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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Bridging The Gap A Bit


Romans 1: 18-21 teaches many things including all men know God through revelation. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

Although man knows God by general revelation – apart from special revelation man is ill-equipped to articulate the justification of his true belief in God, which is God’s general revelation of Himself to man’s mind. Although man knows many things such as: he ought to reason according to the law of contradiction; his rational mind corresponds to the external, mind-independent world; he ought not to murder; and he is under God’s wrath; apart from special revelation man, unaided by Scripture, is unable to offer a justification for what he knows. It is not that he won’t; he can’t. This is what I suspect Van Til meant when he would say that unbelievers know and do not know at the same time. Unbelievers know but unaided by special revelation their epistemological creed must reduce to skepticism and knowledge falsely called.

Colossians 2:3 declares that "All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ." Now how can we reconcile the apostle’s two points, that all men know God and yet estranged from Christ there is no knowledge to be obtained? The answer should be apparent. Apart from having the mind of Christ, one is reduced to foolishness, which Romans one makes clear. One cannot justify anything he knows apart from Christ's word. As Dr. Bahnsen would say, Christ is not just the way back to the Father; He's the way back to the Father's world! So Van Til is right in that man knows (in one sense) without knowing (in another sense). {Interestingly enough, several years ago Alvin Plantinga said to me that Van Til believed that unbelievers do not know anything - just another example of one not going to the original sources!}

How can I justify that I exist? Prior to conversion I knew I existed but apart from an appeal to Scripture I would not have been able to deduce or argue with justifiable premises my existence. I would have known but not known (that I new). For the believer, the Spirit of God bears witness with the believer's spirit that he is a child of God. (Romans 8:16) Accordingly, since Scripture teaches that God only adopts in Christ existing beings, I can know I exist since I know I am adopted. To deny this is to deny God's special revelation in Scripture, the law of contradiction, which is an attribute of God who has revealed Himself, and God's infallible witness to me. My knowledge of my existence comes by an immediate revelation from God. Although this revelation is not found in Scripture, there is no way of justifying my knowledge of this truth apart from Scripture. (That is not to say that I cannot know I am adopted without having the philosophical acumen to justify that knowledge.) In this sense, not all knowledge is revealed in Scripture or deducible from Scripture alone. However, all knowledge is revealed by God’s revelation or deducible from revelation. If nothing else, Scripture is a necessary condition for the justification of all knowledge, which Clark and Van Til agreed upon.

Ron
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20 comments:

Joshua said...

Is there truly no way to deduce my own salvation in Christ from the propositions of Scripture?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

One of the premises would be that you truly trusted in Christ, which is not in Scripture. I'm not sure I am answering what is behind your question though.

Ron

Jason said...

So would you say then that knowledge could be sufficiently defined as true belief rather than justified true belief?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Jason,

No, I wouldn't. If one were to believe that the 40th president of the United States had the initials R.R. and if that belief were indeed true, the person would not have knowledge of the initials of the president if he thought the president's name was Roy Rogers.

Ron

P.S. NH Jason / Software Engineer sounds like Jason1646!

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

I'm wondering whether you meant to say something like "belief due to a justification of the proposition" as opposed to a belief in a proposition that is true. I would agree with that construct. The reason being, the truth of that which is believed would necessarily follow from a justification of the proposition. What I just said in quotes does not convey the same meaning as a person being justified in believing a proposition since one can be justified in believing false things. The point being, the thing believed must be justified as true and the belief in the truth must be based upon that justification.

More than you bargained for?

Ron

Joshua said...

What lies behind my question is how it would be that Clark would argue for something that would so easily be refuted. It could be that I am simply wrong about Clark and that he never argued that all true propositions are deduced from Scripture. But if he did believe as much, it seems strange that he would miss the fact that one's knowledge of one's own salvation is not a premise deducible from Scripture (though, as you say, it must be justified by Scripture).

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

clark stated in the Festschrift that he knew the Word of God was the Word of God due to the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Clark appealed to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Moreover, didn't Clark affirm the Confession on assurance?

The problem is, people don't go to the original sources. Accordingly, dead people are easily hijacked by misguided fellows that need a leader. And opposers are very capable of beating up on people after they'r dead. It's amazing how many people have defeated the theonomic thesis after Bahnsen's departure.

Ron

Joshua said...

I'm glad to hear as much. I have read a few of Clark's books now and was confused at some of the things I'd heard about him.

