Fristianity Objection to the Transcendental Argument

An extremely informative discussion between Choosing Hats contributor and fristianity objection advocate on a discussion board.

//A: I know we’re both thoroughly familiar with VanTil’s method, but so as to bring this to the forefront of the discussion for all parties (and *not* to be patronizing to you), his Pr 26:4-5 “two-step apologetic method” is applied by [1] demonstrating the coherence of the Christian worldview in a particular instance, and [2] reducing a token (i.e. atheism, Islam, Mormonism, etc.) of the typical anti-Christian worldview to absurdity, often via retortion.

The Fristianity objection is calculated to consider the assertion of the Trinity as the resolution of the “one-and-many problem,” in consideration of the strong modal claim in Greg Bahnsen’s formulation of a transcendental argument (i.e. “God is the *necessary* precondition for X” where X is some moral, metaphysical or epistemic given.).

So step [1] with respect to Fristianity would require presenting reasons why a trinitarian worldview is coherent – with particular reference to distinguishing it from quadrinitarianism (i.e. the aforementioned reasons must be available to the trinitarian in a way which is not available to the quadrinitarian). I haven’t seen anyone do this and I can’t think of any way to do it myself (or I would just present that for consideration).

Step [2] would mean running a reductio on quadrinitarianism. Contrary to your assertions, it does exist (as a postulate), it can be known and is known (it’s content is historical Christian orthodoxy + a mysterious fourth member of the classical Trinity, jocularly dubbed “Fred”), and its referent is the postulate outlined above. It’s not absurd. Your reductio is merely criticizing a postulate for being a postulate – which is no criticism at all. Like Step [1] above, I haven’t seen anyone present a reductio and I can’t think of any way to do it myself.

Which is a significant reason why I “attenuate” my VanTilianism and have dropped Bahnsen’s strong modal claims from my apologetic. 😉

B: The problem with it being a postulate – as I’ve mentioned many times before – is that it is NOT LIKE Christianity – which is it’s claim – to be *like Christianity in every respect, save for a fourth person in the godhead*. It is not revelatory however, and cannot be found anywhere in revelation. This is why I repeatedly point out that TAG is not enough – “it’s the theology, stupid”, etc. There is no *actual* content – there is no revelation. It is postulated “what if there were” – but there is not such a thing, in actuality. This is what I’ve talked about several times, and referred to – it’s also in the podcast that is contained in the post you’re commenting on, as well. Saying “well, it’s postulated *that* what if there are 4 members in the godhead” is all well and good – but the question remains – where’s the beef? You’re either arguing from Christianity, which has a revealed 3-person Godhead, or you’re arguing from not-Christianity, which has a not-3-person, not-revealed whatever it is they substitute for the Triune God of Scripture – at which point I ask for your beef 🙂 My reductio is criticizing it for promising more than it delivers – a “god just like that of Scripture” – but it has no Scripture, no revelation, and nothing evenresembling the God we know from Scripture and from general revelation. It exists as a postulate – that’s great; so what – and makes the claim that it is “just like Christianity, except with an additional person” – where do you have this revealed? This is part and parcel of *Van Til* – if not of what passes for Van Til with pop presup. Only in pop presup *could* this even taken to be a serious objection. It’s a bare postulate, and nothing more. It lacks any reference or any possibility of reference to theology, because it is non-revelatory by it’s very definition. As such, it is not “just like” Christianity, and cannot ever be – because it is not revelatory. Note that what I always say is that I presuppose the Triune God *of Scripture*. A bare postulate cannot be “of Scripture” – and even with the “Boise Bible,” is only a postulated bible, not the real McCoy. It’s a paper tiger that imo only appeals to philosophy, and ignores theology altogether. So, given that I have run step 1 and step 2, showed that it can’t be what it claims to be – I think I did indeed meet the qualifications – and don’t need to do much else. Don’t you think?

A: “…Don’t you think?”

I don’t. 🙂

As I outlined above, you must deal with the postulate *as it is postulated,* not as “actual” (to use your terms). Every time you’ve predicated something regarding the Fristianity postulate in your comment above you’ve simply asserted a contradiction of the postulate as such (i.e. “it is NOT like Christianity,” “it is not revelatory,” etc.). But that’s not a defense of trinitarianism against quadrinitarianism (Step [1]) or a reductio of quadrinitarianism (Step [2]). It’s simply contra-assertion.

