PAPER NO. 3
THE PRINCIPLE OF CLARITY, RATIONAL PRESUPPOSITIONALISM AND PROOF
(PC, RP AND PROOF)
The following assumes Common Ground (Paper No. 2). Common Ground (CG) affirms PC and RP.
Does PC require proof?
- PC affirms that the basic things about God and man and good and evil are clear to reason (CG 4.3) and that failure to know what is clear to reason is inexcusable (CG 4.4).
- If we know what is clear we can show (give proof of) what is clear. To know p (for example, that God exists) in the strong sense of “know,” which is necessary for inexcusability, requires having rational justification for one’s belief, which constitutes proof.
- Theism assumes PC (clarity and inexcusability). The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, states: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and divine nature; so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
- Historic Christian Theism affirms PC. In its opening words the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) states, “. . . the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable.” (WCF 1.1)
- Has theism achieved proof?
The arguments used historically and responses to them are briefly stated below.
- The ontological argument: the greatest possible being necessarily exists.
Objection 1: The greatest possible being (an eternal being) need not be God the Creator. That there must be something eternal does not imply that only some is eternal.
Objection 2: Existence is not a predicate in the same order as other predicates (wisdom, power and goodness).
- The cosmological argument: there must be a First Cause, which is God.
Objection 1: There could be an eternal cycle, and there are no unique events in an eternal cycle.
Objection 2: Eternal dependence of dependent dualism (Aristotle) does not establish God the Creator.
- The teleological argument: the natural order in the world (design) requires a designer, who is God.
Objection 1: Naturalism in science denies the existence of design and designer.
Objection 2: If there is design, the designer need not be God the Creator (Plato’s demiurge).
- The moral argument: morality exists; moral law requires a moral lawgiver, who is God.
Objection 1: Moral law is not apart from human nature (heteronomy), nor by divine command in addition to human nature.
Objection 2: It is self-evident that human beings are by nature thinking (rational) beings, from which morality is derived.
- The transcendental argument (TAG): God is the necessary condition for rationality.
Objection 1: Reason is common ground and is self-attesting.
Objection 2: Reason applies to all being, including God’s being, and is eternal.
- Evidentialism: there is empirically verifiable evidence for the existence of God.
Objection 1: Probability in evidentialism is not certainty; without certainty there is no measure of probability.
Objection 2: Appeal to special revelation (miracles, divine encounter) is not general revelation (the basis of inexcusability).
- The Sensus Divinitatis: there is an immediate knowledge of God in everyone.
Objection 1: The account of the content of intuitive belief is varied, generally bare, and is insufficient for inexcusability.
Objection 2: If intuition is opposed by reason, intuition is not self-evident.
- Does RP offer proof?
RP is a method by which we understand, know (by proof) and settle disputes (CG 3.1).
RP revises the historic proofs and uses them cumulatively in a logical sequence.
RP seeks to show that there must be something eternal and that only some is eternal.
RP applied to general revelation argues for the following:
- that common ground is necessary to settle disputes.
- that there must be something eternal.
- that matter exists and matter is not eternal.
- that the soul exists and the soul is not eternal.
- that there is natural design (on science and philosophy).
- that there is moral design (on the problem of evil).
- that there is a moral law which is clear, comprehensive and critical.
- that general revelation is necessary for and requires special revelation.
- Proof by RP
The following is a brief statement of the arguments used in RP, which are developed in Philosophical Foundation by Surrendra Gangadean.
- Since common ground (CG) is necessary for thought and discourse, CG is prologue to proof.
- There must be something eternal (vs. none is eternal; all is becoming, impermanent, dependent co-arising, momentariness, which implies being from non-being). Therefore a highest (eternal) being must exist. This is a revision of the ontological argument since showing something must be eternal does not imply only some (God the Creator) is eternal.
- a) The material world is not eternal since it is not self-maintaining (vs. material monism, ordinary dualism—Plato, and dependent dualism—Aristotle).
b) The material world exists (vs. the idealism of Berkeley, Kant or Shankara). The cause of what I see is not my mind or another mind but outside all minds.
- a) The soul exists, the mind is not the brain (vs. material monism); the soul exists, the individual self is not maya (vs. Absolute non-dualism/Advaita).
b) The soul is not eternal—it cannot be finite and eternal (vs. dualism in Greek, Persian and Indian thought).
- Natural design exists (vs. claims based on dogmatic empiricism—that all knowledge is from sense experience).
- Claim 1: All of nature can and must be explained by natural causes only.
- Claim 2: There is no (need for) design or designer.
- Response 1: Science is not philosophy; science must have epistemological assumptions, currently empiricism, which is contrary to common ground.
- Response 2: How things operate (based on observed uniformity) does not explain how things originate (based on non-observed non-uniformity).
- Moral design exists (vs. the problem of evil—both natural and moral).
- The problem of evil (POE) is: If God is all good and all powerful why is there any evil?
- Moral evil is an act contrary to one’s nature; it is the failure to use one’s reason to see what is clear.
- Response 1: Moral evil is designed to serve the good; it serves to deepen the revelation of divine justice and mercy.
- Natural evil (toil, strife, and old age, sickness and death) is not original in creation nor inherent in moral evil.
- Response 2: Natural evil is imposed in mercy to restrain, recall from and remove moral evil.
- To know how mercy does not set aside justice requires special revelation.
- The moral law: teleology (the good) vs. deontology (virtue) and consequentialism (happiness).
- The good for man as a rational being is the use of one’s reason to the fullest.
- Reason is used to understand the nature of beings and the source of beings.
- The moral law is clearly revealed in human nature and is knowable to all.
- The moral law is the means to the good and is the source of unity in and for all men.
- The moral law is comprehensive (for all choices) and is critical (in all consequences).
- The moral law given in human nature is also given in summary in the Decalogue.
- The relation of general and special revelation.
- General revelation (GR) is what can be known by all men, everywhere, at all times.
- Special revelation (SR) is redemptive revelation, given by testimony and transmitted in history.
- GR is necessary for the possibility of SR and requires SR (4.6f POE).
- SR as redemptive revelation assumes and affirms the clarity of GR.
- Appeal to SR presupposes common ground leading from GR to SR.