Friday, October 7, 2016

Textual Criticism Revisited

Textual criticism is a stumbling block to believers and unbelievers alike. I briefly wrote about the issue some years ago (link). In light of developments to my epistemological views - positive developments, I hope - I wish to update that post. I do not mean to disparage the work of textual critics, so if readers will take the time to read the whole post, hopefully that becomes evident.

Textual variants presuppose texts. If one thinks the way in which people know, in an internalist and infallibilist sense, what is and is not the content of special divine revelation is through textual criticism - through identifying textual variants and selecting which of them is "authentic" to the "original" text - he is not beginning with special revelation, he is coming to a conclusion about it. Of course, a conclusion is only as good as its premises, which leads to consideration of one's ultimate or foundational premises. Are they capable of yielding a satisfying philosophy? 

I've argued elsewhere on this blog and so will not now attempt to reproduce why I think special divine revelation - the extant extent of which is concretely codified in the Scriptures - is the premise with which one must begin in order to intentionally defend his beliefs with full assurance. This is not to say that my arguments are reasons for this foundational belief, but as Gordon Clark put it, by the systems they produce, axioms must be judged. If an axiom doesn't produce a sufficiently coherent system, can't account for certain worldview necessities, isn't sufficiently explanatory - however you want to phrase it - the axiom itself fails to give us knowledge of the infallibilist and internalist variety. Of course, one may object that we need any such knowledge, which is itself another discussion, one about needs. One can also be mistaken in his judgment, and the "tests" - for the present lack of a better term - do not imply that the falsifiability of an axiom is a live possibility. Yet there is practical use for these tests, and apologetists ought to be in the business of being practical whenever possible.

If, then, a man can't infallibly or with full assurance defend how he knows anything - including the idea that there are texts or textual variants in codifications of special 
divine revelation - apart from ultimately presupposing a special revelation, then I don't see that textual criticism presents an epistemic problem. Textual variants only pose an epistemic problem if one assumes that in order to identify, recognize, know, or, in particular, defend special divine revelation, one must infer the content of it from a group of texts which sometimes do not conform. In that case, you're attempting to reason to what special divine revelation, not reason from what special divine revelation is. I still agree with these aspects of my post from a few years ago.

However, I also think this is a subject for which the externalism-internalism distinction is relevant, and that requires an update to my former position of occasionalism (link). What we know are propositions. Externalism is the theory that we can, to varying degrees and depending on the justificatory factors involved, know or be epistemically justified in our beliefs due to something to which we don't have cognitive or reflective access - say, a causal process. We can think about or reflect on a causal process, but we can't re-experience it, whereas we can periodically access or experience the same beliefs. A causal process might be considered able to epistemically justify us because that process in general produces true beliefs in the mind of the person who undergoes it. The causal process tracks truth, whether we are aware of it or not.

That kind of "epistemic justification" allows for the possibility of our knowing what are generally considered "common sense" beliefs. I'm typing on my computer, you're reading a blog post, etc. The causal process by which we know these propositions is usually physical media. But the chain of causes which produce a belief need not be evidentiary reasons for my belief. For example, while God is the ultimate cause of all things, not all people's beliefs will be reasoned from or evidenced by a belief they may have - or, more pertinent to this example, may lack - about God. Similarly, while I may have a sense experience which causes a belief in divine revelation, I needn't infer my belief in divine revelation from a belief about my senses. So if, after a causal process consisting of the examination of textual variants, you believe something to have been divinely revealed, that doesn't require you to epistemically ground your belief regarding the content of divine revelation on a belief about that causal process. Again, I would argue a belief about that or any causal process is itself infallibly defensible only by ultimately appealing to special divine revelation.

That doesn't mean the causal process is irrelevant to your belief. If we have a belief that certain causal processes track truth better than others, it makes sense to position ourselves and those around us to more often experience the better kinds of causal process. If I want you to know about the Grand Canyon, I may talk to you about it or show you a picture of it, but I wouldn't shut your eyes or close your ears while I did those things. I think sense experiences often cause true beliefs. If I want you to know a truth, and if I believe there is a kind of experience which may be useful in producing a true belief, I'll do what I can to help you experience that.

