Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Scripturalism's Three-card Monte

Sean Gerety's latest salvo is, to put it mildly, sub-par. The number one question the reader of his post should ask when reading Gerety is: Where is any of this argued by Gerety. Another might be: Is he competant to critique some of the things he's critiquing? Another might be: Is he guilty of what he accuses others of? Still another: How many times does he defeat his own arguments. These are just some of the questions to keep in mind when reading his latest.

"As we have seen in Round One, while admittedly doing a considerable amount of footwork and plenty of swinging and sweating, the Vantilian tag-team of Manata and Hays have been punching nothing but air and have proved to be lightweights."
Unsubstantive rhetoric.

In the case of Manata, his entire attack consisted of arguing, in one form or another, that if I can’t know Manata is a man, since I cannot infer him from Scripture, then I can’t know Manata sinned against Clark and Robbins when he portrayed them as crank dealers on his blog.
1. Notice the absence of interaction or citing the sources of his claims. This claim is, in fact, false (as even Gerety implicitly admits (see below)).

2. Indeed, I don't think I made this comment at all. Can Gerety quote me?

3. In fact, Gerety brought this issue up to sidetrack the discussion on paradox since he couldn't offer any substantive responses. I simply denied I did anything wrong. Not only that, I pointed out that Gerety "slandered" Van Til, Frame, etc., and so couldn't really be taken seriously in his feigned outrage. Thus, the probability is that this argument functions as one of Gerety's many distractions in his game of Three-card Monte.

Manata, who is clearly the less capable and agile of the pair, turned out to be a one trick pony.
Gerety is correct for once, Steve is my more capable blogging partner. But, a man don't need to go Hays to get the bulge on a tub like you, Gerety. However, since I didn't offer the argument he says I did, his main point is wrong.

As we’ve seen in the first round, Mananta’s argument has no weight as he continues to blindly ignore the biblical imperatives against false witness and slander.
Gererty's forgetting my "main" argument---the one conveniently ignored. I never made the argument he claimed, but I did deny his premise that I slandered Clark and Robbins. So, Gerety doesn't know that I slandered them, and I don't believe I did. I defy him to counter this argument in a substantive way.

Gerety cites a claim Robbins made that Sean thinks should show me that I'm wrong:

So if we have the opinion that we are men, then the syllogism I provided [all men are sinners, ___ is a man, therefore ____ is a sinner] is neither absurd nor irrelevant; it is right on target. We may or may not be correct in our opinion, but if we have that opinion, if you have that opinion, you are required to believe that you are a sinner.
1. However, I don't "have the opinion" that I slandered. Gerety should have interacted with what I actually said rather than his straw man.

2. Gerety hasn't shown that he knows what the Bible says, so how can he appeal to it?

3. Keep in mind, I don't care to debate this issue and am not trying to "defend my reputation," or whatever. I'm making more substantive points, viz., (i) Gerety is incorrect in what he attributes to me; (ii) Gerety's claims have no positive epistemic status (on his own terms) and are, in fact, unjustified---thus leaving us to wonder why he or anyone should believe them; (iii) Gerety is guilty of what he accuses others of (see below) and so throws into doubt the sincerity of his accusations, thus making them look like tools for distraction to cover his inability to interact substantively with the arguments.

Even if you only have a very narrow understanding of what Van Til and Clark both taught and believed, when it came to the study of epistemology (which is the science of knowledge, or, simply, the study of how one can really know anything at all), these two Reformed giants were sparing in the same ring and playing by the same set of rules. Both Van Til and Clark maintained that knowledge, for it to be properly given that name, needs to be accounted for; it needs to be justified.
One problem is, Gerety can't "justify his knowledge," on his own terms.

Another is: this is an appeal to piety and shame.

Another is: the picture of knowledge these men were operating under is almost obviously false.

Now, compare the views of the above Reformed giants with the gnats on Triablogue.
Gerety "slandered" Steve and I. I demand an apology. I am outraged!

[1] If a man slanders he has sinned.

[2] Gerety is a man,

[3] Gerety slandered.

[4] Gerety sinned.

I want my apology!

Actually, I don't. My point, though, should be obvious.

These men are not even remotely interested in epistemology in the sense that Van Til, Bahnsen and Clark understood the term.
More appeal to the crowd and to shame. This isn't an argument, it's an appeal to piety. I am very much interested in epistemology, and having the best theory of it I can.

These men are interested in something exceedingly more paltry, but exceedingly easier to obtain. The game these men are playing is so-called “Reformed Epistemology,” which is neither particularly Reformed or even epistemological.
Continues appeals to the crowd and to shame. Notice the Three-card Monte game rather than the substance giving game.

