Sean Gerety has done a post in response to me and others:
Cutting the dead wood, I’ll comment on his major claims:
But how can he possibly know this?…Beyond that, Manata has no way of knowing that the Bible contains even one “unarticulated equivocation on the part of the revealer.”
i) Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that this is an accurate description of Manata’s position. Let’s further assume, for the sake of argument, that this is, indeed, a consequence of Manata’s position.
So the basic objection is that we should reject Manata’s position if a consequence of his position is that Manata can’t know what the Bible says about this or that.
Now, assuming that this consequence is sufficient to invalidate Manata’s position, it’s equally sufficient to invalidate Sean’s position. If Scripturalism is true, then Sean can’t know a single thing about the Bible. He can’t know anything the Bible says. Indeed, he cannot knowingly distinguish a Bible from a Koran or Playboy magazine or Mad magazine.
ii) If the Bible is the only source of knowledge, then Sean can’t get past the subject/object duality. Scripture would be the object of knowledge, but the subject of knowledge (e.g. Sean) would be an extrabiblical entity. So how could an extrabiblical subject of knowledge ever come to know the biblical object of knowledge if the Bible is the only source of knowledge?
iii) He can’t learn what the Bible teaches through the use of his senses, for Scripturalism rejects the senses as a source of knowledge. The Bible is the only source of knowledge.
iv) He can’t learn what the Bible teaches through innate knowledge, in part because he has no innate knowledge of the Bible. We’re not born knowing what the Bible teaches.
Indeed, that would undermine the very notion of a public, historic revelation. God revealed himself through the medium of speakers and writers. The spoken word and the written word. And the written word is also the record of the spoken word.
It was revealed to Christians via prophets and Apostles. Bible writers.
v) And even if, for the sake of argument, the knowledge of Scripture were innate, Scripturalism would reject that mode of knowledge–for in that case, Scripture would not be the only source of knowledge. Rather, the knowledge of Scripture would be mediated by the innate knowledge of the human mind. The human mind would be the immediate source of knowledge, and not the word of God.
If that isn’t enough to show the absurdity and blasphemy entailed in defending the idea of Biblical paradox, shall we revisit some of the incredible nonsense — along with outright and open heresies — some of these men have defended all in the name of “biblical paradox”? It is no coincidence that virtually all defenders of the false gospel of the Federal Vision are self-professed Vantilians. It’s no surprise either that virtually all of the Federal Vision opponents that happen to be Vantilians remain utterly incapable of doing anything to stop it’s advance and instead call the FV men currently disturbing the church “our brothers in Christ.” I guess one good paradox deserves another.
Three problems with this claim:
i) If Scripturalism is true, then Sean is in no position to know what Van Tilians believe. He’s in no position to know what Federal Visionaries believe. He’s in no position to impute the views of the Federal Vision to any Van Tilians.
Sean is like a drunk who keeps swearing off the bottle, only to find himself back in the saloon a day later. In one breath he vigorously asserts the tenets of Scripturalism, but in the next breath he relapses into extrabiblical assertions.
It’s hard for him to keep up the Scripturalist act 24/7. He keeps forgetting his lines. He keeps reverting to the default position of extrabiblical knowledge.
ii) Does he have any evidence that Anderson endorses the Federal Vision? Does he have any evidence that Sudduth endorses the Federal Vision?
Both Manata and I are on record repudiating the Federal Vision.
iii) While we’re on the subject of “outright and open heresies,” what about Clark’s pantheistic idealism, when he reduces human beings to nothing more than divine ideas? What about Clark’s modalism, when he collapses the immanent Trinity into the economic Trinity (cf. The Incarnation, p55)?
Calling Manata out again on his sinful treatment of Clark, who was easily the most important Christian thinker of the last century.
Is that a fact? No. Not on Scripturalist grounds. Does Scripture explicitly or implicitly teach that Clark was easily the most important Christian thinker of the last century? Obviously not.
