Clark - Van Til

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VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
I am interested in hearing a concise summary of the differences (and commonalities) in the presuppositional apologetics of Gordon Clark and Cornelius Van Til.

I am not interested in creating a debate between Clarkians and Van Tillians, but I am interested in discussion between both sides about what these two men had in common and on what points they differed and how significant their differences were.

This discussion will be meaningful to me to the extent it can be understood in laymen's terms.

I am a Van Tillian (my presup is that he is right of course ;) ), but what I have read thus far of the Clark-Van Til controversy has been way over my head. Simplicity for simple minds like mine, please!

I look forward to healthy discussion and further enlightenment about this interesting controversy.
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
I was wondering the same thing recently.

I know the major point of contention, briefly stated, was that Clark believed logic was uncreated, while Van Til believed logic was created. Clark accused Van Til of Fidism, Van Til accused Clark of Rationalism. One thing Clark criticised Van Til for was describing God as three persons in one person. This was seen as a contradiction, implying logic doesnt exist w/in the Godhead. The problem w/Clarks view is it seems to make logic coeval with God. The problem I have w/Van Til's view is that it makes me question whether the attributes of God are characteristic essential to His being or also just created (Eg. goodness), also it seems to be absurd.

[Edited on 16-1-2005 by Peter]
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Believe it or not, I learned from Clarkians before I learned from Van Tillians. A brief summary that is not original with me:

Much of his thought can be seen in the early developments of the OPC.

Human thought can be identical to God's thought because of the propositional nature of thinking. In short, men can reproduce God's thoughts in their minds. It is seen in a logos epistemology. It asserts that we can avoid skepticism by recognize that the light o fknowledge in God's mind resides in man's mind, too. If we deny this, they assert, how can we know anything at all. Carl F H Henry's God, Revelation, and Authority is a gold-mine of philosophical theology. I read it without a philosophical background and missed a lot of relevant information. Some positive benefits: it does combat a pre-postmodernism (Neo-Orthodoxy) by asserting that God made man in a way where man cannot believe two contradictory propositions at the same time.

BTW: if anybody can find volumes 3-6 for a reasonable price, or the volumes singularly for less than $20, give me a notice.
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by Paul manata
reasoning from the impossibility of the contrary of the non-Christian worldview.

Blasphemy!
smilie_nono.gif
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Paul and others,

This is very helpful. I think I am understanding a bit of what is said. I appreciate everyone's comments.

Paul - Is there any literature on the controversy that you would recommend for further study? I have read Hoeksema's The Clark-Van Til Controversy and Frame's chapter on this subject in Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of his Thought. I don't like where Hoeksema goes in the area of common grace and the free offer of the gospel, and I am disappointed that Frame sums up the controversy by saying that both Clark and Van Til were not at their best and truth was the ulimate loser in the controversy.

I agree that the whole controversy is regrettable, but did truth really lose here? Was the whole controversy a waste of time? Can we learn anything profitable about the clash between Clark and Van Til?
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by Paul manata
Andrew,

I think we can learn from the debate. First and foremost, take time to define terms. I do not think the debate is as important as it was made out to be. Like I said, I think both sides could have agreed if terms were defined. Ultimately, I come down on the side of Van Til and support a qualatative difference between ours and God's knowledge.

I like Frames discussion of the controversy in Doctrine of The Knowledge of God better than VT: analysis of his thought.

For a sensative treatment see:

http://www.cmfnow.com/product.asp?0=232&1=247&3=9605

you can just order the second tape on the issue. It'l cost about 5 bucks.

One can also just download the mp3 here: http://www.cmfnow.com/product.asp?0=207&1=483&3=10394

And forget the shipping.

As an aside, I hate the term copernican revolution. It feels so realist ;)

CT
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by Paul manata
ah, I'm still stuck in tape age. Also, more money for cmf will help spread presuppositionsliam.:bigsmile:

The only issue there is that you can find other people who are spreading presuppositionalism without also, attempting to spread Auburn as well.

You hate the term, "a giant change in the way we think or approach things?"

I have no problem with saying with you just said. The issue is that I see more in the term, "Copernican Revolution" than just a big change in the way we think. There is also the issue of getting the truth based on "better" theoretical models. Hence my hesitancy to accept the terminology.

CT
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by Paul manata
I like Frames discussion of the controversy in Doctrine of The Knowledge of God better than VT: analysis of his thought.

For a sensative treatment see:

http://www.cmfnow.com/product.asp?0=232&1=247&3=9605

you can just order the second tape on the issue. It'l cost about 5 bucks.

Is this the same one as this one?
http://www.wordmp3.com/search.asp?item=131.1

I have listened to the one from Wordmp3, which mentions many of the same things that Paul has already mentioned. Like CT, I hesitate to recommend Wordmp3 because they promote Auburnism.
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
I am interested in hearing a concise summary of the differences (and commonalities) in the presuppositional apologetics of Gordon Clark and Cornelius Van Til.

