In the book Faith and Reason it is mentioned that everybody has a noetic structure or knowledge structure. This is our set of beliefs. One belief is supported by another belief/s while it supports another belief/s. What is certain is that if we trace it to the bottom, our knowledge structure must have a foundation, i.e. a set of beliefs that are not supported by any other beliefs, for if these beliefs are supported by other beliefs, these beliefs are no longer called foundation. These foundational beliefs are no other than our presuppositions, or in other words, our worldview–our faith. Everybody has presuppositions. Otherwise, knowledge would not be possible. This is exactly what Augustine (or Anselm?) means by credo ut intelligam (I believe in order that I may understand, or faith seeking understanding). This applies in anything, including science. Science would not be possible unless scientists believe that there is order in cosmos, or that their senses are reliable.
Christians do have presuppositions, too, such as God exists, man is sinful, and the Bible is the Word of God. Christian worldview is founded on these beliefs.
But eventhough presuppositions need no proofs, it doesn’t mean that all worldviews are equally right. We can test them by the various tests explained in the book Faith and Reason and Worldviews in Conflict (both written by Ronald Nash). One of the test would be whether our worldview is coherent with what we experience in this world. I see it this way: we have foundational beliefs and we build our beliefs based on them. What we know from this world surely need to be coherent with those beliefs that we have built. Otherwise, our foundational beliefs are questionable.
But this is not easy. In one critical thinking class I participated in school, we once discussed the writings of Karl Popper. His well-known theory is that a theory is scientific not if it can be proven right but only if it is capable to be refuted. What determines a theory to be scientific is its falsifiability. He compares the theory of Freud and the theory of Adler and he was astonished to find that both theories could explain a phenomenon equally well. In fact, any psychological phenomenon could be explained by their theories. In other words, their theories were always right. It is a different case with Einstein theory, for example. Based on these, Popper arrived at his above conclusion. A theory is scientific only if it can be proven wrong. He found that this was not the case with Freud’s or Adler’s theory. Their theories could not be falsified. Therefore they are not scientific. Then one student in my class asked, “Then what about religions? Can’t religions be falsified?”
This question surprised me. I know there are tests for worldviews as I mentioned above. But I will not know with logical certainty if Christian faith is a true faith, before I die. At the surface, every religion has its own explanation of life. And every religion seems to be capable to explain it. Otherwise, perhaps there would have remained only a single religion or worldview on this planet. It is not easy, indeed.
I haven’t really explored other worldviews. But there are people who were given the opportunity to experience and compare several worldviews which he had believed, before he finally accepted Christian worldview, or in other words, experienced conversion, i.e. when their old presuppositions (foundation) were broken down and rebuilt with the other presuppositions. And this is not easy. In Faith and Reason, it is said that this is indeed where the Holy Spirit works–regenerating the person, giving faith to him who listen to the Word of God.
Some people need to stay for a while in other beliefs, some don’t. All these, if in the end we can have faith, it is only by grace. Sola Gratia!
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- April 18, 2005 / 10:23