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Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Scott, May 9, 2006.
Well I suppose when our terminology is all precise then we can have real Christian unity...
God is in the details dude!
Just to add my to Anthony´s remarks and for further evidence that Paul doesn´t know his history . . . .
A powerful example of Van Til´s vilification of anyone who would dare even to try to harmonize the supposed "œapparent contradictions" of Scripture occurred during the Clark/Van Til controversy. One of the central issues in that controversy was Dr. Clark´s contention that he had harmonized one of the so-called Van Tilian insoluble paradoxes of Scripture, specifically the relationship between God´s sovereignty and human responsibility. What is particularly revealing is the reaction of Van Til and his associates to Dr. Clark´s proposed solution to this problem. (For Dr. Clark´s argument see his article "œDeterminism and Responsibility," or the last chapter of Religion, Reason and Revelation.) As Herman Hoeksema observed in The Clark-Van Til Controversy (which is a very readable account written at the time of the controversy), instead of engaging Dr. Clark´s argument or even attempting to refute it, Van Til and his followers viciously attacked Clark as a "œrationalist." To quote the Complaint Van Til and others filed against Dr. Clark´s ordination:
The reason the Complainants slandered Dr. Clark as a "œrationalist" was that he claimed to harmonize two doctrines of Scripture which they, the Vantilians, claimed could not be harmonized. What else could the Vantilians do except slander? If this so-called "œapparent contradiction" could be harmonized at the "œbar of human reason" "“ if Dr. Clark could harmonize doctrines that Van Til and the Westminster Seminary faculty insisted could not be harmonized "“ then Van Til´s entire philosophy, resting on his analogical and paradoxical view of Scripture, would be exposed as a fraud. Yet, as Hoeksema pointed out, the only "œproof" Van Til could provide that Dr. Clark was "œunder the spell of rationalism" was that he mentioned pagan philosophers. Of course, Dr. Clark´s opponents failed to note that he mentioned Calvin´s Institutes as well, which, as it turns out, is central to Dr. Clark´s argument and key to solving this puzzle "œwhich has baffled the greatest theologians in history." Of course, if the mere reference to pagan philosophers warrants the epithet "œrationalist," one doesn´t have to read too far in the Institutes to conclude that Calvin must have been a "œrationalist." Paul himself, who quotes a pagan poet in Acts 17, must have been a "œrationalist," too.
For the Vantilians, at least those true to Van Til´s teachings, like our friends Paul here, apparent contradictions do not function as "œred flags" warning them to go back and check their premises, carefully define their terms, and examine their inferences. Instead, when they encounter an apparent contradiction, they must bow their heads in feigned Christian piety and resignation. Such false humility is sheer arrogance, for they do not even entertain the possibility that they may have erred. The apparent contradictions are due to their "œcreatureliness," not to their stupidity or foolishness. Frame´s answer to the logical paradoxes of Scripture [see "œVan Til - The Theologian"] is "œjust believe," but believe what? How does Frame or any Vantilian know "œthere is no paradox for God"? By an appeal to Scripture? Impossible, since "œall teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory." Without any reason the Vantilians command us to believe that for God there is no contradiction. Magic "œfaith," divorced from logic and Scripture, becomes the means by which they assert "œthere is no paradox for God." But why wouldn´t it make more sense, even as a matter of simple intellectual honesty, to conclude that if Van Til is right and these so-called paradoxes of Scripture are logically irreconcilable, then perhaps God himself is contradictory? There is and can be no warrant in Scripture "“ since Scripture itself is contradictory "“ for asserting that God is non-contradictory.
