Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Agnostic's Angst: Having No Knowlege...and Knowing It

The following is a pluralistic argument of a sort [“argument” is a bit of a stretch!] put forth by a guy named Chuck. For clarity, Chuck’s words appear bold and italicized. [I have left his grammar and syntax unedited.] May God add His blessing to your reading.
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“What i know is that you don't know and that would include me and all mankind..it"s called Faith...feel free to base ur beliefs on a turkey sandwhich if u wish....i don't care.”
I would ask you: Are you absolutely sure? How do you know we can't know? Knowing that one can't know is the essence of agnosticism. Agnosticism simply means "no knowledge."

I'm asking, how does one arrive at the knowledge that knowledge is inaccessible?

If God had never revealed Himself...agnosticism would, of course, be the only option. But God has revealed Himself in His world, in His word, and in His Son.

This is the clear teaching of scripture. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-19).

In other words, Chuck, according to the Bible, agnosticism is self-imposed and inexcusable. Agnosticism cloaks itself in humility. But in reality, it is the rejection of God’s self revelation. Notice, the scriptures I gave you don’t say man doesn’t know truth, but rather, man suppresses truth. “Not knowing” and “suppressing” are two very different things.

“has nothing to do with agnosticism.....ur truth can be my blasphemy and vice versa.....unless of course ur self proclaiming urself god....again, ur truth and my truth may be two different truths and i don' t claim any religion has exclusivity to God...not even urs...r u startin to get the point…it's all left up to the individual to determine what works best for them.”
Yes, I understand, I fully comprehend, your position. I've had this discussion many times. I understand your position and I fully disagree with it. No orthodox Christian agrees with the non biblical notion that "it's all left up" to us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christ is clear: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

You say this “has nothing to do with agnosticism.” You previously alleged that “mankind” cannot know. Chuck, this is agnosticism by definition. You’ve yet to explain to me how you can know that man cannot know. You’ve yet to actually engage anything I’ve said.

You offer: “ur truth can be my blasphemy and vice versa…” You offer this as an absolute truth statement. You deny absolute Truth [truth which is true for all men at all times and places] yet you keep making absolute truth statements. You're talking out of both sides of your mouth. That being said, this particular absolute truth statement of yours is completely false.

Your “truth” statement denies the nature of Truth and it also commits the logical fallacy of denying the Aristotelian law of non contradiction. That is, something cannot be what it is and not be what it is at the same time and in the same relation. For example, it cannot be true that Christ is God the Son incarnate and that He is not God the Son incarnate.

This is the problem with reasoning autonomously rather than biblically: eventually it breaks down into unlivable truth claims and logical absurdities.


12 comments:

  1. 90% of agnostic's arguments could be paraphrased thusly, "I am the smartest person I know, and I don't know anything....therefore you can't know anything either". The other 10% use even dumber reasoning. All of them will mention how little they know, and how they care even less....all the way screaming pejoratives at any who dare disagree with their admitted lack of knowledge. They make me laugh.

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  2. Yes, and they're rather selective in their not knowing, viz. they claim knowlege is inaccessible in the areas of morality and religion [how convenient]. And yet, they know exactly how much money is in their bank account and take umbrage if someone tries to steal it.

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  3. It is interesting how an agnostic, who claims no absolutes, can know absolutely that one cannot claim any absolutes :)

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  4. Well, 'misery loves company', as someone once said. And, if one is a skeptic they want affirmation in that skepticism. Further, there exists a fear amongst skeptics generally that religious people seek to lord over everyone's lives -- like their perception of puritan colonial New England with a drunk who was put in stocks in the public square to shame him.

    I'm not saying this is a completely rational fear, but neither is it completely irrational. It is likely born out of their own conscience conndemning them -- and especially so when a Christian says all men are accountable to God.

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  5. Yes...the skeptic doubts/questions everything except his own skepticism. (Unless, of course, Charlie is correct and the skeptic craves "affirmation"? In the end, maybe the skeptic really is skeptical of his skepticism.)

    True, the unbeliever doesn't want Christian moral standards imposed upon socieity. No, he wants his moral standards [or one could say lack thereof...but really, everyone has a moral system of some sort] to rule culture. In the end, someone's moral system will be enforced--in some sense or another--upon culture(s).

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  6. Being "skeptical", as opposed to being "credulous" is a good thing. The Bible tells us "try the spirits", and "test all things", and many other prudent instructions for knowing truth, and right living. But, there are a couple of species of skepticism which are in vogue, which I've noticed.

