Saturday, May 05, 2007

Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe?



Have you yet reviewed Erik J. Wielenberg's book, Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe? (Cambridge University Press, 2005). I don't think such simplisms, even if coming from my friend Copan, are worthy of what we in the opposition are actually saying.


Happy to oblige, John.


How does Wielenberg's godless universe manage to contain genuine intrinsic value?...On the positive side, Wielenberg asserts an extremely strong form of ethical realism. Ethical truths are "part of the furniture of the universe". Moreover, they are not only objectively true, but are necessarily true, constituting the "ethical background of every possible universe." (p. 52). Yet it is not at all clear how most of the forms of naturalism currently on offer could support such universal and necessary ethical truths. Wielenberg announces at the start of the book that he is not the brash materialist kind of naturalist who believes that all facts are scientific facts or reducible to the language of physical science. But he goes on nevertheless to endorse a radically materialistic picture of the cosmos, where everything there is arises "through a combination of necessity and chance" (p. 3) from physical and chemical origins. Could such a picture of the universe allow for irreducible necessary truths of morality?

We are told at one point of ethical truths lying "at the very bedrock of reality, created by no-one, under no-one's control, passing judgement on the actions and character of God and man alike" (p. 67). Leaving aside the talk of "passing judgement" (which Wielenberg acknowledges to be "metaphorical"), what we are offered seems to be something like (as McDowell has termed it) 'rampant Platonism'. Yet if this is what Wielenberg's form of 'naturalism' ends up buying into -- a supposedly wholly material cosmos mysteriously conjoined with necessary values inhabiting a Platonic limbo -- one cannot but wonder why such a picture is supposed to have a decisive edge over the traditional theistic picture of a necessary being who is the eternal source of all meaning and goodness.


Naturalistic evolutionary ethics

From Paul Copan:
What about naturalistic evolutionary ethics, in which we develop an awareness of right or wrong and moral obligation to help us survive/reproduce? Ethical awareness has only biological worth.5 Such an approach leaves us with the following problems: First, can we even trust our minds if we are nothing more than the products of naturalistic evolution, trying to fight, feed, flee, and reproduce? Charles Darwin had a "horrid doubt" that since the human mind has developed from lower animals, why would anyone trust it? Why trust the convictions of a monkey's mind?6 The naturalistic evolutionary process is interested in fitness/survival-not in true belief; so not only is objective morality undermined so is rational thought. Our beliefs-including moral ones-may help us survive, but there is no reason to think they are true. Belief in objective morality or human dignity may help us survive, but it may be completely false. The problem with skepticism (including moral skepticism) is that am assuming a trustworthy reasoning process to arrive at the conclusion that I cannot trust my reasoning! If we trust our rational and moral faculties, we will assume a theistic outlook: Being made in the image of a truthful, rational, good Being makes sense of why we trust our senses/moral intuitions.

In addition, we are left with this problem: if human beings are simply the product of naturalistic evolution, then we have no foundation for moral obligation and human dignity. This could easily undermine moral motivation. The sexual predator and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer acknowledged the seriousness of the matter: "If it all happens naturalistically, what's the need for a God? Can't I set my own rules? Who owns me? I own myself."7

5Michael Ruse, The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), p. 262.

6Letter (3 July 1881) to Wm. G. Down, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin (London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1887), pp. 1:315-16.

7Jeffrey Dahmer: The Monster Within, A&E Biography (1996).

A Little Is Better Than Nothing

Advocates of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy sometimes respond to patristic contradictions of their beliefs by dismissing the patristic sources in question as representative of only a small number of people. Even if we were to accept that characterization, we ought to ask why even a minority of people would oppose something if that something is supposed to have been an apostolic tradition always held by the church, a church to which the minority in question supposedly belonged.

However, what if we have no reason to think that these people were in the minority? What if an Evangelical’s citation of, say, five or ten patristic sources is countered with one patristic source or none from the same timeframe? Objecting that five or ten isn’t everybody doesn’t change the fact that it is more than one or none. If you’re claiming that your denomination is the one true church, to which all or almost all of the earliest Christians belonged, and you’re claiming that your denomination has always taught the same things, isn’t it problematic if Evangelicals can cite more patristic support for their belief on a relevant issue than you can cite for yours?

Roman Catholics disagree among themselves, and Eastern Orthodox disagree with each other, regarding the history of their beliefs. One Eastern Orthodox will appeal to something like the popular Roman Catholic arguments for development of doctrine, whereas another Eastern Orthodox will argue that the doctrine in question was always understood and accepted by the early Christians. The anonymous Eastern Orthodox layman who posts here and goes by the screen name Orthodox is an example of the latter. After I mentioned some examples of opposition to the veneration of images during the patristic era, Orthodox ignored some of those examples and tried to dismiss the remainder with the following comment:

“Yes we know about Spain, and a couple of ECFs, and your favourite scholars."

In contrast to the sources I’ve cited, including both Christian and non-Christian sources from the ante-Nicene era, Orthodox hasn’t cited any from the earliest centuries. He’s cited some support for the use of images among some ante-Nicene sources, but use and veneration are different issues. His argument for the veneration of images focuses on patristic sources from the fourth century onward, and even in that timeframe he’s mentioned fewer sources than I’ve mentioned against his position. He could add more names to his list, as I could add more to mine, but if he thought that I was naming too few sources, then why has he named fewer in response?

Similarly, in another thread he claimed that the church had historically agreed with his interpretation of Acts 15. I asked for documentation, and he thought that producing one source (John Chrysostom) was sufficient. After I documented that even that one source actually didn’t agree with him, he left the thread without responding. Apparently, one (mistakenly cited) source is enough for him, but it’s not enough for me to cite far more than one in support of my position on an issue.

When Orthodox refers to “Spain” in the quote above, he has in mind the council of Elvira, which opposed the hanging of images of Christ in churches in the early fourth century. The council was attended by dozens of church leaders, including nineteen bishops. One of those bishops was Hosius of Cordova, who was prominent at the Council of Nicaea. Concerning him, the Eastern Orthodox patristic scholar John McGuckin writes:

“Hosius was also adviser to the emperor Constantine from 313 to the time of the Council of Nicaea I (325)….Because of his high reputation, Constantine sent him as a personal delegate to Alexandria to investigate the dispute between Arius and Alexander of Alexandria. His report became the basis for the arrangement of the Council of Nicaea. The tone was set in advance by an anti-Arian synod at Antioch in 325 where Hosius presided. He was an important speaker at Nicaea, and is thought by many to have originated the idea of inserting the term homoousion into the creed. Hosius presided over the anti-Arian Council of Sardica in 343” (The Westminster Handbook To Patristic Theology [Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004], p. 172)

It doesn’t seem likely that Hosius would have been ignorant of some apostolic tradition of venerating images that had always been held by the church. If Eastern Orthodoxy was the only denomination in the first millennium of church history, and people like Hosius belonged to that denomination, as Orthodox has claimed, then why didn't that denomination discipline Hosius for what he and dozens of other church leaders did at the council of Elvira? Why was Hosius unaware of the apostolic tradition of venerating images in the first place?

We can ask similar questions about why non-Christian sources like Celsus and Caecilius spoke as if they perceived Christians in general as opposed to the veneration of images. Why did ante-Nicene fathers from a wide variety of locations, backgrounds, personalities, etc. oppose the veneration of images in various contexts? Dismissing somebody like Eusebius of Caesarea, Epiphanius, or Hosius as an opponent of something that almost everybody else accepted isn’t a good explanation of their behavior, nor does it explain the many other sources who seem to have agreed with them. If this sort of evidence against an early patristic belief in venerating images is to be dismissed as too little, then at least our little is better than what’s offered from the other side.

Early Changes In Church Government

Orthodox wants us to know that it would be “just plain wrong” to think that the apostles allowed some freedom in some matters of church government, such as allowing churches to not have a monarchical episcopate. He writes:

“If you were going to allow freedom in something, issues related to the community and power would be the worst possible choice, as it is an issue you simply can't agree to disagree on and still have unity. Besides which we know the apostles set up churches and thus they must have had some polity. It would be just plain wrong to state they didn't decide these things one way or the other.”

But, as the Eastern Orthodox patristic scholar John McGuckin notes, there were differences in church government among the apostolic and patristic sources:

“The very earliest structures of the Christian ministerial offices are shrouded in obscurity, but by the second century there emerged a triadic form of episkopos-bishop, presbyteros-elder (which was rendered by the Old English ‘Priest’), and diakonos-deacon. This more and more replaced a range of other offices that had characterized the earliest church (such as apostolic missionaries, wandering prophets, exorcists, and didaskaloi-teachers) and became established by the end of the second century as a common pattern in most Christian communities….Although Jerome can still protest in the fourth century that the bishop and presbyter are really the same thing (and there is some ground to think this may have been so originally as the terms are interchangeable in the New Testament: Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Titus 1:5-7; and Clement of Rome uses the term in the plural [1 Clement 42; 44] to refer to the clergy of Rome), nevertheless his argument was already falling on deaf ears by his day….From that time [end of first century] onward election seems to have been an important element in the choice of all new bishops. The right of election already features in Didache chapter 15. Such communal power dwindled in Byzantine times to a mere consultation of the people (often they were expected to ‘acclaim’ the new leader), but even so there were many instances of a bishop being unable to assume duties because of the hostility of a local church who felt their wishes had been overlooked (such as the case of Proclus of Constantinople)….For all Cyprian’s insistence on his right to single episcopal authority, his own church wavered greatly over whether he, or the assembled presbyters, or the confessors had the higher standing….After the fourth century the Christian emperors increasingly honored the episcopate, and a tension can be noticed between its original conception as an office of liturgical president and teacher and its new functions as magistrate and administrator for a large diocesan area. The bishops of powerful cities in the empire came to have a greater influence than their colleagues from small towns, although the primitive principle of the equality of all bishops as icons of Christ was maintained. Even so, the bishops of the large cities came to rank as ‘metropolitans’ and commanded the governance of larger matters such as episcopal ordinations and the care of synods. The really great cities, after the time of Justinian, claimed the title patriarch (Jerusalem was added for honor’s sake) and a Pentarchy of Patriarchates was thus evolved (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) whose bishops enjoyed particular respect in international affairs.” (The Westminster Handbook To Patristic Theology [Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004], pp. 120-122)

Friday, May 04, 2007

What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You

In the comments section of this post on Scripturalism an interlocutor going by the moniker "Carl" responded. Says Carl,

Paul, I see that your main objection seems to deal with the scripturalists incapability to rationalize everything. Did it ever occur to you that Clark's intention was not to deduce everything from scripture, but to remove the human tendency to rely upon rational belief?

