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Monday, February 15, 2010

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First, I wish to thank Bill for posting this piece in a separate post.

Second, Bill is correct in pointing out that in #2 'false' should substitute 'contradictory': a sentence false in all models just is contradictory. My mistake.

Third, Bill is right in suggesting that providing examples throughout would have been helpful. My only excuse for this failure is limited time and space (the post was already too long). I thank him for supplying the pertinent examples.

I must say it's a real treat to have my proposal stress-tested by two such rigorous thinkers! I wish I had more time to contribute to the discussion, but I will try to make time to post a response tomorrow. I want to be sure I understand Peter's analysis before commenting.

Prof. Anderson,

As for myself, the delight is all mine for being challenged to face a novel doctrine such as the one proposed by you. I am sure Bill feels the same. I only regret that my contributions did not benefit from a reading of your book, something that will be remedied soon.

I have a couple of preliminary questions of clarification.

1. In 1.2) a sentence is S defined as a real contradiction just in case there is no normal model in which S comes out true. But in 2) the notion of apparent contradiction appears to be defined in such a way as to entail real contradiction: "Let S be a sentence expressible in L and suppose S comes out false in every normal model M." In that case S must be a real contradiction, per the prior definition. So on this scheme, one cannot have a merely apparent contradiction. What am I missing?

2. In 2.2) the term "adjusted-normal-model" is defined. But later on, the term "abnormal-model" is introduced. Am I right to take these as synonymous?

Now some comments by way of response.

1. My actual position is less radical than Peter suspects. In terms of his scheme, my claim is that the doctrine of the Trinity is paradoxical because of either epistemic inscrutability (EI) or conceptual inscrutability (CI). I don't know which is the case. I'm quite open to the possibility that some enterprising theologian will come up with a formulation of the doctrine that avoids paradox while preserving orthodoxy. Indeed, I hope that happens. But my argument is that regardless of whether we're facing EI or CI, it can still be rational for Christians to affirm and believe the doctrine in the absence of any satisfactory resolution. (As for what counts as 'rational' here, I discuss that at length in the book.)

2. Peter asserts in 4.1) that any ambiguity or equivocation in the terms used in the Trinitarian-sentence will necessarily infect all sentences in which those terms are used. This is by no means obvious to me. Terms in theological discourse are used with varying meanings all the time (just as in any other field of discourse). Could Peter flesh out his argument here?

3. Peter seems to suggest in 4.2) that if one doesn't understanding precisely how a term is to be understood in some particular context, then one doesn't understand it at all. This strikes me as very implausible. (Bill picks up this point in his comment under 5.) I may well be misreading Peter here, but this seems to be an assumption of his argument.

According to the doctrine of analogy (a staple of Christian theology) terms don't have precisely the same meaning when applied to the Creator as they do when applied to creatures. But they're not equivocal either; there is substantial semantic overlap. In my book, I argue that my proposal fits well with this mainstream Christian view of theological language. The terms used in the doctrine of the Trinity are analogical to terms used in ordinary discourse. But we don't need to be able to specify precisely how they differ in order to find those theological statements meaningful. (Compare again the situation of the conceptually-limited Flatlander and his doctrine of the Cone. Surely the Cone isn't hyper-inscrutable to him. He has a partial understanding of the Cone, albeit one that in his conceptual scheme gives rises to some logical perplexities.)

It seems to me that Peter's objection is not so much an objection to my proposal as an objection to the doctrine of analogy as such. So if he's right, I'm the least of his targets!

4. Regarding the three questions under point 6:

I'm not sure how from our perspective we could distinguish a case of EI from CI. Certainly if someone came up with a non-paradoxical formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, we would know that it had been EI rather than CI. Other than that, I'm not sure. But since I'm not yet persuaded that either EI or CI is problematic in the way Peter suggests, I'm not too concerned about it.

What reasons do we have to believe there are cases of CI? I think there are some theological reasons to think it wouldn't be too surprising to encounter cases of CI. I discuss some in the book. But as I say, I'm not committed to the claim that there are cases of CI.

And my answer to question 6.3 is of course: No, we are not. :)

5. My overall sense is that Peter's characterization of linguistic meaning is too restrictive. It's more early-Wittgenstein than late-Wittgenstein, if I can put it that way. I think language (including theological language) is more flexible and complex than his scheme allows. If I'm right, his net probably isn't going to catch my fish.

Anderson,
If I may ask: What do you think about the supposita theory presented by Lukas Novak? Don't you think it is a "non-paradoxical formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity"? If not, why not?
Thanks

Aresh v,

Anderson admits that there are many non-paradoxical formulations of the Trinity. However, these sacrifice rationality for orthodoxy. The trick is to offer an orthodox and rational formulation. I have not read Novak's view, but I'd be willing to bet that to the extent that it is rational, it doesn't meet the demands of orthodoxy (as he laid out in his book).

Paul,

I have not read Novak's view, but I'd be willing to bet that to the extent that it is rational, it doesn't meet the demands of orthodoxy

This reads like an a priori assumption that orthodoxy is irrational. Is there any rationale for such an assumption, I wonder? :-)

I dare to assert with a high degree of certainty that "my view" is orthodox, since I have not aimed at anything else than formulating the orthodox doctrine according to its true meaning.

Lukas,

I happen to think orthodoxy is rational. I know I said I hadn't read your formulation and so deserve any blowback I get for dismissing it as I did. I made an inductive generalization. None of the views I've seen maintain both desiderata of rationality and orthodoxy. The resolutions tend toward modalism or tritheism. Of course many social trinitarians think they are offering an orthodox model. I grant the rationality but I deny the orthodoxy, as I see ST involving the latter unorthodox formulation.

As I said, I made a comment based on an inductive generalization. If I were you, I wouldn't appreciate the brush-off without reading your formulation. Perhaps your formulation meets the two desiderata (rationality and orthodoxy). With James above, "I'm quite open to the possibility that some enterprising theologian will come up with a formulation of the doctrine that avoids paradox while preserving orthodoxy." Maybe that's you!

