Resolving the Debate: The Preconditions of Intelligibility

“In order for a worldview to be rationally defensible, it must be internally consistent. But just because a worldview is self-consistent does not necessarily mean that it is correct. There is another criterion as well. A rational worldview must provide the preconditions of intelligbility. These are conditions that must be accepted as true before we can know anything about the universe. The preconditions of intelligibility are things that most people take for granted.

The reliability of memory is one example. Everyone assumes that his or her memory is basically reliable, but this turns out to be rather difficult to prove. How do you really know that your memory is reliable? Some might say, “Well, I took a memory test two weeks ago, and I did very well on it.” But we could reply, “How do you know that you took a test two weeks ago? Just because you remember this doesn’t prove it happened unless we already knew your memory is reliable.” That our memories are basically reliable is something that we all assume before we begin to investigative the universe.

Another example is the reliability of our senses. We suppose that our eyes, ears, and other senses reliably report the details about the universe in which we live. Without this assumption, science would be impossible. We could draw no reliable conclusions from any experiment if our observations of the experiment are unreliable. If our sensory experience are merely illusions, then science would be impossible.

Consider one more crucial example: laws of logic. We all presume that there are laws of logic that govern correct reasoning. Earlier in this chapter I stated that contradictions cannot be true. It probably didn’t occur to any reader to question that claim; it is a law of logic that we all take for granted. And yet how could we prove that there are laws of logic? We would have to first assume them in order to begin a logical proof. Therefore, laws of logic constitute a precondition of intelligibility. They must be assumed before we can even begin to reason about anything – including reasoning about the laws of logic themselves.

We take for granted that our senses and memory are basically reliable, and that there are laws of logic. Yet most of us do not think why these things are so. In a biblical creation worldview, these preconditions make sense; they are perfectly compatible with the Bible. We would expect that our memory and senses would be basically reliable since they have been designed by God. We will show later on that laws of logic make sense in the Christian worldview as well; they reflect God’s thinking.

A logically correct worldview must provide these preconditions of intelligibility, because without them we could not know anything about the universe. Both creationists and evolutionists must assume the preconditions of intelligibility at the outset in order to know anything. But we will see in the next chapter that only in the biblical creation worldview do the preconditions of intelligbility make sense. Only a consistent Christian can have justification (a sound reason) for things like laws of logic and the reliability of our senses. Without justification for the things we take for granted, we can’t really know that any of our thinking or observations of the world are correct. And if our thinking and observations are unreliable, then we really can’t be certain about anything at all. So only in a biblical creationist universe is it possible to actually know anything at all.

Proverbs 1:7 indicates that knowledge begins with a respectful submission to the biblical God and that rejection of wisdom and biblical instruction leads inevitably to irrationality – to “foolishness.” This is the key to the ultimate proof of biblical creation, or, for that matter, the Bible, the Christian worldview, the existence of God, and so on.

The ultimate proof of creation is this: if biblical creation were not true, we could not know anything!

This proof can be stated in a number of different ways, but what it really comes down to is this: only the Christian worldview (starting with a literal Genesis) can rationally make sense of the universe. Only if biblical creation is true can we have genuine knowledge about anything.

Some people might raise an immediate objection: “But there are people who haven’t even read the Bible – who don’t believe in creation; and they do indeed know things.” But this response is fallacious. It is not relevant to the claim that has been made. No one is arguing that people must have read the Bible or profess to believe in creation to know things. The argument is that the Bible’s account of origins (along with its other accounts) must be true. Only the God described in the Bible can provide the foundation for the things we take for granted. Without God’s Word, we  would not have a good reason to believe in the preconditions of intelligibility: the basic reliability of memory and senses, laws of logic, uniformity of nature, morality, personal dignity and freedom, and so on.”

(Lisle, Ultimate Proof of Creation, 38-40)

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