6/06/2007

Logic and God 4

God establishes reason, and without Him, we do not have reasons for reasons.

We reason by the laws of logic combined with facts we observe. For example, the Law of Non-contradiction, that A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship. These abstract, conceptual principles must be accounted for if any discussion on any topic is to take place. Only the Christian God can account for these laws. His thinking upholds ours.

If the laws of logic are based on human thinking, then we have to realize that people are different and the laws may differ from person to person. They are no longer absolute. Some particular examples follow.

If the laws of logic are just social conventions, then they are not absolute, and they can be ignored at will. My social network is, after all, different from yours.

How do we avoid the conclusion that all of our thinking is not the result of mere instinctive reactions to our environment? Since our environments are all different, we would all reach different conclusions. We would have no basis for argument because we could not change each other’s minds because we could not change each other’s environments to the degree required.

If our thinking is a preconditioned response determined by our genetics, rational impulses would then be determined by genetics. There would be no decisions made in any traditional sense. We would all be pre-programmed to do what we do, and therefore there would be no sense in arguing. We could not change each other’s genetics, so no one could possibly win. Anyone who argues a point assumes that logic applies and genetics don’t determine our thinking if they are consistent.

I guess that our thinking could be based on the consequences of our actions (e. g. behaviorism in psychology). But then we would have to wrestle with the inconsistency of consequences, especially soon, certain and positive consequences. That would make thinking inconsistent from person to person. Not to mention that now all that could win an argument would be a form of force, since only superior force can fix consequences for others. Survival of the fittest indeed!

The laws of logic cannot come from science because science is based on inductive reasoning from things we see in our environments. For example, we cannot see the law of non-contradiction in the world. We would have to see the properties of a non-existent things (non-A). The laws of logic are abstract constructions that exist only in the mind. We discover the laws of logic by thought, not observation.
The laws of logic are also undeniable. If we say, for example, “I know the laws of logic do change. We’ve found scientific discoveries in quantum physics that disobey those laws.”

Nothing that is expressed in words disobeys the laws of logic. Any discovery you make must be logically understood. For example:

If the Law of Non-contradiction (A cannot be both A and Non-A at the same time, in the same relationship, and in the same sense) is not in effect, then you might as well say to me: “We’ve found scientific discoveries in quantum physics that obey the laws of logic.” “Obey” and “disobey” can have the same meaning in your sentence.

If the Law of Identity (something is what it is, something that exists has a specific nature) is not in effect, the discovery in question would not necessarily be a discovery. Your statement of the discovery could be: “We’ve found scientific discoveries in quantum physics that disobey those laws, but the discoveries changed into discoveries which followed the laws of logic when we came back the next day.”

If the Law of Excluded Middle (a statement is either true or false) is not in effect, your statement on quantum physics could be false even if it were true.

None of the sentences used by anyone would have any objective meaning if the laws of logic do not apply. If the laws of physics as they are currently understood do not apply, it does not follow that the laws of logic do not apply. This would go for any recent scientific discovery. As soon as a person opens their mouth to refute logic they have assumed it.

If Christians are wrong, we are left with no reason to think that we can have rational discourse. Atheists and agnostics cannot have an argument, because they do not have a position.

Why do I think that only the Christian God among other gods can ground logic and other immutable laws? Short version:

Islam postulates a God whose idea of morality changes from this world to paradise (e. g. monogamous sex now vs. promiscuous sex with the virgins in paradise). His moral laws change and are not absolute.

Judaism postulates a god very much like Christianity’s, but the Jews’ God does not forgive based on an adequate atonement (The infinite Christ does not pay the penalty for their sins by suffering all of God’s wrath). If he forgives, his standards are not unchanging.

The god of the process theologians and / or open theists changes himself as time goes on (e. g. he learns things about the undetermined future). He cannot then be the ground of anything like the laws of logic, which do not change.

A finite god who came into being (this is really what a person is saying if they say God had a cause) would be ruled out as well. If God came into being, that would be changing. He could not be the ground of the laws of logic because logic requires an unchanging ground.

