Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dave's McPresuppositions, Part IV

I continue now with the fourth installment of my extended interaction with some of Dave McPhillips’ comments which he posted here Previous installments in this series can be found here:
Up to this point I have been showing how Dave’s own worldview cannot address questions which he has raised against Objectivism, a worldview which is diametrically opposed to his Christian worldview. Dave had issued a series of questions and charged me with failing to address them when he first raised them (they had not been raised before, so how could I be reasonably expected to have addressed them until they were raised?). I then turned those questions back to Dave and challenged him to answer them. To date, his responses to his own questions have made a miserable showing. Let’s see if he can recover any hint of credibility on behalf of his worldview in the proceeding exchange.

I had asked:
3. According to the bible, why is it that we have existence rather than non-existence?
Dave responded:
Because God, according to His own pleasure and sovereign will determined to create. (Gen.1:1, 26; Isa.46:10; Ehp.1:11).
I replied:
So again, we have another affirmation of metaphysical subjectivism. You can’t get more subjective than all this.
Dave now states:
I don’t think you are grasping the Christian claim that no reality exists outside of God.
The problem here is not with me. The problem is that Dave’s reply to my question does not answer it. My question was: “according to the bible, why is it that we have existence rather than non-existence?” His reply began with “Because God…” But this assumes existence rather than non-existence. Such a response cannot account for why we have existence rather than non-existence, since it assumes what needs to be explained in the first place – so long as Dave’s god is supposed to exist. To answer the question “Why does existence exist rather than there being nothing at all?” by positing some existing thing that did such and such, only suggests that the question was not understood.

But notice how Dave charges me with failing to grasp Christian metaphysics while at the same time completely confirming what I had said about it. For he continued:
Metaphysics is subjective but only to God, not to man.
In other words, according to Christianity, metaphysics is ultimately subjective, since according to Christianity, everything starts with the Christian god, and here Dave is confirming that metaphysics is subjective to his god. If metaphysics arises from, depends on and/or conforms to conscious activity, then a subject of consciousness holds metaphysical primacy. But that’s subjectivism. Hastening to add the disclaimer that metaphysics is subject “only” to the Christian god is like trying to turn on a garden hose after the house has already burnt down – the damage is already done, the point has already been conceded. Objectivity does not have is basis in subjectivism, but the Christian has no alternative but to build on the basis of metaphysical subjectivism at this point, for metaphysical subjectivism is inherent to the entire system from its very roots.

Dave tried to perform some damage control by pointing to non-essentials which only multiply his worldview’s problems. He wrote:
Man is finite, God is infinite, and He is from everlasting to everlasting (Ps.90:2), “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom.11:36). If it were not so He would not be God.
To claim that an existing thing is “infinite” is to affirm a contradiction. Specifically, it contradicts the axiom of identity. The axiom of identity is the explicit, fundamental recognition of the fact that to exist is to be something specific. This fact is implicit throughout all awareness and must be affirmed at the basis of knowledge in order for knowledge to be rational – for knowledge is always knowledge about something. The notion of an infinite existent is a contradiction in terms: it is to say that it is something and yet nothing in particular. Properly understood (i.e., formed objectively), the concept ‘infinite’ can only refer to a potential - such as the potential to continue a series without implying that it has to come to some specific stopping point. But even Christian theology is not consistent with the claim that its god is “infinite,” for they affirm that their god is a conscious being (as opposed to a non-conscious being – that’s finitude), that their god is “all-good” (as opposed to not “all-good” – that’s finitude), that their god is omnipotent (as opposed to not omnipotent – that’s finitude), that their god is infallible (as opposed to not infallible – that’s finitude), etc.

So calling the Christian god “infinite” does not undo the damage resulting from the confession that Christian metaphysics is ultimately subjective. On the contrary, it only drives Christian theology deeper into incoherence.

I had asked Dave an epistemological question, pertaining to the how of knowledge on the believer’s part:
4.According to the bible, how does one know the way in which things exist today will be the same tomorrow?
Dave responded:
Because God, who is the creator of the universe has promised in His word to uphold the world in a uniform consistent and regular way (Gen.8:22; Heb.1:2).
In response to this, I wrote:
Stating “because God” does not identify the how of cognition, so this does not answer my question. Also, even the Christian bible says that there will come a day when everything changes – an apocalypse, an “end times” which was promised way back when but has never come. Believers supposedly expect that Jesus is coming back “soon” (per the Book of Revelation). So if one goes by the bible, the same Christian god which supposedly promised to uphold the world in a uniform way also promised to demolish the world through an act of will, a “judgment.”
Dave now replies:
Firstly, you must remember that if God is who the bible says He is (i.e. the sovereign and immutable creator of the universe), then His word is likewise immutable (Num.23:19). Therefore if God promises that “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” then upon His authoritative and immutable word we have an absolute certain foundation for belief in the uniformity of nature.
Coming back with an armful of hypotheticals (“if such and such is the case, then…”) still does not address the epistemological nature of my question. My question is for Dave to explain his method of knowing. He is not doing this. At the very best, Dave is simply telling us that his method of knowing is not conceptual in nature, for it is clear that the knowledge he claims does not (a) originate in objective contact with reality and (b) build conceptually from that objective contact into a conceptual structure. Thus Dave is only really telling us how he does not know – he is not explaining how he does know.

