Monday, December 5, 2011

Fight or Flight

A friend of mine who is wading into the waters of epistemology asked some atheist called "Jersey Flight" if he had ever interacted with Gordon Clark. It seemed to me the subsequent replies were a little dismissive, so on my friend's behalf I sent a few emails back. You can find these interactions here. To point out a few problems with his latest reply:

1. JF never wrote out a syllogistic argument as I had requested. I suspect the reason he did not is because if he had, I would have done exactly what I told him I would do, i.e. asked him to justify his premises ad infinitum until he admitted the point of presuppositionalism:

The demonstration of a proposition, such as any theorem in geometry, is completed only when it is referred to the axioms. If the axioms in turn required demonstration, the demonstration of the proposition with which we began would remain incomplete.

Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey pg. 88

2. He also ignored my request that he explain his own worldview. Since he was imputing principles like “inductive science” and “human reason” to my worldview, I assume he is an empiricist or rationalist. I’ve critiqued both on this blog before (example), though since he is unwilling to present his position, I see no reason to believe he knows anything, obviously including that his criticisms of my position are veridical.

3. He further ignored my link I provided in my first reply which addressed his analogy of Scripturalism to Islam (link). This is probably due to the following:

4. He takes these two previous points as sufficient evidence to claim I am a transcendental-rationalist. But if he is so well-up on presuppositionalism, I wonder why he would assume there cannot be necessary but insufficient presuppositions (e.g. logic), necessary insofar as any worldview which does not presuppose them will be self-defeating but insufficient insofar as they are in themselves unable to yield a sound epistemic system? Perhaps he can explain this.

5. On the other hand, it may just be that he misconstrued what I meant by epistemic humility. He viewed it as a cop-out to avoid answering his questions, though since by the time I had written that I had already responded to all his questions, I'm not sure why he took my statement that way. Epistemic humility is just a reference to our limitations to what we can know. For instance, since we're contingent creatures, our knowledge is limited by our source of knowledge. In my case, this refers to divine revelation and that which can be deduced from it. At no point did I claim or imply that Christianity should be exempt from the very epistemological tests which I myself explained in my first reply in response to the "arbitrary axiom" objection.

6. He didn't really seem to understand the difference between an ontological and epistemological presupposition. I honestly don’t understand why this is an issue. The Bible may have been written by the apostles such that their births were an ontologically prior to inscripturation, but the only reason I know about apostleship in the first place is by means of Scripture. So Scripture is epistemically prior to the birth of the apostles. Scripture is a historical document. Things occured prior to inscripturation on which inscripturation depended (ontological preconditions), but the point is these can only be known by Scripture (epistemological precondition).

7. He seems to think Scripture is ink marks on a page. This and his repeated citations of Van Tilian apologists incline me to think he is not very familiar with Clark’s works.

These are the main faults. I could talk about issues of Scriptural perspicuity, authority, &c., but I’ve addressed these points in the few links I provided for him.


JF has replied, though he's edited out the links I provided in my responses. It's not a long reply. Here's the assertion:

//As is usual, the standard, the common default mode: Christian rationalization, silent justification: "if men understood the position they would accept the position--- therefore, all those who reject the position don't understand the position."//

Are "rationalizations" and "justifications" derogatory terms?

I can only assume he's referencing point 6. But as he clearly stated that the Protestant canon cannot function as an epistemic axiom because it presupposes things like science and reasoning, my statement is accurate: JF doesn't understand my position. This isn't a universal conclusion from a specific example, it's a statement that JF does not, on this issue, get it. The means of knowledge by which one historically comes to believe a proposition and the preconditions for one's source of knowledge (ontological presuppositions) can and must themselves be found in or justified by that which is the sole source of knowledge (epistemic presupposition). The Protestant canon is such a case. This isn't too difficult.

If JF is not willing to answer my questions or internally critique my worldview, there's nothing more I can say.

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