Archive for May 2009

The Politics of Fraud

May 20, 2009

atlasshrugged1For those who haven’t read it, I highly recommend Steve Moore’s scary and insightful OpEd in the Wall Street Journal, ‘Atlas Shrugged’: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years.  Moore is the founder and former president of Club for Growth and seems to be a regular now on Kudlow & Company.  Moore gave me reason to pick up my now ragged copy of Shrugged.   Anyway, I came across this last night and it nails it:

Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked: “Account overdrawn.” – Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

John Robbins Quick Quote

May 18, 2009

john-robbinsKnowledge is always true. One cannot know that 2 + 2 = 5. Opinions may be true or false. Ignorance is neither true nor false. What distinguishes a true opinion from knowledge is an account of that opinion: It is giving reasons.  [Michael] Sudduth dared me to provide any passage of Scripture that so defines knowledge. It seems to me that there are many. For example, “Be ready to give a reason….” “To the Law and to the testimony: If they speak not according to that Word, there is no light in them.” “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” All, not some. Hidden, not available to discovery by men. The Scripture is both the content and the account on knowledge.

Vantilian Shadow Boxing – Round Three

May 12, 2009

shadowboxingIt’s appears that after 2 rounds of shadow boxing, Paul Manata threw in the towel as he was unable to form any cogent arguments and was reduced to mindless assertions along the lines of, “The senses are a source of knowledge.”  Well, of course they are Paul.  They must be.  After all you said they are.  Meanwhile, Manata’s tag-team partner, Steve Hays, keeps punching away practicing his combinations and upper cuts and actually attempted to advance an occasional argument.  However, and along the way, Hays slipped on his own sweat and made some colossal blunders exposing how little Clark he has actually read, much less understood.

Here is a sample:

While we’re on the subject of “outright and open heresies,” what about Clark’s pantheistic idealism, when he reduces human beings to nothing more than divine ideas? What about Clark’s modalism, when he collapses the immanent Trinity into the economic Trinity (cf. The Incarnation, p55)?

Pantheistic idealism? Modalism?  First, modalism or Sabellianism is the idea that God is a single Person and the designations of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit signify distinct activities of the one divine Person as opposed to three distinct Persons.  How modalism can be ascribe to anything Clark has ever written, much less anything found on page 55 of The Incarnation, is a mystery.  Since Hays would not extend the courtesy of actually demonstrating his charge, but instead only cites a page number from Clark’s monograph I suppose in the hope that Triabloguer’s would just nod their heads in agreement, I’ll have to just assume he is referring to the following:

Though they [the Persons of the Godhead]  are equally omniscient, they do not all know the same truths. Neither the complex of truths we call the Farther nor those we call the Spirit, has the proposition, “I was incarnated.”  This proposition occurs only in the Son’s complex.  Other examples are implied.  The Father cannot say, “I walked from Jerusalem to Jericho.”  Nor can the Spirit say, “I begot the Son.” Hence they Godhead consists of three Persons, each omniscient without having precisely the same content.  If this is so, no difficulty can arise as to the distinctiveness of human persons.  Each one is an individual complex.  Each one is his mind or soul.  Whether the propositions be true or false, a person is the propositions he thinks.  I hope that some think *substance* to be a subterfuge.

Such then is the first conclusion of this study: *substance* and some other terms are meaningless, and very few can be salvaged by definition.  The slogan is, Discard or Define! – [54-55]

The above is admittedly only part of a handful of concluding thoughts Clark draws from pages of preceding arguments and observations, however, I find it hard to imagine any view that could be further from modalism.  Could this be another example of the dangers of punching oneself silly in a vain attempt to impress the Vantilian readers of Triablogue who are already predisposed against Clark and who seemingly get their information of what Clark taught from the jaundice pen of Van Til, his sycophantic and devoted followers, or even from someone calling himself “Aquascum”?

In spite of Hays’ gross mischaracterization of Clark, you’ll note that Clark clearly differentiates the three divine Persons simply because each Person does not think precisely the same set of thoughts.  If Clark were a modalist, as Hays falsely charges, then all three Persons would think exactly the same thoughts simply because God would be numerically one Person. Each of the three “Persons” would be different expressions of one Person.

