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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Theonomy, an Epistemological Matter




Back in March of 2000 Greenville Theological Seminary hosted a conference on the sufficiency of Scripture at which time consideration was given to the subject of Theonomy. The appointed antagonist to the theonomic thesis remarked that the often quipped slogan “either theonomy or autonomy” commits the informal fallacy of a false dichotomy. It was argued that there is another option that is overlooked by theonomists, namely that of general revelation. It was contended that with the passing of the Old Covenant civil magistrates are to govern themselves by the light of nature, or God’s general revelation that is communicated to all men apart from Scripture. I have found this line of reasoning most troublesome on many accounts. At the very least, if general revelation is binding upon civil magistrates then it is because it is God’s law – in which case any possible appeal to general revelation would be theonomic in nature!

Man knows many things through general revelation. He knows God exists and that His wrath abides upon him. Man knows through conscience that it is wrong to murder, just as he knows it is wrong to tell a lie. Consequently, general revelation makes all men culpable before God because through general revelation men have warrant for their true beliefs regarding their sin against the moral law written on their hearts. Notwithstanding, general revelation is as impotent as it is powerful. Although general revelation communicates truth that is known by all men everywhere, leaving them without excuse, it cannot equip or enable men to justify what is known through that revelation. Although all men everywhere know it is wrong to murder, it is impossible to justify that knowledge apart from Scripture. Apart from Scripture man’s formal justification for what he knows reduces to subjectivism and ultimately skepticism. Added to this, civil magistrates are not only to be concerned with a sound justification for their ethical paradigms, they must also concern themselves with a justification to punish certain wrong doings and not others.

Theonomy is concerned with three irreducible questions, which anti-theonomists cannot answer in an epistemologically satisfactory manner:

  • Which sins should civil magistrates punish?
  • What should those punishments be?
  • How does one justify the answers to the first two questions?
If we are left to govern ourselves by general revelation, then civil laws must be ultimately a matter of opinion, yet laws by their very nature are to reflect what ought to be. Moreover, apart from Scripture inductive inference cannot be justified. Therefore, apart from Scripture it cannot be proven that all persons are endowed by nature with the same moral code. Accordingly, it would be tyrannical to impose unjustifiable codes of conduct, let alone sanctions for violations of those codes, with a revelatory authority to appeal to for such impositions.

Finally, if Theonomy ought to be exchanged for general revelation, then the necessary implication is that God’s general revelation has changed over time or else God’s revelation has contradicted itself over time. After all, if general revelation today tells us that rapists are no longer to be put to death, then either general revelation has changed over time or else it contradicted special revelation under Moses! However, if general revelation has not changed over time and God's two forms of revelation have never contradicted themselves, then why discard the Old Testament case laws? In fact, why not rely on the more explicit form of law, which is contained in the only form of revelation to which we may appeal to justify laws in general and ethical laws in particular.

General revelation was never intended to inform mankind of the transgressions that are to fall under the jurisdiction of civil magistrates. Consequently, general revelation under Moses did not inform mankind that convicted rapists should be put to death anymore than it informs mankind today that convicted rapists should live. The role of general revelation has always been complimentary to that of Scripture's revelation, in that general revelation is "general" - for it convicts mankind of sin that violates the moral law; whereas special revelation, as contained in Scripture, informs us of the sins that are punishable by civil magistrates and to what degree.

The non-theonomic thesis cannot justify any civil laws in any concrete fashion let alone the sanctions, if any, that are to accompany sins. At the very least, the non-theonomic thesis cannot prove that it is wrong to employ theonomic laws without implying either that God’s revelation has changed over time or that God’s revelation contradicted itself at least for a time. Consequently, the anti-theonomist’s appeal to general revelation at the expense of written revelation contradicts God’s immutability and truthfulness.

Theonomy is most often construed as harsh. However, apart from theonomy, no argument with defensible premises can be levied to combat too harsh of punishments in a fallen world! For instance, how would the anti-theonomist combat a civil magistrate that determined stealing a loaf of bread was a crime worthy of death? The epistemologically conscious theonomist has an answer for too strict of laws in a fallen world; whereas the anti-theonomist is left to appeal to an idiosyncratic sense of justice, which reduces to subjectivism, arbitrariness and knowledge falsely called.

