Sunday, February 17, 2013

Illumination and Self-Knowledge

Before effectively banning me from further comments on his post on assurance, Sean Gerety, “replying” to my link to a chapter Clark has written on the subject in which he clearly supports self-knowledge by stating, among other things, that “We know that we know the Lord by keeping his commandments,” objected to my view on the grounds that it allegedly requires assured knowers to be infallible. He cites a quote by Clark to this effect. What he fails to mention is that he had earlier made the same argument to me privately, and I told him I never said knowers were infallible. In fact, I pointed out I have said just the opposite: the knowledge by which we have sufficient reason for assurance can be lost. Sean and I agree God’s truth is infallible and our possession of such is not. But that does not mitigate against the fact we can indeed [unmistakably] know infallible truth. As John Robbins said,
Truth and error are opposites. Truth, by definition, neither contains error, nor is uncertain, nor is liable to error. Knowledge, by definition, is apprehension of what is true. One cannot be said to know what is false. One can have false information, but one cannot have false knowledge. “False knowledge is a contradiction in terms.” What is true cannot be in error. What is known cannot be false. Therefore, knowledge is infallible. (Without a Prayer, pgs. 255-256)
Similarly, Clark notes that the very prophets who were the mediums God spoke infallible truth through were themselves fallible (cf. Karl Barths Theological Method, pg. 226). These men knew themselves, yet they were not infallible. Further, on pg. 245 of that same book, Clark not only distinguishes between inspiration and illumination but also explicitly supports the second premise of my argument for self-knowledge, viz. that only regenerates can justifiably recognize the Bible to be the word of God. As Sean has both conflated inspiration with illumination - once again misrepresenting my actual position in the process by asserting I must claim “extra-biblical revelation” - and said unregenerates can have epistemic knowledge, he really ought to read the following paragraph very closely:
Second, Barth confounds the inspiration of the Scripture with the illumination of the reader. He commends Luther for insisting that the word of Scripture can be recognized as God’s word only because of the work of the Spirit which has taken place in it takes place again and becomes an event for its readers. This second work “is only a continuation of the first.” Now, if this were so, the readers would soon be writing more Scripture; for since the first work of the Spirit, his work in the prophets, resulted in the writing of the Biblical books, a continuation of the same work would result in additional books of the Bible. Undeniably there is an illumination of some readers of the Bible. By the testimony of the Spirit a man is convinced that the Scripture is in truth the Word of God; by the Spirit’s illumination a believer may come to an understanding of a better understanding of this or that passage. Luther was right when he insisted that the Bible can be recognized as the Word of God only because of the work of the Spirit; but this is a totally different and distinct work. To recognize that the Bible is the Word of God is not to receive an additional Ten Commandments. Barth also quotes Calvin, Institutes I, ix, 3. But neither the quotation nor the chapter from which it is taken supports Barth’s view. Calvin is discussing the testimony and illumination of the Spirit, not the inspiration of the Bible; and he gives no hint that this work in the believer is only a continuation of that in the prophets. Quite the reverse: the chapter is entitled, “The Fanaticism Which Discards Scripture under the Pretense of Resorting to Immediate Revelations.” How better could Calvin deny that illumination is the same work as that which occurred in the inspiration of the Bible?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Knowledge

I’ve recently been thinking quite a bit about meta-epistemology. Around this time last year, I wrote some thoughts on necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge. I’d like to update some of those thoughts here, first [re]quoting something epistemologist Richard Fumerton wrote (link):
The classic test for whether a condition for knowledge, say the truth of what is believed, is analytically necessary is whether or not it is absolutely inconceivable that someone has knowledge while failing to satisfy the condition. The test for whether a conjunction of conditions X is jointly sufficient for knowledge is whether we can conceive of X obtaining without knowledge.
Necessary conditions are most useful when constructing apagogic arguments. They are like tests used to falsify worldviews. They delimit possibilities. Worldviews which reject or have unsound perspectives of principles of logic and language, for instance, cannot account for knowledge. The adherents of these worldviews will accordingly be unable to account for their true opinions, precluding knowledge.

This is relevant to my aim to “marry the intuitive appeal of classical apologetics with the necessity of epistemic preconditions for knowledge” (link). The, or at least a, goal is to instrumentally effect belief with which one can agree but for which the opponent’s epistemic system cannot account. The apologist starts by deconstructing the opponent’s worldview. He shows it to be internally inconsistent, lacking in explanatory power, etc. But this leaves the opponent with a problem. He may intuitively recognize that his system fails to satisfy a necessary condition for knowledge, but how can he account for this recognition without a sufficient condition for knowledge, a precondition for knowledge such that no other epistemic requirement is necessary to explain how he could be certain that what he claims to know [about his or my worldview or any other proposition] is, in fact, true? He can’t. What happens in such a case is that the apologist shows a person his inconsistencies. The person then accepts truth, but he isn’t yet able to justify this. He senses that something is wrong when a person points out his self-defeating propositions, and naturally so, for although his capacity to reason soundly has been lost, he is still able to reason validly.

The sufficient precondition for knowledge he must accept to reason soundly is Scripture. I have provided on this blog several necessary preconditions for knowledge intended to help “delimit the possibilities” and point readers in this direction. The hope is that those who disagree recognize something is wrong with their worldview and that they need to change what they believe. But the simple fact is that one can’t strictly reason from necessary preconditions of knowledge to a sufficient precondition for knowledge. Given that we are not omniscient, it would be speculative to take a collection of necessary conditions and pronounce that they are sufficient for knowledge (indeed, there is a necessary condition for knowledge related to this). It has to be the other way around: one must know the sufficient precondition for knowledge first. This is not to say the alleged sufficient condition will be arbitrary. As already mentioned, it will need to be able to account for all necessary preconditions for knowledge. But ultimately, one must support the idea that some [axiomatic or presuppositional] propositions may be and are internally rather than externally justified. I’ve written more about the mutual dependency between axioms and it attendant theorems here and elsewhere.

Now, it is clear one cannot reject that or those principle[s] which suffice for knowledge yet still possess knowledge, at least given said principle[s] alone suffice[s]. But I think one can reject a necessary principle yet possess knowledge. Why? Because he may simply be being inconsistent; that is, it may be the case that from what he accepts as sufficient follows the necessary principle[s] but that the person does not realize it. If upon a logical examination of a worldview itself the necessary principles would be compatible with it, then the possibility that one might erroneously reject said principles would not mitigate against his worldview and, thus, what he has actually derived from it. 

So when I refer to a “necessary precondition for knowledge,” what I mean is a proposition which must be accountable within a worldview for it to be true. The laws of logic, a philosophy of language, an omniscient source, self-knowledge, etc., must be necessarily possible for Scripturalism as such to be true, though individual Scripturalists really only need to hold to the sufficient condition - divine revelation in general and the Bible (as the extant extent of divine revelation) in particular - by which these propositions may be justified in order to possess knowledge.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Communicability of Self-Knowledge

In a recent post, I said:
I can know that I myself am elect without knowing anyone else is. Paul names specific elect individuals in his letters. Why should my knowing that I am elect be any more of a problem than the fact these individuals could know that they were elect even during their own lifetimes? 
One objection to this has been that I can’t have deduced self-knowledge from Scripture, for if I had, it would be truth I could “readily communicate to others.” I said in that post that this objection is question-begging. To expand on that, why does philosophic knowledge require that I be able to communicate the account of my knowledge to others?

Given Scripturalism, divine revelation is necessary and sufficient for philosophic knowledge. So suppose that God revealed “[no one] knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person,” allowing for trivial exceptions like God. Now, would I be able to prove to you, reader, that I actually believe this to be divine revelation? Not necessarily. After all, Scripturalism would dictate that your knowledge of my knowledge of what I actually believe must come through divine revelation. Even if you could know things about me, I’m not unquestionably trustworthy. So apart from divine revelation, what I would say I believe isn’t necessarily what I actually believe. You could take what I say I believe for granted, but your belief about what I believe is still opinion, not knowledge. But would an inability on my part to epistemically enlighten you about my reflexive knowledge mean I am myself am unable to account for it? Of course not, given a person’s thoughts can be known by his spirit.