I believe the above illustration provides a fair analogy of how I think we can regard at least one goal of textual criticism. There are textual variants among what copies of Scripture we have. Some do not affect the meaning of a passage. Some are evidently the result of mistranslation. Some are more significant in implication - the variants may affect the meaning of a passage, or they may exhibit disagreement with other texts about whether a passage is even canonical. Thus, while I think the goal of the textual critic shouldn't be to collect texts, compare and contrast them, and use that as an evidentiary basis to infer or reason to what has been specially divinely revealed, there certainly would be use in disposing ourselves and others to a causal process which tracks truth about what has been specially divinely revealed and codified in physical media - in this case, texts. So one function of textual criticism could lie in its capability to cause externalist knowledge of special divine revelation. In any case, there is certainly some apologetic role textual criticism may play within one's worldview, so long as it is remembered that apologetics is subservient to and in fact derives from one's epistemology (link).

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Gordon Clark's Systematic Theology

Doug Douma has been doing excellent work in his research on Gordon Clark for some time now. He has a book coming out early next year called, "The Presbyterian Philosopher, The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark" - I've looked at an early draft, and the bibliography alone will set the future standard for research into Clark. It's been endorsed by men who knew both Clark and Van Til. 

Doug has also personally researched and helped transcribe hundreds of previously unpublished material by Clark here. At one point, he was posting articles more quickly than I could read them. Further, he has lately received permission from Clark's family to publish what few chapters in what was planned to be systematic theology. A few such chapters - the Trinity, Doctrine of Man, the Incarnation, the Atonement, and Sanctification - have been published, but now chapters on Scripture, God, Creation, Salvation, and Eschatology are also available. 

Doug put a lot of work into all of this, and for that I, for one, am very grateful. Research on Clark has been something of a personal hobby of mine for a few years now, and it looks like there is a lot to keep me busy. Thanks, Doug!

Monday, August 8, 2016

On the Meaning of Sola Scriptura

Suppose I’m a lawyer executing a will, and I have video evidence that the will I hold in my hand is the latest authorized will of the deceased. If I hold the will up in my hand and say to the descendents of the deceased that "this legal document alone is relevant to the dispensing of the property of my client," the descendents might ask me how I know that, but I don’t have to answer their question by looking in the will itself. Of course, that is one option. Perhaps there is a notarized note and date in the will, or perhaps the will itself explains who and how one can recognize it as such. But I can alternatively provide, say, video evidence for my knowledge-claim, assuming I have it. 

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

The Resurrection of Christ and Our Justification

1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

 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.

I said there that Christ's "sacrifice was completed, finished, and accepted by the Father upon His death." I don't believe that to be the case now. I believe Leviticus 16:17 has an antitype after all, that being the post-resurrection, post-ascension presentation of Himself in the holy place described by the author of Hebrews. There are a few reasons I think this.

Evidence that the presentation of Himself in the holy place as described by the author of Hebrews is post-resurrection and post-ascension is that it wasn't until Christ ascended after His resurrection that He sat at the Father's right hand (Mark 16:19, Acts 2:32-33, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Revelation 3:21, etc.).

Christ's sitting at His Father's right hand is an event taken up by the author of Hebrews in connection with Christ's sacrificial work. Hebrews 1:3 and 10:12 say that after Christ made purification for sin or offered His once for all sacrifice, He sat down at the right hand of the Father. This sitting down signified the completion of His sacrifice, suggesting He so sat immediately after making purification or sacrificing. That would imply everything Christ did up to that point - beginning from, at least, the point of His death, but probably His incarnation too (if we're considering His unblemished life as necessary for an acceptable sacrifice), up until His resurrection-ascension and appearance in the holy place - was typified in the sacrificial ritual mentioned in Leviticus 16.

Leviticus 16:17 mentions atonement is made in the holy place on the day of atonement, and Hebrews 13:11-12 - which includes the significance of the burning of the sacrificial carcasses on the day of atonement to Christ's death - also notes that the sprinkling of the slain animal's blood on the mercy seat in the innermost part of the tabernacle is sacrificial, further connecting this part of the typical ordeal to Christ's antitypical one. So while the death of Christ is integral to the atonement, that seemingly isn't the end of the story. Protestants already recognize that Christ's obedience in life was necessary for atonement, but there is a need to incorporate His resurrection-ascension in His atoning work.

Several passages in Scripture also mention the resurrection in the context of Christ's substitutionary work:

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.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

The idea here isn't that Christ's resurrection was just a bonus, an unnecessary component of Christ's work in which we get to graciously participate because the Father decided to instantiate it rather than some other possibility. If Christ wasn't resurrected, our faith is in vain. His resurrection is part of what grounds the application of the redemptive benefits: spiritual rebirth, justification, etc. How, then?

