Featured Van Til's interpreters?

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by jwright82, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    Who do you think Van Til's best interpreters we're? I like Dr. Oliphint, Dr. Bahnsen, Mr. Frame, and Dr. Knudsen. But who is the best? Dr. Edgar is great also.
     
  2. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    Also who are his greatest critics?
     
  3. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Frame is often positioned as both.
     
  4. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    I thought that John Frame had a doctoral degree?
     
  5. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    It's honorary, which does not by convention entitle one to the "Dr." appellation. RTS (and maybe Frame himself?) refers to him as Dr. Frame which has caused some polite consternation.
     
  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    He never finished. WTS offered him a job during the time in which he was going to finish.
     
  7. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    I have never understood the convention of giving someone a doctorate while expecting them not to use the title "Dr."

    I was aware that he did not finish his PhD, though I recalled him getting another doctorate.
     
  8. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I have found Oliphint and Frame helpful in understanding Van Til.
     
  9. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    Because an honorary doctorate is often (usually?) not a recognition of academic achievement but simply a way to honor a prominent figure. Calling someone a doctor generally denotes that they have dedicated years of their life to rigorous academic study, have been carefully evaluated by experts in the field of study, and have been found to have contributed something of worth. Some of the most prestigious institutions do not award honorary doctorates on principle. I will grant you that doctoral studies have certainly been watered down in recent decades, however.

    Now with Frame in particular, his work in the field is certainly of doctorate quality whether you agree with him or not--though not submitting to a thesis defense is significant in my mind--but so many honorary degrees have virtually nothing to do with academic achievements in the field. Bill Cosby had over 50 honorary degrees, for instance. Even in the distant past, when James I visited Oxford the university gave honorary degrees to 43(!) members of his retinue.
     
  10. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    While academic institutions would love to see "PhD," they even more love to see published works from scholarly and quasi-scholarly publishers. Frame has done that. I don't agree with him that often, but few can match his writing output.
     
  11. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    I grant that point in general, but not when the honorary degree is given to a scholar.

    Except for medical doctors. I always like to tell the medical students at church that I am a real doctor because I have a Ph.D. It is one of the few times that I flaunt it, but I do so for the greater good of keeping them humble. ;)

    Agreed.
     
  12. Nate

    Nate Puritan Board Junior

    https://heidelblog.net/2018/09/a-persnickety-point-about-doctorates/
     
  13. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    I knew I'd get some doctor snark, thought I expected it from someone on here that knows me offline (I have a doctorate in dental medicine). :D No dissertation there, though my master's certainly required a thesis.
     
  14. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    As much as I like Dr. Clark and agree with the thrust of his article, his taxonomy becomes messy when you recognize that two of the three original doctoral fields (medicine and law, to go along with divinity) are "professional" doctorates and certainly didn't emerge in the 1980s. The Ph.D. only became common in the 19th century. Doctorates in divinity, medicine, and law all predate it by centuries.
     
  15. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    One of the main problems with the argument is that there are plenty of below par Ph.D. theses out there if you look hard enough (in fact, you do not always need to look that hard). To figure out how good a thesis probably is, you can ask a few questions such as who were the examiners, did it result in any peer-reviewed publications, and so on.
     
  16. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    I appreciate all of them but personally benefited the most from old audio recordings by Dr. Bahnsen. Unfortunately he passed away at the age of 47. John M. Frame is arguably the best though, but he has also lived 30+ years longer than Dr. Bahnsen.
     
  17. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Depends on what is meant by greatest or in what way. Personally I think John M. Frame is among his fairest critics, and I think that quality alone makes any critic great. Points however big or small of disagreement without misrepresentation or ad hom or poisoning the well in one form or another, seem to be a rare quality among men. I remember years ago, reading Norman Geisler's entries on Van Til and Presuppositionalism found in the Baker Encyclopedia of Apologetics, and the negative bias in those entries, put his entire work into question as far as I was concerned. Some time later I acquired the IVP Dictionary of Apologetics, with entries by John M. Frame, which are excellent.
     
