Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How Could God Be Omniscient?

I was debating on whether or not to post something about this, because the reality is that any answer I give will be speculative. But I recently came across a few videos on youtube in which an atheist questioned how anyone could know himself to be omniscient. So, keeping in mind that speculation can be apologetically useful (link), I think I've found an appropriate context in which to give some thoughts on the title of this post.

I've spent quite a lot of time and written quite a few posts on how we can know God is omniscient. But this, of course, entails that God can and does know Himself to be omniscient. How? Well, the question itself might need some clarification. For instance, I don't believe God could have learned He is omniscient (link), but the distinction between discursive and intuitive knowledge is not what is at issue. What is at issue is the justification of knowledge [claims]. We can justify knowledge claims by divine revelation; according to what could God justify His knowledge claims in general and omniscience in particular? I think Gordon Clark provides the beginnings of a good answer:
The substantive point needing discussion is whether the law of contradiction is the one and only test of truth. 
Ideally or for God this seems to be the case. Since there is nothing independent of God, he does not conform truth to an alleged reality beyond truth and beyond him. Since there is no possibility of “vertical” (to use Carnell’s terminology) coherence, the “horizontal” test, or, better the horizontal characteristic of logical consistency seems the only possible one. 
Weaver correctly notes that I do not claim for human beings the ability to apply this test universally. In this sense it is a “negative” or, better, an incomplete test. For this reason it must be supplemented some way or other... 
Undoubtedly I hold that truth is a consistent system of propositions. Most people would be willing to admit that two truths cannot be contradictories; and I would like to add that the complex of all truths cannot be a mere aggregate of unrelated assertions. Since God is rational, I do not see how any item of his knowledge can be unrelated to the rest. Weaver makes no comment on this fundamental characteristic of divine truth. 
Rather, he questions whether this characteristic is of practical value, and whether it must be supplemented in some way. It is most strange that Weaver here says, “I must agree with Carnell,” as if he had convicted me of disagreeing with Carnell by providing no supplementation whatever. Now, I may disagree with the last named gentleman on many points, but since it is abundantly clear that I “supplement” consistency by an appeal to the Scripture for the determination of particular truths, it is most strange that Weaver ignores my supplementation. (Clark and His Critics, 2009, pgs. 287, 290)
That is, God can test His self-knowledge-claim for coherence. To expand, God could know Himself to be omniscient if it is the case that such is an epistemic necessity, a precondition for anyone to know anything. Or, if "God is omniscient" coheres with all other truths and "God is not omniscient" does not, then the former must be true.

[I don't want to complicate this post with references to the philosophy of time, necessitarianism vs. "free" knowledge, the metaphysics implied by a correspondence theory of truth, etc. Needless to say that I don't think any of them pose an incontrovertible obstacle to a modified coherentistic account of divine knowledge.]

Now, the atheist might ask what reason we have to think this is the case. But notice that that's a subtle change in the subject. If the atheist wants an account of how we can know that God can be omniscient, we are capable of providing a defense of our own knowledge-claims. But this is a question of what justification we have for believing God is omniscient, not what justification God could have for the same belief. There's a difference.

Our epistemic limitations and dependencies would obviously not pose a problem to an omniscient God. That we may not see the logical necessity would not imply there isn't one. That there necessarily is an omniscient God - whether we recognize or are even capable of recognizing such to be the case - does not appear contradictory, anyway, so as far as the burden of proof is concerned, the apologetic task that was set before us is complete.

At the same time, there is also no need to sell ourselves short. Of course, none of the above references to epistemic limitations is meant to imply we in fact can't see a logical necessity for an omniscient God. Actually, given the problem of partial knowledge and logical need for revelation from one who is omniscient, it is ironic that any argument against the possibility an omniscient mind presupposes revelation from such a mind. For as I mentioned above, this in turn presupposes that said mind can know himself to be omniscient, and that's what this was all about.

Scripturalism and Plausibility

Plausibility is fickle. What sounds right to one person can sound ridiculous to another. I would say the most plausible explanation for this is that while people want to be [or at least appear to be] consistent, they vary in respect to certain beliefs. How well some proposition coheres with beliefs about which one is relatively inflexible will influence how disposed one will be to accept it.

Now, psychology doesn't really interest me. If I make a good argument, I shouldn't feel responsible for how a person responds to that argument. And, in general, I don't. Then again, there's not much point to making an argument in the first place if I have no hope that it will succeed in convincing the listener. I may better convince myself, but in any case, it is natural to want something more. 

What I am getting at is that while arguing for Scripturalism is fine, to convince more people, it seems that some time should be spent in making it more plausible. Who, after all, would admit to believing what he thinks is implausible? 

But how would one go about making something more plausible? Is there an exact science to it? I don't think so. In fact, my advice here is based on intuition and experience, but that should be fine since the goal is not to explain how to erect a sound argument but rather how to take a sound argument, the conclusion of which you think a person opposes, and make the conclusion more plausible. There's room for generalizations, allowances for context, etc., here. So most of what follows will be rather informal.

In general, for example, I wouldn't recommend stating the conclusion first. People don't like to backtrack, so instead of immediately provoking them into disagreement with a conclusion and, by extension, one of the as-yet unstated but underlying premises of a valid argument, it would seem better to state those premises which you believe are both agreeable and integral to the conclusion, and then show why they entail the conclusion. Take the following, well-written statement by Fred Dretske:
If your reasons for believing P are such that you might have them when P is false, then they aren't good enough to know that P is true. You need something more. That is why you can't know you are going to lose a lottery just because your chances of losing are 99.99 percent. Even with those odds, you still might win (someone with those odds against him will win). That is why you can't learn - can't come to know - that P is true if all you have to go on is the word of a person who might lie about whether or not P is so. This is just another way of saying that knowledge requires reasons or evidence (in this case, testimony) you wouldn't have if what you end up believing were false. You can learn things from people, yes, but only from people who wouldn't say it unless it were true. (Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, pgs. 43-44)
This is what I would call a plausible argument. You can't know a proposition if it is false, so you can't know a proposition if there is, for all you know, a chance that it is false. A simple, common-sense argument for infallibilism buttressed by an example of how his argument applies to something like the lottery. Examples are good tools when trying to make an argument plausible.

For the purposes of Scripturalism, Dretske cites an even more useful illustration: the possibility of learning from people, where learning implies knowledge-acquisition. Dretske acknowledges it is possible to learn from people, but only from people who wouldn't lie. An excellent deduction from his previous remarks. But would Dretske agree that only one who cannot lie - say, God - satisfies? How else could Dretske be in a position to know who would and wouldn't lie? He may have a suspicion or opinion one way or another, but the real question is would he infallibilistically know? Since we've come this far in agreement, could Dretske really just go back and forget his own arguments? [I don't know how Dretske would respond to any of these questions, of course.]

