Saturday, June 16, 2007
The Rational Response Squad asked for the three best reasons to believe in God.
Ergun Caner's very first response, interestingly, was to appeal to the universal practice of worship, stating that even those who did not believe in God at all "still held to a view of transcendants - you've got to believe in something greater than yourself, other than yourself." He stated this "universal yearning" is his "first apologetic."
It's certainly not mine, but I wonder how it strikes VanTillians?
If you are not ordained to teach or interpret Scripture and/or "Tradition," by what authority do you do so?
As a Reformed Christian, my source of authority to teach and interpret Scripture comes from Scripture, but the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches do not adhere to Sola Scriptura, so the questions above naturally arise.
By what authority do you teach? Why should anyone listen to you? You are not even part of your respective church's ordinary and fallible magisterium, much less part of your church's extraordinary and allegedly infallible magisterium.
More imporantly when you say "X," and Augustine (who is regarded as a "saint" by both your churches, and as a "father" by those of Rome) says "notX," why should I take your testimony over that of an elder and bishop?
May the God of Scripture, who revealed himself in Scripture, and whose Scripture confounds the innovations and idolatries of mankind, enlighten our minds by study of His Word by the illumination of the Spirit of God,
This video (link) illustrates the sad state of darkness of a significant segment of the Nepalese people. For those less inclined to wait for the video to load, watch the obligatory advertisement, etc., this article (link) provides much the same material. The subject of the video and article, a young girl, is regarded among the Nepalese as a goddess.
It should be evident, when you watch the video, that the girl is just a girl. She is not a goddess. Her religion claims that she is the earthly manifistation of "Kali." If Kali exists at all, Kali is an evil spirit and no god.
Let me by clear: my God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the prophets and apostles, is the one, Triune, Living God. There is none other like Him, in heaven and in earth. Kali is a dumb idol, the work of mens hands. Those who claim to be living manifestations of Kali are either deluders, self-deluded, or demoniacs.
Those who worship "Kali," know that this (link) is your so-called god. It is not a representation of your god, it is the god itself, for your god is simply an idol, the work of men's hands. It represents the foolishness of your imagination.
There is one Incarnation of God, and that is the Son of God, Jesus Christ the Righteous, who died and rose again, and who has ascended into heaven and reigns. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. In that day of judgment, you will see the foolishness of your idols. If you call on Kali, no one will answer, for no one is able to stay the hand of the LORD.
Turn now from your dumb idols, from your superstitions and worship of demons. Worship the True and Living God, and Him alone. He is a jealous God - He demands to be worshipped, and those who do not will certainly perish eternally.
And those who live in America, who hold to pluralism and believe that all religions are equally valid, this message is to you too. Our God, Jehovah, the Maker of Heaven and Earth says otherwise. He declares Himself to be the One True God, and all of Creation and History provides evidence of the truth of His claim. Even your own conscience recognizes that God is, and is powerful, whether you try to silence its testimony or not.
All men have sinned, and all deserve to be judged when Christ Jesus comes again. There is only one way of escape. Turn now from your sins, from your idolatry, from your worship of the false gospels of Smith and Muhammed, from the worship of the dead. Repent, confess your sin to God, and beg for His forgiveness.
He is a Fearsome God to whom you have no right to ask for anything. Nevertheless, He is a merciful and compassionate God, patient, and abounding with love toward those who serve Him. Now then, cast yourself upon His mercy, trust in Him, for He has not only declared the judgment to come, but also that no one who trusts in Him will be ashamed on that day.
Friday, June 15, 2007
A dialogue between the present author (TF), and a fictious writer named Ms. Antijur (AJ for short), sadly based on an actual dialogue.
AJ: I don't agree with the death penalty on any grounds for anything.
TF: Your view is not valid, because it passes judgment on the Pentateuch.
AJ: I believe that the death penalty was valid then but I do not believe it is valid under the new covenant.
TF: That would seem to be like some form of agreement with the death penalty. Nevertheless, your view raises some interesting questions. What penalties from criminal acts are permitted, in your view, under the new covenant? Bonds, prison, hard labor, scourging, stocks, torture, maiming, branding, tagging, publishing names in the newspaper, or what? I mean, we all think that felony crimes should be punished pretty severely. If the death penalty (in your view) is out, what is the maximum amount of punishment we can inflict? I know the laws of lots of countries don't allow certain kinds of punishments, but just suppose that we can change the laws in order to best punish those who deserve it. What can we do?
AJ: What is the maximum punishment? Loss of priveledge, loss of freedom, to be provided with only those things necissary for health hygeine and nourishment, solitary confinement, counselling if needed, and labor of a useful variety maybe.
AJ (cont'd): I don't have all the answers but "Bonds, prison, hard labor, scourging, stocks, torture, maiming, branding," why do you want to hurt people? Why are people clinging to an eye for an eye? Don't we trust god to punish the wicked? When that adultress woman was pulled before Jesus did Jesus say, "Yeah, she's a wrongun', stone her"?
TF: Your response is logically and exegetically invalid. You claim that we can take away privilege and freedom, and yet you also claim "Don't we trust god to punish the wicked?" (appealling to Jesus' failure to condemn the woman)
TF (cont'd): If you don't think we should punish those who commit felonies at all, I think you're on an island by yourself. If you grant that they should be punished, you have no basis in relying on Jesus' dealing with the woman, because she was not just not stoned, but not punished at all. Also, if you grant that they should be punished, and you refuse to accept the Old Testament's just punishment for their offense, you have no basis for deciding from Scripture what that punishment should and shouldn't be.
May the God of Justice, who has provided the power of the sword, not in vain to the King, but so that the King may be a terror to evil, provide our nation with mercy for failing to mete out justice as we ought,
Here's a link to the reply. (Update: Dr. White has provided his own response, here.)
There are several parts to Mr. Armstrong's reply, and doing justice in response requires separating the issues into those parts, and replying to each seriatim. The following is part 1, relating to the Roman Catholic departure from the Scriptural identity between Bishop and Elder.
1. Presbyter / Episcopos (επισκοπους) / Elder / Bishop
i. Dave Armstrong had written that Protestants believe that: "The Bible teaches that bishops, elders, and deacons are all synonymous terms for the same office: roughly that of a pastor today."
ii. James White had pointed out that this is absurd, Protestants hold to two offices: elder and deacon.
iii. Dave Armstrong more or less admits that he made a mistake to include "deacon" in the list.
Dave Armstrong, however, argues in substance, that the point of his argument was directed to the Protestant view that there is no office of Bishop separate from Elder. Dave's presentation also includes tangential arguments related to sola Scriptura and the alleged infallibility of councils. Since those are off-topic here, discussion of them will be reserved for another occassion, should such occasion arise.
Let's examine the arguments Dave Armstrong sets forth in defense (apology) of the Roman Catholic distinction between Bishop and Priest.
i. The Roman Catholic view is "more developed."
Dave Armstrong cites various Scriptures that are alleged to show "fluidity and overlap" among the offices in the apostolic period. Mr. Armstrong then states, "[S]ome Protestants ... adopt this more fluid and primitive New Testament ecclesiology and use the terms interchangeably, whereas Catholics follow a far more developed ecclesiology." This is a startling admission from a Roman Catholic apologist, when we consider how often Rome has fondly claimed to be teaching just what was always taught from the beginning. Nevertheless, we would agree with Dave Armstrong that Protestants are more like the Apostolic church with regard to church offices than are Roman Catholics. It's hard to see how this is a defense at all.
ii. One Bishop, but a plurality of elders
Mr. Armstrong next quotes an old argument of his own, which states that "Bishops are always referred to in the singular, while elders are usually mentioned plurally."
