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Cornelius Van Til

July 5, 2013

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_Van_Til

This is a good time I believe to look at the man and theology of Cornelius Van Til! Noting especially the theological & historical critique by his one time student: John Frame.

Note, I am basically very friendly to Van Til myself, though like Frame has said, he simply MUST be held to some critical standards! And I am generally in agreement with Van Til’s Presuppositionalism, but more as an approach to the Holy Scripture; than an Apologetic, in itself!

PS.. I need to say, that I don’t completely follow Van Til in his theological negative arguments against Karl Barth’s theology! Though I agree that Barth’s philosophy behind scripture needs to be seen somewhat critically. But Barth, does take a most radical Reformed position in his negative of Natural Theology!

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http://www.reformed.org/apologetics/index.html?mainframe=/apologetics/frame_vtt.html

John Frame himself on the Theology of Van Til

*Note, I have deleted some, even much of the comments below, just too many, and it has been several years ago now.

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60 Comments
  1. ‘Unoriginal as his doctrinal formulations may be, his use of those formulations – his application of them – is often quite remarkable. The sovereignty of God becomes an epistemological, as well as a religious and metaphysical principle. The Trinity becomes the answer to the philosophical problem of the one and the many. Common grace becomes the key to a Christian philosophy of history. These new applications of familiar doctrines inevitably increase [Christians’] understanding of the doctrines themselves, for [they] come thereby to a new appreciation of what these doctrines demand of [them].’ (John Frame)

    Similarly, Van Til’s innovative application of the doctrines of total depravity and the ultimate authority of God led to his reforming of the discipline of apologetics. Specifically, he denied neutrality on the basis of the total depravity of man and the invasive effects of sin on man’s reasoning ability (as per the usual Calvinistic understanding of the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans), and he insisted that the Bible, which he viewed as a divinely inspired book, be trusted preeminently because he believed the Christian’s ultimate commitment must rest on the ultimate authority of God. As Frame says elsewhere, “the foundation of Van Til’s system and its most persuasive principle” is a rejection of autonomy since “Christian thinking, like all of the Christian life, is subject to God’s lordship”.[4] However, it is this very feature that has caused some Christian apologists to reject Van Til’s approach. For instance, D. R. Trethewie describes Van Til’s system as nothing more than “a priori dogmatic transcendental irrationalism, which he has attempted to give a Christian name to.”[5]

    Two standout places here!

  2. Haven’t read your blog in a while…I have not read anything by Barth (in terms of primary sources) nor Van Til on Barth…do you think Van Til’s critique of Barth went over the top?

  3. This is a better fit here than in the Barth thread.
    Fr. Robert declaers: “If logic is not created, and it just “is,”
    True logic (God’s logic) is neither.

    That’s all I have time for right now. I have a very busy day still ahead of me.

    • Here’s the whole quote, by Vern Poythress:

      ‘If logic is not created, and it just “is,” we have to return to the question of whether God is subject to the laws of logic. If he is, he is not truly absolute. Logic rules over him. Logic appears to be a kind of ruling “god” above God, making us question who or what is the final controller. But what is the alternative to the assumption that God is subject to the laws of logic? If God is not subject to the laws of logic, should we conclude that he is illogical? Then we cannot depend on him…

      The Bible teaches the distinction between Creator and creature. God alone is Creator and Sovereign and Absolute. We are not. Everything God created is distinct from him. It is all subject to him. Therefore, logic is not a second absolute, over God or beside him. There is only one Absolute, God himself. Logic is in fact an aspect of his character, because it expresses the consistency of God and the faithfulness of God… There is nothing more ultimate than God. So God is the source of logic. The character of God includes his logicality.’ (Vern Poythress, God: The Source of Logic)

      Again, as I wrote on somewhat another blog, if both Barth and Van Til would have been more careful to make this proper distinction, that God alone transcends His own logic, and when HE wants to, as GOD, then we would be better off to stand mute!

      • Oh my Lord. This is gonna be good.

        Poythress made my point beautifully. Near as I’ve ever been able to tell ,Vern Poythress is an authentic Van Tillian. Westminster crew with Oliphant, Edgar and Tipton.

        I simply must get some work done right now though.

      • No mate, your not going to survive this one… “logic is not a second absolute, over God or beside him. There is only one Absolute, God himself.” Don’t try and manipulate this!

        Just to seek to get ahead of Greg here, I give the wiki on Poythress…

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vern_Poythress

        Indeed Poythress is something of a Van Til guy, but he is also connected to Frame’s, Multiperspectivalism, He is closer to Frame on Van Til. Note too he is close to both the teaching of Geerhardus Vos, as Kline. Note too Poythress is a Mathematics guy, and sees math close to logic in some aspect of God’s order and character, but is always outside of it, as the Immutability of God.

  4. Here is a rather friendly book and approach to Dispensationalism by Poythress, of course Vern is a Covenant theolog. Just a note to any readers, but I am a moderate Dispensationalist myself, though closer to the PD, or Progressive Dispensationalism. And yes, in my well over 40 years in Christ, I have held, both the Amillennial and the Postmillennial positions, but after my time in Gulf War 1, I came (1993, and then living in Israel) to the classic Historic Pre-Mill position.

