1 - The Grounds of Knowledge
Updated: Sep 10, 2022
a. My name is Brian O’Kelly, some of you know me from some of my prior broadcasting efforts, for some of you I’m a completely new person who you’ve never heard or heard of before.
b. A little background is warranted.
c. I’m 57 years old, married with four children and seven grandchildren.
d. I’ve been a Christian for most of my life although I flirted with atheism for time in college. In the end I found the arguments for atheism to be insufficient and I began to seek a theological basis to make sense of the world around me.
e. In so doing I reviewed most of the world is religious viewpoints and then settling on Christianity finding the others lacking and determined to understand the Christian religion and its variety of different sects and viewpoints to the best of my ability.
f. I am mostly self-instructed in these efforts through seeking lectures, information, and written works of others who have endeavored in these arenas for 2000 years.
g. This series will be taught over a period of perhaps months as I am able to organize the information in a way that is complete and not rushed.
h. I learned from my prior broadcast efforts that a rigid deadline broadcast schedule does not make for the best content. For that reason, I’ve decided not to go with a predetermined frequency but rather with the frequency that is demanded by the level of preparation needed to deliver excellence of content.
i. This first episode is mostly foundational the idea of how to evaluate information, I want so much to be about the reasons to trust the Bible as much as it will be about the reasons to trust anything at all along with the reasons to consider investigating the validity and authenticity of the Bible.
2) I’ll take it as a priori that you already believe in a God of some kind.
a. Most people in the world today (over 90%) believe in some kind of God.
b. We have to believe in mass stupidity or mass confusion of some kind.
c. Throughout history people have believed in God or gods far more often than they have not.
d. Sanity is not statistical, but the purpose of this program is not to sway or convince the Atheist.
e. Atheism is a relatively new and still relatively rare belief system, although it has a growing number of adherents.
f. I believe one of the main reasons that atheism is growing is because there’s been so little good education about reasons to trust in and believe the Bible.
g. Since I’m speaking in English, most English-speaking people in the world believe in the God of the Bible at some level.
h. For purposes of this lecture series rather than belabor the point that God exists the arguments for that position, I’ve decided to focus this series on people who already believe that there is a God
i. What people have learned not to trust is Bible teachers and churches, because those teachers and churches have so often been untrustworthy.
j. What I’m hoping to demonstrate through this series of lectures, is that the untrustworthiness of many Bible teachers and a great number of church leaders is not a sufficient reason to discount the Bible in and of itself
k. The sad truth is that a great number of Bible teachers and church leaders have never thought very deeply about these things and rather have received their faith and their information about the Bible and Christianity along with their last name and the family furniture.
l. Alternatively, they attended a theological school with a very narrow or biased focus that didn’t allow for thorough exploration of competing viewpoints.
m. In my case, I’ve never been satisfied to just “take someone’s word for it”. At least not on things that I could check out for myself. We will discuss later belief in things that you’re not able to check out for yourself. However, in the case of the Bible, there is much that I could check out for myself to determine whether there was any real value here.
n. I have determined that as near as I am able, I would like to understand all the arguments from all of the various viewpoints before I draw a conclusion.
o. I will admit, but I am not an unbiased teacher in this regard. I have believed and trusted the Bible for most of my lifetime, and I have approached the subject from the viewpoint of a believer. But that does not mean is that I am unable to assess or seriously consider alternative viewpoints. I have no interest whatsoever in believing something that isn’t true and verifiable. Especially if I’m going to base a most important life decisions on that information. If I were to do that, I would be misleading myself, my family and you in a way that would be entirely unhelpful possibly even dangerous. So, I will openly admit my bias, but I don’t believe that I am a person who says you can believe the Bible because the Bible says so and who makes entirely circular arguments.
p. It is my intention through this lecture series to lay the foundation for why I have concluded that I can trust the Bible and its contents.
3) Why would knowing if we can trust the Bible be important?
a. It doesn’t take long after opening the Bible for the first time that you see that this is a book that is entirely different than most of the books that you have read. It makes claims about God and the nature of creation in the afterlife that are fantastic in nature.
b. If there is a God, what kind of God is He?
i. Is He eternal and uncreated or is he a created being of some other planet or solar system with a finite beginning?
ii. Does he live forever, or will he die or cease to exist someday?
iii. Is He vindictive? Does he exact punishments without mercy?
iv. Is he cruel like the little boy who pulls the wings off the fly?
v. Is He selfish? Does he act only in his own interests?
vi. Is He generous? Does God give to us and others out of his resources or is he stingy, not helping when he would be able to?
vii. Is He controlling or manipulative?
viii. Does He have control over the laws of nature or is He subject to them?
c. Assuming there is a God, would it be important to know what he wants you to know?
i. I can’t think of anything more important than knowing the things that the God of the Universe wants me to know.
1. About Him
2. About the past and about the future
3. About the world around me
4. About Human Nature and interactions
d. Is there an afterlife or are we just worm food after we die?
e. Do I have freewill or is God in control of everything that happens?
f. Will this information be beneficial to me and others? Can it help me with anything or will it get in the way?
g. What does God want from me, from others, and is it reasonable to expect that I can accomplish it?
h. Does it give me a standard by which to evaluate the world around me?
i. Who should I trust, bible teachers, philosphers, politicians or God himself?
4) How can we know anything?
a. Epistemology – Fancy word for the grounds of knowledge.
b. Subjective Truth (Merriam-Webster)
i. Philosophy: relating to the way a person experiences things in his or her own mind
1. Subjective reality
2. Dreaming is a subjective experience.
3. A person's subjective perception of the world
ii. Based on feelings or opinions rather than based
1. A subjective judgment/decision
2. Personal taste in clothing is very subjective.
c. Objective Truth (Merriam-Webster)
i. Based on facts rather than feelings or opinions
1. We need someone outside the company to give us an objective analysis.
ii. Not influenced by feelings
1. Scientists must be objective.
2. It's hard to be objective [=fair, unbiased] about my own family.
iii. Philosophy: existing outside of the mind: existing in the real world
1. objective reality
i. Our own
1. A lot of what we know is based on her own experience, however much more of what we know is based on the experience of others
2. If you think about most of what you learned in educational settings or from other people was based on their experience not yours
ii. The experience of others
1. Experience of others is an extremely valuable learning tool and comes through their testimony.
2. For example:
iii. Google maps
i. Abraham Lincoln
ii. Julius Caesar
i. The ancient Greeks
ii. The rise and fall of the Roman Empire
iii. The Civil War
i. Chemistry: the formula H2O is something that I’ve never experienced myself in terms of doing science necessary to see the atoms under the electron microscope.
ii. Medicine-I’ve never done surgery at all, nor have I dissected human cadaver, yet I believe based on others experience that everyone has an organ called a thyroid gland.
e. Most of this information come through the testimony of others of their own experiences and observations.
3. We put faith in the experience and competency of others every day.
a. Have you ever eaten in a restaurant?
b. Have you ever flown on an airplane?
c. If you have a driver’s license, or have ever taken a ride in a car, you’re putting faith in the competency of the other drivers.
5) If you’re skeptical of the Bible in a way that you are not skeptical of any of these other sources of information or places in which you put trust in the competency of others, that would be where your own bias is showing.
6) I’m going to ask you to do is set your own biases aside and while I don’t expect you to accept what I’m saying prima facie, I'll ask you to not bring an unwarranted skepticism to the discussion.
7) The next installment of this series will be on the origins and assembly of the Bible. I will answer several questions about where the books came from, how they were selected, why other books were rejected and whether that process was trustworthy.