One thing to note is that Christ's fulfillment of the day of atonement type doesn't strictly follow the temporal order of events that day, which makes sense, as Christ is both the sacrifice and He who offers the sacrifice. Hebrews 13:12 correlates Christ's death to the burning of the sacrificial carcasses. This happened after the blood of the animals was sprinkled on the mercy seat in the holy place. However, Christ's death happened before His appearance in the holy place, per Hebrews 9. So it's the essence of the type that matters, not the timing, if we are to associate Christ's resurrection-ascension with some part of the day of atonement ritual. 

Is there a part of the day of atonement ritual to which Christ's resurrection-ascension corresponds? I think so. I'm still working through it, but a natural fit seems to be the reemergence of the high priest from the holy place and/or his associates into the camp after both burning the remains of the sacrifices outside the camp (to which Christ's death explicitly corresponds) and a prototypical baptism-cleansing. 

How would this aspect of the atonement ritual connect with the resurrection-ascension? Because it is how [the people of God knew that] the sacrifice was acceptable to God, [that] the high priest rightly represented them, [that] their sins were indeed being atoned for, and [that] they could continue to depend on God's presence dwelling among them. Christ not only fulfills these same functions but, as a better mediator of a better covenant, goes beyond them to bring us to the most holy place of God's dwelling. The resurrection proved it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Republican Credibility and Strategy

I don't post much about politics. I prefer to read and write about things whose subject matter isn't in a seemingly constant state of flux. But this election cycle has been especially fascinating, and perhaps I'm old enough now that I am beginning to care about and have an interest in it, so I'll venture a few thoughts.

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

Divine Impassibility

I was recently asked if I had any thoughts on divine impassibility. I haven't studied the doctrine that much. Here is a quote from Clark on the subject:
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

Strong Access Internalism, Synthesis, and Self-Justifying Beliefs

Richard Fumerton has written a short but useful summary of various kinds of internalism in Resurrecting Old-Fashioned Foundationalism. It can be found in the amazon preview of the book on pgs. 4-7, here. One kind of internalism Fumerton mentions is "access internalism." Access internalism is "the position that in order to know that p, S must have 'access' to what justifies that belief" (link). Whether we must actually have access to the justification or merely the potential to do so is what differentiates strong and weak versions of access internalism. 

Fumerton, who is an internalist and foundationalist himself, finds weak access internalism unmotivated, as externalists needn't deny that we could in principle become aware of what justifies our foundational beliefs. He finds strong access internalism virtually unintelligible:
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.
Many contemporary epistemologists have made this sort of argument against strong access internalism, implicitly if not explicitly. For example, see here:
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)
And here:
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)
Several of these objections were originally intended to refer epistemic justification in the context of empirical knowledge, but in this last version by Klein especially, they each can be viewed as applicable to any type of proposed foundational knowledge. By way of reply to these arguments, I wish to make two observations.

Firstly, I don't object to the idea that some of our beliefs are externally justified, i.e. that we needn't show or be aware of what justification our beliefs have in order for those beliefs to be justified in some sense. Some might, but I suspect that is because they begin with a theoretic or methodological understanding of "knowledge" or "justification" and then see which beliefs they have that qualify as falling under those categories. On the other hand, contemporary epistemologists appear more interested in discussing what particular beliefs we have which we intuit are "known" or "justified" and attempt to find commonalities among these beliefs in order to understand what "knowledge" or "justification" is. Should we define "knowledge" and "justified belief" chronologically prior to labeling and categorizing our beliefs, or should we attempt to abstract working definitions from paradigm examples of commonly accepted instances of "knowledge" and "justified belief"?

This question probably causes more harm than good and leads to a vast internalist/externalist divide when there should be none. We can grant that there is something about everyday beliefs which through the ordinary use of language has led us to say we know them or are justified in believing them in one sense. And we can grant that there may be a type of knowledge or justified belief - defined appropriately and not intended to exclude any other type of knowledge or epistemic justification - the reflective denial of which entails internal inconsistency. 

Here we find reason for a synthesis of externalism and internalism. A motivation of the former is to account for everyday knowledge or justified belief, unreflective yet sensible if not given disproportionate leniency or preference in its evaluation. A motivation of the latter is to provide us with the ability to form a principled defense of our beliefs (including those which are externally justified) when confronted with people who believe contrary to them.

