Archive for June, 2007

>Exegesis Challenge – Calvinism vs. Non-Calvinism

June 29, 2007

>This challenge goes out to any and all non-Calvinists.

1. Pick five passages that you believe support your view on soteriology, and I will do the same.

2. Write a thorough, detailed exegesis of those five passages (no limit on how long it can be … make it as long as you need), and I will do the same.

3. Then I will critique and/or provide an alternative exegesis for each of the exegeses you provided, and you will have the responsibility to do the same for mine.

4. Write a rebuttal to each of the critique/alternative exegeses I present, and I will do the same for your critiques/alternative exegeses.

5. Provide comments back and forth in the footnotes of the rebuttals (both yours and mine) until all the arguments have been made.

If you are interested, you can either post a comment here, or you can send me an email. A link to my email address is available through my Blogger profile, which (at present) you can get by clicking on the “About me” information on the left side of this blog.

My preference would be initially to do the papers by email, and then we are both satisfied, to post the final collection as a whole to this blog or another internet site.

Negotation/variation of the proposal is certainly welcome.

Any takers?


>Why I am not an Evidentialist

June 27, 2007


Why I am not an Evidentialist


There are many available epistemologies. One that is popular in many circles is the epistemology of evidentialism. This epistemology is the favored approach by many, and can be summarized as the view that one believes what one believes because that is what the weight of the evidence indicates is true. I am not an evidentialist, and I believe that evidentialism is a fundamentally flawed epistemology.

The Attraction of Evidentialism

Despite the fundamental weaknesses of Evidentialism, Evidentialism has blossomed in popularity. The primary reason for the attraction is that evidentialism typically presents itself as Science.

Those who dare to challenge Science are viewed today as fools or Luddites: locked in the middle ages and flat earth geography. Scientists are regarded as the most intelligent portion of society, busily improving life on earth through the application of the Scientific Method.

If Science says, “X,” that is enough for many people to believe it. Thus, for example, you will hear arguments in public fora that it is absurd to call Homosexuality a deviant practice rooted in mental and spiritual illness, because the science of Psychiatry has not listed homosexuality as a mental disorder in its most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

One will hear that a young child in his mother’s womb is not a person, because the science of biololgy has labelled the child a “fetus.” One will likewise hear that the Great Flood could not have happened as described, because Science says otherwise.

Appeals to Science are becoming an entrenched part of the fabric of public discourse. The use of DNA evidence in court has led people to place even more confidence in the ability of Science to provide truth.

On the coattails of this popularity, evidentialism in its most popular form, Naturalism, arrives. Naturalism claims to be the result of scientific investigation, and holds nothing to be known unless it has been verified scientifically. Their opponents are not arguing with them, they will say, but with the evidence.

Some Christians, perhaps even without thinking, have adopted to one degree or another the same epistemology and suggest that they hold what they hold, because the weight of the evidence supports it. Thus, for example, one will hear of apparently Christian apologists claiming to be able to prove that the balance of evidence proves that there is a God, or that the world is intelligently designed, or that rules of morality are good.

Evidentialism and the Scientific Method

As noted above, evidentialism has gained ground because it purports to be scientific. The usual way that something has been viewed as scientific is by whether it applies the scientific method. The scientific method is normally thought to proceed:

  1. Guess/Hypothesis/Formulation/Theory
  2. Testing/Data/Empirical Analysis
  3. Theorization/Verification/Validation/Canonization or Rejection/Rewriting/Reformulation/Revision/Invalidation

The Scientific Method, thus, begins with uncertainty, and proceeds toward (at least this is the goal) greater certainty. The more testing a hypothesis has undergone, the stronger its verification, until it is eventually validated or even canonized as a scientific principle or law. The Scientific Method is also usually cyclical. A guess can turn into a hypothesis, and then a theory.

Evidentialism tries to imitate this principle. It begins with a hypothesis, and then attempts to validate the hypothesis by testing. Thus, evidentialism seeks to wear the mantle of the scientific method, even when some of its hypthothesis are not scientifically testable in the usual sense of the word.

The Scentific Method, despite its foundation on guesses and hunches, gives its holders an aura of objectivity. The reason why this is so, is that the Scientific Method has been used with great success in the applied sciences: engineering and medicine. People assume that technological success is the result of discovery of truth, and consequently they believe the Scientific Method to be a revealer of objective truth.

Presuppositions in Evidentialism

One reason that Evidentilists pick Evidentialism is a belief that by choosing that epistemology, they are beginning with a blank slate. This is false. There are presuppositions in Evidentialism. One standard presupposition of Science, for example, is Naturalism.

Specifically, science normally presupposes that every cause is the result of a purely natural effect. Usually, scientists do not consider this a very problematic presupposition. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that it is a presupposition.

