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Unseen ‘Realities’ or Metaphysical Speculation?

July 6, 2011

Joel Watts was sent a book for review Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons by R. C. Sproul. From the product description:

The concept of the invisible spiritual realm is so often something which is difficult for us to grasp. If we can see, hear, and feel it we can take it on face value that it is a reality. But what about things that are unseen? Scripture speaks about Heaven, hell, angels and Satan which are a part of the invisible spiritual realm. Bible teacher R. C. Sproul helps us glean a better understanding on these and come to a realisation that in fact all four are realities.

It reminded me of this comic:

Here’s the thing. I would probably change Sproul’s title. “Reality” in philosophy can be that which exists independent of human awareness, but that’s a philosophical idea. In material terms “reality” is the totality of all things possessing actuality, existence, or essence.

Often you will hear the supernaturalists’ mantra, whether it be Christians or New Agers, “Science can’t tell us everything.” This is true, but science doesn’t claim the ability to ‘know’ everything, nor does it logically follow that because “science can’t tell us everything” we are free to ignore the things it can tell us quite adequately (see abusive parents who refuse their children medical care because of their ‘beliefs’). Often the “Science can’t tell us everything” mantra is a jumping off point to confuse methodological and philosophical naturalism, and then to begin hypothesizing some sort of metaphysical speculation. For a good example of this see almost any argument by Deepak Chopra, e.g., “Science can’t tell us everything, therefore, you can stop yourself from aging with the power of your mind!”

Even this line of argumentation is skirting the real issue. You see, the ‘reality’ is that science is a method. It is a means by which to test hypotheses and claims. Therefore, we may not be able to materially test metaphysical or supernatural entities such as demons, but if they have any tangible effect in the real world then those could be subjected to real world examinations. In other words, while hypothetically the testing of the cause is impossible, the testing of the proposed effect of any supernatural being in the real world is entirely possible.

I think I’ll re-title the book for Sproul, “Unseen Hope: What the Bible Can Make Us Speculate About Heaven, Hell, Angels, and Demons

“…faith is the substance of things hoped for…”

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2011 11:56 am

    Whenever I hear someone say “Well science doesn’t know everything” I think of this video by Dara O’Briain. It’s regarding homeopathy but it answers this situation perfectly

  2. July 7, 2011 8:39 am

    Can’t we Scientifically test the Demons of poverty, sickness, sadness, hunger etc. by making large donations to your ministry and rejoicing when they flee?


  1. Unseen Realities: forget Bultmann and the 19th century - Gentle Wisdom

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