Inerrancy and Justification

by Reed DePace

I recently finished reading the most recent issue of the Westminster Theological Journal. In it Gregory K. Beale has an excellent article in which he offers an exegetical defense of the necessity of inerrancy. I won’t offer a review of that article here, but rather encourage y’all to get a hold of it. It is pretty good.

In the article Beale uses God’s standards for prophets speaking His word to make the case that inerrancy is indeed an essential and necessary characteristic of the Bible. Centered mostly in an excursive in Revelation, Beale offers a pretty convincing argument. (But, of course, I’m already a kool-aide drinker, so what do I know?)

As I read the argument I was reminded of a passage pressed upon me in my early days of discipleship, Deut. 18:20-22:

20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’ – 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

So, is not God’s word written by men called under the standards of prophetic ministry? Yes, of course. And do these standards not require that their words be true? Yes, of course. Specifically, is not the characteristic of truth in the above passage specifically historical truthfulness, that is accuracy in terms of what actually does happen in time? The passage certainly does say that.
So, if it be maintained that God’s word does indeed contain historical inaccuracies (e.g., no real Adam), does this not mean, at the very least, that Moses (and any inspired editor of the Pentateuch), fails the Deuteronomical test for a prophet speaking for God?

At the very least, we should not “be afraid” of Moses. Let’s throw out any book he had a hand in writing, and of course any book dependent upon his writings. (Uhh, wait a minute, that includes the whole Bible.)

Wait, here is a worse thought! Suppose you want to maintain inspiration, but deny inerrancy. That would mean that Moses really was speaking for God. So, if there are errors in the Bible, that would mean God Himself is guilty of being a false prophet. Now we’re facing a real dilemma. If false prophets should die, God should die for authoring error in His own name.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sure not going to start throwing stones at God. Instead, I’m going to stick with my conviction about inerrancy. It is much simpler to believe the Bible is what is says it is, God’s own inspired, infallible, AND inerrant word, than to spend the time trying to figure a way out of the mental knots one ties himself in when he denies inerrancy.

God’s word is inerrant. Stay away from the stones.

Reed DePace

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255 Comments

  1. proregno said,

    May 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    “We must accept the infallibility of Scripture, not the inerrancy of Scripture. The latter is a ‘fundamentalist’ view that developed later in history.”

    Any comments on this view, what is the difference, if any, between infallibility and inerrancy ?

  2. Reed Here said,

    May 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Uh yeah …

    • Inerrant – God speaks without error.
    • Infallible – God speaks without futility.

    Now, aside from the fact that I believe the Bible declares both of these are true;

    If God spoke errantly, but nevertheless infallibly, again, what’s the point in the exercise? What does it matter that His word will always be fulfilled – if we can’t tell the error from the truth in the first place!?!

  3. greenbaggins said,

    May 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    I actually believe that Sproul has the better distinction between the two terms. He believes that inerrancy simply means that there *are* no errors, whereas infallibility means that it is *incapable* of falling into error. The latter is the stronger term, by these definitions. After all, there are many documents out there that do not contain errors. However, how many documents can claim to have the property of being unable to fall into error?

  4. paigebritton said,

    May 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Hey, Slabbert,
    Here’s a little more about the two terms, and the question of the later development of “inerrancy”:

    [I]t is arguable that those who today defend the use of the term inerrancy mean no more and no less than did most of those who used the term infallible forty years ago [PB: this essay was written in 1986, so do the math!]. One of the factors that has prompted the switch has been the progressive qualification of infallibility: [I. Howard] Marshall wants it to mean “entirely trustworthy for the purposes for which it is given.” That qualification may be entirely laudable, if the “purposes” are discovered inductively and not arbitrarily narrowed to salvific matters, as if to imply that the Bible is not trustworthy when it treats history or the external world…In short, conservatives may in some measure be innovative in stressing one word above another as that which most accurately characterizes their views; but it is not at all clear that by doing so they have succumbed to doctrinal innovation insensitive to normal linguistic usage.” — D. A. Carson, Recent Developments in the Doctrine of Scripture, in Collected Writings on Scripture, 2010, p.88f.

    Some British theologians have labeled the “inerrancy” movement strictly a North American phenomenon, and have preferred to use the term “infallible.” But as Carson points out, they may not always mean “without error” when they fall back on that term — it may just mean that they think the Bible is true about theological things, but not empirical data or history. (But again it may not: so check your sources.)

    Another question that must be asked about a writer’s doctrine of Scripture is whether or not he believes the words of the Bible to be the very words of God (as well as the product of real human authors). If it is not God’s speech written down, but only a human report of God’s work in the world, then it has no more authority for us than any other ANE or ancient Greco-Roman document, and it will inevitably have errors. A right understanding of inspiration goes hand-in-hand with a confession of inerrancy.

  5. Reed Here said,

    May 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Lane: let me ask a question that may remove a quibble for me. Is Sproul saying simply “incapable of error,” or “since incapable of error therefore will be fulfilled”? I.O.W. is he merely distingsuihing between factual demonstration (inerrancy) and causal principle for the the fact (infallibility)? Or is he relating the two principles: historical fact (inerrancy) which yields eschatological fact (infallibility)?

    I’m inclined toward the latter. In other words, I do believe inerrancy and infallibility are necessarily connected. You must one one if you have the other (ditto inspiration). I would disagree if all were doing with these terms is merely distinguishing between fact and principle.

    Thanks!

  6. Reed Here said,

    May 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Paige: this is one of the things I hope the new ICBI addresses, the distinctions and relationships between inerrancy and infallibility. The confusing/conflating of these terms seems to me to be something that was to be expected from the first ICBI statements. I’m not questioning their statement’s sufficiency at the time. However, it is clear from some recent arguments (cf., McGowan) that the “minimal” distinguishing/relating between these is not sufficient at present.

  7. greenbaggins said,

    May 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Reed, I think what Sproul means is that infallibility is the root which causes inerrancy to be the result. So, since the Holy Spirit is incapable of lying (infallible), He will not in fact lie (inerrancy).

  8. Reed Here said,

    May 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Hmm … I may disagree with Sproul.

    Better go study up some more :-)

  9. paigebritton said,

    May 12, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    It seems to me the two terms are like Genesis 1 and 2: first you get the big picture (infallibility) and then you zero in on a specific aspect of it (inerrancy).

    I’ve appreciated Alan Cairns’ attempt to distinguish them, from his 2002 Dictionary of Theological Terms (both on p.232):

    Inerrancy: The unique quality of Scripture by which it was given by God to His chosen penmen in a state that was free from all error of every kind.

    (This focus on the “penmen” is helpful because the discussions on inerrancy usually turn on questions of reporting factual data, whether scientific or historical, as well as the “phenomena” of the Bible, like reporting of numbers or different versions of events. All of these details about the making of the text are covered by this term and especially highlighted by this definition.)

    Infallibility: That quality of the Bible, the inspired word of God, by which it is free from error, authentic in its writings, reliable in its revelation, and authoritative in all its communications. In other words, infallibility means that the Scripture, whether considered in its totality or in any of its parts cannot fall short of being true, whatever the subject under consideration may be.

    (He then gives a nice long discussion of how this applies, which basically reproduces most of what we would say about “inerrancy”! So he really thinks of the terms almost interchangeably, but “infallibility” is bigger. How’s that for helpful! :)

  10. proregno said,

    May 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Thank you for all the answers.

    Our standard Afrikaans dictionary for ‘infallibility’ (Afr.: onfeilbaarheid) has these definitions:

    1. Wat nooit ‘n fout maak nie (‘which never makes a mistake/error’).
    2. Wat altyd suksesvol is (‘which always is successful’).

    F. Deist (1944-1997), the father of modern higher critical theology in South Africa (IMO), who was professor in OT at Unisa, defined ‘inerrancy’ in his theological dictionary as: “inerrancy of the Bible: (die) onfeilbaarheid van die Bybel, feilloosheid van die Bybel” ([the] infallibility of the Bible, the faultlessness of the Bible”) Source: A Concise Dictionary of Theological and Related Terms (Pretoria: JL van Schaik), 1990: p.317.

    It seems to me that infallibility = inerrancy, and not in contradiction with/to each other. The infallibility vs inerrancy idea is a modern day invention, as you mentioned above.

    It is a slogan to allow the old ‘form vs substance’ dualism to get centre stage in reformed theological schools and churches, but the so-called ‘inerrancy fundamentalism’ of confessional reformed folks today, was the ‘infallibility reformed view of Scripture’ of the Reformation etc through the centuries (for instance, see BC art.7).

    The same old ‘barthian’ (?) strategy: use reformed language, but give another/non-biblical/non-reformed meaning to the words/definitions.

    Like B. Cottret said: “Heresy is never anything but a question of grammar.”

  11. Matt Beatty said,

    May 12, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Could someone reading recommend a “rejoinder” to Enns’ work (I&I) that meets him, major point-for-point?

    Thanks.

  12. wsparkman said,

    May 12, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    “The latter is a ‘fundamentalist’ view that developed later in history.”

    That view is essentially part of the Rogers/McKim thesis, which was so powerfully refuted by John Woodbridge in his 1982 work, Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (catchy title, eh?)

    My guess is that at least some of Woodbridge would answer Enns, in part.

  13. wsparkman said,

    May 12, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Matt:

    Here’s one portal listing of articles by Beale and Helm in reply to Enns:

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2008/01/16/enns-vs-helm-vs-beale/

  14. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 13, 2011 at 5:27 am

    A denial of inerrancy (or merely an accommodatiing-error inerrancy)

    I can accommodate that error. :)

  15. paigebritton said,

    May 13, 2011 at 6:01 am

    Matt —
    I absolutely loved D. A. Carson’s review of I&I, which is one-third of his “Three More Books on the Bible: A Critical Review.” It’s published in his new Collected Writings on Scripture, but you can access it online at http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life/three-books-on-the-bible-a-critical-review.php

    I put together a reader’s review of I&I a few years ago after researching everybody else’s opinion of it up to that point (2008, I think) — the piece itself will not please everybody (it’s a bit too lenient, now that I read it again), but there is probably some unique material there & some resources in the endnotes that will serve. The I&I stuff is pretty much the second half; the first half deals with Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. You can access the article at:

    http://www.wrfnet.org/c/journal_articles/view_article_content?groupId=1&articleId=196&version=1.0&p_l_id=PUB.1.27

    pax,
    pb

  16. greenbaggins said,

    May 13, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Matt, I think that Gaffin’s article, published on my blog here, has some of the very best argumentation against Enns’s position.

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2008/06/25/a-word-from-dr-richard-b-gaffin-jr/

  17. Stuart Jones said,

    May 13, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    For perspective: Frame has a helpfull discussion of the terms used to define how we view the truthfulness of Scripture (google on “Is the Bible Inerrant?”).
    Warfield suggested that one could be less than fully orthodox on the doctrine of Scripture and still be a Christian. But I suppose that is true of some other doctrines as well. Grace overcomes or co-exists with some degree of inconsistency in the believer. I would rather urge consistency than spend a lot of energy determining how inconsistent one can be and still be presumed in God’s grace.
    Murray has a wonderful piece in the first WTS seminary symposium on the Infallible Word (also available online–try google). I think it is stronger than Warfield. It recognizes the arbitrariness of confining inerrancy to soteriological doctrines but not other matters. It seems to me the interesting question for the orthodox comes down to the meaning of statements like “inerrant in all that it affirms.” It seems to me that the Bible implies or builds on less explicit premises that must also be regarded as inerrant. It seems to me that biblical authors may have used common errant conceptions of their time without affirming their factuality (e.g. as illustrations; this would be one possible explanation for the “legendary allusion” of 1 Cor 10:4 that Enns has employed to lower the doctrine of Scripture).
    People mock the”slippery slope” but I think Enns’ recent questioning of an historical Adam indicates the validity of the concern.
    S Jones

  18. Matt Yonke said,

    May 13, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    I’m a bit surprised I’m the first Catholic to ask this, but how do you see this question as differing from the question we Catholics often raise in terms of the infallibility of the Canon of Sacred Scripture as a whole?

    It seems to me to be precisely the same question. If you don’t know which books are in or out with infallible certainty, you could be basing key points of your theology on books that do not actually contain the word of God.

    The holder of an infallible canon has no principled way of telling the infallible books from the fallible in precisely the same way that the disbeliever in the inerrancy of the texts couldn’t find a principled way to tell the difference between the inerrant portions of Scripture and the errant.

    What do you gentlemen think?

  19. Sean Gerety said,

    May 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Reed, excellent post. However, what if someone affirms that the teaching of Scripture end in apparent contradictions? Does the mere assertion that for God there are no contradictions make the Scriptures any less contradictory at least for us mere mortals? And, if no, then what does that do in regard to the question of inerrancy? How would you answer someone who maintains that A is A and not non-A?

  20. paigebritton said,

    May 13, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Matt Y –
    The holder of an infallible canon has no principled way of telling the infallible books from the fallible in precisely the same way that the disbeliever in the inerrancy of the texts couldn’t find a principled way to tell the difference between the inerrant portions of Scripture and the errant.

    Did you mean to say, “the holder of a fallible canon has no principled way to tell…”? I am utterly befuddled by this sentence.

  21. Richard said,

    May 14, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Paige, I think Matt is refering to the definition of the canon as articulated by Sproul as a ‘falliable collection of infalliable books’. The problem with this is, as Matt notes, that how can we be sure if books x, y & z should be included in the canon? I would suggest that the issue Reed raises is further complicated because the RCC teach that scripture is inerrant and yet they take a different view on what the verses mean in Romans 3 etc.

  22. paigebritton said,

    May 14, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Right, Richard. It’s a familiar loop. But his sentence structure had so many negatives in it that I got lost. (And I still don’t think he meant the first one! :)

    The inerrancy of Scripture is a quality independent of our interpretation of it, by the way, and does not correspond to any one interpretation rather than another (though some behave as if it does). Inerrancy is about the quality of God’s speech to us, not about our understanding of it.

    That said, all interpretations are not created equal, and God’s intent to communicate directly to his people, without the help of a specially established interpretive magisterium, is clear throughout the Bible.

  23. michael said,

    May 14, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Why does the question frame around whether or not God is errant or futile with regard to His written Word?

    It seems to me what needs to be acknowledged is the nature of fallen, errant and futile man, us, you and me! It is men like us in our natural condition who God used to write the Word.

    As the Scriptures teach, God can cause all things to work out for our good.

    That is an important distinction to me because it is by the Spirit of Grace and Truth that I have come to agree with myself in this that I am indeed, from nature a fallen man. It was the coming to Life by the Law, that which is holy, righteous and good, that I come into this understanding of myself.

    While God can cause all things to work out for our good, we fallen, errant and futile souls, can do absolutely nothing, I can do nothing to cause all things to work out for our good!

    Rom 3:1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?
    Rom 3:2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
    Rom 3:3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
    Rom 3:4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

  24. Thomas Twitchell said,

    May 15, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Learn to not go beyond what is written.

    This is a trustworthy statement.

    Trustworthy…

    Well, that all depends on market…

    Futures are a risky. Who knows if they will hold their value?

  25. Stephen said,

    May 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Paige (22),

    Howdy. I appreciate your delineation of matters in terms of inerrancy (on the one hand) and interpretation/hermeneutics (on the other, but certainly related, hand). E.g, inerrancy refers to what God in fact says and, in principle, should not be equated indubitably with certain interpretations. This is, in many ways, a unifying feature and important contribution of the essays in Inerrancy and Hermeneutic, which you overview in a different post. I may make some comments there later.

  26. Stephen said,

    May 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Paige (22),

    You wrote, “That said, all interpretations are not created equal, and God’s intent to communicate directly to his people, without the help of a specially established interpretive magisterium, is clear throughout the Bible.”

    If you do not mind, several questions/points about your comment (e.g., one of the understood significances of the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture) and even its relationship to inerrancy…

    (1) Just for fun, how does this claim jive with, for example, Acts 8.26-40? E.g., “So Philip ran to him [the Ethiopian reading Isaiah 53] and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was [a Greek version of Isaiah 53.7-8]…And the eunuch said to Philip, ‘About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus…”

    (2) As we discussed a little while back, many inerrantists hold that interpretive-options involving the Bible in an error are necessarily wrong whereas interpretive-options involving the Bible being inerrant are inherently more likely. Does this not mean that such evangelical-Reformed inerrantists tacitly advocate an interpretive magisterium…one defined by the doctrine of inerrancy?

    (3) Does the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture have interpretive significance? To take this in one possible direction, does it mean that certain readings of the Bible are wrong because they violate that doctrine? E.g., many Reformed counters to the New Perspective on Paul charge that it violates the perspicuity of Scripture since the NPP holds that reading Paul accurately on “justification” involves situating him in a historical context that most folks lack the historical training to do. Thus Guy Waters, to pick one instance, claims the NPP creates a “priesthood of scholars.”

    (4) Evangelical-Reformed folks often explain that X readings of the Bible are problematic because they do not square with A, B, C, D, E, F, and G theological positions that are established by J, K, L, and M exegeses of various passages…as all laid out in O, P, Q, R, S, T, and U sets of historical-theological figures and important works of Systematic and Biblical Theology…some of which can be learned by spending 3-4 years at seminary and/or learning from folks who have done this or who have learned from folks who have done this, etc. etc. etc. To bring up the “question” of #4 here…how is the above evangelical and/or Reformed approach different in substance and function from an interpretive magisterium about things we consider basic and central for salvation? It requires just as much “mediation” of a specialist and/or specialized-training to read the Bible as any RC interpretive magisterium (or, to bring this into conversation with the example in #3 above, as any level of historical-competence required to situate Paul somewhat in his ancient contexts).

    I realize some of these questions carry us away from the main points of Reed’s post and even Paige’s comment…but given that questions of interpretation, inerrancy, the clarity of Scripture, and the like have been brought up, I thought I would throw these questions out there.

    To be clear (sorry, couldn’t help that joke), I affirm the clarity of Scripture if you mean by that “…those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” I have problems, however, when people use the doctrine to disallow interpretations of passages through use of relevant historical, theological, pastoral-wisdom, and the like.

  27. Matt Yonke said,

    May 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Paige — That was a mistake, sorry about that. Really throws the whole sentence off! And, yes, I was going off Sproul’s idea of a fallible collection of infallible books or, more simply put, the idea that the table of contents in your Bible is not inspired.

    That said, you say that God’s intent to speak to His people without a magisterium is clear throughout Scripture, but you’re begging the question. If you don’t know if your canon is accurate, you don’t know if the passages you’re referring to are infallible or not.

  28. paigebritton said,

    May 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Hi, Stephen,
    1. Like inerrancy, claritas scripturae is a quality of the text, not the interpreter. It has to do with God’s intention to communicate. Different readers will be at different points in their understanding and will need to make different “due use of ordinary means,” as the Ethiopian used his serendipitous teacher Philip. The Reformers who talked about the clarity of Scripture (as opposed to dependence on a magisterium) were always writing catechisms, after all.

    2. Yes, in a way. The believing scholar must place himself under the authority of the text: it is thus his “magisterium.” The doctrine of inerrancy (or, rather, the Bible’s teaching about itself that it is God’s very words, and therefore inerrant) limits the scholar’s choices when he is solving textual puzzles.

    More later, gotta go!
    pb

  29. Reed Here said,

    May 15, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    I’m sorry Sean, but I’m tracking with your questions. Maybe with a few hours contemplation it will sink in. But just in case, I thought I’d ask you to clarify, re-phrase, etc. Thanks!

  30. paigebritton said,

    May 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Stephen,
    3. Maybe this one gets back to your earlier question about the degree to which historical sources ought to influence our exegesis. Obviously we’re dependent on such sources even for the original languages, and also for lots of other daily-life details. At what point do we cross the line, and leave behind the clear Scriptures for an understanding that can only be had via outside sources? I can’t pin it scientifically to a certain degree of historical use: it will be different in different instances. But where it is a question of doctrine (rather than, say, a question of custom or the identification of an object), ultimately the source and verification of our understanding should be the biblical text, the ideas of that particular writer (and past him to the whole canon, since we’re dealing with dual authorship). This is where I see N. T. Wright, for one, departing from the inspired Scriptures for the conglomerate worldview of 2nd Temple Lit & 1st century Judaism to arrive at his understanding of justification in Paul’s writing.

    4. The Bible is a very thick book. God has given the church pastors and teachers, and yes, we need to lean on them as we’re learning the Book. My friend likes to quote one of the ECFs who said, “The Bible is a river where a lamb may wade and an elephant may swim” — so some of us will go deeper than others, because there is that capacity in us and in the Book, and some of us won’t, but we’ll be refreshed anyway. Turning away from the gift of teaching elders & the scholars they (in turn) learn from would be a mistake; but so would elevating them to the position of some sort of “infallible magisterium,” since they are, like the rest of us, subject to correction by God’s Word.

  31. paigebritton said,

    May 15, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Matt –
    We’re not going to debate canon formation here: maybe Lane will pick up the Whitaker summaries again sometime. That would be a more appropriate thread. But briefly, it comes down to the question of authority:

    Nobody is disputing the inspiration of the 66 books! There’s our infallible Scriptures! — Which say things like, “These are written so that you may believe…” and “Reading this, you will understand…” And really, since both sides of the fence think these 66 books are in the Bible, it’s pretty strange that the Bible’s witness to its own comprehensibility by ordinary Christians is overlooked in favor of a system of special, divinely appointed people coming between the ordinary Christian and the Scriptures.

    All your question really boils down to is, Do we include the Apocryphal books, or no? Well, why should we? Whitaker offers plenty of reasons why not…The only reason why we should turns out to be because Trent said so.

    Which begs this question: by what authority does the magisterium of the RCC have the authority to determine that the Apocryphal books ought to be in the inspired canon?

  32. Matt Yonke said,

    May 15, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Paige — We do agree on the 66 books we both include in our canons, but the question is a larger and more epistemological one — how do we know which, if any, of these books are God-breathed? The answer to that question determines whether we’re in a different position than the Christian who believes that some parts of the canon are infallible while others are not.

    That said, it’s your blog and I respect your right to set the terms of the discussion. I’ll let it lie in this thread and take it up if it crops up elsewhere.

    All the best,

    Matt

  33. paigebritton said,

    May 16, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Thanks, Matt (but it’s Lane’s blog! ;) Yes — let’s leave the hammering out of canon formation for another thread. It’s sure to crop up again. ;)
    pb

  34. Ron Henzel said,

    May 16, 2011 at 11:41 am

    “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12, ESV)

  35. Sean Gerety said,

    May 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    @ Reed #29

    OK, let me try and rephrase. You rhetorically (and rightly) suggest if God’s Word is in error, or even may be in error, in one place (say, re the creation account) then it is at best untrustworthy in every place. However, the mainstream of Reformed thought maintains that the teachings of Scripture present to the mind of man contradictions (i.e., the Trinity, the two natures and one person of Christ, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, the well-meant-offer, etc.).

    Similar to your example that if the Scriptures are in error one place they’re untrustworthy in every place, we know that one half of any contradiction must be (and not may be) false.

    However, rather than these various contradictions being “real” it is asserted (and apart from what He has revealed in Scripture) that for God there are no contradictions. Hence, what only appears contradictory to us are really paradoxes (even though they must remain contradictions to us). It is further asserted that in such cases rather than one half of any contradiction being false both sides of any given contradiction are both true. It would seem to me that in such cases while the truthfulness of “we are freely justified in Christ” could be affirmed it would also be theoretically possible to simultaneously affirm that “we are not freely justified in Christ.”

    So, to rephrase my question, if it’s affirmed that the Scriptures present to the mind of men contradictions won’t this have a similar overall affect on the trustworthiness of Scripture as the admission that the Scriptures “may” be in error on any given point? If not, why not? How does the mere assertion that for God there are no contradictions avoid similarly undermining the trustworthiness of Scripture?

  36. Reed Here said,

    May 16, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Sean: ah, ignore the sound of my head splitting open. ;-)

    I think I don’t agree with the premise that the Scriptures present contradictions to the minds of men. Better phrased there is the appearance of contradictions. I.e., the Trinity has the appearance of a contradiction only because of a false assumption regarding the nature of divinity and personhood. Once we settle with the Scripture’s teaching that the personhood of God (three in one) is not the same as the personhood of man (one in one), then what was appearance disappears.

    I don’t think we can say that this appearance is of the nature of Scripture either. Instead I think it is a factor of our flaw that sees the appearance of something that is not actually present. If this puts me out of mainstream Reformed thought, I’m willing to be taught otherwise. At this point though, that’s how I read it.

    No real contradictions (or paradoxes), only the appearance of the same. Not the nature of Scripture, but the failure of the reader.

    I’m not sure how else to answer at this point. Please, let me know what you think.

  37. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    May 16, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Stephen Young: “many inerrantists hold that interpretive-options involving the Bible in an error are necessarily wrong whereas interpretive-options involving the Bible being inerrant are inherently more likely. Does this not mean that such evangelical-Reformed inerrantists tacitly advocate an interpretive magisterium…one defined by the doctrine of inerrancy?”

    Paige Britton: “Yes, in a way. The believing scholar must place himself under the authority of the text: it is thus his “magisterium.” The doctrine of inerrancy (or, rather, the Bible’s teaching about itself that it is God’s very words, and therefore inerrant) limits the scholar’s choices when he is solving textual puzzles.”

    Q for Paige: What happens when the believing scholar does not place himself or herself under the authority of the text?

    What has typically happened in the past as a way of addressing this question?

  38. Sean Gerety said,

    May 16, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    No real contradictions (or paradoxes), only the appearance of the same. Not the nature of Scripture, but the failure of the reader.

    We agree, which I suppose proves you are more out of the mainstream than you imagined. FWIW I see those who maintain the idea of biblical paradox as described very much on par with those who see possible errors in Scripture, only less obvious. Apologies for giving you a headache. =8-)

  39. paigebritton said,

    May 17, 2011 at 6:27 am

    Hey, Truth,
    What happens when the believing scholar does not place himself or herself under the authority of the text?

    Grief and sorrow for self and others, as in any other sin. Bids for autonomy in the Christian life will always fail, as we all fail daily. Whether the effect of the scholar’s choice is felt sooner or later will depend on the individual situation, as well as the degree to which he is resistant to the authority of the Word of God.

    What has typically happened in the past as a way of addressing this question?

    Biblical picture: God sends discipline, in form of fish, prophet, sickness, elder.

    Local church picture: Elders shepherd and discipline.

    Larger church picture: Gentle but straightforward attempts to restore a brother, knowing that there but for the grace of God go I. (Gal. 6:1) Absent jurisdiction, the best we can do in the wider Christian community (I believe) is persuasion and prayer.

    pax,
    pb

  40. rcjr said,

    May 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Paige,
    You rock. Well said.

  41. Reed Here said,

    May 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Sean: thanks.

  42. Stephen said,

    May 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Paige (28 and 30),

    Thanks for your comments. If I may interact with your points on each number…

    1: Agree with your comments. I highlight this passage, however, because it would seem to speak against the notion that the Bible emphasizes its clarity on all essential matters such that anyone can read and apprehend without the “mediation” of another. Now, depending upon how you understand “due use of ordinary means,” this need not be a problem for those affirming the clarity of scripture.

    As an aside, we probably should not be shocked that the writings of the Bible lack a notion of each Christian being able to read the Bible without the direction of others. In the worlds of the biblical authors literacy was incredibly low (e.g., most Christ followers couldn’t read) and, technologically/financially speaking, few people (if any) would have had their own private Bibles…not that there was “a Bible” in the first century either. This would make daily “quiet times” for each Christian somewhat, well, impossible : ). Yet again, this doesn’t necessarily militate against the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture, depending upon how you mean it. It’s just that, in my experience, most uses of the doctrine by Reformed people (especially in polemical contexts) presume notions about Christians reading their Bibles that are diametrically opposed to notions seen in the Bible itself…and certainly presume notions about Christians and interaction with the Bible that are anachronistic. I suspect you agree with me on these points?

    2: Keep in mind, people who do not consider inerrancy to reflect accurately the Bible itself will consider the doctrine of inerrancy just as much an extra and anti-textual “magisterium” as Reformed folk consider whatever they have in mind as RC magisterium (e.g., Pope, canon-law, decrees, etc.). This does get us somewhat back to our prior discussion: positioning inerrantists as submitting to the text (as opposed to others who fail to do so) obscures matters, in my opinion. The points at issue here relate precisely to how we understand the text so we can submit to it.

    3: I think we miscommunicated here. I’ve seen many Reformed folks use the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture to disallow readings of the Bible involving explanations and data not available to non-specialists in historical matters (apologies for the double negative). The focal point of this critique is not so much normative vs. informative use of material, but simply interpretations that imply the necessity of a “priesthood” of specialists/scholars to interpret the text correctly (to stick with the example used above, see Waters, Justification and the New Perspective on Paul, 155-56). In this way the doctrine of the perspicuity of scripture has interpretive significance: it disallows readings that would imply the necessity of specialist-“mediation” to read the Bible. Do you agree with this approach to the doctrine and interpretive significance?

    My comments/question on the following number bring up my objection to this understanding of the doctrine’s interpretive significance. Reformed folk who so use it also advocate just as much (if not more) “mediation” of specialist training to read the Bible, just training in their theological tradition as opposed to (or in addition to) historical studies. Thus this kind of critical use of the doctrine seems disingenuous and arbitrary.

    4: I agree with your comments completely.