Rather than defining knowledge as a justified true belief, what these men call knowledge is something called “warrant.”
This shows Gerety's ignorance. 'Warrant' is just that third condition that turns mere true belief into knowledge. Gerety happens to think that third condition is 'justification.' Plantinga thinks 'warrant' a better term as it's not as objectionable. However, 'warrant' doesn't necessarily deny the 'justification' constraint. Gerety's off here, and off bad.

While I’m certainly no expert on “Reformed Epistemology,”and have only recently started to slug through Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief, it should be clear that knowledge for proponents of RE is something entirely different from what Clark, Van Til and Bahnsen had in mind.
Gerety has a bad habit of critiquing things he hasn't read (and I'd say a lot more prep work needs to be done before you jump into WCB). Gerety also was caught giving strong critiques against Anderson's book, only later to admit that he never read the book, nor probably any of the reviews. If I were Sean, I wouldn't be announcing these kinds of things. Question: How seriously should the reader now take Sean and his "critique" of RE given that he just admitted being almost 100% ignorant of it? What would be the epistemically virtuous thing to do? Ignore Sean?

According to the proponents of RE, knowledge does not depend on actually having to logically justify or account for the proposition believed to be true, but on whether or not the faculties of the knower can be said to be “functioning properly” in the “cognitive environment that is propitious for that exercise of cognitive powers, according to a design plan that is successfully aimed at the production of true belief.”
So far, there's no argument here. At best it's, "Van Til and Clark held to deontological justification and an internalist constraint; Plantinga doesn't; ergo, Plantinga's wrong." Oh, Gerety's leaving out a lot of Plantinga's epistemology. He would know what it is if he did his homework before critiquing "RE."

Notice too, Plantinga said he arrived at his definition of “warrant” by canvassing “various contemporary theories.” He evidently spent little time canvassing the Scriptures.
Besides the fact Gerety doesn't know any of this, Plantinga does appeal to "the Scriptures" quite a bit. Anyway, as James Anderson recently rightly noted:

"It’s certainly true that the Bible doesn’t set forth an epistemology in the traditional sense. It doesn’t seek to address questions like, “What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for S’s knowing that p?” or “How can we refute Descartes’ Demon and other skeptical challenges?” Such omissions are probably for the best. More pages spent on those matters might have meant less pages spent on who God is and how we can get right with Him — which are, after all, matters of greater concern to the bulk of the human race."

Not only does Plantinga embrace the general consensus and contemporary re-definition of knowledge as “warrant,”
Again, Gerety's just showing how much he doesn't know.

Which is perhaps why critics of so-called “Reformed Epistemology” claim it is nothing more than a sophistic lowering of the epistemic bar to permit secularists to delude themselves into thinking they’ve attained knowledge and it allows RE practitioners to look “rational” in the eyes of their atheistic intellectual and professional peers for professing a belief in theism.
Still nothing substantive. Since Gerety doesn't know anything about what he's talking about, feigning that he does, he judges motives and, again, appeals to shame and scare tactics. Those who might be interested in "RE," watch out (!), you'll lower the epistemic bar, let secularists have knowledge, and, gasp (!), obtain a motive to try and look rational in the eyes of your atheistic peers (forget that part were Planting uses his epistemology to argue that those atheists couldn't know anything given their belief in naturalism and evolution). Now, ask yourself this: Where is Gerety arguing for any of this?

Plantinga evidently did not heed Paul’s warning to Timothy: “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”– which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20,21).
Gerety thinks Paul's giving a lesson on contemporary 21st century epistemology here.

Now, to what degree do sub-Vantilians like Manata and Hays embrace the sophism of so-called “Reformed Epistemology” I really can’t say. However, this is precisely how these men can claim to be “rational” for believing the Scriptures contain insoluble paradoxes (a contradiction by any other name), that are hopefully, or so we are told, resolved in the Godhead. Of course, if “warrant” can be obtained for believing Van Til’s irrational and self-refuting doctrine of Scripture, which is just more sophistry, almost anything can obtain “warrant” and be magically raised to the level of knowledge. Who needs the three noetic states of knowledge, opinion, and ignorance when “warrant” can magically transform virtually any class of opinions or beliefs into knowledge.
Still nothing substantive. Gerety hasn't argued for his claims once. Well, he did say that Clark and Van Til held to JTB, and he suppressed the premise that they were infallible... Anyway, Gerety is dishonest with his readers for portraying us as not distinguishing between knowledge and opinion. We obviously do, just not in the way Gerety does.

