Van Til and assurance

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RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Has anyone encountered any works concerning how Dr. Van Til's understanding of the natural man and his inability to reason correctly affect the doctrine of assurance? I understand Dr. Van Til to say that unregenerate individuals cannot reason correctly (i.e. with Christian presuppositions). *If I am correctly interpreting Dr. Van Til*, would it not follow that if you can reason correctly, then you are not an unregenerate individual? Can someone explain and expand on whether I am correctly or mistakenly understanding Van Til's thought?
It seems to me that if I'm correct then perhaps the Auburn Avenue/Federal Vision proponents are utilizing the wrong vehicle for delivering assurance (baptism)?
Any thoughts?
 

luvroftheWord

Puritan Board Sophomore
Van Til said that an unregenerate person cannot reason consistently within the worldview he adheres to. He must borrow logic and rationality from the Christian worldview to actually live in his anti-Christian worldview.
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Craig, you said:
"Van Til said that an unregenerate person cannot reason consistently within the worldview he adheres to."

So if a person can reason consistently within the worldview he or she adheres to, then that person cannot be an unregenerate person, correct?

Paul, you said:
"so what Van Til would say about the distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian is that one is epistemologically self-conscious and the other is not."

I take this to mean that Christians (regenerate, not just professing) are epistemologically self-conscious while non-Christians (ie unregenerate individuals) are not epistemologically self-conscious. So if an individual is epistemologically self-conscious then that individual is a (regenerate) Christian, true?

Paul, I believe you are right regarding John not mentioning baptism or reasoning in 1 John (I plan to read it tonight to make sure), but if the premises you and Craig set forth are true, then don't my conclusions follow resistlessly?
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
[quote:98c153eda3]I take this to mean that Christians (regenerate, not just professing) are epistemologically self-conscious while non-Christians (ie unregenerate individuals) are not epistemologically self-conscious. So if an individual is epistemologically self-conscious then that individual is a (regenerate) Christian, true? [/quote:98c153eda3]

[quote:98c153eda3]So if a person can reason consistently within the worldview he or she adheres to, then that person cannot be an unregenerate person, correct? [/quote:98c153eda3]
Ricky:
Your question centred on personal assurance of salvation. But you relate it to the ability to reason. I don't think that you can make that kind of tie. The consistency in everyone's reasoning is found wanting, even in the regenerate. The difference is that an unregenerate person will find assurance in just about anything at all, whatever it takes to shore up his self-reliance. Some Christians do the same thing. There are arminian Christians, black-sock Christians (a Dutch euphemism for doctrinal pietists ), NP Christians, etc. You may not think he (either the unregenerate or the regenerate man ) is being consistent in his reasoning, but it could be you as well; for he will counter that he believes himself to be consistent. He, along with some Christians, simply will not admit their inconsistencies; but that doesn't make them either epistemologically self-conscious or consistent.

The thing with an unregenerate man is not that you make him epistemologically self-conscious, but that he becomes self-conscious about his own guilt and shame before God and realize just how inconsistent he is in his reasoning, just like the regenerate man is, or at least should be. Then he will realize that those who know their epistemological frailties are the ones who are the ones who are keenly aware of God's sovereign grace, and that it is specifically for them. And that is the basis for assurance.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Paul:
[quote:34dbc91ba0]
we have our disagreements but I think we are united on this one. [/quote:34dbc91ba0]
I may doubt your reasoning at times, but that is a far cry from doubting your faith, my good friend. I was sure we are one on this one. Thanks for confirming that for me.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
One step at a time, and we'll get there, Paul. We're both pilgrims on the road to knowledge.

I think Ricky asked a good question, though. The question of assurance does have a tie to our ability to reason, because we need to know something about certainty in order to reason properly. We take so much for granted, but the Christian faith's object is outside of himself, not inside; so he differs greatly from the non-believer who assures himself by his deceptions. It can be seen as an inward-focused faith, but in reality it is no faith at all; it is a blind trust. The Christian's faith is rooted in truth, in the absolute, in God. An assurance outside of that cannot rightly be called assurance at all.

But let's face it, a lot of effort has been expended in apologetics in bringing a person to faith, not in firming up his faith. That is not usually the focus of apologetics, though it is not necessarily seen as outside it's scope either. We could do better.
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
John and Paul,
I do not disagree necessarily with your conclusions regarding the nature of biblical assurance. My broader point has to do with the effects of Dr. Van Til's methodology on biblical doctrine (in this particular case on the doctrine of assurance.)

Please understand that the emphasis of my posts is not on the nature of assurance, but on the inconsistency in Dr. Van Til's thought. The conclusions I arrived at in my posts are the logical end results derived from premises provided by presuppositional thought as expressed by Dr. Van Til.

"The argument in favour of Christian theism must therefore seek to prove if one is not a Christian-theist (he means regenerate believer) he knows nothing whatsoever as he ought to know about anything..........On the contrary the Christian-theist must claim that he alone has true knowledge about cows and chickens as well as about God." Cornelius Van Til, Metaphysics of Apologetics, page 194

Again, doesn't CVT's quote require the conclusion that - if the elect cannot lose their election (salvation), and if Joe Bob has true knowledge of "cows and chickens" - then Joe Bob is indeed elect? So if an individual can demonstrate that he has true knowledge of "cows and chickens", then isn't he elect? Or can unbelievers have true knowledge of "cows and chickens", making it difficult to distinguish between the believer and the unbeliever?

