Revisiting Presuppositions Always Pays Off

Victor Chininin Buele

Before moving on to the second installment on the series about secularism as religion, we need to pause and revisit my presuppositions.  We often ignore how much we fill in the gaps.  Honest dialog requires careful examination.  After all, the underlying implication of the first installment was that there are gaps, and that these gaps are filled with faith.

A dear friend was gracious to me to comment the following:

A good start to what will surely be a valiant effort. However, you make a huge presupposition that people that don’t believe have an answer for creation. I know that I don’t know how the universe was created. I can read theories and evidentiary points to attempt to draw a conclusion supported by the evidence, but you are absolutely correct that there are gaps in the scientific explanations. Further, it seems that the more evidence we find, the more questions it raises. Human knowledge is like a balloon inside a box; the volume of the balloon represents what we know, the inner layer of latex is where that knowledge is pointing, the outer layer of latex is what we understand as unknown, but the rest of the volume of the box is the unknown. As we add air to the balloon by increasing our collective knowledge, we have more that points to what we don’t know, but what we know that we don’t know also grows. Now, I have no idea if we as a species can ever know everything, but I don’t presuppose to have an answer to anything that I don’t know. This, in my opinion, is the challenge to your stance.

I profoundly appreciate the honesty, candor, and the intelligence of this response.  We must take a moment to be thankful that we can still begin to voice our opinions with an affirmation of the good we see in others.  What a blessing this friend has been to me.  I thank my friend for affirming my efforts.  This examination wouldn’t be happening if he had not taken the time to further the discussion.  In that way, this is different than a book.  I love books, but there is something about riding this wave of iterations in epistemology that are open to us via the dynamic nature of the internet today.

Do People That Don’t Believe Have an Answer for Creation?

“I know that I don’t know how the universe was created.”  This level of honesty is worthy of admiration and imitation.  I must apologize for only addressing at first the ends of the spectrum.  The point of the original article was that I believe that God created the world while many of my humanist/atheist/agnostic/secularist friends believe the world started at the Big Bang and we are the result of Darwinian evolution and Chance.  A couple of friends rightly followed up with comments about what I call the line between science and scientism. A Christian who ignores science needs to go back to read the Bible because Adam was a scientist given the serious task of taxonomy by his Creator (Gen. 2:19).  Adam could have only gotten so far by digging holes with bare hands.  Understanding how the world works and how it can be used to guide us to human flourishing (even as we groan the consequences of the Fall) is a scientific effort (Gen. 1:28).  A Christian can not, by definition, be against science.

But a Christian is also by definition against scientism.  What do I mean by this made up word? I mean the blind faith of the cult of Science as god.  That science has the ultimat answers and is the maximum authority over all things.  While my friend must forgive me for implying that he has an answer for creation (that was painting with broad strokes), there are many fellow human beings out there who ascribe to Science the same attributes of “godness” or deity that are God’s by right.  There is such a dogmatic dualism out there in our world where God and Science are pitted against each other.  My initial point was to show through that sharp contrast that both groups do the same thing–they fill the gaps by faith with something.

After we revisit this fundamental presupposition, though, we still walk away with creation (or the uncertainty of creation as it may be) as a fundamental piece of every person’s worldview.  However we see this, it will have massive impacts to how we see all of life.

Yes, There are Gaps.

This is another area of great excitement to me as I read my friend’s response.  We must be intellectually honest.  Again, I have spent many nights talking with friends who overlook the gaps in their positions.  My point was that when we do that, we take “godness” upon ourselves.  We decide what makes a cogent argument.  We decide what is a gap or not.  Cognitive dissonance is in the air.  We become god.

The More Evidence We Find, The More Questions It Raises

Ultimately, as we fulfill our God-given task to study more and more of the world that was given to us, we have questions.  We face the limits of our finitude. We are not God.  And we can’t explain everything.  We learn something, and it opens another Pandora’s box.  We have to go revisit what we thought was true, we have to go rethink everything.  The Copernican Revolution wouldn’t be a revolution if it didn’t require to shift wrong thinking into right thinking.  We are humans.  When we admit we can be wrong, we are walking towards humility.  When we act as god, pride gets the upper hand.  Hurt is left in the trail.  We hurt those we love.

