Friday, July 23, 2021

Book Review: Scripturalism and the Senses (Part 9)

Links to all parts may be found here. This part will contain a review and evaluation of Mr. Lazar's eighth chapter in his book, Scripturalism and the Senses.

Is Scripturalism Fundamentally Tied to Internalism?

Because both this chapter and Mr. Lazar's last chapter are so integrally tied to understanding the difference between internalism and externalism, I thought I'd begin this review with some prefatory comments. 

One of the only objections I've seen from fellow Scripturalists to the idea that Scripturalism is tied to internalism is the thought that divine revelation is something "external" to us. If divine revelation is something distinct from us, does that not mean that it is "external" to us? Such objections betray a complete unfamiliarity with what internalism and externalism actually mean. I cited contemporary epistemologist Michael Williams in a post long ago that succinctly explains the difference:

Internalism is the view that, to be justified in holding a belief, we must have “cognitive access” to its “justification-makers.” So-called “externalist” theories of knowledge and justification, by contrast, allow epistemically appropriate believing to result from factors of which we are not aware.

Now, at the end of my last review, I linked to posts I've written (including the above) in which I further explain why I think Scripturalism is tied to internalism, a particular view of epistemic justification. While Scripturalism may also be compatible with externalism in some contexts, one's "basic epistemology," as Clark put it, ought to involve a first principle that is self-authenticating or self-justifying. This means that one can be aware of or have cognitive access to the epistemic justification for one's first principle, for the epistemic justification does not come from any external factors. 

Is divine revelation something that is distinct from us? Of course. But is divine revelation cognitively accessible? Yes, it is. We can reflect upon, meditate upon, and be aware of divine revelation, the extant extent of which is codified in Scripture. In fact, this is one of the reasons that I mentioned in an earlier review that Scripturalists ought to regard our epistemic foundation, not as a physical and non-propositional texts, but rather as the [propositional] contents which the texts codify. Hence, Scripturalism is fundamentally tied to internalism even if it is compatible with [other] beliefs being epistemically justified or "known" on externalist grounds.

I really am not trying to suggest that I know it all. I don't. But it is admittedly frustrating to hear these kinds of objections when I have already anticipated such objections in and by providing definitions of the very terms in question, definitions I honestly doubt objectors have even thought to consider. I can only hope that, at some point, contemporary Scripturalists get with the times if they really want to start identifying with contemporary labels. I am aware of several Scripturalists who seem to think Scripturalism is fundamentally tied to externalism, not internalism. I hope these reviews cause them to rethink their position.

Anyways, if I can give Mr. Lazar credit for one thing, it is that he does not seem unwilling to read contemporary philosophers in general or epistemologists in particular, something I've recommended Scripturalists need to do for a long time now (link). He has not made the mistakes I am addressing above. I only thought it would be worthwhile to deal with them here and remind readers of the definitions for internalism and externalism as I proceed to review Mr. Lazar's eighth chapter.

Sense Knowledge, Internalism, and Externalism

I mentioned that Mr. Lazar provided what were, in my mind, several good biblical cases of extra-biblical knowledge. In this chapter, Mr. Lazar seems to want to pursue his point a bit farther, citing several biblical stories to strengthen his case. Unfortunately, I didn't think the examples he picked were well chosen. 

For example, Clark might have chuckled at Mr. Lazar's choice to argue for sense knowledge based a story from the Bible in which sense deception occurred. Now, as a quote early on in Mr. Lazar's chapter shows, Clark didn't deny sense experiences, even if he overemphasized metaphorical cases involving them. So yes, in the story of Isaac and Jacob, Isaac's ears heard, eyes saw, and hands felt, just as God created them to do. Isaac is nevertheless tricked into a false belief that was [seemingly] caused by his senses. There is a book called Clark Speaks from the Grave, and I fancy that I can almost myself "hearing" Clark ask from beyond the grave, "how then can one trust whether his senses have caused a true belief?" This is a fair question, and I will return to it below.

Returning to the story and Mr. Lazar's arguments, it does appear Jacob makes an assumption that "if I do not dress up, Isaac will not be deceived." However, that assumption wouldn't itself imply Isaac would have otherwise known Jacob was appearing before him. That is, what Jacob may assume in this story isn’t explicitly validated, much less is it implied that any of the individuals in the story would have had or did have knowledge due to sensation. In other words, this story doesn't help Mr. Lazar's case.

Likewise, when Mr. Lazar brings up "doubting Thomas," we follow the story and read that Thomas would not believe that Jesus rose again unless he saw and touched Him. Jesus later rebuked Thomas for wanting to believe on the basis of sight. Mr. Lazar's conclusion that "the Bible assume the validity of the senses and their ability to furnish us with knowledge" (emphasis mine) does not follow from this story. Neither in this story nor in the story of Jacob and Isaac do we read anything about individuals acquiring or acting based on knowledge. Such responses would have sufficed for Clark to defend his epistemology without having to appeal to the sorts of metaphors Mr. Lazar notes he usually did. I think this recommends apologetic conservativism to us, another point I will return to below.

But that's boring! So while the following is entirely hypothetical, let's instead imagine that Clark read Mr. Lazar's chapter and felt especially responsive. Let's say that he not only was satisfied with replying along the above lines but also replied that these stories have more to do with metaphysics (causation of beliefs) rather than epistemology (beliefs that can be viewed as known).

Mr. Lazar might respond that, in such a scenario, Clark would be assuming that the two have nothing to do with one another. That is, perhaps the manner in which true beliefs are caused, for example, itself can function as epistemic justification. This would be to suggest externalism: we can refer to true beliefs as being known if they have been caused in a particular, divinely designed manner. We may not be aware of the causal process that was divinely ordained (hence, at least one justificatory factor is external), but we can hypothesize that the causal process occurred.

As was already noted above, Clark could just reply that these biblical stories are not evidence for an externalist theory of epistemic justification. In fact, since the passages say nothing about knowledge, it is actually Mr. Lazar who would be making the assumption. Even though this is a hypothetical, since Mr. Lazar did bring these passages up in a chapter on sense knowledge, the charge does seem to be applicable. It also foretells why Mr. Lazar would have been better off sticking to explicit Scriptural cases of extra-biblical knowledge rather than unnecessarily attempting to multiply examples. 

But rather than pursuing that consideration at this point, let's consider what else Clark might have said. Since Clark was interested in distinguishing between cases of knowledge and opinion, suppose he asked Mr. Lazar the following question: can one who has "knowledge" in an externalist sense distinguish such "knowledge" from an opinion, or is it only third-parties (like God) who can be consciously aware of what externalist "knowledge" we possess? 

Say one had two beliefs - one which was an untrue opinion and another which was a true belief that was epistemically justified in an externalist sense such that this latter belief could legitimately be regarded, in an externalist sense, as "knowledge" - could the person be aware of which belief of his is the one that is epistemically justified ("known")? Well, I think Mr. Lazar implicitly admits that he can't:

Clark claimed that you can't affirm the possibility of sense knowledge without first explaining how it works... What's the Neo-Scripturalist response to this objection? To reiterate that we take sense knowledge axiomatically, not on the basis of empirical theories. We know that sense knowledge happens because the Bible says so, not because we can explain how it happens philosophically.

Reading Mr. Lazar carefully, he may be correct that that Bible says we can know that sense knowledge happens in general. But if we cannot tell when sense knowledge actually happens - for what if we are all potential Isaac's with deceitful Jacobs [or the demon of Descartes] plotting to trick us! - then it seems we cannot consciously distinguish our true beliefs that have epistemic justification in an externalist sense from other beliefs of ours which are [potentially false] opinions.

Consider why not: take a belief that is known in an externalist sense. In part, the reason such a belief could be generally regarded as "known" is because at least one element of one's epistemic justification is not reflectively or cognitively accessible. There is at least one contributing factor to one's epistemic justification of which one cannot be aware (precisely because it is "external"). Whatever the external element or contributing factor is, it prevents one's being aware of it and, I conclude, therefore prevents one's being aware that his belief is known in an externalist sense. That is, in the scenario we are considering, one cannot be aware of one's own true belief as anything more than an opinion even if a third party could. For only a third party (like an omniscient God) could be aware of the justificatory factor that is present such that our belief is "known" by us in an externalist sense.

I think that for Mr. Lazar to object to any of this would really mean that he would be positing an empirical theory of knowledge after all, despite his protestations to the contrary. If he were to try to defend the presence of the "external," justificatory factor in a particular sense experience so as to identify when one has sense knowledge, that would suggest Mr. Lazar could be aware of the presence of it after all. It would no longer be "external" to Mr. Lazar but something about which he could be aware. How he could be aware is anyone's guess, but I think it would conform to some empiricist theory of knowledge even if not a pure empiricism.

With the above arguments in mind, what good does it do for, say, God to be aware of what we "know" in an externalist sense if we ourselves cannot be aware of this "knowledge"? Well, we should not too hastily conclude that beliefs which are epistemically justified in an externalist sense are useless (link). Hypothetical reasoning is important, although it's importance is not to be overstated. But the fact that we cannot be aware of externalist "knowledge" we may posses should give us apologetic pause. Which of our beliefs should we fundamentally be attempting to defend: ones that have epistemic justification of which we can be aware, or one's that have at least one justificatory element of which we cannot be aware?

I expanded on this question in my last review, explaining why knowledge that is epistemically justified in a [purely] internalist sense is more fundamental than that which is justified in an externalist sense. Note that Mr. Lazar implicitly agrees in the way in which he defends sense knowledge. Mr. Lazar may say that we should take sense knowledge as axiomatic. But does he really mean that?

