Saturday, August 10, 2019

The irreality of the persons in classical theism, defined according to Dolezal

Yet the three persons are really distinct. How so? Classical Christian theists generally locate this distinction in personal relations or, in slightly more imprecise language, "several perculiar relative properties." (James E. Dolezal, All That is in God, 119)

What, then, are we saying about God when we speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? First, it should be observed that we are not speaking of things that are distinct from the Godhead itself. Whenever we speak of the three, we are in fact speaking of the one, but under different aspects or modes of being. We alternatively speak of the one God Father-wise, Son-wise, and Spirit-wise—in sum, relation-wise. These relations are not something really distinct from the divine substance. (Dolezal, 122)

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In a tweet, I had asked what, according to classical theism, is the exact difference between the persons of the Godhead, and how such difference is substantially different from modalism. Of course I know that classical theisms affirms that the persons have different relations to each other, whereas modalism denies that. But if the persons are merely relations, then apart from semantics, what exactly is the difference between classical theism and modalism?

In response, I was directed to chapter 6 of Dolezal's book, which I had read some time back, and to which I return. After I looked through the chapter, I knew there was a reason why I was hesitant to post about this particular section at that time, and I remain mindful that this is not an easy section to write about even as I write this blog post.

You will note that Dolezal wrote that the Trinity is speaking of the persons as "under different aspects and modes of being." That sounds exactly like modalism. But in the interest of charity, the best possible spin I can put on this is that Dolezal had a slip in his language, but that slip actually reveals the real problem for this form of classical theism. For if the relations are just relations, then the person are not truly persons. The Father cannot be distinctly speaking to the Son, and thus the best approximation in human language is a modalistic approximation, and thus Dolezal unintentionally slips into modalistic speech at that particular area. In other words, the persons of classical theisms are like mathematical operations in an equation, distinct from each other yet without any form of ontological existence. Note that we are talking about ontological existence, not ontological uniqueness. We are not and cannot ever say that there are three gods, or three parts of God. But classical theism according to Dolezal cannot even say that the Father is a real person distinct from the Son, and thus the Father can actually have a social interaction with the Son. Note also that I am not proposing Social Trinitarianism. I am saying that what the Bible explicitly say about the persons of the Trinity interacting with each other in dialogue (an "I-Thou" relation), which seems so clear in Scripture, is prohibited by classical theism. That is why these new classical theists reduce all interactions between the persons to one of "relations." The Father does not actually speak to the Son, but rather the Godhead in the person of the Father talks to the Son in his hypostatic union. The Son says that it is not his human will be done but rather the divine will of the Godhead. If you will note so far, all of these are not taught in Scripture, but are the logical imposition of a certain view of the nature of God that informs their reading of Scripture.

The idea of the persons being autotheos (God-in-himself) is that each person can be interacted with as God. One does not need to interact with the entire Godhead (although they are ultimately involved) when one talks to Jesus or to the Father. We see that to be necessarily true in order to make sense of passages that speak of Jesus' intercession for us before the Father. When we pray "in Jesus' name," we are calling upon Jesus' intercession to purify our prayers so that they can be presented pure and holy by him before the Father. We always address God the Father, but through Jesus. When we pray in Jesus' name, we are not speaking to the Father directly, for we cannot, as He dwells in unapproachable light. Only after our prayers have been washed with the blood of Christ are they presented to the Father. Thus, when we Christians pray, we pray to God the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Godhead are involved, all three will hear the prayer, yet also it is the Father that specifically hears it, the Son purifying and offering it to the Father, and the Spirit working in us to pray. The "I-Thou" relationship between the persons is necessary for the intercession of Christ to work, for otherwise how can Jesus address the Father and offer up our prayers to Him?

The point of the matter is that, if we actually follow Sola Scriptura, then this idea that the persons of the Godhead are mere relations sounds like a philosophical imposition on Scripture rather than the other way around. Reacting to Social Trinitarianism and other foolish modern projects is one thing, veering into waters that smack of philosophical sophistry and modalism is another. As it stands, Dolezal's interpretation of the persons of the Godhead sounds more like a semantic difference with modalism rather than a substantial difference from it. Postulating all manner of words of the difference between the persons mean nothing if there is nothing signified by those words at all.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

CRT in Singapore.....

I have said many times, on- and offline, that what began in America will make its way to Singapore, sooner or later. And over and over, I have seen Christians in Singapore sleeping. "This is in America, so why do we bother?" Well, we must bother because it is only a matter of time before that nonsense comes to Singapore, and all around the world.

As evidence that Critical Race Theory (CRT) with its poisonous fruit has began to poison social discourse in Singapore, look at this article by a Singapore liberal promoting the fake notion of "Chinese privilege." Borrowing from the cultural Marxist notion of "privilege" and "intersectionality," she, parroting the racist ideas of Sangeetha Thanapal, begins to see racism everywhere in every corner. By virtue of their minority status, all Chinese are accused of being "racists" to some extent, and are to "shut up and listen."

You will note that CRT is not a falsifiable theory. It cannot be. It is a theory that appeals to some actual racial discrimination, and then makes a giant leap of logic to tar everyone from whatever target racial group ("whites," "Chinese") as partaking of systematic racism. The very denial that such systematic racism exists is taken by CRT proponents to be proof of systematic racism! CRT is non-falsifiable, and functions as an ideology that appeals to the sin in the heart of everyone: to blame someone else so that they do not have to take responsibility for their actions. It is non-falsifiable, because no empirical evidence or lack thereof, no rebuttal from anyone, can prove it wrong. Once it is accepted, it is worse than an established religion, as even religion can be in some way be tested as to its plausibility.

As CRT continues to seep into Singapore, it will corrode social discourse, and corrode the relative racial harmony present in Singapore. And functioning as it does as a pseudo-religion, it will, under the guise of "justice," lure Christians away from the truth of the Gospel, if allowed to infiltrate the Church. After all, there can be no unity in the church if one group attacks the other group as "racist" by virtue of the fact that the other group is a "majority" ethnic group!

As someone whose focus is more on the church than on society, my hope is that the Singapore churches can actually warn against CRT. Learn from America! Do not let the type of uncivil division caused by CRT (in America) wreck the church. May God have mercy on us all.

Musings on the circumstances of Harris' apostasy (Part 3)

Harris' circumstances

The two major events in Harris' life in recent times are issues with the church he was a pastor of, and his seminary education. Now, it is of course not possible to read Harris' heart, but I hope through looking at the circumstances in life, it will help us understand perhaps the struggles he might have had to face in his life prior to his apostasy.

