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Friday, July 31, 2015

Bahnsen, One Misunderstood Servant of The Lord

“A transcendental argument begins with any item of experience or belief whatsoever and proceeds, by critical analysis, to ask what conditions (or what other beliefs) would need to be true in order for that original experience or belief to make sense, be meaningful, or be intelligible to us. Now then, if we should go back and negate the statement of that original belief (or consider a contrary experience), the transcendental analysis (if originally cogent or sound) would nevertheless reach the very same conclusion.” (Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, 501-502.)

That quote by Bahnsen has been misunderstood, abused and hijacked by those who would claim Bahnsen and those who would have nothing to do with his apologetic.
Let’s take this quote of Bahnsen’s step by step.

1. “A transcendental argument begins with any item of experience or belief whatsoever”
Let’s assume as our belief that there is causality. That it is intelligible.

2. “…and proceeds, by critical analysis, to ask what conditions (or what other beliefs) would need to be true in order for that original experience or belief to make sense, be meaningful, or be intelligible to us.”

Let’s assume that what must be the necessary precondition needed to make sense of causality is God’s existence. We are now left with: If Causality, then God.

3. “Now then, if we should go back and negate the statement of that original belief (or consider a contrary experience), the transcendental analysis (if originally cogent or sound) would nevertheless reach the very same conclusion.”
Now let’s do as Bahnsen suggests and “negate the statement of that original belief”. In other words, let’s negate causality (the statement of that original belief) and see if we reach the same conclusion.

At this juncture we have two choices. The first one is a bit strange but let’s run with it and see where it takes us. (A) We can first interpret the instruction in such a manner as to introduce a minor premise thereby denying the antecedent of the major premise while affirming the consequent in the conclusion. Does Bahnsen mean this?

If Causality, then God (because causality presupposes God)
Therefore, God.
What is the problem with such a rendering of Bahnens’s words? To argue as above is to draw a conclusion that does not follow from the premises in any logical sense! The argument is invalid (and no appeal to transcendental arguments can save a formal fallacy.) Whenever possible, we should not interpret someone’s words in such a way that makes him out to look foolish or inept.

Therefore, let’s consider another way to heed the instruction to “negate the statement of that original belief”. (B) Let's interpret the instruction in such a manner as to deny the statement of that original belief not in the minor premise but in the major premise. Again, we are told to go back and negate the statement of that original belief in order to see if both the first belief and its denial lead to the same transcendental conclusion. When we do that, we are left with two different major premises that both are to lead to the same conclusion. We're left with the original premise (or belief): If Causality, then God; but also we’re left to consider the negation of that original belief with another premise: If ~Causality, then God. That rendering with respect to form is consistent with Don Collett's rendering of CVT and TAG in the WTJ: 
C presupposes G if and only if both 1 & 2:
1. If C then God exists
2. If ~C then God exists 
Whether we predicate: If Causality, then God (or) If ~Causality, then God the same conclusion, God, obtains. In other words, God is the necessary precondition for all predication. Or to put it in Bahnsen’s terms, whether we affirm or deny the original belief, the transcendental analysis nevertheless reaches the very same conclusion given both premises. {NOTE WELL: We are not negating the metaphysicality of causality but rather the truth value of the predication of the metaphysicality of causality! In other words: ~causality (which is chaos) does not presuppose God(!), but indeed the belief or assertion of ~causality does! In other words, the concept of non-causality presupposes God.} 
The second way ought to be considered the most reasonable way in which we ought to interpret the instruction. There are two reasons for this. First, the second way is not an invalid argument as is the first way; and if we are able to interpret someone’s words in a way that is cogent rather than foolish, then we should. Secondly, it has not been shown that the author of the quote ever demonstrated in his many lectures and debates a single instance of fallaciously denying the antecedent while affirming the consequent. Yet on many occasions he labored the point that to argue against the Christian worldview, the Christian worldview must first be presupposed. And that is to argue both:

If sound argumentation, then God (since sound argumentation presupposes God)
If unsound argumentation, then God (since unsound argumentation... God) 
When we work these arguments through, we find:

If sound arguments, then God...
Therefore, no sound argument... but there are sound arguments, therefore, God


If unsound arguments, then God...
Therefore, no unsound arguments... but there are unsound arguments, therefore, God
Accordingly, whether we affirm sound arguments "or go back and negate" sound arguments, the same transcendental conclusion obtains - God!