Also, notice how insufficient Dave’s biblical citations are to the task he enlists them to perform. Affirming a supernatural “promise” to the effect that the Christian god will ensure that seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter and day and night shall continue, does not provide a fundamental principle pertaining to uniformity in nature as a whole. Rather, it only speaks to what is specified, leaving room for deformity elsewhere. Will water always be water? Not if a supernatural being wishes it into wine (cf. John chap. 2). Will men never be able to walk on unfrozen water? Not if a supernatural being wishes that men shall walk on unfrozen water. Will dead men remain dead? Not if a supernatural being wishes that they rise out of their graves and show themselves unto many (cf. Mt. 27:52-53).

Presuppositionalist Brian Knapp, in his paper “Induction and the Unbeliever,” makes the damning concession that, according to Christianity, nature is not absolutely uniform (cf. The Portable Presuppositionalist, p. 140). He has to do this given Christianity’s insistence on the notion of “miracles” – i.e., interruptions to the “normal order” of things resulting from a supernatural being’s choices to alter that “normal order.” But if nature is not absolutely uniform, then it makes no sense to speak of nature as uniform at all, especially if it is forever subject to revision by an invisible magic being. If nature is not absolutely uniform, then one must allow for exceptions to everything one considers an expression of uniformity. One might suppose that dogs do not write Chinese poetry. But given that the Christian god can make its creation do whatever it wants, and since it created Chinese, poetry and dogs, it could put these into any combination it wants. And since believers claim that everything their god does is "rational" and according to a "plan," they need not see such proposals as inherently absurd or proposterous, any more than they consider Jesus and Peter walking on unfrozen water absurd or turning water into wine preposterous.

Dave continued:
Secondly, I feel as though you are trying to ascribe an eschatological position to me which I do not personally hold, namely the dispensational school of pre-tribulational rapturism. I don’t expect that Jesus is coming back “soon” not until all His enemies become the footstool of His feet (Ps.110:1; 1 Cor.15:25; Heb.10:12-13). Furthermore the book of Revelation does mention that Christ is coming “soon” but this was a judgment coming of Christ upon the house of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (I’d refer you to “Before Jerusalem Fell.” K en L. Gentry).
Dave’s response here only highlights internal conflicts within Christendom. It also underscores the variability with which different believers interpret certain passages. The gospel narratives document how many Christians of the late first century believed that Jesus was going to return to judge the world; many believed that it would happen during their own lifetimes. When this did not happen as expected, this belief was reinterpreted in a variety of ways: some began to believe that it would happen in the future while others massaged the texts so as to make it appear that Jesus had already returned in one way or another. Many modern-day pop apologists have interpreted the events of 70 A.D., i.e., the fall of Jerusalem, to entail a “fulfillment” of promises of a return. Against this view, many still believe that Jesus will be returning in the future. Still others have even different interpretations, such as that there never was to be a “second coming” after all.

Such varieties of interpretations only point to the vagueness and ambiguities within the texts themselves. I need not “ascribe an eschatological position” to Dave personally, and indeed I am not doing this at all. It’s up to him to determine what he believes. In the statement to which Dave was reacting, I was only going by a plain reading of the Book of Revelation (to the extent that a plain reading of this bizarre, indeed “trippy” text is possible), which most scholars date to about A.D. 95 (well after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70). It seems conspicuously anachronous to suppose that Revelation’s promise of Jesus’ words to “come soon” would refer to events that have already taken place, but I realize that Christians find very creative ways to make bible verses mean what they want them to mean (the old “that’s what it says, but that’s not what it means”). A good example of this is Jesus’ requirement that his followers “hate” their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses, even their own lives as a condition of discipleship (cf. Luke 14:26). Believers often try to “soften” such stipulations to mean something along the lines of “love less.”

The book by Gentry which Dave cites can be found in PDF form here. Gentry characterizes Revelation’s mentioning of Jesus’ return as a judgment of Jerusalem occurring in 70 A.D. largely by arguing that Revelation was written prior to this date (the so-called “Neronic dating” since this view holds that Revelation was written during the reign of Nero). No doubt many Christians find it persuasive (which does not say much: once one accepts arbitrary premises, additional arbitrary premises will always hold some persuasive weight in his worldview). That Christians find it necessary to produce such arguments itself suggests a theological need, namely to quell doubts about Jesus’ alleged “second coming.”

In response to Gentry’s thesis, Mark L. Hitchcock argues for the later date of A.D. 95-96 (which most modern scholars hold) in his Ph.D. dissertation The Defense of the Domitianic Date of the Book of Revelation (2005), which interacts extensively with Gentry’s book.

