Friday, December 19, 2008

Discernment: Presuppositions

Presuppositions are nasty things. They hide deep within you and color your entire worldview. For many, they cannot deal with their own presuppositions or step outside of them. When you see those that cannot step aside from their own presuppositions, it is a mark of immaturity, whether it be a child in their youth, a babe in Christ or anyone else. They cannot deal with the "given this, then that" thought process. One example would be someone who rails against the Jews on the basis of them considering Christianity simply a heretical cult of Judaism.

While from my presuppositions (being a Christian), the Jews are wrong, given that the orthodox Jew has certain expectations of what the Messiah (the Christ) is to be, then Jesus failed to meet some of those presuppositional expectations. After all, He didn't blow out the Romans and institute the Kingdom right then, did He? Therefore, from the point of view of the orthodox Jew, Christianity is a heretical cult of Judaism (or Jewish heresy if you prefer).

When you confront immature people on their presuppositions, you will find them reacting as a child and throwing tantrums. They will not be able to step outside of them, defend them by being purely offensive and repeat mantras of "truth" over and over again, no matter how much you show them that by their own standards they are wrong. They will fall back on assertions and rely on convoluted chains of “proof” that require some serious suspension of disbelief.

How do you test presuppositions? The usual method is threefold: find out what the objective facts are from primary sources, consider the character of those who interpret those facts and if they are being honest (this could be literally or logically honest) and then apply Occam's Razor to the interpretations since the simplest explanations are almost invariably right and interpretations that require jumping around and changing the goalposts rarely are right.

Example: Christians presuppose that Christ arose from the dead.
1) A review of the actual literature (Gospel and outside accounts) finds that there is strong evidence for something happening to Jesus' body. The quantity and quality of the ancient copies of the Gospels surviving to the present testify to its truth.
2) Those that reported the resurrection died for their belief in it, those that railed against tried to kill those who reported it.
3) The simple and straightforward reading is that Christ arose. The objectors made up different tales, some more wild than others, some requiring actions that would have resulted in death for those who presented evidence against. The need for such conspiracy theories to disprove the resurrection point to the falseness of the claims (swoon theory would require the punishment of the Roman executioner in charge of the crucifixion, the disciples stole the body theory would require Roman soldiers to admit being asleep on watch which was again an executable offense, saying that the Gospel accounts "don't count" is special pleading not called for against any other ancient document, etc.).

When you encounter something that challenges your presuppositions (worldview), you evaluate it and decide to incorporate or reject it, each of which choices has an effect on your future life. Watch what people do when you challenge their presuppositions.

No comments:

Post a Comment