Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Fristianity Problem

The Fristianity problem is a problem that has come up in presuppositional apologetics. People who use this argument tend to ask why it is that we cannot construct a worldview which is like the Christian worldview with one acception...that God is a quadrinity rather than a trinity.

I was thinking of the naivette of such an argument the other day. The idea that you can remove one of the foundations of a web of belief, and not have that web of belief changed is simply irrational. Michael Butler expresses this well when he says:

The only way we know that God is a Trinity is that he revealed it to us – mere speculation or empirical investigation would never lead us to this conclusion. But the Fristian worldview, which is, ex hypothesis, identical to Christianity in every other way, asserts that its god is a quadrinity. But if Fristianity is otherwise identical to Christianity, the only way for us to know this would be for Fristian god to reveal this to us. But there is a problem with this. Supposing Fristianity had inspired scriptures (which it would have to have since it is all other ways identical to Christianity), these scriptures would have to reveal that the Fristian God is one in four. But notice that by positing a quadrinity, the Fristian scriptures would be quite different from the Christian Scriptures. Whereas the Christian Scriptures teach that, with regard to man's salvation, God the Father ordains, God the Son accomplishes and God the Spirit applies, the Fristian scriptures would have to teach a very different order. But exactly how would the four members of its imagined godhead be involved in man's salvation? More fundamentally, whereas in the Christian Trinity we read that the personal attribute of the Father is paternity, the personal attribute of the Son is filiation and the personal attribute of the Spirit is spiration, what would be the personal, distinguishing attributes of the members of the Fristian quadrinity? What would their relationship be to each other? Further questions flow out of this. How would the quadrinity affect the doctrine of man and sin? How would redemptive history look different? What about eschatology? This all needs to be spelled out in detail. This illustration reveals a general problem. One cannot tinker with Christian doctrine at one point and maintain that other doctrines will not be affected. It does no good for the proponent of Fristianity to claim that the only difference between his worldview and the Christian worldview is over the doctrine of the Trinity. Christian doctrine is systemic and a change in one area will necessarily require changes in others. It is necessary, therefore, that the advocate of Fristianity to spell out how this one change in doctrine affects all other doctrines. But once this is done, there is no guarantee that the result will be coherent. [available at http://butler-harris.org/tag/]

Indeed, one of the many problems with this type of position is that the people proposing it have not thought through the implications of what they are saying. Fristianity is a modern idea. The first question we should ask is, "How do we know of this God?" We must recognize that, if this God is the precondition for intellegability, then the world would have been unintelligable until the end of the twentieth century [which, interestingly enough, is about the time atheism started to feel the pressure of the Transendental argument]. The unbeliever might have one of two responses. First he could say that people knew about him, but there is no documentation that they did. However, such totally destroys the study of history. If we can assert that something happened from total silence, then it would mean that one might be able to say that the crusades actually didn't occur, and that the only ones who knew that they did not occur kept silent about it. In other other words, it is an argument from silence which is always fallacious.

However, if one is going to keep in step with Fristianity, one could suggest that the knowledge of the Fristian God is innate. Again, this is problematic. Why? Because of the fact that innate knowledge is not salvific. Hence, if you say that God was known innately, but not known specifically, then you have to believe that is not merciful. In other words, one would have to believe that no one was ever saved until the end of the twentieth century when people started receiving "revelations" of this Fristian god. Also, if every man were held responsible for their sins every second of the day, no man would be able to stand. We would all die an quick, and powerful death because of our sin. As David said, "If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" [Psalm 130:3]. So, hence, Fristianity would also have to hold that, because the wages of sin is death, and there is no mercy in God, God would exact payment for our sins right when we come out of the womb [because we are sinners out of the womb]. In essence, we would die immediately. However, we know that many ancient figures lived long lives. Hence, the Fristian view of God would be impossible.

One could say that, in the Fristian worldview, innate knowledge is salvific. However, that would be absurd. If that is the case, then what is the point of the specific revelation the Fristian is now receiving? Who cares about that revelation if general revelation is enough?

Not only that, but it would mean that no one could have ever known that they were saved, given that there was no specific revelation to tell us what one must, at least, be desposed to believe in order to be a Fristian.

Also, how would we have known anything about God? Classic Christian theology has taught that specific revelation is needed to understand general revelation. Hence, without the specific revelation, God becomes unintelligable.

As one can see, Fristianity is a total impossibility. By answering each of these objections, the Fristian would move farther and farther from the Christian worldview. By stating that God is a quadrinity, you must reject other Christian beliefs, and thus a person cannot hold that they believe all of Christianity, and that their only point of departure is that they believe God is a quadrinity. Worldviews work together, and you cannot change one belief in the worldview without the rest coming down with it as well.

Also, notice the abiguity in the Fristian worldview. We don't know much more about it that that there is a quatrine God. It almost seems as though the worldview is, itself, inconceivable as it has not worked out many of the problems above. There just seems to be no framework there, and thus, no worldview. Michael Butler is certainly right to conclude:

Thus without providing the details of Fristian theology, this objection loses its punch. It can only be thought to be a challenge to Christianity if it, like Christianity, provides preconditions of experience. But without knowing the details, we cannot submit it to an internal critique. Until this happens, we can justifiably fall back on the conclusion that there is no conceivable worldview, apart from Christianity, that can provide the preconditions of experience.

No comments: