Must Clarkians use some Emperical Analysis & Inductive Reasoning?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Brian Bosse, Apr 18, 2007.

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  1. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse "The Brain"

    Hello Civ, Sean and Matthew,

    For the sake of discussion, let's assume as our axiom that Scripture is the Word of God. Let's also assume that the teachings of Scripture (i.e., derived theorems from our axiom) provide an accounting for the laws of logic as well as man's innate equipment to reason, and many other things. I believe Matthew's point is that whatever method of reasoning we use to deduce (?) our theorems from our axiom will involve some type of empirical analysis as well as inductive reasoning amongst other things.

    Matthew, is this in fact your point? If so, Civ and Sean, how would you answer this? I have my own answer, but will wait to see how Civ and Sean answer.


  2. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I will run with this, but it is only for the sake of the argument. Let it be known that I follow the traditional reformed view of general and special revelation, and so I understand Scripture to build on nature. Grace does not destroy but renews creation.

    I will expect a justified account as to how the laws of logic are derived from Scripture. This will mean you will need to not only quote Scripture but show why you believe the particular Scripture you are quoting is (a) canonical, (b) interpreted correctly and systematically. I want to see no borrowing from empiricism at all. If you can manage it, you have won me.
  3. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    This is my take. Scripture is not the words and sentences written in the NKJV or the Greek or whatever language. Scripture is the propositional truths that God has revealed to us through verbal revelation. I think this has come up before, but when I speak of the truths and propositions of Scripture, I'm not talking about any particular set of marks on paper or sound vibrations. I'm talking about the very propositional truths that we must have as our axiom in order to have knowledge.

    Regarding Analysis:

    The does not try to escape "the inevitability of "analysis"" but presumes analysis. More importantly it assumes the working of the Holy Spirit so that when we hear and read the bible, we are able to understand and believe the Scriptures. As Sean noted twice not, Scripturalism does not discount closed induction for analyzing the Bible to help us understand what Scripture says, but only the working of the Spirit guarantees we may rightly determine God's Word.

    Regarding Logic:

    I know you said "let assume that the teachings of Scripture "provide an accounting for the laws of logic". But I see Rev. Winzer did not accept this. So let me give a quick proof that Scripture accounts for the laws of logic.

    The laws of logic are derived from Scripture by the impossibility of the contrary.

    P1: If Scripture is not logical, then Scripture is unintelligible.
    P2: Scripture is intelligible.
    C: Therefore Scripture is logical.

    Regarding Empirical Analysis and Reading:

    As far as the use of empirical analysis to understand Scripture - this is confusing reading for empiricism (as if reading proved empiricism). Empiricism says that one can take a blank mind without a priori knowledge, and add sensations and images and derive knowledge. Reading the Bible requires a priori knowledge - knowledge that can not be accounted for using empiricism. So reading is not empiricism - in fact, by it self it disproves empiricism.

    Other Comments:

    I wanted to point out the Clark was arguing against worldly philosophies that give no place to God in knowledge. He was arguing for a Christian epistemology versus the epistemologies of the world. Those who are opposing Clark's Scripturalism have effectively assumed most of Clark's presuppositions by agreeing that the Scriptures and what can be deduce therefrom are knowledge. They also agree with the necessity of the Spirits role in knowledge. They are effectively agreeing that God and logic are both essential requirements for knowledge. So when the try to counter Clark's arguments, they are in effect defending worldly philosophies - because the object of Clark's arguments are worldly philosophies (empiricism, rationalism, logical positivism, etc).

    I don't think this is intentional, but this is the effect. If Clark's arguments are wrong, then we must accept empiricism and rationalism and other anti-Christian philosophies. Now if it is the case that those who object to Clark's Christian Philosophy are not trying to defend the worldly alternatives, then they are merely splitting hairs. They already agree with 95% of Scripturalism if they are rejecting worldly philosophies.

    It's also my opinion that attempts to blend worldly epistemologies into Christianity undermines the validity of the premise that the Scriptures alone are the Word of God.


    Sorry if I got off track. :(
  4. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    To get back on track - we can use closed induction and other means of analysis to try to understand the Bible so we can know the Scriptures (the meaning of the sentences and words in the Bible). We use well understood hermeneutic principles - let the Bible interprets the Bible - and no external sources have precedence over Scripture, the Scriptures do not contradict themselves.

    But when we say "knowledge is Scripture and what we can deduce therefrom", this presumes the inerrant and infallible Word of God is in mind. This is why we can only say something is justified true belief if we determine it by "good and necessary consequences" from the Scriptures. We can not use inductions from the known infallible truths of God's Word, less we commit a logical fallacy (i.e. it's not "good and necessary consequences" if it is induction).

