12
Mar
2013

Logic: A God-Centered Approach

Dr. Vern Poythress speaks about his new book, Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought. Discussion centers around the relationship between God and logic, the relationship between logical form and its content, and a Christian approach to modal concepts like possibility and necessity. Dr. Poythress is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.

You can find a free sample from his book, Logic, here. Other eBooks by Dr. Poythress are available at frame-poythress.org.

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156 Responses

  1. Steve M

    I am extremely surprised and interested to hear that Dr. Poythress disagrees Van Til’s position that logic is created. He seems to agree with Gordon Clark’s position that logic is part of the nature of God. It is how God thinks.

  2. Steve, I’m also very interested in the relationship of Poythress’ position to the Clark/Van Til debate, but I’m not persuaded that Poythress falls on the Clark side.

    First, I don’t remember Van Til saying “logic is created”; maybe he did though and I’ve forgotten. Do you have a reference for Van Til saying that? I’d really be grateful.

    Second, it seems to me that one of the key disputed points between Clark and CVT was whether man’s grasp of a given concept was identical with God’s grasp of that concept–or alternatively, whether God and man have the self-same identical concepts. On that point, Poythress is obviously with Van Til against Clark. And that really limits one’s ability to draw logical inferences from those concepts. Clark would really protest if he heard Poythress say that God can be and do inconceivable things.

    What do you think?

    1. Nathan, I agree with you here. In my estimation, Poythress was arguing that laws of logic are functions of who God is but not identical to God’s being. If they were identical to his being, they would be incomprehensible. So in other parlance, laws of logic are “analogous” to God’s being. It’s important to note that laws of logic aren’t arbitrary either. If I recall, Dr. Poythress did say something to the effect of them not being created, but his reasoning presupposes that they are revelational and therefore “logically” (pun not intended) subsequent to creation.

    2. Steve M

      Nathan

      I have not had time to find the “logic is created” quote I was looking for, but I did find this:

      “The law of contradiction… is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature. Christians should never appeal to the law of contradiction as something that determines what can or cannot be true.”

      Do you agree?

  3. Bob

    This is from my ThM thesis.

    “Even the law of contradiction is, for Van Til, “ultimately dependent… upon God’s internal coherence that lies behind the law of contradiction.” In another context he explicitly writes, “the law of contradiction has its foundation in the nature of God.” For Van Til, as with Thomas, the ontological foundation for created natures, possibility, and rational laws is God’s absolute and personal being – not a set of universals in an ethereal pantheon, nor the things themselves, nor even God’s divine will determining ad extra.”

    The first quote is from IST 2nd edition p. 82. The second is from SCE p. 189.

    I hope that helps.

  4. Bob, I like what you say about CVT: God’s internal consistency, expressed analogically in the creation, is what our logic is. But Thomas roots the law of non-contradiction in being in general, without reference to the Creator-creature distinction, right? Where does Thomas make God’s absolute, personal being (rather than being in general) the ontological foundation for the law of non-con?

  5. Hermonta Godwin

    Nathan,
    Why is being in general lacking as a foundation of the law or non-con? Now a later question can be why is being the way it is, but it seems that to mandate God as a the foundation off the bat seems unnecessary.

  6. RDL

    On the created level, logic, for Aquinas, exists as cognitional being, that is to say logic isn’t “real” in the sense that it is a substance that subsists in some place, but it is an accident and only an accident that inheres in an intellect (let’s say, the human intellect). How does logic enter the intellect and inhere in it as an accident? Our ideas of logic (genus, species, difference, property, accident) enter though the apprehension of accidental and substantial forms. The formal aspect of finite entities is an imperfect likeness of God’s absolute nature, which is the object of the divine ideas that serve as the exemplars for created natures. Thus all the relations amongst finite forms express a divine logic which is mediated through created substantial and accidental forms to the human intellect which logically construes the relations between finite entities. When this process is formalized, we begin to discover the laws of logic that were first in the mind of God, impressed upon the relations that really obtain in finite entities, and finally are understood by the human intellect. So God’s knowledge and his “logic” is mediated through the things that have been made. Thus for Aquinas, if there is a created logic in the mind of man, that logic is an analogical imitation (his word) of God’s mind, which is mediated (his word) or revealed (mine) through creation. This might sound very “Van Tilian.” The way I look at it, Van Til sounds very Thomistic.

    Anyway, he writes about this Scriptum super libros Sententiarum Distinctio 35-36, De Veritate questio 2-3, and Summa Theologicae I.1. Q. 14.

    Also, God doesn’t fall under being in general in Aquinas. God transcends the being that is considered as the subject of metaphysics (commentary on boethius’s de trinitate Q. 5. a3-4). He says in De Potentia Q7 A2 this:

    Ad quartum dicendum, quod esse divinum, quod est eius substantia, non est esse commune, sed est esse distinctum a quolibet alio esse. Unde per ipsum suum esse Deus differt a quolibet alio ente.

    (quick translation: to the forth it is said that the divine being (technically “existence”), which is his substance, is not common being, but is a being distinct from all other existence. Thus through his own being God differs from all other beings.”)

  7. Moses

    Van Til says, “The principles of truth, goodness, and beauty are to be thought of as identical with God’s being; they are the attributes of God.” (in his The Defense of the Faith, 3rd edition, p. 12).
    The ‘truth’ quoted above can be translated as ‘logic’ or ‘the laws of logic’. Therefore, Van Til believes that the laws of logic are the attributes of God. For him, they are not created by God.

  8. Steve M

    Nathan
    I will have to do some reading to get the quote from which I determined that Van Til held that logic was created, because it has been some time since I read the book from which I drew that conclusion. However, I don’t think I am the only one to draw that conclusion from Van Til.

    For instance, look at what Camden says, “In my estimation, Poythress was arguing that laws of logic are functions of who God is but not identical to God’s being.” Apparently “who God is” is “not identical to God’s being”. Possibly “a function of who God is” might not be eternal, while “God’s being” is eternal.

    Camden Goes on to say, “If I recall, Dr. Poythress did say something to the effect of them not being created, but his reasoning presupposes that they are revelational and therefore “logically” (pun not intended) subsequent to creation.”

    If the laws of logic are “subsequent to creation”, they are not eternal. If they are not eternal they are not part of God’s eternal nature. If they are not eternal, they are created. There are only two things that exist. The Creator and the creation. The Creator is eternal the creation is not.

    Nathan, I will attempt to find the quote I wrote about earlier. I will present it to you when I do.

    1. Everything I have read from Van Til, Bahnsen, and Butler would indicate that Van Til did not view logic as created. If God is a rational God, then logic must be eternal, uncreated. I am positive Bahnsen and Butler both were explicit in their view that logic was part of God’s nature. It would be odd for such a basic difference to exist between these students and their teacher and there be no mention of it. Additionally, Frame also teaches that logic is part of the divine nature.

      I think it is a very serious mistake to draw to hard of a distinction between God’s being and God’s function. God’s function is always grounded in the nature of His being. He does as He pleases. God’s plan is in back of all that God does.

      Steve M did not provide a full quote, so I will:

      In contrast to this, Christianity holds that God existed alone before any time existence was brought forth. He existed as the self-conscious and self-consistent being. The law of contradiction, therefore, as we know it, is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature. Christians should therefore never appeal to the law of contradiction as something that, as such, determines what can or cannot be true. Parmenides serves as a warning of what happens to history if the law of contradiction is in this fashion made the ultimate standard of appeal in human thought.

      Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1979).

  9. Steve M

    Moses, you wrote:
    “Van Til says, “The principles of truth, goodness, and beauty are to be thought of as identical with God’s being; they are the attributes of God.”
    The ‘truth’ quoted above can be translated as ‘logic’ or ‘the laws of logic’. Therefore, Van Til believes that the laws of logic are the attributes of God. For him, they are not created by God.”

    You seem to be contending that the laws of logic are, as Buswell identified them, the laws of truth. If so, I agree whole-heartedly. Can they, then, be subsequent to creation? I don’t see how they can. If Van Til believes, as you say, that the laws of logic are attributes of God (who is Truth itself), then he agrees with Clark who describes logic as the way God thinks. I don’t believe this is Van Til’s position.

    1. Steve,

      Van Til wrote in English. It’s not readily apparent to me why Van Til’s words need to be translated here. Can’t they stand on their own without reading a particular understanding of laws of logic into them?

      1. Moses

        Camden,

        Van Til writes in English, of course. However, his usage of terms is close to the continental tradition of Western philosophy. The term ‘the laws of logic’ is close to the analytic tradition of Western philosophy. However, ‘the principles of truth’ and ‘the laws of logic’ are the same terms although they are literally different. Van Til didn’t use the expression ‘the laws of logic’ in the part of his book above, so it should be mentioned that the term ‘the principles of truth’ means ‘the laws of logic’ for the sake of easier understanding.

      2. Thanks for the reply Moses. I don’t see principles of truth and laws of logic as identical concepts, necessarily. Moreover, even if the term(s) are found in the continental tradition, Van Til often uses technical terms in his own way (e.g. “concrete universal” or “transcendental method”). Granted, that may not be the case here, but we ought to explore the issue from a much larger swathe of Van Til’s corpus. This quote alone cannot support the weight hoisted upon it in this thread.

  10. Moses

    Steve,
    Van Til’s position is against Clark’s position to some extent, of course. However, their positions share some parts of opinions, such as the view that the laws of logic are the attributes of God. They agree on this point, I believe. What is more clearly is that Van Til never believes that logic is created. It’s not because Van Til agrees with Clark, but it’s because it is the more natural conclusion that logic is not created. Van Til believes that God is God, and Clark does so. Van Til believes that the sky is blue, and Clark does so. Even though Van Til and Clark are against each other, they agree on many points.

  11. Steve M

    Moses
    Do you disgree with Camden that Poythress’ reasoning presupposes that the laws of logic are logically (or in any other way) subsequent to creation?

  12. Moses

    Steve,
    At least Van Til believes that the laws of logic are to be thought of as identical with God’s being. If Van Til accepts the doctrine of simplicity, then it is true that the laws of logic are identical with God’s being.
    We can understand the laws of logic, in Van Til’s sense, in the level of creatures. God’s understaning about the laws of logic are not equivalent to our understanding about the laws of logic because, according to Van Til, God is the creator and we are creatures. Therefore, the laws of logic are in a sense incomprehensible, but in another sense they are comprehensible.

  13. Moses

    Guys,

    I am an atheist who majors in philosophy in MA program in Korea. I am just interested in Van Til’s thoughts and other theological topics. So the expression ‘God’ in my writings is just an expression or an assumption for discussion. I need to confess that I don’t agree with Van Til’s position nor Clark’s position. I just want to explain what Van Til really thought and said. Even atheists can teach about theology. 🙂

  14. Steve M

    Moses, you wrote:
    ” Even atheists can teach about theology”.

    Would you say this is something that Van Til thought and said?

  15. Moses

    Steve,

    I wrote that even atheist can teach about theology, but it’s not what Van Til thought and said. It’s just what I think and say.
    Anyway, here’s my argument against Van Til’s thoughts on logic and God:

    The laws of logic are the tools that we use.
    Suppose that the laws of logic are God’s thoughts.
    If the laws of logic are God’s thoughts, then it is the case that we can use God’s thoughts as the tools.
    If we can use God’s thoughts as the tools, then God is not greater than us.
    We can use God’s thoughts as the tools, according to Van Til’s thoughts.
    Therefore, God is not greater than us.
    Therefore, Van Til’s theism fails.

    This is why I am against Van Til’s position.

