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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180 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.

  36. kentos said,

    February 23, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Lane: Do you think that with hindsight and eternity in mind, that both sides might have found the fight wasn’t worth it?

  37. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 23, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Hi Jacques,

    Two ways.

    First, the meanings of words are approximate.

    I will have a vague idea of the boundaries of Israel that were lawfully under David’s rule. God has exact knowledge thereof, including any changes that took place, and whether those changes were lawful or or not (as in Absolom’s usurpation).

    I will have only a rough idea of what it meant to be “king” (as opposed to “warlord”, “emperor”, etc) in those days, whereas God has exact knowledge.

    Second, as Ron pointed out, the quality of our knowledge will be different. God’s knowledge will be non-contingent and original; mine is contingent and derivative.

    So the bare sentence “David was King of Israel” has different contexts for God and for me — God’s context being exact knowledge of all things and per decree, mine being imperfect knowledge of all things and per reasoning and discovery — so that the sentence has somewhat different meanings for each of us. In the world of translation, context is determinative.

    So when God says through the writer of Kings “they anointed David King over Israel”, His understanding of that sentence is broader, more precise, and more accurate than mine.

    The point of debate between Clark and van Til is whether this difference is best described as quantitative (God knows more propositions than we do) or qualitative (God’s knowledge is utterly unlike ours).

    My point is that it doesn’t matter. If quantitative, the difference is so great that it might as well be of a different quality. God’s knowledge is utterly unlike ours in that He knows completely, accurately, and without vagueness; and because of His decree and not because of discovery or reasoning.

  38. Don said,

    February 23, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Jeff,

    I’m not sure if you’re getting at Jacques’ question (but Jacques, please correct me if I’m wrong).

    It seems to me that you are answering a question about grand epistemological issues, of capital-K Knowledge. But Jacques appears to be asking about knowledge of an individual fact, a datum, a specific piece of information.

    Let me try to illustrate with a different statement to avoid any issues/distractions of inspiration or historicity:

    “Jacques” is a longer word than “Jeff.”

    Now, there are many meanings and connotations to both “longer” and to “word,” but in context there is no ambiguity. It’s just counting letters. I don’t want to imply that our understanding of numerals approaches that of God’s, or that our ability to use language doesn’t come from God, but that’s not the issue here. It seems to me that if a person can count to seven, they know without approximation which word is longer.

    Or am I missing something here? Would Clark or van Til say that God counts differently than we do? Would the hyper-van-Tilist (I’m trying to follow your closing point of comment 35 here) say that we don’t know how to count?

  39. Ron said,

    February 23, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Don,

    In other words…(?)

    “I will have a vague idea of the boundaries of Israel that were lawfully under David’s rule.”

    Jeff,

    Yes, but you do know that Israel = the land over which King David ruled. The exact boundaries pertain can pertain to additional objects of knowledge – quantitative considerations. That’s my meager take.

    “I will have only a rough idea of what it meant to be “king” (as opposed to “warlord”, “emperor”, etc) in those days, whereas God has exact knowledge.”

    Yes, but as an object of knowledge you do know king is not queen or subject.

    The point being, if indeed you know anything it can’t be a mere approximate. You must believe something true, even if only narrowly true. Again, my diffident take.

  40. Jacques said,

    February 23, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Thanks for the conversation!
    Two things that amaze me:

    1. ‘approximates God’s knowledge’ means ‘God’s knowledge is utterly unlike ours’.
    2. assertions (they’re not conclusions by any stretch) such as ‘it must be the case’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’ along with the overall assertion of Creator/creature or archetypal/ectypal are always meant to state the actual exact case completely, accurately, and without vagueness – ie be univocal. In a way they are forced to do this since they are not merely setting out the limits of humanity, but also of God. Can God be vague or ectypal in his knowing? So when a mere human, as derivative and contingent as he can be, and vague to boot, lays out the distinctions above, he is meaning for his doctrine to be taken not as an approximation, but to be taken to be the exact case* – both for himself and for God. But the move undermines itself now doesn’t it? How can such knowledge be the case when it is derivative, vague, utterly unlike God’s knowledge? No appeal to the Bible works here: something as simple and Biblical as David was King of Israel cannot escape vagueness on this side of the cosmic Maginot line. The final appeal is something to the effect that the distinctions mentioned above are presupposed by the Scriptures. But again that appeal is meant univocally as well – it’s meant to be the exact case. But, alas, it’s a presupposition of a mere mortal and can only approximate the real case – and is therefore utterly unlike God’s knowledge on the issue.
    Thanks again,

    *the claim that our knowledge is an approximation is itself urged as exact knowledge.

  41. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2017 at 8:29 am

    @ Jacques, Ron, Don:

    I tried to post something yesterday that appears to have gone to spam purgatory — it had two links in it, which is probably the reason for its disappearance.

    I’m going to lay out three points and then bow out. I appreciate the conversation, but I fear distracting from Lane’s main point.

    (1) “Approximation” does not mean “utterly unlike.”

    These are two separate concepts. First, it is the case that God’s knowledge is utterly unlike ours in that His is non-contingent, original, and complete in its context. Ours is not.

    IF the only two options were to “know in the same way God knows, or know nothing”, then man would know nothing. But that it not the end of the story, because there is a third option.

    Namely, it is *also* the case that we are able, in God’s image, to approximate His knowledge with our own. He knows perfectly; we know imperfectly. Those imperfections are specifically: fallibility, imprecision, lack of context, need to reason or discover (non-immediacy).

    So approximation is not a synonym for utterly unlike. Rather, it is the way in which we bridge the gulf between creatureliness and creator.

    (2) “Approximation” does not mean “untrue.”

    So Ron, you set up a contrast: …if indeed you know anything it can’t be a mere approximate. You must believe something true, even if only narrowly true.

    This is an appealing line of reasoning, but is a false alternative.

    Every single measurement ever taken — including the counting of letters in a string — is a number with a tolerance, an error bound.

    Even the definition of the meter itself is subject to a small uncertainty in the 10th decimal place.

    So what should we say? Should we say that “We don’t know what a meter is”? Or should we say “We know what a meter is, to within 10 decimal places”? The first, which is according to your reasoning, leaves us with an absurdity: We cannot know anything, unless we know to infinite precision.

    The problem here is a false contrast between “true” and “approximate” that, if pursued consistently, would force us to say that *nothing* can be known.

    The alternative is to say that measurements can be known, within a certain tolerance. Likewise, God’s word can be understood and believed, but subject to our fallibility, imprecision, lack of full context, and the need to reason deductively and inductively.

    (3) Jacques raises an interesting objection:

    But again that appeal is meant univocally as well – it’s meant to be the exact case. But, alas, it’s a presupposition of a mere mortal and can only approximate the real case – and is therefore utterly unlike God’s knowledge on the issue.

    If I may paraphrase, Jacques’ objection is that the sentence “our knowledge is approximate” would be, if true, an approximation itself — hence, self-defeating.

    The response is that approximations can be very, very good (with tight tolerances). So I have no objection to stating that “our knowledge is approximate” is itself approximate, and a very good approximation, one that is utterly consistent with the following data points:

    * In Reformed theology, we distinguish between the infallible word of God and the fallible interpretations thereof.

    If our knowledge could be exact, our interpretations of the infallible word would be themselves infallible. The Confession would be superfluous because individual interpretation would be automatically correct.

    * In science, every single measurement we make is subject to error bars.

    * In math, every proof is subject to check on the grounds that an individual mathematician, even a computer-checking program, is subject to error.

    In short: That bullet can be safely bitten.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  42. Ron said,

    February 24, 2017 at 9:28 am

    The problem here is a false contrast between “true” and “approximate” that, if pursued consistently, would force us to say that *nothing* can be known.

    Jeff,

    No, not at all. In fact, “true” belief affords room for knowkedge. Ironically for you, so does “approximate” as I’ll show below.

    “The alternative is to say that measurements can be known, within a certain tolerance.”

    Although we don’t know the length of the ruler to the last decimal point, we can know “it’s longer than 11.0 inches and shorter than 13.0 inches.” That itself is an object of knowledge. I teased that out with your points regarding the specific land boundaries of Israel and what it means to be a king. King is more than Queen and less than God. King is not elephant. That I don’t know all about elephants doesn’t mean I don’t know elephants aren’t cats.

    What I sense escapes you is that when you moved the discussion to tolerances, you moved it to approximates of that which falls within the boundary of tolerances. Moreover, those tolerances are objects of knowledge. Again, I don’t know what king means to its fullest extent but I do know this object object of knowledge: “king is not queen” – even if I don’t know know the “tolerances” surrounding “queen.” Though I do know that queen isn’t duchess etc.

  43. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2017 at 9:51 am

    @ Ron: I know that I promised to bow out, but just to respond to your point: Those tolerances are also subject to approximation.

    Take a look at standard deviations and estimations of parameters.

  44. Ron said,

    February 24, 2017 at 11:09 am

    Jeff,

    I’m not sure you grasp my point but I’m quite sure you haven’t addressed it.

    Must I know the quantitate extent of king and queen to know that king is not queen? IOW, must I know everything to know something?

    SecondIy, because I don’t know the precise length of the string to the Nth decimal point, does that mean I do not know that the length is between two defined lengths? It’s one thing not to know whether the ruler is 12.0000…1 inches or 11.9999…8, but does that mean we can’t know it’s not between 11 and 13 inches?

  45. Ron said,

    February 24, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    It’s interesting that a lot of movement Vantillians make the same mistake as Heisenberg who conflated in the metaphysical realm exact causality and exact measurability. He thought when we can’t measure the quantity of motion and locality of position *precisely*, there can be no *precise* necessity or casualty. But that’s to apply precision in two different ways, one quantifiably and the other metaphysically. That we can’t precisely *measure* x as it relates to y doesn’t imply x and y don’t behave precisely.

    It’s akin to this discussion as there are those who surmise we cannot precisely know as an object of knowledge, 1 Apple is fewer than 2 apples if we can’t know all about apples. They wrongly think we must first precisely know all the conditions of or limits to appleness in order to know a bushel is not a peck. What is often overlooked is these objects of knowledge are starkly different, just like they are with the inability of measuring momentum and location precisely as opposed to truly knowing that chaos or non causality is impossible. It’s to conflate objects of knowledge. It’s not to recognize the distinction between (i) not knowing the precise boundaries, limits or tolerances of say the land of Israel or Kingship and (ii) actually knowing that David was king (as opposed to Duke) over a land that at least didn’t extend as far as Rome, or even modern day Turkey.

    Much of what we know must be construed negatively. All I know about x might be that it’s not y and z, but that’s still a bit of belief in truth. Whoever David was, I know he wasn’t Saul, Solomon etc. Whatever boundaries he governed, it didn’t include Wilmington, Palermo etc. Whatever a king is, it’s not
    queen, servant etc. So, if I know those objects, certainly God does to (yet much more). Otherwise, God doesn’t know David wasn’t Saul etc.

    NOTE: I think the main confusion is that because God knows all about apples, we miss that He also knows the little bit we know too, like apples aren’t pairs, peaches or cumquats. Our intersection of knowledge with God’s is real.

    Again, one can know the ruler is shorter than 13 inches without knowing whether it’s 12.000…1 inches. The confusion turns on truth as it relates to object.

  46. Jacques said,

    February 24, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Jeff-

    Can God’s knowledge ever be derivative (or ectypal, or approximate, etc…)?

    Doesn’t God know that too?

  47. Don said,

    February 24, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Jeff,

    Every single measurement ever taken — including the counting of letters in a string — is a number with a tolerance, an error bound.

    I cannot see how you arrive at this. One can count a set of distinct objects incorrectly (that’s an issue of accuracy) but not with a finite tolerance (that’s precision). To say that there are eight letters in the word “Jacques” is wrong, but to say there are seven and a half letters is wronger, even though it’s closer to the correct answer.

    So I guess my point in 37 was to strip an unambiguous individual unit of knowledge down to its most basic, where I can’t see how anyone (i.e., God) could know it more/better than anyone else (who can count). If you’re saying there’s still a tolerance fundamentally involved then, OK, that’s interesting although not what I expected. Is that a hyper-vanTilian position that you are describing, or your own?

  48. Ron said,

    February 24, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    “Those tolerances are also subject to approximation.”

    Totally misses the point that we can know 12 is not 11 or 13. It also confounds knowing abstract principles precisely with measuring concrete values precisely, hence my quantum mechanics analogy. You’re stuck on our inability to measure precisely and then forcing that human limitation upon our ability to know anything precisely. One is physical, the other mental. You’re equivocating over two referents of precision. If you were consistent, you would then say you don’t know this axiomatic proposition of yours: “Those tolerances are also subject to approximation.” Yet at base, you do know it’s not equivalent to any form of contradiction. In practice you’re not a skeptic but your stated philosophy betrays this.

    Don’t assume I’m in agreement with those who oppose you here. I’m not comfortable with certain ways in which things are being stated so I don’t have enough to go on.

  49. Ron said,

    February 24, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    “So I guess my point in 37 was to strip an unambiguous individual unit of knowledge down to its most basic, where I can’t see how anyone (i.e., God) could know it more/better than anyone else (who can count).”

    Don,

    It seems to me you’re sliding down the abstraction banister, trying to arrive at some ultimate particular. If you could ever arrive at such an isolated bit, wouldn’t it be subject to further analyses? Yet if it couldn’t be analyzed further, then what could possibly be said about it? Going up the banister leads to similar problems. You’re now confronted with the one and the many.

  50. Ron said,

    February 24, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    “Can God’s knowledge ever be derivative (or ectypal, or approximate, etc…)?

    Doesn’t God know that too?”

    Jacques,

    Derivative, surely not. It’s original. It’s intuitive. It’s eternal, therefore, unchanging. God doesn’t draw inference or receive knowledge.

    Approximate? In what sense? To say God knows 49/99 is approximately 50% is undefined and, therefore, misleading. In any case, God and man don’t understand 49.4949…% identically. However, to the extent we know it’s less than than half, our mind must intersect with God’s. Otherwise, what does it mean that we “know” it? *That* seems to be the material point.

  51. Don said,

    February 24, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Ron 48,
    That’s my question. Can man “know” that Jacques is a longer word than Jeff? Yes. Can God know that isolated, non-ambiguous fact more or better than we do? That’s what I’m asking; I don’t see how.

  52. Ron said,

    February 24, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Quickly…. There are no isolated facts. Knowledge of any fact must be in relation to knowledge of other facts. And those other facts are understood relation to others etc.

    Given the qualitative and quantitative differences between our knowledge and God’s of course His must be “better.” You used “better” but I’m not sure what you mean or think you mean. If I know why and not just that, don’t I know “better” than one who just knows that?

    Lastly, knowledge includes warrant or justification. Surely God is better justified in His beliefs than we. Knowledge also requires belief. Is belief binary or are there degrees of belief relative to doubt? Surely God has no doubts and stronger beliefs than humans. Of course truth is truth so that doesn’t come into play as such, even though it originates in God. But that origination will effect belief and warrant.

  53. Jacques said,

    February 24, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    Ron – Thanks,

    does God know that He does not draw inference? does He know that his knowledge is original (hence not ectypal)? etc…

  54. Ron said,

    February 24, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Jacque,

    Your armchair questions don’t compel me to continue with you. Your posts are a collection of questions without any sort of disclosure of a positive position. The only post of yours that gets beyond questions, yet only slightly at that, merely repeats back to Jeff your understanding of his position. You haven’t put forth a position, let alone tried to defend one. I’ll pass.

  55. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Hi guys,

    It appears that this topic still has legs. Rather than clog Lane’s post with philosophy, may I propose moving over here?

    I have attempted to respond to the points you’ve made.

  56. Ron said,

    February 25, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Jeff,

    Not wanting to clog up a thread with philosophy in a thread pertaining to the differences between archetypal and ectypal knowledge seems disingenuous to me. Surely less than 60 posts haven’t clogged things up.

    Thanks for the offer but I have less hope my points will be entertained there than here.

  57. Don said,

    February 25, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Ron 51,
    I was looking for some help getting “better” defined! :)
    I’m still not sure whether there are levels of knowledge of a simple datum, either for God or us. But your point, if I may paraphrase, is that any bit of God’s knowledge can’t be divorced from his omniscience. That’s helpful, thanks.

  58. Ron said,

    February 25, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Hi Don,

    “Levels” of knowledge and “better” knowledge I think, depending on your meaning, should pertain to several things, not the least of which is God’s knowledge of how all particulars (the many) relate to and comprise the whole (the one). I also think this step-change of divine knowledge relative to ours must include God’s eternal will, which is behind the cohesive whole He has decreed. So, not just His omniscience but His purpose too relates to the fullness of His knowledge. Even we humans grasp that when we know the “why” of any matter, it serves to strengthens what we know. Rote gives way to intuitiveness. It doesn’t make the truth we believe more true. Rather, it makes the belief stronger by increasing our understanding of that which justifies our true beliefs.

    Anyway, this discussion boils down to whether there is truth (we might believe) that God does not believe. I think the polemicist’s job is done when the other side affirms there is such truth.

  59. Jacques said,

    February 25, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Ron,
    if any of the assertions on this thread (eg “God does not draw inferences”,”God’s knowledge is not ectypal” “Our knowledge is ectypal” “David was King of Israel” “Jacques is a longer word than Jeff” etc..) are knowledge, then they’d be knowledge God has as well. Otherwise God is not omniscient.

    so, does God know that He does not draw inferences?

    Don,
    the claim that in order to know one fact, you must know other facts in relation,etc…not only implies that one must be omniscient in order to know one fact (ie one must be omniscient to know that Jacques is a longer word than Jeff, etc…), but Ron asserts the claim as if he knows that’s the exact case – as if that’s knowledge. Is Ron omniscient? Does he know all facts in relation such that he has that knowledge?

    Thanks,

  60. Ron said,

    February 25, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    “the claim that in order to know one fact, you must know other facts in relation,etc…not only implies that one must be omniscient in order to know one fact (ie one must be omniscient to know that Jacques is a longer word than Jeff,”

    The proposition “Jacques is a longer word than Jeff” is unintelligible to any subject-knower apart from knowing: (i) something of the meaning of longer; (ii) how to count; (iii) seven is greater than four; (iv) that symbols J, a, c, q, u, e, s and f are distinct; (v) distinct letters in this context should be counted separately, not combined…

    Jacques obviously knows many facts (e.g. i-v) in order to know p: “Jacques is a longer word than Jeff.”

    Given Jacques’s assertion, will he claim omniscience, ignorance or that he does not need to know i-v… in order to know p?

  61. Jacques said,

    February 25, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    Ron, it’s *your* claim that implied that omniscience was required to know even one fact. Since you’re clearly not omniscient, It follows that you cannot possibly know your own claim, let alone know that Jacques is a longer word than Jeff or know that David was King of Israel.
    on the other hand,
    If Ron knows* that God does not draw inferences then God must have that same knowledge too or He’s not omniscient – or perhaps – and this is most likely the case -Ron just doesn’t know what he so confidently asserts.

    Thanks

    *If Ron actually does know something then it follows omniscience is not required for knowledge. It also follows that God ceases to be God if the poor old chap does not have the knowledge that Ron has.

  62. Ron said,

    February 25, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    “Ron, it’s *your* claim that implied that omniscience was required to know even one fact.”

    You don’t read carefully.

  63. Jacques said,

    February 25, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    “There are no isolated facts. Knowledge of any fact must be in relation to knowledge of other facts. And those other facts are understood relation to others etc.”