Calvin seems to affirm the latter:

"Shall we deny the possession of intellect to those (the heathen philosophers) who drew up rules for discourse, and taught us to speak in accordance with reason?" John Calvin

"Shall we say that the philosophers, in their exquisite researches and skillful description of nature, were blind?" John Calvin
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Ricky:
It was in light of that question that I answered as I did. Sorry for being vague. I am not a follower of Van Til. I too have some difficulties with his ideas.

It seems to me, though, that your conclusions go too far in relation to Van Til's meanings. Since the Bible says that man is without excuse on account of the witness of both revelations, not just Scripture, we must assume that man has a responsibility in the his intellect. Jesus says that fallen man is repulsed by the light, not attracted to it; so that too infers an objective nature to man's intellect, even in the state of sin.

It seems to me that the revelations of both the General and the Special are authoritative, and that man is confronted with the truths of both. It is not as though he is confronted with any other truths, for there are no other truths. Special and General Revelations cover all truths. Just as it says in 1 Cor. 8 that we know there really are no other gods, so we also know there really are no other truths except that which God has established.

Every man reacts to those truths either honestly or dishonestly. Van Til does not deny that unregenerate man reacts to truths, he just denies that unregenerate man can react to truths honestly. He may know how to count chickens, and he may also learn how to handle them rightly as a husbandman, but that does not mean that he knows the same things that a man who is regenerate knows. A regenerate man can see the justifying and sanctifying work of God in all things, if he studies that, for he knows of and appreciates God's work in the governance of the created world. The unregenerate man discredits God at every turn, turning away even from the witness of the light of nature, to revel in his pride and arrogance.

It should be known, though, just as Paul said, and there is a difference between an indicator and a signifying mark. Van Til did not believe in works righteousness, and so he too would not suggest that a man's knowledge is pivotal in his justification or even in his sanctification. His willingness to submit, even in his intellect, to the the truth established by God, in obedience and love to God, is a result, not a cause, of his salvation.

So an unsaved man may indeed be intellectual, and he may indeed know a great deal, and even have a great deal of worldly wisdom; but that means so very little if he is not willing to submit to the truth that testifies of God, both in General and in Special Revelation. He will ether subject it to his own values, or he will subject it to God's values; he cannot be somewhere in between. Yet many there are who try to do both, living in this world as they must, building planes to fly and ships to float, instead of planes to float and ships to fly, but refuse to acknowledge the plainest of truths that God is God. He will subdue his intellect to the finest degree to land a man on the moon, but he will not subdue his heart to universal knowledge of God's power and deity. And so the simplest fruit of his intellect is absent, though he may seem to accomplish great feats.

I do not understand how Van Til's thought fits into this, it is confusing to me. But I suspect that Van Til's emphasis is on the purposeful presuppositons unregenerate man thinks he lives by, or even that he does not even analyze, not realizing that these do not pass scrutiny. This does not in itself deny the ability to count chickens and gather eggs, but it does deny that he truly appreciates which came first, the chicken or the Maker of the chicken.

Sorry I'm not of a better help.
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
I understood "true knowledge" to mean 'undistorted facts' concerning "cows and chickens".

My definition is based on this quote:
"Assuming the truth of Scripture we must hold that the facts speak plainly of God (Romans 1:20, 2:14-15 etc.). But all is yellow to the jaundiced eye. As he speaks of the facts the sinner reports them to himself and others yellow every one. [b:454a6b3088]There are no exceptions to this.[/b:454a6b3088] And it is the facts as reported to himself, that is as distorted by his own subjective condition, which he assumes to be the facts as they really are." Introduction to Warfield's Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, page 20.

So according to CVT, unbelievers distort ("jaundice" ) all facts.

But the Apostle Paul refutes this view in the book of Acts:
"I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews I have done no wrong, as thou very well knowest." Acts 25:10

Fact: the Apostle Paul had done no harm to the Jews.
Festus was not regenerate, yet he knew this fact 'very well'.

"King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Acts 26:27 & 28

Now, these verses demonstrate that unregenerate Festus and King Agrippa knew 'undistorted facts' contrary to Van Til's assertion that "there are no exceptions to this" (view that all facts are 'jaundiced'.)

P.S. sorry for the 'sound bites', I find it more helpful to quote from Dr. Van Til in order that I don't misrepresent him. I don't want to build a straw man.

[Edited on 4-14-2004 by RickyReformed]
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Apologies in advance; I haven't mastered the quote feature.

Ricky said, quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I understood "true knowledge" to mean 'undistorted facts' concerning "cows and chickens".

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Paul replied:
"No."

No?! Let me quote the relevant portion of [u:9498ed9da5]Dr. Van Til's[/u:9498ed9da5] quote: "And it is the [u:9498ed9da5]facts[/u:9498ed9da5] as reported to himself, that is as [u:9498ed9da5]distorted[/u:9498ed9da5] by his own subjective condition, which he assumes to be the facts as they really are."

Are "[b:9498ed9da5]facts[/b:9498ed9da5] (which) are [b:9498ed9da5]distorted[/b:9498ed9da5] by his condition (and) assumed to be facts as they really are" not 'distorted facts'? Do 'distorted facts' constitute '[i:9498ed9da5]true[/i:9498ed9da5] knowledge'? Stated negatively, do 'un-distorted facts' constitute 'false knowledge'? Remember, according to CVT only the (regenerate) Christian can have 'true knowledge' while unbelievers distort the facts. You cannot have it both ways.

