Becoming An Atheist

There are times when I can’t believe what I’m reading.  It happened this morning while sipping  my first cup coffee as I cruised over to the Greenbaggins blog.  I had made a couple of brief comments in response to an excellent short piece by Reed DePace.  DePace observed:

If God has spoken in any place in His word in error, how do we know He has not spoken in error when His word says we are freely justified in Christ? . . . After all, how can you truly tell when someone who is prone to speak in error is not? This is the fatal conundrum I fear those who are moving away from inerrancy will end up reaping in time to come.

Great point.  If the Scriptures are in error in one place, or even that they may be in error in say the creation account, then they are untrustworthy in every place.  However, it seems to me that those who maintain that the Scriptures contain logical paradoxes insoluble to the human mind logically end in the same place as those who claim that the Bible contains, or may contain, errors.   The reason is simple, while the truthfulness of “we are freely justified in Christ” could be affirmed it would also be theoretically possible to simultaneously affirm that “we are not freely justified in Christ.”  The Christian could never know if he has arrived at the truth, in fact for the Van Tilian he doesn’t know the truth at all but rather an analogy of it.

Well, this morning I came across this amazing comment by a particularly virulent Van Tilian who I’ve known for as long as I’ve had an Internet connection, Vern Crisler.  Crisler writes:

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

I confess when I read that first sentence I wasn’t really sure if I had read it correctly.  I must have went back to it three or four times just to make sure my eyes weren’t  deceiving me or that perhaps I needed another cup of coffee.  Nope, there it was:  “The problem with rationalists is that they believe the rational is the real.”

Speaking like a philosophically incompetent Crisler doesn’t believe the rational is real.  So when John in his prologue says the Logos was God we can know that God is not real.

Gordon Clark demonstrated years ago that men like Crisler are necessarily skeptics, now it seems Crisler has taken the next logical step. The problem with irrationalists and mystics like Crisler is that they are logically atheists.

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113 Comments on “Becoming An Atheist”

  1. kushisaac Says:

    OK, so wait, if the rational is not real, then the not real is the real rationally? What is that analogous to?

  2. Ron Henzel Says:

    A paradox is not a contradiction. An example of a contradiction would be as follows:

    Statement 1: “Light is a form of energy.”
    Statement 2: “Light is not a form of energy.”

    A paradox, on the other hand, goes like this:

    Statement 1: “Light displays an intrinsic characteristic of energy (i.e., it moves in waves).”
    Statement 2: “Light displays an intrinsic characteristic of matter (i.e., it moves as particles, photons).”

    Quantum physics seeks to explain this paradox by positing the dual nature of all matter (wave-particle duality), but it leaves the paradox of how anything (especially all the matter in the universe!) can behave like both matter and energy.

  3. Steve M Says:

    The problem with irrationalists is that they believe the irrational is the real. They don’t want to admit that there are some realities that do not go beyond human reasoning. Their “solutions” are unresolved “apparent paradoxes” of Christian teaching that are usually either heretical or philosophically incompetent (at least very confused).

  4. Ryan Says:

    Corollarily, I have seen an upswing in the number of times Clark’s philosophy has been pejoratively subsumed under infallibilism.

  5. Steve M Says:

    God (who is truth itself) said, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Is truth irrational? Can someone who says we must accept certain things that appear to be irrational and make no attempt to resolve them be said to be seeking the truth with ALL his (or her) heart (mind)? I don’t believe they can. I believe that those who disparage rationality do so precisely because they do not wish to seek the truth with their entire mind. These people find certain aspects of God as He is portrayed in Scripture to be distasteful and therefore refuse to apply reason to select passages and doctrines. Which doctrines they apply reason to and which they don’t is determined by their preconceived notion of what God “ought” to be like.

    Those who disparage rationality do so to avoid truth. To the extent that they do this they are not seeking God. All of us are guilty of some irrationality. We make mistakes in our reasoning. Making irrationality our goal instead of something that happens to us by mistake seems to me quite perverse.

    A scripturalist is not a rationalist. A scripturalist starts with scripture and applies logic to its propositions. I don’t know how one defends applying logic at some times and not at others. How does one know when and when not to apply it?

  6. Steve M Says:

    @Ron Henzel

    Your examples do not shed light on the subject.

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    I thought some might be interested in Vern’s reply:

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

    Spoken like a mystic. Of course, if the rational is not the real then it follow that the peace of God is irrational too. Concerning the passage in Philippians Vern references but doesn’t understand, Clark writes:

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

    I’m quite sure that this is another logical argument that is past Vern’s understanding.

  8. Tim Harris Says:

    “The problem with rationalists is that they believe the rational is the real.”

    I think what he is saying is, “it is not the case that ‘all rational entities are real’,” i.e. “some rational entities are not real.”

    (An example might be, a perfect right triangle. Unless you want to say, “all objects of the mind are real” as part of your metaphysic. If so, that’s too much of a digression for here. I am commenting on a one-liner with no context.)

    Thus, it would be fallacious to infer from this, “So when John in his prologue says the Logos was God we can know that God is not real.”

  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    The context, Tim, is that the Bible contains contradictions that we’re to believe are not contradictions for God.

  10. Steve M Says:

    Tim Harris:
    I think what he is saying is, “it is not the case that ‘all rational entities are real’,” i.e. “some rational entities are not real.”

    Steve M:
    Please give me an example of a “rational entity” that is not “real”.

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    He did, a perfect right triangle. Which, I suppose, means 1+1=2 isn’t real either.

  12. Steve M Says:

    Tim
    Are you saying that a perfect right triangle is not a real rational entity?

  13. Denson Dube Says:

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

    This is really pathetic! Such theological incompetence beggers belief. If this came from a 3 month old believer I could understand, but Vern has been passing himself for a Christian for more like decades?
    To have peace with God or to have the peace of God is to be reconciled to him through the imputed righteousness of His Son who died and rose again on our behalf. Understanding and belief of the work of Redemption reconciles us to God and also brings psychological assurance or rest to our minds. Something not understood or incomprehensible can not bring assurance. If I do not understand or know that someone has paid up my debts on my behalf, how can this ignorance bring peace to me about my insolvency situation? Indeed how can it?
    We know that Christ really died on Calvary’s cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins and rose again and is seated at the right hand of God on our behalf and that therefore we are now reconciled to God(have peace with God). The peace of God is not akin to smoking pot as Vern seems to think. Smoking pot may temporarily bring psychological relief by numbing one’s senses and degrading our mental acuity, but this is hardly peace at all, since the bills are still not paid, after the effect wears off! In the passage in Ephesians, Paul is exhorting the Ephesians to a comprehensive and thourough understanding of the love of Christ. He says they must have a great understanding of the love of Christ which passes understanding. This means this love of Christ, which passes understanding can be understood, since they are being exhorted to have an understanding of it. This manner of speaking is not unfamiliar. We speak of a place of indescribable beauty, then go ahead and describe what we saw. Clark on his commentry on this verse calls it, “a paradoxical affirmative negation”. It is simply a literary form, not to be confused with van Tillian insanity.

  14. Steve M Says:

    If a perfect right triangle is not a real rational entity, how does it serve as an example of a rational entity?

  15. Daniel Chew Says:

    Well, I know of at least one rational entity that is not real: Tolkien’s universe.

  16. Sean Gerety Says:

    I assume if Tolkien’s universe is an “entity” perhaps it too is rational. Evidently you can’t have one without the other.

  17. Sean Gerety Says:

    Since we’re talking Tolkien, Ronald Di Giacomo asked Vern over at the Greenbaggins blog:

    The Christian faith has many mysteries but are we to embrace premises that appear contradictory? If so, which seemingly contradictory premises are we to embrace and which ones are we to reject, and what’s the criteria to reject one and not the other? That’s my issue. I hear talk about apparent contradictions but I never hear of the acid test for which doctrines to embrace.

    Great questions and ones I’ve been asking for more years than I can remember and getting myself kicked off of more than a few forums and blogs for simply asking.

  18. Ron Says:

    “The context, Tim, is that the Bible contains contradictions that we’re to believe are not contradictions for God.”

    Sean, even that might be too charitable. Sometimes I wonder whether some believe that God is pleased to accept contradictory premises.

    Tim, I appreciate so much your desire to find peace but I think Sean has a handle on the context of this particular discussion. (BTW, let’s email soon. Much to discuss.)

  19. Steve M Says:

    Daniel Chew:
    “Well, I know of at least one rational entity that is not real: Tolkien’s universe.”

