What is a “Philosophical” Argument?

Avoiding the Inexorable Consequences of One’s Beliefs

Since the debate a few weeks ago, I’ve been talking to annihilationists about the foundations on which they build their doctrine. The result has not been very fruitful, as there has been much misunderstanding from the annihilationist camp about the various critiques I have been offering. In the course of our interactions, the accusation arose that we (myself and Michael Burgos from grassrootsapologetics.org) were making “philosophical” arguments and not “Biblical” arguments. The statement bugged me because it is, well, worthless in terms of refuting any singular point that one’s opponent raises in a given discussion. What is worse, however, is the fact that the assertion wrongly identifies logic as philosophy, which are two different things.  Logic is the science of necessary inference; philosophy is a branch of study that involves the study of knowledge (i.e. epistemology), the study of first principles (i.e. metaphysics), the study of being/s (i.e. ontology), and the study of ethics. Logic is prerequisite to all cognition. Philosophy is the fruit of such cognition.

So the accusation that a person is making a “philosophical” argument, as opposed to a Biblical one, is a meaningless assertion. What I’ve noticed, however, is that the accusation occurs when prooftexting is not involved in the argument that one is making, but deduction from a given set of premises (whether Biblical or extrabiblical). Yet this still does not give one grounds to identify the argument as a “philosophical” argument. Why then is this meaningless assertion used? Because it is a way to avoid dealing with the inexorable consequences of one’s beliefs. For instance, if a Romanist’s simultaneous belief in the perpetual virginity and sinlessness of Mary leads us to conclude that if Mary was perpetually a virgin, then Joseph was perpetually subject to sexual temptation, Mary was willfully neglecting her duty to be physically intimate with Joseph and, therefore, guilty of sin and could not have been born without the taint and stain of original sin, will he concede the point? Not at all. Rather, the focus will be shifted. The one who draws out the logical consequences of the Romanist’s idolatry will be shunned as rationalistic, or his arguments will be said to be the fruit of philosophical speculation, or something of that sort. “Mary’s perpetual virginity and immaculate conception,” they will retort, “are a mystery that you must accept, even if you think it is irrational.”

Regarding the annihilationists I mentioned above, a similar course of action was taken. Arguments that work deductively, were identified as “philosophical” and not logical. The one making the assertion had the advantage, because he was then in a position to state that he wa arguing biblically and not philosophically. This move can only be made in one of two ways: (1.)abject ignorance of what philosophy, logic, and theology are, or (2.)a good understanding of the differences between philosophy, logic, and theology, and yet the unwillingness of the one who knows these things to follow his beliefs to their inexorable conclusions.

This is not Christian thinking, but cultic reasoning. And as such, it is completely unfit for all who profess the name of Christ.

I have written some more on this, but I will post it over @ Grassroots Apologetics.

Soli.

Deo.

Gloria.

-h.

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4 thoughts on “What is a “Philosophical” Argument?

  1. David Bishop says:

    Hiram, the first thing I suggest is that you learn what a hasty generalization is, and then second, that you work to avoid them. Not every annihilationist fits the bill you describe here. And I realize that you are probably only speaking about a few annihilationists (namely, those who you’ve been speaking with), but it would be helpful if you would actually say that. After all, I hazard to guess that the only Annihilationists who have done what you describe here are indeed those few you’ve been speaking to and debating. As for your complaint itself, I certainly understand and agree with you. It is one thing to draw a logical conclusion from a proposition I assume, but it is a wholly other to draw a logical conclusion from a Scriptural proposition. The only valid complaint I can think of at the moment would be if we disagreed about what the proposition states. Even then though, this should not elicit such charge as you have been accused. I hope in turn however, that you won’t continue to use this false accusation as an opportunity to level a false accusation against all annihilationists based upon the invalid complaint of a few.

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  2. hiram says:

    Hey David,

    You’re right; I should have been a little clearer about the annihilationists that fit the above stated characterization. I understand that I could be coming across as if I am committing an inductive fallacy.

    I will be clearer next time about the particular individuals and/or groups of annihilationists that I am talking about.

    -h.

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