Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Logical Coherency of the Intellectual Triunity of God

My friend Joel Tay has just posted his interesting seminary essay The Logical Coherency of the Intellectual Triunity of God on his blog here. It is certainly an excellent article [which would be better with better formatting], though I do not think I would agree with [Dr. Gordon H.] Clark's definition of "person" as "a set of thoughts" or "a man is what he thinks". While logic and thinking is indeed necessary, it is not ontologically primary. As Dr. C. Matthew McMahon wrote in his book with regards to the relation of God and logic, The Two Wills of God (New Lenox, IL, USA: Puritan Publications, 2005),

Epistemologically, logic precedes God. Ontologically, God precedes logic (p. 24, footnote 5)

So for man the imago dei, while it is indeed impossible to separate thoughts and reasoning from a person, yet to collapse ontology into epistemology is I think in error. So rather than defining "person" as "a set of thoughts" or "a man is what he thinks", "person" could be better defined as "an entity which thinks" or "a man is an entity formed by what he thinks".

18 comments:

Beng said...

Agreed.

Even Descartes' "cogito, ergo sum" - which Tay mentions - presupposes the existence of the entity who thinks. The act of thinking simply confirms the fact of the existence of the entity; it is not the cause by which the thinking entity comes into existence.

PuritanReformed said...

SB:

Descartes did use his famous phrase to prove that he exists, and then build his rationalism on it. However, his phrase cannot be proven at all by his skeptical methodology. What it can only prove is that "something is thinking". What Descartes smuggled in is that he is most definitely a person, which he assumes without proof that such is true.

Joel Tay said...

Descartes did not doubt logic. :P

Joel Tay said...

Ontologically, Clark views logic as the way that God thinks, but epistemologically, he does not begin with logic, but with scripture, and what it says about logic - hence the motto of Trinity Foundation is that the bible is the word of God.

McMahon identifies Clark as being somewhat neo-nestorian.

PuritanReformed said...

Joel:

=) I think what Clark is discussing wrt logic is the ontology of [epistemic] propositions, which is not the same as ontology per se.

Michael said...

I agree with you. I like sticking with Dr. James White's tactic of "person" being who you are as opposed to "being" which is what you are. It seems as though "person" is what fits simply because there is a lack of any term that satisfies the concept. I also appreciate Hanegraff's "one what and three whos" mantra. It is simple but helpful. I also find it rather ironic that the word person was derived from persona, a word invented by Sabellius.

PuritanReformed said...

Michael:

interesting. Hanegraaff's formula seems a bit strange though. So far however, I think the Nicene and Chalcedon formula are the best in expressing the truths of the Godhead.

Michael said...

In regards to Hank's formula;

When we say that Jesus is God we are not identifying who He is, but rather what He is. We are identifying His immutable attributes and how He relates to us and the Father and Holy Spirit.We (or at least I)identify the Lord Jesus' personality with the fact that He is God the Son, but in my opinion we do this simply because of the fiercly monothesitic faith we profess. We know of no other Gods, and therefore His being and person seem as one if we are not careful; something that I think the author of that essay alluded to. When we identify who Jesus is, as in His personality and many of His attributes we then make the distinction of "being" and "person." Perhaps it is because of our familiarity with the human being, we sometimes tend to equate being and person, and thereby imply the lack of distinction onto the nature and identity of God. After all, I have yet to meet a human being who shared their being with more than one person!

I am interested in your view on the development of doctrine, specifically in regards to the doctrine of the Trinity. Any thoughts?

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

THEREFORE, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge
one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood,
truly God and truly man,
consisting also of a reasonable soul and body;
of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead,
and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood;
like us in all respects, apart from sin;
as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages,
but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the Godbearer;
one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten,
recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation;
the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union,
but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence,
not as parted or separated into two persons,
but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ;
even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us,
and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

http://vintage.aomin.org/CHALC.html

PuritanReformed said...

Mark:

thanks for the link.

PuritanReformed said...

Michael:

the explanation of Hanegraaff's formula seems fine, but the formula still seems kindof forced, in that "what" seems to be more like a functional description. But that is just my opinion.

With regards to the historical devlopment of doctrine, I am not entirely sure of my position on it. Certainly, I think that the idea of historical development being unimportant is false, but the opposite idea of historical development being definitive I take to be false as well.

With regards to the doctrine of the Trinity, my position now is that the Chalcedon formulation is still the highest point of orthodoxy so far. While I am sure various theologians have worked on the doctrine, I am not yet convinced they have advanced the doctrine to greater clarity and precision than the definition offered at Chalcedon.

Michael said...

Great point. I have taken the position that doctrine is not developed, and that progressive revelation need be clarified and distinct from the semantical hijackings of Rome. If we keep Sola Scriptura, then must we too accept Tota Scriptura? I am not asking you, just my thoughts rhetorically. So far as our beloved Trinity, I have proposed a concept, which among some brethren has been criticized. I believe that the doctrine did not develop, but instead the church simply identified and systematized the revelation of God, and this over time. What do you think? To me, and maybe I am wrong, but this seems to be more consistent with our reformed faith than that of accepting doctrinal development. Several heretics have used the affirmation of doctrinal development to disparage the Trinity. This is not my concern primarily, but if my position is affirmed it may be an added benefit to Trinitarian apologetics.

PuritanReformed said...

Michael:

It sure sounds consistent with the Reformed faith.

Joel Tay said...

"I believe that the doctrine did not develop, but instead the church simply identified and systematized the revelation of God, and this over time."

Sounds good. What's are the objections to that?

Michael said...

The objections that I have run into, primarily from the modalists that I deal with, is that systematizing and identifying is synonomous with development. However, when one looks at Rome's understanding of the development of doctrine it is clearly a different animal all together.

Joel Tay said...

God think, therefore I exist.

Beng said...

uh uh. Strictly speaking, God said, therefore we exist.