  64. Ron said,

    February 25, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    Can you produce a fact that is so isolated that it has no relation to a universal and another fact?

    Yet you know facts without knowing all facts.

    In your armchair obstinance you’re stuck without a solution.

  65. Jacques said,

    February 26, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Ron – Thanks,
    umm is it too much to ask that you interact with your own claim? Look, the implication is obvious: Ron cannot even know his own claim let alone know any other fact.

    Now, if you ever did come to know say, that
    God does not draw inferences
    or more modestly,
    Jacques is a longer word than Jeff,
    – may I again ask (will you ever answer?) does God know that too?

    Thanks again,

  66. Ron said,

    February 26, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    I’m all ready to defend the claim that all facts are known in relation to another (or others) and that such doesn’t lead to infinite facts having to be known in order to know one. It’s rather basic, frankly. Even my youngest child solved your conundrum within seconds after being posed the question.

    So, tell me. Is there a fact you know in isolation from any other? If not, how then can that be if you don’t know infinite facts? Before I defend my claim, please state yours.

  67. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 26, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Ron,

    I’ve been trying to work out a courteous response to #55.

    Ron: Not wanting to clog up a thread with philosophy in a thread pertaining to the differences between archetypal and ectypal knowledge seems disingenuous to me. Surely less than 60 posts haven’t clogged things up.

    The accusation of disingenuousness is of course absurd. I have no motive to deceive you, and I meant my offer sincerely. The rationale is that you and I both have a documented history of piling onto threads that reach 700+ comments. That is not always desirable. Looking ahead, I projected that this conversation had potential run long as well, veering into a topic that branches off of the main one.

    Hence a simple offer to take discussions of measurement theory and its relation to knowledge to an offline venue, so that other voices could be heard here. You declined, which is fine.

    What I don’t understand is the gratuitous rudeness both to me and to Jacques (#8, 41, 53, 55, 61, 63). It runs counter to what I hope are your goals to hold forth truth and to glorify Christ.

    If your positions are truly strong, then you should be able to explain them clearly and dispassionately, without need for ad baculum or ad hominem.

  68. Ron said,

    February 26, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    Thanks, Jeff. Reached out again on your site. Hopefully we might talk soon.

    I’m going to bow out. I’ll addess the conundrum as my last post.

    Context: my claim is one cannot know an isolated fact. Accordingly, to know any fact, another must be known. This was met by resistance by one who thinks the implication is that infinite facts must be known to know one fact. To refute my claim one would merely have to put for a single isolated fact – a fact that can be known without knowing another fact. But when we consider a simple fact such as David is King, we realize we must know something of David and kingliness to know David is king. That would require knowing another fact to know the first fact etc. Given that (a) we know facts but never in isolation and (b) that we aren’t omniscient, we may safely conclude (c) the claim is not false. C might be mysterious but it’s not contradictory. Anyway, it’s easily resolved in a closed loop fashion.

    Particulars have properties. David is king. Particulars stand in relation to other particulars. David is not Saul. Particulars are understood according to classes of things or universals, e.g. kingliness. So, at the very least, to know David is king, I must know something about about the universal or class of kingliness. Yet to know anything about a universal I must know something of participatingparticulars or an instance of a universal.

    So, to know something about David, I might merely know he’s not Saul. To know something of Saul, I might merely know he is not David. As I underscored earlier, “Much of what we know must be construed negatively. All I know about x might be that it’s not y and z, but that’s still a bit of belief in truth.” So, to know any fact I must know another fact etc. That does not imply, however, an infinite number of facts must be known to know any one fact. Not surprisingly perhaps, this discussion relates to the three basic laws of logic, which are also universals. David is David. David is not non-David. Either David or non-David is king. (Application: Mars is not Venus. Venus is not Jupiter. Jupiter is not Mars. Notice the closedloop with each fact finding relation with and lending meaning to a finite number of other facts.)

  69. Jacques said,

    February 27, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Ron –
    where did I ever say anything about infinity? I was very careful to say that your claim requires omniscience. I also never said the claim was false – I said that based on its own requirements you don’t know it.

    But if you do know it, then God must have that same knowledge too correct? You also claim that “we’re not omniscient” – do you know that? If so then God has that same knowledge too correct?

    Thanks,

  70. Don said,

    February 28, 2017 at 1:40 am

    Jacques,

    You also claim that “we’re not omniscient” – do you know that?

    This is a very silly question. Why are you even asking it?

  71. Jacques said,

    February 28, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Don – do you know that? If so, then God has that same knowledge too correct?

  72. Jacques said,

    February 28, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Don –
    question was not silly in the least for one very simple reason: it gets at the heart of this thread: does my knowledge coincide with God’s knowledge at the very least at a single point? If you really know that “Jacques is a longer word then Jeff” or “David was King of Israel” or “we are not omniscient” or “God does not draw inferences” or whatever, then God must know that too – it turns out you know what He knows even if only at this single point. But at this single point of what you both know, the distinctions between Creator/creature, archetypal/ectypal, cease to function. There is identity in what you know and what He knows. The only way out is to do what Jeff attempted to do: declare that his knowledge was only an approximation not an identity. Of course Jeff seemed to realize that even that assertion was only an approximation etc… but the problem is that Jeff and those like him are operating under an assumption that the distinctions they make are indeed the exact case for us and no less for God too – thus my questioning exposes these assumptions. Thanks

  73. February 28, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    Dear Lane:

    1. [You wrote]: “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.”

    I believe you may have misunderstood the nature of propositions.

    Although a proposition may be referred to by a discrete linguistic unit such as a sentence, it does not follow that taking propositions as the objects of knowledge implies the “atomization of knowledge” or that propositions are “discrete points in a matrix”.

    Pursuing the analogy with atoms a bit further, we learn in secondary school physics or chemistry of the way electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom using the electron cloud model instead of the older Bohr atomic model.

    While electrons in the Bohr atomic model are discrete and point like, they are not in the electron cloud model.

    Similarly, we learn in elementary propositional logic that a sentence with a monadic predicate can be represented by ‘Pa’ where ‘P’ is a predicate letter and ‘a’ an individual constant.

    Consider Pa : The apple is red.

    Red is a vague predicate without a well-defined boundary.

    So while the sentence ‘The apple is red’ is a discrete linguistic unit, the proposition that the apple is red is not discrete or point like in its meanings.

    Now instead of just monadic predicates throws in also relational predicates and quantifiers, all this within the confine of an introductory logic course, a beginning student should already have a sense that taking propositions as the objects of knowledge does not imply the “atomization of knowledge” nor that propositions are “discrete points in a matrix”.

    2. The Clark-Van Til Controversy is a rich source for theological and philosophical discussions.

    I do not think we are anywhere near exhausting the topics in the Controversy.

    Given the historical background, Clarkians and Van Tilians are natural dialogue partners.

    For those interested, I have some notes last year on another aspect of this Controversy:

    “Gordon Clark, John Frame and the Objects of Knowledge” (2016):

    http://notes-on-gordon-h-clark.blogspot.ca/2016/07/notes-gordon-clark-john-frame-and.html

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong

  74. Don said,

    March 1, 2017 at 1:28 am

    Jacques,

    the distinctions between Creator/creature, archetypal/ectypal, cease to function

    Not sure I follow. Are you saying that if God and I know the same thing (any one thing), then there is no distinction between him and I? How much sillier would that be!

  75. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 1, 2017 at 6:49 am

    I believe he’s saying that if God and I know one thing in common, then the creator/creature distinction breaks down or fails to hold at that point.

  76. Ron said,

    March 1, 2017 at 8:30 am

    I’m entering back in…

    “where did I ever say anything about infinity?”

    Jacque,

    Substitute omniscience then. No difference in my point.

    “I said that based on its own requirements you don’t know it.”

    My requirements? How do my requirements imply creaturely omniscience is a necessary condition for knowledge? Don’t just paste what I wrote. Exegete what I wrote so I might clarify any ambiguity on my part and / or correct any misunderstanding on your part.

  77. Ron said,

    March 1, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Jacques,

    Let me save us time. You infer from this remark of mine that my position implies that one must be omniscient to know anything. “There are no isolated facts. Knowledge of any fact must be in relation to knowledge of other facts. And those other facts are understood relation to others etc.” That’s the quote you put forth to defend your claim. Yet I showed how knowing any fact in relation to another does not imply knowledge of infinite facts (and therefore omniscience of all number of facts.)

    I do believe man knows things.

    If man knows things, it must intersect with what God knows lest we equivocate over the meaning of truth or else imply God doesn’t know some truth.

    How do I deny those premises?

  78. Don said,

    March 1, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Jeff 75,
    Please help me out here, because apparently I don’t understand what’s meant by creator/creature distinction in this context. If God and I both know a thing, does that mean we have something in common? Yes. Does it mean we’re indistinct? Of course not. I can’t imagine that either of those points are controversial among orthodox Reformed theologians; what am I missing? Thanks.

  79. Ron said,

    March 1, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Or maybe the complainants nodded off on this one?

  80. Josh said,

    March 1, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Gentlemen,

    We all agree that there is a distinction between the Creator and the creature. We should also agree that Man is made in God’s image.

    When is it proper to use the creator/creature distinction to argue for dissimilarity and when is it proper to use the Image of God to argue for similarity?

  81. Jacques said,

    March 1, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    Ron
    saving time is a great idea:

    let’s say you know that “Knowing one fact requires knowing other facts and their relations”
    does God have that *same* knowledge too?
    I sense that with you ‘intersect’ means something different than ‘identity’.
    I hope I am wrong.

  82. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 1, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    @ Jacques:

    No. He knows that fact precisely, immediately, infallibly, in full context.

    I don’t.

    The answer will be the same for any level of meta-reasoning we go to.

    Does God know that “He knows precisely, immediately, infallibly, in full context”? Not in the same way I do.

    And so on.

  83. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 1, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    @ Josh: The creator/creature distinction should curb any tendency to argue for perfection in this life.

    For example, if we argue that we “just know” (perfectly) X, then the creator/creature distinction should remind us that it is highly improbable that we perfectly know.

    The Imago Dei concept should on the other hand encourage us to seek similarity or analogy between our knowledge and God’s. We know in a manner different from God, but our knowledge has enough in common with God’s such that

    (a) He can communicate meaningfully with us, and
    (b) The hypostatic union could make some sense.

  84. Ron said,

    March 1, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    Then you should be glad to hear you’re wrong. Lane used coincide, overlap and I used intersect.

  85. March 2, 2017 at 4:25 am

    Dear Lane:

    1. The significance of Cornelius Van Til’s Theory of Knowledge lies in his applying the ontological Creator-creation Distinction to the epistemological objects of knowledge and bifurcated the latter into two ontological types.

    The two ontological types are variously called by Van Tilians as:

    Uncreated knowledge vs. created knowledge

    Archetypal knowledge vs. ectypal knowledge

    Original knowledge vs. derivative knowledge

    In Van Til’s Theory of Knowledge, these distinctions are meant to designate “ontological types”.

    The epistemological objects of knowledge of God belongs to one ontological type.

    The epistemological objects of knowledge of humans belongs to another ontological type.

    Van Til’s Theory of Analogical Knowledge is meant to explain how the two ontological types are related to each other.

    2. [You wrote]: “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.”

    Thank you for the link to Markius’ [Compendium Theologiae Christianae], I have downloaded the book but since I do not know Latin, it is of no help to me.

    Although the archetypal / ectypal knowledge distinction is longstanding, to use the distinction to mark out two ontological types maybe unique to Van Til.

    I do not find anything objectionable in your summary of the scholastics’ understanding of the archetypal / ectypal knowledge distinction, but I find many things objectionable when the archetypal / ectypal distinction is used in the Van Tilian sense as an ontological type distinction applying to the epistemological objects of knowledge.

    It is unhelpful, and maybe even misleading, to lump Van Til’s use of the archetypal / ectypal distinction with the scholastics.

    I may disagree with Van Til, but I recognized that he has made an original contribution to scholarship and his proposal is worthy of consideration.

    That Van Til’s theory turn out to be wrong is another matter.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong

  86. Cris Dickason said,

    March 2, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Hey, Lane. I haven’t been over this way in a while (digitally or real-life, we sold the South Carolina house and are back to full-time Pennsylvanians).
    I wanted to say, nice piece, nice summary. But I see two weeks & 85 comments have gone by… So I’ll fade into the background, after saying hi to Jeff Cagle, and pointing out to all that there’s very important contextual narrative to the “Clark-VanTil Controversy” in John Meuther’s biography of CVT:
    Cornelius Van Til : Reformed apologist and churchman
    by John R. Muether
    https://www.librarything.com/work/4249415/63008910

  87. Jacques said,

    March 2, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Ron
    good – so you admit that the archetypal/ectypal breaks down just at this point of intersection?

  88. Josh said,

    March 2, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    @Jeff, what does “meaningful” communication mean in this context? Is “meaningful” synonymous with “true”?

  89. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 2, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    @ Cris: Hi and thanks for the tip.

  90. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 2, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    @ Josh (#88):

    “Meaningful” means “able to convey meaning.” God’s communications are of course *true*.

    If we were to insist on a creator/creature distinction everywhere but without also insisting on imago dei, the concern would be that God’s communications might be utterly unintelligible to us. Some species of Catholic apologists move in this direction when they argue that the Bible cannot be properly understood without an infallible interpretive authority.

    Over against this, we Protestants insist on essential perspecuity: that Scripture in its main points is clear enough to be understood. This implies that God speaks in a meaningful manner, and our ability to derive meaning from His words is a direct result of the imago dei.

    (The ability to believe His words, on the other hand, requires a special work of the Spirit.)

  91. March 2, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Dear Jacques:

    (@87):

    I too look forward to how Ron would reply.

    Pursuing an analogy with computer programming languages, admitting that archetypal knowledge and ectypal knowledge intersect implies committing a “type violation”.

    A strongly typed language such as Pascal or Ada would reject it at the compiling stage.

    In Van Til’s Theory of knowledge, archetypal knowledge and ectypal knowledge are different “ontological types” applying to epistemological objects of knowledge.

    Admitting that they intersect would give away the store.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong

  92. Jacques said,

    March 2, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Ben,
    I also look forward to Ron’s reply-
    after all sometimes intersections can be quite wide you know.

  93. Josh said,

    March 3, 2017 at 12:00 am

    @Jeff (#90), I’m afraid of sounding combative or pedantic here, but that’s not my intention.

    If we say that “meaningful” refers to the ability to convey “meaning,” aren’t we still left with the question of what “meaning” is? Misinterpretation is the process of attaching a particular meaning to a statement that is not what the author intended. A lie can convey meaning, but that meaning would not correspond to reality. What we are seeking is a meaning that does correspond to reality (i.e., what God knows), even if it is not exhaustive.

    If the creator/creature distinction implies that God cannot reveal things to us (despite making us in His image) so that we share His meaning (at least partially), then we can only possess something “similar” or “analogous” to (#83) truth, right?

    If that view is correct, it would suggest that I’ve been using the word “truth” incorrectly all my life.

  94. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 3, 2017 at 12:34 am

    @ Josh: No worries. I take your comments to be exploring an issue that is certainly a challenge for me to wrap my head around.

    Josh: If the creator/creature distinction implies that God cannot reveal things to us (despite making us in His image) so that we share His meaning (at least partially), then we can only possess something “similar” or “analogous” to (#83) truth, right?

    I would not say “implies”, but “opens the door to the possibility that…”

    My comment in #90 suggests that the concept of imago dei closes that door: We *can* partially share in God’s meaning — not in the exact intersection that Benjamin and Jacques seem to seek, but in an approximation to meaning.

    Josh: If that view is correct, it would suggest that I’ve been using the word “truth” incorrectly all my life.

    I can’t evaluate that! But I would imagine that you agree that

    * God’s knowledge is immediate; ours is mediated through language, perception, and reasoning.
    * God’s knowledge is infallible; ours is not.
    * God’s knowledge is precise; ours is not (because neither language nor perception is capable of infinite precision).
    * God’s knowledge is complete in its context; ours is not.

    So these qualities set apart God’s knowledge from our own.

    Would you agree to those points, and if so, would you say that this challenges your notion of “truth”?

  95. March 3, 2017 at 3:25 am

    Dear Jeff:

    (@94):

    [You wrote]: “My comment in #90 suggests that the concept of imago dei closes that door: We *can* partially share in God’s meaning — not in the exact intersection that Benjamin and Jacques seem to seek, but in an approximation to meaning.”

    The only known bearer of truth and falsity is a proposition.

    If we know truths, then the epistemological objects of knowledge are propositions.

    A proposition is the bearer of both truth and meaning.

    A proposition is individuated by its meaning.

    A sentence-token that has different meanings on the occasions of its uses individuate different propositions on those occasions.

    Two different sentence-tokens that have the same meaning on the occasions of their uses individuate the same proposition on those occasions.

    You have misunderstood me if you presume that I believe that we share with God in all His understanding of the meaning of a proposition.

    As finite creatures of God, our knowledge are partial but true.

    All that is required for partial but true knowledge is that we share in God’s understanding of the meaning of a proposition sufficient for that proposition to make a truth-claim.

    In effect, I agree with you that we can only partially share in God’s understanding of the meaning of a proposition.

    But I insisted that that partial understanding of the meaning of a proposition must be sufficient for the proposition to make a truth-claim.

    By sharing in God’s understanding of a proposition such that the understanding is sufficient for that proposition to make a truth-claim, we can know some of the truths that God knows.

    If we can know some of the truths that God knows, then Van Til’s applying the ontological Creator-creation Distinction to the epistemological objects of knowledge and bifurcated the latter into two ontological types is wrong.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong

  96. Ron said,

    March 3, 2017 at 7:27 am

    “good – so you admit that the archetypal/ectypal breaks down just at this point of intersection?”

    Breaks down? It’s a non starter. If I know, then what I know is true. At that point we can take the creature out of equation and ask whether God knows all truth, which includes the truth creatures know. It’s not a matter of whether I know what God knows but whether God knows what I know.

  97. Ron said,

    March 3, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Has it occurred to anyone that the way some are using approximate and tolerance, which allows for two different types of truth – not only would God not know what we know, no two people could know the same truth.

  98. March 3, 2017 at 7:34 am

    Corrections to (@95):

    1. ‘A sentence-token that has different meanings on the occasions of its uses individuate different propositions on those occasions.’

    should be:

    ‘Two sentence-tokens of the same sentence-type that have different meanings on the occasions of their uses individuate different propositions on those occasions.’

    2. ‘Two different sentence-tokens that have the same meaning on the occasions of their uses individuate the same proposition on those occasions.’

    should be:

    ‘Two sentence-tokens of different sentence-types that have the same meaning on the occasions of their uses individuate the same proposition on those occasions.’

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  99. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 3, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Ron (#97): Has it occurred to anyone that the way some are using approximate and tolerance, which allows for two different types of truth – not only would God not know what we know, no two people could know the same truth.

    Let’s walk down that path a little bit. What you want is for two people (better, God and a person) to be able to know the same truth. That’s a worthy goal, and I embrace it in principle.

    But now suppose we take the model that you and Benjamin seem to accept:

    * That the proper objects of knowledge are propositions, metaphysical concepts that are entokened in linguistic entities called sentences.

    * That “to know” a true proposition is to be justified in believing it.

    Now ask: By what process would you guarantee that two people are thinking of the same proposition? What language would you propose to use so that “All men are mortal” means exactly the same thing in your mind and mine?

