A Fristian Strikes Out Revisited: Response to “Theo Beza”

Not too long ago I posted regarding a Fristianity Style Counter (FSC) to TAG from “John Calvin”. You may find the post here (https://choosinghats.org/?p=876) but it is reposted below.

In that post the particular FSC that John Calvin had offered was in my view successfully refuted by appealing to an analogous argument offered by Paul Manata. An individual commenting on the post using the name “Theo Beza” offered a series of irrelevant and hence unsuccessful objections to my critique of the FSC.  Here I will repost A Fristian Strikes Out in order to provide the context needed to understand the comments from “Theo Beza” which are reproduced directly beneath the original post. Theo Beza’s comment is followed by my comment which I posted in response to him. Directly below my original response to Theo Beza I address a few other items that Theo Beza brought up in his comment and make some suggestions.

As I was browsing the Internet today I came across the following from a “John Calvin”:

“All right. So all the Fristian needs to do is to say that ‘Fristianity’ is whatever subset of Christian claims the TAGster thinks we need for preconditions of intelligibility, *except that* the Trinity is a Quadrinity.”

How does someone disprove a worldview that has the same propositions as Christianity except for the additional proposition that there is a fourth person in God?

In my view, thinking of the “preconditions of intelligibility” as a “subset of Christian claims” may be a rather substantial error, but whether or not this is the case is irrelevant to answering this objection as it has been proposed. Whatever subset of Christian claims is needed for the preconditions of intelligibility, one can be sure that the TAG adherent claims the doctrine of the Word of God is one such member of the alleged subset. The Christian worldview is revelatory. The Word of God is the final authority.

The claim of the presuppositionalists is that the rejection of this extremely basic tenet of Christianity sets an individual firmly in the position of would-be autonomy which results in a failure to render human experience intelligible. The Fristian may be happy to defend such an allegedly autonomous position except that the possibility of doing so has been excluded by the definition of Fristianity provided here.

Recall that Fristianity is “whatever subset of Christian claims the TAGster thinks we need for preconditions of intelligibility”. Fristianity is a worldview that has the same propositions as Christianity with one exception. Fristianity includes the additional proposition that there is a fourth person in God so that “the Trinity is a Quadrinity”.

The individual proposing the Fristianity Objection in this instance, “John Calvin”, issues his challenge as follows:

“I want what you do to everyone else. You show how the Muslims can’t account for the preconditions for intelligibility, you show how the Mormons can’t do this. You show that the atheists can’t do this. You, allegedly, show how they refute themselves. How their worldview *cannot* account for the preconditions of intelligibility. Now, a new batter has stepped up to the plate. Will you finally stike [sic] him out, or will I keep getting intentionally walked?”

Since I have never been much of a baseball player I will let Paul Manata do the pitching for this one. In one of his many excellent book reviews (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/paradox-in-christian-theology.html) Manata brings up what he considers “the best apologetic arguments against Islam and Judaism…based on internal contradictions”.

“Islam claims that the Gospels are inspired by Allah. The Gospels teach that Jesus is God. The Koran says he is not. Therefore, the contradiction is that Jesus is and is not God. Is the Muslim really going to accept both these claims about Jesus:

(J1) Jesus is very God of very God.
(J2) Jesus is not very God of very God.

Or:

(J1A) Jesus was crucified and died for the sins of man.
(J2A) Jesus was not crucified and did not die for the sins of man.

Or, inconsistencies between their own apologetic practices and what their own holy book teaches:

(A1) The Bible is not reliable as a witness to Jesus.
(A2) The Bible is reliable as a witness to Jesus.

I do not see how.”

Thus analogously:

Fristianity claims that the Bible is inspired by God. The Bible teaches that God is only three in person. The Fristian says God is not only three in person. Therefore, the contradiction is that God is only three in person and is not only three in person. Is the Fristian really going to accept both these claims about God:

(F1) God is only three in person.
(F2) God is not only three in person.

The reason Fristianity as posited here fails is because it gets too close to Christianity when it is offered as an attempt to copy Christianity with one relevant difference. The worldview is open to refutation from the outset because of its inconsistency with the Christian doctrine it allegedly accepts. It is internally contradictory.

