An Informal Introduction to Covenantal Apologetics: Part 15 – Illustrating necessity by the impossibility of the contrary.

By C.L. Bolt

We’ve said some important things concerning the sufficiency of the Christian worldview and the nature of the transcendental. Let’s set aside these previous discussions for now and focus on demonstrating the necessity of the Christian worldview by virtue of the impossibility of the contrary. You will recall our much earlier discussion of the impossibility of the contrary in Part 12.

In the context of transcendental arguments one need not speak of competing transcendentals (plural) but only of a competing transcendental (singular). If one is to demonstrate that some given condition is necessary then one need only to consider one competitor to that given condition. That competitor, by its very nature, is the negation of that condition or at any rate is predicated upon the negation of that condition. So for example, to demonstrate that the precondition of one’s existence is necessary to deny one’s existence, we considered the alternative or competing condition that one does not exist. If an individual does not exist then that individual cannot deny that he or she exists. What if a person wants to say that she only appears to exist? Here we would approach the argument in much the same way. For our poor girl to say that she only appears to exist is to say that while she appears to exist, she does not actually exist. But for her to say that she does not actually exist is the same thing as saying that she does not exist, and that leads to an absurdity as we have already discussed. Note that the condition in question is the young lady’s existence, and only one competitor need be considered and reduced to absurdity; namely the alternative or competing condition of non-existence. The later modification of the claim to mere appearance of existence is based upon the claim of non-existence. You might be able to think of some different ways someone might try to deny logic, but you will quickly note that these different ways of doing so are all just different ways of spelling out the denial of the condition in question – logic – and we’ve seen the worries caused by trying to deny logic. Recall again that in our apologetic encounter we are concerned with the clash of entire worldviews. One worldview is Christian. The other, whatever it is, denies the Christian worldview.

In using a transcendental argument we need only consider the competing transcendental which by its very nature is or necessarily involves the opposite or negation of the Christian worldview. It should follow from what we have said above that in order to establish the necessity of the Christian worldview by way of the impossibility of the contrary only the negation of the Christian worldview need be considered. In our “merely appear to exist” example we considered a particular variation of non-existence. Non-existence there was simply the negation of existence. Existence was what we were out to prove transcendentally. In a similar way, in any given apologetic encounter we consider a particular variation of non-Christianity. We may of course imagine many different kinds of non-Christianity. Each of these is just another variety of non-Christianity. Non-Christianity is simply the negation of Christianity; the Christian worldview. The Christian worldview is what we are out to prove transcendentally. Assuming that we can reduce the negation of the Christian worldview in question to absurdity in a similar way to what we did with the negation of one’s existence and logic we have established the transcendental necessity of the Christian worldview by way of the impossibility of the contrary. Once the contrary of the Christian worldview, namely the non-Christian worldview, is refuted, there is no other competing transcendental left to refute. Not only can there be only one transcendental worldview, but the Christian worldview is sufficient, and one of the two competitors in the apologetic encounter (Christian worldview or non-Christian worldview) must provide the preconditions for the very apologetic discussion in question! The Christian worldview is shown to be sufficient and the non-Christian worldview, in whatever form it may appear, is shown to be insufficient. Hence refuting one particular variation of the non-Christian worldview is refuting them all, and such is rightly dubbed an illustration of the impossibility of the contrary.

