Posts Tagged ‘logic’

After reading “Logical and Conceptual Reasoning” in Section 4.5, “Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him,” of Van Til’s Apologetics: A Reading and an Analysis by Greg Bahnsen, I wanted to write down quickly some applications and implications from the passage I read (pages 235-236). I’ll include an excerpt here for those unfamiliar with Man’s Analogous Thinking applied to logic:

“Van Til pictured human knowing as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” He also maintained that God’s thinking represents perfect coherence. Therefore, in order for men to know things, taught Van Til, they too must think coherently or with logical consistency. “The law of contradiction, therefore, as we know it, is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature.” So in all of our thinking about Scripture and the world, believers are obligated to think logically, thinking God’s thoughts after Him. “Christians should employ the law of contradiction, whether positive or negatively, as a means by which to systematize the facts of revelation, whether these facts are found in the universe at large or in the Scripture.” Van Til goes on to indicate that in contrast to unbelieving thought, the Christian views logic as a reflection of God’s own thinking, rather than as laws or principles that are “higher” than God or that exist “in independence of God and man.” To explain by application what this means (in part), Van Til held that God’s word must be interpreted logically—that is to say, using God’s thoughts (logical ordering) to interpret God’s thoughts (in Scripture)—but cannot (and may not) in the nature of the case be subject to criticism or rejection on the basis of some supposedly higher logic. Van Til said that there is “no impersonal law of logic” that dictates to God what He can or cannot say; the logical constraints of God’s thinking are the constraints of His own personal nature, which man is to emulate.

After reading, I realized that I too often fail to apply the implications of man thinking analogously after God’s thinking. In a previous post, I attempted to correct the misconception that testing the logic of an interpretation of Scripture is the same as testing the logical veracity of Scripture. However, my previous post stopped short of developing or even stating the basis for the Christian understanding of logic. By failing to do so, readers lose a huge insight to utilize in defense of objections against using Scripture as an ultimate authority or presupposition (see previous post for definition of a presupposition). Hopefully, the excerpt given above allows me to quickly discuss two applications of thinking God’s thoughts after God without a lengthy elaboration or development of my own.

In summary of the passage above I wrote the following implications to God being the originator of logic:

Logic is not:

  1. Neutral, being a standard outside of God and humankind
  2. The laws of logic was not originally created or developed by any person

On the contrary, any person who develops or thinks of the laws of logic are only aligning his or her thoughts to God’s thoughts. Because logic belongs to God and thinking logically aligns oneself to God, a person cannot put God to the test with logic; logic puts the person to the test, indicating whether his or her thoughts correspond to His. This has immediate applications for apologetic issues related to hermeneutics and the canon.

In regards to hermeneutics, using logic to gauge our correct interpretation of the bible is not extrabiblical but is thinking our thoughts after God’s thoughts. God’s mind is completely logical and coherent, therefore any interpretation must reflect analogously God’s mind and way of thinking.

Consequently, even attacks of any biblical doctrine or particular verse in Scripture becomes impotent. Any law of logic the unbeliever or inconsistent Christian appeals to belongs to God. Ultimately then, any objection of logical inconsistency shows that their interpretation, summary, or paraphrasing of Scripture is immediately false. Before the unbeliever or believer alike even begins to point out a logical inconsistency in Scripture the person already is defeated by attacking a straw man (or straw bible, in this case). Not only are logic-based attacks against the Christian a logic bomb inserted into the Bible, the attacks turns out to be a logic bomb already defused by the Christian’s biblical worldview! The attack is not a dangerous threat but a straw man to be blown apart with apologetic vigor.

Moving to the second application, in regards to the canon, when a Christian rejects any document that is not logical he or she is really applying our innate knowledge of God. Because all people know God —regardless if they deny knowing Him, and because Christians know God more fully by studying and believing Scripture, a Christian can quickly reject any idea or thought —moreover, any document— not abiding by the laws of logic (God being the originator of any law of logic). When a Christian believes Scripture, the Christian also is by his or her very faith, admitting, without a word spoken, that he or she recognizes God’s “voice” or “signature” wherever and however God reveals Himself (whether in Scripture or in nature). Moreover, the Christian’s faith reveals an innate knowledge that God’s voice is coherent in His revelation because God by nature is coherent, in His very being.