    Steve M:
    First you claim Tolkien’s universe is a rational entity then you claim it is not a real rational entity. Which is it?

    All dreams are real dreams. All hallucinations are real hallucinations. All rational entities are real rational entities or they are something other than a rational entity.

  20. Steve M Says:

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

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


  21. Sean,

    It’s a pity you can’t see the truth and significance of what I try to post. If only you could think a little deeper.

  22. Monty L. Collier (RedBeetle) Says:

    John Calvin: “I abhor paradox.”

  23. Tim Harris Says:

    Part of the problem is the translation from ordinary language to something more precise. Words must be used; then puns and equivocations can take off from those words.

    Thus, I filled in Vern’s intent with the phrase “rational entities are real” (or are not real). “Real” etymologically means something like “thing-like.” “Entity” from ens carries the notion of “being” etymologically. These words get pressed into service because we can scarcely think non-metaphorically. Thus it was liable to Steve M’s pun, “how a rational entity if not a real rational entity?” So we have to be careful and define terms, or try to understand what our opponent mean by them.

    Likewise “rational.” By “rational” do you fellows include “any notion that is non-contradictory”? Then unicorns are real. Then every possible world is real. (There is a philosopher that claims to believe this, I forget his name just now. David Lewis?)

    Probably, you define it differently, or?

    Your definitions are going to be coherent with your ontology. When this is all explained, are you sure you have refuted Vern, or is it possible you are talking at cross-purposes?

    Is the referent of any noun that can function as a subject of predication real? I hope you don’t say yes to this one! The absurdities just jump off the page. Don’t make me spell it out.

    Are propositions real? Frege thought so, Wittgenstein not. I am with Wittgenstein. Propositions are thetic utterances of persons. Thus, no, I don’t think “1+1=2” is “real.” Wittgenstein would say it is a tautology and thus does not say anything about the world.

    But say you think propositions are real. Only true propositions, or also false ones? If they are real because they are objects, or potential objects of thought, then false propositions must take equal reality with true ones, since false propositions can be contemplated.

    But in the mean time, has any real work been done in going down that path?

  24. Steve M Says:

    True propositions are real true propositions. False proposition are real false propositions. It seems simple enough to me. All work is real work or it it something other than work.

  25. Tim Harris Says:

    Steve M: I am unable to infer what the meaning of “real” is when you use the term. Could you take a stab at definition?

    For example, what would you be affirming if you said “Propositions are not real”?

  26. Steve M Says:

    “Real” is a word that is as meaningless as “exist” precisely because everything exists. Dreams exist. Hallucinations exist. God exists. The “real” question is not whether something exists but rather” what is it”? The same goes for “real”. Everything is a real something. The question is what is it?

  27. David Reece Says:

    Tim Harris,

    False propositions are real false propositions.

    Every subject is real. Every subject exists. The question is not “Do unicorns exist?” The question is “How do unicorns exist?” Unicorns exist as imaginary, but they do not exist as animals.

    Unicorns are not living animals. Unicorns are imaginary.

    to say what something “is” is to predicate. Is, are, being, existence, reality, these words all have to do with the copula of a proposition. If nothing is explicitly or implicitly connected to the copula, then no proposition is possible. To say that a subject “is” rather than what a subject “is” is meaningless.

    Gordon Clark has explained this issue in noon day clarity in a number of his books. I would strongly recommend you take a look at the product list of books at trinityfoundation.org

  28. David Reece Says:

    sorry … looks like I basically repeated what Steve M said.

  29. Denson Dube Says:

    Tim,
    “Are propositions real? Frege thought so, Wittgenstein not. I am with Wittgenstein. Propositions are thetic utterances of persons.”
    How do you know there are such things as “thetic utterances of persons” if they are not “real”? In other words, your description or is it a definition, of “thetic utterances of persons” refers to nothing? And if it refers to nothing, then it is without meaning?
    Tim, get “real”, man!

  30. Steve M Says:

    Tim
    Truth or falsity are properties only of propositions. All truth is propositional. I will offer a definition of a proposition (it is not original with me). A proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence.

    Christ said to the Father in a prayer for His elect, “your word is truth”. The propositions of Scripture are our source of truth (our only source). Propositions are not only “real”, they are our only source of truth. Yes, they are also our only source of falsehood.

    Propositions that contradict Scripture are false. Those who say that Scripture has propositions that cannot be distinguished from contradictions do so because they are not seeking God (who is truth itself). If Scripture contradicts itself it must contain error. If the word of God contains error then neither it nor God can be trusted. I do not believe this to be the case.

  31. Tim Harris Says:

    Ron diG — yeah I’ve been thinking about you a lot. Bounce me an email or let’s get a 960 chess game started!
    Denson– the question is whether propositions have reality apart from being pondered, thought, expressed, by a mind.
    David — if “every subject is real” you get into the kind of punny nonsense of Sartre with his reflections on la neante. Some of the medievals made this mistake also.
    In general, if every (linguistic?) subject is “real,” it’s not a very useful concept is it? Indeed it’s not even a concept then.
    But in particular, we need to ask how this strategy affects the original critique of Vern. It sounds like your answer to his statement denying that “the rational is the real” should have been, “everything rational is real, everything irrational is real, indeed, nothingness is real.”
    It may be that on this novel definition of the Real, Vern’s statement is true in one way of reading, and meaningless in another. But the criticisms of it become even more meaningless on this definition.

  32. David Reece Says:

    Tim,

    my point is that “real” is just a different form of the copula “is”. When one says that “Vern is real”, then one is saying “Vern is is”.

    It is also possible to use the word “real” in a different sense. For example, “real” is often used to mean tangible or physical. At other times it is used to mean true. Obviously one must understand which sense is being used to understand what the author of a sentence means.

    When Vern said “The problem with rationalists is that they believe the rational is the real,” I think Vern did not mean that rationalists think that the rational is physical. I assume Vern did not mean this because this critique of rationalists would be asinine.

    I do not think he meant that rationalists think the rational is true. How would that be a critique?

    I think Vern meant that rationalist think that the rational exists. This critique is nonsense, but it is less obviously stupid than the two previously listed possible interpretations. In this critique of “rationalism” Vern would be saying that rationalists believe the rational is is. Vern’s critique of rationalism is blunderingly, painfully bad.

    Do you have a definition of “real” that can save Vern from falling on his own sword?

  33. Steve M Says:

    Tim
    A proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence.

    You said: Denson– the question is whether propositions have reality apart from being pondered, thought, expressed, by a mind.

    In order to have meaning a sentence must be understood. To understand a mind is required. This is implied by the definition.

    Apparently you are understanding a proposition to be ink on paper or some such thing. That would be real ink and real paper.

    Vern contends: “there are some realities that go beyond human reasoning.”

    Since I don’t know what “real” means other than genuine. It is a term that can be applied to anything you can name (genuine falsehood). I did not give a novel definition of the real. You, on the hand define real as “thing-like”.

    Can you give an example of a “reality” that is beyond all human (not just Vern’s and yours) reasoning. If real(an adjective)is thing-like, then a reality must be a thing. This is a pretty broad catagory, but apparently some of them are beyond human “reasoning” (another word for logic). An example of such a reality would be very instructive.

  34. Steve M Says:

    I have actually run into a situation where someone was trying to pass genuine products off as counterfeit to suit their purposes. There is such a thing as genuine counterfeits as opposed to fake counterfeits. There is such a thing as a real counterfeit. Real can be applied any catagory of thing. Some things are imaginary. Some people really imaginative.

    Some people imagine insoluble apparent contradictions in Scripture. Some imagine that God (who is truth itself) has chosen to communicate to humans through the use insoluble seeming contradictions. Doesn’t this make God insincere?

  35. Denson Dube Says:

    Tim,
    “Denson– the question is whether propositions have reality apart from being pondered, thought, expressed, by a mind.”
    Oh, please!
    Propositions, can only “exist” in the/some mind. They cannot be otherwise. The mind “ponders” them because they are real, otherwise the mind is pondering nothing.

  36. Tim Harris Says:

    Well Denson, apparently Frege believed propositions are “out there,” waiting to be discovered by a mind that bumps into them as it were.
    Now, as Christians, we can say there is something to this, since the propositions exist eternally in the mind of God, and can thus be discovered by us. But Frege was not taking that tack. Moreover, the theistic solution certainly doesn’t answer every question without further probing — like, would that imply we occupy a logical “space” in common with God? does this view imply idealism? etc.