Or take the following by Richard Fumerton:
We will agree here, therefore, that we cannot avoid knowledge skepticism with respect to the physical world if we understand knowledge as requiring justification so strong that it eliminates the possibility of error.  
Of course, the moral most contemporary epistemologists draw is that we should reject Cartesian standards from knowledge. Our only hope of avoiding skepticism with respect to knowledge of the external world (the past, the future, other minds, and so on) is to accept more relaxed standards for knowledge. (Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, pg. 86)
That one contemporary epistemologist admits there can be no empirical "knowledge" in the strong sense in which Dretske, another contemporary epistemologist, intends above is quite a concession. While this doesn't show that empirical knowledge is impossible - again, a sound argument can do that even without a so-called plausible presentation - what it does do is show a willingness to respectfully engage and even heartily agree with acknowledged top minds of a given field.

We can even allow for discussion as to more relaxed standards for a colloquial understanding of "knowledge" so long as we in turn can push the point that everyone implicitly holds some beliefs must adhere to the stricter standards (infallibilism, cf. here). I am not aware of any Scripturalist who would necessarily deny we can "know" about an "external world" in a loose sense, but that's because, as I pointed out in my last post (link), Scripturalists are more interested in defeating skepticism. That is, they are more interested in "knowledge" in the "strong" sense outlined by Dretske and alluded to by Fumerton. Focusing a discussion on a few, key points and agreeing with peripheral issues when appropriate will be more conducive when attempting to explain why Scripturalism is true, because at the same time you alleviate concerns that it doesn't cohere with pre-established beliefs.

Monday, June 10, 2013

David P. Hoover on Gordon Clark

As I would expect Van Tilians to be able to reply to his impressive criticisms of Van Til’s apologetic (link), I think his paper on Clark (link) is equally deserving of a reply from a Clarkian. Insofar as I do not agree with everything Clark wrote, perhaps I am ill-suited to the role, but I agree with Clark in many respects – especially epistemologically – so until someone smarter than Hoover and I comes along and sets us both straight, I will try to fill in a few gaps.

Background and Terminology

Briefly, I will point out that some terminology Hoover uses could be perceived as biased since provided without much explanation. In his introduction, for instance, he writes that Clark is an uncompromising Idealist and Rationalist.” Now, the idea that Clark was an Idealist is debatable; Clark didn’t necessarily have a problem with it (Clark and His Critics, 2009, pg. 209), and for that matter, nor do I if Idealism is defined as there being a significant sense in which there is no reality independent of Gods mind. Univocal [real] images, for example, are as possible as univocal [real] propositional knowledge; this will be important to remember when discussing how the coherence theory of truth could be supplemented, though it must also be acknowledged that empiricists bear a burden of proof when it comes to so-called knowledge about some allegedly corresponding image.

But given that Hoover was familiar with Clark’s book Three Types of Religious Philosophy, in which Clark differentiates his Dogmatism from Rationalism by denying that all religious knowledge, can be deduced from logic alone, i.e., logic apart from both revelation and sensory experience” (Christian Philosophy, 2004, pg. 21), why Clark is classified as a Rationalist is a bit of a mystery. Whereas Rationalism believes that it can deduce by its own method what God can and cannot say” (Ibid., pg. 42), Clark held that divine revelation is necessarily self-authenticating. Hoover is fair in his exposition of Clark in most other respects, so it is strange that he does not explain why he considers Clark a Rationalist. He highlights their similarities - such as the acceptance of the coherence theory of truth - at the expense of individuating characteristics.

I do not mean to suggest that Hoover intentionally fails to provide all the pertinent facts. I suspect the real trouble here and elsewhere is that the scope of the article is inherently restrictive. In my opinion, Hoover was given a 10,000 word limit or so to explain and then critique the epistemology of a man who wrote several dozen books on it and dedicated his life to teaching it. Quite possibly, Hoover could have anticipated the sorts of questions I am and will be asking but felt that addressing them would be too tangential or less relevant than what he would have had to cut out. Naturally, Hoover is also not only or perhaps even chiefly writing for readers who are already familiar with Clark, so the space available to present a comprehensive rebuttal - let alone a defense of his own thoughts - is mitigated by the purpose of the article: the focus is meant to be on Clark, not Hoover (so far as this is possible), and the historical progression of his thought as well as an evaluation of it. Of course, none of this will prevent me from remarking on what is left unsaid that I think is important, whether or not such was deliberate.

On Induction

Hoover’s abstract reads as follows:
Gordon Clark is an uncommon presuppositionalist. Dating roughly from the publication of his “Wheaton Lectures” in 1968, he has increasingly stressed the complete impossibility of empirically acquired knowledge. According to Clark, the Bible, and only the Bible, can be known. All observation based truth-claims and all inductive arguments are logically worthless for apologetic purposes. This essay attempts to follow the progression in Clark’s thought which leads to such a thoroughgoing skepticism (with regard to a knowledge of the contemporary world). The essay looks, in turn, at Clark’s reasons for rejecting the reliability of perception, Clark’s adoption of the Bible as axiomatic, and Clark’s propositionalism. Although these subjects are treated critically, the aim of the author is to achieve clarity on what Clark holds and why.
Hoover similarly states a little later, “Valid reasoning, for Clark, is the only profitable reasoning one can engage in, and it is definitionally deductively valid reasoning. Inductive arguments whose premises merely support their conclusions are necessarily bad arguments - in fact, worthless.” These ideas warrant further explanation than I think was provided in the article. Clark did agree with Plato that “Knowledge is timeless and changeless and requires, not observation, experiment, and induction, but deduction alone” (Ancient Philosophy, 1997, pg. 141). He also said that “there is no logical place for induction in presuppositionalism. One assumes or presupposes certain axioms and from there on everything is deduction” (The Trinity, 1990, pg. 93). So, if Hoover is meaning only to refer to the fact that “unnecessary inference arrives at no truth at all” (Lord God of Truth, 1994 pg. 39) - as I suppose he could be, given his qualification that Clark argued induction is “logically” worthless - Hoover is as entirely correct in his assessment of Clark as Clark is of induction.

