Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Calvinist Argument

Paul wrote: ii) Again, Reppert misses the argument: If Scripture is infallible/inerrant in what it teaches T, and if my moral intuitions are fallible and tell me ~T, then ~~T.

Here's the center of what I take to be Paul's argument. And here's the problem. Let's allow the the original autographs are infallible. We don't have those. We have a Greek and Hebrew text which has not been inerrantly copied. We have a texts, lots of them, that are interpreted variously. The "big leaguers" in Biblical scholarship are divided. The best you can come up with on this is "as best I can tell, based on what I take to be the best Biblical scholarship out there, the Scriptures probably teach Calvinism." The inerrancy of Scripture, which is itself a doctrine open to debate amongst genuine Christians, (though Paul may deny this) does not confer certainty to doctrinal conclusions derived from Scripture, if the derivation is produced by fallible processes. Exegesis is not a hard science, like physics.

On the other hand, not only are my moral intuitions fallible, my physical senses also fallible. Nevertheless I can be reasonably sure that I am typing these words on a keyboard at this moment.

Moral intuitions are a legitimate sources of knowledge. I can be in doubt about some of them, but others are held very strongly and have stood up under long reflection and have been informed by Scripture. Faced with what I take to be a strong Calvinist exegetical argument from, say, James White about Romans, alongside a deeply held moral conviction that a God who behaves like a Calvinistic God does would not be good, why am I obligated to follow the exegetical argument instead of the evidence of my moral intuitions? I might change my moral convictions if I think the case is very strong. I might start doubting God's goodness. Or I might conclude that there has to be something wrong with the interpretation. Because of the fallibility of exegetes, however, a general rule that the intuitions must give way seems to me to be unjustified. The only way such a general rule can by justified is if we make an illegitimate transfer from the inerrancy of Scripture to the inerrancy of conclusions derived from Scripture.

14 comments:

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Victor, I think this line of questioning would seem far less specious if you actually interacted with the scholarship of some of the top exegetes. Surely your argument is fully reversible upon your own position; so at best you're just breaking even against an opposing position instead of actually advancing the discussion through a consideration of the scriptural (and philosophical) arguments.

Regards,
Bnonn

Paul Manata said...

Victor,

That hasn't even been my major argument. It fucntions at *one* level in response to the many things you have brought up. In fact, this form was to *corect* the misundersatnding you had of arguments from Scripture. I brought this up 3 or 4 posts ago. I, for one, would appreciate interaction with the whole of my arguments. At any rate, I'll respond to this one as well.

Paul Manata said...

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/arminian-counter-argument.html

Ilíon said...

Paul Manata (?): "ii) Again, Reppert misses the argument: If Scripture is infallible/inerrant in what it teaches T, and if my moral intuitions are fallible and tell me ~T, then ~~T."

Victor Reppert: "Here's the center of what I take to be Paul's argument. And here's the problem. Let's allow the the original autographs are infallible. We don't have those. We have a Greek and Hebrew text which has not been inerrantly copied. We have a texts, lots of them, that are interpreted variously. The "big leaguers" in Biblical scholarship are divided. The best you can come up with on this is "as best I can tell, based on what I take to be the best Biblical scholarship out there, the Scriptures probably teach Calvinism.""

There is another point, even aside from the inerrancy doctrine: our intellect, in all its aspects and deliverances, is *also* fallible.

Mr Manata apparently maintains that *his* intellectual facilities inform him that the Bible *does* teach this strange Calvinist belief about God and about us. What, exactly, privileges Mr Manata's fallible intellect over yours or that of any other Arminian?

Moreover, isn't Mr Manata trying to *convince* you (and others) of the error of your belief and rationale in rejecting this odd Calvinist doctrine? Isn't this really quite analogous to a materialist trying to *convince* others that materialism is the correct belief about the nature of reality?