With regards to church issues, it is very likely that the church issues faced by Harris, including the loss of his mentor C.J. Mahaney, was traumatic to him. I guess, I hope, that we all should know that it is Christ alone who is the head of the church, and that all pastors and theologians are but just men, fallible and sinful too. We are not Roman Catholics who believe in a special chrism (anointing) that separates the priest apart from the common folk as a class of "holy people." But it is natural to honor and respect your leaders, and to some extent you treat them with reverence. These are the people who bring to us the Word of God and who care for us, who visit us and pray for us, who comfort us, who marry us and bury us. If or when they fall, it will affect us. I wonder just how much Harris has been affected by what happened during that time, and perhaps things might have changed if there was someone whom he could seek biblical counsel who would have aided him at that time. The amount of spiritual and emotional devastation caused by church issues and conflicts cannot be under-estimated, and especially if it happens to someone who has been in that church for almost his entire life!

In this time of instability, Harris made a decision to go to seminary. While I am a firm believer in seminary training for the ministry, it seems to me that Harris probably wasn't in the best place when he made that decision to go to Regent College. Regent College in Vancouver, BC, is a broadly evangelical seminary. On top of the danger of seminary studies, Harris will have to contend with a broad evangelical teaching whereby a plethora of views held by professing evangelicals would be presented. In broad evangelicalism, the type of strong convictions seen in Calvinistic circles is extremely frowned upon. This ties in with the cultural clash that Harris would have encountered. First, he transitioned from a Calvinistic circle with strong convictions to a broad Evangelical circles with much weaker convictions. Second, he transitioned from a rather closely-knit conservative circle to a much more liberal circle. Third, he transitions into a very left-liberal city in Vancouver. Perhaps for the first time in his life, Harris met supposed "committed" LGBT couples, as people he has actual interactions with! With such instability and change, and no solid grounding in the Scriptures to fall back on, how would one go about dealing with the issues?

I am not putting this out there to "explain away" Harris' apostasy. And most certainly it is the Lord Jesus who will always preserve His own (c.f. Jn. 6:39). But even though it is ultimately God who decides His own, and God who preserves His own, God works through means. And these means are real means, instrumental in bringing about what God in His secret counsel has declared to pass. The circumstances surrounding Harris might probably have contributed to Harris' apostasy, and thus it is helpful for us to understand them.

Apostasy from the Christian faith of course is not a rare occurrence. Harris is not the first, and he will not be the last. Our attitude towards those who left the faith should always be grief and sorrow, especially so if the person had once strongly proclaimed his faith in Jesus and the Gospel of free grace. We do not know if Harris' apostasy is a real, final apostasy (c.f. 1 Jn 2:19), because that knowledge is of the secret counsel of God, not given to us. We cannot, we must not, treat Harris as definitively damned. As long as it is today, salvation is still at hand (Heb. 4:1). We are to pray to God for the repentance of all who had fallen away, with the desire that they return to the faith they had professed and then rejected.

And finally, as a response to some arguments, while it is true that apostasy does in some sense bring about some distinction between the sheep and the goats, we should not be applying this to Harris. The blessing of apostasy is primarily a blessing as false teachers will stop pretending to be believers and will leave the faith. The blessing of apostasy however is not the right category to think about someone who once taught and proclaimed the true Gospel, but who left the faith during times of instability. Remember, we cannot fully know, even if the person visibly runs from the faith, whether a person truly is or is not of Christ's sheep! What is lacking in such applications is compassion. It is the same virtue lacking in Trueman's response to Harris' apostasy. Let us consider and weep over the fall of one who was from our own.

[THE END]

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Musings on the circumstances of Harris' apostasy (Part 2)

[continued from here]

Seminary

Many people, even myself prior to entering seminary, have the notion that somehow seminary is where you can truly learn about God, know God more deeply, and come out of it more mature in the faith. While certainly that is the stated goal of a biblical seminary, the fact of the matter is that such is a rosy picture of seminary that is not necessarily true. The truth is somewhat starker: Seminary is a place where one is supposed to learn more about God and His Word. However, since seminary is a place for the training of future leaders of the church, the Devil is there also. What better place to attack the Church than to attack her future leaders, when they are at one of the most formative points of their Christian life? Destroy a single Christian, and you get one soul. Destroy a pastor of a church, and you might get the entire church! Strike the shepherd, and the flock will scatter. Satan only knows this all too well. As much as a biblical seminary is a place of Christ, it is at the same time the place where the Devil works the most mischief.

The first point concerning seminary is that seminaries are not necessarily biblical. There are lots of liberal and apostate seminaries out there, where impressionable young men and women enter in as passionate Christians and come out of it cynical agnostics. Union Theological Seminary is one such workshop of the Devil. The second point concerning seminaries is that many of them, in the name of tolerance, will teach many alternate views (many unbiblical) without judging their relative merits. This second point holds true for many evangelical and evangelical-ish seminaries, where their goal is to not discriminate against viewpoints promoted by anyone who is even remotely an evangelical, for how can they judge another "Evangelical" to be unorthodox? Thus, under the label of "evangelical unity," errors and heresies are tolerated, as long as they do not seem to obviously heretical (a subjective judgment). Thus, theistic evolution is tolerated, death before the Fall is tolerated, and even Open Theism (in some circles) are tolerated. Now, evangelical seminaries do not necessarily believe that all views are equally biblical, and many theologians can somehow separate their internal convictions and priorities of doctrine from their external teaching and profession. But this is not the case for young impressionable men and women! The reason why we had joined seminary is because we do not know of all this. You cannot expect a young seminarian (or old seminarian) to distinguish between allowance of an error in a person, and an allowance of an error in a theological system! It is the tendency among those learning things for the first time, especially the bright ones among us, to run with something that has been taught, to its logical conclusion, or what we perceive to be its logical conclusions! That is why there is a strong tendency among those embracing the five points of Calvinism for the first time to be attracted to hyper-Calvinism, because they think that is the logical implications of the five points. Systematizing of one's theology occurs all the time, consciously or unconsciously, and exposing impressionable men and women to error without guidance, in the name of "evangelical unity," is probably one of the most egregious sins within Evangelical seminaries.

Thirdly, even in seminaries that have a stronger doctrinal commitment, like Westminster Seminary California, good teaching does not necessarily result in orthodoxy, because ultimately orthodoxy comes from the heart, the spirit, not the head. Orthodoxy is meant to be the intellectual expression of one's submission to God, but the substance of orthodoxy, the regenerate heart, is the Holy Spirit's prerogative to give. I personally know of two men during the time of my time in WSCAL who apostatized from the Christian faith, one to Roman Catholicism and another to Eastern Orthodoxy. One of my juniors has gone off the deep end into Critical Race Theory and I sincerely doubt his Christian faith. The point is that even the best seminary is no protection from the attacks of the Evil One. If Satan cannot get at you through your professors, he will get at you from others you interact with, in church, society, friends, and now social media. The seminarian has become the number one target for all of Satan's schemes to destroy the person's spiritual life. Spiritual warfare is real, and the seminarian is the target. Satan will throw everything he can, including messing with your relationships, emotions, friends, family and so on, including the kitchen sink, to destroy the seminarian. And the sins of pastors and professors are the best weapons Satan will use, because how better to destroy the church than from the inside? How best to corrode a future pastor's trust in biblical doctrine than to destroy the respect that seminarian has for his professor and his pastor? How best to destroy the future pastor's passion than by having the church embroiled in destructive tribalism and dirty politics in church (which does happen, sadly to say)?