Paul also said:
"Do you think you (or the others) should know what Van Til meant before you critique him???" and again: "Well, again, don't you think one ought to know someone's position before you critique him???" and lastly: "Therefore, you have critiqued someone and have not bothered to understand him!"

Paul, may I respectfully suggest that, if I am indeed misunderstanding Van Til, the fault may lie with Van Til himself?


"It is precisely because they [the colleagues and followers of Van Til] are concerned to defend the Christian doctrine of revelation as basic to all intelligible human predication that they refuse to make any attempt at 'stating clearly' any Christian doctrine, or the relation of any one Christian doctrine to any other Christian doctrine. They will not attempt to 'solve' the 'paradoxes' involved in the relationship of the self-contained God to his dependent creatures." Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 172

Here is one critics analysis of the quote above:
"Notice the four appearances of 'any' in that first sentence: They - the Westminster Faculty - refuse to make [u:9498ed9da5]any[/u:9498ed9da5] attempt to state clearly [u:9498ed9da5]any[/u:9498ed9da5] Christian doctrine, or the relation of [u:9498ed9da5]any[/u:9498ed9da5] one Christian doctrine to [u:9498ed9da5]any[/u:9498ed9da5] other Christian doctrine.

Furthermore, this is stated as a 'refusal': They refuse to state clearly any Christian doctrine. It is a deliberate act, not an error of omission or oversight.

Furthermore, this refusal is made into a fundamental principle of theology: They refuse to state any doctrine clearly, because such a refusal is fundamental to the whole enterprise of Christian apologetics: 'It is precisely because they are concerned to defend the Christian doctrine of revelation.' Defending the doctrine of revelation demands that Christian apologists deliberately and principially refuse to state any doctrine clearly, and principially requires them to be vague, ambiguous, and confusing.

Professor Van Til practiced what he taught. His unintelligibility was legendary, so much so that it was the object of foolish admiration and jesting. One admiring jest at a Westminster Seminary banquet is recounted by William White, Jr., in his book Van Til: Defender of the Faith, An Authorized Biography:

'There is a controversy today as to who is the greatest intellect of this segment of the twentieth century," the m.c. said. 'Probably most thinking people would vote for the learned Dr. Einstein. Not me. I wish to put forth as my candidate for the honor, Dr. Cornelius Van Til.' (Loud applause.) 'My reason for doing so is this: Only eleven people in the world understand Albert Einstein.... Nobody - but nobody in the world - understands Cornelius Van Til.' "


Paul said:
"What is a cow?"

A cow is "a domestic bovine animal." (Merriam Websters)

Paul, you said:
"ALL facts speak of the creator. Now, what do unbelievers do with revelation? They suppress it! So, all facts are suppressed."

Since I prefer precision in thought to ambiguity, do I understand you to say, "All facts reveal the Creator, unbelievers suppress (i.e. deny) this revelation (i.e. the revealing of the Creator), therefore all facts are suppressed (i.e. denied)"?

Then later, you said:
"Unbelievers do know...I have no problem saying that X unbeliever knows 2+2=4."
I understand you to say, "Unbelievers do know (i.e. apprehend) facts (since '2+2=4' is a presumably a fact)" Of course you could deny that "2+2=4" is a fact.

I cant help but conclude then that unbelievers apprehend facts (i.e. '2+2=4') and the revelation of the Creator, but they deny (that) these facts (are true) - including the fact that '2+2=4'. Paul, again, you cannot have it both ways.

Paul said:
"To know what Van Til meant, and thus to offer a correct criticism you must know his distinction between phsychologican and epistemological. Do you know it? It does not seem so by your arguments." And "Furthermore, again, explain the phsychological/epistemological distinction?"

Mea culpa, I did not realize how philosophically sophisticated one had to be to comprehend what Dr. Van Til meant! To my simple way of seeing things, they appeared contradictory. ;) To quote William White, Jr., "Nobody - but nobody in the world - understands Cornelius Van Til." That would include me. :D

Paul said:
"I notice how you didn't deal with my VALID/SOUND argument for this. Here it is again:

"Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." Etc.

Paul your logic seems sound enough to me. My criticism is with your interpretation of the verse. Aren't all true thoughts already captive to the obedience of Christ? Isn't all truth God's truth? So if an unbeliever and I agree on certain truths, like '2+2=4' (that is true isn't it?), why can't I proceed from these already agreed upon true ideas (ideas are thoughts aren't they?) to demonstrate that his false ideas are inconsistent with his true ideas?

Paul said:
"All Van Til was trying to do was to say that "God" was personal. If one says 3 PERSONS in one "BEING" what is the being? Is the being personal or impersonal? Again, a contradiction is holding A and ~A. So, quote where Van Til says A (God is a person) and ~A (God is NOT a person)."

If all Van Til was trying to say was that God was personal then why didn't he say. ""We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is personal ... that God's being presents a personal being."? Your interpretation is a departure from, and destructive to, Nicene orthodoxy; let's apply it to our Lord Jesus Christ: "the Lord Jesus Christ has two "BEINGS". Is "being" personal or impersonal? So the Lord Jesus Christ has two persons (personalities?)" Furthermore, the contradiction lies in asserting that God is "3" person(s) and "non-3" person(s) - isn't "1" also assumed in the category "non-3"?

