Dr. Nash and his truth

 

 

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Until now, the clearest exposition of Augustine’s definition of Truth had been done by Dr. Ronald Nash. His work in Faith & Reason is a reorganization and expansion of the last few paragraphs of Dr. Gordon Clark’s A Christian View of Men and Things.  Dr. Clark ends his book with a quick summary of Augustine’s definition of Truth, although he does not characterize it as such. Unfortunately neither Dr. Clark nor Dr. Nash saw the implications of such a momentous work.

In 2003, I contacted Dr. Nash by email. The exchange did not bear fruit because I was disappointed to learn that he had forgotten that he had repeated Augustine’s conclusion that “Truth is God.”

 

 

Below is a condensed record of the correspondence that I had with Dr. Nash in April 2001 and July 2003.

 

I contacted him by mail in 2001, and sent him a copy of the Nature of Truth exposition and its translation into Western Armenian in parallel. The main purpose was to open a line of communication to discuss the implications of this definition in the light of work done by others in the fields of Mathematics and Logic.

 As I continued to study the subject, I became more convinced of the narrow (1TP) definition of Truth and I contacted Dr. Nash again by mail on July 4, 2003.

Dear Dr. Nash,

Over two years ago I sent you a copy of my translation dealing with the formulation of the Nature of Truth by St. Augustine and its restatement by Dr. Gordon Clark.

Since then I have concentrated on the study of the Nature of Truth, trying to see it from as many perspectives as I can. I have read as many books as I was able to access. I have enclosed the names of books that I have searched through during the past two years.

I am disappointed that I have not been able to find other writers who have dealt with the implications of the proposition that “Truth is God”. I have done searches on the internet … but have not found anything of critical value.

Your books, Faith and Reason [1988, Zondervan], The Concept of God [1983, Zondervan], The Light of the Mind [1969, UKentucky], and The Word of God and the Mind of Man [1982, Zondervan], are the best that I have found which deal with the issue from a Christian perspective. Secular writers rarely mention Augustine even when their main thesis is the Nature of Truth. But I am surprised that I have not found other Christian writers who have tried to deal with Augustine’s Nature of Truth or even to comment on it.

I am hoping that you would be able to direct me to other publications that have dealt with the Nature of Truth as expounded by Augustine, and the implications of his conclusions.

If you would like to respond through email, my address is …..

Sincerely,

BMM

 

 On July 13, 2003, Dr. Nash responded to my letter by email.

 

 Two years ago is a long time. I hope you have benefitted from your reading.

1- …

2- …

3- …

4- My newest book is Life’s Ultimate Questions, a very big book that summarizes all of my important positions on epistemology.

5- I never said “Truth is God.” What I wrote or should have written is that when a person knows truth, he knows something of the nature of God since truth is one of God’s essential properties. The same would be the case with Goodness.

6- The only other book that holds the position is Carnell’s [An] Introduction to Christian Apologetics. Read it carefully.

7- The view in question is implicit in the first chapter of John’s Gospel, in the writings of Augustine (see once again The Light of the Mind which is back in print from Academic Renewal Press) Gordon Clark, Carl Henry, the early Carnell and, I guess, me.

8- The complete tapes of four of my seminary courses are available free of charge from www.biblicaltraining.org.

9- . . .

I could not imagine that Dr. Nash would forget such a pregnant phrase as “Truth is God” as the conclusion of a proof for the existence of God based upon Augustine’s On Free Choice. I assumed that when he stated that “I never said that ‘Truth is God’” he meant that he did not endorse that conclusion. In view of the fact that he referenced Augustine’s book On Free Choice and Aquinas’s Question 1 in his De Veritate, both of which clearly state the phrase “Truth is God,” I tried to reassure him again that even if he did not accept that conclusion, would he be willing to discuss the implications of such a statement.

At that time I did not have access to his latest book, Life’s Ultimate Questions  [1999, Zondervan], thus I did not know that he had repeated verbatim the section on a proof for God’s existence based on the nature of truth on pages 296-298. Furthermore, the phrase “Truth is God” and its attribution to Augustine is cited in his The Light of the Mind, pg22ff and in the Notes on page 130, published in 1969.

