TurretinFan Strikes Back

A couple of months ago, I offered some criticisms of an argument given by TurretinFan against the claim that there are irresolvable paradoxes. (As a side note, it’s worth mentioning again that this claim can be understood in several different ways.)  His argument was apparently aimed at paradoxes in general, not just theological ones.

TurretinFan has now responded by offering a restatement of his argument and a rebuttal of my criticisms. Here are some comments by way of reply:

1. The most serious problem with his argument is that his premise P1 misrepresents my position (and Van Til’s, as I read him). As I make clear in my book, I firmly reject the idea that a paradox necessarily involves some proposition P being both true and false at the same time and in the same way. As I also make clear in the book, I reject the idea that a paradox can arise for just any proposition (or set of propositions).

2. The conclusion of his argument — “if we accept the existence of unlimitable paradoxes, we must also be prepared to accept at least the possibility of the nonexistence of unlimitable paradoxes” — is far too weak to do my position any harm. In fact, I’ll even grant it! Of course it is possible that there are no irresolvable paradoxes. My defense of theological paradox doesn’t imply otherwise. But what of significance follows from that? Certainly not the fact that there are no irresolvable paradoxes, theological or otherwise.

Bottom line: TurretinFan’s conclusion is no more problematic for me that the mere possibility that I am a brain in a vat (which I am also willing to grant).

3. TurretinFan also offers an “enhancement” and “simplification” of his original argument. On examination, his second argument turns out to be neither an enhancement nor a simplication of the first, but a different argument altogether. In any case, it’s no more successful as an objection to my position, and for much the same reason: it attacks a straw man. In my book I argue against the idea that theological paradoxes should be construed as genuine violations of the law of non-contradiction. So his enhanced argument also badly misses the mark.

4. I’ll also mention in passing that while I would grant his premise P4, it isn’t beyond reasonable dispute.

5. TurretinFan adds by way of conclusion: “I don’t see any good reason to accept the existence of irreconcilable paradoxes.” I don’t want to be uncharitable, but I suspect he says this because (i) he hasn’t read much if any of the literature on philosophical paradoxes and therefore doesn’t appreciate how challenging some of them are to resolve and (ii) he hasn’t read much if any of the literature on theological paradoxes, particularly on the difficulties of explicating the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation in ways that are both orthodox and non-paradoxical. I could be wrong about this; if I am, it shouldn’t be any trouble for him to set me straight.

Regarding (i), I wonder whether TurretinFan thinks there is a straightforward solution to, say, the Sorites Paradox.

Regarding (ii), I wonder how he would state the doctrine of the Trinity in such a way as to rule out all heterodox views while avoiding any trace of apparent logical inconsistency.

6. TurretinFan goes on to say, “I have seen no reason to reject the strongly intuitive position of the universality of the laws of logic and particularly the law of non-contradiction.” But as I’ve pointed out (and not for the first time) this simply isn’t an implication of my position; on the contrary, my defense of theological paradox is designed to accommodate that very intuition.

7. It should be evident by now that TurretinFan’s arguments miss the mark in large part because he’s tilting at windmills. I don’t deny the law of non-contradiction or advocate dialetheism (although refuting dialetheism is harder that you might think) even though I believe that certain Christian doctrines are paradoxical (i.e., they seem to imply a logical contradiction). At this point, I can only recommend that he obtain a copy of my book (perhaps via interlibrary loan) and interact with it directly. Until he does that, I doubt any further exchanges between us will bear much fruit. If he does read it, however, I’m confident it will only be a matter of time before he joins us on the Dark Side.

7 Responses to TurretinFan Strikes Back

  1. “His argument was apparently aimed at paradoxes in general, not just theological ones.”


    “The most serious problem with his argument is that his premise P1 misrepresents my position (and Van Til’s, as I read him). ”

    I think that is very profitable for your/Van Til’s position to be distinguished from P1. I am delighted that you believe this is this case. I only wish I could understand clearly how your position is distinguishable from it.

    In any event, I don’t have a particular agenda to undermine your book or Van Til’s work. So, I am not troubled (in fact I’m happy) that you view my arguments as largely irrelevant to your position.

    On the other hand, I am troubled that some of the objections you (and/or some of our Christian brethren at Triablogue) raised (previously, in the midst of the discussions there) seemed to be directed at supporting P1.

    Of course, it is perfectly possible that there was simply some miscommunication either in my misunderstanding what you gentlemen were saying, or in my misstating my own position in a way that then framed matters differently from how I intended.


  2. I haven’t read your post, TF, but I have read James’ book and his post here, and I think maybe the miscommunication is occuring at the level of the meaning of the term paradox.

    For James, a paradox is an *apparent* but *not real* contradiction.

  3. James,

    I had read Mr. Manata’s post and actually when I read only that post, I thought you and I were in full agreement. It was your later comments that were troubling – comments that made me think that Mr. Manata had perhaps misconveyed your position.


  4. If you’re not already aware, Trinity Foundation has just done a review of your book: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/Review_291_Crampton_Anderson_Review.pdf

    • Thanks, Jonathan. I saw a print version of the review a few weeks ago (a colleague handed it to me with a smirk on his face) but I didn’t realize it was online. Lord willing, I will post some comments later.