A Van Til-Clark Discussion on Archetypal-Ectypal Knowledge

I am not going to get into a discussion of the interpretation of the Van Til-Clark debate, and whether they were talking past each other or not. I am only going to address a small part of the discussion, namely, the difference between archetypal and ectypal knowledge, and whether this forms an area of common ground between God and man.

First, some definitions are in order. The archetypal/ectypal knowledge distinction is not by any means original with Van Til. It comes from Protestant Scholasticism. For instance, see the first few chapters of Markius’ Compendium Theologiae Christianae. Archetypal knowledge is the knowledge that God has. Ectypal knowledge is the knowledge that creatures have. The scholastics usually divided ectypal knowledge into the knowledge of angels and humans. Then human knowledge was further subdivided into the knowledge of man at creation, the knowledge of man as distorted by the Fall, the knowledge of the pilgrim, the knowledge of the blessed (glorified in heaven), and the knowledge of Christ as the God-man, Who had two knowledges, if you will, the archetypal knowledge of God according to the divine nature, and the knowledge of the hypostatic union as the God-man.

One of the points at issue, and the one most controverted, is whether God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge coincide at any point. Usually those of the Clarkian persuasion will say that of course it must coincide, or else we are doomed to complete skepticism and we cannot know anything correctly. Those who follow Van Til believe that such a coinciding would violate the Creator-creature distinction. Sometimes a quantitative/qualitative distinction is introduced here as well. Those of the Clarkian persuasion would say that God knows a greater number of thoughts than we do, but that there are at least some thoughts that God and man have in common. To put it in its most forceful way, wouldn’t God have to know all ectypal knowledge in order to be omniscient? If we look at a pencil, and can agree that a human knowledge of a pencil might extend to its molecular structure, wouldn’t God also have to know the way in which we know the pencil in order to be omniscient? Wouldn’t there be overlap precisely at that point between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge? Van Til and his followers would claim that there is a qualitative distinction between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge just as there is a qualitative difference between God’s being and our being.

So what am I adding to this conversation? I believe that there is a way beyond the forceful way of putting things that I mentioned. It has to do with the atomization of knowledge implied in Clark’s way of thinking. By putting the matter in quantitative terms, God’s thoughts, while infinite in number, are thought of as building blocks. They are discrete points in a matrix, if you will, that extend infinitely in all directions. But God’s knowledge cannot be atomized in this way. If Van Til is correct in his analysis of facts having both substance and context, then the holistic context of all things (and by this context I am NOT positing some sort of higher reality to which both God and creation belong), including Himself, is always the context for God knowing all things, including His knowledge of ectypal knowledge. We cannot atomize God’s knowledge of ectypal knowledge from the rest of God’s knowledge. That context is one that humans will never and can never share, since that context would include God Himself in all His fullness. God’s knowledge is whole, just like His being is a simple whole. The simplicity of God prevents our dividing God into pieces. Therefore, His knowledge must be likewise one whole.

So this formulation of things must also answer the objection: how can our knowledge be true at all? Are we doomed to skepticism? The answer is a simple no, because of God’s self-revelation to us in both nature and Scripture. We would be doomed to skepticism if God did not reveal Himself to us, because then we would have no test of knowledge given to us by God. This would also answer the possible charge that we have descended into Kantianism (the idea that we cannot know anything in the noumenal realm, but only believe). If God did not choose to reveal Himself to us, then we would indeed know nothing. However, revelation is God’s way of ensuring that we can know things rightly, even if in a limited creaturely way. God’s revelation is an anchor that tethers all human knowledge.

The other objection that must be answered is this: is God’s knowledge then the all-encompassing whole that everything belongs to? Do we lapse into a form of idealism by saying this? Again the answer is no, simply because God’s knowledge is distinct from creation itself, just as God’s being is distinct from creation. We cannot separate epistemology from ontology in our thinking.

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35 Comments

  1. Ron said,

    February 16, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    “wouldn’t God also have to know the way in which we know the pencil in order to be omniscient?”