There are other presuppositions as well: that the world is orderly, that there is a connection between perception and reality, that experience is transitive, and a host of other presuppositions. These presuppositions are not items that can be either established or rebutted by evidentialism, whether in the form of science or in any other form.

A response from a typical beaker-filler or spectrum-analyzer is often to blow off this issue, as though it were not an epistemic weakness: “So you’re saying that experience might not be transistive?” Such replies are simply belligerant, they do not defend the choice of presuppoisitons – nor (more importantly) recognize that the entire Scientific, Naturalistic, and Evidentialist epistemology is piggy-backed on a presuppositional epistemology.

Result of Adherence to Strict Evidentialism – No Beginning

The result of adherence to strict Evidentialism, denying whatever cannot be proved by appeal to sensory experience and other evidence, is to deny the fundamental presuppositions of Evidentialism. Evidentialism cannot prove (or even test) that experience is transisitive, that the world is orderly, or that the natural is all that there is.

In short, Evidentialism is self-contradictory. Because Evidentialism, strictly taken, is self-contradictory, it is an improper and invalid epistemology from the very beginning. Evidentialism cannot stand on its own to ensure that it has started from the right place, and consequently the Evidentialist can never have any knowledge that has the confidence of a foundation.

Result of Adherence to Strict Evidentialism – No Certainty

The results of Evidentialism are always tenuous; its adherence have no certainty that what is a law today will be a law tomorrow. Newton’s laws are a prime example of this phenomena. Until Einstein, Newton’s laws enjoyed widespread general acceptance in the scientific community. Now, Newton’s laws are viewed as a helpful approximation under certain conditions. There is no reason to fill this account with more examples, though certainly more could be given.

The historical fact is that Science’s body of knowledge has always been in flux, and that not even the greatest scientist is unable to be corrected. Aristotle’s Physics was a widely accepted work for many centuries, but later Science rejected it, and you will find it rare than any college class (in Physics) will spend more than an hour on the entire body of Aristotle’s work.

With such a track record, an Evidentialist might have a hunch that he could could verify by testing that the body of Scientific knowledge at the beginning of each decade for the last hundred years has been different from the body of Scientific knowledge at the end of each such decade. Upon that ground, an Evidentialist may conclude that there are numerous unknown items that are Science today, but will be labelled “error” in the scientific community tomorrow.

Result of Adherence to Strict Evidentialism – No End

Not only can Evidentialism not assure its adherence that it has started from the right place or that it is in the right place now, it cannot assure its adherents that it is converging to the right answer. Because Evidentialism cannot see the end in sight, Evidentialism cannot assure its followers that they are converging to the truth. Evidentialism may currently be converging toward something, but there is no way for the Evidentialist to be sure that this something is the truth.

What Guess has not been Made?

This is the nagging question in evidentialism. Until Einstein, no one had presented his own hunch about the way the universe is supposed to operate. Einsteinian descriptions of the world are very useful, but are they correct? Is there a better guess about the universe that has not been investigated? This is the nagging question that distracts from the beauty of any “truth” of Evidentialism.

Evidentialism tries to silence this nagging question as unfounded speculation. Evidentialism teaches its advocates that the prevailing wisdom should simply be accepted. At the same time, and conflictingly, Evendentialism rewards skeptics who can come up with guesses that test better than the guesses in the prevailing position.

Fundamentally Dishonest

The claims of Evidentialism are fundamentally dishonest: the beginning of Evidentialism must be borrowed from a presuppositional (or similar) framework; it promises truth but delivers constantly changing guesswork; and it promises improvement without any reason for supposing that can provide improvement.

Open to Skepticism

In addition to narrow skepticism regarding particular scientific theories, Evidentialism is open to attack by general skepticism. If there are two ways of interpreting evidence, it is impossible for Evidentialism to decide between them.

Evidentialism tries to resolve this problem by resort to Occham’s razor. Occham’s razor states that the simpler explanation should be accepted over the more complex explanation. There is, however, no Evdiential reason to adopt Occham’s razor. Instead, the mechanism is yet another stop-gap presupposition.

Evidentialism also tries to resolve the problem (sometimes in combination with the razor above) that the more probable of the explanations should be accepted. There is a real problem, however, with this approach. It is often (if not always) difficult to assign a priori probabilities. Accordingly, the resort to probabilitic arguments frequently ends up with mere emotive arguments or, worse, arguments that make up the probabilities from thin air.

Responses to Skepticism are Self-Destructive

Whatever approach Evidentialism takes in responding to Skepticism is self-destructive. An appeal to a presupposition that favors simple explanations betrays the non-evidential underlying epistemology; an appeal to probability betrays both uncertainty and weakness at arriving at the alleged probability.

In short, Evidentialism cannot stand on its own two feet against the Skeptics.