Beyond that, you’re rejecting the Fristianity objection on procedural, rather than theological or philosophical grounds. You’re asserting that a hypothetical worldview is “out of bounds.” But I think your line of reasoning proves too much. You’re rejecting postulates in general, rather than the postulated Fristianity objection in particular. Your point could be summarized: “Postulated worldviews don’t count because they aren’t actual worldviews.” But why reject postulations and hypotheticals and other abstractions as such? Such a move presents immense problems for reasoning. One example would be that conditionals (“if/then”) are postulates. Postulates are disallowed, so says you; but why should anybody accept that *postulate*?

“It exists as a postulate – that’s great; so what – and makes the claim that it is “just like Christianity, except with an additional person” – where do you have this revealed?”

Let’s postulate that it’s in the forthcoming textual apparatus of the NA-29 of Matthew 28:19: τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος [καὶ τοῦ φρεδ]. Hotly contested recent discovery of a lost, but undeniably strong, manuscript tradition. Many expect it to be incorporated into the main body of the NA-30 and UBS-6 (you can’t make these sorts of changes overnight). 🙂

Bottom line: I’d love to see some VanTilian deal with the Fristianity objection directly. I’ll readily admit that I’ve been unable to formulate a response to it (while maintaining the strong modal claims of Bahnsen). But I’ll also assert that my friends here at Choosing Hats haven’t been able to do it thus far either.

However, I also don’t think much is lost, apologetically, by granting that the Fristianity objection has teeth. I think it’s only sharpened (and broadened) my understanding of apologetics. But now I’m just wandering into irrelevant autobiography…

B: No, I’m not rejecting it on procedural grounds. I’m objecting to it on the grounds that it is not what it claims to be – ie: “just like Christianity, except with one additional person” – it isn’t – because there is no *revelation* with one additional person – and on *theological* grounds – it’s not *possible* that there be more than one true God. I think I’ve shared on the blog before how much I detest ceding the grounds of “possibility” on non-Christian standards, yes? Given what I assert concerning possibility – that God determines it, per Scripture, since God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass – given what I assert concerning how we know who God is – God tells us – because, after all – The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved – can a “postulated” worldview be possibly true? No. Keep in mind – we’re contrasting whole *worldviews* transcendentally here, not – just neat, nifty little philosophical arguments divorced from the nature of things, or from God and His revelation. To postulate Fristianity is to be standing on ~CT. By standing on ~CT, you have no revelation, no basis to be making the postulation. Your wisdom and knowledge is not found in Christ, you are not showing the fool his folly – you *are* the fool, and are being like him. This is a theological issue. I don’t cede “possibility” – you know that already. So Fristianity is not a “possible” world view a priori, to me. It might be conceivable, but the mind of man is darkened, he is a manufacturer of idols, and he conceives of wickedness constantly. It is postulated as equal to Christianity – which means Frist, Fred, Steve, or whatever you want to call this idol, is claiming equality with God. Per God, in Isaiah, let Frist, Fred, or Steve tell us what is to come, what has come to pass, and what it means. Let us then tremble together.

So, let Frist be exposited from Scripture – because, after all – The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture. Then, let Frist meet the test of God for a true “rival,” per Scripture. “”Present your case,” the LORD says. “Bring forward your strong arguments,” The King of Jacob says. Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; As for the former events, declare what they were, That we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming; Declare the things that are going to come afterward, That we may know that you are gods; Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together.” – So, let’s hear from Frist – what does he have to say?

You can say I haven’t dealt with it “directly” – but “directly” means making someone be consistent. Is Fristianity a real worldview? Then present some revelation. Is it not? Then where are you standing when you say that? On Fristianity, or Christianity? Christianity says that God is alone, and there is no other – that He Himself ordains all things whatsoever that comes to pass – which means that He ordains possibility in the created order. On Fristianity? It’s just a postulate – how can it “explain” anything when it isn’t anything but somebody’s “what if”? How can a non-revelatory “what if” explain anything at all, let alone all things whatsoever? What else you seem to be overlooking is that I’m dealing with the Creator/creature distinction in this, as well – God Himself tells us that the only means provided to us for knowing Him truly is by His Word. Fristianity is parasitic, as most objections are. It has nothing of itself – all it can do is say “me too!” So what? The issue with postulates is that they, supposedly, theoretically provide for an alternative. For who? A theoretical person living in that theoretical world? Great, then I freely grant that theoretical Bill can trust in theoretical Frist, provided that theoretical Frist reveals himself to theoretical Bill in the theoretical way Fristianity outlines itself. The problem is, Frist *doesn’t*, and *hasn’t* – so of what value is it? What if I come up with an Islam – call it ChrIslam – that is not unitarian, but trinitarian, has a non-lying prophet, worships Christ as Messiah, embraced the Christians as brothers, and actually matches the Christian Scriptures across the board in the Boise Quran? Does this prove anything? It’s just a postulate, after all. We can think of any number of absolutely wild and crazy bits of nonsense. That doesn’t mean they have any relationship to what is actually true – or that it has any argumentative force as a defeater. This is why I press possibility the way I do. It’s integral to Van Til’s apologetic. It’s simply not *possible* that Fristianity is true. Whether you can conceive of it is just as irrelevant as my conception of ChrIslam. It’s not true. Playing brain games doesn’t advance anything – and it’s certainly not what Van Til taught. Attenuate if you wish – but I think you’d have to grant that I’m being consistent with Van Til by refusing to grant the idea of possibility the way I do.

A: “It’s simply not *possible* that Fristianity is true.”

Please *demonstrate* this in a succinct argument.

B: The Triune God of Scripture ordains all things whatsoever that come to pass – and has told us so directly. The “god” of Fristianity has not done so, and has not told us so; therefore, the only possible preconditions for intelligibility are supplied by the Triune God of Scripture.

Or another way;

All things whatsoever that come to pass presuppose their specific ordination by the Triune God of Scripture. All things whatsoever come to pass; Thus, their specific ordination by the Triune God of Scripture is the only possibility.

A: Thank you.

You don’t see these arguments as question-begging against Fristianity?

By which I mean, how does one distinguish that from this:

The Quadrune God of Scripture ordains all things whatsoever that come to pass – and has told us so directly. The “god” of Christianity has not done so, and has not told us so; therefore, the only possible preconditions for intelligibility are supplied by the Quadrune God of Scripture.

or

All things whatsoever that come to pass presuppose their specific ordination by the Quadrune God of Scripture. All things whatsoever come to pass; Thus, their specific ordination by the Quadrune God of Scripture is the only possibility.

B: Show me what Scriptures teach Fristianity, Ben. Like I said earlier – as long as it’s relegated to the theoretical, fine – that’s great. It only applies to the theoretical “world” which has their theoretical “scripture”, too. I suppose, in some dreamworld where there is the Great God Frist, that’d be hunky dory. But that’s not the world we’re in. Once it impinges on actuality – show me the Scriptures that teach it. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Additionally, just note that the Triune God of Scripture *has* done so – so you can’t “turn it around”. That’s the point.

What that amounts to, Ben, is forcing your own hand, and folding on a bluff. Fristianity doesn’t make those claims – but I would point out that it *does* lend itself to falsifiability by postulating that there *can be* another true God. You’ve gone a step further than Fristianity does and claimed that Fristianity *falsifies* Christianity – by revelation. At which point I’d ask you – “says who?” The Triune God *has* spoken, and we *do* know what He has said. So you can’t just “turn it around” without spiking your own guns. That’s the problem with Fristianity. Any attack it makes is subject to God’s exclusivity and specific revelation – and denials of those two elements are the only recourse it has. Do that, and you remove any claim it might have to be “in the same way as Christianity.” Darned if you do, darned if you don’t.

A: “Show me what Scriptures teach Fristianity, Ben.”

As I said above, we can say that it’s in the forthcoming textual apparatus of the NA-29 of Matthew 28:19: τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος [καὶ τοῦ φρεδ] (i.e. “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost [and Fred]“). It’s contested, of course, but the variant comes from an undeniably strong manuscript tradition. Many expect it to be incorporated into the main body of the standard Greek NT in the near future.

Other hypotheticals could be multiplied. Use your imagination.

What that amounts to, Josh, is forcing your own hand, and folding on a bluff. Christianity may or may not make those claims – but I would point out that it *does* lend itself to falsifiability by postulating that there *can be* another true God. You’ve claimed that Christianity *falsifies* Fristianity – by revelation. At which point I’d ask you – “says who?” The Quadrune God *has* spoken, and we *do* know what He has said. So you can’t just “turn it around” without spiking your own guns. That’s the problem with Christianity. Any attack it makes is subject to God’s exclusivity and specific revelation – and denials of those two elements are the only recourse it has. Do that, and you remove any claim it might have to be “in the same way as Fristianity.” Darned if you do, darned if you don’t.

…Remember that this is not just a difference of semantics (i.e. “Stop calling God names”). It is a difference of theology: trinitarian vs. quadrinitarian.

Also, I’m not mocking your argumentation, I’m simply attempting to illustrate to you that your arguments have not yet managed to distinguish themselves from arguments available to a Fristian. As I said early in the discussion, regarding Step [1], “reasons must be available to the trinitarian in a way which is not available to the quadrinitarian.”

I understand that it’s hypothetical, it’s parasitic, it’s a “mirroring” objection, it’s a pseudo-Christian cult, it’s frustrating, etc. But none of those things demonstrate it is *impossible*.