The objection may arise that we have only refuted one particular flavor of the non-Christian worldview and there are many more left to refute to establish the necessity of the Christian worldview, but such an objection is misguided for a number of reasons. First, the necessity of the Christian worldview is established by its sufficiency in the context of an apologetic encounter between worldviews using transcendental argument. Again, one of the two worldviews in question must provide the preconditions for intelligible experience given even the apologetic encounter itself, and thus sufficiency establishes necessity since there is in the nature of the case only one transcendental worldview. Second, the Christian claim is that there are fundamentally only two worldviews. One particular manifestation of the non-Christian worldview is just as much the non-Christian worldview as another. If our discussion concerning this claim of the Christian worldview has been correct, then to deny that the non-Christian worldview has been refuted by refuting one of its manifestations is to fall into neutrality with respect to the topic of worldviews, and there is no neutrality. Now this serves to show the consistency of our view and to silence the objection from within our own camp, but it would not likely have much persuasive force with respect to the non-Christian. At the same time, the non-Christian should fashion and present her own understanding of the issue if she disagrees with the Christian understanding. Along a similar line, someone may object that it is somehow incorrect or wrong to group various manifestations of the non-Christian worldview together as “non-Christian” at all, but note again that this is required of us in setting forth the Christian worldview, and note also that there is no choice but to do so in the context of an apologetic encounter using transcendental argument with respect to worldviews. There is the condition to be proven and its negation, and that is all. We hold that the Christian worldview is the precondition for intelligible human experience. If someone wishes to deny this and offer her own alternative claim to the precondition for intelligible experience then she may do so (and this is exactly what is happening in the apologetic encounter and is another reason she carries the burden of proof as well), but she has denied the suggested precondition in question and we are now dealing with the negation of our worldview. Once the contrary of the Christian worldview, namely the non-Christian worldview, is refuted, there is no other competing transcendental left to refute.

Some may think that what has been explained thus far is still a bit fuzzy. Don’t worry. Wait until further into this introduction and refer back to this part and those immediately preceding it. Hopefully it will become clearer in time. Others may think that we have set things out much too cleanly; apologetic encounters simply do not turn out this neat, and it looks too simple or too good to be true. In response it should be noted that more than this is required for a substantial objection to what has been stated, and that what is spelled out in terms of philosophical background is not likely to be made explicit in the vast majority of apologetic encounters. Indeed, most apologetic encounters involving the method prescribed here look like little more than basic refutations of anti-Christian thought. At any rate, much has been provided in what has been stated above even if it may have been stated poorly due to the nature of this introduction. However, there is still at least one more persuasive feature of the argument from the impossibility of the contrary to be considered.

An additional way to “fix” the apparent problem of having to refute every known (and unknown) competitor to the Christian worldview is to “pigeonhole” the variations of the non-Christian worldview. Again, this is not necessary since all of these variations are predicated upon the denial of the Christian worldview, but it is of great value to do so in terms of both argumentation and persuasion. One can group various manifestations of the non-Christian worldview together in terms of their denials of Christian particulars which have by this point in the apologetic encounter already been presented. So for example a denial of the ontological co-ultimacy of the one-and-many found in the Trinity leaves the two apparently exhaustive options of monism or ultimate plurality and neither of them allows for knowledge. Or, once creation is denied either biological evolution or some other unknown deity(ies) or process(es) “created” us and we have good reason to call the reliability of our cognitive faculties into question. These examples will be explained in greater detail later on in this introduction. One could go through each of the doctrines tied to a Christian epistemology and briefly apply the devastating results of their denials to the particular form of the non-Christian worldview that is being used as an illustration. Again, much more will be said later on about these problems. What is important for now is to recognize that grouping varieties of the non-Christian worldview together in terms of particular views on particular topics is perfectly valid. For example, we might point out some common fatal flaw in all materialist varieties of the non-Christian worldview, and all of the varieties of views falling under the category of “materialist” would thereby be refuted. There is not necessarily any one “right” way to do this, and such categorization has been used with versions of transcendental argument in its more academic forms. Ultimately one must highlight the autonomous nature of the non-Christian worldview over and against the authoritative and hence holistic nature of the Christian worldview. Finally, it is acceptable to point out that the reason the non-Christian worldview (as represented by the variation under consideration for the sake of illustration of the impossibility of the contrary) fails so badly is because it is not Christianity, and this is illustrated through adopting the presupposition of the alternative position for the sake of argument as discussed some already .

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Mike

I’m having a bit of difficulty following your argument. In the fourth paragraph you make the following statement: “Now this serves to show the consistency of our view and to silence the objection from within our own camp, but it would not likely have much persuasive force with respect to the non-Christian. At the same time, the non-Christian should fashion and present her own understanding of the issue if she disagrees with the Christian understanding. Along a similar line, someone may object that it is somehow incorrect or wrong to group various manifestations of the non-Christian worldview together as “non-Christian” at all, but note again that this is required of us in setting forth the Christian worldview, and note also that there is no choice but to do so in the context of an apologetic encounter using transcendental argument with respect to worldviews. There is the condition to be proven and its negation, and that is all.”

