Saturday, June 20, 2015

Is Non-Christian Thought Justifiable?

Is Non-Christian Thought Justifiable? That was the topic being debated at the Reformed Apologetics website by Douglas M. Jones III, Keith Parsons and Michael Martin back in 1991. Hat tip to Jeffrey Jay Lowder of Secular Outpost for providing a link.

I suppose the debate topic is a sensible question, whether or not one believes in the supernatural. After all, we know Christians exist, and we know they think, and we know that at least some Christians (Jones) apparently see a distinction between how Christians know about the world and how non-Christians know about the world. So there exists a debate topic by the name “Is Non-Christian Thought Justifiable” that’s coherent. We can base the debate on Jones’ assertion that Christians know about the world through the specifically Christian God’s revelations to them, and that non-Christians either 1) can’t truly know about the world because they haven’t received that God’s revelation; or 2) are lying or mistaken about having received that God’s revelation.

You can imagine that there must have been some advance stipulations such as “a God might exist” that were made in order to let such a derivative topic such as “Is Non-Christian Thought Justifiable” be brought up for debate. But as a layman, this always bugs me. I just think that establishing the existence of God, any God, is a prerequisite to discussions such as this one. Regardless, the question seems to resolve to “is revelation coherent?” Jones appears to assert so, but doesn’t support this in any way. A zany corollary of his is that you must have complete knowledge (as only God can provide, natch) if you are to have any knowledge at all. He doesn’t support this assertion either.

Both Parsons and Martin rebut Jones argument effectively, and using individual approaches that are different enough to make reading them both worthwhile and pleasurable.

Neither one raises their objections in the way that speaks to me most compellingly, however. I tend to think - obviously this is a preference, nothing more - that explicitly verifying what your mind perceives to be knowledge against the real world is the only way to achieve more knowledge. Turtles - all the way downParsons hints at it, but indirectly. Martin attacks Jones’ philosophy by deconstructing the propositions and the arguments that gird them. But neither - that I could detect - comes right out and says the words “you must verify what you think you know against the world. Otherwise, you’re just thinking you know”.

Ultimately, Jones whole schtick - and Van Til’s before him - is based on a stack of bare assertions. The supernatural exists. There exists a supreme entity we call a deity. That deity is the Christian God. That God has some influence over reality and humanity. That God reveals what is true. No other way of knowing anything is possible.

It’s utterly uncompelling. Jones’ proposition is never supported. The premises that might support the proposition are never supported. The turtles are missing all the way down. There is no reason to believe someone whose whole line of argument is “this is what I say, and what I say is correct because I think it’s correct”.


Speaking of zany, the Reformed Apologetics web site seems to be a hotbed of presuppositional material. Worth bookmarking!

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