    Steve M — no, I didn’t define real as thing-like, I simply mentioned that the underlying latin has that sense. So when it was taken over by philosophy, it was “getting at” something, asking whether universals have thing-like, objective status, or are they constructs of the mind. I think it is a rabbit trail to try to short-circuit that question by declaring “every linguistic subject is real.” It might be answering SOME question, but it is not answering THAT question.

    So, if that is the way Vern’s statement is to be critiqued, that “of course the rational is real, because every linguistic subject is real qua linguistic subject,” he is doubtless going to say, “oh, on THAT definition true enough, but I meant something else.”

    His statement is gnomic, and to pursue it in depth, each term needs to be clarified if not defined. Is “rational” to be taken as “any concept not containing a contradiction,” like unicorn, or is it taken to mean “any proposition deduced validly from premises known to be true.” “Real” has all the range of meanings discussed in this thread, and more. Then, is the form of the sentence, “only the rational,” or “all the rational,” or …?

    If his statement was meant to be a pithy summary of the problem with Clarkism, then I would exegete it along these lines:
    1. There is more to reality than what can be deduced logically.
    2. There is more to reality than what can be understood by creatures — the eternal nature of God, for example.
    3. That a system of thought is free of contradictions does not prove it is either true or adequate.
    4. That a concept is non-contradictory does not imply there exists an objective, inter-subjective reality corresponding to it.
    and perhaps other observations could be made.
    All of those observations are somehow nicely taken up and summarized by Vern’s pithy statement, in my opinion. And all the criticisms leveled against it so far in this thread seem misdirected.

  37. Sean Gerety Says:

    While Tim waxes on about Frege and Wittgenstein, it is important to keep in focus that Crisler’s attack on “the rational” is a direct attack on the divine Logos. While I would recommend Clark’s Johannine Logos (now found in What is Saving Faith), see also:

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/038a-IntheBeginning.pdf

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/278-The_Logos_Clark.pdf


  38. Tim,

    I tried to post what you basically assert early before Sean and the rest here ran with the idea that Crisler was denying the rational to be real, but Sean refused to post my comment.

    I do think though that Crisler is claiming more than that there are realities beyond what is understood or known by men; he is claiming that there are realities known or understood by men that go beyond reason. Thus, as Sean asserts, he is attacking the proposition that truth is and must be rational/logical. This is an evil hatred of God, who is the God of truth.

  39. Tim Harris Says:

    Lawyer — that judgment is so over the top, I’m speechless. I hope you exercise more charitable restraint in evaluating litigants, even those on the other side. Known realities that go beyond reason? There better be. Is. 1:3.

    Sean — sorry for being so prolix about F&W. My point was simply to show that certain definitions and stances are taken on this board as if “obvious” which in fact are controversial and often quite idiosyncratic. There generally seems to be a lack of trying to understand an opponent. I know nothing about Vern Crisler other than the quotes you have given, but I suggest that it would require omniscience to leap from the given quote to suggesting a “direct attack on the divine Logos.” Perhaps you are keying on a body of writing not mentioned here?

  40. Sean Gerety Says:

    Tim – IMO the only thing controversial and idiosyncratic is the long attack by Van Til and his followers on logic. We know for example that VT both denied in places and affirmed in others that logic was a characteristic of God. VT demanded Christians embrace the apparently contradictory and that all attempts to resolve or harmonize such apparent contradictions as God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is a sinful violation of the supposed “Creator/creature” distinction. Van Tillians like Crisler argue that the harmonization of biblical contradictions necessarily results in heterodoxy (one RTS professor wrote a book defending this very notion).

    One Van Tillian on the blog linked above argues that the method by which we can tell the difference between a genuine contradiction and only an apparent one is to abandon reason altogether. He writes:

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

    If opposing such notions seems controversial and idiosyncratic to you, I guess too bad for you. It hardly requires omniscience to correctly infer that the divine Logos is under attack.


  41. Tim,

    I don’t get your response. Are you saying that Crisler is not claiming known realities that are beyond logic? Are you claiming that there are known realities that are beyond logic? Certainly Is.1:3 which you cite doesn’t substantiate such a claim.

  42. Steve M Says:

    Sean
    Very well stated!!

  43. Tim Harris Says:

    Sean — it seems like kind of a bait-and-switch. This was supposed to be about a specific statement by Crisler; suddenly, it switches to “Van Tillians like Crisler.”

    Lawyer — ok, I see we are moving to Crisler’s 2nd sentence, having, I hope, disposed of the objections to the first one.

    “They don’t want to admit that there are some realities that go beyond human reasoning.”

    This is giving you heartburn? Certainly there are many “realities that go beyond human reasoning.” How bout:

    The relation of time and eternity. If you have figured this out, please write a book about it. (Clark’s “solution” of placing God in time is certainly heterodox and inadequate.)

    God’s aseity. (Again, please write the book on this.)

    Why the birds fly south before winter.

    The way of a man with a maid.

  44. Sean Gerety Says:

    it seems like kind of a bait-and-switch. This was supposed to be about a specific statement by Crisler; suddenly, it switches to “Van Tillians like Crisler.”

    Bait and switch? You’re the one who didn’t get the context of the quote yet you jumped right in to correct me regardless. What did you think this was about?

  45. David Reece Says:

    Tim,

    In your last post you said “Certainly there are many ‘realities that go beyond human reasoning.’ How bout: The relation of time and eternity. If you have figured this out, please write a book about it. (Clark’s ‘solution’ of placing God in time is certainly heterodox and inadequate.)”

    Clark did not place God in time. Have you ever read anything by Clark? Clark’s entire point about time is that time is, as Augustine asserts, the succession of thoughts in the mind. Since God is omniscient He obviously does not have a succession of thoughts in the mind. All of God’s thoughts are always laid out before Him. His mind is unchanging.

  46. Tim Harris Says:

    David — Sorry, I may have confused Clark with Clarkian Robert Reymond, which is more vivid in my mind. Yes, I have read a lot of Clark, but, like they say, “I’ve forgotten more than I ever knew.”

    Sean — I thought it was about the quoted statements by Crisler. What was it really about?


  47. Tim: “Certainly there are many “realities that go beyond human reasoning.” How bout:

    The relation of time and eternity. If you have figured this out, please write a book about it. (Clark’s “solution” of placing God in time is certainly heterodox and inadequate.)”

    How does the relation of time and eternity surpass reason?

    Tim: “God’s aseity. (Again, please write the book on this.)”

    Again, it’s your burden to show that it goes beyond logic.

    Tim: “Why the birds fly south before winter.
    The way of a man with a maid.”

    Tim, you seem to be confusing not understanding or not knowing the nature of something with knowing the truth. Again, reason doesn’t furnish us with truth, but truth, all truth, is rational. Truth/falsity is the property of all declarative sentences (propositions). Knowing that any particular proposition is true comes from knowing God’s mind who makes the proposition true by thinking it.

  48. Tim Harris Says:

    Are there “realities that go beyond human reason,” that is the question we are discussing.

    Note that by denying Crisler’s statement, you are asserting, “nothing beyond human reason is real.” Then you are saying, “there cannot be any property of God which goes beyond human reason.” How could you know that, unless He revealed it to you? How could you even assume it, for argument’s sake? Is it not paganism?


  49. Tim,

    Truth is logical. Logic is the nature of God’s thought. “In the beginning was the Logic.”
    Thought is the nature of what God is. He is a thinking being.

    So, it’s not an assumption to think that all of what God is is thought. To know God is to know His thoughts, which are true because He thinks them.

    Surely, this is not paganism.

  50. Tim Harris Says:

    Lawyer,

    Clark’s translation of Jn 1:1 is not acceptable. And I don’t accept Clark’s metaphysic. However, I’m trying to avoid getting pulled into those debates. Not that I am unwilling, but here we should stick to the question, is Crisler’s statement unacceptable?

    What you are saying goes beyond “what my net doesn’t catch is not fish.” You are actually saying “what my net can’t catch doesn’t exist.” This is a tacit assumption of paganism, but in fairness to the pagans, even they would not have had the audacity to state it so explicitly. Perhaps a better label for your view would be Fichteism.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love reading Fichte, and I think studying his thought can reveal insights into the nature of subjectivity. However, the idea that that approach is ULTIMATELY reconcilable with Christianity is not tenable.

  51. Steve M Says:

    Tim: “Clark’s translation of Jn 1:1 is not acceptable.”

    Could you please be a little more vague, since both Crisler and you seem to believe vagueness to be a virtue. “Not acceptable” to whom? The alternatives regarding a translation would be correct or incorrect.

