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Monday, December 26, 2011

No True Agnostics or Atheists

The professing agnostic's claim is not that God does not exist but that God's existence is unknown or unknowable. Therefore, the professing agnostic presupposes a god who has at best concealed himself, which is an outright rejection of the God who has revealed himself (and must be known if anything is to be known), making the professing agnostic a non-confessing "atheist."

Lastly, there are no true atheists, though there are people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness and profess what they know is not true. 

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45 comments:

Ben Wallis said...

Agnostics need not believe that God has actively concealed himself, though that is one possible explanation. Instead, it could be that knowledge of God is simply impossible, and that even God can't do anything about that. After all, God can't create a logical bridge where there isn't one. He can't, for instance, make it so that 2+2=5.

--Ben

Reformed Apologist said...

Ben,

God cannot but reveal himself for everything that is presupposes God. Therefore everything that is displays his glory. Accordingly, agnostics are really atheists who reject the true God - the God who cannot but reveal himself in creation and providence... And atheists are simply not telling the truth about what they suppress.

If it were impossible for God to be known, then all knowledge would be impossible since knowledge of anything presupposes God. After all, truth presupposes divine thoughts. But even if there were no knowledge, even that wouldn't imply that God cannot but reveal himself. Revelation is not the same thing as reception of revelation.

Ben Wallis said...

Reformed Apologist,

What exactly do you mean by God revealing himself? Presumably you have something like the sensus divinitatis in mind, yes? On this story, God creates us to respond a certain way (with belief in him) when exposed to his creation. Accordingly, we see his creation and respond by believing in God. (Agnostics such as myself do not realize this, and their belief in God is unconscious.)

But notice that we are not (necessarily) internally justified in believing in God, even on this story. Instead, we are just responding to God's creation as he has designed us to do. We aren't actually working out any inferences for ourselves. So to the extent that we require internal justification for knowledge, the sensus divinitatis does not help us towards knowing that God exists. Instead, it just helps us to believe.

And if you don't have the sensus divinitatis in mind, then what?

--Ben

Reformed Apologist said...

Whether one considers sensus divinitatis as a disposition to know God or more strongly, as I do, as knowledge of the divine, there is also revelation outside the mind, through the occasion of the created order. Revelation is not predicated upon minds to receive it, for revelation is not to be equated with the reception of revelation. So, as you noted, I posit that when exposed to creation you believe, even know God. You do “realize this” (God’s existence) for you do have this sense of divinity, and are also bombarded by God’s revelation. Of course, being an unbeliever you suppress this innate knowledge and certainly won’t admit in your current state that you know him in conscience and nature. Now here’s the rub - your warrant for God’s existence couldn’t be any greater. In fact, your warrant to predicate the unknown God presupposes God’s revelation of himself to you, which is clearly understood.

Anonymous said...

that whole thing is just plain stupid -- & the thing is -- I think deep down inside you know it

Ben Wallis said...

Reformed Apologist,

I guess I don't know what you have in mind when you talk about "warrant." On your view, when we are exposed to God's creation we naturally respond with belief in God. Let's grant that. But belief isn't quite enough---we want knowledge. You describe only the means by which we come to believe in God. Yet since knowledge is more than just belief, I'm curious what more you think is going on which leads to everybody knowing that God exists, as opposed to merely believing that God exists.

--Ben

Reformed Apologist said...

It's not that you merely believe in God. You know he exists. Moreover, your belief in God is not merely properly basic, as if there were some probability that your belief could be false though rationally maintained. Your belief is to the level of knowledge of the truth. Your justification (or warrant) for your true belief is God's constant testimony to you of himself and his attributes, which occurs every moment of your life, which is running out every passing moment. His confirmation of himself to your mind causes you to know him and not just believe in him. Yes, you are quite warranted in your belief, which at this time you prefer to try to ignore. If you keep up this little game with God, your knowledge will most likely grow even more dim, possibly along with any hope of repentance.

Ben Wallis said...

Reformed Apologist,

It sounds like maybe you're saying the existence of God somehow deductively follows from our experience or other justified beliefs, and this is (at least part of) what constitutes our justification for believing in God. Logical consequence is, after all, one thing (not the only thing) that can give us justification. But it's not clear to me how the existence of God logically follows from our experience or anything else we justifiably believe.

A belief can also be justified by virtue of being properly basic, but I don't see why we should treat god-belief as properly basic. Anyway you apparently don't think that's the most important ingredient in our justification, so you must have something else in mind.

Alternatively we could perhaps construct a case for the existence of God based on inductive evidence. However presuppositionalists tend not to approve of evidentialism, and so if you are a presuppositionalist then I would not expect you to be thinking of any such inductive case.

These are the only three options---deduction, properly basic or induction---I know for justifying a belief. Which of them do you have in mind? Or do you think there is a fourth option?

--Ben

Reformed Apologist said...

