Classical Reformed Apologetics

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by A.Joseph, May 8, 2019.

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  1. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Presuppositionlism is the only approach which starts and ends with the self-attesting Christ of the self-authenticating Scriptures and therefore the Gospel of Christ, the power of God unto salvation, is our final defense. The Gospel works as God so wills. The work of God alone made me a believer, He used the Gospel to do His work. Personally I knew nothing of formal apologetics or philosophy before the Gospel worked in my conversion.
  2. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Sophomore

    I mostly agree with you. I just think we can maintain our presuppositions and be a little nuanced working a bit outside that framework without compromising truth in anyway... I’m a YEC so my nuances are not too sophisticated by today’s standards, lol
  3. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm also a YEC, my favorite YEC is astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle who also happens to be a presuppositionalist. :cheers:
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    First principles, principia. Cf Muller, volume 1.

    Which is a different claim from "reasoning to the Trinity," which the nature-grace dialectic specifically says we can't do.

    And nature is always pointed towards its telos, grace. So even on Thomist grounds there is no strict separation.
  5. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    What first principles? And how is that the "reformed epistemology"? It seems to me that there can be many reformed epistemologies. Van Til had one, Alvin Planting a had one. Even CA has one. What defines it? I don't have access to Mueller, though.

    Anyone who draws from the tradition can in theory be "reformed". On a different note I don't like when people throw the term "reformed" on some non theological subject (philosophy, apologetics, economics, etc.). It just shuts out progress, disagreements, and draws non theological lines. I didn't like the title of the collection of essays called "Reformed Apologetics" for that reason, amazing book though. But how can we claim one position, outside of theology, as the reformed position. It just seems to try to claim that anyone who disagrees with position X (On non theological things) is not reformed. That's the sense I get anyway.
  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Because all of the Reformed dogmatics used them. Turretin does ascribe a functional role to “natural reason.” Natural man, whatever that phrase means, can understand axiomatic truths (29-30). Reason is of particular instrumental use in terms of inference and middle premises. For example, Christ’s ubiquity denied in the following way: “Besides, while the theologian uses arguments drawn from reason, he does it rather as a philosopher rather than as a theologian.
    Except Van Til never consciously drew from the Reformed tradition, aside from some passages in calvin.
    Plantinga is drawing upon Reid, who drew from Turretin (especially on free will).
    1. Theologia viatorum (theology of pilgrims in our earthly journey)

      1. principia theologia: the foundations of theology

        1. principium essendi: the being of God

        2. principium cognoscendi: cognitive foundations of theology.

          1. principium externum: Scripture

          2. principium internum: faith

            1. testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti: internal testimony of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8).
    To be fair, Van Til never denied any of this, but he never used it, either. You will find more of Kant than you will of Turretin in van Til.
    That's true. The difference is that some use the Reformed tradition and draw upon it, and can prove it with citations, and the rest do not.
    I thought presups said all of that was theological.
  7. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Presuppositionalism doesn’t deny this, though, correct? In my understanding, the thrust of presuppositionalism is not that unbelievers cannot understand axiomatic truths, but that their unbelieving worldview is fundamentally at odds with the truths they do indeed know. The axiomatic truths the claim to know are only justified given biblical presuppositions.

    What’s your assessment?
  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    In a sense, no one disagrees with that. The problem is that presups say if you don't presuppose the Trinity you cannot make sense of reality. The danger with this, besides needing a Master's degree to really understand it, is that I can posit a four-personed god, perhaps even five, and have the exact same argument.
  9. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Sophomore

  10. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Sophomore

    I’m sure my pastor will ultimately set me straight on Van Til, but it seems like we should give Fesko a fair hearing, especially in this day and age where the skeptic is in a much more distant place ...

    Here’s the endorsements:
    Product description

    Challenging the dominant Van Tillian approach in Reformed apologetics, this book by a leading expert in contemporary Reformed theology sets forth the principles that undergird a classic Reformed approach. J. V. Fesko's detailed exegetical, theological, and historical argument takes as its starting point the classical Reformed understanding of the "two books" of God's revelation: nature and Scripture. Believers should always rest on the authority of Scripture but also can and should appeal to the book of nature in the apologetic task.