But all of this only pertains to Clarks own positive, [meta]epistemological views. A recurring theme throughout this post will be that Scripturalism is a philosophy which attempts to promote and supply the need for infallibilistic knowledge. Insofar as an apologetic or belief is unnecessary, it isn’t epistemically relevant - which is, I stress, not to say it is completely irrelevant. But what we need, what we must have - in short, that which is necessary - should come first, and fundamentally, this is “philosophical knowledge.” Induction, therefore, cannot be epistemically profitable, but at the same time, Clarks philosophy is compatible with the opinion that induction can serve a pragmatic function. And even in the context of apologetics, Hoover notes elsewhere that Clark believed:
The apologete can take up archaeology only in its potential for logically embarrassing the opponent to Christianity. That is, “scientific discourse” can be taken up only ad hominem against the individual who puts credence in science.
Thus, it is somewhat misleading to suggest that the ability to refute or disconcert an opponent with his own methodology is “worthless,” even if the methodology itself can (and should) be demonstrated to be so; in fact, assuming his faulty basis in order to show it leads to [other, more overtly recognizable] undesirable beliefs seems to me to be a rather common-sense apologetic attempt to persuade an individual that it is his basis that is in need of correction. Apologetics neednt be restricted to the providing of a defense of ones own position, although and notwithstanding Hoovers seeming disagreement (cf. footnote 24), that is certainly a precondition for an analysis of another’s (link).

Cognitivity and Sentience

Early on in the article, Hoover does a relatively good job of restraining himself from incredulous dismissal of the consequences of Clarks arguments, evident, for example, in the following:
The very legitimacy of questioning the reliability of sentience (the capacity to discriminate the environment by the senses) seems to imply that there are perhaps other (non-sentient) modes of cognitive access, other methods for finding out, that might be used instead. And if sentiently gleaning content goes part and parcel with inductive method, then the question becomes whether there is a better method than observation and testing to find a cure for AIDS. But what might an alternative be like? Divination? Inspecting tea leaves? Saying the first (second, third) thing that pops into one’s head? (Observing tea leaves is, of course, ruled out.) Or perhaps there is no such disease as AIDS since its occurrence is alleged on the basis of observation! And by parity of reasoning there are no diseases afflicting anyone! But if we find that we cannot help but admit that we do have the capacity for making observations in God’s world and that sentience is inextricably tied up in the making of observations, we will find Clark’s position even startling. But it is important to state that Clark’s position cannot be put away by a string of rhetorical questions.
Still, a few points on Clarks behalf seem to be required. In the next section of his article, Hoover correctly writes that Clarks ultimate concern for presupposing, it seems to me, is more nearly the philosophical one of overcoming skepticism (by exhibiting at least one logically irrefutable truth).” But in that case, what do “the reliability of sentience,” “the reliability of perception and cognitive access” to ones environment entail? In particular, do any or all imply one should be able to have infallibilistic knowledge of his environment? If so, why does Hoover even think one needs to know his environment in the first place, assuming there even is such an environment? If not, then I do not see how any of this is relevant to the business of Clarks epistemology given what Hoover himself acknowledges to be its primary concern: the refutation of skepticism by the establishment of infallibilistic knowledge.  Other theories of knowledge may ask that less stringent conditions be met, but for that very reason Clark would not be as interested in them; they would have no value in making headway toward Clarkgoal. In one of his footnotes, Hoover says: 
...the fact that informal cognition (knowledge by sentient acquaintance) is subject to well-known limitations and pitfalls does not argue that there cant be sentient acquaintance with the world. To have a cognitive capacity does not entail the having of it to a superlative degree or the having of it without limitation with regard to the sort of capacity it is. 
But would Clark necessarily disagree? After all, Clark does at times informally refer to sensation as that which stimulates actions designed to preserve the body from [perceived] harm or an occasion on which knowledge occurs (cf. Lord God of Truth, pgs. 16, 23); at least, I am not aware that he has provided a strict definition of it, although he certainly chastised those who attempted to found their philosophy on it without defining it. So its not so simple as Hoover’s conclusion that Clark simply refuses to acknowledge informal noetic capacities in man.” It’s not a question of whether we must have faith that we inhabit a real and discriminable world of real and discriminable sinners” in order to evangelize or whatnot. Clark agreed that we should act as if all our beliefs (opinions included) are true:
Although not usually recognized as such, a certain claim to infallibility meets us in our everyday affairs. When an accountant balances his books, does he not assume that his figures are correct? When a college professor hurries to class for fear that his students will disappear if he is late, does he not make judgments as to the time of day and the proclivities of students? When a chess club challenges another to a match, does any suspicion of fallibility impede its action? Cannot this club distinguish the dogma ecclesiastica that there actually is another club from the dogma haeretica that no other club exists? Must not all people act on the assumption that their beliefs are true? (Karl Barths Theological Method, 1997 pg. 146)
But it is clear that all of this is has nothing to do with whether our inferences not based on divine revelation can be infallible, let alone why they need to be (link). I am pretty sure, then, that Clark would ask Hoover if or how he infallibilistically knows he has this capacity. How does Hoover account for how Timothy could infallibilistically know he has found Pauls cloak? Or doesnt he? If Hoover were to demure but protest that Clark is being reductionistic - as he does in the rest of the aforementioned footnote - I think Clark would say this is all besides the point, for the refutation of skepticism requires a narrower focus as to what sort of knowledge could count as a defeater. Hoover may not care as much about skepticism as does Clark, but then it would be an empiricist rather than a rationalist prejudice” that is at issue here. 

Additionally, regarding so-called ostensive clarity,” Hoover never really explains how or if one can discriminate between conflicting claimants. This may have less to do with Hoover and more to do with whatever particular brand of empiricism he espouses, but its hard to tell because nearly all allusions to it are either mentioned in passing or phrased in such a way that the reader is not sure whether Hoover is committed to the idea in question

On the one hand, Hoover says What is important to see is that one cannot discredit [ostensive (or inductive) demonstrability] by showing that it cannot be analyzed in terms of [discursive demonstrability].” Does that not also imply one cant be credited over another? Epistemologically, that would be a point Clark would consider in his favor.

On the other hand, Hoover clearly wants to avoid arbitrarity. In one footnote, he suggests that empiricists “can maintain that there is an intimate and necessary relation between sensory stimuli and the perception facilitated thereby, but deny that stimuli and perception relate by logic. A stimulus, after all, is a stimulus a causal sort of thing.” In another, he says the possibility of “phenomenal indistinguishability... can be contested,” but instead of explaining how, he goes on to argue that our epistemological limitations dont affect ontic statuses. Now, anyone “can maintain” any position. The real question is why he would. So wouldn’t it more be more helpful to explain what grounds an empiricist could have for these positions? Maybe he is presupposing them, though he continually seems to want to contrast presuppositionalism with his evidentialism. 

