Is mathematics an eternal truth?

Discussion in 'Defending the Faith' started by Gesetveemet, Aug 29, 2011.

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  1. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    One cannot deal with anything in an ordered and arbitrary fashion. To be ordered is precisely not to be arbitrary.

    Logic and mathematics are, I believe, part and parcel of what God has revealed to us of Himself. I think Van Til would agree.
  2. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    It might be more precise to say that God cannot make an error in logic.

    I think this is a problematic statement, as stated. God cannot lie, and we know this because it has been revealed to us. Would it be correct to say that God could sin or God could cease to exist if He simply wanted to? I don't think so.
  3. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Van Til's point was that our understanding of 1 + 1 = 2 can never equal God's understanding of the same thing. That was the debate I referred to above. The other guy said that there are (I think the word was) coincidences of knowledge at times between God and man, and that was one example, that our understanding of 1 + 1 = 2 is equal to God's understanding, and Van Til said no way. And that made sense to me because (among other reasons) we never really have union with God except through Christ's humanity, so He truly is "wholly other".
  4. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Well said on the ordered and abritrary thing. You are correct but remeber Van Til would insist that that revealation is analogical meaning that when God makes a promise to mankind it is not the case that he is bounded by some abstract logical principle but bounded covenantaly in his promise.

    ---------- Post added at 07:26 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:22 PM ----------

    Is God bounded than by some abstract idea of his nature or some morality outside of himself? No, he covenantaly binds himself to humanity in certian ways, this includes creation. Can God flood the earth again? Yes, but he covenantaly binds himself to not do so. So he can do whatever he wants but he has covenantaly bound himself in certian ways. I believe that is traditional Reformed theology.

    ---------- Post added at 07:27 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:26 PM ----------

    I completly agree Tim, thank you.
  5. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Correct---but nonetheless, from that, we can infer that God is indeed bounded by His promises. Likewise, the possibility of revelation presupposes that God's thought is reasonable---else it could not be communicated at all in language.
  6. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    I don't believe that anyone has said that God is bound by some morality outside of Himself, and I certainly don't believe that. Can God lie? Is it possible for Him to lie? Hebrews 6:18 seems to say otherwise -- it is impossible for Him to do so and this is something which cannot change. The way you have stated it, it sounds as if it is possible for God to lie; He simply choose chooses not to and binds Himself not to.
  7. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes but it is creaturly understandable and rational from a creaturly point of view.

    ---------- Post added at 08:03 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:50 PM ----------

    One of the biggest problems with understanding Van Til comes from his criticisms. He would say that a particuler group or persen was saying something that they explicitly denied. Van Til because of his philosophical training knew that sometimes what we say has logical consequences that we may not agree with but must accept if we are to affirm what we have previously affirmed. So when I say what I said what I meant was that you can make no rational sense without affirming these things too, which you rightly deny.

    All revealation is anthropomorphic. God has chosen certian ways of speaking to tell us things about himself. So when we equate said revealation with concrete one-to-one knolwedge of who he is than we err on that point. This is why the confession use the term "condescension" to refer to revealation because we can never coprehend God as he is but only creaturly understand his revealation of himself.
  8. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    And from a Divine POV as well.

    I think we also have to be careful to make sure and remember the incarnation, in which God was most fully and perfectly revealed.
  9. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    All revelation is anthropomorphic? I don't think you're using that word correctly. There are, for instance, propositionally true statements in Scripture that do not use anthropomorphic language. Incidentally, unless I am forgetting something, the Confession uses "condescension" to refer to God's covenants, not revelation (7:1). Not that I would disagree that His revelation is a kind condescension to us, and He communicates things to us on our level so that we can understand them, to use Calvin's nanny analogy.

    But can God lie? Is it possible for Him to do so? You earlier complained about using abstract ideas of God's nature or notions of morality existing outside of God that would bind Him, and rightly so. But you cannot exalt a philosophical system over the clear teaching of Scripture either.

    I am not, btw, a Clarkian (or a rationalist), and I tend to agree with much I understand Van Til as saying. But if what you are saying (and please correct me if I am misinterpreting -- this is why I keep asking the question) is that God can lie, that it is in His nature to lie, that He simply chooses not to lie and binds Himself in this way, and that Scripture is not clear when it says that He cannot lie and that it really means something else, then I have a huge problem with that.
  10. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes but that we cannot know God in a univocal manner.