In other words, I see no arguments for positive knowledge in this post. Can you really say that induction is knowledge when it is based upon a formal fallacy? If Clark is wrong and the scripture is not the only irrefutable truth, then you must provide us with the method for escaping his criticisms of empiricism and induction. Why did Clark reject empiricism? Why did he (and Hume) reject induction and the scientific method and why were they wrong to?

You see, if your criticisms of Clark are correct, which I do not think that you have read much of him, then you leave us with an epistemology that is philosophically reducible to scepticism. That, of course, is unacceptable.

By way of response:

i) Carl suffers from the inability to read proceeding information which could save him embarrassment and us time. As I already mentioned, my critique was specifically aimed against contemporary Scripturalists. If Carl wants to say that, say, Dr. Robbins and Mr. Gerety don't understand Clark, all I can say is, watch out for the backlash. For me, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I can always use more people, especially Scripturalists, critiquing Scripturalists. Now, if I've pegged Scripturalism correctly, and those men do understand Clark, then I fail to see how I don't understand Clark.

ii) I never said or implied that anyone's "intention was to deduce everything from scripture." In fact, my post is predicated upon the assumption that there are millions of things Scripturalists cannot deduce from Scripture. I don't think that they think they can deduce these things. Therefore, I am not under the impression that Clark or his followers need to deduce "everything" from Scripture.

iii) Apropos (ii). My point is that they don't know their own position. My point is that if they don't offer us knowledge then what they offer is, in Gerety and Cheung's own words, "mere opinion." So, they are simply opining about the myriad issues they rant against. They say Van Til taught X, thus he's a heretic. But they don't know that he taught X. It's their unjustified opinion. They say that Clark is a respectable man, but they don't know that. They cut their drug with battery acid. The product is impure. That's my argument, and you've simply confirmed it.

iv) Unfortunately, Carl doesn't know how a reductio ad absurdum functions. That's to be expected since Carl doesn't know much of anything. He asks me to substantiate how I know things. But that's the beauty of a reductio! I only use premises my opponent accepts. So, my critique follows whether or not I can put forth any account of how I know.

v) Notice that Carl refuses to move past where we've been for the last while now. He assumes infallibilism with respects to knowledge. But he can't deduce infallibilism from Scripture. Hence it is only his mere unjustified opinion that knowledge must be infallible.

vi) That induction is deductively formally fallacious begs the question. Who said knowledge is to be had only by propositions necessarily following from deductive premises?

To accuse induction of a deductive fallacy is akin to accusing a running back for balking! To accuse a basketball player of roughing the passer. To accuse a base stealer of traveling.

To assume that knowledge cannot be probabilistic is to beg the question. Clark wouldn't appreciate your maneuvers.

vii) Since "the Scriptures," according to Carl, are the "only irrefutable truth," and since the proposition "Scripturalism is the case" is not found in Scripture then it's either not true, or it's refutable. Hence the irrefutable is refutable. Now, this seems like "Van Tillian doublespeak," to quote Gerety and Robbins.

viii) Clark rejected empiricism (which I don't hold to, by the way) because of his infallibilist constraint on knowledge and his rationalistic Cartesian categories he was operating with.

ix) Clark frequently asks for the reliability of the senses to be "demonstrated." How 'bout if I deny this? How 'bout if I take them as basic? As T. Reid says, "Why should I distrust my senses any more than my rational faculties? They both came out of the same shop, from the same maker, if one is radically defective as a means to knowledge, why think the other isn't?" That's a paraphrase.

x) Why was Clark et. al. (funny how he stands Clark next to Hume of all people!) wrong to deny knowledge by sensation, induction, and the like? They were wrong to do so because Scripture, for one, tells us that we know things by our senses. So, Scripturalism is anti-Scriptural.

xi) Funny how my epistemology reduces to skepticism. Does Carl know this? Can he deduce infallibilism, internalism, and a whole host of other epistemic assumptions from Scripture? No. Does he know that there are other human minds here on earth with him? No. Does he know that he is on earth? No. Does he know that he us saved? No. Does he know that he can have assurance of salvation? No. Does he know he is a male? No. Does he know that he is not Gordon Clark after Clark took a spill and lost his ability to reason well? No. Does he know that Clark should have been ordained? Clark could have been a woman. Is he married? Does he know his wife is a female? If not, does he know that he is not engaging in a homosexual relationship? No. And my position reduces to skepticism! Does he even know his own Scripturalist position? No. What positive epistemological status does Scripturalism have, then? And I'm reduced to skepticism? I'm only so reduced based on Carl's definition of what knowledge is and what one must do in order to be granted the honorary title. Well, I deny his constraints and deny he can deduce them from Scripture. So, Carl holds me accountable to his mere unjustified opinions on epistemology.

xii) So, the next time Carl wants to respond perhaps he can check his opinions at the door. If not, debating him, on his assumptions, is much like standing outside the ice cream parlor and debating a fellow about whether chocolate is better tasting than vanilla.

Chimerical indignation

“Here we have Gordon Clark, one of the most respected Reformed Christian elders and teachers in the last century, a man who has few peers throughout the entire history of the Christian faith, now being compared to a producer of methamphetamine. Then we have Dr. Robbins, a man I greatly respect and admire, a man who has done more for the cause of truth and freedom since the days of J. Gresham Machen, being compared to a drug pusher. This is a new low even for you Paul.”

There’s only one little problem with Gerety’s indignant reply:

According to his own epistemology, he doesn’t know that Clark existed, he doesn’t know that Clark was a widely respected elder and teacher, he doesn’t know what Clark actually taught, he doesn’t know church history, he doesn’t know that John Robbins is a real person, or Paul Manata, or J. Gresham Machen, he doesn’t know what Machen actually did with his life (assuming that he even existed), and so on. Heck, Gerety can't even know if he exists.

So, perhaps Gerety would like to favor us with an explanation as to how he proposes to validate a single one of his comparisons?

Tilling less than thrilling

I see that Chris Tilling has graced our combox. As such, now might be as good a time as any to review his attack on the inerrancy of Scripture:


My friend Jim West brought this to my attention earlier today, and though I am an evangelical myself I believe this is a deeply disturbing development.

I’ve just ranted my full frustration about this to my dear wife so I won’t repeat all that here. But while it is crucial to formulate our doctrine of Scripture so that it encourages respect for the texts and expectancy that God speaks through them, lets not pretend the texts are something they are not (and this business about perfect original manuscripts is a self defeating position, as I discussed here).

This is a step back, guys, and will only exclude those who are committed to church, Scripture and the gospel, those who are a vital, God fearing, creative and life-giving part of your own tradition. In truth this breaks my heart and is, in my opinion, a sign of immaturity.


i) His reaction is less than self-explanatory. To my knowledge, the ETS was always committed to inerrancy—at least on paper. As I recall, Roger Nicole was responsible for the wording of the original statement of faith committing the ETS to inerrancy. So how does this represent a “step back”? Rather, it represents an attempt to hold their original ground.

Over time, evangelicalism has liberalized since the founding of ETS. So that is why the ETS has adopted the Chicago Statement. To my knowledge, many of the architects of the Chicago Statement were also charter members of the ETS. So how is it a step back when the ETS adopts a document which was formulated by the same people who founded the ETS in the first place?

Is Tiling even aware of the history of the ETS? If he is, it doesn’t show.

ii) The ETS is a voluntary association. So why does it “break his heart” when the members of the ETS reserve the right to define the terms of membership?

If some of the liberal members can’t accept that, they are free to form a more liberal organization.

iii) As to excluding those who are committed to Scripture, &c. what’s the correlation between commitment to Scripture and a lower view of Scripture? Wouldn’t a lower view of Scripture correlate with a lower commitment to Scripture?

iv) Finally, let’s drop the Bible-honoring pose for a moment. What he really means is that he finds certain parts of the Bible unbelievable. And so he wants to see the ETS allow a lower view of Scripture to accommodate the disbelief of theological liberals like himself.


“It needs to be stated that the bible says nothing about itself! The bible is a collection of materials of greater or lesser accuracy to the original, and weren’t officially collected together as one till hundreds of years after they were written.”

i) Isn’t this a pretty hyperbolic claim? The Bible says nothing about itself? There are many self-referential statements in Scripture.

Does Tiling simply mean there’s no collective self-referential statement in Scripture? If so, so what? Isn’t that a rather simpleminded approach? What about the pervasive phenomenon of intertextuality in Scripture?

ii) Likewise, it’s a truism to say that you can’t have a complete canon of Scripture before the Scriptures were completed. But this doesn’t mean that the Scriptures were all written first, and then collected after the fact. Rather, composition and canonization are roughly parallel phenomena.

“Thus, when it states in Rev 22:18 ‘I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book’, it is, of course, a reference only to Revelation, as there was no bible for it to correspond to. This is obvious, but a point amazingly overlooked by many defenders of inerrancy.”

It’s true that Rev 22:18 has reference to the Apocalypse. But it’s hardly true to say “there was no bible for it to correspond to.” What about the OT canon? What about the Pentateuch? For example, the Apocalypse is a tapestry of OT allusions.

“Only by taking verses here and there and by putting them through a deductively logical wringer can one conclude a doctrine of inerrancy.”

What’s wrong with taking verses here and there? Isn’t that what Paul does in Romans? Isn’t that what the author of Hebrews is doing?

What’s wrong with deductive logic? Is Jesus illogical? Is Paul illogical? Is the author of Hebrews illogical?

Perhaps a better question would be—is Tilling illogical? However, I’m too tactful to answer that question.

“This step of deductive logic is not a scriptural leap, but rather an inductive reading of the many clear contradictions and mistakes in the bible mean we must avoid such a logical wringer. One ceases to be biblical if one states that inspiration means inerrancy… However, after all of this, there is a far stronger reason for rejecting the doctrine of inerrancy, far stronger: The witness of the bible itself, read inductively. I suggest that it can be conclusively proved that scripture is not inerrant, and the bible’s own witness to this is decisive!”

This is a good illustration of Tilling’s alarming lack of intellectual sophistication. He thinks that by citing certain “phenomena” in Scripture which, in his estimation, are erroneous, this somehow qualifies as an “inductive” disproof of inerrancy.

But this is not inductive. To the contrary, this is a classically extrinsic argument against the inerrancy of Scripture.

It is inductive in the glib sense that he is gleaning his examples from Scripture. But he is measuring those examples by an extrascriptural yardstick.

A truly inductive disproof of inerrancy would involve him in showing, from within the viewpoint of Scripture itself, that prophets, apostles, and other suchlike are fallible spokemen or penmen. Do the Bible writers view themselves as fallible? Do inspired speakers embedded in the narratives of Scripture view themselves as fallible? That is the kind of evidence which Tilling would need to educe to mount an inductive disproof of Biblical inerrancy.

