Mere human reason?!?

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Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
Very often I've read people complain that we can not understand God with "mere human reason". I think the following quote addresses this misunderstanding quite well:
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.

–Gordon Clark: An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, “The Axiom of Revelation” (Trinity Foundation, 2004)
 

Vytautas

Puritan Board Freshman
I think Clark assumes in this section of his book that God’s way of knowing things is the exact same as man’s way of knowing things. For some odd reason Clark thought that God’s knowledge is the set of all true propositions. So if I know that “The brother of Peleg was Joktan”, God’s knowledge is the same proposition, but perhaps in a different language. Clark thought that if someone objected to his thesis, then that person denied man is made in the image of God. But if we can know the same thing God knows in the same way, then our knowledge is exactly like God’s knowledge. We are not in the image of God, but we have a little bit of deity in ourselves. Thus, we are ontologically the same as God in the area of knowledge. You might think that knowledge has nothing to do with being, but our minds would have that same thing that God has in his mind.
 

Jim Johnston

Puritan Board Sophomore
Very often I've read people complain that we can not understand God with "mere human reason". I think the following quote addresses this misunderstanding quite well:
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.

–Gordon Clark: An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, “The Axiom of Revelation” (Trinity Foundation, 2004)

who are "these people" and where have they said "his math, logic, and truth" are not ours and if they have said something resembling this, did they mean what Clark says they meant, and if so, can you cite your exegesis of them?

See, it seems to me that this is yet another area where Clark beats down a straw man and then has people heaping laudatory comments on his work.

I know you have good intentions Anthony, but just to let you know, others laugh at Clark beating down views no one holds to, or beating down poorly stated forumlations of those views, and then pretedning to have the only rational system because no one was left standing.

To me this reminds me of the story of the boy who beat down many enemies, he stands atop the mountain waiving his sword in victory...as the camera pans out, we see that he is alone on the mountain top, his enemies where in his imagination, a real battle was going on down in the valley below, and the sword he raised was paper.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
OUr God's thoughts beyond ours in quantity, quality or both?


If I believe 2 plus 2 is 4 and God believes the same thing, am I thinking GOd's thoughts after him. God just can figure PI to a higher number than me?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Are God's thoughts beyond ours in quantity, quality or both?


If I believe 2 plus 2 is 4 and God believes the same thing, am I thinking GOd's thoughts after him. God just can figure PI to a higher number than me?
 

CatechumenPatrick

Puritan Board Freshman
I think Clark assumes in this section of his book that God’s way of knowing things is the exact same as man’s way of knowing things. For some odd reason Clark thought that God’s knowledge is the set of all true propositions. So if I know that “The brother of Peleg was Joktan”, God’s knowledge is the same proposition, but perhaps in a different language. Clark thought that if someone objected to his thesis, then that person denied man is made in the image of God. But if we can know the same thing God knows in the same way, then our knowledge is exactly like God’s knowledge. We are not in the image of God, but we have a little bit of deity in ourselves. Thus, we are ontologically the same as God in the area of knowledge. You might think that knowledge has nothing to do with being, but our minds would have that same thing that God has in his mind.

Concerning your first sentence, where did you get this impression from his writing? Clark's argument is more alone the lines of this. God's knowledge and our knowledge (in order to be true) must have at least one aspect in common, otherwise the word "knowledge" when applied to God and man would mean two entirely different things (i.e. it would be an equivocation). Clark does not assume that "God's way of knowing things is the exact same as man's way of knowing things"--what Reformed theologian would ever say something as ambiguous and unbiblical as that? I doubt even the medieval Roman theologians who held to the univocal nature of knowledge and truth between God and man would go so far as to claim that there is no difference whatsoever, that they are exact. Clark's argument is straightforward, it seems: how would it be possible to say that God knows P (e.g. that Christ is Lord) and man knows P (e.g. that Christ is Lord) if they do not share at least one aspect? How could it be true to say that "Christ is Lord" if, for God, "Christ is Lord" means, or could mean, something altogether different? Clark and every other Reformed theologian agree that God's knowledge (or way of knowing--two different things, by the way) are very different--as different as the omniscience of infinite and eternal being is to a created, finite being. Yet to say that, therefore, God's knowledge of P and man's knowledge of P have nothing is common is very similar to Tillich's claim that existence cannot be applied to God, that he beyond existence and essence and to argue that God exists is therefore to deny him. It seems something very similar happens when you deny that God's knowing and man's knowing do not have anything in common, and that is what Clark is trying to protect against, as the quotation above shows.
 

