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On Cross-Culture Disputes

January 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Critiquing another worldview is not as simple as most people seem to believe. By way of example, let’s take Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism since the two have engaged on Tumblr at times. An Eastern Orthodox critique of specific Protestant practices, framed as an Eastern Orthodox critique, is going to fall on deaf ears to one who is consistently Protestant. So will the Protestant critique qua Protestant against a particular Eastern Orthodox practice, whether of hermeneutics, doctrine, etc.

Why is this so? I’ll discuss one reason. If Lucretius were to critique Aristotle’s ethics according to his own Epicureanism, Aristotle could easily dismiss the critique as not comporting with reality. Why? Because the data are interpreted and emphasized differently depending on which system you are working in. Whereas Lucretius’s first principle would be the maximization of pleasure (forgive the broad stroke), Aristotle’s first principle (of ethics, at least) would be the inner (and outworked) virtue of the individual (again, broad stroke). Because any particular manifestation of Lucretius’s first principle would, in most circumstances, violate some aspect of Aristotle’s, Aristotle can simply dismiss it as groundless.

In like manner, a Protestant dismisses the Eastern Orthodox because the Eastern Orthodox’s claim, although logical within their own system, do not translate into the Protestant system. Why? Because of different sources of knowledge and authority (epistemology), doctrinal traditions, assumptions, presuppositions, etc. The Eastern Orthodox does the same. Both (and all) groups are guilty of confirmation bias; which authorities are heeded is determined, in part by what system you reason from (also, in part, by how consistently you reason from that system). And so, while a particular Protestant zinger against theosis may ring true for Protestants, the Eastern Orthodox may stare befuddled. And the Eastern Orthodox quotation of a Patristic may settle the matter for them, a Protestant will wonder why that settled anything.

So, what are we to do? If you are going to confront those with competing weltanschauung, you have to evangelize. By this I mean that you must translate what you mean into terms and concepts familiar to your audience. It is not enough to speak German to a Chinaman. The German ought to learn Chinese; and the Chinaman must be willing to grant some freedom of error in such a translation, as well as be willing to learn some German.

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The 10 Principles of a Reformed Apologetic

January 2, 2014 2 comments
  1. The faith that we are defending must begin with, and necessarily include, the triune God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–who, as God, condescends to create and to redeem.
  2. God’s covenantal revelation is authoritative by virtue of what is is, and any covenantal, Christian apologetic, will necessarily stand on and utilize that authority in order to defend Christianity.
  3. It is the truth of God’s revelation, together with the work of the Holy Spirit, that brings about a covenantal change from one who is in Adam to one who is in Christ.
  4. Man (male and female) as image of God is in covenant with the triune God for eternity.
  5. All people know the triune God, and that knowledge entails covenantal obligations.
  6. Those who are and remain in Adam suppress the truth that they know. Those who are in Christ see that truth for what it is.
  7. There is an absolute, covenantal antithesis between Christian theism and any other, opposing position. Thus, Christianity is true and anything opposing it is false.
  8. Suppression of the truth, like the depravity of sin, is total but not absolute Thus, every unbelieving position will necessarily have within it ideas, concepts, notions, and the like that it has taken and wrenched from their true Christian context.
  9. The true, covenantal knowledge of God in man, together with God’s universal mercy, allows for persuasion in apologetics.
  10. Every fact and experience is what it is by virtue of the covenantal, all-controlling plan and purpose of God.

Taken from Oliphint, K. Scott. Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 47-55.

John Warwick Montgomery on Presuppositionalism as Epistemology

September 22, 2012 Leave a comment

 

2.18: All arguments begin with presuppositions; thus, we are told by influential orthodox Protestant theologians, Christians have every right to start from the presupposition that God has revealed himself in Holy Scripture.
2.1801: Advocates of “orthodox presuppositionalism” go on to affirm that any attempt to justify the Christian world-view makes the presuppositions of one’s epistemology more fundamental than one Christian’s beliefs, thus idolatrously demeaning God.
2.181: Kant’s demonstrations that all arguments begin with presuppositions is eminently sound; but from this it does not follow that I can sensibly begin to construct a world-view from any presupposition whatever.
2.1811: If the latter were the case, then, as readily as one man took to his bosom an unjustified Christian presupposition, I could take to mine the aprioristic belief in a cheese0impregnated Deity with whom communion is possible through the medium of the toasted-cheese sandwich.
2.182: Religious presuppositions must be tested for truth-value from without; otherwise one claim has as much right to acceptance as a claim mutually incompatible with it.
2.1821: But as soon as one begins to test religious “presuppositions” for truth-value, these religious tenets lose absolute presuppositional value.
2.18211: It is nonetheless legitimate to speak of “the presuppositions of one’s systematic theology” (meaning the starting-points for one’s doctrinal system) as long as one recognizes that these “presuppositions” still require justification over against other possible starting-points for theologizing.
2.183: The truth-testing of religious first-principles does not lower their value or depreciate the Deity on whom they center.
2.1831: To use a road map to ensure that one reaches the king’s palace instead of a garbage dump does not give the king a status below the road map.
2.1832: What would doubtless offend the monarch is an attitude of indifference in the quest: a lack of concern to distinguish his palace from the garbage dump.
2.1833: It is a simple “category mistake” (in Ryle’s sense) to make invidious comparisons of value between substantive beliefs and the epistemological means by which those beliefs are verified; truth-tests and religious tenets have different functions; and the use of the former, instead of diminishing the value of the latter, actually enhances them.
2.1834: Care must be taken, therefore, not to confuse one’s starting-point for systematic theology (e.g., the God who reveals himself in Scripture) with one’s epistemological means of verifying that starting-point (e.g., Carnell’s employment of Brightman’s systematic consistency motif).

 

Rene Descartes on the Dependency of Man and the Independency of God

February 5, 2012 5 comments

And when I take note of the fact that I doubt, or that I am a thing that is incomplete and dependent, there comes to mind a clear and distinct idea of a being that is independent and complete, that is, an idea of God. And from the mere fact that such an idea is in me, or that I who have this idea exist, I draw the obvious conclusion that God also exists, and that my existence depends entirely upon him at each and every moment. This conclusion is so obvious that I am confident that the human mind can know nothing more evident or more certain.

Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy

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