I cannot think that he does. Suppose Isaac took it as axiomatic that he was talking to Esau when he was actually deceived! Just because one says he takes something as axiomatic does not mean his belief is true. Sense knowledge is not self-authenticating like God's word is. In fact, Mr. Lazar readily admits that he inferred that (again, not when) sense knowledge is legitimate from God's word: "Neo-Scripturalism accepts sense knowledge on the basis of our master axiom, i.e. the Bible" (emphasis mine). Okay, but if one's belief is inferred or deduced from a prior premise - even the Bible - that belief cannot be regarded as axiomatic by definition. 

Therefore, Mr. Lazar himself seems to implicitly recognize that we defend that we can have beliefs that are epistemically justified in an externalist sense by first appealing to a foundational or axiomatic belief that is epistemically justified in an internalist sense. The truth of divine revelation (in our case, the extant extent of which is Scripture) is self-justifying or self-authenticating; hence, we can clearly reflect on or be aware of this justification. This is a belief which is justified in a [purely] internalist sense. 

What this chapter turns out to be, then, is a further example of how internalism is apologetically more fundamental than externalism. Even if we have beliefs that are epistemically justified in an externalist sense long before we have beliefs that are epistemically justified in a [purely] internalist sense, we cannot be fully assured in a defense of the former until we have the latter. A child can "know" who his parents are in an externalist sense. But a mature ability to defend this kind of knowledge will not be possible until the child grows in grace and knowledge such that his conscious epistemic foundation is God's word, and this is why Scripturalism is intimately tied to internalism. Scripturalists have a conscious epistemology, not an unconscious one.

To return to my opening remarks, Mr. Lazar was better off, in his critique of Clark, bringing up passages like Mark 6:38, 13:28, and 15:44-45. These indeed appear to be instances of "sense knowledge," properly construed in an externalist sense of epistemic justification. That doesn’t mean Clark’s specific focus on the kind of knowledge in which he was interested (link) was wrong, only that it should not be regarded as the exclusive meaning of "knowledge" in all contexts. Clark's implicitly internalist understanding of "knowledge" just sets the context for our being able to defend an externalist understanding of "knowledge."

There are many more reasons for not regarding Scripturalism as fundamentally tied to an externalist theory of knowledge. I've mentioned most of them in other posts. One more reason is that subscription a fundamentally internalist theory of knowledge can allow for cases of externalist knowledge. If we regard divine revelation as our epistemic foundation - one whose justification we can be aware of (precisely because the foundation, of which we are aware, is self-authenticating or self-justifying; link) - then one can, just as Mr. Lazar has, deduce from it examples within that revelation why an externalist theory of knowledge is defensible. If one begins with an externalist theory of knowledge, however, one can never from such "knowledge" deduce that internalist knowledge is possible, for one can never be aware of what he himself actually "knows" in an externalist sense, if anything. 

Clark may well have agreed with all of this had he been given the chance to reflect on it. Personally, I do wish he spoke to these sorts of texts more than mentioning metaphorical cases of sense organs. Nevertheless, I would argue that the context for the kind of "knowledge" Clark is interested in is fundamental to epistemic discussions.


Tactical Apologetics: Recommending a Conservative Approach

I think this chapter is an example of apologetic overreach. I think Mr. Lazar really desires to such forth as much evidence as possible for a position I would even broadly agree is correct: there are biblical examples of extra-biblical knowledge. But if Clark were alive and had the inclination to respond to Mr. Lazar's book, I think it would have been easy for him to respond to this chapter. 

Perhaps Clark would still have dealt with the stronger examples for Mr. Lazar's position. But one can be sure that many others would not. Instead, they would simply respond to Mr. Lazar's weaker arguments, ignore the stronger ones, and act as if they had thoroughly refuted Mr. Lazar. While this would not be done in good faith, Christians should know all too well why acting in bad faith is commonplace and should be our expectation in a world of sin.

This leads me to think that when we are defending our beliefs, we ought to set forth our best critiques of positions with which we disagree. If such critiques are defeated, so be it. We must think again upon 1) whether there are stronger critiques against the position that we hadn't considered, and 2) whether our beliefs on the matter in question are correct. But, if possible, we should be careful not to give those with whom we disagree any room for relief in being able to respond to weak arguments such that they can then posture while ignoring our strongest critiques. 

Apologetics can be a way of dialoguing with friends. I hope Mr. Lazar reads these posts with the understanding that I do not view him as someone who refuses to believe the truth. I myself may stand in need of correction on some points. I am only saying here that I think Mr. Lazar could have effectively said "more" against Clark's view (figuratively) by saying less (literally), focusing only on his strongest arguments and biblical cases that function as evidence for his views. 

With that in mind, I do think another intention of apologetics can be to shut mouths of those who refuse to believe the truth. If we only present our strongest critiques against a position (at least initially), we give stubborn adherents less reason to open their mouths against us. We don't need to say more in order for the Spirit to work in the minds of those with whom we are conversing. His power does not depend on how much we say. If anything, we need to keep our speech focused. As much of this is more so my own strategic opinion rather than a dogmatic assertion, though, I'll leave it at that.

In the next part of my review, I will turn to chapter 9, which Mr. Lazar calls The Bible and Other Sources of Knowledge.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Book Review: Scripturalism and the Senses (Part 8)

Links to all parts may be found here. This part will contain a review and evaluation of Mr. Lazar's seventh chapter in his book, Scripturalism and the Senses.

What Counts as Knowledge?

The stated purpose of the chapter is to answer what one can one know and what counts as knowledge. Mr. Lazar's first subsection in the chapter is called "Clark and Scripturalism on Knowledge and Opinion" (emphasis mine), yet he begins the section with a remarkable admission: he "wasn’t able to find a clear statement by Clark of what he considered to be knowledge." Therefore, Mr. Lazar instead quotes Crampton for his understanding of what knowledge is. 

If Mr. Lazar wanted to evaluate his own philosophy in light of Crampton's thoughts, I would completely understand why he is cited so often in the book. But that Clark's name is in the header implies Mr. Lazar still desires to follow his original intention of the book, "a work of constructive 'Clarkian' thought" (emphasis mine). At some point, it becomes difficult to accept that Mr. Lazar is really comparing his philosophy to Clark's. There is overlap between Clark and Crampton, and I do not wish to imply Mr. Lazar is being deceptive. However, as a reviewer, it is frustrating to untangle to whom Mr. Lazar is really directing some of his replies.

Additionally, what Clark has written about "knowledge" doesn’t appear to satisfy Mr. Lazar, who wants to stick to what the Bible means by the word. This is an understandable goal. However, since the Bible attests to its own truth, there is nothing wrong with, say, apagogically reasoning about what ideas about "knowledge" must be true in order for Biblical consistency to be maintained. This is what I think Clark often did. 

Anyways, there are plenty of places in his published works in which Clark wrote about "knowledge" of which Mr. Lazar doesn't seem to be aware (link). I don't think Clark's epistemology can be given a proper evaluation if one isn't able to establish that with which Clark was concerned. To give three examples:

1) The various Scriptural usages of the verb know raise a problem in apologetics to which a commentary can only allude in a footnote. The common meaning is exemplified in simple sentences, such, “I know that there is a tree on the lawn,” and “I know that David was King of Israel.” But sometimes, both in Hebrew and in Greek know means believe, obey, choose, have sexual intercourse. English too uses the verb in a variety of meanings. In their opposition to the intellectual emphasis on truth, experiential, emotional, mystical, and neo-orthodox apologetes have contrasted the intellectual Greek meaning with the (sometimes) sexual Hebrew meaning. This contrast is misguided because the Hebrew verb and the Greek verb are both so used. More serious than this linguistic incompetence is a flaw or a gap in the apologetics of these apologetes. It is well enough to point out the extended meanings of the verb. The verb is indeed so used. But such information is irrelevant as an argument against intellectualism and truth. The fallacy or defect is that these apologetes fail to explain knowledge in its basic sense. To insist on extended meanings of knowledge is no substitute for a basic epistemology. (The Pastoral Epistles, 1983, pg. 166) 
2) If a system has no starting point, it cannot start, nicht? But a starting point cannot have been deduced or based on something prior to the start, for nothing is prior to the start nest-ce pas? Every system, therefore, every attempted system, must have an original, undeduced axiom. Our dear friend Aristotle noted this, for he argued that if all propositions had to be deduced, they would regress to infinity, with the result that nothing could be deduced. 

Since even Communism cannot prevent one from choosing whatever principle seems best to him, the Christian will choose the God of truth, or, if one prefer, the truth of God. He then proceeds by deduction, that is, by the law of contradiction, for the law of contradiction is embedded in the first word of Genesis. Bereshith, in the beginning, does not mean half-way through. That is to say, Scripture throughout assumes the law of contradiction, viz., a truth cannot be false. Since deduction is necessary inference, no further deduction – let alone induction – can disprove what has already been proved. Accordingly the knowledge possible for human beings consists of the axioms of and the deductions from Scripture. We can indeed entertain opinions about Columbus, and by accident or good luck they may be true; but we could not know it. Our dear pagan Plato, at the end of his Meno (98b) declared, "That there is a difference between right opinion and knowledge (ōrtheme) is not at all a conjecture with me, but something I would particularly assert that I knew." (Lord God of Truth, 1994, pg. 40) 
3) There is a story that at the birth of Louis XIV, Marie de Medici gave birth to twins. Father Joseph wrote a not to Richelieu, who imposed perpetual silence on the midwife. But a Spanish plotter picked up the discarded not and kidnapped the second twin. After training the younger twin, and after Richelieu’s death, the Spaniard managed to catch Louis XIV alone, put him in the Iron Mask, and the twin reappeared as Louis XIV. 
Granted, it is unlikely that anyone should go to such extremes to substitute another woman for the wife of an unimportant theologian or philosopher. But how do you know? So long as substitution is possible, certainty is impossible. Nor is substitution the only danger. For those whose philosophic preparation rises above the level of Alexander Dumas, there are always the prior difficulties of solipsism, subjective idealism, and, let us remember, Descartes’ malignant demon, who, so potent and deceitful, has employed all his artifice to deceive us. Modern philosophers prefer to ignore rather than to confront him. 
With this result the previous question returns. What account shall be given of everyday “knowledge” that common sense thinks it silly to doubt? Don’t I know when I am hungry? Can’t I use road maps to drive to Boston or Los Angeles? Indeed, how can I know what the Bible says without reading its pages with my own eyes? It was one secular philosopher criticizing another who said that knowledge is a fact and that any theory that did not account for it should be abandoned. But all such criticisms miss the point. The status of common opinion is not fixed until a theory has been accepted. One may admit that a number of propositions commonly believed are true; but no one can deny that many such are false. The problem is to elaborate a method by which the two classes can be distinguished. Plato, too, granted a place to opinion as distinct from knowledge; he even admitted that in some circumstances opinion was as useful as knowledge with a capital K. But to dispose of the whole matter by an appeal to road maps that we can see with our own eyes is to ignore everything said above about Aristotle. 