Another way to express this idea of modalism might be to say that the three Persons are co-extensive of each other to the point that the oneness and threeness of the Godhead would be a distinction without meaning.   Or, to put it another way, God could be said to be one and three in precisely the same sense. Perhaps Hays has confused Clark with Van Til who wrote: “We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person”…[W]e must therefore hold that God’s being presents an absolute numerical identity. And even within the ontological Trinity we must maintain that God is numerically one. He is one person.”  There is your modalism.

While Van Til can perhaps avoid the charge of modalism simply because he also asserts that the Godhead consists of three Persons, or rather three “personal subsistences,”  he can’t avoid the charge of theological irrationalism, which is arguable a  more damning charge than modalism.  As Clark observed long ago:

Strange to say, a recent theologian has renewed the logical difficulty or perhaps has invented a new one. Cornelius Van Til asserts unity and plurality of the Trinity in exactly the same sense. He rejects the Athanasian doctrine of one substance and three Persons, or one reality and three hypostases. His words are, “We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person” (An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 229. The mimeographed syllabus on its title page says that it is for classroom purposes only and is not to be regarded as a published book. What this means is unclear. The author teaches it in class and so makes it public. There is no reason for not regarding it as his own view).

In the context, Van Til denies that the “paradox” of the three and the one can be resolved by the formula, “one in essence and three in person.”

This departure from the faith of the universal Christian church is indeed a paradox, but it is one of Van Til’s own making. That there are paradoxes in Scripture is undoubtedly true. One reader is puzzled at one point and another exegete is puzzled at another. But when a line of argument results in a recognizable contradiction, such as an object is both three and one in exactly the same sense, it should be a warning that the argument is unsound. The piety that accepts contradictions is not piety, but something else.

Furthermore, when a theologian asserts that a given paradox cannot be solved in this life by any human being, he is making an assertion that requires omniscience. That a scholar has failed to find in Scripture the solution of a difficulty does not prove that none is there. Before such a conclusion could be reasonably drawn, it would be necessary to trace out all the inferences derivable from Scripture. When all are set down, only then could one reasonably assert that the solution is not there.

So much for Hays’ charge that Clark was a modalist.

As far as Hays’ even wilder charge that Clark is guilty of “pantheistic idealism” for defining a person as  a congeries of thoughts, I suppose Solomon was also guilty of “pantheistic idealism” when he wrote; “For as a man thinks within himself, so he is.”  Of course, since no two people think precisely the same thoughts, no two people are the same person. This would also apply to the Person’s of Trinity.  Consequently, and contra the unthinking calumny of Hays, Clark easily solves the problem of individuation, defined precisely what he means by “person” and did so according to the Scriptures, completely avoids meaningless words like “substance,” and clearly maintains God’s oneness and threeness without confusion or contradiction.  Obviously this last accomplishment is something intolerable to confused Vantilians like Hays where God is said to be one Person and three Persons at the same time and in the same contradictory sense as they prattle on about the “one and the many.”

Moving on to a few more examples of Hays’ dazed confusion: (more…)

Vantilian Shadow Boxing – Round Two

May 5, 2009

shadowboxingAs we have seen in Round One, while admittedly doing a considerable amount of footwork and plenty of swinging and sweating, the Vantilian tag-team of Manata and Hays have been punching nothing but air and have proved to be lightweights.  (For anyone interested in seeing a couple of heavyweights battle it out, and someone who presented a serious challenge to Clark’s Scripturalism, may I recommend, Revelation and Epistemology, by George Mavrodes, and, more importantly, Clark’s reply to Mavrodes).

In the case of Manata, his entire attack consists of arguing, in one form or another,  that if I can’t know Manata is a man, since I cannot infer him from Scripture, then I can’t know Manata sinned against Clark and Robbins when he portrayed them as crank dealers on his blog.  Manata, who is clearly the less capable and agile of the pair, turned out to be a one trick pony.  Manata was quickly reduced to merely repeating the same tired objection in mantra like fashion (or would that be Manatra like fashion), I suppose in the vain hope that his many words would substitute for substance.  As we’ve seen in the first round, Mananta’s argument has no weight as he continues to blindly ignore the biblical imperatives against false witness and slander.

