Are You Epistemologically Self-Conscious?

Epistemology is the study of knowledge – how we know what we know.  When a person has a belief, it is reasonable to ask the person “how do you know this?”  The way in which a person responds to this kind of question will reveal his or her epistemology.  All people have an epistemology because they have some beliefs, and they have reasons for their beliefs.  But not all reasons are good reasons.  And if the reason isn’t very good, then there is a good chance that the belief is wrong.  So epistemology is very important if we want our beliefs to correspond to reality.

Most people have not consciously reflected on their own epistemology.  They haven’t stopped to ask themselves, “How do I ultimately know anything?  What are the standards by which truth is determined?  And are these standards reasonable?”  It is obvious that all people do have an epistemology because it would be impossible to know anything without some kind of system of knowledge – and people do know things.  But most people are not aware of their own epistemology.  They are not epistemologically self-conscious.

Some might say, “Who cares?  I’m not a philosopher.  So why should I be concerned with epistemology?  It is enough that I do know things.”  But in fact, our epistemology is crucially important because if it is wrong, then many of our beliefs derived from that faulty system will also likely be wrong.  If our epistemology is wrong, then we could be wrong about everything we think we know.

The reason for a belief must itself be believed for a good reason – and so on.  Suppose Jenny says, “I understand they are building a new apartment complex down the street.”  We might ask, “How do you know this?”  Jenny responds, “Bill told me.  He said he talked with the construction crew.”  Is this a reasonable answer?  It depends.  The reason for Jenny’s belief is Bill’s statement.  But is Bill’s statement reliable?  If it is, then Jenny’s belief is reasonable.  If not, then Jenny’s belief is irrational.  So we must know something about Bill in order to know if Jenny is being rational.

For example, it could be the case that Bill is a notorious liar.  If Jenny knows this, then it would be irrational for her to believe his statement without additional reasons.  But let’s suppose that Bill has shown himself to be trustworthy.  Even in this case, Bill could still be mistaken.  Maybe he has a mental disorder that causes him to hallucinate from time to time.  Bill may honestly believe that he talked with a construction crew, when in fact it never happened.  So Jenny’s belief is contingent upon both Bill’s honesty, and the reliability of Bill’s mind and sensory organs.

Jenny’s belief also depends upon the reliability of her own mind and senses.  Perhaps Jenny hallucinates on occasion and only thought that she talked with Bill.  Perhaps Bill does not actually exist, being only a projection of Jenny’s delusion.  How can Jenny know that her own mind and senses are reliable, such that she can know that she really talked with Bill?  Most people just assume that their senses are reliable without thinking about whether or not this belief is reasonable; they are not epistemologically self-conscious.  But these questions must be answered if we are to be confident that we have knowledge of anything at all.  If we are to be considered rational, then we must not continue to act on unsupported assumptions.

Christian epistemology makes knowledge possible.

The Christian worldview alone makes it possible for us to answer these questions and have genuine knowledge.  This is because knowledge stems from the nature of God (Proverbs 1:7, Colossians 2:3).  God has revealed some of His knowledge to us.  Some of this knowledge is hardwired directly into us, and other knowledge is revealed by God through tools that He has given us – like logic and reliable sensory organs.  The Christian worldview gives us rational justification for all the things that we rely upon in order to have knowledge.

For example, consider the rationality of the mind.  If we had no reason to believe that our mind is rational, then we would have no reason to trust any of our own thoughts.  In that case, we couldn’t know anything!  In the Christian worldview, we can have some degree of confidence in our mind’s ability to be rational since human beings are made in the image of God.  God’s mind is perfect by His nature.  And God has given us the ability to pattern our thoughts after His.  In fact, for our benefit, God has commanded us to pattern our thoughts after His, so that our thoughts will be truthful (Isaiah 55:7-8, John 14:6)

As another example, we can trust that our senses are basically reliable because God has created them (Proverbs 20:12).  What our eyes see and what our ears hear do correspond to reality.  Of course, on occasion our senses fail us because we are finite and also because of the curse.  An optical illusion is an example of this, and so is a mirage.  But God has given us several different senses and the rationality to compare data from different senses so that we can discern these rare instances.  So we can be confident that our senses are basically reliable.

As a third example, consider the laws of logic.  We use these laws instinctively to rightly judge certain kinds of truth claims.  We know that the statement, “My car is in the garage and it is not in the garage (at the same time and in the same way)” is false because it violates a law of logic.  But how do we know that laws of logic are reliable?  Even if they work sometimes, can we have any confidence that they work all the time, or in future situations that we have never experienced?  In the Christian worldview laws of logic are a reflection of the way God thinks.  Hence they will necessarily be right because God’s mind defines truth.  Laws of logic will be true everywhere in the universe and at all times because God is omnipresent and does not change.  We can know laws of logic because we are made in God’s image, and can think in a way that is consistent with His nature.

As a fourth example, we can have knowledge of morality – “right” and “wrong.”  God has revealed to us how we should behave according to His will.  And God will hold us accountable for our actions.  Hence, all people have an objective reason to behave according to the standards laid down in God’s Word.  We are morally obligated to our Creator.

The failure of secular epistemologies

Non-Christian worldviews would make knowledge impossible.  By this, I certainly do not mean that non-Christians can’t know anything.  Clearly they can.  But this is despite their worldview and not because of it.  My point is that if reality were the way non-Christians claim it is, then knowledge would be impossible. The reason is that these unbiblical worldviews cannot justify those things necessary for knowledge.  So while a non-believer might offer a reason for a belief, he or she cannot ultimately justify the reason itself from a non-Christian foundation.

For example, “I know Saturn has rings because I have observed them with my eyes through a telescope.”  But this assumes that our eyes are reliable – a Christian concept.  A person might say, “I know two contradictory claims cannot both be true because this violates a law of logic.”  Quite right, but apart from Christianity there is no reason to believe that laws of logic are universally and invariantly reliable.

As a specific example, consider the most common secular worldview – that the universe is the result of a big bang, followed by billions of years of cosmic and then biological evolution.  In this worldview, people are merely the inevitable unplanned result of chemistry acting over time.  There is no grand scheme of things, no ultimate mind upholding the universe, and no ultimate objective meaning.

Can a person holding such a view ever have good reasons for his beliefs?  Evolutionists do rely upon laws of logic, upon their mind and senses, and upon morality.  And these are good reasons – in the Christian worldview.  But in the secular worldview, can these reasons be justified?  If not, then a secularist would be irrational to believe them.

Why in the secular worldview should we suppose that our mind has the capacity to be rational?  Rationality involves choice; we consciously consider the various options and then choose the best.  But in the secular worldview, the brain is simply chemistry – and chemistry has no choice.  Chemicals always react according to prescribed laws of nature.  In the secular worldview, there is no more reason to trust a human brain than there is to trust in reading tea leaves.  Both are just the inevitable result of chemical reactions.

Should we trust that our senses are basically reliable?  Not in the secular worldview.  According to evolution, our sensory organs are merely the result of accidental mutations – those that did not decrease our survival value and were therefore not eliminated.  Some people might suppose that our sensory organs are reliable because they have survival value.  But this does not follow logically.  Chlorophyll has survival value in plants; but this does not imply that chlorophyll reliably informs the plant about the outside world.

Should we trust in laws of logic?  In a chance universe, there is no reason to expect there to be laws at all, nor laws of logic in particular.  Even if we grant their existence, the secular worldview cannot account for their properties.  Given that the universe is in a continual state of change, why should laws of logic be exempt?  We all assume that they will be the same tomorrow, but this belief is unwarranted in the secular worldview.  Why would they be the same everywhere?  How can the human mind know about them?  Why does truth always conform to laws of logic?  The secular worldview just doesn’t have a good reason for such things.  The existence and properties of laws of logic are unjustified in the secular worldview.  And hence, any belief based on them is also unjustified in the secular worldview.

What about knowledge of ethics?  Morality is about what should be, not what is.  In a chance universe, who decides what should be?  One person thinks that a particular behavior is commendable.  But another person disagrees.  Who is right?  Morality can only be subjective in a secular worldview; it is relative to the individual.  And of course, this isn’t truly morality at all – merely personal preferences.  In a secular universe there can be no such thing as an objective “right” and “wrong.”

Rationality

What is the difference between a rational person and an irrational one?  A rational person has a good reason for his or her beliefs.  An irrational person does not.  But what we have seen above is that only the Christian worldview can allow us to have good reasons for our most basic beliefs – our presuppositions.  Apart from the Christian worldview, any reason that we offer for any belief cannot be ultimately justified.  It would appear that there are only two options for a person to hold.  One can either be a consistent Christian, or one can be irrational.

431 Responses to Are You Epistemologically Self-Conscious?

  1. […] if you want to challenge yourself, read “Are you Epistemologically Self-Conscious?” and find out how you know what you know about God and your Christian […]

  2. Chris C says:

    Dr. Lisle, what are your thoughts on 2 Tim 3:16? Do you believe it is referring to (1) all of scripture, (2) only scripture that was written up until that point, or (3) as I’ve heard some suggest, only the books of the OT?

    Personally I don’t see why it has to be restricted to 2 or 3. If it is God’s word, and He is outside of time, I don’t see why He couldn’t have future scripture in mind when He inspired the verse.

