Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Intramural Debate (Part II)

"Street Apologist" offered some comments on this post of mine. I responded in the comments section, and Steve responded to his first comments as well. Since then, "Street Apologist" (SA) has commented again, and so I'll move it on to the "main stage" because I think his specific questions are important when we generalize them to the question of why we should have intramural debates at all.

(1) SA mentioned that he was "kind of surprised that so much time is being spent refuting Vincent Cheung. It seems to me that much of this is intramural." Is he saying that we should not spend much time on intramural debates? I gave two posts recently compared to the hundreds I write on atheism. SO, in comparison, it looks as if I am not spending "so much time" on Cheung.

(2) SA rightly notes that he does not

"believe that [I am] asserting that Cheung is an unbeliever, nor [am I] calling into question his commitment to defend the faith (in spite of [my] differences with his philosophy) in other words is all of this really necessary?"

He is right. I am not asserting this. But I don't know why that means that intramural debate is unnecessary if you believe that someone is a believer? A "believer" can be an Arminian. Does SA believe that debates with Arminians are "unnecessary?"

(3) SA mentions that "Perhaps we should remember Paul's words in Ephesians 4:1-15." Indeed, we should. I happen to be of the opinion, though, that God uses means to accomplish his ends. Thus I believe that one of the many means God uses to bring unity, and build up the body, is through intramural debate. Therefore I hold that in some respect Ephesians 4 can be used to support intramural debate. We do not live in the times of the Apostles where someone can authoritatively tell us what we should believe. In instances where Scripture is not clear, or where there is no laid out, detailed, approach to philosophical problems (think of the question of internalism vs. externalism, JTB vs. WTB, realism vs. anti-realism, etc) then one way that we can reach truth is for the adherents of these systems to debate each other. Moreover, should we not also Remember Paul's words in Galatians 2:11?

(4) SA asks, "Perhaps Occasionalism is incorrect, perhaps Cheung's entire system of apologetics is fatally flawed, how do we restore this brother?" Well, first off, it may be kind of hard to reason and restore someone who says things like this:

"Here I will just refer all of you to the recommended readings listed on the blog entry in question (and listed again below) as my response to ALL criticisms that you can find ANYWHERE written by ANYONE on this subject. I have confidence in my products — they are accurate and irrefutable." -Vincent Cheung

So, indeed, how would we "restore" this brother! One way is to hope that he listens to the refutations. As far as my critiques go, I feel I have neutered his philosophy. But, in regards to my critique, he could accept it and still hold to (basically) Scripturalism. All he would need to do is drop is version of occasionalism, coupled with the demand for infallibalism and his strong (or, strictly) internalist constraint on knowledge. This would hinder much of his method in debating unbelievers and humble his claims about his works, but he could still adhere to a kind of Scripturalism. The only problem, is that he could not stand in the face of Auquascum's or Sudduth's critique which effectively shows that Scripturalism is self-referentially incoherent and is, at best, unjustified opinion. Maybe if he would actually interact with his opponents, which he has not done (as you must admit), he might see his errors and thereby be restored.

(5) SA asks "whether the refutation-counter refutation within the reformed family is really furthering the cause of Christ?" Does truth further the cause of Christ?

Take my last post on Cheung (The Creature From The Black Lagoon). In it I feel I showed that Cheung's views on epistemology, and thr requests he makes of his opponents, are opposed to Scripture and, indeed, make many passages in Scripture false! I pointed out that Hagar could not have logically laid out the premises of how she knew she was pregnant, establishing every one and showing how they necessarily lead to the conclusion. Cheung's views, therefore, go against the teaching of Scripture. Does that further the cause of Christ? As C.S. Lewis noted in his sermon at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, in 1939, "Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered."

I responded to the above points and then SA returned with his second set of comments.