But as we shall see, Tilling never does that. He never cites any Scriptural admission of its own errancy. What he does, instead, is to ransack Scripture for representative examples of what he, from his exoteric standpoint, regards as erroneous or contradictory claims. But that is not at all the same thing as citing Scriptural testimony to the errancy of Scripture.

It’s a pity that a post-graduate student is still so lacking in critical detachment that he is unable to distinguish the self-understanding of Scripture from his own extraneous value-judgments.

So even if, for the sake of argument, we were to concede that his examples of Biblical errors were, indeed, Biblical errors, there would be nothing genuinely inductive about this procedure. For even though Scripture is being used to supply the examples, it is not allowed to set the standard by which these examples are deemed to be erroneous.

Hence, Tilling is guilty of bifurcating the witness of Scripture. He is judging Scripture by Scriptural examples without judging Scripture by Scriptural standards. He has driven a wedge between Scripture as a source and Scripture as a standard. The Bible doesn’t bear witness to its own errancy. Rather, he is trolling for Biblical examples which, to his way of thinking, are erroneous. But that is by no means the same thing as a Scriptural self-witness to the errancy of Scripture.

Thus, his putatively “inductive” disproof of inerrancy is, in reality, a synthetic procedure which quarries Scripture for examples that are adjudged to be erroneous by extrascriptural criteria. You have to wonder how a student of the Bible could get so far in his studies with so little capacity to distinguish the viewpoint of a (modern liberal) reader from the viewpoint of the (Biblical) author.



There are scientific errors.
a) An example: Leviticus 11:6 and Deuteronomy 14:7 both describe the hare as a ruminant. However, as Law rightly states: ‘This is quite simply wrong and no exegetical ingenuity can make it right’


Three problems:

i) Scripture isn’t attempting to classify animals according to a scientific taxonomy. Rather, the kosher laws distinguish between clean and unclean animals. For practical purposes, one describes clean and unclean animals by superficially discernible characteristics in order to identify and differentiate clean from unclean animals.

ii) Let’s also keep in mind that the precise identification of the animals is uncertain at this distance from the events.

iii) Notice the well-poisoning move: “no exegetical ingenuity can make it right.”

So Tilling reserves the right to attack the accuracy of Scripture, but preemptively denies the right of a Bible-believing Christian to defend the accuracy of Scripture by his prejudicial use of language about “exegetical ingenuity.”

He’s trying to exempt his own position from rational scrutiny. Anyone who challenges his interpretation can be dismissed out of hand for indulging in “exegetical ingenuity” or, as he will later say, “silly explanations.”



b) Biblical cosmology asserts a flat earth, something Creationists will do their best to ignore. While your in Genesis, compare the creation accounts in Gen 1 and 2 and think about the order of creation, i.e. when humans came along in relation to the rest of creation.


Actually, what we have in Scripture are some architectural metaphors that foreshadow the tabernacle. The creation account depicts the universe in terms of sacred time and sacred space. Eden is a microcosm of the macrocosmic temple. That sort of thing.

This has been documented by many scholars (e.g. Balentine, Beale, Kline, Levenson, Walton, Wenham). Once again, how does a post-graduate student get this far in his studies while remaining so abysmally ignorant about the Biblical iconography of creation?



There are genealogical list errors.
a) Even many conservative scholars would admit this even in relation to Matt 1:1-17. Btw, in 1:17, it states: ‘from Abraham to David fourteen generations, and from David to the Babylonian exile fourteen generations, and from the Babylonian exile to the Christ fourteen generations.’ Sit yourself down and actually count how many generations there are listed in the preceding verses and see if the editor/author was any good at maths.


But a modern reader isn’t suppose to just sit down and do his own computation.” The whole point of the grammatico-historical method is put some distance between the contemporary reader’s cultural frame of reference and the original author’s frame of reference. Once more, how do you get to be a postgraduate student at Tübingen and not know the first rule of grammatico-historical exegesis? How would the implied reader hear the text? That’s the question.

As both Blomberg (53) and Nolland (86) explain in their respective commentaries, Matthew is numbering the genealogies according to the accepted conventions of the day.


There are copyist errors. Hundreds of them. And the copyists and editors saw fit to change bits of the text here and their to suit their own agendas.


How do scribal errors disprove the inerrancy of what a prophet or apostle spoke or wrote? This is a glaring non-sequitur.



There are historical errors. Just a few random examples:

a) How did Judas die? Compare, closely, the accounts in Matthew 27:3-8 and Acts 1:18-19. The differences are certainly not the result of a mere copyist error.


A couple of issues:

i) Can Tilling cite any inerrantist scholar of distinction who attributes these differences to scribal error? Of is this a straw man argument on his part?

ii) The unspoken assumption here is that he can’t imagine how these two accounts would go together. He has a mental picture of each account, and in his mind’s eye, then don’t mesh.

Speaking for myself, it’s pretty easy to imagine how what began with Mt 27:3-8 would end with Acts 1:18. Exposed corpses are devoured by scavengers. Indeed, that was sometimes done deliberately to desecrate the corpse of one’s enemy.

It’s quite easy to imagine a pack of feral dogs pulling down the corpse of Judas and feasting on his remains (1 Kg 14:11; 16:4; 21:19,23; 2 Kg 9:36). This exercise would be expedited by the softening up process of putrefaction under the hot sunshine. In fact, that would be inevitable as long as the corpse lay within reach of canine scavengers.


b) Did Paul’s companions hear the voice during the Damascus road experience? Acts 9:7 ‘The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one’. Acts 22:9 ‘Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me’.


“The traditional understanding is that with the genitive akouo means to hear but not to understand, while with the accusative akouo means to hear and understand; or that the genitive is concerned with the form of speech but the accusative with the content. It is also possible that the genitive inn Acts 9:7 refers to Paul’s voice,” S. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament (Sheffield 1995), 97.



c) What colour robe was Jesus forced to wear? Compare Matt 27:28-29 with John 19:2-3.


This is a good example of someone who operates with a wooden version of inerrancy. The finer shades of overlapping spectra are inherently imprecise, and which synonym an author chooses to use is a judgment call.

The irony is that Tilling makes fun of Lindsell’s wooden precisionism, but he himself operates with the very same stiff literality when attacking the veracity of Scripture.



d) How many Syrians did David slay? Compare 2 Sam 10:18 and 1 Chron 19:18.


Three possibilities:

i) This may be a case of scribal error. Numbers are prone to transcriptional error.

ii) It may be a case of how to render the Hebrew, as Youngblood points out in his commentary. Cf. EBC 3:925.

iii) Or it may be a case in which either or both writers are using numerology. Notice that both occurrences revolve around the number “seven.” As one commentator has noted in a different, but related context, “there appear to be literary conventions governing the use of names and numbers,” I. Provan, 1 & 2 Kings (Hendrickson 1995), 7.

“It’s interesting to find the figure ‘seven thousand’ occurring yet again, since that is the number of ‘the remnant’ in 1 Kgs 19:18 (cf. Also the additional note to 1 Kgs 20:15), ibid. 281n56.”



e) For more, do a bible study on these questions like: Who is the father of Joseph?


One should make allowance for the fact that in a tribal society with such customs as endogamy and levirate marriage, kinship and descent were construed more broadly than in our own culture. Once needs to be sensitive to the cultural conventions of that time and place.



Who was at the Empty Tomb?


Tilling’s unspoken assumption seems to be that unless each gospel author names the same people in the same chronological order, we have a material contradiction on our hands. But why should we assume that?

Does each gospel author presume to name everyone who frequented the tomb? Does each gospel author presume to present a strictly chronological account?

Moreover, why assume that each individual or party only visited the empty tomb just once on Easter? No return visits? Wouldn’t you go back more than once?



How many times did the ‘cock crow’ (Peter’s denial of Jesus)? Etc.


Once again, he seems to be assuming that the gospels are factually erroneous unless each gospel reproduces every extraneous detail. But as R. T. France points out, “Matthew’s omission (together with Luke and John) of Mark’s ‘twice’ with reference to the cock-crow is typical of his tendency to leave out unnecessary narrative details,” Matthew (IVP 1987), 371.

“To make an issue of historical harmonization out of this obvious simplification is surely pedantic,” ibid. 371-72n3.

“Why then does Mark have the cock crowing twice, and later make a point of mentioning the crowings in his narrative at vv.72? The simplest explanation, particularly for those who take seriously the tradition that Peter was himself the source of much of the material in Mark’s gospel, is that Mark preserves the account in its fullest and most detailed form (as Peter himself would have remembered and repeated it), but that the double cockcrow was omitted as an unnecessary additional detail in the other accounts. There is after all nothing improbable in a repeated crowing: even a single cock would be unlikely to crow once and then stop, and if there were others in the neighourhood they would take it up,” The Gospel of Mark (Eerdmans 2002), 579.



There are factual errors
a) One example: Matt 27:9-10 cites a passage that the author/editor claims to have come from Jeremiah. But where did it really come from? Zech 11:12-13.


What we have here is a composite quote. As Nolland explains, “Some interpreters are content to consider ‘Jeremiah” in Mt 27:9 a simple mistake, indicating limited access to scriptural texts on the part of Matthew. But the series of links with texts in Jeremiah which we have been exploring count strongly against this view. Matthew has other quotations that merge texts: Mt 2:5-6 merges Mi 5:1 with 2 Sa 5:2; Mt 21:4-5 merges Is 62:11 and Zc 9:9,” The Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans 2005), 1156n322.

And Keener also notes that “given his ability to retranslate the entire Hebrew text based on revocalization…it is unlikely that Matthew simply got his attribution wrong,” A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans 1999), 657n140.

The irony of Tilling is that while he mocks the literality of Lindsell, and tell us that he’s left his “fundy” upbringing far behind, Tilling continues to operate with a pop fundamentalist hermeneutic. He reads the Bible the same way that Lindsell or LaHaye, and then judges it to be errant on the basis of his hereditary, pop fundamentalist hermeneutic.



It’s writers often supported theological errors, and the biblical tradition later corrects and contradicts itself. It makes theological statements that are such that one or other is true, not both. Many tend to call this phenomenon a ‘tension’. But aren’t many simply contradictions, thus making the contrary theological assertion an error? This is the essence of ‘sublation’ I mentioned first here.

a) The righteous will get along dandy thanks (Proverbs), or perhaps in real life things are not so simple (Ecclesiastes). Cf. Childs OT work on this.


Another example of pop fundamentalism, in which you treat the Book of Proverbs as a promise box. Yet this is not based on either a close reading of Proverbs or a proper understanding of genre criticism. As Bruce Waltke points out, “they do not assert that divine retribution operates like clockwork. Statements like 11:56 need to be qualified by other proverbs,” The Book of Proverbs 1-15 (Eerdmans 2004), 76.

