Saturday, October 28, 2006

TAG and Inerrancy

Anonymous said:

I was curious. Does the Bible have to be inerrant for TAG and presuppositionalism to work? And related to this question: My ESV or NIV or whatever is not inerrant. Neither is my Greek Nestle/Aland Greek text or my Hebrew Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia text. How does this affect the TAGers argument?

10/28/2006 5:18 PM

Daniel Morgan said:


So far as I can tell, the TAG has little to do with inerrancy. Ralph Walker wrote a pretty solid formulation of the transcendental argument against physicalism in Objections to Physicalism, Robinson 1993, pp. 61-80.

You could use the TAG, for example, and be a Deist or Muslim or etc., so far as I can tell. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Furthermore, PS is an apologetic method that is 99.9% Christian, but I see no reason that Muslims and other worldviews couldn't advocate it as well -- claim that their own worldview "accounts for" everything, and nothing else does, and that by impossibility of the contrary, their own worldview is true, etc., etc.I suppose PS doesn't even have to be a religious method. It could just be a general defense of any worldview/philosophical system, I would think.

Of course, I think it's a poor method, but nonetheless...

In response to anonymous:

1. The doctrine of inerrancy, for one, is limited in scope. The original autographa are inerrant, not particular translations. These translations are the inerrant Word of God as far as they represent the autographa.

2. In answer to your question, yes and no. TAG is primarily an epistemological argument for the existence of God. Often the question of inerrancy doesn't even enter the discussion.

But any Christian "presuppositionalist" would argue that, because biblical Christian theism is the only coherent worldview, the TAG is not effective to argue for any worldview that denies infallible and inerrant revelation from God.

Also, epistemology is moral in nature. True and false do not merely represent naked facts, but moral claims. You should believe the truth. You shouldn't believe a lie. The truth is the right belief. But how do we know what is right and wrong? The TAG tells us that universal moral absolutes are impossible apart from the existence of God. But how do those universal moral absolute come in contact with us so that we know what is right and what is wrong? Well, they come by some form of revelation. Because the unbeliever knows God but suppresses this knowledge, he has a general idea of right and wrong. This idea is enforced by general revelation. But apart from infallible special revelation, we have no absolute distinction between what is objectively right and what is objectively wrong. So morality, or at least our application of morality, depends upon infallible revelation.

In response to Daniel:

You, also, are correct in one sense and yet incorrect in another sense.

1. The TAG is not some end-all argument for Christian theism. It isn't some magic argument that justifies the entire Christian worldview in one step. "Just add T+A+G and out comes Christianity!" No Christian "presuppositionalist," or at least no modest one, would claim that the TAG is such an argument.

Rather, Christian apologetics is a collective effort. A process of elimination. We eliminate atheism with the TAG. And we have entire traditions of apologetics in response to non-biblical religions.

2. But, in a sense, you're incorrect. In a sense, transcendental argumentation eliminates all other worldviews. The TAG doesn't just argue for any God. It demands a certain type of God: a sovereign, trinitarian, immutable, absolute personality who relates with his creatures as Creator (namely, the Christian God). No other can truly account for logic or morality. No other is internally coherent.


  1. Why does it have to be a trinitary god? I know some use the problem of the one and the many to justify it IIRC, but why three, why not a half dozen?

  2. What exactly is TAG, i.e. how is it laid down as premises and a conclusion?

  3. Once you treat TAG as an *argument* as opposed to a method of arguing, you get peppered with questions about what the argument is that is supposed to exclude the (epistemic) possibility of innumerable imagininative cases. What often happens in the process is that TAG, when treated as a single argument, appears to have too little content by way of convincing power since the key premise in question (under Paul Franks' construal of TA's, ~(~x)), has difficulty being argued for, namely, the sufficiency of the view and nothing more to be accepted, or it turns out to not be a single argument at all. But maybe by "epistemological argument" you meant a cluster of combined arguments, making it a sort of "inference to the best explanation," or something like that. But in that case, I'm not sure how it is a transcendental argument at work, at least under their historic usage. (Of course, I may turn out to know a lot less about the role of transcendental arguments and you can tell me otherwise).

  4. Hey, thanks for answering my question!

  5. Evanmay

    But any Christian "presuppositionalist" would argue that, because biblical Christian theism is the only coherent worldview, the TAG is not effective to argue for any worldview that denies infallible and inerrant revelation from God.

    One could argue against this necessity in a few different ways, since as Walker points out, these transcendentals are "objective, prescriptive and metaphysically ultimate". I am thinking that Scripture cannot meet this requirement, nor special revelation generally. The reason is in reference to a passage from Walker:

    "The laws on which we rely must be objective as well as prescriptive. They must also be metaphysically ultimate. If they were not, then in view of their prescriptivity they would have to be dependent either on attitudes of our own (which could serve to motivate us) or else on matters of fact to which we have attitudes. The former possibility denies their objectivity, and we have just rejected it. The only version of the latter that has any plausibility is the suggestion discussed earlier on, that they hold in virtue of the fact that sticking to them provides results that are likely to be true, coupled with a concern on our part to get at the truth. This was also rejected, on the grounds that even if there are such facts we have no reason to believe there are; and a parallel argument could be employed against any other version of the proposal." (p. 78, Ralph Walker, "Transcendental Arguments", in Objections to Physicalism, 1993, Robinson.)

    Consider a TAG which argues that X must be objective, prescriptive and metaphysically ultimate (OPMU). Let X = morality.

    Is it the case that a revealed morality meets these conditions? Is it the case that an "inscribed/imbued" morality does?

    Walker rejects the idea that, "they [OPMU X's] would have to be dependent either on attitudes of our own (which could serve to motivate us) or else on matters of fact to which we have attitudes".

    Anon asked a question about inerrancy that I think comes into play when we consider morality and the Xian version of the TAG.

    When Xians argue that the Scriptures provide for us an OPMU for morality, how does this fare through Walker's filter? They presuppose that these Scriptures are divine in origin, admit that the copies we hold are not inerrant, and appeal to autographs which no one has or can produce in a "human attitude-independent fashion". That is, in going through the Scripture to try to find the OPMU-worthy autographic material, how do we begin? What attitudes do we bring in with us in the quest of hermeneutics, exegesis, etc.?

    I would argue that this consideration presents a substantial challenge to the claim that OPMU morality can be based upon divine revelation via Scripture. It seems that the criteria cannot be met in an attitude-independent fashion, given the errant supposed copies we have of an OPMU moral law.

    The same problem would apply to a person-limited special revelation -- for instance a prophet claiming to have heard from God, and commanding others to heed his own voice as the voice of God.

    I will think this over for a bit, and perhaps post on it, but it seems that your claim about the necessity of revelation is dubious. It also seems that the sort of revelation you claim is not OMPU-adequate.
    I thought I'd provide a little background for those who aren't familiar with the exchange from a few months back involving the TAG between this site and DC:
    1) Exbeliever: "Justifying the TAG"
    2) Paul's response
    3) Exbeliever's response

    I thought I'd also point out the long-standing open challenge from exbeliever to theists to provide support for the first premise of a TAG formulated in the following manner:
    i) If X, then God
    ii) X
    iii) .: God

    Where, especially, X = logic.