Gordon H. Clark on Logic in Man

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Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
Gordon H. Clark, Logic, pp. 122-124

Logic in Man

With this understanding of God’s mind, the next step is the creation of man in God’s image. The non-rational animals were not created in his image; but God breathed his spirit into the earthly form, and Adam became a type of soul superior to the animals.

To be precise, one should not speak of the image of God in man. Man is not something in which somewhere God’s image can be found along with other things. Man is the image. This, of course, does not refer to man’s body. The body is an instrument or tool man uses. He himself is God’s breath, the spirit God breathed into the clay, the mind, the thinking ego. Therefore, man is rational in the likeness of God’s rationality. His mind is structured as Aristotelian logic described it. That is why we believe that spaniels have teeth.

In addition to the well-known verses in chapter one, Genesis 5:1 and 9:6 both repeat the idea. 1 Corinthians 11:7 says, "man ... is the image and glory of God." See also Colossians 3:10 and James 3:9. Other verses, not so explicit, nonetheless add to our information. Compare Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 2:6-8, and Psalm 8. But the conclusive consideration is that throughout the Bible as a whole the rational God gives man an intelligible message.

It is strange that anyone who thinks he is a Christian should deprecate logic. Such a person does not of course intend to deprecate the mind of God; but he thinks that logic in man is sinful, even more sinful than other parts of man’s fallen nature. This, however, makes no sense. The law of contradiction cannot be sinful. Quite the contrary, it is our violations of the law of contradiction that are sinful. Yet the strictures which some devotional writers place on "merely human" logic are amazing. Can such pious stupidity really mean that a syllogism that is valid for us is invalid for God? If two plus two is four in our arithmetic, does God have a different arithmetic in which two and two makes three or perhaps five?

The fact that the Son of God is God’s reason—for Christ is the wisdom of God as well as the power of God—plus the fact that the image in man is so-called "human reason," suffices to show that this so-called "human reason" is not so much human as divine.

Of course, the Scripture says that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. But is it good exegesis to say that this means his logic, his arithmetic, his truth are not ours? If this were so, what would the consequences be? It would mean not only that our additions and subtractions are all wrong, but also that all our thoughts—in history as well as in arithmetic—are all wrong. If for example, we think that David was King of Israel, and God’s thoughts are not ours, then it follows that God does not think David was King of Israel. David in God’s mind was perchance prime minister of Babylon.

To avoid this irrationalism, which of course is a denial of the divine image, we must insist that truth is the same for God and man. Naturally, we may not know the truth about some matters. But if we know anything at all, what we must know must be identical with what God knows. God knows all truth, and unless we know something God knows, our ideas are untrue. It is absolutely essential therefore to insist that there is an area of coincidence between God’s mind and our mind.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
To avoid this irrationalism, which of course is a denial of the divine image, we must insist that truth is the same for God and man.

Given the incomprehensibility of God, the possibility of man knowing what God knows can only be predicated on the understanding that the truth has been accommodated so as to be knowable by human capacity. Any denial of this fact involves man in rational idolatry.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
To avoid this irrationalism, which of course is a denial of the divine image, we must insist that truth is the same for God and man.

Given the incomprehensibility of God, the possibility of man knowing what God knows can only be predicated on the understanding that the truth has been accommodated so as to be knowable by human capacity. Any denial of this fact involves man in rational idolatry.

Would this imply a qualitative difference in the propositions that man and God know?

Would 1+1=2 mean something different to man than to God? If so, how, and how does that not entail skepticism?

I guess I'm just not seeing the distinction you're making here. It is fairly clear that, in some sense, the proposition we have in our mind must be present somewhere in God's mind for us to know it.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member

Given the incomprehensibility of God, the possibility of man knowing what God knows can only be predicated on the understanding that the truth has been accommodated so as to be knowable by human capacity. Any denial of this fact involves man in rational idolatry.

Would this imply a qualitative difference in the propositions that man and God know?