Ron

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17 comments:

Dennis Maranto said...

Good post Ron and in priniciple I think it's rock solid. But, do you think even if all the non-theonomists were to agree with us that, special revelation is the only justifiable starting point, we would still have a very diffcult time reaching agreement on what laws are applicable and how they should be administered, etc. Who's exegeses wins the day?

R2K said...

People use faith, and feelings to accept the word of the bible as fact. This involves issues as great as the creation of life, the Earth, and the Universe.

Yet these very same people dont have enough faith to close their eyes while driving a car, and assume god will guide them. Pretty silly to accept something so important on faith, and base so many trivial daily events (even filling out a question on the SATs) on science.

Anonymous said...

Hello Ron,
Another good post. Thanks for taking the time to think these things out and sharing them.

Question:

When you say "general revelation communicates truth that is known by all men everywhere, leaving man without excuse, it cannot equip or enable a man to justify what he knows" In what sense are you using the word "known"? Do you mean that they know only in the sense that they comprehend their culpability?

Greg Bahnsen has stated in Van Til’s Apologetic (pg. 178) that “beliefs that are arbitrarily adopted or based upon faulty grounds, even when they turn out to be true, do not qualify as instances of knowledge.” And later that “the concept of intellectually knowing God as believing certain propositions concerning God that are true and for which one has good evidence.” (pg 180).

So then, if man is without excuse then is he also not capable of justifying that knowledge? If man knows it truly then doesn’t he also have access to its justification? I do not believe that man is capable of governing himself by natural revelation not because he lacks justification for it (and thus holds it arbitrarily) but because all of man’s faculty has been depraved by sin and thus he cannot (in principle) subject himself to acknowledging that revelation and has confabulated himself into believing it is not what it is.

Though I may have misunderstood Bahnsen and your own position as I have not been a follower of Reformed theology/apologetics for very long.

In Christ,
Mr. Anonymous.

Pastor Josh said...

It says in the Bible that God wrote the laws of God on our hearts. That's why your can go to the most unseen tribe, and they will know that murder is wrong, along with the rest of the ten commandments. And alex if you have such great faith then why don't you drive with your eyes closed. Also true Faith isn't feelings. It's like the chair that you sit on. You have faith every time you sit down that it will hold you. Biblical faith is the same. It's individuals choosing to believe in the word of God. No one can make you. God can't even make you. PJ

Anonymous said...

Dennis,

This is a good point but I would say that those non-theonomists are drawing serious charges to the perspicuity of God's Word. If we say that we must not implicate God's Law simply because of issues regarding perspicuity then how can I implement any portion of God's Word? I should rather stay away from any system of theology in fear that I may follow the wrong approach.

Furthermore, this objection seems to accompany the idea that since so many people disagree as to a proper approach that we therefore cannot say with any degree of certainty which approach to take. I disagree with this as well: For example, millions of people disagree as to the existence of God. Do I then doubt His existence? Many Mormons disagree with many Presbyterians. Do I then doubt the Presbyterians? The incoherence of man is not an argument against the ability of God’s efficacy in communication – The issue of unbelief or confusion of belief must be answered by theological appeal lest we find ourselves trapped by a Theodore Drange (in reference to his AC and ANB critique of Christianity).

Lastly, this may also take the theonomic position as what Van Til would say is "piecemeal affair." The theonomic position is only exegetically viable within the Reformed framework. Thus the task is not a two-step approach of first getting one to accept God's revealed Law as justifiable and then getting one to agree on what theological or exegetical approach to take. However, I don’t believe that you were treating it in this manner.

In Christ,
Mr. Anonymous.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Hi Dennis,

Issues of disagreement among theonomists are most likely to come from trying to tease out the essential equity of the law from the historical implementation of the law. For instance, I don't believe that stones should be a means of execution today. It might be argued, however, that executions be a public event. Similarly, I would think that evidence derived from DNA would satisfy the requirement of two or three witnesses; yet some might argue that induction may not replace sensory observation. How about video surveillance, etc.?