This is simply not true. Philippians 1:1 states: "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." In case anyone thinks this is a translation error, the Vulgate reads episcopis and the Greek reads επισκοποις, both of which are obviously plural, and the DRB confirms the KJV's translation on this point.
iii. The burdern lies on Dr. White to establish his novel ecclesiology
Mr. Armstrong argues that "Of course, the far greater burden lies on White, to establish his novel ecclesiology of bishops in the New Testament having no higher status than a mere elder or pastor of a local church ... ."
The response is that this argument contradicts argument i above. If the Roman Catholic ecclesiology is "more developed" then it has the burden of justification, not an ecclesiology that is the same as the primitive church.
iv. Council of Jerusalem shows a hierarchical episcopacy
Mr. Armstrong writes: "Hierarchical episcopacy is most apparent in the New Testament in the Council of Jerusalem."
Mr. Armstrong's support of this assertion is the following:
The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-29) bears witness to a definite hierarchical, episcopal structure of government in the early Church. St. Peter, the chief elder (the office of Pope) of the entire Church (1 Peter 5:1; cf. John 21:15-17), presided and issued the authoritative pronouncement (15:7-11). Then James, Bishop of Jerusalem (rather like the host-mayor of a conference) gives a concurring (Acts 15:14), concluding statement (15:13-29). That James was the sole, "monarchical" bishop of Jerusalem is fairly apparent from Scripture (Acts 12:17, 15:13,19, 21:18, Gal. 1:19, 2:12). This fact is also attested by the first Christian historian, Eusebius (History of the Church, 7:19).
The problem with Mr. Armstrong's claims are that they are not supported by the Scriptural evidence. The council of Jerusalem is recorded at Acts 15:1-29. Other than that claim, every other Scriptural claim is incorrect.
DA: "St. Peter [was] the chief elder (the office of Pope) of the entire Church (1 Peter 5:1; cf. John 21:15-17)."
Truth: 1 Peter 5:1 does not say that Peter is the chief elder, but "also an elder" (Vulgate reads consenior and the Greek reads συμπρεσβυτερος, both of which indicate parity, not supremecy.)
Truth: John 21:15-17 does not say that Peter has any relative authority at all, it simply records Jesus asking whether Peter loves Jesus, and commands Peter to feed the sheep. There's not even the slightest original language question involved here, so a detailed linguistic analysis is omitted.
DA: "St. Peter ... presided and issued the authoritative pronouncement (15:7-11).
Truth: Actus 15:7-11 neither states that Peter presided, nor that he gave an authoritative pronouncement. In fact, Peter testified to the salvation of the Gentiles through grace. This was immediately followed by Paul's and Barnabus' testimony regarding the work of God among the Gentiles. There is no indication that Peter presided, nor is there indication that Peter's pronouncement was authoritative.
DA: "Then James, Bishop of Jerusalem (rather like the host-mayor of a conference) gives a concurring (Acts 15:14), concluding statement (15:13-29)."
Truth: James it not called the "Bishop of Jerusalem" but simply James. His statement in verse 14 does not concur with Peter's statement, but instead refers to the testimony of Simeon who by inspiration of the Holy Spirit declared
25And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Some have doubted that this Simeon was intended. There is another Simeon of whom we know, a fellow Antiochan elder of Barnabus' (Acts 13:1), who may very well have been at the council. This seems less likely, because we are not told that Simeon spoke with Paul and Barnabus in verse 12.
But even supposing (as some do) that James meant Simon Peter, not one of the Simeons, James does not simply "concur" with Simeon, James states what Simeon said, and then appeals to the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, the testimony of the prophets.
Furthermore, James' words are not a "concluding" statement, but a statement of his opinion, based on Scripture, vs. 19-21.
DA: " That James was the sole, "monarchical" bishop of Jerusalem is fairly apparent from Scripture (Acts 12:17, 15:13,19, 21:18, Gal. 1:19, 2:12). "
Truth: Not one of the cited passages supports either the view that James was the sole bishop, that James was a monarchical bishop, or that James was the sole bishop that was a monarchical bishop.
Acts 12:17 simply makes mention of James and the fact that he was at Jerusalem. Acts 15:13,19 does not portray James acting monarchical, and he is far from alone, but again is at Jerusalem. Acts 21:18 mentions Paul coming to James and all the other elders, who then respond to Paul collectively, though again, they are at Jerusalem. Galatians 1:19 mentions that the only other apostle that Paul saw in Jerusalem was James (of course, this is in addition to Peter in verse 18). Galations 2:12 merely mentions that certain men came from James.
In short, all that the verses show was that James was resident in Jerusalem, that he was an apostle.
The remainder of Dave Armstrong's argument relies on the testimony of Eusebius who was born more than two centuries after the council of Jerusalem.
Before the conclusion of this topic, Mr. Armstrong quotes from D. G. Dunn who, as quoted, states that, "Timothy and Titus ... begin to assume something of the role of monarchichal bishops...." Of course, this is only tangentially related to this portion of the post, and - more importantly - it Dunn is speaking of their relationship to the community, not to the other bishops or elders.
At the conclusion of this topic, Dave Armstrong links in four previous posts of his.
The first relates the Roman Catholic office of priests. Its opening statement of the extensive reply portion of the post,
The priesthood as we know it today is not a strong motif in the New
Testament. But this can be explained in terms of development of doctrine: some
things were understood only in very basic or skeletal terms in the early days of Christianity.
is enough to render it moot for our discussion here.
The second relates to a debate between Mr. Armstrong and [eastern, presumably] Orthodox reader about whether Apostles became bishops. This discussion is not germane to our discussion here.
The third is a dialogue regarding ecclesiology, but does not address the alleged distinction between elders and bishops, except to reiterate DA's argument i above, about the Roman Catholic doctrine being a development.
The fourth is essentially an attempted proof that many historians agree that episcopacy was an earlier development in the church. Of course, again, this would relate to DA's argument i above.
What may we conclude from the analysis above? What we have seen is that the main thrust of Armstrong's attempted reply is that the Roman Catholic doctrine is a development. Protestants willing grant that it is a development, and reject it as lacking Scriptural basis. The limited Scriptural interaction that Mr. Armstrong provides for the most part misrepresents Scripture. Thus, we can see that Mr. Armstrong's attempted apology for the Roman Catholic doctrine of the separation of the role of Bishop and Elder has failed on Scriptural grounds.
More parts to follow, if the Lord wills,
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Newcomb's Paradox provides an illuminating non-theological illustration of the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom. We are to imagine a being with great predictive powers and to suppose we are confronted with two boxes, B1 and B2. B1 contains $1,000; B2 contains either $1,000,000 or nothing. We may choose either B2 alone or B1 and B2 together. If the being predicts that you choose both boxes, he does not put anything in B2; if he predicts that you choose B2 only, he puts $1,000,000 in B2. What should you choose? A proper construction of the pay-off matrix for the decision vindicates the one-box choice. If this is correct, then those who claim that God's knowledge is counterfactually dependent on future contingents foreknown by Him are likewise vindicated.
Let's analyze this problem.
I. Initial Analysis
As an initial analysis, let's assume that (a) we want more money than less money, and (b) the predictive ability of the being is perfect, not just very great.
In that case, the solution is obvious, pick B2. Result %100 chance of receiving $1M.
II. Return to the Presented Question
When we take away (b), such that the predictive power is great, but not perfect, we are faced with options that are somewhat more complicated. We'd like to increase our amount from $1M to $1.001M, but we don't want to receive only $0.001M or, even worse, nill.
