Wednesday, May 06, 2009

So who's afraid of da big bad wolf?

Sean Gerety has written another huffy-puffy post in reply to Manata and me:

Let’s see how he does:

“(For anyone interested in seeing a couple of heavyweights battle it out, and someone who presented a serious challenge to Clark’s Scripturalism, may I recommend, Revelation and Epistemology, by George Mavrodes, and, more importantly, Clark’s reply to Mavrodes).”

Why is Sean referring us to the writings of Clark and Mavrodes? Reading what they wrote would involve sensory perception. But Sean assures us that sense knowledge is a contradiction in terms. If, therefore, we can’t know what they wrote by reading them, what’s the point of reading them?

“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.”

Manata didn’t portray them as crack dealers. Rather, he used a metaphorical analogy.

However, for all Gerety knows, Clark and Robbins really were crack dealers. By his own admission, Gerety’s beliefs about Clark and Robbins are reducible to opinion at best and ignorance at worse.

“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... Yet, instead of submitting to the clear teaching of Scripture in his sin against Clark and Robbins…”

How does Sean know what Scripture teaches? He can’t know what Scripture teaches by reading Scripture, for sense knowledge is a contradiction in terms. At best he can only opine what Scripture teaches.

He then quotes something from Robbins:

[Your] objection is of the same ilk as those who say, How can I obey the Ten Commandments if I don’t know who my wife is. Well, GHC [Gordon H. Clark] gave one answer to that question, and I gave another many years ago, but since Clark critics are reluctant to take the trouble to acquaint himself with what Clark or I have written, let me repeat myself.

The statements and commands in Scripture apply to all our thoughts, whether they rise to the level of knowledge or not. We are to bring every thought into captivity to Christ, that is, into captivity to Scripture.

I distinguish–as the Bible and Plato do–between three noetic states: knowledge, opinion, and ignorance. Perhaps you do not so distinguish. But why would you not distinguish between knowledge and opinion, or knowledge and ignorance? It seems to me that a refusal or failure to distinguish between these three states can lead only to greater confusion.

Knowledge is always true. One cannot know that 2 + 2 = 5. Opinions may be true or false. Ignorance is neither true nor false. What distinguishes a true opinion from knowledge is an account of that opinion: It is giving reasons. Sudduth dared me to provide any passage of Scripture that so defines knowledge. It seems to me that there are many. For example, “Be ready to give a reason….” “To the Law and to the testimony: If they speak not according to that Word, there is no light in them.” “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” All, not some. Hidden, not available to discovery by men. The Scripture is both the content and the account on knowledge.

In the strict sense no one in the twentieth century knows that he is a man, for he has not deduced it from the Bible. (Now perhaps such a deduction is possible, and I would be open to an argument on that point.) It is an opinion we hold. You do not know that you are a man. Your opinion may be true, but unless you can show me the argument, it does not rise to the level of knowledge. If you claim to know that you are a man, please show me the argument. Please do not water down, dilute, or make ambiguous the definition of the word “knowledge.” Don’t blur it with opinion. Don’t bother citing immediate “self-knowledge” or some such notion, for the Scriptures explicitly say: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” What you take to be easily come by, the Scripture says is impossible. Why should anyone believe you rather than Scripture?

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.

There are several problems with this statement:

i) According to the Scripturalist, knowledge is limited to those things either set down in Scripture or deduced therefrom. So where does Scripture explicitly or implicitly teach that a man can’t know who his wife is? Where does Scripture say or imply you can’t know that you’re a man?

A homosexual apologist like Mel White, Andrew Sullivan, or Barney Frank might find it very convenient to adopt a Scripturalist epistemology:

“In Rom 1, Paul says it’s wrong for a man to have sex with another man, or a woman to have sex with another woman. But that’s purely hypothetical since I can never know if I’m a man or a woman!”

