Monday, September 27, 2010

The "value" of fallacious argumentation revisited

While rereading Robert Reymond's The Justification of Knowledge, I stumbled across the following quote by Clark who, using the cosmological argument as an augmentative example, argues the same point I did in a recent post; that is, that in the realm of evangelism and apologetics, invalid argumentation is only arbitrarily "valuable":

“If one wishes to use the cosmological argument without asserting its formal validity, there is a difficulty that requires explanation. The expression that the natural evidence for God’s existence is convincing for all practical purposes must be understood as simply a form of enthusiastic speech, for obviously it cannot be taken literally. There are many people, both Christian and unbelievers, to whom this argument is by no means convincing; nevertheless, the conversion of the unbelievers and even the enlightenment of the Christians would have to fall within the class of all practical purposes. If then it is not satisfactory for all practical purposes, can it be defended as satisfactory for some practical purposes? After all, it is convincing to those who use it. But this explanation is no better. People are frequently convinced by the flimsiest of evidence and the most glaring of fallacies. If it is justifiable to use an argument merely because it serves some practical purpose, would not evangelism be reduced to utter sophistry? Any evidence or any fallacy could be used, if only it were convincing to the person addressed. And this would remain the case even when the evangelist himself knew that his arguments were inherently unsound. The confusion arises from the unwillingness to see that an argument is either valid or fallacious. There is no third possibility. And in choosing arguments there is no substitute for valid logic.” (Contemporary Evangelical Thought, pgs. 149-150)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Omniscience: Eternal or Bust

I was thinking about this post today as I was reviewing both Robert Reymond's version of the argument from which that post received its inspiration (cf. The Justification of Knowledge, pgs. 36-37) and some books on Open Theism, and I had an interesting thought. First, for convenience, here is the argument:

//For a being to claim to know a proposition is true presupposes that he knows it's truth is not contingent or, if it is, said being knows that upon which the veracity of the proposition is contingent. Let's call this being Ryan. This implies two things:

1. Ryan is omniscient or has acquired his knowledge from a being who is omniscient, as Ryan would be required to know the relation between a proposition and anything upon which the veracity of the proposition might be predicated (which in turn implies knowledge of everything, including respective contingencies).
2. Ryan's knowledge is infinite or has acquired his knowledge from a being whose knowledge is infinite, as there are infinitely many possible relations one might posit between the proposition in question and everything imaginable.//

The thought that occurred to me was that not only is man's knowledge dependent upon an omniscient, infinitely knowledgeable being, but said being cannot have become omniscient or infinitely knowledgeable through a process; that is, it is necessary that the being in question is eternally omniscient. For simplicity, let's call this being God and let "eternal omniscience" encompass the notion of infinite knowledge.

Now God, if He is not eternally omniscient, must, if one is to allege that He has or can become omniscient, have at some point learned that which He did not know. In other words, God was not omniscient prior to having learned that which He did not know. So far, so obvious.

But if this is so, it would not have been possible for God to know the relation between that which, prior to His learning, God did not know and everything else imaginable. Given this, however, God would have been in the same boat as man! Again, from the aforementioned post:

//Or we may consider these questions: how does Ryan know the proposition he claims is true isn't contingent on x, y, or z? If Ryan doesn't know, can he justifiably claim to know the proposition is true? No.//

Or: how would God have known any proposition He claimed is true isn't contingent on that which He did not know? He couldn't, precisely because He can't know any relation between that which He does not know and everything else imaginable until He actually knows the unknown proposition. This in turn implies God either wouldn't know anything unless He knows everything from eternity or that He has, like men, acquired His knowledge from one who is (but in this case, He from whom God would have acquired His knowledge would actually be "God" in the traditional sense).

The implications of this thought appear deep: for instance, predicating God's knowledge on that which is extrinsic to God would, since God alone is eternal, not only destroy God's omniscience, it destroys God's knowledge, period. It refutes Open Theism outright, and it is yet another weapon in the Christian's arsenal of elenctic arguments for which secular philosophy cannot answer.

[I've tried to make this post as short as possible even though I think I could make the thought contained herein clearer, because I wanted to put the point as simply as possible before I forgot it.]

