Necessity, Univocism, and the Triune God: A Response to Anderson and Welty

The EPS has kindly posted “Necessity, Univocism, and the Triune God,” a response I wrote to Anderson and Welty’s much discussed “Lord of Noncontradiction.” I’ve interacted with their article numerous times here at P&T, but the piece for EPS is my most developed effort. I can’t help but think that in the end, my response boils down to simply pointing out the myriad complications that arise from claiming to speak of the God of the Bible without the aid of divine revelation. Historic Reformed theology has argued (1) that theology is only possible because God spoke first and true iff it depends upon that sovereign self-revelation of God, and consequently (2) that natural theology simply cannot speak truly of the God of the Bible. Van Til has sharpened considerably both claims: (1) he argues that all knowledge, not only theological knowledge, is true iff it depends on special revelation, and (2) that natural theology can only get us a finite God, one essentially inseparable from the creation, which is to say, any God but the triune, a se God of Scripture. Despite some renewed discussion of these issues (Plantinga’s “The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology” and M. Sudduth’s text with the same title), I think these basic tenets of consistent Protestantism remain steadfast.

Here is a link to the EPS page where you can download my response, or click here to download it directly. Thanks to EPS for posting.

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5 Comments on “Necessity, Univocism, and the Triune God: A Response to Anderson and Welty”

  1. shotgunwildatheart says:

    Recently, thanks to iTunes, I’ve been working my way through “Power Structuralism and Ancient Ontologies”, a lecture series provided by Oxford University. There, I was introduced to the work of Scott Berman.

    He wants to articulate a platonic theory of truth-making. In his system, there are no propositions at all; beliefs are true if they participate in a form that is the case. (I hope I haven’t too badly misrepresented Berman. I’m still learning his position).

    If it is true (as Berman argues) that there are no propositions, then the laws of logic cannot be propositional, and Anderson and Welty’s argument would no longer work. (They admit, on page 4 of their essay, that their position rules out any metaphysical view that reduces propositions to linguistic tokens – but it seems their position rules out Berman’s platonic view as well, for the same reason).

    I’m wondering if it might not be possible to frame a Van Tillian (thus: Reformed / Christian) view of knowledge in a way similar to Berman’s metaphysic? Only, instead of ambiguous “forms”, we talk about God’s “facts” (which we only know in virtue of how faithfully we reconstruct them)?

    In your recent article “Christianity and Evidentialism”, you lay out what is, in my opinion, the best articulation of a Van Tillian metaphysic (and how it relates to epistemology) I’ve ever read. I keep it in mind as I read and listen to Berman, and the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Berman’s work (especially in eliminating propositions all together) would help the Van Tillian’s position immensely.

    I guess I’m wondering (and would love to hear your attitude towards this), if propositions are at all metaphysically important for a Christian other than as fodder for an apologetic argument (Anderson / Welty). And further, I’m wondering if I might not be able to re-formulate Anderson / Welty’s argument with Berman in mind?

    • Nate Shannon says:

      Shotgun,

      The Berman stuff sounds interesting! From what you’re saying, Berman is a nominalist regarding propositions–so that he affirms, to put it one way, tokens but not types. Seems to undermine the ‘transcendence’ you’d need to recover the A/W argument. But what do I know? Good thoughts.

  2. shotgunwildatheart says:

    Oh, and as a quick caveat,

    I have the attitude that Anderson / Welty’s essay does good theological work, but is not an apologetic argument. I see it as a discussion of states of affairs within a presupposed Christian universe.

    In my apologetic engagements, a non-theist might say something like:

    “I assert ( X ) to be the case.”

    At which point, I would ask him why we should take his assertion seriously. Does he have the authority (rational or otherwise) to assert ( x )? He may offer reasons why his assertion should be accepted, all of which I deconstruct (maybe by pointing out that he has no grounds to assume the laws of logic which govern his assertion).

    After his options are exhausted, he then asks how I might be able to authoritatively assert ( X ), at which point, Anderson / Welty’s article might come in handy.

    Is that a good way of looking at it?

    • Nate Shannon says:

      Shotgun,

      That is THE way to look at it! This is very helpful, in my view. I only wish A/W viewed it this way, but I don’t think they do. Your approach is presuppositional; theirs appears to be merely natural theology–which is fine–NT is what it is–but it isn’t presuppositional, and it doesn’t prove the existence of the Christian God. Not even Aquinas thought that it did.

      Very helpful way of putting it. Thanks

  3. pochoa1 says:

    Nate,

    If this argument were formulated properly couldn’t it be a devastating internal critique? Suggesting materialistic worldviews would be shown to be unable to account for necessity(A contingent necessity in light of revelation )
    Also, an impersonal worldview like Plato couldn’t account for intentionality in logic requiring a person to account?
    Thus giving a very potent argument to show insufficiencies in unbelieving thought?


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