Guest Post: Epistemology Is a Problem for Christians

(Another guest post from the ever-popular DTE! Enjoy.)

Epistemology is a problem for Christians, a very serious problem. Epistemology, simply put, is the study of answering the question: “How do you know?” That simple question, though, puts the Christian upon the horns of a dilemma.

The Christian has the same tools as the atheist to acquire knowledge, senses and reason. The Christian also has a revelation, the scripture, all of which, according to the scripture, is god-breathed. Unfortunately, when the Christian applies her or his senses to the bible she or he can make no sense of it. Reason precludes it., as the god-breathed scripture contains many paradoxical statements, conflicting accounts and even a formal contradiction or two. Invariably, it also has god-breathed commands that the Christian does not wish to obey and god-breathed revelations of God that the Christian does not want to worship. However, the Christian cannot reject the revelation entirely, as it is the only reason to believe certain things that she or he does hold dear.

Still, the god-breathed scripture cannot answer many fundamental questions about those very things that the Christian holds dear. For example, what exactly did God say immediately following Jesus’ baptism? When exactly did John Baptizer know that Jesus was the messiah? What exactly happened on the morning of the resurrection?

If a Christian cannot know, per the bible, what God said about Jesus, after all, is God’s self-breathed revelation sufficient to believe anything contrary to senses and reason? The Christian must answer that question, as science tells us things that contradict the god-breathed scripture, and tells us those things with reams of evidence.

Of course, the Christian can simply dismiss science and embrace the god-breathed revelation in its place, but that leaves her or him with the problem of not knowing what God said at Jesus’ baptism.

A bigger problem for the Christian is that some science is so useful that no Christian would reject it, despite what the God-breathed revelation might say. What Christian does not use prayer only as an addition to the science of medicine? Which Christian does not trust DNA fingerprinting and maternity testing, rather than casting lots? Is there a Christian that claims demon possession, rather than seeking medical help for the disturbed or seizure-stricken? Put simply, what Christian does not summarily dismiss the bible and its god-breathed teaching, choosing senses and reason when it makes pressing real-world sense to do so?

Unfortunately, when the matter is not as immediately pressing-creationism, resurrection, or Noah, rather than death, conviction, or insanity-when the issue does not immediately risk the Christian’s welfare or that of those she or he loves, the Christian will reject senses and reason for god-breathed revelation. It matters not that the revelation is equally ridiculous to casting lots, praying instead of going to the doctor, or casting demons out of an epileptic. Nor does it matter that senses and reason give sound reason to reject the “revelation” as mythology. The Christian dogmatically embraces some parts of the bible despite being able to answer the simple question with an ounce of consistency, much less integrity, how do you know?

So, back to the horns of the Christian’s epistemological dilemma: The Christian has a revelation that she or he will neither dismiss nor embrace in whole, a revelation that he or she cannot know by the empirical and rational methods that she or he trusts in the most important areas of life. Thus, the Christian has faith in some of the god-breathed revelation, but not all. She or he has faith in some science but not all.

Because of the god-breathed revelation, the Christian simply cannot both live in the world and consistently answer the fundamental question, “How do you know?”


13 Responses to Guest Post: Epistemology Is a Problem for Christians

  1. Sirius says:

    Talk about void for vagueness!

    You simply make assertions without any sort of supporting data. For someone who so praises reason, your attempt at arguement seems particularly bereft of it. Your arguments are sweeping generalizations borne of your own presuppositional bias. Does that reductionist faith versus reason schtick work on the choirs you usually preach to? Hubris!

    Try to get out of that misotheistic ghetto of yours, DTE. At least get some fresh air.

    –Sirius Knott

  2. Lottie says:

    You make some very interesting observations, DTE. I have a feeling I’ll be referring back to this post in the near future.

    Well done. Thanks.

  3. Eric Kemp says:


    You defended none of your statements. Can you provide some evidence for these “contradictions”?

  4. forknowledge says:

    I should point out that DTE isn’t overly fond of internet bickering, so I don’t know if he’ll reply to this. Just a heads-up.

  5. DTE says:

    True that; but and however, no bickering required here. That the bible is rife with contraries and contradictions is a prima facie case. Jesus’ slaves here are confusing their willingness to forego reason and rationalize those contradictions with the contradictions not existing and hoping to “defeat” the patent reality that God a self-contradicting, bipolar and schizophrenic deity as witnessed by the bible.

    Christians, of course, do not have a good grasp of reality, after all; they believe that there really is a self-contradicting, bipolar and schizophrenic imaginary person living in the sky.

