Monday, March 06, 2006

The Creature From The Black Lagoon

In keeping with Steve's b-rated horror film titles I'll offer an addition to my last post on Cheung. I wanted to focus on his strange demand for someone to (or, be able to say that they) know something. His claims make for a strange world.

Cheung's defensive counter attack against those who say that sense perception can yield knowledge, and provide biblical data to support their claim, is to make the claim that they cannot know that sensation can yield knowledge, or is one rich and basic source for both justification and knowledge among our many sources, if they cannot (a) explicitly lay out the premises and validly deduce a conclusion and (b) that they must have an infallible way of determining which sensations yield knowledge and which ones are not reliable.

I believe that I have already dismembered Cheung's epistemology since, as he admits, all beliefs and knowledge are immediately communicated to the mind of man by the Logos (otherwise known as Cheungian Occasionalism) then God transmits errors to people as well as truth. As Cheung writes, "God deceives who He wishes." Certainly God can do so, but my complaint is how this bears on Cheung's epistemology. Cheung says that since sensation can and does produce false beliefs then we have no basis to say that we know things by sensation, since they are fallible. If we reply that the senses are a basically reliable way of yielding justification and knowledge for some of our beliefs, then Cheung replies that he will accept this if we can show, by laying out the premises explicitly and deducing a valid conclusion, that we have an infallible way of determining when are senses are reliable and when they are not reliable. But as admitted by Cheung, Divine illumination yields many, many, false beliefs. God deceives who He wishes. Therefore, this process is not infallible.

As I survey all the books in my library I notice hundreds of people who hold conflicting beliefs. Their beliefs were communicated to them immediately upon the occasion of such and such. So, I have Hasker's emergent dualism battling, say, Swinburne's. I have Clark's scientific anti-realism battling, say, Moreland's somewhat tenative realism. I can see that Poythress' eschatology battles, say, Gentry's. I notice that Jewett's views on baptism differ from, say, Murray. All of the beliefs these men hold are differing and contradictory beliefs that have been immediately communicated via divine occasionalism. Since these contradictory views cannot both be true, then we must admit that Cheungian occasionalism produces many false, unreliable, and unjustified beliefs. Put differently, Cheung's occasionalism is not infallible, nor always reliable.

Now, remember that Cheung says of our claim to perceptual knowledge that we must have an infallible way of determining which sense perceptions are reliable and which ones are not. Likewise, unless hypocrisy rules in the theological and philosophical world of Cheung, Cheung must give his infallible way of determining which beliefs that have been communicated via divine illumination are reliable and which are not. But since we have already seen that Cheungian occasionalism is unreliable then he cannot appeal (or have a method) which comes from Cheungian occasionalism. And since Cheung has already said that "all" knowledge and beliefs are given via God's immediate communication he can never be sure that he has an infallible method. The best he could say is that Scripture is the infallible determiner of which beliefs and which claims to knowledge are correct. The problem is, that he could only say this. He can never know that his interpretation is the correct one (since "God deceives as He wishes"). Thus Cheung is forever cut off from knowing (in his sense) that he has the correct meaning of Scripture.

Would God not deceive Cheung? Cheung believes that the most brilliant theological minds have all had non-truths conveyed to them since he says that he has his own system and doesn't think any theologian got everything right. So, when those divines who argued for an infralapsarian position, from the texts of Scripture, their understanding of those texts was wrong, according to Cheung, and their understanding, according to Cheung, was immediately conveyed by God on the occasion that they read those texts. Is Cheung better than those men? Would God not deceive Cheung? What absolute standard does Cheung use to determine if God has not caused him to believe a lie? How was this standard obtained? If by his doctrine of occasionalism, then Cheung would need to show in a non-question begging manor that he was not deceived in this instance. But then we may ask Cheung how he came to the belief that his standard was correct and God did not deceive him in conveying this information? If by occasionalism (and it would have to be, see his claim that "all knowledge" is immediately communicated by the Logos), then Cheung needs to know that God did not deceive him into thinking that his standard was the ultimate standard he could employ to determine if he had been deceived or not... ad infinitum. Therefore Cheung destroys any knowledge of Scripture since we have a fallible method of belief and knowledge formation, and on Cheung's terms, this is staunchly forbidden. Therefore, to hold to Cheung's epistemology and philosophy of mind is to only have "unjustified opinion" of Cheung's theology, metaphysics, and ethics. Thus I take it that my argument has effectively dismantled Cheung's entire system (or, the knowledge of said system) and so I will now focus on another strange deduction from Cheung's idea of knowledge and justification.

