Monday, April 29, 2019

The Trace of God by Joseph Hinman

My Book,  on Amazon

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Arguments for God from religious experience have always been considered a secondary level of argument. It's always been assumed that their subjective nature makes them weak arguments. The atheist scared to death of subjectivity. This work, compiling empirical scientific studies that show that religious experience is not the result of emotional instability but are actually good for psychologically, constitutes a ground breaking work that places religious experiences on a higher level.

The Trace of God is an exposition (445 pages) employing both philosophical investigation and social science research. The book analyzes and discusses a huge body of empirical research that has up to this point been primarily known only in circles of psychology of religion, and has been over looked by theology, apologetics, Philosophy of religion and more general discipline of psychology. This body of work needs to be known in each of these interested groups because it demonstrates through hundreds of studies over a 50 year period, the positive and vital nature of the kind of religious experience known as “mystical.” Even though most of the studies deal with “mystical” experience, linking studies also apply it to the “born again experience” as well as “the material end of Christian experience.”

            The book opens with a discussion as to why arguments for the existence of God need not “prove” God exists, but merely offer a “warrant for belief.” It discusses why there can’t be direct empirical evidence for God and why that is not necessary. It also lays out criteria for rational warrant. In Chapter two it presents two arguments that are based upon religious experience and then shows how the various studies back them up. This is not an attempt to present directly empirical evidence for God but to show that religious experiences of a certain kind can be taken as “the co-determinate” or God correlate. It’s not a direct empirical view of God that is presented but the “God correlate” that indicates God,  just as a fingerprint or tacks in the snow indicate the presence of some person or animal. Religious experiences of this kind are the “trace of God.”

            These studies demonstrate that the result of such experiences is life transforming. This term is understood and used to indicate long term positive and dramatic changes in the life of the one who experiences them. People are released form bondage to alcohol and drugs, they tend to have less propensity toward depression or mental illness, they are self actualized, self assured, have greater sense of meaning and purpose, generally tend to be better educated and more successful than those who don’t have such experiences. These studies prove that religious experience is not the result of mental illness or emotional instability. The methodology of the studies (which includes every major kind of study methodology in the social sciences) is discussed at length.

            One of the major aspects of the book is the discussion of the “Mysticism scale” (aka “M scale”) developed by Dr. Ralph Hood Jr. at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The importance of this “M scale” (that is a test made up of 32 questions) is that it serves as a control on the valid religious experience. One can know through the score on the test if one’s experience is truly “Mystical” or just “wool gathering.” Without a control we can’t know if one has had a true experience and thus we can’t measure their effects. Being able to establish that one has had true “mystical experience” one can determine that the effects of that experience are positive and long term. Thus that sets up the rationally warranted arguments for God.

            It is also vital to know if the experience is valid because those who seek to discredit religious belief and claim to have produced such experiences by stimulating the brain don’t use controls to determine if the experience is valid or not. They must make assumptions that anything to do with God talk is a religious experience then claim to have produced it by stimulating the brain. The M scale works by comparing theories of British philosopher W.T. Stace with current modern mystics (research began in the 1970s on American campuses and went international in the 80s). It is statistically extremely remote that they would be able to accidentally hit upon the right combination of questions to reflect validation of Stace’s theory. They have to agree with Stace’s theory on all 32 points. It’s even harder to imagine they might lie. In the international studies Iranian, Indian, and Japanese peasants were questioned. Most of them did not read English it’s absurd to think they could tell what Stace’s theory was much less what they had to lie about. Most of them would know nothing about W.T. Stace or his theories. The Studies showed that modern mystics in Iran, India, Japan, Sweden, the UK all experience exactly what Stace said they would experience. Thus that creates the ground for comparison. It gives us a control for the experience.

            The book also discusses the theories of Wayne Proudfoot a philosopher who tried to disprove mystical experience by reductionism, re-labeling and losing the phenomena. Studies of brain chemistry are analyzed as well as the Placebo effect. The question all comes down to a tie between naturalistic brain chemicals vs. the idea that the naturalistic neurological route is just the way God created for us to communicate with him, and that stimulation of those chemicals is just opening the receptors that also receive God’s presence. The problem is resolved by eight tie breakers that are presented at the end of the next to the last chapter. The last chapter deals with philosophical and theological problems surrounding language and faith.

            The book provides a ground breaking chunk of fiber fortifying the arguments for God from religious experience that has been lacking since the days of FatherFrederick C. Coplestonand his debate with Bertrand Russell. Copleston didn’t have these studies to back his argument. This body of work has been growing for 50 years and it’s time it was known to the theological world. These studies, especially the M scale, establish that religious experiences are the same the world over. There may be other kinds but of those kind know as “mystical” when we control for the names being different, and doctrines of various faiths use dot explain the situation, we look at the experience itself they are all the same. That implies that all of these people around the world in different faiths are experiencing a reality external to their own minds. It also implies that God is working in all faiths. The Author, Joseph Hinman, is a Christian and he does believe in the exclusivity of Jesus Christ but he also recognizes God’s prevenient grace to all people.

 "A great contribution to discussions of the rationality of belief in God"

William S. Babcock, Professor Emeritus of Church History, Southern Methodist University

Ralph Hood says:

"A fine exploration of the meaningfulness of arguments from human experience to the reality of God."
(Ralph Hood Jr. inventor of the M scale and professor of psychology of religion University of Tennessee Chattanooga.)

Wordgazer, a prominent blogger on Women's issues says:

"Why should  I mistrust my own experiences of God's presence?" Joe Hinman taught me to ask. After all, we don't mistrust other things we experience.  We don't doubt that the chair we're sitting in will hold us, unless we have some good reasonto think something has gone wrong with our senses.  We don't have to accept the self-proclaimed expert in science as an expert in metaphysics.  Nor need we accept the standard of "absolute proof" in terms of scientific categories that may be inadequate for the phenomenon in the first place.  We can have good, reasonable reasons -- what Hinman calls a "rational warrant" to believe.  His newer website, The Religious A Priori, explores belief and rational warrant from a number of different angles.

