Reason and Scripture

An excerpt of a helpful theological discussion regarding the authoritative status and relationship between Scripture and reason found here:

Hermonta
Dr. Oliphint,
Can’t one do both the internal and external critiques if one simply presupposes reason instead of presupposing Scripture? At the end of the day, one could say that Christian Theism is the only belief system that can survive both an internal and external critique. What extra does one get by taken the extra step of presupposing Scripture?

Justin
I would venture to guess that Dr. Oliphint would say it becomes a matter of 1) authority and 2) epistemology.

By authority, if we presuppose reason instead of Scripture, we are making reason our ultimate authority and are thereby embracing a rationalist philosophy.

By epistemology, Scripture declares knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord, not the presupposing of reason. If one presupposes Scripture as their ultimate authority, that is by definition allowing knowledge to begin with the fear of the Lord.

Hermonta
To presuppose Reason and not Scripture does not mean that we reject Scripture being what it says it is. It simply means that such an assumption is not being made out the gate. If you wish to call that a rationalistic philosophy, is fine by me. Such a claim does not make it wrong in the least.

Next, Scripture says that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. One is able to have real knowledge, without fearing God. Now if one wishes to have a consistent and full worldview, one needs to embrace Christianity.

Justin
Nothing is wrong with presupposing reason. That wasn’t my point. My point was, you can only choose one to be your authority: reason, or Scripture. Therefore, Scripture isn’t to be believed based on the authority of our reason telling us so; Scripture is to be the authority by which we understand and believe everything–including reason. That does not mean reason isn’t presupposed as well; of course it is. It’s just that reason isn’t the standard or authority by which we measure or accept Scripture; instead, we subject our reason to the authority of Scripture.

Regarding knowledge, the only reason an unbeliever can have any “real knowledge” is because God gives it to him (revelational epistemology). That means true knowledge, as you put it, STARTS with God’s revelation, and that revelation finds its full authority and starting point in Scripture, as it is the verbal communication of the knowledge-giver–God himself.

Therefore, we should not circumvent the only justifiable epistemology we have–one that says we “know what we know” because God has revealed it to us; not because our reason–by its own authority–has judged it so.

Hermonta
Justin writes: Nothing is wrong with presupposing reason. That wasn’t my point. My point was, you can only choose one to be your authority: reason, or Scripture. Therefore, Scripture isn’t to be believed based on the authority of our reason telling us so; Scripture is to be the authority by which we understand and believe everything–including reason.

Hermonta Responds: And my point is that it is incoherent to attempt to put Scripture up against reason. An implication of putting Scripture above or using it to judge reason is that if if you believed that Scripture says something that is against reason, you would accept it because Scripture is your final authority. Such a position is simply incoherent.

Justin writes: That does not mean reason isn’t presupposed as well; of course it is. It’s just that reason isn’t the standard or authority by which we measure or accept Scripture; instead, we subject our reason to the authority of Scripture.

Hermonta responds: What I wrote above still fits here.

Justin writes: Regarding knowledge, the only reason an unbeliever can have any “real knowledge” is because God gives it to him (revelational epistemology).

Hermonta responds: I dont have a problem with such a statement. The only concern is that when most CA folks speak in such a fashion they don’t have any room for General Revelation. Remember Romans 1, says that everyone is without excuse regardless of them ever having seen a Bible or ever have it properly explained to them.

Justin writes: That means true knowledge, as you put it, STARTS with God’s revelation, and that revelation finds its full authority and starting point in Scripture, as it is the verbal communication of the knowledge-giver–God himself.

Hermonta responds: The Bible does not make such a claim. The Bible makes the claim that knowledge is available even if one never sees a Bible. God has revealed himself through the created order.

Justin writes: Therefore, we should not circumvent the only justifiable epistemology we have–one that says we “know what we know” because God has revealed it to us; not because our reason–by its own authority–has judged it so.

Hermonta responds: One cannot separate the authority of Scripture from the authority of reason. If one actually attempt to do such, then one will lose the ability to defeat the Scripture alternative: the Koran etc.

Justin
I am not putting Scripture “up against” reason. I am putting it in its proper place over and above reason.

Reason is a tool used by the finite human mind. Scripture is truth given from God’s infinite divine mind. Therefore, Scripture must take authority over “reason” as so-called.

And your assertion that “if you believed that Scripture says something that is against reason, you would accept it because Scripture is your final authority” is again a misrepresentation of my position (and likely other CAs).

What I am saying is that reason is subject to Scripture. It (reason) is also informed by Scripture; not opposed by it. There is no antithesis here. In other words, if I read something in Scripture that appears to be against human reason, I will give Scripture the “benefit of the doubt” and assume I am reasoning incorrectly. This would be an example of Scripture having authority over my reasoning. To say it this way: If my reasoning makes it appear that what Scripture says is true is actually false, then I must be reasoning incorrectly, and need to allow Scripture to further inform my reason until I get it right.

Regarding General Revelation, I can understand your concern, but I believe if done correctly, the CA approach is no threat to giving it its rightful place. If someone has never encountered Scripture, and has true knowledge of something, it is only because God revealed it to him through that General Revelation. The point is, we have things in Scripture that are revealed that give us a rational basis for knowing that truth in the first place that aren’t found in General Revelation.

Regarding the Bible “never making such a claim,” I think you misunderstood me. When I said true knowledge starts with God’s revelation, I was including General Revelation in that statement. But my point is that when we are presented with Scripture, we cannot circumvent it and submit it to our the authority of our own reasoning.

Regarding the separation of the authority of Scripture and the authority of reason, I think I have clearly demonstrated 1) that there is a difference between them both, and that 2) only one can hold a place of ultimate authority. That doesn’t mean we can’t USE reason to tangle with other worldviews, we just can’t give it a place of authority, as if we share it as some neutral ground with unbelievers. That would take the ground right out from under our feet.

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