Would 1+1=2 mean something different to man than to God? If so, how, and how does that not entail skepticism?

I guess I'm just not seeing the distinction you're making here. It is fairly clear that, in some sense, the proposition we have in our mind must be present somewhere in God's mind for us to know it.


Ben, note Matthew's careful phrasing: "predicated on the understanding that the truth has been accommodated so as to be knowable by human capacity. . . ."

1 + 1 = 2 means exactly what God would have us to understand it means. The concept is the same to God and to Man, but God's understanding of everything entailed in that expression is far more vast than ours. In the realm of counting, 1 + 1 = 2, but in the realm of marriage, for example, God tells us that 1 + 1 = 1. ;)

In other words, the concept of unity and addition have greater depth and consequences than our finite minds can conceive on their own, yet what we do conceive, if true, comports with the truth as God would have us understand it.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Given the incomprehensibility of God, the possibility of man knowing what God knows can only be predicated on the understanding that the truth has been accommodated so as to be knowable by human capacity. Any denial of this fact involves man in rational idolatry.

Would this imply a qualitative difference in the propositions that man and God know?

Would 1+1=2 mean something different to man than to God? If so, how, and how does that not entail skepticism?

I guess I'm just not seeing the distinction you're making here. It is fairly clear that, in some sense, the proposition we have in our mind must be present somewhere in God's mind for us to know it.


Ben, note Matthew's careful phrasing: "predicated on the understanding that the truth has been accommodated so as to be knowable by human capacity. . . ."

1 + 1 = 2 means exactly what God would have us to understand it means. The concept is the same to God and to Man, but God's understanding of everything entailed in that expression is far more vast than ours. In the realm of counting, 1 + 1 = 2, but in the realm of marriage, for example, God tells us that 1 + 1 = 1. ;)

In other words, the concept of unity and addition have greater depth and consequences than our finite minds can conceive on their own, yet what we do conceive, if true, comports with the truth as God would have us understand it.

Okay, that's what I was hoping to hear.

To reiterate: are you saying that since God knows 1+1=2 in the context of every other proposition in the world, it follows that He has a qualitatively deeper knowledge of that proposition than man?
 

sealdaSupralapsarian

Puritan Board Freshman
To avoid this irrationalism, which of course is a denial of the divine image, we must insist that truth is the same for God and man.

Given the incomprehensibility of God, the possibility of man knowing what God knows can only be predicated on the understanding that the truth has been accommodated so as to be knowable by human capacity. Any denial of this fact involves man in rational idolatry.

Clark has a good critique of Rationalism you may want to listen to if you are gathering from that quote that he means anything you are asserting. If God's comprehension is different than ours then that leads to irrational idolatry. There would be no need for confessions, creeds, nor scripture for our Comprehension is not capable of understanding that of God's.

Grace and Peace,
seal

-----Added 6/15/2009 at 02:52:23 EST-----

Would this imply a qualitative difference in the propositions that man and God know?

Would 1+1=2 mean something different to man than to God? If so, how, and how does that not entail skepticism?

I guess I'm just not seeing the distinction you're making here. It is fairly clear that, in some sense, the proposition we have in our mind must be present somewhere in God's mind for us to know it.


Ben, note Matthew's careful phrasing: "predicated on the understanding that the truth has been accommodated so as to be knowable by human capacity. . . ."

1 + 1 = 2 means exactly what God would have us to understand it means. The concept is the same to God and to Man, but God's understanding of everything entailed in that expression is far more vast than ours. In the realm of counting, 1 + 1 = 2, but in the realm of marriage, for example, God tells us that 1 + 1 = 1. ;)

In other words, the concept of unity and addition have greater depth and consequences than our finite minds can conceive on their own, yet what we do conceive, if true, comports with the truth as God would have us understand it.

Okay, that's what I was hoping to hear.

