Analogical Knowledge

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by jwright82, Oct 4, 2017.

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  1. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I think that is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Van Til's thought. It is very abstract and "deep" but I will attempt to explain it, much smarter people could do a better job, but I'll give it a shot.
    Imagine a beach, you see it and you experience it. Isn't it lovely? Now imagine you are not God so you can't see the beach, who could? But what you can see is a painting of the beach. Now you would know all sorts of things about the beach, but not the beach as someone who is there. So their would be a different quality of knowledge, neither being false, between both knowers.
    We have image knowledge and God has God knowledge. I hope that helps.
  2. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I like that last part. I also like how CVT would say our knowledge is "receptively reconstructive."
  3. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Thank you and amen!
  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    :scratch: I don't have to imagine I'm not God...

    The illustration could be helpful to someone, but work on the wording :2cents: (and check spelling).

    Also, the actual object of knowledge is the same, whether God is the knower, or I am the knower.

    The weakness of the illustration lies in this: that God is said to know the object, but man is said to know not that object, but a separate medium conveying details of the object to him.

    In Reformed thought (archetypal/ectypal knowledge), God knows an object as God, perfectly without limitation. And I know the same object as a creature might know it, within my inherent limits.

    The medium of limitation IS my perception, my knowledge. The "painting" (of the object) is my knowledge creation, my representation of the object.
  5. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    I think I get what Bruce is saying, although I might be mistaken ... there is reality which is fully comprehended by God, and there is our perception of reality which is limited by our humanity (and still further by the effects of sin on our humanity). We could liken our perception to the painting, our own construct. But I believe Van Til wasn't speaking in degrees of comprehension of reality, because he did not believe there was a univocal point where man's knowledge met God's knowledge. Its like two parallel lines that never touch, the one tracing the other; one is truth, i.e. God's knowledge, and the other is ours which can only ever be analogical. Bruce may be answering why they never touch, but Van Til seemed more interested in the fact that they never touch. The painting can never be close enough to reality for the person viewing the painting to really "know" what a beach is like. The criticism is that in Van Til's construction, man can never really know truth, only an analog of truth. That criticism would only matter if the analog weren't true "enough" for God's purpose for man. Does a dog really need to perceive in the same color range as a human to grasp enough truth necessary for him to be a dog, or is his knowledge of truth - limited by a reduced color perception - sufficient for his created role?
  6. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Both good points about my analogy, but as an analogy it only goes so far. A better point is Dr. Oliphint 's that there is no point of contact between the minds of the knowers, God's vs ours, but in the object itself. That's where the point of contact lies in the object not the mind. I hope that's more helpful.
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  7. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The beach (the example object given) is, and therefore is true. God knows the beach truly, perfectly true, and in the infinitely full relations the beach has with every other discrete truth and all truth; and he's always known it, and he knows it in an instant, and he knows all the changes of it which have been and ever will be; together with all the possibilities that could (and couldn't) come to be in relation to it. He knows it to the individual grain of sand, and the molecules and atoms and subatomic particles of that grain (and all the grains), to the forces within the atoms, and whatever is infinitesimally beneath those forces.

    My knowledge of the beach is not simply less fulsome, fewer aggregate data-points (which are simply smaller, and ever smaller truth-packets). I don't know the beach in toto with excellence, nor even one particle of the beach as the mind of God knows it. If I observe the beach as a scientist, I miss the observation of the artist. The enjoyment of the beach as a family-vacationer is of another quality to the enjoyment of the beach as a pristine-preservationist. I "get" the beach; but I only "get" it just so well.

    My discursive reasoning is a "childish" approximation of the instantaneous, comprehensive, absolute and utterly orderly knowledge of God. The most brilliant, unfallen human mind does not know any object (truth) exactly as God knows it. There is no axiom to which is submitted God's mind and man's in due proportion; but neither is some axiom equivalent to the divine mind there, with the human mind able it to comprehend (take fully in). That would make man's mind divine at that point; and it would not stop at a single point because the mind of God isn't particular but whole (doctrine of divine simplicity).

