Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2012 TrinityFoundation Contest

Well, October has been as busy a blog month as I've had in a while. As its close bring another Reformation Day, that means another Trinity Foundation essay contest has been completed. This year, the book for review was John Robbins' Without a Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System. As it was my last year for eligibility, I worked extra hard, rereading Robbins' book (some of you may recall I had done a series of posts on Robbins' earlier book Answer to Ayn Rand) as well as reading all of Rand's major philosophical publications, usually articles which were compiled into books. I can't deny that I am surprised and disappointed that my essay did not place, especially since it seems no essay was considered good enough for third, but I will try to swallow my bitterness. It may be a needed lesson in humility. Anyway, I've taken a lot away from these contests other than prize money and books. Apologetics is a responsibility, but it can be fun.

I wish congratulations to the winners and a thank you to The Trinity Foundation for providing incentives for young people to learn material which is honestly interesting in itself. You may read excerpts from the essays of the two winners here, and you may find my essay here.

27 comments:

Patrick T. McWilliams said...

I thought it was odd that there was no third place winner. Have you mentioned it to Tom?

Ryan said...

A close friend suggested that, but that strikes me as petty or, at least, beneath my wounded pride :)

Patrick T. McWilliams said...

Hm. I'd want to know how my essay failed to meet requirements.

Ryan said...

You are welcome to ask him yourself if curious, but I can take a hint.

Drake Shelton said...

Ryan,

Your discussions on the GHC Forum are driving Sean to a full blown nervous breakdown. I have not read a single statement written by anyone in that thread that even comes close to being able to challenge you. Aside from Sean and the Murch's it is a complete wash. Most everyone seems to be on board. I think you have some holes in your understanding of ontological vs. economical trinity. You understand the doctrine but I don't think you get all the implications. We have discussed those at length and if you have something you want me to consider I'm all ears. I think you need to read a good deal in Samuel Clarke's works in order to deal more accurately with a number of scriptures but all in all, you are Optimus Prime man, you're Voltron, you're the Mighty Morphin Power Ranger! Oh and I would like to point out that the Alpha and Omega reading in Rev 1:11 is not found in the Westcott-Hort nor in the Majority Text. http://openscriptures.org/prototypes/manuscript-comparator/?passage=rev+1%3A11&view=parallel&strongs=1

It appears in the Textus Receptus which is well known for its textual additions.

Your patience with the forum is admirable and I wish to emulate you more. True, they were not dragging your name through the mud like they do with me, but you are showing some serious character. I hope to learn from your example.

Ryan said...

"I think you have some holes in your understanding of ontological vs. economical trinity."

What would those be? If you are referring to my last citation of Edwards in which he says "It is fit that the order of the acting of the Persons of the Trinity should be agreeable to the order of their subsisting," that was not a blanket endorsement but a specific support for the idea a discussion of the economic Trinity can include a discussion of the ontological Trinity.

"I think you need to read a good deal in Samuel Clarke's works in order to deal more accurately with a number of scriptures..."

Actually, I finished his book shortly after the exegetical part of the discussion. Mostly excellent stuff. I sort of breezed through it, though. I'm getting the book for Christmas, so I'll revisit it then.

"I would like to point out that the Alpha and Omega reading in Rev 1:11 is not found in the Westcott-Hort nor in the Majority Text."

Thanks.

Drake Shelton said...

Ryan,

You said, “Secondly, I don't deny that discourses on the economic Trinity can allude to the ontological Trinity.”

You then quoted Edwards who grounds the economical by the ontological. Your statement seems to have these backwards. I feel comfortable when someone says that the ontological grounds the economical. I feel Uncomfortable when someone says the ontological IMPLIES the economical, that is that God ad intra-per divine nature necessitates a creation. I feel equally Uncomfortable when someone says the economical trinity implies things about the ontological trinity. That is what Origen did with Soteriology and that is what the Filioque heresy did with Triadology.

Clarke has more than one book. The Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity is of course the fundamental work but the Modest Plea and others are invaluable.


Ryan said...

"You then quoted Edwards who grounds the economical by the ontological."

True, but that was not the point of the citation. The point of the citation was to establish that Edwards, who was writing a treatise on the economic Trinity, could in the same treatise say something about the ontological Trinity. Sean implicitly denied that to avoid having to account for Edwards' language about the [ontological] derivation of the Son.

Nowhere did I imply I agreed with what Edwards had to say about the relation between the economic and ontological Trinity, only that he has something to say about the ontological as well as economic Trinity, which was sufficient to the purpose. I too see no need to consider the economic actions as reflective of the ontological relations.

"The Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity is of course the fundamental work but the Modest Plea and others are invaluable."

Are they online too? The book I'm getting says it has "Related Writings" of his included.

Patrick T. McWilliams said...

"I would like to point out that the Alpha and Omega reading in Rev 1:11 is not found in the Westcott-Hort nor in the Majority Text."

That is VERY interesting. Thanks!

