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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 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Van Til's Modalistic View of the Godhead

"You openly declare that the immutable will of God is to be known, but you forbid the knowledge of His immutable prescience. Do you believe that He foreknows against His will, or that He wills in ignorance? If then, He foreknows, willing, His will is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so: and, if He wills, foreknowing, His knowledge is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so."  --Martin Luther's logical response to Erasmus' semi-pelagianism.



Almost everything Scott Clark writes is in adherence to the now dead pope of Van Tilian "Reformed" theology:


As Remonstrant theology developed, however, its basic nature became clearer and that basic nature was rationalism. Arminius was a rationalist in at least one sense of the word inasmuch as he denied the fundamental Reformed distinction between the intellect of the Creator and the intellect of the creature. For Arminius (as for some rebellious and rationalist Reformed theologians in the 20th century) if we could not know what God knows, the way he knows it, we cannot ultimately know anything.
Why Did Arminianism Win?

Of course, Arminian theology is irrational, just like Van Til. After all, who needs to reconcile God's foreknowledge with God's absolute sovereignty, omnipotence, and omnipresence? How is it that God can be immutable in His Tri-personal nature and yet there could be an irrational ignorance of what He has decreed to come to pass in the future? The Van Tilian mantra is that everyone who disagrees with them is a "rationalist," be it the Arminians or classical Calvinists.  Of course, R. Scott Clark cannot decide if Calvinists are rationalists or hyper-Calvinists.  Anyone who disagrees with the Westminster Seminary California faculty just has to be either a rationalist or a hyper-Calvinist or both.  Even Martin Luther was a "rationalist" by Scott Clark's standards. That's because Luther solved the problem of God's immutability, sovereignty, and foreknowledge:


THIS, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, "Free-will" is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces. Those, therefore, who would assert "Free-will," must either deny this thunderbolt, or pretend not to see it, or push it from them. But, however, before I establish this point by any arguments of my own, and by the authority of Scripture, I will first set it forth in your words.

Are you not then the person, friend Erasmus, who just now asserted, that God is by nature just, and by nature most merciful? If this be true, does it not follow that He is immutably just and merciful? That, as His nature is not changed to all eternity, so neither His justice nor His mercy? And what is said concerning His justice and His mercy, must be said also concerning His knowledge, His wisdom, His goodness, His will, and His other Attributes. If therefore these things are asserted religiously, piously, and wholesomely concerning God, as you say yourself, what has come to you, that, contrary to your own self, you now assert, that it is irreligious, curious, and vain, to say, that God foreknows of necessity? You openly declare that the immutable will of God is to be known, but you forbid the knowledge of His immutable prescience. Do you believe that He foreknows against His will, or that He wills in ignorance? If then, He foreknows, willing, His will is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so: and, if He wills, foreknowing, His knowledge is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so.

The Sovereignty of God: The Bondage of the Will

I guess Luther was prying into the secret mind of God by using logic to deduce from the Scriptures that free will does not exist?  The fact of the matter is that Scott Clark's irrationalism has more in common with Arminianism and modern Lutheranism than with the classical Reformed view or with the logic employed by Luther. Without logic and the law of contradiction every epistemology ultimately leads to skepticism. R. Scott Clark's irrationalism is a tacit approval of Arminian irrationalism.   Moreover, Martin Luther's denunciation of semi-pelagianism by his use of the law of contradiction and logic is a prime example of why R. Scott Clark is an irrationalist.  Anyone who can logically refute Van Til's multiple contradictions and antinomies just has to be a "rationalist."  


A prime example of Van Til's irrationalism is when he confuses common language references to God by the singular pronoun "He" with the credal formulations based in Scripture that God is actually a tri-personal being who exists in one nature.  One Van Tilian accuses the traditional doctrine of the Trinity of making God's nature "impersonal."  Please note the comment made by Camden Bucey at the Reformed Forum:
Camden Bucey says:

Charlie, let me reiterate that within the Trinity are distinctions without separation. The Father, Son, and Spirit each indwell the Godhead (and hence eachother) fully. They share one divine essence – or nature as you prefer.
The language of “contain” has spatial connotations, and therefore I think the biblical language of “indwelling” is more appropriate. If you don’t find that helpful, another way to phrase the perichoretic relation is to say that there are full and exhaustive yet distinct manners of subsistence. Yet this indwelling, though exhaustive, does not obliterate the personal distinctions. The Father is unbegotten, the Son begotten, and the Spirit proceeds. These are real distinctions that belong to the persons.

I am not confusing the persons and the nature as you claim. Furthermore, this perichoretic formulation avoids the twin heresies of Sabellianism (modalism) and tritheism, which have also been thrown out there.

Let me ask you a question. Are you comfortable with positing an impersonal essence within the Godhead? 

As you can see, Bucey perpetuates the error of Van Til by asserting that the three persons of the one divine nature/ being of God interpenetrate each other.  Nothing could be further from the truth since the three persons of the Godhead are absolutely distinct from the other two persons at each and every point.  That is what the Scriptures teach and it is what the Athanasian Creed teaches as well.  Each of the three persons are fully God/Divine and therefore share that same essence.  God is one is one sense (being) and three in another (persons).  The personal subsistences do not interprenetrate each other, yet all three are united as One in one divine nature.  God is not impersonal since God is tri-personal.  God is not separated into three gods, nor is God one Person and three Persons.  That would be tri-theism in the first instance and modalism in the second instance.  It is true that in common language we often refer to God as "He."  However, in general we are referring to God the Father in that instance.   (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Furthermore, Van Til's insistence that "all Scripture is apparently paradoxical" is a tacit admission that Van Til thinks that Scripture does not adhere to logic or the law of contradiction.  If God does not reveal Scripture through logic, then Scripture itself is illogical and irrational by the standards of Van Til's theology.  Who could say that good is evil and evil is good except by the law of contradiction?  (Isaiah 5:20).  For Van Tilians, anyone who disagrees with them on the basis of logic is a "rationalist."  Thus, they have openly rejected the very foundation of the confessional Reformed theology:

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: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.    WCF 1:6
Westminster Confession of Faith:  Chapter 1, Of the Holy Scriptures, Section 6.

Postscript:  I forgot to mention that Dr. Gordon H. Clark's definition of a person is the propositions that he thinks.  (Proverbs 23:7).  So if God is three persons, then it follows that each person of the Godhead thinks certain propositions in common with the other two persons since all three are fully divine and have all the attributes of deity.  But, as the Athanasian Creed points out, the three persons of the Godhead likewise think propositions unique to each person.  The Father cannot think that He is the Son or the Spirit, etc.

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