  3. Dr. Lisle says:

    Position (1) would be the most natural interpretation. After all, the text says “All Scripture.” It surely would not be position (3), since the New Testament teaches that the New Testament is also Scripture (e.g. 2 Peter 3:16). And Paul knew this because He quotes the New Testament as Scripture (1 Timothy 5:18). Position (2) is not terribly different from position (1) because 2 Timothy is one of the last books of the Bible to be written – around A.D. 67. In context, Paul speaks in this chapter of things to come – the future from his point of view. So it makes most sense to think that he refers to Scripture in its entirety, even if a small fraction of it was yet to be written.

    • Chris C says:

      Good points, thanks Dr. Lisle! Although, I should have included v 17, because that brings up another question. It says “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” If we assumed position (1), would that mean that the no one (including the Apostles) at the time was “complete and equipped for every good work” because subsequent scriptures had yet to be written? I understand that the Apostles were inspired so maybe they don’t count, ie they don’t fall into the same category as other believers. But what are your thoughts on that?

      • Dr. Lisle says:

        That’s a deep and interesting question. God has revealed Himself progressively to mankind for His own sovereign reasons and purpose. And at each stage of revelation, it was possible for people to live by faith in a way that is pleasing to God – Hebrews 11 lists many of them. So, it seems that the Scriptures that people had at the time they lived were sufficient for those people to be complete and equipped for the task that God expected of them at that time. God never expects more from people than would be appropriate from what He has given them (Luke 12:48). We now have the complete cannon, yet we will have a much fuller revelation from God in the eternal state. But the revelation we have from God today is sufficient for us to be complete and equipped for every good work for our present situation.

  4. Bob Rogerwell says:

    Jason,

    I am always interested in knowing why people believe things. And thus your particular psychology is interesting to me.

    From your lecture at MIOS, and spending some time doing some reading, and going over my notes, I have come to the conclusion that your knowledge of science and how science works, is very cursory. For instance, your “galaxy simulation” more-or-less implies that you have never gone to YouTube and looked at galaxy simulations done on a supercomputer,…

    [Dr. Lisle: First, the result I showed is from a galaxy simulation done on a computer. Second, YouTube is not the most reliable source of scientific information.]

    …which indeed give us exactly the sort of galaxy shapes we see through a telescope.

    [Dr. Lisle: No, they don’t. Hence, secularists have a need to invoke something like density waves in order to get their theory to line up with observations. Without density waves, galaxies become tightly spiraled in well under 1 billion years.]

    In a galaxy simulation, all stars act on all other stars, thus your model is not valid — and this should be obvious to any Freshmen.

    [Dr. Lisle: It seems that you are not familiar with computer models, nor the basic physics of gravity. First, all computer models make some approximations because it isn’t possible to simulate separately all the individual effects of each atom in a galaxy. Second, as physicists have known for hundreds of years, the cumulative effects of gravity can be modeled very well; for example, the combined gravity of a spherical distribution of objects is the same as a point source of equal interior mass at the sphere’s center. Third, the simulation I conducted was not based on theoretical expectations of gravitational effects, but was based on the empirically measured velocities of the stars in the galaxy, based on their observed Doppler shifts. Other galaxies also show a similar velocity profile.]

    Then you talk about light’s speed and how it travels instantaneously toward an observer. This indicates a very poor understand of relativity.

    [Dr. Lisle: Einstein disagrees with you. See p. 22 of his 1961 primer on Relativity. The one-way speed of light is a stipulation, not an observation or hypothesis. Have you ever actually read anything about relativity?]

    In fact the speed of one-directional light travel can be measured — just not accurately.

    [Dr. Lisle: Documentation? With respect, it is obvious that you are not familiar with this topic at all and have not read any of the pertinent scientific literature. John Winnie showed that all of special relativity can be derived without one-way velocity assumptions. See: Winnie, J.A. 1970a&b. Special Relativity without one-way velocity assumptions: Part I&II. Philosophy of Science 37:81-99, 37:223-238. Also, Sarkar and Stachel show the advantages of the anisotropic synchrony convention in their 1999 article (in Philosophy of Science 66:208-220). A good starter article for you would be Wesley Salmon’s 1977 article “The philosophical significance of the one-way speed of light.” in Nous 11:253-292. Many other technical papers have been written on this topic, but these will give you a start at least.]

    Your degree does not impress me: in my own Degree there were certain students that could write all the math but never managed to grasp the actual concepts very well: I class you in that category.

    [Dr. Lisle: Do you have any evidence to support that claim? How do you know that you are not the one that does not grasp the concepts? I notice that you have a lot of opinions, but you are never able to back them up with any sort of evidence or rational argument. This will not do in science.]

    Basically, it is quite clear that at some level, you are surely being very dishonest.

    [Dr. Lisle: This contradicts your previous sentence. Namely, you had accused me of lack of understanding. However, to be dishonest requires one to understand (and then to state that which is contrary to one’s understanding). So which is it? Both accusations cannot be true simultaneously.]

    Perhaps your agenda is not to tell the truth at all, but to merely try and convince as many people as possible — people who are not savvy enough to know better.

    [Dr. Lisle: Considering that I’ve been able to back up my claims rationally, and considering that you have not, shouldn’t we consider that the reverse is more likely?]

    I am going to try end your career of deceiving the public by exposing the truth of you and your organization. I don’t believe your crimes are limited to merely lying to children in the present day and age.

    [Dr. Lisle: I would encourage you to get some education in physics so that you’ll see that this just isn’t so. But I must ask, hypothetically, if I were lying / deceiving the public, why in your worldview would that be wrong? My Christian worldview can make sense of objective morality; namely, lying is wrong because it is contrary to God’s decree, e.g. Exodus 20:16, and I am morally obligated to obey my Creator. But presumably, you reject biblical authority since you don’t accept the Bible’s teaching on the timescale or the creation of the universe. So, on what other (non-biblical) basis can you defend the notion that lying is objectively wrong, particularly when it benefits my survival value? Before you answer, I’d suggest you look at other conversations I’ve had on this website, (the dialogs with Tony are particularly helpful), so that you don’t repeat mistakes that others have made. I look forward to your comments on this.]

    I am going to try discredit you to the point where you are not able to find employment in any field of science.

    [Dr. Lisle: That’s an ad baculum fallacy.]

    Possibly the biggest lie of all is that you claim to be interested in debate.

    [Dr. Lisle: It seems you are unaware that I recently did a public debate against Dr. Hugh Ross on this very topic. I’m happy to debate people who are educated on the topic. In fact, I’ve publicly debated the age of the universe on multiple occasions. This is why it is important to research something before you merely assert it. It will save you a lot of embarrassment in the future.]

    This interest extends only to lying as skillfully as necessary to preserve your job position.

    [Dr. Lisle: Irony. I would have a lot more job opportunities if I were willing to lie about origins and pretended to believe in a big bang and billions of years of evolution. This is the unofficial required belief at most secular universities for employment in the hard sciences.]

    • Josef says:

      Bob: “Your degree does not impress me: in my own Degree there were certain students that could write all the math but never managed to grasp the actual concepts very well: I class you in that category.

      I just wanted to interject and point out that Bob’s claim here is refuted by the very fact that Dr. Lisle graduated with a double major in astronomy and physics (undergraduate level) with top honors, summa cum laude. Students simply don’t graduate with honors, let alone top honors, by not understanding their subject matter! Furthermore, he graduated with his PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado: a secular institution.

      So if it is true that Dr. Lisle is just someone who slipped through the cracks, then this would really be a slam on his professors… and I’m sure most of his professors at Colorado were sympathetic towards the evolutionary view of the universe. Yet, they still thought he was impressive enough to award him his doctorate.

      So it sounds to me like Bob should be slamming Dr. Lisle’s professors and telling them that they must not be “savvy” (Bob’s wording) enough to catch that Dr. Lisle doesn’t understand the concepts.

      • MM says:

        I concur, and certainly couldn’t agree less. It is like the student telling the professor how to do his job – “You have it all wrong Professor? It’s like this and like that because I said so??”

        Where are their humility these days?

        CHRIST UP!!

  5. Ian Baker says:

    I find it very revealing and very scary that someone can threaten someones employment prospects and future career just because they don’t agree with their argument.
    This just proves to me that the Scientific establishment has control and tends to overreact to people like Dr Lisle when it feels its edifice being chipped away, with as far as I can see quite rational Debate.
    Also as Dr Lisle points out there would be far more opportunities for him if he was pedalling the accepted Fallacy of Evolutionary Biology.
    So why pray tell would he be trying to protect an already very limited career were he has nothing to lose & i’m sure if all avenues were closed down for him he would still have the courage of his convictions and believe what he believes.

  6. David Olaussen says:

    Hi Jason!

    I have a concern:

    You have said you are against evidentialism; Doesn’t this make it seem like creationists are backing away from the field of science? As if we are acknowledging that the evidence does not confirm the bible? My experience is that evolutionists will deny all logic and reasonability as long as what they see as unrefutable evidence for evolution and millions of years clearly discredit the bible being the word of God. I would deny the bible too if I thought evolution was a fact. We have so strong confirmations of a young earth! DNA in dinosaur soft tissue and helium diffusion rates in zircons. It is so evident that this confirms a young age of the dino’s and the earth; only deniers of common sense will be left.

