Cosmological Argument

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The next Vox Apologia is on the cosmological argument for the existence of God, and I happen to have some ready-made notes on it from back when I taught a course that included it as a topic, so I've decided I might as well post them and submit it as an entry. These notes were last modified September 21, 2001, so they may not reflect my current thought. I'm not editing them at all. Also, I should say that my presentation depends heavily on William Rowe's work, most importantly the short article he wrote for introductory courses that appears in Reason and Responsibility, ed. Feinberg and Shafer-Landau, with one reference to the other text we used in that course, Jan Cover and Rudy Garns's Theories of Knowledge and Reality (abbreviated TKR).

It�s easy to get lost in the details of the cosmological argument. This handout focuses on the main structure of the argument while sorting through the details of each part.

The argument relies heavily on the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), which requires and explanation for any actual thing or any fact. William Rowe�s criticism of the argument amounts to saying that we have no reason to believe PSR. I will save this discussion for the end. For now, let�s take it to be a reasonable principle (if for no other reason than to see what follows).

Given PSR, there are two kinds of beings -- dependent beings and self-existent beings. Dependent beings would be just about anything you come across in ordinary experience and lots more -- rocks, trees, houses, people, stars, electrons, etc. For something to be a self-existent being, its own nature has to provide the explanation for why it exists. God has traditionally been offered as a good candidate for a self-existent being, since traditional theology has always taken God to be necessary and self-existent.

The argument first shows that it cannot be that there are just dependent beings, even if they go infinitely back into the past. Samuel Clarke, G.W. Leibniz, and others who endorse this argument will be perfectly happy to concede that dependent beings have always existed, with no beginning, with each explained by earlier dependent beings. They can then still ask why there are any dependent beings at all. This infinite series into the past does not answer that question, which leaves us having to offer another solution -- there must be some being that is not dependent, and that being can provide the answer to the question why there are any dependent beings. If PSR is true, then this is in fact the only kind of answer that would do the trick.

Here is a valid argument that reflects this kind of reasoning:

(1) every being is either dependent or self-existent
(2) not every being can be a dependent being therefore, there is some self-existent being

If PSR is true, then (1) is true, because the only other possibility would be for a being to be without explanation, and PSR rules that out. Similarly, if PSR is true, (2) is true, since there is no way to explain why there are dependent beings by simply adding more dependent beings. Some other kind of being needs to exist, and the only other kind of being is a self-existent being. The conclusion logically follows (disjunctive syllogism -- see TKR 20).

Objection: a collection of dependent beings isn�t itself a dependent being
Response: but that doesn�t mean it doesn�t need explanation. Why is there such a collection? Why are there any dependent beings? If PSR is true, we still need an explanation for that.

David Hume�s Objection: explaining the parts is all you need to explain the whole
Response: Hume sees no difference between these two things:

explaining all the dependent beings by explaining each dep. being
explaining all the dep. beings by explaining why there are any

But there is a difference between those two kinds of explanation. Just doing the first doesn�t explain why there are any dependent beings.

Objection: Doesn�t Hume�s objection give us an account of why we might think that the Universe itself is self-existent? Then the conclusion of the argument is true, but it doesn�t give us anything like the traditional theistic God.
Response Part 1: Suppose that is right. This commits us to a certain view about the universe, namely that it is the sort of thing that couldn�t fail to exist. It means it is false to say that there might not have been a universe. This is certainly not a conclusive argument, but many philosophers want to avoid this conclusion.
Response Part 2: Suppose you are comfortable with that conclusion. Do we really have an explanation for why there are any dependent beings at all? Being self-existent simply because your parts are all explained still doesn�t give an explanation of why there are any such parts. The traditional conception of God explains it more fully. It's God�s nature to exist. God is the sort of thing that has to exist, but God is also viewed as a creator. Would we see the universe as a creator in the same way? It's hard to see how, which might leave us thinking that the universe as a whole doesn�t serve as the kind of explanation that God does.

William Rowe: What�s wrong with having just one brute fact -- something with
absolutely no explanation -- and what if that fact is just the existence of dependent beings? Then there�s no reason why any dependent beings exist. The question is meaningless (like the question of where the universe is or when the timeline is). This would mean that PSR is right about individual beings but not for the whole.
Theist: Don�t we sort of assume it all the time? It seems intuitively true.
Rowe: That doesn�t mean it�s right. We�re often wrong about principles that seem right.
Theist: But don�t claims that seem intuitively true deserve the benefit of the doubt unless we can come up with good reason to think they�re false?
Rowe: If it�s intuitively true, then why do many philosophers doubt it?
Theist: They don�t have any evidence to doubt it. They just claim that they don�t have any evidence for it.
Rowe: It�s called begging the question when you assume a premise that guarantees what you�re trying to prove, and there�s no reason to believe PSR, so the argument begs the question. Don�t assume anything that will guarantee what you want to prove.
Theist: Since it seems intuitive, and we rely on it all the time, why not assume that it�s true? That�s completely independent of the God issue, so it�s not begging the question. In fact, to dismiss a principle that seems intuitively true (and we also happen to rely on) without argument just because you want to resist the conclusion that God exists seems to be begging the question the other way. If you deny PSR because you don�t believe in God, isn�t that just as bad? So you are doing exactly what you accuse the theist of doing. You deny the principle to avoid theism, and the theist affirms the principle to prove theism.

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56 Comments

One of my criticisms of the Cosmological argument is that it does not posit Trinitarian theism. Therefore, the god of the cosmological argument is no god at all. Why, because it is the God of Christianity that is back of everything.

That's a pretty unfair criticism, though. The argument doesn't purport to establish Christian theism, so saying that it doesn't is basically ignoring the issues. The claim that it's a failure because it doesn't support a stronger conclusion simply ignores what it might establish if it's a sound argument (as I think it is). I can't understand why any Christian would be so unconcerned with truth as to dismiss any argument that doesn't establish the entirety of truth, as if any argument could. If a reasonable conclusion can be supported, why not acknowledge it unless you're biased against the conclusion, which no Christian should be?

It may help to notice that the idea of dependence, even in order to be called dependence, relates to another. Just think about the word means. If we deny the existent o the independent, we lose the very dependency of dependence.

A similar example is the case of art. Every artifact is related to an artisan. Even if we were to posit that this macine were made by that machine, and that machine by another, etc, we come no closer by this process to expaining one essential reason why we call it a "machine" at all, sc. that it proceeds from the mind of an artisan.

To deny the possibility of the independent is not to leave us with a string of dependents, but to lose the very reason why we are able to call something "dependent" in the first place. The question is not whether dependency can have an infinite regress, but whether dependency as such can exist at all. Those who might think that a dependent only requires another, and that this "another" can be satisfied by positing another which is dependent, are confounding the distinction between "this depenent" and "dependency considered as such".

But causal dependence doesn't itself rely on the notion of an intent. Something can cause something else while being completely mindless. This argument by itself doesn't show anything about a designer's intention.

Oh yes, the number of things that this argument doesn't show are legion. It also doesn't show that the cause cares, is one, is eternal, is knowing, is good, is true, is desireable, is immaterial, is the end of man, is omnipotent, is outside of time, etc. I say, as a Thomist, that's what the rest of the Summa is for! We need five or more proofs for the existence of God because all of them come in handy down the road, and each one shows us something different about the existent being "that all call God."

Jeremy Pierce states:
"That's a pretty unfair criticism, though. The argument doesn't purport to establish Christian theism."

That is not my point. I know what the cosmological argument purports and does not. My contention is...that because it is an argument that posits a different god (a false god), Christians should not use it, as it is stated in its normal form.

Then your argument is just fallacious in a different way. Here's your argument with all the suppressed premises needed to establish your point.

1. The cosmological argument does not establish that God has properties A, B, C, D, and E.
2. Christianity teaches that God is A, B, C, D, and E.
3. If an argument fails to teach that God is A, B, C, D, and E then it denies that God is A, B, C, D, and E.
3. Therefore, the cosmological argument denies what Christianity teaches about God.
4. If an argument denies something true of God, then it teaches a false god.
5. Therefore, the cosmological argument teaches a false god.

It's a valid argument. If all the premises are true, the conclusion will follow. The only problem is that two of the premises are false, one obviously false. I won't dwell on why premise 4 is false. I've talked about that in two posts linked to from here. It's a tricky point that requires some philosophical training to grasp, but the main point is that saying false things about God is saying false things about God, and therefore it's not saying things about a false god. I don't need to rely on that, because there's a more obvious reason your argument is fallacious.

