10 Reasons to Reject Scripturalism: A Response – Part 3 of 10

By C.Jay Engel and Luke Miner

Part 1. Part 2.

Objection 3

The infallibilist constraint on knowledge is in conflict with Scripturalism and yet is regularly employed by Scripturalists against alternative modes of knowledge. The infallibilist constraint on knowledge that is, the idea that knowledge can only be obtained by a process that is guaranteed to exclude error – is neither a proposition of Scripture nor validly deducible from propositions of Scripture. Although Scripturalists ought to reject this non-revelational epistemological principle on the basis of their Scripturalism, they regularly employ it to argue that intuition, induction, and other sources of belief cannot be sources of knowledge.

Summary of Objection

Essentially, the objection is that while Scripturalism purports to have Scripture as an axiom from which all knowledge flows, Scripturalists use a principle that is not in Scripture itself as a means to prove the inadequacy of non-Scripturalist epistemologies.  Stated differently, Scripturalists on one hand claim that there can be no other principles besides Scripture, and yet at the same time claim that there is an “infallibist” constraint (defined above) principle that can be employed in disproving other methodologies.

Answer

The objection is confused because it does not realize that the so-called constraint on knowledge is actually the Scripturalist definition of knowledge, though stated in imprecise terms. The Scripturalist is attempting to show which beliefs can both be truth and justified. Thus, the chosen meaning of knowledge in the Scripturalist framework or worldview is “justified true belief.”  People have used the word knowledge in other ways and the Scripturalist happily admits this.  However, in attempting to defend the idea of “justified true belief,” a word is needed; and the most accessible word is “knowledge.”*

So then, the objection above is actually akin to arguing that Scripturalists are wrong to claim that a process must guarantee the exclusion of error in the Scripturalist’s pursuit of a process that guarantees the exclusion of error.  Or in other words, the objection is that Scripturalists somehow cannot have justified true belief (JTB) as the rubric in considering whether other methodologies meet the standard of JTB.  

Now then, can the Scripturalist demand that other methodologies be infallible in order to be considered means of knowledge acquisition? They can if their standard of knowledge is justified true belief.  There are other “reasons” to believe in the conclusions wrought by methodologies such as empiricism; we might even say such beliefs are “warranted.”  But since the methodology itself is not infallible the conclusion simply cannot be labelled “knowledge” given the chosen definition.  This is why Gordon Clark simply called these possibly true beliefs “opinions.”  They could indeed be true. We just don’t know for sure in a justified way.

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*Those who define “knowledge” to accommodate fallibly obtained beliefs must be prepared to face difficulties which arise with “false knowledge” including Gettier problems.

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  • Steve M

    It seems to me that Aquascum is espousing the notion that probability is truth. As I said before, he does not define knowledge, but here he claims to know things that would require a foundation that it is very improbable he possesses. Before one can legitimately claim that no proposition of Scripture expresses a certain idea, one must know the meaning of every declarative sentence in Scripture. Drawing a universal conclusion from induction is always a logical fallacy unless the induction is completed. Likewise, I don’t know that anyone other than God himself knows every implication of the myriad possible combinations of scriptural propositions, but that knowledge would be necessary to draw the conclusion that an idea that Scripture doesn’t rule out is not deducible from Scripture. He does not define knowledge, but that doesn’t stop him from claiming to have more of it than is humanly possible.

    • Even though Aquascum is criticizing Scripturalism not giving his own view, I can see how you get the idea that he thinks that ‘probability is truth’ or rather ‘probability is justification’ or ‘probability is warrant’. Beliefs obtained through ‘intuition, induction, and other sources of belief’ that he talks about just don’t fit the definition we have chosen for knowledge. Some people just define knowledge as ‘beliefs about reality’. If you define it that way, all those means are perfectly acceptable. But if you believe that ‘justified true belief’ is possible, you might need to find another word for it.

      I think it is useless for Aquascum to be arguing against our right to define our terms. Rather, the argument should be about whether knowledge, as defined by person A, is possible and how.

      • Steve M

        I suppose I am getting ahead of things because I have read all of Aquascum’s top ten reasons and was commenting on more than just objection 3. I think your point is well taken that if he attempts to respond to your “package” as he calls it without using your definitions of the terms, he really isn’t responding to your position at all. I think he does give away his own position in the course of trying to criticize Scripturalism.