Finding Truth Study Guide: Chapter 1 Question 4

Willful Blindness


  1. What is an “epistemological sin”? Do you agree that at the heart of the human condition is an epistemological sin (i.e., sin related to knowledge)? Why or why not?

According to William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, in their book Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, epistemology is the branch of philosophy that tries to make sense out of knowledge, rationality and justified or unjustified beliefs.
(71.) Pearcey argues that to fail to acknowledge what we know (that about which we have true beliefs based on good reasons) and conform our lives to it we commit epistemological sin. Putting aside trivial counter-examples, Paul shows us we have ample evidence to show God’s existence and some sense of what is right and wrong. Moreover, God has revealed himself to us in his Word, and by that we have more detailed revelation of God’s character and what he requires of us. The mental gymnastics some people engage in to avoid the implications of these facts shows the problem is really volitional rather than rational.

Pascal once pointed out “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.[1] For those who do not know or understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s existence is bad news. If life is what I want to make of it, and I wish to pursue pleasure my way, the idea that there is a just, holy, powerful God who will judge me is terrifying. It is no wonder that belief in God, apart from the Gospel, is unattractive. However, the undeniable level of evidence produces cognitive dissonance. We have to ignore or deny the evidence, or raise the bar higher than we would for anything else in life. That there is a holy, just God who stands ready to judge us is only half the story. He has also provided for a substitute to bear our punishment in our place in the person of Jesus Christ. This is a supremely attractive idea that ought to be believed, not the least because it is true.

Finding Truth: Study Guide Chapter 1 Question 2

The Problem of Personhood

  1. What are the philosophical meanings of the terms personal and non-personal? How does the fact that humans are personal beings function as evidence for God? Do you find that evidence persuasive? Why or why not?

Pearcey reminds us that Paul said God could be known through the things that were made, and that includes us. The fact that we are persons is evidence that we are the created by a personal being. William Lane Craig defines “person” as a self-conscious individual with free will. (See Defenders Podcast, Doctrine of Christ, Part 4) This idea is related to the argument from the origin of the universe. In question 1 I mentioned that the cause of the universe had to be an agent with a will that could have willed not to create. Agent is synonymous with person.

The reason this is evidence for the existence of God is because persons do not come from non-persons.

At this point, some might object, “If persons cannot come from non-persons, then how is it the physical can come from the non-physical.” (I have never heard this objection, but it occurred to me as I thought through this.) I think the distinction is that there is adequate evidence that all matter came into existence at a point in the finite past, and requires a non-physical cause to account for it. On the other hand, it is possible for a non-physical being to exist in a timeless state.

The alternative is to say that human beings are not persons in that they have no free will.

Because I know where this book is going, I will hold off on a more detailed response to this later when we get to evaluating competing worldviews and applying Pearcey’s principles.

Finding Truth: The Study Guide Chapter 1 Question 1 Part 2

Origin of life:

Having begun to exist, and having the constants mentioned in the book and elsewhere, that means life’s origin and development are inevitable, right? Not so fast. Pearcey points out the necessity for massive amounts of information found in DNA for even the simplest life forms. Moreover, in every other experience we have had, information comes from an intelligent source.

This is a huge problem for a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life, but there are other nearly insurmountable hurdles that prebiotic chemistry must overcome before you even get to the level of DNA.

Many genes code for the production of proteins. In living systems, these proteins are formed from 20 amino acids. Amino acids form in three-dimensional shapes that form right-and left-handed structures. Those that form in living systems are left-handed (and the sugars that bind with them are right-handed.) When these same amino acids form in nature outside of living systems, or are produced in the lab, they form in equal mixtures of left- and right-handed forms. This is called a racemic mixture. In the presence of a racemic mixture, proteins cannot form. This is not merely a case that we do not know how amino acids could form proteins for the first life. It is a case where natural chemical processes prevent such proteins from forming. As Fazale Rana writes, “…without preexisting reservoirs of exclusively left-handed amino acids and exclusively right-handed sugars, the naturalistic assembly of proteins, DNA and RNA is prohibited.”[1]

Some astrobiologists (the only field of science completely devoid of data) have suggested that life could be based on some other element than carbon, such as silicon. However, as Rana points out,

Silicon belongs to the same chemical group as carbon and should display similar chemical properties, prompting some astrobiologists to propose that life could be based on this element. But while silicon does form rings and chains, these structures lack the stability and the range of complexity found in carbon-based compounds. Silicon-silicon bonds are much weaker than the corresponding carbon-carbon bonds, and unlike carbon-carbon bonds, they are susceptible to oxidation.[2]

This leaves carbon as likely the only element from which biochemistry can arise. It also explains why the search for habitable planets begins with planets that could possibly sustain liquid water, since carbon is most reactive in the same range of temperatures in which water is liquid.

Some have accused theists of appealing to “god-of-the-gaps,” saying we are invoking God to explain what we do not understand. This is not the case. We have numerous reasons to think God exists and that he has revealed himself. Part of that revelation is that he created the universe and life. Natural obstacles to undirected processes and information that requires an intelligent source are evidence that this is so.

[1] Fazale Rana, Creating Life in the Lab: How New Discoveries in Synthetic Biology Make a Case for the Creator (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2011), 34-45.


Why You Think the Way You Do: The Story of Western Worldviews from Rome to Home by Glenn Sunshine A review

Glenn Sunshine is a Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University, while also serving on the faculty of the Centurions Program of the Colson Center, and as the faculty advisor for Ratio Christi at CCSU. He has a BA in linguistics from Michigan State University, an MA in Church History from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, an MA in Reformation History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD in Renaissance-Reformation History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a Christian and a historian, Sunshine has a passion for helping Christians see how worldview affects culture, and vice versa.

The thesis of Why You Think the Way You Do is that the history of Western Civilization can be traced according to its changing relationship to Christianity. Moreover, the successes and failures of Western culture can be linked to its acceptance or rejection of a Christian worldview.

The book opens with an explanation of the idea of worldview, and how it affects individuals and societies as a whole. It then traces the trajectory of Western culture from the Roman Empire, its transformation by the spread of Christianity, and the periods that followed. The chapters address major periods from the Middle Ages to the renaissance, to the modern “enlightenment” era, to the post-modern period to today. Sunshine shows how changes in worldviews impacted major events such as three great revolutions in England, France and America. This section was especially helpful to understand why the American Revolution succeeded where the Glorious Revolution, and the French Revolutions failed.

As history unfolds in more recent decades, we see the consequences of elevating personal autonomy to the point where ultimate freedom for all means little freedom for some. We see where the only thing considered immoral is considering something immoral. Moreover, we see how struggles for equality have become struggles for privilege by claiming victim status. We see tolerance become meaningless since tolerance entails disagreement, but disagreement is considered intolerance.

Sunshine has painted a clear picture of the consequences of the absence of the Christian worldview in the public square. While the history of Christendom is checkered with its wars of religion, Sunshine gives fair treatment of the issue, acknowledging excesses while noting where these diverge from Christian teaching.

It is not only society, however, that has lost a conscious Christian worldview. This is also missing in much of the Church. We in the church need to read this book and take its lessons to heart if we hope to have an impact on our culture.

This book is accessible to middle-school students, while being rich enough to not bore those with advanced degrees. Church youth leaders and students would do well to study this book. Our future as a nation may well depend upon it.

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