So is your argument that the Christian worldview is the only worldview that provides the preconditions of intelligibility because it asserts that it is the only worldview that provides the preconditions of intelligibility? And if the unbeliever isn’t willing to accept this they need to construct their own worldview that provides the preconditions of intelligibility in order to prove the Christian claim is incorrect? That’s the only sense I can make out of what you are saying.

C.L. Bolt

We can certainly know and argue that the Christian worldview is the only worldview that provides the preconditions of intelligibility from the fact that it does claim as much, but that is not all I am saying here.

In the nature of the case, there can only be *one* transcendental worldview. To say that a worldview is *a* sufficient precondition for intelligibility is to also say that it is *the* sufficient precondition for intelligibility. If the Christian worldview is sufficient, then it is also necessary.

A slightly different angle on it is to say that an inconsistent worldview is not a sufficient worldview. Christianity claims to be both necessary and sufficient. One cannot assert that Christianity is sufficient but not necessary, because the latter claim is a denial of something the Christian worldview claims for itself, and this would be an inconsistency which undercuts its sufficiency. Theological arguments come into play here to establish that the Christian worldview does in fact claim necessity for itself, but that is beyond the scope of what I have been trying to do here or what I am able to do in this comment.

Additionally (this is just a copy paste from above), the Christian claim is that there are fundamentally only two worldviews. One particular manifestation of the non-Christian worldview is just as much the non-Christian worldview as another. If our discussion concerning this claim of the Christian worldview has been correct, then to deny that the non-Christian worldview has been refuted by refuting one of its manifestations is to fall into neutrality with respect to the topic of worldviews, and there is no neutrality.

The unbeliever carries a burden of proof with respect to constructing his or her own worldview that provides the preconditions of intelligibility regardless of his or her attitude toward the Christian claims here, but you are correct that such would need to be in place for a complaint about the matter to be filed in the first place.

I hope this helps.

Juxtaposed

“In the nature of the case, there can only be *one* transcendental worldview. To say that a worldview is *a* sufficient precondition for intelligibility is to also say that it is *the* sufficient precondition for intelligibility.”

I understand that given the Christian worldview, then it is both necessary and sufficient. However, if it were a false worldview. Why would it then be impossible for 2 other worldviews to be sufficient? Unless, of course, the real reason for this claim is that we already presuppose the Christian worldview which makes the whole assertion mute regarding how many worldviews can be sufficent.

C.L. Bolt

I’m not sure I understand your question Juxtaposed.

JUXTAPOSED

Why does being a sufficent precondition for intelligibility demand that it be *the* sufficient prcondition for intelligbility?

C.L. Bolt

Because there is only *one* transcendental. If a position provides sufficient preconditions of intelligibility then it is *that* transcendental – there is no other sufficient transcendental. It is the only one which provides those preconditions and hence is the *necessary* one.

JUXTAPOSED

How do you know there is only one transcendental?

C.L. Bolt

I make the argument here – http://www.choosinghats.org/?p=1667
and elsewhere throughout the series. However I just skimmed that link and as a response to your question it may just beg the question. I don’t have time to fix it right now if that is the case, but hopefully it gives you enough to think on.

JUXTAPOSED

Yes, it does not appear to establish that there can be only one transcendental. However, perhaps this is simply a starting assumption that isn’t based upon anything else?

C.L. Bolt

Well I think you are dismissing the argument concerning our inability to recognize other schemes a bit too quickly, but this aside I think I missed a more pertinent post.

http://www.choosinghats.org/?p=1664

Part of this is definitional (read what we mean by “transcendental”) but there are additional arguments like the one I already linked to and some others toward the end of the post I most recently linked to.

Hope this helps.

Dave Reiter

Chris, what exactly is your definition of the Christian worldview (CW)? I presume that CW entails the existence of the Trinitarian God. But does it also entail, for example, the existence of a physical universe?

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