Analogy Between Presuppositional Apologetics and Mathematical Proof

Christian apologetics is the discipline of giving reasons to believe the Christian message and reasons to reject intellectual attacks on Christianity. Its purpose is to help individuals by defeating intellectual objections so they can hear and accept the Christian message.

Apologetics is a thriving business among Protestants; not as much among the Catholics and Orthodox. Presuppositional apologetics, which is controversial even among Protestants and is largely associated with Calvinism, is based on two insights.

The first is that false presuppositions about the basic nature of reality will block an individual’s ability to accept the Christian message. All the correct evidence and reasoning in the world will do him no good until he corrects his false presuppositions.

This is ultimately not a rational process. Calvinism places a special emphasis on the Bible passages teaching that mankind in its natural state cannot help but reject God until God gives the individual spiritual life which is the ability to accept the Christian message. See, e.g., John 6:44 and Ephesians 2:1—10. But God also works through means, and one means of coming to faith is to hear and accept true evidence.

Many Christians reject presuppositionalism because in their experience it looks like circular reasoning: “You cannot prove God, you can only presuppose Him.” Some Christians may talk this way, but you can prove God. You just have to know the correct way. Ultimate truths are not known using ordinary ways of reasoning. See here for more details.

In any case, it’s clear that everyone has presuppositions, that most people are only dimly aware of exactly what they are, and that false presuppositions cause false beliefs, especially false beliefs about the most fundamental facts of reality. Continue reading

Hypothesis: We are Ruled by Meta-Doctrine

Michael Anton recently hypothesized that we are not ruled by people, but by doctrine. He discusses the claim approximately between timestamps 7:30 and 10:00. Anton: “The real sovereign is the doctrine.”

The claim is plausible. We cannot identify any individual or group as having real authority/power, with the possible and highly limited exception of the Supreme Court. Every other source of power can be blocked by other powers. It has always been the case that people act because of a combination of beliefs and constraints, authority being the ultimate constraint. With almost every extant authority capable of being countermanded (especially on behalf of members of Official Victim Groups) it seems that, by a process of elimination, belief is the ultimate ruler. And doctrine establishes the beliefs of the people, so doctrine seems to rule.

But the claim also seems incorrect. The word “doctrine” implies specificity, but our leftist rulers have doctrine which constantly changes. They are not like, for example, Marxists, who preserve a set of beliefs that have a clear connection to their founder. Also, the left claims not to have doctrine, but only self-evident beliefs that are said to be “our values,” such as Democracy and DIE.

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We can resolve the paradox by postulating that the ruler is not doctrine, but meta-doctrine: Not a specific set of beliefs, but a set of impulses/attitudes/hunches that manifest differently from place to place and from time to time.

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Personal Discernment

Bruce Charlton has a post observing the following about traditionalistic Catholics: On the one hand, they exercise “personal discernment” to decide which of the competing Roman Catholic authorities they will follow but on the other hand, they defer to said authority because that’s what Catholics are supposed to do rather than discern personally. Personal discernment seeming to be the opposite of deferal to authority, Bruce thinks he detects a contradiction and a weak point here.

I’m not Catholic, but this phenomenon is not a contradiction if understood correctly. It’s non-contradictory because there is a third element which Bruce failed (explicitly) to acknowledge: reality.  Charlton:

But at some point, in some respect; each individual – here-and-now – is compelled to make a choice that has no ultimate basis but his own personal judgment.

That “…no ultimate basis but his own personal judgment” sounds an awful lot like a purely subjective act.

But if the seat of authority (which I select as my authority by using personal discernment) really has authority, then I am not being contradictory. I am instead using my discernment to discern between rival claims about reality. Once I am satisfied that I understand reality well enough to select the true authority, I make that choice and then submit. Continue reading

Authority

Some general thoughts about authority. Not intended to be comprehensive.

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Human society cannot function without authority. There must be authorities, and the people must, for the most part, respect the authority that the authorities possess.

As an attribute, “authority” means the right to be believed or obeyed. There are authorities who are rulers, and there are authorities who are experts. Real experts, that is.

The right to be believed comes from demonstrated mastery of some field of knowledge. It is defined by the truth, not the person. The right to be obeyed is less easily defined. It is defined by the society in which the authority and his subordinates is embedded. It is partly subjective, because the people will not respect a ruler who appears deficient. It is partly objective, as the rules of the society generally determine who has the right to rule.

There is currently an obvious crisis of authority. In part because the existing higher-level authorities are proving themselves to be unworthy (the higher the level, the less worthy), and in part because of the spread of philosophies which condemn or undermine authority. These are mutually reinforcing trends

But the existing authorities are not completely unworthy, and the people are not completely mistrustful. Without any authority, human society collapses and humans live like animals. Since society has not collapsed, and humans mostly do not live like animals, some authority remains.