“As noted above, the epigrammatic nature of the proverbs often causes the audience to overlook the counterproverbs that qualify these promises,” ibid. 108.

And as Tremper Longman also notes, “Another feature of a proverb is that it does not teach a universally valid truth. On the contrary, proverbs are true only if stated at the right time and in the right circumstance. A number of proverbs makes this explicit…The time-sensitive nature of proverbs is not unique to Hebrew wisdom: it is inherent in the proverb form…The point is clear. The conditions for the truth of the proverb must be explored before or as it is being applied,” Proverbs (Baker 2006), 31-32.

“Proverbs are not promises or guarantees, but rather that rewards and punishments are (dis)incentives of certain types of behavior. The proverbs direct one toward that behavior most likely to produce beneficial results—all things being equal,” ibid. 33.

“It is in the nature of the proverb not to give promises but rather to indicate the best route toward reward—all things being equal…A single proverb does not intend to address all the nuances of a situation; it just gives a snapshot of life to motive proper behavior,” ibid. 85.



b) Will all be saved in the end?


A several issues:

i) Notice that, according to Tilling, the Bible gives contradictory information on who will be saved. Everyone? Or only a subset of humanity?

If the Bible can’t even give a consistent answer on something as fundamental as who will be saved, then how can Tilling regard the Bible as reliable in any respect?

ii) Also keep in mind that Tilling is presumably alluding to NT theology. In that event, later biblical tradition didn’t correct earlier biblical tradition. Rather, the contradiction lies in later biblical tradition.

iii) If he’s alluding to the use of universal quantifiers (“all”), then this is yet another example of his hermeneutical naiveté. How did he get this far in his studies without mastering the distinction between denotation and connotation, intension and extension?

A universal quantifier doesn’t pick out any particular referent. Rather, the referent is supplied by the context, and not the quantifier.



c) Will God punish the children for the father sin or not?


I assume Tilling is alluding to an apparent contradiction between the alleged emphasis on corporate responsibility in the Mosaic law over against the alleged emphasis on individual responsibility in Ezk 18. If so, then he has grossly oversimplified the teaching of both, as can be seen had he bothered to consult Block and Duguid on Ezk 18, for starters.


d) Can God be seen? Yes or no?


Yet another pseudoproblem. On the one hand, God is essentially invisible. On the other hand, God can manifest himself in theophanies. For example, a theophanic angelophany is a manifestation of God. This distinction is repeatedly drawn in Scripture. Cf. J. Niehaus, God at Sinai: Covenant & Theophany in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (Zondervan 1995).



e) Does God change? Do a bible study.


The Bible uses many theological metaphors for God, drawn from human affairs. God is a king, husband, father, &c. Once a certain role is (self-)assigned to God, there are various, dramatic aspects that come with the role. He plays his part.

But to take this too literally is to confuse reality with play-acting, history with histrionics. This is theological theater.



f) Matthew 5:19 ‘Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’ But isn’t this exactly what the early church went on to do?


Tilling has such an undisciplined mind. If the early church was inconsistent with Mt 5:19, how does that show that Mt 5:19 is theologically erroneous?



Now I am an evangelical Christian, but I simply refuse to accept the many silly ‘explanations’ for some of the sort of errors I’ve outlined above. To do so would be to ‘leave brain at door before you come in’. Such data as that contained in the points above is, I think, irrefutable reason for rejecting the inerrancy of the bible as defined in my first post in this series.


Actually, Tilling has done a wonderful job of leaving his brain at the door. He is attacking inerrancy by raising one brainless objection after another.



‘But, Chris’, some may respond, ‘these are hardly serious errors to significantly challenge our understanding of what is necessary for salvation’! I agree. But the doctrine of inerrancy is making a claim that the investigation of smaller details can either falsify or verify. In this case, inerrancy is soundly falsified.


Other issues aside, if he thinks the Bible speaks with more than one voice on how many people are saved, then this is not a “smaller detail,” but goes directly to “our understanding of what is necessary for salvation.”

What is Tilling’s problem, exactly? Is it that he’s not terribly bright? Is that why he contradicts himself so readily?

Or is he an intellectual slouch? Certainly he’s made no concerted effort to consult the standard exegetical literature before compiling his laundry list of Biblical “errors.”



In light of this quote, here are four more problems, as I see them, with the doctrine of inerrancy.
The doctrine of inerrancy cannot safeguard an objective interpretation of the Scriptures, and even undermines it. Why is this so? When the Bible is read through the eyes of the ‘faith commitment’ of inerrancy, it is inevitable that one then seeks to explain away the contradictions and tensions found therein, to harmonise - even though the Bible is as Jaspers says. The difficulties of the harmonisation agenda can be clearly seen by reading a representative book that attempts just such a thing: H. Lindsell’s, The Battle for the Bible. In it he attempts to reconcile the contradictions in the Gospel accounts concerning when the cock crowed in relation to Peter’s denials of Jesus. In his harmonisation, Lindsell ends up having to say, in the name of harmonisation, that Peter must have denied Jesus six times! However, not only does this detract the reader from what each Gospel is trying to say, but also ends up invalidating all of the Gospel accounts!


i) It’s true that commitment to inerrancy can sometimes lead to forced or fanciful harmonizations. However, Tilling uses the very same hermeneutical approach as Lindsell. He shares the same assumptions, but draws a contrary conclusion.

ii) In addition, the denial of inerrancy can also lead one to take the easy way out. Indeed, Tilling illustrates this mentality to perfection. Because he comes to the Bible with the assumption that Scripture is errant, we are treated his shallow, knee-jerk misreading of Scripture. He simply assumes that this or that passage is wrong, and that’s the end of it. No need for further study. His attitude breeds superficiality.


The doctrine of inerrancy also promotes ‘misleading expectations’ (Models for Scripture, 278) regarding the content in nature of Scripture. Having come from a Fundamentalist background and my then affirmation of inerrancy, it was an extremely difficult process for me to start reading the Bible more intelligently, with all of my critical faculties. My faith itself came into question, something that forced me to reanalyse my doctrine of Scripture. I suspect that the Ehrmans and Funks of this world exist precisely, or at least partly, because of the promotion of the doctrine of inerrancy. The doctrine is so fragile because it doesn't measure up to reality.


No, the false expectation which illogical minds like Tilling, Funk, and Ehrman are suffering from is the assumption that if Scripture were inerrant and inspired, then there would be no obscurities in the record of Scripture.


This ‘misleading of expectations’ manifests in another way. It encourages evangelism to treat the honest and serious questions of many people in a flippant way and demand that, in order to become Christian, some have to turn off their brains. This comes to the fore all the more clearly in the doctrinal statements of many organisations and churches which place the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture right at the top. This is a travesty!


Actually, nothing is more flippant than the way in which Tilling rattles off one lame-brained objection after another. Tilling is one of these conceited individuals who prides himself on his intellectual attainments when, in fact, his actual performance is distinguished by its slipshod, anti-intellectualism.



The oft quoted 2 Tim 3:16 passage, in light of the fact that the quotes from the OT in 2 Tim come from the LXX, not the original autographs or even original Hebrew, suggests the author/editor of 2 Tim seemed happy to ascribe inspiration to (faulty) copies, not original autographs.


No, what I take it to mean is that Paul is ascribing inspiration to copies in a derivative sense. Even faulty copies are inspired in the derivative sense that when a translation or copy of what an OT prophet said or wrote accurately preserves or accurately renders what he said or penned, then it’s equivalent to the original utterance.



Why was God so careful to inspire texts so thoroughly, overriding human imperfections, only to give up once the final ‘full stop’ was penned, and allow for variety and error? Can a reasonable theological explanation for this be given? It suggests that what God starts, he won’t bring to completion (cf. Phil 1:6).

If God can mediate his truth through imperfect copies, which inerrantists will insist, then isn’t the necessity for the theory of flawless autographs immediately nullified? (For these three points, cf. the discussion in Law’s Inspiration, 90-93)


Two issues:

i) That’s the wrong way to frame the issue. Whether or not the Urtext is inerrant is a factual question, not a pragmatic question. The case for or against the inerrancy of the Urtext does not depend on the practical value of inerrant autographs.

ii) How do we keep time? Ultimately, by Greenwich mean time.

Of course, most of us don’t consult GMT directly when we set our clocks and watches. Rather, we use other sources. But, ultimately, these other sources need to be calibrated against GMT to be accurate.

Now suppose, for some reason, that GMT were no longer accessible. In that event, we’d have to set some clocks and watches by other clocks and watches.

Does this mean there was never any value in having GMT? Hardly. For even if we lost that absolute standard of comparison, we still have various timepieces which were set to that standard when it was accessible.

And some clocks or watches keep better time than others. A cesium clock is more accurate than a Timex.

So even if GMT was now inaccessible, we are far better off for having had that frame of reference than if we never had any absolute standard whatsoever against which to calibrate all our clocks and watches. And the same can be said of textual criticism.



And most importantly - there are errors in the Bible that simply cannot be accounted for by copyist errors.


This is a straw man argument since no reasonable inerrantist would argue otherwise. But there’s a typology of scribal error. Scribes tend to make certain kinds of mistakes. So there’s nothing unreasonable about attributing a mistake to scribal error when, in fact, it’s the kind of mistake a scribe was liable to make.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Sean Gerety "responds" to my critique of Scripturalism.

"I didn't think it was possible, but I think we've hit a whole new low.

Manata compared Gordon Clark to a meth dealer complete with myself and Dr. Robbins as his pushers.

I guess people can start calling me Sean "The Pusher" Gerety and can simply refer to Dr. Robbins as 'Scarface.'"

By way of reply:

1) Notice how he's always so complimentary towards Dr. Robbins.

2) Who is "we?" Hardly anyone is a Scripturalist. Last count there were 12, I think. And, most people will have a hard time sympathizing with a Scripturalist who thinks he's been verbally assaulted. I mean, don't most people cheer when bullies get their comeuppances.

3) Gerety seeks to totally avoid dealing with the substance of the post. Instead, he tries to gain the sympathy vote. Appeals to pity.

4) I compared myself to a meth dealer, since I was one. I said the drug he was pushing was "Scripturalism."

5) Gerety doesn't take into account the disclaimer I built into the post. Quoting myself:

"But first, a word about the drug use rhetoric. First, I do happen to think that Scripturalism is dangerous for your epistemic and spiritual health. However, my linking it to drugs is just for rhetorical purposes. It’s intended to bring a bit of humor to otherwise boring philosophical debates. Second, some may say it is fallacious. Guilt by association. Poisoning the well. Well, I have already covered why I have employed drug abuse terminology, and I base no argumentative weight on styling the debate in this fashion other than it serves to make an important point by colorful metaphor. But more importantly, the above listed fallacies are not included in SC and therefore the Scripturalists do not know that I’m arguing fallaciously, and thus shouldn’t get upset at what they opine that I am doing."

