Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Calvinism's Noetic Effect = Subjectivism

In a sunny and fateful afternoon at Orchard Road, two fellow thinkers bumped into one another. After spending some time talking to each other, one of them started:

Subjectivist: There is no absolute truth!

Calvinist: Isn't that statement an absolute truth?

Subjectivist: .... OK ... there is only one absolute truth, and that is 'there is no absolute truth'.

Calvinist: How do you know there is no absolute truth except that one absolute truth?

Subjectivist: .... Er... I just think that is none based on my observation of the omnipresent plurality around us.

Calvinist: Hmm... But you do realize base only by observation, you can't really say something as true? For eg. The lady over there might just be a man, who knows, right?


Calvinist: Now can you see the problem of philosophical subjectivism? It is incoherent; it can't justify its own truthfulness.

Subjectivist: Oh I see. You have a point. Then how would a person know what is true or false?

Calvinist: That is a good question, my friend. One of my ancestor, Dr. Cornelius Van Til, following John Calvin, our grand master of understanding, had highlighted earlier last century that human's mind has been affected by sin. This phenomenon is known as the Noetic effect of sin. That means ever since Adam and Eve sinned against God, whole humanity has been affected by it. Our whole being are deeply marred. We are totally depraved. That includes our faculty of cognition and knowledge being seriously impaired and can not help us to grasp true understanding. Thus if a person gets a true understanding, it is solely by the grace of God. That is God unconditionally elected a limited some who will enjoy the effect of Jesus Christ's saving power. And this grace is irresistible. And through this, God will preserve the limited some to know the truth till eternity.

Subjectivist: Oh I see... But wait a minute, if this Noetic effect is true and that our knowing faculty is damaged and we can't know truth, how then do you know this statement about Noetic effect is really true?

Calvinist: As I have said, I know it is true because it was God's grace that I know it is true.

Subjectivist: Ohh... but how do you know that the notion 'you know it is true because of God's grace' is true since all our knowing is affected by sin?

Calvinist:... er....well, that is because there is only one truth that is not affected by sin, and that is the Noetic effect and God's grace to counter it.


TULIP is an
undeterminate theology which has very
limited explanation
and kind of
nonsensical at times.

*Let those who have eyes see.


Barabbas said...

My pastor suggested I look up the "noetic effect" of sin and your site came up near the top of my Google search. I recognize that you posted this about two years ago and so I apologize for 'coming late to the party' but I did want to comment on your posting and hear what you may have to say in response.

This is my first encounter with the term "Noetic Effect of Sin", but at first glance it seems to simply be a sub-set of the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity. I'm not a Calvinist (although I do see that he was right on three-and-a-half points out of five...) but I do know and understand its core "TULIP" doctrines. My experience has been that many people mistakenly understand 'Total Depravity' to mean that due to the effects of sin, mankind is as bad a he can be, but that's just not the case. The term 'total' refers to every aspect of our being (intellect, emotion, will, body and spirit) and does not imply that these things are in complete ruin.

Your comment here: "Our whole being are deeply marred. We are totally depraved. That includes our faculty of cognition and knowledge being seriously impaired and can not help us to grasp true understanding" therefore is fallacious. Our knowledge/intellect/reason _IS_ seriously impaired, but to say that it "can not help us to grasp true understanding" is simply false. While it is true that we cannot rely upon our own reason exclusively, to suggest that we must abandon it completely and seek some other means to find Truth is a serious error.

The claim that "There is no absolute Truth" is false because it is a self-invalidating paradox (if it is true, then it cannot be true), but this is NOT the same as the Calvinist claim for the Noetic Effect. If the Calvinist idea that the Noetic Effect has impaired all human reason, then the Noetic Effect idea itself is _SUSPECT_, not invalidated. It must be supported not only by reason, but by experience, general revelation, special revelation and the Holy Scripture as well.

I believe that the Noetic Effect idea _IS_ proven true by all of these.


Sze Zeng said...

Hi Barabbas,

Thank you for your comment. I would suggest you to refer to my other posts on this topic here: