Vantilian Shadow Boxing – Round Two

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:

We have already noted above that for someone to know a proposition, at least two conditions must be met: the person must believe the proposition in question, and the proposition must be true.  However, even this is an inadequate analysis of knowledge.  At first sight, it might seem that if we believe what is in fact true, then we have knowledge; but on further reflection, to define knowledge as true belief proves to be too broad … Beliefs that are arbitrarily adopted or based upon faulty grounds, even when they turn out to be true, do not qualify as instances of “knowledge.”

What is the additional ingredient, besides being correct, that a belief must have in order to count as knowledge?  It must be substantiated, supported, or justified by evidence. Knowledge is true belief held on adequate grounds, rafter than held fallaciously or haphazardly.  To put it traditionally, knowledge is justified, true belief.

It should be noted here that by “justified” we mean that the person actually has sound reasons (good evidence), not simply that he thinks his evidence is good or sufficient in light of the pool of information available to him.

Even if you only have a very narrow understanding of what Van Til and Clark both taught and believed, when it came to the study of epistemology (which is the  science of knowledge, or, simply, the study of how one can really know anything at all), these two Reformed giants were sparing in the same ring and playing by the same set of rules.  Both Van Til and Clark maintained that knowledge, for it to be properly given that name, needs to be accounted for; it needs to be justified.

Now, compare the views of the above Reformed giants with the gnats on Triablogue.  These men are not even remotely interested in epistemology in the sense that Van Til, Bahnsen and Clark understood the term.  These men are interested in something exceedingly more paltry, but exceedingly easier to obtain.  The game these men are playing is so-called “Reformed Epistemology,” which is neither particularly Reformed or even epistemological. Rather than defining knowledge as a justified true belief, what these men call knowledge is something called “warrant.”  As Alvin Plantinga, one of their intellectual heroes, explains:

To count as knowledge, a belief, obviously enough, must have more going for it than truth.  That extra something is what I call ‘warrant’… the term ‘warrant’ as a name for that property – or better, *quantity* – enough of which is what makes the difference between knowledge and mere true belief…. I went on to examine the various contemporary theories of warrant: what exactly *is* the property that distinguishes knowledge from mere true belief?  I canvassed the contemporary theories on offer: is it justification? coherence? rationality? being produced by reliable belief-producing faculties or processes? The answer, I argued, is none of the above…I went on to give what seems to me to be the correct answer: warrant is intimately connected with *proper function.* More fully, a belief has warrant just if it is produced by cognitive processes or faculties that are functioning properly, in a cognitive environment that is propitious for that exercise of cognitive powers, according to a design plan that is successfully aimed at the production of true belief.

While I’m certainly no expert on “Reformed Epistemology,”and have only recently started to slug through Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief, it should be clear that knowledge for proponents of RE is something entirely different from what Clark, Van Til and Bahnsen had in mind. According to the proponents of RE, knowledge does not depend on actually having to logically justify or account for the proposition believed to be true, but on whether or not the faculties of the knower can be said to be “functioning properly” in the “cognitive environment that is propitious for that exercise of cognitive powers, according to a design plan that is successfully aimed at the production of true belief.”

Notice too, Plantinga said he arrived at his definition of “warrant” by canvassing “various contemporary theories.” He evidently spent little time canvassing the Scriptures. Not only does Plantinga embrace the general consensus and contemporary re-definition of knowledge as “warrant,” admittedly with some modifications, he derived his definition from that the same source. Which is perhaps why critics of so-called “Reformed Epistemology” claim it is nothing more than a sophistic lowering of the epistemic bar to permit secularists to delude themselves into thinking they’ve attained knowledge, while allowing RE practitioners to look “rational” in the eyes of their atheistic intellectual and professional peers for professing some form of  theism.   Plantinga evidently did not heed Paul’s warning to Timothy: “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”–  which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20,21).

Now, to what degree do sub-Vantilians like Manata and Hays embrace the sophism of so-called “Reformed Epistemology” I really can’t say.  However, this  is precisely how these men can claim to be “rational” for believing the Scriptures contain insoluble paradoxes (a contradiction by any other name), that are hopefully, or so we are told,  resolved in the Godhead.  Of course, if “warrant” can be obtained for believing Van Til’s irrational and self-refuting doctrine of Scripture, which is just more sophistry, almost anything can obtain “warrant” and be magically raised to the level of knowledge.  Who needs the three noetic states of knowledge, opinion, and ignorance when “warrant” can magically transform virtually any class of opinions or beliefs into knowledge.

