Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Extra-scriptural scripturalism

Vincent Cheung writes:

***QUOTE***

As my readers are aware, I deny that induction, sensation, and science can yield any knowledge, and I have provided biblical and rational justification for this denial in my writings. Besides the typical fallacious replies and evasions, one response is to ask, “But what is knowledge?” That is, if we cannot define knowledge, or cannot justify our definition of knowledge, then it would seem meaningless to say that induction, sensation, and science cannot yield any knowledge.

I have tolerated this sophistry for a while, but since I have been asked about it several times, and since I have been made aware that this point is sometimes brought up in discussions about my writings (as if it totally destroys my arguments!), I will briefly address it here.

It is true that when we use a word, we should often have a proper and justifiable definition for it. This is especially important when we are using it in the context of precise arguments and syllogisms. However, the above objection misses the point.

The point is that induction, sensation, and science involve fallacious reasonings such that they can never produce logically valid conclusions from the premises. That is, it is impossible to use induction, sensation, and science to validly reason from premises X and Y to conclusion Q regarding any subject P. Thus our main point stands even if we never define or even mention “knowledge.”

Assuming the premise, “I see a red car,” how is it possible to validly reason from this premise to, “There is a red car”? You need another premise to fill in the gap between “I see” and “There is,” but how is this premise to be rationally obtained and justified, rather than just stubbornly assumed? This is the point.

As it stands, there is no rational difference between jumping from “I see a red car” to “There is a red car,” and jumping from “I imagine a red car” or “I desire a red car” to “There is a red car.” What is the rational difference between sensation, imagination, and expectation? How come one can jump from “I see” to “There is,” and cannot jump from “I imagine” or “ I desire” to “There is”? What is the additional premise that makes the difference? And how is this premise rationally obtained and justified? The issue is not even the definition of knowledge, but the validity of the reasoning process.

The objection is sophistical and irrational. Whether or not we define knowledge, and whether or not our opponents define knowledge, the objection has not even started to justify induction, sensation, and science, but it seeks to distract us from the main point.

But if the challenge is to define “knowledge” in a proposition such as, “Science cannot yield any knowledge,” then let our opponents first define “science,” and then logically demonstrate how it can validly reach any conclusion about anything, and then we can proceed to examine our denial. For if our science-loving opponents have never claimed that science can reach rational conclusions about anything, or even yield “knowledge” (whatever that is), we would have never needed to make the denial in the first place.

In other words, I can affirm everything that I have said regarding induction, sensation, and science without ever using the word “knowledge” — I just have to say some things differently. In fact, I have already done this a number of times in my books. For example, I would say that science cannot validly deduce anything about reality. And even “reality” does not need to be defined to make this point, since anything X will do — “affirming the consequent” is fallacious regardless of what you are talking about.

So let’s get back to the real issue and press our opponents to show how induction, sensation, and science can validly reason from premises to conclusion.

To those who agree with me: We are right about this. Our position is biblical, rational, irrefutable, and so obviously so that it is laughably easy to defend. Just don’t let intellectual tricksters bully or distract you, and don’t let them smuggle in their irrational theories by falsely claiming biblical support, as if false assumptions can be founded on true presuppositions, or the lie justified by the truth. Instead, let us continue to crush the man-centered epistemologies of induction and sensation, and to exalt biblical revelation as the sole infallible source of true premises from which we would validly deduce conclusions about the many things that God has chosen to disclose to us.

http://www.vincentcheung.com/

***END-QUOTE***

Gordon Clark writes:

***QUOTE***

With great reluctance, for I sincerely admire the considerable talent of my present opponent [George Mavrodes], I must point out that he has not met the issue when he says, "Sense experience is required for the derivation of such [Biblical] beliefs," and "every consistent epistemology which assigns a role to the Bible…must assign a role of equal scope and in precisely the same area to sense perception." To make such assertions presupposes satisfactory answers to Aenesidemus and Descartes' demon. Can it be shown that an impostor twin is impossible? Can we be sure that we have not overlooked a "not" in the sentence? There are even greater empirical scandals than these. How can one prove the reliability of memory? Any test designed to show which memory is true and which is mistaken presupposes that a previous memory is true - and this is the point in question. In large measure the psychological force of my position derives from the impossibility of empiricism.

No one in the history of philosophy has made a more determined effort than Aristotle to build knowledge on sensation. Surely Locke is no better; and contemporary phenomenalism with its experience that is neither mental nor physical is as meaningless and unverifiable as Spinoza's substance that is both. It was for this reason that the first Wheaton lecture used Aristotle as the exponent of empiricism. Therefore until my destructive analysis of Aristotle (in the first Wheaton lecture and in Thales to Dewey) is overturned, an appeal to sensation is a petitio principii.

The statements of these creeds mean that adherence to Scripture is not a deduction from sensory experience, nor the result of anticipations of decency, nor even of archaeological confirmation. Confidence in Scripture is the result of the inward working of the Holy Ghost.

