Monday, August 8, 2011

The Truth Incarnate and The Truth Incarnated: Jesus and Contemporary Evidence

In my last post, I discussed Plantinga’s rebuttal to the objection that if RE is correct, then any community could “legitimately claim” that its belief is properly basic with respect to warrant. I stated that Plantinga’s problem is that he wants theistic belief to be both similar to our own beliefs (memory, perception, a priori intuition) and yet, different from other beliefs (because it involves the Spirit causing you and I to believe the great things of the gospel). Plantinga must declare whether or not it is similar to or different from other human beliefs. He must be unwavering on this question if he is to make the case for RE.

I also pointed out another problem with Reformed Epistemology (RE): that is, it separates truth from evidence to make truth independent of the evidence. The problem with such a notion is that it makes truth exist apart from evidence. If there is no evidence, one could still consider their belief to be rational. Plantinga himself states the following:

“I’ll conclude that in fact there is no reason at all to think that Christian belief requires argument or propositional evidence, if it is to be justified. Christians---indeed, well-educated, contemporary, and culturally aware Christians---can be justified, so I shall argue, even if they don’t hold their beliefs on the basis of arguments or evidence, even if they aren’t aware of any good arguments for their beliefs, and even if, indeed, there aren’t any [arguments or evidence]” (Dr. Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, page 93. End parenthetical insertion mine).

This is a quote that I think bears some discussion, though I’ve already discussed it much in the series. Plantinga wants to allow Christians without knowledge of arguments and evidence to be justified in their beliefs (and even rational for so believing); nevertheless, he not only wants to make uneducated Christians justified and rational in their Christian belief, but he wants to say that, even if no arguments or evidence existed, such persons would still be justified and rational for their belief in God.

Today’s post, then, is designed to discuss why I disagree with Dr. Plantinga’s thesis. Of all that I have said in this series, very little of it may be read or remembered; but what I want believers to remember is this post. It is designed to give a biblical argument as to why I disagree with Dr. Plantinga. I just believe that, if RE is a Christian epistemology (it is considered to be an apologetic methodology, see “Five Views on Apologetics”), it should adhere to the Scriptures themselves. After all, is Scripture not supposed to be the ultimate source by which children of God live their lives in this world? If it is, then we cannot (nor should we) hold to an epistemology that is counter-biblical. And in my estimation at least, RE is counter-biblical...which makes it hard for me in my Christian conscience to endorse it.

Why do I title this post “The Truth Incarnate and The Truth Incarnated”? Because my disagreement with Reformed Epistemology has to do with the idea of “The Truth Incarnate” (Jesus Christ as the truth, John 14:6, and His incarnation) as well as “the truth incarnated” (how truth should be discovered today).

First, let’s look at Jesus Christ. Jesus declares in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (New American Standard Version). It is in John 14:6 that we find Jesus stating that He Himself is “the truth,” the guideline of truth, truth embodied. The Truth became incarnate when He took on flesh, was born of the virgin Mary, and was raised as a carpenter’s son. John tells us in his prologue, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NASB). The Word, John says, which was “in the beginning with God” (Jn. 1:2) came to earth and walked among men. From these verses alone, we see that “The Truth” (Jesus) became incarnate---that is, Jesus, though divine deity in heaven, left heaven and came to earth to reside with men. He left His exalted state for a lowly, earthly existence.

Here’s a question we should ask ourselves: “did Jesus necessarily have to come to earth?” No. He is God and did not have to surrender His life to die for sinful man. Since we were the ones who sinned, we were the ones who needed to die for the sin we committed. Jesus, however, offered His life on behalf of the world. He Himself once said,

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18).

Jesus voluntarily offered up His life for all of humanity. He was not forced to do so. “The Truth,” Jesus Christ Himself, did not have to provide evidence of His existence in the present world...but He did. He “became flesh,” John tells us, and resided among men. Though Christ would still have existed without the Incarnation, nevertheless, He came on behalf of the world. The Incarnation was of great value to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, though Christ would still be God (and the Trinity would still have existed) without it.

And the “Truth Incarnate” (Jesus Christ) provides an example for “the truth incarnated” (that is, how truth is seen and perceived in the contemporary world). If Christ is our God, Lord, Savior, and paradigm for the Christian life, then we are to be Christ-like and have actions that point unbelievers to Christ. I am a believer that what one believes about life will determine what one lives in life. If a Christian has wrong ideas about God and themselves, he or she will live a very haphazard Christian life. But if someone correctly understands his or her shortcomings, weaknesses, and the greatness of God (as well as His truth), then that individual will be impacted by the knowledge of the truth to live it out. In fact, those who know more of the truth will be far more convicted by their own consciences and the Spirit than someone who does not.

Now, if Jesus, “The Truth” (John 14:6), manifested Himself in our physical world, should not truth manifest itself in our physical world? What about Romans 1? It tells us that “His [God’s] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20, NASB). God’s “invisible” attributes have been seen in “what has been made”---that is, the physical world. And the only reason why we know God exists is because, as Paul says here, “that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Rom. 1:19). Humanity knows that God exists because God has given tangible, unambiguous proof of His existence. I have discussed Romans 1 in one of the posts in the series on Reformed Epistemology.

According to Romans 1, God’s existence is revealed in what has been made, the physical world, the creation. So here, we see that God has revealed Himself in two ways: 1) general revelation (creation, Romans 1) and 2) special revelation (the face of Jesus Christ, John 1:14).

But what about “truth,” lowercase truth? We’ve discussed “Truth,” that being Jesus; but why should “truth” (lowercase) be revealed in the world? The answer is simple: because, as I’ve often heard it said, “All truth is God’s truth.” Whatever is true and right and just and noble and holy and of good report in the world is God’s truth. If Jesus is the paradigm of truth, and He manifested Himself in the physical world, why would “truth” not manifest itself? If all truth is God’s truth, and God’s very character is truth (John 14:6), then all truth must conform to Christ, who is the very paradigm of truth itself. As such, truth in the world (ideas, morality, etc.) will reflect the character of the Divine Lawgiver Himself.

If truth will reflect “The Truth,” Jesus, it, like Jesus, will be incarnated---in other words, the truth will be evident, clearly seen in the physical world, in a way that men and women can understand it. And this is why I disagree with Reformed Epistemology. RE is so consumed with the truth that it cares very little about evidence. But our Lord was not like this: even after His resurrection, Luke tells us that He gave “many convincing proofs” of His resurrection (see Acts 1:3). In addition, our great salvation was confirmed by many signs and wonders (see Hebrews 2:2-4). Did God have to? No. But still, He did anyway. And the fact that “The Truth” could be incarnate and incarnate the truth about Himself with signs and wonders and proofs dispels the notion that truth need neither argument nor evidence.

I will discuss Acts 1:3 and Hebrews 2:2-4 in another post. In this post, I wanted to provide a biblical case (in addition to my post on Elijah and the Mount Carmel Experience, 1 Kings 18) for why I disagree with Reformed Epistemology. I love truth, as do proponents of Reformed Epistemology. At the same time, however, I think Jesus, the Truth Incarnate, shows us a better way to uphold truth in the world. God bless.


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