  18. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    Yeah I completely agree about Frame. The Ligonier, sorry if I misspelled that I'm at work, critique is horrible.
     
  19. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator

  20. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Why not just read him directly? Academically primary sources are generally superior. It's not like there's a language barrier.
     
  21. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I mostly agree. There are a few things that Van Til emphasizes that his interpreters usually don't touch (e.g., very few of his interpreters actually expound his text on ethics or psychology).

    On the other hand, Van Til communicated in a highly specific and arcane vocabulary of German Idealism. Post-Hegelian thought uses concepts that don't always mean what they mean in normal human speech. Take, for instance, "the concrete universal." That is a loaded term in Idealism yet we might just brush by it.

    Most of his interpreters are usually familiar enough with Hegelian terminology to translate him.

    With that said, Frame covers the theology better. Bahnsen covers the philosophy/apologetics better.
     
  22. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    Professor Frame turned 80 this past April 8th.
     
  23. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    I agree but his use of "idealist" language was baptized by Reformed theology, same words different meanings.
     
  24. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    If we’re talking about Van Til with respect to apologetics and epistemology, Bahnsen by far wrote the most extensively on Van Til. In his abbreviated life he also lectured more deeply and broadly on Van Til than anybody else. He publicly debated alleged atheists and agnostics, demonstrating the apologetic in action. Lastly, he interacted with opposing views more than anyone else.

    It’s no wonder that Scott Oliphint said that to understand Van Til, two things are essential. One must read Van Til and also read Bahnsen. He also said that it’s not only essential but also too often neglected. I couldn’t agree more. It’s been my experience that most people who discuss Van Til neither have read Van Til nor read Bahnsen. And if they have, only superficially. Most don’t have a working understand of their system of thought as it relates to epistemology metaphysics and unbelief. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone comment on an apologist arguing by way of reductio ad absurdum, exclaiming that the person is Van Tillian or a presuppositionalist - as if Modus Tollens is a sufficient condition for presuppositionalism.

    Mike Butler’s critique of Frame is worth a read. So is Collet’s. Frame’s response to Collett admits some things, but again he makes the exact same mistake that Butler pointed out years before. Frame even argues fallaciously by silence that Aquinas argued transcendentally.

    Lastly, Bahnsen gave a critical lecture on Frame’s critique of Van Til. I don’t know if the recording is still available but even if it is, it wasn’t the best quality. I own the manuscript and it may still be available somehow on line.
     
  25. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator

    Agreed. In post 19 above, I posted a link "Are all Van Tilians equal"? This argued that Bahnsen did much to promote the work of Van Til but he missed Van Til's Trinitarian approach and the link to the 'one and many' problem.

    I have just stared reading it so cannot really comment, but I understand Bosserman's "The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox: An Interpretation and Refinement of the Theological Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til" develops this Trinitarian theme more fully.
     
  26. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for that...

    Obviously Bahnsen understood that all particulars are related to universals. There are no brute particulars. There are only rational particulars. They all relate to some unifying category of thought, some “concrete universal.” He also appreciated that the ontological Trinity is the ultimate one and the many and the unity and plurality in nature is a reflection of God.

    However, although God is triune and only God preinterprets all particulars and gives them their meaning in relation to universals, there’s not much more that can be said on the matter as far as how Trinity relates to unity and plurality, the one and the many. One gets the impression from some Van Tillians that there’s something more profound going on here and maybe there is, but what is it? (Frame spent much time looking for triplets in the created order etc.)

    Bahnsen didn’t always feel the need of referring to God as only the ontological Trinity when explicating that intelligible experience presupposes God. Rather, Bahnsen got beyond the rhetoric and introduced other divine attributes in explaining how God in himself provides the unifying principle for all knowledge. Bahnsen showed the philosophical relevance of God as self-sufficient, eternal, sovereign, personal, and yes, triune.
     

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