    Lane,

    Yes, but God knowing the way in which we know the pencil is not the same thing as him knowing the *pencil* that way. They’re related but not the same thing. There’s a reason a distinction must be maintained. The first entails God’s knowledge of our knowledge of x whereas the second entails God’s knowledge of x. Regarding the first there need not be an intersection of knowledge between man and God simply because we need not know we know the pencil in any sort of way in order to know the pencil. But yes, if indeed we know the pencil there must be some intersection of knowledge.

  2. Ron said,

    February 16, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    Or maybe you meant something different by “the way in which we know.”

  3. February 16, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    The main distinction is that God knows everything that we know, but we don’t know everything God knows. That distinction being true, it is *still* true that God and man can know the same things (though, for man, not perfectly or exhaustively). This is because we are created in God’s image: this image is the “connection” between God and man. So, yes, God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge coincide because man is “connected” to God by His image in us and because we live in the external reality (universe, world) that God created for us. And, no, none of this violates the Creator/creature distinction since God’s knowledge is perfect and exhaustive and ours is not, even when God and man share knowledge of the same things.

  4. Jason Van Bemmel said,

    February 16, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    This is helpful. Good food for thought. Thanks.

  5. February 16, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    Ron is correct that the heart of the matter is not whether the way in which we know something is the same as the way in which God knows something. Our knowledge is derivative, God’s is original.

    The question at hand is whether the content, object[s], or item[s] (to use the terminology in “The Text of “The Complaint”) of God’s knowledge and ours is univocal. To that end, I think the real question is whether the content of God’s knowledge is propositional. If divine simplicity suggests that God’s knowledge cannot be propositional, it is that with which Clark would have disagreed.

  6. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 17, 2017 at 11:03 am

    @ Ryan (#5):

    I agree with your assessment and would apply the same question to our knowledge also.

    Is our knowledge fully propositional? When a baby smells his mother and knows that it is time to eat, is the baby reasoning propositionally? Or does the baby not have knowledge in the true sense of the word?

    At some point, the question of knowledge simply becomes a matter of definition. If knowledge is defined as a set of true, justified propositions, then either the baby (or God) knows propositionally, or not at all. Under that definition, God and we *know* by menas of the medium of language. Our knowledge is univocal with God’s at every point by virtue of what knowledge *is.*. This is the Clarkian take.

    But if knowledge can include non-propositional mental acts, such as knowing that it is time to eat, or recognizing a face from a picture, or “knowing a person”, or knowing how to play Bach inventions, then this opens the door to the possibility that God’s knowledge includes knowledge via faculties that we do not possess. Our knowledge need not be univocal with God’s at every point because of the qualitative difference in faculties.

    Van Til goes beyond even this and claims that our knowledge cannot be univocal with God’s at any point because of the vast difference in faculty.

    The sticky point for Clark is explaining sense experience. In the end, he has to reject scientific knowledge as not true knowledge.

    The sticky point for van Til is explaining how analogical knowledge can be true knowledge if not identical with what God believes true.

  7. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 17, 2017 at 11:04 am

    @ Jason (#4):

    Hi! Hope you’re well.

  8. Ron said,

    February 17, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Jeff,

    One reason these discussions don’t go well might be because of varying levels of appreciation for the subject matter. Most people who weigh in on the matter maybe oughtn’t?

    “When a baby smells his mother and knows that it is time to eat, is the baby reasoning propositionally?”

    Does the baby *know* it’s time to eat or does she merely *expect* to be fed? What would be the object of knowledge after all? Since the baby’s expectation might not be fulfilled *because* it’s not time to be fed, I’d be hesitant to say the baby *knew* it was feeding time. Maybe it was only an hour past feeding time when she smelled her mother.

    “Or does the baby not have knowledge in the true sense of the word? At some point, the question of knowledge simply becomes a matter of definition.”

    The “true sense of the word” will no doubt influence the question of whether the baby has knowledge in this way. We must resist the temptation to lower the bar of knowledge so that we might “know” more things.

    “The sticky point for Clark is explaining sense experience. In the end, he has to reject scientific knowledge as not true knowledge.”

