Hey Jude

Some time ago I wrote a short post while thinking through some issues raised by a commenter calling himself Theo Beza. He responded and I replied that it would take me some time to get to what he wrote. One concern he raised will be addressed here briefly.

Theo Beza wrote:

When I said that Fristianity is the same as Christianity except for a Quadrinity, I wasn’t suggesting that every claim possibly labeled 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.  [1]

Similarly Paul Manata posting as “Error”:

I come to…you and tell you that when I was in Africa I ran into a guy who had a book he said was from his god and I couldn’t refute him. You ask me to tell you about his religion. I then tell you that it had everything we say is necessary for the preconditions of intelligibility (note: I don’t even think *these* have been established, i.e., exactly *what* is necessary. Mike Butler admits that we could still have them minus the book of Jude. Could Adam have accounted for them? If so, he didn’t have an entire Bible. Etc.,) but it substituted a one-in-many quadrinity for the Trinity. So, how would the internal critique look go? [2]

This interesting concern has received a lot of attention and use on the Internet. It deserves a closer look. However, upon careful examination it exhibits a number of fatal flaws.

First, the reason Theo Beza and any other Fristianity proponent wants to stay away from “suggesting that every claim possibly labeled as Christian or made by Christians in history is a claim endorsed by Fristianity” is because this sets the Fristian worldview up for a swift refutation via direct appeal to the Christian Scripture it allegedly accepts.

Second, taking “‘the Christian worldview’ as the precondition of intelligibility” to mean “a *subset* of characteristically Christian claims” undermines the Fristianity objection since if “‘the Christian worldview’ as the precondition of intelligibility” actually means “a *subset* of characteristically Christian claims” and if “Fristianity is the same as Christianity except for a Quadrinity” then the Christian worldview is in fact shown to be the precondition of intelligibility in the case of Fristianity through the hypothetical TAG.

Third, when the Christian worldview is spoken of as the precondition of intelligibility it should not be understood as a subset of Christian claims but rather as the Christian worldview in its entirety. The allusion to the words of Greg L. Bahnsen in the statement – “I guess that means ‘the whole enchalada’ is too vague” – is an implicit concession to the position that the TAG proponent is claiming that the Christian worldview as a whole is the precondition of intelligibility. The phrase, “the whole enchilada” is, contrary to the aforementioned assertion, not vague at all; it means the whole thing. To change the claim of the TAG proponent in an effort to argue against it is an instance of the straw man fallacy.

Fourth, someone who asserts that, “There are *some* things that are *not* part of this ‘necessary for intelligibility package’” assumes the failure of TAG in his or her attempt to show the failure of TAG, which is viciously circular and hence also fallacious.

Fifth, Michael Butler did not, so far as I can discern, actually claim what is ascribed to him. Manata writes that, “Mike Butler admits that we could still have them [the preconditions of intelligibility] minus the book of Jude.” Likewise Theo Beza writes, “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.’” The following is what Butler actually states when he mentions the book of Jude:

At this point the proponent of object (3) may attempt one last desperate stand. He can argue that we can take Christianity at it stands and, rather than replace one of its doctrines with another, simply remove some distinguishing feature. For example, rather than positing something as problematic as a quadrinity, the objector may simply invent a religion identical to Christianity except, say, that the book of Jude was never written and thus has no place in its canon.

But this is not a worldview that is relevantly different from the Christian worldview. For all it really does is ask us to think counterfactually about the Christian canon. That is, the answer we give to the counterfactual question, “Did God have to inspire Jude to write his epistle?” answer is, of course, no. Furthermore, for much of redemptive history God’s people did not have the privilege of reading Jude (old covenant times) and even in the era of the church, Jude’s canonicity was not universally acknowledged until the fourth century. Are we to infer from this that the old covenant people or certain second century Christians did not have a genuine Christian worldview? Such a conclusion would be absurd. [3]

Butler does not “admit” that we could still have the preconditions of intelligibility without the book of Jude, though Adam did. Butler has claimed nothing pertaining to a subset of Christian claims being the preconditions of intelligibility. Rather, Butler appears to be affirming just the opposite. Butler’s point is that thinking counterfactually about the exclusion of Jude from the Christian canon does not result in a “worldview that is relevantly different from the Christian worldview.” To suggest that “the old covenant people or certain second century Christians did not have a genuine Christian worldview…would be absurd.” Like Bahnsen, Butler points out that the question here pertains to the canon. Like Bahnsen, Butler brings in the Christian theological concept of progressive revelation. In his 92nd footnote Butler confirms the aforementioned understanding when he writes, “Saying this does not imply that Jude is thus unnecessary. God determines the canon because he determined Jude to be a part of it, in another sense, it is most necessary.” This leads to the sixth and final point to be addressed.

To use Michael Sudduth’s terminology, TAG does not serve the pre-dogmatic function of argumentation. It is employed in accordance with the Reformed understanding of the self-authenticating and necessary Word of God. Again, “you gotta keep the presup in TAG.” Christianity is accepted on authority; God’s authority. The Christian worldview is held on faith, and this faith is rational because faith is necessary for rationality.

When TAG is divorced from its presuppositions it fails. The Christian worldview in all of its wonderful complexity drives the Transcendental Argument for God. Questions concerning the canon or progressive revelation are good questions which pertain to the Christian worldview, but they are not the Fristianity objection. Adam held to the same revelatory worldview that Christians today hold, but it was far less developed. As history continues to unfold in accordance with the redemptive plan of God for His glory our apologetic grows stronger. When Christ Jesus returns we will have a powerful apologetic indeed!

How might the Fristianity proponent respond? There are a number of objections to and clarifications of the points above that were answered in a series of footnotes which were mistakenly deleted. Perhaps some of these objections will be raised, perhaps not. The other very predictable response is to once again change how Fristianity is defined.

[1] https://choosinghats.org/?p=966

[2] http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/10/possibly-presuppositionalist-strong.html

[3] http://butler-harris.org/tag/


Leave a Comment