If evidence is required for faith, then we have reason to doubt the reliability of our belief-forming process, and if so, then we have reason to doubt all our beliefs. For any person to have knowledge, his beliefs must have been produced by cognitive faculties properly functioning according to a right design and aim. Sin has altered the faculties and undone their design and aim. This is why faith is superior to external evidence.
Man is limited in the pursuit and context of knowledge. 1 Corinthians 13:2 uses hyperbole to describe man's shortcomings in knowledge. No man understands all mysteries and knowledge. No man understands the universe or even the world in its totality. However, God does.
Believing, Not Seeing
Thomas said to the rest of Jesus' apostles in John 20:25, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." Later in v. 27, Jesus called Thomas "faithless." Why? He just needed evidence, didn't he? Shouldn't have Jesus been more sympathetic to Thomas' epistemology?
And what about Abraham? God told him to leave Ur for a land He would show him sight unseen. What does Paul say that Abraham did in Romans 4:20? "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God." The promise of God was good enough for Abraham to pack up all his family and belongings to travel a long, treacherous path to a place he'd never laid eyes upon. "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17).
Noah had never seen rain, but he built an ark. Joshua had never seen walls tumble, but he walked around the city of Jericho. Naaman had never seen the God of Elisha, but he stepped into the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times. "The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:22). Signs and wisdom make sense to Jews and Greeks. Preaching doesn't. It isn't credible enough for Jews and Greeks to believe. They need more.
The Demand for Divinely Revealed Presuppositions
Unless truth is presupposed, there is no proof of anything. In order to have knowledge, the world must exist in both unity and plurality. Unity is commonality and plurality is distinctiveness. Nothing can be known of things that are utterly dissimilar from one another. Without the unity of similarity there is no knowledge. At the same time, without the disunity of distinctions, nothing can be known because there is nothing to distinguish one reality from another. If reality cannot be known as a whole, then neither can any part of it be understood. Only the biblical God presents a knowable ultimate unity and distinctiveness.
Without God, all that we know is only all that we think we know. No man knows everything. Unless we know everything, we have no way of knowing whether some fact will undermine what we know. Without comprehensive knowledge, we are looking only as far as possible into a darkness to the boundaries of purported knowledge. The fact that we don't know of what we are ignorant means that we are ignorant of how what we do not know bears on everything that we think we do know. We don't know that "what you don't know can't hurt you." God is immune to all that, because He knows everything. If one knows everything, then He knows how the knowledge of one fact bears on the knowledge of another fact. We can only know what God says we can know.
Despite what we can know, Paul writes that we know in part (1 Corinthians 13:9). What part we know, we don't even know in the sense that we don't know the part that is missing and the relationship of the part we know and the part we don't know. We would have to know the whole in order to know what part is missing. Paul describes this lack of knowledge in 1 Corinthians 13:12:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Someone with superior knowledge is still looking only a little bit further into the darkness than someone else. That won't stop until the point in the future when we see God face to face. Then we will be like God (1 John 3:2) and will know even as we are known.
Things are what they are whether or not anyone knows it to be so. The Mariana Trench was the deepest seafloor depression before anyone had measured it. Only God knows what is. Because of that, only God is trustworthy as a source of knowledge. Knowledge of some things presupposes a measure of all things; and if that measure is not uniquely found in the mind of an absolute God then all of us are fumbling about aimlessly in the dark, searching for a non-existent light switch.
And how can we know that we know unless someone that knows tells us? We may think we know, but God has assured us of knowledge by His communication to us. Our confidence to know is placed in God's character. And He says that man cannot live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds out of His mouth (Matthew 4:4).
How We Know What God Preserved
How do we know what God's Words are? Are the promises of God themselves a sufficient enough guide to bring us certainty about what His Words are? Christians of the past have thought so. We can only know how God says we can know. And what does God say?
God says that He would preserve every Word to every generation of believers (Isaiah 59:21; Matthew 4:4; Psalm 119:160; Isaiah 40:8).
Deuteronomy 12:28, "Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God."
Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law."
Luke 21:33, "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away."
We would assume then that every generation of believers would have every Word available. Those Words, which are not accessible to every generation, we should not assume are God's Words. God's people will receive His Words.
John 17:8, "For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me."
1 Thessalonians 2:13, "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."
They receive His Words because of the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
John 14:26, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
John 16:13, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."
Romans 8:11, "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."
1 John 2:27, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."
We can depend on the Holy Spirit, Who moved upon Holy men (2 Peter 1:20-21) in the process of the inspiration of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17) to know what the Words of God are. And the Holy Spirit leads and teaches men those Words. The London Baptist Confession (1689) states this doctrine this way:
[Yet] notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith itself is substance and evidence (Hebrews 11:1). Our faith should rely in the Word of God for what we know. We have certainty in what God speaks, because He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Because of the trustworthiness or dependability of God's Words, we can depend upon Scripture itself to know the basis for discerning what God's Words are.
- They will be verbally, plenarily preserved (2 Timothy 3:16).
- They will be perfect (Psalm 12:6; 19:7; 119:140).
- They will be available (Matthew 4:4).
- They will be preserved in the language in which they were written (Matthew 5:18).
- They will be known by the testimony and guidance of the Holy Spirit, therefore, through believers, who are indwelt by the Spirit (John 16:7).
How Are Scriptural Presuppositions Evidence?
What is truly knowable comes from God. He reveals it. Since it's revealed, it's non-discoverable. What man discovers isn't truth like Scripture is truth. General revelation is general in its audience, not in its content. I've given about seven or eight unenumerated arguments for this understanding of what we can know.
We know that God uses mathematical probability to bring certainty in the way of fulfilled prophecies. He makes predictions and they all come to pass like He said. The one hundred percent fulfillment is evidence. This relates to evidence for verbal, plenary preservation of Scripture in two ways. First, every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. What believers agree are God's Words are not just men's opinions but the Spirit bearing witness, testifying to truth. A four to five hundred year agreement on the textus receptus and Hebrew Masoretic stands as evidence based on Scriptural presuppositions. Do we really think that we can say that all those believers for all those years were wrong? In this one area, Scripture, they were all deceived? And yet, at the end of that period of time, unbelieving textual critics were actually enlightened?
Second, the promises of preservation are like the prophecies that God fulfilled. Are we going to say that God fulfilled all of the prophecies, including the detailed dozens in Daniel and the amazing many in Isaiah, but He didn't fulfill His promises to protect His Word unto perfection? The fulfillment of prophecy says that God keeps His promises. The power of their fulfillment extends to the trust in God's promises of perfect preservation and availability of all His Words.
One hundred textual critics, mostly unbelieving, can't be trusted with a holy book written by a holy God. I like the questions posed by reglerjoe, a commenter on the first installment of this epistemology series, with this regards and as it relates to contemporary evangelical textual critic Daniel Wallace:
So evidence is the leader? And how objective does one's mind need to be in order to accurately examine the evidence? How can we know we are being reliably objective enough? So we can't be sure of God's word, but we can have faith in our own supposed objectivity?
Those questions say it all. We can't trust our objectivity with evidence if we can't trust God's promises. God's promises are revelation. The evidence isn't.
But What About the Critical or Eclectic Text?
I'll talk about this in part three.