The premise that's just obviously false is 3. Acknowledging that some things are true without also acknowledging some further things just simply doesn't amount to denying those further things. You just simply haven't said them in this context. Similarly, you can argue for a number of points in an argument but not not argue for further things that you still think are true. That doesn't even come close to denying them, because you can believe them all along. You just haven't tried to argue for them. So even if saying something false about God means you're not saying those false things about God, which I won't grant (see the linked to posts above), that doesn't mean the cosmological argument teaches a false god simply because it doesn't talk about everything you can say about God. It simply argues for the things within its scope.

To Mr. Downs,

Why in the world would you expect a proof for the existence of something to tell you everything that is true about it?

again:

The argument given in the post shows that a certain being is the cause of the existence of all dependent things. This being is, therefore, the creator. Are you claiming that Christianity denies that God is the creator?

Shulamite states:

The argument given in the post shows that a certain being is the cause of the existence of all dependent things. (emphasis mine)

Who is the "a certain being" that the cosmological argument shows "is the cause..."?

The argument shows that there is a being that is the explanation for the existence of all dependent things. The argument is simply silent on who or what that being is. Your claim is that it says more than it says, apparently. Saying that there is such a being does not tell you anything else about that being.

Now Christians should say that, given other things we believe, that being is God. The only being we believe to exist who fits the characteristics that the argument says something must fit is the God of the Bible. You're insisting that such a situation is somehow impossible, because you're assuming that the cosmological argument denies a whole bunch of things that it's simply silent on.

Brother Jeff,

I think it is important to acknowledge that there is not a single argument can convince someone of The Living God. But what may be known of God is evident�namely His power and sovereignty. Now, these characteristics can be found in any deity that is claimed to be the all-powerful creator, that is true. But like a scientist, it is merely one piece of the broader puzzle. There are other arguments which point to different aspects all of them making up a mural of what the Living God might look like. From the shadow you can point at the reality. It�s only a method, but I wouldn�t deny it because it doesn�t argue for every facet of the multifaceted Living God.

First, I already mentioned that I am not presuming the cosmological argument should or is giving more than it should. I'll say it one more time, as going back and forth like this, especially when I have clearly denied what you (shulamite) are putting in my mouth.

Second, I mentioned twice, why I as a Christian do not feel that the cosmological argument is adequate for the Christian to use. This of course is my opinion and certainly not the opinion of the majority of today's apologists.

Real quick, why do I think along these lines: 1. because Christianity is not piece meal - it a worldview. 2. God is not generic. The cosmological argument gives us a generic God...at best. 3. Any other God then the God of the Bible (Triune God) is no God at all. It is this (particular) God who is back of everything. 4. I try not to separate my apologetic from my theology.

Rey, I don't think arguments win people to Christ although, no doubt God has used these for that purpose.

If you want one argument, it would be...the impossibility of the contrary.

I'm working on a paper that might be of interest. This should be complete by June, as I will be presenting the material at a conference.

4. My apologetic is not separated from my apology, and my apologetic is not the cosmological argument. It's a common presuppositionalist rhetorical technique to pretend classical apologetics is an argument. It's not. The classical approach to apologetics is to consider all the various contributions to apologetics as a coherent picture, and this will include the life of believers who demonstrate the gospel through holy living. It will include the presentation of the gospel in propositional form. It will include interaction with nonbelievers to understand where they're coming from, to learn what presuppositions they have, to seek ways to undermine those presuppositions through argument from principles that can be agreed upon. It will include figuring out what obstacles to faith someone might have, whether volitional, intellectual, or emotional, and praying that God will open up those areas to further scrutiny, performing a work of regeneration without which faith is impossible, but also seeking to be willing to be an agent of part of that change if the obstacle in question also contains an intellectual issue that's providing the last roadblock to trust. It will involve explaining misunderstandings of Christianity and why they misrepresent what the Bible teaches. It will involve defenses of key Christian teachings against arguments that seek to show contradictions or conflicts with reason. It will give support for propositions that are part of the Christian worldview that not everyone believes. That last element is one place the cosmological argument can occur. It's a complete straw man of the classical apologetical picture to pretend that this use of the cosmological argument is not part of a larger apologetical framework.

Besides, the argument isn't just apologetics. It's philosophy, which seeks to discover what we can know through reason. If we can know this through reason, it's more idolatry not to acknowledge it than it is to recognize that truth.

3 is irrelevant. No one is here supporting a being that isn't the God of the Bible. I'm certainly not. I think the cosmological argument tells us something about God, just not everything that the Bible tells us about God. Presuppositionalists claim that that's idolatry, but only if it's idolatry for Isaiah in one place only to talk of God's knowledge of the future without saying in that same speech that God is also a God who saves, etc.

2 is ambiguous. If you mean that the cosmological argument proves that God is merely generic and is not a being who has further characteristics, then your claim is just false, as I've explained already. If you mean that the cosmological argument doesn't prove the specific things about God that Christianity holds, you're right, but that doesn't lead to any ethical reason not to include it in one's larger apologetical structure.

1. No one is suggesting that the cosmological argument proves Christianity. Your first point above is meaningless unless the claim is that the argument proves Christianity. It's a support for a thesis that Christians believe that others deny, and if it's a good argument it will show people that there's at least one worldview that they can't hold. It's pure foolishness to ignore truth if our reasoning can lead us to it, but that's the approach you seem to be taking. If we can't state the whole Bible in every interaction with someone, then we're idolatrous? I don't think you mean that, but that seems to me to be the upshot of what you're saying.

Jeremy states:
"No one is here supporting a being that isn't the God of the Bible. I'm certainly not. I think the cosmological argument tells us something about God, just not everything that the Bible tells us about God. Presuppositionalists claim that that's idolatry..."

I have been looking for this sort of thing for sometime Jeremy. Perhaps you can point me in the right direction as to who in the pressup. camp has made these types of statements (besides myself). I know they believe it...but I have not really found much in the way of writing.

Looking forward to some quotes.

The people I've heard it from aren't major players. One's just a friend of mine, and the other is just someone I've interacted with over a music discussion list. I'm assuming they're saying what others have said, but I'm not sure which major figures they got it from. I'm not in close touch with either one at the moment, but I can see if I can find the information you're looking for.

"Presuppositionalists claim that that's idolatry"... "The people I've heard it from aren't major players."

Don't you think when you state something like the former, people would get the impression you are speaking about people who are writing, speaking, etc... (i.e. the major players)? Why would any Christian disagree with that fact that "any other God, is no God at all."

When the word "God" is used, there has to be some content to it. This is not some vague general non-defined deity that Christians, Oprah Winfrey, Buddhist, Mormons, etc.. all speak of.

Because every fact of the universe points to our particular God...He gives life, breath and everything (Acts 17:25)...the fact that there is a cause (the cosmo. argument) behind the universe is legitimate, but only because (this particular) God is back. The use of this argument should be put in Christian terms when used by a Christian. You know very well that the cosmo. argument can be used by other religionist.

My understanding was that the major players did say this. That was the impression I got from the people I'd interacted with. I didn't get it directly from the sources, though. I've asked someone who has lots of materials on this to research it further. He said it might take him a day or two.

I'm not disagreeing with the fact that any other God is no god at all. I'm disagreeing with the claim that someone who says something false about God is thus not talking about God. If it's something false about God, then it's God that the person is talking about. I believe most Mormons are talking about God. They make claims about the God the Bible speaks of. Therefore, when they say anything false, they say it about God. They believe some things about God that are drastically different from what I believe, but I do think there's a historical connection with God through their use of the Bible. The same is true of Muslims, who stand in the tradition of the Bible and then say that some things it says about God are false.

If I refer to someone across the room as the women with the red shirt with the champagne in her glass, and as it turns out the shirt isn't red but orange, and it's a transvestite man and not a woman, and he's got wine in his glass, I still referred to him. I just did it with an expression that involves content that was entirely wrong. What fixes the reference is something other than that content. The same is true of the name 'God' as it's used in English. Theologians dispute the properties God has, but their reference is still to the same being, and whether their claims are true depends on what's true about that one being.

