As a brief digression, we can pause and note that some Scripturalists will say that the Confession and the Bible only speak of an assurance of salvation. First, the Bible actually does say we can know that we are saved (cf. 1 John). Secondly, the problem only gets pushed back. Scripturalists deny that they can “know” that they are saved, but they say that they can have “assurance.” However, how does a particular Scripturalist know that he can have assurance. Only those who do X can have assurance, and Scripturalists cannot know that they have done X (whatever X is). So, they can be assured if they have done X, but they don’t know if they have indeed done X since they can’t deduce that, say Scripturalist Y, has followed Jesus commands, loves the brethren, etc., from the Bible. Therefore, no Scripturalist has a right to claim that he knows that he is in a state of assurance.
Sean Gerety presents Scripturalism as: by saying that knowledge is limited to “that which can be known to Scripture and all those things necessarily deducible from Scripture. […] We can't let Christians restrict knowledge to just the Scriptures and their necessary inferences, what then will become of our opinions?” (The last sentence, in case you were wondering, intends to be sarcastic. However, in case you are wondering what I am, how does Sean Gerety “know” what is sarcasm and what is not? Well, we can save that for another time.)
We should note, then, that for Gerety (and Orthodox Scripturalism) to grant a person S the honorary title of “S knows P,” S’s knowledge must be “Scripture and all those things necessarily deducible from Scripture.” That is, if S knows P, then S had better have P directly stated in Scripture, or P had better be deducible from propositions directly stated in Scripture. If these criteria are not met, then P is “opinion” and not “knowledge.” Now, we should note that this stricture cannot itself be known. That is, Scripturalism’s epistemological limits limit its epistemological limits (say that 10 times fast!). That is, it rules itself out as a candidate for knowledge. This has been pointed out here, for example. We can refer to Scripturalism’s Constraint this way:
SC: For any proposition P to be an object of knowledge, P must either be directly stated in Scripture or deducible via necessary inference (i.e., by deductive logic) from scriptural propositions.
Now, if P does not meet the constraint laid out in SC, then P is opinion. Our president, Aquascum, has labeled this the Scripturalist Exclusion Principle (SEP). SEP can be stated (with a bit of rewording on my end) thusly:
SEP: Propositions not in categories SC amount to “opinion” at best.
Therefore, if P is not a member of SC then it is a member of SEP. If P is not a member of SC, then it is an unknowable opinion, that is.
This particular illustration has not been analyzed, and so that will be my meager contribution to all the work done before me and for me.
Having set the stage above, it is now time to look at my specific example. Recall that in order to know something P, P must meet the criteria laid out in SC. So, someone was looking to see if Scripturalism had a particular drug for sale. They asked, “Where do you derive the law of non-contradiction” from? Alternatively, one could state the question thus, “how do you know that the law of non-contradiction holds?” To answer, our drug dealer begins by claiming to have pure stuff: “Where do I derive the law of non-contradiction? From the Scriptures of course.” So far so good. And so now, we would of course like to see the deduction from Scripture. Gerety gives us some of his friend “George Macleods Coghill's arguments to make his case. Here is the deduction:
"That [the law of non-contradiction LNC] and [the law of excluded middle LEM] are deliverances of scripture comes from 1 John 2:21:
No falsehood (pseudos) is of the truth.
That as it stands is a pretty good declaration of the law of contradiction. It says that there is no proposition (x) that is both a falsehood and of the truth (ie a member of the class of true propositions).
Note that this is a universal negative. That is, it applies to every member of the class, which in this case is propositions. Now, that it applies to all propositions not just those in scripture should be obvious from the fact that there are no falsehoods in scripture.
Let Tx stand for 'x is of the truth', and Fx stand for x is a falsehood.
Then we can put it into symbolic logic as:
~3x(Fx & Tx) ---(1)
where '~' means 'not' and '3x' means 'there exists an x'
By de Morgans laws this is equivalent to:
~3x~(~Fx + ~Tx) ---(2)
Now in scripture there are (as far as I can see) only two types of proposition spoken of: true ones and false ones. (If you disagree then please show where scripture indicates differently.) Also, as far as I can see, these two are in contradiction to one another (see the references Sean gave the other day). Again if you disagree then please show the error from scripture.