Perhaps Gerety should join the staff of Soulforce.

ii) Sean/Robbins try to get around this by the following line of argument:

a) The injunctions of Scripture apply to all our beliefs

b) That includes true and false beliefs

c) The injunctions of Scripture apply to false beliefs

d) Therefore, even my false beliefs become divine imperatives.

Now that’s a fascinating claim. Suppose I’m high on LSD. In my hallucinogenic state I mistake my dog for my wife. Therefore, according to Robbins/Gerety, I’m required to have sex with my dog to discharge my conjugal duties.

iii) This is based on their appeal to 2 Cor 10:5: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Sean and Robbins take 2 Cor 10:5 to mean, not that we ought to correct our false beliefs in light of the Bible, but that we should simply plug our false beliefs into the injunctions of Scripture.

iv) Robbins says “what distinguishes a true opinion from knowledge is an account of that opinion: It is giving reasons.”

But Robbins also says knowledge is limited to those things either set down in Scripture or deduced therefrom.

Very well, then, let’s apply Robbins’ Scripturalist epistemology to Robbins’ definition of knowledge. Where does Scripture either say or imply that what distinguishes a true opinion from knowledge is an account of that opinion: It is giving reasons? Did Robbins deduce that particular definition of knowledge from the Bible?

It’s incumbent on Sean to show us, by necessary implication from Scripture where Scripture limits knowledge to an opinion supplemented by an account thereof. Does Scripture say or imply that you can’t know anything unless you can give reasons for your beliefs?

v) And what about the syllogism? Validity is a logical concept. Inference is a logical process. Where did Robbins acquire his knowledge of logic? According to Scripturalism, Scripture is the only source of knowledge.

Did Robbins learn the laws of logic from Scripture? Did Sean learn the laws of logic from Scripture? According to Sean, 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.

But that’s not the same thing as learning deduction from Scripture. Rather, that’s a case of bringing your powers of deduction to Scripture. Unless you already knew how to draw inferences, you couldn’t recognize a necessary consequence of Scriptural teaching.

Does this mean that Sean’s knowledge of logic is innate? But if Sean has innate knowledge of logic, then Scripture is not the only source of knowledge. For in that event, Sean knows something he didn’t learn from Scripture. Ditto: Robbins.

vi) Finally, notice that Sean always trots out the same three or four quotes from Robbins. That’s his only fallback. He has nothing else in reserve. Once you shoot that down, he’s defenseless.

Sean then quotes a passage from Bahnsen:

We have already noted above that for someone to know a proposition, at least two conditions must be met: the person must believe the proposition in question, and the proposition must be true. However, even this is an inadequate analysis of knowledge. At first sight, it might seem that if we believe what is in fact true, then we have knowledge; but on further reflection, to define knowledge as true belief proves to be too broad … Beliefs that are arbitrarily adopted or based upon faulty grounds, even when they turn out to be true, do not qualify as instances of “knowledge.”

What is the additional ingredient, besides being correct, that a belief must have in order to count as knowledge? It must be substantiated, supported, or justified by evidence. Knowledge is true belief held on adequate grounds, rafter than held fallaciously or haphazardly. To put it traditionally, knowledge is justified, true belief.

It should be noted here that by “justified” we mean that the person actually has sound reasons (good evidence), not simply that he thinks his evidence is good or sufficient in light of the pool of information available to him.

Sean then says: “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.”

Needless to say, this interpretation is quite illiterate. In the passage that Sean just quoted, Bahnsen doesn’t say knowledge must be justified. Rather, Bahnsen says belief must be justified.

“While I’m certainly no expert on ‘Reformed Epistemology,’ and have only recently started to slug through Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief.”

Why would Sean bother to read Plantinga’s book? The act of reading involves sensory perception. But Sean assures us that sense knowledge is a contradiction in terms. So what’s the point?