Finally, Paul said:
"And to falsely accuse a Christian brother is worse than that!"

I agree that some lies are worse than others, since to falsely accuse a Christian brother is to also lie about a Christian brother. But I still fail to see where, in the two quotes I provided, Dr. Van Til's statements were not contradictory. I noticed you did not respond to the "faith is identical to works" quote. I suppose I will receive the standard Van Tillian response, "You're taking Van Til out of context; he didn't really mean that!"
 

Tertullian

Puritan Board Freshman
Although many Christians have critized Van Til for being unclear and inviting confusion with some of the terms he chose (ex. Alvin Plantinga) this arguement is not really a good arguement to disprove the presu_p method any more than it would be a good arguement to disprove Christanity because Van Til was also a Christian! If Van Til's language is to philosophicial for theologicially minded people then I suggest reading Greg Bahnsen instead. Bahnsen was a communicator to a bigger audience than Van Til and so he is clearer plus he had the benfit of standing upon Van Til's shoulders.

Also, I think Paul made some really good points in answer to the question did Van Til contradict himself. Although i know many have disagreed with Paul's conclusions like Plantinga. I still think Paul has showed that Van Til can be interpreted as not contradicting himself. I also just wanted to add to go beside what Paul says (which is also my view) is that when Van Til said that the non-Christian using their worldview knows and does not know I just wanted to suggest that for those who do not completely understand the mystry behind the sinner the problem might not be with Van Til and others but with the natural "irrationality" behind sin itself... I mean is there really anything rational about sinning against the greatest most glorious God? I think not... and so there is not a rational explanation behind sin and the sinners behavior... they are a walking contradiction a perfect example of the irrational and so there is no excuse for sin what so ever because there is no reason for it!


-Tyler

[Edited on 4-17-2004 by Tertullian]
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Paul, sorry for the delay - my wife and 4 y.o. are back from vacation (I didn't get to go, which aloud me to spend alot of time on the PB.) My wife has - quite rightly - decided that I need to spend less time on the computer and more time with her. Anyways, let me post what I have so far. I look forward to your comments.
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Mi amigo (y hermano) Paul,
Please know that I did not interpret your replies as anything other than critiques of my posts. I hope you know that likewise, I was not trying to attack you nor Dr. Van Til's character. If I have, or if it seems like I have, I ask your forgiveness. For what it's worth, I really admire Dr. Van Til as a person. I'm sure you are familiar with the fact of Dr. Van Til's visits to a home for retired priests and nuns (to play chess and the like if I remember correctly) in an effort to win them to Christ.

"We will eventually be in heaven when we will not debate these types of things anymore."

It warms my heart to know that Dr. Clark and Dr. Van Til were seen walking around a campus (I don't remember which one) arm in arm before they passed away. I've heard it said that there is even a picture of them two along with Gordon Clark's grandson that they took on that occasion.

You are indeed correct regarding my not being familiar with Dr. Van Til's thought from primary sources. It simply did not occur to me that his critics might be misrepresenting Van Til. Of this I repent; I was serious when I said that I did not want to present a 'straw man.' As much as I would like to read Dr. Van Til's books, I cannot afford them at this time. I am also guilty of not qualifying or defining, and properly conveying my thoughts; the very thing that I criticize Van Til of not doing in **some** of Dr. Van Til's quotes **that I've posted.**. I also agree that "but that's your opinion" is a weak argument; but I do prefer to use the "it seems to me" type of language, however, because I am fallible and prone to make mistakes.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now, back to business: :)

Perhaps, Paul, my quarrel is with Dr. Van Til's use of words. Words mean things. If Dr. Van Til says, "they refuse to make any attempt at 'stating clearly' any Christian doctrine, or the relation of any one Christian doctrine to any other Christian doctrine." Which am I to conclude: that the colleagues and followers of Van Til refuse to make [some], [none], [all], or [any] attempt to state clearly [some], [none], [all], or [any] Christian doctrine etc.? In your opinion, what did he mean then, if he didn't mean that ambiguity is to be preferred over precision in theology?

We must define our terms so that we do not equivocate when we use the same word in different senses. This applies, for example, to Dr. Van Til's use of the word 'person'. If I say, "God is 3 persons" and "God is 1 person" without qualifying my statements, what are you supposed to conclude? In my discussions with Jehovah's Witnesses regarding the Trinity, I am always careful to state that God is one in one sense (essence) but three in another sense (persons) lest they conclude that I am uttering contradictions. I cannot assume that they know this distinction between my use and their understanding of the word "persons". If the JW assumes that by "persons" we are referring to the earthly variety, which have one essence and not several, they won't see the orthodox description of the Trinity as logically consistent. After all, isn't this aspect of God revealed in special revelation, and not in natural revelation?

So, Paul, why not say at the outset say that "unbelievers do not, ACCORDING TO THEIR PRINCIPLES, know facts"? Or "unbelievers cannot know EPISTEMOLOGICALLY but they can know PSYCHOLOGICALLY"? Isn't it incumbent on the speaker to communicate these qualifiers clearly so that he is not misinterpreted? I am [u:205a11a1b9]not[/u:205a11a1b9] referring to Dr. Van Til, but to presuppositionalists who do not qualify their statements. Generalizations are valid only if the reader understands them to be one.