To reiterate: are you saying that since God knows 1+1=2 in the context of every other proposition in the world, it follows that He has a qualitatively deeper knowledge of that proposition than man?

What??? How do you suppose that it's Qualitative? Are we to think three friends who agree on everything are 1 since the Trinity is 1???...LOL... What God gives there in scripture of a man and woman being one is a proposition. Not him showing how more Qualitative his mind than our when it comes to math...LOL...We can all comprehend and understand completely what God means by a man and woman being One.

God's knowledge is infinitely more in quantity.


Grace and Peace,
seal
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
What??? How do you suppose that it's Qualitative? Are we to think three friends who agree on everything are 1 since the Trinity is 1???...LOL... What God gives there in scripture of a man and woman being one is a proposition. Not him showing how more Qualitative his mind than our when it comes to math...LOL...We can all comprehend and understand completely what God means by a man and woman being One.

God's knowledge is infinitely more in quantity.


Grace and Peace,
seal

I'm not sure exactly what you're trying to prove with your examples of three friends agreeing and marriage, but for the record, I don't see a distinction between God's having a qualitatively deeper knowledge (in the sense I mentioned) and His having a quantitative difference in knowledge. I was going to make that point if I understood what Victor was saying.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Would this imply a qualitative difference in the propositions that man and God know?

Would 1+1=2 mean something different to man than to God? If so, how, and how does that not entail skepticism?

I guess I'm just not seeing the distinction you're making here. It is fairly clear that, in some sense, the proposition we have in our mind must be present somewhere in God's mind for us to know it.


Ben, note Matthew's careful phrasing: "predicated on the understanding that the truth has been accommodated so as to be knowable by human capacity. . . ."

1 + 1 = 2 means exactly what God would have us to understand it means. The concept is the same to God and to Man, but God's understanding of everything entailed in that expression is far more vast than ours. In the realm of counting, 1 + 1 = 2, but in the realm of marriage, for example, God tells us that 1 + 1 = 1. ;)

In other words, the concept of unity and addition have greater depth and consequences than our finite minds can conceive on their own, yet what we do conceive, if true, comports with the truth as God would have us understand it.

Okay, that's what I was hoping to hear.

To reiterate: are you saying that since God knows 1+1=2 in the context of every other proposition in the world, it follows that He has a qualitatively deeper knowledge of that proposition than man?

I'm having a bit of trouble with "qualitative." I could just as easily describe it as quantitative.

Maybe an analogy might help with what I mean: A child can learn 1 apple + 1 apple = 2 apples. The child then learns that this applies to oranges as well. This is an abstraction that is earth-shaking for thought. The child then can apply the principle to counting any number of things.

But still, the child doesn't really understand what else is implied by 1 + 1 = 2. For instance, it will be a while before the child can understand that a series of 1 + 1s put into a mathematical expression, and then divided by the same series plus yet another "1" defines a powerful limit function. The mathematician who uses limit functions every day uses the basic addition proposition in ways that can boggle the mind.

In a similar fashion, God understands the full expression of 1 + 1 = 2, in all of its combinations and permutations, in the created universe without having to do any calculations at all. He set these things forth. So, yes, in that sense, his qualitative understanding of the proposition is much deeper. But in the sense of whether 1 apple + 1 apple = 2 apples, in a particular location, I don't see how there could be any qualitative difference.

Maybe I'm missing your question. I do think that there is a qualitative difference in how we understand propositions, but not in the propositions themselves. For example: God created us with an intuitive and innate capacity to abstract from observation: we add two items together and get a sum. We cannot, however, do that for every item in the universe. We must remain content with the knowledge that this is a universal truth that we cannot verify for ourselves in every case.