But there is a crisis. The main cause of the crisis is the spread of a “democratic” way of thinking. Because of democracy, rulers cannot simply rule. They have to secure the explicit approval of the voters / customers / clients. To do this, they must devote themselves full-time to manipulating and intimidating the people. The people see this and respond with increased distrust, which amplifies the cycle. Continue reading

Further Study of Bruce Charlton’s Theory of Christian Epistemology

Bruce has more to say about Christian epistemology in his latest post, titled Should Christians hand-over their eternal salvation to… historians? Romantic Christianity at the cutting-edge.

He is wrestling with one of the two foundational issues of the Protestant Reformation: How do we know Christian truth? Who or what is the ultimate authority and source of our knowledge of Christian truth?

This is not just a historic, Reformation-era issue. Because contemporary times are characterized by the catastrophic failure of so many of society’s authorities, many, many people are wrestling with this vital question. Bruce is like the canary in the coal mine.

As in my pervious post on this topic, my comments are left-justified, and Bruce’s words and Scriptural quotations are block-quoted.

 

Charlton:

At the cutting-edge of experienced-life –

The Church = What (some) Historians Say.

All claims of knowledge reduce to intuition/s; but for traditionalist Christians, the baseline intuition is that The Truth is a matter of history; and history is known through the work of ‘historians’ – broadly conceived.

 

No, truth is a matter of What Really Happened. But What Really Happened is not available for us to inspect directly. We must rely on secondary sources.

But we do not believe these secondary sources just because they say so. They must make a persuasive case, based on generally accepted modes of reasoning and the common experience of their likely readers.

For example. Christian teachers should point to the written Word of God, the Bible. They must point to the actual words used, along with their conventionally accepted meanings. Sometimes the full meaning cannot be known without additional, specialized knowledge, such as the unique nuances of meaning possessed by the original Greek or Hebrew words, or by the unique cultural customs of ancient times to which the text of Scripture refers or alludes.

But in all cases, the meaning is a matter of publicly-available knowledge (even if highly specialized knowledge.) Continue reading

Examining Bruce Charlton’s Theory of Knowing Christian Truth

I do not know how many people lean toward the Romantic Christianity espoused by Bruce.

[I use his first name because of our long association and my personal concern for him.]

I suspect many people are sympathetic to his approach, which downplays history and formal church and theological organization in favor of a direct / personal apprehension of Christianity. If many are sympathetic to his doctrine, it must be analyzed.

I think that his approach identifies some real problems but provides a mistaken solution. And since I once had something similar to the religious confusion that he says he once had but has transcended, I continue to interact publicly with his doctrine.

Some, of course, will say I am beating a dead horse. Not so. The horse is very much alive to many people. If it is dead to you, read no further.

I have copied below the entirety of Bruce’s post entitled Me-Here-Now versus History – what kind of Christian are you? My comments are left-justified; his post and Scriptural quotes are indented and highlighted as quotes in the WordPress way.

 

Charlton:

Christians will find themselves – sometimes again and again – at a point where there is a stark awareness and apprehension of Me-Here-Now – a situation of direct and ‘intuitive’ knowing; rooted in a personal and first-hand experience, and a person to person relationship – typically in relationship to Jesus Christ.

This contrasts with traditional church-based knowing; which is rooted in historical discourse and ‘scholarship’ of various types; and is therefore second-hand (or third-/ fourth-/ fifth-hand…).

Church-knowing is indirect knowledge-about… rather than experience-of. It is something we learn and strive to remember… rather than apprehend with instantaneous clarity and conviction.

 

According to the Bible, a non-Christian starts becoming a Christian when he reads and believes what the Bible – -especially the Gospels – – says about Jesus. The Gospels are a true and accurate written account of what really happened in specific places at specific times.

According to the Bible, when some people learn more and more about Jesus by reading the true accounts about Him, the Holy Spirit begins to work in them, giving them spiritual life. Others do not so respond, evidently because the Holy Spirit chose not to work in them. This gives the new Christian, inter alia, the ability to have true faith (knowledge, agreement, trust) in Jesus. Continue reading

Not all High-Profile Churches Slammed their Doors in the Faces of their Flocks

The Romantic Christians say that in the birdemic, church leaders endorsed the Lockdown and shut their doors in the faces of their flocks for months or years on end.

Not all church leaders did this. John MacArthur has been the pastor of Grace Community Church in the Los Angeles area for more than fifty years. He holds to orthodox Protestantism and also vigorously attacks heresies both religious and secular. His church closed for a few weeks, decided it was wrong, reopened, and remained open in the face of many threats from the civil authorities.