      1. Moses

        Steve,
        I believe that the laws of logic exist. However, I don’t believe that they are God’s thoughts or someone else’s thoughts.

      2. Moses

        Steve,
        I don’t believe that the laws of logic are God’s thoughts because God does not exist. This is the reason why I am against Van Til’s theism.

    1. –If we can use God’s thoughts as the tools, then God is not greater than us.

      I challenge that premise. It is an unfounded assertion that is neither self-evident nor true in other realms. For example, I can ‘use’ many things that are in some way or other greater than I am. So this premise abstractly and in its specific form appears false. I can use a car, which is greater in power than I am. I can use numbers which are greater in sequential infinitude than I am.
      And if this premise is false, then all that follows in your argument is unsound.

      1. Moses

        Scott,

        I found your objection to my argument recently.
        I think that it is sufficient to point out that the creator must be greater than the creatures.
        If you are a Christian, then you will agree that you are a creature that was created by the creator, namely, God.
        Creation cannot be greater than the creator that created the creation.
        Now, suppose that the laws of logic are God’s thoughts and we can use them.
        Then we can use the laws of logic, and we can use our creator’s thoughts.
        Suppose that you create some things and they can use your thoughts.
        It would be ridiculous that such material things can use your thoughts.
        Therefore, it is not the case either that the laws of logic are God’s thoughts or that we are created by God.

        P.S.
        Gottlob Frege says that the laws of logic are independent of any mind, and are immaterial and universal. But he needs no theistic account of logic because the laws of logic are not God’s thoughts.

  16. Steve, your problem is that you are reasoning like an unbeliever. Didn’t you listen to the podcast? You need to learn how to equivocate like these guys (ie “be humble/Christian”). Thinking and speaking clearly is a sign of unbelief. As Poythress explained, nothing can be univocal, everything must be equivocal, I mean analogical (which is why Aristotelian logic that rests upon clear terms is a failure and anti-Christian).

    So when they say the laws of logic, they don’t mean the laws of logic, they mean the laws of logic. Get it? You need to humble yourself and discard your reliance upon the law of contradiction. Embrace the paradoxical and equivocate with passion!

    (In other words, when Poythress says the laws of logic are not created, he’s referring to Creator Logic and when Camden says they are created, he’s referring to creature logic. But they’ll use the same term because they say they’re talking about the same thing, even though they’ll insist they’re not talking about the same thing. Btw, in case you haven’t learned yet, there is a secret decoder ring that tells you when you are supposed to think logically and when you are supposed to think illogically. Perhaps Camden will let you borrow his if you’re nice)

    In a chapter entitled “The Religious Revolt Against Logic,” Ronald Nash writes, “I once asked Van Til if, when some human being knows that 1 plus 1 equals 2, that human being’s knowledge is identical with God’s knowledge. The question, I thought, was innocent enough. Van Til’s only answer was to smile, shrug his shoulders, and declare that the question was improper in the sense that it had no answer. It had no answer because any proposed answer would presume what is impossible for Van Til, namely, that laws like those found in mathematics and logic apply beyond the [Dooyeweerdian] Boundary” (100). In other words, Van Til, like Herman Dooyeweerd, assumed that the laws of logic are created.

    It is true that in some places Van Til implies that logic is not created.8 But in other places he says the opposite, that is, that logic is created.9 And the difference is not explained by saying that Van Til changed his views; that would be fine. Rather, it is part of the Van Tilian paradox.

    8 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980), 215.

    9 Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974), 92.

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=191

    1. Hermonta Godwin

      Brandon,
      If one rejects the Poythress/Van Til view for the Clarkian view doesn’t that imply pantheism as far as one does so? Poythress et al seem to be saying that the creator/creation distinction holds in all areas while Clark seems to claim that it does not.

      Next Van Til never discarded the law of non contradiction but was simply concerned with applying it improperly in the face of ignorance instead of contradiction.

      1. Hermonta,

        One of the many errors in Van Til’s thinking is the idea that disagreement with him is equivalent to denying the Creator/creature distinction. Van Tillians swing this phrase as a rhetorical weapon, but the truth is that Clark absolutely never denied the Creator/creature distinction. Because of their rhetoric he stated his affirmation of the Creator/creature distinction on numerous occasions. He just disagreed that it meant what Van Til thought it meant.

      2. Hermonta Godwin

        Brandon,
        If you believe that Clark maintained the Creator/Creature distinction concerning the laws of logic, okay. Please explain what it means to hold to such or perhaps what violating the creator/creature distinction in this area would mean/look like.

      3. LOL. I think I had some kind of psychological slip when I typed in the name box 😉

        Hermonta, to answer your question, here is a very brief quote from Clark’s essay “The Bible As Truth” found in his book “God’s Hammer”. If you have not read Clark on this (or any) issue, I would encourage you to do so.

        That the regenerate man as well as the unregenerate is subject to certain epistemological limitations, that these limitations are not altogether the result of sin but are inherent in the fact that man is a creature, and that even in glory these limitations will not be removed, is either stated or implied in a number of Scriptural passages…

        …The professors above referred to assert, “there is a qualitative difference between the contents of the knowledge of God and the contents of the knowledge possible to man” (The Text, 5:1). That there is a most important qualitative difference between the knowledge situation in the case of God and the knowledge situation for man cannot possibly be denied without repudiating all Christian theism. God is omniscient; his knowledge is not acquired, and his knowledge, according to common terminology, is intuitive while man’s is discursive. These are some of the differences and doubtless the list could be extended. But if both God and man know, there must with the difference be at least one point of similarity; for if there were no point of similarity, it would be inappropriate to use the one term knowledge in both cases. Whether this point of similarity is to be found in the contents of knowledge, or whether the contents differ, depends on what is meant by the term contents. Therefore, more specifically worded statements are needed.

        http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=258

        You’ll have to read the full essay to get the full sense. But put simply, Clark believes that God thinks logically and that humans, created in the image of God, share this pattern of thought and also think logically. He believes man’s logic is also God’s logic, not an analogy of God’s logic.

      4. Hermonta Godwin

        Brandon,
        I have read quite a bit of Clark, however not anything recently. I was hoping that you would simply say that there is no creator/creature distinction as far as the laws of logic goes. You have now done such, thank you kindly. Given such, how do you avoid the claim that such is plain and simple pantheism whenever and however the creator/creature distinction is denied at any point?

        Next, concerning your copied excerpt, saying that God’s logic is analogous to man’s logic does not deny that there are points of similarity. If there was no similarity then it would be inappropriate to call it analogous.

      5. If there was no similarity then it would be inappropriate to call it analogous.

        Excellent logic Hermonta! This is precisely the point Clark makes if you read the essay. That’s why he says Van Til’s view is not analogous but equivocation.

        how do you avoid the claim that such is plain and simple pantheism whenever and however the creator/creature distinction is denied at any point?

        I simply say that’s a stupid claim, and an unbiblical understanding of the Creator/creature distinction.

    2. Hermonta Godwin

      Brandon,
      “You’ll have to read the full essay to get the full sense. But put simply, Clark believes that God thinks logically and that humans, created in the image of God, share this pattern of thought and also think logically. He believes man’s logic is also God’s logic, not an analogy of God’s logic.”

      So you deny analogy but then five second later say that it is what you (Dr. Clark) are trying to say?

      Next, where has Van Til or Poythress denied that there are similarities between God’s logic and man’s logic? To say that logic is created would not deny that there are similarities between God’s logic and man’s logic.

      Next, it is easy to call something stupid to which you cannot answer. If there is no creator/creature distinction here, then one is able to tap into the uncreated essence of God. As far as one is able to do such, then one is playing a Pantheistic game.

      Lastly, I think one large problem for your position, is that you wish to isolate it as simply an epistemological question. It is instead both an ontological issue as well as an epistemological question. For example, let us look at the law of identity. I am equal to myself. My being a fallen creature does not change or influence that ontological fact about myself. I can’t get tired or confused and ontologically hold to it in some partial fashion. Now if God’s logic and our logic are the same instead of analogous, then God holds to that same law in the exact same fashion as created beings do.

      That is a serious theological problem, that I don’t think has a solution, but perhaps you can provide one?

      1. Hermonta,

        Please forgive my rude response above. I lost my patience and it was not spoken out of love. I still think you’ve simply assumed what you’re trying to argue, but I will give you the last word if you wish.

  17. patrick

    The above discussion is pretty interesting and I appreciate this interview and for making so many works available online. I’ve read and benefited from all the works in this series thus far so I am looking forward to the logic volume coming out online (though I’ve probably disliked the books more than some, as I’ve been unsatisfied with how short the discussions of the deeper philosophical and theological issues are in them, and I often feel that the past volumes could have had a lot of redundant material removed). One issue regarding God and logic I’ve struggled with is the limits of being a Van Tillian about logic. The following Van Tillian propositions seem true, but they also seem to have radical consequences for how we think of God:

    1. Our knowledge of the logic that characterize God’s nature (or the logic that characterizes our world) is not epistemically grounded in autonomous reason, but is and can only be epistemically grounded in the revelation of God.

    2. For any system of logic, we cannot presuppose that it must (or cannot) be the logic that characterizes God’s nature (or the logic that characterizes our world) but can only know that system of logic through God’s revelation of himself.

    3. So, we cannot presuppose that, e.g., for any given system of paraconsistent logic, that system does not characterize God’s nature (or does not characterize the logic of the world).

    The basic idea is that since we cannot presuppose what form of logic characterizes God’s nature (his thoughts, etc.) we must look to God’s revelation of himself as the final epistemic authority. We cannot start with the presupposition that, say, syllogistic logic characterizes God’s self-consistency. We can’t simply say “system of logic L is the only one that captures consistency,” since “consistency” and “self-consistency” are relative to a system of logic that explains the nature and bounds of that consistency. What I am struggling with, then, is how we can actually figure out which system of logic is the true or best characterization of God’s nature and thoughts, and how we can rule out non-classical forms of logic. Does Scripture give us enough information to rule out non-classical forms of logic? What do we do about the underdetermination of systems of logic present in the Scriptural data (i.e., when Scripture does not say enough to rule out any two or more systems of logic)? To really press the point, why not think some form of non-classical logic characterizes God’s nature and thoughts, such that there are or could be true contradictions present in God’s nature and thoughts, in the world, or in Scripture? And perhaps the true theology contains them? Maybe God really is both 3 persons and 1 person and that this is a contradiction, but also true. I can’t autonomously presuppose this isn’t true and force Scripture to conform to it, but, then, how do I rule it out in a Van Tillian way?

    1. Hermonta Godwin

      Patrick,
      1)It is not entirely clear here what you mean by God’s revelation of himself in either general or special revelation or just special revelation?

      2)Again which revelation of God of himself

      3)No, paraconsistent logic is inherently meaningless as far as it embraces contradictions (as any system that embraces contradictions does), so we can rule it out as far as saying that it characterizes God’s nature.

      1. patrick

        1&2) What do you think Van Til (or Poythress) would say? Which source of revelation is epistemically more authoritative? Work from there.

        3) I’d question on what basis you claim that paraconsistent logic(s) are inherently meaningless (have you taken formal logic seminars? are you familiar with the literature? I don’t think the answer is obvious, in any case). But that’s not relevant, because it doesn’t address my question. If paraconsistent logic is “inherently meaningless,” then given the Van Tillian propositions we do not know that on the basis of autonomous reason (i.e., we cannot presuppose it, then interpret Scripture through that presupposition). So the only way to know your claim in an acceptably Van Tillian way is to know it through God’s revelation of himself–say, in Scripture–but I don’t know how to rule such logics out in such a way. Hence my questions.