Well, it would seem to me that if the Scriptures teach contradictions (at least they are contradictions to the human existent) and it is a matter of principle, as it was for Van Til and his followers including you that "œall Scripture is apparently contradictory," rather than embrace such seeming antimonies, you should be pleading ignorance and confessing confusion. You should be dedicating your lives to searching the Scriptures in an effort to solve such seeming contradictions and vindicate God's Word against His enemies (rather than providing solace and cover for God's enemies as we see in the currently justification controversy). For Jesus said the Scriptures cannot be broken, but the Van Tilian assures us, even as a matter of epistemic principle, that at least for us, broken they must remain. The Van Tilian in his arrogance and false piety (Van Til is the prime example of this sheer arrogance and hubris outlined above in his confrontation with Clark), makes this embrace of nonsense the height of Christian humility and an expression of our "œcreatureliness."
You are a very able defender of nonsense Paul. I´m very thankful that there are still Christian men who refuse to impute irrationality to God and His Word as you have.
[Edited on 5-16-2006 by Magma2]
It's not slander if the charge is accurate. You don't need Scripture to see rationalistic methodology. Even Spinoza used the Scriptures for some things. Your history is simplistic and misrepresents the facts. I guess the whole OPC was so stupid as to not see through Van Tils inability to do anything more than just name call. Take comfort that you can trust in your hero over the ruling of the duly appointed authority of elders in God's Church. As long as Clark and his followers insist he wasn't under the spell of rationalism then it must be so.
[Edited on 5-16-2006 by SemperFideles]
I don't understand the charge of "rationalism" in this case. Is it the charge of being "too logical?" If so, is there even such a thing?
I understand what you are saying, but I guess I really don't see the problem (and maybe you can help me).
If man is free "in a sense" and God is sovereign "in another sense", then how is the paradox not resolved? From my reading of Clark, that is all he is doing, is defining "senses."
Paul, if I remember correctly, Clark would not say man is responsible because God dogmatically decrees it so. You are leaving out the fact that only God is capable of true justice. We are responsible to him because he is the definition and essence and source of justice. Because he is the righteous judge we are responsible to him. You oversimplified the argument.
I loved the dog poop illustration though. Great job!
[Edited on 5-17-2006 by BobVigneault]
It is a good illustration. I've been that dog from time to time. Thankfully, God helps me clean up the mess while holding me responsible.
Praise His Name!!
If, as you say, Scripture is the ultimate authority - then clearly God does hold man responsible for his sin. And since man has no freedom regarding his salvation according to Scripture, then Clark agrees with Scripture on both counts.
The issue that people get stuck on can be put this way: if (as the bible says) man is totally deprived by nature, and has no capacity to do any spiritual good - how can man be punished for his sins? But the question itself begs the question. It assumes that it is self-evident that the only thing we can be rightly punished for doing, are the things we are free to not do. But there is no argument that you can make that will come to that conclusion. There is not rational link between free will and responsibility. Everyone who runs into that "paradox" brings this presumptions unquestioningly to the table.
Clark's answer was simple - we assume the Scriptures as authority - and the answer is there. We don't bring our own preconceived ideas to the Word, and bend the Word to our ideas of justice and responsibility. We assume the Word itself is the first and final authority.
The only way this becomes a "paradox" is if you define responsibility as "autonomy" which Calvinists know is false. Responsiblity to these people should be defined as an autonomous person committing sins of their own autonomous free will.
But is this how responsibility should be defined? Does the bible define responsibility this way? Calvinists should say "no." If responsibility does not rest on this, then the paradox suddenly disappears.
You´re dog is not morally responsible because he/she is not a rational creature, which makes you wonder about some people. However, dogs and men have no "œfree will" in the libertarian sense.
One of the centerpieces of the Reformation was a rejection of "œfree will." I guess for some that no longer applies, yet some still persist in calling themselves "Calvinists." Oh the joys of embracing the paradox. It´s better than petting the dog!
Because of G. I. Williamson?? Is he the end-all of "orthodox reformed theology"? And this quote is a conclusion - not an argument. I believe Luther wrote some things on the will, and Jonathan Edwards. Williamson would be wrong if he thought that the reformed faith supports libertarian free will. Before you are regenerated, were you able to do any good works? Were you free to obey and please God? No, you were dead in sin, wholly unable to do any spiritual good works.