And now Joe Hinman has encapsulated some of his best thinking into a new book: The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief.

The Trace of God is a scholarly work, but written in a style that a layperson can follow.  Its main point is that experiences like the one I describe above (called "religious experiences" or "peak experiences"*) do constitute good evidence, even from a scientific point of view, of the existence of God.

This is a ground breaking work. These studies have never been put together in this context and analyzed and argued for in this way before. The God arguments form religious experience have always been considered weak but no more. This body of work puts them up on a higher level, it's put fiber into their diet.
See Word Gazer's Review of my book on her blog

see message board interview, the whole thread is he interview of me about my book on Evangelical Universalism board. 

Order the book from Aamzon

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Dialogue on love and background of the moral universe,

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In other posts this month I dealt with the concept of Love as the background  of the moral  universe,. [1], [2] Below I pull out several statements from comment sections to construct a dialogue with hopes of spurring on more discussion.

7th Stooge:

Why does God love? Aren't you just substituting "love" for "the good"? At some point, all metaethical questions ultimately must "reduce to pragmatism or mystification." You say that love and being are bound up closely together. Either you are subsuming being under the rubric of love or you must say that there is some greater value that unites love and being together.

Why does God love? I don't think that's the kind of question we can answer. I resist the idea of being put in a position of having to explain God who is beyond our understanding. I think we have ample reason given the assumptions of the Christian tradition,to assume that God loves I'm willing to accept that without understanding  why. But this leads Seven to assert that I am confusing love with the good, I think love is bound up with the good unless by "love" one understands only sexual or primitive or childish notions of "love." She's 'purdy' I want to sleep with her. I love movies about Batman, I love ice cream, But I'm talking about agape, often translates as "charity." The will to the Good of the other (Tillich).

Is there a greater value that embodies both love and being?  First , from an ontological perspective being must proceed love, since to love one must first be. Bit the two are bound up in other senses, Namely, both are giving out and positive as in constructive to name a few. We might connected them "the good" in this sense. The relationship between love and the good is dialectical. That is we can;t say the good is the basis of love or that love is the basis of the good. That love is good would give good priority but Good is based upon love. Perhaps this is typical of the human need to dissect and label everything;and not everything can be so treated. 


Why on earth would you think that the good has to be 'passionless'? We ought to be passionately committed to what's good.
I don't, you said you make it so by expecting everything to be understood.

God's character is already set according to what is good, so in that sense the good is metaphysically prior to God's actions. You could say the good isn't prior to God's nature since the good is "baked into" his character, but the reason it is baked in is because it IS good, so it is logically prior, if that makes any sense. It's not that these character traits are arbitrarily part of God and then because of that fact they become good, but the other way around.  

That is a pseudo problem. If we devise good as a form of love then the problem is eliminated. Above I try to resolve it by appeal to a dialectical relationship.I think love is the motivation for the good and the good may be a more general application of love; I suspect it's really a language problem. We are trying to describe and clarify relationships that  are based upon aspects of being that are beyond  our comprehension.

Now in term of the statement you made about God's character and the good I think in that sense the notion of good as in good character does go back to love. We think in terms of higher value  to which we must conform or to which we value but in terms of God we don't have that, since God is the highest appoint. Good is a catch all term that covers both pragmatism and  morality; love designates God's specific attitude in his will to the 'good' of the other,

I do understand that this  statement assumes good is prior to love but because we don't have a term  to designate good as in the  conditions for flourishing of someone with good as in individual values, likes or dislikes. We could say the will to   the best conditions for the other.

We value what we do independent of what God or anyone or anything else values. I know you're not saying we value love because God does. That's DCT. You're saying: "To love is the background of the moral law, or deeply implicated in the moral law, to love is God's character, therefore God is the background of the moral law." Even if any of that were true, which it isn't, it would have nothing to do with why we value what we value.
First I want to know how you are so certain that it isn't true? How can you know that we don't value things because Gd put it into us to value said thing? You are assuming aren't you that moral laws are all man made? How do you know there is not a basic moral law  written on the heart? (Roams 2:7-14). That can still be the case and the moral law be derivative of love.

One of the hardest things for people to do is accept that God loves us,especially when  that is dis confirmed  by everything in our lives. Yet clear implication of all that I  said thus far is that God  does love us,God loves me  and each of us. We have to be able to say that to affirm faith,I think that inability due to self loathing is responsible for a lot of atheism.


[1] Joseph Hinman, "Love the basis of everything (expansion)," Metacrock's blog (APRIL 10, 2019)
(access 4/24/19)

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Religious a priori

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(1) Scientific reductionism loses phenomena by re-defining the nature of sense data and qualia.

(2)There are other ways of Knowing than scientific induction

(3) Religious truth is apprehended phenomenoloigcally, thus religion is not a scientific issue and cannot be subjected to a materialist critque

(4) Religion is not derived from other disciplines or endeavors but is a approch to understanding in its own right

Therefore, religious belief is justified on its own terms and not according to the dictates or other disciplines

In my dealings with atheist in debate and dialogue I find that they are often very committed to an empiricist view point. Over and over again I hear the refrain "you can't show one single unequivocal demonstration of scientific data that proves a God exists." This is not a criticism. It's perfectly understandable; science has become the umpire of reality. It is to scientific demonstration that we appear for a large swath of questions concerning the nature of reality. The problem is that the reliance upon empiricism has led to forgetfulness about the basis of other types of questions. We have forgotten that essentially science is metaphysics, as such it is just one of many approach that can be derived from analytical reasoning, empiricism, rationalism, phenomonology and other approaches.

Problem with Empiricism

Is empirical evidence the best or only true form of knowledge? This is an apologetics question because it bears upon the arguments for the existence of God. 

Is lack of empirical evidence, if there is a lack, a draw back for God arguments? 
I deny that there is a lack, but it has to be put in the proper context. That will come in future threads, for this one I will bracket that answer and just assume there no really good empirical evidence (even though I think there is).