    Glad you also emphasize “due use of ordinary means.” IMO, we all should ponder the significance of that clause more. Our “ordinary means” of approaching the Bible involve many more operative factors than we usually recognize, especially those relating to social locations, cultural codes, enculturation into certain theological-interpretive-intellectual positions, and so on. Thus familiar readings (or those participating in familiar categories and questions) often seem to be “obviously” more clear readings that make due use of ordinary means while unfamiliar readings seem to be the opposite and requiring beyond-ordinary means, etc. This is problematic since the familiar readings actually involve just as many (if not more) extra-textual factors; we simply do not recognize them. Thus the illusion of (some kinds of) “clarity”…it, ironically, often obscures matters : ).

  43. Stephen said,

    May 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Oops, forgot to end the italics after the main title of Waters’ book in the first paragraph on #3. Could someone please fix that for me? Thanks.

    On a different note, TUAD…we talked some NBA basketball here earlier in the playoffs. You turned out to be completely right about the Nuggets. Who you got reaching the finals?

    Reed, let me know if you want me to find a way to relate NBA playoff discussion to inerrancy…

  44. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    May 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    “On a different note, TUAD…we talked some NBA basketball here earlier in the playoffs. You turned out to be completely right about the Nuggets. Who you got reaching the finals?”

    Stephen Young, the clashing interlocutor of your loving nemesis Steve Hays, my doctrine of perspicuity when it comes to the 2011 NBA playoff finals is pretty darn fuzzy.

    My best guess is the Dallas Mavs and based on one game, the Chicago Bulls.

    My hope is … anyone but the Heat.

    As great as Lebron is… what he did to the city of Cleveland and the fans of the Cavaliers was uncool (even though he had the right to choose any team he wanted to play for).

    Mavs win… cool! Dirk, Kidd, Marion, and Cuban get a championship that they’ve been aching for.

    Thunder win… cool! Hip, hip, hooray for a small market team triumphing over the big market meanies.

  45. May 17, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    [...] Green Baggins, a Reformed Protestant blog with an excellent name, there is a discussion ongoing with regards to the inerrancy of the Bible. The post asks this [...]

  46. Reed Here said,

    May 18, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Stephen: nix on the basketball; completely foreign to me. :)

    With reference to your highlighting the “due use of the ordinary means,” what do you understand to be the value of this? Why is it so important? Relative to what other factors? I.e., how do you understand this doctrinal concept functioning for the reader/hearer of Scripture?

  47. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 18, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Sean, so what happens if we are presented with an apparent contradiction that no-one can resolve satisfactorily?

    Is it OK to call it a paradox then?

    (E.g.: How is it possible for the one person of Jesus to encapsulate two distinct natures, without commingling the substances thereof?)

    Seems to me that there’s not much difference between

    “An apparent contradiction that only God can understand”

    AND

    “An apparent contradiction that no human being has been able to understand”

    Except for the hope that someone, someday in the future, might be able to figure it out. Until such person appears, we still have a paradox … oops, apparent contradiction.

  48. paigebritton said,

    May 19, 2011 at 6:45 am

    Hey again, Stephen,

    1. Sure, of course there are various levels of literacy (basic & biblical) amongst God’s people in all ages. The “due use of ordinary means” clause is a concession to human reality in its contact with the clear Scriptures, but it is not actually a qualification of “perspicuity”: “Clarity of Scripture” refers to God’s intention to communicate to his people in writing without a formal structure of extra-ordinarily enabled interpreters. It was a polemical doctrine in its Reformation context, as a theological statement about God’s intention to communicate; both sides of the Tiber get reductionist about it nowadays, I think, when we think it is merely talking about a reader’s ability to immediately understand God’s ideas (whether at all or just in the “clearest” places).

    2.Keep in mind, people who do not consider inerrancy to reflect accurately the Bible itself will consider the doctrine of inerrancy just as much an extra and anti-textual “magisterium” as Reformed folk consider whatever they have in mind as RC magisterium (e.g., Pope, canon-law, decrees, etc.). This does get us somewhat back to our prior discussion: positioning inerrantists as submitting to the text (as opposed to others who fail to do so) obscures matters, in my opinion. The points at issue here relate precisely to how we understand the text so we can submit to it.

    Right, I get that those who elevate the “phenomena” of Scripture to be (at least) on par with its ideas will resent being told they should submit to the ideas, and so be limited in their interpretive options. What can we say? Are the Scriptures God’s speech written down? They (the Scriptures) seem to think they are. Do they get to call the shots, even for the believing scholar? Again, those phenomena are like events in history: they just ARE; only God has the right to interpret them, and tell us how to think about them. I would think that his interpretation clarifies rather than obfuscates matters, unless we don’t happen to LIKE his interpretation.

    3. In this way the doctrine of the perspicuity of scripture has interpretive significance: it disallows readings that would imply the necessity of specialist-“mediation” to read the Bible. Do you agree with this approach to the doctrine and interpretive significance?

    Well, if I am correct that the doctrine of perspicuity is a theological confession about God’s intention to communicate to his people through his words written down, without a formal body of extra-ordinarily enabled interpreters as mediators, then there should not be any objection to high-level scholarly work inherent in the doctrine. I can’t read Hebrew; does this mean I’m dependent on specialist-mediation to read the Bible? You bet. BIG DIFFERENCE between the RC and Protestant models, though, is that our “specialist-mediators” do not demand our unwavering submission to their pronouncements.

    I see where Guy Waters is going with his objection, there: might make for an interesting post sometime, but briefly for you: I would not agree with him that the problem is the formation of a “priesthood of scholars,” because if you knock out the need for scholarly mediation none of us could read our Bibles at all w/o original language training. But I would question the NPP assumption that the Reformers were unable to understand Paul because they did not have access to 2nd temple lit the way scholars do nowadays. Did the Galatians and Ephesians need 2nd temple lit to understand God’s revelation thru Paul? The problem here is not scholarly mediation, it’s extrabiblical mediation.

    Thanks for the interaction!
    pax,
    pb

  49. Sean Gerety said,

    May 19, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Jeff writes:

    Sean, so what happens if we are presented with an apparent contradiction that no-one can resolve satisfactorily? Is it OK to call it a paradox then?

    I don’t see why? A paradox is something that appears to be contradictory but on closer inspection turns out to be no contradiction at all. If you can’t resolve what seems to be contradictory wouldn’t the intellectually honest thing to do is admit your own ignorance rather than impute your ignorance to some deficiency in Scripture or by merely asserting that there are no contradictions for God?

    Why is it better to impugn God’s Word by saying things like “the contradictions of Scripture must remain for us but we are to have faith that for God there are no contradictions”?

    Also, how could you possibly know that “no-one can” resolve a seeming paradox satisfactorily? Have you achieved omniscience since I last ran into you?

    (E.g.: How is it possible for the one person of Jesus to encapsulate two distinct natures, without commingling the substances thereof?)

    If the doctrine of the Incarnation is a contradictory as you suggest, that would indicate that perhaps more work needs to be done and in fact has been done. One place you might start is by getting rid of the word substance since it has been historically a word without meaning.

    Seems to me that there’s not much difference between

    “An apparent contradiction that only God can understand”

    AND

    “An apparent contradiction that no human being has been able to understand”

    The latter is an admission of human ignorance attributed to, as Reed says, “the failure of the reader.” The former is an admission that God could not reveal himself intelligibly and without contradiction. I’d say that’s a big difference.

    Besides, how could you possible know there is no paradox, no contradiction, for God? By an appeal to Scripture? Impossible, since the teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory. It seems to me that magic “faith” divorced from logic and Scripture becomes the means by which you can assert there is no paradox for God. For the record, that was John Frame’s argument in defense of Van Til.

    Except for the hope that someone, someday in the future, might be able to figure it out. Until such person appears, we still have a paradox … oops, apparent contradiction.

    The problem is those advocating for logical paradoxes in Scripture are not confessing their ignorance or their failure to resolve these apparent contradictions satisfactorily. If that’s all they were doing it would hardly be an issue. What they’re saying, and have said, is that if they can’t solve a particularly problem in Scripture than no one can and anyone who claims to is guilty of the sin of “rationalism” or worse. Usually worse.

  50. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 19, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Sean, I’m sorry, I’m having trouble following (chalk it up to my own ignorance …)

    SG: If you can’t resolve what seems to be contradictory wouldn’t the intellectually honest thing to do is admit your own ignorance rather than impute your ignorance to some deficiency in Scripture or by merely asserting that there are no contradictions for God?

    Right, that’s what I’m suggesting: that when faced with an apparent contradiction that we cannot resolve, that we assume that the problem is with the limitations of human nature. And “paradox” is the usual way in which this described. As in:

    A statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory

    with emphasis on the word “seems.”

    Implicit in this is that there are no contradictions for God. Do you believe that it is dishonest to say that there are no contradictions for God? Surely not!

    You seem to be driven by this premise: That God always reveals himself intelligibly and without contradiction.

    And while that sounds like it upholds the truthfulness of God’s nature, it also seems to prove too much. It appears to claim that all Scripture is intelligible to all people (else, God is apparently “not able” to communicate intelligibly to some). Where is the distinction that the Confession makes between the main doctrines of Scripture that are plain to all, and other passages which are difficult?

  51. Sean Gerety said,

    May 19, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Right, that’s what I’m suggesting: that when faced with an apparent contradiction that we cannot resolve, that we assume that the problem is with the limitations of human nature.

    So you’re saying because of human nature’s limitations God is incapable of reveling Himself in a way that is non-contradictory? I was under the impression that God was not a God of confusion?

    You seem to be driven by this premise: That God always reveals himself intelligibly and without contradiction.

    Indeed I am. The God of Scripture is the Lord God of Truth. Truth by definition is non-contradictory. Jesus said the Scriptures cannot be broken. Beyond that, the WCF is driven by the same premise as it states quite unabashedly that one of the central elements attesting to the truth that the Scriptures are the Word of God is that they present to the limited mind of human beings a “consent of the all [and not just some] of the parts.”

    I see you don’t believe that, but as I said above your view is the mainstream of modern “Reformed” thought. Thank you for being such a faithful representative.

    Gordon Clark whose views were sadly not in the mainstream said:

    If, nonetheless, it can be shown that the Bible — in spite of having been written by more than thirty-five authors over a period of fifteen hundred years — is logically consistent, then the unbeliever would have to regard it as a most remarkable accident . . . Logical consistency, therefore, is evidence of inspiration. – God’s Hammer p. 16.

    I think I’ll stick with Clark and the Confession.

    Where is the distinction that the Confession makes between the main doctrines of Scripture that are plain to all, and other passages which are difficult?

    I don’t recall saying there aren’t passages in Scripture that are difficult to understand. It seems to me that some people have difficulty even with some very simple passages as well. How that equates to passages being contradictory at least to us limited human beings I have no idea.

  52. Vern Crisler said,

    May 20, 2011 at 6:16 am

    The problem with rationalists is that they believe the rational is the real. They don’t want to admit that there are some realities that go beyond human reasoning. Their “solutions” to the apparent paradoxes of Christian teaching are usually either heretical or philosophically incompetent.

  53. Sean Gerety said,

    May 20, 2011 at 7:04 am

    Speaking like a philosophically incompetent Vern doesn’t believe the rational is real. So, when John in his prologue says the Logos was God we can know that God is not real. Gordon Clark demonstrated years ago that men like Vern are necessarily skeptics, now it seems he’s taken it to the next logical level. The problem with irrationalists and mystics is that they are logically atheists.

  54. May 20, 2011 at 8:59 am

    [...] blog.  I had made a couple of brief comments in response to an excellent short piece by Reed DePace.  DePace observed: If God has spoken in any place in His word in error, how do we know He has not [...]

  55. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 20, 2011 at 9:33 am

    JRC: Where is the distinction that the Confession makes between the main doctrines of Scripture that are plain to all, and other passages which are difficult?

    SG: I don’t recall saying there aren’t passages in Scripture that are difficult to understand … How that equates to passages being contradictory at least to us limited human beings I have no idea.

    It does not go to contradictions, but to intelligibility. You have asserted that God always must speak intelligibly. And I’m asking, to whom? Must all of Scripture be able to be understood by all people?

    In other words: Define intelligibilty. If Joe Schmoe doesn’t understand Ezekiel and the wheels, is God being unintelligible?

    I’m just asking you to be careful and explicit.

  56. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 20, 2011 at 9:44 am

    JRC: Right, that’s what I’m suggesting: that when faced with an apparent contradiction that we cannot resolve, that we assume that the problem is with the limitations of human nature.

    SG: So you’re saying because of human nature’s limitations God is incapable of reveling Himself in a way that is non-contradictory? I was under the impression that God was not a God of confusion?

    That’s an implausible construal of what I said. Let’s break it down more carefully.

    * Are there passages in Scripture that seem contradictory? Yes. See, e.g., Jesus’ entry into and exit from Jericho.

    * Can we supply satisfactory (and correct) resolutions to all of those passages? I cannot. Perhaps you are able to, in which case you should be writing commentaries for a living.

    * So what should I do in reference to those passages? I’m suggesting that I should blame myself instead of God. You appear to reject that suggestion.

    What then would you propose as an alternative? Blame God instead of myself? Deny that there are any such passages?

  57. Stephen said,

    May 20, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Paige (48),

    Good call on “both sides of the Tiber get reductionist noewadays.” Though I am not very familiar with what RC folks say on these matters, especially in polemical contexts (e.g., Reformed apologetics with respect to Catholics just isn’t what I do; not my area), I can certainly see the parallel reductionism within various inner-Evangelical/Reformed debates.

    We got into the phenomena vs. teaching of Scripture discussion on the previous thread. Perhaps we can again at some point. Suffice it to say that I do not care for that binary. It is overly reductionistic in its representations of what each “side” advocates (I imagine you would agree with many of my caveats). That said, for the sake of operating within that rubric, I have two problems with prioritizing the “ideas” or “teaching” of Scripture about itself. (1) I disagree with various traditional readings of standard passages. 2 Timothy 3, for example, does not move from a statement about Scripture’s inspiration to Scripture’s inerrancy. It moves instead from its inspiration to its usefulness for salvation and training in righteousness to equip for good works. It would be nice to see this emphasis of the passage reflected in various inerrancy-defending uses of it, etc. (2) This approach oversimplifies matters, particularly because I see a divergence between some of Scripture’s “statements about itself” and how it otherwise behaves. Thus simply siding with “the ideas of Scripture” seems to be a less-high/respectful view of Scripture to me. It renders us only willing to submit to part of the Bible, IMO. I understand that from your view the “ideas of Scripture about itself” explicate the proper way to interpret the other 99% of the Bible by laying out a framework of what it’s possible for the Bible to do and what we are to assume when reading other passages. In this way proper and faithful interpretation, therefore, cannot find the rest of the Bible disagreeing with its “ideas about itself.”

  58. Stephen said,

    May 20, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Paige (48, continued),

    With respect to some of your thoughts on point 3, in many cases I do not think there is a substantial difference between RC and Reformed models. Many Reformed leaders functionally demand just as unwavering submission to Reformed confessions (and thus, by definition, specialist interpretation of those confessions) as Rome ever has to its magesteria. The difference is that Reformed folks articulate the submission demand in claims about the priority of Scripture. But you see the Reformed magisterium kick in any time someone within the Reformed world tries to propose readings of the Bible or theological positions contrary to certain Reformed positions. A dynamic just like inerrancy squabbles comes up: the Reformed folk disallow readings of the Bible that conflict with Reformed confessions…and readings that somehow jive with Reformed doctrine are inherently preferred.

    Often times this takes the shape of theological critiques brought against the other interpreter for that interpreter’s deviance from Reformed doctrine on X, Y, or Z (positions seen to be implied in his or her disagreeable interpretation of various passages). Such implied doctrinal deviance then invalidates that interpreter’s “Reformed-ness” and thus place at the table for discussing Reformed Theology and the like. To be clear, this kind of approach (the most common one I’ve seen) is not exegetical engagement but, rather, a way to marginalize the other interpreter and clear the way for some kind of re-assertion of established or Reformed-authorized exegesis of relevant passages for X doctrine(s). Then often we hear a confident pronouncement by some Reformed person, “Well, I’ve just never seen a viable exegetical critique of X part of Reformed Theology…” At no point in this “process” were Reformed confessions and the like actually entertained as being up for discussion, debate, critique from Scripture, and so on.

    Of course, certain Reformed people are useful more-explicit illustrations of this. Some have no problem setting up the Reformed confessions as a magisterium for proper interpretation of Scripture. Confessionalists of this stripe just declare any readings of the Bible that are out of line with the Confession to be readings done “outside of the church.” Granted, most Reformed folks aren’t as overt Confessional-magisterialists (sorry for the neologism) as this, but the same dynamic is at work when it’s functionally impossible to bring biblical challenges or innovations to Reformed tradition(s) that are not simply sophisticated reiterations or deepenings of accepted positions.

    I realize the above constitutes a contested view of the situation; doubtless numerous folks here will disagree with it, which is fine. Given several aspects of our discussion thus far, I thought it could be useful to lay out some of my related views on matters.

  59. Stephen said,

    May 20, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Paige, 48 continued yet again :),

    As to your final paragraph, I think we’re still disconnecting here. Sticking with the NPP example, the point of highlighting 2nd Temple literature is to apprise modern readers of ranges of cultural codes, sensitivities, interpretive positions, and the like that Jews and other Mediterranean folks have about the God of Israel, the Law, Jews, righteousness, etc. E.g., to apprise the interpreter of parts of the contexts of Paul and his audience in Galatia (to use your example). Thus the point is decidedly NOT that this approach presumes the Galatians had read some of the writings in Charlesworth’s Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volumes or the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example.

    Increasing our familiarity with the ranges of cultural codes, sensitivities, interpretive positions, social practices and locations, and other such aspects of historical context are just as much a part of an accurate historical reading as learning the languages (or having had someone do that for you through using translations); more than that, properly using the language is just part of this broader historical-contextual situating process.

    Setting up binaries like biblical vs. extrabiblical thus obscures matters here. We have no ability to interpret biblical writing apart from extra-biblical sources, notions, languages, and the like that help us properly situate the biblical writings so we can understand them accurately. Claiming that X scholar relies “too much” on extra-biblical sources (whereas R-reformed scholar doesn’t) is disingenuous. X scholar may give inaccurate readings of the biblical text in connection with contextual data, but that’s not an issue of “too much” reliance on extra biblical sources but, rather, problematic use of data from a historical-methodological standpoint.

    You can feel free to critique how certain NPP folks go about their historical method and use of 2nd Temple sources for it. I have many such critiques of Wright, Dunn, and the like. But, again, that’s a critique from within historical-methodology, not some theological principle “biblical vs. extra-biblical” critique. This does bring us back to the question/point I raised over and over again on the previous thread (e.g., http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/twin-lakes-and-inerrancy/#comment-87885 or http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/twin-lakes-and-inerrancy/#comment-87970 ).

    One other comment, it’s not a NPP “assumption that the Reformers were unable to understand Paul because they did not have access to 2nd temple lit the way scholars do nowadays.” It’s an argument that turns upon basic historical-methodological premises. We all understand things in context. To the extent the context within which we (often tacitly) situate something is distortion of its original historical contexts, then we engage in distorted readings from a historical standpoint.

    If the Reformers lacked data that modern scholars have about Hellenistic-Roman era Judaism and broader Mediterranean culture (and this “data” can include simply the advances scholarship has made in the study of those areas over the past 300-400 years), then they by-definition lacked the resources that scholars have now for accurately reading Paul. This does not mean their readings are worthless, totally inaccurate, etc. etc. etc. It just means their readings likely require much sharpening, criticism, and the like. They may also uncover enduringly useful takes on the data. The extent to which 16-17th century and later Reformed readings require historical revision in light of new evidence and knowledge about the ancient Mediterranean still has to be assessed rather than assumed. But again, to the extent it can be shown that most/all Reformers shared basic misunderstandings of relevant aspects of the ancient contexts and issues (particularly due to lack of evidence and advances available to modern scholars), to that extent they were “unable” to read Paul as accurately as modern scholars. Evangelical/Reformed folks committed to the importance of knowing the original languages for translations and the place of “Grammatico-Historical Exegesis” really cannot contest this basic point of how we understand things in context and how changes in our understanding of context properly affect how we understand the thing itself. As such, modulations, changes, advances, and the like in our evidence and understanding of the biblical writings’ contexts should result in revisions (on varying levels of intensity and breadth) of our understanding of the biblical writings themselves.

    But this approach is no different than how scholars (or people in general) should approach anything. X person forms a hypothesis that tries to make the best sense of the most data. Others come along and explore re-arrangements of the evidence and/or new evidence and critique X’s hypothesis as part of forming a new one. And on, and on, and on, and on, and on…as we come across more evidence and potentially more-fruitful ways of analyzing it. Regardless, evidence and arguments that counter our views should excite us just as much as evidence and arguments that confirm our views…to the extent that such evidence is treated faithfully and accurately. None of this denies how all people operate within certain social-locations, with certain inherited practices (including “presuppositions”) or that no one engages in purely “objective-empirical” work.

  60. Hugh McCann said,

    May 20, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I have not read all your comments, but Paige (#31) said, “Nobody is disputing the inspiration of the 66 books! There’s our infallible Scriptures!”

    Is this (and this thread) referring only to the autographs, and not the extant manuscripts, much less our translations?

  61. paigebritton said,

    May 20, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Hey, Hugh,
    That comment was going along a short-and-curtailed rabbit trail concerning canon formation. But I think as far as the confession of inerrancy goes, the extant manuscripts and translations are assumed to contain scribal errors; the original autographs represent God’s original work which contained no error of any kind.

  62. Hugh McCann said,

    May 20, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Thanks, Paige.

    Assuming that *enough* inerrant text is preserved, how are we to assess differences and discern errors, sans extant autographs? Whose scholarship, credibility, discrimination, and discernment can we trust?

    Am reading jedpaschall’s recommendation: “Inerrancy and the Text of the New Testament” by Dan Wallace. (From Jed’s comment @25 @ “Twin Lakes and Inerrancy.”)

    Do you recommend Geisler’s _Inerrancy_ compilation?

    Thanks again!

  63. Ron said,

    May 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I haven’t read the entire thread but picking up on what Lane said at the top, without error merely could be a matter of providence rather than a matter of ontology. Infallible implies without error whereas without error does not imply infallible. Rome struggles with this sort of thing, as we are well aware.

  64. paigebritton said,

    May 20, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Hugh,
    Alas, my library bookshelves don’t go that deep: I’ve only got the ones that give basic reassurance without adding any details about the history of document studies. So I’m leaning on others for the sense that it’s reasonable to put our confidence in the texts that we have for all the major issues of the faith, and that the questionable areas don’t amount to any kind of train wreck. I’m sure other readers can offer good resources at more depth, though. (Jed?)
    pb

  65. paigebritton said,

    May 20, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Stephen #57:
    This approach [prioritizing the "ideas" of Scripture] oversimplifies matters, particularly because I see a divergence between some of Scripture’s “statements about itself” and how it otherwise behaves. Thus simply siding with “the ideas of Scripture” seems to be a less-high/respectful view of Scripture to me. It renders us only willing to submit to part of the Bible, IMO.

    This is, I think, the big divide between our views. IMO, you’ve bought into a view that says that “how the Bible behaves” is on par with its statements about itself, so that you feel you honor God by paying attention to both equally. But the pattern in Scripture is that God acts in history (phenomena) and then he explains himself. So, insofar as we take the Scriptures’ ideas to be God explaining himself, we understand that, like God’s historical acts, the way the Bible “behaves” or “appears” is explained by God’s words.

    Anyway, I’m not advocating an approach to Scripture that is devoid of historical research & reconstruction & lit crit and all that. I’m just trying to describe why believing scholars who accept inerrancy willingly place themselves under these limits in the scholarly task. I can’t imagine it is always an easy (as in comfortable) choice to make; as Harvey Conn says in one of his essays in Inerrancy & Hermeneutic, “liberals possess no commitment to textual inerrancy that might slow them down” (32).

  66. Vern Crisler said,

    May 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Jeff, my understanding is that there was more than one location named Jericho, so whether one describes the direction as “to” or “from” depends on which Jericho is being referred to.

    Sean, as usual, your logic is like the “peace of God.”

  67. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 20, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Vern, I’ve heard that also, and it may well be the correct explanation.

  68. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 20, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Hugh re #63: Philip Comfort has a couple of works you might find useful.

    One, Early Manuscripts and Modern Translations of the NT, is accessible and gives a useful overview of the early manuscripts and how they contribute to modern texts.

    The other I haven’t read but it looks interesting: Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography and Textual Criticism.

  69. Richard said,

    May 21, 2011 at 5:49 am

    @Hugh: Check out Eugene Ulrich’s The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible and Talmon’s Text and Canon of the Hebrew Bible. In textual criticism there are two schools, Paul de Lagarde and Paul Kahle and depending on which school one is sympathetic with will determine ones goal in textual criticism. Lagarde argued that the multiple extant texts come from one original text (Urtext) whilst Kahle argued that there were multiple ‘originals’ with different texts and so the concept of an Urtext is flawed. The contemporary artictulation of inerrancy presupposes an Urtext, i.e. Lagarde’s textual theory…yet scholars seem to be moving towards a position sympathetic to Kahle, e.g. Emmanuel Tov held to the Urtext theory in his Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible but has seemingly rejected it in his more recent essay for The Canon Debate eds. Sanders and MacDonald. If this is where the textual evidence is leading, then a reworking of how we articulate inerrancy is inevitable.

  70. Sean Gerety said,

    May 21, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Must all of Scripture be able to be understood by all people?

    That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But, sadly, that’s not the case. Vern makes reference to Philippians 4:7 but clearly does not understand it. It hardly follows that Philippians 4:7 is therefore unintelligible.

    Clark argued:

    On the other hand, it is wise to warn against exaggerated views of God’s incomprehensibility. If we imprison God in darkness unapproachable and full of paradox, we discard the whole Bible as unintelligible. God has revealed to us many of his truths which we can understand, some easily, some with difficulty . . . This point, which most commentators in the past never discussed, is especially important today in this age of unmitigated irrationalism. God never revealed anything that the human mind cannot understand, for all Scripture, all of it, is profitable for doctrine. – Philippians (113)

    Of course, I’m quite sure this is another logical argument that surpasses Vern’s understanding.

  71. Ron said,

    May 21, 2011 at 10:05 am

    “You seem to be driven by this premise: That God always reveals himself intelligibly and without contradiction.”

    Hi Vern,

    Do you believe that God contradicts himself?

    Can you distinguish a real contradiction that God would not have you embrace from those alleged contradictions you think God would want you to embrace?

  72. Vern Crisler said,

    May 21, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Hi Ron,

    Since Gordon Clark places the laws of logic in the decree or will of God, it’s possible that God could contradict himself. I, however, agree with Van Til that the laws of logic are part of God’s nature, not just his decree, so God cannot contradict himself.

    I’d say that “Before Abraham was I am” is a paradox, so God does reveal paradoxes (truths that our finite minds cannot fully grasp).

    Some paradoxes may have solutions, but they must remain paradoxes if their only alleged solution involves us in heresy.

    Philippians 4:7, like Ephesians 3:19, speaks of something that passes our understanding — showing that true Christian piety has no place for the sort of rationalism that is advocated by Clark, Robbins, and Sean, et al.

  73. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 21, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Sean, OK, I can see the potential for some common ground here. But the really important question is, “What do you mean by intelligibility?”

    I can see the following from what you’ve said already:

    (1) Intelligibility does not mean that everyone understands everything. Vern, at least, doesn’t understand Phil 4.7. ;)

    (2) Intelligibility does mean that God never revealed anything that the human mind cannot understand, for all Scripture, all of it, is profitable for doctrine.

    So unless Vern’s mind is inhuman, (1) and (2) present an apparent contradiction. A good definition might resolve the problem.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  74. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    (You might reply that Vern hasn’t tried hard enough — he could understand Phil 4.7 if only he put enough neurons to work. But knowing Vern ‘Netwise, I’m confident that’s probably not the case)

  75. Hugh McCann said,

    May 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Hath Van Til really said, “…the laws of logic are part of God’s nature.”?

    I must agree with Van Til. I must agree with Crisler. I must agree with Clark:

    “The law of contradiction is not to be taken as an axiom prior to or independent of God. The law is God thinking.

    For this reason also the law of contradiction is not subsequent to God. If one should say that logic is dependent on God’s thinking, it is dependent only in the sense that it is the characteristic of God’s thinking…

    “As there is no temporal priority, so also there is no logical or analytical priority. Not only was Logic the beginning, but Logic was God…

    “Hence logic is to be considered as the activity of God’s willing.”

    AND, “God is a rational being, the architecture of whose mind is logic.”

    http://gospelpedlar.com/articles/God/logic.html

  76. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Hugh (#75): Hath Van Til really said, “…the laws of logic are part of God’s nature.”?

    I haven’t seen that exact quote, but it’s definitely consistent with van Til. His burning issue was that rationality *not* be a property external to God, by which God could be judged. I believe his Apologetics treats this somewhat.

  77. Vern Crisler said,

    May 21, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge, p. 202, where he tracks the law of identity to God’s character.

    If logic were just a matter of God’s will or thinking, he could one day will or think otherwise. That’s the problem with resting logic on a nominalistic foundation, as Clark did.

  78. Sean Gerety said,

    May 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Jeff, 1 and 2 are hardly mutually exclusive, Vern’s humanity or lack thereof not withstanding.

  79. Sean Gerety said,

    May 21, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    From Dr. Gary Crampton:

    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. But in other places he says the opposite, that is, that logic is created [Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974), 92]. 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.

  80. Hugh McCann said,

    May 21, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Vern #77~ “If logic were just a matter of God’s will or thinking, he could one day will or think otherwise.”