One objector might object that I myself use evidentialist techniques! I’m not afraid to apply the Scientific method to everyday life, when my car breaks down, my faucet drips, or my dog gets ill. That’s certainly an objection with a touch of truth. I do use the scientific method in such circumstances.

I do so, however, recognizing that it is piggy-backed on my dogmatic presuppositionalism. I know why I can trust my senses and the scientific method: because God has revealed Himself to be an orderly God and the world to be a place run by law.

Another objector may complain, “If you can’t trust your senses, you can’t trust the Bible!” This frequent objection is misplaced. I can trust my senses – I know that I can because the Bible tells me so. God has revealed the truth of His Word to me, and consequently I know that I can trust it. From that, I can deduce that I can also trust my senses, to a degree.

Another objector will argued that if I can use evidentialist techniques, I am not in a position to forbid Evidentialists from doing so. My response is that Evidentialists do not have an epistemic basis for their use of the techniques; they cannot know anything certaintly, and consequently cannot know whether they know anything at all.

Yet another objector might assert that that the Bible uses an evidentialist epistemology. Such an objector would point to the reliance of certain authors in Scripture to tangible evidence. Nevertheless, as the Apostle Peter explained, all the writers of Scripture spoke according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They spoke the words of God. And the most frequent appeal by all the prophets and apostles is that they are speaking the Word of the LORD, the Gospel. Their appeal is to the authority of God, and their epistemology is dogmatic and revelation-based.

One last objector may state that he considers himself an Evidentialist, but that he grounds his reason for believing “evidence” in “transcendentals.” This is not true Evidentialism, but a slightly modified form of Evidentialism that I will deal with, God Willing, under the separate head of Van-Tillianism / Transcendentalism.


Germany Identifies Scientology as a Cult

June 25, 2007

The good news is that Germany recognized Scientology as a cult/scam (link). The bad news is that Germany does not officially recognize (to my knowledge, anyhow) that Islam is an even worse cult/scam. Scientology may ruin someone financially, but Islam has killed and continues to kill. Maybe we’ll see some progress in time.


Response to Kurschner on Revelation 5:9-10

June 23, 2007
Response to Mr. Alan Kurschner
On Revelation 5:9-10
The Present Author Slightly Favoring
The Reading of the Authorized Version


In a recent article (link), Mr. Kurschner argued that the Authorized Version (aka the KJV) has several incorrect readings at Revelation 5:9-10. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Kurschner, and I believe that the Authorized Version generally has the better reading, based both on the internal and external evidence. Before I continue, I should point that although I believe that the KJV (in the 1792 edition) is the present paragon of excellence in translation of the Bible in the English language, I am not a KJV-only (KJVO) advocate. I have explained why I am not, previously (link). It is possible that some readings of the KJV could be improved, but this is not such a case, in my opinion, although I leave open the possibility that I could be wrong.

Reference English Readings

For reference, the Authorized Version’s reading of the disputed passage is:

Revelation 5:9-10
9And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

In contrast:

Revelation 5:9-10 (NASB, notes omitted, italics and quotation marks original)
9And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10″You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

For further comparison, here is the Westcott & Hort translation, “The Twentieth Century New Testament,” (revised ed. 1904) for comparison (formatting omitted):

And they are singing a new song — ‘Thou art worthy to take the book and break its seals, for thou wast sacrificed, and with thy blood thou didst buy for God men of every tribe, and language, and people, and nation, and didst make them at Kingdom of Priests in the service of our God, and they are reigning upon the earth.’


For reasons that will be clear rather quickly, Mr. Kurschner begins with the second, rather than the first verse. I’ll proceed in the order in which the verses would be read.

With respect to verse 9, Mr. Kurschner takes the position that the omission of “us” is the better reading, with the sole external evidence being the lone testimony of “A”. The problem with Mr. Kurscher’s view here is that it fails to account properly for the transcriptional evidence. The harder reading is “us” (not its omission). It appears that A (in the Apocalpyse) was copied by ear.

In evidence of the auditory copying of A, note, for example, who A also has a unique spelling of αδουσιν as αδωσιν. Two obvious explanations for this error spring to mind. One would be an error of the eye, the other of the ear. A, if it is as old as is claimed, was copied from an Uncial manuscript written in all capitals. If so, it would be difficult to confuse omicron-upsilon with omega. Accordingly, we can discard the error of eye hypothesis. Instead, it seems more that is simply an itacism, and that the scribe misheard the vowel pair as omega, and copied phonetically. (It is interesting to note, by way of comparison, that A alone likewise omits ημων in the phrase “our God” in verse 10, at which point Mr. Kurshner, Messrs. Westscott and Hort, and the NASB do not follow A.)

Once we recognize that A was copied by hearing, it would be reasonable, then for A simply to fail to hear the word ημας composed, as it is, entirely of vowels and soft consonents, and accidentally omit it.

