Friday, November 27, 2009

Us Reason: Why Christian Knowledge Matters by J. P. Moreland

Notes from the Come, Let Us Reason Conference in New Orleans.

Three competing world-views: 1. Scientific naturalism. 2. Post-modernism. 3. Theism/Christianity. (what about African worldviews?)

View is that only scientific or empirical knowledge is certain knowledge. Christianity may be true -- but we cannot know that it is true.

The focus on scientific naturalism has resulted in the emergence of a new personality type: "the Empty Self"
* inordinately individualistic
* infantile
* passively addicted to entertainment and consumption
* can't give themselves to something bigger -- no one would know what that would be

Three types of knowledge:

1. Knowledge by acquaintance (experiential). E.g., the way we can know a person. We can know God this way.
2. Propositional knowledge. A true belief based on adequate reasons. We can know God this way. We do not pray, "Our Father who probably art in heaven".
3. Know-how or skill. You can know all about bicycles and riding them, but not know how to ride a bike. You can know all about water and swimming methods, but not know how to swim. We can know God this way. Know how to operate in the gifts of the Spirit, hearing God's voice, etc.

Five social shifts resulting from the abandonment of non-empirical knowledge (1930s):

1. Xy - emphasis goes from knowing to "blind faith" The make-up man becomes more important than the speech-writer.

2. Emphasis on character shifts to emphasis on satisfaction of desire. Until the 1930s we believed that we could know what was right and wrong just like we could know that water = H2O. Now we have salvation through sensuality - sex, music, food.

3. Nature of freedom. Shifts from the power to do what I ought (e.g., I have a musical gift, I also have the freedom to develop this gift) to the right to do what I want. Freedom comes under knowledge of reality, but if we can't know reality, then we are "free" do what we want.

4. Shift from virtue and duty to rights and self. The abortion question is framed not in terms of what a woman of character would do, but on what her rights are. Kids in a Just Say No to Drugs class all say they are saying no to drugs for matters of personal fulfillment -- so I can play soccer, etc., not, e.g., so that I don't bring dishonor to my parents, or, e.g., so that I can be a useful contributing member of society.

5. Shift in the meaning of tolerance. Classic definition starts with the assumption that something that really matters "X" is wrong, but tolerated. Again, this assumes that you can know something. The contemporary view is that you are not even to make the judgment that the other person's beliefs or behavior is wrong.

Assessment: An accessible, socially-relevant talk on epistemology without using the term!


stone1343 said...

You obviously have no idea what you're talking about. "Scientific naturalism" hasn't done any of those things to me, this is just what you guys want to believe. I see a wonderful, amazing natural world, I see people I love that are trying to do their best in the world, I see every reason for people to do what they can to make the world a better place.

Your three types of knowledge and your five shifts are complete BS too. You're complaining about societal changes but forgetting that the vast majority of North Americans are Christians, it is Christians who are driving this change more than any other group. You continually confuse knowledge of reality with "faith" or "belief".

Look, if you feel God's love, I'm cool with that, but I'm fed up with you people who think you're better than me because of your delusions. I'll stack my ethics up against yours any day. You and I both do what we know is right, but one difference remains, it doesn't take any "heaven" or "hell" to motivate me to do right.

RkBall said...


1. No-one said that scientific naturalism has done anything to you. I doubt that the speaker even knows you. This is not about you. This is about world-views and societal trends.

2. It is true that many North Americans are Christians, but Christians do not wield the levers of power, specifically the institutions of the media, universities, and government -- especially the courts. The mindset is secular and, largely, godless.

3. Look, I don't know you. I don't think I'm better than you. Your ethics may be better than mine -- that's not the point. We are talking about societal trends. Abortions are up. Dishonesty in reporting income taxes is up. Sex outside of marriage is up. Cheating on exams is up. Illegitimate births are up. Lying to employers is up. Adultery is up, and what was once viewed as a serious moral lapse, illegal even, is now viewed as hardly worth talking about. The institution of marriage rooted in biological reality is being shattered. Divorce is up. The natural right of a child to be born and raised his mother and father are being trampled by trendy sexually liberating ideologies; fraud is up -- don't think so? check with your local bank and the increased anti-fraud mechanisms in place -- this is world-view stuff.

4. I'm glad you're highly ethical and don't need an external motivation. So what? Jesus said "the Gentiles" behaved as you have indicated -- loving their own, etc., but that it would not be enough to enter the kingdom of heaven. The apostle Paul said the same thing in the book of Romans. It is not good enough to be as good as the next guy, or even better.

Ethical now? Christ can make you even better. Anyone honestly desiring to be perfectly loving, honest, and righteous will seek Christ because he can enhance and perfect whatever you've got going for yourself now.

If you have no desire to be better, and no desire or hope for anything beyond the grave, then, party-on. If you want to live forever with the most ethical, righteous, self-sacrificing man who ever lived, then get with the program -- it's up to you.

RkBall said...

PS -- thanks for taking the time to post. I'm glad you agree that ethics are important.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"