Gordon H. Clark on Logic and Scripture

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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Exactly--we cannot pretend that reason, a God-given tool, somehow has content in itself.

I don't pretend; I'm simply faced with it every time I use reason. Man's rationality contains self-evident principles from which he reasons. The whole idea of presuppositionalism presupposes it.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Exactly--we cannot pretend that reason, a God-given tool, somehow has content in itself.

I don't pretend; I'm simply faced with it every time I use reason. Man's rationality contains self-evident principles from which he reasons. The whole idea of presuppositionalism presupposes it.

Could you provide some examples please? If by these principles, you mean the law of contradiction, the law of excluded middle, etc., then you have only provided tools and not content. If not, I request further elaboration.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Exactly--we cannot pretend that reason, a God-given tool, somehow has content in itself.

I don't pretend; I'm simply faced with it every time I use reason. Man's rationality contains self-evident principles from which he reasons. The whole idea of presuppositionalism presupposes it.

Could you provide some examples please? If by these principles, you mean the law of contradiction, the law of excluded middle, etc., then you have only provided tools and not content. If not, I request further elaboration.

I'd say, as a simple example, that the fact that we innately do not like contradiction, if we think about it, is such a principle. We could not operate without assuming the rightness of a right answer and the wrongness of a wrong answer.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
I'd say, as a simple example, that the fact that we innately do not like contradiction, if we think about it, is such a principle. We could not operate without assuming the rightness of a right answer and the wrongness of a wrong answer.

So you're saying that one piece of information contained in the content of reason is the moral proposition that we ought to prefer non-contradiction to contradiction?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Could you provide some examples please? If by these principles, you mean the law of contradiction, the law of excluded middle, etc., then you have only provided tools and not content. If not, I request further elaboration.

Vic has provided one good example. If you can obtain the Sensualistic Philosophy by Dabney (available from Chris Coldwell's Naphtali Press), chapters 10 and 11 will provide sound and solid discussion. One undeniable pre-condition for all rationality is what Dabney calls "the essential condition of all consciousness," which is "the distinction of the 'Me' and the 'Not-Me.'" Rationality presupposes specific relationships between subject and object, which leads all epistemic discussions to generally revolve around the terms, subjective and objective.

Caution:- if one speaks of rationality as a mere tool, then human cognition is reduced to the belittling status of being nothing more than a pole of reference between the Me and the Not-Me, and eventually leads to relativism.
 

Christoffer

Puritan Board Sophomore
I too am very fond of Clark. To me it seems however that at least the basic laws of logic need to be assumed in order to understand Scripture.

I don't understand the part about reason not being able to produce truths independently. Isn't the law of non-contradiction a truth?

It is a proposition made true by correspondence...or?
 

Beth Ellen Nagle

Puritan Board Senior
Example: If by reason we can clearly see that matter is not eternal (it is contradictory) or that not all is spirit (Hinduism), then do you say this is only true because the Bible says the world is created?

How can reason know that matter is not eternal? Reason would have to know all matter in all time into the future. Reason may know that this specific "matter" held in the hand is not eternal, but how can it know that for all matter? There may be something buried 100 miles underground which always has been and always will be.

Reason is ontological and while we have finitude by virtue of our createdness and do not know things exhaustively (which I think you aim to keep intact here), things at the basic level of thought are clear to reason. So we can know something even if we don't know it exhaustively. What can reason grasp?

By reason all persons can know at least something exist. There is being as opposed to non-being (as is a). Right off the bat reason is being used here. When we think about being logically we think that it exists now, not always pastfuture or now and always past future. Right off the bat we can speak of existence in two ways. It is either temporal or eternal. Logically eternal is more basic than temporal. This is true ontologically and logically. I just offer this as an initial example of the use of reason as applied to being as well as thought. We can do this because we are by nature rational. The Apostle Paul writes that the God's Divine nature and attributes are clearly seen in the things created. Reason applied to being would be able to show just how this is so (vs "sensus divinitatis"). Do we do this? No. No one seeks, no one understands, no one does what is right. Are they accountable to know what is clear. Yes. :)

-----Added 4/14/2009 at 10:45:23 EST-----

RP ".. applies reason as a test for meaning to what is presupposed in a dispute." (See Attached)

And how do we know if what reason determines is true knowledge? What is it tested against? If it is tested against reason itself, then reason is the starting point. If it is tested against Scripture, then Scripture is the starting point.


I hope my other recent post clarifies this.

-----Added 4/14/2009 at 10:47:56 EST-----

That is the axiom for the Christian ... what would you test it against? The U.S. Constitution? The plays of Shakespeare? The Quran? The starting point is that the Bible is the propositional revelation of God and hence it alone can be the ultimate test for truth and knowledge. To appeal to anything else as the starting point denies the uniqueness of the God revealed in Scripture.

