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Monday, April 22, 2013

Logic In Its Personal Context: Review of Vern Poythress's Logic

Logic In Its Personal and Divine Context
A Review of
Vern S. Poythress Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundations of Western Thought (Crossway, 2013)
$45.00 735 pp ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-3229-0 ISBN-10: 1-4335-3229-8
Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz
In recent years Westminster Theological Seminary Professor Vern Poythress has been writing books which have made great contributions to learning the Biblical view of such subjects as science, language, sociology, and Scriptural Inerrancy. The main key to his success is seeing these subjects in their personal context, which is absolutely essential because God Himself is personal, which means that His creation was personally designed and created, and it now exits to serve God's personal purposes. You really need to read these books to see what I mean -- they are quite different from most theological writings by virtue of this personal context within which these subjects are discussed. A long time ago Francis Schaeffer said that our final environment (God) is personal. It is about time that we think and act accordingly!! Poythress is providing us with an example of what this means.
In his latest book, the one under review here, Poythress endeavors to show what this personal context means for logic, which is a tall order considering that logic has usually been treated in a very unpersonal manner! But the job is not as difficult as may be supposed because God is a person and is the Supreme Person and the ultimate source and standard and definition of personhood. And God is logical because logic inheres in His very essence, which means that logic has a personal context. Everything in the Biblical philosophy of logic flows from that foundational principle, which Poythress repeatedly notes throughout his book.
Since logic is an aspect of God's character, it needs to be included in the list of divine attributes and we need to praise God for His rationality and we need to thank Him for the rationality He has built into our humanity, and we need to turn away from the mystic's antipathy to logic and toward a striving to think more deeply and robustly. (See esp. pp 80, 84, 116) And we need to perceive the logical and philosophical relevance of the doctrines we already know, especially the doctrine of the Trinity, which embodies the all-important principle of the equal ultimacy of the unity and the diversity, whose enormous relevance for logic and philosophy is shown and emphasized over and over again throughout this book -- the HUGE importance of this can NOT be overstated!! Read the book if you do not believe me.
There is also in this book a repeated emphasis on the great importance of our personhood being a finite image of God's personhood, and that our immediate finite context is personal and that the ultimate context (God) is also personal, which means that we can know, in a finite way, some of the truths about God, the Ultimate Context. He shows how this is radically opposed to the notion held by many humanists that man can not know truths about God because of His infinite transcendance. Because of the way reality is, we are able to know God, have communion with God, and understand words communicated to us by God in His Word. (see esp pp 113 and 121 and Figure 14.2. This is a great advance in epistemology but, unfortunately, Poythress still holds to the old Biblical antinomies view (see end of Appendix F-5), which is based on the the false view of transcendance which Poythress has rightfully repudiated here. There is some humor here, though, namely a meta-antinomy, i.e. an antinomy in re antinomies!
There are several other serious criticisms I have. Although he includes a discussion of Godel's Theorem, he says little of the epistemological consequences, which is very surprising, since it upholds our position by showing that no finite system can be self-grounding! And, much worse, he totally fails to see the horrible epistemological and ontological consequences of the mainstream (Copenhagen) view of quantum mechanics, which were pointed out many years ago, e.g. in F. Capra's The Tao of Physics. And his discussion of Kant, useful as it was, failed to include the all important criticism that God's design and creation of our sensory apparatus means that we can know, for example, that grass is really green. (I call that the greening of epistemology; only the christian has a green epistemology.) And, a minor criticism of the later chapters in the book is that there was way too many Venn diagrams and logic notations and general logic discussions with little discussion of the philosophy of logic, which is the main point of the book. I would suggest that the reader either skip or skim these chapters.
And my suggestion in re the failures is to set these to the side, and concentrate on the great achievements of this book, which shows that Poythress has done it again -- showed the philosophical and practical importance of the personhood of God!! Amen!


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