    ---------- Post added at 09:32 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:24 PM ----------

    Can God lie? No, but is this because of his being binded by some abstract morality that God cannot violate? Well no, has he reavealed to us that his nature is the foundation for our ethics? Yes, but we cannot take the Platonic view that morals are immutable and they are attached to God's charector as some sort of metaphysical partner with God. God can flood the earth again but he has covenantaly binded himself to promise this. Remember this covenantaly orientation of Van Til in all discussions of almost anykind.

    ---------- Post added at 09:35 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:32 PM ----------

    I have read many Reformed thinkers say that all revealation is anthropomorphic in the sense that God "condescends" to our concepts and ideas to reveal info about himself, which in turn would make this anthropomorphic.
  11. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    In volume 2 of McGrath's Scientific Theology, around page 29, he shows that all three systems of foundationalist mathematics - formalism, intuitionism and logicism - have managed to undercut their own foundational principles and prove themselves unjustified. I don't remember the details now.
  12. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Correct, but the term "analogical" is almost as misleading because it implies that theology does not, strictly speaking, describe God correctly. I would rather get away from that terminology (and the detritus of the Clark-Van Til debate that goes with it) and instead say:

    1) The characteristics of God are always more and never less than what have been revealed to us (in general revelation, and the various forms of special revelation).

    2) However, we must never speculate beyond what is revealed and the good and necessary consequences thereof.
  13. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Then that's an odd/a-typical use of anthropomorphic.


    1. Attributing human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena.
    2. resembling the human form

    Also, I don't think that morals are "metaphysically attached" or are "partners" with God's character or nature. God cannot lie because He is God. His nature is holy. If He were a lying god, He would not be a holy god. Can God be unholy? No. Can God lie? No. These things would be true if no human being existed for Him to "covenantally bind" Himself to or to make promises to. But I think we are at an impasse and have strayed far from the OP.
  14. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I quoted this on another thread, but it seems almost as to the point here. Besides, it's not like it doesn't bear being quoted multiple times.

  15. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I can agree but this ironicaly goes back to the Clark/Van Til contraversy. Analogical knowledge is good because of the features of language that the later Wittgenetein pointed out. We use wods in different ways. Clark was very critical of the later Wittgenstein and I wonder if he had understood him correctly would he not have repented of his philosophical sins.

    When we use words in a conversation we have both understanding, similarety, and misunderstanding, dissimilarety, at the same time. We use words for different reasons, the same words but for different reasons. So when a wife says to her husband "you don't take me out enough", she is not using those terms neccessaraly in a factual way but to convey her feelings, different uses hence slightly different meanings. That is all analogical knowledge is. We have some knowledge of God but we don't have comopletly similiar, univocal, or completly disimilar, equivocal, knowledge but analogical knowledge.

    ---------- Post added at 08:54 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:47 AM ----------

    Well if God "voluntaraly condescends" to us in his revealation than that revealation is anthropomorphic in the sense that he is beyond human comprehension so he takes on human charectoristics to give us analogical knowledge of himself. So when we say that God cannot lie are we expressing that he has covenantly revealed to us that he will not lie or are we saying that because of some metaphysical reason he cannot lie? Would God ever lie even if there was no person to lie too? Well no but is this something that we can understand about his nature as it actually is or is it his "condescension" to us to reveal in an anological sense something about himself that we understand on a creaturly level only?

    ---------- Post added at 08:54 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:54 AM ----------

    Again I completly agree!!!!!
  16. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Careful here---Wittgenstein would not say that this is analogous at all. He would say that the meaning of the word is its use. Thus, if both God and Solomon are wise, then our definition of wisdom has to cover the use of the term in both cases.

    I just don't like the word "analogical" here because it does connote that human knowledge is not true knowledge. We might instead qualitative difference or some such.
  17. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    If I've understood some things I've read, saying that God 'cannot' lie is really a statement about His perfect ability, by way of negation. The Divine Essence is complete -- fully realised and actualised -- and can only 'not' do what would result from deficiency or inability (like being false). Our way of apprehending this is necessarily limited and creaturely; but it is a statement about God essentially. This statement seems categorically different than a statement about whether He can in using, possibly bend, the tools of finite minds (like mathematics); the very terms of the second statement seem like the result of a deficiency in our conception of His ability (as if asking whether God could use a popcorn maker to make it snow, when He isn't dependent on that kind of machinery).

    I don't have the commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism with me, but I think Ursinus addresses the statement about God not being able to lie in there.
  18. sevenzedek

    sevenzedek Puritan Board Junior

    The logic of math is inherent in the Trinity. 1+1+1 has always equaled three from eternity. The logic of math is eternal. However, I would say that the means of communicating that logic is not eternal.