“Now, compare the views of the above Reformed giants with the gnats on Triablogue. These men are not even remotely interested in epistemology in the sense that Van Til, Bahnsen and Clark understood the term. 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. Rather than defining knowledge as a justified true belief, what these men call knowledge is something called ‘warrant.’ Now, to what degree do sub-Vantilians like Manata and Hays embrace the sophism of so-called ‘Reformed Epistemology’ I really can’t say.”

But if he really can’t say, then his prior claim that we are playing the game of Reformed Epistemology is an ignorant claim. Ignorant by his own admission.

“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.”

i) Once again, he hasn’t begun to show that my position on theological paradox is dependent on Reformed Epistemology.

ii) This is my actual position: It’s rational to believe whatever God reveals. The fact that God reveals something ipso facto makes that a rational object of belief. If God reveals a paradox, then it’s rational to believe the paradox–because it’s rational to believe whatever God reveals.

This doesn’t commitment me to the proposition that God reveals paradoxical truths. Maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t. That’s not something we can know in advance of revelation. But if he did, it would be rational to believe them.

“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.”

I don’t have a problem with distinguishing between knowledge, opinion, and ignorance. Indeed, I’m more than happy to apply that threefold rubric to Scripturalism. If I wanted to illustrate opinion and ignorance in contradistinction to knowledge, I can’t think of a better object lesson than Sean Gerety.

“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.”

Where did Sean deduce the existence of Hindus, Darwinians, jihadis, &c., from Scripture?

“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! “

Yes, that is a horrible thing for Christians to believe. If it were true that all knowledge is limited to Scripture, then you couldn’t know the Bible, and you couldn’t know the world to which the Bible refers.

“Admittedly, I have no idea what Hays means by ‘sense knowledge?’ It appears to be a contradiction in terms.”

The sentence that “sense knowledge appears to be a contradiction in terms” is, itself, a sensory object. It involves the use of visual markers (letters) to convey information. If sense knowledge is a contradiction in terms, then Sean’s sensory statement that sense knowledge is a contradiction in terms is, itself, a contradiction in terms. So his denial is self-refuting.

“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.”

i) Where does the Bible say that we must account for sense knowledge?

ii) I don’t have to explain how I know I’m a man. That was a minor premise in a syllogism by Robbins and Gerety. The burden of proof lies squarely on their shoulders to account for the minor premises of their own syllogism. Otherwise, even if the conclusion were valid, there’s no reason to believe the conclusion is true.

“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).”

“So much for Peter’s argument in Acts 4:12; ‘And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.’ Peter must have been one of those first century xenophobic conservative Christians. After all, who needs the ‘sine qua non of faith,’ even the Lord Jesus Christ alone, when we have Tillich, some ancient Buddhist canon, and the Tao te Ching.”

Several problems:

i) Where did Sean deduce the existence of Tillich, the Buddhist canon, or the Tao te Ching” from Scripture?

ii) Sean likes to quote Scripture, but he fails to give an account of how he knows Scripture. Sean constantly talks about accounting for belief, but he never gets around to actually giving an account for his beliefs. Long on assertion, short on argumentation.

iii) I’ve already given some reasons for why a Scripturalist can’t know Scripture. Now I’ll give another reason. Sean quotes some statements by Peter and Paul from the English Bible. But that’s a problem for Scripturalism. Gordon Clark rejects representational theories of perception. For example:

“The ‘correspondence theory of knowledge’ faces the insuperable objection that it disallows any knowledge of reality at all. Whatever reality may be, whether individuals like trees and rocks, or Platonic Ideas, or whatever, this theory provides us only with pictures of them. The object of knowledge is therefore a representation and not the reality itself. Since the mind contains only the picture and never the ‘thing,’ there is no possibility of knowing whether the representation is similar to the object or not. To recognize a similarity between two things, they must be compared, and hence both must be in the mind. But if the reality is in the mind, the picture with its similarity is useless. If the reality is not in the mind, the picture, so far as we know, is a picture of nothing. There is hardly any objection to empiricism more fundamental than this one,” Language and Theology, 29.

