Friday, July 15, 2005

Reformed Epistemology Apologetics & the Emerging Church

The nice folks at Dictionary.com define epistemology as:
e-pis-te-mol-o-gy
n. The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.

Simply said, it's a study of "how do we know what we know".

I've always found it somewhat mystifying that so many people are up in arms about the emerging church when it comes to epistemology. They are worried about people making comments about being "comfortable with paradox", "content to live in the tension", and appealing to "mystery".

Why I find this bemusing is simply because even more modern-oriented apologetics* advocated the same things, and also warned about the problems of allowing modernism's Enlightenment-based "rules of engagement" to undermine the mystery of the Christian faith.
*a-pol-o-get-ics
n. The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines
Here's an excerpt from Five View on Apologetics, which is part of Zondervan's "Counterpoints" series, from the chapter by Kelly James Clark entitled "Reformed Epistemology Apologetics":
"Suppose you are on a retreat or on the top of a mountain and have a sense of being loved by God or that God created the universe. You begin to believe in God, not because you are persuaded by the argument from design -- you are simply taken with belief in God. You just find yourself believing, what you had heretofore denied, that God exists.

"Now you have come across the writings of David Hume and W.K. Clifford, who insist that you base all of your beliefs on evidence. Hume raises a further point: your belief in an all-loving, omnipotent God is inconsistent with the evil that exists in the world. Given the fact of evil, God cannot exist.

"To meet this demand for evidence, do you become a temporary agnostic and begin perusing the texts of Aquinas, Augustine, and Paley for a good proof of God's existence? Do you give up belief in God because you see Hume's point and can't see how God and evil could be reconciled? Or do you remain steady in your trust of God in spite of the lack of evidence and even in the face of counter-evidence? (emphasis added)

"Since the Enlightenment, there has been a demand to expose all of our beliefs to the searching criticism of reason. If a belief is unsupported by the evidence, it is irrational to believe it. It is the position of Reformed epistemology (likely the position that Calvin held) that belief in God... does not require the support of evidence or argument in order for it to be rational." (emphasis added)

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