Saturday, March 18, 2006

Orthodoxy's sinking ship-2

Perry Robinson has responded to Jason Engwer once again. Since much of what he says is relevant to my own position, I’ll weigh in.

I’d note in passing that Perry’s reply is larded with condescension. Critics often take exception to the tone of my writing, but when dealing with a polite and good-natured opponent like Jason, it doesn’t take long for them to emulate the demeaning tone they castigate in others.

“If you claim to teach things with the form of Scripture, then yes you do need such things, which is why you admit that someone can reproduce the teaching of God. But since your formal statements are revisable, they lack the form of Scripture, that is, its divine character.”

Unless I’m missing something, Perry only introduced this criterion (reproducing the formal character of Scripture) midpoint in the present debate. So it looks like he’s rebuilding his ship at sea.

“I am talking ex hypothesi so I don’t need to give a reason for thinking that the church is infallible at this point. I am just tracing out the logical consequences of different models. Hence your comment is a red herring. You need to figure out what “ex hypothesi” means.”

Notice the condescension.

“In any case, there is something more about divine statements than just being true that makes them unrevisable. Infallibility is more than just being true, which is why truth isn’t sufficient for unrevisability.”

But why should we accept this criterion?

“But since the raw data of the Bible teaches us nothing, but has to be constructed into a model to make sense out of it, that is, since we end up believing the formal teaching, if the formal teaching is revisable, then the concept is revisable since the formal teaching and the concepts are the same.”

i) The “raw data of the Bible teaches us nothing”? What a remarkable claim.

Propositional revelation teaches us nothing?

If the “raw data” of Scripture teach us nothing, then there’s nothing to formalize. Only if the Bible already makes sense is it possible for us to turn the “raw data” of Scripture into creeds.

ii) But, assuming for the sake of argument, that Perry’s claim is true, then Protestant theology does reproduce the formal character of Scripture. For if, in its original form, Scripture lacks the additional properties of an ecumenical conciliar statement, and if Protestant theology lacks those additional properties as well, which yield irreformable dogma, then it is the Orthodox model that is at variance with the formal character of Scripture, the Orthodox model which therefore drives a wedge between what God teaches in Scripture as God teaches it, and what the church teaches, whereas the Protestant model is continuous with Scripture as to its formal character.

“Formal doctrine isn’t a mere affirmation of a concept. Formal doctrine expresses and delineates the concept. All attempts to delineate and articulate the concept are formal.”

But why should we accept this criterion?

“If you are going to teach people the teachings of the Scriptures as the Scriptures teach them, that is with the character of Scripture, then the divine character is necessary. If not, you are giving them human teachings about God, and not the teachings of Scripture as Scripture conveys it.”

Aside from the problems with this claim which I just addressed, this disregards the concrete means by which God actually guided the covenant community during OT and NT times.

“I should think that it was obvious that God wasn’t equivalent to the Church. But the church does partake of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4) And the church can never fail against the powers of darkness. And the church is sent out as Christ was. Etc. The church doesn’t have to be identical to God to have divine power/authority. The Apostles did and they weren’t identical to God. And the apostles pass on some of their ministry, spiritual power and authority to other ministers. (2 Tim 1:6, Acts 6:2, 6)”

Should we treat his interpretation of these verses as an ex hypothesi claim, or a factual claim? If they former, the n they are unproven; if they latter, then they are fallible.

“My point, which you ignored, was that Ecumenical Councils don’t just convey or pass along information, but define things formally, like the Trinity or the Hypostatic union. That was the point.”

Is his point an ex hypothesi claim or a factual claim?

“That was the point. Now, that formal definition is what you end up believing, not the raw data of marks on the pages of Scripture, because that has to be constructed into a coherent model. If the model isn’t formally equivalent to God’s intention, then the model doesn’t amount to divine teaching. The question isn’t whether they need to be identical or equivalent in every sense, but in this sense. You have argued that the mere reproduction of the conceptual content is sufficient. I have argued that there is no way to do that without formal doctrine, such that the conceptual content by your gloss isn’t divine, but human because its form or character is human. You have yet to even grasp the idea, let alone mount a successful counter-argument.”

Observe, in the course of this discussion, how he oscillates between “raw data” as “marks on a page” and “raw data” as “conceptual content” or “truth.”

But this is a blatant equivocation of terms. So which definition is his operating definition? He needs to pick one and trace out the ramifications of that particular position.

“No, my argument doesn’t equivocate, because I claimed in reference to FORMAL doctrine. Your comments are a straw man. If Protestants affirm that a doctrine is unrevisable, then they are speaking of the MATTER and not the form, but the FORMAL content is constructed by us, the concept is a construction of OURS to explain the MATTER. Hence when they say that there are some doctrines that are unrevisable, they are being sloppy because they are confusing form and matter. The doctrine isn’t the matter, the signs on the page, but the MEANING, which is the doctrine, the FORMAL model we construct. The syntax on the page isn’t sufficient to convey the semantical content. If it were, any competent user of a language would acquire it. This is why we employ extra-biblical terms to explain the data because the syntax isn’t sufficient. Nor is any system of rules combined with the syntax sufficient because natural languages do not function as a rule following practice. If anything perlocutionary speech acts show this to be the case.”

Perry will harp on the Searlean distinction between syntax and semantics throughout his reply. But how is that the least bit relevant to the Protestant rule of faith?

If you say the text of Scripture is nothing more than squiggles of ink, then the text of the Nicene Creed is nothing more than squiggles of ink. If you reduce the text of Scripture to mere syntax, then you reduce the text of the Nicene Creed to mere syntax. If you admit the semantic content of the Nicene Creed, then you must also admit the semantic content of Scripture.

“It is not banal, because lots of Protestants think that they can affirm both. You seem to think that you can do so because you think that you can have divine teaching by a mere re-utterance of the concepts. Of course you confuse the concepts with the matter rather than understanding that concepts are the form. Concepts aren’t on the page and they aren’t in your head either. Concepts are social, which is why there can’t be a private language. You have just recognized the obvious problem and retreated to a modified form of the position.”

There are quite a few things awry in this paragraph:

i) Perry his shifting gears from his original objection to a very different objection, although his reply contains residual elements for the former objection.

His original objection was that it is insufficient to reproduce the conceptual content of Scripture, insufficient to reproduce the truth of divine teaching.

Now, however, he denies the conceptual content or truth-content of Scripture altogether. Scripture merely gives us raw data which falls short of divine teaching since, in and of itself, it teaches us nothing whatsoever.

This is a seismic shift in Perry’s line of argument.

ii) As to the private language argument, this is quite controversial. Norman Malcolm, a disciple of Wittgenstein, deployed the private language argument to deny our dream life, while Daniel Dennett (with an assist from Gilbert Ryle) and the Churchlands take it a step further to deny consciousness altogether.

Since dream states and mental states are private rather than public, for they only enjoy privileged access, they are irreducible to a third-person description, and hence, on Wittgensteinian-cum-verificationist criteria, lack positive epistemic warrant.

It’s very odd of find Perry mix-and-match arguments from Searle with counterarguments from eliminative materialism. Perry’s worldview is such a patchwork quilt—a piece of Wittgenstein here, a piece of Searle there, a piece of Van Til here, a piece of Kuhn there.

iii) I agree with Perry that the meaning of “words” is socially assigned. Ordinary language is a code language for thought. As with symbolic discourse generally, the meaning which we assign to the linguistic token is an arbitrary social convention.

iv) But from this is hardly follows that they are not in our “head,” if by that he means to deny the mental constitution of concepts, and reassign them to an extramental language game.

Communication is a triadic relation. One mind communicates its ideas to another mind via a medium like language. This assumes a mutual understanding of the medium. Both speaker and listener (or writer and reader) must know the code language to decrypt the idea which is encoded in the linguistic tokens.

v) And yes, to the extent that an Evangelical creed is a successful re-utterance of a biblical concept, then it is equivalent to divine teaching.

“Yes I have and you have failed to grasp what a Transcendental Argument is. Here is the basic form.
1. Some undisputed phenomenon is possible only if some disputed phenomenon is actual.
2. The undisputed phenomenon is actual.
3. Therefore, the disputed phenomenon is actual.
What is under dispute by you is if the undisputed phenomenon (divine teaching) can be had without the disputed phenomenon (unrevisable formal teaching). Hence you are trying to form a tertium quid. I have shown why this doesn’t work and why a denial of the disputed phenomenon implies a denial of the undisputed phenomenon. The goal of a Protestant is to have access to and convey divine teaching. They can’t do that without formal doctrine. But divine teaching has a necessary component, namely infallibility, which Protestant teaching lacks. Protestant formal teaching lacks this necessary component, therefore Protestants do not convey divine teaching.”
In what sense is infallibility a necessary component of divine teaching? Perry is failing to distinguish between process and end-product.

The Bible is infallible because the Bible is inspired. Inspiration is the process by which God reveals his teaching.

Inspiration is a necessary condition to produce infallible teaching. But we don’t need to reproduce the original mode of transmission every time we transmit the result of the revelatory process.

If that were, indeed, a prerequisite, then nothing short of continuous, private, universal revelation would suffice.