    Would all agree with the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word of God?
  5. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Maybe I'm not following you? I don't consider other senses of the word "all" false either, but I can't deduce from Scripture's use of the word "all" unlimited atonement either. As I demonstrated if "to know" is to be understood in the same sense then the Scriptures contradict themselves and it would follow the Scriptures are not true. One side of the contradiction is necessarily false, even if we can't know which one.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2007
  6. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Please don't take this wrong Rev. Winzer, but are you for real? Above is a demonstration of the laws of logic derived from Scripture (as Clark pointed out in his Logic all other logical laws are implied by lc), no borrowing from empiricism at all. How could it be otherwise since no one observes logic. Logic is part of the a_prori endowment we all have as creatures made in God's image. Further, if the architecture of God's mind is logic (John 1:1), then the laws of logic are not a product of empirical observation. Consequently, the underlying notion of your objection is absurd on the face of it. Further, per the above proof 1 John 2:21 is canonical and the above interpretation is correct and systematic.

    If you can find a flaw in his argument why don't you point it out so I can pass it along to George Macleod for his edification? Instead you cite tradition and insinuate the above demonstration somehow failed to accomplish its task. What kind of argument is this? For what it's worth you should have been won long ago.

    The Scriptures do not "build on nature," as if the truths of Scripture are somehow a derivation of nature, they explain nature. The Scriptures are by definition supernatural. I have to say I am amazed by those who contend inductive and probabilistic arguments derived from empirical observations (or, would that be imposed upon since you can’t get propositions from non-propositions) somehow yield true propositions simply because they are Christians or hold to the "Reformed Tradition."

    I don't think too many would disagree that the apex of empiricism is found in the sciences, physics being the most logical and rigorous. Science is the crowning jewel of empiricism (even though empiricism as a philosophic pursuit ended not in knowledge but skepticism). The methods of science, which, if nothing else, are meticulous, raises the art of observation to its most exacting expression. In spite of all this, anyone who has spent any time studying the philosophy of science will see that science is not a cognitive enterprise at all. The pretense of scientists and non-scientists over a century ago is long gone. Karl Popper and other great minds, both believers and unbelievers alike, demonstrated long ago science never arrives at final truths. Science - at its best - provides only conjectures; educated guesses and refutations of these same guesses. Nothing more.

    Science provides the perfect example of those who are always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. So why is it that only Christians are foolish enough to confuse the probabilistic and fallible conclusions of empirical investigations with infallible eternal truths? I confess this is baffling.

    Rant over. :)
  7. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    :2cents: Steve, have you read WCF XXVIII Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation?
  8. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    (1.) How do you know the Greek words mean "truth" and "falsehood?" There is no inspired and infallible lexicon. (2.) How do you know 1 John 2:21 is not an interpolation by some well meaning orthodox Christian? There is no inspired and infallible list of original texts. (3.) How do you know 1 John itself is an original part of the Bible? There is no inspired and infallible list of canonical books. Your knowledge of the law of non contradiction is naively built upon the work of faithful men who have received, preserved and translated the Scriptures for you.
  9. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    This is as bold an attack on traditional Bible-belief as any theological liberal attempted. It amounts to this -- the Bible is not the Word of God; the Bible contains the Word of God; the Bible is the vehicle through which the Word of God comes to us. Sir, the more you defend your unbiblical definition of knowledge the more you stray from the reformed faith. I hope better things of you.
  10. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    WCF 18:2, "This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption."

    How many more truths are you going to deny, Civbert? I find it hard to believe the moderators have not stepped in and called you to account for your equivocating subscription to the doctrinal standards of this board.
  11. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Yes. An assurance. Not knowledge (justified true belief) which requires epistemic certainty.
  12. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Infallible! You can't get more certain or justified than that.
  13. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Nonsense. That does not follow. It amonts to exactly what I said, the Scriptures are not the ink and paper. Please read what I wrote and interact with it . Which part do you not disagree with? The ink and paper are the medium, not the message. Is that so difficult?
  14. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Assurance. Infallible assurance. Not infallible knowledge. There's a reason the did not use the word knowledge. The WCF is very carefully worded.
  15. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Yes it is, and you don't seem to understand the precision of its language. In fact, as much as it may hurt you to hear this, you seem deficient on the very basics of theology. Puritan theology speak of assurance as a reflexive act of faith. The assurance is knowledge. Read some theological books, please, and stop twisting the Christian faith to suit your perverse philosophy.
  16. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    You mean which part do I not agree with? All of it. I could quote WCF 1:5 and a host of reformed writers, but what would be the point? I'm sure you would have some ingenious way of making them fit your mould.
  17. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I know this got a bit confusing but the Poll took on a very distinct debate that needed to be moved to provide some clarity. This is the problem with an epistemic discussion because it changed from "What are all of your thoughts about epistemology?" to "Defend Clarkian's use of empericism and inductive reasoning..."
  18. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Per silly point #1 please see the thread Rich started "What is this" ( and scroll down to the citation I provided by J.P. Moreland who is not a "Clarkian" by any stretch of the imagination. Assuming you just don't want to continue playing your pointless games, perhaps you will see that meaning is not tied to any culturally determined linguistic tokens, including those used by the Greeks.