There are four possible scenarios:
1. You pick both, and the being predicts that correctly.
2. You pick both, but the being predicts you pick only B2.
3. You pick B2, and the being correctly predicts that.
4. You pick B2, and the being predicts that you pick both.
If each were to occur, the results (payout) would be as follows.
Looking only at your payouts, there is not a monotonic preference between picking B2 or both. In other words, there is no one choice that is always better than the other.
A. Strategies that do not involve assessing the being's predictive ability
There are a couple game theory strategies that you could employ at this stage. If you were aiming to minimize your worst outcome, you would pick both. This is called the "maxi-min" strategy. Employing that strategy, you are guaranteed at least $0.001M, and you could get lucky and strike it rich. A person whom we would consider very risk averse would choose both to avoid getting nothing.
Likewise, a very risk loving person would (using a different game theory strategy) choose both, becuase doing so provides the possibility of the maximum payout. This is called the "maxi-max" strategy. Employing this strategy, there is some chance (however remote) that you will obtain the big prize of $1.001M. Such a person would be willing to take the risk that he could get the low payoff in the hope of obtaining the big prize.
Notice that neither of these strategies requires any knowledge about how good the being is at predicting, as long as the being does not have perfect predictive ability.
B. Strategies that requiring assessing the predictor
i. Expected Value
The most analytical strategy for making a selection is based on assessing the ability of the predictor. This is the expected value strategy.
In the expected value strategy, we multiply the payout for each outcome of each of the scenarios by the chance of the scenario occurring. Thus, we would have the following, in which P is the probability that the predictor predicts correctly, expressed as a decimal.
1. $0.001M x P
2. $1.001M x (1-P)
3. $1.000M x P
Item number 4 remains zero, because zero times anything is zero.
Notice that there are two pairs A (1,2) and B (3,4). The expected value strategy cannot pick just one of the items, it must pick one of the pairs. The value of each pair is the sum of the outcomes within the pair. The expected values of the pairs is:
A. ($0.001M x P) + ($1.001M x (1-P))
B. $1.000M x P
B is equal to 3, because adding zero adds nothing.
Let's examine a few sample values for P.
If P = 0, A = $1.001M and B = Nada.
Such a scenario is the scenario where the predictor always picks wrong.
In contrast, if P = 1, A = $0.001M and B = 1.000
Such a scenario is the scenario where the predictor always picks correctly.
In the first scenario, the Expected Value strategy would be to pick A, and in the second scenario, the Expected Value strategy would be to pick B. As you might expect, as P increases from zero chance to a 100% chance, A loses favor to B.
The precise point at which the Expected Value stategy says both A and B are equally good, is:
($0.001M x P) + ($1.001M x (1-P)) = $1.000M x P
which simplifies to
$1.001M = $2M x P
or P = 0.5005
When P = 0.5005, A = $0.5005M and B= $0.5005M
When P is less then 0.5005, A is going to be higher than B, and when P is greater than 0.5005, B is going to be higher than A.
Thus, if we believe that the being's predictive power is greater than 0.5005, and we use the expected value strategy, we will pick B, and if we believe that the being's predictive power is less than 0.5005, we will pick A.
If we had no information about the predictive being's guessing abilities, we might default to the view that the predictive being guessed correctly 50% of the time. If we had that view, and we employed the expected value strategy, we would pick A.
But the problem stipulates that predictive being does not just have average guessing ability, but that the predictive being has great predictive ability. Accordingly, we would be inclined to pick B using the expected value strategy, as long as we believed that 0.5005 is not >> 0.5.
C. Second Guess Strategies
In addition to the strategies that evaluate risk or payoff alone, and the strategy of using expected value, there is an additional level of strategy that is intuitively attractive. This intuitively attractive strategy is to try to predict the prediction of the predictor.
In other words, we ask the question, what would the predictor expect me to pick? If we predict that the predictor will predict our selection of B (i.e. that we pick B2), then we will actually pick A (i..e. both boxes) because then we will have $1.001M instead of $1.000M. If we predict that the predictor will predict our selection of A (i.e. that we will pick both boxes), then we will pick A again because that way we will have $0.001M instead of nada.
If we employ this second guess strategy, we will always pick A, because (regardless of what we think that the predictor will predict) the result is that A will be better.
III. Comparison of the strategies
There is really no one strategy that is better than the other strategies. One might argue that the Expected Value strategy is the best strategy, but such a strategy assumes that one is willing to accept the risk of a zero payout, and willing to lose the thrill of the maximum payoff. Likewise, such a strategy assumes that one cannot second guess the predictor and try to choose based on predicting the predictor. The strategy also assumes that the predictor has a predictive ability that exceeds (or at least equals) 0.5005.
IV. Comparison to W. L. Craig's claims
Recall that W.L. Craig had claimed:
A proper construction of the pay-off matrix for the decision vindicates the one-box choice. If this is correct, then those who claim that God's knowledge is counterfactually dependent on future contingents foreknown by Him are likewise vindicated.
As has been shown above, a pay-off matrix "vindicates" the one-box choice if and only if the other available game strategies are ignored, and the predictive ability of the being is assumed to be greater than a certain threshold. Such a qualified vindication cannot be said to vinidicate those who say that "God's knowledge is counterfactually dependent on future contingents foreknown by Him."
Additionally, there is no apparent link between this game and the point to be proved. But let us briefly review and critique W. L. Craig's own analysis detailed analysis of the problem.
V. A Common-Sense Strategy
The common sense strategy is simply to deny that what one does now will have any effect on what is in the second box. That is to say, either the predictive being placed the money in the box already or he did not. If he did, picking both boxes won't hurt, and if he did not, picking only the second box is foolish, because it automatically discards the $0.001M in the first box, leaving you with nada.
VI. A critique of W. L. Craig's analysis (Link to his analysis, here.)
In W. L. Craig's article, he favors the expected value strategy, while noticing various objections, including the common sense objection noted above.
W. L. Craig's main point appears to be that God already knows what you are going to pick, i.e. P = 1. As we have shown above, if P = 1, we should choose B2, in order to maximize our wealth.
The problem is that such a state of perfect predictability requires, as a mechanism, backwards causation. In other words, the only reason to favor the one-box strategy over the common-sense strategy, is if one believes that one's choice will actually affect the contents of the box. But the contents of the box have already been determined. Accordingly, one's choice must have a causal effect in the past, in order for one's choice to matter in whether the box is empty or full.
WLC attempts to interact with this rebuttal in a manner that reminds me greatly of Godismyjudge's comments in previous posts. Here goes:
This analysis, however, seems to rest upon a misunderstanding in which the causal relation between an event or thing and its effect is conflated with the semantic relation between a true proposition and its corresponding state of affairs. For if at tn I choose B2 alone, then the proposition "W chooses B2 alone" is true at tn because of the semantic relation which obtains between a true proposition and the corresponding state of affairs which makes it true; by the same token " W will choose B2 alone" is true prior to tn. "W chose B2 alone" is true subsequent to tn, and " W chooses B2 alone at tn" is omnitemporally true. The relation obtaining between a true proposition and its corresponding state of affairs is semantic, not causal. Now God, knowing all true propositions, therefore knows the true future contingent proposition concerning my choice of the boxes. Again no causal relation obtains here. Hence, the charge of backward causation seems entirely misconceived: we have simply the semantic relation between true propositions and their corresponding states of affairs and the divine property of knowing all true propositions.
Here WLC makes much the same error that we have seen previously in Godismyjudge's posts. There is confusion between the proposition and the event. This confusion is somewhat subtle. Let's see if we can make it evident in a line-by-line analysis.