I will ague that empiricism is not true source of knowledge by itself and logic is more important.

True empirical evidence in a philosophical sense means exact first hand observation. In science it doesn't really mean that, it implies a more truncated process. Consider this, we drop two balls of different size from a tower. Do they fall the same rate or the bigger one falls faster? They are supposed to fall at the same rate, right? To say we have empirical proof, in the litteral sense of the term we would have to observe every single time two balls are dropped for asl ong as the tower exists. We would have to sit for thousnds of years and observe millions of drops and then we couldn't say it was truely empirical because we might have missed one.

That's impractical for science so we cheat with inductive reasoning. We make assumptions of probability. We say we observed this 40,000 times, that's a tight correlation, so we will assume there is a regularity in the universe that causes it to work this way every time. We make a statistical correlation. Like the surgeon general saying that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco companies were really right, they read their Hume, there was no observation fo cause and effect, because we never observe cause and effect. But the correlation was so tight we assume cause and effect.

The ultimate example is Hume's billiard balls. Hume says we do not see the cause of the ball being made to move, we only really see one ball stop and the other start. But this happens every time we watch, so we assume that the tight corrolation gives us causality.

The naturalistic metaphysician assumes that all of nature works this way. A tight correlation is as good as a cause. So when we observe only naturalistic causes we can assume there is nothing beyond naturalism. The problem is many phenomena can fall between the cracks. One might go one's whole life never seeing a miraculous event, but that doesn't mean someone else doesn't observe such things. All the atheist can say is "I have never seen this" but I can say "I have." Yet the atheist lives in a construct that is made up of his assumptions about naturslitic c/e and excluding anyting that challenges it. That is just like Kuhns paradigm shift. The challenges are absorbed into the paradigm untl there are so many the paradigm has to shit. This may never happen in naturalism.

So this constructed view of the world that is made out of assumption and probabilities misses a lot of experience that people do have that contradicts the paradigm of naturalism. The thing is, to make that construct they must use logic. After all what they are doing in making the correlation is merely inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning has to play off of deductive reasoning to even make sense.

Ultimately then, "empiricism" as construed by naturalist (inductive probabalistic assumtions building constructs to form a world view) is inadquate because it is merely a contsuct and rules out a prori much that contradicts.

The A priori

God is not given directly in sense data, God transcends the threshold of human understanding, and thus is not given amenable to empirical proof. As I have commented in previous essays (bloodspots) religion is not a scientific question. There are other methodologies that must be used to understand religion, since the topic is essentially inter-subjective (and science thrives upon objective data). We can study religious behavior through empirical means and we can compare all sorts of statistical realizations through comparisons of differing religious experiences, behaviors, and options. But we cannot produce a trace of God in the universe through "objective" scientific means. Here I use the term "trace" in the Derision sense, the "track," "footprint" the thing to follow to put us on the scent. As I have stated in previous essays, what we must do is find the "co-detemrinate," the thing that is left by God like footprints in the snow. The trace of God can be found in God's affects upon the human heart, and that shows up objectively, or inter-subjectvely in changed behavior, changed attitudes, life transformations. This is the basis of the mystical argument that I use, and in a sense it also have a bearing upon my religious instruct argument. But here I wish to present anther view of the trace of God. This could be seen as a co-detmiernate perhaps, more importantly, it frees religion from the structures of having to measure up to a scientific standard of proof: the religious a prori.

Definition of the a priori.

"This notion [Religious a priori] is used by philosophers of religion to express the view that the sense of the Divine is due to a special form of awareness which exists along side the cognitive, moral, and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them. The concept of religion as concerned with the awareness of and response to the divine is accordingly a simple notion which cannot be defined by reference other than itself." --David Pailin "Religious a pariori" Westminster Dictionary of Chrisian Theology (498)

The religious a priroi deals with the speicial nature of religion as non-derivative of any other discipline, and especially it's speicial reiigious faculty of understanding which transcends ordinary means of understanding. Since the enlightenment atheist have sought to explain away religion by placing it in relative and discardable terms. The major tactic for accomplishing this strategy was use of the sociological theory of structural functionalism. By this assumption religion was chalked up to some relative and passing social function, such as promoting loyalty to the tribe, or teaching morality for the sake of social cohesion. This way religion was explained naturalistically and it was also set in relative terms because these functions in society, while still viable (since religion is still around) could always pass away. But this viewpoint assumes that religion is derivative of some other discipline; it's primitive failed science, concocted to explain what thunder is for example. Religion is an emotional solace to get people through hard times and make sense of death and destruction (it's a ll sin, fallen world et). But the a priori does away with all that. The a priori says religion is its own thing, it is not failed primitive sincere, nor is it merely a crutch for surviving or making sense of the world (although it can be that) it is also its own discipline; the major impetus for religion is the sense of the numinous, not the need for explanations of the natural world. Anthropologists are coming more and more to discord that nineteenth century approach anyway.

Thomas A Indianopolus
prof of Religion at of Miami U. of Ohio

Cross currents

"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the nonobservable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."

The Skeptic might argue "if religion as this unique form of consciousness that sets it apart form other forms of understanding, why does it have to be taught?" Obviously religious belief is taught through culture, and there is a good reason for that, because religion is a cultural construct. But that does not diminish the reality of God. Culture teaches religion but God is known to people in the heart. This comes through a variety of ways; through direct experience, through miraculous signs, through intuitive sense, or through a sense of the numinous. The Westminster's Dictionary of Christian Theology ..defines Numinous as "the sense of awe in attracting and repelling people to the Holy." Of course the background assumption I make is, as I have said many times, that God is apprehended by us mystically--beyond word, thought, or image--we must encode that understanding by filtering it through our cultural constrcts, which creates religious differences, and religious problems.

