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    R.C. Dozier is offline. Puritanboard Freshman
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    Scripturalism and Occasionalism

    I need some help concerning Scripturalism and Occasionalism. After reading Vincent Cheung's Ultimate Questions book, and the Critique by AquaScum I wanted to know if Occasionalism is dependent on the senses in order to have the occasion in which the Logo conveys knowledge to ones mind? If the 5 senses are not necessary then is knowledge conveyed from telepathy?

    Cheung made this statement:

    " Second, not only do they [Psedo-Presuppusitionalists speaking of Van Tillians] fail just as miserably as the unbelievers in justifying or accounting for their reliance on sensation, intuition, induction, and science, they even
    admit that these irrational ways of knowing and reasoning are necessary in order to discover the contents of divine revelation. In other words, although they claim that it is revelation that accounts for, say, our sensations, our sensations are what allow us to access revelation in the first place.


    The result is not just one vicious circle disintegrating into a mess of confusion and nonsense, but worse than that, they have placed themselves in the exact position of the unbelievers – they make themselves and their own human investigation the center and precondition of all knowledge. They explicitly place revelation under sensation, intuition, induction, and science. And in many ways, this is even worse than even an explicitly anti-Christian philosophy that has enough sense to question irrational epistemologies."

    How can Cheung say this if one is dependent on the senses? Can anyone clarify?


    AquaScum wrote this article. Can someone critique this? I am not a Clarkian but I am trying to better understand these views so I can make a better decision from the Bible.

    Top Ten Reasons to Reject the “Scripturalist Package”

    (Aquascum, aquascumSPAMMENOT at gmail dot com)



    By the “Scripturalist Package” I mean the combination of the following theses about knowledge: Scripturalism, infallibilism, internalism, and occasionalism. These ideas will be defined below.



    The following points are a simplification and a summary of many points made in my original Response. For further documentation and a more complete statement of the argument, please see that Response.



    1) Scripturalism is self-referentially incoherent. The idea that all knowledge is restricted to propositions of Scripture and valid deductions from propositions of Scripture is itself neither a proposition of Scripture nor validly deducible from propositions of Scripture. Therefore, if Scripturalism were true, Scripturalists would have a good reason to reject Scripturalism.



    2) Scripturalism is refuted by Scripture itself. According to Mt 24:32, humans know a variety of propositions not contained in Scripture or validly deducible from Scripture. This is because Jesus makes relatively unspecified reference to these known propositions by means of a temporal indexical. Therefore, what is known by Jesus’ hearers cannot be deduced from Scripture alone.



    3) The infallibilist constraint on knowledge is in conflict with Scripturalism and yet is regularly employed by Scripturalists against alternative modes of knowledge. The infallibilist constraint on knowledge – that is, the idea that knowledge can only be obtained by a process that is guaranteed to exclude error – is neither a proposition of Scripture nor validly deducible from propositions of Scripture. Although Scripturalists ought to reject this non-revelational epistemological principle on the basis of their Scripturalism, they regularly employ it to argue that intuition, induction, and other sources of belief cannot be sources of knowledge.



    4) The internalist constraint on knowledge is in conflict with Scripturalism and yet is regularly employed by Scripturalists in arguments against non-Christians. The internalist constraint on knowledge – that is, the idea that someone must know how he knows p or that he knows p, in order to know p – is neither a proposition of Scripture nor validly deducible from propositions of Scripture. Although Scripturalists ought to reject this non-revelational epistemological principle on the basis of their Scripturalism, they regularly employ it to argue that no one can have knowledge apart from assuming the Christian worldview. (That is, they believe that failure to answer “How do you know that?” is sufficient to defeat non-Christian claims and challenges on a variety of topics.)



    5) The occasionalist psychology of belief is in conflict with Scripturalism and yet is regularly appealed to by Scripturalists as an alternative to genuinely empirical modes of knowledge. Occasionalism – that is, the idea that God is the only cause in the universe and is therefore the sole cause of all human beliefs apart from mediation – is neither a proposition of Scripture nor validly deducible from propositions of Scripture. Although Scripturalists ought to reject this psychology of belief on the basis of their Scripturalism, they regularly employ it to explain their knowledge of empirical claims.



    6) The occasionalist psychology of belief is in conflict with Scripturalists’ reliance on the infallibilist constraint on knowledge. If God immediately causes all human beliefs whatsoever, then he regularly causes millions of false beliefs. Thus, the means by which we obtain our beliefs (divine illumination) is a highly fallible process, since it is not guaranteed to exclude error. Therefore, given the infallibilist constraint on knowledge, divine illumination does not give us knowledge after all, and cannot serve Scripturalists’ purposes in providing a credible alternative to genuinely empirical modes of knowledge.



