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Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by chbrooking, Jun 17, 2009.
Yep, I'd say we're in agreement.
And here I would say that logic is not created. If not part of the character of God logic is, at the very least, a description of how God works.
Subordinating logic to God has dire consequences because it does fail to answer the question of whether God can create a rock too big for Him to lift. However, when God is taken not only as omnipotent, but as containing logic in his nature we see that God cannot--because a rock too big for God to lift would be a contradiction in terms. In other words, God cannot create an impossibility.
Maybe it would be better to understand law/logic/etc as the revelation of God's nature to man. To know these things is to, in a finite way, know part of the mind of God.
No, because logic is imbedded in God's nature. One might say that God is logic or at least that God is reason (not that reason is God), just as we say that God is love. All ultimates are part of God's character.
The knowledge of God might be called similar to an artist's knowledge of his painting. He knows it better than anyone because it has its origin in his mind. Similarly, God's knowledge of his creation is superior and qualitatively different from ours because we are part of that creation. The painting does not know itself, just as we do not (truly--unless we know God) know ourselves (of course the analogy breaks down somewhat once we consider that a painting knows nothing).
And, just as the painting is an expression of the artist, so God's creation is an expression of God Himself.
Any finite expression of God's character is a part of creation. It does not apply, nor make any sense, within the context of the eternal trinity alone. So the question is, is human logic identical with the mind of God, as you seem intent to maintain, or is it an accommodation?
By the way, I'm not interested in answering the irrational rock question, any more than I'm interested in the sound of one hand clapping.
Isn't this what I've been maintaining?
Yes, the knowledge of one's relationship to Christ is still able to be explained to a certain extent in propositional terms, but the relationship itself is not merely a matter of propositions. Consider "the Lord is my Shepherd." There is a spiritual reality of being guided and fed by Christ. People who do not know the Lord as their Shepherd might be able to think of what this means, but they can never know it as an appropriated truth. Further, because these blessings are heavenly in origin, they transcend earthly definition. Earthly things provide a certain illustration of them (John 3:12), but the reality is that the love and peace of Christ pass knowledge.
Can even God make object A b and also not b at the same time? No. Is it necessarily true that 2+2=4? Yes. Does God's nature go above that? Of course, but it certainly does not extend below it.
In other words, God's revelation of Himself to us is not entirely analogical (though much of it is). God may be more than human logic can understand, but is certainly not less. Human logic can describe a part of God's nature.
"The sound of one hand clapping is "cl"--the other hand makes the "ap"" ~Terry Pratchett
Like the Santa Clause argument against presuppositionalism, the rock seems childish, but is actually a valid point that needs to be addressed, not merely dismissed.
How are we to take a tool that God gives us and claim, through it, to bind God?
God doesn't lie. But we can't say that he doesn't lie because there's a law against it. Rather, there's a law against it because God doesn't lie. So to ask if God can violate the law of non-contradiction is just as irrational as asking the rock question.
This gets to the heart of the matter, though. We cannot ask the rock question without first addressing the preconditions on which any question may be asked. Those preconditions rule out that question entirely. Only anti-Christian thoguht holds that any sort of fact may appear or exist.
God is ultimate rationality, but human logic is not God. It is but a revelatory accommodation. Hence, we may say that God can't lie. But this is because we are told that his character is one of truth. And since a is a because that is what God determined it to be, for it to be non-a would require that God be inconsistent with himself. That is irrational. It is irrational because all rationality is dependent on who God is, NOT because God must submit to some external thing called rationality.
When we ask the rock question, we are setting God's omnipotence against itself. That is irrational. It is not a legitimate question, simply because it does not meet the preconditions of asking a question at all.
If the law of non-contradiction is something that God created, then it would be. However, I maintain that the law of non-contradiction is in God's nature. There are things that even God cannot create: spherical cubes for example. A spherical cube is a contradiction in terms and therefore an impossibility, even for God (though since God would never desire to create such a ridiculous object, the idea is somewhat irrelevant).
I don't think I'm binding God, I'm just defining omnipotence to preclude that which is rationally impossible.