I don't know who G.I. Williamson is, but I don't think he wrote the standard on orthodoxy. I think the Westminster Confession is a better measure of othodoxy.
Whoa Paul...don't jump the gun.
G.I. Williamson (The Westminster Confession of Faith For Study Classes, p. 31) defines freedom thus:
Similarly, Gordon Clark writes (What Do Presbyterians Believe?, p. 37-38):
It would also be profitable to read his commentary on p. 105-107 on free-will, where he essentially agrees with Williamson above.
So you see, that Williamson and Clark agree that there are two types of "freedom" as I indicated in my post.
One is a false view (autonomous) that separates itself from the predestinating work of God. This view poses a clear contradiction (or paradox for you) between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. In essence, it is a contradiction between the sovereignty of man, and the sovereignty of God. It just can't be both ways. (See the Bondage of the Will by Luther for a rebuttal of the view)
The other (the reformed/confessional view) is that man's responsibility (at least partly) lies within the fact that he always does what he "wants" to do. He never sins apart from desiring to do so. But this view presents no problem for reconciling God's sovereignty and human responsibility. God sovereignly predestines the end (sin) as well as the means (desire). Man is responsible (or free) because he always does what he wants to do. (See the Freedom of the Will by Edwards for a defense of this view)
God´s sovereignty lies in the eternal decree, or what Turretin calls the compound sense. Man´s responsibility lies in second causes, or what Turretin calls the divided sense. These two, far from being incompatible, are harmonious and complementary.
I for one do not see the slightest hint of a paradox without accepting a faulty view of human liberty.
I think there is some equivication of "free-will" on this thread. We must keep them seperate!
I like Williamson's:
Certainly you are not suggesting that GHC denies this type of free will, are you?
I don't think that anyone would deny that one can make "apparant contradictions" from scriptural statements. Not all things are clear...at first. Paradoxes do exist.
The difference between Clarkians and VanTillians (as I know it) is not that one denies paradoxes, but in how they treat paradoxes in scriptures.
Clarkians will tell you that in order to believe a paradox, you must resolve it. Since we know that the Bible doesn't contradict itself, don't we owe it to God to give him all we have to understand it that way?
VanTillians will tell you that if we run across a paradox that we don't understand, we should believe both sides even IF we can't resolve it. This is problematic to me.
Question for this person:
If you accept a paradox in scripture as true without resolving it:
How do you know that you are understanding it correctly? Since we know that the Scriptures do not contradict itself, one could easily have a false view of one side of the "paradox" and by modifying it to the correct Biblical view would then eliminate the paradox altogether.
Without resolving the "paradox", you have no idea if it is a paradox, or a contradiction altogether! For all this person knows, he is accepting two completely contradicting propositions, under the guise of it being a "paradox"! What was that about fideism? (ok, just a joke)
The better method In my humble opinion is to not come to a conclusion until the "paradox" can be settled. To distinguish senses are a must. Am I perfectly consistent? Absolutely not. Should I strive to be? Absolutely.
BTW, if anyone hasn't read McMahon's book, The Two Wills of God, it is a must on the subject. It helped me resolve some of my "paradoxes."
Here is where I see you jumping ship Paul. You are fine in your first definition of "freedom" (choose according to your desires), but then you equivicate into the BAD kind of freedom (see Williamson above) in the bold portion of your quote.
In order for this to work, you must remain consistent!
God determines the act, and the choice and the desire etc. etc.
Man's freedom does NOT lie in the fact that he can choose from ...n! options, it lies in the fact that the option that God sovereignly determined for him to choose, he did so wantingly.
God made it happen....sovereignty.
Man wanted it...responsiblity.
The "wanting" is where the responsibility lies.
I am not sure what you are trying to prove at this point Paul. If you are trying to prove that there is an actual "paradox" between God's sovereignty and human resposibility THAT YOU can NOT solve, then that is one thing. If you are trying to prove that Clark does not allow for "paradoxes" is scripture, that is another. Which is it!!!!!