    You said,”we should stick to the question, is Crisler’s statement unacceptable?”

    I would say that Crisler’s statement is most certainly acceptable to anyone who is seeking to obscure the truth rather than find it.

  52. Ron Says:

    A paradox is not a contradiction. An example of a contradiction would be as follows:

    Statement 1: “Light is a form of energy.”
    Statement 2: “Light is not a form of energy.”

    A paradox, on the other hand, goes like this:

    Statement 1: “Light displays an intrinsic characteristic of energy (i.e., it moves in waves).”
    Statement 2: “Light displays an intrinsic characteristic of matter (i.e., it moves as particles, photons).”

    Ron,

    First off, I hope you’re doing well.

    What you wrote there is just fine by me as far as it goes. Unfortunately, there are many who think that paradox looks like contradiction. They think there are Christian doctrines that appear contradictory and must appear contradictory though ought to be embraced. That, I think, is unacceptable.

  53. Tim Harris Says:

    That could be, but it is not interesting. The question is, is his statement unacceptable as such? Is it untrue, inconsistent with Christian theology, etc.?

    Clark’s translation is unacceptable according to standard canons of exegesis. But that is the topic for another thread, not this one.

  54. Tim Harris Says:

    Oops — my comment was to Steve M’s, not Ron’s comment.

  55. Steve M Says:

    Tim

    I blame myself. I asked if you could be a little more vague and you proved that you could. I have no idea what you are saying.

  56. Tim Harris Says:

    Well Steve M, maybe you need to go back and study a little more philosophy, rather than thinking these slick answers are really saying something?

    Ron diG,
    True, but the term “apparent contradiction” seems to be used by both sides in these debates in a more broad sense. No one in these debates affirms and denies the same proposition with univocal terms. However, Sean and others object, for example, to the free offer of the gospel on grounds that amount to a theory of the divine Will — never mind all of its complexities that need to be sorted out — not because Murray affirms and denies the same proposition.

    In short, “apparent contradiction” seems to function as shorthand for “throws a monkey-wrench into the delicately-balanced machine I was content with.”


  57. “Clark’s translation is unacceptable according to standard canons of exegesis.”

    Not only is that not the case, but the whole nature of Scripture bears out this translation. God is a God of logic. Logic is the nature of propositional thinking. Being rational is being in the image of God.

    God IS His thoughts. Just as we also, though we also have bodies, whereas He (and angels) do not. There is nothing else to God than His thoughts. Thus,“there cannot be any property of God which goes beyond human reason” must be true because ALL of what God is is rational true thoughts/propositions. To know God is to know His thoughts. Not all of them, but certain ones that sufficent say what He is (truth, omniscience, omnipotence, etc.). Again, there is not some unknown quality of God, but rather unknown propositions in His mind. We know that some unknown quality of God does not exist because we know what God is.

    Crisler’s statement is clearly unacceptable.

  58. Ron Says:

    Tim – regarding the fee offer, I’m resolved the OPC nodded off on that one. Ironically, the book we use for membership denies the free offer in what it affirms. Cummings denies that God loves the non-elect.

    At the very least, a Calvinist should not say that God desires the non-elect to convert himself lest he denies the need for irresitible grace. Accordingly, a Calvinist who wants to embrace the free offer while remaining true to total depravity must say that God desires that he himself would convert the non-elect. But obviously God’s desire is that he not convert the non-elect otherwise God by leaving them in their sin, and hardening them no less, would be acting contrary to his alleged desire to save them. In sum, to say that God desires the salvation of the non-elect is to say he does not desire his decree. Apparent contradiction is simply a denial of the truth that God does not desire the salvation of all men.

  59. Steve M Says:

    Thank you Tim. That certainly clears things up.


  60. Ron,

    Free offer, or offer at all, implicitly denies limited atonement/particular redemption and makes a person’s faith the basis of his acceptance with God.

  61. Ron Says:

    True, but the term “apparent contradiction” seems to be used by both sides in these debates in a more broad sense.

    Tim, I could only wish that all Van Tillians would agree with what I said in the post that you responded to in general agreement. Stuart Jones, for instance, would not affirm what I said in that post. I don’t think Vern would agree with that post either. I heard a professor, whom you and I both know, say that ALL doctrines MUST appear contradictory to creatures. For men such as these, all doctrines appear and must appear as contradictory as X is not X. Jones quoted Van Til in his defense and frankly, the quote from Van Til should be taken as saying so much.

    Years ago Sean and I disagreed over this, that Bahnsen seems to avoid Van Til on this matter. Sean in the end produced some quotes from the Reader on Van Til that may have supported the premise that GLB was in agreement with Van Til on this matter. I thought there were enough ambiguity in the Bahnsen quotes and there are many statements in lectures given by GLB that seem to run contrary to parodox, but that is not my concern. My point is that Van Til was I believe wrong on paradox.

  62. Hugh McCann Says:

    Patrick,
    Thank for this much-needed laugh! It’s the best post in this thread:

    Sean, It’s a pity you can’t see the truth and significance of what I try to post. If only you could think a little deeper.

  63. Tim Harris Says:

    Lawyer,

    “God IS his thoughts” is ambiguous — is the copula of identity or attribute? If it is identity, then that is both false and absurd. Absurd, because thoughts are acts of persons, and the person must be presupposed to have a thought. Thoughts are not like gas out there floating around. Moreover, God is the living God — and life is something other than a bundle of thoughts.

    Moreover, then thoughts would have to include more than propositions: commands, for example. Then there are “thoughts” that involve something more than logical manipulation.

    Furthermore, on your view that God’s thoughts and ours are identical, then how do you account for the fact the “some” of God’s thoughts have the power to create, whereas none of ours do — unless perforce you are a kabbalist?

  64. Tim Harris Says:

    Ron,

    Whereas I think the free offer is very important to maintain. But your explanation proves my point. You are basically “doing theology” at that point. It is at the conceptual level that “apparent contradictions” loom. I would like to see one example where a theologian that Clarkists find objectionable affirmed p and ~p WHILE DOING THEOLOGY. Not, two concepts that I find intuitively incompatible; but p and ~p.

    Logic does not solve any problems in philosophy or theology, or rather it does, but only in the trivial sense that grammar makes intelligible discourse possible. Logic is like the grammar which must be mastered, so that the conversation can then being.

  65. Tim Harris Says:

    Logos is a reference designator in Jn 1 for a person they touched. True, the apostle couples the person referred to, to the stoic idea of universal reason, but this is by way of subverting the stoical idea. To reduce John’s point to the logic of identity misses his point and leads to an immediate absurdity when he goes on to speak of seeing and handling.

  66. Ron Says:

    I would like to see one example where a theologian that Clarkists find objectionable affirmed p and ~p WHILE DOING THEOLOGY. Not, two concepts that I find intuitively incompatible; but p and ~p.

    Tim, if I understand you right, what you are saying is that certain theologians think that on the surface doctrines can look at odds but that they don’t really look like p and ~p. Yet why call them apparent *contradictions*? Moreover, if they don’t really look like p and ~p to them, then why do they insist that they actually Are in themselves apparently contradictory as opposed to only confusing to certain individuals? Given the insistence that the doctrine IS an apparent contradiction, the claim goes beyond the intuitive, as you put it, becoming a universal claim implying it looks like p and ~p. But if that wasn’t enough, when p and ~p is mentioned to men such as these, they don’t say “oh no, you have me all wrong… they don’t really look to me as p and ~p”, rather they just dig in further and call the opposition rationalistic. If they agreed with what I think you’re saying, at least regarding p and ~p, you’d think they’d say so.

    Thoughts?

  67. Sean Gerety Says:

    Tim, I’m not sure what you’ve been smoking or perhaps drinking during this long weekend, but the free offer is very important to abandon. Telling people indiscriminately that “Christ died for you” or that God has a “wonderful plan for your life” (as the PCA official Website once announced on its welcome page) hardly squares with the doctrine of election.

    Yet, Van Tillians like you demand that “The preacher must say that God sincerely seeks the salvation of the reprobate through the preaching of the Gospel.” Dr. Clark answers: “That is not true; the preacher may never say that in the name of God. And, in light of Scripture, he should say: God seeks his own glory and justification in preparing the reprobate for their just damnation even through the preaching of the Gospel.” {Last bit taken from the Complaint and the Answer as cited by HH in the Clark/VT Controversy p 34,36).

