Monday, August 22, 2016

Breaking into the circle

Recently, a Scripturalist cited this old post by Vincent Cheung:

This is supposedly a refutation of my critique. But Cheung misses the point. Given his setup, Cheung is not entitled to invoke God. How does Cheung know anything about God. How does Cheung know that God even exists?

Here's the dilemma: 

i) On the one hand, Scripturalists say the Bible is the only source of knowledge.

ii) On the other hand, Scripturalists deny sense knowledge.

iii) Yet the Bible is a physical object. So the object of knowledge exists outside the subject of knowledge. 

How, then, does a Scripturalist internalize the external message of Scripture? Where does he break into the circle? What's the port of entry?  

Appealing to "God's constant and active power" fails to appreciate the dilemma. Cheung can only invoke God if he is able to explain how God can be an object of knowledge in the first place. But that's the nub of the problem, because his epistemological dichotomy places an impenetrable barrier between us and the source of knowledge. 

I didn't block God from Cheung's epistemology. Rather, it's his own epistemology that puts God behind a wall. 

Keep in mind that in my experience, Scripturalists make a big deal about how you can't know anything unless you show how you know it. But Cheung hasn't shown that. 

Cheung also says:

This relates to another problem with the analogy that I will not discuss in detail — it represents my entire position in physical terms, even though my occasionalism is such that it can work in a dream, in a purely spiritual world, or in heaven, and the Bible is the physical representation of that portion of God’s mind that he has revealed to us. That is, if you destroy all physical copies of the Bible, you have not destroyed the “word of God” that is in my epistemology. 

His hypothetical scenario is a diversionary tactic. The reality of human existence on earth is that we're embodied souls, while the Bible is a physical object. So given the restrictions which Scripturalism places on knowledge, how do we access the word of God?

Occasionalism might do the trick if you knew ahead of time that occasionalism is true, but even if Scripture taught occasionalism (which it doesn't), Cheung can't know what Scripture teaches unless Scripture is an object of knowledge. So his appeal is backwards. At best, his occasionalism is a working hypothesis. If true, that might bridge the gap. But unless he can know the hypothesis is true independent of Scripture, he can't use it both to show Scripture is an object of knowledge and show that Scripture teaches occasionalism–for by his own account, Scripture is inaccessible to the human mind unless occasionalism is true. 

Because his conundrum has no exit, he deflects attention away from his conundrum by feigning pious disapproval. But that's only persuasive to undiscerning readers, who can't grasp the dilemma. 


  1. Thought you would be interested to know that Licona has come out with a post trying to defend his assertion that Mark was confused:

    It seems rather unfortunate that he has chosen to follow the same path that led to Ehrman's apostasy.

    1. Yeah, that's basically a repetition of what he said on the video, only it's better organized, with more detail and documentation.

      Driving a wedge between inspired ideas and inspired words is nonsensical inasmuch as words are the medium for communicating ideas.