    No, I’m quite sure the sticking point is people don’t understand what Clark meant by sense experience and how marks on a page, for instance, might relate to the mind acquiring thoughts etc. Reading Augustine’s “Concerning the Teacher” might be a good start for Clark’s critics.

    In any cass, at base we might appreciate that knowing the burner feels hot and concluding the hot burner gave me pain upon touching it are two different things. The former is not discursive. It doesn’t entail asserting the consequent. The latter entails inductive inference. Notwithstanding, the latter conclusion can be known from an externalist vantage. Clark would have none of that it seems to me.

    Sensory experience isn’t the problem Clark stumbles over with science. The problem is that although he was correct on his view of inductive inference as it relates to asserting the consequent, what failed him was the internalist constraints he placed upon knowledge, something the Bible doesn’t afford us. He conflated knowing with knowing how and that we know. He also failed to undermine Scripture’s testimony that we actually do know some things through the scientific method. When Scripture informs that we know things through non deductive inference, Clarkians conveniently say that Scripture is using “know” in a colloquial sense. I’d like to know how Clarkians know that.

    What amuses me possibly most is I think Clark should’ve recognized that people could possibly know through science given his view of infima species and how it related to his view of individuation. He presupposed it all along.

  9. Ron said,

    February 17, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    I could spend equal time addressing the wrongheadness of those who assert without qualification or nuance that science brings forth knowledge. The discussion (not saying here but “out there”) is a mess, frankly. Unfortunately, Clark had good reason to spend most of his time refuting frothy criticisms. He often appeared stubborn as he refused to do his many unworthy opponents’ thinking for them.

  10. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 17, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    @ Ron: Somehow, I don’t think setting oneself up as the arbiter of who is permitted to speak is going to go well.

  11. Ron said,

    February 17, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    My question of you was rhetorical, aimed at offering food for thought.

  12. Josh said,

    February 17, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Rev. Keister,

    When you write, “there is a way beyond the forceful way of putting things,” I take it that you want to either (A) gently move the Clark supporters toward Van Til’s position or (B) find a middle way between the two. Either way, I have a few questions.

    First, are you comfortable with the statement you hinted at from Van Til and his colleagues: “…we dare not maintain that [God’s] knowledge and our knowledge coincide at any single point,” (page 5, http://bit.ly/2kGYuRF)?

    If you agree with that statement, how would you define “coincide”? I think the plainest reading is “match” or “agree,” but perhaps it means something more technical like “univocal.”

    Second, is it appropriate to say human knowledge is atomized? You are clear that God’s knowledge cannot be atomized. Can ours? If it can be, does that mean divine revelation is also atomized? And if that is so, doesn’t the truth or falsehood of human opinions depend on whether they match God’s revelation at the points in question?

    I realize that Van Til used the concept of analogy to address these issues, and it’s fine if your position is the same as his. However, if you are offering a middle way between Van Til and Clark, I’d be interested to know how you define “truth” when speaking of human knowledge based on divine revelation.

  13. February 18, 2017 at 12:26 am

    Jeff,

    Thanks for your thoughts. A few of my own:

    The word “knowledge” can certainly bear different meanings depending on different contexts. When a husband “knows” his wife, that means something different than when a baby “knows” its feeding time – but likewise when a man “knows” truth. I take it that the latter is the focus of Van Til-Clark debate.

    For instance, I think a baby’s “knowing” that its feeding time is primarily instinctual, not reflective or well-founded – it’s doubtful that it is even a belief at all. Does Pavlov’s dog “know” he will be fed just because he’s been conditioned to respond a certain way? Maybe in some sense, but not in any sense relevant to the Van TIl-Clark debate.

    A few things are also being mentioned about Clark’s thoughts regarding scientific knowledge. I would suggest that these things are really beside the point. The debate wasn’t about what is or are the source[s] of knowledge available to man. I may disagree with Clark’s views of science, but even so, the heart of the matter seems to be being missed. At the risk of sounding repetitive, the debate was about whether the content, object[s], or item[s] of man’s knowledge coincide at any point with God’s. The role of sensation in knowledge acquisition or possibility of extra-biblical knowledge available to man just aren’t relevant issues in this context.