We see Cheung's internalism and infallibalism explicitly when he tries to come at the "other school" of presuppositional apologetics with what he takes to be unanswerable challenges. Cheung writes,

"Because they insist on empiricism but fail to justify it, then by applying the objection against me, they have completely shut themselves out of the Bible." (-Cheung, Fatal Maneuvers)


"If anyone disagrees with the above, let him prove and not just assert how by sensation he manages to read even one word from the Bible. Logically demonstrate how it happens and establish every premise and show that every step proceeds by necessary inference and I will concede the whole debate on this issue." (-Cheung, Fatal Maneuvers)

Thus we see that to "justify" something is to "Logically demonstrate how it happens and establish every premise and show that every step proceeds by necessary inference..." This is internalist.

I should briefly describe what an internalist constraint on knowledge and justification is. According to Robert Audi internalist constraints are,

"...what one justifiedly believes, or is simply justified in believing, is determined by mental states and processes to which one has internal (introspective or reflectional) access: one's visual experiences, for insatnce, or ones memory impressions, or one's reasoning process, or one's beliefs supporting propositions" (Audi, Epistemology, A Contemporary Introduction. p. 240, italics original, bold, mine).

What we also can gather from Cheung's claims is that that for me to know something (say, perceptual knowledge) I must know how or that I know it. This is internalistic. Michael Williams writes,

"...many philosophers have subscribed to the so-called 'K-K thesis': that if S knows that p, S knows that he knows that p. If we take this position, we will see knowledge as definately iterative: knowing implies knowing that you know, which imples knowing that you know, which implies..., and so on ad infinitum" (-Williams, Problems of Knowledge, p.31).

And Bonjour notes,

"...a theory of justification is internalist if and only if it requires that all of the factors needed for a belief to be epistemically justified for a given person be cognitively accessible to that person, internal to his cognitive perspective..., 'cognitively accessible' suggests... epistemic justification requires that the believer actually have in his cognitive possesion a reason for thinking that the belief is true..." (Laurence Bonjour's entry in Blackwell's Companion to Epistemology, p. 132-133, emphasis original).

And Alvin Plantinga states that "...the relative sense of 'internal' is strongly epistemic; the internalist holds that a person has some kind of special epistemic access to warrent and the properties that ground it" (-Plantinga, Warrant: The Current Debate, p.5-6).

Therefore we can see that Cheung's epistemology is internalist in character. This, for Cheung, means that for someone to know something they must show how they know it by giving and establishing, precisely, a valid deductive argument. What does all this mean? Well, one thing at least is that only trained logicians and epistemologists can know things! What child can "Logically demonstrate how it happens and establish every premise and show that every step proceeds by necessary inference?" Many adults cannot do this either. When a child (say, an elect 9 yr. old so as not to get into any Baptism debates) sings, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so" do they really know that Jesus loves them? Well, aside from the fact that no one can deduce from the Bible that God loves Johnny (since Johnny is not a proposition in the Bible), could Johnny (if his name were in Holy writ) logically demonstrate how God loves him and establishing every premise and show that every step proceeds by necessary inference? Doubtful.

Let's look at some examples:

(1) Genesis 16:5 Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me."

(2) Ezekiel 37:28 Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.' "

(3) Luke 21:20"When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.

Now, in (1) could Hagar have logically demonstrate how she knows she was pregnant, establishing every premise and show that every step proceeds by necessary inference? Could the "nations" in (2) logically demonstrate how the Lord made them holy, establishing every premise and show that every step proceeds by necessary inference? All of them? Could, say, Bildad the Shuhite know how to show that every step proceeds by necessary inference?. Could the disciples and Jews in (3) do the same? The fishermen-logicians? Thus we see that not only is Cheung's internalist constraint unknowable (since he cannot deduce this constarint from Scripture, making it unjustified opinion), but it flies in the face of the biblical data. Therefore, we see that to hold to Cheung's request is anti-Scriptural. It is anti-Scriptural Scripturalism.

Now, even if Cheung makes the amazing move claiming that they would respond that they know those things because the Logos immediately communicated that information to their mind upon the occasion, in Hagar's case, of missing her period, this would be an assertion. Cheung asserts, "If anyone disagrees with the above, let him prove and not just assert how by sensation he manages to read even one word from the Bible." Well, can I not tell Hagar, "let her prove and not just assert how by occasionalism he manages to know that she's pregnant? Logically demonstrate how it happens and establish every premise and show that every step proceeds by necessary inference and I will concede the whole debate on this issue." If my not being able to do this (in my case, because this is an unfair question) makes it so that I cannot claim that I know that sensation yields knowledge, then the same goes for Hagar. Hagar cannot do this. Therefore Hagar cannot claim to have knowledge. But Hagar did know that she was pregnant. Therefore it is false that one must logically demonstrate how it happens and establish every premise and show that every step proceeds by necessary inference! Therefore Cheung's internalism is false! Taking Cheung's view, therefore, lands one at odds with Scripture. Taking Cheung's view, Hagar, Bildad, Mathias, and Johnny (the 9 year old)could not know what they know! Thus to hold to Cheung's view is to hold a view which is contradictory to Scripture. Odd for a view which claims to be based on Scripture more than any other view.