This too is how Abraham knew it was God and not Satan who commanded him to kill Isaac.

http://www.trinityfoundation.org/new_article.php?id=1

***END-QUOTE***

By way of reply:

i) There is a very place for the witness of the Spirit in Christian epistemology. But unless the Bible is an object of knowledge, the Spirit cannot witness to the Word of God. And Clark fails to explain how, if sense knowledge is denied, the Bible can be an object of knowledge.

ii) There is nothing wrong with raising philosophical objections to empiricism. There is nothing wrong with introducing thought-experiments like those of Descartes and Aenesidemus.

But is it not self-refuting to prove scripturalism by appeal to extra-Scriptural objections to empiricism?

Scripture itself never says that sensory perception is a systematically unreliable source of knowledge. So Clark and Cheung are imposing on Scripture an extra-Scriptural frame of reference.

iii) I’d add that Cheung’s objection to sensation and induction is overstated and ultimately self-refuting.

It’s easy to show that our senses can be deceived. Take the familiar case of optical illusions.

It’s easy to show that induction is incomplete. It’s easy to show that scientific measurement is approximate.

But the very act of showing the limitations of sense knowledge presupposes that its limitations can be shown, and they can only be shown on the same type of evidence, drawn from a broader database.

We know that an optical illusion is illusory because we can subject it to more stringent empirical analysis, or simply because, as a matter of experience--either direct or testimonial--we have learned that a mirage is just a mirage.

Likewise we know that induction is incomplete because we know or can show the sample or the control group in the first place, and compare it to a larger potential pool.

By the same token, we know that a measurement is approximate precisely because we have a number of observable measurements to work with. And they are approximate within a certain range of variation.

This is why engineers build a certain margin of error into their designs. And this is why, as a rule, bridges and skyscrapers and aircraft are safe to use. Has Clark never flown on an airplane or driven across a bridge?

In other words, it is only because the senses are generally reliable that we are in a position to detect optical illusions or degrees of imprecision. Without that sensory benchmark, Clark and Cheung would have no frame of reference to observe--and I do mean “observe”--the limitations of sense knowledge.

It is only by comparing one observation with another than an observer is aware of any discrepancy to begin with.

iv) True, this leaves us with the question of why we should privilege some observations over others.

Without attempting to offer a general answer, it is sufficient for our present purposes if we privilege those observations which the Word of God has warranted. That’s a starting-point.

v) Cheung, for one, is using sense data to make his case against sense data. There he is, at his keyboard, with its alphanumerical keys, typing linguistic tokens onto a screen and sending them into cyberspace, to be read of someone else’s screen, through the material medium of optical fiber technology.

vi) If Cheung denies the possibility of sense knowledge, then perhaps he can answer me this one question: what evidence is there than Vincent Cheung even exists? Perhaps he’s a figment of the Cartesian demon? Certainly I find him nowhere named in my concordance of Scripture.

And how can I be sure that I haven’t overlooked a “not” or two in his case for scripturalism?

How, indeed, can I be sure I haven’t overlooked a “not” in a sentence of Scripture? How can I be sure the Bible is not a figment of the Cartesian demon?

For that matter, a rationalist with a faulty memory is in exactly the same boat as an empiricist with a faulty memory.

All the arguments cut both ways. So Cheung needs to be very careful that he doesn’t bleed to death as he hacks away at sense knowledge--for he is wielding a double-bladed sword, and it has a nasty habit of rebounding on the swordsman.

12 comments:

  1. Hays writes:

    "For that matter, a rationalist with a faulty memory is in exactly the same boat as an empiricist with a faulty memory."

    This is, of course, the arch-Reidian point that exposes Cheung's critique of inductive inference as extremely dubious. Again and again, Cheung relies upon propositions which are neither found in the Bible nor validly deducible from propositions found in the Bible. Given Cheung's own position, why should we grant any more authority to his *a priori* convictions, than to *a posteriori* empirical inference? At this point, he's in the same boat with those he criticizes. That's what happens when you profess to reject common sense and yet continue to employ it in your defense of your rejection of common sense. The problem with Cheung is that he cannot reconcile his conclusion with the method of argument he employed to get there. His espoused presuppositions are in conflict with his real ones.

    In Cheung's critique which you posted, Cheung asserts quite a variety of propositions, none of which are found in the Bible. Here's one:

    [1] "It is true that when we use a word, we should often have a proper and justifiable definition for it."

    Notice that Scripture nowhere teaches [1]. In addition, Cheung provides no logically valid deduction of [1] from any proposition found in Scripture. Now, according to Cheung, we need "to exalt biblical revelation as the sole infallible source of true premises from which we would validly deduce conclusions about the many things that God has chosen to disclose to us." OK then, Vincent, show us the true premises in the Bible by which we may validly deduce [1].

    I can, of course, repeat the above challenge with respect to quite a few propositions which Cheung asserts, including:

    [2] "This is especially important when we are using it in the context of precise arguments and syllogisms."

    [3] "The point is that induction, sensation, and science involve fallacious reasonings such that they can never produce logically valid conclusions from the premises."