    Only answer this if you have time friend! (Extremely thankful for your work and arguments; inspiring and faith-saving)

    -David

    • Zach says:

      The reason why we should not be using evidentialism, is because people’s worldviews tell them what to make of the evidence, and therefore, scientific evidence will never resolve the origins debate since they will keep on referring to rescuing devices. However, we should give them some evidence that confirms creation, but we should never base our entire argument on evidence. Also science is predicated upon the Truth of the Bible, since science would be impossible without the uniformity of nature, something that is unjustified in an evolutionary worldview.

  7. Zach says:

    Hi Jason Lisle, this is somewhat relevant to this topic:
    My question is this:
    Could logic come into existence by chance, and all of its properties, as well as its connection to the physical world?

    • Josef says:

      Zach,

      You’re essentially asking, I believe, if logic could have evolved, and the answer is, “No”. Remember that logic is conceptual in nature; it exists in a mind. In other words, there are no physical pressures that could change logic or bring it into existence.

      If logic were just the result of evolutionary blind-chance, then it would be impossible to rely on it. After all, with different evolutionary pressures in different parts of the world, why should we expect that logic in Europe would be the same as logic in the United States? Perhaps logic evolved in such a way in Europe that contradictions are true, but false in the U.S.

      Also, how would, say, the law of non-contradiction evolve? Would there be a time when contradictions were always true, to sometimes true, and finally, to never true?

      If this sounds absurd, it’s because it is. Only the Christian worldview can provide a rational basis for logic and why we can rely on it. All other worldviews will lead to absurdity.

      Also, think about this one: if you could somehow disprove that logic was always invariant and has always existed, then you’d end up with a self-refuting argument.

      • Zach says:

        Hi Josef, thank you for clearing that up for me.

        However i also want you to clear another thing up for me.

        1)If the Bible was not true we couldn’t know anything.

        Skeptic: “Well what if logic exists apart from the Bible?”

        2)Then belief in logic becomes arbitrary, therefor, a worldview based on that would be irrational.

        Skeptic: “Well what if logic really is just arbitrary, and everything is illogical.”

        3)If logic was created illogically, then logic would self-refute itself, because it explicitly forbids the way in which it was made. If it is true that logic is self-refuting, (meaning something contradictory to logic would create logic) Then contradictions would be valid, and then logic would be useless, meaning that logic wouldn’t work. And also you just used logic to make that claim.

        4) Therefore, logic must have come from a pre-existing source, and since this source would by definition have to also be logical, then it flows that it must have been the Biblical God.

        (I know that logic wasn’t “created”, i know it is eternal, however i just wanted to show this line of reasoning)

        I want you to clarify if this line of reasoning is rational. Also, if it is a deficient logical argument, can you modify it so it can be more logical?

        Thank you,
        ~~ZG

        • Josef says:

          Zach,

          Glad to see that you’re thinking through the issues. I would also highly recommend reading through the debates on this blog, particularly the ones involving Dr. Lisle. They are very insightful

          As for your scenario, I would streamline it a little. If the skeptic said this, “Well what if logic really is just arbitrary, and everything is illogical,” then I would at this point say that the skeptic has lost the debate.

          If logic is forfeited, then that is a loss, and the skeptic would have also conceded that he cannot answer the transcendental argument. The purpose of the transcendental argument is to demonstrate that God is the necessary precondition for intelligibility; if the skeptic can’t justify how his worldview can make sense of the preconditions of intelligibility, such as logic, then he has no logical basis for rejecting the Bible. If he must resort to claiming that logic itself is unreliable, then he has just helped demonstrate this by his own admission.

          Remember, we cannot force someone to be persuaded by an argument or strong-arm someone into God’s kingdom. But what we can do is show them that their denial of God is irrational.

          Skeptics are persuaded by illogical arguments all the time, so we shouldn’t be surprised when they reject a logical argument.

          • Zach says:

            Thanks Josef!

            ~~ZG

          • Zach says:

            Also, one more thing; does logic rely on God and on absolute truth?

            • Josef says:

              >>”does logic rely on God and on absolute truth?”

              Zach, I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but it sounds like from this question, you’re perhaps thinking that absolute truth is something separate from God.

              All preconditions of intelligibility, absolute truth being one of these preconditions, are contingent on God’s existence. That is, if God doesn’t exist, neither would they.

              Truth is contingent on God (John 1:17; 14:6), and truth is necessary for knowledge. Think about it, if truth didn’t exist, then everything would be false. But this would be an absurd and ultimately self-refuting position.

              Both logic and truth are equally contingent on God’s existence. Of course all of the preconditions for intelligibility work together as a “system” or a network of presuppositions that make up a worldview, so in a sense they work together.

              Even unbelievers rely on these preconditions of intelligibility (often they will deny that absolute truth exists by their words, but by their actions they demonstrate that they do believe); but the difference is that the Christian has a rational basis for these, while the unbeliever does not.

              • Zach says:

                Also, could a secularist answer the question of absolute morality as:
                “It just happened..”
                or
                “We don’t know, but we will find out in the future…”

                Does the first one count as justification for absolute morality?

  8. john m schade says:

    Was that your book on Cabot Cove?

  9. Aaron says:

    Dr. Lisle, could you give your input on a thought? When people answer, “I don’t know,” regarding the origin of the universe and preconditions of intelligibility, is that statement ultimately self-defeating in the following way?
    “I don’t know” is a definite and absolute statement, yet in making this statement in this situation, one makes no attempt at justification of the preconditions of intelligibility. It thus ultimately leads to an “I don’t know” applied universally. This is a problem because it means saying “I don’t know” absolute statements exist, which is itself an absolute statement refuting itself.
    I’m having a hard time forming/completing the thought in my mind, so it may be worded improperly or just completely flawed in and of itself. Your thoughts on both the argument and my thought above would be greatly appreciated.

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      That’s an interesting thought. When people say they don’t know, they are making a truth claim. The implication is that they know that they don’t know. In essence they are asserting that they do know something, even if that something is the fact that they are ignorant. And apart from the preconditions of intelligibility as justified by Scripture, they couldn’t actually know that they are ignorant. So, yes, I think their claim is self-refuting.

      • Zach says:

        http://crossexaminedblog.com/2012/06/21/god-is-nonexistent/
        Hey Dr. Lisle, can you read this guys blog, i cannot read things written by atheist without getting very mad at it. But this guy seems to understand a lot of the things that are associated with pre-suppositional arguments. I would like this argument to be refuted.
        However i also have another question: How can Genesis 8:22 be associated with the uniformity of nature?

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          I would say that he does not understand presuppositional arguments, and hasn’t dealt with them. Instead, his analysis is based on a straw-man argument. He mischaracterizes the Christian position of what constitutes evidence for God. The Christian position is not that God has made Himself hard to detect as this author assumes, but is the exact opposite. God has revealed Himself to all men in a way that is absolutely inescapable, such that there is no excuse for missing it (Romans 1:18-20). And what is that evidence? For one, the very organization we see in nature such that there is an underlying unity in time and space is what we would expect if all nature is upheld by the mind of God. And it has to be the biblical God who is beyond time and has promised a degree of uniformity in nature.

          The very fact that our senses are basically reliable, and can probe the universe, and that our mind can reason from data – these are both to be expected if we were made in the image of God. But none of the above conditions would make any sense if the universe were simply an accident. Why would there be laws of nature, or laws of logic? Why would there be any moral obligation whatsoever, and who decides what it is? The author has merely assumed all these things, while failing to notice that these are the very lines evidences for God, and there is no secular explanation for them.

          Rather than dealing with the abundant evidence for God, the author arbitrarily states that this is what we would expect in a chance universe. Really? It’s a bit like saying, “Humans are not responsible for buildings. Buildings are merely the result of time and chance. So what would we expect on a planet with no humans? Lots of buildings. And that is exactly what we find. Therefore, humans probably do not exist.”

          Regarding Genesis 8:22, God here promised that as long as earth remains, there will be an underlying orderliness in nature such that the future will be like the past. This is uniformity. God gives specific examples to illustrate the general principle. The day and night cycle will continue in the future as it has in the past. The cycle of seasons will continue as it has in the past. That doesn’t mean that this summer will be as hot as last summer, only that there will be a summer this year as there was last year. So conditions may change, but the underlying patterns will not. All science rests upon that premise – that through systematic experimentation and observation we can distinguish between (changeable) conditions and underlying (unchanging) patterns such as laws of physics.

        • Josef says:

          Zach,

          I know you want Dr. Lisle’s input on this, but I decided to take a look at it myself. I hope you don’t mind.

          This guy’s main argument is that you cannot prove a universal negative. And even though I would agree with this, this doesn’t apply to the Christian God, nor does it apply to the Christian who uses the transcendental argument. So his entire blog is built on a straw-man fallacy.

          The Christian God is not a universal negative, because we’re not arguing for any god. In fact, in principle the Christian God would be easy to disprove. All one would have to do is demonstrate how it would be impossible for such a God to exist as revealed through Scripture.

          Also, I feel compelled to add that if “atheists” really believe that they cannot disprove that god(s) exists, then they shouldn’t claim to be atheists. They should instead be making less radical claims about their beliefs and be agnostics.

  10. […] Despite the obvious scientific evidence of a worldwide flood, he disregards the historicity of the Biblical account because of what he calls science and rational thought. The science is strongly on the side of confirming a worldwide flood. As far as his claim that he can disregard the Biblical account because of rational thought, it is quite irrational to throw away the foundation of logic, reason, and morality in the name of “rational thought.” It is only reasonable to stand strong on the rock of an unchanging foundation: God’s Revealed Word. Astrophysicist, Jason Lisle explains this in detail here: […]

  11. Josef says:

    Zach: >>”Also, could a secularist answer the question of absolute morality as:
    “It just happened..”
    or
    “We don’t know, but we will find out in the future…”

    Does the first one count as justification for absolute morality?