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/ebooks/understanding-dispensationalists/

  5. @Greg: It does not bother me personally at all, that you have some real differences than me in doctrine and theology. As my historic premillennial position is no doubt much different than yours, if you are a classic Covenant guy? But, I confess I am baffled at your absolute negative view of Barth? As I said, Van Til did not like his theology, and certainly saw it against his own classic Reformed views, but he never said Barth was not a Christian! But no doubt a theologically defective one, it would be fair to say, from his point! Btw, just another point, but Van Til will always be an apologist to my understanding, which is not bad at all, but it makes for an rough ride pastorally. WE all have our gifts, and shortcomings! And only GOD knows our deepest impairments! It would good for us to seek to try to remember this, as we disagree, and somewhat debate.

  6. A very old post of mine from another site. Oliphint uses the same beach ball analogy and I used it long before I ever knew he did. That was eerie. I’ll try for something new later.

    “2+2 does not equal 4 without God because two, plus, equals and four all have no meaning without Him. The statement I just made has no meaning without Him. Every upcoming protestation to the contrary has no meaning without Him. As my man Van Til was fond of saying. “God is Himself the emplacement upon which men mount the very weapons they attempt to use to destroy Him”. They can’t help it,

    Pagans jump and down, stamp their feet with red face glowing while they demand there be no circular reasoning. That is humorous at best. When forced to face the foundation of their alleged beliefs, every time it comes down to the laws of logic. Laws which are invisible, immaterial, absolute and universal. Sounds rather suspiciously like a god does it not? When I demand proof of the validity of the laws of logic they are trapped either re-appealing to those same laws which is circular or hypothetically looking somewhere else which destroys their authority.

    Of course I also engage in circular reasoning (from the autonomous perspective) and make no pretense otherwise because ALL finite reason is by definition and in the nature of the case eventually circular. It never reaches the termination point of ultimate resolution because it’s like finite see? The dead logic of unbelievers circles around THEM and hence never ultimately explains anything whatsoever. Mine circles around an infinite intellect and ultimately explains everything. They by utterly preeminent unconditional faith in themselves and their sinful use of finite and fallen atunomous reason loudly proclaim what they fallaciously perceive as the brilliance of their own unavoidably content-less existence. Pure uncertain skepticism if they attempt consistency. I by utterly preeminent unconditional faith in the utterly uncontingent triune God of Christianity loudly proclaim HIS brilliance and rest assured that He is the explanation for everything. Even that which He forbids and detests

    It’s not that unbelievers do not advance true knowledge and hence contribute much good to the world. Of course they do, but they do it in spite of and not because of their own foundational beliefs. It’s only because my foundational beliefs are true that anything they think or do works or bears fruit. They hate that. They hate God. They are His enemies. Same as I was. That’s why Paul told us in Romans 1 that they “suppress” or as the Greek has it, they “hold under” the truth in their unrighteousness. Picture a beach ball in the water. They keep holding it down, while it keeps popping up. That’s how they attempt to hide from their true selves and the God who created them. Paul says they are without excuse. God has reveled Himself unavoidably EVERYWHERE and especially IN themselves as created in His very image, fractured though it is in sin.

    THAT is the discussion that has to happen or any quibbling about this or that particular proof or evidence has no genuine framework to even legitimately take place.”

    • I am not sure of what absolute point you are seeking to make here? Were not talking about unbelievers, but believers, Van Til verses Barth I suppose. And btw, Vern Poythress’s new book, this year 2013, Logic, etc. is well worth the read! Note, as I said.. I can follow the biblical presupposition, that the Bible, and the Word of God is most certainly the Word & Revelation of God, but I don’t follow the apologetic, completely, of Van Til , itself. As I don’t really follow Barth’s philosophy of the Word of God either. I would be somewhat closer to Van Til, but as seen more through both Frame and Poythress!

      • @Greg: I am not interested in your epistemology nor hermeneutics per se, but that we both claim the basic authority and use and finality to Holy Scripture! I am not so much an apologist (method), again per se (since) we must be in some since defending “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) as a pastor-teacher, priest/presbyter as a classic Anglican. But certainly historical (creedal) and theological! Again, note, I am always a “churchman”…as were the Reformers! So my authority is the Judeo-Christian Scripture, history, creeds and the church.

        This is quick!

  7. @Greg: Awe your question reveals a great difference between us, and that is again the Church! And the Reformers, at least the top-tier Reformers: Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Bullinger, etc.,the list is rather long… (i.e. not the Anabaptists), were all Churchmen, they all felt that the Reformation was the renewal of the Church Catholic! Note, that I am on Christology and the Trinity of God kind of close to the EO! (Though I am closer to Augustine on the Trinity generally) Indeed they brought us the Ecumenical Councils! Note Origen was eastern, as Athanasius, the list is long!

    Western Christians, and certainly many of the Reformed are quite ignorant of Calvin’s use of the Church Fathers. I have a great book by that fine Anglican Anthony N.S. Lane called: Calvin Student Of The Church Fathers, (T&T Clark, 1999). And Calvin also knew and read many of the Eastern Fathers, like Athanasius and Hilary. Calvin even cited Origen’s Homilies on Exodus in defense of the Reformed division of the Ten Commandments. As later Chrysostem, as to Irenaeus. But then of course too Calvin loved some of the Latin Fathers, certainly his favorite Augustine, but also earlier Tertullian. As the later Medieval Bernard of Clairvaux. The list is large! The whole reality is the Reformation and the Reformed Fathers were indeed rather certain Churchmen!

