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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Evidence, Apologetics & the Resurrection


Induction, the basis for all scientific inference, presupposes the uniformity of nature, which is to say it operates under the principle of the future being like the past; yet the resurrection of Christ from the dead is contra-uniform since it does not comport with past experience. Our experience is that people die and are not raised three days later. Also, we’ve all met plenty of liars and those deceived into embracing false beliefs (even dying for false beliefs!) but we have never observed a single resurrection of the body. Accordingly, the lives and martyrdom of zealots need not lead us to conclude that Christ has risen. Consequently, drawing an inference based upon past experience as it pertains to the question of the empty tomb is not very useful. Evidentialism indeed fails as an apologetic. After all, given only the uniformity of nature coupled with personal experience, a more probable explanation for the empty tomb is a hoax put on by liars rather than a miracle put on by God. The same reasoning applies all the more to the virgin birth I would think.

The fact of the matter is that we do not come to know that our Savior lives by examining the evidence according to some alleged neutral posture, for the facts do not demand the conclusion that Christ has risen. The facts are indeed consistent with the resurrection but the facts do not speak for themselves let alone lead us to the Christian conclusion, which is no conclusion at all but rather a starting point! God speaks in order that we might interpret the facts aright. The fact of the empty tomb, therefore, is not what leads us to the "conclusion" of the resurrection but rather the empty tomb corroborates what we already know from God, that Christ is resurrected.

Similarly, we read in Scripture that a man named Saul who once opposed Christ became the chief apologist for the Christian faith. The way in which one will interpret the transformation of Saul to Paul will be consistent with one’s pre-commitment(s). Christians take the fanaticism of the apostle as corroborating what they already know to be true about the resurrection. The fanaticism of the apostle no more “proves” the resurrection of Christ than does the empty tomb. Moreover, neither the empty tomb nor the life of Paul proves the resurrection any more than it can disprove it by proving that a conspiracy to overthrow ancient Judaism took place evidenced by the hoax of the resurrection. The point is simply this. Naturalists will find their explanation for the apostle’s transformation and the empty tomb elsewhere, outside of the Christian resurrection interpretation. Similarly, the way in which one interprets the facts surrounding Joseph Smith will be according to one’s pre-commitment(s). If one is committed to a closed canon, then the claims of Mormonism will be deemed false.

Of course the tomb is empty, for Christ has risen. Of course the apostle Paul preached the resurrection of Christ with all his heart, soul and strength, for Christ has risen. Of course the Mormon religion is a cult, for Jesus is God and the canon is closed. Do we come to believe these things by evaluating supposed brute particulars in an alleged neutral fashion or are our beliefs already marshaled according to our pre-commitment to God’s word in general and the resurrection in particular? Do the “facts” speak for themselves or has God already exegeted the facts for us?

The reason one believes that Christ has risen from the grave is because God has revealed the truth of the resurrection. In fact, we don’t just believe God’s word on the matter, we actually know God is telling the truth. Yet, unwittingly, often times Christians do not speak the truth with respect to why they believe in the resurrection. Too often Christians will say that they believe in the resurrection because of such evidence, which if true would reduce one’s confidence in God’s say-so to speculation based upon supposed brute facts that (would) readily lend themselves to suspicion (when God’s word is not presupposed as reliable, true and one's ultimate authority). Christians need to lay hold of the fact that the “Word of God” is God’s word, and God cannot lie.

The former days of ignorance are gone; so our belief in the truth couldn’t be more justified since our justification comes from the self-attesting Christ of Scripture working in accordance with the internal witness of the Holy Ghost. We do not come to know Jesus lives by drawing inferences from uninterpreted facts in the light of past experiences but rather by believing with maximal warrant the word of truth. Indeed, we have a more sure word of knowledge.

Ron

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56 comments:

Mr. Julio Martinez, Jr. said...

So can there be any type of knowledge within facts? In my experience--and I know I am not my own final and ultimate authority--there can be some valid inferences we can draw from certain inductive objects. How is the resurrection exempt? It would seem that even Paul appealed to sensory data when he exclaimed that there were some who witnessed Christ's resurrection. Or do you think Paul was not in his epistemic rights to do so?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"So can there be any type of knowledge within facts?"

Julio,

If what you mean by this is that facts can speak for themselves, then of course no.

"In my experience--and I know I am not my own final and ultimate authority--there can be some valid inferences we can draw from certain inductive objects."

Yes, we draw rational inferences all the time.

"How is the resurrection exempt?"

First off, we do not know that Jesus rose from the dead other than because God told us he did. If your belief is based upon anything other than that, then it's not something you know; it's just something you believe that flies in the face of all your experiences with respect to liars and death.

Ron

Mr. Julio Martinez, Jr. said...

"If your belief is based upon anything other than that, then it's not something you know; it's just something you believe that flies in the face of all your experiences with respect to liars and death"

Response: Van Til, in his Defense of the Faith, demarcated that we know things in two ways. Though the unbeliever faces up to the fact that he is a "secrete" believer (Bahnsen's words [Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis]), God is the ultimate inference. However, VT also stated that we know things in a mediate fashion. That is, we have direct contact with the facts. The difference I find in VT though is that we draw those inferences (the mediate ones) with a direct context. If it were not the case, then we wouldn't have intellectual disciplines like Math or any of the sciences. Or do you find that disjunctive? I would sincerely hope you don't since the disciplines are justified by God (ontological Trinity). I think that's why Bahnsen constantly called for the unbeliever in all his debates to own up to the knowledge he already has (the ultimate reference point).

Second, being that you're Vantillian (I am too), beliefs are tantamount to justified belief, or do you have a different epistemological definition of knowledge? It seems as if you were saying that "beliefs" and knowledge claims are compartmentalized when you said, "If your belief is based upon anything other than that, then it's not something you know; it's just something you believe that flies in the face of all your experiences with respect to liars and death."

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Hi Julio,

I think you are conflating a few things. First off, beliefs are not tantamount to knowledge lest the law of contradiction is no law at all. After all, people believe mutually exclusive propositions yet mutually exclusive propositions cannot be known to be true. Accordingly, one can believe a false proposition is true but one cannot know a false proposition as true.

Moreover, there seems to be some equivocal thinking on justification as it pertains to belief. One can be justified in his belief without the truth proposition being justified. For instance, one can be justified in believing the clock on the wall without having justified the internal workings of the clock on the wall, which leads us to the limitations of inductive inference. One may be justified in believing something false, which is a common occurrence. When such occurs, the believer is justified in his belief, which is not the same thing as the proposition being justified. If you were to pick up a book on state capitals you could be justified in believing that the capital of Delaware is Wilmington if that’s what the book stated. Your belief would be justified since books of that sort or typically accurate. Yet your belief would be false since the capital of Delaware is Dover. Accordingly, we must distinguish between the justification of the person and that of the proposition. With induction, the proposition ultimately defies justification whereas the believer may have ample justification. Inductive inferences can never rise to the level of deduction, or revelatory knowledge, which is why inductive arguments are either strong or weak; they are never valid or sound.

Finally, all of that has little to do with the main point at hand. The point is that the fact of an empty tomb does not scream resurrection anymore that it screams hoax or conspiracy. Facts don’t speak for themselves. Moreover, and most germane to this discussion, given your past observations of people dying and lying, an empty tomb when interpreted according to past experience is more rationally interpreted as anything but resurrection. The reason you interpret the empty tomb correctly is because God has granted you knowledge of the resurrection. If you strictly go on the facts outside of God's interpretation of the facts, then your most rational belief would be that Jesus did not come back from the grave since a strong inductive inference to the contrary would require that resurrection be more common than liars and deceit, which is not the case. Even if I grant you a rational inference of resurrection based upon the facts in light of your experience, the only thing that could be justified would be your belief but not the proposition you would be believing. After all, for the resurrection itself to be justified by you (as opposed to your belief being justified), you would have to know, not just infer, that nobody stole the body, which you can't apart from revelation. You would not know that your savior lives. You'd only believe it with some degree of warrant, which as I noted would be suspect apart from God's revelation, the main point of this post.

Best,

Ron

Mormons Are Christian said...

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often accused by Evangelical pastors of not believing in Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion This article helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early Christianity's theology relating to baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

• Baptism: .

Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. http://www.imj.org.il/eng/exhibitions/2000/christianity/ancientchurch/structure/index.html
The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and prohibiting non-Christians from witnessing them.

• The Trinity: .

A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration?

The Nicene Creed”s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: "There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one."

Scribes later added "the Father, the Word and the Spirit," and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. .

Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. Harper’s Bible Dictionary entry on the Trinity says “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.”

Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Eastern Orthodox) wrote, regarding theosis, "The Son of God became man, that we might become God." . The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts.

