Need help on some CVT/Clark questions

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Puritanboard Clerk
I normally lean toward Van Til, but some of Clark's challenges made me stop and consider. I have in mind the statement where CVT said "God's knowledge and man's knowledge nowhere coincide." If that's true, and if it is true that God knows all possible things, then man can't know anything. What is the best response to that?

The next one isn't quite as difficult. In Clark and his Critics Professor Weaver rebutted Clark by saying "analogy" for CVT wasn't what Thomas meant by it, but meant something more like "image-bearer," which I think is quite good. Is that accurate?
I normally lean toward Van Til, but some of Clark's challenges made me stop and consider. I have in mind the statement where CVT said "God's knowledge and man's knowledge nowhere coincide." If that's true, and if it is true that God knows all possible things, then man can't know anything. What is the best response to that?

I respond,
"If that's true,"
It is true.

"if it is true that God knows all possible things,"
It is true.

"then man can't know anything"
Fail until you explain what "know" here means.

I may be mistaken, but I believe Van Til's statement speaks to a denial of God's knowledge and man's knowledge as being univocal.

"“In the first place, it is possible in this way to see that the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man coincide at every point in the sense that always and everywhere man confronts that which is already fully known or interpreted by God. The point of reference cannot but be the same for man as for God. There is no fact that man meets in any of his investigation where the face of God does not confront him. On the other hand in this way it is possible to see that the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man coincide at no point in the sense that in his awareness of meaning of anything, in his mental grasp or understanding of anything, man is at each point dependent upon a prior act of unchangeable understanding and revelation on the part of God. The form of the revelation of God to man must come to man in accordance with his creaturely limitations. God’s thought with respect to anything is a unit. Yet it pertains to a multiplicity of objects. But man can think of that unit as involving a number of items only in the form of succession. So Scripture speaks of God as though he were thinking his thoughts step by step. All revelation is anthropomorphic. When God reveals himself to man he reveals something of the fullness of his being. In God’s mind any bit of information that he gives to man is set in the fullness of his one supreme act of self-affirmation” (IST 164-165).
Patrick's response came while I was typing this, and the quote of CVT fully develops my first sentence below...

1) I think the first matter is determining what CVT means by "coincide." Bahnsen responded to the same (or similar) critique by answering (If I recall correctly) in essence: that the object of knowledge [point of reference] can be the same for any two knowers; but God knows the object as God; man knows it as a man.

It is not merely an overlap of knowledge, as two circles covering a dot: neither as two perfect coverings; nor as centering one large circle (God's) and one small (man's) covering the dot, whether exactly covering the dot in either or neither case. Rather, it is an approach to the object that is radically different. Man cannot come at the object as God comes at it; he would have to be God in order to do so. The dot stands between (as it were) the two apprehensions.

God has original knowledge, and that of every object. His is perfect knowledge. It is also the case that all true facts or objects of knowledge are generated of God. No man ever has anything like original knowledge (or perfect, or generated); but only thinks God's thoughts after him. If all possible man-pairs agreed that 1+1=2, considering all pertinent factors of that knowledge (assume both a finite number of factors, as well as total knowledge); still, the same "fact" as known to the God-and-man pair has a qualitative distinction. Such I take to be the intent of CVT's absolute declaration.

Another way of saying or thinking about the difference between God's knowledge and man's is that man, in his discursive reasoning process, knows this and that; but to each and every discrete or aggregate fact man knows, God is properly said to know everything. It is not simply a testament to the amount of information that God has--real, practical, theoretical, possible, personal, abstract, infinite, etc.--but that this knowledge includes himself, and is original.

We granted (for the sake of argument) that a man-pair had exhaustive quantity of knowledge. In reality, there are neither finite factors, nor is there full comprehension with the man-pair. And this limit alone could be read as a quality reduction, and not merely quantitative. But saying that man (who is created to know truly, if not divinely) therefore cannot in fact know anything because he cannot be said to know any object as God knows it, coincident either by degree or orientation, is nothing but a denial of the Creator-creature distinction.

God's original, absolute, infinite knowledge is the reason why man can actually know anything, and know truly. It is not a proportional truth or a partial truth, but an analogous truth. Man's knowledge, if true, is Ectypically true, as opposed to Arctypically true. It is man as the image of God.

2) My first encounter with "analogical knowledge" after Van Til (whom I encountered prior to seminary) was in Thornwell. I was by then informed of the CVT-GHC controversy; but CVT was only represented by opponents as an innovator in this epistemological question. CVT sounded correct to me, I was predisposed to lean his way. But I was not aware of any background use of "analogy" aside from early 20th century philosophy (CVT's milieu).

Furthermore, CVT's defenders (and CVT himself, as far as I read him) did not mount any robust defense by an appeal to earlier use of this language, or of alternate terms that were simply being translated into the modern idiom for apologetic purposes. There are various reasons one can conceive for this lacuna. I simply came across it for the first time outside of the apologetic and controversial context in Thornwell when I was a seminarian.

Also, while I was in seminary Turretin appeared in English publication for the first time, whence "archtypal and ectypal" distinctions were revived in the theological vocabulary. To which resource may be added Muller's RPRRD, providing our time with important historical discussions--demonstrating the development of Reformed thought out of the Middle Ages heritage of men like Aquinas. It is not required that CVT mean by "analogy" exactly what Aquinas meant; but we wish to know whether his meaning is consistent with the trend of Reformed thinking over 400+ years.

This is the case, even if one doesn't like certain statements or formulations CVT came up with in his own context, given his personal limitations or predispositions. He deserves to be read with charity. The Clark-VanTil controversy, if read again by a new generation in better possession of the theological patrimony of the Reformed, I think vindicates the faction that counted GHC as too rationalist in his account.
CVT asserted divine and human knowledge never coincide. Does this assertion coincide with what God knows? How did CVT know this? CVT appealed to the incomprehensible nature of archetypal theology while he was speaking of ectypal theology. This confusion was the source of his paradox.

For Clark divine and human knowledge correspond. He did not work with anything like the archetypal-ectypal distinction.
Let my start by saying that I am neither a Clarkian nor a Vantillian. I've learned a lot from both parties, however, and I have a lot of respect for both Gordon Clark and Cornelius Van Til.

The following is an excellent video on Van Til's thought, and it provides an introduction to the distinctions between archetypal and ectypal knowledge.
Understanding Cornelius Van Til

I agree with Rev. Winzer: the trouble with Van Til's idea of paradox, etc. lies in his confusing archetypal and ectypal knowledge, and attributing the properties of the former to the latter.

I think that if the distinction between archetypal knowledge and ectypal knowledge was clearly understood by both parties, a great deal of the controversy would have been avoided.

One final note: it is important to realize that God has both archetypal knowledge--which is identical with his nature (this is true, at least, of his archetypal self-knowledge, what Reformed theologians have called archetypal theology), and is incommunicable--and ectypal knowledge, which is part of his condescension to his creatures, and is communicable. Whether all of God's ectypal knowledge (and human knowledge, for that matter) is propositional in nature is another matter, though it is relevant to the Clark-Van Til controversy as well.
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