"Tour 2 - Philosophy & Ethics: Says Who?"
Fact Check

Fact Check: "Determinism [says that] there really is no knowledge, you only react to stimuli."

Determinism says nothing of the sort. Determinism says that everything we observe is the product of discrete, identifiable (at least God-identifiable) causes rather than also being the product of true anomalies or true randomness. Contrary to the views of some, Fatalism does not necessarily follow from Determinism.

Determinism has nothing to say about the nature of knowledge, does not at all imply that we don't have knowledge, and no notable Determinist has ever said we don't have knowledge. I really don't know where Del got this one.

We find this in the Truth Project FAQ: "Some have asked if the content of The Truth Project follows a specific doctrinal perspective (e.g., whether Arminian or Reformed). In keeping with the interdenominational nature of our organization, Dr. Tackett has made a deliberate effort to avoid emphasizing any particular theological interpretation." Deriding Determinism, however, offends some Reformed Protestant and Dominican Catholic interpretations of freedom and sovereignty.

Verdict: False.

Fact Check: "Solipsism [says that the] self is all you need to know."

No, Solipsism says that the self is the only thing that has existence of which you can be certain. Talking about what we can know is a matter of epistemology (philosophy of knowledge), and Solipsism is one of many epistemological viewpoints. Talking about what we "need to know" is a matter of axiology or ethics.

Verdict: False.

Fact Check: "Intuitionism [says that] knowledge comes primarily from some kind of inner sense."

There are two kinds of intuitionism, neither of which say this. There's logical or mathematical intuitionism, which is in another sphere of study entirely, and ethical intuitionism, which says morality can be discussed in absolute, goalless terms and that the fully-equipped (with maturity, education, etc.) person is able to discern between right and wrong.

The irony here is that Del appears to be an ethical intuitionist, but might add that one needs God's Word in order to be fully equipped for discernment (2 Tim. 3:16).

Verdict: False.

What unites the previous 3 misstatements? They are all attempts at making these positions seem "weirder" than they actually are. By presenting these viewpoints in an absurdly distorted way, Dr. Tackett sets up a foundation of suspicion against philosophy.

Fact Check: A Biblical worldview requires believing that absolute moral truths exist.

At one point, a recent Barna study is cited to show that only 9% of born-again Christians in the United States have a Biblical worldview. The Barna study defines a Biblical worldview as, among other things, believing that absolute moral truths exist.

The problem is the word "absolute." Here are two entirely different sentences that could be implied by "absolute moral truths exist."

  1. "There are moral claims that are absolutely true, given some coherent meaning of 'good' and 'evil.'"
  2. "We can talk about good and evil in absolute, referenceless, goalless terms."

A Christian can agree with the first sentence, and disagree with the second sentence, and be in perfect harmony with Scripture. Generally, the second sentence is what is meant by "absolute morality," and is not supported by Scripture.

The equivocation of the two usages of "absolute morality" is a very real problem in the practical discussions of ethics. Moral absolutism[1] says that if we're told what the goal of the decisionmaking is, we know that there's an objectively-best decision to accommodate that goal. Moral absolutism[1] is coherent and solid.

Moral absolutism[2], however says that we can somehow discuss good and evil without acknowledging the goal of the decisionmaking. Moral absolutism[2] is incoherent, but is very attractive when proposed poetically and deceptively, as often happens in fictional television programs, movies and other stories.

Verdict: Questionable. It depends on what one means by "absolute moral truths," since there are two distinct kinds of moral absolutism.

Fact Check: Ethics means "what ought," morality means "what is."

In Tour 2, theologian R. C. Sproul claimed that "ethos," the word from which we get "ethics," originally referred to something stagnant and immutable, and that ethics meant "what ought" and that morality meant "what is."

Ethos is ancient Greek for "an accustomed place," referring to the habits or customs of a group or a person. In the sense of the latter, an individual person, it referred to that person's commonly-conveyed attitude and character. That's why Aristotle called an appeal to one's reputable behavior an appeal to "ethos" rather than to "pathos" (emotion) or "logos" (the strength of the words themselves; the logic behind them).

In ancient Greece, the ethos was certainly relative to the individual or group. The "accustomed place," or habits/customs, of group A was not necessarily those of group B. Likewise for those of person A versus person B.

Now, word meanings change, and perhaps Dr. Sproul was correct in that there was a clear-cut "morality/ethics" dichotomy a century ago (and that ethics meant "what ought," and that morality meant "what is"). But in the ancient Greek, ethos simply wasn't what Dr. Sproul said it was. It said nothing about "what ought," it only said "what is," and a man's appeal to his "ethos" -- or his "accustomed place," or his character/habits/behaviors -- was effective only insofar as his audience found value in it.

As Christians, we enjoy communication with the ultimate evaluator, God Himself. He's the one who knows what's best for us and for the world. He's the one who can best judge our "accustomed place" and show us whether we're making good decisions or bad decisions. By having God as our critical audience, we can enjoy the security of a well-defined ethical framework without tearing Greek etymology into confetti.

Verdict: False.

(c) 2009 The Truth Problem.


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