Remember two weeks ago, I mentioned the word “epistemology.” You’ve heard that word before relating to the epistles of Paul (Paul’s letters of “instructions to the church” found in the New Testament). Epistemology is the “theory of knowledge.” Every person alive operates with some sort of epistemology. Every person will resort to some basis of authority for his/her truth claims. In the world of philosophy and psychology, they have concluded that people make decisions based on three different sources of information:
Empirical Data – Also known as Empiricism (sense perception). What a person sees, touches, smells, tastes and hears enables him/her to become aware of the facts of the world. We rely much on these empirical mechanisms to make what is considered to be truth claims about the real world. For instance, we know that fire is hot, and you can get burned from it; why? Because we’ve been burnt before. We often use phrases like, “I was there; I saw it; I know its true.” Much of human awareness of the world comes through empirical data. That’s why it’s hard for people to believe the Bible because they have not experienced it’s truth claims for themselves.
Rational Concepts – Also known as Rationalism. We use this principle throughout the day without realizing it. If someone said two plus two equals five, we instantly know that to be wrong. We have rationally come to the conclusion that two plus two is always four and can never be anything else. Numbers never lie and “numbers make the world go round.” Our bodies function using rhythmic patterns (breathing, heartbeats, electrical impulses in our brain, etc.). Your exact physical location at this moment can be determined by set coordinates. All the information in your computer that you are using to read this enews is being transferred through a series of millions (if not billions) of ones and zeros. All mathematical reasoning is an extension of rational logic. Another example would be: I know we can’t wave our arms fast enough to fly, therefore be careful around high places, you could fall and plunge to your death. That is rational thinking. Jesus walking on water is irrational. That’s why it’s hard to believe the miracles in the Bible and therefore many have a hard time believing the Bible to be true.
A Priori Truth – This source of information can’t be explained, it’s just there. It’s not based on rational or experiential thought but more of intuition and desire. Self-consciousness and moral-consciousness play a big role in how we live our lives. A person may choose not to drink alcohol because of an alcoholic parent. A person can have the idea that guns are bad because of losing a loved one in a shooting. You may be on a diet but eat that chocolate morsel anyway. Why? Because you want it! You know stealing is wrong but if your child is starving to death you will do anything to get your child food even if it requires going against your moral standards. A priori truth can change with the times; it is relative to the surrounding circumstances, driven by self and its never ending desires.
So how do we bring Biblical truth to a world that makes decisions based on these sources? Next week I’ll explain one more source of truth… Revelational truth.