    Amen and amen.

    Can we say that God’s nature, his will, & his thoughts, are all logical?

    Hence, logic is not created any more than God is?

    “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
    {John 1:9, NKJV}

  81. Steve M said,

    May 21, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I agree with Van Til that God both did and did not create logic.

  82. Ron said,

    May 21, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Since Gordon Clark places the laws of logic in the decree or will of God, it’s possible that God could contradict himself. I, however, agree with Van Til that the laws of logic are part of God’s nature, not just his decree, so God cannot contradict himself.

    Vern,

    I’m not sure I follow. First off, GHC understood logic to be an attribute of God (remember John 1:1?), therefore, he did not make logic a matter of decree for God doesn’t decree his logic anymore than he decrees his holiness. In any case, I think Sean was speaking to Jeff and not you, so I shouldn’t have asked the question of you. And now that I read the original context, I don’t think Jeff was implying that God can contradict himself.

    I’d say that “Before Abraham was I am” is a paradox, so God does reveal paradoxes (truths that our finite minds cannot fully grasp).

    What’s the paradox in “Before Abraham was I am”? Jesus was the eternal Son, but I don’t find that paradoxical in the least. It’s a bit mysterious to me but no law of logic seems to be violated otherwise I wouldn’t embrace the eternal sonship of our Lord. After all, how could I embrace something that appeared false to me?

    “Some paradoxes may have solutions, but they must remain paradoxes if their only alleged solution involves us in heresy.”

    The Christian faith has many mysteries but are we to embrace premises that appear contradictory? If so, which seemingly contradictory premises are we to embrace and which ones are we to reject, and what’s the criteria to reject one and not the other? That’s my issue. I hear talk about apparent contradictions but I never hear of the acid test for which doctrines to embrace. One reason I reject transubstantiation is because Jesus’ body is human. If I embraced apparent contradictions, I could then embrace that Jesus has a human body while also embracing that his body is physically present in the Supper since he said “this is my body”. I reject the latter because I must embrace the former. It’s not wise nor available to me to embrace something I think undermines truth.

    “Philippians 4:7, like Ephesians 3:19, speaks of something that passes our understanding — showing that true Christian piety has no place for the sort of rationalism that is advocated by Clark, Robbins, and Sean, et al.

    I don’t see how something being too high for me makes it seemingly contradictory. As for the Clark, Robbins and Sean remark, I find the remark simply evasive and if not also an overreaction.

    Maybe I’m missing something here that’s very obvious.

  83. Hugh McCann said,

    May 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Steve#81 ~ Thank you for hte much-needed laugh. Touche!

    Ron#82 ~ Thank you for your contribution.

    Vern#72 ~ You say, “Gordon Clark places the laws of logic in the decree or will of God” – can you show me where he said that? The quotes I culled in #75 seem not to say this.

    You said, “paradoxes (truths that our finite minds cannot fully grasp)” –
    Interesting definition; definitely not dictionary…

    From the Web:
    1. A statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
    2. A self-contradictory and false proposition.
    3. Any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.

    For instance, the Trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, God’s electing love, God: these are all truths our finite minds cannot completely comprehend, but that we can truly know something of. “Fully grasp”? Not exhaustively, of course. But they are not paradoxes, strictly speaking.

    You say, “Some paradoxes may have solutions, but they must remain paradoxes if their only alleged solution involves us in heresy.”

    This is hopeful, for you here imply that we can identify & know
    paradoxes
    solutions to some
    alleged (false) solutions
    heresy, and thus,
    truth.

    Smashing! “We have the mind of Christ,” as St Paul saith.

    Again I ask, can we say that God’s nature, his will, & his thoughts, are all logical?

  84. Steve M said,

    May 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Vern #72: You said, “Some paradoxes may have solutions, but they must remain paradoxes if their only alleged solution involves us in heresy.”

    You apparently know what is and isn’t heresy is before studying the scriptures? Have you ever considered that declaring that God’s word makes contradictory statements or statements that cannot be distinguished from contradictory statements might be heresy?

  85. Steve M said,

    May 22, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Ron #82 asks,“which seemingly contradictory premises are we to embrace and which ones are we to reject, and what’s the criteria to reject one and not the other?”

    The answer is quite simple. We are to embrace and leave unresolved any apparent contradiction the resolution of which would lead to a conclusion a Van Tillian doesn’t like.

  86. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 22, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Sean, I’ll give this one more push and then we may have to agree to disagree.

    You wrote,

    (1) God never revealed anything that the human mind cannot understand, for all Scripture, all of it, is profitable for doctrine.

    (2) Vern cannot understand Phil 4.7.

    (3) Therefore: Vern does not have a human mind, or else God did not reveal Phil 4.7, or else either (1) or (2) is incorrect.

    If we’re going to postulate that logic is normative, then we must be willing to reason logically!

  87. Ron said,

    May 22, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Hi Jeff,

    I wonder if you post 86 turns on an ambiguity. That the mind can understand something doesn’t imply that it always does. The mind may have the natural abilty but yet not exercised in a manner that it ought to be. In the like manner, I can (i.e. have the ability to) do something other than what I’m currently doing. Can can imply ability.

    Thoughts?

    Ron

  88. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 22, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Ron, I agree: it might be possible that Vern can understanding Phil. 4.7 but just doesn’t for whatever reason. That’s what I had in mind by allowing that (2) could be false.

    If that’s what Sean has in mind, then he can be straightforward and say so: “Vern, you could understand Phil 4.7 if you really wanted to!”

    The problem is in knowing what Sean means by “intelligibility.” Without a definition, we’re left to guess. And right now, it seems to be his position that all of Scripture is able to be understood by each person (“the human mind”). Otherwise, it seems, God is charged with being unable to communicate properly!

    I find that a staggering claim.

  89. Ron said,

    May 22, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Jeff,

    Thanks. I question whether there are semantic issues at play regarding the term paradox. After all, does anybody really believe that we are to embrace as true x and ~x? For instance, some people call the Trinity paradoxical because God is one yet God is three persons, but that’s not an apparent contradiction as would be God being one and God being not one, or God being three persons and God not being three persons. Contradictions are mutually exclusive, unlike one God in three person or even God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, two common examples of supposed paradoxes.

  90. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 23, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Ron, excellent. The “contradiction” in, say, the paradox of the Trinity is not a blunt affirmation of x and ~x. Rather, the Trinity contradicts our experience with others: We don’t know anyone else who is one in being but three in person.

    The Trinity is not incomprehensible because I must be irrational to affirm it; it is incomprehensible because I can’t wrap my mind around it.

  91. greenbaggins said,

    May 23, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Ron, I am also glad that you posted here on the difference between a paradox and a contradiction. People don’t read Aristotle anymore, do they? :-)

    People often throw these terms around pretty loosely, it seems to me. I could wish for a greater specificity concerning what a contradiction is, and how that differs from a paradox, or a contrary. A contrary happens when two things cannot both be true, but they could both be false. For instance: a. a cat is in position x; b. a dog is in position x; but a cat is not a dog. Either a or b could be true, but not both at the same time. However, both statements could also be false. This is different from a contradiction, where one of the statements IS true, and the other false. And a paradox is different from either a contrary or a contradiction, in that a paradox is something that only SEEMS to be a contradiction, but which can be resolved (either by us, or by God) in such a way as to avoid contradiction. The Trinity is a good example. Upon closer examination, we are not defining “essence” in the same way as “person,” so that “Three persons, one essence” is not a contradiction. We may still not understand how that can be, but at least it is not a contradiction. I may be a Van Tillian, but I do not believe that there are ANY contradictions in the Bible. And I restrict the use of the term paradox to how I have just defined it. I would go even further and say that NO biblical paradox ever rises to the level of a logical contradiction. I would also say that anything that appears to us to be a paradox IS resolvable one way or another.

  92. Ron said,

    May 23, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Jeff and Lane, thanks for the feedback. I would hope that everyone commenting on this thread would be glad to agree on the substance of what we’re saying even though some might prefer to use other terms. Also, good distinction Lane on contrary and contradictions.

    A seminarian from WTS dropped by last night after evening service and we got on this discussion and on another about prayer. He affirmed “paradox” and “apparent contradiction” but when we discussed the matter more it was clear that he held to the views that are being put forth by both of you, which is my own too. Regarding prayer, he was pleased to use the phrase “God answered my prayer” whereas I prefer to say that God acted in accordance with my prayer, as I wouldn’t want to suggest that God used my prayer as a means to an effect though he of course may. If I prayed I made it through the night and did, or prayed that the sun would rise and it did, I think it would be misleading to suggest God answered my prayer – as if the outcome was indexed to my prayer in the mind of God, yet he would have acted in accordance with my prayer. In any case, we were in agreement but employed different terms. I say all that to say this – I think a lot (not all but a lot) of these sorts of things are a matter of terms.

    Pax,

    Ron

  93. Steve M said,

    May 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    greenbaggins # 91 “The Trinity is a good example. Upon closer examination, we are not defining “essence” in the same way as “person,” so that “Three persons, one essence” is not a contradiction. We may still not understand how that can be, but at least it is not a contradiction. I may be a Van Tillian, but I do not believe that there are ANY contradictions in the Bible. And I restrict the use of the term paradox to how I have just defined it. I would go even further and say that NO biblical paradox ever rises to the level of a logical contradiction. I would also say that anything that appears to us to be a paradox IS resolvable one way or another.”

    The view of the trinity you espouse above is not Van Til’s. He held that the whole Godhead is one person and three persons. That is not a paradox. It is a contradiction. Van Til also maintained that there are some apparent contradictions that we should not attempt to resolve. From what you are saying in the above quote, I think you may not qualify as a Van Tillian.

  94. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 23, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Ron: He affirmed “paradox” and “apparent contradiction” but when we discussed the matter more it was clear that he held to the views that are being put forth by both of you…

    I think the reason we use the “apparent contradiction” language is simply that we are used to the implications of our beliefs falling out a certain way. When we learn that 1+1 = 2, we get used to 10 + 10 = 20 as a consequence.

    It’s a bit of an adjustment to realize that 10 + 10 = 8 IF we are adding hours on the clock (that is, modulo 12).

    Likewise, “There are three persons” usually entails “there are three beings, who happen to be persons also.” It’s seemingly contradictory to additionally assert “and those three persons are one in being.”

    So the “apparent contradiction” language makes sense: A (and its usual implications) seems to contradict B (and its usual implications); but closer examination might reveal that our usual expected implications do not hold.

    Steve M: Praise the Lord that we do not follow this person’s or that person’s teaching to the jot and tittle, right?

  95. greenbaggins said,

    May 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Steve, I have gone on record saying that I do not believe Van Til’s views of “one person” are the same definition as how he used the term “three persons.” At least, not in his use of the term “person.” In the instance of the “one person” (or, more accurately, “a person”), what Van Til meant was simply to affirm that the essence of God was personal, rather than impersonal. He may well have been ill-advised to use such a rhetorically strong way of saying it, but I believe that such is what he meant. If he meant to use the term “person” in exactly the same way in the two terms “one person” and “three persons,” then I would not agree with Van Til, which, of course, would hardly be the end of the world! :-)

  96. Hugh McCann said,

    May 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Vern,
    You still there?
    Hear, hear! (Please.)

    Steve93 The view of the trinity you [LANE] espouse above is not Van Til’s. He held that the whole Godhead is one person and three persons. That is not a paradox. It is a contradiction. Van Til also maintained that there are some apparent contradictions that we should not attempt to resolve. From what you are saying in the above quote, I think you may not qualify as a Van Tillian.

    G-Bags91 …a paradox is different from either a contrary or a contradiction, in that a paradox is something that only SEEMS to be a contradiction, but which can be resolved (either by us, or by God)* in such a way as to avoid contradiction. The Trinity is a good example. Upon closer examination, we are not defining “essence” in the same way as “person,” so that “Three persons, one essence” is not a contradiction. We may still not understand how that can be, but at least it is not a contradiction. I may be a Van Tillian, but I do not believe that there are ANY contradictions in the Bible. And I restrict the use of the term paradox to how I have just defined it. I would go even further and say that NO biblical paradox ever rises to the level of a logical contradiction. I would also say that anything that appears to us to be a paradox IS resolvable one way or another

    Ron89 …some people call the Trinity paradoxical because God is one yet God is three persons, but that’s not an apparent contradiction as would be God being one and God being not one, or God being three persons and God not being three persons. Contradictions are mutually exclusive, unlike one God in three person or even God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, two common examples of supposed paradoxes.

    ~~~~~
    *Here be a Clarkite/ Van Tilian rub: We former might word it: “a paradox is something that only SEEMS to be a contradiction, but which can be resolved by us as well as by God, as we follow his thinking…”

  97. Hugh McCann said,

    May 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Lane #95,

    Where (either at GreenBaggins or elsewhere) do we find anyone well defining such terms as “person,” “essence,” “being,” etc.?

    As these are not biblically defined, they must be deduced by good and necessary consequence, and yet I find many of us parrot what our teachers taught us with little thought for the meanings of words.

    That’s fine for Papists and others demanding implicit faith, but not for biblical Protestants, I hope!

  98. Steve M said,

    May 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Lane #95

    Why would it being necessary to choose between God (the whole Godhead) being a (one) person or being “impersonal”. This seems to me to be a false dichotomy. It seems possible (and much more probable) that the unity (essence) of God is tripersonal. It is the perfect unity of three persons. It is not a fourth person

    I have been unable to get a definition of person from a Van Tillian at all. They criticize Clark’s definition, but offer none of their own. You think Van Til meant something different by person in the case of the unity and trinity of God, but he used the same word for both and offered no explanation of any intended difference.

    Please give me your definition of person.

  99. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 23, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Hugh (#97):

    Where (either at GreenBaggins or elsewhere) do we find anyone well defining such terms as “person,” “essence,” “being,” etc.?

    I’m not sure that it’s actually possible to precisely define person or being. If we look at the history of the terms “being” (ousias) and “person” (hypostasis) in relation to God, we can see that they were defined primarily in negative terms, or defined positively by means of other undefined terms.

    So: God is one being in the sense that tritheism is wrong (which fact *is* deducible from good and necessary consequence).

    God is three persons in the sense that modalism is wrong (ditto).

    And so on.

    If we could clearly define what it means to be an infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, and simple being, we wouldn’t have to struggle over the Trinity.

  100. Sean Gerety said,

    May 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    @98 And I’m on record saying that while Lane makes a nice attempt at resolving VT’s patently contradictory language doesn’t pass smell test. Nice try though.

    http://tinyurl.com/2ecsosf

  101. Hugh McCann said,

    May 23, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    J.C. #99 ~ “I’m not sure that it’s actually possible to precisely define person or being.”

    >And it MAY not be possible. At best, it’s really, really hard, right? If so, then let’s beware of bashing –a la the Papists– anyone who doesn’t get out cryptic theology-speak.

    “If we look at the history of the terms “being” (ousias) and “person” (hypostasis) in relation to God, we can see that they were defined primarily in negative terms, or defined positively by means of other undefined terms.”

    >Our cryptic, via negativa theology-speak. {How’d you do italics, Jeff?}

    “God is one being in the sense that tritheism is wrong (which fact *is* deducible from good and necessary consequence). God is three persons in the sense that modalism is wrong (ditto).”

    >For the sake of argument: Why is tritheism wrong if we cannot yet define a being? Why is modalism wrong if we cannot yet define a person?

    >But can we say (much less denounce/ anatematize) what’s false without knowing what’s true?

    “If we could clearly define what it means to be an infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, and simple being, we wouldn’t have to struggle over the Trinity.”

    >Yes. Kinda. Although infinity, the omnis, and simplicity have clear definitions. Impossible to fully/ exhaustively comprehend, but not w/o helpful definitions.

  102. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Hugh (#101):

    >And it MAY not be possible. At best, it’s really, really hard, right? If so, then let’s beware of bashing –a la the Papists– anyone who doesn’t get out cryptic theology-speak.

    Full agreement. The only line I would draw is at the creeds. Arianism is out; modalism is out; tritheism is out. But beyond that, I have no interest in criticizing Clark’s definition of person or being, or anyone else’s.

    I do find Clark’s claim to have “solved the Trinity problem” to be like unto a mathematician’s claim to have “proved the Riemann hypothesis.” A fantastic result if true, but the proof needs to be fully rigorous.

  103. Steve M said,

    May 24, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Jeff
    Apparently defining the terms we use to explain theological positions is optional. We can know what our position is without knowing what the words we use mean. This is quite interesting. This being the case, I think I might just explain my beliefs using random words that I choose from the dictionary by throwing dice. If what I write seems to be meaningless, we can all rest assured that God knows what I mean. It is only “apparently” meaningless. I will be in good company because this is what God has done in the Scriptures. He has presented us with insoluble “seeming” contradictions as a means of communicating everything we need to know concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life.

  104. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 24, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Steve: Apparently defining the terms we use to explain theological positions is optional. We can know what our position is without knowing what the words we use mean.

    (1) Any discipline has undefined terms. Euclidean geometry, the masterpiece of foundational and deductive reasoning, leaves the terms “point”, “line”, and “plane” as undefined terms. Everyone knows what they are, intuitively, but they cannot be meaningfully defined (except in terms of other undefined terms).

    (2) You’re committing a slippery-slope fallacy, friend. Just because I don’t think that “being” and “person” can be well-defined, does not mean that I think that *all* theological terms are undefined.

  105. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 24, 2011 at 7:23 am

    But Steve, there’s more to be said. Your fear, apparently, is that unless we have every term precisely defined, then what we write is meaningless.

    In that case, I have to ask: Why doesn’t the Confession begin, like a legal document, with a series of definitions?

    Instead, the Confession speaks of the Trinity in this way:

    2.1. There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection…3. In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity…

    Apparently, the writers of the Confession thought that “being” and “substance” were sufficiently clear that they could use those terms without defining them.

    Why then do you criticize them so sharply for picking random words out of the dictionary? ;)

  106. greenbaggins said,

    May 24, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Steve, you’re going to have to do better than “blah” to answer Jeff, who is always unfailingly polite.

  107. greenbaggins said,

    May 24, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Steve and Sean, I admit that I could easily be wrong about Van Til. I have stepped out on a limb, and it’s not exactly an unassailable position. It is merely my opinion about what VT believed. There are even Van Tillians who disagree with me (Scott Clark being a notable example here)! So, it’s a bit tentative.

    As to “person,” the standard Greek word of “hypostasis” seems right to me, although I feel the weight of Jeff’s statements about the difficulty here. It is often easier to do theology apophatically, rather than kataphatically, especially when one is dealing with the Trinity. God is three persons in such a way that we avoid mushing together the three hypostases. God is one in such a way that we avoid polytheism. I myself would probably not use Van Til’s language the way he did. I would prefer simply to say that the essence of God is personal, but is not a fourth person. The essence of God is completely exhausted by the three persons, and each person completely exhausts the essence. This is possible because of the mutual indwelling (perichoresis) of the three persons. Each person is 100% God, and yet three of them do not amount to more than one God. We have to leave some room for mystery here. Thinking of the one should always lead us to the three, and thinking of the three should always lead us back to the one. I think it was Basil who said that, and it was quoted by Calvin, and I think it is very helpful.

  108. Hugh McCann said,

    May 24, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Vern (& Co.),

    An expanded quote from “God & Logic” ~

    …the law of contradiction is not subsequent to God. If one should say that logic is dependent on God’s thinking, it is dependent only in the sense that it is the characteristic of God’s thinking. It is not subsequent temporally, for God is eternal and there was never a time when God existed without thinking logically. One must not suppose that God’s will existed as an inert substance before he willed to think.

    ~ Gordon H. Clark

  109. Sean Gerety said,

    May 24, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I’m not going to belabor the point or overstay my welcome. I realize that you view your proposed resolution of VT’s doctrine of the Trinity tentatively, but what should not be glossed over is that VT did, and without excuse, hold that the Scriptures contain contradictions at least as they appear to the finite minds of men, something Cagle likewise attributes to “human nature.”

    What makes these logical paradoxes and not contradictions is the assertion that for God there are no contradictions. Sounds pious, but if Scripture teaches contradictions at least as they appear to men then on what basis can we know for God there are no contradictions? Vantillians like James Anderson argue that apparent contradictions in Scripture result from “unarticulated equivocation among key terms involved in the claims [of Scripture].” Vantillian David Byron before him argued that “God doesn’t reveal enough to us for us to see how some of the teachings of Scripture cohere.”

    This is why, at least according to VT and his followers (with a few exceptions and you might be one of them) the human existent is to embrace, even embrace with passion, the apparently contradictory in an imagined act of piety in submission to the Creator/creature distinction. In my mind that is the central problem with Van Til and Vantillian epistemology as it undermines the trustworthiness of Scripture at least as much as anything coming from Peter Enns if only less immediately obvious (to some anyway).

    So, while you may be able to rescue VT’s Trinitarianism from heterodoxy and incoherence (although I’m not at all convinced you have or can), it is the underlying principle of biblical paradox that at least needs to be recognized for what it is — a veiled assault on the truth of Scripture.

  110. Hugh McCann said,

    May 24, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Steve M,
    Please email me.
    Hugh

  111. greenbaggins said,

    May 24, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Sean, I understand your concerns. Those concerns bother me also about some Van Tillians. It seems to give some people a real boost to their spirituality (at least in their own mind) if they have to take a leap of faith somewhere where they don’t understand. So, I would never be comfortable saying “embrace contradictions.” One’s attitude towards paradox also seems to be at the heart of this. My attitude is this: there may be some things in the Bible that I can’t understand in my limited capacity. I’m not going to call them contradictions, because I do not believe that the Bible has ANY contradictions, as I have said above. The Bible tells me to believe that God is sovereign and that human beings are responsible. That may be difficult for me to believe, because it is difficult to understand how the two interact. I can believe something that is difficult without calling it a contradiction. I don’t believe it is a contradiction, even though I may have trouble articulating how the two ideas relate. To me, this seems a lesser version of paradox than some other Van Tillians advance. To some of them, they raise paradox to the level of contradiction. I cannot do this. I don’t know where that lands me in the eyes of a Clarkian. But to me it doesn’t fall under the strictures that many Clarkians level at Van Tillians.

  112. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Sean, I appreciate the concerns, too. There’s no question that if we allow “paradox” to become a theological method, we can end up with nonsense all down the line.

    But for me, “paradox” is not a method, but a concession. When I say “the Trinity is a paradox”, what I mean is, “the Trinity is an unsolved problem which pits seemingly contradictory but true propositions against each other.”

    So I can’t embrace the “no paradoxes!” cry of the pure Clarkian as long as there remain any unsolved problems in Scripture. I hear your denial of paradox as equivalent to the bold claim, “All of the problems in Scripture are solved!”

    And further, it *may* be the case that resolving some of these unsolved problems requires information that only God possesses.

    This is certainly true about some non-paradoxical unsolved problems, right? What was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh?” We don’t know. But our lack of knowing is not a threat to 2 Cor 12’s usefulness for doctrine, teaching, reproof, or correction.

    So I don’t feel the same urgency that you feel to assert that Scripture contains no paradoxes. It seems to me that what we *do* know from Scripture (no tritheism, no modalism, no Arianism) is sufficient for us.

  113. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 24, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Lane re #106: Thanks, but you left out “and often long-winded.”

  114. Sean Gerety said,

    May 24, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I don’t know where that lands me in the eyes of a Clarkian. But to me it doesn’t fall under the strictures that many Clarkians level at Van Tillians.

    I suppose it makes you an exception Van Tillian. :) I guess the question is are you really a Van Tillian at all since you are evidently uncomfortable with one of Van Til’s central tenets concerning the nature of revelation. Of course, Clark did solve the apparent contradiction of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in the ’30s and is an argument that featured prominently in his book, Religion, Reason, and Revelation (see also Reymonds Systematics for a similar treatment).

    As I’m sure you know Van Til viciously attacked Clark in his Intro to Systematics (and in the complaint he and the WTS faculty filed against Clark in the ’40s) for even suggesting he solved this problem. The thing I found interesting is that VT never really interacts with Clark’s argument, and to the extent he does, it was clear that he never actually read it (or if he did he certainly didn’t understand it).

  115. Sean Gerety said,

    May 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Sorry, that should have been an exceptionAL Van Tillian.

  116. greenbaggins said,

    May 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Well, Sean, I don’t particularly see myself as following any one particular theologian. I’m most comfortable with the label “confessional.” That being said, I see more value in Clark than most Van Tillians I know. I am presuppositional in my apologetics, but it can certainly be argued that Clark was, as well, Bahnsen notwithstanding. I go back and forth on the univocal/analogical debate in epistemology. Both sides have some good points to make, and I wonder sometimes if the followers of Van Til and Clark haven’t sometimes overstated the differences. For me, the heart of Van Tillianism is his apologetical method, even though that is not exactly unique to Van Til. In that sense, I am as thorough a Van Tillian as anyone could wish. On the other hand, when it comes to logic, I often shy away from some of Van Til’s most extreme statements. So, wherever that lands me is where I am comfortable, at least at the moment. I’m still learning on a lot of these issues.

  117. Stuart Jones said,

    May 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Please consider some of the chief examples of X (where X= apparent contradiction , paradox, or whatever) that we frequently (CVT included) mention. Trinity, Person and natures of Christ, Sovereignty vs. Human Responsibility, etc. The concern of CVT and people like me who follow him over Clark is that properly biblical teaching about God’s immensity, mystery and incomprehensibility is potentially lost in a Clarkian approach (Rom 11:33ff).
    The examples above concern mysteries where human language begins to run into creaturely limits. There is no real contradiction because God is truth and the mystery is not so mysterious to him. But the examples given are not like more mundane examples of contradiction or apparent contradiction one might pose. If someone says Christ is not risen in a body but he is risen in a body, that is a contradiction that at best needs a lot of explaining and is prima facie nonsense. But that is because we are talking about human experience with death and life and not the mysterious reality of the Creator’s being and attributes. Infinite justice requires hell. Boundless grace might seem to require universal salvation . But there is the mystery of election and reprobation and we dare not sacrifice either the justice or goodness of God to each other as personal attributes of God, even though both are infinite.
    In short not all (apparent) contradictions are equal. When one flattens out the issue of equating the solvability of the mystery of God’s nature with solving some problem such as a “what is the sound of one hand clapping.” This “how do you separate the two types of (apparent) contradictions” is a false problem because it begins with the supremacy of logic as defined by human language and symbols over the mystery of the Creator who gives us the language by which we use symbols like A and ~A. It is the idolatry of autonomous human thought presuming to judge God by Creaturely standards. CVT took back Kant’s “limiting concepts” and put them into proper a Christian meaning context which is not the paradoxical nature of reason per se but the limits of our language to exhaustively penetrate the mysteries of God. The good news is God’s sovereignty means we can know in part and still know certainly and truly. Conversely, as that great theologian Clint Eastwood would say, a man’s got to know his limitations.
    -Stuart

  118. Sean Gerety said,

    May 24, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    This “how do you separate the two types of (apparent) contradictions” is a false problem because it begins with the supremacy of logic as defined by human language and symbols over the mystery of the Creator who gives us the language by which we use symbols like A and ~A.

    There’s your method Ron; abandon logic. And what was that Crisler was saying about Van Til tracking the law of identity back to God’s character? Seems these Van Tillians can’t get their stories straight. Or is this just another Van Tillian paradox?

    Anyway, Stuart, you provide a nice example of the typicAL Van Tillian. :)

  119. Ron said,

    May 24, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    If someone says Christ is not risen in a body but he is risen in a body, that is a contradiction that at best needs a lot of explaining and is prima facie nonsense. But that is because we are talking about human experience with death and life and not the mysterious reality of the Creator’s being and attributes.

    Hi Stuart,

    I’m not sure I follow. Is it a contradiction and nonsensical or can we reconcile the supposed conundrum by saying Jesus does not have a non-glorified body (call that x) and he has glorified body (call that y)? In which case we’re no longer saying he doesn’t have x and he does have x, but rather we’re saying he doesn’t have x but he does has y. And if we’re talking about x and y, then there was no apparent contradiction between two x’s in the first place but rather only imprecise terminology that needed to be fleshed out a bit.

    Infinite justice requires hell. Boundless grace might seem to require universal salvation .But there is the mystery of election and reprobation and we dare not sacrifice either the justice or goodness of God to each other as personal attributes of God, even though both are infinite.

    Ah, but it doesn’t seem to me that boundless grace seems to require universal salvation, but that’s because I understand grace to be something other than that which is deserving to all. Consequently, I don’t find an apparent contradiction there either. Real contradictions are absolute contradictions whether one appreciates them or not. Yet by your own standards – and here’s the rub, apparent contradictions are subjective and only apply to those who think, for example, that boundless grace seems to require universal salvation. Do you really want to say that? Do you really want to say that apparent contradictions are not apparent to everybody but only apparent to those who haven’t thought through a matter hard enough? In which case, do they remain apparently contradictory after one realizes there is no real contradiction? How about, do they remain apparently contradictory when one realizes how absolutely foolish he was not to have seen up front there was no contradiction whatsoever?

    In short not all (apparent) contradictions are equal.

    Of course they cannot be equal because there is no absolute test for which non-contradictory premises ought to be considered apparently contradictory. In other words, since apparent contradictions have been reduced to the subjective realm and are comprised by non-contradictory premises that are seemingly contradictory to one person yet need not seem that way to another, there can be no equality among them. For the baby Calvinist divine sovereignty and human responsibility might seem more contradictory than to a more seasoned Calvinist who appreciates full well that those two teachings are not on a collision course but on separate tracks.