CatechumenPatrick

Puritan Board Freshman
who are "these people" and where have they said "his math, logic, and truth" are not ours and if they have said something resembling this, did they mean what Clark says they meant, and if so, can you cite your exegesis of them?

It doesn't seem necessary to Clark's argument that someone actually hold these views. An example might possibiliy be given (perhaps one of the more radical neo-orthodox?), but it would do little to his argument. With that aside, does Clark make a valid, Biblical point? That is much more important than whether or not Clark can give an example of someone who holds to these radical views.
 

Vytautas

Puritan Board Freshman
I got the impression that Gordon Clark thought God’s way of knowing things is the exact same as man’s way of knowing things when he says, “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….But if we know anything at all, what we must know what must be identical with what God knows...It is absolutely essential, therefore, to insist there is an area of coincidence between God’s mind and our mind.” in the next paragraph.
 

Jim Johnston

Puritan Board Sophomore
It doesn't seem necessary to Clark's argument that someone actually hold these views. An example might possibiliy be given (perhaps one of the more radical neo-orthodox?), but it would do little to his argument. With that aside, does Clark make a valid, Biblical point? That is much more important than whether or not Clark can give an example of someone who holds to these radical views.


Hello Patrick,

Perhaps this will help you out.

You see, the post I responded to started off this way:

Very often I've read people complain....

See that? Good.

So then, when I asked "who are these people?" an attentive reader should be able to understand that I was referring back to the "people" who supposedly made some complaint.

Furthermore, it does matter because who wants to cheer a guy one who attacks nobodies? I mean, that's real tough. I wouldn't be impressed with someone critiquing a Democritean materialsm and then strutting around like a big shot. Democritus' material was crude and crass. I mean, critique Kim's supervenience version of physicalism or something. You see, when we send apologists out into the world, and they strut around critiquing views no one holds to, or poorly stated representations of views people do hold to, that only serves to embarrass us.

I should also point out the broder context. Civbert is referring to the claims made by Van Til &c that "God's knowledge is not like our knowledge." This critique of Clark's, and its employment by Civbert, is based off sloppy scholarship and poor misunderstandings of their opponents.

Lastly, since there are many ways to use ther verb "to know," then I can't tell you anything about Clark's point and whether it is valid or not. It's sloppy, I can tell you that. It's vague and ambiguous, I can tell you that. On one level, sure, his point is correct. If we're talking about the *object* of knowledge, then God's knowledge and man's is the same. Okay, big deal. No one (esp. Van Til &c) has denied that. Are we talking about the *standard* of knowledge? Sure, it's the same there as well - God is the standard for Himself and us. Are we talking about that *subject* of knowledge? In that case, one knows the proposition 2+2=4 *as Creator* and one knows it *as creature.* In that sense, it's different. So, what sense did Clark mean his argument to be taken?

All in all, I don't bother with Clark. Mostly bad philosophy, straw man or irrelevant man attacks, and his stuff is simply out of touch and not useful for contemporary philosophical and theological issues (and even past issues! But, he does say a few helpful things. I don't want to take everything away from him. But at this point, what he says that his helpful has been said better before and after) . Sure, guys get enamored with him when they first start getting into apologetics and philosophy, but as they progress, they quickly see how sophomoric his works really are. There may be a few "homers" (i..e., home team fans that can never see the wrong in their team) around, but they fade away into obscurity and their small voice doesn't even cause a blip on the hilosophical and theological radar screen.

