Thursday, November 14, 2013

For Jonathan

Over on my blog Before the Beginning: The Problem of Divine Lonesomeness, internet apologist Jonathan Bradford (whose expert execution of presuppositional apologetics can be observed here) left a comment recently in which he asked me for “a detailed explanation of what a ‘consciousness’ is.”

He claims to have had interactions with Objectivists and gave the following statement:
I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept as used by Objectivists.
In response to this, I explained:
The concept ‘consciousness’ is an axiomatic concept. Part of what this means is that it is conceptually irreducible and thus cannot be defined in terms of more fundamental concepts. So if you’ve been talking with Objectivists and they are not giving you a definition of ‘consciousness’ in terms of more fundamental concepts, that’s why. The same is the case with the concept ‘existence’ and those denoting sensations. These concepts are defined ostensively – essentially by pointing to those things which they denote. Axiomatic concepts are the most fundamental concepts; there are no concepts that are more fundamental than these. They are conceptually irreducible.
But I did not end with this. Since Jonathan is a committed Christian apologist, his question to me suggests that he’s satisfied with Christianity’s definition of ‘consciousness’. So in my same response to Jonathan, I asked:
By the way, how does the bible define the concept ‘consciousness’? I’d really like to know this.
I think this is a completely fair question. After all, apologists like Jonathan Bradford are constantly telling us that only the Christian worldview has anything of value to offer in so far as worldviews are concerned. If that is the case, then the Christian worldview must have something very profound and at the very least true to offer on worldview fundamentals, such as the question “What is consciousness?”

Unfortunately, Jonathan has declined to answer my question. And in fact, when I’ve scoured the bible for a definition of ‘consciousness’, I could find nothing. My bibles do not even have the word ‘consciousness’ in the biblical text. Perhaps some of the more newfangled translations have an instance or two of this word somewhere in their versions, but I am not aware of any specifically, let alone “a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept.”

Come to think of it, the Christian worldview seems conspicuously deficient on defining a whole spectrum of fundamental worldview concepts. It is not only the concept ‘consciousness’ which the Christian worldview fails to enlighten. Consider the following examples:
(1) I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept ‘knowledge’as used by Christians.  
(2) I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept ‘concept’ as used by Christians.  
(3) I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept ‘life’ as used by Christians.  
(4) I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept ‘value’ as used by Christians.  
(5) I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept ‘morality’ as used by Christians.  
(6) I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept ‘reason’ as used by Christians.  
(7) I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept ‘purpose’ as used by Christians.  
(8) I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept ‘good’ as used by Christians.  
(9) I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept ‘logic’ as used by Christians.  
(10) I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept ‘proof’ as used by Christians.  
Yes, this list could be extended pretty much indefinitely. And these are only examples of key terms which Christianity fails to define. The bible does not even provide “satisfactory, rigorous definition[s]” of specifically religious notions, such as ‘supernatural’, ‘salvation’, ‘redemption’, ‘miracle’, etc.

Moreover, keeping man forever trapped in the darkness of mysticism, the bible does not lay out a clear epistemology. For example, it does not explain any methodology which one should use to discover and validate knowledge. For the bible-believer, “knowledge” (however it is imagined by the Christian) is supposedly something that is just crammed into man’s mind by means of magic; accordingly, the human mind does not perform any set of actions to gather information, integrate it into a non-contradictory sum and detect and avoid error. The very idea of a non-contradictory sum of knowledge is foreign to the bible, just as is the idea that the human mind should apply a systematic method to vet knowledge claims. And believers act as though it were impossible for them to be in error, in spite of their lip service acknowledging their own fallibility, for even if they admit that they are fallible, they follow this admission up with “but” and then make some statement to the effect that they cannot be wrong in affirming their faith-based beliefs.

To be sure, religion is not about knowledge. Knowledge is the product of carefully applying rational principles and empowers an individual’s mind to function independently of other minds. Religion is certainly not about liberating the human mind, but rather shackling it to a collective. As Christian B.C. Hodge confesses:
It may shock you, however, to learn that the Bible’s view of love is not inclusive. Instead, love is in the context of exclusivism. It divides people into groups: the believers and the unbelievers, those who belong to the covenant community and those who do not.
Genuinely independently-minded men will not willingly sacrifice their interests to a mob, even if the mob styles itself as divinely sanctioned. Thus the mob seeks to create ways of disenfranchising genuinely independently-minded men of their hard-won independence by trying to undermine their confidence in their minds. Thus reason is the arch-enemy of religious worldviews. And Christianity is no exception here.

Reason is the only path to knowledge. Anything else is a path to fantasy, self-deception and chicanery. Religion cannot be pro-reason because reason fosters intellectual independence, a virtue that is anathematic to any religious agenda. Religion is about “believing.” In fact, as Greg Bahnsen plainly points out, Christianity is clearly about believing before one has any understanding of what he is expected to believe. Some quotes from Bahnsen’s book Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith are instructive here:
”The testimony of Scripture is clear in teaching that man cannot come to an understanding of God (and thereby of God’s world) by means of his independently exercised reason. One does not first satisfy his intellect with certain autonomous proofs that God exists and has a particular nature, and then after gaining this understanding place his faith in the Lord. Rather, reverence and faith precede understanding or knowledge of God and all that He has made.” (p. 87)  
“Faith is the precondition of a proper understanding.” (p. 88)  
“…faith precedes knowledgeable understanding.” (Ibid.)  
“Faith does not rely on man’s autonomous thinking and what it “sees” but rather begins with a presuppositional conviction about the veracity of God’s word.” (p. 92)
Clearly, according to the views expressed here by a leading presuppositional apologist, the believer is to believe first and then ask questions later. The express instruction here is for one to believe before he understands what he’s expected to believe. His religious conviction does not rest on understanding, but on blind belief. And whatever he accepts on top of this understanding-deficient belief he will call “understanding,” even though he has no way of knowing that what it rests on is true or untrue. He cannot know whether it is true or untrue since he has accepted it as truth before he even understands what it is he is accepting as truth. This is as systematic a renunciation of one’s own mind as one could ever hope to devise.

Do we have an example of this in action? We most certainly do. Jonathan offers us himself as a poignant example of the “believe-before-understanding” policy of Christianity in practice. Consider Jonathan’s own recent actions. First, over on the Answers for Hope blog, we find Jonathan making the following blanket assertion:
all non-Christian positions fail to provide a foundation by which a valid epistemology, metaphysic, or ethic can be held in a consistent, non-arbitrary way.
Given it’s all-inclusive nature pertaining to “all non-Christian positions,” it must be intended to apply to Objectivism, since Objectivism is (among many other more important things) a non-Christian position. So along with all other “non-Christian positions,” Jonathan is making a dismissive assertion about Objectivism. Then a little while later, Jonathan decides that he wants to learn about Objectivism. So he comes over to my blog and asks a few questions about fundamental aspects of Objectivism. This can only mean that he has rejected Objectivism (per his above statement) before he knows anything about Objectivism. He has blindly rejected something without any understanding of what he is rejecting. This is a classic example of the “belief first, then ask questions later” policy which Bahnsen affirms as proper for the believer. So in this way, Jonathan is following his master Greg Bahnsen right down the path of self-inflicted intellectual irresponsibility.

I am truly glad these aren’t my problems!

by Dawson Bethrick

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Blogger Jonathan Bradford said...


Thank you for posting this blog about our interaction. Despite glaringly obvious misrepresentations of my comments, you've actually done a wonderful service to provide evidential confirmation of my "attack flailingly" and "invective" observations.

I appreciate your support in confirming my position.


November 14, 2013 10:11 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

A though or more of question occurred to me. We say the consciousness is axiomatic and by that I take it to understand that it is presumed by any and all acts of consciousness (thought). I also understand that studying the underlying physical mechanisms that give rise to it is not the same thing as the inter subjective experience of being consciousness. However and here is my question, what I conceive of as this inter subjective process is actually of two parts. One the perceptual awareness, me looking at this LCD monitor and second the conceptual awareness. Me thinking about said monitor. This implies that consciousness can be conceptually broken down into two parts. Is it still axiomatic then or am I completely missing something this groggy morning.

November 15, 2013 5:31 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...


The stark contrast between what you've laid out in your blog post and those Bahnsen quotes, once again make it quite clear what's really going on here: Many believers really are not interested in learning about metaphysics and epistemology -- except in so far as such inquiries serve to further their faith-based agenda and enable them in their attempts to attack and destroy the only faculty that provides the pathway to knowledge: reason.

As I mentioned over on the thread in which Jonathan initially posted: You, Dawson, have produced nearly 9 years worth of material on this blog. Much of that material goes into great detail regarding Objectivim's view on "consciousness." I even provided Jonathan with links to a few of those entries.