In cases where a ‘Christianity +1’ worldview is offered one may appeal to Christianity to show that the +1 creates inconsistencies with the Christianity already accepted. To show that +1 is inconsistent with Christianity constitutes an internal critique of that particular worldview.

Now for Theo Beza’s comment:

Of course the careful reader will note that John Calvin never claimed that there was only “one” difference. Just that whatever the TAGster thinks the preconditions are excecpt a quadrinity. I’m unaware of sophisticated TAGsters who claim the existence of the Bible as one of those ontological presupposituions. The contingent existence of a holy book doesn’t seem to be a NECESSARY precondition; and of course, one can claim that it is but then would need to offer the *argument* for this. Lastly, if needs be, a Fristian book could easily be produced. A day at Kinkos with a pair of scissors and a Bible would work. Or, I could say that I actually saw said book in Africa. A holy Fristian man then took the book and threw it into the ocean whereupon a beluga whale ate it. Indeed, this wouldn’t be problematic. It is of course possible that every single Bible in the world could be destroyed. If this happens, and it could, would Christianity not be true via ‘the impossibility of the contrary”? You’d be bound to say, “Of course not.” So, me thinks you whiffed, big time. I felt it up here in the cheap seats! Anyway, I won’t be back as debating radical Tagsters who blame those who offer FSC’s (Fristian-style counter-examples) of being sinners in love with autonomy doesn’t strike me as a valuable way to spend my time. But you keep using that argument ad pietum.

My comment in response:

“Of course the careful reader will note that John Calvin never claimed that there was only ‘one’ difference.”

Given that “the TAGster” claims that God’s revelatory Word is a precondition for intelligibility and given John Calvin’s suggestion that the Fristian presents “whatever subset of Christian claims the TAGster thinks we need for preconditions of intelligibility” it follows that John Calvin is in fact committed to this claim since one such precondition is God’s revelatory Word. If John Calvin does not believe that the claim of at least some presuppositionalists is that we must presuppose the Word of God in order to make human experience intelligible then he is simply mistaken. So long as God’s revelatory Word is claimed as a precondition of human intelligibility the Fristian must include the claim in his or her worldview and will continue to fail in formulating a coherent worldview for the reasons already presented by Paul Manata. Note that there was more than one deviation from Christian Scripture included in the internal critique of Islam. There is no reason to suppose that there is any difference with respect to Fristianity as proposed by John Calvin.

“I’m unaware of sophisticated TAGsters who claim the existence of the Bible as one of those ontological presupposituions.”

This is not relevant since I did not make this claim.

“Lastly, if needs be, a Fristian book could easily be produced.”

This is not relevant since John Calvin did not do so.

“So, me thinks you whiffed, big time.”

Not at all. John Calvin presented a possible worldview and requested that it be critiqued like other worldviews allegedly have been. The critique I provided is analogous to those provided by Paul Manata. Perhaps John Calvin would take issue with those, but that would be a different conversation.

“Anyway, I won’t be back as debating radical Tagsters”

Sorry to hear it, though I do not know what a “radical Tagster” is or why I am apparently being included in this category. It sounds quite like the mere rhetoric that traditional-style Van Tillian presuppositionalists are often rightly accused of preaching. I find it unhelpful regardless of which side it comes from.

“who blame those who offer FSC’s (Fristian-style counter-examples) of being sinners in love with autonomy”

This is not relevant since I did not blame anyone of this. Interestingly enough I have offered several FSC’s in various places myself. So far as I know I have not faced the charge yet that I am a sinner in love with autonomy, but I will concede that it is true that I am.

“But you keep using that argument ad pietum.”

This is not relevant since I never used such an argument. Neither did Paul Manata.

Not only does Theo Beza fail to address what I actually presented but elements of his post indicate that he is thoroughly confused regarding other points as well.

“I’m unaware of sophisticated TAGsters who claim the existence of the Bible as one of those ontological presupposituions [sic].”

