Problems with Deism

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Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
Ad Populum is a fallacy if and only if the popularity of X is irrelevant to its truth-value. This, of course, could conceivably be a point of contention here.
So when popular opinion agrees with the truth it is valid, but when it doesn't it is fallacious? Since it has no bearing on the veracity of a thing, it appears to be quite irrelevant either way to me, but then I'm just a mundane...
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
So when popular opinion agrees with the truth it is valid, but when it doesn't it is fallacious?

I'm not saying that. I'm saying that in a debate with a serious proponent of one of these views, one might have to defend your position. My point was simply that if the truth-value of proposition X is, in fact, determined by popular opinion, then an Argumentum ad populum is not fallacious. I don't think that there are such facts, but many do, so one cannot take for granted that an argumentum ad populum is always fallacious.
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
Not necessarily fallacious, given that you haven't demonstrated why an objective fact of the matter apart from anyone's judgment is absolutely necessary.

Then too, many are content to live with a vague answer to this question.

Well, it is fallacious if they have no other method by which to determine what true morality is. Obviously no one would make the claim that simply because the majority believe something to be right means that it is. There must be some other method by which something is justified as being right. Some other appeal must be made to some other source (other than man). If man is the source, it will always crumble.

I agree that many people are content to live with a vague answer. But that doesn't mean they are being fully critical of their own position. Many people live day by day without asking 'why?' about anything. They simply do not care (but they will when they stand in judgment).

By denying naturalism, thus solving the epistemic conundrum that natural selection would place us in if naturalism is true.

Unless of course the god of deism just sets up everything and then lets everything run naturalistically.

Because it solves the epistemological problem in a way that most forms of atheism couldn't.

But who cares? The god of deism might solve such a problem, but if there is no revealed moral law or standards, people can live however they want, depending on their own relative definition of 'right' and 'wrong'.

Tu Quoque. This is as much an objection to Christianity as to deism or atheism---in fact, I daresay that in terms of acting out their beliefs (however disjointed those beliefs would be if they were systematic, which they often aren't trying to be), atheists and deists are much more consistent than most Christians.

They are consistent in acting out their beliefs, but the system itself by which they live and in which they believe cannot be justified consistently. I agree that many Christians are inconsistent, but the Christian system of morality is not.

So? Proposition A may be consistently incorporated into system x or system y. This is like arguing that "Professor MacGuffin's new widget can't possibly work because he used a part from Dr. Jones's perpetual motion machine." Does using an idea that I read in Duns Scotus make me any less of an Occamite in my understanding of universals?

It simply depends on whether you are jumping from one foundation to another. This happens all the time. Many people 'like' certain things about Christianity, but not everything. Christianity is good for things such as 'love your neighbor as yourself', but not so good regarding its stance on homosexuality. They have a worldview that borrows from various systems the things that it likes, but cannot justify itself in any way. One day they might say that society determines right from wrong, but another day they agree that the majority is not always right morally. Which one is it?

You are, in other words, assuming internalism with regard to justification. That is, in order for belief X to be justified, I have to have a belief Y to explain it (I don't believe this, by the way; if an epistemology rules out the belief in Christ of the down syndrome man at my church, it is false). The question is not whether one can come up with an internally self-consistent theory---for that, I recommend Leibniz or Berkeley. Perfectly logical and self-consistent---also great jokes on philosophers who take them seriously.

I don't necessarily mean 'justified' in that way. By the way, we also look for both internal and external consistency. Something must also correlate with what we see in the universe around us. Just because something is internally logical and consistent does not mean that it matches up with reality. A system that claims itself to be true needs to satisfy all areas. That is what I mean by justified. If God is the source of logic, knowledge, morality, etc., then a worldview that seeks to ignore God completely will fail in one of those areas (external consistency, internal consistency, and logic).

But seriously, how do we justify a belief? If I have belief X, what justifies it? I am justified in belief X if I have sufficient warrant for that belief (that is, my faculties are properly functioning).

But how do you know your faculties are properly functioning? What consitutes sufficient warrant? And you might believe whatever you want, but the question is: is it true?

I believe that all men, as per Romans 1, have the law of God written on their hearts, and therefore they are competent to make moral judgments, and therefore are justified.

Yes, men make moral judgments all the time. Furthermore, God restrains the wickedness of men every day. Yet unless they are made regenerate, they are operating from a point of rebellion against God, and a suppression of his knowledge. That is how they interpret the world around them. Any attempt on their part to TRY and build a system of morality that does not find its source in God is an effort in futility.

Is this necessarily consistent with the metaphysical story they tell themselves about it? No. But your metaphysical system has nothing to do with whether you are, in fact, competent to make moral judgments (and therefore justified in doing so).

But it has to do with the very foundation of your worldview and system of morality. They make moral judgments all the time, and quite often they are wrong. But when they try to define 'good' and 'evil' apart from God, they will never be successful. If they were truly critical of their position (if they stopped suppressing the truth) they would see the error of their ways (but that is up to the Holy Spirit to open their eyes).

The whole point of this is to say that you have to take each deist and each atheist individually. Because each one has a unique account of morals or whatever you wish to discuss. But neither or these bare propositions constitutes anything resembling a system.

