"Over against all that reason suggests or would measure and fathom, yes, all that our senses feel and perceive, we must learn to cling to the Word and simply judge according to it."

- Martin Luther

Luther's Rose

I wish most importantly to state a case for Christ and His Cross for the unbeliever, but I also wish to make the case for both the unbeliever and the "blessedly inconsistent" towards the true apostolic and catholic teachings of the blessed and orthodox Lutheran Church.


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The Circularity of Scientism

On my post, Why I Lean Towards Traducianism, I received an interesting and extremely telling comment by an evident atheist.

His response was pedantic and condescending in tone, but he laid out his argument against the soul by saying:

...I have often wondered how anybody could be stupid enough to believe in a soul, which is invisible and has exactly zero evidence for it.

I guess there's nothing too childish for the brainwashed masses to believe.

For the sake of argument I'm going to assume that he's a metaphysical naturalist. For those interested on what that is please visit this link for a nutshell explanation. It's also safe to assume he believes that scientific evaluation, and only scientific evaluation can give you any true knowledge. This belief is called scientism, scientism is explained in the Christian Cyclopedia as:

Thesis that factual knowledge based on rational interpretation of sensory evidence is the only valid knowledge. On a broader base it includes some nonsensory data drawn, e.g., from introspective observation. Excludes moral, aesthetic, and religious experience. Proponents include representatives of logical* positivism.

So basically this person believes that his ability to observe and reason from that observation is good enough to comprehend his reality. Therefore, if anything is incapable of being measured by some metric of some sort is then essentially unknowable.

With that said, I'd like to switch gears a bit and express my fondness for Christopher Hitchens. I know that may come as a shock to some, but I think he's provocative, intelligent, funny, and a delight to listen to. That is not to say that I don't disagree with him vehemently, and that I do, but for as much as I know him, which is very little, I like him.

In a somewhat recent debate between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson held at Westminster Theological Seminary—Philadelphia; Hitchens gave a uncharacteristically revealing reaction to a statement given by Wilson. Towards the end of their exchange Wilson said to Hitchens, “I have faith in the Bible, you have faith in reason.”

Hitchens responded with, “No, I don't have faith in reason; I'm inclined to doubt something if its truth will be something that suits me. We [i.e., atheists] don't love the idea that we will be annihilated; we don't indulge in wish-thinking. We don't assume what we're asked to prove.” He then goes on to say, “You're a man of one book.”

Then Wilson quickly shot back, “You're a man of one thought!”.

The audience laughed; however, the audiences laughter seemed to perturb Mr. Hitchens. He quickly reprimanded the audience with this statement,

If you laugh at that, you're like Bill Mahr's audience, you'll laugh at anything. I don't like being told that my arguments aren't as good as his because he has divine information that I don't have. There's an assumption with which I will dispense before the inquiry - there is no supernatural intervention in this argument. Like LaPlace, I don't need the god-hypothesis. If he does exist, he is incompetent, absent-minded, capricious and cruel.

His cadence along with way he uttered it out, with such an uncharacteristic sour tone as opposed to his normal triumphant tenor really caught me by surprise. It seemed that perhaps Wilson got Hitchens' mind close to grappling a unique and special bond between the theist and atheist, that is; they both believe certain things to be true—a priori—which means that people must assume the truth of something before concluding its validity. In logic this is known as the fallacy of petitio principii, or circular reasoning, and also otherwise known as begging the question. With Wilson his die-hard trust in the Bible begs the question, and with Hitchens his unrelenting trust in reason begs the question: equally.

Now, the atheist/agnostic at this point can claim that the Bible is a book of myths and has been proven unreliable in many circumstances, and, therefore, intellectually shaky as a starting point, and they are certainly free to make this objection (although I don't agree). However, this also means I'm just as free to say that if a conglomeration of neurons, neuro-chemicals, and cognitive faculties, mixed in a certain way, has the ability to give a reliable comprehension of reality, then why can't a different mixture of neurons, chemicals, and cognitive faculties also give us an accurate comprehension of reality as well? If this were the case what would be the difference between the intellect of a person with a Phd, and a person on LSD? What would be the difference between a college professor, and a person with schizophrenia?

G. K. Chesterton, author and Catholic apologist, while speaking of mad-men in his book Orthodoxy said:

To the insane man his insanity is quite prosaic, because it is quite true. A man who thinks himself a chicken is to himself as ordinary as a chicken. A man who thinks he is a bit of glass is to himself as dull as a bit of glass. It is the homogeneity of his mind which makes him dull, and which makes him mad. It is only because we see the irony of his idea that we think him even amusing; it is only because he does not see the irony of his idea that he is put in Hanwell [a London insane asylum] at all.

So, what does make reason reliable? Majority rule? Societal norms? Predictive ability? Well, majority rule is a group of powerful people imposing their power on others, and that doesn't speak to somethings validity or not. Societal norms change with time; what was once considered reasonable decades ago, can now be viewed as ancient and irrelevant by todays standards. An insane person, in the height of their mania can be every bit as predictive as any “sane” person regarding the world outside them, granted that their condition remain constant. However, it is no matter the constancy of their condition, for their perception of reality is as every bit true to them as the next mans, given that the set of presumptions about brain chemistry and cognitive function being a good judge of reality true as well. Yet, that is the question isn't it, why is our brain chemistry and processes in such-an-such a configuration reliable?

You see, this question can't be answered conclusively; it can only be assumed true with a hope for better future insight. And, as such the premise of the question is included in the conclusion. This is petitio principii. Circularity, begging the question, etc., is the best humanity can do, and so, we are smart enough to realize this, but not always honest enough to admit it.

So, what am I getting at with all of this? Well, let's just be honest about our starting points, our assumptions, and our best guesses at the outset. Let's give them a fair comparison to other ways of thinking and viewing the world, instead of dogmatically accepting our unprovable assumptions as something so “self-evident” it needs no defense.