Drake Shelton said...

Ryan,

"Are they online too? The book I'm getting says it has "Related Writings" of his included."

>>Yeah that should have it but Modest Plea is online:

http://archive.org/details/modestpleacconti00clar

Oh and please be careful when quoting Athanasius. Athanasius has many confusions. Make sure in your debating that you are not historically grounding your view on Athanasius but on the meaning of the Nicene Creed. Athanasius has too many confusions to do that and his later stuff is very Latin. However, as I have shown to Jnorm, and we really have strained this gnat to death, the Nicene Creed, at least in its exposition of the Father and the Son, means the EXACT THING WE MEAN. Athanasius is a bit harder to nail down.

Ryan said...

Thanks for the link and tip.

Nick said...

On the issue of the Essays, here are my thoughts.

It seems as if the requirement of the contest was to read Robbins' book and write a medium sized 'book report' about it. I say this because of the 3 Essays, you were the only one which quoted numerous sources outside of Robbins' book. The "top two" Essays basically confined themself to summarizing what Without A Prayer said (I've not read the book myself). Your Essay was definitely the most robust and advanced of the 3, but that could be why it didn't make the cut.

While I thought the first two essays were well done, and that the first essay was better than the second, I was surprised that the first essay didn't present the Presuppositionalist/Scripturalist case (as yours and the second place did).

That said, in my study of Presuppositionalism, it seems that it is based on some very shaky foundations itself, so despite the well done refutations of Rand I don't think Presup' is a necessary/logical alternative. This is seen especially in the Presup' understanding of Politics. For example, what about Presup' demands a Constitutional Republic? Nothing, as far as I can tell, particularly when the Scriptures never speak of such a political theory. In fact, under the Presup' view I don't see how any government can be legitimate if they lack the Scriptures, despite the fact Romans 13 grants legitimacy to secular powers.

And when you said "government is a function of sin," I don't see how this makes sense either. For not only is the Kingdom of God not a function of sin, but Adam was Patriarchal head of humanity aside from sin.

Lastly, I don't see how Presuppositionalism is compatible with Romans 1B, since it says man can know right and wrong based on Reason and Natural Law.

Ryan said...

That is true. I mentioned to a friend that I might have confined myself more to summary than indulgence in lines of argument I thought were stronger than those Robbins made. I have also thought that it could have something to do with the fact I've already placed in previous years or maybe to do with a recent discussion with the editor on monergism and synergism in salvation which may have turned him off to publicizing me. Both of these latter possibilities seem dubious, though.

"That said, in my study of Presuppositionalism, it seems that it is based on some very shaky foundations itself..."

Presuppositionalism per se or my specific position? The former seems obvious enough:

"The demonstration of a proposition, such as any 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, at least until the axioms could be demonstrated. But if the axioms rest on prior principles, and if these too must be demonstrated - on the assumption that every proposition requires demonstration - the proof of our original theorem would never be finished. This means that it would be impossible to demonstrate anything, for all demonstration depends on indemonstrable first principles. Every type of philosophy must make some original assumptions" (Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey, pg. 88)

If "every proposition requires external justification," this proposition too requires external justification. As this leads to a justificatory process that cannot be completed by definition, it's self-defeating. Therefore, some proposition[s] must be presupposed. This isn't to say the presuppositions must be arbitrary, though, as I attempt to show in that paper.

"For example, what about Presup' demands a Constitutional Republic?"

Politics is not my particular area of interest, and so at this point I admit to using inference to the best solution. Perhaps there are multiple coherent models, which would not surprise me given that politics is essentially a pragmatic application of ethics; unfortunately, I have loaned out my copy of Robbins' Freedom and Capitalism, but to mention a few measures according to which we can delimit the proper functions of government:

- Daniel's civil disobedience in Daniel 6 indicates that a properly functioning government should not preclude the worship of God. This is fairly obvious.

- Acts 5:4, Romans 4:4, commands against theft, etc. indicate a support of private property, even from the government (cf. 1 Kings 21).

- Romans 13 describes one purpose of government to be a deterrent to sin, and commands and punishments for sin elsewhere prescribed imply the same.

- Taxation is a legitimate means of sustaining government.

Etc. If you are curious about how a presuppositionalist would defend a political view, the TrinityFoundation has mp3s and articles by John Robbins on the subject. This is not to say I would necessarily endorse his views, but at present I am occupied by too many other things to attempt a fuller defense.

Ryan said...

"In fact, under the Presup' view I don't see how any government can be legitimate if they lack the Scriptures, despite the fact Romans 13 grants legitimacy to secular powers."

What do you mean by "legitimate"? They would have been ordained by God - and so be legitimate in one sense - and yet it is certainly ideal that any government operate within the bounds of Scripture - and so be potentially illegitimate in another sense.

"For not only is the Kingdom of God not a function of sin, but Adam was Patriarchal head of humanity aside from sin."

I suppose that is true. Perhaps it turns on the definition of government.