P. S. Should anyone ask how I know that this argument is self-affirming, I'd point him to the Bible..

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The "value" of fallacious argumentation

A recent post led to a discussion with a RC about the so-called value of empirical apologetics:


RC: …even though I agree in principle with your claim that misuse of a source doesn't imply that the source is insufficient or unclear, I will say that such prolonged and sustained results (i.e. continuous splintering), certainly give very strong empirical evidence, although not absolute proof, that the source is insufficient (by itself) and unclear.

Me: You think reasoning from effect to cause is strong evidence?

RC: I think the results are strong empirical evidence of the sufficiency of the source, especially after such a prolonged period with the same ever repeating results. Keep in mind, however, that in no way am I implying internal biblical contradictions.

Me: I really don't know what to say to that. I guess I don't find arguments reasoning to causes from effects as convincing as you do.

RC: I can understand your way of thinking only as long as you keep it in the abstract, but I think in real world applications you, I, and everyone else learn this way all of the time.

Me: I don't find appeals to the majority very convincing either. Then again, I'm not a Roman Catholic :)

RC: If you equate convincing evidence to absolute irrefutable proof then I agree with you, but if you treat it empirically then I don't understand your reluctance.

Me: I'm not an empiricist either. Nor am I a subjectivist.

RC: I'm not an theological empiricist either, nor a subjectivist, but neither of those mitigate against the value of real world empirical evidence.

Me: As opposed to "false" world empirical evidence? Common sense, strong empirical evidence, real world... these are just terms used to gloss over the fallacious nature of empiricism and cow people into deference to its so-called value. In a span of 5 posts you have reasoned from effect to cause, appealed to majority consensus, subjectively and arbitrarily demarcated what constitutes "strong" empirical evidence, and I think that by favoring its perceived utility over "abstract," logical thinking […] you betray your position as one which is concerned, not primarily with truth, but with whatever works. Notwithstanding your relatively moderate view of its cogency, to regard such arguments as having any merit at all in this discussion is simply wrong. It is brute fact, bare assertion argumentation, and if it is the or even a method by which you reject Protestantism or anything else, I hope you come to realize that it is necessarily more "deplorable" than the conclusions you ground on it, like the alleged "splintering" Protestantism provokes.


This is, of course, the end of all empirical – or, more generally, fallacious – argumentation. If one such argument has value, couldn’t all fallacious arguments have value? Any response in the negative to this question would presuppose that one cannot fallaciously assert a response in the positive, undermining the purported value of the original fallacious argument.

For example: suppose I analogously told the RC that the “sustained results” of debauchery amongst RC priests “certainly give very strong empirical evidence, although not absolute proof, that” Roman Catholicism leads to unchristianly behavior. Who would believe that the RC would admit this argument has any value? Would he care? Would he think that the argument has any merit? Doubtful. Or what if I told the RC that Roman Catholicism is wrong because I say so? Obviously, he wouldn’t pay my fallacious argument any attention, as well he shouldn’t. But picking and choosing which fallacious arguments have value without further ado is to succumb to the very self-defeating subjectivism that the RC claims to disavow.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"33,000 denominations"

Much has been made about the "33,000 [Protestant] denominations" argument that every so often makes an unwanted appearance. Recent posts on it can be found here and here. This is not to say that all or even the majority of Roman Catholics think it is a good argument, for there are those who recognize that rampant misuse of a source does not imply that source is insufficient or unclear, in this case with respect to one's spiritual needs (example).

To those, however, who yet remained unconvinced or suspicious that Protestants are pulling some slight of hand, perhaps some perspective might be offered if one were to use the following, analogous argument: suppose an atheist says he disbelieves Christianity because there are thousands of different denominations within it. How would the Roman Catholic respond to this? Much in the same way the Protestant does: he would argue that there is only one perspicuous, final authority to which all ought submit and that those who claim to be Christians but reject this source (or contents thereof) are not truly Christians. The perspicuous, final authority is not to blame for the blockheads who just can't understand that it must be regarded and treated as such. While the identity of the final authority within RC differs from the Protestant's, the method of argumentation is the same.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Infralapsarianism Revisited

Briefly revisiting the White-Sungenis debate, one of Sungenis’ more persistent accusations is that Reformed believers promote a God whose election is arbitrary. He repeatedly wonders why it pleases God to choose, out of a mass of sinners, only a particular people. Setting aside the answers provided in my evaluation of Sungenis’ opening statement, Sungenis is, perhaps unwittingly, criticizing Reformed infralapsarianism. Supralapsarians believe God elected without respect to man’s sinful condition. One would think that Sungenis, who distinguished between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism, would know this.