Most people who have used the cosmological argument believe that its conclusion is a partial support for the existence of God. It would be disingenuous to claim more of it than it establishes, i.e. that it supports particularly Christian claims that go beyond its conclusion, just as it's disingenuous to claim that it establishes less than it claims, i.e. that because it doesn't establish the full biblical picture of God it doesn't establish anything about God.

OK, I have one link for you from John Robbins, who makes the claim flat out that these arguments are idolatrous. The guy who found this for me says Van Til and Clark won't use that term, and he doesn't like Bahnsen much, so he doesn't know about him.

Schaeffer, and Platinga both endorse the Cosmological argument as one portion of a sound basis for belief.

Just for that reason alone, I won't even bother trying to knock it :D

Jeff, buddy - you're splitting hairs. Well, shaving them - multiple times - with a dull razor.

Trust me, I recognize it!

Seriously, though - Jeremy's point is that logic brings us to a certain point, with this argument.

Give me a complete, absolutely bulletproof argument for every single quality God possesses, all at once - and your argument would hold weight.

You're sounding like the atheist who tells me that "the burden of proof lies on the theist, since he says something exists in the first place".

Not only that, he goes on to say that the burden of proof, for every single thing said to exist about God, is also squarely on my shoulders, and all he has to do is sit there, and wait for me to prove it all - after all, I claimed all these things - I should be able to prove them *all*, right now. Right?

That's the argument you're trying to make here.

That an argument for a certain aspect of God must contain *every* aspect of God, simultaneously.

Not going to happen, man. I know what you mean - but I don't think it's correct, or even logical, to expect ANY argument made by man, to man, to match the utter perfection you're expecting from an argument.

Your expectations are a bit whack, to be blunt. I still love ya though :D

RK, I have no idea where you are going with the majority of your post and your discussion of me sounding like an atheist, etc... So, on those point, I'll pass.

"Give me a complete, absolutely bulletproof argument for every single quality God possesses, all at once - and your argument would hold weight."

Umm, did you read why I do not like the cosmological argument. It had nothing to do with the attributes of God...my main critique (which I'm working through) has to do with the fact that the cosmological argument...which is used as a proof for God's existence...will not lead you to the God of Christianity.

Let's maybe take this into another direction and perhaps we'll get somewhere.

Is the existence of God, epistemically certain according the classical proofs (cosmological argument being one of them)?

No more or less certain than with the classical proofs as they're reworked into transcendental arguments by presuppositionalists.

This doesn't answer my question. Let me state it without the qualifiers..."Is God's existence certain?"

All I'm looking for in this is a straight answer: yes or know. I know how other proponents (e.g. Moreland) of the classical arguments would answer the question.

Jeremy, I do not have the schooling you do in philosophy, but it seems that everytime you write something, it reveals that you are less and less knowledgable about presuppositional and transcendental reasoning. I mean, I understand you know are not familiar with this since you don't have the time to put into something you have deemed unworthy.

RK, I have no idea where you are going with the majority of your post and your discussion of me sounding like an atheist, etc... So, on those point, I'll pass.
"Let me es'plain... no... let me sum up..."

I have no idea where you're going with the point that the cosmological argument doesn't posit Trinitarian Theism.

There IS no common apologetic strategy, at this macro level, which does. Not ontological, not cosmological, not anything - except presuppositional. Which is why Jeremy has you in his crosshairs as a presuppositionalist, I'd wager.

The cosmological argument is simply a restatement of "the heavens declare the glory of God". That's it. Since the cosmos exists, there must be a Creator. It's a jumping-off point for more specific arguments, not a wrap-up-everything-into-one-package argument.


'Give me a complete, absolutely bulletproof argument for every single quality God possesses, all at once - and your argument would hold weight.'

Umm, did you read why I do not like the cosmological argument. It had nothing to do with the attributes of God...

Like, say... that He is a Trinity? That's the entire point. The cosmological argument is NOT a Christian argument - it is an argument meant to lead the atheist, or the humanist, to admit that a God must exist.

The fool says in his heart, there is no God. To force them to admit there is a God is step #1. Step #2 is to take them from that point, to the God of the Bible. It's a different philosophy of argument. Presuppositional apologetics starts from the presupposition that God exists, and is the God of the Bible. This is way before that point. In order to even have a conversation about God with someone, you have to first establish God's existence, first and foremost. (At least in this school of apologetics)

my main critique (which I'm working through) has to do with the fact that the cosmological argument...which is used as a proof for God's existence...will not lead you to the God of Christianity.
Exactly - it doesn't. It's a "setup" argument. It leads to other arguments, which more precisely define this God. Paul, in Athens, pointed out the statue of of the Unknown God - this is similar to that argument. "Men of Athens, what you worshipped in ignorance, we now proclaim to you".

That's the further arguments - the proclaiming. In the cosmological argument, you paint in flaming letters, across the skies, that God exists. That is the usefulness of the cosmological argument - and no more, in my opinion. Once you have established the existence, and necessity of a God, you can THEN define Him (as well as He can be defined...)


Let's maybe take this into another direction and perhaps we'll get somewhere.

Okie dokie.

Is the existence of God, epistemically certain according the classical proofs (cosmological argument being one of them)?

Yes, it is self-evident. As is God. However, convincing men of this is sometimes problematic. This all goes back to my earlier point. Who is your audience? Is the apologetic directed to the right person?

"because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

It's self-evident. However, pointing that out to someone is sometime more problematic than we'd like to admit. Thus, arguments like the ontological argument, or the cosmological argument.

God exists, period.

But. I will submit for your review that it is absolutely certain that we are absolutely fallible, absolutely not omniscient, and have absolutely no clue as to the exact, complete nature of God. There is no certainty, when arguing from human reason, for any statement we make. For us to say we are absolutely certain is to deny our own fallibility, and to deny the uniqueness and singularity of God, as the only perfect Being.

I don't get your statement. How can we claim to know anything certainly? The only Being who knows, certainly, that God exists, is Himself.

So? No. We don't.

God does, and He says He exists - thus, God exists. Because He says so, not because I am certain of it.

Jeff: I have a suggestion. You seem to be taking a rather interesting view of how we're reacting. I wasn't calling you an atheist. I was saying that you are basically requiring everything God is to be on the table, at once, to have an argument at all.

A logically progressive (and I mean that in the real meaning, not the "progressive" political one) argument must progress from somewhere. The cosmo argument is a good starting point to jump off from.

You start with "This is why God exists", and progress to "Since God exists, He must be (this, this, and this, etc.) ...", then you progress further to "Since God is this, this, this (etc.), the only God who can really be God is the God of Christianity."

It's a logical building block, which leads to the introduction of the God of Christianity. No argument is fully developed, "out of the box". I don't see why you're trying to require a VERY basic, building block argument to contain all of the elements of Christian Theology, when it is not only unsuited for it, but is only an "opener" argument, suited solely for laying the groundwork.

I just don't get your requirement at all. Every other argument must have it's foundation upon another, simpler argument. If you progress logically back along the path any argument takes, there will be an exceedingly basic argument beneath it, which posits the God of Christianity no more than this one does. However, that does not mean it is neither valuable, nor useful for the purpose it is used in.

To lay the groundwork for further discussion. That is all it is. To ask more of a very, very basic argument, that is logically sound, but limited in scope, seems silly. Which was why I used the atheism example. An atheist who throws every objection he's read on "100 reasons to reject Christianity" at you, in the first 5 minutes, is no different, it seems - he wants you to answer everything, answer it now, and to heck with those pesky things like logical progression, ordering, sequence, and the like...

It just seems silly to ask the question you're asking, about the argument we're discussing.

I know what a transcendental argument is. The only difference between a transcendental argument and any other is that a transcendental argument makes some claim that we presuppose a certain fact in our thinking in other places or in our practices in other ways. If presuppositionalists are using the term in an idiosyncratic way and outside the standard usage, then maybe I don't understand it, but I'm talking exactly about what Kant called transcendental arguments.

Answering your question about certainty would require a good deal of epistemology, and I can begin to sketch my views here. No argument is certain, because any argument has a premise you can deny. Deductive arguments have conclusions that follow from the premises with certainty, but you can deny a premise. This is true of deductively valid transcendental arguments.