    And oh yes I have quite “digested” Van Til, I like him very much, but he is most certainly very fallible! Again, he is more an apologist, than a strict theologian, but a great “Reformed” theolog for sure. But note how the Ligonier ministry does criticize some of his ideas! But I will forgo, you would have to read Frames book on Van Til, etc.

    In conclusion, that the early and foremost Reformers were simply but profoundly “Churchmen” is a forgone position, and has been somewhat lost in the American Reformed Church certainly! Thankfully some of the Dutch and certainly the German Reformed have not as much, note the so-called “Mercersburg Theology” in America, i.e. Philip Schaff and John Williamson Nevin. See btw D.G. Hart’s book on Nevin: High Church Calvinist, (P& R, 2005). I have it, great book and read! Indeed Historical Theology mate, we must seek it, know it!

  8. @Greg: Well I have been reading Van Til longer than you, because I am older than you! 😉

    I keep pointing to John Frame’s book on Van Til, which is very in-depth, the second chapter is: Van Til’s Life and Character. So I have at least read one of his greatest students about his life and theological work! Of course besides reading Van Til himself, i.e. his written works. And btw, just a point, but his work against Barth’s (Brunner too) theology: The New Modernism: An appraisal of the Theology of Barth and Brunner, was his first major work (1946). But as Frame notes, this work was so negative and almost ad hom like, that it did not go over well with many scholars and theologians, even many Reformed one’s in his day! It is indeed very negative, and quite often makes value judgments about Barth’s belief itself. Not good for a scholar & theologian! For quite simply, no other Reformed theologian has spoken so badly about Barth himself…”Barth simply does not believe the Christ of the Scripture at all.” (Though I hear he softened this after?) He later even wrote and attacked Machen! But a cooler and more moderate mind, G. C. Berkouwer, wrote still critically, but with balance and moderation towards Barth, (Triumph of Grace). But Berkouwer certainly took Van Til to task also, he saw that “essential statements of Barth are neglected or distorted” by Van Til! So we simply MUST read Berkouwer’s book on Barth: Triumph of Grace! (I have a copy, and yes have read it!)

    Again, I have a place for a sort of eclectic aspect, but I am certainly NOT a theolog of “eclecticism”! There is a big difference! YOU like many overt “fundamentalist” types, seek to pigeon-hole both people and so-called theology! And this is simply error, and the guise of conservative use and truth! Btw, let me re-phase my statement about Van Til personally, as Frame, I love the Reformed man to degree, but certainly not so much the theological “systematician” . Though his simple and basic aspect of the “presupposition” of the Word of God is quite enough for me!

    Btw, as to being a “Churchman”, surely so-called lay people can also be ‘”Churchmen”, it is a position of the historical and church-catholic, theologically & biblically! Again, this was the place of the grand and top-tier Reformers! And here surely Luther gets first place, for those who survived not being killed or martyred by the RCC! I am not sure your “theology” classes you a churchman? Certainly Fundamentalist Hyper-Calvinism does not meet that regard in my opinion! For example, A.W. Pink turned his back on the historical church for the most part, and I am not sure we could place him as a true “Churchman”? But of course that is open for debate itself, perhaps I could be wrong here?

  9. @Greg: Sadly it surely appears you are not seeking biblical truth, but a “pulpit”! Anyone seriously interested in Reformed theology surely knows and reads Berkouwer, his own Dogmatics are quite well known for this once Dutch Amsterdam theologian! YOU just love to pontificate! But as todays Reformed scholars, pastors and teachers (note the blog piece I put up yesterday), they are seeking to really dialogue between Barth and Van Til! And just what you are trying to produce with Romans 1: 19, thru chapter 3? You will actually have to exegete, first! And as far as I can see, you have yet to do any of such! All YOU again do is shoot ad hom’s,, and this just won’t do!

    Btw, I really think you are, on the “run”! Diatribe and verbiage ain’t making it!

    PS…Greek Prepositions are like little eyes, pointing forward and backward, but we must not over press them, as the JW’s have done!

    And too, btw, just “where” are the “reverential opinions”? I have not seen one yet!

    • Fr. Robert: Anyone seriously interested in Reformed theology surely knows and reads Berkouwer, his own Dogmatics are quite well known for this once Dutch Amsterdam theologian!
      There he goes again. I know who Berkouwer is Fr. Robert. I once owned and read his purplish blue (if I remember right) systematic. He does not however, as neither does Van Til, dictate my take on Barth.
      Fr. Robert: YOU just love to pontificate!
      I do.
      Fr. Robert: But as todays Reformed scholars,
      I’m interested in yesterday’s reformed father’s who would have dialoged with Barth in one word. Anathema. Most of today’s … whatever they are.. are certainly of.. well… today
      Fr. Robert: are seeking to really dialogue between Barth and Van Til!
      I have heard every single word of the Reformed Forums offerings on Barth. They are NOT seeking dialogue between Van til and Barth. That could never happen. They are warning against him as well they should and they are far more charitable than I, Van Til or the reformed fathers ever would be.
      Fr. Robert: And just what you are trying to produce with Romans 1: 19, thru chapter 3? You will actually have to exegete, first! And as far as I can see, you have yet to do any of such! All YOU again do is shoot ad hom’s,, and this just won’t do!
      Try me.
      Fr. Robert: Btw, I really think you are, on the “run”!
      Should be easy to prove.
      Fr. Robert: PS…Greek Prepositions are like little eyes, pointing forward and backward, but we must not over press them, as the JW’s have done!
      Agreed
      Fr. Robert: And too, btw, just “where” are the “reverential opinions”? I have not seen one yet!
      I am no authority on either Biblical language (yes, I know about the bits of Aramaic before you try that now too). I can fumble through to give some “reverential” and I’m told pretty reliable conclusions. Besides, as Dr. Schreiner, the man who did the work on Romans (and much else) in the ESV Study Bible has said, modern translations are good enough so that a responsible student is not much impaired by lacking direct access to the original language text.
      Is it possible for you to forget about Barth for a minute? Can you do that? Or do I have to fly to London and steal your stuffed life size Karl Barth action figure pullstring playmate so you can think straight?