WLC writes: "This analysis, however, seems to rest upon a misunderstanding in which the causal relation between an event or thing and its effect is conflated with the semantic relation between a true proposition and its corresponding state of affairs. "
I respond: This is WLC's thesis, that cause-and-effect relationship has been confused for "the semantic relation between a true proposition and its corresponding state of affairs." Before we rush to judgment regading this thesis, let's see what WLC tenders as support.
WLC writes: "For if at tn I choose B2 alone, then the proposition "W chooses B2 alone" is true at tn because of the semantic relation which obtains between a true proposition and the corresponding state of affairs which makes it true; by the same token " W will choose B2 alone" is true prior to tn."
I respond: Let's leave aside the portion after the semi-colon for now. Looking at the first part of WLC's assertion, you will notice the following terminology, "... if ... then ... true ... because ... which makes it true." This is the language of causation, with the effect being the truth of the proposition. If the word "broken" were used instead of "true," no one would have the least doubt that the omitted portion of the quotation explained how the object came to be broken.
Calling this relationship between the cause of the proposition being true, and the truth effect of the cause a "semantic" relationship, appears intentionally obfuscatory. The term "semantic" usually conveys the sense of "relating to meaning," and derives from the Greek word semantikos, which indicates signification. Yet, WLC's explanation is one of cause and effect, not signification or meaning.
In other words, the correspondence to reality is the reason that a statement about reality is either true or false. That relationship is a causal relationship. If reality is as the statement says, then the statement has a "true" truth value. If reality is contrary to the statement, then the statement has a "false" truth value. In other words, the state of reality is the cause of the truth/falsehood value of propositions that describe reality.
WLC appears to attempt to bolster his view by the following example pair: ""W chose B2 alone" is true subsequent to tn, and " W chooses B2 alone at tn" is omnitemporally true. "
I respond: This difference between the two statements is something semantic, it has to do with the relation between the action verb and time. The first statement employs the past tense, and thus is making a claim regarding the past. The second statement employs language that simply states an event at a particular point in time (without a relative reference) and thus states a general, or gnomic, truth. As such, it avoids the semantic problem of the first statement.
Nevertheless, the same causal relationship exists between the second statement and the event. The second, gnomic, statement is true or false as result of its correspondence or lack thereof to reality. The fact that there are semantic differences between different descriptions of an event does not mean that the proposition's truth is causally independent of the event. Such a conclusion cannot possible follow from the demonstration provided.
WLC then simply asserts: "The relation obtaining between a true proposition and its corresponding state of affairs is semantic, not causal."
I respond: But we have shown that the truth value is causal, and even WLC's own explanation testifies to the causal relationship.
WLC continues: "Now God, knowing all true propositions, therefore knows the true future contingent proposition concerning my choice of the boxes."
I respond: Since WLC acknowledges that God knows all true propositions, it would appear that WLC is acknowledging that God not only knows them, but knows their truth or falsehood value. If so, then there is no way to exclude from God's knowledge the gnomic absolute proposition concerning the act of choosing the boxes. For if God knows the proposition, and if God knows that the proposition is true, then God knows the reality of the act/event, because God surely recognizes that the only proposition to be true is for it to have a positive correspondence to reality. If not, (i.e. if God does not know which propositions are true, and which are not true), then knowing the "the true future contingent proposition concerning my choice of the boxes," cannot help Him.
Either way, WLC's argument again collapses. As shown above, God knows the absolute gnomic truth of the proposition "A picks B2 at tn," regardless of whether God additionally knows the reason why the event occurs (either "contingently" or "determinately").
WLC again simply states: "Again no causal relation obtains here."
I respond: And of course, WLC's saying three times does not make it so. We have shown above, that there is a cause and effect relationship between the proposition's truth and reality. That's enough to show backward causation IF God has advance knowledge of the truth of the proposition.
WLC then concludes: "Hence, the charge of backward causation seems entirely misconceived: we have simply the semantic relation between true propositions and their corresponding states of affairs and the divine property of knowing all true propositions."
I respond: I have shown above why this conclusion is incorrect. There is more than just a semantic relationship between gnomic propositions and events - if the gnomic proposition corresponds to reality, then (and as a result of that correspondence) it is true. That is a causal relationship, and even WLC's own explanation (as demonstrated above) shows that it is a causal relationship.
Since WLC acknowledges that backward causation is a problem for his view of what he calls God's "foreknowledge," we are in a position to refuse to accept WLC's view of God's omniscience.
WLC has the opportunity to make one more attempt to address the shortcomings of his argument. WLC provides the following discussion and objection.
Choosing B2 alone is the right strategy, but one must live with the "uncomfortable knowledge" that at the time of choosing B2 alone God's belief is "unalterably tucked away in the past" and there is really $1,001,000 in the boxes. After choosing B2 alone one must be prepared to say, "If I had chosen both boxes, I would not have gotten the $1,001,000. " But an opponent might retort, "Of course you would have, since it was there! Therefore, you must not have been free to choose both."
Interestingly, WLC never finds time to the opponent's retort described above.
VII. A Reformed alternative
The Reformed alternative is to deny that God acts based on what he foresees us doing. The Reformed alternative indicates that God has, out of his infinite wisdom, foreordained all that will occur, and that includes both His and our actions. God is immutable and impassive. Acordingly, nothing that a creature does can cause God to do anything.
Thus, the Reformed critic can look at the problem two ways:
1) as absurd, because God knows the future as a logical result of knowing His eternal decree, not as a result of prediction,
2) as absurd, because whatever God decided to put in the box is already in the box, and will not come out, or
3) with slight modification, as a confusing revelation: i.e. God has revealed the consequence of picking one or two boxes. If two boxes are picked, the person will receive $0.001M and if one box is picked, the person will receive $1.000M; but how that would be implemented is simply a mystery, because it would appear that the only way that prophecy could be true with respect to the one-box-choice is if there is already the cash in the box, and likewise that for the two-box-choice if there is already no cash in the box. The solution being that God is behind both the cash placement and your choice. If God has ordained that you will choose both, he has already prepared no cash in box 2, and likewise if God has ordained that you will chose box 2, he has placed in that box. This solves the problem, solves the paradox, and leaves the reader wondering why WLC holds to an autonomous view of man in the first place.
WLC leaves a couple of gems in his own conclusion, and it is worth touching on them here.
A proper understanding of the counterfactual conditionals involved enables us to see that the pastness of God's knowledge serves neither to make God's beliefs counterfactually closed nor to rob us of genuine freedom. It is evident that our decisions determine God's past beliefs about those decisions and do so without invoking an objectionable backward causation.
Neither of these propositions have been established in WLC's article, nor can they be. Furthermore, the straw man is the "counterfactual conditionals" in contrast to the gnomic absolutes. God both knows the truth of hypothetical scenarios, but also the reality of the future. Finally, the second sentence is shocking in obvious self-contradictory nature. "... determine ... past ... without invoking an objectionable backward causation." The only possible hope for WLC to extricate himself from the self-contradiction would appear to be to rely on the "an objectionable" to qualify (rather than describe) the kind of backward causation that the present determination of a past event implies.
And of course, that's the penultimate problem with WLC's position: it is internally inconsistent and self-contradictory. The ultimate problem is that it is unscriptural. That it is internally inconsistent and self-contradictory is an outworking of its failure to begin from the presuppositions contained in the Word of God.
In short, in this critique of WLC, we see the practical impact that a flawed epistemology has.
