Thursday, April 18, 2013

Faith Claims in Public


Someone has argued, publicly, that public arguments should not be based on faith claims. Sounds like he was making a public faith claim about public faith claims, in which case his argument is self-defeating.

Faith is an understanding. Faith is a decision one continually makes. Faith is a commitment. Christian faith is enabled by God: Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, and no one can confess, apart from the Holy Spirit, that Jesus is Lord. Because of the divine element involved, faith is more than merely a preference. Faith is also more than private, because it affects every area of one’s life, both private and public.

Everything comes down to faith claims because everything comes down to one’s philosophy, worldview, presuppositions or assumptions. Eliminate all faith claims and you eliminate all discussion about anything. It is important, then, to be able to identify what our philosophies, worldviews, presuppositions or assumptions are, to recognize what lens we are looking at the world through and how it might affect how we see.

Our presuppositions are not irrelevant. They are the foundations upon which we build the rest of our thoughts. They are the lens through which we view the world and identify this as “evidence” or that as “fact.” Not all presuppositions, assumptions or philosophies are equal, and they must each be evaluated. And, of course, not everyone will agree on what value is to be given to each. But everyone should be aware of their own presuppositions (actually, the complex of presuppositions they hold), and the nature of those presuppositions as being, ultimately, matters of faith.

I acknowledge my presuppositions as including a faith in the existence of God, that He has revealed Himself in the world and that He has given us revelation of Himself in a holy book. Others do not share those presuppositions but presuppose the opposite. However, if they claim to have knowledge that is not based on revelation, even that begins with presupposition. For example, it is a presupposition that there even is such a knowledge base apart from revelation, or of what that knowledge base consists. These are presuppositions of epistemology (principles of how we know anything).

Every truth claim is essentially a faith claim, a statement of what one believes, for whatever reason, revelatory or non-revelatory, to be true. Every claim to knowledge is likewise a faith claim, a statement of what one believes he knows. The man who is aware of his faith claims (philosophies, presuppositions, etc.) has an advantage over the man who is not.

Let every faith claim, then, come to the table and be analyzed. However, to analyze a faith claim one must first be aware of the faith claim they are bringing. The person I referred to above made a faith claim about faith claims and apparently did not even realize he was doing so. The result, in this case, was the incoherence of making public the faith claim that faith claims have no business being made public.