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

>>>It's individuals choosing to believe in the word of God. No one can make you. God can't even make you. PJ<<<

PJ,

One does not choose to believe, for choices are products of beliefs. Also, God not only can make one believe, he must if anyone is going to believe. Everything else you wrote was spot on.

Ron

Anonymous said...

Ron,

To know something is to have maximal warrant for one’s belief in something that is true. A man who has not been confronted with Scripture knows that God exists, but apart from Scripture man cannot justify this knowledge; yet his belief in the truth is indeed justified. Apart from Scripture, man can posit a conceptual necessity for God but such would not imply an ontological necessity of God.

What then do you believe the distinction is between “maximal warrant” and justification in regards to belief? Is not warrant a justification? I would assert that a man could justify his belief in God apart from direct knowledge of the scriptures. Now I would also make a distinction between my justification of God which is based presuppositionally on scripture and an unbeliever’s justification of God based on the Imago Dei and the creation itself. It is not that mine is justified while his is not it is merely a difference of quality and scope.

This is a bad analogy but I don’t have time to think of a better one and I believe it serves the purpose: A man who is not a trained physician can justify his belief that he has cancer by noticing the symptoms. A man who is a trained physician can better and more directly justify him having cancer. Both have access to justification and both have the same true belief. The difference is that the physician has direct access and thus a deeper scope.

Another example might be loosely drawn from Van Til’s Survey of Christian Epistemology. To know a thing one must know a thing in its relation to all other things (to know a fly I must know the category insect, living etc.; those things which are common as well as those things which are different). This traps the atheist correspondence theorist into the trouble of having to know all things. The Christian (indeed all men) must know a thing in correspondence to God’s knowledge; I don’t have to know the correspondence of a frog in order to truly know a cow; It is possible for me to know a cow analogously to God’s knowledge without me knowing all of that which corresponds to all other entities. However, to know a cow in relation to other similar mammals such as a bull will only further that knowledge which I have of the cow (that is more coherently analogous to God’s knowledge). Likewise, the unbeliever has the justification for God, not just the potential, through natural revelation including the Imago Dei while the Christian has a special revelation (justification).


You state: “No - man without Scripture cannot justify his knowledge of God, yet man does not know God apart from being able to articulate a justification.

I would disagree. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I would maintain that the unbeliever without scripture suppresses that knowledge (justifiable belief) – yet note that he does indeed have that knowledge (justifiable belief). Man is ultimately unable to not suppress that knowledge apart from God’s special revelation and election: Yet this does not preclude the fact that it is there.

what about the converted man who interprets general revelation aright? Can such a man by general revelation discern which sins are punishable by civil magistrates?

No. That is only revealed through special revelation. Obviously God has not mediated all that is in special revelation through general revelation. My contention is merely that that which has been mediated through general revelation is justifiable on the part of the unbeliever. A question such as murder may be known to be immoral by the general revelation of the Imago Dei. Judicial consequence of said trespasses are contained within special revelation (thus we see that they were to be a sign/example to the neighboring land of the Israelites). Ultimate consequence of the Divine judge are contained within general revelation (Rom 1:32).

Mr. Anonymous.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

I stated before: "No - man without Scripture cannot justify his knowledge of God, yet man does not know God apart from being able to articulate a justification."

I meant to write: "....yet man *does* know God apart from being able to articulate a justification."

I've deleted the original comment to avoid confusion. The edited version is below.

-------------

A,

To know something is to have maximal warrant for one’s belief in something that is true. A man who has not been confronted with Scripture knows that God exists, but apart from Scripture man cannot justify this knowledge; yet his belief in the truth is indeed justified. Apart from Scripture, man can posit a conceptual necessity for God but such would not imply an ontological necessity of God.