That is simply Sean’s opinion. And opinion which falls short of knowledge. An opinion that he can’t even probabilify.
For all he knows, Clark might just as well be the least important Christian thinker of the last century. For all he knows, Clark may not even be a Christian thinker. For all he knows, Clark may be a Scientologist.
If Scripturalism is true, these extrascriptural assertions fall short of knowledge. If Scripturalism is true, then you can’t even rank extrascriptural assertions according to probable degrees of truth.
Hence, one man’s opinion is no better than another man’s opinion.
And Robbins, who was Clark’s most able and best known defender, became the catalyst for another tired attack on Scripturalist epistemology.
If Robbins was his most able defender, then the case for Clark’s position weak indeed!
Now, I never claimed that one could know that Clark, Robbins, or even Manata exist.
If Scripturalism is true, then he can’t even know that Adam, Abraham, David, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John ever existed.
Heck, he can’t even know if Jesus ever existed. He may opine that Jesus existed, but his opinion is no better than the contrary opinion of Richard Carrier.
Frankly, since the word “exists” can be predicated on everything from hallucinations to Klingons, I would argue that everything exists. Regardless, perhaps “Gordon Clark” was the nom de plume of some ghost writer. I honestly have no way of knowing. Seeing that Paul Manata has posted under the name Tom Bombadil, perhaps Bombadil is really Manata or perhaps both are Steve Hays? The Internet is a funny place. Yet, somehow men like Hays and Manata think that if I cannot account for the existence of a given person apart from Scripture and can’t “know” they exist in the sense of a justified true belief, then any opinion I may have of these men, even if true, is therefore moot.
Frankly, Sean can’t even “give an account” of how he knows Scripture. For Scripturalism, Scripture is like a safe with all the right answers on the inside. But we lack the combination to open the safe.
I have to wonder if these men while claiming to be Christians (something I also cannot know, but can only presume) would agree that Scripture does in fact prohibit false witness along with slander in many places including Colossians 3:8; “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”
Agree on what grounds? Scripturalist grounds? On Scripturalist grounds, we can’t say that Scripture prohibits false witness or slander. We can’t know what Scripture says because we can’t “give an account” of how we know that–if Scripturalism is true. We can’t give an empirical account of how we know that since Scripture rejects sense knowledge. And we can’t give an intuitive account of how we know that since we’re not born with a knowledge of Scripture.
For all we know, a la Scripturalism, Scripture commends and commands slander and false witness.
So, the question is, does Manata and Hays think Gordon Clark and John Robbins are men? Notice, the question is not do they know they are men? This is important, because Hays is correct, if Manata really thinks Clark is a fictional character, then he can’t libel Clark anymore than he can libel Tinkerbell.
On the other hand, Manata has given no indication that he thinks Clark is a fictional character, therefore if Manata thinks Clark was a man he is under the command of Scripture not to slander Clark (libel being just slander in written form) and is therefore guilty of sin.
Bracketing, for the moment, the pesky fact that, by his own admission, Sean can’t possibly know what he’s talking about, does this consequence actually follow from Scripture?
Suppose that Manata bore false witness against Daffy Duck. And suppose Manata happens to believe that Daffy Duck is a real, albeit ducky, person.
According to Scripture, has Manata sinned against Daffy Duck? Can you sin against a fictitious character?
Where does Scriptural explicitly or implicitly address the sin of slandering a fictitious character? Does a fictitious character have a reputation to protect?
In Scripture, bearing false witness is a judicial term. Would Scripture view Daffy Duck as a bona fide defendant in a court of law?
What if Manata compares Daffy Duck to a drug dealer? Is that a sin? Although Daffy Duck might regard that comparison as “dethpicable,” I don’t see that Biblical jurisprudence would convict Manata for defamation of animated characters.
However, I’ll grant you that Sean has opened my eyes to a very creative way of looking at Biblical jurisprudence. In future, I’ll be far more circumspect when I venture to opine about Tweety Bird or Pepé Le Pew.