As mentioned in my first response I never claimed the existence of the Bible as an ontological presupposition (whatever such a statement may mean). The only reason I can think of that Theo Beza may have made this statement is that he is confusing “Word of God” with “Bible”. The Bible is the Word of God, but the Word of God refers to more than the Bible. We might state that God’s revelation is a necessary precondition of intelligibility in order to further illumine those who are confused by the distinction since they will in most cases understand this to refer to general as well as special revelation. Note also that the language here of “sophisticated TAGsters” is surely intended to be neutral and does not smack of any mere rhetoric the likes of which FSC proponents love to use (e.g. “So, me thinks you whiffed, big time. I felt it up here in the cheap seats! Anyway, I won’t be back as debating radical Tagsters who blame those who offer FSC’s of being sinners in love with autonomy doesn’t strike me as a valuable way to spend my time. But you keep using that argument ad pietum.”).

“The contingent existence of a holy book doesn’t seem to be a NECESSARY precondition…”

It may be the case that Theo Beza is setting “contingent” over against “NECESSARY” in order to imply that there should be some concern about contingencies being allegedly necessary preconditions to intelligibility. If this apparent implication is actual then Theo Beza fails to see that his incredulity is unwarranted given that the entire program of determining the preconditions of human intelligibility by necessity include contingencies since preconditions of human intelligibility presuppose contingent humans.

“…and of course, one can claim that it is but then would need to offer the *argument* for this.”

The argument would in such a case be TAG. The FSC in question is posed as a defeater for this argument. The FSC in question accepts without argument the claims of the TAG adherent concerning this matter. Therefore it is not correct to state that the person making the claim that the Bible is a precondition must present an argument for the claim. The person would have already done so in this scenario in TAG and John Calvin would be offering the FSC in response. Of course none of this is relevant to the original post but it may be fruitful to play along for a moment.

“Lastly, if needs be, a Fristian book could easily be produced.”

That this is more easily said than done is evident in that for as long as FSCs have been around (and they have been around since before Greg Bahnsen passed away) no Fristian book has ever been produced (to my knowledge). Instead, incompatible barebones sketches of FSCs have been produced that are “easily” refuted. See John Calvin’s FSC for an example.

“A day at Kinkos with a pair of scissors and a Bible would work.”

Almost exactly what Thomas Jefferson thought! Perhaps Theo Beza is onto something here. I suppose someone willing to make a tangible FSC could spend some time in the garage with gin, or some time in a cave with jinn, or some time in the original languages of the Bible (with a pen?) writing a ‘purer’ translation. If all else fails there is always treasure hunting in New York with the hopes of finding the job already done. I wonder what these worldviews might look like?

“Or, I could say that I actually saw said book in Africa.”

Of course people can say just about anything but it does not follow that whatever is said is true or relevant. Can Theo Beza really say this without lying? We will assume for the sake of argument that he can.

“A holy Fristian man then took the book and threw it into the ocean whereupon a beluga whale ate it.”

Theo Beza may have forgotten what he is arguing at this point. He is assuming for the sake of argument that the Bible is a necessary precondition (which he would have to do per John Calvin’s FSC) and countering that a comparable Fristian book can be produced. If the existence of the Fristian book is said to be a necessary precondition for intelligibility like the Bible is and yet its last existent copy or original is destroyed as it is in this scenario then Fristianity does not provide the preconditions of intelligibility like Christianity (unless of course Theo Beza can reproduce the book which was destroyed in such a way that the preconditions of intelligibility remain).

“Indeed, this wouldn’t be problematic.”

Unless of course this book was the last of its kind which contained propositional truth providing the preconditions of intelligibility in the context of a particular claim made by someone adhering to a potentially odd version of TAG. (See above.)

“It is of course possible that every single Bible in the world could be destroyed.”

The claim that this is possible is dubitable given that God should preserve His Word so that people are able to come to know Him the way He desires for them to know Him. God determines what is possible regardless of the kind of possibility in view.

“If this happens, and it could, would Christianity not be true via ‘the impossibility of the contrary’?”

Given what has been stated it would be impossible to say that anything is true if such a thing were to happen since the existence of the Bible is a precondition for intelligibility in the view John Calvin’s FSC must allow for.

Regardless, I was never committed to the claim that the existence of the Bible is a precondition of intelligibility in my post even though John Calvin would be committed to such a claim by virtue of the way he presents his FSC. John Calvin is in like manner committed to the claim that God’s revelation is a precondition of intelligibility (which was my claim) and thus the refutation of Fristianity by way of analogy is successful. Not only is the claim concerning the necessity of God’s revelation as a precondition of intelligibility frequently made by presuppositionalists, but this claim does not confuse the entirety of revelation (or more specifically in this case the Word of God) with the Bible as Theo Beza does. (Again, the Bible is the Word of God, but the Word of God is not the Bible.)