“ Ironically enough, your view amounts to a kind of hermeneutical Pelagianism since by our efforts alone we are sufficient to reach up and grasp divine meaning without divine aid. The goal is to re-produce and convey divine teaching. If that isn’t your goal, then my point is made and my argument is successful-Protestants don’t convey divine teaching.”

i) One of Perry’s favorite sophistries is to classify a hermeneutical position as a Christological or soteriological heresy (“Pelagian,” “Nestorian”). This gimmick should be recognized for what it is. He tries to tar the Protestant position with all odium of an unrelated heresy through his tendentious game of guilt-by-association.

ii) For that matter, Perry says, a ways below, that no one who is not a professional patrologist is qualified to render an opinion on the teaching of the church fathers.

Well, if that is so, then no layman, whether Evangelical or Orthodox, is entitled to have an opinion about the original intent of Nicea or Chalcedon. So when the experts disagree, we must suspend judgment altogether.

iii) Perry also has a habit of speaking like a Deist. No, the Calvinist, for one, is not bootstrapping his way to divine meaning without divine aid. We believe in providence. God intends for his people to come to a saving knowledge of the truth. God supplies and satisfies whatever antecedent conditions are necessary to the furtherance of that end.

“It is irrelevant if God’s teachings have other properties. What is relevant is the NECESSARY properties that they do have. I have isolated a necessary property and shown that Protestant bodies are insufficient to have it. Second, I haven’t see any necessary property of God’s teachings that the Orthodox Church lacks so you need to give an example. And ex hypothesi, the very same reasoning won’t go through for the Orthodox Church because, ex hypothesi, the Orthodox Church has the necessary properties, namely infallibility. By contrast, ex hypothesi, Protestant bodies lack those necessary properties.”

i) How does Perry cash out his ex hypothesi claims about the Orthodox church into demonstrable claims? Is the exchange rate fallible or infallible?

ii) Once again, it’s trivially easy to come up with hypothetical defeaters for Orthodox ecclesiology. Suppose an ecumenical council was rigged? Suppose apostolic succession broke down?

How would Perry prove otherwise? Using probabilistic arguments?

“I haven’t moved at all, you just keep dancing around the argument. I assumed from the outset that divine teaching exists and is conveyed by the church. I also assumed that the teachings of the church only had to possess the necessary properties of God’s teaching.”

Are these assumptions ex hypothesi assumptions or demonstrable assumptions? And demonstrable to what degree?

“Protestant churches do claim to reproduce divine teaching. What I am pointing out is that they cannot do so without a necessary condition for some teaching to be divine. How do I know that churches are to teach unrevisably, on the assumption, per the argument form, that the church is to convey divine teaching.”

Is this assumption an ex hypothesi assumption or a demonstrable assumption? Which church are we talking about? Assuming a “true” church, identical with one visible organization on earth, how do we identify the true church? Are our selection criteria fallible or infallible? Is the application of our selection criteria fallible or infallible?

“But its status in the canon could, which is the point. Plenty of Protestant scholars for example deny that Romans is genuinely Pauline and therefore should be excluded from the canon. The question isn’t if the text has changed but if its formal status has and could.”

I’d like to see Perry name names. I don’t know of “plenty” of Protestant scholars who classify Romans as Deutero-Pauline. The Pastorals? Yes. The Prison Epistles? Yes. 2 Thessalonians? Yes. Romans? No.

“You seem not to have thought about what I wrote. Even if the Holy Spirit did aid one in leaping from the evidence to belief, the belief is still unjustified rationally speaking. Hence my point is untouched. Second, I don’t find appeals to subjective states relevant to the justification of beliefs, unless of course the belief in question is about a subjective state, which for example the belief in the Resurrection or the Trinity isn’t. In any case, the appeal to the Spirit shows that the arguments are inadequate to yield commitment and that the commitment is not grounded in reason. My point stands.”

Well, Jason will have to speak for himself, but from what he’s written elsewhere (in exchanges with Prejean), I think his point is merely that not everything which counts as evidence for why a particular person believes as he does is translatable into public evidence.

For example, I lived in the same area for forty years. In the course of that time it underwent a good deal of urbanization. Meadows turned into housing developments. Old buildings were bulldozed and turned into public parks, while other old buildings were replaced by newer buildings.

I remember how things used to look. I remember what was there. My personal memories are good evidence for what I believe. In many cases, there may be no corroborative evidence for what I remember.

Oral histories are often a valuable source of information for our knowledge of the past, but even if you were to discount such evidence, it may be good evidence for the individual who has a first-hand experience of the event.

In the nature of the case, the argument from religious experience is largely limited to insiders rather than outsiders. This doesn’t mean that an argument from experience is a mere makeweight.

“Are we to believe that monotheism and the resurrection are so easily established by argument that they are justified by reason alone? And is the absolute commitment of faith warranted by such arguments and reasons, which themselves do not yield absolute conclusions?”

See how Perry is now doing the very thing he accuses Jason of doing. Perry is going to make ecumenical councils a stopgap for the hiatus between the “raw data” of Scripture and irreformable dogma.

“I think you think that such issues are established much more easily. I suspect if you spent more time in the halls of academia you’d see that that such issues are far more complicated than the internet makes them appear.”

Note the condescension.

“Figuring things out isn’t as easy as just reading the Bible or reading some pop secondary literature.”

More condescension, and inaccurate condescension at that. As far as hermeneutics and exegetics are concerned, Jason and I are hardly reliant on “pop” secondary literature.

“Secondly, I am not an evidentialist so I don’t rely on probabilities apart from my worldview. Historical arguments won’t yield normative and absolute conclusions, but such things are necessary for faith to be rationally justified. Therefore something has to be added to the historical argument to yield such conclusions, analogous to grace being added to nature. This is where transcendental arguments do the requisite work because they yield normative and absolute conclusions. I don’t rely on probabilities to ground my worldview because my worldview is what grounds and justifies probability. My transcendental view has empirical or synthetic content and as such isn’t a rationalist argument while at the same time not an inductive argument as well. This is why I can give transcendental arguments for the Incarnation, the Resurrection, etc. See Bahnsen’s articles as to the appropriate use of probabilities, specifically as always used within a specific paradigm.”

Even if we were to stipulate to Perry’s theological criteria, he must still identify the organ of irreformable dogma with the “true” church on earth, which he equates with the Orthodox communion.

A transcendental argument will not yield a normative and absolute conclusion regarding the winning candidate for these abstract criteria.

“Hence you appeal to probability is an appeal to probability grounded in some other conceptual scheme or worldview and does nothing more than beg the question against mine. I think that your arguments for the Resurrection, the Trinity and such depend on Orthodox beliefs that are inconsistent to your Protestant and ultimately humanistic and Nestorian beliefs. You just aren’t epistemologically self conscious yet.”

Note the condescension.

“In any case, now you are talking about knowing and not about what is necessary for conveying divine teaching. I already addressed the issue of epistemology. Skepticism is relevant to knowing but not to being such a thing.”

True, but unless “being such a thing” is an object of knowledge, then questions of infallibility or irreformability are moot.

“The only relevance that skepticism has is to point out that one can produce skeptical hypotheses regarding fallible statements, but not infallible ones. Hence skeptical hypotheses aid us in figuring out which statements are which and consequently what is divine teaching and what is not.”

Depends on what he means. If you take infallible statements for granted, then, of course, you’ve peremptorily excluded them from the scope of skeptical hypotheses.

But why should we treat an infallible church as a given? It’s child’s play to produce sceptical hypotheses regarding any candidate for an infallible church.

“Uhm because the church gets its apostolic character from the Apostles. Do you deny this? Were the Apostles infallible with respect to divine teaching in any way?”

Uhm because Robinson begs the question of what lends a church its apostolicity.

“In other words, Protestantism is necessarily Nestorian..”

Is this an ex hypothesi claim or a factual claim?

“And infallibly guided church councils (Acts 15-16)?”

Notice how he sneaks in the plural form. We have one example of an infallible church council in the NT, and that’s Acts 15. A council headed by the Apostolate.

To extrapolate ecumenical councils from that singular and time-bound instance requires a considerable supporting argument, which is naturally not forthcoming from the pen of Perry Robinson.

“Are they fallible too? You pick out irrelevant examples where the analogy is weak or non-existent. The relevant function is picked out in people commissioned by God to teach God’s teaching as God would teach it. (Mark 1:22)”

Once again, this argument either proves too much or too little. In the Pastoral Epistles, teaching is a ministerial duty, Does this mean, according to Paul, that every pastor is inspired? That his teaching is infallible and irreformable?

“The point was that what a church teaches isn’t a simple regurgitation but an act of construction.”

Is this an ex hypothesi claim or factual claim?

“Your comments are a red herring.”

Is this an ex hypothesi claim or a factual claim?

“Non-sequitor. I don’t need an infallible interpret to know, because knowledge doesn’t require infallibility.”

That admission doesn’t favor Orthodox theology over Evangelical theology.

“To produce God’s teaching one has to be infallible. Second, your comment trades on a confusion between the matter of the Bible and formal teaching constructed from it.”

Perry is merely repeating himself here. His contentions have already been debunked.

“Third, my local priest doesn’t need to be infallible for me to know.”

Likewise, my local pastor doesn’t need to be infallible for me to know.

“A council does need to be infallible to define a doctrine, that is to produce divine teaching as divine teaching. I can misinterpret them to be sure, but that is a question of my knowing, not producing infallible doctrine.”

Is conciliar infallibility an ex hypothesi claim or a factual claim? One can posit, ex hypothesi, that an ecumenical council is infallible, but unless we can prove that hypothesis, the distinction between what is and what we know will not at all advantageous to Perry’s position.