Oh, is this thread still active?
I never suggested that it necessarily follows that just because one has "resolved" the apparent contradiction, that they now know the truth. What one DOES accomplish by this is a better hermeneutic. Since God has *clearly* revealed that the scriptures do not contradict one another, shouldn't that hermeneutic be carried across the board to every doctrine that we study??
Ah....but you say "Only if we can...if we can't, give up for now and accept statements that are illogical TO YOU". If it is illogical to you, then how do you know it is not illogical period? Paradoxes are illogical statements (relatively) in the eyes of the beholder. Granted, they may not be ultimately contradictory, but for all practical purposes (practical meaning "as far as your understanding of it") they are.
God wills X in one sense and wills Y in another. There is no contradiction, and no paradox (in my own mind at least! ). If Clark has the right answer, I do not know (although I do remember him helping...but it has been a long time).
The question is...Is it paradoxical TO YOU??? :bigsmile:
You equivocate on the word free. But thanks for citing the WCF. Maybe you should read it and then explain what exactly you find at odds with Clark´s denial of free will in the libertarian, or, for your benefit, the common Arminian sense? Nothing in the Confession affirms that man has the power of contrary choice, including your dog as he poops on your carpet. Hence, Clark's argument is sound, biblical and he successfully harmonized one of the imagined biblical contradictions Van Tilians like you love so much.
I´ll send you my bill.
This only works if you understand how to resolve the "paradox." What if you don't? Is it subjectively contradictory and objectively not? I think this is the case.
While the statements of the unsolved paradox maybe not be contradictory in and of themselves, as far as this person goes, they are at complete odds. He understands them contradictorily (new word? ) which reduces itself to absurdity In my humble opinion.
But the point is that if there is an "apparent" contradiction, then apparently one of the statements is false, and you can not (and do not) believe both. Now, if you mean by "apparent" that it is not a clear contradiction, then you are uncertain if you understand one or the other position clearly, but given some particular readings, they leads to a contradiction. Well whatever those particular readings are, you know they can not both be true - and you certainly do not believe they are both true as you apparently now read them.
Resolving the contradiction does not make both statements true, it means determining which statement is false.
Remember, you said the Scripture teaches X and Y clearly, and they are an apparent contradiction. What does that mean? If X and Y is clear, then the contradiction should be clear. But if the contradiction is uncertain, then so too is your understanding of X or Y. But if your understanding of X and Y are unclear, then the contradiction is not apparent. So saying X and Y are clear, and apparent contradictions, is a contradiction. They can not be both clear teachings of Scripture and "apparently" contradictory at the same time.
So maybe you say that there are readings of Scripture that, at first blush, are contradictions. But that apparently means that the immediate reading of X and Y is contradictory. However, we can say that we know immediately that Scripture does not contradict itself, and the initial "clear" reading must be false. We DO NOT embrace apparent contradictions, we must resolve them or admit we do not believe both are true. And if we can not resolve them, then they must be "real" contradictions. And if that is the case, again we know that either X or Y is false. So, again, you can not believe both X and Y if they "apparently" contradict. That's irrational and anti-Christian. God does not contradict himself, and we do not believe apparent contradictions are true.
Admit you don't know which is true. You've already convinced yourself that they can not both be true or you would not say that they apparently contradict - therefore you have to admit the uncertainty of your understanding. You know one or the other must be false or maybe both are false readings because you are uncertain enough to judge them apparent contradictions and not "real" contradictions.
All together? You mean if we have more information, we can fix the reading. Sure, that means you have determined which reading was false. Before, you just didn't know. Resolving means determining which understanding is false. It does not make both true.
No one's saying that rational consistency makes all things true. But logical contradiction means something is false.
So you are saying the (5) showed that (4) is false?
First that is incorrect. You can not use a statement you know to be false to resolve the contradiction. It does not follow.
