Reply To: Lecture 22 – The New Testament Era – The Historicity of the life of Jesus


Dr, J. I apologize, then, perhaps it is only I who thought you were portraying those passages as historical truth. Of course, I would prefer a different tone; but I’ll agree that is just my opinion.

OK. While it may be challenging, I think it’s certainly relevant and important to history/liberty/individuals to tackle epistemology. So I’ll just state my case. Humans can only attain knowledge through the senses and/or reason. If something in your mind contradicts tangible/empirical/logical evidence, then it must give way to what can be measured objectively.

Truth: when our internal, subjective, concepts match the external, objective, world; aka reality. This is very basic. How else can you practically, consistently, and rationally conceive of truth?

While I understand that an empiricist must have “faith” (in the traditional, “I trust this guy” kind of way) in the method or results of other empiricists (and of course, he/she shouldn’t just take their word for it), this is not the same as religious faith. The word “faith” in religion is basically a euphemism for “belief with no evidence.” In other words, true prejudice. There is no evidence that the Bible is the word of god, that miracles happen, or that prayer changes things (external to yourself). If you have evidence for your claims, whether logically through mathematics or actual tangible results, then you can actually say it is true. I don’t have to scour every corner of the earth to know, practically, that supernatural events don’t occur. We have built our entire livelihood on the “faith” that they don’t occur, in fact. You don’t build a bridge thinking, “hmmm, I better pray daily that God will keep this bridge standing,” or attempt to stay fed after day by asking God to rain down bread from the sky. No, you use mathematics and scientific principles and laws to figure out the parameters of the bridge, and you find your own food. If you believe that supernatural events occur, and want to actually prove they do, you will need to show in some measurable fashion that they do. I don’t count peace/personal change from prayer as supernatural, as that is a psychological phenomenon contained completely in the mind.

Porphy. I’m not sure I understand your first paragraph… especially, “It (empiricism) has to be established by a foundation that it, itself, cannot provide (a number of a priori premises).” It doesn’t seem to me empiricism “needs” a foundation of something else to be “established,” it’s simply a method for attaining knowledge about the objective world. I suppose, though, it must be coupled with “rationalism,” to be applied practically to our lives.

Also, how is it an empiricist never (practically) establishes anything as truth? How about gravity? Is it not true and empirically validated that a rock will fall to the earth when you drop it? I think you are taking the “empiricism” idea to an impractical and illogical extreme. Of course an individual can’t say can’t say “I’ve seen/smelled/tasted/touched/heard everything that exists,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that divine revelation is then a viable belief to hold. Empiricism is still the best way to confirm the unknown, and coupled with rationality, you can go a long way. I don’t think it’s valid to say empiricism is overrated/invalid simply because we make assumptions about what is familiar (see a pencil) either. What do you propose as the alternative for uncovering truth, anyway (the missing piece(s) to incompleteness of empiricism, as you said)?

In any case, I have not really read a direct response to the problems of Christianity I proposed. What I’ve seen are attempts to point out my biases and very verbose philosophizing about the merits of empiricism. If you so wish, tell me your epistemology and methods of attaining truth, and then truly tackle the problems I see as quite substantial to the fundamentals of Christian faith:

— How can you reconcile the concept of the Christian god (omniscient/omnipotent/omnipresent/just/loving), not only with the contradictions and hypocrisy within the Bible, but also with the measurable and indifferent nature of the natural world it’s supposed to be relevant to? .

— If you believe in a supernatural deity, why does it make sense to choose only the Christian god? Then you have the whole trouble of deciding who is damned to hell.

I could write more, but these two issues are so glaring to me (others might have different issues), there seems to be no reason to move on to other things.