Although it is true that “the existence of God…deductively follows from our experience or other justified beliefs” we do not come to know God through discursive reasoning. Moreover, although discursive reasoning can lead to a deductively sound (not just valid) conclusion that God exists, and although discursive reasoning actually presupposes God’s existence – God’s existence is known a priori, which has been my point all along.

But it's not clear to me how the existence of God logically follows from our experience or anything else we justifiably believe.

Certainly you can construct a valid argument for God’s existence utilizing premises that can be justified by Scripture. Scripture, if reliable, authoritative and perspicuous, would imply that the argument is sound . Again though, we don’t need to reason ourselves to God, though belief in God is most reasonable. In fact, reason even presupposes God’s existence.

These are the only three options---deduction, properly basic or induction---I know for justifying a belief. Which of them do you have in mind? Or do you think there is a fourth option?

Yes, revelation, which again is a precondition for deduction, induction, prediction and consequently anti-theism. Now of course belief in what God reveals can be considered properly basic, but not all properly basic beliefs would I consider revelatory. Accordingly, the justification I say you have for believing what is true about God is more specific than properly basic - it's the precondition for all your experiences - including the very idea of properly basic beliefs.

I think we're about done, Ben. You deny what I know you know. And although I can construct sound proofs for God's existence, they will always appear as question begging to you, but that is simply because we have different authorities for our justification of truth claims. Consequently, all that is left for any Christian apologist to do is ask you to account for the universal laws of logic, induction, deduction, ethics, reality etc. and then show how the Christian worldview can make sense of these things. Now of course I don't come to believe in God because he's the last one standing. Rather, I know God prior to such rational discourse.

Ben Wallis said...

Reformed Apologist,

Well apparently you're losing interest in the conversation, which is fine I suppose---I don't expect everyone to share my interests. But in case you change your mind, I would just like to point out that what you consider reasonable doesn't seem to track very well with what most others consider reasonable. Most people, for instance, wouldn't consider it reasonable to justify belief in God by appealing to the Bible as an authority, since doing so (as you rightly anticipate) appears to beg the question in a significant way. More importantly, though, it does not seem at all reasonable to respond to a revelation from God by believing in God---unless of course we can infer his existence from the revelation as it appears on our side of the experience. It's not enough that we respond helplessly and without reflection by believing. Rather, we need some kind of internal justification for belief. At least, that's what most people seem to have in mind when they talk about justification and being reasonable.

Anyway, thanks for the discussion.

--Ben

Reformed Apologist said...

Ben, would you justify logic apart from pointing to logic, or presupposing logic? When dealing w/ ultimate truth claims, the terminus point of one's reasoning will always show what he holds as ultimate.

Best of providence.

Ben Wallis said...

Reformed Apologist,

Well I take logic to be about language, and so I would justify logic by pointing to language and observing that yes, it does indeed follow the rules which logicians have classically abstracted from it. And while I do need language (and hence logic) to express this observation, I don't need logic to silently make it.

Probably you disagree with me that logic is about language. But I don't know what else it could be about. Some philosophers I believe have tried to generalize to all forms of symbolism, but I don't know quite what a system of symbols rich enough to obey rules analogous to those of classical logic would look like if it was not a language. Alternatively, we could try to characterize the rules of logic as laws of thought, but then I wouldn't know how to interpret them. For instance, how can we conceive the law of noncontradiction apart from language? This isn't merely a problem of expression, as if I can conceive it without forming the words or envisioning the variables. Rather, I just don't have any conception of (non)contradiction apart from language.

On the other hand, I do have a concept of coherence apart from language. And if you ask me how I justify being coherent, well, the short answer is, I don't. I just really really want to be coherent! Presumably most other people feel the same way---that is, they have the same desire for coherence. In fact it seems to me that the very idea of justification depends upon coherence, so that any would-be justification (whether it involves an appeal to God or not) will result in a form of circularity. Given that this is the case, we have no use to even attempt it. Instead, we can be satisfied with our desire for coherence as it stands unjustified.

--Ben

Reformed Apologist said...

"And if you ask me how I justify being coherent, well, the short answer is, I don't. I just really really want to be coherent!"

There are no freebies in philosophy. The Prosecution rests. :)

Ben Wallis said...

Reformed Apologist,

I'm not sure why you would suggest that our desire is not enough. If you don't already agree that we have no deeper justification for being coherent, it should be easy to imagine yourself being in the position where you are (at least personally) unable to justify it. In that case, wouldn't you go ahead and persist in being coherent anyway, without justification? I would---and do! It's not as if we could ever have a reason to avoid coherence; for reasons themselves depend on it. So in absence of a reason not to be coherent, and considering our great and unshakable desire to be coherent, what is left to find unsatisfying about it?

In any case, the circularity trap I described is not unique to nontheism. In fact it holds whatever else you believe, and an appeal to the existence of God won't help us avoid it. And even if somehow you did have a solution which is unique to theism, it's not clear to me how that would justify believing in God. All you would be doing is substituting one unjustified belief for another.

