The Orthodoxy of Van Til and Bahnsen

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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
In other threads it appears as though some have had questions concerning the orthodoxy of CVT and Greg Bahnsen. Such fears need to be put to rest quickly. Their commitment to Confessional Calvinism should not be doubted. Rather than being deviants from the faith, as some might fear, these men were mighty warriors for God who are not allowed to clear up statements made earlier in their careers. In the following I would like to show that CVT and Bahnsen were orthodox, Confessional Calvinists and in the end, while some might question an extremely small example of a few questionable formulations CVT and Bahnsen would not be Auburnites, Shepherdites, or whatever. What I am not trying to do is to convince you that their distinctives (Bahnsen/theonomy and CVT/presup) are correct, so no side-tracking the discussion.

The Confession
CVT: The most absolute God of the Westminster Confession can only be presupposed. from An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p.163 A high, confessional view of God.

Bahnsen: Thus the Confession RIGHTLY says: "The authority of holy Scripture, for which it oug to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth...wholly upon God... (Bahnsen, CVT R & A, 200

Bahnsen: Christ's work as the mediator of the Covenant of Grace encompasses His saving minsitry, not only as priest and King, but also as our prophet (Bahnsen, 197) CVT: R & A)

Bahnsen in his sermon "Law and Disgrace" laments the abandoment of the Westminster Confession of Faith. I realise that some would object and say that he abandoned it on 19.4. That is beside the point here and some on this board have showed clearly that Bahnsen was not at odds with the WCF on this point. In fact, Sinclair Ferguson, who was supposed to critique Bahnsen on theonomy from a Confessional standpoint admitted as much.

There is more but most of my books are at home. Lonn Oswalt notes at the end of his chapter in The Standard Bearer the mainstream-ness of Bahnsen's views in the historic, Reformed world.
 

VanVos

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks I appreciate this post, couldn't agree more. You're right, they were both mighty men of God. I believe Vantil and Bahnsen were the greatest apologists of the 20th century.

VanVos
 

ConfederateTheocrat

Puritan Board Freshman
I find that likening Bahnsen to NPP/AA is just another attempt, more like a conspiracy, to destroy Reconstructionism. Bahnsen was orthodox to the core, same for Van Til.

Maybe some people need to stop criticizing these heroes of the faith, and think about how much they've done for Christ.
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Sorry for the double post - didn't see this thread until after I posted the other one.

Greg Bahnsen: By This Standard pg. 86 from the website http://www.freebooks.com where the book in its entirety is available in html- the actual page number in the book is: 59-60. (Actually the whole chapter 7 The Son's Model Righteousness nails the coffin shut...)

Imitating Christ

Christians should therefore be the last people to think or maintain that they are free from the righteous requirements of God's commandments. Those who have been saved were in need of that salvation precisely because God's law could not be ignored as they transgressed it. For them to be saved, it was necessary for Christ to live and die by all of the law's stipulations. Although our own obedience to the law is flawed and thus cannot be used as a way of justification before God, we are saved by the imputed obedience of the Savior (1 Cor, 1:30; Phil. 3 :9). Our justification is rooted in His obedience (Rem. 5:17-19). By a righteousness which is alien to ourselves "” the perfect righteousness of Christ according to the law "” we are made just in the sight of God. "He made the one who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf in order that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5: 21).

It turns out, then, that Christ's advent and atoning work do not relax the validity of the law of God and its demand for
righteousness; rather they accentuate it. Salvation does not cancel the laws demand but simply the law's curse: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. having become a curse for us" (Gal. 3 :13). He removed our guilt and the condemning aspect of the law toward us, but Christ did not revoke the law's original righteous demand and obligation. Salvation in the Biblical sense presupposes the permanent validity of the law. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit indwelling all true believers in Jesus Christ makes them grow in likeness to Christ unto the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13, 15; cf. Gal. 4:19).

Another quote from chapter 9 - A Motivational Ethic Endorses the Law, pg. 71 (page 98 on the online edition)


Those who are genuine believers in Christ know very well that their salvation cannot be grounded in their own works of the law: "œ. . . not by works of righteousness which we did ourselves, but according to His mercy He saved us, . . . that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:5-7). The believer´s justification before God is grounded instead in the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:11; Rem. 5:19); it is His imputed righteousness that makes us right before the judgment seat of God (2 Cor. 5:21). "œA man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom. 3:28).
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The problem of appreciating Bahnsen or Van Till may be a generational thing, instead. I find that there are more younger people who think highly of them, but the older ones of us seem to take them with a grain of salt. I don't think there is a conspiriacy, at least I'm sure there isn't one on this Board. Who knows what people will do on the I-net elsewhere; you can find a defence for the most absurd things if you want to.

Personally, I wouldn't identify them with movements in an anachronistic way. I do believe that there are ramifications that fall out from certain notions, but that is a long way from suggesting that these men initiated or supported them. Of anyone on this Board, I think that I have voiced the most opposition to Bahnsen's influence. And all I complained of is that his arguments fail to convince me; I will not take issue with someone with whom I cannot discuss personally. I tried my best to avoid discussing him. If someone wants to set out an argument derived from him, then I will discuss that line of reasoning with that person, but I will not debate the person or character of Bahnsen. Nor will I unduly tie him to some movement with which he had no chance to interact or even think about.