And remember, the argument for self-knowledge I have provided isn’t predicated on my ability to show that I actually believe it or, for that matter, any other proposition. Once again, here is the argument:
P1. Knowledge precludes the possibility of error.
P2. If you may not be a sheep, you cannot know you’ve heard the voice of the Shepherd.
P3. If you cannot know you’ve heard the voice of the Shepherd, you cannot know which propositions are God-breathed.
P4. If you cannot know which propositions are God-breathed, you cannot know anything.
P5. You may not be a sheep.
C. You don’t know anything.  
P1. is by definition (cf. link).
P2. and P3. follow from John 8:43-47, 10:1-5, 26, 1 John 4:1-6, etc. Essentially, the point is that only regenerates can know the canon of Scripture (link) because only regenerates can know that they aren’t suppressing God’s self-authenticating and revealed truth in unrighteousness.
P4. is Scripturalism. 
Which premise requires my belief in it in order for the reader to know it? I have shown that at the present time, beliefs about oneself and particularly one’s regenerate status are knowable. That doesn’t imply anyone else can know that I actually believe any of what I’ve argued, but it’s still an account for the general necessity of self-knowledge. Focusing on whether I actually know myself doesn’t affect the truth or falsity of this argument. So even if it were a problem (though it’s not) that I can’t directly communicate my self-knowledge to others, this objection is a red herring against the above argument.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Emotions and Propositional Correspondence

A few posts ago, in the course of rejecting any sort of metaphysical monism, whether mental or propositional (idealism) or corporeal or physical (physicalism), I mentioned that things-in-themselves can correspond to propositions:
I think a better definition would be that a person is an ego, the possessor of a mind or minds capable of reflexive indexation. These words could each be defined and each definition could be true without its being the case that some “real” Ding-an-sich can’t correspond to them. I think the so-called empirical representational theory of truth in which truth images the physical reality to which it merely corresponds scared Clark away from any type of correspondence – hence the seeming propositional monism.
See here as well:
Metaphysically, Scripturalism does not necessarily promote a purely mental realm. Propositional truth, however, maintains a logical primacy over a “physical” realm insofar as the latter is a creation patterned after the former. The physical qua physical cannot be “known” by definition; knowledge is propositional belief in which the possibility of error is precluded. In other words, this is a sort of opposite to the correspondence theory of truth; it is a correspondence theory of corporeality in which the physical provides a sensible representation of eternal truth. 
While the priority of the correspondence is a question worth exploring - are [some] propositions true because they correspond to some metaphysical thing-in-itself, or are some [and especially physical] things-in-themselves “real” because they correspond to some truth? - these questions about theories of truth and the relationship between epistemology and metaphysics are obviously quite intricate. A little too intricate for this post. I’ve stated some thoughts on the former elsewhere (here and here, for example). For now, I’ll content myself with yet another shot at the idea Christianity is compatible with propositional monism. Given the necessity of knowledge (see here and here), it seems clear that it would be the only type of monism which would’t prima facie be necessarily self-defeating. 

But take emotions. What are they? Gordon Clark defined an emotion as “something unusual, sudden, exceptional...some kind of upheaval...involuntary...has no intellectual content...not volition” (cf. Today’s Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine, pgs. 18-19). Obviously, in the course of defining an emotion, Clark uses propositions. But equally apparent is his belief that emotions are not propositional. He says “knowledge and the emotion are different.” 

Now, how compatible this is with his statement on pg. 15 that these non-intellectual, non-voluntary “are not always good. Sometimes they are sinful” is a matter of debate. If the command to emote would indeed be irrational as Clark says on pg. 21, then it would seem emotions themselves cannot be sinful. But if Clark’s definition is acceptable, then I see plenty of room for discussion about correspondence between propositions and things-in-themselves. Metaphysics wouldnt collapse into epistemology, at least not in toto. On the other hand, if emotions are taken to be propositional, I think that in addition to the question of whether emotions could be commanded and obeyed, such would make it much harder to defend anthropopathic language in Scripture and, by extension, divine impassibility.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Knowledge and Assurance

From Clark’s Today's Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine?

Page 91:
The people mentioned in Matthew 7:22ff. had assurance. Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? But Jesus replied, Depart from me, I never knew you. As the profoundly theological Negro spiritual says, Everybody talkin’ ‘bout heaven ain’t goin’ there. Micah 3:11 says, “The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money yet will they lean upon the Lord and say, Is not the Lord among us? None evil can come upon us.”  
It is clear therefore that there is a feeling of assurance that is not real assurance. Just because a person believes that he is saved is an insufficient reason for thinking that he is saved. It may be suggested for sober consideration whether or not those who are most easily assured of salvation are least likely to be saved.
What is a “sufficient reason” for thinking that one is saved? Having established that 1 John was written for “giving direction on how assurance can be obtained,” Clark wrote:

Pages 93-94:
Since the epistle was written for this purpose, it is one of the best places in the Bible to find directions. I John 2:3 says, “Hereby we do know that we know him—if we keep his commandments.” Recall the lament, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?” But these people were condemned because they had not acted righteously. They may have walked down the aisle, shaken someone’s hand, and signed a card; but they were workers of iniquity. Remembering some emotional experience would do them no good. We know that we know the Lord by keeping his commandments. Another test by which we may come to assurance is given in 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” Later in the same chapter it says, “Let us love. . . in deed and in truth; and hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” Again, “He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him; and hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”  
II Peter 1:5 does not explicitly mention assurance, but the section has to do with God’s “exceeding great and precious promises” with which he “called us to glory and virtue,” so that the remainder of the section describes how we may be assured of profiting by those promises. Verse five then says, “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to your virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance. . . for if these things be in you, and abound, they shall make you that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  
Without minimizing the other items in this list, it is well to emphasize knowledge. If one wishes assurance, he will try to increase his knowledge. Knowledge is mentioned twice in the section. Therefore, if one wishes assurance that he is regenerated, let him ask himself, Do I study the Scripture? How much of it do I know? Some people know so very little; some people believe so very little; some evangelists must have so very little assurance.
Let anyone who thinks Clark is possible using “knowledge” in a colloquial sense first define “colloquial knowledge” and then substitute it into the above to see if it makes sense. For instance, suppose colloquial knowledge is functionally equivalent to “opinion.” Is Clark really arguing an opinion can be a “sufficient reason” for thinking one is saved? Is Clark really asking, “Do I study the Scripture? How much of it do I [opine]?” Does Clark really think that when discussing assurance, “it is well to emphasize [opinion]”? Or when Clark says, “We know that we know the Lord by keeping his commandments,” is the sort of belief state to which he refers one which could be false?

Each of Clark’s Scriptural citations shows he applied them to present day believers who may on those accounts be assured or know his salvation is genuine. These tests cannot be met with satisfaction by those with false assurance. Of course, I can’t take the test for you, reader, nor you for me. I can’t even know you. But that doesn’t mean I can’t know myself. That doesn’t mean I can’t know I am saved. I can know that I myself am elect without knowing anyone else is. Paul names specific elect individuals in his letters. Why should my knowing that I am elect be any more of a problem than the fact these individuals could know that they were elect even during their own lifetimes? 

Now, such knowledge of assurance may be incidental rather than essential to salvation, and so one may lose his assurance. But similar to my present inability to know [about the salvific status of] others, this too is not relevant. Just as our justification is grounded in Christ alone yet requires our faith, so too knowledge is grounded in Scripture alone yet requires our faith. We can’t know without knowing of our faith, knowing that it is put in the right source. 

Why would anyone unable to know he is saved be assured that he is saved? Why would people like Sean Gerety be “free from doubt” about their own salvation if it is possible that they are not saved? What sort of assurance is that? I obviously don’t deny “knowledge” can be used with non-epistemic senses in mind, but imagine John writing a letter to people who are unable to know that they are his intended audience. Denying self-knowledge comes at the expense of denying assurance. Sure, they could opine these things, but so could false believers. Real assurance and false assurance can only be separated by knowledge. As the Westminster Confession says in its chapter on assurance,
I. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed. 
II. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption. 
III. This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness. 
IV. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never so utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.
The WCF subsumes “infallible assurance” under that which a Christian is “enabled by the Spirit to know.” Contrary to Sean, this is not mere psychology. Certainty, infallibility, evidences, and knowledge are epistemological concepts, and the WCF uses these in relation to assurance. 

