The rationalist-irrationalist synthesis

Socrates answers the question whether the holy is holy because it is holy or whether it is holy because God says it is holy, by saying that he does not care what the gods say about the holy. He wants to know what the holy is in itself. In other words, he assumes absolute human autonomy. By saying this he, at the same time, answers the question asked. The Holy is holy not because a god says it is holy; the holy is a concept and a reality that stands above the gods as well as above men. This is rationalism. But involved in this rationalism is the notion that holiness is an idea that is wholly beyond the reach of human definition. This is irrationalism. Instigated by Satan, Adam introduced the notion of human autonomy and with it the rationalist-irrationalist synthesis that has marked all human thought that is not redeemed by Christ. Socrates exemplifies this fact clearly.

There are two purely contradictory statements that must, on this apostate view, be made about reality as a whole. In the first place all reality must be one in the sense that it is a static whole. If this were not so, man would not understand his own freedom. To understand is, on this view, to penetrate exhaustively by logical insight. But, if man understood himself and therefore his freedom exhaustively, then he would not be free any longer. He would not exist at all. For, to understand is, on this view, to be absorbed in being. Being and understanding are one. To understand himself man must, on this view, destroy himself. He must be absorbed into the “wholly other” reality above him. Yet he has no knowledge of a god that is above him. Therefore he cannot, though he must, be absorbed into God.

– Cornelius Van Til, The Sovereignty of Grace p. 10-11


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