1. This post is a continuation of the debate over Scripturalism. It will focus on the definition of knowledge. It's my understanding that Scripturalists typically stake out the following position:
i) To count as knowledge, a belief must not only be true, but be infallibly true.
ii) Apropos (i), beliefs derived from sensory perception don't count as knowledge, for even if a particular belief thus derived is true, it's possible (counterfactually) for that belief to be false. Even if you weren't mistaken in any particular case, you could be mistaken in any particular case.
That's because sensory perception is fallible. Misperception is possible. Likewise, beliefs derived from sensory perception are fallible. For instance, we might form a false or unjustified belief by observing an unrepresentative sample.
iii) Conversely, the only objects of knowledge are Biblical propositions or propositions deducible from Biblical statements.
2. Assuming that's an accurate description of Scripturalist epistemology, it presents the following difficulties:
i) Scripture doesn't formally define knowledge. It uses some Greek and Hebrew words for knowledge, but we need to distinguish between the meaning of words and the meaning of concepts. Take the following comparison:
Internalists about justification think that whether a belief is justified depends wholly on states in some sense internal to the subject. According to one common such sense of ‘internal’, only those features of a subject's experience which are directly or introspectively available count as ‘internal’—call this ‘access internalism’. According to another, only intrinsic states of the subject are ‘internal’—call this ‘state internalism’.
Externalists about justification think that factors external to the subject can be relevant for justification; for example, process reliabilists think that justified beliefs are those which are formed by a cognitive process which tends to produce a high proportion of true beliefs relative to false ones.
Propositional justification concerns whether a subject has sufficient reason to believe a given proposition; doxastic justification concerns whether a given belief is held appropriately.
Part of what is problematic about lucky guesses is precisely that they are so lucky: such guesses are formed in a way such that it is unlikely that they should turn out true. According to a certain form of knowledge reliabilism, it is unreliability, not lack of justification, which prevents such beliefs from amounting to knowledge.
Another move in a similar spirit to K-Reliabilism replaces the justification clause in the JTB [justified true belief] theory with a condition requiring a causal connection between the belief and the fact believed;
The Bible doesn't operate at that level of analysis. It doesn't draw those distinctions. It doesn't unpack the concept of knowledge in detail. Looking up the dictionary definition of words in a Greek or Hebrew lexicon doesn't give you concepts of knowledge.
So Scripturalism generates an internal dilemma: A Scripturalist is working with a model of knowledge that he can't derive from Scripture itself.
ii) Even at the level of words, many Scripturalists can't read the Bible in the original languages. They read the Bible in translation. But in that event they don't know revealed propositions inasmuch as their beliefs are mediated by a fallible conduit. Their understanding of Scripture is based on their understanding of English, Spanish, Chinese (whatever their mother tongue). They aren't accessing Biblical propositions directly, but indirectly–via a translation in their mother tongue. Suppose your mother tongue is English, and you read the Bible in English. By Scripturalist criteria, that doesn't count as knowledge, since God didn't reveal his word in English.
iii) Moreover, even if you can read the Bible in Greek and Hebrew, most of us don't learn Greek and Hebrew directly. Most of us didn't grow up in homes and communities where that was the native language. Rather, we use our mother tongue as a bridge in learning Greek and Hebrew.
iv) Furthermore, even if Greek and Hebrew was your mother tongue, language acquisition is something you pick up by a fallible empirical process. Take feral children who never learn a human language because they didn't hear it spoken during their formative years. So it doesn't count as knowledge, by Scripturalist criteria.
In addition, our understanding of Biblical Greek and Hebrew is based on more than Biblical Greek and Hebrew. Rather, that's supplemented by other sources of Greek and Hebrew–before, during, or sometime after the Bible was written. So, once again, our understanding of Biblical Greek and Hebrew doesn't count as knowledge, by Scripturalist criteria.
v) I'd add that from a mainstream Calvinist perspective, with its commitment to meticulous providence and special providence, our understanding of the world can properly inform and supplement our understanding of the Bible. It's only a problem on Scripturalist criteria.
vi) Returning to (i), where does a Scripturalist get his concept of knowledge? Not from Scripture.
Although Scripture doesn't formally define knowledge, it gives examples of knowledge. And if you deny that these constitute knowledge, that presents a problem for Scripturalism. For instance:
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:16-17).
But if, according to Scripturalism, sensory perception is untrustworthy, if beliefs derived from sensory perception never count as knowledge, then Adam and Eve were unable to obey the prohibition. Adam and Eve couldn't know for a fact which fruit free was the forbidden tree, in contrast to the permissible fruit trees.
But in that event, in what sense did they or even could they disobey the prohibition? If the identity of the forbidden tree wasn't an object of knowledge, given a downgraded view of sensory perception (a la Scripturalism), then Adam or Eve could accidentally consume the forbidden fruit. Their belief regarding which tree was the forbidden tree was a fallible belief, necessarily based in part on observation. Observing the location and appearance of the tree, which God pointed out to them (or Adam in particular).
To take another example:
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus (Jn 1:29-37).
Here we see an striking interplay between revelation and observation. God gives the Baptist a sign to single out the Messiah. This involves a revelatory element. God discloses to the Baptist the significance of this visible clue or sensory manifestation. However, it also requires an empirical element. Something the Baptist must see.
In addition, the disciples follow Jesus based on the Baptist's witness. But that assumes facial recognition. They rely on their eyesight to tell who the Baptist is referring to or pointing to.
But by Scripturalist criteria, the Baptist didn't know that Jesus was the Messiah, despite the sign which God gave him. For that depends on sensory perception of the sign.
Let's take one more example:
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (1 Cor 15:5-8).
The post-Resurrection appearances of Christ are empirical phenomena. Tangible and audiovisual phenomena. Seeing Jesus, hearing Jesus, touching Jesus.
i) But by Scripturalist criteria, that's fallible, and what's fallible falls short of knowledge. So the eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection, which Paul appeals to, is demoted by Scripturalism to an unreliable report. Testimonial evidence based on sensory perception can never rise to the level of knowledge. It's defeasible opinion, at best.
Yet Scripturalists claim to take the Bible as their starting-point, in developing a theory of knowledge. But if you truly began with the Bible, how would you ever arrive at the conclusion that beliefs derived from sensory perception never count as knowledge?
Or suppose a Scripturalist weakens the original (infallibilist) position by conceding that there can be different kinds of knowledge. He may grudgingly admit the possibility of sense knowledge, but classify that as an infer kind of knowledge. If so, where does Scripture give that rating system for different kinds of knowledge. Where does it indicate that that's an infer kind of knowledge or inferior source of knowledge? Consider the aforesaid examples, which we could easily multiple.
3. In addition, the infallibilist criterion not only demotes sensory perception, but memory. After all, human memory is fallible. Even when our recollection is correct, it's possible (counterfactually) that we misremembered. On that view, memory is just as untrustworthy as sensory perception.
But don't even Scripturalists rely on their memory of what Scripture teaches? Don't they rely on their recollection of Biblical propositions and logical deductions from Biblical statements?
But if memory fails the infallibilist condition, if remembered beliefs never count as knowledge, then how can Scripturalists know anything at all? What's left?
4. For that matter, if the possibility of drawing false inferences from sensory perception disqualifies sensory perception as a source of knowledge, then doesn't the possibility of drawing false inference from Scripture disqualify Scripture as a source of knowledge? If sensory perception is fallible, so is human reason.
Scripturalism is self-refuting. It reduces to global skepticism.