I noted this and the epistemic statements Clark makes on assurance in conversations with Sean, I’ve simply received no reply to either point. I’ve still received no reply to my arguments for self-knowledge (link 1, link 2). So I really don’t know what else Sean wants from me. Sean really has a bad habit of dismissing my conclusions without engaging the arguments. For instance:
I should think someone could know on the basis of divine revelation that David was King of Israel while denying that a person is justified by belief alone, through Christ alone, and by grace alone. I don’t see how it follows that regeneration is a prerequisite for any knowledge whatsoever even on Scripturalist terms. Regeneration is a necessary precondition for someone to come to believe in the one true God and Savior Jesus Christ, something it would seem Hedrich lacks (at least according to the evidence). 
Notice too, that for Hedrich the presumed knowledge of his own regeneration, his own election, is incommunicable, yet he asserts it is a “good and necessary consequence.” But “good and necessary consequence” from what? His bellybutton? He certainly hasn’t deduced his eternal blessed state from the Scriptures otherwise it would a truth he could readily communicate to others.
Aside from begging the question in his last sentence, I provided an explicit syllogism in my last post outlining, from Scripture, why I think self-knowledge of one’s own regeneration is a precondition for philosophic or epistemic knowledge:
P1. Knowledge precludes the possibility of error.
P2. If you may not be a sheep, you cannot know you’ve heard the voice of the Shepherd.
P3. If you cannot know you’ve heard the voice of the Shepherd, you cannot know which propositions are God-breathed.
P4. If you cannot know which propositions are God-breathed, you cannot know anything.
P5. You may not be a sheep.
C. You don’t know anything. 
P1. is by definition (cf. link).
P2. and P3. follow from John 8:43-47, 10:1-5, 26, 1 John 4:1-6, etc. Essentially, the point is that only regenerates can know the canon of Scripture (link) because only regenerates can know that they aren’t suppressing God’s self-authenticating and revealed truth in unrighteousness.
P4. is Scripturalism. 
Where has Sean dealt with this syllogism? Which premise does he deny, if not P5? Where has Sean answered this:
Sean, do you opine the canon of Scripture or know it? If the former, does that not mean your axiom and its attendant theorems could be false, in which case knowledge is impossible? If the latter, do you not agree that such would necessitate that you are regenerate due to the fact only God's sheep listen to, hear, and follow the voice of the Shepherd (1 John 4, John 8, 10)? If so, then why isn't that self-knowledge? Or if you would not agree, why not? 
Or what about Romans 8:16 and 1 Corinthians 2:11, both of which I cited in support of self-knowledge? In reply to another commentator, Sean said that 1 Corinthians 2:12 would appear to be a reference to knowledge in the strict sense.” So if it’s strict in 2:12, why not 2:11? 

What is the point is replying to me if you have no interest in answering any of my questions or arguments, Sean?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Behind Closed Doors

A while ago, I posted a conversation from a Clark discussion board between myself and Monty Collier on the subject of synergism and sanctification (link). This board has also been quite useful in my working out a coherent view of the Trinity and self-knowledge, among other doctrines. For example, recently, Sean Gerety directed the following post by John Robbins at myself and another member:

It seems that when a discussion gets underway on this list some members prefer to return to the question of whether one can now know one is saved. Then follows all sorts of confusion that would take days to sort out, probably to no one's satisfaction. So no progress is made.   
First, the issue is not skepticism. Even if a sinner cannot know (in the proper sense of the word) that he is saved -- and so far no one has shown that he can -- Scripturalism furnishes us with many truths when all other methods fail, and so skepticism is avoided.  
Second, knowledge requires explicit statements in Scripture or deductions from Scripture. It is not the same as assurance or certitude or certainty.  
Third, opinions may be true or false. (It is absurd to say that some propositions are neither true nor false.) So Jack's (a hypothetical person) opinion that he is saved may indeed be true, but no one has yet shown how he can deduce it from Scripture. Those who think he can so deduce it must show how it can be so deduced -- but don't try it here for at least a year.  
Fourth, Jack's failure is not due to any doubt about Scripture (and it is impossible to doubt a proposition one believes -- one either assents or one does not) but solely to the problem of self-knowledge. He knows the major premise, All believers are saved. He opines the minor premise, I am a believer. Therefore the conclusion, I am saved, can rise no higher than opinion. 
Finally, the question is not how does one know one knows? but how does one know? Scripturalism says, one knows only by explicit statements in or valid inferences from Scripture. 
Now, gentlemen, move on to another topic. 

My reply was short:

Sean, do you opine the canon of Scripture or know it? If the former, does that not mean your axiom and its attendant theorems could be false, in which case knowledge is impossible? If the latter, do you not agree that such would necessitate that you are regenerate due to the fact only God's sheep listen to, hear, and follow the voice of the Shepherd (1 John 4, John 8, 10)? If so, then why isn't that self-knowledge? Or if you would not agree, why not? 

Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, I never received a response to this inquiry. After three or four other members made arguments for self-knowledge from Scripture and the WCF, Sean singled out one, a person who with whom I've corresponded for years, by writing:

Mary, do you think someone who denies that Jesus Christ is the one true God and Lord, maker of heaven and earth (John 1:1-3), has any reason to believe, or if you prefer, know, they are a child of God?

Aside from the fact John 1:1-3 does not mention "the one true God," it will not escape the attention of the critical reader that Sean is changing the subject. He started a discussion on self-knowledge. When faced with several challenging objections to his skeptical position, he transitions to Trinitarianism.

Now, I have no objection to discussing Trinitarianism and have done so for months. But I've had enough conversations with Sean to recognize his bait-and-switch. Clearly, Sean's comment is irrelevant to the topic he started. For even if we suppose I am not a Christian, would this refute my argument? No. Despite our disagreements, I assume Sean considers John 8, 10, and 1 John 4 to be canonical. So if these passages teach that one who is not a sheep is not regenerate and cannot hear, follow, or listen to the voice of the Shepherd, then the argument still appears to stand. That I would not be able to know it would not be relevant to whether Sean could be able to know it.

Nevertheless, although she handled Sean deftly, Sean made a few more misrepresentations before I was able to respond. Naturally, the concern for me which this poster showed prompted me to write a summary of why I hold certain Trinitarian views, correcting Sean where appropriate:

Hi Mary. I'm not sure how much exposure you have had to several issues relevant to why I hold to the Trinitarianism of the Nicene Creed, Novatian, Alexander of Alexandria, Athanasius, and other early church fathers rather than that of Calvin, Van Til, or Clark. So before answering your questions, I thought it would be best to give a broad sketch of some of this material.   
Firstly, I think all Trinitarians would agree with a few tenets:   
1. Monotheism: there is one God. 
2. The Father is God, the Son (Jesus) is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. 
3. The Father is distinct from the Son, and both are distinct from the Spirit. 
4. The Father, Son, and Spirit each univocally though distinctly possess divine attributes: each is omniscient, eternal, good, etc. Each possesses a mind and a will. On the other hand, they are individuated or distinguished from one another by properties: for instance, only the "first person" is the Father, only the "second person" is the Son, and only the "third person" is the Spirit. They have different thoughts (e.g. "I am the Father") and make different choices with their different wills (e.g. "I, the Son, will to die"), though all of these variances are with the same purposes and ends in mind, of course. 
For the past 6 months or so, I have been attempting to reconcile point 1 with point 2. Without qualification, point 2 seems to be an indication of support for tritheism. In fact, I think Sean's position logically resolves either into my own or into tritheism. As it stands, Sean can't consistently affirm point 1, monotheism (see my concluding paragraphs). 
The solution I came to was to affirm that what the phrase "one God" means in point 1 is not the same as what "God" means in point 2. In point 2, I think the word "God" means "divine [nature]" or "deity." The Father, Son, and Spirit are each able to be called "God" because each possesses the divine attributes or divine nature. But "[one] God" has more than one meaning. Clearly, when Jesus is said to be the "Son of God," he is not the Son of a divine nature or set of divine attributes - He is the Son of a particular person, the Father. 
So one meaning of God is Father. Another meaning of God is divine. I think John 1:1-2 supports this: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with [the Father], and the Word was [divine]." The Word was not the Father, which is Sabellianism. Nor was the Word with some abstract divinity, for the Word Himself is divine.   