    Here’s something I think is more relevant:

    2 Corinthians 11:31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.

    “I am not lying” is a proposition. It is a proposition with a reflective indexical, but it is still a proposition. The meaning of the sentence is “Paul is not lying,” and depending on the utterer – God or Paul – “I” can be substituted for “Paul” without a loss of meaning.

    Clark would look at this verse and probably say that both God and man can know that “Paul is not lying” – i.e. that proposition is an object, item, or content of their knowledge – so there is at least one potential point of coincidence between divine and human knowledge. Paul says God knows it, and because such has been revealed to us, I see no conceivable objection from Van Til as to why we cannot know it.

    I could say more, but will resist the temptation to be long-winded and see what you think. Hopefully, I didn’t miss anything you thought important.

  14. Ron said,

    February 18, 2017 at 11:31 am

    The question at hand is whether the content, object[s], or item[s] (to use the terminology in “The Text of “The Complaint”) of God’s knowledge and ours is univocal.

    Ryan,

    How would you distinguish, if at all, content of knowledge from the object of knowledge? Are you using the terms interchangeably?

    I believe the Complaint tried to distinguish the two, content being considered in strictly subjective terms.

    Clark limited himself to mode (intuitive vs. discursive – I prefer intuitive vs. derivative) and object. In doing so, I think they thought he hadn’t addressed what they thought was the heart of the matter, the content of knowledge.

    If for Clark content enveloped both qualitative and quantitative aspects of knowledge – all propositions and relationships etc. known intuitively by God and those known derivatively by man, then I’d say the issue reduced to the object of knowledge. Yet if the Complaint had something else in mind, I’m not sure how Clark could have adequately addressed their concerns. I’m not sure what they even might have been if they couldn’t be addressed by mode and object.

  15. February 18, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Ron,

    I am using them interchangeably, and I believe The Complaint did as well. The complainants use Clark’s statement that “…if we don’t know the *object* that God knows, then we are in absolute ignorance” as evidence for their assertion that he believed “there is no single *item* of knowledge in God’s mind which may not be shared by the human mind.” They then retort with the infamous statement “we dare not maintain that his knowledge and our knowledge coincide at any single point,” and later, they say “the doctrine of the mode of the divine knowledge is not a part of the doctrine of the imcomprehensibility of his knowledge. The latter is concerned only with the *contents* of the divine knowledge.” [Here, the complainants recognized Clark’s view on divine-intuitive and human-discursive knowledge was orthodox but irrelevant to the complaint.] So from the complainants point of view, Clark viewed the items, object, and content of divine knowledge as interchangeable terms.

    I also think the complainants used the object and content of God’s knowledge interchangeably given an early quotation of Hodge on divine incomprehensibility.

    “If for Clark content enveloped both qualitative and quantitative aspects of knowledge – all propositions and relationships etc. known intuitively by God and those known derivatively by man, then I’d say the issue reduced to the object of knowledge.”

    I don’t think there is a distinction between content and object, I don’t think Clark did either, and I don’t understand what you mean when you say “…content being considered in strictly subjective terms,” so I can’t really say more than I have already. Clark believed:

    ““One plus one equals two” can be known, and we assert it as a truth; but the number two, alone, like the oak tree, is neither true nor false. The *content* of knowledge is always propositional.” (Modern Philosophy, 2008, pg. 232)

    “Without a mind truth could not exist. The *object* of knowledge is a proposition, a meaning, a significance; it is a thought, And this is necessary if communication is to be possible.” (A Christian View of Men and Things, 2005, pg. 223)

    So the complainants are correct when they say that the idea “truth, whether in the divine mind or in the human mind, is always propositional” is Clark’s “fundamental assumption.” But as it is, Clark could have just said that only some of God’s knowledge is propositional, and that should have sufficed for the purposes of refuting the idea that the content/object of divine and human knowledge never coincide… unless the complainants did not think God’s knowledge is at all propositional. Hence, my original question.

