Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Monday, August 8, 2016
Suppose I’m a Christian preaching Scripture, and I have extra-biblical evidence that the Scripture I hold in my hand is the extant extent of divine revelation. If I hold Scripture up in my hand and say to Roman Catholics that "this document alone is the extant extent of divine revelation and, thus, our solely ultimate, authoritative rule of faith," Roman Catholics might ask me how I know that, but I don’t have to answer their question by looking in Scripture itself. Of course, that is one option. Perhaps there is a self-attesting claim in Scripture, or perhaps Scripture itself explains who and how one can recognize it as such. But I can alternatively provide extra-biblical evidence for my knowledge-claim, assuming I have it.
Moreover, this evidence needn't be infallible in order for it to serve a certain apologetic function. Videos can be fabricated and, say, historians - indeed, Christians - can differ, but we all must operate on assumptions in order to get anywhere in our lives. If we get to a point where we share assumptions with others, we have an easier time collectively following a train of reasoning to the same conclusion. So, for example, there can be value in historical theology, and not merely in the research of church historians (which can of course be useful), but also in the examination of the body of Christ itself.
Now, how we can identify theologically correct historians, believers, or human authorities prior to the identification of divine revelation - if such is possible - are appropriate questions that require an answer unless one is willing to admit we can know divine revelation apart from such external evidences, useful as they are. Elsewhere, I argue we can indeed identify Scripture apart from such evidences (link).
The main point of this post, however, is that Roman Catholics often do but should not conflate a metaphysical claim with an epistemological one. What something is and how we know what that something is are distinct questions. Sola scriptura is a metaphysical statement of what Scripture is - the extant extent of divine revelation and, thus, our solely ultimate, authoritative rule of faith - not an epistemological statement of how we know what Scripture is. Certainly, what Scripture metaphysically is may and does inform how we can know what it is, but I equally certainly don’t have to answer the question of how I know what Scripture is by looking through Scripture for a table of contents.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
As we approach Easter Sunday, I have been reviewing the nature of the atonement, particularly its nature and timing. I wrote a post along these lines several years ago (link), and while I agree with aspects of what I said there, I don't believe I did full justice to the relationship of Christ's resurrection to our atonement.
2 Corinthians 5:15 He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Romans 4:25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
For those interested, Steve Hays wrote an excellent post which reflects my current views regarding how to pick a candidate here. I guess I would hope readers leave this post with the idea they should vote for a Republican who's not Trump. This goes for those leaning Democrat as well as Republicans.
Barring indictment or some such intervention, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. In a true two-candidate race, she's nearly halfway to the delegates needed for the Democratic nomination and has momentum, more than doubling up Sanders' current delegate count.
Given that, a Democrat might as well vote for a non-Trump candidate, particularly if Hillary locks up the nomination sooner rather than later. For a typical Democrat, I imagine a Trump presidency is the worst-case scenario. Assuming Hillary will win the Democrat nomination, the primary goal of such voters should be to inhibit Trump, unless they think he has no chance against Hillary. Given Trump's surprising ascendancy and Hillary's tenuous political situation which Trump will certainly put on blast, I don't see why a Democrat voter can with reasonable confidence assume Trump couldn't win. Kasich or, to a lesser extent, Cruz or Rubio, would be much better alternatives. Kasich in Ohio or anywhere else he focuses his campaign would be a smart vote. More on this later.
Hillary is a candidate with typical experience who holds typical, modern, Democratic positions. Her weaknesses are also typical: instances of poor decision-making, policy flaws, and character flaws. The first two will be more pronounced in this cycle because she was the right hand to a sitting Democrat President who didn't deliver on expectations. Wolf Blitzer reported today that ~5 million Republicans vs. ~3 million Democrats have voted so far in the primaries. It isn't unusual for a voter base to become jaded into apathy due to current elected officials having performed below expectations.
However, it is for this reason the Republican party is in danger of losing credibility for the next decade or so. The presidency should really be theirs to lose. But the Republican race has been anything but typical, as the front-runner candidate, Trump, is neither Republican nor presidential.
Taking the last point first, he isn't presidential. For starters, he doesn't give any semblance of respect, at least not unless he's framed someone as having capitulated to him in some way - and that's less a matter of respect than it is condescension. It's less, "you're wrong, and here's why" and more, "you're 5'8," or "you're on the far end of the podium," or "you're down in the polls." Trump appeals to the less educated, to blue collar types who feel under-appreciated, and to the "keyboard warrior" mentalities.
Trump likely knows this and has simply loudmouthed his way to where he is because he hasn't had to back it up. That is, no other candidate has called him out, until recently, whether because they considered him a non-threat, believed a defensive reply on policy grounds sufficed, or overestimated the intelligence of voters. Even the media has been somewhat silent - probably for ratings' sake - although I think they are beginning to realize Trump has a better shot than he should.
Not only is Trump not presidential, he isn't even Republican: he has no political background, he's donated to and supported the social policies of Democrats at least as much as Republicans, if not more so, and there's no substance behind Trump's criticism of others. He has stock platitudes like "I will make America great again" - anyone can say that. What really matters should be whether one has an actual idea of how to achieve that.
As recently as the February 25th debate, Trump was exposed as having no awareness of, say, the healthcare system. It's one thing to say Obamacare sucks, it's another to provide an alternative to it. Invited by Rubio and the moderators to give a lengthy sketch of his proposed alternative - which is the equivalent of putting a baseball on a tee and telling the batter to swing whenever he's ready - he passed. He choked.
He also has little sense of foreign policy. For instance, he's repeatedly said he'll make Mexico help pay for a wall bordering our countries, and when the Mexican ex-president scoffed at this, he doubled down and said he'd make height of the wall even higher. Is this his sense of diplomacy? Relative to our national debt, a wall actually doesn't cost that much: "only" $10 billion or so. Why be so provocative?
This leads me to a brief summary of why Trump became the front-runner:
i) Trump is a celebrity. If Trump had no name-recognition, would anyone have cared he was running? No. It's for that reason he brought attention to early debates.
ii) No candidate really paid attention to him in the early rounds. Why should they? If you're a candidate in the early debates, spending time attacking the celebrity glory-hog makes you look like you're picking on the wimpy kid or doing work that is beneath you. Why be a bully when someone else will do your dirty work in eliminating him? Concentrate on the real competition, not the easy pickings.
iii) Why should any candidate think a non-politician has an idea of how politics works? Trump has no political background - but he's played this in his favor, as politicians have gotten a bad reputation in the last decade or so. And Trump has gotten away with this, partially because competing candidates haven't really challenged him regarding his knowledge-ability until recently. He built a head of steam, momentum which wasn't even acknowledged until several primaries passed. Now Trump can play his anti-establishment card further, with Carson virtually out and candidates swarming against him. Now he's able to better frame himself as standing up for the little guy, the candidate who is really just a concerned citizen, the dog who will bite back.
iv) Trump puts on a tough-guy persona: this is ironic since he comes from a wealthy family and has been given whatever he wanted. But it simultaneously plays into his egotism and preys on the unsuspecting, politically illiterate masses. Is a billionaire like Trump really altruistic, or does he have another agenda? What does his past suggest? Obviously the latter.I don't expect to dissuade Trump voters in this post. In my experience, that's a time-waste. Trump supporters mostly try to emulate Trump: I'm tough, I won't budge, now here's an ad hominem for your trouble - e.g. you're a "lightweight," the "worst liar," etc., as if Trump is none of these things. The irrationality and intractability is predictable, if boring. Then there are the passive aggressive types who can't stand being put into this box yet have no reason for voting for Trump other than that "he's different." The response to each of these kinds of posturing should be one of laughter and mocking, per Rubio in the last debate ("That's all you got?"), not cringe-worthy whining, per Cruz ("Let me respond, he called me a liar!").
I'm just looking to present the reality of the predicament the Republican party has put itself in, and how I think they will or should try to get out of it.
As of now, Trump is about 7% off pace to get to the magic number of delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination. He'll have to make that difference up going forward. Considering that, going into Super Tuesday, there was a real concern a two person race was the only way to stop Trump, yesterday was, in an otherwise depressing sense, a positive. There's still some flexibility in strategy.
If the other candidates have the good of the Republican party in mind, a Trump nomination would be less of a threat. Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately, depending on who the voters would otherwise vote for - since he's not a politician, Carson has no incentive to drop out until his money is gone. He's in it for the fame, and at the end of the day a possible trade-in for an endorsement or drop-out.
My hope is that Kasich, Cruz, and Rubio each understand when an appropriate time will be to coalesce behind a clear candidate, if necessary. It may not have to turn out that way, if things progress as they have. Either way, Kasich, Cruz, and Rubio should each understand that a Trump nomination makes them look incompetent.
Look at Christie. He's being virtually disowned by Republicans now. Hopefully, that is enough to warn Kasich off from cutting a deal with Trump. Losing a fight is one thing, losing a fight then backing the worst remaining contender is another.
