Fellow Italian and Reformed Christian, Ron Di Giacomo, commented on an old post of mine on Vincent Cheung. His post is called: "Vincent Cheung Meets The Triabloguer." Possibly "A" Triabloguer would have been better than "The" Triabloguer? Everyone knows that Steve Hays is "The" Triabloguer. The rest of us are "A" Triabloguers. In fact, I might be lower than "A" Triabloguer. It might be more accurate to refer to me as "That" Triabloger. As in, "That Triabloguer who always posts stupid posts." Or, "That Triabloguer who gets PWNED by atheists." Or, "That Triabloguer who is a big meany."
I find that his post forgets the context of dialogue. It strays off the path it was meant to be on. There is background info not taken into account. This makes for a largely irrelevant post, whatever the merits (good or bad) of his post. I'll just quote his text in italicized red; I'll then respond.
"About a year ago, Triabloguer Paul Manata tried to take Vincent Cheung to task for asserting that God immediately and directly causes people to believe everything they believe. In spite of the fact that Vincent Cheung states that God causes men to know in this way; I do not find in the quotes provided by Manata that Cheung believes that God causes men in this way to believe all they believe. In other words, when knowledge is gained, Cheung is quoted as asserting God acts immediately and directly upon the mind. Yet, as Cheung knows, not all beliefs constitute knowledge; so without further evidence I cannot take Cheung to mean that God acts immediately and directly when one believes that which he does not know. Cheung may believe that but I do not believe that he does, which does not mean I disbelieve that he does. I have no basis for either belief."
I'm not too sure how familiar Ron is with Cheung's "works." His austere, robust, extreme, and mistaken view of God's sovereignty commits him, logically, to the belief that God directly causes all things - of which beliefs are then a subset. For example, on p.38 of "Ultimate Question" we read, "Therefore, it is correct to say that [God] alone is the cause of all things" (emphasis supplied). Therefore, if God is "alone" the cause of all things, and if beliefs are things, then God is "alone" the cause of "all" beliefs.
Next, we can read Cheung himself, "Yes, God causes people to believe lies as he wishes (and as Scripture teaches)," SOURCE.
Now, it is important to note what beliefs are being referred to here. The context in Cheung's blog post is that two men, John and Tim, believe different things about the world. For instance, such mundane beliefs as: "I believe there is a bee on the rose," and "I believe that there are X number of ants in my backyard." Thus God causes men to believe heresy (see # 7 here) as well as causing them to believe propositions about bugs on flowers and amounts of bugs in your backyard. So, it looks like every one of our beliefs are directly caused by God. Unless, of course, Cheung (and Ron) believe that God only causes our theological, heretical, arthropodical, and botanical beliefs?
Cheung's view of God's sovereignty has God as the direct cause of everything. Even sin: "But the answer does not deny that God is the direct cause of sin; instead, it boldly says that God has a right to make whatever he wants and do whatever he wants." (SOURCE)
As far as "immediacy." Cheung states that God is in control of all things (as indeed he is, but not in Cheung's hyper-sovereignty sense). How is this "control" brought to bear on man's mind? "Scripture teaches that God not only exercise immediate control over man's mind....", according to Cheung (SOURCE, emphasis supplied).
So, putting it all together. God is the only cause of all things. God directly causes all things. As far as man's mind, God immediately controls it. So, God directly and immediately causes all men's beliefs.
I thus take it that I have provided sufficient evidence to undermine Ron's false belief about Cheung (which God caused, btw :-).
Next, I should note that my taking on Cheung is not the only effort by a T-blogger. Here is a page where Archetypal T-blogger Steve Hays, as well as guest T-blogger, the brilliant and prolific Aquascum, have "tried to take on Vincent Cheung:"
So, I'm not "the" Triabloguer, and Cheung has "met" other Triabloguers before and after my post.
"Nonetheless, let us assume with Mr. Manata that when Cheung says that "God causes people to believe lies as he wishes (and as Scripture teaches)..." that Cheung means that God does so immediately and directly."
I think we've shown that that's a safe assumption.