The Culturally constructed nature of religion does not negate the a priori. "Even though the forms by Which religion is expressed are culturally conditioned, religion itself is sui generis .. essentially irreducible to and undeceivable from the non-religious." (Paladin). Nor can the a priori be reduced to some other form of endeavor. It cannot be summed up by the use of ethics or any other field, it cannot be reduced to explanation of the world or to other fields, or physiological counter causality. To propose such scientific analysis, except in terms of measuring or documenting effects upon behavior, would yield fruitless results. Such results might be taken as proof of no validity, but this would be a mistake. No scientific control can ever be established, because any study would only be studying the culturally constructed bits (by definition since language and social sciences are cultural constructs as well) so all the social sciences will wind up doing is merely reifying the phenomena and reducing the experience. In other words, This idea can never be studied in a social sciences sense, all that the social sciences can do is redefine the phenomena until they are no longer discussing the actual experiences of the religious believer, but merely the ideology of the social scientist (see my essay on Thomas S. Kuhn.

The attempt of skeptics to apply counter causality, that is, to show that the a priori phenomena is the result of naturalistic forces and not miraculous or divine, not only misses the boat in its assumptions about the nature of the argument, but it also loses the phenomena by reduction to some other phenomena. It misses the boat because it assumes that the reason for the phenomena is the claim of miraculous origin, “I feel the presence of God because God is miraculously giving me this sense of his presence.” While some may say that, it need not be the believers argument. The real argument is simply that the co-determinates are signs of the trace of God in the universe, not because we cant understand them being produced naturalistically, but because they evoke the sense of numinous and draw us to God. The numinous implies something beyond the natural, but it need not be “a miracle.” The sense of the numinous is actually a natural thing, it is part of our apprehension of the world, but it points to the sublime, which in turn points to transcendence. In other words, the attribution of counter causality does not, in and of itself, destroy the argument, while it is the life transformation through the experience that is truly the argument, not the phenomena itself. Its the affects upon the believer of the sense of Gods presence and not the sense of Gods presence that truly indicates the trance of God.

Moreover, the attempts to reduce the causality to something less than the miraculous also lose the phenomena in reification.William James, The Verieties of Religious Experience (The Gilford Lectures):

"Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation for the too simple-minded system of thought which we are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh. All such mental over-tensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of the matter, mere affairs of diathesis (auto-intoxications most probably), due to the perverted action of various glands which physiology will yet discover. And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual authority of all such personages is successfully undermined."

This does not mean that the mere claim of religious experience of God consciousness is proof in and of itself, but it means that it must be taken on its own terms. It clearly answers the question about why God doesn't reveal himself to everyone; He has, or rather, He has made it clear to everyone that he exists, and He has provided everyone with a means of knowing Him. He doesn't get any more explicit because faith is a major requirement for belief. Faith is not an arbitrary requirement, but the rational and logical result of a world made up of moral choices. God reveals himself, but on his own terms. We must seek God on those terms, in the human heart and the basic sense of the numinous and in the nature of religious encounter. There are many aspects and versions of this sense, it is not standardized and can be describes in many ways:

Forms of the A priori.

Schleiermacher's "Feeling of Utter Dependence.

Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Disposers, and The Christian Faith, sets forth the view that religion is not reducible to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does vintner close to this position in one form of the argument, this is not exactly what he's saying.

Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (int he sense of the above ontological arugments).He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theorectical pre-cognative realization of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

Rudolph Otto's Sense of the Holy (1868-1937)

The sense of power in the numinous which people find when confronted by the sacred. The special sense of presence or of Holiness which is intuitive and observed in all religious experience around the world.

Paul Tillich's Object of Ultimate Concern.

We are going to die. We cannot avoid this. This is our ultimate concern and sooner or latter we have to confront it. When we do we realize a sense of transformation that gives us a special realization existentially that life is more than material.

see also My article on Toilet's notion of God as the Ground of Being.

Tillich's concept made into God argument.

As Robert R. Williams puts it:

There is a "co-determinate to the Feeling of Utter dependence.

"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical intersubjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognative for if the life world praxis is non-cognative and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned soley by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a corrolation with its whence." , Schleiermacher the Theologian, p 4.

The believer is justified in assuming that his/her experinces are experiences of a reality, that is to say, that God is real.

Freedom from the Need to prove.

Schleiermacher came up with his notion of the feeling when wrestling with Kantian Dualism. Kant had said that the world is divided into two aspects of relaity the numenous and the pheneomenal. The numenous is not experienced through sense data, and sense God is not experineced through sense data, God belongs only to the numenous. The problem is that this robbs us of an object of theological discourse. We can't talk about God because we can't experience God in sense data. Schleiermacher found a way to run an 'end round' and get around the sense data. Experience of God is given directly in the "feeling" apart form sense data.

This frees us form the need to prove the existence of God to others, because we know that God exists in a deep way that cannot be undermined by mere cultural constructs or reductionist data or deified phenomena. This restores the object of theological discourse. Once having regained its object, theological discourse can proceed to make the logical deduction that there must be a CO-determinate to the feeling, and that CO-determinate is God. In that sense Schleiermacher is saying "if I have affections about God must exist as an object of my affections"--not merely because anything there must be an object of all affections, but because of the logic of the co-determinate--there is a sense of radical contengency, there must be an object upon which we are radically contingent.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Notre-Dame Burning: reflection

Image result for Notre Dame burning

We are all touched by the destruction of Notre-Dame cathedral I take this opportunity to register my sense of loss.That landmark has  always been important to me. I use it as the masthead for my apologetic website (the Religious a priori) for me its  a symbol of the intellectual heritage of the Christian tradition, I was Just watching  Christiane  Amanpour (PBS) Interviewing Simon Schama ( an English historian specializing in art history, Dutch history, Jewish history and French history. He is a University Professor of  History and Art History at Columbia University, New York.) In explaining what Notre Dame  means to the French, Schama said nothing about a religious aspect. It's not important to them, apparently,  that the building was a place of worship he only looked at the results, it's a place of peace and a place where the demands and stress of modern  life stop. One can contemplate peace and meaning. The building itself is a great work of art,We tend to think of it as permanent and unchanging but it has changed over the years,It has been destroyed or damaged before. I think this situation is symbolic of the overall relation of Christianity to modern western civilization. This real monument looms over modern life but no one notices it until it;s damaged, then they realize it's so important to them.

