Non-Neutrality: A Personal Testimony [Pt. 1]

My Grandfather: Jose Caro

My Grandfather: Jose Caro

Conversion, Deconversion, and A Family Death

As a child (at around 8-9 yrs old), I was immersed in questions about the fact of evil in the world, appearances vs. reality, the tenuousness of human life, the problem of induction, the question of whether or not God existed, the problem of personal identity, and various problems of epistemology, though I obviously didn’t use philosophical terminology when contemplating them. I grasped bits and pieces of truths that only further deepened my knowledge of my ignorance, replacing my singular queries with queries that were seven times more befuddling. 

These questions haunted me day and night, so much so that at the age of eleven I began smoking cigarettes and weed and drinking, albeit lightly, in order to alleviate some of the stress I incurred from thinking on such matters. By the time I was fifteen, I was intoxicated, in one form or another, more or less all day. And at about 15.5 -16 yrs old, I had a false conversion experience that I mistook for a real solution to the philosophical and emotional turmoil I was facing daily.

My “conversion” was not really to Christianity, however, but a Christianized emotionalism I had concocted from bits and pieces of theology I had picked up in youth group and church. As time passed, my desire to “be a Christian” waned. Sure, Christianity had forced me to take school seriously. It had also introduced me to apologetics and, by extension, philosophy. Yet it proved to be too stifling to my freedom as a depraved teenager who merely wanted to indulge in worldly pleasures. So I began reverting to the atheism of my youth. Only this time, I thought I had “good reasons” to reject Christianity.

I lived in a haze of marijuana smoke, muscle relaxers, and malt liquor for several years, only to be rudely awoken by the death of my beloved grandfather. At this point in my life, my wife (who at the time was only my girlfriend) was pregnant with our first son, Ayden. The convergence of life and death struck me as profound, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. This was a nuisance for me, as I professed to be an atheist and, by necessary logical extension, a moral nihilist. Life meant nothing. Death meant nothing. But there I was, pressed between the horror of death and the joy of fatherhood. These realities had to have an explanation.

Whatever their explanation was, however, it could not be something offered up by Christians. I was left alone to grapple with questions regarding the fundamental nature of reality. Things fall apart. Things come together again. That’s all there is. That’s all there ever was. That’s all there will ever be. Grandpa wasn’t in heaven, I reasoned. Grandpa was dispersed among the elements constituting his body. Grandpa’s body, moreover, would soon return to  the earth, and the earth to the atomic elements, and so on…I was constructing a metaphysical system, in other words, in open opposition to Christianity. I was doing this, moreover, in order to make sense of the conflict I was experiencing.

What really brought my endeavor to build a metaphysical system to a halt was my reading of philosophy. The history of philosophy, in a nutshell, proceeds as follows:

x proposes some theory p

y refutes p

x1 refutes y

x1 proposes a modified version of p, say p1

y1 refutes x1

[repeat indefinitely]

The historical movement isn’t progressing toward an Absolute in which all contradiction, opposition, and negation are resolved. Rather, it’s more like an everlasting tennis tournament. Final solutions can’t be reached. That’s just the nature of the game.

What I was left with, then, was conflict. Internally, I was dealing with cognitive dissonance. Externally, I was watching the philosophical blind lead the blind. I eventually came to realize that building my own metaphysical system from scratch was simply not possible. I had to assume some starting point, and then work within those self-determined parameters. Given some assumed foundation, I could then proceed to ask and answer questions. Yet this was the problem I had been facing all along: If I proceeded in this manner, as all philosophers have, then I wouldn’t be reaching the truth through a vigorous and brave intellectual process. I would be submitting, placing my faith in someone else’s words, or placing my faith in my own arbitrarily constructed metaphysical foundation. Surely that isn’t what philosophers do, is it?

Philosophers, I learned, have always proceeded in this manner. They assume a philosophical foundation. Afterward, they ask and answer questions within their self-determined parameters. Even the most radical philosophers did this, albeit implicitly/secretively. The choice was up to me; I had to be the one to “make a leap of faith,” as it were.

[Continued in Pt. 2]

Biblical Trinitarian: A Very Brief Refutation of “Christian” Physicalism

Check the newest article over at Biblical Trinitarian. In it, I offer a brief refutation of “Christian” physicalism.

Soli Deo Gloria


Source: Biblical Trinitarian: A Very Brief Refutation of “Christian” Physicalism

Biblical Trinitarian: The Inner Being: Paul, His Theological Context, and the Error of Anthropological Monism

In his latest article over at Biblical Trinitarian, Mike Burgos discusses the biblical doctrine of anthropological dualism and the error of anthropological monism.

Anthropological monism is an erroneous doctrine concerning the nature of man, teaching that man is a solely physical being, lacking a spiritual substance. Anthropological dualism teaches that man is a spiritual-physical unity.

Check out the article for more details.

Soli Deo Gloria


Source: Biblical Trinitarian: The Inner Being: Paul, His Theological Context, and the Error of Anthropological Monism

What Constitutes a “Biblical” Argument?

bibleDisambiguation: What Do We Mean By “Biblical”?