Is anyone out there who considers themselves a proponent of Federal Vision / Auburn Avenue Theology willing to give a concise statement of the distinctives of that view?
If someone will accept this challenge, I will agree to provide a detailed rebuttal either of the distinctiveness of the view or of the view itself.
So far, no proponent of the FV/AAT theology has been able to concisely identify their distinctives, to my knowledge. The oponents have certainly done so, and their rebuttal (as seen, for example, in the PCA's recent report) is devasting to FV/AAT as portrayed by the opponents.
Nevertheless, before I pass judgment on folks like Doug Wilson, who associate themselves with FV/AAT theology, I want to give them (any of them, not just DW) a chance to state what their actual distinctives are, if any.
I had hoped to see some crushing rebuke stating that the PCA report fall wide of the mark of FV/AAT in DW's recent blog entry (link), but I did not find anything of the sort. Instead, I found a charitable, level-headed call for calm and peace. I'm glad to see that kind of response, but I'd also love to see if the FV/AAT proponents think the PCA addressed the real issues, or straw men.
I also recently found Peter Leithart's defense of his own integrity (link), but still no identification of the Federal Vision distinctives.
Notice how Armstrong manages to post a 1000+ word post (including quotations) without ever once addressing the substantive errors raised in this quick review of his work.
Here is a link to the review.
If you want to check for yourself, here is a link to DA's response, in which he spends most of his time trying to get personal with the review's author. Link is here.
Note to everyone out there. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to respond to the substance of critiques of your writings, not to the person of the critiquers. Dead folks like Cornelius Van Til and Bahnsen have an excuse, but living folks (especially those who have time to post gripes about their reviewer's persona) do not have an excuse. After all, you are not so much writing a response to the person who is critiqueing your work, as to the readers of that critique.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Having seen many comments on the issue, I'm interested to see what the PCA will say, and even more interested in how they will say it. If I had to wager, I'm inclined to suspect that they will say that the issue needs further study, although many of the doctrinal statements presented by FV/AAT are troubling.
The Jolly Blogger reports that the committee's report was adopted. More details here. Link.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, and Proverbs 9:10). This simple, thrice-repeated truth is the foundation of Scriptural Dogmatism. Throughout Scripture we seem the same epistemology of dogmatism. You can find the phrase "Thus saith the Lord" in over 400 verses in the Old Testament in the Authorized Version. Even in the garden, the question was "hath God said?"
Our epistemology is, consequently, dogmatic and revelational, not quasi-rational. We know the truth because it has been revealed to us by God, and that revelation from God is not open to debate.
When people mocked the resurrection of the dead, and others wanted to debate the issue, what did Paul do? Paul departed from among them (Acts 17:33).
There are legitimate debates, and there debates that can be taken on for the purpose of preaching the gospel. When a Reformed apologist debates a Muslim on the reality of the crucifixion, for example, the Reformed apologist is not leaving the question open. The Bible says Jesus Christ was crucified, and that settles it. Perhaps the Muslim will respond that the Koran says that Jesus (whom I suppose no consistent Muslim would acknowledge as Christ) was not crucified.
Why accept the dogmatic view of Christianity over that of Islam? Why believe the Bible rather than the Koran? Why is God God and not the "allah" of the Koran?
The response is that no one will believe the word of God, nor trust in the Son of God, without God revealing Himself to that person. As Jesus said: "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." (John 6:44)
It seems that the followers of Van Til stumble at this point in their epistemology stumble. They appear to be unsatisfied with the following epistemology, "I know the truth, because God has revealed it to me."
They appear to want to be able to "prove" God's existence and attributes to an unbeliever. They (at least usually) recognize the futility of appealing to evidence, but appear to believe that they can appeal to reason and the implanted awareness of God that exists in the minds of unbelievers. This is why their position has been referred to above as quasi-rationalism.
But let's stop the critique here, for a moment. There a few a readers out there who are of a Van-Tillian mindset. Let's just ask them:
What is wrong with an epistemology that begins with presuppositions.
God has revealed to me that He is, that He is True, and that He has revealed Himself in Scripture.
Consequently I know that God is, that what God says is true, and that Scripture is an embodiment of that truth.
Based on Scripture, I know the validity and limits of the natural sciences, social sciences, and the like. I have a standard of absolute truth. I may think that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, but I KNOW that Christ has gone to prepare a place for me in His presence for all eternity. I think that the official just botched his first-down assessment, but I know that Solomon was the son of David. I think that all the dinosaurs are dead, but I know that all things were created by God in the space of six days and very good.
If all the world's scientists were on one side disputing the Resurrection of Christ, the reversal of the sun in Hezekiah's day, the calling down of fire from heaven by the prophet, the Great Flood, and/or the Creation, and I'll I had on the other side was the Word of God, I would believe God rather than all the most learned men in the world.
Now, tell me, Van-Tillian, what is wrong with that dogmatism? Why instead of starting from the point raised above, does Van Til assert that He believes in God because if He did not, all would be chaos? Why do the followers of Van Til appear to believe that we can argue people into accepting that the God who created all things and rules all things by His right arm exists and has the attributes that He has?
Is there any answer? Is there any alternative for Dogmatism? Is quasi-rationalism Scripturally valid?
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Rejoinder 1: Some unfounded claims (and some axioms) are arbitrary assertions, some are not. Of course, we are speaking here of claims that are not founded in reasoned argument.
American Heritage Dictionary defines arbitrary as, “Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle.” Any claim that has no reason behind it is arbitrary. Turretinfan can claim that his axiom has necessity behind it. If he says “it is necessary because…” he has provided a reason for his axiom and thus debunked himself. Turretinfan can also claim he has a principle behind it but if he has some principle behind his ultimate axiom then he has both a reason for the axiom and has made the axiom less than his ultimate axiom, ad infinitum.
JB's response relies on equivocation. There is a reason (in the sense of the AHD) but not a reasoned argument (the sense being discussed). The reason that I believe what I believe, is that God has opened my eyes to see that it is true. That is a reason (hence the axiom is not arbitrary), and yet it is not a reasoned argument.
Rejoinder 2: This [that an unfounded claim is arbitrary] is not a legitimate objection, however, because a circular argument is not a foundation (in the sense of a reasoned argument) for a proposition.
Whether or not an assertion made for no reason is arbitrary has nothing to do with circularity, in itself. Take for example the recent Chris Hitchens/Doug Wilson debate: Hitchens asserts that Christianity is bad and Wilson that Christianity is good. Now Hitchens needs to have some ethical standard by which he makes his declaration. However, the fact that Hitchens cannot come up with a standard does not mean that Doug Wilson is relieved of having to come up with a standard for his own assertion.
However, I am willing to bite the bullet on the later half of this assertion. The claim is being made by Van Tilians that in restricted cases circularity is allowed if it is necessary and verified transcendentally. Turretinfan objects that this is not allowed. Okay, so why, Turretinfan, is this not allowed?
At to the first half of the above, the point is that a circular argument does not provide a reason for an otherwise arbitrary assertion. If it did, it would provide a reason for virtually any arbitrary assertion.
As to the second half, given that the general rule is that circular arguments are invalid arguments, the burden is on the Van-Tillians to demonstrate that there is a category of circular arguments that actually are valid. So far, the Van-Tillians have not risen to this challenge.
Instead, the Van-Tillians have simply asserted that the circular argument is "necessary" (which we have demonstrated is not true) and that the circular argument is "verified transcendentally" (which we have demonstrated is actually incorrect, the proposition itself is verified transcendentally, not the circular argument).
