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A Theological Basis of Conservatism, Part 5

This entry is part of 7 in the series

"A Theology of Conservatism"

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In this series, we are establishing a theological foundation for conservatism, specifically the objective nature of aesthetic judgments. See part 1 herepart 2 herepart 3 here, and part 4 here.

The aseity of God is the ground for knowledge.

The narrative of the Fall demonstrates that attempted neutrality denies, at the outset, the possibility that the Christian worldview can be correct; the assumption that I determine truth makes genuine knowledge of the truth impossible. The problems run even deeper; denying the aseity of God not only denies the unbeliever access to the truth, but also denies him any ability to construct even a coherent facsimile of truth (an a truth).

The ultimate problem with unbelieving thought is that, whatever the specifics of his system, the unbeliever is committed to his own final authority; this is the principle of autonomy. His commitment to autonomy presents the unbeliever with an unsolvable problem: what he doesn’t know is ultimately and finally unknown. The consequence of this is that everything the unbeliever knows might, at any moment, be utterly overturned by the next thing he learns. All of his knowledge, then, is ultimately and finally uncertain.

The unbeliever who understands this problem may claim to resign himself to this uncertainty; this is (broadly speaking) the postmodern position. However, such a commitment is utterly unlivable; if he is correct, the relativist cannot even defend his relativism.

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Fate or Providence?

On the Christian worldview, however, God knows all truths, and all the relationships between truths, because all reality is what it is because God has spoken it that way. This provides a transcendent standard for truth.

As a Christian, I am quite willing to acknowledge that my understanding of the truth will be deficient; in fact, a central element of Christian theology is that God himself is incomprehensible. However, for the Christian, what is mystery for me is never ultimate mystery, because God knows; the universe and all it contains is ultimately rational because it was created by a personal, rational God.

Therefore, God’s knowing of all things provides an unchangeable, transcendent standard for knowledge. The Christian has the resources, within his worldview, to insist that this that God has revealed is true, and that assertions contrary to God’s mind are worthy of the epistemic condemnation of false.

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Michael Riley

About Michael Riley

Student of theology, apologetics, and Christian affections. Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Wakefield, Michigan.

One Response to A Theological Basis of Conservatism, Part 5

  1. this is all predicate on “truth” being mind-independent. in philosophy, there is to date, no foundation of epistemic truths. what we can say about the nature of truth is that it is indistinguishable from the test of truth, and in that, “reasons to assert” is the standard test where more empirical ones are not available. truth, the kind which we believe “is the case with x”, is justified belief.

    the authority of truth is truth, not gods nor a single man; it is the intersubjective agreement found between human beings who by nature, do not differ remarkably in ability to reason nor circumstances of “place” which give rise to our problems and solutions and ideas. so in saying “authority of truth is truth”, we do not appeal to truth reified, for there is only reality; what we mean is authority has nothing to do with truth at all. what makes something “true” is that some sentence has a job to do, and our beliefs and doubts about that proposition are justified.

    there are absolute truths, but on investigating these we can only conclude that all absolute truths are trivial.

    axioms are true by definition; a triangle or numbers and symbols where 2+2=4 (base 10) or 2+2=10 (base 4).

    truisms are true because they’re the limit of our ability to comprehend any differently; “I exist”, for example … only resolved by realizing “there is I” and it produces thought, or “there is thought” and “I” is an instance spawn of it. as c.s. peirce suggests, we simply enjoy common sense where we don’t sacrifice the apparent for a maxim because doubting “I exist” is pretend doubt for the sake of a maxim; and doubt too must be justified.

    tautology is true by form. “a fact is a fact”, for example. tautology only restates itself and cannot produce more than other tautology. a great example is “truth is what is true, because it is true”.

    the important “truths”, it should be obvious, are a process of reason and reasons to assert them; for were it not so, no debate would ever necessary, no sales pitch ever delivered, no rhetoric nor dialectics, no primary field of study in which I’ve invested the majority of my life, epistemology.

    what we have in this essay is a metaphysical tautology; god exists and “is” truth and we only recognize what is “true” because if god did not exist, there would be no truth. and as it concerns metaphysics, there is no problem in forming sentences here where they are valid, but they’re all synthetic, meaning they are only true by virtue of the arrangement of words that are defined well … and, the referent(s) of such propositions need not even exist to go through the exercise of it all.

    saying god exists and therefore a believer is assured in certain truths is no more arbitrary than a non-believer saying there are no gods and that “truth is a sentence seen to pay it’s own way”.

    there is only the fact that neither sort of person conducts his affairs any differently as it regards the establishment of “what is the case with x”.

    of course I could go on, but I’m not sure who would listen.

    joe blow, PhD
    philosophy (epistemology and ethics)
    concerned Christian with respect to the “holy crap” we tell ourselves and others.

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