    C. Van Til rightly identifies the view making logic the identity of the divine mind as first-degree rationalism. Neither logic, nor any other theoretical truth, nor any natural fact, nor historic event or person can be known by a man just as well as God. It is not merely a quantitative limit, but a qualitative one as well. An ant can encounter an object and know it as an ant knows it, and I can encounter the same object to know it as a man; and both knowings may be true as far as they go. But there is some sense in which our knowledge coincides, for we are both creatures. At some level, we--the ant and I--have the equivalent knowledge of the truth.

    But there is an infinite qualitative difference between my knowledge and God's. This is the Creator-creature distinction. A man is the creaturely imago dei, but he forever remains a creature. There is no "spark of divinity" in man--not in his soul, not in his mind, not in his body, not in his "energy" (whatever that might mean)--nowhere. If I know what God knows as he knows it, only less of it, then I have reestablished the "chain-of-being," with God at the top, scum at the bottom, and man someplace in between. This is idolatry. His thoughts are higher than mine, and not just up on the shelf and out of reach but still in the room somewhere.

    My thoughts ought to be after God's thoughts. They should mimic (image) and approximate (truthfully represent) his thoughts. He has put his will into terms I can grasp and apprehend. This is divine condescension. Calvin calls God's words to us "lisping," baby-talk, a motherly murmur. It is real communication; it is true! Formed from the wisdom of God, it is ideal in its suitability. Put into propositions, it is accommodated to our discursive level. It can be more and less accurately regarded, which is to say it can be abused to a false conclusion. It is not as though we've been left in a world of relativism, of essential falsehoods because nothing within our grasp is True or our grip is untrue.

    To revel in the order and harmony and beauty of Scripture; and beyond that, to delight in investigations of the natural realm capable of demonstrating the unity of the cosmos; is to make one's home in God's house, which one knows is his house because of such signs. He made this house so that we might dwell with him; and to be able to make right use of his communication is to know him, as well as creatures could possibly know. Accepting the theoretical limits to my knowledge does not prevent me from aiming at better knowledge than I presently possess; nor does it enervate my aspirations, since (at best) I am only relatively less incomplete in my grasp of truth than some Christian with false doctrine or even an unbeliever.

    To those who succumb to those temptations, or who reject the Creator-creature distinction because they claim it leads to such dismal ends--we might ask: Why be discontent with one's place in God's order, with his revelation? What am I missing in the beauty of the beach? Surely I can get more and deeper and better than I have presently, and all I could possibly get would be less than all that was available to me. That it will never be perfect knowledge is not a measureable loss to me; and resenting the limits or attacking them as "unworthy" seems like nothing less than another errant attempt at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Taking the fruit in the garden not only didn't abolish the limits; the rebellion imposed new limits that weren't there before!

    The environmentalist likes to think he knows the beach better than me (who wants to run and play on it). He would take his knowledge and put the beach out of my reach, reducing my direct access. We each think the other's knowledge is poorer, both of our knowledges being formally incomplete. Should I give in to him? Should he give in to me? Should we despair of persuading the other, because everything between us is relative? Many disparage the view of human knowledge defended here, because (though being outside of it and rejecting it) they KNOW where it leads. They are like those who are anti-Calvinist, because they KNOW it invariably leads to arrogant striving for excess purity, or else it produces dull complacency.

    In other words, because pride is characteristic of both failures in either direction, then humility is absent from the TULIP, and from the Creator-creature distinction? Reformed thought is centered between those failures, which are not failures unique to Reformed Theology. I would have thought humility was demanded by a true understanding of TULIP, and by a right respect for the limits of human knowledge.
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  8. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    It may also be beneficial to compare to Gordon Clark's antithesis, that we have the same knowledge as God in a lesser quantity. If my memory serves, he made a quality/quantity distinction. He argued that we could know nothing if the quality of our knowledge was not as God knows.

    in my opinion, Clark's distinction had a higher opinion of the creature (or a lower opinion of God) than he should have had.
  9. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for that excellent discourse! I particularly liked this, Bruce: "I would have thought humility was demanded by a true understanding of TULIP, and by a right respect for the limits of human knowledge." And indeed that humility working through our understanding of TULIP ought to permeate out into all aspects of church practice.
  10. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes that's why I pointed out that the point of contact is in the object, not in the knower. Could this not have resolved the Clark and Van Til controversy?
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