Trump might offer Kasich a position to attempt to put himself in a better position to win Ohio, both in the primary and general election. He'd ideally grab some delegates and have a legitimate, somewhat likable politician backing him. I think Kasich supporters would probably go the route of Christie supporters and disown him, though. Trump may understand this and not make an attempt for Kasich's support. Trump's persona plays on a kind of elitism, an exclusive fraternity of enlightened individuals. If Trump makes offers and gets rejected, he's not so exclusive after all. Better to not make the offer. So I think Kasich doesn't go the way of Christie. Obviously, Cruz and Rubio won't.
So Kasich, Cruz, and Rubio need to prevent a Trump win at all costs. If they lose, they could say blame should really be on Trump voters or the other candidates for not coalescing at the "right time," but that would be a tough excuse to give to your more rational constituents as to why you couldn't beat a guy who was a birther laughingstock last cycle.
Voters advocating that this or that candidate need to drop out need to realize campaign strategies have to evolve given certain outcomes. Being the first one to say "I told you so" isn't what's really important here. I'll be the first to admit my surprise Trump did so well in these first primaries. But after New Hampshire, it was apparent he was a threat. You have to react to that. Cruz and Rubio were slow, but they've corrected, finally. Kasich will come around now, I think. Carson will remain irrelevant.
I expect Kasich to stay in the race until the Ohio primary, at least, since that's his home state. Again, Democrats would be smart, I think, to vote for Kasich here and anywhere else he focuses, as he has next to no chance of being nominated yet can hurt Trump's chances. Democrats are incensed a bigoted candidate like Trump could be the Republican nominee. Well, do something about it. Your candidate is set - Hillary, if no indictment, or Sanders otherwise - so actually try to make a difference.
After Ohio, if Kasich hasn't performed well, he might need to throw support behind Cruz or Rubio. I don't imagine Kasich voters being the sort to back Trump or petulantly sit this out. Maybe I'm wrong. Unfortunately, the more radically ideological Cruz voters might sit the election out if he drops - or worse, back Trump since he and Cruz have been friendly in the past, have identical immigration policies, etc. - so he might have to stay in for the duration of the primaries regardless of what happens.
The Ohio primary is the same day as Rubio's home state. I hear Rubio's not doing so well there in polls. Either way, March 15th is the next Republican checkpoint. It's hard to say what any non-Trump candidate should do until then except attack Trump in the right way: on social issues, on his lack of real, substantial policies and political knowledge, and on his flippant, unrepentant, immoral character.
They also need to campaign at states where they each have the most appeal. Take advantage of Trump's time constraints. Each primary from now on has a maximum of 5 states per primary. After this month, those are very widely spread out. If Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich opt to stay in to prevent Trump from the magic number of delegates, they ought to focus campaigning at different states and support one another. Also focus on states with high delegate counts. From what I understand, some of these states are winner take all. Hit Trump hard in the states where he has the most to gain, most to lose.
Is this playing nice? No. But when your opponent continuously throws dirt, you're going to get dirty one way or another. That's an unfortunate reality. Some people think this amounts to pragmatism. As I told a friend recently, there's a difference between pragmatism and being pragmatic.
A vote for the candidate who has a realistic chance of winning and will fight to protect the lives of unborn babies is pragmatic. It's a choice for who you think will be successful, with the added consideration of what they should be succeed about. But it is not pragmatistic, where truth and morality would be measured in terms of success. Truth and morality are what they are apart from our choices. This is already anti-pragmatism. But one can look to succeed without being a pragmatist, particularly by choosing to cast one's vote in proportion to those who oppose truth and morality in the extreme. Even if the push-back is only incremental, that's all you can do.
Now, there are times to sit out voting for any nominees among Republicans or Democrats, I think - viz. when all candidates oppose truth and morality in the extreme - but that's beyond the scope of this post, especially as I don't think that point has been reached.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Does the Bible indicate that God is subject to sudden, involuntary, non-intellectual upheavals in his usually calm state of mind? Well, hardly. The Westminster Confession, the best summary of the contents of the Bible, says that God is without parts or passions. Parts refers to bodily organs. Bodies have parts, minds do not. But God is also without passions. The word passion, in more modern terminology affection, is wider than the term emotion but includes the latter. A passion or affection is the result of being affected by some external force. A dog is affected by a whipping; a student is affected, sometimes, by the possibility of a good grade. There are modern psychology books written about “the affective consciousness.” But God is not affected by anything. Of, in another translation of the Greek term, God does not “suffer” anything.
On the contrary, not only the Westminster Confession, but all or nearly all the historic creeds says that God is immutable. He does not change. Emotion, however, is a sudden, involuntary change. To have emotions would be inconsistent with God’s eternal state of blessedness.