Inductive arguments don't have a valid structure to them, i.e. the conclusion only follows with great likelihood. Most of our ordinary reasoning is of this sort. Such arguments can be resisted more easily if someone really wants to hold a higher standard, because the conclusion is less certain even if we admit the premise, and thus someone who really doesn't want to believe the conclusion can simply point out that it's not guaranteed, and if they have further reason for being unsure of the conclusion then they'll simply deny it. Transcendental arguments that are inductive are like this as much as any other inductive arguments are.

I've just read through Welty's discussion of Frame and Van Til, and I think he's picking up on the point I'm making about what he's calling traditional vs. presuppositonal arguments. He starts to lose his grip on their distinctness for similar reasons to what I've been saying, but he's approaching it from the opposition direction. I'm not sure I agree with him on some of his claims, but I think he's made a good start in the right direction.

As for knowledge itself, I think it's been shown in the past twenty years of epistemology that Descrartes' identification of knowledge with subjective certainty is just a mistake. Knowledge doesn't usually involve subjective certainty. It certainly doesn't in the case of believing in tables and chairs, because of Descartes' own evil demon skeptical scenario, because his own response to that doesn't seem to get him out of his argument. Yet as we use the word 'knowledge' in English whatever it is that we have is knowledge. What seems to me to be the best answer to these questions is captured in the contemporary view reliabilism. If a processs gives us true beliefs through a sufficiently reliable process (i.e. the process will tend to give true beliefs in general), then the resulting state of belief is indeed knowledge. This doesn't require any sense of certainty, however.

Now I say we can know God's existence by means of genuine interaction with God. If prayers, study of the word, interaction with God's people, worship, etc. are genuine interaction with God, i.e. genuinely knowing God, then it's real knowledge of God. This can occur without certainty, as if obvious from the people who know God but who occasionally have doubts. Do arguments bring such certainty? No. Do they ever lead to knowledge? I think so, but I don't think any set of arguments will justifiably lead to the all the main theses of Christianity and the gospel with certainty. That's why I think the evidentialist claim is hopeless if it's put that way (though I don't think it's always put that way). At the same time, the claim by some evidentialists that apologetics is just about giving reasons that are good bets misses the bigger picture of what an apologetic is, as I said above in the April 13 12:40 pm comment.

I would say this just as much about transcendental arguments as any other argument, so it doesn't put presuppositionalists in a better position than anyone else. It's arguments themselves that are only a piece of a much larger apologetical framework that concedes that arguments don't fully support Christianity to begin with. So my contention is that no apologetic construed purely in terms of arguments can lead to certainty, though I do think a sound argument that leads to a conclusion that's true of God can lead to knowledge that a being with that property exists. Transcendental arguments do exactly that, and only when they're brought together with other considerations can they hope to contribute toward a general apologetic.

That was elegantly said, Jeremy.

I just thought I'd tell you that. I enjoyed reading it.

(I still love ya Jeff... I just happen to agree with Jeremy :D)

RK: "elegantly said"

Humm, I'll get to some of the points later. My question was never answered. Are you certain about God's existence? Perhaps I missed the answer somewhere.

I can tell you J.P. Moreland believe that kindness, laws of logic, etc... are more certain than God's existence. So, I just wondering where you guys are coming from.

RK: Can you tell me what/who you have read (if anything) on presuppositional apologetics?

My next post will be the last on this issue. I'm entirely too busy to continue to respond like this...I hope you all understand.

I think RK said it better than I did, though I thought it was there. We're fallible human beings and can't really have absolute certainty about anything. We have genuine knowledge of God, however, if we are genuinely in relationship with him.

I think we have a greater degree of subjective certainty of the laws of logic than we do of God's existence, but I'm not sure we can even be absolutely certain of those. There are some pretty serious objections to classical logic from some pretty smart people, and I'm not sure what I think about them, because I don't know of any decent responses except maybe the blank stare argument if that counts as a decent argument. It probably has some force, but I don't know if it's strong enough to get beyond those arguments, because I haven't studied it at length.

I don't know about kindness. Do you mean moral truths? I think we believe they're false all the time whenever we break them, so it's hard for me to see that as subjective certainty that they're true.

I understand about not being able to keep it up. I can't either, but I just feel compelled to respond whenever someone comments and I disagree with it.

Humm, I'll get to some of the points later. My question was never answered. Are you certain about God's existence? Perhaps I missed the answer somewhere.
Mine: "There is no certainty, when arguing from human reason, for any statement we make. For us to say we are absolutely certain is to deny our own fallibility, and to deny the uniqueness and singularity of God, as the only perfect Being."

Jeremy's: "No argument is certain, because any argument has a premise you can deny. Deductive arguments have conclusions that follow from the premises with certainty, but you can deny a premise. This is true of deductively valid transcendental arguments."

Basically, we both said that the very fact that we are NOT omniscient makes any supposed claim to "certainty" impossible. Only God can be absolutely certain. So, only God knows, with certainty, that He exists.

Pretty much a standard bill of fare for the philosopher du jour. Jeremy much more than I, but I dabble in it quite frequently, if not expertly.


I can tell you J.P. Moreland believe that kindness, laws of logic, etc... are more certain than God's existence. So, I just wondering where you guys are coming from.

Jeremy dealt with this in pretty good detail, in his latest post, so I'll skip it. I'll leave it at this. The laws of logic are based on our own fallible interpretation of what we have deduced of the world around us - and, thus, subject to error.

When dealing with subjective things, such as kindness, it gets even muddier. I disagree with J.P. Moreland in this instance, actually. Mostly because of the "kindness" issue, sans more explanation of what you/he mean by that term.

RK: Can you tell me what/who you have read (if anything) on presuppositional apologetics?
Mostly a layman's knowledge of it. You start at a point past a logical argument for the presupposition you are using for your argument - you imply the "if" in the if/then statement.

I may be wrong, of course - or there may be multiple schools of presuppostional apologetics which include this - in which case I would not disagree - however, using a presupposition as a starting point seems a bit of an exercise in futility, as the type I tend to debate are not fond of presuppostions, in any form (unless it is there own). I challenge theirs, support mine, and the argument progresses from that point. Simply progressing from the presupposition, without dealing with the presuppostions you claim, as well as the ones they claim, seems to me somewhat like agreeing to disagree to begin with. Which is why I tend to dislike it - mostly because of my heavy Schaeffer influence. Truth is truth - because it is Truth, of course - BUT - we must also demonstrate why that absolute exists, and why it is more reasonable, and why it conforms to reality - while the opposing viewpoint does not.

I don't mind presuppositional apologetics at all - I use it, once I've established the arguments buttressing the underlying evidences for the presupposition in question. This is where I depart from presuppositional, formally. I dislike saying "this is so", and creating an axiom of something which can be reduced to below the level of axiom.

I much more prefer starting from axiom, and working up to "universal truth, as evidenced by..."

I'm really not against it - and I really couldn't tell you anything beyond a very general treatment of the subject, as I dislike the very premise it begins with - if not the technique to follow. I use the techniques, while rejecting the premise that says "these MUST be so, because they are axiomatic" - if they are not. I dislike making suppositions without supporting them further. Know what I mean? If you presuppose something that can be denied, I believe that you should show why it should not be denied.

Which is where the ontological/cosmological, and their like are used - below the level of presuppositional apologetics. I like starting well below presuppostional level - which is where the schools of thought differ.


My next post will be the last on this issue. I'm entirely too busy to continue to respond like this...I hope you all understand.

No problem. This is more than I've written on my blog in past two weeks...

heh.

Basically, we both said that the very fact that we are NOT omniscient makes any supposed claim to "certainty" impossible. Only God can be absolutely certain. So, only God knows, with certainty, that He exists.

Actually, lack of omniscience has nothing to do with certainty. You can know one thing about be absolutely infallible in that knowledge but know nothing else. You could know lots of things but lack infallibility, i.e. your knowledge is genuine knowledge because it's true but it could have been false because your capacities could have erred but didn't. God is both omniscient and infallible in his knowledge. We aren't omniscient, but it's not that that makes us lack certainty. It's fallibility that doesn't allow certainty. If we're certain about anything, then we're infallible in that knowledge. Presuppositionalist who claim that we have certain knowledge about anything have to claim infallibility in our knowledge on that point, which basically puts us on the level of God. Even our knowledge of scripture is fallible. The scripture itself is infallible, but we can fail to understand it properly. We can fail to interpret it properly. We can fail in our capacities to come to certainty that it is God's word. We can fail to believe what it says. Lack of certitude doesn't amount to lack of knowledge, of course, but it does mean it's not certainty.