Now, the infralapsarian has access to many of the same answers that the supralapsarian does in response to Sungenis’ argument: God desired to maximally manifest His glory by the exhibition of His excellence, which is most notable in redemptive history, etc. However, if we change the question from “why” God chooses the elect to “how” God chooses the elect, there may be something to the argument. I wrote a post some months ago about the reasons I am a supralapsarian rather than an infralapsarian, and I would here add another reason (noting that, as is often the case in these discussions, any order referenced is logical rather than temporal): for the infralapsarian, the fact that God’s elective decree would be with respect to sinners is inconsistent with the fact that sinners are worthy of His wrath; that is, for God to, in love, choose to grace people who He should rather regard as worthy of His wrath is inconsistent. Only if one accepts that God chose to elect men in Christ before He decreed the Fall does it make sense that a holy God can choose to save a people deserving of wrath: because they, the elect, had already been chosen to be vessels of mercy. Hat tip to a Mr. Williams for pointing this out to me some time ago.

[To anyone who has not yet listened to the cross-ex portion Sungenis-White debate, be forewarned that it is not particularly riveting. How anyone can read Romans 9 and believe it teaches a conditional election is beyond me.]

White vs. Sungenis on Predestination

After listening to a recent debate between James White and Robert Sungenis on predestination and free will, which the reader can listen to here, I felt compelled to write some notes on the more confusing and erroneous points Sungenis made in his opening statement. I have tried to categorize his statements as best I can.

Church History

Sungenis cited the Council of Orange to explain in what way he believes man possesses free will: enabling grace. However, it is not clear to me in what way Sungenis purports to harmonize Catholic soteriology with several of its canons. He cited Canon 4:

“If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, "The will is prepared by the Lord" (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).”

Canon 6 makes a similar condemnation:

“If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).”

Does Sungenis believe the Holy Spirit is infused into unbelievers and, if so, what is the nature of such an infusion if not regenerative? White cited a staple passage for the doctrine of total depravity, Romans 8:7-8, in his opening statement, but the verse following is more relevant to this question:

Romans 8:9a You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you…

If indeed Sungenis believes that the infusion of the Spirit is of a similar nature to that described by Paul – and if the Spirit is said to be infused, I do not see how he could contend otherwise – then in order to remain consistent, he would have to contend a prima facie absurdity: that to be “in the spirit” implies nothing more than that one’s nature, upon infusion, is enabled to choose to believe or disbelieve God’s word; one is not neutral if he is in the spirit.

This confusion aside, Augustine’s influence is nowhere else more evident than in the particular Scriptures the council cites to support its declarations, for Augustine was not shy about repeating passages like 1 Corinthians 4:7, 15:10 in order to press his [similar] arguments. That Sungenis believes Lucidus from the 5th century is the first [post-apostolic] forerunner of “absolute predestination” – i.e. predestination without respect to free will – betrays an unfamiliarity (to put it generously) with Augustine, who most certainly believed in monergism.


After a little church history, Sungenis proceeds to explain how free will is incompatible with total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints.

Sungenis’ understanding of unconditional election is somewhat questionable, as he believes it implies God elects arbitrarily; in a later clip, he asserts that a God who decrees sin in order to manifest His justice and wrath as well as His mercy and grace is arbitrary. But this doesn’t make sense at all. God’s choices are grounded in His consistent, righteous desire to uphold that which is infinitely worthy: His glory. How exactly is that arbitrary? Sungenis’ unsupported accusations, arguments from incredulity (“What kind of God would [do this]?”), arguments from silence (“Wouldn’t God get more glory if He saved all men without exception?”), and utter failure to distinguish between a desire to manifest of His nature to His people from a sub-human need to “prove who He is” are just several samples of the kind of question-begging and straw man argumentation Sungenis resorts to throughout his opening statement, as will become more apparent.

In any case, Sungenis is obviously not a Molinist, since he believes free will and unconditional election are not compatible. Moreover, Sungenis appears equally unswayed by the argument that new Eden provides an example par excellance of a situation in which man could possess free will and yet be unable to fall away; perhaps he doesn’t believe Christians will retain free will after death. I cannot discern that free will bears any direct relation to the extent of the atonement, but at least Sungenis seems to recognize that classical Arminians cannot consistently believe in total depravity and that free will is mutually exclusive with sola gratia.


