Reformed Forum's Review of Fesko's Book on Apologetics

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by greenbaggins, May 31, 2019.

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  1. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    That’s interesting.

    This might be a side topic, but how do they interpret “body politic” and “judicial laws” (both literally in section 4) as relating to the church... unless they’re papist or erastian.
  2. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    They acknowledge the laws in view originally pertained to a particular sphere. That’s not the dispute. They go on to say that those laws now are fulfilled by church censure. Of course, that doesn’t preserve in any sense the laws in view but instead obliterates them.
  3. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

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  4. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    It's impossible, for unless you presuppose VanTillianism, you cannot understand or evaluate VanTillianism. The rest of us are just working with borrowed capital. ;)
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
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  5. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    I'd agree that the issue with Fesko's book is not one of discipline, but simply evaluating the quality of his historical work. Seem to recall Fesko was criticized previously for cherry picking/misrepresenting Dr. Mark Garcia's work on union with Christ. Perhaps this is a methodological pattern with Dr. Fesko?
  6. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    Didn't Cornelius Venema take Garcia to task as well for reading Gaffin into Calvin? I don't know if Fesko's work there was faultless, but he certainly wasn't the only one that felt that Garcia overstated his case.
  7. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Who wanted to take, Fesko I assume, to church courts for misrepresenting Van Til? Or maybe I'm reading the earlier posts wrong. If that's the case it's ridiculous. We can all get all along like any good family, albeit with disagreements ranging from polite to scary ( you ought to see my family, loving but tense at times ).
    I kinda want to hear someone's review on it before I judge it, to be fair to Fesko. Than I might get it.

    On a second point I think Frame, who is critical of Van Til, did get him right even in most criticisms. Which means us Vantillians need good but accurate critiques to help us grow. Maybe Fesko will provide it.
  8. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I'm way off topic here but it is fascinating to me from several different vantage points the way Theonomy and its somewhat related cousin Christian Reconstruction, and other associated worlds of the 1970-2000's really fell off the face of the Earth.

    Is it because, as I surmise, Bahnsen died "without heirs" in an intellectual sense? (Obviously his son David is quite popular these days in National Review circles). And because so much of the Theonomy stuff got eaten up in the (unrelated) Federal Vision tsunami?
  9. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I'm just guessing, maybe, at least one factor also, a lot of folks who may had early been somewhat comfortable with theonomy with the growing literature and particularly of puritan writings, simply settled into identifying with the WCF, with maybe a broader view of general equity. Air went out of the balloon of a separate identification.
  10. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That's exactly it. Gary North doesn't publish on theology anymore. Ken Gentry has promised his commentary for almost two decades now. The other second generation theonomists who could write now write Federal Vision stuff.

    One of Bahnsen's disciples who was going to take his place got in trouble for racial views.

    Rushdoony's people don't actually write new material (and one can make the argument that neither did Rushdoony after 1980) and the Faith for all of Life magazine is a joke.
  11. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    It is interesting, I wonder if part of it has to do with the revival of interest in Reformed confessional and high orthodoxy periods. The second half of the 20th century certainly, and perhaps the whole 20th century with a few outliers, witnessed a loss of familiarity with the historic Reformed theological corpus. Between translation efforts of works in Latin or Dutch, the availability of scanned texts online that had been out of print for centuries, and the work of historical theologians like Muller, I wonder if theonomists or would-be theonomists either just found better ways in the older approaches to church-state relationships or left orthodoxy altogether (for FV, for instance). When theonomy could plausibly claim to be bearing the torch for the Reformation it had a lot of appeal. I don't think that it has that anymore.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
  12. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I didn't realise it was that bad for them. I was almost a theonomist once.
  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Joel McDurmon was the only one publishing theonomic material, as far as I can tell. It wasn't anything beyond the standard stuff. Then he did the whole "cherem principle" thing and then became a SJW.
  14. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Good stuff y'all.