Paul,
thanks for you answers. In general I agree with you. The further problem I see here is that the propagating ambiguity that Peter would ascribe to the religious talk, is affecting more the debate over the religious talk than the religious talk as such.
While the religious talk is enough robust and makes tollerable the use of undetermined meanings to some extent without undermining the whole religious statements, the putatively rigorous requirements of a philosophical debate would demand a more clear and univocal use of the language for a more productive criticism. Unfortunately it seems that there is no general agreement on the definitions of modalism, tritheism and orthodoxy. And this makes the philosophical terrain even more slippery than the religious one.
E.g. According to me, Lukas Novak supposita theory ends up in a form af tritheism (besides other drawbacks). But then he states that I'm wrong because if I count the number of 'God's there is just one God. The point is that we share neither the same rationality standards nor the same definition of 'tritheism' here. For him what makes a theistic stance 'tri' or 'mono' is the number of 'God' items; instead for me it's the number of ULTIMATE subjects one predicates 'divinity' of. My definition I think is more rational than Lukas's one because it's more conform to the usual way not only we count things in ordinary life, but also to the way other monotheistic religions (Judaism and Islam) would consider what makes 'tri' or 'mono' a given doctrine (if I'm not mistaken). But Lukas's rationality standards say: no matter what is generally or usually considered valid by human beings, God shouldn't submit to all too human standards, and deserves to be considered as an exception!
That's why I was curious about Anderson's opinion about Lukas's position.
regards

Paul,

No need to apologise! Nevertheless, when reading your response, I became aware of something that deserves pointing out.

You speak of various "formulations of the Trinity", which can be evaluatied for "rationality" and "orthodoxy". It seems to me that this pattern of thought is quite common among most of the analytical thinkers, and it is the one that pervades this entire discussion. I have been long feeling that there is something fundamentally flawed with this approach but it was only when reading your comments that I realised what it is.

Let me explain: This conceptual pattern requires presumption that there is a "formulation" on the one hand, and then some standard of "orthodoxy" on the other hand. The task of the thinker is to adjust the "formulation" so that it conforms to the standard, without ceasing to be "rational". But isn't this a very strange agenda, when you think of it?

For: what is your standard of orthodoxy, I wonder? Clearly it cannot be just a bunch of sentences deprived of any interpretation. The standard must be understood, it is rather a bunch of propositions or meanings.

Now (as I have already noted in a response to Bill), once you have the meaning of the orthodox doctrine, it cannot be "rendered consistent" or "rendered inconsistent" by any intellectual procedures. It simply either IS or IS NOT consistent. If it is consistent, the consistence either is or is not evident to us - and the same holds for inconsistency.

The upshot of this analysis is that the project sketched above is futile in every case. For either you have the "orthodox standard" or not; if not, you cannot evaluate any formulation against it. If you have it, then eithr it is evidently inconsistent or not. If it is evidently inconsistent, then what is the point of trying to produce a "formulation" conform to it? If it is not evidently inconsistent - what is the point of making up some distinct "formulation" conform to it, why not take the original???

(Of course: when whe have understood the standard orthodox doctrine and found that it is not evidently contradictory, we can produce various interpretations of it: The task of such an interpretation is to however not to "render the doctrine consistent" but to add more detail to it, connect it with one's general philosophical framework, derive further consequences which are not explicitly formulated in the doctrine itself etc.)

I now realise that in the entire discussion I was trying to persuade Bill and others to abandon this project of producing a "formulation" conform both to "orthodoxy" and "rationality", and to have look at the orthodox standard itsef instead and prove it inconsistent, if they can. I fthey cannot, the case is closed.

But it seems that I have been constantly misunderstood: my attempts to explain the very meaning of the orthodox standard were taken as just on of the alternative "formulations", as the charge of it being "ad hoc" shows. It seems to me that the charge only makes sense within the described approach.

In this post I will only respond to Prof. Anderson’s #1 in his recent response. I think that what I have to say in this post has ramifications regarding the other issues raised by Prof. Anderson’s reply. I will address those in a separate post.

(A1). If I understand Prof. Anderson, he holds all of the following:

(i) As currently formulated, the Trinitarian-sentence is contradictory (paradoxical) or appears to be so.

(ii) Currently there is no consensus on an interpretation of the Trinitarian-sentence which is contradiction free and satisfies the requirements of orthodoxy.

(iii) It is compatible with everything we know that the Trinitarian-sentence will turn out to be inscrutable either in the sense of EI or CI.

(iv) “regardless of whether we're facing EI or CI, it can still be rational for Christians to affirm and believe the doctrine in the absence of any satisfactory resolution. (As for what counts as 'rational' here, I discuss that at length in the book.)”

(A1.1) I wish to closely examine Prof. Anderson’s claim that under the above conditions it would still be “rational for a Christian to affirm and believe” the Trinitarian doctrine.

(A1.2) Beliefs are individuated in terms of their content. We can rephrase this as follows: a belief is individuated in terms of the proposition expressed by the sentence appearing in the that-clause of a belief attribution. Thus, unless the that-clause of a putative belief attribution expresses a proposition, we cannot say that a belief has been attributed or that a subject believes such-and-such.

(A1.3) The above entails the following: it makes sense to assert, maintain, or appraise whether it is rational for X to believe that P only if the phrase ‘X believes that P’ is a proper belief attribution; i.e., only if ‘P’ expresses a proposition.

(A1.4) A contradictory sentence does not express a proposition.

