Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pascal's Principle of Qualified Knowledge

I am not referring to Pascal's famous "wager", but to one of his other thoughts in Pensees:
"There is light enough for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition." (XI.430)
He is speaking of Biblical evidences, of how God reveals his reality and actions. God provides a witness and a warrant for those to believe, without depriving people of the choice of scepticism and refusal to believe: "Thus wishing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart, he has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not."
Wherever I turn in Christian thought and life, I am struck by this observation. Take the historical reliability of the New Testament. There is solid and sound historical documentation and connections between the events and the transmission, but without ruling out the choice of scepticism by scholars who spin their own theories to reconstruct the Biblical narrative.  If we wish to place our faith and life upon the Scriptures we are standing on adequate and sound foundations. Others can choose to doubt - the Cartesian principle of ingrained scepticism is chronic these days. But they cannot invalidate the truth-claims of the New Testament. There is room for faith as well as for doubt; there are grounds for confidence in believing, as well as room for the chosen screpticism.
Those who hold to the orthodox faith have never claimed to know all or to live without faith in the claims of the Bible. We only claim that there is sufficient and cogent warrant for the claims of Jesus Christ and that no sound scholarship or history has plainly overthrown the evidence. We distinguish the claims of speculative theology from the scope of warranted evidence.

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