• The Deity of Jesus Christ

Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS), Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son. Evangelical pollster George Barna found in 2001 that while only 33 percent of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists (28 percent of Episcopalians) agreed that Jesus was “without sin”, 70 percent of Mormons believe Jesus was sinless. http://www.adherents.com/misc/BarnaPoll.html

• The Cross and Christ’s Atonement: .

The Cross became popular as a Christian symbol in the Fifth Century A.D. . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) believe the proper Christian symbol is Christ’s resurrection , not his crucifixion on the Cross. Many Mormon chapels feature paintings of the resurrected Christ or His Second Coming. Furthermore, members of the church believe the major part of Christ’s atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane as Christ took upon him the sins of all mankind.

• Definition of “Christian”: .

But Mormons don’t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. They believe Christ’s atonement applies to all mankind. The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer.

It’s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be authentic Christians. . Early Christians had certain rituals which defined a Christian http://sacred-texts.com/chr/ecf/207/2070037.htm , which members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continue today. . If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology, they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors.

• The Parallel with the “Rise of Christianity”

Rodney Stark in his book “The Rise of Christianity” found parallels with the rise of Mormonism:
A similar growth rate (40 percent for Christianity, and 43 percent for Mormonism) for both nascent religious movements. Conversions proceeded along social networking lines, primarily. While Christianity retained Jews’ belief in the Old Testament, Mormonism retains Creedal Christians’ belief in both the New and Old Testaments. The Romans martyred the Christian leaders, the mobs in Missouri and Illinois martyred the Mormon leaders. In both cases, they expected the fledgling movements to fail without their leaders.

• The Need for a Restoration of the Christian Church:

The founder of the Baptist Church in America, Roger Williams, just prior to leaving the church he established, said this:

"There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking.” (Picturesque America, p. 502.)

Martin Luther had similar thoughts: "Nor can a Christian believer be forced beyond sacred Scriptures,...unless some new and proved revelation should be added; for we are forbidden by divine law to believe except what is proved either through the divine Scriptures or through Manifest revelation."

He also wrote: "I have sought nothing beyond reforming the Church in conformity with the Holy Scriptures. The spiritual powers have been not only corrupted by sin, but absolutely destroyed; so that there is now nothing in them but a depraved reason and a will that is the enemy and opponent of God. I simply say that Christianity has ceased to exist among
those who should have preserved it."

The Lutheran, Baptist and Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) churches recognize an apostasy from early Christianity. The Lutheran and Baptist churches have attempted reform, but Mormonism (and Roger Williams, and perhaps Martin Luther) require inspired restoration, so as to re-establish an unbroken line of authority and apostolic succession.

* * *
• Christ-Like Lives:

The 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion published by UNC-Chapel Hill found that Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) youth (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to exhibit these Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group):


1. Attend Religious Services weekly
2. Importance of Religious Faith in shaping daily life – extremely important
3. Believes in life after death
4. Does NOT believe in psychics or fortune-tellers
5. Has taught religious education classes
6. Has fasted or denied something as spiritual discipline
7. Sabbath Observance
8. Shared religious faith with someone not of their faith
9. Family talks about God, scriptures, prayer daily
10. Supportiveness of church for parent in trying to raise teen (very supportive)
11. Church congregation has done an excellent job in helping teens better understand their own sexuality and sexual morality

LDS Evangelical
1. 71% 55%
2. 52 28
3. 76 62
4. 100 95
5. 42 28
6. 68 22
7. 67 40
8. 72 56
9. 50 19
10. 65 26
11. 84 35



So what do you think the motivation is for the Evangelical preachers to denigrate the Mormon Church? You would think Evangelical preachers would be emulating Mormon practices (a creed to believe, a place to belong, a calling to live out, and a hope to hold onto) which were noted by Methodist Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean of the Princeton Theological Seminary, as causing Mormon teenagers to “top the charts” in Christian characteristics. (see http://MormonTeenagers.blogspot.com) It seems obvious pastors shouldn't be denigrating a church based on First Century Christianity, with high efficacy. The only plausible reason to denigrate Mormons is for Evangelical pastors to protect their flock (and their livelihood).

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Compiled by James White:


"Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the Church of the Lamb of God and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore whoso belongeth not to the church of the lamb of God belongeth to that great church; which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth." (The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 14:10)

"Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (Documentary History of the Church, Introduction, xl)

"I was answered that I must join none of them (Christian Churches), for they were all wrong...that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight" (Joseph Smith History 1:19).

"...orthodox Christian views of God are Pagan rather than Christian." (Mormon Doctrine of Deity by B.H. Roberts, p.116)

"...the God whom the 'Christians' worship is a being of their own creation..." (Apostle Charles W. Penrose, JD 23:243)

"The Christian world, so called, are heathens as to their knowledge of the salvation of God." (Brigham Young, JD 8:171)

"We may very properly say that the sectarian world do not know anything correctly, so far as pertains to salvation. Ask them where heaven is?- where they are going to when they die?-where Paradise is! -and there is not a priest in the world that can answer your questions. Ask them what kind of a being our Heavenly Father is, and they cannot tell you so much as Balaam's ass told him. They are more ignorant than children." (Brigham Young, JD 5:229).

"The Christian world, I discovered, was like the captain and crew of a vessel on the ocean without a compass, and tossed to and fro whithersoever the wind listed to blow them. When the light came to me, I saw that all the so-called Christian world was grovelling in darkness." (Brigham Young, JD 5:73).

"What! Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute best." (John Taylor, JD 13:225)

"What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing...Why so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest fools; they know neither God nor the things of God." (John Taylor, JI) 13:225)

"Believers in the doctrines of modern Christendom will reap damnation to their souls (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.177)

"I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true." (Joseph Smith, DHC 1:6)

"I spoke of the impropriety of turning away from the truth, and going after a people so destitute of righteousness as the Methodists." (Joseph Smith, DHC 2:319)

"...brother Joseph B. Nobles once told a Methodist priest, after hearing him describe his god, that the god they worshiped was the "Mormon's" Devil-a being without a body, whereas our God has a body, parts and passions." (Brigham Young, JD 5:331)

"...brother Heber C. Kimball was beset by a number of Baptist priests who had been attending a conference. He read them all down out of the New Testament....With regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world." (Brigham Young, JD 8:199).

"The Roman Catholic, Greek, and Protestant church, is the great corrupt, ecclesiastical power, represented by great Babylon...." (Orson Pratt, Orson Pratt, Writings of an Apostle, "Divine Authenticity," no.6, p.84).

"...all the priests who adhere to the sectarian religions of the day with all their followers, without one exception, receive their portion with the devil and his angels." (The Elders Journal, Joseph Smith Jr., editor, vol.1, no.4, p.60)

"And any person who shall be so wicked as to receive a holy ordinance of the gospel from the ministers of any of these apostate churches will be sent down to hell with them, unless they repent of the unholy and impious act." (Orson Pratt, OP-WA, "The Kingdom of God," no.2, p.6)

"...all other churches are entirely destitute of all authority from God; and any person who recieves baptism or the Lord's supper from their hands will highly offend God, for he looks upon them as the most corrupt people." (Orson Pratt, The Seer, pg. 255)

"...the great apostate church as the anti-christ...This great antichrist...is the church of the devil." (Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine p.40)

"Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the "whore of Babylon" whom the lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness." (Pratt, The Seer, p.255)

"Brother Taylor has just said that the religions of the day were hatched in hell. The eggs were laid in hell, hatched on its borders, and then kicked on to the earth." (Brigham Young, JD 6:176)

"Evil spirits control much of the so-called religious worship in the world; for instance, the great creeds of Christendom were formulated so as to conform to their whispered promptings." (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.246)

"After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, there were only two churches upon the earth. They were known respectively as the Church of the Lamb of God and Babylon. The various organizations which are called churches throughout Christiandom, though differing in their creeds and organizations, have one common orgin. They belong to Babylon." (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, p.324)

Finally, note the views of Mormon Prophet Brigham Young regarding the Christian view of Jesus Christ:

"You may hear the divines of the day extol the character of the Saviour, undertake to exhibit his true character before the people, and give an account of his origin...I have frequently thought of mules, which you know are half horse and half ass, when reflecting upon the representations made by those divines. I have heard sectarian priests undertake to tell the character of the Son of God, and they make him half of one species and half of another, and I could not avoid thinking at once of the mule, which is the most hateful creature that ever was made, I believe. You will excuse me, but I have thus thought many a time" (Journal of Discourses 4:217).

Mormons are Cultists said...

I guess that settles things pretty well!

Keith said...

Ron, that's the first time I've ever seen you say that justifications can be wrong, and that justifications are person or proposition dependent. Previously you have made it much more black and white than that, equating justification with certainty. And that was always my concern---that you made justification so incredibly limited that the only knowledge we had were necessarily-true propositions, transcendentals, or tautologies. So is this a position you've always held or are you relaxing your definition of knowledge?

Anyway, glad to see a post on apologetics once again! :)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Hey Keith,

I've been thinking of you. I actually thought of you when I wrote that last post. It was prompted by a response to one of my earliest posts.