 

 I replied to Dr. Nash the next day, July 14, 2003 

 

Thank you for the reply Dr. Nash.

I did not mean to ascribe the “Truth is God” conclusion to you. You did put Augustine’s and Clark’s restatement in a very organized way and that is where I saw and understood it so clearly, after several readings and cogitations. Even though I had read Clark’s book years earlier, it did not register on my mind, since at that time I was vey much interested in epistemology and the nature of science.

I re-read Carnell a few days ago (and will do so again), but he does not really deal with the implications that “Truth is God”.

 If Augustine is correct, and “Truth is God”, would it not be reasonable (and Biblical) to conclude that only propositions about God=Jesus Christ are True?

 You say: “…when a person knows truth, he knows something of the nature of God since truth is one of God’s essential properties. The same would be the case with Goodness.”

 I wouldn’t really disagree as far as it goes, but “something of” seems to leave a lot to the imagination.

 What would you say is your definition of Truth? According to your book, “I am typing (tenselessly [?]) on July 15, 2003, at 10:24:05[02….]AM” is a True proposition. How does a proposition like that show something about God’s nature?

 Do you deal with the “Truth is God” issue in your new book?

Thank you

B. 

  Dr. Nash replied on July 16, 2003: 

Re: Truth is God

The misunderstandings of my position in your reply really concern me. Neither I nor Augustine affirm that “Truth is God.” That statement implies pantheism. My statements steer clear of pantheism. The quote from The Concept of God would take me far too long to explain. I am laying out a methodology to show how propositions can be written so they are eternally and unchangeably true. But again you seriously miss what most students recognize to be a simple point. …

 

I replied to him the same day. I still could not understand how Dr. Nash could forget that he had repeated Augustine’s phrase “Truth is God.” I scanned the relevant pages from his book Faith & Reason and from Augustine’s book, and attached them to the email. 

 

Re: Truth is God

Dear Dr. Nash,

My purpose in communicating with you was to try and discuss my understanding of what I have found in your book, referring to St. Augustine and Dr. Clark.

I in no way ascribe these views to you, as I have stated before.

I wanted to discuss with you the implications of “Truth is God.” I will make copies of the pages of your book Faith & Reason, [and] St. Augustine’s [On Free Choice] where “Truth is God” is clearly stated as the conclusion of the nature of Truth.

I can see no warrant for coming to the conclusion that this leads to Pantheism. On the contrary, as far as I understand it now, the only propositions that can be true are those eternal propositions about Jesus Christ/God. If “Truth is God,” then any propositions about any created being cannot have a Truth value.

As an engineer, I have come to see that there is no truth in Mathematical equations. This has led me to discard the Law of Excluded Middle, and posit a Third Truth Value called Neither-True-Nor-False (nTnF). Only propositions about Christ would be True. All other propositions would be either nTnF or False. Are you familiar with the work of [L. E. J.] Brouwer and his defenders? Do you deal with this issue at all?

I can see no justification for calling propositions eternal and immutable when terms in a proposition have temporal referents that are arbitrary, relative and man-made.

Can you refer me to anyone else who has dealt with this issue from a Christian perspective?

My aim is not to push a certain point of view, but to investigate it from a Christian point of view.

I hope you do not judge my motives based on the few sentences that I have written to you.

B.

Dr. Nash responded.

 Re: Truth is God

I was exhausted and tired when I replied last night after midnight. ….

 I guess you are referring to my summary of Gordon Clark’s variation of Augustine’s argument for God’s existence based on truth. The chapter in The Concept of God book that you referred to [I did not refer to his book The Concept of God, because it does not deal with the nature of truth at all.] and in my judgment misunderstood does prove that properly formulated and complete propositions that are true are eternal and immutable. One way to describe God’s omniscience is that God knows all true propositions and believes no false propositions. [Objections to the repulsive notion that “God believes” are on page 10- What Truth is Not.] Read here as well my chapter on possible worlds in Life’s Ultimate Questions.

In The Concept of God book, this is the stuff that ...