After this contrast, Sungenis explains why he believes in a kind of predestination that works “in conjunction with” free will: the Bible says so. Now this is an admirable reason to believe a doctrine is true, but if one were, on this account, to expect that Sungenis would endeavor to immediately substantiate his assertion and explain the way in which free will relates to predestination, he would be disappointed. Instead, the audience is treated to a lengthy speech in which Sungenis more or less says that systematic theology is hard and God is incomprehensible. One of his arguments could be constructed as follows:

P: Philosophers have debated God’s nature for thousands of years.
P: It is possible that, in some way we do not understand, God’s nature is reflected in all the variant positions which have been advocated during these debates.
C: Analogously, free will and predestination could cohere.

Or maybe:

P: Contrasted concepts of either/or questions which I can’t answer can both be taught in Scripture.
P: The coherence of free will and predestination is such a question.
C: The Bible teaches free will in conjunction with predestination!

Though spoken in a bit of jest, it was truly painful to listen to the way in which Sungenis attempted to excuse his prefatory gymnastics. His follow-up argument was nothing more than a tu quoque argument against White: since White believes Adam possessed free will yet believed God ordained the Fall, White must believe that predestination and free will can cohere. But even if all this were true, it does not follow that free will is biblical.

Even more painful is to listen to Sungenis couch his arguments in hypothetical language and then proceed to pontificate as though the hypothetical is a given. For example, he argues: “If God Himself commands that man participate in salvation by exercising his free will to accept or reject God, then… etc.” But since Sungenis never actually gets around to demonstrating that God commands man participate in salvation by exercising his free will, whether or not his conclusions follow from this conditional are irrelevant. Sungenis will later assume that the fact that all men are commanded to believe implies they can believe and that an “invitation” to believe likewise implies such a capacity, but when push comes to shove, he can provide no substantial argument.

Distinguishing Factors

Sungenis was eager to intercept the argument that free will implies that one who chooses to believe is smarter, more spiritually sensitive, or in some general way “better” than Joe Reprobate who chose, also by free will, to reject God. Yet if Sungenis believes it is within bounds to criticize the Calvinist for believing in a God who chooses arbitrarily, it is unclear why he would consider it out of bounds for the Calvinist to criticize Sungenis’ position on similar grounds.

Sungenis is also critical of being labeled a synergist or anthropocentric because he does not wish to be associated with others who have dissimilar beliefs to his own. Read that again and see if it makes sense. Even more puzzlingly, he says that if one wishes to learn about synergism, he needn’t look any further than the variance amongst Reformed Theologians regarding lapsarianism &c. Needless to say, Sungenis made not one whit of sense throughout this portion of his diatribe.

He continued in this nonsensical fashion by further criticizing Reformers for making such distinctions in the first place, accusing the origin of disunity on a general lack of possession of the truth; of course, given that Sungenis cannot likewise account for Molinism and Thomism within Roman Catholicism, it is little wonder that Sungenis feels the need to employ yet another disguised tu quoque argument, viz. for no other reason than to attempt to drag his opponents down to ground equal to his own: none.


A little more than halfway through his opening statement, Sungenis finally gets around to putting forward positive evidence for his position… or so it would seem.

In his first cited text, 1 Timothy 2:4, Sungenis assumes that “all men” refers to men without exception rather than without distinction when he in fact cites verses in context which would seem to support the latter interpretation (verse 1 and 6, cf. verse 2). Using his argumentation, Roman Catholics would retranslate Romans 3:23 such that Mary and Jesus are excluded. Apparently, Roman Catholics don’t believe all means all! Comically, Sungenis doesn’t ever connect God’s alleged desire to save all without exception to man’s free will, so one is left to speculate as to just how 1 Timothy 2:4 teaches the concept. The same goes for his throwaway citation of 1 John 2:2 (in which the analogous John 11:51-52 is unsurprisingly left unmentioned).

His other citations fare little better. Neither John 5:39 nor Matthew 23:37 imply, in their respective contexts, that the men mentioned could have been willing to act contrary to what they did, and in 2 Timothy 2:13, Sungenis reverts to assuming that a conditional statement implies actuality – whereas Christ and the apostles repeatedly said he who denies Christ is an antichrist. With that, Sungenis has run out of ammo. That’s all he had to offer.


