This entails a very bad misunderstanding of both Gordon Clark and me. We never said that all knowledge is innate, only that all knowledge must come from God apart from sensation, but some knowledge comes from God on the occasion of sensation (but still apart from sensation).
Ultimate Questions, p. 38-43.
Presuppositional Confrontations, p. 68-74.
If we are going to be logical and rational, then let’s be strictly logical and rational. An inference is valid only if you can write it out as a syllogism and show that the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. Tom fails to do this in his defense of sensation as a way of knowing.
The truth is that we cannot know by sensation which sensation is correct and which sensation is incorrect, or the degree of sensation's reliability. Therefore, degree of on empiricism on a given issue results in complete agnosticism about that issue… The first chapter of Genesis was written without any dependence on or any involvement of empirical observation by the writer of Genesis, but it is no less true.
If the senses are less than infallible, we will need an infallible authority or standard to judge each instance of sensory perception to achieve complete reliability. But when we accept a certain instance of sensory perception to be accurate the testimony of this non-sensory infallible authority or standard, then we are in fact accepting the testimony of this infallible authority or standard, and not at all the accuracy of sensory perception.
This is what the Bible shows about sensory perceptions – sometimes they are accurate and sometimes they are not [e.g., 2 Kg 3:16-24; Mt 14:25-27; Jn 12:28-29], and we only know when they are accurate based on the divine inspiration of the prophets and the apostles. It is obviously impossible to take this and infer that Scripture grants sensation any degree of epistemological reliability or legitimacy!
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.
Truth is necessarily propositional, since only a proposition can be described as true or false. But by means of sensations, it is impossible to communicate any proposition from one human mind to another; rather, only the logos can facilitate such communication. Therefore, Christian epistemology, even when it relates to sensations, does not depend on sensations, so that it is not plagued by the insuperable difficulties of empiricism. The only role of sensations in Christian epistemology is to provide the occasions for intellectual intuition; that is, sensations provide the occasions upon which the logos communicates information to the human mind, apart from the sensations themselves. Zero knowledge is acquired from the sensations themselves. Of course we "read" the Bible, but even this activity does not depend on sensation, but on God's sovereign will and power.
This marks a partial advance over Cheung’s previous reply. He interacts with a real person, and in directing the reader to his own writings, he adds some page references. So what are we to make of his latest reply:
1.Was Clark an occasionalist? Although we find Clark flirting with occasionalism, where did he ever commit himself to occasionalism?
There are actually three or four theories of knowledge bouncing around in Clark:
Clark, both early and late, was committed to the Protestant rule of faith (sola Scriptura).
Clark, both early and late, was committed to Philonic Platonism and Augustinian illuminationism.
Late Clark makes sympathetic references to Malebranche.
Late Clark reduces persons to propositions, and turns propositions into his principle of individuation.
It’s unclear to me how all these theories hang together in Clark’s overall epistemology. Do some enjoy precedence over others?
2.Strictly speaking, the senses never deceive us. That’s just a shorthand expression for the fact that we can misinterpret sensory input.
3.True, an empiricist can’t prove that he’s not dreaming. By the same token, a rationalist can’t prove that he’s not dreaming.
How does Cheung know he’s reading the Bible? How does he know that he’s not dreaming that he’s reading the Bible? And is the Bible of his dreams the same as the real deal?
4.” An inference is valid only if you can write it out as a syllogism and show that the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises.”
Where does the Bible itself ever make this a necessary condition or criterion of knowledge?
5.” The truth is that we cannot know by sensation which sensation is correct and which sensation is incorrect, or the degree of sensation's reliability.”
i) The truth is that we cannot know by reason which reasons are correct and which reasons are incorrect, or the degree of reason’s reliability.
ii) Actually, we often use one sensation to correct another. We could only know that our senses deceive us in some instances if our senses are generally reliable, so that it’s possible to compare an optical illusion against a larger body of sensory information. So the case against the reliability of the senses is parasitic upon the reliability of the senses in geneal.
iii) It is possible, though, to say that all this exposes is a discrepancy between one sensation and another, without indicating which sensation is right, which one supplies the standard of reference.
