Friday, February 28, 2014

Rom 1 reply, 47: In light of Gordon Clark's argument in brief, an argument from necessary (thus, eternal) truth to the reality of God as eternally contemplative . . . and, designing . . . Mind

In Faith and Reason, pp. 162 ff, the late Ronald Nash summarises an argument to God by Gordon Clark that apparently traces to Augustine, that we may cite and slightly adapt following bloggist and commenter Ilion (HT):
P1. Truth exists.
P2. Truth is immutable (unchangeable).
P3. Truth is eternal (--> without beginning or end; lasting for ever).
P4. Truth is mental (pertaining to mind or minds).
P5. Truth is superior to the human mind

C6. Truth is God
This and similar arguments have been batted around in academic fora, apologetics exchanges and of course on the Internet. Generally, in a somewhat dismissive cast of mind and heart.

But, I think there is something there and we should not toss out baby with bathwater.

More broadly, I think it is first so that a worldview that sees the Infinite-Personal and Eternal God as foundational reality  is a reasonable faith-point, and is also the best explanation for our existence as minded, morally governed embodied beings -- creatures, really -- in a credibly fine-tuned cosmos of finite age set up for such life in many, many ways.

(To see why I think so, which requires more than a blog post essay to present responsibly, you may want to examine the discussion here on in context.)

Secondly, I think there is a solid core to the above argument, especially if we understand the conclusion to be effectively, 
C6': The Truth Himself is the Infinite-Personal Mind we commonly call God, who eternally contemplates necessary -- thus eternal -- Truth and truths.
Where also, I am ever more and more stirred in a willfully . . . even, defiantly . . .  apostate and selectively hyperskeptical age, by the relevance of the following c. 57 AD remarks from Paul, in Romans 1 (which, BTW, subtly highlights Nero Caesar and other similar elite but utterly corrupted pagans as exhibit no 1):
Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel (good news) of Christ, for it is God’s power working unto salvation [for deliverance from eternal death] to everyone who believes with a personal trust and a confident surrender and firm reliance, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, 17 For in the Gospel a righteousness which God ascribes is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed through the way of faith that arouses to more faith]. As it is written, The man who through faith is just and upright shall live and shall live by faith.

18 For God’s [holy] wrath and indignation are revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who in their wickedness repress and hinder the truth and make it inoperative.

19 For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them. 20 For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification], 21 Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and [c]godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened.

22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves]. 23 And by them the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God were exchanged for and represented by images, resembling mortal man and birds and beasts and reptiles [--> in those days, through idols in temples surrounded by scandalous legends; today, too often in museums, textbooks, glossy magazines etc and presented as indubitably factual  "science"]. . . . 

28 And so, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or approve of Him or consider Him worth the knowing, God gave them over to a base and condemned mind [--> a reprobate or debased mind] to do things not proper or decent but loathsome, 29 Until they were filled (permeated and saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, iniquity, grasping and covetous greed, and malice. [They were] full of envy and jealousy, murder, strife, deceit and treachery, ill will and cruel ways. [They were] secret backbiters and gossipers, 30 Slanderers, hateful to and hating God, full of insolence, arrogance, [and] boasting; inventors of new forms of evil, disobedient and undutiful to parents.

31 [They were] without understanding, conscienceless and faithless, heartless and loveless [and] merciless . . . [AMP]
I know, I know: this passage is even more likely to be contemptuously and dismissively tossed aside in our day. Which is precisely a key sign of the underlying problem: rage that rejects that which is evident . . . in some respects even self-evident . . .  but utterly unwelcome. (Not to mention, a sign of our tendency to refuse to learn lessons from history; in this case, Nero and others of the corrupt and debauched Roman elites in the centre of Paul's rhetorical target-zone in Rom 1. We would do well to consider the saying that those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.)

