Apologetics to the Glory of God

User Error and Insufficient Requirements

Let’s say you’re trying to compile a program – “Christian Living v1.0”, using the programming language “God’s Word”.  You consult many manuals, but you just can’t seem to get it.  Every compilation you attempt results in a crash.  Every attempt you make at solving it just gets you into bigger and bigger messes.

Well, back to the drawing board, and back to those manuals!  The more you read in these manuals, the more you realize that your system just doesn’t meet the requirements for compiling the program!   It doesn’t have the right hardware, the right software.  Something wrong here, something’s wrong there… and you decide that you just have to buckle down and upgrade your system, before this program will compile.

That analogy breaks down at some point – the user is separate from the software and hardware, after all.  Further, we don’t upgrade ourselves.  We have to be brought to the manufacturer for this to be accomplished.  I think it’s a good illustration of why we can’t expect perfect understanding of Scripture, however.  The problem does not lie in the author of Scripture.  It does not lie in Scripture itself.  The problem lies in us.  First, it lies in our nature.  We do not think or act correctly about anything.  We are sinful, fallen creatures who cannot properly operate in terms of perfection.  Second, we cannot, due to that nature, properly understand that which we are required to understand.  Third, we cannot act in accordance with it.

In a conversation earlier today, the objection was made that God’s Word lacked sufficient clarity, since men were always arguing over what it meant.  Second, the objection was made that if Scripture was sufficiently clear, we would not need teachers in order to properly understand it.  My first response was to ask “By what standard do you think it lacks sufficient clarity?” and my second was to ask “By what standard *should* it have sufficient clarity?”  He didn’t “get” the attempted push to reveal the worldview presuppositions, so I hit on a mention of “programming languages” that was made.  “If, like you say, there are hardware and software constraints for the compilation of programs, why would you think there is any difference when someone is trying to run, or to compile, say, a life requiring hardware/software they do not have?”  I then went into Romans 12, and it’s admonition that we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind.  Also, I referenced that humans, in their fallen state, do not have the capability of recognizing the precepts of Scripture apart from the demands of their own nature.  For this to be accomplished correctly, there needs to be a change in them.

The objection was then raised that he was talking about Christians.  Very well.  Even in Christians – are we to be understood as saying that the renewal of sanctification is immediate and total?  I cannot think that Scripture would back this up.  Our sanctification is progressive.  We do not instantly grasp all things, nor should we be expected to.  Further, I mentioned, the Spirit, the author of Scripture, indwells believers.  The Spirit uses means to accomplish His end of our sanctification.   That same Spirit is who apportions the gifts to believers – including that of pastor, and teacher.  These gifted men use the entirety of Scripture and bring it to bear on any given passage – teaching us to conform ourselves to it – through his gift of the Spirit, and through the work of the Spirit in us, which confirms the truth of their teaching and renews us accordingly.

We aren’t instantly and completely changed into perfect expositors and exegetes.   We are brought along by the Spirit, and the means of grace which He has provided – for, as Scripture says:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Tim 3:16-17

So, in closing – remember.  Scripture isn’t unclear.  Men “see through a glass darkly”.



25 responses to “User Error and Insufficient Requirements”

  1. Nocterro Avatar

    “for, as Scripture says:

    All Scripture is inspired by God”

    Do you not see the problem here?

  2. RazorsKiss Avatar

    Why don’t you make the argument, and we’ll see if it’s a problem 🙂

  3. C.L. Bolt Avatar

    I do not see a problem.

  4. Nocterro Avatar

    Well, this is, to be quite honest, the most obviously circular thing I have ever seen anyone say…

  5. RazorsKiss Avatar

    Define “axiom” for me.

  6. C.L. Bolt Avatar

    It is absurd to state that attributing a proposition to its source is fallaciously circular. I think you are rather confused here.

  7. Nocterro Avatar

    That’s not it at all, Chris. You seem to be using scripture to justify scripture…

  8. Mitchell LeBlanc Avatar

    I am unsure as to whether or not RK is proposing the same thing as Bolt, but it seems that the Bible is being proposed as an axiom.

    Could RK, or Bolt if he agrees, perhaps outline the criteria of an axiom as they understand it? If the Bible meets such a criteria, are we then to test the derivations for consistency? If they are consistent, is the system thereby justified?

    As far as I understand presuppositionalism, a conventionalist justification of logic is unacceptable but in beginning with the axiom of the Bible (even if it met such criteria) seems to be a prime example of a conventionalist system.

  9. C.L. Bolt Avatar

    Nocterro, you quoted RK to the effect of “for, as Scripture says: All Scripture is inspired by God” then implied that you think it is problematic prior to asserting “this is…the most obviously circular thing I have ever seen anyone say”. Again, it is absurd to state that attributing a proposition to its source is fallaciously circular. That is all RK did in the quote that you are writing about. When you write, “You seem to be using scripture to justify scripture” you are asserting something that has absolutely nothing to do with the quote you are supposedly taking issue with. So again, I think you are rather confused.

    Mitch’s comment is completely irrelevant to what Nocterro has written.

  10. Mitchell LeBlanc Avatar

    I asked my question because RK asked Nocterro to define “axiom”. I would like to know whether or not RK was insinuating that the Bible be treated as an axiom.

    You erroneously assumed that I was commenting in tandem with Nocterro. I don’t think my question is irrelevant at all.

  11. C.L. Bolt Avatar

    I just reread RK’s post, and Mitch’s comment is actually irrelevant to the original post as well. RK posted concerning the perspicuity of Scripture and Mitch starts writing about conventionalist justifications of logic.

    I can imagine you telling someone they are using circular logic when she tells you about something she said to someone else. What a weird way of thinking.

  12. C.L. Bolt Avatar

    “You erroneously assumed that I was commenting in tandem with Nocterro.”

