Man’s Response to Revelation

6618151Calvin makes a sharp distinction between the revelation of God to man and man’s response to that revelation. This implies the rejection of a natural theology such as Aquinas taught.

He makes a sharp distinction between the responses to God’s revelation made by:

(a) man in his original condition, i.e., Adam before the Fall;
(b) mankind, whose “understanding is subjected to blindness and the heart to depravity” (Inst. II.i.9)
(c) those that are “taught of Christ” through Scripture and whose eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit.

– Cornelius Van Til, The Reformed Pastor and the Defense of Christianity & My Credo p.24

The Foundation of Historical Apologetics

Historical apologetics is absolutely necessary and indispensable to point out that Christ arose from the grave, etc. But as long as historical apologetics works on a supposedly neutral basis it defeats its own purpose. For in that case it virtually grants the validity of the metaphysical assumptions of the unbeliever. So in this case, a pragmatist may accept the resurrection of Christ as a fact without accepting the conclusion that Christ is the Son of God. And on his assumptions he is not illogical in doing so. On the contrary, if his basic metaphysical assumption to the effect that all reality is subject to chance is right, he is only consistent if he refuses to conclude from the fact of Christ’s resurrection that he is divine in the orthodox sense of the term. Now, though he is wrong in his metaphysical assumption, and though, rightly interpreted, the resurrection of Christ assuredly proves the divinity of Christ, we must attack him in his philosophy of fact, as well as on the question of the actuality of the facts themselves. For on his own metaphysical assumptions the resurrection of Christ would not prove his divinity at all.

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.242

Review: Van Til & the Use of Evidence

img_0290Van Til and the Use of Evidences – Thom Notaro

Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of misconceptions about the thought of Cornelius Van Til. While his detractors have at times resorted to misrepresentations, it seems these misconceptions are also prevalent among those sympathetic to Van Til.

Thom Notaro addresses a common misconception of Van Til in his concise book (127 pages), ‘Van Til and the Use of Evidences.’ Notaro clearly organises Van Til’s view of the role of evidence within a presuppositional apologetic approach. While many perceive Van Til to be against all use of evidence and theistic proofs, Notaro argues that “the uniqueness of Van Til’s system is highlighted by his claim that all facts are revelational.” It is because all facts are revelational that “everything is evidence – every fact, every object, every event properly understood is evidence for Christianity.” The central problem that we face in apologetic discussions is not how clear the facts are, but the nature of the interpreter of those facts. Notaro notes that, “The presence of sin has made the task of interpreting the facts much more complex… The contribution that the nonbeliever makes to the knowing process is not one that is amenable to what the facts say.”

Evidences, therefore, need to placed within a biblical framework. Van Til noted that this must be done by recognising the “basic difference between a theistic proof that presupposes God and one that presupposes man as ultimate.” The Christian is to “present his philosophy of fact with his facts.” In this way “any fact can be the topical starting-point for an apologetic confrontation.”

Notaro also outlines some key aspects of Van Til’s thought, including: the relationship of apologetics to theology, the knowledge that the non-Christian both possesses and suppresses, and the non existence of epistemological neutrality. While this book will not function as a practical guide for using evidences in apologetic discussions, it does provide the reader with a firm foundation on which to build. The clarity and brevity of the book makes it a solid starting point to Van Til’s thought, and will guard the reader against falling into a common misconception of presuppositional apologetics.

The Perspicuity of Scripture

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We should see exactly what is meant by the perspicuity of Scripture. It means that no human interpreter needs come between the Scriptures and those to whom it comes. It is opposed to clericalism. This does not mean that men who place themselves with us under the Scriptures, and who are ordained of God for the preaching of the Word, cannot be of service to us in the better understanding of Scripture. The perspicuity of Scripture is perfectly consistent with the Protestant teaching with respect to the task of the preachers of the Word, but it is directed against the Roman Catholic notion that no ordinary member of the Church may interpret Scripture for himself directly. The doctrine should therefore be definitely maintained against Romanism.

Perspicuity does not mean that every portion is equally easy to be understood. It means that with ordinary intelligence any person can obtain, without the intervention of priests, the main point of the things he needs to know.

“Fundamentalism” has sometimes abused this doctrine. Under the slogan of going back to the Bible, it often ignores the great insight into the truth of the Bible that the Church has already obtained in the generations past. This insight has been deposited in the creeds of the church. He who ignores the creeds under the slogan of going to the Bible does despite to the Spirit who has led the church into all truth.

– Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology p.226-227