To their shame, sub-Vantilians like Manata and Hays have abandoned the antithesis in the field of epistemology. Today everyone from Logical Postitivsts, Behaviorists, Evolutionists, Animists, Hindus, and Islamic Jihadists, Necromancers, and assorted Atheists can obtain “warrant,” profess to be “rational,” and be said to possess “knowledge,” even if evidently Great Pumpkin worshipers might have a rougher go of it.
More scare tactics. And, ask yourself: Where, in this Three-card Monte, is the argument?

Consider the following. I had wondered what really is Manata’s objection to Scripturalism? That what we call knowledge is limited to those things either set down in Scripture or deduced therefrom? That Scripture is both the content and the account on knowledge? Wow, what horrible things for Christians to believe!
Again, it's that it's self-defeating. Normally, people shouldn't believe propositions that are self-refuting, Christians or not.

As should be obvious, pressing Hays or even his tag-team buddy Manata to account for “sense knowledge,” not to mention how they know they are men, or even that Manata is man — i.e., to ask them to account for the very things they’ve repeatedly challenged me to account for — would be pointless.
The senses are a source of knowledge.
Seeing that “warrant” has freed Hays from having to justify virtually any knowledge claim, much less his claim to “sense knowledge, it’s not surprsing [sic] that he’s left punching the wind. I’m quite sure if pressed Hays can produce plenty of blather that his “sense knowledge” is both “rational” and “warranted” to satisfy any so-called Reformed Epistemologist, even if an unsophisticate like me remains unimpressed.
Of course, Gerety can never know that our arguments establish their conclusion. So what's the point?

I could hardly see the sense of continuing with a man who seems to think his own faulty opinions constitute knowledge, some of which we’ll examine in more detail below and in the next round.
Steve doesn't "think opinions count as knowledge." Gerety is lying.

Hays’ assertion notwithstanding, and all the RE prattle he might dress it up with, it seems to me that “sense knowledge” would be quite impossible. Given that only propositions can be either true or false and sensations, whatever they may be, are non-propositional, I have no idea how anyone might advance the idea of “sense knowledge?”
Of course, the point is that the senses are a source of knowledge. Of course, Gerety knows none of this (does the Bible say that only propositions can be true or false)?

Could Hays, like Van Til before him, appeal to the methods of science as a means for arriving at this “sense knowledge?” He could, but then he would have to overcome the logical objections raised by Clark in his treatise, The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God, not to mention the objections of men like Bertrand Russell, Karl Popper and others.
Though I disagree with Steve here, to be fair it should be pointed out that Steve's an anti-realist when it comes to science. This is symptomatic of Gerety not studying up on those he's refutin'.

Now, admittedly, perhaps some Divines did hold to a belief in “sense knowledge” as Hays claims, but it certainly didn’t carry any weight in comparison to the Scripture. Concerning the sufficiency of Scripture they wrote:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men…
. Where does any of this come close to implying, "That what we call knowledge is limited to those things either set down in Scripture or deduced therefrom? That Scripture is both the content and the account on knowledge"? Where does the above deny that the senses are a source of knowledge? Sean just throws things out there as if they were self-evident. And he chides us for not justifying our claims!

Manata maintains he did not sin in writing his diatribe characterizing Clark as the Pablo Escobar of epistemology.
Right. So how could it be that "Sean doesn't know if Manata is a man" is my "main" argument? Why would he say that it was "all" I had? That I just kept "repeating" it, over and over? Sean beat himself, again. Furthermore, perhaps it would have been better if I called Clark a "gnat" or a "heretic." Apparently, Sean doesn't believe that is slanderous talk. He better not for someone who constantly is trying to point out the sins in others.

Instead he and Hays dance around giving each other high-fives as if they’d scored some imaginary point against Scripturalism. Hays really needs to learn a new step.
Where did we do this? Sean's just playing Three-card Monte again. Again, notice that Sean doesn't respond to the self-referential incoherency charge. Give me five, Steve.

When I pointed out that Clark and Robbins were also Manata’s elders, Hay’s whined:
Maybe I should have called Clark a "gnat" and a "heretic" and a "whiner." Sean doesn't think that is "slander" or "abusive ad hominems." really, in one sense, I don't have to do any work, Sean does all the heavy lifting undermining himself just fine.

However, neither I nor any other Scripturalist claim an “axiomatic insistence that revealed truth could never strike a human being as paradoxical.” People often struggle with Biblical truths which at first seem paradoxical. But, as Clark would say, a Biblcal [sic] paradox is nothing more than “a charley-horse between the ears that can only be eliminated by vigorous rational massage.”
More to the point, since Gerety believes that you cannot tell the difference between a paradox and a contradiction, this is a recipe to deny any "Biblical truths" (note, this was admitted) if they appear paradoxical. So, despite what Sean says, he's wrong. Clarkians cannot believe any paradoxes. If they can, then they claim that they can distinguish between paradoxes and actual contradictions. If they can, they lost their main argument against Van Tillians here.