B: But the problem is, Ben, is that it is parasitic *on Christianity*. By denying Christianity, it denies it’s own existence. It defeats itself. A reflection cannot exist without the thing it reflects. There is no “equality” in view. It’s parasitic, because the one thing actually exists – the other is just said to exist, in reflection of the other. You can’t turn it around cleanly. You can say the words, but it doesn’t work. First, because the Triune God *has spoken*. Show me where the Quadrune “god” has? It isn’t in the NA29 anymore than it is in the Boise Bible. It’s not as simplistic as you’re portraying. It’s not nearly as simplistic. In order for it to be a “mirror” in the way you’re saying it is, it would have to be true that Christianity is equally “parasitic” on Fristianity. Yet, even Fristianity claims it is parasitic on Christianity. Christianity makes no such claims about itself – yet Fristianity makes those claims in reverse. So how can you blithely turn these around with a straight face? I notice what you didn’t deal with was the content of the sentences. Replacing the words only made it more and more evident that it’s a parasitic, non-stand-alone system – and that denying the original only deletes the copy. It’s impossible because it *denies the original it’s copied from*. It’s like a KJVOnlyist trying to deny the existence of the autographs on the basis of an English translation of the manuscripts copied from the autographs, at various removes. It’s prima facie absurd. What you’re doing is demonstrating exactly what I said previously. Whenever you try to “do the job” with Fristianity, you show that it doesn’t have the horsepower. Replacing words as if it is a valid retortion doesn’t make them a valid retortion. It only focuses in on the inconsistencies and the inadequacies of Fristianity as a true “rival”. It shows that if it denies the original, then the copy ‘fades away’ like Marty’s picture in Back to the Future. The preconditions for it’s intelligibility are based in the truthfulness of Christianity. Ironically, to postulate itself, Fristianity has to deny Christianity. This is only seen if you don’t take it as a “philosophical point of interest” – but as an entire worldview set against an entire worldview. The very act of “copying” introduces a denial of the original, because the original is definitionally exclusivistic. On the other hand, the objection itself is based on the *reflection* of Christianity – but as a reflection, can you deny the truthfulness of that which you reflect? I think it’s to the point where you’re just saying the same thing over and over – and so am I 🙂 The difference is in the overall methodology, imo. Is it explictly grounded in “a Christian totality picture” against a “non-Christian totality picture”, or in “TAG” as a bare philosophical argument? I’m talking the former – you seem to be talking the latter. Fristianity doesn’t really dent either one, if you take TAG to be merely an example of the former; which I’m not sure you do, or ever did.

A: Let me see if I can clear away a bit of clutter here, particularly regarding this whole “where are you standing” issue which tends to re-emerge in this discussion.

If I present a particular argument, say an Islamic argument against the Trinity, for discussion with my fellow apologists then I am “standing on” Islam *for the sake of argument*. I’m not converting to Islam.

So also with the Fristianity objection.

Maybe you respond to my presentation of the Islamic argument by saying, “Christianity is the only possibly true worldview, that is a non-Christian argument, therefore that argument can’t possibly be true.” I could agree with you in principle, but I’ll still point out, “Bro, that’s a lame argument.”

So also with the Fristianity objection. I’m “standing on” Fristianity *for the sake of argument*.

B: But that’s not what I’m saying, Ben. I’d also submit to you that you know that’s not what I’m saying to you. As a Christian, you know that God is the one true God, yes? So, if you make it “for the sake of argument” – then Fristianity has to accord with the entirety of Christianity *except* for one additional person, right? Does Fristianity demonstrate this? It’s interesting that you want *me* to demonstrate, in the one comment – but it’s okay for Fristianity NOT to demonstrate, in the objection. Why is this? Does Fristianity demonstrate? Can it demonstrate? What is it demonstrating *from*? What do we demonstrate from? Revelation? If so, where is it? If not, it’s no longer in accord with Christianity “on all but X”, is it? The difference lies in where I’m starting, I think. I’m taking ALL of CT – and saying “Fristianity claims to be the ‘equal’ of Christianity, right? So, where is the revelatory scope, power, and ‘reach’ into the real world that Christianity evinces?” It’s not there. It can never be there. It’s just a thought experiment. Thought experiments go as far as your thoughts do – and that’s where they stop. How does this ‘thought experiment’ provide the preconditions for intelligibility of all things whatsoever *without being revealed by the Scriptures*? That is why this is a theological discussion, not merely a philosophical one. As long as it stays in the realm of philosophy, but no further – it’s not really dealing with CT, or with presup, as it was formulated initially. Certainly not with how *I* formulate it.//

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