Why, then, does Hoover think sensations cause perceptions? And then how can perceptions be used to form abstract concepts or universals? I mean, there must be some point at which propositional beliefs are connected to sensation, perception, images, etc., right? I had thought that was the whole point of empirical knowledge. But since the predication of truth-values is propositional enterprise, then in contrast to what he states above, mustn’t there be discursive reasoning or logical relations somewhere in this empirical process? Well, where and how?

In yet another footnote - which one can probably by now sense is where most of Hoovers positive [counter-]assertions have unfortunately been relegated - he writes: From an aggregate of black dots which ostensibly occupy an area on a newspaper page, one cannot deduce the likeness of President Reagan. The Presidents likeness is gestaltic in character, not discursive. What does that mean? Does one have legitimate reason to infer a resemblance to President Reagan or not? Could one have legitimate reason for denying a resemblance? What suffices as a likeness”? The reader is left guessing. If this is all purely intuitional - Hoover asserts that “there is an inherent informality in the very meaning of truth and in the human being’s mode of cognizing truth” - then I would consider empirical knowledge to be rather arbitrary and subjective.

Ironically, Hoover is so busy chiding Clark for begging the question against empiricists when he agrees with Blanshard in one instance or picks apart empirical particularities which Hoover doesnt hold to in another - as if Clark were always obliged to refute all of empiricism and all empiricists universally and at once or else refrain from making any attempt at refuting individual arguments empiricists have used - that in the remaining space it seems he can do little more than make offhanded comments about or references to what he does hold to and why. But this in turn begs questions too. If Hoover’s empiricism really is so different than that of those whom Clark critiqued, I would have expected a bit more effort to distinguish his views, especially given his insistence that Clarks opponents did not actually fail to identify clear alternatives. 

Anyway, when the reader recalls that this article was written in 1984, only one year before Clarks death, it should not surprise him that the mainstream views of contemporary empiricists (like Hoover?) should have changed so quickly from what the mainstream views of the empiricists of yesteryear believed. Clark himself noted this as a recurring trend throughout the history of philosophy. When it comes to secularly approved epistemologies, the only constant is change. Then again, even if none of what he said in his books is applicable to modern empiricists - which I doubt - Clark can hardly be held responsible for not responding to empirical ideas which had not yet been invented when he originally published them. But this is an impression one can sometimes receive from Hoovers article.

The Coherence Theory of Truth

Hoover defines the coherence theory of truth as follows:
Briefly, the coherence theory of truth holds that there is only one ultimately coherent system of truth. Truth, that is, is a system of geometrically organized propositions. If a certain proposition is true, it is logically entailed by the system—or less stringently perhaps, a true proposition is one which is simply not inconsistent with any of the other propositions in the system. On the other hand, a proposition is false if and only if it fails to be entailed by the system—or, if and only if it is inconsistent with the system. The system contains all truth and only a truth can properly be said to be a knowable.
In the case of an omniscient God, I dont think an analogy to geometry is appropriate, but this is a bit technical. So far as a human like Clark, Hoover, or myself would be concerned, this is a fine explanation. And Clark does hold to the coherence theory of truth to the exclusion of all others (cf. Todays Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine?, 1990, pg. 111; The Bible Today 42.6, March 1948). But while I think Hoover is correct to criticize Clark for holding to it exclusively, I don’t think he goes about it the right way. Hoover argues:
The telling criticism, however, is that, contrary to Clark’s belief, the coherence theory of truth does not provide a theory of the meaning of truth, but only a criterion for its recognition within a formal system. Thus, if presented with a proposition P, and I know that P is a member of a set of propositions which is consistent, then if that set is sanctioned by a true axiom, P must be true as well. The mere coherence of P is a sufficient criterion of its truth. But note that P’s content, by the coherence criterion, is irrelevant. My point is that a sure—fire criterion for the identification of a true proposition as a true proposition is not necessarily an insight into the meaning of truth. 
But for the moment, let us suppose that the coherence criterion is also the meaning of ‘true’ as predicated of propositions. Suppose that Clark is right. Take the proposition, “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” (I John 4:2). The recipients of John’s letter, let us assume, rejoiced in this truth as over against the docetic teaching about the incarnate Christ. But in what, exactly, could they have rejoiced given that the coherence theory of truth is true? If we are indeed given the meaning of truth by the coherence theory, then John’s proposition’s truth consists in its formal consistency with the larger set of propositions of which it is a member. They rejoiced, then, that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” is logically consistent with all the other propositions they held for true. Conceivably, there may have been in that early church some rather eccentric academics and logicians who had the necessary expertise to delight in the logical fittingness of John’s statement, but did not the early church rejoice rather in this statement’s content? In what this statement is about? The Apostle John’s faithful witness is that we do not serve a docetic Christ, but a Christ who became flesh. The proposition in question, if we are to make sense of being encouraged and gladdened by it, is about a non-proposition—viz., the Incarnation of Christ. Its coherence may be a criterion or sign of its truth but its truth is more plausibly construed as its faithful recounting of what had taken place in the case of Jesus of Nazareth. So unless a mere mark of truth is the meaning of truth, coherence cannot be definitional of truth.
Maybe Im missing something, but in the second paragraph, it just seems like Hoover reverts to the string of rhetorical questions he had earlier acknowledged would be insufficient for the purposes of his article. Clark would say a proposition is about whatever is the subject of the proposition. Then what?

As for the first paragraph, I don’t understand why Hoover thinks that P’s content, by the coherence criterion, is irrelevant.” How could one gauge coherence between two propositions unless he can compare their content? 

Furthermore, as hard as it is to believe - which is why I say I could be missing something - it looks as though Hoover conflates the coherence theory of truth with coherentism. The former has to do with what truth is as such; the latter has to do with the recognition of it. These don’t refer to the same thing, though they may seem to. The latter is essentially a theory of how we can justify some knowledge-claim, and as a Scripturalist, Clark certainly didn’t think we know a proposition is true if and only if it coheres with other propositions. He acknowledged this could be possible in the case of God (cf. Clark and His Critics, 2009, pg. 287ff.), but he equally makes clear that he doesn’t consider coherence a sufficient criterion for men. One who believes in the unity of truth may still believe that the false system entails contradictions; but to prove this is the work of omniscience (Historiography: Secular and Religious, 1971, pg. 370). So our [justified] knowledge of what truth is as much depends on divine revelation and that which can be derived from it as anything else.