“In Scripture you may have an infallible rule, but you have fallible judges applying the rule.”

That’s true, and in the divine economy, that is how God has arranged things.

At the same time, God has ways of guiding his without recourse to Perry’s expedients.

“To apply the rule and produce the same FORMAL entity as the matter, you need an infallible judge, otherwise the form is lacking. I already established this point.”

Yes, he continues to reiterate his oft-discredited point.

“I am making perfect sense. You just don’t know how a transcendental argument works. The undisputed phenomenon is that there is divine teaching and the church conveys it.”

See how he’s revising his argument. Before he only said that the undisputed phenomenon was divine teaching. Now he’s added the conveyance of the church to the undisputed phenomenon. Is that undisputed?

How does he define the church for purposes of his transcendental argument? Why is it necessary for the church to be the only instrument of divine teaching? Why couldn’t someone get that directly from reading the Bible for himself?

Again, what does he mean by the church? Does he mean that the church which conveys divine teaching is identical with one visible institution? Is that an “indisputable” phenomenon?

I suspect that Perry is frontloading his transcendental argument to shorten the distance between what is given and the desired conclusion.

“That it takes an infallible church to do so is the disputed phenomenon. I have shown that the disputed phenomenon is a necessary condition for the undisputed and therefore via reductio shown that there is an infallible church that conveys divine teaching.”

No, all he’s done is to mount an argument to that effect, an argument which is vulnerable to counterargument.

“Consequently, Protestantism is necessarily false.”

This is a very ambitious claim. Has he really presented an argument with that degree of formal logical rigor? No.

“Given the 2nd-3rd century literacy rates of about 10-20% tops, I don’t doubt lots of people had stupid ideas about icons, invocation of the saints and infant baptism, especially considering the fact that the church was composed by and large by the lower classes and didn’t make up more than 15-20% of the imperial population at any given time. So being “widely contradicted” doesn’t mean jack to me because the people doing the contradicting aren’t in a good position to know.”

i) The lower classes aren’t in a good position to know what? To begin with, illiterate men don’t write books. So when Jason is citing the church fathers, he is automatically taking his information from the educated classes.

ii) In addition, you can be illiterate and still be a perfectly competent eyewitness to the practice of your own day and age.

“When you have a degree in patristics from a reputable university, not a one room office like James White, then I’ll pay attention to your claims and your usage of scholarly material. Till then, I am simply unmoved by your spoof texting from scholarly sources, primary texts and the Bible. It is not just that I think you aren’t qualified to do so, its that your arguments are bad AND you are unqualified.”

I find it rather shocking that Perry would suddenly launch into this unprovoked attack on his one-time friend and compatriot, Jonathan Prejean.

I guess, though, that I should salute Robinson’s professional integrity. Since Prejean lacks a degree in patristics from a reputable university, is it any wonder that Jason is simply unmoved by Prejean’s spoof-texting?

Since Paul Owen is not a patrologist by training, is it any wonder that Jason is simply unmoved by Owen’s spoof-texting?

Since Perry lacks a degree in Bible studies from a reputable seminary, is in any wonder that Jason is simply unmoved by Perry’s spoof-texting from Scripture?

And while we’re on that subject, what gives Perry Robinson the right to be the front-man for Orthodoxy? He’s not a bishop, or even a priest. He’s not a seminary prof. at St. Vladimir’s. He’s just a layman. What official standing does he enjoy in his communion which authorizes him to be a spokesman or apologist for Orthodoxy? Shouldn’t he leave that task to his bishop?

Robinson is the stereotypical convert to the high-church tradition. He renounces free church ecclesiology, yet he can’t keep his mouth shut. He embraces a top-down polity, but can’t resist the temptation to make the case for the top brass. Did anyone in the Orthodox hierarchy delegate this duty to Robinson?

“I don’t care what ho polloi believed except as it functions as a clue as to what the church taught.”

Isn’t that exactly how Jason cites the church fathers? As a historical witness to period practice?

“Tertullian doesn’t deserve the kind of weight you are putting on him. Someone like Ignatius of Antioch is obviously in a better position as a witness or Ireneaus for example. They never became formal heretics and/or died for the faith. I don’t call Tertullian a Church father because he wasn’t one.”

One’s theological pedigree is irrelevant to one’s competence as a historical witness. Origen was heretical as well, but that does nothing to subtract from his historical testimony.

“Your control is irrelevant. What is relevant is that real official and widespread revision takes place in Protestantism. It is far from being implausible. It hasn’t happened once of twice but is practically a regular occurrence. Hence you miss the point.”

This is a very superficial analysis of what is taking place. For the most part, the only “revision” we have is conservative bodies of a former generation going liberal. When they go liberal, they deny traditional faith and morals.

In every generation we have liberals and conservatives. The conservatives continue to believe in traditional doctrine, while the liberals stake out the same liberal positions, rehashing the same liberal arguments. The players change, but the play remains the same. Same script. Same outcome.

“You are confusing the order of knowing with the order of being. The latter justifies the former. In any case, this is irrelevant to my argument about doctrine.”

The latter justifies the former as long as the latter is an object of knowledge. But we only know the order of being via the order of knowing.

This is the boundary condition which, try as he might, Perry can never get around. Our only access to the order of being is the order of knowing. So while Perry can make hypothetical claims about the order of being, as soon as he must make good on his claims, he’s thrown back fallibilism. Hence, it is entirely germane to his argument about doctrine.

He can make absolutist claims about what there is ex hypothesi, but unless he knows what there is, his claims are vacuous, and once he tries to demonstrate his claim, he has to lower the bar.

And in lowering the bar, other contenders can slide under as well. He has demoted himself to the same level as the Evangelical once he has to downshift from his ex hypothesi postulates to what is actually demonstrable.

“Ah, so when I make a claim about some Protestants, you retort that it isn’t true of all. And when I make a claim about all, you retort that it isn’t true of some. How convenient. In any case, it is irrelevant since the revisions are still actual, official and widespread. Again, the examples you give are hardly comparable. There isn’t the kind of doctrinal revision in Orthodoxy that there is in Protestantism.”

This comparison commits a level-confusion. The true point of comparison doesn’t lie between various denominations or theological traditions, but within various denominations or theological traditions.

There has, for example, been very little internal development within the Lutheran tradition.

“As to practices, absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. You seem to be confusing these two. Your argument here would overturn every major Christian teaching. No Christian literature for the first 30 years of Christianity. No proof for the Trinity, Virgin Birth, Resurrection, etc, guess the Church didn’t believe in such things! How absurd.”

This is sophistical. The question is whether a writer is close enough to the status quo ante to be a reliable historical witness.

“This is the same paralogistic reasoning used by village atheists. (You need to figure out the difference between an argument being specious and a paralogism.)”

Note the condescension.

“Lots of people who were professing Christians contradicted the Trinity. Modalism was the majority belief among the laity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Do you think Modalism was the faith of the Church? You are cherry picking examples to suit your commitments because you lack a criteria to distinguish them. I have already dealt with these charges and attempts to take me down other rabbit trails. Your use of “widespread” is ambiguous as I noted. Popular belief doesn’t amount to church teaching. Non-sequitor.”

i) Except that, by his own admission, Perry is also “cherry-picking examples to suit his own commitments. He writes off the hoi polloi.

ii) In addition, cherry-picking is only illicit if you are making a general claim. Your sampling needs to be commensurate with the scope of your claim.

To demonstrate the universality of infant baptism necessitates unanimous testimony in its favor.

To disprove the universality of infant baptism only necessitates a few representative exceptions.

“Sure, both Rome and the Orthodox claim to be the true church. So do the Presbyterians, Lutherans and Baptists, and yet the all disagree. They don’t consider each other to be true churches, which is why they don’t take communion together.”

I attend a PCA church down the street. They observe open communion. The only condition of admission to the Lord’s Table is for the communicant to belong to an Evangelical church.

Lutherans do not observe closed communion because they regard other churches as false churches, per se,, but because they regard it as spiritually injurious to partake of the Lord’s Supper without discerning the true body and blood of Christ. That’s the rationale behind fencing the table.

“I say Rome is wrong and Protestants as illegitimate children of her are even more wrong. Yeah? So? And? If Rome is the whore, what does that make Protestants? The term “bastard” comes to mind. Who are your spiritual parents? Who’s your mama? (Gal 4:26)”

It’s quite true that Catholicism and Orthodoxy are mommy-centered religions. They have substituted a maternal model of the church for a bridal conception of the church. And there are, indeed, profound consequences in the outworking of this unbiblical substitution.

“Right, but the concept of sola fide is revisable on their very own principles. It can be rejected or re-defined. Just get enough votes on Protestant principles or just split to get the votes you need or just execute those who vote against you (as say Cromwell did with the Baptists) and you can revise any doctrine. The formal doctrine is the expression of the concept, alter the former and you alter the latter. People who reject infallibility most strongly are the ones who act most ardently as if they have it.”

The exact same thing could be said about ecumenical councils. And didn’t the Byzantine Empire persecute dissenters?

“Which concepts does Scripture convey infallibly? From God to us? So if you read the Bible the ideas get infallibly put into your head? What do you mean here? Are the ideas on the marks on the page? Are the ideas in the syntax? That confuses syntax with semantics.”

Once again, if this were valid, it would be valid against conciliar documents.

