Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Common Misunderstandings of Van Til’s Apologetics, part 1 of 2 | Third Millennium Ministries

Over at Third Millennium Ministries Richard Pratt says that the divisions between Reformed apologists is imaginary and not real. With one fell swoop Pratt completely wipes away the differences between the proponents of Gordon H. Clark's scripturalism and the proponents of Cornelius Van Til's presuppositionalism:

Misconception #4: “Van Til denied that human beings can know truth about God because an impenetrable barrier separates the human mind from the Creator’s mind.”

Van Til frequently focused attention on the differences between divine and human knowledge. His emphasis on the Creator-creature distinction has led some to think that he erected an impenetrable wall between human and divine knowledge. But Van Til vigorously denied these inferences by insisting on discontinuity and continuity between divine and human reason.

On the one hand, Van Til argued for discontinuity between our knowledge and God’s knowledge. He pointed out that God has known all from eternity; humans know only as they learn in time. God’s knowledge is exhaustive; we only know in part. In this sense — but only in this sense — divine and human knowledge have no coincidence. Nothing is peculiar in these views. They simply express the orthodox doctrine of divine incomprehensibility. Humanity cannot fully comprehend divinity.

On the other hand, Van Til argued just as strongly for a rational relationship of continuity between God and humanity. As images of God, our rationality is patterned after God’s rationality. For this reason, our knowledge of truth coincides with God’s knowledge at every point. In other words, we know the same objective truths that God knows (although He knows much more), and God’s knowledge includes our understanding. Otherwise, we could have no true knowledge.

Van Til consistently urged us to think God’s thoughts after him. We reason analogically by patterning our thoughts after the revelation of God in Scripture and nature. In this way, we share knowledge with God. Our knowledge is partial and God knows infinitely more, but truth is truth both for God and humanity.

This response is really odd since Van Til and his followers tried to oust Gordon H. Clark for saying that we know exactly what God knows when He reveals Himself to us in divine revelation in Holy Scripture. Unfortunately, Pratt is either misinformed about the Clark/Van Til Controversy or he does not understand what the controversy was about. Van Til accused Clark of rationalism because Clark insisted that both in God's mind and in our mind 2 + 2 = 4. For Van Til Holy Scripture is not the very thoughts and words of God in written form but an analogy of God's thoughts and words through divine revelation. The reason Van Til said this is that Van Til insisted on the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God and that at no point does man's thoughts and God's thoughts directly coincide because of the Creator/creature distinction. Van Til did not get it that this leads to a doctrine very similar to neo-orthodoxy since truth is never exactly communicated from God to man.

Clark insisted that God's thoughts and man's thoughts directly coincide at the point where man is able to comprehend what God directly reveals through divine revelation. When Scripture makes a propositional truth claim that claim directly coincides in God's mind and in man's mind. So when God says that Christ died for the sins of His people that is true both for God and for man and the propositional truth claim is to be believed. Van Til, on the other hand, appealed to paradox and mystery when he thought something in Scripture contradicted other places in Scripture. Clark insisted that nothing in Scripture could contradict other Scriptures since that would mean that God Himself was irrational and illogical. God communicates to man in reasonable and logical form, not through paradox, analogy, and contradiction.

Pratt, being a disciple of Van Til, does not seem to see any contradiction between the religion of the Arminians and the doctrines of grace. The two systems are diametrically opposed the one to the other and the Synod of Dort in the 17th century officially condemned Arminianism as a heresy from the Reformed faith.

To see Pratt's article click here: Common Misunderstandings of Van Til’s Apologetics, part 1 of 2 | Third Millennium Ministries

To read the charges made by Van Til and his followers and the response given by Clark and his followers during the Clark/Van Til dispute at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, click here: The Complaint and The Answer.

See also: Why I Am Not a Van Tilian, by W. Gary Crampton.

Crampton says:

Dr. Van Til is well known for his assertion that the Bible is full of logical paradoxes, apparent contradictions, or antinomies. In fact, he avers that “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory” (25). This is due, first of all, to his attitude toward logic. Whereas the Westminster divines had a high view of logic, Van Til did not. The Confession, for example, states that “the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture” (1:6). Logic, says the Confession, is a necessary tool to be used in the study and exposition of the Word of God.

Van Til, on the other hand, almost always speaks of logic (not the misuse of logic, but logic itself) in a disparaging manner. For example, he speaks of “logicism” and “the static categories of logic.” And with reference to the Confession’s statement quoted above, Van Til says: “This statement should not be used as a justification for deductive exegesis” (24-25). But deductive exegesis is exactly what the Westminster divines were endorsing.

It seems to me that Richard Pratt wants to gloss over these glaring defects in Van Til's theology. Pratt's commitment to the neo-Calvinist doctrine of common grace has corrupted his view of Van Til and caused him to have an overly optimistic view of reprobate men. Even R. Scott Clark once conceded that "common grace" would be better called "general providence".

Crampton points out Pratt's error in saying that logic is created rather than part of the divine image imprinted into man:

It is true that in some places Van Til implies that logic is not created.8 But in other places he says the opposite, that is, that logic is created.9 And the difference is not explained by saying that Van Til changed his views; that would be fine. Rather, it is part of the Van Tilian paradox.

Van Tilian Richard Pratt is of the same opinion. He writes: “Because logic is a part of creation, it has limitations.... Christianity is at points reasonable and logical, but logic meets the end of its ability when it comes to matters like the incarnation of Christ, and the doctrine of the Trinity.”10 Apparently the doctrines of the incarnation and the Trinity, key Christian doctrines to say the least, are illogical. Edwin H. Palmer believes they are. Regarding the doctrine of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, Palmer writes in his book, The Five Points of Calvinism: “Over against these humanistic views, the Calvinist accepts both sides of the antinomy. He realizes that what he advocates is ridiculous.... And the Calvinist freely admits that his position is illogical, ridiculous, nonsensical, and foolish” (85). Of course, if Van Til and Pratt are correct in their assertions that logic is created, then God could not think logically; neither could he give us a rational revelation.


Charlie J. Ray

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