    It should be clear that there is no such language, and that we cannot make such a guarantee.

    So using your model, it is the case that two people can never know that they are talking about the same truth, much less know it. Without a guarantee of a unique mapping of sentences to propositions, no token system is adequate to do what you want, which is to guarantee that two people know the same truth. No language is capable of allowing me to adequately justify belief in any proposition.

    Epistemological chaos ensues. That chaos is not the fault of us approximators. It s rather the inexorable conclusion of your model, combined with the fact that no language is capable of infinite precision.

    In short: the proposition model that you use relies on metaphysical propositions that no-one can observe or talk about without using an imperfect medium of language.

    That fact must inform your theory of knowledge; so far, you have resisted considering it.

    The alternative model, which I have proposed, is to accept and tame linguistic imprecision in order to mostly guarantee that people are talking about the same proposition.

    It runs thus: Our sentences approximate propositions. Two people cannot guarantee that they are talking about the same proposition, but they can have a high degree of confidence that they are talking about approximately the same proposition by reaching linguistic agreement.

    “All men are mortal” might not mean exactly the same thing to you and to me, but through conversation, we can determine that we say the same things about men, mortality, and the relation between the two.

    When that occurs, we have high confidence that the propositions we have in mind are close enough to each other for whatever purpose we need. We have tamed the imprecision of language to a sufficient degree.

    So yes: your concern in #97 has indeed occurred to many people — namely, linguists — and the response is that approximation is a way to rescue most of what you want (for two people to know the same truth) from the problem created by linguistic imprecision.

    If you reject approximation, your only alternative is to have no knowledge at all — because you cannot transcend the limitations of language.

  100. Ron said,

    March 3, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Jeff,

    My point isn’t that two people wouldn’t be able to know each other knows the same truth. In fact, I’m confident they can’t *know* that truth. My point is given the strictures of approximation as outlined by some, no two people can know the same object.

  101. Ron said,

    March 3, 2017 at 8:44 am

    “Now ask: By what process would you guarantee that two people are thinking of the same proposition?”

    In other words, that is not germane to my point.

  102. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 3, 2017 at 9:39 am

    I’m sorry, I thought your concern is whether God and you know the same truth? If that’s not the case, then please help me understand what your concern is.

    If that *is* your concern, then the question is whether or not God and you know the same proposition.

    In which case, I ask again: How would you guarantee whether or not God and you are even thinking of the same proposition?

    That is certainly a precondition for knowing that proposition.

  103. Ron said,

    March 3, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Jeff,

    These are vastly different questions:

    “Now ask: By what process would you guarantee that two people are thinking of the same proposition?”

    “In which case, I ask again: How would you guarantee whether or not God and you are even thinking of the same proposition?”

    In either case, it’s not germane to my point that if your view of approximation as it pertains to this discussion is true, then no two humans can know the same truth. It’s no longer that just God and man can’t know the same truth but also two humans can’t know the same truth. My point on that matter is this is no longer just about the creator-creature distinction. It pertains to creature to creature too.

    Also, it would seem you’ve conflated the possibility of two subjects both knowing identical objects with two subjects *guaranteeing* (knowing?) they know the identical objects. Being able to guarantee that you and I both know x isn’t a necessary condition for us both knowing x.

    I wrote:

    “Has it occurred to anyone that the way some are using approximate and tolerance, which allows for two different types of truth – not only would God not know what we know, no two people could know the same truth.”

    The point pertains to the possibility of two knowing x, regardless of whether I can ensure or guarantee such shared knowledge or identity. Must I be able to guarentee that you know x in order for us both to know x?

  104. March 3, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Dear Jeff:

    (@99):

    1. I will leave the topic of “approximation” and “tolerance” to you, Ron and others.

    At this point I have no inclination to enter that discussion.

    2. [You wrote:]

    “But now suppose we take the model that you and Benjamin seem to accept:

    * That the proper objects of knowledge are propositions, metaphysical concepts that are entokened in linguistic entities called sentences.”

    [My reply]:

    I do believe that the proper epistemological objects of knowledge are propositions.

    But I have to qualify about your clause that propositions are “metaphysical concepts that are entokened in linguistic entities called sentences.”

    (a) Are propositions metaphysical concepts?

    Propositions are mental entities that are conceptual in nature.

    I might or might not agree with the qualifier “metaphysical” depends on what you meant by it.

    (b) What is the nature of propositions?

    Propositions exist eternally and necessarily as the objects of God’s conceptual thoughts.

    God is eternal, God is omniscient and God is also necessarily omniscient.

    Suppose that all truths are propositional.

    It follows that propositions exist eternally and necessarily as the objects of God’s conceptual thoughts.

    (c) Must propositions be entokened in human linguistic entities?

    Propositions do not need to be entokened in any human linguistic entities.

    Given creation is contingent and therefore the existence of human beings and human linguistic entities are contingent, propositions do not need to be entokened in human linguistic entities.

    God knows all truths or propositions regardless of whether He created or not.

    3. [You wrote]:

    “* That “to know” a true proposition is to be justified in believing it.”

    [My reply]:

    (a) This characterization does not apply to God.

    God knows necessarily truths by knowing His own nature.

    God knows contingent truths by knowing what He has decreed to be true.

    (b) Justified true belief is a sufficient but not a necessarily condition for “to know”.

    (And we bracket out Gettier counter-examples for our purpose.)

    For example, the Holy Spirit working in my cognitive faculties to cause me to belief a truth is also sufficient for me “to know”, such as during regeneration.

    4. [You wrote]:

    “Now ask: By what process would you guarantee that two people are thinking of the same proposition? What language would you propose to use so that “All men are mortal” means exactly the same thing in your mind and mine?”

    “It should be clear that there is no such language, and that we cannot make such a guarantee.”

    [My reply]:

    (a) Regarding the language question: I think you got it backwards.

    Our ability to understand truths or propositions are causally prior to our ability to express a proposition in a human language.

    [Colossians 3:10 ESV]: “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

    “In knowledge” or to know truths are after the image of God.

    Our ability to know truths or propositions is part of what constituted us as the image-bearer of God.

    What human language would I use?

    Any human language whose syntactic and semantic structures are sufficent to tag the proposition that all men are mortal.

    (b) Regarding the guarantee question: Do we need a guarantee?

    Christians are saved by believing some of the truths asserted by the Bible.

    (Of course, our believing are the result of the regenerating works of the Holy Spirit.)

    Our understanding of some of the truths or propositions of the Bible must be such that it is sufficient for salvation.

    It is good if we have a theory to explain how the process works.

    Absent a theory to explain how the process works does not imply we do not have sufficient understanding of some of the truths of the Bible for salvation.

    Two people can think the same proposition is exhibited by that more than one person can believe the same Biblical truth.

    5. [You wrote]:

    “So using your model, it is the case that two people can never know that they are talking about the same truth, much less know it. Without a guarantee of a unique mapping of sentences to propositions, no token system is adequate to do what you want, which is to guarantee that two people know the same truth. No language is capable of allowing me to adequately justify belief in any proposition.”

    [My reply]:

    I think you got the mapping relation wrong.

    The mapping from sentence to proposition is many-to-one.

    For example, the following three sentences in three different human languages tag the same proposition in God’s mind:

    (a) English: “Snow is white.”

    (b) French: “La neige est blanche.”

    (c) Chinese: “雪是白的。”

    6. [You wrote]:

    “Epistemological chaos ensues. That chaos is not the fault of us approximators. It s rather the inexorable conclusion of your model, combined with the fact that no language is capable of infinite precision.”

    “In short: the proposition model that you use relies on metaphysical propositions that no-one can observe or talk about without using an imperfect medium of language.”

    [My reply]:

    No epistemological chaos ensures.

    I do not believe that you do not adequately understand what you disagree with.

    7. [You wrote]:

    “That fact must inform your theory of knowledge; so far, you have resisted considering it.”

    [My reply]:

    Since you included Benjamin in your address, I must plead innocent to the charge since I only recently join the conversation.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  105. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 3, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Benjamin (#104):

    There’s a lot to think on in your reply. Thanks for taking the time.

    In no order:

    #7 — I was referring to Ron. We have a years’ long history of disagreeing about this. Which is fine.

    #1 — I understand the reluctance. If you would like to have a 30,000 ft view, I am suggesting that we be more reticent to make bold assertions about propositions that cannot be perfectly communicated. Let us focus instead on sentences that entoken thought.

    #5: Benjamin: I think you got the mapping relation wrong.

    The mapping from sentence to proposition is many-to-one.

    For example, the following three sentences in three different human languages tag the same proposition in God’s mind:

    (a) English: “Snow is white.”
    (b) French: “La neige est blanche.”
    (c) Chinese: “雪是白的。”

    Nice. It is true that sentence-to-proposition can be many to one.

    However, it is also true that sentence-to-proposition can be one to many. Just to run with your example:

    Alice: “Snow is white.”

    Bob: “Not always. There’s some yellow snow to your left, and some black snow to your right.”

    Alice: “That’s not what I meant.”

    Already, we see the limitations of language. “Snow is white” could mean

    “All snow is white” (synthetic claim)
    “Snow is generally white, with exceptions”
    “Snow is that which is white” (analytic claim)
    “Snow has a high albedo” (quantification of ‘white’)

    In the larger world, “snow is white” could additionally mean

    “The color ‘snow’ is a species of white”
    “A particular Disney fairytale character is Caucasian”

    and so on.

    So you are partly correct in that I did not explain the whole situation. I claimed that one sentence may map to many propositions; additionally, many sentences may map to the same proposition.

    Any time one person misunderstands another, we see an instance of a single sentence mapping to two propositions.

    #2 (a,b) I believe I understand the model. You hold that propositions are mental objects conceptual in nature, and that all truths are propositional. In particular, you believe that propositions derive from the mind of God.

    Question: How much of that model would you say is derived from Scripture by good and necessary inference, and how much is just what seems correct? In your view, does the Bible require us to believe that all truth is propositional? Or that propositions are mental objects?

    #2(c) Benjamin: Propositions do not need to be entokened in any human linguistic entities.

    It’s one thing to say that, hypothetically, God and man might believe the same truth.

    It’s another to say that, concretely, God and man both believe “man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” If we try to give any concrete instance of a proposition that two people believe, we must first entoken that proposition.

    This is what I meant by saying that propositions are metaphysical. We can speak of propositions being in the mind of God; but His mind is revealed to us only through revelation — words and the created order.

    We don’t have access to propositions-in-themselves, but to sentences on the page.

    #3. How would you define know?

  106. Josh said,

    March 3, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    @Jeff (#94), I understand you to say that the creator/creature distinction “opens the door to the possibility that” God cannot reveal things to us so that we share his meaning. Am I following?

    Since the original post was about the Van Til – Clark controversy, I can’t help but compare your statement to Van Til’s statement in the Complaint that our knowledge and God’s do not “coincide” at any single point. Do you see your position as agreeing with Van Til’s or disagreeing?

    As far as the four statements you made about God’s knowledge, I agree with at least three of them. God’s knowledge is immediate, infallible, and complete—unlike ours.

    I also agree that there are many cases where God’s knowledge is precise, but ours it not. However, I’m sympathetic to Ron’s argument in #43. Some statements are categorical. They don’t involve precision the way measurements do.

    This is a distinction social scientists often make. There is ratio-level data (e.g., age, time) where we are never as precise as we could be. But there is also nominal-level data where we simply assign things to categories (e.g., male/female).

    I know I’m a male, but obviously I don’t know all the implication of that fact the way God does. Still, when I know that I’m a male (through God’s natural revelation) I am attaching the same meaning to that proposition that God attaches to it (at that one specific point).

    Have I rejected the creator/creature distinction?

  107. Josh said,

    March 3, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    @Jeff (#94), I understand you to say that the creator/creature distinction “opens the door to the possibility that” God cannot reveal things to us so that we share his meaning. Am I following?

    Since the original post was about the Van Til – Clark controversy, I can’t help but compare your statement to Van Til’s statement that our knowledge and God’s do not “coincide” at any single point. Do you see your position as agreeing with Van Til’s or disagreeing?

    As far as the four statements you made about God’s knowledge, I agree with at least three of them. God’s knowledge is immediate, infallible, and complete—unlike ours.

    I also agree that there are many cases where God’s knowledge is precise, but ours is not. However, I’m sympathetic to Ron’s argument in #43. Some statements are categorical. They don’t involve precision the way measurements do.

    This is a distinction social scientists often make. There is ratio-level data (e.g., age, time) where we are never as precise as we could be. But there is also nominal-level data where we simply assign things to categories (e.g., male/female).

    I know I’m a male. Admittedly, I don’t know all the implication of that fact the way God does. Still, when I know that I’m a male (through God’s natural revelation) I believe I am attaching the same meaning to that proposition that God attaches to it (at least at that one specific point).

    Have I rejected the creator/creature distinction?

  108. Ron said,

    March 3, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Useful Josh. I suspect Jeff will assign tolerances to categories since we creatures can believe categories only as approximates to what they actually are exhaustively and precisely, as God believes them. Even David we only know approximately.

    So, let David equal my imperfect understanding of David. Not just imperfect because I lack propositions but imperfect because of creaturely inaccuracy.

    So, let:

    David = “whoever David is” (D)
    person = “person, whatever a person is (P)

    D, is D
    D, he is not a P, other than D
    Any P, either is D or ~D

    It is not a solution to employ the meaning of truth equivocally. If indeed we *know* anything it can’t be a mere approximate because truth is precise. Whoever David is, he’s not Bathsheba (whoever she is).

  109. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 3, 2017 at 11:50 pm

    Josh and Ron (#106, 107):

    I understand you to say that the creator/creature distinction “opens the door to the possibility that” God cannot reveal things to us so that we share his meaning. Am I following?

    Yes, I am articulating that as a concern about an overemphasis of the creator/creature distinction.

    Since the original post was about the Van Til – Clark controversy, I can’t help but compare your statement to Van Til’s statement that our knowledge and God’s do not “coincide” at any single point. Do you see your position as agreeing with Van Til’s or disagreeing?

    Theoretically, agreeing; practically, disagreeing.

    Josh: Some statements are categorical. They don’t involve precision the way measurements do.

    This is a distinction social scientists often make. There is ratio-level data (e.g., age, time) where we are never as precise as we could be. But there is also nominal-level data where we simply assign things to categories (e.g., male/female).

    Ron: So, let:

    David = “whoever David is” (D)
    person = “person, whatever a person is (P)

    D, is D
    D, he is not a P, other than D
    Any P, either is D or ~D

    Sure. Both of you are choosing examples where it is hard to see much room for imprecision: in categorical predicates, and in 2nd-order logical statements.

    Ron is correct, I would say that assigning people to categories is still imprecise. That’s not just for the theoretical reason he correctly imputes to me, that we don’t know the categories precisely and exhaustively.

    It’s also empirically verifiable that when an experimenter assigns objects into categories (“male” and “female”, etc), there will be a certain error rate, and a certain number of cases for which a different experimenter would make a different choice. See: Inter-rater reliability.

    Here is one discussion of the problem in the context of classifying people according to ability based on computerized tests.

    So given that repeated classification methods show differences, I would argue that categorical data has tolerances.

    BUT

    Those tolerances are not large, and they may not be meaningfully large. If, as a matter of practical speech, you want to say that you and God agree on what it means to be “male”, then I’m not going to complain.

    (Now, if you tell me that the dress is gold and white instead of blue and black, we’ll have to have words. Just kidding.)

    In the end, there is not a large practical difference between my way of stating things (“categories have small uncertainties”) and yours (“categories do not involve precision.”)

    That’s why I would say that I agree with van Til in theory, but disagree in practice. Yes, God’s knowledge is different from ours in kind. But “analogy” is too weak to describe the relationship between His knowledge and ours.

    Concerning 2nd-order logic, the tolerances get even tighter. To find possibility of imprecision, I would have to utterly deny the analytic/synthetic distinction. There’s a history there!

    So let’s say that Ron and I reach a detente: I agree that the Law of Non-Contradiction means exactly the same to God as it does to me. That’s not a huge stretch, since I agree that the differences are negligibly small.

    What then? Having found one statement that God and we agree on does not imply that most statements are in that category. My thesis still holds in the main.

    Ron: If indeed we *know* anything it can’t be a mere approximate because truth is precise.

    If I tell you that there are 149 cars in the lot, and you count 150, will you charge me with “not telling the truth”?

    For that matter, do you consider the Biblical chronologies to be untrue because they are imprecise?

    Human speech is not, in general, math. It does us no good to have a theory of truth that rules out all or most human utterances on the grounds that they are imprecise.

  110. March 4, 2017 at 12:11 am

    Dear Jeff:

    (@105):

    1. [You wrote]: “I understand the reluctance. If you would like to have a 30,000 ft view, I am suggesting that we be more reticent to make bold assertions about propositions that cannot be perfectly communicated. Let us focus instead on sentences that entoken thought.”

    My reluctance persist.

    My primary interest is truth, the only known bearers which are propositions.

    So I am very much interested in propositions.

    I am interested in languages in so far that verbal communication is the primary means of human communication.

    Propositions are the objects of Divine conceptual thoughts.

    Focusing too narrowly on human languages, especially on sentences, one might mistake the limitation of sentences for the limitation of propositions.

    Although English is my working language, my first language is Chinese (Cantonese).

    Sometimes I find English is too constricting to express a particular thought and Chinese can do the job better, sometimes it is the other way around.

    May I presume that users competent in other languages have the same experience?

    2. [You wrote]: “So you are partly correct in that I did not explain the whole situation. I claimed that one sentence may map to many propositions; additionally, many sentences may map to the same proposition.”

    You are entirely correct and i stand corrected.

    I like to kick myself in the butt for this slip.

    When I wrote in an earlier post that:

    “Two sentence-tokens of the same sentence-type that have different meanings on the occasions of their uses individuate different propositions on those occasions.”

    and,

    “Two sentence-tokens of different sentence-types that have the same meaning on the occasions of their uses individuate the same proposition on those occasions.”

    I have said as much.

    3. A few remarks about your project on “Approximation”:

    (a) Human languages maybe be imprecise, but it is adequate for their purpose which is to communicate thoughts.

    In particular, human languages are adequate for God to communicate truths to us in the Holy Bible.

    (b) A human language need not be infinitely precise to adequately communicate truths.

    Our knowledge and understanding can be partial but true.

    I remember one of the first things I was taught in Grade 8 science was the rules for significant digits for scientific calculations.

    No scientific measurements are infinitely precise, but they are adequate for their purposes.

    As technology progress, new instruments may be device to make more precise measurements; to increase the number of significant digits in the measurements.

    Similarly, Biblical scholars have been writing commentaries for two millenniums on the Bible and our understanding of the Bible is becoming more and more precise.

    Yet, countless millions of people have become Christians in the last two thousand years based on their imprecise but adequate understanding and knowledge of Biblical truths.

    (c) Some of the imprecisions in human communication are due to the cognitive resources we are willing to expend on communication.

    We learn in Economics 101 the concept of opportunity cost — the value of the next-best use of the resource foregone.

    ———————————————————–
    [You wrote]:

    Already, we see the limitations of language. “Snow is white” could mean

    “All snow is white” (synthetic claim)

    “Snow is generally white, with exceptions”

    “Snow is that which is white” (analytic claim)

    “Snow has a high albedo” (quantification of ‘white’)

    In the larger world, “snow is white” could additionally mean

    “The color ‘snow’ is a species of white”

    “A particular Disney fairytale character is Caucasian”

    and so on.
    ——————————————————————-

    You are willing to devote the resources to make this analysis, but in so doing you have foregone the value of other uses of those resources.