“Second, can you give me an example of a biblical concept apart from a formal statement or definition?”

We don’t need a formal statement or definition to have an example of a Biblical concept. The Bible abounds in propositions. If it didn’t, then there would be nothing to turn into formal statements and definitions.

“x hypothesi this is false. Because I don’t think anyone can revise a term legitimately any old way they like because they aren’t the judge. On your view, they are. Another straw man. Meaning is determined by communal use and in theology by the divinely authorized community. There is no such thing as a theological private language, which is why when Mormons try to say they are “Christian” and ask why do we get to define the term, they don’t understand how word meaning is established and passed on. Neither do you.”

Perry is repeating himself again. Repeating the same mistakes.

“OPC, PCA, LCMS, and definitely LCWS and the RPCNA. How about them for starters? We could toss in half a jillion Baptist bodies and house churches too. Given even the slightest suggestion that such and so doctrine may be wrong and POOF! You’re gone.”

This is the same insular reasoning we encounter among Catholic apologetes. Perry is tacitly setting up the Orthodox church as the standard of comparison. This is the one true church, over against the “jillions” of Christian sects.

But, of course, from an Evangelical perspective, Orthodoxy is only one among the jillions of Christian sects. It doesn’t rise above the throng. It’s just one more denomination or theological tradition. All that Perry has done here is to beg the question by elevating his own adopted tradition to a privileged frame of reference.

Fun With the Site Meter

Every now and then I look at my site meter. It’s normally at the end of the day, when I’m about to start reading for the night. My favorite part of the site meter is the "referrals" section. This tells me who’s visiting my site, and where they are coming from. It’s fun to see which sites generate the most active links here. It also allows me to know whether or not folks are utilizing the links I myself have planted. For instance, I planted a link on the Puritan Board thread about Stauffer’s book to my critique of his work. Hopefully, that did not violate any TOS rules. So far, no moderators have objected. Because of my trusty site meter, I was able to find out how many people read my article (or at least went to the article) through the link I posted. Site meters are cool.

But what is really fun is to see how people stumble upon Veritas Redux by google. Someone might come by googling "Reformed exegesis of John 6" or "Calvinist blog" or "Veritas Redux" or sometimes even "Evan May" (the other night I noticed how many people who came by googling "Paul Manata." Congratulations, Paul). One really funny one (you need not be embarrassed if you are reading this; I have made no effort to find out who you are) was when someone googled "" Now, if you already know that it is a ".com" why bother using google? Who knows…

The other night I noticed how popular the infamous Michael Dries has become, whether this be because of his staunch defense of KJV Onlyism or his outright calling Dr. James White a "witch" and a "devil priest." I’ve had several hits come to my critique of Dr. Stauffer’s work simply because people have googled “Michael Dries”! Thanks, Mr. Dries! Hope you don’t think I’m a "devil priest"…

Evan May.

More Scripturalist Mumbo Jumbo

A Response to Anthony Coletti:
More Scripturalist Mumbo Jumbo
by: Michael Sudduth

On the Puritan Discussion Board, Anthony Coletti (AC) has attempted to show that the self-referential inconsistency argument against certain forms of epistemic scripturalism is fatally flawed. AC’s criticism is situated in the context of the following account of self-referential inconsistency, provided by another interlocutor:

‘The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy’ states that self-referential incoherency is “an internal defect of an assertion or theory, which it possesses provided that (a) it establishes some requirement that must be met by assertions or theories, (b) it is itself subject to this requirement, and (c) it fails to meet this requirement”. p.826.

Aquascum and I have argued that certain forms of epistemic scripturalism are self-referentially inconsistent given this view of self-referential inconsistency. AC attempts to deflect these criticisms as follows:

AC: But lets look at the quote. It appears that a self-referential incoherent system must meet the following criteria: (a) it establishes some requirement that must be met by assertions or theories, Does Scripturalism say that we can justify the truth of “the Scripture is true”? Nope. We can believe it. We can not “know” it. We can not deduce an axiom from within a system without committing the fallacy of begging the question or circular reasoning.

Sudduth: It would appear that AC Scripturalist has misunderstood the nature of the criticism he is trying to dislodge. First, the self-referential criticism is directed toward what I have designated rocky-road epistemic scripturalism. Secondly, the criticism is that rocky-road scripturalism lays out a *criterion* for knowledge that is not satisfied by the criteriological
statement itself, but the criteriological statment is subject to this epistemic requirement.

The “rocky-road” epistemic scripturalist package entails:

[1] No extra-Biblical proposition is an item of human knowledge.
[2] We can know that [1].

Note that I have elsewhere contrasted rocky-road epistemic scripturalism with vanilla epistemic scripturalism which just asserts [1], not [1] and [2].

The self-referential inconsistency argument is directed toward rocky-road scripturalism, which hitherto is clearly the position avocated by individuals like Robbins and Cheung. Insofar as the self-referential inconsistency problem is applicable to epistemic scripturalism, Aquascum and I have both directed it toward rocky-road epistemic scripturalism.

The self-referential inconsistency argument then takes shape once we add:

[3] [1] is an extra-Biblical proposition.

Notice, [1] lays out a criterion for knowledge. [2] asserts that the criteriological statement itself satisfies this criterion. The conjunction of [1] and [3] entails that the criteriological statement does not satisfy its own criterion of knowledge, and so [2] (or [3]) is false.

Return to AC’s observation: “Does Scripturalism say that we can justify the truth of “the Scripture is true”? Nope. We can believe it. We can not “know” it. We can not deduce an axiom from within a system without committing the fallacy of begging the question or circular reasoning.

Now either this observation is wholly irrelevant to the above criticism or AC incorrectly assumes that the self-referential inconsistency criticism depends on the premise:

(*) Scripturalism can justify the statement that [the scripture is true].

But the criticism above does not depend on (*) at all. It rests on the premise that the second-order or meta-level *epistemic* claim [there is no extra-biblical knowledge] - a part of the rocky-road scripturalist package - is not a deliverance of Scripture, and hence cannot be known to be true given rocky-road scripturalism’s own criterion of knowledge. Whether this meta-level claim is an axiom or not is neither here nor there for the purposes of the cogency of the critique as directed toward rocky-road epistemic scripturalism.

Recall that we’re dealing with “an internal defect of an assertion or theory, which it possesses provided that (a) it establishes some requirement that must be met by assertions or theories, (b) it is itself subject to this requirement, and (c) it fails to meet this requirement”. p.826.

(a) is satisfied by virtue of [1], for [1] makes being a deliverance of scripture a necessary conditon for knowledge. (c) is satisfied given that [3] is true. This leaves us only with (b), but if [2] is true, then (b) is satisfied by the rocky-road epistemic scripturalist’s own admission.

Now perhaps what AC *meant* to say is that the critique rests on premise [2] above, but the scripturalist doesn’t assert [2]. Well, *a* scripturalist might not wish to assert [2]. Indeed, the upshot of the critique in question is that he shouldn’t. But in that case, he would not be a *rocky-road* epistemic scripturalist. But this obviously true observation (which Aquascum and I have both already explicitly noted in our critique of rocky-road epistemic scripturalism) has no bearing on the cogency of the argument for the self-referential inconsistency of rocky-road epistemic scripturalism.

AC: So the axiom is not subject to this requirement. What about the the propositions of Scripture themselves? Are there any false propositions of Scripture? If you give me a Scriptural proposition that says Scripture is false, then this would be incoherent and Scripturalism fails. If you can show me a false Scriptural propositions, you must first assume Scripture can be false and thereby presume Scripturalism is false.

Sudduth: This is a red herring. Whether [1] above is an axiom or a theorem is irrelevant. Finding a scriptural proposition that says that Scripture is false is equally irrelevant. AC simply has lost sight of the argument in question and has gone off on a tangent. All that matters is that [1] and [2] are both *asserted* as elements in the scripturalist package. If so, then - given
the truth of [3] - the jig is up.

Perhaps AC doesn’t wish to assert both [1] and [2]. If so, good for him. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that the original argument was directed toward scripturalists who *do* hold to [1] and [2]. Aquascum directed his arguments toward Cheung. Cheung is, for reasons carefully developed by Aquascum, a rocky-road scripturalist.

AC: (c) it fails to meet this requirement”. (b) is not required by the axiom, so (c) does not apply. And since no proposition of Scripture says Scripture is false, then nothing in the system fails this requirement. Ergo, Scripturalism IS self-referential coherent.

Sudduth: First, AC has conveniently altered the kind of scripturalism the original argument was targeting. As I have pointed out elsewhere, the problem of self-referential inconsistency can be avoided by the scripturalist if he adopts vanilla epistemic scripturalism, simply holding
[1] without [2]. While this avoids the self-referential problem, it does generate other problems (which I have noted elsewhere), but sufficient for the day are the criticisms thereof. Secondly, at best, AC has only shown that a premise in the argument against the self-referential consistency of scripturalism is false, namely the critic takes (b) to be satisfied but in
fact it isn’t. This doesn’t amount to a proof that scripturalism is *coherent.* It only proves that the reasons presented for supposing that scripturalism is self-referentially inconsistent are not good enough reasons for supposing this. This doesn’t suffice to show that the negation of the
original argument’s conclusion is true. AC has conflated rebutting and undercutting defeaters.