      Romans 1:19?
      Can we start. I’m serious here. This IS NOT about Karl Barth. (certainly not yet)
      I’m going to be very busy all day again though.

    • @Greg: I am going to have to re-think some if this blog effort with you, is worth the time and energy for all concerned? YOU are busy, and I can get there too. We have such different ground, I am always willing to think thru different Reformed thoughts and ideas, note I really am “neo-Calvinist”! And I see Barth here broadly too, i.e. Reformed, though indeed not classically however, in places.

  10. Surely we should note 2 Tim. 2: 19…”The Lord knows those who are His” … perhaps looking back to 2:10!

  11. No doubt “Christ Jesus” is the value and grace of “knowing”!

  12. Indeed “common grace”, is given to sinful man, but only to unbelief and its consequences, Rom. 1: 18-20, etc. thru the end of chapter, and then in 2: 1, we get the “Therefore”, with verse two (2)…”And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.” Note the word “practice”!

  13. This from, Rom. 1: 18 thru 3: 20 is generally used of the universal reign of sin, which Paul surely presses with the Gospel. But, it can be seen also from the place of man’s common grace to God’s wrath to sin, and the consequences of unbelief, which is what we see it both creation, and in humanities given sin and unbelief, (verses 21, etc. note verse 25, etc.)

  14. The point is that wherever the gospel is preached, there we see the so-called common grace of God also! (Matt. 22: 14) In Rom. 1: 18-32, we see the universal need with the failure of the Gentiles, here we see really both the revelation of Righteousness, issuing forth from God and embracing man, but it also has a dark background in the other revelation of Divine Wrath to the wickedness and sin of man (verse 18). There are three stages, the knowledge of God which all might have from the character imprinted upon Creation (verses 19 thru 20). Also the second, the deliberate ignoring of this knowledge and the so-called idle speculation ending in idolatry (verses 21-23). And then the judicial surrender of those who provoke God by idolatry to every kind of moral degradation, (verses, 24-32).

    • Btw, I am reading (again) my copy of Vern Poythress’s book on Logic, etc. (Crossway) This is gem, and one of those must reads, as I and fond of saying! 😉 WE must be willing to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3: 18)…And this never ends, even for us “surly” Reformed! 😉

    • Btw, I wonder if you read my/the blog piece link: “Revelation and History, on Van Til’s Critique of Karl Barth’? Indeed theological dialogue is a learned discipline!

  15. It is not abandoning the Word of God and Holy Writ, to allow it to speak for itself! Sometimes in our zeal for apologetics, we simply ADD to the Word of God itself. I remember Spurgeon saying, ‘he would as soon defend a lion as the Word of God!’ Surely the Holy Bible is its own defense, and all of it, and not our pet portions. Btw, this really was the great essence of the Reformation, and the Reformers themselves.

    • Greg: YOU have accused me of several theological errors and just my basic theological confusion toward others, particularly with my general support of Barth, at least in certain areas theologically. So to be honest, I don’t trust you, YOU have lost that with me! If you want to complain about me and what I believe biblically and theologically, then do so on e-mail, and or my own blog. But not on the open blog toward others! Again, this smacks of seeking to gain support and verify yourself. (Again, more “fundamentalist like”).

      And sorry, but you use, in my opinion, the Westminster Confession in a legal manner and spirit! This tends to be problematic with many overt conservative and fundamentalist Calvinists, so you are not alone, i.e. “legalese”: involving at times almost special vocabulary and formulations, biblically and somewhat theologically. And as I have said, the Westminster Confession is only one of the many Reformed Creeds. And believe me “fundamentalist” Calvinists are always setting traps toward even other Reformed, I see it all the time! And sorry, but we have NOT been saying the same things, and there is no “restatement” between us! I am a “neo-Calvinist”, check again the “neo”… new, recent, lastest, or better for me modified and different. I am only somewhat “classic” in any old school type of Calvinist. I am talking here more of the spirit, and the spiritual approach of many Calvinists today!

      To give an example, I would use John Frame, perhaps the most “different” type of classic Calvinist today. (With too, Vern Poythress) And certainly “neo” to my mind. I have quite noted how you dislike him! But surely, he is one of the most intellectual and historically minded men alive about Van Til!

      And in reality, we haven’t even begun to touch “exegesis” yet! It is here that you actually want to speak dogmatically, systematically and certainly apologetically, without even hardly touching exegesis fully. It is Scripture, then dogmatics & creed.