Has Jonathan read any those blog entries that contain the answers to his questions? Has he come back afterward with inquiries that show genuine interest and a willingness to learn? Not that I'm able to tell.


November 15, 2013 7:03 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...


On a technical note, in the first paragraph of this blog entry (For Jonathan), when I click on the hyperlink "Before the Beginning: The Problem of Divine Lonesomeness," it takes me to my Blogger Dashboard.


November 15, 2013 7:08 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...


Just in case you didn't see those links I posted on the thread where you initially commented, here they are again for your convenience:

The Biological Nature of Consciousness

How Theism Violates the Primacy of Existence

Has the Primacy of Existence Been Refuted?

A Reply to Dustin Segers' Dismantled Blog Entry on Objectivism

Rick Warden's Critique of Objectivism

Craig Keener on Miracles

Like I said before, when it comes to how much Dawson has written on the nature of consciousness, these entries only scratch the surface.


November 15, 2013 12:03 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

Thanks so much for pointing out the faulty hyperlink! I had to rush yesterday when I was posting the new entry - I obviously missed this one.

I have repaired it. It should work now.


November 15, 2013 3:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...


You charge me with mischaracterizing your comments, but you do not cite even one instance of this. I’m only going by the words which you have published. You also accuse me of “attack[ing] flailingly,” but you do not indicate what you take as evidence of this. My intention is not to attack you, but to address your question and expose you at the same time. You have also accused me of “invective.” This online dictionary provides the following definitions for ‘invective’:

1. vehement or violent denunciation, censure, or reproach.
2. a railing accusation; vituperation.
3. an insulting or abusive word or expression.

My responses to your comments have not been violent, railingly accusatory or insulting. If you think they have been, why not indicate what you take as instances of this?

Meanwhile, since you raised the question of how the concept ‘consciousness’ is defined, once I had addressed this I then turned the question to you. Since you had indicated that you were not satisfied with what Objectivists with whom you have allegedly previously interacted had offered on this matter, I figured it appropriate to find out what offering you do find satisfactory in this regard. Again, you stated:

<<I've never really received a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept as used by Objectivists.>>

I would suppose that, in coming to the assessment that what Objectivists had previously given to you on this matter was neither “satisfactory” or “rigorous,” you must have some kind of *standard* against which you’re comparing the Objectivist treatments that you’ve seen so far in order to find them lacking. If that’s the case, what is that standard? Naturally, since you are a committed Christian apologists, I would infer that the Christian worldview must supply that standard, one that you consider “satisfactory” and “rigorous.” Thus I asked what the bible’s definition of ‘consciousness’ is. After all, Christian apologists are always telling me how perfect and comprehensive their worldview is, that their bible “speaks the truth” on everything it touches. So what is the bible’s definition of ‘consciousness’? You still have not addressed this question. It is still outstanding. Is there in your view “a satisfactory, rigorous definition of the concept” ‘consciousness’ in the bible? If so, what is it? If not, by what standard can you find the Objectivist treatment of the concept lacking?

So you say that I have confirmed things that you have earlier stated about me personally, and yet you confirm things that I have stated about Christianity.

Since you offer no answers, I will stand by my earlier conclusion: you have a lot of questions, but zero answers.


November 15, 2013 3:54 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...


You wrote: "Thanks so much for pointing out the faulty hyperlink! I had to rush yesterday when I was posting the new entry - I obviously missed this one."

My pleasure!

Also, sometimes when rereading your older blog entries, I occasionally come across a defunct link (e.g., a hyperlink to geocities). In the future, I'll try to keep an eye out for them and let you know.


November 26, 2013 12:23 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...


It appears we have yet another theist who, from what I can tell (as I haven't yet read his entire blog entry), seems to have swallowed "...Hume's conclusion about induction in whole without examining his premises."

Just before he launches into proposing the supernatural as a solution to Hume's problem, the author of this piece, "vjtorley," writes:

At this point, I think it’s time to take stock of where we are. We’ve been trying to come up with a justification of scientific inference – in particular, the uniformitarian assumption that the regularities we observe in Nature will continue to hold in the future. Without that assumption, we have no good reason to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow or at any time in the future, or that scientists’ experiments in the laboratory will continue to work, in the same way that they always have previously. So far, we have found no grounds whatsoever for accepting that assumption [that . In short: repeated observations, Bayesian testing, appeals to simplicity, appeals to our practical needs, the use of large data sets, appeals to forms of direct inference, the formulation of mathematical laws, and the generation and testing of scientific models, have all failed to supply us with the warrant we need to ground our belief in the rationality of scientific inference and solve the problem of induction. It seems that we’ve run out of options for rescuing science, and restoring it to a rational footing. Or have we?