Instead, I think it is better to attack the metaphysic which undergirds an exclusive adherence to the coherence theory of truth. If there are realities other than propositions and the concepts of which they are composed, then one who [correctly] believes that everything is related will have to relate his theory of truth to that. Earlier, I noted Hoover calls Clark an Idealist and that this is not necessarily false or a bad thing. But I would argue and have argued (see herehereherehere, and here), however, that if Idealism implies the propositional monism” to which Hoover attributes to Clark - viz. that the set of all real objects and the set of all knowables is the same set - this metaphysic is inconsistent with Clarks stated philosophy, which in the main is sound


While what has been said above may address the concern that Clark’s epistemology requires a serious distortion of human nature, to that extent it is ill-suited to serve as a basis for defending the Christian faith,” Hoover also questions Clarks metaphysical thesis of persons as a congeries of propositions [or, perhaps a little more precisely, thoughts]. Now, as Hoover says upfront that he wishes to “sketch a reductio ad absurdum argument against Clark’s insistence that persons are propositions,” the challenge will be to refute Clark while operating within Clark’s epistemological framework. Indeed, as the Bible just is a series of sentences, and the Bible alone is, on Scripturalism, the source of all [infallibilistic] knowledge, the only way to show to Clark that there are realities other than sentences is if it is shown that sentences are in some respect deficient in explaining things the Bible refers to. So it might be true that on Clarks metaphysic of persons, propositions must be regarded as bearing capacities or properties like moral character, rights, and so forth, but Hoover’s conclusion that this is “curious” seems to dangerously imply that Hoover is begging the question. But then he says that this is not “formally decisive,” and so we are really just left with the following paragraph:
According to Clark, persons are propositions (i.e., “complex definitions”). Drawing from Leibniz, Clark affirms that a given person is precisely the set of propositions that make up his life history. And a person is all his propositions. From this it follows that personal identity, self-knowledge, is utterly problematic if not impossible. This follows for two equally sufficient reasons—the first posing a strictly epistemological problem and the second, a logical problem of individuation: (i) Epistemologically, at any point in one’s “autobiography” one has only a finite sample of a possibly infinite set of propositions that will go to constitute his identity. Recall that propositions based on sentient awareness do not count. Now if one has but a finite sample of propositions relevant for his/her identity, the probability that one has enough propositions for a correct identity judgment is either exceedingly small or zero (a finite number over infinity is zero). (ii) Logically, Clark’s theory identifies the person as a “complex definition”—or, to say the same thing in a way that will help us make the point about individuation more clearly, a person is a set of propositions. Persons, then, are individuated by propositional sets, by propositional totalities. This has the exceedingly odd consequence that persons can be told apart, so to speak, only by virtue of their entire life histories. Because no person in this life has the requisite omniscience to know total life histories, it follows that persons in this life are not the sort of thing that can be told apart. But perhaps more seriously—and this brings us around to the test question concerning the exercise of moral agency—if persons are thus individuated (by logically complete propositional sets), how is it imaginable that persons could be moral agents within their life histories? For in Clark’s sense of person, the person seems to be his life history and not a participant within it. And it does no good to invoke the omniscience of God. The fact that God can individuate the propositional sets in question still does not allow persons to be agents within history. Propositional sets are simply not the sort of entities that could commit adultery, care for the sick, or resist temptation. Thus it would appear that a propositional monism is insufficiently rich in basic categories to allow even the Biblical David to sin and repent. 
Now, I have defended the possibility of self-knowledge with a Scripturalistic framework here, among other places. I also think Ive also pointed out a fallacy in the idea that a function in which x is some finite number and y approaches infinity equals zero when the former is divided by the latter (link). 

In response to the other arguments, that we cannot now knowingly individuate ourselves would not be to say that it cannot be done, nor that we cannot have an opinion as to how we are distinct subjects. This may remove some of the sting of the criticism, at least until it is explained why infallibilistic knowledge [of ourselves or, for that matter, extra-biblical realities in general] is necessary in order to obey God.

I do think Clark was a bit unclear as to whether a person is “what he thinks” (The Trinity, 1990, pg. 129) or, in agreement with Leibniz, whether a person is the sum of what may be predicated of him (cf. Clark and His Critics, 2009, pgs. 148-149). Maybe he thought these two ideas can be resolved.  But I didnt really understand the criticism that a “person seems to be his life history and not a participant within it.” On Clarks view, how could there be the former without the latter? Perhaps Hoover’s philosophy of time or history is different from Clark’s, but if so, he never says it.

In short, Hoover seems to be attacking all the right doctrines in all the wrong ways. While I agree with his conclusion that persons cannot just be propositions, I provide other reasons for it (e.g. here).


While I dont seem to agree with many of his answers, Hoover does ask some really good questions. On the subject of language, he writes:
What it means to presuppose the truth of all this content is itself far from clear. And the question is important beyond a mere philosophical quibble. For one thing, there is the character of truth itself according to the different presuppositionalists. Does truth attach to locutions within the various literary genre in a univocal way - e.g., in poetry, didactic passages, historical narrative? How does truth qualify, and provide implication for, imperatives, interrogatives, counter-factual subjunctives? When one avows that one “presupposes Biblical truth” one does not, ipso facto, answer this sort of question.
These are all excellent, each deserving of more development than I have the present capacity to give. I have written about counter-factuals here. Regarding imperatives and interrogatives, they must mean something just as declarative sentences must mean something, and we must be able to understand them. So perhaps it is possible to reformulate these types of sentences in declarative form without a loss of meaning. For example, per Augustine, a question could normally refer to an expression of desire that a person teach him about some subject. A command could be thought of as an [assumed] authoritative declaration that one [is obligated to] perform some action. In any case, both types of sentences connote that the utterer has certain hopes or expectations of his interlocutors. As for there being various literary genres, even such being the case, one point they all must have in common is to communicate some understandable meaning, in which case historical-grammatical exegesis should be able to be indiscriminately applied.

But Hoover makes other, more provocative relations between language and Scripturalism, such as:
Suppose, for example, that I want to determine whether “Hoover is using the Axiom” (1) makes sense, and (2) whether it is true. Since on Clark’s assumptions knowledge is the system headed by the Axiom (as identified), the individual terms if they can be assigned content, must be defined in the Axiom, and the proposition as a whole is certifiably true only if it is either mentioned in the Axiom or deducible from the Axiom. Taking the truth of “Hoover is using the Axiom” first, we see at once that it is neither mentioned in the Bible nor is it deducible from the Bible. It follows that I, Hoover, can never know whether I am using the Axiom—whether reading, applying, or reflecting on it. More drastically, perhaps, the very proposition “Hoover is using the Axiom” contains one prominent term for which no Clarkian meaning can be assigned. On the criteria already given, no acceptable definition of “Hoover” can be acquired. Hence, it seems to me, the formula “Hoover is using the Axiom” fails to constitute an intelligible proposition. 
As for the idea that something must be explicitly defined in order for one to be able to understand what it means, I see no reason why, if every concept is a name given to a very lengthy complex of propositions” (Modern Philosophy, 2008, pg. 273), our ability to understand what any one of them means cannot be due to meaning that is inherent or implicit in their usage. After all, if concepts are like empty receptacles into which meaning is poured, defining a concept by making it a subject of a proposition is no good, for the predicate turns out to be just another empty receptacle. See here and here for more on the ideas of necessary and intrinsic meaning.

