Lutheran Critique

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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
So Im watching these videos. And my observation is this. Is Pastor Tipton trying to distance himself from Van Til here and his apologetic method ? From what I can gather, Van Til was responding to German rationalists and philosophers, most notable Kant, but in doing so allowed them to frame the debate. ....


Is Van Til's presuppositional apologetics representative of how most Reformed Christians do apologetics?
My concern doesn't arise until I saw the interview with Nathan Greely which I watched after the interview with Pastor Tipton.




 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
In the second vid, which I watched in its entirety, LT is defending CVT from detractors. He argues that those using CVT, or taking his use of Idealist language (terms he borrowed from Idealist phiosophers in order to find a common starting point for evangelistic apologetics) and asserting that this means he bought into process-theology, are disregarding his whole body of work. LT says that Vos (Princeton prof and CVT mentor) is the proper background to CVTs theology. Vos is the antidote to BiblicalTheology versus SystematicTheology contentions.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Frame and Bahnsen did their best to move Van Tillianism away from Idealism. That's a plus. On the other hand, I don't see how it is possible to talk about a transcendental argument without reverting back to Idealist concepts.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
In the second vid, which I watched in its entirety, LT is defending CVT from detractors. He argues that those using CVT, or taking his use of Idealist language (terms he borrowed from Idealist phiosophers in order to find a common starting point for evangelistic apologetics) and asserting that this means he bought into process-theology, are disregarding his whole body of work. LT says that Vos (Princeton prof and CVT mentor) is the proper background to CVTs theology. Vos is the antidote to BiblicalTheology versus SystematicTheology contentions.
Would you say Lutheran's are somewhat weak on the creature-Creator distinction?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
So, now have watched the 1st vid through. My takeaway is that there was/is/will be an ongoing debate about "the best" methodology of how to 1) address unbelief and objections, and how to witness positively for the Faith; and addressing 2) challenges/alternatives to the Faith, and the Faith's defense.

"Presuppositionalism" was CVT's attempt at formulating a 20th century apologetic (designed for those contemporary challenges) that was consistent with the Faith generally, and more specifically consistent with the Reformed Faith. He was willing to find fault with "classic" apologetics, if and when it appeared more in debt to human philosophy than to the mind of God revealed in the Word. He stated that it should be possible to reformulate and state traditional/classical arguments for God's existence in a way that would not undermine non-negotiable truth.

I heard expressions during the vid stated as "classical" arguments properly formulated (their words) that basically granted the essential presup position of "necessary" axioms, without which one is left with radical skepticism. They said that presup argument gained traction in the late 20th C because of poorly expressed "classical" arguments, making criticism of them a kind of straw-man. Also, near the end of the vid, JC's question about whether classical arguments end up as a probability equation elicited a response from NG that danced around what boils down to a concession: his preferred classical arguments are probabalistic, but the presup alternative doesn't give a truly satisfactory answer that improves on it; presup offers "certainty" that is illusory.

Our PB one-time presup guru, PaulM, has never (to my knowledge) abandoned presup essentially; though he accepted critiques of it, or of its apparent weaknesses. He once described his mature approach as "MMA Apologetics," the use of every legitimate tactic in the ring, without being a purist of a single-school variety. I like that, and I think presup properly situated and set within an historical framework is still serviceable as the basic starting point--a God/revelation pou sto (place to stand)--for the Reformed apologetic; not to be divorced from the best of Scottish common-sense-realism, the best of "classical" arguments, and the best of Christian apologetics going back to Anselm, back further to Justin Martyr and Tertullian.