Epistemology – Is it Possible? Or Is It Just Hot Air?

We keep talking about God in 2018.  Whether you oppose Him and spend your time making arguments for His nonexistence, or whether you proclaim with your mouth and actions that you ignore such a stupid idea, or whether you bow down and worship Him, or whether you say it’s all a Big Elephant and that you are perfectly happy worshiping the trunk while I worship a leg, we keep finding ourselves by our nature still talking about God.  Natural revelation necessitates that we realize that we are not all that there is here.  We are creative beings, not creator beings.  That is, we cannot make something come out of nothing (ex nihilo).  We are always taking something that already exists and we make it something else.

And that’s where epistemology becomes a fascinating point.  Can we know anything?  Can we know everything?  We most definitely can not know everything.  We can, however, know.

What is the Bible but a finite revelation of the Infinite God for finite creatures.  It is a spectacular text that has the writing of the Creator all over it, and if that’s something we would want to discuss, there are just some fascinating things we could talk about (like Reading the Bible in 3D for example).  The point for now is this–both Christianity and science are founded upon the fact of knowability.  We can know.  We must start there.  We don’t have an Ultra HD 4K movie in the pages of the Bible about the Infinite God.  There are gaps.  The only starting point of the first post was to get us started in seeing that this is not something that is exclusively a “religious issue of the Christians,” but that all humans have this tension in epistemology.  We can know, but we can’t know everything.  And thus, every argument is eventually a circular argument (and I would say even to the disagreement of many readers, that every argument takes us to God).  God is the reason for the circularity.  “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).

What Do I Do With the Gap?

That’s a great question. We must deal with the gap somehow.  And that’s what we have mislabeled as religion and have called as the opium of the infirm fueling the sense of superiority.  It’s not that some less sophisticated, or less evolved, creatures need to feel better and make up stuff.  We all deal with the gap.  We are all religious.  Deeply religious.

A friend, wiser than I, has said (edited for brevity):

We still need “seers” — the culture nearly reveres science. So that the definitive answer to any argument is, “Scientists say…” So what’s going on with that? What is a scientist? A person with tools that help them see things that cannot be seen. We trust what science says because we trust that they see what we cannot.
“I also could speak as you do, if you were in my place; I could join words together against you and shake my head at you” (Job 16:4).

At the end of the day, you can walk away unpersuaded.  You can walk away certainly persuaded that Christianity is nonsense.  That’s a great place to start.  But how we fill the gap has massive impacts to how you live your life.  We see this in our daily life now.  People fill the gap with empty promises from a compulsive liar who tapes his ties.  People fill the gap with the promise of freedom from gurus that will happily collect our cash but will not deliver the relief, peace, and comfort that our anxious, fearful hearts long for.

I’m profoundly thankful for this request to examine my presuppositions.  I hope it helps us advance the dialog.  Yes, we can know God.  It may seem like a book full of nonsense at first, and especially since the efforts of many are keeping hungry souls from it.  No, we cannot know everything.  Yes, we can know.  Our hearts cry out for truth.  We see it every day–the lies we’ve been fed that there is no truth keep going down the drain.  They told us that morality was relative.  Well, Donald has had a way to show us that when things get really bad, there is no relativism in morality.  They told us that we are fundamentally good and that we excel at all what we do, and we turn around and find that our heroes are no better than us–rampant sexual depravity and oppression of the weak.  I also “don’t presuppose,” like my friend, “to have an answer to anything that I don’t know.”

And because of that, he is in not far from the path to the humility shown in Philippians 2.

I fail to see the challenge in his comment.  There is no challenge.  An apology for painting with broad strokes, yes.  But no challenge.

Thank you for your grace.

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