The shallow nature of Sungenis’ argumentation is no more evident, however, when Sungenis is reduced to appealing to the emotions of the audience. Sungenis would seemingly have his audience believe that all unbelievers are poor, needy souls who are crying out for a Savior only to be stiff-armed at the goal line by the tyrant God of Calvinism. What rubbish! Men are slaves to sin and lovers of darkness before they are regenerated. White often uses imagery of a man standing on the precipice of Hell shaking his fists at his Creator. In less dramatic terms, he has related times when he has spoken to people who say they cannot possibly accept the God of Calvinism, to which he replies: “I know.” That is to say, apart from God’s unobligated grace and mercy, sinners are quite content with going about their own business of living in sin, thank you very much. Of course they reject God. Sungenis is a very good example of this: he presumes a loving God must attempt (and fail more often than not) to save all men without exception and is further willing to call the biblical God monstrous. One would do well to observe how quickly Sungenis proceeded from an incomprehensible God to an anthropocentric God.

One final attempt is made by Sungenis to show that God can predestine men according to their free will. The CCC, paragraph 600, states:

“To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace”: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.”

Sungenis claims that this illustrates how Roman Catholics are able to interpret Scripture at face value and compatibilize free will with predestination. But firstly, after complaining that White must interprets the “all men” of 1 Timothy 2:4 according to his preconceptions, it is ironic that Sungenis cites an interpretation of Acts 4:27 which substitutes “permitted” for “predestined” without further ado. And secondly, it is very interesting that this catechism predicates God’s predestination on creaturely wills. One wonders how Sungenis would respond to the objection that free will necessarily implies that God cannot be eternally omniscient.


Contrasted to White’s opening statement, Sungenis’ was poor. I had hoped Sungenis would challenge White, but even a lowly layman such as me can perceive the ridiculousness of Sungenis’ arguments. I may listen to the rest of the debate at some other time, if only to hear White’s rebuttal and the cross-ex, but if this is seriously the best non-Calvinism has to offer by way of a defense of free will, what a let-down.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Divine Illumination

“To give them as much credit as possible, words possess only sufficient efficacy to remind us in order that we may seek things, but not to exhibit the things so that we may know them. He teaches me something, moreover, who presents to my eyes or to any other bodily sense or even to my mind itself those things which I wish to know. By means of words, therefore, we learn only words or rather the sound and vibration of words. For if those things which are not signs cannot be words, even though I have heard a word, I do not know that it is a word until I know what it signifies. So when things are known the cognition of the words is also accomplished. For we do not learn the words which we know, nor can we say that we learn those which we do not know unless their signification has been perceived; and this happens not by means of hearing words which are pronounced, but by means of a cognition of the things which are signified. For it is the truest reasoning and most correctly said that when words are uttered we either know already what they signify or we do not know. If we know, then we remember rather than learn, but if we do not know, then we do not even remember, though perhaps we are prompted to ask.” – Augustine, De Magistro

After reading half of Gordon Clark's "Ancient Philosophy," I feel a little more capable of understanding and relating the context and import of Augustine's arguments in De Magistro than I felt last year when I picked up this ~50 page pamphlet and expected to be done with it in one night (!) In the above quote, Augustine is positing a thoroughly Christian exposition to an ancient problem, viz.

"Sextus argued that a thing becomes a sign only when it is related to the thing signified, and the problem is precisely to discover what it is that is signified. If the thing signified were already known, the sign would of course be useless, but, if the thing signified is not known, neither do we know that this present thing is a sign at all, let alone a sign of that one definite thing." - Gordon Clark, Ancient Philosophy

"When signs are used, the pupil either knows the thing signified or he does not. If he does not, the sign teaches him nothing... But if the pupil already knows the thing signified, the pronunciation of the word leads him to associate the sign with the thing signified that he already knows; and he learns that the word is a sign only through knowing the thing. Otherwise it might be merely be a noise without significance. The thing, therefore, must be known first; the sign is learned later." – Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey

Showing that one cannot learn the association between a sign and a thing by first learning the sign is simple: suppose that the contrary were true. If one wished to explain to a friend that which the word “tree” signifies, for example, how would one go about teaching his friend? Why, by pointing at a tree, of course. But if the friend doesn’t know the sign, then perhaps he will mistake his friend’s finger as the signification of “tree.” All signs which signify sensible objects suffer similar possible misunderstandings. Explaining a sign with an incorporeal referent is just as difficult, for the only method of explanation would presuppose knowledge of signs with incorporeal referents. Then again, by what other means can two people know that which is being signified so as to relate it to a communicable sign? How is the thing signified known first?