My point is what do you say to the non Christian, when they ask the same question that I put forward above.

Let us say that response you get is, "yes let us use the Koran". At that point, you are going to have to use reason to adjudicate between the various options.

I also do not think of it as an axiom like something out of a math textbook. It is something that is true, but not an axiom.

Denying that the Bible is the Word of God is the ultimate axiom does not deny the uniqueness of the God revealed in the Bible. I can easily say that natural revelation points to him and only him.

CT

What can natural revelation tell us about God? Not much ... creator who seems to let everything run down and decay ... it can tell us nothing about the nature of God, nothing about providence, and nothing about grace. Natural revelation may tell us there is a God, but it can't tell us who he is. Natural revelation might actually convince us that there is a Demiurge.

I think before exploring this the basic issue of reason needs to be established. If that gets in place you'll see how clarity builds from the bottom up foundationally.
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
I think Clark's and Van Til's point is that behind all human reason is God's reason, and the only place we can objectively encounter God's reason is in Scripture.
 

Beth Ellen Nagle

Puritan Board Senior
I think Clark's and Van Til's point is that behind all human reason is God's reason, and the only place we can objectively encounter God's reason is in Scripture.

I agree that is their view. But I think we can objectively encounter reason in us. Read above.

The logos (Word of God) comes to us as reason in us, in Creation, in Scripture and in Christ incarnate. It is four-fold in its manifestation.


Ps. I would also add that we need to not confuse reason in us and it's right use in integrity seeking what is clear about God.
 
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Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
The logos (Word of God) comes to us as reason in us, in Creation, in Scripture and in Christ incarnate. It is four-fold in its manifestation.

And which of these are infallible? Our reason is derivative and creation is derivative, so to start with them is to start with the lesser. Christ incarnate is only known to our reason through Scripture. So it seems to me that Scripture takes primacy in any discussion of reason.
 

Beth Ellen Nagle

Puritan Board Senior
The logos (Word of God) comes to us as reason in us, in Creation, in Scripture and in Christ incarnate. It is four-fold in its manifestation.

And which of these are infallible? Our reason is derivative and creation is derivative, so to start with them is to start with the lesser. Christ incarnate is only known to our reason through Scripture. So it seems to me that Scripture takes primacy in any discussion of reason.


Fair questions. :) Let me see how to put this.

I first question if reason is derivative. Do you mean our reason is created? I don't see the laws of thought as "created". If nothing existed but the Triune God they would exist and they would be true. They are ontological.


The Word of God comes to us infallibly in four ways.

Reason -laws of thought. Are they negotiable? If one thinks clearly about basic things what will that show them? (see above)

Creation - Clarity of God's nature (eternality) and attributes (being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth) are revealed by the things created. Contrary to the Apostle Paul, is Creation unclear? By Creation this would include the nature of man as rational, created in the image of God.

Scripture - Are there contradictions in Scripture? Can it violate the laws of thought? The implications of this are severe if we deny it.

Christ the Lord - Does our Lord uphold reason ( laws of thought and Scripture) in all he teaches?

I hope this helps.
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
I first question if reason is derivative. Do you mean our reason is created?

I didn't say "created" on purpose .. but human reason is derived from God .. the imago Dei .. without the imago Dei we would not be able to reason. So our ability to reason is derived from God.

The Word of God comes to us infallibly in four ways.
Reason -laws of thought.

Does this mean that the Word of God can be found infallibly in human reason? If it could then we would need nothing other than human reason to know the Word of God; that's the implication of the word infallibly.

Without God revealing His reason in Scripture, how can we know if we are exercising ours correctly?


If the Word of God could be found infallibly in creation we would not need special revelation to know God.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
The logos (Word of God) comes to us as reason in us, in Creation, in Scripture and in Christ incarnate. It is four-fold in its manifestation.

And which of these are infallible? Our reason is derivative and creation is derivative, so to start with them is to start with the lesser. Christ incarnate is only known to our reason through Scripture. So it seems to me that Scripture takes primacy in any discussion of reason.

So when one has various different versions of scripture before them, why do you pick one to have priority?

Also, to say God comes to us in four-fold manifestation, would imply that they all lead to the say place. So to say which is infallible makes no sense. Now one could say that some do not use reason properly and therefore end up in a ditch.

CT
 
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Beth Ellen Nagle

Puritan Board Senior
I first question if reason is derivative. Do you mean our reason is created?

I didn't say "created" on purpose .. but human reason is derived from God .. the imago Dei .. without the imago Dei we would not be able to reason. So our ability to reason is derived from God.