Secondly, in defense of strong access internalism, each of these above arguments seems to make a key assumption I have already elsewhere denied should be granted, viz. the assumption that foundationalists are or ought to be metajustificatory foundationalists rather than traditional foundationalists (link). Notice that Fumerton, Bonjour, and Klein all formulate their respective objections to [the strong access version of internalist] foundationalism by appealing to some alleged "condition," "characteristic," or "feature" of [foundational] beliefs and asking something like whether these things are truth-conducive or whether we need to access something further in order to form a wedge between the foundation and the metajustification. 

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)
This very charitable concession turns out to be very critical. The fine distinctions in the second paragraph in particular dovetail perfectly with my explanation of the distinction between epistemology and apologetics (link):
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). 
Or, as Fantl says, "what convince us we need to take those [foundational] reasons to be self-justifying need not make them self-justifying." Our practical defense is not our justification, not to understate the former's importance.

This position also perfectly addresses Fumerton's point in the first quote of this post that "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." 

That is, the correct analysis of what it is for a belief P to be self-justifying should not make reference to subsidiary, necessary truths even if the correct analysis of P's being self-justifying must reveal why P's being self-justifying entails that these subsidiary, necessary truths are true. We can, however, reference these for the apologetic purpose of convincing others of our foundational and self-justifying belief - i.e. that any knowledge which is both internally justified and infallible must be founded on divine revelation which, in our case, is coextensive Scripture.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

ECFs on the Father Alone Being Autotheos

I recently posted 74 pages of quotes by 20 early church fathers affirming the doctrine that the Father alone is autotheos or God-of-Himself. You can find the entire document here. I have a few quick comments on the project itself.

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 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

Scripturalism: Epistemology and Apologetic

This reply is the continuation of a series of posts in which I have been discussing Scripturalism with Steve Hays. His most recent post is here.
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. 
I was ready to reply that Scripturalists don’t equate knowledge with proof before remembering there are some Scripturalists who have actually defined knowledge as justified true belief, where the justification in question is some kind of “account.” That could be viewed as a rejection of foundational knowledge in favor of knowledge requiring proof or evidence – it would be ironic if a professing Scripturalist for this reason admitted he couldn’t know Scripture because it is his posit. I doubt many Scripturalists are positists. Clark certainly wasn’t. Rather, I suspect these Scripturalists simply haven’t drawn this conclusion from the ill-conceived definition. 

And Steve’s right that the formulaic Scripturalist practice of always asking someone “how do you know?” and expecting the answer must either be some other premise or satisfy certain requirements (e.g. justification of the internalist and infallibilist variety) also indicates a confusion between apologetics and epistemology. But that’s a problem for Scripturalists, not Scripturalism. It is a prevalent problem, though.
To a great extent I think Ryan's argument is less with me than his fellow Scripturalists.  
That’s at least true with respect to self-knowledge and whether there are different legitimate forms of knowledge. I have experienced pushback from Scripturalists in the former case, and with respect to the latter case, I’m honestly not sure many Scripturalists are even familiar enough with contemporary epistemology to be able to articulate the nuances of the specific form of knowledge[s] to which they implicitly hold.

Also, I haven’t primarily been looking to argue my position against Steve’s. The main reasons I’ve been commenting on and replying to Steve’s posts is to clarify and test my own specific position and to show that apologetic discussions don’t always have to be about who’s the best sniper. I don’t usually post with readers in mind. This blog was and is intended for my benefit above anyone else’s. But at times, it helps to see that what I’m developing here can be defended with some effect elsewhere, not because I doubt it myself, but because I think it will help others.

Additionally, not everyone will always agree about various aspects within Christianity. That shouldn’t automatically breed group-think and an us-vs.-them mentality to the point you completely disregard everything someone else has to say. When you try to broaden a tent, you can’t have a sensitive, defensive disposition. That’s not to say conversations never get to the point where it’s just better for both parties to move on, but if you can’t even be decent to a fellow Christian, how can you expect to have any sort of pull with non-Christians?

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. 
I should have specified that in saying a Cartesian demon hypothesis needn’t cast doubt on the ability for garden-variety Scripturalists to know something, I meant to specifically refer to and was presupposing their agreement with Clark that “Not all knowledge is inferentially justified.” Scripturalists usually admit foundationalism – specifically, that some beliefs are known because self-justifying – even if in apologetic practice they sometimes proceed to contradict this admission or arbitrarily select who gets to appeal to it.