(6) SA writes, "Don't misunderstand me here. I am not saying that debate is unnecessary nor do I ever shy away when one is warranted." But above he asked if "all of this really necessary?" Furthermore, I do believe this is warranted. Just as Sproul and Bahnsen felt it was warranted. Just as Frame, Habermas, Craig, Clark, and Feinberg felt it was warranted. And, just as Cheung thinks it is warranted! So, if this is warranted, should we shy away from it? If we don't, do we not "further the cause of Christ."

(7) SA rightly notes that It "seems to [him] though, that within the reformed tradition we are really interested in being right (which is not a bad thing)." More than me "being right" is the concern for would be Christian apologists who earnestly desire to defend the faith, defending the faith with a faulty defense. Calling someone a moron, while you hold a moronic position, makes you look like a bigger moron than them. Apologetics needs to be advanced, not drug back in to the dark agaes of strong foundationalism. Christian apologists don't need to be unnecessarily made to look foolish. Especially when all one needs to do is spend a few hours writing blog entries warning of faulty tactics.

(8) SA rightly notes that "All of the debate should be aimed at edifying each other." This is good as far as it goes, but sometimes people need to be spoken to more sternly, especially if they are of that nature. I know that when people are blunt with me, it helps me to listen. In turn, I am edified. Furthermore, when people claim that their system is irrefutable andinvinciblee and infallible then we need to care more about the confusion of the creature with the creator. Funny a debate with a (basically) Clarkian would head in this direction!

(9) SA points out that I "have had some personal dialogue w/Cheung and he claims the same." Indeed I have. I was heading in to my first public debate with Derek Sansone. Cheung had spent a lot of time dealing with Sansone and so I thought it a wise move to make for research. I can admnit that Vincent gave me a few good points. I was content to sit back while Hays and Aquascum and Sudduth (on the All Bahnsen List) were critiquing Cheung. That is until Cheung chose to write blog entries critiquing some comments I had made to some of his followers while I was poking andproddingg his position. To be honest, his desire to critique my comments (e.g., "so God communicates to the believer his understanding of Scripture and the same with the heretic?") led to my formulation of my argument against his version of occasionalism, internalism, infallibalism, along with his view of God's sovereignty. Thus Cheung sowed the seeds of his own refutation.

(10) SA says that he is "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?" Well, I hope he reads our critiques.

(11) After all of SA's qualifying and restating, his main question boils down to this:

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."

I don't know why that is strange? I think I showed that Cheung's views (i.e., his internalism and infallibalism) contradicted Scripture. I also played off of Cheung's setting up the debate between "his school" and the "other school" of apologetics. Cheung chose to set it up as an us/them dichotomy. I simply went along. So, I'm interested if you've e-mailed him on these issues? Or, does Cheung only have subjective and emotional defenders defending him. Stated differently, if you're trying to somehow defend Cheung (and I think you might be based on some terms you use on your blog, i.e., "first principles") are you admitting that he has no rational and objective defense left for him? Is the only defense left for him that we shouldn't be "picking on him?"

(12) Lastly, SA tells us why he thinks my claim was strange:

"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."

Well, I happen to think it is that clear cut. Not only are many of his philosophical positions wrong, but many of his views fly in the face of Scripture. His position, upon analysis, destroys knowledge of any philosophy, thus it is anti-philosophy. His position, upon analysis, contradicts Scripture, this it is anti-Scripture. Saying something cut and dry is not saying it unloving. If I have offended Cheung though (which would be hard to believe), then I do apologize for unintended offense. My hope is that you would look at the critiques and judge them on an objective basis. My hope is that you would want to see Cheung use the mind that God gave him, and his talents and prolific abilities, in the service of defending the faith with a more appropriate and philosophically cogent apologetic.


  1. Thanks for the comments Paul. I do now have a better understanding of your position. Also, please understand we have fought in some of the same battles, and I am hopeful that my post was received in the manner that it was intended.

    Also, for the record I am going to contact Cheung and ask him to answer the questions raised. I believe he could do it here and be treated with respect and give us the benefit of seeing his apologetic in full blossom


  2. SA,

    Your post was, and I appreciate your comments.