From a critical analysis of my book by Kyler Kuehn:
After dispensing with faulty understandings of Lewis’s apologetic stance, Reppert broadens the scope of his inquiry to deal with more general epistemic issues, in order to show where Lewis’s apologetic position fits within the spectrum of ideas. The first view described is fideism, which is comparable to the Presuppositional view of epistemology (and apologetics) held by Van Til, Bahnsen, Frame, and others. As an example of this view, Reppert quotes the well-known televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who opines (p. 29), “Man can’t use his mind to know the truth; if he uses his mind he just comes up with something stupid like the theory of evolution”. This captures the essence of fideism, which requires that one’s ultimate religious questions are not open to critical analysis by one’s mental faculties. The problems with mutually conflicting fideistic claims are obvious, and Reppert does not spill any additional ink reviewing them. Instead, moving on to strong rationalism, he describes the other extreme: the belief that our rational faculties are the sole arbiter of truth claims, so that claims that cannot be verified logically or empirically do not warrant our belief. Bertrand Russell is given as a paragon of strong rationalist beliefs, in that he explains away beliefs in the supernatural (and especially God) as the product of irrational fears. Interestingly, Reppert points out that claims to holding a “monopoly on rationality” are expressed on the theistic side as well, as shown by Josh McDowell’s statement in Evidence that Demands a Verdict that “a rejection of Christianity is usually not so much of the ‘mind’ as of the will, not so much ‘I can’t’ but ‘I won’t’”.
Now there are two main problems with such a view. The first is that at the very least a de facto, operational answer is given to the problem of the criterion by every single thinking, observing being. Either one begins with experiential forms of knowledge and one builds a worldview (including a definition of knowledge) from that starting point, or one posits logically necessary criteria for what constitutes knowledge, and then one seeks experiences and observations that fulfill such criteria. Unfortunately for Reppert, his view proves too much; if both options that are able to solve the dilemma of the criterion are disallowed, then it is not the case that definitions of knowledge are up for grabs, with radically different worldviews resulting in internally “rational” beliefs. Rather, no view of knowledge whatsoever is valid! Only radical skepticism denies in principle the attainability of knowledge; however, his entire purpose for writing is that he believes that true and rationally justified beliefs (i.e. knowledge) are attainable. And it is important for our later considerations to point out that there is a sense in which even those who doubt the validity of knowledge in general make practical use of (even tentatively held) beliefs—though they would not call such a thing “knowledge”, of course.
The second problem with Reppert’s analysis of critical rationalism is that he vastly overestimates the necessity of “neutral” ground from which to analyze competing truth claims. While it is true that no finite being can attain an unbiased “view from nowhere”, Reppert errs when he thinks such a view is necessary for clearly discerning the truth in any given situation. Yes, psychological effects can influence one’s beliefs, but they do not utterly overturn and negate one’s innate rational capabilities (once again, Reppert ironically appears to be attacking one of the foundational pillars of his argument from reason—namely, that truth actually exists and is knowable by humans). What is necessary, then, is not “neutral” ground, but instead common ground between disputants in any argument. In an adversarial situation, such as within a court of law, both the prosecution and the defense have a bias in that they want their own position to be true, but they have a mutually agreed upon framework within which to present their respective arguments. Indeed, the common presumption is that our legal system works precisely because both sides are biased towards their own view, and will thus work with all possible skill to prove their position true and their intellectual opponent’s position false. A disinterested defense attorney leads not to justice, but to a mistrial!
Since Reppert merely requires that his position be defensible given his assumptions, we will see that his argument, while valid, will not ultimately prove convincing to skeptics unless the further step is made to justify the premises of his arguments. This also colors his view of Lewis’s arguments, such that he seeks to explain away Lewis’s more confrontational statements as not being truly representative of his actual views. But if Reppert’s definition of critical rationalism lacks the clarity to distinguish between rationally acceptable arguments (valid solely within one’s framework) and rationally compelling arguments (that hold across all reasonable frameworks), then he will of course be at a loss to fit Lewis’s bold claims of exclusive rationality into a more tentative “critical rationalist” stance. But this is only a definitional problem for Reppert, not a consistency problem for Lewis.