Ok, yes, I understand.




The Word of God comes to us infallibly in four ways.
Reason -laws of thought.

Does this mean that the Word of God can be found infallibly in human reason? If it could then we would need nothing other than human reason to know the Word of God; that's the implication of the word infallibly.

Without God revealing His reason in Scripture, how can we know if we are exercising ours correctly?


If the Word of God could be found infallibly in creation we would not need special revelation to know God.


We can know we are exercising reason correctly if we understand what is clear at the basic level and then understand less basic issue in light of that. We think presuppositionally. Scripture comes to us necessarily to show how God is both merciful and just to man in his sin against clear General Revelation. Scripture is one aspect of God's Revelation to us. It is special in the sense that it reveals what is not discoverable by reason alone or Creation. This does not mean it is contrary to reason. I should add that we can know that we are in need of redemption to which Scripture is the answer.

What is understood in Creation by reason will not contradict what is understand in Scripture by reason. Scripture speaks in the name of the God who is there and is not silent. This is why we reject other other claims to possessing the Word of God in writing. It contradicts the revelation in both reason and Creation.
 

Beth Ellen Nagle

Puritan Board Senior
We can know we are exercising reason correctly if we understand what is clear at the basic level and then understand less basic issue in light of that.

Can you give me an example of what "the basic level" is?


Sure. Let me first establish that what I mean by clear at the basic level is that which is clear to all who can think. Is this where you understand me to be coming from when I speak of the basic level of clarity and understanding?
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
We can know we are exercising reason correctly if we understand what is clear at the basic level and then understand less basic issue in light of that.

Can you give me an example of what "the basic level" is?


Sure. Let me first establish that what I mean by clear at the basic level is that which is clear to all who can think. Is this where you understand me to be coming from when I speak of the basic level of clarity and understanding?

Yes, give me one of those basics in which the Word of God infallibly comes.
 

Beth Ellen Nagle

Puritan Board Senior
Can you give me an example of what "the basic level" is?


Sure. Let me first establish that what I mean by clear at the basic level is that which is clear to all who can think. Is this where you understand me to be coming from when I speak of the basic level of clarity and understanding?

Yes, give me one of those basics in which the Word of God infallibly comes.


Ok, sounds good. I will write something up as soon as I am able. I keep home with a near six year old at hand. :)
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I think Clark's and Van Til's point is that behind all human reason is God's reason, and the only place we can objectively encounter God's reason is in Scripture.

Van Til definitely taught the sufficiency of natural revelation. At that point he was placing one foot on old Princeton's shoulder.
 

Beth Ellen Nagle

Puritan Board Senior
I think Clark's and Van Til's point is that behind all human reason is God's reason, and the only place we can objectively encounter God's reason is in Scripture.

Van Til definitely taught the sufficiency of natural revelation. At that point he was placing one foot on old Princeton's shoulder.

I am not sure about this. I defer to you Mr. Winzer until I do a bit more study. :) I do think he did build on both Princeton and Kuyper. He did value evidential apologetics. He might hold to natural revelation somehow getting through to man and man deep down *knowing* God and suppressing and rejecting that better knowledge. That is a debatable approach to understanding inexcusability. Well, it's a rich subject isn't it?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I am not sure about this. I defer to you Mr. Winzer until I do a bit more study. :) I do think he did build on both Princeton and Kuyper. He did value evidential apologetics. He might hold to natural revelation somehow getting through to man and man deep down *knowing* God and suppressing and rejecting that better knowledge. That is a debatable approach to understanding inexcusability. Well, it's a rich subject isn't it?

Yes, it certainly is a very rich subject, made so by the fact that our theology is intertwined in the way we understand human rationality.

Van Til wrote: "At every stage in history God's revelation in nature is sufficient for the purpose it was meant to serve, that of being the playground for the process of differentiation between those who would and those who would not serve God" (Doctrine of Scripture, 7).

I don't think there has been a more descriptive attribution given to natural revelation. As ones who acknowledge history as the process by which God works out His eternal purpose we must be careful not to undermine God's eternal purpose by ascribing to history an independent meaning.

Again, on the perspicuity of natural revelation: "Nature can and does reveal nothing but the one comprehensive plan of God... Scripture takes the clarity of God's revelation for granted at every stage of human history... Creatures have no private chambers" (Ibid., 8, 9).
 

Beth Ellen Nagle

Puritan Board Senior
I am not sure about this. I defer to you Mr. Winzer until I do a bit more study. :) I do think he did build on both Princeton and Kuyper. He did value evidential apologetics. He might hold to natural revelation somehow getting through to man and man deep down *knowing* God and suppressing and rejecting that better knowledge. That is a debatable approach to understanding inexcusability. Well, it's a rich subject isn't it?