    Per silly point #2: for the same reason Abraham knew it was God talking and not Satan when he was told to sacrifice his son.

    Per silly point #3: To ask someone to prove an axiom, in this case the axiom of the Christian system, is even sillier than your points 1 & 2.

    Seeing you forgot. Your challenge was:

    Your objection was answered directly and in accordance with every one of your *conditions.* When you're done playing games, let me know. Maybe you'll even win me. :wave:
  19. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    This is a good discussion but to all sides - let's moderate the sarcasm and scoff.

    A soft answer turns away wrath. (Is that an axiom :D)
  20. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Civbert, I just read again what I wrote to you, and I perceive it is not up to par with what a patient and meek spirit ought to write. Please accept my apologies. Until I see a greater commitment to reformed confessionalism I refuse to discuss these points any further. You cannot maintain discussion of the Bible where there is no unified commitment as to the fundamental doctrines it teaches. People hop, skip, and jump all over the place to avoid inevitable conclusions.
  21. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Nice try.

    The word "knowledge" is used at least 5 times in the WCF (not including the Catechisms). But never once in Chapter 18 "Of Assurance of Grace
    and Salvation". The word "know" is used one time. I agree they were very precise with language. Which is why they did not use the term "knowledge". The meaning is to be sure, or certain. The is not epistemic certainty any way you cut it.
  22. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    And as a final response to Sean, you provided no account for your belief that the Scripture you quoted is Scripture. You can't. Now that you have said as much, the only possible conclusion is that you cannot give a justified account of any belief you hold to. Goodbye!
  23. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I just want to say for the record and to the mods that these type of attacks which Rev. Winzer has continued to launch with uncontrolled abandoned are completely uncalled for and without warrant. Even his so-called apology to Anthony provides another opportunity to vent his spleen.

    Besides that, he is simply wrong. Edwards called assurance a consequence of belief and not a necessary inference from Scripture or a matter of private revelation. In addition, the WCF which Rev. Winzer clearly does not understand at this point (in spite of all his appeals to the Reformed faith and tradition) states; "this infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith . . . ." Once again, and his bravado aside, it is Rev. Winzer who twists the Christian faith to suit his sensate philosophy (notice I refrained from calling his indefensible nonsense "perverse").
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2007
  24. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I just put the little :judge: thingy as a reminder.

    I appreciate where the passion comes from and believe it could be stated more gently. I am concerned about the same things. I think there are elements of Scripturalism that run completely contrary to Puritan thought.

    That said, I state again that all parties need to state their cases and temper their language.
  25. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Incidentally, I just saw Rev. Winzer's apology.
  26. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Despite the evident heat being generated, this is a very good point. Of course Scripturalism runs contrary to much Puritan thought (not all of course). Puritans by and large had other fish to fry, and, at least in my reading, were not particularly concerned with the question of epistemology (of course their works weren't devoid of it either, just not developed in any systematic way). A truly systematic and biblical epistemology had to wait until the Twentieth Century and the work of Gordon Clark.

    Of course, and in many ways, Clark's Scripturalism finds it roots well before the Puritans in the work of Augustine. I would recommend Clark's small treatise The Lord God of Truth which comes complete with Augustine's dialog Concerning the Teacher for anyone wanting to examine the connection between these two great men of God.
  27. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Hey! We split again?!

    Well this is as good a topic for a split as any.

    I take it that Rich spit this thread off. The original was getting a little long and I worried that I was discouraging participation by being such a thread hog. But the discussion is stimulating and maybe I can stay on topic this time. (Hey Rich, could we get a blushing smiley? :blush: or :sheepish:)

    Brain, I'm looking forward to your answer.
  28. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Well, I'm quite exhausted on recent philosophical discussions and actually literally exhausted from moving in this week but I'd really love to see an eventual discussion of how much Scripturalism fits with the Reformed notion of Sola Scriptura and the role that tradition plays. I don't want this can of worms opened up again right now but I think Rev. Winzer's objection could be summarized pretty well by this:
    Sean, please don't respond to this but just read what I'm about to write because it's off-topic.

    I've had it out with Rev. Winzer on other topics where this same theme came up. I don't know that I agree with him on the points I disputed with him yet but, at the same time, I'm still trying to get my arms around what it means to be confessional and for the Church to be the witness of God's Word. I've become more cautious over the months.