I’d also add, in passing, that if Manata was actually under the impression that Daffy Duck is a real, albeit ducky person, then it seems to me that his delusion would be, at the very least, an extenuating circumstances if not, indeed, an exculpatory circumstance.
The argument would be simply:
Scripture teaches that slander/libel is sin
Manata slandered/libeled Clark
Manata sinned against Clark
Well, at the risk of being pedantic, there are three little problems with his three-step argument. Sean can’t prove the major premise. He can’t prove the minor premise. Hence, even if the conclusion follows from the premises, the argument is unsound.
But aside from the drab little fact that Sean’s three-step argument happens to be a misstep every step of the way, it’s a pretty impressive argument. Far be it from me to quibble over these niggling details.
Notice, it doesn’t matter if Manata or I know that Clark is a man or that he exists. If Manata thinks Clark is a man then he is required by Scripture to admit he sinned against Clark.
Notice, it doesn’t matter if Manata or I know that Daffy Duck is a duck or that he exists. If Manata thinks Daffy is a duck then he is required by Scripture to admit he sinned against Daffy.
Either that or explain how painting Clark as the philosphical equivalent of a crank dealer looking to create a bunch of strung out Scripturalist tweekers isn’t libel?
i) Maybe because it’s a figurative analogy. Sean has yet to show how Manata’s figurative analogy is even mistaken, much less deliberately and maliciously false. It’s undoubtedly provocative, but the Bible itself is chock-full of provocative metaphors (e.g. the whore of Babylon).
ii) BTW, it’s not as if John Robbins was this lamb-like figure whose commentary on his theological opponents resembled a Hallmark greeting card. Indeed, some of his opponents would say that Robbins libeled them.
All men are sinners.
Michael Sudduth is a man.
Therefore, Michael Sudduth is a sinner.
The syllogism is valid.
There are two little problems with this syllogism:
i) It’s deceptive to cast the argument in terms of a categorical syllogism. That takes the major and minor premises for granted, as if these were true. But Scripturalism is in no position to affirm the truth of either premise.
Hence, if the argument were true to the tenets of Scripturalism, it ought to be cast in terms of a hypothetical syllogism:
If all men are sinners,
And Michael Sudduth is a man,
Then Michael Sudduth is a sinner.
ii) Which brings us to the next point. A valid argument is not a sound argument. Validity is a necessary, but insufficient, condition of a sound argument.
Unless a Scripturalist can demonstrate the truth of the major and minor premises, the validity of the argument is irrelevant. Take a comparison:
If all ducks are sinners,
And Daffy is a duck,
Then Daffy Duck is a sinner.
The syllogism is valid.
Do you deny that Michael Sudduth is a man? If so, you have a problem.
No, Scripturalism has a problem with that claim. Scripturalism can’t prove from Scripture that all men are sinners, since Scripturalism can’t know what Scripture teaches. And it can’t know anything about Michael Sudduth.
It matters not that Scripture nowhere says that Michael Sudduth is a man. If you think you are a man, you are required by the syllogism to think that you are a sinner.
The syllogism remains valid however you arrived at the conclusion that Michael Sudduth is a man. If you happen to think you are an angel, Christ came to save sinners, not the righteous. You have excluded yourself from salvation. It matters not whether you have knowledge or true belief of the minor premise. The conclusion follows. The syllogism is valid.
i) The syllogism about Daffy Duck (see above) is valid too. What if a man happens to think he’s Daffy Duck? Is he thereby required to think he’s a talking duck?
ii) Does the Bible require me to hold false beliefs as long as they are validly derived from false premises? Is it my epistemic duty to believe a false conclusion if it’s a valid conclusion?
Seems to me that, according to Scripture, it’s my epistemic duty to recant a false belief.