God is self-revealing by nature (within the Trinity) and has chosen to manifest Himself to us. This manifestation is a precondition of intelligibility (“John Calvin” and “Theo Beza” would perhaps do well to reread the beginning of the real Calvin’s Institutes). Since the FSC presented by “John Calvin” and discussed in the original post includes God’s revelation it is seen to be internally contradictory by virtue of the argument presented in the original post and thus unable to account for intelligibility.

Recall what I stated at the beginning of the original post:

In my view, thinking of the “preconditions of intelligibility” as a “subset of Christian claims” may be a rather substantial error, but whether or not this is the case is irrelevant to answering this objection as it has been proposed.

Perhaps this consideration is not wholly irrelevant though. To really turn the heat up one might posit that Christianity is itself the precondition for intelligibility. This is certainly a frequent claim of traditional Van Tillian presuppositionalists. Whatever Christianity may be in this case (perhaps it is whatever God reveals it to be); it is not the equivalent of a ‘subset’ of Christian beliefs which provide the alleged preconditions for intelligibility (otherwise there is no need for differentiation between the two). No such subset can provide the preconditions for intelligibility given this view. Attempting to remove any tenet of Christianity lands one in the realm of unintelligibility on this view. Christianity without the book of Jude is no longer Christianity because Christianity is accepted on the authority of God who revealed Jude. Does this mean that those prior to the book of Jude were not Christian or did not have Christianity as a precondition of intelligibility? Of course not. Jude simply had not yet been revealed.

In Christianity, revelation is progressive. Where does this leave us? We might have questions about progressive revelation and its relationship to TAG or we might have questions about what constitutes “Christianity” at any given time. Take note that these very good questions are not FSCs.


5 Comments

anon

“Islam claims that the Gospels are inspired by Allah. The Gospels teach that Jesus is God. The Koran says he is not. Therefore, the contradiction is that Jesus is and is not God. Is the Muslim really going to accept both these claims about Jesus:
From the Muslim perspective—
It is true that the Injil (Evangel) was a revelation but the Quran says that its message has been corrupted over time by humans. The Quran corrects the message of the Injil. Therefore, for a Muslim, there is no contradiction.

C.L. Bolt

Thank you for commenting. I am somewhat familiar with the Muslim perspective. A contradiction is a contradiction regardless of perspective. If there is a contradiction it is a contradiction for both the Christian and the Muslim.

The Muslim claims that the Injil is inspired with Surah 2 and 4 speaking of the books which were sent down before. The Muslim’s own holy book Quran calls upon the Muslim to believe in these books. Here we have a clear command from Muhammad around 620 AD to believe in these books. The Muslim must know and be able to identify these books in order to continue to obey and believe them. There is no consistent basis upon which the Muslim may reject the inspiration of the New Testament given these beliefs.

Further, the alleged corruption of these texts calls into question Allah’s ability to preserve his holy writing in order that the Muslim may know how to believe and obey. The Muslim arbitrarily trusts one revelation over another when either or both might be corrupt according to Muslim beliefs consistently applied.

The Muslim claims that Christians do not have the Injil without being able to explain exactly what it is. Additionally, there is absolutely no evidence for the Muslim claims of corruption. There is also the contradiction pointed out concerning the Muslim apologist using the Bible as a reliable witness to Jesus while claiming that the Bible is not a reliable witness to Jesus.

Finally, it may be objectively shown that the books sent down before are reliable documents and that they teach that Jesus is very God of very God who was crucified and died for the sins of man; the Injil. So while I understand that the Muslim is not willing to immediately accept what has been mentioned in passing there is in fact much inconsistency in the Muslim worldview.

I am not, however, an expert on these matters and the refutation of Islam quoted from Paul Manata is not the main point of the post. I recommend the work of Dr. James White at http://www.aomin.org on Islam.

