B.C. Askins

The Man With the Golden Gun

Fristianity Refuted

Here’s a really rough thumbnail sketch of a non-question begging argument refuting Fristianity (written from my phone).

In Christianity, the categorical three term syllogism (“Barbara”) is grounded in the intratrinitarian relationships within the Godhead:

1.) All that belongs to the Son (B) belongs to the Father (A).
2.) All that belongs to the Spirit (C) belongs to the Son (B).
3.) Therefore, all that belongs to the Spirit (C) belongs to the Father (A).

1.) All Bs are As.
2.) All Cs are Bs.
3.) Therefore, all Cs are As.

The Fristian quadrinity, even with a mysterious role for the fourth person, by the nature of the unity in the quadrinity would produce a four term syllogism, which is formally fallacious. The Fristian god cannot provide the necessary preconditions for logic.


(Argument inspired by Vern Poythress.)


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11 thoughts on “Fristianity Refuted

  1. Billy on said:

    That doesn’t seem to solve the main issue at hand in Fristianity as I see it: that any apparent contradiction in new revelation can be “accounted for” via mystery just as the Trinity. In other words, it is not merely just a “Quadrinity” that is the issue.

    • Hi Billy, thanks for the comment.
      Do you think the argument in the post effectively refutes the quadrinitarian form of the Fristianity objection (i.e. an apologetic mirror plus a mysterious fourth person added to the Trinity)?

  2. Billy on said:

    I guess I don’t see how it stops this particular Fristian from appealing to Mystery even on account of the formal fallacy. In other words one needs to address why such an appeal would not be allowed. If the Christian can do it vis a vis Trinity; why not the Fristian vis a vis whatever they want to make things “work?”

    • Such an appeal would not be allowed because, regardless of the level of mystery appealed to by the Fristian, they have an explicitly quadrinitarian theology. While each respective theology may contain mystery, the difference between 3 and 4 is clear. This is the revealed issue which provides the ground for reductio.

  3. Steelwheels on said:

    Is P1 correct?

    • “All that the Father has is mine…” (John 16:15a ESV)

      “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35 ESV)

      So, yes, P1 is correct.

      • P1 is “All that belongs to the Son (B) belongs to the Father (A).” But John 3:35 is “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” These are equivalent iff “belongs to him” and “is in his hand” are equivalent.

        Maybe they’re not. Consider, for example, thing S:
        S: Knowledge of the day or the hour when heaven and earth will pass away

        Does the set of all things the Father has given into the hand of the Son comprise S? (Mark 13:30-32)

        If it does not and if the belongs-to/is-held-by equivalency is correct, then P1 is wrong.
        If it does comprise S, and if the equivalency is correct, then P1 may be right, but knowledge is not a thing thus given, held, or had.
        And if the belongs-to/is-held-by equivalency is simply incorrect, then P1 needs retooling for that reason.

      • Jn 16:15a would seem to more closely resemble P1 (if the antecedent and consequent were reversed). However, I’d say P1 could certainly be more precise. It was intended to be a rather rough but non-controversial example of an intratrinitarian relation. Other relations could be substituted (i.e. “loves” or “reflects,” etc.). The OP appears to have been an exercise in missing the point, in any event. Back to the drawing board…

  4. Hey Ben. Hope you’re well.

    First, consider these two syllogisms:
    1. All Bs are Cs.
    2. All As are Bs.
    :., all As are Cs.
    1′. All Cs are Ds.
    2′. All Bs are Cs.
    :., all Bs are Ds.

    Both (a) and (b) are valid since each exemplifies Barbara. But this implies the validity of chaining ad infinitum provided not more than one premise is particular (necessarily one featuring the minor term) and not more than one is negative (necessarily one featuring the major). Hence:

    1”. All Cs are Ds.
    2”. All Bs are Cs.
    3”. All As are Bs.
    :., all As are Ds.

    This is a Goclenian sorites, and it suggests a strategy for revising your illustration for a quadernity:

    0f.) All that belongs to the Father (A) belongs to the Mother (Z).
    1f.) All that belongs to the Son (B) belongs to the Father (A).
    2f.) All that belongs to the Spirit (C) belongs to the Son (B).
    Therefore, all that belongs to the Spirit (C) belongs to the Mother (Z).

    Since this chaining may be extended arbitrarily within the rules, I hope you can see that the fact that four terms cannot be squeezed into a Barbara is hardly a basis for drawing ontological inferences; after all, four terms fit quite nicely in a chained Barbara.

    Intuitively, it should also be obvious that “The Fristian god cannot provide the necessary preconditions for logic” is a conclusion that ought to be projected on the basis of well defined and defended premises having to do with (s) what the preconditions of logic are, (t) how we might decide which are necessary and sufficient, and (u) how one can possibly go about distinguishing between “worldviews” that do and “worldviews” that do not provide them.

    This, FWIW, is a point I made a good long time ago on the Van Til list.

    Second, this whole approach to the challenge of Fristianity misses the point. The “identical to Christian Theism except for the enumerated population of the Godhead” feature was an illustration, not the gravamen. Rather, Fristianity is a template for any model, hypothetical or actual, about which one might say the following:
    (w) an appeal is made to plenary verbal inspiration or revelational epistemic foundations; and
    (x) a “worldview” has been or may be constructed out of (w); and
    (y) appeals to mystery to cover antinomies in (x) on the authoritative basis of (w) are made as inoculation against a negative transcendental critique; and
    (z) the worldview thus generated and buttressed is proffered as the precondition of intelligibility, PoI (e.g., the unique provision of conditions of the possibility of logic and its applicability).

    One could make a strong case that Islam is susceptible to this sort of treatment. One could also start on 17 February 2014 to assert propositions, to claim divine authority for them, to weave them together into a model and agenda, to patch them with intrasystemically “warranted” appeals to mystery, and to assert that new, private divine revelation as the sole provision of the preconditions of intelligibility. With respect to transcental apologetic engagement, this postmodern prophet of Presidents Day is positioned much the same as claimants about Muhammad or claimants about Paul.

    The differences are not principial but historical: the authors of the Hebrew Bible preceded those of the NT. Paul, et al., preceded Muhammad. Muhammad preceded Joseph Smith. And Smith would precede anyone who steps up on Washington’s birthday of next year.

    This is why taking on the fourness of the quadernity illustration or complaining that a hypothetical worldview cannot trump an actual worldview are doomed strategies for defusing the Fristianity objection. The latter is a strategic template for emphasizing– in *any* “worldview” or model that entails a split ontology and a revelational epistemology– elements (w, x, y, and z above) that have often been adduced or explored respecting Christian Theism in attempts to establish it as the unique provider of PoI.

    And, if memory serves, these points were made on the Van Til list way back when.

    I hope this reply helps and encourages your thinking through the issues.



  5. FWIW, here’s an overview of the broader set of problems:

    There are three interrelated lines of objection to Van Til’s approach to TAG: the CTU objection, the Fristianity objection, and the Adequate Criteria of Adequacy objection.

    ___On rebutting the CTU objection:

    CTU was an objection that I introduced on the Van Til list: if all of scripture must be taken as a unit in order to vindicate *specifically Christian* Theism, and if scripture includes claims about seemingly irrelevant concrete particulars (e.g., the color of Abraham’s robe), then those particulars must (against intuition!) be– or be relevantly and necessarily linked to– transcendental preconditions… or else the concept of “all … taken as a unit” must be reconsidered.

    I wrote quite a lot about this at the time, and the main point of the discussion was this: if we *strip away* the concrete particulars of Christian Theism, then we’re left with what I called “vanilla theism”. But then, TAG ends up proving too little; it merely vindicates theism of a certain broad kind but not any particular variant or expression. But if we *fold in* the particulars to anchor the argument to Christian concerns in particular, then the particulars of Christian Theism that distinguish it must be rallied *in support of that exclusivity claim*, which leaves us with the seemingly impossible task of explaining how factors that seem transcendentally irrelevant happen also to be conditions of, say, the possibility of logic.

    So there are three mutually exclusive possible scenarios in play:

    * (a) A transcendental defense of theism isn’t feasible at all.

    * (b) A transcendental defense of theism is feasible via negative transcendental critiques of anti-theism, but *any* vanilla theism can mount the defense. (It is available for use by any theism configured with a dualistic ontology, a revelational epistemology, and revelationally warranted appeals to mystery; no particular theism in this configuration can hang its exclusivity claims on it).

    * (c) A transcendental defense is only feasible for Christian Theism.