  18. Steve M

    Moses you wrote:
    “Steve,
    I believe that the laws of logic exist. However, I don’t believe that they are God’s thoughts or someone else’s thoughts.”

    What are they and on what basis do you believe in their existence?

  19. Moses

    Steve,
    I think that there are several candidates to explain the existence of the laws of logic. One of them is Platonism. If the laws of logic exist as the Platonic Forms, then the existence of them can be explained without theistic account.

    1. Steve M

      Moses

      I didn’t ask you for possible explanations that someone might come up with. I asked you:
      1. What the laws of logic are. (That is what you think they are).
      2. On what basis you (Moses) believe in their existence.

      If you don’t want to answer, just say so, but please don’t give me a non-answer and pretend it is an answer. It makes me think you must be a Van Tilian.

      You said the laws of logic are not thoughts, unless I misunderstood you. Aren’t Platonic Forms ideas? Explain to me an idea that is not a thought. And if the laws of logic are not thoughts or ideas, what are they?

  20. Moses

    Steve,
    According to the standard view, ideas are in someone’s mind. However, the way that people understand ideas as such is close to modern British philosophy.
    Platonism presupposes the existence of Ideas, and Ideas are real and ultimate entities. In this sense, Platonism is not merely idealism, but ideal realism.
    Platonism possibly explains what Ideas really are, so it can explain the existence of the laws of logic.
    Now suppose that the laws of logic are God’s thoughts. Then, the laws of logic are not objective but God’s subjective truths. However, the laws of logic are the objective truths. Therefore, the laws of logic should not be someone’s thoughts if they are the objective truths.
    Now suppose that the laws of logic are the tools for our thoughts. If the laws of logic are God’s thoughts, then God’s thoughts are the tools for our thoughts. If we can *use* God’s thoughts for our thoughts, then God is not greater than us. Therefore, Van Til’s theology has serious errors in this sense.
    I hope that my answer helps you.

    1. Steve M

      Moses

      My questions were simple. You chose to give me an explanation of various philosophical concepts without endorsing any particular concept. I am certain you understand that you are being non- responsive. If I claimed to be an Atheist, I would probably not have the courage to give straight-forward responses either. I would not like to have the vacuous nature of my own positions exposed.

      Van Til has serious errors, indeed. I am not a Van Tilian. I have no interest in defending Van Til’s positions.

      I was not looking for help. I was looking for simple answers. I thought we might engage in a sincere discussion of our particular views. Apparently this is not possible. That is unfortunate.

  21. My “stupid” comment was in reference to the silly way in which you are playing your game. You paraphrase my paraphrase of Clark in your own words and then trap him in those words. Wow, how helpful.

    if God’s logic and our logic are the same instead of analogous, then God holds to that same law in the exact same fashion as created beings do. That is a serious theological problem, that I don’t think has a solution, but perhaps you can provide one?

    I have no idea what problem you see. I suppose if God knows David was king of Israel, that’s an insoluble theological problem as well, since I also know David was king of Israel. Man, better become an atheist like Moses

  22. Hermonta Godwin

    Brandon,

    “Also, notice that Clark’s explanation of the Creator/creature distinction applies to logic as well (ie intuitive vs discursive)”

    Since my example was an ontological/being question instead of an epistemological question, the above distinction cannot help you.

    1. Steve M

      Hermonta:
      “Since my example was an ontological/being question instead of an epistemological question, the above distinction cannot help you.”

      You seem to be asserting that the conclusion you reach: the above distinction cannot help you.” follows from the premise: “Since my example was an ontological/being question instead of an epistemological question,”. Is this an example of creature logic? Would the Creator consider it valid? How do you know?

      1. Hermonta Godwin

        Steve,
        I think conversation go smoother when one topic is fleshed out and then the participants move over to the next one. Right now the topic is what are the implications of the “One/Univocal logic” position. Are all the implications orthodox etc. Whatever you can add would be helpful especially if you believe that I am characterizing the position.

      2. Hermonta Godwin

        Actually you should change that to “if you believe that I am mischaracterizing the position.”

  23. Steve M

    Hermonta:
    “Right now the topic is what are the implications of the “One/Univocal logic” position.”

    Are you telling me that the implications of the “Two/Equivocal logic” position is off-topic?

    I apologize for thinking there was some relationship between the two positions and that both were under discussion. You will have to excuse me. I am not too bright so you will have to let me know when the current topic has been fleshed out. Perhaps you can inform me when it might be permissible to move on to the Two/Equivocal logic topic.

    1. Hermonta Godwin

      Steve M,
      Let me run by you, how I see the conversation on the subject so far.

      Brandon began with saying that Van Til was wrong/silly for denying that logic is univocal. I responded that there seems to be serious flaws with the claims of univocal logic vs. analogical logic, the opening salvo is that the creator/creature distinction is denied and finished with the claim that pantheism seems to be implied.

      We went back and forth a bit and I basically ended with a call for clarification, if one believes that I am misrepresenting the Clarkian position.

      Now, you enter the convo, with the demand that I attempt to flesh out the Van Til/Poythress/etc version of analogous logic before the conversation can proceed any further on whether the univocal position implies some heretical views?

      Is that the way that you see it?

  24. Steve M

    Hermonda
    When I entered the conversation, I did not demand that you do anything. I simply asked you a question. Rather than answer, you gave me advice on how to make conversations go more smoothly. Your advice was to wait until the current topic, which you informed me was, ” what are the implications of the “One/Univocal logic” position”, had been fleshed out. I simply asked you to let me know when the current topic has been sufficiently fleshed out that I might not be interfering with the smoothness of the conversation to ask you my question about the implications of the “Two/Equivocal logic” position. I obviously don’t know the rules that make for smooth conversations, so I decided to defer to your superior understanding of such things and wait for your permission to ask my question at the appropriate time.

    Is that the way you see it?

  25. Hermonta Godwin

    Steve,
    That is about the gist of the situation. I would consider the implication sufficiently fleshed out if you either admit that the Clarkian position implies pantheism and a denial of the creator/creature distinction or put forward your reasoning that such is not the case. Since that was the question on the table when you asked your question, it seems fair that an answer to such is proper before your question is addressed.

  26. Steve M

    Hermonta
    A discussion with you regarding logic or any other subject is pointless because God may not consider any of the inferences you draw to be valid according to His creator system of logic of which you have no knowledge (or an analogy of knowledge at best). I cannot admit or deny anything because in doing so I would have to rely on creature logic which you have been thus far unwilling to demonstrate is valid according to the Creator. Every point you attempt to make begs the question that I asked, “How do you know the Creator considers your creature logic valid?”

    1. Hermonta Godwin

      Steve,
      I asked the question according to the Clarkian system. I have not assumed the accuracy or correctness of the Van Tillian/Poythressian system. For the time being, we can assume that Van Til’s views on logic are heretical. The question that I asked concerning the Univocal view does not rest on Van Til being correct or false.

      An analogy of what I see your view of this conversation is the discussion is about whether Arianism is a heresy. Then you come along and wish to ask questions as to whether Modalism is a heresy. Why in the world would we need to go into Modalism before answering the various questions concerning Arianism. Whether Arianism is a heresy stands or falls completely separate from questions concerning Modalism.

      The bottom line is that it is unnecessary for me to attempt any defense of Van Til before you can properly attempt a defense/clarification of Clark.

  27. Steve M

    Hermonta, you wrote:
    ” Now if God’s logic and our logic are the same instead of analogous, then God holds to that same law in the exact same fashion as created beings do.”

    This, according to you, is an argument. You are claiming that unless there is more than one logic, it is not possible that there is any distinction between the Creator and his creatures. In what system of logic this is supposed to be a necessary consequence, I have no idea. The sentence is unintelligible. I have no idea what “holds to…in the same exact fashion as” means.

    How can we discuss “whether the univocal position implies some heretical views”, without first having a system in place by which we determine what implies what. If God does not accept your system (which differs from his), why should I? If God does consider your different logic to be valid, how would you know, since you don’t know what his system is? You present only two possibilities: the same or analogous. If you have some third option tell us what it is. As far as I am concerned something that is not the same as (even if somewhat like) logic is not logic. Something that is not the same as (even if somewhat like) truth is not truth. Apparently you are willing to settle for something that merely resembles in some way either logic or truth. I am not.

    I believe that God (who is truth itself) does not contradict himself. I believe that to contradict the truth is to lie. Scripture tells us that God cannot lie. I believe that God cannot contradict himself. This absence of contradiction is part of the very nature of truth. Truth is eternal. The law of contradiction is just as eternal as the truth of which it is a characteristic.

    On the other hand Van Til wrote:
    “The law of contradiction… is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature. Christians should never appeal to the law of contradiction as something that determines what can or cannot be true.”

    If this is not hogwash, I don’t know what is. But if he is right, you cannot make an argument based upon the law of contradiction. I am really not sure that you could use the other two laws either. What is the point of our discussion if we don’t know what the rules are for determining what implies what?

  28. Hermonta Godwin

    Steve:
    “Hermonta, you wrote:
    Now if God’s logic and our logic are the same instead of analogous, then God holds to that same law in the exact same fashion as created beings do.”

    This, according to you, is an argument. You are claiming that unless there is more than one logic, it is not possible that there is any distinction between the Creator and his creatures. In what system of logic this is supposed to be a necessary consequence, I have no idea. The sentence is unintelligible. I have no idea what “holds to…in the same exact fashion as” means. ”

    Hermonta:
    Um, the claim was made with the example of the law of identity.

    A quick recap from earlier in my convo with Brandon: “Lastly, I think one large problem for your position, is that you wish to isolate it as simply an epistemological question. It is instead both an ontological issue as well as an epistemological question. For example, let us look at the law of identity. I am equal to myself. My being a fallen creature does not change or influence that ontological fact about myself. I can’t get tired or confused and ontologically hold to it in some partial fashion. Now if God’s logic and our logic are the same instead of analogous, then God holds to that same law in the exact same fashion as created beings do.”

    The claim is pretty straight forward. Are you asking about which system the law of identity is valid in?

    Steve again:
    “How can we discuss “whether the univocal position implies some heretical views”, without first having a system in place by which we determine what implies what. If God does not accept your system (which differs from his), why should I? If God does consider your different logic to be valid, how would you know, since you don’t know what his system is? You present only two possibilities: the same or analogous. If you have some third option tell us what it is. As far as I am concerned something that is not the same as (even if somewhat like) logic is not logic. Something that is not the same as (even if somewhat like) truth is not truth. Apparently you are willing to settle for something that merely resembles in some way either logic or truth. I am not.”

    Hermonta:
    In the current question of (what are the implications of one univocal logic), the question of God accepting ones system does not come up because there is only one system. Now if the univocal system is found to be unworkable, then we can look into other options and their implications.

    Steve again:
    “I believe that God (who is truth itself) does not contradict himself. I believe that to contradict the truth is to lie. Scripture tells us that God cannot lie. I believe that God cannot contradict himself. This absence of contradiction is part of the very nature of truth. Truth is eternal. The law of contradiction is just as eternal as the truth of which it is a characteristic.”

    Hermonta:
    I agree that God does not contradict himself and to contradict the truth is to lie. However I do not need Scripture to tell me that. I can know such without ever knowing what the Bible says or even not knowing that the Bible exists.

    Steve again:
    “On the other hand Van Til wrote:
    “The law of contradiction… is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature. Christians should never appeal to the law of contradiction as something that determines what can or cannot be true.”

    If this is not hogwash, I don’t know what is. But if he is right, you cannot make an argument based upon the law of contradiction. I am really not sure that you could use the other two laws either. What is the point of our discussion if we don’t know what the rules are for determining what implies what?”