I think, then, Steve’s point is better viewed as him using a typical Scripturalist apologetic against Scripturalism to show that how a typical Scripturalist will respond to that apologetic is not how the typical Scripturalist allows his opponent’s to respond (already granting epistemological differences). That’s a fair criticism, but then I think it makes more sense to say a Cartesian demon hypothesis is the “radical counterpart” to a radical apologetic rather than a “radical epistemology.” Of course, that’s not to say the epistemology isn’t in need of adjustment.
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. 
I’m not sure if Steve is saying we can’t extract Christian theology from Scripture or if he is implying that the “data base” of indubitable, indisputable truths can’t refer to Scripture. If the former, we can extract Christian doctrines from Scripture: the incarnation and divinity of Christ, the resurrection, a basic outline of Trinitarianism with various possible models, predestination, etc. If the latter, why not?

People can dispute that Scripture is indubitable or indisputable. But people can also dispute laws of logic and so forth. The question is whether in doing so, are they being inconsistent? Are they subverting their own ability to be internally and infallibly justified in believing anything? In the case of disputing Scripture, the Scripturalist says yes, they are. The conversation can then move on to whether we even need that kind of belief (on which, see here). 

Or the conversation can move to whether the Scripturalist can show that one who disputes Scripture is being inconsistent. The answer is he can in one sense and can’t in another. The reason for this is the same reason Scripturalists acknowledge the need to begin with Scripture: in formulating the TAG that we need an omniscient (and good, to reference a later question) communicator in order to have internally and infallibly justified beliefs, another point comes out, i.e. that the communication can’t be premised on something else, it has to be self-authenticating. 

It is in this sense the Scripturalist can show we can’t dispute Scripture while at the same time acknowledging he can’t show it: on the one hand, we’ve just provided a TAG which can be used to show Scripture qua divine revelation must necessarily be self-authenticating to avoid inconsistency; on the other hand, this argument must actually be internally and infallibly justified because derived from Scripture, if Scripture really is our foundation - and not just Scripture abstractly considered as divine revelation, but Scripture concretely and canonically considered. The argument, then, is only as good as the foundation, and this is why it can only serve as confirmatory evidence of Scripture rather than is what functions as an internal and infallible justification of our belief in it. 

But even this isn’t a problem when we recognize that not everything that is internally and infallibly justified is the result of proof. One may disagree with this, but then he bears the burden of proof. This goes back to the distinction between apologetics (what we can show) and epistemology (what we can know). The former services the latter, not vice versa. 
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. 
This was a leap in the context of the post, but I think methodological doubt implies one holds to pure fallibilism, a position which in turn I think must reject we are internally and infallibly justified in any of our beliefs. I gather this is global skepticism about the sort of “knowledge” I find most useful in apologetic discussions. Global skeptics may also reject any other forms of knowledge, but the rejection of this form is unique in that I find it leaves us unable to defend our having any other forms. This is a bit of a tangent, so I won’t press further. I’ve discussed this more with Paul Manata, though in no great detail, here.
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. 
Well, I’ve consistently argued why I think Scripturalists should rethink epistemological and metaphysical issues elsewhere on this blog, but I imagine someone with a little more standing in the Scripturalists community will have to acknowledge these facts before they get a fair hearing. I imagine that’s what will decide whether the label suits me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cartesian Demons and Infallibilist Justification

This post is a continuation of a few recent exchanges I’ve had with Steve Hays. My last post was here, his most recent post is here.
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.
I agree with Steve here no matter which contemporary definition of “knowledge” is being used. Whether “knowledge” refers to “true beliefs,” “externally justified beliefs,” or “internally justified beliefs,” there is no need to disprove or falsify a Cartesian demon to “know” something. In the first place, proof or falsification pertains to internalist justification. And even on internalism – whether fallibilist or infallibilist – proof and falsification per se aren’t requirements for knowledge, let alone with reference to something like a Cartesian demon. Not all knowledge is inferentially justified, and not all inferentially justified beliefs need be thought of as the result of deductive reasoning. A Cartesian demon hypothesis needn’t cast doubt on knowledge; it just depends on what one’s theory of knowledge is. I don’t think it’s just my modified epistemology that can avoid this “distinctive problem.” It seems to me garden-variety Scripturalism can avoid it as well.