As a former seminarian, I will gladly say that I treasure the experience and learning and will not give it up for the wealth of the world. BUT, I have realized just how tough seminary is, spiritually. Anyone who thinks he is spiritually strong is more than welcome to try out seminary, and see just how much of a tempest the Devil can cook up in his life!

The second part about seminary, that is common with many institutes of higher learning, is the community or lack thereof, which the Devil will exploit. Community is a good thing when done properly, but it is a most wicked and perverse force when it is not. If the society around a person is ungodly, it takes a significant amount of will-power (if that is even enough) to resist joining them in their ungodliness. Seminaries are not exempt from this social phenomenon. A good community will exhort each other to love and good deeds (c.f. Heb. 10:24-25). A bad community will drag the godliest person down to condoning the most wicked of sins, even if he does not do it himself. And lack of community makes one lonely and susceptible to temptation from the world, which is all-pervasive, all around us.

In seminaries, young men (and women) oftentimes come from all around the world and move to a new location, even in a new country, away from friends and family and their previous churches and church-fellowships. There is a potential for spiritual disaster if not handled properly, especially if the city one is in is a godless city. It is easier to be influenced by the prevailing culture than to stand apart from it. As the Devil is the "god" of this world, this is one tool that he willl certainly exploit to the max, to destroy the souls of seminarians.

[to be continued]

Musings on the circumstances of Harris' apostasy (Part 1)

Joshua Harris' apostasy is very very sad, not merely because he was a pastor, but also because of the circumstances preceding his apostasy. As a recap, Sovereign Grace Ministry (SGM) was involved in a scandal regarding alleged child sexual abuse in at least some of their congregations. C.J. Mahaney, the Senior Pastor of Covenant Life Church, who was Harris' mentor, had some sort of dispute with other leaders in the Sovereign Grace churches around the same time. Due to either or both of these factors, Mahaney left Covenant Life Church. Harris resigned from his pastoral position soon after, and decided to go to Regent College for theological training. This current apostasy happened either after that. As of now, I am not sure whether Harris is still at Regent College, but I do know that he must have taken at least some courses there.

In this article, I will like to focus on two major events in Harris' life: church issues, and seminary training. I am not implying that either of these events must have had any kind of causative effect on Harris falling away from the faith, but I will just like to say something about these types of issues from my own experience.

Church Issues

First, church issues. I will not be rehashing the whole sturm und drang over SGM, especially since I am not even remotely associated with those issues. I will just briefly say that sexual assault of any kind is wrong, pastors ought to report sexual assault when discovered, and pastors may sincerely err if they do not believe that sexual assault has taken place. Also, it is possible for those alleging sexual assault to lie as well. All of these is just to say that, unless one is familiar with the details of the cases, I have no wish to further discuss the SGM scandals. What I want to focus instead is the effect such issues might have on Harris. We must also remember that Mahaney, who Harris must have respected, left SGM not under the best of terms. How would it feel like to have someone you look up to gone, under a cloud of possible misconduct?

I cannot speak for Harris, but I will like to share about myself. Up to the point of the ESS controversy in 2016, I took pride in being a Reformed confessionalist. I had looked up to people like Carl Trueman. In fact, I had attended a talk he once gave at Oceanside URC on John Owen, and then the attendees went for a drink later. I know of course that all are still sinners, but in my naivete, I thought that Reformed pastors and theologians will only sin on non-theological issues. Oh boy was I in for a rude awakening!

When the ESS controversy broke out, I was initially concerned, and then alarm grew as I began to realize what was going on, as well as the implications of what the rhetoric employed in the controversy would imply. I began to push back, tentatively at first but more aggressively as time went on. I was horrified not when Trueman first made his wild claims about ESS, but when I see people like Aimee Byrd blatantly misrepresent complementarianism as somehow promoting ontological inferiority of women. The misrepresentations grew leaps and bounds, and soon any pretense at being truthful evaporated! At that point, Byrd could have claimed that Grudem taught that the image of God in women was only present when a woman submit to all men, and I doubt anyone (not Trueman, not RSC) would bat an eye and even say even a word to correct her! Factionalism and tribalism has gained the upper hand. Grudem is so *obviously* wrong, so who cares if someone from *our* tribe makes up outrageous accusations against him? The more we can tar him with, the better our case against "Big Eva" would be. While the ordained pastors are slightly more careful, they allowed unordained women like Byrd free reign in her wild accusations, not to mention the madness that is the "Reformed blogosphere."

When all these happened, I was very much disillusioned. I cannot say that it did not affect my spiritual life, because it did. You can claim that I *should* not let my faith be unsettled by men, even Reformed pastors, and I know that in my head, but try telling that to my spirit! And the worst part of that is my pastor then (in Singapore) couldn't care less! I cannot speak of the time when I was still a licentiate of the OPC, because being thousands of miles apart is a real obstacle for pastoral care, but my then pastor (of a church which I have since left) couldn't care less about my struggles, which made it worse. In his eyes, who cares about some struggle in America? So here I was seeing all my world burn out around me, seeing supposedly faithful Reformed pastors and theologians lie and slander in the most shocking ways I did not think possible, and all I get was nothing! I felt alone, lost, and my faith shaken (again, not intellectually). I had looked up to these people, and they had betrayed my trust. Yes, I probably should *not* have trusted them in this manner. Thanks for the great advice in hindsight!! I had lost all respect for Trueman, all respect for Reformation 21 and the Alliance of Confessing Evangeelicals, some respect for my former academic adviser R Scott Clark. I will say that my training in seminary and the power of the Holy Spirit sustained my faith during this trying time (2016-2017), but I cannot say it was easy.

This brings me to the next point: seminary, and we shall look at that next time.

[to be continued]

Friday, August 02, 2019

On Josh Harris' apostasy and Trueman's hubris

By now, it is common knowledge that one-time New Calvinist and former Sovereign Grace pastor Joshua Harris has apostatized from the Christian faith. While a lot can be said about the factors behind his apostasy, the main thing Christians should be feeling is sorrow. Even if a person "deserves" it due to his rebellion against God, to see someone, especially a once prominent Christian leader, fall away from the faith he once professes, is a very sad occasion.

On this public apostasy, TGC has a helpful article by some of Harris' former friends and ministry partners. The main emotion here is sorrow, which is what Christian should be feeling right now. Ultimately, while I as a confessional Presbyterian believe that what I believe is what the Bible teaches, all of us recognize that inconsistent Christianity is still Christianity, and inconsistent Christians are still Christians. Where one falls, the body should grieve.