"Lastly, I don't see how Presuppositionalism is compatible with Romans 1B, since it says man can know right and wrong based on Reason and Natural Law."

A few points:

Firstly, it is a non sequitur to argue that from observation of what is the case we can infer what ought to be the case. You would have to apply to Scripture, as you are doing right now, to justify such a practice.

Secondly, natural law faces all the problems of an empirical epistemology (for a brief critique, see another TF essay of mine here).

You will have to specify which verses you think support natural law. Are you referring to Romans 1:18-21, 32? I will argue these refer to man's innate a priori equipment with which which man is born and, upon the occasion of experience, renders him without excuse for suppressing the sensus divinitas. Or are you referring to Romans 1:26-27? I don't deny homosexuality is unnatural, just the means by which one who holds to natural law claims to discover such.

Nick said...

Sorry for the delay.

(1) You had asked:
"Presuppositionalism per se or my specific position? The former seems obvious enough:"

I was speaking of Presuppositionalism itself, and the fundamental error is summed up in what you said next:
"This isn't to say the presuppositions must be arbitrary, though, as I attempt to show in that paper."
In order for a given presupposition to not be arbitrary means you must arrive at that presupposition in some 'rational' manner, which contradicts the very thesis that states we must *begin* with presuppositions. What you're describing is closer to classical apologetics than anything. For example, if you're presupposing the Bible is God's Word, then you're espousing fideism by definition. But if you come to the conclusion the Bible is God's Word through various 'preliminary' proofs/arguments, then you're not presupposing the Bible is God's Word at all.


(2) You later said:
"What do you mean by "legitimate"? They would have been ordained by God - and so be legitimate in one sense - and yet it is certainly ideal that any government operate within the bounds of Scripture"

What I mean by legitimate is able to actually function as a government (e.g. have the God given right to taxation). If a government lacks the Scriptures, then it lacks the very information to function as a government, according to Presup'. The reason is because aside from the Scriptures there is left no basis by which to formulate laws in the first place. But since we know governments can know that various aspects of the Ten Commandments are wrong (and thus legislate on them) even if they don't have the Scriptures, then Presup' cannot be true.

(3) I will look at your article against Natural Law, but I was referring most specifically to Romans 1:20, 26-27. If one cannot discern what is natural from a Reasoned reflection upon Creation, then it's non-sequitor for Paul to speak in categories of natural/unnatural. Instead, the reason why homosexuality would be wrong is because God said so, aside from anything encoded into nature.

Ryan said...

"In order for a given presupposition to not be arbitrary means you must arrive at that presupposition in some 'rational' manner, which contradicts the very thesis that states we must *begin* with presuppositions."

We can gauge whether or not a [set of] presupposition[s] is or are arbitrary by examining that which can and can't be derived from it or them. My presupposition is that "Scripture comprises the extant extent of what can be known."

Now, for such a statement to be true implies, for example, that I know 1) the propositions for which each of these respective words stand, 2) that the proposition adheres to principles or laws of logic, 3) that it is self-attesting, 4) that it is the revelation of a self-authenticating, omniscient person or person, 5) that it explains how this knowledge is communicated to us, 6) that it accounts for the possibility self-knowledge, etc. Without answers to these questions, adherence to this or any proposition will be arbitrary.

However, it remains a presupposition because all of these points and fuller answers to them must be derived from Scripture. They may be necessary conditions for knowledge - that is, necessary for any worldview to be true - but I cannot demonstrate them to be such without first presupposing Scripture to function as a sufficient condition for knowledge.

"For example, if you're presupposing the Bible is God's Word, then you're espousing fideism by definition. But if you come to the conclusion the Bible is God's Word through various 'preliminary' proofs/arguments, then you're not presupposing the Bible is God's Word at all."

They aren't "preliminary" proofs. The fact is, there is a mutual dependency inherent in the relationship between an epistemic presupposition and the theorems which follow from it. One is only as good as the other, even if it is by the former that we have the latter.

"What I mean by legitimate is able to actually function as a government (e.g. have the God given right to taxation)."

So then you meant:

"...under the Presup' view I don't see how any government can be [able to actually function as a government] if they lack the Scriptures..."

Nothing can function consistent with an inconsistent worldview. It can, however, function inconsistently.

"If a government lacks the Scriptures, then it lacks the very information to function as a government, according to Presup'."

True.

"But since we know governments can know that various aspects of the Ten Commandments are wrong (and thus legislate on them) even if they don't have the Scriptures, then Presup' cannot be true."

That begs the question: how can they know the 10 Commandments apart from Scripture? Again, I would argue that the enforcement of the 10 commandments would be inconsistent if not done because it is Scriptural. This doesn't mean they can't enforce it, it just means they can't enforce it consistently.

"If one cannot discern what is natural from a Reasoned reflection upon Creation, then it's non-sequitor for Paul to speak in categories of natural/unnatural. Instead, the reason why homosexuality would be wrong is because God said so, aside from anything encoded into nature."