Now, someone may say that God loves and that love is an emotion. But with respect to love, two points must be made. First, God’s love is eternal, therefore not a sudden change, therefore not an emotion. Second, God commands us to love him. A command requires voluntary obedience. Therefore the love God commands is volitional, not emotional. Doubtless God commands the impossible. He commands us to keep his law perfectly. This we cannot do because of sin. The impossibility arises from us; it does not arise from any irrationality in the commands. God commands the impossible, but he does not command the absurd. (Gordon Clark, Today's Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine?)A few scattered thoughts:
1. Given that emotions are involuntary, I don't think emotions can be intrinsically sinful, although their presence in a particular context could serve as an indication of sin. Jesus was sinless yet, at times, angry, happy, and sad. If we suppose someone else was happy when Jesus would have been angry (with money changers) or sad (at Lazarus' death), or if we suppose someone else was angry or sad when Jesus was happy, then it would seem emotions are a kind of contextually indicative reflection of one's current state of sanctification. Either way, any argument for the impassibility of God couldn't proceed along these lines.
2. If a "passion or affection is the result of being affected by some external force," then God could not be necessarily be affected by anything external to the Trinity, for there is nothing external to the Trinity which was not created. So if divine passibility could be true, it would have to be a contingent property like divine creator-ship.
[I am assuming here that the relationships among the members of the Trinity are necessary, eternal, and, thus, not of the sort intended to be included by a doctrine of divine impassibility. The Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct, eternal generation and spiration are true, and so some might be tempted to say that the members of the Trinity "affect" one another, for example - whether in respect of person or merely personhood is a matter of dispute between eastern and western Trinitarian models - but I would assume that necessary condition for passibility is change, which obviously does not take place given that the Trinity and their relationships are eternal, at least apart from consideration of a contingent creation (i.e. the ontological vs. economic Trinity)].
3. I believe creation is contingent so as to avoid, roughly, the consequence that the Trinity depends on creation in the same sense the Father depends on the Son. However, I think that most proponents of divine impassibility do not think that the fact that we can affirm contingent truths about God like "God is our creator," "God is our savior," etc. would count as a mark against divine impassibility - they may not even count as a mark against divine immutability. At the very least, those contingencies are true in virtue of God's own initiative.
Furthermore, as a Calvinist, I believe God determines all things. God initiates and determines changes, so only in a proximate sense could I say that something external to God has affected Him (not that I would say that). It may affect Him, but only insofar as God had taken the initiative in determining to create something external to Him for that express purpose. So one question is whether God created with a purpose, in part, that His creation would affect Him - change Him, in some way. It may be that God did not create with this intention and so did not determine that creation would affect Him - obviously, this would be in favor of divine impassibility.
But suppose He did create and determine all things with that intention. Another question is, given that any alleged affectation would ultimately derive from God's own initiative and determination, whether that alleged affectation can really by ascribed to something external to God, or if it is really God who is changing Himself. The latter might be the more accurate expression of the state of affairs. This could constitute an argument for divine impassibility, but it would be controversial.
Suppose I intend and determine to hit myself with a hammer and that nothing could stop me from doing so. Was the hammer instrumental to the change in pain I feel? Yes. But the hammer can has no instrumentality apart from my will. So was it the hammer that really affected me, or was it my will, or was it both? If the first or last option, that cuts against divine impassibility. If the second, that works in its favor. An answer to this could depend on the semantics and technical nuances of a particular expression of divine impassability. I'm not sure.
Of course, this all assumes the speculative point about whether God intended that creation would lead to some kind of internal change or affectation in the first place. But to my mind, the Incarnation seems to correspond to the hammer illustration: who and what I am allows me to be able to assume a hammer in my hand by which I can hurt myself. Indeed, the Incarnation is even stronger than this analogy, for whereas I cannot in fact create a hammer, the assumption of a hammer is not an assumption of a nature or capacities, and other things can prevent me from hurting myself with it, the Son in fact initiated and infallibly determined His own Incarnation and assumption of a nature or capacities precisely so as to be hurt through the crucifixion. So the questions about whether I am being really affected by the hammer, if I am affecting myself, or both would have analogous correspondents to the situation of the Incarnation.
4. Direct arguments for divine impassibility could be made from other alleged divine attributes. Divine simplicity would entail divine impassibility. Given that there would be no real distinction between impassibility and simplicity, then it is trivially true that any argument for divine simplicity would be an argument for divine impassibility. I have numerous reasons for disagreeing with divine simplicity, however, so to the extent that I agree with divine impassibility, I wouldn't look here.
Another direct argument for divine impassibility is to argue for divine immutability. Divine impassibility may not require divine immutability per point 3 above, but if God doesn't change, then obviously nothing external to Him could be said to change Him. Ultimately, what grounds our belief in something about God ought to be divine revelation, but our support can be either explicit or implicit. I'm sure others are more aware of relevant biblical passages than I am.