      That’s how I see it! 🙂

  16. First, and foremost all of the Reformed Creeds are subordinate to the Holy Scripture! And btw most certainly there are some different doctrinal ideas in many of the Reformed Creeds. I am certainly not at all attacking the Westminster Assembly (1643-52) and Confession. Historically, it is of great significance in understanding this seminal period in English history, and of course it was held during the English Civil Wars. But its not my first choice personally, I have always liked the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles, and the Irish Articles 1615. But then of course I am an Anglican priest/presbyter and a Churchman therein. Btw, I would surely suggest you check out the Scots Confession (1560). So no one Reformed Creed is the “essence” of the Reformation!

    http://confessionsoffaith.org/confessions/the-scots-confession-of-1560/

    • Btw, perhaps the essence of the classical Anglican Communion is surely the Nicene Creed, with too the Athansius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles Creed. (See Article VIII. Of the Three Creeds) But with surely too Article XVII. Of Predestination and Election!

  17. Amen! Then it appears the depth of Truth, and the Reformed truth itself has won the day! For GOD is much bigger than even our Creeds! As I have said, the Creeds are themselves in submission to the Divine Word of God! And our Creeds are like “fences” themselves, that seek to guard the truth of God, but again they are always subordinate to the Word and revelation of God, Itself! In the glory we will worship HIM Who is the Transcendent One…the One Totally Other: God both One & Three: Father, Son and Holy Spirit! (Rev. 4: 10-11)

    • I was trying to exegetically get to sin, the image of God and point of contact with unbelievers starting in Romans 1, but since you don’t wanna talk about that.

      Just for the heck of it. Tell me about the “problem of the one and the many” and it’s relation to Christian epistemology. Or rather Christian epistemology’s relation to it. OR, how bout the way in which God’s exceptionless decree and providence alone establish His noncontingent will and nature and thereby provide the only basis for ANY knowledge ANYwhere of ANYthing. Either for Him OR us.

      Could I prevail upon you to pick one (or both) and tell me your view please?

    • Greg: As I have said, I myself I do not follow Van Til’s whole apologetic of his presuppositional, but I do follow the simple presupposition of the complete authority of Holy Scripture, and this would include the total depravity of Sin. (Note, John 15: 22 ; 16: 8, etc.) However, I am not going to drag people into the whole of Van Til’s ideas of his Presuppositional Apologetic here, they can easily find some of this on-line, or of course in his books. If you want to do this, you have your own blog.

    • And btw, those that care about Van Til’s Apologetic, can see his early book: The Defense of the Faith, (1955). Yes, I have read much of this.

    • And this is a fair piece and statement…

      “He is perhaps best known for the development of a fresh approach to the task of defending the Christian faith. Although trained in traditional methods he drew on the insights of fellow Calvinistic philosophers Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd to formulate a more consistently Christian methodology. His apologetic focused on the role of presuppositions the point of contact between believers and unbelievers and the antithesis between Christian and non-Christian worldviews.

      In an interview with Christianity Today (December 30 1977) he said “There are two ways of defending the faith. One of these begins from man as self-sufficient and works up to God while the other begins from the triune God of the Scriptures and relates all things to him. . . . The traditional ideas of trying to find some neutral common ground on which the believer and unbeliever can stand are based on the notion that man is autonomous . . . [yet] Paul says all men knowing God hold down this knowledge in unrighteousness. . . . [This knowledge] is the only basis man has on which he can stand to know himself to find the facts of his world and learn how to relate them to one another. Without the Creator-God-Redeemer of Scripture the universe would resemble an infinite number of beads with no holes in any of them yet which must all be strung by an infinitely long string.”

      One of Van Til’s students T. Grady Spires now professor of philosophy at Gordon College Wenham MA says of him “Every student of Van Til can instantly recall the characteristic Van Tillian blackboard graffiti: the foremost symbols being two circles a big one for the creator the other for creation with no ontological bridge between. The entire history of philosophy or Christian thought including most heresy would be strewn in names and phrases across the board. . . . The consumption of chalk and the whir of ideas were symptomatic of an excitement generated not from brilliant eruditions though some of his skyrocketing digressions could be called that but from the strong and systematic emphasis on the antithesis between a biblical world and life view and the several intellectual scientific versions of the carnal mind. Students began to see how far-reaching were the differences between believer and non-believer.”

    • Certainly there is much to agree with here as to “presuppositions”, the believer verses the unbeliever, but as a complete philosophical system, this would be…as D. R. Trethewie describes, “a priori dogmatic transcendental irrationalism, which he has attempted to give a Christian name to.” And the Holy Scripture is alone, its own statement and authority!

  18. And to be clear, I am close to Van Til in many places, closer than I am to Barth’s philosophy behind scripture, at least in places again. For I really am “neo-Calvinist”, but certainly no philosophical system stands itself behind Holy Scripture, either Van Til’s or Barth’s. But it is good “theologically” to read and see both, for both have some truth behind them. But always in the end, we are alone and left naked before the Word and Revelation of God itself!

    • And btw, this is one of the nice things about our Reformers, generally they don’t have a whole system of philosophy behind their thinking and writings, though of course certainly they are somewhat affected by certain people, like Augustine, etc., but even here they don’t follow him totally. Not even Calvin! Yes, they did read some Western philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, to name the obvious, but a good argument could be made that these two certainly influenced the Greco-Roman of the NT, as the Judeo and Jewish Hellenism itself. And here of course is Saul/Paul! (Gal. 4: 4-7)

  19. @Greg: The great flaw in your whole position, is that Van Til is NOT St. Paul, or any Apostle! As thus Van Til as a man himself, and a sinful being cannot produce some absolute system that you are pressing behind the Word of God itself!