    [4] "As it stands, there is no rational difference between jumping from 'I see a red car' to 'There is a red car,' and jumping from 'I imagine a red car' or 'I desire a red car' to 'There is a red car.'"

    [5] "The objection is sophistical and irrational."

    [6] "In fact, I have already done this a number of times in my books."

    [7] "... biblical revelation as the sole infallible source of true premises from which we would validly deduce conclusions about the many things that God has chosen to disclose to us."

    I challenge Cheung to "validly deduce" any of the above propositions from propositions found in the Bible, which is on his view "the sole infallible source of true premises". It should go without saying that at no point should his derivation lapse into induction.

    In reality, Cheung's position is unbiblical. Scripture itself refutes the notion that knowledge for human beings only comes from validly deducing a proposition from biblical revelation. For instance:

    Mt 24:32 "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near." Unless Cheung wants to posit (apart from Scriptural authority!) some bizarre version of Malbranchian occasionalism, it seems evident that the individuals Jesus is addressing get their *ginwskw* of the seasons by way of observing the trees, not by way of reading their Bibles.

    Ac 2:22 "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know." Again, even though Peter's hearers were unbelievers, in his sermon Peter appeals to their previous knowledge of historical events. His hearers did not validly deduce these events from biblical propositions, but rather inferred them from their observation of history and/or testimony from those who did observe the history in question. (cf. also Paul's reference to Agrippa's knowledge of recent history, in Ac 26:26).

    In addition, Cheung repeatedly uses the phrase "validly reason," as in:

    "Assuming the premise, 'I see a red car,' how is it possible to validly reason from this premise to, 'There is a red car'?"

    But what does it mean to "validly reason"? In the logic textbooks that are standard nowadays (cf. Copi and Cohen), the concept of validity only applies to *deductive* arguments, not inductive arguments. On this (widely-accepted) view, an argument is valid just in case its premises couldn't be true and its conclusion false. So Cheung's criticism looks like a total *non sequitur*, for no inductive argument carries with it a claim of validity in *that* sense. But perhaps Cheung is using "valid" in a non-standard sense. If so, I think it's up to him to make plain what he means by "validly reason". Otherwise, his observations about inductive inference appear wholly trivial.

    Finally, I think it should be clear, to anyone who reflects upon the matter for a moment, that the vast majority of Scriptural exegesis proceeds by way of *induction*, not deduction (there are precious few *deductively valid* arguments for the various Christian doctrines, from the proof-texts adduced in their favor). As such, any responsible steward of the Scriptures and the Christian faith cannot reject induction *per se*. At best, he can only reject that form of induction that does not rely solely upon *biblical premises*. But if that's the case -- i.e., Cheung is a Scripturalist -- then the above texts serve as a refutation of Scripturalism as well. The irony is that it is the non-Scripturalists that have a good Scriptural argument against Scripturalism.

    ReplyDelete
  2. BTW, it's quite clear from the following:

    http://www.vincentcheung.com/2005/04/29/occasionalism-and-empiricism/

    ... that Cheung *does* affirm occasionalism. Indeed, he says:

    <<<
    As for occasionalism, I use the expression 'on the occasion” more than the term “occasionalism,” since many beginners read my books and they would have no idea what the term means, so I use the explanation or the meaning of the term instead of the term itself. The point is that God’s providence includes complete control of everything about everything, which means that he must be the sole power controlling all communication and knowledge acquisition.

    Jonathan Edwards affirmed a form of occasionalism, and also Malebranche, as well as a number of other Christian thinkers. You could see Calvin, Luther, etc., at times saying things that sound like occasionalism. I would just say that it is a necessary implication and a consistent application of the biblical doctrine of providence.
    >>>

    Two points here.

    First, the notion that occasionalism "is a necessary implication and a consistent application of the biblical doctrine of providence" is just laughable. Occasionalism may have its merits, but being *necessarily implied* by Scripture is not one of them. I suppose one could try to build an *inductive* or *abductive* case for occasionalism, as the best way to explain a whole range of Scriptural texts. But that would be lapsing into a form of induction. And Cheung is already on record as denying that induction "can yield any knowledge". So much for knowing that occasionalism is true!

    Second, if all Cheung means by occasionalism is that God is "the sole power controlling all communication and knowledge acquisition," then it is trivially easy to reconcile inductive inference, even inductive empirical inference, with Cheung's view. When we inductively infer something from various empirical premises, we are functioning as God designed us to function (whether we are aware of that or not). It might even be that God illuminates our mind on the occasion of each inductive inference, producing a strong belief in us of the proposition in question. But in that case, inductive inference is quite a rational way of proceeding after all, and Cheung's denial of it as a source of knowledge seems jejune. Since induction is quite compatible with a strong doctrine of divine providence, why would someone want to use the latter to undermine the former? The problem with Cheung's argument is not that he believes in divine providence, but that he doesn't believe in it enough.