    I hardly think this is a matter of an apparent contradiction “looming” somewhere at the conceptual level since it determines the how and the what a preacher may preach. It was also part of the complaint filed against Clark’s ordination by CVT.

    Besides, God both desiring and not desiring the salvation of all men universally considered through the preaching of the Gospel is as contradictory a view of the Gospel as even an irrationalist and mystic like Crazy Crisler could hope for. BTW, you should check out Crisler’s latest contributions on the Greenbaggins blog. Evidently libeling men and calling them stupid and incompetent are all examples of the love that is beyond understanding not to mention reason.

  68. Sean Gerety Says:

    To reduce John’s point to the logic of identity misses his point and leads to an immediate absurdity when he goes on to speak of seeing and handling.

    I see, to reduce John’s point to a mere Word makes more sense to you as it removes any reference or linkage in John’s prologue to the idea of universal reason that you admit was the author’s intent. Talk about absurdity. Besides, John’s main focus is not “seeing and handling” but the creation of all things. As he quotes John the Baptist in v13: “He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.” Seems to me John was interested in conveying to his readers the idea that Jesus is the embodiment of the universal reason that governs all things and is the divine Logos or Logic of God.

  69. Sean Gerety Says:

    And, one more point to remove the contradiction implied in the so-called “free offer” from the conceptual level is that it affirms the Arminian interpretation of passages like Ezekiel 18:23,32; 33:11, II Peter 3:9, Matthew 23:37. Basically, all the Reformers and those who followed them and who didn’t see a “an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass” were all wrong.

    Of course, Murray wasn’t the first to embrace an Arminian interpretation of critical passages in opposition to the Reformed. Spurgeon admits in reference to 2 Tim 2:4 that he breaks with “our older Calvinistic friends” who have quite properly understood this passage as pertaining to all strata or classes of men and not all men in general. What he fails to say is that those older Calvinistic friends include John Calvin himself.


  70. Tim: “Lawyer,

    “God IS his thoughts” is ambiguous — is the copula of identity or attribute?’

    I would have thought that by the caps emphasis it would have been obvious that identity is meant, not to mention the fact that I said there is nothing else to God than His thoughts.

    Tim: “If it is identity, then that is both false and absurd. Absurd, because thoughts are acts of persons, and the person must be presupposed to have a thought. Thoughts are not like gas out there floating around. Moreover, God is the living God — and life is something other than a bundle of thoughts.”

    A person does indeed think thoughts that do not necessarily define him. But that does not mean that there is a set of proposostions that uniquely define a person, as Clark maintained. In fact, without such a set you have no person doing the thinking. God’s bundle/set of thoughts IS life, for His bundle/set is what makes all things be. He thinks it, and thus it is (true). Nothing exists, there is no life (or death) apart from God thinking. “In Him, we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28.

    Tim: “Furthermore, on your view that God’s thoughts and ours are identical, then how do you account for the fact the “some” of God’s thoughts have the power to create, whereas none of ours do — unless perforce you are a kabbalist?”

    Surely I have not said that we and God have the same set of thoughts that define who we are. But we can think the same identical thought. But what makes a thought/proposition true is that God thinks it.

    Tim: “Logos is a reference designator in Jn 1 for a person they touched.”

    Yes, but what is a person? And who or what is the person, the Logos? Surely the Apostles did not touch an eternal invisible Deity.

    Sean, Spurgeon also considered those against the free offer as hypercalvinists. And as I’ve said, he and Reformed Baptists who follow in his train are infralapsarians, which I believe is an incipient Arminianism. And I believe all of this stems from a desire to make God seem more loving, kind, etc., and place the blame on man’s hard hearted sinfulness for his ending up in hell. My former pastor actually ridiculed me for thinking that it is God’s “fault” that men end up in hell. Reprobation is a hard doctrine even for Christians to accept, that men end up in hell not because they reject God’s offer to deliver them from their sin (God makes no such offer), but because Christ did not die for them.

  71. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Tim,
    “God IS his thoughts” is ambiguous — is the copula of identity or attribute? If it is identity, then that is both false and absurd. Absurd, because thoughts are acts of persons, and the person must be presupposed to have a thought. Thoughts are not like gas out there floating around. Moreover, God is the living God — and life is something other than a bundle of thoughts.”

    What is absurd is positing an unknowable ‘person’ or ‘thing’ “behind” thoughts. This is the Kantian “dung un such”(the thing in itself … the reality behind the phenomenon) The question is, how would you know there is anything “behind” or “beyond” thoughts, independently of thoughts? If it can be thought, then it is not beyond thoughts.
    Hume noted that we are only ever conscious of our thoughts and even the pagan Plato called (his)god … “thought thinking thought”.
    God’s thoughts are life. John 6:63 “It is the Spirit that makes alive, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life.” According to Jesus, life is not beyond thought. Life is a product of God’s thoughts(the doctrine of creation). I do not suppose you buy into “absurdities” like creation?
    In your scheme all kinds of delightful things become possible such as a “person” quite happily being blank minded since they are independent of their thoughts.
    Tim you are quite literally beyond belief.

  72. densondube Says:

    OOOps!
    “ding an sich”

  73. Tim Harris Says:

    I have to grab quickies until I am settled into this new place a bit. I’ll go in reverse order a little at a time.

    If God’s thoughts have the power to create while ours do not, why, there is a qualitative difference between God’s thoughts and ours, no?

    “How would you know there is anything “behind” or “beyond” thoughts, independently of thoughts? If it can be thought, then it is not beyond thoughts.”

    This statement is confused. We take it that the linguistic symbol ‘person’ refers, that is, corresponds to somethings actual. Moreover, we can posit things about that thing referred to, and these positings you could call thoughts or propositions. Thus, persons are not “beyond thoughts” in that sense. That is not the same as saying that therefore a person is nothing but thoughts.

    “How would you know”? By the impossibility of the contrary. Thoughts are acts of persons. They do not emanate from rocks.

    Denson, no offense, but your summary of Kant is so confused that I can’t avoid the suspicious that you are simply a poseur. Call my bluff: let’s see if you can summarize Kant’s argument for the transcentental ego using only your own memory and original writings by Kant — no peaking into Copleston, Clark, or Wiki permitted.

  74. Steve M Says:

    Tim
    You said, “We take it that the linguistic symbol ‘person’ refers, that is, corresponds to somethings actual.”

    The word “person” is an actual linguistic symbol for something. Please give me your definition of person. Please give me your definition of actual.

    You went on, “How would you know”? By the impossibility of the contrary. Thoughts are acts of persons. They do not emanate from rocks.

    I hope you do not hold to the Van Tilian fallacy that one can prove ones views to be true by demonstrating the impossibility of contrary. There is a difference between contrary and contradictory views. Two contrary views can both be false. In the case of contradictory views one must be true and the other false because they represent all of the options. In order to show ones own view to be true one must demonstrate the impossibility of the contradictory. You have done neither. You have simply thrown out a phrase.

    If a rock had a mind, the rock’s mind would be a person. Your position is that a mind (person) is something separate from its thoughts. What?

    Once again, please give your definition of person.


  75. Tim: “If God’s thoughts have the power to create while ours do not, why, there is a qualitative difference between God’s thoughts and ours, no?”

    There is a difference, but it is not a qualitative one. God’s thoughts have the power to create precisely because He thinks those thoughts, not in the thoughts, that is, the propositions themselves. Others can think the same thoughts, but they are true only because God eteranally thinks them true.

    You seem to want to posit a God apart from His thoughts. The God we know, however, is known by the propostions revealed concerning Him. Yes, thoughts are acts of a person, but not solely so. They also define persons. For God, they are one and the same. That is, they both are His acts and they also define Him. The fact that God’s thoughts have the power to create show that His thoughts define Him. For that is what being omniscient, omnipotent means. Things are what they are because He thinks them so.

    Men persons are the unique set of propositions that only they think.

    The Logos is the Second Person of the Trinity because only He thinks certain propositions like “I was incarnated.”

  76. Tim Harris Says:

    Lawyer,
    No it is just backwards. He thinks the proposition “I was incarnated,” because, he was incarnated. And he is the Second Person, and would be, even if he had not been incarnated. (And by using tensed language I am not endorsing Reymond’s heretical view of God in time, I’m simply using ordinary language.)

    Steve M.,
    We can take a stab at precising this or that term, but neither the demand to do so nor the execution thereof can come out of complete ignorance. We must all have fuzzy definitions that overlap or communication would simply break down. So the demand to define is really a demand to stipulate a more precise delimitation for the sake of argument.