Alright, so here we go. But, as I stated this will be my last post on this issue. Not because I don�t like to go back and forth, but because my scheduled will not allow all the detail.

There are many points in previous posts that I�d like to address and I will with some. Other, I�ll just have to leave as is (not because I don�t want to address them).

Jeremy states:

�4. My apologetic is not separated from my apology, and my apologetic is not the cosmological argument. It's a common presuppositionalist rhetorical technique to pretend classical apologetics is an argument. It's not. The classical approach to apologetics is to consider all the various contributions to apologetics as a coherent picture,�

You seem to make these types of claims quite a bit in your posts. Where has any presuppositionalist claimed that �classical apologetics is an argument�? No one believes this, classical apologetics is an approach to apologetics (see for example: Faith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity. Ken Boa and Robert Bowman, Jr. (NavPress, 2001; ISBN#: 1-5768-3143-4), Five Views on Apologetics. Steven B. Cowan, Gen. Ed. (Zondervan, 2000; ISBN#: 0-3102-2476-4), Testing Christianity's Truth Claims: Approaches to Christian Apologetics. Gordon Lewis (University Press of America, 1991; ISBN#: 0-8191-7838-1).) So, this �common� �rhetorical technique� is just plain wrong and just another indication of your lack of education in presuppositional apologetics.

�Besides, the argument isn't just apologetics. It's philosophy, which seeks to discover what we can know through reason. If we can know this through reason, it's more idolatry not to acknowledge it than it is to recognize that truth.�

More on this later.

�I'm disagreeing with the claim that someone who says something false about God is thus not talking about God. If it's something false about God, then it's God that the person is talking about. I believe most Mormons are talking about God. They make claims about the God the Bible speaks of. Therefore, when they say anything false, they say it about God. They believe some things about God that are drastically different from what I believe, but I do think there's a historical connection with God through their use of the Bible. The same is true of Muslims, who stand in the tradition of the Bible and then say that some things it says about God are false.�

Aauuggh. This is actually kind of scary reading�coming from a Christ. It shows me that you have not done much reading in the world of the cults, or perhaps you have you and you are just plainly mistaken on this. Mormons believe that �God� was once a man as you and I and obeyed gospel principals to get to the position he is currently in. God in Mormon theology is not eternally God�except to say that he (not being God at this time) was some form of spirit in a pre-existence. God, in Mormon theology has a body of flesh and bone and (according the Bringham Young) had sexual relations with Mary, etc�etc�

This, my friend is a different God. Not false things about the God of the Bible. Same could be said about any of the others you mentions.

�The guy who found this for me says Van Til and Clark won't use that term, and he doesn't like Bahnsen much, so he doesn't know about him.�

So, your friend, who you stated is well read in pressupositonalism, does know much about Bahnsen, but he doesn�t like him. No doubt one could not like Bahnsen, but to say one is well read in presuppositional apologetics and not have interacted with Bahnsen�s material would be laughable in any presuppositionalists mind.


RK
�Schaeffer, and Platinga both endorse the Cosmological argument as one portion of a sound basis for belief. Just for that reason alone, I won't even bother trying to knock it :D�

Ahh, the argument ad populam raises its head again.

�Like, say... that He is a Trinity? That's the entire point. The cosmological argument is NOT a Christian argument

Thanks for making that (my) point.

There is no certainty, when arguing from human reason, for any statement we make.

Are you certain about your statement above? Can we be certain that God has set a day of judgement (Acts 17), can we be certain that man has original sin.

�For us to say we are absolutely certain is to deny our own fallibility, and to deny the uniqueness and singularity of God, as the only perfect Being.�

Not true at all my friend. To deny that we can know God�s existence with certainty denies the clear revelation God has given of himself in the world and through his Word. God�s clarity about his existence is just that�clear. So, you don�t have to be a perfect being to know something for certain.

As I stated before, this is where I believe you and others separate your theology from you apologetics.

�I don't get your statement. How can we claim to know anything certainly? The only Being who knows, certainly, that God exists, is Himself.�

False. God, has given us certainty that he has made himself known. I am glad that you state this though, it helps me understand that you are on the same page as the rest of the classical apologists. Well, at least in one sense. At a recent event, J.P. Moreland told us that we need to �restore the virtue of certainty� (so he does believe we can have certainty on some things). When I asked him what can we be certain about�he stated that we can be certain about the �laws of logic�, �kindness� and followed this by saying we �can not know the existence of God for certain.� This, as a Christian, is (to put it bluntly) disgusting and unbiblical.

At this point, I�m going to quote a large portion from Greg Bahnsen�s book Van Til's Apologetic: Readings & Analysis. (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1998; ISBN#: 0-8755-2098-7) 619-22), so please bare with me. I quote this section because Bahnsen and Van Til can say it better than I:

�The way he put it elsewhere was to stress �the basic differences between a theistic proof that presupposes God and on that presupposes man as ultimate.� Presuppositional theistic proofs openly challenge the autonomy of man, rather than catering to and reinforcing the unbeliever�s assumption of autonomy. The challenge to autonomy rests upon a conviction that no man can escape the natural revelation of God (can escape already knowing God, although suppressing this knowledge in unrighteousness). Van Til saw this as a foundation to the intellectual cogency of the proofs. �God�s revelation is everywhere, and everywhere perspicuous. Hence the theistic proofs are absolutely valid. They are but the restatement of the revelation of God.� Because the transcendental challenge amounts to �restating� God�s revelation�the revelation that man is completely dependent upon his maker for all things, including intelligibility and meaning in experience or thinking��we should not tone down the validity of this argument to the probability level. � Christianity is the only reasonable position to hold.� This is a distinctive feature of transcendental argumentation; where legitimate, it shows that rational necessity of its conclusion. Van Til could put it very powerfully and succinctly: �The only �proof� of the Christian position is that unless its truth is presupposed there is no possibility of �proving� anything at all.�

Consider, for example, the difference between a traditional conception of the �cosmological� argument and a presuppositional conception of it. The cosmological argument purports to prove the existence of God from a consideration of causation. The traditional approach does not challenge the autonomy of the natural man�s thinking, but naively assumes that his experience and understanding of causal relations is intelligible. If everything as a cause, it is argued, then he should admit that this world also has a cause�which can only be God. This argument is credible to Christians, wo see the world as the creation of God, but it is not traditionally presented as the internal logic of the Christian worldview. Rather, the traditional argument assumes that the world and causation can be understood outside the context of the theistic worldview (with its own internal logic). B the �common� (external, inherently intelligible) canons of logic used by men, the causal principle is applied to the world in order to prove that God is the creator. Yet in that context the argument is not convincing. Traditional formulation of the cosmological proof for God�s existence have always been as autonomously conceived and interpreted, philosophically embarrassing.�

�How should we understand the fundamental premise in the cosmological argument, �Everything has a cause� (or �Every object has an origin,� or even better �Every event has a cause�)? If this is taken as a universal metaphysical principle (or even a category of understanding imposed by the mind on anything that would be �rational�), then the embarrassing conclusion reached by the apologist would be that God too has a cause or origin. If the premise that �Everything has a cause� is interpreted in a more familiar way, as having an empirical impetus based on observation, then it refers to our ordinary and natural experiences. In that case, the cosmological argument proceeds upon an insecure foundation, for nobody knows from empirical experience that every single object and event in this world has a cause; nobody has observed everything. Moreover, if the causal principle is empirically interpreted, then �everything� means more precisely �each and every particular thing within the universe of experience,� and �has a cause� means more specifically �has a natural cause.� But the conclusion of the cosmological argument, if we are analytically clear, refers to the universe as a whole (everything together, as a collected set of particular members) and refers to a single cause that is supernatural, beyond the universe. Consequently, when the meaning of its terms is fully disclosed, the cosmological argument amounts to saying: �Each of the many parts within experience has a natural cause; therefore, the whole set of things has a single and supernatural cause.� This analyzed, we readily see that the cosmological argument fallaciously moves from the characteristics of the parts to the characteristics of the whole. It fallaciously moves a multitude of causes to a single cause. And, most damaging of all, it fallaciously moves from a premise about natural causes to a conclusion about supernatural cause�completely exceeding the scope of the premise.�

�A presuppositional version of the cosmological argument amounts to the general presuppositional argument (i.e., the transcendental argument that God is the precondition of rational intelligibility), applied to the particular notion of causation. As Christians, we maintain that we can rationally prove God�s existence from causation. We can show the unbeliever that causal reasoning or the �inductive principle� (compare the belief in the uniformity of nature) is not onl taken for granted by all men, but is rationally necessary for our scientific inferences, our use of language, and our practical experience. However, when the worldview of the Bible is set next to the worldview of unbelief (in whatever form it takes) for mutual analysis, the causal principal is seen to be intelligible only within the Christian framework of thought. Unbelievers who have been both brilliant and honest about this matter have openly conceded that the have no rational basis for believing the future will resemble the past. We may have observed that event B followed event A many times in the past, but o know that B necessarily follows A (i.e., that the relation is causal), calls for reference to a metaphysical principle (namely, the future will be like the past) for which the unbeliever has no warrant or right. As Bertrand Russell was driven to conclude: �The general principle of science, such as the belief in the reign of law, and the belief that every even must have a cause, are as completely dependent upon the inductive principle as are the beliefs of daily life. All such general principles are believed because man kind have found innumerable instances of their truth and no instances of their falsehood. But this affords no evidence for their truth in the future, unless the inductive principle is assumed.� Assumed? But that is what was supposed to be proved! Russell was aware of his defect: �Hense we can never use experience to prove the inductive principle without begging the question. Thus we must�forgo all justification of our expectations about the future.� But the Christian worldview does not have this intellectual dilemma of justifying the causal principle (inductive or scientific reasoning). It is transcendentally justified by the inner coherence of our presupposed worldview, or within its wider context, being entailed by both the nature and promises of God. The unbeliever may be unwilling to resort to a �theologically rationale� to justify the foundational belief (the causal principle) that is necessary to the rationality of science, but it is the only rational alternative to �forgoing all justification of our expectations about the future.� The presuppositional cosmological argument points out that unbelief must destroy rationality in order to save it. The unbelieving worldview cannot provide a cogent reason for what we necessarily assume in all of our reasoning. Thus, it is entirely unreasonable not to believe in God.

�So, then, we find that�his [Van Til] complaint against the traditional versions of the cosmological, teleological, and onltological proofs of God�s existence was that they were formulated to accommodate the autonomous reasoning of man, rather than to attack it head-on. This head-on collision is found in the transcendental formulation of the proofs, illustratively applying the challenge, that Christianity is the rational precondition of intelligibility, to the notions of causation, order, and necessary being�

�That is to say, if the theistic proof is constructed as it ought to be constructed, it is objectively valid, whatever the attitude of those to whom it comes may be. To be constructed rightly, theistic proof ought to presuppose the ontological trinity and contend that, unless we may make this presupposition, all human predication is meaningless. The words �cause,� �purpose�, and �being,� used as universals in the phenomenal world, could not be so used with meaning unless we may presuppose the self-contained God. If the matter is put this way one argument is as sound as the other. In fact, then, each argument involved the others. Nor is any one of the arguments then at any point vulnerable. And future research cannot change their validity.�


Again, I apologize for the long quote, but that is my thoughts as well on the issues.

Let me also recommend the following:

The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith. K. Scott Oliphint (P&R, 2003; ISBN#: 0-8755-2561-X). You see the table of contents and read the introduction here

For a critique of Craig�s Kalam Cosmological Argument see On the Kalam Cosmological Argument, by John Byl (Word doc).

Christian Apologetics (2nd Edition). Cornelius Van Til (Presbyterian & Reformed, 2003; ISBN#: 0-8755-2511-3).

Van Til's Apologetic: Readings & Analysis. Greg Bahnsen (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1998; ISBN#: 0-8755-2098-7).

And the audio material listed on my site (from Morton Smith, Van Til, Butler, Singer, and others).

Thanks for your time!

I know you don't intend to respond, but this is my blog, and I don't intend to allow such a long post to be the last word. I'll try to focus on what seems most important to me.

I've read a number of presuppositionalists who act as if cosmological arguments are the only apologetical element when critiquing cosmological arguments. You did so yourself. You said it doesn't establish anything further than a conclusion that stops short of Christianity, so it must be an awful apologetic.

I'm quite aware of what Mormons believe about God. If they say false things about God, then it's contradictory to say that they're not therefore saying those things about God. You didn't criticize my argument. You just denied its conclusion without giving a reason. The only arguments I've ever seen for the claim you're making rely on mistaking the claims we make about God with what fixes the reference of the term 'God'.

I'm not sure why you're labeling my presuppositionalist friend, who is a Clark devotee, not well-read in presuppositionalism simply because he made a decision after reading a good deal of Bahnsen never to read him again. It's a pretty awful argument to dismiss one of your own this way and then pretend he's not really a presuppositionalist simply because he doesn't like your favored presuppositionalist, all the while acting as if he's never read him simply because he won't read him anymore.

I'm well aware of the criticisms of the cosmological argument. Bahnsen, on the other hand, is painfully unaware of the responses to those criticism that I already gave in my post above. I can try to digest that long quote more fully when I'm not both exhausted and way behind in my grading.

I haven't seen the Bible talk anywhere about Cartesian certainty, so I'm not sure why it's disgusting and unbiblical to acknowledge that. The Bible does tell us that we can have knowledge, indeed well-grounded knowledge that comes through knowing God. I don't know how that necessarily implies Cartesian certainty. Cartesian certainty is incompatible with ever having any worry or doubt at all about whether God is real. I can't believe any Christian has never had that state of mind, which seems to me to require perfect epistemological capacities.

It seems as though the links to my resources did not come through, so here they are:

The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith. K. Scott Oliphint (P&R, 2003; ISBN#: 0-8755-2561-X). You see the table of contents and read the introduction here

For a critique of Craig�s Kalam Cosmological Argument see On the Kalam Cosmological Argument, by John Byl (Word doc).

Christian Apologetics (2nd Edition). Cornelius Van Til (Presbyterian & Reformed, 2003; ISBN#: 0-8755-2511-3).

Van Til's Apologetic: Readings & Analysis. Greg Bahnsen (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1998; ISBN#: 0-8755-2098-7).

And the audio material listed on my site (from Morton Smith, Van Til, Butler, Singer, and others).
===
Post script:

RK,
Apart from the inconsistencies in your last posts...you don't have clue as to what presuppositionist apologetics is about. You should forget about what you've heard and read some Van Til or Bahnsen or others I've listed for yourself. Even if you still disagree, you would at least know what you are talking about.

RK and Jeremy:
The rest of your posts about certainty is off base and is not a biblical position to take. Boy, I'd hate sit under you guys as a person in the pew who needs council from his pastor.

Let me offer a text of scripture "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according the traditions of man." (Col. 2:8). My opinion brothers, but this is exactly what has happen here. God has told us (revelation) that he has clearly made himself know. We can be certain of this one particular God's existence, because he has shown himself (Roman 1).

In 1John 5:13 we are told that we can "know" that we have eternal life. You guys know from your philosophical background that knowledge is justified true belief.

In Acts 17, Paul tells us that we may have assurance that this is "fixed day" were God will judge the world in righteousness" and his has given proof of this, by raising Christ from the dead. We are told in Acts 2:36 "Let all the house of Israle therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

We may have psychological confidence, but we can have certainty about our believes because God, the creator and maker of heaven and earth�the one who is back of everything, graciously as revealed himself to his people�and not only his people, but all men, everywhere (Rom. 1).

Remember what Prov. 1:17 tells us, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" and Col. 2:3 that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

My admonishion would be that God (the Triune God) would be more certain to you then anything else...and if this is the case, you would start your apologetic with Him. Whatever you are most certain about...this is going to be your starting point. We know for certain that the God of Christianity exists, because he has revealed himself to mankind. He gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25).

Sorry bout' all the typing errors (above)...it's gettin' late!!! :)

I'm not sure you're even using the word 'certainty' the way philosophers use it. You seem to be using it as a synonym for 'knowledge', which was Descartes' error. Justified true belief is one level. Knowledge is stronger. Certainty is stronger still.

If philosophy has shown anything in the past 40 years, it's that knowledge is not justified true belief. Gettier cases make that absolutely clear. After much unfruitful resistance, epistemologists finally have universally accepted that and treat Gettier's paper as part of the canon. This is not an argument ad populum. This is an acceptance of what even the most vigorous opponents of this view have all admitted, because the arguments are just too strong to deny it. A search for Gettier will find this very quickly.