    No, it’s not a justification for absolute morality, any more than my saying, “God just exists” is a justification for the existence of God.

    If a skeptic really said this, then I would just say, “Ok, God exists, and ‘it’s just that way’ so there is my justification”. Of course, the skeptic wouldn’t accept this, but it would hopefully show him the absurdity of his own argument.

    Claiming something is “just that way” or “it just happened” is simply arbitrary and doesn’t explain anything. Also, we wouldn’t apply that to other things either. If a student asked his teacher, “How did the Grand Canyon form?” should he accept it if his teacher responded with, “Oh, well, it just happened. There no actual cause for it.”? Of course not.

    But you know what, ultimately the secularist/skeptic/unbeliever has a much bigger problem to begin with. If their worldview is true, then there shouldn’t be such a thing as absolute morality. Morality apart from God, is arbitrary and subjective. I have yet to hear a good argument for absolute morality outside of the Christian worldview.

    Just look through the debates on this blog. You’ll find that the atheists often argue as if absolute morality exists, yet, they cannot justify it within their worldview.

    One of my favorite examples came from someone who used the name, “the_ignored”. He often claimed that the survival of our human race should be “good enough” for why we should treat others kindly.

    But why should that be good enough? Why should we care about the well-being of our race? What gives the human race any more significance than bacteria? Despite being confronted with these questions, they were simply “ignored” 🙂

    • Wayne says:

      I remember being a part of that conversation. I think that was probably one of the most enlightening ones on here. There was another I found particularly educational, but I cannot remember the pseudonym the guy used in the conversation. (And like most of the conversations on this blog, they tended to derail into side issues quick if not pressed on the one issue.)

  12. Zach says:

    So to just get things in order,

    Biblical preconditions lead to possibility of knowledge,
    however in a secularist’s universe, none of them would be justified, and therefore anything based on those arbitrary preconditions would not be knowable.
    Is this correct?

    • Josef says:

      Basically, yes. What the Bible says must be true, because if it’s not, then knowledge wouldn’t be possible.

      To elaborate a little more: the unbeliever’s (and by “unbeliever” in this context, I mean any non-Christian worldview, including theistic positions or Christian compromises) worldview would make knowledge an impossibility if it were true. Because the unbeliever’s worldview cannot justify the preconditions of intelligibility.

      E.g. how would knowledge be possible if atheism were true? If atheism were true, then there would be no reason for anyone to be able to trust his own ability to reason. Think about it: if we’re all just the product of a cosmic accident, and our brain is just a collection of chemical reactions, then how would we be able to trust our own thoughts? How would we be able to trust our own senses? Perhaps what we think and perceive about the world isn’t how the world actually is, but we perceive it the way we think we do simply because it has survival value. But survival value doesn’t necessarily mean true.

      Other religious positions, such as Mormonism teach that “god” has changed through time (e.g. Mormon president Lorenzo Snow once said that, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become”) therefore, the invariant nature of logic cannot be contingent on the Mormon god. In fact, logic cannot be contingent on any worldview that endorses polytheism, because upon which god would logic be contingent on? If it depends on which god governs a certain part of the world or universe, then there would be no reason to expect logic to be invariant as it could change depending on which god happens to be in charge.*

      Of course, with all of this said, the unbeliever does know things, but this is because his worldview is false. The unbeliever must rely on the Christian worldview to make sense of his own worldview.

      The classic example to help illustrate this is the critic of air. The critic of air might say, “Air doesn’t really exist, and I can breathe just fine”. Of course, the reason he can breathe just fine is because his belief is false. Likewise, the unbeliever may claim to know things, but this is because his worldview is false.

      *This is really important to keep in mind. Because often, people think that any belief in “god” will satisfy the preconditions of intelligibility. So sometimes when dialoguing with skeptics/unbelievers, they may say something like, “Ok, well why not the Mormon god then, why your god specifically” or sometimes they will become more obtuse than this and say something like, “Ok, well, I’ll just make up some god and he’ll be my justification”. But hopefully, as shown, only the Christian God can rationally justify the preconditions of intelligibility, not general theism.

      • Zach says:

        Also, why would we not be able to prove anything if the Bible was not true?
        I understand that we couldn’t know anything, but what about that we couldn’t prove anything?

        • Josef says:

          Zach,

          If we can’t know anything, then we can’t prove anything. Would it make sense if I said, “I don’t know if 5 + 5 = 10, but I can prove that it is true”?

          Basically to be able to prove something means that we must be able to know something. (Although the two aren’t exactly interchangeable, because we can know something without being able to prove it, but proof requires that we know it).

          And the reason we can’t prove anything if the Bible were not true is for the same reason we couldn’t know anything if the Bible were not true. And that is only the Bible provides the rational justification for the preconditions of knowledge or proof.

  13. Zach says:

    Hey Dr. Lisle, i have an interesting question:
    When atheists say that they don’t believe in God, and says that they are not suppressing the Truth, are they using circular reasoning?
    Since they are using their experience to justify their experience.
    What is your input on that?

  14. Zach says:

    I was thinking about ultimate standards for reasoning, but this came up.
    Would the Bible not be our ultimate standard since we appeal to a reason for the Bible being true?

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Not if the reason we appeal to is itself found in the Bible (which it is). Proverbs 1:7 indicates that all knowledge begins with God, and hence with His revelation to us. Therefore, if the Bible were not true, we couldn’t know anything at all. Our reason for trusting in Scripture (that it makes knowledge possible) is itself biblical.

  15. Zach says:

    Hey Jason, at what time is an arbitrary belief irrational and why would it be irrational at those times.

  16. Zach says:

    Did you get my questions?
    I just want to make sure.

  17. Zach says:

    Just to make sure, you are going to respond to my questions right?

  18. Zach says:

    Hey, i kind of got myself caught in a logical paradox.
    How can we prove the Bible if we do not know which interpretation is correct?
    How can we know which interpretation is correct without knowing that the Bible is true?
    And how can we know that this version of the Bible is the original or if the websites that has it on are not changing the words?
    Please reply back to me when you can. I need to be saved and i am afraid of dying and going to hell because i lost my faith.

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Zach, the answers to your questions involve the concept of the “hermeneutical circle” or “hermeneutical spiral.” I have a book coming out in the summer that addresses these issues in rich detail (in chapter 9). For now, I’ll have to give a shorter answer. God’s Word would have to be true because of the nature of God; He is truth. God has “hardwired” us to know that He exists, and to recognize His Word when we hear it or read it (John 10:27). How we respond to God’s Word will determine what happens next. If we receive His Word with humility then we participate in the hermeneutical circle. Basically, this means that God’s Word is sufficiently clear that we can understand and correctly interpret much of it upon reading it. After all, God designed our minds and knows how to write a book such that our minds can understand it. Because of sin, we don’t instantly correctly interpret all of God’s Word on the first reading. But the portions we do understand rightly will help us to understand the more difficult portions. In the process of time, our understanding improves as the Scriptures systematically sanctify our thinking. The Bible is therefore self-interpreting. It teaches us how to interpret it.

      Regarding Bible-versions, my upcoming book will also cover this issue in chapter 6. The short answer is that you can be confident that the major conservative English translations (ASV, KJV, NASB, NKJV) are accurate by comparing verses in multiple versions. In over 99% of cases, these versions give the same meaning for each verse, and there is simply no translational problem at all. In only a very few instances is there any disagreement at all, and even in these it is usually minor and involves no doctrinal issue. For these rare cases you’ll have to do further study. But there can be no doubt that the main doctrinal passages of Scripture have been correctly translated.

      It is healthy to have a fear of hell before you are saved, because hell is very real and is unavoidable for those who continually reject Christ. But God has promised to save people from hell if they would only repent of their sin and call upon Him as Lord (Isaiah 55:7; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10,13). So if you have repented of your sin, and genuinely believe in and profess Christ as the resurrected Lord, then you have a promise from God (who cannot lie) that you will be saved (John 5:24). Genuine faith is itself something that God gives us by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) and necessarily results in salvation. Will Christ ever withdraw His salvation from a saved person? No, because He who began that good work is faithful and will complete it (Philippians 1:6). He won’t lose anyone that He has saved (John 6:39-40,47). Christ is both the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Remember, there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), and therefore no need to fear hell. How will you know if your faith is genuinely from Christ? It will result in you wanting to obey God – not in an attempt to earn salvation but rather out of love and gratitude for the salvation that God has already bestowed upon you (James 2:14,18).

      • Stefan Frello says:

        Let us assume an all-knowing, all-loving, omnipotent God outside space and time, who created and uphold the universe and who is the sole reason that logic and mathematics work. Still the Bible could be a man-made myth.

        [Dr. Lisle: In addition to all the characteristics you listed for God (which are correct), there is at least one more that is necessary for us to have knowledge about anything. Revelation. God must reveal Himself to us in some fashion in order for us to know that He exists, and that He has the characteristics that He has. And that’s where the Bible comes in. It claims to be revelation from God, and it describes the only God who could make knowledge possible. In other words, if we reject the Bible’s claim, then we would be in the awkward position of not being able to rationally justify anything at all. For example:

        A God who has all the characteristics you rightly list above is still not required to uphold the universe in a uniform way. He might chose to of course, but we couldn’t count on it. But the biblical God does not lie or change, and has promised us a certain degree of uniformity in nature, in passages such as Genesis 8:22. So if we rejected the revelation from God in Genesis, then we would not be able to rationally justify uniformity in nature, and would therefore have no reason to have any confidence in the methods of science.]

