Christianity and it’s relationship to properly basic beliefs and the Holy Spirit
Where am I going with this one? It doesn’t sound like the other arguments… Well it is and it isn’t.
Many Christians have talked about the Holy Spirit that moment they knew when to become a Christian and to sceptics and Christians alike, this can sometimes feel vague or not helpful for one who doesn’t know what this moment is like. Well here I’m going to give a detailed defense, a breakdown and why we can know God wholly apart from arguments.
Properly Basic Beliefs
The majority of Christians haven’t done apologetics down through the centuries, yet they know Christianity is true, are they wrong for doing so? no, and I’ll explain why.
The Notre Dame philosopher Alvin Plantinga is the expert on this question and has written a book called “Warranted Christian Belief”. Plantinga does think that when you consider the arguments for God’s existence, it is most probable that God exists. While the arguments for God’s existence are sufficient and necessary, they aren’t needed for a belief in God. You can have a warranted rational belief in God wholly apart from arguments and Plantinga calls this Reformed Epistimology
This is an argument for taking God as a properly basic belief that is appropriately grounded and may be rationally accepted as a basic belief, not grounded on arguments.
Beliefs that are rational to hold but not grounded are called properly basic beliefs. They aren’t based on some other beliefs, they are part of the foundation of a persons system of beliefs. Examples for this would be: belief in the reality of the past, that the world wasn’t created five minutes ago with built in appearances of age, belief in the external world, the presence of other minds like your own. None of these mentioned beliefs can be proved — how could you prove that the world was not created 5 minutes ago? (think about it).
Brain in a Vat of chemicals?
How could you prove you’re not a brain in a vat of chemicals wired up with electrodes by some mad scientist who is stimulating you to believe that you’re here reading this? The scientist could be stimulating you to think it’s absurd that you’re a brain in a vat of chemicals being stimulated by a mad scientist! How could you prove you are the only person and everyone else is just a detailed projection?
These sorts of beliefs are grounded, in that they’re formed in the context of having certain experiences which involve seeing, hearing and feeling. We naturally form the view that there is a world of physical objects out there and I am sensing them.
There maybe no way to prove such beliefs, but you are perfectly rational to hold them — you’d have to be crazy to think that the world was created 5 minutes ago or that you’re a brain in a vat.
Our properly basic beliefs are grounded in our experiences
What is someone says the world is just an illusion?
A Buddhist or Hindu’s would think this generally. You don’t argue with them about the external world because any evidence you provide is from the external world! You might say to them that this is a properly basic belief and in the absence of any defeater of this belief, we are perfectly rational to go with our experience and accept our experience as verification of that. So that the person who claims you are the victim of this massive delusion has a tremendous burden of proof to provide some defeater of that belief. Pressures on them to provide an answer if you’ve justified yours.
You could also ask them how they know they exist (thats properly basic). Perhaps also ask them ifthey have a schedule or a watch. This would be to show the incoherence and the unlivability of their belief. Even the Buddhist would live by the law of non-contradiction
Even in India we look both ways before we cross the street. It’s either the bus or me, not both of us”.Ravi Zacharias
Is atheism properly basic?
What sort of experience would make belief in the non-existence of God properly basic? The Theist can particularly say that belief in God is properly basic because of the witness of the Holy Spirit to his own spirit. so we can ground our beliefs in something but what can the atheist do?
Maybe the atheist could say “confronted with horrific sufferings in the world it’s just properly basic that there is no God”. But even to this response, Christians can show that there’s no incoherence in belief in an all powerful all loving God in the face of horrendous evil.
So properly basic atheism has weak prospects because of it’s grounding problem
Belief in the Biblical god is appropriately grounded
This is how people in the Bible knew God. John Hick, a liberal philosopher says this:
“God was known to them as a dynamic will interacting with their own wills. A sheer given reality as inescapably to be reckoned with as a destructive storm or life-giving sunshine. They did not think of God as an inferred entity, but as an experienced reality. To them God was not an idea adopted by the mind, but an experiential reality which gave significance to their lives”John hick
So God was an experience reality, not the conclusion of a syllogism of belief. So you could be persuaded by the powerful evidence for the Kalam cosmological Argument through reasoning with the evidence, but how you come to that conclusion is simply not the same way you ground belief and trust in the Holy Spirit.
Self-Authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit
So far we’ve talked about what properly basic beliefs are and that we are going to infer that the Holy Spirits witness to us is one of these properly basic beliefs. the Holy spirit is fundamentally how we know Christianity is true, but what do we mean by that? what does it do?