But God doesn't have to be content with this understanding. He knows of every item in the created universe and he can account for them without abstraction. So his understanding of the proposition is from the perspective of creating an order in which the proposition is true, whereas our understanding is derivitive of (1) observation of that order and (2) revelation.
 

sealdaSupralapsarian

Puritan Board Freshman
What??? How do you suppose that it's Qualitative? Are we to think three friends who agree on everything are 1 since the Trinity is 1???...LOL... What God gives there in scripture of a man and woman being one is a proposition. Not him showing how more Qualitative his mind than our when it comes to math...LOL...We can all comprehend and understand completely what God means by a man and woman being One.

God's knowledge is infinitely more in quantity.


Grace and Peace,
seal

I'm not sure exactly what you're trying to prove with your examples of three friends agreeing and marriage, but for the record, I don't see a distinction between God's having a qualitatively deeper knowledge (in the sense I mentioned) and His having a quantitative difference in knowledge. I was going to make that point if I understood what Victor was saying.


Samething I was thinking. What is confessor trying to prove with marriage and the qualitative knowledge of God? A bit incompatible.

There is a clear difference and distinction between qualitative and quantitative knowledge. You can't say God has both and mean the samething for both definition can you?



Grace and Peace,
seal
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Victor,

If you already agree that the "how" is qualitatively different whereas the "what" is only quantitatively different, then why would Clark be accused of rational idolatry?

-----Added 6/15/2009 at 03:14:33 EST-----

Samething I was thinking. What is confessor trying to prove with marriage and the qualitative knowledge of God? A bit incompatible.

There is a clear difference and distinction between qualitative and quantitative knowledge. You can't say God has both and mean the samething for both definition can you?


Grace and Peace,
seal

First, you can call me Ben. :)

Second, I didn't make the point about marriage.

Third, I agree that the objects of God's knowledge differs from man's only quantitatively. I am a Van Tillian, but I do not take everything CVT said as gospel.
 

sealdaSupralapsarian

Puritan Board Freshman
First, you can call me Ben. :)

Second, I didn't make the point about marriage.

Third, I agree that the objects of God's knowledge differs from man's only quantitatively. I am a Van Tillian, but I do not take everything CVT said as gospel.

Hmmmm...... Okay Ben, thanks. I thought you did but I may be mistaken again... Also, I didn't know you didn't take anything CVT said as Gospel. You're one of the first ones I've ran into to say it and still live....LOL....seriously though. Down here whenever I do visit a Presbyterian church I keep my Clarkianism to myself or risk being called a rationalist or Black Guy who thinks he's smart...LOL....

Grace and Peace,
seal
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Victor,

If you already agree that the "how" is qualitatively different whereas the "what" is only quantitatively different, then why would Clark be accused of rational idolatry?

I didn't think he was being accused of rational idolatry, but rather that a cautious qualification should be observed.

I don't want to replay the old debate, because I think it got bogged down in turf-battles over definitions, but I can't recall where, if anywhere, Clark addressed the question of how God's decree of propositional truth is from a different perspective than ours, ie. he is the source and we are the recipient.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Also, I didn't know you didn't take anything CVT said as Gospel. You're one of the first ones I've ran into to say it and still live....LOL....seriously though. Down here whenever I do visit a Presbyterian church I keep my Clarkianism to myself or risk being called a rationalist or Black Guy who thinks he's smart...LOL....

"Black Guy who thinks he's smart" :rofl:

-----Added 6/15/2009 at 03:27:00 EST-----

I didn't think he was being accused of rational idolatry, but rather that a cautious qualification should be observed.

I don't want to replay the old debate, because I think it got bogged down in turf-battles over definitions, but I can't recall where, if anywhere, Clark addressed the question of how God's decree of propositional truth is from a different perspective than ours, ie. he is the source and we are the recipient.

I was referring to Rev. Winzer's mention above regarding "rational idolatry."

So was the charge against Clark in the "Complaint" that he didn't make the analogical nature of knowledge (God creates it and man discovers it, etc.) explicit enough?