We need to distinguish (without separating) the theoretical foundations of the discipline of apologetics from every opportunity or case of practical apologetics. The times in which we live, the mindset of the people we encounter, the character of people's awareness of their own need, along with the individual apologists skillset--all play a part in unpacking a defense of the faith for our audience of the moment. CVT was an important thinker, standing on the shoulders of giants before him, critiquing and sharpening and refining even his own Reformed tradition. We should take the best from his work, from his interpreters and his critics, and move into the 21st century better prepared to fight today's battles.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Would you say Lutheran's are somewhat weak on the creature-Creator distinction?
I'm loath to say any such thing of a whole tradition, or of the contemporary proponents of a tradition (or the name), without a robust grasp of their views. I thought the 2nd vid saw JC affirming the strong case LT made for the Creator-creature distinction (per CVT), as directly contrary to the process theology (theological mutualism) of many today, which historic Christianity and both our traditions (Reformed & Lutheran) in that vein oppose.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Why would they be weak on that distinction?
I just got the sense from watching the first video that there was a bit of cultural resignation that could handicap our Lutheran brethren's absolute conviction in defense of man's standing before God in comparison to the Reformed camp. (Even in a positive sense via our regeneration and righteous standing on account of our beloved Savior). Like that wasn't being truly fleshed out.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I just got the sense from watching the first video that there was a bit of cultural resignation that could handicap our Lutheran brethren's absolute conviction in defense of man's standing before God in comparison to the Reformed camp. (Even in a positive sense via our regeneration and righteous standing on account of our beloved Savior). Like that wasn't being truly fleshed out.

None of these logically follow. For example, I am culturally resigned and hostile to Van Tillian apologetics. As to the "absolute conviction in defense of man's standing before God," I am not sure a) how you could quantify that comparing one person to another and b) how that connects to the Creator-creature distinction.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
None of these logically follow. For example, I am culturally resigned and hostile to Van Tillian apologetics. As to the "absolute conviction in defense of man's standing before God," I am not sure a) how you could quantify that comparing one person to another and b) how that connects to the Creator-creature distinction.
I get the sense there was more 'feeling' behind the apologetic of the Lutheran based on the video. In a day where "personal experience" is held in such high view I think a less absolute conviction can place us on shakier ground, not just in our witness to others, but our own personal faith. Is the creator-creature distinction a Van-Tillian construct central to his apologetic or something he sort of hijacked? God is not a being of our own conception. So to know God is to be given to know Him.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
"Calvin recognized fully that if man is to have true knowledge of himself he must regard God as original and himself as derivative. He did not place God and man as correlatives next to one another, but he recognized from the outset two levels of existence and two levels of interpretation, on the one hand the divine and eternal, and on the other hand the human or temporal. To him it is perfectly obvious that the endowments that we possess are not of ourselves, but of God. Hence he says that “not a particle of light, or wisdom, or justice, or power, or rectitude, or genuine truth, will anywhere be found, which does not flow from him: and of which he is not the cause.”

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.156-157
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I just came across this comment from the first video. Compelling.....

VanTil was certainly more than just philosophizing.

frogman

10 months ago (edited)
As a presuppositionalist I found your program almost cringeworthy. I generally enjoy your channel but I found myself disagreeing with almost every word uttered by you and your guest. Presuppositionalists do not deny unregenerate mankind’s ability to think, to understand or to function in the world. They do not deny man’s ability to build bridges, compose symphonies, perform surgeries, design computers, map out the stars or other similar undertakings and endeavors. Presuppositionalists do, however, take seriously the fallen nature of mankind, the corruption of human reasoning and the inability of the unregenerate to comprehend spiritual realities. You can argue with unbelievers until you are blue in the face, you can appeal to reason, to philosophy, to history, to archaeology, you can pile internal and external evidence a mile high...but you CANNOT succeed in reaching the unbeliever’s heart and mind by appealing to any of these devices. Why? Because there is no common ground. Unbelievers do not have the wherewithal to comprehend spiritual realities. Jesus said, “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” That’s where the rubber meets the road. On the other hand, without knowing the philosophical arguments for or against God, without knowing anything about epistemology or apologetics, without having heard of Hegel, Kant or Kierkegaard, without archaeological, prophetic or linguistic evidences of any kind...people nevertheless receive Christ as their Savior. How does that happen? It happens because they are simply called by God to receive his grace. I can’t explain it but that’s what the Book tells me. The only meaningful and lasting reality, therefore, is found in God’s self-attesting Word alone and that remains a closed book until God opens our eyes to its wonders. The unregenerate human mind cannot only NOT comprehend spiritual realities it actually confuses and confounds itself further by trying...hence, the philosopher’s inevitable descent into absurdism. Outside of Christ there are only varying degrees of darkness.
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Matthew

Matthew

10 months ago (edited)
I agree - I'm no expert in this, but it seems as if there are quite different interpretations of presuppositionalism. It seems like there's something like a theological presuppositionalism and a philosophical presuppositionalism that aren't the same thing.