Yes, but there are general principles that all deists or atheists affirm or live by. All atheists by definition share the belief that there is no god. Well, there are certainly arguments/discussions/conclusions that necessarily come from this, that we can address (universally). Yes each one has his own quirks, but they (atheist) all adhere to a common foundation (there is no god) which can be addressed (aka. common ground).
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
But who cares? The god of deism might solve such a problem, but if there is no revealed moral law or standards, people can live however they want, depending on their own relative definition of 'right' and 'wrong'.

So? I don't see anything in the propositions of deism that is an attempt to answer this question. Deism as such is not necessarily interested in this question (honestly it depends on the deist) because it is a purely metaphysical proposition. It is not a totalizing worldview that is attempting to answer every question.

The thing you have to get out of your head is that "deism" denotes a fully-fledged worldview. It does not. It denotes a small set of propositions intended to answer a specific set of questions.

A system that claims itself to be true needs to satisfy all areas. That is what I mean by justified.

Define "satisfy" here. Is it possible to have a justified false belief?

But how do you know your faculties are properly functioning?

Do I have good reason not to assume that they are? The burden of proof is on the skeptic.

Yet unless they are made regenerate, they are operating from a point of rebellion against God, and a suppression of his knowledge. That is how they interpret the world around them. Any attempt on their part to TRY and build a system of morality that does not find its source in God is an effort in futility.

Ok---and what does this have to do with justification, exactly? Rebellious man is still competent to make moral judgments, therefore he is warranted in doing so. Again, your justification for a belief or judgment may be independent of whether you can give a philosophical account of it. Bertrand's moral judgments deserve to be taken seriously even if his metaphysics undermines the very notion of morality.

But it has to do with the very foundation of your worldview and system of morality.

No it doesn't. Justified beliefs are justified no matter what fairy tale you tell to explain them away. Bertrand knows that there is a tree outside regardless of his explanation of how that works. Bishop Berkeley's knowledge of the tree is still justified, even if he denies that he knows it!

You believe this too, by the way. You believe that Bertrand knows God, and that that knowledge is justified no matter how much he denies that he knows it and however much he doesn't believe it and however much it doesn't work in his system.

All atheists by definition share the belief that there is no god.

True. This is, in fact, the only belief that all atheists share. It is logically possible that there could be two atheists who disagreed on everything except this point.

Yes each one has his own quirks, but they (atheist) all adhere to a common foundation (there is no god) which can be addressed (aka. common ground).

Why do you say that this is a foundational belief? Most atheists go through some chain of reasoning to reach the conclusion that there is no god, which would make the belief second or third-order, not foundational. True, this belief might end up being the basis for a philosophical system, but philosophical systems are usually second-order beliefs anyway.

This is one place where Christianity is unique: Christians know God as a basic belief because their minds are renewed and what Calvin calls the sensus Divinitatus has been restored to proper function as part of regeneration.
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
So? I don't see anything in the propositions of deism that is an attempt to answer this question. Deism as such is not necessarily interested in this question (honestly it depends on the deist) because it is a purely metaphysical proposition. It is not a totalizing worldview that is attempting to answer every question.

I agree.

The thing you have to get out of your head is that "deism" denotes a fully-fledged worldview. It does not. It denotes a small set of propositions intended to answer a specific set of questions.

But it is a fundamental pillar of one's worldview. It is one's understanding of how all creation came to be, and what that means for me and you. It colors everything.

Define "satisfy" here. Is it possible to have a justified false belief?

Well, if someone makes a truth claim, there are several things that must necessarily follow from that (if it is true). First, what they are advocating should be logical, not illogical. It also must be consistent internally and externally. If something is true it is not going to have a problem in those areas. If something is false, that might come up at some point in the analysis.

Now, I understand that people don't have all the information. Many people make judgment calls and decisions based on very limited information. So yes I believe that a person can be in a situation where they jump to a conclusion that ends up being false, because they didn't have enough information. Now, it is debatable whether that 'jump' was warranted or not. Some people won't make that jump, whereas others are very quick to jump to conclusions.

A quick example could be the idea that the sun revolves around the earth. Based on limited knowledge and a limited perspective, one could see how people would feel perfectly justified in saying that the sun goes around the earth, even though they ultimately are wrong.

BUT, there is a difference between that type of 'justification' and justifying/validating/accounting for a moral system. Morality encompasses not just what 'is' but what 'ought' to be. When you ask someone to construct a theory on what 'ought' to be, you are asking them to present a worldview. They might say that anyone 'ought' to be able to marry anyone else regardless of age, gender, or biological relation. This is where the 'why' question is so important. You can ask a person what their foundation or basis for that conclusion is.

Are people ever justified in making a moral system that is ultimately wrong simply because they lack information? Romans 1 and 2 tells us that they don't lack information regarding morality, and so are without excuse. Naturally people are in rebellion against God, and so any discussion of what 'ought' to be involves them denying that God is the final judge, and the source of morality. Their attempt to provide a moral system while keeping God out of the picture can only fail. It either won't be able to account for how the world really is (such as those worldviews that argue that humans are naturally good), or it won't be internally consistent and logical (such as those worldviews that argue that society determines right from wrong, or that 'happiness' is the ultimate goal).


Do I have good reason not to assume that they are? The burden of proof is on the skeptic.

