Christianity and Idealism by Cornelius Van Til

Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant

Recently it has been brought to my attention that despite his lengthy work addressing the concept, there are still people today who will make the claim that Dr. Van Til was an idealist (or suggest an influence on him and him unaware of it). This is because of similarities people project between Immanuel Kant and Van Til concerning transcendentalism. Rest assured, Dr. Van Til not only was not an idealist, but clearly against idealism, and quite aware of idealism, as you will be able to prove with this work. On with the formal details…

 

 

 

CHRISTIANITY AND IDEALISM.
.
Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1955. 139 pp.
.
Having been accused by the Calvin Forum writers of being under the influence of idealism, this collection of book reviews on modern idealistic philosophy (1930–1942) was published in order to clarify his opposition to it.
.
1.     God and the Absolute     [1930.A]
2.     Recent American Philosophy     [1937.C]
3.     The Theism of A. E. Taylor     [1939.B]
4.     Philosophical Foundations, John Thomas     [1941.B]
5.     Studies in the Philosophy of Religion, A. A. Bowman     [1939.A]
6.     A Sacramental Universe, A. A. Bowman     [1940.A]
7.     The Nature and Destiny of Man, Reinhold Niebuhr     [1941.C]
8.     The Logic of Belief, D. Elton Trueblood     [1942.B]
9.     The Doctrine of God, Albert Knudsen     [1930.D]
10.     Kant or Christ?     [1942.C]
.
From time to time I have written on the relation of idealist philosophy to Christianity. It is obvious that such philosophies as materialism and pragmatism are foes of Christianity. It is less obvious but no less true that Idealism and Christianity are mutually exclusive. Christianity teaches man to worship and serve God the Creator. Idealism, no less than materialism or pragmatism, teaches man to serve and worship the creature. Idealism has a language which resembles that of Christianity but its thought content leads inevitably toward pragmatism. That is the idea expressed in the articles that are herewith reproduced. The relation between Idealism and Christianity has recently become a controversial issue among Reformed Christians. This accounts for the republishing of these articles.”-from the Preface
.
As you can see the accusation is nothing new, and from the first line in the preface, Dr. Van Til could not be more clear about his position. Read it for yourself, share it with philosophy students, and people with the integrity and humility to admit error, misguidance, misleading,  and misunderstanding.
.
 
.
Advertisements

Presuppositionalism and the Doctrine of Creation

Recently Southern Evangelical Seminary put up a video on Vimeo from the 20th Annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics 2013 entitled “Young Earth Presuppositionalism”. It is a friendly debate featuring Richard Howe, Jason Lisle, and K.Scott Oliphint exploring how apologetic method effects (or if it does) our view of the age of the earth.

 

Btw, after you finish listening to the debate, I recommend reading the review of the debate over at Holloway Quarterly here: http://www.hollowayquarterly.com/2013/12/young-earthers-and-presuppositionalism.html

While we are on this subject, a few months ago, a person asked me through this blog the question: “Was Van Til a Six Day Creationist?

To which I replied:

“Good question and thanks for the link. Before researching, my answer is yes, my reasoning is as follows:

1.) he was a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church from 1936 until his death.

2.) “Officers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church take a vow to “sincerely receive and adopt” these confessional documents “as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.” – OPC Confession standards

In the beginning God

3.) from the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter IV

Of Creation

I. “It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.

II. After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female,[4] with reasonable and immortal souls,[5] endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.”

4. Now that I have researched, if you have access to his book “The Defense of the Faith” turn to Chapter 9 “Argument by Presupposition” from the subsection “Creation out of Nothing”

On the question of creation I believe that it pleased God “for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days and all very good.” This doctrine of creation fits in with the doctrine of the ontological trinity. If God is fully self-contained then there was no sort of half existence and no sort of non-being that had any power over against him. There was therefore no impersonal law of logic that told God what he could do and there was no sort of stuff that had as much even as refractory power over against God when he decided to create the world.

I have not merely held but have also frequently defended this doctrine. I have defended it not merely against those who openly reject it or assert it to be impossible on the basis of logic as was the case with Parmenides. I have defended it against those who assumed the existence of some sort of limiting power next to God. I have in particular defended it against all forms of modern dialecticism, whether Hegelian or Barthian.” – Van Til, C., & Sigward, E. H. (1997). The works of Cornelius Van Til, 1895-1987 (electronic ed.). New York: Labels Army Co.

A few thoughts with a disclaimer, I do not know much about the theological beliefs of Richard Howe and Jason Lisle, but I do know Dr. Oliphint is a confessional Presbyterian, he holds to the Westminster Confession of Faith which entails holding to a six day creation. So there is agreement between Dr. Oliphint and Dr. Lisle on the number of days of creation. Please keep in mind, I have no desire to diminish either Dr. Oliphint or Dr. Lisle, however I have to disagree with a comment by Dr. Lisle regarding interpretation of Scripture (something along the lines of:  a reader only needing to read a passage x amount of times before they ‘get it’). The reason I disagree is because the comment seemed to not take into account a Reformed anthropology. What I mean is, the imputed effects of sin on all of Adam’s descendants. I think Dr. Oliphint noticed the same crucial component missing from Dr. Lisle’s explanation, and came on strong addressing the issue. On the other hand, I also think Dr. Oliphint may struggle to an extent with presuppositional methodology applied to a biblical doctrine of creation. Overall, I think it is an interesting debate, and definitely worth listening to.