Now, when it comes to the ontology of man, the innate knowledge of language and logic which is evoked upon the heat of experience,” and so forth, there is much more that can and must be said. But given these available speculatory answers, Scripturalism doesn’t stand or fall here (link), so I will leave further thoughts for another time.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

David P. Hoover on Van Tilian Analogical Knowledge

David P. Hoover was the evidentialist who debated Gordon Clark in 1983 (link). He also wrote an article one year after that debate, doing a much better job of critiquing Clark’s views than in that debate (link). Perhaps that is because he is in general a better writer than speaker - for he is a good writer - or perhaps that is because after the debate he better acquainted himself with Clark’s works. Regardless, some of it pinpoints sore spots - especially those which concern metaphysics - other parts, not so much. I don’t consider it to be fatal to Scripturalism, for whatever that’s worth.

While I may interact with his article on Clark some other time - which would probably be more entertaining for the reader than the unprecedented number of posts on Van Til[ians] these past few weeks, which I do not anticipate will continue hereafter - I wanted to provide a link to an online critique he wrote of Van Til’s apologetic (link). It’s a bit informal for my taste - especially after pg. 45 - but as a former Van Tilian, it is instructive to see what he believed to be the problem areas in Van Til’s philosophy. This includes his comparison of Van Til to Kant (pgs. 56, 104-105), his confirmation of my suspicions in my previous post that analogical knowledge is grounded on an acceptance of the doctrine of internal relations (pgs. 13-14, 72), and, particularly, the doctrine of “analogical knowledge,” i.e. the doctrine that the content of God’s knowledge and the content of man’s “knowledge” neither qualitatively nor univocally coincide at any point. 

Naturally, as Hoover is an evidentialist, I don’t agree with everything he writes, but so far as his internal critique of Van Til is concerned, I’ve categorized the following arguments against analogical knowledge which I found to be persuasive. Analogical knowledge:

1. Has Self-Referential Problems

Since Van Til insists that reasoning analogically is a necessary condition of knowing truly, it must be possible to tell, at least on some occasions, whether one has reasoned analogically. Yet according to Van Til, the ability to specify criteria would cancel the need to invoke analogicity in the first place. And why is that? Because to specify criteria entails a univocal access to at least some knowledge as God knows it in order to see whether one’s own noetic holdings are indeed analogous of God’s noetic holdings. That means we would have to have access above the ceiling in order judiciously to apply the analogy concept to our own thinking. But by the very nature of the case there can’t be any human peeking above the ceiling, for above the ceiling (as I am using this metaphor) there is only knowledge as God knows it. The very idea of human access to the latter is an ontological impossibility on Van Til’s reckoning, and things don’t get more impossible than that! So Van Til has put the Christian in the impossible position of having to “reflect” God's knowledge while being systematically cut off from it. (pg. 16)

So on Van Til's own logic, either (1) knowledge is impossible because no human belief can be analogically validated, or (2) “analogicity” itself, contrary to Van Til’s idea that he is somehow doing epistemology, is a speculative metaphysical concept which (somehow) merely characterizes human knowledge by contrast to divine knowledge. I say “speculative” because the only way Van Til could know (and hence not speculate) that there is “no identity of content” between divine and human minds is by peeking above the ceiling in order to confirm that this is so-and by his own principles creatures can’t do that.

Well, I think (2) is the case: Van Til’s theory is a speculative metaphysics of knowledge and has precious little to do with practical epistemological matters. That is to say, Van Til gives us no help at all with specifying applicable conditions by which to certify knowledge, and it is only if knowledge can be identified in total independence of Van Til’s metaphysical doctrine, that that doctrine can have even dubious application to the ultimate character of the knowledge thus (independently) identified. To repeat, Van Til provides not a clue about how we acquire ordinary knowledge, and how to separate ordinary knowledge from ignorance. Bottom line: Van Til’s “theory of knowledge” is not a theory of how we may come to know things by examining data and evidence, but is instead a metaphysics of the contrast he alleges between the mind of God and the mind of man. (pgs. 17-18)

…in the complete absence of univocal criteria there is the problem of commencing an infinite regress of analogical evaluations. Evaluation itself insofar as it is presuppositionally proper in its rationality, must be analogical, so only analogical evaluation is competent to assess the strength or merit of a putatively analogical argument. But how does one tell whether the assessment itself bears a sufficiently strong analogy to God’s thought? Answer: that would take another analogical assessment of the immediately previous assessment-and so on forever; and fourth, there simply is no ana-logic and hence no structural means to assess outcomes of reasoning which “reflect” (i.e., are analogical of) divinely held truth. (pg. 51)

2. Renders Apologetics a Pointless Enterprise

Criteria are marks or discernible characteristics by which we can test our knowledge. An inherently indiscernible criterion is self-contradictory-no criterion at all. Analogicity, needless to say, is an inherently indiscernible property, and a Van Tillian analogy is an inherently indiscernible relation. Hence Van Til’s analogy doctrine is incurably speculative and systematically unavailable to do any work in epistemology or apologetics. (pg. 20)

Here is how to construct your own haven. Choose a deity. (Linus has chosen the Great Pumpkin.) Declare that your deity is creator of all things and enjoys absolutivity with respect to knowledge because of his supreme level of existence. Then draw the implication that all human knowing is at best analogical of the deity’s knowing so that there is no identity of meaning between anything in the deity’s mind and anything in a human mind. Stop. At this point, analogicity is fundamentally criterial for whether or not anyone knows “truly.”