Second. If statement (5) was true, then it would show that (4) was false. And that's the point, one of the two must be false. You don't believe both are true, even if you don't know which is false. When there is a contradiction, you know one is false. If there is an apparent contradiction, the best you can say is you believe one is false. You can not believe both.
Nothing takes aways the original paradox, because the paradox is found in the first two statements. These statements did not change with the additional premise. One is still false.
But since we are taking about Scripture, you are assuming that any interpretation of Scripture can be false, and that is correct. But we are not taking about 2 or 3 or 4 premises, we are taking about a whole system. Since Scripture does not contain any contradictions, we know that if our systematic understanding of the meaning of Scripture contains a contradiction, something must be wrong with it. That does not automatically tell us what it is, but that we have more work to do.
In the end, the only way we know the truth is because we have the Holy Spirit to guide us to that truth. We are always, even in matters of reason, dependent on God.
No, he knows that contradictions do not exist in Scripture because Scripture is true, and contradiction by definition mean one of two statements are false and the other true. What he knows is that if it appears to be a contradiction - then his understanding is flawed. And he does not believe he understands correctly the Scriptures the he thinks mean X and Y.
No. It means there are things we don't correct understand. The Scriptures themselves do not contain paradoxes - in no shape our form. Only our understanding of Scripture can contain paradoxes. And the ones we think our paradoxes, we don't believe or embrace. We try to determine what the mistake is because we know there must be a mistake in our understanding. We do not embrace what we have determined can not be true - that both statements are true at the same time.
I think I missed something. Where do you get the idea that God does not will some to commit murder? He declares that it is a sin for us to murder, but that is not the same thing. And this declaration that we sin when we murder, does not preclude God from willing that we commit murder.
If one says God wills that we obey the law, and God wills that we break the law, this is equivocating on the word will unless you clarify that you are using will in two different ways. One means God commands us not to commit sin. But that is not God's sovereign will. God's will may be different than God's commands. God willed that Judas betray him - but Judas still committed a sin by breaking God's law. He followed God's sovereign will.
There are two different first steps. One is God's when He ""initiated man's choices *before* man did. The other is man's when he "initated" the choice *after* God did." They are both first steps, not the same first step. They have to be different because you said one came "*before*" and the other came "*after*".
Of course you must be rationalizing too in order to determine that there is an apparent contradiction to start with. Just to come to that conclusion means you have worked out the logical implications of X and Y and determined that they lead to a contradiction. The only way to say it is an "apparent" contradiction is to claim you don't understand X and Y correctly - because they would not contradict if you did. The only difference with a Clarkian is he admits the implications of "apparent" contradictions, and Vantillians remain irrational by claiming to embrace what he does not.
Ha! Nice try.
VT: Irrationally embraces paradox (self contradicting) at the cost of understanding Scripture and God's truth. Say's he believes X & Y even though it "appears" that they can not both be true.
GC: Rationally rejects paradox - and uses his God given mind to better understand God's Word by God's grace. Does not add to or take away from Scripture, but admits that an unresolved paradox means X or Y is false and both can not be biblical.
The Doctrine of the Trinity is beyond the text.
Here's the thing with using logic and Scripture. What is deducible from true premises is also true (for all times places and people). The WCF speaks of those things that we can know from Scripture by "good and necessary consequences". This is nothing less than logical deduction. Logic is the science of necessary inference.
And so we are to use our God given ability to work out the implications of the Doctrines we hold, to determine if we have any false beliefs. This means we must go beyond the text in order to understand the text correctly, or at least determine where we do not understand the text.
It is irrational to hold to an incoherent system, even if a coherent system is possibly false. The difference is that an incoherent system is certainly false.
I'll give you a day to reply. I hit a lot of points and I'm sure you wouldn't want to skip any. Of course, you could just concede defeat.