>>>>So then, if man is without excuse then is he also not capable of justifying that knowledge? If man knows it truly then doesn’t he also have access to its justification?<<<<

No - man without Scripture cannot justify his knowledge of God, yet man does *know* God apart from being able to articulate a justification.

>>>I do not believe that man is capable of governing himself by natural revelation not because he lacks justification for it (and thus holds it arbitrarily) but because all of man’s faculty has been depraved by sin and thus he cannot (in principle) subject himself to acknowledging that revelation and has confabulated himself into believing it is not what it is.<<<<

No doubt, the unregenerate man will turn the truth of general revelation into a lie. But what about the converted man who interprets general revelation aright? Can such a man by general revelation discern which sins are punishable by civil magistrates?

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"What then do you believe the distinction is between “maximal warrant” and justification in regards to belief? Is not warrant a justification?"

A,

A man may be justified in believing that it is twelve noon because a clock that has never failed him in the past indicates that the time is twelve noon. If it is indeed twelve noon, then the person who believes it is twelve noon has a belief in the truth. If the clock had stopped 12 hours prior to the man’s taking note of the time, then the man did not know the time as 12 noon. He simply would have believed something true and been justified in his inference. His inference would have been rational in other words. To have a justification for a belief is not the same thing as justifying that which is believed. After all, had the clock been functioning properly the man would have possessed no more a justification for his belief than he had given a broken clock. Consequently, if a functioning clock can turn a lucky, yet rational inference into knowledge, then some things can be known without it being possible to know that they are known. Knowledge would be a vacuous term.

"I would assert that a man could justify his belief in God apart from direct knowledge of the scriptures. Now I would also make a distinction between my justification of God which is based presuppositionally on scripture and an unbeliever’s justification of God based on the Imago Dei and the creation itself. It is not that mine is justified while his is not it is merely a difference of quality and scope.

Please put forth a proof (and justify the premises) for the *knowledge* of God that does not begin with Scripture.

"A man who is not a trained physician can justify his belief that he has cancer by noticing the symptoms. A man who is a trained physician can better and more directly justify him having cancer. Both have access to justification and both have the same true belief. The difference is that the physician has direct access and thus a deeper scope."

Induction can never justify the truth value of a proposition since induction always entails asserting the consequent. Induction is valid only if it takes the following form:

If P, then Q
Q
Therefore P is *more probable* than had Q not obtained

However, to try and *deduce* an absolute truth value from induction would entail the fallacy of asserting the consequent:

If P, then Q
Q
Therefore, P

"…Likewise, the unbeliever has the justification for God, not just the potential, through natural revelation including the Imago Dei while the Christian has a special revelation (justification)."

Having a justification is not the same thing as being able to give a justification. As you appreciate, the justification is that man is made in the image of God. Accordingly, man knows God. However, man doesn’t know his justification apart from Scripture. After all, does man apart from Scripture know that he is made in the image of God? Again, how can man justify his knowledge of God, which he has?

'You state: “No - man without Scripture cannot justify his knowledge of God, yet man does not know God apart from being able to articulate a justification.”'

Yes, that was a typo, which I corrected. I intended to write: yet man does *know* God apart from being able to articulate a justification.

"A question such as murder may be known to be immoral by the general revelation of the Imago Dei. Judicial consequence of said trespasses are contained within special revelation (thus we see that they were to be a sign/example to the neighboring land of the Israelites). Ultimate consequence of the Divine judge are contained within general revelation (Rom 1:32)."

You’re confusing knowledge with the ability to justify that which is known.

Ron

Anonymous said...

Ron,

A man may be justified in believing that it is twelve noon because a clock that has never failed him in the past indicates that the time is twelve noon. If it is indeed twelve noon, then the person who believes it is twelve noon has a belief in the truth. If the clock had stopped 12 hours prior to the man’s taking note of the time, then the man did not know the time as 12 noon. He simply would have believed something true and been justified in his inference. His inference would have been rational in other words. To have a justification for a belief is not the same thing as justifying that which is believed. After all, had the clock been functioning properly the man would have possessed no more a justification for his belief than he had given a broken clock. Consequently, if a functioning clock can turn a lucky, yet rational inference into knowledge, then some things can be known without it being possible to know that they are known. Knowledge would be a vacuous term.