The question of whether or not someone’s argument for their belief in a given doctrine is “biblical” is often asked without there first being an understanding of just what constitutes a “biblical” argument. Indeed, the question is asked before the question of just what one means by the word “biblical” is asked.

A “biblical” argument could refer to an argument copied verbatim from the Scriptures (e.g. Paul’s Sorites argument in 1st Cor 15). It could also refer to an argument that deduces a conclusion from biblical premises. It could even refer to an argument that inductively builds toward a general conclusion from Scriptural data.

So when we use the phrase “Biblical argument,” what do we mean?

Many times, the phrase is a polemical device meant to underscore one’s faithfulness or unfaithfulness to the system of theology revealed in the Scriptures. In such instances, the claim that one’s argument is “unbiblical” is an accusation of immorality. It is a euphemistic way of identifying one’s doctrine as anti-biblical and, therefore, the product of the fallen mind of man.

The Criterion of Judgment

Now that we have covered how the term “biblical” is used in the phrase “biblical argument,” we have to ask:

What is the criterion of judgment?

If the assertion “You have presented an unbiblical argument in defense of your position!” really means “You have presented an anti-biblical argument in defense of your position!” then the criterion of judgment is whether or not one’s argument comports with the systematic theology taught in Scripture. In this instance, the sheer volume of Scriptural quotations does not count in favor of one’s argument, but only the harmony of one’s argument with the teaching of Scripture.

If, however, the assertion “You have presented an unbiblical argument in defense of your position!” means “You have presented an inductively invalid argument in defense of your position!” then the criterion of judgment is the volume of Scriptural quotations that apparently support one’s position. One’s position is “biblical” if it has a sufficient number of Scriptural quotations to allow for an inductively valid inference that one’s position is the teaching of Scripture.

Finally, if the assertion “You have presented an unbiblical argument in defense of your position!” means “You have presented a deductively invalid argument in defense of your position!” then the criterion of judgment is the argument’s soundness (i.e. its theological and structural correctness). An argument is “biblical” if it validly deduces conclusions from Scriptural premises. This does not depend upon the volume of Scriptural propositions apparently supporting the doctrine in question, but simply upon one’s correct use of reasoning in regard to the propositions of Scripture and how they relate to one another.

To recap, there are three criteria that may be in play when one is seeking to determine the biblicality of an argument. These are:

  1. Systematic-Theological Harmony
  2. Inductive Inference
  3. Deductive Inference

From here onward, these will be referred to as STH, II, and DI.

Which Criterion is Actually Biblical?

Scriptural arguments, i.e. arguments used in the Scriptures by God and the authors of Scripture, demonstrate that arguments that are not anti-biblical (which is to say, arguments that are “biblical”) are deductive, not inductive. Christ, for instance, infers the continued life of the physically dead from the existential verb “I AM.” This is a deduction, and it requires only a part of one verse. Because the inference is valid, the doctrine is established as true.

Likewise, the apostles infer from the assertion “you will not allow your holy one to see corruption” that David’s words are speaking not of himself but of the Lord Jesus Christ. This, as well, is a deductive argument, and it requires only an assertion. Since the deduction is valid, the inferred conclusion stands.

Concluding Remarks

While STH and DI provide us with a solid means of assessing the biblicality of one’s argument, II does not. Rather, II is susceptible to “the numbers game.” “The numbers game” is played by debaters when they attempt to argue their position by pointing to the sheer quantity of times Scriptural propositions allegedly supporting their position show up in the Scriptures.  To give a brief example, among unitarian heretics Anthony Buzzard can be heard rattling off a myriad of Scriptural propositions using “the singular personal pronoun” as a defense of his unitarian monotheism. He accumulates all of the instances in which the singular personal pronoun is used of Yahweh in the OT and then proceeds to infer from this that God is unipersonal. We may also point to much of the argumentation of annihilationists which consists largely of accumulating all Scriptural references to destruction, death, burning, consuming, etc and then inferring from these references the conclusion that the wicked will be annihilated. Neither the conclusion of Buzzard nor the annihilationists follows from the stated premises, however, demonstrating that this way of arguing is adding to the clear teaching of Scripture.

Such arguments are unbiblical not because their premises are not drawn from Scripture, but because they are inductive fallacies that implicitly undermine the unity and closure of the theology of the Scriptures and, therefore, add to the clear teaching of the Scriptures. What is taught in Scripture is revealed either explicitly or implicitly; what is arrived at via induction is possibly neither implied nor explicitly taught in the Scriptures, despite the fact that one may have numerous Scriptural data seemingly supporting his position.

Consequently, the II criterion for judging whether an argument is or is not biblical is not a biblical criterion. In contrast to II, STH and DI are biblical criteria for determining whether one’s argument is or is not biblical. What matters is not the sheer volume of Scriptural data employed in one’s argument but how the data one presents is employed.

Soli Deo Gloria.