Notice that the Bible is a self-attesting authority. To attest to something is to give one’s testimony and to give one’s testimony is to give support for a declaration or a thing. Thus, to self-attest is to give your own support for yourself. Yet this is exactly what Turretinfan needs to avoid. Turretinfan doesn’t want the Bible to be a self-attesting authority but rather to be a mere assertion (admittedly, this is not how Turretinfan would put it but I think this is the position he is forced into). In order for Turretinfan to have his cake and eat it too, he needs to drop the concept of Scripture as a self-attesting authority and instead adopt Scripture as a book of (arbitrary) assertions, or axioms if you prefer.
It should be clear from the second part of the paragraph above, that our position is that Scripture has self-attesting authority. The problem with JB's analysis is to confuse the self-attestation of the Bible with a circular argument, or an argument at all. It is not a deductive argument. That's the simple fact of the matter. Thus, there is no contradiction between saying that the Bible is my set of axioms and that it is not arbitrary. The reason JB thinks I cannot have self-attesting axioms is that JB has mistakenly dichotomized into rigorous proof and arbitrariness, as noted above.
Rejoinder 3: a circular argument is patently worse than just stating that the matter is a presupposition, because it has the appearance of an attempt to decieve the audient into thinking that the matter has been proven using reason.
In order for Turretinfan to be correct he must assume that there can be no self-attesting authority and he must assume that to make a mistake in reasoning is worse than to be arbitrary in reasoning. Sometimes it may be better to make a mistake in reasoning than to be arbitrary. For example, if I arbitrarily decide that the world is sound and fury signifying nothing, and thus I should go on a killing rampage, it would certainly be better to make the mistake of thinking that Scripture is a self-attesting authority (if this is a mistake). On the other hand, it may be worse if the mistake in reasoning is that black people are not people at all but a lower life form and the arbitrary decision is to do what God has said. Thus, he cannot categorically state that to reason in a circle is worse than to be arbitrary.
Here JB continues to mistakenly assert (a) that our position requires that there be no self-attesting authority, and (b) that the only alternative to circularity is arbitrariness. Each of those errors has been thoroughly refuted.
Additionally, based on those mistaken assertions, JB artificially asserts that we must assume that "to make a mistake in reasoning is worse than to be arbitrary in reasoning." Whether we arrive at the right result by the wrong methodology does not make the methodology correct. The ends do not justify the means. If there is a mistake in reasoning, that is something that ought to be corrected, independently of whether "arbitrary in reasoning" is acceptable. Likewise, if "arbitrary in reasoning" is bad, then it should be corrected independently of whether a mistake in reasoning is something bad.
And, as previously noted, the actual position that faces JB's position is not that it is better to be arbitrary than circular, but that one should not be circular. JB's argument is akin to the pinchpurse asserting that I must prove that pinching purses is worse than speeding, if I am going to criticize him for speeding.
What remains unproven by both JB and the pinchpurse, is that the only alternative is what they respectively claim. In other words, one might argue that it is better that one man should die and not the whole nation, if those are really the only two options. But if there is a third option: that both the man and the nation live, for example (or that the pinch purse goes to work, while driving within the law; or that a person acknowledge a presupposition as such, and not attempt to pass it off as a logically deduced conclusion), then the defense of comparative blameworthiness goes out the window.
Here, the third option is to announce the presupposition for what it is, and not attempt to claim that it has been logically deduced, when it has not. It is the path of honesty, and it is better than the deception of asserting that one can prove one's presuppositon by resort to circular argument.
Surely, Turretinfan would want to argue within the context that to arbitrarily assert God’s authority is better than to say that it is its own authority because it is the highest authority. Yet is this true? If Turretinfan allows this arbitrariness then, by his own admission, he cannot offer a reason as to why someone should choose a different axiom and go kill Bob. If I allow this circle in my reasoning then it is not without guidelines, it must be necessitated by the nature of the claim and it must be transcendentally verified. Thus, I can still hold people accountable to not reason in a circle unless they are making a certain kind of claim and when they do make that claim, I can still have some principle of critique.
As noted above, JB continues to (apparently unintentionally) misrepresent our position as advocating arbitrary assertions. However, as has been shown, the assertion of God's authority is not arbitrary, even though it is not the result of logical deduction.
Rejoinder 4: The assertion that God exists is not “arbitrary.” It is God’s own name for Himself. He is the “I AM.” It is not a conclusion that we arrive at by logical reasoning, it is simply the revealed truth of God.
Turretinfan certainly makes this sound nice and what Christian wouldn’t agree that their worldview is not arbitrary? This comment sounds even nicer when he misconstrues the Van Tilian position by making it sound as if Van Tilians believe that we start with logic and can end with God (but maybe he didn’t mean to do that). Turretinfan claims the assertion that God exists is not “arbitrary,” but is this necessarily true? Not necessarily. It isn’t arbitrary because of the nature of who God is. God is the ultimate authority and therefore He can claim that He exists on His own authority. However, I cannot claim that God exists and then leave it at that because I am no authority. If I am going to claim that God exists I must appeal to His authority. Thus, if we merely claim “God exists” we are being arbitrary.
JB's response here appears self-contradictory. JB appears to acknowledge that "God exists" is not an arbitrary assertion. Furthermore, JB appears to recognize that the reason it is not arbitrary is not because it is arrived at by logical deduction. He brings in what he feels are misperceptions of Van-Tillianism, but that discussion is not germane here. JB has to pick: is the assertion of God's existence arbitrary, or not. Those of us who believe know that it is not arbitrary, as JB also appears to recognize.
Rejoinder 5: Consequently, the objection fails both because the Circular Reasoning position is worse than the acknowledgment of the presupposition, and because it is untrue that the only alternative to reasoned proof is mere arbit.As noted previously, this alleged exception is merely declared by Van-Tillians, not proven by them. Consequently, the burden of showing that it is an exception remains on them.
I may be mistaken, but it seems to me that Turretinfan has a misconception of “reasoned proof.” It sounds as though Turretinfan is under the impression that for one to give a reasoned proof they must go to something outside of themselves. Certainly, this is true with one exception: that which is the ultimate authority. God does not go to a reason outside of Himself because reason does not exist outside of Himself. Thus, the fact of reason is, in a sense “a reasoned proof.”
Their argument appears to be that "ultimate authorities cannot be established by ordinary logical deduction, (so far they are correct) so, we must use a circular argument." It is the latter half where they go astray. There is no more reason to use a circular argument than to employ any other form of invalid argument, or simply to remain silent.
Rejoinder 6: problem is not just that circular arguments are illogical, but that they are (in Frame’s apologetic) being passed off on the unsuspecting public as logically valid.
Notice that this is almost the same as rejoinder 5 and 3. However, I want to raise again the challenge made under rejoinder 2: Why are the types of circular arguments Frame proposes invalid? In addition notice that this rejoinder is in response to my state that “[y]ou assert that circular arguments as illogical and then abandon logic yourself.” One can easily see in Turretinfan’s rejoinder that he did not demonstrate that my objection was not the case. Turretinfan only argues that circular arguments are worse than unfounded assertions. However, my point stands; he wants to use logic to critique other views for being illogical but then wants to put his own view in an ivory tower where logic cannot reach.
As noted in the comment, most of this is addressed above. One point of correction: "Turretinfan only argues that circular arguments are worse than unfounded assertions." That's simply not the case. That is not my argument, nor has it been my argument. JB's failure to get the argument, is disappointing. The argument is that proposing a logically invalid argument (and circular arguments are invalid arguments) as the attempted demonstration is, at best, potentially deceptive.
