam is not a man” (Y) is only to deny both propositions in reverse order. That is, it is equivalent to denying “Adam is not a man” (Y) and “Adam is a man” (X). But then we are back to affirming the two propositions in reverse order again. When we affirm both, we deny both; when we deny both, we affirm both.

Therefore, there is no intelligible meaning in affirming two contradictory propositions. It is to say nothing and to believe nothing.

-Vincent Cheung. Systematic Theology. 2010. Pg. 21

[3] H.W.B. Joseph. 1906. An introduction to LOGIC. Pg.13

[4] “Think about this. If the law of contradiction is the “ultimate” or foundational law of logic, then how can we prove the law of contradiction? Can you prove it without using it? If you can, then the law of contradiction would necessarily be a secondary law. But if you must use it to prove it, then are you being circular? Where is the circle? For something to circle back, you need to move away from it first, but how can you depart from the law of contradiction, so that you can circle back to it to make the fallacy happen? If you can understand this, then you can apply it to biblical apologetics. The only difference is that the law of contradiction has no content, so it is less likely to confuse you. But the principle is the same.”

Vincent Cheung. From his blog post in http://www.vincentcheung.wordpress.com. Sept. 2016.

[5] Vincent Cheung. The Light of Our Minds. 2004. Pg 36 (www.vincentcheung.com)

I Reserved 7000 Who Have Not Bowed to Empiricism

They only problem with handling adult doctrines like God’s Sovereignty, predestination, election, reprobation is if you are a child you will end up hurting yourself and those around you. I remember Vincent Cheung saying something like this several years ago and it keeps repeating itself to be true in my encounters with church people.

When knowledge does not increase a person’s faith, it only increases his ability to pretend. Just because someone takes it upon himself to handle an “adult” doctrine does not mean that he is mature spiritually and intellectually. You can let an infant drive a car, but he will probably crash it. Putting him in the driver’s seat does not make him an adult. Likewise, most theologians are spiritual kids, although they handle adult doctrines. They are just pretending. They play around with divine sovereignty, the covenants, the history of redemption, and so on, but when they drive — when they formulate, teach, and implement these doctrines — they wreck faith. [1]

I had another brief conversation with person (we will call them Billy) about faith and healing. I was sharing some verses about faith and healing and encouraging them to grow their faith. I specifically commented on the fact that faith in God’s promises (whether for salvation or healing) always guarantees you will receive what you ask for.

I was quoting from John 15:7-8,

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you,

ask whatever YOU want and it will be done for you.

My Father is glorified by this:

that you bear much fruit,

and prove to be MY disciples.”

Not only does it say you will get what “YOU” want (it does not say what GOD wants but what “YOU” want), but Jesus Christ says answers to prayers (for the things “YOU WANT”) is a test of orthodoxy. Jesus says it “proves” you are a disciple if you pray for what “you” want and God gives this to you.

Why is this? Because only insiders of the Covenant can do this. Outsiders do not have this access to the Father. Jesus Christ gives a test of orthodoxy that cannot be mimicked or faked. Only children are able to ask for anything they want, and the Father give it to them.  Reprobates and outsiders to the covenant do not have this precious access or life.

It is the same type of proof that Jesus gave for Himself as the Son of man. The religious fakes and fanboys would wash the outside of the cup, and thus fake this aspect to give proof they are part of the Elect. However, because they are in fact reprobates, they cannot do the true proof of orthodoxy, which is faith. Faith gives direct access to God and proves you are part of the Elect. Jesus gave proof that God heard His prayers, and by this He proved He had the Father’s approval. This proof was not something He did by His own power, but God gave Him the fullness of the Spirit (which we are also commanded to receive) and gave Him the things He asked for in prayer. Jesus therefore, gave proof that the insider status He had with God was of the closest type. Jesus said more than once we ought to believe He is who He claims to be, because of His miracles. And guess what, God commands that we also do something similar to prove we are insiders. He commands His followers, receive answered prayers for miracles as proof they are Elect and not reprobates who are thrown into the fire. He demands a type of proof reprobates cannot mimic.

Apart from this “proof” of discipleship, the precious truth we see is how intimate our Contract insider status is. God so loves us, so considers us as children who sits at His table with Him, that we can ask for what WE want and God will gladly give it to us. The Father sent His only begotten Son, to be crucified in agony and torn apart with scourging; He points His finger at Jesus’ bloody corpse and says, “I will do what I promise.” He goes beyond all measure to give extra assurance that He will do what He promises. He promises to give us what we ask for. Think about how loving and kind God is to us. How loyal is His unmerited favor for those whom He loves!

Billy responded with this:

“Where are all these miracles?
I do not see them.
If what you are saying I true,
then no one is saved.”