    Hermonta:
    Remember what Van Til said or didn’t say is irrelevant for our discussion right now. Our question is what did Clark believe and if the implications are consistent with Historic Christianity.

  29. Steve M

    First things first:
    Hermonta:
    “I agree that God does not contradict himself and to contradict the truth is to lie. However I do not need Scripture to tell me that. I can know such without ever knowing what the Bible says or even not knowing that the Bible exists.”

    How do you know about God apart from Scripture?

    1. Hermonta Godwin

      Steve,
      We can go down that trail now, only if you can show that the answer is necessary before your attempting to answer “Whether the univocal position implies some heretical views?”

      1. Steve M

        Hermonta
        Thank you for informing me of the rules, Your Highness. I am not interested in a discussion with someone who has no clue what an implication is and who does not understand that attempting to determine what is or is not heretical without Scripture as ones source of knowledge concerning God is a waste of time.

        Good bye.

  30. Steve M

    Nathan

    You asked where Van Til said that logic was created.

    Here is one such quote:
    “In Christianity, the righteousness of Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit, presupposes and implies (a) human dependence on the being, will, and revelation of God, (b) divine all-embracive providence, and (c) the created character of the logical function.”

    I am sure I can find others, but,for now this should suffice.

      1. Steve M

        Nate

        Oliphint: “Logic, like all else save God himself, is created. ”

        Does that say logic is created?

  31. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Steve M asks:
    What does ” the created character of the logical function” say?
    It says that the ability to function logically in a being other than Himself has been created by God in man.

    I would like to see the source and context of Oliphint where you quote him as saying: “Logic, like all else save God himself, is created. ”

    In one of the audio pieces at Westminster I heard Van Til flatly state that man’s ability to reason and “know” is “derivative” (his word) of God’s on a finite created scale. For instance.

    This has always been my understanding of his view of logic for the past 25 years.

    Here is a post I made to a guy a few years ago when in the midst of trying to get him to understand the foundational role that epistemology plays in the human condition.”
    “Why thank you ___________. But don’t ya see,(Van Til always said that) this is the absolute core of EVERY discussion, even if only unconsciously assumed, which is usually the case. Not just religious, but philosophical and scientific as well. People everywhere simply meander through life making universal uninterrupted use of a set of intellectual rules without even once ever questioning either their origin or validity. They simply proceed as if it’s a preeminent given that logic governs their reality in such a way that not one coherent thought word or deed would be possible without it.

    My contention is… hang on… they’re right!!!! With one fatal flaw. By every “religious’ definition there is, they worship logic itself instead of the super-logical God who has created us in is image and in so doing has “programmed” us with a finite derivative version of HIS logic. Only He has the full version. That’s why when someone asks “how can God decree evil and not be it’s author and thereby responsible for it?” or “How can God choose individuals to save and damn and those individuals still be free and responsible?” my profound, goose bump inducing answer is… “I dunno” LOL!!! I don’t even pretend to try n know.”

    Unless I have wildly misunderstood Dr. Van Til, that’s what I have always understood him to be saying. I can’t imagine Oliphint disagreeing though I guess I could be wrong.

    1. Steve M

      Greg:
      “I would like to see the source and context of Oliphint where you quote him as saying: “Logic, like all else save God himself, is created.”

      The quote is from:
      The Laws of Logic and Reformed Philosophy
      Jamin Hübner

      thirdmill.org/articles/jam_hubner/jam_hubner.Logic.doc

    2. Steve M

      That’s why when someone asks “how can God decree evil and not be it’s author and thereby responsible for it?” or “How can God choose individuals to save and damn and those individuals still be free and responsible?” my profound, goose bump inducing answer is… “I dunno” LOL!!! I don’t even pretend to try n know.”

      Those who press the Creator/creature distinction the most also seem to be those who understand the least that God’s right to do as he pleases with what he has created is based upon the fact that he is the Creator. You ask, “How can God decree evil and not be responsible for it?” I ask, “responsible to whom?” You ask, ““How can God choose individuals to save and damn and those individuals still be free and responsible?” Those God chooses to save he does not hold responsible for their sins and those he damns he does hold responsible for theirs, but they are not described in Scripture as free. You appear to have decided that it is wrong for God to hold responsible those who are in bondage to sin. On what basis do you make such a judgment?

      You feign humility in your claimed lack of knowledge, but if you were really humble you would not declare impious anyone else’s attempt to reconcile such things that you have decided must be irreconcilable.

      1. Steve M

        I forgot to identify the first paragraph about as Greg’s and the rest as my response in the above reply. Oops!

  32. Steve M

    Greg; “Steve M asks:
    What does ” the created character of the logical function” say?
    It says that the ability to function logically in a being other than Himself has been created by God in man.”

    Greg, you seem to be of the opinion that Van Til was saying, “The righteousness of Christ presupposes and implies that the ability to function logically in a being other than himself has been created by God in man.”? If so, how does the righteousness of Christ imply or presuppose any such thing?

  33. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Steve M quotes himself as asking:
    What does ”the created character of the logical function” say?

    Then quotes me as answering with the following:
    It says that the ability to function logically in a being other than Himself has been created by God in man.”

    Steve M now further asks:
    “Greg, you seem to be of the opinion that Van Til was saying, “The righteousness of Christ presupposes and implies that the ability to function logically in a being other than himself has been created by God in man.”? If so, how does the righteousness of Christ imply or presuppose any such thing?”

    If by this you mean to allege that I am alleging that it is a definitional requirement of the divine righteousness that ANY sort of creation occur at all, then I am alleging no such thing sir. Van Til would also burn himself at the stake before alleging such a thing. Before I wonder any further how you may have gotten this out of what I said, please verify whether or not I have understood you correctly.

    The quote from Dr. Oliphint is as follows:
    Logic, like all else save God himself, is created. All things created are absolutely, totally, and completely subsumed under their Creator and, by definition, never equal to him. Logic (like light, for example) may reflect the character of its Creator but cannot be said to be above him (in the sense of being in anyway superior to him); nor does it, in and of itself, constrain him.
    Knowing what I do about Van Til’s thought along these lines and how faithful I have seen Oliphint’s to be to it, I must assume that he is referring to finite logic as designed into man by God. This assumption is further strengthened by the fact that Oliphint’s analogy is light, which the scriptures, in the clearest language possible, proclaim both that God is (1 John 1:5) and that He creates (Gen. 1:3).

  34. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    I just now saw this:
    Steve M quotes me as saying:
    That’s why when someone asks “how can God decree evil and not be it’s author and thereby responsible for it?” or “How can God choose individuals to save and damn and those individuals still be free and responsible?” my profound, goose bump inducing answer is… “I dunno” LOL!!! I don’t even pretend to try n know.”

    He then goes on to opine in such a way as to suggest that I would disagree:
    Those who press the Creator/creature distinction the most also seem to be those who understand the least that God’s right to do as he pleases with what he has created is based upon the fact that he is the Creator.
    I couldn’t possible agree more. Well said

    Steve M then mistakenly states: YOU ASK (emphasis mine)” “How can God decree evil and not be responsible for it?” I ask, “responsible to whom?” YOU ASK (emphasis mine), “How can God choose individuals to save and damn and those individuals still be free and responsible?”
    I did NOT ask nor do I now ask that sir. I clearly specified that I am speaking of when I am asked these things by others. Either Arminians or unbelievers. You may then pounce upon me by saying that the very act of my entertaining the question renders me vulnerable to your criticism nonetheless (in fact I’m betting on this). I deny it.

    Paul’s anticipation of this exact family of questions in the ninth of Romans proves that we should expect it too. My answer of ignorance is implied in Paul’s. He doesn’t know either and attempts no answer except to simply assert God’s right as creator to do as He pleases. Here try this. I posted this to a vicious God hating audience right after the Sandy Hook shooting and one of the local pagans asked whcih of us idiot Christians (in so many words) still believed that God was perfect.

    “The mere act of asking the question is to have already allowed for the possibility of the existence of a god other than the true and living God which is idolatry. God, that is, THE God, who in the beginning created the heavens and the earth, is Himself the standard by which ALL things are measured. That means when he commands Joshua to kill every man, women, child and beast in Canaan that that is PERFECTLY holy, righteous, just and good. It means that when he causes Israel to eat their own children as reported in Jeremiah 19 that that is PERFECTLY holy righteous, just and good. It means that if He has decreed all of the horrific human misery, suffering and death in all of history that that is PERFECTLY holy righteous, just and good. It means that if He has decreed the existence of billions of human beings for the expressed purpose of casting them into the lake of fire in judgement for sin that He also decreed that that is PERFECTLY holy, righteous, just and good. It means that if He has purposed that everything we consider to be bad, immoral and unthinkably terrible shall be so ordered by divine mechanisms known only to Himself, to His own glory for reasons sufficient unto Himself that that is PERFECTLY holy, righteous, just and good.

    It also means that His not caring one bit how you (or I) feel about that is most assuredly PERFECTLY holy, righteous, just and good. I sleep like a baby knowing that every time I hear about some gut wrenching blood curdling act of barbaric depravity, that my Father God has from eternity seen fit to assign purpose to it that is PERFECTLY holy, righteous, just and good. IF IT WERE MY OWN FAMILY? You ask? Most ESPECIALLY then would I fall to my knees and worship Him knowing that evil has NOT triumphed, but that a PERFECTLY holy, righteous, just, good AND LOVING God who calls me brother, bride and son though I myself belong in that lake of fire will receive honor and glory by my praising His name while the world loses it’s collective mind. EveryTHING and everyONE belongs to HIM. His exaltation and glory IS the purpose of all that is. No more PERFECT purpose could ever exist.

    Hopefully the above should remove any doubts for you as to who my God is.

    Steve declares: Those God chooses to save he does not hold responsible for their sins and those he damns he does hold responsible for theirs, but they are not described in Scripture as free.
    I say they are not described as freer than God.

    Steve M accuses: You appear to have decided that it is wrong for God to hold responsible those who are in bondage to sin. On what basis do you make such a judgment?
    It is my sincere hope to have by this time thoroughly disabused you of this most unfortunate misapprehension of my views. To the extent that it was my fault I apologize.

    Steve M even more strenuously accuses: You feign humility in your claimed lack of knowledge, but if you were really humble you would not declare impious anyone else’s attempt to reconcile such things that you have decided must be irreconcilable.
    This sir is an ethical non sequitur. It is not unreasonable to merely wonder about such things. The Old Testament scriptures with which the Jews were familiar foreshadowed our own system of jurisprudence in that intent is clearly taken into consideration in the event of an apparently criminal activity. A person who accidentally hits a child who runs out in front of his car is not treated the same as a pedophilic murderer. This general principle is illustrated for instance in the cities of refuge found in Joshua chapter 20 where a man who kills by accident is allowed to live and his avenger prevented. Intent matters by God’s own declaration and command. Simply wondering how this might play out in light of Pauline theology is not an abomination and he does not say it is. He gives a sort of non answer that amounts to “Nunna yer business. (or mine) He’s God n you ain’t”. To persist from there would became sin rather quickly.

  35. Steve M

    Greg: Steve M quotes himself as asking:
    What does ”the created character of the logical function” say?

    Actually Greg I was quoting you. I asked: Nate, What does it say? “the created character of the logical function” Steve

    The full quote from Van Til was, “In Christianity, the righteousness of Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit, presupposes and implies (a) human dependence on the being, will, and revelation of God, (b) divine all-embracive providence, and (c) the created character of the logical function.”

    Van Til contends that the righteousness of Christ presupposes and implies the created character of the logical function. You then translate the last part of this contention as “It says that the ability to function logically in a being other than Himself has been created by God in man.”