  16. Ron said,

    February 18, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Ryan,

    I thought as much, you are using content and object interchangeably. I might too. However, Frame, for instance, believed that the Complaint drew a stark distinction between the two. He doesn’t unpack it well, but I grasp the distinction regardless of whether I think the Complaint intended to draw it or not. In any case, I believe Clark was exhaustive enough, covering any such the distinction in mode and object. That’s my main point to you.

    You might want to read Frame on this as his footnotes are useful when he makes such claims. But I don’t want to lose sight of the point that Clark was comprehensive enough even if the Complaint drew a distinction between object and content. Clark would have addressed it in object (I believe), if not in mode (as Frame believes the Complaint might have considered).

  17. Ron said,

    February 18, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    “So from the complainants point of view, Clark viewed the items, object, and content of divine knowledge as interchangeable terms.”

    Ryan,

    You might be correct. I’d still like to see how this might be deduced from the Complaint. I think it’s a fair assumption, but so might be Frame’s and you’re no less dogmatic than he. That Clark thought x = y doesn’t imply his opponents thought so, or that they thought Clark thought so.

    The material point is the quotes you’ve provided don’t *require* in any analytic sense an equivalency of terms, just as Frame’s don’t lead me to believe you’re wrong in your assumption. But it’s still an assumption, even if a proper one. There might have been more talking past each other in stubbornness than might be appreciated. In which case, Frame might be correct that content and object had different meanings to the complainants, not necessarily to Clark mind you but to the complainants (if not to how they wrongly thought Clark might *not* have equated the terms).

  18. February 19, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    I agree with you. What work of Frame’s are you referencing?

    “I’d still like to see how this might be deduced from the Complaint. I think it’s a fair assumption, but so might be Frame’s and you’re no less dogmatic than he. That Clark thought x = y doesn’t imply his opponents thought so, or that they thought Clark thought so.”

    Rather, I was suggesting that the quotes I provided were evidence they were using “object” and “content” interachangeably in the context of their thinking Clark thought so. Their primary complaint is “Dr. Clark’s view of the incomprehensibility of God is definitely at variance with the meaning that this doctrine has had in Christian theology,” and they then go on to cite as evidence Clark’s own statement that “…if we don’t know the object that God knows, then we are in absolute ignorance.” They also immediately connect this statement by Clark to their conclusion that this is “done at the sacrifice of the transcendence of God’s knowledge.” So it seems fairly clear that they are under the impression that for Clark, “content” and “object” are interachangeable. And they’re right.

    Further, as I said, I also think the complainants used the object and content of God’s knowledge interchangeably given an early quotation of Hodge on divine incomprehensibility. Their quotation:

    //Although Charles Hodge’s particular treatment of the doctrine of incomprehensibility is brief, it is to the point, and likewise bases the doctrine upon the distinction in nature between the Almighty and the creature:

    “When it is said that God can be known, it is not meant that He can be comprehended. To comprehend is to have a complete and exhaustive knowledge of an object. It is to understand its nature and its relations…. God is past finding out. We cannot understand the Almighty to perfection…. Such knowledge is clearly impossible in a creature, either of itself or of anything outside of itself” (Systematic Theology, I, p. 337)//

    They also quote Charnock:

    ///Charnock sets forth the incomprehensibility of God both in his discourse entitled, “On God’s Being a Spirit” and in that entitled, “On God’s Knowledge”:

    “God is therefore a Spirit incapable of being seen, and infinitely incapable of being understood…. There is such a disproportion between an infinite object and a finite sense and understanding, that it is utterly impossible either to behold or comprehend him.” (Discourses on the Existence and Attributes of God, New York, 1886, pp. 184f.).//

    And finally, Shedd:

    //Shedd is also worth hearing. He says:

    “Man knows the nature of finite spirit through his own self-consciousness, but he knows that of the Infinite spirit only analogically. Hence some of the characteristics of the Divine nature cannot be known by a finite intelligence. For example, how God can be independent of the limitations of time and have an eternal mode of consciousness that is without succession, including all events simultaneously in one omniscient intuition, is inscrutable to man, because he himself has no such consciousness” (Dogmatic Theology, I, p. 152).