If sound or unsound arguments, then God
Therefore, no sound or unsound arguments (but there as such arguments, therefore, God)

The deductive argument, which is transcendental in nature, establishes God as the necessary precondition for both sound and unsound arguments. TAG, however, must be distinguised from garden variety deduction, as I show here:

Finally, TAG and Bahnsen has nothing to do with anything so silly as:

If sound argument, then God
Not sound argument
Therefore, God
In the final analyses, Bahnsen’s statement need not lead us into fallacious reasoning, as some who would like to claim Bahnsen do. Added to that, it is only when we interpret Bahnen’s statement in such a manner as not to be fallacious are we able to reconcile his summary statement with his many demonstrations of what the statement contemplates. Why not, therefore, let Bahnsen not be fallacious, especially if it allows him to be consistent with himself?

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Question Begging From Another Radical 2 Kingdom Proponent

I'm publishing this piece again because I've been reminded of late that the Escondido crowd remains loud and a problematic force against the reasonableness of Reformed epistemology and morals.

More question begging from the Radical 2 Kingdom camp, this time by Darryl Hart.

Indeed, one can have a justification for x while not being able to offer it. So, to use Darryl Hart’s example, one can have a justification for discerning curves from fastballs while being incapable of articulating that justification. In such cases what one lacks is the ability to articulate a justification - he does not lack having a justification. Notwithstanding, we ought not to think that because one can know something apart from being able to articulate a justification that, therefore, giving a justification is superfluous, or that those true beliefs that are not self-consciously justified must be as credible as those that are self-consciously justified. Let's not pretend that the ability to justify a belief is morally irrelevant, or that a robust justification lends no force to a rational defense of a belief.

The article leaps from (a) the premise that people do know things they aren't prepared to justify to (b) the grand implication that offering a robust justification for beliefs is of little use if only we can muddle through without having to give one. In the final analysis, the article begs the question of whether there actually exists an epistemic justification for laws in general and civil laws in particular and whether that justification is available to us, let alone useful for society. So, once again, R2K confounds the ability of societies to function apart from Scripture with the question of whether there is a moral imperative to apply Scripture to society whenever possible. In essence, R2Kers reason in the same fashion we see in the comic above. They have a preconceived conclusion that they'll arrive at any which way they can.

I might as well mention here that the Bahnsen reference employed by Darryl Hart is terribly misapplied. Bahnsen (with Van Til) thought that men know things that they are unwilling, even incapable of justifying. Accordingly, the reference with respect to one being reduced to absurdity does not speak to the question of whether men know how to count, or whether men know there should be degrees of punishment for transgressions. Nor does it pertain to the reasonableness of men holding to such beliefs they aren't prepared to justify. Certainly Bahnsen did not count it foolish for secular governments to dish out harsher punishments for rape than driving five miles over the speed limit. Not at all, for there is nothing contained in Bahnsen's theonomic thesis that would have prevented him from appreciating that societies can and do function apart from any sort of self-conscious epistemic warrant. What Bahnsen deemed foolish was not the implementation of law by unbelievers but rather the mindset that would abandon any hope in the only ultimate justification of such abstract entities. His issue was with the arbitrary and inconsistent manner in which unbelievers oppose themselves in their reasoning. The Bahnsen reference pertains to men not giving an account (an articulated justification) for their counting - it does not imply that men, unaided by Scripture, do not know how to count or aren't justified in their counting.

R2K might be the most unifying movement today within the Reformed tradition. Non-theonomists and theonomists alike oppose R2K. It reminds me of Dwarves and Elves uniting against Orcs.

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Monday, July 06, 2015

Demeanor toward homosexuality

From the Aquila Report :

We must also respond with love. Even as we articulate the truth of marriage we must take great care to do so with the right demeanor. A counter-cultural message will not be compelling without a counter-cultural tone. We must not be condescending or resentful in the face of the cultural shift going on around us. We must extend the very same patient grace that God has extended to us. When Jesus saw the lostness of the crowds around Him, it moved Him to compassion, not hectoring. 

The above quote has to do with our response toward homosexuals and homosexuality. It’s a common sentiment. I’m OK with the sentiment if what is meant by “demeanor” is in some ways really no different than the God-honoring demeanor we ought to show toward ax murders, wife beaters and child molesters.

