Is Van Tillianism Foundationalist?

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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Not in the same sense. If Foundationalism is defined in such a wide sense than I guess all POV are Foundationalist but that makes the term useless in practice.
Only if we assume modern foundationalisms began with Descartes. If we can find foundationalist elements in earlier thinkers (like Aquinas) and note they aren't using basic beliefs in the Cartesian or Cliffordian sense, then it's fine.

Just because an epistemology favors certain beliefs as being more central than others doesn't make those beliefs PBB.
True, Clarkians favor coherentist models and Iw ouldn't say they hold to PBB.

Vantillian apologetics is transcendental in nature, so pressupositions can and do provide the spectacles through which we view the the world without being PBB.
True, but as Bahnsen was fond of saying (correctly, I think) that you don't prove your ultimate authority (presupposition) by another authority. If that is so, then presuppositions are acting like PBB.

Foundationalism suffers from the POV that you are either a Foundationalist or a skeptic but there are other POV that can possibly account for our knowledge, Rorty is great here.
Cartesian/Lockean models, yes. Alston and others, however, have run Rorty through the gauntlet (not to mention Plantinga's classic answer to Rorty).
What I mean is if Foundationalism is defined in such a wide sense as to include Van Til than the term becomes meaningless in practice. Because than anyone would be a foundationalist but no one criticism of Foundationalism would be applicable to anyone nor would any useable analysis of what Foundationalism is would be possible because you would have to qualify everything to point of death.
Not necessarily. Even my wide definition of foundationalism excludes a lot of major thinkers (Putnam, Rorty, all of postmodernism, Gordon Clark)

Why not make Foundationalism one thing and pressupositionalism another just to clarify things, because in practice you have to this anyway.
My interest was in seeing what the two have in common. I do not think they are synonyms.

This is to say that I could admit fine Van Til is a Foundationalist of sorts than some one could say "aha than you believe in PBB and your wrong for this reason" and I would reply no I'm not that kind of Foundationalist but this kind, which amounts to nothing.
I hold to PBB. There is nothing wrong with it. I just reject the modern construals of it. I don't fault CvT for holding to PBB (though that is more true of Bahnsen than CvT).

I don't know if Clark counts as a coherentist because there are other options than just that in the epistemological game. Both Van Til and Clark sought a Christian view of things.
Most Clarkians told me that to the degree they keep up with modern discussions, they hold to something like Coherentism. That was Geisler's reading of Clark, anyway.

Also what Bahnsen meant was that a P cannot be directly proven but indirectly proven, he said that often.
That is interesting about indirectly provingit.

I mean you raise excellent questions but what is the end game? What difference would it make if one could define Van Til as a Foundationalist?
Why do research at all, then? But to find the answer to a question.
 

Nicholas Perella

Puritan Board Freshman
Bahnsen believes that this statement is self-justifying: The Bible is the word of God.
That sounds more like Clark than Van Til. Van Til would say either creation or the ontological Trinity is our foundation. Such a statement, while self-justifying, is open to defeaters. It is in defeating the defeaters that the presup sees how close (or far away) he is to foundationalism.
Quotes below from: Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2008.

From Van Til's in the foreward by K. Scott Oliphint as follows:

page x-xi:
...the reader should be aware that 'presupposition' for Van Til is just another way of saying what Kuyper, Bavinck, and behind them the Reformed scholastics had always said with regard to the principia of theology.
Secondly, God is Van Til's 'presupposition'. God's written Word is just that - God's Word. When the preacher preaches God's Word the preacher is doing that, preaching - God's Word. That is Him. God is His Word. God is simple (no division in God: God has unity in Himself).