Yes, it certainly is a very rich subject, made so by the fact that our theology is intertwined in the way we understand human rationality.

Van Til wrote: "At every stage in history God's revelation in nature is sufficient for the purpose it was meant to serve, that of being the playground for the process of differentiation between those who would and those who would not serve God" (Doctrine of Scripture, 7).

I don't think there has been a more descriptive attribution given to natural revelation. As ones who acknowledge history as the process by which God works out His eternal purpose we must be careful not to undermine God's eternal purpose by ascribing to history an independent meaning.

Again, on the perspicuity of natural revelation: "Nature can and does reveal nothing but the one comprehensive plan of God... Scripture takes the clarity of God's revelation for granted at every stage of human history... Creatures have no private chambers" (Ibid., 8, 9).

Thanks so much. I will go back and reference this.
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, pp. 112-113:

No one, on the basis of present general revelation alone, actually knows God aright as the Creator. It is not as though man by himself and on the basis of natural revelation alone can truly know God as the creator, but that he cannot truly know God as Savior. Man ought, to be sure, from nature to know God as creator, seeing that nature clearly displays the creator. But since man has become a sinner, he has become a willing slave of sin (ethelodoulos). (Calvin's Institutes, II, 2.) He therefore never reads the “book of nature” aright even with respect to “natural” things. He may, to be sure, by virtue of the sense of deity within him, give involuntary, adventitious interpretations of natural revelation that are, so far forth, correct. In this sense every man knows God and knows himself to be a creature of God (Rom. 1:19). But to the extent that he interprets nature according to his own adopted principles, he does not speak the truth on any subject.
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
Clark, God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, pp. 66-67.

When Adam was created and placed in the Garden of Eden, he did not know what to do. Nor would a study of the Garden have led to any necessary conclusion. His duty was imposed upon him by a special divine revelation. God told him to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue nature, to make use of the animals, and to eat of the fruit of the trees (with one fateful exception). Thus moral norms, commands, and prohibitions were established by a special and not a general revelation. Only so could man know God's requirements, and only so later could he learn the plan of salvation.
 

Beth Ellen Nagle

Puritan Board Senior
Clark, God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, pp. 66-67.

When Adam was created and placed in the Garden of Eden, he did not know what to do. Nor would a study of the Garden have led to any necessary conclusion. His duty was imposed upon him by a special divine revelation. God told him to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue nature, to make use of the animals, and to eat of the fruit of the trees (with one fateful exception). Thus moral norms, commands, and prohibitions were established by a special and not a general revelation. Only so could man know God's requirements, and only so later could he learn the plan of salvation.

Interesting quote. Thanks! I think I have a good rebuttal to this. :) Not now though. :D

I don't mean that glibly of course.

-----Added 4/14/2009 at 11:16:16 EST-----

Clark, God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, pp. 66-67.

When Adam was created and placed in the Garden of Eden, he did not know what to do. Nor would a study of the Garden have led to any necessary conclusion. His duty was imposed upon him by a special divine revelation. God told him to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue nature, to make use of the animals, and to eat of the fruit of the trees (with one fateful exception). Thus moral norms, commands, and prohibitions were established by a special and not a general revelation. Only so could man know God's requirements, and only so later could he learn the plan of salvation.

Interesting quote. Thanks! I think I have a good rebuttal to this. :) Not now though. :D

I don't mean that glibly of course.

I apologize if I sound like I am out to rebutt such profound gentlemen. I would never presume. That is not my intention. I do think, though, that this approach to understanding the Fall in the garden needs looked at more closely and critically.
 

kalawine

Puritan Board Junior
Consider how Paul speaks of General Revelation as revealing the Divine nature and attributes (being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth). Can naturalists and Hindus know this? Ought they to know this? Are they excusable?

They are inexcusable because they are liars. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They lie about what they know.
 

Beth Ellen Nagle

Puritan Board Senior
Consider how Paul speaks of General Revelation as revealing the Divine nature and attributes (being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth). Can naturalists and Hindus know this? Ought they to know this? Are they excusable?

They are inexcusable because they are liars. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They lie about what they know.

Romans 3: 10,11, " As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.


If no one understands, then how can you say they know? I think we have to dig a bit deeper to understand this.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Clark, God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, pp. 66-67.

Thus moral norms, commands, and prohibitions were established by a special and not a general revelation.

The Confession clearly teaches that our first parents had the law of God written in their hearts. The special revelation forbidding to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is considered a "positive" commandment, not a "moral" one, and intended only to direct man to his eschatological goal.
 
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