    “Although God is an inscrutable mystery, he is yet an object of thought” (idem, p. 156).//

    All of these citations are intended “to set forth more adequately the classic doctrine of incomprehensibility” with which they agree. So I think that for them, God may be the object or content of our thought or knowledge (both mean the same thing), it’s just that they way Clark means by that that they have a problem with – Clark’s view allegedly doesn’t do justice to God’s incomprehensibility.

  19. Ron said,

    February 19, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Good evening Ryan,

    The JF reference is to his book CVT, An Analyses… He dedicated a chapter to the (unfortunate) controversy.

    I went back and checked the chapter. JF was referring more to the report of the study committee appointed by the GA, not the Complaint. Sorry for my miscommunication.

    Apparently the committee had this strange view of “content.” I wonder, assuming they did, might have the complainants as well? You’d think (hope?!) the denomination would’ve been working from the same philosophical taxonomy.

    I think you’ll find these JF quotes interesting. The quotes within the quotes are put forth by JF as pertaining to the Report.

    JF: “The Report tries to clarify the idea of ‘contents’ by equating it with ‘knowledge in the subjective sense.’ But what does that mean?… In my view, the only referent of ‘content’ and ‘subjective knowledge in God’s mind’ that fully fits the complainants’ descriptions is: the divine attributes.”

    Me: Knowledge in the “subjective” sense would have to do with the knower, not strictly to the object of what is known. Right?

    JF: “The Report points out a terminological difficulty: Clark regards ‘the elements of knowledge as consisting simply of mode and object. Thus, Clark does not really discuss the area of most concern to the Complaint and the Report, namely, the ‘content’ of knowledge, or ‘knowledge in the subjective sense.”

    My blood boils when I read that. This was a low point of the denomination, driven I think by pure partisanship.

  20. February 19, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Those quotes strike me as extremely strange. The only point in “The Text of a Complaint” that even remotely addresses the idea of subjectivity in knowing is the following:

    “If knowledge is a matter of propositions divorced from the knowing subject, that is, of self-contained, independent statements, a proposition would have to have the same meaning for man as for God.”

    Unless I am missing a quote – and please point it out if I am – this is the *only* quote that addresses the idea of subjectivity being connected to knowledge. So to say that this is the area “of most concern” in the complaint seems flatly false, although relevant to the complaint itself.

    To that end, it makes my blood boil too. For this statement, while perhaps sensible in another context, has no relevance to Clark’s own philosophy. Clark’s response to this specific quotation:

    “This is entirely gratuitous, for there is no evidence whatsoever to support it. Dr. Clark rejects the idea that truth is independent of God.”

  21. Ron said,

    February 20, 2017 at 12:14 am

    I don’t think you’re missing anything as far as I can tell. What perplexes me is the study committee apparently found Clark evasive on the question of content. Yet if the complainants offered no correction to the committee regarding the committee’s misunderstanding of Clark, then I’d be somewhat inclined to think the complainants might have had the same misunderstanding of Clark as the committee. Of course the committee and the complainants could’ve held to dissimilar errors. After all, when things get partisan alliances need not agree as long as they maintain a common opponent.

    This was also around the same time the OPC reasoned from the objective and sincere offer of salvation found in this proposition: “If any man believes he will be saved,” to the subjective supposed-disposition of God whereby He must, therefore, desire the salvation of the non elect.

    Regarding the latter, the OPC clearly checked their Calvinism at the door. Walk with me here… They should’ve been mindful of man’s plight and asked themselves not whether God desires the non elect to turn and live, but whether God Himself desires to turn the non elect so that they might live. Big difference.