Mr. Kurschner provides a counter argument that:

there was a scribal tendency to “clarify” ambiguous readings. And in this case, it makes much more sense that a scribe would add an object to clarify who is being purchased, rather than a scribe omitting the object of God’s purchasing.

There is a significant problem with Mr. Kurschner’s argument here. While it may be possible that a scribe would attempt to clarify who is being purchased, it is unclear why (if the scribe had before him) a text reflected by the NASB, the scribe would choose to insert “us” rather then “men” or “them,” unless the scribe had a reason for believing that “us” was intended by the context. If one accepts NASB text as accurately reflecting the context, one is left wondering how “us” could have been the intent.

Furthermore, the internal evidence favors the reading from the standpoint of difficulty. Omission creates no serious difficulty, but insertion creates the difficulty that one must explain how (apparently and on its face) the twenty four enders and four beasts were redeemed out of every kindred, etc.

Furthermore, the versional testimony in favor of “us” is overwhelming. The Vulgate (all versions and old translations I could find except the Vatican II edition), Horner’s translation of the Coptic, all the translations of the Peshitto I have (Murdoch’s, Lamsa’s, and Etheridge’s translations), and my copy of the Slavonic.

When we come to verse 10, the reason for Mr. Kurschner’s opposition with respect to verse 9 becomes apparent. In verse 10, there is a mixture in the external evidence as to whether the pronoun should be “us” or “them.” The majority of the early Greek texts have “them.” There are, however, very few early Greek texts of the Apocolypse. Unlike most of the Bible, there are no lectionaries of the Apocalypse presumably because it was not read in church, and accordingly there is no lectionary data at all for the text of the Apocalypse. Thus, the remaining evidence are patristic quotations (which favor “us”) and versional evidence, which is mixed with the Coptic, Peshitto, and Armenian favoring “them” and the Slavonic and Vulgate favoring “us.”

Furthermore, if we have established that reading of 9 is “us,” then the internal evidence favors “us,” because it makes more sense. This, of course, raises a slight transcriptional argument in favor of corruption of the text to smooth between 9 and 10, and this raises a slight amount of evidence that “them” could be the original in 10.

However, I’m not persuaded by that transcriptional argument, because the more likely transcriptional variation would flow from the verb “shall reign” (which, in many instances, is 3rd person plural), which is more directly connected with being made kings, than is the foregoing redemption.

This brings us to the final textual variant, the conjugation of the verb “to reign” in verse 10. Again, the same versional information applies in favor, the Vulgate and the Slavonic favoring the third person singular. There is a further split among the Greek witnesses and versions on this very verb, however. At least the following are presented among the various witnesses and versions: basileian, basileis, basileusousin, and basileuiusin (in addition, of course, to basileusomen).

Mr. Kurschner selects basileusousin, but this is not the reading provided by A (his favored text elsewhere in this same argument). A has basileian.

In view of the variety of textual evidence for and against the conjugation of “to reign,” I leave open the possibility that the KJV may have the wrong tense expressed. Nevertheless, I’m inclined to believe that the verb conjugation has been corrupted, and that we should restore the verb ending by the context. In the context, the preferred verb ending is first person plural, future.


Accordingly, I conclude that the KJV reading is slightly preferably here, primarily on the weight of the versional testimony of the Vulgate and Slavonic versions, against the apparently accidentally corrupted Greek text.

Almost by way of an afterword, it is important to note that Mr. Kurschner includes an argument that would be better omitted, as it can only weaken his position. That is Mr. Kurschner’s argument that suggests that KJVO advocates insist on the KJV’s reading here because of an a priori commitment to pretribulation premillenial theology. It seems completely unreasonable to suppose that such a commitment would force one to adopt the KJVO position – it would be sufficient simply to dispute the translation of the text (as, for example, the present author has done above). On the other hand, Mr. Kurschner could more readily be accused (and the accusation would be a false one, in my own estimation) of seeking to maintain a corrupt reading in the text in order to oppose pretribulation premillenialism. Because the KJVO position does not permit monkeying with text, suggesting that it is motivated by the readings of particular passages is not a reasonable critique.

I would encourage Mr. Kurschner to omit this argument in future versions of this same presentation, reserving it instead, for posts such as this one of his, on another site (link).

I would also continue to encourage Mr. Kurschner to address the actual problems with the KJVO position, rather than trying to find fault with Authorized Version. In most, if not all, of the cases of alleged incorrect readings of the KJV there is going to be a substantial argument in favor of the KJV, even when that substantial argument is wrong.

It would seem better to go after the root of the problem: the lack of a reason to suppose that the KJV (in any of its edititions) is entirely free from even the most trivial errors of reading.


Clarkian Epistemology – Contra Van-Tillian Objections

June 22, 2007
Clarkian Epistemology Distinguished
Against Van Tillian Responses

There has been a recent spat of comments flowing out of a discussion generally related to TJH’s post (link) and my response (link).