    From the Back Cover
    " Reforming Apologetics presents a compelling case for the shape and content of Reformed apologetics by reconnecting it with the roots of the Reformed faith. Fesko carefully examines the nineteenth-century idealist backgrounds of the Van Tilian and Dooyeweerdian approaches and demonstrates their flawed epistemology. He outlines the enduring strength of the genuine tradition of the Reformation, which begins with the authority of Scripture but also recognizes the presence of intuitions and concepts common to believer and unbeliever and of the natural law written on the heart--common grounds of discourse necessary to the apologetic task."
    -- Richard A. Muller, Calvin Theological Seminary

    "Fesko writes with learning and verve as he ploughs up the baked ground of much current Reformed apologetics, letting in light and fresh air. His basic charge is that the apologetics of Van Til and Dooyeweerd is inconsistent in its basic method: they criticized other apologetics as unholy mixtures of the biblical and the pagan, while their own efforts did not escape from such 'synthesis.' In the final chapter, Fesko sets out afresh the methods and objectives of the classical tradition of Reformed apologetics. If you are skeptical about whether a book on apologetics can be good reading, then this incisive treatment will convince you."
    -- Paul Helm, author of Human Nature from Calvin to Edwards

    "Reformed theologians haven't paid very careful attention to the doctrine of nature in the twentieth century, leading to a number of unfortunate consequences. Fesko helpfully reminds us of deeper Christian and Reformed reflection on what Holy Scripture reveals about nature and of its significant implications for Christian apologetics. It's a grace to think anew about God's creative goodness, and Fesko provides a helpful prompt in this important direction."
    -- Michael Allen, Reformed Theological Seminary

    "Fesko presents an approach to apologetics that reaffirms the theological outlook of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Reformed fathers and scholastics. Its peculiar strength is in arguing for God's revelation in the created order as the source of common principles shared by believer and unbeliever alike. These common principles give Christians the epistemological common ground necessary to begin meaningfully engaging unbelievers in defending the faith. Along the way, Fesko offers thoughtful criticism of various neo-Calvinist approaches to apologetics, including those of Dooyeweerd and Van Til. Readers are sure to benefit from this challenging volume as they consider how to faithfully defend the Christian faith."
    -- James E. Dolezal, Cairn University
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

  12. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Sophomore

    Excuse my ignorance, what is Clark’s position? Is it mostly rejected in Reformed circles?
  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    It's presup in the sense that it rejects the classical argument and says we must presuppose Scripture as the primary axiom of human knowledge. It (usually) rejects empirical knowledge and says that we have a univocal knowledge of God.

    I reviewed some of his works here.
  14. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Not true, he drew from Calvin, WCF, G. Vos, A. Kuyper, B.B. Warfield, H. Bavinck, etc. See Cornelius Van Til by John M. Frame

    And consciously his aim, goal, and purpose...

    "In this small pamphlet I am indicating briefly the chief purpose I have had in writing the following pamphlets, books, and syllabi.

    Throughout, my aim has been to show that it is the historic Reformed Faith alone that can in any adequate way present the claims of Christ to men for their salvation. The Reformed Faith alone does anything like full justice to the cultural and missionary mandates of Christ. The Reformed Faith alone has anything like an adequately stated view of God, of man, and of Christ as the mediator between God and man. It is because the Reformed Faith alone has an essentially sound, because biblical, theology, that it alone has anything like a sound, that is, biblical method of challenging the world of unbelief to repentance and faith." - Van Til, Towards A Reformed Apologetic, pg.1​

    Van Til was clearly opposed to Kant...

    "A theology that is based on the Critique of Pure Reason can do no justice either to the idea of God or to the idea of man. It would be simpler and more true to fact if Tillich and Niebuhr would follow the example of Eddington, Dewey, and Einstein. The same thing holds true with respect to Karl Barth. Barth’s challenge to “modern Protestantism” is to be taken cum grano. Modern Protestantism is modern; it is Kantian. So is Barth. The underlying epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions of Barth and of “modern Protestantism” alike are found in the critical philosophy of Kant. The quarrels between them are but family quarrels soon to be mended when anyone comes with the challenge of a self-sufficient God. Barth’s ire does not rise to the fulness of its power till he is face to face with the doctrine of the sovereign God. With the help of Kant he brings down this God to the position of correlativity with a self-existent temporal flux. We conclude that such men as Tillich, Niebuhr and Barth obscure the issues that face modern man.

    From the orthodox side the issue is also obscured. It is obscured in particular by the adherents of Scholastic theology. To go back from Kant to St. Thomas and back from St. Thomas to Aristotle offers no help. Professor Etienne Gilson, for all his brilliant effort, can find no harmony between a philosophy based on autonomous reason and a theology based on revelation.