That being the case (2) can be rewritten as:
~3x~(Tx + Fx)
Then by quantifier conversion this becomes:
(x)(Tx + Fx)
(where '(x)' means 'for all x')
Restating this in longhand it becomes:
For every proposition, x, it is the case that either x is of the truth or x is a falsehood.
And that is the law of the excluded middle.
[I used predicate logic first because it is easier to see what is going on and since when talking about contradictions predicate logic and Aristotelian logic give the same results.]
For completeness, I shall do the same with Aristotelian logic:
No falsehood is of the truth can be written formally as:
which by conversion can also be written as:
As I said that is as good a statement as any of lc.
Then by obversion this becomes:
and since T is equivalent to F' (as stated previously) we get
A(T, T) ---(3)
which is the law of identity.
Now recall from Clark's "Logic" that the universal affirmative can be written in symbolic terms as:
A(a, b) = (a < b)[(b < a) + (a < b')'(b' < a)']
So substituting from (3) into this gives:
(T < T)[(T < T) + (T < T')'(T' < T)]
(T < T)(T < T) + (T < T)(T < T')'(T' < T)
I am not going to go through this step by step (you can check it for yourself) but it should be pretty obvious that the left hand side of this disjunction reduces to 'T" and the right hand side reduces to 'F'
So we have:
T + F
Which is the law of the excluded middle, and states that every proposition is either of the truth or is a falsehood.
As a final note. This should be taken as a demonstration that [the law of non-contradiction LNC] and [the law of excluded middle LEM] are deliverances of scripture. Since one has to assume them in order to proceed it constitutes proof only in the sense of implicit self reference along the lines of 2 Tim 3:16 or God swearing by himself. "
I will show that this argument cannot be deduced from Scripture by advancing three objections: (1) this deduction, even without the other problems, is irrelevant for the Scripturalist to use in support of their system, (2) philosophical problems, and (3) questionable theological and exegetical assumptions. Together (1) - (3) constitute a ratio of one part Scripturalism, three part battery acid.
The Irrelevancy Objection
Frequently Gerety pushes the above deduction as a proof of Scripturalism. He will cite with glee that “of course I can deduce the law of non contradiction LNC from Scripture, since we know it, then it must meet my criteria, and here’s the deduction!” He will also boast, “if you think you can respond to this argument, let me know and I’ll pass it along to Coghill as I’m sure he’d love to see how you could possibly offer objections against it.” It thus seems as if this deduction serves as some sort of validation for the boastings of Scripturalists. Nevertheless, say that this deduction did not suffer from any of the problems I will shortly mention. Why would a Scripturalist of all people find confidence for his position based on this single deduction? That one item of knowledge can be deduced from propositions in Scripture hardly implies that all items of knowledge can. The Scripturalist makes a bold claim and no amount of inductive evidence should serve to bolster their faith in that claim; least of which is the fact that Scripturalists decry inductions as “necessarily fallacious.” Hence, even if this deduction works, the Scripturalist should not boast in it. It is actually irrelevant as a support for his position. Especially since “induction is a fallacy,” the Scripturalist should take zero comfort in the alleged fact that they have deduced the LNC and the LEM from Scripture. Therefore, I find no reason that a non-Scripturalist should allow the above to be used as a bully tactic to show that Scripturalism is the case. Perhaps if induction was allowed, and Scripturalists amassed thousands of these deductions (say about the existence of other minds, the past, the crow in my back yard, etc), then they could say that they have made a strong case for Scripturalism. However, they deny induction, and so showing that the LNC and LEM is deducible from Scripture does not come close to showing that all knowledge must be limited to “Scripture and all those things necessarily deducible from Scripture.”
The second point that I will make in regards to the irrelevancy objection is that a Muslim can do the same thing from the Koran. In various suras it is clear that “lies” are distinguished from “truths.” Or, “false propositions” from “true propositions.” In 12:27 we see that if what one states is the case, then one is not a liar. No lies can state what actually is the case, that is. We also read other suras, which tell us that we should mix the lie with truth, presupposing that they are distinct. Likewise, take Ether 3:12 in The Book of Mormon. We read that that a lie cannot be the truth. Alternatively, take a made up religion, Frollyhoohi, it states, “No lie is of the truth.” In addition, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have 1 John 2:21 in their NWT Bible. Therefore, JW’s can “deduce” the LNC and LEM from their holy book as well. The point should be obvious. False religions and made up religions can also have the LNC and the LEM “deduced” from their scriptures. Therefore, Gerety’s boasting in his deductions appears to be superfluous. It seems like it does not really offer any support for his position. A Muslim can make the same point as a Scripturalist. Therefore, I find that even without the problems I will bring out below, the above deduction is irrelevant in providing any positive support for Scripturalism.