    7) The occasionalist psychology of belief is in conflict with Scripturalists’ reliance on the internalist constraint on knowledge. If someone (including the non-Christian) has knowledge simply in virtue of God producing a true belief in him, then additional constraints on knowledge are superfluous. In particular, the idea that someone must know how he knows p or that he knows p, in order to know p, is falsified by occasionalism. Therefore, much knowledge can be had by a person quite apart from that person assuming the Christian worldview. Of course, if God’s producing a true belief in someone is not sufficient for the production of knowledge, then occasionalism isn’t even a theory of knowledge at all.



    8) Scripturalists cannot show how a Christian worldview solves various philosophical and ethical problems raised for non-Christian worldviews.

    a) For instance, the law of non-contradiction (that “A is not non-A”) is a perfectly general law nowhere contained in Scripture nor validly deducible from propositions of Scripture. Therefore, Scripturalists cannot so much as know the law of non-contradiction, much less claim that the Christian worldview accounts for it. (Neither an intuitive defense nor an inductive derivation of this law is open to the Scripturalist, for obvious reasons.)

    b) Similarly, the notion that “nature is uniform and stable” (implicit in any inductive inference about the future) is neither a proposition of Scripture nor deducible from propositions of Scripture. At best, it can be given only an inductive defense on the basis of passages like Ge 8:22, which makes reference not to all of nature but to a couple of natural processes (passing seasons, day and night). Therefore, Scripturalists cannot account for induction by means of the Christian worldview.

    c) Likewise for various ethical claims, such that infanticide or racism is immoral. These may admit of a defense which involves intuition or induction, but their truth cannot be validly deduced from such texts as Ex 20:13 or Ac 17:26.



    9) A Scripturalist cannot know that he exists, cannot have assurance of salvation, and cannot know how to apply God’s ethical requirements to his life.

    a) A proposition asserting the existence of any Scripturalist in particular (say, “Vincent Cheung exists”) is neither contained in Scripture nor validly deducible from propositions of Scripture. Therefore, no Scripturalist can know that he exists.

    b) Assurance that one is saved (a key component of Reformed, as opposed to Roman Catholic, doctrine) involves, at the very least, knowledge that one has repented and believed. But that is knowledge of a proposition neither contained in Scripture nor validly deducible from propositions of Scripture. Therefore, no Scripturalist can have assurance of salvation.

    c) Finally, a married man can know how to apply God’s ethical requirements to his life – specifically, following the command “You shall not commit adultery” – only if he knows that the woman he is sleeping with is his wife. Since the proposition that some particular person is his wife is a proposition neither contained in Scripture nor validly deducible from propositions of Scripture, no Scripturalist can know how to apply God’s ethical requirements to his life. (Obviously, all of these examples could be multiplied.)



    10) A Scripturalist must reject historic Christian doctrine as something unknowable. There are precious few deductively valid arguments for the various Christian doctrines, from the proof-texts adduced in their favor. Rather, the vast majority of Scriptural exegesis proceeds by way of inductive or abductive arguments, not strict deduction. Therefore, a Scripturalist must hold that most historic Christian doctrine is unknowable. Indeed, I would challenge Scripturalists to provide a strictly valid deduction of any significant Christian doctrine, from the propositions of Scripture themselves, using no extra-Scriptural premises.





    -- Aquascum
    R.C. Dozier
    Free Grace Baptist
    Yuba City, CA

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    Personally, I think that Aquascum's, and other critiques of the "occasionalism thesis" (and related questions), are the superior arguments. Cheung has stated that he thinks God "occasions" false ideas in people. Ergo, he cannot be assured that his ideas about occasionalism are not false ideas implanted by God. He is simply sure that he has not been fooled. Great. I think there's something missing in that argument...
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    Backwoods Presbyterian's Avatar
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    How are "Scripturalism" and "Occasionalism" related?
    Rev. Benjamin P. Glaser, M. Div, ARP
    Pastor, Ellisville Presbyterian Church, ARP
    Ellisville, Mississippi

    ‎‎"Ministers of the Gospel, when dispensing the truths of God, must preach home to their own souls, as well as unto others. Sir's, we do not deliver truths or doctrines to you, wherein we ourselves have no manner of concern. No, our own souls are at the stake, and shall either perish or be saved eternally, as we receive or reject these precious truths which we deliver unto you. And truly, it can never be expected that we will apply the truths of God with any warmth or liveliness unto others, unless we first make a warm application thereof to our own souls. And if we do not feed upon these doctrines, and practise these duties, which we deliver to and inculcate upon you, though we preach unto others, we ourselves are but castaways." -- Ebenezer Erskine, "The Assurance of Faith", pg. 8

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    R.C. Dozier is offline. Puritanboard Freshman
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    I know from Vincent Cheung's writings he holds to both Occasionalism and Scripturalism when it comes to epistemology. I could be mistaken but it seems both Occasionalism and Scripturalism go hand and hand. Am I wrong? I have no evidence to support my assertion, but given Scripturalism how does one gain knowledge? Sense Perception? How can we be certain our five senses are a reliable means to read scripture?