1. The experience of the Holy Spirit is veridical and unmistakable for someone who has it
If you are a person genuinely experiencing the inner witness of the Holy Spirit you can’t mistake it for something else and think that its just another God or some sort of fraudulent feeling. It’s a veridical (verifying), genuine authenticating experience of God himself to you.
This doesn’t mean that it’s irresistible or indubitable (impossible to doubt; unquestionable). It’s unmistakable and veridical for the person who has it, but through sin we can quench the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can resist the Holy Spirit. You can know an act you’re doing is wrong, but you really want to do it and when you wrestle inside of yourself like this, you are quite possibly resisting the spirit in your life.
2. A person who enjoys the witness of the Holy Spirit doesn’t need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know with confidence that he is in fact experiencing the Spirit of God
A person who has the witness of the Holy Spirit doesn’t need to have arguments and evidence in order to know that God’s spirit is witnessing to him the truth in Christianity.
I struggled with particular sins when I became a Christian and I felt moved to change, and I knew God with giving me some subtle "divine nudge" as I called it. But before I knew the New Testament innermost Christian beliefs, I was being convicted of sin by the Holy spirit before I knew certain acts were sin! Often scripture will come to mind but for those who don't have a strong enough familiarity, there's no reason the spirit can't work in this way.
3. Such an experience doesn’t function as a premise in an argument from religious experience to God, it is just the immediate experience of God himself
It’s not an argument for Christianity from religious experience. Just as you have an experience of the external world, or the reality of the past, so you experience the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.
4. In certain contexts the experience of the Holy Spirit will imply the apprehension of certain truths of the Christian religion
- For a Believer: God exists
- For a Believer: I am reconciled to God — when someone has been born again
- For a Believer: Christ lives in me
- An unbeliever: I am condemned by God when under conviction of sin
We'll get more into what the Holy Spirit does in an unbelievers life later
5. Such an experience provides you not only with a subjective assurance of Christianity’s truth but with objective knowledge of that truth
This isn’t a touchy feely assurance that Christianity is true. Through the witness of the Holy Spirit you come to develop and objective knowledge that God exists, that you are reconciled to God through Christ and so forth.
6. Arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit for him who attends to it
You may hear arguments and evidence against Christianity which you cannot respond to. You may not be in a position to respond to such arguments at that time in your life. Fortunately, for someone who fully attends to the witness of the Holy Spirit, who doesn’t quench the spirit, who doesn’t live in sin (one who attempts to resist a sinful lifestyle), the witness of God’s spirit will provide such warrant for the truth of Christianity that it will overwhelm the arguments and evidence brought against it.
It doesn’t answer the arguments and evidence it just overwhelms them and makes the truth of the Christian faith more evident than it’s falsity. If you were confronted by a Buddhist who was offering arguments that the external world wasn’t real, the premises for that argument are just less obvious than your properly basic belief that there is an external world. So defeaters for such a belief are overwhelmed by the reality you experience.
Christians argue the same thing for the inner witness of the Holy Spirit
The New Testament teaches this view
This applies for the believer and the unbeliever. It may feel like circular reasoning to use scripture proof texts to prove the witness of the Holy Spirit (We believe in the witness of the Holy Spirit because scripture says so and helps us define what it is so we recognise it’s call in our lives).
Since we accept the authenticity and authority of scripture it is not circular, it is a trustworthy source of information (See articles and training tab on the reliability of the New Testament).
So to the non-believer we could tell them we have a witness of the Holy Spirit with us without having to get into a 6 hour discussion on the authenticity and authority of scripture. Trust me, its a minimum of 20+ seperate discussions if you fancy defending scripture from the many angles required of some people.
The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer
Galatians 3:26; 4:6
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”Galatians 3:26
“ Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”Galatians 4:6
When a person becomes a christian, they automatically become an adopted son of God and is indwelt with the Holy Spirit.
“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”Romans 8:15-16
Paul explains it is the witness of the Holy Spirit with our spirit that allows us to know that we are God’s children. This obviously entails that God exists.
Paul elsewhere uses the Greek word Plerophoria which means complete confidence, complete assurance in order to indicate that the believer has knowledge as a result of the spirit’s work. He uses this word in Colossians 2:2 and 1 Thessalonians 1:5. This is normally called “assurance of salvation” and this entails certain truths:
- God forgives my sin
- Christ has reconciled me to God
- I am a child of God
The Apostle John makes it clear that the Holy Spirit living within us that gives believers conviction of the fundamental truth of Christianity.