    Others might find the opportunity cost too high.

    They might want to trade-off some imprecision in communication for the additional cost for more precise communication.

    (d) Some of the imprecision maybe due to the physical constraints God has placed on our finitude.

    I have learned from popular science that our physical universe is governed by two dozen or so fundamental constants, among which is the Planck constant.

    Our physical perception cannot be made more precise than the limits placed on it by the Planck constant.

    Any truth-claims about our physical perception cannot be made more precise beyond the limit of the Planck constant.

    (In saying this, I am not prejudicing the relations between physical and mental perception.)

    (e) I refer back to my bilingual experience of sometimes finding English too constricting to express a particular thought and Chinese can do a job better, sometimes it is the other way around.

    Question: Since what is imprecise in one human language maybe make more precise in another human language, what does this imply about the imprecision of human languages in communicating thoughts?

    (f) Question: How would you differentiate your project on Approximation from others in the neighbourhood, such as Karl Popper’s theory of verisimilitude?

    4. [You wrote]: “How much of that model would you say is derived from Scripture by good and necessary inference, and how much is just what seems correct? In your view, does the Bible require us to believe that all truth is propositional? Or that propositions are mental objects?”

    (a) The Holy Bible makes many truth-claims and all those truth-claims are propositional.

    So, the claim that some truths are propositional are consistent with the Bible by exemplars.

    By exemplars alone, it does not follow from the Bible that all truths are propositional by good and necessary consequence.

    (b) I do not believe there are any examples of non-conceptual truths in the Bible.

    Propositions are the only known bearers of truth and falsity in the Bible.

    I invite any advocate of non-conceptual truth to make their case from the Bible.

    Absent any alternative, my working assumption is that all truths are propositional.

    (c) Since propositions exist eternally and necessarily as the objects of God’s conceptual thoughts, they are mental entities.

    5. [You wrote]:

    “It’s one thing to say that, hypothetically, God and man might believe the same truth.”

    “It’s another to say that, concretely, God and man both believe ‘man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.’ If we try to give any concrete instance of a proposition that two people believe, we must first entoken that proposition.”

    [My reply]:

    I wonder.

    The Bible reports some conversations between the Persons of the Trinity, and since those reports are meant for humans to understand they are entokened in human languages in the Bible.

    Some conversations took place in eternity before the creation of the world, some during creation and some after the incarnation.

    The examples below are all before the incarnation.

    I wonder what language(s) are these intra-Trinitarian conversations entokened in their original settings in eternity and during creation?

    [Genesis 1:26 ESV]: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ ”

    [Psalms 2:-7-9 ESV]: “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ”

    [Psalms 40:6-8 ESV]: “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’ ”

    [Psalms 110:1 ESV]: “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ ”

    [Psalms 110:4 ESV]: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’ ”

    [Isaiah 49:5-6 ESV]: “And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him – for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength – he says: ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ ”

    I wonder what is the nature of the language(s) we humans will use in heaven.

    6. [You wrote]:

    “This is what I meant by saying that propositions are metaphysical. We can speak of propositions being in the mind of God; but His mind is revealed to us only through revelation — words and the created order.”

    “We don’t have access to propositions-in-themselves, but to sentences on the page.”

    [My reply]:

    We do have access to some propositions-in-themselves, although mediated through human languages.

    When we understand a sentence in the indicative mood, we think the corresponding proposition in God’s mind.

    [1 Corinthians 2:16 ESV] : ” ‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”

    7. [You wrote]: “How would you define ‘know’?”

    I do not have a definition for ‘know’.

    Gordon H. Clark characterizes knowledge as the possession of truth, which I like.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  111. March 4, 2017 at 9:16 am

    Dear Jeff:

    1. I am not sure if you are aware, Vern S. Poythress master’s thesis at Westminster Theological Seminary was published as [Philosophy, Science and the Sovereignty of God (1976)] and in it he defended a thesis that overlaps your project of “Approximation”.

    I have read Poythress’ book in the 1980s and may still have it packed in one of my boxes of books.

    In his book Poythress has criticized Gordon H. Clark and Clark has responded to Poythress in [Clark Speaks From the Grave (1986)].

    Clark’s response is transcribed in the next section.

    (For those who may not be aware, Poythress thesis relies on the work of the linguist Kenneth L. Pike, thus Clark’s pun “to pile Pikes Peak on Mount Olympus”.)

    References:

    Clark, Gordon H. 1986. Clark Speaks From the Grave. Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation.

    Poythress, Vern S. 1976. Philosophy, Science and the Sovereignty of God. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

    2. (Clark 1986, 11-17):

    Vern S. Poythress

    As far as concerns the Reformed community of the latter half of the twentieth century, one must be careful not to attribute to Van Ti! every idea his disciples have used against Clark. Since Vern S. Poythress’s [Philosophy, Science, and the Souereignty of God] (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1976) runs for 244 pages, with an eight page bibliography, in which four of Clark’s thirty some volumes are included, it has a prima facie claim to represent, at least fairly well, the views of Clark’s Reformed opponents.

    On page xv of the Introduction Poythress warns his readers that the technical terms he uses “have a good deal of vagueness and imprecision about them;” and that “my ‘definitions’ should be read sympathetically and not pressed for mathematical precision.” That these terms have been used by earlier philosophers and theologians in various senses is indubitable. Aristotle and Kant did not mean precisely the same thing by the term ‘sensation’. But the remainder of the quotation indicates that Poythress’s own usage varies, and what he means on one page by a given word, he does not mean on another. How then can one tell what he means? In fact, he repeats his principle, on page 6, where he says, “I do not intend to make a ‘sharp’ distinction between what is non-negotiable (presuppositions) and what is negotiable.” Page 27 also acknowledges vagueness, but page 31 is the clearest of all: “I remind readers again that ‘none’ [italics his] of my technical terms have [sic] precise boundaries.”

    This vagueness Poythress then uses in his rejection of Clark’s position. On page 171 he says, “Clark’s view of language is rather simplistic. His ideal seems to be that each word would have one precise meaning. But this ideal certainly does not come from Scripture in any obvious way.”

    For a decade or so Clark taught a course in the Philosophy of Language, and in 1980 published [Language and Theology]. Of course Poythress could not have used the book, for his date is 1976. But Clark’s ideas were clear enough in his previous publications and there is nothing in them that substantiates Poythress’s conclusion. The center of Poythress’s blunder is the sentence, “His ideal seems to be that each word would have one precise meaning.” The students who took Clark’s class in Language should all remember that his first lecture emphasized the fact that most English words have four or five different meanings. What Poythress missed is the logical principle that for a valid argument each term must have precisely the same meaning throughout the argument. To deny this is as ludicrous as its following example: Black bears are dangerous animals; little Bobby has a black [teddy] bear; therefore little Bobby is playing with a dangerous animal.

    Poythress is also mistaken when he claims that “this ideal certainly does not come from Scripture in any obvious way.” Of course it may not be obvious to him — that is immaterial — it is obvious to many others. One can find the principle of logic exemplified in the first Hebrew word in Genesis. ‘Bereshith’, “in the beginning,” does not mean a thousand years or even one second after the beginning. The same is true of the last word of the Old Testament, “curse,” which does not mean blessing; and, to pile Pikes Peak on Mount Olympus, the law is exemplified by the last word of the New Testament, whether ‘agion’, ‘panton’, or ‘Amen’. ‘Agion’ means a saint, not a devil. In fact, what Poythress says is not evident in Scripture is evident in every rational conversation.

    One of the blunders college students, and others, often make is to use, unwittingly, a word in one sense in the premises with the same word in a different sense in the conclusion. Since ‘none’ of Poythress’s technical terms has “precise boundaries,” it must be a stroke of good fortune if any of his arguments is valid. One wonders why he appended a glossary of 31 pages.

    The principial and deliberate rejection of accuracy in words entails a rejection of the law of contradiction in statements, with a resulting rejection of the distinction between truth and falsity in general. Poythress virtually admits as much. On pages 170-171, 8. 52, he says, “What does he mean by ‘consistency’? … It means using the law of contradiction. But what is the law of contradiction? An attempt to spell this out will result either in a (question begging) Christian view of contradiction (cf. Van Til) or platitudinous truth: ‘A statement cannot be both true and false at the same time and in the same way.’ But this platitude is not enough to show that non-Christian systems are contradictory …. Hence I judge that Gordon Clark’s apologetics is an unstable equilibrium between Van Til and evidentialists.”

    This argument contains considerable confusion, and it will take several lines to disentangle its woolly knots. First, the usual definition of contradictory propositions is: Two statements are contradictories if they cannot both be true and cannot both be false. Poythress begins his objection by calling the principle platitudinous. So it is. It is platitudinous to insist that all dogs are dogs and all bears are bears. It is platitudinous to insist that the number three cannot be both odd and even. But is it useless? Is it not rather indispensable? Consider the results if the platitude were false. The logical form is, All a is a. If this is denied or disregarded, then some triangles do not have three sides and some squares are round. This is actually what Poythress maintains when he insists that none of his terms, or anybody’s terms, can have a definite meaning, excluding its contradictory. Anyone who insists that “All a is b” and “Some a is not b” can both be true together empties his argument of all intelligible meaning. Paul was baptized and was not baptized in Damascus, and anyway his name was Barnabas.

    Consider also the platitude, the axiom of geometry, that all lines of finite length can be divided into two equal parts. This is equivalent to saying that space has no holes in it. Platitudinous perhaps, but indispensable. Poythress seems to want to have all propositions so vague that they all agree and disagree, or at least that they all agree, for without the law disagreement is impossible. In other words there is no distinction between truth and falsity. Contrary to his statement that a platitude is not enough to show that a proposed system is self-contradictory, Clark always asserted that there is no other way of doing so. How else can one condemn a system as self-contradictory without indicating its two contradictory assertions? Nor without the law of contradiction could a single sentence be intelligible.

    So far as one can surmise, it may be possible for a non-christian system to be free from contradictory pairs. Spinoza made a determined attempt, but seems not to have succeeded. Euclidian, Riemanian, and Lobachevskian geometries are each alone free of contradiction. The reason is that they are geometries and nothing else. But a comprehensive non-christian philosophy, such as Kant’s or Hegel’s, without internal contradictions, would be hard to find. Remember the quip: Without the ‘Ding an sich’ one cannot get into the Kantian system, and with it one cannot stay in. If the God of the Bible is Truth, one can at least expect that somewhere a non-christian system will run into difficulties. It is worth one’s while to search for them. For example, Logical Positivism with its denial of all non-observational propositions is based on the non-observational proposition that all truth is observational.

    In addition to the usefulness and indispensability of the “trivial,” the “platitudinous” and the “empty” logical forms, which alone determine that two statements are contradictories, or contraries as the case may be, the more common use fills the empty a’s, b’s, and c’s with bears, stars, and the federal headship of Adam. There is no way to establish any article of the creed, much less a ‘system’ of doctrine such as the Westminster Confession, without filling the forms with Scriptural content. In view of Clark’s commentaries on several New Testament books, it is ridiculous to charge him, as some of the more benighted apologists have done, with proceeding on the basis of logic alone. Logic alone gives, A(ab) A(bc) implies A(ac). Theology argues, All sinners are under the wrath and curse of God; all men are sinners; therefore, all men are under God’s curse. Or, All who are justified like Abraham are justified by faith; all who are justified are justified like Abraham; therefore, all who are justified are justified by faith. This may sound academic, platitudinous, useless; but Paul did not think so in his letter to the Galatians. Steps such as these must be used in the formulation of every Christian doctrine. Another step, even a previous step, is the definition of justification. On the grounds that Poythress proposes, one would not know when, or even if, a respondent meant what Calvin and Hodge meant, and when, or even if, Poythress meant the Roman definition which confuses justification with sanctification.

    This technical, professorial, academic platitudinarianism has serious implications for the ordination of prospective candidates for the ministry. The ordination vows of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, to which the most active of Clark’s opponents belong, contain the question, “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?” Now, quite aside from the fact that without the law of contradiction “sincerely” can mean “insincerely,” the ordinand thinks to himself, or, rather, has already thought, that the term ‘system’ has several meanings. It can mean the arithmetical system of numbering from one to thirty-three; why, of course. I believe it is a system.
    If the previous presbyterial examination questioned him about justification as a judicial, divine sentence, he can say, so it is, and (to himself) it is also a life-long process of good works. It is both instantaneous and temporally extended. One must not subject oneself to the platitudinous trivialities of the law of contradiction. Besides, “receive and adopt” is a phrase of no precise meaning. They are fuzzy terms, and in some sense or other I receive and adopt the Confession as containing the vague terminologies of Scripture.

    Actually this was done, though not so professorially, by hundreds of ordinands in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. until they altered their ordination vows in 1967.

    [End of Quotation].

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  112. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 4, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Benjamin (#109): Thanks. There’s a lot to chew on, so I will give a couple of quick replies to your questions and then go process for a while.

    You write, (a) Human languages maybe be imprecise, but it is adequate for their purpose which is to communicate thoughts…Yet, countless millions of people have become Christians in the last two thousand years based on their imprecise but adequate understanding and knowledge of Biblical truths.

    Yes. This is one of the major points I am trying to make.

    You and I might differ as to whether understanding is perfectly or imperfectly possible, but we agree that imprecise language can still convey truth without requiring infinite precision.

    Benjamin: Question: Since what is imprecise in one human language maybe make more precise in another human language, what does this imply about the imprecision of human languages in communicating thoughts?

    I would argue that this suggests that imprecision is fundamental to human languages.

    Benjamin: (f) Question: How would you differentiate your project on Approximation from others in the neighborhood, such as Karl Popper’s theory of verisimilitude?

    Interesting question! I am familiar with Popper’s writing on falsification, but not with his specific work on verisimilitude, nor with his critics’ work on the same.

    Benjamin: (b) I do not believe there are any examples of non-conceptual truths in the Bible.

    Propositions are the only known bearers of truth and falsity in the Bible.

    I invite any advocate of non-conceptual truth to make their case from the Bible.

    I would propose two candidates for non-propositional truth, one from Scripture and one from natural revelation.

    (1) Jesus declared Himself to be “truth” (John 14.5). Perhaps He meant this metaphorically; but He was certainly not speaking metaphorically when He called Himself “the way” or “the life.”

    If memory serves, Clark reasoned that therefore the Son consists of propositions. I find that conclusion … odd. Certainly counterintuitive.

    So as a starting point for discussion: Jesus Himself is non-propositional truth.

    (2) We have a large number of mental processes that do not rise to the level of conscious thoughts.

    One example would be the catching of a ball, in which the brain makes a prediction about where the ball will be, and moves the hands in order to receive the ball.

    We use the word “true” to describe physical predictions that are accurate (“His aim was true”, etc). Those predictions could certainly be turned into propositions — measurement! — but at the moment they occur, they are frequently not conscious thoughts.

    Likewise, our perceptions are not always propositional in the sense of conscious thought, yet we categorize perceptions as true or false — or at least, more or less accurate: “You’re seeing it wrong” “I’m color-blind” “He has a good ear.”

    I would put those two forward as candidates for non-propositional truths.

  113. Ron said,

    March 4, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Josh and Ron (#106, 107):
    I understand you to say that the creator/creature distinction “opens the door to the possibility that” God cannot reveal things to us so that we share his meaning. Am I following?

    Jeff,

    No, I’d say you’re not following (me at least). Quite the reverse in fact. The Creator is powerful enough to “reveal things to us” so indeed “we [do] share his meaning” on many things.

    It’s also empirically verifiable that when an experimenter assigns objects into categories (“male” and “female”, etc), there will be a certain error rate, and a certain number of cases for which a different experimenter would make a different choice. See: Inter-rater reliability.

    I don’t find that relevant. A subject’s potential for error and his ability to know truth are not mutually exclusive propositions. It’s to argue by false disjunction to try to negate the latter by establishing the former.

    So given that repeated classification methods show differences, I would argue that categorical data has tolerances.

    Yes, I agree, as I have said. That, however, does not undermine the proposition that whoever David is (fill in the tolerance for him), he is not Bathsheba (fill in the tolerance for her). Your task is to show how a lack of knowledge of tolerance of both David and Bathsheba (whether due to quantity, quality considerations or what have you) undermines ability to know that one is not the other.

    Again, must I know the precise length of the ruler in order to know that it’s longer than a fermi and shorter than a mile?

    If I know only the ruler’s length falls between x and y, is that a truth that God knows even though he knows the precise length? Obviously it’s true. Obviously God knows it’s true. The only question is whether I can know something that approximates 12 inches is less than a mile and longer than a length I cannot even detect it’s so small.

    If, as a matter of practical speech, you want to say that you and God agree on what it means to be “male”, then I’m not going to complain.

    Great, some agreement.

    In the end, there is not a large practical difference between my way of stating things (“categories have small uncertainties”) and yours (“categories do not involve precision.”)

    But I do think categories from our perspective do entail precision. I’d say our understanding of universals are often influenced and refined by our experience of particulars.

    So let’s say that Ron and I reach a detente: I agree that the Law of Non-Contradiction means exactly the same to God as it does to me. That’s not a huge stretch, since I agree that the differences are negligibly small.

    Actually, I wouldn’t say that. God believes it intuitively, knows every application of it, etc. My point is whatever I do know about it, if I know anything about it at all, must be true. Since God knows all truth, he must know the truth I know (and I must know a bit of truth He knows).

    What then? Having found one statement that God and we agree on does not imply that most statements are in that category. My thesis still holds in the main.

    Holding the main with even one exception makes the Van Tillian thesis wrong. There are more than one exception though because the laws of identity, excluded middle contradiction have many synthetic applications. Also, and it show go without saying but it’s worth mentioning – opponents to the CVT thesis should (and I think for the most part do) happily acknowledge we know extremely little compared to God.

    If I tell you that there are 149 cars in the lot, and you count 150, will you charge me with “not telling the truth”?

    I don’t see the relevance of that or the ones that followed in kind.

  114. Ron said,

    March 4, 2017 at 11:24 am

    test – a post did not appear on site

  115. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 4, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Ron (#113), I was quoting Josh and responding to his question, “am I following?”. You appear to have mistakenly thought that I was asking that question.

    JRC: It’s also empirically verifiable that when an experimenter assigns objects into categories … there will be a certain error rate, and a certain number of cases for which a different experimenter would make a different choice.

    Ron: I don’t find that relevant. A subject’s potential for error and his ability to know truth are not mutually exclusive propositions.

    Well, we find ourselves dealing with an undefined term: “know.”

    I’m not sure how you are using that term, but one standard definition is “to have true, justified belief.”

    Justification necessarily precludes the possibility of error: P is true because it follows necessarily from Q. So, if there is a possibility of error in Q, it follows that the belief is not fully justified — hence not known.

    Possibility of error does not preclude a person from believing a true statement P, but it does preclude the person from claiming complete justification.

    Now perhaps you have a different definition of “knowing” in mind, in which case we need to retrench and discuss the relevance of fallibility to knowledge.

    JRC: If I tell you that there are 149 cars in the lot, and you count 150, will you charge me with “not telling the truth”?

    Ron: I don’t see the relevance of that or the ones that followed in kind.

    Well, you stated that If indeed we *know* anything it can’t be a mere approximate because truth is precise.

    It follows that any imprecise statement is not truth.