How is that a problem for Scripturalism? Here’s the problem:

God inspired Peter and Paul to entertain certain true concepts. However, barring telepathy, we can’t read their minds.

Therefore, the only way for them to transmit their concepts is to communicate their concepts through the medium of inspired words. That’s a form of symbolic discourse–where words represent concepts.

But, of course, the reader can’t go back and compare the words to the concepts, since we lack direct access to the minds of Peter and Paul. All we have are the linguistic tokens of their concepts. According to Clark, we don’t know if the words match the concepts.

Moreover, Sean is quoting from the English Bible. In that case, the English words must correspond to the Greek words.

Perhaps Sean would say we can compare English versions with the original Greek and Hebrew. But that exercise doesn’t eliminate the representational element.

How did he learn Greek and Hebrew? By reading Greek–English or Hebrew–English grammars? But that only pushes the problem back a step.

Suppose he grew up in a home where Greek or Hebrew were his mother tongue. But he only learned Greek and Hebrew by associating certain vocables with certain ostensible objects. So we haven’t eliminated the representational component.

“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 that he’s left punching the wind.”

Once again, this is simply illiterate. Did I say that knowledge-claims require no justification. No. I said that knowledge requires no justification. On the other hand, I also said that some knowledge-claims may need to be justified.

“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?’ 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.”

i) Notice how Sean begins the paragraph by denying that sense knowledge is possible. Then, in order to bolster his denial, he ends this paragraph by referring us to sensory objects: the writings of Clark, Popper, and Russell! For someone who prides himself on his rationality, Sean can’t even think straight.

ii) One can form propositional beliefs on the basis of sensory experience. Sean typed his post on computer keyboard. He has learned from experience that if he depresses a particular key, it will produce a particular letter. He has also learned that if he depresses certain keys in a certain order, it will produce a certain sequence of letters.

He also believes that this will happen because his computer keyboard was designed to operate that way.

Likewise, a Christian believes that God designed the world such that some things ordinarily correspond to other things.

“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.”

Notice that he’s having to backpeddle from his original claim. The question at issue is not how the Westminster Divines rated the various sources of knowledge. Rather, the question at issue is whether the Westminster Divines limited all knowledge to the Bible. Sean is trying to change the subject to save face.

“I’m not sure if Hays’ ‘sense knowledge’ qualifies as a ‘new revelation of the Spirit’ or a ‘tradition of men’ or something else entirely, but they did stress that the whole counsel of God, and not just part, is either set down or deduced from Scripture and that this covers all things, and not just some things, pertaining to God’s glory, our salvation, the things we should believe (i.e., faith), and, quite frankly, life in general, so I have no idea what role would be left for Hays’ paltry and oxymoronic ‘sense knowledge’? I guess the Confession writers forgot to include Chapter XXXIV; On Superfluous Knowledge So Called.”

What role is left for sense knowledge? Let’s see:

i) The Bible contains various descriptions of the sensible world, including statements about how Christians should relate to the sensible world. For example, don’t commit adultery. Is it superfluous to the Decalogue whether or not you can know if the woman you’re having sex with is your wife or another man’s wife? Or maybe your dog?

ii) There is also the question of how the Bible itself can be an object of knowledge? If sense knowledge is a contradiction in terms, then how do we know what the Bible teaches? Not from reading it or hearing it.

iii) On a related issue, if the Bible is the only source of knowledge, then our knowledge of logic must derive from Scripture alone. But how can we deduce anything from Scripture unless we have a working knowledge of logic?