I don't know, this seems to be a rather obvious thing that he would have believed. Was the problem that he didn't explicitly mention it?
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
At the obvious risk of a pile-on, since even Ben differs with me here, I would argue that, because of God's simplicity, if our knowledge coincided with his at any one point, then our knowledge would coincide with his at every point, and since our knowledge would coincide with God's -- again because of his simplicity -- we would be God.

We don't know things with the knowledge of the creator and source. We know derivatively and by reflection.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
I think that argument from God's simplicity would follow only if divine simplicity entailed that God knows only one proposition.

Keep in mind also that the "quantitative difference" advocates are pulling for a quantitative difference only regarding the objects of knowledge, not the entire process of knowledge, the "what" and not the "how."
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
At the obvious risk of a pile-on, since even Ben differs with me here, I would argue that, because of God's simplicity, if our knowledge coincided with his at any one point, then our knowledge would coincide with his at every point, and since our knowledge would coincide with God's -- again because of his simplicity -- we would be God.

We don't know things with the knowledge of the creator and source. We know derivatively and by reflection.

Here is what I'm thinking on this matter. If I know my toe hurts, doesn't God also know my toe hurts. At that point don't we both know the same thing, i.e., my toe hurts. This doesn't mean I know everything God knows, but on that one point we both know my toe hurts. God's knowledge is more extensive, because He also knows why my toe hurts and how the pain will be resolved. Things I do not know. But isn't there at least one thing we both know in common - my toe hurts. Am I missing something here?
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
I think that argument from God's simplicity would follow only if divine simplicity entailed that God knows only one proposition.

Keep in mind also that the "quantitative difference" advocates are pulling for a quantitative difference only regarding the objects of knowledge, not the entire process of knowledge, the "what" and not the "how."

Your statement assumes that multiple propositions are independent and do not find unity in the knowledge of God.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Yes, Lance, I would say that is it. In a sense, God's knowledge is qualitatively deeper regarding the fact that your toe hurts, but nonetheless this "qualitative" difference is nothing else than a quantitatively "thicker" knowledge of all the propositions relating to the pain of your toe.

Thus I'd think it'd be a misnomer to say that the objects of God's knowledge are qualitatively different from the objects of man's knowledge.

-----

Clark,

That propositions find unity in God does not mean that we can't know part of that unity.

If we say that we can know a single proposition with as much depth as God knows it, then we would have to know the entire system and thereby claim to be God. But we're not claiming that. Knowing a proposition to some extent does not entail knowing it exhaustively, and we would have to know it exhaustively to know it in the context of God's unified knowledge -- but that doesn't mean we can know propositions non-exhaustively.
 
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Craig

Puritan Board Senior
At the obvious risk of a pile-on, since even Ben differs with me here, I would argue that, because of God's simplicity, if our knowledge coincided with his at any one point, then our knowledge would coincide with his at every point, and since our knowledge would coincide with God's -- again because of his simplicity -- we would be God.

We don't know things with the knowledge of the creator and source. We know derivatively and by reflection.

Interesting.

I got into it a bit with some Clarkians at my church (smart white dudes, not black dudes :lol: ) and they insisted that God's knowledge and man's knowledge coincide and are qualitatively the same though quantitatively different.

It would seem the Creator/creature distinction would be pretty much obliterated if this were the case.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Interesting.

I got into it a bit with some Clarkians at my church (smart white dudes, not black dudes :lol: ) and they insisted that God's knowledge and man's knowledge coincide and are qualitatively the same though quantitatively different.

It would seem the Creator/creature distinction would be pretty much obliterated if this were the case.

In order for you to see why I am so vehemently defending a quantitative difference only, I'll have you look at this:

If God knows that 1+1=2, and if God's knowledge coincides at no point with man's knowledge (i.e. it is qualitatively distinct), then it follows that man cannot know that 1+1=2.