Who says the burden of proof is on the skeptic? I would certainly say that a person could not fully function without making some general assumptions about the world around him. But any attempt to explain 'why' aside from God is wrong, and will end up being futile. The only rational explanation is one that involves God as a necessary being. Any explanation without God will be irrational.

Ok---and what does this have to do with justification, exactly? Rebellious man is still competent to make moral judgments, therefore he is warranted in doing so. Again, your justification for a belief or judgment may be independent of whether you can give a philosophical account of it. Bertrand's moral judgments deserve to be taken seriously even if his metaphysics undermines the very notion of morality.

Of course people make moral judgments all the time. But their explanations can be tested for internal and external consistency, as well as logic. I disagree that justification for a moral belief is independent of being able to account for it (making a moral claim is different than making an epistemological claim). It is a general 'grounding' principle. A person can say that they believe all people with genetic disorders should be exterminated. But when we ask why they have this belief, and why THEIR belief is the correct one, we can analyze their arguments and look for that consistency and logic (grounding/foundation).

No it doesn't. Justified beliefs are justified no matter what fairy tale you tell to explain them away. Bertrand knows that there is a tree outside regardless of his explanation of how that works. Bishop Berkeley's knowledge of the tree is still justified, even if he denies that he knows it!

He assumes that there is a tree outside. I am not saying he has to ask himself why the tree exists, but he can ask himself 'how' he knows it exists. Does he 'know' it simply because his eyes tell him that it is there? Well, the eyes are not always right, and can be tricked with illusion. So there are times when the eyes are wrong. So how does he truly 'know' it exists? You can get to the root of an issue by asking someone what warrant or basis they have for holding the belief that they do. They should know why they believe something.

You believe this too, by the way. You believe that Bertrand knows God, and that that knowledge is justified no matter how much he denies that he knows it and however much he doesn't believe it and however much it doesn't work in his system.

But his denial is not justified. He 'ought' not deny God. I agree that he knows God. Yet every time he makes a moral claim apart from God, it can be taken apart by showing a lack of consistency or logic. Just ask him what his foundation is for whatever moral beliefs he has. Ask him what 'good' and 'evil' are, and how he knows that.


True. This is, in fact, the only belief that all atheists share. It is logically possible that there could be two atheists who disagreed on everything except this point.

Ah, but if they disagreed on everything you would be able to see where each of them was not being consistent with the fundamental principles that they hold to. The foundation for their entire outlook on life is their rejection of God. That is why you will see similar effects in other areas of thought and practice. You can apply the same principles in dealing with one atheist that you can apply when dealing with another atheist, although you might be applying them in different areas.


Why do you say that this is a foundational belief? Most atheists go through some chain of reasoning to reach the conclusion that there is no god, which would make the belief second or third-order, not foundational. True, this belief might end up being the basis for a philosophical system, but philosophical systems are usually second-order beliefs anyway.

Well, their foundational attitude is a hatred and rebellion against God. In the case of the atheist this suppression of truth has resulted in them declaring themselves atheists. It is at this point that they build their entire worldview. Consider the current attitude of many in the homosexual 'community'. Their sexual behavior governs their life, and that is how they identify themselves. They are so much enslaved to their sin that it is the lens by which they see everything else in relation to them. Atheism is similar. It is a type of 'religion' to people, who live every day hating God (such as Richard Dawkins). Any discussion on causality, morality, the origins of life, the meaning of life, natural laws, or even epistemology is going to be colored by, and based on, their adherence to atheism (the simple premise that God does not exist). It defines their life and who they are.

This is one place where Christianity is unique: Christians know God as a basic belief because their minds are renewed and what Calvin calls the sensus Divinitatus has been restored to proper function as part of regeneration.

I agree completely. All other worldviews are the results of a mind that is not renewed. Those worldviews (systems of thought) will at some point ultimately break down if analyzed for logic and consistency. Christianity never will.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
But it is a fundamental pillar of one's worldview. It is one's understanding of how all creation came to be, and what that means for me and you. It colors everything.

For you as a Christian, yes. But for a deist, god may just be an object among other objects.

Well, if someone makes a truth claim, there are several things that must necessarily follow from that (if it is true). First, what they are advocating should be logical, not illogical. It also must be consistent internally and externally. If something is true it is not going to have a problem in those areas. If something is false, that might come up at some point in the analysis.

Ok, here's my question: how do you know if it is consistent internally? You've set a criterion here where I can often tell if a position is inconsistent with itself. The problem is that I never have absolute certainty that a position is consistent, because there may be a fallacy that I just didn't notice.

Consider Galileo: his contention about the earth revolving around the sun is correct. However, his critics very rightly pointed out that the methodology he used to reach that conclusion was flawed and that his calculations were wrong. In other words, he was right, but completely by accident. So here was a true belief that turned out to be inconsistent with his other true beliefs.

BUT, there is a difference between that type of 'justification' and justifying/validating/accounting for a moral system. Morality encompasses not just what 'is' but what 'ought' to be. When you ask someone to construct a theory on what 'ought' to be, you are asking them to present a worldview.

No, you are asking for them to present a meta-ethical system that may or may not have a connexion to the way their ethic actually functions in practice. A.J. Ayer was a highly moral man, even though he believed theoretically that ethical statements are merely emotive.