“Evidently Hays seems to think the Confession writers were endorsing some sort of natural theology by their use of the phrase ‘light of nature.’ After all, Romans 1:19,20, a favorite passage of Evidentalists and natural theologians everywhere, is cited as a proof text for this portion of the Confession…Rather than a means to arrive at truth, Van Til makes clear that the light of nature, or man’s own natural endowment as God’s creature created in His image confronts man ‘within his own constitution.’ Rather than man coming to a knowledge of the truth by observing nature, man instead ‘concocts his scheme of things in order by means of it to suppress the truth,’ not come to know it. Consequently, it would seem Hays is very wrong about what the Confession is teaching here and wants to hang his entire sensate and empirical overcoat on a very slender nail.”

Is Sean really that dense? The question at issue is not what Van Til happened to think, but what the Westminster Divines happened to think. The question at issue is not the interpretation of Rom 1:19-20, but the interpretation of WCF 1:6.

“Again, notice the sophistry involved here. Hays provides no account demonstrating how he knows Clark, Robbins, or Manata are ‘real people’.”

i) I don’t need to since I didn’t accuse Manata of libeling Clark or Robbins. The onus lies on Sean, not me.

ii) Where does Scripture say or imply that I need to demonstrate how I know my father or mother or sister or brother or wife or son or daughter is a real person?

“Yet, as mentioned in Round One, it doesn’t matter whether or not I know if Clark, Robbins, or Manata are ‘real people.’ It doesn’t matter if Manata or Tom Bombadil or whoever he might be is a ‘real person.’ The question is, does Manata express any interest in complying with Biblical commands not to slander?”

i) How does Sean happen to know what the Bible commands? I’m waiting for him to give an account.

ii) Where does Scripture say that you can slander a fictitious person?

“He does not. Manata maintains he did not sin in writing his diatribe characterizing Clark as the Pablo Escobar of epistemology.”

i) Sean doesn’t know that. At best that’s an opinionated claim, and at worst that’s an ignorant claim.

ii) Moreover, Sean has no way to distinguish an opinionated claim from an ignorant claim. Sean can’t claim that some opinions are probably true, while others are probably false. For an opinion, as he defines it, falls short of knowledge. And as Gordon Clark once observed: “A proposition can be probable and known to be probable, only if it resembles or approximates the truth. A person who does not know what is true cannot know what approximates it,” Three Types of Religious Philosophy, 31.

Therefore, Sean’s allegation is not better than ignorance.

I said:

“To my knowledge, Robbins avoided participation in a Presbyterian accountability system. Indeed, he was arguably schismatic. So in what sense was he, much less is he, Manata’s elder or superior?”

To which Gerety responds:

“Clearly, Hays’ knowledge is not to be trusted and if ‘warranted’ it merely demonstrates the uselessness of the entire RE enterprise. Both Clark and Robbins were ordained elders in Reformed denominations. Robbins was also ordained to preach in the PCA. Robbins left the PCA due to its failure to take any action against those Vantilians who continue to teach a false gospel of the Federal Vision in the PCA. You can read his reasons for leaving the PCA here. Robbins did what any Christian ought to do when they are part of a denomination that continues to permit the teaching of a false gospel along side the one true Gospel. So, in his ignorance, Hays joins Manata in his libel of his elder Dr. Robbins, this time falsely accusing him of being a ‘schismatic’.”

Several problems:

i) In responding to my statement (that Robbins avoided participation in a Presbyterian accountability system, which made him schismatic), Gerety admits that Robbins broke with the PCA. He also evades the question of whether Robbins then put himself under the care of another Reformed denomination. To what ecclesiastical body was Robbins answerable?

So how can Robbins be Manata’s ruling elder if Robbins is no longer in the chain-of-command?

iv) The PCA has church courts. An appellate process. It takes a while to adjudicate a controversy like the Federal Vision. In due time, the PCA ruled against the Federal Vision.