Currently, I am sympathetic towards divine immutability and, to that extent, sympathetic towards divine impassibility as well. I am undecided, however. Obviously, an adherent of divine immutability must consider the relevancy of the Incarnation. Unless I were to encounter incontrovertible, unambiguous biblical support for a specific theory and expression of immutability or impassibility - I may have done so and just don't remember, or I may have and just think (correctly or not) that those texts are prima facie consistent with varying positions - I would need to develop my views on the Incarnation and a theory of time before I could answer decisively.
Monday, December 7, 2015
If one maintains that for any set of conditions X that one proposes as constitutive of S's justification for believing P, those conditions must always be fortified with some other set of conditions describing S's access to X, then the view is hopeless. Call the satisfaction of access conditions to X, A1. Will X together with A1 constitute justification for S to believe P? Not given the view. Our strong access requirements require access (call it A2) to the new proposed sufficient conditions for justification (X and A1). But the conjunction of X, A1, and A2 will not constitute S's justification for believing P as the view requires us to add access to these conditions and so on ad infinitum.
To avoid this problem, the strong access internalist must distinguish carefully a view about what is constitutive of justification from a view about what is necessary for justification. If the view is to be intelligible the access internalist must argue that when some set of conditions X constitutes S's justification for believing P, those conditions will be such that they entail that S has access to them. The access, however, need not be part of what constitutes the justification. An analogy might be helpful. P cannot be true unless it is true that P is true - P's truth entails (in some sense of "entails") that it is true that P is true. But it would be a serious mistake to argue that P's being true is constituted by its being true that P is true. The correct analysis of what it is for P to be true should not make reference to metatruths about P's truth even if the correct analysis of P's being true must reveal why P's being true entails that it is true that P is true.
Laurence BonJour (1985) raised another highly influential objection to all forms of classical foundationalism (an objection raised before he joined the ranks of foundationalists). The objection presupposed a strong form of what we might call access internalism. Put very superficially the access internalist argues that a feature of a belief or epistemic situation that makes a belief noninferentially justified must be a feature to which we have actual or potential access. Moreover, we must have access to the fact that the feature in question is probabilistically related to the truth of what we believe. So suppose some foundationalist offers an account of noninferential justification according to which a belief is noninferentially justified if it has some characteristic X. BonJour then argues that the mere fact that the belief has X could not, even in principle, justify the believer in holding the belief. The believer would also need access to (justified belief that!) the belief in question has X and that beliefs of this sort (X beliefs) are likely to be true. At least one of these propositions could only be known through inference, and thus the putative noninferential justification is destroyed.
BonJour presented the objection on the way to developing a coherence theory of empirical justification. But it ultimately became obvious that the objection to foundationalism, if good, was too strong. Given the structure of the argument it should become evident that the coherence theory (and any other theory) would be equally vulnerable to the argument. Just replace “X” with some complicated description of beliefs cohering with each other. That might suggest to the classical foundationalist that strong access internalism is a view to be avoided. (link)
Klein develops an argument against foundationalism along similar lines, although he departs from Sellars and BonJour in proposing infinitism rather than coherentism as an alternative to foundationalism. He imagines a proponent of foundationalism, Fred, who engages in a process of critical reflection on his justification for a certain belief. He traces back the chain of inferential justifications for this belief until he reaches some foundational belief that he takes to be nonI inferentially justified. Fred is committed, on pain of arbitrariness, to acknowledging that there is some feature F in virtue of which the belief in question is non-inferentially justified. But then the question arises whether beliefs that have F are likely to be true. And now there seem to be two options. If Fred ducks the question, or answers it in the negative, then his belief is epistemically irresponsible and so unjustified. But if he answers in the affirmative, then Klein (2007: 15) concludes, “the regress has continued because Fred has located a very good reason for thinking that b is true, namely, b has F and propositions with F are likely to be true.” (link)
If a certain belief can be self-justifying, however - and how we defend or attack a claim to one as such is a separate issue altogether - then a belief whose truth is its own justification is already all one needs to answer these questions. The belief itself is sufficient. These objections, like the objection to foundationalism Jeremy Fantl makes which I address in the above link, fail to address the foundationalist who states that foundational beliefs are self-justifying and, if of an internalist variety, infallibly so. To recall Fantl's admission:
We can ask why self-justifying reasons are self-justifying. If the traditional foundationalist has an answer, it seems like it must involve some metajustificatory feature. If the traditional foundationalist has no answer, it seems like the view has arbitrary foundations. (See BonJour, Structure, 30-3, for a similar argument.)
