The two opposing principles

In view of the facts mentioned above we shall have to concern ourselves first and primarily with the two opposing principles of interpretation. The Christian principle of interpretation is based upon the assumption of God as the final and self-contained reference point. The non-Christian principle of interpretation is that man as self-contained is the final reference point. It is this basic difference that has to be kept in mind all the time. It will be difficult at times to see that such is actually the case. The very fact that by God’s common grace fallen man is ‘not as bad as he could be’ and is able to do that which is ‘morally good’ will make the distinction between two mutually exclusive principles seem an extreme oversimplification to many.

In fact, it is in spite of appearances that the distinction between the two principles must be maintained. The point is that the ‘facts of experience’ must actually be interpreted in terms of Scripture if they are to be intelligible at all. In the last analysis the ‘facts of experience’ must be interpreted either in terms of man taken as autonomous, or they must be interpreted in terms of God. There is no third ‘possibility.’ The interpretation which takes the autonomous man as self-interpretive is an ‘impossible possibility.’

– Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge p.44-45


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