Deism does not allow for a God who interacts with His world. The laws of logic would have to be inherent in the universe he made. The universe we live in changes constantly, therefore the laws of logic would change with the universe.

Pantheism, the idea that god and the world are the same in their being, also falls short. In this god is all and all is god. The universe shows it changes. The unchanging laws of logic force us to assume that an unchanging God exists, so the universe must be different from God.

Gnosticism’s god is irrational and illogical as defined by most expressions of that religion. However, I realize that not all forms of Gnosticism are alike.

If any of the worldviews that oppose Christianity are true, we have no reason to think that we can have rational discourse. We cannot even have an argument, because none of us has a position we can communicate.

In the case of atheism, this also shifts the burden of proof from the Christian to the atheist. Now the atheist must put forth a justification for logic and reason before we must hear him. This is a significant thing because atheists are used to tearing down arguments, not making them.

Please keep in mind that we are to pray for God to bless all of those we engage in this conversation. We should pray for their protection from harm and repentance to life. The only difference between them and us is the unmerited favor of a loving God. We cannot ‘look down our noses’ at them since we once “lived” among them.

(Sources for the above are: John M. Frame, The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, and Tearing Down Strongholds: And Defending the Truth by R. C. Sproul, Jr. Of course, the mistakes are all mine.)

By the way, this is my first attempt to use any form of the transcendental argument from logic. If you have a critique or a suggestion, please let me know.

8 comments:

L P Cruz said...

JK,

Great points. The Laws of Logic are yet another law discovered in nature/human life similar to the Laws of Gravity.

I was discussing with a Christian collegue his debate with his atheist brother. The brother believes Jesus did not exist. I suppose I can believe he does not exist either. I said, at least grant that history says there was a Jesus even from anti-Christian sources! The brother has morals, but could not account for why he wants to be moral. Duh???

J. K. Jones said...

Thanks LP.

The basic argument works for any absolute that you find: logic, consistency that makes science possible, morality, etc.

R.T. Jones said...

J.K., I am concerned that you are attacking strawmen rather than real opponents. I'm sure there are quite a few Islamic theologians that could demonstrate how their understanding of God's morality does not logically entail a change, Jewish (and other) scholars who can demonstrate that forgiveness does not entail changing standards, etc. I am puzzled that you include process theologians, who self-identify as Christians, and Open Theists, who self-identify as evangelicals and even adhere to orthodox theological doctrines like the trinity and inerrancy. I sense that you are not particularly interested in listening to other positions, just in critiquing them.

One other quick thought: you are grounding the rules of logic in the being of God, so I can only assume that you hold that God exists prior to the rules of logic. Do you believe, then, that God could have made things differently than He did? Could He have created a world in which 2+2=5, squares can be circles, and what we now call evil would be considered good? I tend to think that He couldn't, since these things create logical contradictions. It seems that even God is bound by the law of non-contradiction, so that the law of non-contradiction comes somehow logically prior to the existence of God. To be sure, such things boggle the mind, but I think my view creates less philosophical difficulties than yours.

And Amen to the need to pray for and bless those who disagree. Great point.

Your thoughts?

J. K. Jones said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment.


I could discuss each of the other positions in more detail, and I will in future posts. This was the short version. I am, however, bringing out inconsistencies in those positions which I see after reading the writings of some of their best proponents.


I am continuing to study each of the positions that I am critiquing, although Islam and atheism are of particular interest right now. Disagreeing with those positions does not logically equate to misunderstanding them.


“…process theologians, who self-identify as Christians, and Open Theists, who self-identify as evangelicals and even adhere to orthodox theological doctrines like the trinity and inerrancy.”


These positions show extreme logical deficiencies in light of Scriputre and reason, and I am more concerned with the positions than I am with the names and titles of those that hold them.


I would like someone to argue with me and bring me back to the truth if I were wrong. In fact, I’m sure I am wrong about something, and I am willing to learn and grow if show where I am in error. God established logic and language at least partly so this could take place.


