The Christian View of Knowledge Part 5, Scripturalism

Empiricism, Rationalism, and a Kantian blend of the two have proven themselves to be failures in developing a sound foundation for true knowledge. Let us now examine the third epistemological viewpoint: Revelationalism or Scripturalism, commonly referred to as Presuppositionalism, or negatively as dogmatism, holds that nothing can be called truth or knowledge in any absolute sense unless it is derived from the revelation of God, specifically in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.

The Bible itself makes this claim as the source of knowledge:

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”  -2Tim 3:16,17

If all Scripture is profitable in this manner, we need no other source for our knowledge. If knowledge of Scripture makes the man of God completely furnished or equipped, He needs nothing else epistemologically speaking – Scripture is sufficient. This is the claim of Scripturalism. Whatever the Bible says, or whatever can be deduced from propositions in the Bible is true knowledge, epistemically sound knowledge, which can be found nowhere else.

This being the case, it would be beneficial to point out that what first may have appeared as three different worldviews or epistemic foundations, Empiricism, Rationalism, and Scripturalism, can now be narrowed down to two: man’s attempt at knowledge on his own terms apart from God and God’s truth being received by man, through the grace of God. I either form my own philosophy based on how I think the world ought to be perceived or I adopt another. I either adopt the wisdom of men or the wisdom of God. The problems of those who reject the wisdom of God in their philosophy are insurmountable. An attempt at knowledge beginning with finite man can never arrive at an absolute conclusion. Dr. Robert Reymond is to the point on this:

“It is an epistemological axiom that unless there is comprehensive knowledge of all things somewhere there can be no knowledge anywhere. This is because all knowledge data is inextricably interrelated. For the finite knower to begin with himself alone with any datum, whether that datum be subjective or objective, ideal or material, mental or nonmental, and to seek to understand it comprehensively and exhaustively must inevitably lead him to other data, but being finite he cannot examine any datum or all possible relationships of that one datum comprehensively or exhaustively, not to mention al the data in the universe. Furthermore, there is no way he can be assured that the next datum he might have examined at the point at which he concluded His research in his finiteness would have accorded with all that he had concluded to that point or would have required him to reevaluate his entire enterprise to that point. The only way to escape the force of this fact is to avoid the entire question of epistemology.” [1]

Sinful man's thinking on his own terms will never bring him to true knowledge

We have seen this to be the case in our examination of each view. Neither rationalism nor empiricism can account for universal norms. Rationalism presupposes the universal norms of logic, but cannot demonstrate validly any kind of ethic or law. Empiricism may claim to learn through an observation of nature and behavior of men and the world but can never deduce an “ought” from the things they report. Man may hold to an hodgepodge of philosophies from various thinkers in the past, but it is impotent in that it can never rise to a universal truth and is therefore useless as an epistemology. If the unbeliever does not have a sound epistemology, he cannot justify a knowledge of anything else. Epistemology is basic to all other knowledge.

Scripture, to be sure, claims to be the source of absolute knowledge and is exclusive in its claim. Proverbs 2:6 says it is God who gives wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 9:10 tells us knowing God brings understanding. Daniel 2:21 likewise claims wisdom is given from God and if a man understands, it is because God has given him knowledge. Christ rebuked the lawyers in Luke 11:52 because they took away the key to knowledge, the Scriptures, from the people. Colossians 2:3 informs us in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. If all wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ, be sure, it can be found in no other place. In fact when Scripture refers to man’s knowledge (or what he claims to be knowledge) it is always with a negative connotation. 1 Corinthians 2:7 says the wisdom of the world does not amount to anything. Paul, in Philippians 3:8, counted all his knowledge as dung compared to the knowledge of Christ. Jeremiah 2:13 says God is the fountain of living waters, and all else is as broken cisterns that hold no water.

With Scripture we have a functioning epistemology. We have answers to the questions so relevant to every day life and to society at large. Dr. John Robins summarized the Scriptural philosophy like this:

1) Epistemology: The Bible tells me so.
2) Soteriology: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
3) Metaphysics: In Him we live and move and have our being
4) Ethics: We ought to obey God rather than man.
5) Politics: Proclaim liberty throughout the land [2]

What society needs is sound exposition of the Word of God. In the midst of the turmoil and confusion present today the Bible has solid answers to the hardest questions. The Bible, however, is scoffed at; it is considered irrelevant, outdated, and even bigoted.

Though man’s attempts at fixing the problems fail time and time again, they return to their sources or reasoning as a dog to his own vomit. It is man attempting to advance his own kingdom on his own terms, rather than advancing God’s kingdom on His terms. As Christians we must reassert the authority of Scripture to a culture that has rejected it. We must demonstrate the problems of their actions and expose the corruptness of their roots of reason. Consider these words from Dr. Carl F H Henry:

“We need an expository ministry that brings forward into the civilizational crisis of the present the lessons of God’s external providence in history and the cosmos, nor fail to stress that naturalistic science, philosophy, and ethics rest on false assumptions about the real world. In the very cosmos that modern scientists investigate and in the very history that contemporary historians evaluate, the living God manifests himself and works out his sovereign purposes. While secular methodologies arbitrarily exclude him, God remains nonetheless the God of nature and history.”[3]

Man’s problem is naturally he will never accept the truth of Scripture over his own notions of truth (1 Cor 2:14). It is as though he were dead and unable to come to the knowledge of the truth (Eph 2:1). This poses a question: How do we convince the unbeliever of the truth of Scripture if he cannot naturally receive it? The answer is:

We don’t.

This may sound outrageous to some people. One may ask: How will anyone be convinced of the truth of Scripture if we don’t attempt to prove the veracity of the Scripture? If one does not believe the Bible is true, how could he ever believe the epistemological, soteriological, ethical, and political implications in the Bible? It would seem we first have to prove the Bible is true. Contrary to this notion, the Bible says man is endowed with a knowledge of God innately, that is, without learning it. “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them.” (Rom 1:19) This is sufficient knowledge “so that they are without excuse” (1:20) when they are judged for not glorifying God and ethically conforming to His dictates.

Consider also this analogy: A man breaks into your home and threatens to bring harm to your family. You have a firearm and are able to use it. Do you take great effort in convincing the man your weapon is real and has the ability to hurt him, or do you pull the trigger and make him a believer? This analogy is appropriate because Scripture likens itself to a sword (Heb 4:12).  As a farmer would you attempt to convince the dirt of the ability of your implements to break up its hardness, or do you till the ground and make a garden?

God’s Word always accomplishes its purpose (Isa 55:11). Our duty is to simply proclaim it. In philosophy we expound theology. In ethics and politics we study the Law of God and examine its case studies. In apologetics we show the failure of the secular system of reasoning and expound Scripture in its purity. We become theologians so as to act in accord with God’s commands . Because the best husband is the man who loves God (Dut 11:13) and loves his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it (Eph 5:25) and the best citizen is the man who honors all men, loves the people of God, honors his magistrate (1 Peter 2:17) and knows the Law of God (Hosea 4:6). The best magistrate is the one who upholds God’s Law with justice and equity (2Chor 34:ff). The best society is the one who fears God and obeys His commandments, for “blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.” (Ps 33:12)

– Ben Murch

Endnotes:

[1] Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 111, 112
[2] Robbins, Forward to Introduction to Christian Philosophy by Gordon H Clark, 1
[3] Henry, The Christian Mindset in Secular Society, 36

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