    What Jesus’ slaves are hoping is to trot out their own rationalizations for the world to see, as they are sufficiently dishonest, dull, or deluded (or some combination thereof) to believe they really can make sense of the bible. Never mind that no two Christians come to the same conclusions about the “god-breathed” revelation, despite their Slave Master’s promise that his own spirit would lead them into all truth and unity.

    If they had the intelligence and courage to actually consider what I’ve posted, the Christians would not require “evidence”, because they would recognize the fact that every one of them does exactly as I said: reject the parts of the bible they dislike.
    That is every one of them, head-for-head.

  6. Eric Kemp says:


    You have refused to explain yourself or support your assertions with evidence or discussion. You are content to spew your dogmatic athiestic insults, I will not bite at your invitation to a flame war. When you actually want to use your reason in defense of your positions, I’m all ears.


  7. forknowledge says:

    DTE is referring to a phenomenom he calls ‘SPAG’, or Self Projection As God. Basically, every theist has his or her own version of the interpretation of Scripture and of what God is (as partially evidenced by the staggering number of different denominations within a single religion). I’ll hopefully be able to do a post on it in the near future.

  8. Lottie says:

    I’ll hopefully be able to do a post on it in the near future.

    I’ll definitely be watching for that!

  9. jeffsdeepthoughts says:

    I’ve posted this question elsewhere on this blog but haven’t seen a response. As the topic brings it out, I’ll ask it again:

    “Why does the fact of Christian diversity count against Christians and yet the diversity among atheists doesn’t count against atheists?”
    I can see how the fact that Jesus promised to lead us into truth and unity might appear to be a reason. I think there are atleast 3 reasons why this isn’t a very powerful argument:
    A) Jesus is still leading us. We aren’t there yet. We will be in heaven.
    B) Jesus stated that he is The Truth. To be in the truth, for a Christian, isn’t having the right set of beliefs at all. It’s being in Jesus Himself.
    C) Numerous atheists often make similiar claims about science: science will lead them into truth and unity. Yet somehow, they too, aren’t there yet.

    I do want to say that a rather convenient system has been set up here. On the one hand, I read repeatedly how irrational and unwilling to debate Christians are. I read vague generalizations about contradictions. When we ask for specifics, these aren’t offered…
    I would think that if the “rationilizations” were “dull, dishonest, and deluded” the worst thing that could happen to us would be for us to trot them out. Then the world would see, and maybe I would to.
    Let’s bring them out and assess them fairly, honestly, and openly. The God I worship says “Let’s reason together” to his creations. I’m interested in following His example. But I can’t without some specifics.

  10. forknowledge says:

    “Why does the fact of Christian diversity count against Christians and yet the diversity among atheists doesn’t count against atheists?”

    Why shouldn’t there be diversity among atheists? Atheism describes a single trait, a disbelief or lack of belief in God (or gods). Beyond that you can believe in anything else and still be considered an atheists, and I’ve met atheists who firmly believed in what many people would refer to as ‘the supernatural’. Atheists aren’t claiming to have access to any sort of divine or final truth, even in a form that has to be interpreted or translated. I’d be more suspicious if there wasn’t diversity among atheists, since would lend some credence to the idea that atheism is simply a godless religion.

  11. jeffsdeepthoughts says:

    But it seems to me that atheists are claiming to access a truth more final than a theists. In supporting this claim they are making either an implicit or explicit argument about what sorts of things count as evidence. Many atheists offer a comparitively narrow list of things that are allowable as argumentation. Currently accepted main stream scientific beliefs are usually at the top of this list.
    Thiests, meanwhile, generally similiarly make an implicit or explicit argument about what sorts of things count as evidence.

    The only thing that we Christians have in common is a belief in the possibility of some sort of relationship with Jesus. Many of us claim that this relationship enjoys a unique standing.
    Some of us go so far as to reject the very idea that we’re practicing a religion at all and share your distrust/disgust with religion.

  12. forknowledge says:

    When atheists narrow down what they accept as evidence, they do so only because certain forms of evidence seem nearly useless in determining (even weakly) what is true and what isn’t. To go with one example, ‘common sense’ is very often completely wrong, which is why a lot of people (atheists and scientists among them, but philosophers of all sorts as well) don’t trust it. This isn’t any sort of claim to final truth, though, since it’s provisional. (In my case, anyway.) Show me that a certain method of enquiry that I currently reject is in fact valid, and I’ll gladly change my mind.

  13. Lottie says:

    This isn’t any sort of claim to final truth, though, since it’s provisional. (In my case, anyway.) Show me that a certain method of enquiry that I currently reject is in fact valid, and I’ll gladly change my mind.

    For the record, same here.

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