The only verse you cited that has something more than mere knowledge is Acts 2:36, but the same word is used in context that surely don't give Cartesian certainty, e.g. Paul's seeking to hear from the Jewish leaders why they were doing what they're doing in Acts 22:30. How can that bring Cartesian certainty, when it's just understanding from the senses? Festus uses it in Acts 25:26 about how he doesn't have anything certain to write, but all it takes to get something certain is asking Paul his side of the story. That clearly falls short of Cartesian certainty. Luke uses it earlier in Luke 1:4 to show that they can have assurance that he did his homework in gathering this account. Clearly this term has something to do with being assured of something, but these examples show that such assurance can come in degrees and is therefore not what philosophers are talking about when they speak of certainty, which is an absolute notion Descartes wrongly equated with knowledge.

Jeremy: "I'm not sure you're even using the word 'certainty' the way philosophers use it. You seem to be using it as a synonym for 'knowledge', which was Descartes' error. Justified true belief is one level. Knowledge is stronger. Certainty is stronger still."

We can have certainty of the the knowledge we possess because it has been revealed by the One who makes all knowledge possible.

I cited more than one verse that had to do with the certainty of the knowledge one possesses. You just chose to ignore them.

The word certainty does not have to appear in the text...for it to be happening. Again, Romans 1 describes the certainty of God's existence, etc...

Either way, what you are demonstrating to the Christian public is that your understanding of knowledge, God's existence, etc... is (first) built upon schools of philosophy...apart from the text of scripture.

I requote Van Til above:

"In fact, then, each argument involved the others. Nor is any one of the arguments then at any point vulnerable. And future research cannot change their validity."

The arguments (cosmo., etc..) are not valnerable because they are first built upon a sure foundation. In your system, one philospher will refute the next and your arguments are "vulnerable" and their validity will change.

The following from Michael Sudduth might be of some interest Justification and the Gettier Problem.

Bah. I was going to write a long something, but I'm too tired, and I'm not going to argue in circles again. I have to put Vox up, on two hours sleep, and I have to get up in 4 hours.

Jeff, you don't know anything about my apologetics. If you had, you wouldn't have bothered writing the above. There is no certainty, in human reason, that God exists. Duh. Unless you suddenly discovered a personal infallibility device. I SAID: "The only Being who knows, certainly, that God exists, is Himself."

Absolute certainty, with no possibility of error.

Only God is CAPABLE of certainty. It isn't even a word we should use of ourselves, in the theological sense. In the philosophical sense, we are "certain" of some things - but this is only "certain" insofar as we know - and we know all to well that we don't know enough, and are not close enough to perfect, to be absolutely certain of ANYTHING.

Really, bro - you can talk about how scary I am to sit under, as a pastor, or whatever - but you may forget - I'm 26 years old, and a layman. I DO know the difference between absolute and relative certainty, though. Do you?

Everything we do is subject to error - thus, we are never certain of anything, regardless of how we play with that word so often. Relatively certain, as compared to the certanty of a mars-sized meteorite hitting the planet without detection? Sure, I think the likelihood of evolution may exceed that... and that's pretty durn unlikely.

But whatever. I guess I'll just be a raving heretical communist - as I go put together the apologetics symposium.

*rolls eyes*

I'm used to ad hominems... I have the name I use for a reason. It helps if they're based in reality though - just as a tip.

RK: "Only God is CAPABLE of certainty."

I'm assuming you are not certain about this?

Either way, what you are demonstrating to the Christian public is that your understanding of knowledge, God's existence, etc... is (first) built upon schools of philosophy...apart from the text of scripture.

I'm demonstrating that my understanding of how the English word 'certainty' is used is not something that a group of documents, divinely-inspired or not, would talk about when such a group of documents was written 2000 years before the period of English usage in question. My point is that what you're pointing to in the scriptures as certainty is not what we mean by the English word 'certainty' as used in epistemological discussions but what we mean in more ordinary contexts such as when we might be more sure or less sure of something. My arguments for this were indeed based on scripture.

Romans 1 is talking about knowledge that everyone has (or can have, depending on how it should be interpreted) that is suppressed. Paul talks about how this is revealed in nature. He talks about how everyone is morally responsible for whether they believe in God. It's not clear whether this capacity is fallen enough not to give nonbelievers knowledge or whether they know but suppress that knowledge. All the language is past tense, so it's possible it's saying that people in the past suppressed knowledge of God. In the OT, denying God's existence is not an intellectual endeavor but living as if there's no God (the fool has said in his heart...) and therefore may not involve not believing in God intellectually. There are quite a few interpretive decisions here that will decide the details of what Paul's getting at. However you go with those, though, I'm not sure how it can be anything more than saying that people who aren't Christians are still responsible for following God in some sense. It doesn't say anything about what kind of epistemic status the Holy Spirit brings to believers. Surely you don't think observing God in nature can bring a non-believe to Cartesian certainty that God exists simply by looking into nature and seeing that it must have been designed!

The other verses you give all seem to be about knowledge, as I said. So I'm not sure what you're talking about when you say there are all these other verses about certainty.

I'm aware that any argument can be challenged, though it's not the validity that usually gets challenged but the soundness. To challenge validity, you have to show that the logic itself is faulty. The most common way to question a deductive argument is simply to deny a premise. I've said this all from the beginning, so saying it back to me doesn't have much rhetorical force. My point is that presuppositionalist arguments have exactly the same feature, except that the premise that gets denied is the whole of Christianity, since that's the question-begging premise of the presuppositionalist's argument. It's a lot easier to deny such a huge premise than it is to deny the smaller premise that the universe appears designed or that contingent things require an explanation. That's why classical arguments have much more force.

So Sudduth agrees with pretty much everyone else in denying that knowledge is true justified belief.

If what God says about Himself is true, and I am not interpreting it incorrectly.

Liek I said - unless you found an infallibility device, you can never be completely certain of anything.

Only God can be certain of anything. Good thing He's in charge, isn't it? Someone has to be all knowing, all powerful, all wise, incapable of error, perfectly sovereign, and ncomparably Holy.

Or is THAT heresy too? If so - you better talk to Mr. Tozer. I read it in Knowledge of the Holy the night before last :P Although that was only the 4th re-read since 9th grade...

Wanna compare credentials, to see who's smarter?

I graduated high school! That's it.

Your turn?

Ok, you win.

Now that we have that out of the way - would you care to enlighten us as to why you're on a philosophy-oriented blog, and treating philosophy as if it's Satan?

The word used in Colossians 2:8 is only used once in the NT. It means, according to my lexicon... "used either of zeal for or skill in any art or science, any branch of knowledge. "

Burn the scientists and artists too!

Note, however, the "according to" the traditions of men, and "according to" the elementary principles of the world. For philosophy to be wrong, in this sense, is if it is in accordance with the world, and contra-Biblical, is how it reads.

I don't know about you - but I base my philosophy upon Christ - so I'm not worried. I really don't think we know jack about the world, or about ourselves. Not anything approaching perfection, at least. So, no, nothing is "Established beyond doubt or question; indisputable."

You say "there is a God" - mr. atheist says "no, there isn't."

Oh, look. It just got disputed. The end. We. Don't. Know.

God does.

Gah. I just wasted my time on troll bait.

Crap, crap.

Oh well. Guess I do Vox tonight at my g/f's house.

If I do it.

It's not like there's a ton of entries...

You never answered my simple question

RK: "Only God is CAPABLE of certainty."

I'm assuming you are not certain about this?


You state:

"you care to enlighten us as to why you're on a philosophy-oriented blog, and treating philosophy as if it's Satan?"

You are reading into something. I do think philosophy is a bad thing...it is as you quoted, philosophies built upon the traditions of man and not according to Christ.

I don't have the time to go through the standard material from presuppositionalist...regarding neutrality, human autonomy, etc., I'll leave that up to you to research.