    Yes, doctrines might seem contradictory at first, but we don’t embrace both horns of what might appear contradictory until we appreciate that the horns are not mutually exclusive. If that’s an indictment against Clark, then all you’ve accused him of is an unwillingness to accept things that appear false.

  120. Ron said,

    May 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    It seems to give some people a real boost to their spirituality (at least in their own mind) if they have to take a leap of faith somewhere where they don’t understand.

    That’s a keeper Lane. I think a close cousin to that sort of pietism is the pitting of logic against true spiritual humility – or in this case, the tagging as “rationalistic” the arduous and sincere pursuit of God’s truth.

    It’s interesting that so called 2-point Calvinists will call 5-pointers rationalistic yet for seemingly no better reasons than many 5-pointers have for calling many “Clarkians” rationalistic. It seems to me that when one person becomes more rigorous in his pursuit than another, the opposition who has possibly given up in his own personal pursuit throws the rationalistic flag.

    But back to my original point. Out of false humility we often hear things like” “these are parallel lines that meet in heaven…” or “it’s like a circle that meets in the mind of God…” which is simply code for what I think can sometimes be a mildly arrogant and unspoken claim that reduces to “I can’t figure it out so nobody can.” Whereas true humility, I believe, submits to an all good God who would not reveal something that by his grace we cannot grasp. True humility says “The problem must be with me.”

    True humility (and maybe half a sense) appreciates that to embrace something that appears false is not spiritual but foolish. Only someone who is quite confused would say it looks false but I must embrace it out of humble obedience to God. Whereas one with more understanding will say it looks false so I must be missing something either in my overall theology or on this particular point and since God would not have me embrace something I think is false, I either need to change some governing presuppositions or else get a better handle on this new item of consideration.

    If nothing else, isn’t it so that had many of us taken the paradoxical approach we would have not landed on Romans nine aright, but in the face of being called Rationalistic by our Arminian brethren we persevered and by God’s grace were able to lay hold of some high doctrine that seemed pretty impossible at the time? Are the five points seemingly contradictory? If so, what seems to be a contradiction to one who understand that grace by definition need not be offered, let alone granted, to all men.

  121. Steve M said,

    May 24, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    #106 “Steve, you’re going to have to do better than “blah” to answer Jeff, who is always unfailingly polite.”

    Lane
    I wasn’t trying to be impolite. I was trying to discuss theology using undefined terms as Jeff suggests. I try not to be impolite, but it is really difficult for me (being a vitriolic loose cannon and all).

  122. Ron said,

    May 24, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    But for me, “paradox” is not a method, but a concession. When I say “the Trinity is a paradox”, what I mean is, “the Trinity is an unsolved problem which pits seemingly contradictory but true propositions against each other.”

    Jeff,

    I hope I’m not beating a dead horse but since you posted me let’s continue to walk down this road a bit more if you don’t mind. What I’m writing you could be said to many others I think, so please don’t think I’m singling you out, not that I have anything earth shattering to say.

    Let me begin with something you wrote to Sean, that the Trinity entails unsolved problems that to your mind incorporate seemingly contradictory propositions. If I am to take those words literally, I would have to conclude that it appears to you that the Trinity is comprised of a set of propositions of which some appear mutually exclusive. Now I don’t think you really mean that because for one thing I’m sure you appreciate that it would be to beg the question to say that you embrace as true all seemingly contradictory propositions that are biblical and reject all other seemingly contradictory propositions that are unbiblical.

    Now you wrote something a bit different to me, which I find much more reasonable and closer to what I think you mean:

    So the “apparent contradiction” language makes sense: A (and its usual implications) seems to contradict B (and its usual implications); but closer examination might reveal that our usual expected implications do not hold.

    Presumably you meant that what can often appear at first glance as contradictory ends up in your mind, after further analyses, as no contradiction at all. I think that’s quite different than what you wrote to Sean, that you embrace propositions though they remain seemingly contradictory to you.

    You also said:

    “There are three persons” usually entails “there are three beings, who happen to be persons also.” It’s seemingly contradictory to additionally assert “and those three persons are one in being.”

    One could just as easily reason that persons usually have a beginning, but since the Second Person had no beginning, the eternal sonship of the Second Person is an apparent contradiction. Of course you agree that such “apparent contradictions” disappear when we let God define for us the realm of possibility as it relates to persons, finitude and being. In other words, these propositions are seemingly contradictory to the carnal mind that is not subject to the word of God, but when we let God’s word inform our thinking the propositions do not appear at odds with each other in the least.

    Now just imagine that a professing atheist said that Christianity is false because persons are finite, yet the Father who is claimed by Christians to be a person is infinite. All those who embrace apparent contradiction would quickly point out that God has revealed that persons can be infinite, which would make the so supposed apparent contradiction not so apparent. In the like manner, if a professing atheist said that three persons equal three beings necessarily, the paradox team would argue alongside the Clarkians that we have it on greater authority that three persons can equal one God, alleviating any logical contradiction. It seems to me that Van Tillians are to get their framework for the possible realm from Scripture, and if we begin with Scripture for what defines reality etc., these apparent contradictions, which always incorporate autonomous thought, go away. To use your phraseology, under “closer examination” what may have seemed contradictory was due to a false definition based upon autonomous reason and not revelation.

    Finally, I think I find something subtly equivocal in this thread. But before I get to that, let me repeat something I said in an earlier post. I don’t think anyone is saying that he embraces propositions that actually seem to look like x and ~x. No, what I think is going on is that some are conflating “unsolved” propositions (e.g. ‘mysteries where human language begins to run into creaturely limits’) with “apparent contradictions”. Indulge me just a bit more if you would…

    Indeed, there are many things that remain unsolved in my mind, but I know of no apparent contradictions between those unsolved mysteries. Since when does not being able grasp the depth of two propositions logically imply their mutual incompatibility? That two distinct propositions seem contrary to ordinary experience, let alone ordinary experience that is uninformed by Scripture, does not make them contrary to God’s revealed laws and definitions, let alone place them in opposition to each other. For instance, I cannot wrap my mind around a timeless, spaceless eternity, but I’m fully persuaded without any logical bind that time and space was created. Non-sequence and non-space run contrary to my experience but such realities don’t run contrary to time and space. So again, I think some might be making a leap from “unsolved” to seemingly contradictory”. That two propositions run contrary to experience does not imply they are internally inconsistent.

    For these reasons I wish Christians would give up the paradox language. First of all, it’s not helpful and I think we’d all put on the so-called rationalist’s hat if showing the atheist that these alleged contradictions don’t seem to violate any law of logic. Secondly, paradox is not even a fair representation of what people who use the term believe. After all, who believes that particular propositions which comprise an alleged paradox actually appear to contradict each other? That they contradict common experience does not imply that they seemingly contradict each other, yet paradoxes pertain to propositions that appear internally inconsistent.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  123. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 24, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Steve (#121): No offense taken. I understood the irony (and responded a bit in kind).

  124. Stuart Jones said,

    May 25, 2011 at 12:40 am

    Ron:
    I suspect there is a danger of talking past each other here because I am not sure that I follow you or that we are talking about the same thing (maybe operating from different presuppositions?). I listed some examples that commonly come up (Trinity, Incarnation, etc) that I think most Christians regard as mysteries that arise from something unique and special about God. We sometimes use the term “apparent contradiction” in some of these examples. Consider the classic statement of John Murray (quoting a church father, I think) on the incarnation: “Continuing to be all that He was, He became that which He was not.”

    No doubt some will play with the words and formula and try to explain how there is no real contradiction in the classic doctrine of the Incarnation. The motive, I believe, is to avoid irrationalism. But if the explanation removes the mystery of the Incarnation, it will be heresy. If I may use the word “logic,” heresy is what “appears” to me to be the “logical” consequence of absolutizing (or deifying) a “neutral” logic to the exclusion of receiving mysteries based on the authority of God’s revelation itself. By faith, I not only believe the mystery of the Incarnation; I also believe there is no real contradiction in the doctrine. This does imply a distinction between an apparent contradiction that is none the less true and a real contradiction which may not only appear to be a contradiction but is a contradiction.

    On a different level, I then posed a theoretical pair of assertions that most people would on the surface say contradict: Jesus was raised from the dead and Jesus was not raised from the dead. If you don’t think this is a contradiction then my illustration fails and perhaps I should have chosen another one. The point of the posed illustration was not to make a deep and searching point about the “law of non-contradiction” but to make the point that not all apparent contradictions are equal. In the discussion I thought I remembered someone taking the position or hinting that there was not much difference between an apparent contradiction (in a Van Tilian sense) and a real contradiction. The “how are we able to tell one apart from the other” question.

    Ultimately you tell such things apart by reading the Bible and not attempting to reduce one truth to the mold of another when they are equally maintained in the Bible. But more specifically, you expect truths about God to be mysterious when you try to put them together because the Creator is so different than the creature. Armed with this awareness and religious sensitivity, you then approach more mundane statements people make of that appear to contradict with more rigor. You are able to differentiate statements that appear to contradict and in fact do contradict (Jesus was raised and Jesus was not raised) more easily because—though the resurrection entails some mystery—the divine nature of the Creator does not complicate the boundaries of our reflection as much. Perhaps another example that is less hypothetical would help. There are synoptic “problems.” One resurrection account mentions two angels and another mentions one angel at the tomb of Jesus. I would not bother calling this an apparent contradiction. There is a solution to the matter—whether I know it or not. I suspect it is that one author saw no reason to bother mentioning the other angel; I suspect that the reality on the ground was that there were two angels but not everything was reported by one author. But whatever the approach one takes, there does not appear to be any issue of the mystery of the divine nature at stake (though angelic natures are no doubt mysterious to us to some lesser extent).

    I have used the term “mystery” above somewhat interchangeably with “apparent contradiction.” There are obviously some mysteries that entail no apparent contradiction but just a lack of knowledge concerning things only known to God and Harold Camping. But the mystery of the Trinity is the sort of mystery to which the term “apparent contradiction” seems appropriate. From what I have said, you may see how I differentiate different types of “apparent contradiction” and I think no slippery slope into irrationality needs to be feared. It is when one seeks to deify logic that I think irrationality becomes more likely because one labors with the illusion that on a neutral basis, A is not non A is somehow profound rather than rather trivial; further that it is a simple matter for a neutral thinker to connect “A” to the real world or things in heaven.
    -Stuart

  125. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 25, 2011 at 12:53 am

    Ron, I wish space would permit a fuller discussion. I value your clear and careful thinking.

    Two thoughts and then I should give it a rest.

    (1) We’ve been dancing around the terms paradox, apparently contradictory, and contrary to our experience. It seems to me that the fundamental difference is between deduction and induction. Is the doctrine of the Trinity deductively contradictory? One person and three persons in the same sense at the same time? No.

    Is the doctrine of the Trinity apparently inductively contradictory? Yes. In our experience, a person is a being. Try to define “person” with human language, and you’ll be using a synonym for “being” by the fifth word! (“a person is a …”). So “one being, but three persons” is not logically contradictory, but it contradicts ALL of our other experience with persons and beings.

    An analogy: Prior to 1902, the energy of a light wave was known, for good theoretical reason, to be proportional to the amplitude of the wave. In 1902, it was discovered that the energy of light quanta is in fact proportional to the frequency and NOT the amplitude of those quanta (in fact, amplitude simply counts how many quanta are incident).

    This discovery contradicted experience.

    Was the wave theory of light therefore overthrown? No; in fact, it was discovered that light consists of something entirely outside our previous experience: a particle with wavelike properties. Light exhibits wave-particle duality, a property that is usually considered … wait for it … a paradox. We know that light has wavelike properties; we know that it has particlelike properties; we can harness both very effectively and describe both rather completely.

    But the one thing we cannot do is explain how the two coexist, other than just saying, “That’s the way it is.” Wave-particle duality is the quintessential paradox: Two statements that are both clearly, clearly true, but that also seem incompatible with each other.

    The doctrine of the Trinity is a similar paradox for me. I cannot explain (very well) how the three persons can consist in the one being. I can simply say, “Here’s what the Scripture definitely teaches.” It is clearly, clearly true that the Lord our God is One. It is also clearly true that Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons. But the inner workings? *shrug*.

    But all of this, you’ll notice, is packaged in an inductive, or scientific, method of doing theology. Very Old Princeton, very van Tillian; not very Clarkian. Sorry, Sean. :(

    (2) Speaking of quantum mechanics, I’ve always thought that there was probably a historical connection between van Til’s embrace of “paradox” and the revolution taking place in science during van Til’s time. It makes a lot more sense to think of van Til as embracing an inductive theological method, than embracing raw irrationality.

    In the scientific world during his time, it was beginning to be understood that our inductive methods can force us to affirm two … seemingly contradictory … propositions that are both empirically verifiable.

    I see in this an echo of van Til’s belief that we can embrace seemingly contradictory propositions that are nevertheless clearly taught in Scripture.

    He’s not trying to throw logic out; he’s trying to place the raw data of Scripture front and center so that we don’t “logic the problems away” by ignoring what the Scripture actually says.

    At least, that’s how I’m reading him. Or read him, ever ago. Not an irrationalist, but an empiricist with regard to Scriptural data.

  126. Ron said,

    May 25, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Consider the classic statement of John Murray (quoting a church father, I think) on the incarnation: Continuing to be all that He was, He became that which He was not.

    Stuart,

    Continuing to be all that he was (God), He became all that he wasn’t (man) etc. Now what seems contradictory to you? Being a divine person with a human nature is not a contrary idea nor does it entail a logical contradiction when Scripture informs of the realm of possibility and true history. The incarnation does not teach anything like God and not God. Accordingly, the incarnation doesn’t appear contradictory to me. It teaches Divine person with two natures, which are not at odds. It’s at this juncture that you said when using a weaker example that you should have picked another example, but what I’m saying is that there is no example you can find that I’ll embrace if it appears contradictory. That’s when you say that people like me are deifying logic, or flirting with heresy. You would do well to refrain from such accusations. Such behavior comes across as purely partisan.


    No doubt some will play with the words and formula and try to explain how there is no real contradiction in the classic doctrine of the Incarnation. The motive, I believe, is to avoid irrationalism. But if the explanation removes the mystery of the Incarnation, it will be heresy.

    Motive considerations aside, was the explanation of the Murray quote I put forth heretical? No, but it took away any claim of contradiction. Incidentally, Murray doesn’t claim apparent contradiction in the quote as stated. In fact, I’d have no problem saying what Murray said. Continuing to be x, he became y does not resemble a contradiction by any stretch. If it does to someone else, then that person hasn’t thought through the implications of the statement.

    If one can show that the claim of contradiction is a false claim, how does that make him a rationalist in the pejorative sense? Moreover, if one can make a contradiction disappear, how does that imply that the person does not embrace mystery? It’s going to get increasingly difficult for me to pick apart this tangled ball of twine if these responses continue in this way. Logic is not at odds with mystery.

    By faith, I not only believe the mystery of the Incarnation; I also believe there is no real contradiction in the doctrine. This does imply a distinction between an apparent contradiction that is none the less true and a real contradiction which may not only appear to be a contradiction but is a contradiction.

    How do you distinguish the real from the apparent contradiction? You passed that question off as trite before, or a non-question, but you keep telling us that there are apparent contradictions and you seem to be suggesting that they look just like the real ones and that the only difference is that the apparent ones don’t involve something false. Please show me biblical propositions that appear to you contradictory and let’s see if the contradiction can be made to go away. Maybe read my post to Jeff where I try to show that not being able to grasp something fully does not imply internal inconsistency, the essence of contradiction.

    On a different level, I then posed a theoretical pair of assertions that most people would on the surface say contradict: Jesus was raised from the dead and Jesus was not raised from the dead. If you don’t think this is a contradiction then my illustration fails and perhaps I should have chosen another one.

    Stuart, do you think that Jesus was raised and also not raised in the same way etc.? Please step out and tell me what you think is an apparent contradiction that takes the form of a true contradiction but should be embraced on God’s say-so. I think you’ll find that all your “apparent contradictions”- if the propositions they contain are biblical, do not take the form of real contradictions.

    NOTE: Nobody is saying that the doctrines in question can be exhausted in our finitude. All that is being said is that the seemingly logical contradiction can be removed. Yet once the confusion is removed, you’ll say that your illustration fails and that you should have chosen another. What I’m saying is that you can find no seemingly logical contradiction I’m going to embrace. I’ll either change my overall theology or dig harder to learn why the new proposition I’m being confronted with means something that is not at odds with my existing theology. You wish to call that sort of theologizing flirty with heresy or deifying logic. I’m sorry Stuart, but it’s just not available to me and many other earnest Christians to embrace what appear to be contradictory truths, which is not to suggest that we think we can exhaust the depths of the doctrines we know in part, or that we deny mystery. Again, not finding apparent contradictions in Scripture is not to deny mystery. You do Van Til’s legacy no service by suggesting such things. You simly run the risk of causing Clarkians to despise CVT’s thought all the more, which is very unfortunate.

    “There are synoptic “problems.” One resurrection account mentions two angels and another mentions one angel at the tomb of Jesus. I would not bother calling this an apparent contradiction.”

    Neither would I.

    But the mystery of the Trinity is the sort of mystery to which the term “apparent contradiction” seems appropriate. From what I have said, you may see how I differentiate different types of “apparent contradiction” and I think no slippery slope into irrationality needs to be feared.

    No, I don’t see how you differentiate apparent contradictions, and I don’t see how a mere mystery steps over into the realm of apparent contradiction by your standards. You’ve given some examples of what are mere mysteries to you and what are mysterious, apparent contradictions to you, but you haven’t offered the conditions for these labels. All I know is that what appears to be an apparent contradiction does not take the form of real contradiction, yet it seems to me that you think you embrace things that really look contradictory.

  127. Ron said,

    May 25, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Is the doctrine of the Trinity apparently inductively contradictory? Yes. In our experience, a person is a being. Try to define “person” with human language, and you’ll be using a synonym for “being” by the fifth word! (“a person is a …”). So “one being, but three persons” is not logically contradictory, but it contradicts ALL of our other experience with persons and beings.

    Jeff,

    One being and three persons does not contradict all my experiences (nor yours) but that is because the Christian experience includes the Trinity. :) My point is that when Scripture informs us of truth and the realm of possibility, we get a whole host of new propositions to play with, which is something CVT grasped well yet did not bring it into the realm of paradox. Paradox was something contary to normal experience for CVT, as with you I think, yet CVT’s creed was that Scripture is to interpret reality and that we may appeal to Scripture for truth. With Scripture as our axiom, we begin to see that three persons and one being is as coherent as one person and one being. The latter is more common, but the former is no less revealed. Since both are revealed truths, we don’t have an x and ~x, but rather an x and y. It’s the person who reasons apart from Scripture that finds himself with x and ~x. It’s only when we think in terms of necessarily one being = one person, which is not a revealed truth, do we run into problems with the Trinity in this regard. So yes, the Trinity is mysterious, but (also) let’s not pretend that person and being in the creaturely realm does not have a bit of mystery too.

    Regarding the popular Christian example of wave-particle duality you employed, a favorite of Letham’s but he didn’t quite use it the way that is being used here, that we cannot explain how things co-exist does not imply that their co-existence is seemingly contradictory. Again, mystery does not imply apparent contradiction. I don’t know how God created but that doesn’t make creation contradictory to my experiences gained through ordinary providence. Providence is common, creation is not. But they’re not at odds. They’re actually complimentary.

    He’s not trying to throw logic out; he’s trying to place the raw data of Scripture front and center so that we don’t “logic the problems away” by ignoring what the Scripture actually says.

    I don’t know what it is to logic the problem away. Logic as a tool is not at odds with revelation and mystery.

    I’d like to think that you and I are not terribly far apart on this, if at all.

  128. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 25, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Ron, all that you say makes sense, but it also reveals that you have (rightly) adjusted your paradigm for being and persons to include the Trinity. Once we accept that God must be three persons, one being, we shrug and say, Well, I guess there’s no contradiction after all. Our paradigm shifts.

    Your response indicates that this process has already happened for you wrt to the Trinity, which is great. But if you can think back to a time when that was not so, perhaps you can appreciate that some find “three persons, one being” seems contradictory to experience.

    The same thing happens, by the way, with wave-particle duality. Once we accept that photons and electrons do what they do, and that’s normal reality, then quantum theory seems normal-ish. To quote Richard Feynman, we can “shut up and calculate.”

    But until we accept that paradigm (which often is the case with physics students), wave-particle duality really does seem paradoxical.

  129. Stuart Jones said,

    May 25, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Ron,
    If you study my statements re deifying logic closely, you will see that they are general rather than specific. The relation of deifying logic to heresy as I stated it here, I regard as a warning or cautionary statement rather than an absolute assertion of heresy in any particular individual.

    Take the following statement as an illustration, “If one defies logic so as to deny sovereignty in order to preserve the biblical truth of human responsibility, one has committed serious doctrinal error (or heresy—I prefer to save “heresy” for real serious errors like denials of the Trinity).”

    Some folks see in the teaching of divine sovereignty and human responsibility an “apparent contradiction,” antinomy, or paradox, or mystery or whatever. I suspect you would reject the term “apparent contradiction” while affirming both biblical truths. I don’t know you but I am assuming this for discussion. You are not a heretic for not liking the term “apparent contradiction.” But if you decide you must resolve what some see as a tension in the two teachings and you (or anyone) progress (“regress” is the better term) from Calvinism to Arminianism to Open theism, then the word “heresy” is quite applicable. I suspect this is what happened with Clark Pinnock. I wish Pinnock had listened more to the cautionary implications of Van Til, whose position he rejected. Was Pinnock simply a poor logician. I rather think he tried to be a neutralist in how he used logic autonomously. From a Van Tilian point of view that is being a poor logician but not from the point of view of many who reject God and think logic is really where it is at.

    It is good that you hold to an orthodox view of the Incarnation. It appears our wrangle is not about that, thankfully. So how do we define or describe our wrangle:
    1. About the best words to be used in describing what it looks like we both call a mystery?
    2. About the place of logic vis-à-vis God and mystery.
    a. Is logic neutral? It looks like to me you assume it is but of course I am reading you from my Van Tilian framework. Maybe you would want to just say logic is eternally and universally valid.
    b. I would say logic as we know it is related to the character of God but cannot be used as some ultimate criterion by which to evaluate or judge God or his teachings.

    I think these things are what the wrangle is about. I also think, at some level, you view or use logic in some neutral fashion (where I see danger). You did not comment on my latter remarks which explain the futility of this, viz. the triviality of “A is not non A” and the philosophic futility on supposed “neutral” grounds of explaining how our constituent symbols (e.g. A) relate to any physical or spiritual reality. Thus it is not simply about whether neutral logic is true but whether it means anything, what it means if it means something, and what meaning means, etc, etc). I am not too interested in proving something is an apparent contradiction. For me the term is useful as it explains the inability of neutral logic to support itself or grapple with divine mysteries where our creaturely language struggles.
    -Stuart

  130. Sean Gerety said,

    May 25, 2011 at 10:17 am

    But if you decide you must resolve what some see as a tension in the two teachings and you (or anyone) progress (“regress” is the better term) from Calvinism to Arminianism to Open theism, then the word “heresy” is quite applicable.

    Of course, this is simply false. Clark did resolve the apparent contradiction of sovereignty and responsibility and in no way “regressed” to Arminianism much less Open theism. Ironically, implicit in this so-called “apparent contradiction” that Stuart and those like him affirm is an Arminian definition and understanding of responsibility which Clark completely eschewed and dispelled. So unless ignorance is also a sign of Christian piety in Van Tillianism, this particular problem was successfully resolved some 80 years ago.

  131. Hugh McCann said,

    May 25, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Well said, Sean #130.

    There is no paradox, much less contradiction ‘twixt “[God's] sovereignty and [man's] responsibility,” it’s simply that many don’t like folks eschewing & dispelling the ‘so-called “apparent contradiction”.’

    Nay, the contradiction –which tension the honest Arminian feels– is between two conflicting “sovereignties”: God’s and man’s.

  132. Hugh McCann said,

    May 25, 2011 at 10:30 am

    #131b ~ Between two conflicting supposed free wills: God’s and man’s.

  133. Stuart Jones said,

    May 25, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Posts 130-132 read Clark ‘s issues into a Pinnock example that was used and miss the point of the post (129). They are non sequiturs, though to the degree they demonstrate an affinity between the method of Pinnock and Clark they form a cautionary tale.
    -Stuart

  134. Ron said,

    May 25, 2011 at 11:00 am

    I would say logic as we know it is related to the character of God but cannot be used as some ultimate criterion by which to evaluate or judge God or his teachings.

    Stuart,

    If you know another way of doing theology that is void of logic, I’m all ears. Logic doesn’t operate in a vacuum and Scripture doesn’t come to us as unrelated brute particulars. The law of contradiction is necessary if we’re to know that x doesn’t mean ~x. When you say things like logic is not ultimate, it sounds all very pious because we all know that God’s word is ultimate yet nonetheless such statements do not advance your argument and they certainly don’t interact with mine.

    In the final analyses, this thread has touched on the idea of doctrines that might seem at first to be contradictory but after further reflection don’t seem so. You don’t fit into that mindset. You seem to dig in and suggest that certain doctrines are indeed contradictory and we’re to accept them anyway. You seem to distinguish unbiblical contradictions from ones we’re to accept because the Bible teaches them. You call the latter “apparent contradictions” – i.e. the ones we’re to accept that seem no different in form than the ones we’re to reject. If that’s not what you mean, then why not plainly say that all these apparent contradictions do not take the form of real contradictions.

  135. Stuart Jones said,

    May 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Ron,
    I’ll interperse remarks here.
    R: If you know another way of doing theology that is void of logic, I’m all ears.
    S: “Doing theology that is void of logic” is certainly not what I am saying because “void” is such a strong word. Doing theology requires a number of things: communication implying use of language which implies some ordered grammar, syntax, making of distinctions in our lexemes and phonemes, and thus a logic of sorts. But sometimes these things do not follow our usual expectations and “rules.” I think I remember a passage in the farewell discousrse in John in which the Holy Spirit is referred to as “He” in the Greek, though the noun is referenced by the pronoun neuter. Violating the grammar rule might actually have been an intentional thing that makes a theological point. Logic has a place in our theologizing. We just need to prepared to see its limitations when confronting high mysteries related to God’s nature. God speaks to us in human language and that language is suffiicdent for us to learn what we need to learn (and I know of no alterantive to human language unless one goes mystical and thinks he can escape it). Logic inevitably works with the symbols of human language.
    R: Logic doesn’t operate in a vacuum and Scripture doesn’t come to us as unrelated brute particulars.
    S: OK
    R: The law of contradiction is necessary if we’re to know that x doesn’t mean ~x. When you say things like logic is not ultimate, it sounds all very pious because we all know that God’s word is ultimate yet nonetheless such statements do not advance your argument and they certainly don’t interact with mine.
    S: When someone states the ultimacy of a proposition like “X is not ~X” to me, I always wonder if they appreciate the philosophical problems involved for the non-Chrisian philospher in realting symbols like X to the world, its things, heaven, and God. In your previous sentence, you affirm that logic “does not operate in a vacuum.” Thus it sounds to me like you are not taking the postion that logic is a neutral thing. If so, this is a helpful clarification to me.
    R: In the final analyses, this thread has touched on the idea of doctrines that might seem at first to be contradictory but after further reflection don’t seem so. You don’t fit into that mindset. You seem to dig in and suggest that certain doctrines are indeed contradictory and we’re to accept them anyway.
    S: I thought I made clear that I hold to a distinction between apparent contradictions and real contradictions. The former I affirm (most particularly in matters related to applying human language to such mysteries as the Trinity, etc.); the latter I deny.
    R: You seem to distinguish unbiblical contradictions from ones we’re to accept because the Bible teaches them. You call the latter “apparent contradictions” – i.e. the ones we’re to accept that seem no different in form than the ones we’re to reject. If that’s not what you mean, then why not plainly say that all these apparent contradictions do not take the form of real contradictions.
    S: A key phrase here that may be the hang up is “no different in form.” That phrase seems to me to endorse a neutral logic being applied to God. Take a simple example (no doubt one that can be analized to death but is given here for illustrative purposes any way):
    1. Whoever causes an unjust war is a war criminal.
    2. Hitler caused an unjust war. Thus, Hitler is a war criminal
    3. God is sovereign.
    4. God causes all things that come to pass including unjust wars.
    5. THUS, God is a war criminal
    In this example one might quibble with the “whoever” (line 1) or the possible different meanings of “cause.” But what ever quibbles are brought there is a prior recognition that somehow God must form an exception. Granted that logic is a somewhat different thing than ethics but the”exception” idea is basic to biblical teaching about God not being like the creature. Insisting that both adhere in the same manner to the same “forms” of law (moral or logical) is where I think the problem arises. Further:

    We typically say God causes all things that come to pass but is not the author of sin. The latter (not the author of) is derived from an explicit biblcial passage. Now maybe there is no apparent contradiction to you in these affirmnations but I don’t see them as neatly reconciled. Certainly by using the word “author” we are choosing a different word from cause. Scripture and, I suspect, a desire to avoid a blatant A and ~A situation account for this. But I frankly don’t see a lot of difference between “author” and “cause” here. People can engage in all sorts of scholastic gymnastics, make fine distinctions, or affirm tfhe primacy of God’s will over his holiness (why then say “not the author”) or whatever, but I think it all boils down to the creature trying to force God into the mold of his thinking and common word associations.