To their shame, sub-Vantilians like Manata and Hays have abandoned the antithesis in the field of epistemology.  Today everyone from Logical Postitivsts, Behaviorists, Evolutionists, Animists, Hindus, and Islamic Jihadists, Necromancers, and assorted Atheists can obtain “warrant,” profess to be “rational,” and be said to possess “knowledge,” even if evidently Great Pumpkin worshipers might have a rougher go of it.

Consider the following.  I had wondered what really is Manata’s objection to Scripturalism? That what we call knowledge is limited to those things either set down in Scripture or deduced therefrom? That Scripture is both the content and the account on knowledge?  Wow, what  horrible things for Christians to believe!  Then I added; “I guess we need to throw out the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith.”   In response, Hays barked:

The Westminster Divines do not restrict knowledge to the explicit or implicit teaching of Scripture. Indeed, in the very section you allude to, they also mention the “light of nature.”

Do you have any textual evidence that the Westminster Divines denied the possibility of sense knowledge?

Admittedly, I have no idea what Hays means by  “sense knowledge?”  It appears to be a contradiction in terms.  Of course, asking Hays to account for this “sense knowledge” would be futile for he asserts:

Knowledge requires no justification. Knowledge-claims may sometimes require justification, but knowledge itself requires no justification.

As should be obvious, pressing Hays or even his tag-team buddy Manata to account for “sense knowledge,” not to mention how they know they are men, or even that Manata is man — i.e., to ask them to account for the very things they’ve repeatedly challenged me to account for — would be pointless.  I played this game with Manata before and all he could do was chide me for not keeping up with so-called “advancements in epistemology” where providing an account for what we claim to be true is now a thing of the past.  That’s because for these sub-Vantilians RE devotees,  knowledge requires no justification or account. If you want to possess knowledge all you need is “warrant.”  This is the sophistry of so-called “Reformed Epistemology” in action.

As one brother commented to me recently:

I have an uneducated thesis on RE: it tries to DO apologetics without BEING apologetics. Instead of trying to defend the truth of Christianity, it merely tries to uphold the individual’s faith claims. One guy has a warrant to believe in the CRC, another in Molinism, another in liberalism, another in parapsychology and another in Tao. If one guy’s faith claim is justified, than I guess any faith claim has warrant too…These guys may make all the right philosophical chess moves for graduate seminars. Still, it seems to have developed as a watered-down generic religious argument that is harmless enough for modern academics. Instead of defending the faith, they’re defending something of debatable value.

I don’t know that I would go so far as it say if one guy’s faith claim is warranted then any faith claim has warrant too, but I admit it does seem that way.  However, there can be no doubt that with the help of RE the epistemic bar has been lowered and what these men are defending is admittedly  “something of debatable value” — and that includes the Christianity these men profess to believe.  As one writer commenting on Plantinga’s, Warranted Christian Belief observed:  “the book does not address whether or not Christian theism is true.”  It would seem Christianity is of little value after all.

One well known philosopher and writer in RE circles and editor of, The Analytical Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader, who has also failed to heed Paul’s advice to Timothy above and is now struggling with his own questionable faith and Christianity in particular, recently confessed:

I do have to say that my faith has evolved in recent years to something that most conservatives or evangelicals might not consider “true  Christianity”…I’m much more inclined to a broadly inclusivistic respect for and even openness to other religious traditions, to the point that I am not ready to express anything like the quasi-exclusivistic “There is no other name” xenophobia that most conservative Christians insist on as a sine qua non of the faith. Like Tillich, I meditate; unlike Tillich, I also pray. I’ve learned a great deal lately from the Pali Canon and the Tao te Ching.

So much for Peter’s argument in Acts 4:12;  “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Peter must have been one of those first century xenophobic conservative Christians. After all, who needs the “sine qua non of faith,” even the Lord Jesus Christ alone, when we have Tillich, some ancient Buddhist canon, and the Tao te Ching.

Seeing that “warrant” has freed Hays from having to justify virtually any knowledge claim, much less his claim to “sense knowledge, it’s not surprsing that  he’s left punching the wind. I’m quite sure if pressed Hays can produce plenty of blather that his “sense knowledge” is both “rational” and “warranted”  to satisfy any so-called Reformed Epistemologist, even if an unsophisticate like me remains unimpressed.  I could hardly see the sense of continuing with a man who seems to think his own faulty opinions constitute knowledge, some of which we’ll examine in more detail below and in the next round.