I'll be the first to admit that the details of anyone's position are the hardest for me to understand with assurance, much less a person like Clark who was often writing about difficult things.

Indeed, your own discussion about the difference between a person being justified in believing a proposition and a proposition being justified as true, as well as a belief due to the justification of the proposition are simple ideas, perhaps, but I would find myself hard pressed to make it clear to someone else. Such shows only that I do not understand it well enough myself.

Jason said...

Hi Ron. Yup, Jason and Jason1646 are the same person and you knew it because you had a justified true belief, and you could even articulate it at that! :)

I guess what I'm having trouble grasping is how someone can have knowledge without being able to articulate a justification for it, and yet knowledge still requiring justification. If they have justification for their belief, what prevents them from articulating it, other than some mechanical problem in expressing themselves?

In the case of the president's initials, perhaps they believe the president has the initials R.R. without knowing what they stand for. Is that knowledge? I'm not trying to argue for something else here, I'm just trying to understand the nuance you're driving.

Happy Lord's Day,

Jason(1646)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

”Hi Ron. Yup, Jason and Jason1646 are the same person and you knew it because you had a justified true belief, and you could even articulate it at that! :)

Brother,

Actually, I had a rational inference – not knowledge! :)

”I guess what I'm having trouble grasping is how someone can have knowledge without being able to articulate a justification for it, and yet knowledge still requiring justification. If they have justification for their belief, what prevents them from articulating it, other than some mechanical problem in expressing themselves?"

You appreciate that unbelievers know God exists. This knowledge is not a probable inference but rather is a belief in a truth that is justified by God Himself bearing witness to their minds. Now then, apart from Scripture how can the unbeliever justify this knowledge of God? He can posit a conceptual scheme but what would be his justification for the knowledge of the ontological God he knows? As Mike Butler notes in the article linked at the top right of my site, conceptual necessity does not imply ontological necessity. So, although man can posit God in order to save himself philosophically, what concrete revelation or series of justifiable premises can he appeal to for the explanation of what he knows? He’s left with natural laws. The problem is that God the Holy Spirit gives man the justification for believing in God yet without special revelation, what can man appeal to that is concrete?

”In the case of the president's initials, perhaps they believe the president has the initials R.R. without knowing what they stand for. Is that knowledge?

I’d have to know more to say...

Happy Lord's Day,

It was a great Lord’s Day. David preached a challenging message on prayer and then again tonight he challenged us over the tongue.

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Note: When I say "save himself philosophically" I don't mean that the person actually saves himself. I should have said that he attempts to save himself philosophically, but the attempt is arbitary.

Also, we might just consider that man knows by nature it's wrong to murder. How though can man defend this knowledge in any concrete fashion apart from an appeal to God's word? We need a covenant document; natual law is inadequate.

Ron

K said...

I see that I'm not the only person to think of tiny doves hovering over the Bible when the subject of epistemology comes up... excellent.

I still think you should make it clearer that being saved isn't the only way you know you exist. That's the impression I get from reading this. I liked the example you gave concerning sinners, too: I am a sinner, sinners are people, therefore I am a person.

Would this work?
I am made in God's image
People are made in God's image
Therefore I am a person

And, of course, the premises are justified because they are found in scripture. But wouldn't you agree that even if God had never given us special revelation the above proof would be justified, we could just never know it is justified? (But we would still have knowledge because we're externalists!) Hence a proposition is justified simply because it is known by God.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the phone conversation. I didn't quite catch everything you said at the end concerning knowing one is saved, however. Maybe some other time.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

I see that I'm not the only person to think of tiny doves hovering over the Bible when the subject of epistemology comes up... excellent.

Glad you liked it. Some might find it too charismatic I suppose!

I still think you should make it clearer that being saved isn't the only way you know you exist.

I could have fleshed that out more, but keep in mind that I did write that “Prior to conversion I knew I existed…” Yes though, my argument pertained to adoption but it need not have. Your point is correct though - one need not be converted to know or to have a sound argument for knowing.

But wouldn't you agree that even if God had never given us special revelation the above proof would be justified, we could just never know it is justified?

We need to be careful with our words. The above argument would be sound. But apart from Scripture there would be no way of justifying the truth of the premises, let alone the validity of the form. Accordingly, although it would be sound, apart from Scripture it would be indefensible, making it for all intents and purposes useless.

(But we would still have knowledge because we're externalists!) Hence a proposition is justified simply because it is known by God.

A proposition is true if God knows it. We would have knowledge, not because we’re externalists but because we had a belief in the truth according to God granting us justification. One could be an internalist, skeptic or maniac, it really doesn’t matter with respect to the question of whether one knows. We must distinguish between what is the case and what is believed or asserted to be the case. It is the case that we know; whether one’s creed is internalism or not is not relevant to whether it is true that one knows.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the phone conversation. I didn't quite catch everything you said at the end concerning knowing one is saved, however. Maybe some other time.

Me too…. Me too…

Yours,

Ron

DianaPaisley419 said...

How kind our Father is to know us, create us AND adopt us into His family. And how blessed I feel when He reveals His thoughts to me, through His words and otherwise.
Glad I stumbled upon your blog, Uncle Ron :-)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Hi Darling,

Thanks for visiting. Ya'll come back now, ya hear?!

Love,

Uncle Ron

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Ron—

I'm not sure I understand your position in this article. Two things in particular:

Firstly, you cite Romans 1 as saying that unregenerate man knows God, but that he cannot articulate the justification for his knowledge apart from Scripture. I understand that we are agreed that knowledge is justified and true belief. However, you also seem to be saying that unregenerate man cannot justify his true belief in God. This would appear to mean that, definitionally, unregenerate man does not have knowledge of God in the technical philosophical sense, even though his belief is true. Since the Greek word gnosis does not appear to entail philosophical precision (that would probably be epignosis), I don't think we are compelled to understand Romans 1:19 as saying that unregenerate man has justified true belief about God. Could you explain more clearly what you mean? Perhaps I have misunderstood something.

Secondly, you say that, before conversion, you knew you existed but could not justify that knowledge. Do you mean that you could not justify it to others, or to yourself? I agree that it is impossible to justify one's existence to others apart from the epistemic foundation of Scripture; but since knowledge of oneself is immediately apprehended, and self-affirming, surely that is sufficient internal justification? Indeed, is it not the very same kind of justification that we mean when we talk about the Spirit bearing witness to our spirits? It seems that knowledge of self is about the only kind of justified, true belief that an unregenerate person can have—but if I understand you correctly, you are saying that he does not even have this.

I suspect there is a certain amount of unstated subtext to this article of which I am unaware, which is necessary to fully understand what you're saying. I'd be grateful if you could clarify these issues for me.

Kind regards,
Bnonn

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Hi Bnonn,

You say: "...you also seem to be saying that unregenerate man cannot justify his true belief in God. This would appear to mean that, definitionally, unregenerate man does not have knowledge of God in the technical philosophical sense, even though his belief is true."

No, this is not so. Man would be justified in his true belief due to God's revelation of the truth, which is sufficient for knowledge.

you say: "...you say that, before conversion, you knew you existed but could not justify that knowledge. Do you mean that you could not justify it to others, or to yourself?"

Both. Try to articulate a justification of anything apart from an ultimate appeal to Scripture.

you say: "but since knowledge of oneself is immediately apprehended, and self-affirming, surely that is sufficient internal justification?"

One is justified in his belief but would would that justification be other than God's revelation? If true, then what would man appeal to in his articulation of that justification?

You're confusing having a justification with accounting for one. The former doesn't imply the latter. Also, man knows many things apart from special revelation. Notwithstanding, he cannot account for what he knows apart from an appeal to Scripture.

Thoughts?

Ron

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Ron, thanks for your reply—

I must confess I am still a little bemused. I wonder if we are defining knowledge in different ways. When I speak of knowledge being justified true belief, I had always understood that justification to be an apprehended one. Using the language you have used here, I think this equates to a belief, the truth of which is accounted for. For example, I believe that other people exist. This belief is true, and I can justify it from Scripture. Therefore, this belief constitutes knowledge to me. However, a non-Christian has this same belief, and the belief is still true, but he cannot account for its truth because he does not have Scripture. Therefore, his belief does not constitute knowledge.

You seem to be saying that actually his belief does constitute knowledge, simply on the grounds that there is a justification for it. Though he cannot give an account for its truth, an account can be given. This seems to be an externalist view of knowledge—that is, since knowledge is an objective thing, one can apprehend it without having an internal justification, and it still remains knowledge. In the ontological or external sense I certainly agree. But surely in the internalist sense, it is not knowledge at all? It is simply a belief, the justification of which exists externally, but unknown to the believer. It seems counter the definition of knowledge to call this true belief "knowledge" on the part of the believer. Would this not imply that any true belief, regardless of the reasons for holding it, is justified, because God knows it?