    Protestant apologists have been all too ready to follow the Scholastic line. Bishop Butler’s Analogy and the many books based on it still cater to autonomous reason. But for all this obscuration both on the part of the modern and the orthodox theologians the issue is at bottom simple and clear. A consistent Christianity, such as we must humbly hold the Reformed Faith to be, must set an interpretation of its own over against modern science, modern philosophy and modern religion. Its thinking is controlled, at every point, by the presuppositions of the existence of the self-sufficient God of which the Bible speaks. It is upon the basis of this presupposition alone, the Reformed Faith holds, that predication of any sort at any point has relevance and meaning. If we may not presuppose such an “antecedent” Being, man finds his speck of rationality to be swimming as a mud-ball in a bottomless and shoreless ocean.

    Reason, which on Kantian basis has presumed to legislate for the whole of reality, needs chance for its existence. If reality were God-structured the human mind could not be ultimately legislative. The idea of brute irrationality is presupposed in modern methodology. At the same time it is this brute irrationality which undermines every interpretative endeavor on the part of would-be autonomous man. There is on the modern basis no possibility of the identification of any fact let alone the possibility of finding an intelligent relationship of one fact to another fact. The possibility of science and philosophy as well as the possibility of theology presupposes the idea of a God whose counsel determines “whatsoever comes to pass.” Only then has the spectre of brute fact and ultimate irrationality been slain. If we are to follow the method of modern science, modern philosophy and modern theology Merlin will never walk the earth again. Modern thought is, like the Prodigal Son, at the swine-trough, but, unlike the Prodigal, it will not return to the Father’s house." - Van Til, Christianity and Idealism, Kant or Christ? Calvin Forum, February, 1942

    God is omniscient and the knowledge of man is analogical to God, meaning man has never had an original thought, meaning the knowledge of man is dependent upon the knowledge of God, meaning to think any truth is to think God's thoughts after Him.
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    And they are not really representative of the classical Reformed tradition. I mean in the scholastic sense like Turretin et al. And while he "quotes" the aforementioned men, he never exegetes them (except for a few passages from Calvin). And you will search long and hard for exegesis and analysis of guys like Turretin, Cocceius, Voetius, etc.
    I know that, but he couldn't form his TAG without using Kant. No one disputes that.
    Which means you agree with me, and not with the earlier claim that those subjects aren't theological.
  16. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

  17. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Incorrect, there is a difference between knowing and justification for knowing. Plantinga used the term "warrant" for justification, while Clark used the term "axiom", and Van Til used the term "presuppose" with reference to justification. A non-Christian can know as much or more than the Christian, and it is not that their knowledge is false so far as it goes, it is that they cannot justify their knowledge claims according to the assumptions of their worldview (because of the dependency of human knowledge on the knowledge of God), not only do they borrow from the Christian worldview, they know the true God of Scripture exists and suppress that knowledge in unrighteousness. So in all of their knowledge they rob God of the glory He deserves, taking autonomous credit, not giving credit where it is due.

    I dropped out of college about nineteen years ago, I guess I really don't understand it then, not without a piece of paper on the wall implying I am a know it all.

    Ahh but people do make the Book of Mormon, or Watchtower or Quran or hosts of other religious texts as their "axiom" and do accent to the propositions therein. I see real danger in that as well.
  18. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Metaphysics deals with first principals...the conceptual basic laws of logic are an example, necessary for meaningful language, Science, etc. I could be wrong but honestly it seems much can be synthesized between Van Til, Plantinga, and Clark. In many ways the primary difference is in terminology. That said I believe Van Til's to be more robust, consistent, and faithful to Reformed theology.

    Couple of articles on Reformed epistemology:

    Unbelievers and the Knowledge of God: Biblical Warrant for a Presuppositional Apologetic

    A Truly Reformed Epistemology
  19. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Sophomore

    I won’t argue that Reformed systematic covenant theology is the most sound, comprehensive exposition of scripture. So Christian apologetics should be Reformed. I think the Reformed faith makes the best converts but God obviously makes the best recipients of His grace. I don’t think I have a problem with Van Til. In fact, I don’t have a problem with any of these guys. I guess I just don’t really see a problem, and I’m not sure Fesko is a threat to sound doctrine and apologetics. But I’m eager to hear the reviews as they come in
  20. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I'll have to ck that out. Metaphysics is a bit more complicated than that. Consider the linguistic aspect to that. Language reveals how we think about the world and talk.
  21. Goodcheer68

    Goodcheer68 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Im not sure that is correct. Its been awhile but if I remember correctly both Richard of St Victor and Bosserman show that God must necessarily be a Trinity and not a bininty, quadrinity... If he were anything other than a Trinity it would involve an impersonal context between the persons in a binity and at least one impersonal context in anything more than a Trinity. My books are packed or otherwise I would give you a quote. But Im pretty sure that you mentioned that you have read both books.
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Bahnsen defined knowledge as justified, true belief (Van Til Reader, p. 178). Bahnsen is still working within the parameters of epistemic internalism, whereas Plantinga is an externalist.