    I'm trying not to just be Confessional when it is convenient because I've gone after some FV guys who are disingenuous about what the Confession states and there are Church men that refuse to discipline when it should be very clear.

    I'm not comparing your views with heresy. My only point is that Rev. Winzer is extremely consistent in his Confessional subscription in a way that I've seen in few other men and I have incredible respect for that. In many ways he has helped me realize where I tend toward private interpretation and has given me a greater respect for the Church in which the goal of unity is supposed to be worked out.

    In the summer of 2002, I invited Mike Horton to have lunch with a fellow officer who I had a hand in joining the OPC after being in Calvary Chapel. We had a great lunch and talked about theology and a number of other things. We're friendly to this day and I look forward to seeing him again when I return to CA some day. He remarked that he was going to be meeting with Doug Wilson soon to talk to him about some problems that were developing. At the time, I didn't know that he was talking about the Federal Vision. He said something that always stuck with me and I can only paraphrase: Reformed theology has always been about having a dialogue with the Church and the saints of the past. Some people learn ancient languages and logic and they think they are in a position to re-write everything." That was the gist of it.

    Again, I'm not saying your views are heresy but maybe there is something to this that ought to be considered.

    Perhaps some of these philsopical discussions might be more useful if they did not merely prove themselves axiomatically and logically but also showed where they do/do not comport with the historic testimony of the Church. I think that when these discussions are conducted among the cloud of witnesses then it tends to cause us all to be a bit more humble and reflect upon those that went before us. It's not that they're infallible but the Church is in a position of authority even as it testifies of God's truth.

    That's my :2cents:

    Please, let's get back to the actual discussion but I did want to follow up on your comment because I was glad you recognized why a tension existed.
  29. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse "The Brain"

    Hello Civbert,

    Can I ask you to clarify some things first? You say the following…

    I realize that there are philosophical distinctions between typographical marks on a page and what these marks point to. For instance, you might hear a philosopher say that the abstract entity “the number one” is not the typographical symbol ‘1’. Rather, the symbol represented typographically as ‘1’ only points to that which is the number one. Is this the point you are making?

    Would you comment on the following words of Dr. Clark?

    Would you also comment on the following quote, once again stated by Dr. Clark, and explain how this fits in with your understanding of Scripturalism?

    Thank you, Anthony. I appreciate your thoughts.


  30. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, essentially. The axiom of Scripturalism starts with the truths of Scripture - this is the logical order. This is why we can have knowledge from the Scriptures and what can be deduced therefrom. Now, how we determine what is Scripture is a different issue.

    I was trying to clear up a misunderstanding - that the idea was that Scripturalism starts with a copy of the Bible, say ESV, and then calls that knowledge.

    A Scripturalist can use whatever is acceptable hermeneutics to understand what Scripture says. Clark wrote several commentaries. He did not pull Scripture out of thin air. But he also supposed that we can actually and univocally understand and believe the truths God is conveying through verbal and written mediums. And this is the axiomatic knowledge called Scripture.

    Now we might use the term Bible and Scripture interchangeable, but lets not confuse our bible for a book on our shelf. There is one Word of God, so one revelation and one axiom of knowledge.

    I think Clark's is showing that the Bible (not the individual copies and translations) is the Word of God. His point is to introduce God's revelation as the solution to the problems that secular philosophies have failed to address. However, I don't have the context and that might help me understand what he means.

    This goes back to my question of the definition of incomprehensible. The modern definition is to be beyond understanding. But the original definition, the one I think the church father's meant was "unlimited". So complete deduction is impossible because all possible knowledge (that is all God knows) is not deducible from Scripture.

    Now I'm not certain because I don't know what object Clark had in mind here when he says "complete deduction". I'm guessing he means total knowledge or all of God's thoughts. If he means all that can be deduced from Scripture - this is also true. We still have finite minds, only capable of dealing with limited knowledge. And with so many truths to work with in Scripture, the number and complexity of the deductions is practically limitless. So even there, it is impractical to say that any man can know each and every proposition deducible from Scripture.

    A third option is he is speaking of hermeneutics itself. A way to test your understand the propositions in the Bible is to consider them systematically. Systematic Theology does this. We look at the different doctrines and examine them as part of a cohesive system - to see if by deduction, any particular doctrine leads to a contradiction. We know the Scriptures contain no contradictions (God can not lie) so if we find any contrary or contradictory points in the system, we know we have failed to understand true Scripture. And if two propositions are contradictory - one must be false and the other true (by definition).

    Welcome. :)

    If you have to references, I'd like to look up the quotes and see if I understood Clark properly.
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