Now, when we examine the passages in which the New Testament which refer to the "one" God (Mark 10:18, 12:29, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Romans 3:30, Galatians 3:20, Ephesians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:5, James 2:19) or "[only] true" God (John 3:33, 5:44, 17:3, Romans 3:4, 16:27, 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 1 Timothy 1:17 1 John 5:20), we find that they each refer to the Father alone. Thus, I think monotheism is true because we have one Father: "Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?" (Malachi 2:10). But Trinitarianism is also true because there are three distinct yet equally divine persons. And while this post is primarily about what Scripture and logic dictate - we are Protestants, after all - please note that the Nicene Creed refers to the Father as the one God, not the Trinity. 
You might wonder why the Father alone is called the one God if the Son and Spirit are really equal with Him in respect to their divinity. The reason is to be found in the different properties each possesses. The Father, Son, and Spirit are each equally divine. But only the Father is uncaused: the Son and Spirit are, respectively, eternally begotten and eternally spirated of or from the Father. It is for that reason they are subordinate to the person of the Father. It is analogous to a human relationship between a father and son: when a father begets or generates a son, that son possesses humanity. The son is no less human than is his father. But because the son derives humanity from or has humanity communicated to him from his father, he is subordinate to his father. The obvious difference between this and the Trinity is that the relationship between the Father and Son/Spirit is eternal, not temporal, and divinity is communicated rather than humanity.   
So the Son and Spirit are co-equal in respect to nature but not in respect to person[al properties]. If they were co-equal in the latter case, then there really is no reason that one person should obey the other. The relationships themselves would be arbitrary. 
I think this is a fair summary, and I am of course willing to expand on or point you to posts in which I elaborate on these arguments, so to answer your specific questions: 
"So it is a matter of semantics, then?" 
In one sense, yes, and in another sense, no. Sean seems to deny that "God" can have multiple meanings, so semantics is relevant. But these semantics have significant implications. 
"But Ryan (and I ask this with all humility), when Jesus says I am my Father are ONE---would this language not be considered the same as “one God?”" 
Define "one God." We would agree they are not the same person, right? But isn't the "one God" a person? If so, then doesn't it make more sense to say that Jesus and the Father are one in some other sense (e.g. John 17:11, 21-23)? 
With respect to what Sean says, then, he is lying when he says I deny the full divinity of the Son and Spirit. He is equivocating when he says I don't believe the Son and Spirit are co-equal with the Father. He is raising a red herring in citing Thomas' confession. The truth is, I tried for several months to get him to answer specific questions about Trinitarianism, and he has offered no reply. He says the Father, Son, and Spirit have one will. I ask if the Father willed to die or assume humanity as did the Son. No reply. He says the Son and Spirit are autotheos and aseity. I ask how then the relationships among the Trinity can be non-arbitrary. No reply. He says there is one God because there is one definition of God. I ask if there is one person because there is one definition of person. No reply. He says the Father, Son, and Spirit are inseparable. I ask how that establishes monotheism. No reply. He says I'm a Unitarian. I ask if he thinks the early church - including the primary opponent of Arius with whom my position is in full agreement - was comprised of Unitarians. No reply. [I am being polite when I say his historical understanding of the Trinity is skewed.] Etc. 
So why does he bring up the Trinity now, in a completely different context, after failing to respond for so long? Honestly, it is because he realizes he is facing another uphill struggle on yet another topic: my arguments for the necessity of self-knowledge. In my first post, I use the Socratic method to anticipate the possible responses he could have to my questions. Since the answers to these questions lead to a rejection of his denial of self-knowledge, he blatantly changes the subject, making the same misrepresentations for which I have corrected him dozens of times. He used the same bait-and-switch method when we discussed the Trinity. Will he respond to the arguments I make for the Nicene view of the Trinity in this comment? I really don't have anything else to say. Just watch and see. 
I hope your worries are calmed and that you are doing well. Thank you for your kind words.