Thirdly, I quote Van Til from the same book:

page 127-128:
For better or for worse the Protestant apologist is committed to the doctrine of Scripture as the infallibly inspired final revelation of God to man.... The Protestant apologist cannot be concerned to prove the existence of any other God than the one who has spoken to man authoritatively and finally through Scripture.... So if the whole debate in apologetics is to be more than a meaningless discussion about the 'that' of God's existence and is to consider 'what kind' of God exists, then the question of God's revelation to man must be brought into the picture. Even before the entrance of sin...
Yes God is the 'presupposition', but to know who that God is, or in other words, what kind of God He is, involves God's revelation to man, i.e. Holy Scriptures. So in order to presuppose about God and to begin a discussion of God's true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness for His creature, i.e. man, man therefore has to go to His now written Word to bring any meaning, not only to the discussion, but to reality itself. A reality, by the way, created by God who is literally the starting point of all of this. 'This' being not only creation but God's work of redemption by Christ Jesus.

More Van Til:

pg. 139:
...we obtain the Christian principle of reasoning by presupposition. It is the actual existence of the God of Christian theism and the infallible authority of the Scripture which speaks to sinners of this God that must be taken as the presupposition of the intelligibility of any fact in the world.
pg. 374:
It is from Bavinck as much as from Kuyper that we have learned to stress the Scriptures as the principium unicum (sole principle or source) of the Christian. 'The true concept of revelation can only be taken from revelation itself; if no revelation has ever taken place, then all reflection on its concept is labor expended in vain; if revelation is a fact then it alone must provide us with its concept and indicate the criterion to be employed in our research with respect to religions and revelations' (Gereformeerde dogmatiek, 1:309). The ground of faith, says Bavinck, is identical with is content and cannot be separated from it (ibid., 644). When the believer is asked why he thinks of the Bible as the Word of God, he may point to the notae (marks) and criteria of Scripture.
pg. 374n43: [This footnote is to what I quote directly above on pg. 374],
As Van Til notes, among the notae (marks) and criteria of Scripture that Bavinck mentions (taking his cue both from Calvin and the Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.5) are 'the majesty of its style, the sublimity of its content, the depth of its ideas, the abundant fruit it has borne, etc.'
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Thanks for the principia quote. That's what I was looking for.

I wonder, though, since Van Til is saying his view of principia is that of Bavinck, and Bavinck followed Turretin, would Van Til hold to the same principial epistemology? This is quite interesting, since I debated this issue with some cultists at the Facebook Level-Headed (sic!!!!!) Christian Reconstruction group, and they scorned Turretin.
 

Shawn Mathis

Puritan Board Sophomore
Jacob, I can see some in Reconstructionism scorning Turretin. What exactly was the context? Did they claim he was a rationalist?
 

Nicholas Perella

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for the principia quote. That's what I was looking for.

I wonder, though, since Van Til is saying his view of principia is that of Bavinck, and Bavinck followed Turretin, would Van Til hold to the same principial epistemology? This is quite interesting, since I debated this issue with some cultists at the Facebook Level-Headed (sic!!!!!) Christian Reconstruction group, and they scorned Turretin.

There is much about this in "Defense of the Faith" not only a comparing between Van Til and Amsterdam (Bavinck) but Old Princeton (Warfield). Van Til is more strict about this principle than the other two from the writing.

pg. 374:
In spite of this stress on the Scripture as self-attesting and as such the primary principle for the interpretation of man and the world, Bavinck too [Kuyper] sometimes reverts to the idea that man can without this principle interpret much of experience truly. In his 'Philosophy of Revelation' as well as in his work on dogmatics, Bavinck stresses the fact that the idea of revelation must spring from revelation itself (Wysbegeerte der openbaring [Kampen, 1908], 21). Yet when defending this Christian idea of revelation against various forms of philosophy, Bavinck sometimes leaves this high ground and argues neutrally with them. He wants to reason philosophically with modern philosophers and therefore starts with them from the fact of self-consciousness as such, without at once setting this fact, as he does elsewhere, in the contest of its relation to God and Christ.
pg. 351:
It is not, of course, that Warfield himself entertains any doubts about the plenary inspiration of Scripture. He was one of its greatest advocates. Nor is it that he disagrees with Calvin in maintaining the clarity of natural revelation or in holding that all men have the sense of deity. It is only that , in apologetics, Warfield wanted to perate in neutral territory with the nonbeliever. He thought that this was the only way to show to the unbeliever that theism and Christianity are objectively true.
Outside of scriptural certainty is probability. John Gerstner who broadly approaches apologetics like Warfield and Bavinck, which R.C. Sproul broadly does as well, do so by starting not with God and His revelation, but they start with 'reason'. By starting with 'reason' or anything outside of scriptural certainty the conclusion is always one of 'probably'. Which is not necessarily terrible in everyday life, but when it comes to God and His Word which He has given for our certainty to certain things in our life (whatever God has revealed for sure in the Holy Scriptures) is well - certain.