However, the traditional foundationalist can argue that completely self-justifying reasons are not self-justifying in virtue of some metajustificatory feature, nor are they arbitrary. It may be that certain reasons have to be assumed to be self-justifying if skepticism is to be avoided. This is a rather familiar form of rationalist argument for the existence of a priori justification. Here, the main implication of these arguments is that there might be a way to non arbitrarily show that we need to take certain reasons to be completely self-justifying without requiring that there be a metajustificatory feature which makes those reasons self-justifying. What convinces us we need to take those reasons to be self-justifying need not make them self-justifying.
This move does not seem to be available in the case of reasons that are self-justifying only to a degree. (pg. 544)
While "test[s] for truth" can serve as confirmatory evidences of Christianity, they shouldn't function as the ground of knowledge; divine revelation does. Elsewhere, I have called tests for truth necessary conditions for knowledge and the postulate[s] by which one claims to know anything the sufficient condition[s] for knowledge (link). The former are the means by which we make arguments for (i.e. apologetics) the latter (i.e. epistemology).
Again, apologetics should include an explanation of the epistemology of the system one is defending. Any good defense of a system of knowledge should explain what that system says about how we can know anything. But that explanation and defense should not be confused for that actual process of knowing. In fact, apologetics is only possible insofar as we know the system we are defending is true in the first place (see here).
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Firstly, I only searched for and copied passages which mention the Father as the first cause, the ultimate cause of all things, the cause of the Son or Spirit, passages which, for instance, identify the Father being without cause with His exclusive property of being unbegotten, etc. In other words, there are many more passages I could have quoted, passages which instead speak of, say, the Father's uniqueness in terms of origination, sourcehood, or beginning, or how the Son's or Spirit's being or existence is from, of, or otherwise derived from the Father. I just found it convenient to hone my search in terms of causation.
Further, I only researched books found on http://newadvent.org/. I am aware of at least one book not on that website which contained statements which would have otherwise qualified, but I did not intend for this to be comprehensive. That wasn't the point. The point of the document is simply to show how pervasive this doctrine was in the early church.
Any edits I made in the above document were either grammatical - in changing the font and type for better readability, some errors occurred and a few have probably been missed - or because newadvent includes Scriptural quotations not found in authors' original works. People are welcome to compare my edit to the online version, there is no significant difference.
Now, I don't usually research church history, but Sean Gerety rekindled my interest after recently peddling the same embarrassing canards on facebook he did when we discussed Trinitarianism several years ago, including this one:
I find it offensive that you think we're stupid, when even a toad could tell that no Trinitarian could ever write as you have: "The Son and Spirit are not “autotheos.” FWIW I'm not going to revisit this whole sorry affair, but suffice it to say you're not a Christian. You may not like Unitarian or Arian, but you is what you is.Sean is now free to consider Alexander of Alexandria, Athanasius, Basil, Clement of Alexandria, Cyril, Eusebius, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Hillary of Poitiers, Hippolytus, Irenaeus of Lyons, John Chrysostom, John of Damascus, Justin Martyr, Novatian, Origen, Rufinus, Tertullian, Theodoret, etc. as anti-Trinitarians and less intelligent than toads.
Friday, August 7, 2015
To set the stage, by using the Cartesian demon I'm playing devil's advocate. For the sake of argument, I'm assuming a far more skeptical viewpoint than I myself endorse. But I'm doing that because I'm responding to Scripturalists on their own grounds.
Mind you, I don't mention the Cartesian demon purely for the sake of argument. Thought-experiments like that demonstrate the limitations of proof. But that's only a problem if we equate knowledge with proof.
To a great extent I think Ryan's argument is less with me than his fellow Scripturalists.
I also like Steve. He’s always answered my questions, writes a lot of interesting material, and been nice to me.
I appreciate the concession, but in my experience, that's not garden-variety Scripturalism. Not even close. Unless Scripturalism can falsify the Cartesian demon, how can they prove that most of what they deem to be knowledge isn't delusive belief? How can they be certain? How do they know there's no Cartesian deceiver who's messing with their minds? Unless they can rule that out, precious little of what they believe rises to the level of the indubitable or indisputable. And if they can't, how is their position any signal improvement over the alternatives which they disdain? To say they that know it even though they don't know how that's the case is quite a comedown from the Scripturalism I'm acquainted with–past and present.
Scripturalism is a form of foundationalism. It views knowledge as an axiomatic system. You isolate and identify certain indubitable, irrefragable truths. You then draw logical inferences on the basis of these first truths. You relate them to other truths in a system of mutual entailments.
Problem is, the data-base for indubitable, indisputable truths is very thin. Abstract "laws of logic." Abstract mathematical formulas. Self-presenting states like "I feel pain." Psychology and modal metaphysics.