Where disproving a Cartesian demon would be more relevant is in the realm of apologetics. It’s one thing for me to know there is no Cartesian demon, it’s another to be able to show to someone else how I can rule that out. Do I need to be able to show there is no Cartesian demon to know it? No. But if I can show it, and if I can further make arguments which select for theism in general and Christianity in particular, that’s beneficial. There’s use for that. And in any case, while there are limits to what we can show, this only exhibits the limitations of apologetics, not knowledge.

Scripturalism is a theory of knowledge. More specifically, I’ve argued it ought to be formulated as a theory about a specific kind of knowledge: “any knowledge which is both internally justified and infallible must be founded on divine revelation which, in our case, is coextensive with Scripture” (link). With reference to apologetics, however (which I view as a more pragmatic enterprise), Scripturalists should feel free to utilize all sorts of arguments, not merely those which would constrain all knowledge to refer to internally and infallibly justified beliefs. Frankly, I admit many Scripturalists seem to be a ways off from understanding that.

Given all of this, there is one final question about the Cartesian demon which Steve’s post provokes. Can the Cartesian demon actually be disproved or falsified? Let’s see:
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. 
For starters, a hypothesis of “deception” necessitates a distinction between truth and error. There is something about which we are being deceived; that is, we are deceived into erroneous rather than true beliefs. This idea in turn necessitates certain categories of logic and language. What is truth such that we can be said to be deceived with respect to it? This line of thought leads to further interesting questions. “Deception” also necessitates there being at least one thinking entity, and in the case of the Cartesian demon, two. 

Steve at least in principle agrees TAGs are good (link). The initial point, then, is that the Cartesian demon cannot be as omnipotent as many skeptics would frame it. There are some things about which a Cartesian demon can’t deceive us. But then is the Cartesian demon the same as the sort Descartes had in mind? In his outlining of the hypothesis, Steve similarly notes: “[The deceiver] needn't be omniscient or omnipotent. A fallible deceiver could be the source of fallible beliefs, if our beliefs are dependent on that erratic source.”

Okay, but if there are necessary truths which we can recognize as such and show others, then in what sense is this sort of Cartesian demon a problem? We would seem to have internally and infallible justified beliefs after all. Naturally, this would be limited to a subset of our beliefs, and being able to show which of these beliefs qualify may further depend on a TAG or TAGs showing that it would be inconsistent to deny, say, a good, omniscient, self-authenticating communicator, but I think this is possible (link, link, link).

Now, Cartesian skeptics could reply that the demon could be deceiving us as to the necessity of all of these conclusions. But skeptics can say or ask a lot of things. Who cares? Bare assertions or repetitious questioning doesn’t constitute a substantial reply. And obviously, it’s not as if skeptics have privileged, objective, third-person access to what is and isn’t possible. They operate on their own sets of assumptions just as Christians do – only Christians can acknowledge their assumptions and remain what they profess themselves to be. Cartesian skeptics want to get away with climbing the ladder they hope to throw over. They can’t even ask questions without contradicting methodological doubt.

So much for Cartesian demons. Moving on to a different subject, I had written:
Sensations are neither true nor false and so cannot function as premises by which our beliefs are inferentially justified.
Steve replied:
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.
To which Steve replied:
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?
Not that I don’t appreciate the concern that we keep our heads out of the clouds, but if Steve would admit his demand is only fallibly justified from an internalist perspective, he must also have to admit the demand could itself be unreasonable, right? At the very least, the statement “finite creatures can’t” have beliefs which are internally and infallibly justified is itself, from Steve’s perspective, possibly false. Although that may not have been what Steve meant, I’m not sure what else “godlike conditions” could refer to. And if that is what he meant to refer to, why not continually look to see if that’s [demonstrably] not the case? If, for all we can know, it’s possible, what’s the harm in continually searching? I think the potential windfall exceeds the drawbacks.

Furthermore, I think there’s a relevant disanalogy between the fallibility of sensation and the fallibility of reason and memory. In a recent comment, I wrote:
…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.
To expand on this, how is it that our reasoning and memory could be, in every case, fallible? I can see how we could have two different sense experiences, or how we could have a different sense experience from someone else, which yield contradictory beliefs and therefore leave us unable to ascertain which of the two beliefs is true.

But I don’t see how this could apply to reason or memory across the board. If any beliefs we have are in some sense memorial insofar as our thoughts either reference memories or themselves occur over a span of time rather than an instant, and if our thoughts in every case depend on our implicitly, if not explicitly, following certain logical structures, then I think there is a path to internally and infallibly justified beliefs which isn’t logically founded on sense knowledge.