In other words, how does positing a qualitative difference in the objects of knowledge not imply skepticism? The concept of analogy must imply correspondence at some point. If man's knowledge does not correspond to God concerning the referent of knowledge, then where does it correspond?
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
At the obvious risk of a pile-on, since even Ben differs with me here, I would argue that, because of God's simplicity, if our knowledge coincided with his at any one point, then our knowledge would coincide with his at every point, and since our knowledge would coincide with God's -- again because of his simplicity -- we would be God.

We don't know things with the knowledge of the creator and source. We know derivatively and by reflection.

Here is what I'm thinking on this matter. If I know my toe hurts, doesn't God also know my toe hurts. At that point don't we both know the same thing, i.e., my toe hurts. This doesn't mean I know everything God knows, but on that one point we both know my toe hurts. God's knowledge is more extensive, because He also knows why my toe hurts and how the pain will be resolved. Things I do not know. But isn't there at least one thing we both know in common - my toe hurts. Am I missing something here?

Not being a philosopher, perhaps the following will be droll at least:

A good historian does not simply report facts, but traces those facts back to their causes and such. I may know that my toe hurts. But I don't know why (other than a sequencing of events). I don't know the ultimate cause (the decree of God) because it is incomprehensible to me. I may be able to string together some of the events that led to it, but I certainly cannot know the purpose for which my toe was stubbed or my nail grew inwards. Nor can I know any but the sensation of pain -- unless perhaps I'm a neurologist and can know some of the nervous explanation. But God knows my toe, me, my pain and its causes and ends in a wholly different manner than I do. And this is not divisible into propositions, but as the confession notes, his decree is singular (though, admittedly, the catechism wavers on this -- something by which I've always been intrigued).

-----Added 6/15/2009 at 04:40:43 EST-----

Interesting.

I got into it a bit with some Clarkians at my church (smart white dudes, not black dudes :lol: ) and they insisted that God's knowledge and man's knowledge coincide and are qualitatively the same though quantitatively different.

It would seem the Creator/creature distinction would be pretty much obliterated if this were the case.

In order for you to see why I am so vehemently defending a quantitative difference only, I'll have you look at this:

If God knows that 1+1=2, and if God's knowledge coincides at no point with man's knowledge (i.e. it is qualitatively distinct), then it follows that man cannot know that 1+1=2.

In other words, how does positing a qualitative difference in the objects of knowledge not imply skepticism? The concept of analogy must imply correspondence at some point. If man's knowledge does not correspond to God concerning the referent of knowledge, then where does it correspond?

If the standard to evade skepticism is God's comprehensibility, then it does imply skepticism. But that's not my standard.
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
At the obvious risk of a pile-on, since even Ben differs with me here, I would argue that, because of God's simplicity, if our knowledge coincided with his at any one point, then our knowledge would coincide with his at every point, and since our knowledge would coincide with God's -- again because of his simplicity -- we would be God.

We don't know things with the knowledge of the creator and source. We know derivatively and by reflection.

Interesting.

I got into it a bit with some Clarkians at my church (smart white dudes, not black dudes :lol: ) and they insisted that God's knowledge and man's knowledge coincide and are qualitatively the same though quantitatively different.

It would seem the Creator/creature distinction would be pretty much obliterated if this were the case.

Yes there is a distinction between Creator/creature. But what can we say about the intersection of Deus/imago dei, which GHC would want to inject into the discussion?
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
I may know that my toe hurts. But I don't know why (other than a sequencing of events). I don't know the ultimate cause (the decree of God) because it is incomprehensible to me. I may be able to string together some of the events that led to it, but I certainly cannot know the purpose for which my toe was stubbed or my nail grew inwards. Nor can I know any but the sensation of pain -- unless perhaps I'm a neurologist and can know some of the nervous explanation. But God knows my toe, me, my pain and its causes and ends in a wholly different manner than I do. And this is not divisible into propositions, but as the confession notes, his decree is singular (though, admittedly, the catechism wavers on this -- something by which I've always been intrigued).