If Robbins was ordained (licensed?) to preach in the PCA, then he was a signatory to the PCA appellate process. It was therefore wrong of him not to let the process run its course. Had the PCA ruled in favor of the Federal Vision, then, and only then, would he be justified in leaving the PCA for another Reformed denomination.

iii) Moreover, there’s the little matter of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. It’s not as if a ruling elder in one Presbyterian denomination automatically exercises authority over members of another Presbyterian denomination.

iii) Furthermore, there’s a logistical impediment: Robbins is dead. In what sense is a dead man Manata’s ruling elder? Is Sean advancing a necromantic theory of Presbyterian eldership? On his theory of Presbyterian polity, does the séance take the place of the session?

“As for Clark, he was a member of various Reformed denominations throughout his life. He was an ordained Minister in the Presbyterian Church and later in the OPC, and was one of the OPC’s orignial founders along with Gresham Machen. After the Clark/Van Til Controversy in the OPC, and after Van Til and his associates refused to submit to the discipline of the church and repent of their unprovoked and unprecedented attack on Clark (see any pattern here), and after they launched similar attacks against Clark’s defenders, particularly Floyd Hamilton, Clark left for the United Presbyterian Church of North America and later to the Reformed Presbyterian Church. I guess in Hays’ mind Clark was a ‘schismatic’ too and not Van Til and his associates who continued to disrupt the peace of the church after their failed attempt to defrock Clark. Perhaps it would do Hays some good to get his facts straight before barking in the future.”

i) Notice that in my original comment I said nothing about Clark’s churchmanship. Instead, I confined myself to Robbins.

ii) For the record, I actually agree with the minority report, signed by William Young (among others).

iii) In what sense is Gordon Clark Manata’s ruling elder? Clark is dead. Moreover, he died in 1985. I seriously doubt that Manata was a communicant member of a Reformed denomination in 1985 or earlier. If so, he would have been a very precocious member! What is more, I seriously doubt that Manata was ever a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

How does Clark exercise his ruling eldership over Manata from beyond the grave? Is Gerety his medium? Does he light a votive candle to Gordon Clark or pray to Robbins to intercede for Manata?

Gerety is playing fast and loose with Presbyterian polity and ecclesiology.

“But, as Clark would say, a Biblcal paradox is nothing more than ‘a charley-horse between the ears that can only be eliminated by vigorous rational massage’.”

Yes, that’s what Clark would say. Why would a Scripturalist care what he said? Isn’t the important question what Scripture says? Where does Scripture say that a Biblical paradox is nothing more than “‘a charley-horse between the ears that can only be eliminated by vigorous rational massage”?

As always, Sean honors Scripturalism with his lips, but his heart is far from it.

“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.”

I have never taken the position that any attempt to harmonize a Biblical paradox is sinful. I don’t think that’s Manata’s position either. Or Dr. Anderson’s.

“Despite his assurances to the contrary, Hays seems to take the typical Vantilian approach to paradox and insists that while the paradox remains insoluble for us (evidently due to God’s own equivocation), we are to have faith there is no paradox for God.”

I allow for the possibility of a humanly insoluble paradox. The human subject of knowledge is less complex than the extramental object of knowledge–God, reality as a whole.


  1. Steve,

    Would you mind me asking what form/type of Epistemology you adhere too?

  2. I believe in the possibility and actuality of sense knowledge. What makes that possible is a certain amount of innate knowledge, in the sense that God has given us an in-built ability to classify sensory input. To recognize natural kinds. Innate mental categories which correspond to the extramental structure of the world.

    I'm also an indirect realist. In that connection, I think Scripture gives us a God's-eye view of the world. That supplies an intersubjectival source and standard of knowledge. Without divine revelation, we would lack an external check on what we perceive.

    I could say more, but that's a start.