1 John 2:20, 27
“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth”.1 John 2:20
“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him”.1 John 2:27
It is the Holy Spirit that teachers the believer the truth of divine things. John is clearly echoing the teachings of Jesus himself he records in the Gospel.
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”John 14:26
The truth that the Holy Spirit teaches us is not the fine points of Christian doctrine. There are many spirit filled Christians who disagree doctrinally. John could perhaps be referring to the inner assurance that the Holy Spirit gives of the basic truths of the Christian faith. One might call these the “great truths of the Gospels”. Assurance doesn’t come from human arguments, but from directly form God himself.
Some would disagree with this statement I’ve just made
1 John 4:1-3
Some might think this verse implies that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is not self-authenticating and that you need to test it
’Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”1 John 4:1-3
Some might think this verse implies that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is not self-authenticating and that you need to test it. However, this is a misunderstanding. This passage isn’t talking about testing the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, something which John himself and other Christians enjoy. John is referring to testing people who come to you claiming to be speaking by the Holy Spirit and therefore he points out that there are many false prophets that have gone out into the world so you have to be careful and test their spirit.
John speaks of these people in 1 John 2:18-19
“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”1 John 2:18-19
John isn’t saying to doubt the inner witness in your own heart, he’s just saying to test those who claim to speak from the Holy Spirit external from you.
John also underlines other teachings by Jesus about the work of the Holy Spirit found in the Gospel of John.
John 14:16-17, 20
Jesus says it is the indwelling Holy Spirit that will give the believer the certainty of knowing that Jesus lives in him in the sense of being united with Jesus
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you”.John 14:16-17
“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you”John 14:20
John echoes this same teaching in 1 John 3:24; 4:13
“The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us”1 John 3:24
“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit”1 John 4:13
John uses this characteristic phase “by this we know” to emphasise that as Christians we have a confident knowledge that our faith is true, that we really do abide in God and that God really does abide in us.
John goes as far as to contrast the confidence which the witness gives to the evidence of human testimony
1 John 5:6-10
“This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.”1 John 5:6-10
In this passage, the water probably refers to Jesus’ baptism and the blood refers to the cross. These are the bookends of Jesus’ earthly ministry, marking the beginning and end. When John talks about the testimony of men, he is talking about nothing less than the apostolic testimony to the events of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. In the Gospel of John 21:24, John emphasises the importance of the apostolic testimony to the events. He writes:
“these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and by believing have life in his name”John 21:24
Even though we quite rightly receive the testimony of men, the apostolic testimony to the historical Jesus, nevertheless the inner testimony of the spirit is even greater, it is even greater than the apostolic testimony.
So as Christians we have the testimony of God living within us, the indwelling Holy Spirit who bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God
Although evidence and arguments might be used to support or confirm the believers faith, they are not the proper basis of that faith. For the believer, God is not just the conclusion of a syllogism as said earlier, he is the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, living within us.
So with the unbeliever we can say “I know Christianity is true because of the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit living within me and he gives me a fundamental knowledge and assurance that it’s true” We can be candid and open with the unbeliever on this. Now after this, you could show them that Christianity is true with arguments and evidence
You can distinguish this by “knowing” Christianity to be true and “showing” Christianity to be true
What about those who are Christians but arn’t living a spirit filled life?
There are people who are saved but aren’t living very sanctified lives, for example, the Corinthian Church to which Paul calls Christians but aren’t living a very Christian life. Carnal Christians do exist, Paul seems to agree with that statement, there are people still living under the power of the flesh. People who have never moved in from the fringes of their Christian belief
Role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the unbeliever
Since the unbeliever is not indwelt with the Holy Spirit does that mean that he at least has to rely on arguments and evidence to know if Christianity is true? No, according to the scriptures, God has a special ministry of the Holy Spirit that is geared to the needs of the unbeliever in particular
Jesus describes this in John 16:7-11
“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”John 16:7-11
Jesus is addressing the ministry of the Holy Spirit not to the church, but to the world and he is talking about people “who do not believe in me”.
