My last post staked out the position that Christianity is based in truth. While not testable the same way hypotheses in chemistry or physics can be tested, the Christian worldview is nonetheless grounded in certain facts of history. Several readers posted challenges to this claim.
The first was that I was asserting but not proving this point. This is a fair comment. However, it would be nearly impossible within the confines of an 800 word essay to lay out the case for Christianity. Others much more knowledgeable have done so, establishing that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are indeed historical events. While much of what we know is based on the testimony of “believer’s” – those who personally witnessed these events and underwent changed beliefs and lives – their credibility was greatly enhanced by their willingness to face torture or death rather than deny the truth of what they had experienced. Moreover, there are other “non believers” who also corroborate Jesus’ life and crucifixion, as well as the transformative effect his life had on human history. But the case is much broader still, for it also encompasses the prophesies written before the time of Jesus that were fulfilled by him, lending additional support to his claim of divinity. Interested readers should consider: “The Historical Jesus” or “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” both by Gary Habermas; “Cold Case Christianity” by J. Warner Wallace, or “Reasonable Faith,” by William Lane Craig, as starting points.
The second challenged my assertion that science is not the only means for arriving at knowledge. The contention, a common one today, was that science is the best way to arrive at knowledge, including knowledge of past events. But to make sense of this assertion, one must first determine what it is that is in question. Past events are not repeatable experiments that can be recreated in the lab. Probability assessments become meaningless in many such settings. I have seen murder cases in which the probability that the defendant would have killed the victim was infinitesimally small – until they actually did the act. They could have countless character witnesses testify as to how out of character such behavior might be. But these probability assessments would be irrelevant if, for example, the defendant confessed or there was other powerful evidence which established guilt. Highly improbable events – like astronauts landing on the moon – do occasionally occur. Some events, like the assassination of President Lincoln – can only occur once, if they occur at all. A rational approach to determining truth as to such an historical event is to test the evidence, not consider probabilities in the abstract. Indeed, concluding that a particular person did not commit the crime, or that a particular event did not occur, because it was “improbable,” despite the actual evidence that it did occur, would reflect a bias which is interfering with the determination of truth.
Additionally, it is a mistake to assume that science can address all questions. Science is indeed a powerful tool. Much of what we take for granted – the many modern conveniences that enhance our lives – are the product of science. But science cannot prove that the scientific method is preferable, nor can it establish the validity of reason in reaching conclusions. It is not possible to use reason to support reason without begging the question. Moreover, a moment’s reflection reveals the many limitations of scientific knowledge. For example, “science” assisted Nazi Germany in developing one of the most efficient states ever organized on the planet, but it had nothing to say about the ends to which that knowledge was put. Survival of the fittest is a scientific theory that explains why some species survive. But science cannot “know” that applying it to members of the human family is always wrong. This type of knowledge – moral knowledge – comes from a different source.
Science may tell me why the colors of the rainbow appear the way they do, but it cannot help me to know that rainbows are pleasing to the eye. Indeed, science can measure many types of features with microscopic precision, but it cannot tell me what is beautiful or what is hideous. Finally, science can tell me about the ink and parchment used by an author, but it cannot tell me whether the ideas conveyed are valid or invalid, cogent or rambling.
Contrary to the implication of skeptics, Christians do not reject science. Indeed some of the greatest scientific minds were wholly devoted to Jesus Christ. But Christianity does not assume that science can provide all knowledge, including knowledge of God and his interaction with his creation. As it relates to such things, and especially to the historical underpinnings of Christianity and its fundamental philosophies, other forms of knowledge are at play.
Posted by Al Serrato