    Yeah McDurmon was fired/"quit" from American Vision for his SJW moves.
  15. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I liked most of your post but I agree linking Barth and Van Til together is offensive, most of all to him. So why it "seems obvious though" to "group the two together" is primia facia absurd, given the two books written against Barth. If I misunderstood than please correct.
  16. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    Leaving aside the accuracy of the comparison, I gotta say, personally I'm struggling to see what's so offensive about this.

    It reminds me a bit of the observation on GK Chesterton: i.e. he may have been one of the strongest and most piercing cultural critics of Modernism... but that doesn't change the fact that, when you read his novels, he was a thoroughgoing Modernist himself, in many ways.

    We are all, in one way or another, people of our times. Our POVs are in many interesting ways, closer to our contemporaries we criticize than to our heroes we revere.
  17. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    To compare two thinkers as "obvious together" implies at least enough of an overlap to make it obvious. To compare a guy to someone whom that person vehemently criticized down to the deepest pressupossitons, seems odd to say the least. What do they in common that puts them on same page? Machen utilized modern scholarship in his critique of liberalism, does that make him on the same page as them?
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    There are similarities and differences. Both think that since natural man is fallen, he can't use natural theology. Barth's main target, though, was the analogia entis, which he called Antichrist. I think he was a bit silly on that point.

    Van Til never really did a systematic analysis of key natural theology thinkers. Sure, he ran Paley and Butler through the ringer. Even his critique of Thomas doesn't actually analyze key passages from Thomas.
  19. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Are there enough similarities to link the two together in any significant way?
    So they both criticized natural theology and they should be lumped together? That seems odd to me.
  20. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Convoluted writing style? I don't think they are all that similar. They both have inadequate arguments against natural theology, but I certainly don't think CVT is a Barthian.
  21. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    This doesn't seem to square with Van Til himself, and is certainly not nuanced enough. Even just a cursory perusal of Van Til works (all of which I own) shows him saying over and over again that he is not opposed to natural theology, but to natural theology apart from special revelation.

    For example, Van Til says:

    The distinction between revealed and natural theology as ordinarily understood readily gives rise to a misunderstanding. It seems to indicate that man, though he is a sinner, can have certain true knowledge of God from nature but that for higher things he requires revelation. This is incorrect. It is true that we should make our theology and our ethics wide enough to include man’s moral relationship to the whole universe. But it is not true that any ethical question that deals with man’s place in nature can be interpreted rightly without the light of Scripture.

    —Cornelius Van Til, Christian Theistic Ethics, Logos Edition., vol. 3, In Defense of Biblical Christianity (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1980), ch. 2.​

    And it is also important to mention that Van Til makes a crucial distinction between natural theology and natural revelation:

    I have never denied that there is a common ground of knowledge between the believer and the unbeliever. I have always affirmed the kind of common ground that is spoken of in Scripture, notably in Romans 1 and 2, and in Calvin’s Institutes. As creatures made in God’s image man cannot help but know God. It is of this revelation to man through “nature” and through his own constitution that Paul speaks of in Romans.

    —Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge, Logos Edition. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1969), ch. 10.​

    So, what Van Til is after is an attempt to build any kind of theology, natural or otherwise, apart from the presupposition of the self-attesting Christ as God in Scripture. He is not saying that we cannot derive any knowledge of God through nature, but that such knowledge, which depends on interpretation, will never be right, or known to be right, apart from the sure and firm revelation from God himself in his Word. I am not sure what there is to object to about this.
  22. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Good post. Everyone should read "Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics", particularly Jeffery k. Jue's article "Theologia Naturalis: A Reformed Tradition". It is great.
  23. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That depends. If that is the case, then there is no difference between Thomas Aquinas and Van Til, since Thomas never thought of doing natural theology apart from special revelation. In Summa Theo. II-2 he somewhere says we begin by faith.

    I grant that you might find Neo-Thomists like Kreeft arguing such, but he is out of the tradition on that point.
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