For one last time, therefore, we must summarize and emphasize the whole argument. Consider the philosophy of science outlined in the preceding lecture. There it was claimed and argued that experimental science produced no knowledge whatever of the processes of nature. The laboratory can devise no method for determining whether the Earth moves still while the Sun stands still or whether the Sun moves while the Earth stands still. Nor can the greatest amount of experimentation explain why two smooth pieces of marble adhere so stubbornly to each other. Neither can physics observe anything moving in a straight line. It is incorrect, therefore, to complain that the axiom of revelation deprives us of knowledge otherwise obtainable. There is no knowledge otherwise obtainable. (Clark and His Critics, Pgs. 75-76)

To summarize, the first quote shows that Clark recognized, as Mr. Lazar correctly notes, that the word "knowledge" has a semantic range that depends on the context. Later in the chapter, Mr. Lazar provides biblical examples of extra-biblical "knowledge" that I suspect Clark normally would have, if they weren't Scriptural accounts, categorized as "opinions." I think he would have done so due to an internalist constraint upon knowledge that is implicit both in the above statements (e.g. references to Descartes' demon, our ignorance of substitution as preventing us from knowing our wife, etc. are, from my readings, usually less relevant on externalist theories of knowledge, since such theories often take for granted scenarios in which what one believes is true) and others about his epistemology (link). 

What this means, however, is not that Mr. Lazar has "falsif[ied] the Scripturalist definition of knowledge" (emphasis mine). Rather, he has falsified a Scripturalist constraint upon knowledge, a constraint I have also written against elsewhere (link). This is not to diminish what Mr. Lazar has accomplished! Understanding that other kinds of “knowledge” as biblically legitimate is important. But the distinction between what Mr. Lazar has falsified and what he thinks he has falsified is also important.

Frankly, I honestly can't answer how Clark would have understood, for example, Mark 6:38, 13:28, and 15:44-45, in which people attain "knowledge" apart from divine revelation. Perhaps Clark really would have argued that the uses of "ginosko," in those cases, are examples of when the word refers to [mere] "belief," i.e. opinion, after all. If that would have been his answer, I would find it implausible. That is, if Clark set such a constraint upon "knowledge" that he would only have accepted an internalist and infallibilist form of epistemic justification, then I think he should not have done so. 

Given Clark's acceptance of a semantic range for "knowledge," maybe Clark would have had no issue with the way in which Mr. Lazar, in a later chapter, suggests how these cases can count as "knowledge." However, even if Clark is in need of correction here, as I suspect, I still think Clark is correct that the kind of "knowledge" referenced in those passages no substitute for a "basic epistemology." Why do I say that, and what does that mean for Clark?

If we look back to the bolded section of the first quote, in the context in which Clark mentions possibilities of what "knowledge" means, he mentions the failure of neo-orthodox apologetes to understand what the "basic sense" of "knowledge" is. I believe Clark's point is that "[i]n their opposition to the intellectual emphasis on truth," the neo-orthodox apologete has forgotten that his very apologetic itself presupposes "intellectualism and truth." Apologetics presupposes the sort of "knowledge" Clark had in mind.

As to what kind of "knowledge" Clark believed was needed for a "basic epistemology" and apologetics, I think he was interested, as I mentioned in the above link on meta-epistemology, in beliefs in true propositions sourced in a self-authenticating, axiomatic foundation of which one could be infallibly aware or upon one could reflect. 

I would argue that this kind of knowledge Paul tells the believers at Colossae (2:2-4) he wanted for them: "reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christin whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments."

Keeping in mind the parallelisms of the "word[s] of God" (link, link), no apologetic can falsify a faith grounded in God's self-authenticating word, the extant extent of which is codified in the Bible. If our epistemology is grounded in divine revelation, therefore, we cannot be deluded by plausible arguments or be deceived as Adam and Eve were. They abandoned God's word as foundational. 

Instead, we must reach for a full assurance of knowledge. To be fully assured implies one is infallibly aware of the epistemic justification one has. One cannot have full assurance if he is incapable of reflecting upon his "knowledge," any other epistemic justification of it (e.g. if his knowledge is deduced), or if what he knows is capable of being false. Such incapability may have been true in Mr. Lazar's examples in Mark, in which third-persons (like Jesus or the gospel authors) are describing others coming to know certain things - those examples are compatible with an externalist view of knowledge, and I don't so constrain the semantic range of "knowledge" to eliminate such possibilities. 

But in this passage, Paul is exhorting us to reach for a first-person assurance - and this, I would argue, requires reflective access to that by which we are ourselves fully assured, i.e. a purely internalist view of knowledge. Other kinds of "knowledge" may be legitimately biblical, but I hope it is becoming more clear in what way Clark's understanding of "knowledge" can also be supported by the Bible, even if Clark himself provided no such defense or was overly restrictive in constraining that else to which "knowledge" may refer.

Furthermore, I hope it is becoming more clear as to why this understanding of "knowledge" is necessary for a "basic epistemology" and apologetics. As seen in the second and third quotes above, Clark recognized "knowledge" and "opinion" as two classes of beliefs. If one wants to reach for full assurance regarding his "knowledge," he must do as Clark writes and address "[t]he problem" of "elaborat[ing] a method by which the two classes can be distinguished." 

This is what a basic epistemology does. It answers Clark's often asked question, "how do you know?" It does not, as an externalist theory does, answer how other people might know, or how oneself might hypothetically know [if certain justificatory factors external to oneself and incapable of reflective access are present]. Rather, a "basic epistemology" enables us to be fully assured, and hence internalism and infallibilism are fundamental even if one would admit that other kinds of knowledge are legitimate. 

Moreover, apologetics - as I've mentioned many times in these reviews - is a defense of our epistemology. One must have an awareness of what one is defending: the hope within us. We may reflect and meditate on our hope, we may defend it, and indeed God calls us to do so. Just as with assurance, apologetics presupposes a first-person account of what we are defending (ideally, "knowledge").

In conclusion, Mr. Lazar's statement that "the Bible doesn't limit knowledge to what can be deduced from Biblical propositions" can be taken in one sense in which Mr. Lazar would be right and in another sense in which Mr. Lazar would be wrong. If we take Mr. Lazar to mean that in the Bible, the word "knowledge" is not itself limited to referring to one kind of belief, Clark himself recognized this in discussing the semantic range of the word. Mr. Lazar is also correct that the Bible provides case-examples of "knowledge" that are kinds of beliefs which Clark seems to preclude as possible, given what appears to me to be an implicit internalist and infallibilist constraint Clark placed upon epistemically justification. But if we take Mr. Lazar's statement to mean that "the Bible doesn't limit knowledge [that is epistemically justified in an internalist and infallibilist sense] to... Biblical propositions" and what may be deduced from biblical propositions, then I would have to disagree, given that the Bible is the extant extent of divine revelation. 

To those interested, I have written more on why I find exegesis to be yet another motivating factor for an internalist understanding of knowledge in my reply to Aquascum (linked above). Other posts in which I defend internalism and infallibilism as fundamental to Scripturalism include hereherehere, and here, as well as in a dialogue with Steve Hays (link, link, link). 

In the next part of my review, I will turn to chapter 8, which Mr. Lazar calls The Bible and Sense Knowledge.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Finding Meaning

The purpose of this post will be to briefly explore the usefulness of symbolism, parallelism, and literary structures in divine revelation.

Why do some specific words or phrases mean different things in different contexts? To an ordinary person, this may seem like an odd question. I confess that my own interest is due to something Gordon Clark once wrote as well as impressions I've gotten through his writings:

Suppose the word man had ten different meanings: It would be possible to invent ten different terms so that each term would stand for a single meaning, and once more the predicate and the assertion as a whole would be definite. If, however, terms had an infinite number of meanings, then all reasoning would come to an end. For if a word is to convey a significance, it must not only mean something, it must also not mean something. If it had all the meanings of all the terms in the dictionary, it would be useless in speech. Therefore, if terms had an infinite number of meanings, no term would have one meaning; and not to have one meaning is to have no meaning; but if words have no meaning, it is impossible to argue with other people or even to reason privately with oneself. If we do not think one thing, we think nothing; but if we can think of one thing, then we can assign to it a single unambiguous term. (Thales to Dewey, 2000, pgs. 87-89)

Clark was quite right that words must not mean something in order to mean something definite. But the part in bold seems to conflict with what he noted elsewhere: "…all languages have words with more than one meaning and often enough use the two meanings in one sentence" (Commentaries on Pauline Epistles, 2005, pg. 90). Writings by other Scripturalists even seem to have followed Clark's suggestions about "words" or "terms" (again, the part in bold) and applied it to sentences (link).