Knowledge is not simply what is justified; it is also what is true. This is important because we are talking about unbeliever’s true knowledge of God. Ultimately, one cannot justify that which is untrue. The man who believed it was 12 based on the faulty clock did not in fact ‘know’ it was 12. However the Bible says that all men “know” the God, thus an appeal to faulty evidence for that justification is not actually valid for invalidating their justification. If I choose randomly some numbers on a lottery ticket and the next day win can I say “I knew I would win, I knew it!”? No, I did not actually ‘know’ I would win: I had no rational inference that was valid in order to know it. Likewise, the man who referred to the faulty clock could not say he ‘knew’ it was 12. If the clock was correct then he could say he ‘knew’ it was 12 and reference to the clock would be a valid source of justification though he may use more thorough sources of various clocks etc. I don’t think your analogy is valid because you’re separating the rational inference of belief from the subject of knowledge.

If men know God and that they are deserving death from this God without scripture then what is that knowledge based on? Is it a feeling? Are feelings a justifiable sense perception by which we base knowledge on? Is it intuitive or a priori? If something intuitive is not justifiable then it is arbitrary and subjective beyond use.

Now at this point you may make your argument true by definition by merely stating that Scripture is the only criterion of justification by belief. However, I would disagree with this definition by appeal to what scripture says about unbeliever’s knowledge:

Please put forth a proof (and justify the premises) for the *knowledge* of God that does not begin with Scripture.

Romans 1:18-32. Now I know you will say this is a foul because I have begun with scripture but that is because scripture is the criterion of knowledge. Instead of me appealing to a premise conclusion for the knowledge of God that doesn’t begin with Scripture I have put forth Scriptures premise conclusion that knowledge of God doesn’t begin with Scripture. I maintain that sufficiency of knowledge begins and ends with scripture and that ultimate justification begins and ends with scripture. In my opinion for you to state that only that which is based on scripture provides proper justification and knowledge is Clarkian. The proposition “Ron is saved” is outside of scripture… so can you justify any belief that you are saved? If all extra-scriptural propositions are unjustified then they are arbitrary… I don’t think you are saying that all extra-biblical data is unjustifiable, I believe you’re saying all extra-biblical knowledge of God is unjustifiable but this contradicts what scripture clearly teaches.

Having a justification is not the same thing as being able to give a justification. As you appreciate, the justification is that man is made in the image of God. Accordingly, man knows God.

I agree with everything you said here.

However, man doesn’t know his justification apart from Scripture. After all, does man apart from Scripture know that he is made in the image of God? Again, how can man justify his knowledge of God, which he has?

I disagree completely: I would assert that man knows he is made in the Image of God apart from scripture, indeed man knows many things of God and that justifiably so apart from scripture. Now it must be kept in mind that I believe in total depravity and agree with Van Til in that men in principle are diametrically opposed to all things of God. Furthermore man, in his fallen state, suppresses that knowledge and the justification for it. This is not the same as to say that man has no justification for his knowledge of God apart from scripture. If man cannot justify knowledge of God apart from scripture then man doesn’t know anything of God apart from scripture.

You’re confusing knowledge with the ability to justify that which is known.

In all do respect I believe you are confusing knowledge as something that can stand without justification. A man cannot be said to “know” a thing if he does not also have access to its justification.

I believe Bahnsen, Van Til et al would be in agreement with me here:

For instance Bahnsen writes on pages 180-181 in Van Til’s Apologetic--“Based on our previous observations about knowledge, we would analyze the concept of intellectually knowing God as believing certain propositions concerning God that are true and for which one has good evidence. Scripture teaches that nobody is ignorant of the living and true God. People lack neither information nor evidence. Everybody believes important things about God that are true and well supported. Thus, all men know that God exists… Accordingly, the apologist embarks on the wrong road altogether if he thinks his task requires, for instance, providing data and proofs about God to someone who does not possess such things and simply needs them cogently brought to his attention in order to become a believer. In a crucial sense, all men already are ‘believers’… In the end, the work of the apologist is not simply an intellectual mission, but embodies as well the work of morally convicting the non-Christian for not owning up to the truth that he already knows and cannot escape… The non-Christian has definite beliefs about God that are true, and he possesses full and overwhelming warrant for those beliefs. The Knowledge (justified, true belief) that all men have of their Creator has a very special feature and importance that do not attach to other, commonplace cases of knowing.