AC: The reason Aquascum argument fails so completely is he is apparently ignorant of the fact that every system of knowledge, without exception, must start with axioms. This can be shown simply by asking “how do you know?” two or three times until you either travel in a circle (tautology) or reach the axiom which can not be proven from any a priori true propositions within the system.

Sudduth: Neither Aquascum nor I are ignorant of AC’s freshman observation. AC is, however, apparently unware of the irrelevance of this point to the criticism of scripturalism he is trying to defuse. As argued above, the self-referential inconsistency argument against rocky-road scripturalism does not rely on a denial that one must have axioms. It doesn’t even hold that
one must know the axioms or justify them in some way. The argument only holds that a scripturalist who holds [1] and [2] is in serious trouble, that is if [3] is true. AC has done absolutely nothing to defeat *that* argument.

The scripturalist will of course point out that the critic hasn’t proven (to the scripturalist’s satisfaction) that [3] is true. Of course not, but then again the self-referential inconsistency of rocky-road epistemic scripturalism doesn’t require proving to the scripturalist that [3] is true.
Indeed, I’m at a loss to see how that can be done given the scripturalist’s epistemically inflexible commitment to [1] and [2]. How exactly do I prove to a person that his head will not shatter into thousands of pieces if I tap it with an ice-pick if the person is firmly convinced that his head is made of blown glass? I doubt I can. But that’s no defect of mine as I far as I
can see.

Anyhow, none of this should obscure the basic challenge to rocky-road epistemic scripturalism. A person who contends that his epistemological theory is supported by Scripture ought to meet the obligation of backing this up with argument, especially since he holds his opponents to a similar standard. The problem for rocky-road scripturalism is not that its critics have proven that the scripturalist epistemological claims are not deliverances of Scripture. The problem is that rocky-road scripturalists have not proven that their epistemological claims *are* supported by Scripture. Cheung and Robbins have each attempted this, but as Aquascum and I have both
argued, their arguments leave much to be desired since they invariably rely on yet further assumptions whose Biblical basis needs to be established.

Of course, a rocky-road scripturalist, frustrated with his inability to prove the Biblical basis of his epistemological claims, can go vanilla and simply refuse to present any Biblical argument for his basic epistemological claims. In this way, he can limit knowledge to the deliverances of Scripture on the basis of epistemological assumptions that he has no reason to believe are themsleves Biblical. He can tether his entire “system of truth” to meta-level assumptions that
float free from Scripture. He can do this, if he pleases. However, having no Biblical reason to believe that all knowledge is restricted to Scripture is a mute man’s song. It is at best little more than an exercise in intellectual high jinx. At worst, it’s just as epistemically self-defeating as rocky-road scripturalism.

Michael Sudduth

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Stumbling Blog Look at Corporate Worship

I love the local church. If my blog posts ever somehow overshadow the centrality of the local church, it is very much a shame. Hopefully, that is not the case. In the economy of God, the local church is central (isn’t it so unique how the Bible makes so many things “central”? Personal sanctification is “central,” Biblical fellowship is “central,” a vibrant prayer life is “central,” the local church is “central,” the preaching of the Word is “central,” corporate worship is “central,” the Person of Christ is “central,” etc. Though the Kingdom of Heaven is a circle with a thick center, it is terrible that so many are willing to push to the circumference that which God has made central, and to push to the center that which God has made secondary). My concern is that Christian blogs might sometimes neglect that which Scripture has attributed such an importance.

So have you heard of Let Frank centuri0n Turk tell you about the Stumbling Blogs. It is our hope (on behalf of the Stumbling Blog staff) that in our use of the internet we would make the person of Christ, the gospel of Christ, and the church of Christ prominent. Mediocre Christianity is not New Testament Christianity, and mediocre Christianity broadcasted over the internet is worse. In everything we say and do, we intend to ask ourselves these questions:

1. How are my words and actions representing the Person of Christ?
2. How are my words and actions representing the Gospel of Christ?
3. How are my words and actions representing the Church of Christ?

Today, in my attempt to once again point us back to the local church, I’d like us to take a look at corporate worship. What is corporate worship? First, what is worship? Worship is a response that is driven by a changed heart which has beheld the glorious attributes of God and their application in redemptive history. The worshiper is not merely an observer of redemptive history, but he has been included in this story on the basis of God’s grace alone, and has been personally impacted by the Trinity’s salvific and now-sanctifying work. Worship has several manifestations. In a general sense, the act of worship is anything which reveals the glory of God. However, worship in the Bible is also specified in song (Exodus 15:1; Psalm 33:3; 68:4; 92:1; 96:1; 144:9; 147:1; Isaiah 42:1; Revelation 4:8; 15:3) and involves the expression of the impression which God has placed upon the hearts of the redeemed. Scripturally speaking, while the primary dwelling of worship is the heart, it is undeniable that the expression of worship is a physical one. This is because this is God’s world, which he created to be good. He designed his image-bearers with not only hearts that always seek to worship something, but with bodies that are able to portray the heart’s feelings. The expression of worship allows us to portray outwardly what is felt inwardly, and the normative mode of this expression is music.

I stated earlier that a life of worship, in a general sense, involves anything which has its goal in revealing the glory of God and proclaiming the gospel of Christ, whether this be through marriage, relationships, evangelism, personal sanctification, or the studying of the Word of God. So I do not believe that it would be Scripturally preposterous to call general activities done with a heart seeking to glorify God, even if they are eating or drinking (1 Cor 10:31), “worship.” But my theology of worship also leads me to believe that it does not undermine this fact to recognize that Scripture’s normative focus of worship, whether private or corporate, involves the modes of music and singing. In fact, in several places in Scripture we see the imperative command to not only worship God, but to do so using instruments and singing (Psalm 81:2; 150:3). This type of worship (musical) has both personal and corporate manifestations. What of corporate worship?

1. Corporate Worship Allows Us to Proclaim Truth to Each Other in Song

Personal worship is performed privately. It is a vital component of the Christian life to not only privately express personal devotion to God, but to regularly utilize the normative means of song. Personal worship does reflect the “just me and God” component which the Christian enjoys through the cross of Christ. However, it is not quite so with corporate worship. If you view corporate worship as a “just me and God” experience, you will not only lack the joy which comes from the component of corporate worship, but you will be failing to accomplish the purpose of your meeting together. You see, Corporate worship not only focuses on God-the-worshipped, but on the fellow worshipers. As pious as it might sound, your sole focus during corporate worship is not to be God alone. Rather, corporate worship is about teaching and admonishing one another in songs (Col 3:16). We proclaim truth to each other. In singing about God’s glory as revealed in our lives, particularly through Christ on the cross, we fulfill the general purpose of meeting together, which is to edify one another (Heb 10:24).

The corollary of the fact that corporate worship allows us to proclaim truth to each other is the fact that corporate worship allows us to learn truth from one another. Consider the theologian who, during worship times, appears to be disengaged but rather is, in fact, so mentally engaged that he fails to express outwardly his inward feelings. Is he truly accomplishing the purpose of corporate worship? I would love to be in his mind. I would love to be listening in on what his thoughts are during the moment that he is contemplating the magnificence of the gospel of God. If he is regenerate, and especially if the Spirit has blessed him with such a knowledge who God is, there is no doubt that, in his mind and heart, he is jumping up and down over the truth that he witnesses others singing. But the problem is that I am not in his mind, and, to me, he appears to be disengaged. It appears that he cares nothing of these truths because his physical composure is no different now than when he is eating his morning cereal and reading the news paper. But in reality, this is far from the case. His outward expressions are, in some way, deceiving to me. In fact, what if I am a new Christian who knows this theologian (or whoever he is) to be someone who has walked with God for quite some time now and really knows who God is, really knows those incommunicable attributes which separate the self-sufficient God from his creation? What am I to learn from his expression? Might I determine that Biblical Christianity really isn’t as exciting as the New Testament describes it to be? Don’t get me wrong. In his mind, Christianity is a blast! But remember, I cannot be in his mind. I can only see what he expresses outwardly.

This is how corporate worship serves as a means of teaching the church. The church is not only taught by the lyrics of the song (lyrics that hopefully adequately proclaim truth), but by the church’s response to these lyrics, what it looks like to be impacted by truth. While this may certainly be a controversial statement in some circles, if you are failing to express outwardly what you feel and know inwardly, you have not fully accomplished the purpose of corporate worship. I’m not going to here explore the Biblically permissible, or even Biblically commanded, expressions of corporate worship. But it is my hope that you realize that the Bible does emphasize such expressions, and that these expressions are one means of teaching the church. Consequently, if the church fails to utilize such expressions, it has, to some degree, failed to feed its sheep with the teaching that corporate worship should offer.

2. Corporate Worship Gives Us a Glimpse of the Glorified State

While private worship is a vital component in the lives of God’s children which allows us to personally express devotion to God, corporate worship is God’s design to give us but a glimpse of what it will be like to be glorified in heaven. While there is certainly many things which the Bible does not tell us about heaven, there are a few things which it has made clear. One of these things is that the redeemed will be joining together in one song: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev 4:8), “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev 5:12) “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:9-10).