In particular, TJH, Keith, and an internet poster who has adopted the handle “John Calvin” (JC), have provided some comments worthy of further discussion.

TJH’s first comments (link) require me to dig through the disarray of tomes that I call my library to try to locate my copy of the relevant book. I have not yet found time to do so. I’ll try to do so soon, rather than rely on my memory.

Keith’s comments (link) ask:

You say that science collectively says R. In reality, the truth is R’. This is trivial. Who wouldn’t agree with that? Are there people out there who think that science has always given us the truth? The whole idea behind science is that we keep modifying our “knowledge”.
Nevertheless, this makes more sense of Clark’s claim that science is “false.” Collectively, yes it probably is, but once again, if he’s concerned about epistemic certainty then he still can’t say its truly false, only probably false.
By the way, how does Clark know that the Bible says what he thinks it says given the uncertainty of language?

I respond:

As to the first paragraph, that’s an intermediate step of the argument, not the final point. I do think that virtually everyone would agree that the truth is R’. Nevertheless, evidentialism does not have the tools either to say with certainty that the truth is R’, or even that R is close, far, or converging to R’. In other words, evidentialism is without an anchor. Evidentialism can convince us that the R of science is changing, but cannot tell us with certainty that it is approaching truth.

This does not mean that science is not useful, but that that science ALONE is not an epistemology of any value.

As to the second paragraph, all that is necessary for Clark to prevail is that we agree that evidentialism is an undesirable epistemology. Clark can easily demonstrate that Science collectively includes assertions that are contrary to the truth (for example, in the area of cosmology), but that is not based on evidentialism, but on Clark’s own epistemology.

It’s important to point out the evidentialism cannot only not show that R is not R’ with certainty, but even that R is not R’ with probability. There’s no a priori way of assigning probabilities to the position. If one jumps out of evidentialism for a second, and presupposes that historical observations are a probable predictor of future events, then whatever you presuppose as that probability that historical observations will predict future events will correspond to the probability that Science is false. I’m not sure how helpful that would be.

As to the final question, Clark (like the Reformers) deduces from Scripture that the important things in Scripture are perspicuous.

TJH’s second comments (link) follow on Keith’s comments (above).

TJH writes:

Also, that applies to theology as well. I’m sure that Clark’s theology underwent tweaks over the course of his life, and there was probably at least one false proposition left in there. Say it is certainly so. Then, by the same reasoning, can we not say that Clark’s theology was false?

(underscore substituted for italics in original)

I respond:

Clark would agree that the entire body of Clarkian theology (even as it stood on his moment of death) undoubtedly contained some error or other, and consequently is not a suitable presuppositional basis. Clark would, therefore, agree that Scripture, not Clarkian theology, should be our epistemological starting point.

JC’s comments (link) are lengthier, more vehement, and seem to reflect a personal stake in the debate, but are not remarkably different from Keith’s.

JC wrote:

[1] And of course you don’t know that my conclusion proves the absurdity of trying to argue like a Van Tillian, do you? It’s just your mere opinion, isn’t it?
[2] I see you *assert* that the sun’s heat is being spoken of literally, but you don’t know that, do you? Sure you can “presuppose it,” but whopp-dee-doo.
[3] Then I can prove God is a bird by “presupposing” that it is speaking literally? No. So, just “presupposing” anything willy-nilly is a bit unwise. And, of course you don’t even know that Scripture says “sun.” That word could be “oven,” and so your eyes are tricking you. How would you know otherwise?
[4] So, no free lunches. I want to know how the Clarkian doesn’t commit epistemological suicide every time he opens his mouth. Your saying “just grant me that I know what the Bible says,” sems like the evolutionist asking me to grant him that “life evolved from non-life just once,” and then he’ll show me how everything else follows. Like Tim said above, “of where one cannot speak, one should be
[5] You don’t know Clark existed, and you don’t know he had a high standard of knowledge, either. That’s another mere opinion. Also, you don’t know that you don’t need to know. So that was another opinion. A mere assertion. Why do you expect “Van Tillians” to grant you your unjustified opinions? Is it because it’s “absurd” to reason like us so you think you can pass assertions on as substantive answers and we won’t “get it” because we’re “absurd.”
[6] You don’t know that Clark existed, that’s right. But, you also don;t know that eh
should have been ordained because you don’t know if he was a man. You don;t even
know if you’re a man, how much more then do you not know that Clark is?
[7] I mean, you don’t even know that Scripturalism is the case! If all knowledge is either found in Scripture, or able to be deduced from Scripture, then since *that proposition* cannot be deduced from Scripture, you don’t know it! So, the Scripturalist can’t even know his own Scripturalist package. Thus it looks like you have in-house problems in your backyard that needf cleaning before you tell me to clean up my own backyard.