In my mind the first thought that came up was, “you David Hume Empiricist prostitute, you spiritual adulterer and spiritual pervert. You have whored yourself to the world at the most fundamental level of your worldview, and rejected God.”

Knowing this person considered themselves “Reformed,” I responded with how God Himself dealt with a similar accusation. First Paul says in Romans chapter 9 that when calculating what we can observe humanly (i.e. empiricism and induction) it could infer that God has failed to save His people. But Paul says God has not failed, because He only promised to bless those who are part of the promise by election, and not by natural birth of being a Jew.  An excessive amount of reprobates does not negate God’s promise to save those whom He elected.

Paul then brings up the example of Elijah and God, as an example. Elijah is a major player in Israel. He is well known. He has been around. He seen and done much in Israel. After all he has been through, he becomes discouraged and says to God that he is the only believer left in Israel.  Like I said, Elijah isn’t some small farmer who has never been anywhere. He as known and see many things in Israel. Thus, from a human evaluation standpoint, he has more credibility than most to make an inductive, albeit irrational conclusion from his observation. He concludes that he is the only one left who believes God. He asserts this conclusion, based on his empiric observation and inductive conclusion to God as a fact. God turns around and rebukes Elijah. God tells Elijah that He has kept for Himself 7000 people who have remained faithful to Him. This is in context of Romans 9, where God says before people are born, or do good or bad, He choses to hate one or love the other, in accordance to His own free choice of election and reprobation.

 “God has not rejected his people, whom he foreknew! Or do you not know, in the passage about Elijah, what the scripture says—how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life!” But what does the divine response say to him? “I have left for myself seven thousand people who have not bent the knee to Baal.” So in this way also at the present time, there is a remnant selected by grace,” Romans 11:2-5.

This same answer God gave to Elijah, Paul says it true in his day, and is also true for today.

Thus, when someone says, “I do not see all these miracles and answers to prayers (like Jesus stated and commanded, John 15:7-8)), thus, there are none, and yet I know God will save people, thus what Jesus said cannot mean what it obviously means,” they are acting just as irrational, arrogant as Elijah. God’s rebuke to Elijah is applicable here to. God has reversed for Himself 7,000, or 70,000,000 million for Himself who have not bowed their knee to empiricism (Baal) and rejected Jesus’ command for answered prayers. Despite what Elijah can observe and calculate, what God says is the only starting point for knowledge. God is true when He says there is a remnant according to Election, and Elijah was a liar and false witness against the truth. His false witness against the truth was based off his human empiricism and inductive conclusion.

So what if you do not see and overabundance of answered prayers and miracles? Even if it means there are an excessive amount of reprobates in the church, just like with Paul and the Jews, it does not mean God as failed. It means the reprobates failed to be insiders because of their lack of faith, and the rest, probably because you are a reprobated yourself, you are not around enough to see God’s power working.

Religious fanboys and reformed like to use the doctrine of election and reprobation, but this doctrine is an adult doctrine and so is wasted on children like themselves. This doctrine of reprobation is pointed at their face like a gun, which they are holding. They will hurt themselves and those around them when they use it. Maybe the reason they use the word reprobate so much is because they are reprobates and simply like the word, by God’s providence.

I love God’s providence, because I do not reject have the bible. As Vincent Cheung points out in “Predestination and Miracles,” I am predestined for miracles. But you outsiders of the Covenant, just because you narrowly understand some aspects of God’s sovereignty and reprobation, does not save you from being one.  Just because Satan can teach you about some aspects of Hell, does not save him from being imprisoned there. Maybe he knows about it because he is understands first hand what it is be God’s enemy and under His punishment.

If you are a true disciple, you will whole heartily have faith for all of God’s commands, promises and sovereign faithfulness. Those who have been
“born from above” do not make excuses for their lack of faith if they struggle; rather, they cry out like the father seeking deliverance for his son, “help my unbelief.” The Elect will seek and find stronger faith. They are real disciples, who grown in faith, rather than in unbelief. They progress forward, rather than shrinking back.  They are true insiders; therefore, the Spirit speaks in their souls, “you are a child of God, and so ask! and you will receive. Approach your Father, for He loves you.”

Starting Point for Knowledge.

The other aspect of this person’s response is rejection of God at the deepest level of one’s worldview.  That is, when dealing with the ultimate question of knowledge (I am using knowledge here as truth), what is the STARTING or first principle where you get this knowledge? Every other ultimate question, whether about existence, causality, ethics, value, history, man salvation etc., will come from this starting point of knowledge. To say it is important is an understatement.