(A1.5) Now, Prof. Anderson agrees that the current formulation of the Trinitarian-sentence (TS) consisting of the conjunction of the sentences of the Trinitarian doctrine is paradoxical because it appears to be contradictory [(i) above]. Moreover, we do not currently have an alternative formulation which removes the contradiction while satisfying orthodoxy [(ii) above]. It may turn out that the Trinitarian sentence is EI or CI [(iii) above]. Hence, we may never be able to replace TS with a sentence TS* such that TS* expresses a proposition and we know which proposition TS* expresses.

(A1.6) TS cannot be used for a belief attribution because it fails to express a proposition since it is contradictory.

(A1.7) We do not currently have a suitable replacement TS* for TS which is contradiction free and satisfies the requirements of orthodoxy. Hence, there is no sentence TS* in our language which can be used currently for a proper belief attribution of the Trinitarian doctrine (CI) or if there is such a sentence, we cannot have epistemic access to it (EI).

(A1.8) Since it is possible that we may never be able to find a suitable replacement for TS which preserves a contradiction free content satisfying orthodoxy, we have no way of attributing to anyone a belief in the Trinitarian doctrine. And in the absence of a proper belief-attribution, we cannot entertain the question of whether having such a belief would be rational.

(A1.8) Therefore, (iv) above cannot be maintained unless Prof. Anderson explains how a legitimate belief attribution under the conditions specified can be made. For unless we can make sense of a belief attribution of the Trinitarian doctrine, the question of the rationality of a belief in this doctrine does not even come up.

Peter,

I reject (A1.4) and (A1.6).

Regarding (A1.4), it seems to me as clear a logical principle as any that if P is a proposition and Q is a proposition then P&Q is also a proposition. Furthermore, if P is a proposition then ~P is also a proposition. So if P is a proposition, it follows that P&~P must also be a proposition. The latter is a necessarily false proposition, but it is a proposition nonetheless. Likewise, if some sentence S expresses a proposition, then S conjoined with its negation is also a proposition. Thus it is quite possible for a contradictory sentence to express a proposition.

I should emphasize here that I do not claim that the doctrine of the Trinity is necessarily false; indeed, I explicitly deny it. But if (A1.4) is false then your objection fails anyway.

Regarding (A1.6), I don't claim that TS is contradictory; I claim that it is apparently contradictory. So even if (A1.4) were true, it still wouldn't follow that TS fails to express a proposition.

In my book (and the article that preceded it) I give several non-theological examples of scenarios in which it is plausible to think that a person can intelligibly and rationally believe a set of claims that appears (to them) to be inconsistent, provided they have sufficient epistemic grounds for believing that the contradiction is merely apparent. Perhaps it would be worth interacting with those examples before turning to the more controversial case of the doctrine of the Trinity. If you can show that it can never be rational to believe a set of claims that appear to be inconsistent, regardless of what epistemic grounds one might have for accepting those claims or for believing that the inconsistency is merely apparent, then my proposal is dead in the water. But I think it would be tough to make that case.

Dr. Novak,

You write:

"Now (as I have already noted in a response to Bill), once you have the meaning of the orthodox doctrine, it cannot be "rendered consistent" or "rendered inconsistent" by any intellectual procedures. It simply either IS or IS NOT consistent. If it is consistent, the consistence either is or is not evident to us - and the same holds for inconsistency.

The upshot of this analysis is that the project sketched above is futile in every case. For either you have the "orthodox standard" or not; if not, you cannot evaluate any formulation against it. If you have it, then eithr it is evidently inconsistent or not. If it is evidently inconsistent, then what is the point of trying to produce a "formulation" conform to it? If it is not evidently inconsistent - what is the point of making up some distinct "formulation" conform to it, why not take the original???"

This distinction you make here seems to involve an oversimplified theory of literary meaning and the interpretation of texts (as much as I hate to give a nod to critical theorists ;-). You seem to assume there is one fixed meaning to the relevant biblical passages and the orthodox (non-biblical) texts (and what are these texts if not "intellectual formulations" of the biblical passages?) and if only those are nailed down and understood, the doctrine becomes crystal clear and no distinct intellectual formulations are necessary to understand the doctrine, indeed such formulations are superfluous and even distortions of "the original."

However the actual situation seems to be that all texts with any literary complexity involve ambiguities and concepts open to various possible interpretations, and while there are limits to the kinds of interpretations one can make of parts of texts, there is also a semantic openness that prevents nailing down THE meaning once and for all. The very process of trying to understand the foundational texts and fixing an accurate, consistent, reasonable meaning, requires analysis and "formulations." The latter are not something that are overlayed on top. They are part of the process of understanding the very meaning. All reading and I would say understanding of any kind involves an effort to make the datum consistent. This is confirmed by lots of psychological research.

So, what I understand Bill Vallicella and you and other philosophers of religion and theologians to be doing is trying to come up with interpretations (formulations) or ways of understanding the relevant datum texts - I guess this includes your "orthodox standard" and "the original"- in a way that renders some of the more apparently paradoxical ones logically consistent. (Of course, Bill himself does not seem to have found a solution and is skeptical of this consistency, and argues accordingly). The fact that he uses the logical tools of an analytic philosopher as an aid in presenting arguments should not be construed as some distinct intellectual formulation that is measured against some orthodox standard.

The consistency or inconsistency of the orthodox doctrine is either evident or it is not, as you say. You are arguing it is consistent and he that it isn't, and so far it's been very entertaining and educational! What's wrong with that?!

Hanson,

I certainly agre ethat we have no direct approach to the meaning itsef but only can get to it through language, and I agree that a language as a system of non-natural, conventional signs is always liable to ambiguities. On the other hand, in case of the fundamental dogmas of the Church the two-millenial process of precisation and delimitation of the meaning of the doctrine has yielded a pretty unequivocal results. There certainly is room open to further interpretation in the sense that the doctrine may be further enriched and developed beyond the scope of what is strict dogma. This is for example the case of the varying theologico-philosophical interpretations of what actually plays the role of "subsistence" in created substances. But such "interpretations" do not vary the meaning of the dogma! The dogma says what are the limits in understanding "subsistence" and leaves room for interpretation within these limits.

