Even Our Basic Beliefs Are Not Certain
In a recent book entitled, Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous, Wheaton University Professor of Philosophy Dr. Jay Wood makes this statement: “Modest foundationalists make no claims about the invincible certainty of one’s basic beliefs” (p. 98).
The reason why Wood, himself a modest foundationalist, believes we cannot be certain of even our core beliefs—for example, our belief that God exists!—is because he believes we cannot be sure of anything based on evidence.
The Inescapable Ambiguity of Evidence
Wood rejects the suggestion by W. K. Clifford that “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence” (p. 107). You may wonder why anyone would reject that. After all, must not belief be based on sufficient evidence? Not for the postmodern. For Wood and many leading Evangelical educators today anything we believe is believed in spite of the fact that there is insufficient evidence. Clifford’s credo runs headlong against postmodern understanding of epistemology (how we know what we know).
Wood speaks of “the inescapable ambiguity of ‘sufficiency of evidence’” (p. 112). No matter how much evidence one has for something, it cannot prove that it is certainly true. He gives as an example the belief that God exists. Even this basic belief is not something of which an Evangelical postmodern can be certain (pp. 112-13)!
It may be hard to believe that we have faculty at leading Bible Colleges, Christian Colleges, and Seminaries who are not even certain of the fact that God exists. Yet that is not only true, but they are writing books in which they openly state this to be true. Evidently the climate in Christian education today is such that an educator need not fear losing his job even if he openly states that we cannot be sure of anything, including the existence of God.
Wood gives many examples of situations in which a person’s eyewitness testimony is reasonably doubted by others (e.g., see pp. 11, 114, 167-68). Wood in part wishes Christians to realize that eyewitness testimony may not be true. Of course, no one has ever doubted this. However, he also seems to want Christians to jump to the unreasonable conclusion that one can never be sure of the eyewitness testimony of any witness or group of witnesses. Interestingly, in each of the examples he gives to show that an eyewitness claim may not be true, he disproves the claim by appealing to evidence.
Evangelical postmoderns seem to want it both ways. On the one hand, Wood presents lots of evidence in an attempt to prove his claim that no amount of evidence could ever be sufficient to prove anything is certainly true. On the other hand, he says that all evidence is suspect and no matter how much there is we are faced with “inescapable ambiguity.” It would seem that he and his postmodern cohorts are in a hopeless impasse.
Who Would Believe in God
Lacking Evidence He Exists?
For Evangelical postmoderns it’s a good thing that beliefs are not restricted to things that can be proved to be true. Wood, by his own admission, was a new convert when he went to college. He says that at that time he was “not at all sure that my newfound faith was intellectually defensible” (p. 11). He learned as he continued in philosophy studies that when people expressed skepticism about his religious beliefs he might avoid appealing to evidence entirely! Note this insight Wood gained: “What if instead of answering the religious skeptic’s demand for more evidence, I were to argue that one may be perfectly rational believing in God in the absence of evidence?” (p. 13).
The apostle John cited the fact that we receive testimony of men to show that it is perfectly reasonable for us to accept the testimony of God concerning His Son (1 John 5:9-13). Scripture knows nothing of “believing in God in the absence of evidence”! Thomas did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he personally saw irrefutable evidence (John 20:28). After Jesus gave Thomas that evidence and Thomas came to believe in His resurrection, Jesus pronounced a blessing on all who do not personally see the evidence, yet who believe (John 20:29).
When we believe, for example, in Jesus’ resurrection, we do so by accepting the testimony of others. We ourselves were not eyewitnesses of His resurrection. But we have heard the testimony of eyewitnesses and have become convinced that Jesus indeed rose from the dead bodily.
It’s No Wonder Assurance
Is Not Certainty Today
In 1991 I debated a seminary professor on the nature of faith and assurance. He said we couldn’t be certain that we have everlasting life. Instead, he suggested the most we could hope for was to be 99% sure that we have everlasting life.
Since then I’ve had lots of conversations with pastors and theologians who don’t believe that certainty of our eternal destiny is possible. I’ve come to see that this view of assurance grows out of a larger skepticism that has taken over both secular and Christian education.
Evangelical postmoderns aren’t sure of anything. Obviously if they aren’t certain that God exists, then they also aren’t certain they will spend eternity in the kingdom of His Son!
Evangelical postmodernism is a house built on sand. That house cannot stand because it lacks a firm foundation, the infallible, inerrant Word of God.
Witnessing to Postmoderns
How, then, do you witness to people who think like this?
This reminds me of the joke about catching rabbits.
“Do you know how you catch a unique rabbit?”
“No, how’s that?”
“You ‘neak up on him.”
“Do you know how you catch a tame rabbit?”
“No, how’s that?”
“The tame way!”
Well, you witness to postmoderns the same way you witness to anyone else. You share the Word of God with them. You show them what the Lord Jesus guarantees: eternal life to all who simply believe in Him. Because He removed the sin barrier at the cross and then rose bodily from the dead, all who simply believe in Him have life which can never be lost.
Of course, the postmodern won’t believe that unless he ceases to view the words of Jesus through a postmodern grid. At best he will believe that the promise of eternal life to one who believes in Jesus is possibly true.
But our job isn’t to get people to believe. Our task isn’t to change their worldview and philosophy of epistemology. We are simply to share the message about the Lord Jesus. We leave the ultimate results up to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of that person.