The word used in Colossians 2:8 is only used once in the NT. It means, according to my lexicon... "used either of zeal for or skill in any art or science, any branch of knowledge. "

It's also got an article in front of it, which amazingly no English translation will acknowledge. What it says is that the Colossians shouldn't let anyone take them captive through the philosophy that Paul had written the letter to counter. Even if it did say not to let philosophy as a discipline hold you captive, that wouldn't show that we can't learn from philosophy, just that we shouldn't let it take us captive. Paul shows his own knowledge of the philosophers of his day when he cites them approvingly elsewhere, including in Acts 17 when he cites Cleanthes' hymn to Zeus as if it's about God. So much for the idea that getting something false about God means you're not talking about God.

Jeff, here is an amazingly consistent position:

God is the only one who is certain. The rest of us just have knowledge. We know that God is certain, and we know that no one else is certain. We aren't certain that God is certain, and we aren't certain that no one else is certain.

I'm posting this from a discussion list, this is not to say Michael is in agreement with everything I have stated on this comments board.

From: msudduth@...
Date: Sat Mar 19, 2005 1:35 pm
Subject: Re: [all-bahnsen] Re: Vincent Cheung

"If I read one of your posts correct, you would agree that knowledge (justified true belief) can only be had if we are thinking God's thoughts after him?"

Jeff,

On my view, anyone who holds a true belief is thinking God's thoughts after him. So a justified true belief will analytically entail that we are thinking God's thoughts after him.

Michael
###

Right, but he admitted in the other thing you linked to that epistemic luck can make it not knowledge even if it's a justified true belief. So apparently you can think God's thoughts after him without it being knowledge. Either that or he's changed his mind between saying the two things, or he's just inconsistent. The principle of charity requires trying to put the statements together if possible.

"you can think God's thoughts after him without it being knowledge."

Right (in my view at least). This would make it a belief. One can have a belief about something and the justification for that belief is false. This is why knowledge has to be a justified true belief.

BTW: For a different take on Acts 17 and what Paul was thinking regarding his use of the poets see Presuppositional Confrontations (PDF).

Surely some cases of thinking true thoughts would be mere belief that isn't justified. Sudduth does conclude at the end of his Gettier discussion that some true justified beliefs are not knowledge. What that means is those true justified beliefs are thinking God's thoughts after him, being justified in doing so, and yet not knowing. Again, this is assuming that he really does hold both claims together and didn't change his mind or unthinkingly contradict himself.

Jeff:
"Aauuggh. This is actually kind of scary reading�coming from a Christ. It shows me that you have not done much reading in the world of the cults, or perhaps you have you and you are just plainly mistaken on this. Mormons believe that �God� was once a man as you and I and obeyed gospel principals to get to the position he is currently in. God in Mormon theology is not eternally God�except to say that he (not being God at this time) was some form of spirit in a pre-existence. God, in Mormon theology has a body of flesh and bone and (according the Bringham Young) had sexual relations with Mary, etc�etc�"

Jeff, it seems like you are not realizing that Jeremey is working with a different understanding of reference than you are. It seems to me he is using an understanding more like Alston's work. Plus, Jeremey is agreeing that they make false statements about God, which is part of his point. Moreover, I highly doubt Jeremy is saying that Muslims and Mormons have a right relationship with God. He is merely saying that they are "referring" to the same God. "Referring" to the same God is a long shot from saying that they are speaking truthfully about him and that they have a right relationship with him.

Jeremey, I was wondering what you think on a couple of questions. Do you think everybody who talks about God is referring to the same God or just Muslims and Mormons because of the obvious historical connection to the God of the Bible? Also, do you think one can still be an idolator in some expanded sense if they are referring to the same God but with a terribly distorted description?

Maybe someone raised as a Christian, Muslim, etc. who then denies key tenets about God would still be referring to God. If their abandonment of key attributes about God leads then to start thinking of God differently, the causal chain of uses of the term 'God' that determines reference is still in place. They could end up with a radically different view of God and still be referring to God, I suppose. Of they really believe that the proper referent of the term 'God' in English is some toad they found in their backyard, they're believing lots of false things about the toad, but it seems they're also believing some very false things about God, because they're using the English word 'God' to refer to this toad.

On the other hand, if someone abandons Christianity to become a pantheist and thinks themselves that they should stop using the term 'God', then they're probably not referring to God anymore. If they do think they can keep using that word, then I think they are referring to God. The same is true of the Arabic 'Allah', which is very close to the equivalent of the name 'God' in English, as opposed to being like 'YHWH' in Hebrew, which was always thought of as the name for God in a context when false gods had their own names, whereas Hebrew 'El' was used to describe any god, and a monotheist who called YHWH a false god under another name might still say they worship El as. The polytheistic or henotheistic concept of that time makes all the difference.

For this reason, I'm not entirely sure I agree with what I discussed in this post. I said that if people in government can express aspects of religion like what civil government has allowed in recognizing God in the pledge but not in recognizing everything about God can verge on idolatry. It doesn't seem that that's right. It's still a recognition of God. It's just not a recognition of everything that's true about God. So it's not true religion if that's all that's practiced, and those who do engage in such things need to be careful not to send the signal that such so-called worship is not viewed as legitimate worship. All that is consistent with saying that such references to God still refer to God.

I just spent a while trying to find where I discussed my modification of my view, but I think the comments here reminded me that it's probably not on my own blog at all. That modification is in those comments anyway, just without my long explanation that I know I wrote but can't find anywhere. The point is that John 8:41-44 and I Kings 17 seem to express different ways of talking about this, and I want to be true to both ways. For that reason, I don't think there isn't any sense in which they're not the same God. I think there's a sense in which they're not and a sense in which they are. I've been taking the latter sense to be primary, and I think what Jeff has been insisting on is that only the former sense is legitimate. The way English and most natural languages work seems to favor the latter sense, however. I haven't quite worked out the details of how the right theory of reference will explain both biblical usages, but I'm pretty confident that it won't be that difficult.

Jeremy, thanks for the comments and sorry for the typos on your name in my previous comment.

Jeff wrote:
"So, your friend, who you stated is well read in pressupositonalism, does know much about Bahnsen, but he doesn�t like him.....not have interacted with Bahnsen�s material would be laughable in any presuppositionalists mind."

Jeremy then stated:
"I'm not sure why you're labeling my presuppositionalist friend, who is a Clark devotee, not well-read in presuppositionalism simply because he made a decision after reading a good deal of Bahnsen never to read him again."

I am that friend...just thought I'd peek in to see where the discussion was heading. Not trying to sidetrack the discussion, just want to clear something up: I have read Bahnsen, as Jeremy stated, and I barely consider him a presuppositionalist and find the TAG argument useless as it suffers from the same short-fallings of the theisitc proofs. I don't consider Van Til a presuppositionalist for he wrote: "I do not reject �the theistic proofs� but merely insist on formulating them in such a way as not to compromise the doctrines of Scripture...There is a natural theology that is legitimate; and When the proofs are thus formulated [i.e. on a Christian basis] they have absolute probative force." Seems Van Til would side with your opponents here. (But of course, this could be one of the many contradictions in Van Til).

May I suggest this for your reading:
http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=128

Jeff, I'm sure you're aware of the history between Clarkians and Van Tilians and while there is some in Van Til that I think is quite good, his teaching on paradox, natural theology, and God's knowledge/man's knowledge to name just three, are confusing and contradictory to much of his other writings. Unless of course you're Bahnsen, Frame or one of the many other disciples that try and make sense out of Van Til. I've never seen any writer need so many men to try and explain what the writer 'actually' meant.

You also wrote somewhere here:
"You are reading into something. I do think philosophy is a bad thing...it is as you quoted, philosophies built upon the traditions of man and not according to Christ."

On this we generally agree (although even Van Til thought that Theology and Philosophy cannot really be separated)....I see nowhere in Scripture where Christ or Paul used this apologetical method. Scripture was, and always should be the starting point, and a starting point not used by the TAG argument. And as Clark said, and I paraphrase, I know of no better apologetical starting point than this: The Bible alone is the Word of God.

And if you didn't read the article by Robbins that Jeremy posted earlier, here is the link again:

http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=170

FWIW, Sudduth used to be a good Clarkian...not sure where he slipped off the path. :-) Maybe too much Plantinga.

Darrin

p.s. I realize this is your blog Jeremy so I hope I didn't cross the line and take the discussion too far off track. If so, my apologies.

I realize this is your blog Jeremy so I hope I didn't cross the line and take the discussion too far off track. If so, my apologies.

No, it's too late for that. This has been way off topic since very early on.

You're always welcome, Darrin.

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