So there is no need for an absolutly precise specification of every aspect of the semantics of the terms in the dogmatic definitions. There are just limits beyond which it is forbidden to go - and these indeed HAVE BEEN nailed down once for all, and pretty tight. It is not so that just any interpretation goes.

Now the question of the rationality of the dogma is, whether we can say that this very system of limits or minimal requirements on the meanings of the terms is evidently self-contradictory. It is possible to say that even without precise specification of the meaning of the terms.

For example, if the dogma were that God is both one person and three persons, while it would be a part of the limits imposed on the meaning of the dogma that "person" is used univocally here, we would be in the position to say a apriori that no matter what the precise meaning of "person" is, the doctrine will be contradictory. Nothing can be saved by means of distinctions, because the undistinguished identity of the term "person" is part of the dogma; any consistent doctrine that would result from the distinction would be unorthodox.

On the other hand, if no dogmatic statement (or set of statements) has this unconditionally self-contradictory character, then the doctrine is not irrational, not "against reason", despite the fact that within the limits the precise meaning of the terms can be subject to various interpretations. The alternative that there were still left some terms in the definitions of which it would not be clear whether they must be understood unabiguously or whether they can be distinguished has already been ruled out during the long history of dogmatic precisation and disambiguation, at least as far as such key terms as "person", "nature" etc are concerned. (It is almost impossible to make out a new heresy now - all thinkable alternatives seem to have been there already, and considered.)

Now my objection to Bill is that he seems to refuse to engage in analysis of what I regard to be the doctrine itself, that is, with the actual system of limits imposed on the meanings of the doctrinal terms. Instead he insists in pointing to inconsistencies in meanings which are outside the limits of a permissible interpretation, and the proposals to abandon these meanings and adopt the meaning which IS within the limits, by acknowledging certain distinctions, he dismisses as suggestions to aply and "ad hoc" remedy to the inconsistencies in his off-limits interpretation.

Anderson,
There are 2 further problems though:
1) Since believing that p is equivalent to believing that the proposition expressed by p is true , as far as you can't provide a suitable set of propositions to formulate the trinity doctrine
than, according to the 2 alternatives sketched by you, either one believes necessary false set of propositions or one believes that we don't have a suitable set of proposition expressed by p.
So how can one still believe that p? How can one still believe in the trinity doctrine?
2) How can one avoid that the lack of a suitable set of propositions espressing the real meaning of the trinity doctrine undermines the whole terligious language regarding God, Jesus, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?
Regards

Another Stab at Anderson’s Trinitarian Mysterianism,

I strongly recommend to everyone interested in the subject to read Anderson’s “In defense of mystery: a reply to Dale Tuggy” (2005), Religious Studies, 41, 145-163 in which he replies to Dale Tuggy’s paper “The unfinished business of Trinitarian theorizing”, Religious Studies, 39(2003), 165-183. A link to Anderson’s paper is provided by him in his last response to me. I was unable to obtain Dale Tuggy’s original paper.

Part I.

Let us distinguish between the surface-structure (SST) of a sentence and its deep-structure (DST) [Chomskian in spirit if not in letter]. A sentence may have several DSTs. The DST of a sentence is obtained from the SST by replacing one or more equivocal terms in the original sentence with terms that express a single sense of each such original term. We can now distinguish between what Anderson calls “apparent-and-real” contradictions vs. “apparent-but-not-real” contradictions or “merely apparent contradictions” (MAC).

A case of an apparent-and-real contradiction will be a case where the SST of a sentence exhibits the logical form of an (explicit) contradiction and it has no DST which fails to exhibit the logical form of a contradiction. A MAC, by contrast, is a case where a sentence P satisfies the following conditions:

(i) The SST of P exhibits the logical form of a contradiction;

(ii) We are in the position to replace in P all the equivocal terms with suitable unambiguous counterparts that express a single sense of the original terms and thereby produce a DST of P;

(iii) P has at least one contradiction free DST.

Conditions (i)-(iii) are typically satisfied in the order in which they are presented above. We first recognize that the SST of a given sentence exhibits the logical form of a contradiction. Then we identify equivocation in one or more terms. Next we introduce the pertinent terms which express a single suitable sense of the original terms and replace the equivocal terms with the unequivocal ones. We then examine whether the resulting DST is contradiction free. If it is, then the original sentence is a MAC: it is a merely apparent contradiction. Notice that according to the present procedure we first construct an actual DST and only then do we conclude that there exists a contradiction free DST for the sentence in question. Let us call this the *constructivist method* of confirming that condition (iii) is satisfied.

A MACRUE is just like a MAC with the following crucial difference: conditions (i) and (iii) of a MAC are satisfied, but condition (ii) is not: i.e., even though we clearly recognize that the SST of the sentence exhibits the logical form of a contradiction and we acknowledge that we are not currently and perhaps never will be in the position to produce a contradiction free DST, nevertheless we affirm that the sentence has at least one DST which does not exhibit the logical form of a contradiction. Anderson maintains that the conjunction of the relevant sentences of the Trinitarian doctrine is a case of a MACRUE.

How are MACRUEs possible? How can we recognize that the SST of P exhibits the logical form of a contradiction and also acknowledge that we are not in the position to affect the required disambiguation, yet affirm that P nonetheless has a contradiction free DST? After all, one might protest, the way we know that a contradiction free DST exists for a particular sentence whose SST exhibits the logical form of a contradiction is by recognizing equivocation in some terms, identifying the various senses involved, making the suitable replacements and then constructing an actual contradiction free DST. In other words, can we establish that condition (iii) is satisfied without utilizing the constructivist method? Isn’t the constructivist method necessary in order to be warranted to affirm the existence of a contradiction free DST for the sentence under scrutiny?

