Sunday, January 28, 2007

I'm The Best Around, Nothing's Ever Gonna Bring Me Down

So goes the chorus to the song You're The Best from the 80's that made movie fans cheer as Daniel LaRusso, The Karate Kid, got ready to take on Johnny. Perhaps Vincent Cheung watched this movie too many times. Reading his latest post conjured images in my head of Vince sitting at his desk with his iTunes headphones on, rocking out to Joe Esposito's You're The Best:

You’re the best!
Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down
You’re the Best!
Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down
You’re the Best!
Nothing’s gonna ever keep you dow-ow-ow-ow-own

Vince must have internalized much of the movie, The Karate Kid. He treats his position as if it were the "Crane Technique." Says Mr. Miyagi about the "Crane Technique: "If done right, none can defend."

So, Cheung "responds" to one of Steve Hays' criticisms against Cheung's occasionalism. Cheung writes,

"As for the critic who raised the objection, he might read this response and attempt another one. I will probably ignore him, or more likely, I will be unaware of his new attack. But this does not mean that I cannot answer him, or that you cannot answer him."

Notice the bolded word. One thing is clear, Cheung is offering a "response" to Hays. But why should that cause us to cast an evil eye upon what Cheung is doing. After all, that's what you do when someone critiques you - you write a response. Well, that would seem like the regular course of action for us, but not for Cheung. How does one come to that conclusion you're wondering. Simple. Cheung previously told us in a blog entry titled Taking Time To Refute Cheung that, "Nevertheless, if I ever realize that my materials are inadequate to handle a particular refutation, then of course I will take time to write a specific response." He has also stated that he doesn't feel the need to respond unless the critique is "earth shattering."

Now, you'll probably notice that I have no link to the old blog entry by Cheung (written on 06/27/05). Let me offer an apologetic for that. I don't because I cannot find it anymore. Cheung probably felt the need to hide this embarrassing quote. But why should he considering how smart he is and how everyone besides him is stupid? In case you doubt me, though, let me provide (Cheung forbid!) and inductive argument for my case. Take this post by James Anderson back in June of '05. You'll note that the first comment has a link to the Taking Time To Refute Cheung blog entry:

But as of the writing of this post, the link is down. I have also searched Cheung's archives, can't find it. Now, unless James Anderson is a precog like those in Minority Report, why would he link to a post that never existed? Could he see that I'd write this post and so he set the chain of events in motion almost two years ago. Well, since I cannot deduce from Scripture that James Anderson is not a precog, and therefore can't know that he's not (according to Cheung, of course), I suppose this is all possible. Unlikely, though. Or, one could argue that Cheung did write that entry, but the quotes I cited are fabricated. But, I pulled those quotes from an July '05 entry of mine entitled Cheung, Knowledge, and Occasionalism. I'm no precog. So why would I make those quotes up almost two years ago? Perhaps I am a precog, but God (as Cheung conceives him) is allowing me to believe a lie. Possible, however unlikely.

But why have I gone to such lengths to show that Cheung did write said piece? Simple. His missing blog post is embarrassing (that he needed to take it down is even more embarrassing. He pretends like he never said such things so he can continue to portray the image of "invincible warrior" to the world). Take note of how Cheung belittles Steve Hays' critique:

"The fact that he was unable to even describe my position, but left God completely out of the picture, betrayed his incompetence and irreverence. [...] What he has against me is trivial [...] please, do not send me anymore objections from this person or anyone related to him. He is just not good enough. He possesses an altogether lower class of intellect. There is no competition, no comparison — I have no interest in him and no use for him."

First, Cheung wrote a blog entry once titled "Seminary Elitism." In part two he writes,

"If I ever find out that someone I’ve trained were to exhibit elitism, I would privately rebuke him and make him ask forgiveness from those whom he has offended. If he refuses, then he is a piece of spiritual garbage, and I would publicly denounce and humiliate him. I regard elitism in a believer as this serious and sinful, and teachers who do not correct this in their students partake in their sins." ("Seminary Elitism," pt. 2)

Second, Cheung previously claim of Hays,

"So, I will say this now: Unless Mr. H comes up with something spectacular against me, I will not say anything else in reference to him."

And so Cheung appears to have an unstable mind. He acts like an elitist, but chastises elitists. He says he'll not respond to hays anymore unless Steve comes up with something spectacular. But he belittled and made fun of Steve's post. Does he now think it's "spectacular?" If not, then why "say anything else in reference to him?" Was your response "inadequate?" Putting aside these problems, let's go back to the main criticism.

Recall above that Cheung previously had said, "Nevertheless, if I ever realize that my materials are inadequate to handle a particular refutation, then of course I will take time to write a specific response." He has also stated that he doesn't feel the need to respond unless the critique is "earth shattering."