Hays’ assertion notwithstanding, and all the RE prattle he might dress it up with, it seems to me that “sense knowledge” would be quite impossible.  Given that only propositions can be either true or false and sensations, whatever they may be, are non-propositional, I have no idea how anyone might advance the idea of “sense knowledge?”  Could Hays, like Van Til before him, appeal to the methods of science as a means for arriving at this “sense knowledge?”  He could, but then he would have to overcome the logical objections raised by Clark in his treatise, The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God,  not to mention the objections of men like Bertrand Russell, Karl Popper and others.  In a way, Popper might have been a precursor to RE, since he too believed, given the failure of modern science to attain knowledge in the traditional sense, that a redefinition of knowledge was required to accommodate scientific conjectures or guesses from the epistemic trash heap.  However, since according to Hays “knowledge requires no justification,” and considering science at least at one time attempted to justify and account for its claim to knowledge, perhaps “sense knowledge” for Hays means nothing more than “seeing is believing?”

Now, admittedly, perhaps some Divines did hold to a belief in “sense knowledge” as Hays claims, but it certainly didn’t carry any weight in comparison to the Scripture.  Concerning the sufficiency of Scripture they wrote:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men….

I’m not sure if Hays’ “sense knowledge” qualifies as a “new revelation of the Spirit” or a “tradition of men” or something else entirely, but they did stress that the whole counsel of God, and not just part, is either set down or deduced from Scripture and that this covers all things, and not just some things, pertaining to God’s glory, our salvation, the things we should believe (i.e., faith), and, quite frankly, life in general, so I have no idea what role would be left for Hays’ paltry and oxymoronic “sense knowledge”?  I guess the Confession writers forgot to include Chapter XXXIV;  On  Superfluous Knowledge So Called.

Now, concerning the “light of nature,” is it the case that this is a reference to Hays’ “sense knowledge?” The Westminister Confession of Faith 1.1 states in part:

Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation….

Evidently Hays seems to think the Confession writers were endorsing some sort of natural theology by their use of the phrase “light of nature.” After all, Romans 1:19,20, a favorite passage of Evidentalists and natural theologians everywhere, is cited as a proof text for this portion of the Confession.  But consider what Van Til says on this point:

Paul does not teach natural theology in the first chapter of Romans. He teaches the clarity and inescapability of the revelation of God round about man and within his own constitution. The pressure of God’s revelation confronts every man, and deep down in his heart every man knows this to be the case. His entire effort at interpreting himself and the world about him is colored by his religious desire to suppress the truth…The natural man concocts his scheme of things in order by means of it to suppress the truth. To say this is, I believe, to say what Calvin says in his Institutes. Berkouwer appears to have been in general agreement with this when he wrote his work on General Revelation (De Algemene Openbaring). Together with Dr. K. J. Popma he says that one cannot do justice to Paul’s teaching in Romans if one omits the fact that the natural man seeks to hold under the truth in unrighteousness.

Rather than a means to arrive at truth, Van Til makes clear that the light of nature, or man’s own natural endowment as God’s creature created in His image confronts man “within his own constitution.”  Rather than man coming to a knowledge of the truth by observing nature, man instead  “concocts his scheme of things in order by means of it to suppress the truth,” not come to know it.  Consequently, it would seem Hays is very wrong about what the Confession is teaching here and wants to hang his entire sensate and empirical overcoat on a very slender nail.

Returning to the match, Hays continues to practice his Manatra (or for those familiar with their boxing history, Hays is doing the debate equivalent of the Ali “Rope-A-Dope” that worked so well against George Foreman, although not quite so well during the first Fraizer fight):

Sean is conceding that, on Scripturalist grounds, he doesn’t know if Clark, Robbins, or Manata are real people. He doesn’t know if Manata ever said what he attributes to Manata.

Again, notice the sophistry involved here.  Hays provides no account demonstrating how he knows Clark, Robbins, or Manata are “real people,” and, thanks to RE,  if pressed, he doesn’t have to.  He can just claim “warrant.” Yet, as mentioned in Round One, it doesn’t matter whether or not I know if Clark, Robbins, or Manata are “real people.”  It doesn’t matter if Manata or Tom Bombadil or whoever he might be is a “real person.”  The question is, does Manata express any interest in complying with Biblical commands not to slander?   He does not.  Manata maintains he did not sin in writing his diatribe characterizing Clark as the Pablo Escobar of epistemology.   Instead he and Hays dance around giving each other high-fives as if they’d scored some imaginary point against Scripturalism.  Hays really needs to learn a new step.