Enter Carl Trueman, the guy who made it a personal crusade to go after "Big Eva," of which the "New Calvinists" aka YRR constitute a bulk portion. What do you think Trueman did? Was he grieving as a pastor should be? Oh no! Nope, a tragedy is too big an opportunity to waste! In his article, Trueman correctly pointed out some of the flaws that contributed to Harris' departure from the faith. But instead of exhorting Harris to repent and return to God, this is what Trueman said instead:

As a player, Harris might be qualified to do the evangelical church one last favor: He can expose the behind-the-scenes shenanigans—the money made by at least some of the leading lights, and the power wielded by an unaccountable few—of Big Evangelicalism. That would seem a more important contribution than emotive talk of personal journeys, gobbledygook about repentance detached from any notion of God, and the continuation of life as performance art.

In other words, "Hey Josh, before you leave Christianity for good, can you please do us one last favor and expose the shenanigans going on behind the scenes of Big Eva? Thanks!" Now, does this sound like the proper response a pastor should have towards apostasy? Or is it rather the actions of someone who is on a crusade against Big Eva? I don't think the answer is unclear here.

The sad reality is that Carl Trueman, along with his associates over at Reformation21 and MoS (Mortification of Spin), has been going on a crusade against Big Eva, to the extent that truth does not matter anymore. It is all about taking down the other side "by all means necessary." That is why Trueman et al has been consistently misrepresenting ESS and all who disagree with them on classical theism, because some in the "Big Eva" camp promote varieties of ESS. The party is more important than the facts! Trueman complains that "the movement's leadership was often arrogant." And while this is not necessarily false, the fact that TGC linked to Trueman's article at all (in their article on Josh Harris' apostasy) show that perhaps they are NOT as arrogant as Trueman claims. On the contrary, Trueman himself has done the EXACT SAME THING he is accusing "Big Eva" of doing. Arrogance? Check. Ignore critics? Check. Bullying of critics in private? I have personally been told off, back when I was still in the OPC, about calling on these people to stop misrepresenting ESS. Without the YRR, would Trueman gain so much of a following for his attack on "celebrities"? As an "anti-celebrity" celebrity, Trueman is no different from those he criticizes. Whatever he says about the YRR is just as much applicable to him! Pot, meet the kettle!

As I have said, Harris' apostasy should be met with us with sorrow, and our desire should be that he repents and returns to Christ. There should be no room for posturing, and most certainly not for earning brownie points against other Christians. Let us ignore the Truemans of this world, and hope and pray that God will bring people into Harris' life who will bring him back to repentance and faith in Jesus.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Eternity as timelessness and the issue of interacting with the world

[continued from here]

God is eternal. The view that eternity is timelessness however is a hypothesis, not something that the Bible teaches. The eternity of God can either be one of divine timelessness, or one of everlasting time, or a mixture of both. In this article, I will like to deal with the problem timelessness has with the issue of divine interactions in time.

For anyone who reads Scripture, it cannot be denied that God interacts with people in time. Call it anthropomorphism or whatever you wish to call it, that interaction is a real interaction. God had actually talked with Moses on Mount Sinai, and Moses was not dreaming. God personally bargained with Abraham over the fates of Sodom and Gomorrah, even though we know from a canonical reading of the passage that God had already determined to wipe them out and that Abraham did not really have any 'bargaining power" with God. Yet, the bargaining dialogue did in fact take place! Over and over again, the Bible is explicitly and abundantly clear that God truly and really interacts with His people. They did not hallucinate about God, neither were they talking to themselves or anything of that matter.

Since such interaction that God has with His people is clear, any theory that prohibits God from interacting with His creatures personally must be rejected as contrary to Scripture. Now, if the eternity of God is timeless, then how does a timeless God interact with time-bound creatures? We must remember here that we are not talking about the Incarnate Son, who due to His human nature, is not timeless ("after" His incarnation). Prior to the Incarnation though, even the Son is timeless so He cannot interact with His creatures, can he? But even if we were to say that the Son was "eternally incarnate" in the sense that after His incarnation the dual natures mean that He can interact (in time) throughout time (timelessness), that only solves the problem of creaturely interaction with the Son. But God the Father also interacts with His people, not to mention God the Holy Spirit, so we are not closer to solving the problem of divine interaction with the creation, are we?

Let's suppose that the Triune God is timeless. Now, to interact in time means that at a punctiliar "time," God interacts with the world. Let's put it as point t1. Now, if we say that God is always timeless, then point t1 must be of infinitesstimal "width," such that the "time before" the interaction is the same as the "time after" the interaction. Thus, before God interacts, it was point (t1 - ε0), and after God interacts, it is point (t1 + ε0). Thus, for all intents and purposes, God remains "timeless." For all other interactions, we can state them as t2 to tn, where (tn = t1 + nε0). Thus, in this manner, for any number of interactions God has with this finite creation, the "time" remains the same at t1, regardless of how many interactions God has had with His creation.

Such a solution would indeed seem to solve the problem of how God can interact with His creation. But it does not exactly cohere with timelessness. For an infinitesstimal is still a quantity of some sorts, no matter how infinitely tiny it might be. t1 is always bigger than (t1 - ε0), while (t1 + ε0) is always bigger than t1. Such a solution is congruent with a relative timelessness, but not absolute timelessness, which classical theism demands.

It can be seen therefore that, upon the supposition of an absolute timeless God, divine interaction with the creation is impossible. Therefore, absolute timelessness is not congruent with Christianity. And if one wants to go for relative timelessness, then I do not see much difference (besides that of emphasis) between that theory and the theory of everlasting time. After all, in relative timelessness, we are comparing infinitesstimal "time" with time t1, while in everlasting time we are comparing normal time with infinite duration, t(infinity).

ESS and the flippant charge of heresy

But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church. - [First] Nicene Creed 325 AD

Whoever wills to be in a state of salvation, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith, which except everyone shall have kept whole and undefiled without doubt he will perish eternally - Athanasian Creed

According to the ecumenical creeds, whoever believes contrary to them are not saved. Such people are to be treated as heretics (if teachers) and unbelievers (otherwise). The original Nicene Creed of 325 AD even added an explicit anathema against all who rejected it. Therefore, if one holds these creeds to be definitional of the faith, then one inherits their view of what constitutes soul-destroying heresy. Whoever wishes (Quicumque wult) to be saved MUST hold to those creeds. Whoever denies those creeds are to be considered unbelievers and/or heretics. If one disagrees with the creeds on this, then one does not hold on to these creeds, period. There is no way to adopt those creeds without the condemnations, as if the creeds are like a buffet where one can pick and choose which part of which creed one wishes to adopt!