The rock question is not irrational: it just reveals an ignorance of a) what we mean by omnipotence b) God's own nature. The idea of preconditions for a question is, frankly, not relevant. The problem with the question is that it is asking about a contradiction in terms. A rock too big for God to lift is nearly the same thing as a spherical cube: both are contradictions in terms. We can admit that even God cannot create a spherical cube because a spherical cube cannot exist period. It says nothing about God's omnipotence to admit this.
The term “God” contains within it the concept of omnipotence. Therefore, the rock question really is a matter of contradiction. The question contains both can and can’t in it. “Can God create a rock He can’t move?” That is irrational, since it posits A (can) and non-A (can’t) of God at the same time in the same sense.
So you ought to see the rock question as irrational even apart from careful reflection that you can’t even speak to ask a question apart from the existence of the Christian God. But with some reflection, you may recognize that predication itself requires Christian theism.
Remember, I’m not claiming that God isn’t rational. Rather, I’m claiming that we are rational because God is and we bear his image. He is only bound by logic in the sense that he does not act out of conformity to his character, perfect as it is. This is why he doesn’t lie. But God is what he has. That is, he is his attributes. He is non-composite. He is simple. And he alone is self-existent. His attributes (here both his wisdom and his omnipotence) cannot be abstracted and set against each other or against his being. He is what he has. To do so is to destroy the meaning of “God”, the subject of the question.
It appears that...
-Philip is trying to ensure that logic is not placed "below" God so as to allow contradictions in theology.
-Clark is trying to ensure that logic is not placed "above" God so as to make Him subservient to something.
We all agree that God never acts out of accord with His nature. We all believe that His nature is rational and logical. Therefore we all believe that He acts logically (right?).
It seems that the disagreement is only semantic. When Philip and I say that God must act logically, e.g. that God cannot make a rock too heavy for Him to lift, we are merely saying that logic is "built into" God, not that He is acting subserviently to a self-existing law that is above Him. So when we say that God cannot do something, we are not binding God to one of our "tools"; we are just saying that God does not act other than how He has told us He always acts. (Also, whenever an inability is predicated of God, it is always a consequence of His strength rather than some weakness. Muslims take the word "inability" to at all times imply weakness, and therefore they posit Allah as "above" the laws of logic, which is foolish.)
Kind of , but...
Philip, I already addressed this when I brought up the example in the first place.
First of all, no one would seriously claim Santa Clause as self-evident (and the sincerity has to be present); therefore it cannot be accepted for the same reasons as autonomy and theonomy are accepted, for both of those positions sincerely claim self-evidence in their respective positions. Some children might believe it from the testimonies of their parents, but they could not claim it as self-evident.
Second, "Santa Clause" isn't even a presupposition (as I defined it) in the first place. It has nothing to do with the prerogative to interpret reality and therefore contributes nothing to the foundational principles of a worldview.
Third, even if Santa Clause were formulated somehow to be a presupposition -- e.g. a presuppositional Santanian wrote out a "Book of Santa" and claimed that the deity known as Santa Clause had the prerogative to interpret reality -- it would be a presupposition only if the followers were sincere. For if no one would actually hold to such a worldview, then the foundational tenet (presupposition) of that worldview is worthless from the start. To invoke a worldview that no one would ever hold and pretend you are arguing presuppositionaly is a category error.
For whatever reason, presuppositionalist TAGsters such as Michael Butler have not picked up on the fact that a presupposition must be sincerely held (or more accurately, sincerely hold-able) for it to be a presupposition in the first place.
I appreciate the way you have set forth what each side insists upon.
You are dead on, when you say that God cannot act out of conformity with his character. And you are right on when you say that logic does not have independent existence. Nor can it be so extracted from God's being as to stand in opposition to God. So I have no problem with this assessment, so long as we don't make 'logic' identical with that to which it corresponds in the thinking of God. So long as we understand that our 'logic' is only a true-but-dim reflection or condescended approximation of God's thinking, I have no problem with this. So long as we recognize that our thinking is dependent and finite, whereas God's is completely independent, self-aware, and infinite, I can agree with this assessment. That is, so long as we recognize that our thought is not on a continuum with God's thought, but that we reason analogically, we are in agreement. So long, that is, as we maintain a qualitative distinction between our knowledge and God's knowledge.