But a Christian theory of knowledge doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Divine creation and divine providence are what underwrite the general reliability of the senses.
iv) Cheung is also confounding the direct, first-order mental act of knowing something with the reflexive, second-order act of knowing that (or knowing how) we know something.
By that criterion, a two-year old doesn’t know his own mother.
6.” The first chapter of Genesis was written without any dependence on or any involvement of empirical observation by the writer of Genesis, but it is no less true.”
Of what is Genesis true? Is it a true description of the world? But if sense knowledge is denied, then how do we know what words like "light," "darkness," “earth,” “water,” “sky,” “trees,” “birds,” and “fish” are referring to?
7.” If the senses are less than infallible, we will need an infallible authority or standard to judge each instance of sensory perception to achieve complete reliability.”
i) Notice, here, the structural parallel between Cheung’s argument for occasionalism and the Catholic argument for a magisterium.
Both suffer from the same regressive fallacy. Since the standard is not self-applicatory, how do I know, even if I have the right standard, that I’ve rightly applied the right standard?
ii) They are parallel in another respect as well. God could inspire everyone, but he doesn’t. Hence, we are fallible. Our knowledge is limited. But that’s is God’s doing. It is God's will that a degree of uncertainty should be a commonplace of human experience.
Ultimate, we’re only responsible for what God holds us responsible for. It’s useless as well as impious to fret over things beyond our control. Leave that to God!
8. “It is obviously impossible to take this and infer that Scripture grants sensation any degree of epistemological reliability or legitimacy!”
Really? According to the Bible, adultery is a sin. Cheung is a married man. How does Cheung know that the woman he is sleeping with is his wife and not his neighbor’s wife?
Doesn’t this and a host of other Biblical prescriptions and proscriptions presuppose the general reliability of the senses?
9.” 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.”
i) Where does the Bible itself ever say that this is the process by which we acquire our knowledge of Scripture?
ii) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that occasionalism is true, how is this an improvement over empiricism?
For example, don’t we sometimes misread or misremember the Bible? Don’t scribes and printers mistranscribe the Bible from time to time?
So how, exactly, does this work on Cheung’s theory. If a scribe makes a mistake when he copies the autographa, does this mean that although the original was errorless, God directly conveys errata to the mind? Errata which are nonexistent in the text, but fabricated by God in the process of direct transmission?
On Cheung’s theory, occasionalism and empiricism are phenomenalogically equivalent. For observers still make mistakes, and they still make the very same mistakes.
All that Cheung’s theory has succeeded in doing is to transfer the effect of empiricism to the effect of occasionalism. He assigns the error to a different source of origin, but the erroneous end-result is interchangeably the same.
One could say the same thing about the Augustinian theory of divine illumination. It doesn’t prevent reasoners from faulty reasoning. It doesn’t even prevent Christian reasoners from faulty reasoning.
So these are “solutions” which fail to solve the problem they pose for themselves or propose to solve as over against the faulty solutions which the oppose.
10.” But by means of sensations, it is impossible to communicate any proposition from one human mind to another.”
Why is this impossible? Cheung fails to distinguish between raw sensation and encoded information. We live in an age in which light-waves and sound-waves are used as carrier waves on which to piggyback encoded information. Abstract propositions are encrypted in a material medium and decrypted by the mind the listener or reader.
11.” Of course we ‘read’ the Bible, but even this activity does not depend on sensation, but on God's sovereign will and power.”
i) Notice the blatant false antithesis, as if our sensory processing system wasn’t set up by God in the first place.
ii) If occasionalism were true, then Cheung could never know it was true; for if the relation between the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge is due to God’s direct action, then we would have no “means” of knowing that it’s due to God’s direct action. Maybe the Cartesian demon is acting up again!
By definition, the direct result of an immediate implantation leaves no trace evidence of the process involved. If you want a recipe for “complete agnosticism,” start here.
Far from irrefutable, Cheung’s position is self-refuting!