In essence: the Calvinist's argument seems it must amount to: "All your faculties are totally corrupted and cannot be trusted in any way to reliably give you truths. Come, lets us reason together ... and just agree that *my* faculties have reliably given me a certain truth"


Victor Reppert: "Moral intuitions are a legitimate sources of knowledge. ..."

Indeed. With certain important caveats.


Victor Reppert: "Moral intuitions are a legitimate sources of knowledge. I can be in doubt about some of them, but others are held very strongly and have stood up under long reflection and have been informed by Scripture. Faced with what I take to be a strong Calvinist exegetical argument from, say, James White about Romans, alongside a deeply held moral conviction that a God who behaves like a Calvinistic God does would not be good, why am I obligated to follow the exegetical argument instead of the evidence of my moral intuitions? I might change my moral convictions if I think the case is very strong. I might start doubting God's goodness. Or I might conclude that there has to be something wrong with the interpretation. Because of the fallibility of exegetes, however, a general rule that the intuitions must give way seems to me to be unjustified. The only way such a general rule can by justified is if we make an illegitimate transfer from the inerrancy of Scripture to the inerrancy of conclusions derived from Scripture."

Pretty much. Though another option (it's implicit in what you said) is to recognize we simply may not have enough information to draw valid conclusions about may questions we think important.

Ilíon said...

"... about [many] questions ..."

Paul Manata said...

ilion might want to actually read *my* posts rather than the chop shop presentation of them. Well, if he wants to interact with anything *I've* said, that is. But perhaps not. If you're already convinced of that someone's theology is "strange", then you're probably not going to bother to actually read up on their theology. I mean, to be honest, I never studied up on the theology of Heavens Gate cult. So, if ilion's post was simply meant to mock a weird Vulcan like me, without needing to read the "strange" stories in my posts, then I can understand why he might not want to spend his time reading my posts in order to represent me properly.

Ilíon said...

ho-hum.

Ilíon said...

I'm thinking my *point* scored a direct hit.

Paul Manata said...

Okay, yes, you're right. You've sunk my battleship. I can't see how to respond, so I tip over my king.

Ilíon said...

Oh?

So, now you're talking *to* rather than *at* me?

Paul Manata said...

You didn't talkk *to* me at first, neither did I, then.

At any rate, there's nothing to discuss. You refuse to read my posts. You make statements that I specifically address and deal with in my post.

There's no point in having a discussion.

What fruit could come of it?

So, if you think you offered a "direct hit", then I leave you to your beliefs.

I am confident in what I've posted, and you are with what yiou have.

Let's leave it at that so we don't get into a petty back-and-forth, sound good?

Ilíon said...

No, I didn't talk to you; I talked to Mr Reppert.

It's not all about you, all the time.

Mr Reppert may have the patience to deal with childish persons, such as you (I base that assessment entirely on what I've witnessed in the past hour or so). I lack such a patience. Nor do I experience any particular deficiency in that lack.

You are as you are and I will spend my time as I will spend it.

Paul Manata said...

I did not mean to talk to you either.

So we're even.

At any rate, critiquing others without reading them is intellectually childish. I simply responded to point that out. How should I respond to straw men?

Now, if it's alright by you, I'll leave you to your name calling and boasting of your maturity.

In case you want to offer any substantive rebuttal, I'll be here.

Ilíon said...

P.Manata: "I did not mean to talk to you either."

It was obvious from the first that you didn't mean to talk to me. Sheesh!

But that "either," and the implication it adds to the sentence, is misplaced.


P.Manata: "At any rate, critiquing others without reading them is intellectually childish. I simply responded to point that out."

Is that what I did? Is that what you did?

How interesting.


P.Manata: "How should I respond to straw men? "

That's entirely up to you. If you ever find one.


P.Manata: "Now, if it's alright by you, I'll leave you to your name calling and boasting of your maturity."

I've done no name-calling ... yet. Nor have I boasted of my maturity.


P.Manata: "In case you want to offer any substantive rebuttal, I'll be here."

Of what, exactly? How does one rebut a fit a pique?