So, above we have a "specific response" to Hays. According to Cheung, then, he must have "realize[d] that [his] materials are inadequate to handle a particular refutation." He had also said that he would respond if the critiques were "earth shattering." But in the quoted passage directly above Cheung says Hays' critiques are "mischaracterizations," and that they are "trivial," not "good enough," and from a "lower class of intellect." And so if we are to take Cheung at his word, and assume that he's so smart, never making mistakes, then we must assume that Cheung's "materials" were "inadequate to handle" some weak, trivial, ignorant, and stupid objections, from a stupid person. That doesn't bode to well for Cheung's "materials." Indeed, why would something "trivial" be considered "earth shattering?" How does Cheung handle this seeming inconsistency from his own words? Perhaps he's just talking smack? He didn't really mean what he wrote. He wasn't being honest (and, he was, because elsewhere he's written that, "Here I will just refer all of you to the recommended readings listed on the blog entry in question (and listed again below) as my response to ALL criticisms that you can find ANYWHERE written by ANYONE on this subject. I have confidence in my products — they are accurate and irrefutable"). Well, how much stock should we put into his most recent smack talking then? If Cheung was serious in his missing post, then dire consequences result. If he was not serious, then dire consequences result.

But more can be said. Cheung's response to Hays' critique of Occasionalism is essentially to say that Hays doesn't take God into account. Hays in an atheist, according to Cheung. Says Cheung,

"Here is the problem: Where in the world is GOD in this analogy? God — remember him? In my exposition of biblical occasionalism, I refer to God's constant and active power again, and again, and again, and again, and again. It is the defining factor in both my metaphysics and epistemology. So, although I put God before him over, and over, and over, and over again, this critic completely blocks God out in his thinking, and in his representation of my epistemology. If the critic is an unbeliever, then he has simply disregarded my belief in God — the very thing we disagree about in the first place — in order to refute my knowledge of God. If the critic is a professing believer, then it is even worse, for this betrays the irreverence — even secret atheism — in his thinking. How is it possible that I can put God before the face of a "Christian" again and again, and then he answers me as if God is absent from the conversation, as if I never mentioned him? This is his "secret fudge-factor" — atheism."

Note the bolded word. Cheung thinks he has "knowledge" of his occasionalism as the biblical model. Cheung thinks he has "knowledge" of all the little pieces to his Scripturalist package. All the knowledge Cheung has, he has via his occasionalist model. But that model has two parts (P1 and P2) to it which turn against Cheung. Cheung claims:

P1: "Christian epistemology affirms that all knowledge must be immediately – that is, without mediation – granted and conveyed to the human mind by God. Thus on the occasion that you look at the words of the Bible, God directly communicates what is written to your mind, without going through the senses themselves. That is, your sensations provide the occasions upon which God directly conveys information to your mind apart from the sensations themselves. Therefore, although we do read the Bible, knowledge never comes from sensation." (Cheung, (“Ultimate Questions,” p. 38)

P2: "God causes people to believe lies as he wishes (and as Scripture teaches)..." (Cheung, "Short Answers To Several Criticisms")

God immediately and directly causes people to believe everything they believe. Lie or truth. At this point I would like to know how Cheung knows anything? How does he know that God is not deceiving Cheung? If he replies that he has deductively valid arguments, deduced from scriptural premises, he doesn't escape. This is because the argument is only good if the premises are true. Cheung takes his understanding of verses and this understanding he has was immediately conveyed to his mind by God. Could God be deceiving Cheung? How would Cheung know? Cheung could take an externalist out here, but he has not done so yet. To date, he's still and internalist. He always asks his interlocutors how they know X is true, and, how do they know that they know.

Cheung believes that the most brilliant theological minds have all had non-truths conveyed to them since he says that he has his own system and doesn't think any theologian got everything right. So, when those divines who argued for an infralapsarian position, from the texts of Scripture, their understanding of those texts was wrong, according to Cheung, and their understanding, according to Cheung, was immediately conveyed by God on the occasion that they read those texts. Is Cheung better than those men? Would God not deceive Cheung? What absolute standard does Cheung use to determine if God has not caused him to believe a lie? How was this standard obtained? If by his doctrine of occasionalism, then Cheung would need to show in a non-question begging manor that he was not deceived in this instance. But then we may ask Cheung how he came to the belief that his standard was correct and God did not deceive him in conveying this information? If by occassionalism (and it would have to be, see P1), then Cheung needs to know that God did not deceive him into thinking that his standard was the ultimate standard he could employ to determine if he had been deceived or not... ad infinitum.