  3. Fellas, I think you are starting to sound like a broken record. While I share many of your perplexities about Clarkism (for me it is not so much that I do not believe it as that I can't make sense of it), it seems like charity requires that at some point you should grant their assertions and steer around the topography they have laid out. That would be something like this:

    1. A system of thought is a system of propositions.
    2. Logic is the transcendental structure of thought; it cannot be denied without denying thought itself. We think, and thus, think logically, because that is the structure of God's mind, and we are made in his image.
    3. A system of thought must include axioms.
    4. Our set of axioms is, the propositions contained in the Bible.
    5. No proposition can be known to be true by empirical verification.
    6. The propositions in the Bible can be known because the sensory stimulation "reminds" us of propositions that are planted in our minds directly by God (Plato, Augustine).
    7. Beyond this, it is necessary to form beliefs based on sensory stimulation, and assert those beliefs to live as a human.
    8. The beliefs in (7) do not rise to the level of certainty, per (5).
    9. The mark of the beliefs in (7) is (a) they have the form of propositions, but (b) though not "known" to be true, they can be uttered in terms of a principle of sincerity and integrity, and when so uttered, function as true propositions; i.e. the mark of this class of proposition is how such propositions function ethically as utterances of responsible agents. In terms of that ethic, syllogisms can be formed that mingle (i) propositions known to be true and (ii) propositions not known to be true, but which are uttered with sincerity, and which may be taken to function as propositions known to be true with that caveat.
    10. The statements 1-9 are verified either by the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, or are necessary and inescapable deliverances of thought.

    Granted, Clark and his followers are coy about laying out certain elements listed above explicitly; but this is my best effort to put into words what seems to be going on with the replies they give.

    If Sean agrees that this is a good working draft of Clarkism, then the discussion could focus on internal consistency, arbitrariness, and so forth. But simply beating the dead horse of "you can't know this and therefore cannot talk about it" seems unhelpful.

  4. I'm more curious to see how Scripturalists deal with passages such as 1 Kings 20:13, which ends:

    "I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the LORD"

    How does one know the LORD in that passage? Not because of what God said, but because of what God DID. God said "This will happen" and then the people used their senses and saw that it occured.

    The refrain is throughout scripture. For instance, Isaiah 45:3 says that the treasures people get cause them to KNOW God. Ezekiel 6:13 tells us that "you shall know that I am the LORD, when their slain lie among their idols around their altars..." In fact, Ezekiel deals a great deal with how judgment from God brings about the knowledge of God. Just count how many times the phrase "then you will know that I am the LORD" appears in Ezekiel, and realize that not once does God Himself say, "You shall read these words and then you will know that I am the LORD" but instead it is "You shall see these things and then you will know that I am the LORD."

    Finally, Joel 2:27 shows that the blessings of God cause His people to know He is LORD.

    Somehow, I don't think when Abram said he knew Sarai was a beautiful woman in Genesis 12:11 it was because Abram had read Genesis...

    The list could be compounded, but the point is already made. God Himself doesn't make the claim that one can only know something from Scripture; He seems to assume that what people experienced counted as knowledge too. Other Biblical characters had no qualms in saying they knew things without attributing that knowledge to revelation.

    Again, I could go on...but this is sufficient.

  5. Tim,

    Let's take what Scripturalists actually say, For example, Sean wrote:

    "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"?

    That puts a damper on your charitable construction real quick.

    There are other quibbles, making Scripturalism just a sor more absurd and ignorant, but we'll leave those alone for the moment. The point to take home is that Sean's view makes all your points mere *opinions*.

    So, there's a problem of self-referential incoherency. It's not "unhelpful" to "beat that dead horse." On Scripturalism, the points you've listed have zero positive epistemic status. There's no reason for us to believe any of them; again, on Scripturalism.

  6. Talk about huff and puff. In your case we can add flatulence. Here is but one example of your impressive wind:

    Bahnsen wrote:

    "Knowledge is true belief held on adequate grounds, rafter than held fallaciously or haphazardly. To put it traditionally, knowledge is justified, true belief."

    In reply you rip:

    "In the passage that Sean just quoted, Bahnsen doesn’t say knowledge must be justified. Rather, Bahnsen says belief must be justified."