    So then, (c) is Van Til’s claim (though some insist, contrary to his own rhetoric, that he would’ve been happy with (b)).

    The CTU (Christian Theism as a Unit) problem pushes the claim in behalf of (c) down into (b) on the strength of the fact that it’s extraordinarily difficult to see what some of the particulars of Christian Theism that are candidates for inclusion in the “unit” have to do with preconditionality.

    Strategically, rebutting the CTU problem requires two senses of “unit” — a broad sense in which *all* of scripture, without exception, is taken as a seamless garment (the superset of scriptural data), and a narrow sense in which *only the subset* of scriptural data with facial preconditional relevance and Christian distinctiveness are included.

    In other words, the strategy would be to say that there is a subset of facts delivered in Christian Theism– say, the trinitarian ontology or substitutional atonement or the incarnation– that are both unique to Christianity and jointly capable of uniquely providing the preconditions of rational human inquiry.

    Rebutting the CTU objection by adequately defining this subset-unit is hard, not easy. But *even if* we already had in hand a set of all and only those factors that are both arguably preconditional and distinctively Christian, that resulting argument would then fall prey to the Fristianity objection: “No, those elements of your model aren’t the preconditions; these elements of my model that are both arguably preconditional and distinctively *Fristian* are the preconditions, so line up and praise Frist, etc.”

    ___On rebutting the Fristianity objection:

    The Fristianity objection also pushes claims in behalf of (c) down into (b), but does so on the strength of the fact that anyone anywhere can mock up a religion, or a reading of a religion, that presents claims similar to those that the proponent of a Christian TAG declares to be transcendentally necessary *even when the “unit” is defined strictly* in rebuttal to the CTU objection.

    I haven’t yet seen a lucid strategy for responding to Fristianity that does not also apply to Christianity with respect to TAG-styled apologetics. The program for rebuttal that I recommended on the VT list was similar to the guidance I gave in the reply above to your blog post. One must

    * do a much better job of defining what is or is not a precondition of intentionality;
    * do a much better job of demonstrating that the methodology undergirding that definition is legitimate and robust;
    * do a much better job of defining “worldview” and providing some principled means to differentiate one such thing from another; and
    * do a much better job of relating all these factors to one another by demonstrating *how* we can tell whether a given worldview does or does not provide exclusive preconditionality.

    That may seem like a lofty philosophical goal, but it’s actually merely the baseline or threshold condition for rebutting Fristianity. Anything falling short of at least that achievement will be reversible on Christianity itself.

    ___On adequate criteria for discerning transcendentals (rebutting the ACA objection):

    In addition to the CTU problem and the Fristianity problem, I also defined on the Van Til List a couple of related infinite regress problems that seem insurmountable. Here’s one:

    Suppose an apologist claims that factor Y is transcendentally necessary in the relevant way. To assess that claim, we must employ some criterion Z of Y’s adequacy to tell whether Y is, or is not, up to preconditional snuff. But how can we tell whether our criterion Z is adequate to that task? We must employ some criterion Z1 of Z’s adequacy in discriminating among Ys. But how can we tell whether Z1 is adequate? We must employ some criterion Z2 of Z1’s adequacy….

    This Adequate Criteria of Adequacy (ACA) objection suggests that the fact that we must depend on transcendental preconditions in order to reason about them precludes the possibility of ever figuring out *definitively* what is or is not a criterion for distinguishing preconditions– and therefore precludes ever figuring out definitively what is or is not a precondition. Indeed, anyone may say of his favorite Z that it’s “the one” because of the impossibility of the contrary! And anyone may say, “no, not that one– this one, and for the same reason”. And of course, only zero or one of them can be right!

    (Harry Frankfurt noted this class of problems in his famous article on “Doubt”: http://www.amazon.com/DOUBT-entry-Gales-Encyclopedia-Philosophy/dp/B001SCJN7A)

    Given the CTU objection and the Fristianity objection and the ACA objection, I’m not holding out much hope for TAG. But that’s ok; I’m holding out a lot of hope for biblical apologetics, especially insofar as people who do not claim Christ seem much more susceptible to persuasion by manifestly Christian acts than by a lot of high-minded talk.

    I hope this overview proves interesting to you. Maybe someday I’ll reread the Van Til list archives, too, and distill the key points as they were expressed there. Or maybe someone else will. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. 🙂



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