I don't think I've changed anything in my epistemology. In fact, I'm certain I haven't! :) In my induction threads I believe I distinguish between being justified as a person and justifying the actual proposition. It's a distinction philosophers don't typically make, which is surprising. I think it must be made in order to distinguish between rational inference and knowledge. As you know, I have a high bar for knowledge, which comes from only revelation and deduction. I do allow for premises in deductive arguments to be based upon knowledge obtained outside of Scripture, but not from inductive inference.

I'm being summoned to the table!

Ron

Keith said...

By "knowledge outside of scripture" you are referring to knowledge obtained through the senses, correct? For example, you know you are sleeping next to your wife... something Clark admitted he didn't know. Of course, this would be an example of you being justified by not necessarily the proposition "I am sleeping next to my wife" being justified.

All in all it seems like you've made room for false knowledge. Person-dependent knowledge could be justified but actually false. Correct?

Nice tan. :D

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Yes, such as I know my wife. For if I couldn’t then I could possibly commit adultery unknowingly, which the Scriptures will not allow. I can think of other examples too having to do with bearing false witness. More importantly the proposition would be justified because I would have ascertained the justified truth of the proposition by my reliable senses that a good God has given me. This is unlike induction where I can be justified but the proposition of the absolute truth of what is believed cannot.

I don’t see how I’ve made room for false knowledge. When I’m justified due to the truth of what is believed being truly justified in my sight (which is never the case with induction), then I have knowledge. Given what I’m calling justification of the proposition, the truth of the proposition is a given. If I can truly justify the propostion, then it must be true.

If I have a belief that I think constitutes knowledge when it doesn’t, then my belief would not be justified. That I can be wrong doesn’t mean I do not know when I know. It only means that I can be wrong. Clear, right?

A tan is not an issue with a name like DiGiacomo! :-)

Ron

Keith said...

which the Scriptures will not allow.

Well, I would state the argument differently, I'd say that there's no point in God giving us laws by which we will be judged if we are incapable of obeying them. And we can only obey them if we know we are in a certain situation, hence our senses must be reliable.

When you talk about YOU being justified in using induction are you simply going back to the concept of induction being rational?

If I can truly justify the proposition, then it must be true.

So in the case of the senses it is possible to truly justify the proposition... unlike induction where it is never possible to justify the proposition. Right?

Are you trying to say that Italians are immune to skin cancer?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Perfect Keith (on the philosophy stuff). No though on the medical stuff! Not immune but close! :)

Ron

Joshua said...

"Yes, such as I know my wife. For if I couldn’t then I could possibly commit adultery unknowingly, which the Scriptures will not allow. I can think of other examples too having to do with bearing false witness. More importantly the proposition would be justified because I would have ascertained the justified truth of the proposition by my reliable senses that a good God has given me. This is unlike induction where I can be justified but the proposition of the absolute truth of what is believed cannot."

May I propose a fanciful hypothetical into your example?

Given that it is necessary for you to possess a knowledge of your wife in order to be capable of fulfilling the commandment to refrain from adultery.

What of the example of an identical twin, or even perhaps of a surgically altered woman engineered to look exactly like your wife in as many respects as physically possible?

We might also need to add the addition of a lie (on the part of the twin or doppleganger) to deceive you in your belief that the impostor is in reality your true wife.

Given such a situation, would your belief in the false wife be unjustified simply because it is false on the basis of knowledge that extends beyond your senses? Suppose such an example were true and knowledge of its truth was never discovered. You would still be an adulterer, yet without a high-hand.

It would seem that the justification that you are not always committing adultery with an impostor rests upon the presupposition that God gives us a means for escaping sin as opposed to the reliability of our senses doesn't it? In other words, there are Biblical axioms undergirding the non-revelational conclusion that your wife is indeed your wife?

Am I confusing the issue or adding something substantive to this discussion?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Hi Joshua,

Identical twins become less alike as they get older. Parents recognize the difference in their children at extremely young ages. How much more the case with adults of marrying age? As for an imposter or genetically changed person, I think you might have seen one too many sci-fi movies. Not that it matters but personality plays a part too. When you hear of such an example from real life, please do get back to me. I'm not sure I grasped your last point.

Cheers,

Ron

Joshua said...

Hi Ron,

I reread your interaction with Keith and believe that I was misunderstanding what was being said.

As for the last point I was making, it was no different that what you had already acknowledged: that trust in our senses rests upon the proposition that they are God-given and He has ordered the world in such a way that they can be reasonably relied upon.

Is that about right?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

That's not about right. It's exactly right! :)

Thanks for clarifying, Joshua.

Ron

Keith said...

Joshua, notice what Ron wrote:

For if I couldn’t [know I was sleeping with my wife] then I could possibly commit adultery unknowingly, which the Scriptures will not allow.

So to commit adultery one must know they are committing adultery, which presupposes that one's senses are reliable. So in the case of your identical twin dilemma, I think Ron would agree that that would not actually be adultery.

Just as Calvin is oft commented upon, so will I one day write a commentary on all of Ron's writing. Hopefully he is still alive when it is published. (Which is why I am gently encouraging him to stay out of the sun, lest skin cancer set in.)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Joshua, you must excuse Keith's dry - very dry - sense of humor on the commentary remark.

W/ respect to his first paragraph, I agree with the meaning of both sentences but qualification is in order. I wasn’t trying to imply the second sentence in what I wrote; in fact it presupposes that which I thought would never occur. So, I wasn't addressing the question of whether one could be invincibly ignorant before God through the means if deception. I don't think God would allow the first scenario of one mistaking his wife to the point of laying down with another, but given the unlikeliness of such an occurrence, Keith might be correct that such would not be adultery in the eyes of God given no intent. I didn't intend to communicate that idea in my previous remark Keith references.

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Keith, would the deception (allowing for such deception) bypass the senses? In other words, how could the senses be reliable if one could be deceived into laying down with another? If a deception were to occur and the senses are reliable, then wouldn't we have to attribute the deception not to the senses per se, but to not using one's senses to the fullest potential, which would leave the man culpable?

Ron

Joshua said...

1 Corinthians 10:13 would seem to preclude the possibility of deception resulting in a forbidden action that is not sinful. As you hint at in your questions to Keith, what we are capable of discerning by our senses is not equivalent to what we attempt to discern by our senses.

In the case of being deceived into adultery, would our example then involve multiple sins--failing by omission to adequately use the senses God has given us and subsequently sinning by the commission of adultery?

Keith said...

In other words, how could the senses be reliable if one could be deceived into laying down with another?

Well, that's always been a big question, I think. Dreams, mirages, visions, etc... how do we know our senses are reliable with all of these exceptions? Here I would do the same thing that you do with induction: we are justified in using our senses but our senses are not infallible. And, in fact, they don't have to be. God judges each man on his own merits. God's truth is self-authenticating, therefore we know we can't appeal to the uncertainty of the reliability of the senses. God can and does communicate through the senses, and we know when He does. Analogous to this is what you said about modus ponens in refuting Brian Bosse: "That modus ponens can be misapplied does not mean that we cannot know when it is being correctly applied."

All that being said, I don't *have* to come up with criteria by which I test my sensory data input and then conclude I am not being deceived. Like you have said, I know that God is a good God, and I know that He has revealed His word and I know that its contents are true and applicable. I have no way to escape this.

but to not using one's senses to the fullest potential, which would leave the man culpable?

How would someone know they are not using their senses to the fullest potential? That seems self-defeating... you'd have to know what your senses should have sensed in order to know that you didn't sense properly... and how would you have known what your senses should have sensed apart from the senses?!

To use 1 Cor. 10:13 is to beg the question. Like sin, temptation presupposes that one is aware they in a situation in which they are being tempted. And if one falls to temptation then they know they are sinning.

A pertinent example of sensory deception is Jacob tricking his father. Would we say that Jacob's father was not using his senses to the fullest?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

1 Corinthians 10:13 would seem to preclude the possibility of deception resulting in a forbidden action that is not sinful.

I’ve read that sentence a few times and I decided to take it to mean that if one breaks the law of God, then it must be sin, which means that God would have provided a way of escape, which in turn would mean that one cannot claim deception as an excuse since a way of escape presupposes culpability. Yet if there is such a thing as invincible ignorance born out of deception that would render one not culpable of his action, then the verse would not apply and a way of escape would not be relevant since there’d be no sin to escape from. In other words, the verse does not teach against the notion that one can break the external law with a pure heart due to invincible ignorance born out of deception. It only teaches that when one sins, a way of escape is provided. Your conclusion, therefore, seems to beg the question of whether the act would be sin in the first place.

In the case of being deceived into adultery, would our example then involve multiple sins--failing by omission to adequately use the senses God has given us and subsequently sinning by the commission of adultery?

I’d say definitely yes.