A good starting place for  modern western civilization is the medieval synthesis. With the fall of the Roman empire civilizing influences retreated and left the population of Western Europe in the cold and dark.. They huddled into castles for protection and sold themselves into surfdom to powerful landlords who evoked the Germanic inheritance laws to construct the feudal system. Eventually manufacturing began to produce cities and with cities came freedom from the feudal lord. Throughout these "dark ages" learning recede and was basically confined to a monastic setting. Monks kept alive the learning of the Greaco-Roman world. It was in this setting that modern science began. Discoveries plundered from Spain began to show up and scientific learning began among monks from Chartre in France to St. Victor in England to Helfta in Germany. These centers of learning produced vast bodies of literature, scientific observation, and a total synthesis bringing together the observations of science and religion into a coherent culture (see my essay on Christianity and science in the middle ages).[1]

As the work form the monasteries spread Western civilization embarked upon a Renaissance. New learning became the order of the day. Now the old view which was spread by atheist propaganda in the enlightenment told a mythical tail of humanity emerging form the dark abyss in which religion held it captive with chains of ignorance into the glorious light of materialistic scientism. But historians do not take this view seriously anymore. The Renaissence is no longer seen as the great awaking of learning. It is now under stood that the Renaissance was more of a movement than a time period and it is limited to the social elites in a few major cities such as Florence (although one might expand it more by the time of the Northern Renaissance). Most historians today begin thinking of modernity with the French  Revolution.[2]

At the same time historians are more aware of learning in the so called '"dark ages."[3]  The period from fall of Rome (about 490) to about 900 can be considered 'dark' in that it was dominated by illiteracy, Vikings and disease. But from 900 on a steady stream of learning, travel, new ideas begins and spread throughout Europe. The wars with the moors and the crusades were major forces contributing to this trend. The Renaissance,formerly understood as anti-religious saw 80% commisons on art as religious works. The Renaissance was not a rebellion against religion, it was the dawn of modern religious humaism.[4]

Christian thought contributed in a major way to the thinking of he enlightenment. most skeptics on the net tend to short hand the conflict between religion and science in the enlightenment and tend to assume that all the philosohpes were atheists. But in reality the philosophes were religious. Voltaire did not mean to say religion is just made up. He was not a Christian but he was profoundly religious. He really meant to say that religion is so important we would have to invent it if it didn't exist as a natural outgrown of the light of reason [5] One of the major influences was Father Francis Fenelon. He militated for individual rights and freedom and was a major influence upon the philosphes in their understanding of modern personhood and individuality (see Britanica, "Finelon"). Christian thinkers put an end to the Witch trials i Eruope and helped pave the way for an understanding of bsic human rights.[6]

The high point of this modern Christian contribution to western Civilization is the rise of modern science in England during the seventeenth century. The majority of historians in fields such as English history and History of science and history of ideas have come together to produce a ground swell of works demonstrating the importance of the Latitudinarians in popularizing and spreading the works of Newton. These English churchmen who were very active in politics took their marching orders form Robert Boyle. Of course Boyle, a major scientist of the era who discovered air pressure, was a close friend of Newton. Boyle's social vision was to use science to establish the truth of Christianity and then use Christianity to establish social and political harmony. Boyle latched on to Newtonian physics as the new model of science and the latitudinarians promoted it as a new Gospel. The major historian in all of this is Margaret Jacob and her major work on the subject is The Newtonians.[7] Jacob argues that without this band of preachers hawking Newton's wares he might have remained unknown for fifty years or longer than it took for him to be discovered. In it might not have ever had the currency it did have. Who knows this would have thrown off.

The next great high point was the abolition movement. I don't think we can underrate the exsnt to which abolition of slavery built the modern world. There is basically no way we could have moderity and live in a slave society. That would be anti-thetical to every modern principle from individual automy to democracy. At every step fo the way Christians led the movement. The Quakers organized and let the attack on the slave trade.The Journal of John Woolman is a must read in this regard. The underground rail road was mostly connected to chruches and the first oranized anti-abolition group in America was a group of Methodist women. From this point the Evanglicals fanned out accross the social specturm brining in the social gospel and militating on both sides of the political isle: Woman's sufferage, temporence, abolition of poverty, public education, and many others.[8]

All of this and much more is wrapped up for me in the symbol the building suggests to me, I can;t help but see the fire as an omen or a deeper symbol. White I find hopeful is the way the people of Paris came together to save what they could and to grieve as a community, To me that says the French are not ready to lose civilization. I think neither are we.


[1] Joseph Hinman "Christianity, Super nature, and the Rise of  Science in middle ages part 1," Doxa, website.  (accessed 4/17/19)

[2] Steven Kreis, "Modern European Intellectual History," The History Guide (2016) (accessed 4/17/19)

[3] Peter Burke, Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy , New York: Modern Library edition (April 9, 2002)

[4] Ibid

[5] Peter Gay, the Enlightenment: The Rise of modern Paganism, New York?London" W.W. Norton, 1966,6=7

[6]Fénelon, Dialogue des Morts, "Socrate et Alcibiade" (1718), quoted in Paul Hazard, The European Mind, 1680-1715 (1967), pp. 282–83.