    I said, ““Greg, you seem to be of the opinion that Van Til was saying, “The righteousness of Christ presupposes and implies that the ability to function logically in a being other than himself has been created by God in man.”? If so, how does the righteousness of Christ imply or presuppose any such thing?”

    You completely evaded the question and answered some question I never asked. I understand if you don’t have an answer. If I were you I wouldn’t have an answer either.

    You make much of the fact that I said YOU asked the two questions that you thought were so unanswerable you don’t even “pretend to try to know” the answers. The important point is not whether you asked these unanswerable question or you postulated some hypothetical person or persons asking these question of you. The important point is your position that the questions are unanswerable. Am I mistaken that you believe these questions are unanswerable? Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought that was the point you were making.

    Most of your responses to what I write have nothing to do with what I wrote, but you do go on. I am willing to respond to your non-responsive answers to my points, but I can’t do it in just one post.

  36. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Steve says: The full quote from Van Til was, “In Christianity, the righteousness of Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit, presupposes and implies (a) human dependence on the being, will, and revelation of God, (b) divine all-embracive providence, and (c) the created character of the logical function.”
    I promise you my good man that by “the righteousness of Christ” dear Dr. Van Til is here referring to that righteousness which is imputed to the believer by grace through faith. NOT the innate divine attribute of righteousness which the Godhead IS by definition.

    Van Til’s point is that assuming this righteousness of Christ has been given to the elect by the power of the Holy Spirit then the following state of affairs will be the case in THEM. It sounded like you were asking me if I believed that creation was a requirement of righteousness. That in order for the righteousness of Christ to exist He must necessarily create. In this case logical function. I was very careful to subjunctivize (is that a word?) my whole treatment of that part of the dialog. I asked you IF that’s what you were asking.

    I assure you sir I do not evade anybody, I do not misrepresent by design and if I don’t have an answer I have no problem saying so.

    Rather than wrangle over yesterday’s words I simply welcome you to ask what you will and I will be more careful to understand you.

    I will for now address this one:
    “The important point is your position that the questions are unanswerable. Am I mistaken that you believe these questions are unanswerable? Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought that was the point you were making.”
    Every question has an answer Steve. That’s not the point. The point is, are we given them and even if we were would we understand them anyway. WE know for an absolute certainty that it is not possible to get something from nothing. Where there actually is “nothing” there is the potential for absolutely nothing else. Not one single lepton, boson or quark. Yet this God with whom we have to do is perfectly able to call the to us, meaninglessly mind cripplingly vast cosmos into existence from nothing by fiat command. You can literally injure yourself attempting to comprehend that. Is there an answer to how it was done? Of course. Will ever get it. Nope. I don’t even pretend to try. In fact, I can’t even define what “nothing” is LOL!

    We were designed in God’s image and likeness. As Van Til was so fond of quite rightly saying, we are to “think God’s thought’s after Him on a derivative created scale”. God has given us a sense of justice which is also confirmed in His law. A man committing a wrongful act either without or against his intent is not naturally thought by us to be culpable in the same way as a man who plots to offend. We got that from God. When Paul anticipates the hypothetical objection in Romans 9 he treats it as a natural question. You WILL say to me then “how can God hold me accountable for a life that He Himself decreed FOR ME before I was born?” How could you not ask that question in the light of what Paul had just been saying? God programmed us with a nature that would ask it. Once now told by an authoritative apostle of Christ, “He’s God n you ain’t. Not your place to ask”, the next words outta somebody’s mouth oughta be: “By God you’re right. Nevermind. I don’t need ta know.”

    Is there an answer. Of course there is. Just like there is with creation ex nihilo, but just like with creation ex nihilo, we’ll never get it. I don’t care. I trust Him.

  37. Steve M

    Romans 9:8-24
    8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
    9 For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.”
    10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac;
    11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,
    12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.”
    13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”
    14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!
    15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.”
    16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
    17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.”
    18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
    19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”
    20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?
    21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
    22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?
    23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,
    24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
    (Rom 9:8-24 NAU)

    Greg
    I do not accept your characterization of what Paul is saying in Romans 9. Paul tells the hypothetical questioner that it is the fact that God created everything (i.e. that he is the potter) that justifies his choice to make some vessels for honorable use and some for common use. This is what he wants his readers to understand. He is not trying to convince them that they don’t need to know anything or even try to know anything. Instead, he is imparting knowledge to them. He is telling them why God is justified in choosing some as vessels of mercy and others as vessels of wrath.

  38. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Steve M says:
    Greg
    I do not accept your characterization of what Paul is saying in Romans 9. Paul tells the hypothetical questioner that it is the fact that God created everything (i.e. that he is the potter) that justifies his choice to make some vessels for honorable use and some for common use.
    Yep. That’s what my paraphrase says. He’s God n you ain’t”

    Steve M says:
    Instead, he is imparting knowledge to them. He is telling them why God is justified in choosing some as vessels of mercy and others as vessels of wrath.

    Forgive me sir, but this is semantic nitpicking and a distinction without a difference. He is imparting to them the knowledge that this is knowledge they will never have by reminding them of who they are questioning. It is the principle of Deuteronomy 29:29 in action: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

    The closest thing he gives to an actual answer is the general declaration that it’s for God’s own glory that he prepares vessels for whatever uses He sees fit. That’s not what the question was though. The question clearly was “How can God be just in holding men accountable for what He has rendered them incapable of avoiding?”. It’s still the number one objection to the gospel of grace today. And the answer is still the same. Nebuchadnezzar sure did get it (the hard way)
    :
    for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
    all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
    and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
    and among the inhabitants of the earth;
    and none can stay his hand
    or say to him, “What have you done?”

    Can you explain to me how God rendered it an infallible certainty that Adam would eat that fruit and yet not be morally accountable for that sin? I can’t. And again, I don’t care. I trust Him.

  39. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Well shoot. I missed a tag. Here’s how it should look. Sorry about that. If the honchos want to remove the first one that would be great:

    Steve M says:
    Greg
    I do not accept your characterization of what Paul is saying in Romans 9. Paul tells the hypothetical questioner that it is the fact that God created everything (i.e. that he is the potter) that justifies his choice to make some vessels for honorable use and some for common use.

    Yep. That’s what my paraphrase says. He’s God n you ain’t”

    Steve M says:
    Instead, he is imparting knowledge to them. He is telling them why God is justified in choosing some as vessels of mercy and others as vessels of wrath.

    Forgive me sir, but this is semantic nitpicking and a distinction without a difference. He is imparting to them the knowledge that this is knowledge they will never have by reminding them of who they are questioning. It is the principle of Deuteronomy 29:29 in action: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

    The closest thing he gives to an actual answer is the general declaration that it’s for God’s own glory that he prepares vessels for whatever uses He sees fit. That’s not what the question was though. The question clearly was “How can God be just in holding men accountable for what He has rendered them incapable of avoiding?”. It’s still the number one objection to the gospel of grace today. And the answer is still the same. Nebuchadnezzar sure did get it (the hard way)
    :
    for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
    all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
    and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
    and among the inhabitants of the earth;
    and none can stay his hand
    or say to him, “What have you done?”

    Can you explain to me how God rendered it an infallible certainty that Adam would eat that fruit and yet not be morally accountable for that sin? I can’t. And again, I don’t care. I trust Him.

  40. Steve M

    God is sovereign. He works all things after the counsel of His will.
    God holds men responsible for their sin,

    These two propositions are not contradictory. Please tell me what you can’t explain and what you would like me to explain, And, my good man, could you keep your answer as succinct as possible? Why is it that you think God “ought” to be held “morally responsible” and by whom? If you are not implying that God ought to be held responsible for actions He foreordains, what is it that requires the explanation you don’t have or care about?

  41. Steve M

    Greg: “Can you explain to me how God rendered it an infallible certainty that Adam would eat that fruit and yet not be morally accountable for that sin?”

    Because God created everything, it is entirely His to do with as he pleases. This is Paul’s point in Romans 9. He is not telling his readers that they will never know why God had a right to love Jacob a hate Esau before either one was born or had done anything good or evil. He is telling them that God’s right to do what pleases him is based upon the fact that he is the potter and the potter has a right to do with the clay whatever he wishes.

    You are claiming that even though you can’t think of any reason why God is not morally responsible for Adam’s sin of eating the fruit that God commanded him not to eat, you still trust Him. For you, this trust is against all reason. For you, faith must eschew reason.

    I don’t believe this and I don’t believe you.

  42. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    @ Steve:
    Westminster Confession of Faith
    CHAPTER IV.
    Of Creation.
    I. It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create or make OF NOTHING the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible… (emphasis mine)

    Do you agree with the divines? If so could you please explain to me how this was done? We’ll forget about the six day thing for now because most of the church has gotten far too sophisticated to take that seriously anymore, including Poythress.

    Westminster Confession of Faith
    CHAPTER III.
    Of God’s Eternal Decree.
    I. God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

    Again, do you agree with the divines and if so could you explain to me how that works please? You SEEM to be of the view that God is fully scrutable. That there are no attributes or subsequent actions of God that lie beyond our creaturely powers of comprehension. If it is NOT the case that you hold this view then please tell me which of the attributes and or actions of God ARE the ones that cause you to admit the limits of your reason. If you say there aren’t any? Then I don’t believe it and I don’t believe you and call you to repentance sir. If there ARE? Then what’s the difference between yours and mine?

  43. Steve M

    Greg

    If I were you, I would not attempt answers to my questions either. I would attempt to change the subject and ask questions on other subjects just as you have done. My questions are simple and it is obvious you have no answers.

  44. Steve M

    Greg

    Respond to my posts or admit you can’t.

    Regarding Creation, God said let there be….. and whatever he commanded came into existence. It seems pretty simple. God is omnipotent. Whatever He commands happens. Where is the contradiction? I don’t see one.

    Regarding God’s Eternal Decree, God decreed whatsoever comes to pass according to His own good pleasure. Some of those things he ordained are sinful acts of men for which they will be held accountable.
    Where is the contradiction, I don’t see one here either.

    If you think it is wrong that God should do so, please explain why. You haven’t done so yet.

  45. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    So then to you Steve there is no apparent logical tension between God’s foreordination that Adam sin and Adam being held legally accountable for it? Before anything aside from God Himself existed, (which I fully believe is what happened) the whole of humanity is plunged to perdition in Adam by this sin which neither would have nor could have happened without God. Yet God is not the author of this, which He Himself calls evil, though He is it’s ultimate cause? There’s no question mark there for you?

    The word “contradiction” occurs now 26 times on this page including this post. Except FOR this post I have not used it once.

  46. Steve M

    Greg

    Despite the fact that you not only don’t answer my questions, but even fail to acknowledge their existence, I will answer yours.

    You ask; “So then to you Steve there is no apparent logical tension between God’s foreordination that Adam sin and Adam being held legally accountable for it?”

    My answer: No. Please explain why you think there should be.

    You ask essentially the same question again with a detailed more argument: “Before anything aside from God Himself existed, (which I fully believe is what happened) the whole of humanity is plunged to perdition in Adam by this sin which neither would have nor could have happened without God. Yet God is not the author of this, which He Himself calls evil, though He is it’s ultimate cause?

    My answer: Correct. Do you think God is the author of Adam’s sin?

    Question: “There’s no question mark there for you?”

    My answer: No.

  47. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    This fall I will have been saved 29 years and you are the very first person I have EVER encountered who has claimed no divine mystery here whatsoever. Congratulations.