As I said in my last response, the issue is not whether homosexuality is unnatural, the issue is the how we can identify it as unnatural. What you think constitutes a "reasoned reflection" is not, for the reasons I outlined, sufficient to know homosexuality is unnatural.

Nick said...

Of those 6 principles, five of them seem purely arbitrary, and #2 ("laws of logic") naturally precludes Presupposing.

The "laws of logic" work independent of Divine Revelation; they're how many things get accomplished without any recourse to Scripture. And other sources of knowledge, such as most of the historical record, also don't rely (substantially) on Scripture. So when it comes to the Bible's credibility, any fair minded individual can judge the Books from an historical and logical perspective. There wont be any presupposing the Bible is God's Word since any Faith exercised will instead be an extension from a sound Reasonable basis.


You said:
"Nothing can function consistent with an inconsistent worldview. It can, however, function inconsistently."

Sure, but there are degrees of inconsistency. It isn't all or nothing. Nothing necessitates that a government or any body has no legitimacy simply because they are not 100% consistent. This is verified both from the examples of pagan governments in Scripture as well as the general witness of nations throughout history.

Ironically, almost no Protestant will claim their own denomination holds all truth, and in fact emphatically state no 'church' has the fullness of truth. So even the Protestants who claim to have a consistent world-view by possessing and properly understanding the Scriptures don't even claim to have a 100% consistent denomination.


You asked:
"how can they know the 10 Commandments apart from Scripture?"

Broadly speaking, Natural Law (a Reasoned examination of Creation) reveals the fundamental principles behind the 10 Commandments. This is the only way to explain how nations throughout history have known that murder, theft, lying, etc, were wrong and legislated accordingly. They were wildly inconsistent in the applications of these, but they none the less could tell. There had to have been some basis for this.


You said:
"the issue is not whether homosexuality is unnatural, the issue is the how we can identify it as unnatural"

Why can we not examine Creation itself? Science and teleology show homosexuality is unnatural. Anything else collapses into Divine Volunteerism, where X is sinful simply because God says so.

Ryan said...

"Of those 6 principles, five of them seem purely arbitrary, and #2 ("laws of logic") naturally precludes Presupposing."

Well, I've provided extensive arguments that all six are preconditions for knowledge on this blog, some of them quite recently.

"The "laws of logic" work independent of Divine Revelation; they're how many things get accomplished without any recourse to Scripture."

The laws of logic are a necessary condition for knowledge. They are not a sufficient condition for knowledge. Scripture is the sufficient condition for knowledge. To be clear, by "knowledge" I mean "propositional belief in which the possibility of error is precluded."

"And other sources of knowledge, such as most of the historical record, also don't rely (substantially) on Scripture."

I claim these are not sources of knowledge. You are going to have to defend the tenability of an empirical theory of knowledge against the arguments such as those I mention in the post to which I linked you.

"There wont be any presupposing the Bible is God's Word since any Faith exercised will instead be an extension from a sound Reasonable basis."

Have you attempted such a defense? I would be interested to read it.

"Sure, but there are degrees of inconsistency. It isn't all or nothing. Nothing necessitates that a government or any body has no legitimacy simply because they are not 100% consistent."

That's what I said, assuming your use of "legitimacy" here is univocal with your earlier definition.

"This is the only way to explain how nations throughout history have known that murder, theft, lying, etc, were wrong and legislated accordingly."

When you refer to natural law, am I not correct in inferring you are including in it the concept that the discovery of these moral values is at least in part derived via observation of the physical world? What do you mean by "know"?

"Why can we not examine Creation itself? Science and teleology show homosexuality is unnatural."

Teleology has to do with the purpose of things. But you cannot really be arguing that we can know the purpose of a thing via observation? Even on the assumption observations are reliable, seeing two people procreate does not imply that it is the purpose that people in general should procreate. That's not only inductive reasoning, it's a non sequitur.

Furthermore, who is to say that homosexual activity has no purpose? Perhaps it is purported to be a means to the end of pleasure. On what basis could you object to that apart from divine revelation?

"Anything else collapses into Divine Volunteerism, where X is sinful simply because God says so."

Nick, you are conflating moral ontology with moral epistemology. What it means for something to be wrong is one thing. How we know that is another. My issue is with the latter, not the former. I am not a nominalist. Good is character disposed and actions intended to maximally manifest God's glory, the teleological end of all things. Thus, goodness reflects God's own nature.

Nick said...

>>Well, I've provided extensive arguments that all six are preconditions for knowledge on this blog, some of them quite recently.>>

We might be in partial agreement then. Things like Logic are not something we presuppose, and thus they're building blocks for coming to other conclusions.