So anyway, there are three problems I see.

--Ben

Reformed Apologist said...

Ben, you're confusing justification for the intelligibility of coherence with justification for a desire to be coherent. In any case, it's apparent we're at an impasse.

Ben Wallis said...

Reformed Apologist,

I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm certainly willing to try to understand your position and your critique of mine, and if you think I've missed something then of course I'd be interested in hearing about it.

But the criticism you've offered so far doesn't seem to hold up. For example I do understand the difference between justifying a desire and the object of that desire---that's partly why I've distinguished between justification and satisfaction---so I'm not sure how you think I'm confusing the two.

But if you think we're at an impasse, then so be it. Thanks for the conversation.

--Ben

Reformed Apologist said...

"But if you think we're at an impasse, then so be it. Thanks for the conversation."

You're welcome.

I can still pray for you and intend to do so. :)

Rhology said...

There are no freebies in philosophy. The Prosecution rests. :)

And with that, atheism's foolishness shines thru again.

Ben Wallis said...

Rhology,

It's not as if my view on coherence has anything to do with the existence or nonexistence of God. So if you think it's foolish (why??), then that doesn't get you anywhere in terms of criticizing atheism.

--Ben

Tom Cantine said...

Reformed Apologist, you are employing an argumentative tactic to which I must object on principle. You are calling your opponents fundamentally dishonest, which absolutely undermines any possibility of meaningful dialogue, and also tends to undermine your own credibility.

Consider this scenario: I ask you to think of any number from 1 to 10, and you think of 7. With great confidence, I announce that you are thinking of 2. No, you say, you were actually and honestly thinking of 7. Undeterred, I state that while you yourself might even believe your own lie that you were thinking of 7, in fact, you were actually thinking of 2.

Would I not look like an arrogant fool for pretending to be a greater authority on the content of your own mind than you yourself? After all, who, in all the universe, is in a better position to know what number you were thinking of than you yourself?

This is essentially what you are doing with atheists and agnostics: you are claiming to know their minds better than they do. While this might work very well to insulate yourself and your fellow believers against any arguments the doubters might raise, it does nothing to persuade the doubters themselves. They know better than you just how sincerely they have searched, and how honestly in their heart of hearts they doubt.

Agnostics exist, and they genuinely and sincerely doubt. I tend to think that most theists must also, if they are honest, be agnostics in the strictest sense; they must acknowledge their own fallibility, and that means that they could be wrong in what they believe. That doesn't mean they can't also believe; they just acknowledge that their beliefs might conceivably be wrong. (In the same way, all honest atheists must also be agnostic; they do not believe God exists, but they ought to admit they could be wrong about a lot of things.)

Reformed Apologist said...

"Reformed Apologist, you are employing an argumentative tactic to which I must object on principle. You are calling your opponents fundamentally dishonest, which absolutely undermines any possibility of meaningful dialogue, and also tends to undermine your own credibility."

Tom, due to the sin of my so called "opponents" they are indeed dishonest. They have willfully deceived themselves and would purport there is no God. Notwithstanding, that fact, which I know directly from God’s word, does not preclude meaningful dialogue between the self-deceived and the Christian. Nor does it undermine the Christians’s credibility. It only underscores that Christians have heard from God on the matter (through his written word) and that the only credibility a Christian should be after comes from God, not those who would suppress the truth about their knowledge of God.

"Consider this scenario: I ask you to think of any number from 1 to 10, and you think of 7. With great confidence, I announce that you are thinking of 2. No, you say, you were actually and honestly thinking of 7. Undeterred, I state that while you yourself might even believe your own lie that you were thinking of 7, in fact, you were actually thinking of 2.

I’m sorry but your analogy is terribly flawed, which I'll address below. But allowing for the analogy for argument's sake, what if you actually knew by divine revelation no less, that I was thinking of 2 and was not speaking the truth when I said 7? Added to that, what if you knew by divine revelation that I actually knew that I was thinking of 2 when I announced I was thinking of 7? Would you then be out of order in saying I was not speaking the truth and knew that I wasn't? You see the point. If, in fact, I’ve been reading your mail so to speak and actually know you believe in God, then my saying you believe in God when you assert you don’t would only be truthful on my part. You reject on the presupppostional level that I know things about certain men that they won’t acknowledge, like they know God (and they know they’re under His wrath).

Would I not look like an arrogant fool for pretending to be a greater authority on the content of your own mind than you yourself?

That one looks like an arrogant fool is really beside the point. You see Tom, what I'm concerned with is a sound apologetic whether it looks foolish to “unbelievers” or not. We might say it's a matter of epistemic lordship.

cont.

Reformed Apologist said...

"After all, who, in all the universe, is in a better position to know what number you were thinking of than you yourself?"