    In general, I would define a person along the lines of, “something living and having a consciousness of identity over against an Other, which identiy persists through any changes of the Other.”

    However, for your problem, I would stipulate a definition like, “a living entity potentially capable of having thoughts.”

    In transcendental argumentation, “the impossibility of the contrary,” simply means, “denial self-refuting.”

    The proposal, “a mind is separate from its thoughts” is ambiguous. Not separate from, but different from. A mind has thoughts. Thoughts do not have thoughts. Thoughts do not have minds. Minds do not have minds.

    Sometimes, I really think that what Clarkians need is not more philosophy, but shock therapy.

    Others,

    Hang in there if you commented. I have not forgotten you.

  77. Denson Dube Says:

    Tim,
    “This statement is confused. We take it that the linguistic symbol ‘person’ refers, that is, corresponds to somethings actual”

    Are you serious?
    ‘Person’ ‘corresponds’ to ‘somethings’ ‘actual’?
    Is this high school philosophy?
    What do you mean ‘corresponds’?
    What is ‘actual’ and how do we know what is ‘actual’?
    How do you know that the symbol ‘person’ ‘corresponds’ to anything at all?
    What is it that ‘person’ ‘corresponds’ to?
    You do not seem to have even the most basic appreciation of philosophy.

    “Denson, no offense, but your summary of Kant is so confused that I can’t avoid the suspicious that you are simply a poseur. Call my bluff: let’s see if you can summarize Kant’s argument for the transcentental ego using only your own memory and original writings by Kant — no peaking into Copleston, Clark, or Wiki permitted.”

    My summary of Kant? Good grief, Tim, which post did you read? ‘ding an sich’ is hardly a summary of Kant. Since you do not seem to remember what ‘ding an sich’ means, please consult a dictionary or Wicki. Don’t rely on your unreliable memory.

    For all your vaunted reading, I would say you seem to have very little to show for it. If a mere poseur can see through the bankruptcy of your ideas, “I can’t avoid the suspicious that you are simply a poseur”.
    In any case, how does my being a poseur constitute a defense for your incoherent and irrational ideas?

    To repeat, positing an unknowable person/thing is self-contradictory and irrational.

  78. Steve M Says:

    Tim:
    “We can take a stab at precising this or that term, but neither the demand to do so nor the execution thereof can come out of complete ignorance. We must all have fuzzy definitions that overlap or communication would simply break down. So the demand to define is really a demand to stipulate a more precise delimitation for the sake of argument.”

    Are you advocating fuzziness? You must be a Van Tilian.

    You said, “In general, I would define a person along the lines of, “something living and having a consciousness of identity over against an Other, which identiy persists through any changes of the Other.””

    “However, for your problem, I would stipulate a definition like, “a living entity potentially capable of having thoughts.””

    “In transcendental argumentation, “the impossibility of the contrary,” simply means, “denial self-refuting.””

    “The proposal, “a mind is separate from its thoughts” is ambiguous. Not separate from, but different from. A mind has thoughts. Thoughts do not have thoughts. Thoughts do not have minds. Minds do not have minds.”

    No comment! No comment necessary!!!

  79. densondube Says:

    Tim,
    “Sometimes, I really think that what Clarkians need is not more philosophy, but shock therapy.”

    After over 40 years of van Til, confusion of mind, the kind you proudly display here, is hardly a novelty and does not shock anymore!

  80. Tim Harris Says:

    OK, two down and out. Good.

    Sean,

    1. Granted the logos is the embodiment of universal reason, but (a) that is something of wider scope than logic — that is, for the Stoics it was, and (b) John’s point is obviously that the logos is not JUST universal reason, but rather a person; a person that not only is the foundation of what the stoics were grasping toward, but also one that became incarnate, loves, weeps, issues commands, and so forth. All of that cannot be reduced to reason let alone logic, and certainly not identified with a set of thoughts.

  81. Tim Harris Says:

    2. On the free offer, like Ron you are “doing theology.” Things get complicated rather quickly, and let the discussion continue! But my specific challenge is to find the same proposition with univocal terms both affirmed and denied in an advocate of the free offer.

  82. Tim Harris Says:

    Ron,
    I’m not sure which of the original disputants got the copywrite on the expression “apparent contradiction.” It seems to me it is USED as metonymy for “unable to reconcile an intuition,” or as a synonym for mystery. I know Bahnsen affirmed mysteries but denied contradictions in the sense of thinking one could affirm p and ~p.

    That every doctrine when pushed leads to a mystery, indeed that everything about us as finite creatures does so, is not an idea started by van Til. It goes back at least to Bavinck. So, perhaps we should call it Bavinckianism, not vantillianism.

    The difference between a mystery that is revealed and a counterfeit one is, the revealed mystery sheds light, while the counterfeit one shrouds in darkness. The paradigm mystery of the Trinity could never have been dreamed up by men. Yet by it, we understand so much that otherwise would be in darkness.

    By the same token, the Trinity is something we cannot fully comprehend and, I believe, never will be able to. It will remain mysterious, even in heaven. We are creatures. We are not God.

  83. Tim Harris Says:

    Lawyer,
    You said, “there is nothing else to God than His thoughts.” You affirm Creation, which must mean that some thoughts have the power to create. Yet you deny that this is a qualitative difference to our thoughts. This calls for some explanation.

    By denying qualitative difference while at the same time saying “there is nothing else to God than his thoughts,” are you implying that the reason we cannot create is because some thoughts — the ones needed to “create” — are inherently beyond our grasp; but if we could grasp them and “think” them, we also could create? First, this would be more akin to kabbalism than Christianity, except that the kabbalists think they can grasp even those thoughts, hence the gollam. Second, if thoughts are just propositions, how could it be that there would be some thoughts that we simply inherently could not grasp?

    Otherwise, there is something qualitatively different between God’s thoughts and ours. Would could be a more significant quality than the ability to create?

    OR, as your language starts to betray (e.g. by using the possessive “His” in qualifying “thoughts”), if God is a person with powers and attributes other than thoughts, then to be sure he could create and there would be no contradiction in saying we cannot create; but then again, God is now recognized as something other than his thoughts, that is, it is not the case that “there is nothing else to God than his thoughts.”

  84. Sean Gerety Says:

    a person that not only is the foundation of what the stoics were grasping toward, but also one that became incarnate, loves, weeps, issues commands, and so forth. All of that cannot be reduced to reason let alone logic, and certainly not identified with a set of thoughts.

    Tim, I hardly know what you’re arguing for any more. John said the Logos was God. As Clark observes in the above link I provided; “Christ, the Logos, the Intelligent Deity, organized the universe.” This is an affirmation of Christ’s deity, not his humanity.

    Did you even take the time to even peruse the pieces I linked to? Clark also writes: “The contrast is so definite that one can hardly refrain from concluding that John wrote his Prologue for the express purpose of refuting Poimander.” Yet, you seem unable to tell the difference. Also, are you saying that Jesus as a man who loves and weeps was acting beyond reason in doing so? I understand you are now Crazy Crisler’s hero, but I recommend you take time and read through the comments on Keister’s blog linked above and then tell me that you want to continue to defend this loon.

  85. Sean Gerety Says:

    It goes back at least to Bavinck. So, perhaps we should call it Bavinckianism, not vantillianism.

    We call it Van Tilianism because he popularized and legitimized (at least in the confused minds of many) the horrible nonsense you defend. But I do agree that whether you call it Van Tillianism or Bavinckianism their belief that logical inference necessarily leads to a denial of other biblical doctrines and that all of Scripture is apparently contradictory (which they equate with an unbiblical view of “mystery”) is a modern development; a development that positivity undermines Reformed thought and corrupts it. The position you defend is foreign to the historic Reformed faith particularly the one affirmed in WCF 1.


  86. Tim: “No it is just backwards. He thinks the proposition “I was incarnated,” because, he was incarnated. And he is the Second Person, and would be, even if he had not been incarnated.”

    No Tim, you have it backwards. There would not be a Second Person of the Trinity, there would be no Trinity, if there were not things, that is propositions, that distinguish the Persons as the particular Person each one is. I suggest you read Clark’s “The Trinity” and “The Incarnation” if you want a fuller, explanation of this.

    Lawyer,
    You said, “there is nothing else to God than His thoughts.” You affirm Creation, which must mean that some thoughts have the power to create. Yet you deny that this is a qualitative difference to our thoughts. This calls for some explanation.