    A binity is impersonal, but that's not the example I used. There is no reason why a 4 personed-god would be impersonal. I agree that it might be problematic down the road, but there is no immediate conceptual problem to it.

    Which is exactly what I reported presups to be saying.
  23. Goodcheer68

    Goodcheer68 Puritan Board Sophomore

    You are going to make me have to dig up the quotes now.:)
  24. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Thoughts on the epistemic internalism/externalism issue. 1.) Is this an either or situation or is both and possible? 2.) Is knowledge either entirely subjective or entirely objective or a mixture of both? 3.) Van Til described human knowledge as analogical, meaning derivative of the original knowledge of God. 4.) If the Christ of Scripture is the starting point of justified true knowledge, Christ is external, the Scriptures are external. 5.) In monergistic regeneration, God the Holy Spirit (external) transforms the internals of man, the heart, mind, soul, and the will to be in union with Christ. In this union between God and man the (external) Spirit of God comes to indwell (internal) in a man. Considering these short points, I do not see how this is an either or situation. I found a quote to share, thought you might find it interesting:

    "Internalism and Externalism

    One evident weakness of Van Til’s epistemological arguments is that he nowhere supplies an analysis of knowledge or displays much awareness of distinctions now commonplace in contemporary epistemology: foundationalism versus coherentism, justification versus warrant, overriding defeaters versus undercutting defeaters, and so on. Van Til should not be judged too harshly for this, since such epistemological niceties were not brought to prominence until near the end of his career.

    I would suggest however that one recent distinction in particular has significant implications for many of his arguments, namely, the distinction between internalist and externalist conditions of knowledge. An internalist condition (of justification or warrant) is one to which a person has “introspective access”; in other words, the person can ascertain whether or not the condition is fulfilled with respect to a particular belief simply by reflecting internally on his or her own mental states. For example, consider the following necessary condition of epistemic warrant:

    (W1) S’s belief that p is warranted only if S is aware of some reason q for thinking p to be true.

    W1 is an internalist condition, since it requires that the knower be subjectively aware of some warrant-relevant factor. In contrast, an externalist condition is one that does not require any subjective awareness on the part of the knower, such as the following:

    (W2) S’s beliefs that p is warranted only if S’s belief that p was formed by reliable (i.e., truth-conducive) cognitive processes.

    Note that W2 does not require S to be aware that his belief was reliably formed; it only requires that his belief was reliably formed.

    Now one of the central debates in contemporary epistemology concerns whether there are any necessary internalist conditions of knowledge. Generally speaking, “internalists” say yes, while “externalists” say no.58 Whether there are necessary internalist conditions of knowledge (and, if so, of what kind) has deep implications for what sort of truths can be known, how they can be known, and by whom. As one might expect, Plantinga is well aware of this debate; having entered into the fray in his Warrant series, he takes a self-consciously externalist position. Moreover, his epistemological arguments reflect a sensitivity to the distinction between internalist and externalist conditions. Van Til’s arguments do not, however, and his statements of them often seem to assume (at points where specificity might be significant) an internalist perspective that tends to weaken the arguments. For instance, after summarizing the argument from induction, Van Til writes the following:

    Even non-Christians presuppose [the truth of Christian theism] while they verbally reject it. They need to presuppose the truth of Christian theism in order to account for their own [scientific] accomplishments.59

    What does Van Til mean by “presuppose” here? Is the idea simply that if the truth of Christian theism is a precondition of scientific knowledge then a person is implicitly assuming its truth by engaging in science (or claiming to have scientific knowledge)? Or is it that for a person to have scientific knowledge, not only must Christian theism be true but that person must also stand in some positive epistemic relation towards its truth — by either knowing it, believing it, or accepting it? The latter interpretation clearly involves a stronger claim but consequently requires rather more by way of argument. It is easier to show that inductive reasoning has as necessary conditions (i) the uniformity of nature, and (ii) the good design of our cognitive faculties by a being that knows and ensures that nature is uniform, than it is to show that (i), (ii), plus our believing or knowing (i) and (ii), are all necessary conditions. 60