Only by divine revelation (the grounds) is justification of knowledge possible, and so too only by divine illumination (the means) can men understand and assent to truth. Man “is taught not through my words but by means of the things themselves which God reveals within the soul” (De Magistro). Socrates, for example, did not teach Meno's servant how to double the area of a square; he did not need to: “Communication is of course possible only by means of words or some other signs; but the words, instead of teaching anything new, rather stir up our memories of things we had previously understood” (Thales to Dewey). While man’s words can serve as the occasion by which one is reminded of what he has forgotten or the clarification of what he innately knows, Christ alone is the epistemological Logos that “gives light to every man…” (John 1:9). God is our “only Master,” and Christ, God’s “everlasting wisdom,” is He whom “every rational soul does indeed consult” (De Magistro).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Good and Oughtness

Reflecting on the fine distinction between defining good and explaining why one ought to do that which is good prompted me to consider how a secularist might defend moral dogmatism (and even moral subjectivism, given the following). I think that a lack of precision when questioning a secularist about the nature of good contributes to the question-begging statements which the secularist inevitably proceeds to make. There is a simple method which would avoid this confusion: simply ask at the beginning of the conversation for the secularist to define the nature of good

(1) If, after asking this question, the secularist answers by providing some list of choices, actions or consequences, ask why anyone ought to follow such a list. Even if, for the sake of argument, one were to grant the secularist’s definition of good, there is not, within the definition, any intrinsic justification of the authoritativeness which a command to follow such a list would presuppose. Example: ignoring other obvious problems with Utilitarianism, defining good as “that which causes the greatest pleasure to the most people” does not, without further ado, explain why one should endeavor to do what is good – in this case, cause the greatest pleasure to the most people. Here, the distinction between the what-question (“good”) and the why-question (“ought”) is clear. Another example: in my most recent essay, I noted that God’s precepts demarcate what is “good.” Yet unlike Utilitarianism and other secular ethical systems, while this definition does not precisely explain why one ought to obey God’s precepts, I, as a Christian, am able to explain the irreducible answer as to why one ought to obey God:

//…God’s declaration that men are responsible for obeying His law reflects their created natures. That God sovereignly made men for His own ends and glory functions as the very means by which Paul substantiates, in Romans, his claim that men are responsible (Romans 9:19-21). In the absence of a Creator-creation distinction, moral dogmatism is irrational. A dictator may desire to heedlessly enforce his ideas, but he can never possess the divine prerogative. Only a sovereign Creator can universalize His moral precepts to those whom He has created for that purpose, and this God has done by the full, sovereign, and authoritative disclosure of His holy nature and law in Scripture.//

(2) I imagine, however, that a secularist could define good as “that which one ought to do.” In this case, it is only necessary to reverse the above process: instead of asking why one ought to follow a list [which allegedly demarcates what is good], ask what demarcates good – i.e. what is the “that” which one ought to follow? – and how one knows such. If one pays careful attention, he will see that the secularist will doubtlessly equivocate as to the meaning of “good,” confounding the “what” with the “why.”

Kant’s categorical imperative provides, as a final example, how the secularist may provide an answer to the question of the nature of good which, at first glance, may appear not to fall under either of the above categories. The categorical imperative reads as follows: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” In actuality, this answer is, in disguised form, one of the above possible answers: (1) or (2). The question is how to discern which it is. If one should encounter such a definition of good which at once seems to include both a list of choices and an ought-statement (“[one ought to] act only according to that maxim…”), he should ask, in a manner similar to the following, whether the secularist thinks:

(1) “Choosing that which would not lead to self-contradiction if universalized” is good, so one ought to act accordingly, or

(2) “Choosing that which would not lead to self-contradiction if universalized” is subsumed under ‘that which ought not to be done.’

For the morally dogmatic secularist, defining good is less than half of a losing battle.