Friday, August 28, 2009

Law of Contradiction

4th, Defending Faith

1. Law of Non-Contradiction
2. defending faith, 11-21-08: Part 2: Contradictions; never - paradox; yes - mystery; yes - antimony; no.

Law of Non-Contradiction

R.C. Sproul has been teaching for over 40 years. He has been able to discern over time that students coming into his classes were starting to come in with changing assumptions on how knowledge works. Harold Bloom wrote a surprising, at the time, book called the “Closing of the American Mind.” Where he states, even in the first page, that 95% of students coming into college are assuming a philosophy of relativism. And those ideas they come into college with by the end of college will be set in concrete. He states that the modern American academic community has a perspective and mind that is closed to objective truth. The truth is now perceived and taught as being subjective. As a matter of preference.

Now that is quite a sad commentary but when you live for even 24 hours of time you don’t live as a relativist. Because in day to day activities you can’t survive if you employ the practices of relativism. At an intersection you see a truck coming down the street in the corner of your eye. You don’t say to yourself that it is just a relative thing that I choose to believe. It isn’t really coming down the intersection. Illusion and reality will come crashing together if relativism succeeds.

People assume, even when they deny it, a certain amount or some rational framework for the world in which they live. The assumption for that objective framework of reality is necessary for any science to take place.

Aristotle's philosphical inquiry

It was Aristotle in his philosophical inquiry, centuries ago, developed theories of physics, chemistry, drama, ethics, biology and was prodigious in the scope of his learning. But he also developed what has now been termed Aristotelian logic. Now when Aristotle developed his theories of logic he made the statement that logic is the “Organon” of all science. That is, logic itself is not a science. Rather, logic is an instrument that is a necessary tool for all science. That is, what Aristotle said it was a necessary condition for any meaningful communication. If I say for example, that this piece of chalk I hold in my hand is not a piece of chalk I can’t communicate anything intelligible to you when I make such a statement. When I do it in hushed and serious tones with much intensity can anyone figure out that it is just a series of nonsense statements (maybe an African Bishop could.) This is a purposed violation of the law of non contradiction. And we see it in a thousand fronts in our society today. Which is why we are here today, to be adept at this.

In this series I will show you time and again how the law of Law of non contradiction (hence LNC) and the principles of logic are violated in attempts to undermine Christian theism.

Example of with a Dr. of Engineering at Carnegie/Mellon. He states that there is no rational evidence for God thru science. So Sproul discusses this with him over a cup of coffee. They agree on certain established premises and then Sproul says that logic must conclude that God exists. But he refused to go there. He grant that the argument is compelling and the logic demands that I must affirm the existence of God -- but -- I don’t believe in logic. ( He would of said at the start of their talk that he does ascribe to logic for it is half of the scientific method and he can’t deny there rules.) But he retreated to the position of denying the validity of logic. When talking about a salt shaker he would become rational but when it came to God, no-go.

He makes this observation about LNC: it is easy to deny the law but all denials are forced and temporary. So, they only deny the validity of this law when it suits them. When they want to avoid a conclusion that they don’t want to have to debate and embrace. When dealing in argument and philosophical debate and theological discussion that when the opponent denies the LNC the argument is over. There is no need to go any further with your interlocutor if they say they don’t believe in rationality . They are saying that there alternative must rule of Christian theism though it is manifestly irrational. OK. That is all that this example of this discussion was able to show. That is what apologetics does. If you’re going to be rational and reasonable then you have to affirm the existence of God. And if the only way one can deny the existence of God is by denying logic then go ahead and do it.

What is most critical in our day is the triumph of irrationalism not over just the secular mindset but over the Christian community also. Where we have seen the impact of existential philosophy make inroads deeply into Christian orthodoxy. When I go to seminaries and colleges today and walk in the door I find that the student has already been convinced by the secular world that truth can be contradictory and irrational. That the bible can be incoherent and double-truthed, but, it is still the word that God put in a book. Quite astonishing.

In neo-orthodoxy there are two leading exponents who are Karl Barth and Ammel Brunner who, both, were intensively influenced by existential thought. One of them was Soren Kierkegaard who took a new position towards reason. Not to say his thinking was brand new for aspects of his philosophical underpinnings have been around in other forms.

Created by God or Man

Some early Christians wanted to eradicate the influence of Aristotle from Christian ideas. For they thought that they only needed what they thought was there’s alone. But, keep in mind, Aristotle didn’t create or originate logic. Anymore than Columbus invented America. What he did was discover what was already there. Rules that are built in to the human mind and the conditions for human beings to carry on meaningful discourse. He discovered and defined principles of reasoning that are already built in to your humanity by your creator. By the God who is not the author of confusion and who is not irrational or absurd. He speaks in a coherent and intelligible way as to be understood by God’s creature’s. A necessary condition for this is that he not speak with a forked tongue but by cogency. Hence the law of non-contradiction.