    ReplyDelete
  3. OK folks, it gets worse, much worse. At the aforementioned link:

    http://www.vincentcheung.com/2005/04/29/occasionalism-and-empiricism/

    ... Cheung interacts with the following criticism of his views:

    <<<
    (2) Also, I think you'd have to deny some common sense things, so that you don’t know that 'Vincent is a man.' You may be willing to bite that bullet, I don’t know.
    >>>

    In response to the above, here's what Cheung says:

    <<<
    I am skeptical against 'common sense' altogether, and I think that 'common sense' itself is incoherent. In fact, I think that 'common sense' is not common and it makes no sense.

    And if I know that 'Vincent is a man,' I certainly do not know this on an empirical basis (what precisely do I sense to know that 'Vincent is a man'?) or by common sense, but by illumination from the Logos, in accordance with my explanation on occasionalism.
    >>>

    Why do I cite the above? Because in his original blog post, Hays gives Cheung a direct challenge under (vi), namely, "If Cheung denies the possibility of sense knowledge, then perhaps he can answer me this one question: what evidence is there than Vincent Cheung even exists?" As you can see from the above quotations, this is not the first time this kind of question has been asked of Cheung.

    Two points here.

    First, I was correct in my earlier contention that Cheung rejects common sense. Indeed, he does so here explicitly. Whether that is a virtue in a Christian apologist, I'll leave to the reader to decide.

    Second, and more substantively, Cheung claims that he knows "Vincent is a man" not "on an empirical basis... or by common sense," but rather "by illumination from the Logos." So, in effect, in reply to the question as to how Cheung knows:

    [1] "Vincent Cheung is a man."

    ... Cheung replies by asserting a more complex proposition:

    [2] I know [1] by illumination from the Logos.

    Now this is interesting. How does Cheung know [2]? Is [2] contained in Scripture? Is [2] validly deducible from any propositions in Scripture? The answer here is surely 'no'. Indeed, I'd think it'd be hopeless to think otherwise. Scripture never mentions [1], nor how anyone knows [1]. In addition, Scripture never logically implies that we know [1] (or [2], for that matter) by way of illumination from the Logos.

    I can think of quite a few ways by which Cheung can know [1]. Unfortunately, all of them involve a rejection of Cheung's Scripturalist epistemology.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Are we ready for more? :-)

    At:

    http://www.vincentcheung.com/2005/04/29/occasionalism-and-empiricism/

    ... Cheung's interlocutor posts an eminently sensible comment:

    <<<
    (2) It would be fallacious for my opponent to argue that since sensations are *sometimes* mistaken, therefore they are *always* mistaken. Or, it would be fallacious to say that if *sometimes* you cannot know whether your sensations are working properly, therefore you can *never* know whether they are working properly.
    >>>

    This seems quite right. The aforementioned inferences (construed deductively) are indeed fallacious. But let's look at Cheung's reply:

    <<<
    Yes, but unless you can show how you know at any given instance whether that particular sensation is reliable or not, then you can't show how you could trust any given instance of sensation.

    So, *even if* some instances of sensation are reliable, and that in these instances, what you sense really corresponds to what is there to be sensed, unless you can show which instances of sensation are reliable and which instances are unreliable, it makes no difference -- you still can't trust any of them, since you have no way of knowing when your sensations are right and when they are wrong.

    So your opponent does not need to show that you *never* sense what you think you sense.
    >>>

    Cheung's response is interesting for a number of reasons.

    First, I think he quite rightly points out that he doesn't need to maintain the inferences in question ('if sometimes deceived, then always deceived') in order to maintain his overall position.

    But second, it appears that Cheung subscribes to a fairly implausible view of knowledge known as *epistemological internalism*. On this view, if you can't know how you know p, or at least show how you know p to others, then you can't know p in the first place. Here's Cheung's argument reconstructed:

    [1] I can't "show how I know at any given instance whether that particular sensation is reliable or not."

    [2] Therefore, I "can't show how I could trust any given instance of sensation."

    [3] Therefore, I "have no way of knowing when your sensations are right and when they are wrong."

    [4] Therefore, I "can't trust any of them" (i.e., my particular sensations).

    What's remarkable here is that Scripture itself licenses none of these inferences. In particular, Scripture doesn't license the inference that my inability to *show* how I could trust any given sensation, means that I can't trust any of them. Again, Cheung's view seems to be that if you can't know how you know p, then you can't know p in the first place. To put it in Cheung's own terminology, you have no right to trust a sensation if you can't show (to yourself or others) how you know that that sensation is reliable.

    Notice that Scripture never teaches this view. Notice that Scripture never logically implies this view. Indeed, given Cheung's overall Scripturalism, since he can't find any of his crucial inferences in Scripture, he can't show how he knows whether any of them are reliable. And, given Cheung's own epistemological internalism, if he can't show how he knows whether any of them are reliable, then he surely "can't trust any of them." Why then does Cheung proffer this argument in his defense?