The third and final point, which will show the irrelevancy of this above deduction, will be done by pointing out that Dr. Coghill appeals to “De Morgan’s laws.” However, nowhere were De Morgan’s laws “deduced” from Scripture. If not all laws need to be deduced, or find a basis in Scripture, why does the LNC? A proof that all laws of logic are found in Scripture is not going to be compelling if said proof must make use of laws that are not in Scripture. It seems pointless to go about “deducing” laws from Scripture when you have other laws that you hold to which are not so deduced.
General Philosophical Objections
Objection I: Notice that Coghill says that, “Now in scripture there are (as far as I can see) only two types of proposition spoken of: true ones and false ones. (If you disagree then please show where scripture indicates differently.)” Notice that he makes a positive claim but then says that it is the job of his opponent to show that the claim is untrue. This is dubious. However, say I mention this proposition:
(*) This sentence is false.
Now, is (*) true or false? According to the Scripturalist, it must be one or the other. However, if it is true that (*) is false, then (*) is false, not true. But, if (*) is false then (*) is true. Furthermore, for over 2,000 years adherents for both of the above answers have put forth very strong arguments for their respective takes on the paradox. Thus it appears that (*) is true if and only if it is false. Since (*) is one or the other, then it is both.
Say that the Scripturalist says that (*) is meaningless, and this is not a proposition. Nevertheless, why is it meaningless? For the Scripturalist to remark, “Because then we’d run into paradoxes,” or “Because propositions must be either true or false,” seems to be both ad hoc and question begging. Why would the Scripturalist ask for an example of a proposition that is neither, or both, true or false when he already believes that no such proposition could exist? His comment has the air of intellectual integrity, but it is just a façade if he a priori will not accept an example of a proposition that may be both (or neither) true and false.
Say that the Scripturalist says that if true contradictions exist, then language cannot be meaningful since for a proposition to be meaningful it must rule something out. However, this seems obviously false. Take this proposition:
(**) Everything is true.
It appears, even if false, that (**) is meaningful, yet it rules nothing out.
Other attempts to deal with (*) turn on systems of logic other than traditional Aristotelian logic. However, solutions like Kripke’s use a three-valued logic where propositions can be true, false, or neither. Thus, this out would undermine the assumption of bivalence the Scripturalist makes for his deduction to work.
My point in the above is not that I accept dialetheism, paraconsistent logic, three-valued logic, or that there can be no answer to the liar paradox (i.e., (*)). Even if I did accept one of those, that is not my point. My point is that the Scripturalist has to make a whole lot of assumptions, which are not deducible from Scripture, for his argument even to get off the ground. He mixes battery acid with the pure stuff.
Objection II: Let’s say that I try to offer an example from Scripture to show that propositions do not have to be either true or false. Say Proverbs 26:4-5,
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.
And so one possible interpretation would be,
(***) Fools are to be answered according to their folly.
(****) Fools are not to be answered according to their folly.
Now, prima facie, if (***) is true then (****) is false. However (****) cannot be false since its Scripture. Maybe it is both true and false or neither true or false. Since it is at least prima facie contradictory or paradoxical, one will need to produce an interpretation which resolves any logical tension. Nevertheless, there is a prima facie tension. Mathew Henry notes of this verse “See here the noble security of the scripture-style, which seems to contradict itself, but really does not.” Mathew Henry says that these verses give us wisdom as how to answer fools. That is, on the one hand, do not engage in lying or dishonesty, but on the other hand you can give him an answer so he does not boast in his “wisdom” and think his arguments “unanswerable.” We also have Greg Bahnsen who says that this text tells us how to do apologetics. That is, we can accept a worldview “for arguments sake” and show how it, according to its own presuppositions, reduces to foolishness. But, on the other hand, we should not take on the “folly” (or, presuppositions) of the “fool” (or, non-Christian) as if we truly accepted them as our own since to start with unbelieving presuppositions means one will end in unbelief. Others, like Dr. Bullinger, say that this is a case of “ellipsis” and Solomon is trying to tell us in two ways that we should answer a fool, in any case.
