“Avoid… Contradictions” (1 Timothy 6:20): A Reply To John Dahms -- By: Norman L. Geisler

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 22:1 (Mar 1979)
Article: “Avoid… Contradictions” (1 Timothy 6:20): A Reply To John Dahms
Author: Norman L. Geisler


“Avoid… Contradictions” (1 Timothy 6:20):
A Reply To John Dahms

Norman L. Geisler*

Perhaps never has the need been greater to heed Paul’s exhortation to avoid “contradictions” (antitheseis) than in the recent JETS article by John V. Dahms.1 In the May 10, 1977, issue of Christianity Today I suggested that one of the problems behind the denial of inerrancy was the unwillingness of some Biblical scholars to apply the law of noncontradiction to all of the statements in Scripture. At the time I had no idea that this would smoke anyone out, but the article by Dahms confirmed the truth of my observation. Dahms gives one of the most honest and forthright statements of what many NT scholars imply or tacitly believe—namely, that the law of noncontradiction does not apply to all Biblical truth claims.2 Further, he shows clearly that the implications of his conclusion lead to unorthodox conclusions that have serious (even disastrous) implications for the doctrine of inerrancy and for evangelicalism in general.

I. Some Mistakes

First, let me point out some mistakes in Dahms’ article. He both misquotes Van Til and leaves out another part of the quotation: “Unity in God is no more fundamental than unity. The persons of the Trinity are mutually exhaustive of one another” (p. 373).3 What Van Til actually wrote is this: “Unity in God is no more fundamental than diversity and diversity in God is no more fundamental than unity. The persons of the Trinity are mutually exhaustive of one another.”4

Secondly, Dahms misrepresents my view by asserting that I claim that “the rationally inescapable is the real” and that this means “logically” necessary (p. 369). If he had read a few pages earlier in the same book5 he would have seen that I put a question mark (?) before that statement: “Is the Rationally Inescapable Real?” Further, he overlooks the fact that the context here is that we know by actual undeniability (but not by logical necessity) that something exists (e.g., it is

*Norman Geisler is professor of philosophy of religion at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deer-field, Illinois.

undeniably true that I exist). From this we argue that, based on the fact that there is undeniably some reality, it follows that there are certain “rationally inescapable” conclusions we must come to about it.

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