Hi Max Andrews,I’ve just discovered your articles at sententias.org. Well done! And thank you for thetime and thought you and Ms. Davis obviously took to create such quality!
May I ask for your help?I noticed on the site that you favor abductive reasoning. I am new to this inferential method.And I wondered if you had written your own abductively-reasoned account of coming toknow and trust God?Would you mind sharing that account with me?
Or, if that’s not the case, can you point me toward someone else who’s written their ownabductively-reasoned account of coming to know and trust God?I ask because I had my own “spiritual experience” and would love to read how philosophers
present their own personal accounts using abductive logic.
Thank you for your question! It’s nice to take a step back and look at the issue of abduction and how it relates to our personal experiences–particularly our experience with the Lord.
The first thing that I’d have to distinguish is the difference between our initial acceptance of something as knowledge and then systematically looking at the justification and mechanisms involved in a retrospective sense. That is, how can we make sense of what I claim to know? Many people, if not all people, don’t think syllogistically.
First, let’s take a brief recap on the issues. We need to understand that there is a phenomenal component (the experience of God) and the epistemic component (knowing that we’ve had such an experience).
God created both us and our world in such a way that there is a certain fit or match between the world and our cognitive faculties. This is the adequation of the intellect to reality (adequation intellectus ad rem). The main premise to adequation intellectus ad rem is that there is an onto-relationship between our cognitive or intellectual faculties and reality that enables us to know something about the world, God, and ourselves. This immanent rationality inherent to reality is not God but it does cry aloud for God if only because the immanent rationality in nature does not provide us with any explanation of itself.
In reality all entities are ontologically connected or interrelated in the field in which they are found. If this is true then the relation is the most significant thing to know regarding an object. Thus, to know entities as they actually are what they are in their relation “webs”. Thomas Torrance termed this as onto-relations, which points more to the entity or reality, as it is what it is as a result of its constitutive relations.
The methodology of the epistemological realist concerns propositions of which are a posteriori, or “thinking after,” the objective disclosure of reality. Thus, epistemology follows from ontology. False thinking or methodology (particularly in scientific knowledge) has brought about a failure to recognize the intelligibility actually present in nature and the kinship in the human knowing capacity to the objective rationality to be known. So, for all intents and purposes, the task of knowing an experience with God has occurred is an a posteriori endeavor.
When having, or having had, a religious experience one may usher the experiential evidence that some phenomenal event occurred. So, we have the effect–the experience. Now the task is finding the best cause of it. Was this experience phenomenal to phenomenal or was it noumenal to phenomenal? If it’s purely brought about by physical causes then we haven’t crossed into the noumenal realm of possibilia yet. Now, given the background information of previous interactions, studies, questions, etc. concerning God and Jesus then that creates a viable religion-historical context for what can be used as a milieu here. The task is then finding the best explanation.
This is not to ignore other experiential data such as spiritual or religious experience. Other propositional beliefs may be basic but non-empirical such as mathematical truths. My concern is oriented towards empirical basic beliefs. Additionally, suppose that today is Friday. I cannot change my belief to believe that it is now Sunday or Monday. Some beliefs are non-inferentially justified and involuntary.
Logically prior to such inferential reasoning is intuition for reasons previously discussed. These intuitions may be basic beliefs. The belief that this glass of water in front of me will quench my thirst if I drink it is not inferred back from previous experiences coupled with an application of a synthetic a priori principle of induction. Though this example is not how we form our beliefs psychologically or historically, it can be formed via instances of past experience and induction in the logical sense.
Suppose I am walking in the field and on the next hill over I see an object. For all intents and purposes, my phenomenological faculties indicate to me that there is something on the next hill. This belief is held for a reason, primarily that my phenomenological faculties inform me that something is on the next hill over, but this is not a reasoned belief. I may certainly infer certain properties consistent with the belief that the object has a particular color or that it omits a certain sound or that it has a particular smell. My belief that an object is on the next hill over from me seems to be quite basic. I am not inferring its existence from other object-likenesses. I am completely unaware as to the identity of this object, or better yet, whether this object is unique or unknown. Suppose that this object has never been known before I experienced it. This makes the situation quite different from the glass of water and is not a future tensed proposition nor is it a subjunctive conditional.
So, when I recall my religious experiences with God, at least for the first time, I didn’t think so explicitly connecting the dots to try t see which explanation fits the data the most. However, it is something that we due intuitively all the time. For instance, if I hear a loud crashing sound outside of my window, based on previous experiences of such sounds, my location, etc., I may infer that an accident happened outside as I get up to check and see what happened. We are certainly justified in doing this with religious experiences and with God. We have an experience that may possibly be accounted for by physical causes somewhere in the mechanistic chain of events but we may recognize, given the background information leading up to it, that this was produced by something noumenal–God.
I hope this helps!
 Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 269.
 John Morrison, Knowledge of the Self-Revealing God in the Thought of Thomas Forsyth Torrance (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1997), 106. Thomas Torrance, God and Rationality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 93-94.
 Morrison, 106.
 Thomas Torrance, Theological Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), 76-80.
 Richard Swinburne, Faith and Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981) 25.