Anderson proposes an ingenious way of bypassing the constructivist method in establishing the existence of a contradiction free DST for MACRUE’s. This argument is similar in certain ways to familiar indirect proofs. Let us look at the conjunction of the pertinent Trinitarian sentences (TS).

The SST of TS exhibits the logical form of a contradiction. Hence, TS satisfies requirement (i) above. Now, suppose that TS does not have a contradiction free DST. Then by the above definition of an apparent-and-real contradiction, TS is really contradictory. Hence, TS is necessarily false. But TS is also a *revelation* and on account of being a revelation it must be true. But we cannot have it that TS is both necessarily true and necessarily false. Therefore, the assumption that TS does not have a contradiction free DST must be false. Hence, it follows that TS must have at least one contradiction free DST, even if we are not in the position now or ever to actually produce this contradiction free DST. Hence, we have shown that condition (iii) above must be satisfied for TS without satisfying condition (ii). Thus, MACRUEs are possible and the Trinitarian doctrine may just be one such a case. Let us call this procedure the *non-constructivist method* of confirming that condition (iii) is satisfied.

Now, Anderson does hope that TS will eventually be converted from a MACRUE to a MAC by coming up with the right constructivist method of producing a suitable contradiction free DST for TS. Nevertheless, Anderson maintains that it is rational to believe TS while it is still a MACTRUE and, moreover, it would be rational to do so even if TS remains a MACRUE forever on strength of the non-constructivist method described above.

Part II.

1) Let us first examine Anderson’s version of the indirect proof stated above. Anderson’s indirect proof appears to follow the standard procedure of indirect proofs whereby one introduces into the argument an auxiliary premise which has been proved independently from the proposition currently under scrutiny. Since the auxiliary premise has an independent proof that does not depend upon the truth of the proposition under current scrutiny, it enjoys our confidence that it is true and, hence, can be used in an argument that aims to prove the truth of the proposition under scrutiny.

1.1) Upon closer examination, however, the auxiliary premise introduced in Anderson’s version of the indirect proof is that TS is a revelation. The trouble is that the proposition that TS is a revelation is intimately linked to the question of whether or not TS has a contradiction free DST. For if we suppose that TS does not have a contradiction free DST, then TS cannot be a revelation.

Anderson says:
“If the Bible is indeed inspired by God, and if the Holy Spirit can induce in a person’s mind a firm conviction that this is so, then Christians can be warranted in believing both direct biblical claims and also whatever follows from those claims ‘by good and necessary consequence’ (as the Westminster Confession puts it). In favourable circumstances, those beliefs may be warranted to a high degree.” (Anderson, 2005, p. 154).

1.2) But is the case of TS a “favourable” circumstance? I submit that it is not. For the fact that the SST of TS exhibits the logical form of a contradiction and the fact that we fail to produce a contradiction free DST for TS by means of the constructive method together combine into a situation where it is very unfavourable for anyone to believe that TS is inspired by God. At the least these facts present strong rational grounds to withhold judgment about both whether TS has a contradiction free DST and whether TS could be a revelation. As noted above, the two questions are so intimately linked that one is not justified to rely by fiat upon one in order to derive the truth of the other.

2) Let us now consider the extreme case; i.e., the case where we will never be able to produce by means of a constructivist method a contradiction free DST for TS. In such cases we are imagining that our language permanently lacks the conceptual resources to remove equivocation and produce a contradiction free DST. In my main post I called such a case *hyper-inscrutable*. Anderson is willing to admit that TS may be a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE. But can there really be hyper-inscrutable MACRUEs and if so, how would we ever know whether a particular case is a case of a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE or a case of apparent-and-real contradiction?

2.1) Anderson provides several examples to convince us that there indeed can be cases of hyper-inscrutable MACRUEs. But when all is said and done, none of these examples are cases of hyper-inscrutable MACRUEs: in fact all such examples turn out to be MACs or alternatively cases of temporary MACRUE’s in the sense that we are able to discern the equivocation and construct a contradiction free DST. (One should verify the claims I made in this segment by reading the referenced paper by Anderson)

2.2) Of course, it may not be possible to produce a genuine case of a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE. After all such a case by its very nature excludes the constructivist method of producing a contradiction free DST for some sentence and so it must rely exclusively upon an indirect method. But, as we have seen above, the indirect or non-constructivist method must rely upon producing an independently proved auxiliary premise and derive from it the conclusion that a contradiction free DST exists. However, it is difficult to see how an auxiliary premise satisfying the independence condition can be produced in the cases we are considering.

2.3) Anderson attempts to soften us to the possibility that TS could be viewed as an example of a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE and, hence, as inherently mysterious to us by appealing to the cognitive distance between God’s mental capabilities compared to our own. While God undoubtedly grasps the nuanced metaphysical distinctions required in order to uncover a contradiction free DST for TS, we may not be in a position to do so due to our linguistic and cognitive limitations. In the end, we may have to be content with the mere knowledge that TS admits some contradiction free DST, even though we may never be able to produce such a DST.

2.4) I deny that it is warranted to maintain that we *know* that there is some contradiction free DST for TS although we cannot articulate its precise character. For any evidence that might be invoked on behalf of such a claim is just as tainted as is the fact that the SST of TS exhibits the logical form of a contradiction. Appealing to the authority of scripture provides evidence only if it is rationally acceptable to hold that God revealed himself to us by means of the Bible: i.e., that the Bible is a revelation. But how can one rationally accept that God revealed himself to us when the narrative by means of which this revelation is communicated is threatened by a contradiction. Consider the following two hypotheses:

H1: The Bible is God’s revelation.
H2: The Bible is not God’s revelation.

Now consider the following facts: the Bible entails a sentence TS the SST of which exhibits the logical form of a contradiction and we will never be able to construct a version (or a DST) of TS which fails to exhibit the form of a contradiction. Thus, for all we know, some sentences in the Bible must be false. How do we know that the sentences which are false are not precisely the ones that are deemed revelations? Surely, these facts support H2 over H1. I now ask: What independent and untainted facts support H1?