(all errors in original, numbering added for convenient reference)

I respond:

As to [1], as I had previously stated (link), your conclusion demonstrates the absurdity of arguing like a Van Tillian. I’m not interested in proving that, or establishing to your satisfaction that I know it. If you don’t see the absurdity of your previous argument (link), so be it. I think others can and will see the absurdity, but if not – I’ll have to look for a more clear example. Perhaps the remainder of your present argument will provide such an example.

As to [2], the answer is that I do know that it is being spoken of literally; I have deduced that from Scripture.

As to [3], if you presuppose that God is a bird, it is your presupposition against mine. Yours are foolish presuppositions that will place you in the lake of fire, if you really hold to them. But I doubt you do. You only suggest such presuppositions to be argumentative.

As to [3] (cont’d), I do know that the word there is “sun,” and you know it too. Your objection is not something you believe, but simply an attempt to be argumentative. I know otherwise by deduction from Scripture. If you would pay attention to the arguments presented previously (link), you would understand that.

As to [4], a better choice for comparison would have been the context of the recent PCA debate on justification. The elders have agreed that the WCF is Scriptural, and, thus, the debate centers around whether the FV doctrines are confessional. Nevertheless, yes, evolutionists are frequently trying to persuade people to accept their presupposition of Naturalism. If you do, you’re not left with a lot of other choices besides evolution. As for epistemic suicide, Clark is not an evidentialist, and his epistemology is not evidentialism. His rebuttal of evidentialism, consequently, does not damage his epistemology. Your perception that it does appears to be a similar mistake to that made by Keith above.

As to [5], the questions of whether or not Clark existed or had a high standard for “knowledge” are not serious questions. If refusing to engage in puerile games is “taking a free pass,” so be it. If the presentation of objections that are not one’s own is all that Van Tillianism has to offer, I will let people decide for themselves whether it is worth anyone’s time. Furthermore, “mere opinion” and “mere assertion” are not the only alternative to Clark’s high standard of “knowledge.” Your own assertions reflect your adoption of a false dichotomy.

As to [6], this argument relies on an implicit equivocation between the high standard of knowledge (absolute certainty) and ordinary knowledge. No one has suggested that we should act only on the basis of things for which we have absolute certainty, or that certainty is necessary in every aspect of life.

As to [7], despite the claims of many anti-Reformed apologists, Sola Scriptura is, in fact, a doctrine of Scripture. Here, at least, I think you go beyond any reasonable scope of Van Tilianism, if you deny that Sola Scriptura is a doctrine of Scripture. Perhaps, on the other hand, you simply either do not know what the doctrine is, or you are again equivocating between the high definition of knowledge and the ordinary definition of knowledge.


P.S. A response by JC with respect, primarily, to number 7 can be found here (link). In summation, JC falsely accused me of not understanding what Sola Scriptura is.

I respond:

The only things we can know with the highest confidence are the things that God himself reveals. That is the reason behind the use of Scripture as the supreme judge. Once one has grasped that, the rest should fall into place, as long as one commits oneself to abandon consistent implicit equivocation over the words “know” and “knowledge.” So far, I don’t see the VT side doing that.


Centuri0n Makes a Good Point

June 21, 2007

This post (link) provides an excellent warm-up. If you have time, I encourage you to read it. It won’t take long.

After you’ve read it, consider whether your evangelism technique mentions only love and heaven, or whether it also mentions wrath and hell … but more importantly if it mentions, persecutions, trials, and difficulties.

Our spiritual ancestors, many of them, were martyred for their faith. Our brothers, in some lands, are being martyred and imprisoned even today. John the Baptist was imprisoned and eventually beheaded for preaching that someone’s lifestyle was ungodly.

Guess what! Today, those whose lifestyles are even more depraved than those of the Herod family are trying to label John the Baptist-style preaching “hate speech,” and trying to push for criminal sanctions. I doubt beheading is coming any time soon, but fines and imprisonment is definite possibility.

There can be real cost in terms of standing up for the truth of God’s word – if you forget to mention this in your discussion with unbelievers, aren’t really giving them a short 20?


Doug Wilson – Clearly Upset by the PCA

June 20, 2007

Doug Wilson, clearly upset by the PCA’s condemnation of FV, wrote (link):

But Lane is correct. I was not saying that those Reformed folk who did this thing deny the truth of the Confessions, or that they have embraced heretical doctrines. I am saying that they have adopted a means of defending their Confession that is at odds with the content of the Confession itself, and hence they will not be able sustain a defense of the Confession over any extended period of time. If there are any leading lights in the PCA who are able to defend the truths of the Reformation against those who contradict it (as it is claimed we in the FV do) by means of open debate, relevant interaction, and appeal to Scripture, this controversy has not revealed their names to us. A stacked committee, followed by time for debate on the floor of GA that could be measured in minutes. What a joke.