    And btw, you said not too far back, that Frame didn’t have a clue, or even a right to speak of Van Til’s positions! Wow brother, your really so inconsistent, in your fundamental absolutes! But that’s the point, none of us do, and certainly not Van Til! And this is at least something of Barth’s approach, i.e. being dialectic, it has some wiggle room, a ‘Reformed Fundamentalism’ never does! Now, this is something of the beauty of the “neo-Calvinist” position also, the only “absolute” is God’s Word itself and alone! Your position goes well beyond this!

  20. Your very confused mate, as NO Creed itself IS the Word of God! I have said this over and over, (as Frame, etc.) and btw Barth wrote a book about “Learning Jesus Christ Through The Heidelberg Catechism”! So the Creeds are again the “fences” that help us approach the Word and Revelation of God, but they are always again in submission here! WHAT’s Not to get?

    “Invincible Apologetic”? Wow, this just proves my point! The ONLY so-called Invincible Apologetic is GOD’s Word, alone! But WE will actually never see it wholly (in this life) because we are sinners!

    *And just speaking for myself, the only Creedal definition that might be the closest to almost infallibility, would be the Nicene “homoousios”! Christ is ‘very God’! But even Luther could speak of a “veil” in which the God of majesty confronts us (as Paul, a ‘glass’ or ‘mirror’ in which HE is to be beheld, (2 Cor.3: 18). Here Luther sees a double metaphor, glass suggests manifestation, veil suggests concealment. Both of these are surely Luther’s idea of Divine revelation. He can therefore speak of the divinity of Christ as ‘hidden’ (abscondita) in the humanity. Here is Paul’s theology (“kerygma”) of the Cross, as Luther’s “theologia crucis”!

    • We simply truncate the Gospel when we try to empty it of its mystery! WE saw and see this in Catholic Scholasticism, or any “scholasticism”, that seeks to unveil what GOD has veiled! Again, Christ IS the “Logos” and the “Rhema”! Note too, Col. 2: 2-3!

  21. Certainly this is NOT going to be a discussion about Van Til alone, as Van Til was the one who attacked Barth and his theology. And any theology is not done alone and by itself ever. The hatred for Barth and his theology have been well going on since at least about 1946 with the hard-line Reformed. I am sorry that this same spirit is still seen today in far too many again certain Reformed. One can think too of the Van Til and Gordon Clark debates, the Reformed are well known for their in house debates to say the least! And it seems you Greg are just locked in on your own place, rather than even people like Frame and Poythress, who are generally supportive of Van Till, but always critical when they feel they must be! I won’t go back and quote your very negative statement about Frame towards Van Til (but we both know it is there!)

    It seems your just spinning your wheels mate, at least with me. I am just too historical and theological oriented for you (and here this includes knowing something of Barth), and I read and know the subjects, or I just don’t comment. So unless your going to stop the ad hom’s, and get to the Holy Scripture itself, and some knowledge of theology, besides just Van Til, I think were just about done again! Apologetics can be a real trap for so many people, sadly.

    • Again Greg: this kind of so-called exegesis, picking a verse of two, and then kind of “concisely” seeking to interpret it, is once again the method of more like a “fundamentalism”! Yes, I know your trying to back into Van Til’s apologetic, but I am NOT going to let you, at least on my blog! How’s that, not what you wanted to hear I know! The point is also “thematic”, i.e. what is the whole theme here? And I gave a bit of this back when we first started on this text, again just a bit. And again, we must remember.. that there are no verses or punctuation (at least in the so-called modern sense) in the original Greek. And we don’t have the first autographs.

      This is one of the weaknesses of using just an apologetic or concise like method! We often loose the overall thematic of the Text/texts, and the historical.

    • Btw, let me recommend, if you care? William Sanday and Rev. Arthur Headlam’s: The International Critical Commentary, A Critical And Exegetical Commentary On The Epistle To The Romans (1895 First Edition). Indeed both were Anglican theologians, and taught in their day. I have my copy to hand! 🙂

  22. In Rom. 1: 8-15, we have Paul and the Roman Church (here is some of the thematic and historical), then in verses 16-17, we have the Thesis of the Letter: The Righteousness of God by Faith. And in verses 18-32, we see: The Universal Need: the Failure of the Gentiles.

    Btw, both Sanday and Headlam, make a case for the connection between Romans 1: 18-32 and the Book of Wisdom, chap. 12-15 (Solomon/Apocrypha). I have not myself worked (hard) on the latter of the possible connection with the Book of Wisdom. But, I am sure this pleases our brother Michael! 😉

    • Book of Wisdom

      Paul’s letter to the Romans

      2:21

      These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them,

      1:21

      for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.

      2:24

      But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it.

      5:12

      Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned

      12:12

      For who can say to you, “What have you done?” or who can oppose your decree? Or when peoples perish, who can challenge you, their maker; or who can come into your presence as vindicator of unjust men?

      9:19

      You will say to me then, “Why (then) does he still find fault? For who can oppose his will?”

      12:24

      For they went far astray in the paths of error, taking for gods the worthless and disgusting among beasts, deceived like senseless infants.

      14:8
      but the handmade idol is accursed, and its maker as well: he for having produced it, and it, because though corruptible, it was termed a god.

      14:12

      For the source of wantoness is the devising of idols; and their invention was a corruption of life.