To do that, Hays or Manata would have to show that the Scriptures really do teach insoluble paradoxes that are forever beyond the bar of human reason. This would admittedly render the Scriptures, taken in and of themselves and as the axiom or starting point for the Christian faith, contradictory and self refuting because we would know then at least some of Scripture is false. That’s because one side of any given contradiction must be, and not may be, false.
i) That’s not my position. My position is that we shouldn’t come to Scripture with an extrascriptural presumption regarding the presence or absence of revealed paradoxes. Rather, we should find out what God has revealed. Our posture is to listen and learn. Not superimpose an extrascriptural presumption on the nature of what God is permitted to tell us.
ii) Ironically, Sean’s a priori opposition to Scriptural paradox is a violation of Scripturalism itself. He is assuming, apart from Scripture, what it is possible for Scripture to disclose. Fitting Scripture with an extrascriptural muzzle.
iii) Sean is resorting to the same methodology as a Catholic apologist. Stipulate an unacceptable consequence. Then confabulate a religious epistemology to avoid the stipulative consequence.
iv) I myself am not a big fan of theological paradox. That said, there’s no antecedent objection to theological paradox.
v) Apropos (iv), before we get to the question of what is possible as a matter of revelation, we ought to ask what is possible as a matter of reality. Revelation is a revelation about reality. If reality is paradoxical, then it wouldn’t be surprising if revelation is paradoxical.
vi) Apropos (v), paradox is a common feature of human experience in science, mathematics, and logic. It often requires great ingenuity to resolve a prima facie paradox, and some prima facie paradoxes remain unresolved despite the best efforts of the best minds.
This phenomenon figures in some very abstract disciplines, where pure reason reigns supreme.
vii) Apropos (vi), if reality confronts us with a variety of prima facie paradoxes, then there’s no prior expectation that revelation would be devoid of prima facie paradoxes since revelation is a revelation of reality–albeit a partial revelation thereof.
viii) The obvious reason for this impression is that reality is far more complex than the human mind. It seems to me that paradox is a predictable result of a finite mind that’s attempting to grasp an object of knowledge that’s far more complex than the subject of knowledge.
ix) By contrast, the mind of God is infinitely more complex than mundane reality, while abstract objects are isometric with his own mental complexity. Hence, what is paradoxical for the human mind would not be paradoxical for the divine mind.
x) This doesn’t begin to mean the paradoxical teachings of Scripture, if there are any, are false. Sean is equivocating. A prima facie paradox is not the same thing as an actual contradiction.
ix) Finally, even if, for the sake of argument, we grant the presence of insoluble, prima facie paradoxes in Scripture, what practical difficulty does that actually pose? Even if we can’t grasp how the relata interrelate, we can grasp and affirm each relatum. For example, we can know what it means for Jesus to have a human nature and a divine nature, even if we can’t exactly put the two together.
Perhaps if men like Manata, Anderson and Hays spent more time trying to solve any of the remaining the so-called “paradoxes of Scripture,” rather than attributing them to “an unarticulated equivocation on the part of the revealer,” they might actually contribute something worthwhile to Christ’s church.
A few more issues:
i) While it’s flattering to be classed with Anderson, I’m a Lilliputian to his Gulliver.
ii) As for Manata, it’s only a matter of time before he leaves me in the dust. In fact, I often have to dust off my windshield as I try to play catch up.
iii) I’ve actually spent a fair amount of time on alleged contradictions. Unlike Sean, I don’t talk about it–I do it.
iv) Sean is just a poseur. He plays the role of a Christian rationalist, yet something is missing: he’s long on rhetoric, but short on reasons.
Indeed, he’s the flipside of Hitchens and Dawkins. One is struck by the gaping chasm between the intellectual pretension and the intellectual performance. A wealth of rhetorical flourishes to camouflage the poverty of argumentation.
Sean keeps harping on Manata’s alleged slander because that’s a face-saving device. Since Sean can’t actually argue for his position, he covers his ignominious retreat with show of moral outrage.
If the traditional formulations need improvement then they should be revised in the light of Scripture.
To revise the confessions in light of Scripture, you’d have to be in a position to know both the confessions and the Scriptures. Scripturalism denies the possibility of knowing either.