Let us not overlook or forget the note made a week ago, in post 46 in this same series on Rom 1:
Q: can the existence of God be demonstrated beyond all doubt relative to axiomatic premises accepted by all rational thinkers? 
A: Patently, not. Not least, as if one has a valid argument (p1, p2, p3, . . . pn) => q, and an objector is sufficiently hostile to q and is clever, on a major worldviews issue s/he will be almost always be able to argue . . . or, imply . . . not-q , so not-(p1, p2, p3, . . . pn). For instance, consider pi and pj, which are "controversial" and -- we can say or imply -- "question-begging."  So, there, we can now dismiss your "proof."
But of course, the position that rejects (p1, p2, p3 . . . pn) and particularly pi and pj, is itself a position with implications and underlying (often implicit) root-assumptions. Which will inevitably bristle with its own difficulties and cumulatively may be such that the skeptical view becomes selectively hyperskeptical and burdensome to the point where it is an UN-reasonable faith. In short, the cumulative skeptical view, objectively evaluated on comparative difficulties across live option start points, is in my considered view, ultimately untenable though attractive to those of a certain cast of mind. 

By contrast, belief in God, cumulatively, is arguably morally certain knowledge -- especially for those in a community where they can access the life stories of people transformed by encounter with the living God in the face of the risen Christ through the historically anchored gospel. It is worth pausing to again remind us through Strobel's video, The Case for Christ:

With these matters in mind, let us now return focus to the argument from truth to God, using a critical presentation by the blogger Maverick Philosopher as a springboard. But, in the steps of thought that follow, the actual argument is my own:

1 --> Certain truths and associated entities exist as necessarily and self-evidently so, that is there is no possible world in which they do not obtain.

2 --> For instance, the number 2 exists necessarily, without beginning and without ending. To see that, first start from the set that collects nothing, {  }, the empty set, and then follow a chain of reasoning used by some mathematicians to show the root of the natural numbers without reference to any concrete entity . . . though obviously, such are very relevant to a world of concrete entities as well we know since elementary education:
{ } --> 0

{0} --> 1

{0,1} --> 2

{0,1,2} --> 3 

Etc. . . .
3 --> There is no possible world in which such a purely abstract exercise cannot be done, or in which such abstract entities as the number 2 do not exist. 

4 --> That is, we see that there is a domain that is above and beyond the concrete that actually constrains the concrete as we know from elementary arithmetic and wider mathematics that can be derived from these first steps by pure thought. Where, from natural numbers we move to rationals, integers, reals, complex numbers and mathematical operations behind the design of the cosmos, of which the implicit testimony of Physics and cosmology is, we have a highly mathematical fine tuned system of laws, proportions, constituents etc to enable the existence of a cosmos in which Carbon Chemistry, aqueous medium cell based life is possible. (And where, as the role of DNA shows, that world of life uses coded information in order for it to function.)

5 --> In short, we here see the thought world, the mental world, and we also notice that we participate in it. We composed an argument, using symbols, to represent realities and help us reason about their nature. And, the fine tuned physical world in which we live has very strong signs indeed, that it comes from that thought world via exceedingly elegant and clever design. So much so, that for instance, leading astrophysicist, the late Sir Fred Hoyle (a lifelong agnostic!) was famously moved to say:
The "standard" timeline of the cosmos exhibits fine-tuning in
many diverse ways; a fine-tuning that is highly mathematical,
and so rooted in numbers and other strictly mental entities
which points to designing mind as root cause of reality. (And yes,
the fine tuning case for design does not appeal to religious texts
or young earth-young cosmos interpretations; which immediately
takes away the biggest prop for the main sort of objections that
Nye used in his recent debate with Ham, and turns the standard
old cosmos model and the observations behind it into
evidence that must be considered carefully as evidence of design
manifest in fine-tuning. This post adds the issue that the fine tuning
is highly mathematical, which points to mind as the root of reality
From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16.  Emphasis added.]
 . . . saying also:
 I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars. ["The Universe: Past and Present Reflections." Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12]

A watch movement (HT: Toff's World)
6 --> By contrast (and applying a point discussed by Maverick Philosopher here), consider a watch, which is possibly accurate or inaccurate (as we evaluate it say by comparison to the stars in their courses, which proverbially are for signs and seasons . . .) but cannot be truthful or deceitful. For, it is simply an object that we, minded creatures construct and use. It has no intentions to speak accurately to reality or else to mislead others that it is speaking accurately to reality, or even to contemplate the meaning of the rotating cogs within and the pointing hands on a dial. The watch COMPUTES, it does not CONTEMPLATE, reason or think. (BTW, by extension, a computer is the same, a glorified adding machine.)

7 --> Thus, we are led to note the distinction between the mental and the material, starting with numbers. Which, all, even the most grossly materialistic, must use and must accept to live . . . and to be scientific.

