Is Fristianity Actual? (Updated with response from David Byron)

UPDATE: David Byron has offered clarification in a comment, but I did not want to risk people missing it. Please see his response now included at the bottom of the body of the post.

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One of the greatest worries with the Fristianity objection is that it is often defined in conflicting ways. For example Sean Choi writes, “Of course, Fristianity is not an actual worldview or religion, as is, for example, Islam. But no one – certainly not I – is claiming this.” Yet in a footnote Choi cites David Byron of the Van Til List as popularizing Fristianity. While contributing to the Van Til List Byron writes, “[T]he discussion of Fristianity already is a discussion of Islam, and indeed of any theistic faith that can with prima facie plausibility appeal to mystery to defend itself against internal negative critiques while boasting of its unique provision of transcendentals.” David Byron (Van Til List Archive July 2001 msg00012 http://www.ccir.ed.ac.uk/~jad/vantil-list/) While Choi denies that Fristianity is an actual worldview or religion such as Islam, Byron affirms that Fristianity is an actual worldview or religion such as Islam. While Choi states that “no one…is claiming” that Fristianity is an actual worldview or religion like Islam, the very source Choi gives credit to as having popularized the Fristianity objection claims that Fristianity “already is a discussion of Islam.”

Byron further adds that Fristianity is any theistic faith which can appeal to mystery. However, the objection that other theistic faiths are able to appeal to mystery just as the Christian theistic faith can in answering negative critiques is an altogether separate and unoriginal objection to the transcendental argument. The most charitable way to view the rather fundamental disagreement between Choi and Byron concerning Fristianity is to understand Byron as offering some tools of reasoning akin to those available within Christian theism which are allegedly available to actual theistic religions like Islam. The fear is apparently that Islam may develop a defensive apologetic which mirrors Christianity and may possibly even construct its own transcendental argument. This interpretation nevertheless does not fit well with what Choi has written concerning Fristianity.

Note also that Choi takes objection to Michael Butler’s comment as quoted by Choi, “If Fristianity is otherwise identical to Christianity, the only way for us to know [that its god is a quadrinity] would be for the Fristian god to reveal this to us.” Choi takes this proposition to be false and explains in note 32, “If Butler intends by this actual revelation, then, of course, his objection is confused.” He adds, “No God of a merely possible worldview can be the author of any actual revelation – any more than a merely possible angel can dance on a head of an actual pin.” Choi’s explanation precludes appeal to any actual Fristian revelation. Any appeal to actual revelation or theistic religion by the proponent of Fristianity is by Choi’s definition not consistent with Fristianity and constitutes a confused attempt at defense of the merely possible worldview.

(Geisler, Norman L. and Chad V. Meister, eds. Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith. Wheaton, IL.: Crossway Books, 2007. 242-247)

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UPDATE: David Byron has offered clarification in a comment, but I did not want to risk people missing it. Please see his response now included directly below.

You’d do well to expend more effort and charity on your sources; there’s little or no distance between myself and Choi in them on this point.

On the Van Til List from which you culled those quotes, I noted that Fristianity may be construed as a template. (More fruitfully, Fristianity may be construed as a Design Pattern in the GoF sense.)

Some strains of some actual religions satisfy that template. So do some hypothetical or projectable religions. Indeed, we can readily project (and even found, if we have the time and talent!) as many such religions as we wish.

Insofar as they satisfy that template, these actual, hypothetical, or projected sects exemplify Fristianity.

The tension you imagine above arises from neglect of this point: you consider (actual XOR abstraction) rather than (actual OR abstraction). Sometimes an actual thing is an instance, exemplar, or token of its type.

“Worldview” is a troubled concept all too often used as a crutch or facade. That aside, the upshot of the thought experiment is that a plurality of transcendentally equivalent “worldviews” poses a problem — perhaps insurmountable — for transcendental apologetics.

Hope that helps!


7 Comments

David Byron

You’d do well to expend more effort and charity on your sources; there’s little or no distance between myself and Choi in them on this point.

On the Van Til List from which you culled those quotes, I noted that Fristianity may be construed as a template. (More fruitfully, Fristianity may be construed as a Design Pattern in the GoF sense.)

Some strains of some actual religions satisfy that template. So do some hypothetical or projectable religions. Indeed, we can readily project (and even found, if we have the time and talent!) as many such religions as we wish.

Insofar as they satisfy that template, these actual, hypothetical, or projected sects exemplify Fristianity.

The tension you imagine above arises from neglect of this point: you consider (actual XOR abstraction) rather than (actual OR abstraction). Sometimes an actual thing is an instance, exemplar, or token of its type.

“Worldview” is a troubled concept all too often used as a crutch or facade. That aside, the upshot of the thought experiment is that a plurality of transcendentally equivalent “worldviews” poses a problem — perhaps insurmountable — for transcendental apologetics.

Hope that helps!

C.L. Bolt

David,

Many thanks for stopping by and commenting. Obviously, I am a bit late to this discussion! I do appreciate you taking the time to respond.

While I have not read nearly as much of the Van Til List as I would like to, I have spent a substantial amount of time and effort reading through it where Fristianity is discussed. My thoughts on the topic are largely provisional, and so I always welcome clarifications, corrections, etc. Sean Choi is aware of what I have written concerning Fristianity (at least as it pertains to his published piece), and Paul Manata has offered some helpful responses as well. Otherwise there has not been much sent my way.

Your comment is definitely helpful, but if I understand you correctly then I have some questions.

