Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What Our Eyes See and Our Hands Handle

Many would try to avoid believing in anything that is not apparent to the senses. They only believe what they see, hear, touch, taste, or smell. This is an extremely limiting philosophy, especially if we restrict things to what we ourselves have experienced. How many real things are there which we have not sensed except  very indirectly? (Who has actually seen a radio wave?) Much of the rest of what we know comes from the testimony of others on things we have not actually experienced ourselves.

Nonetheless, there is some truth behind the distortion. It is easy to get lost in pure abstract thought. It is also possible for one person to sound good until the next person makes their case. There is something helpful in actually seeing or hearing, something to bring things down to earth. I believe this is one reason why God chose to intervene in history. It is one, though certainly not the only, reason He chose to become a Man. It was to show us in a concrete way, discernible by our senses, what God is like. But the mistake here is to restrict ourselves to only what is actually perceived by our senses rather than being  willing to see what our senses tell us as evidence of something beyond our senses. Otherwise we are left unable to prove a number of things that are clearly true. Also, there is the issue of the testimony of others.

Most of the things we know, we know based on the testimony of others. I have never been to London, England. But I have it, on what I regard as good testimony, that such a place exists. But someone might say, "I have seen it on TV." This is true. I have also seen Vulcans and Klingons on TV. Now I have it on good testimony that London is a real place and that Vulcan is part of a work of fiction. But the fact I see something on TV does not in itself prove it exists. Now I need to carefully weigh testimony to decide which is true and which is false. But I cannot simply reject something because I did not see it myself. Otherwise we lock ourselves in a narrow box which keeps out almost everything. To say that direct sensory evidence is valuable and can point to things beyond itself is a good principle. To say we can only believe what our own senses perceive is an assumption, and an extremely questionable one. One that prevents us from knowing about God. But also limits severely what we can know about anything else.  

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