>>The laws of logic are a necessary condition for knowledge. They are not a sufficient condition for knowledge. Scripture is the sufficient condition for knowledge. To be clear, by "knowledge" I mean "propositional belief in which the possibility of error is precluded.">>

The possibility of error exists by the mere fact we're human. Even the most plain statements of Scripture can be misinterpreted. I think one issue that you're either failing to distinguish or not mentioning is that of Natural versus Revealed knowledge. No amount of human reasoning can autonomously come to know Revealed knowledge. If the distinction between Natural and Revealed knowledge is not made, then this conflates the created and divine order. (Not saying you've done this)

>>I claim these are not sources of knowledge. You are going to have to defend the tenability of an empirical theory of knowledge against the arguments such as those I mention in the post to which I linked you.>>

From what I understood of your post, you argued that it's impossible to approach history in an unbiased manner, and thus "history" is nothing more than (unreliable) opinions of historians. That's not what I think the historical record is about. The historical record is about historical evidence, and from that has to be analyzed and conclusion formed. If someone makes a historical claim, I should be able to evaluate it to some degree. For example, if a 2nd century Father quotes one of Paul's Epistles, and there is good reason to accept the Father was 2nd Century, then I can reasonably conclude Paul's Epistle dates back relatively close to the Apostles. If you deny such an approach is possible/valid, then you can neither make nor defend historical claims. The worst part about that skepticism is the fact the Gospels are based on real history, especially the Resurrection, which now cannot be coherently defended.

>>Have you attempted such a defense? I would be interested to read it.>>

I have not attempted such a defense, but only because I consider there to be lots of good resources out there, including Protestant sources. For example, as a historical fact, there are numerous historical manuscripts and fragments of Scripture, which show from a purely natural standpoint that the Scriptures we have today go back to the timeframes they claim they originate in and the records show they have not been tampered with. Both of which are extraordinary testimonies compared to other historical documents. From examples such as these, we have good reason to accept their claims to Divine Inspiration and are not relying on some 'burning in the bosom' fideistic type approach.

>>That's what I said, assuming your use of "legitimacy" here is univocal with your earlier definition.>>

There has to be a good explanation for how there can be different degrees of consistency despite lacking the Scriptures. The only explanation I can conceive of is different degrees in one's consistent application of Reason, Logic, etc. For example, if one comes to recognize that murder is wrong, a consistent extension of that would be to recognize abortion is wrong. It doesn't take the Bible to make that conclusion.

(cont 1 of 2)

Nick said...

(2 of 2)

>>When you refer to natural law, am I not correct in inferring you are including in it the concept that the discovery of these moral values is at least in part derived via observation of the physical world? What do you mean by "know"?>>

Yes, it is largely derived by observation of the physical world. That's why God gave us senses. Thus to "know" something is to take in information about it and form conclusions about it. To presuppose something is the opposite of to know it.

>>Teleology has to do with the purpose of things. But you cannot really be arguing that we can know the purpose of a thing via observation? Even on the assumption observations are reliable, seeing two people procreate does not imply that it is the purpose that people in general should procreate. That's not only inductive reasoning, it's a non sequitur.>>

We can know the purpose of many things by observing/analyzing them. The purpose of the mouth is to breath, eat, and communicate. When it comes to your example of procreation, from observation it is plain that the reproductive faculties are for urination and procreation. And given that all humans are equipped like this does necessitate that people in general should procreate and should preserve their species.

>>Furthermore, who is to say that homosexual activity has no purpose? Perhaps it is purported to be a means to the end of pleasure. On what basis could you object to that apart from divine revelation?>>

Pleasure can never be the sole or sufficient criteria to evaluate an action since anything can give pleasure (including irrational pleasures). Homosexual acts frustrate the teleological purpose of the sexual organs.

>>Nick, you are conflating moral ontology with moral epistemology. What it means for something to be wrong is one thing. How we know that is another. My issue is with the latter, not the former. I am not a nominalist. Good is character disposed and actions intended to maximally manifest God's glory, the teleological end of all things. Thus, goodness reflects God's own nature.>>

I'm just trying to establish that we can know certain things are wrong or right because wrong/right is dependent upon whether the action conforms to the teleological function of the thing. In the example of homosexuality, I don't see how you could say it is wrong aside from Divine Revelation stemming from a Divine fiat.

Ryan said...

“We might be in partial agreement then. Things like Logic are not something we presuppose, and thus they're building blocks for coming to other conclusions.”

Logic is not presupposed? How do you prove logic without presupposing logic?

“The possibility of error exists by the mere fact we're human.”

This statement is itself possibly erroneous, then. Denial that one can “know” a proposition as I have defined “knowledge” is self-defeating. The definition is designed to be that way.

“Even the most plain statements of Scripture can be misinterpreted.”

Sure. But this isn’t a condemnation of knowledge; it’s an affirmation of the need for a stringent set of interpretative standards.

“No amount of human reasoning can autonomously come to know Revealed knowledge.”

I completely agree. Grace is necessary – indeed, for Calvinists, it is sufficient – to cause belief in divine revelation, and as such it too is a precondition for knowledge.