The reason your analogy is flawed is that although I might be in a better position than you to discern which number I am thinking of, God is in the best position to discern what all men know about him. I'm basing my assertions about man's knowledge about God on God's say-so, which is always under good regulation since God cannot lie. Whereas God has not revealed to you or me what number you or I are thinking.

"This is essentially what you are doing with atheists and agnostics: you are claiming to know their minds better than they do."

No, I am claiming to know what God, who knows all things and cannot lie, has plainly revealed in his word.

"While this might work very well to insulate yourself and your fellow believers against any arguments the doubters might raise, it does nothing to persuade the doubters themselves."

I'm not insulating myself at all; nor is my assertion that all men know God my apologetic. Moreover, proof is not the same thing as persuasion so any lack of success in persuading infidels does not touch the question of the validity, let alone soundness, of the apologetic in view.

"They know better than you just how sincerely they have searched, and how honestly in their heart of hearts they doubt."

How do you know when a man has searched his heart sincerely? Do you know the hearts of all men? On what authority do you make such an assertion, that they know better than I? The truth of the matter is, you don't know that "they know better" - in fact, I trust you have met people you think are self-deceived and that you think you know better. The difference is I actually know that all me know God. Given I’m not a fideist, I’m not left to mere claims. Rather, I’m left to compare worldviews. So, who can account for reality, knowledge and ethics, the very thing alleged atheists and agnostics need to presuppose in order to argue against any ism?

"Agnostics exist, and they genuinely and sincerely doubt."

How do you know this? Do you have universal knowledge and experience? Has some being with universal knowledge revealed this to you?

"I tend to think that most theists must also, if they are honest, be agnostics in the strictest sense; they must acknowledge their own fallibility, and that means that they could be wrong in what they believe."

You just committed the fallacy of conflating the possibility of making a mistake with the possibility of knowing when one has not made a mistake. That one can lack justification and knowledge when thinking he doesn't does not address the question of whether one can have justification and knowledge. Your stricture that fallibility consigns men to no-knowledge is a self-refuting thesis. After all, can the skeptic maintain that men cannot know anything, including the truth claim that men cannot know anything?

Ben Wallis said...

Reformed Apologist,

I hope Tom Cantine doesn't mind if I jump in here. I waited a few days to give him a chance to respond first, but I'm guessing he's not particularly motivated to do so. His point, after all, was that reasonable discourse between someone who takes the sort of position you take and an unbeliever is pretty darn close to hopeless. You need to start being humble about the possibility that you (note: not God) might be wrong about your odd vision of the world. Since your last post made abundantly clear that you have a firm commitment to not being epistemically humble, he may have lost interest. (You also seemed not to appreciate the purpose of his analogy, and so that didn't help either.)

In his absence, I just want to say something about how you aim to justify that utter refusal to admit any epistemic humility when it comes to these religious views you hold. You claim that since you have God and his Word on your side, then you can somehow know things with greater confidence than one can know one's own beliefs. This is problematic on multiple levels, but the one thing I want to mention here is that your access to God's Word is no less precarious than Mr. Cantine's access to his thoughts. By taking the position that we human beings are so hopelessly confused as to mistake ourselves for not believing (or even disbelieving) in God when we really do believe, you're apparently committing yourself to a deep fallibility on the part of mankind. If we can't trust ourselves in general to distinguish between what we believe and what we do not believe, then you can't trust your own apparent belief in God or the alleged truth of his Word. For all you know, you don't really believe in God at all! So it's not as if you're on surer ground here. Your only recourse, it seems to me, is to arbitrarily take it for granted that you are infallible in this respect, and that anyone who disagrees with you must be fallible---indeed must be wrong! I guess presuppositionalists like to take lots of things for granted, so maybe this doesn't bother you. But it certainly should.

--Ben

Reformed Apologist said...

His point, after all, was that reasonable discourse between someone who takes the sort of position you take and an unbeliever is pretty darn close to hopeless. You need to start being humble about the possibility that you (note: not God) might be wrong about your odd vision of the world.

Ben, you pit my view against God’s view regarding his existence and then tell me that I’m not being humble because I might be wrong about what God has said on the matter. By your standard, to be humble I must deny God by saying that he might not have revealed himself to all men; yet if God has spoken clearly on the matter, then to deny him in that way would not be an act of humility – it would simply be to lie.

Since your last post made abundantly clear that you have a firm commitment to not being epistemically humble, he may have lost interest.

Assume for a moment that I actually know God exists and that I know from his word that you know he exists. It seems by your standard that in order to be “humble” I would have to deny what he has plainly revealed.

You claim that since you have God and his Word on your side, then you can somehow know things with greater confidence than one can know one's own beliefs.

It would seem to me that you’re speaking in rather imprecise generalities whereas I have tried to be specific. I know that you know God exists. I don’t claim to know what you know regarding what you had to eat for breakfast yesterday.

By taking the position that we human beings are so hopelessly confused as to mistake ourselves for not believing (or even disbelieving) in God when we really do believe, you're apparently committing yourself to a deep fallibility on the part of mankind.

