Collect of the Day
O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Clark's Answer to Van Til: On Incomprehensibility: Part Six
[The following is the continuation of The Answer given by Dr. Gordon H. Clark and his supporters to The Complaint by Dr. Cornelius Van Til and his supporters. The Answer will be given in installments as time permits. To read the pdf image file click on the links. The following is installment one of the chapter on incomprehensibility. See Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five.]
Continued from page 20 of The Answer.
In studying this subject one should be careful to avoid certain apparently common confusions. Strict accuracy is required. The word knowledge has two meanings; both are good English; but the one should never be taken for the other. When one says, This man has great knowledge, the word refers to the objects, i.e., the truths or propositions he knows. On the other hand when one, Man has discursive knowledge, the word refers, not to the objects known, but to the manner of knowing. The simple phrase God's knowledge may bear either meaning, but what is true of one meaning is not necessarily truth of the other meaning. In the phrase God's knowledge of a proposition the word knowledge refers to the intuitional character of his knowing. It cannot refer to the content known, for if it did, the phrase could be exactly reproduced as God's object of an object, or God's truth of a truth, or God's proposition of a proposition. The complainants in attacking Dr. Clark's position are not concerned with knowledge in the sense of the manner of knowing. They distinguish and they admit Dr. Clark distinguishes between intuition and discursion, but they claim that the manner of God's knowing is no part of the doctrine of incomprehensibility. Hence the theory of the Complaint is that the objects or truths known by God are different from those known by man. Another possible confusion arises from the ambiguity of the word meaning. Sometimes meaning means implication; as for example when one says, The clouds in the sky tonight mean rain tomorrow. Thus it is possible to say that God sees more meaning in a particular proposition than man does because he sees its far reaching implications. This, however, is not the meaning of meaning in this discussion. The Complaint (P. 6, 1-2; O. 23) definitely sets aside this meaning as irrelevant. Therefore those who study the Complaint and this reply must restrict themselves to another and more basic meaning of meaning. This more basic meaning is simply the particular truth itself. The proposition, Two times two are four, apart from anything it implies, means just what it says. It is difficult, in fact it is impossible to express the meaning of this proposition in any terms simpler than the words, Two times two are four. It is in this sense that the Complaint asserts that such a proposition has two different meanings. Though these distinctions are clear and elementary, experience shows that they are often confused.
What Dr. Clark said was that though God's knowledge of a truth is different from man's knowledge of the same truth, it is none the less the same truth that they both know; if indeed man knows anything. The Complaint avers that it is a prerequisite of ministerial good standing to believe that God's knowledge and man's knowledge do not “coincide at any single point” (P. 5, 3; O. 21). It tries to set up as a test of orthodoxy the denial that man knows even one truth God knows. If therefore God knows that two times two are four, and that Christ died for our sins, man cannot know these propositions. Man and God, according to the Complaint, cannot know the same truth, because God's knowledge and man's knowledge do not “coincide at any single point.” And this view the Complainants are attempting to make a test of orthodoxy. In reply the Presbytery wishes to suggest that if man does not know at least one truth that God knows, if man's knowledge and God's knowledge do not coincide in at least one detail, then man knows nothing at all. God knows all truth, and if man's mind cannot grasp even one truth, then man's mind grasps no truth. Far from being a test of orthodoxy this test imposed by the Complaint is nothing else than skepticism and irrationalism.
The Church has a right to know what sort of strange doctrine the Complaint is making a test of orthodoxy. Does it mean that God in knowing that two times two are four also sees intuitively the logical connection with some theorem of higher mathematics not yet discovered by man? Does the Complaint mean that as God thinks “Christ died for our sins,” he also understands far-reaching consequences man has not dreamed of? No, this is not the point the Complaint is making. As the transcript shows Dr. Clark holds that God knows all these implications. But this view of Dr. Clark is what the Complaint rejects as a “quantitative” view of truth. The Complaint is not arguing that God knows more propositions. Its point is that the first proposition itself, viz., two times two are four in its narrowest and minimal significance, is qualitatively different for God. What is this qualitative difference? This is a question the Complaint has not answered. The ordinarily recognized qualities of simple propositions are: affirmative, negative, universal, particular, true, and false. Do the complainants hold that a proposition which is affirmative for man is negative for God? Or is a proposition that is true for God false for man? What the qualitative difference is that they have in mind, they have not divulged. But if they cannot state clearly what this qualitative difference is, how can such an unknown quality be made a test of orthodoxy?
At any rate the Complaint definitely states that man's knowledge and God's knowledge “do not coincide at any single point”. This assertion does not refer to the modes of knowing truth, as will be made quite evident in step three. It refers strictly to the truth itself. The Complaint teaches that any given proposition does not mean the same thing for God as it means for man. “Two times two are four” is a given proposition; therefore it means one thing for man; and something qualitatively different for God. The truth “Christ died for our sins,” does not have the same meaning for man and for God. May it mean for God that Christ did not die for our sins? The complainants of course would deny that it could quite mean that. But does not their philosophy give them reason for making such a denial?
See Part Seven
Continued from page 22 of The Answer.