“From what I understood of your post, you argued that it's impossible to approach history in an unbiased manner, and thus "history" is nothing more than (unreliable) opinions of historians. That's not what I think the historical record is about. The historical record is about historical evidence, and from that has to be analyzed and conclusion formed. If someone makes a historical claim, I should be able to evaluate it to some degree.”

I made many more criticisms of an empirical epistemology than the subjectivity of sensation – see the bullet points in that link – and I’m not sure you understand the implications of the arguments. In your illustration of “a 2nd century Father [who] quotes one of Paul's Epistles,” the point is I would question that you can even know this in the first place. When you later speak about “historical fact[s],” I question how you know they are facts.

“If you deny such an approach is possible/valid, then you can neither make nor defend historical claims. The worst part about that skepticism is the fact the Gospels are based on real history, especially the Resurrection, which now cannot be coherently defended.”

That begs the question. Why do you think an empirical epistemology is the only method by which one can know history? I, like Augustine, believe God efficiently or immediately mediates knowledge to men’s minds.

“From examples such as these, we have good reason to accept their claims to Divine Inspiration and are not relying on some 'burning in the bosom' fideistic type approach.”

Lol. Your confidence piques my interest in how you know sensation is reliable.

“There has to be a good explanation for how there can be different degrees of consistency despite lacking the Scriptures.”

That’s easy enough: some worldviews are more inconsistent than others. Betrand Russell, for example, took humanism to its logical conclusion – cynicism. That doesn’t mean humanism is logical, it simply means an argument can be valid yet unsound.

“It doesn't take the Bible to make that conclusion.”

True. It does, however, take the Bible to establish the premise that murder is wrong.

“Yes, it is largely derived by observation of the physical world. That's why God gave us senses.”

Well, how do you know that? How do you respond to my criticisms of sensation? Why can’t sensations alternatively be stimulants to opinions, opinions which, because we can apply what ethics we know to them, we are able to act upon?

Ryan said...

“To presuppose something is the opposite of to know it.”

You never addressed Clark’s argument against this. Suppose I ask you how you know this statement of yours is true. Presumably, you will give me a reason. Then I will ask you how you know that reason is true. You will give me another reason. But then I will again ask you how you know that reason is true. Since you reject presuppositionalism, you will give me yet another reason. But then I will still ask you how you know that reason is true. And so on, ad infinitum. The problem for you is that you cannot know this statement you make is true unless you can justify each and every reason for it; but this chain of reasoning, since it never ends, cannot be completed, so you can’t know it. By reduction ad absurdum, presuppositionalism is true.

“We can know the purpose of many things by observing/analyzing them. The purpose of the mouth is to breath, eat, and communicate.”

How does observation tell you that? I observe death every day. Do I infer from this that the purpose of men is to die?

“When it comes to your example of procreation, from observation it is plain that the reproductive faculties are for urination and procreation. And given that all humans are equipped like this does necessitate that people in general should procreate and should preserve their species.”

Again, even if an empirical epistemology were sound – and it’s not – observation can, at most, tell us what the case is. It does not tell us what ought to be the case. The fact I observe sins does not imply I should sin.

“Pleasure can never be the sole or sufficient criteria to evaluate an action since anything can give pleasure (including irrational pleasures).”

So? On what basis do you state there are irrational pleasures?

“I'm just trying to establish that we can know certain things are wrong or right because wrong/right is dependent upon whether the action conforms to the teleological function of the thing.”

And I’m just trying to establish that our knowledge of the teleological function of a thing cannot come via an empirical epistemology.

“In the example of homosexuality, I don't see how you could say it is wrong aside from Divine Revelation stemming from a Divine fiat.”

You keep trying to peg me with Voluntarism for some reason. I already said I deny that. My real issue is with your moral epistemology.

Nick said...

>>How do you prove logic without presupposing logic?>>

I would start by saying you cannot prove anything you presuppose. You can put forth a theory and try to confirm it, but presupposing and proving are opposites. Logic is employed in the act of reasoning, starting with the realization that X is not Y.

>>This statement is itself possibly erroneous, then. Denial that one can “know” a proposition as I have defined “knowledge” is self-defeating. The definition is designed to be that way.>>

It's possibly erroneous, but the Reasoning behind it would have to be shown to be unsound. I'm not presupposing man is fallible.

>>it’s an affirmation of the need for a stringent set of interpretative standards.>>

The notion of "interpretative standards" doesn't make sense in a presuppositional scheme. The correct interpretation must "jump out" in virtue of presupposing the perspicuity of Scripture. And one's perspicuous reading must be taken as "certain".

>>When you later speak about “historical fact[s],” I question how you know they are facts.>>

Because they've been validated in some manner. I cannot see any way you could defend the historicity or accuracy of the manuscripts of Scripture. How are you going to evaluate history from the year 100AD to the present day when the Bible doesn't cover that period?

>>Why do you think an empirical epistemology is the only method by which one can know history? I, like Augustine, believe God efficiently or immediately mediates knowledge to men’s minds.>>

God can infuse knowledge, but that's not the norm nor a replacement for Rational investigation. Augustine was not a presuppositionalist by any means; just the opposite.

>>Your confidence piques my interest in how you know sensation is reliable.>>

If the senses cannot be trusted, then what can? The fact the senses have been repeatedly shown to be trustworthy (even though naturally limited) makes it the only tenable option. We live every day using the senses. The alternative is that God gave the senses merely to take in noise.

>>some worldviews are more inconsistent than others>>

Agreed, but you're not explaining how one can derive a consistent world view to any degree if one lacks the criteria to get the Scriptures in order to derive a world view. How could Bertrand conclude Humanism ends Cynicism if he lacked the tools to (a) formulate a definition of Humanism in the first place and (b) follow it to its logical conclusion?

>>It does, however, take the Bible to establish the premise that murder is wrong.>>

This just takes us back to my original point. How did all the pagan nations in history know murder was wrong? Your only option is to say they didn't know, they just made up an arbitrary law.

(1 of 2)

Nick said...

(2 of 2)
>>Well, how do you know that? How do you respond to my criticisms of sensation?>>

Through Reason and the senses, we recognize such a thing as intelligibility in creation and come to conclude there is an almighty creator, and that He enabled us with senses precisely so we could survive and seek Him out. The only alternative is that the senses are taking in pure noise and illusion.

>>Why can’t sensations alternatively be stimulants to opinions, opinions which, because we can apply what ethics we know to them, we are able to act upon?>>

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Either the senses are able to take in reliable information or they are not.

>>The problem for you is that you cannot know this statement you make is true unless you can justify each and every reason for it... By reduction ad absurdum, presuppositionalism is true.>>

That's a horrible argument. If I am giving a *reason* for X, you should be able to evaluate the tenability of it. If I say 2+2=4, I can give multiple proofs of this. What you're saying is that none of the proofs could be valid, and the only alternative is to presuppose the answer is 4. This can even be applied to Scripture, for example Mark's Epilogue (the "Longer Ending"), do you examine manuscript evidence or do you just presuppose the "Longer Ending" is inspired? That's assumption, not knowledge.

>>I observe death every day. Do I infer from this that the purpose of men is to die?>>

Yes, you can conclude man's natural end is to decompose and die.

>>observation can, at most, tell us what the case is. It does not tell us what ought to be the case. The fact I observe sins does not imply I should sin.>>

It's not observing alone, it's using the faculty of Reason to process the data. So you're not just witnessing sin and copying it; you're evaluating the action and choosing to repeat or not repeat it.

>>So? On what basis do you state there are irrational pleasures?>>

Pleasures that go contrary to Reason are, by definition, irrational pleasures.

>>And I’m just trying to establish that our knowledge of the teleological function of a thing cannot come via an empirical epistemology.>>

I don't need Genesis 1 to tell me the purpose of the sun is to provide light/heat. This really comes down to whether you believe creation is intelligible.

>>You keep trying to peg me with Voluntarism for some reason. I already said I deny that. My real issue is with your moral epistemology.>>

Why is homosexuality wrong aside from the fact the Bible condemns it? Or is it wrong simply because the Bible condemns it, just as the OT Bible forbids pork?

Ryan said...

“I would start by saying you cannot prove anything you presuppose. You can put forth a theory and try to confirm it, but presupposing and proving are opposites. Logic is employed in the act of reasoning, starting with the realization that X is not Y.”

You didn’t answer my question. How do you prove logic without presupposing logic? If you have to use logic to prove logic, that is circular reasoning. Now, I don’t think all circles are vicious, but that’s because I assert that presuppositions and the theorems deduced from it are mutually dependent. But as you don’t believe presuppositions are epistemically legitimate, I await an answer to my question.

“It's possibly erroneous, but the Reasoning behind it would have to be shown to be unsound. I'm not presupposing man is fallible.”

You made that comment in response to my definition of knowledge as “propositional belief in which the possibility of error is precluded.” How is the fact that men can err relevant to that definition unless you were implying men necessarily can err? Either this is a rabbit trail or you are backtracking. I suspect the latter.

““The notion of "interpretative standards" doesn't make sense in a presuppositional scheme. The correct interpretation must "jump out" in virtue of presupposing the perspicuity of Scripture. And one's perspicuous reading must be taken as "certain".”

Perspicuity and self-authenticity are indeed preconditions for knowledge, but I never stated that one will necessarily apply logical principles to the understanding of Scripture. But this is obviously one of the stringent standards required for correct interpretation. Misuse of a sufficient source is not an indication the source is insufficient and so forth. You should be familiar with this.

“Because they've been validated in some manner. I cannot see any way you could defend the historicity or accuracy of the manuscripts of Scripture. How are you going to evaluate history from the year 100AD to the present day when the Bible doesn't cover that period?”

Why do I need to defend their historicity or accuracy on empirical grounds when I am not subject to your apologetic constraints? I take God at His word, which is incomparably more “trustworthy” than sensation.