When I pointed out that Clark and Robbins were also Manata’s elders, Hay’s whined:

Manta’s superiors in what sense? His ecclesiastical superiors? Ruling elders?

To my knowledge, Robbins avoided participation in a Presbyterian accountability system. Indeed, he was arguably schismatic. So in what sense was he, much less is he, Manata’s elder or superior?

Clearly, Hays’ knowledge is not to be trusted and if “warranted” it merely demonstrates the uselessness of the entire RE enterprise. Both Clark and Robbins were ordained elders in Reformed denominations.  Robbins was also ordained to preach in the PCA.  Robbins left the PCA due to its failure to take any action against those Vantilians who continue to teach a false gospel of the Federal Vision in the PCA.  You can read his reasons for leaving the PCA here.   Robbins did what any Christian ought to do when they are part of a denomination that continues to permit the teaching of a false gospel along side the one true Gospel.  So, in his ignorance, Hays joins Manata in his libel of his elder Dr. Robbins, this time falsely accusing him of being a “schismatic.”

As for Clark, he was a member of various Reformed denominations throughout his life.  He was an ordained Minister in the Presbyterian Church and later in the OPC, and was one of the OPC’s orignial founders along with Gresham Machen.  After the Clark/Van Til Controversy in the OPC, and after Van Til and his associates refused to submit to the discipline of the church and repent of their unprovoked and unprecedented attack on Clark (see any pattern here), and after  they launched  similar attacks against Clark’s defenders, particularly Floyd Hamilton, Clark left for the United Presbyterian Church of North America and later to the Reformed Presbyterian Church.  I guess in Hays’ mind Clark was a “schismatic” too and not Van Til and his associates who continued to disrupt the peace of the church after their failed attempt to defrock Clark.  Perhaps it would do Hays some good to get his facts straight before barking in the future.

To continue with a few more of Hays’ wild punches.  He claims:

I don’t think Manata has any problem with the harmonistic method. I think his problem is with the axiomatic insistence that revealed truth could never strike a human being as paradoxical.

I’m glad to hear that Manata doesn’t have any problem with the “harmonistic method.” Given his endless ranting and attacks against those who maintain that all of the truths of Scripture must logically cohere,  it is admittedly a little hard to believe.  I confess, his little diatribe against Pastor Kielar really fooled me.  However, neither I nor any other Scripturalist claim an “axiomatic insistence that revealed truth could never strike a human being as paradoxical.”  People often struggle with Biblical truths which at first seem paradoxical.  But,  as Clark would say, a Biblcal paradox is nothing more than “a charley-horse between the ears that can only be eliminated by vigorous rational massage.”

By contrast, if one accepts the irrationalism of Van Til and his followers, a Biblical paradox is a charley-horse between the ears that can never be eliminated and any attempt to do so is a sinful failure to “think in submission to Scripture” and to acknowledge the Creator/creature distinction.  Aside from the obvious false piety and humility implied in such a warped and neo-orthodox view of Scripture, these sub-Vantilians go Van Til one further and chalk up their Biblical paradoxes, in the words of Manata and James Anderson,  to “an unarticulated equivocation on the part of the revealer.”

Which leads to what seems to Hays’ use of equivocation.  Hay wrote:

I, myself, don’t think that Scripture teaches insoluble paradoxes.

Almost sounds like a Scripturalist.  I guess we should just shake hands and call it a night.  I don’t think Scripture teaches insoluble paradoxes and neither does Hays. But, wait, isn’t he defending Manata who said, “the paradox is reconcilable, at least by God. But why think we must be able to reconcile them?”   Could it be that Hays is equivocating on the meaning of the word “paradox”?  While appearing to agree with me, could it be that what he really means by paradox are “two truths which are both unmistakably taught in the Word of God but which also cannot possibly be reconciled before the bar of human reason”?  Could this be just another example of sub-Vantilian sophism?

Despite his assurances to the contrary, Hays seems to take the typical Vantilian approach to paradox and insists that while the paradox remains insoluble for us (evidently due to God’s own equivocation), we are to have faith there is no paradox for God.  If that’s not Hays’ position, why would he defend Manata?  Is Manata not a big enough man to fight his own battles?  It would seem so.