    Once again, Cheung is rejecting *a posteriori* empirical inference (i.e. knowledge by sensation), by relying on *a priori* rational assumptions (i.e. knowledge by assumptions deemed to be intuitive or self-evident). Because Cheung cannot derive his rational assumptions from Scripture, it's somewhat unwise to use them in a defense of Scripturalism, or in a critique of a view of knowledge similarly underivable from Scripture. The view that one must be able to show how he knows in order to know at all is defended by several philosophers today (those that defend epistemological internalism), and is disputed by many (ordinarily, those that defend epistemological externalism). My only point is that Cheung's reliance on this view isn't licensed by Scripture, although he's free to make out the Scriptural case if indeed he thinks one can be made.

    One can make similar comments about Cheung's repeated reliance on a Cartesian or infallibilist standard for knowledge, evident throughout his posts, but this comment is lengthy enough. The building blocks of Cheung's *reductio ad absurdum* apologetic are this internalism and infallibilism. Unfortunately, neither is logically derivable from Scripture.

    ReplyDelete
  5. *CHEUNG ON OCCASIONALISM*

    In his "Ultimate Questions," found here:

    http://www.rmiweb.org/books/ultimate2004.pdf

    ... Vincent Cheung expands on the case for occasionalism, which he takes as an alternative to knowledge-by-sensation:

    <<<
    Now, empirical investigations cannot teach man what he does not already know,[fn. 25] but only the divine logos can convey information to man's mind, in addition to the innate knowledge he possesses. However, although it is impossible to gain any knowledge by empirical means, man's observation of nature can remind him about what he already knows about God. Therefore, observation of the universe does not add information to man's mind; rather, it provides the occasion for one or both of two things to occur. First,
    observation stimulates the mind to recall what God has already placed into it. Second, observation stimulates the mind to intuit what the logos immediately conveys to it on the occasion of the observation, often about what the person is observing. In both cases, no information comes from the act of observation itself.

    Fn. 25 See Augustine, *De Magistro*.
    >>>
    (pp. 16-17).

    Now, this is a fairly specific set of claims about how man acquires knowledge. According to Cheung:

    [1] "Empirical investigations cannot teach man what he does not already know." That is why "it is impossible to gain any knowledge by empirical means." Indeed, "no information comes from the act of observation itself."

    [2] "Only the divine logos can convey information to man's mind."

    [3] When we observe the universe, our minds are stimulated to either recall or intuit something.

    [4] In some cases, empirical observation stimulates recall of "what God has already placed into" the mind.

    [5] In other cases, empirical observation stimulates intuition of "what the logos immediately conveys to it on the occasion of the observation."

    Interestingly enough, Cheung provides no support for these claims, including Scriptural support. In fact, the *only* support he provides is to refer the reader to a work by Augustine in support of [1]. That's it!

    Are [1]-[5] logically implied by Scriptural propositions? What is the case for this?

    Earlier, on p. 9, Cheung offers the following footnote 11:

    <<<
    Several points in my presentation require me to make certain assertions that I will more adequately support elsewhere. For example, I will further argue for the present point in the rest of this chapter and in the next chapter. Thus if you are perplexed or unsure about a certain point, a later part of the chapter or the book will probably make it clear.
    >>>

    All right, then, let's give Cheung the benefit of the doubt. Does Cheung give *anywhere* in "Ultimate Questions" a Scriptural case for his occasionalism? Nope. He does have a section on the "Logos," which employs many extra-Scriptural propositions as a means of exegeting John 1. The next section, "Metaphysics," continues in this vein. (Cheung's reference on p. 25 to John 1 telling us something about "the laws of logic" is a nice touch; as a matter of fact, there is no reference to "the laws of logic" in the entire Bible. Cheung tells us that "logic is the way God thinks"; I was hitherto unaware that God employs rules of inference like *modus ponens*, but apparently that's what John 1 teaches ;-)

    But finally, in his section on "Epistemology," we get the reference to occasionalism we have been waiting for:

    <<<
    Consistent with Christian metaphysics, Christian epistemology affirms that all knowledge must be immediately -- that is, without mediation – granted and conveyed to the human mind by God. Thus on the occasion that you look at the words of the Bible, God directly communicates what is written to your mind, *without* going through the senses themselves. That is, your sensations provide the occasions upon which God directly conveys information to your mind *apart from* the sensations themselves. Therefore, although we do read the Bible, knowledge never comes from sensation.
    >>>
    (p. 38)

    OK, so what we have here is a *statement* of Cheung's views. But where is the logical derivation of these views from the Bible? They are nowhere to be found. Apparently, God is so sovereign, that not only does Cheung need no sensation, he doesn't need any arguments either! ;-)

    To be fair, on the previous page Cheung posits a distinction between primary and secondary causes (p. 37). But he bizarrely infers from this that "Therefore, it is correct to say that he alone is the cause of all things." I say "bizarrely," because if there are secondary causes, then God is not the only causal agent in the universe; that is precisely *why* the distinction between primary and secondary causes looms large in Reformed confessions and systematics. Cheung *might* have something of a case for occasionalism if he could show from Scripture that God is the only cause in the universe whatsoever, but that is what he cannot show. (Indeed, the Scriptures expressly *deny* what Cheung affirms, that God *alone* is the cause of all things. I guess when the Psalmist says that "I will cause Your name to be remembered in all generations" [Ps 45:17], he was speaking nonsense ;-) Ditto for Jesus' references to secondary causes in Mt 10:21 and Lk 17:2. Cf. Ro 13:3, 16:17, 1Co 8:13, 9:12, 2Co 2:2, 4:15, Gal 6:17, and Jude 1:19.)