Let me ask you this: can unbelievers, if they are NOT being consistent with their principles, affirm that the triune God exists?

Regarding Dr. Bahnsen being a master logician - that may very well be true, but as R.C. Sproul pointed out to his students once, it doesn't matter how many Ph.D.'s you have behind your name, you can still assert a contradiction. It **appears to me** that Dr. Bahnsen's interpretation of theonomy is at odds with the Westminster Standard's view of the law of God.

To quote from the report of General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from 1998:

"Now, no matter how much effort Theonomist writers expend in trying to show that their teaching does not contradict the Confession (and some go to great lengths), they face an impossible task. The Theonomist says the judicial laws are still binding, the Confession says they have expired (died, become invalid). The Theonomist says other nations (apart from ancient Israel) are obliged to keep the judicial laws, the Confession says no other nation is obliged to keep them. Theonomists say these laws apply in exhaustive detail, the Confession says only the "general equity" of these laws apply. This is about as clear a contradiction as it is possible to get!"

Didn't both R. J. Rushdoony and Gary North both call for a revision of the Westminster Confession regarding it's view of the law? Who is correct Rushdoony and North or Dr. Bahnsen?

Concerning your question "what is an animal?" In an effort to save some time, may I point out that since every definition I offer will also include words that must themselves be defined, this line of questioning could conceivably continue ad infinitum.



I do have more to say, and ask, but I hope this will suffice for now. Thanks in advance.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I just can't help myself here, Paul; I just have to ask a question:

How can one know, but not know epistemologically? Do you mean "analytically"?
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Uh, sorry, Paul. I guess I wasn't clear. My criticism of Dr. Van Til concerning the issue of contradiction regarding natural man knowing/not knowing ceased with your previous post. My "perhaps my quarrel is..." was supposed to signal my switch to learning mode. I meant to convey something like 'yes, I see your point, the contradiction vanishes when explained like so; I have these other concerns...'. I guess I should have preferred clarity to ambiguity in that paragraph!:D
Look, like I said in one of my posts, my concerns are that Dr. Van Til's methodology appears to me (there's my qualifier) to have opened the door to movements that are outside the WCF - specifically theonomy and Auburnism/Federal Vision. Again, if you read E. Calvin Beisner's introduction to the Knox Colloquium, you will see some of my concerns (just expressed better.) It appears to me that Dr. Van Til's embracing 'with passion' of paradox has been interpreted by some groups as a license to affirm contradictory premises. Theonomists and Auburnists are two examples.
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Let me restate one sentence from my previous post:
"Look, like I said in one of my posts, my concerns are that **some aspects of** Dr. Van Til's methodology appears to me (there's my qualifier) to have opened the door to movements that are outside the WCF - specifically theonomy and Auburnism/Federal Vision."

"So, far from being a criticism of Van Til the above criticisms by Ricky are really criticisms of the Bible!"

Paul, all I was asking for was for perspicuity in presuppositionalist's writings; now that you mention it the 'consent of all the parts' would be nice too! :wink2:
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Firstly, I agree, my friend, that we should not pick out the weakest advocate of a given system, and by refuting, claim to have refuted all advocates of x system. My I also point out that there are presuppositionalists that I respect very much on point, leading the charge against Auburnism. And also, my favorite seminary Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is also Van Tillian in apologetics. Thanks again for your posts, you've given me much to think about.:thumbup: I do wish to inquire more regarding how theonomy is not contrary to the Westminster Standards. I will post when I get a chance. Thanks

[Edited on 4-22-2004 by RickyReformed]
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Paul and Ricky:

I would like to commend the two of you in the manner in which you discussed this, and I hope you continue to do so (discuss, that is. )

Allow me, please, to spur you on:

Would it be fair to, very roughly, say that:

Presuppositionalists lean towards saying, "It is not that man simply will not, it is that he cannot know.";

and,

Evidentialists (as a class) lean toeards saying, "It is not that simply cannot, it is that he will not know."

But I wish to stress, due to the weaknesses in the Evidentialist camp, "as a class". The differences I have with them is quite different than those I have with Presuppostionalism. I find the former far too broad, and the latter far too narrow. It is still a very simple matter of all facts are the same for either believer or unbeliever, in that they all can only lead to a knowledge of God if they can lead to anything at all; the unbeliever only not only refuses, but also warps the truth. Though this is usually the realm of the Presuppositionalist, I see it as an evidential matter. So in essence, Paul and I don't differ very much at all; we jus call things by different names. I agree that too few outspoken Evidentialists realize this scope of the nature of truth, which is why I stress the ontological aspect.

In the latter, namely Presuppositionalism, I find that the use of terms lends strongly to a misunderstanding of the arguments presented by well-meaning and intelligent evidentialists. The underlying principles of their approach to understanding the nature of the defences of Biblical theology and interpretation are so very different that they truly require a very careful analysis. Those principles which thePresuppositionalist thinks is his domain are also the domain of the evidentialist, but usually with quite a different basis of understanding.

If I were to, I suppose rather crassly, summarize (and I say again, it is far too simple a summary for so extensive a method for each approach ) with the above stated statements, I was wondering if such a summary would foster a growing and appreciative understanding between differences of opinion? For I see both stresses as true, that man is depraved both in his intellect and his will.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Fair enough.