Notice that in your describing the qualitative difference of God's knowledge, you are listing off (quantitatively) different facts that God knows in relation to the specific fact of toe pain. The allegedly qualitative difference is nothing more than a quantitatively "thicker" knowledge.

-----Added 6/15/2009 at 04:43:28 EST-----

If the standard to evade skepticism is God's comprehensibility, then it does imply skepticism. But that's not my standard.

Clark, you know that's not what i was saying. If God knows everything, and if man's knowledge coincides with God's at no point, then how can man know anything?

Note I did not attempt to establish the conditional proposition, "If God is comprehensible, then non-skepticism."

------

To all,

Let me reiterate the point I touched on earlier: Analogy presupposes a measure of some correspondence and a measure of some discorrespondence. It is an amalgamation. Just as there are some attributes that are communicable from God to man, so also it is not prima facie destructive of the Creator-creature distinction to say that their difference in terms of objects of knowledge is only quantitative. Man knows the actual truth when he knows things, not an analogy of the truth (as Bahnsen himself said in Van Til's Apologetic).
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
Not being a philosopher, perhaps the following will be droll at least:

A good historian does not simply report facts, but traces those facts back to their causes and such. I may know that my toe hurts. But I don't know why (other than a sequencing of events). I don't know the ultimate cause (the decree of God) because it is incomprehensible to me. I may be able to string together some of the events that led to it, but I certainly cannot know the purpose for which my toe was stubbed or my nail grew inwards. Nor can I know any but the sensation of pain -- unless perhaps I'm a neurologist and can know some of the nervous explanation. But God knows my toe, me, my pain and its causes and ends in a wholly different manner than I do. And this is not divisible into propositions, but as the confession notes, his decree is singular (though, admittedly, the catechism wavers on this -- something by which I've always been intrigued).

Ok. But I know my toe hurts and God knows my toe hurts; do we know the same thing? (I've already acknowledged the issues of extensiveness).
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
Again, I'm not the philosopher that you are. But I may know every single event of the civil war. Yet I cannot fathom why it arose. I may be able to give some explanation in a limited context, but I cannot give you the purpose beyond the war. I may even be able to tell you positive and negative results that have happened since. But I could never tell you for what purpose Sherman burned Atlanta. The ultimate purpose of that is in the incomprehensible and singular counsel of God. If Romans 8:28ff teaches us anything, it ought to teach us humility with respect to the decree. The very idea that one act of evil can come about for the blessing of some and cursing of others -- all of which actions and their results are custom tailored -- is beyond the human imagination. And yet we are told it is so. For the want of a shoe the entire kingdom crumbles, and we may be able to string together some explanation, but the purpose lies beyond us.

I may know that my toe hurts. But I don't know why (other than a sequencing of events). I don't know the ultimate cause (the decree of God) because it is incomprehensible to me. I may be able to string together some of the events that led to it, but I certainly cannot know the purpose for which my toe was stubbed or my nail grew inwards. Nor can I know any but the sensation of pain -- unless perhaps I'm a neurologist and can know some of the nervous explanation. But God knows my toe, me, my pain and its causes and ends in a wholly different manner than I do. And this is not divisible into propositions, but as the confession notes, his decree is singular (though, admittedly, the catechism wavers on this -- something by which I've always been intrigued).

Notice that in your describing the qualitative difference of God's knowledge, you are listing off (quantitatively) different facts that God knows in relation to the specific fact of toe pain. The allegedly qualitative difference is nothing more than a quantitatively "thicker" knowledge.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
I didn't think he was being accused of rational idolatry, but rather that a cautious qualification should be observed.

I don't want to replay the old debate, because I think it got bogged down in turf-battles over definitions, but I can't recall where, if anywhere, Clark addressed the question of how God's decree of propositional truth is from a different perspective than ours, ie. he is the source and we are the recipient.

I was referring to Rev. Winzer's mention above regarding "rational idolatry."