    I conclude that Cheung's occasionalism *just is* a set of extra-Scriptural premises he brings to the interpretation and application of Scripture. The idea that *the Bible* actually teaches that all knowledge is given to us by God "without mediation" is just speculation, not exegesis.

    Again, Cheung says that "sensations do nothing more than to stimulate intellectual intuition, providing the occasions upon which the mind obtains knowledge from the divine *logos*." Unfortunately, he provides no Scriptural argument for this, especially for the "nothing more". Are we really to think Cheung can derive this universal negative from a Bible that doesn't so much as *address* the topic of the relation between illumination and sensation?

    Interestingly enough, on pp. 41-42, Cheung cites a paragraph or two from Augustine's _De Magistro_. Unfortunately for Cheung's Scripturalism, Augustine isn't Scripture (unless Cheung subscribes to a dual-source view of special revelation ;-).

    The best Cheung can do is observe that, according to Ronald Nash, John's prologue "at least hints" at Cheung's epistemology (p. 42). Something tells me that inference-by-hinting-at is considerably less reliable than a true law of logic such as *modus ponens* ;-)

    Finally, Cheung boldly asserts that even if John's prologue teaches nothing of the sort, that "does not undermine" Cheung's epistemology, since "nothing in the prologue contradicts the epistemology" he presented. But, of course, if mere consistency constitutes an argument, then I suppose we can argue that Elvis wore underwear, on the basis of John's prologue. I think Cheung is looking for something a bit stronger, surely. Cheung *does* say that "the epistemology that I presented is a necessary consequence of the biblical metaphysics that I introduced earlier" (p. 43), but of course *that* doesn't follow at all. The notion that everything in the world proceeds "without mediation" (i.e., apart from means, being an immediate effect of divine power) doesn't *logically follow* from the notion that God is sovereign, nor does the latter seem to make the former remotely plausible. Again, Cheung is free to *argue* for this, but that is precisely what is missing in "Ultimate Questions" (despite his promises to the contrary).

    Let me close this section of my commentary by drawing the reader's attention to the two paragraphs which close out Cheung's section on "Empiricism" (p. 43). Here is his affirmation of occasionalism:

    <<<
    To summarize, God acts directly on the mind and conveys information directly to it on the occasions when one is experiencing physical sensations, but God acts on the mind and conveys this information always apart from the sensations themselves. Even the act of reading the Scripture depends on Christ the divine logos, and not our senses.
    >>>

    OK, so that's his view. But in the next paragraph, Cheung states how he gets his views:

    <<<
    Scripture is the first principle of the Christian worldview, so that true knowledge consists of only what is directly stated in Scripture and what is validly deducible from Scripture; all other propositions amount to unjustified opinion at best. This biblical epistemology necessarily follows from biblical metaphysics. Any other epistemology is indefensible, and unavoidably collapses into self-contradictory skepticism.
    >>>

    So the idea is that everything in the first paragraph above (about occasionalism) is, according to the second paragraph above, either "directly stated in Scripture" or "is validly deducible from Scripture." But surely it is clear by now that Cheung's occasionalism passes none of these tests. How could anyone "validly deduce" from Scripture the notion that God conveys information "always apart from the sensations themselves"? That in any act of knowledge God always "acts directly on the mind"?

    Indeed, it gets much worse. *Even if* we grant to Cheung his occasionalism, *it does not follow* that it is irrational for an unbeliever to rely upon empirical, inductive inference. To think otherwise is to subscribe to Cheung's internalism in epistemology, and as I noted in a prior comment, that internalism is not Scripturally deducible either. So Cheung's apologetic-by-reductio-ad-absurdum fails spectacularly, not only in the details but in its broader, more fundamental moves.


    *CHEUNG'S NON-REVELATIONAL RATIONALISM*

    Ironically, on p. 20 of "Ultimate Questions," Cheung notes the following:

    <<<
    Rationalism selects a first principle (or as in geometry, begins with one or more axioms) and deduces the rest of the system from it. If the first principle is true and the process of deductive reasoning is valid, then the subsidiary propositions or theorems would all be necessarily true.

    One main problem with non-revelational rationalism has to do with how it selects a first principle.
    >>>

    Since Cheung's epistemological first principle (occasionalism) cannot be logically derived from Scripture, it's safe to say that Cheung's epistemology constitutes a form of what he would call "non-revelational rationalism".