Who says the burden of proof is on the skeptic? I would certainly say that a person could not fully function without making some general assumptions about the world around him. But any attempt to explain 'why' aside from God is wrong

But that's not what we're talking about with regard to justification (which I am using in the epistemic sense in every case, by the way). The burden of proof is on the skeptic because skepticism is not the default position. Ordinary common-sense credulity is the default position.

I disagree that justification for a moral belief is independent of being able to account for it (making a moral claim is different than making an epistemological claim).

All moral claims are epistemic in nature, just as all factual claims are epistemic in nature. I think what you mean is "justification in terms of a meta-ethical theory of morality."

He assumes that there is a tree outside. I am not saying he has to ask himself why the tree exists, but he can ask himself 'how' he knows it exists.

But what if (like our friend Descartes) he denies that he knows that there is a tree outside. I maintain that he knows it regardless of his claims about it.

Yet every time he makes a moral claim apart from God, it can be taken apart by showing a lack of consistency or logic.

But you know as well as I do that the meta-ethical story he tells about that belief is not how he came to make the claim. He came to make the claim because of his moral sense. He may deny that he has such a sense and may deny its maker, but the belief may be warranted nevertheless. I maintain that justification is pre-philosophical.

The foundation for their entire outlook on life is their rejection of God.

And this, I maintain, is the difference between us: you say that the rejection of God is the foundation. I say it is the conclusion. Rebellion precedes denial and is itself the basis for the denial.

Those worldviews (systems of thought) will at some point ultimately break down if analyzed for logic and consistency. Christianity never will.

Is there a completely consistent Christian theologian? The problem with making a claim like this is that it's a Russell's teapot (or the "no true Scotsman" fallacy). If someone points out a flaw in someone's theology, you say that then that point isn't truly Christian. The problem is that every theologian (and every Christian) is going to make these mistakes and so what you end up arguing for is not Christianity, the incredibly hard-to-follow religion followed by terribly messed-up people who need grace as much as those outside the church, but instead for the platonic "Christianity-as-perfect-philosophical-system."

I will say this and say it again: Christianity is not a system among other systems. It is God drawing a Covenant people to Himself. The fact is that we aren't given the answer to every question and don't have a silver bullet argument or method that is capable of silencing every critic. What we have is the Son of God made flesh.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
As it stands, though, all of this has very little to do with topic at hand, which is the rather generic and (frankly) boring thesis of deism.
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
For you as a Christian, yes. But for a deist, god may just be an object among other objects.

Perhaps, but I am not sure why a deist would hold that position unless it actually meant something important to him.

Ok, here's my question: how do you know if it is consistent internally? You've set a criterion here where I can often tell if a position is inconsistent with itself. The problem is that I never have absolute certainty that a position is consistent, because there may be a fallacy that I just didn't notice.

Remember, there is a difference between looking for consistency regarding a simple epistemological claim, and a moral claim. A moral claim specifically is focusing on what 'ought' to happen, not necessarily what 'is'. Whenever anyone makes a moral claim, they always have a reason for believing it. The question next is: what is their source of authority for determining what is right and what is wrong? Do they look towards society to give them guidance? Majority vote? A parent? Or God?

Consider Galileo: his contention about the earth revolving around the sun is correct. However, his critics very rightly pointed out that the methodology he used to reach that conclusion was flawed and that his calculations were wrong. In other words, he was right, but completely by accident. So here was a true belief that turned out to be inconsistent with his other true beliefs.

But again, you are talking about simple epistemological claims, not moral claims. Galileo was not making a moral claim to 'right' and 'wrong'. Perhaps he believed that there was no such thing as 'right' and 'wrong' (but if that was the case then he really has no leg to stand on when expecting 'justice' or when getting upset over what someone did to him).

No, you are asking for them to present a meta-ethical system that may or may not have a connexion to the way their ethic actually functions in practice. A.J. Ayer was a highly moral man, even though he believed theoretically that ethical statements are merely emotive.

But why the inconsistency? Did he ever think about why he behaved the way that he did, or why certain things were 'good' or 'bad'? Yes there are plenty of people who act contrary to their beliefs. I have several atheist friends who are generally nice people (or at least nice to those who are nice to them). They do have a certain set of moral beliefs. One of my friends thinks that everyone should have the right to marry whoever they choose (so long as it doesn't hurt anyone). He is perfectly fine with changing the definition of marriage. Yet from here we can actually discuss where he gets his moral beliefs from, and why he has them. Can he truly give an account for his beliefs? Does his rationale devolve into logical fallacies? Is he inconsistent in that he jumps from one source of morality/authority to another simply because it is convenient for him to do so?

But that's not what we're talking about with regard to justification (which I am using in the epistemic sense in every case, by the way). The burden of proof is on the skeptic because skepticism is not the default position. Ordinary common-sense credulity is the default position.

And I am using justification in a moral sense, not an epistemic sense. Ordinary common-sense is the default position simply because it is easier to function that way (no other reason than simple convenience or pragmatism). Yet when asked 'how?' or 'why?', the only correct answer is one that involves and incorporates God as a necessary being.

All moral claims are epistemic in nature, just as all factual claims are epistemic in nature. I think what you mean is "justification in terms of a meta-ethical theory of morality."