At T1, God knows that the proposition that Christ will be born is true and all the other variations. To get a properly formulated proposition, you must fill in all the indexicals referring to time and place.

You might want to read Al Plantinga on The Nature of Necessity, a very technical book and its earlier version, God and Evil, or whatever the full title is. [God, Freedom and Evil]

But look, this is an extremely busy time in my life. I am just up to my neck in work and I just do not have the time to help you right now. … Thanks for understanding. 

This ended my communication with Dr. Nash. He passed away in 2006.

 

In 2008 I visited www.biblicaltraining.org where Dr. Nash’s lectures are available. The relevant lecture is listed under Apologetics and is entitled The Existence of God. An outline is given with the lecture. Below, I have transcribed the lecture, followed by my commentary. Irrelevant humorous comments have been omitted. (As of a Nov. 2010 visit, the lecture has been reclassified and numbered TH601-14.) It is undated.

In this lecture Dr. Nash argues for the existence of God, basing his reasoning on the alleged existence of the number ‘One’. I find this lecture to be the most relevant to my interest in the Nature of Truth, because he applies the same reasoning that Augustine used to “prove” the existence of God based upon the nature of Truth. The relevant section is Section D, An Argument for God’s Existence.

(His words are in Yellow, my comments in Blue.)

  

Outline of Lecture

The Existence of God: Part 1

I.  Background

A.  All proofs are person-relative. Re: George Mavrodes

1.  Truth is not person-relative.

2.  Validity is not person-relative.

B.  An argument is a collection of two or more propositions.

1.  Valid

2.  Sound

3.  Cogent

C.  Two Sides to a Proof

1.  Logical

2.  Persuasive

 

My favorite proof for God’s existence.

D.   An Argument for God’s Existence

Philosophers of Math. ask, “What is a number?”

Hardly any professional mathematicians have ever asked the question: What is the number One? None of the symbols used for the Number One is the Number One. They are symbols or referents for the Number One. In any book you read, you’ll never find the Number One.

Notice that he begins his argument by asking a valid question: What is the Number One? By mimicking the six steps used by St. Augustine to define Truth, Dr. Nash arrives at  a very unexpected definition for the Number One.

1.  The number one is a concept or idea. The number One is not found in this world, it’s an idea.

Like all thoughts, the idea of a Number One exists in minds, but that does not tell us what a Number is. It seems Dr. Nash was unfamiliar with the work done by philosophers on the nature of numbers. This does not stop him from telling us quite a bit about the Number One, which he admits does not exist on earth or in any book!

If the number One is not found in this world, then how is it possible he knows so much about the nature of the number One? How did the idea of that number enter into his mind? Is he implying that he has direct access to God’s mind? The problem with his argument begins here in the first sentence. Before Dr. Nash has defined what the Number One is, he has decided that it exists. His argument is based on the indefensible philosophy of Platonism.

Before Dr. Nash can continue, he must prove that the Number One exists in a metaphysical realm. This he does not and cannot do. The rest of his lecture is founded upon this fallacious axiom, and need not be refuted, but the exercise can help to enlighten us.

 

... as regards ‘unit’ we have to make the double assumption of the meaning of the word and the existence of the thing. The reason is that these several objects are not equally obvious to us.

Aristotle; (384-322 BC);
Posterior Analytics
, Bk. I; 340 BC

 

… all numbers are what I call logical fictions. Numbers are classes of classes, and classes are logical fictions, so that numbers are, as it were, fictions at two removes, fictions of fictions. Therefore you do not have, as part of the ultimate constituents of your world, these queer entities that you are inclined to call numbers.

Bertrand Russell; (1872-1970); The Philosophy of Logical Atomism; 1918

 

… mathematical entities do not exist anywhere in physical space … The view that emerges then is that of the mathematician investigating a realm of entities that cannot be seen, felt, heard, smelled, or tasted, even with the most sophisticated instruments. But if this is so, how can the mathematician know that such things exist?

C. S. Chihara; Constructability and Mathematical Existence;
1990; p5
 

... the number 1 is a pure abstraction. If the number 1 actually existed, it would be on exhibit in a museum with crowds of mathematicians waiting to behold its majesty.