It is therefore a serious charge against anyone to claim that so-and-so denies Nicea or the Athanasian creed. Such a charge is essentially a charge that the person is a heretic or at the very least an unbeliever. To say that someone denies Nicea is to say that that person should be treated as an unbeliever. If a teacher, he is to be charged with heresy. If a member of a church, he is to be rebuked, and if unrepentant, he is to be excommunicated. In a biblical church, it is not right to say that a member is unrepentant about his heresy and yet, since he is a member, allow him to continue to be a member in good standing in a church. NO! Deliver "this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord"! (1 Cor. 5:5). For anyone to do otherwise is to hold that heresy is a trivial sin. Such a church is no better than the Corinthian church that tolerates a man who is committing incest within the church. Such a church trivializes God's command of holiness for man's idea of "being nice and not offend anyone."

Since such is the case, for people like Carl Trueman who attack anyone who holds to ESS as "semi-Arians," or for others who claim that ESS and/ or complementarianism are "against Nicene" or "against the Athansian Creed," please realize what you are actually saying. You are claiming that your opponents are not believers! Do you really want to stand by that claim? Then be prepared to go all out. Be consistent! Call us unbelievers. Treat us as unbelievers. Nevermind that we claim to believe in the Gospel, the five Solas, the five points of Calvinism, the Nicene creed and the Trinity. According to you, we must be outside the Kingdom of God, and treated accordingly. That IS the logical implication of what you are saying.

On an ecclesiastical level, this means that the church I am a member of, or am visiting, must rebuke me for heresy. And since I am "unrepentant," you must excommunicate me. Failure to do so is to tell me that (a) you do not care about my soul; and/or (b) you do not care about sound doctrine. It is not possible to say that the whole thing is "so complicated." Yes, of course it is complicated. BUT either the Truemans of this world are right, and I am condemned to hell, or the Truemans of the world are wrong, and you have to tell me that they are wrong and I am not going to hell. Just because the topic is complicated does not absolve any minister from the requirement of dealing with the topic, because of how serious a charge Trueman et al have leveled against us.

So let's be clear about this: Due to the seriousness of the charge, all ministers must take a position on the matter. You do not have to take a position on whether ESS is biblical or not. But you have to take a position on whether you think someone holding to ESS is a heretic or not (and thus whether Trueman's accusations are correct or not). That is the nature of the controversy over ESS, from the polemical pen of Trueman and company.

[P.S.: Look at the recent article by Aimee Byrd stating that "those who teach ESS are not in line with confessional Nicene trinitarianism." Will she be called out for her lies? We all know that will not happen!)

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Possible world semantics and the necessity of all that is in God

[continued from here]

Possible world semantics is a logical device dealing with the concepts of possibility, necessity and contingency. It has no relation to multiverse theory as espoused by certain cosmologists. In the scenario of possible worlds, something is necessary if it must happen and will happen in every possible world. Something is contingent, meaning it could be otherwise, when it does not happen in some possible worlds. Something is more or less possible if it is likely to occur in more possible worlds or less. The issue of hypothetical necessity is a necessity that depends upon other contingent factors. Thus, if X is hypothetically necessary dependent on factors Y and Z, then, in every worlds in which Y and Z are present, X is always present. If either Y or Z is not present, then X may not be present.

This issue of possible worlds is vital when we deal with divine necessity. It is true that the necessity of God who will create if he chooses to do does not imply a necessary creation. But the question is: Is there any possible world whereby God, after going through the decree, chooses NOT to create? Now, for those who are stuck with the idea of the Eternal Creator, God is always Creator and eternally so. Therefore, there can be NO possible world whereby God chooses not to create. Why this is so is because the decree is eternal and necessary. And since God has no parts (simplicity), God is His decree. "All that is in God" is God, in the fullest sense of the term. It is not possible, under classical theism, to split the necessity of one and the other. One can differentiate them, in the same way as we differentiate the attributes of God or the two natures of Christ, but one cannot separate them.

Therefore, while creation is contingent and the decree to create contingent, under the necessity of consequence, when we incorporate simplicity into the picture, creation becomes necessary because God's decree cannot be otherwise. If in every possible world, God must create, then it means that any "contingency" of creation is a contingency in name only. Creation is "contingent" on the fact that God can be not God, and this type of contingency is mathematically equivalent to describing probability with imaginary numbers (e.g. There is a 5i % probability that God is not the Creator)—the whole thing is ludicrous!

Thus, the logical implications of classical theism leads to a necessary creation. And not only that, but it leads to a necessary Fall, a necessary Flood, a necessary anything in redemptive history. It makes God to not only be the Eternal Creator, but it also leads to the doctrines of Eternal Justification, and one wonders how one avoids an Eternal Glorification also.

Which brings me to the issue of Jesus as one's personal Savior. It is evidently true from Ephesians 2:1-4 that we were all once sinners under the wrath of God. Conversely, when we have faith in Christ, we became under the grace of God. For Scripture to make any sense, it MUST mean that the status of a sinner prior to faith in God is one of wrath and condemnation, and the status of the sinner upon faith in Christ is one of grace, being justified and sonship. The change in status is not a mirage but a real thing! Jesus thus become my personal Savior WHEN I have faith in Him, whereas prior to that, He was not my personal Savior! Or are we going to argue that Jesus was the personal Savior of the elect while they were still under the wrath of God, in total contradiction of Ephesians 2:1-4? Must we massacre the clear teaching of Scripture in order to fit in nicely with the presuppositions of classical theism?

My questions for these classical theists like Chia are as follows:

  1. Do you believe that the unregenerate elect prior to faith had Jesus as their personal Savior?
  2. Do you believe that elect sinners were once children of wrath just like unregenerate reprobates? Please exegete Ephesians 2:1-4 in your answer.
  3. If you answer that the unregenerate elect prior to faith in Christ did not have Jesus as their personal Savior, and agree with me that the unregenerate elect were once children of wrath, please tell me how Jesus is the personal Savior of the regenerate elect if there is no "becoming" with God at all.
  4. If you reject the idea that Jesus is a "personal" Savior, then please state whether you believe that Christ came to save individuals, or did He come to save groups of people. If you believe that He came to save individuals, then how does that not make Him the personal Savior for each individual? If he came to save groups of people, then how do you explain the individual mandate of having personal faith in Christ for salvation? Along this line, please inform me whether you think personal faith in Christ is necessary for salvation, or we are just saved because of our "elect status."
  5. More generally, please tell me how do you read the dynamic interactions of God with His people throughout history. Is everything there purely anthropomorphism and anthropopathism? When God expresses His love for His people, is that genuine, or merely anthropopathic? When God experienced anger at Israel for disobedience, is that genuine anger, or merely anthropopathic?
  6. If God does not "become" in any sense, then please explain the covenantal language of God: "I will be your God and you will be my people." Was God lying when He said that and actually what He meant was: "I have always been your God but whether you are my people depends on whether I have foreordained you before the foundation of the world"? It is to be noted that the verb "to be" in the future tense indicate ""becoming"! Was God wrong in His covenantal language?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Against Chia's derogatory "response" on the issue of the Eternal Creator

It has been some time, but I have chanced upon Chia's "response" to my article on the issue of the Eternal Creator. While I have tried to deal with the issues concerning the topic of the Eternal Creator in an objective and impassionate manner, it seems that the other side is not so inhibited. It is really extremely disappointing, and it only strengthens my conviction that those on the other side do not have any actual case to make.