You can't extract Christian theology from that data-base. You can't extract Bible history from that data base. It doesn't yield contingent truths. Yet that eliminates the concrete created order.
Cartesian skepticism isn't synonymous with global skepticism. Global skepticism is self-refuting. But you can't get much mileage out of that. Although it doesn't take much to refute global skepticism, the exercise doesn't leave you with much to build on. It simply eliminates the utmost extreme.
Ryan is welcome to take issue with where his fellow Scripturalists characteristically assign the burden of proof. He's reversing the onus. When the dust settles, I don't see that Ryan's position is different in kind from non-Scripturalist alternatives. Rather, it seems to be an eclectic synthesis of the best that the alternative positions have to offer. I don't say that as a criticism. I'm not the audience he needs to persuade. Perhaps he'll have more success with the up-and-coming generation of Scripturalists.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Most epistemologists and Christian philosophers don't think that our ability to falsify the Cartesian deceiver should be a condition of knowledge. If we are unable to disprove the hypothetical Cartesian deceiver, that's not a good reason to doubt our beliefs. That doesn't cast reasonable doubt on our beliefs. Indeed, it would be unwarranted to take that thought-experiment too seriously.
Take internalism. Suppose you have introspective access to your reasons. They seem to be good reasons. But how is that a check against self-delusion? Like LSD, the Cartesian deceiver is persuading you to mistake bad reasons for good reasons. You can't help but find these reasons to be convincing, even though they are deceptive reasons.
Sensations are neither true nor false and so cannot function as premises by which our beliefs are inferentially justified.
I think that's too crude or overstated. There are different kinds of sensory information. The sound of breakers isn't true or false. But the spoken word (a sentence) can be true or false.
a) The spoken word is structured sensation that uses sound waves to encode and communicate ideas or propositions.
b) Likewise, although sensations alone are neither true nor false, sensory input, in combination with ideas, can generate true or false beliefs.
If I see a red rose, I can rightly infer that I saw a colored object. If every red object is a colored object, then that's a valid deduction.
Now, it may not be possible to derive the principle that every red object is a colored object from sensory perception or induction. That principle may be intuitive or innate. That must already be in mind for me to draw inferences about the rose. But seeing the rose, in combination with that a priori truism or analytical truth, yields a new and true belief.
I'm not so sure Steve and I are very far apart here, if at all. The first sentence of b) seems to capture the essence of my position. Our senses were designed to be secondary causes by which we form true beliefs. This causative process isn't arbitrary. It's not as if any old belief would normally be caused by a given sensation. Rather, sensations themselves are the product of interaction with our surrounding environment. That stimulus and our physical, divinely-created processing equipment yield non-arbitrary beliefs.
My only point was that sensations qua sensations aren’t logical justifiers. We can say spoken sentences are true or false, but I would consider that a kind of metonymy (or some such literary device) which substitutes, for the intended meaning of the physical expression or manifestation, the actual meaning, which isn't physical.
Finally, I had written:
Our senses can cause numerous false beliefs. Sense knowledge is fallible.
True, but the same can be said for reason and memory. Scripturalists need to get down from their high horse and join the rest of us at ground level. They stipulate an inhumane standard of knowledge. Finite creatures can't satisfy those godlike conditions. But why should we?
…if infallibilist, internalist justification is possible in principle, and all our beliefs rely on memory - or even just beliefs relevant to forming infallibly, internally justified beliefs - I would suppose a transcendental argument could be constructed to defend against the idea all memorial beliefs are fallible in respect to justification. This could be a way in which memorial and sensory beliefs are relevantly disanalogous. That's why I'm interested in whether the actual believing of a proposition always, in human cases, requires memory. But this is just a suspicion.
Monday, August 3, 2015
In my experience, Scripturalist epistemology is infallibilist and internalist.I agree that this is the more logical position for Scripturalists to take - though not exclusively so - and that most if not all Scripturalist apologetics tends toward this position, but given the number that reject self-knowledge, I'm not so sure that many Scripturalists can be internalists. For these Scripturalists, there seem to be two possibilities (aside from accepting self-knowledge):
1) Subscribe to a purely externalist view on which, say, divine occasionalism or illumination infallibly causes true beliefs, though from a first person perspective we can't know when this occurs.
2) Reject doxastic justification altogether in favor of Scripturalism being propositionally justified. "You can necessarily disprove me, because I and my beliefs are indeed necessarily fallible, but you can't disprove Scripturalism as such, because in itself it is infallibly true."