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Dr. Jordan B Cooper

Dr. Jordan B Cooper
10 months ago
Dr. Greeley did certainly acknowledge here that presuppositionalists do not deny that unbelievers can function in the world. He mentioned that this is is captured by Van Til's idea of "borrowed capital." Also, for the record, Dr. Greeley and myself would certainly affirm that faith is a divine gift wrought by the Spirit, rather than some produced in the human purely through intellectual argumentation.
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Dr. Jordan B Cooper

Dr. Jordan B Cooper
10 months ago
@Matthew Greeley is a philosopher, and is interacting largely with Van Til himself who interacts heavily with various philosophical traditions. I can see how this would seem as if it were not applicable to the Apologia types who use the method.

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Matthew

Matthew

10 months ago
@Dr. Jordan B Cooper I have to admit I didn't actually finish watching the video yet, but was more just thinking about what seems to be the case generally. My view is I think a kind of presuppositionalism, but seems different to a more philosophical type of presuppositionalism.


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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I get the sense there was more 'feeling' behind the apologetic of the Lutheran based on the video. In a day where "personal experience" is held in such high view I think a less absolute conviction can place us on shakier ground, not just in our witness to others, but our own personal faith. Is the creator-creature distinction a Van-Tillian construct central to his apologetic or something he sort of hijacked? God is not a being of our own conception. So to know God is to be given to know Him.

I don't think that is true, since the two most prominent Lutheran apologists, JW Montgomery and Rod Rosenbladt, aren't "feely" people. I also don't know how "more absolute" vs "less absolute" conviction is glossed. Either a conviction is absolute or it isn't.

It's not that Van Til hijacked the Creator-creature distinction. It's more that all Confessional Protestants hold to it and Van Til's claim to it doesn't make him unique.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
"Calvin recognized fully that if man is to have true knowledge of himself he must regard God as original and himself as derivative. He did not place God and man as correlatives next to one another, but he recognized from the outset two levels of existence and two levels of interpretation, on the one hand the divine and eternal, and on the other hand the human or temporal. To him it is perfectly obvious that the endowments that we possess are not of ourselves, but of God. Hence he says that “not a particle of light, or wisdom, or justice, or power, or rectitude, or genuine truth, will anywhere be found, which does not flow from him: and of which he is not the cause.”

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.156-157

No Confessional Protestant denies that. We distinguish between the ordo essendi and the ordo cognoscendi. On the ordo essendi, God comes first. It's not clear that he always comes first in the ordo cognoscendi.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
No Confessional Protestant denies that. We distinguish between the ordo essendi and the ordo cognoscendi. On the ordo essendi, God comes first. It's not clear that he always comes first in the ordo cognoscendi.
I believe Frame summarizes that CVT merely built upon that foundation.... If what he says about CVT is accurate, i cant find fault with such logic. .... i think if we consider the effects of the fall from a Reformed perspective, CVT is pretty faithful to the biblical, theological narrative and implications.

"Van Til’s studies of philosophical Idealism convinced him that all human thought is governed by presuppositions. (Hence, Van Til is sometimes called a “presuppositionalist,” though he was not enthusiastic about that label.) Ultimate presuppositions, he believed, cannot be proved by usual methods, since they serve as the basis of all proof. But they can be proved “transcendentally,” by showing that they are necessary for all rational thought and must be true if there is to be any meaning or order in the world."
" Van Til sought to reconstruct Christian apologetics so that it would establish the Christian God as the presupposition of human thought, rather than one rational conclusion among many.
"
.....