This criterion, however, is inherently the abolition of all criteria. When in place, it is complete license to run religiously and spiritually amuck, for not only is substantive content noncoincident, principles governing logical coherence (the law of contradiction, for example) are as well. That is because (1) the deity is the only true knower, (2) humans are absolutely dependent on the deity's knowledge for their analogical knowledge, and (3) the logic of analogicity necessitates, first and foremost, the radical severance of cognitive linkage between divine and human minds. In effect, analogicity is Van Til’s metaphysical guarantee that there cannot be a semantic bridge between divine and human minds. I hasten to add that once the logic of analogicity is in place, no amount of pious language can be thrown at the resulting problem to alleviate it of the catastrophic consequence we have seen. (pgs. 28-29)

3. Licenses Paradox

And what of the Great Pumpkin? Since we are forever cut off from criteria to apply the analogicity concept to this or that claim, Linus can easily help himself to it without fear of later refutation. Linus, like Van Til, knows what he knows, and what he knows he knows analogically! Or to put it another way, Linus’s “special knowledge,” like Van Til's, enjoys an utterly inscrutable “resemblance relation” to the deity’s knowledge. And since this relation is inscrutable, hence not cognitively penetrable by way of criteria, there is simply no way to test it - no way, that is, either to confirm it or disconfirm it. Indeed, no refutation could count without itself being blessed with inscrutable analogicity! In a manner of speaking, to “analogize” your position is thereby to “immunize” it from criticism. Thus (once one's system is analogized) data can never interfere with cherished beliefs, whether you're a Christian theist, a Pumpkinologist, or an Elvis worshipper. Bliss! (pg. 29)

It might be thought, however, that Van Til’s rule to show “the impossibility of the contrary” might be used decisively against The Great Pumpkin. In logic, this is simply the procedure of reducing one's opponent’s position to absurdity by assuming the truth of its major premises and deriving a contradiction thereby.

There is a decisive objection to this that Linus can make, however: it is analogicity in Van Til’s scheme that secures the Christian’s position, not the strict logical coherence of Christianity s doctrines or an infallible construal of evidences. Indeed, he concedes that Christianity fares poorly when it comes to assessing, by standard logic, the Trinity or the coherence of the aseity doctrine with God’s having created anything. “So much the worse for standard logic,” is Van Til’s reply, “the analogical condition of being in the truth is what (argumentatively) secures the Christian position. Logical laws themselves are relativized to God’s epistemic absolutivily.” But that response is equally available to Linus in behalf of the Pumpkin. Analogically apprehended mysteries are exempt from straight logical critique (univocal critique, Van Til would say). Van Til’s line has always been that ‘contradictions’ at the core of the Christian faith are proper ‘mysteries’ while ‘contradictions’ at the core of opposing systems are conclusive evidence of their impossibility and falsehood. That is a darkish saying indeed. (pgs. 51-52)

4. Precludes Divine Omniscience and Communicability

…suppose that the “no identity-no coincidence” doctrine were true: in that case an omniscient God cannot entertain in his mind whatever the disciples did understand by his utterance! That is because the “no identity-no coincidence” doctrine is symmetrical. Regarding the prospect of communication, we must hold Van Til to his words: for both God and man “no identity” is no identity and “no coincidence” is no coincidence. So not only can't the disciples univocally entertain any of God's meaning; God can't univocally entertain any of the disciples’ meaning!

Van Til’s doctrine thus effectively renders divine-to-human as well as human-to-divine communication impossible so far as sameness of content meaning is concerned. And to boot (and ever so ironically), Van Til’s doctrine of analogy implies that an omniscient God is ignorant of the disciples’ precise understanding of him. (pgs. 22-23)

5. Restricts Divine Omnipotence

…there seems to be an ultimate irony in Van Til’s analogy doctrine, for that very doctrine places a rather catastrophic limitation on what an “omnipotent” God can bring about with regard to communication between himself and his creatures. To use a grammatical construction from Paul [Rom. 3:4], it is as though Van Til were saying, “Let God be incomprehensible and every man hopelessly ignorant!” Paul's actual comment, of course, is, “Let God be true and every man a liar!” Lying, unlike irremediable ignorance, allows some discernment of the truth which one is lying about. Paul's point, as I understand it, is that even if all men remained in unbelief through their own deception and self-deception, the truth of God and its epistemic availability would remain unaffected. If, however, God had created all men with an epistemic endowment that is semantically blind to divine revelation (blind, thus, merely because of human creaturehood!), then while God's truth would remain unaffected, it would be radically unavailable to man. And to provide emphasis, that is because if the ontological situation is as Van Til describes it, the Creator is powerless to create a being with whom he can communicate “in the same voice.” (pgs. 27-28)

6. Begs and Leaves Unanswered Questions Regarding the Incarnation

As applied to Jesus, I think the analogy doctrine implies a strictly bifurcated mind (within the thought processes of the historical Jesus) in which there would have to be two radically incommensurable ways of structuring knowledge (one divine and the other human) neither of which can fathom the other.

This question can be asked too: If our omnipotent God can become human-take on the same flesh as we ourselves who are saved by Jesus's sacrifice [“univocal” flesh, so to speak]-why can’t God also share some same level meaning within the constraints of the linguistic structures that he himself created? If, however, we accept Van Til’s doctrine of absolutely different levels of divine and human existence, then the very logic of this acceptance would seem to preclude that God could become a man. The question I raise is whether God can violate “the radically different ontological levels of divine and human existence” to literally take on our humanity on our level of existence. Given what Van Til has had to say about these levels, I don't see how he can escape this kind of difficulty regarding the Incarnation of Christ. It seems to me that both with respect to the cerebrally facilitated knowing of the earthly Jesus, and with respect to the Incarnation itself, Van Til’s speculations do not bode well for orthodox Christology. (pg. 30)

I think that Van Til’s notion of analogicity wreaks havoc, for example, with historic Christianity's doctrine of the Incarnation; for if he were consistent, there could be no overlap of meaning - no coincidence - between what Jesus had in his mind according to his human nature vis-à-vis what Jesus had in his mind according to his divine nature. If Jesus’s own cognitive nature was at all constrained by human cognitive architecture, there's a formidable problem here. (pg. 58)

As a cognitive agent Jesus is a single ‘integrated’ perceiver, believer, and knower, and this must be held as being logically consistent with Jesus being both divine and human. The problem is that these elements cannot logically coexist on Van Til’s ontological doctrine-his ‘theology of knowledge’ so to speak. That’s because, as we’ve already seen, there is an infinite, or shall we say ontologically unbridgeable, gap between divinely structured knowing and humanly structured knowing. In a nutshell, if persons individuate knowers, Jesus, on Van Til’s ontological doctrine, would have to be two persons, not one. That's the ancient Nestorian heresy, isn't it Charles?