      1:23

      and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.

      14:22

      Then it was not enough for them to err in their knowledge of God; but even though they live in a great war of ignorance, they call such evils peace.

      1:26-31

      Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.

      And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

      15:7

      For truly the potter, laboriously working the soft earth, molds for our service each several article: Both the vessels that serve for clean purposes and their opposites, all alike; As to what shall be the use of each vessel of either class the worker in clay is the judge.

      9:21

      Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for a noble purpose and another for an ignoble one?

      17:11

      For wickedness, of its nature cowardly, testifies in its own condemnation, and because of a distressed conscience, always magnifies misfortunes.

      2:15

      They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them

      .

      Paul’s letter to the Romans

      2:21

      These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them,

      1:21

      for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.

      2:24

      But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it.

      5:12

      Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned

      12:12

      For who can say to you, “What have you done?” or who can oppose your decree? Or when peoples perish, who can challenge you, their maker; or who can come into your presence as vindicator of unjust men?

      9:19

      You will say to me then, “Why (then) does he still find fault? For who can oppose his will?”

      12:24

      For they went far astray in the paths of error, taking for gods the worthless and disgusting among beasts, deceived like senseless infants.

      14:8
      but the handmade idol is accursed, and its maker as well: he for having produced it, and it, because though corruptible, it was termed a god.

      14:12

      For the source of wantoness is the devising of idols; and their invention was a corruption of life.

      1:23

      and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.

      14:22

      Then it was not enough for them to err in their knowledge of God; but even though they live in a great war of ignorance, they call such evils peace.

      1:26-31

      Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.

      And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

      15:7

      For truly the potter, laboriously working the soft earth, molds for our service each several article: Both the vessels that serve for clean purposes and their opposites, all alike; As to what shall be the use of each vessel of either class the worker in clay is the judge.

      9:21

      Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for a noble purpose and another for an ignoble one?

      17:11

      For wickedness, of its nature cowardly, testifies in its own condemnation, and because of a distressed conscience, always magnifies misfortunes.

      2:15

      They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them

      .

  23. I gave a wee Introduction, very “wee” of chapter one. 😉

    As to Romans 1 and the Book of Wisdom of Solomon (Apocrypha), you completely missed the possible connection. But I will let you perhaps compare the texts and think about it some more? The author of this first-century B.C. Jewish tract details the idolatry and sinfulness of the Gentiles and shows that God’s judgment of them is entirely just (Wis. chaps. 12-14). He then claims exemption from the judgment for the Jewish people on the grounds of God’s special (covenant) relationship with them (chap. 15). The argument of chaps. 12-14 is similar both in general and in many details to Rom. 1: 18-32, while chap. 15 may be behind Paul’s polemic in 2: 1-11. Paul may well have Wisdom of Solomon directly in view as he writes Rom. 1-2, although it is also possible that he depends more broadly on a common Jewish tradition that finds expression in Wisdom (as WD Davies [pp. 27-30] points out, the same basic tradition is found in the rabbis).

    Btw, the knowledge of God rejected by those depicted in 1; 18-32 comes solely through “common grace” – the evidences of God in creation. So actually the Book of Wisdom appears to support the great Jewish connection to God in His sovereign grace and purpose! Surely one of Paul’s great revelations, chap. 9.

    Just some of my own study here on Romans chapter 1.

    • Fr. Robert: I gave a wee Introduction, very “wee” of chapter one. 😉
      I think “wee” must be the Irish word for “concise” huh?. LOL! Ok.

      Fr. Robert: As to Romans 1 and the Book of Wisdom of Solomon (Apocrypha), you completely missed the possible connection. But I will let you perhaps compare the texts and think about it some more?
      Well, you gave me two long groups of passages that are identical to one another. I’m not sure how to make use of them.

      Fr. Robert:The author of this first-century B.C. Jewish tract details the idolatry and sinfulness of the Gentiles and shows that God’s judgment of them is entirely just (Wis. chaps. 12-14). He then claims exemption from the judgment for the Jewish people on the grounds of God’s special (covenant) relationship with them (chap. 15). The argument of chaps. 12-14 is similar both in general and in many details to Rom. 1: 18-32, while chap. 15 may be behind Paul’s polemic in 2: 1-11. Paul may well have Wisdom of Solomon directly in view as he writes Rom. 1-2, although it is also possible that he depends more broadly on a common Jewish tradition that finds expression in Wisdom (as WD Davies [pp. 27-30] points out, the same basic tradition is found in the rabbis).
      Ok, but Paul says in Galatians 1 that he “did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” That doesn’t mean that study of the extra canonical books is worthless or that there’s nothing to your point. However, Paul himself says that he received the gospel he was preaching to the Galatians by direct revelation and the primary thrust of Galatians 1-3 while much MUCH narrower, is not altogether different from that of the first three chapters of Romans.

      Fr. Robert: Btw, the knowledge of God rejected by those depicted in 1; 18-32 comes solely through “common grace” – the evidences of God in creation.
      Alright I think I know what you mean here now. I think you’re saying that the mere knowledge of God Paul is reporting, IS gracious as well as common. Also it is the very thing that amplifies gentile guilt even while they are without “THE law”? It’s not that I think that’s wrong, and I suppose it could be called that, but that’s not really the way I learned the formal doctrine of common grace.