Cornelius Van Til, The Apologist​

MAY 16, 2012 By John Frame

John M. Frame
[This article originally appeared in the Apologetics Study Bible and is used with permission.]​
Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987), Reformed theologian and apologist, born in the Netherlands, completed his Ph. D. at Princeton University in 1927. He taught apologetics for one year at Princeton Theological Seminary and was offered a permanent position there. He left the seminary, however, when the Board voted a reorganization to allow for liberal viewpoints.
Other professors also left Princeton at the time, notably J. Gresham Machen, author of Christianity and Liberalism, who founded Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia to continue the ministry of what would be called “old” Princeton. Van Til taught at Westminster from its beginning in 1929. He officially retired in 1972, but taught occasionally until 1979.
Van Til’s studies of philosophical Idealism convinced him that all human thought is governed by presuppositions. (Hence, Van Til is sometimes called a “presuppositionalist,” though he was not enthusiastic about that label.) Ultimate presuppositions, he believed, cannot be proved by usual methods, since they serve as the basis of all proof. But they can be proved “transcendentally,” by showing that they are necessary for all rational thought and must be true if there is to be any meaning or order in the world. Van Til sought to reconstruct Christian apologetics so that it would establish the Christian God as the presupposition of human thought, rather than one rational conclusion among many.
He disparaged the “traditional method” of defending Christianity by theistic proofs and historical evidences, because he believed that tradition began with data considered intelligible apart from God and thereby tried to prove God’s existence. On the contrary, Van Til argued, if we concede that anything is intelligible apart from the God of Scripture, we have lost the battle at the outset. So we should, rather, use a transcendental method, showing that the various forms of non-Christian thought (“would-be autonomous reasoning,” as he put it) reduce to meaninglessness, that they can account for precisely nothing, and that only the Christian world and life view (particularly the existence of God as a “self-contained ontological Trinity”) can make sense of anything. For Van Til, then, the creator-creature distinction is the key to metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.
Van Til’s writings contain many analyses of non-Christian philosophers and of liberal and Roman Catholic theologians. The recurring theme of these discussions is that these thinkers are either skeptics (“irrationalists”) or they try to explain the world (“rationalistically”) by a principle that is itself relative to the world it seeks to explain. Plato and Aristotle, for example, rationalistically propose to explain all reality by the principle of Form. Forms are the essences, defining qualities, and purposes of things. But in Plato and Aristotle, Forms are correlative to matter; without matter, nothing in the world of our experience has any Form. So the Forms cannot really account for matter or material things. The rationalism of these thinkers, then, is indistinguishable from irrationalism. Only a self-contained, personal God, who creates from nothing both the form and the matter of the universe, can account for the nature of the world and its accessibility to rational thought.
Some critics said that Van Til left no room for the use of evidence in apologetics. He replied that evidence is useful when used within a transcendental argument based on biblical presuppositions. But is this not circular, to prove Christianity on the basis of Christian presuppositions? Yes, said Van Til, in a sense. But (1) every system of thought is circular when arguing its most fundamental presuppositions (e.g. a rationalist can defend the authority of reason only by using reason). (2) The Christian circle is the only one that renders reality intelligible on its own terms.
Non-Christian thought, he argues, collapses into meaninglessness, because of the noetic effects of sin. The unbeliever knows God (Rom. 1:18-21) but suppresses the truth (1:18, 21-32). There is therefore an “antithesis” between Christian and unbelieving thought, between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world. Although the unbeliever knows and states truth on occasion, he does that only by inconsistency with his presuppositions and by relying inconsistently on the Christian worldview, or, as Van Til put it, by “borrowed capital.” Thus he is both rationalistic (claiming to be the ultimate judge of truth) and irrationalistic (denying God, the sole source of meaning) at the same time. For Van Til, that duality, common to all non-Christians, explains many things in secular thought, such as the Greek distinction between rational form and irrational matter. https://frame-poythress.org/cornelius-van-til-the-apologist/
 
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Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
I believe Frame summarizes that CVT merely built upon that foundation.... If what he says about CVT is accurate, i cant find fault with such logic. .... i think if we consider the effects of the fall from a Reformed perspective, CVT is pretty faithful to the biblical, theological narrative and implications.

"Van Til’s studies of philosophical Idealism convinced him that all human thought is governed by presuppositions. (Hence, Van Til is sometimes called a “presuppositionalist,” though he was not enthusiastic about that label.) Ultimate presuppositions, he believed, cannot be proved by usual methods, since they serve as the basis of all proof. But they can be proved “transcendentally,” by showing that they are necessary for all rational thought and must be true if there is to be any meaning or order in the world."
" Van Til sought to reconstruct Christian apologetics so that it would establish the Christian God as the presupposition of human thought, rather than one rational conclusion among many.
"
.....
You are saying opposite things. Orden cognoscendi means "order of knowing". Jacob is saying God is not necessarily first in order of knowing. The quote you give is saying God is first in order of knowing.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
You are saying opposite things. Orden cognoscendi means "order of knowing". Jacob is saying God is not necessarily first in order of knowing. The quote you give is saying God is first in order of knowing.
And what exactly are the implications of God being first in order of knowing as you guys understand it and as per the quote I provided? What are your objections to that concept as quoted?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
And what exactly are the implications of God being first in order of knowing as you guys understand it and as per the quote I provided? What are your objections to that concept as quoted?