Not only does "vjtorely" fail to question Hume, but he also fails to consider Objectivism, it's view of causality, and it's theory of concepts.


November 27, 2013 6:02 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

A correction in my above post, because it's nagging at me: I have a bad habit of typing "its" as "it's." And it probably won't be the last time I do it, either.


November 27, 2013 9:02 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...


Thanks for posting this. It is all quite typical, isn't it? Does it ever cross these apologists' mind to consider what the concept 'future' means?

The concept 'future' denotes the continuation of existence from the present. So when considering future possibilities, the axioms still apply: existence exists, we are conscious of things that exist, and to exist is to be something specific, and a thing acts according to its nature. Just by assuming that the question "Will the future be like the past?" is meaningful, the apologist is implicitly granting the truth of these concepts. And yet, they hold the answer to the supposed problem here.

Additionally, since we already know that concepts of entities omit specific measurements, we should also recognize that they therefore omit the measurements of time and place. Thus the concept ‘marble’ includes all marbles that exist now, that have existed, and that will exist, regardless of where they might exist. To apply this concept, then, is to denote according to a stabilized meaning regardless of when and where it is applied. Thus we can confidently say that a marble acts according to its nature as a marble, whether we’re talking about a marble that existed in ancient Egypt or a marble that will exist in 28th century CE Japan.

The Humean-presuppositionalist view, however, delights in making use of concepts while divorcing their reference to reality. Thus there is no objective basis for affirming necessary relationships – e.g., the relationship between an entity and its own actions. Since this relationship is severed, the Humean-presppositionalist has no alternative but to abandon his cognition to fantasizing alternatives to what is real. Having accepted these and a slew of other unstated premises which tag along for the ride, they can only conclude that the human mind is therefore hopelessly incompetent without the intervention of some imaginary being. Thus he offers us a form of projection: since he has short-circuited his own mind, he assumes that every mind is as defunct.

I’m sure glad these aren’t my problems!


November 28, 2013 4:07 AM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

hey Johnathan are you still there?btw i love your arguement with Reynold Hall on facebook, and how you just gave into blind rage at the end of the argument and launched one ad hominem after another

December 28, 2013 1:27 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...


Thanks for your note. Now you've got some of us intrigued. Can you supply a link? Or at least post some of the discussion you're referencing here? Let's see what Jonahan wants to say.


December 28, 2013 1:50 PM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

here it is Dawson the meltdown message is on the second page

December 28, 2013 2:34 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Thanks, Wak. I'll be sure to check this out. It sounds quite entertaining.


December 28, 2013 2:38 PM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

so what do you think Dawson of Johnathan's little meltdown?

also Dawson you read all the major works of the presupptionalist big-wigs right? do you have any articles when they make the claim that if athiesm was true free will cannot exist?

December 28, 2013 8:16 PM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

Dawson i was wondering how would you respond if a presuppositionist claimed that their arguement was not an inductive arguement (which it is) but a deductive one were God gave them certainty? like what Johnathan was claiming up in that link you gave?

February 16, 2014 6:29 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Wak,

Several points here:

1) If there is any contention over whether a particular argument is inductive, deductive, or otherwise, I would invite the apologist simply to produce a clear presentation of just what exactly his argument consists of – i.e., clearly stated premises and the conclusion they are said to support.

2) Presuppositionalists claim that their argument is “transcendental” in nature (owing ultimately to Kant). But, according to the literature on the subject, an argument is transcendental, not due to its formal considerations, but according to the nature of its focus – namely the preconditions of knowledge, experience, logic, reason, etc. As Michael Butler puts it (here):

<< Transcendental arguments attempt to discover the preconditions of human experience. They do so by taking some aspect of human experience and investigating what must be true in order for that experience to be possible. Transcendental arguments typically have the following form. For x [some aspect of human experience] to be the case, y must also be the case since y is the precondition of x. Since x is the case, y is the case.>>

The example he gives is as follows:

<< For causality to be possible, God has to exist since the existence of God is the precondition of causality. Since there is causality, God exists.>>

Is this inductive or deductive? Are we moving from a general truth to a specific application of it? The initial premise seems to mix the general (“causality”) and the specific (“God”).