    ---------- Post added at 01:44 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:38 PM ----------

    I never heard it put so well. God really is Most High.
  19. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Actually if you read Van Til he defines analogical in somewhat the same way as Wittgentstein would describe language. If there is similarety in how we use language than there is also disimalarety in how we use langugae, hence analogical usre of language. Also saying that we have definant knowledge of God seems to mean that we understand him as he actually is but I don't think that is right at all. It seems to me that only if we start with an enlightenment type view of things are we forced to choose between univocal or equivocal.

    ---------- Post added at 02:14 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:05 PM ----------

    I would like to say that I am not suggesting that God can lie. Only that we are usually presented this question in two ways" either he can lie or he cannot lie because of some abstract logical reason that binds his abilities. I am simply suggesting a third way to understand why that incorperates the best of both ideas without any undue speculation into God's being, which we could never ubderstand as it actually is.
  20. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Calvin has a knack for doing that. The whole section is quite illuminating.
  21. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    How so? Simply because any term describes a family resemblance doesn't mean that there is necessarily a dissimilarity in its use for any two objects.

    But we do---that's the point of revelation, particularly God's self-revelation in Jesus.

    But we can understand it as He has revealed it to us. God cannot lie because His nature is Holy---lying would contradict His nature and therefore He cannot lie. This isn't speculation.
  22. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Exactly. :up:
  23. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I think whether it's speculation or not depends on whether you are trying to posit a distinction between nature and will, such that nature grounds and determines will; if you are, then that falls under Calvin's warning that we must not seek for anything higher than the will of God.
  24. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    A distinction to that degree would contradict Divine Simplicity, so I agree.
  25. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    My example of the difference in ways that me nand women sometimes use language for differrent purposes. I am not saying all the time nor am I trying to make any sexist comments. But sometimes women will employ phrases to express feelings primaraly and men try understand them as statments of facts. That leads to her feeling like she is not being understood and him feeling like she is not making sense. That is not true at all, she is using the phrases to express something different than facts and her husband needs to understand that this is how she "feels". Read the book Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus, it oddly enough illustrates this point about the difference in use of language between men and women. And of course I am not trying to offend anyone here, men and women use language in the same ways all the time too.

    Yes but what we know is God's revealation only. That is not say that he can say one thing and in truth it is another. Analogy doesn't mean that equivication does. Your stuck in the same place that Clark was, that there is only two categories univocal and equivical. But there is a third category and that is analogical. Think when the bible tells us that God repented of something did he actually change at all? No this is an analogical way of revealing something to us, repent cannot mean the same thing for God and us only similier things. It is this univocal understanding of revealation that led to open theism in my opinion.

    Yes but what does it mean to say that his nature is holy? Luther had a wonderful distinction between God as he is and God as he has revealed himself to be. Your right in emphasing the "truth" of those statments but you are In my humble opinion overemphasing them. Analogy keeps the balance.

    ---------- Post added at 09:41 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:39 AM ----------

    Good point, your caution reminds me of Paul Tillich's heretical idea of God being the ground of all being, including his own nature. He made a similier division between being and attributes.
  26. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    I don't deny the possibility of difference, merely that the differences between language used to describe God and that used to describe men are as different as you think. Again, I think "analogical" to be a very misleading term.

    Careful here. Language is itself a Divine invention. At the very least you need to say that the language about God is the closest to the Divine nature that a human could possibly get short of the Divine encounter.

    And it's incredibly misleading---look at how Clark took it!

    That it is set apart---other than ours, perfect, simple.
  27. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Which term would you prefer? I will be the first one to admit that analogy can be confusing but the only other terms I know of are archtypal verses ectypal, or the Creator/creature distinction, which both seem to me to be more confusing.

    Ok but what is meant is what the confession calls a "voluntary condencsion" on God's part.

    Clark went into wierd directions, later into his life so I am told.

    Sure but is that a one to one univocal understanding of God as he really his.
  28. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Family resemblance?

    And I would say that much of this is due to his misunderstanding of Van Til on this point.

    I would certainly say that it's close. Consider Divine simplicity: a doctrine which is simple yet mind-blowing in its implications. God has no parts. Similarly with the otherness of God.

    Condescension is probably the better word, in terms of revelation.
  29. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Can God make a square circle and all that malarkey?

    I think not, otherwise we might as well all give up.
  30. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    William Ames (The Substance of Christian Religion, 67):

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