As we’ve see from observing the  last two rounds of Vantilian shadowboxing, that while perhaps impressive to watch, it doesn’t really translate to the ring.  Hays and Manata are all sound and no fury.  In round three I hope to briefly tie up a few loose ends and demonstrated, despite all his bravado, that Hays has thimble thin and errant understanding of Clark, yet thinks himself qualified to critique him. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

Stay tuned for Round Three.

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12 Comments on “Vantilian Shadow Boxing – Round Two”

  1. Roberto G Says:

    For many of us familiar to varying degrees with Van Til, Clark, and Alvin Plantinga, there seems to be a superficial semblance between their respective approaches to apologetics. Could not Plantinga’s properly basic epistemolgy be framed in Clark’s axiomatic approach to epistemology (or vice-versa)? Also, in a matter of a few paragraphs (5 Views on Apologetics), William Lane Craig elucidated in a way no Van Tillian has, how Plantinga’s RE can provide a TAG? Although I am not a student of philosophy, I do lean towards a Clarkian position regarding knowledge (insofar as I understand it). For me, the reason is theological. Any account of knowledge has to hold together certain realities. Our life as it is now, our life in the hereafter, and our dependence upon God as the sole source of knowledge (whether during this life or after our death).

  2. speigel Says:

    I haven’t finished all the books by Clark. But I am wondering if anyone can give me a citation as to where Clark defines the term ‘knowledge’? Thanks for any possible help.

  3. Roberto G Says:

    In his short, 1948 magazine article on faith and proof, he ended by stating that no philosophical problem is “more delicate, more technical, more complex” than the problem of knowledge. Similarly, he ends his 1960 article on knowledge in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology stating that epistemology is “terrifyingly technical” and results in “interesting scholarly discussion.” Ronald Nash, an admirer of Clark, argued in the sixties that Clark had 2 theories of knowledge. As mentioned in “Round Two”, though, Clark’s writings are best read with the understanding that he took for granted the definition of knowledge as justified, true belief.

  4. James Vandenberg Says:

    “I don’t know that I would go so far as it say if one guy’s faith claim is warranted then any faith claim has warrant too, but I admit it does seem that way.”

    Actually, RE has an enormous hole called the Great Pumpkin Objection:

    “It is tempting to raise the following sort of question. If belief in God can be properly basic, why cannot just any belief be properly basic? Could we not say the same for any bizarre aberration we can think of? What about voodoo or astrology? What about the belief that the Great Pumpkin returns every Halloween? Could I properly take that as basic? Suppose I believe that if I flap my arms with sufficient vigor, I can take off and fly about the room; could I defend myself against the charge of irrationality by claiming this belief is basic? If we say that belief in God is properly basic, will we not be committed to holding that just anything, or nearly anything, can properly be taken as basic, thus throwing wide the gates to irrationalism and superstition?”

    RE people go through all sorts of gyrations to get out of this problem. They can’t solve it. In fact, RE supporters have a tendency to be oddly syncretistic in their beliefs.

    For example, one of the RE guys mentioned here, Sudduth, seems to belief he has a properly basic belief in necromancy. You quote James Sennett saying he has a penchant for Eastern Mysticism. In a less heterodox vein, Steve Hays repeatedly claims that demonic powers can create modern-day miracles to support false religions; to believe otherwise is said to be surrender to naturalism.

    If there is a trend here, it seems that RE tends to support a belief in the supernatural (or what atheists call “the paranormal”), rather than Christianity. So they have the same problem as the natural theology they hope to supplant.

  5. Tim Harris Says:

    Sean I’m wondering whether in the Clark/Gerety account, if the class of propositions that are held as opinion are subject to probability. That is, does your view allow that some proposition are held as “nearly certain” (99.9%?) while others “barely probable” (51%?), others “unlikely” and so forth; or is it just simply knowledge vs opinion simpliciter?

    Another question I have on your view is whether it entails rejecting John Murray’s ethic of truth-telling, in which he says one is involved in sin whenever one asserts something not known to be true.

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    James V. – An interesting and rather telling discussion. Thanks for the link.

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sean I’m wondering whether in the Clark/Gerety account, if the class of propositions that are held as opinion are subject to probability… or is it just simply knowledge vs opinion simpliciter?