So was the charge against Clark in the "Complaint" that he didn't make the analogical nature of knowledge (God creates it and man discovers it, etc.) explicit enough?

I don't know, this seems to be a rather obvious thing that he would have believed. Was the problem that he didn't explicitly mention it?

There's a lot more there than I can deal with right now, not even counting my hazy recollection of the controversy. I would have to say that Clark was a bit extreme on the notion that man could discover truth. He would routinely say that man could not know truth without revelation, period, even going so far as to say that there was no learning of truth through observation.

Yet, he would freely admit that empirical endeavors, like engineeing and science, did discover things that work. So, when you are dealing with Clark, there is always that difficulty of dealing with his peculiar view of truth and knowledge.

For instance: one might say that he knows that water bubbling on a hot stove will burn you if you stick your hand in it. Clark might say, no, you can't know that for certain, unless scripture teaches it.

Contrast that with one who would say that we were created to undestand that the created universe is subject to physical laws that we can discover and apply. The laws as we describe them are not a priori but, instead, are summarizations of observation of an ordered universe. He would say that prior experience in the realm of touching boiling water leads to useful knowledge.

My take on Clark would be that he'd say, yes, the understanding of avoiding boiling water is useful, but it is not true knowledge. OK, fair enough for a technical argument, but is such a statement itself useful? My guess is that Clark would then say he had no use for usefullness as a criterion in discerning truth.

I have great appreciation for Clark when he is battling the irrationalists. I cringe a little, though, at his method of conducting his side of the debate. Having listened to a lot of lectures, I sometimes wonder if half the time he was being humorously impish in his provocative statements.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
I can see why a pile-on is difficult now; I'm having trouble quoting and responding. So let me say this:

I'm not willing to put the ultimate cause, purpose, telos, or whatever you want to call it -- which is the singular decree of God, into the category of thickness or quantity. It is knowledge of a whole different order. It's the difference between why and what. Surely why is not a function of what.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Clark,

You're making good points about the limited extent of our knowledge-capacity, and I think that nicely demonstrates how God is incomprehensible.

But what I want to protect is the fact that some proposition X can mean the same thing to both God and man. Certainly God knows whatever man apprehends from it and more, but what I'm protecting is that man's knowledge is true (not analogous to truth) as far as it goes.

In other words, I'm trying to make sure we do not impinge on the Creator-creature distinction and make God's incomprehensibility null, yet we do not want to result in skepticism. We are searching for an appropriate middle ground.

I'm not willing to put the ultimate cause, purpose, telos, or whatever you want to call it -- which is the singular decree of God, into the category of thickness or quantity. It is knowledge of a whole different order. It's the difference between why and what. Surely why is not a function of what.

This makes for an interesting discussion: is there a certain class of propositions which no man can ever find out? I think this is a very good point, but let's also keep in mind that this would imply there is another class of propositions (the "non-why") that man can know truly without knowing exhaustively.

-----Added 6/15/2009 at 05:03:13 EST-----

Victor,

I don't subscribe to Clark's Scripturalism. I think he makes some serious errors with that; hence I am a Van Tillian.

However, I think he was correct regarding the impossibility of a pure qualitative difference in all the objects of man's and God's knowledge. His basic argument goes: "If God knows everything and if man's knowledge never coincides with God at any point, then man can know nothing." And of course skepticism is antithetical to Christianity and our God of knowledge.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
Though it's only an analogy (pun not exactly intended, but appreciated), seeing me in a mirror, would you say that you saw me? Sure you would. But you really only saw a reflection of me. You didn't see me directly. You would have true knowledge about me -- as mediated through the 2D medium of the mirror. Similarly, I'm not saying that knowledge of a painful toe is not true. Nor am I saying that God does not know that my toe hurts. But God knows my toe hurts in an entirely different way. He understands it in all its relations. Now you might call that a quantitative difference, but I would argue that infinity is not a quantity at all.
 
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