What is an Explanation? (or What is an Answer?)
At the end of my blog post last week, I included some interesting statements of Dr. Greg Bahnsen about what an explanation is.
I decided move that part into a separate blog post and make it as my first post with the category “Let’s Ask Our Masters”.
too long; do not want to read
“An explanation is something which enables you to predict the future and to account for why you predict it that way.”
– Greg Bahnsen
In the debate between Dr. Greg Bahnsen and Dr. Gordon Stein on “Does God Exists?”, there was a part where Dr. Stein wanted Dr. Bahnsen to explain how the laws of logic reflect the thinking of God.
(from page 26 of the transcript
Stein: Well, I would ask you a more fundamental question that is: you explained that the laws of logic reflect the thinking of God. Number one, how do you know this, and number two, what does it mean?
Bahnsen: What difficulty are you having understanding what does it mean?
Stein: I don’t know how you are privy to the thinking of God.
Bahnsen: He revealed Himself through the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
Stein: And that explains the logic?
Bahnsen: That explains why there are universal standards of reasoning, yes.
Stein: It doesn’t explain them to me. Could you explain them again?
Bahnsen: Yeah, we have Bible studies from time to time where we delve into it.
…so what is an explanation?
These are the words of Dr. Greg Bahnsen from that same debate:
(from page 27 of the transcript)
[That “logic reflects the thinking of God”] answers the general metaphysical issue of how there can be universal, invariant, abstract entities in a particular person’s worldview.
… The statement that “God made the cow” has meaning apart from my being able to explain the mechanics of God making a cow.
Likewise, the statement that the laws of logic are intelligible within a Christian theistic universe has meaning because [in the Christian universe] there are things which are, spiritual, immaterial, and have a universal quality, such as God’s thinking, and those standards that He imposes on people.
(or… ??the statement that “the laws of logic reflects the thinking of God” has meaning (or it explains something) apart from my being able to explain how that works??)
(from page 32 of the transcript)
For Dr. Stein to say, “well, these aren’t answers” doesn’t convince me at all. He says there aren’t going to be answers unless I include how it took place. What is God’s method, and why did he do it? Well, I don’t accept those standards. I don’t accept that this is a requirement for an explanation at all. And he doesn’t give us a good reason except that he’s not going to [be] satisfied or it’s unhelpful to him.
More clarity please…
This thing about explanation also came up in the Bahnsen-Smith debate
(They were talking about “induction” or the “uniformity of nature” or “inductive principle”.)
Bahnsen: Does appealing to God explain anything? Well, of course when you ask philosophically: what is an explanation? The answer is, of course, it does. It may strike you as being as easy as a Sunday school child’s understanding, but if I’ve got a Heavenly Father who created the entire universe and controls every detail, even to the hairs on my head, and I say of this creative personality who has this sovereign might and plan that he sees to it that gravity holds on planet Earth day by day by day—that does in fact explain it, but it may not be the explanation that you want. I’m just talking about now what counts as an explanation. An explanation is something which enables you to predict the future and to account for why you predict it that way.
In my understanding, what Dr. Bahnsen is saying is that an explanation is something that can make us make sense of something.
… The statement “the laws of logic reflects the thinking of God” is the explanation/answer for why the laws of logic are universal, unchanging, etc.
… The statement “God controls the universe” is an explanation to why it makes sense to rely on what is called “the uniformity of nature” — the present will be like the past, or the laws of nature today are the same as yesterday, because God wills it to be that way.
To make that more clear, I will quote Dr. Jason Lisle (from page 62 of his book “The Ultimate Proof of Creation”:
“The future resembles the past because God upholds the future as He has upheld the past (the laws of nature are constant). Since none of us have experienced the future, the only way we could know that the future is like the past is by revelation from God. Everyone relies on this vital principle”