    Yes, and I gave an explanation. Let me try to further explain it for you. The quality of thoughts/proposition is true or false. Both God and us think “there is a world” and it is true. But the proposition is true only because God thinks it is true. And all of God’s thoughts are eternal, as He is eternal (All three Persons think “The Second Person was incarnated- but not in the same way). There is no God entity who is beyond His thoughts. We, on the other hand, think thoughts that do not define us.


  87. It seems that Tim is an existentialist, that things, including God, exist prior to or apart from their essence. But nothing simply is. To be is to be something. Essence or definition is the nature of being. To think is not what undefined beings do, it is what these beings are, i.e., thinking beings. God, angels and men are different classes of thinking beings; they think different kinds of propositions.


  88. Tim: “You affirm Creation, which must mean that some thoughts have the power to create.”

    Thoughts/propositions don’t have the power to create. Again, it is the fact that God thinks “My thoughts determine what is” (which defines God) that makes his thought “there is a world” come to be.

    I need to add a clarification. That God’s thoughts determine what is define WHAT God is. The particular thoughts He thinks indicates WHO God is. So also, angels and men are defined by the kind of propositions thought, but each is known specifically by the particular propositions thought by each.

  89. Tim Harris Says:

    Lawyer,
    Here are direct quotes from you:
    1. There is nothing else to God than His thoughts
    2. Thoughts/propositions don’t have the power to create

    Does it not follow logically then, that God does not have the power to create?
    Please fix the erroneous premise.

  90. Tim Harris Says:

    By the way, creation has to do with a world coming to be, not, the thought “there is a world” coming to be.

  91. ray kikkert Says:

    lawyertheologian wrote:Spurgeon also considered those against the free offer as hypercalvinists. And as I’ve said, he and Reformed Baptists who follow in his train are infralapsarians, which I believe is an incipient Arminianism. And I believe all of this stems from a desire to make God seem more loving, kind, etc., and place the blame on man’s hard hearted sinfulness for his ending up in hell. My former pastor actually ridiculed me for thinking that it is God’s “fault” that men end up in hell. Reprobation is a hard doctrine even for Christians to accept, that men end up in hell not because they reject God’s offer to deliver them from their sin (God makes no such offer), but because Christ did not die for them.

    …..okay …so what is your point? So Spurgeon considered the man who filled the pulpit (John Gill) before him a hypercalvinist … or any who reject the free offer/well meant offer error. I still admire Spurgeon … but the free offer/well meant offer doctrine is arminian error … and Spurgeon admitted he did not follow in the footsteps of the reformers in this regard … bad move … a move being rehashed again and again today by present day sloppy joe arminians.

    Are you convinced that infralapsarianism leads to arminianism? While I am supralapsarian myself …I would not go that far based on the 1619 Synod of Dort debate on supra/infra lapsarism where both were accepted as reformed dogma and the confession themselves are written in a teachable infralapsarian form … and also have supralapsarian definitions within as well.

  92. David Reece Says:

    Ray Kikkert,

    I believe infralapsarianism sows the seeds of Arminianism in the minds of weak Calvinists, and prepares the way for the defeat of the reformed system wherever it is accepted.

    I would not vote to ordain an infralapsarian as an elder.

  93. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t see why infra would disqualify anyone from church office. Not that I’m telling anyone how to vote. 😎


  94. Ray,
    I do not say that Infralapsarianism leads to Arminianism, but that it is incipient Arminianism. That is, it is an inconsistent weak form of Calvinism. As someone has said, Spurgeon and those in his train are/were hypocalvinists. It is our natural man’s inclination to balk against God’s sovereignty when it comes to the reprobate.


  95. Tim:
    Lawyer,
    Here are direct quotes from you:
    1. There is nothing else to God than His thoughts
    2. Thoughts/propositions don’t have the power to create

    Does it not follow logically then, that God does not have the power to create?
    Please fix the erroneous premise.

    There is no erroneous premise. Nor does it follow that God does not have the power to create. God’s thoughts don’t have the power to create; the fact that He thinks them causes things to be.

    Tim: By the way, creation has to do with a world coming to be, not, the thought “there is a world” coming to be.

    The world coming to be is based on one (God) thinking “there is a world.” Again, the thought/proposition “there is a world” doesn’t have power itself to create/cause the world to be. Again, it is God whose thought is “my thoughts cause thing to be” which causes the world to be. Now if you say does not that thought (“my thoughts cause thing to be”) have the power to create?, my reply would be no. It is simply describing how God views/thinks the thought. Both God and us can consider the proposition “God’s thoughts cause things to be” to be true. But God views it as defining him. Similarly, all three persons of the Trinity view the proposition “The Second Person of the Trinity became incarnate.” But only the Logos thinks “I became incarnate.”


  96. Ray: …..okay …so what is your point? So Spurgeon considered the man who filled the pulpit (John Gill) before him a hypercalvinist … or any who reject the free offer/well meant offer error. I still admire Spurgeon … but the free offer/well meant offer doctrine is arminian error … and Spurgeon admitted he did not follow in the footsteps of the reformers in this regard

    Yes, but Spurgeon considered the Reformers to have gone too far in their interpretations of certain texts of Scripture and in their understanding the nature of the gospel as a calling of the elect only. Thus the term hyper-Calvinists. Though he did not think that Calvin held such a view. Yet at the same time he seemed to reject reprobation in such outrageous statemments: “Damnation is the result of justice, not of arbitrary predestination.” BTW, when you say it is Arminian error, I assume you mean that is stems from an Arminian rather than a Calvinistic way of thinking, not that it had its origin from Arminian teachers, which it doesn’t.

  97. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t recall Spurgeon ever calling Gill a “hyper-calvinist.” Does anyone making the claim have a citation?


  98. Spurgeon had an admiration for John Gill and I don’t believe he directly referred to him as a HyperCalvinist, but he did say, “Gill is the Coryphaeus of HyperCalvinism, but if his followers never went beyond their master they would not go very far astray.” Commenting and Commentaries, p.9. That was probably overly generous of Spurgeon. For Gill taught specifically what Spurgeon called Hyper or Ultra Calvinism.

  99. Sean Gerety Says:

    Interesting. Thanks.

  100. LJ Says:

    LT wrote: Ray,
    I do not say that Infralapsarianism leads to Arminianism, but that it is incipient Arminianism. That is, it is an inconsistent weak form of Calvinism. As someone has said, Spurgeon and those in his train are/were hypocalvinists. It is our natural man’s inclination to balk against God’s sovereignty when it comes to the reprobate.

    This is such a good point!!!


  101. Here is another interesting quote:

    “Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation. They are, without knowing it, following the way of the rationalists. Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, ay, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonises them all.” Sword and the Trowel, p.256.

    Spurgeon advocated a theory of Predistination and Human Responsibility that is irreconcilably contradictory.


  102. Spurgeon also said, “The system of theology with which many identify his [Gill] name has chilled many churches to their very soul, for it has led them to omit the free invitations of the gospel and to deny that it is the DUTY of sinners to believe in Jesus.” Autobiography, 1897, vol.1, p.310 (emphasis added).

    Regarding the texts of Scripture, Gill said, “I know of none that exhort and command all men, all the individuals of the human race to repent, and believe in Christ for salvation.” “The Cause of God and Truth” (new ed., London, 1814),vol.2, pp.56-7.

  103. LJ Says:

    How, pray tell, can anyone believe something they don’t understand? That’s the Romish notion of implicit faith.

    This is why GHC was willing to struggle to understand The Trinity, The Incarnation, etc. That is part of our sanctification, i.e., understanding.

    I had an old friend, now gone to Glory, a retired Reformed Baptist, who used to scold me about “going too far.” I must have heard him say that about ANYTHING he failed to understand … “well, Larry, you’ve JUST GONE TOO FAR!” Meaning, don’t try to understand or reconcile things that are just too deep. In his view Calvin “went too far” GHC “went too far” Reymond “went too far” fill in the blank and every theologian who ever lived “went too far” in my friend’s view. He wanted you to simply accept difficult doctrines on “faith” and move on.

    Frustrating!

  104. Denson Dube Says:

    LJ,
    “How, pray tell, can anyone believe something they don’t understand?”

    What is your problem, LJ? Your intellectual pride has taken the better of you. Whatever happened to humility! Just believe!
    Ask Vern Crisler and Tim Harris who believe in things “beyond understanding” for help … and good luck(You are going to need lots of it).

  105. Steve M Says:

    Tim:
    You said: “We must all have fuzzy definitions that overlap or communication would simply break down.”
     
