Friday, July 11, 2008

The Question of the Sufficiency of Reason

I’ve been considering the ramifications of thought processes concerning the existence of God. Skeptics ask for a reasonable logical system of evidence sufficient for proof of God’s existence from the theist who maintains He does indeed exist. Moreover, the skeptic ask that this be done using reason and evidence as a starting place without resorting to a presuppositional argument of starting at the place of the existence of the Christian God. I have been pondering the possibilities regarding this request.

How can I start at a place of reason? Has reason been proven to be a firm foundation on which to build? C.S. Lewis wrote, “If the value of our reasoning is in doubt, you cannot try to establish it by reasoning.” Doing so begs the question and gets you no where. Essentially we presuppose reasoning as a stable foundation for we cannot process thought without using reason. However, if we presuppose it as stable, where did it get its stability? We know it is not infallible: we have rules of logic to judge argument. We seem to have an intuitive idea of something being reasonable or unreasonable. Some try and operate outside of the rules of logic by claiming two contradictory things can be true at the same time, yet it is easy to show them the error of that thinking for eventually they will appeal to the same rules of logic they deny to prove their point, and, thus, disprove it.

So where does this take us? We have this reason we know exist and to a certain degree we trust reason as foundational, but yet it cannot be the standard for it is finite. It can only find stability in something infinite. If reason merely rest upon evolutionary development, reason could evolve into something entirely different than what we know today and yet in human history we do not see an increase in cognitive reasoning. If anything antiquity reasoned better than modernity or rather post-modernity. So we do not have any evidence of human reason excelling into the Nietzsche superman.

If we want to use reason as a starting place we cannot circumvent it having a foundation in the ultimate reason of God. Lewis writes, “For him [the theist] reason—the reason of God—is older than Nature, and from it the orderliness of Nature, which alone enables us to know her is derived. For him, the human mind in the act of knowing is illuminated by the Divine reason.” Thus the reason we can know anything at all is because our knowledge rest on the existence of God from where we receive the ability to reason for it is designed into our being. The ability to know cannot be divorced from the ontological point of reference of the existence of God. How can I then argue for God’s existence without first presupposing His existence so that the knowledge we discuss has a reasonable foundation on which to begin the dialog?

This does not mean that by presupposing His existence I avoid giving an answer rooted in reason, but that my answers flow from this starting point to circle back around to offer some stability for my presuppositional claim. Granted this very argument is in defense of the necessity of God’s existence, but it is not exhaustive of all knowledge on the subject.

Basically I am being asked to presuppose His non-existence and from that starting place of the supremacy of reason and knowledge prove He does exist. If my readers still maintain this request, I will need them to first establish to me a defense for the sufficiency of reason and knowledge as a starting place.

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