François Fénelon (6 August 1651 – 7 January 1715), 

[7] Margaret Jacob, The Newtonian and The English Revolution 1689-1720,Ithica: Cornell University Press 1976

[8]  William G. McLaughlin,  Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform: An Essay on Religion and Social Change in America, 1607-1977  Chicago; University of  Chicago Press,1978,

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Skeppie's big attack on my TS Argument

Image result for Derrida

...................................Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)                   me  

the TS Argument:

1. Any rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe must of necessity presuppose organizing principles (Ops)
2. OP's are summed up in TS
3. Modern Thought rejects TS outright or takes out all aspects of mind.
4. Therefore, Modern thought fails to provide a rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe.
5. minds organize and communicate meaning

6. Therefore universal mind, offers the best understanding of TS

7Concept of God unites TS with universal mind therefore offers best explanation
for a view that is Rational, Coherent, and Meaningful (RCM).

defense part 1:

part 2

I am Skeptical was banned because he had reduced discussion here to a battle of the egos, to prove that he is smarter than I am, He seems to have devoted his life to it. He  is busily disseminating lies and misunderstanding about my work and the arguments I make. I will correct his slander of my TS argument this one time, I will not  concern myself with his views after this,[1]

I am skipping over a couple of pages of nonsense and posturing to get to what passes for content,

If I may take the liberty of summarizing, based on Joe's extended defense of this argument, it becomes a little more clear how Joe's argument can make the transition from "organizing principles" to universal mind via the"transcendental signified".  It's not a logical progression so much as a stream of theistic thinking that goes something like this:
1 - Organizing principles provide meaning.
2 - A mind is required to organize or structure something.
3 - Without a mind, there is no structure (in nature).
4 - God is the ultimate (or universal) mind.
5 - The TS is the ultimate organizing principle.
6 - God is the ultimate TS.
7 - Without God as the TS, there is no understanding of the universe that is RCM
Holy Straw man Batman! He is not quoting me but stringing together ideas he thinks I;m arguing, Some yes, some no,but first of all why is it not a logical progression? He pronounces it not but he says nothing to back that up. Some of it is logical except for certain points where he interprets   himself out of the ball park. 
(1) OPs  don;t so munch provide meaning as they provide order, they are principles around which organisation takes place,
(2) and (3) are perfectly reasonable and one flows out of the other,why is that not logical?
No 3, most design arguments premise on the fact that there is structure in nature! I said nothing that would make one think I don't accept structure in nature. In fact my argument is largely predicated upon the assumption of structure in nature, It;s not self organizing or self creating,
Why are 4-7 not logical and clearly one flows out of the other, Now clearly they  are assumptions Skep doesn't want to take but why does that make them  illogical?

Had you actually just thought about the argument as I make it you would see that it achieves the objective you tried to do here but with less convolution.
the Argument:

1. Any rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe must of necessity presuppose organizing principles (Ops)
2. OP's are summed up in TS
3. Modern Thought rejects TS outright or takes out all aspects of mind.
4. Therefore, Modern thought fails to provide a rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe.

6. Therefore universal mind, offers the best understanding of TS

7Concept of God unites TS with universal mind therefore offers best explanation

for a view that is Rational, Coherent, and Meaningful (RCM).

The numbered statements do not correspond one-to-one with the statements in Joe's argument.  And of course, this is not a valid argument either, but it seems to express Joe's line of thinking,

No it expresses your absurdly unread misunderstanding of my thinking I think you know you missed it. I think that list is his attempt to understand what the argument says. His objections to it are without foundation.

Skep: as I understand it.  It's really a variant of the argument from design, as we see in the unsupported assertion of a mind that must exist to provide structure and meaning in nature.  I would be happy to hear from Joe or anyone else who can shed additional light on how to interpret this argument.

No it's not an argument from design, although it does entail explaining design, why does he say that my connection of mind and structure is not supported? To the contrary his assertion that they are not connected is unsupported. lt's  Obvious from  life we all know planned organisation is more complex and functional than unplanned, self evident is still supported.

But I'm not going to dwell the logical failings of this argument, its question-begging nature, or its unsupported assertions. 

Meta: Holy Hypocrisy Batman!
If anyone is begging the question it;s him with his groundless assertion that my  argument be illogical for no particular reason!

 Skep: I'm going to focus more on the concept of the "transcendental signified" that is at the heart of Joe's thesis.  What does it mean, and how does it fit into Joe's argument?  One thing we can say about it right away is that it is an obscure term for most people.  I have always felt that if you base an argument on obscure language, that is a red flag to be on the lookout for something nefarious.  Obscure language often serves to cover up a faulty argument.  It is difficult to say what's wrong with an argument if you don't even know what it says.  And I do believe that Joe is trying to pull a "fast one" here.

Meta: Yes that's why I quote this:
To explain the meaning of the transcendental signified with reference to the article itself as well as my previous understanding of this concept, I can say that Derrida assumes that the entire history of Western metaphysics from Plato to the present is founded on a classic, fundamental error. This error is searching for a transcendental signified, an “ external point of reference” ( like God, religion, reason, science….) upon which one may build a concept or philosophy. This transcendental signified would provide the ultimate meaning and would be the origin of origins. This transcendental signified is centered in the process of interpretation and whatever else is decentered. To Derrida THIS IS A GREAT ERROR because... 1. There is no ultimate truth or a unifying element in universe, and thus no ultimate reality (including whatever transcendental signified). What is left is only difference. 2. Any text, in the light of this fact, has almost an infinite number of possible interpretations, and there is no assumed one signified meaning.[2]

There are several points about this quote  I hope the reader will oberve: 

(1) Derridia is opposed to metaphysics so his use of the structuralist term transcendental signifier is partly ironic since it;s something Derrida says doesn't believe  exists,

(2) Transcendental does not mean transcendent at least not when used in the context of either Derridian/ structuralist/ or post structuralist /or postmodern thought, or Banhsen;s TAG argument, This is important to realize because Skep thinks it does and he uses that to argue that I'm full of crap.

Now it is true that popular dictionaries will list TS as meaning the same as transcendent but they are not specialists they are not dealing with post Structural   thinking, and I am.