    If it were true that “fuzzy definitions” are necessary to ensure communication does not “break down”, then fuzzy communication is the inevitable result.  This seems to be your aim.  This is not at all uncommon amongst Van Tilians.  In my view vagueness is a virtue only to those wishing to obscure the truth.
     
    I asked for your definition of person.
     
    You answered: “I would stipulate a definition like, “a living entity potentially capable of having thoughts.”
     
    Unless you can give me an example of a dead entity capable of “having thoughts”, I will assume that the word living is unnecessary.  I believe the word potentially is also unnecessary since the word capable would already carry with it the notion of having the potential to do something.  “having thoughts” is equal to thinking.  I will take the liberty of rephrasing your definition in a way that is less cumbersome.

    “An entity capable of thinking”.  I don’t think I have altered your definition.
     
    An entity capable of thinking.  Wouldn’t that also be a good definition of a mind ?
     
    I stated: Your position is that a mind (person) is something separate from its thoughts.  I then asked: What?

    You replied: “The proposal, “a mind is separate from its thoughts” is ambiguous.”
     
    First you proclaim the necessity of fuzziness and now you decry ambiguity. This is an example of the double-mindedness common to Van Tilians.

    You said: “Not separate from, but different from.”

    A mind is either composed of its thoughts or it is something different from its thoughts. Your position seems to be the latter. I hold to the former.

    You said: “A mind has thoughts.”

    In other words a mind thinks.  Is there such a thing as a mind that does not think?  Isn’t the capacity to think the very thing that makes a mind what it is?
    It seems to me that your definition fits both mind and person. I think that is fine because a person is a mind

    You said: “Thoughts do not have thoughts.” 

    Jonathan Edwards in his Unpublished Essay on the Trinity reasons that God’s idea of himself would be perfect in every way.  It would be an exact replica of his being in every way . This is how he explains the Son.  This would be a case of God’s thought (idea) having thoughts, would it not?

    Edwards:
    Therefore as God with perfect clearness, fullness and strength, understands Himself, views His own essence (in which there is no distinction of substance and act but which is wholly substance and wholly act), that idea which God hath of Himself is absolutely Himself. This representation of the Divine nature and essence is the Divine nature and essence again: so that by God’s thinking of the Deity must certainly be generated. Hereby there is another person begotten, there is another Infinite Eternal Almighty and most holy and the same God, the very same Divine nature.
     
    And this Person is the second person in the Trinity, the Only Begotten and dearly Beloved Son of God; He is the eternal, necessary, perfect, substantial and personal idea which God hath of Himself; and that it is so seems to me to be abundantly confirmed by the Word of God. ………..
     
    …….The Godhead being thus begotten by God’s loving an idea of Himself and shewing forth in a distinct subsistence or person in that idea, there proceeds a most pure act, and an infinitely holy and sacred energy arises between the Father and Son in mutually loving and delighting in each other, for their love and joy is mutual, (Prov. 8:30) “I was daily His delight rejoicing always before Him.” This is the eternal and most perfect and essential act of the Divine nature, wherein the Godhead acts to an infinite degree and in the most perfect manner possible. The Deity becomes all act, the Divine essence itself flows out and is as it were breathed forth in love and joy. So that the Godhead therein stands forth in yet another manner of subsistence, and there proceeds the third Person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, viz., the Deity in act, for there is no other act but the act of the will.    

    You said: “Thoughts do not have minds.” 

    Now you are ambiguous. A family “has” a home. The family is not a home.  An unlived in house is not a home. In order for a house to qualify as a home, someone must live there.  Thoughts reside in the mind.  Something with no thoughts is not a mind.  All thoughts “have” a mind in which they reside.
     
    Minds do not have minds.

    Are you saying minds are “mindless”?  Is this another three person=one person thing?

    You said: “In transcendental argumentation, “the impossibility of the contrary,” simply means, “denial self-refuting.””

    Let me explain to you the difference between contrary propositions and contradictory ones, since (apparently) you are unaware. An example of contrary propositions would be: “All Irish Setters are stupid” and “No Irish Setters are stupid”. It is possible that both statements are false. On the other hand, in the case of contradictory propositions such as: “All Irish Setters are stupid” and “Some Irish Setters are not stupid”, one must be true and the other false. In order for a proposition to be self-refuting, it must contradict itself. An example would be: “There is no truth.” I repeat that demonstrating that a contrary view is false does not prove ones own view is true. This requires the demonstration that a contradictory view is false. Using instead the “impossibility of the contrary” is logically fallacious.

  106. Tim Harris Says:

    I will come back and answer the serious posts in detail, but a few general remarks about this blog seem appropriate. I don’t want to paint with a broad brush. Despite his acerbic tongue, I have come to love Sean a great deal, and look forward to our first pitcher of Guinness. Usually, it ends in a bar-room brawl, but at least it is honest. But I’m talking about the problem that C. S. Lewis referred to as the “embarrassing supporter.” Whacking down some of these embarrassing supporters will surely be necessary if this blog is to retain long-term credibility.

    Some of you are basically cultists, who have taken an insight from Clark and turned it into science fiction metaphysics worthy of the movie Matrix: a cult with strong kabbalistic overtones; others are sophists, specialists in the ad hominem, like lawyers everywhere just trying to win a debate on points and not really interested in truth very much. Others, sincere Christians seeking to find the best articulation. So we have to tread carefully.

    In general, there is a strong tendency of Idealism. I have sympathies for Idealism, especially the hegelian form, but I have no sympathy for people that try to sneak Idealism in as a trojan horse — which some of you do. Admit it, and let the discussion become more focussed as a result.

    Many of you don’t read very well, and seem to have a real problem with ordinary language. I make an etymological observation about the word “real” and someone shrieks, “are you saying that ideas are things?” I point out that communication must be possible with fuzzy definitions and someone else shrieks, “so, you are advocating fuzzy thinking.” Chill out fellas, and learn to read.

    I have not identified myself as a vantillian, as far as I remember. Where does all this omniscience come from?

    In general, there is confusion about propositions, specifically, between propositions as statement ABOUT the world, versus propositions AS the world. This seems to be the most endemic confusion. Once you realize that proposition say something about the world, much of the confusion will evaporate. The “law of contradiction” is no law at all. It is simply that being excludes what it is not, or it would not be. Being must be differentiated. Propositions that reflect the referenced reality avoid contradiction, because the referent excludes what it is not: not because there is some “law of non-contradiction.”

    The reflections quickly move to second-order reflections. Propositions should discuss the referent. The referent of the terms is what should be of interest. Suddenly, the proposition itself IS the thing. We are no longer talking about zebras, but about the proposition, “there is a zebra.” Again, this is Idealism run amuck.

    Remember Husserl: zur Sache!

    What Wittgenstein calls the “logical space” mirroring the world, suddenly becomes God himself! God is Wittgenstein’s logical space, according to some of these yapping pseudo-Clarkians.

    I really think some of you have veered far from Christianity. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Not, “there is an eternal proposition that says, ‘there is a world'”. If you were in a nearby NAPARC church, I would bring charges. Not, that you shouldn’t be elders. No: that you shouldn’t be taking the Lord’s supper. You are non-jewish kabbalists. A more sophisticated version of Madonna.

    However, there are enough battles as it is. And not all of you are Madonna wearing pants.

  107. David Reece Says:

    Please file charges against me. I go to Calvin OPC in Phoenix, Arizona.

  108. Steve M Says:

    David, good response!!
    Tim, incoherent post.

  109. Tim Harris Says:

    David Reece — 3,000 miles away doesn’t count as “nearby.” And… have we met? Which cultic ideas do you hold to?

  110. Steve M Says:

    Tim, perhaps it has escaped you that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” is a proposition.

  111. David Reece Says:

    Tim,

    You hold to mystery religion dogmas like the unknowability of God or Truth (the same thing).

    I was hoping you would bring me up on charges for believing in the knowability of divine revelation.

    You seem to think that Truth is something other than propositions. Without using propositions, please show me truth.

  112. Denson Dube Says:

    Tim,
    “The “law of contradiction” is no law at all. It is simply that being excludes what it is not, or it would not be. Being must be differentiated. Propositions that reflect the referenced reality avoid contradiction, because the referent excludes what it is not: not because there is some “law of non-contradiction.”

    How do you know that “being excludes what it is not”? Can it not be argued that you are imposing your own mental categories on “being”?

  113. Sean Gerety Says:

    I think this thread has been beat to death. I hope no one has some earth shattering comment, but the combox is closed. Thank you gentlemen.


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