    Earlier, I repeatedly contended that Cheung cannot logically derive his theses from Scripture. Let's look at some examples, quite apart from occasionalism, just to bring out the *non-revelational* aspect of his rationalism. In "Ultimate Questions" Cheung poses the problem of induction for the unbeliever. Then he claims that Christians have the (revelational) resources for solving the problem. To wit:

    <<<
    On the other hand, the Christian worldview alone provides the basis for affirming that nature is uniform and stable. As Genesis 8:22 says, "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease... God tells us through Scripture that the operations of nature will remain uniform and stable.
    >>>
    (p. 23)

    This example is instructive because it is a paradigm of Cheung's *non sequiturs* throughout the book. Apparently, Cheung wants to find a basis for the following proposition:

    [1] "Nature is uniform and stable" or "The operations of nature will remain uniform and stable."

    Cheung thinks he can derive [1] from something like:

    [2] "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."

    The problem should be evident: one cannot derive [1] from [2]. [2] makes reference to a couple of natural processes (passing seasons, day and night). But [1] makes reference to all of nature (if it didn't, then it can't underwrite induction in general, and Cheung doesn't have an answer to 'the problem of induction' after all). So Cheung is here inferring a universal from a couple of particulars. That is, he's making an inductive argument, in order to provide a 'Christian' grounding for induction. This is the same kind of lame reasoning that he has rejected in the previous pages. Why he adopts it here is anyone's guess.

    Here's another example from the same page, this one a lot quicker:

    <<<
    If man is a product of evolution instead of creation, then on what basis does the non-Christian oppose genocide or infanticide? But Exodus 20:13 says, "You shall not murder."
    >>>
    (p. 23)

    Notice that Cheung deduces prohibitions against genocide and infanticide from the statement "You shall not murder." But again, to make this a deductively valid inference requires not only the truth of Ex 20:13, but also the truth that genocide and infanticide are forms of murder. Interestingly enough, Cheung provides no Scriptural support for the latter claims. That's probably because their best defense is extra-Scriptural (in particular, noting certain relevant similarities between genocide/infanticide and the examples of murder in Scripture). Once again Cheung has made an inference that could only be made by means of extra-Scriptural premises, thus disavowing in practice the Scripturalist approach that he espouses in principle.

    Again, on the same page Cheung asks:

    "... on what basis does the non-Christian affirm the unity of mankind and the immorality of racism? But Acts 17:26 says, 'From one man he made every nation of men.'"

    But again, the immorality of racism cannot be validly deduced from Ac 17:26, for racism is ordinarily grounded in alleged *differences in development* rather than alleged differences in origin. (I reject this reasoning of course, but not because Ac 17:26 all by itself logically excludes it.)

    And so on and on, throughout Cheung's essay. His "Christian worldview" cannot solve any of the problems he raises for non-Christian worldviews, except by means of employing extra-Scriptural premises. Cheung should just admit this up front, rather than playing at Scripturalism. But that would involve him accepting the (*prima facie*) authority of rational intuition and empirical, inductive inference, and that (for some reason) he cannot do.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Xenophon,

    I don't really understand your first comment above, so I think I'll have to let it pass. Maybe someone else can explain your concern to me; it doesn't strike me as 'dumb,' just inscrutable :-) As far as I can tell, you haven't actually addressed any specific argument I've posed. I have no doubt that there are good *reductio ad absurdum* arguments out there, and that Cheung can pose them for unbelievers. But the ability to do *that* wasn't the target of my remarks. As a matter of fact I *don't* think Cheung "is right in a context of Revelation," at least as far as the things I pointed out. After all, he claims that the Bible teaches things which it actually doesn't teach.

    As for your second comment, I can't quite make out how Ps 93 helps Cheung's case re: genocide/infanticide. Perhaps you can help me out. Keep in mind that the relevant standard here is deductively valid inference from Scriptural propositions alone.

    If you think acknowledging "the Spirit of Truth" somehow affects the soundness of my arguments, you're of course encouraged to make that case. I didn't see it.

    I have no doubt as to what Cheung is "really concerned with". His subjective spiritual commitments are not what is at stake here. What is at stake is the soundness of the arguments he gives, against both non-Christians and his fellow Christian apologists. And whether he is "more successful... than others" likewise depends upon the soundness of his arguments. Since I've actually posted a few thoughts in that regard, perhaps you could interact with them.

    Some additional thoughts have come to mind since my previous comments, so I thought I'd share them.

    I think it is clear that Scripturalism and occasionalism (as a version of Augustine's theory of divine illumination) are two philosophies in tension with each other. On the one hand, Cheung's Scripturalist commitments lead him to say that "true knowledge consists of only what is directly stated in Scripture and what is validly deducible from Scripture; all other propositions amount to unjustified opinion at best" ("Ultimate Questions," p. 43). But on the other hand, Cheung's occasionalist commitments lead him to say that "observation stimulates the mind to intuit what the logos immediately conveys to it on the occasion of the observation, often about what the person is observing" (ibid., p. 17). That is, by divine illumination the scope of true knowledge is much broader than Scripture, namely, whatever belief God immediately produces in our mind on the occasion of sense experience. But if the process of divine illumination secures knowledge of propositions not contained in Scripture (such as "Vincent Cheung is a man"), then Scripturalism is false.