As John Robbins observed in a slightly different context and in response to another Triablogue favorite, Michael Sudduth:

[Your] objection is of the same ilk as those who say, How can I obey the Ten Commandments if I don’t know who my wife is. Well, GHC [Gordon H. Clark]  gave one answer to that question, and I gave another many years ago, but since Clark critics are reluctant to take the trouble to acquaint himself with what Clark or I have written, let me repeat myself.

The statements and commands in Scripture apply to all our thoughts, whether they rise to the level of knowledge or not. We are to bring every thought into captivity to Christ, that is, into captivity to Scripture.

I distinguish–as the Bible and Plato do–between three noetic states: knowledge, opinion, and ignorance. Perhaps you do not so distinguish. But why would you not distinguish between knowledge and opinion, or knowledge and ignorance? It seems to me that a refusal or failure to distinguish between these three states can lead only to greater confusion.

Knowledge is always true. One cannot know that 2 + 2 = 5. Opinions may be true or false. Ignorance is neither true nor false. What distinguishes a true opinion from knowledge is an account of that opinion: It is giving reasons. Sudduth dared me to provide any passage of Scripture that so defines knowledge. It seems to me that there are many. For example, “Be ready to give a reason….” “To the Law and to the testimony: If they speak not according to that Word, there is no light in them.” “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” All, not some. Hidden, not available to discovery by men. The Scripture is both the content and the account on knowledge.

In the strict sense no one in the twentieth century knows that he is a man, for he has not deduced it from the Bible. (Now perhaps such a deduction is possible, and I would be open to an argument on that point.) It is an opinion we hold. You do not know that you are a man. Your opinion may be true, but unless you can show me the argument, it does not rise to the level of knowledge. If you claim to know that you are a man, please show me the argument. Please do not water down, dilute, or make ambiguous the definition of the word “knowledge.” Don’t blur it with opinion. Don’t bother citing immediate “self-knowledge” or some such notion, for the Scriptures explicitly say: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” What you take to be easily come by, the Scripture says is impossible. Why should anyone believe you rather than Scripture?

So if we have the opinion that we are men, then the syllogism I provided [all men are sinners, ___ is a man, therefore ____ is a sinner] is neither absurd nor irrelevant; it is right on target. We may or may not be correct in our opinion, but if we have that opinion, if you have that opinion, you are required to believe that you are a sinner.

Yet, instead of submitting to the clear teaching of Scripture in his sin against Clark and Robbins, Manata was instead quickly reduced to repeating the same infantile objection over and over with an ample sprinkling of vitriolic abusive attacks that merely confirm his longstanding bully credentials. Not to pick on Manata, Hays too was quickly reduced to Manata’s mantra as well, but it took him slightly longer to start drooling.

I do have to qualify one thing, and that while these men are Vantilians,  and in many are respects your typical paradox mongers and borderline neo-orthodox, they are really Vantilian lite, or, better, sub-Vantilians.  That’s because Van Til and his best known defenders were still operating on the same epistemological turf as Clark.  For example, Bahnsen in his massive tome, Van Til’s Apologetic, writes: (more…)

Clark Quick Quote

May 3, 2009

clark01While watching Vantilians Paul Manata and Steve Hays get punch-drunk as they continue to shadow box over at Triblogue and convince themselves that they have somehow scored some points against the Scripturalism of Gordon Clark, I had the chance this past week to scan again Clark’s excellent one volume history of philosophy, Thales to Dewey.   I was again struck by Clark’s concluding observations and thought I would share them here:

The history of philosophy began with naturalism, and so far as this volume is concerned it ends with naturalism. The Presocratic naturalism dissolved into Sophism, from which a metaphysics arose; and the metaphysics lost itself in a mystic trance. Then under the influence of an alien source, Western Europe appealed to a divine revelation.  In the sixteenth century one group put their complete trust in revelation, while another development turned to unaided human reason.  This latter movement has now abandoned its metaphysics, it’s rationalism, and even the fixed truths of naturalistic science. It has dissolved into Sophism.  Does this mean that philosophers and cultural epochs are nothing but children who pay their fair to take another ride on the merry-go-round? Is this Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence?  To answer this question for himself, the student, since he cannot ride very fast into the future and discover what a new age will do, might begin by turning back to the first page and pondering the whole thing again.  This will at least stave off suicide for a few days more.

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