David Valdman; Mathematics and Reality; p4

 

“The most beautiful equation in mathematics.”

Euler’s Identity

1 = -eiπ

 

Numerical terms such as One or Two are names that have been invented to refer to concepts that in fact
DO NOT EXIST.

 

2.  Where do ideas exist? Ideas can only exist in minds.

3.  The number one is eternal.
Philosophers are weird people. Just humor me, even if you are not convinced. The number one has always existed. If it didn’t always exist, when did it start existing? Someone might say “The day some primitive man first thought about it.” How is he going to compare his idea of the Number One? It’s sort of like, the perfect circle has always existed. The Pythagorean Theorem has always existed. [Someone might say] “Pythagoras thought it up.” No he didn’t, he discovered it. There has always been a number One. And if it didn’t always exist, when did it begin to exist? What brought it into existence?

How does he know that the number One has existed eternally? How can he have access to such knowledge when he states that the number One is not found in this world? The same objection applies to trigonometric objects such as triangles and circles. These objects do not exist, they are simply man-made mental tools to help us deal with mechanical problems.

Just as there was a time when there were no saws, and they came into existence because people invented them to aid them in cutting, there was a time when the ideas of numbers and triangles did not exist. Integers were invented to count discrete objects, and fractions and real numbers were invented to help measure the length between two points.

4.  The number One is immutable. What does that mean? The Number One has never changed and the Number One can never change. If the Number One could ever change, what would it change into? The number Two? The Number One is forever unchanging because if it ever did change, it would no longer be the Number One.

It is meaningless to call the number One immutable because he has not told us what the Number One is. The word ‘One’ is a name for an indescribable idea. There are an infinite number of these words, one for each number or idea that we want to speak about.

The point is not that the word or name for each number is unique, the point is that what they refer to are always changing. There is no such thing as ONE of any created thing.

Furthermore, we have the justified concern in asking “Is there something other than God which is Immutable?” Has Dr. Nash inadvertently erected an idol called ‘ONE’?

5.  The number One must exist independently of human minds. Why? Because no single human mind is eternal or immutable nor is the collectivity of human minds eternal & immutable, because there was a time when no human minds existed. So if the Number One is eternal, the Number One must have preceded or antedated human minds.

He has not shown that the number one is eternal, so this argument no longer follows.

6.  There must exist an eternal and immutable mind. If the Number One is eternal, then the mind in which it has always existed must be an eternal mind.

The eternal mind that Dr. Nash is alluding to is of course the mind of God. If we are to take this statement seriously, Dr. Nash must have Biblical references. After all he is saying that the Number One exists and has existed in the mind of God for eternity. Without scriptural support, any statements about what is in God’s “mind” must be rejected without hesitation.

“Coach, are you talking about God?” Nash has just slipped God into a philosophy class by using the Number One. Is that a good argument? You bet it is. Even if you don’t like it, I don’t care if you don’t like it because this is a tool. I am not going into depression here because you don’t like my proof.

E.  There are no coercive proofs. [This is] the closest thing to a coercive proof. [Referring to above paragraphs.]

F.  Deductive or Inductive Arguments for God’s Existence?

 [End of audio lecture.]

 

 

 

If Dr. Nash had referred back to what he had written in his books, he would have seen the following parallels:

 

Faith & Reason, p162ff

Text of Above Lecture

1- Truth exists

The number One exists

2- Truth is immutable

The number One is immutable

3- Truth is eternal

The number One is eternal

4- Truth is spiritual

The number One is an immaterial idea

5- Truth is superior to
the human mind

The number One exists in a mind
above human minds

The logical conclusion  becomes:

6- Truth is God

The number One is God!!!

 

This lecture is an example where Dr. Nash’s unfamiliarity with the nature of Numbers and the work that philosophers of mathematics have done with respect to the nature of Truth, led him to confuse the nature of Numbers with the Nature of Truth/God. He also assumed that he knew the meaning of ‘Truth.’

 Dr. Nash believed that he had proved the existence of God by inventing a Nature for the Number One. He failed at that effort. What he “proved” is that the Number One, or any number, is god!!!