I long to be where the praise is never ending
Yearn to dwell where the glory never fades
Where countless worshippers will share one song
And cries of “Worthy” will honor the Lamb

To see the church congregated together to worship God in song gives us a glimpse of this. It increases in us the hope for future glorification which God has placed in the hearts of his people (Rom 8: 24-25). Again, if worship had only the “just me and God” component (a component which it certainly has), this representation of the glorified state would be missed. If when we envision worshipping God the only thing which comes into our minds is ourselves, we fail to recognize that we are but part of a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession” (1 Peter 2:9) which has its purpose in proclaiming the excellencies of God. It reminds us that we are not to be loners, but that we are part of a church which God has chosen for himself. Corporate worship points us back to the people which Christ has redeemed, “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” The preaching of the Word and times of fellowship accomplish this as well, but corporate worship accomplishes this in a way that is unique from all others.

Let me say that the doctrine of worship (especially concerning the corporate manifestation) can often be a controversial subject. But it is my hope that we will allow Scripture to inform the purpose of the corporate worship setting, in order that we might have the benefit and the joy of participating in this wonderful gift which Christ has given to his church.

Evan May.

Whether ID is science isn't semantics

Whether ID is science isn't semantics

Judge John Jones gave two arguments for his conclusion that ID is not science. Both are unsound, says Alvin Plantinga

By Alvin Plantinga
(March 7, 2006)

Judge John Jones’ 139-page opinion in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District raises questions that go far beyond the legalities of this specific case. I won’t offer an opinion on whether the judge’s decision is correct — although apparently he’s never met an objection to intelligent design he doesn’t like and some of his “findings” seem vastly more sweeping than is appropriate.

First, a general question: What sorts of issues can a judge decide just by fiat?

Jones rules, among other things, that:
• ID is just warmed-over creation science
• ID tries to change the very definition of science
• The scientific community has refuted the criticisms of evolution brought by the IDers
• ID involves a kind of dualism and that this dualism is doomed.

But how can one hope to settle these matters just by a judicial declaration?

Consider, for example, the claim that ID is just creation science in drag, as it were. That ruling is relevant in that previous court decisions have gone against creation science. But the kind of creation science those decisions had gone against is characterized by the claim that the world is a mere 6,000 to 100,000 years old, rather than the currently favored age of 4 billion or so years old.

Second, those creationists reject evolution in favor of the idea that the major kinds of plants and animals were created in pretty much their present form. ID, as such, doesn’t involve either of these two things. What it does involve, as you might guess, is that many biological phenomena are intelligently designed — indicated by their “specifiable complexity” or “irreducible complexity” — and that one can come to see this by virtue of scientific investigation.

Indeed, Michael Behe, a paradigmatic IDer and the star witness for the defense, has repeatedly said that he accepts evolution. What he and his colleagues reject is not evolution as such. What they reject is unguided evolution. They reject the idea that life in all its various forms has come to be by way of the mechanisms favored by contemporary evolutionary theory — unguided, unorchestrated and undirected by God or any other intelligent being.

Anyway, isn’t this question — whether ID is just rewarmed creation science — a question for philosophical or logical analysis? Can one settle a question of that sort by a judicial ruling? Isn’t that like legislating that the value of pi is 1/3 rather than that inconvenient and hard to remember 3.14?

And consider that presumably the judge means the scientific community has successfully refuted the criticism of unguided evolution brought by the IDers. Otherwise, what he says wouldn’t be relevant. But again, is that the sort of thing a judge can legislate? A judge can declare until he’s blue in the face that an objection has been successfully refuted. Couldn’t it still be perfectly cogent? But this is not the place for that interesting question. Instead, let’s examine the judge’s reasoning in support of his decision. Here is part of his ruling:

“ After a searching review of the record and applicable case law, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community (p. 64).”

The judge gives at least two arguments for his conclusion that ID is not science. Both are unsound.

First, he said that ID is not science by virtue of its “invoking and permitting supernatural causation.” Second, and connected with the first, he said that ID isn’t science because the claims IDers make are not testable — that is verifiable or falsifiable. The connection between the two is the assertion, on the part of the judge and many others, that propositions about supernatural beings — that life has been designed by a supernatural being — are not verifiable or falsifiable.

Let’s take a look at this claim. Of course it has proven monumentally difficult to give a decent definition or analysis of verification or falsification. Here the harrowing vicissitudes of attempts in the 50s and 60s to give a precise statement of the verifiability criterion are instructive. But taking these notions in a rough-and-ready way we can easily see that propositions about supernatural beings not being verifiable or falsifiable isn’t true at all.

For example, the statement “God has designed 800-pound rabbits that live in Cleveland” is clearly testable, clearly falsifiable and indeed clearly false. Testability can’t be taken as a criterion for distinguishing scientific from nonscientific statements. That is because in the typical case individual statements are not verifiable or falsifiable.

As another example, the statement “There is at least one electron” is surely scientific, but it isn’t by itself verifiable or falsifiable. What is verifiable or falsifiable are whole theories involving electrons. These theories make verifiable or falsifiable predictions, but the sole statement “There is at least one electron” does not. In the same way, whole theories involving intelligent designers also make verifiable or falsifiable predictions, even if the bare statement that life has been intelligently designed does not.

Therefore, this reason for excluding the supernatural from science is clearly a mistake. But, there is the judge’s claim that science excludes reference to the supernatural, independent of concerns about verifiability and falsifiability. Reference to the supernatural just can’t be part of science. This idea is sometimes called “methodological naturalism.” But what is the reason — if any — for accepting methodological naturalism? Apparently, the judge thinks it is just a matter of definition — of the word ”science,” presumably. Here the judge is not alone. Michael Ruse, a philosopher of biology, said in his book Darwinism Defended:

“ The Creationists believe that the world started miraculously. But miracles lie outside of science, which by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law.”

Do Ruse and the judge really mean to suggest that the dispute can be settled just by looking up the term “science” in the dictionary? If so, they should think again. Dictionaries do not propose definitions of “science” that imply methodological naturalism. Therefore, it looks as if Jones and those whose advice he followed are advancing their own definition of “science.” But how can that be of any use in an argument or controversy of this sort?

Suppose I claim all Democrats belong in jail. One might ask: Could I advance the discussion by just defining the word “Democrat” to mean “convicted felon”? If you defined “Republican” to mean “unmitigated scoundrel,” should Republicans everywhere hang their heads in shame?

So this definition of “science” the judge appeals to is incorrect as a matter of fact because that is not how the word is ordinarily used. But even if the word “science” were ordinarily used in such a way that its definition included methodological naturalism, that still wouldn’t come close to settling the issue.

The question is whether ID is science. That is not a merely verbal question about how a certain word is ordinarily used. It is, instead, a factual question about a multifarious and many-sided human activity — is the very nature of that activity such as to exclude ID?

Does this important and multifarious human activity by its very nature preclude references to the supernatural? How would anyone argue a thing like that?

Newton was perhaps the greatest of the founders of modern science. His theory of planetary motion is thought to be an early paradigm example of modern science. Yet, according to Newton’s own understanding of his theory, the planetary motions had instabilities that God periodically corrected. Shall we say that Newton wasn’t doing science when he advanced that theory or that the theory really isn’t a scientific theory at all?

That seems a bit narrow.

Many other constraints on science have been proposed. Jacques Monod, the author of Chance and Necessity, says that science precludes any form of teleology. Other proposed constraints are that science can’t involve moral judgments — or value judgments, more generally — and that the aim of science is explanation, whether or not this is in the service of truth.

Additional constraints that have been proposed in various contexts include: Scientific theories must in some sense be empirically verifiable and/or falsifiable; scientific experiments must be replicable; science can study only repeatable events; and science can’t deal with the subjective but only with what is public and sharable.

Some say the aim of science is to discover and state natural laws. Others, equally enthusiastic about science, think there aren’t any natural laws to discover. According to Richard Otte and John Mackie, the aim of science is to propose accounts of how the world goes for the most part, apart from miracles. Others reject the “for the most part” disclaimer. How does one tell which, if any, of these proposed constraints actually do hold for science? And why should we think that methodological naturalism really does constrain science? And what does “science” really mean?

I don’t have the space to give a complete answer — as one says when he doesn’t know a complete answer — but the following seems sensible: The usual dictionary definitions suffice to give us the meaning of the term “science.” They suggest that this term denotes any activity that is:

(a) a systematic and disciplined enterprise aimed at finding out truth about our world, and
(b) has significant empirical involvement. Any activity that meets these vague conditions counts as science.

But what about methodological naturalism and all the rest of those proposed constraints? Perhaps the following is the best way to think about the matter: There are many related enterprises, all scientific in that they satisfy (a) and (b). For each of those proposed constraints, there is an activity falling under (a) and (b), the aim of which is in fact characterized by that constraint. For each or at any rate many of the proposed constraints there is another activity falling under (a) and (b), the aim of which does not fall under that constraint. Further, when people propose that a given constraint pertains to science just as such, to all of science, so to speak, they are ordinarily really endorsing or recommending one or more of the activities the aim of which is characterized by that constraint.

Now how does this work out with methodological naturalism? Well, there are some scientific activities that are indeed constrained by methodological naturalism. The partisans of methodological naturalism are endorsing or promoting those scientific activities and recommending them as superior to scientific activities not so constrained. But of course there are other scientific activities — Newton’s, for example — that are not so constrained.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing science in accord with methodological naturalism? There is a good deal to be said on both sides here. For example, if you exclude the supernatural from science, then if the world or some phenomena within it are supernaturally caused — as most of the world’s people believe — you won’t be able to reach that truth scientifically.

Observing methodological naturalism thus hamstrings science by precluding science from reaching what would be an enormously important truth about the world. It might be that, just as a result of this constraint, even the best science in the long run will wind up with false conclusions.