And MacArthur has massive influence worldwide.

On Our Recent Discussions of Christianity

The Orthosphere and Bruce Charlton’s Circle have lately been discussing the nature and current state of Christianity. This is an urgent matter so I’m compelled to respond.

I) Charlton:

In sum: I ask traditionalists for something very specific: an explicit acknowledgement that – here-and-now – the effective and resistant faith of even the most traditionalist and church-orientated of real-Christians has a personal and intuitive foundation.  [emphasis in original.]

Given the correct understanding of the meaning of intuition, this is true. But I sense that Bruce is using a somewhat incorrect definition.

Since reality exists and is what it is independent of us, knowledge ultimately refers to something out there, unless it is knowledge of one of our inner states. Religious knowledge is no exception.

Intuition is man’s faculty of knowing something to be true without engaging in a process of reasoning. “You just know it.” But since man is not omniscient, he must have confirmation that comes from outside his mind, something that is really out there.

It does no good to complain that by verifying it you make it no longer intuition. Because reality exists external to man, his intuitions are sometimes wrong. And since he can be wrong, man needs confirmation even of his intuitions.

The act that is purely subjective (purely personal, if you will) is not knowing, but rather apprehending this knowledge. Taking it inside of us, affirming it, relying on it, living by it.

Intuition is needed for the simple reason that all reasoning is ultimately based on premises that are not subject to formal proof. If everything must be proved formally we have an infinite regress, with the result that we know nothing. Therefore, it is inescapable that some things are accepted without formal proof. But since man is not infallible, he needs confirmation even of his premises. It may appear contradictory, but it is inescapable. Some things must be formally unproved, and since we are capable of being wrong we must seek confirmation outside of ourselves. Continue reading

Understand Conservatism

Sometimes a basic term is misunderstood because everyone assumes its meaning is clear.

Conservatism at root is the desire to conserve the existing order. It’s a natural instinct. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Conservatism as a movement arises when the existing order is attacked by revolutionaries. The revolutionaries believe the old ideas are false and unjust and must be replaced. The conservative knows the existing order is good and tries to protect it.

The American conservative movement became potent in the postwar period. At that time the existing order was being attacked by liberal and leftist revolutionaries. The superstructure of the American order was basically sound although its religious, philosophical and social foundations had been severely weakened. At that time, mainstream American conservatism was about the business of protecting an existing order that was outwardly healthy because its visible structure still reflected traditional ways and beliefs.

Some visionaries understood that the foundation was weak and they called for it to be strengthened. They were mostly ignored. To switch metaphors: heart surgery is dangerous, only to be undertaken when the patient is in imminent danger, and most conservatives believed the patient had only a superficial injury.

The revolutionaries were able to overthrow the old order because of the weakness of its foundations. They have taken control. They are establishing a new order based on revolutionary principles: DIE, BLM, CRT, LGBTQ+,…  They do not have total control yet, and counter-revolution is still possible, but the hour is late.

Since the existing order is now revolutionary, the conservative instinct is now to preserve the revolution. That is the fatal flaw of mainstream conservatism: thinking that the existing revolutionary order is good just because it is the existing order. Mainstream conservatism only opposes “extremist” revolution. It supports mainstream, establishment revolution: moderate amounts of feminism, atheism, globalism, immigration, affirmative action, and so on. Mainstream conservatism sometimes makes good-sounding promises, but it does not deliver what is needed.

Within living memory mainstream conservatism opposed the revolution. Conservatives can still be honorable if they work to re-establish the good ways of the old order.

Clarifying the Protestant-Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone

Christianity is under attack. It has always been so but the attack has ramped up in recent years. It is more important than ever for Christians to be strong in their faith.

Christians should know general apologetics, that is, the reasons why Christianity is true. But they must also know the tenets of the tradition to which they belong. Only then can they stand firm against the world, the flesh and the Devil.

The Orthosphere is ecumenical but members are allowed to express their beliefs. I express Protestant beliefs. Others can express their beliefs.

Roosh has a post titled What is Orthodox Christianity? In it, he objects to what he calls “the Protestant notion of ‘faith alone.’ “

He does not seem to understand the actual doctrine, which is justification by faith alone. And he’s not the only one. Clarification is needed.

I call it a Protestant-Biblical doctrine because it was not invented. It is expressed clearly in Scripture as I show below, although other Christian traditions find reasons to disagree.

I do not expect non-Protestants to know our doctrines. But many Protestants also do not know this crucial teaching. Perhaps this post will help them understand. Continue reading