Part III.

I certainly understand the notion that if a theist God exists and it features some of the properties typically associated with such a being, then this God is going to be superior to us in many respects. For instance, we will never be able to create a universe such as this one both because we will never have the extensive knowledge required in order to produce such an enormous undertaking and because we will never possess the power to do so. What I fail to understand, and I suspect I will never be able to bring myself to understand, is this: when it comes to the most important questions, questions that touch upon the very fabric of the human condition, questions which invite us to embark upon a journey which will bring us closer here and now to a theist God, just at this juncture we are told that the answers to these questions are beyond our intellectual capacities, capacities that were presumably endowed to us by this very theist God. It is as if we are told that God created us in his own image only to deprive us from seeing the contours of this very image. What is, then, this image?

Anderson compares his position to the response that some theist philosophers (he uses the term ‘Christian’, but I assume he will accept the broader term ‘theist’) use regarding the problem of evil. Indeed, a very fitting comparison. This response aptly called the Unknown (unknowable?) Purpose Defense (UPD) [I got this term from my friend Mike Valle], is simply that what appears from our standpoint as gratuitous evil, is from God’s point of view evil allowed for a higher purpose. The problem is that we simply cannot comprehend these higher purposes in the name of which God allegedly allows evils in the world because (once again) of the vast cognitive gap that exists between our understanding and God’s own.

Just like I do not accept (nor really understand) the motivation behind Anderson’s view regarding TS, similarly I cannot accept UPD as an adequate defense against the evidential problem of evil (or any other version of the problem, for that matter). I cannot discuss this matter extensively here, since this post turned out to be much longer than I originally intended and too long to be tolerated by even the most charitable a reader. However, I will say a few words nonetheless.

But first a word of caution: I do not intend to imply that what I am about to say is a view Anderson explicitly endorses or would do so if asked. Rather I wish to contrast in rather broad terms two different pictures of the relationship between God and us. I believe that both the Unknown Purpose Defense and Anderson’s Trinitarian Mysterianism perhaps unwittingly align themselves with a picture of this relationship we ought to, in my view, emphatically reject.

There are two pictures of the relationship between a theistic God and us. The first picture depicts this relationship along the model of a master-and-slave. The master commands and the role of the slave is to obey; the master knows why, how, and for what purpose, whereas the proper role of the slave is to follow blindly; the master demands complete loyalty, the slave must provide it without any questions; the slave misbehaves, the master punishes; the slave obeys, the master rewards. This picture has a long history and it begins with the traditional interpretation of the Biblical narrative of Adam and Eve and the so-called “original sin”. This interpretation of the Adam and Eve narrative had an enormous influence upon the Western world and it is all wrong.

The second picture of the relationship between God and us and the one I prefer is modeled on the relationship between a mentor and a student. The mentor offers the student guidance, imparts upon the student all that the mentor knows, and then sends the student out into the world in order to use this knowledge to make a beneficial contribution to the world. A noble, dignified, and benevolent mentor does not demand blind obedience nor does such a mentor deprive the student from knowledge he or she has so as to preserve some kind of a superficial superiority over the student.

I am an atheist who has enormous respect for religion and for theists who struggle to understand a transcendental reality of a divine character they sincerely believe exists. The fact that I do not share their belief in the existence of such a reality does not prevent me from joining my theist friends in this endeavor to the best of my abilities. I want to know the truth and I do not hesitate to seek it even in places alien to my own beliefs, for the truth may reveal itself in unexpected places. However, I will never be able to accept that the Biblical tradition calls for a master-and-slave relationship between God and us. Instead, I believe that the Biblical narrative envisions a relationship between God and us to be the one modeled after the mentor and student. I believe a case can be made on behalf of this later model; at least I hope it can be for the sake of all of us.

Peter,
Sorry to intervene once again on that. Let's consider a not theological example side by side with the theological one:
A1) S moves from point X to point Y
A2) God is triune
B1) Perception tells me that A1 is true (perception is the source of information)
B2) Revelations tells me that A2 is true (testimony is the source of knowledge)
C1) Infinite Division tells me that A1 is impossible (paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise)
C2) Law of Contradiction tells me that A2 is contradictory, therefore impossible
D1) Only XIV century Richard Suiseth provided the mathematic demonstration that the sum of an infinite series of terms n/2 converges (therefore to cover the distance XY is possible)
D2) Only after life we will learn the logic-ontologic demonstration that the Triune God is not contradictory (therefore it is possible)
E1) Nobody at the time of Zeno provided (or knew whether they had the resources to provide) the mathematic demonstration that the sum of an infinite series of terms n/2 converges
E2) Nobody in this life provided (or knows whether one has the resources to provide) the logic-ontologic demonstration that the Triune God is possible
Can all your considerations invalidate the analogy above? How?
best regards

"What I fail to understand, and I suspect I will never be able to bring myself to understand, is this: when it comes to the most important questions, questions that touch upon the very fabric of the human condition, questions which invite us to embark upon a journey which will bring us closer here and now to a theist God, just at this juncture we are told that the answers to these questions are beyond our intellectual capacities, capacities that were presumably endowed to us by this very theist God. It is as if we are told that God created us in his own image only to deprive us from seeing the contours of this very image. What is, then, this image?"

Peter,

Part of the problem is that these questions are not "the most important." They are certainly not presented that way in the biblical narrative. Rather, knowledge of our sin before God and his salvation offered through Jesus Christ is the most important. For even if you had these questions answered, you would not be one inch closer to God according to the Christian worldview. Sorry to get all "theological."