    So if I claim 149 cars when there are 150, my statement was not precisely true. Does that make it untrue entirely? Did I know nothing?

    The same holds with regard to Scriptural chronology. The number of years from Abraham to Moses is variously given as 400 or 430. Judged by your claim, at least one of those is “untrue” because it is not precise.

    I trust that we agree that this is not the right outcome!

    The claim that “truth is precise and cannot be approximate” is what animates your opposition here; it is also a harsh mistress. It requires infinite precision in every claim.

    Ron: Holding the main with even one exception makes the Van Tillian thesis wrong.

    OK. I’m not too concerned to vindicate van Til over against Clark. I think we need to move on a bit from the 1920s by assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each view and seeking a better understanding of truth and knowledge.

    As indicated above, I think van Til pushes so hard on incomprehensibility that he runs the risk of making God unintelligible to us.

    On the other hand, Clark pushes so hard on the identity of God’s knowledge and ours that he creates a model in which actual knowing is impossible — because the standard for “knowing” is to have a perfectly precise truth in mind.

    Both men’s arguments now seem dated because they are culturally bound by the discussions of logical positivism that were in the air during their time. The same is true of Poythress’s extended quote above — he comes off as quite the postmodernist!

    And the same is true of our discussion. Look at how we are informed by computer languages, statistical measurement, discussions of 1st and 2nd order logic, and so on. None of that was commonplace when van Til and Clark argued; some of it will be dated in 50 years.

    We are creatures of our time, Ron, and we are all (here in this discussion) trying to sort out *how to get at truth* with the tools we know.

    My contribution is this: Understanding how language and communication work is essential to understanding how beliefs can be known and justified.

    P.S. I tried to leave you my email and also tried to send it via Lane. No response yet.

  116. Ron said,

    March 4, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Jeff,

    We are so apart from agreeing over rudimentary principles that this discussion will, I’m afraid, remain fruitless unless someone abandons his understanding of basic tenets.

    I’m not sure how you are using that term, but one standard definition is “to have true, justified belief.”
    Justification necessarily precludes the possibility of error: P is true because it follows necessarily from Q. So, if there is a possibility of error in Q, it follows that the belief is not fully justified — hence not known.

    It’s hard for me to believe you hold to such an epistemology. Aside from you thinking that justification must entail deduction (as opposed to non-discursive knowledge such as of God, self and our place in the world) you’ve now conflated man’s innate fallibility with his justified belief that comes from God. (Romanists commit the same sort of error with respect the canon when they try to create a need for an infallible magisterium.)

    Possibility of error does not preclude a person from believing a true statement P, but it does preclude the person from claiming complete justification.

    You’ve gone one step further here. Not only have you conflated man’s innate foibles with his justified belief that comes from God, you’ve now just conflated having a justification with the grounds by which one might claim justification. Such an infallibilist-internalist constraint is problematic on many levels, especially for the Christian. For instance, man apart from Scripture knows God and the wrath of God abides upon him. His belief is true and his justification is general revelation. He knows God and the impending judgment, yet without being able to articulate his justification for his belief, which he suppresses in unrighteousness.

    Jeff, I’m going to bow out now. I’m not after persuading anyone. I’m satisfied in just understanding a bit more of what you think on this matter.

    Best wishes.

  117. Ron said,

    March 4, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Better formatting, I hope:

    Jeff,

    We are so apart from agreeing over rudimentary principles that this discussion will, I’m afraid, remain fruitless unless someone abandons his understanding of basic tenets.

    I’m not sure how you are using that term, but one standard definition is “to have true, justified belief.”
    Justification necessarily precludes the possibility of error: P is true because it follows necessarily from Q. So, if there is a possibility of error in Q, it follows that the belief is not fully justified — hence not known.

    It’s hard for me to believe you hold to such an epistemology. Aside from you thinking that justification must entail deduction (as opposed to non-discursive knowledge such as of God, self and our place in the world) you’ve now conflated man’s innate fallibility with his justified belief that comes from God. (Romanists commit the same sort of error with respect to the canon when they try to create a need for an infallible magisterium.)

    Possibility of error does not preclude a person from believing a true statement P, but it does preclude the person from claiming complete justification.

    You’ve gone one step further here. Not only have you conflated man’s innate foibles with his justified belief that comes from God, you’ve now just conflated having a justification with the grounds by which one might claim justification. Such an infallibilist-internalist constraint is problematic on many levels, especially for the Christian. For instance, man apart from Scripture knows God and the wrath of God abides upon him. His belief is true and his justification is general revelation. He knows God and the impending judgment, yet without being able to articulate his justification for his belief, which he suppresses in unrighteousness.

    Jeff, I’m going to bow out now. I’m not after persuading anyone. I’m satisfied in just understanding a bit more of what you think on this matter.

    Best wishes.

  118. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 4, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    Ron, as indicated, I don’t “hold to such an epistemology.”

    It was an example.

  119. Don said,

    March 4, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Jeff,
    It would probably help your argument to realize the distinction between “precise” and “accurate.”

  120. March 4, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    Dear Jeff:

    (@112):

    [You wrote]: “If memory serves, Clark reasoned that therefore the Son consists of propositions. I find that conclusion … odd. Certainly counterintuitive.”

    Gordon Clark’s aim was for a real definition of a person.

    The most basic distinction in theories of definition is probably the difference between a real definition and a nominal definition.

    A real definition defines a thing while a nominal definition defines a word.

    The real vs. nominal distinction is basic because it speaks to what it is that one is defining.

    Others such as definition by genus / difference, intension / extension, ostension, or stipulation are just techniques of definition.

    How does one define a thing?

    One can define a thing by enumerating an essence of that thing.

    Following Alvin Plantinga, I understand an essence of an object to be a property that is essential and essentially unique to that object.

    How does one define a person?

    God, angels and human beings are all persons.

    While human beings are embodied, God and angels are not.

    So we cannot define a person using spatial properties.

    While angels and human beings are temporal, God is not.

    So we cannot define a person using temporal properties.

    If we cannot use spatial or temporal properties to define a person, what kind of properties can we use?

    It is Gordon Clark’s contention that rationality, in particular, the ability to know truths or propositions is an essence of a person.

    Rationality is essential to a person in that a thing could not have been a person unless he has the ability to know truths.

    Rationality is essentially unique to a person in that no things other than a person could have the ability to know truths.

    Using this definition of a person, a particular person can be define by the set of truths or propositions he thinks.

    That is, the set of truths or propositions a particular person thinks expresses an essence of that person.

    Take the three Persons of the Trinity as an example.

    Using the relational properties of eternal generation (two terms) and eternal procession (three terms) and the indexical properties of certain propositions:

    (a) The First Person of the Trinity is the one who eternally generates another Person.

    The first Person of the Trinity could not have been the first Person of the Trinity unless He eternally generates another Person.

    No persons other than the first Person of the Trinity could have eternally generates another Person.

    Only the first Person of the Trinity could truly thinks the proposition that I eternally generates another Person.

    The first Person of the Trinity is commonly known as God the Father.

    (b) The second Person of the Trinity is the one who is eternally generated by another Person and who does not eternally generates another Person.

    The second Person of the Trinity could not have been the second Person of the Trinity unless He is eternally generated by another Person and He does not eternally generates another Person.

    No person other than the second Person of the Trinity could have been eternally generated by another Person and does not eternally generates another Person.

    Only the second Person of the Trinity could truly thinks the proposition that I am eternally generated by another Person and I do not eternally generates another Person.

    The second Person of the Trinity is commonly known as God the Son.

    (c) The third Person of the Trinity is the one: (i) who is eternally processes from two other Persons, and (ii) who neither eternally generates nor is eternally generated by any other Persons.

    I will skip the details of enumerating the two essence clauses of the definition.

    Only the third Person of the Trinity could truly thinks the proposition that I eternally processes from two other Persons, and I neither eternally generates nor is eternally generated by any other Persons.

    The third Person of the Trinity is commonly known as God the Holy Spirit.

    Please consult Gordon Clark’s book [The Trinity (1985)] for other details.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  121. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 5, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    @ Don: Right, that’s another way of putting the objection to Ron. Statements may be accurate without being precise.

    I’m not sure what Ron would say to that, but I think the counter might be that “accurate” and “true” are not synonyms.

  122. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 5, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    @ Benjamin: Thanks for elucidating. I am a little unclear: In Clark’s view (also yours?), are the persons of the Trinity the thoughts themselves, or thinkers of those thoughts?

  123. March 5, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    Dear Jeff:

    (@122):

    1. [You wrote]: “@ Benjamin: Thanks for elucidating. I am a little unclear: In Clark’s view (also yours?), are the persons of the Trinity the thoughts themselves, or thinkers of those thoughts?”

    God is a Trinity of three Persons that think propositional thoughts, form intentions based on some of those propositional thoughts, and act to accomplish those intentions.

    God’s intentions is called in Reformed theology God’s Eternal Decree.

    [The Westminster Confession of Faith 3.1a]: “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”

    We have in the Bible a partial record of how God acts to accomplish His intentions.

    This I believe is Gordon Clark’s view and I followed him in this.

    2. Question: Are the persons of the Trinity the thoughts themselves?

    If you mean by the question if the three Persons of the Trinity is numerically identical to their thoughts, then the answer is no.

    If you mean by the question if some of the propositional thoughts each Person of the Trinity thinks express an essence of that Person and so can be individuated by those propositional thoughts, then the answer is yes.

    Thus:

    (a) The first Person of the Trinity can be individuated by the proposition that I eternally generates another Person.

    (b) The second Person of the Trinity can be individuated by the proposition that I am eternally generated by another Person and I do not eternally generates another Person.

    (c) The third Person of the Trinity can be individuated by the proposition that I eternally processes from two other Persons, and I neither eternally generates nor is eternally generated by any other Persons.

    The propositions are the Persons in the sense that they individuated those Persons.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  124. March 6, 2017 at 1:23 am

    Dear Jeff:

    This is off-topic but I would like to make a pluck for Gordon Clark’s definition of a person using propositions.

    In my opinion, Clark’s approach can be viewed as a technique that opens a new line of inquiry into the Trinity and the Incarnation.

    My last two posts use the Trinity as an example where each Persons of the Trinity can be individuated using certain propositions the Persons think.

    For those computer savvy, model the Trinity in analogy to a tri-core computer chip where the content of the various registers are propositions.

    The nature of the Incarnation may be model in analogy with various hardware and software virtualizations.

    Maybe the human nature of Jesus Christ is something hardware virtualizes on top of his Divine nature.

    Maybe the human consciousness of Jesus Christ is something software virtualizes on top of his Divine consciousness, in analogy to running VMware virtualizing Linux on top of Windows or Windows on top of Linux.

    Access to a common resource in the God-man Jesus Christ may be model by control mechanisms such as a semaphore.

    In all cases, the ability to think propositions in the appropriate ways will function as a control of the modelling.

    I have attempted some simple modelling using Clark’s approach in a discussion in another list some years ago.

    One tentative result is that Clark need not be interpreted as a Nestorian; another is that Nestorius also need not be interpreted as a Nestorian.

    Finally, I have come across in the internet some claiming that Gordon Clark is a social Trinitarian; but the nature of the propositions used as examples in my previous two posts, which are adapted from Clark, should dispel that myths.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  125. March 6, 2017 at 6:29 am

    This is a test to see if the post gets through.

  126. March 6, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Dear Jeff:

    1. [You wrote (@115)]: “On the other hand, Clark pushes so hard on the identity of God’s knowledge and ours that he creates a model in which actual knowing is impossible — because the standard for ‘knowing’ is to have a perfectly precise truth in mind.”

    Although not 100% certain, I am 99.9999999% sure that you misrepresented Gordon Clark’s view. : – )

    2. When I read some of your exchanges with Ron, I have the uneasy feelings that I do not understand what you are driving at.

    Following up a suggestion of Don (@119), it would clarify the nature of your project of Approximation if you will: (a) define your basic terms, (b) indicate how your basic terms interrelate with each other, and (c) indicate what it is that your basic terms are qualifying.

    (a) There is a family of related terms that are basic to your project that you need to define properly, such as: precise, imprecise, infinitely precise, perfectly precise, definite, accurate, vague, fuzzy, etc.

    (b) How are these terms related to each others?

    “Precise” and “imprecise” seems to be contradictory concepts.

    “Perfectly precise” and “imprecise” seems to be contrary but not contradictory concepts.

    Can one be “accurate” and “definite” without being “perfectly precise” or ‘Infinitely precise”?

    It seems so to me.

    Etc.

    (c) What is it that these terms are qualifying?

    For example, does the term “imprecise” qualifies our understanding, our mode of knowledge acquisition, a proposition, or what?

    For example, I believe that when our understanding of a indicative sentence is sufficient to determine what truth-claim the corresponding proposition make, then our understanding of the proposition is “definite”.

    Does our understanding have to be “perfectly precise” or “infinitely precise” for our understanding of a proposition to be “definite”?

    I do not believe so.

    3. [Gordon Clark (@111)]: “What Poythress missed is the logical principle that for a valid argument each term must have precisely the same meaning throughout the argument.”

    Does a term having precisely the same meaning throughout an argument requires that we must have perfectly precise understanding of the term itself?

    The answer is no.

    In analogy with using the rules for significant digits in scientific calculations, the calculation is accurate if the number of significant digits are preserve according to the rules of calculation from calculation to calculation.

    The number of significant digits of the numbers need not be infinite.

    4. [Gordon Clark (@111)]: “This is actually what Poythress maintains when he insists that none of his terms, or anybody’s terms, can have a definite meaning, excluding its contradictory.”

    According to Clark, a term have a definite meaning when it can excludes its contradictory.

    Does this requires “infinitely precise” or “perfectly precise” understanding of a term?

    The answer again is no.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  127. Josh said,

    March 6, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    @Jeff (#109), I was out of town this weekend, so I’m just now responding. Thanks for clarifying your position. I think I now understand what you are saying, and I appreciate the explanation.

    I realize the discussion has continued beyond #109, but I think I’ll go back to lurking. :-)

  128. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    @ Benjamin (#125):

    Thanks for the excellent questions. I will try to define terms carefully over the next couple of days.

    In order:

    Benjamin: 1. …Although not 100% certain, I am 99.9999999% sure that you misrepresented Gordon Clark’s view.

    That’s entirely possible, and I’m open to correction. Notice that I’m not claiming that Clark denies the possibility of knowledge. Rather, I believe that an implication of his view, carried to its logical conclusion, is that knowledge is impossible, strictly speaking.

    I’m proposing that we accept that our statements and beliefs are approximations to truth, and not truth itself, as a way of avoiding that problem.

    Benjamin: 2 … t would clarify the nature of your project of Approximation if you will: (a) define your basic terms, (b) indicate how your basic terms interrelate with each other, and (c) indicate what it is that your basic terms are qualifying.

    Totally fair request. Coming soon…

    What follows will be a prolegomena that considers the problem of scientific measurement as a strong analogy to the problem of communicating and proving propositions by means of words.

    Benjamin 3. [Clark] “What Poythress missed is the logical principle that for a valid argument each term must have precisely the same meaning throughout the argument.”

    [Benajmin] Does a term having precisely the same meaning throughout an argument requires that we must have perfectly precise understanding of the term itself?

    The answer is no.

    In analogy with using the rules for significant digits in scientific calculations, the calculation is accurate if the number of significant digits are preserve according to the rules of calculation from calculation to calculation.

    The number of significant digits of the numbers need not be infinite.

    Here, I would like to add some additional information about how scientists use significant figures as a proxy for standard errors. I was looking for good online resources to share. This is a good outline, but doesn’t have mathematical details or pretty pictures. If this doesn’t make sense, let me know.

    Bottom line: all measurements have uncertainty; that uncertainty is estimated (not perfectly known) in terms of a standard error of the mean (SEM). We use the SEM to generate confidence intervals around our measurements. For example: if we measure 10 m with SEM 0.1 m, then our confidence intervals would be

    68% confidence: 9.9 < x < 10.1 (9.9, 10.1) 68% CI
    95% confidence: 9.8 < x < 10.2 (9.8, 10.2) 95% CI
    99.7% confidence: 9.7 < x < 10.3 (9.7, 10.3) 99.7% CI

    and so on. The higher the confidence, the wider the confidence interval. We use significant digits to represent the rough size of the confidence interval, so we would report the measurement as 10.0m.

    The meaning of that confidence interval is technical: A 95% CI gives me 95% confidence that if the individual measurement errors are normally distributed, then the true measurement is 95% likely to fall within the 95% CI.

    The main points I want to add to the conversation here are

    (1) In the world of scientific measurement, greater confidence (for a given set of measurements) can only be obtained at the expense of less precision. There is a tradeoff between accuracy and precision, and we can only beat that tradeoff by using better technique or better, usually more expensive, measuring equipment..

    (2) In the world of scientific measurement, the true accuracy of a measurement is never known. The best we can achieve is a confidence interval, hopefully as narrow as possible, that gives confidence in accuracy assuming errors are normally distributed.

    So it is false to say that Although we don’t know the length of the ruler to the last decimal point, we can know “it’s longer than 11.0 inches and shorter than 13.0 inches.”

    Rather, we have an absurdly high degree of confidence that the true length is longer than 11.0 inches and shorter than 13.0 inches. We can only use the word “know” here if we equate “know” with “have absurdly high confidence.”

    Does this make sense? I am aware that I haven’t yet defined terms, but the scientific measurement framework is important for understanding what follows.

  129. greenbaggins said,

    March 7, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Benjamin, you shouldn’t have any more trouble with comments getting through. I don’t know why they got hung up in the spam filter, but they did. I have unclogged them now!

  130. Don said,

    March 7, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Jeff 128,
    Scientifically, you are not using the terms “accuracy” and “precision” correctly. They are distinct; there is no trade-off between them. The wikipedia article “Accuracy and precision” has some good graphical depictions of this.

    (And, of course, not all errors are distributed in nice bell-shaped curves. There are techniques that have been developed to handle that, but the required math is, I think, not so fun to deal with. In certain measurements of high-energy physics, the error bars have error bars!)

  131. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    Don, go ahead. I am using the term accuracy to mean “closeness to the true value” and precision to mean “the closeness of measurements to one another.”

    What is your concern?

  132. Don said,

    March 7, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Jeff,
    You are saying the right definitions in 131 but not using the terms correctly.

    So if I claim 149 cars when there are 150, my statement was not precisely true. Does that make it untrue entirely? Did I know nothing?

    This is not an issue of precision. This is an issue of accuracy.

    There is a tradeoff between accuracy and precision,

    No, there is not. You can be accurate and precise, accurate but imprecise, inaccurate but precise, or inaccurate and imprecise. The bullseye graphics in the wiki article helpfully illustrate this.

    You seem to claim that no statement we make is true, only approximately true. However, a statement like “There are four letters in the word ‘Jeff'” has no approximations. There is no issue of precision here. Integers are arbitrarily precise. You cannot counter by presenting a statement such as “There are five letters in the word ‘Jeff'” because the existence of an inaccurate statement does not negate an accurate one.

  133. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    @ Don: I understand the objection, and I confess that my counting examples have been provocatively stated in order to make a point about language and measurement. Set the counting aside for a moment.

    Come back to your objection:

    JRC: There is a tradeoff between accuracy and precision,

    Don: No, there is not.

    Here’s what I said: greater confidence (for a given set of measurements) can only be obtained at the expense of less precision. There is a tradeoff between accuracy and precision…

    In the context of a given set of measurements, there is increasing confidence in the accuracy of statements as the statements get less precise.