        There is actually no good reason to think that the Bible is the word of God, even if you believe him to exist.

        [Dr. Lisle: So it turns out that it is rationally necessary not only to believe in God, but to believe that the Bible is indeed His Word. Apart from this, one cannot rationally justify logic, mathematics, morality, uniformity of nature, basically reliable senses, etc. Since the Bible is the necessary precondition for all these concepts, if any one of them is true then necessarily the Bible is true. For more elaboration on this, see my book “The Ultimate Proof of Creation.”]

        Why does Genesis 1 not tell us how the Universe really is?

        [Dr. Lisle: It does!]

        Assuming that our understanding of Nature is not entirely wrong, why are we not told about atoms and molecules, gravitation and magnetism, bacteria and viruses, galaxies and interstellar dust? Is there any mentioning of these or other natural phenomenon, not visible to the naked eye, anywhere in the Bible?

        [Dr. Lisle: Answer: because that’s not its purpose. The Bible is mainly a history book to teach us about our relationship with God. Of course, in the process of educating us on the history of the universe, the Bible occasionally touches on matters of science. And it is accurate when it does so. E.g. the text mentions the spherical nature of Earth at times when this wasn’t generally known (Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:10), or that the Earth is suspended in space (Job 26:7), the inhabitable nature of Earth in contrast to the heavens (Isaiah 45:18), or even the expansion of the universe (Isaiah 40:22). “Atoms” and “molecules” are modern words, but the idea that basic “elements” comprise all matter is indeed found in the Bible (2 Peter 3:10). Are other natural phenonena mentioned? Sure. The water cycle is mentioned (Ecclesiastes 1:7, 11:3, Psalm 135:7, Amos 9:6, Jeremiah 10:13). The oceanic paths are mentioned in Psalm 8:8, etc. But that is not the main purpose of the text.]

        [Dr. Lisle: In a way, your question is akin to asking, “If this book on this history of the Roman Empire is so right, then why doesn’t it talk about atoms or galaxies, or interstellar dust?!” Uh, because it’s a history book.]

        And Zach! If there is a God, trust him to be better than the one in the Bible!

        [Dr. Lisle: Better by what standard? The biblical God is perfectly holy and righteous, and when we rebelled in treason against Him, he chose to die in our place that we might be saved. And yet still people spit in His face. Some gratitude.]

        • Zach says:

          Stefan Frello, i am not going to listen to atheists.

          Dr. Lisle, i think i need to establish logic in order to argue now.
          The reason why i lost my faith was because i couldn’t justify logic.
          Like logic being the correct standard of reasoning and us being able to use logic. Or if logic works. There are a lot more though.
          So lets start the first question about logic:
          How do we know that law of noncontradiction is true?

          • Dr. Lisle says:

            Hi Zach,

            I think you will be encouraged to learn that not only can Christianity account for laws of logic, but in fact only Christianity can account for laws of logic. Laws of logic are universal, invariant, exception-less, abstract entities that describe and govern correct thinking. They are a reflection of the way God thinks, and thus the way we are supposed to think. God is omni-present (Jeremiah 23:24, Psalm 139:7-12), and so necessarily His thinking (reflected in laws of logic) will be universal. God is beyond time and does not change with time (Malachi 3:6) therefore laws of logic are invariant. God sovereignly controls the entire universe (Hebrews 1:3) and thus laws of logic will be without exception. We can know laws of logic because we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27) and God has communicated some of His thoughts to us (2 Timothy 3:16).

            The law of non-contradiction states that two contradictory statements cannot both be true. This law stems from God’s nature. All truth is in God (Colossians 2:3). Indeed, Christ is the truth (John 14:6). And God never denies/contradicts Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). So it follows that truth will never contradict itself. Since God is omni-present and does not change with time, we can know that the law of non-contradiction will apply everywhere and at all times. Since God is sovereign and controls everything, there will be no exceptions to the law of non-contradiction. Because of the faithfulness of God, something cannot be true and also false (2 Corinthians 1:18).

            • Zach says:

              So if God denied himself, then it would be self-contradictory since:
              God exists, and what He declares is always true.
              Therefore, it would be self-contradictory in that:
              How could God exist, and yet not exist at the same time in the same way.
              But what if God could declare it and then God would cease to exist because of it?

              • Dr. Lisle says:

                You are asking about a type of conditional that cannot occur. The antecedent “if God denied Himself” isn’t possible. God in His essential nature is self-consistent – that’s the way He is. And truth is what corresponds to the mind of God. Thus, truth will necessarily be self-consistent. In the Christian worldview, we have a basis for the law of non-contradiction. If the Christian worldview were not true, or if God were not the way He is described in Scripture, then we would lose any rational basis for logic and induction, and we couldn’t really know anything at all.

        • Havok says:

          E.g. the text mentions the spherical nature of Earth at times when this wasn’t generally known (Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:10),

          At best you get circular, not spherical.

          [Dr. Lisle: No – not possible with the Job 26:10 passage. Here God describes the terminator of Earth – the boundary between light and darkness – as being circular. A circular terminator is not possible on a flat surface – only a sphere. And this was written ~2000 B.C., long before the spherical nature of Earth was generally known.]

          the inhabitable nature of Earth in contrast to the heavens (Isaiah 45:18),

          There’s no contrast with the heavens in the text.

          [Dr. Lisle: You’re not reading the text carefully. This passage says the Earth was formed to be inhabited. It does not say this about the heavens.]

          or even the expansion of the universe (Isaiah 40:22).

          Quite a stretch, as the text seems to more be referring to the heavens being like a tent above the earth (which fits with the “firmament” of Genesis 1 being a solid bowl)

          [Dr. Lisle: “Quite a stretch” – pun intended? 🙂 Nothing in Genesis or any of the Bible refers to the heavens being a solid bowl. (“Firmament” comes from the Latin Vulgate, not the original Hebrew.) Moreover, Isaiah 40:22 uses two different words to denote stretching/expansion. So there really can be no doubt. Yet, this was not acknowledged by secularists until the 1920s.]

          “Atoms” and “molecules” are modern words, but the idea that basic “elements” comprise all matter is indeed found in the Bible (2 Peter 3:10).

          It seems far more likely this is a reference to the 4 elements of classical thought rather than something which could be thought to prefigure modern atomic theory.

          [Dr. Lisle: You’ve provided no support whatsoever for that claim. The Bible does not mention the number of elements or what they are. It only teaches that matter is indeed composed of basic elements, what we would today call atoms, and it is right.]

          It seems to me that you read an awful lot INTO the text Jason.

          [Dr. Lisle: It seems to me you are not reading the text very carefully, and are going out of your way to distort it. My question is: why? Why do you so desperately want the Bible to be wrong?]

          • Havok says:

            A circular terminator is not possible on a flat surface – only a sphere.

            If I shine a torch on a wall I get a circular terminator on a flat surface.

            [Dr. Lisle: You’re not quite understanding the passage or my point. Sunlight falls on the Earth’s surface which is mostly water; and the boundary between light and darkness – the terminator (the location of sunrise/sunset) is always a circle. This is only possible on a sphere. Try shining a light on a tennis ball, and rotate the ball around – the terminator is always a circle.]

            And this was written ~2000 B.C., long before the spherical nature of Earth was generally known.

            And yet for some reason the Israelites didn’t understand the spherical nature of the earth from this and similar passages, and it took the Greeks to demonstrate it to be so. I wonder why that would be if this passage did indeed describe a spherical earth, rather than simply describing the boundary between light and dark?

            [Dr. Lisle: ??? What makes you think the Israelites didn’t understand the spherical nature of Earth? At least some of them obviously did because they wrote about it. Again, the boundary between light and dark (the terminator) can only be a circle at all times if the Earth is a sphere.]

            It does not say this about the heavens.

            And my point is that it doesn’t say ANYTHING about the heavens.

            [Dr. Lisle: It does – it says that God created the heavens. And then it compares and contrasts this with the Earth which God formed to be inhabited. The Bible singles out the Earth for life throughout, but does not do so for heaven because the latter has a different purpose.]

            Nothing in Genesis or any of the Bible refers to the heavens being a solid bowl. (“Firmament” comes from the Latin Vulgate, not the original Hebrew.)

            your claim that nothing in Genesis refers to the heavens as being a solid bowl doesn’t seem to be correct. The original Hebrew uses the word “raqiya`” here, which is a solid expanse (derived from the root word “raqa`” meaning to beat out or spread out).

            [Dr. Lisle: Some claims get repeated over and over without checking. That’s one of them. No, raqia does not mean a “solid surface.” Rather, it means an ‘extended surface.’ That word could include surfaces that are solid, and surfaces that are not solid. It probably does come from raqa which just means to “spread out” “make broad” or “stretch out.” There is no Scriptural support whatsoever that raqia requires solidity. So, when people say things like that, it really shows me that they have already decided to reject Scripture and are now looking for reasons – even very bad ones that lack logical support – to reject it.]