First of all, here is the "response," posted as a comment on that particular blog post:

There is a critique of this post from a budding theistic mutualist at http://puritanreformed.blogspot.com/2019/04/revisiting-issue-of-eternal-creator.html

He fails to grasp the modal fallacy, and implied that Classical Theists have no choice but to concede panentheism, that is, if creation were necessary for God, then God is dependent upon His creation. If creation were necessary to the divine essence, it would be the divine essence, for that which is necessary to the divine essence is necessary for the divine to be. God will cease to be God. He is now a part of creation, which is necessarily His being.

Nevertheless, Chew writes:

“Indeed, God's decree and God's will is necessary. But it is a necessary decree and a willing of contingent things. In other words, we must say that creation is not necessary, but becomes necessary in light of God's willing and decree. Note the language of "becoming" here, which is a process not a state. Since creation becomes necessary in light of God's eternal decree, God cannot be called the eternal Creator, but rather that He becomes the Creator, from eternity in light of the decree to be sure, yet still not an eternal Creator. This "becoming" does not make God mutable, because the title "Creator" is a role of God working ad extra, not ad intra.”

The writer doesn’t seem to be aware of what he is writing about.

For God to become (“becoming”) something He wasn’t before is to attribute predication concerning His being. It is an ontological predication.

In Thomistic terminology, it is an essential or substantial “becoming,” not merely accidental (by the way, God being simple has no accident!). He writes, “God cannot be called the eternal Creator, but rather that He becomes the Creator.” Here, the writer states that God “becomes the Creator,” and then insists that it is a “working” of God ad extra. He exclaims with gusto, “This "becoming" does not make God mutable.”

But for God “to be” or “to become” via “a process” of becoming – for Him to become something He wasn’t – is an ontological predication. It is a change in His being, therefore an assignation and attribution of mutability concerning His being and ontology.

God is simply “to be.” He is not “becoming.” He simply IS.

The writer continues, “Just like God becomes my personal Savior only when I trusted in Christ in time, yet He remains immutable, thus the ad extra works of God do not change Him in any way.”

And no, oh no. God doesn’t “become” your Saviour. He is your eternal Saviour by virtue of His eternal decree to redeem you. Although you believed in time, He didn’t “become” a “Saviour of Chew” in time. Furthermore, He didn’t amass predications upon Himself in time by being the “Saviour of X,” “Saviour of Y,” etc ad infinitum ad nauseam. God the Father chose from all eternity past, in His eternal and unchangeable decrees, to save some people. God the Son, from all eternity past, agreed to redeem those people from the fallen state that God ordained, from all eternity past, they would be in.

What is more amusing is that the writer takes my reasoning that creation is a necessitas consequentiae (the necessity of the consequence), and reiterates it in his critique of my article. He writes, “In other words, we must say that creation is not necessary, but becomes necessary in light of God's willing and decree.”

Yeah right. Creation “becomes necessary in light of God's willing and decree.” Thus, this is the ideal “solution” for a theistic mutualist – a “solution” stolen from Classical Theists in defence of his mutable God who add accidents ad infinitum to His being.

As one looks at the "response," note just how personal the "response" is. I am described as a "budding theistic mutualist," even though I totally deny the label as slander. I am said to "not know what I am talking about," when actually he is the one who fails to comprehend my position. I am said to have "his mutable God," even though I fully affirm the immutability of God. This kind of cheap rhetoric not only shows us the type of person Chia is, but it also proves the point that many "classical theists" who are militantly against ESS are uncharitable and unwilling to actually understand and interact with their opponents, and absolutely willing to misrepresent what we and others who are not classical theists believe in.

But, ignoring the cheap and un-Christian rhetoric exhibited by Chia (a fine speciman of how certain segments of Reformed theology has gone cultic it seems), let us move to the substance of the "response." Is there anything to the response? I would suggest not, and not because of a failure of trying. I will go through the points of critique where they are, and point out why they are wrong.

The first critique by Chia is that my argument "fails to grasp the modal fallacy." That is true ONLY IF I did not prove that the first type of necessity, in light of the entirety of who God is and what He desires to do, would necessitate the second type of necessity. Chia totally ignores the syllogism that I had constructed in the early part of my argument proving why the first type of necessity would result in the second type of necessity, and then waves his wand and claims that I (DHC) fail "to grasp the modal fallacy." Such conduct is unbecoming of someone who prides himself as an intellectual, as thinking that somehow ignoring the opponent's argument and then making a false statement that said opponent did not do what he just did (which he ignored), is actually a valid form of argumentation.

The next critique of Chia is seen in the following set of statements: "For God to become (“becoming”) something He wasn’t before is to attribute predication concerning His being. It is an ontological predication." But that is a false set of propositions. To predicate "becoming" as always ontological only applies to attributes of being. Even the most hard-core classical theist must (I hope) agree that if we say that God becomes the enemy of Lucifer, that this "becoming" is not ontological at all, for Lucifer is not eternal! If person X becomes my enemy because I decided to hate her, not for what she has done but because I just decided to do it autonomously, did person X change ontologically? Something might have changed in me if I decided to make person X my enemy, but if she contributed nothing at all, how can it be said that she changed ontologically?

And that is the problem I have with many classical theists, who think that any talk about "becoming" implies ontology, a proposition which I simply deny! In fact, that has been my sharpest critique of classical theism all the time: that they think only about ontology and being, being, and more being! It is almost pathological to behold! I am not talking about "relational properties" or other such weird ideas, for I would claim that relations and actions are not "properties" (properties being ontological). Actions are actions, and relations are relations, and properties are properties.

Since Chia refuses to actually interact with what I had said, let me repeat the main argument against his attempt at thinking that the first type of necessity does not necessitates the second type of necessity:

Since God is a simple being, we cannot split God's will into a will that ignores His omnipotence and pure actuality, and His will that affirms His omnipotence and pure actuality. Therefore, knowing the attributes of who God is implies that anything that is necessary to His will is in fact necessary in all possible worlds, i.e. God cannot not create in all possible worlds. And if something is necessary in all possible worlds, then it is absolutely necessary, and we are back at the problem of creation being a necessary and not contingent thing!

The doctrine of divine simplicity implies that all attributes are one, and God's being is His act. Chia fails to recognize that the very bane of his argument is the doctrine of divine simplicity itself, for simplicity is the link between the two types of necessities. The only way to avoid a necessary creation is to posit a division between the decree to act and the act itself, which I do, but Chia does not. But if what I say is too brief, here is an extended discussion of the topic by Ryan Mullins which might be clearer. Where Mullins talk about divine freedom, I mention possible worlds, but it seems that they amount to the same thing.