As an aside, I am comfortable with how science operates in 'probability' or 'statistically' or even to what will happen when I cut the grass. There are probabilities to consider even when we drive a car and that is ok. God has revealed certainties and then other things God has kept them unrevealed from us. Apologetically speaking, I am comfortable with these understandings because outside of scripture certainty even other self-proclaimed Christian apologetics as to 'what reality is' and 'what kind of God is He' admit, as Gerstner did, that in the end their apologetic starting point only goes to 'probably' and then after all that reasoning if they want to share the certainty of God's revelation they will have to go to the scriptures. Van Til starts at the scriptures. Even other apologetic methods have to end up there anyways in time. Van Til's case on this matter is that those who by not starting with God and His revelation the uncertainty opens the door to defenselessness (which is not being apologetic) which for Van Til compromises Christianity [see Van Til's chapter six on "Christian Apologetics: The Problem of Method"]. I know Van Til also discusses science and technology in his writings to demonstrate how a Christian understanding is the only understanding for the interpretation of the science and technology of yesterday and today which Van Til calls "borrowed capital" and my professor called "stolen capital".

pg. 27: Van Til,
My business is to teach apologetics. I therefore presuppose the Reformed system of doctrine.
Footnote to the quote directly above:

pg. 27n1:
As we noted in the introduction, this statement is highly significant, bears repeating here, and should be noted. Van Til never saw himself as doing anything other than applying the Reformed system of doctrine to the specific concerns of apologetics. Because of this methodology, what Van Til was advocating was both old and new. It was old in that he was applying the basic tenets of Reformed dogmatics to apologetics; he was not attempting self-consciously to change any of the basic content or loci of that theology. It was new in that apologetics, prior to Van Til, had taken less notice of theology as the springboard for its tasks and more notice of philosophy. The radical nature of this methodology should be kept in mind.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Jacob, I can see some in Reconstructionism scorning Turretin. What exactly was the context? Did they claim he was a rationalist?
I asked the question whether the Transcendental Argument necessitated an internalism with regard to basic beliefs. we then got onto the subject of Turretin and a writer for American Vision said, "Too bad for Turretin." Granted, it wasn't the mos scathing critique, but it does show the danger of doing theological reflection independent of, and sometimes with arrogance to, our betters.

There were other things but I can't remember the exact conversation. I think I have it on my email somewhere.
 

Toasty

Puritan Board Sophomore
How would you respond to someone who asks this: How do you know that the belief that the Bible is the word of God is self-justifying?

Do you respond by saying that everyone has to have self-justifying beliefs and that everyone is living off the borrowed capital of Christianity?
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
I can agree that there are similarities but there are also, don't mind the pun ;) , foundational differences such that they can't be considered to be in the same group.

To indirectly prove something is one area where I see massive differences between the two. A direct proof is more along the lines of a deductive or inductive argument. An indirect argument is more transcendental in nature in that the presuppositions of Christianity must be assumed in order to make sense out of our experience. A deductive or inductive method may or may not use PBB as premises to directly prove some sort of conclusion.

As far as being internalist or externalist, I never really thought about it honestly. I would say though, off the top of my head, probably in some ways both. But that is a very interesting line of questions, thanks for bringing that up. I'll have to think about it. Good thread Jacob.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
How would you respond to someone who asks this: How do you know that the belief that the Bible is the word of God is self-justifying?

Do you respond by saying that everyone has to have self-justifying beliefs and that everyone is living off the borrowed capital of Christianity?