(3) My argument is not TAG it is better than TAG. But don;t think  TAG's use of Trasncendental is proof that TS means transcendent because the reason they use that term in TAG is not because it means transcendent, Here is why, from my prolougemina: 

TAG proceeds from presuppositional apologetics, while my argument is made on an evidential basis. Both assume that God is at the basis of all knowledge and meaning. This is what is meant by “transcendental, it refers to the basis of the system of thought. My argument uses the TS as an evidential basis for belief while the presupositional argument merely assumes the truth of the argument then rejects the presuppositions of other views. TAG says nothing about signifier. To understand the insufficiency of TAG (thus they need for a new argument) we must examine TAG more closely. Greg Bahnsen was the champion of TAG[3].i Van Til never really makes the argument, never actually states it.[4]ii 

The key there is " it [transcendental] refers to the basis of the system of thought. " Yes Derrida uses  it of transcendent ideas such as God but he also uses it of naturalistic one;s like science, 
That will   be important because one of  Skep's principal objections is that he thinks i see transcendental as meaning transcendent and thus proving God, which is crazy, 

The philosopher Jaques Derrida worked in the field of linguistics and semiotics.  According to Merriam-Webster, semiotics is "a general philosophical theory of signs and symbols that deals especially with their function in both artificially constructed and natural languages and comprises syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics". 

Meta: I am sorry but Skep does not understand Derrida. a lot of people don't. He;s never read anything  by him.I tried to read him in French, I say tried to because he is one of the most complex and difficult people to read in the world.  I understand him because I had the  inside track. I went to UT Dallas when Alex Argyros was there. Alex Studied with Derrida in  Paris in the 60s.  Who knows more about Derrida? I studied with his student at the Ph,D.level for four years and studied other Postmodernist  things too, Skep looked him  up on Wikipedia one day,

It uses the terminology of "signifier" as a word or symbol that represents a concept, and "signified" as the referent for that signifier - the concept that is represented by the signifier.  Derrida wrote about how meaning (in the human mind) is derived from written and spoken language.  His best-known works ("Speech and Phenomena" and Other Essays on Husserl's Theory of SignsWriting and Difference, and Of Grammatology) are in this area of philosophy, and he used the terminology of semiotics ("signifier" and "signified") in this works.

Brilliant  i can tell you have been at the Wikipedia. that;s really so enlightened how educated you are,

 He believed that meaning is derived from a combination of the association of related concepts into a general framework, and differentiation between them to distinguish similar concepts from one-another.

Bxzzzzz that's like saying Picasso believed art should be about abstraction. We can do better than that, One of the first things you learn and one of the most important is that Derrida believed that  the meaning of signers is arbitrary. We call a frog a frog because we don't call it a bat or anything else, It;s just what we call it, it;s arbitrary. 

According to the Wikipedia article discussing différance in post-structuralism:
Derrida coined the term différance (a deliberate misspelling of différence) in order to provide a conceptual hook for his thinking on the meaning processes at work within writing/language.[6] This neologism is a play on the two meanings of the French word différer: to differ and to defer. Derrida thereby argues that meaning does not arise out of fixed differences between static elements in a structure, but that the meanings produced in language and other signifying systems are always partial, provisional and infinitely deferred along a chain of differing/deferring signifiers.
Yes and that is because meaning is arbitrary it is not essential so it;s not based upon truth. Derrida opposes the TS as the myth of presence, which stems from Socrates assertion that meaning is present in the mind of  the author and is relayed through signifiers

I knew we would get Wiki in there somewhere. my explanations of Derrida:
Part 1
part 2

In  the structuralist view, a "transcendent signified" would be a central concept that has its own inherent meaning within a particular framework of understanding, and serves to tie concepts together within that framework.  

Meta: wrong it's "transcendental signified" not "transcendent" i never call it transcendent. I doubt Skep knows the difference, I know he thinks they mean the same thing.This is important because through that assertion he will erroneously draw conclusions about the meaning of my argument that   are based upon conclusions  I  never draw.

Skep: Christians may well see God as the ultimate transcendent signified in a hierarchical structure of meaning.  But Derrida was a post-structuralist (or deconstructionist). 

see what he did there he substituted transcendent for transcendental that tells me he thinks those are the same, they are not, they are very different, that is a good  example of how  he relies upon assumptions rather than reading and those assumptions lead him astray due to his own lack of understanding,
we've all been there.
Derrida was an atheist very much so point blank, I am under no illusions about that, 

 He believed that the idea of an ultimate transcendent signified is a myth or illusion.  The term "transcendental signified" was coined as a derogatory way to refer to the more proper semiotic term "transcendent signified".  (See the Oxford Reference.)  It mocks the very idea of God as a transcendent signified.

Totally wrong. the reference he links to above says: "Derogatory term used in some poststructuralist writing to denote an external, objective, language independent point that fixes reference or ...Access to the complete content on Oxford Reference requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription" 
As you see Skep probably never  saw the rest of the definition. Notice also the term is transcendental not transcendent. It is not called transcendental to make any derogatory reference to a transcendent reality. The term,  is used because it refers to an analysis of the overarching logic structure of an idea.  It includes science. in PM analysis science is just as vulnerable as religion.

The source he links to does not say anything but: "Derogatory term used in some *poststructuralist writing to denote an external, objective, language independent point that fixes reference or ..." then you must be subcribed to get more, That is not documentation, That one sentence is not enough  to shed any light on the issue, that is misinformation because  it has nothing to do with how i use the term.