I have said all of this on my blog at one time and in one form or another. However, seeing it in all at once puts into perspective how systematic Trinitarianism really is. As I said, the discussion board has been useful. In any case, my prediction about the substance of Sean's reply quickly came to fruition:

While Ryan calls me a liar, keep in mind that despite his attempt to paint his view as "Trinitarian," he admits he rejects any view of the Trinity that would be recognized by "Calvin, Van Til, or Clark" not to mention the Westminster Divines or any Christian church anywhere. Further, while pretending to hold to the Nicene creed (he doesn't) he completely rejects the Athanasian creed which states in part: 
"So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity."
I think you'll figure out shortly who is the liar.

Again, what had I just said in my last comment?

"Will he respond to the arguments I make for the Nicene view of the Trinity in this comment? I really don't have anything else to say. Just watch and see." 
Called it. 
Again, this is just what occurred in our discussions several months ago. I make half a dozen or so Scriptural and logical arguments for my view, and Sean passes these by, instead focusing on historical theology. Although Sean is being disingenuous in his representations of this history, even if he weren't, none of it could bind my conscience.
But this is well-trodden ground before. I ask Sean who the Nicene Creed calls the one God, the Trinity or the Father. No reply. I ask Sean whether the Creed says the Son is God of Himself (autotheos) or God of God. No reply. So who is really pretending to hold to the Nicene Creed? Look no further than the person who thinks the Trinity is the one God or that the Son [or Spirit] is autotheos: Sean. 
Does Sean explain why I should accept Calvin, Van Til, or Clark's view? No. Does he explain why I should accept the Athanasian Creed? No. Does he respond to any criticisms of their views which I have made? No. Does he interact with the works of early church fathers on whom I have commented? No... Is this all sounding too familiar? 
Now, if I cared enough, I could perhaps find support for my Trinitarian position in Reformed authors. But given that historical theology isn't conscience-binding, I really find it ridiculous for Sean, a fellow Scripturalists of all things, to use it [with less than stellar effect] as his primary rebuttal. That's a Roman Catholic method, not a Protestant one. Nevertheless, I recall several statements which support my view with which Sean cannot agree. One is given by Jonathan Edwards who, speaking of the immanent Trinity, eternally subordinates the Son and Spirit to the fount of divinity, the Father, so as to non-arbitrarily explain their economic activity: 
"Though a subordination of the Persons of the Trinity in their actings, be not from any proper natural subjection one to another, and so must be conceived of as in some respect established by mutual free agreement, whereby the Persons of the Trinity, of their own will, have as it were formed themselves into a society, for carrying on the great design of glorifying the deity and communicating its fullness, in which is established a certain economy and order of acting. Yet this agreement establishing this economy is not to be looked upon as merely arbitrary, founded on nothing but the mere pleasure of the members of this society, not merely a determination and constitution of wisdom come into from a view to certain ends which it is very convenient for the obtaining. But there is a natural decency or fitness in that order and economy that is established. 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 as the Father is first in the order of subsisting, so he should be first in the order of acting. That as the other two Persons are from the Father in their subsistence, and as to their subsistence naturally originated from him and are dependent on him, so that in all that they act they should originate from him, act from him and in a dependence on him. That as the Father with respect to the subsistences is the fountain of the deity, wholly and entirely so, so he should be the fountain in all the acts of the deity. This is fit and decent in itself. Though it is not proper to say, decency obliges the Persons of the Trinity to come into this order and economy. yet it may be said that decency requires it, and that therefore the Persons of the Trinity all consent to this order, and establish it by agreement, as they all naturally delight in what is in itself fit, suitable and beautiful." 
Finally, it seems Sean is a little huffy that I call him a liar. Sean, you don't get kid gloves any more. You don't get the benefit of the doubt. I've bent over backwards to explain my view to you dozens of times, and if you still don't see fit to correctly represent it, I have no problem calling you out. If you want to use this as your excuse to exit this conversation - an exit which, I suspect, was and is forthcoming in any case - that doesn't bother me. My responses to you are no longer to convince you but to prevent you from doing spiritual and intellectual harm to others. Your allegiance to Clark is taking precedence to Scripture, whether you realize it or not. 

This particular discussion really is a microcosm of our months of discussion. Sean picks a topic. I respond. Sean switches topics. I point this out but respond anyway. This continues for a while, then Sean waits a few weeks and starts the process all over again. It's one charade after another. The difference is, I expect it now. It is perhaps for this reason that the conversation took a rather nasty turn after my last comment above. In my last blog post, I pointed out Sean's hypocrisy in moralizing on his blog while making backhanded remarks behind closed doors. As a close to this post, I hope readers will remember the following as just one more evidence of this (Sean's comments are indented, my replies are not):

You're losing it Ryan. Now you're threatening me? Do you really think I'm afraid of you? Like I've said before you are a very arrogant young man. A theologically blind one too. More concerning is that you sound like someone on the verge of a nervous breakdown. That's no joke. I don't think you're well. I mean, you're arguments to Patrick were so bizarre (I hope to blog on it soon) that I really started to fear for your mental health.  
My advice to you is get off the Internet for a couple of months and devote your time to studying the Scripture and prayer. Good advice for anyone really. In your case I would recommend mediating specifically on those passages of Scripture that affirm the equality of the Son to the Father. Maybe then with doubting Thomas you may one day call upon Jesus Christ as your Lord and God too. 
And, you're right, we really don't want people with an allegiance to Clark on a Clark list. 8-P 

Supposed threats and my mental health... well, at least these are new. But they are even less worthy of a response than your arguments, if that is possible.

I am serious Ryan. I don't think you're well.

I guess when all else fails, one is left with questioning his opponent's sanity to justify ignoring his arguments.