The issue is sin Ben. It’s not a matter of being able to reason oneself to God, for your very ability to reason presupposes God. Accordingly, that men are sinful in this area and would deny the truth does not imply that men are unable to reason in other areas of life.

If we can't trust ourselves in general to distinguish between what we believe and what we do not believe, then you can't trust your own apparent belief in God or the alleged truth of his Word.

It’s simply fallacious to reason: if some men try to suppress their knowledge of God, then all men have no basis to believe in God. You would have us believe that one's knowledge of God and his word is somehow undermined if God says that men know him yet in their sin some pretend he doesn’t exist. You are reasoning by false disjunction I’m afraid, for one's man's denial of truth is not mutually exclusive to another man's confession of truth.

For all you know, you don't really believe in God at all!

I was just teaching my children the other night about Satan’s attempt to try to usurp God’s authority over man’s beliefs. I’d be careful if I were you, as God is angry with those who attempt to undermine his revelation about himself. "Jesus said to him, 'Again it is written,' 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Reformed Apologist said...

cont.

To deny the Christian access to God's plain revelation regarding the fact that all men know God, (something professing agnostics and atheists deny), is in turn to deny the Christian access to all the Word plainly teaches, like how man can be saved. It is the work of the evil one to bring into question God's revelation - which not only includes the revelation that all men know God but, also, the revelation of how men can be restored to a right relationship with God. Now at best, the unbeliever might dare to allow one to know some truth about God through Scripture but not the truth that all men know God. Yet if we cannot know that latter truth, then the source of the former truth, the Bible, is suspect(!), which is the very thing the evil one would like all men to believe. As we learn in Genesis, it is not only hazardous but rather outright rebellion to do as Eve, place the word of man and the word of God on the same level and then try to arbitrate the truth.

Tom Cantine said...

Thank you for jumping in, Ben. In fact, I thought I HAD responded (for I had in fact typed out at least one response), but was waiting for comment moderation, and gave up when it never showed up. Now, however, I am also at risk of losing interest over the epistemic humility issue. Or not losing interest so much as recognizing that this conversation offers little prospect of progress.

RA, all I can say at this point is that you are simply mistaken in thinking you can overcome the fallibility problem. You are far too quick to identify your beliefs about God with God's own meaning, presupposing that God has brought you to the truth. That presupposition is in fact your enemy, as it blinds you to your own fallibility, and thus to cultivating the kind of humility before God that true piety demands. It's a very, very subtle trap, because it disguises your pride as faithful devotion to God, but it IS a trap.

And with that I shall take my leave. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss these things.

Reformed Apologist said...

Tom,

I can't answer why your typed response never made it to the site, for nothing is in my spam folder and nothing hasn't been published that was received.

Has it occurred to you that you haven't argued anything? I'm sorry to report that you only assert things. For instance, you wrote: "RA, all I can say at this point is that you are simply mistaken in thinking you can overcome the fallibility problem."

Your thesis is that fallible people cannot know things, or at least cannot know what God has said. You seem to think you know this, which would suggest you do allow for knowledge of some things. What I'm waiting for is an argument why God's word cannot be known by fallible men and why to claim to know what God says implies a lack of humility. Certainly God's word does not suggest that knowing God's word implies a lack of humility. In fact, God's word calls doubt of his word sin, which is what Adam and Eve did, doubted. Moreover, God's word presupposes that men can know it, otherwise why would he have spoken to men?

"You are far too quick to identify your beliefs about God with God's own meaning, presupposing that God has brought you to the truth."

Please tell me - How tentative should one be in believing that God's word teaches that all men know God, when God's word states: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles."

Tom, your thesis is that Christians should be tentative in believing clear statements from the Bible, which is not an act of humility, as you suggest, but simply an act of unbelief. Your approach is no different that the Usurper's. You simply state over and over again, "Has God said?" But you give us no reason to doubt.

At this juncture, I will only publish posts wherein a conclusion follows rationally from stated premises. In other words, I'll only publish arguments and not mere assertions or musings. Fair enough?

Tom Cantine said...

No, not fair enough. Or rather, it would be, if you too agreed to be bound by the same principle. However, your presuppositional apologetics model precludes that; you insist on asserting your own presuppositions, and rejecting out of hand anything that might conflict with them. You simply assert that your opponents are inherently dishonest, and you simply assert that God has revealed Himself such that we all infallibly know He exists. When I try to question these, you just assert them again.

I don't really intend for this comment to be posted, but rather to explain to you personally my reasons for bowing out here, when you review the submitted comments before publishing.

P.S. By the way, I'm not blaming you for my earlier post going missing; I often type something in, then think it through and realize I need to ponder it a bit more to choose a better way of phrasing it, and abort the posting.

Reformed Apologist said...

