What is the most fundamental issue facing the church today? It’s not Islam. It’s not sexual ethics. It’s not even truth. It’s knowledge. Can we know that Christianity is true?
This was the central thesis of a paper delivered by J.P. Moreland last week at the Evangelical Philosophical Society’s annual meeting in Denver. He said that scientism is largely responsible for the shift in society’s belief about what we can know. Scientism claims that the only way to know reality is through the five senses. If you can’t touch it, taste it, see it, hear it, or smell it, then you can’t know it. That means the only things we can learn about are in the fields of the hard sciences (e.g. physics, chemistry, etc.). You can’t have knowledge in other fields like religion or ethics. Therefore, it has become more difficult to present the gospel as reasonable, knowable, and true.
Scientism, though, is problematic for at least three reasons.
- It’s self-refuting. If the only things we can know are testable with the five senses, then how can we know “scientism is true” when the statement itself can’t be tested with the five senses to see if it’s true?
- Scientism can’t justify the presuppositions of science because they can only be stated philosophically, which scientism is incapable of testing. This is why science has always been at home within the Christian worldview, which includes other ways of knowing and, therefore, can justify the presuppositions of science.
- Scientism fails to recognize that knowledge can be discovered through means other than science, and, in some cases, the knowledge we gain through these other means can lead to more certainty.
I’m just offering a quick overview of the paper. If you want to know more, J.P. Moreland has a new book on the subject, Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology. You can also listen to Greg Koukl interview Moreland in a recent STR podcast.