Bahnsen’s next major heading is entitled “The Priority of Logic and the Testing of God’s Word.” He argues that Clark does not presuppose the truth of God’s Word, but rather subjects it to the tests of logical validity. If this is true, then Clark is guilty of infecting his system with an autonomous premise.
However, two things should be kept in mind when evaluating Clark on the laws of logic. First, Clark considers the laws of logic to be the structure of God’s thought, that is, an aspect of the Divine essence, nature, being, or definition. Thus, in subjecting anything to the laws of logic, we are subjecting it to the standard God Himself possesses. Bahnsen himself must tacitly agree with this conclusion, for in his debate with Gordon Stein, Bahnsen argues that the laws of logic are abstract, universal, and invariant—they are not subject to change and they are always valid, which is to say, they are eternal laws of thought. What else can be abstract, eternal, and immutable but that which God is in or by Himself? Therefore, when Bahnsen criticizes Clark for subjecting God’s Word to the laws of logic, as though Clark were setting up an eternal principle outside of God, Bahnsen has not understood Clark’s position, or, having understood it, has not directly refuted it.
The second thing that must be kept in mind is that Clark is not using the laws of logic as a demonstrative proof that Scripture is God’s Word, but rather he is using the laws of logic as evidence that his presupposition is sound. Recall the quote from my last entry: “Logical consistency, therefore, is evidence of inspiration; but it is not demonstration.” Logical consistency is confirmation that God’s Word is true, it is not proof, for only the Holy Spirit demonstrates to the believer that the Bible is God’s Word.
Before addressing particular quotations by Bahnsen, I want to remark on a point that my friend Ron DiGiacomo has made that is a valid criticism of Clark. Nowhere in Clark’s writings have I found (and I have read most of Clark’s works, and all of his major works), nor has Ron found, where Clark explicitly argues that the unbeliever must presuppose the truth of the Triune God in order for his thinking to proceed with maximal warrant. In order to use the laws of logic, for example, one must presuppose the God of Scripture. Van Til and Bahnsen have made this argument explicit whereas Clark has used only the internal critique (the disjunctive syllogism) as his method. In this way Clark provides less for the believer’s confidence than does Bahnsen or Van Til, although I believe that Clark’s approach (the internal critique) must precede the transcendental argument (all knowledge presupposes the truth of Christianity) in a debate, for the ground must be cleared of confusion before a positive foundation may be found acceptable, generally speaking.
With these two considerations in mind, I will turn in the next post to the first subsection of Bahnsen’s criticisms of Clark’s use of logic.