This is not to say that these questions are unimportant, however. Far from it. And there is much by way of answers theists have given. Yet, I find it extremely plausible that there be questions we simply are unequipped to understand (and this is by no means unique to Christianity here. vanInwagen points this out in his Metaphysics. He, and other metaphysicians, seems to think that there are some problems we will never know the answers to). Given the gap between us and God, his mind and ours, why are you so incredulous. Suppose that the gap between God and us is far further than the gap between a two-year old and Einstein in his prime. Since in the latter case seems unproblematic when considering that issues will arise that the two year old cannot understand, no matter how much Einstein explains it, then how much more our situation before God? Indeed, the two year old may grow older and "catch up" with Einstein, but in theism, this doesn't happen. The gap actually seems to widen the more we learn about God. So as a theist, I see nothing wrong with what you find so problematic. it seems to me that the Christian worldview actually teaches and implies these gaps. We read that God's thoughts and ways are not ours. We read that his ways are "unsearchable." So, I grant you may have a problem with all of this, but that objection is predicated upon the falsity of the Christian worldview. For if Christianity is true, this is precisely the kind of God we have. It would be an odd objection indeed to claim that a consequence of a position is a critique of that position!

In terms of the image, in the Ancient Near East we know that kings would place their images across their domain to indicate that that king ruled it. Further, we image God by ruling over creation and exercising dominion over it, subduing it.

Regarding your models, here's a third: the father/child relationship. The child can do certain things on his own, but the world is a much, much, much bigger place than he imagines. The child cannot be autonomous but must trust, rest, and believe in his father. He must listen to his father's instructions. Likewise, the father doesn't impart some knowledge about the birds and the bees and send his child off into the world alone. The child would soon die. The father protects the child. But this doesn't always look right from the child's perspective. The father sometimes must do things for the good of his child that the child does not understand (like hold him down while the doctor stitches him so he doesn't bleed to death). The child could foolishly doubt his father's goodness, or he can trust that the father has a good reason for the evil he allows; even of the child cannot understand it. Where the analogy breaks down is that with humans the child eventually grows up and must make his own decisions. He can sit down and have a beer with his father, discussing politics or sports, as an epistemic equal. In the Christian religion, we stay children forever in comparison to the lofty knowledge of God.
Granted, I didn’t provide a rigorous defense of the UPD, but I find the work of Bergmann, Wykstra, Howard-Snyder, Plantinga, and Anderson, compelling.

aresh,

why apologize? there is no need. I think your comments are very helpful and often insightful as well.

Regarding Zeno's paradox of motion I believe that it was indeed a paradox and, hence, in Anderson's terms, a MACRUE. And I maintain that if it would not have been resolved, then we would have been in a serious problem about our concept of motion. However, it seems from what you are saying that it is not a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE and, hence, not analogous to the Trinitarian case, if we assume the later is hyper-inscrutable.

Paul,

1) "Part of the problem is that these questions are not "the most important.""

If these are not the most important questions or among the most important, then I am at a loss as to what is an important question.

2)"Rather, knowledge of our sin before God and his salvation offered through Jesus Christ is the most important."

[Being an atheist I often find myself having to talk in a roundabout way. So let us pretend for the sake of now that I am a theist.]

The approach expressed in this sentence and woven throughout your reply post is the one I emphatically reject. I have no interest in acknowledging a god that is obsessed with "sin", salvation, redemption, punishment, rewards, and most importantly who seems to be self-centered and interacts with us like a ruling tyrant.

It is beyond my comprehension that a theist God, a God which is perfect in every way would be interested in creating a creature (=us) in his own image merely in order to have someone out there who will worship it like a subservient slave (or even like a child who worships its parents).

This slave/master model of the relationship between God and us is alien to me and I find it completely counter to the image of a perfect deity theists otherwise uphold.

3) "Given the gap between us and God, his mind and ours, why are you so incredulous."

Because acknowledging this gap has nothing to do with our ability to ask, inquire, and understand the fundamental questions of existence. It is totally beyond my comprehension why theists who view God as perfectly benevolent and the creator would at the same time insist that such a God created us not in order to conquer the big questions of existence, but in order to fall onto the abyss of ignorance, mystery, and blind worship. On my (pretend) theistic view, exactly the opposite is the case: God created us equipped with all that is required in order to (among other things) ask the hard questions, examine ourselves and the world, never to give up on inquiry and learning even if this means challenging everything we think even God said. (In the Old Testament God is challenged several times by humans and God never indicates that it is displeased with such challenges).

You look at the gap: I look at the "his image". Where does God ever mention the so-called "Big Gap" in a manner that indicates that we are barred from, or incapable of, finding answers to questions we are perfectly capable of asking? [I hope you take the bait and give what may appear as the obvious example!]

4)"Yet, I find it extremely plausible that there be questions we simply are unequipped to understand (and this is by no means unique to Christianity here. vanInwagen points this out in his Metaphysics. He, and other metaphysicians, seems to think that there are some problems we will never know the answers to)."

Perhaps! But then again perhaps not! If Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle would have taken this "defeatist" attitude, then we would still be intellectually in the darkness. Lucky for us they did not. Why should we? We owe them, us, and humanity never to give up. And if your are a theist, I maintain we owe this to God as well.

Does anyone produced a convincing Meta-Philosophical proof that we are incapable of answering this or that question? Can such a proof be given? If not, then why should anyone be convinced by the mere possibility that we may never crack some questions. Our job is to push the envelop further and further as far as we can at any given time. The question of whether there are things beyond our comprehension cannot be determined from our current vantage point (for any give time that is current). Why then worry about that?

5) "In terms of the image, in the Ancient Near East we know that kings would place their images across their domain to indicate that that king ruled it. Further, we image God by ruling over creation and exercising dominion over it, subduing it."

Need I say more? You think of God as an ancient king having dominion over a kingdom. Why do we need another tyrant over and above the ones already populate this world?

Incidentally, I sort of think you did not get my reference to "the image" or ignored the point I was trying to make.

6) "Likewise, the father doesn't impart some knowledge about the birds and the bees and send his child off into the world alone. The child would soon die."