We are always to speak the truth in love, as self-conscious redeemed sinners. Maybe some might be surprised to see the correct, humble and loving “demeanor” toward an ax murder – or just maybe, some might be surprised to know what a loving demeanor toward a homosexual would truly look like. In all such cases, there should be no coddling. A sense of urgency must pervade all counsel, which should look more like a clarion call to repentance than a carefully constructed argument for why homosexuality is sin. Or, have we bought into the culture’s invention that this matter of homosexuality is somehow trickier than old fashioned, premeditated acts of sin and rebellion? How did these waters become so difficult to navigate in such a relatively short span of time? I don't know. But, I do think the church adopted a demeanor that was not in accord with the truth she should have been striving to convey all along.

The article goes on to address the supposed thorny question of whether one should attend an illegitimate marriage between two of the same sex. Thankfully, the article came down on the right side of the issue, but what I think the article does not convey is that the answer to that question is really no different than the question of whether one should attend or lend legitimacy to any of the aforementioned acts.

I’m finding a growing fear within the church that we might lose this particular battle if we don’t cultivate a certain kind of demeanor. (Maybe it's a good time to remind ourselves that the battle belongs to the Lord; our task is to obey in word and deed). That said, I can go along with that notion as long as we have the correct demeanor in mind. That is to say, as long as the demeanor is the same loving demeanor that should emanate whenever dealing with the most heinous sins imaginable – yet with one crucial caveat…this sin is in many ways worse! Most blatant acts of sin are not misconstrued as an expression of "love"! This one is different. This one is more insidious. This one is celebrated by liberal protestants and is practiced by Roman Catholic clergymen. (Though at least Roman Catholicism is still "on record" as being ashamed of the sin, unlike the Episcopal Church and PCUSA who have jettisoned such truth altogether.) Let's worry about demeanor once we've internalized what we're even talking about! Read on...

Those in a position to minister in these areas are to speak the entire truth in love, which means both (i) cultivating a demeanor suitable to the transgression and (ii) distinguishing the transgression from other transgressions. In both cases, if we don’t sound like Jesus, they won’t hear Jesus. We must strive to influence in word and deed; so, not just with pure demeanor but also with true doctrine. Key point: the latter will inform the former, indeed it must - for our demeanor must be consistent with the truth we hope to convey (lest we eclipse the truth). What we believe to be true about a particular sin will dictate how we behave toward those who practice such things! We must recognize not just the fall of humanity in Adam, but also its ensuing downward trajectory, manifested in the outright rejection of the gospel leading unto full blown apostasy that would eventually culminate in repudiation of the created order. In a word, what we are witnessing is deep seated enmity without guise. What we're also witnessing is a church that is not being normed by God's word.

Regarding the truth, we are under obligation to declare two things on the authority of God. First off, this particular sin is on a different order all together, for it is unnatural. It is unique in its degeneration. Secondly, this sin very often constitutes a turning over - an abandonment by God - (something the average evangelical has not considered I'm afraid). Exchanging the natural use of the created order in this way is not just sin but judicial consequence for persistent rebellion against the light of nature. Get this Christian. Homosexuality is not to be thought of in terms of that which might beget punishment. Rather, it is to been seen as divinely appointed punishment. Homosexuality is a nation’s judicial recompense for racing toward idolatry and glorying in overt, fist-shaking rebellion against God our Maker. Nothing less than willful heathenism can provoke God to render such justice against a nation. This must be said without apology, but first it must be understood and believed. Once we get that right, our demeanor will at least have a chance of looking "godly".

So, yes indeed, we must not just speak the truth… “We must also respond with love. Even as we articulate the truth of marriage we must take great care to do so with the right demeanor.” Let’s just make sure we bring our demeanor in line with the full-orbed implications of the transgression we hope to address. There are those who are angry and militant in their practice; whereas there are others who are dabbling in confusion and falling deeper into the clutches of sin. One size doesn’t necessarily fit all with respect to demeanor, but it does with the truth that must be declared on the authority of God. As Calvin reminds, “He, who is ashamed, is yet healable…” Yet our leaders along with many who have been photographed in "victory" take pleasure in this evil– even calling it a gift from God. Let that too inform our demeanor. But before chiding our elected officials and judges, maybe we might begin by rebuking, with an informed demeanor, the liberal "clergy" that promote such evils.

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