Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Daily Bible Verse

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Dr. Greg Bahnsen's Rejection of Logic

"The fact that a word must mean one thing and not its contradictory is the evidence of the law of contradiction in all rational language. This exhibition of the logic embedded in Scripture explains why Scripture rather than the law of contradiction is selected as the axiom." -- Dr. Gordon H. Clark

Bahnsen’s Rejection of Logic

Are there multiple logics in God’s eternal mind and His omniscience? According to the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen, a student of the late Dr. Cornelius Van Til, the answer is yes:

It is plainly the case that non-Christians have a different notion of what constitutes consistency than the biblical Christian. They might both agree in distinguishing truth from falsehood (i.e., in avoiding violation of the law of contradiction) while they are diametrically opposed on whether or not it is consistent for God to love only some unto salvation and not effect universal salvation. The Christian and non-Christian will react differently to the position that the all-glorious God has allowed glory to be brought to His name in the historical process; while the believer glorifies God and enjoys Him forever, the unbeliever mocks that very possibility. They also differ in their reactions to the fact that all non-Christian epistemologies are hybrids of rationalism and irrationalism; the unbeliever seems insouciant about the incongruity, for example, of his opinion that in religious matters “nobody can know for certain,” yet “Christianity is false.” The naturalist would consider a supernatural revelation incoherent to a rational system, but the supernaturalist would consider the absence of such revelation incoherent. Yet in all these cases the disputants can agree to the formal law of non-contradiction as a guiding principle. This does not point to any inconsequential nature in logical consistency, nor does it amount to a recommendation of irrationality; but it does demonstrate why Clark’s emphasis on the apologetical value of coherence is misplaced. The law of contradiction does not preclude the possibility of many logics!

Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, ed. Joel McDurmon (Powder Springs, GA; Nacogdoches, TX: American Vision; Covenant Media Press, 2008), 167.

Needless to say if there are many logics, then logic itself must be irrational and illogical. Also, how does Bahnsen define logic anyway? In this paragraph Bahnsen seems to conflate a rational worldview or rational system with logic itself. It is true that an epistemology is internally consistent with its own starting axioms. However, as Clark pointed out, logic itself is immutable in God’s omniscient mind. If Scripture is not a logically consistent, coherent, and rational revelation of God and it cannot be systematized as a propositional system of truth, then the Bible has no meaning. Bahnsen correctly shows that pragmatically everyone accepts the law of contradiction since he is contradicting Clark’s apologetics. But does this mean that Van Til’s assertion that all Scripture is apparently contradictory is itself a violation of Bahnsen’s own contention that everyone accepts the law of contradiction? If all Scripture is apparently contradictory then for all practical purposes the “apparent” contradictions in Scripture have no solution this side of heaven and the practical result is neo-orthodoxy and irrationalism.

Ironically, in the same chapter where he is critiquing Clark he accuses Clark of promoting relativism and possibility, yet Bahnsen asserts a “possibility of many logics.” And if the law of contradiction means anything at all it means that there can be only one system of logic that is consistent with the law of contradiction. To say that the law of contradiction is basic to logic and then assert that there are many possible systems of logic is inherently a violation of the law of contradiction that Bahnsen claimed to support. Again, an epistemological system is different from logic itself. The question is whose epistemological system is most logical and most biblical, not which logic you capriciously choose.  The practical result of saying there are many logics is to affirm that truth is relative, not absolute.  But as Gordon Clark pointed out, Christianity is built on the axiom of universal truth, not induction.  Particular observations can never result in any universal law or any universally applicable moral law.  This would effectually rule out the Decalogue or Ten Commandments.  Bahnsen's reasoning is flawed at the foundations.

Furthermore, Bahnsen's contention that Clark elevates logic or even the law of contradiction above Scripture or as more primitive than Scripture is contradicted by Clark's own writings:

Nor need we waste time repeating Aristotle’s explanation of ambiguous words. The fact that a word must mean one thing and not its contradictory is the evidence of the law of contradiction in all rational language. This exhibition of the logic embedded in Scripture explains why Scripture rather than the law of contradiction is selected as the axiom. Should we assume merely the law of contradiction, we would be no better off than Kant was. His notion that knowledge requires a priori categories deserves great respect. Once for all, in a positive way--the complement of Hume’s negative and unintentional way--Kant demonstrated the necessity of axioms, presuppositions, or a priori equipment. But this sine qua non is not sufficient to produce knowledge. Therefore the law of contradiction as such and by itself is not made the axiom of this argument.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  "God and Logic".  The Trinity Review.  November/December 1980.

It is abundantly clear from the quote above that Dr. Clark did not make logic a magisterial ruler over and above Scripture.  In fact, Clark taught just the opposite.  Scripture says that God is Logic and it is clear that for Scripture to say anything meaningful it must be rationally understandable.  Since Scripture is embedded with logic it must be that Scripture itself teaches logic.

Moreover, because Christ is the Logos who “gives [epistemological] light to every man who comes into the world” (John 1:9), we are to understand that there is a point at which man’s logic meets God’s logic. In fact, John 1:9 denies that logic is arbitrary; it also denies polylogism, i.e., that there may be many kinds of logic. According to John, there is only one kind of logic: God’s logic. And the Logos gives to every image bearer of God the ability to think logically.

Dr. Gary W. Crampton.  "Review of 'Logic', by Dr. Gordon H. Clark."

Addendum:  The fact that mankind is born in God's image with the a priori equipment to be able to think intelligently and communicate in logically consistent language does not contradict the axiom of Christianity being the Holy Scriptures.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Matthew 4:4; 2 Peter 1:19-21).  That's because Scripture is a written revelation from God in verbally expressed words and propositions.  Animals cannot think, read or understand words.  The conclusion then is that there must be innate abilities given, in the image of God, to humanity.  Man is the image of God.  (See:  "The Image of God in Man", by Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society12:4 (Fall 1969).  Pp. 215-222.  Also:  "Image of God",  by Dr. Gordon H. Clark. [1973. In Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics. Carl F. H. Henry, ed. Washington D.C.: Canon Press.]

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