    Now, I confess, I don't "know" that you and "One Note" Manatra aren't stupid, it's an opinion that I hold. However, to say that knowledge, at least to be called by that name, needs to be accounted for, would translate, at least to the fair minded and rational reader (which we've already established that neither of you kids are thanks to Manata's asinine attempt to paint me as a liar), as simply; knowledge requires an account.

    Now, if you want to add, an account of what, you'd be back at square one. Next time I'll provide you with pictures.

    BTW, I've always heard that wolves eat their own, but Tim Harris, who you bullies are now attempting to tear to shreds, is ONE OF YOU. He is a Vantilian.

  7. Two problems (among others):

    i) You’re failing to draw an elementary distinction between a justifiable belief and a justified belief. Between the mental act of holding a justifiable belief and the secondary process of actually justifying a justifiable belief. But one can know something without attempting to prove it. The fundamental condition is whether or not the belief is justifiable, not whether it is justified (i.e. giving an account).

    ii) Apropos (i), “…true belief counts as knowledge only when it is no accident that the belief is true…I am not saying that one cannot know that p without knowing *that* the true belief that p satisfies that constraint. That would be to fall into a level confusion; it would be to confuse knowing that p with knowing that one knows that p,” W. Alston, Beyond “Justification”: Dimensions of Epistemic Evaluation, 34-35.

  8. "BTW, I've always heard that wolves eat their own, but Tim Harris, who you bullies are now attempting to tear to shreds, is ONE OF YOU. He is a Vantilian."

    We took his comments seriously enough to respectfully evaluate their merits. Only in your fideistic bubble is that equivalent to "tearing him to shreds."

  9. Sean said:
    Talk about huff and puff. In your case we can add flatulence.

    OMG! That was so funny. In 8th grade.

    Sean said:
    Now, I confess, I don't "know" that you and "One Note" Manatra aren't stupid, it's an opinion that I hold.

    Can I go ahead and say that I know you're stupid because of your constant typos, poor reasoning skills, general bad attitude, and also the fact that you think fart jokes are funny? Oh, guess I just did. Or did I? How will you ever know?

    Sean said:
    (which we've already established that neither of you kids are thanks to Manata's asinine attempt to paint me as a liar)

    A) Good job! You spelled his name correctly this time, and you even got the possessive correct. That deserves special praise. You can have a cookie.

    What? You don't have one? Well, in my opinion you do. And in your opinion you don't. Oh well. Either one of us could be right, and we'll never know which one.

    ii) I do have a question for you though. Apparently, you think Manata attempted to paint you as a liar. Now obviously this thought of yours is not knowledge. It is your opinion that Manata tried to paint you as a liar. This means it could go either/or, right? I mean, maybe he did and maybe he didn't and there's no way for you to know for sure, right?

    On the other hand, there's no way for you to know for sure you've understood this paragraph. So nod your head if you think you understand, and if you don't know then open your mouth and try to bite your ear.

    3) But since we all know you don't believe any of this Scripturalism bunk and you know full well what's going on, then....since you've said that Clark and Robbins are elders to Manata, which would imply that you believe Manata is a Christian, right? Would it not, therefore, be logical, nay even BIBLICAL, to say that if you are in a position where you claim you do not KNOW whether a Christian has offended you that you assume he has *NOT* done so, lest you be angry for something that was really an error in your own noggin'?

    So maybe Manata was using irony to show what an awesomely awesome dude you are, and you just missed the irony, and some day God'll jump down and say, "Hey, Sean! You know that time you ripped on the folks at Triablogue because you were obsessed with fart jokes? Well, sorry to say but you totally missed the boat on that one. Heh heh. Yeah, I know. Could have happened to anyone. But here's the thing. It happened to you. Sooooo, I'll be needing you to spend a few hours in this special room I've got called Cleveland. It's sort of like Purgatory for Protestants." Then you'd look even dumber than you currently do, and that's something that would be unethical around small children.