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Keith, I think you merged comments to Joshua with comments to me.

Ron

Joshua said...

Ron and Keith,

Ok, I can see the question begging difficulty in using 1 Cor. 10:13.

However, given the previous conclusion that we are justified in using our senses wouldn't it require one to demonstrate (rather than assume) the possibility of an invincible ignorance?

Also, I'm not sure the argument concerning the avoidance of sin has to be construed as using the senses "to the fullest," but only using them to the extent that one is able to avoid the sin.

(In the case of adultery there is also the additional ability to ask questions that only a true spouse would answer correctly, which relies upon something besides immediate sensation, right?)

The criteria then would be fixed ("to the avoidance of sin"), rather than an indeterminate ("using the senses to their fullest").

I'm not sure the case of Jacob's deceit handles the issue of sin, since it isn't clear to me that Isaac sinned in blessing Jacob, although it was not his will to do so. Even so, one can imagine alternatives that Isaac could have used to have made him capable of discovering that Jacob was playing the imposter.

Mark said...

By "knowledge outside of scripture" you are referring to knowledge obtained through the senses, correct? For example, you know you are sleeping next to your wife... something Clark admitted he didn't know.

Which is irrelevant really for Clark believed he was sleeping next to his wife and were he sleeping with another woman he would have believed himself involved in an illicit affair. Epistemic certainty isn't important here as psychological certainty is enough to convict of sin. To him who thinks something is sin, it is sin, for whatever is not from faith is sin.

Mark

Keith said...

Josh, my only point in bringing up Isaac and Jacob is that we wouldn't say "Isaac wasn't using his senses to the fullest." I still don't even know what that means, and no one has elaborated on it---probably because it is undefinable. What matters, I think, is simply whether one is aware that they are sinning.

Tying this into Mark's comment, I think he is correct that the issue during sin isn't epistemic certainty but rather pyschology. And indeed I said that one cannot arrive at epistemic certainty through the senses---and that one does not need to! Where I disagree with Mark is in his implication that psychology is the only thing that matters. His view seems to embrace idealism: I could actually be committing adultery right now, but I think I am sitting at my computer, so it doesn't really matter that I am actually committing adultery. This is the sort of silly phenomenological nonsense that inevitably occurs when the senses are downplayed. Why would God give us senses to use if indeed they contribute nothing to our epistemology? I believe that the senses do affect our psychology because they ARE reliable.

"The hearing ear and seeing eye, the Lord hath made them all."

Mark said...

Tying this into Mark's comment, I think he is correct that the issue during sin isn't epistemic certainty but rather pyschology. And indeed I said that one cannot arrive at epistemic certainty through the senses---and that one does not need to!

Well OK even though I find that a rather odd way of saying things.

Where I disagree with Mark is in his implication that psychology is the only thing that matters.


Huh!! Draw that out for me please. Since my comment was simply to note that whatever is not from faith is sin, I am interested in how you arrived at your conclusion. Show the implication that psychology (whatever you mean by that) is the only thing matters.

His view seems to embrace idealism: I could actually be committing adultery right now, but I think I am sitting at my computer, so it doesn't really matter that I am actually committing adultery. This is the sort of silly phenomenological nonsense that inevitably occurs when the senses are downplayed. Why would God give us senses to use if indeed they contribute nothing to our epistemology? I believe that the senses do affect our psychology because they ARE reliable.

Heh. You’re being ridiculous. How have I downplayed the senses? I merely noted that such certainty is irrelevant on this particular point. If one believes he is sinning, he is sinning. Frankly Keith, and this has obviously escaped you, I’ve said less than you have about epistemology. You’ve stated quite explicitly that the senses cannot give epistemic certainty, but I made no such claim. I may believe that, but there is nothing I’ve said that warrants you thinking that I do. Who then is talking nonsense? Or should we say being irrational?

And what else? After having said that one cannot arrive at epistemic certainty through the senses you insist that the senses are reliable. Well OK, but in what sense? Reliable for what? Knowledge (per you) that isn’t certain? And if the senses affect our psychology because [your words] they are reliable does that mean that sensations that prove to be mistaken (not reliable) don't? Inquiring minds want to know.

Keith said...

Hi Mark,

I see your point, I was probably hasty. I assumed you were of the Cheung variety. (Or maybe I misunderstand Cheung---feel free to correct me.) But your statements lean very heavily towards phenomenology since you placed all of the emphasis on the existential aspect of sin and not on whether the person actually was sinning---that's a pretty significant distinction.

Regarding certainty, I need to know your definition of certainty before I can really answer your questions.

Keith

Mark said...

But your statements lean very heavily towards phenomenology since you placed all of the emphasis on the existential aspect of sin and not on whether the person actually was sinning

How do you arrive at that Keith? A person that thinks he is sinning IS sinning. Whatever is not from faith IS sin. Sounds like actually sinning to me and that's from the Bible so it's a point on which we can be certain. :)

Regarding certainty, I need to know your definition of certainty before I can really answer your questions.

No you don't. You're the one saying that epistemic certainty cannot be arrived at via the senses. You're the one that is saying that the senses are reliable and reliable for a specific reason. Well you do know what you meant when you said that right? What do you mean by certainty. What do you mean by reliable? My questions are based on what you said and your answers need to based on what you said, not what I think.

FYI Ron and I communicate often and by phone. The times when we disagree are few and far between and then it is usually a matter of semantics. He seems to have taken an interest in you and you should consider yourself fortunate. Pay close attention.

Markzgly

Keith said...

Mark,

I agree that whatever is not done in faith is sin. This is what I was taking issue with:

[Whether Clark's wife was sleeping next to him] is irrelevant really, for Clark believed he was sleeping next to his wife

Is this what you were trying to convey? Because if so, I'm not sure how you could have said it any clearer: reality takes a backseat to psychology. Sin is now a matter of psychology and not reality. And if the purpose of our senses is to inform us of reality then we can deduce that the senses are equally irrelevant.

Or is reality irrelevant only in matters of sin? I have no idea why it would be, so from this I concluded that your view becomes some kind of solipsism.

Now if this is the case then I could actually be murdering people right now, but I don't believe I am murdering people, so I am not actually sinning.

And that is silly. Is that the kind of world God created?

I believe that our senses do inform us about reality, which then affects our psychology. Some scenarios could exist in which our senses fail us, but this is the exception, not the rule (because a good God gave us reliable senses). And I would agree, then, that psychology is the relevant factor in whether we are sinning. But by no means does this make reality irrelevant because our God is good and He gave us reliable senses that inform us about reality... etc etc etc.

Anyway, if you think I've messed up on my deduction somewhere, please point it out. You can have the last word on that matter.

No you don't. ... Well you do know what you meant when you said that right?

I was merely offering to work within your terms. Consider your earlier statement:

After having said that one cannot arrive at epistemic certainty through the senses you insist that the senses are reliable.

In this instance, I mean logical certainty (the property of a proposition in that it cannot fail to be true). If a proposition is logically certain then it is necessarily true. Therefore, when I say that we do not need epistemic certainty through the senses I mean that the proposition, "Keith is staring at a computer screen" (X) is not necessarily true. I have little reason to think X is false, but given the reality of sensory deception and my inability to test every bit of sensory input according to some criteria (by which I judge whether my senses are deceiving me) I have a reason to be agnostic towards the logical certainty of X.

The other option: when I say "I cannot arrive at epistemic certainty through the senses" I could be saying "I can never be without doubt regarding X." (psychological certainty)

Obviously the two forms of certainty are not the same. One is a property of propositions, the other a property of persons. Logical certainty may determine whether I am pschologically certain but my psychological certainty can never determine whether X is logically certain.

So I was using epistemic certainty in the proposition-relative sense (the first sense), and hopefully I was able to answer your questions. Please also read my response to Ron's question in the comment dated "2:44 PM", where I deal with the topic of reliability in more depth.

As a note, I should say I'm working all of this out myself and am very much open to input. I'm not trying to write authoritatively. You inquired, however, so I provided my present views.

He seems to have taken an interest in you and you should consider yourself fortunate.

I consider it a great blessing and honor.

Keith

Joshua said...

Keith,

Mark's proposition doesn't entail a reduction of certainty to psychological certainty. He believes that what the Bible says is certain, whether or not any individual is psychologically certain of that fact.

His point is that in cases where we do not have a certainty provided from Scripture, the certainty of our minds is enough to convict of us sin.

In the case of adultery, we know from Scripture that adultery is sin. If Mark believes he is being deceived and an imposter is sleeping in his bed, it would be sinful for him to get into bed with what he believes to be an imposter, for he would be acting contrary to what he knows is true (to sleep with an imposter instead of my wife, is sin).

The Bible also makes it clear that we are held accountable for psychological beliefs that are not sinful universally: the person who eats meat should not judge the one who refuses to eat, for if both eat from faith, they do well. Yet if one eats, believing it to be sinful, he has indeed sinned.

As for the case of unknowingly sleeping with an imposter, we are still held accountable for the sin, for we are all guilty in our flesh and marred in our nature (we cannot use our senses flawlessly). Even a sin of ignorance and deception is a sin.

Sean Gerety said...

Yes, such as I know my wife. For if I couldn’t then I could possibly commit adultery unknowingly, which the Scriptures will not allow. . I can think of other examples too having to do with bearing false witness. More importantly the proposition would be justified because I would have ascertained the justified truth of the proposition by my reliable senses that a good God has given me.

Hi Ron. I’ve already commented on your blog once today, so this will be twice and I don’t want to over stay my welcome, although probably already have.

I don’t see that the above follows. In response to a similar situation Dr. Robbins replied in a way that I think sums up my objection here to your otherwise excellent post and refutation of evidentialism:

"[This] objection is of the same ilk as those who say, How can I obey the Ten Commandments if I don't know who my wife is . . . The statements and commands in Scripture apply to all our thoughts, whether they rise to the level of knowledge or not. We are to bring every thought into captivity to Christ, that is, into captivity to Scripture.”

Therefore, I don’t have to know my wife in order to commit adultery, even unknowingly (which might be an equivocation on the word “to know” and what you really mean something more in line with “unwittingly”).

I guess another way to put it, if the reliability of your senses that Lisa is your wife justifies the truth of this proposition why not the proposition that Jesus rose from the tomb?

I don’t see that it follow from the idea that God gave us sense organs, even reliable ones (whatever reliability intends to imply), that we can justify any proposition through their (correct) use? God gave us reliable stomachs, yet they don’t justify the proposition that Lisa is your wife or Tracy is mine.

FWIW I think the problem goes considerably deeper than just the problem of induction and extends primarily to the question of the supposed reliability of the senses and their relationship to the question of knowledge.

Anyway, I enjoy your blog and tend to agree with a lot more than I disagree. Some of your Gaffin defense I find misplaced and troublesome, but I think Lane Keister along with many of Gaffin's other former students suffer from the same problem.

Cheers - Sean

Sean Gerety said...

OK, one more . . .

Keith writes:

"I could actually be committing adultery right now, but I think I am sitting at my computer, so it doesn't really matter that I am actually committing adultery."

I think the real situation is that you can be "actually" committing adultery right now while sitting at your computer.

Isn't "looking on a woman to lust for her" through an image conjured up in your mind even while sitting at your computer the same sin of adultery as if you were engaged in so much more?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

If a proposition is logically certain then it is necessarily true.
I’m not sure I like that construct. I would rather index certainty to people not propositions. I had this issue with Brian Bosse every time he asked me for an argument that was certain. Arguments are sound, valid, or invalid. Inductions are strong or weak. Propositions are true or false, justified or unjustified. It is people who are certain or uncertain. Brian simply was never certain of the “certainty” of my argument, but he could not refute the premises or their source without denying the faith.
I’d prefer to say that if one is to have epistemic certainty, then the proposition is justified by revelation or deduction through premises that can be justified by the principles of Scripture. So in the case of knowing that I see what I call a rose and that there is a rational category of roseness in the world, my premises that what I am thinking corresponds to the external mind-independent world (whereby I receive stimulus – not knowledge! – through the medium or gateway of sensory perception) would have to be justified by Scripture. I believe that we may move beyond Scripture, which I’m not sure Cheung would say but I believe Clark never denied this kind of epistemology.
Hi Ron. I’ve already commented on your blog once today, so this will be twice and I don’t want to over stay my welcome, although probably already have.

Sean, you are always welcome. If I were to ever get tired of you, I just won’t publish your remarks. I’ll then call you nasty names. I’m kidding, brother. Comment all you like.

I don’t have to know my wife in order to commit adultery, even unknowingly (which might be an equivocation on the word “to know” and what you really mean something more in line with “unwittingly”).

I think what you mean is that if you don’t have epistemic certainty of your wife being your wife, then you can still commit adultery; I of course agree, since your intent could have been to commit adultery against the person you believed to be your wife by rational inference. However, such a point does not speak to the point I made: “if I couldn’t [know who my wife is] then I could possibly commit adultery unknowingly, which the Scriptures will not allow.”

Your premise is: “If no certainty of wife, then adultery is still possible.”
Whereas my premise is: “If no certainty of wife, then adultery without knowing it is possible.” You’re saying, if x then y; and I’m saying, if x then z, where y and z are not mutually exclusive.

Now let’s table for argument’s sake what adultery is, for that only muddies the water and our points are toward another philosophical matter. Let’s just talk about the act of lying with another. It makes the point easier to understand.

Your premise then becomes: “If no certainty of wife, then intentionally lying with another is still possible.”

My premise then becomes: “If no certainty of wife, then lying with another unwittingly is possible.”

Your premise is compatible with mine. Accordingly, it may not be used to refute my premise.

I guess another way to put it, if the reliability of your senses that Lisa is your wife justifies the truth of this proposition why not the proposition that Jesus rose from the tomb?

Well, my senses actually play the same role in each. My senses, as they respond to markings on a page, are the medium by which I think true thoughts about Christ that are justified. In the like manner, my senses are the medium for my thoughts about Lisa. My justification is that God is good and has given me senses that reliable, whereby I can have justified thoughts without questioning the medium by which I acquire them, both in the realm of Jesus and Lisa.

God gave us reliable stomachs, yet they don’t justify the proposition that Lisa is your wife or Tracy is mine.

That’s right; he gave us reliable senses as the gateway to thoughts, not stomachs for that endeavor.

Anyway, I enjoy your blog and tend to agree with a lot more than I disagree. Some of your Gaffin defense I find misplaced and troublesome, but I think Lane Keister along with many of Gaffin's other former students suffer from the same problem.

Thanks for saying so. I enjoy blogging! It beats the message boards! So come and opine all you like with pithy comments, but remember bloviating is my job!

All the best, Sean.

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Sean, one last thing. I distinguish what is acquired by the medium of senses from inductive inference. I'm with Clark all the way on induction. And I maintain, also, that what I see is not an inductive inference. For all I know, Clark would have agreed. I think he agrees now in his felicity in heaven.

I think that people run from the problems with induction as a means for knowledge because they think that to deny inductive knowledge is to deny the reliability of the sensory perception. In fact, I'm probably in a very small camp.

RD

Mark said...

Keith this is nonsense. I find you a bit scattered and unfocused and frankly I haven't the patience for it.

Is this what you were trying to convey?

No Keith. You're not thinking clearly. My point, the point made eminently clear in the passages of Scripture quoted, is that if one believes they are sinning they are sinning. It is quite simple really and doesn't logically lead to all the silliness I'm reading from you. The Scriptural passages aren't mine Keith. What did the Spirit mean when he said that whatever is not from faith is sin?

I leave you to Ron.

Pax

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"Or is reality irrelevant only in matters of sin? I have no idea why it would be, so from this I concluded that your view becomes some kind of solipsism.

Now if this is the case then I could actually be murdering people right now, but I don't believe I am murdering people, so I am not actually sinning.
"

Keith,

I’m not following too closely but I think Mark has noted that one way we sin is when we act contrary to conscience, whether the act is illicit by God’s standards or not. “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” Now I believe Mark altered my original scenario. Whether that caused you to go in another direction, I don’t know. His scenario involved one mistaking one’s wife for another woman with the intention of committing adultery with the other woman (who ends up being the man’s wife). The sin would be due to the intention, even though the external act would be lawful since the woman he thought was a strange woman would be his wife. Such was not in view with my original example. I spoke of God preventing us from mistaking another woman for one’s wife; my point being that one could not truly mistake another woman for one’s wife and in turn sleep with a strange woman accidentally.

With that aside, your statement above seems to be an attempt of a reductio of Mark’s position. How does your reductio work though? It seems as if you’re saying, “if one can sin by believing he’s sinning when indeed the action itself is lawful (which was Mark’s point), then (your point) by believing that you are not sinning in that instance would mean that you are truly not sinning.” That of course is convoluted because you have somone believing x and not x in the same way at the same time. I think you're just rushing your posts is all.

Maybe I should bow out of this.

Ron

Mark said...

Sean,

Help me out here. Where did Clark say that he could not know if his wife was next to him? I have heard Clark say in one of his lectures that he could not know his wife. I have never heard or read him say that he could not know that she was his wife.

Sean Gerety said...

Now let’s table for argument’s sake what adultery is, for that only muddies the water and our points are toward another philosophical matter.

Fair enough. Perhaps I'm just not following and I think the other matter comes up here:

My senses, as they respond to markings on a page, are the medium by which I think true thoughts about Christ that are justified. In the like manner, my senses are the medium for my thoughts about Lisa. My justification is that God is good and has given me senses that reliable, whereby I can have justified thoughts without questioning the medium by which I acquire them, both in the realm of Jesus and Lisa.

That’s just it. I don’t see that it follows that your senses respond to markings on a page and this is how you come to think true thoughts about Christ that are justified. I also don't think it follows from the idea that God is good and that he gave you reliable senses, that these senses, whatever they may be, are therefore a medium by which you can arrive at true thoughts about your wife or Jesus or anything else. Perhaps the medium you accept unquestionably needs a closer look as it seems to me to be just begging the question.

You said above, which I thought was very good:

“. . . the fact of an empty tomb does not scream resurrection anymore that it screams hoax or conspiracy. Facts don’t speak for themselves . . . The reason you interpret the empty tomb correctly is because God has granted you knowledge of the resurrection.”

Why would responding to marks on a page somehow give rise to true thoughts about Christ, whereas responding to an empty tomb will not? As you say, facts don’t speak for themselves. I agree. I would think marks on a page don’t speak for themselves either.

“God gave us reliable stomachs, yet they don’t justify the proposition that Lisa is your wife or Tracy is mine.”

That’s right; he gave us reliable senses as the gateway to thoughts, not stomachs for that endeavor.


Isn’t this just question begging? If stomachs are not a means for arriving at true thoughts, how do you know seeing, tasting, touching, smelling, etc., are? Perhaps like inductions sensations are are just non-cognitive tools by which we can exercise dominion over our environment among other things?

I enjoy blogging! It beats the message boards! So come and opine all you like with pithy comments, but remember bloviating is my job!

Got it ;) Frankly, my "pithy comments" are the reason I started blogging. I have to watch those.

Sean, one last thing. I distinguish what is acquired by the medium of senses from inductive inference.

Yes, that's what has me stumped. You unquestionably accept the one and thoughtfully reject the other.

I'm with Clark all the way on induction. And I maintain, also, that what I see is not an inductive inference. For all I know, Clark would have agreed. I think he agrees now in his felicity in heaven.

For a Vantilian to be with Clark on induction is probably more than I could ever hope for, but Clark completely denied giving sensations even a bit part in the acquisition of knowledge. While somewhat counter intuitive I suppose, he was a thorough going Augustinian and rejected empiricism in all its forms. He argued that the Scriptures are not a collection of marks on a page, but rather are the eternal and unchanging thoughts of God, and, as thoughts, they cannot be sensed or inferred from sensation.

I think that people run from the problems with induction as a means for knowledge because they think that to deny inductive knowledge is to deny the reliability of the sensory perception. In fact, I'm probably in a very small camp.

I would think it would be pup tent because I'm still not sure how you can reject the one and maintain the other? Also, and as I see it, even if one were to accept the reliability of the senses (and there is certainly plenty that mitigates against this idea of reliability), I don't see how it follows from this that reliable sensations are a means by which true thoughts can be acquired?

For example, sensations change. I need glasses to see well enough to drive my car or read a book. My eyes are not as reliable as they once were and they were never as good as an eagle. Truths never change. I just don't see how you can arrive at unchanging truths from ever changing sensations and that's just the start of the problems.

Frankly, I think Joshua started to make some good points beginning with his hypotheticals and hallucinations, but for some reason didn't seem to want to press you. Well, I'm not going to press too much either, but I thought I'd toss in my 2-cents anyway.

Thanks for your time.

Keith said...

That's a great paragraph, Ron. Honestly didn't realize you believed some of that until just recently. I always thought you only allowed for scripture and deductions from scripture to count as knowledge, and I always wanted to allow for knowledge through the senses. I guess my epistemological dreams are being fulfilled. (Don't tell anyone I said that.)

Could you elaborate on strong versus weak inductions? And surely Robbins wouldn't allow for empirical knowledge, would he? And so I gathered from him that Clark would not, either.

I would rather index certainty to people not propositions.

Bahnsen defined certainty as a property of propositions. That's where I picked it up, but I don't like the confusion it causes, so I have been reserving "certainty" for persons and "necessarily true" for logically certain propositions.

Sean Gerety said...

I was thinking about this some more and could perhaps make things even less complicated.

If inferences drawn from multiple observations do not rise to the level of knowledge, simply because in an induction the conclusion can never be justified because the form of the conclusion is not the same as the form of the premises, why would other conclusions acquired by the medium of sensation in one instance give rise to true thoughts about this or that whereas multiple observations would not?

Couldn't the scientist forgo his entire method and redundant experimentation, and think of all that calculus, and just state the conclusions and propositions of science are justified because God is good and has given them senses that are reliable whereby they can have justified thoughts without questioning the medium by which they acquire them?

Mark said...

For a Vantilian to be with Clark on induction is probably more than I could ever hope for, but Clark completely denied giving sensations even a bit part in the acquisition of knowledge.

I don't think that's correct. Clark said that sensations, ink marks on the page, vibrations in the air, whatever, did not contain in and of themselves, or transmit in and of themselves, any knowledge. But he did grant sensation exactly the same thing that Augustine did and that is that they operated as a stimulus to recollection.

Knowledge, all knowledge, is revelatory.

Mark said...

Couldn't the scientist forgo his entire method and redundant experimentation, and think of all that calculus, and just state the conclusions and propositions of science are justified because God is good and has given them senses that are reliable whereby they can have justified thoughts without questioning the medium by which they acquire them?

No, because the qualification for knowledge via induction is omniscience. One can never know that he has all the data. What you are saying, it seems to me anyway, is that one cannot know that he has any data at all.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

I don’t see that it follows that your senses respond to markings on a page and this is how you come to think true thoughts about Christ that are justified.

Mr. Sean,

The senses are a medium by which I come in contact with the propositions I end up believing. It’s hard to tease out what you think doesn’t follow when you don’t perform an internal critique of my view.

Why would responding to marks on a page somehow give rise to true thoughts about Christ, whereas responding to an empty tomb will not?

With respect to the empty tomb, it remains a brute particular (but only in one sense) until God tells us its meaning and significance in Scripture. Yet notwithstanding, the markings on the page by which I consider the true proposition that the tomb is empty is not void of being a medium of some truth. Accordingly, in another sense those markings on the page that cause me to consider the proposition that the tomb is empty aids in informing me of that very proposition, the tomb is empty. However, I need other markings to know why it’s empty. Was it a hoax or resurrection?

As you say, facts don’t speak for themselves. I agree. I would think marks on a page don’t speak for themselves either.

The mind tags markings on a page. What’s so difficult about that?

If stomachs are not a means for arriving at true thoughts, how do you know seeing, tasting, touching, smelling, etc., are?

By revelation, for the God speaks of all these things in that very way.

Perhaps like inductions sensations are are just non-cognitive tools by which we can exercise dominion over our environment among other things?

Induction involves asserting the consequent, sensory perception does not.

For a Vantilian to be with Clark on induction is probably more than I could ever hope for, but Clark completely denied giving sensations even a bit part in the acquisition of knowledge.

Even as a sensory medium by which the mind tags marks on a page that are seen? Come now, Sean.

He argued that the Scriptures are not a collection of marks on a page, but rather are the eternal and unchanging thoughts of God, and, as thoughts, they cannot be sensed or inferred from sensation.

You’ve obviously misunderstood Clark, or else Clark made no sense. If the senses are not an instrumental medium by which men think God’s thoughts after him by encountering with the senses marks on a page, then Clark was foolish for reading his Bible. I think you’ve misunderstood Clark. Clark’s point was simply that the marks are neither the truth, the proposition, the justification nor the belief, which means that we don’t know by looking at marks in that sense. Yet where did he deny that that marks on pages are not a useful medium in obtaining knowledge?

I would think it would be pup tent because I'm still not sure how you can reject the one and maintain the other?

Simply because induction asserts the consequent, whereas the medium of senses that enables us to come in contact with God’s thoughts does not.

For example, sensations change. I need glasses to see well enough to drive my car or read a book. My eyes are not as reliable as they once were and they were never as good as an eagle. Truths never change. I just don't see how you can arrive at unchanging truths from ever changing sensations and that's just the start of the problems.

I’m sorry you don’t understand why one can obtain truth through the medium of less than perfect senses, and I’m also sorry that you don’t understanding that you are not offering an argument that opposes mine.

Cheers,

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Could you elaborate on strong versus weak inductions?

Keith,

More samplings, for instance, would lead you to stronger arguments.

And surely Robbins wouldn't allow for empirical knowledge, would he? And so I gathered from him that Clark would not, either.

I don’t believe Robbins is a fair representation of Clark. Clark was not a skeptic in my estimation. Clarkians typically are.

Bahnsen defined certainty as a property of propositions. That's where I picked it up, but I don't like the confusion it causes, so I have been reserving "certainty" for persons and "necessarily true" for logically certain propositions.

I think it’s a matter of semantics. I think it’s less confusing though to attribute certainty to people and not deductive arguments since there can be different levels of certainty, which would apply to subjective people not absolute truth. I don’t think that there are different levels of truth for any proposition. It’s digital; either a 0 or a 1!