    Again, we use logic and language in all of our theological communication but we also need to recognize they both have limits dictated by the Creator-creature distinction (which is more ultimate than A is not ~A because it allows non contradiction to have meaning as A is associated with creaturely realities that allow us to do logic non-abstractly and non-trivially).

    -Stuart

  136. Ron said,

    May 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Stuart,

    I’m afraid I find much of what you said to be mere mumbo jumbo.

  137. Stuart Jones said,

    May 25, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Ron,
    OK, maybe I don’t communicate well. Email and web blogs do not faciliate quick clarification like face to face conversation.
    I don’t know if this well help but I see an analogy in what I am saying about “apparent contradictions” to the big time miracles Christians believe. I do not want to multiply miraculous explanations for everything because that leads to a break down of the recognizing normal regular order of things understanding we derive from a normal order. Likewise I am not interested in multiplying apparent contradictions or mysteries unnecesasarily — and for the same reason. But the Bible clearly teaches some miracles that transcend our normal ability to undersand. Creation ex nihilo is a bit of a mind-bender. Once you accept that, multiplying bread seems like small stuff.
    I don’t try to reduce creation ex nihilo or multiplying loaves to some more regular natural process or law of how stuff can grow or develop. Most of my life I confront mundane realities that can be studied as a regular created natural process. But some signs like miracles are the exceptional event that takes on exceptional and special meaning from the background and context of the “normal.”
    Where things are capable of a non-mysterious and non-paradoxical explanation, I am all for it.Where one must reduce or do violence to some teaching of Scripture in order to harmonize two teachings according to a humanly applied interpretation of the law of contradiction–I am against it. When it comes to God, I expect ineffable mystery as well as his voluntary condescending self-revleation that is understandable. With God’s nature I expect human language and logic to bump into limits. Too many famous heretics have tried to rationalize the Trinity away or reduce the Incarnation. That’s why we learn about Sabellianism and Arianism, etc as heresies. I do not think these heretics’ main problem was lack of intellect or prowess in being logical.
    -Stuart

  138. Steve M said,

    May 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Stuart
    Wow!!!

  139. Ron said,

    May 25, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Stuart,

    I’m not sure that your follow-up response warrants a response but so not to come across as ignoring you, let me at least acknowledge it and simply say that I don’t find it helpful. I am convinced, however, especially by these last couple of exchanges that you don’t seem to be interacting with anything I’ve said. Maybe in the future you might interact with (i) the other person’s position and (ii) any comments he makes about yours, rather than just rephrasing your own position over and over again.

    Best wishes,

    Ron

  140. bsuden said,

    May 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    OK, maybe I don’t communicate well. Email and web blogs do not faciliate quick clarification like face to face conversation.

    Man, am I getting tired of hearing this. We don’t live in a perfect world by any means, but most of the time this is a ready excuse from those who, one, don’t know how to read (understand something) and two, can’t write/express themselves cogently.
    IOW it’s a copout.

    An’ a nother thing.
    The law of contradiction?
    I think it’s called the ninth commandment.
    At least it is one of its implications.

    (Oh yeah. I almost forgot.
    See the italics above for the usual combox boilerplate legalese.)

  141. Stuart Jones said,

    May 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Ron,
    You state this in #139:
    “I am convinced, however, especially by these last couple of exchanges that you don’t seem to be interacting with anything I’ve said. Maybe in the future you might interact with (i) the other person’s position and (ii) any comments he makes about yours, rather than just rephrasing your own position over and over again.”

    Did you read #135? I particularly took a post of yours and interlineated responses to various statements you made. The fact that you do not like my responses or disagree with them hardly means that I have not been “interacting with anything” that you said.

    You particularly have failed to interact with my comments on the triviality and meaninglessness of a logical law like A is not ~A when approached on the basis of neutrality. If you do not understand that statement, fine. It is the conclusion of a study of the history of philosophy that I think is consistent with the views of others like CVT. Obviously such a study is more than can be presented at length in a blog. So be it.

    ~Stuart

  142. Ron said,

    May 25, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Stuart, you’re beginning to sound like a mad man.

  143. Stuart Jones said,

    May 25, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Ron,
    Being new to the blog I did not notice the feature that brings up the picture of some of those posting. Not knowing the last name of Ron, I have just been amused to discover that this is the Ron whose invitation to the picnic this Saturday I recently accepted. I hope I am not uninvited and as to being mad, I guess it’s the company I keep.
    -Stuart

  144. Ron said,

    May 25, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Stuart,

    A mutual friend of ours could not believe that it was you, yet I thought it was all along. He and I are quite concerned about your rants.

  145. Steve M said,

    May 26, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Ron and Stuart
    Wow!!!!

  146. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 26, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Ron, how does one contact you offline?

    Bob: Thanks for providing yet another way to play the 9th commandment card. :)

  147. Ron said,

    May 26, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Jeff,

    I just turned on the moderation option for comments on my blog so if you post on my blog your email address I’ll have it but won’t publish it. I’ll then shoot you an email w/ my cell number or we can just email.

  148. Stuart Jones said,

    May 26, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Though the original question of this thread is somewhat distant now, I mentioned an article by Murray back in post 17. He makes comments bearing on the initial question and subsequent discussion.
    First, the in initial question as Murray explores the human dimension of Scripture–which some use to assert fallibility or errancy:

    “Those who thus contend should, however, be aware of the implications of their position. If human fallibility precludes an infallible Scripture, then by resistless logic it must be maintained that we cannot have any Scripture that is infallible and inerrant. All of Scripture comes to us through human instrumentality. If such instrumentality involves fallibility, then such fallibility must attach to the whole of Scripture. For by what warrant can an immunity from error be maintained in the matter of “spiritual content” and not in the matter of historical or scientific fact? Is human fallibility suspended when “spiritual truth” is asserted but not suspended in other less important matters?

    Furthermore, if infallibility can attach to the “spiritual truth” enunciated by the Biblical writers, then it is obvious that some extraordinary divine influence must have intervened and become operative so as to prevent human fallibility from leaving its mark upon the truth expressed. If divine influence could thus intrude itself at certain points, why should not this same preserving power exercise itself at every point in the writing of Scripture? Again, surely human fallibility is just as liable to be at work in connection with the enunciation of transcendent truths as it is when it deals with the details of historical occurrence.”

    Finally on the issue of apparent contradictions. He tends to use the words “discrepancy” and “contradiction” interchangeably and later uses the term “mystery” so check out of the full section. What I have been maintaining is proper expectation of mystery (even allowing for the term “apparent contradictions”) in matters focusing on the doctrine of God. It is the perspective I learned from Van Til (whom I had in class) and is reinforced by Murray (whom I did not have in class). I recognize some folk disagree with these two men so in this post I am simply offering some evidence on what old Westminster believed and that I am in that camp. But I think Murray’s comments are also persuasive. Here they are:

    “It might seem that this confession of his own inability to resolve seeming discrepancy is not compatible with faith in Scripture as infallible. This is, however, at the best, very superficial judgment. There is no doctrine of our Christian faith that does not confront us with unresolved difficulties here in this world, and the difficulties become all the greater just as we get nearer to the centre. It is in connection with the most transcendent mysteries of our faith that the difficulties multiply. The person who thinks he has resolved all the difficulties surrounding our established faith in the Trinity has probably no true faith in the Triune God. The person who encounters no unresolved mystery in the incarnation of the Son of God and in his death on Calvary’s tree has not yet learned the meaning of I Timothy 3:10. Yet these unanswered questions are not incompatible with unshaken faith in the Triune God and in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son. The questions are often perplexing. But they are more often the questions of adoring wonder rather than the questions of painful perplexity.”
    –sj

  149. Ron said,

    May 26, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Jeff re: 128

    That’s helpful and I think brings clarity to our discussion. With that post in mind, let me try to bring this matter to a close with respect to my interest in the discussion.

    Until one reconciles his apparent contradiction as not being a real contradiction, I don’t think he has any business embracing both horns of a supposed contradiction. (I appreciate that there are transition periods in one’s thinking but we’re not to live in a perpetual state of transition over the same doctrines. We are to prayerfully wrestle with things and press on…) Now then, let’s say one embraces Jesus’ humanity, which entails a localized body, yet also embraces the real presence of the mass. He would be embracing what appears to him to be an apparent contradiction, which in this case would be a real contradiction. He would be embracing something he thinks appears false, and in this case is actually false. Not good.

    Now let’s move to two orthodox horns. Let’s say one embraces a Reformed view of God’s foreordination of all things along with human responsibility, yet finds those concepts contradictory. If those concepts are truly contradictory then one (and only one) of the premises must be false. (As Lane pointed out, with contrary propositions at least on is false.) Now if one truly believes that he is embracing an apparent contradiction, then he should also think he’s embracing a false doctrine. Again, not good. Better? Maybe, but still not good. (Not to mention, one who embraces an apparent contradiction as having to be that way is also embracing a false view of Scripture by thinking it contains doctrines that must appear false to us when considered against other doctrines.) If one is willing to accept what appears false, then why not the real presence? What would be the basis of accepting one false doctrine over another? To simply say that we’re to embrace the seemingly false doctrines the Bible teaches and leave the other false interpretations alone isn’t a workable principle.

    Another issue I have had, that I think can make more sense now since we’re this far down the road in our mutual understanding, is that I find it highly improper to call any particular pair of doctrines an “apparent contradiction” because of the universality of the claim. It’s a false claim in other words. What is seemingly contradictory to one person can be perfectly harmonious to another since apparent contradictions are not objectively contradictory but rather only perceived as such. As I tried to point out to Stuart way back in post 119, actual contradictions are universal, whether anyone appreciates them or not; yet apparent contradictions are subjective and only apply to those who think, for example, that the eternal decree an human responsibility are inherently incompatible to mere humans. You see, and you do see, it’s simply a misnomer to call any particular doctrine an apparent contradiction because of the idiosyncratic nature of the person’s confusion. I even find it even a bit arrogant to say this or that is paradoxical since the one who would be making such a statement would be setting himself up as the measure of all things, as if he were saying, “I perceive these doctrines as seemingly contradictory, therefore they are apparently contradictory (to all humans), but of course these parallel lines meet in the mind of God.” Now that’s a big pill for some people to swallow possibly, but certainly such ones are not saying anything like: “I don’t believe these doctrines need to appear contradictory (if they are indeed orthodox doctrines), but at the moment I’m still working through some things and I believe they might not be contradictory to others…”

  150. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 26, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Ron #147: Done.

  151. Ron said,

    May 26, 2011 at 9:22 am

    great :)

  152. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 26, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Ron: Re #149.

    Let’s consider two different ways of speaking of “paradox.”

    One, the arrogant absolutist way, might say something like, “Divine sovereignty and human responsibility make the doctrine of predestination paradoxical; therefore, any attempt to solve it is doomed to failure.” For the absolutist paradoxal, the concept of paradox allows us to reject any resolution a priori.

    This is (to my mind) unacceptable, and I think it is also what you are concerned about.

    Two, the pragmatic way, might say something like “Divine sovereignty and human responsibility appear to conflict with each other, and no-one so far has been able to resolve that apparent conflict.” For the pragmatic paradoxal, the declaration of paradox is simply an admission of the facts on the ground: To date, no-one has provided a satisfactory resolution.

    (Sean, I’m speaking hypothetically. I’ve not had a chance to carefully consider Clark’s argument).

    I am firmly in the pragmatist-paradoxal camp on this. There’s no absolute claim of definite contradiction going on here; merely the claim that in certain few doctrines, there remain unsolved problems.

    I’m comfortable with describing those as “paradoxes” or “apparent contradictions” because those terms are used much the same way in other disciplines (notably science). But in using those terms, I am not prejudging the future of doctrinal development; merely stating the case now.

    And as Sean indirectly points out, our perception of “the state of the question” might be incomplete. Who knows? Maybe Clark really did solve the Sovereignty Problem and the Reformed world simple remains in ignorance. That could well be.

    But in my ignorant state, it seems appropriate to describe Divine Sovereignty as an “unsolved problem”, a “paradox”, or an “apparent contradiction.” AND, because God Himself is not contradictory, I am sure that the problem lies with me and not Him.

  153. Stuart Jones said,

    May 26, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Ron,
    Some more this time from CVT:
    “The law of contradiction, 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.”

    Christians should employ the law of contradiction, whether positively or negatively, as a means by which to systematize the facts of revelation.” (Intro to Sys Theo, p 11; there is also stuff on the Clark Complaint in this work – p 167ff)


    The last quotation is no rejection by CVT speaking of the propriety of holding the distinction between apparent contradiction and real contradiction. If needed, I think the quotations could be found. I remember him speaking on this. Ron, I am curious about the recent thread because having been illumined as to who the Ron is I have been battling with, I am faced with what seems to be an apparent contradiction (not that there is anything wrong with that ;). I thought you were a CVT guy. Please say you haven’t gone over to the dark side (i.e. Clark). Obviously language like “contradiction” or “paradox” when used by Kierkegaard or modern thinkers is something we all reject here, but CVT had a special context that was radically different for his use otherwise suspicious terms. He recontextualized them—he flanked the modern thinkers and took their vocabulary hostage and turned it around on them with new meaning.
    -Stuart

  154. Ron said,

    May 26, 2011 at 11:03 am

    “Divine sovereignty and human responsibility appear to conflict with each other, and no-one so far has been able to resolve that apparent conflict.” For the pragmatic paradoxal, the declaration of paradox is simply an admission of the facts on the ground: To date, no-one has provided a satisfactory resolution.”

    Jeff,

    Maybe the arrogance goes away but the ignorance doesn’t. If one wants to assert a paradox, it might be helpful to identify the contradictory premises and show why either must be false. As soon as he shows how either one must be false, then should abandon that one. If he can’t show that one must be false, then he hasn’t shown an apparent contradiction, now has he? Confusion does not imply contradiction.

    How does one go about proving that the existence of Paris does not conflict with the existence of New York to one who thinks it appears that these two cites cannot exist in harmony? It would be helpful if the one who thinks there is a conflict to put forth what the conflict actually is. In the like manner, I’m waiting to hear why it’s seemingly contradictory that’s God’s foreordination of my actions that proceed from my intentions somehow alleviates my responsibility. God has a morally sufficient reason for the good and evil he determines. I am responsible for what I do. Where’s the logical bind?

  155. Sean Gerety said,

    May 26, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Great CVT quotes Stuart. They really highlight why I have spent most of my time since coming to the Reformed faith opposing such horrible and deadly nonsense. To the extent that Ron is a Van Tillian I have to say, and as someone who is squarely and happily in what you call the “dark side.” his post #149 does an outstanding job of raising the same objections I’ve raised for more years than I care to count. His post also speaks to the epistemic connection between Van Tillianism and the current justification controversy (I never could understand why Van Tillians couldn’t see this obvious connection).

    I can almost hear James Earl Jones saying, “Ron, I am your father.” :)

  156. Ron said,

    May 26, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Stuart,

    I’m finding your language more flowery and programmatic than precise. In a word, you’re burying me in rhetoric. I’m also getting the impression you have a fragile handle on what this discussion is about for you seem to come in from left field with many musings that don’t seem to get at what others are addressing or trying to address. In any case, you and I aren’t off the same page. We’re not even in the same library. As for my thoughts on CVT and GHC, feel free to look at the relevant tags on my site but given what I’ve read from you, I don’t think we have much chance of progressing.

    Best,

    Ron

  157. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Ron (#154):

    Consider the following hypothetical argument:

    (1) God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass WCoF 3.1a (given)

    (2) God decreed unchangeably Adam’s fall. (from 1)

    (3) Adam therefore was unable to choose otherwise than he did. (from 2)

    (3a) And this not because of his nature, but because of God’s decree. (from 1 and WCoF 4.2)

    (4) 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. — WCoF 3.1b (given)

    (5) Adam was therefore at liberty to choose otherwise than he did. (from 4)

    Hence, (1) and (4) are apparently in conflict with each other: (1) implies that Adam had no choice wrt the Fall; (4) implies that he did. It is clear that (3) and (5) are X and ~X.

    Assuming that (1) and (4) are both good and necessary inferences from Scripture, we have “established” a contradiction in our hypothetical argument.

    Now, you (or I) might immediately attack the argument on several fronts. But the point is not that whether the argument is successful.

    The point is that the argument is reasonably well-argued and yet leaves the arguer holding two contrary opinions. The arguer is, as you say, confused.

    Now for the pragmatic question: Should our hypothetical arguer abandon (1) and (4) and say that one or the other is false? OR, should he reason that perhaps (2), (3), (3a), or (5) rest on some error derived from (1) and (4)?

    If the former, then our reasoner has “logic-ed the problem away” — using his own reasoning, he has abandoned biblical doctrine, as a way of resolving the conflict in his mind. He has achieved cognitive consonance at the expense of Scripture.

    If the latter, then our reasoner (until corrected) has decided that Scripture must be true, even if he cannot reconcile all of it. He will therefore use the words “apparent contradiction” or “paradox” to describe the situation. He retains cognitive dissonance for the sake of being faithful to Scripture as best he can, knowing that his answer is incomplete or flawed in some way.

    I side with the latter approach.

    The problem I see with your approach, Ron and Sean, is that you view “logic” in the abstract: Feed correct assumptions in, get perfectly true answers out. In theory, that’s true; but in practice, even the most skillful practitioners of logic make errors. In practice, we cannot guarantee the truth of our assumptions. In practice, we cannot guarantee that we have correctly translated the language of Scripture into formal logical language.

    Because of those sources of error, I am not as sanguine about the perfection of deductive reasoning as the guide to all theological truth. Like Stuart, I think logic has a place (an important place) in our theological method. But it doesn’t solve all problems.

    Ron, here’s an example of what I mean by viewing logic in the abstract. You wrote,

    If one wants to assert a paradox, it might be helpful to identify the contradictory premises and show why either must be false. As soon as he shows how either one must be false, then should abandon that one.

    So … which one should be abandoned, (1) or (4)? If (1) is true, then (4) is false (or so it seems to our arguer); if (4) is true, then (1) is false. That’s the nature of all paradoxes: There isn’t one obviously false premise and one obviously true premise, but two premises that are both seemingly true and seemingly in conflict with each other.

    By assuming that one or the other premise is false, you’ve neatly sidestepped the problem. No paradoxes! Just premises that are false if one thinks hard enough. In reality, this is not so.

  158. Sean Gerety said,

    May 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Persons #1 ” He has achieved cognitive consonance at the expense of Scripture.”

    Person #2 “He retains cognitive dissonance for the sake of being faithful to Scripture as best he can, knowing that his answer is incomplete or flawed in some way.”

    Jeff Cagle: “I side with the latter approach.”

    Let me just reiterate, you are solidly in the mainstream of modern Reformed thought along with Stuart. The problem is I don’t see why cognitive consonance cannot be achieved in conformity with Scripture? You presume per your example this is not an option. You also seem to assume that the Confession is somehow inviolable. That said, I happen to think the Confession is absolutely correct per your citations, just not your understanding of it.

    Further, I can’t seem to find in Scripture “cognitive dissonance” as an interpretive principle, but I do find the idea that God does not speak both yes and no and that the Scriptures cannot be broken. Therefore, “cognitive dissonance” should be a clue to Christians, particularly those of the confessional variety and who confess that Scripture presents to the mind, and specifically the mind of man, a “consent of *all* the parts,” that they need to recheck their premises.

    The problem is with the vast majority of Reformed men in the mainstream, and who believe that maintaining “cognitive dissonance” is to think in submission to Scripture, is that they have no epistemic reason to ever recheck their premises. In fact, rechecking their premises is a sure sign of lack of submission. It is impious. It is sin.

    So, while we can certainly dissect your example (and I’m guessing Ron will), it is the underlying principle that I’m more interested in.

    However, to your example, I would begin by questioning your understanding of key terms like “liberty” and “authorship.” For example, the Confession writers have a very definite view of freedom and liberty that is quite at odds with the idea of liberty that you seem to think is at odds with God’s sovereignty. See for example WCF 9 on Freedom of the Will and specifically the idea that in glory the saints will be “immutably free.” So, I would begin by asking in what sense is “the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established”? Could it be that you are simply misunderstanding what is meant and are imposing a view of liberty that is foreign to the Confession hence your cognitive dissonance?

  159. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Sean: The problem is with the vast majority of Reformed men in the mainstream, and who believe that maintaining “cognitive dissonance” is to think in submission to Scripture, is that they have no epistemic reason to ever recheck their premises. In fact, [to them?] rechecking their premises is a sure sign of lack of submission. It is impious. It is sin.

    You are off the mark, and I encourage you to recheck my posts to see the error in your characterization. I’ve never advocated anything like refusing to recheck one’s premises. Quite the opposite.

    But the fact of the matter is, Sean, that rechecking one’s premises is not a panacea that makes every problem go away. After the rechecking and re-rechecking, after thinking as carefully as possible, we still may not have a viable solution.

    What then?

    Option 1: Abandon one or the other premise as “false”

    Option 2: Continue to maintain both premises as “true” and continue to hope for a solution.

    You seem to want

    Option 3: Recheck your premises again.

    And? If option 3 doesn’t work? Haven’t you ever missed a math problem and been unable to see the error when re-checking?

    And that’s really the reason that you and I lock heads here. I see in your method a magical view of logic: Apply logic and the problems go away. “If only we recheck our premises, then *poof* all of the hard problems in Scripture are solved!” seems to be your thesis.

    That’s just not so. Humans, unlike God, are not perfect practitioners of logic; nor do they have access to guaranteed premises. We don’t get the kind of epistemic perfection that you want.

    SG: So, while we can certainly dissect your example (and I’m guessing Ron will) …

    Perhaps you missed what I wrote:

    JRC: Now, you (or I) might immediately attack the argument on several fronts. But the point is not that (sic) whether the argument is successful.

    The point is that the argument is reasonably well-argued and yet leaves the arguer holding two contrary opinions.

    Now for the pragmatic question …

    Ron will understand that the point is the procedure, not the particular question; he is therefore unlikely to try to dissect the particular argument, which was marked several times as “hypothetical.”

    This is the question: What do we do when we cannot resolve two apparently true, apparently contradictory doctrines?

    Your answer seems to be: Resolve them.

  160. Stuart Jones said,

    May 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    To Whom it may concern:
    (Not sure who to address here since I am evidently in some other library and keeping up with one blog is enough for now)
    I like Jeff’s analysis in #157.
    Here’s what I would add (at the risk of repeating myself and more flowery language):
    It seems Ron’s objections to my posts is that I am not answering his questions(s) or issues directly. I obviously think I am, but Jeff’s post takes Ron’s “precise” challenge of interacting with X and ~X more directly and precisely using substantially the same example I raised.

    My reason for not wanting to be drawn into such a “precise” dealing with X and ~X in relation to particular doctrines (preferring to speak more generally in terms of mystery and “apparent contradictions”) is: 1) because I certainly have no interest in arguing that there are real contradictions among biblical doctrines; 2) focusing so minutely on X and ~X may imply that I think here is legitimacy in allowing a neutral logic to govern the question of what is truth; and 3) on neutral grounds, I find the symbolic sequence “X is not ~X” is meaningless. It is not a question of whether it is a true assertion or a valid assertion but whether it is even a meaningful assertion (all of this without prejudice to the excellent post of Jeff).

    For example: Is “fxdspolrttpx=tpqr” true?
    Is it valid?
    Does it mean anything?
    Something has to be intelligible to be evaluated for truth or validity. I don’t think the symbolic sequence means anything (at least without a lot of further information).

    This is what I like about CVT’s position that the Triune God of Scripture is the presupposition of the possibility of any meaningful predication.
    It deals at a more basic level than “X is not~ X.”
    The “X is not ~X” symbolic sequence is capable of meaning when rooted in the CVT presupposition. The unbelieving philosopher takes that meaning (temporarily standing on the right footing) while simultaneously denying its vital root by implying or stating that the “X is not ~X” symbolic sequence is an ultimate law bigger than God because God must adhere to it.

    In a larger sense, we are talking about what it means to say God is Truth and God is true. Some folk read the words “apparent contradiction” and see truth being sacrificed. Our friends from the dark side see epistemological knowability being sacrificed. I don’t reject those concerns. I just find those concerns are not adequately attended to by deifying logic (to use flowery language and repeat myself).

    ~Stuart

  161. Sean Gerety said,

    May 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    You are off the mark, and I encourage you to recheck my posts to see the error in your characterization. I’ve never advocated anything like refusing to recheck one’s premises. Quite the opposite.

    I rechecked and I think my characterization is correct. You provided a choice between dissonance or achieving consonance at the expense of Scripture. But why would logical coherence ever be at the expense of Scripture? How is that even theoretically possible unless the Scriptures are in fact contradictory? No true proposition can ever contradict another true proposition. This is why I’ve argued the mainstream position which you represent and defend undermines the truth of Scripture as completely as any errantist.

    But the fact of the matter is, Sean, that rechecking one’s premises is not a panacea that makes every problem go away. After the rechecking and re-rechecking, after thinking as carefully as possible, we still may not have a viable solution.

    What then?

    Option 1: Abandon one or the other premise as “false”

    That’s always a possibility and in the case of some perceived apparent contradictions, say, the one inherent in the so-called well meant offer, I’d say this is the correct thing to do as God does not desire the salvation of all men as sound exegesis of relevant passages demonstrates.

    Option 2: Continue to maintain both premises as “true” and continue to hope for a solution.

    Why assume they’re both true? If they’re contradictory and we know that one side of any given contradiction must be and not may be false, perhaps the Bible does contain errors after all. Why isn’t that an option?

    You seem to want

    Option 3: Recheck your premises again.

    I’m always rechecking my premises. Sometimes it even keeps me awake at night. :-(

    And that’s really the reason that you and I lock heads here. I see in your method a magical view of logic: Apply logic and the problems go away. “If only we recheck our premises, then *poof* all of the hard problems in Scripture are solved!” seems to be your thesis.

    Abandon and curb logic and I can guarantee that whatever problems there appear to be will never go away. Actually, they’ll be compounded which is why there are men who teach JBFA and JBF+Works out of both sides of their mouth with seeming impunity (at least those who teach these things have been thus far exonerated by the courts).

    That’s just not so. Humans, unlike God, are not perfect practitioners of logic; nor do they have access to guaranteed premises. We don’t get the kind of epistemic perfection that you want.

    No, but unlike you, I don’t begin with the premise that God’s word must end in cognitive dissonance and I’m not happy to rest in it. I begin with the premise that God’s Word is truth and consequently cannot contradict itself. Which is why I agreed with Reed way up above that any apparent contradictions is the fault of the reader and their failure to correctly understand God’s word, just like you don’t seem to understand the Confession when it talks about the liberty of secondary causes.

    This is the question: What do we do when we cannot resolve two apparently true, apparently contradictory doctrines?

    Your answer seems to be: Resolve them.

    Of course. And, per the example you gave, it doesn’t seem all that difficult.

  162. Ron said,

    May 26, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Sean, Jeff, Stuart and anyone local…

    I just landed in Philly. I’ve been on my pc at 30K ft. typing out a blog post pertaining to this topic that should be up on Reformed Apologist sometime on Friday. It is Thursday, right? :)

    More importantly – much more in fact, Stuart you say you’re coming on Saturday. Jeff is in two hours driving distance and Sean is within five tops, please do consider coming on Saturday, rain or shine. Although I don’t want to take you away on a Sunday, if you would like to exercise your Christian liberty to come, I’ll put you up at a local Hilton or Marriott property as I have more points than I know what to do with – np at this end. Stuart, that offer goes for you and Sandy, of course. Stuart, let’s talk on Friday. I suggest you worship w/ us on Sunday and on Saturday we discuss contradictions over tall ones – haven’t read your post.

    Luggage calls………..ron

  163. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 26, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Wow, Ron, thank you for the generous offer. As it turns out, both Sat and Sun are full. But sometime in the summer might well work.

  164. Ron said,

    May 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    1) God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass WCoF 3.1a (given)
    (2) God decreed unchangeably Adam’s fall. (from 1)
    (3) Adam therefore was unable to choose otherwise than he did. (from 2)
    (3a) And this not because of his nature, but because of God’s decree. (from 1 and WCoF 4.2)

    Jeff,

    I must be quick but I’ll try to be precise. I just got in the house but family duty and family time calls. :)

    I’m sorry but your argument is fallacious. Unfortunately you transfer the necessity of the inference to the conclusion, which guys like William Lane Craig and A. Plantinga will object to, as will Calvinist Paul Helm (and I). We’re correct in this objection. The Confession doesn’t commit the fallacy you have in view yet Calvinists often do, as does your construct I’m afraid. The point of contention has to do with future truth propositions and how they pertain to metaphysics. The fallacy can be made to disappear (and I wish Helm took this approach in the “four views” book) but thankfully the confession doesn’t address at that juncture the Molinist’s entry into the Reformed world. The apparent contradictions you cite later build upon this fallacy, so I won’t give a detailed response here other than to say the conclusion is built upon a faulty premise. (i.e. I’ll skip over a later portion of your inquiry due to this fallacy.)

    Aside from above, the Confession does not imply, as you say, that Adam “had no choice” than to fall. After all, and of course, there was a choice regarding the options that were before him, i.e. he had a choice. What you would like to say (maybe) is that Adam had to fall since it was decreed that he would fall. But if that is what you would like to say, then you would be conflating what would happen (truth) with what could happen, which is strictly metaphysical concern. The Confession, unfortunately in my estimation, does not object to LFW, yet it does refute Arminianism elsewhere, for which I’m grateful, and confessional. In any case, the Confession does not offer apparent contradictions. When it speaks of freedom, it speaks of liberty (i.e. the ability to act according to one’s desires) not metaphysical freedom / LFW.