Yes and no. The method is to show as persuasively as possible how nothing in life makes sense without the truth of our faith. So the method is to indirectly show how the bible is self authenticating by directly showing how nothing in life makes sense unless Christianity is true.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I can agree that there are similarities but there are also, don't mind the pun ;) , foundational differences such that they can't be considered to be in the same group.

To indirectly prove something is one area where I see massive differences between the two. A direct proof is more along the lines of a deductive or inductive argument. An indirect argument is more transcendental in nature in that the presuppositions of Christianity must be assumed in order to make sense out of our experience. A deductive or inductive method may or may not use PBB as premises to directly prove some sort of conclusion.

As far as being internalist or externalist, I never really thought about it honestly. I would say though, off the top of my head, probably in some ways both. But that is a very interesting line of questions, thanks for bringing that up. I'll have to think about it. Good thread Jacob.
:cheers2:
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
How would you respond to someone who asks this: How do you know that the belief that the Bible is the word of God is self-justifying?

Do you respond by saying that everyone has to have self-justifying beliefs and that everyone is living off the borrowed capital of Christianity?
I almost typed a response to this, but then I realized there were more issues under the surface. Good question.
 

Shawn Mathis

Puritan Board Sophomore
Granted, it wasn't the mos scathing critique, but it does show the danger of doing theological reflection independent of, and sometimes with arrogance to, our betters.
That is certainly a danger for us all. I was curious because I have found some on those circles to readily dismiss non-Reconstructionist views as being rationalistic or unbiblical or some such dismissive language. A view akin to fundamentalism's old view of the bible: whatever prima facia reading offered is the only true reading.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Granted, it wasn't the mos scathing critique, but it does show the danger of doing theological reflection independent of, and sometimes with arrogance to, our betters.
That is certainly a danger for us all. I was curious because I have found some on those circles to readily dismiss non-Reconstructionist views as being rationalistic or unbiblical or some such dismissive language. A view akin to fundamentalism's old view of the bible: whatever prima facia reading offered is the only true reading.
I don't want to speak for everyone in that group, because I know some good guys there, but that was my own mindset over ten years ago when I ran with the recon crowd. Not knowing Turretin's approach to theology, and how he solved many future problems (albeit riding a few hobby horses of his own), almost led me to despair of Protestantism. It was when I reread Turretin that my theology got (mostly) straightened out.

Some of the hyper Recons begin with the approach that if a thinker isn't immediately pushing the unbeliever to epistemological self-consciousness, then he has compromised with autonomy. That's the plain and simple of it. If we approach epistemology in such a way that we have to write off men like Charles Hodge, then we have already lost. Gary North has an article where he suggests that systematic theology should be written around the Klinean 5 Point Model and Van Til's epistemology. I cant find the article, though. It's worth reading (and like all Gary's stuff, quite entertaining).
 

Shawn Mathis

Puritan Board Sophomore
Well, since my philosophy and apologetic books are packed (for, Lord willing, a move to a new home) I only have the internet. But the discussion thus far here included the definition of presupposition. I found this (although not about presupposition as such, it is intimately related):

"Transcendental arguments are partly non-empirical, often anti-skeptical arguments focusing on necessary enabling conditions either of coherent experience or the possession or employment of some kind of knowledge or cognitive ability, where the opponent is not in a position to question the fact of this experience, knowledge, or cognitive ability, and where the revealed preconditions include what the opponent questions. Such arguments take as a premise some obvious fact about our mental life—such as some aspect of our knowledge, our experience, our beliefs, or our cognitive abilities—and add a claim that some other state of affairs is a necessary condition of the first one. Transcendental arguments most commonly have been deployed against a position denying the knowability of some extra-mental proposition, such as the existence of other minds or a material world. Thus these arguments characteristically center on a claim that, for some extra-mental proposition P, the indisputable truth of some general proposition Q about our mental life requires that P." (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

The latest book on Presuppositional Apologetics (from Westminster if I recall), had an article specifically about the formulation of a transcendental argument and the propositions/presuppositions involved. Again, my books are packed :-(
 
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