A moral claim is different than a factual claim. Yes moral claims involve epistemology in some sense (they are connected), but they are not interchangeable. That is why justification in an epistemological sense is different than in a moral or ethical sense. Because you see, a person can have justified false beliefs regarding some epistemological claim (like Galileo). As knowledge increases a person can improve their beliefs regarding how the universe functions. Yet we know from Scripture that ALL men have no excuse regarding their suppression of truth and rebellion against God, which is primarily moral/ethical in nature (although it also has epistemological consequences).

But what if (like our friend Descartes) he denies that he knows that there is a tree outside. I maintain that he knows it regardless of his claims about it.

He only knows it because God has revealed it to him, and granted him that knowledge (through various means, such as sense perception). You maintain that he knows it, but if someone asks you how or why, you can only shrug your shoulders if you are unwilling to mention God.

But you know as well as I do that the meta-ethical story he tells about that belief is not how he came to make the claim. He came to make the claim because of his moral sense. He may deny that he has such a sense and may deny its maker, but the belief may be warranted nevertheless. I maintain that justification is pre-philosophical.

He came to make the claim because he is a rebel against God. His belief is not warranted. When he stands before God he will not have an excuse for why he denied his maker. He will make up all kinds of excuses, but God will not accept them. He even thinks that he is warranted in his beliefs (atheists feel that God has not given enough proof of his existence). Scripture tells us that God has indeed given plenty of proof. Their thinking, their reasoning, is all subject to their natural rebellious will. They can reason, but they do not reason rightly.

And this, I maintain, is the difference between us: you say that the rejection of God is the foundation. I say it is the conclusion. Rebellion precedes denial and is itself the basis for the denial.

But we are talking about the same thing. The 'rejection of God' I mentioned is synonymous with their rebellion against God (I used the terms rejection and rebellion interchangeably, and perhaps I should not have done so, since obviously it confused you). I agree that rebellion is the VERY first thing. In the case of the atheist, their rebellion has manifested itself into actually denying that God exists.

Is there a completely consistent Christian theologian?

Jesus

The problem with making a claim like this is that it's a Russell's teapot (or the "no true Scotsman" fallacy). If someone points out a flaw in someone's theology, you say that then that point isn't truly Christian.

Not at all. You don't just say that someone isn't truly a Christian because they made a theological mistake. You look at Scripture, hermeneutics, exegesis, etc. Furthermore, we as Christians recognize that God's word is sufficient, and that God is not 'mistaken' or 'confused'. God has not given us a theological system that has holes in it, or that is inconsistent and unreasonable. We as people make mistakes. So when I refer to Christianity being perfectly consistent, I am talking about the system itself, not any one person.

The problem is that every theologian (and every Christian) is going to make these mistakes and so what you end up arguing for is not Christianity, the incredibly hard-to-follow religion followed by terribly messed-up people who need grace as much as those outside the church, but instead for the platonic "Christianity-as-perfect-philosophical-system."

But Christianity IS a perfect philosophical system (as you yourself likely believe). Are you saying that it is not? Do you believe that there is no such thing as a perfect philosophical system? Has God revealed a flawed system to us? Yes we ourselves are flawed, but I think it would be wrong to conclude that the system itself is therefore flawed.

I will say this and say it again: Christianity is not a system among other systems. It is God drawing a Covenant people to Himself. The fact is that we aren't given the answer to every question and don't have a silver bullet argument or method that is capable of silencing every critic. What we have is the Son of God made flesh.

I agree with you that it is God drawing a covenant people to himself. But that is also a system (which includes historical facts and moral claims). I never said that we have been given every answer. And I never said that we have a silver bullet argument (I challenge you to find one place where I made this claim). Nor did I say that I could silence every critic. All of these statements you just made completely misrepresent my position. I agree that we have the Son of God. And I also believe that we have a sure foundation for our moral claims and our epistemological claims. The foundation of all other systems crumble.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
But why the inconsistency? Did he ever think about why he behaved the way that he did, or why certain things were 'good' or 'bad'?

Yes he did, that's my point: his actual moral opinions turned out to be irrelevant to his meta-ethical considerations. His reflections on his own behavior turn out to be false---and his actual moral behavior turns out to be unconnected to his metaethics.

He only knows it because God has revealed it to him, and granted him that knowledge

So all knowledge is revealed? That's a controversial statement, even in Reformed Theology! That's straight-up Gordon Clark.

Regardless, he knows it. Whether he has a metaphysical or meta-ethical theory to explain it, the fact is that he knows it.

He came to make the claim because he is a rebel against God. His belief is not warranted.

Now here you just flat-out missed my point. My point is that his God-given moral sense gives him sufficient warrant to make moral claims regardless of whether he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness or not. He is made in the image of God and that stands, despite his rebellion.

Here's what I mean: for moral claim X, he believes it on the basis of his moral sense. He then tells a post hoc story about it (meta-ethics). All philosophical speculation is of this nature, therefore the warrant for the belief is independent of the story you tell about it.

God has not given us a theological system that has holes in it, or that is inconsistent and unreasonable. We as people make mistakes. So when I refer to Christianity being perfectly consistent, I am talking about the system itself, not any one person.

Which Christian system? Asks the skeptic. I don't agree that God has given us a theological system. Theological systems are a post hoc reflection on Biblical revelation and while this is good and right, we cannot pretend that it is the same thing as Revelation. Remember that any argument you give is your words and your reflection on Scripture.