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

If inferences drawn from multiple observations do not rise to the level of knowledge, simply because in an induction the conclusion can never be justified because the form of the conclusion is not the same as the form of the premises, why would other conclusions acquired by the medium of sensation in one instance give rise to true thoughts about this or that whereas multiple observations would not?

It’s not a question of whether an event is observed multiple times or not. It’s an issue of whether we’re trying to draw a causal inference or not.

NOTE: There is no discursive reasoning involved when I see a red burner. And there’s no discursive reasoning involved when my finger is burned. However, there is discursive reasoning in involved when I infer that touching the red burner caused my pain. I know there’s a red burner. I know I have pain. I only rationally maintain that my pain was due to touching the burner. Van Tillians often raise the inference to the level of epistemic certainty, or knowledge. Whereas Clarkians recognize that the inductive inference that the burner caused the pain cannot rise to the level of knowledge; yet the Clarkian fails to appreciate that there is knowledge of pain and knowledge of red burners.

Couldn't the scientist forgo his entire method and redundant experimentation, and think of all that calculus, and just state the conclusions and propositions of science are justified because God is good and has given them senses that are reliable whereby they can have justified thoughts without questioning the medium by which they acquire them?

Reliable senses are not useful in a vacuum. Reliable senses play a part in our knowing some things without discursive reasoning and rationally maintaining other things through experimentation.

Ron

Mark said...

The mind tags markings on a page.

Or in Clarks own words what the mind uses to tag thoughts.

From Language and Theology

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Good posts, Mark.

Mark Says: I don't think that's correct. Clark said that sensations, ink marks on the page, vibrations in the air, whatever, did not contain in and of themselves, or transmit in and of themselves, any knowledge. But he did grant sensation exactly the same thing that Augustine did and that is that they operated as a stimulus to recollection.

Ron Says same thing just in other words: If the senses are not an instrumental medium by which men think God’s thoughts after him by encountering with the senses marks on a page, then Clark was foolish for reading his Bible. I think you’ve misunderstood Clark. Clark’s point was simply that the marks are neither the truth, the proposition, the justification nor the belief, which means that we don’t know by looking at marks in that sense. Yet where did he deny that that marks on pages are not a useful medium in obtaining knowledge?

Mark Says: No, because the qualification for knowledge via induction is omniscience. One can never know that he has all the data. What you are saying, it seems to me anyway, is that one cannot know that he has any data at all.

Ron says same thing just in other words: There is no discursive reasoning involved when I see a red burner. And there’s no discursive reasoning involved when my finger is burned. However, there is discursive reasoning in involved when I infer that touching the red burner caused my pain. I know there’s a red burner. I know I have pain. I only rationally maintain that my pain was due to touching the burner. Van Tillians often raise the inference to the level of epistemic certainty, or knowledge. Whereas Clarkians recognize that the inductive inference that the burner caused the pain cannot rise to the level of knowledge; yet the Clarkian fails to appreciate that there is knowledge of pain and knowledge of red burners.
--------

I think it's a shame that so many Van Tillians have stayed away from Clark, but only because Clarkians have not represented him correctly IMHO. And the reason there are so many baptists is because paedobaptists too often don't know why the baptize their babies, and many paedobaptists are latent baptists.

Ron

Sean Gerety said...

No, because the qualification for knowledge via induction is omniscience. One can never know that he has all the data. What you are saying, it seems to me anyway, is that one cannot know that he has any data at all.

That's right. I think empiricism does not provide any knowledge at all. Sensation, assuming we have them, is non-cognitive. I think in such cases merely asserting God's goodness and the reliability of the senses justifies nothing and begs the question.

The reason for induction in the first place is because the senses are patently un-reliable. I think Ron and others are confusing opinion with knowledge and I so no reason why we shouldn't distinguish between these noetic states.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"The reason for induction in the first place is because the senses are patently un-reliable."

Sean, that is a remarkable statement. We aren't forced to make inductive inferences because our senses are unreliable, lest you think that perfect senses will allow you to be omniscient (or see, as opposed to infer, causal connections!).

Sean Gerety said...

You’ve obviously misunderstood Clark, or else Clark made no sense. If the senses are not an instrumental medium by which men think God’s thoughts after him by encountering with the senses marks on a page, then Clark was foolish for reading his Bible.

I think you and Mark need to read Clark's reply to Reymond in Clark Speaks From the Grave and the supposed role sensation plays in knowledge acquisition. Clark allowed no role for sensation in the acquisition of knowledge at all. Intelligible ink scratching does not give rise to knowledge. FWIW, he also raised serious questions elsewhere whether or not men even have sensations. You might want to listen to his debate with David Hoover for starters. He denied sensation.

You wrote:

Induction involves asserting the consequent, sensory perception does not.

I never said you were asserting the consequent, just begging the question. You say the senses are reliable, but this you have not demonstrated.

That's all I have time for right now, off to the beach!

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

I think you and Mark need to read Clark's reply to Reymond in Clark Speaks From the Grave and the supposed role sensation plays in knowledge acquisition. Clark allowed no role for sensation in the acquisition of knowledge at all. Intelligible ink scratching does not give rise to knowledge.

Sean,

Mark and I are familiar with the book and we also believe we’ve internalized the position. Clark’s writing the book actually presupposes that he believes that the senses play a role in knowledge acquisition! His issue with the role of sensory perception was that it is not what some make it out to be. It’s a medium and no more. Again, I’ve pointed this out above so I won’t rehearse it again here. Even if we disagree on Clark, you might want to decide for yourself whether your senses played any role in your salvation. Remember the verse: “How can they hear without a preacher?” Did your ears or eyes play no part in your coming to know your savior lives?

You wrote:

‘Induction involves asserting the consequent, sensory perception does not.’

I never said you were asserting the consequent, just begging the question. You say the senses are reliable, but this you have not demonstrated.


The reason I pointed out that induction involves asserting the consequent and that sensory perception does not was because you asked how I can know something by seeing it once but not know something else when the evidence is repeated over and over again. My answer was an attempt to point you to the realization that when I know something by looking at it once, I am not drawing an inductive inference – therefore, I am not in those instances asserting the consequent.

A common mistake Clarkians make is that they do not grasp that although I can’t *know* that the red sheathed coil caused me pain I can know that the sheathed coil is red and that I am in pain. Induction cannot yield knowledge of the causal relationship, but sensory perception aids in knowing the two discrete events that are rationally maintained as causally related.

That's all I have time for right now, off to the beach!

Don’t let the sun fry your brain! :)

Also, if you don't advance anything new, I'll probably refrain from publishing your remarks.

Stay cool,

Ron

Sean Gerety said...

Last things first:

Also, if you don't advance anything new, I'll probably refrain from publishing your remarks.

I think I have so I hope you publish them. Either that or I just wasted some valuable time. In either case, this will be my last reply on this thread.

Reliable senses are not useful in a vacuum. Reliable senses play a part in our knowing some things without discursive reasoning and rationally maintaining other things through experimentation.

What is it, some kind of immediate revelation?

FWIW Clark wrote:

“The theory of knowledge that presumably accords best with common sense is the theory that we learn by experience. We learn that bees sting and rattlesnakes kill through our perceptions of pain. We learn that roses are red and violets are blue by the sensations of sight. All our knowledge comes through sensations. This type of epistemology is not merely the theory most in accord with common opinion, it is the view of distinguished philosophers also, among whom are such famous thinkers as Aristotle, Aquinas, and John Locke. These three men, among others, tried to explain how we perceive a chair, how a law of physics can be discovered, and finally how, by complicated arguments, we could prove the existence of God.” [How Does Man Know God? TR July/August 1989]

Clark was quick to point out the many hurdles any empirical theory of knowledge must first overcome to even begin to account for any of its claims, include but are not limited to such basic questions as how a sensation can give rise to perception? The problem is that most proponents of empirical theory such as your own never even begin at the beginning, but rather assert that knowledge is possible via sensation without so much as an argument as to how this might occur or even defining what a sensation is! You say your acceptance of such knowledge claims are unquestioned. I don’t see how that can possibly suffice?

I think it's a shame that so many Van Tillians have stayed away from Clark, but only because Clarkians have not represented him correctly IMHO

While always possible that all Clarkians have failed to understand Clark and only Vantilians such as yourself really understand him aright, IMO they stay away from Clark for much more practical reasons and Clark is a direct threat to Vantilian hegemony in virtually all P&R seminaries. Epistemologically there is no middle ground and your being with Clark even on the question of induction is an anomaly for most Vantilians. IMO another reason Vantilians shy away is that Clark completely refutes Van Til’s theory of truth and his doctrine of Scripture. That should have been clear to all in the 1940's and why Clark should have perhaps stayed in the OPC and continued to fight. But I guess it’s like you and your hot burner. How many times should Clark have to stick his hand in the wood chipper and keep fighting the same battle over and over?