    Please correct me if I am mistaken.
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    Semper Fidelis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by R.C. Dozier View Post
    I know from Vincent Cheung's writings he holds to both Occasionalism and Scripturalism when it comes to epistemology. I could be mistaken but it seems both Occasionalism and Scripturalism go hand and hand. Am I wrong? I have no evidence to support my assertion, but given Scripturalism how does one gain knowledge? Sense Perception? How can we be certain our five senses are a reliable means to read scripture?

    Please correct me if I am mistaken.
    I think you're correct. We used to have more discussions on this subject and it became apparent to me that the knowledge of the Truth in the Scriptures transcended the actual reading of the words.

    What made this somewhat apparent to me was a discussion of how we know what we're communicating right now. In other words, I asked how we know what the letter "A" is and, by extension, what all the letters in the alphabet represent. Further, how do we know what the letters mean when put together into words and then, further, what the words communicate in terms of ideas. I was trying to get a sense from some Clarkians how it is they formed a justified true belief from opinions about words that they have formed from grammar school.

    That is to say that a group of letters on a page, which comes to us from our sense perception, and from rules of grammar that we learned outside of Scripture, cannot be "known" because they are not from within Scripture. The only knowledge to a Clarkian is something found in or derived from Scripture but letters and words themselves are learned by other means.

    In other words, I wasn't sure how a Clarkian moved from an "opinion" about the word "Christ" and all the other "opinions" that form the collection of words in the Scriptures to the justified true belief that could only be deduced from Scripture.

    I never received a satisfactory answer but the answers I got seemed to indicate that the Holy Spirit had to impart knowledge that was independent or above the words found on the page. In other words, the person may be reading "opinions" but the thoughts are supernaturally communicated.

    I'm sorry I'm not more sophisticated philosophically but this is my impression of the case from a laymen's perspective.
    Rich
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    I appreciate what you are saying Rich. Whenever I ponder these sorts of things, I remember the first few chapters of Calvin's Institutes. He describes man as being created with innate knowledge, eg. that God exists.

    Whenever I find myself in an epistemological discussion, I try to remind myself of the primary things:

    God created man.
    One of the attributes of created man is the use of Words.
    God communicates to man through words.
    Man communicates through words.

    I'm convinced that language, grammar, etc., are innate traits of humans. A crude analogy might be the Border Collies I used to raise and train. When they are newborn, they are pups like any other dog. But at some point, when they are big enough to see things and react, they discover their purpose. Time and time I've seen the young pups see a cow for the first time, freeze and stare: they are hit with an apparent epiphany that they were born to work with livestock.

    So it is with people. We use words because we were born to use words. We use them poorly because of sin. Language in a sense is a spontaneous outcome of our created nature, not an invention. And as we learn language, by God's providence, we learn God's will for us through the Words he provides.

    I often think the battle over certainty is misplaced. Sure, it is important to understand the meaning of words, but we aren't to spend our entire lives proving that words mean something. That is self evident. The Words God provide in Scripture are means of reenforcing, redirecting, and regenerating our thoughts toward that created innate understanding that Calvin spoke of.
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    I am starting to read Clark for the first time (and may be just like the Border Collie pups you describe Vic ) and will want to say more once I read Gordon Clark more fully. I certainly do not want to write in ignorance and will allow Gordon Clark to speak for himself. In my curiosity looking around the internet I find many who critique Clark openly admit to have not read much of his work. In fact I think God's Hammer will be my next read.