            Moreover, Isaiah 40:22 uses two different words to denote stretching/expansion. So there really can be no doubt.

            The first word used, “natah”, has the sense of pitching as in a tent(and is often translated in this fashion). The second is “mathach”, which does seem to mean “spread out”, but is directly referring to the tent-like nature of the heavens.
            I’m not sure that you can justify your claim to this passage supporting the observed expansion of the universe. It isn’t the only reading, and doesn’t seem to be close to being the most obvious.

            [Dr. Lisle: Hebrew poetic literature is very different from English. Hebrew poetry is defined by parallelism. In parallelism, the two (or more) parts of the verse MUST go together, either by comparison (synonymous parallelism) or by contrast (antithetical parallelism). Therefore, a proper interpretation of the passage must recognize this and interpret both parts as a congruous unit. For example, the Hebrew word natah means to “stretch out, spread out, extend” but has some other meanings too, including “pitch” (which is related because a tent is expanded and spread out when pitched), and “turn.” The Hebrew word mathach however has only one meaning: “spread out.” It does not mean to pitch, or turn, etc. And since these words are used in parallel, their meaning must go together; so they must both be interpreted by what they have in common – as being spread out or stretched out. There is no other legitimate interpretation. Just as a tent or curtain can be packed into a small space, but then expanded and spread out into a much larger space, so God has expanded the heavens. It’s hard to think of a better way to describe the stretching of spacetime in Hebrew than by using natah and mathach of the shamayim (heaven). But people don’t want to believe the Bible is right because then they’d have to answer to God. So they come up with all sorts of ways of distorting the text.]

            You’ve provided no support whatsoever for that claim.

            The belief was far more widespread then, and would therefore likely be what is being referred to rather than something similar to the elements as we have come to udnerstand them.

            [Dr. Lisle: You are substituting conjecture for research. And you’ve begged the question since your answer presupposes that the Bible is simply borrowing the common beliefs at the time, rather than being the Word of God as it claims to be. In other words, you’ve assumed the Bible is wrong in order to prove that the Bible is wrong. But of course, the text of the Bible is correct; matter is indeed composed of basic building blocks – “elements.”]

            The Bible does not mention the number of elements or what they are. It only teaches that matter is indeed composed of basic elements, what we would today call atoms, and it is right.

            The passage in question uses the greek “stoicheion”, which in this case would appear to refer to the material causes of the universe, rather than some sort of rudimentary atomic theory of sorts. “Prime Matter” rather than the elements of modern chemistry.

            [Dr. Lisle: No, that is not correct. Stoicheion conveys the idea of a “basic building block” – just as the A,B,C’s are the building blocks of language, so matter is composed of basic building blocks that make everything else. The Bible is exactly right about this. The primary purpose of Scripture is not to teach science. But since the Bible is “God-breathed”, when it touches on science, it’s right.]

            It seems to me you are not reading the text very carefully, and are going out of your way to distort it.

            Jason, I’m not. I’m trying to understand what it might have been that the authors meant, rather than trying to fit it to what we know from modern scientific investigation.

            [Dr. Lisle: I wish that were so. But that just isn’t what you are doing. You have assumed – without any good reason – that the Bible is not what it claims to be. And you have chosen to interpret it, not by its own standard, but based on your conjecture that it simply is a fallible text conveying the fallible ideas of the time. That of course begs the question.]

            My question is: why? Why do you so desperately want the Bible to be wrong?

            I don’t. I think the bible gets some things right, and some things wrong, like basically every other historical text. What I don’t see a reason for is to assume it is correct without reasons or external corroboration, as you seem only too willing to do.

            [Dr. Lisle: Part of the problem is that your approach begs the question. You’ve assumed that the Bible is “like basically every other historical text.” But it isn’t. It claims to be the Word of God and it demonstrate that claim in a number of ways. My point here is that your approach does not treat the text the way the authors intended it, and is therefore non-exegetical.]

            [Another part of the problem is that your approach is self-defeating. It’s perfectly fine to look for external corroboration of Scripture – we have a universe of this. Archeology continues to be a source of embarrassment to critics of the Bible as it has confirmed so much of biblical history – the cities of the plains, Ai, Jericho, etc. But the bigger issue is that whatever standard you use to judge the Bible, cannot itself be justified apart from the Bible. After all, you use your mind and your senses when you research anything. But apart from the Christian worldview, there would no rational reason to trust that your mind or senses have any reliability whatsoever. This isn’t a minor point, but a devastating and rather obvious flaw in non-biblical worldviews. I won’t repeat the details of this here because you can read about this in my other exchanges on this site, or in my book “the Ultimate Proof of Creation.” So my point is that we do have very good (indeed conclusive) reasons to believe that the Bible is correct. If it weren’t, it would be impossible to know anything whatsoever.]

      • Zach says:

        Dr. Lisle, you are trying to justify us being able to correctly interpret the Bible with interpretations of the Bible, isn’t that arbitrary circular reasoning?

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          God’s Word is sufficiently clear that its main teachings can be understood without a well-developed or detailed hermeneutic (method of interpretation). These plain truths (the “milk” of Scripture – Hebrews 5:13, 1 Corinthians 3:2) give us wisdom for how to interpret the more difficult portions. So, in time, even the more difficult portions can be understood by the diligent Christian. Is that circular? It’s more of a “spiral” because our knowledge of God’s Word enlarges on each reading, and previous misunderstandings are systematically corrected. Is it arbitrary? Certainly not. All knowledge begins with God (Proverbs 1:7) and thus His revelation to us. Thus, to take Scripture as our foundation is rationally necessary. Any alternative cannot justify those things necessary for knowledge, such as laws of logic or uniformity in nature.

          • Zach says:

            The main problem i’m having is that I cannot use any verse from the Bible to prove if our interpretation of the Bible is correct. Since if a verse told us how to interpret it, then how do we know that THAT interpretation of that verse is correct.

            • Dr. Lisle says:

              Zach, you’re going to love my book that comes out in the summer, because chapter 9 answers your question in detail. The short version is that God has “pre-programmed” human beings with the capacity to understand and interpret language properly – to some extent. Hence, you will correctly interpret much of the Bible on the first reading, but you won’t get all of it because our interpretive system isn’t perfect. The Bible has the capacity to correct your interpretative system if you have the humility to accept it. And therefore, your second reading of the Bible will be a more accurate interpretation than the first. So you see, the biblical instructions on interpretation gradually replace our initial faulty system, such that we eventually end up with a correct hermeneutic for reading the Bible that is itself based on the Bible.

          • Zach says:

            So the law of non-contradiction only makes sense in a Christian worldview since God cannot deny himself.
            Well the problem I am having is that since I am not in a Christian worldview, then I cannot justify if they are true or not. Which means I am having trouble trusting them in order to come to the conclusion that God exists.
            Therefore I don’t know what to do since I do not want to be in the Biblical worldview arbitrarily.
            (I don’t know how to make the switch to a Biblical worldview arbitrarily)

            • Dr. Lisle says:

              Hi Zach,

              Can a non-Christian justify laws of logic, like the law of non-contradiction? Actually, yes they can. They simply cannot do it in a way that is consistent with their professed worldview. Let me explain. Both believers and unbelievers know God. Romans 1:18-20 teaches that God has made Himself known to everyone. He has created us in such a way that we are born knowing that God exists and even some of His characteristics. And so we know that there are universal laws, like the law of non-contradiction, because we all (believers and unbelievers) know the God from whom such laws proceed.

              But of course, in our sin nature, we have a tendency to rebel against God. We don’t want to obey Him or serve Him. And so unbelievers suppress their knowledge of God (Romans 1:18). They try to hide it from everyone and even from themselves. They say to themselves, “there is no god.” And they pretend to have a worldview that is devoid of God. But – and here is the strange thing – they continue to believe in laws of logic, and other things that only make sense in the Christian worldview (like morality or uniformity in nature). And, try as they might, they cannot make sense of these things on their own professed (non-Christian) worldview. The fact that all people do rely on laws of logic is evidence that everyone really does know God, even though most people will not admit it.

              Faith is necessary. You can either believe in God, and have good reasons to believe in laws of logic, laws of nature, morality, etc. Or you can have faith in something else, and then you will not have good reasons to believe in laws of logic, etc. So, everyone has a type of faith. But faith in the biblical God makes rationality possible. Faith in anything else makes rationality impossible. So, I think we have a very good reason to have faith in God. Faith in Christianity alone is rational. And also it results in salvation from sin, and eternal life! Yet, most people would rather be irrational and end up in hell than trust in God. That is why faith is a gift that God gives us (Ephesians 2:8). How can you gain saving faith? You can ask God for it. God loves to save people. If you genuinely repent of sin, and trust in Christ as Lord, believing in His resurrection, then God will save you (Romans 10:9-10, Isaiah 55:7).

  19. Zach says:

    Dr. Lisle, did you delete my questions?

  20. Zach says:

    From what I have gathered about my own observations about logic is that whenever someone makes a logical claim like:
    Well (so and so) can happen. OR Well it can still be that way. OR When someone is using a rescuing device.
    Then they are relying upon conceivability, that is, they can conceive of it happening and therefore it is true.

    If this is true then logic is subjective, and therefore humans can only come up with subjective conclusions about truth.
    If this is also true then logic is not universal or unchanging. Just because you cannot conceive of a contradiction happening does not mean it cannot happen.
    Ok that is one big thing I have a problem with. I am not asking you as a critic, but as someone who is not giving up.