It is threefold
- He convicts the unbeliever of their sin
- Of God’s righteousness
- Of their condemnation before God
The unbeliever who is so convicted can therefore be said to know such truths as “God exists” “I am guilty before God” etc. If it weren’t for the work of the Holy Spirit, no one would ever become a Christian. According to Paul, natural man left to himself does not seek God
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.Romans 3:10-11
Unregenerate man cannot understand spiritual things
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”1 Corinthians 2:14
The unregenerate man is hostile to God
“The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”Romans 8:7
As Jesus said men love darkness rather than light. No man would naturally never come to God. The fact that we do find people seeking God when sharing the Gospel with them is evidence that the Holy Spirit has already been at work in their lives convicting them and drawing them to him.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”John 6:44
So it is never lack of evidence or intellectual difficulties that someone doesn’t come to believe in the faith. At root, the unbeliever willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God’s Holy Spirit on his heart. This convicting power and drawing of the Holy Spirit may take years, decades for the believer to come to Christ. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of the lack of arguments or evidence. He fails to become a Christian because they love darkness rather than light and want nothing to do with God. But anyone who does respond to the drawing of God’s Spirit with an open mind and an open heart can know with assurance that Christianity is true because God’s spirit will convict them eventually that it is true.
“Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”John 7:16-17
If your will is to do God’s will then they will know Jesus’ teaching is from God. Jesus is affirming that is anyone truly wants God’s will and is truly seeking God then they will come to know Jesus’ teaching is from God. So for the believer and the unbeliever it is the testimony of God’s spirit that ultimately assures him of the truth of Christianity.
Is it simply rational to believe in God and Christianity or does it simply mean this belief is warranted?
Advanced Chapter (If you don't get it, you're free to skip!)
Philosopher Alvin Plantinga argues that belief in God is not merely rational for someone on the basis of the Spirits witness, but that it is warranted for them so that they can know God exists. A belief can be rational even though in fact it is false.
What on earth do I mean by that? What we mean by rational is a person who does not violate any epistemological duty in believing that he’s within his epistemological rights in believing that.
E.g. if someone says “Hi my name is Fred” it is rational to believe his name is Fred, but it’s possible his name is not Fred, they could be lying.
So being rational isn’t merely enough. Is this belief warranted for us in such a way that it can be said we actually have knowledge of God and Christianity’s truth?
Plantinga says we have warrant as well as rationality. He says the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is the close analogue of a cognitive faculty that we have and in that sense it is a belief forming mechanism that can be reliable and he thinks that the beliefs formed by this mechanism meet the conditions for being warranted.
Therefore Plantinga would say that we can know the truths of the Gospel through the witness of the Holy Spirit so these are warranted for us
So you don’t need evidence for them, they are properly basic with regards to warrant and rationality.
So according to Plantinga, the central truths of the gospel are self-authenticating — they don’t get their evidence or warrant on the evidential basis of other propositions
What then is the role of arguments and evidence in knowing Christianity’s truth?
The fundamental way we know the truth of Christianity is through the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit. So the only role arguments have is a subsidiary role. Martin Luther made a distinction between the magisterial and ministerial uses of reason.
Magisterial: When reason stands over and above the gospel like a magistrate and judges its truth on the basis of argument and evidence.
Ministerial: When reason submits to and serves the Gospel message.
Only the ministerial use of reason is legitimate, philosophy is the handmade of theology. Reason is a God-given tool to help us better understand and defend our faith.
“ours is a faith that seeks understanding”St Anselm
So the Christian who has the Inner witness of the Holy Spirit and apologetic arguments may be said to have a dual warrant for the truth of their Christian beliefs, reinforcing them of the confident truth of Christianity. This can be very advantageous for the christian as it can increase your confidence in Christianity’s truth claims and challenge perhaps your carnal christian faith. It would also possibly inspire the believer to have more confidence to share their faith knowing they can engage with the sceptic with a back pocket of arguments for the truth of Christianity. These arguments also help the believer in times of doubt or spiritual dryness.
The unbeliever may not come to Christ because of the arguments and evidences, however, they may listen more to the drawing of the Holy Spirit in their lives as a result.
Moral law written on our hearts?
“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”Romans 2:14-15
Paul is teaching here that God’s moral law is properly basic and that people have an inherent knowledge of right, wrong, good and evil. So that the religious relativist or nihilist who thinks that there are no objective moral values and duties is flouting this properly basic belief that is written on their heart by God.
It’s not teaching that belief in God is properly basic, but it is referring to the moral law written on ones heart.
Possible defeaters of properly basic beliefs?
Plantinga does say this belief does not imply its indefeasibility. This belief is defeatable by other incompatible beliefs that come to be accepted.