Perhaps Clark just meant, in Thales to Dewey, that words must mean something definite, for he didn't deny double entendres, metaphors, or the like. In any case, along these lines is the more important thought I want to stress: Clark also seems right in suggesting it possible to assign to one thought a single word or term that would convey meaning. But clearly, God did not do that in Scripture. 

Symbolism and parallelism abounds in God's word (link, link, link). Most Christians know that a lamb can symbolize Christ, even if they do not understand that the temple can symbolize the world or that a tree can symbolize a man. Most Christians also understand the following parallelism: just as Christ suffered unto glory, so too the pattern of the Christian life is to share in His suffering unto the partaking of His glory (1 Peter 4:13, 5:1). There is so much more depth to be found than this, as fundamental and important as it is (Hebrews 5:11ff.), but the main point is that some divinely revealed words have a different referent depending on different contexts.

I think we see symbols and literary parallelisms in Scripture because there are overlaps in functions, characteristics, or purposes of the realities in question. Symbols and literary parallelisms - rhetorical, structural, typological, etc. - are important because they helps us to discern the rhythms in and of history and its contents. What we learn from symbols and parallels, we then are to our apply lives with wisdom. 

Of course, this is not meant to suggest that any two realities considered in symbolism or parallel are of the same nature. Some men are called "elohim" in Scripture (Psalm 82:6-8), for example, not because such men are divine. Rather, these men image God in a particular way (as "judges") that extends beyond that of all people (Genesis 1:26-27). There is a parallel function, although the function is executed on a different scale.

Likewise, a rock is strong and God is strong: in both statements, "strong" must have some overlap in meaning for the symbolic statement that "The Lord is my rock" to be meaningful (Psalm 18:2). Of course, there is also is a disanalogy between the way in which a rock is strong and the way in which God is strong, and no one would confuse the nature of a rock with the nature of God. There is a commonality in attributing the characteristic to both subjects, although the manner in which the characteristic is exemplified will differ.

In a recent post (link), I mentioned that the Word-Christ, word-Scripture, and word-church serve coordinate functions to meet a common purpose. These too are not ontologically univocal, nor do they even have the same function or role in bringing about one's sanctification. Yet that each of these realities is referred to as a "word" indicates something in which they have something in common: each reveals God, and sanctification presupposes God's being revealed in one's life. The church-word speaks the truth of the word-Scriptures about the Word-Christ. These are so integrated in common purpose that common characteristics are also [symbolically!] attributed to them (e.g. "light").

Turning to literary structures, chiasmus (a-b-b'-a' communications), for example, are common occurrences in Scripture (link). These also reflect realities, and they are more readily ascertained and expressible due to synonyms (which wouldn't exist if we assigned to each thought a single word). For example, in the morning, we get out of bed, brush our teeth, eat, and drive to work. We then drive home, eat, brush our teeth, and go to bed in the evening. Almost every day of our lives, we live chiastically. Or take our conversions:

A - ethical presentation of the gospel to us, yet we are unable to obey it

B - metaphysical regeneration of us by the indwelling of the Spirit

C - our epistemological foundation becomes [or is implicitly understood to be] divine revelation

B' - we metaphysically understand ourselves in relation to God as sinners in need of salvation

A' - we ethically understand and obey God by faith and subsequent works 

Now, when we convert, we may not consciously submit that divine revelation is our epistemic foundation even though we subconsciously will act that way due to the indwelling of the Spirit. But that metaphysical change will transform our beliefs and actions in implicit submission to what divine revelation has to say. That is, we will - despite our continual need to put sin to death in our lives until we ourselves undergo death and resurrection - implicitly accept divine revelation as epistemologically foundational.

A mature awareness of our transformed epistemology - that is, when we consciously set the self-authenticating revelation of God (the extant extent of which is, for us, codified in Scripture) as our epistemological foundation - will lead to a mature knowledge and defense of the metaphysical and ethical transformations that have already occurred in us.

What this chiasm enables us to see more clearly is the relationship between epistemology and metaphysics. Our knowledge is caused, not self-originated. Indeed, there are good arguments for why our knowledge cannot be self-originated (link, link). Metaphysics precedes epistemology in the order of being. Metaphysical regeneration logically precedes epistemological transformation. 

That being said, epistemology logically precedes (or at least has equally primacy with) metaphysics in the order of knowing, for it is only from a correct epistemological foundation that one is able to know metaphysical truths (including the foundation itself, or how one came to know it in the order of his being).

In sum, because symbols, parallels, and structures are patterns in reality, they are reflected in divine revelation. These help us to find meaning in our lives. We ourselves are images of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Thus, as words of God (Revelation 19:9), we can only find meaning in relating ourselves to the Word of God (Christ, Revelation 19:9) by structuring our lives according to the word of God (Scripture, Revelation 22:7).

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

"Sound" Theology: Parallelisms and the Word[s] of God

There is a consistent parallelism - not only in the rhetoric of Scripture but also in history - in which and in that we find that the teleological functions of the Word of God, word of God, and words of God consistently coordinate. The writers of the New Testament progressively unfold this mystery of these forms of divine "revelation." Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1). Scripture is the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). Christians are the words of God (Revelation 19:9). 

God's revealed Word, Christ, is the way, truth and life (John 1:18, 14:6, 1 John 1). God's revealed word, Scripture, is the way, truth, and life (Psalm 119:9, 25, 160). This Word and word go hand in hand, because by the latter we are saved by faith in the former (Romans 10:14-17). Indeed, the church itself preaches the latter about the former such that Christians likewise are said to be lights to the world (Matthews 5:14), pillars of truth (1 Timothy 3:15), and envoys of life (Proverbs 13:17). Christians too are God's revealed words, for the church functions as His voice who thunder the truth of the word-Scriptures about the Word-Christ in history (Revelation 19:6-8). 

History itself is the song of the Lord, and we are His instruments (Acts 9:15, 1 Corinthians 14:6-7). He is the true Choirmaster, and Scripture is the sheet music that sets the tone for our lives that are to be lived in righteousness after the pattern of the Word (2 Timothy 1:13). It is no wonder that we see typological, structural, and thematic patterns in Scripture. It is no wonder we see parallels between Christology, ecclesiology, anthropology, cosmology, and so forth (linklinklink). These rhythms depict reality: our own, individual lives are microsonic words in the macrosonic eternal decree of God. The sound of one life in Christ may seem small when compared to the scale of history, but even one life can reverberate and echo in history through its vibrations in the lives one touches. 

Even when we present ourselves as instruments of unrighteousness (Romans 6:13), God's song of history doesn't skip a beat. Every note and word has its place. The music plays out exactly as God orchestrated (Isaiah 55:11) and crescendos at the consummation of the new creation, a new stanza that He inaugurated by the death and resurrection of His Word (Revelation 5:9ff.).

One often hears of people trying to "find their voice." Sanctification is the process by which the church and her members find their voice in history. We become true words of God whose voices the Spirit has, through Scripture, conformed to the sound of the Word. Again we see a coordinated parallel between the "Word" of God in Whom men are sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:30) and the "word[s]" of God through whose ministries (Romans 15:16) of the "word" of truth (John 17:17) men are, by the unifying power of the Spirit, sanctified.

As we become fully assured and aware of who we are in Christ, we grow more bold to become voices in the world, testifying of the Word-Christ by the truth of the word-Scriptures (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Thereby, just as the Holy Spirit sounded out God's word through the apostles and prophets, He too may now sound Christ into the sinner, making the deaf man hear and beginning in him the same work of new creation - albeit on a smaller scale - that will also be completed when the Word will come again (Philippians 1:6).

That is, just as this Word created all things (John 1:1-3) by divine speech, so too the word-bride of this Word-husband was created through His divine speech of Scripture and its gospel about His work for us. In thanks, the church sings when it is able to be helper to her Head in fruitfully bearing many children by the word of this gospel (Isaiah 54, Galatians 4:26-27). 

The individual voices within the church may have different pitches. The individual instruments within the church may be of a different set of strings. But they sing as one choir with one voice the same song, and in their harmony, the melody is accentuated (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12ff.). When we make a joyful noise to the Lord, He hears us all (Psalm 100).

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Book Review: Scripturalism and the Senses (Part 7)

Links to all parts may be found here. This part will contain a review and evaluation of Mr. Lazar's sixth chapter in his book, Scripturalism and the Senses.

As I have now reviewed all the chapters in which Mr. Lazar intended to critique the epistemology and, at times, the larger philosophy of Gordon Clark, I now turn to the second part of the book, in which Mr. Lazar intends to present his own, positive epistemological views. Hopefully, the reviews will become shorter, as much of the material should overlap with chapters Mr. Lazar spent in reviewing Clark's views on the same subjects.

Reformulating the Master Axiom 

In this chapter, Mr. Lazar tries to come up with a “Neo-Scripturalist axiom.” Ironically, I believe what he presents is essentially no different than what Clark himself taught. This is why, as I emphasized in an earlier review (link), Mr. Lazar should not have left it to "historians to debate" whether Clark agreed or disagreed with Crampton, Cheung, or Robbins. It is Clark whose views Mr. Lazar originally intended to evaluate, and he could have spared himself trouble by just sticking to evaluating Clark's views. In so doing, he would have found, I think, that there was little need to "reformulate" the axiom Clark provided. Granted, it doesn't hurt to discuss the most precise way in which to formulate the axiom, but Mr. Lazar should not act as if what he is presenting is novel or new (i.e. neo-Scripturalism).