The Reformed like to mock the Catholics for boasting about their dual starting point for knowledge with the addition of the Pope. But what is the Pope? He is a man. When the Pope gives additions to the Scripture it is from empiricism (which is a logical fallacy) and then mostly will have addition fallacies of induction in other forms. The terms for these are speculation (for empiricism) and superstition (for any form of inductive logic).  The key point for both is a “man,” starting point for knowledge. In this epistemology man does not start with God’s revelation, but with man. Man, through fallacious empiricism, somehow miraculous get knowledge from observation. Man then uses superstitious induction to formulate a premise to then deduce from. But sense this premise is formulated by speculation and superstition, then applying the logic of deduction cannot rescue it from being non-knowledge. It is a “man” starting point of knowledge versus a God starting point of knowledge that is revealed and not sensed. As Jesus said to Peter, “flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father has.”

Just by the simple calculation of logic, empiricism is demonstrated as irrational. And so, as a starting point of knowledge it is ontologically impossible.[2]

However, since the Scripture is my starting point, what does this infallible epistemology say about empiricism? Vincent Cheung, first brought these verses to my attention.

Commenting on 2 Kings 3:16-24[3] he says,

“What did the Moabites see – blood or water? The Moabites thought they saw blood, but their senses deceived them. We know that they saw water that looked like blood because this is what the infallible testimony of Scripture says. Thus the passage points out that the senses are unreliable, and shows that we depend on divine inspiration to tell us about particular instances of sensations.”[4]

Vincent also lists John 12:28-29, Matthew 14:25-27, and Matthew 28:16-17.

Even though these are only a few instances of a Divine testimony of empiricism (knowledge starts with sensation) being wrong, it is enough to trash the whole thing into skepticism.

To show the importance of this, then consider if I were able to show just one instance where the Scripture was false. For example, what if it were false that Jesus was born in Israel, but rather born in South Asia? The issue is that it would cast doubt on the rest of the premises in the Scripture. The problem is not that any premise would definitely be wrong; rather, there would be no infallible mechanism to demonstrate how any given premise of Scripture is true. It would trash the whole bible (as a starting point for knowledge) into skepticism. The issue here, is that skepticism denies the law of non-contradiction; and thus, ontologically impossible.

If invisible knowledge comes by sensation is true, then where is the justification? Where is the sound argument to prove it?

To have a picture in the mind of Mt. St. Helens is a copy of it(2); it is not the actual Mountain(1). That is one category, and then another. In addition to this is another categorical leap; that is, to think propositional thoughts about(3) the indirect copy(2) of the real Mt. St. Helens(1). There is no logical justification for these 2 categorical leaps between premises and conclusion. In essence, the syllogism is like saying, “All dogs are mammals. All blue things are color. Therefore, All humans are clouds.” There is no more justification for that syllogism than saying the propositional thoughts in an invisible mind, about the picture copy in my physical brain, is knowledge about the real Mt. St. Helens. Both are playing with categorical reality as if it is play-dough. That might work to sell Fantasy novels, but not so much when asking questions about the reality we live in.

This has been said to demonstrate that our only starting point for knowledge is God. Any starting point that starts with “man,” leads to skepticism, but skepticism is logically impossible and does not exist. All human starting points of knowledge does not exist, except in delusion and fantasy.

Most Christians know this without me having to go into all this technical explanation of it. But when reprobates infiltrate the Church, and deceive people, we need to give a detailed and harsh rebuke to them.

Most will say something like, “the Bible is our final authority.” But what I am saying here is a more foundational statement. I start with the Bible as my only public first principle for knowledge, and only the bible. If you ‘say x’ is knowledge, and cannot show it came directly from the bible or deduces from it, then it is by definition not knowledge you can prove.

Therefore, when the Bible says if I have in God’s only Son to save me from my sin and confess it, then it a truth claim about reality. It is not a probability. It is a truth that will always be sure, and reliable. If Billy says, “well I have seen some Christians who have renounced their faith and now worship Satan. Therefore, the bible is wrong, or people do not understand what the bible says. What the bible really means is that one can have faith in God to be saved and God will still reject them hell.”

The problem with this is at the foundational level. Billy used a “human” starting point to produced so-called knowledge. Then uses this as a higher authority against the Bible, by making the Bible adjust its meaning to this knowledge produced by a human starting point of empiricism and induction. The problem with this that all human starting points to produce knowledge is nothing but speculation and superstition. No knowledge is produced when starting with a human epistemology, not even with things such as what is “tree” or what is a “dog.”