1. If “[s]ome strains of some actual religions satisfy that template” then is Fristianity superfluous?

2. On page 246 of the cited work Choi refers to Fristianity as a “merely possible worldview” stating, “(Christianity) is actual, while the other (Fristianity) is merely possible.” He continues, “our methods for knowing about actuality are different from our methods for knowing about (non-actual) possibility.” While Choi’s initial definition of Fristianity in the article certainly seems to fit with what you have written here, it appears that he goes too far in later stating that it is a *merely* possible worldview and *non-actual* possibility. How can a merely possible worldview which is taken to be a non-actual possibility be exemplified by any actual or projected sects?

The concept of worldview has its own share of problems, but Choi assumes the concept (at the very least for the sake of argument) in his article.

Hopefully I understand the upshot of the thought experiment by now (I may not!), but I wonder if you would be okay with saying that there is no such thing as a plurality of transcendentally equivalent worldviews. The question then would become, which worldview (assuming that there are such things) is the transcendental worldview? If I recall correctly, you did not object to Bahnsen’s response that there is only one transcendental worldview in the nature of the case, but rather to his apparently gratuitous assumption in light of the Fristianity objection (or in his case “Mumbo Jumbo”) that the Christian worldview is that one transcendental worldview.

Thanks again. I hope that what I have written is understandable, and if you respond, take it easy on me!

C.L. Bolt

Looking at this again, I’m pretty tired and probably still thinking of Fristianity as a token in #2. However, at the very least the use of “merely” does seem redundant, and I would need to review the article in question again to test its consistency with the type explanation.

taco

David

“The tension you imagine above arises from neglect of this point: you consider (actual XOR abstraction) rather than (actual OR abstraction). Sometimes an actual thing is an instance, exemplar, or token of its type.”

How is Islam and Christianity abstracted into a “super class” worldview mean that there is a plurality of equal transcendental woldviews? Rather, Doesn’t this mean that Frist would be the ultimate unequaled worldview?

David Byron

There’s a difference between

A: whether there is more than one actual provider of transcendental preconditions

and

B: whether, in an apologetic scenario with multiple formally similar claimants, we can both discern and demonstrate *which one* is the actual provider of transcendental preconditions.

Just as it’s possible, and rationally warranted, to believe in God even if one cannot prove the believed propositions, so is it possible to believe that Christian Theism is uniquely transcendentally necessary and yet to lack the means to prove this believed proposition.

The Fristianity thought experiment is not directed at disputing (A); it’s directed at illustrating (B). Since transcendental claims at the worldview scope are totalizing, the mere possibility that a Fristianity could reverse TAG is sufficient to make the point.

I believe (though perhaps he can clarify) that this is why Choi places his emphasis on the complications that arise from the mere possibility of Fristianity. Generality has value.

I agree that Fristianity’s counterexemplary value doesn’t require a concrete case. However, I pointed out (for example) that some strains of Islamic theology are convertible or adaptable to a TAG-like rhetoric. I did this simply to help readers more fully appreciate the practical weight of what might otherwise be mistakenly dismissed as a wholly abstract concern.

Again, I hope this helps!

C.L. Bolt

If “[s]ome strains of some actual religions satisfy that template” then is Fristianity superfluous?

“Generality has value.”

Yes, and this seems to be the genius of the Fristianity objection, but not if an exemplar like Islam does the trick.

“Just as it’s possible, and rationally warranted, to believe in God even if one cannot prove the believed propositions, so is it possible to believe that Christian Theism is uniquely transcendentally necessary and yet to lack the means to prove this believed proposition.”

However, it is not possible and rationally warranted, or at the very least it is not consistent, to believe that Christian Theism is uniquely transcendentally necessary while proposing even the mere possibility of another transcendentally necessary worldview. Some have pointed this out as the problem for TAG, but I do not see why we should accept this claim. If our theology dictates that we hold Christian Theism as uniquely transcendentally necessary, then the Christian cannot offer the Fristianity objection in reliance upon the sufficiency of the Christian worldview. The real question becomes whether or not our theology dictates the aforementioned belief, and if so, where the Fristianity proponent will offer his or her objection from. Possibility is not neutral, but worldview or presupposition specific.

There’s an older gentleman at the nursing center I minister in who says, “So that’s what I believe; if I’m wrong, tell me I’m wrong.”

Thanks again.

David Byron

It is important not to confuse “proposing even the mere possibility of another transcendentally necessary worldview” with “recognizing that an opponent in the apologetic encounter may propose the possibility of another transcendentally necessary worldview.”

Entertaining the Fristianity objection as something that an opponent could (and probably should) say in rebuttal is not the same thing as endorsing the worldview out of which such a rebuttal might be constructed.

In general, apologetics should not be an exercise in solipsism wrapped in anti-solipsistic rhetoric. The conditions of rational belief differ from the conditions of proof.

For this reason, I agree that the “real question becomes … where the Fristianity proponent will offer his objection from” (although I would say that his theology must support, not necessarily dictate, that belief about transcendentals).

In my earlier remarks, I speak to this precise point by emphasizing that if Christianity lays claim to Biblically Warranted Appeals to Mystery and the model “where the Fristianity proponent will offer his or her objection from” *also* lays claim to revelationally warranted appeals to mystery, then it is extremely difficult to regard that as anything other than an impasse or stalemate.

J. W. Montgomery raised a different but analogous objection in _Jerusalem and Athens_; in his charming rebuttal there, Van Til merely hunkered down.


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