I respond:

There is no reason to suppose that the PCA should have permitted a lengthy oral debate on the topics identified in the PCA’s report. There is also no reason to suppose, and – indeed – it is unfair to suppose that the PCA committee and assembly did not appeal to Scripture. The articles presented in the report were clearly contrary both to the WCF and to Scripture. As far as I can see, the question is not whether the articles presented are wrong (they undeniably are wrong), but whether they accurately portray FV.

It is for that reason that I have provided an open challenge to any advocate or proponent of FV/AAT to identify the FV/AAT distinctives (Link). So far, there have been no takers. The floor of the general assembly is not the place for “open debate” on the subject. There time constraints to be considered, and the parliamentary format is going, inevitably, to leave one side or the other feeling that they did not have a full chance to air their views.


Calvin – Infants – Original Sin

June 19, 2007

The Reformed Puritan recently wrote a post (link) which indicatesd that he was taking the position that God “condemns and punishes actual sin, not our original sin state.” It seemed to me that this suggested that the guilt of original sin alone is insufficient to damn his children. Such a position would clearly be incorrect, contrary to Scripture, contrary to Reformed doctrine, and would seem to be an incorrect reading to suggest that this position was held by Calvin. If, however, Calvin held this view, then Calvin was wrong.

Nevertheless, I think that the Reformed Puritan’s view that God “condemns and punishes actual sin, not our original sin state,” while it may be correct (it is not our state of depravity that is the basis for guilt, but the actual sin of Adam our Federal head), is potentially misleading, because of the implicit follow-on that God therefore does not punish children, because they do not have “actual sin.” But (as can be seen from the comments below) I had initially missed the Reformed Puritan’s point, and perhaps I am now 0-2.

The Reformed Puritan’s quotation from Calvin was (UPDATE: The Reformed Puritan has removed this quotation, because it could not be independently verified.):

“I everywhere teach that no one can be justly condemned and perish except on account of actual sin; and to say that the countless mortals taken from life while yet infants are precipitated from their mothers’ arms into eternal death is a blasphemy to be universally detested.” ~ John Calvin, Institutes, Book 4, p.335

I could not confirm that this quotation was an accurate quotation, possibly because I have a different publication of the Institutes.

However, I note that Calvin, in “Calvin on Secret Providence,” wrote:

As to your objection, that no one is justly condemned, unless on account of crime, and after crime, I have no quarrel with you on the former point, since I everywhere teach that no one perishes, except by the just judgment of God. At the same time I may not dissemble that a secret venom lurks in your language; for if the similitude you propose is admitted, God will be unjust for involving the whole family of Abraham, in the guilt of original sin. You deny that it is lawful for God to condemn any man, except on account of actual sin. Innumerable infants are, to this day, hurried out of life. Discharge now your virulence against God, for precipitating into eternal death innocent babes torn from their mother’s breasts. Whoever detests not this blasphemy, when it is openly detected, may curse me to his heart’s content. For I have no right to demand exemption from the railings of those who spare not the Almighty himself.

~ pp. 102-103, Lille’s translation (1840)

The passage above is so directly contrary to the presentation in the Reformed Puritan that I cannot help but think that Calvin has been misquoted, and/or mistranslated.

Furthermore, it is plainly the teaching of Scripture that all are subject to the guilt of Adam’s first sin, and that consequently even children who do not have personal sin, nonetheless are justly subject both to physical death and to eternal condemnation, unless God (in his mercy) spares them.

God makes no promise to show mercy on all infants who die before committing voluntary sin. God would be fully just to condemn all such to hell. After all, God is fully just to permit their death. If God does not show entire mercy on such infants, even in their death, God shows a degree of mercy in that He does not permit them to compound their guilt through voluntary sin of their own.

The Reformed Puritan states: “I heartily affirm the doctrine of Original Sin. We are radically corrupt, totally depraved and completely helpless towards our salvation without the monergestic work of God regenerating our souls. ” But the doctrine of Original Sin encompasses:

The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin. (WSC, I forget which question number, emphasis added, wording may be slightly off)

Consequently, I’m not sure that endorsing only the corruption of His nature is completely endorsing the Reformed (and Scriptural) doctrine on the subject. But perhaps the Reformed Puritan was not trying to be exhaustive, and mentioned part for the whole, metonymously.

May we all praise our Merciful and Longsuffering God!


UPDATE: The Reformed Puritan, place of the original quotation above, which has now been removed, has quoted this:

His (Servetus’) third point is, That all who believe not in the Son remain in death, the wrath of God abideth on them (John 3:36); and, therefore, infants who are unable to believe lie under condemnation. I (Calvin) answer, that Christ does not there speak of the general guilt in which all the posterity of Adam are involved, but only threatens the despisers of the gospel, who proudly and contumaciously spurn the grace which is offered to them. But this has nothing to do with infants. At the same time, I meet him with the opposite argument. Every one whom Christ blesses is exempted from the curse of Adam, and the wrath of God. Therefore, seeing it is certain that infants are blessed by him, it follows that they are freed from death.