Since I am not arguing that God is necessarily first in the order of knowing, I don't know what any implications would be. That's not my burden of proof. My objection is that for most of life we don't say, "Given that God exists, how is it possible for me to do calculus, fix my car, etc?"
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Since I am not arguing that God is necessarily first in the order of knowing, I don't know what any implications would be. That's not my burden of proof. My objection is that for most of life we don't say, "Given that God exists, how is it possible for me to do calculus, fix my car, etc?"
If thats what CVT is saying that would be a legitimate concern.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
You may want to do a study on presuppositional apologetics. I would argue that without God, we cannot have things like Logic. Jacob is not a presupper so that is why he answers the way he does. Then, you should look into a study on classical apologetics as well which is what I believe Jacob is. If I am misrepresenting though, please forgive me.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
You may want to do a study on presuppositional apologetics. I would argue that without God, we cannot have things like Logic. Jacob is not a presupper so that is why he answers the way he does. Then, you should look into a study on classical apologetics as well which is what I believe Jacob is. If I am misrepresenting though, please forgive me.

Something like that. My position is I think it is okay and good to go to what our Reformed fathers did on the subject, how they used Thomas's arguments and didn't think they compromised the Creator/creature distinction.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
You may want to do a study on presuppositional apologetics. I would argue that without God, we cannot have things like Logic. Jacob is not a presupper so that is why he answers the way he does. Then, you should look into a study on classical apologetics as well which is what I believe Jacob is. If I am misrepresenting though, please forgive me.
"Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all."

I get it.
I reckon CVT critics are over-simplifying. If you dont get THE Reality, you are essentially living in a false reality or a fallen reality thats fallen in a way that cannot be rightly comprehended.

I like what CVT does.
 
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
"Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all."

I get it.
I reckon CVT critics are over-simplifying. If you dont get THE Reality, you are essentially living in a false reality or a fallen reality thats fallen in a way that cannot be rightly comprehended.

I like what CVT does.

I'm not sure how this relates to what I've been saying. As for Pilate's question, truth is a correspondence to reality. Knowledge is warranted belief.

If I'm oversimplifying, show me where. I grant that God is prior in the ordo essendi. All Protestants confess that.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I'm not sure how this relates to what I've been saying. As for Pilate's question, truth is a correspondence to reality. Knowledge is warranted belief.

If I'm oversimplifying, show me where. I grant that God is prior in the ordo essendi. All Protestants confess that.
Im saying I believe you are misrepresenting VanTil.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Do you agree with my point that if you dont get THE Reality, you are essentially living in a false reality or a fallen reality thats fallen in a way that cannot be rightly comprehended.

So the unbeliever is living a lie. A false reality.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Im saying I believe you are misrepresenting VanTil.

I've read almost everything he has written, along with Bahnsen and Frame. I've also read Hegel and Kant. I have a good idea of what he is say.

I don't agree with your other point about since he is living a false reality, it ultimately cannot be comprehended. Not even Bahnsen said that. The unbeliever can comprehend quite a few things. The sticking point is whether he can do so on his own terms. I'm undecided on that point and in any case there are far more worldviews than rationalism and empiricism, which is primarily what the TAG is aimed at.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I've read almost everything he has written, along with Bahnsen and Frame. I've also read Hegel and Kant. I have a good idea of what he is say.

I don't agree with your other point about since he is living a false reality, it ultimately cannot be comprehended. Not even Bahnsen said that. The unbeliever can comprehend quite a few things. The sticking point is whether he can do so on his own terms. I'm undecided on that point and in any case there are far more worldviews than rationalism and empiricism, which is primarily what the TAG is aimed at.
Fair enough. Thanks for the exchange.
 
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