I am not interested in creating a debate between Clarkians and Van Tillians, but I am interested in discussion between both sides about what these two men had in common and on what points they differed and how significant their differences were.

This discussion will be meaningful to me to the extent it can be understood in laymen's terms.

I am a Van Tillian (my presup is that he is right of course ;) ), but what I have read thus far of the Clark-Van Til controversy has been way over my head. Simplicity for simple minds like mine, please!

I look forward to healthy discussion and further enlightenment about this interesting controversy.

I, too, would like to see further discussion between the two groups. The original Clark list was marred by dialogues that devolved in name calling fairly quickly, at least during the time I was on it. It is now a Van Til list; same problem. There is a new Gordon H. Clark list http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GHClark_List1 where the owner and moderator are not strict Clarkians, just sympathetic to Clark. Dr Robbins is *not* on this list.

There is currently a discussion on it where one of the moderators is defending(!) Van Til from the charge of heresy concerning the Trinity, and in fact, says Clark should *agree* with Van Til given Clark's definition of "person" ("a person is that which can think propositions.") Since the Godhead can think propositions, the Godhead is a Person.

The other party is also a very gracious semi-Clarkian, who does not follow Clark blindly as some of his followers tend to do, but says that, given Van Til's claim that "God's being presents an absolute numerical identity. And even within the ontological Trinity we must maintain that God is numerically one. He is one person." (from IST) and since the term "absolute numerical identity" has a standard meaning in the study of metaphysics, see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity/ "Numerical identity requires absolute, or total, qualitative identity, and can only hold between a thing and itself.", that therefore Van Til's claim is heretical (modalism?)



That's my take on their dialogue anyway. It has been very cordial.

What I would REALLY like to see someone who is thoroughly versed in Van Til participating on that list.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by Paul manata
Originally posted by ChristianTrader
Originally posted by Paul manata
ah, I'm still stuck in tape age. Also, more money for cmf will help spread presuppositionsliam.:bigsmile:

The only issue there is that you can find other people who are spreading presuppositionalism without also, attempting to spread Auburn as well.

You hate the term, "a giant change in the way we think or approach things?"

I have no problem with saying with you just said. The issue is that I see more in the term, "Copernican Revolution" than just a big change in the way we think. There is also the issue of getting the truth based on "better" theoretical models. Hence my hesitancy to accept the terminology.

CT

They sell the material. So do bookstores on seminary campus. As far as I know they have said that they want to remain neutral and be an avenue which represents both sides. But, find another place that sells the material and we'll compromise.

Oh I am not saying not buy it from them or any other legal place. The issue was the part about spending extra to "support "them, over and above the cheapest price.


That's now how they used the term, though.

I understand that is not what they mean to portray. I am talking about what can be portrayed and what I think of when I hear the phrase.

CT
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Paul manata
Peter,

Van Til did not hold that logic was created. Now, before you get all huffy;), I know where you're getting that from. Unfortualely Van Til was not always clear (but I think searching and charity does away with alot of the misunderstandings, so it's not always Van Til's fault). Van Til did use logic differently sometimes. So, some of the problem stems from not recognizing that Van Til used logic and reasoning different ways. Sometimes he used the word to refer to a certain conception or approach to logic or reasoning. Also, Van Til held that God gave man his ability to reason. This is where the idea that he held it was created comes from. But though Van Til did believe that human logic was created in the sense that man was created, and by implication, his reasoning ability, he did not hold that the laws *themselves* were created. This quote should clear it up:

The law of contradiction, therefore, as we know it, is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God's nature. [...] Christians should employ the law of contradiction, whether positively or negatively, as a means by which to systematize the facts of revelation.
(An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 11)

[Edited on 1-17-2005 by Paul manata]

Who you calling huffy!!

Oh ya, thanks for the info.

You can go apologiabooks.com or wordmp3 to avoid sponsoring Auburn Theology and theyre often cheaper (though it seems like its begining to creep in on Apologia, but they print "Instumental Music" by Girardeau so that makes even)
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Originally posted by Peter

You can go apologiabooks.com or wordmp3 to avoid sponsoring Auburn Theology and theyre often cheaper (though it seems like its begining to creep in on Apologia, but they print "Instumental Music" by Girardeau so that makes even)

Peter,

Wordmp3 is worse than most with Federal Vision theology. They have a bunch of paedcommunion stuff, and they feature on their web page: Wilkins, Wilson, Jim Jordan, Peter Leithart, Andrew Sandlin, Doug Jones.
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by fredtgreco
Originally posted by Peter

You can go apologiabooks.com or wordmp3 to avoid sponsoring Auburn Theology and theyre often cheaper (though it seems like its begining to creep in on Apologia, but they print "Instumental Music" by Girardeau so that makes even)

Peter,

Wordmp3 is worse than most with Federal Vision theology. They have a bunch of paedcommunion stuff, and they feature on their web page: Wilkins, Wilson, Jim Jordan, Peter Leithart, Andrew Sandlin, Doug Jones.