Tom,

Let’s review the bidding. In your initial post you claimed it is arrogant and foolish of me to claim that I know that all me know God. You went on to assert that if one is fallible, then his belief in God can be wrong. Your exact words were: “Would I not look like an arrogant fool for pretending to be a greater authority on the content of your own mind than you yourself?” Then this: “I tend to think that most theists must also, if they are honest, be agnostics in the strictest sense; they must acknowledge their own fallibility, and that means that they could be wrong in what they believe. That doesn't mean they can't also believe; they just acknowledge that their beliefs might conceivably be wrong.

In response to those two claims I pointed out that what you call foolish an arrogant, the Christian calls fidelity to God and his plain teaching. I also pointed out that it is fallacious to preclude the possibility of specific knowledge about God on the basis of natural fallibility. It would be akin to saying that a fallible person cannot know that 1+1=2. You, also, drew a most careless analogy regarding an hypothetical claim of my part to know what number you might be thinking of, all in an effort to conclude by that analogy that you should know better than I whether you know God exists. When I pointed out all the problems with your assertions, you ignored the comments, which merely demonstrated to me that you’re not terribly interested in arguing your position or performing an internal critique of mine. In response, you simply asserted that I cannot overcome the “fallibility problem” which is no problem at all. This supposed fallibility problem reduces to: “If one is fallible, then he cannot know anything.” But as I pointed out, if you are fallible, then how can you know that you can’t know anything? Your postulate is self-refuting.

I don't really intend for this comment to be posted, but rather to explain to you personally my reasons for bowing out here, when you review the submitted comments before publishing.

I’m posting your comment so my response has context. If you’d like me to take both down, then just ask. I'm not out to win an argument or cause you harm. Actually, I'd like to be an instrument for your good.

cont.

Reformed Apologist said...

P.S. By the way, I'm not blaming you for my earlier post going missing; I often type something in, then think it through and realize I need to ponder it a bit more to choose a better way of phrasing it, and abort the posting.

I didn’t take you that way. No worries.

In the end, we have different ultimate authorities. Mine is God’s revelation and yours is your autonomous reasoning I'm afraid. That's always the case with those who deny God's existence, which is why I said earlier: “Consequently, all that is left for any Christian apologist to do is ask you to account for the universal laws of logic, induction, deduction, ethics, reality etc. and then show how the Christian worldview can make sense of these things.”

Let's just no longer pretend that my apologetic is "God says you believe in God and that settles it. You're not telling the truth." Though it is indeed true and I have it on God's authority that you do know he exists and you know he has claim on you, that's not my apologetic. No, my argument is two-fold. I would first show how your worldview, should you ever unpack it, is based upon arbitrariness and inconsistency. Then I would show how Scripture provides the justification for knowledge, reality and ethics. In a word, I would show that to argue against Christian theism (or any ism for that matter), you would have to presuppose that which only Christian theism affords you, intelligible experience, which requires your mind to correspond with the mind independent world. That fruitful connection between your mind and the raw stuff out there, which makes intelligible experience possible, is provided by a common creator who stands behind both, your mind and the external world. What, do you think that the unchanging, universal laws of logic and categories of thought are societal conventions? :)

Would it be arrogant if I prayed for you? :)

Mark Wujek said...

What is your true God? Jesus,Allah,Budah, etc. If you don't have a pluralistic view on religion, and believe that your God is the only truth. Then aren't you an "atheist" to the alternate religions? I am your opposite. I was born and raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school, I through 8the grade. Confirmed and baptized. Then at the age 37,I finally came to terms with my atheism. Honestly, no matter what you believe, it is not a fact. Quoting scripture from a book, that supposedly is the word of God, doesn't work with me. A book that has over two thousand errors,contradictions, and morally bankrupt arguments for genocide,slavery,pedophilia, etch, is not a legitimate source for your argument.

Reformed Apologist said...

What is your true God? Jesus,Allah,Budah, etc.

The Holy Trinity

If you don't have a pluralistic view on religion, and believe that your God is the only truth. Then aren't you an "atheist" to the alternate religions?

That would be to equivocate. Atheism entails the assertion that no God exists. Accordingly, I'm not an atheist. To suggest that I'm atheistic over other Gods is to equivocate on what it is to be an atheist.

I am your opposite. I was born and raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school, I through 8the grade. Confirmed and baptized. Then at the age 37,I finally came to terms with my atheism.

You're not my opposite. I too was raised "Catholic." I finally came to terms with Catholicism.

Honestly, no matter what you believe, it is not a fact.

How can there be "fact" apart from God? What is truth after all?

Quoting scripture from a book, that supposedly is the word of God, doesn't work with me.

That something doesn't work with you is not germane to the discussion.

A book that has over two thousand errors,contradictions, and morally bankrupt arguments for genocide,slavery,pedophilia, etch, is not a legitimate source for your argument.

How can there be error and contradiction apart from God?

photosynthesis said...

How can there be error and contradiction apart from God?