Theo Beza

“Fristianity claims that the Bible is inspired by God. ”

But of course, Fristianity claims no such thing. Here’s an example. Bahnsen once said something about “The abiding validity of the law in *exhaustive detail*. of course, as matters progressed, this claim wasn’t meant to be *literally* true. Thus, as further reading of the John Calvin thread would show, the above claim was a starter.

The general strategy of the Fristian here, I think, is to go agnostic on *mutatis mutandis* issues. The Trinity is replaced by a Quadrinity. The fourth Person has all of the essential properties of divinity. And that’s it.

Also notice that God’s word to man are *contingent*. Presumably, God could have refrained from inspiring special revelation, or providing redemption. None of these acts are essential to who God is. There are possible worlds in which he refrains from all of these acts. Granting this, don’t you think it’s strange for the proponent of TAG to say that “preconditions of intelligibility” rest on utterly contingent
matters? This is why it looks so odd for the TAG proponent to urge, “Unless you Fristians tell us what your bible says, it’s not clear to us whether you have or do not have the preconditions for intelligibility.” For that’s only the case if matters of having a Bible or, more ambiguous, “God’s word” *are* relevant to intelligibility issues. Are they? Where’s the argument for this by the proponents of TAG? Raising
these questions against the Fristian looks like a delaying tactic: they’re urging an objection rooted in a foundation they have yet to argue for.

When I said that Fristianity is the same as Christianity except for a Quadrinity, I wasn’t suggesting that every claim possibly labelled as Christian or made by Christians in history is a claim endorsed by Fristianity (with the obvious exception of Trinity). I was sort of looking at it this way: TAGsters posit “the Christian worldview” as the precondition of intelligibility. I take it that this worldview is a *subset* of characteristically Christian claims. After all, this is what Butler himself claims. There are *some* things that are *not* part of this “necessary for intelligibility package.” I guess that means “the whole enchalada” is too vague. 🙂

I’m not quite sure what this set amounts to. Is it the Trinity alone? Is it the Trinity plus creation? Is it the Trinity plus creation plus providence plus revelation plus redemption, sans the book of Jude 🙂 Or what?

So all the Fristian needs to do is to say that “Fristianity” is
whatever subset of Christian claims the TAGster thinks we need for preconditions of intelligibility, *except that* the Trinity is a Quadrinity.

So, yeah, Fristianity won’t be *exactly the same* as Christianity, if the latter is construed as every Christian claim whatsoever. But Fristianity *will* be the same as Christianity, if the latter is construed as the subset of Christian claims required for preconditions of intelligibility (replacing Trinity with Quadrinity, of course). And if the TAGster disagrees that this is sufficient, isn’t it up to *him* to point out what claims got left out of Fristianity, which were required for preconditions of intelligibility? Why does the Fristian have to do this? Isn’t it the TAGster who is making the initial claim about what is required? Why can’t he give us a straight answer here?

You’re saying that the Fristian has to have answers for every question under the sun, in order for his worldview to be evaluable. “How does this fourth Person relate to creation? How about providence? How about Scripture…?” But why? Because these sorts of claims are relevant to preconditions of intelligibility? But what’s the case for *that*?

So, Fristianity is just asking you to lay out the case, a case that hasn’t been made yet. it was asked in the other thread from which worldview was I standing in when saying things like the above. Well, the Christian one. I’m not a Fristian! But this doesn’t disprove anything. Just like someone could ask you to refute Buddhism without being a Buddhist or “standing in Buddhism.” In fact, you know more about Fristianity that other worldviews you supposedly “refute.” It teaches a creation, fall, redemption, and posits a quadrinity instead of a trinity.

Theo Beza

Anon,

But then why did Muhammad tell his followers, *in the seventh century*, that if they didn’t believe him to go and ask those who had the book before him, Jews and Christians? That the Bible we have today is almost identical to those in the seventh century is about as solid an evidential fact as any. Thus the problem you have is with Muhamad telling people to check a corrupted book to confirm his message.

C.L. Bolt

Thanks for the comment Theo Beza. Good to see you again. 🙂

If I remember correctly this post was a bit of my thinking ‘out loud’. Of course I never stated as much but I do remember attempting to defend some claims that I would not even actually accept.

So I will certainly take your comment into account while reviewing my posts on Fristianity but it will be a while before I get around to addressing the topic again ‘head on’.


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