    In the example above (x = 10, SEM = 0.1), the statement

    9.7 < x < 10.3 is much more likely to be accurate than 9.95 < x < 10.05.

    Both statements could, of course, happen to be accurate. But that is unknowable to us.

    So in that sense, there is a tradeoff between accuracy and precision: great confidence in accuracy comes at the expense of lower precision for a given set of measurements.

    This is taught in most research stat classes, I believe.

  134. Don said,

    March 7, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Jeff,
    No.
    11<x<53 does not represent an improvement in accuracy for your example.

    great confidence in accuracy comes at the expense of lower precision for a given set of measurements

    You seem to be saying that there is a way to manipulate the precision of a given set of measurements. Maybe you have an example in mind where that can happen, but your statement does not make any sense to me.

  135. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    Ah. No, I’m not saying that we can manipulate the precision of a set of measurements.

    I’m saying that if we make statements about a set of measurements, then statements that are more likely to be accurate are necessarily less precise than statements less likely to be accurate, if both are properly inferred.

    9.7 < x < 10.3 is more likely to be accurate, but less precise, than
    9.95 < x < 10.05

    And your example, 11 < x < 53, would not be properly inferred (I assume you constructed it that way on purpose, right?), so is not in scope.

  136. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    @ Don: The makers of MiniTab put it this way:

    Ways to get a more precise confidence interval…

    Lower the confidence level

    The advantage of a lower confidence level is that you get a narrower, more precise confidence interval. The disadvantage is that you have less confidence that the confidence interval contains the population parameter you are interested in.

    So lower the confidence level only if, in your situation, the advantage of more precision is greater than the disadvantage of less confidence.

    That’s what I’m saying.

  137. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Sorry: link

  138. Ron said,

    March 7, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    Don,

    I’m not getting back in but I’d like to address one thing that has nothing to do with what was the discussion. I think the discussion is now far at sea but this caught my eye.

    “You can be accurate and precise, accurate but imprecise, inaccurate but precise, or inaccurate and imprecise. The bullseye graphics in the wiki article helpfully illustrate this.”

    I get the point but isn’t it a bit misleading?

    You can have terrible accuracy and terrible precision. The basketball player’s shots are scattered all over all the time.

    You can have terrible accuracy with high precision. The basketball player always misses, hitting the same top corner of the glass every time.

    You can have high precision and high accuracy. All net every time.

    However, terrible precision and high accuracy can be a misleading concept. If the player is very accurate he always makes the shot, which requires some precision – even if that precision spans the range of (a) circling the rim before dropping in the bucket to (b) all net.

    Diagrams aimed to portray imprecise-accuracy show scattered shots or arrows, but they’re all around the bullseye lest the diagram couldn’t depict relative accuracy. The less precise they are, the less accurate too. In such cases where there is such relative accuracy, there *must* be a level of precision that *needn’t* be present with imprecise-inaccuracy. If it’s the same “imprecision” for both, then it’s misleading to call it “imprecision” in the imprecise-inaccuracy depiction, simply because the precision would be good enough to maintain relative accuracy in the imprecise-accurate depiction.

    In the realm of flow measurement, for instance, it’s an accepted fundamental that poor repeatability or precision is always sufficient for poor accuracy.

  139. March 8, 2017 at 3:37 am

    Dear Lane:

    (@129):

    [You wrote]: “Benjamin, you shouldn’t have any more trouble with comments getting through. I don’t know why they got hung up in the spam filter, but they did. I have unclogged them now!”

    Thank you very much.

    Although I am an occasional reader of your blog, this is the first time I post any comments.

    I have been enjoying the conversations with Jeff and others so far. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  140. March 8, 2017 at 3:39 am

    Dear Jeff:

    1. Two housekeeping items:

    (a) This blog is meant for the general readers so the examples should be as simple and as general as possible.

    But if you are addressing me specifically, you can assumed that I had an introductory course in calculus and probability and statistics.

    (b) After we are finished with this topic and if you have the time and inclination, I like to probe and explore your two proposed candidates for non-propositional truths in (@112).

    I am presently rereading D.T. Suzuki’s [Zen and Japanese Culture (1959) 1993].

    I plan to post an entry in my blog dedicated to Gordon Clark later this year contrasting Clark’s and Suzuki’s theory of knowledge.

    Since Suzuki’s version of Zen Buddhism is definitely non-conceptual in nature, I very much like to see how a fellow Reformed christian would develop non-propositional truths.

    2. Pending your definitions of the core terms, my usage will be the followings:

    The basic alethic concepts are truth and falsity.

    The epistemological objects of knowledge are truths or propositions.

    Percepts or objects of perception are secondary in that they are epistemological objects of thoughts but not epistemological objects of knowledge.

    This is so because percepts in themselves are neither true nor false.

    The basic semantic concept is understanding.

    The objects of understanding are concepts which include propositions.

    To understand a proposition one must understand the concepts that constitute that proposition.

    The basic epistemological concepts are believing and knowing.

    The objects of believing and knowing are propositions.

    One must understand a proposition in order to believe a proposition; one must believe a proposition in order to know a proposition.

    Truth and falsity apply literally to propositions and apply by analogical extension to understanding, believing and knowing.

    Following Gordon Clark, one understands a concept definitely if one understand how to exclude that concept’s contradictory.

    One understands a proposition definitely if one understand what truth claim that proposition makes.

    Thus, we have tests to determine whether we have a definite understanding of either a concept or a proposition:

    (a) For concepts, if we understand how to the exclude their contradictories.

    (b) For propositions, if we understand what truth claims they make.

    3. I like to introduce a concept that helps to explain how and why our understanding of a concept or a proposition can be “definite” without being “perfectly” or “infinitely precise”: monotonic understanding.

    Let ‘p’ and ‘q’ stand for propositions : What is the meaning of a proposition p?

    Arguably, for all q’s such that either (p implies q) or (q implies p), q is part of the meaning of p.

    When (q implies p), q is commonly said to be a “context” for p.

    For example:

    q : [Genesis 1:1 ESV]: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

    p : God exists and is actual.

    “God created the heavens and the earth” is part of the context or meaning of “God exists”.

    When (p implies q), q is commonly simply said to be “a meaning” of p.

    For example:

    p : [Per Gordon Clark (@111)]: (All who are justified like Abraham are justified by faith) and (All who are justified are justified like Abraham)

    q : (All who are justified are justified by faith.)

    Commonly understood, q is part of the meaning of p because q is a logical consequence of p.

    4. Now, for any proposition p, there are infinitely many q’s such that (p implies q) or (q implies p).

    That is, the meanings of a proposition is indefinitely large or infinite.

    God being omniscient, He knows all such q’s and so God exhaustively knows the meaning of a proposition p.

    Human beings, being finite creatures, do not have the cognitive capacities to know all the q’s.

    However, we can increase our understanding or a proposition p by enlarging the context for the proposition p or by drawing new consequences from the proposition p.

    5. How then, can our understanding of a concept or a proposition be definite?

    Borrowing the concept of “monotonicity” from logic, our understanding of a concept or a proposition is “monotonic” if increasing our understanding could only enlarge our understanding but could not alter what has been understood.

    Our understanding of a concept or a proposition is “definite” if it is monotonic.

    If our understanding of a concept or a proposition is monotonic, then it can be definite without being infinitely precise.

    For example, our understanding of God is monotonic if additional Bible studies will only increase or enlarge our understanding of God, but it will not alter what has been understood about God.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  141. March 8, 2017 at 6:35 am

    Dear Jeff:

    My post (@140) is missing the concluding sentence.

    It should be:

    5. How then, can our understanding of a concept or a proposition be definite?

    Borrowing the concept of “monotonicity” from logic, our understanding of a concept or a proposition is “monotonic” if increasing our understanding could only enlarge our understanding but could not alter what has been understood.

    Our understanding of a concept or a proposition is “definite” if it is monotonic.

    If our understanding of a concept or a proposition is monotonic, then it can be definite without being infinitely precise.

    For example, our understanding of God is monotonic if additional Bible studies will only increase or enlarge our understanding of God, but it will not alter what has been understood about God.

    Our monotonic understanding of God is definite in the sense that it is not altered by any additional, increasing, or enlarging understanding.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  142. Don said,

    March 8, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Jeff 135,
    A given set of measurements has a given precision. You can’t just arbitrarily increase the error bars until you have a precision that seems OK.

    I’m not too sure what MiniTab is talking about, (just skimmed the link) but accuracy isn’t the same as confidence.

    Ron 138,
    It’s not misleading, but maybe it’s the limitation of the bullseye illustration. Accuracy for a basketball player is closeness on each attempt, but accuracy in scientific measurements means how close is the average of multiple measurements to the correct value.

  143. Ron said,

    March 8, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Believe me, I get it. My post stands.

  144. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 8, 2017 at 9:40 am

    @ Don: We seem to be talking past each other, which might be a fault of my expression. I don’t want to get bogged down in math on a theology blog, so let me express a couple of points that we seem to agree on and move on?

    One point that needs correction in my comments above is that I’ve conflated a frequentist confidence interval with a Beyesian credibility interval — a mistake that turns out to be common, even among statistics professors. As a result of our interaction, I did some additional reading and asking around, and realized that my comments above are correct for credibility intervals, which give an interval that contains the correct value with probability, but not strictly correct (though commonly held) for confidence intervals, which have a more technical meaning.

    So thanks for stimulating further research!

    Points of agreement among Jeff, Don, Benjamin, Ron:

    (1) Measurements are not infinitely precise.
    (2) The actual accuracy of a measurement is unknown.

    Points of agreement among Jeff, Don, Benjamin, but perhaps not Ron:

    (3) Accuracy and precision are two different concepts that are not necessarily related.

    Fair summary?

  145. Don said,

    March 8, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Jeff,
    Not sure about point #1. The number of letters in “beat a dead horse” is precisely fourteen.

  146. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 8, 2017 at 10:08 am

    So turning back to the matter at hand of archetypal and ectypal knowledge, propositions, and definitions, I’d like to answer your questions about definition, Benjamin.

    Definitions

    I’m using the following terms and assumptions:

    * A proposition is a true or false logical relation.
    * The truth or falsity of a proposition is known to God noncontingently and immediately. This is archetypal knowledge.
    * Propositions are communicated to us (by God or by each other) in sentences in a particular language.
    * A person’s understanding of a sentence is the proposition that he or she assigns to it. That is, there is a mapping of sentences to propositions.

    The Prize — Why Care?

    Before defining the Approximation Model, why do I care about this, enough to combox it? Why do I think that we all should care?

    Because the job of an elder is to exegete sentences of Scripture and to attempt to understand the meaning of those sentences as intended by the Spirit through the human authors. It is important for an elder to understand how the exegetical process works, and what kind of confidence he can have in his results.

    Likewise, it is important for the person in the pew to understand the relationship between his own Scriptural reading, the teaching from the pulpit, and pronouncements from church councils.

    And in particular, it is important for a church-goer to understand why catechism in addition to Bible-reading is a vital part of hearing God’s word.

    Here are some of the pastoral problems I’ve observed that raise the issues that I think the Approximation Model solves well.

    (1) Overconfidence in individual interpretation (solo scriptura)

    Some readers of Scripture “just know” that a given passage means X, and no amount of careful reasoning or church teaching can move them off of dead center.

    The core of such misplaced confidence is the false belief that the proposition I assign to a sentence is the correct or true one.

    And for that reason, the reader feels a moral duty to hold on to his or her belief to the death — because “God said so in the Bible.”

    There is no separation in that person’s mind between the text on the page (infallible!) and the interpretation of that text (fallible).

    The Approximation Model separates sentences from propositions so that we can all see clearly that our interpretations are not equivalent to Scripture.

    (2) The Quest for Infallible Certainty of Belief; or underconfidence in the perspecuity of Scripture.

    Others are troubled by the notion that our individual interpretations are fallible, so they fall prey to an individual or church that putatively offers up an infallible interpretation. They fall prey to a false alternative: Either an interpretation is infallibly true, or else it is of no value. They are seduced by the reasoning that if a church interpretation is not infallible, then it is not authoritative.

    The Approximation Model distinguishes levels of confidence so that individuals can understand why church pronouncements can be both more authoritative than individual statements, but at the same time not infallible.

    (3) And related: Inability to sort out conflicting interpretations in commentaries.

    Many readers of Scripture, when puzzled by a passage, gravitate to commentaries based upon reputation or familiarity. Even among sermon preparers, there can be a tendency to rely upon known authorities rather than assessing: Of competing interpretations, which has the best ground?

    The Approximation Model helps to think along these lines.

  147. March 8, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Dear Jeff:

    (@146):

    1. The discussion is proceeding at a very fast pace.

    I will comment on your (@146) first since it contains your definitions and I will backtrack to your prior comments later on.

    Although my comments highlight mostly disagreements, I want to let you know that I am sympathetic with your sentiments.

    2. [You wrote]: “A proposition is a true or false logical relation.”

    This is a very nonstandard definition of the term “proposition”.

    The common understanding is that a proposition is the bearer of truth and falsity.
    A proposition is that which is either true or false.

    A unary logical relation on a proposition is negation.

    Some binary logical relations between propositions are conjunction, disjunction, contradiction, contrariety, subcontrariety, consistency, implication, equivalence, etc.

    3. [You wrote]: “The truth or falsity of a proposition is known to God noncontingently and immediately. This is archetypal knowledge.”

    Your use of the phrase “the truth or falsity of a proposition” indicates that you are following the common usage and that you are not following your own definition.

    I agree with you that God knows the truth-value of a proposition noncontingently.

    This is because God is essentially omniscient.

    I also agree with you that God knows the truth-value of a proposition immediately.

    The reason that God knows the truth-value of a proposition immediately is because:

    (a) Nececessary truths are about the nature of God and God knows about His own nature immediately.

    (b) Contingent truth and falsity are determined by the will of God and God also knows what He has determined immediately.

    You have defined “archetypal knowledge” as the ways God knows: noncontingently and immediately.

    May I presume that you will define “ectypal knowledge” also as the ways human beings know: contingently and mediately.

    If that is the case, then Gordon Clark agrees with you, or better yet, you agree with Gordon Clark.

    Cornelius Van Til applies the ontological Creator-creation Distinction to the epistemolgical objects of knowledge and bifurcated the latter into two ontological types.

    What distinguishes Van Tilian archetypal knowledge is that the epistemological objects of knowledge of archetypal knowledge are those for God and as such are uncreated.

    What distinguishes Van Tilian ectypal knowledge is that the epistemological objects of knowledge of ectypal knowledge are those for angels and human beings and as such are created.

    In Van Tilian epistemolgy, the archetypal vs. ectypal distinction is an ontological type distinction applying to the epistemological objects of knowledge.

    I just want to point out that your definition of archetypal knowledge has nothing to do with Cornelius Van Til’s theory of knowledge.

    4. [You wrote]: “Propositions are communicated to us (by God or by each other) in sentences in a particular language.”

    I agree for the most part.

    But how would you explain the following very interesting linguistic phenomena:

    [Acts 2:5-13]: “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.’ And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’ ”

    5. [You wrote]: “A person’s understanding of a sentence is the proposition that he or she assigns to it. That is, there is a mapping of sentences to propositions.”

    I agree.

    I like to additionally point out that the assignment may or may not be voluntary, or may or may not be within one’s control.

    6. [You wrote]: “The core of such misplaced confidence is the false belief that ‘the proposition I assign to a sentence is the correct or true one.’ ”

    Is it always false that the proposition I assign to a sentence is the correct or true one?

    7. [You wrote]: “The Approximation Model separates sentences from propositions so that we can all see clearly that our interpretations are not equivalent to Scripture.”

    Actually, many introductory logic textbooks make the distinction between sentences and propositions.

    It is not something unique to the Approximation Model.

    8. [You wrote]: “The Quest for Infallible Certainty of Belief; or underconfidence in the perspecuity of Scripture.”

    Infallible belief and certain belief are two different things.

    I cannot immediately think of a contemporary philosopher who believes in infallible belief.

    Many contemporary philosophers believe that knowledge implies certain belief.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  148. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 8, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    @ Benjamin:

    Thanks for the feedback.

    #2: Yes, I’m fine with using the standard definition. The intent of “logical relation” was to include relations between subjects and predicates as well as quantifiers, as well as higher-order relations:

    P: A “prime number” is a number with exactly two factors.
    Q: There exists an even prime.
    R: “A or not A” is a valid statement.
    S: ‘”(A or B) and A” implies “B”‘ is an invalid statement.

    etc.

    #3. I would not say that I am championing either Clark or van Til here, so it’s OK if my archetypal / ectypal definition is closer to Clark’s than van Til’s.

    I have doubts about trying to be precise about the ontological nature of propositions.

    #4. Good example! I would say that each one heard in at least one language that he or she understood, and mapped sentence to proposition from that language.

    #5. Agreed with the addition.

    #6. No, I should have qualified: “The core of such misplaced confidence is the false belief that ‘the proposition I assign to a sentence is necessarily the correct or true one.’ ”

    #7. Agreed. I am actually NOT trying to break new ground here. Rather, I am trying to bring out the exegetical method of Old Princeton as a method grounded in scientific rather than mathematical inference from text to meaning.

    #8. Benjamin: Infallible belief and certain belief are two different things. I cannot immediately think of a contemporary philosopher who believes in infallible belief. Many contemporary philosophers believe that knowledge implies certain belief.

    Right, infallible belief is incapable of error; (genuinely) certain belief is simply true but could hypothetically have been erroneous.

    However, a common argument by some is that infallibility is a necessary condition for certainty. The argument runs, “For if a belief is capable of error, no matter how small, then how can I be sure that I am not in error to hold it?”

    In particular, I think we need to understand certainty in a way that does not make it a practical synonym for infallibility.

  149. March 9, 2017 at 2:52 am

    Dear Jeff:

    1. I am still very puzzled about the nature of your Approximation project.

    The purpose of this post is to applied the “Clark Test” to some examples to see if I can pinpoint what causes the puzzlement.

    Since inconsistency comes in two basic varieties, I would include both contradictory and contrary in the Clark Test.

    Thus, the Clark Test is a test for the definiteness of our understanding of a concept (including a proposition) by testing if we can distinguish a concept from its contradictory and contrary by excluding them in use.

    I think earlier Ron has use something very similar to the Clark Test although he has not given a name to his use.

    The concepts that mainly cause my puzzlement are “approximate meaning” and “approximate truth”.

    I am puzzled because my prejudice is that believing truly and knowing truly only require definite understanding, not approximate nor infinitely precise understanding.

    2. Take as example (per your @128):

    p : The measurement is 10 meters with a standard error of the mean of 0.1 meter.

    not p : It is false that the measurement is 10 meters with a standard error of the mean of 0.1 meter.

    Applying the Clark Test to p using not p only, I understand p definitely because I understand how to use p and how to exclude not p in use.

    3. Take as another example (also per your @128):

    q : A 95% confidence interval gives a 95% confidence that if the individual measurement errors are normally distributed, then the true measurement is 95% likely to fall within the 95% confidence interval range.

    not q : It is false that a 95% confidence interval gives a 95% confidence that if the individual measurement errors are normally distributed, then the true measurement is 95% likely to fall within the 95% confidence interval range.

    Applying the Clark Test to q using not q only, I also understand q definitely because I understand how to use q and how to exclude not q in use.