    The questions they should’ve been concerned with is whether God desires that (a) Jesus would’ve died for the non elect 2,000 years ago and (b) the Holy Spirit would now regenerate those for whom Christ did not die. Obviously those two questions would’ve been answered in the negative even by Murray and Stonehouse. Certainly they would’ve agreed that God doesn’t desire that Jesus would have died for those He didn’t, or that the Holy Spirit would grant faith to those He passes over. In that light, what then does it mean that God desires their salvation?

  22. Jacques said,

    February 20, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Is it true for God that
    David was King of Israel?

    If so, then have done. If not then is it false for God? If so then have done. Tell us plainly. Thanks.

  23. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 20, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Ryan, Ron:

    In the sentence “God knows that I am not lying”, what would you each consider to be the content and object of God’s knowledge?

  24. Ron said,

    February 20, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Maybe I need to think about that more but I don’t know that your question is answerable. The object of knowledge is that which is known. I don’t know that God knows you’re not lying. If the statement is false and you are lying, then God doesn’t know you aren’t lying. Moreover, the proposition has a referent, doesn’t it? Lying about what? Or are you asking this in a generic, abstract sense? Regardless, I don’t think we can speak of *the* object of God’s knowledge as if there is only one thing God knows about the object. Maybe that’s what the committee had in mind with respect to content.

  25. Ron said,

    February 20, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    “Regardless, I don’t think we can speak of *the* object of God’s knowledge as if there is only one thing God knows about the object. Maybe that’s what the committee had in mind with respect to content.”

    That should’ve been:

    Regardless, I don’t think we can speak of *the* object of God’s knowledge as if there is only one thing (object) God knows about the *proposition* implied in the sentence.

  26. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 20, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    @ Ron:

    Sorry, should have provided context.

    If I must brag, I will brag about the things that show I am weak. 31 God knows I am not lying. He is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is to be praised forever. 32 When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas wanted to arrest me, so he put guards around the city. 33 But my friends lowered me in a basket through a hole in the city wall. So I escaped from the governor. — 2 Cor 11

    Ryan adduced this verse earlier as an instance in which God’s knowledge and man’s seem to coincide.

  27. February 20, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Jeff,

    If you’re referring to 2 Corinthians 11:31, then qualitatively speaking, it is *at least* true that God knows the meaning of this sentence: “Paul did not lie in certain communications to the Corinthian church.” That is, the meaning of 2 Corinthians 11:31 – i.e. the proposition to which the intention imbued by the author of the text, Paul, corresponds – *at least* univocally overlaps with the meaning of this sentence, although 2 Corinthians 11:31 may imply distinct truths as well.

    I say *at least* because, for instance, we could specify what Paul’s communication is and then say of each part of his communication that Paul was not a liar with respect to it. Those would be distinct truths – to not be a liar with respect to one part of a communication is logically distinct from not being a liar with respect to another – yet they would all be implied in the fact Paul was not a liar with respect to his communication considered as a whole. So multiple propositions can be said to be in view, God knows them all, and we can also know, in a univocal sense, whichever of them God causes us to know.

    Finally, I also am not suggesting that a single propositional truth can’t be communicated in different modes (e.g. in different languages or with different physical symbols). What allows for “communication,” however, is that the two (or more) parties are actually giving or receiving information or meaning to or from each other, which is impossible if the actual referent of the different symbols by each party cannot be grasped or coincide at any point.

  28. Ron said,

    February 20, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    Hey Jeff,

    I thought that sounded familiar. :)

    I think I can safely say the object of what God knows is the exhaustive meaning of the proposition. What that is for God I’m sure I can’t know. However, I’m equally certain that if I truly know anything of its true meaning (as opposed to an analogy), God must know that bit too. If I only know an analogy, then what I know wouldn’t be an object of the proposition. Yet even then, God would still know what I know but that intersection of minds wouldn’t be according to the object in question.

    Both God and I know that the verse does not mean its negation.

  29. Ron said,

    February 20, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Jeff,

    If we define the object of knowledge as that which is known by the subject or knower, then my object of knowledge would be a subset of God’s. If we define it as that which is knowable, then only God knows the object. There’s a quantitative gulf between God and man and not just a qualitative one.