[quote:5479c08b92][quote:5479c08b92]

Presuppositionalists lean towards saying, "It is not that man simply will not, it is that he cannot know.";

and,

Evidentialists (as a class) lean toeards saying, "It is not that simply cannot, it is that he will not know
[/quote:5479c08b92]

John,

To help me can you define what you mean by, "will not?"[/quote:5479c08b92]

I mean, it is a volitional thing with an unbeliever.

[quote:5479c08b92]
Also, when you say "he cannot know" you mean in accordance with his principles, right?[/quote:5479c08b92]

No, I mean in accordance with principles. Forget the "his".

[quote:5479c08b92][quote:5479c08b92]
I find the former far too broad, and the latter far too narrow
[/quote:5479c08b92]

Far from being narrow we say that every fact proves God's existence. So, I can prove God's existence from the rose growing in the garden, not just cosmo, onto, teleo, moral.[/quote:5479c08b92]
Yes, I know. But just for the moment allow that the evidentialist is (read: should be) saying the same thing, but not based on "his" principles, but on principles which everyone [u:5479c08b92]must[/u:5479c08b92] live by, though the unbeliever [i:5479c08b92]will[/i:5479c08b92] not

[quote:5479c08b92][quote:5479c08b92]
It is still a very simple matter of all facts are the same for either believer or unbeliever
[/quote:5479c08b92]

Well, what do you mean? Joe unbeliever thinks the rose in the garden is a product of evolution and does not require god's existence for its intelligibility while I afirm that it does.[/quote:5479c08b92]
But the rose itself affirms God's existence without either Joe unbeliever's or Walter (he rarely gets used as an example, and he's getting lonely ) believer's help in their intellect. What I mean is the rose too is a creation of God's, giving its' own glory to Him as its' Maker. The rose's witness of God owes nothing to either Joe or Walter, or whether they care to think of it, or whether or not they care to think of it rightly.

So Joe will not, and he cannot, as long as his heart remains stubborn against God. Walter cannot, but he wishes to, and as he grows spiritually he begins to see how the rose is giving glory to God in its' own way, just as God created it to.

Anyways, I just wanted to give food for thought, hoping to progress the discussion. It's a tack worth exploring, I think. I do not wish at this time to engage in discussion in which I state my beliefs openly. Not at this time. I hope you understand, and I hope I didn't over do it this time.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It's a lot of work. And a lot of things to keep in mind. I'm pretty sure that it won't go past Presbytery, though. In this case, it's a very good thing to be an "evidentialist", don't you think?
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Sorry for the extended absence; I don't know how you do it, Paul - don't you have a 4 y.o, wife (I'm assuming), and school!?! Where do you find the time to post messages, read books, etc.??? By the way, who's that scary looking dude in your avatar? Did a biker hacker crack your password and switch your avatar? ;)
________________________________________________

Seriously, here are some more comments that I missed replying to or would like more clarification on:

Ricky quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Let me ask you this: can unbelievers, if they are NOT being consistent with their principles, affirm that the triune God exists?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Paul replied:
"That would depend on how you mean "affirm." I mean, all men know that God exists and their conscious bears witness of this. "

Paul, perhaps if I frame the question like this, it'll help convey my thoughts better:

Can an unregenerate person have a correct 'theory of knowledge', that is to say, can an individual argue presuppositionally for the Triune God and still be unregenerate? Or are all presuppositionalists (in as much as they follow Van Til - he does have a correct epistemology, doesn't he?) saved as evidenced by the fact that they have a correct theory of knowledge? Now, you may say, (concerning unregenerate presuppostionalists) "in as much as the Holy Spirit, via common grace, restrains the noetic effect of sin on their intellects", but then what's good for the presuppositional goose is good for the evidentialist gander, right? (Since reformed evidentialists are often accused of not taking seriously the noetic effect of sin on the intellect.)

Paul said:
"Would you agree that if Beisner showed that these men have misinterpreted Van Til and paradox all he has shown is that these men misinterpret Van Til."

Agreed.

"Re: theological paradoxes, I feel you may be misunderstanding him. I can photocopy Frame's paper on it and send it to you when I send you the other book (deal?)."

Yes, deal. And thanks, also.

"I hold to the WCF. But I would hope that we would agree that if I could prove something from the Bible, even if it disagreed, we would bend the knee to the Word? ...yes?"

Absolutely - the Confession is only as good as it reflects and accurately summarizes the Word of God. This point is made by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in their 1998 report condemning theonomy. Check out http://www.freechurch.org/oldrec/oldrecbh.htm

"So show me, from the theonomic position I hold to, contradictory premises? That is A and ~A. E.G. 'I hold that the standing case laws are applicable today....I DO NOT hold that the standing case laws are applicable today.' "

If the statement 'I hold that the standing case laws are applicable today' is a premise expressed by theonomy (as held by Paul M.)

And if Paul M. holds to the WCF including Chapter XIX (Of the Law of God), section IV:
To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, [u:9cbea5b353]which expired[/u:9cbea5b353] together with the
State of that people; [u:9cbea5b353]not obliging any other now[/u:9cbea5b353], further than the general equity thereof may
require.[7]

7. Exod. 21:1-23:19; Gen. 49:10 with I Peter 2:13-14; I Cor. 9:8-10

Therefore it **appears to me** that you are affirming both A and ~A. Or to quote the Free Church of Scotland, "The Theonomist says the judicial laws are still binding, the Confession says they have expired (died, become invalid)... This is about as clear a contradiction as it is possible to get!"