Of course you did. Let´s review:
Per the above, you affirm that Clark´s denial of free will permits him to escape this never ending paradox of Scripture, which, us regular folk, call a contradiction. Clark´s solution, which, For what it's worth, Robert Reymond repeats in even greater detail and arguably with increasing clarity in his systematic theology, is a repudiation of the notion that a free will, or an undetermined choice, is necessary for a man to be called "œresponsible." Further, implied in your remarks is Clark´s use of Rom. 9:20 to solve this problem that Van Til and his associates tell us has "œbaffled the greatest theologians in history. They assure us; "œ Not even Holy Scripture offers a solution." Read that sentence again Paul. Van Til and Co. deny that even Scripture provides a solution, but Clark, drawing an inference from Scripture (and an argument first raised by Calvin), "œescaped" this Van Tilian so-called "œparadox," much to VT´s chagrin and evidently yours.
But to continue with your equivocation, you might recall this recent post where you ridicule Clark´s denial of free will:
Notice, you poke fun at Clark for denying the notion of free will in salvation and for asserting that responsibility, properly defined, implies an authority to which a response must be given. You say it´s "œstill sticky." First, I never thought I would see a "œReformed" man poke fun at the notion that salvation is of the Lord and even the Lord alone. Second, to make fun of Clark´s biblical solution to the problem of God´s sovereignty and man´s responsibility because it rest on the idea that God is ex-lex and is the Lawgiver, belies a lack of understanding of both Scripture and Clark´s argument. Regardless, it is clear from the above that you are using the term free as it applies to the will differently than it has been understood in historic Calvinism, including the Confession chapter nine which you also cite later on. You evidently forgot that the Confession previously asserts; "œGod from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass . . . ." Therefore, while you may have a choice between A, B, and C, your choice, whatever it may be, has been foreordained from all eternity and you will freely choose what God has sovereignly determined you will. Nothing "œsticky" at all. It cannot be otherwise. Further, if you read and understood Clark, he makes it crystal clear that Arminians do not have a "œtidy solution" at all, but, rather, have no solution at all.
Consequently, I think it would have been more accurate, and perhaps a bit less self-revelatory, if you said; "œI don´t think I equivocated."
Well, Clark, the Confession and Williamson agree, while men choose between options, their choice can be no other than what God has pre-determined they will choose. Since Clark´s denial of free will in the sense implied by your remarks cited above (otherwise, your ridicule of Clark makes no sense) is that of the Confession and Williamson, then it would follow that Clark has indeed "œescaped the paradox by denying free will." in my opinion your objection rests on your disbelief that God indeed foreordains "œwhatsoever comes to pass," including the where and when of your dog pooping
Clark´s solution and view of free will is in complete harmony with the Scriptures and the Confession. in my opinion the disharmony is coming from you. Man is never metaphysically independent in any sense from God in any of his choosing; For in Him we live and move and have our being.
It seems to me that you have (unwittingly) vindicated Clark and revealed deficiencies in your own view of the will, which is another subject altogether.
I already have. But at this point it´s probably smart to ask; will that be Visa, MasterCard, or American Express?
Fair enough. I confess when I first read "Determinism and Responsibility" I had to read it over and over before I "got it." I did mention that Reymond does a very good job in making Clark's resolution (harmonization) crystal clear and I highly recommend him on this point. I also recommend you read Reymond on the idea of biblical paradox. While not directly addressed, if you don't see the connection between what Reymond says (he has a chapter on the subject) and the Van Tilian nexus in the current justification controversy, let me know. There will be no charge.
But if it is possible that you didn't understand Clark, (3) doesn't follow, or at least it is not warranted. Although I do appreciate your devotion.
And some were semantic. That's not to say that there aren't "full bucket" difficulties in Scripture, but I think Jeff is spot on, Van Tilians will "embrace" these difficulties and this embrace of nonsense is held as a sign of Christian piety. Clarkians will say that ignorance, while no sin, is no virtue either. The problem that I see with Van Til and his most able followers, is that they don't see their "embrace" as the equivalent of ignorance. In my mind this is arrogance.
And I will admit that you have backtracked considerably. While much appreciated, I think you can see by my last post why at least of few of us were led to believe we weren't in agreement on what is meant by a "œfree will."