An interesting quote regarding inspiration from "Van Til's Apologetic"

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Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
This is on page 117, footnote 88:

The sentence to which the footnote is linked is this one, in which Van Til is speaking: "To be sure, if Warfield's appeal to the natural man were of an ad hominem nature, then it would be well."

And this is the footnote, in which Bahnsen is speaking: "In the context, Van Til has been criticizing Warfield's notion that the Christian faith does not rest upon the foundation of the doctrine of biblical inspiration. Rather, said Warfield, as apologists we simply appeal to the books of the Bible as historical records--and then challenge the natural man to explain the claim to inspiration within these records written by sober men. Evidentialist critics of Van Til often overlook the fact that Van Til sees some use in that kind of challenge. However, it is ad hominem (exposing the man's inconsistency of character or practice), rather than an independent proof of what is claimed."

I was trying to understand exactly what Bahnsen and Van Til are meaning here.

Clearly, Van Til is saying that one argument for inspiration is unwarranted, in which an apologist autonomously attempts to prove Biblical inspiration by pointing to the facts that (e.g.) it is written by men who were separated by millennia and by continents yet is coherent; it represents a sin-hating, holy God Whom no man would devise; etc. For in that type of situation, the apologist making the argument would be assuming that philosophical autonomy is legitimate and Biblical inspiration must be proved "on top" of the unbelieving framework.

How would Van Til use the argument, then? I am guessing, but I am not positive, that he would use it in such a way as to show an inconsistency within the approach of the unbeliever rather than as a positive proof of Christianity. E.g., Van Til could tell a higher critic that the higher critic is mistakenly treating the Bible as a historical record when his methodology does not warrant it -- for the text contains things that would point away from its being a mere historical record (i.e., that a sin-hating God is portrayed in it, and that several authors wrote a coherent theology, would not give warrant for the critic to treat the Bible as a mere historical record).

But this seems a bit odd, for it's not really different in substance from the first "constructive" use of the argument. The first one (Warfield's method) lays down premises that the unbeliever would accept and then attempts to draw a conclusion (falsely, in my opinion) that the Bible is authoritative. The second one (Van Til's method) lays down premises that the unbeliever would accept and then attempts to draw a conclusion that the unbeliever is treating the Bible in the wrong way. But what does Van Til mean when he says that the unbeliever is treating the Bible in the wrong way? He means that the unbeliever ought to, given the evidence, treat the Bible as not a mere document, but as a divinely authored one! In that case, then, Van Til and Warfield both have the exact same conclusions, and therefore the exact same methodologies, at least in regards to this argument about inspiration.

Is there any difference between Warfield and Van Til here? It seems that Van Til and Bahnsen may be trying to salvage an evidentialist argument when there is not one to salvage.

Perhaps someone wiser than I could point out what Van Til and Bahnsen mean by the ad hominem utilization of Warfield's argument...:detective:
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I believe the difference is thus:
BBW seems to be assuming the neutral ground stance approach to the historic question. Then, this situation presumed proved sufficiently, the Christian faith is derived as a further, higher step. This faith would include some doctrine of the inspiration and reliability of Scripture.

Whereas, CVT/GLB prefer to ground the Christian faith on the revealed truth claims of One (God) who--if he is as he describes himself--is self-consistent, reliable, and impeccable. He is described as the sort of Deity who is in the one position to offer an authoritative explanation.

The point of CVT's use of the evidentialist argument would NOT be to show that Christianity is reasonable. Rather, it could be used to demonstrate the arbitrary and capricious use of "standards" that the unbeliever employs. For instance, he will accept some connection of the Iliad to Homer, but deny the same connection of the Pentateuch to Moses (or ultimately to God) using the same standards by which he was pleased to accept Homer's authorship.

This is an arbitrary and self-serving distinction that is finally nothing but intellectual vice. This is what was meant by ad hominem use of the argument as a tactic. It is attacking the man for his lack of epistemic virtue, revealing the root cause of his denial of God's claims, which are not intellectual at all, but moral in nature.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
The point of CVT's use of the evidentialist argument would NOT be to show that Christianity is reasonable. Rather, it could be used to demonstrate the arbitrary and capricious use of "standards" that the unbeliever employs. For instance, he will accept some connection of the Iliad to Homer, but deny the same connection of the Pentateuch to Moses (or ultimately to God) using the same standards by which he was pleased to accept Homer's authorship.

This is an arbitrary and self-serving distinction that is finally nothing but intellectual vice. This is what was meant by ad hominem use of the argument as a tactic. It is attacking the man for his lack of epistemic virtue, revealing the root cause of his denial of God's claims, which are not intellectual at all, but moral in nature.

So, if a presuppositional apologist were to root out a methodological inconsistency in a liberal critic, would one of those inconsistencies be that the critic is treating the Bible as a mere historical document when he should be treating it as divine?

If so, then I again would fail to see the distinction between BBW and CVT. For in that case, the presuppositionalist would effectively be telling the critic that on the critic's standards he must accept the Bible -- but that is an evidentialist argument; a presuppositionalist should instead tell him that there is no standard but the Bible.

If not, then I understand this totally fine. The entire point is that we don't have to prove Biblical inspiration on an unbelieving, liberal basis; all we have to do is stand on our basis and destroy the inconsistent basis of the liberal critic.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
No, the purpose is not to bring the unbeliever by means of this argument to accept the Bible as divine, versus merely historic. The point is to show that while he uses the standards he purports to uphold (as fair or whatever, even if they aren't fair!), he is anything but consistent in his application of them.

He invariably uses one standard to judge things he likes, and a different standard (even if he denies using a different standard--the point of the apologete is to demonstrate the bias) to judge the things he doesn't like, principally the Bible. But he wants to pass himself off as rational. THE UNBELIEVER HIMSELF is being put to the test, not the "evidence." Hence, ad hominem.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
No, the purpose is not to bring the unbeliever by means of this argument to accept the Bible as divine, versus merely historic. The point is to show that while he uses the standards he purports to uphold (as fair or whatever, even if they aren't fair!), he is anything but consistent in his application of them.

He invariably uses one standard to judge things he likes, and a different standard (even if he denies using a different standard--the point of the apologete is to demonstrate the bias) to judge the things he doesn't like, principally the Bible. But he wants to pass himself off as rational. THE UNBELIEVER HIMSELF is being put to the test, not the "evidence." Hence, ad hominem.

Thank you for your help. My confusion is dissipated. :)
 
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