I wouldn't blame Van Till or Bahnsen for certain fallouts. That blame belongs with the churches. They are the ones not guarding the pulpit against excesses. It has been ruled in my particular Presbytery that, if a minister is convinced of Christian Reconstructionism, then he has a right to teach and preach it. Nothing could be more plainly against church order. Even without regard to the the matter of CR, it is improper to use the office or the pulpit to unfair advantage in debate or disagreement over this. A minister cannot tip the scales of the weight of arguments by applying his office to his view, so as to seem to put God's stamp of approval on it. It is highly irregular for an office-bearer to do that. If the denomination has not ruled it doctrinal, then no minister may approach it as if it were merely on his own authority. This is most irregular and tends to schism.

If CR is a legitimate concern, and is legitimately conceived, then let it also move through the church's avenues of approval in a legitimate manner. No one may take it upon himself to rule it as Biblical doctrine. Not Bahnsen, not Van Till, not even Calvin. If these men are the men of the church they are purported to be, then let them allow the church to approve their teachings. The fact that denominations have been weak in this respect is a great concern to all of us. They have allowed, in my view, far too much individuality in respect to what is taught as Biblical doctrine. This does not belong in the hands of individuals, but is the very reason why we have the working of Presbyterial government in the churches.

The fault I find in these men is not themselves so much. I can get by without needing to read them anymore. But I find fault in the churches and individuals which take upon themselves the responsibility to teach Van Tillian or Bahnsenite teachings as if they were universally approved by the GA of any particular denomination, when in fact they have never been. They have not been cast out as being opposed to the WCF, but they have not been approved as the only right view on the matters in question. They are still matters of indifference. And as such, they are still matters of personal conscience. So a person teaching from the office, as authoritative, the perspectives of these men, is using the office to lord it over other people's consciences, people who don't necessarily agree, and who have the right within the denomination to disagree and still remain fully Reformed. It is not right to pass judgment on someone who is not, say, a Presuppositionalist as if he were less Reformed than a Presuppositionalist. The church has not ruled so; and this remains one of the great besetting characteristics of the Presuppositionalist movement. If I were a Presuppositionalist, this would be my greatest consternation, that my compatariots in the view would do such a thing to those who were not persuaded as we are. I would be the greated opponent of Presuppositionalists if I were one, if for this reason alone. The same would be true if I were a Christian Reconstructionist. This would greatly impinge on the integrity of my views, and would be a legitimate cause of opposition to it, even if it were absolutely right and Biblical. The method of inducting it into the doctrinal standards would be bypassed, and an illigitimate method employed instead. And that downgrades the church itself. This ought not to be. The fact is, the matters to which these names have become identified are matters of non-doctrinal issue; they are matters of personal conscience, and no more. To claim more is to ignore the weightier matters of doctrine, which make it most difficult for man to add anything to Scriptural revelation. The consequence must be necessary, and no less. And we are yet a very, very long way from proclaiming such matters as necessary in the churches. There must be left to us no other choice than to rule one way or another. We have done so on the doctrine of the Trinity, on the doctrines of the Covenant, on baptism, etc. Though some of us may yet differ on the matter of baptism in some respects, yet the Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed churches have ruled it a matter of doctrine.

Anyways, I've had my say, for what it's worth. These men have a legitimate place in our midst. Those of us who don't agree have the right to do so. Only do not make them illegitimate by promoting their teachings beyond the bounds of the ruling of the Church. And do not blame them for things they could not possibly have had a hand in. The ramifications, if there are any, are the fault of the people after them; for they are not mere sheep, but have themselves led the way into those ramifications; you cannot directly fault Van Till or Bahnsen. NPP and FV are faults on their own.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I know, Jacob. I appreciate your openness and fair-mindedness. You will notice, I hope, that I did not ascribe either good or bad to the men in question. Just as I said that those who expanded on notions to come up with new ideas are solely responsible for those ideas, and not Van Till or Bahnsen, so also I said that one may not make too much of the things that Van Till or Bahnsen taught, as if these are decidedly doctrinally esablished by these men without the church's authority. I think the one excess would likely produce the opposite excess. As some made too much of Presuppositionalism, so some will make too much of the impact these men had. Either way, it is not particularly the fault of these men. That they were able to exert this kind of influence speaks more of the weakness of the church than it does of their strength, for their arguments are not that strong, they are not like the arguments for doctrine from the church fathers.

That is why I added my imput. I know, Jacob, that you did not mean this against me. I argued against both excesses.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by JohnV
I know, Jacob. I appreciate your openness and fair-mindedness. You will notice, I hope, that I did not ascribe either good or bad to the men in question. Just as I said that those who expanded on notions to come up with new ideas are solely responsible for those ideas, and not Van Till or Bahnsen, so also I said that one may not make too much of the things that Van Till or Bahnsen taught, as if these are decidedly doctrinally esablished by these men without the church's authority. I think the one excess would likely produce the opposite excess. As some made too much of Presuppositionalism, so some will make too much of the impact these men had. Either way, it is not particularly the fault of these men. That they were able to exert this kind of influence speaks more of the weakness of the church than it does of their strength, for their arguments are not that strong, they are not like the arguments for doctrine from the church fathers.

That is why I added my imput. I know, Jacob, that you did not mean this against me. I argued against both excesses.

We must remember that there is no neutrality, either what vantil and bahnsen taught is correct or it is wrong. If it is correct then it should be embraced, and if it is false it should be opposed. If it is quite bad, then charges need to be brought forward.

And to be frank, I think their arguments are absolutely devastating to the opposing camps.

And for Van Til in particular, if you have problems with him then you actually have problems with Kuyper and Warfield. I have seen very few people willing to go to war against those two on this issue.

CT
 
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