If the theist comes to believe in things incompatible with his belief in God then he has a cognitive dissonance and in order to remain rational, you are going to have to give up some of their beliefs and perhaps it would be their belief in God
Cognitive Dissonance: The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.
For example, imagine a Christian is confronted with the problem of evil against the existence of God. If you are to remain rational in your belief, you are going to need a defeater for this attack on your belief.
This is where apologetics helps out, like the free-will defense could be a way of defeating the problem of evil.
Power of Warrant
However, Plantinga argues that the original belief itself may so exceed its alleged defeater in warrant that it actually becomes an intrinsic defeater of its ostensible defeater.
Ostensible: stated or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so.
Plantinga gives the example of someone who has been accused of a crime who knows that they did not commit it, yet all the evidence is stacked against him and if a Jury looked at the evidence, the judge would come to a guilty conclusion.
Such a Judge is not rationally obligated to follow where the evidence leads because they know that he’s innocent and the judge knows that as a properly basic belief there’s no reason for them to give up that properly basic belief and agree with his jury that he is in fact guilty. The belief that they did not commit the crime intrinsically defeats the defeaters brought against it by the evidence.
I am not saying this is how the legal system works. A tv series like Prison Break is a prime
example where even in the face of fraudulant video evidence, the person accused does not give in as
they know that it's a setup, even if they're not sure how it's been done.
Plantinga makes the theological application by suggesting that belief in God may similarly intrinsically defeat all of the defeaters that are brought against it.
He suggests that the circumstances which could produce a powerful warrant for belief in God are a implanted natural sense of God that we believe God has placed in our hearts as well as the testimony/witness of the Holy Spirit which deepens and accentuates this inborn innate sense of God.
This aligns with this view that only the ministerial use of reason is valid, it cannot take on a magisterial role of judging the Gospels.
So even if you don’t have all the answers to defeaters, you can know Christianity is true despite the evidence that piles up against it
What about Muslims and Mormons spirit claims?
The fact that other persons claim to have a witness of the Holy Spirit or burning in the bosom (As Mormons say) does nothing to defeat the belief that a person who genuinely has the witness of the Holy Spirit to the truth of his faith the existence of an authentic and unique witness of the Holy Spirit does not exclude anyway there can be people who make false claims. (Sorry, quite a mouthful!)
How does the existence of false claims to a witness of the Holy Spirit in favour of a non-christian religion do anything logically to undermine the fact that the Christian believer does possess the actual and authentic witness of the Holy Spirit? Why should you be robbed of your joy because someone else falsely either with sincerity or insincerity to the spirits witness?
A Mormon or Muslims false claims to experience the witness of God’s spirit in his heart to the truth of the Quran/book of Mormon does nothing to undermine the veridicality of our own experience.
Rebuttal: How do you know your experience isn’t spurious?
We’ve covered this. The experience of the spirits witness is self-authenticating for him who really has it. The spirit filled Christian can know immediately that his claim to the spirits witness is true despite the presence of false claims made by other persons adhering to other religions.
So with the Mormons/Muslim etc. You could challenge the reliability of their holy books and prayerfully challenge them on these topics because we know they hold to a false witness of the Holy Spirit and we trust God to break down their false confidence. We know they don’t really have an authentic witness of the Holy Spirit that’s self-authenticating, they have been lead stray by a counterfeit experience.
So after presenting defeaters, only by ignoring God’s drawing will they remain an unbeliever.
The film Contact (1997) has a good example of a properly basic belief played out — where someone
holds a view where all the evidence seems stacked against them but they know the truth in spite of how the situation looks. It's err, not necessarily a Christian friendly film, but it is just a
film, nothing more.
Accusation: False claims to a witness of the Holy Spirit ought to undermine my confidence in the reliability of the cognitive faculties that forms religious beliefs because those faculties evidently so often mislead people.
There are so many false religions in the world that you just can’t have any confidence in the cognitive faculties that lead to religious beliefs because by our own admission, most people have false beliefs as a result of these faculties.
Why should we trust our experience when we think everyone else’s beliefs are untrustworthy?
- As Christians we don’t need to say every non-christian religious experience is simply spurious. It may well be adherents of other religions do enjoy a veridical experience of God in certain respects
- We don’t need to say that all of these experiences are spurious.
- We are not committed to the belief that the cognitive faculties that are responsible for peoples religious beliefs are fundamentally unreliable.
- The objection unjustifiably assumes that the witness of the Holy Spirit is a product of human cognitive faculties or that it’s indistinguishable from the products of human faculties and that’s simple false.