I'm not anti-systematic (far from it, I'm looking to do studies in systematic theology!), just honest about the limitations of systems. Christianity is not a system among other systems. It is God revealing Himself and drawing us to Himself. God has not revealed a system to us: He has revealed Himself to us.
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes he did, that's my point: his actual moral opinions turned out to be irrelevant to his meta-ethical considerations. His reflections on his own behavior turn out to be false---and his actual moral behavior turns out to be unconnected to his metaethics.

Then why did he have those moral opinions? What were they grounded in?

So all knowledge is revealed? That's a controversial statement, even in Reformed Theology! That's straight-up Gordon Clark.

Huh? Do you not agree with Romans 1?:

Romans 1:18-19 (NASB)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

My point was simply that God has made this evident to them. And yes, we do not know anything unless it was God's purpose for us to know it. Certainly God has implemented various means by which we come to gain knowledge. But it is a revealed knowledge. So in a certain sense all knowledge is indeed revealed by God. We certainly see this with regards to salvation. Not everyone is given knowledge of Christ, and many pagan nations were not given the Law that God had given to Israel. So yes, what we as humans know has ultimately been revealed to us by God through various means (such as sense perception). We should thank God each day for that.

Regardless, he knows it. Whether he has a metaphysical or meta-ethical theory to explain it, the fact is that he knows it.

But on what basis does he actually believe it?


Now here you just flat-out missed my point. My point is that his God-given moral sense gives him sufficient warrant to make moral claims regardless of whether he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness or not. He is made in the image of God and that stands, despite his rebellion.

I think I am uncomfortable with your use of the term 'warrant'. Please define this term as you are using it. I would say that his God-given moral sense gives him sufficient ability to make moral claims, even though they are often quite wrong (because he does not look to God for guidance). I agree that he still remains in the image of God, which is why I believe in his ability to make moral claims. But every time he makes a moral claim that is not ultimately grounded in God, he himself is not standing on any solid ground.

Here's what I mean: for moral claim X, he believes it on the basis of his moral sense. He then tells a post hoc story about it (meta-ethics). All philosophical speculation is of this nature, therefore the warrant for the belief is independent of the story you tell about it.

Define moral sense? People might believe the exact same thing for completely different reasons. And some people have a completely different moral sense than others, where they stand on completely opposite sides of another person. What do you mean by 'he tells a story'? He might explain why he believes what he does, but if he is going to try to argue for the existence of 'good' and 'evil', he will never be able to do so consistently and logically without grounding himself in God. You say the warrant for his belief is independent of the story (even though they are clearly connected). Yet I am saying that his 'use' of his God-given moral sense is itself flawed and without foundation. He has taken the moral sense that God has given him, and he says he can function logically and consistently without any reference to God. Whether inadvertently or on purpose, he strives to show that God is not a necessary being.

Which Christian system? Asks the skeptic.

The Christian system espoused in Scripture.

I don't agree that God has given us a theological system. Theological systems are a post hoc reflection on Biblical revelation and while this is good and right, we cannot pretend that it is the same thing as Revelation.

Well, Revelation has come to us in a coherent manner. It is a system because it is a story that incorporates all of human history from beginning to end. The story itself is correct, logical, and consistent with itself (and with the world around us). Do you disagree?

Remember that any argument you give is your words and your reflection on Scripture.

Would you agree that a person can have a correct understanding and reflection of Scripture? Would you agree that there is such a thing as correct exegesis and hermeneutics?

I'm not anti-systematic (far from it, I'm looking to do studies in systematic theology!), just honest about the limitations of systems. Christianity is not a system among other systems. It is God revealing Himself and drawing us to Himself. God has not revealed a system to us: He has revealed Himself to us.

You keep making it seem like I am denying that God has revealed himself to us. I never will deny that he has. Would you please define 'system' for me as you are using the term? We seem to be miscommunicating on that. If you want we can discuss the term 'worldview' as well. God has indeed revealed himself to us. God has shown what he has done, what he wants us to do, and what is going to happen. This forms an entire system or 'way' of thinking and viewing the world. We view the world differently as Christians than when we were unbelievers. Our attitude changed, and hence our entire way of thinking changed. We became a 'new' creation, with a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone. The man who can see has an entirely different view of the world than the man who is blind. They will both come to different conclusions because they have different starting points. They have different starting points because one is regenerate and the other is not. Anyone who wishes to make moral claims about the world without starting with God will ultimately end up with an inconsistent, illogical view of the world. He cannot justify it because he is trying to do the impossible (separate himself entirely from the fact that God is a necessary being).
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Then why did he have those moral opinions?

Because he had moral sense as a result of being created in the image of God.

And yes, we do not know anything unless it was God's purpose for us to know it. Certainly God has implemented various means by which we come to gain knowledge. But it is a revealed knowledge.

I think we are differing here over the definition of revelation: revelation, as I understand it, is always God revealing Himself. Revelation is not God revealing that there is a tree. It is God revealing that He created the tree. Citing foreordination as evidence that all knowledge is revealed is pure confusion of categories. If all knowledge is revelation, then no knowledge is revelation, because part of the whole point of the category is that revelation is an extraordinary thing.