  30. Ron said,

    February 20, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Ryan,

    We can take this off line but this has come to my attention. Douglas Douma finds a distinction between content and object as it pertained to the complainants’ understanding. He also thinks that CVT and others tried to change out that distinction later.

    Douma writes this and more:

    The Complaint argued that the mode/object distinction (with Clark’s quantitative and qualitative distinctions included) was insufficient. It agreed with Clark as far as the distinctions he did make, but wanted an addition a distinction in “content.” The Complaint read:

    “We gladly concede this point [Clark’s distinction in mode]… However, this admission does not affect the whole point at issue here since the doctrine of the mode of the divine knowledge is not a part of the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of his knowledge. The latter is concerned only with the contents of the divine knowledge. Dr. Clark distinguishes between the knowledge of God and of man so far as mode of knowledge is concerned, but it is a tragic fact that his dialectic has led him to obliterate the qualitative distinction between the contents of the divine mind and the knowledge which is possible to the creature.”

    Clark, however, never received a satisfactory answer as to what was meant by “content.” He wrote to Edmund Clowney:

    “The mode of knowing, as I use the word, is simply the psychological activity of the knower. The object is what the knower knows. An answer to the question, How do you know, would state the mode of your knowing. An answer to the question, What do you know, would state the object. And so far throughout all the discussion I have failed to see any reason for introducing any other element; in particular the third element [content] that has been introduced is simply unintelligible to me.” – Clark to Edmund Clowney, 20 February 1946, WTS Archives.

    The Complaint had denied any coincidence of “content” between man’s knowledge and God’s knowledge and had clearly meant “the proposition known” – that is, the object of knowledge itself. Realizing later, as Clark argued, that this led to skepticism, Van Til and his supporters changed their meaning of “content” to a vague “character of understanding.” But without explaining what this “character of understanding” was (and how it differed from the mode and object) it was impossible for Clark, or anyone else, to know what they were talking about.

  31. Jacques said,

    February 21, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Can someone explain what the qualitative gulf between God and me is concerning the proposition

    David was King of Israel

    Thanks

  32. Ron said,

    February 21, 2017 at 10:47 am

    It’s the manner in which it’s known. God’s knowledge is eternal and original. Man’s is contingent and receptive.

  33. Jacques said,

    February 21, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    So, if God knows it, and that proposition is an eternal truth, then I know an eternal truth that God knows. correct?

  34. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 22, 2017 at 12:06 am

    Although the phrase “eternal truth” is common parlance, the focus here is on the difference in modes of knowing: God knows that truth eternally (or non-contingently) and as its author. We do not.

    Although it is not fully stated, the truth that we know is

    “David was king of Israel

    (1) Because the Bible says so
    (~1) Unless I am mistaken about what the Bible says, OR
    (~2) The Bible is mistaken”

    Taking (~2) to be out of the question, our truth is still contingently known because of (~1), hence subject to potential falsification.

    God does not know truth in this way. The truth He knows is more fully stated as

    “David was king of Israel

    (1) Because I ordained it so.”

    There’s more. Ron gave you an epistemological answer, but there are linguistic issues as well.

    * Do God and I agree on the meaning of the token “king”, which has a semantic range?

    * For that matter, does God even use language to mediate His knowledge?

    Having said all of that, you raise a good point (as does Ryan). If we take a hyper-van-Tillian extreme, we might say that

    (1) God’s knowledge and ours cannot coincide at any point, so that
    (2) God’s use of language and ours cannot coincide at any point (else God would be able to use language to bring our knowledge into coincidence with His), so that
    (3) It is impossible for us to communicate adequately with God.

    This is clearly wrong. When we learn from the Bible that “David was king of Israel”, our knowledge of that statement is not so amazingly different from God’s that we have *no idea* what is meant. We actually have a very good idea!

    So it must be the case that our knowledge in some way approximates God’s knowledge, albeit contingently and derivatively.

  35. Jacques said,

    February 22, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Jeff thanks for the reply.
    What exactly is ‘approximate’ in your knowledge that
    David was King of Israel
    if God also knows that too?
    Thanks.


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