- Non-Christian religious experiences such as Buddhist or Hindu religious experience is typically very different from a Christian experience
- One way to test this is ask ex-Muslims or ex-Mormons who have become Christians “is your experience of God now different than when you were that religion?” In most cases they will say absolutely!
Hasn’t it been shown that neuroscientists can artificially stimulate the brain to have religious experiences which are obviously non-veridical and yet they are like the witness of the Holy Spirit.
A few problems with this assumption.
- It’s simply not true. The experiences that neuroscientists have been able to artificially induce by brain stimuli are more akin to pantheistic religious experiences like in Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism —. A sort of sense of oneness with the all where you loose your personal identity in the totality of everything absolute. They’re not like Christian at all such as experiences of God’s personal presence and love.
- The fact that a non-veridical experience can be induced which is qualitatively identical to a veridical experience does absolutely nothing to undermine the fact that there are veridical experiences and that we are rational in taking those experiences to veridical. Otherwise you’d have to say, because neuroscientists can induce in your brain experiences of seeing an object or having a hallucination of some sort, therefore your 5 senses are utterly unreliable and you should never trust them when you do see an object. This is absurd
2 theological reasons why those Christians who do support the magisterial uses of reasons are mistaken
First, such a role would consign most Christians to irrationality
Most Christians have neither the time nor the training, nor the library resources to develop a full blown christian apologetic for the basis of their faith. Even the proponents of the magisterial use of reason were at one time early in their education still presumably lacking such an apologetic. So according to the magisterial use of reason, these people should not have believed in Christ until they had finished their apologetic, otherwise they would be believing for an insufficient reason!
So if you have a friend who you ask “how do you know Christianity is true?” And they say “I don’t know”, should they reject Christ until they can come up with an answer to that question? Obviously not. They knew Christianity was true because they knew Jesus even if they hadn’t worked out an apologetic for their faith.
So we can know the truth whether we have rational arguments or not and the vast majority of Christians throughout the world and down through history have never been in a position where they could justify their christian beliefs in a rational way through arguments and evidence like I’ve done on this site.
If God just abandoned us to work out by our own reason whether or not God exists then getting into heaven would be like getting into Harvard and God would be immensely cruel.
Second, if the magisterial use of reason were legitimate, then a person who had been given poor arguments for Christianity would have a just excuse for not believing in God
Imagine someone who had been given an invalid argument for God’s existence, could that person stand before God on the judgement day and say “The Christians gave me rubbish arguments, it’s their fault I stopped believing in you”? No! All men are without excuse
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.Romans 1:20
So even those who are given no good reasons to believe and many good reasons not to believe are ultimately without excuse because the ultimate reasons they do not believe is because they deliberately reject the testimony of God’s own Holy Spirit to the great truths of the Gospel or to God’s existence.
Could the Intensity increase of the Holy Spirit?
There doesn’t seem to be any particular reason why the Holy Spirit, in such a sense, could dial things up to get your attention. There are stories of Muslims who came to know Christ in a dream who may first be sensing God’s existence and doubting their faith and then a dream overwhelms then of God’s presence and the Lordship of Jesus. This is quite common.
The Holy Spirit could vary relative to it’s circumstances and the needs of people. What God won’t permit is a situation where the Christian is in a rational position to leave the faith, that’s down to the individual. God never through his will allows you to leave the faith, that’s on the individual. God does not will someone to leave the faith, become an atheist and spend eternity separated from him. That’s like a reverse John 3:16.
In way of summary
Belief that the biblical God exists may be rationally accepted as a basic belief not grounded on argument. And that properly basic belief is properly basic not only with regards to rationality but also with respect to warrant.
- Properly Basic Beliefs exist
- The Holy spirit is Properly Basic
- The Holy spirit is self-authenticating of it’s truth
- Unmistakable veridical experience
- Doesn’t need apologetic arguments to know it’s truth and reality
- It’s not an argument from religious experience, just the experience of God himself
- Allows for the apprehension of certain Christian truths
- Objective knowledge of the truth of Christianity
- The truth of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit overwhelm arguments and evidence against the view
- The New Testament teaches the self authenticating truth of the Holy Spirit
- This is for believers (including carnal Christians)
- This is also for non-believers
- We have warrant and rational belief for the Christian faith
- This warrant and rational belief trumps all other false claims to an experiencing of the Holy spirit.
- Muslims and Mormon sensations for example
- Neuroscience has not disproven the inner witness of the holy spirit