    Another example of the relevance of the internalist/externalist distinction pertains to Van Til’s argument from the unity of knowledge. The argument appears to posit a precondition of knowledge that involves a mixture of internalist and externalist considerations: a person S can know some fact p only if either (a) S knows how every other fact bears on knowing p (an internalist condition) or (b) the epistemic faculties employed by S in knowing p have been constructed by some other person G who knows how every other fact bears on knowing p (an externalist condition). 61 Whatever the answers here and elsewhere, it is evident that Van Til’s arguments would benefit from a dose of disambiguation with respect to this important distinction." James N. Anderson Calvin Theological Journal 40 (2005) p. 70-72
    A couple of quotes from Van Til:

    "On the other hand the theistic conception which underlies and forms the foundation of the conception of absolute biblical authority does not entertain a false antithesis to begin with. The very foundation of the concept of biblical authority is that because of God’s absolute self-consciousness man’s self-conscious activity is always derivative and man’s constructive activity operates in the field of God’s original constructive activity. Hence absolute authority was man’s daily meat and drink when his mind was normal. It was only because of the entrance of sin in the heart of man that it was necessary for this authority of God to come to man in an externally mediated form. But this externally mediated form was necessary because of an ethical and not because of a metaphysical separation between God and man. Accordingly it was necessary that the ethical alienation should be removed in order that the original metaphysical relation should be able to function normally again." - Van Til, A Survely of Christian Epistemology Chapter 13 The Starting Point of Christian Theistic Epistemology

    "It is necessary, however, to think of this revelation of God to man as originally internal as well as external. Man found in his own makeup, in his own moral nature, an understanding of and a love for that which is good. His own nature was revelational of the will of God. But while thus revelational of the will of God, man’s nature, even in paradise, was never meant to function by itself. It was at once supplemented by the supernatural, external and positive expression of God’s will as its correlative. Only thus can we see how basic is the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian view of the moral nature of man in relation to ethical questions" - Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, Chapter 4
    In light of all this, I think Van Til would consider the internalist or externalist debate a false dilemma.
  25. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    There can be degrees of both.
    Depending on how subjective is glossed, it can be both.
    That's good. So does everyone who isn't a Scotist. I don't know what that has to do with the present discussion.
    That's not what externalism means in epistemology. Externalism means my cognitive faculties are properly functioning and that I don't have to meet various Gettier situations.
  26. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Here is why I brought up the internalism/externalism debate. Van Tillians love to say, "Well, how can you justify your knowledge?" The problem with that question is that Van Tillians generally say knowledge is justified true belief. So they are basically asking, "How can you justify your justification?" This is known as the problem of the criterion.

    Before I can know anything (say P), I must know two other things: Q (my criterion for knowledge, which the critic seeks) and R (the fact that P satisfies Q). But there is no reason to stop here. One can now ask how I know Q and R, to which the new answer is Q' and R'. But now I have to give a reason for Q'' and R''. Further, I must now give a reason for Q''' and R'''.

    Said another way: Before I can know, I must know how I know. Before I can know how I know, I must know how I know how I know. And on the nightmare goes.

    A Van Tillian can avoid the problem by opting for something like Alvin Plantinga's Warrant and Proper Function, but this would mean revamping much of his epistemology.
  27. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I'm not sure that internalism/externalism has much use for Van Till. Knowledge is analogical of God's knowledge. So I don't see much use for that distinction, however you want to slice it.
  28. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Van Til is an internalist. Bahnsen made that very clear. If you hold that knowledge is justified, true belief (which Bahnsen advocated), then you are an internalist. It has nothing to do with analogical knowledge.

    When CVT says our knowledge is analogical of God's knowledge, he isn't defining the "what" of knowledge. He's more defining the how of it. The what of knowledge is the current question before the house.

    Internalism is internal in the sense that your mind has to justify knowledge based on certain criteria. Thus, the justification is "internal" to you. Bahnsen advocated this specifically.

    Plantinga's school, by contrast, is external in the sense that I don't have to keep providing justifications for my justification, provided my cognitive faculties are properly functioning.
  29. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Nobody believes their cognitive faculties are not functioning properly. But this does not diminish the effects of sin on the unregenerate consciousness concerning the cognitive faculties, nor cause the unregenerate heart to be any less deceitful. The "heart" and mind function together.
  30. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    What Plantinga means by proper function is that my cognitive abilities aren't impaired (e.g., by Descartes' evil demon, or alcohol, or sensory deprivation).

    Sure, noetic effects and all, but that doesn't factor into the discussion of what constitutes knowledge. Proper function, however, does factor into that discussion.
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