Monday, May 30, 2011

Science and the Importance of Opinion

I've noted before that opinion is important because it can, for instance, function as a means by which "problems with various epistemologies or one's own epistemology may be introduced [to oneself]." As it so happens, opinion also very nearly plays as important a role in practical theology as does knowledge.

Gordon Clark and Scripturalists in general are more well-known for refutations of false views of the role of science than for a positive presentation of what the role of science in a Christian world-view really is. To be fair, Clark promoted what he called Operationalism in his Philosophy of Science and Belief in God, in which he wrote that science ought to be regarded as "an attempt to utilize nature for our needs and wants" rather than "a way to any knowledge."

In my latest post, I in part tried to establish that whether or not a work is good hinges upon one's intentions. Intentions with respect to what? What one opines - not necessarily knows - is the case. How does one come to opine what is the case? By God's ultimate, determinative purpose, to be sure, but the means through which ideas are mediated may vary.

Example: to know the meaning of a sign of the covenant we must know Scripture, but the point at which the application of the sign enters into the equation, it is at that point that we must simply believe that it is being administered properly. That is something we opine, not know. I think I saw water and felt sprinkled on me by an ordained minister according to the Trinitarian forumla, but I would not water down the philosophical definition of knowledge as I would have to just so I could say I know such was the case. Regardless, that we do not know it does not mean our belief in the idea it was validly administered can be an instance of disobedience.

As we think, so we are. God has determined our thoughts - our opinions and our knowledge; our responsibility is to intentionally act on those thoughts in a godly manner, and such does not depend on the possibility of empirical knowledge. I may by science come to believe something upon which I must accordingly choose. What is important in the realm of practical theology is the intention of the choice [made on the basis of my belief], not whether or not my belief is true.

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