      Fr. Robert: So actually the Book of Wisdom appears to support the great Jewish connection to God in His sovereign grace and purpose! Surely one of Paul’s great revelations, chap. 9.
      Indeed, chapters. 1-5 and then 9-11 are ALL about the Jewish roots of the Gospel and yet how that the nations were always part of God’s plan through them. In fact Jewish apostasy is being used by God for a time to draw and graft in gentiles.

      Fr. Robert: Just some of my own study here on Romans chapter 1.
      Ok, that’s cool, but it’s also rather broad and topical. Or thematic as you call it. But how can themes be constructed if not upon exegesis? And exegesis is done at the word, phrase, paragraph level. I’m jist sayin. Please don’t take me as only trying to give you a hard time.

    • First. Paul’s use perhaps of the Book of Wisdom is not “identical”, but surely shows Paul had read the Book of Wisdom, and that these Jewish Books (“Apocryphon”) were part of the Jewish life and somewhat history, “between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E.” Note too in our time finding the Dead Sea Scrolls, noting both Ben Sira and Tobit. The point here too, is that the NT writers themselves used small portions of books that were not directly thought canon (OT Pseudepigrapha), i.e. Jude 14-15 / 1 Enoch 1: 9. (See too Heb. 1:2-3 with Wisdom 7: 22, 25-26; 8: 4)

      As to Paul’s so-called “use” of the Book of Wisdom, this too should not surprise us, and as we can see from Paul’s own reading, he simply read quite a lot! (2 Tim. 4:13 / Titus 1: 12-13…note Titus 1: 14, appears to be more of some kind of oral tradition.) So, Paul’s “revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1: 12), does not mean Paul’s mind was like a blank-slate, indeed just the opposite. Paul’s mind & spirit were God’s place of this “revelation”! (Gal. 1:14-18 ; 2: 1-2) It is quite interesting that God chose such a learned Jewish man, a Pharisee as Paul (also a Roman citizen, a Jewish Greco-Roman), to write most of the N.T. Letters themselves. But back to Paul and the Book of Wisdom, whatever portions he might have used in Romans 1, these were certainly pressed-out by God the Holy Spirit! I am one myself that does not see the whole of the Apocrypha as the Word of God, but I do read it as part of the Jewish religious history, (see the Anglican Article of Religion VI.)

      Indeed the “Thematic” is always important! Before we can get to the details, we must always see the context and larger picture!

      This is quick, busy a bit this A.M.

  24. We always must approach the Text somewhat “historically”, first. This is actually part of the early aspect in epistemology… “epi + histanai” (to stand before).

    And exactly to the latter! WE can never redact the NT itself (though we can work some on seeking the original text, but even there we can only go so far), it has been given by the Holy Spirit of God! (2 Peter 1:21)

  25. Well once we have made our bed, we have got to lie in it! But were all sinful beings, even us Christians! Btw, no deletion at the Bema-Seat of Christ, we got to take our loving lumps there! 😉

  26. Indeed all of the Redeemed have their great story of personal redemption! He saved me, from the worst guy I know, i.e. myself, with Paul I too am a “chief” (foremost) sinner! (1 Tim. 1: 15)…Literally it is, “to save sinners of whom the foremost am I.” Note verse 14: “And superabounded the grace of the Lord for us, with faith and love, In Christ Jesus.” Wow, what great grace and mercy we have in this man and person: “Christ Jesus”, who lives in the glory for us! What a Savior of “Sinners” is HE!

    Our God! how firm his promise stands,
    E’en when he hides his face;
    He trust in our Redeemers hands
    His glory and grace.

    Then why, my soul, these sad complaints,
    Since Christ and we are one?
    Thy God is faithful to his saints,
    Is faithful to his Son.

    Beneath his similes my heart has liv’d,
    And part of heave’n possesse’d;
    I praise his name for grace receiv’d,
    And trust him for the rest. (Isaac Watts, Our comfort in the covenant made with Christ.)

    I love old hymnology, Watt’s and the Wesley’s, etc.! Perhaps the greatest hymn penned was Charles Wesley’s: Wrestling Jacob: “Come. O Thou Traveler unknown,
    Whom still I hold, but cannot see.”

  27. Again, I am not seeking to overthrow Van Til per se, but show that he simply brought his system to play from the thinking of others to degree. It is a good system according to Frame, but certainly not some infallible position, and we cannot “map” the whole of Scripture here! And epistemology also has some metaphysical principles. Note again, even Van Til uses the foundation of some doctrine of “common grace” from philosophy itself!

    Again, as Trethewie, Van Til’s system is nothing more than a “a priori dogmatic transcendental irrationalism.” No system of philosophy (by itself) undergirds Holy Scripture, only the Doctrine of God Himself!

  28. Btw, Luther’s great presupposition was Christ and the Christological! Calvin is also closer here! You might want to try reading both, but Luther first perhaps! WE are done it appears on Van Til! My blog, my rules! Historical, biblical and theological, I have yet to see any with you!

  29. No one can answer this, at least as to redemption, for there is simply no math or even logic there! (1 Cor.1:17-31) ; (Gal. 3: 1) “Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom. 5; 6) And it is actually here that Barth is closer to the great mystery here than the general Reformed answers, with the/God’s own great dialectic/dialectical mystery/mysteries! And here we are but “stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4: 1) I knew you would chicken out on the great question of the Trinity of God! I would have liked to have asked Van Til the same! And would even like to see what Frame has to say here?

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