Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Logic and the Nature of God

I recently read a blog entry by Doug Wilson wherein he retracts his "nominalism, but" metaphysic for a "realism, but" metaphysic. I posted a message of agreement and extension of Wilson's main point, which is that our view of God's nature must acknowledge certain logical laws as part and parcel with His Being.

A couple of commenters, and really one in particular, was uneasy about the idea of logic being an attribute of God. He thought it brought God's nature under a standard it ought not to be placed under. At times he seemed leery because he considered logic an aspect of man's mind, but not of God's and at other times he considered logic to be an attribute of creation, but not of God's nature.

Such views on logic are unfortunate, more so for the fact that they are offered frequently in circles of Christianity where a rational faith is upheld as a Biblical ideal. Few, if any, Christians have heartburn over using logic to understand God's revelation, and those Christians who uphold the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture often adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith's assertion that we understand the Word of God by what it expresses and by "good and necessary inference." This quoted phrase is an acknowledgment of the Biblical warrant for logic, which Gordon Clark defines as "the science of necessary inference" (Logic 1). The study and use of logic proceeds upon the basis of certain laws of logic, namely; the law of identity (an object is the same as itself), the law of contradiction (One cannot say that a thing both is and is not in the same respect and at the same time), and the law of the excluded middle (for any proposition, either the proposition is true, or its negation is true).

It is easy to derive from Scripture these laws of logic (also known as the laws of thought). The very name of God asserts the law of identity, the statement that God does not lie implies the law of contradiction, and statements that indicate God is God and there is no other exhibit the principle of the excluded middle.

Moreover, the people who decry logic are confused about what is a truth. Truth is an evaluation of propositions. Propositions are the meanings of declarative sentences. Knowledge is the possession, or correct evaluation of truth. Given these basic acknowledgments, one wonder why it would be offensive to claim that God's thought exhibits logic because logic is the way God's thought is structured. We don't get in a tizzy over the claim that God has a mind, simply because we can also recognize minds in human creatures. Nor do we think that God's mind is a derivation of human minds. Why then should we think logic is something of man's mind that we project upon God's mind? Rather Scripture reveals that logic is the structure by which God expresses His thoughts, and since He has made us to commune with Him, our minds are also structured by logic.

Far from obliterating the Creator/creature distinction, or holding God accountable to a standard above Him, the laws of logic are the guide for our understanding of the truths we must know in order to love God rightly. Note that saying logic is the guide for knowing God rightly is not the same as saying that logic is the source of truth. God has to reveal to our minds the propositions we must believe, but we could not understand the relationship between the propositions God reveals to us without the laws of logic that govern these relations.

In short, logic isn't bad, though it is often used poorly by men. Logic itself isn't man-made, though certain views about logic are man-made. The Bible exhibits the laws of thought, and it expresses itself in logical forms (Clark gives examples of several logical argument forms appearing in Scripture; see p. 119 of Logic). Without logic we could not know anything, certainly not God in whom we live and move and have our being and for whom our minds were created for communion by means of truth.


Ryan said...

I really don't get the hesitancy. Say "God is love" and no one bats an eye. But love presupposes logic.

Joshua Butcher said...

Logic is an iron vice. People would rather float on the winds of whim than be held fast in the grip of necessary inference.

Reformed Apologist said...

Ryan, I've had that very thought. Say "God is love" (or holy) and no-prob. Say God is logic and whew, look out! :)