In the case of both 1) and 2), I don't see why they would bother defending Scripturalism even if they believe it's true:
In the case of 1), is their belief in Scripturalism caused by an infallibly reliable causative process? How do they know? Either the appeal eventually turns to internalism after all, or they have another sort of implicit regress (e.g. "I can know Scripturalism because my belief was infallibly caused, and I can know this previous statement because my belief in that was infallibly caused, and..." - ad infinitum) which is available to all kinds of externalists, not merely the Scripturalist variety. One could still hold to it as a theory of knowledge without inconsistency, but this theory of knowledge couldn't really inform Scripturalist apologetics the way Scripturalists usually suppose it can.
In the case of 2), is their belief that "Scripturalism is in itself infallibly true" infallibly true? If they answer yes, the appeal again must turn to internalism after all to explain how they know that, or else anyone else could merely assert the same of their own system with no apparent apologetic repercussions. If the answer is no, the Scripturalist must acknowledge that Scripturalism as a system itself may be false, at least for all they know. Either way, what rational motivation can the Scripturalist himself then have for defending Scripturalism over against any other belief or system?
Back to Steve's post:
When Scripturalists appeal to the Bible, how can they verify that they are reading the Bible rather than hallucinating or dreaming about a "Bible" that's not the real Bible?
Doesn't this pose an intractable dilemma for the Scripturalist? His epistemology depends on having intellectual access to the word of God embodied in Scripture.
But given his general skepticism, how can a Scripturalist be internally justified in his belief if he can't exclude the possibility that the "Bible" on which he relies might be a hallucination? And how can he rule that out, given his epistemology
In most discussions with Scripturalists, here's how I think replies to Steve or others using the same reasoning as Steve roughly play out:If he already had access to the Bible, that would be a benchmark. But he can't appeal directly to the Bible to prove that he's not self-deluded about his source of information, for that would be viciously circular. If he were self-deluded, if the "Bible" he relies on is a hallucination, rather than the real Bible, then that can't correct his delusion, for that's the very source of his delusion!
Scripturalist: The Bible isn't ink marks on a page. It's the meaning of the physical text, if there even is a physical text.
Steve: Is there a physical text, or are you an panentheistic idealist? If there is a physical text, do we come by the meaning of Scripture through it, or was inscripturation a pointless exercise? If we come by the meaning of Scripture through Scripture, then how can and do you know a sensible object like Scripture apart from sense experience?
Scripturalist: You can't criticize me without explaining how sensations can yield knowledge.
Steve: Your position is in question, not mine. Also, define "knowledge." Also, read this blog, there are plenty of places I address how sensations can be and were designed to yield knowledge.
And so on. Maybe this is too flippant, but in any case, I've seen this happen a few times elsewhere. These responses clearly just don't cut it. Instead, I think the last five paragraphs of this post provide a better answer to the charge of vicious circularity - the second to last paragraph in particular:
//...while sensation could be designed to cause certain beliefs, sensations nevertheless would not logically justify them, which is that with which internalist, infallibilist justification is concerned. Sensations are neither true nor false and so cannot function as premises by which our beliefs are inferentially justified. So we can use physical signs and symbols to communicate or have communicated to us propositional meaning, but this doesn't require justificatory dependence on sensation in the context of infallibilist, internalist knowledge //
The idea beliefs can only be justified autonomously or by other beliefs is doxastic foundationalism. This, I think, is the structure and nature of justification to which Scripturalists ought to hold in the context of internally and infallibly justified beliefs.
That our beliefs are caused by sensations and can be externally justified by them (non-doxastic foundationalism) does not mean that when we reflect on or attempt to show how we know those beliefs (internalism), our attempts to justify our beliefs must be sourced in or premised on sensations except insofar as sensations are in these cases acknowledged to be ontological preconditions for having acquired said beliefs in the first place. As ontological preconditions are obviously distinct from epistemic presuppositions - we ourselves would need to internally justify belief in the former by inference from the latter - there is no vicious circularity.
In a way, this means Steve is right. In the context of internalism and infallibilism, Scripturalists don't begin with Scripture qua Scripture, they begin with their beliefs about the revelatory meaning of Scripture. But I'm not sure this is a problem.
I've recently had a few conversations about Scripturalism over at Triablogue (see here and here), and in the latter one Steve said he believed that some beliefs are infallible. I'm not sure that he meant this in the context of internally justified beliefs, but if so, I don't see how one can have internally and infallibly justified beliefs by starting with anything other than beliefs (except perhaps propositions, though this doesn't seem right), including our sensible encounters with a physical text of Scripture.
Our senses can cause numerous false beliefs. Sense knowledge is fallible. Most importantly, I can't think of a TAG by which we can justify that sense experiences were what caused certain necessarily true beliefs we may have and recognize as such. This doesn't make inscripturation a pointless exercise, however, at least if we hold that beliefs can be externally justified.