    4. Both p and q are propositional truth-claims so they are either true or false.

    I also understand p and q definitely such that if either p or q are true, it is possible that I know either p or q.

    Both p and q are in their nature probability claims.

    But does it follows from p or q being probability truth claims that I must understand p or q in a probabiltifies (sic) way.

    Let:

    ‘a’ be a constant.

    ‘(c1, c2, c3, … c9)’ be measurements that measure the event A.

    ‘(e1, e2, e3, … e9)’ be the corresponding error measurements.

    ‘x’ be a random variable denoting measurements.

    Consider the following probability truth claims:

    r : x = (c1, c2, c3 … c9) with error measurements (e1, e2, e3, … e9).

    s : The error measurements (e1, e2, e3, … e9) are normally distributed.

    t : P(A) = a.

    Questions:

    Does r, s and t being probability truth claims imply that I cannot understand them definitely, either individually or in combinations?

    Must my understanding itself be probability qualifies just because r, s, and t are probability truth claims?

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  150. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 10, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Hi Benjamin,

    This is helpful discussion. I think the Scriptural examples are helpful, so let’s keep doing that.

    Benjamin: the Clark Test is a test for the definiteness of our understanding of a concept (including a proposition) by testing if we can distinguish a concept from its contradictory and contrary by excluding them in use.

    This is good pedagogy: “This, not that” is a typical way to teach the meaning of words.

    I do however fail to see the difference between definite as defined and precise. That is:

    A definite understanding can distinguish between X and not X in use.

    A precise understanding can explain what constitutes X as opposed to those things that are not X.

    To take an example above: “All who are justified are justified by faith.”

    To have a definite understanding, one must have a definite understanding of what it means to be justified and a definite understanding of faith, and then a definite understanding of by faith (prepositions are notorious in exegetical work).

    And actually, a definite understanding of all. Does this include elect infants dying in infancy? These pages have seen debates over that topic…

    Can I distinguish justified from not-justified reliably? Can I distinguish faith from not-faith reliably? If so, then my understanding is both definite and precise. If not, then my understanding is neither definite nor precise.

    So help me understand (“This, not that”!) how you are distinguishing the two terms.

    At this stage, I would say that

    (a) It appears that our understanding cannot be perfectly definite for the same reason that it cannot be perfectly precise, so that

    (b) Your argument for the adequacy of monotonic understanding is really an argument that our understanding is approximate (ie, not fully precise), and that’s OK.

    But points (a) and (b) are contingent on the logical equivalence of definite and precise.

  151. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 10, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Now for my definition:

    To say that our understanding of sentences is approximate means

    (1) That our understanding of terms in those sentences is not infinitely precise, so that there will always be a range of possible meanings (the “semantic range, in context”) for each term. Some terms are narrower, some broader.

    For example:

    The Lord is my shepherd

    I can understand that a shepherd is one who tends sheep.

    But I don’t have a fully precise understanding of tending, nor of sheep.

    This does not mean that I am unable to understand the sentence at all; it just means that my understanding will be imprecise, or approximate.

    (2) That our inferences from our understanding is therefore contingent and possibly subject to error.

    The famous example: At Marburg, Luther pounded the table and shouted, “This is my body!”

    He spoke in reference to Christ’s words at communion, thus insisting on a literal interpretation of the words “this is my body”, and thus inferred that Christ’s body must literally be present at communion.

    Because the range of meaning of “this is my body” included both the possibility of literal and metaphorical meanings, Luther ought to have had more epistemic humility: He should have realized that there was a possibility of error in his understanding.

    Sadly, he did not — and the Reformed world was forever split thereafter.

    (Not saying it was all his fault)

    (3) Yet our understanding is not therefore utterly unreliable (pace Catholic apologists) but rather is more or less reliable according to the strength of its warrant from Scripture.

    Hence the role of church councils and pronouncements: The authority of the church consists in providing strong weight to interpretations.

    That is what approximate meaning is all about: living with imprecision in terms; accepting that our interpretations have the possibility of error, while insisting that approximation does not entail unreliability.

  152. March 10, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Dear Jeff:

    The purpose of this post is to continue to probe your project of Approximation.

    1. [You wrote @150]: “I do however fail to see the difference between ‘definite’ as defined and ‘precise’.”

    As I understand it, “definite” refers to how firm we grasp a concept in use by our ability to distinguish it from its contradictory or contrary.

    I conceptualize “precision” in terms the number of decimal places a number has to the right of the decimal point.

    Thus, an example of a number precise to 5 significant digits is 0.12345.

    Assuming all the digits are significant, 0.123456789 is more precise than 0.12345.

    The number 0.999… is infinitely precise.

    The number 1 is perfectly precise.

    So, as I understand them, “definite” and “precise” are different concepts.

    2. [You wrote @151]: “That our understanding of terms in those sentences is not infinitely precise, so that there will always be a range of possible meanings (the “semantic range, in context”) for each term. Some terms are narrower, some broader.”

    Then you identify “imprecise” with “approximate”.

    Then you define “approximate meaning” as imprecision in the terms of a sentence.

    Interlude:

    “Terms” and “sentences” are linguistic entities.

    Their mental counterparts are “concepts” and “propositions”.

    I am happy with any mixed uses as long as we keep the distinction in mind.

    3. If we consider pairwise the three concepts “definite”, “precise”, and “imprecise” with repetition allows, there are 9 (i.e. 3 x 3 = 9) cases to consider:

    (1) Definitely definite.

    (2) Definitely precise.

    (3) Definitely imprecise.

    (4) Precisely definite.

    (5) Precisely precise.

    (6) Precisely imprecise.

    (7) Imprecisely definite.

    (8) Imprecisely precise.

    (9) Imprecisely imprecise.

    4. For my epistemology, following Gordon Clark, to be tenable, the first three cases must be possible:

    (a) Can I be definite that I am definite in my understanding of a concept?

    I can.

    But I need to perform a second-order reflection on my first-order understanding of that concept.

    (b) Can I be definite that I am precise in my understanding of a concept?

    I can.

    I am definite that I am precise in my understanding of the concept of the number 1.

    (c) Can I be definite that I am imprecise im my understanding of a concept?

    I can.

    When I am learning a new concept and am uncertain about its meanings and how to apply that concept, then I can be definite that my understanding of that concept is imprecise.

    5. I am still puzzled by your project of Approximation.

    Am I correct that your project is concerned with cases (7) to (9) above?

    If so, I am very concerned with case (9):

    If all our understanding are imprecisely imprecise, then no knowledge is possible.

    Skepticism results.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  153. March 11, 2017 at 12:18 am

    Dear Jeff:

    Some further thoughts on your last two posts:

    1. [You wrote @150]: “(a) It appears that our understanding cannot be perfectly definite for the same reason that it cannot be perfectly precise.”

    My contention, following Gordon Clark, is that believe and knowledge require definite understanding, not perfectly definite understanding.

    2. [You wrote @150]:

    “(b) Your argument for the adequacy of monotonic understanding is really an argument that our understanding is approximate (ie, not fully precise), and that’s OK.”

    “But points (a) and (b) are contingent on the logical equivalence of definite and precise.”

    [My reply]:

    I do not consider “definite” and “precise” to be logically equivalent concepts.

    3. [You wrote @151]: “(1) That our understanding of terms in those sentences is not infinitely precise, so that there will always be a range of possible meanings (the “semantic range, in context”) for each term. Some terms are narrower, some broader.”

    Two comments:

    (a) Again, believe and knowledge require definite understanding, not infinitely precise understanding.

    (b) Consider:

    p : Our understanding of a sentence must be approximate because the terms in the sentence is imprecise in that there is always a range of possible meanings for each term.

    not p : It is false that our understanding of a sentence must be approximate because the terms in the sentence is imprecise in that there is always a range of possible meanings for each term.

    Applying the Clark Test to p, I understand p definitely because I understand how to use p and how to exclude not p in use.

    p is an imprecision and approximation claim about our understanding.

    Yet I have a definite understanding of p.

    As a matter of fact, following Gordon Clark, I agree with p.

    There is nothing paradoxical about anyone having a definite understanding of p if we keep in mind that “definite” and “imprecise” are different concepts.

    [Gordon Clark @111]: “For a decade or so Clark taught a course in the Philosophy of Language, and in 1980 published [Language and Theology]. Of course Poythress could not have used the book, for his date is 1976. But Clark’s ideas were clear enough in his previous publications and there is nothing in them that substantiates Poythress’s conclusion. The center of Poythress’s blunder is the sentence, “His ideal seems to be that each word would have one precise meaning.” The students who took Clark’s class in Language should all remember that his first lecture emphasized the fact that most English words have four or five different meanings.”

    4. [You wrote @151]: “(2) That our inferences from our understanding is therefore contingent and possibly subject to error.”

    Our understanding is contingent and fallible (i.e. liable to error) is not because our understanding is imprecise.

    Our understanding is contingent because God freely (and can refrain from) created us and therefore we are contingent beings.

    Our understanding is fallible because our knowledge acquisition mechanism has been damaged by sin.

    Our fallibility is not a consequence of our finiteness but of the doctrine of Total Depravity.

    I wonder that when in heaven, if our knowledge would be finite but infallible.

    Since we will be free from sin in heaven, I wonder if our knowledge acquisition will be such that it is not liable to error.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  154. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 11, 2017 at 9:22 am

    Hi Benjamin,

    Briefly so as to get my work done here:

    (1) Thanks again for the substantive and cordial discussion. In the end, we may not be able to reach agreement; still and all, I feel that I understand better some of the concerns that animate a Clarkian perspective.

    (2) I’m not sure that our fallibility is the result of the Fall. Eve’s knowledge of God’s command appears to have been in error prior to the Fall.

    Nevertheless, 1 Cor 13 does lend some support to the idea that in the eschaton, we will know truly.

    (3) From #152, I understand what you mean by precise as applied to measurements.

    But I am still confused about what you mean by precise as applied to either terms or concepts.

    For example, what does it mean to say I have a precise understanding of ‘faith’ or the Westminster Confession gives a precise definition of ‘justification’? And how would that differ from a definite understanding of each of those terms?

    As it stands, you clearly are thinking of definite and precise as different terms, but I cannot distinguish the two terms in their use.

  155. March 11, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Dear Jeff:

    1. Maybe this is a natural stopping point for our discussion.

    I too thank you for the conversation. : – )

    In trying to understand your project of Approximation, I have at the same time clarified and deepened my understanding of Gordon Clark’s epistemology.

    Originally, I hope to pursue with you your two proposed candidates for non-conceptual truth in (@112).

    But maybe at another time.

    I have done some concentrated thinking for our conversation in the last few days and my brain is aching right now.

    I will end this post by briefly replying to your (@154).

    Also, I am only an occasional reader of [Green Baggins].

    If you or others have any questions regarding my comments, I will drop by in two to three weeks time and answer anything that needs answering.

    2. Two brief replies:

    (a) [You wrote @154]: “I’m not sure that our fallibility is the result of the Fall. Eve’s knowledge of God’s command appears to have been in error prior to the Fall.”

    The Fall is not the result of any defective understanding and knowledge on the part of Adam and Eve, but it was an act of deliberate rebellion of their wills.

    (b) [You wrote @154]: “For example, what does it mean to say I have a precise understanding of ‘faith’ or the Westminster Confession gives a precise definition of ‘justification’? And how would that differ from a definite understanding of each of those terms?”

    Gordon Clark has in [Faith and Saving Faith (1983)] defined: “Faith, by definition,is assent to understood propositions. Not all cases of assent, even assent to Biblical propositions, are saving faith; but all saving faith is assent to one or more Biblical propositions.”

    Gordon Clark’s definition of “faith” and “saving faith” were part of a very heated discussion here in [Green Baggins] a few years ago.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  156. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 14, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Yes, I’d be happy to pick up at another time. Feel free to ping me at jrcagle.blogspot.com if you like.

    Replies:

    (a) There appears to be a misunderstanding: I was not suggesting that the Fall was a result of lack of knowledge. I was rather suggesting that Eve’s knowledge was imperfect (Gen 3.3) prior to the Fall.

    If correct, that would show that imperfections in knowledge are not solely due to the noetic effects of sin.

    As a separate issue, I agree with you that the Fall was an act of rebellion.

    (b) I remember that heated discussion!

    The issue turned on the meaning of assent for Clark. Whereas the traditional Reformed understanding of saving faith includes understanding, assent, and trust, Clark wished to reduce the terminology to assent only so as to guard against smuggling works into the definition of saving faith.

    As the discussion proceeded, it turned out that Clark’s definition of assent was possibly more substantial than many others’ definitions, so that it was possible that “assent” as used by Clark included elements of knowledge (certainly!) and trust (possibly).

    In other words, the whole argument turned upon the meaning of words.

    And it seems to me that that heated discussion illustrates my thesis: It is impossible to exhaustively define terms so as to prevent all possible misunderstandings by clear-thinking individuals.

    Hence, when we communicate propositions by means of sentences (whether sending or receiving), our understanding of those sentences will be approximate, not exact.

    I think this fact explains why (seemingly) well-meaning, educated, intelligent officers in Reformed denominations have trouble communicating with each other about central issues like saving faith.

    (I mean: our number one job is communicating to the flock what saving faith means! How then if we cannot come to consensus among our selves? What accounts for that?

    Is it just that the other side are unrepentant sinners? Me genoito.)

    Seems to me that if we are going to have productive discussions, it would be best to aim for a sufficiently narrow definition that guards against error rather than the perfectly definite concept that captures the truth without any error.

    I don’t think you can guarantee the latter, and the quest for it might prove ruinous.

    I would also hold up the Reformed creeds (Westminster, Belgic) as being constructed along the lines of the first method and not the second.

    Peace,

  157. March 15, 2017 at 1:56 am

    Dear Jeff:

    I will split my replies to your (@156) into four posts.

    [You wrote @156]:

    “(a) There appears to be a misunderstanding: I was not suggesting that the Fall was a result of lack of knowledge. I was rather suggesting that Eve’s knowledge was imperfect (Gen 3.3) prior to the Fall.”

    “If correct, that would show that imperfections in knowledge are not solely due to the noetic effects of sin.”

    [My reply]:

    (1) Our knowledge in heaven will also be imperfect in that we will not be omniscient.

    Our knowledge in heaven will be finite and partial yet we cannot sin in heaven.

    This shows that the Fall has nothing to do with imperfect knowledge.

    (2) Our epistemic fallibility is definitely related to sin.

    Between creation and the new heavens and new earth:

    It is possible that human beings sin, therefore human beings are liable to epistemic errors.

    In the new heavens and new earth:

    It is not possible that human beings sin, therefore human beings are not liable to epistemic errors.

    (3) How emotion is classified is another aspect of the Clark-Van Til Controversy.

    Cornelius Van Til favored a tripartite division of human faculties into intellect, will, and emotion.

    Gordon Clark favored a bipartite division of human faculties into intellect and will.

    (Clark does not favor faculties psychology but I will bracket that out for ease of discussion.)

    Clark has never denied that humans have emotions but he classified emotions as a functional aspect of the will in that our emotions ought to be under the control of our wills.

    I will follow Clark usage in this post.

    (4) Contemporary discussions of action theory usually begins with:

    Action = belief + desire + ?

    Our action is a function of our belief and desire plus some unknowns.

    (It must be noted that our action is based on our belief and not knowledge.

    That we also know some of what we believe is incidental to our actions.)

    Our desires are intimately connected with our emotions.

    But while all our desires are intentional, some of our emotions are not.

    (5) A little bit more on Eve being deceived.

    Although in [Genesis 2:16-17] God’s command to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was addressed to Adam alone, there is no reason to suppose that Adam repeated God’s command to Eve incorrectly.

    [Genesis 3:1-7 ESV]: “1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’ 2 And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” ‘ 4 But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”
    Notice verse 6b: “and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise”.

    Eve’s beliefs and actions were deformed by her desires.

    The primary causal factor for the Fall are improper desires or emotions and consequently is concerned with the will.

    Belief and the intellect were a factor in that they were also influenced and deformed by desires or emotions.

    One way we suppress the truth in unrighteousness per [Romans 1:18] is to act on our unrighteous desires instead of acting on our true beliefs; our unrighteous desires dominates our true beliefs in issuing in action.

    Since the Fall, all our beliefs, and consequently, all our actions are also deformed by our desires in some ways.

    Although there are many Bible passages that link belief, desire and action, our theories of knowledge have surprising little to say on this topic.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  158. March 15, 2017 at 1:57 am

    Dear Jeff:

    [You wrote @156]:

    “(b) I remember that heated discussion!”

    “The issue turned on the meaning of ‘assent’ for Clark. Whereas the traditional Reformed understanding of saving faith includes understanding, assent, and trust, Clark wished to reduce the terminology to assent only ‘so as’ to guard against smuggling works into the definition of saving faith.”

    “As the discussion proceeded, it turned out that Clark’s definition of assent was possibly more substantial than many others’ definitions, so that it was possible that ‘assent’ as used by Clark included elements of knowledge (certainly!) and trust (possibly).”

    “In other words, the whole argument turned upon the meaning of words.”

    [My reply]:

    (1) For human beings, belief and knowledge depend on meaning.

    In human learning, the semantic stage precedes the epistemic stage.

    In this sense, I agree with your “the whole argument turned upon the meaning of words.”

    But that was not the issue with Gordon Clark’s definition of “faith”.

    Clark’s definition (1983, 118): “Faith, by definition, is assent to understood propositions. Not all cases of assent, even assent to Biblical propositions, are saving faith; but all saving faith is assent to one or more Biblical propositions.”

    Two things to notice about Clark’s definition:

    (a) The epistemic objects of “faith” are propositions.

    (b) Faith requires the weaker epistemic state of belief but not the stronger epistemic state of knowledge.

    (2) Recall the real vs. nominal distinction in definition theories.

    A real definition defines a thing while a nominal definition defines a word.

    Gordon Clark was not defining the word ‘faith’.

    Clark was defining the thing “faith”.

    How does one define a thing?

    One can define a thing by enumerating an essence of that thing.

    Following Alvin Plantinga, I understand an essence of an object to be a property that is essential and essentially unique to that object.

    In defining “faith” as “assent to understood propositions”, Gordon Clark is making two claims:

    (a) “Assent to understood propositions” is essential to faith in that a person could not have faith unless he assents to understood propositions.

    (b) “Assent to understood propositions” is essentially unique to faith in that nothing other than faith could be assent to understood propositions.

    I will now briefly critique two alternative theories.

    (3) The traditional Reformed definition of faith consists of three elements: notitia
    (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust).

    My focus is on whether “trust” is an essence of faith.

    Now, a thing can have multiple essences, i.e. a thing can have more than one essences.

    If trust is an essence of faith, then:

    (a) Trust is essential to faith in that a person could not have faith unless he trust (another person).

    (b) Trust is essentially unique to faith in that nothing other than faith could have trust.

    Notice that making trust an essence of faith has the effect of making the object of faith a person.

    One spill over effect of this is the proliferation of “relational theory of truth” and “non-conceptual truth”.

    But my focus will be the question:

    Can one have faith without trust?

    If one can, then trust does not belong to the essence of faith.

    If one can, then trust does not belong to the definition of faith.

    I submit that when a Christian sins, he is not trusting God at that moment.

    Consider: Unless a Christian that sins but have not repent and confess his sins and received forgiveness from God is not a Christian anymore, then trust cannot be an essence of faith.

    I submit that making trust an essence of faith has Arminian theological implications.