    The problem I see with your approach, Ron and Sean, is that you view “logic” in the abstract: Feed correct assumptions in, get perfectly true answers out. In theory, that’s true; but in practice, even the most skillful practitioners of logic make errors.

    What I’m dealing with is the garbage in, which in turn produces the garbage out, of those that hold to paradox. If one says x dogma looks contradictory, then it’s on their say-so I ask, How do those contradictions differ from the contradictions we should reject? If you want to resort to: “we cannot guarantee the truth of our assumptions. In practice, we cannot guarantee that we have correctly translated the language of Scripture into formal logical language” then all bets are off and we’re all reduced to skepticism, which you won’t have. You want to use logic, it seems, when it suits you.

    Because of those sources of error, I am not as sanguine about the perfection of deductive reasoning as the guide to all theological truth.

    In other words, you want to use the law of non-contradiction to say that
    “David was a king in Israel” does not mean “David was not a king in Israel” but you aren’t as willing to abandon logic when it comes to more difficult propositions?

    Like Stuart, I think logic has a place (an important place) in our theological method. But it doesn’t solve all problems.

    Logic is a tool in the hands of a person. The problem is not with logic…

    I’ll try to throw something up on my blog Friday..

    Best,

    Ron

  165. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 26, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Ron (#164): I appreciate your objection and agree that the hypothetical argument is imperfect.

    But that’s not the point.

    The point is that our hypothetical arguer may or may not be able to see subtle fallacies in his syllogism. Given that limitation, what is he supposed to do?

    Sean would have him go back and check again. And again. And again. And again.

    But any amount of checking has a low probability of revealing his error. That doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t check; it just means that the check is unlikely to yield a different result.

    So what is he to do? He believes that the Scripture is true; he believes that he has reasoned properly from Scripture; he believes that ultimately, there is not an actual contradiction involved.

    So … ?

    Neither you nor Sean have squarely faced the pragmatic reality here. Our arguer has other things to do with his time than to endlessly and fruitlessly recheck his assumptions. God hasn’t called us to doctrinal navel-gazing.

  166. Ron said,

    May 26, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Ron (#164): I appreciate your objection and agree that the hypothetical argument is imperfect.

    But that’s not the point.

    The point is that our hypothetical arguer may or may not be able to see subtle fallacies in his syllogism. Given that limitation, what is he supposed to do?

    Jeff,

    The discussion was once about whether apparent contradictions appear to be real contradictions. Has it now morphed into a discussion of how we are to persuade one who, as you put it, “may not be able to see subtle fallacies in his syllogism”? Are you now conceding that the objector has been defeated and that he just needs to be persuaded? Are you no longer concerned with objective proof but rather with subjective persuasion? Persuasion can never vindicate proof, Jeff.

    You wrote to Sean:

    So what is he to do? He believes that the Scripture is true; he believes that he has reasoned properly from Scripture; he believes that ultimately, there is not an actual contradiction involved.
    So … ?

    Apparently this hypothetical person is no different than you. Notwithstanding, my advice to him would be what I’ve offered to you, but that won’t satisfy you (my advice to him that is) otherwise you wouldn’t be asking the question of what should be said to him.

    Neither you nor Sean have squarely faced the pragmatic reality here. Our arguer has other things to do with his time than to endlessly and fruitlessly recheck his assumptions. God hasn’t called us to doctrinal navel-gazing.

    It’s hard for me to believe that after all this time you are now objecting to a polemic against “apparent contradiction” based upon one who hasn’t time to reflect upon his presuppositions more thoroughly. It seems to me that either you aren’t grasping the point or you are grasping at straws.

  167. Ron said,

    May 26, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Wow, Ron, thank you for the generous offer. As it turns out, both Sat and Sun are full. But sometime in the summer might well work.

    Please come whenever convenient. The offer is warm and sincere.

    Yours,

    Ron

  168. Tim Prussic said,

    May 26, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    Responding to Reed’s post (not the 46 billion comments) – it seems like a single step away from classical inerrancy is a slippery slop which ends in absolute skepticism. One may, say, say the Bible errs in historical fact, but is true in doctrine. This, however, doesn’t take very long to devolve into admission of slight doctrinal errors. How could it not? Doctrine is based on history, right.

    We don’t want to assert inerrancy just for defensive reasons (though it is a consistent and defensible position). We hold it because it is what the Scriptures teach. It also happens to be what the church has historically taught.

    Good thoughts. Thanks for posting them.
    -Tim

  169. Stuart Jones said,

    May 26, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    Ron,
    Your post to Jeff (164) is less than clear to me as to what fallacy is involved. I note the following particular statements that you make:

    1. You transfer the necessity of the inference to the conclusion;
    2. The point of contention has to do with future truth propositions and how they pertain to metaphysics;
    3. The Confession does not imply, as you say, that Adam “had no choice” than to fall;
    4. But if that is what you would like to say, [Adam had tofall because it was decreed] then you would be conflating what would happen (truth) with what could happen, which is strictly metaphysical concern.

    #1 is particularly unclear to me.
    Re #2 and #4: It seems that you, by importing the language about a “metaphysical concern” are actually doing theology rather than logic. The logical issue seems much simpler:
    X=Adam was under necessity to sin
    ~X=Adam was free not to sin (posse non peccare).
    In doing theology we recognize that “metaphysically” God’s decree accounts for the necessity.
    Ethically speaking, why a will not under bondage to sin would choose to sin is a mystery.
    So we may say God is the metaphysical cause of the sin and Adam is the ethically responsible transgressor who in some other sense or senses (e.g. ethically or vis-à-vis creational activity), was free not to sin.
    But all of this is doing theology and doing it based on Christian presuppositions. It does not really solve the narrow question that in this case we affirm both X and ~X.
    The “cause” factors, from a logical standpoint, are incidental to the simple logic formulation that here X and ~X are both true.
    The “cause” factors from a theological standpoint provide our intuition that we need to differentiate between first and second causes; that this within our presuppositional framework may suggest there are different kinds of freedom and necessity.
    Adam was not free from the necessity of the decree but he was free (before the fall) from the necessity to sin vis-à-vis a corrupt nature that put him in bondage

    Your statement (#3) above is denies what is a clear implication of Jeff’s first proposition: “God…unchangeably ordain[ed] whatsoever comes to pass.”
    If your reason for denying this some other place in the Confession that takes the other view, then you are just cutting off one of the horns of the dilemma without recognizing it. Not clear to me why you deny the implication.

    The theological “solution” does not solve the apparent contradiction for an unbeliever. It is only “solved” for the believer by recognizing that the logic employed here (re X and ~X) has a larger meaning context; this does not do much to bolster the law of contradiction in itself, but it does not get in the way of Truth which is bigger than the law of contradiction (and sometimes in “apparent” conflict with said law).

    Perhaps in a post or over a good beverage on Saturday you will explain to me how CVT went astray and where you fit in the great chain of being as it ascends from the darkside dwellers to Saint Cornelius.

    -Stuart

  170. Ron said,

    May 27, 2011 at 12:06 am

    #1 is particularly unclear to me.

    Stuart,

    Molinists and Calvinists agree over the soundness of the following argument, where x is a creaturely choice.

    1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
    2. God foreknows x
    3. Therefore, x will happen

    Molinists and Calvinists even agree that the following argument is fallacious:

    1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
    2. God foreknows x
    3. Therefore, x will necessarily happen

    The fallacy in view is that of transferring the necessity of the inference to the conclusion.

  171. Ron said,

    May 27, 2011 at 12:10 am

    In other words, Stuart / Jeff, it is fallacious to import necessity into the creaturely choice of syllogism 2, step 3, simply because God’s knowledge of the outcome of three step 3 isn’t what ensures the metaphysical cause of 3. That sort of necessity must be established. The Confession doesn’t address such finer points, thankfully. Yet as I said, the Confession affirms the 5 points of Calvinism.

  172. Ron said,

    May 27, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Stuart says: X=Adam was under necessity to sin

    That Adam would sin doesn’t imply he was under necessity to sin. Another premise is needed, which Middle Knowledge propents bang on, rightfully so. The additional premise Calvinists / Edwarsian folk must assert is that God cannot know a future creaturely choice (FCC) without it being necessary, but the Confession doesn’t get into such detail, and again I’m happy for that for the Confession wasn’t intended to be a study in metaphysics. But once again the Confession excludes Arminianism but on other grounds.

    Over a brew, Stu, we can discuss. :)

  173. Ron said,

    May 27, 2011 at 12:33 am

    The theological “solution” does not solve the apparent contradiction for an unbeliever.

    This remark of yours stands alone, Stuart. You’re thinking like an evidentialist who desires to solve the problem for would-be autonomous man according to his autonomous reasoning. Autonomous reasoning on its own terms can be reduced to absurdity, but any solution to their conundrums can’t come from their presuppositions. Accordingly, it shouldn’t surprise one who claims to understand Van Til that the “theological ‘solution’ does not solve the apparent contradiction for an unbeliever.” Of course it doesn’t Stuart, but this discussion was never about that. This discussion was over whether God’s word contains apparent contradictions that must be embraced, i.e. can never be shown to be not contradictory; it had nothing to do with whether unbelievers who won’t submit to God’s revelation can by their own autonomous reasoning alleviate theological contradictions. Of course unbelievers, for instance, will not accept anything other than one being implies one person, but that has no part in the discussion having to do with whether it is actually true that one being implies one person, or whether one being can be accommodated by three persons, logically speaking.

    This stuff is pretty basic I think, but I think I’d prefer to give it a rest so we can talk in person.

  174. Ron said,

    May 27, 2011 at 12:57 am

    X=Adam was under necessity to sin
    ~X=Adam was free not to sin (posse non peccare).

    Stuart, in your post you say both are true yet contradictory to your mind. Your equivocating over necessity, or else your importing LFW, a non-entity, into proposition ~x. In either case, there’s no logical bind, just confusion in terms. If Adam was under metaphysical necessity to sin, then he was not metaphysically free not to sin. Therefore, no contradiction in that construct. OR, if Adam was under the necessity to sin by decree, and if that necessity of decree implied that he was under metaphysical necessity to sin (which requires another premise to which I would grant), then he was not metaphysically free not to sin; so again no contradiction.

  175. Tim Prussic said,

    May 27, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Dude, Ron, you totally buried my comment! :)

  176. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 27, 2011 at 6:26 am

    Ron (#166): The discussion was once about whether apparent contradictions appear to be real contradictions.

    The discussion I thought we were having was whether it is legitimate for a person to use the terms “apparent contradiction” or “paradox.” See e.g. posts #19, 47, 94.

    I maintain that if a person (who is *not* me, BTW) sees WCoF 3.1 as presenting a contradiction, then it is more appropriate for him to call it an *apparent* contradiction, than for him to try to identify which of the two parts of 3.1 is an incorrect premise.

    He might, if he is familiar with philosophy, find a way to resolve the two in his mind. But IF NOT, then it is better for him to hold to both horns of biblical truth, than to reject one or the other on the grounds of “logic.”

    What do we do in the face of human imperfections? Blame ourselves or blame God or his Scriptures? I hold the former.

    And you know, the authors of the Confession seemed to view the Sovereignty Problem as a hard problem also. They call predestination a “high mystery.” (3.7). Perhaps there’s a technical difference between “mystery” and “something that only God can understand” — but I doubt it.

    But at this point I’m just repeating myself, so it’s past time for me to bow out.

    Thanks for the interactions, all.

  177. Ron said,

    May 27, 2011 at 7:34 am

    I maintain that if a person (who is *not* me, BTW) sees WCoF 3.1 as presenting a contradiction, then it is more appropriate for him to call it an *apparent* contradiction, than for him to try to identify which of the two parts of 3.1 is an incorrect premise… it is better for him to hold to both horns of biblical truth, than to reject one or the other on the grounds of “logic.”

    Bringing the Confession into the discussion simply muddies the waters, but in any case if an “apparent contradiction” imbedded in a doctrine cannot be made to disappear, then the doctrine appears contradictory. That, of course, brings us to an obvious question that’s been begged. How can an actual contradiction be distinguished from an apparent one if the apparent seems actual from a creaturely perspective? To simply say that we’re to embrace the seemingly false doctrines the Bible teaches and leave the other false interpretations alone isn’t a workable principle. Should we accept the real presence of the mass though it seems to contradict sound Christology? After all, Jesus did say “this is my body”.

    It’s highly improper to call any particular pair of doctrines an “apparent contradiction” because of the universality of the claim. In other words, it’s simply a misnomer to call any particular doctrine an “apparent contradiction” because of the idiosyncratic nature of each person’s level of confusion. So, at the very least, the supposed apparent contradiction is not an apparent contradiction in any concrete, universal way (to use CVT adjectives).

  178. Ron said,

    May 27, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Dude, Ron, you totally buried my comment! :)

    yes, that was not very chipper of me. :)

  179. Stuart Jones said,

    May 27, 2011 at 9:38 am

    For those still interested in apparent contradictions:
    I suspect a shrinking number are interested and like Jeff I want to see if there is an exit somewhere but zeal for CVT and my own OCD motivate yet another response.

    One issue of the thread is the apparent contradiction in the Bible question; it is not the only issue because inerrancy is the first issue that was mentioned and one that in which I have a keen interest. The apparent contradiction thing has an interest for me because I regard it as very much a part of CVT’s system of thought and I find that SYSTEM to be the most effective and coherent for dealing with myriad problems including inerrancy. Note the word “system.” It is important to CVT. I would argue that for him the idea of “apparent contradiction” versus “real contradiction” is very much part of his system and important to dealing with the implications of the Creator-creature distinction. It is key to grasping (maybe struggling with) what he means by Reformed analogical reasoning. He states:

    “If God is really man’s creator then man’s thinking must be thought of as being analogical. And therefore his concepts cannot rightly be employed as the instruments of a deductive system. These concepts must be employed as means by which to display the richness of God’s revelation. WHEN THEN THE APPARENTLY CONTRADICTORY APPEARS, AS IT ALWAYS MUST [CAPS added] when man seeks to know the relation of God to himself, there will be no denial either of election or of human responsibility in the name of the law of contradiction.” [Intro to Sys Theo, p 257]:

    Note that for CVT, the “problem” of apparent contradiction is not people who do poor logic, need to re check their syllogisms, or even the fact that one might be an unbeliever. The way CVT uses the term above suggest it is not a “problem.” It is the reality the creature confronts when faced with the mystery of God.

    There are times when I wish CVT would use another word than “analogical” (we all have our favorite and less favorite terms in this debate). What is the difference between an unbeliever who uses the law of contradiction to argue against God and the believer who uses it properly to organize the statements of the Bible? FIRST and primarily, the believer is using logic submissively and dependently. Perhaps we could say, he is using logic “by” or “in” faith. It is a tool—as has been said. But it is not a tool that is more powerful or equal to the Toolmaker who gave it to man. It is a tool to be used according to God’s “directions.” It has its limits. SECOND, and I do not remember if CVT gets into this explicitly, but I have a vague memory from seminary of discussions about the fuzzy boundaries of our human terms and the concepts in our definitions (as opposed to the perfect “precision” of God who predefines created reality). Whenever we put a name to something or plug a proposition into a logical formulation (e.g. putting something in for X when we play with “X is not ~X”) we are using human language terms or phrases that are defined in terms of other human terms. For example, in a syllogism where the first premise is “All bacteria are organic” we have a statement where the definition of bacteria and organic may need to be slightly refined according to new discoveries. Perhaps such a refined definition of either would open the door to partial equivocation and mess things up from a logical point of view. I was not very good at biology but I recall there was a time when the taxonomists held to two “kingdoms” (plant and animal). The euglena sort of complicated things. I have heard that a different taxonomy now is used.
    Even the word or predicator “is” is not so simple (leaving aside a certain President and his scandals) when we enter the theological realm. God’s “is” is immutable and eternal. Our “is” is dynamic and temporal.

    Now for those who reject CVT out offhand, this may seem besides the point of the thread. But if readers believe like I do that the “system matters” and pretty much hangs or falls together, including the constituent elements of the system (e.g. creature-analogical-apparent contradiction), perhaps readers can appreciate the concern raised here. I interacted with one person particularly here because his position “appeared” to me to be a CVT-Clark hybrid. That I found, interesting, disturbing, and potentially fruitful for discussion. I am now left with “interesting” and that less so. Some things have baffled me in this discussion. The statement that that I was “thinking like an evidentialist” for example. I may not know CVT perfectly or exhaustively but my remark was anything but evidentialist. Such a conclusion does suggest we are talking past each other because we are reading things from different presuppositional systems.

    -Stuart

  180. Ron said,

    May 27, 2011 at 9:49 am

    The statement that that I was “thinking like an evidentialist” for example…

    The context for the statement was this comment of yours: “The theological “solution” does not solve the apparent contradiction for an unbeliever.

    Since when did Van Til, or Bahnsen for that matter, think that our apologetic hinges upon what the unbeliever will accept? Josh McDowell thinks that way.

  181. Stuart Jones said,

    May 27, 2011 at 11:20 am

    My statement did not, as you asserted, “stand alone.” Read the context. It was not about how we best convince the unbeliever in non presuppositional terms. It was directed toward the epistemolgoical problem of treating the law of contradiction in some neutral fashion. My read of the discussion is that there is some equivocating in your position. Some of your statements sound like (whether so intended or not) it is the law of contradiction that “stands alone.” That would be the “neutralist” approach. It is the approach that the unbeliever takes with logic. Other statements that you make evidence the presence of Christian presuppositions (I think that is what the whole “metaphysical concern” thing was ultimately about though you are free to explain yourself your own way). The approach you are taking reminds me of what CVT said about “blockhouse” methodology.

    My earlier statement (#169) could be restated and amplified this way:
    “The theological “solution” does not solve the apparent contradiction ON A NEUTRAL understanding of the law of contradiction which ultimately is the unbelieving view of logic. The unbeliever will reject the blockhouse approach of admitting the “theological solution” to the discussion, coming in later after a neutral approach was in effect agreed upon.

    This would be very typical of CVT’s approach and way of stating or illustrating such a problem and is most certainly not ceding ground to Josh McDowell. CVT says you must acknowledge your presupposition (and implicitly your system) at the OUTSET and not begin with something like the law of contradiction and then; when things get complicated, try to rescue an argument that seems to fail by later adjusting the syllogism and its meaning via presuppositions not acknowledged at the outset.

    The remainder of my statement (“It is only solved for the believer …) is where I make a sort of Van Tillian transcendental turn. It is very like Van Til’s method (cf. R. Pratt’s arguments from Truth or Folly). I rephrase and add a bit here: “Placing our self on a non-neutral, Christian believing presupposition, the problem of the apparent contradiction is “solved” but not by rescuing a neutral law of contradiction. It is solved in the mysterious reality of the ontological Trinity that gives meaning to language and logic and allows the law of contradiction to function properly.

    It is a rhetorical question how much amplifying I should have done in my earlier post. I tend to be so ample in remarks, perhaps I can be forgiven for abbreviating in certain particulars. I just never thought the question of being an evidentialist would ever occur to anyone.

    -Stuart

  182. Reed Here said,

    May 27, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Tim, no 168: thanks. Appreciate your observations. In the end inerrancy is a principle that protects from the inevitable triumph skepticism. To that end it is necessary.

    Yet even more important, it is what Scripture teaches. God could leave us to the waffling destruction of skepticism (an aspect of the Curse). Yet in mercy and grace He chooses not to do so. We should rejoice.

  183. Ron said,

    May 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Stuart,

    Your apparent, no obvious, confusion runs to deep for me to interact with I’m afraid. It’s just too much a tangled mess.

    Best,

    Ron

  184. Vern Crisler said,

    May 27, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Stuart and Jeff, et al., you are wasting your time. Clarkians are rationalists. They believe the rational is the real. Anything that goes beyond human understanding — the love of Christ, the peace of God, the past-present existence of Christ — cannot by definition be real for them. You will get nowhere with them. They’ve been spewing their vitriol against Van Til now for years, and like Buridan’s ass, they cannot choose to do differently. Sometimes you just have to leave it to the grace of God to uncover the scales from their eyes.

  185. Ron said,

    May 27, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Come now, Vern. Certainly Clarkians believe irrational things are real. Your last post? :-)

    Moreover, it’s simply not fair to say Clarkians don’t believe in the love of Christ, the peace of God, past, present etc. It’s also false to say that those things are beyond human understanding, for you’ve just mentioned them so you must have at least some understanding of them.

    Happy Memorial Day weekend……… ron

  186. Steve M said,

    May 27, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Vern: “They’ve (Clarkians) been spewing their vitriol against Van Til now for years, and like Buridan’s ass, they cannot choose to do differently.”

    I am glad your comment contains no vitriol. You seem to be unaware that it was Van Til and his crew that attempted to block Clark’s ordination and not the other way around. And in case you have forgotten they lost. One who is sincerely seeking God (who is truth itself) does not exalt irrationality.

  187. Sean Gerety said,

    May 28, 2011 at 7:56 am

    @ #184. Vern has provided a wonderful bookend to this discussion. I could not ask for a better contrast between two mutually exclusive views of Scripture. Frankly, I’m tickled (yes, I said it). I just want to praise God for this thread and thank Lane for allowing things to develop.

    On the one hand are those who maintain that the Bible is true. On the other is the veiled and tacit admission that it is not. One maintains that any seeming contradiction is the fault of the reader to correctly understand what God has revealed. The other that any seeming contradictions are attributed not to a lack of understanding or human error or even the failure to rightly divide God’s Word, but to human finitude or “creaturliness” that can never be overcome either in this life or the next.

    One side maintains in conformity with the laws of logic that one side of any contradiction must be and not may be false. Or if confronted with contrarieties and not a contradiction both sides can be false. Whereas the other side maintains that both sides of any contradiction or contrariety can both be true.

    Of course, their side maintains that what the Scripture teaches is not so much false as it is beyond reason. If it wasn’t for this escape their attack on the truth of Scripture would be as blatant as any liberal not to mention closet liberals like Peter Enns or the Bio-logos crowd. They maintain that when confronted with an apparent contradiction in the teaching of Scripture Christians are to abandon logic precisely at that point for it is better to hold “to both horns of biblical truth, than to reject one or the other on the grounds of ‘logic.’”

    Apparent contradictions that may arise in our study of Scripture are not problems to be solved, or are what Gordon Clark called “a charley-horse between the ears that can be eliminated by rational massage,” they are to be embraced in an insalubrious act of devotion while affirming against all reason “there are no contradictions for God.”

    Whether it’s the Trinity, the Incarnation, God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, the imagined desire of God for the salvation of all, even the doctrine of justification itself and so much more, when confronted with contradictory teachings of Scripture reason must be abandoned or at the very least curbed. As Stuart explains from Van Til’s Intro to Systematics above:

    “The law of contradiction, 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.”

    So when confronted with contradictory teaching of justification the Christian should “never appeal to the law of contradiction as something that, as such, determines what can or cannot be true.” As Stuart explains the law of contradiction is a creation as much as man is. The laws of logic are “but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature,” and, as such cannot be pressed in the study of Scripture or even when confronting antichrists like those now disturbing the church (one of whom is thankfully going on trial next week in the PNW).

    Also interesting is that some of those arguing for what Stuart calls “the dark side,” mostly Ron, could hardly be classified as “Clarkians” or Scripturalists. Again, I’ll say it, I’m tickled.

  188. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 28, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Sean, I’m quite troubled by your last post.

    You are praising God for the opportunity to heap dishonor on your disputants here. Your charge: On the one hand are those who maintain that the Bible is true. On the other is the veiled and tacit admission that it is not.

    That’s a chargeable offense that you are alleging. It is an exception to WCOF chapter 1. If you really believed it to be true, you would be contacting our presbyteries, not posting about it online.

    Now, I personally don’t think you really believe it. I suspect that you realize, as the rest of us do, that we believe that the Bible is true, but that the Clarkian method is flawed. What offends you, and causes you to write what you write, is that we dare to disagree with your logical absolutism.

    But like Clark (and, dare I say, van Til), you cannot separate your method from the Scripture itself; so you end up making ridiculous — and false — charges that others who disagree with your method, also disbelieve the truth of the Scriptures.

    If your charges had any merit, I would listen and be corrected thereby. But they do not; they only reveal your desire to continue the Clark-van Til fight of almost 70 years ago.

    Brother, Clark and van Til are in the grave and in the presence of the Lord. They have forgiven each other and are able now to see the errors of their respective ways. It’s time for you to blow out your torch.

  189. Vern Crisler said,

    May 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

    I hope some day that Clarkians will have the love of Christ and the peace of God in their hearts, though such blessings surpass ALL understanding. Of course, before a Clarkian could say he experiences such blessings, he’d have to admit that there are emotions that cannot be wholly cashed out in terms of intellectual content.

  190. Vern Crisler said,

    May 28, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I noticed Tim Harris over on Sean’s godshammer blog trying to reason with Clarkians. He makes some exellent obvservations but it will come to naught. In my review of Clark’s book on Logic I stated that those who worship at the foot of logic are seldom able practitioners of logic. The logically and philosophically incompetent responses on Sean’s blog only prove the point. The sheer irrationalism is breathtaking. Tim is probably wasting his talents trying to reason with them, as Jeff and Stuart are here.

    Given that Sean’s posters are usually content to mouth slogans from Clark’s books, would it be too smirky of me right now to point out that even Clark seems not to have liked the Hegelian formula (Reason & Revelation, p. 66).

  191. Ron said,

    May 28, 2011 at 10:59 am

    On the one hand are those who maintain that the Bible is true. On the other is the veiled and tacit admission that it is not.

    Jeff,

    I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I took the statement to mean something slightly different. The tacit admission that is being referred to need not imply that some people think the Bible is false and that they’re cloaking that belief by positing apparent contradiction. Rather, what I think is being suggested is that to affirm apparent contradiction is to affirm, yet unwittingly, that biblical teachings appear false, which implies that the Bible appears false. Given the appearance of a false Bible (or Koran for that matter), there’s seems to be little basis to believe the Bible (or Koran) appears true. In other words, what I think is being said is not that anyone thinks the Bible is false and that those people have come up with apparent contradiction to cloak their covert denial of Scripture. Rather, what I think is being said is that those who affirm apparent contradiction are unwittingly implying that the Bible is false yet they maintain the Bible as true. It’s a reductio of a position, not an accusation of lying.

    Although my interpretation will not be altogether palatable to you, I hope it takes the edge off just a bit.

    Best wishes,

    Ron

  192. Sean Gerety said,

    May 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Jeff, I’m sorry you are troubled by my last post, but you should be. I do think the position you, Stuart, and Crazy Crisler advocate stands in stark contrast to WCF 1. That is exactly my point. Of course, as Ron says it is a reductio of a position and not an accusation of lying per se. OTOH in Crisler’s case it might be, but I do think you, Stuart and the vast majority of P&R men have simply bought into a demonstrably anti-Christian view of Scripture which stems from an unbiblical and indefensible epistemology. But, it cuts both ways. Crazy Crisler thinks “Clarkians” are guilty of the sin of “rationalism” and who have their eyes covered with “scales” and Stuart thinks Clark represents the “dark side.”

    Regardless, IMO the Clark controversy in the ’40s marked a major watershed that continues to affect us today in a very real and concrete ways as this conversation demonstrates (if you haven’t read Van Til’s Complaint and Clark’s Answer side by side you need to – you can find both documents on the sidebar on my blog).

    As for it being a chargeable offense, I’d have to ask in what Presbytery? I mean, really, a denial of JBFA is hardly a chargeable offense in the PCA or the OPC. At least those who openly attack and deny this doctrine have thus far been exonerated. Besides, every difference between Reformed men doesn’t require court action. I’m not a Van Tillian. I’m happy to simply try and persuade you and other Van Tillians of their errors. :)

  193. Vern Crisler said,

    May 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    It’s what Van Til said, you can’t have rationalism by itself. It always comes with irrationalism.

  194. Hugh McCann said,

    May 28, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    #287 Sean ~ Ye saith, re: Stuart & Van Til’s Intro to Systematics:

    “The law of contradiction, 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.”

    ‘So when confronted with contradictory teaching of justification the Christian should “never appeal to the law of contradiction as something that, as such, determines what can or cannot be true.” As Stuart explains the law of contradiction is a creation as much as man is. The laws of logic are “but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature,” and, as such cannot be pressed in the study of Scripture or even when confronting antichrists like those now disturbing the church…’

    You probably need to read further. Look deeper, and you’ll probably find them also saying, “The law of contradiction is God revealing Himself — it is but the expression of the internal coherence of God’s nature. Christians should therefore appeal to the law of contradiction as the arbiter of what can or cannot be true.”

    And, “As some VanTilians sometimes explain, the law of contradiction is as much a part of the character of God as any other communicable attribute. Since logic expresses the internal coherence of God’s nature, it must be marshaled in the study of Scripture, particularly when confronting antichrists like those now disturbing the church.”

  195. Hugh McCann said,

    May 28, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Vern #189 says,

    I hope some day that Clarkians will have the love of Christ and the peace of God in their hearts, though such blessings surpass ALL understanding. Of course, before a Clarkian could say he experiences such blessings, he’d have to admit that there are emotions that cannot be wholly cashed out in terms of intellectual content.

    This bespeaks a tenderness, sensitivity, and charity that rivals that of the most holy men of old. And certainly, who better to judge, than dear brother Vern? ;)

    The 2nd sentence is nonsense, as no one can “admit” anything without using words with “intellectual content.” Except maybe, Vern?

    In #190 he says,

    those who worship at the foot of logic are seldom able practitioners of logic.

