Thinking on God

April 27, 2009

These are my thoughts on God, purloined from Gordon Clark.

Who is God? What we think , is most important, especially about God, since the Bible says God requires us to worship him in spirit and in truth. Mindless worship or false thinking do not glorify God. The source material for thinking about God is scattered throughout the various books of the Bible. In fact, the whole theme of the Bible is God. Recently, God has fallen on hard times. Some philosophers believe God´s attributes are not viable, i.e. result in absurdities or are incompatible. We will not concern ourselves with those details, and will instead look at one common conception of God as a trinity. The trinity refers to the depiction of God  in the Bible as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The Father is said to be a person, the Son is  a person and the Holy Spirit is also a person and hence trinity refers to three persons. The Bible says there is one God. If there are three persons, surely this makes three Gods?  In any case, what is a person? Humans are referred to as persons too. So, the definition of a person must be common to man and the persons of the Godhead. This implies that, being a person is NOT what makes God, God. And so, three persons in the Godhead does not entail three Gods as such! But this still does not answer our puzzle as to why three persons in the Godhead seem to come short of three Gods!  What sort of persons are the three? The answer of course is that they are each God. Well, then if we have three persons who are each God, doesn´t that give us three Gods? Come on, can´t you count to three, monkey? Of course we can count to three, but the Bible says there is one God! There must be something we are missing! Perhaps we have missteped in our logic somewhere. Let us go back, define all our terms and take it from there.

The first is God: Augustine Aurelius, fourth century bishop of Hippo in North Africa said God is truth. Of course he got this by reading his Bible! Jesus said I am the truth! The word truth is used in two ways. Truth is a property of propositions. A proposition is either true or false. A true proposition or a set of true propositions are then said to be truth. Truth is thus propositional. If God is truth, does this mean then that God is a congeries of propositions? Surely God must be more than mere propositions, words even? Well, does the Gospel according to John not say, ¨In the beginning was the Logos, (the Word, the Wisdom, the Truth, all equivalent),  …….. and the Logos was God¨? And so God is a Word.  God is NOT more than His word! Truth is associated with concepts like thinking the truth, believing the truth which are activities of the mind. Let us define persons as thinkers or rational minds. The mind is NOT an empty vat which can then be filled with the truth. A tabula rasa as conceived by Thomas Aquinas is no mind. Let us say, following Gordon Clark, a person is his mind, and the mind is what one thinks. ¨As a man thinketh so is he¨, the Bible tells us. And so a person is a congeries of propositions, as Gordon Clark put it! Possesing a mind is therefore what is common between God and man. But what then distinguishes the mind of man and that of God? Well, it is the actual propositions in the respective minds. God says my thoughts are NOT your thoughts! A man and his spouse definitely have different minds!!!!(This one is easy!!!) No two minds are identical! This solves the philosophical problem of unity and individuation. We have a common definition of mind(a congeries of propositions) yet we have different minds(we have different propositions in our minds).

Now back to our discussion on the trinity.  Three persons in the Godhead is then three minds. The question is then what do they think? They think God! That is what makes them God. They are what they think! The unity of the Godhead is then the unity of minds! The unity of minds is the unity of thoughts. The unity of thoughts means thinking the same thoughts, that define them as God! So we say they are of ONE mind and hence we have one God. As an analogy, there is only one number ¨2¨. It is the same number in all minds that think it. There are not as many 2´s as there are minds! Similarly, there is only one definition of God, the set of truths that constitute God! But then, how is there individuation in the trinity? Following Clark,, the Son thinks , ¨I was incarnated¨, but the Father thinks ¨I sent the Son¨ and the Holy Spirit thinks ¨I descended at Pentecost to indwell the believer¨. These are NOT identical thoughts in each person and thus distinguish them. All the thoughts in the Father,  Son and Holy Spirit individually and collectively are God and hence there is only one God.
One more question! Is God a person? The answer is an unequivocal YES!! Is this a  ¨fourth¨ person in addition to the three? No!!!
  1. The Father(The Son, The Holy Spirit) is God.
  2. The Father(The Son, The Holy Spirit)  is a person.
  3. Therefore God is a person
One is NOT violating logic in saying God is a person.

Traditionaly, the charge of tritheism or alternatively absurdity in the concept of the trinity has been defended by saying some things are three in one sense and one in another and examples abound! Hence God is three in some sense but one in some other, even if we do not know what those senses are. Therefore it does not necessarily follow that God being three persons and one God is an absurdity!  The late Cornelius Van Til, a hero to many in some reformed circles said God is three persons and one person! Since van Til never defined what he meant by person, this is irrational nonsense and heresy even! To say van Til arrived at our conclusion above without the benefit of clear definitions is hardly credible. I consistently mark students wrong who have a ¨correct¨ answer where the answer is arrived at with dubious maths! Those who say because van Til´s nonsense sounds like Clark´s carefully defined and reasoned conclusion, then Clark and van Til are both agreed, are just bent on mischief! van Til´s was sheer nonsense from his quixotic hermeneutic, paradox!