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Some words can be used in different ways depending on context. “Logic” can in some instances simply mean “reasoning” in a subjective sense, regardless of whether that reasoning is correct. For example, “I don’t understand you logic” means “I don’t understand your reasoning.” But, more commonly, “logic” refers to the principles of correct reasoning. And that is objective. For there is only one correct standard for reasoning – God. To be logical is to think in a way that is consistent with the character of God. This definition of logic is objective, not subjective, because it is the same for all people. And this is the definition that I always use.

      When people say X can conceivably happen, therefore X is true, the are not reasoning correctly. And so they are not being logical. They are confusing possibility with reality. But not all things that can happen do happen.

      If logic were merely a human invention, then it would subjective, and not universal or unchanging. But since logic (correct reasoning) stems from the mind of God, it is objective, universal, and unchanging. I hope this helps.

      • Havok says:

        But, more commonly, “logic” refers to the principles of correct reasoning. And that is objective. For there is only one correct standard for reasoning – God. To be logical is to think in a way that is consistent with the character of God. This definition of logic is objective, not subjective, because it is the same for all people. And this is the definition that I always use.

        So what are the axioms and rules of the character of God, and how do you know it is these and not some other set which define a different formal system?
        Classical logic? Quantum logic? A paraconsistent logic? Intuitionist logic?

        Or is there some as-yet unknown to humans formal system which subsumes these, which reflect the character of God?

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          All principles of correct reasoning conform to the character of God. We may develop different ways of expressing these principles, but they could not be justified apart from the Christian worldview. How could you possibly know, as just one example, that the law of non-contradiction will work tomorrow, or works in the Whirlpool Galaxy, apart from the Christian worldview?

          • Havok says:

            All principles of correct reasoning conform to the character of God.

            So classical logic, which includes the law of noncontradiction, as well as paraconsistent logics, which deny it, all conform to the character of your God?

            [Dr. Lisle: This confirms what I stated previously: you are confusing formulations with underlying principles. The underlying principles of correct reasoning (the laws of logic) do not change with time, space, or application. The specific names we give to the principles (formulations) may change. How can your worldview possibly account for this?]

            We may develop different ways of expressing these principles,

            Ways which are in fact incompatible (classical logic and paraconsistent logics, or even quantum logic, are not compatible formal systems).

            [Dr. Lisle: Again, you are confusing formulations with underlying principles. Your comment about quantum logic proves this. The standard laws of logic do apply at the quantum level. A slightly different linguistic convention is applied, but the underlying principles remain the same. As an easier example, the difference between Aristotelian formulation and Boolean is not one of genuine difference of principle, but a linguistic convention regarding which quantifiers we regard to have existential import. I’m not asking about formulations. Rather, I’m asking you to account for the principles, and their universal, invariant nature in your worldview. And so far, you haven’t been able to do so.]

            How is it that you can claim there is a consistent set of principles behind these seemingly incopatible formal systems, Jason? And just what are these basic principles?

            [Dr. Lisle: As one example, the law of non-contradiction always applies in all situations, regardless of how you choose to formulate it. There are differences of language and formulation because people can choose to express a principle in several different ways in different systems. Not that hard really. I asked you previously, and I will ask again, do you accept the law of non-contradiction as a universally true principle?]

            but they could not be justified apart from the Christian worldview.

            You keep making that claim, but you’ve not justified it.

            [Dr. Lisle: It’s dishonest of you to say that, especially when I’ve justified it so many times. Namely, I have shown how the characteristics of the biblical God are the necessary prerequisite for justifying the universal, invariant nature of laws of logic, for justifying uniformity in nature, and objective morality. What part of the proof did you not understand? More importantly, do you have an alternative worldview that can account for these things? I claim that you don’t. That should be very, very easy to refute if I were wrong.]

            I’ve read the chapter in your “Ultimate proof” book which purports to do so, and it’s little more than an extended example of this single sentence.

            [Dr. Lisle: This strongly suggests that you have not actually read the book. If you had, then you surely could point why the preconditions of intelligibility do not necessarily have to be rooted in the nature of God as the book demonstrates. Now if you come up with an actual counterargument, I’ll be happy to address it. More importantly, do you have a basis for uniformity in nature, or the universal, invariant nature of laws of logic in your worldview?]

            How could you possibly know, as just one example, that the law of non-contradiction will work tomorrow, or works in the Whirlpool Galaxy, apart from the Christian worldview?

            Works how Jason?

            [Dr. Lisle: That the law will continue to hold true and will continue to apply to truth claims pertaining to the physical universe. Apart from the Christian worldview, the success of the laws of logic cannot be accounted for, nor can their future use be justified.]

            It’s an axiom of a formal system (or group of formal systems, if you like). While working within that formal system, I know the law of noncontradiction will “work” because it is one of the axioms of that system.

            [Dr. Lisle: So in your view, the law of non-contradiction is something that is stipulated by people, and “works” because people have so stipulated? If that’s true, then did the law of non-contradiction apply before humans existed? If humans decide later to do away with that principle and stipulate another, will the law of non-contradition no longer work / be true?]

            How do I know it will “work” in the whirlpool galaxy? I know it would work in the same way – because I would be working within a formal system which has the law as an axiom.

            [Dr. Lisle: But how do you know that axioms are the same in the Whirlpool Galaxy as they are here?]

            How do I know it applies to the physical world (which is suspect is what you mean)? I don’t know for certain.

            [Dr. Lisle: I appreciate the honest answer. And in fact, as I’ve shown in the book, that’s true of uniformity of nature as well. Namely, the unbeliever cannot know (on his own worldview) that laws of nature or laws of logic apply beyond his immediate experience (and not even there really). And probability relies on uniformity. So not only can you not know for certain on your own worldview, you can’t know with any degree of probability either. But of course, you do know that there is orderliness in nature, and that laws of logic don’t change with time and space because in your heart-of-hearts you do know God. There’s your justification (again).]

            I investigate. I see that for all appearances, the physics of the whirlpool galaxy appear to be the physics locally. And I know that the formal system we call classical logic is useful in describing some subset of things locally, so I have good reason to think it would be useful if I were in the whirlpool galaxy

            [Dr. Lisle: I like this answer, but it is actually the fallacy of begging the question. First, how do you know that logic is “useful in describing some subset of things locally?” Have you used logic to draw that conclusion? (Even if we set aside that there is no basis for reliability of senses in your worldview). Second, in order to know that your observations of the Whirlpool Galaxy are reliable, you must already know that laws of logic apply just as well there as here. Otherwise, there might not even be a Whirlpool galaxy even if there is a Whirlpool galaxy (law of identity). So do you have an answer that doesn’t arbitrarily beg the question?]

          • Havok says:

            All principles of correct reasoning conform to the character of God.

            How do you know this, especially in the absence of any detailed, logically coherent definition/conception of said God?

            • Dr. Lisle says:

              The Bible gives a very detailed, logically coherent description of God. Being God’s revelation to us, the Bible tells us that all knowledge must begin with God (e.g. Proverbs 1:7, Colossians 2:3).

              • Havok says:

                The Bible gives a very detailed, logically coherent description of God.

                Since there’s various logical problems with the combinations of attributes God purportedly posesses, you’ll excuse me if I don’t accept this as valid without further argumentation.

                • Dr. Lisle says:

                  Since you’ve made a (false) assertion with no support whatsoever, we can rationally dismiss it.

                  • Havok says:

                    If you aren’t interested in looking at the literature on the topic, then I can’t help you out.

                    [Dr. Lisle: Exactly. Dr. Greg Bahnsen has written and lectured extensively on this very topic. His Ph.D. in philosophy specialized in epistemology, focusing on the issues we’ve been discussing. So if you want to be up to speed on these issues, you’ll need to read some Bahnsen.]

                    But, if the concept of God were so logical and well defined, why is it that the concepts of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence are seemingly in need of constant refinement in order to attempt to make them compatible with each other and with reality, and why is it that the best that has been done for, for example, omnibenevolence, is to show that it might be possible that God’s existence is compatible with evil and suffering (but little or no attempt at showing that this compatibility is probable). That omnipotence get’s whittled down until it’s a limited attribute, in order to be compatible with omnibenevolence or omniscience, and so on.

                    [Dr. Lisle: The above illustrates my point – you’ll need to become familiar with the literature to see that Christian scholars have abundantly refuted any perceived problem with these attributes, and there is no need for any “refinement” whatsoever. Namely, the critic’s perceived trilemma is easily resolve by the addition of one simple and biblical premise: God has a morally commendable reason for the evil/pain He allows. And though God isn’t required to state that reason, we do have a wonderful example in the cross. The crucifixion of Christ was the most evil action possible because Christ was truly and perfectly innocent. So how could a loving God allow it? Answer: It accomplished the salvation of all His people, thereby exhibiting both His justice and mercy. None of God’s traits need to be “watered down.” He is fully omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, AND He has a morally commendable reason for the evil that He allows. Of course, Dr. Bahnsen has written and lectured on this very topic.]

                    I’m sure you have objections to these positions, but the fact that the discussion carries on, and has done for a rather long time, is a good indication that there’s no real logical definition of the concept of God (I believe Richard Swinburne has written a number of books attempting to rigorously define the concept of God, and yet I don’t think his books show the God concept to be logical, nor is his resulting concept palatable to all Christians).