That being the case, were God to act in a way that the human laws of logic disallowed, I would not conclude that God did not exist. I would conclude that my construction of the laws of logic were flawed and needed adjustment, or that the condescended form in which I grasp God's rationality, while sufficient for necessary human knowledge, are insufficient to account for this divine activity. It is extremely important that logic be seen as dependent upon God, and not vice versa. For example, I do not throw out Christianity because the hypostatic union is "irrational". Rather, I recognize the limits of human ratiocination. At no point do I stand as teacher or judge. I am always the pupil. If logic or science or an angel from heaven stands opposed to Christian theism, then it is wrong, wrong, wrong. Therefore, any syllogism that would attempt to overthrow Christian theism is a sinful construction. And as it borrows tools that only Christian theism provides to do so, it cannot support its own claim. Am I reasoning in a circle? Yes, and unapologetically so. All reasoning is circular. Theistic circles are virtuous (and have been called spiral), where anti-theistic reasoning is viciously circular.
I didn't write this to say that your assessment is incorrect. I think you've got a good insight into our differences. I just want to make clear that only the God of Christian theism protects against both dangers. And for that reason, we must begin with the truth of the entire Christian theistic system as our first principle. That is, we must be presuppositionalists. If that is something with which Philip will not agree, then perhaps our differences need more investigation.
-----Added 6/20/2009 at 09:48:42 EST-----
On the Santanians ...
Suppose they were sincere, how would Santa ground our logic, aesthetics, ethics, etc.? A Santanian epistemology will crumble like any other non-Christian system. Why? Well ultimately the answer is, "because it's not true." But demonstrating that would require that we understand who or what they claim this Santa is. I'm convinced that that's why many people don't like the TAG, they don't want to listen to the unbeliever. They don't want to do their homework on his system. It's easier to learn a handful of 'fool-proof arguments' and run with them. But the arguments of the classical apologist are only fool proof on a foundation of Christian presuppositions.
I have enjoyed our conversation. Now, however, I have a TON of work to do, and so I will try to be away from the PB for about a week. It is difficult to set it down. But I must. I think I've subscribed to this thread, so I'll know if you respond. But I doubt I will respond for at least a week.
Here's where we need to make sure we are clear. We have to say that absolute contradictions regarding God -- if they were possible, which they are not -- would hypothetically disprove God. (But that's like saying if God were a square circle, He wouldn't exist; it's not an actual impinging on His authority, because the antecedent can't possibly be true.) The reason for this is to avoid heresies -- imagine how many heresies could exist if the law of contradiction were denied!
But, on the other hand, this doesn't mean that anything we have trouble understanding is itself contradictory, as you pointed out with the hypostatic union. We can believe things that are beyond reason, but not things that are against reason; if we believed the latter, then we would not be using the tool God gave us.
Otherwise, with everything else you said, including the Santanians.
Yes on all counts. We're in agreement. I knew I wouldn't be able to not respond I've really got to work on my self-control.
And here's the problem: once you start arguing from an external reality (ie: "you know that this isn't the case"), you have abandoned the presuppositional method, which can only prove presuppositions invalid.
That's not me. I do listen to the unbeliever--but I do so so that I may understand his assumptions and not only turn them against themselves, but show how they really point toward Christ. If he believes a true proposition, I'm not going to challenge it--I'm going to build on it.
Spoken like a true presuppositionalist. So, why do you claim to be a classical apologist again? Oh, that's right. You think he can legitimately (i.e., consistently) hold true propositions in a non-biblical worldview. I disagree.
He will undoubtedly believe true propositions. I'll build on those, too. I'll build on them to show that they are not in conformity with his assumptions.
The unbeliever builds his worldview around more or less true propositions that are then taken to an extreme. They espouse true propositions as part and parcel of their worldview. That's what is so insidious about the whole business--it's that other worldviews are never built around out-and-out lies, but around half-truths.
As I understand it, the presuppositional method (as a method, not as actually practiced) consists solely of invalidating (ie: disproving logically) the other point of view and then explaining the Christian point of view.
Whereas, as I see it, the classical approach is more flexible. It may make use of argument (even presuppositional argument), but may also do comparison, asking questions of which worldview really corresponds to reality.
That's how I have come to understand the positions.
If that is how you have come to understand the positions, after so much effort has been expended to disabuse you of that understanding, I don't know what more I can do to clarify our position for you. I'll leave you with the last word. I've accomplished my purpose in starting this thread.