Thanks Fred, I didnt realize... haven't been to the site for a while.

[Edited on 18-1-2005 by Peter]
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Andrew:

I have read many of Gordon Clark's works, and have found many of them most convicing. Van Til is next on my list. For a comparison/contrast view, I have found these articles VERY helpful for a summery.

Dr. Phil Fernandes wrote a chapter on each man's apologetic for his doctoral dissertation.

CORNELIUS VAN TIL

GORDON CLARK
 

Apologist4Him

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by Paul manata
Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
Andrew:

I have read many of Gordon Clark's works, and have found many of them most convicing. Van Til is next on my list. For a comparison/contrast view, I have found these articles VERY helpful for a summery.

Dr. Phil Fernandes wrote a chapter on each man's apologetic for his doctoral dissertation.

CORNELIUS VAN TIL

GORDON CLARK

Andrew, make sure Fernandes is read with a bit of a critical eye. Also, he's a bit of an accumulationist. That is, he uses methods and arguments by everyone. Furthermore, you may want to check out soem of his debates on the internet infidels, his one with Dan Barker wasn't a stellar performance.

Here's a statement by Dr. Fernades:

"Van Til does not believe that the law of contradiction can be found in God's being. 30 Whereas Gordon Clark viewed this law as an expression of God's very being, Van Til considers this law a human limitation that does not apply to God."

Heres some statements by Van Til:

The law of contradiction, therefore, as we know it, .is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God's nature [...] Christians should employ the law of contradiction, whether positively or negatively, as a means by which to systematize the facts of revelation.
(An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 11)

"God can reveal only that which is consistent with his nature as a self-identifying being. The law of identity in human logic must be seen to be resting upon the character of God and therefore upon the authoritative revelation of God.

And my two-cents: What sense is it to say, "the law of contradiction" can be found in God's being? This seems like a category fallacy. The law of contradiction is not spatial. So, if we're gonna be precise then...

Anyway, it's appropriate to say that God *is* logical in that it is His *nature* to be logical.

Nice quotes, and much appreciated. As to the basic laws of logic existing in God's being, I think that's too vague. We both know logic isn't a "thing" and that logic exists in minds. So, if logic exists in God's being, it exists more precisely in the pefect mind of God.

As for the opening post, I think the major difference between Clark and Van Til is that Clark is a rational presuppositionalist and Van Til is a revelational presuppositionalist. People have the tendency to think presuppositionalism is presuppositonalism, but there are different types of presuppositionalism. It's not unheard of for an atheist to confuse Van Tillian presuppositionalism with Kantian presuppositionalism.
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
I recently participated in a Sunday School where Presuppositional Apologetics was the subject. I am steeped in the Clarkian side, while the teacher was steeped in the Van Tillian side. The funny part is, during our interaction, and afterward in discussion, it was hard to find points where we disagreed.

I'm coming to think that the Clark/VanTil debate is closer than many people think.

All this to ask a question:

Clark refers to an "counter-offensive" argumentation which is basically showing the logical absurdity in all other presuppositions. Is this not the same thing as the Van-Tillian "transcendental" argument?

Also, I guess I am not understanding the difference between Clark's view of a pressuposition (being an axiom) and Van-Til's (a reference point). If you take either position, the starting place must be the scriptures. Or does this merely deal with the knowledge of God in the Van-Tillian approach (i.e. empirical methods for some types of knowledge, just not knowledge of God)?

Any takers?
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
I recently participated in a Sunday School where Presuppositional Apologetics was the subject. I am steeped in the Clarkian side, while the teacher was steeped in the Van Tillian side. The funny part is, during our interaction, and afterward in discussion, it was hard to find points where we disagreed.

I'm coming to think that the Clark/VanTil debate is closer than many people think.

All this to ask a question:

Clark refers to an "counter-offensive" argumentation which is basically showing the logical absurdity in all other presuppositions. Is this not the same thing as the Van-Tillian "transcendental" argument?

Also, I guess I am not understanding the difference between Clark's view of a pressuposition (being an axiom) and Van-Til's (a reference point). If you take either position, the starting place must be the scriptures. Or does this merely deal with the knowledge of God in the Van-Tillian approach (i.e. empirical methods for some types of knowledge, just not knowledge of God)?

Any takers?