                    [Dr. Lisle: The above would seem to be the fallacy of false cause. You are assuming that the reason “discussion carries on” is because the issue isn’t settled. But that’s not necessarily so. The issue can be perfectly settled (and is in this case) but people don’t want to accept it. When people are first diagnosed with cancer, they sometimes want to argue with the doctor, question his reasoning and his evidence. They want a second opinion. Now this is not because the doctor’s evidence isn’t good. Rather, it is because people really don’t want to have cancer. But wishing for something doesn’t make it so. The Bible tells us that all people have a sin-nature. We don’t want the Bible to be true, and so we argue, and we get a second opinion that is more conducive to the way we want to live. But that doesn’t change the facts. That the issue is truly settled is evidence by the lack of any cogent counter-argument. Namely, non-Christian worldviews simply cannot account for the existence and properties of laws of logic, morality, or induction. And some of the more honest philosophers have admitted this.]

              • Havok says:

                Being God’s revelation to us, the Bible tells us that all knowledge must begin with God

                Since it’s possible that the bible is not God’s revelation to us, or is a corrupted revelation, or inspired, but not “perfect”, or any number of other variations on the theme, I don’t see why we must accept what the bible says just because it says it.

                • Dr. Lisle says:

                  You should rationally examine each of the options you’ve presented, and see what follows from them. Inevitably, we find that apart from the truth of the Bible, we cannot rationally justify laws of logic, uniformity in nature, or objective morality. If the Bible were not true (take whatever version of this option you like – corrupted revelation, collection of myths, etc.) it leads to the conclusion that knowledge would be impossible. But knowledge is possible. Thus, the premise that the Bible isn’t true must be false. That which implies what is false must itself be false.

                  • Havok says:

                    Inevitably, we find that apart from the truth of the Bible, we cannot rationally justify laws of logic, uniformity in nature, or objective morality.

                    Except, we find that we can, unless we presume from the get go that only the bible can justify those things (as you do).

                    [Dr. Lisle: So far, no one has been able to do so.]

                    I’ve given you justification for the laws of logic, but you seem unable or unwilling to accept it, requiring something extra that is not obviously necessary.

                    [Dr. Lisle: So far you haven’t correctly described what laws of logic are or their properties, let alone justify these things. Previously you were talking about systems of logic, implying the linguistic conventions that are used in various situations, not actual laws. To check to see if you really understand these things, let me ask a few basic questions about the law of non-contradiction: Was the law of non-contradiction true before human beings existed? Does it apply in all situations, or are there some times/places/circumstances where two contradictory propositions can both be true at the same time and in the same way? If you correctly answer these, then we can see if you can justify this law.]

                    In addition, it’s not obvious that morality is “objective” (whatever you actually mean by that).

                    [Dr. Lisle: Objective means it’s the same for all people, not merely a person’s preferences which vary between people. If morality were not objective, then moral norms would be different for different people. In that case you could never cogently argue that what another person does is right or wrong. You could only say that it is “wrong for you” or more accurately that it displeases you.]

                    If the Bible were not true … it leads to the conclusion that knowledge would be impossible.

                    This is not obviously the case, and you do not establish this in your book,

                    [Dr. Lisle: If my conclusion were not true, then it should be very easy for you to give a counter-example. That is, you should be able to account for laws of logic (not merely “systems” or “formulations”) and their properties, as well as the inductive principle by which we draw generalizations from specific instances. But no one has been able to do so.]

                    and the majority of experts in the field don’t appear to agree with you.

                    [Dr. Lisle: Fallacy of faulty appeal to authority/majority.]

                    As an example, we could posit that a God does actually exist, but that the bible is not it’se revelation (perhaps it reveals something to each person instead of relying upon revelation to specific individuals and trusting to the vaguaries of textual transmission?). In such a situation, knowledge would seem to be possible in every way in which you require, but the bible would not be true, thereby undermining your claim.

                    [Dr. Lisle: I appreciate the attempt. But this fails for several reasons. First, you would have to affirm that you do believe in such a God (which I suspect you are unwilling to so). After all, a fictional/hypothetical god cannot justify anything. Second, this (real) God would have to have the same characteristics as the Biblical God in order to justify the preconditions of intelligibility – in which case He would be the God that the Bible describes, thereby making the Bible true, at least in its descriptions of God. Third, it is not sufficient merely that the biblical God exists and has the attributes that He has if we had no way of knowing about that God. So God must reveal Himself if we are to have knowledge. But even that isn’t quite enough because other people might claim to have contrary revelations. So God’s revelation must be objective; it must be eventually written down so that different people can have access to the same revelation, e.g. the Bible.]

                    But knowledge is possible.

                    Knowledge as in certainty, or in knowing things provisionally?

                    [Dr. Lisle: I’m not requiring certainty. But you can’t even have probabilistic knowledge apart from the truth of Christianity.]

                    I don’t see how certainty is generally available, even if you’re position were justified.

                    [Dr. Lisle: Are you certain about that? If the Bible is true then we can know some things with certainty. If the Bible were not true, then we couldn’t really know anything at all, because there would never be justification for our beliefs.]

      • Havok says:

        If logic were merely a human invention, then it would subjective, and not universal or unchanging.

        That doesn’t follow Jason. The current rules of chess are merely a human invention, but they’re not subjective, and they’re unchanging (sure, you could add, remove or modify some rules and call the resultant game “chess”, but it wouldn’t be the same game anymore, and so doesn’t undermine my point).

        [Dr. Lisle: In fact, the rules of chess have changed over time. Originally, pawns were not allowed to move two squares on their initial move. And they did not get promoted if reaching the other side of the board. The queen’s movement was originally far more restricted than it is today, and so was the bishop. Time limits didn’t exist until the mid 1800’s. And even today people can play with or without time limits – whatever they agree to. Throughout history, people have used different rules regarding the maximum number of moves, to prevent a losing player from stalling indefinitely; 50 is the most common today, but in some cases 100 is used. So you see, chess, being a human invention, has changed with time and its rules are subjective and thus conventional (whatever people agree to). Even today, players might agree to different rules, such as “touch” rules, or time limits etc. So rather than refuting my point, I’d say you have illustrated it rather spectacularly!]

        But since logic (correct reasoning) stems from the mind of God, it is objective, universal, and unchanging. I hope this helps.

        We can also get the same result by adopting a conventionalist approach to formal systems.

        [Dr. Lisle: You really cannot for the following reasons. First, if logic is a human invention, then there is no reason at all to believe that it is universal, objective, or unchanging. After all, cars are a human invention; they didn’t exist at one point in the past and now they do. Cars are limited (as far as we know) to places where humans go. They are not universal. And different people have invented different cars with different features to reflect different subjective preferences. And those preferences have changed with time. But logic isn’t like that. Principles of logic are universal, objective, and unchanging. So how can that be – apart from Christianity – and how do you know?]

        The system of classical logic, for example, is objective, and unchanging. It’s not universal (but then, classical logic on theism isn’t either, since it fails to apply to, for example, quantum phenomena).

        [Dr. Lisle: Lots of problems here. First, logic does apply to quantum phenomena, despite your apparent misunderstanding of the Copenhagen interpretation. Physicists use logic to draw conclusions about our observations of what happens at quantum scales. If logic didn’t apply, then we couldn’t do this. Second, you seem to be confusing formulations or linguistic conventions with underlying logical principles. Laws of logic are not human inventions, but the way we express those laws in a particular language is conventional and may be changed as we discover better ways of expressing the underlying principles. For instance, you keep mentioning classical logic; that’s a particular formalism. I’m asking how the non-Christian can have any justification whatsoever for the actual laws of logic that accounts for their universal, objective, and invariant properties.]

        We find useful ways of reasoning, and formalise them. If there’s no useful way of reasoning about a phenomena (such as the failed application of classical logic to quantum phenomena) then we invent a new way of reasoning about the phenomena.

        [Dr. Lisle: Again, quantum phenomena are not exempt from laws of logic – otherwise we could never rationally reason about what takes place on the quantum level. Second, you are correct that we “find useful ways of reasoning” – that is, we have discovered (some of) the principles of correct reasoning. That’s my point. We did not therefore invent laws of logic; rather, we discovered laws of logic and formulated them (put them into words). But I’m asking how do you account for the existence of laws of logic and their properties. The non-Christians just can’t seem to do this. Yet they inconsistently rely upon the principles of logic, while having no rational reason to do so on their own worldview. So very irrational.]

        How does theism account for this non-unviversality of various systems of logic?

        [Dr. Lisle: You are very confused. Laws of logic are universal. They work just as well in Europe as in the U.S.A. They work just as well on the moon, on Mars, or in the Andromeda galaxy. They are objective. The law of non-contradiction is just as true for you as it is for me or for anyone or anything else. Laws of logic are invariant. They work just as well on Fridays as on Mondays. They were true before people existed, and they will continue to be true for all eternity. Now how can a non-Christian possibly account for that? And how to you know?]

      • Zach says:

        What i was talking about was that:
        “Since i cannot conceive of a contradiction happening, then it is irrational, or it is not true, or it doesn’t exist.”

        And also when we say that this claim is irrational:
        > “Since i can conceive of (x) being true, therefore it is true.”
        We might be saying:
        > “Since i can conceive of someone saying the above claim, and all the while (x) not being true, therefore, it is irrational.”

        Also, we do have the same definition for conceivability right?

        Anyway, what are your thoughts on that?

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