By contrast, if one accepts the irrationalism of Van Til and his followers, a Biblical paradox is a charley-horse between the ears that can never be eliminated and any attempt to do so is a sinful failure to “think in submission to Scripture” and to acknowledge the Creator/creature distinction. Aside from the obvious false piety and humility implied in such a warped and neo-orthodox view of Scripture, these sub-Vantilians go Van Til one further and chalk up their Biblical paradoxes, in the words of Manata and James Anderson, to “an unarticulated equivocation on the part of the revealer.”
Note, still nothing substantive. Is there and argument in the above? No? Consign it to the flames for it can contain nothing but sophistry. Anyway, what's the relevant difference between believing "Biblical truths" that are paradoxical forever, and those for 20 years? Sean beat himself above.

Is this all Sean and Scripturalism has?


  1. you see it.Is there and argument in the above? yes .air jordan shoes

  2. Paul said...
    "Give me five, Steve."

    Paul, Steve or anyone, in a few words, what does it mean for one to be a realist or an anti-realist when it comes to science?

  3. I'm not exactly sure when Scripturalism was supposed to be God's method of relaying knowledge. Was it before or after the close of the Canon?

    If during times of enscripturation, then only those parts of Scripture that were already inspired and recognized by the people of God could have been the treasure-house of knowledge. The problem is at the time of the Judges, when they already had a copy of the Pentateuch, there were passages in Scriptures that had apparent contradictions or were paradoxical.

    For example, there are passages that state that God cannot be seen, or if He is seen, the person will die (Ex. 33:20). Yet, there are other passages that state that God was seen (Gen. 32:20; Ex. 24:10; Num. 12:8).

    As trinitarians who believe in a multi-personal God (tri-personal), we can easily reconcile those passages by saying that whenever people saw God or Jehovah in the OT, they were seeing the 2nd person of the Trinity. We can come to that conclusion from the rest of the OT that was inscripturated after the Torah, as well as by the use of the New Testament.

    However, I question whether a multi-personal God can be clearly deduced from only the Torah/penteteuch. In which case, someone living during the period of the Judges wouldn't be able to deduce from Scripture that there is more than one person in the Godhead. I supposed the multi-personality of God could be inferred INDUCTIVELY from the fact that one of the Hebrew words for God (elohim) is plural, and from passages in the beginning of Genesis where God refers to "us" and "we", along with Gen. 19:24.

    But still, God says God cannot be seen and man live.

    So the problem seems to remain. Namely, the fact that Scripturalists have to admit that God can inspire Scripture so that the currrent collection of the Canon leads to seeming contradiction or paradox.

    If Scripturalism applies only after the close of the canon, does that mean people didn't know anything prior to the writing of Scripture? What of those prior to the writing of Scripture who HEARD God through their SENSE of hearing like Adam, or Abraham, or Moses?

    Anyway....I'd love to see a Scripturalists use only deduction to demonstrate the Trinity, even with the use of the New Testament.

  4. AP,

    Traditionally, anti-realism about science is the view that the theories or theoretical entities postulated by science either are not true or do not exist; or cannot be known to be true or known to exist, or their truth justified; or that the truth about said entities doesn't matter so much as success, so the question of "does it work" is more important and proper than "is it true", the latter can be false while the former true, thus the entities may exist as something like useful fictions.

    There are different kinds of anti-realisms and they spell the theory out in their own way, but it will be fairly close to the above.

  5. "I'd say a lot more prep work needs to be done before you jump into WCB"

    What, in particular, would you suggest?

  6. Jonathan,

    Well, since WCB is the third book in a trilogy, the previous two would be a good place to start.

    Some knowledge is assumed in his books, so I'd also make sure to read a contemporary intro to epistemology (Audi's is a good one, for example). So, since Gerety seems to be unfamiliar with so much of the epistemological terrain, an intro is apropos (and that goes for anyone who wants to jump into the fray).

    Also, Plantinga's position has progressed a little and some of the issues involved have evolved; e.g., in the area of defeaters.

    Then there are various misconceptions to avoid when reading WCB. For example, that it is supposed to be an apologetic method. So, this paper by Sudduth would be helpful:


    The above is a bare minimum.

    And, if one wants to really go deep, Sudduth has a RE bibliography here: