Charles Hodge And Van Til

Discussion in 'General discussions' started by DouglasGregory418, Nov 8, 2009.

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  1. DouglasGregory418

    DouglasGregory418 Puritan Board Freshman

    So I just got a copy of Hodges 3 volume systematic ($27 on WTS right now).
    A few months ago I was reading Van Til on introduction to systematic theology and He was saying that Hodge did not assume the Christian Worldview (presupposition) before applying his ideas of systematics (which is still using deductive and inductive reasoning).
    When I read Hodge, I simply did not see this as being so (though it is not as blatant)

    I was wondering if anyone knew of a work that discusses and attempts to reconcile their views- or if anyone had any thoughts
  2. Jesus is my friend

    Jesus is my friend Puritan Board Junior

    Hi Brother and welcome to the PB we need you here and look forward to continue to read your posts:welcome:

    I'm sorry I cant give you and answer to your question but I'm sure someone here can help you

    Would you recommend Hodge's set for me all I have is Grudem's and Reymonds
  3. The Calvin Knight

    The Calvin Knight Puritan Board Freshman

    Van Til attacked Hodge on Hodge's lauded view of human reason. Hodge, and even Warfield, believed that one could stand on common ground with non-Christians and use neutral reason to show that God exists. Van Til, However, followed Abraham Kuyper and said that depending on where one starts, what one presupposes, one will come out with a different answer. Kuyper said that if you start with naturalism one will interpret everything in naturalistic terms (vice versa for Christianity). George Marsden, in The Soul of the American University, highlights the point that an over-reliance on neutral human reason and its dependence on teleological and cosmological arguments was a contributing factor to the fall of many Christian Universities like Yale, Princeton, Harvard, etc. (I'm currently taking a class with Dr. Marsden on the history of the American University and how we as Christians should "do" education). Dr. Marsden highlights this point best with a quote from Warfield saying,
    It was in this context that Van Til attacked Warfield and Hodge's view of reason, though he does seem to be overly critical of both (as with most of the people Van Til deals with).
  4. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    This post from Paul Helm's blog is an interesting approach that has some bearing on the subject.

    Helm's Deep: Christian Theology: Words about words about words?

    Brian, Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology (make sure you get the purple Eerdman's edition, as that includes his prolegomena) is a standard reference work that would serve you well: it is more mainstream Reformed than Grudem or Reymond. But for a work that makes systematics come alive, I would suggest John Brown's Systematic Theology.
  5. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    I think Helm is on to something there.

  6. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    If Van Til's apologetic is "new" then how does it differ from Owen?

    I am not at all sure that Helm et al are steering us on a helpful course.

  7. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Hodge and Van Til are working from two different epistemologies, which is why Van Til doesn't like Hodge.

    Hodge (and all of the Princeton theologians) are working off of a Scottish Common Sense Epistemology such as Thomas Reid espoused. What Reid (and his followers) did was to negate the enlightenment epistemologies of Descartes, Hume, and (later) Kant by simply subjecting them to common sense--which is assumed rather than proven. In essence, common sense epistemology rebuilds the pre-modern epistemology by asking the question "How do we know?" in a context other than a philosophical one. It assumes that any epistemology which would be absurd in a court of law is equally absurd in epistemology. In terms of theology, this means that the believer and the unbeliever can see the same things--they just happen to come to different conclusions based on different reasoning.

    Van Til, on the other hand, is following in the Dutch Reformed tradition of Abraham Kuyper, which owes more to continental philosophy as embodied in Kant. It operates off of an assumption that all of our knowledge of the world is indirect, filtered through our senses/presuppositions. In Kuyper/Van Til, this is used to show that sin has so much clouded the judgment of the unbeliever that he never really perceives reality, so that there is no common ground.

    Hope that helps explain the difference.

    And I think that Helm is dead-on.
  8. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    The problem with the common sense approach is that it assumes that we know certain things then asks, "Okay given that I know x, y, and z; what has to be true for me to know such." A more basic question is do I know x, y, and z, at all. Various forms of Eastern philosophy questions the basic assumptions of Common Sense Philosophy and the common sense philosophy has no answer, (except perhaps, "I am going to assume that you are wrong").

    Another problem with Hodge et. al is that it seems that they believed that experience did not necessarily need interpretation. Warfield was more guilty of this than Hodge. Hodge was able to see evolution as atheism and reject it while Warfield was not as firm.

    Now I do disagree with Van Til on some basic levels but just because he believes that things are filtered through presups, does not imply lack of a common ground. There is only no common ground if I cannot reason with someone and point out how they are abusing reason with their bad presupps etc.

  9. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    The common sense approach does have an answer to that: we have to assume these things in order to live at all, therefore we know them. Anything else is skepticism. Questioning your foundations for a belief is skepticism--it can be useful for certain things, but cannot be allowed to run amok (see also: Descartes, Hume, Kant, Clark).

    All that said, I do think that common sense tells us that presuppositions do color the way we view the world, making me a common sense presuppositionalist (similar to Plantinga--though I disagree with him on some points).
  10. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    But would you not be asking the Eastern folks to do what you says leads to skepticism, (question their foundations)? Also there is a big difference between reasoning to determine what has to be the case or what has to be true and relying on common sense beliefs. If by reason you accept certain beliefs and reject others, I am not sure how you can call that common sense?

    Questioning foundations is only a problem if one is forced into an infinite regress. If there is a bedrock that one can drill too then, "Drill, Baby, Drill".

    I disagree with Plantinga on some points as well, and that is why I am not a common senes presuppositionalist.

  11. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Helm's blog post failed to account for the fact that the reformed tradition was forged within Christendom, and Christendom brought its own closed world view along presuppositional lines. Hodge was still working on the back end of that worldview. With the dissolution of Christendom it became necessary for apologetics to clearly articulate its presuppositional basis. Enter Van Til.

    To the OP, there is no genuine discrepancy between Hodge and Van Til on this point.
  12. Turtle

    Turtle Puritan Board Freshman

    Man is not entitled to his presuppositions.

    If we concede that each man is entitled to his own presuppositions then... shazam, even the atheist and the Christian immediately have "common ground"... and why wouldn't they? If the atheist is kind enough to grant you a presupposition (or better yet, if he can accuse you of taking it for yourself) then he can say you are indebted to grant him the same courtesy of entitlement.

    Every man's conscience is able to consider whether or not he is entitled to his presuppositions, and the mysterious result is that some have a conscience that actually delights in the truth that he is not, and pants for more revelation. Yet, others naturally suppress even the observation of their grip upon entitlement. They prefer to carve out an alternate common ground where they have a measure of mutually acknowledged entitlement, untroubled by the pricking of their conscience as they forge dialectic "truths", hand in hand.

    Now if someone were to take umbrage at an address to their conscience.. and called for the necessity of discussion from common ground.. Would it amount to an accusation of trespassing?:D
  13. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    All foundations can be questioned--which is why we must start with what we know and reason back until we reach irreducible complexity.

    Part of what I mean is this: if you must assume it in order to get up in the morning, then you are justified in assuming it in philosophy. If it's ridiculous to the layman, then it's ridiculous in philosophy. That's just common sense.

    In a word, all that Eastern (and western) skepticism is, is a reductio ad rism. The main thing that we should be skeptical of is doubt: "am I reasonable in doubting this belief?"
  14. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    A philosophy student asks the philosphy professor, Sir, how can I know if I exist? To which the philosophy professor responds, Whom shall I say is asking?

    Some facts are foundational such that they do not admit of doubt or require proof in the technical sense of the term.
  15. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    And that is common sense. If denying a proposition leads to a reductio ad rism, it should be rejected just as if it were a reductio ad absurdum.
  16. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    No they cannot, at least not rationally. So the question of what or how one knows is illegitimate?

    Saying that you believe something because the opposite belief leads to various forms of contradiction is not relying on common sense.

    Answering if "I am reasonable or not in doubting this belief" has split a tremendous amount of ink in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
    An appeal to common sense is not going to help you avoid adding your own ink to the mix.


    -----Added 11/8/2009 at 09:58:43 EST-----

    But how would you know it without investigation? Now I am not saying that one will necessarily come to a conclusion different from the majority of people on any particular issue. A large number of propositions do not necessarily indicate that they lead to nonsense without reasoning them out. If that is the case, one holds to the acceptance or rejection of the belief because one reasoned it out, not because it is held in common with a number of folks.

  17. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    No--it's just that skepticism is not the answer. Skepticism follows logically from the modern definition of knowledge, therefore we ought to accept the pre-modern definition, as used by Plato, Aristotle, and Reid, and also assumed by Calvin, Luther, Hodge, etc.

    I'm talking about reductio ad rism--the idea of denying our senses is, quite frankly, hilarious and clearly absurd in any other context, therefore we should assume it, whether or not there is a logical contradiction.

    Reasonability is a rather fuzzy term, yes, but that alone doesn't mean that it is not a valid category.

    I'll leave it at that for now, as we've gotten utterly off of the topic at hand.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2009
  18. DouglasGregory418

    DouglasGregory418 Puritan Board Freshman

    Hey friend

    I have Reymond's, Bavinck's, Berkhof, Calvin's institutes, and now Hodge.

    Reymond is actually my pastor when I visit in Florida (my parents) and I am quite pleased to be in the presence of so godly a man.

    Bavinck's Dogmatic Theology is the best of all of them followed by Berkhof (which is more concise) they are both better than Reymond's (though his is excellent and builds on those ones- it's even more concise)
    Hodge is a classic, and very comprehensive, but I think it's some what lesser than Bavinck (who is simply a superior theologian- though that's like comparing the world's strongest men to each other)

    in short I would recommend Bavinck first, Hodge second ($27 bucks for all 3 vol on if you are looking for multi volume- exhaustive systematics

    If you are looking for concise- Berkhof is better in my opinion, but only because he's coming off of Bavinck- and not trying to summarize the other three (as Reymond is doing)

    Reymond's is last on my list, but I would never give it up for anything (such is my personal respect for the man)

    in short, my opinion is based off comprehensiveness more so than excellence.

    -----Added 11/9/2009 at 12:03:11 EST-----

    One more thing (friend)-
    Reymond is a Clarkian presuppositionalist (though he has great respect for Van Til as he was taught by him)
    If this bothers you Berkhof will be much more in line with your thoughts
    If you are clarkian- then Reymond, I'm sure, will tickle you pink

    -----Added 11/9/2009 at 12:29:13 EST-----

    Of course you can question presuppositionalism- it is not a confessional idea- so you do have you freedom

    I'm nor sure of how much you know about Van Til, but he would say that an atheists presuppositions are both illogical and inconsistent, whereas ours are both logically consistent and in sync with the observable evidence such that there is nothing about this world that cannot be explained by our world view.

    ultimately the correct presuppositions are what allow us to correctly deduce our evidences

    if the atheist comes to me (a microbiology student) and says 'why are you christian don't you know scientists believe in evolution and God is a farce of the ancients'
    I say in return
    'on what do basis do you make the interpretation that similar animals skeletons must have all come from a common ancestor- or even more so on what basis do you judge all the world that comes before your eyes.'

    'I believe only in what I can taste, touch, see, smell, hear think about.'

    'ah' I say, ' you are an empiricist! The senses, of course, only deliver facts. By what standard do you interpret those facts.'

    (I usually do not receive an answer)

    'Dedeuctive logic is the means of interpretation, and inductive logic if the cases exists within predetermined laws' says the atheist

    I say in return 'you have two false assumptions there. Deductive logic only makes sense in light of all the facts being present (which you do not have),at the same time you cannot make account for the law of induction without a guarantee of the universality of laws. In addition you do not use deductive methods (or inductive methods) to determine that you should use deductive logic for the interpretation of facts. You empiricism uses non-empirical methods to attain itself, since the laws of logic are not material in nature. Your worldview is self defeating and any interpretation based on it will be false.'

    -----Added 11/9/2009 at 12:35:03 EST-----

    Just my thoughts of course, but I would say to both of these that when you question your self ad infinitum (do I exist, does God exist) you end up being forced to admit that you do, but you cannot prove it ultimately so you must take it on faith.
    Who do you put that faith in (that anything you do has meaning or if you even exist)
    even to the unbeliever there is no option but to admit a force greater than yourself (what ever it is) governs such matters and in order to form any basis you must accept as fact that laws govern the universe

    this of course would not be accepted as logical Van-Tilian presuppositionalism, but it does point out that reducio ad absurdum nihilum is the only logical conclusion from atheism

    all atheists therefore are deaists- at least
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