PMW 2020-056 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

God calls upon Christians to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). As we obey him we must defend the faith in such a way that it “sanctifies the Lord” in our hearts. We must defend the faith from a position of faith. Too many defenses of the faith cede the method of approach to the unbeliever and end up “proving” at best the possibility that a god exists — not the certainty that the God of Scripture exists.

In this four-part series, we will see how we may do this.

The Role of Presuppositions in Thought

The Uniformity of Nature and Thought. We exist in what is known as a “universe.” The word “universe” is composed of two Latin parts: “uni” (from unus meaning “one,” as in “unit”) and “verse” (from vertere, meaning “turn”). It speaks all created things regarded collectively. This word indicates that we live in a single unified and orderly system which is composed of many diversified parts. These parts function coordinately together as a whole, rational system. We do not live in a “multiverse”. A multiverse state-of-affairs would be a dis-unified, totally fragmented, and random assortment of disconnected and unconnectable facts. These unconnectable facts would be meaninglessly scattered about in chaotic disarray and ultimate disorder.


Nourishment from the Word
(by Ken Gentry)

Reformed studies covering baptism, creation, creeds, tongues, God’s law, apologetics, and Revelation

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The concept of a universe is vitally important to science. For the very possibility of scientific investigation is totally dependent upon the fact of a “uni-verse”— an orderly, rational coherent, unified system. If it were the case that reality were haphazard and disorderly there could be no basic scientific laws that govern and control various phenomena. And if this were so there could be no unity at all in either reality itself, or in experience, or in thought.

In such a multiverse each and every single fact would necessarily stand alone, utterly disconnected from other facts, not forming a system as a whole. Consequently, nothing could be organized and related in a mind because no fact would be related to any other fact. Thus, science, logic, and experience are absolutely dependent upon uniformity as a principle of the natural world.

Uniformity and Faith. But now the question arises: How do we know assuredly that the universe is in fact uniform? Has man investigated every single aspect of the universe from each one of its smallest atomic particles to the farthest corners of its solar systems— and all that exists in between—so that he can speak authoritatively? Does man have totally exhaustive knowledge about every particle of matter, every movement in space, and every moment of time? How does man know uniformity governs the world and the universe? Furthermore, how can we know that uniformity will continue tomorrow so that we can conjecture about future events? And since man claims to have an experience of external things, how do we know our experience is accurate and actually conforms to reality as it is?

Such questions are not commonly asked, but are nevertheless vitally important to consider. The point of these questions is to demonstrate a particular phenomenon: we must realize that any and every attempt to prove uniformity in nature necessarily requires circular reasoning. To prove uniformity one must assume or presuppose uniformity.

If I set out to argue the uniformity of the universe because I can predict cause-and-effect, am I not presupposing the uniformity and validity of my experience? How can I be sure that my experience of cause-and effect is an accurate reflection of what really happens? Furthermore, am I not presupposing the trustworthy, uniform coherence of my own rationality— a rationality that requires uniformity?

The issue boils down to this: Since man cannot know everything he must assume or presuppose uniformity and then think and act on this very basic assumption. Consequently the principle of uniformity is not a scientific law but an act of faith which undergirds scientific law. Thus, adherence to the principle of uniformity—though basic to science—is an intrinsically religious commitment.

Standard Bearer: Festschrift for Greg Bahnsen (ed. by Steve Schlissel)

Includes two chapters by Gentry on Revelation and theonomy. Also chapters on apologetics, politics, ecclesiology, covenant, and more.

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Presuppositions in Thought. Scientists follow a basic pattern in discovering true scientific laws. First, they observe a particular phenomenon. Then on the basis of their observations they construct a working hypothesis. Next, experiments are performed implementing this hypothesis. This is followed in turn by an attempt to verify the experiments performed. Then a verified hypothesis is accepted as a theory. Finally a well-established theory is recognized as a scientific law which governs in a given set of circumstances.

Thus, the basic pattern of scientific activity is: observation, hypothesis, experimentation, verification, theory, and law. Christians agree whole-heartedly with the validity of this scientific methodology. We accept the notion of a uniform universe which allows for such, for “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).

Physicist Thomas Kuhn, in his epochal 1962 work titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, noted that scientists must work from certain preconceived ideas, certain presupposed concepts about things in order to begin formulating their theories and performing their experiments. That presuppositions are always silently at work is evident in that when dealing with a particular problem scientists select only a few basic facts to consider while rejecting or overlooking numerous others. They perform certain types of experiments while neglecting others. And they do this in keeping with their presuppositions. One of the most basic presuppositions held by scientists is the one we have been considering: the universe is in fact one orderly, logical, coherent system. Were this not assumed then science could not even get off the ground.

But, as a matter of fact, there are numerous presuppositions that all men hold that play a vital role in all human thought and behavior. The various presuppositions we hold govern the way we think and act all the way down to how we select and employ specific facts from the countless number presented to us each moment. Basic presuppositions are the foundation blocks upon which we build our way of understanding the world about us. Presuppositions are the very basis for what is known as our “world-and-life” view.

A world-and-life view is the very framework through which we understand the world and our relation to it. Everyone necessarily has a particular way of looking at the world which serves to organize ideas about the world in his mind. This world-and-life view must be founded on basic presupposed ideas that we hold to be truth. We begin with certain presuppositions and build from there in our learning, communicating, behaving, planning, and so forth.

This study will continue in my next posting.

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  1. B Jay July 22, 2020 at 7:35 am

    So, faith must be employed no matter what set of preconceived ideas are subscribed to, because “no one can know everything there is…” Since man is fallen per the Scriptures or otherwise imperfect and limited, such faith can be misplaced and the presuppositions faulty. That is the best state of affairs that can be expected without external aid. Plus, assuming no external aid or guidance, man must discover and build a system of knowledge since he is not born with such inherently or implicitly (that does not consider the existence of conscience). As it is, the culture provides a body (or bodies) of knowledge accumulated over the centuries, that include practices, traditions, etc., that influence each person born into that society. Those present a mosaic of predispositions and presuppositions to the individual to subscribe to or buy in to. As said above, at best, those will be faulty to a more or less degree. History provides instruction as to just how bad man’s judgement has been (consider the worst in terms of genocidal wars, etc.). Those factors alone put man, acting by himself, in a dangerous and precarious position.

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