With regard to knowledge of oneself, you say—

One is justified in his belief but would would that justification be other than God's revelation? If true, then what would man appeal to in his articulation of that justification?

This is intriguing (I mean that in a good way). You seem to be saying that all knowledge is given directly by God to the mind. If so, I agree. But your question seems to me to stray from the realm of epistemology into metaphysics. Certainly there is a degree of overlap between them, but from an epistemological point of view, is it not sufficient to say that I know myself and my perceptions through immediate apprehension? Is it necessary to be able to articulate the mechanism of that apprehension in order to justify my belief to myself? Is a belief not justified, at least in an epistemological sense (I agree that a metaphysical account must be given also) simply by merit of it being self-affirming?

I must say again that I am very intrigued by some of the ideas you have presented here. They seem to mirror, but challenge the limits of, my own apologetic arguments. If I have a correct understanding of what you're saying, I think I may have been too lenient on the atheists...

Regards,
Bnonn

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Bnonn,

I’ll try to interact with your position the best I can.

You seem to be saying that actually his belief does constitute knowledge, simply on the grounds that there is a justification for it. Though he cannot give an account for its truth, an account can be given.

That an account can be given for a true belief is not a sufficient condition for knowledge. For instance, I might believe a true proposition that is revealed in Scripture and although an account or justification can be given from Scripture, if my belief is based upon faulty reasoning, then I would not have knowledge even though an account for such a true belief exists. Accordingly, that an account can be given is not sufficient for knowledge when accompanied by true-belief. Rather, the person who has the true belief must actually be basing that belief upon the sound justification for the belief. In the case of the person who knows God exists but has never been confronted with Scripture, his belief in the truth would be based upon the justification of God’s revelation. The man would know that God exists without being able to account for that knowledge. There would be an internal justification, which comes from God to man.

You seem to be saying that all knowledge is given directly by God to the mind.

I don’t think I said that though I find it true, though some qualification is probably in order. Some knowledge is discursive and not revelational; yet all knowledge that can be derived from true justified premises is God-granted, even though it comes through marks on pages, or sounds we call words, etc.

but from an epistemological point of view, is it not sufficient to say that I know myself and my perceptions through immediate apprehension? Is it necessary to be able to articulate the mechanism of that apprehension in order to justify my belief to myself?

How else could you justify your knowledge to yourself without being able to account for the truth of your belief?

Is a belief not justified, at least in an epistemological sense (I agree that a metaphysical account must be given also) simply by merit of it being self-affirming?

All justified beliefs are obviously justified. That’s tautological. The question is whether the justification of such beliefs can be accounted for simply by virtue of them being possessed by the believer with justification. In the case of the man who knows God apart from Scripture, we find that such knowledge cannot be accounted for by the knower.

I must say again that I am very intrigued by some of the ideas you have presented here. They seem to mirror, but challenge the limits of, my own apologetic arguments. If I have a correct understanding of what you're saying, I think I may have been too lenient on the atheists...

If what you mean is that you have not held the atheist accountable for his knowledge of God, then yes you’ve been too easy on them. I tell atheists that I’ve been reading their mail so to speak. I know they know the God whom they like to suppress.

Yours,

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Bnonn,

I think we're about done. You just wrote:

"if the unregenerate man cannot account for the truth of his belief in God's existence, how can his belief be justified, even though it is revealed immediately by God?"

His reason for believing is due to God's revelation, not mere speculation. How much more justification can one have than God's revelation of the truth? Men know God, which Romans 1 clearly states. The only question is whether man can give an account of this knowledge apart from Scripture.

Then you wrote: "Or, if his belief is justified by the nature of revelation itself, despite his inability to account for its truth, then why is his belief in his own thoughts and perceptions not similarly justified?"

The former is justified because God gives the justification. In the like manner, man's knowledge of himself is justified because God gives the justification. What God does not grant apart from Scripture is a way to account for what we know through general revelation. Again, what is man's justification for his knowledge of God's existence apart from Scripture? He has none. Nonetheless, a lack of justification for the knowledge one has cannot reduce the knowledge one has to an unjustified belief. Conversely, the lack of Scriptural-means to account for the knowledge one has by general revelation cannot raise a speculative belief in a posited "justification" to the level of a justified belief in that supposed justification.

All the answers to your questions are in the thread above.

Yours,

Ron