Setting aside criticisms I've already made, Mr. Lazar's phrasing of his epistemic axiom - "The Bible is the word of God without error, true in all it teaches, affirms, and implies... let the Christian axiom be the truth of the Scriptures" - is quite in line with Clark's own thought. Mr. Lazar is right to note the self-attesting nature of the axiom of revelation: God speaks. God speaks to men. God inspired men to speak. God inspired men to write. What the Bible says, God says (in all of its details). The Bible is true. These are the beginnings of excellent, apologetic defenses for the sufficient epistemic foundation from which we ought to derive any other knowledge-claims (again, of a particular kind, which I will address in a later review).

Mr. Lazar even says, "Strictly speaking, truth is propositional. 'As Clark says, truth is a characteristic of propositions only... This clarifies how Scripture can be true.'" Amen! This indicates that Mr. Lazar does not recommend beginning with a physical, non-propositional text, as I also argued in the above link. But then, if we begin with the propositional revelation of God - and I think interrogatives and imperatives can be understood as propositional (link; although this is a minor aside, so far as I am concerned at present) - then Mr. Lazar really should understand why the "don't you have to read your Bible?" criticisms he himself made earlier are not so troublesome to a Scripturalistic epistemology (even if they may be troublesome for other reasons). Likewise, the criticisms regarding canonical or textual-critical issues (link) cannot be too serious for Clark, for it appears Mr. Lazar does not, after all (and contrary to the implications of his earlier arguments against Clark), appeal to a non-propositional, physical text as his epistemic starting point.

Finally, in one of his footnotes, Mr. Lazar affirms, against Clark, the correspondence theory of truth. I agree with Mr. Lazar (link), and his recommendation to substitute the word "food" for "reality" into one of Clark's quotes to show how it would have been a performative self-contradiction for Clark to eat food was quite clever. One can hold both to a correspondence and coherence view of the nature of truth.

In sum, Mr. Lazar’s problem all along seems to have been with expressions of the axiom of revelation by Crampton, Cheung, etc. - not Clark. It is not so much that Mr. Lazar is returning "to an earlier formulation of the Scripturalist axiom." Rather, it is that he is defending it against oversteps from other admirers of Clark.

In the next part of my review, I will turn to chapter 7, which Mr. Lazar calls What Counts as Knowledge?

Book Review: Scripturalism and the Senses (Part 6)

Links to all parts may be found here. This part will contain a review and evaluation of Mr. Lazar's fifth chapter in his book, Scripturalism and the Senses.

The Test of Hardcore Common Sense (Performative Consistency)

The closing chapter to Part 1 of his book, which has primarily focused on apologetically critiquing Gordon Clark's views, brings up one more test Mr. Lazar believes Clark's epistemology fails. He refers to it as the test of hardcore common sense. The name is a bit unfortunate. It suggests the test has something to do with "common sense," whereas Mr. Lazar quickly distances what he intends to write about from the normal sense of "common sense." Instead, he's concerned about "ultimate presuppositions of practice." Based on what else he writes in the chapter, I suggest that Mr. Lazar refer to this as the test of "livability" or "performative consistency." At any rate, the definition of performative self-contradiction is the following (a part of which I've bolded for reasons I'll return to later): 

A performative self-contradiction is an inconsistency... between a content c which some speaker S claims is true... and at least one presupposition... necessary... to warrant taking S's act of claiming... as a valid act of claiming.

That is, let's say I make a claim. In making the claim, I have implicitly presupposed various things, such as that I can make a claim. It would be a performative self-contradiction for my claim to contradict one of the things I am implicitly presupposing. Mr. Lazar's initial examples are very good ones: "It is self-contradictory - irrational - to argue against the very things presupposed by argumentation. For example, claiming that 'I can't make any claims,' involves a performative self-contradiction." This is an instance, as I mentioned in my last post, that I would like to show more appreciation to Mr. Lazar. I'm glad he is interacting with contemporary philosophers. This is important for the future of Scripturalism (link).

Actions speak louder than words, so to speak. If one's words and actions are implicitly at odds, there is a problem. A few other examples provided are also clear enough: one can't intelligibly question rationality unless one already implicitly presupposes it. One can't begin to think, argue, or make claims without implicitly presupposing the law of non-contradiction. I can't consistently claim I have no blog as I am intentionally typing up a review on one. Etc. So far, so good.

In Mr. Lazar's next section in the chapter, he asks whether living adherence to global agnosticism a performative self-contradiction. That is, suppose one is an agnostic. As Clark says, "The agnostic simply does not know. He does not know that there are no truths; merely does not know which propositions are true." (A Christian Philosophy of Education, pg. 34). Mr. Lazar wants to know 1) if agnostic philosophy is livable or 2) whether the agnostic qua agnostic is a walking, talking performative self-contradiction. 

Mr. Lazar thinks the latter is the case, that "his philosophy is unlivable because he must live as if he wasn't agnostic." Before we proceed, let us recall the definition of a performative self-contradiction requires a situation in which "a content c which some speaker S claims is true." Remember what it is that an agnostic claims: he simply claims that he does not know. Must, then, an agnostic live as if he knows things to be true? Mr. Lazar seems to cite the following argument by Clark as an affirmative response to this question (emphasis mine):

As Augustine long ago pointed out, when such a man eats his dinner he believes that it is probably better to eat than starve. He does not know that he will escape starvation, but he believes that he has a better chance of survival if he eats. Neither does he know that survival is better than starvation: but he believe so. More to the point, he may say that he neither asserts nor denies the existence of God. But his actual daily life is lived in conformity with the one postulate or the other. (Clark, A Christian Philosophy of Education, pgs. 34-35)

I don't see how this argument by Clark supports Mr. Lazar's contention that an agnostic commits a performative self-contradiction. Actually, it seems as though this Clark quote says that an agnostic is living consistently with his claim. The agnostic doesn't make a claim to know as true that he will escape starvation, although he would make a claim to believe as true that he has a better chance of survival if he eats; hence, he eats. To me, the agnostic's eating is consistent with his belief-claim. An agnostic can live on the belief something is or could be true without claiming to know something is true. Again, I see no performative self-contradiction here. This corresponds to a Clark quote I've cited in another review:

Although not usually recognized as such, a certain claim to infallibility meets us in our everyday affairs. When an accountant balances his books, does he not assume that his figures are correct? When a college professor hurries to class for fear that his students will disappear if he is late, does he not make judgments as to the time of day and the proclivities of students? When a chess club challenges another to a match, does any suspicion of fallibility impede its action? Cannot this club distinguish the dogma ecclesiastica that there actually is another club from the dogma haeretica that no other club exists? Must not all people act on the assumption that their beliefs are true? (Karl Barth's Theological Method, 1997, pg. 146)

Granting Clark's above line of reasoning that I have argued elsewhere as well (link), I could agree with Mr. Lazar that one who claims he suspends belief or judgment on all matters would be committing a performative self-contradiction. But I do not immediately understand why one must make a knowledge-claim to avoid a performative self-contradiction. Mr. Lazar says, "the Scripturalist must live as if he knows the very things that he denies" (emphasis mine). Clark's reply is - "no, I must live as if the things I believe are true."

For example, why must I know Mr. Lazar exists to believe I'm interacting with him? Indeed, what if Mr. Lazar doesn't exist, or that my idea of who Mr. Lazar is does not correspond to reality? What if the biography I read of him were a fabrication? Surely this is possible? I may assume my belief in Mr. Lazar's existence and biography is true and write blog posts on that basis, but why does my reviews of Mr. Lazar's book presuppose that I know he wrote a book rather than that I merely believe that he wrote one? 

While I would like to see Mr. Lazar's argument spelled out a bit more, perhaps there is something wrong with global agnosticism and performative self-contradictions. I hope others take it upon themselves to consider this question, as I will (even though I think global agnosticism is problematic for other reasons, e.g. an agnostic can never have full assurance, is therefore practically condemned to a life of self-doubt, etc.). But for now, let's assume this for the sake of argument. 

Even if we do this, because Scripturalists are not global agnostics, it semms we must return to the question of whether individual instances of agnosticism are problematic. And this seems to be what Mr. Lazar is, after all, concerned with anyway. He criticizes Scripturalists for "appeals to extra-Biblical knowledge to show that we cannot have extra-Biblical knowledge," and the first example he uses is of Clark's book Thales to Dewey. Was it a performative self-contradiction for Clark write a book about extra-biblical information? Is it a performative self-contradiction for a Scripturalist to refer to Clark's book? 

Again, I don't see how. If Clark believed that there were other philosophers or if I believe there is a Clark book (all of which are indeed extra-biblical), does that mean I cannot consistently act upon that belief unless I claim to know it? Not at all. This takes us back to the question of whether Mr. Lazar really thinks I must know he exists as his biography describes him in order to consistently review his book. 

And I cannot think that this is the case, for Mr. Lazar would be asking me to claim more than can be known... unless he is speaking about "knowledge" in a certain, externalist third-person sense, rather than in the sense in which Clark speaks of knowledge when he does (link; once again, this illustrates the importance of defining one's terms, especially in the context of one's [meta]epistemology). But even if Mr. Lazar is speaking this way, one needn't be aware of the externalist knowledge he has; even on externalist accounts of knowledge, I still may not know that Mr. Lazar exists as his biography describes him (because, once again, such might not be true). In fact, on some externalist accounts of knowledge, one cannot know that one has externalist knowledge. That's a second-order knowledge that is not necessary. But an extended discussion of this would, I think, take us a bit farther off track than is necessary, especially since the main defense I describe in this post regarding the performative consistency in acting upon one's beliefs seems to suffice. I can, however, elaborate on what I am saying here if anyone is that interested.

