God, Revelation and Authority–Vol. 1, Chapters 16-17

Posted: February 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


During the past several generations theology and philosophy of religion have largely moved away from apriorism and toward empiricism to account for religious experience and man’s views of the nature of the religious object. In recent decades, however, the difficulties inherent in empirical explanations of religion have precipitated renewed interest in the a priori aspects of religious experience.

-Carl F. H. Henry

Unless you are a philosophy Geek then the above statement makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  So, for those of you who actually have a life, let me try to explain in non-nerd terminology. 

What is “apriorism”? One has to understand the term to even begin to comprehend the rest of Henry’s prolegomena.  The Oxford Companion to Philosophy defines “a priori and a posteriori” as follows: “These are terms primarily used to describe two species of propositional knowledge but also, derivatively, two classes of propositions or truths, namely, those that are knowable, a priori (literally: prior to experience) when it does not depend for its authority upon the evidence of experience, and a posteriori when it does so depend.”  In other words, a priori knowledge doesn’t rely on testing the proposition out in a lab with accurate use our of senses but can be rightfully declared to be true absent “experience.”  Henry believes that divine revelation can be understood and verified separate and apart from empirical observation. 

Still confused? Don’t blame you. 

Let me try it this way.  Henry asserts that Scripture teaches that because we are the image and likeness of God, we are connected to our creator in such a way that we do not need the non-divine (i.e., reasoning from the complexity of creation to the creator) to begin to truly know God.  We need only the God-given ability to recognize divine revelation. 

Apriorism, however, has a had a long history outside of evangelical Christianity.  Plato and Kant both argued for a form of apriorism.  Henry writes, “[t]he aprioristic constructions may be classified under three main types: (1) the philosophical transcendent, (2) the theological transcendent, and (3) the philosophical transcendental.”  Henry will spend the next few chapters looking at these three and arguing for one over the other two.  

I know this can be difficult but I promise a big pay off in the end…even if that end will take months and thousands of pages to get there!

Grace and peace.  

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