“I sense that you are not particularly interested in listening to other positions, just in critiquing them.”


I am trying to discuss thoughts, not individuals. My critiques are not intended to be personal. I will continue to learn more about other positions and the people who hold them, hopefully by interacting with them on this blog and other blogs. For the record, if I am convinced I am wrong, I will change my views and beliefs.

“…I can only assume that you hold that God exists prior to the rules of logic. Do you believe, then, that God could have made things differently than He did?... It seems that even God is bound by the law of non-contradiction, so that the law of non-contradiction comes somehow logically prior to the existence of God…”


That does not follow from my comments as I intended them. Logic is grounded in God’s being and knowledge. Square circles, rocks bigger than He can lift, conceptual inconsistencies, and other things like that do not fit into the knowledge of God. Since God is who He is, logic could be no other way than it is right now.


God is not bound by anything outside of Him, but He is bound by His own being and characteristics. He cannot be untrue to Himself. Similarly, He cannot lie, learn, cease to be, or change His attitude toward sin, among other things. Any of these things are impossible for Him because they are inconsistent with His character as He has revealed it to us.

One of the most glorious things about God is His consistency with Himself. It is something we can all praise Him for:
“To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17, ESV)

“…he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:15-16, ESV)

As to whether God could have made things different than He did, I don’t think so, but I am not sure. I am still thinking about the idea that God could possibly have made things different in some ways and still have been consistent with His own nature. As a finite creature I may not ever figure this one out, and I land squarely on this verse: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV).

“And Amen to the need to pray for and bless those who disagree. Great point.”

Amen! We are searching for truth here, and I pray we find it together.

God bless you at Trinity working on your M. Div.

R.T. Jones said...

So if I'm understanding you correctly, you are saying that the rules of logic are essentially synonymous with God's character. So neither God nor the rules of logic come "first" so to speak.

I am concerned that you can only ground the rules of logic in the character of God at the expense of His personality. As John Frame writes in his Preface to No Other God, "Although my general evaluation of open theism is negative, I have benefited from my interaction with open theists. They have challenged me to better understand the "give-and-take" between God and the world described in the Bible. I agree with open theists that we cannot simply write off this give-and-take as anthropomorphism."

J. K. Jones said...

R. T. Jones,
“So if I'm understanding you correctly, you are saying that the rules of logic are essentially synonymous with God's character. So neither God nor the rules of logic come "first" so to speak.”


What I am saying, in short, is that God thinks logically. The way God thinks is a part of His character. His character does not change. This is an unchanging ground for logic.


“I am concerned that you can only ground the rules of logic in the character of God at the expense of His personality.”

I do not understand this at all. Why does this idea cost us any aspect of the Trinitarian nature of God’s personality?

I’ve read Frame’s book, and I believe that whatever he means by that comment, he does not mean that God’s being or attributes change. He has not abandoned the transcendental argument for God’s existence that we are discussing here.


When an unchanging being interacts with changing beings, the actions of the unchanging being toward the changing beings will change based on the changes in the changing beings. (The last sentence is a wonderful example of what happens when an engineer tries his hand at written communication.)

A just God will threaten wrath; a just God will also forgive the truly repentant based on His provision in Christ. The actions toward an individual change when the individual’s attitude changes.

Are you an Open Theist?

R.T. Jones said...

No, I am not an open theist (largely due to the impact of Frame's book). But I am sympathetic to the Open Theist position in that it is trying to take seriously the notion that God is personal. (And I think that is what the Frame quote above is getting at.)
You and I probably differ more in emphasis than belief on this point. The thing I am resisting is viewing God as essentially a Giant Supercomputer who is unchanging in the sense that a computer program doesn't change. The self-revelation of God in the Bible is very much personal - unchanging and infinitely trustworthy, yes, but still personal. God is MORE than personal, as we understand personality, but He is certainly not LESS.

God bless!

J. K. Jones said...

The idea is that He does not change wiht respect to His way of thinking or understanding of facts.

I would not see this as being impersonal.

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