He repeats that the influence of neo-orthodoxy by the likes of Barth and Brunner has been extensive in the first part of the 20th century. Barth wrote a commentary on Romans and it was said that it was a bomb shell that fell on the playground of the theologians. He made this observation about Romans, “unless the Christian is able to uphold both poles of a contradiction then the Christian has not gone to maturity.” So, the mark of maturity is to affirm both sides of a contradiction. Also, his compatriot Ammel Bruhner made this observation, “contradiction is the hallmark of truth.”

It is a slight step to say that contradiction is permissible and allowable. We can have them and live with them and embrace them. Can we? But then we step next to not only embracing them but glorying in them because they are the very hallmark of truth.

Now let’s apply these ideas to scripture

His favorite application is to go back to Genesis 3 and to the first couple. And God sets down a series of principles. And he says all the fruits of the trees around the land you may eat but one is off limits. That one will, if eaten, is going to make you die.

Translate that to a logical proposition: If A then B.

Then, next, the Serpent comes and discourses. He says with craft some items of interest and then proceeds to the heart of the issue and says you will not die but rather will be like God himself.

Translate that to a logical proposition: If A then non-B.

Adam could have said that, in terms of Aristotelian logic, well Mr. Serpent that is a direct contradiction from what my Creator said just a little while ago. But they say to themselves, ha-ha, based on new forms of thinking , I must embrace the contradiction as the very part of all truth, and because the Serpent stated a contradiction, which we must embrace, then the serpent must be an ambassador for one of the poles of the truth. As it were, a representative for God, they say. So they go on to say, that must be the logical case. And as a mature being, able to see both sides of truth -- not only should I eat of this tree but -- I must eat.

I have tried to reduce this example to its ultimate absurdity. For if you can affirm contradictions as true, then there is no possible way to delineate between truth and falsehood, good and evil, obedience and the opposite, between the things of God and the opposite and between Christ and the anti-type. What, you can tell me, that you can embrace both these poles, as if all is truth? As if, Christ is both himself and his antithesis; at the same time and in the same relationship?

Nothing is more seductive to the truth of God then to cut away at the very fiber of truth itself.

This law, LNC, has no content to it. If you’re embracing logic you are not embracing any information or content or any premises. All logic does is measure the relationship between premises and between propositions. So, if I make two statements we can see if they are, consistent and coherent or contradictory. You apply the rules of logic to see whether my conclusions really follow from my premises.

In the classic syllogism: you have a 1st premise and then you have a 2nd. You have two propositions and how do they relate? If --- on the first premise it is true, then manifestly, if --- on the second it is true; then there is no -- if -- to the conclusion. It is a must.

All men are mortal
Socrates is a man, therefore
Socrates is a mortal.

The truth of your conclusion is made by the validity of your argument. There are rules that measure the relationship of ideas. Logic is like a policeman that God has put in the brain of human beings. To blow the whistle as to recognize the lie. The whistle blows when things don’t compute. A computer in the brain that functions to make things rational and a test of coherency.

Some definitions and asides

1. law of non contradiction: one cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time.
2. According to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, this is a fundamental principle of thought, which is so basic that it can be successfully argued for merely by showing that any opponents of the principle must be using it (and thus be committed to it) themselves.
3. Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned." Avicenna, Medieval Philosopher.
4. Socrates states, "It's plain that the same thing won't be willing at the same time to do or suffer opposites with respect to the same part and in relation to the same thing" (436BC).

defending faith, 11-21-08
2. Contradictions never - paradox; yes - mystery; yes - antimony; no

We have been examining in our course on apologetics some ideas or concepts which are very closely related to each other and that they can be and frequently are confused with one another. We start out with three major categories of contradiction, paradox and mystery. With an extra added called antinomy. Some use this term as a synonym for paradox but in classical and historic cases antimony has been a synonym for contradiction. To muddy the waters even more and you were to go to recent English dictionaries and look up the word contradiction you will find synonyms for this word as both antinomy and paradox. Yikes. Sproul is laboring quite hard to present these words with their proper meaning and you look at these synonym relationships and how do we overcome this confusion of these terms. Where the lexicographer ‘s now are saying these words are almost synonymous. How do we explain that? Well in language as often been fluid. So when a lexicographer sets about the task of finding a words meaning he does three things. Finds the etymology of a word. Contradiction comes from Latin for the speak against. Next is usage through history. And the subtle shifts it might go through. The last is by contemporary usage. How is it used it today. If it is used incorrectly often enough it will take on the meaning of how it is used today.