Now how does the Scripturalist know which is the right way to understand this passage? Certainly, they can offer a way of looking at the passage that resolves the tension, but if they cannot deduce this from the Bible then they do not know it. If they do not know it then they do not know that the Bible only speaks in bivalent terms regarding propositions being either true or false.
The same caveat as the above will be given here. I am not saying that I cannot know how to interpret the text in a non-contradictory way, or that it is ultimately paradoxical. I am simply saying that the Scripturalist, given his strictures, cannot know that the Bible speaks only about propositions being either true or false. He can give his interpretation to the verses, but he does not know (on his own terms) that it is the correct way to interpret the verses, and so he does not know that we do not have an example of true and false, or neither true nor false, propositions. The Scripturalist must incorporate extra-biblical hermeneutical rules, extra-biblical knowledge of Hebrew, Greek (in the case of the Septuagint), and English, extra-biblical grammatical rules, etc. But how can he do this given his own rules? He doesn't know any of the extra-biblical data, but it is vital to his conclusion. If he doesn't know the crucial premises and assumptions, how doe he know his conclusion?
Objection III: 1 John 2:21 does not give us any information regarding God’s knowledge of future events. Many would argue that true events are neither true nor false. At any rate, this has been debated for thousands of years.
(*****) Will there be a sea battle tomorrow?
Now, (*****), according to the principle of bivalence, has one of two possible answers: Yes or No. However, if there was a sea battle, then “no” was not right answer, the future and our actions are determined. But, some hold that the truth-value can only be given when the event occurs. Others say that different possible futures instantiate different answers to the question. Of course, Aristotle said that the principle of bivalence found an exception here. That is, the proposition “No there will not be a sea battle tomorrow,” is, today neither true nor false. However, that of course flies in the face of the assertion that “all propositions are either true or false.”
Now of course all good reformed folk believe that God knows the future, and if he knows that there will be a sea battle tomorrow, then it is false that today it is neither true or false that there will be a sea battle tomorrow. But my point is a subtle one. My point is that this reformed idea of foreknowledge and the ontological status of the future cannot be deduced from 1 John 2:21. Hence other assumptions are brought to bear on the deduction from 1 John 2:21. But the idea that propositions can only be true or false is a crucial component in the deduction!
It should be clear that the philosophical objections in I - III have dealt with the claim that “Scripture only speaks of two types of propositions, true or false ones.” It has been asserted that if one thinks otherwise then one has the burden of showing this. I have pointed out that this is a dubious move, since the Scripturalist makes the positive claim without deducing it from the Bible. I have also brought forth what can function as undercutting defeaters for their claim, and argued that in I and II the Scripturalist cannot deduce the falsity of contrary interpretations, and in III I showed that the Scripturalist makes assumptions about the truth-value of future propositions that are not deducible from 1 John 2:21. Since the bivalent principle is crucial to the deduction from 1 John 2:21, but 1 John 2:21 does not imply or support this principle, then it is false to claim that the LNC and LEM are “deduced from 1 John 2:21” alone. I have other philosophical objections that do not have to do with commenting on the claim about propositions made by Dr. Coghill. I will offer one last objection.
Objection IV: Notice that there is reference to propositions, classes, class membership, etc. Where is the deduction of all this from 1 John 2:21? There is the use of Aristotelian logic, conversion and obversion, where has this been deduced? Remember that he asks his readers to “recall” from “Clark’s logic textbook” some other rules of inference. Hence, he presupposed the reliability of memory when giving this proof. Where is the basic reliability of memory, for a particular person, deduced from Scripture? Notice that he relies on Aristotelian logic and its notion of contradictions. However, this assumes that all propositions have existential import. Where has this been deduced from Scripture, let alone I John 2:21? Therefore, the “deduction” included a whole host of assumptions, many extra-biblical ones at that, which could not be obtained from 1 John 2:21.
Theological and Exegetical Objections
1 John 2:21 reads, in every translation, “I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” From this the Scripturalist gets, “No falsehood (pseudos) is of the truth.” And from there he gets, “no proposition (x) is both a falsehood and of the truth (ie a member of the class of true propositions).” That’s some fancy footwork. To the incautious observer, the transitions may seem like smooth sailing, like how a duck glides across a pond. But, if one looks underneath the water, the duck’s feet are moving a mile a minute; fancy footwork.