~ Calvin, Institutes, Bk 4

While I appreciate that the new quotation appears to be fully accurate, I don’t think it establishes the point that the Reformed Puritan is trying to make. I don’t think it says that infants are punished only for personal and not imputed sin.


Murder Update

June 19, 2007
Murder Update

Here’s a particularly brazen couple, who are providing a great example of exortion.


They threaten to kill their own child, unless , within three months, they are paid $50,000.

It is a particularly depraved person who will hold his own child hostage for ransom.

In case they happen to read this post, no – I won’t pay; and if you kill the child, you must deal with the moral, physical, and psychological consequences.

Shame on you!


P.S. Of course, there is a real possibility that this is simply a scam, and that there is no couple and no child, just a greedy person who wants money. Only the most naive person would contribute money to these folks.

Armstrong Praises James White – Insults Anonymous Blogger

June 19, 2007

First the news, then the response.

In the news:
In response to a request by the present “anonymous” blogger to get back to the topic under discussion, Dave Armstrong wrote (italics are Armstrong’s quotation of the present blogger’s earlier comment, the portion below the line is the second repetition of Armstrong’s praise/insult):

I hope we can move on from discussions about Beckwith to discussion of the flaws in your arguments that I have identified above.

Why would I bother? As I wrote above:

I will spend time refuting James White’s falsehoods and misrepresentations and mockeries of my work because he has a name (no pun intended) and influence and is a big shot in the anti-Catholic world.

You, OTOH, are simply an anonymous blogger. I know nothing about you (nor do I wish to). Certainly no one who can’t even give his real name, has any significance or importance in the apologetic world.

But Bishop White (whatever one thinks of his work and his ethics) does have this importance. So I will spend time shooting down his “reviews” but I see little reason to spend much time on your sophistical inanities.

Obviously the praise of White also includes insults, but it is particularly interesting that Mr. Armstrong would choose to use an “anonymous” blogger’s anonymity as an ad hominem reason to avoid responding to the difficult questions raised by said blogger.

In response:

Dave: as I responded in your combox, that’s just mean. If you believe that your criticis are providing “sophistical inanities,” don’t simply assert it, demonstrate it. When you dodge the issues and hurl ad hominem arguments and well-poisoning characterizations of your opponents, your readers start to realize that it’s bluster not rebuttal. When you accuse Dr. White of “falsehoods and misrepresentations and mockeries” and can only demonstrate that he mocks you, your readers are left wondering why you do not demonstrate the more serious allegations.

Of course, there are some closed-minded folks who will eat up every criticism of any outspoken non-Catholic apologist, whether it is substantiated or not. Nevertheless, there is also a significant body of readers who are put off by excuses for failing to rebut what one’s opponent has to say. If you are simply pandering to the former group, there is no reason for you to continue reading, or for the latter group to continue reading your writings.

But surely the latter group dominates, and you have given many indications that you want their readership as well. Those readers, however, are interested in a consistent presentation of the truth. There is something about your evasion above that gives most of us pause.

Indeed, as most readers would, I find your comments above particularly interesting in view of your previous comments/questions:

Oh goody. Two names. I commend you. Now about about you, Turretin? You feeling brave today?

You asked for Gojira’s name (Doug Mabry), and then mine, yet above you claim “I know nothing about you (nor do I wish to).”

And your previous assertion:

“Turretinfan” (who shows up here occasionally and then flees as soon as he is challenged) offers a comment right out of the anti-Catholic “DA playbook” (note the obligatory reference to being taken “seriously”).

People can review my blog to try to find a single instance when you “challenged” me, and folks can review your blog for the same elusive instance. Is there even one such instance? But it is plain, here, in this instance, who is running away and making excuses for not responding to a challenge. It’s one thing to falsely accuse someone of sniping and quite another to demonstrate it.

My challenges to your arguments stand unrebutted. When you are tired of hiding behind the excuse that I have not told you who I am, you may feel free to interact with my arguments. I am a man (of the male variety) with a Bible, the illuminating aid of the Holy Spirit, and a mind. That is all you need to know, and all the information I give anyone over the Internet. Quit trying to go after my person and address my arguments, if you can. And if you cannot, revise your position, striking the errors from your position. Apologetics, Dave, is not about personalities but positions.

My position is rock solid because it is consistent with, drawn from, and grounded and rooted in the unchanging truth of Scripture. I have not the least bit of fear in responding to the positions of others (including anonymous commentators), because I know the reason why I believe what I believe, and because I am willing to learn. Can you say the same?


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