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

The Phenomenology of Error → ¬ ¬ Free Agency

Last night at choir rehearsal our choirmaster casually refuted the notion that Benjamin Libet’s justly famous experiment showing that neural activity manifesting decisions precedes conscious awareness thereof falsifies free agency.

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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

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

Superstition & Subscendence: An Essay in Honor of Tom Bertonneau

Bear with me here. I hardly know where I am going with this, although I feel I have caught the spoor of something Tom would find delightful – that he would join with me joyfully in this new hunt. I’m confused because all I have is that spoor, and my spirits are in a hurry and a muddle due to his too soon death. I miss my friend of many years – of too few! I am not yet sure how to do with the world that, henceforth, shall miss him.

Tom has been a valued colleague since we first encountered each other. We corresponded often – not often enough, alas – about our hopes and worries in respect to our work, much of it coordinate here. We sometimes asked each other for editorial advice upon that work. I could rely on Tom for sound counsel. I hardly know how I shall manage without his sagacity.

But I must. I bid you all help me in that project, in which we may hope we can all together proceed for many more years to come. That would be a fitting legacy of his penetrant honest cheerful mind.

I propose that this essay be an early installment in something like a festschrift for Tom. Let us all try to limn what it was that he taught us. Perhaps we might make a book out of it. Or maybe just something on the scale of an issue of Amazing Stories, circa 1935: the sort of thing that was an important source of grist for the mill of his wits. That would please him, perhaps above all things we might do to honor him.

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Pray for Lydia McGrew

Philosopher and Biblical scholar Lydia McGrew, our longstanding friend and dauntless shieldmate in the culture wars since the VFR days, has just revealed over at What’s Wrong With the World that since a week after her Pfizer covid vaccination in April, she has been afflicted with a devastating but mysterious – and, not yet diagnosed – malady that causes her daily intense and more or less constant pain. It has interfered with sleep, eating, work, sitting, walking: everything. It acts like inflammation of nerves, but that has not yet been ascertained. Since she began documenting her symptoms, Lydia has learned of many hundreds of other such cases. Perhaps thousands.

Before she got the shot, she was, so far as she knew, perfectly healthy.

Lydia is hanging in there, and she is one tough gal, but I have to say that this sounds pretty bad. Lydia wrote me last evening to ask for my prayers. I agreed, of course, and asked if I could post this appeal. She said yes.

Please join me, therefore, in an earnest prayer for the health of Lydia McGrew. Or several hundred of them.

If you do not know of Lydia’s terrific work for our side in the present war, it would do you good to check it out. You won’t be able to read it all. She’s far more prolific than all of us here put together, and she’s been at it for longer. But it’s all worth reading. With Lawrence Auster, Jim Kalb, Bruce Charlton, and Zippy Catholic, Lydia has from early days in my own career as an online apologist and culture warrior been an important and beneficent influence upon me, and if you read her stuff I think it will be the same for you. I’m going to tag this post as an Apologetical Weapon, because that’s what Lydia is.

May God bless and keep his faithful servant, Lydia McGrew. May he bring her into all knowledge, restore her to health, and give her peace and rest in him, if not yet, then soon, and at last, and forever. Amen, amen.

The Devil’s Latest Dictionary, Part I

[In the spirit of Ambrose Bierce.]

Note: Most of these definitions assume a certain point of view without which they become incoherent.

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Fundamentalist. Noun. When you believe your religion is true and / or you support your people. Synonyms: bιgοτ, deplorable, suprεmαcιsτ.

Mansplain. Verb. To be competent and confident.

Equity. Noun. More for us, less for you.

Democracy. Noun. A political outcome or system which gives results we like.

Fαscιsμ. Noun. A political outcome or system which gives results you like. Synonyms: ωhιtε sυprεmαcy, institutional rαcιsm.

Protestor. Noun. Someone publicly taking our side.

Rioter. Noun. Someone publicly taking your side.

Diverse. Adjective. More of us, fewer of you. Synonyms: vibrant, inclusive.

Tolerant. Adjective. Demanding things be done our way.

Intolerant. Adjective. Wanting things to be done your way.

Cμlτμrαl αρρroρrιατιοη. Noun. When you play with our toys and we hαtε it because we hαtε you.

Rαcιsτ.  1) (Archaic noun) One who hαtεs people only because of their rαcε. 2) Adjective. The quality possessed by anything nonωhιτεs don’t like. 3) Noun or Adjective. ωhιtε people and their activities and achievements.

Science. Noun. A discipline or study which confirms our beliefs.

Superstition. Noun. A so-called discipline or study which denies our beliefs.

Crιτιcαl Rαcε Thεοry. Proper noun. You bad, we good.

Whιτε Prινιlεgε. Noun. Your ancestors established the culture of their nation according to their preferences.

Hαtε. Noun. Disagreement with our doctrine.

Love. Noun. Agreement with our doctrine.

Girard on Anthropogenesis

Sacer 10 St. Stephen (1604) Annibale Carracci (1550 - 1609)

 Annibale Carracci (1550 – 1609): Lapidation of St. Stephen (1604)

In the two classic pre-Christian canons of Western myth – the Greek and the Norse – anthropogenesis is brought about by natural processes under the observation of the gods.  Man is earthborn in both canons, although indirectly in the Norse, and can therefore lay claim to a mother, either Gaia or Erda.  In both myths fatherhood remains in the shadows.  The gods who observe and interact with the earliest men conform to a model thoroughly anthropomorphic.  The presence of fully human gods suggests that man existed before he existed and that man needed instruction from man in order to recognize himself and learn how to adapt himself to the cosmic environment.  In the Hellenic and Scandinavian myths humanity enters into a world of violence.  Neither Zeus nor Odin has as yet organized the world under the concept of law.  The Greek and Norse canons share a word: Titan, an item of vocabulary that carries the inner meaning of brutal criminality.  This word occurs in Old West Norse as Jotun and in Anglo-Saxon as Eotan.  The giants, that is to say the Titans and Jotuns, war perpetually with the younger generation of gods.  Peace requires the Olympians or the Aesir to suppress the giants by main force; and even then peace reprieves the universe only temporarily.  Eruptions of chaos can occur anytime and anywhere.  The Christian anthropogenesis, which is in fact the Hebrew anthropogenesis, differs minimally from its Pagan and Heathen counterparts, but it differs nevertheless in subtle ways, which make a difference.  The Biblical God draws man forth from the clay, for example, by an intentional act; and God deliberately shapes man to resemble his Creator.  The Hebrew God is less anthropomorphic than the Olympians or the Aesir, even aniconic, but his immediate precursors in Near Eastern myth, such as the Canaanite Baal and the Babylonian Ea, testify that he stems from a man-like version of deity, fit for a standing image.  The physiognomic resemblance between Creator and creature is thereby explained.

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