    No I do not believe that it is so much as possible that God be the author of ANY sin despite His infallibly certain foreordination that it come to pass. Hence the mystery. This is not a problem for me. Only the simple recognition that its’ the case.

    You SEEM to be of the view that God is fully scrutable. That there are no attributes or subsequent actions of God that lie beyond your creaturely powers of comprehension. If it is NOT the case that you hold this view then please tell me which of the attributes and or actions of God ARE the ones that cause you to admit the limits of your reason. If you say there aren’t any? Then I don’t believe it and I don’t believe you and call you to repentance sir. If there ARE? Then what’s the difference between yours and mine?

  48. Steve M

    Greg

    I am glad you consider me unique, but I am not. You, apparently, don’t get around much.

    I answered your questions. You continue to evade mine.

    Please explain what you consider to be the “logical tension between God’s foreordination that Adam sin and Adam being held legally accountable for it?”

    We both agree that God both foreordains all that comes to pass and holds Adam responsible.

    Does it seem to you that God “ought not” to do that? Is that why you consider this a mystery, logical tension, antinomy or paradox?

    I already know that you won’t answer my question. You will just ask me new questions. This is getting monotonous.

    You claim to worship a God who does what, to your mind, is unjust. You accomplish this worship by casting logic aside. You seem to believe this is necessary in order to worship your totally inscrutable God. You hold ignorance in high esteem. I would like to remind you that understanding is part of faith (the act of believing). You claim to believe something that your own reasoning tells you must be false. I don’t buy it.

    Please quote anything I said that makes it seem that I believe God is FULLY scrutable. I do not claim omniscience.

  49. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Steve M says: This is getting monotonous.
    I agree.

    Could someone else please comment on whether they believe that I have pursued this exchange with Steve in good faith and according to the biblical tradition of reformed orthodoxy?

    I’m asking sincerely.

    1. Steve M

      Greg

      I told you that you would not answer my question and you have proved me right. What is monotonous is engaging in discussion with someone who when asked a question that he is uncomfortable answering simply changes the subject and pretends that no question was asked.

      I will simply consider your lack of answers as an admission that you have no answer.

      1. Greg - (Tiribulus)

        Which questions are those that you feel I have not answered? As far as I am sincerely aware. I have answered all of your questions.

      2. Steve M

        Greg

        “We both agree that God both foreordains all that comes to pass and holds Adam responsible.

        Does it seem to you that God “ought not” to do that? Is that why you consider this a mystery, logical tension, antinomy or paradox?”

        Maybe you answered this question and I missed it, but I don’t think you answered it. Could you possibly point me to where it is that you answered the question?

  50. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Steve M says:
    Greg

    “We both agree that God both foreordains all that comes to pass and holds Adam responsible.

    Does it seem to you that God “ought not” to do that? Is that why you consider this a mystery, logical tension, antinomy or paradox?”
    It seems to me that our universal experience is one wherein a person cannot be both externally caused to and free to do or be the same thing. As I’ve said, it appears to me that God himself in His word considers deliberation in one’s actions to be significant in their culpability in those acts and therefore that God is the source of our universal experience in this regard. I can’t put a brick on the gas pedal of my car, send it into a crowd and convince anybody it was the car’s fault. It seems to me that the great apostle under the inspiration of the Spirit saw fit to preemptively address this very question 2000 years ago indicating that it is not idiotic to ask it.

    It’s not that it seems to me that God ought or ought not do anything. He’s God. His is a divinely unique case by definition that is simply not restricted by the same parameters as when we are contemplating anything or anyone except Him. It would be the most monstrous case of entrapment ever if done by anyone else. God is able to infallibly decree our free choices. To infallibly decree all the evil of history without being evil Himself. If you understand that then you’re a better man than I. Actually, you just say that we’re not free. That God damns men for sin they actually had no even mysterious choice in.

    Now could could please explain to me how God can command light and matter into existence where once there was nothing without them being an extension of His own being?

  51. Steve M

    Greg: “It would be the most monstrous case of entrapment ever if done by anyone else.”

    You “worship” a God who does things, that if done by anyone else you, think would be “monstrous”?

  52. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    If anyone who is not God were to “cause” someone to commit a capital crime and then execute them for committing it, that would be monstrous. If anyone who was not God were to harden Pharaoh’s heart unto disobedience to insure that Pharaoh would pursue a certain course, for the express purpose of punishing him in order to show how great he was, that would be monstrous. He can do it n we can’t.

    1. Steve M

      “He can do it n we can’t.”

      Isn’t the fact that He can do what He pleases with His creation based upon the fact that He is the creator? Isn’t that Paul’s point in Romans 9? Where is the paradox?

  53. Steve M

    “Now could could please explain to me how God can command light and matter into existence where once there was nothing without them being an extension of His own being?”

    I am afraid I don’t understand the question.

  54. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Steve M says: Isn’t the fact that He can do what He pleases with His creation based upon the fact that He is the creator? Isn’t that Paul’s point in Romans 9?
    Yes it is
    Steve M asks: Where is the paradox?
    The paradox lies in the fact that it does not conform with the created reality that God Himself has put us in. If I could figure out a way to get you to willfully shoot 30 kids in a school when you would never had done it without my influence and then called for your prosecution, what would you think of that?

    I could NEVER do that. I’m not capable. I may “force” you to do something horrific, at gunpoint or under the threat of harm to your family, but even then I’m not really forcing you. I’m simply exerting enough persuasion upon your sensibilities so that YOU bend your will to mine. You COULD still resist and accept the consequences. With God, He CAN irresistibly see that we actually exercise our OWN volition in complete conformity to what He wants. I don’t understand that. You seem to imply that you can.

    Let’s try a different way. You said above that God is NOT exhaustively scrutable to you. That certainly there ARE attributes and or actions of God’s that ARE a mystery to you. Could you give me an example please?

  55. Steve M

    Greg
    You seem to imply that actions such as shooting school children are right or wrong independently of God’s commandments. It is precisely because God has forbidden murder that it is evil. God declares what is good and what is evil. In the fall Satan promised Eve knowledge of good and evil independent of God. If she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil she would become like God knowing good and evil. The natural man uses this independent “knowledge” to stand in judgment of God.

    God, as creator, has every right to be the lawgiver without being subject to those laws Himself. Those whom God has chosen to save will love God for all eternity. Those who hate God will be the objects of His wrath and will continue to hate Him for all eternity. God’s wrath is just as righteous as his mercy. He will be glorified by both.

    “With God, He CAN irresistibly see that we actually exercise our OWN volition in complete conformity to what He wants. I don’t understand that. You seem to imply that you can.”

    I know this: I am a sinner. I have not lived up to God’s commandments. God had every right to expect me to obey his laws perfectly. I am responsible for my sin even though God has foreordained all that will happen including my actions. I know that I deserve to go to hell. I know that I deserve to go to hell as much as anyone who will end up there. If I escape hell it will be entirely because of God’s grace and Christ’s death on my behalf. I don’t see any of this a paradoxical

  56. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    @Steve M

    Let’s try a different way. You said above that God is NOT exhaustively scrutable to you. That certainly there ARE attributes and or actions of God’s that ARE a mystery to you. Could you give me an example please?

    1. Steve M

      Greg
      I said above, “Please quote anything I said that makes it seem that I believe God is FULLY scrutable. I do not claim omniscience.”

      You wish to change the subject rather than explain what makes the two teachings of scripture, concerning God, that we have been discussing paradoxical. Just admit you have no answer.

      1. Greg - (Tiribulus)

        Steve M says:
        Greg
        I said above, “Please quote anything I said that makes it seem that I believe God is FULLY scrutable. I do not claim omniscience.”

        And that’s exactly what I attributed to you as saying. Could you please give me an example of an attribute or action of God’s that is mysterious and or paradoxical for you? Perhaps I could trouble you to link to something I could read. Every reformed theologian I’ve read on the decrees of God and the accountability of man concedes mystery there. You say I don’t get out much so maybe you could remedy that situation for me and send me to where I’ve missed the major camp who does not see mystery there.

        But first, could you please give me an example of an attribute or action of God’s that is mysterious and or paradoxical for you?

  57. Steve M

    Greg
    There are certainly things I don’t know about God, but I can’t think of any attribute or action of God that I cannot distinguish from a contradiction. God is truth itself. Non-contradiction is the very nature of truth.

  58. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    In the immortal words of Foghorn Leghorn:
    “Nahs boy but he doesn’t listen to a word ya say”
    Steve M says:
    Greg
    There are certainly things I don’t know about God, but I can’t think of any attribute or action of God that I cannot distinguish from a contradiction. God is truth itself. Non-contradiction is the very nature of truth.

    I’ll try again, but I’ll have to quote myself from a couple days ago.
    “Greg – (Tiribulus) clearly stated on July 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm:
    The word “contradiction” occurs now 26 times on this page including this post. Except FOR this post I have not used it once.

    I have still thus far not charged God with contradiction even once. That’s your word not mine. I prefer the word “mystery”. That’s where God is or does stuff that I can’t understand, but trust Him anyway because He says it’s cool. Now. You say you are not omniscient. I agree. You also say that God is. I agree there too. Let’s try it yet another way. Could I prevail upon you to please tell something that God says he knows that you don’t? Please?

  59. Steve M

    Greg
    You have used the word “paradoxical”. If by paradox you do not mean an apparent contradiction, then tell me what you do mean. God does not contradict himself but He appears to do so from your point of view.

    I will tell you something that God knows that I do not. God knows the future in its entirety. I do not. God knows whether you are one of the elect. I do not. I can only speculate on such things.

    1. Greg - (Tiribulus)

      Steve M says: God knows the future in its entirety. I do not.
      Here’s where I think our problem is. You are willing to concede “mystery”, but not “paradox” as if the two were essentially different. I say this is once again “semantic nitpicking and a distinction without a difference”. Before I go further lemme make sure I have your view straight.

      1. God is the first and efficient cause of all that comes to pass.

      2. Including sin and evil

      3. Men are NOT free.

      4. They are therefore directly predetermined to whatever they are and whatever they do by God.

      5. This is how God knows the future. He is it’s author.

      Where do I need correction so far?

  60. Steve M

    Greg
    Mystery: any truth that is unknowable except by divine revelation.

    Paradox: a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.

    1. true
    2. this does not rule out secondary causes
    3, men are totally depraved (in bondage to sin)
    4, not necessarily “directly”
    5. God has from all eternity decreed whatsoever shall come to pass.

  61. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    I am so slammed, but don’t wanna leave ya hangin Steve.

    You say: 2. this does not rule out secondary causes

    Here’s where the mystery (paradox) starts.

    WCF II:II …”nothing is to him contingent”…

    WCF III:I …” nor is the … contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

    Which is it. The eminent divines couldn’t seem to make up their minds. (I don’t blame them btw) To answer “well, they’re contingent for us, but not for him”, is jist peachy keen, but that still makes nothing ultimately contingent. Call it by whatever semantic label you want. He gets it, we don’t and it makes no sense to us. Guys like Clark can’t seem to get themselves comfortable with a God who is THAT much bigger than they are.

    1. Greg (Tiribulus)

      I know all the guys at TF and as you see from my comment 120 seconds before yours, I know about Clark too. I was asking you to point me to where a prominent man or movement within reformed orthodoxy denied divine mystery. You have since conceded divine mystery, but come nigh unto slaying the same into the death of a thousand qualifications.