Skep: So what does this have to do with Joe's Transcendental Signifier Argument for God?  It seems that Joe has once again come across a philosophical idea that he doesn't really understand,

Meta: I studied it four years in Doctoral work  from an actual Student of Derrida so the odds are the one who has never even read one thing by Derrida is the one who doesn't understand, he doesn't know enough to get where my argument is going so he concludes i'm wrong,

 and tried to force-fit it into his own theological framework of understanding.  He starts out by discussing organizing principles as a source of understanding, and then the Transcendental Signified as a concept that is somewhat consistent with the semiotic literature of Derrida.  But those things relate to linguistics and human understanding of concepts.  They aren't about "the logical structure of nature" (see Joe's discussion of premise 2), 

He thinks I'm forcing Derrida into my God argument mold, that can only be because he doesn't know enough about Derrida to know what he said and he doesn't follow the argument closely enough to understand how I use him.
Derrida clearly and famously says that Western thought is based upon the myth of presence,that this myth including the search for a TS.-- Important to point out here there are many transcendental signifiers but only one signified --so there;s a search for the right one, Derrida does not believe there is one. That is important because Skp thinks I use Derrida  as a positive source to point to God, That's wrong,I used to call this argument the reverse Derrida argument, So all i use him for is to say the western tradition has been searching for a TS,that  he clearly says! Of that there is    no question.
Derrida says it;s a myth this is the reverse Derrida argument so it I say it is not a myth, Derrida is wrong,he;s right that there;s a search  wrong that the thing searched for is a myth, Notice in the above quote he says:
(repeating SKP)
Transcendental Signified as a concept that is somewhat consistent with the semiotic literature of Derrida.  But those things relate to linguistics and human understanding of concepts.  They aren't about "the logical structure of nature" (see Joe's discussion of premise 2), 


That is totally wrong and  it really highlights his ignorance of Derrida. Derrida was one oft he most arrogant people who ever lived, This is coming from  his student who knew him well. Yes Derrida thought he was deconstructing the structure of reality, yes He  actually argued against the reality of logic. He thought he was disproving truth itself. These  are famous things about his thinking. Not to know this is pretty ignorant, 
For Derrida all thought is flitted through language,The linguistic problems he  discovers about language impinges upon  science,  To start from a place of assuming facts about the physical  world accrued by science are true implies a host of metaphysical assumptions and logical impossibilities that will come unraveled  with deconstruction, that is Derrida's position, Now in all fairness he thinks God is unraveled too,For Derrida there is no truth and no meaning,

Skep: or the ultimate meaning and purpose of the universe (see Joe's discussion of premise 4), as Joe seems to think.  The transcendent signified is said to transcend other sources of meaning, but it isn't a concept about the transcendental. 

"The transcendent signified" is not a phrase I use, he;s just changed it from transcendental because he doesn't understand the distinction this is just another example of  his ignorance, he really thinks transcendent and transcendental mean the same thing, Now look what he says:
The statement he just made above might have been motivated by his first glimmer of   that realization that Transcendnet and transcendental are not the same, when one speaks structuralist literature, but his hatred of me will not allow him to see that I know that.

Skep:  And the terminology of "signifier" and "signified" are appropriate in semiotics, but they don't make as much sense in a discussion of God as the ultimate source of meaning and structure in nature. 

Why not?  We are still  using signs and signification. That;s the best expression for the distinction between the terms of the concept and the referent to which those terms point, The argument revolves around the concept of the TS and so the termenology from the field that gives us the TS is appropriate.

 Skep: And yet Joe has silently transitioned from Derrida's philosophy to something that is entirely outside the realm of linguistics and semiotics - from the meaning of signifiers to the meaning of the universe.  Joe has appropriated Derrida's use of these terms for his own purpose, without regard for what Derrida is actually talking about.

Meta: Clearly he does not know shit about Derrida, to think that Derrida is just about language and has no import beyond that shows his complete lack of knowledge about anything to do with Derrida. the statement that I;m going beyond Derrida is is inane since Im turning him on his head, That's a totally legitimate move it;s done all the time.

We've seen this before.  He did exactly the same thing with Jean-Paul Sartre's ontology of being en sui and pour sui, as I pointed out in my article The Butchering of Jean-Paul Sartre.  And in both of these cases, there is a common element: their writing includes the word 'transcendent'.  In Sartre's ontology, being pour sui transcends the simple (en sui) existence of a rock.


That is just an inane complaint, What i  did was to use Sartre;s designation of two aspects of being inanimate and one for conscious  being. It sounds suave to say en soi and por soi but it just comes to inanimate  and conscious. That's what he's having a hissy fit about. Because I expropriate those designations he;s acting like that proves I don't know shit about Sarte. That is a bullshit pipsqueak argument. I rather think it proves he doesn;t know what those  terms mean,

 In Derrida's semiotics, a transcendent signifier transcends an ordinary signifier as a source of meaning.  In neither case are they referring to something that would be described as "transcendental", and yet in both cases, Joe has interpreted it that way.  It is a misunderstanding based in Joe's inability to see any philosophical view from a non-theistic perspective.

Once again he shows he doesn't understand the terms, I don't recall Sartre usig the phrase transcendent signnifer  but as i have pointed out I do not use it it's transcendental signifier. It does not mean something from the spiritual realm,  it ,means an analysis of the overarching linguistic nature of an expression, Derrida's deconstruction is transcendental not because it;s magic but because it understands the structure of signification from the top down. 
Derrida calls transcendental signifier and that;s why I call it that, he does not mean mysticism or supernatural. I never thought he did.

And in this case, Joe intends to write a whole book based on this misunderstanding.


the misunderstanding to which he alludes  is the one he made that I just cleared up.
I've written the book   you will never read it you know you wont, you will go on  pretending you know what it says when you don't. you know you don;t know shit about Derrida or anything I talk about, my work is way over your head stop pretending cretin,
He does not understand these things they are way over his head, he;s makimng connections I don;t make and attributing them to me because he doesn't  have the brains to read my  work. He is trying to poison the well agaisnt my work.
Skep will never read this I just tore his criticisms  to pieces  he will never know it. 


[1] I am Skeptical, "Transcendental Blunder," The Skeptic Zone, (April 10, 2019)

[2] Ayman Elhallaq. “Tramscemdemtal; Signiofioed as the basis of Deconstruction theory,” Literary Theory in Class,

[3]Greg L. Bhansen. Pushing the Antithesis, Powder Springs, Georgia: American Vision Inc. 2007Ibid., 6-7

[4]  Gordon H. Clark, in Nash, op cit 301.original, Gordon H. Clark, "Apologetics," Contemporary Evangelical Thought (Carl F. H. Henry, ed.), 140.