And to come full circle, Schroeder, you weren't seeing the difficulty when you said, ‘He, Jesus, could know both analogically, because he’s a man, and univocally, because he’s God.’ Do you see the contradiction in that statement? When you say ‘he’ you can refer to only one knower. Van Til’s ontological principle absolutely forbids mixing, melding, or somehow homogenizing divine and human knowing. Or, if you like, it is fundamentally incoherent to say of an ontically unified knower that he knows an item of knowledge both analogically and univocally at one and the same time. So if the ‘he’ refers to a single and fully integrated epistemic agent (personhood requires this), then Van Til’s analogicity/univocity distinction cannot be applied to Jesus. (pgs. 59-60)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hegelian Internal Relations and Van Tilian Analogical Knowledge

At the beginning of last year, I resolved a problem that had been puzzling me for quite some time: how is partial knowledge possible if everything is related to everything else? In that post, I made the following statement that I want to correct and clarify:
It is ironic that Van Til charged Clark with rationalism when Van Til held to the logical conclusion of Hegelianism. The doctrine of internal relations essentially states that “everything has some relation, however distant, to everything else” (link). If this is doctrine is true, as I think it must be – I may write a post on this later – then the question is begged as to how one can learn anything. I have argued (here, for example) that internal relations means that the source of knowledge must be an eternally omniscient being. 
The initial sentiment is true, but unfortunately, I confounded the doctrine of internal relations with the idea that everything is related to everything else. Well, my lingering confusion was pretty much what I deserved for relying on Wikipedia. Clark more precisely defines internal relations in Historiography: Secular and Religious on pgs. 225-226 (1971):
Reenactment of a thought is possible, nonetheless, because it can be separate from this immediacy without alteration. Not only so, it can be separated from other thoughts without alteration. Thus history becomes possible. 
This self-identity of the act of thought has been denied by two extreme views. The first view is that of idealism, the theory of internal relations, the notion that everything is what it is because of its context. This makes history impossible. To know any one thing it would be necessary to know its context; i.e. to know the whole universe. Knowledge would thus be restricted to the explicit consciousness of the omniscient Absolutes; and Collingwood, though he may be Beckett, does not claim to be the Absolute.
That is, the theory of internal relations does indeed posit that everything is related to everything else - an idea which I agree with and which Clark himself defends in the same book (cf. pgs. 179, 183) - but it does so in such a way that partial knowledge is impossible.

With this definition in mind, Clark's reference to "idealism" and especially "the [omniscient] Absolute" clearly indicates he is thinking about Hegel. Subsequent reference to Hegel on pg. 334 when mentioning the problem of partial knowledge also confirms this:
What follows if it is true that psychological analysis presupposes a “complete knowledge of the psychological possibilities of life”? It would follow, would it not, that historical analysis also presupposes a complete knowledge of historical possibilities. In short, it would be impossible to know anything without knowing everything. 
Such a Platonic or Hegelian requirement of omniscience is a serious philosophical problem. It is not to be dismissed thoughtlessly. The meticulous scholar, J. H. Hexter, in his Reappraisals of History, castigates historical relativism as a fad and insists on the “rudimentary distinction” between knowing something and knowing everything. But he omits all philosophic justification for this distinction. 
Undoubtedly this distinction must be maintained, if a human being is able to know anything at all. Make omniscience the prerequisite of partial knowledge, and partial knowledge vanishes. But Bultmann, like Hexter, offers no help: less help, in fact, for Bultmann lets the requirements of omniscience stand.
Then, finally, there is elsewhere an explicit connection made between Hegel and internal relations, along with the subsequent refutation of both:
That relations are internal, and especially that the truth is the whole, are themes hard to deny. Yet their implications are devastating. So long as you or I do not know the relationships which constitute the meaning of cat or self, we do not know the object in question. If we say that we know some of the relationships – e.g., a cat is not-a-dog and admit that we do not know other relationships – e.g., a cat is not-an-(animal we have never heard of before) – it follows that we cannot know how this unknown relationship may alter our view of the relationship we now say we know. The alteration could be considerable. Therefore we cannot know even one relationship without knowing all. Obviously we do not know all. Therefore we know nothing. 
This criticism is exceedingly disconcerting to an Hegelian, for its principle applies not merely to cats, dogs, and selves, but to the Absolute itself. The truth is the whole and the whole is the Absolute. But obviously we do not know the whole; we do not know the Absolute. In fact, not knowing the Absolute, we cannot know even that there is an Absolute. But how can Absolute Idealism be based on absolute ignorance? And ours is absolute ignorance, for we cannot know one thing without knowing all. (Christian Philosophy, pg. 153)
Now, I said in the above link that Van Til was more truly Hegelian than Clark, and the reason why has to do with internal relations. The first quote from that link provides the key:
Gordon was absolutely insistent that we did know some of the same things that God knew. If not, he insisted, it would be impossible for us to know any truth at all! That 2 plus 2 equals 4 is true, he felt. Thus he insisted that in and of itself it is true as a statement without the necessity of examining another proposition. He carefully insisted upon a propositional concept of truth while Van Til insisted upon the fact that to have truth in one's mind that mind must be built upon other propositions. The truthfulness or falsity demanded that the individual proposition be held in the midst of certain other basic propositions that must be consciously present in that mind in order to correctly know truth. Now, of course, God knows every proposition in the context of all other propositions for Van Til, and, therefore, the limited human mind never knows it the way God does. Van Til had an expression, of repeated: "true as far as it goes," meaning, of course, that for that mind which holds all propositions in a system, the more complete the system, the more full the truth. With growth in the knowledge of basic propositions, the further than mind had the truth. Van Til's concept is that for relative human beings, they can have all needful truth but never perceive it as God does with his infinite knowledge of everything that affects any proposition. He charged Clark, therefore, with denying the incomprehensibility of God and Clark charged him with agnosticism since he that that for him it was impossible to know anything as God did. Clark wanted an absolute even if it were only in the single proposition. (Gordon Clark: Personal Recollections, pgs. 103-104)
Note that for Van Til, it is because "God knows every proposition in the context of all other propositions" that "the limited human mind never knows it the way God does." Well, how does this follow? The idea that "God knows every proposition in the context of all other propositions" is true, but Van Tilians must go further by arguing that knowledge [which is univocal to God's] of even one proposition necessarily would imply knowledge of all propositions, which is why our knowledge must be analogical - for we aren't omniscient. But the only reason such would necessarily follow is if the doctrine of internal relations is true.

Recall that above, Clark defined "the theory of internal relations" as "the notion that everything is what it is because of its context... To know any one thing it would be necessary to know its context." This is precisely what Van Tilians argue univocal knowledge would entail. This is the only explanation of how "God knows every proposition in the context of all other propositions" can allegedly imply "the limited human mind never knows it the way God does."

On the contrary, that God necessarily knows everything in the context of everything else is what functions as the basis according to which we can be assured that the doctrine of internal relations is false. Who better than an omniscient God could know that partial knowledge is possible? Revelation is sufficient.