The "ivory tower" comment is a bizarre mixture of metaphors. In any event, a presupposition is, by definition, outside the bounds of supposition. To assert that it is not is to beat one's head against the wall.
Rejoinder 7: [T]here is not some alternative in which axioms ARE justified by reasoned argument. As noted above, a circular argument is not a reasoned argument.
Notice that this rejoinder was in response to my objection 3, where I state, “If axioms don’t have to be justified by reasoned argument, then I can escape having to justify my position on anything by calling it an axiom.” (In fact, the next 3 Rejoinders by Turretin will be in relation to this objection.) In this, Turretinfan wisely adopts John Frame’s observation that if no alternative exists then no critique can be made. However, this is not a defeater to my Objection 3 because the only thing this means is that the fact that I can escape all justification by calling it an axiom is not a fault (if Turretinfan is correct that there are no other options). The fact remains that I can escape all justification by making all things axioms… a high price to pay to escape Van Til.
JB: yes, if you call your whole position axiomatic, you would remove your position from debate. The only question would be whether your multiple axioms were consistent. No one, however, is proposing making all things axioms, because most people do not hold all of their views with equal dogmatism.
The only question is regarding presuppositions, starting points. As between competing presuppositions, (God exists, God does not exist), either can be "supported" by a circular argument or by any number of other invalid argumentation forms. The honest thing to do is to acknowledge that it is a presupposition and go from there, rather than claiming to have proven the presupposition by the exercise of logic.
Rejoinder 8: The second reason is that if a circular argument IS a reasoned justification, then it could simply be employed to support any arbitrary axiom: consequently, the same criticism would inhere. Frame tries to escape this by saying that circular arguments are only valid sometimes (not all the time), but aside from a self-serving desire to permit circularity when it is helpful, Frame does not justify his resort to fallacious reasoning.
The criticism is not valid because Frame’s guidelines are not artificial. Indeed, most philosophers (I don’t know that all have) have recognized that certain claims are necessarily circular (i.e. induction). (Please note that this “necessary circle” is somewhat dependent on one’s worldview. Under the Christian worldview, induction is not circular: we have the principle because God is uniform and promised the seasons for harvest etc….). When some alternative can be given to a circular argument then a circular argument must not be given and if one does have a circular argument it should be capable of being argued for transcendentally. Turretinfan may not like this but these are in fact reasons for the validity of circularity. Turretinfan’s alternative, arbitrary axioms, cannot have any guidelines which limits their use.
Again, notice the false characterization of our position as "arbitrary axioms."
In addition, yes, Frame's guidelines are artificial. They are a stopgap measure for attempting to prolong deductive reasoning when it has failed. It's not a question of my liking or not liking it. Deductive reasoning dead-ends at presuppositions -- axioms. That's just the way it is.
A circular argument does not help presuppositions, becuase circular arguments do not help propositions in general. The same reasons that a circular argument is not a sound argument for proposition X are valid reasons why a circular argument is not a sound argument for all propositions X: there's nothing about presuppositions that avoid the invalidity problems of circularity.
The fact that a claim cannot be proved apart from circularity does not mean that it can be proved WITH circularity, just the fact that a claim cannot be proved by appealling to the fact that I am a poor, paraplegic orphan whose extraordinarily adorable pet kitten just got run over by the same tank that killed my grandparents does not mean that it can be proven in such a logically invalid method.
"Inductive reasoning" is not deductive reasoning at all, and it is unclear why JB even brings it up.
The proposition may be verifiable in manner that transcends logic, but not the use of a circular argument (or of my pitiful tale).
Rejoinder 9: The third reason is that there is value in people exposing their axioms: their presuppositions. For example, most Arminians have a presupposition that man’s destiny is not (effectively) written in stone, but that the future (to a large degree) is up to each individual person. That’s a presupposition for them, but some (indeed many) refuse to acknowledge that it is a presupposition, choosing instead to assert that is based in Scriptural exegesis. When they acknowledge that it is a presupposition, then the debate can shift to whether that presupposition is consistent with other of their presuppositions, as opposed to whether the presupposition itself is justified.
Notice that this is a type of transcendental argumentation for the axiom. Since Turretinfan doesn’t believe axioms can be justified then it should not be any problem to the Arminian that he cannot justify holding onto two contradictory axioms. Thus, while Turretinfan may be able to show that two axioms contradict, it doesn’t seem to me that the Arminian has to give any of them up; after all, the Arminian has no reason for holding the axioms in the first place. The Arminian can claim that it is his axiom to hold to these two contradictions but that it is also his axiom that he be consistent the rest of the time.
This response again demonstrates that JB consistently fails to identify our actual position. As has been repeated many times, our position is not in favor of arbitrary assertions. It would seem to be a point of fairness that JB try to recognize that.
A second mischaracterization "Turretinfan doesn’t believe axioms can be justified." In fact, I think I've fairly clearly said the opposite. They can be justified, just not by logical deduction.
What JB appears to fail to recognize is that while axioms (as such) are not proved by logical deduction, they can be invalidated within a system by comparison to other axioms. If anyone, Arminian or otherwise, refuses to consistently abide by the law of self-contradiction, they are simply indicating that they refuse to argue.
Rejoinder 10: I don’t see this [the ability to be logical on matters other than your presuppositions is not due to your presuppositions] as a reason to object to my view.
I see this as a reason for objection because it means that the axiom is virtually useless. Turretinfan may wish to object that it is useful in that he has been justified… but this itself is a part of his axiom. His axiom doesn’t give him any thing advantageous over another person with different axioms except the axiom itself. This means that his justification is only useful in that it is a part of his axiom. Unbelieving Bob will not have any use for this “justification” because it is not a part of his axiom. If Bob’s axiom is that murdering is good then it is useful for justifying Bob’s murder, to Bob. It is has no value to anyone other than Bob. I can imagine Turretinfan would want to say that this means everyone should adopt his axiom so they can enjoy its benefits. Yet this assumes that the benefits have a transitive value to the person with different axioms. The shift would have to be arbitrary and Bob can make the same claim.
JB seems to overlook that even if the value of the axiom cannot be proven by logical argument, nevertheless that does not mean that axiom does not have enormous value. A murder-loving person who refuses to debate his view of murder is in an intrisicly bad position, whether we can prove that to his satisfcation or not.
Rejoinder 11: reason has been revealed to be of use in understanding.
Why should I want to be understanding?
There are lots of answers that could be given, including (if you were my son) "because otherwise I'll hit you with this stick." Hopefully, I don't have to tell you why you should want such an object. If some fool really was on the fence about the issue, the answer would be: because God said to make it your goal.
Rejoinder 12: Asserting that a truth is self-evident is dogma, not demonstration, even if one places Aristotle’s signature under the assertion.
First of all, I must object to his reformulation of my statement. My original statement was: “you act as though Van Tilians just made up circular arguments yesterday, when in fact such circularity, which may be justified transcendentally, has been used since Aristotle.” The thrust of this point is not that “Aristotle did it first!” but that the very man who helped systematized western logic realized that in some cases circularity was inescapable. Turretinfan wants to appeal to one logical principle (don’t reason in a circle) and yet abandon another logical principle (don’t be arbitrary). In showing that the principle of non-circularity has exceptions we do not have to throw out the entire system; yet, if we claim that non-arbitrariness has exceptions but we cannot provide any reason for it then we cannot stop the entire system from devolving into arbitrariness.
There is no question of "throw[ing] out the entire system."
On the other hand, JB, you need to recognize that circularity is equally supportive of arbitrary and non-arbitrary assertions. Thus, our rejection of circularity (even if Aristotle himself accepted such arguments as sound in some cases, which has not been illustrated) actually bolsters the system, providing yet another reason NOT to throw it out.