“God can infuse knowledge, but that's not the norm nor a replacement for Rational investigation. Augustine was not a presuppositionalist by any means; just the opposite.”

Nevertheless, have you read Augustine’s theory of divine illumination in De Magistro? You should. All knowledge is efficiently communicated to our minds by God.

“If the senses cannot be trusted, then what can? The fact the senses have been repeatedly shown to be trustworthy (even though naturally limited) makes it the only tenable option. We live every day using the senses. The alternative is that God gave the senses merely to take in noise.”

God’s word can be trusted. What does it even mean to “trust” a sensation? What does it mean to “trust” a smell qua smell? Did you rather mean to say that your interpretation of sensations? But on what basis is this interpretation made? Reason? What does that mean, Nick?

One cannot sense insensible objects such as propositions, so by what means do you infer some proposition is related to some sensation? One cannot objectively individuate physical objects via sensation, so on what non-arbitrary basis is the classification of said object made?

These and other points I have made beg the question as to what role sensation can play in knowledge acquisition, which is the reason I provided an alternative. Sensations are, at most, occasions upon which we are stimulated to certain opinions, opinions which, because we can apply what ethics we know to them, we are able to act upon.

Ryan said...

“Agreed, but you're not explaining how one can derive a consistent world view to any degree if one lacks the criteria to get the Scriptures in order to derive a world view. How could Bertrand conclude Humanism ends Cynicism if he lacked the tools to (a) formulate a definition of Humanism in the first place and (b) follow it to its logical conclusion?”

By borrowing from the Christian worldview without acknowledging it. Russell and other unregenerates retain the image of God; they possess rational faculties, and as such, they can reason validly. But because they begin with false presuppositions, they can’t reason soundly. Hence, they may be more or less consistent, but at no point can they be said to philosophically know anything.

“This just takes us back to my original point. How did all the pagan nations in history know murder was wrong? Your only option is to say they didn't know, they just made up an arbitrary law.”

It is not for me to prove that pagan nations knew history at all, for I deny that they did. It is for you to prove there were pagan nations in the first place.

“Through Reason and the senses, we recognize such a thing as intelligibility in creation and come to conclude there is an almighty creator, and that He enabled us with senses precisely so we could survive and seek Him out. The only alternative is that the senses are taking in pure noise and illusion.”

I asked for rebuttals, not generalities and bare assertions.

“That's a horrible argument.”

How do you know? But seriously, is that supposed to be a joke? This is a basic argument for foundationalism, Nick.

“If I am giving a *reason* for X, you should be able to evaluate the tenability of it.”

The point is that the means by which I evaluate the tenability of it either must be on the basis of whether it follows from some other proposition, in which case that proposition’s truth value is in turn in need of evaluation, or whether it is a sound presupposition, a presupposition not derived from a proposition but rather evaluated on the basis of what sort of epistemic system it yields.

“If I say 2+2=4, I can give multiple proofs of this. What you're saying is that none of the proofs could be valid, and the only alternative is to presuppose the answer is 4.”

That is clearly false, and I would note that you could not have made a worse analogy, as Clark himself patterned his presuppositionalism after geometry. Recall:

//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, at least until the axioms could be demonstrated. But if the axioms rest on prior principles, and if these too must be demonstrated - on the assumption that every proposition requires demonstration - the proof of our original theorem would never be finished. This means that it would be impossible to demonstrate anything, for all demonstration depends on indemonstrable first principles. Every type of philosophy must make some original assumptions (Gordon Clark, Thales to Dewey, pg. 88)//

“This can even be applied to Scripture, for example Mark's Epilogue (the "Longer Ending"), do you examine manuscript evidence or do you just presuppose the "Longer Ending" is inspired?”

It is presupposed. Do not conflate the historical process by which I come to accept what is true with the justificatory process. The former is only known by the latter.

Ryan said...

“Yes, you can conclude man's natural end is to decompose and die.”

Interesting. Where did I say anything about man’s “natural” end? But given your answer, why do you oppose suicide?

“It's not observing alone, it's using the faculty of Reason to process the data. So you're not just witnessing sin and copying it; you're evaluating the action and choosing to repeat or not repeat it.

Again, telling me that reason is involved is not specific. How is reasoning involved? What criteria do I use to evaluate actions?

“Pleasures that go contrary to Reason are, by definition, irrational pleasures… I don't need Genesis 1 to tell me the purpose of the sun is to provide light/heat.”

Well, you need divine revelation at any rate. If you persist in your denial, how do you know? What is your [alternative] epistemology, Nick? This is the most important question in philosophy, so I would hope you have considered these things.

“Why is homosexuality wrong aside from the fact the Bible condemns it?”

Because it is an attempt to circumvent the natural order in which man ought to be united to, if anyone, woman, a relationship of which Christ’s union with the church is archetypal. But why homosexuality is wrong and how I know homosexuality is wrong are distinct issues.