"I know that Robbins tried this trick with Bahnsen and was embarrassed. "

I assume your talking about these two articles:

"Theonomic Schizophrenia"
http://www.trinityfoundation.org/reviews/journal.asp?ID=084a.html

"Will the Real Greg Bahnsen Please Stand Up?"
http://www.trinityfoundation.org/reviews/journal.asp?ID=090a.html

Do you know where I can find critiques/reviews of these two articles? I would like to see proponents of theonomy interact with some of the issues Robbins addressed. I do not wish to misunderstand Dr. Bahnsen on this subject as I have apparently misunderstood Dr. Van Til on some issues.

________________________________________________

Paul, I wish to personally thank you for your attitude of winning both [b:9cbea5b353]hearts[/b:9cbea5b353] and minds. My personal opinion is that if the followers of Dr. Clark had more emphasis on the 'hearts' portion of the concept 'winning hearts and minds' there numbers would not be dwindling so quickly**. I confess that sometimes, when the issues become rather complex and convoluted, I find it helpful to look for the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22, 23*) in the proponents - "for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness [i:9cbea5b353]and truth[/i:9cbea5b353]" Gal 5.9. I concede that I may be misapplying the intent of the verses, but I still find it helpful until I have a better grasp of the issues.

*Galatians 5:22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [23] meekness, temperance..."

**I am not saying that Dr. Clark's system does not have (in my opinion) insurmountable problems in and of itself.
 

RickyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Apologies to all who have been keeping up with this virtual conversation, I wish I could say I spent the last two weeks reading up on Dr. Bahnsen's interpretation of theonomy. However, the weekend before last was mother's day and I also attended my brother's graduation from DTS (we were both raised southern baptist - God, in his providence, drove me to Geneva!.) This weekend my wife injured her knee; truly, how comforting it has been to have a calvinist (i.e. biblical) understanding of providence. Without denying human responsibility, I have been continuously overjoyed when I read and reread Romans 8:28 "And we know that **all things** work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." So even those things that we bring upon ourselves are meant by the Lord for the good of His elect. Without knowing all the implications of this event, I can at least say that I was softened and humbled in a way that, I believe, I would not have been had it been I who was injured this past weekend.

[quote:e1b0f4a84e]I stay up till 4 in the morning[/quote:e1b0f4a84e]

Paul, are you sure your not a machine? ;)

Briefly, regarding theonomy, I am not opposed to it if it's formulated in accordance to the Westminster Confession of Faith. If you look at my posts, I have tried hard to say "as interpreted by person X" to distinguish between different formulations of 'theonomy'. I have a friend, for instance, who formulates it as Samuel Rutherford (who was also a member of the Westminster Assembly) did. (As an aside, he is the only theonomist that I know who is also a classical apologist.)

Also, when you say, "I hold that the standing case laws are applicable today", do you mean:
"I hold that the standing case laws apply today **in exhaustive detail**"?
or
"I hold that the **general equity** of the standing case laws is applicable today"?
I don't want you to swallow a false dilemma - perhaps you meant something other than the above? Perhaps by "in exhaustive detail" theonomists mean "in exhaustive scope"?

Regarding your comment about Westminster - West, where do you think they differ from Van Til's thought? Is it because they believe in the "gospel/law" distinction (I believe that's the phrase I've seen used for a non-theonomic interpretation of law and gospel) In your opinion, does a consistent application of Vt's presuppositional thought lead to Theonomy (by which I mean Christian Reconstruction; strictly speaking 'theonomy' is 'God's law' isn't it?) I know Van Til is quoted as saying something like "we can have either 'theonomy' or 'autonomy'"; am I correct when I say that his intended meaning of theonomy was 'God's law' (as in the moral law) and not Christian Reconstruction?

[quote:e1b0f4a84e]I would go as far as to say that presuppositionalists are the ultimate evidentialists! That is, we believe that "every fact" proves God's existence...from the resurrection all the way to a glass of water.[/quote:e1b0f4a84e]

Well, when you put it like that, it doesn't sound so bad! ;)

My point about evidential geese and presuppositional gander (or was it vice versa?) is that I've heard some presupp's lump Reformed classical apologists with Arminian and Romanists evidentialists as if refclapologist's mean to say "if you would but apply reason correctly, you can achieve a saving knowledge of God." That can't be true because I believe someone can reason correctly (due to common grace restraining the noetic effect of sin on a person's intellect) and not be regenerate (because his will is still darkened.) I agree with you that the purpose of apologetics is to shut mouths and not to regenerate individuals - only the Holy Spirit can do that!

Paul, what do you mean by a "correct theory of knowledge"?

....

Paul, I'm sorry. I must stop here; my little girl is clamoring for my affection. Once again thank you.
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
This was a very interesting debate, and I just wanted to add a few comments. It seems that Clark and Van Til were in agreement in many ways, and in ways that some of Van Til's followers recognize. One need only listen to Bahnsen's lectures on the issues to see where they agreed. But I think some of the fault for the hostility between the Clark and Van Til camps lie with Van Til himself. I listened to one of Van Til's lectures on apologetics from SermonAudio.com and it was good until Van Til started to talking about Gordon Clark. His criticisms of Clark were very harsh, and unwarranted. And this was sad because it showed that either he did not understand Clark, or he took personal offense to Clark's views that sometimes only differed from his own regarding who terms were defined.