Returning to that main line of defense, we might ask if it a performative self-contradiction for Mr. Lazar to get various kinds of short-term insurances (life, car, house, jewelry, etc.)? I think not. We do such things precisely because we don’t know if we will die, have accidents, lose our property or have it stolen, etc. And it’s eminently reasonable to live that way, because a corollary of epistemic contentedness is epistemic humility. We don't know it all and can't (or shouldn't) act as if we do.

Let us even suppose that Mr. Lazar does not exist after all. Or let's suppose that none of the philosophers Clark mentioned ever existed. Does that mean that this blog or Thales to Dewey have become pointless enterprises? No, for the same reason (as I referenced in my last review) that I gave long ago when discussing the usefulness of opinion, i.e. of belief without knowledge:

If I cannot know that I am in dialogue, why can it seem that way? If I am going to be consistent with Scripturalism, I must indeed admit I am opining any conversation; however - and this is the point - the purpose of epistemology is not so much a justification of one's beliefs to others as it is to oneself. Self-realized problems with various epistemologies or one's own epistemology may be introduced through the medium of opinion... When one considers that one's opinions are the ultimate products of God, and that God causes everything for a reason, it is not surprising that Scripturalists should venture into alleged communication: to measure what is opined against God's word. (link)

We can look at the interactions we have in our lives as "if-then" encounters. If Augustine had a "theory of recollection," then it is reasonable for Clark to talk about it as Augustine's theory. Even if Augustine did not exist, he can still talk about the theory itself, and the benefit of associating it with "Augustine" is still that people know Clark is referring to one particular theory of "recollection rather than some other. It's the ideas that matter, not their genesis. We may act as if something is true, but even if it is not, it was still put in our lives for a divinely ordained reason. There is, therefore, no performative self-contradiction in a Scripturalist acting upon his beliefs (even if there is one for the global agnostic), for his beliefs account for both possibilities.

That is, Scripturalism does not fail this final test Mr. Lazar mentions. It has passed each one, even if - as Mr. Lazar and myself would agree - there are some areas for improvement upon Clark's philosophy as a whole.

[A small disagreement I didn't know where else to put: I would side with Clark in regarding axioms or presuppositions as chosen. Due to performative self-contradictions, it seems Mr. Lazar infers that some axioms can't be chosen. He says, "although you can choose some axioms, you must presuppose others in order to argue about anything at all - including arguing about axioms." But arguing is a choice. By definition, a performative self-contradiction requires a claim to be made. One may choose not to argue at all, in which case there seems to be no explicit claim against which to compare one's implicit [performative] presuppositions. 

Even if we extended performative self-contradictions to apply thoughts in addition to explicit, argued claims - which is more along the lines of the necessary [and perhaps ontological] preconditions for knowledge I mentioned in my last review - I do think Clark was correct to say that axioms are chosen. In fact, the very possibility of "contradiction" presupposes choice. Otherwise, our acting in such a way as to not be in conformity with truth would be by nature. This can't be, as it would be an insurmountable problem to a doctrine of divine goodness. 

Additionally, I suspect another problem may arise given Mr. Lazar's view that some axioms are not chosen. Does Mr. Lazar think we begin with one axiom or many? If the former, mustn't it be chosen (and sufficient)? If the latter, is that an indication that Mr. Lazar thinks we are supposed to infer what would be a sufficiency of axioms? Perhaps I am reading too much into his thought that we can choose some axioms and not others, but I would be wary of the parable of the bundle of sticks that I mentioned in my last post.]

In the next part of my review, I will turn to chapter 6, which Mr. Lazar calls Reformulating the Master Axiom.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Book Review: Scripturalism and the Senses (Part 5)

Links to all parts may be found here. This part will contain a review and evaluation of Mr. Lazar's fourth chapter in his book, Scripturalism and the Senses.

A few prefatory remarks before I start this review. This chapter is short, and it's compact nature accentuates how critical Mr. Lazar is of Scripturalism on the subject matter discussed. There is nothing wrong with being critical of positions with which one disagrees. I also believe that for all of his criticisms, Mr. Lazar appreciates Clark's work. 

But the nature of this chapter did bring into focus for me that I don't want to give readers the misimpression that I hate or disagree with everything in Mr. Lazar's book. I agree with him in several places throughout his book. I've tried to mention those places in previous reviews, although I could probably have been more praiseworthy at those points. I do believe Mr. Lazar and I have a common goal of growth in grace and knowledge. As we interact with those who disagree with us, a spirit of charity is as important as a logical mind. Even though I disagree with Mr. Lazar in much of this chapter, I will try to keep that in mind in what follows. If nothing else, the reflection Mr. Lazar's has prompted me to have may be partially responsible for a significant clarification in my own epistemological-apologetic understanding, as I will mention towards the end of the post. So I am thankful to Mr. Lazar for occasioning that.

Apologetics, Epistemology, and the Tests

Mr. Lazar begins his fourth chapter in his book by mentioning the second line in the following Clark quote as a test by which preference can be established for one axiom vs. another:

No philosopher is perfect and no system can give man omniscience. But if one system can provide plausible solutions to many problems while another leaves too many questions unanswered, if one system tends less to skepticism and gives more meaning to life, if one worldview is consistent whole others are self-contradictory, who can deny us, since we must choose, the right to choose the more promising first principle? (A Christian View of Men and Things, 2005, pg. 29)

Mr. Lazar proposes to evaluate whether Clark can satisfy the "test of explanatory power." That is, does Clark's Scripturalism provide plausible solutions to many problems, or does it leave too many questions unanswered?

I think the way Clark frames his rhetorical question is a bit more accurate than how Mr. Lazar frames the situation. Clark's aim seems to be apologetic rather than epistemic. Clark is not referring to the tests as epistemic ones we should apply by which to "prefer" one epistemic axiom over another - that, as mentioned in previous reviews, would imply the various "tests" being discussed would be epistemic grounds more foundational than whatever so-called "axiom" would be chosen. In this case, the preferred axiom wouldn't be an axiom at all but rather a conclusion to an epistemic process of reasoning. 

Instead, the point being made is that since humans must have a foundation from which to begin reasoning, one whose first principle cannot pass the tests has no basis upon which to deny or criticize one whose first principle is able to pass the tests. This is true. If your worldview is self-contradictory, you have no right to deny or criticize one whose worldview is consistent. If your philosophic system leaves "too many" questions unanswered (and I'll return to counts as too many), then you have no right to deny or criticize one whose worldview can provide "plausible solutions" to such questions.

Again, fundamental to the my reviews of Mr. Lazar's book is the distinction between epistemology and apologetics. It is not as if Clark considered Scripturalism as capable of failing the tests. Falsifiability of a true epistemic foundation is not a live option, for that would imply whatever criteria one would appeal to in order to falsify the foundation would be more foundational than the foundation. Rather, tests are applied to apologetically defend and confirm before others that one's own worldview is true and undermine false worldviews. 

Those who have been following all parts of this series of posts may think that I am overkilling mention of the epistemology-apologetic distinction. If so, I would prefer that to the alternative in which it is not absolutely clear what is the relationship between the two. It is not only Mr. Lazar who conflates the two (especially in contexts in which Clark's philosophy is evaluated). Gordon Lewis made the same mistake. I am reading a book right now called "Without Excuse" (that my friends and I will review on our podcast next month) in which Clark is lumped in with Van Tilian presuppositionalists as adhering to circular reasoning as a method for "proving" first principles. If these authors had only understood that Clark was an epistemic foundationalist and kept such in perspective throughout their evaluations of his thinking in all other areas, I think conflation of Clark's epistemology with his apologetic approaches could have been avoided. 

The Test of Explanatory Power and Epistemic Contentment

The criticism Mr. Lazar makes in this chapter essentially repeats his argument from incredulity in his previous chapter. He quips that Sam Cooke's song Don't Know Much About History encapsulates what "could be the Scripturalist theme song." Mr. Lazar thinks that most of what Cooke admits he doesn't know in his song allegedly aligns with what a Scripturalist such as Clark would admit he can't know: history, biology, French, science, geography, trigonometry, algebra, etc. Mr. Lazar later grants that in the case of math, a Scripturalist might be able to know some truth, but in general, he argues that a Scripturalist might have opinions about these topics but can't know them.

In my last review, I mentioned Clark was perfectly comfortable being looked at as having a relatively skeptical epistemology compared to ones, like empiricism, whose adherents make many knowledge-claims but cannot make good on them. Some (or even a little) knowledge is better than none, and so an epistemology which is "more skeptical" is better than one which collapses into total skepticism. 

However, I believe that Clark would have also disagreed with the sentiments presented by Mr. Lazar in this chapter. As funny as the comparison to the song may be, here are some remarks about by Clark about what he thought could be known, given his first principle:

This is not to say that the Scriptures answer all questions and that we need be ignorant on no point; nonetheless, there are many points, the most important points, on cosmology, psychology, philosophy of history, epistemology – not to mention morality and religion – on which the Bible protects the Christian against plausible but false theories. (Thales to Dewey, pg. 156)

“…theology, the theology here in view, covers the entire field of human knowledge: anthropology, history, and science.” (Karl Barth’s Theological Method, pg. 111).
I think Clark was optimistic about the various fields that the Bible covers. Of course, even if Clark were optimistic, that would not mean his optimism is justified. But it does paint a different picture than one usually hears when it comes to Clark's epistemology. Any hint of pessimism about what we can’t know, Clark usually reserved for contexts in which he responded to critics who desire to know more but didn’t, in his mind, have adequate epistemological justification. He was content with being able to know at all in contrast to those whom he argued could not know at all, given their epistemology. 