6) Gerety doesn't understand metaphors and analogies. Of course I don't think those guys are really dealing illegal substances, but they are dealing something. Gerety is well known for "pushing" Clark. I actually think Scripturalism has bad epistemic effects, a sort of cognitive rot. This is also analogous.

7) Notice more similarities, I attack Gerety's "precious" and he responds back by irrationally trying to gain pity for himself rather than deal with reality. When a drug users drug is taken away, or attacked, or, more appropriately, his stash is flushed down the toilet, they frequently have irrational conniption fits. I actually can recall back in '96 when I roid raged on my brother for not wanting to inject Deca in my rear! So, there's some analogy here.

8) Reiterating: The point of the metaphor was apropos, I think. Drugs that are cut with battery acid are impure. Scripturalism cuts its drug (i.e., it's specific view of epistemology) with what they would refer to as battery acid (i.e., opinions, assumptions, extra-biblical appeals, etc.,). There conclusions are more certain that their premises, and I recall Clark harping on this in Thales to Dewey (cf. his section on Aristotle, I'm too lazy to cite the page number).

9) So, rather than throwing a temper tantrum, appealing to pity, avoiding the argument, perhaps Gerety would actually like to engage the argument(s)?

10) It's sad to see a grown man running and "telling" on other people. Appealing to schoolyard tactics. Trying to get the most kids on his side. Watch out, mess with Gerety's "precious," and here comes the rumor mill. Attempting to destroy a reputation is so much easier than destroying an argument; especially when, as Christians, we have no reputation to speak of anyway.

Him We Proclaim

Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from all the Scriptures by Dennis Johnson (download Chapter 1 for free).

Scripturalist Were Offended By This Post, So I Removed Offensive Content

I would like to deal with in this post is known as Scripturalism. (Scripturalism is the name given to Gordon Clark's philosophical views which state, according to contemporary Scripturalists like John Robbins, Sean Gerety, etc., that all knowledge is either propositions expressely stated in Scripture, or deducible via necessary inference from Scriptural propositions. Hence man cannot know anything by induction, his senses, science, common sense, intuition, the "light of nature," etc. This is a rough and ready definition.)

As a brief digression, we can pause and note that some Scripturalists will say that the Confession and the Bible only speak of an assurance of salvation. First, the Bible actually does say we can know that we are saved (cf. 1 John). Secondly, the problem only gets pushed back. Scripturalists deny that they can “know” that they are saved, but they say that they can have “assurance.” However, how does a particular Scripturalist know that he can have assurance. Only those who do X can have assurance, and Scripturalists cannot know that they have done X (whatever X is). So, they can be assured if they have done X, but they don’t know if they have indeed done X since they can’t deduce that, say Scripturalist Y, has followed Jesus commands, loves the brethren, etc., from the Bible. Therefore, no Scripturalist has a right to claim that he knows that he is in a state of assurance.

Sean Gerety presents Scripturalism as: by saying that knowledge is limited to “that which can be known to Scripture and all those things necessarily deducible from Scripture. […] We can't let Christians restrict knowledge to just the Scriptures and their necessary inferences, what then will become of our opinions?” (The last sentence, in case you were wondering, intends to be sarcastic. However, in case you are wondering what I am, how does Sean Gerety “know” what is sarcasm and what is not? Well, we can save that for another time.)

We should note, then, that for Gerety (and Orthodox Scripturalism) to grant a person S the honorary title of “S knows P,” S’s knowledge must be “Scripture and all those things necessarily deducible from Scripture.” That is, if S knows P, then S had better have P directly stated in Scripture, or P had better be deducible from propositions directly stated in Scripture. If these criteria are not met, then P is “opinion” and not “knowledge.” Now, we should note that this stricture cannot itself be known. That is, Scripturalism’s epistemological limits limit its epistemological limits (say that 10 times fast!). That is, it rules itself out as a candidate for knowledge. This has been pointed out here, for example. We can refer to Scripturalism’s Constraint this way:

SC: For any proposition P to be an object of knowledge, P must either be directly stated in Scripture or deducible via necessary inference (i.e., by deductive logic) from scriptural propositions.

Now, if P does not meet the constraint laid out in SC, then P is opinion. Our president, Aquascum, has labeled this the Scripturalist Exclusion Principle (SEP). SEP can be stated (with a bit of rewording on my end) thusly:

SEP: Propositions not in categories SC amount to “opinion” at best.

Therefore, if P is not a member of SC then it is a member of SEP. If P is not a member of SC, then it is an unknowable opinion, that is.

This particular illustration has not been analyzed, and so that will be my meager contribution to all the work done before me and for me.

Having set the stage above, it is now time to look at my specific example. Recall that in order to know something P, P must meet the criteria laid out in SC. So, someone was looking to see if Scripturalism had a particular drug for sale. They asked, “Where do you derive the law of non-contradiction” from? Alternatively, one could state the question thus, “how do you know that the law of non-contradiction holds?” To answer, our drug dealer begins by claiming to have pure stuff: “Where do I derive the law of non-contradiction? From the Scriptures of course.” So far so good. And so now, we would of course like to see the deduction from Scripture. Gerety gives us some of his friend “George Macleods Coghill's arguments to make his case. Here is the deduction:


"That [the law of non-contradiction LNC] and [the law of excluded middle LEM] are deliverances of scripture comes from 1 John 2:21:

No falsehood (pseudos) is of the truth.

That as it stands is a pretty good declaration of the law of contradiction. It says that there is no proposition (x) that is both a falsehood and of the truth (ie a member of the class of true propositions).

Note that this is a universal negative. That is, it applies to every member of the class, which in this case is propositions. Now, that it applies to all propositions not just those in scripture should be obvious from the fact that there are no falsehoods in scripture.

Let Tx stand for 'x is of the truth', and Fx stand for x is a falsehood.

Then we can put it into symbolic logic as:

~3x(Fx & Tx) ---(1)

where '~' means 'not' and '3x' means 'there exists an x'

By de Morgans laws this is equivalent to:

~3x~(~Fx + ~Tx) ---(2)

Now in scripture there are (as far as I can see) only two types of proposition spoken of: true ones and false ones. (If you disagree then please show where scripture indicates differently.) Also, as far as I can see, these two are in contradiction to one another (see the references Sean gave the other day). Again if you disagree then please show the error from scripture.

That being the case (2) can be rewritten as:

~3x~(Tx + Fx)

Then by quantifier conversion this becomes:

(x)(Tx + Fx)

(where '(x)' means 'for all x')

Restating this in longhand it becomes:

For every proposition, x, it is the case that either x is of the truth or x is a falsehood.

And that is the law of the excluded middle.

[I used predicate logic first because it is easier to see what is going on and since when talking about contradictions predicate logic and Aristotelian logic give the same results.]

For completeness, I shall do the same with Aristotelian logic:

No falsehood is of the truth can be written formally as:


which by conversion can also be written as:


As I said that is as good a statement as any of lc.

Then by obversion this becomes:


and since T is equivalent to F' (as stated previously) we get

A(T, T) ---(3)

which is the law of identity.

Now recall from Clark's "Logic" that the universal affirmative can be written in symbolic terms as:

A(a, b) = (a < b)[(b < a) + (a < b')'(b' < a)']

So substituting from (3) into this gives:

(T < T)[(T < T) + (T < T')'(T' < T)]

Expanding gives:

(T < T)(T < T) + (T < T)(T < T')'(T' < T)

I am not going to go through this step by step (you can check it for yourself) but it should be pretty obvious that the left hand side of this disjunction reduces to 'T" and the right hand side reduces to 'F'

So we have:

T + F

Which is the law of the excluded middle, and states that every proposition is either of the truth or is a falsehood.

As a final note. This should be taken as a demonstration that [the law of non-contradiction LNC] and [the law of excluded middle LEM] are deliverances of scripture. Since one has to assume them in order to proceed it constitutes proof only in the sense of implicit self reference along the lines of 2 Tim 3:16 or God swearing by himself. "

_______END QUOTE_________

I will show that this argument cannot be deduced from Scripture by advancing three objections: (1) this deduction, even without the other problems, is irrelevant for the Scripturalist to use in support of their system, (2) philosophical problems, and (3) questionable theological and exegetical assumptions. Together (1) - (3) constitute a ratio of one part Scripturalism, three part battery acid.

The Irrelevancy Objection

Frequently Gerety pushes the above deduction as a proof of Scripturalism. He will cite with glee that “of course I can deduce the law of non contradiction LNC from Scripture, since we know it, then it must meet my criteria, and here’s the deduction!” He will also boast, “if you think you can respond to this argument, let me know and I’ll pass it along to Coghill as I’m sure he’d love to see how you could possibly offer objections against it.” It thus seems as if this deduction serves as some sort of validation for the boastings of Scripturalists. Nevertheless, say that this deduction did not suffer from any of the problems I will shortly mention. Why would a Scripturalist of all people find confidence for his position based on this single deduction? That one item of knowledge can be deduced from propositions in Scripture hardly implies that all items of knowledge can. The Scripturalist makes a bold claim and no amount of inductive evidence should serve to bolster their faith in that claim; least of which is the fact that Scripturalists decry inductions as “necessarily fallacious.” Hence, even if this deduction works, the Scripturalist should not boast in it. It is actually irrelevant as a support for his position. Especially since “induction is a fallacy,” the Scripturalist should take zero comfort in the alleged fact that they have deduced the LNC and the LEM from Scripture. Therefore, I find no reason that a non-Scripturalist should allow the above to be used as a bully tactic to show that Scripturalism is the case. Perhaps if induction was allowed, and Scripturalists amassed thousands of these deductions (say about the existence of other minds, the past, the crow in my back yard, etc), then they could say that they have made a strong case for Scripturalism. However, they deny induction, and so showing that the LNC and LEM is deducible from Scripture does not come close to showing that all knowledge must be limited to “Scripture and all those things necessarily deducible from Scripture.”