 8 --> Let us note that in another way: we contemplate, watches do not. We assert, assume or infer truth claims, watches do not.

9 --> Such truth claims, of course are what we mean by "propositions." Not, scratch marks on paper or glyphs portrayed by pixels on an LCD computer screen, or vibrations in the air, but meaningful, intentional claims that certain things are so, are true, are accurate to reality.

10 --> Whether or not we are inclined to dispute such, we must use them, and we must accept certain asserted or contemplated or implied truths such as 2 + 3 = 5 as so, as necessarily so and as necessarily so on pain of patent absurdity if we try to deny them.

11 --> So, we have a concept, necessarily true propositions that are inherently mental objects of thought, and are also self evident, i.e. they must obtain in any possible world, on pain of absurdity.

12 --> This also means, they have no beginning and can have no end, they are eternal. 

13 --> If you doubt this, ask yourself, when did it begin to be true that 2 + 3 = 5, and under what circumstances will this or could this ever fail of being true? Let's remember what we are saying, and how this links to the above on numbers:
|| + ||| --> |||||
14 --> Patently, there is no possible world in which such will not be so, there is no beginning, there is no ending, there are no circumstances that can be constructed under which such will fail to be. Likewise, the broader first and self-evident principles of right reason are like that, as can be seen from contemplating a bright red ball on a table, A, and where that points once we see the resulting world-partition:

. . . That is,

World, W = { A | NOT-A }

So, A is A (Law of Identity), and it is not NOT-A

A and NOT-A exhaust the world

A cannot be at the same time NOT-A (Law of Non-Contradiction)

Something, x is going to be A, or NOT-A, but not neither or both (Law of Excluded Middle)
15 --> All we need to do now is to notice that Truth is the collective body of truths [especially necessary ones], then recall that propositions that express such truths are inherently mental, contemplations or assertions of a mind. 

16 --> While, bearing in mind that we are inherently contingent, having beginnings and having ends -- we cannot be eternal minds. Truth, eternal necessary truth and the eternal mind that contemplates it and seems to have built a world on it, indeed is superior to us and our minds.

17 --> Q: So, what best explains -- notice the context, inference to best rational explanation, not claimed deductive truth proved by chains of logic from propositions accepted by all as axioms -- a world of eternal truths, Truth as a body? A world that is rooted in the Mathematics and logic that stem from such first truths and shows itself fine tuned for life as we experience it?

18 --> A: An eternal mind that contemplates and uses Truth as a whole, indeed is truth as a whole in and of itself.

19 --> Maverick Philosopher's proposition s 11 - 14 sum this up aptly, now that we have got to his 11 by another route that does not try to overburden Occam's razor:
11.  Propositions are thoughts.
12. Some propositions (the law of logic among them) are necessarily existent thoughts. (From 8, 9, 10, 11)

13. Necessarily, thoughts are thoughts of a thinker.
14. The laws of logic are the thoughts of a necessarily existent thinker, and "this all men call God." (Aquinas)
20 --> Where also, of course, we have adjusted Clarke's terms and found grounds to accept P1 - 5, grounding the conclusion that we have 
T1: Unchanging, beginning-less truths as a body, Truth

T2: which are inherently objects of mind, thus
T3: held in and contemplated by an eternal mind that is 

T4: utterly superior to the human mind, where

D4: An eternal mind superior to the human mind that is truthful and eternally holds Truth is the mind of God.

Now, of course, one may wish to raise any number of objections and disputes, perhaps endlessly.

Such is your right, you have a mind of your own.

But it is also our worldview analysis right to ask, what then are the difficulties your view faces in rejecting what has to be rejected to dismiss the above reasoning, and why would one wish to go there in a world full of experiential evidence of the reality of God?

And, also, we have a perfect right to ask: why is it that we are responsible to think as those with an obvious duty of care to seek and live by the truth and the right? (Or have you forgotten that in objecting to the above, you imply that we are in error and must correct ourselves? And, we have a further perfect right to ask and expect a reasonable answer to: what best explains a world in which we are morally governed by duties of care to the truth and the right?)

At minimum, theistic faith is a reasonable faith, and indeed arguably cumulatively a compelling one that rises to the level of moral certainty. END