And so we must ask why “lie” is taken to mean “false proposition?” The first thing we can note is that Scripture has a broader definition of “lie” than “to state what is not the case.” For example, Psalm 58:3 tells us that “from the womb [the wicked] are wayward and speak lies.” Surely, infants do not utter propositions that try to state what is not the case. However, perhaps the Scripturalist will remark that his rendering of the passage is acceptable since the set of “false propositions” fits within the class of “lies.”
Granting this for a moment, why is “truth” taken to mean “true propositions?” In Johannine usage, the “truth” is synonymous with God. In John 2:21 "truth" is not being used in such an abstract sense. Rather, John is alluding to the source of truth in God: God is truth; hence, God is true, i.e. the word of God is true (Jn 3:33; 7:28; 8:26; 17:3; 1 Jn 5:20). In addition, Christians are graced with the "Spirit of truth" (1 Jn 4:6; 5:6). So, John isn't speaking of the abstract propositions, but the concrete source of truth. Thus, it is hard to read this verse as talking about “propositions.”
Actually, the specific context of 1 John 2:21 is about the antichrist. The “lie” spoken of is that of “denying the Son, Christ Jesus” (1 Jn 2:22; 4:1-6; 1 Jn 5:10; etc.,). This throws into doubt the above interpretation we saw rendering “lie” as “false proposition.” The “lie” is “denying Jesus” (and to deny Jesus is to deny the Father too since no one who denies the Son has the Father, 1 Jn. 2:23). Apparently, many people were seeking to undermine the faith that the early Christians to whom John was writing had in Jesus as the Christ. But, those who denied Jesus did not “come from” the truth, John tells them. The believers speak the truth about Jesus; they affirm that he is the Christ. Thus, they “come from” the truth. “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us” (1 Jn 4:6). Therefore, a better rendering of 1 John 2:21 is not: “No false propositions is a member of the class of true propositions,” but rather, “No one who denies that Jesus is the Christ is from God the Father.” Can the LNC and the LEM be deduced from this, then? Or, is one allowed to butcher texts all in the name of supporting Scripturalist dogma?
Now the Scripturalist might object that though his interpretation is not exegetically correct, John is referring here to a more general principle ("no lie is of the truth"). Though this does not fit the immediate context, the problem for the Scripturalist is that he does not know that this is what John is doing. He just puts words into the beloved one’s mouth so that he can cram Scripture into his rationalistic little box. But if one can get away with not doing one’s exegetical homework, then all sorts of nonsense can be “deduced” from Scripture.
We have seen that repeatedly the Scripturalist must mix extra-biblical claims, opinions, and assumptions in which his Scripturalism in order to get a product into the consumers hands. The Scripturalist absolutely refuses to play by his own rules, yet he chastises others when they appeal to things that cannot be “deduced” from Scripture. Remember that Sean Gerety said that if P is to be an object of knowledge, P must be either directly stated in Scripture or deducible from Scripture. So, what about the law of non-contradiction? Does Gerety know it? Not on his own terms.
The above line(s) of argumentation are but mere examples of how one can refute a Scripturalist every time he opens his mouth. The blind devotion people have for Scripturalism is all too evident in their arguments and their answers to their interlocutors. They refuse to question their basic axiom, i.e., knowledge must be deducible from Scripture, and knowledge must be infallible, and so follow it blindly down the path of epistemological destruction. They now hold a position where they cannot so much as open their mouths without begging their readers to grant them so many extra-biblical assumptions. Just like the evolutionist who says, “Grant me that life arose by chance just once and I’ll tell you how the whole thing works,” so it is with the Scripturalist. I have rarely ever seen them without the ladder they borrowed from Wittgenstein. They use it to climb atop the house of knowledge, only to toss it down when they reach the top saying, “What ladder?”
The Scripturalist has many objections to his position. They remain unanswered. The above is just one more hanging over their head. At this point the Scripturalist should heed the word of Gordon Clark: “Unquestioning acceptance of an original position, either through ignorance of alternatives or through refusal to consider them, not only leads to foregone conclusions - any set of axioms does that - but it leads to acceptance of a system without taking into account several weighty objections that ought to be faced” (Clark, “Thales To Dewey,” p.26).