The second point that I will make in regards to the irrelevancy objection is that a Muslim can do the same thing from the Koran. In various suras it is clear that “lies” are distinguished from “truths.” Or, “false propositions” from “true propositions.” In 12:27 we see that if what one states is the case, then one is not a liar. No lies can state what actually is the case, that is. We also read other suras, which tell us that we should mix the lie with truth, presupposing that they are distinct. Likewise, take Ether 3:12 in The Book of Mormon. We read that that a lie cannot be the truth. Alternatively, take a made up religion, Frollyhoohi, it states, “No lie is of the truth.” In addition, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have 1 John 2:21 in their NWT Bible. Therefore, JW’s can “deduce” the LNC and LEM from their holy book as well. The point should be obvious. False religions and made up religions can also have the LNC and the LEM “deduced” from their scriptures. Therefore, Gerety’s boasting in his deductions appears to be superfluous. It seems like it does not really offer any support for his position. A Muslim can make the same point as a Scripturalist. Therefore, I find that even without the problems I will bring out below, the above deduction is irrelevant in providing any positive support for Scripturalism.

The third and final point, which will show the irrelevancy of this above deduction, will be done by pointing out that Dr. Coghill appeals to “De Morgan’s laws.” However, nowhere were De Morgan’s laws “deduced” from Scripture. If not all laws need to be deduced, or find a basis in Scripture, why does the LNC? A proof that all laws of logic are found in Scripture is not going to be compelling if said proof must make use of laws that are not in Scripture. It seems pointless to go about “deducing” laws from Scripture when you have other laws that you hold to which are not so deduced.

General Philosophical Objections

Objection I: Notice that Coghill says that, “Now in scripture there are (as far as I can see) only two types of proposition spoken of: true ones and false ones. (If you disagree then please show where scripture indicates differently.)” Notice that he makes a positive claim but then says that it is the job of his opponent to show that the claim is untrue. This is dubious. However, say I mention this proposition:

(*) This sentence is false.

Now, is (*) true or false? According to the Scripturalist, it must be one or the other. However, if it is true that (*) is false, then (*) is false, not true. But, if (*) is false then (*) is true. Furthermore, for over 2,000 years adherents for both of the above answers have put forth very strong arguments for their respective takes on the paradox. Thus it appears that (*) is true if and only if it is false. Since (*) is one or the other, then it is both.

Say that the Scripturalist says that (*) is meaningless, and this is not a proposition. Nevertheless, why is it meaningless? For the Scripturalist to remark, “Because then we’d run into paradoxes,” or “Because propositions must be either true or false,” seems to be both ad hoc and question begging. Why would the Scripturalist ask for an example of a proposition that is neither, or both, true or false when he already believes that no such proposition could exist? His comment has the air of intellectual integrity, but it is just a façade if he a priori will not accept an example of a proposition that may be both (or neither) true and false.

Say that the Scripturalist says that if true contradictions exist, then language cannot be meaningful since for a proposition to be meaningful it must rule something out. However, this seems obviously false. Take this proposition:

(**) Everything is true.

It appears, even if false, that (**) is meaningful, yet it rules nothing out.

Other attempts to deal with (*) turn on systems of logic other than traditional Aristotelian logic. However, solutions like Kripke’s use a three-valued logic where propositions can be true, false, or neither. Thus, this out would undermine the assumption of bivalence the Scripturalist makes for his deduction to work.

My point in the above is not that I accept dialetheism, paraconsistent logic, three-valued logic, or that there can be no answer to the liar paradox (i.e., (*)). Even if I did accept one of those, that is not my point. My point is that the Scripturalist has to make a whole lot of assumptions, which are not deducible from Scripture, for his argument even to get off the ground. He mixes battery acid with the pure stuff.

Objection II: Let’s say that I try to offer an example from Scripture to show that propositions do not have to be either true or false. Say Proverbs 26:4-5,

4 Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.

And so one possible interpretation would be,

(***) Fools are to be answered according to their folly.


(****) Fools are not to be answered according to their folly.

Now, prima facie, if (***) is true then (****) is false. However (****) cannot be false since its Scripture. Maybe it is both true and false or neither true or false. Since it is at least prima facie contradictory or paradoxical, one will need to produce an interpretation which resolves any logical tension. Nevertheless, there is a prima facie tension. Mathew Henry notes of this verse “See here the noble security of the scripture-style, which seems to contradict itself, but really does not.” Mathew Henry says that these verses give us wisdom as how to answer fools. That is, on the one hand, do not engage in lying or dishonesty, but on the other hand you can give him an answer so he does not boast in his “wisdom” and think his arguments “unanswerable.” We also have Greg Bahnsen who says that this text tells us how to do apologetics. That is, we can accept a worldview “for arguments sake” and show how it, according to its own presuppositions, reduces to foolishness. But, on the other hand, we should not take on the “folly” (or, presuppositions) of the “fool” (or, non-Christian) as if we truly accepted them as our own since to start with unbelieving presuppositions means one will end in unbelief. Others, like Dr. Bullinger, say that this is a case of “ellipsis” and Solomon is trying to tell us in two ways that we should answer a fool, in any case.

Now how does the Scripturalist know which is the right way to understand this passage? Certainly, they can offer a way of looking at the passage that resolves the tension, but if they cannot deduce this from the Bible then they do not know it. If they do not know it then they do not know that the Bible only speaks in bivalent terms regarding propositions being either true or false.

The same caveat as the above will be given here. I am not saying that I cannot know how to interpret the text in a non-contradictory way, or that it is ultimately paradoxical. I am simply saying that the Scripturalist, given his strictures, cannot know that the Bible speaks only about propositions being either true or false. He can give his interpretation to the verses, but he does not know (on his own terms) that it is the correct way to interpret the verses, and so he does not know that we do not have an example of true and false, or neither true nor false, propositions. The Scripturalist must incorporate extra-biblical hermeneutical rules, extra-biblical knowledge of Hebrew, Greek (in the case of the Septuagint), and English, extra-biblical grammatical rules, etc. But how can he do this given his own rules? He doesn't know any of the extra-biblical data, but it is vital to his conclusion. If he doesn't know the crucial premises and assumptions, how doe he know his conclusion?

Objection III: 1 John 2:21 does not give us any information regarding God’s knowledge of future events. Many would argue that true events are neither true nor false. At any rate, this has been debated for thousands of years.

(*****) Will there be a sea battle tomorrow?

Now, (*****), according to the principle of bivalence, has one of two possible answers: Yes or No. However, if there was a sea battle, then “no” was not right answer, the future and our actions are determined. But, some hold that the truth-value can only be given when the event occurs. Others say that different possible futures instantiate different answers to the question. Of course, Aristotle said that the principle of bivalence found an exception here. That is, the proposition “No there will not be a sea battle tomorrow,” is, today neither true nor false. However, that of course flies in the face of the assertion that “all propositions are either true or false.”

Now of course all good reformed folk believe that God knows the future, and if he knows that there will be a sea battle tomorrow, then it is false that today it is neither true or false that there will be a sea battle tomorrow. But my point is a subtle one. My point is that this reformed idea of foreknowledge and the ontological status of the future cannot be deduced from 1 John 2:21. Hence other assumptions are brought to bear on the deduction from 1 John 2:21. But the idea that propositions can only be true or false is a crucial component in the deduction!

It should be clear that the philosophical objections in I - III have dealt with the claim that “Scripture only speaks of two types of propositions, true or false ones.” It has been asserted that if one thinks otherwise then one has the burden of showing this. I have pointed out that this is a dubious move, since the Scripturalist makes the positive claim without deducing it from the Bible. I have also brought forth what can function as undercutting defeaters for their claim, and argued that in I and II the Scripturalist cannot deduce the falsity of contrary interpretations, and in III I showed that the Scripturalist makes assumptions about the truth-value of future propositions that are not deducible from 1 John 2:21. Since the bivalent principle is crucial to the deduction from 1 John 2:21, but 1 John 2:21 does not imply or support this principle, then it is false to claim that the LNC and LEM are “deduced from 1 John 2:21” alone. I have other philosophical objections that do not have to do with commenting on the claim about propositions made by Dr. Coghill. I will offer one last objection.

Objection IV: Notice that there is reference to propositions, classes, class membership, etc. Where is the deduction of all this from 1 John 2:21? There is the use of Aristotelian logic, conversion and obversion, where has this been deduced? Remember that he asks his readers to “recall” from “Clark’s logic textbook” some other rules of inference. Hence, he presupposed the reliability of memory when giving this proof. Where is the basic reliability of memory, for a particular person, deduced from Scripture? Notice that he relies on Aristotelian logic and its notion of contradictions. However, this assumes that all propositions have existential import. Where has this been deduced from Scripture, let alone I John 2:21? Therefore, the “deduction” included a whole host of assumptions, many extra-biblical ones at that, which could not be obtained from 1 John 2:21.

Theological and Exegetical Objections

1 John 2:21 reads, in every translation, “I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” From this the Scripturalist gets, “No falsehood (pseudos) is of the truth.” And from there he gets, “no proposition (x) is both a falsehood and of the truth (ie a member of the class of true propositions).” That’s some fancy footwork. To the incautious observer, the transitions may seem like smooth sailing, like how a duck glides across a pond. But, if one looks underneath the water, the duck’s feet are moving a mile a minute; fancy footwork.

And so we must ask why “lie” is taken to mean “false proposition?” The first thing we can note is that Scripture has a broader definition of “lie” than “to state what is not the case.” For example, Psalm 58:3 tells us that “from the womb [the wicked] are wayward and speak lies.” Surely, infants do not utter propositions that try to state what is not the case. However, perhaps the Scripturalist will remark that his rendering of the passage is acceptable since the set of “false propositions” fits within the class of “lies.”

Granting this for a moment, why is “truth” taken to mean “true propositions?” In Johannine usage, the “truth” is synonymous with God. In John 2:21 "truth" is not being used in such an abstract sense. Rather, John is alluding to the source of truth in God: God is truth; hence, God is true, i.e. the word of God is true (Jn 3:33; 7:28; 8:26; 17:3; 1 Jn 5:20). In addition, Christians are graced with the "Spirit of truth" (1 Jn 4:6; 5:6). So, John isn't speaking of the abstract propositions, but the concrete source of truth. Thus, it is hard to read this verse as talking about “propositions.”

Actually, the specific context of 1 John 2:21 is about the antichrist. The “lie” spoken of is that of “denying the Son, Christ Jesus” (1 Jn 2:22; 4:1-6; 1 Jn 5:10; etc.,). This throws into doubt the above interpretation we saw rendering “lie” as “false proposition.” The “lie” is “denying Jesus” (and to deny Jesus is to deny the Father too since no one who denies the Son has the Father, 1 Jn. 2:23). Apparently, many people were seeking to undermine the faith that the early Christians to whom John was writing had in Jesus as the Christ. But, those who denied Jesus did not “come from” the truth, John tells them. The believers speak the truth about Jesus; they affirm that he is the Christ. Thus, they “come from” the truth. “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us” (1 Jn 4:6). Therefore, a better rendering of 1 John 2:21 is not: “No false propositions is a member of the class of true propositions,” but rather, “No one who denies that Jesus is the Christ is from God the Father.” Can the LNC and the LEM be deduced from this, then? Or, is one allowed to butcher texts all in the name of supporting Scripturalist dogma?