    There is a way out for Cheung, however. He can say, as he does say, that "man's observation of nature can remind him about what he already knows about God" (ibid., p. 16), and insist that this knowledge is *restricted* to "what he already knows about God." But if that's the case -- if by divine illumination we don't really learn anything new about nature, but only things we already know, and that about God -- then one wonders why Cheung bothers to argue that "the Christian worldview alone provides the basis for affirming that nature is uniform and stable" (ibid., p. 23). Why bother justifying induction on a Christian worldview if induction is always a formal fallacy, and ought never to be used?

    Of course, if something like Augustine's theory of divine illumination is correct, as Cheung supposes, then men (including unbelievers, as Augustine brought out so well) *do* obtain knowledge by induction, since Christ is the one who illumines their mind as they come in contact with the creation (whether they acknowledge this or not). Why then claim that unbelievers attain no knowledge by means of induction? The culprit here is easy to find: epistemological internalism, which Cheung assumes throughout. That is, unless unbelievers *explicitly adopt a Christian worldview as a means of justifying their most basic commitments* (such as induction), then no unbeliever has knowledge by the means they employ (i.e., induction). In other words, unless unbelievers can show how they know p, then they can't know p. I can't think of a single Scriptural reason to think such a thing, and the philosophical arguments for this position, such as they are, strike me as dubious.

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  7. As my radiation oncologist once said, there are no dumb questions, just dumb answer. However, Clark and Cheung are not just striking this stance for the sake of argument as an argumentum ad absurdum against the unbeliever. They are in dead earnest. Yet their position is so radical that many Christians can't believe that they really mean what they say. But they do.

    This doesn't clear the ground for the witness of the
    Spirit, for by the time they're done there's is no rule of faith for the Holy Spirit to attach his witness to.

    ReplyDelete
  8. One major problem with Cheung's "way out" is that it reverts to the Deist view of true religion as natural religion, along the lines of Tindal's "Christianity as Old as Creation," where the Gospel is merely the republication of the book of nature. Special revelation collapses back into natural revelation and natural law.

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  9. In addition to viciously circular arguments, there can also be virtuously circular arguments, which take for granted various inescapable truth-conditions. And the Bible can be configured in such an argument.

    But the appeal to Scripture by Clark and Cheung is viciously circular, for they cannot use Scripture as a corrective when they first destroy the necessary conditions under which Scripture can be an object of knowledge.

    ReplyDelete
  10. 2 Corinthians 4:6, “God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

    I believe this scripture alone proves what Vincent and Clark say is true, in the lest, concerning both occasionalism and epistemology for a human receiving the knowledge of the gospel. Just as God commended light out of “nothing” so to is the knowledge of the gospel in the heart of man. This scripture also gives us the doctrine that true knowledge is known as infallible fact when the heart receives it as well as the mind, by God’s spiritual power; or unless you think only the mind must receive it to be known infallibly, and suppose this is a proper and correct operation of the human soul as God made it. Some of this debate relates to how God made man. Can a soul, not working properly, know infallible truth, is this reasonable, is it God glorifying?

    It can just as easily be proved (Vincent’s occasionalism ) for all of life. God "up holds" all things or recreates them every second, he “works all things”, which includes both physical and spiritual, both minds and hearts, as scripture explains, meaning that God directly with His Spiritual power directing things, and in particular with the hearts and minds, this includes knowledge and occasionalism. We know this to be true be cause of 2 Corinthians 4:6. I ask can you show just one verse that directly explains God giving man knowledge and that this type of occasionalism was directly stated as not be the cause? Or can you show, in scripture, that a man knew something, and 2 Cor 4:6, was explained as not being the reason?
    Demon activity (King Ahab), human sinning (David Joseph and the census) and many other areas of human life, when shown what is the absolute direct reason for it, Scripture always shows it to be God, even through the secondary causes, as these secondary causes as merely being used as occasion for God to make His pre-planned goal happing in physical reality, when ultimately they were not needed.

    Of course, most of the time the ultimate direct reasons for why man knows something for does something is not directly spelled out, in scripture. Yet, the times that it does, God directly in occasionalism is shown to be the answer.

    Therefore, even if you think what I said is true and would say “it is still too much to suppose everything concerning knowledge and action is this occasionalism, by scripture.”
    I say it still takes less deduction, from scripture then, to agree with Vincent than your counter idea, which Scripture never directly states or in explaining gives. It takes less scriptural deduction to believe Vincent’s argument because, there is no scripture directly showing that, 2 Cor. 4:6, is sometimes not the case. Your claim has no such scripture to support you.

    I say this out of love because I highly prize your teaching and work when preaching the gospel. Than you for your labor of love to God in this. God gift is strong on you in is, but on this particular subject you do not seem to show the same unwavering respect for the scripture.

    God’s grace be with you and your families in our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Sincerely: Oshea Davis

    ReplyDelete
  11. Could you guys help me?

    Here is a link to my questions on the Puritian board. It is concerning scripturalism and occasionalism.

    http://www.puritanboard.com/f49/scripturalism-occasionalism-41595/

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