3) But does it really matter either way? Does categorizing the argument as either inductive or deductive (or something else) have any bearing on our evaluation of it? If “God” is being deduced here, from what exactly is it being deduced? What in reality (i.e., by looking outward) tells us that “the existence of God is the precondition of causality”? Where did the term “God” come from? From traditional, “evidentialist” arguments? No, not even from there. We hear this from men, but Christians are constantly telling us that truth does not come from men.

4) Way back when the “Van Til List” was active, presupper David Byron posted an analysis on TAs in which he stated: “A transcendental argument may be expressed in the form
of Modus Ponens,” a standard deductive rule of inference. In the same post, Byron states that TAs are “distinguished from other deductive arguments by its modality and its particular subject matter,” implying that TAs are a *type* or subcategory of deductive arguments.

5) As for what you had in mind about Jonathan making a statement about certainty, you’ll have to quote what specifically he said.


February 17, 2014 3:16 AM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

this is the quote from John

"All of this response again, as I’ve said to you before, assumes that the Christian epistemology is based upon the self. It is not. It is an epistemology based upon the foundation of divine revelation from the omniscient, omnipotent, infallible source of all knowledge.

The problems you put forth here would only apply if we actually did put forth an inductive argument for the truth of Christianity. But I don’t know any presuppositionalist who does this. Nor is it necessary. The knowledge of the truth of Christianity is not derived inductively by us through the examination of every other worldview – it’s known by divine revelation from God. As such, I can then deduce that every other worldview is false.

To give you an analogy, (which is destined to fall short, as all analogies do, but will hopefully show you the point which I am trying to make):

I know that 2 + 2 = 4. I don’t know this inductively because I have examined all possible answers to the question ‘what is 2 + 2?’. I know it deductively through other methods. As such, I don’t need to have examined all possible answers to the question (thankfully, since there are an infinite number of possible answers). If someone told me that 2 + 2 = 5, I know that they are wrong. I’ll examine their reasoning to help show that they are wrong, and why they are wrong.

Now, if someone came up to me with a twenty page paper, with hundreds of equations, big long explanations and proofs, and at the end it appeared that they have proved 2 + 2 = 17, well, I know that they are wrong. Even if I go through the paper quickly and don’t identify right away where they went wrong, I know that they are wrong, because I know that 2 + 2 = 4. And I know that for reasons other than the need to disprove their apparent proof here in this paper. So I can happily stand on the truth of my position while I try to determine where their proof falls apart. Maybe they divided by zero in some complex, easy to miss equation. Maybe they made a logic error. It could be all sorts of things. So I’ll go through it and try to see where it fails, all the while knowing that I am correct about 2 + 2 = 4, because my knowledge of that doesn’t rely upon disproving this person’s apparent proof that 2 + 2 = 17.

It’s similar with Christianity. I know that Christianity is true via divine revelation. My knowledge of this isn’t based upon inductively proving other worldviews false. It’s based upon the revelation of God which He has made evident to me in such a way that I can know it, and can’t be wrong about it.

So when discussing the issue with someone else, and critiquing their worldview, I can stand completely firm on the knowledge of the truth while I examine the ways the other person’s worldview falls apart. Some are simple, like atheism or deism – they essentially refute themselves before getting out of the starting gate. Others may be quite complex and difficult – Judaism and Roman Catholicism both have many aspects of the truth in them, and therefore it’s more difficult to peel back the layers and show people where their position falls short or breaks down. But ultimately, all non-Christian positions fail to provide a foundation by which a valid epistemology, metaphysic, or ethic can be held in a consistent, non-arbitrary way."

February 17, 2014 12:49 PM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

so Dawson, what do you make of his statement?

February 17, 2014 7:38 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Patience, Wak... All in good time.


February 18, 2014 3:17 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Wak,

I have posted a new blog entry on the appeal to "revelation" and some thoughts in response to some of Jonathan Bradford's statements.

You can find my new post here:

The Futility of the Apologetic Appeal to "Revelation"

I’m not sure if everything I write there will address your questions, but hopefully it will give you some food for thought and indicate how I would respond to these claims.

Now Jonathan as I recall abandoned the discussion which he himself initiated (much like Matthias did recently), so if he would say that I’m mistaken in all this, he is forfeiting his opportunity to correct the record if he does not rejoin the discussion.


February 18, 2014 10:15 PM  

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