Now the Scripturalist might object that though his interpretation is not exegetically correct, John is referring here to a more general principle ("no lie is of the truth"). Though this does not fit the immediate context, the problem for the Scripturalist is that he does not know that this is what John is doing. He just puts words into the beloved one’s mouth so that he can cram Scripture into his rationalistic little box. But if one can get away with not doing one’s exegetical homework, then all sorts of nonsense can be “deduced” from Scripture.


We have seen that repeatedly the Scripturalist must mix extra-biblical claims, opinions, and assumptions in which his Scripturalism in order to get a product into the consumers hands. The Scripturalist absolutely refuses to play by his own rules, yet he chastises others when they appeal to things that cannot be “deduced” from Scripture. Remember that Sean Gerety said that if P is to be an object of knowledge, P must be either directly stated in Scripture or deducible from Scripture. So, what about the law of non-contradiction? Does Gerety know it? Not on his own terms.

The above line(s) of argumentation are but mere examples of how one can refute a Scripturalist every time he opens his mouth. The blind devotion people have for Scripturalism is all too evident in their arguments and their answers to their interlocutors. They refuse to question their basic axiom, i.e., knowledge must be deducible from Scripture, and knowledge must be infallible, and so follow it blindly down the path of epistemological destruction. They now hold a position where they cannot so much as open their mouths without begging their readers to grant them so many extra-biblical assumptions. Just like the evolutionist who says, “Grant me that life arose by chance just once and I’ll tell you how the whole thing works,” so it is with the Scripturalist. I have rarely ever seen them without the ladder they borrowed from Wittgenstein. They use it to climb atop the house of knowledge, only to toss it down when they reach the top saying, “What ladder?”

The Scripturalist has many objections to his position. They remain unanswered. The above is just one more hanging over their head. At this point the Scripturalist should heed the word of Gordon Clark: “Unquestioning acceptance of an original position, either through ignorance of alternatives or through refusal to consider them, not only leads to foregone conclusions - any set of axioms does that - but it leads to acceptance of a system without taking into account several weighty objections that ought to be faced” (Clark, “Thales To Dewey,” p.26).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tenet on terrorism

Tenet's book and TV appearances have generated mixed reviews. Here's a sample:

Between Tenet's Lines by Jonah Goldberg
Torture on Sixty Minutes by William Buckley Jr.
George Tenet's Book by Michael Barone

Anencephalic atheism

Looks like John Loftus is off his meds again. If you see him wandering around the neighborhood in his institutional PJs, please report him to the authorities, so the men in white coats can return him safely to his padded cell.

At the risk of interjecting a modicum of reason into his hysterical conniption fit, a few points are in order.

1.Always remember that all this moralizing verbiage is coming from the lips of John-nothing-is-intrinsically-evil-Loftus.

If atheism is true, then Southern slavery was amoral, just as everything else would be amoral if atheism is true.

2.You notice that he doesn’t carry on this way about social Darwinism, even though he subscribes to naturalistic evolution. And that’s because it’s quite a trick to condemn social Darwinism and commend evolutionary ethics at one and the same time.

3.He also talks about the pain and misery suffered by slaves. Again, though, this is just so much folk psychology. Where does that fit into a consistently physicalist philosophy of mind?

4.He also trots out his hobbyhorse about social conditioning to explain why smart people believe dumb things. But if that’s the explanation, then why doesn’t he treat social conditioning as an extenuating or exculpatory circumstance? Wouldn’t that appeal either mitigate or absolve one of guilt?

5. Then there’s the very revealing way in which he lets the Southern slave-masters off the hook. They were slaveholders because they didn’t know any better. It was all a misunderstanding, you see. If only God had been more explicit.

So Loftus will exculpate the slaveholders in order to inculpate God. His acquittal of Southern slave masters says a lot about his scale of values (or lack thereof), as well as his naiveté.

BTW, why this fixation on the Southern institution? What about slavery in Africa, Asia, and the Mideast?

6.Speaking as a Christian, my interpretation of their motives is considerably less charitable. The slave masters were blinded, in part, by economic self-interest. In addition, it was very convenient to have one’s very own harem.

7.Loftus’ argument, if you can call it that, is also lame-brained to the point of vegetation. Does he really believe that if only the Bible were more explicit, that this would prevent slavery of the antebellum variety?

Isn’t it pretty apparent that many men and women do many things explicitly forbidden in Scripture? How dumb does Loftus need to be to miss the obvious?

For example, Scripture does condemn sodomy as a complete abomination. Does that, of itself, prevent homosexuals from committing immorality?

8.And, no, “slavery” is not a “complete abomination” since “slavery” can denote a number of different things. For example, is indentured service a “complete abomination”?

9.Finally, he attacks the Christian faith because it supposedly necessitates intellectual suicide. Yet the same could be said for evolutionary psychology. So why does he sacrifice his intellectual before the altar of Darwin?

Maybe it’s because, in his case, intellectual suicide is not much of a sacrifice. His brand of anencephalic atheism has nothing to lose.

The Ortho-Psychic Hotline


“Attempting to throw stones over the fence onto us does not result in you having a defensible position.”

i) And, of course, we could say exactly the same thing in reverse, for all he ever attempts to do is to attack our position and then act as if Orthodoxy wins by default.

ii) Moreover, we—unlike him—don’t limit ourselves to critiquing his position, for we present many positive arguments in defense of our own position.

“Show us how the Jews knew the canon of scripture. Did they have an historical methodology that Jason advocates? Were they able to prove that every book from Genesis to Esther to Malachi was both (a) written by a bona-fide prophet and (b) written by who it was purported to be written by? Or did they rely on Tradition?”

i) Now he’s resorting to equivocation. The parallel would only hold if 2nd temple Judaism had the same polity as Orthodox ecclesiology. Since it didn’t, then Jewish tradition doesn’t mean the same thing as Orthodox tradition.

ii) I’d add that the way one person knows something is not necessarily the way another person knows something. Differences in time and place may necessitate a different methodology.

For example, the apostle John knew what he did about Jesus because he was an eyewitness to the public and private ministry of Jesus.

That methodology wouldn’t work for me since, by the same token, I am not an eyewitness to the public and private ministry of Jesus. So I must rely on a difference source of information. I rely on knowledge by description rather than knowledge by acquaintance.

Or, to take a different example, my elderly mother learned the rebel war cry as a young girl from her elderly great aunt Cinderella, who had two brothers who served in the Confederate army.

Does it follow that a modern civil war historian like Shelby Foote either could or should learn about the rebel war cry in the same way?

No, for he may not have access to that kind of direct, oral history. Yet he may be able to learn about the rebel war cry from another source of information.

To say that Protestant historical methodology is false because it doesn’t reproduce the mode of knowledge available to Jews living two or three thousand years ago is nonsensical and unintelligent. Our own methodology will differ to the degree that our historical situation is different. We have a different epistemic access point.

iii) And this is hardly distinctive to Protestant methodology. When a patrologist like Jaroslav Pelikan writes a history of the early church, he can’t write about the life of Chrysostom from the same vantage point as Chrysostom would write about his own life. Rather, he uses the same techniques as F. F. Bruce would use.

“So you have no infallible revelation because there is no divine revelation about what is divine revelation.”

This is a regressive fallacy.

“Amongst all the obfuscation, what we are never told by protestants is what the God-approved method of finding the truth is, whether concerning the canon, or anything else, both for Israel and for the Church.”

i) There are different modes of knowledge for different objects of knowledge. Sometimes a Bible writer will appeal to sense knowledge (e.g. 1 Jn 1:1.ff.).

ii) At other times a Bible writer will appeal to extrabiblical sources of information to supplement the record, such as The Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kg 11:41), The Annals of the Kings of Judah (1 Kgs 14:29, &c), The Annals of the Kings of Israel (1 Kgs 14:19, &c.), or The Annals of the Kings of Media and Persia (Esther 10:2).

So there’s nothing inherently unscriptural about consulting extrascriptural records as a potential source of historical knowledge. But that has to be sifted.

“Jason seems to be conceeding that the historical argument was a loser.”

Jason conceded no such thing.

“It didn't work for the Jews, and it doesn't work for the Church either.”

I’ve already discussed his pragmatic criterion.

“If it doesn't work, it can hardly have been God's plan for his people could it?”

i) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that something doesn’t work, how does it follow that something unworkable lies outside the plan of God?

According to Orthodox’s own definition, the world is full of things that don’t work. Are these pointless, unpremeditated events that catch God off-guard?

Is Orthodox an open theist who believes that God is surprised by the future? That God must engage in damage control?

Or is he a Manichean who believes in a good God and an evil God?

ii) Speaking for myself, I believe that everything happens for a purpose. Everything works in the way that God intended it to work. Everything has a function in the plan of God. Everything is in perfect working order, as a means to an end.

But that’s just me. A Manichean-cum-open-theist like Orthodox would beg to differ.

“I can see the Church mentioned in scripture as the pillar of the truth,”

He sees Orthodoxy in scripture because he has Orthodoxy etched on his glasses. I’ve already discussed this acontextual interpretation and misrendering of 1 Tim 3:15 in reference to Blosser. But Orthodox is habitually too dishonest to engage the counterargument. He simply repeats his original, one and a half arguments, as if nothing was ever said to the contrary.

“This whole prophesy had ceased theory is more of a later Jewish theory as an apologetic against Christianity.”

Once again, I already discussed this with reference to Blosser. Consult the references to Aune and Ridderbos.

“Had prophesy ceased? Wasn't John the Baptist a prophet?”

An especially bone-headed statement since the status of John the Baptist and, indeed, the resumption of prophecy in the Lucan nativity accounts, signals the dawn of the Messianic age.

“How are traditions, and not just any traditions, but traditions of anti-Christian Jews a THEOLOGICAL guide? Whether prophesy ceased is not an historical question it is a theological question.”

i) No, it’s a historical question with theological implications.

iii) Observe, once more, his Neonazi antipathy to the Jews. Is my opponent a skinhead or an Orthodox believer?

Oh, I forgot—that’s a false dichotomy.

“And why do you believe it anyway, being as it is contained in what you consider non-scriptural books?? Total inconsistency.”

Is Orthodox playing dumb, or is he really that dumb? He’s been repeatedly corrected on his caricature of sola Scripture by Gene and others.

“That's strange because a lot of protestants advise reading the deutero canonicals as a historical perspective on the so-called inter testamental period. And Josephus who you appeal to, uses it as a record just as authentic in his history as the proto-canonical books. But I guess your favourite scholars know all, right?”