On page 222 Bahnsen writes “Calvin taught at the very beginning of the Institutes--something to which Van Til repeatedly alluded—that our knowledge of God and our knowledge of ourselves are ‘mutually connected (1.1.1-3). Without the one there could not be the other. This is a fundamental principle in Van Til’s approach to knowledge: ‘For man self-consciousness presupposes God-consciousness. Calvin speaks of this as man’s inescapable sense of deity…” (quoting Van Til’s Defense of the Faith, 107-8)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Knowledge is not simply what is justified; it is also what is true.

Yes, we agree. One cannot know something false and what is known must be true.

The man who believed it was 12 based on the faulty clock did not in fact ‘know’ it was 12.

Again, we agree. The whole matter of the clock scenario demonstrated that rational inferences can be false, which undermines induction. All men know God, however, not by induction but by revelation. The clock scenario had nothing to do with the discussion concerning the knowledge of God.

However the Bible says that all men “know” the God, thus an appeal to faulty evidence for that justification is not actually valid for invalidating their justification.

Anonymous, I’m afraid you haven’t understood much of what I’ve written. Men know God, which means that men have maximal warrant (or justification) for believing certain truths about God. Yes – men know God. No one is suggesting that man’s knowledge of the truth is somehow invalidated if his knowledge of God is not grounded in Scripture; even a cursory reading of my writings bear this out.

I don’t think your analogy is valid because you’re separating the rational inference of belief from the subject of knowledge.

You’re confusing two completely different discussions I’m afraid.

If men know God and that they are deserving death from this God without scripture then what is that knowledge based on?

It’s based upon God’s revelation of himself both in the created order and in conscience. You’re problem is that you believe that a knowledge of truth presupposes an ability to articulate or defend truth. Accordingly, I continue to ask you, but you refuse to answer: What authority is available for man to *appeal to* in order that he might justify the justification that he has for believing the truth about God?! The justification for his true belief in God is the Holy Spirit's testimony. What I’m looking for from you is the authority by which he might justify his justification for his true belief.

I wrote: “Please put forth a proof (and justify the premises) for the *knowledge* of God that does not begin with Scripture.”

You replied: “Romans 1:18-32. Now I know you will say this is a foul because I have begun with scripture but that is because scripture is the criterion of knowledge.”

Anonymous, slow down – you’re missing something obvious. All Romans 1 teaches is that all men know God, which we agree upon. Since all men know God, then it is true that men have a justification for true beliefs concerning God. You want to then take an enormous leap in logic (and exegesis) by inferring from Romans 1 that all men, because they know God, can therefore articulate their justification for their knowledge of God. What might men base *that* knowledge on?! In other words, to what or Whom will they appeal in order to justify their knowledge of God? Don’t quote me Romans 1, for the person in question does not have Romans 1 available to him! WHAT IS THIS ALLEGED JUSTIFICATION THAT THAT THE MAN HAS AVAILABLE TO HIM YET REFUSES TO UTTER IN HIS SINFULNESS?! STATE IN A SENTENCE THE WORDS THE MAN REFUSES TO UTTER!

In my opinion for you to state that only that which is based on scripture provides proper justification and knowledge is Clarkian.

You neither understand Van Til nor Clark I’m afraid.

The proposition “Ron is saved” is outside of scripture… so can you justify any belief that you are saved?

Yes, I can justify that I am saved. I show Clarkians this justification all the time: If the Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am a son of God, then I am a son of God; the Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am a son of God; therefore, I am a son of God. The premises are true and the form is valid, therefore, the argument is sound.