But Dave’s retort against the common interpretation of Revelation’s “behold, I come quickly” misses the larger point. The issue under discussion is the uniformity of nature and how one can know the future. Dave has repeatedly pointed to his belief in a god as serving somehow as his epistemological method for this. And yet, that same belief grants that the Christian god can do anything it wishes. For example, it can send a worldwide flood; it can speak through a burning bush; it can allow men to walk on unfrozen water; it can wither a fig tree; it can raise dead people from the grave; it can turn water into wine, etc., all by wishing. Nothing in “the created realm” can stop it from doing whatever it wants, and “miracles are at the heart of the Christian position” (Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 27). If an invisible magic being can revise reality at will, even if it chooses not to, the assumption that it can only causes havoc to inductive generalization and forecasting. Nothing Dave offers in defense of his god-belief overcomes this fatal deficiency plaguing his worldview’s epistemological implications.

Dave writes:
Nowhere in the bible does God say He will demolish the world.
In Mark 13:31, Jesus is made to say “heaven and earth shall pass away.” This is repeated in Matthew (24:35) and Luke (21:33). Who or what gets to speak for Christianity: Dave McPhillips or the bible itself?

Dave wrote:
We don’t await the destruction of the world but the restoring and renewing of it.
I suppose that depends on which Christian one consults on the matter. I have personally known dozens (if not hundreds or more) who expect a “rapture” involving the instantaneous removal of “the saints” to heaven and then a period of increasing mayhem and turmoil culminating in a dramatic end. The popular Christian novel series Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins plays explicitly on this view. Dave believes differently. No doubt Dave’s infallible when it comes to biblical interpretation. But again, by focusing on such matters Dave shows that he’s missing the broader point in all this, which (again) he never overcomes.

I wrote:
You don’t even try to persuade me here.
Dave replied:
Your right, I don’t. It’s not my job to persuade you
This only raises the question: What exactly is Dave’s purpose in commenting here at my blog? He’s not trying to persuade me; indeed, he’s made no progress in doing so. He has already conceded the ultimate subjectivism of his worldview’s metaphysics, so it’s clear that he has no solid ground to stand on. He does not demonstrate an attitude suggesting that he is eager to learn. So what exactly does he hope to accomplish here?

Dave continued:
but there is a difference between proof and persuasion.
That may very well be the case. But if Dave thinks he has presented an actual proof in his comments here at my blog, what exactly does he think he’s proven? He does not say.

Dave wrote:
I cannot invoke psychological persuasion within you, what you take to be persuasive is subjective.
How does Dave know that what I “take to be persuasive is subjective”? He asserts this, but he presents no indication of the basis on which he would affirm such a statement. Indeed, if what I take to be persuasive were subjective, he’d have a much better chance of peddling his god-belief here successfully, for only if I were persuaded by subjective notions would there be any chance of this (since god-belief is itself subjective).

Dave wrote:
People can be persuaded by poor argumentation or even lack of evidence
Yes, indeed that is true. Christians, for example. That is why it is important to have an objective starting point, something which the Christian worldview not only lacks, but which is inherently anathema to Christianity as such.

Dave wrote:
but proof is objective
Which is just one of the many reasons one will never be able to prove Christianity is true.

I had written:
Using an objective means of knowledge (i.e., reason) to discover the nature of an entity is not question-begging.
Dave responded:
My question is what objective means of knowledge do you use to discover the nature of reason?
The answer here should be obvious: Reason is the objective means by which we use to discover the nature of reason.

Once we begin to discover and identify anything by means of reason, reason itself – as the method by which we discover and identify things – becomes available as an object of study. Should we then abandon reason as the means by which we study reason? Clearly, if reason is the proper methodology for studying things in the world, then reason is the proper means if studying reason itself, for this is the only methodology proper to man's mind. Science is the systematic application of reason to some specialized area of study. Epistemology is the science that studies the nature of knowledge. As a science, epistemology must apply reason systematically to the area of knowledge itself, including the means of acquiring, validating and applying knowledge, which is reason itself.

To be continued…

by Dawson Bethrick

1 comment:

Ydemoc said...


You wrote: "If an invisible magic being can revise reality at will, even if it chooses not to, the assumption that it can only causes havoc to inductive generalization and forecasting. Nothing Dave offers in defense of his god-belief overcomes this fatal deficiency plaguing his worldview’s epistemological implications. "

Not to mention what the bible says about other invisible magic beings (evil spirits, demons, Satan) and all the havoc they are capable of causing. In fact, it didn't take me long to find this question posted on Yahoo!:

"Did Satan plant the transitional fossils to fool us into believing in evolution?"

Crazy stuff.

That Dave and other apologist would even make the kind of claims they make in defense of such an absurd notion (i.e., their god underwriting uniformity), would seem to be just as you put it in a recent thread: nothing more than "...[them] leading [themselves] through a pitch black labyrinth and using [their] blindness as [their] guide."