      Consider the words of Calvin in the 2nd book of his institutes, Chapter 12 section 5:
      “5. Should any one object, that in this there is nothing to prevent the same Christ who redeemed us when condemned from also testifying his love to us when safe by assuming our nature, we have the brief answer, that when the Spirit declares that by the eternal decree of God the two things were connected together–viz. that Christ should be our Redeemer, and, at the same time, a partaker of our nature, it is unlawful to inquire further. He who is tickled with a desire of knowing something more, not contented with the immutable ordination of God, shows also that he is not even contented with that Christ who has been given us as the price of redemption. And, indeed, Paul not only declares for what end he was sent, but rising to the sublime mystery of predestination, seasonably represses all the wantonness and prurience of the human mind. “He has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the Beloved: In whom we have redemption through his blood,” (Eph. 1:4-7). Here certainly the fall of Adam is not presupposed as anterior in point of time, but our attention is directed to what God predetermined before all ages, when he was pleased to provide a cure for the misery of the human race. If, again, it is objected that this counsel of God depended on the fall of man, which he foresaw, to me it is sufficient and more to reply, that those who propose to inquire, or desire to know more of Christ than God predestinated by his secret decree, are presuming with impious audacity to invent a new Christ. Paul, when discoursing of the proper office of Christ, justly prays for the Ephesians that God would strengthen them “by his Spirit in the inner man,” that they might “be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge,” (Eph. 3:16, 18); as if he intended of set purpose to set barriers around our minds, and prevent them from declining one iota from the gift of reconciliation whenever mention is made of Christ. “

      With Calvin I simply refuse to probe deeper than the Lord has revealed.

      The difference between you and I is that I’m willing to say something APPEARS contradictory to me, but has it’s righteous resolution in the being, mind and will of God.

      You replace the idea and phraseology of “apparent contradiction” with “mystery” and then say that it doesn’t even appear contradictory to you. I say you are trying to save God from a pickle He’s not in, by artificially narrowing the gulf between His understanding and your own.

  62. Steve M

    Greg

    I gave definitions to both mystery and paradox and distinguished between them. We spoke of two things that have been revealed in God’s word. Neither the sovereignty of God nor the responsibility of man are mysteries because both have been made known by divine revelation.

    You have declared that these two revealed truths appear contradictory to you, but you have failed to give an adequate explanation of why they seem so. You do not admit that it seems to you that God “ought not” to be both sovereign and hold man responsible, but, from everything you have written, I can’t reach any other conclusion.

  63. Steve M

    Herman Hoeksema:

    8. Sovereignty and Responsibility

    The question is whether there is a real or apparent contradiction involved in the truth of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

    Let us put both truths in propositional form:

    1. God is absolutely sovereign; even so that he determines the moral acts of man, both good and evil.

    2. Man is responsible before God for all his moral acts.

    Now, the question is not whether there is a problem here. It may well be that we cannot answer the question how God is able to determine man’s deeds without destroying man’s responsibility. That he is able to do so is asserted plainly by the two propositions stated above. But whether or not we can understand this operation of the sovereign God upon man is not the question. The sole question is whether the two propositions concerning God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are contradictory. This we deny. In fact, they cannot possibly be, for the simple reason that they assert something about two wholly different subjects.

    They would be contradictory if the first proposition denied what is affirmed in the second. But this is not true. The first proposition asserts something about God: He is absolutely sovereign and determines the acts of man. The second proposition predicates something about man: He is responsible for his moral acts. Does the first proposition deny that man is responsible? If it does you have here a contradiction. But it does not. Those who like to discover a contradiction here, usually the enemies of the truth of God’s sovereignty, simply take for granted that to assert that God is sovereign even over man’s acts is to say the same as that man is not responsible. It must be pointed out, however, that this is neither expressed nor implied in the first proposition. In the two propositions responsibility is not both affirmed and denied at the same time to man.

    The two propositions would, of course, also be contradictory if the second proposition denied what is affirmed in the first. In that case, sovereignty even over the acts of man would be both affirmed and denied to God. But also this is neither expressed nor implied in the two propositions, unless it can first be shown conclusively that to say that man is responsible is the same as declaring that God is not sovereign over his moral acts. And this has never been demonstrated, nor is it self-evident.

    If they were really contradictory they could not both be the object of the Christian’s faith. We could only conclude that either the one or the other were not true.

  64. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    For now I think we’re wasting each other’s time Steve. That is sincerely not derogatory of you. I’m out of ways to state my case at the moment. Claim victory if you will. That’s ok, but I just don’t know how else to phrase things.

  65. Steve M

    Greg: “The difference between you and I is that I’m willing to say something APPEARS contradictory to me, but has it’s righteous resolution in the being, mind and will of God.”

    You are willing to admit when something APPEARS contradictory to you and I am not, therefore, you are superior to me. Your position is superior to mine because you are humble enough to admit that you can’t understand why God would do what you admit He does do. My position that these two truths that God has revealed do not appear contradictory to me, is obviously arrogant. My refusal to admit my ignorance is certainly makes me the arrogant one. Aren’t you insinuating that “trusting” in a God who does things that you consider indistinguishable from contradictions is a superior approach to any attempt to reconcile these apparent contradictions?

    It seems to me that your humility may really be arrogance.

    I agree that we are probably wasting our time at this point, but I am not declaring victory. I have not convinced you of anything. I consider that a failure.

  66. Steve M

    Counterfeit Contradictions

    Van Tilians assert paradoxes in Scripture. By paradox they mean “apparent contradiction”. They acknowledge that there are no real contradictions in Scripture, but, they say, there are found in Scripture what cannot be distinguished from real contradictions. I will call them counterfeit contradictions.

    Counterfeit money appears to be real money. Counterfeit contradictions appear to be real contradictions. Counterfeit money can be difficult to distinguish from real money. The closer the appearance of counterfeit money to real money the more difficult it becomes to distinguish between the two.

    If I were to receive a $100 bill that I knew to be counterfeit but I could not distinguish from a real $100 bill, is there any way that I could know that no one else could distinguish it from a real bill? If I could both not distinguish it myself and know that no one else could either, is there any way I could be certain it was counterfeit? Perhaps my reason for “knowing” it to be counterfeit was faulty. Perhaps it isn’t counterfeit at all. Perhaps I should spend it. Why not?

    But my problem doesn’t end there. Since at least one perfect counterfeit exists, how can I know that it is the only one? I certainly can’t do it by examining the bills that I am offered. Am I to just give up paying attention the authenticity of the money I receive? Should I value equally a perfect counterfeit and a real $100 bill? How can I do anything else?

    My only two options are to value them all or value none of them, since I cannot distinguish between them.

    Likewise, if it were true that paradoxes and contradictions cannot be distinguished, as Van Tilians claim, one should either accept them all or accept none of them. Those are the only two options that one has if one is honest.

  67. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Your analogical characterization in relation to counterfeit money is fatally flawed. There is nothing apparently counterfeit in the revelation of God. To allege (or imply) that I must conclude criminal deception from incomprehensibility is wholly arbitrary and entirely unrepresentative of anyone I would consider a believer to say nothing of Van Tillian. The analogy itself is however representative of the overly rationalistic probing the apostle rebukes in the question.

    While Calvin goes a bit rougher on our hypothetical inquirer in Romans 9:19 than I would, I’ll submit his words on v.20 from his commentary.

    [Paul] reminds man of what is especially meet for him to remember, that is, of his own condition; as though he had said, — “Since thou art man, thou ownest thyself to be dust and ashes; why then doest thou contend with the Lord about that which thou art not able to understand?” In a word, the Apostle did not bring forward what might have been said, but what is suitable to our ignorance. Proud men clamour, because Paul, admitting that men are rejected or chosen by the secret counsel of God, alleges no cause; as though the Spirit of God were silent for want of reason, and not rather, that by his silence he reminds us, that a mystery which our minds cannot comprehend ought to be reverently adored, and that he thus checks the wantonness of human curiosity. Let us then know, that God does for no other reason refrain from speaking, but that he sees that we cannot contain his immense wisdom in our small measure; and thus regarding our weakness, he leads us to moderation and sobriety.

    I couldn’t have said it better.

  68. Steve M

    Greg
    It is disingenuous of you to morph apparent contradiction (i.e.counterfeit contradiction) into “apparently counterfeit”. It is you who allege apparent contradictions in scripture. I do not. Yet you accuse me of implying that there is something “apparently counterfeit in the revelation of God.” If you did this unknowingly, I would say you are not a great thinker. If you knowingly did this, I would say you are dishonest.

    If I had a $100 bill in my hand that was “apparently counterfeit”, it would pose no problem. That the bill was counterfeit would be apparent. The bill would appear to be counterfeit. I wrote of a bill that did not appear so.

    You are one who holds a bill that he can not distinguish from a real one and claims not only that he knows it is counterfeit, but that he knows no one else can distinguish it from a real one either.

  69. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Yet you accuse me of implying that there is something “apparently counterfeit in the revelation of God.”
    No sir. My apologies if I was unclear. I was rejecting your accusation that I was alleging contradiction in the revelation of God. I was not accusing YOU of such an allegation.

    What I was accusing you of was attempting comprehension where clearly none is possible.

    Let’s keep our accusations straight huh pal? 😀

  70. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    OOPS, walin out the dor again. A quick revision.

    Yet you accuse me of implying that there is something “apparently counterfeit in the revelation of God.”
    No sir. My apologies if I was unclear. I was rejecting your accusation that I was alleging something “apparently counterfeit” in the revelation of God. I was not accusing YOU of such an allegation.

    What I was accusing you of was attempting comprehension where clearly none is possible.

    Let’s keep our accusations straight huh pal? 😀

  71. Steve M

    Greg: “What I was accusing you of was attempting comprehension where clearly none is possible.”

    I plead guilty to attempting to reconcile two propositions of Scripture that you believe cannot be reconciled. I am guilty of attempting to understand what you claim to know is impossible to comprehend, I wonder how you could possibly know what you claim to know.

    1. Greg - (Tiribulus)

      John Calvin didn’t seem to think they could be comprehended either. (neither did Augustine) Of course he’s not God, but he’s not Van Til either.

      1. Steve M

        Greg
        Your quote from Calvin does not deal with the two propositions we have been discussing. I am not aware of where you discussed Augustine. Maybe I missed it.

  72. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Steve M says:
    Greg
    Your quote from Calvin does not deal with the two propositions we have been discussing. I am not aware of where you discussed Augustine. Maybe I missed it.

    My quote from Calvin is from his commentary on Romans. Chapter 9 verses 19 and 20 specifically. That is EXACTLY what we have been discussing and his attitude toward it is ” a mystery which our minds cannot comprehend ought to be reverently adored,” which is what I’ve been saying all along. I only mention Augustine because he was obviously a thousand years before Calvin and Calvin’s hero. He calls God’s predestining decree and working providence quite mysterious too.

    Lets not forget the Westminster Assembly, Confession III, “Of God’s Eternal Decree”, section VIII: “VIII. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care…”

    Look brother. Clark was a good man, but struggled with slavery to his own mind and it got worse as he got older. The practical whole of reformed orthodoxy has always held Calvin’s attitude. “I dunno know how this works and neither do you. Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gets it and I don’t. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

    NOBODY has EVER said, including me, that there does or even could exist ANY truth of God that is contradictory or irreconcilable. Only that WE can’t do it, like Calvin said. We adore it as we adore Him who dwells in unapproachable light who is it’s exalted origin. It’s a bit disconcerting hearing a guy seriously contend that his 3 pound brain is able to contain and parse the eternal decree of almighty God when the Westminster Divines (over 120 or em) spent 4 years hammering all this out and emerged with a mystery.

    With all due charity and respect. You really don’t see how one might look just a bit askance at such an assertion?

