Archive for October 29th, 2007

Greg Bahnsen’s words still ring clearly as atheists claim rationality for their unbelief.

How do we know what we know, and how can we prove our beliefs to be true? The autonomous rationalists maintained that there are self-evident truths from which we can deduce substantial conclusions about the nature of reality. The wildly different conclusions about reality at which they arrived made it rather incredible that their premises were genuinely self-evident and that their deductions were genuinely necessary.

The autonomous empiricists rejected all innate ideas, maintained that only particulars exist, and said that we know and prove things by common sense and observation of the world. This too led to philosophical embarrassment, in that the empirical demand for verification (or the tracing of our particular ideas back to their origin) was not itself a truth that could be empirically verified, and the nature of the particulars that were acknowledged to exist was hotly disputed. Was there a particular substance underlying the particular attributes of things (Locke), or did material substance exist only as a mental idea or internal experience (Berkeley), or—empirically speaking—must we not also reject the existence of a mental substance (the mind being only a bundle of perceptions), as well as enduring extramental objects (made up of isolated, experienced traits) and any causal relation between them (Hume)? Enlightenment epistemology was a shambles in both Europe (the rationalists) and Great Britain (the empiricists). Hume could comment: “If reasoning be considered in an abstract view, it furnishes invincible arguments against itself! The vaunted “Age of Reason” had collapsed into subjectivism and skepticism, failing to find a reliable method of knowing—and even disagreeing sharply over the nature of “reasoning” itself. There would seem to be no intellectual basis for confidence in man’s ability to gain objective knowledge of the real and orderly world outside (or inside) the mind.

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Alvin Plantinga delivered the Norton Lectures at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Oct. 23, 2007 “Science and Religion: Why does the Debate Continue?”

Oct. 24, 2007 “Divine Action in the World”

Oct. 24, 2007 Ph.D. Graduate Club luncheon

Oct. 25, 2007 “Evolution vs. Atheism”

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