Is he trying to be obtuse, or does this just come naturally? The intertestamental literature is not all of a piece. Some of it is pseudepigraphal, some of it is not. Some of it is historical, while some of it is fictitious.

The fact that scholars regard 1 Maccabees as a fairly reliable historical source doesn’t commit them to the same assessment of Bel and the Dragon.

“You've given a method, but then conceeded it doesn't really work very well, especially for Israel. Doesn't sound like the God-inspired method to me.”

As far as that goes, we don’t need inspiration where providence will do.

“I don't deny the concept, what I deny is that it is authoritatively exercised by individuals, as opposed to the body of Christ collectively. If it is by individuals, then we have chaos, and you've got no basis to criticise anybody's canon.”

More chest-thumping bravado, as if all arguments are on a par.

“The evidence is in the bible that the apostles asked the Church to hold to the traditions. Funny that exactly what they asked the Church to do is a method that can work and which the Church actually did. But you know better as usual.”

Yes, we do know better since Orthodox is willing to prevaricate about what the Bible actually says. He’s alluding to a verse by one of the apostles to one local church.

But in order to pad his case, due to insufficient evidence, he changes a singular referent to a plural, as well as morphing a local church into the universal church.

“It's an apologetic, but it's not an authority in the church. You keep appealing to Josephus (mistakenly I believe) and yet you would not consider him an authority in the church would you? Why does a sola-scriptura-ist keep referring to historical sources as if they are some kind of authority?”

Why does a dumb-bunny like Orthodox continually misrepresent sola Scriptura no matter how often he’s been corrected?

“So now some specialist books are the authority in the Church?”

i) I prefer scholarship to non-scholarship.

ii) Notice, too, the habitual duplicity of Orthodox. On the one hand, he will challenge his opponents to document their claims. On the other hand, as soon as his opponents call his bluff, he will dismiss their documentation out of hand.

“So much for sola scriptura.”

So much for dumb-bunnies who would rather burn strawmen.

And, you know, it’s fine with me if he’s going to attack a decoy rather than the actual argument. For he thereby leaves the real position of the opposing side without a scratch. So, by all means, keep training your guns on the wrong target.

“So it's all individualistic. Everybody does what is right in their own eyes. If I don't think Hebrews is scripture, but you do - cest la vie. You do what you want, I do what I want. Doesn't sound like the Church of the New Testament to me.”

He doesn’t exegete NT ecclesiology.

“If there is a Church the apostles founded that has the truth, I can in spiral like fashion hone in on where that church is.”

i) The conclusion is only as good as the premise. He would need to identify the Orthodox communion with the church founded by Christ. This is something he always asserts and never demonstrates.

ii) He would also need to show that the church founded by Christ has the properties he imputed to it. Again, though, he’s all assertion and no argument.

“But if there is no authority, if authority ceased with the apostles, then everything is always up fro grabs, every point, every book everything can be disputed.”

i) Notice the purely armchair character of the argument. State what you believe to be an unacceptable consequence. Load it up with hyperbole. Don’t offer any supporting argument that said-consequence is, in fact, unacceptable. Then postulate an imaginary polity which will avoid said-consequence.

The whole exercise is nothing more than a thought-experiment from start to finish. A hypothetical faith in a hypothetical church.

“And in fact, by doubting one thing, the entire fabric can become unglued because there is no certain platform in your entire theology.”

i) Other issues aside, notice how a metaphor is doing the work of an argument. The metaphor of a platform. And if the platform is unstable, then the superstructure is unstable.

That maybe so, but it’s a logical inference, not from a truth of fact or reason, but from a metaphor.

ii) And even at the figurative level, other metaphors are available. There are philosophers like Quine, Swinburne, and Helm who prefer a different metaphor—the web of belief. If a platform collapses, the superstructure collapses. By contrast, if a strand of a spider web snaps, the spider web remains intact. Why should we prefer an architectural metaphor to an insectile metaphor?

“It's too subjective for individuals, because the heart is deceitful.”

Orthodox is extremely sceptical about human reason. But there are two problems with this:

i) Where does reason come from? Isn’t this a gift of God? Hasn’t our Creator endowed us with a faculty for abstract reason? So why should we be so utterly distrustful of our critical faculties? Why should we refuse to rely on something that God has given us to use?

Can reason deceive us? Yes. Can our senses deceive us? Yes. Does Orthodox therefore refuse to use his five senses?

ii) His distrust of reason undercuts his own faith in the Orthodox tradition. Maybe his deceitful heart has misled him into Orthodoxy. Hyperskepticism is a form of mental illness—like men and women who really believe they’re trapped in the Matrix. Orthodox might as well be Renfield’s cellmate.

“But the church, the entire company of the saints, is a far surer barometer of what the Spirit is doing in the world than a prideful individual.”

Other issues aside, he has a very selective and one-sided definition of “the church.”

“Wrong, the divine Jesus Christ set up a Church. And that is the end of the Turtles. Jesus Christ, the apostles and the church they set up.”

How does he individually know this? How does he individually identify the true church?

“We don't question each individual point all the time as if 2000 years of the chronicles of the people of God never happened.”

His default appeal to 2000 years of Orthodox church history merely begs the question in favor of Orthodoxy. He assumes what he needs to prove.

“They found the true people of God and the followed them.”

This glosses over disputes about who was a true Jew. The Pharisees? The Sadducees? The Essenes? The Zealots? And so on and so forth.

“But why believe you are better at Spiritually discerning the canon than someone else? You must feel certain that you are more spiritual than say Augustine then? Quite a claim. Quite a lot of pride.”

And who was more spiritual—Jerome or Augustine?

“You have no apostolic teaching on what teachings are certainly apostolic.”

Back to the infinite regress.

“You can doubt if you want that Orthodoxy is that authority, but to doubt that the apostles left an authoritative organization to guard what is certainly apostolic, you have nothing at all but thousands of various truth claims from which you can pick and choose a cocktail of your own choosing.”

i) Notice, once more, his constant repair to a consequentialist argument. If you believe in X, then that commits you to a certain consequence. Given the consequence, X is false; therefore, Y is true.

This is illogical from beginning to end. Even if the Protestant rule of faith had the dire consequences that Orthodox hyperbolically imputes to it, that fails to establish either:

a) The falsity of sola Scriptura, or

b) The veracity of the Orthodox alternative.

ii) According to Orthodox, sola Scriptura results in “chaos.” And, for him, this isn’t merely a possible consequence, but an actual consequence.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, he’s right? What then?

This is God’s world, is it not? Is “chaos” an unacceptable consequence to God? If so, why does he allow it?

Why is “chaos” intolerable to Orthodox, but tolerable to God?

At worst, “chaos” would be a divinely appointed means to a divinely appointed end.

“Because you only have a dead authority, who can't speak to you in the current age. You can't speak to an apostle to tell you what he really wrote or what he really meant.”

That’s true. We can’t channel the Apostle John. Apparently, though, the Orthodox communion has been holding a series of séances with the departed apostles and prophets for the past 2000 years. The Ortho-Psychic Network. Does Orthodox have Dionne Warrick on speed dial?

“But you can't logically have a belief system, all you can have is a collection of beliefs, that are always up for grabs with a new historical insight. You have your canon and your doctrines, and its only by lucky happenstance if what you believe happens to coincide with someone elses.”

Does the Orthodox tradition have an official canon? Or is that up for grabs?

“It's a completely different thing. Orthodox exercise their discernment to retain their belief in the reality of a continuing unity of Tradition through time and space. That's why Orthodoxy is one church after 2000 year.”

This is nothing more than make-believe and wishful thinking.

“Now for all the problems I may have in figuring out who is the real Church, at least there is an unbroken chain of authority within my theological system between Jesus Christ, and my current source of authority.”

Other issues aside, he would only know that “there is an unbroken chain of authority within his theological system between Jesus Christ, and his current source of authority” if and only if he could initially overcome “all the problems he may have in figuring out who is the real Church.”

“Which is fine, because I have a living church which is authoritative on any issues to do with the canon.”

Something he always *says* and never *shows*.

“Let me repeat it again. For all the obfuscation that goes back and forward here THERE IS NO LIST. The Protestant canon is purely derived from a particular later remnant of Jews whose claim to fame is they rejected the New Testament. There's no compelling reason to think their canon has anything to do with that of the Jews of Jesus' time, and a number of reasons to think it didn't, such as Josephus' equal treatment of 1 Maccabees within his Antiquities.”

He’s been repeatedly correct on this point, but he’s too much of a dim bulb to absorb the point.

One doesn’t need an explicit list, given at one time and place. Rather, one can reconstruct a list on the basis of both external evidence and internal evidence.

“Would you still have a canon? It's hard to think of a book of the NT for which significant objections have not been raised. I once met a Christian of otherwise apparently conservative disposition who seemed to have such a low opinion of Paul as to consider him not really an apostle, and that he had highjacked Jesus' message. You could appeal to 2 Peter's opinion of Paul, but then that is uncertain. You could appeal to Acts, but then Luke is Paul's propagandist. It would be quite easy to write Paul out as a false apostle who corrupted the message. You lack the necessary documentation, and an infallible link between Paul and the Twelve original apostles, because you rely on Paul's own testimony.”

Several issues:

i) Orthodox is a 99% purebred liberal. You might as well be debating Bishop Spong. Same pathological scepticism. Same farfetched, far-left assumptions and assertions.

ii) But then there’s the 1% of fideism which rushes in at the tail end. His strategy is to destroy historical knowledge to make room for faith—boundless faith in the true tradition of the true church.

Orthodox is an infidel to the bone, with a skin-deep piety—as if a last ditch, last minute appeal to Orthodoxy will compensate for terminal, stage-four scepticism. But Orthodoxy is an anodyne, not an antidote. The Orthodox church is a hospice, not a hospital.

iii) For we could turn all the same hyperskeptical arguments against the Greek Fathers and ecumenical councils. Hyperskepticism is a universal acid which will dissolve appeals to church history just as rapidly as appeals to Bible history.

“This is what I mean when I say if you doubt one thing, the whole fabric can become unglued. If your criteria is what you can prove historically there's no telling where the madness can end. Everything is up for grabs. Every little thing has to be proved separately before you can get to first base. You complain that I put before you these challenges, but it is your ecclesiology that demands it.”

He keeps appealing to ecclesiastical authority, but as I documented from Orthodox sources, appeal to ecclesiastical authority is rife with its own uncertainties:

“One of the criteria the early church used in forming the canon was simply Tradition: if it was used in all the Churches, it was included in the canon.”

Really? All the books of the Orthodox canon (whatever that is) were always in use by all churches at all times?