Let's now give a concrete example to this argument: Cheung appears to think that he knows his apologetic method is true. On his blog he writes: "Here I will just refer all of you to the recommended readings listed on the blog entry in question (and listed again below) as my response to ALL criticisms that you can find ANYWHERE written by ANYONE on this subject. I have confidence in my products — they are accurate and irrefutable." Very well then, Cheung thinks his apologetic method is correct and he thinks he knows this. To claim to know something one must know that there is no possibility that one is wrong, according to Cheung. Or, one must have a reliable method which does not admit for error or mistake. But the method of Cheung's belief formation is just as unreliable and subject to false belief and error as, say, his points against intuition are (if not more so!). This infallibilist criteria is summed up nicely by Aquascum. Aquascum writes:

"Despite all this, we have hit upon something interesting: what Cheung is after is “an objective and infallible foundation,” and intuition is definitely not it. When one reads through “Arguing By Intuition,” Cheung’s main reason for rejecting intuition is because it doesn’t satisfy an infallibilist constraint on knowledge. Because intuition doesn’t give us certainty, then it can’t be a source of knowledge, because knowledge requires certainty, that is, a way of proceeding that is guaranteed not to lead to error.

For proof of this, consider the following, which immediately follows the quotes above:

When debating Arminians, or when reading their literature, you will notice that many of them base many of their crucial premises on intuition, and often on intuition alone. Ganssle’s pattern of argument is very common with them – they just assume that their needed premises are true because to them they seem to be true. They say that they are convinced that these premises are true (often they say that we are all convinced), and then they proceed on that basis. One of these premises is that we all seem to have free will; another is that it would seem unjust to hold someone morally accountable who does not have free will. At least in these instances, their ultimate standard of truth and morality is not God’s revelation but their own intuition. Their “seems like” seems unquestionable to them.

However, all the “seems like” could be wrong. To paraphrase Clark, it might be that we think we have free will not because we know something (that we have free will), but because we don’t know something (that we really don't have free will). It might be that some people intuitively think certain things are true because they are ignorant. Luther puts it stronger, saying that we think we have free will because we have been deceived by Satan. In any case, the debate cannot be settled by intuition alone. (Cheung,“Arguing By Intuition,” pp. 3-4)

What is the main reason Cheung rejects the appeal to intuition? Here it is clear: intuitions are fallible, while knowledge must be infallible. Thus, just because some premises “seem to be true,” or you are “convinced that these premises are true,” or your “‘seems like’ seems unquestionable” to you, this is a very bad way of proceeding. Why? Because “all the ‘seems like’ could be wrong,” that is, because intuition is fallible. To put it another way, it might be consistent with everything else we know (i.e., epistemically possible) that the intuition in question is false. As Clark puts it, “it might be that… we don’t know something,” or “it might be that some people intuitively think certain things are true because they are ignorant.” Or as Luther puts it, we might be “deceived by Satan.” Indeed, it “might be” any number of possibilities that is the source of the deception or mistake."

So if Cheung knows that his apologetic method is correct then he knows that God is not deceiving him into falsely believing it is correct. Cheung does not know this. Therefore Cheung does not know that his apologetic method is correct. Cheung would need to be able to "deduce from scripture, or find verses in scripture" which tell us that God is not deceiving Vincent Cheung in order to even have a fighting chance that God is not deceiving Vincent Cheung. But the second problem is that if he does find such a verse he needs to know that God has not deceived him into falsely understanding what the verse(s) mean!

And so Vince can keep thinking he's the best, a rou hound, but in all actuality he decimates Christianity and Christian apologetics rather than his Christian interlocutors. Oh, and by the way, we're still all waiting for Cheung to respond to his critics. But if he does, he's admitting his work is inadequate and our critiques are earth shattering. Quite a dilemma. Wouldn't want to be in his shoes.

{Note: Thanks to Patrick Chan who found the link to Taking Time To Refute Cheung via the internet archives "way back machine." If you go here and click on July 3, then scroll down until you get to the Taking Time To Refute Cheung entry. It's interesting that you cannot find it on his site, though. I searched his archives, and it is gone.}


  1. I feel like a jerk for linking to this guy just last week. His pdf on the problem of evil was pretty good, though I had no idea about this occasionalism/scripturalism nonsense.

    That's not the worst part though. His tone and teenage-level condescension is alarming.

  2. "That's not the worst part though. His tone and teenage-level condescension is alarming."

    Sorta like Paul Manata... No, I take that back. A LOT like Paul Manata.

  3. Sort of like Bullet Point? No, I take that back. A LOT liek Bullet point.

  4. Nice one, Paul.

    It gives me hope for you....

  5. Interesting...
    My heart is rather sympathetic toward Cheung though, but you are right Paul Manta, I won't want to be in his not at all. I wonder if he realize the ramification of his views?

  6. Paul, that was awesome. I miss your humor.

    (awesome Karate Kid reference! that stupid song has been in my head all day now....)