Crampton Refutes Anderson
Denson was nice enough to point out in the combox to another post that Dr. W. Gary Crampton’s devastating refutation and review of Vantilian James Anderson’s Paradox in Christian Theology is now available at the Trinity Foundation website.
One of my criticisms of the review, if you want to call it that, is that I only wish Dr. Crampton spent more time examining Anderson’s use of Alvin Plantigna’s epistemology of warrant to justify his belief in the (imagined) logical paradoxes of Scripture, that are, or so we are told, irreconcilable at the bar of human reason. It struck me when reading Anderson’s book that his use of Plantinga’s epistemological method (and I don’t think he was abusing Plantinga here) that magically makes believing in a logically incoherent revelation “rational,” points to the utter uselessness of Planting’s entire epistemic endeavor. I would think a critique along those lines would also go along way in providing the death-knell for the entire misnamed “Reformed Epistemology” movement. If Plantinga’s scheme can provide warrant for believing contradictory nonsense while still being rational for doing so, then it can provide the epistemological justification for believing all sorts of anti-Christian nonsense.
Another (minor) criticism is that I wish Dr. Crampton spent some time discussing Anderson’s contention that the so-called “paradoxes of Scripture” result from what Anderson anagrammatically calls “MACRUEs” or “merely apparent contradiction resulting from unarticulated equivocation.”
With those minor asides, I very much appreciated Crampton’s review along with his succinct encapsulation of Robert Reymond’s arguments exposing the dangers of holding to the false belief that there are logical paradoxes in Scripture (play close attention to Reymond’s second point). Crampton writes:
The fact is, however, that a logical paradox (even an apparent contradiction) cannot be “rationally” believed, because one would not know what to believe. If one statement even “apparently” contradicts another, how would one know which to believe? What could be more obvious than this? It is not “rationally” possible to believe such paradoxes. Robert Reymond posed three insuperable obstacles to the notion that the Bible contains logical paradox.
First, as noted above, the issue of what is and what is not a logical paradox is totally subjective. Therefore, to claim universally that such and such a teaching is a paradox would require omniscience. How could anyone know that this teaching had not been reconciled before the bar of someone’s human reason?
Second, even when one claims that the seeming contradiction is merely “apparent,” he raises serious problems. “If actually non-contradictory truths can appear as contradictories, and if no amount of study or reflection can remove the contradiction, there is no available means to distinguish between this ‘apparent’ contradiction and a real contradiction.” How then would man know whether he is embracing an actual contradiction, which if actually found in the Bible (an impossibility, according to 1 Corinthians 14:33 and 2 Corinthians 1:18-20), would reduce the Scriptures to the same level as the contradictory Koran of Islam or a seeming contradiction? If Reymond’s analysis here is sound (and it is), then Anderson’s RAPT “warrant” for holding to the concept of logical paradox is “unwarranted.” The reason being that one cannot “rationally” believe “a set of theological claims even when those claims give the appearance of inconsistency” (262). The acronym RAPT (Rational Affirmation of Paradoxical Theology) itself is oxymoronic. There is no “rational affirmation” possible of a logical paradox.
And third, once one asserts (as with Neo-orthodoxy) that truth may come in the form of irreconcilable contradictions, “he has given up all possibility of ever detecting a real falsehood. Every time he rejects a proposition as false because it ‘contradicts’ the teaching of Scripture or because it is in some other way illogical, the proposition’s sponsor only needs to contend that it only appears to contradict Scripture or to be illogical, and that his proposition is one of the terms…of one or more of those paradoxes which we have acknowledged have a legitimate place in our ‘little systems.’” This being so, Christianity’s uniqueness as the only true revealed religion, will die the death of a thousand qualifications.(22)
In all, Dr. Crampton provides another devastating critique of those Vantilians, like Anderson, who hold up the Scriptures as presenting to the mind of man an impenetrable morass of apparent contradictions, something they wrongly call “mysteries,” to which we are to bow in submission all in a sick perversion of Christian piety. These men, while pretending to be Reformed, are really the Reformed faith’s greatest enemies. Their thinly veiled affirmation of biblical contradictions (insofar as they appear and must remain to the human existent at least without some further revelation which is neither forthcoming nor to be expected) are hostile to true religion and are nothing more than religious fetishes fashioned in their own minds as they provide a caricature of the true biblical Creator/creature distinction so badly mutilated by Van Til and his many followers. As Dr. Crampton observes:
In the words of Gordon Clark, the Westminster theologians and the Reformers before them “believed that God’s revelation can be formulated accurately. They were not enamored of ambiguity [as is found in logical paradox]; they did not identify piety with a confused mind [which is the result of logical paradox]. They wanted to proclaim the truth with the greatest possible clarity. And so ought we.”
Crampton’s review also provides a warning to anyone who might be looking at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina where Anderson teaches to further their theological studies. With professors like Anderson your money would be better spent elsewhere. Although finding a seminary that doesn’t already adhere to Anderson’s deeply held conviction in a paradoxical and contradictory faith is getting increasingly harder to find, that is, if possible at all in these dark days.