Alvin Plantinga is a leading philosopher known for his work in epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion. He is currently the John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

Earth To SBC...Is Anybody Listening?

From an acquaintance of mine:

Semper Reformanda: more than a phrase
Mar 16, 2006

By Douglas E. Baker
Baptist Press

Douglas Baker

WASHINGTON (BP)--Can it be that the conservative resurgence in the SBC is turning 27 years old? Southern Baptists in their mid-30s were but children when Adrian Rogers was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979. Much has happened since those days of large conventions and presidential elections where warring sides voiced their opinions at the open microphones on the convention floor. Few young pastors even remember those days and all the issues involved in the struggle for the soul of the Southern Baptist Convention.

These days the very term "conservative" is being debated among many regarding the precise theological meaning of the word itself. Its etymology seems to be in question, and the process surrounding the struggle toward a cogent definition is both a shock to older “conservatives” and a welcome discussion for younger “conservatives.”

Many involved in the conservative resurgence seem to think that a pale “conservative” version of the old SBC was and is indispensable for denominational success. Simply cast out the “liberals,” replace them with “conservatives,” and all will be well. This strategy, while workable for short-term gains, cannot be sustained over time because the requirement of a carefully learned theology must support the worldview of theological conservatism, or doctrinal slippage will be the inevitable consequence.

The political shell may remain, giving the impression that all is well, but the theological center cannot hold given the force of the cultural onslaughts against the church in this postmodern era. Without doctrinal anchors, the SBC could all too quickly drift away. Why? A denomination of churches reared solely on a warrior motif of “liberal versus conservative” rather than “theology versus program” is destined to slide theologically. In the words of Southern Baptist theologian Timothy George, “A new bureaucracy doth not an improvement make!”

What is needed is a precise theological understanding of the protracted struggle with theological liberalism. Without it, policies of inerrancy and the “the cause” become a recipe for drift and ultimately defeat.

Pragmatically, the conservative resurgence could be in trouble. The prevailing ethos of the day held by critics of the Southern Baptist Convention is that the modern conservatism of the SBC holds no specifically theological ideas –- only political ones -– which are not worthy of serious consideration by the thinking class. Could this be true? Many critics say the level of preaching by “conservative” preachers across the SBC all too easily resembles something between an Anthony Robbins self-help seminar and a used-car salesman peddling his latest deal.

Modern strategies and tactics regarding denominational boards and agencies may quench the thirst of the SBC political animals, but unless conservatives acquire the theological means to translate biblical ideas into practice, the struggles of the 1980s could be all for nothing. The strategic imperative of many remains to seize and maintain control of the denominational infrastructure. This is and has been regarded as an excellent idea, but to what end? Without local churches which are led by capable pastors and/or elders able actually to teach the Word and take the hits which are sure to come whenever biblical preaching takes place, the conservative resurgence could become a mere footnote in evangelical history.

Without the recovery of a denominational imperative that a local congregation is the most important and indispensable agent for Christ and his kingdom, the denominational beast easily could eat her own young. The current cultural and political milieu of the 21st century offers little evidence to sustain the hope that an explicitly theological movement is necessary, desirable or even possible. Many Southern Baptist churches will not abide theologically thick preaching, because every effort has been made to make the church more seeker-friendly -- to modernize the message and soften the sharpness of doctrine so as to make room for people who have never heard of the Apostles let alone the specific books of Galatians and Jude. This plan has resulted in even less response by today’s teenagers and young adults because the seriousness of the themes of Scripture have been presented so obliquely by the church that modern young professionals and students find Nietzsche and Hegel much more appealing and thoughtful than Jesus. For many of them, the philosophers and political pundits seem more confident, knowledgeable, intelligent and interesting than the ministers of their local church. While the real world operates on concrete empirical principles, the church hides her message in fantasy code. Thus, all this sensitivity to the seeker has, in many ways, backfired.

This can be a hard lesson to relearn each generation –- especially now that churches contend, in the words of historian Victor Davis Hanson, “with the sirens of the mall, Oprah, and the latte.” The affluence and leisure of modern church life make it all the more difficult to evangelize and disciple people who find Broadway more exciting than the Bible. The logic proceeds that if people are still attending Broadway shows and movies, then the church had better mimic such venues or else the sanctuary of today will be the museum of tomorrow

To assuage this fear, many churches have sought a dynamic alchemy of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and “biblical” preaching brought to you by the local Baptist church. For the most part, this has failed.

The Conservative Resurgence accomplished much for which all Southern Baptists (and indeed all evangelicals) should be grateful. It rolled back theological liberalism in SBC seminaries and prevented an all-out Schleiermachian stampede. Also, it routed the denominational behemoth that used appointments to denominational posts as favors for friends and/or weapons for enemies of “the cause."

The third and most pressing need yet to be realized fully by the reformation of the SBC is a focus on local churches as the primary agent in Gospel ministry to the world. As to this third issue, despite the revolution in theological thought initiated by the seminaries and others, restraining the appetite for big numbers and big Baptist programs has proved, thus far, beyond the human agency -– even for theological conservatives. Still, considering the immensity of what was accomplished and the improbability of its actually being realized, the success of modern theological conservatism is nothing short of remarkable. And its success, by God’s grace, would have been impossible without the vigor and verve of leaders in the 1980s.

The question remains: Is theological conservatism SBC style compatible with healthy churches who aggressively work for biblical preaching and discipleship beyond the level of theological pabulum? The SBC needs only to look at other theologically conservative denominations such as the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) and see their rapid growth (fueled by some former Southern Baptists who left the denomination) for an answer.

The most recent Religious Congregations and Membership study published in 2000 by the
Glenmary Research Center indicates that during the last decade a continued trajectory of decline was experienced by the mainline denominations. While the Southern Baptist Convention grew at an overall rate of 5 percent over the last decade, the PCA grew by 42.4 percent and the EFCA grew by 57.2 percent. The question sociologists who study religion are beginning to ask is how much resettlement is taking place between the various conservative denominational options. In other words, is the growth of these two denominations (the PCA and the EFCA) specifically related to religious conversion or denominational migration? If the answer is from denominational migration, then the SBC should take note.

The SBC’s progress since the 1980s has brought the denomination more than halfway toward a biblical worldview. The denomination knows who the “bad guys” are, and while the SBC seems to know who the “good guys” are and why, old Baptist reflexes might render the Southern Baptist Convention irrelevant in the modern world.

Only God knows. Only time will tell. Semper Reformanda.
Douglas Baker is a writer who lives and works in the
Washington, D.C. area.


The above article was published on March 16. Today, BP removed it from view and replaced the front page of their website .

The original URL is here

The odd thing at BP is that his is omitted from the Previous Posts when you click on the First Person columns, yet it was only published yesterday!

Take a long look at today's articles. The Bobby Welch Show is up for weekend viewing. Read the articles. Now read Doug's article again.

Notice anything strange? These articles are the exact representation of what Doug was discussing.

I'll be even more candid. This is the ACP for President Welch's own church:


3506 members

203 baptisms

253 other additions

2200 primary worship attendance


3812 members

296 baptisms

190 other additions

2100 primary worship attendance


4011 members

209 baptisms

137 other additions

2031 primary worship attendance


4163 members

237 baptisms

204 other additions

1874 primary worship attendance

Would this church meet Dr. Welch's own criteria for "declining?" It went from a counted Sunday morning worship attendance of 2200 in 2001 to 1874 in 2004. If my math is correct, that is a 15% decline.Granted, they have baptized 945 people during that 4 year period and they have added 784 people by other means. But the church membership only grew by 657. It took 1729 new members for the church to grow by 657 members.In addition those 1729 new members resulted in 326 fewer worshipers! If the church continues to grow at this rate then by the time it adds around 10,000 new members Pastor Welch will be preaching to an empty auditorium at his "primary worship" service.

When I see Dr. Welch's programs, and I see Douglas Baker's article, knowing this information about the statistics our churches report (Dr. Welch's church is actually fairly typical of the Convention's churches), I have to wonder if it wouldn't be more discerning and be more helpful for those whom BP News serves if the both Dr. Welch's perspective and that of Mr. Baker aren't presented alongside one another? This Convention is discussing baptism as we speak, in connection with the IMB policies. Just this past week, I received an email from a pastor in TX asking me some questions about the wording on the ordinances in Baptist confessions, including their own. Moreover, some of the folks in his own church had concerns about the administration of baptism and whether or not baptisms from Free Will Baptist churches and the Assemblies of God is proper, so the IMB issues aren't simply unique to the IMB.

Just yesterday, I communicated with the editor of my own state's Baptist newspaper and asked him to consider running a series on baptism in the paper. Baptists used to discuss baptism all the time, both in debate and in print, and, with the focus on baptism in the new policies, perhaps a series of articles that actually deal with differing perspectives on baptism and its administration would be a helpful way of laying out the issues for your readers to help them understand them. Most Baptists take our views on baptism for granted and simply don't give them much thought. After all, we're all Baptists. What more needs to be said, right? The new IMB policies, at least in my opinion have shown us that apparently the answer is "Quite a lot, it seems." Why then, are we "baptizing a million" when our members don't understand baptism? Doesn't anybody think that's just a little bit, how shall I say," odd?"