From Paul's efforts I believe Van Til never meant to say that unregenerate man can have no knowledge. Rather he meant to say as Clark would say, that the only "justified true belief" (i.e. knowledge) can be is justified by taking revelation as the foundation of knowledge. At this point, they are saying the same thing!! but using different definitions and ways of phrasing. Van Til was a little looser in his phrasing, and Clark was more precise. But both were heading to the same conclusion, that only a foundationalist view of knowledge can give a solid and certain epistemology - and God's revelation is the foundation.

Where I think they differed: Clark (recognizing he was a sinner) admitted that he could be wrong about God and knowledge - that strictly speaking - you could never prove a system of epistemology - because a proof is valid only if it is deductively inferred from a-priori knowledge. But the Christian foundation of knowledge is God - and any proof of God or the Christian system would be circular.

Ironically Van Til said all systems were necessarily circular. Thus he admits that a proof of his system would be circular too. Clark and Van Til simply disagreed on what entails a valid proof!! And for this, Van Til considered Clark's view to be dangerous. VT did not want to say that it was possible that his system was wrong. He objected to the whole idea of possibility - but misunderstood Clark as saying that Clark's system was based on possibilities.

Over this trivial point of misunderstanding, the Vantillians objected to the ordination of Clark in the OPC. And I think much of the blame must be placed on Van Til's shoulders for vilifying Clark in VT's lectures. I'm sure that Clark holds some responsible too, but it was the Vantillians, with Van Til's support - who tried to stop Clark's ordination.

There were other differences between them, mainly on Clark's and Van Til's view of the nature of logic. But it is apparent from what I heard Bahnsen say about Clark in his lectures that the Vantillians are still misrepresenting Clark.

P.S. It is not a red herring when someone adds an aside during a discussion. It is only a red herring if that person intends to send the discussion off on a tangent in order to distract his counterpart during a debate. Before you accuse someone of positing a red herring - remember that you are really questioning the motives of your opponent, and not just your opponent's logic. You may ignore asides, or follow them if you wish - without questioning a person's motives.

P.P.S. No doubt there is more to the story than I know. So please let me know where else Clark and Van Til may have contradicted each other. But I think that they were 95% in agreement - and it is disappointing that some many Vantillians fail to understand Clark's views. In my humble opinion, Clark's philosophical system agreed fundamentally with Van Til, but also corrected some of Van Til's system's flaws and ambiguities - basically if Van Til's system is good, Clark's is great - and their followers should never have clashed. Had these two allied together, they would have been in unstoppable force in presuppositional reformed apologetics. The Clark Van Til Controversy is a blot on the history of reformed apologetics.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
At this point, I agree with Van Til in most of the places where he disagreed with Clark. I however lean closer to Clark in terms of my philosophy of science.
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by ChristianTrader
At this point, I agree with Van Til in most of the places where he disagreed with Clark. I however lean closer to Clark in terms of my philosophy of science.

It seems that Clark and Van Til agreed about science if I read Paul's quotes correctly - empirical science can provide us no real knowledge. (I looked for the relevant quote but am short of time.)
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by Civbert
Originally posted by ChristianTrader
At this point, I agree with Van Til in most of the places where he disagreed with Clark. I however lean closer to Clark in terms of my philosophy of science.

It seems that Clark and Van Til agreed about science if I read Paul's quotes correctly - empirical science can provide us no real knowledge. (I looked for the relevant quote but am short of time.)

I think they both believe that empiricism in and of itself do not give what we consider knowledge. I think they disagree over how far you can go and know if you accept all the tenants of the Christian worldview. Van Til (or maybe just his followers) was more optomistic than Clark.
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by ChristianTrader
Originally posted by Civbert
Originally posted by ChristianTrader
At this point, I agree with Van Til in most of the places where he disagreed with Clark. I however lean closer to Clark in terms of my philosophy of science.

It seems that Clark and Van Til agreed about science if I read Paul's quotes correctly - empirical science can provide us no real knowledge. (I looked for the relevant quote but am short of time.)

I think they both believe that empiricism in and of itself do not give what we consider knowledge. I think they disagree over how far you can go and know if you accept all the tenants of the Christian worldview. Van Til (or maybe just his followers) was more optomistic than Clark.

:ditto:

This is why Clark rejected all empirical knowledge and VanTil accepted with the foundation of the Christian worldview. This is why VT can say that all "proofs" for the existence of God are rubish, and in the next breath say they are valid (because the Christian has the right pressup. to account for them).

I agree that VT and GHC agreed on alot, but there is enough of a difference to be two brands of pressup.

Either way, the controversy should never have went the way it did, and I think that more than likely (and in the end it doesn't matter) both sides are to blame.
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
To be more precise, Clark did not reject empirical knowledge, Clark rejected knowledge could be empirical. Clark obviously read and wrote and asserted the "faith comes by hearing". But by Clark's definition of empiricism, this was not an example of empiricism because it was to do with language and not sensation. That is, sensations are not propositions. The elements of propositions are words and sentences - not sensations and inexpressible "experiences".

This is one of the areas of conflict that is really a matter of definition and precision. Clark's view of empiricism is very specific.
 
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