    Since a Chrisitian who does not trust God and sins is still a Christian, trust cannot be an essence of faith.

    Making trust an essence of faith has enormous pastoral implications in that it makes many Christians doubt whether they are Christians anymore when they sins.

    Properly understood, trust is a consequence of faith but not an essence of faith.

    (4) The second alternative theory I will briefly critique is the theory that faith is based on the evidence for a belief.

    (I have some notes saying this was the view of Edward Carnell but I have not drop down the citation to Carnell in my notes.)

    If faith is proportional to the evidence for a belief, and if our evidences and counter-evidences for a belief varies over time, then our faith will also varies over time with our changes in evidences and counter-evidences.

    Making evidence an essence of faith has enormous pastoral implications in that it makes many Christians uncertain whether what they believe are true.

    Faith is related to evidence but faith is ultimately caused by the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.

    (5) Conclusion:

    The two alternative theories of faith have negative implications for our assurance of salvation.

    Not only do I believe Gordon Clark’s definition of faith is the correct one, his definition does not suffer from the negative pastoral implications of these two alternative theories.

    Reference:

    Clark, Gordon H. 1983. Faith and Saving Faith. Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  159. March 15, 2017 at 1:57 am

    Dear Jeff:

    [You wrote @156]:

    “In other words, the whole argument turned upon the meaning of words.”

    “And it seems to me that that heated discussion illustrates my thesis: It is impossible to exhaustively define terms so as to prevent all possible misunderstandings by clear-thinking individuals.”

    “Hence, when we communicate propositions by means of sentences (whether sending or receiving), our understanding of those sentences will be approximate, not exact.”

    [My reply]:

    Since we did not finish my probing of your project of Approximation, I am not sure whether we agree or disagree on this point.

    We both agree that our understanding are approximate or imprecise.

    But can our understanding be definitely imprecise?

    I believe it can be.

    If you also agree, then we agree with each other; otherwise, we disagree.

    Can our understanding be imprecisely imprecise?

    I believe it cannot be.

    If you also agree, then we agree with each other; otherwise, we disagree.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  160. March 15, 2017 at 1:58 am

    Dear Jeff:

    [You wrote @156]:

    “I think this fact explains why (seemingly) well-meaning, educated, intelligent officers in Reformed denominations have trouble communicating with each other about central issues like saving faith.”

    “(I mean: our number one job is communicating to the flock what saving faith means! How then if we cannot come to consensus among our selves? What accounts for that?
    Is it just that the other side are unrepentant sinners? Me genoito.)”

    “Seems to me that if we are going to have productive discussions, it would be best to aim for a sufficiently narrow definition that guards against error rather than the perfectly definite concept that captures the truth without any error.”

    “I don’t think you can guarantee the latter, and the quest for it might prove ruinous.”

    “I would also hold up the Reformed creeds (Westminster, Belgic) as being constructed along the lines of the first method and not the second.”

    [My reply]:

    (1) I have written this before but let me reiterate:

    Belief and knowledge does not require “perfectly definite concept”, but just definite understanding of a concept.

    (2) I do not believe all the discussions are well-meaning.

    For example, I believe that Greg L. Bahnsen was not honest with his readers in his [Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (1998)] regarding Gordon Clark and the Clark-Van Til Controversy.

    I have taken Bahnsen to task in a very scathing post in my blog:

    “When Black Becomes White: On Some Footnotes of Greg L. Bahnsen”

    http://notes-on-gordon-h-clark.blogspot.ca/2014/07/notes-when-black-becomes-white-on-some.html

    (3) On the other hand, I have enjoyed our discussions very much. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  161. Jacques said,

    March 16, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Jeff-
    does your Method allow for us to see clearly when our interpretations in fact are equivalent to Scripture? If not, then your method suffers from built-in systematic bias. Why would anyone accept such an obviously flawed method?

  162. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 17, 2017 at 11:51 am

    @ Jacques:

    Your question admits of at least two meanings.

    If by see clearly, you mean have a high degree of confidence, then yes. If you mean have infallible knowledge, then no.

    Take a look, for example, at the commentary of Charles Hodge on Romans. Observe how he marshals evidence to come to the best reading of a passage, as the best commentators all do.

    His basic method is to consider possible readings, eliminate alternatives, and arrive at a conclusion. He does so using scientific, not mathematical, reasoning.

    For example, in his discussion of “faith imputed as righteousness” in Romans 4, he lists reasons why faith is not imputed as evangelical obedience. He walks through five pieces of supporting evidence (pp 169 – 171) and concludes that this alternative is not an option.

    If you were to ask Hodge, “Can you see clearly that your interpretation is equivalent to Scripture?”, would he claim that he has the right interpretation? Yes.

    Would he claim that his interpretation is infallible? No.

    Or that it is correct in every detail? No.

    It’s not clear that you can eliminate systemic bias by believing that your interpretations are equivalent to Scripture.

  163. Ron said,

    March 17, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Jacques,

    Fallible knowledge is a contradiction in terms. If not, then what’s the difference between infallible knowledge and non-infallible (fallible) knowledge. In other what is it to know something that might not be true, believed or without warrant? People are fallible. Knowledge isn’t.

    Secondly, WCF 28.2 speaks of believers obtaining unto infallible assurance of faith founded upon divine truth and promises. Infallible assurance either is, or includes, knowledge of one’s own salvation. When assurance is infallible, wouldn’t the (infallible) knowledge of some divine truth or promise be requisite? After all, how could infallible assurance be according to fallible knowledge of the truth or promise believed?

    You might even agree with all that.

  164. Ron said,

    March 17, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    Benjamin,

    I think GLB was an extraordinary gifted man but I’m afraid you’re right, some of his footnoting and commentary pertaining to GHC was flawed. Very unfortunate.

    I also think GLB learned much from GHC. I was already well versed in the former when I began reading the latter. I recall being struck by striking similarities at the time. Yet GHC had written those works well before GLB had penned his.

    That said, the transcendental challenge was CVT’s, not GHC’s. Both used reductios and both put forth the gospel solution. Yet CVT recognized not only that unbelievers can’t account for knowledge, reality and morality whereas Christianity can. He, also, recognized that to argue against Christianity one must first borrow in part an epistemological, metaphysical and ethical framework that only the God who has revealed himself in Scripture can provide. In other words, one must presuppose the very God they want to say they do not know in order to argue against His existence or their want of knowledge of Him.

  165. March 18, 2017 at 2:01 am

    Dear Ron:

    (@164)

    1. Thank you for reading my notes on Greg Bahnsen. : – )

    There is no question that Bahnsen was very gifted.

    But I have the impression that because he was involved in debates, in his writings he sometimes accentuate winning an argument to the detriment of being fair to his opponents.

    2. Although I eventually came down on Gordon Clark’s side in the Clark-Van Til Controversy, I recognize Cornelius Van Til to be a creative thinker.

    But his paradoxical thinking does a lot of harm to the Presbyterian and Reformed churches.

    One’s ability to distinguish truth from falsehood is compromised when one cannot tell a falsehood from a paradox.

    3. I have the impression since the Clark-Van Til Controversy, Van Til’s theory of knowledge as a research program has been languishing.

    Gordon Clark’s criticism that applying the ontological Creator-creation Distinction to the epistemological objects of knowledge will lead to skepticism is meant as destructive criticism.

    It is a criticism that has to be met, not ignored.

    Not meeting the criticism leads to the languishing of Van Til’s epistemology as a research program.

    4. A suggestion:

    Since a proposition is the bearer of both truth and meaning and since a proposition is individuated by its meaning, shifting the discussion from truth to meaning does not help the Van Tilian side.

    If my characterization is correct that applying the ontological Creator-creation Distinction to the epistemological objects of knowledge bifurcated the latter into two ontological types, then maybe borrowing some ideas from type theory may break the impasse.

    For example, an idea a programmer will encounter in his first programming course is type conversion and type coercion; many programming languages has implemented this feature.

    (“Type conversion”, Wikipedia): “An example would be the conversion of an integer value into a floating point value or its textual representation as a string, and vice versa.”

    Maybe human knowledge involves some sort of type conversion from Divine knowledge?

    Would this idea meets Gordon Clark’s criticisms?

    Just a suggestion.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  166. Jacques said,

    March 18, 2017 at 4:15 am

    Jeff and Ron –
    I think Ron was directing 163 to Jeff – I actually have no quibbles with 163. Jeff please respond to Ron.

    To be honest I don’t see 162 as a reply to my question –

    Jeff, my Bible says that
    Jesus wept
    – my interpretation of that is that
    Jesus wept
    Doesn’t your method allow for the case where my interpretation is what the Scripture means?

  167. Ron said,

    March 18, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Jacques,

    Actually, I intended my post for you, though I anticipated you might think why am I not addressing Jeff instead. Certainly understandable. As I wrote at the end though, I thought it possible you might concur. (I would have no reason to write that to Jeff.) I hoped as much you’d agree and am glad to know you have no quibbles. I just wanted to confirm my favorable suspicion that you’d resonate with that brief post of mine.

  168. Ron said,

    March 18, 2017 at 8:49 am

    “But I have the impression that because he was involved in debates, in his writings he sometimes accentuate winning an argument to the detriment of being fair to his opponents.”

    Couple things, Benjamin. Bahnsen was cognizant of the need to represent his opponents truthfully. He spoke of the absolute requirement in light of the ninth commandment and even saw the strategic benefit of defeating only accurately formed depictions of one’s opponents. Furthermore, in Always Ready he even belabored the biblical basis for treating opponents charitably for the gospel’s sake. Lastly, I think he was acutely aware of truthfulness in this area given the onslaught of caricatures he met over his theonomic thesis.

    That said, as a general rule I don’t find that he failed in this area. Quite the reverse in fact. However, I do think he failed in too much of his treatment of Clark.

  169. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2017 at 10:01 am

    @ Jacques (#166): Jeff, my Bible says that
    Jesus wept
    – my interpretation of that is that
    Jesus wept
    Doesn’t your method allow for the case where my interpretation is what the Scripture means?

    Lots of tears or a few? Dry sobs or silence? A few seconds or ten minutes?

    There is a semantic range of meaning of the English word “wept”, and you and I would agree that Luke intended something within that range of meaning. That gives us an approximate understanding of what John intended. I would say that we both have an accurate, but not perfectly precise, understanding of the meaning of “Jesus wept.” If you and I try to mentally picture the scene, we may very well not be picturing the exact same event.

    And we would also agree, I hope, that it would be bad exegetical practice to choose *one* of those meanings and insist that we *know* that this is what John meant.

  170. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Not Luke, John. Fallibility.

  171. Ron said,

    March 18, 2017 at 10:56 am

    “That gives us an approximate understanding of what John intended. I would say that we both have an accurate, but not perfectly precise, understanding of the meaning of “Jesus wept.””

    Whatever wept means to God and whatever laughed means to God, we and God know that the text does not mean to God Jesus laughed.

  172. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Ron, I do indeed know that. But if you’re being consistent with #163, you cannot honestly claim to know it. To do so, your belief would have to be free from all possibility of error — no possibility at all of translation error, no possibility of scribal error, no possibility of previously undiscovered usages of ἐδάκρυσεν to mean “laughed.”

    If you cannot guarantee those things, then you cannot say “I know”, being consistent with your criterion in #163 that “knowledge cannot be fallible.”

    Fortunately, I suspect you are simply being inconsistent, and that you are claiming knowledge without actually meeting the high, high bar of impossibility of error.

    And that’s really why our conversations on this topic always stall out here. I see you as being inconsistent, claiming that “knowledge cannot be fallible” when you wish to refute any notion of approximation, but then claiming (as a fallible human being) to know things when you wish to refute any notion of skepticism.

    You can’t do both.

    If knowledge really and truly means knowing without possibility of error, then no human can attain to it apart from special revelation. Skepticism is inevitable.

    If on the other hand, one can know, yet fallibly so, then you are going to have to live with knowing approximately.

  173. Jacques said,

    March 18, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Jeff-
    God does not tell us that Jesus wept for 20 minutes. That’s adding to Scriptures – I’m under no requirement to make such additions in interpreting.

    God tells us plainly
    Jesus wept
    – my interpretation of that is that
    Jesus wept

    Doesn’t your method allow for the case where my interpretation is what the Scripture means?

    also, on your own terms, does God know there’s a semantic range to ‘wept’? Note that my question does not require knowing that range in exact detail – I simply asked if He knew there was a range. Yes? Then in this instance you know exactly what he knows.

  174. Ron said,

    March 18, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    But if you’re being consistent with #163, you cannot honestly claim to know it. To do so, your belief would have to be free from all possibility of error — no possibility at all of translation error, no possibility of scribal error, no possibility of previously undiscovered usages of ἐδάκρυσεν to mean “laughed.”

    Let me pick off the easy one first. Translation error and scribal error is irrelevant to the point. For one simple reason, the point is based upon the proposition you provided, which you communicated in an English statement, and has nothing to do with whether the event the proposition contemplates ever occurred, let alone whether the proposition is revelation. It’s not a matter of whether the text is true or even the word of God. It’s simply a proposition you stated in English. As such, even undiscovered usages of the Greek are irrelevant. They’re to be disregarded because the proposition has been put forth by you in English, incorporating your understanding of wept, which denotes for you something from no tears to an ocean full of tears, but certainly not anything like laughter.

    (Though interesting, I’ll refrain from getting into how you prove too much and undermine any hope of communication, even by analogy, ironically.) However, if it it’ll make things simpler, feel free to substitute “did not weep” for “laughed.” We’re talking about the law of contradiction, for one thing. All you’ve done is deny any basis for communication.

    What is possibly most striking is your, “Ron, I do indeed know that,” which was in response to: Whatever wept means to God and whatever laughed means to God, we and God know that the text does not mean to God Jesus laughed.

    You know that? What is the antecedent of that? Is the referent the entire statement? Is it more specifically the point I’m making? Or, might it be a reference to this object of knowledge: the text does not mean to God Jesus laughed. I’ll assume the latter, but I don’t want to be too confident given what I believe to be all the imprecisions in this thread.
    If the latter, how can you know even that given the epistemic constraints you think would apply to me? You write:

    If you cannot guarantee those things, then you cannot say “I know”, being consistent with your criterion in #163 that “knowledge cannot be fallible.”

    It’s hard to know where to begin, or even how to begin. Rather than try to address many possible misunderstandings that I think might lead to such a remark, I’ll just make a general observation that I think should apply to whatever plagues this discussion. All you’ve done (unwittingly, perhaps) is presuppose that truth is subjective and that God cannot know what we know because we somehow know different truths. For you, God is so precise he cannot know the proximate truth we know. Because He knows the precise length of a given gnat, he cannot know what we know – that it’s shorter than what we might perceive to be a mile, or that it’s not a camel, or even a non-gnat.

  175. Ron said,

    March 18, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    “God tells us plainly
    Jesus wept
    – my interpretation of that is that
    Jesus wept”

    This mightn’t pertain in its entirety to anyone here, but for many the law of identity is “human” logic so God does not believe Jesus wept is Jesus wept. It’s true for us but not for God. At the end of the day, what I sometimes hear is God believes all truth except for the “truth” we know. The elephant in the room is how can we call any of our beliefs “knowledge of the *truth*?” How can truth we know not be a subset of truth God believes?

    Benjamin said something about a school of thought languishing. I agree and am grateful for it.

  176. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    Ron (#174): If the latter, how can you know even that given the epistemic constraints you think would apply to me?

    Yes, the latter: I do know that “Jesus wept” (whether in English or Greek) does not mean “Jesus laughed.”

    For me to say “I know that Jesus cried (in some fashion) and did not laugh” means that I have overwhelming confidence that Jesus cried and did not laugh, because the alternatives have absurdly small probability.

    I don’t claim that knowledge is by definition infallible; hence, I am free to be unbothered by outside chances of, say, translation errors.

    You, on the other hand, are not free — unless you are willing to be inconsistent by ignoring the small possibilities of error.

    Zoom out for a bit. The question on the table is whether God always knows the same truths that we know. It is a universal question.

    Clark and those who champion his cause here affirm. Van Til denies.

    I have suggested a different approach: That we know approximately the same truths that God knows, and that our mode of knowing is not infallible, but fallible. Hence, we know to some degree of precision, but not to God’s; and we have a high degree of confidence, rather than infallible knowledge.

    Clark’s friends here have dissented (which is fine), and have offered up the following counterexamples:

    * When we measure a length at 12 inches, we know that the length is more than 11, but less than 13.
    * When we count letters in “Jacques”, we know that there are 7, no more and no less.
    * When we read in John that “Jesus wept”, we know that it means “Jesus wept.”
    * When we read in John that “Jesus wept”, we know that it doesn’t mean “Jesus did not weep.”

    Not to be rude, but these examples are not very convincing as a plausibility argument for the universal.

    At most, if I agree to each, I would be agreeing that there exist some propositions that God and I both know. And from the examples given, I would suggest that the propositions we know in common are mostly tautological.

    It would be a basic logical blunder to accept these examples as an argument for the universal, that all truths that we know are the same as truths that God knows.

    Also not to be rude, but these examples are very far away from the substantive questions that matter to an exegete.

    I would hope, Ron and Jacques, that if your sermon series in John were to hit John 11, that you would have more to say about the meaning of “Jesus wept” than that

    “It means that Jesus wept”

    or

    “It means that Jesus didn’t not weep.”

    But once you start wandering outside the tautological, how does your understanding of truth fare? Can you stand up in the pulpit and say “Thus saith the Lord” without claiming special revelation? I know that you do. But how, given that you are a fallible human being?

    Or when you come to presbytery, do you tell everyone else off because you know the truth and they don’t? Surely not — you rather listen, accepting that even you might be in error.

    Right?

  177. Ron said,

    March 18, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    Or just maybe your opponents’ responses appear trite to you because your position affords little for them to to work with outside certain analytic truth and things like the laws of identity and contradiction. That’s my take.

    No matter, good Lord’s Day tomorrow, Brother.

    Warmly,

    Ron

  178. Ron said,

    March 18, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    IOW Jeff, when one seemingly denies all knowledge, it’s best to try to get that person to see that he knows A is A and A is not ~A than anything as elaborate as synthetic truth.

  179. Jacques said,

    March 18, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Jeff,
    “Also not to be rude, but these examples are very far away from the substantive questions that matter to an exegete.”

    So am I to take it that a serious exegete will get to the bottom of ‘Jesus wept’ by figuring out if Jesus wept for 20 minutes with big sobs and much tears? I would think that exegete was seriously loony in thus going beyond what’s written.

    Anyway the examples provided you (even your own example which you constantly avoid or mutate) is not very far away at all from what this thread is about sir. Clark’s point was made if there was one point of coincidence. And these examples – as you seem to admit – unhappily – are such and therefore do not fit your model. So much the worse for your model. Consolation: your model by your own logic was not infallible anyway – but fallible – so “time to change, time to rearrange”.

    Finally you avoid this (and much like it):
    also, on your own terms, does God know there’s a semantic range to ‘wept’? Note that my question does not require knowing that range in exact detail – I simply asked if He knew there was a range. Yes? Then in this instance you know exactly what he knows.

  180. Jacques said,

    March 19, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Jeff
    do you know that you exist?
    are you possibly in error? that possibility entails/presupposes your existence.
    Do you have precise knowledge as God does on your own existence? No.
    It turns out you have infallible knowledge without precision on at least one point.
    Have done and go read Augustine’s Against the Academics – it’s quite the refutation of ‘approximation’ theories.


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