  73. Steve M

    Greg
    When I was looking back through the post, I missed the reference to Calvin on your quotation from his commentary on Romans 9. When I wrote, “Your quote from Calvin does not deal with the two propositions we have been discussing”, I was referring to your earlier quote from Calvin in the 2nd book of his Institutes, Chapter 12 section 5.

    Regarding the quote from the Romans 9 commentary, Calvin is not saying that the supposed apparent contradiction between God’s sovereignty and God holding man responsible is the “mystery which our minds cannot comprehend”, he is rather saying that the cause of God’s choice of who to elect to eternal life and who to pass by in reprobation is the mystery upon which we should not speculate and thus go beyond Scripture. Calvin grants that God has a right to do as he pleases and that what he does is righteous and just. Calvin’s clear point in this passage from his commentary is not that we should refrain from any attempt to reconcile alleged paradoxes in Scripture, but that we should not look for anything outside of God Himself to account for his choice of the objects of His mercy and the objects of His wrath.

  74. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    I say he means both. The same as he does in his exposition of v.22:
    22. And what, etc. A second answer, by which he briefly shows, that though the counsel of God is in fact incomprehensible, yet his unblamable justice shines forth no less in the perdition of the reprobate than in the salvation of the elect. He does not indeed give a reason for divine election, so as to assign a cause why this man is chosen and that man rejected; for it was not meet that the things contained in the secret counsel of God should be subjected to the judgment of men; and, besides, this mystery is inexplicable. He therefore keeps us from curiously examining those things which exceed human comprehension. He yet shows, that as far as God’s predestination manifests itself, it appears perfectly just.
    What of the divines? (The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care…”)
    Lemme make sure I understand where yer goin here. You are going to contend that Clark’s rationalism is the majority view of reformed orthodoxy and that the crew at WTS, especially Van Til, were the guys advancing novelty? Is that right?

  75. Steve M

    Greg
    Are you suggesting that we arrive at truth by a show of hands?

    You say, “I think he means both”, but the quote you post does not demonstrate that and you give no explanation.

    What of the divines?

    You wrote:
    “WCF II:II …”nothing is to him contingent”…
    WCF III:I …” nor is the … contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

    Which is it. The eminent divines couldn’t seem to make up their minds.”

    Are you saying the divines were confused? If they were confused, does that put them on your side?

  76. Steve M

    Greg
    I want to thank you for the quote from Calvin. It only serves to reinforce my point.

    Calvin: “He does not indeed give a reason for divine election, so as to assign a cause why this man is chosen and that man rejected; for it was not meet that the things contained in the secret counsel of God should be subjected to the judgment of men; and, besides, this mystery is inexplicable.”

    The inexplicable mystery that is contained in the secret counsel of God that should not be subjected to the judgment of men is “why this man is chosen and that man rejected.”

    Calvin: “[Paul] yet shows, that as far as God’s predestination manifests itself, it appears perfectly just.”

    Calvin doesn’t say predestination appears to contradict itself, he rather says “it appears perfectly just.”

    I agree with Calvin. I agree that it is a mystery why this man is chosen and that man is not. I agree with Calvin that, as far as it manifests itself, predestination appears perfectly just.

  77. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    I am having no end of woe with my internet connection the last 2 days. Got new modem this morning.

    Calvin: “BESIDES”.

    In addition to this part of what he’s been saying, there’s also the fact of the inexplicably and incomprehensibility of the whole matter at hand. NOT of why individuals are elect. That’s not inexplicable. He could have told us why Joe was chosen and Fred wasn’t. He just didn’t. What’s inexplicable is HOW. We as His creatures are denied both the why and the how and should rest content therein.

    Confusion is the wrong way to characterize the divines on this score and I’m sure there was some divergence among those in the assembly. The bottom line is either NOTHING is contingent OR some things are. Secondarily or not makes no ultimate difference in relation to God Himself. If ANYthing is contingent to Him then this universe could not exist. If NOthing is then NOthing is and any talk of the liberty or contingency of secondary causes is for our benefit only. They did the best they could with what they had to work with and called it a mystery.

    This topic is actually one component in a much broader arena of thought. Please see here. http://reformedforum.org/podcasts/ctc289/ I kinda stepped on Justin’s toes, but the dialog there is about the foundation which governs what we are talking about here. I wish I had more time now, but I am way behind with all this internet trouble I’ve been having.

  78. Steve M

    Greg
    You wrote: “In addition to this part of what he’s been saying, there’s also the fact of the inexplicably and incomprehensibility of the whole matter at hand. NOT of why individuals are elect. That’s not inexplicable. He could have told us why Joe was chosen and Fred wasn’t. He just didn’t. What’s inexplicable is HOW.”

    Please show me where Calvin says that. I missed it. It appears to me that you are simply taking something Calvin wrote on one subject and applying to another.

  79. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    John Calvin says:… the counsel of God is in fact incomprehensible,..
    CANNOT be understood. Not that it COULD be understand if only he told us.

    John Calvin says:… yet his unblamable justice shines forth no less in the perdition of the reprobate than in the salvation of the elect.
    Calvin reminds us that God’s justice is nonetheless “unblamable”. Why?

    John Calvin says:.. He does not indeed give a reason for divine election, so as to assign a cause why this man is chosen and that man rejected;
    Indeed the apostle does not.

    John Calvin says:… for it was not meet that the things contained in the secret counsel of God should be subjected to the judgment of men;
    God did not see fit to subject His judgement nor his reason/s for it to ours. Agree.

    John Calvin says:… and, besides, this mystery is inexplicable.
    This is Pringle’s translation from the Latin and I don’t know Latin ,but he has Calvin here continuing with the phrase “and besides”, which means “in addition to and apart from”. Assuming the translation is accurate, Calvin is saying: “in addition to and apart from these immediately preceding points I’ve just been making, as I said before, it is not only secret, but incomprehensible as well.

    John Calvin says:… He therefore keeps us from curiously examining those things which exceed human comprehension.
    I agree again. This is what I’ve said all along. His word commands men to behave and believe in ways that He Himself has not only made no possibility for them to do, but He has also Himself fitted them for destruction. If we take verses 22 and 23 as eternal parallels to one another and go with the passive voice for κατηρτισμένα (though some say middle, which still wouldn’t make this an Arminian statement) in the phrase “κατηρτισμένα εἰς ἀπώλειαν”, “prepared for destruction” ESV, then God has created and fashioned them for the expressed purpose of destroying them for being and doing evil which He remains spotlessly pure in relation to.

    That exceeds my comprehension. The reasons for His merely choosing this one or that may not exceed my comprehension if He just told me. The reason for His choice is secret and in that sense mysterious. It is not incomprehensible in the same sense as creation ex nihilo. The reason for His choice in other words is beyond by view, not beyond my powers.

    John Calvin says:… He yet shows, that as far as God’s predestination manifests itself, it appears perfectly just.
    And as far as it does NOT manifest itself, that is, remains Hidden in divine mystery, it is entirely incomprehensible. I suppose it is debatable what Calvin here intends by the word “appears”. I took him in the objective sense “God’s predestination shows itself to be just” You took it in the subjective sense. “We SEE it as just”. If it simply appeared perfectly just in that sense, it would make no sense for Paul to intercept the inevitable objection of verse 19 when addressing: “those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:” (1:7)

    (my skills in Koine Greek are quite feeble so I’m open to correction)

  80. Steve M

    Greg
    You seem to forget what you were contending. You have been contending that Calvin was saying that the apparent contradiction between God’s sovereignty and His holding man responsible is the mystery (i.e.incomprehensible). Once again, Calvin clearly says that it is the cause of God’s choice of which ones will be a vessels of mercy and which ones will be vessels of wrath that is the mystery. Nothing you have written counters this assertion that this is what Calvin is addressing.

  81. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    We’re going in circles.

    You never answered this:
    “You are going to contend that Clark’s rationalism is the majority view of reformed orthodoxy and that the crew at WTS, especially Van Til, were the guys advancing novelty? Is that right?”

  82. Steve M

    Greg
    I deny that Clark was a rationalist. Clark was a Scripturalist. Before I could contend that Scripturalism is the “majority view of reformed orthodoxy”, I would need to survey the writings of all the orthodox reformed writers since the reformation that expressed an opinion on Scripturalism and then count noses. You have presented no evidence of any orthodox reformed writers that share the view that “Our knowledge is analogical and therefore must be paradoxical,” and “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.” If this is the majority view of reformed orthodoxy, you have not given any evidence. You distort Calvin to try to make him support your position when he does not. You are not interested in the truth. You would rather distort Calvin that admit he does not support your position. It is sad.

    A rationalist believes that knowledge can be obtained by the use of logic alone. Clark’s position is that Scripture is our only source of knowledge. Logic applied to the Scriptures gives us knowledge, but not logic by itself. Possibly you distort Clark’s views because you don’t know what rationalism is, but I doubt that is the case. I think you distort the truth because you are not really searching for it.

  83. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    Sir, I have never once said or implied “Our knowledge is analogical and therefore must be paradoxical,” or ESPECIALLY that “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.”

    We have passed the point of productivity I believe. At least for now.. I have enjoyed our conversation, count you a brother, and I hope friend and do bid you Godspeed.

  84. Steve M

    Greg
    You wrote: “Sir, I have never once said or implied “Our knowledge is analogical and therefore must be paradoxical,” or ESPECIALLY that “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.” ”

    Those are both quotes from Van Til. I am sure some one will tell me he really meant something else. That seems to be the way it goes on here.

  85. Steve M

    Greg
    You suggest that the crew at WTS and especially Van Til represent the majority view of reformed orthodoxy, but you shy away from supporting his views when I quote him verbatim.

    Here are the quotes and the references:
    “Now since God is not fully comprehensible to us we are bound to come into what seems to be contradiction in all our knowledge. Our knowledge is analogical and therefore must be paradoxical.”
    (Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 61)

    “… while we shun as poison the idea of the really contradictory we embrace with passion the idea of the apparently contradictory.”
    (Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, 9)

    “All teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.”
    (Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, 142)

    Do these quotes represent the majority view of reformed orthodoxy?

    I don’t think they do.

  86. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    I WILL give you credit for being somehow able to keep drawing me back into to this time consuming discussion when I have improperly neglected others I was in first to do so.(not your fault)

    You did not properly credit Dr. Van Til with those quotes even though you did use quotations marks. You set them forward as if being YOUR understanding of what I myself had said. From the pen of Van Til, since I KNOW what he would mean by them, they carry far different significance. From an epistemological standpoint? Yes. All merely human knowledge is apparently self contradictory. The problem of the one and the many (for example) taught us that a few thousand years ago and the entire history of philosophy is littered with the intellectual corpses of those who have both attempted to say otherwise as well as those who have conceded the point without resolution. I hope you understand how vast and sprawling this whole arena of thought is. Not just historically, but in itself.

    I suspect you got those quotes second hand and I will then have to dig them out of the original works they came from, though as I say, since I now know they are Van Til’s, I also now know that he was certainly speaking from the standpoint of foundational axiomatic first principle and not just declaring EVERYTHING, including scripture contradictory.

    I’ll need time.

  87. Greg - (Tiribulus)

    I’m not ignoring you man. This happens to me all the time. I get myself involved in more stuff than I have time for, 🙁

  88. Sent you the following email in response to yours Steve:
    Sorry Steve, Our discussion away from me and reformed forum has no notifications. I had no idea you had posted back there. I barely remember where we were and am in the middle of several new discussions, but will do my best.

    1. Steve M

      Greg

      No problem. I understand. I lose track of things too. I posted on your website because I saw that you posted part of our conversation. I thought it was only fair to post the rest. Hope you don’t mind. I thought it was an interesting exchange. A bit long maybe, but on an interesting subject.

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