    There is the libertine skepticism, which feigns skepticism toward everything which (coincidentially) criticizes the libertine lifestyle. This is not a good-faith skepticism, but a strategy to bolster libertinism. Live and let live, and to each his own. So, anything which criticizes that spirit is to be opposed because it is antithetical.

    Then there is the skepticism of polite intellectual propriety in the post-modern age. That is, it is considered crude and lacking in sophiscated skills of reflection to be dogmatic about much of anything. Being skeptical in this sense postures a humility but looks down on philosophies which express too much certainty. And, in the post-modern sense arguments which exclude certain philosophies are viewed as word-games for power-plays.

    In both of these ways of looking at contemporary skepticism all views are brought to parity in that they are personal devices to bring psychological comfort, and should be kept essentially personal, even privite. So goes the prevailing wisdom.

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  7. Charlie writes: "Being 'skeptical', as opposed to being 'credulous' is a good thing. The Bible tells us 'try the spirits', and 'test all things'..."

    True. But the Christian should have biblical sketpicism. That is, the believer has an objective standard by which he may "try" and "test" everything, viz. the Holy Bible. The modern skeptic disbeleives the Bible and distrusts all things, excepting his own skepticism.

    Charlie writes: "it is considered crude and lacking in sophiscated skills of reflection to be dogmatic about much of anything."

    Yes, and wouldn't you say the skeptic is rather dogmatic on this point? ;)

    Charlie says: "Being skeptical in this sense postures a humility..."

    Agreed. This is what I meant when I wrote: "Agnosticism cloaks itself in humility."

    Charlie observes: "all views are brought to parity in that they are personal devices to bring psychological comfort, and should be kept essentially personal, even privite."

    Yes, "all views" except the view which holds "all views" to be equally valid (or just as precisely, equally "invalid.") This view of "all views" exempts itself and is held to be superior to all other truth claims.

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  8. Steve Griffin rejoined: Yes, "all views" except the view which holds "all views" to be equally valid (or just as precisely, equally "invalid.") This view of "all views" exempts itself and is held to be superior to all other truth claims.'

    CEH: Yes, I think you have them there. But, if they follow your logic all the way 'til you get them to that point (that is they don't bail on you) they might be content to admit that is the case. And, they would say that the superiority of that one view is because (like many presuppositionalists) it is axiomatic. Or, like Plantinga they might say it is "properly basic". Or, like a metaphysical naturalist it is just a "brute fact".

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  9. Charlie writes: "they might be content to admit that is the case."

    This could be the case. (I suspect it would be for many.) Francis Schaeffer would often speak of the unbeliever living in "contradiction" (not that they would necessarily see this as contradiction). But upon showing a gentleman that he was living in contradiction he replied, "If I am...so what?"

    I'm not sure how to respond to the person who is perfectly content, living in known contradiction.

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  10. If an agnostic says, "I know for certain that no one can know for certain;" then the agnostic has made a truth claim that no one can know for certain; and we say, but we ask, "how do you know that?" To which the skeptic would not know how to answer. And if replying back to us with the same question as to how we can know for sure there is a God, what is our reply back?

    But what if the agnostic's initial statement were worded to say, "I'm not sure if anyone can know for sure." In this statement he is not sure of anything, and is therefore not making any truth claim.

    If the skeptic can only make truth claims based on his having his being within God's laws of logic, how is this shown to him? By how he cannot account for it? Help me out here guys.

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  11. He can merely refrain from using the word "know", and say he doubts everything, and says "there is nothing which can't be doubted". And, that statement is axiomatic. Indeed it is the most basic belief requiring no proof. Thus, he can cast doubt on what the Christian says, as with any other truth claim. Its not a stretch to think this sort of utter skepticism is the kind of nihilism which when hard-pressed into can lead to solipsism, or even madness.

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  12. Charlie, you said: "He can merely refrain from using the word 'know', and say he doubts everything, and says 'there is nothing which can't be doubted'."

    Are you saying the skeptic can't not make a truth claim - that his doubting is really cloaked in a knowing? Then how can an epistemic prove an ontological reality?

    You said: "Indeed it is the most basic belief requiring no proof."

    Then it falls back on belief, which is always based on evidence that is beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Then you said: "Thus, he can cast doubt on what the Christian says, as with any other truth claim."

    But how is this doubt best broken down with? Ryan's method (which no one can understand, and seems to amount to scripture and faith anyway)? Or non-biblical evidences along with scripture?

    Ryan seems to think his method is less capable of being picked apart than the evidentialist's method; but aren't they both based on being able (faith?) to see the contradictions?

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