    Good question and one I haven’t really thought about so any reply at this point is off the cuff. Also, I don’t know where or if Clark or Robbins ever discussed any method for differentiating between opinions based on some scale of probability. Clark did say something along the that while perhaps Louis XIV might be replaced with an imposter twin, it is not very likely that someone would go the pains of replacing the wife of some “lowly philosophy professor.” However, along the same lines he did say in his reply to Mavrodes that “until these arguments are successfully circumvented, no one has a firm basis on which to object to my general position.”

    So, while I think it’s very unlikely that my wife isn’t who she says she is, I have heard people say, generally after a divorce or some other separation, that so and so wasn’t the woman or man they married. Of course, there are many cases of people successfully, even for a time, pretending to be someone they’re not. I suppose opinions stand or fall based on whether or not they can be refuted, even if not proved. Sort of like Popper’s analysis of science consisting of conjectures and their refutations.

    As for your other question, I am unfamiliar with Murray’s “ethic of truth-telling.” Strictly speaking, I don’t think it is correct to say that “one is involved in sin whenever one asserts something not known to be true.” While it’s always possible that all of our opinions are sinful, I don’t see how that follows? Of course, it would seem Murray is just using the term “to know” in the colloquial sense. So, and to avoid equivocation, it would seem it is sin to knowingly tell a lie.

  8. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Tim,
    Probability would seem to require one know the truth in order to measure how close one is to it! But if you already know the truth, then opinion is unnecessary! I would tend to take your other suggestion —- just simply knowledge vs opinion simpliciter.


  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    You evidently don’t listen to talk radio. 😉

  10. Tim Harris Says:

    Denson — Then I’m wondering how you would distinguish assertion of an opinion — which might have, say 0.00001% chance of being true — from ignorance. Does just any warrant whatsoever, no matter how slim, justify elevating a prop from ignorance to opinion?

    In addition, how would your view fold into the ethics of truth-telling? If your hunches about people that are secretly in adultery have proven to be right 75% of the time in the past, does this give you warrant to accuse people of being adulterers based on a hunch?

  11. kimeradrummer Says:

    I Sean, God bless you.

    I was thinking on a possible account that maybe serves to prove from Scriptures that we are men. I just have some ideas, but I think that if I throw them maybe you can help me know were I’m goin.

    Men was created at God’s image. This image consist of a rational soul. We rationaly think, we can understand ideas and concept, and we can communicate them trough words, simbols, sign laguage, morse code, etc.

    So, I was thinking that if we have this characteristic, therefore we can be sure we are men (to my mind comes repeteadly 1 Corinthians 2:11) and with the same prove we can be sure if others are men or not.

    Of course, this is just an idea, but I think you can help me analyze it, shape it or just discard it. I perceive some problems with it, but this is something that need analysis.

    By the way, sorry for my english, isn’t my native laguage. I’m chilean.

    God bless you…

  12. Hi, Sean…

    This a bit off topic but I was reading your critique of the way the PCA handled the Peter Leithart controversy and you said:
    Clearly A is not A in the befuddled minds of those who wrote and voted in favor of the PNW majority report. Could this be the Vantilian misology and love of paradox once again rearing its ugly head in the PCA? It would seem so. Interestingly, one man who was present during the proceedings of the PNW commented:

    John Frame’s theology has had a very
    detrimental impact on the PCA, and his
    denigration of the confessions, false positing
    of [Systematic Theology] against [Biblical
    Theology], and “multi-perspectival approach”
    were all specifically and repeatedly invoked
    (Frame’s name even being brought up
    several times) against sane, confessional
    theological debate. It was astounding how
    many times the “Bible vs. the confessions”
    was bandied about, and how many times the
    threat of becoming a “dead and rigid
    confessional church” was seen as the end of
    the argument.4

    I live in Orlando, Florida and the Orlanda branch of Reformed Theological Seminary is near here. I know of several students who graduated from RTS and went on to join with Anglo-Catholic continuing churches and could not for the life of me understand why. But in my mind at least the fact that John Frame is a professor there and that other professors there, including the former president, Frank James, seems to be an indication that Frame and the Van Tillian influence seems to have convinced many that the Protestant Reformation is over.

    I have to strongly agree with your assessment that Van Til’s influence has been absolutely detrimental to Westminster and the Reformed churches in general. Another heresy arising out of Van Til’s theology, of course, is theonomy via Greg Bahnsen.

    Sincerely in Christ,


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