PAPER NO. 41
WHAT IS CLEAR ABOUT GOD
The Clarity of General Revelation
- Common Ground
Common ground is the set of conditions necessary for thought and discourse. Clarity begins with common ground. Common ground requires Reason, Integrity, Critical Thinking and the Principle of Clarity.
- Reason is natural: it is self-evident that we think (we form concepts, judgments and arguments); it is self-evident that there are laws of thought (the law of identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle—reason in itself is the laws of thought); reason is natural, not conventional, the same in all who think.
- Reason is ontological; it applies to being as well as thought: there are no square-circles, no being from non-being, no uncaused events. It applies to all being, the highest being, God’s being. The laws of reason are eternal, not created.
- Reason is transcendental: as the laws of thought, it cannot be questioned but makes questioning possible; it is self-attesting—only reason is self-attesting; as the test of meaning, which is more basic than truth, reason is authoritative.
- Reason is fundamental: it is basic to feeling and will; its use or abuse is the source of good and evil, life and death; reason is neither finite nor fallen, but man is both (reason is the life of the Logos—the eternal Word of God—in all men); one’s failure to use reason critically is a denial of one’s own essential nature.
We are more or less conscious and consistent; we should be more conscious and consistent.
Integrity is a concern for consistency, both logical and existential; we should be neither logically absurd nor self-referentially absurd—the absurd ends all conversation.
Without integrity, we are in self-deception and self-justification about our failure to use reason (the noetic effect of the Fall): we neglect, avoid, resist and deny reason regarding what is clear.
- Critical Thinking
Thinking is presuppositional—we think of the less basic in light of the more basic. If we agree on the more basic we will agree on the less basic.
We think of meaning in light of reason (meaning/reason), truth/meaning, the meaning of experience/basic beliefs, finite and temporal/infinite and eternal, conclusion/premises. Reason is most basic.
We should think critically about the meaning of our basic beliefs (presuppositions). The conscious and consistent application of the critical use of reason to our basic beliefs is called rational presuppositionalism.
- The Principle of Clarity
The Principle of Clarity states: some things are clear; the basic things are clear; the basic things about God and man and good and evil are clear to reason.
- Some things must be clear: if nothing were clear, no distinction would be clear (meaningful) and no thought or discourse would be possible.
- The basic things are clear: thinking is presuppositional; if basic things were not clear then nothing would be clear.
- The basic things which are about God and man (metaphysics) and good and evil (ethics) are clear to reason (epistemology).
- The Concept of God
- Minimally, God is a higher being.
- God is the highest being, and higher than all.
- God is eternal, dependent on no other for his being.
- Only God is eternal: he is both higher than all, and the highest.
- If God is eternal and all else is temporal, then God is creator ex nihilo of all else.
- God, as creator ex nihilo of heaven and earth, is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in being, wisdom and power.
- As creator of man, in his own image, God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.
- There Must Be Something Eternal
It is clear to reason that there must be something eternal. This first step is a paradigm of proofs to follow.
- If nothing were eternal then all would be temporal, all would have had a beginning, all would have come into being, all would have come into being from non-being.
- Being from non-being is not possible.
(Non-being is not energy, or quantum foam, or a transformation of being, or a fluctuation in a field, or an uncaused event, which denies any distinction between being and non-being.)
- Therefore there must be something eternal.
- Only Some is Eternal
Matter exists and matter is not eternal; the soul exists and the soul is not eternal.
Matter exists: the cause of what I perceive is not in my mind or in any other mind, but outside of all minds (vs. all forms of idealism).
Matter is not eternal: it is not self-maintaining, in general, in its parts, or as a whole.
The soul exists: the mind/self is not an illusion; and the mind is not the brain: neither in perception (a mental image is not a neural impulse and the self/perceiver is not a mental image), nor in conception (a judgment is not reducible to motion of atoms in the brain).
The soul is not eternal: if the soul were eternal, it would have sufficient knowledge to have achieved any goal.
Therefore, only some (God, the Creator) is eternal.
- The Moral Law
There is a moral law which is clear, comprehensive and critical.
The moral law is clear because it is grounded in human nature, which is easily knowable to all.
The moral law is comprehensive, expressed in every choice we make. It is the same in content as the Decalogue.
The moral law is critical, aimed at the good, man’s chief end, eternal life vs. spiritual death, which is emptiness in all of one’s life.
- Natural Evil is Due to Moral Evil
Moral evil is an act contrary to one’s nature; it begins with failure to know and acknowledge what is clear about God in creation. Natural evil is suffering imposed by God through circumstance: toil and strife, and old age, sickness and death.
Since God is all good and all-powerful, original creation was very good; God could, would, must and did create a world without natural evil.
Natural evil is not justice; it is mercy: it is not justice which is inherent, proportional and lasting; it is mercy, imposed by God on all mankind as a call back from the moral evil through one man, representing all (by covenant, from the beginning—that is, the Fall).
- Scripture is Necessary and Scripture Exists
A call back as mercy requires special (redemptive) revelation (given in Scripture) to show how God can be both just and merciful to man in sin and death.
Special revelation must be consistent with creation–fall–redemption seen in general revelation.
Only biblical revelation (from Genesis to Revelation) is consistent with creation–fall–redemption, and is given by God.