    No, I did not “erroneously” assume it. You were commenting “in tandem” with Nocterro, for the very first thing you wrote was “I am unsure as to whether or not RK is proposing the same thing as Bolt”. My comment was wholly in response to Nocterro.

    “…it seems that the Bible is being proposed as an axiom.”

    I know that RK asked something about this, but are you also saying that you are getting this from in the post?

  13. Mitchell LeBlanc Avatar

    I made the mistake of assuming that Bolt was the author of the post, (I had honestly forgot that RK was a contributor here) hence why I attempted to separate the Bolt/Nocterro conversation by stating:

    “I am unsure as to whether or not RK is proposing the same thing as Bolt”

    Nevertheless, my questions are based on RK’s comment, not the original post… and it was not related to your discussion with Nocterro.


  14. C.L. Bolt Avatar

    Ah I see. My apologies.

    I am not sure we have things set up very well in order to determine authorship. I will leave RK to defend what he wrote.

  15. RazorsKiss Avatar

    As I defended in the recent debate: I have two interrelated, inseparable axioms. The Triune God of Scripture is fully capable of revealing the nature of His Word by the means of that Word. That’s like saying an author can’t say “This is a book of history” – about his history book – without being circular. That is ridiculous. Stating the nature of the book in question, in the pages of the book in question, is NOT circular. That is self-definition. The clarity of Scripture is “clearly” outlined in the verse I cited. It is inspired, therefore originates with God. It is profitable for a whole host of good and necessary things that would not be possible, were it incomprehensible to His people.

  16. Mitchell LeBlanc Avatar

    Could you perhaps define your use of the term axiom? What you’ve outlined sounds much more similar to a properly basic belief than a mathematical/logical axiom.


  17. RazorsKiss Avatar

    I think I already asked for that 🙂

  18. Mitchell LeBlanc Avatar

    You asked for Nocterro’s definition of axiom, with which I am not concerned. My curiosity lies with how you define the term, and how either the Bible or God fulfills such a requirement.

  19. RazorsKiss Avatar

    Didn’t we do a debate on that? 🙂

  20. Mitchell LeBlanc Avatar

    If you can point to somewhere in the debate where you explicitly defined what criteria a proposed “axiom” must meet, I’d be much appreciated. From my reading, I outlined a definition of an axiom but was never made aware as to your understanding of the term.

    In fact, rereading portions of your opening statement seem only to reaffirm that what you are espousing is that a belief in God and the validity of the Bible is properly basic, not axiomatic.

  21. RazorsKiss Avatar

    I don’t know that I would use “properly basic” – let me propose to you, however, that in philosophy “true belief” and “axiom” are often used interchangeably. For instance: The Stanford Dict. of philosophy defines belief as: “the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true.” An axiom is something self-evidently true, upon which all further statements rest. The two are similar. However, this may be interesting to you,and worthy of further examination. I used “basis” so often in our debate, because it is oft-defined “foundation for belief”. Axiom, interestingly, is a synonym for “basis” in just about every thesaurus you’ll pick up. So, what I’m really saying is – “an axiom is what belief is founded on”. Who grants faith – or true belief – in Christian theology? God does – and Faith comes by hearing – and hearing? By the Word of God. This is straight out of Scripture.

  22. Mitchell LeBlanc Avatar

    I would agree that “true belief” and “knowledge” are considered interchangeable (at least by most), but I’ve only seen ‘axiom’ used in a similar manner when describing the construction of a logical system or certain types of modal propositions.

    If you’re proposing that Christianity be considered as a logical system (that is a system of postulates and deduction of further theorem), then perhaps your use of axiom is accurate. In this regard, we’d be speaking in a very mathematical sense.

    From your definition, I gather that you’re not using axiom strictly in the mathematical sense. Philosophically, however, we might further be able to define an axiom as necessary truth. Is this perhaps the distinction that is being made between your belief and that of a “properly basic” belief?

    I ask all these questions because they hold relevance based on the approach one takes in examination. Should God, or the Bible be proposed as a mathematical axiom of reasoning (whatever that would entail), we would presumably examine the axiom by virtue of the consistency of any logical system (distinct from a philosophical system) erected from that theorem. But it does not seem that a Christian logical system could operate with the two axioms you’ve mentioned alone. In fact, the two proposed axioms seem contingent on at the very least 2/3 of our classical laws. This is, of course, unless they encompass the classical laws, but it is difficult to see how this is different from merely amalgamating a known axiom and adding baggage.

    It seems to me that it makes more sense to examine your claim philosophically since an ‘axiom’ would then (more or less) equate to necessary truth. The reason I think this is what is being implied is because this claim leads us directly into the TAG for an attempt at justifying the logical necessity of either God or the Bible in a non-circular manner.

    You may, at this point, be expecting some type of criticism but there isn’t any today ;). I’m just attempting to clear through some of the ambiguities I’ve seen.


  23. RazorsKiss Avatar

    What I’m saying is that every other true belief is contingent upon the truth of the Triune God of Scripture. Including logical laws. But you already know that. As for a “non-circular” manner by which it does so – we’ve discussed that too – Calvin goes into it in Institutes in fairly heavy detail.

  24. Mitchell LeBlanc Avatar

    Right, but the manner of dependence is key. Do the logical laws depend on the AXIOM of God, or the EXISTENCE of God? Are they derived, or do they merely have a necessary precondition in the existence of God?

    It might not seem like a big difference, but in fact, it is!

  25. RazorsKiss Avatar

    If God ordained all things – this includes the manner in which we think. As we are created beings, and thus necessarily non-transcendent and finite, our manner of thinking is necessarily bounded by the ordination of God of how we should think. Therefore, God’s ordination of all things is the direct grounds of the laws of logic.

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