Such epistemological contentment is underrated. In my experience, people more often than not are afraid of knowing too little as opposed to knowing too much. Some knowledge is necessary, yes, but there comes a point of sufficiency at which one is equipped to handle whatever situation Providence has placed in his life. Are you a father who can't read (let alone write) 300 blogs on theology? Well, so what? In church history, many fathers couldn't read or write. But did you take your family to church? Do you talk with them about the sermon to field any questions (that you can in turn take to the elders if you don't have all the answers)? Do you do your best to lead by our Father-God and Husband-Christ's examples? That is enough, be content.

We're members of a body: we don't have to do it all or know it all. In fact, we have been designed specifically so that we can't do that. Contentedness and humility go hand in hand. I was lamenting the other day about how little time I have to write everything down about God's word that comes into my mind. Not only does this support Clark's optimism about how much can be known from Scripture, it serves as a reminder that no one is going to master in one lifetime all the implications of what God has revealed to us... no one is meant to. Our responsibility is to arm ourselves as best we can. We are not absolved from study and application, just cognizant of our own limitations and, therefore, need for dependence upon God and our fellow members. We trust that God has prepared us for every good work that is set before us (collectively as His church-bride, not as lone-ranger Christians).

Applying these thoughts to the test of explanatory power, in order to explain what the purpose of the test is really to discern, let's first discuss what it is not its intended purpose. I'm not going to parse the following as an analytic philosopher might, so try to read the following in the spirit in which it is intended: say I claimed to own a magic 8-ball. I claim that as long as any question that is asked of it refers to events or things after a time that everyone currently living on earth will pass away, it will accurately answer that question. 

Now, that seems to be a lot of potential explanatory power, doesn't it? There is well more future history to come than past history. However, the scenario presented prevents one from, in his own lifetime, confirming the accuracy of the magic 8-ball. Should policymakers trust the magic 8-ball if it says not to worry about global warming since an ice age is coming anyways (or vice versa to anyone who wants to flip the scenario and suppose the magic 8-ball wants us to worry about it after all)?

The point is that Mr. Lazar ultimately criticizes Scripturalism because it "gives us relatively few answers and leaves us with millions of questions." Well, even a fool can ask more questions than a wise man can answer. Not that Mr. Lazar is a fool! But we must ask what number of questions Mr. Lazar thinks an epistemology must be able to answer for it to satisfy the test of explanatory power? A magic 8-ball amount? I doubt that is what Mr. Lazar intends, but what he thinks the test for explanatory power is really designed to do, then, is a question left unanswered. 

It reminds me of a question Clark asked somewhere (I forget where) about inductive reasoning and how many instances are enough or sufficient to warrant a generalized inference. Clark's answer was that there are never enough, for the inference will always be a leap. But any number one could conceive of would seem to be arbitrary. The way Mr. Lazar explains the test makes it seem as though what matters is quantity and that one can never have too much. More is better. But when is enough, enough? Can one not be epistemically contented?

Even if Mr. Lazar really were concerned about quantity, Clark could reply that his first principle makes possible an infinite amount of knowledge - knowledge that 1 + 1 = 2, 2 + 1 = 3, ad infinitum - given that Mr. Lazar has admitted mathematical truths are knowable on Scripturalism. Without going too far into a rabbit hole I hope Mr. Lazar did not want us to begin digging into in the first place, would that not be a sufficient quantity, or would we need to discuss countable vs. uncountable infinities? 

Instead of continuing down this line of questioning - rather than discussing what quantity of questions that can be answered - I think point of the test of explanatory power more so concerns the quality of questions that can be answered. Even this qualification needs a bit of fine tuning, which is why I happen to think the magic 8-ball example is so fun! The magic 8-ball can provide answers to a variety of topics: French, mathematics, biology, etc. 2 + 2 will still equal 4 for my great-great grandchildren. Geographically, there will still be 7 continents. French is no longer spoken. Etc. So speaks the magic 8-ball! Prima facie, the magic 8-ball seems to have a wide scope of explanatory power. It may even provide answers to more questions than Scripture can, as Scripture tells us some information about future events belong to the secret things of God.

But what the magic 8-ball cannot tell one is where it comes from, for that is a question about the past. It cannot even attest to us whether it knows its current answers (or my claims about it) are true, for that is a question about the present. It cannot tell us whether it is the one determining future events (present information) or if it has attained its answers from another source (past information). It can't help me navigate moral conundrums I am currently facing. 

Are not these types of questions more relevant to explanatory power than whether it can provide an answer to if my great-great-grandchildren will be millionaires? The existence of the magic 8-ball begs important, quality questions it cannot, in principle, answer. A God we can know is the source of, has determined all, and therefore knows all things has more explanatory power than the magic 8-ball even if (hypothetically) what answers God has provided in divine revelation to possible questions we may have is actually less in quantity than what the magic 8-ball could reveal. 

For those who were not impressed by the magic 8-ball example, substitute a different example: Mormons and Roman Catholics both have open canons. Both have claimed to receive further divine revelation on top of Scripture even Mr. Lazar would claim. Is their first principle ipso facto more preferable? Of course not. The test for explanatory power is one test among many others that are equally important, if not more so. A Mormon or Roman Catholic "passing" this one test does not mean they've passed them all. Therefore, the test of explanatory power is not, to repeat above, one that epistemically legitimizes one first principle over against another. Rather, it is a test designed to ask only whether a worldview answers important questions. One such important question is whether can one have epistemic contentment on a worldview in question. I'll come back to this.

Mr. Lazar's skepticism regarding what questions Scripturalism can't answer runs much deeper, however. He thinks one could multiply "questions and problems across every discipline of human inquiry and Scripturalism can't account for any of them." Scripturalism fails the test? Really? How about salvation (soteriology) from sin (hamartiology)? How about ethics? How about destiny (eschatology) and purpose (teleology)? How about who we are (anthropology) as images of God? How about who God is (theology)? How about the creation of the world (protology and cosmology)? The typologies that use, as symbols, architecture, animals, agriculture, space, geography, etc. to foreshadow the incarnated Son and His people itself is enough to boggle my mind. Has Mr. Lazar not picked up a systematic or biblical theology book lately? Are these not the important things in life? This is where I need to remember, in a spirit of charity, that Mr. Lazar hopefully was just not thinking about these sorts of things when he wrote his chapter. I would assume he knows Clark well enough to know his appeal to the Westminster Confession:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture. (WCF 1.6)

That's suggestive of a lot of information in one place! John wrote that "were every one of [the things Jesus did] to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." Is it not fascinating to think that of what we do know that Jesus did, the world can barely contain the books written on them as it is? Is it not humorous to consider that God has perhaps decreed the destruction of physical libraries or creation of digital libraries to make room for books about His Son that can be written just with what information has been revealed to us in Scripture? 

So it is not that a Scripturalist is lacking in quantity or qualitative dimensions of knowledge. On the contrary, a principle of epistemic contentment has to reign against any depression one might otherwise feel in being unequal to the task of mastering all of what can be deduced from Scripture.

Knowledge, Opinion, and Usefulness

Mr. Lazar mentions a select few things a Scripturalist "might give you" and then scoffs that such "barely scratches the surface of human knowledge." Well, in one sense of "human knowledge," he might be right. Really, though, he is begging the question until he provides a worldview in which he can account for all these other things he thinks can be known. At this point in the book, we don't even know what Mr. Lazar means by "human knowledge" and how it differs from "opinion." He hasn't yet defined his own terms.

Even if he does get to that later, one future suggestion I would have for Mr. Lazar and other authors is to evaluate another individual's philosophy or epistemology only after providing one's own first. Apagogic argumentation can only be performed if one has an operative first principle of his own (link). While he later attempts to explain his own, it would have been helpful to the reader to contrast Clark's Scripturalism with the author's own proposal as he is reading the criticisms of Clark. Having to wait until the second half of the book leaves one in suspense as to whether or not Mr. Lazar's own proposal is worth the investment. This is a small, structural suggestion, not a criticism. 

It is a good time to remember, though, that until and unless Mr. Lazar is able to establish his own proposal as legitimate, the "few" items of knowledge Scripturalism can provide may be better than the "none" that Clark claims can be found from any other first principle. That is, it may turn out Scripturalism relatively provides the most human knowledge. For one to know that Scripturalism gives us relatively few items of knowledge means another gives us relatively more without also collapsing into skepticism. We must wait until a later chapter to see if Mr. Lazar makes good on his above claims and concluding statement that "if there's a better worldview, you should look for it" (emphasis mine).

Speaking of knowledge, Mr. Lazar says, “If Scripturalism doesn’t provide knowledge of those fields, then it cannot provide solutions in them either.” On the face of it, I must disagree with the conclusion. It doesn't follow from the premise. What does it mean, for example, to “solve” something in Russian history, and why does one need to “know” Russian history to find solutions to it? Say that information as to what a Russian leader did during his reign has been lost. So what? Does that mean Scripturalism, empiricism, etc. would be at fault? Does that mean we have to accept a magic 8-ball epistemology which could tell us about the past? No. 

Or take Mr. Lazar's example of the coronavirus. He remarks that Scripturalists can’t know how to treat the coronavirus, or that patients are even affected by it, or even that there is such a virus. On a certain conception of "knowledge" with which the Scripturalist is typically concerned, Mr. Lazar is correct. But he forgets to explain why he thinks we have to "know" these things to provide solutions for them.