But every time he makes a moral claim that is not ultimately grounded in God, he himself is not standing on any solid ground.

Moral claims are grounded in a moral sense which is grounded in God. This holds true regardless of what fairy tale the unbeliever tells about what's actually going on when he makes a moral claim.

People might believe the exact same thing for completely different reasons. And some people have a completely different moral sense than others, where they stand on completely opposite sides of another person.

Indeed. Christians have this problem as much as anyone else.

Yet I am saying that his 'use' of his God-given moral sense is itself flawed and without foundation. He has taken the moral sense that God has given him, and he says he can function logically and consistently without any reference to God.

Ok---I think I see what you're saying. What I am saying is that alln usage of moral sense is pre-philosophical. Philosophy is an attempt to explain the grounding, but is itself independent of the grounding.

Here's the example: suppose that John learns to program computers---he becomes an expert at all software problems. At the same time, he forms the belief that computing is based on moclecular mice which crawl around inside the wiring. Now, if you're right about warrant and justification, then John really doesn't know how to program computers. Yet it seems odd to say that, given that John is capable of getting rid of your viruses and creating better versions of your software.

Whether inadvertently or on purpose, he strives to show that God is not a necessary being.

Yes. He wants to cut off the limb on which he is sitting. My point is that his tool is a butterknife and is incapable of doing it, therefore he does, in fact, have grounding. You seem to think he's done it and is like a philosophical Bugs Bunny who defies the law of gravity because "I never studied law."

The Christian system espoused in Scripture.

A huge in-house debate among Christians.

Well, Revelation has come to us in a coherent manner. It is a system because it is a story that incorporates all of human history from beginning to end. The story itself is correct, logical, and consistent with itself (and with the world around us). Do you disagree?

I disagree that it's a system. A system (in the philosophical sense) is encyclopaedic, not narrative. Calvin's Institutes would be my standard for what constitutes a theological system. Systems are a way of organizing theological reflection on Scripture, but they are not the same thing.

Would you agree that a person can have a correct understanding and reflection of Scripture? Would you agree that there is such a thing as correct exegesis and hermeneutics?

Yes. He also has to be humble about it.

This forms an entire system or 'way' of thinking and viewing the world. We view the world differently as Christians than when we were unbelievers.

Absolutely we do. No question. But Christians are going to disagree with each other, and do so all the time. And one can have a complete Christian systematic theology with all the theological ducks in a row and still be a cold-hearted man dead in sin. The point here is not to say that the deist or the atheist has problems in their system: the point is to point them to Jesus Christ the God-man. It's to show them a glory of the Gospel in Christ crucified and raised. Are there theological implications? Sure. Can we organize them systematically? Sure. But that isn't the same thing as saying that Scripture constitutes a theological system.

I guess the main problem is that in all the discussion you have apologetically, Jesus rarely makes an appearance. You'll find many discussions of morality---but Christianity isn't about morality, it's about redemption. If I find an atheist who is very moral, my response shouldn't be to undermine his moral sense and point out logical contradictions---it's to call him to repent of self-righteousness and trust in Christ and His righteousness.
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
Because he had moral sense as a result of being created in the image of God.

Yes but even though everyone has a moral sense they all don't come to the same conclusion. So how did he come to the conclusion he did using his moral sense?


I think we are differing here over the definition of revelation: revelation, as I understand it, is always God revealing Himself. Revelation is not God revealing that there is a tree. It is God revealing that He created the tree. Citing foreordination as evidence that all knowledge is revealed is pure confusion of categories. If all knowledge is revelation, then no knowledge is revelation, because part of the whole point of the category is that revelation is an extraordinary thing.

But you would have to agree that if God did not want us to know something, even something so simple as it being an aspect of creation, we would not know it. Our knowledge in that sense is revealed to us by God. We do not know things that God does not want us to know.

Moral claims are grounded in a moral sense which is grounded in God. This holds true regardless of what fairy tale the unbeliever tells about what's actually going on when he makes a moral claim.

But the unbeliever misuses the moral sense that he has. He has an understanding of right and wrong, but he twists/suppresses it for his own purposes. His error is in the twisting (how he uses the moral sense that God gave him).

Indeed. Christians have this problem as much as anyone else.

But the Scriptures do not present a problem with itself, or with anything else that God has revealed. We see harmony and consistency in this, which is always absent from other worldviews in some sense and at some place.

Ok---I think I see what you're saying. What I am saying is that alln usage of moral sense is pre-philosophical. Philosophy is an attempt to explain the grounding, but is itself independent of the grounding.

What do you mean by pre-philosophical? He has to give a reason why he uses moral sense the way he does, and none of his reasons will ever be fully consistent or logical. He selects anything but God to ground his usage of his moral sense in.

Here's the example: suppose that John learns to program computers---he becomes an expert at all software problems. At the same time, he forms the belief that computing is based on moclecular mice which crawl around inside the wiring. Now, if you're right about warrant and justification, then John really doesn't know how to program computers. Yet it seems odd to say that, given that John is capable of getting rid of your viruses and creating better versions of your software.

The first thing is: on what basis has John come to this conclusion? The second thing is: this is not a moral statement. John is not coming up with some sort of moral system by which he determines how things 'ought' to be. He is dealing within the purely epistemological realm, not the ethical/moral realm.