"Now for Manata's criticism of Cheung's epistemology:"
He then quotes me:
"God immediately and directly causes people to believe everything they believe. Lie or truth. At this point I would like to know how Cheung knows anything? How does he know that God is not deceiving Cheung? If he replies that he has deductively valid arguments, deduced from scriptural premises, he doesn't escape. This is because the argument is only good if the premises are true. Cheung takes his understanding of verses and this understanding he has was immediately conveyed to his mind by God. Could God be deceiving Cheung? How would Cheung know?... So, when those divines who argued for an infralapsarian position, from the texts of Scripture, their understanding of those texts was wrong, according to Cheung, and their understanding, according to Cheung, was immediately conveyed by God on the occasion that they read those texts. Is Cheung better than those men? ...Cheung would need to show in a non-question begging manor that he was not deceived in this instance..."
"For Cheung, sufficient and necessary conditions for knowledge are justified true belief, where justification is maximal warrant and, therefore, excludes inductive inference."
A bit misleading. Let's read Cheung:
"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." (p. 43; cf. “Systematic Theology,” p. 18 para. 4, p. 22 para. 5, p. 41 fn. 42, emphasis supplied)
Cheung also holds to an internalist and an infallibilist constraint on knowledge. Thus Cheung:
"However, unless he constructs his claims upon an objective and infallible foundation, then if he can claim to know..." (SOURCE)
For a analysis of how Cheung is an internalist, see here (sec. 3.2).
So, for Cheung,
(*) For one to know that P, (i) P must be Scripture, or deductively deduced from Scripture, (ii) one cannot be mistaken that P, and (iii) one must have access to how one knows that P. All else is "unjustified opinion at best."
Unfortunately for Cheung, one can't deduce (*) from Scripture. (See link above for a complete demonstration of Cheung's affirmation of (*).)
"What is not being considered in the above criticism of Vincent Cheung’s epistemology is that although God can cause one to believe a lie; God cannot cause one to know a lie."
Where did I ever say that God could cause someone to "know" a "lie"? If God has caused Cheung to believe falsehoods, e.g., his occasionalism, his internalism, his infallibilism, namely, (*), then Cheung doesn't know those things. And, if Cheung knew those things, he'd have to show how he knows them according to the strictures laid out in (*). That is, Cheung can't pass his own test. The combination of Cheung's epistemological constraints is a volatile combination that explodes in the face of any who try and use it.
"Accordingly, Cheung, like Paul Manata or anyone else, can have reason to believe false propositions but such false beliefs can never entail the same confirmation that accompanies knowledge, since by the nature of the case what is falsely believed is contrary to truth and, therefore, the consistency that accompanies knowledge."
Yes, we can have reasons to believe falsehoods. I never denied such. But for Cheung, if what you believe is not directly stated in Scripture, or deducible from Scripture, or anything else contained in (*), then it is "unjustified opinion at best." But notice that Ron states that one can believe P for reasons, and hence be justified in believing P. Thus Ron isn't defending Cheung here. And, he's not critiquing me, either. I agree. Cheung wouldn't.
"How does Cheung know anything? Well, by the same way anyone else knows anything – by possessing true belief due to maximal warrant, which does not occur when one believes anything false (like a lie)."
And this simply fails to take into account the context of dialogue. I was offering an internal critique of Cheung. Though I don't know what Ron means by "maximal warrant," I'm not sure I agree with him on the particulars here, but that's fine, because Ron's views aren't at issue here. Besides any debate between us, I agree that Cheung can have knowledge of propositions that don't meet the criteria laid out in (*) above. So, I'm not saying that Cheung can't know anything, point blank. I'm asking how can Cheung know most of what he claims, if all the other things he claims about knowledge were true? Thus Ron is blogging just to blog. His comments are irrelevant to my critique of Cheung.
Ron quotes me asking, "How does he know that God is not deceiving Cheung?"
"One cannot be deceived into knowing something false."
Right. But the truth of Cheung's assertions are at issue here. One can't just assert that they are true. Furthermore, I'm asking how Cheung can know that God is not deceiving Cheung. Since occasionalism grants the fact that billions of false beliefs are produced, then it is not an "infallible" method of attaining knowledge. Just as Cheung might admit that someone's intuitions might grant them a true belief, they don't know their belief since intuition is a fallible belief producing process.
"Accordingly, our query need not be limited to how one knows he is not being deceived but rather can be expanded to: how one knows that he knows. In other words, how can men who can believe falsely know anything and know that they know?"