"The reason for induction in the first place is because the senses are patently un-reliable."

Sean, that is a remarkable statement. We aren't forced to make inductive inferences because our senses are unreliable, lest you think that perfect senses will allow you to be omniscient (or see, as opposed to infer, causal connections!).


If observations are as reliable as you assert and provides what amounts to immediate knowledge (which I have called just question begging), then why the redundancy inherent in the scientific method? Wouldn’t any inference drawn from even one non-discursive bit of knowledge of any given particular be enough to justify any universal? If not, why not?

Mark and I are familiar with the book and we also believe we’ve internalized the position. Clark’s writing the book actually presupposes that he believes that the senses play a role in knowledge acquisition! His issue with the role of sensory perception was that it is not what some make it out to be. It’s a medium and no more. Again, I’ve pointed this out above so I won’t rehearse it again here. Even if we disagree on Clark, you might want to decide for yourself whether your senses played any role in your salvation. Remember the verse: “How can they hear without a preacher?” Did your ears or eyes play no part in your coming to know your savior lives?

I thought you said you are familiar with CSFTG? If you’ve internalized his position there then certainly you’ve internalized his reply to Reymond and his discussion of this very question of what constitutes seeing and hearing in Scripture? Without giving away the punch line, Clark argued that seeing and hearing in Scripture are not having one’s retinas or eardrums tickled, but rather seeing and hearing are metaphors for understanding and believing. Matthew 13:13 and John 8:47 are just two of a dozen or more examples that support Clark’s theory. The road to Emmaus provides another interesting example as does Peter’s confession Matthew 16.

Another example from Clark is his response to George Mavrodes' criticism concerning the question, "don't we have to read our bibles":

"The substantial question is how do we know the contents of the Bible. If Louis XIV or my wife could be replaced with an imposter twin, then maybe the Bible in my hands is a cunningly devised substitute.... In fact, until these [skeptical] arguments are successfully circumvented, no one has a firm basis on which to object to my general position. If anyone tries to avoid this material and relying on common opinion, charges me with paradoxes, he has failed to grasp even the first point." (For the complete discussion see here)

Similarly, in Language and Theology, and speaking to Mark’s point above, Clark quotes Abraham Kuyper approvingly:

"That which we call Holy Scripture is not paper with black impressions. Those letters are but tokens of recognition; those words are only clicks of the telegraph key signaling thoughts to our spirits along the lines of our visual and auditory nerves. And the thoughts so signaled are not isolated and incoherent, but parts of a complete system that is directly antagonistic to man's thought, yet enters there sphere." [The Work of the Holy Spirit]

Clark did add one caveat that Mark seems to have overlooked; Clark said Kuyper's analogy was "too behavioristic" yet "the main thought was sound." Since a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence, no man can come to knowledge of any proposition of Scripture by looking at ink marks on a page.

Yet, even with these arguments Clark’s critics still insist that sensation must play a role in the acquisition of knowledge. In response to such challenges Clark continued to put the onus for proof on those who insisted on a role for sensation in arriving at knowledge:

“Philosophers who insist on giving a role to sensation in the acquisition of knowledge should first define sensation, then show how sensation can become perception, and presumably how memory images can produce universal concepts by abstraction. If this is not their scheme, and it might not be, then they should describe in detail what their scheme is. It is not enough to speak vaguely about some role or other [Language and Theology; p.144].”

Perhaps you didn’t internalize that bit, but for Clark his theory of language was a thorough going treatment of the question from an Augustinian perspective. Since most would perhaps grant that the meaning of propositions cannot be ink marks on a page, Clark argues that what makes communication possible is not because men share sensations, but because men exist in God and it is in His image they are made have and therefore have the same apriori forms of the mind and many of the same ideas. Clark concludes Language and Theology with the following summary of his position:

"First, language is a bearer of meaning because words are arbitrary signs the mind uses to tag thoughts. Second, communication is possible because all minds have at least some thoughts in common. This is so because God created man a rational spirit, a mind capable of thinking, worshipping, and talking to God. God operates through his Logos, the wisdom that enlightens every man in the world. Third, language is logical because it expresses logical thoughts. Not to deny the noetic effects of sin, examples of which are incorrect additions and various fallacies in reasoning, man is still a rational or logical creature and hence he cannot think three is four or that two contradictories can both be true. Language therefore is built upon the laws of logic.”

Ink marks, various pitched sounds, Braille, whatever are but arbitrary and -- in themselves -- meaningless signs signifying nothing. Black marks are neither true or false and cannot be properly the objects of knowledge for the simple reason that only propositions can be either true or false. Clark argued that if someone thinks there are truths embedded in ink scratches or which can somehow be derived or mediated from them they should provide some sort of argument to show how, starting with any number of black marks, they can arrive at any universal truths such as, “all men are sinners.”

It should be clear that Clark denied that knowledge was mediated through the senses.

The reason I pointed out that induction involves asserting the consequent and that sensory perception does not was because you asked how I can know something by seeing it once but not know something else when the evidence is repeated over and over again. My answer was an attempt to point you to the realization that when I know something by looking at it once, I am not drawing an inductive inference – therefore, I am not in those instances asserting the consequent.

I confess, this makes no sense at all which perhaps explains my unwillingness to join your small camp. I guess I’m just not following how you can know something by drawing an inference after seeing something once and not know something if you draw an inference after see the same thing multiple times?

I guess I’ll rephrase my original objection and that in addition to begging the question I would say you’re still asserting the consequent but based on a single observation rather than on multiples of the same. Your sample size is just a lot smaller.


A common mistake Clarkians make is that they do not grasp that although I can’t *know* that the red sheathed coil caused me pain I can know that the sheathed coil is red and that I am in pain. Induction cannot yield knowledge of the causal relationship, but sensory perception aids in knowing the two discrete events that are rationally maintained as causally related.

Didn’t Hume show there are no causal relationships?

That's all I have time for right now, off to the beach!

Don’t let the sun fry your brain! :)


Frying my brain is one of the real blessing of living in VA Beach. Besides, the hurricane off the coast has kicked up a pretty good swell even if I’m just now an old cat with a body board ;)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Unfortunately but not surprising at all, Sean posted me a long and very confused response. Below are just a couple examples of Sean’s lack of understanding.

If observations are as reliable as you assert and provides what amounts to immediate knowledge (which I have called just question begging), then why the redundancy inherent in the scientific method? Wouldn’t any inference drawn from even one non-discursive bit of knowledge of any given particular be enough to justify any universal? If not, why not?

Sean, once again, misses the point that inductive inferences entail asserting the consequent whereas the knowledge of seeing a red burner or feeling pain does not. Accordingly, inductive arguments are strong or weak, which does not apply to true propositions such as “I feel pain” or “I see a red burner” for such propositions are not subject to the scientific method! This is not to say that such truth that comes by way of non-discursive reasoning does not play a part in inductive inference. It certainly does: I rationally believe by the scientific method that the red burner I know exists (by non-inductive inference) caused the pain I know exists (by non-inductive inference).

Induction takes the form of: “if P, then Q; Q, therefore, P has more veracity than ~P”; whereas the propositions “I see a red burner” and “I feel pain” do not. Accordingly, by repeating tests, inductive arguments can become statistically stronger; whereas observations that are not intended to draw inferences about causal relationships and do not involve discursive reasoning cannot become “stronger" since the probabilty is already 1. Repeated observations of the red burner and the pain can merely yield more subjective confidence in the objective knowledge one has of such experiences. Whereas repeated tests of touching the red burner makes a stronger argument for red burners causing pain.

Lastly, in a previous post I wrote to Sean: “A common mistake Clarkians make is that they do not grasp that although I can’t *know* that the red sheathed coil caused me pain I can know that the sheathed coil is red and that I am in pain. Induction cannot yield knowledge of the causal relationship, but sensory perception aids in knowing the two discrete events that are rationally maintained as causally related.”

In response to my distinction between the knowledge of discrete events and the inductive inference pertaining to such known discrete events, Sean’s rejoinder, without remainder, was: “Didn’t Hume show there are no causal relationships?”, demonstrating once again that he has no idea what this discussion is about.

Sean's claim upon Gordon H. Clark has about the same credibility as the Federal Vision's claim upon Greg L. Bahnsen.

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"I guess I’ll rephrase my original objection and that in addition to begging the question I would say you’re still asserting the consequent but based on a single observation rather than on multiples of the same. Your sample size is just a lot smaller."

Let me address this other assertion of Sean's. Sean is committed to the position that non-discursive observation entails induction; his claim is that such is induction with only one sample.

Whether the observations are single or multiple, "if P, then Q" does not pertain to, nor take the form of, "I experience P and Q"! Accordingly, there is no consequent to assert for seeing a red burner and experiencing pain does not involve causality and, therefore, inductive inference. Less observations cannot change the form of "I experience P and Q".

Ron