In conclusion, I am once again not convinced of the "classical theist" position. It seems that even a response specifically to me cannot escape the temptation of misrepresentation. As long as classical theists (1) misrepresent their opponents; (2) fail to actually interact with the real philosophical and theological issues, I do not see any need to take them seriously. All their name-calling is just that: name-calling. And since their rhetoric in effect questions the salvation of their opponents, they are slanderers of the brethren, schismatics, and will answer to God one day for their malicious lies.

Article: The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity

Here is an interesting and provocative article on the doctrine of Divine Simplicity by Ryan Mullins. Please do note that I do hold to divine simplicity, and do not necessarily endorse anything written in that article.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Against politicking from the American political left

On the Atlantic, there was a political hit piece attacking "white Evangelicals"" for voting Trump. According to the author, voting for Trump is a "crisis" for "Evangelical Christianity." Now, normally, I prefer not to talk about politics, but this kind of hit piece has a political agenda that wants to bind Christians in a certain way, and thus I will like to say a few things about it:

  1. Few people, myself included, believe that Trump is a moral person. (Not including the crazy Trumpites here)
  2. The question is: The article is asserting that electing Trump compromises the Christian's moral witness.
  3. The counter question is: Does electing Democrats compromise the Christian's moral witness? I will assert that to be the case.
  4. Since Trump became president, we have seen many articles all attacking "White Evangelicals" for electing Trump.
  5. We have seen few articles attacking "Black Evangelicals" or any other group for that matter, for electing Obama, who was not a moral person either.
  6. When someone in the church votes Democrat, we were told that we cannot judge the person because (i) spirituality of the church, (ii) freedom of conscience, (iii) perhaps they are voting for a local official, (iv) some Democrat ideals are biblical.
  7. In other words, despite the Democrats being such a wicked party, we are told that Christians for whatever reason can vote Democrat, and we are to accept that.
    .
  8. However, articles like these claim that voting Trump and voting Republican compromises the Christian's witness. In other words, voting Trump = evil
  9. Therefore, why the hypocrisy in stating that voting Trump compromise the Christian's witness while we are told to tolerate voting Democrat?
    .
  10. It is not true that Democrats do not claim to maintain the moral high ground.
  11. See the Democrats when they assert they are for the poor (they are not; they just claim they are to get the poor vote). See the Democrats when they assert they care for immigrants (only if they are illegal and can be used as political agitprop; then just let them in and not care about them after they enter the country, and use their poverty to blame Republicans for their plight)
  12. Democrats claim to be for lots of moral causes, and they reframe LGBT issues as issues of "justice." So they ARE claiming the moral high ground.
    .
  13. Thus, in conclusion, this article is a political hack piece that is biased and hypocritical.
  14. If voting for Trump compromises the Christian's witness, then so does voting Democrat. Are they going to start attacking Christians who vote Democrat with the same fire and vehemence with which they attack Christians who vote Trump?

If you believe that politics is not to be done from the pulpit, then all pastors cannot be promoting this political hit-piece. You cannot attack "right-wing" Christians for doing politics while at the same time you are playing at left-wing politics, period!

[P.S.: If you are aggrieved that Christians do vote for morally flawed parties and politicians, it only proves that you are one of those Americans who think the world revolves around them! Christians in many countries around the world can and do vote [rightly or wrongly] for all manner of wicked people!]

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

"Reformed" lies about ESS and the view of male headship

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Surely, if God wanted to convey an absolute and unequivocal identity in how man respectively are constituted as human beings in the image of God, He couldd have created each in the same manner. ... But God wanted to convey two theological truths (not just one) in the formation of the woman from the rib of Adam: Since the woman was taken out of the man, 1) she is fully and equally human since she has come from his bones and his flesh, and 2) her very human nature is constituted, not in parallel fashion to his with both formed from the same earth, but as derived from his own nature, so showing a God-chosen dependence upon him for her origination. (Wayne Grudem, ed., Biblical Foundation for Mandhood and Womanhood, p. 83)

As I have said many many times, the major problem for me when it comes to criticism of ESS (Eternal Submission of the Son) is the constant misrepresentation of the position from its critics. Surely, if ESS is so unbiblical, the critics including Carl Trueman could accurately represent what it teachers, couldn't they? I mean, isn't representing what another person actually say and believe basic obedience of the ninth commandment? If ESS is so so heretical, then surely the most basic part of correctly representing it is not such a hard thing to do?!

It so happens that I decided to respond on Twitter to an outrageous meme which lumps ESS with a whole bunch of questionable teaching as being a Trojan Horse of "heresies" infecting the Reformed churches. The claim, so asserted by this sister on Twitter, is that complementarianism believes that the image of God in women is mediated through the man. Of course, I asked for proof, and I was directed to Wayne Grudem's book, Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood at page 82. Unfortunately, I was busy then so it is only now that I could actually check out the source material to see if this sister's assertion is true or false. It seems that I actually do have a copy of the book so I just had to go through my bookshelf and find the book in order to check whether it is true that Grudem asserts that to be true.

When I look through page 82 in the following section, this is what I found: (1) The topic of discussion is the relation of male and female complementarity and the image of God; (2) the particular section proceeds AFTER stating unequivocally that both men and women are equally in the image of God (pp. 80-81); (3) The section in which page 82 is situated discusses the differentiation between male and female as they relate to the image of God; (4) the conclusion of that section is this: "While both are fully and equally the image of God, there is a built-in priority given to the male that reflects God's design of male headship in the created order" (p. 87). Therefore, we can conclude the following: (1) The discussion deals primarily with how men and women come to have the image of God during the events of Genesis 2, and thus it is a discussion of the workings of an historical event; (2) From this discussion of the image in history, Grudem aims to draw a lesson of how headship links to the image of God; (3) Since the woman is NOT created ex nihilo but created out of the side, the woman Eve came out of the man Adam; and thus (4) In light of biblical passages concerning generation (i.e. Seth becoming the image of God from Adam (Gen. 5:3)), it can be said that the image of God in Eve comes from the image of God in Adam. From all these, Grudem argues that headship reflects the priority of Adam to Eve as seen in the derivation of the image in Eve from Adam.

Now, after looking at what Grudem says in context, is there anything here that has any relations with this sister's assertion that "complementarianism believes the image of God in woman is mediated through the man"? Note the word "mediated," which implies that without a man, a woman does not have the image. What she asserts is definitely not what Grudem has actually said, for "priority" is not the same as mediation — not even close! According to Grudem in this book, both men and women have the image of God equally. Women does not need a man to have the image of God, an idea totally foreign to Grudem's thought!! Rather, the priority of men is seen in how women historically in Eve get their image, from Adam. Note again the word "historically"! It is not an ongoing thing in the present!