Dr. Nash wanted numbers to be immutable and eternal, because he wished to create so-called “tenseless” sentences, such as I am typing at 8:04:15... am, on August 27, 2008,” and then call these sentences True.

He admitted that a sentence such as I am now typing is simply too vague to be called true, so he believed that by replacing the word now with a numerical value for an “exact time, he would solve the problem of  vagueness. He did not see that a designation of an exact time for any event is an impossibility.

This is not an original idea of Dr. Nash. It shows that he had not understood that the assignment of time to an event is a totally arbitrary and relative designation. Dr. Nash seems to have been unmindful of the fact that the locations of the International Date Line and the Prime Meridian are arbitrary designations.

Dividing a day into 24 hours was an arbitrary decision. Men could just as well have divided the day into 60 parts. To assume that one can ascribe eternal validity to the time of an earthly event shows a serious misunderstanding of the nature of time keeping, the nature of truth and the nature of the eternal.

To know the exact time of an event, we need to know the exact location of that event, and that is not possible. Time zones have been assigned for practical purposes and cannot be relied upon to tell us the exact time at a certain location. We must constantly adjust our clocks and calendars to try and match astronomical alignments.

Dates are man-made and not absolute values as attested to by the fact that new calendars had to be invented periodically because the motion of heavenly bodies is inexact, and we do not know the exact date of the birth of Christ or of Creation.  It is also impossible to tell time without a margin of error, which is required for his logic to be valid.

Dr. Nash tried to prove the existence of God through the nature of numbers, but he succeeded in making the number One into a god! Of course, the same argument can be made for the numbers 2, 3, 3.14159…, etc., each one with the property of god. Each one a separate god, an infinite number of them! Dr. Nash might have steered clear of Pantheism, but he has led his readers into the infernal regions of Polytheism.

No one can be taken seriously when their attributes of the Nature of the Number One is the same as their attributes of the Nature of God.

 Dr. Nash lost the opportunity to expound on a great work by minimizing St. Augustine’s work and then trying to create a “better” system to prove the existence of God. He wanted to hold on to all kinds of “true” propositions, but his work proved that they do not exist. He was at heart an empiricist, and assumed that any human is able to formulate True propositions at the drop of a hat.

 We could replace the Number One by any number or any idea. Just because we have ideas, in no way proves that these ideas are eternal ideas. Whether it is the idea of the  number One, Unicorns or Quantum Mechanics, does not make these ideas eternal, or that they exist in an eternal mind (=God).

I have an idea.

I believe my idea has existed for eternity.

Ideas only exist in minds.

Therefore there must be a God.

And instead of coming to the conclusion that the Number One is god, which is the correct and logical result of his reasoning, he switched his focus and gave the illogical reason that God must exist because the number One exists. He confused the nature of ideas with the nature of numbers.

 

The Idea of “number” does not have to exist independent of human minds to be a useful idea. The principle that an idea does not have to be true to be useful seems not to have occurred to Dr. Nash. After all, we use the number One every day, but everything that we call One has no such thing as a One-ness. There are no objects of any kind that are unchanging, thus to call an object One Object is actually a misnomer, but we have no choice but to call an apple, One Apple, or a car, One Car.

Dr. Nash did not understand that the One that we ascribe to an object is in spite of the fact that neither the apple nor the car remain immutable, thus One, even for an instant.

 Dr. Nash was a dyed-in-the-wool Platonist, and the burden of proof was upon him to prove the existence of the Number One. Until then his argument is invalid and based on arbitrary, wishful thinking. 

 

How, if mathematical knowledge stands outside of space and time… can [it] be reached from an earthly realm deeply submerged in space and time?

Paul Benacerraf in My Brain is Open; B. Schechter; 1998;  p52

 

 

… it is hard to point one’s finger at the … number three … Similarly no one has ever seen a line, or a triangle.

Gordon Clark; Logic; 1988; p27

 

For more on the Nature of Numbers, see pages:

3- There is No Truth in Numbers

80- Mathematics and Reality

 

 

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There is No Truth in Numbers

 

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