Well, there are other errors and contradictions besides your god. In any event, the only necessary precondition for intelligibility is existence itself. There's no other way to exist but logically. Therefore, even if your god existed, it would have to "assume" logic before claiming to be its source. Its own existence would have to be logical before it could claim anything. So, if your god claimed to be the source and necessary precondition for intelligibility, your god would be a liar. A self-refuting one. Existence is all that's needed. Feel free to show any differently. Make sure you don't use/assume logic or existence in your "proofs." Otherwise your arguments will be self-refuting.

Reformed Apologist said...

Your assertions don't take up the challenge that is before you. Please demonstrate how logic can exist apart from God.

Secondly, per your post, show how God being the source of logic is self-refuting.

I understand your position. I just want to see an argument that supports it.

Thanks in advance.

photosynthesis said...

Your assertions don't take up the challenge that is before you. Please demonstrate how logic can exist apart from God.

There's no such challenge since it's you who should demonstrate that logic would not exist without your god. All you have is your claim, but no demonstration. Therefore I have no challenge to meet.

Please start by demonstrating that existence could be any other way but logical. It's better if you do so without using logic. Otherwise your argument would be self-refuting for trying to undermine it's own basis.

Secondly, per your post, show how God being the source of logic is self-refuting.

I did. For any thing to have a source, both the thing and the source would have to exist, that is, to have identity, therefore to be logical. Therefore, to claim that logic requires a source is nonsensical. Logic cannot be but axiomatic.

Not yet? OK, try this: if your god claimed to be the source of logic it would imply that he is not logical. But he would have to be logical, otherwise how could he be anything, let alone a source? And if he is logically existing, then why would logic need a source if logic is already there? So your god, no matter how mighty and sovereign, would still have no option but to exist logically, and therefore logic would not need this god or any other as its source.

I understand your position. I just want to see an argument that supports it.

It's self-evident. The proof, if you need one, is that you can't do anything without relying on it. You cannot even challenge it without it (which makes any challenge self-refuting). But feel free to try and offer an argument without anything existing. Without logic.

Thanks in advance.

Not a problem.

Reformed Apologist said...

Your claim: "For any thing to have a source, both the thing and the source would have to exist, that is, to have identity, therefore to be logical. Therefore, to claim that logic requires a source is nonsensical. Logic cannot be but axiomatic."

Refutation: Logic, like truth, is propositional. Propositions are mental. They only exist in minds. Without the divine mind (and created minds) there would be no truth, let alone logical truth, because truth must exist (be) somewhere.

A suitable rejoinder would require you to show an instance of non-propositional logic and how a proposition can exist other than mentally. Should you concede the necessity of the mind, then we can proceed to the question of whether the intelligibility of even the idea of the human mind presupposes the divine mind.

Having said that, logic being mental and eternal finds its source in God. This is not a temporal source. Rather, logic like holiness, is an attribute of God and in that sense finds its source in God, which he communicates to all men.

Dan said...

Reformed Apologist,

That is quite powerful. Atheists will of course go in one of two directions... (i)allow truth to be what subjective minds make it out to be or (ii) say there is absolute truth apart from minds. If (i), then those truths disappear if man disappears and that undermines the very nature *truth*. If (ii) then there is no grounding of truth and that means truth would be found in the material world not immaterial material but truth is not tangible.

Plantanga argues this way as did Augustine and G.H. Clark.

Reformed Apologist said...

I just received a post positing there is non-propositional logic, but that which was offered as an example were propositions that reflected inductive inference! These were not laws, let alone laws of logic, but theories, even good ones, based upon induction (which, by the way, presupposes the uniformity of nature and the intelligibility of prediction). In any case, it’s impossible to debate one who confuses inference based upon empirical observation with laws of logic.

Reformed Apologist said...

Dan,

What some will say is F=M*A, or salt dissolves in water regardless of minds.

Some observations are in order.

1. Both mass X acceleration (change in direction) equals force and salt dissolves in water are not scientific "facts" but rather inferences. For instance, the inference about salt in water is derived thusly:

p1. If salt dissolves in water, then I throw salt in water and it dissolves

p2. I throw salt in water and it dissolves

Therefore, salt dissolves in water

Obviously the inference is based upon the formal fallacy of asserting the consequent, which is at the heart of the scientific method. Induction is useful but it has its limits. Its use is in establishing veracity, not specific truth. Not to mention there are limits having to do with measurement etc.

Let's assume for argument sake these "facts" are true - they exist as true propositions. Apart from the proposition p: "salt dissolves in water" all we're left with is the existence of discrete events having to do with salt, water and mixture. Once the discrete events are qualified by a proposition about salt in water we then have a new existence - but not the events themselves but rather the truth claim of the proposition, which conveys meaning about the relationship between salt in water. The proposition is not the events, however. The rub is that the proposition does not exist in the events. Rather, the proposition presupposes mental activity, for where else can propositions exist, in nature?! Apart from mental activity there can be no truth for truth is rational, which presupposes a mind (or minds). Note well that discrete events are neither true nor false; yet propositions regarding how discrete events relate can be. The point is, propositions are not in matter; they are abstract entities and are, consequently, mental.