If man cannot justify knowledge of God apart from scripture then man doesn’t know anything of God apart from scripture.

You’re simply restating your thesis. A defense would be nice.

In all do respect I believe you are confusing knowledge as something that can stand without justification.

Not at all. I’m simply distinguishing *knowing X* from being able to defend how X is known. Whereas you want to assume that one must be able to give a justification for X if he is to know X. Since this is your thesis, you should be willing to put forth the justification that the person has but is unwilling to articulate. Again, I am fully aware that men know God apart from Scripture. I want to know what concrete authority they would appeal to in order to justify this knowledge that they have. You’ve refused to answer this question for some reason. Maybe you don’t understand it?

A man cannot be said to “know” a thing if he does not also have access to its justification.

Well then what is the justification that he has access to that he is unwilling to confess? You say that man has available to him a justification for his knowledge of God. If man was not so sinful, what AUTHORITY would he appeal to in order to justify his justification? Would the man say "God told me!" Or, maybe he would he appeal to the Cosmological argument?! :)

I believe Bahnsen, Van Til et al would be in agreement with me here….The non-Christian has definite beliefs about God that are true, and he possesses full and overwhelming warrant for those beliefs. The Knowledge (justified, true belief) that all men have of their Creator has a very special feature and importance that do not attach to other, commonplace cases of knowing.”

Remarkable – simply remarkable! Yes, man knows God, which means he has warrant for those true beliefs that make him culpable. You won’t find one word in Bahnsen, however, that implies that he believed that man can justify his knowledge of God apart from Scripture.

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Unfortunately, I had to reject Anonymous’s most recent response, for it was simply more of the same. He simply does not grasp the difference between having a justification and being able to articulate a justification. Note well that even the Christian cannot offer a justification for the transcendental argument for the existence of God apart from Scripture. Accordingly, it is not because men are fallen that they cannot produce a justification for the knowledge of God that they possess. It is because that apart from Scripture, any alleged necessary precondition for intelligible experience reduces to a mere conceptual scheme that has no authoritative backing or justification. It is that point that Anonymous needs to reflect on a bit more. What TAG needs is an authority to back it up. Conceptual schemes for preconditions of intelligible experience are not authoritative! {Michael Butler actually brings this very point to light in the close of his article printed in the Bahnsen Feschrift.} God’s word, however, is authoritative – and by this authority man (whether converted or not!) may justify the true ontological, necessary precondition for intelligible experience. In sum, TAG is not justified by a mere conceptual necessity of a necessary precondition for intelligible experience. We have a more sure word of knowledge than that! After all, what would be the final appeal for the justification of that necessary precondition – simply more necessary preconditions that are conceptual in nature but not authoritative? Again, if anonymous could justify his premises for TAG apart from Scripture, I think he would have done so by now. He certainly had enough chances.

Ron

J.B. Aitken said...

Well done, Ron. The question that I ultimately refer to is this: "When is punishment criminal?"

Also, without a moral justification for punishment, one cannot distinghish between crime and punishment.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"When is punishment criminal?"

Hi JB,

If I understand you correctly, I would say that punishment is "criminal" - in the eyes of God - when it does not conform to the law of God.

"Also, without a moral justification for punishment, one cannot distinghish between crime and punishment."

I'm not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean that we would not know which trangressions to punish apart from a theonomic outlook?

I look forward to checking out your blog!

Ron

Anonymous said...

I've always understood man's knowledge of General Revelation to correspond to what man knows by virtue of the ontological imago dei. That is to say that man understands general revelation because he himself is part of that general revelation. When man denies General Revelation, he, at the same time, denies himself.

Yet epistemologically speaking man suppresses what he knows to be true ontologically. This is why it can be said both that man knows God and doesn't know God at the same time. Ontologically he knows God but epistemologically he denies that he knows God.

thanks for leaving your address at AcidInk.

Bret L. McAtee

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

That seems quote good to me Bret.

Keep up the good work with your battles against the antinomians at Westminster California!

Ron