So, to answer your question, to the extent that he's correct, it's trivial, to the extent that he's wrong, he's just an example of the boy in the story I told above. Either way I don't need to bother with his stuff. I don't need to read trivial points, and I don't need to read guys attacking straw or irrelevant men. I hope that answers your question! :)
 
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Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
who are "these people" and where have they said "his math, logic, and truth" are not ours and if they have said something resembling this, did they mean what Clark says they meant, and if so, can you cite your exegesis of them?

Hey TB! Nice to see you around.

Haven't you run across this yourself? I would think you'd agree that this is a common argument given by anti-intellectuals and mystics. They like to say God is ineffable, mysterious, so far beyond us that no one can know anything about him. And this is often in response to anyone trying to show, by good reasoning, why the basics of Calvinism are correct. They want to argue that God loves everyone the same and predestination only means God knows in advance who will accept his love and forgiveness. Basically, it's the argument used by many Arminians. When you show them by clear exegesis and reason, that God has clearly chosen those whom he will save from the beginning, they will complain that you are using "mere human reason" and that God's mind is so far above ours, that what he thinks appears to be nonsense to us.
 

Jim Johnston

Puritan Board Sophomore
hey Civ,

I have not really read people saying that, but if you have quotes....

Anyway, what I have read is you critiquing Van Tillians for saying thinsg like that. But you did not lump them in above. Have you dropped your long-time critique of Van Tillians regarding this matter? :)
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
hey Civ,

I have not really read people saying that, but if you have quotes....
None? Surely you have come across that argument from Arminians. But I recall you tend to argue with atheists so that wouldn't come up.

Anyway, what I have read is you critiquing Van Tillians for saying things like that. But you did not lump them in above. Have you dropped your long-time critique of Van Tillians regarding this matter? :)

Not all Van Tillians make that argument. But certainly if they did, it would still be a bad argument to make. Don't you agree?

I did not have Van Tillians in mind when I posted the criticism of the argument. I find that kind of thinking coming from all sorts of people. It came up on the Christian Logic Forum frequently. Unfortunately, that site is down. But you can see how it would happen there. There are many Christians who think faith is antithetical to reason. It's a common position to take.
 

Jim Johnston

Puritan Board Sophomore
Civ,

I argue with Arminians quite frequently actually. Usually the more sophisticated types; they don't say those sorts of things. Anyway, when/if it comes up, I would ask them to qualify and explain.

Not all Van Tillians make that argument. But certainly if they did, it would still be a bad argument to make. Don't you agree?

Depends on my qualifications above.

I did not have Van Tillians in mind when I posted the criticism of the argument. I find that kind of thinking coming from all sorts of people.

That's interesting given many of your past comments. Anyway, to the extent that Clark was corect, his point has been made much better by others.
 

Cheshire Cat

Puritan Board Sophomore
Leaving Clark's quote aside, I have personally heard the argument that "they will complain that you are using "mere human reason" and that God's mind is so far above ours, that what he thinks appears to be nonsense to us". In the past I have experienced such a claim when discussing paradox in Christian theology. I have also heard it when discussing Calvinism...with my mom lol.

There are many ways to respond. We our to love God with our minds, and have correct theology that gives Glory to him. This means we should strive to understand him better in all that we think and do. Soteriology is obviously a very important doctrine in scripture, and we can be assured that God has given us the epistemic ability to correctly understand such a foundational doctrine.
 

Vytautas

Puritan Board Freshman
Leaving Clark's quote aside, I have personally heard the argument that "they will complain that you are using "mere human reason" and that God's mind is so far above ours, that what he thinks appears to be nonsense to us". In the past I have experienced such a claim when discussing paradox in Christian theology. I have also heard it when discussing Calvinism...with my mom lol.

There are many ways to respond. We our to love God with our minds, and have correct theology that gives Glory to him. This means we should strive to understand him better in all that we think and do. Soteriology is obviously a very important doctrine in scripture, and we can be assured that God has given us the epistemic ability to correctly understand such a foundational doctrine.

What you are saying is if someone claims we cannot understand archtypal theology (theology as God knows it in himself), we can counter by saying we can understand ectypal theology (accomatated theology that God reveals it to us). Do you see the difference?
 
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