    ‘Kay. But so what? It’s like the pagan saying, ‘Christians don’t exemplify Christian values.’

    Also, it proves nothing regarding logic to assert that some (or even many) ‘logos-worshippers’ are bad logicians.

    Further, the critic is decidedly on the outside, making judgments through a glass darkly.

    Lastly, he therefore cannot make much of a judgment on practicing logic, as he’s not keen on it himself. Those who denigrate logic are understandably seldom practitioners of logic.

  196. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Sean: I do think the position you, Stuart, and Crazy Crisler advocate stands in stark contrast to WCF 1 … As for it being a chargeable offense, I’d have to ask in what Presbytery?

    Exactly. The Confession says:

    It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience — WCoF 31.2

    It is for sessions, presbyteries, and GAs to determine these things.

    Not bloggers.

    Sean: I’m happy to simply try and persuade you and other Van Tillians of their errors. :)

    I can appreciate that. You want to persuade? Drop the stick. I consider inflammatory rhetoric to be prima-facie evidence of weakness in the position.

  197. Hugh McCann said,

    May 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Vaunted denoms tainted by inaction?

    a denial of JBFA is hardly a chargeable offense in the PCA or the OPC. At least those who openly attack and deny this doctrine have thus far been exonerated.

    http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/The%20Current%20Crisis%20in%20the%20OPC%20and%20PCA.htm

  198. Ron said,

    May 28, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Stuart, was over today and we had a cold one (or two) and it didn’t take him too long to say he was 100% wrong and now agrees with me. So I think this thread should be closed (before Stuart can respond).

    Seriously, I think this thread has run its course since all arguments are probably on the table. Time to get back to beating up on Romanists. :)

  199. Sean Gerety said,

    May 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    It is for sessions, presbyteries, and GAs to determine these things.

    Not bloggers.

    Really? Besides being imperious, you Van Tillians are a litigious bunch aren’t you? Shouldn’t we leave that kind of self-serving rhetoric for the papists? You are deeply mistaken if you think the courts have that kind of power. Maybe you should spend some time studying WCF 31. I guess if we all were to listen to you we all should submit to the court’s exoneration of Federal Visionists like Jeff Meyers, Steve Wilkins, Peter Leithart, to name just a few. As for me, and given the deplorable condition of the courts, I’ll blog.

    Sean: I’m happy to simply try and persuade you and other Van Tillians of their errors. :)

    I can appreciate that. You want to persuade? Drop the stick I consider inflammatory rhetoric to be prima-facie evidence of weakness in the position.

    Good gracious. What you consider inflammatory I consider a completely fair summation of the proceedings. Besides, what makes you think I was at all interested in persuading you, much less Vern and Stuart? Some people I’m happy to disagree with. I make no bones that I have dedicated my life to discrediting the epistemic position you espouse. It is crippling.

  200. Sean Gerety said,

    May 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Sorry for the messed up formatting. First quote is Cagle’s.

  201. Stuart Jones said,

    May 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Ron,
    It was a great event but I must have had a lot more than a cold one or two if I said that.
    Time to say good night and good night Mrs. Calabash wherever you are.
    -devotee of St. Cornelius

  202. Steve M said,

    May 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    Vern @193:
    “It’s what Van Til said, you can’t have rationalism by itself. It always comes with irrationalism.”

    Perhaps you could let us know the proper percentages of each we’re supposed to have. Would it be 50/50? 75/25? It would be helpful for me to know how much irrationalism to mix with my logic in order to achieve the right balance. Maybe I should mix a little error in with the truth in order arrive at a more balanced position.

  203. Vern Crisler said,

    May 28, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    “The 2nd sentence is nonsense, as no one can “admit” anything without using words with “intellectual content.” Except maybe, Vern?”

    Hugh, I think you need to take a course or two in logic, or maybe in reading comprehension. This is one of the main reasons I don’t like discussing things with Clarkians. They don’t seem to be able to understand the simplist statements, or use basic logical principles. And I for one just do not have time to teach them reading comprehension, or how to use logic. Maybe if they’d put down the Clark and Robbins books for a while and go back to school, they might free themselves from their intellectual rut. Nevertheless, I don’t know what else to say to help them. Education is about the best thing I could recommend at this point.

  204. Vern Crisler said,

    May 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Steve, I think you already have the proportions about right.

  205. Hugh McCann said,

    May 28, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    WOW. – It is for sessions, presbyteries, and GAs to determine these things. Not bloggers.

    Whither personal responsibility? Rom. 16:17-19; 1 Thes. 5:21, Titus 3:9f (or is Titus a clergy-only letter?).

    Vern #203 – Argh! I am slain, cut to the quick by the master! Logic & lucidity, and charity with laser-like clarity all combine to do me in! All my points succintly and deftly answered, all my pride laid low in the dust. So glad you’ve read so much Van Til, and learned the more excellent way.

    Steve #202 – You prolly realize that CVT prolly meant rationalists wind up in irrationalism. But your point’s well taken.

  206. Vern Crisler said,

    May 28, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Hugh, I’m serious. I think Clarkians have developed the view that just because they exalt logic to such an absolute degree, they themselves are automatically good practitioners of the art of logic. Because they have thus deluded themselves in this way, they seldom take the time actually to study logic or philosophy with any depth. I’d recommend Copi’s Introduction to Logic, and Engel’s With Good Reason as a place to start. However, Boole and Jevons or the later mathematical logicists should be reserved for advanced reading.

  207. Hugh McCann said,

    May 28, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Vern, sweetheart, when you say

    Hugh, I think you need to take a course or two in logic, or maybe in reading comprehension. This is one of the main reasons I don’t like discussing things with Clarkians. They don’t seem to be able to understand the simplist statements, or use basic logical principles. And I for one just do not have time to teach them reading comprehension, or how to use logic.

    I will not argue as these relate to me.

    But do you EVER interact with the logical (biblical) argumentation of G.H. Clark, or merely attack those of us with inferior minds and educations?

    If your statement regards Clark himself, Robbins, and/ or Gerety, then I believe it a misrepresentation, a falsehood: …Clarkians. They don’t seem to be able to understand the simplist statements, or use basic logical principles.

  208. Steve M said,

    May 29, 2011 at 2:20 am

    I don’t defend rationalism which attempts to arrive at truth through logic alone. Clark was certainly not a rationalist. Applying logic when exegeting the scriptures is not rationalism it is scripturalism. I am not quite sure what putting logic aside when exegeting scripture is, but I am sure that it is not Christianity.

  209. David Gray said,

    May 29, 2011 at 7:24 am

    >Clark was certainly not a rationalist.

    That statement can only be true by defining “rationalist” in an inappropriate manner. Clark put an unbiblical emphasis on the ability of the fallen finite human mind to comprehend God, God’s grace to man and the means by which God achieves his ends.

  210. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 29, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Sean: God has ordained the visible church as the proper channel for dealing with these matters. Why do you show such contempt for her?

  211. Ron said,

    May 29, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Clark put an unbiblical emphasis on the ability of the fallen finite human mind to comprehend God, God’s grace to man and the means by which God achieves his ends.

    David,

    I’ll assume you’re speaking of redeemed man given your reference to God’s grace, the means of grace and divine purpose. In any case, it might be helpful for the advancement of this discussion if you identified the threshold point at which the employment of logic to understand God’s words becomes unbiblical. I think that’s key to your assertion.

    Also, you might wish to identify a doctrine that seems contradictory to you. Maybe someone on the board will be able to show that it’s not contradictory. For example, I had a non-Clarkian over the other day (a student at WTS) who thought another non-Clarkian’s view of prayer (a professor at the seminary) as being paradoxical was absurd.

  212. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 29, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Hugh, slow down a bit. You say, “Where is personal responsibility?”

    And I ask, What personal responsibility do we have, exactly?

    * To recognize false teachers and refuse to listen to them.
    * To recognize those who are divisive and refuse to listen to them.

    But NOT to become theological vigilantes who go around labeling others as false teachers or heretics or whatnot.

    Beware of straining at gnats (arcane arguments over theological method) and swallowing camels (blatant disregard for the authority of the church to make declarations in matters of faith and conscience).

  213. Hugh McCann said,

    May 29, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Hey, Jeff #213,

    * To recognize false teachers and refuse to listen to them.
    * To recognize those who are divisive and refuse to listen to them.

    But NOT to become theological vigilantes who go around labeling others as false teachers or heretics or whatnot.

    “Recognize & refuse” – a good beginning I’d say, and I agree that vigilantism is dangerous.

    But as we have the mind of Christ to recognize false teachers, have we not also the duty to warn others of true heretics & their teaching? Jesus and Paul certainly did.

    For one example, Matthew 18 has an ever-widening circle of publicity over private sin.

    In the case of public sin, is it not to be publicly exposed? Or are Matthew 18:15ff, 1 Tim. 5:20 and the like merely clergy-friendly directives, inapplicable to we groundlings?

    I have seen the danger of the other extreme (‘hyper-anti-vigilantism’), wherein the pew dwellers sit on their hands and sheepishly await decrees and proclamations from on high in both American Anglicanism & Presbyterianism.

    Wisdom and charity are always the order of the day, but so too, is vigilance. T.J. said the eternal variety is the cost of freedom.

  214. Hugh McCann said,

    May 29, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Thanks Vern,

    Re: 206

    Hugh, I’m serious. I think Clarkians have developed the view that just because they exalt logic to such an absolute degree, they themselves are automatically good practitioners of the art of logic. Because they have thus deluded themselves in this way, they seldom take the time actually to study logic or philosophy with any depth. I’d recommend Copi’s Introduction to Logic, and Engel’s With Good Reason as a place to start. However, Boole and Jevons or the later mathematical logicists should be reserved for advanced reading.

    I will go find and read my copy of Copi. Thanks for reminder.

    And #208 Hugh, as I said, I don’t interact with Clarkians as a general matter. I just don’t know how to interact with such abysmal ignorance and stupidity. Education is all I can recommend at this point.

    I don’t care for the terms ‘Clarkian’ or ‘Van Tilian,’ as these veer near the warning Paul gave in 1 Cor. 1:10-13

    I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

    If you say I am ignorant, I plead guilty as charged.
    Uneducated, that too.
    Call me ‘Stupid’? I might contest.
    ‘Deluded’? Goodness, I hope not!
    ‘Too logical’? I’d take as a great compliment.
    But don’t label me a Clarkian, please.

    That you refuse to interact with my perceived stupidity and ignorance tells me you are no teacher.

    That you refuse to answer my queries about your reading of Clark himself indicates that you care more about defending your system and hero(es) than about learning.

    I think our interactions have lost any potential benefit. That is all.

  215. Steve M said,

    May 29, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    David Gray @ #210
    >Clark was certainly not a rationalist.

    “That statement can only be true by defining “rationalist” in an inappropriate manner.”

    David, if I have “inappropriately” defined rationalist. Please supply your definition of rationalism. Your comment fails to do so.

  216. Vern Crisler said,

    May 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Hugh, my comments are not directed against you in particular but about Clarkians in general. I suspect that some people stumble upon Clark’s writings — as they do with Ayn Rand’s writings — and because of the bullying, hectoring, authoritative tone of these writings, they think by adopting the same tone, or mouthing the same slogans or talking points, that they will be like their hero Clark (or Rand).

    Like him or not, Clark was unique (as was Rand). Whatever learning or talent they had (which is arguable) it isn’t automatically transferable. The fact is, you’ve got to follow your own path when it comes to education. No one can do it for you.

  217. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 29, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Hugh (#214): But as we have the mind of Christ to recognize false teachers, have we not also the duty to warn others of true heretics & their teaching? Jesus and Paul certainly did.

    I’m always nervous when someone says, “Jesus did X, so we should too.” Many of Jesus’ doings (dying on the cross!) were exceptional. Many apostolic functions were also exceptional. Paul, for example, had the authority to teach in the name of Jesus from the Gospel given directly to him by revelation.

    But in our case, we don’t get to unilaterally define doctrine.

    In the case of Sean, he has proposed a test of orthodoxy that stands outside the Confession. That test is, “the terms ‘apparent contradiction’ and ‘paradox’ are implicit denials of the truthfulness of Scripture.” That test has not been recognized by any NAPARC denomination that I’m aware of.

    Now, in matters of faith and tests of faith, WCoF 20.2 applies. We have liberty of conscience in matters of faith not explicitly taught, or taught by good-and-necessary-inference in Scripture. And, the church (and not the individual) is the arbiter of good and necessary inferences.

    Theological vigilantism, the unilateral declaration of “heretic!” by an individual, becomes a way for that individual to bypass the authority of Scripture, bypass the authority of the church, and bind the consciences of others to that individual’s own idiosyncracies.

    Beware it, Hugh and Sean, and walk away from it. It is not a biblical or godly path.

    The right thing to do in the face of false teaching is to argue *the ideas* in public, and deal with *false teachers* in the courts. In public discussion, we have to give one another latitude and freedom of conscience out of recognition that we have not been deputized as heresy-hunters.

    Look: I think Clarkianism is every bit as much a mistake as Sean thinks van Tilianism is a mistake. Though I am a math teacher and a tremendous advocate of logical reasoning, I oppose the reification of logic with all my might.

    But I’m not about to go trumpeting to the blog-world that Sean Gerety or Hugh McCann is denying Scripture just because they disagree with me. I might try to persuade; I might push him or you about the implications of the view. But in the end, I have to recognize that my authority as an elder is limited, and that the right to say certain things is not given to me alone. And one of the things not given to me is the unilateral right to define orthodoxy outside of the church’s Confession.

    And not only that, but also, I have to recognize that I could be wrong. I used to be a credobaptist! I could be wrong again.

    The line is: *views* can be robustly challenged; *people* should not be slandered. And in all situations, we have to beware of the tendency of our own hearts to confuse our beliefs with the Scripture itself.

    In short: we’re not popes.

  218. Hugh McCann said,

    May 29, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Jeff #217:

    You are on it!

    I’m always nervous when someone says, “Jesus did X, so we should too.” Many of Jesus’ doings (dying on the cross!) were exceptional. Many apostolic functions were also exceptional. Paul, for example, had the authority to teach in the name of Jesus from the Gospel given directly to him by revelation.

    Of course, and yet his command for us to test all things, holding fast that which is good, making judgments on teachers and their teaching stand as more than examples. I recall a Presby-Romish debate wherein assurance was argued against by the latter; he further stated that the apostle (like “the Blessed Virgin”) had a special office and special revelation that led him to declare that God would “rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom” [2 Tim. 4:18].

    But in our case, we don’t get to unilaterally define doctrine.

    Of course, and for that we have our theological forbears, confessions, etc.

    In the case of Sean, he has proposed a test of orthodoxy that stands outside the Confession. That test is, “the terms ‘apparent contradiction’ and ‘paradox’ are implicit denials of the truthfulness of Scripture.” That test has not been recognized by any NAPARC denomination that I’m aware of.

    Sounds like it may be something they (you) might want to look into!

    Now, in matters of faith and tests of faith, WCoF 20.2 applies. We have liberty of conscience in matters of faith not explicitly taught, or taught by good-and-necessary-inference in Scripture. And, the church (and not the individual) is the arbiter of good and necessary inferences.

    Are we not the church? Not popes, but not drones, either. “Test all things…” I recall a brother (then under care in the PCA) saying in seminary that he couldn’t call Joel Osteen a heretic because the PCA had not so ruled. Hmm…

    Theological vigilantism, the unilateral declaration of “heretic!” by an individual, becomes a way for that individual to bypass the authority of Scripture, bypass the authority of the church, and bind the consciences of others to that individual’s own idiosyncracies.

    Beware it, Hugh and Sean, and walk away from it. It is not a biblical or godly path..

    Warning well-taken.

    The right thing to do in the face of false teaching is to argue *the ideas* in public, and deal with *false teachers* in the courts. In public discussion, we have to give one another latitude and freedom of conscience out of recognition that we have not been deputized as heresy-hunters.

    You’re in a confessional church, I take it. Fine for youse guys, but what of those outside, like the aforementioned Houston heretic? And then, I imagine Sean and some others (see ‘The Current Crisis in the OPC and PCA’) might contest the efficacy of your courts, but that’s for you all to debate.

    Look: I think Clarkianism is every bit as much a mistake as Sean thinks van Tilianism is a mistake. Though I am a math teacher and a tremendous advocate of logical reasoning, I oppose the reification of logic with all my might.

    I’ll have to look up reification. But God is perfectly logical, no? And you have his mind, right? Probably a great deal more than I since you teach math!

    But I’m not about to go trumpeting to the blog-world that Sean Gerety or Hugh McCann is denying Scripture just because they disagree with me. I might try to persuade; I might push him or you about the implications of the view. But in the end, I have to recognize that my authority as an elder is limited, and that the right to say certain things is not given to me alone. And one of the things not given to me is the unilateral right to define orthodoxy outside of the church’s Confession.

    And not only that, but also, I have to recognize that I could be wrong. I used to be a credobaptist! I could be wrong again.

    Maybe you’re still wrong, too… I was once a paedo and now am in a credo church. I could be wrong again. In fact, I can guarantee it!

    The line is: *views* can be robustly challenged; *people* should not be slandered. And in all situations, we have to beware of the tendency of our own hearts to confuse our beliefs with the Scripture itself.

    In short: we’re not popes.

    Amen, good reminder. But we are Christ’s. {Very important apostrophe…} Thanks, Jeff!

  219. Hugh McCann said,

    May 29, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Reification: Regarding something abstract as a real or concrete thing.

    In this case, “logic = God.”

    Or, “Jesus is the logic of God.”

    My Logic, my Savior,
    Lord, there is none like you.
    All of my days,
    I want to praise
    the wonders of your mighty love.

  220. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 29, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Hugh, thanks. One more thought to consider:

    I recall a brother (then under care in the PCA) saying in seminary that he couldn’t call Joel Osteen a heretic because the PCA had not so ruled.

    Context, context. Online blog ≠ Bible study ≠ one-on-one counseling. If an individual were moving to Houston and wanted advice about which church to attend, I would feel free to be direct about my theological opinions. If on the other hand I were speaking online then I would be more careful to guard the good name of others in public.

    It’s a matter of thinking about context and discourse.

  221. Stuart Jones said,

    May 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Ah, despite all my brilliant posts and flatulent rhetoric , this thread refuses to die, proving that we can know when Christ will return: When this thread dies. Oops that’s a post hoc ergo proper hoc. Sorry. Anyway it’s good to see that I am not the only OCD afflicted person in the Reformed world. But I digress. Again.

    And further, I can say I appreciate Sean for one thing. Back at post #35 he launched the little stink bomb that got us onto this protracted branch thread. Now being a mischievous sort of fellow myself, I can say that was a work of art. But I digress again.

    So anyway, while pondering how my good friend who serves very excellent cold ones might seem to have departed from being a 34th degree Van Tillian, I was seized with concern that I may have missed something. A certain 32nd Degree member of our Lodge has shown signs of wavering by denying the TAG; but then I knew I could not trust the sweetest Frame. So not wanting to waste anymore precious beer money on any books written by anything less than a bond fide 34th degree, I googled “Frame” and “apparent contradiction.” Forgetting that I had previously turned off my theological porn filter in order to take a sneak peak at “Enns” and “Biologos,” my search yielded a disgusting website with Sean’s name on it. It was called “The Trinity Foundation.” Horribile dictu! Please keep your filters on! None the less, God being merciful and sovereign, light shined out of the Dark side as the site had a quote from Frame on it:

    “[W]e are in a strange state of affairs: we have two propositions (“God is good” and “God foreordains evil”) which we can show to be logically interdependent in one sense; yet we cannot show them to be logically compatible except by an appeal to faith…. This balance of interdependence and paradox is in the interest of thinking in submission to Scripture. Scripture must be followed both in its assertions of interdependence and in its refusal to reconcile all doctrines to our satisfaction.

    Thus, a paradox remains for us, though by faith we are confident that there is no paradox for God. Faith is basic to the salvation of our knowledge as well as the salvation of our souls.”

    Mirabile dictu! The apostasy is not as bad as I thought, I saved precious beer $, and the old adage that one must hold the truth in order to deny it is proven. Another thing for which to appreciate Sean.

    If this esoteric post–understood only be members of our mystery cult–does not kill the thread what will? Tune into Family Radio. Meanwhile, I say not, as the Master of the Dark side might, “May the Logic go with you” but Good night.

  222. Hugh McCann said,

    May 29, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Jeff220 –

    Online blog ≠ Bible study ≠ one-on-one counseling. If an individual were moving to Houston and wanted advice about which church to attend, I would feel free to be direct about my theological opinions. If on the other hand I were speaking online then I would be more careful to guard the good name of others in public.
    It’s a matter of thinking about context and discourse.

    Surely, but here’s a context: Osteen is internationally known.

    Neither you or I are in the IFCA, but John MacArthur stated at a Ligonier conference last fall that Osteen is a “pantheist” and a “mouthpiece for Satan.”

    What “good name” hath J.O. that you feel you need to guard? You do as you wish, but I believe we have the liberty (at times, the necessity) to side with the fundamentalist MacDaddy and call a fool a fool.

    Do we need the old WCF to call the pope the Antichrist? Had Luther or Calvin waited for a council to anathematize il papa before calling him Antichrist, we’d all be massing in Latin!

  223. Steve M said,

    May 30, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Vern:
    “Hugh, as I said, I don’t interact with Clarkians as a general matter. I just don’t know how to interact with such abysmal ignorance and stupidity.”

    Vern, as a Van Tillian I think it would be consistent for you assume that what appears to you to be ignorance and stupidity is not genuine ignorance and stupidity. With this assumption in mind you should simply accept that how things appear to you has nothing to do with reality.

  224. Ron said,

    May 30, 2011 at 1:25 am

    “[W]e are in a strange state of affairs: we have two propositions (“God is good” and “God foreordains evil”) which we can show to be logically interdependent in one sense; yet we cannot show them to be logically compatible except by an appeal to faith…. This balance of interdependence and paradox is in the interest of thinking in submission to Scripture. Scripture must be followed both in its assertions of interdependence and in its refusal to reconcile all doctrines to our satisfaction.

    Bahnsen had a response to that small problem had by so many, namely that God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil he ordains. I find that response sufficient to remedy any apparent contradiction between God’s goodness and his determination of all things, as did Bahnsen, but I don’t find the additional premise to be a stroke of genius by any stretch. The apparent problem Frame had was that he was judging goodness by carnal standards, forgetting that God defines goodness and what is acceptable behavior for himself.

    That God’s sovereignty over all things and the determination of evil appears contradictory to Frame hardly implies that it should appear contradictory to others. It’s simply too grand a claim to suggest that if some perceive contradictions then others should.

    One might even expect to have a better chance of alleviating apparent contradictions by beginning with a simple presupposition that says there need not be any apparent contradictions. Now there’s an idea. :) The idea of apparent contradiction can make one even lazy (and very unjustified) in his theology, just like by not believing that the inverse operation of subtraction is always addition can make a child think his wrong answers could be correct though they didn’t check out just right by performing the inverse operation. (The less partisan will find the analogy acceptable, whereas those who blindly follow Van Til throw the rationalistic flag.) The point for the less fearful who can be their own man is simply that once we become committed to our ability by grace to alleviate apparent contradictions within God’s word, we might end up working a bit harder at resolving them rather than letting the axiom of apparent contradiction cause us to accept things as true that really appear false to us. Now of course this comes at a price. There must be a willingness to accept the label rationalistic, but what’s the alternative, believing in something that appears false yet while hoping it’s not?

  225. Stuart Jones said,

    May 30, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Re: “Bahnsen had a response to that small problem had by so many, namely that God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil he ordains.”

    I don’t have the context before me but if this is a sufficient summary of all that B said then this solution is an “apparent contradiction.” [An infinitely moral -cf. WSC 4] God has a moral reason for evil. I think many solutions to the “paradoxes” just kick the can down the road.

    And the beat goes on ….

  226. Sean Gerety said,

    May 30, 2011 at 10:04 am

    @217 – Jeff Cagle writes:

    In the case of Sean, he has proposed a test of orthodoxy that stands outside the Confession. That test is, “the terms ‘apparent contradiction’ and ‘paradox’ are implicit denials of the truthfulness of Scripture.” That test has not been recognized by any NAPARC denomination that I’m aware of.

    Either the Bible presents to the mind of men (notice, not the mind of God) a consent of ALL the parts and that the meaning of Scripture is one and not many, or it does not. You recognize that Van Tillianism as I’ve correctly described it is in opposition to WCF 1. What do I care what any NAPARC denoms recognizes? If they don’t recognize that Van Tillian epistemology undermines the truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture as much as any liberal errantists, does it therefore mean that it doesn’t? I don’t see how that follows?

    Theological vigilantism, the unilateral declaration of “heretic!” by an individual, becomes a way for that individual to bypass the authority of Scripture, bypass the authority of the church, and bind the consciences of others to that individual’s own idiosyncracies.

    Beware it, Hugh and Sean, and walk away from it. It is not a biblical or godly path.

    What a load of sanctimonious claptrap. Men who openly teach a scheme of justification by faith and works have been completely exonerated by the courts. In fact, the PCA in their FV/NPP report calls some of these men their “brothers in Christ.” So far the courts have spoken and men like Wilkins, Meyers, Leithart and Moon are not heretics at all but are well within Confessional bounds. Does that make it true? Again, I don’t see how that follows? If a man denies JBFA in principle and practice he is a heretic worthy of the anathemas of Paul even if some corrupt court exonerates them all.

    Besides, when it comes to the Clark/VT controversy, the courts sided with Clark why won’t you! They disciplined the VT faction yet instead of submitting to and receiving their fitting correction, they continued their attack on Clark supporters, specially Floyd Hamilton (see http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=232) , to the point where Clark’s defenders left the denomination in disgust.

    So you’re going to lecture us on bypassing the “authority of the church”? You really are an imperious Presbyterian Jeff. It seems to me court precedent hasn’t deterred you from not following a biblical or godly path regarding Clark.

  227. ron said,

    May 30, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Stuart,

    The context was clearly noted. A good God who ordains evil did not appear like a contradiction to Bahnsen.

    Real contradictions take the form of p = ~p, so if a doctrine is to appear contradictory it must appear to take that form. Until you show how any Christian doctrines appear to take that form, you fail to show that any doctrine actually appear contradictory. But it gets much worse than that. Until you show they take that form, you fail to show how they appear contradictory even to you! Consequently, not only have you failed to show that Christian doctrines are apparently contradictory, a unversal claim of yours that applies to every person – you even fail to show that they appear contradictory to you personally. The only contradictions I’m finding are in your posts. You assert apparent contradiction and fail to demonstrate any.

  228. Hugh McCann said,

    May 30, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Being now in glory, both Bahnsen & Clark have the problem solved. Was Clark onto it early?

    http://www.trinitylectures.org/product_info.php?cPath=21&products_id=86

    Let’s stop kicking that can!

  229. Sean Gerety said,

    May 30, 2011 at 10:40 am

    @ Stuart #221 quoting Frame:

    “Thus, a paradox remains for us, though by faith we are confident that there is no paradox for God. Faith is basic to the salvation of our knowledge as well as the salvation of our souls.”

    Mirabile dictu! The apostasy is not as bad as I thought, I saved precious beer $, and the old adage that one must hold the truth in order to deny it is proven. Another thing for which to appreciate Sean.

    In turn I appreciate Stuart’s lifting his theological porn filter long enough to delve briefly into the dark side and do a quick search of the Trinity Foundation website. However, it’s a shame he didn’t keep reading since the Frame quote he lifted and approves of is from a piece that I wrote, “The Evisceration of the Christian Faith” (http://tinyurl.com/43s4hyl).

    In regard to the citation by Frame I wrote:

    Notice the role “faith” plays when confronting an apparent contradiction in Scripture. According to Frame, and by way of example, we cannot show through the use of logic how God’s goodness and his foreordination of evil can be harmonized; instead, we appeal to “faith.” According to Frame, “We must not simply push our logic relentlessly to the point where we ignore or deny a genuine biblical teaching” [33,emphasis is Frame’s]. Logic fails, and we are unable to harmonize a particular set of Biblical teachings. That’s where “faith” comes in. We are not to wrestle with these “contradictory” teachings and attempt to logically harmonize what might seem to us to be conflicting truths, for, it is assumed at the outset, all such wrestling is futile and is a prideful violation of the Creator/creature distinction.

    This procedure, in which “faith” curbs logic, is hostile to systematic theology and the Confessional idea that Christianity (which consists of all the propositions of Scripture plus all those propositions which may be deduced from them) is a rational, deductive faith. If Frame were interested in affirming his own “creatureliness” at this point and were merely confessing his own inability, one could hardly object. We certainly can’t expect everyone, particularly a new Christian, to know how all the pieces of the Christian system fit together. Frame, of course, is not a new Christian. He has been a seminary professor for forty years. Frame is not humbly admitting his own limitations; he is arrogantly asserting that if he cannot reconcile these doctrines, no one can, and anyone who claims he can, or even tries to reconcile them, is impious, lacking “faith.” It is this refusal to try to harmonize apparently contradictory doctrines of Scripture that Frame calls “thinking in submission to Scripture.” Surrendering the mind to the “apparently contradictory” becomes for the Vantilian a divine duty and a sign of true Christian humility. But where in Scripture are we commanded to submit ourselves to contradictions, real or imagined? Nowhere, of course. One might be tempted to overlook such a sanctimonious leap into the absurd if it were merely the result of a particular theologian’s embarrassment over his failure to harmonize one or two particularly troublesome Biblical doctrines. How often have we all heard even the best theologian or pastor appeal to the proverbial (and un-Biblical) “mystery” when confronted with a particularly sticky question for which he has no answer? Yet, that is not the case here, for Van Til and his disciples make this leap into the absurd a principle of Christian theology, asserting that “all” our knowledge and all the teachings of Scripture are paradoxical and apparently contradictory.