Indeed, why can’t we just opine that there is a coronavirus that is harming people? How is a lack of medical "knowledge" a failure in explanatory power? Or, better, why can't the usefulness of opinion be sufficient? Suppose one hypothetically "knows" how to cure the coronavirus. Now suppose a Scripturalist opines and applies the same cure. What's the practical difference? Is Mr. Lazar arguing that an opined answer that works doesn't really solve the question or problem at stake? Why not? Clark wrote a whole book on the philosophy of science in which he concluded just this by affirming operationalism. I've written several posts on the value of opinion (link, link). I am all for making Scripturalism more plausible (link) or for being open-minded in regards to other kinds of knowledge than that with which Clark is strictly interested, but in critiquing Clark here, one has to actually deal with his argument:

One may admit that a number of propositions commonly believed are true; but no one can deny that many such are false. The problem is to elaborate a method by which the two classes can be distinguished. Plato, too, granted a place to opinion as distinct from knowledge; he even admitted that in some circumstances opinion was as useful as knowledge with a capital K. But to dispose of the whole matter by an appeal to road maps that we can see with our own eyes is to ignore everything said above about Aristotle. (Clark and His Critics, 2009, pgs. 75-76) 
No doubt that scientific laws are useful: By them the atomic bomb was invented. The point of all this argument is merely this: However useful scientific laws are, they cannot be true. Or, at the very least, the point of all this argument is that scientific laws are not discovered but are chosen. (A Christian View of Men and Things, 2005, pg. 149)

To conclude my review of Mr. Lazar's chapter, I think that there are certain kinds of knowledge available to people that Clark may have denied, I don't think that any disagreement I could have with Clark here disqualifies him from passing the test of explanatory power. The knowledge about which we would disagree is not that spoken of in WCF 1.6; it is a super-abundance. Unfortunately, if we really want to talk about too many questions that are left unanswered, that is the feeling I got when reading this chapter.  

The Test for Explanatory Power: A Constructive Approach 

The following is a bonus to the review. I felt it was needed, because up to this point, it may not seem as though the test for explanatory power is much of a test at all. So long as a worldview can answer some questions, does that mean it automatically passes the test? What, for Clark, would count as "too many unanswered questions"? To be honest, I am not sure. He doesn't use the specific phrase, at least as far as I can find, although the phrase does seem to capture whatever Clark had in mind in the original quote in the beginning of this post and Mr. Lazar's chapter. My best guess is that Clark has in mind something along the following lines: in the context of the quote from the beginning, Clark also wrote the following:

...suppose there still remain two or more fairly self-consistent but mutually incompatible systems of thought. This is likely to be the case even if the coherence theory of truth is correct, for the coherence theory cannot be applied with final satisfaction unless one is omniscient. Since life is short and since the implications of various propositions have not been exhausted, there may remain false propositions whose absurd conclusions have not yet been deduced. We may therefore be left with large but incomplete worldviews. Instead of being thoroughly integrated. The opposing systems will lack some parts and connections. Nonetheless, they will be worldviews on a large scale. Each one will have its first principles, the outlines will be plainly drawn, the main figures will have been painted in, and considerable detail will have been finished. Even though the artists have had neither time nor genius to finish their pictures, the contrast between them is unmistakable. What must be done? (A Christian View of Men and Things, pgs. 26-29)

Clark is hypothesizing two worldviews which are both, so far as can be discerned, internally consistent. The both pass that test, so far as we can tell. What then can an apologist do? Now compare this sentiment to the following quote: 

Now, it is true that Clark pointedly attacks Logical Positivism, and some other philosophies also, on the ground of their self-contradiction. But he explicitly acknowledged that Russell’s symbolic logic (maybe with a minor slip or two) is not self-contradictory. His criticism is that Russell’s system is truncated. Clark agrees with Russell's nineteen syllogisms are as valid as Aristotle could have wished, but the excision of the other five depends on an incorrect definition of the word all. Clark may not have stated other examples so clearly. Nevertheless in his lectures, though perhaps not in any publications, he cited some eastern religion that restricts itself to murmuring the syllable Om. A single syllable can hardly be called a system, but four spiritual laws qualify theoretically. (Clark and His Critics, 2009, pg. 399)

Just as in the context of original quote at the beginning, Clark here is discussing how he has critiqued a worldview or system for a reason other than its internal inconsistency. In this case, it's "truncated." I may be reading too much into Clark's statement here, but it sounds similar to the suggestion that Russell has left out syllogisms which he should have included. Russell's system lacks "explanatory power" that should be present. Likewise, the eastern religion[s] alluded to has left too many questions unanswered. This interpretation gains a little credence when one keeps reading and, on the same page, finds Clark telling Gordon Lewis that he has never regarded coherence as the "sole test of truth-claims," citing competing internally consistent geometries as an example of why he denies this. There are other tests we can and should apply to other worldviews in order to falsify them.

If this reading is correct, it would closely match the way in which I have elsewhere referred to "insufficient explanatory power" as a "way of stating that epistemology requires answers to certain questions which, if left unaddressed, results in skepticism" (link). Information is left out that should be included. What information? What questions need answers? Questions that deal with "necessary preconditions" for knowledge (link); perhaps a better way to read that is "ontological preconditions" for knowledge, since they certainly are not epistemically prior to one's sufficient [epistemic] condition for knowledge, i.e. his first principle. I will highlight the parts relevant to this blog post:

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.

Everything I've mentioned in the series of posts up until this point is reflected in the above. Apologists use the sorts of tests (or necessary preconditions) Mr. Lazar mentions to falsify other worldviews, not to reason to own's own first principle, i.e. his sufficient precondition for knowledge. These tests are truths (propositions) that must be answerable by one's worldview if one is asked about them. One's worldview has the explanatory power of accounting for them, so far as is possible.

For example, in order to fully apply a test of consistency, for example, one would, like Clark says, have to be omniscient. We aren't omniscient, so this test cannot possibly be the basis upon which we reason our way into belief of Scripture... even though we can know from Scripture itself (our epistemic foundation) that it is internally consistent, as any attempt to pursue the test so far as one can will, if done correctly, confirm. A Hegelian, by way of contrast, can have no epistemic contentment, for he is supposed to be able to deduce Herr Krug's pen but, alas, cannot.

Or does one's worldview enable him to intelligibly account for language? If humans were no more than physical bags of atoms that have been arranged by chance, as some atheists think, then on that theory, we have no possible reason to suppose that what appears to be intentionality in the course of dialogue with them are anything more than coincidental sounds which, in fact, signify no meaning. If the atheist really wishes for his communication to engaged seriously, in the first place he must make tacit presuppositions against eliminative materialism and the like.

While one who adheres to a true worldview needn't know the answers to these questions in order to know anything - for again, that would be to suppose that one's apologetic undergirds his epistemology - the test for explanatory power, I think, is best understood as saying that one's first principle and that which can be derived from it must have answers to these kinds of transcendental arguments available, or else one's worldview is at risk of being criticized as "truncated."

I think there is more to be said about the relationship of one's epistemic first principle, which must be his sufficient condition for knowledge, to the tests (necessary preconditions) that one can apply to first principles and resultant worldview systems. I want to reflect more upon the idea the the necessary preconditions for knowledge I describe above and the various tests that Mr. Lazar, Clark, and I have mention are perhaps better labelled ontological preconditions for knowledge.

This seems right and, with further elaboration, would communicate what I am trying to get at more clearly: they characterize what the knower, knowledge, known, etc. must ontologically be or [possibly] possess in order for knowledge to occur. This is how the knower can know his first principle or sufficient condition for knowledge without necessarily knowing necessary, subsidiary preconditions that his worldview must have, in principle, the power to explain. But I will think on that and leave it for another day. For now, I think it will be most useful to end with the following story-metaphor:

Liken the Christian worldview founded upon divine revelation to a strong, tightly wound, and unbreakable bundle of sticks. One who begins with the bundle is in no danger of having his worldview snapped by apologetic criticism. The bundle holds strong because every question by which one could test its soundness is accounted for in the bundle - even if the stick or answer that accounts for its unbreakability is buried inside the bundle such that we cannot, for the moment, see it.

Now imagine one who tries to build his worldview with one stick at a time. I need logic to have a defensible worldview? I'll grab that stick. I need language? I'll grab that stick. Self-knowledge and an omniscient communicator? Let's see what sticks I can find. Etc.

In the process of grabbing sticks, a realization dawns upon the one collecting them. It is essentially a question I asked above: how does one know how many sticks he must grab to have a bundle that cannot be broken? What amount of "explanatory power" is sufficient? At first, he thought he only needed the 4 sticks mentioned above. But then someone came along and points out that a first principle must be self-justifying in order to justify any other beliefs, or that memory is required for self-knowledge. A question begins to be formed, and because he didn't begin with an unbreakable bundle, he never will be able to have epistemic contentment in knowing how many sticks he really needs in order to know that no one else can snap the collection he has gathered piece by piece.

This is why apologists who attempt to copy Christians are doomed to fail. They may try, piece by piece, to abstract our sticks from the bundle - divine revelation - in which we found them. Whether they realize it or not, their deliberate attempts to truncate the Christian worldview give them more than they bargain for: our God is a God of irony, and He often humiliates His enemies by giving them precisely what they want. They want to cherry-pick the "good sticks" of Christianity they agree with and doubt the rest. God will indeed give them doubt, and it will be best manifested when a presuppositionalist comes along and points out another stick that is missing - a stick will always be missing unless one begins with the self-justifying, divine revelation. The ultimate irony is that because the sticks are not a tightly wound bundle but must remain loose to incorporate more potentially necessary sticks, they are likely to slip out of one's hands for one reason or another. Such is the problem of an open canon for epistemic criteria. Such is the problem for the apologetic copycat who attempts to use the tests - the merely necessary conditions for knowledge - to build a sufficient epistemology. It's an epistemic tower of Babel in the making.

In the next part of my review, I will turn to chapter 5, which Mr. Lazar calls The Test of Hardcore Common Sense.