In closing, will Cheung's followers leaves in droves of hundreds, and thousands? Or, will they continue to play outlawed tunes, on outlawed pipes? Will they adopt (any of!) the "other school(s)" of apologetics? One would hope so. Your choice is pretty clear, join Cheung, defy Scripture. Join us, live in harmony with Scripture. Even our view of knowledge by sensation is harmonious with Scripture. The choice before you is simple, philosophy or anti-philosophy. Scripture or anti-Scriptural Scripturalism.


  1. Paul-

    Welcome back from the honeymoon. I am kind of surprised that so much time is being spent refuting Vincent Cheung. It seems to me that much of this is intramural.

    I don't believe that you are asserting that Cheung is an unbeliever, nor are you calling into question his commitment to defend the faith (in spite of your differences with his philosophy) in other words is all of this really necessary? Perhaps we should remember Paul's words in Ephesians 4:1-15.

    Further, I believe that if occasionalism is false then along with the list of those who are wrong should include Jonathan Edwards, Gordon Clark, and Malebranche. Perhaps Occasionalism is incorrect, perhaps Cheung's entire system of apologetics is fatally flawed, how do we restore this brother? If his system of apologetics (or any of his resources)have merit do we not owe it to the Christian community to show him grace?

    Sometimes in winning a battle we lose the war. I am certainly not taking issue with the scholarship on either side, rather asking sincerely whether the refutation-counter refutation within the reformed family is really furthering the cause of Christ?

  2. So do you debate with Arminians? Or, are they not in the "Christian family?"

    My post was mainly on Cheung's internalism. I atempted to show how it made biblical claims false. Should I not do this? Should we allow systems of philosophy and epistemologies and apologetics which undermine the Bible and make its claims false to stand unrefuted?

    Should bad arguments be allowed to stand in the name of "reformed ecumenicism?"

    Is Christ glorified by an apologetic method which undermines itself? Just because it can take some "stupid" unbelievers by surprise, should we use it in spite of its fallacious nature? Are you saying the ends justify the means? Who cares if we lie to unbelievers, as long as we "win 'em into the kingdom?"

    Should Reformed authors not critique other authors? No more books on the various schools of apologetics? No more books on amill vs. postmill? No more infra vs. supra?

    How broad is the "reformed family?" Anyone holding to the doctrines of grace? So should reformed baptists not debate reformed paedobaptists?

    What about debating about whether or not we should debate others within the reformed camp? Seems self-refuting.

    It is not clear that Clark was an occasionalist. Cheung says he sees some tendencies, but Clark nowhere explicitly affirms occasionalism or lays it out. As far as other occasionalists, I don't know if they hold to Cheungian Occasionalism. Certainly Edwards did not hold Cheung's view of the sovereinty of God. So, it is not undebatable that I'm refuting the others by refuting Cheung. But if I am, so what?

    How should I show him "grace?" Do you e-mail him and tell him not to call my argument "outright stupid?" Shouldn't you?

    Perhaps we should remember Paul's words in Galatians 2:11?

  3. Steve commented back in the summer (when all the refutations of Cheung were coming out) as to why all this is necessary. Basically, the point is, if a Christian gets into Cheung's apologetics and debates a reasonably reflective unbeliever, he or she will get his butt kicked. That's not going to be good for carrying out the great commission, nor for the faith of the believer who is made to look like a fool in public because he or she trusted Vincent Cheung to know what he was talking about.

  4. Paul-

    Don't misunderstand me here. I am not saying that debate is unnecessary nor do I ever shy away when one is warranted.

    It seems to me though, that within the reformed tradition we are really interested in being right (which is not a bad thing). All of the debate should be aimed at edifying each other. You have had some personal dialogue w/Cheung and he claims the same. I am just asking you to consider how you might help Cheung if he is in such serious error don't we owe it to him to help restore him?

    I guess what I found strange was this statement:

    "Your choice is pretty clear, join Cheung, defy Scripture. Join us, live in harmony with Scripture. Even our view of knowledge by sensation is harmonious with Scripture. The choice before you is simple, philosophy or anti-philosophy. Scripture or anti-Scriptural Scripturalism."

    Is the choice as clear cut as you surmise? I know that you are interested in refuting false systems, as am I. We owe it to those reading our writings however to tell the truth in love.

  5. So, Paul what is knowledge based on? You seek to refute (C) but you are ultimately assuming a foundation of (K) by which to refute (C). You have a problem with the Bible as an axiom? Then prove you do not assume it in order to generate your objection.