Rejoinder 13: Interestingly, though, even the pagan author Longinus recognized that Paul preached in a style that was different from the Greek orators: ‘Let the following men be takend as the summit of all excellence of eloquence and Grecian intellect - Demothsenes, Lysias, Aeachines, Hyperides, Isaeus, Deinarchus, or Demosthenes Crithinus, Isocrates, Antiphon; to whom may be added, Paul of Tarsus, who was the first within my knowledge who did not make use of demonstration.’”
Every atheist, agnostic, and non-Christian would claim that we have no demonstration for our belief system. The testimony of the pagan author Longinus does not convince me that making use of demonstrations is not biblical.
You're equivocating again. And you would be wrong, even in your equivocation. The Pharoah's magicians may have claimed "no demonstration" at first, but after several demonstrations they were persuaded. Paul's demonstration of snake venom resistance actually persuaded those around him of his own divinity and of that of his companion.
But all this is equivocation. Paul did not demonstrate his first principles by logical deduction: instead he preached, as we should do.
You have an uphill battle, because (as previously noted) the use of a circular argument is not the Biblical model. When I join to that the fact that the pagans recognized the difference between Paul's presentation style (not whether he was successful, as your equivocal response seems to suggest) and the presentation style of the Greeks, then you are even further from your goal.
Rejoinder 14: The circularity is not being justified transcendently; the proposition itself (”I AM”) is justified transcendently.
As I understand it, the transcendental argument does not give justification to the proposition, as Turretinfan claims. The only thing that can “justify” God is His own Word. Rather, the argument demonstrates that such must be the case, and that all men know this to be the case. The Authority has the right to claim whatever He wants without rebuttal: including the statement “I AM because I AM.”
The statement in Scripture, however, is just "I AM," not "I AM because I AM." God does not have any duty or need to justify his own existence: God preaches, and we His messangers do the same in His name.
In any event, the goal of any indirect argument for God's existence is to establish God's existence, not to establish a circular argument for God's existence. It's perplexing why JB would think that latter.
Rejoinder 15: Furthermore, we know that the proposition is evident to everyone, even if they refuse to accept it as true, for Scripture reveals this information to us.I don't see much (if any) interaction between the rejoinder and the response.
In another post Turretinfan stated that men do not accept the proposition and that they do not know the proposition: “The ‘knowledge’ that the wicked have of God is not belief, but information.” Therefore, all Turretinfan means is that everyone has hear, or seen, or “intuited” (whatever that means) the proposition “I AM” but what is the use of this? I can claim “the proposition ‘Blark IS’ is evident to everyone.”
Smith asks, “So you mean everyone knows it?”
Jones: “No, they don’t know it. It’s more like they intuit it.”
Smith: “What does that mean?”
Jones: “Well, I’m not sure if that word has any logical value, to be honest.”
Smith: “So what exactly do you mean that “Blark IS” is evident to everyone?”
Jones: “It just means its there.”
However, Turretinfan may have a particular meaning in mind when he makes that statement. If so I am open to considering it.
JB's question appears to be: "what is useful about the proposition: "God IS"?" It is an odd sort of question. What is useful about any proposition? It conveys true information. That's its use.
Rejoinder 16: We might be perceived to be arbitrary, but we believe because we have been persuaded of the truth by the Spirit of God.
This claim itself is axiomatic. Thus, everyone can claim that their axiom is not arbitrary because they have been persuaded by “Blark, god of murder who declares murder good.”
They can claim it all they like. They are only proving that they are delusional.
Rejoinder 17: As noted in my previous post, there are further categories of invalid argumentation we could employ in the place of the first two options listed (for example we could argue as the Muslims have historically done, ad baculum) and there is the option of responding that the question (what is the justification of your final justification) is as absurd as the question, ‘which building is taller than the tallest building?’ or ‘what lies below the geometric center of the Earth?’”
This is in response to my claim that, “There are three options: circular reasoning, self-contradiction, and arbitrary assertion.” Whether or not there are 3 categories or 5 really doesn’t make to big of a difference to me. However, I will attempt to argue that in the end, argumentum ad baculum would fall under one of the three categories I have listed. For example, Person A “If you don’t believe X is the ultimate authority I will kill you,” Person B: “Why?” Person A can give a reason that relies upon X (therefore circular) or person A can give a reason that ultimately lies outside of X (therefore is self contradictory) or person A can give no reason and kill him (arbitrary).
JB's response here is puzzling. The ad baculum answer to the question "Why" is, a quick blow and "Any more questions or are you ready to agree?" That's neither self-contradictory, circular, or abitrary.
The other option Turretinfan lists is that the question itself doesn’t make sense. This is because the question is loaded. It assumes an outside justification for that which encompasses all justification. The point here is that in such a case the ultimate commitment is self-attesting.
That's not a defense of the question, its a recognition of the invalidity of the question.
Rejoinder 18: although the presupposition that God exists is not founded on deduction, it is not arbitrary, and … circular argument does not weed out arbitrary presuppositions.
Of course the claim that it is not arbitrary is part of what we have been debating. I see no further argument given here that the axiom isn’t arbitrary. As far as the assertion made concerning circular arguments: I would have to see some explanation. I do not claim that if one adopts my distinction between valid and invalid circularity that all arbitrariness will stop all I am claiming is that one can allow for such a distinction to be made without the whole system sinking, as is not the case with arbitrariness.
Two aspects of response here:
a) Note again that JB feels that his repeated claims (at least sometimes) that the axiom is arbitrary makes it so. His entire proof, however, is that some claims are abitrary. Anyone who has taken even one semester of logic, however, should recognize that the fallacy of:
A is B
Some B are C
A is C
That's the fallacy that JB is employing. He provides examples of arbitrary assertions, but fails to show that this assertion is arbitrary. Furthermore, as has been stated many times, the assertion is not arbitrary. Since it is not arbitrary, most of the rest of the argument melt away.
b) A circular argument can "support" any arbitrary assertion.
IFF thunderbolts exist, Zeus exists.
I chose the existence of Zeus more or less arbitrarily. You pick another propisition if you like. I can support it with circular argument. There are a few obvious exceptions: "Circular arguments are false," would have a paradoxical circular proof, and "Self-contradictions are valid" would have no proof at all.
Rejoinder 19: the two options are (from the standpoint of reasoned argument) the same. Circularity does not ADD to the justification of something, and transcendent justification is inherently not reasoned argument. Furthermore, there is no reason that the label “transcendent” cannot be appropriately applied to the presuppositions in the absence of a circular argument.
This of course assumes that my distinction of circularity is invalid. In the case of
one’s ultimate commitment, circularity is the only appeal that can be
consistently made. I would need to see an argument for the rest of these
As noted above, ad baculum, ad nauseum, ad miseracordiam, etc. could equally consistently be made with the circular argument, because they are all equally not logical arguments for the proposition. A circular argument is properly considered, no argument at all.
In any event, the issue of "transcendent justification" must be addressed first (under JB's proposal) before the "validity" of the circular argument can be considered. And it turns out that if the answer to that issue is affirmative, then there is no need to construct a circular argument for the proposition, just appeal to the transcendent justification as such.
In short, a circular argument in any "proof" of God's existence is worse than useless: it is potentially deceptive, unbiblical, and distracting. The better, more honest, approach is to simply acknowledge that we believe God because He has revealed himself to us by His work of regeneration in our hearts. This is the message of Scripture, it is the message of Paul, and it should be our message.
Praise be to our Sovereign God!