  230. Stuart Jones said,

    May 30, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Ron,
    Re: Real contradictions take the form of p = ~p

    What do you mean by “real”?
    What do you mean by “contradictions”?
    What do you mean by “take”?
    What do you mean by “the”?
    What do you mean by “form”?
    What do you mean by “of”?
    What do you mean by “p”
    What do you mean by “=”?
    What do you mean by “~”?

  231. ron said,

    May 30, 2011 at 11:21 am

    See Stuart run. Run Stuart run.

  232. Joshua Butcher said,

    May 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Kierkegaard considered it a paradox that Christians are called to have faith like Abraham when such faith apparently contradicted the ethical requirement to abide by a universal duty to not kill another. Was Kierkegaard’s paradox an apparent contradiction, or simply a misguided theology, based upon a misreading of Scripture? Is anyone here in serious doubt about Kierkegaard’s suspect hermeneutic?

    That many find apparent contradictions does not imply that such findings are in fact apparent contradictions. Kierkegaard is but a case in point.

    The inexhaustible nature of God, or the mysterious perplexity that accompanies doctrines such as the hypostatic union or the inscrutable choice of God in election are mysterious not on the grounds that they are apparent contradictions of logic, but rather because in our created minds cannot fathom what God has hidden, or because our fallen minds refuse to perceive aright what God has revealed. We are often confronted by our creatureliness and servitude before the Almighty One, not because God breaks the laws of thought, but because we find our thought less than comprehensive.

    Children illustrate the same effect.

    Children are often amazed by the power and wisdom of their fathers–who seem able to lift what is impossible to lift, to accomplish what is impossible to accomplish, and to solve what seems impossible to solve. Often children are simply confused by the decisions that their fathers are called upon to make. Children don’t typically consider these reasons for disbelief, nor do they consider them aberrant to a sensical world. They recognize something beyond their comprehension, but not something against the laws of thought–rather they become opportunities to respond with awe that is according to the laws of thought!

    Christianity does not appear meek, humble, or God-honoring in attributing to God’s revelation a requirement to dismiss the laws of logic where we hold all other forms of thought accountable to that standard which we would break. Rather, such hypocrisy brings reproach against the Christ we would honor, and can easily lead to heretical beliefs that would turn us from hypocrites into apostates. Rather than calling those who uphold the logical consistency of Scripture “rationalistic” as if they abandoned the grounds of Scripture for the autonomous human mind, it is better to call them “rational” in that they are rightly exercising the image of God given to them as the chief means for communion with their Maker.

  233. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    SG: What do I care what any NAPARC denoms recognizes? If they don’t recognize that Van Tillian epistemology undermines the truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture as much as any liberal errantists, does it therefore mean that it doesn’t?

    Sean, it looks from your last post that my only two choices are either to agree with you or else to undermine the trustworthiness of Scripture.

    A sad choice indeed; but I must choose “(C) None of the above.”

    If NAPARC denominations refuse to agree with you, then I must consider that fact to be a strong warrant to believe that you are in error. And so should you.

    One indication that you are in fact in error is that you are wrong about the judicial process of the PCA. You characterize the judicial process as “exonerating those who deny JFBA.” But you and I know that the judicial process is incomplete. What business have you, then, to predict the outcome? Or do you only believe that lesser courts count as church courts?

    And what if the SJC ultimately rules that, yes the 9 declarations are correct; but no, Leithart or Meyers was not precisely teaching in conflict with the 9 declarations. Will you angrily lash out at the SJC as being a corrupt court?

    Is it even possible for you to submit to the judgment of the church, given that “logic” gives you direct access to True Truth?

    We need to stop here, Sean. Say what you will in response, but I cannot see a fruitful sequitur.

  234. Ron said,

    May 30, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Excellent post, Josh.


    Rather, such hypocrisy brings reproach against the Christ we would honor, and can easily lead to heretical beliefs that would turn us from hypocrites into apostates.

    It happened to the PCUSA and it could happen to any other Reformed denomination.

    Just imagine a candidate for ordination being asked “Do you sincerely adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this church as containing the system of doctrine contained in Sacred Scripture?” Now imagine the candidate saying, “What is meant by ‘sincerely’?” Or what if he asked for a definition of “this church”? Would one consider such a man clever, evasive or something worse?

    Given apparent contradiction, “sincerely” might just mean “insincerely”. As Clark appreciated all to well, (i) ultimate paradox is contradiction and (ii) if things must appear contradictory to us, then God is not omnipotent.

    It’s one thing to believe that we can from time to time be confronted with things that at first glance appear contradictory; it’s quite another thing to render them inexplicable. The former can be done from a posture of humility – the latter only in arrogance – for it communicates that if I don’t get it, nobody can. That’s the high mindedness I hope does not infect the OPC, or any other NAPARC congregation for that matter. Unfortunately, things have gotten so partisan that rational discussion is seemingly impossible.

  235. Hugh McCann said,

    May 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Rather than calling those who uphold the logical consistency of Scripture “rationalistic” as if they abandoned the grounds of Scripture for the autonomous human mind, it is better to call them “rational” in that they are rightly exercising the image of God given to them as the chief means for communion with their Maker.

    Nice idea. We’ll see.
    Thanks, Josh.

    Someone said it’s as possible to be too logical as it would to be too healthy or too righteous.

  236. Sean Gerety said,

    May 30, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    You characterize the judicial process as “exonerating those who deny JFBA.” But you and I know that the judicial process is incomplete. What business have you, then, to predict the outcome? Or do you only believe that lesser courts count as church courts?

    What do you mean the process is incomplete. In the case of one of the above mentioned FVists the SJC ruled to uphold the lower courts decision. And, yes, the presbytery is a lower court as is the session before it.

    And what if the SJC ultimately rules that, yes the 9 declarations are correct; but no, Leithart or Meyers was not precisely teaching in conflict with the 9 declarations. Will you angrily lash out at the SJC as being a corrupt court?

    Of course, wouldn’t you?

  237. Sean Gerety said,

    May 30, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    @232. Very well said.

  238. Stuart Jones said,

    May 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Re: 232 “That many find apparent contradictions does not imply that such findings are in fact apparent contradictions.”

    There is a basic distinction between “apparent contradiction” and “real contradiction” that has been endorsed by Van Til and Frame (who used the word “paradox”), and I would argue Murray (see the earlier post). I have yet to see convincing proof that Bahnsen rejected the distinction. I have not read much of Bahnsen because he was a year or so ahead of me in seminary and the bulk of my reading goes back to CVT before Bahnsen was published. My impression is that B mainly re-asserted CVT’s position in clearer language. I have never heard him repudiate CVT on this (though anything is possible and like I said, I have not read a lot of his stuff). I have heard B use the TAG in his debate with Stein to make the God of Christian theism the precondition for logic. I know B holds to TAG in a way Frame does not.

    In view of this, the statement the following statement is either absurd or irrelevant (unless one is a Clarkian in which case it Murray, CVT and Frame are not held in high regard). viz:

    “Rather, such hypocrisy brings reproach against the Christ we would honor, and can easily lead to heretical beliefs that would turn us from hypocrites into apostates.”

    Perhaps a Clarkian is comfortable with such a suggestion toward Murray, CVT, and Frame but I would regard it as a number of things that perhaps are best left unsaid (you can probably make a good deduction).

    As to the illustration of children: I believe that a part of that illustration that is relevant. Children must learn to trust their parents’ counsel even when it does not make sense to them. Language and logic wise they may understand individual particular statements but they may seem “unreasonable.”

    But of course the illustration fails as a perfect analogy. With children, growth and maturity are possible and the commands of parents are not like the high mysteries we face in the doctrine of God.

    Now the context of the fragment quoted provides the false premise: That Van Tillians simply dismiss the laws of logic. Re-read the post in which I quote CVT’s statements on using logic to order the data of the Bible. Thus, I conclude, USING LOGIC, that the statement is irrelevant.

    I notice that my series of questions from a prior post went unanswered. That’s OK. They were meant to make a point, though it seems the point was missed. So let me try to frame a form of the law of contradiction that I think is uniquely ultimate:

    The Triune God of Scripture is not any negation of the Triune God of Scripture.

    Actually this is not intended to validate any ABSTRACT law of contradiction (which I think is the fallacy of the views I have taken exception to). It is in fact the precondtion for allowing the consistency of God to be reflected in our creaturely thinking even when that consistency of God (as He is to himself) must result in some appearances of inconsistency (as He seems to us at certain points) arising from the finite nature of creaturely thinking as it struggles to comprehend infinite mysteries arising from the infinite, eternal, and immutable Godhead.

  239. Steve M said,

    May 30, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    “@232. Very well said.”

    Ditto!

    Stuart:
    “There is a basic distinction between “apparent contradiction” and “real contradiction” that has been endorsed by Van Til and Frame (who used the word “paradox”), and I would argue Murray (see the earlier post).”

    Actually There is not a distinction between apparent contradictions and real contradictions as you say. The category apparent contradictions would include all real contradictions, therefore they are not distinct groups. Since both groups appear to be real contradictions, the group “apparent but not real contradictions” must be assumed to exist based upon some sort of “faith” which is devoid of logic.

  240. John said,

    May 30, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Let me try this without the carrots…

    SJ : I have yet to see convincing proof that Bahnsen rejected the distinction.

    John: I do not think anyone said Bahnsen rejected VT’s use of paradox. It was said he found nothing inconsistent with God’s goodness and God’s approval of evil. The claim was Bahnsen did not apply paradox to the “problem of evil”. Your reply (non-reply?) had something to do with kicking the can down the road.

    SJ: But of course the illustration fails as a perfect analogy. With children, growth and maturity are possible and the commands of parents are not like the high mysteries we face in the doctrine of God.

    John: Can you produce an authoritative list of paradoxes or at least way of determining them? Are they the same for everyone?
    Let me try this without the carrots…

    SJ: God (as He is to himself) *must* result in some appearances of inconsistency

    John: Why must that be true? Was it possible that what was a paradox for Van Til was not for Clark (or Joshua or Ron or Jeff or Sean…)?

  241. Hugh McCann said,

    May 30, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    I am needlepointing this keeper! ~

    The Triune God of Scripture is not any negation of the Triune God of Scripture.

    Actually this is not intended to validate any ABSTRACT law of contradiction (which I think is the fallacy of the views I have taken exception to). It is in fact the precondition for allowing the consistency of God to be reflected in our creaturely thinking even when that consistency of God (as He is to himself) must result in some appearances of inconsistency (as He seems to us at certain points) arising from the finite nature of creaturely thinking as it struggles to comprehend infinite mysteries arising from the infinite, eternal, and immutable Godhead.

  242. Joshua Butcher said,

    May 30, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Stuart,

    Even if Van Til, Murray, and Frame argued that “apparent contradictions” characterize Biblical doctrines, I don’t think that any of them would argue that such appearances could not be removed given the proper premises, or, in other words, given more thought.

    What you seem to be arguing is that apparent contradictions are a condition of being created in the image of God. Passing strange that God would create beings in such a way as to make them incapable of fitting the purpose for which they were given thought–to commune with God in thought. And while Calvin often argued that God lisps in His Word to us because we are as children, the idea was that such lisping made things more easily understood, and not more difficult, or even impossible, as you seem to argue.

    I think Clark’s book criticizing the Theological Method of Karl Barth would be another instructive admonishment to such thinking.

  243. Ron said,

    May 30, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Frame notes in DKG “…we should take the apparent contradiction as a problem to be resolved. Perhaps on further investigation we shall find the view consistent… We believe Scripture is logically consistent, but we realize that for many reasons (our finitude, our sin, the inadequacies of our logical systems, the inadequacy of our premises, our understanding of the terms of the argument, etc.) Scripture may appear contradictory. But we do not abandon our faith because of apparent contradiction. Like Abraham, we persevere in faith despite the problems, even when those are problems of logic. Thus our human logic is never a final test of truth.”

    Josh,

    Frame at first says what you just said, but then he seems to take away with one hand what he gave we the other. He’s famous for that sort of thing.

    In any case, he’s not saying, as seems Stuart, that certain mysteries must appear contradictory. He also gives more credence to using logic to reconcile apparent contradictions, something that’s absent in many people who slavishly follow, or think they’re following, Van Til. I think Frame is simply saying that logic can break down and if it does, we stick to what God’s word says. Now although I find that sort of advice problematic, I agree that it’s a far cry from some of the dogmatism I’ve seen here, like God’s goodness and determination of evil is paradoxical. I see humility with Frame which he is also noted for, in that he does not presume to think that one man’s paradox must be another man’s paradox.

  244. Ron said,

    May 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Josh – I’m in general agreement w/ you as I have a more sanguine view of Bahnsen, less of Frame and Van Til I place in a category all of his own w/ respect to contradiction. My appreciation for Van Til need not be rehearsed here, but let me say on paradox I run for cover. :)

    Bahnsen to my knowledge never made the sort of radical statements that Van Til made, but unfortunately he did stamp with approval “paradox” in CVT’s thought, though never disclosing, again to my knowledge, what he thought CVT meant.

    I think Bahnsen’s reader is excellent. Even Crampton gave it fair approval. I found some of the footnoting on Clark unfortunate when I went back and read the original comments by Clark.

    I think Clark was treated unfairly by my denomination. The man was a gift to the church. Again, I won’t rehearse my great appreciation for Van Til here but I will say the marginalization of Clark remains a travesty.

  245. Stuart Jones said,

    May 30, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Re #243: “I think Frame is simply saying that logic can break down and if it does, we stick to what God’s word says.”

    YES. That’s the point. And Sean’s post on that disreputable website referred to earlier shows that Frame gives a clear example of such a case of logic breaking down.

    Read how he describes the matter (again):

    “[W]e are in a strange state of affairs: we have two propositions (“God is good” and “God foreordains evil”) which we can show to be logically interdependent in one sense; yet we cannot show them to be logically compatible except by an appeal to faith…. This balance of interdependence and paradox is in the interest of thinking in submission to Scripture. Scripture must be followed both in its assertions of interdependence and in its refusal to reconcile all doctrines to our satisfaction.”

    Note he says “We CANNOT show them to be logically compatible…”
    He then makes the exception: Except by FAITH.

    I see little or no difference between Frame and Van Til on the question at hand.

    A major part of my interest in pursuing this fairly fruitless sub-thread is to figure out where may friend is getting his ideas and if I have missed changes or heretofore unknown aspects in the teaching of Frame or Bahnsen since I interacted with them in the early 1970’s. I see no proof that either of them are signficantly different from CVT on the question at hand. That, if appreciated , should give pause to any hybrid CVT-Clark positions. Flee from the Darkside, Friend. Choose ye this day …. I don’t see a lot of Clarkians on this thread saying,”Yes Frame is really so close to Clark; or Bahnsen is so close to Clark.” Read the two statements again:

    My Friend: I think Frame is simply saying that logic can break down and if it does, we stick to what God’s word says.

    Frame: “Yet we cannot show them to be logically compatible [two propostions] except by an appeal to faith.”

    In this way lies wisdom. No Van Tillian is saying we do not reconcile with logic what may be reconciled, without violence, to biblical teaching. The issue is that there are some biblical teachings that we think are not reconcilable by “neutral” logic. Frame’s reference to both “interdependance” and “faith” is what makes his logic non-neutral. It is neutral logic that leads to heresies like Arianism, Sabellianism, and open theism. It operates by reductionism and failing to honor proper bounds of reflection established by Scripture.

    The Clarkian element here have an epistmeology driven concerns: How do you distinguish an apparent contradiction from a real one. But it seems most of them recognize they may not have resolved, every “apparent contradiction” in their own limited (subjective individualzied) sense of the word “apparent.” I am not sure that helps a lot with the epistemology concern except in sofar that is allows you maintain faith in logic. My faith is in the Christ of Scripture and the Wisdom that is not of this world.

  246. Joshua Butcher said,

    May 31, 2011 at 12:15 am

    I remember listening to a lecture by Bahnsen in which he began to articulate the various logical systems that have been held in the history of philosophy, and then asking which one would represent the true logical system. If I recall correctly he was articulating a point of caution against using logic as a standard apart from any grounding in God’s Word.

    However, it is impossible to deny, and easy to prove, that Scripture uses the law of contradiction, the law of identity, and the law of the excluded middle, as well as a host of Aristotelian syllogisms (perhaps someone has already found examples of all of them) thereby giving justification for the laws of logic as characteristic of revelation. For God to breath forth Scripture according to these laws while simultaneously breaking them in the same breath is not only inconsistent, but opens God to charges of deceit and duplicity by the very standard He has set forth for Himself. In other words, it undermines the whole Christian system of thought.

    No doubt, human logics are inevitably riddled with problems, unresolved and even fictitious in nature. But the laws of logic in which the words of Scripture are presented cannot be classed as human logics, and therefore any attempt to ward off human logics by an appeal to a leap of faith in apparent contradictions is a plain and simple non sequitur.

    The reason why Clark set such stock in Aristotelian logic is because he saw it in the Scriptures. “Here, see this sorites in Paul’s epistle, or recognize the Barbara universal affirmative in this statement of Jesus.” I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Clark’s refutation of Bertrand Russel’s denial of subalternation (thereby removing three of the valid moods Aristotle originally accepted) was based on Clark having discovered the subaltern moods in Scripture.

    Bahnsen’s own use of the laws of logic in demolishing Gordon Stein implies that Bahnsen considered them to be more than simply aspects of human autonomous rationality. That he considers the nature of the laws of logic to be universal and abstract demonstrates that they are not simply the results of inductive reasoning or unbiblical dogmatic rationalism. To the extent that Frame or Van Til are consistent with Bahnsen’s use of the laws of logic in this regard, to that extent they are in essential agreement with Clark. To the extent that they are not, to that extent they are inconsistent with their own admissions. That is not to say that Clark is consistent in all things, but that on this point his consistency looms larger than the worth or worthlessness of his name in the eyes of men.

  247. Ron said,

    May 31, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Choose ye this day ….

    That’s your problem, Stuart and it’s obvious to more than a few. You think that Van Til is either all right or all wrong. You also think if Van Til is wrong at one point, then Clark is right on all points. You won’t have the latter, so you must affirm perfection in Van Til. You seem to live in fear, which might explain why you never got close the the discussion at hand.

    Your posts suggest that if one disagrees with Van Til on paradox, then he has no basis to accept other Van Til insights, like transcendental arguments – hence the “choose this day” remark. You behave as if Van Til cannot be put asunder. Maybe that’s why I have two emails in my indbox from two non-Clarkians saying that you appear as if you are just being stubborn. One did offer another alternative.

    I get Van Til, Stuart. He’s not difficult. His thought can be summarized over a cup of coffee, as a former pastor of mine said in so many words. You have, as Frame would call it, a “movement mentality”. You’re on a team and your loyalty seems to blind you from hearing anything reasonable. Josh’s post demonstrates that in a subtle way I think.

    My faith is in the Christ of Scripture and the Wisdom that is not of this world.

    Ah, another false disjunction on your part. Logic, Stuart, is not at odds with faith in the Christ of Scripture. Moreover, logic is not of this world. It’s God’s logic, not human logic. You claim it’s not neutral, but you would prefer to think of it as “human logic”. Your battle cry sounds quite noble (fideistic given the context), but it comes across to me as simply self-righteous. Clarkians have their confidence in Christ too, yet your partisanship blinds you to what you share with out Reformed brothers. So sad, Stuart Jones. Your fear and lack of understanding makes you prejudice of what you don’t understand. How much Clark have you read?

    As Bahnsen said, we don’t reason ourselves to God but our belief in God is most reasonable. Indeed, it saves reason. You would have us believe that we should be more Thomistic.Yes, Stuart, that’s your position, Thomistic. Let logic take you so far and then take that blind leap of faith into apparent contradiction. Logic doesn’t break down, people do. Augustine is the correct model – faith, which is knowledge, saves reason; faith does not take over after biblical reasoning is depleted.

    The only question is whether there are doctrines that must appear contradictory. You suggest YES, but you haven’t shown us any. You only presume to say that men must embrace paradoxes. That makes you the measure of all things.

  248. Ron said,

    May 31, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Josh, my brother, I so appreciate you. I have now for many years.

  249. Stuart Jones said,

    May 31, 2011 at 1:12 am

    JB: However, it is impossible to deny, and easy to prove, that Scripture uses the law of contradiction, the law of identity, and the law of the excluded middle, as well as a host of Aristotelian syllogisms (perhaps someone has already found examples of all of them) thereby giving justification for the laws of logic as characteristic of revelation.

    SJ: True, but not at issue except perhaps the latter phrase deduction: “laws of logic as characteristic of revelation.”
    We might even agree on that depending on what that means.

    JB: Bahnsen’s own use of the laws of logic in demolishing Gordon Stein implies that Bahnsen considered them to be more than simply aspects of human autonomous rationality.

    SJ: It was the TAG that demolished Stein, though I certainly think Bahnsen regarded logic as “more than simply aspects of human autonomous rationality.” I don’t think that is the point at issue except when people step outside of a “believing” or submissive use of logic.

    JB: “That he considers the nature of the laws of logic to be universal and abstract … ”

    SJ: This is where I think there is either a wrong implication re Bahnsen or perhaps, more likely, an equivocal one. I recall B answering a Stein question that received some laughter – I think having to do with invisibility of logic. I also don’t remember for sure, but he may have called logic “a transcendental.” He may have said that, since I remember thinking that sounded a bit peculiar for a guy that I think of as more of CVT and not of Clark. It is part of my interest in the thread. But the debate did not allow for explanation of what Bahnsen meant in any full way; and if one asks what are the necessary preconditions for meaningful predication, there are a number of subordinate answers one might give (e.g. language) but in the ultimate sense there is only one transcendental: The Triune God of Scripture. I would be surprised if Bahnsen departed from this. But then again, maybe he did and I missed it. If so, I think B erred.

    What I think I remember from this thread is that Bahnsen admitted to paradox at certain points. The way Van Til used paradox or apparent contradiction was to establish limiting concepts (or supplementary concepts) within which meaning could function and I suspect that Frame (with “interdependence”) and Bahnsen had similar thinking in how paradox functioned–though I would need to read them in their own context. For Kant, antinomies reflected autonomously inferred limiting concepts. I think those who spend so much time on this thread attacking “paradox” as used by CVT fail to appreciate the different way he grounds biblical paradoxes and how they provide meaning for mysteries.

  250. Joshua Butcher said,

    May 31, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Here are Bahnsen’s words, from an online transcript of the debate:

    “The laws of logic are not conventional or sociological. I would say the laws of logic have a transcendental necessity about them. They are universal; they are invariant, and they are not material in nature. And if they are not that, then I’d like to know, in an atheist universe, how it is possible to have laws in the first place. And secondly, how it is possible to justify those laws?

    The laws of logic, you see, are abstract. As abstract entities, which is the appropriate philosophical term, not spiritual – entities that Dr. Stein is speaking of – abstract entities – that is to say, not individual (or universal in character). They are not materialistic. As universal, they are not experienced to be true. There may be experiences where the laws of logic are used, but no one has universal experience. No one has tried every possible instance
    of the laws of logic.

    As invariant, they don’t fit into what most materialists would tell us about the constantly changing nature of the world. And so, you see, we have a real problem on our hands. Dr. Stein wants to use the laws of logic tonight. I maintain that by so doing he’s borrowing my world view. For you see, in the theistic world view the laws of logic makes sense, because in the theistic world view there can be abstract, universal, invariant entities such as the laws of logic. Within the theistic world view you cannot contradict yourself, because to do so you’re engaging in the nature of lying, and that’s contrary to the character of God as we perceive it. And so, the laws of logic are something Dr. Stein is going to have to explain as an atheist or else relinquish using them. “

  251. Stuart Jones said,

    May 31, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Joshua,
    Thanks for the extended quotation. It is always helpful to have the exact words in front of us.
    The only point of concern I have with the Bahnsen quotation is how the following is understood: “The laws of logic, you see, are abstract. As abstract entities, which is the appropriate philosophical term, not spiritual ….”

    In the debate, if I recall this correctly, the alternative seems to be that the laws are simply conventional. That choice (conventional) is one that I think no one here is opting for. But on one interpretation of “abstract” – that would be a false alternative.

    That is why I posted the following earlier:
    “JB: “That he considers the nature of the laws of logic to be universal and abstract … ”

    SJ: This is where I think there is either a wrong implication re Bahnsen or perhaps, more likely, an equivocal one.”

    The key seems to be that Bahnsen — if this has been reported correctly – has allowed for paradox. I would not expect Bahnsen to complicate his argument with Stein by trying to fit that into this point in his debate with Stein. Most especially if B was simply using the CVT method of working with the unbeliever’s presuppositions of showing that they are inconsistent.

    That said, Bahnsen’s statement might be open to criticism. But I think a person would properly wonder how the statement of Bahnsen reconciles with his allowance for paradox.

    Certainly the word “abstract” has a proper use when applied to certain human or creaturely studies in relation to other ones (e.g. algebra in relation to simple math). It is when “abstract” is used to suggest self-sufficient in relation to God that the problem arises. Where does this abstract thing called logic reside? In the realm of Plato’s forms? Is it a third mode of being between the Creator and the creature? That kind of “abstraction” is what I suspect is at work when people insist on trying to remove all paradoxes.

    Perhaps I will need to break down and squander some beer money on a Bahnsen book or two to satisfy my curiosity that his system is still CVT’s system. I have little doubt that it is. The alternative is to try and determine this from this thread and google searches but that would often mean following blind guides. Contrary to what some think, CVT is not that simple–at least at a system level.

  252. Ron said,

    May 31, 2011 at 9:42 am

    In the debate, if I recall this correctly, the alternative seems to be that the laws are simply conventional. That choice (conventional) is one that I think no one here is opting for. But on one interpretation of “abstract” – that would be a false alternative.

    Abstract meaning not material in nature.

    Proceed gentlemen. :)

  253. Joshua Butcher said,

    May 31, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Stuart,

    Bahnsen’s point regarding the nature of logic is that in being abstract, universal, and invariant it is an attribute of God’s being. Note well that this does not imply that any system of logic proposed by men is identical to the logic of God’s mind, but rather those logical forms found in His revealed Word.

    I haven’t read much Van Til, and quite honestly I don’t think his view is as relevant as your own convictions on the matter in question. After all, it is more important to know whether our own thinking aligns with God’s, and not whether Van Til’s thinking aligns with God’s.

    That being said, you seem to think that logic is a created thing, as opposed to an attribute of God’s mind, which He has imparted to us in making us in His image–what has traditionally be referred to as man’s reason, or intellect. Clark defined logic as the science of necessary inference, which is but a technical way of saying the science of thinking consistently. Obviously the ability to think consistently does not guarantee that one is thinking truly, since a false starting premise may yield many consistent implications before arriving at contradiction, but the point is that there is only one way to think consistently, and since God is the origin of thought, consistent thinking is part and parcel of His nature. One needn’t go all the way with Clark to translating John 1:1 as the Logic was God to recognize that consistent thinking is a necessary attribute of God’s being.

    If you want to read Bahnsen, the best book would be his Van Til reader, where he exposits Van Til’s thought with a clarity that many have found lacking in Van Til.

  254. Stuart Jones said,

    May 31, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Joshua,
    I think you may be new to this thread which began with inerrancy re justification, was diverted into epistmeological issues raised by “apparent contradiction,” has done variations on “apparent vs real contradiction,” “the law of contradiction,” and now has been somewhat diverted by my curiosity and concerns about trying to make an artificial CVT-Clark hybrid. Thus my interest in whether Bahnsen, Frame, and CVT share the same view re paradox or “apparent contradiction.” I am convinced of the essential correctness of CVT on the matter. I have no doubt refined my views a bit over time but they are essentially better understandings of CVT who is much misunderstood by many, IMO.
    If your explanation of Bahnsen is correct (Bahnsen’s point regarding the nature of logic is that in being abstract, universal, and invariant it is an attribute of God’s being), and it sounds plausible, then I think it fits with one of the CVT quotes I provided earlier re God’s consistency (see post 153). CVT:

    “The law of contradiction, 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.”

    If what Bahnsen means by logic is what you say, then it is arguably another way of saying what CVT says using the words “coherence of God’s nature.” That would explain how B’s allowance for paradox fits with the rest of the CVT quote re the limits of the law of contradiction “[AS WE KNOW IT... ON A CREATED LEVEL ...AS SUCH]

    How the Bible uses logic and the implications of that (or how it uses a quotation of a pagan in Acts 17, I might add) is an interesting subject worthy of another thread. Maybe in time. I have a few things to do for now. I have, I think gained something by possible clarifiaions of Bahnsen’s intent and language use in the Stein debate and that at least has been worth something to me.

  255. Hugh McCann said,

    May 31, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    “The law of contradiction, 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.”

    Hooey. Else, we should chant, “Ectype!” (like Gilbert Gottfried’s AFLAC duck) whenever we speak, since everything is an “expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature.”

    But how do we know what expresses on a created level the internal coherence of God’s nature, since our knowledge and God’s never coincide?

    One wonders how CVT arrived at his conclusion.

    Logic is created? “Ectype. AFLAC.”

    Or better, perhaps, Lucky’s speech in Waiting for Godot?
    http://www.columbia.edu/~sky/scrapbook/26.htm

    Van Til may vex,
    Bahnsen is better;
    Frame may frustrate,
    But Clark clarifies!

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


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