....[Reid] aimed his own philosophical efforts at refuting Hume and formulating a new foundation for knowledge. The way to avoid skepticism, Reid proposed, is to realize that some knowledge is "self-evident"-that is, it is forced upon us simply by the way human nature is constituted. As a result, no one really doubts or denies it. It is part of immediate, undeniable experience.Pearcey further explains the extent to which Reid's thinking was influenced by that of Francis Bacon who maintained that scientific progress required jettisoning all metaphysical precommitments and allowing the facts to simply speak for themselves. Scientific systems can then be constructed by reasoning inductively on the basis of what has been observed. According to this view, complete objectivity is both desirable and possible. But, as Pearcey notes, this insistence that one liberate himself from all philosophical traditions and systems in order to acquire knowledge is itself a philosophy. Failure to recognize this, however, made Christians reluctant to allow their biblical convictions to inform their thinking in fields outside of theology.
One consequence of adopting this model of knowing is that apologetics is necessarily prior to the doing of theology though not a theological task itself. Its purpose is to justify Christianity's claims according to allegedly neutral standards of reasoning. Only upon successful completion of this task is the theologian permitted to proceed. Writing in the early 20th century, B. B. Warfield wrote:
It thus lies in the very nature of apologetics as the fundamental department of theology, conceived as the science of God, that it should find its task in establishing the existence of a God who is capable of being known by man and who has made Himself known, not only in nature but in revelations of His grace to lost sinners, documented in the Christian Scriptures. When apologetics has placed these great facts in our hands-God, religion, revelation, Christianity, the Bible-and not till then are we prepared to go on and explicate the knowledge of God thus brought to us, trace the history of its workings in the world, systematize it, and propagate it in the world ("Apologetics" in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge).I was reminded of this quote yesterday when I read this post by Tom Gee in which he delves into a subject that is of great interest to me-the subtle yet powerful absorption of psychological conceptual schemes such that the church's ability to think theologically about life and its problems is seriously impaired. Tom challenges the widely held view that some people have been so wounded by the sins of others that they stand in need of professional counseling before the ministry of the Word and the Spirit can take root in their lives and effect change.
If there is one area that Christians have been slow to recognize the crucial role presuppositions play in the formulation of theories, it is that of counseling. The thought that some wounds of the psyche require the application of extra-biblical knowledge so that the Word of God may find fertile soil jogged my thinking. Is there any connection between Warfield's conviction that supposedly unbiased science must grant permission for systematic theology to proceed and the popular assumption that "scientific" psychological counseling must, at least in some cases, pave the way for practical theology?
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