Really? And what about Genesis and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden? What was that if not sending them out into a hostile world to care for themselves and their offspring?

There is (fortunately) much, much more to debate about these topics. But thanks for bringing these issues up.


Peter,
Unfortunately my impression is that you totally missed my point.
What I was trying to show you is that we are (with regard to the trinity and revelation issue) in the same condition of epistemical ignorance as the greeks at the time of Zeno (with regard to the motion and perception issue). In both cases we fail to see the logic behind some facts which we assume for other reasons to be true.
As far as I've understood, your argument is harmless because:
1) It's simply misleading to estimate the mysterianist stance in the terms you did. your distinctions would have been no help to provide any epistemical warrenties to the greeks at the time of Zeno just as to the christians now. In both cases they these ditinctions of yours don't make anybody able to use them in order to increase one's own knowledge about the logic of some relevant facts, and prove if these are cases of MACRUE or not. All what the mysterianists need to say is simply that about the trinity we are in conditions of epistemical ignorance that we can't overcome as the dogma preaches. In short, their problem is epistemical and your distinction of inscrutabilities (no matter if epistemical or conceptua) always presuppose a lack of knowledge which is all what we should care of.
2) You made an assumption that mysterianist don't need to do: "We assume that L is a well developed natural language such as English and we have a sufficiently rich domain that includes whatever entities are required to implement an interpretation that will suffice for theological purposes." What if we don't have a sufficiently rich domain that includes whatever entities are required to implement an interpretation that will suffice for theological purposes? We have learned that there is a special entity (God) from the revelation, which can't be reduced to the entities we are used to entertaining ourselves with, since our language is suited for talking about ordinary entities we necessarily fail to grasp the onto-logic implications of that special entity.
Thanks in advance for your clarifications. Regards

aresh,

1) Regarding your point #2 about the possibility of not having a sufficiently rich domain, I think we are not on the same page here. A domain is just a set of entities that we stipulate for the purpose of assigning extensions to the non-logical terms. All we need here is to assume that a god exists in the world so that we can assign an extension to the term 'God'.

2) As for your point #1 regarding hyper-inscrutable MACRUEs and Zeno's paradox of motion (ZPM).

2.1) The first question is whether there are hyper-inscrutable MACRUEs and if so how do we know whether any given case is an instance. This is a legitimate question. Do you deny this?

2.2) The second question is whether ZPM is a case of a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE. As it turns out, it is not. Do you deny this?

2.3) The third question pertains to the epistemic predicament we face when we encounter a case that has the markings of a MACRUE. The Greeks for instance faced ZPM and had to decide what approach to take. We can reconstruct their predicament in terms of Anderson’s apparatus as follows. ZPM is a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE; in which case we will never know whether motion exists, or it is not; in which case we have the conceptual resources to solve the problem. The Greeks also knew that perception provides strong evidence in favor of the existence of motion. While perception is liable occasionally to deceive us, we rely on perception itself in order to identify the cases when it is deceiving us. Therefore, either perception is sometimes veridical (e.g., when we rely on it to find out when another perception is deceptive) or it is never veridical. If the former, then there is strong perceptual evidence on behalf of the existence of motion. Hence, perception offers us reasonable grounds to believe that ZPM is not a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE. On the other hand, if we assume that perception always deceives us, then we are embracing Global Skepticism. Thus, the assumption that ZPM is a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE entails Global Skepticism. To the extent that one rejects Global Skepticism, one affirms that ZPM is not a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE.

2.4) Now, let us compare revelation to perception. The first point to note is that the role of revelation regarding the Trinitarian case is not the same as the role of perception in the case of ZPM. While in the later case perception provides strong evidence that ZPM is NOT a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE (at least if we are willing to reject Global Skepticism), revelation in Anderson’s view is taken to provide evidence that the Trinitarian sentence IS a MACRUE and possibly even a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE.

2.5) Second, suppose we reject the assumption that the Bible or any part of it is a revelation on the grounds that it entails the Trinitarian sentence which at least on the surface has the logical form of a contradiction. Does it follow from this that everything in the Bible is false (the analog of Global Skepticism)? Certainly not! It does not even follow that a theistic God does not exist. What does follow, however, is that we cannot take for granted any part of the Bible as true simply by fiat. Instead, we must use all our intellectual resources to bring to bear in order to determine which parts are true and which parts may not be. In other words, we must embark upon inquiry in order to decide these matters. Revelation by its very nature mandates accepting a proposition as true without inquiry. But unlike in the case of perception, denying the existence of revelations does not entail Global Skepticism. Instead, denying the existence of revelations imposes upon theological inquiry similar standards that are imposed upon any other form of inquiry. Hence, perception is not the same as revelation.

I don't have time for a longer response right now, but for the record I want to note that I do not claim, or accept, that the doctrine of the Trinity is "hyper-inscrutable" in the way that Peter has defined the term. This is clear from my book. I realize that Peter thinks this is an implication of my position, but I don't think he has come close to showing that yet.

More later, perhaps.

Peter
1) I deny 1: if you are familiar with ontological debates, you must know it is not a trivial issue the stipulation of the primitive entities and from that stipulation may depend the distinction of "models"
2) I deny that 2.1 is a legitimate question:
- if you can't individuate and distinguish different models by definition then your definition of hyperinscrutability doesn't make any sense. You artificially built this notion in a way that is impossible to apply and then you foisted it on the mysterianists
- The only thing which matters here is the epistemical issue. And the only sense of hyperinscrutability which you can apply here is epistemical: namely, you can't fully grasp the concept of God in this life.
3) I deny also 2.4 "to provide EVIDENCE that the Trinitarian sentence IS a MACRUE and possibly even a hyper-inscrutable MACRUE" can only mean that you proved the concept of God to be not contradictory. And mysterianists don't do this
4) I also deny the ambiguity propagation for reasons that you didn't address
thanks for your clarifications. best regards

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