Moreover, the pastors in the Convention are very, very concerned that, in the press to "baptize a million," we are rebaptizing too many persons and we are baptizing too many unregenerate persons because we tend to get them to believe some facts about Jesus, pray a prayer, walk an aisle, hand them assurance and then baptize them. If our own president is baptizing in the numbers he is baptizing, yet his own attendance is declining, this does indicate that we have a problem. Mr. Baker's article addresses that problem by discussing the material, not just the formal principle of biblical reformation.

Normally, I don't have a problem with content posted BP News. However, I found this particular editorial choice to be, how shall I say, disappointing. Is there a particular reason, his article was removed from view so quickly, as it was published only yesterday (3/16)?

Shootout at O.K. Coral

Robinson has responded to my esse is percipi piece.

In this reply I’ll limit myself to points of personal interest.

I could continue to play badminton with Perry over the best way to classify Berkeley or the finer-points of Augustine and his position in the history of ideas.

But none of this goes to the axial structure of my own belief-system.

“I don’t recall any scriptural demonstration of the notion of the divine ideas. Perhaps you could post a link.”

I did so here:

“Scripturally speaking, the very fact that many of the same words and concepts are applied to God and man in Scripture implies an analogy between God and man. And since God is the Creator, he would be the exemplar of any such relation.

There are also verses which tell us that the natural world exemplifies certain divine attributes (e.g. Ps 19:1; Prov 3:19; Rom 1:20; Eph 3:9-10).”

“And your own view does at least appear to track Augustine’s because, as you have written else where you speak of God as being “mind.” Whether you diverge from Augustine on later points is irrelevant since your view would still count as a species of Neoplatonic philosophical theology.”

God is mind because God is spirit, and in Scripture, spirits are discarnate personal agents. So all their properties are mental properties.

“I didn’t refer to “this or that” Reformed theologian. I referred to representative theologians of an entire tradition. The tradition as a whole subscribes to absolute divine simplicity and it usually cashes it out following either Aquinas or Scotus. Perhaps I made the mistake of thinking that since you identified yourself as “Reformed” that citing representative theologians as testifying to the position of the Reformed tradition would carry weight with your or that you subscribed to the position in question. I will make sure when we discuss the Trinity, the Hypostatic Union, or any of the Solas for example, so as not to presume on the basis of what the Reformed tradition teaches that you subscribe to it until such time as you proffer a individual doctrinal statement. (An individual doctrinal statement-imagine that for a Baptist!)”

Very cute, but you have apparently forgotten that we’ve been over this ground before, either with your or Daniel. When this first came up I ran through a number of representative Reformed sources to show that Reformed theology has not generally committed to ADS.

Unless I missed something, you never responded to my evidence.

“I never claimed that ADS was a view that distinguished Reformed theology from other traditions, except from the Orthodox. ADS doesn’t differentiate the Reformed tradition from Rome for example since they hold to the same doctrine, which explains why Rome and the Reformed both hold to the heterodox doctrine of the Filioque for example. I did claim that ADS is something that the Reformed generally subscribe to, both confessionally and via its representative theologians and writings. Since that was my point, your noting that ADS doesn’t distinguish the Reformed is a red herring and therefore irrelevant.”

It’s hardly a red herring when you use a Reformed commitment to ADS to falsify Reformed theology on the grounds that if ADS is false, and Reformed theology is committed to ADS, then Reformed theology is false. That was your leading line of argument in the past.

Now, as I’ve documented, I deny that Calvinism has a general commitment to ADS.

But even if it did, unless ADS is a Reformed distinctive, disproving ADS does nothing to disprove Reformed theology.

So the distinction is entirely germane.

“Even if it were true that your Calvinism takes its point of departure from exegesis, this is beside the point since it would at best only show that you dissent from Protestant Orthodoxy on that point. It would still be true that Protestant Orthodoxy subscribes to ADS and that you were heterodox in relation to it.”

That, again, is only pertinent if subscription to ADS selects for the Reformed tradition, such that denial of ADS selects out Reformed theology.

“Moreover, exegesis requires pre-exegetical philosophical presuppositions that are not paradigm neutral. Such presuppositions since they are antecedent to the praxis of exegesis and features of your worldview are not derived from exegesis. Therefore your Calvinism doesn’t and couldn’t take its point of departure from exegesis but from your philosophical presuppositions.”

This is a massive overstatement. We all come to the reading of Scripture with certain preconceptions. These are person-variable

However, these preconceptions are not necessarily etched in stone. Indeed, students of Scripture often revise their prior views as a result of reading the Bible. They are able to perceive a conflict between their preconceptions and what the Bible actually says. They come to the Bible with a certain preconception, and come away from the Bible with a different view as a result of reading the Bible for itself.

You’ve worked yourself in a dilemma Perry. On the one hand, you want to say that exegesis is so paradigm-dependent that we could never revise our presuppositions in light of Bible study.

On the other hand, you want to say that Protestant theology is perennially provisional.

You can’t play both sides of the fence, Perry.

Scripture does have the power to correct our preconceptions. It simply depends on whether the reader is predisposed to change his views in light of Scripture. Some are, some aren’t.

It isn’t just a matter of reading the Bible, from an outsider’s perspective. Later Bible writers comment on events recorded by earlier writers. So, in reading the Bible, we can see how Bible writers read their Bible as well.

And that affords us an opportunity to refine or revise our own operating assumptions.

You wrote on 7/13/2005,
“Notice how, according to this framework, the individuating principle which differentiates one person of the Godhead from another consists in existential propositions concerning the economic Trinity. And that conduces straight to modalism. On such a view, the Trinitarian relations are contingent rather than necessary.”

“I wonder exactly how you derive the concept of the Trinitarian persons as “relations” from exegesis? Where exactly does the Bible gloss, either implicitly or explicitly the divine persons as relations? Nowhere that I know of. I don’t know how you would come to that view without ADS. If the divine essence isn’t simple, then hypostases can subsist with in it and amount to a real plurality in the essence, rather than relations of the essence to itself, as Augustine is forced to do because of his commitment to ADS. In any case, it is obvious that your Calvinism doesn’t take its point of departure nor all of its content from exegesis but from inherited platonic views.”

The persons of the Trinity are internally related because they are coeternal and mutually inclusive. All the persons must coexist for any of the persons to exist. So they do “generate” (in the logical rather than ontological sense of the term) a necessary set of relations.

But it by no means follows from this that the persons of the Trinity are reducible to relations.

Indeed, in the very passage you quote, I am attacking a modalistic model of the Trinity. Modalism does, indeed, reduce the Trinity to merely relational properties. That’s is what I’m opposing.

You seize on one word without regard to the surrounding context.

“Moreover, you have posted in the past an article from Paul Helm endorsing ADS.

I suppose I made the mistake of thinking that you wouldn’t post something on your blog that defended a deformed or heterodox view of God. I took your posting of Helm’s re-hash of Aquinas (See ST, 1.3, 1.9) as an implicit endorsement of the doctrine. I should stop being so charitable I suppose.”

Now you’re being devious. I posted Helm’s article as a defense of divine impassibility, not divine simplicity.

“If the divine ideas are unexemplified then they are potentia in God and since identical with the divine essence, God is potentia. So when you ask, “relative to what?” the answer is, relative to God. If there are divine ideas that are unexemplified in the world, but actual in God, what is it to be unexemplified that is not being actual? To be exemplified is to be actual in some world. If they are actual in God then they are exemplified in God, thereby making creation, among other things, necessary.”

i) No, they are not “exemplified” in God. Rather, they inhere in God, as divine properties. They are possessed by God, like his other attributes.

ii) Are they “identical” with the divine essence? That depends on what you mean. Are you alluding to ADS again? Remember that I’m not committed to that doctrine.

One idea is not identical with other in terms of propositional content.

To say they are identical with the divine essence is not to say that they are identical with each other, for we are dealing with a set/subset relation.

“If all or any of his ideas are actual, then they are instantiated since to be actual is to be instantiated. If not, you need to explain what you mean by “actual” and how you are differentiating it from “exemplification.”

No, to be actual is not to be instantiated. That only holds for finite modes of subsistence or finite existents.

God is not a property-instance. God is not the instantiation of some abstract property.

“In any case, your position here is essentially that of Aquinas, which is what I have been saying since the get-go.”

Do I? Since you continue to mistake my position, the comparison is flawed.

“The difference between the worldly mode of subsistence and their mode of subsistence in God cannot be a real difference since they are identical to the divine essence.”

On the assumption of ADS, you mean? You really are unteachable, Perry. Once you get an idea lodged in your brain, it’s there to stay, right or wrong.

“Traditionally, the divine ideas don’t subsist in the world in any case but perhaps here you prefer to dissent from traditional Latin philosophical theology and favor pantheism instead.”

Where did I say that divine ideas “subsist” in the world?

“If God is not his own exemplar, then do you deny that God knows other things in knowing his divine ideas which are nothing other than himself? Does God know creatures by knowing himself or does he know by knowing the creature?”

i) God is the exemplary cause of the creature. Naturally God is not the exemplary cause of himself, for God is uncaused.

ii) Yes, God knows the creature by knowing himself.

"If you are not committed to ADS, how do you gloss divine unity?"

i) To begin with, it is not incumbent upon me to gloss divine unity. It is only incumbent upon me to affirm whatever Scripture affirms, and avoid reductive formulations which negate the teaching of Scripture.

ii) But if I were reaching for a model of divine unity, it would be in the concept of symmetry, especially enantiomorphic symmetries.