Yes. He wants to cut off the limb on which he is sitting. My point is that his tool is a butterknife and is incapable of doing it, therefore he does, in fact, have grounding. You seem to think he's done it and is like a philosophical Bugs Bunny who defies the law of gravity because "I never studied law."

I don't quite agree with your analogy. The unbeliever is making moral claims regarding how things 'ought' to be. Now, regardless of how silly his claims are, he always has a reason for holding them (whether he was raised that way, or he likes to go with the majority vote). Everytime he tries to defend his understanding of morality, he will always be reduced to making a logical fallacy or being inconsistent with himself (or the world around us). If we ask him to define 'good' and 'evil', all attempts on his part, however clever will ultimately be reduced to absurdity and fallacy. God, being a necessary being, is necessary for the existence of 'good' and 'evil'. There is no way to define 'good' and 'evil' in any consistent, logical way, without being grounded and making reference to God.

A huge in-house debate among Christians.

But you agree that there is a true and correct meaning and interpretation of Scripture, right? Or do you think that certain things will never be properly interpreted?

I disagree that it's a system. A system (in the philosophical sense) is encyclopaedic, not narrative. Calvin's Institutes would be my standard for what constitutes a theological system. Systems are a way of organizing theological reflection on Scripture, but they are not the same thing.

A system is a way in which multiple things are interconnected. For instance, we call the system we live in the 'Solar System'. We do this because the various bodies of planets are all inter-related, affecting each other in a harmonious fashion, centered around a single star or point of centrality. There is order and inter-connectedness. In the same way, Christianity is a system because there are various things that affect and relate to each other, centered around the person and work of Christ. Various theological doctrines (such as TULIP) are all related to each other, and affect each other. It is an entire system, a way of life and a way of thinking.

Yes. He also has to be humble about it.

I agree, but humility is not the same thing as saying that there can be no correct interpretation.

Absolutely we do. No question. But Christians are going to disagree with each other, and do so all the time.

Not because of any fault or error in Scripture, but because of the mistakes of humans.

And one can have a complete Christian systematic theology with all the theological ducks in a row and still be a cold-hearted man dead in sin.

Nope, because he won't even believe in that system, nor will he agree with it. If he is dead in sin he will never accept Jesus as Lord (apart from the grace of God), which is part of the Christian system of beliefs.

The point here is not to say that the deist or the atheist has problems in their system: the point is to point them to Jesus Christ the God-man. It's to show them a glory of the Gospel in Christ crucified and raised. Are there theological implications? Sure. Can we organize them systematically? Sure. But that isn't the same thing as saying that Scripture constitutes a theological system.

But that is what I do. I do point them to Christ. But consider for a moment that at the very same time you point to Jesus, you are inherently deconstructing and critiquing their existing worldview (a worldview that is the result of a sinful heart). Consider the claim that you make when you declare that the unbeliever must repent and believe. They ask: "Why must I repent?" You then say: "Because you have sinned against God." They then could easily ask: "What is sin, and why should I believe your definition of it?" If you talk about 'good' and 'evil', you can show them what God has revealed in Scripture. Yet you can also show them that God is not irrational, illogical, or inconsistent. We certainly don't believe that Scripture contradicts itself regarding the law of God. But when the unbeliever puts forth his OWN system of morality (as a challenge/alternate to Christianity), there will be problems/foundational errors that you can show and discuss. There will be inconsistencies with his worldview at a fundamental and foundational level. Perhaps he will recognize the weakness and wrongness of his position, and repent of his sins. Perhaps he will keep denying it and rebelling against God. That is in God's hands.

I guess the main problem is that in all the discussion you have apologetically, Jesus rarely makes an appearance. You'll find many discussions of morality---but Christianity isn't about morality, it's about redemption. If I find an atheist who is very moral, my response shouldn't be to undermine his moral sense and point out logical contradictions---it's to call him to repent of self-righteousness and trust in Christ and His righteousness.

Not true my friend. You honestly cannot make that claim, because you have never sat in on my conversations with unbelievers. You and I have had conversations, but I am not trying to witness to you, so therefore I am not trying to point you to Jesus (because I know you are already a believer). But you have never met me, nor have you ever listened to me share the gospel with an unbeliever. I use a two-pronged approach. I present Jesus while at the same time attempting to get them to see the weakness and error (flimsiness) of their position. Show them Christ, and show them the NEED for Christ. You certainly must call the atheist to repentance. But if you are unable and unwilling to ever demonstrate that his position is untenable in the first place, you are not using all the tools available. He might truly believe that his system is perfectly logical and consistent, and that he really does not need to change his position by accepting Jesus. Why not simply use all the tools available? You already know as a believer that he is putting his faith and trust in the wrong things. Inherently that will present opportunities to show him just why his position is not strong at all, but that it is built upon lies. We as Christians can witness in a variety of ways: by our actions and by our words. We can speak to the emotional part of a person or the logical/rational part of a person. There are any number of techniques we can use, and we should not limit our methods so long as they are Biblical.

Anyways, I must bow out of the conversation for now, since I am going away from now until Monday morning. I will not be able to respond until then. It has been a fun mental exercise with you as always. Perhaps one day we might actually agree on something ;) God bless!
 
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