Finally, given that truth must be eternal, the mind that contains truth (all truth) must be eternal. This mind is God’s. Or better yet, this mind is God. Whereas when man knows anything he is simply receiving what has always been true.

photosynthesis said...

RA,

You keep mistaking the inferences that you have to make to understand or describe the events with the events themselves. I think this is not mere mistakes, but sophistry to avoid admitting the obvious. You are just trying to find ways/excuses to keep mistaking propositions with events. Mere rhetorical exercise. Self-delusion at its best.

You are a real-life example of a tragic comedy. I truly don't know if I should laugh or cry.

Reformed Apologist said...

You are correct, I do indeed grasp that events are not their truth values. Notwithstanding, until you can define a true event that is not true at the time it occurs, then we're left to conclude that all events are true at the time they occur. Given that truth is not material but abstract, it must be mental. Consequently, all true events presuppose a mind. Given the nature of truth, that it is eternal, there must be an eternal Mind. Are you prepared to say that events occur that aren't true when they occur?

Anonymous said...

What photosynthesis is probably missing is that the truth of the event exists side by side with the event. There is an ontology for truth that must be accounted for.

Reformed Apologist said...

Indeed, and not to mention the rationality of the event, unless rationality is subjective and idiosyncratic.

photosynthesis said...

Dear friends (RA and Anonymous),

What photosynthesis is probably missing is that the truth of the event exists side by side with the event. There is an ontology for truth that must be accounted for.

Actually, it is not me who does not realize of this "feature," it's you guys who don't understand how this feature leads to your equivocation. The truth of the event, the truth that goes "side by side" with the event is obviously and unambiguously physical. Its in the actuality of the event (that's its ontology, that's its nature). We should not mistake such truth with our abstractions about it. In philosophical jargon, we should not mistake the concepts with their referents.

Here's what's happening:

1. You guys define truth to be dependent on minds:

Logic, like truth, is propositional. Propositions are mental. They only exist in minds.

2. OK so far. Then you insists that this is the truth you'll be talking about:

I do indeed grasp that events are not their truth values

Granted if you still mean our conception about their truth values.

3. Then you describe the actuality of an event as "truth," which is where the equivocation happens:

we're left to conclude that all events are true at the time they occur.

Here, indadvertedly, you changed the meaning of truth to its referent, the event. Therefore redefining truth as the actuality of the event, not your concept about the actuality of the event. Here's where the equivocation happened.

4. You go back to your original definition unaware that you changed it in the example and that you're mistaking the actuality of the event, with the conceptual truth value of the event:

Given that truth is not material but abstract, it must be mental.

Well, not any more. You just redefined truth to mean the actuality of an event, rather than our concepts about its actuality. The actuality of the event would evidently be a physical truth.

That you could make this mistake in all honesty is all right. I understand how that can happen. This is why philosophers make the distinction time and again, because it's easy to fall for that equivocation without noticing. Yet, this very issue comes and demonstrates that intelligibility is explained by existence. So much so that people mistake our logic and conceptual frameworks with the realities they rely on.

Reformed Apologist said...

The truth of the event, the truth that goes "side by side" with the event is obviously and unambiguously physical.

What is physical truth? Physical things can be encountered by the senses. Please draw me a picture of truth, or send me a bouquet of truth so I might enjoy its fragrance. The existence of x is not the same thing as the truth of its existence though it does presuppose it. Of course you realize that there is a difference between existence of x and the truth of the existence of x (you've said so much), which is why you write:

[truth is] in the actuality of the event (that's its ontology, that's its nature).

That’s your axiom but it leads to absurdity. First off, as pointed out above, it leads to the notion of “physical truth,” but it gets worse. It makes the existence of x and the truth of its physical existence identical, which in turn abolishes your attempt to distinguish the two entities. :)

We should not mistake such truth with our abstractions about it. In philosophical jargon, we should not mistake the concepts with their referents.

Abstractions? Concepts? Referents? Hmmm, something tells me you’re not acquainted with this subject since you're throwing around terms without progression of thought. A little argumentation would be nice.

1. You guys define truth to be dependent on minds:

Nope, that’s not our definition. It’s actually our conclusion, which is based upon truth being eternal, unchanging and abstract (which is not related to abstraction as you seem to think).

Granted if you still mean our conception about their truth values.

We’re not talking about subjective conception. We’re talking about the truth of what you say exists, which is not the same thing as the object that exists.

I can see this is getting nowhere.

R.A.

P.S. Your little blurb about honest mistakes might give others less acquainted than even you with this subject a sense of confidence but it doesn’t advance your position. I say that for their sake and not to shame you more than your musings.