Saturday, September 25, 2010

An exercise in denying the epistemic priority of logic

[continued]

While ontologically, God and Man are on different planes such that Man's knowledge is never univocal with God's knowledge, on the epistemic plane such distinctions do not and cannot exist. The proposition "God is God" means "God is God" for both God and Man for example. To make ontology normative for epistemology gave us the specter of Norman Shepherd in the fiasco over at Westminster Philadelphia in the 80s, where Cornelius Van Till defended the heretic Norman Shepherd despite Shepherd denying the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. [See O. Palmer Robertson, The Current Justification Controversy (Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2003)]

In this light, in his book The Two Wills of God (New Lenox, IL, USA: Puritan Publications, 2005) on page 24, Dr. C. Matthew McMahon gave us an excellent quote regarding the relation of Scripture and Logic as follows:

Ontologically, God precedes Logic. Epistemologically Logic precedes God.

It must be noted here that no one is saying that God is subservient or temporally subsequent to logic. If some Clarkians can be accused of subsuming ontology under epistemology, then surely some Van Tillians can be accused of subsuming epistemology under ontology. Both approaches are wrong, for ontology is not epistemology and epistemology is not ontology. Ontology has to do with being, while epistemology has to do with cognition. There is of course the being of any particular knowledge (ontology of epistemology) , and the knowledge of any particular being (epistemology proper), yet the two disciplines remain distinct.

When therefore we state that "epistemologically logic precedes God", we are merely saying that in the order of knowing from our side, we start not with God but with reason, for the very thought of God is itself THOUGHT which is rational. In order not to start with reason, thinking, sentence construction, speaking etc cannot be used.

In order to illustrate this most basic elemental principle, let us for the sake of argument (reductio ad absurdum) concede that epistemologically God precedes logic, and see how far we can go. We will illustrate that with a simple dialogue session between person A (who is persuaded of the epistemic priority of God) and person B (the enquirer who will act consistently with what A proclaims.

A: I say that epistemologically God precedes logic. Without God, logic cannot be known.

B: I disagree. How do you know that your sentence "without God, logic cannot be known" means what is means without presupposing logic?

A: Without God, logic does not exist and is nonsensical.

B: We are talking about epistemology here, not ontology.

A: Yes, without God, logic cannot be known and is nonsensical.

B: OK then. So how about this, why don''t you try to prove to me that God exists if such were the case?

A: Well, we don't prove God, God just IS. We start with God.

B: [consistent] I heard you say that the flowers are green. Was that what you said?

A: What flowers? I said God just IS.

B: Oh, the sky is blue?

A: You are being facetious!

B: So I am perfectly fine. Thanks.

A: Look, I'm not going to play word games with you. You jolly well know what I am talking about!

B: [changing back] Well, didn't you say that God precedes logic?

A: YES.

B: So if God precedes logic, then I cannot use logic until I know God. In which case, you have to prove to me that God exists first apart from the use of logic.

A: I didn't use logic. I presupposed God.

B: No, you didn't. You just said one sentence after another. Apart from logic, all sentences are equivocal and mean anything I want them to mean.

A: Now I see the reality of Rom. 1:18-23 in your faulty reasoning.

B: [switching back] So you are saying that my house is beautiful? Thanks.

A: :@ :@ [storms off]

[THE END]

I'm sure the truth behind the epistemic priority of logic can be ably seen in this short dialogue.

2 comments:

Michael said...

You state: "It must be noted here that no one is saying that God is subservient or temporally subsequent to logic. If some Clarkians can be accused of subsuming ontology under epistemology, then surely some Van Tillians can be accused of subsuming epistemology under ontology. Both approaches are wrong, for ontology is not epistemology and epistemology is not ontology."

I guess I don't understand the argument against the Clarkian. I think you case clearly demonstrates that logic is necessary to communicate.

But what is the Van Tillian complaint? Where is the error in Clarkian thought?

If Logic is God's Mind, and man in God's image has been given a logical mind. Isn't logic an eternal constant of God? When is there not both God and Logic.

The same as eternity is God's essence, logic is part of God's eternal essence.

PuritanReformed said...

@Michael:

I don't know if Clark and some Clarkians actually say this although they seem to hint at it (ie W. Gary Crampton). Gary Crampton did say in his book The Scripturalism of Godron Clark that ontology is part of epistemology, which seems to be an error on his part, although whether Clark actually taught that I do not know. Clark's views on the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union and his unique way of resolving the so-called paradoxes strike me as leaning in that direction too (of collapsing ontology into epistemology).

I do not yet know whether there is a valid Van Tillian complaint per se, but from my ongoing lectures so far with Dr. Mike Horton, it seems that they place a lot of emphasis on ontology, with the theory of analogy being primarily focused on clarifying the Creator/creature distinction -- that we are not in any way God (no univocal point of similarity between God and man in being). Of course, they apply this to epistemology too which I think can be considered in part but is not convincing.

As for the relation between God's mind and logic, I think it would be better to say that God's manner of reasoning is logical; logic describes God's manner of reasoning. I don't think God's mind is exhaustively identifiable with Logic. Logic is as much co-eternal with God in the same way speech is and God's thoughts are(ontologically proceeding but epistemologically preceding), but I don't think these exhausts God's thoughts.