Most Christians hearing what Billy did with this aspect of faith and salvation would be alarmed; they would at least, have a vague idea Billy is using a human starting point to reject what the Bible clearly says about faith and salvation. But when it comes to faith for answered prayers and faith to be healed, then suddenly many Christians revert to using a human starting point for knowledge as if they are a 50 year grand master chess player. They revert to using of empiricism and induction as if they were world champions. They would make David Hume and the Pope blush in envy. If only they could stand on human starting points as reflexively as some Christians do, then maybe they could have brough more over to the side of Satan.

If falling on empiricism to produce knowledge is sooooo natural and reflexive, then it is a good chance, it is your true master and foundation. If you do not start with God for knowledge, how do you suppose you will conclude with His revelation? You will not of course.

If you read Jesus saying that if His words abide in you and you in Him, then you ask whatever you wish and God will give it to you, and you must start with this knowledge and no contradict it. Obviously you cannot just the Scripture to contradict this because it and Jesus say over and over if you have faith, (whether for salvation, healing or whatever you wish), you will have it. Jesus says it is what “YOU” want.

If there is a wrong place for YOU, then it starting with YOU when producing knowledge. If you use YOU to produce the knowledge that “what Jesus says over and over is not what He means, but what Jesus meant is you can ask in faith and God will still reject it,” then you are a reprobate, or at least on this point you are playing the part of one. To revert and say, “I do not see.., or I observe.., or the church fathers did not see or observe,” then you are nothing less than a plagiarized rehashed Pope. You are a spiritual pervert that the foundation level of knowledge. You do not start with God to get truth, you start with YOU. You have used speculation and superstition no less in proportion than some shaman observing the moon and concluding ‘x’ or ‘y.’

Why do people do this. First, this is now reprobates think. They are only doing what is natural for then. Apart from the Scripture as a starting point, all others (including all non-Christian religions) revert to using a human starting point is some way.  Thus, it is natural for reprobates to show their true human foundation when they find things in the Bible they do not like or makes they feel uncomfortable. Secondly, to hide their human starting point they will mock other obvious reprobates with human starting points such as the Pope. They do this to hide their human starting point in the shadow of the more obvious ones. They say solo Scriptura, but this is just a slight of hand to say, sola empiricism. Thirdly, like human approval and because it is natural for reprobates to start with a human epistemology other reprobates will be attracted to them and give them praise, approval and money.

If you are truly not a reprobate, but are only playing the part due to spiritual immaturity, then repent now while you still have a chance.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed. God is willing to forgive and restore. He will do what He promise. If you ask in faith for God to forgive, He will. If you are an insider to His love and covenant, then ask and receive, because He wants you to. He commanded that you do it, because He wanted the situation where you ask and He gives. God wanted this. You do not have beg.

Because of God’s promises, which He sovereignly wanted to make, and the Contacts He made in blood, God willfully made it so that it is necessary for Him to hear your prays in faith and give you what you want, whether spiritual or material. Jesus said it was “necessary” for the daughter of Abraham, (who was bent over for 18 years) to be healed on the Sabbath. The word for “necessary” here is like saying 5+5 necessarily equals 10. That is, 5+5=10 is not just a sufficient or good reason, it is a necessary one. Jesus says because she is an insider to God’s love and covenant it is “necessary” for God to heal her.

Jesus with perfection stood on God’s Word as His knowledge, and those who follow Him will do the same.

And this woman, who is a daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan bound eighteen long years—
is it not necessary
that she be released from this bond on the day of the Sabbath?”
(Luke 13:16 LEB)

Endnotes

[1] Vincent Cheung. Faith Override. From the ebook, Sermonettes Vol. 9. 2016.

[2] Even the secular philosopher David Hume admitted as much about his starting point of empiricism leading to skepticism.

[3] While the harp was being played, the power of the Lord came upon Elisha, 16 and he said, “This is what the Lord says: This dry valley will be filled with pools of water! 17 You will see neither wind nor rain, says the Lord, but this valley will be filled with water. You will have plenty for yourselves and your cattle and other animals. 18 But this is only a simple thing for the Lord, for he will make you victorious over the army of Moab! 19 You will conquer the best of their towns, even the fortified ones. You will cut down all their good trees, stop up all their springs, and ruin all their good land with stones.”

20 The next day at about the time when the morning sacrifice was offered, water suddenly appeared! It was flowing from the direction of Edom, and soon there was water everywhere.

21 Meanwhile, when the people of Moab heard about the three armies marching against them, they mobilized every man who was old enough to strap on a sword, and they stationed themselves along their border. 22 But when they got up the next morning, the sun was shining across the water, making it appear red to the Moabites—like blood. 23 “It’s blood!” the Moabites exclaimed. “The three armies must have attacked and killed each other! Let’s go, men of Moab, and collect the plunder!”

[4] Vincent Cheung. Presuppositional Confrontations. 2010. Pg 70. www.vincentcheung.com