I continually emphasize the concepts used by Grudem in contrast to the concepts used by this sister, only to make it manifest that what she is asserting about Grudem is most certainly not what Grudem is actually saying. This does not necessarily exonerate Grudem of this teaching, but it most certainly shows that, at least in the book Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood, in pages 82 and following, Grudem did NOT teach that the image of God in women is mediated through the man. That assertion is a misrepresentation of what Grudem actually teach! Whether you are for or against ESS, whether you think that ESS is heresy or orthodoxy, surely being truthful is what we should aim to be.

While it is probably too much of a stretch to ask Reformed critics of ESS to be less rancid in their criticism of ESS, perhaps I can hope that ESS critics can stop making the assertion that Wayne Grudem in page 82 of his book Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood teaches that the image of God in women is mediated through the man. That is clearly not what Grudem teaches, so please retract that accusation. Also, please if you wouldn't mind, be a bit more charitable to those who disagree with you on ESS, and entertain the possibility that perhaps you may be wrong in your assessment of ESS!

Thursday, July 04, 2019

On the epistemic value of intuition

If, however, we cannot calibrate intuition by appeal to sense perception, then, presuming there are no other calibrating faculties in the offing, it would seem that we cannot calibrate intuition and so we have no good (i.e. independent) reason at all for taking intuition to be reliable. We arrive, then, at an apparently defensible skeptical conclusion about intuition.

Such a conclusion, however is not defensible. … This because we can just as easily argue, as countless skeptics have, that sense perception is itself incapable of independent calibration and so we have no non-epistemically-circular reason to treat its offerings as reliable evidence. The calibration concern is, after all, a completely general one.

[Joel Pust, Intuition as Evidence (New York, NY: Routledge, 2000, 2016), 105-6)]

This is because any attempt to calibrate sense perception must take its corroborating premises only from the deliverances of some other faculty, and in the case envisaged, intuition would be the basis of such a calibration of sense perception. (p. 106)

The problem of epistemic circularity is also deeper than the discussion to this point has revealed. (p. 107)

I do think Reid is right to insist that, in light of our inability to non-circularly justify any basic faculty, some reason needs to be given by those who would rely upon one faculty and yet reject the testimony of others. Absent such a reason, the empiricist’s refusal to accept intuition without independent calibration seems entirely unjustified and epistemically arbitrary. (p. 110)

Therefore, if she is to avoid complete skepticism, and its attendant cognitive suicide, but retain a principled skepticism about intuition, the empiricist must start by trusting all our faculties equally and then show that intuition can still be shown an unreliable source of evidence. (p. 111)

Supposing I have succeeded in showing that the epistemic credentials of intuition are no worse, ultimately, than those of sense perception, it is easy to take my means of showing this as indicating how little can actually be said for sense perception or for any of our basic faculties. My epistemic parity argument, then, might be said not to show why we actually have good reason to treat intuitions as evidence, but merely why we have no good reason to treat sense perception as evidence. (p. 122)

In his dissertation, Joel Pust attempts to show the validity of intuition in its utility in philosophy. Intuition as evidence is no more and no less valid than the use of the senses in gaining knowledge about the world. The alternative is a general epistemic skepticism.

Now, whether Pust has indeed succeeded in making his case can be argued. But in tying the validity of intuition to the senses, I do think Pust is on the right track for sure. Skepticism about intuition seems to merit skepticism in the senses as well. This seems to show, from where I stand, the failure of human philosophy to ever get out of skepticism. It seems to me that revelation from God must undergird all knowledge, for otherwise we are left with general skepticism. Yes, general skepticism cannot be proven, but if all systems fail, then that is what we are left with. General skepticism is therefore not so much proven, but stated in light of the failures of human philosophy.

Intuition therefore, is like the senses. Just as the senses can make sense of the world and yet are fallible and liable to deception, so likewise our intuitions about the world. From a Christian perspective, both derive their general validity from God's general revelation not from themselves, for apart from God's revelation, it is impossible for anyone to know anything of the world.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

On the hypothetical-deductive theory of science

Scientific reasoning is an exploratory dialogue that can always be resolved into two voices or two episodes of thought, imaginative and critical, which alternate and interact. [P.B. Medawar, Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (New York, NY: Routledge, 1969, 2009), 46]

The process by which we come to formulate a hypothesis is not illogical but non-logical, i.e. outside logic. (p. 46)

This elementary theory is supported by a metatheory which specifies the rules o deduction or statement-transformation (“logical syntax”) and adjudicates upon the meanings of the empirical terms which it employs, i.e. says what they stand for (“semantics”). … We assert a postulate and take an axiom for granted, but hypotheses we merely venture to propose. (p. 47)

For scientists and all those involved in the scientific industries, it seems almost obvious that science is about finding out the truths of nature. With the failure of logical positivism and pure inductivism, the hypothetico-deductive model is adopted as the way science is done. And in a certain sense, they are right. Modern science largely functions according to the hypothetico-deductive model. But saying that is so does not indicate to us the nature of science and the relation of science to truth. Such a model is blind to the obvious paradigms of thought science operates in, for this model is blind to the fact that what may seem obvious and a reasonable assumption or prediction is paradigm-dependent, and will thus change when paradigms shift.

It is therefore on the one hand true that [normal] science operates according to the hypothetico-deductive model, and on the other hand true that whatever is discovered is paradigm-dependent in terms of its truth value. Also, since science is paradigm-dependent, all "truths" so discovered are descriptions of reality according to the paradigm. In other words, they are true, but only secondarily so. Scientific truths at best are reflections of truth, refracted through their governing paradigms. In that, they necessarily partake of the problem with induction, where there is simply no foolproof way to prove an inductive argument to be correct, as just because 100 black swans are seen does not mean all swans are black.

P.B. Medawar rightly points out the problem with pure inductivism. However, it is one thing to see the problems with inductivism, and another thing to escape the problem of induction. For since science necessarily argues from the particular to the general, induction plays a role in scientific reasoning, even under the hypothetico-deductive model. For in testing a hypothesis, one uses induction to prove that the experiment results (particular) necessarily say something about the systems being tested in general. For example, testing the hypothesis that a certain chemical causes an increase in an incidence of cancer requires one to believe that the experimental results is indicative of the general case of the presence of this chemical to the incidence of cancer. Without induction, one can only say that the experimental results of a positive correlation of high concentrations of this chemical with the incidence of cancer only applies to the experimental subjects. Without induction, one cannot conclude that this positive correlation would also be true in others that are not the experimental subjects, no matter how large or representative the sample size for the experiment is.

Therefore, while science works with the hypothetico-deductive model, we must understand that this is scientific methodology on the surface, which does not indicate to us the true nature of science or even a full understanding of the scientific method either. Rather, as we look at the history of science, we can come to recognize the paradigmatic nature of science, which undergirds the entire scientific enterprise.