So since we are talking in a theological sense we will want to use the terms in that sense. When students come to college and embrace as viable the world view of relativism they are in essence saying that they can hold both ’poles’ of a contradiction. Which Sproul says is fatal to Christianity and is slanderous to the Spirit of God. To have God be speaking in contradictions is like having God speak with a ‘forked tongue.’ Which, therefore, is untrustworthy. Because what He says means what it says and cannot mean what He doesn’t say in the same place and in the same relationship. So some will try to get around this by saying God has a greater position of logic which allows God to violate these laws of logic. In essence, saying that we as men can be demonstrated to be liars if we violate the law of contradiction but God can do both because He is some higher form of Being. And logic to Him can be both true and not true at the same time. In a higher and transcendent view of course. This view is epidemic in the Church today. So if that is taken to it’s logical conclusion it will be fatal to the Christian faith. Because that would mean, practically speaking, that you cannot trust a single word God has ever said because lurking behind what He says is some ‘higher form of logic’ that makes it possible, in the final analysis, for Him to mean the exact antithesis of what He has spoken to us in His word. And ultimately by divine logic Christ could be the antiChrist and the anti-Christ could be Christ. And we would have no way of knowing the difference.


The scripture includes many statements about what mystery is and how we should understand this. The Trinity is defined as one in essence three in person. I don’t think there is anyone who can penetrate that concept of the trinity. Or in the same way, can anyone understand the two natures of Christ. Which is a human nature and a divine nature. Historically what the Church has done in defining the nature of Christ is to say that he is “vera homo vera devious. Truly man and truly God. Distinct but perfectly united with each other in such a way that they are not confused or mixed, separated or divided. And these are the four negatives used at the council of Chalcedon in 451AD. But all it really accomplished is that it put a fence around our understanding of the incarnation and then said ‘we don’t know how these two natures coexist in one person in the mystery of this birth and we haven’t penetrated how it works. In this council it is saying what it is not and not saying what it is. It leaves the two natures of Jesus as a mystery for future consideration. We don’t understand with our finite minds the trinity or the mind of Christ. “The finite cannot grasp the infinite.”

Will we ever have a comprehensive knowledge of God?

The mysterious nature of something does not vitiate it’s reality. If that were the case then modern science would collapse under it’s own weight. There are prizes out there for the one who can unravel completely what gravity is. There are still disputes about what the nature of motion and time. Elements that are hidden and are mysterious to our discovery. One can become an expert on a particular thing but there are still questions for discovery.

Mystery: meaning is seen as something was once hidden but has now become available and manifest

Paul is fond of using the word musterion (Gk) which is mystery in English. For him its meaning is seen as something was once hidden but has now become available and manifest. For example, in the Old Testament that when the Redeemer would come he would create a church that not only was for Jewish people but all others as well. A mystery that is now revealed in the new covenant. This does not mean that now all is revealed and there are no other mysteries now.

Rules that were already functioning about the relationships amongst propositions and statements

How does the term mystery relate to contradiction. They have something crucial in common. That is unintelligibility. A present lack of understanding. If I say to you that a piece of chalk is not a piece of chalk, that I use contradictory statements about a piece of chalk, what have you learned about this chalk? Nothing. Because my statement is gibberish. Earlier in a lesson we said that Aristotle set forth or described the rules of logic. Some think he invented logic but he no more invented logic that Columbus invented America. He set forth rules that were already functioning about the relationships amongst propositions and statements. Even though Aristotle studied several sciences he said that logic itself was not a science. He called it the ‘Organon’ or instrument and starter for all science. You have to have logic to be able to understand anything. In fact logic is a half of the scientific method. The other half is inductive where you gather data bits and through experiments. When you try to make sense of a group of data you step into the realm of deduction and the process of logical thought. So Aristotle said that laws of contradiction were a prerequisite for meaningful discourse. For intelligible communication.

You may have listened to an expert and he was speaking mysteries. I may not understand a mystery but I also don’t understand contradictions. We have a similar response because these words have this commonality but the words mean a radically different approach. Unintelligible is not the same as hidden and not known yet. We may discover the meaning of a mystery but we will never get gibberish. Mystery is a legitimate element of knowledge and of the pursuit of truth.

Even God can’t understand a contradiction. Because a contradiction by its inherent nature is not intelligible.

We can embrace and use mystery which Christianity admits to and is stated as such in the Bible but we don’t admit that there are ever contradictions.

1 comment:

  1. You spelled antinomy wrong. It's not antimony, which is a metallic substance.