Here it seems as if Ron adheres to internalism, viz., "know that you know." I deny this constraint. For just one devastating critique of internalism, Bergman's book can be consulted:
And, according to Cheung, our "query" can be limited to the question of deception. Cheung himself uses this tactic quite frequently on his interlocutors (see here, for example). If an atheist can't know, and show how he knows, that he is not being deceived (by dream, demon, senses, &c), then he cannot know what he claims to know. Thus, again, Ron is simply ignoring the context of discussion. According to how Cheung has framed the debate, my points were/are quite relevant indeed.
"However, if one is deceived about the truth of premises, he doesn’t have maximal warrant. The only question at this juncture is whether God when deceiving men through a lying spirit or “immediately” gives men the same confirmation as when he grants men maximal warrant. Manata seems to think that Cheung thinks so. I, however, do not assume that since it is not deducible from what I have read in Cheung."
Um, Cheung having maximal warrant is what's in question here. And, I don't think Cheung would appreciate this appeal to "confirmation." How could Cheung tell if his "confirmation" was a feeling or belief caused by God for purposes of deception? And, can Cheung deduce all that Ron said from Scripture? How would he know if his beliefs were not false ones implanted by God. Since God implants trillions and trillions of false beliefs, what are the odds that Cheung's are true? And, how would he know it? Could he deduce that his beliefs were true, from Scripture? How so?
[P1] I [Cheung] believe X.
[P2] Scripture teaches X.
[C1] Therefore, Scripture teaches what I [Cheung] believe.
Sorry, where is [P1] in Scripture? I never saw "Cheung believes X" in the Bible. Is "Cheung" deducible from the Bible? Cheung can't even know that he is a male, let alone know that he believes what he believes! Also, how would Cheung know that Scripture teaches X (P2)?
"Manata reasons by false disjunction. That one can believe he knows something that is false, does not imply that one cannot know that he knows when he knows."
Ron reasons by false attribution. He falsely attributes positions to me I never implied, and he doesn't even interact with my actual arguments. So, we can add ignoratio elenchi onto the charges.
Ron quotes me,
"So, when those divines who argued for an infralapsarian position, from the texts of Scripture, their understanding of those texts was wrong, according to Cheung, and their understanding, according to Cheung, was immediately conveyed by God on the occasion that they read those texts. Is Cheung better than those men?"
"If correct doctrine means “better than those men,” then yes, the high-Cavlinists were better. Cheung can know that infralapsarianism is false and that his position is true yet while believing he knows things he doesn’t."
My question was, what makes Cheung better than the divines in that God wouldn't deceive him but would deceive them?
Ron quotes me,
"Cheung would need to show in a non-question begging manor that he was not deceived in this instance."
"Why must Cheung be able to persuade someone else that he knows something in order to know something? Moreover, that Cheung can be wrong does not mean he cannot know he knows. It only means that he is capable of believing he knows when he does not know. Either Manata must consign himself to skepticism or claim perfect knowledge if he doesn’t allow for fallible men to know while being capable of being deceived."
Again, Ron can't keep the broader context in view, here. First, I never asked to be "persuaded". Ron commits the intentional fallacy (add that to the pile). Second, I am applying Cheung's own standards of proof to him. This is called an internal critique. For example, here Cheung responds to someone by saying,
"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, Ron could ask Cheung, rather than me (I'm an externalist!), his question: "Why must [your interlocutor] be able to persuade [you, Cheung] that he knows something in order to know something?"
And, yes, I fully agree that the possibility of being wrong doesn't preclude knowledge (I'm not an infallibilist!). But here's the part Ron has missed throughout his entire response to me. That helpful piece of information is: CHEUNG DOES! So, Ron is simply proving the validity of my response to Cheung.
"Finally, I would argue that one can know that God would never deceive him, which is not to say that God does not deceive men; He does."
I agree too. Which is more evidence that Ron has totally jumped into a situation without knowing the shots.
I point out that I'm not an infallibilist or an internalist here.
Here as well.
And I argue against infallibilism, internalism, and the like, here as well.
I also address the argument that we can't know that God isn't deceiving us here.
So, Ron simply missed the boat on this one... sorry to say.