In conclusion, if you are struggling with defending the Bible as a presupposition when it comes to interpreting the Bible (hermeneutics) or assuming that the Bible is Scripture (the canon) then read up on Chapter 4 of Van Til’s Apologetic: A Reading and An Analysis by Greg L. Bahnsen. Doing so will give deep insights about the place of logic in the Christian worldview and help prepare a apologetic response to questions about the canon or hermeneutics.

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I once read that if your writing is not clear, most likely your thinking is not clear. After some initial confusion on attempting to explain why Scripture rather than logic was my presupposition, I have finally cleared my thoughts and hopefully will give some clear up the confusion.

Presuppositions Defined

Presuppositions are a person’s most basic non-negotiable truth, ultimate authority, and/or ultimate committment in a person’s worldview. Said differently, presuppositions are the guiding truth and standard used to gauge all other truth claims. All other truths will be evaluated through these basic presuppositions.

Thus, if a person (from now on used interchangably with a male pronoun) appeals to another authority and not his claimed “presupposition” then he shows that his “presupposition” was not his most basic, guiding truth. In other words, his presupposition was no longer his presupposition; his ultimate authority had another authority; and his ultimate commitment was no longer ultimate. 

Simply put, the person would be inconsistent.

Take my example of claiming Scripture is my presupposition, if I had conceded that logic is used to verify the truthfulness of Scripture, then I would’ve betrayed my presupposition. By saying yes, logic verifies the truthfulness of Scripture, I would have been inconsistent. If I really believed Scripture is my presupposition, then I wouldn’t be testing Scripture with another authority (logic).

My refusal to acknowledge logic as a standard to test Scripture reveals two things. The first is that my presupposition is still my presupposition— not just my claimed “presupposition”. Put another way, I remained consistent, demonstrating a coherent worldview by continuing to use my presupposition to evaluate all other claims. The second is that the source of my disagreement didn’t come from a clear understanding of logic (at the time; more on logic later) but rather a clear understanding of my presuppositions— Scripture.

My Confusion

During my discussion I kept agreeing that Scripture must be logical. My error was assuming that saying Scripture is logical was the same as admitting Scripture must be tested with logic (Footnote 1).

By agreeing that Scripture is logical, the objection might be raised,  “Doesn’t that mean logic is the ultimate authority?” The  answer is no.

Interpreting Scripture is not the same as testing Scripture.

When a person checks to see whether or not a proposition from the bible is logical, he’s not testing the logic of Scripture, he’s testing his own logic!  The key was consistently applying the inerrancy of Scripture to my incorrect assumption. Because Scripture is truthful, Scripture is inherently logical. By assuming the truthfulness of Scripture beforehand, I no longer was conflicted.

My Presuppositions

The source of my confusion was assuming that testing my interpretation of Scripture is the same as testing the logic of Scripture. God doesn’t automatically give a pat on the back with an invisible hand when you understand Scripture correctly. Instead, he gives us minds to think and logical tests to verify we are interpreting Scripture correctly.

Thus, Scripture’s logic is not in question. Man’s understanding of Scripture is in question. If anything Scripture seems illogical, it is safe to conclude that in reality the person, not Scripture, was illogical. Man can only think logically and truthfully if he aligns his thinking to God’s thinking and follows his thoughts from God’s thoughts (Footnote 2).

By assuming the doctrine of inerrancy, I know beforehand that Scripture is automatically truthful and therefore logical.

In the form of a logical argument, my reasoning might be clearer:

If Scripture is truthful, Scripture is logical.
Scripture is truthful                                    
Therefore Scripture is logical.

My Conclusion

Don’t despair if you are confused and frustrated but especially don’t give in. Be God-fearing and admit you don’t have an answer instead of man-fearing and setting aside your faith and source of all truth.

Putting aside your source of all truth, Christ, even temporarily will make you inconsistent but more importantly hostile to the knowledge of God. Remember, “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prov 1:7).” It’s ok to be confused; it’s not ok to be neutral.

Footnote 1: If you make the mistake of denying Scripture as logical, you validate fideism, a belief that religion is irrational. Don’t fall into this mistake! Christians can admit that Scripture is logical without automatically implying Scripture is not an ultimate authority. So the next time someone asks if Scripture is logical, say yes.

Footnote 2: For a more elaboration see Section 4.5.2 “Man Knows God Analogously to God’s Knowing” Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis by Greg L. Bahnsen pg 257.

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