First a quick question, can you tell me where Clark talks about 'the counter offensive"

Next, For a vantillian, the starting point does not have to be scripture. It can be anything and it can be either true or false. One can then show that it one cant make sense of it without the God of scripture and the Biblical worldview.
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by ChristianTrader
Next, For a vantillian, the starting point does not have to be scripture. It can be anything and it can be either true or false. One can then show that it one cant make sense of it without the God of scripture and the Biblical worldview.

I think what Jeff means is that the epistemological starting point has to be Scripture (which is true in VT), meaning Scripture is the final authority, the beginning in the court of appeals, even though the discussion doesn't actually have to always temporally begin with a direct focus on Scripture, but can begin anywhere as you said.

That being said, while I have not studied Clark nearly as in-depth as many here have, one important difference is that Clark and Robbins both say that Christianity ultimately cannot be proven in the most basic sense of the word, since an axiom by definition cannot be proven. Van Tillian apologists, on the other hand, would say that Christianity with the presuppositions of the apologist certainly can be proven. Furthermore, a significant difference in Clark's system is of course Scripturalism and its implications for epistemology.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by Me Died Blue
Originally posted by ChristianTrader
Next, For a vantillian, the starting point does not have to be scripture. It can be anything and it can be either true or false. One can then show that it one cant make sense of it without the God of scripture and the Biblical worldview.

I think what Jeff means is that the epistemological starting point has to be Scripture (which is true in VT), meaning Scripture is the final authority, the beginning in the court of appeals, even though the discussion doesn't actually have to always temporally begin with a direct focus on Scripture, but can begin anywhere as you said.

Okay

That being said, while I have not studied Clark nearly as in-depth as many here have, one important difference is that Clark and Robbins both say that Christianity ultimately cannot be proven in the most basic sense of the word, since an axiom by definition cannot be proven. Van Tillian apologists, on the other hand, would say that Christianity with the presuppositions of the apologist certainly can be proven. Furthermore, a significant difference in Clark's system is of course Scripturalism and its implications for epistemology.

As far as proven go, I would be a bit easier on Clark. Clark and Van Til just use two different definitions of the word "proof". Clark doesnt consider what Van Til and co do as proof. I'm not saying that I agree with Clark just that you can throw him under the bus for others things instead of this one. ;)

[Edited on 10-25-2005 by ChristianTrader]
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by ChristianTraderFirst a quick question, can you tell me where Clark talks about 'the counter offensive"

I actually heard it used in a lecture by Robbins. Clark may not use that term, but according to my recollection, he uses a similar idea in his owns lectures on apologetics.

Originally posted by ChristianTrader
Next, For a vantillian, the starting point does not have to be scripture. It can be anything and it can be either true or false. One can then show that it one cant make sense of it without the God of scripture and the Biblical worldview.

This is the point of focus for my question. It seems that what I heard from Robbins, and what I remember from Clark himself, their position of the counter-offensive seems to be almost if not exactly this same thing (or maybe just a differenct application).

It seems that practically, the van-tillians start with scripture (i.e. truth). They argue that unless one begins with this, everything leads to absurdity, which is the position of Clark/Robbins.

I think that in many (but not all) areas, Clark and VanTil are ships passing each other in the night.
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by Paul manata
I can point you to books which emphasize the differences more clearly, if you'd like?

That would be nice.

I am listening to Bahnsen on the difference between the two right now. They are noticeable when examined closely.

I have alot of questions, but little energy as well.
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Jeff_Bartel
All this to ask a question:

Clark refers to an "counter-offensive" argumentation which is basically showing the logical absurdity in all other presuppositions. Is this not the same thing as the Van-Tillian "transcendental" argument?
...

I think Clark would say the transcendental argument is circular - begging the question. As others have noted - for Clark a proof must be based on a priori axioms. But the axioms must be assumed first before anything can follow.

Clark took apart all the major schools of philosophy and showed they lead to skepticism or irrational-ism. But this would not prove that Christianity is the only valid world-view.

I think that is one of the other main differences between Clark and Van Til. Although it could be said to rest on the definition of what is a valid proof - the difference is important.

I suspect other differences would involve their views of logic, and details like existential import - but I don't know of any writings by Van Til on logic - where Clark wrote a small text book.
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by Civbert
Originally posted by Paul manata
...

For a sensative treatment see:

http://www.cmfnow.com/product.asp?0=232&1=247&3=9605

you can just order the second tape on the issue. It'l cost about 5 bucks.

Dead link! Anyone know the title of the lecture - who gave it?? I'm a sensitive guy so I really want to know. :)

http://www.cmfnow.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=561

Bahnsen does a fair job of explaining the differences between the two (for the most part) In my humble opinion. After listening to the differences, I'm still Clarkian. I will say, that there are many areas of agreement between the two, and that the road to presuppositionalism still has ironing out to do.
 
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