    Also recommend reading this book:

    Rev. Benjamin P. Glaser, M. Div, ARP
    Pastor, Ellisville Presbyterian Church, ARP
    Ellisville, Mississippi

    ‎‎"Ministers of the Gospel, when dispensing the truths of God, must preach home to their own souls, as well as unto others. Sir's, we do not deliver truths or doctrines to you, wherein we ourselves have no manner of concern. No, our own souls are at the stake, and shall either perish or be saved eternally, as we receive or reject these precious truths which we deliver unto you. And truly, it can never be expected that we will apply the truths of God with any warmth or liveliness unto others, unless we first make a warm application thereof to our own souls. And if we do not feed upon these doctrines, and practise these duties, which we deliver to and inculcate upon you, though we preach unto others, we ourselves are but castaways." -- Ebenezer Erskine, "The Assurance of Faith", pg. 8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Backwoods Presbyterian View Post
    I am starting to read Clark for the first time (and may be just like the Border Collie pups you describe Vic ) and will want to say more once I read Gordon Clark more fully. I certainly do not want to write in ignorance and will allow Gordon Clark to speak for himself. In my curiosity looking around the internet I find many who critique Clark openly admit to have not read much of his work. In fact I think God's Hammer will be my next read.
    I like Clark a lot. I'd recommend reading Clark more than "Clarkians" (with some notable exceptions). Other than a few outlandish views (my personal opinion is that they are reactionary hyperbole), he is quite good.

    But I'd also recommend Dabney, especially his Sensualistic Philosophy. He expounds much better than I the idea of innate capacity to know vs. both empirical skepticism and rationalism without a foundation in the real world.
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    Quote Originally Posted by victorbravo View Post
    I appreciate what you are saying Rich. Whenever I ponder these sorts of things, I remember the first few chapters of Calvin's Institutes. He describes man as being created with innate knowledge, eg. that God exists.

    Whenever I find myself in an epistemological discussion, I try to remind myself of the primary things:

    God created man.
    One of the attributes of created man is the use of Words.
    God communicates to man through words.
    Man communicates through words.

    I'm convinced that language, grammar, etc., are innate traits of humans. A crude analogy might be the Border Collies I used to raise and train. When they are newborn, they are pups like any other dog. But at some point, when they are big enough to see things and react, they discover their purpose. Time and time I've seen the young pups see a cow for the first time, freeze and stare: they are hit with an apparent epiphany that they were born to work with livestock.

    So it is with people. We use words because we were born to use words. We use them poorly because of sin. Language in a sense is a spontaneous outcome of our created nature, not an invention. And as we learn language, by God's providence, we learn God's will for us through the Words he provides.

    I often think the battle over certainty is misplaced. Sure, it is important to understand the meaning of words, but we aren't to spend our entire lives proving that words mean something. That is self evident. The Words God provide in Scripture are means of reenforcing, redirecting, and regenerating our thoughts toward that created innate understanding that Calvin spoke of.
    I agree with you Vic, but, given the allergic reaction to the light of nature by Clarkians, I don't think they would agree with a foundationalist fount for the knowledge of language. Because they reject all "natural theology", they end up coming to it from a occasionalist angle.
    Rich
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    Quote Originally Posted by Semper Fidelis View Post
    That is to say that a group of letters on a page, which comes to us from our sense perception, and from rules of grammar that we learned outside of Scripture, cannot be "known" because they are not from within Scripture. The only knowledge to a Clarkian is something found in or derived from Scripture but letters and words themselves are learned by other means.
    If Clark were to arise from the dead, he might say that knowledge is not based upon letters, but rather the fundamental unit of knowledge would be a proposition. We do not start with letters, which in turn form words, and then eventually we get whole sentences. We would start with propositions which are not words on a page, but rather they are ideas which a mind can understand. Propositions are the starting point for knowledge, so that there would be a difference between knowledge and education.
    Richard Kairelis
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    I still do not understand how our 5 senses have a role in us gaining knowledge. Can some one help me understand the Clarkian view of epistemology better.
    R.C. Dozier
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vytautas View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Semper Fidelis View Post
    That is to say that a group of letters on a page, which comes to us from our sense perception, and from rules of grammar that we learned outside of Scripture, cannot be "known" because they are not from within Scripture. The only knowledge to a Clarkian is something found in or derived from Scripture but letters and words themselves are learned by other means.
    If Clark were to arise from the dead, he might say that knowledge is not based upon letters, but rather the fundamental unit of knowledge would be a proposition. We do not start with letters, which in turn form words, and then eventually we get whole sentences. We would start with propositions which are not words on a page, but rather they are ideas which a mind can understand. Propositions are the starting point for knowledge, so that there would be a difference between knowledge and education.
    Where do the propositions come from? Is the capacity to understand propositions innate and the function of efficient causes or is knowledge of propositions immediately caused by God in each instance?
    Rich
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    Vytautas's Avatar
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    There is a very helpful article here:

    Gordon Clark's Extraordinary View of Men & Things

    Basically Clark's epistemology is based on his metaphysics. He is an idealist such that only propositions exist in his world. Thus, he avoids the problem of how one gains knowledge. But the above article can expalin Clark's view much better than I can.
    Richard Kairelis
    Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church, RPCNA (Prarie View, IL)
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