“What we celebrate at Christmas is not so much the birth of a baby, as important as that is, but what’s so significant about the birth of that particular baby is that in this birth we have the incarnation of God Himself. An incarnation means a coming in the flesh. We know how John begins His gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So in that very complicated introductory statement, he distinguishes between the Word and God, and then in the next breath identifies the two, “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And then at the end of the prologue, he says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Now in this “infleshment,” if you will, of Christ appearing on this planet, it’s not that God suddenly changes through a metamorphosis into a man, so that the divine nature sort of passes out of existence or comes into a new form of fleshiness. No, the incarnation is not so much a subtraction as it is an addition, where the eternal second person of the Trinity takes upon Himself a human nature and joins His divine nature to that human nature for the purpose of redemption.
In the 19th century, liberal scholars propounded a doctrine called the kenotic theory of the incarnation, and you may have heard it, the idea being that when Jesus came to this earth, He laid aside His divine attributes so that the God-man at least touching His deity no longer had the divine attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and all the rest. But of course, that would totally deny the very nature of God, who is immutable. Even in the incarnation, the divine nature does not lose His divine attributes. He doesn’t communicate them to the human side. He doesn’t deify the human nature, but in the mystery of the union between the divine and the human natures of Jesus, the human nature is truly human. It’s not omniscient. It’s not omnipotent. It’s none of those things. But at the same time, the divine nature remains fully and completely divine. B. B. Warfield, the great scholar at Princeton, in remarking on the kenotic theory of his day said, “The only kenosis that that theory proves is the kenosis of the brains of the theologians who are propagating it.”—that they’ve emptied themselves of their common sense.
But in any case, what is emptied is glory, privilege, exaltation. Jesus in the incarnation makes Himself of no reputation. He allows His own divine exalted standing to be subjected to human hostility and human criticism and denial. “He took the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men.” This is an amazing thing that He doesn’t just come as a man, He comes as a slave. He comes in a station that carries with it no exaltation, no dignity, only indignity. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient even to the point of death,” the shameful death of the cross.”
by John R. Muether
In 1976 Cornelius Van Til published an article entitled “Calvin the Controversialist” in a collection of essays in honor of John H. Gerstner, a former student of his. The article was a fitting tribute to Gerstner, himself no stranger to theological controversy and one with whom Van Til had crossed apologetic swords. Moreover, by writing about Calvin, Van Til wisely chose to appeal to his and Gerstner’s common theological forefather. In explaining Calvin’s life and work, Van Til noted that Calvin’s life of controversy began when he embraced Protestantism. As a Protestant, controversy was no option for Calvin. In outlining the contours of Calvin’s theology, Van Til underscored that throughout his work the Genevan reformer bore a practical and ecclesiastical burden. For Calvin, the Protestant Reformation was the recovery of the Christian story for the Christian community.
At the time he wrote the article, Van Til was eighty-one years old, and he had recently retired from his long tenure of teaching apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Accordingly, the article took on a subtle autobiographical character as well, and Van Til likely used the occasion to reflect on his vocation as a theological controversialist. Van Til’s career was controversial at every turn. He polemicized against fundamentalists and evangelicals, modernists old and new, and both pre- and post-Vatican II Roman Catholics. Read more
by Eric H. Sigward
In one of his writings on romantic love, C. S. Lewis alludes to a man skulking through the streets looking for a woman. This, says Lewis, is not true love. True love seeks to have and to cherish, while lust only desires for itself. That would seem to be a coherent Christian statement, but Cornelius Van Til would have considered it to be inadequate. Was that man not a sinner in need of Jesus Christ? What is the difference between Christian and non-Christian love? Without a proper Christian context, Lewis’s statement expresses merely an idealism not much different from refined paganism. Van Til said, “Ideals are like a highway in the sky. There are no entrance ramps.”
The skulking predator would have to change his attitudes and behavior to comport with gentlemanly ideals. But for Van Til, Christians need a more consistent Christianity based upon the authoritative Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the historic creeds of the church. The legacy of C. S. Lewis has been the diminution of theology. One of his famous followers, Elizabeth Elliot, once said, “If more people read C. S. Lewis, there would be less need for seminaries.” Harvard professor Armand Nicoli maintains that Lewis’s reasoning is based on God-but is this the God of the Bible or the God of Platonism? The tendency in many pulpits today is to portray theology as an addendum to Christian life, to treat doctrine as an unpleasantness and to regard action as the only test of faith. Read more
by William D. Dennison
Educators have always been concerned about how information is transferred from the teacher to the pupil. Specifically, does the student acquire a sufficient understanding of a subject in order to apply it to life? Over the years, students have voiced this concern with regard to Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987)—they find his language difficult to understand and difficult to apply to apologetic situations.
One reason for this is that they are not trained in philosophy. Even so, their failure to comprehend and apply Van Til’s philosophical language has not diminished their enthusiasm for his apologetic starting point, which is the self-attesting Christ of Scripture. For them, the authority of God’s Word and the preeminence of Jesus Christ transcend their own ignorance of philosophy. They know that the apologist is not to compromise the Christ of Scripture with any principle or system of secularization! Even if Van Til’s philosophical language is unclear, his students support his initial commitment to the gospel found in the infallible Word of God. Read more
Copied and Pasted From The Orthodox Presbyterian Church site
“The point is this. The natural man in all his interpretative efforts seeks to suppress the revelational content that comes to expression round about and within him. But in spite of and by means of his efforts at suppression the revelational display of truth proceeds to develop. Accordingly a great deal of truth about the facts and laws of the universe has been brought to light by those who love not God. And as Christians we may and should make grateful use of truth from whatever source it springs because ultimately all truth springs from God.” – Van Til from the article Reply to Professor J. Vanden Bosch
So the next time a person comments to the effect of “Van Til or presuppositionalists deny that non-Christians can know anything, that’s absurd” point them to this quote from Dr. Van Til, and more importantly the verses from Scripture below.
Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” NKJV
The following came out of a discussion I had on a messageboard concerning evangelicalism, and leads into discussion concerning authority and THE rule of faith.
Whatever happened to the old idea that being an evangelical meant believing in evangelizing the Gospel to the world, believing in and supporting Church missions and local revivals? I hold to the old idea, I believe in a continual evangelizing of the world with the good news of salvation in Christ alone. And this work of evangelizing, should not be equivocated with secular politics [civil governments].
…evangelicalism, does not stand or fall on individuals, it stands as a principal, not effected any more than the preaching of the Gospel by a servant of Christ struggling with sin in their lives. Is the message of the Gospel therefore nullified if the messenger is not living a perpetually blameless life? By no means, God even uses foolish things.
Several posts later the thread starter, a person I will refer to as “Liberal Christian” makes the following comment:
Liberal Christian: “the holy scriptures do not appear to solve the issue between credobaptist and paedobaptist nor that between sacramentalist and their opponents and the difference between continuationist and cessationists is completely irreconcilable from the scriptures. It can’t be the rule of faith maybe a source of teaching but not THE rule of faith otherwise so many rules that oppose one another would not come from interpreting the same source.”
To which I respond:
So the argument is that because Scripture does not appear to the solve the baptism issue, therefore Scripture cannot be THE rule of faith? Therefore we must either choose a tradition as THE rule, or THE “God told me” rule? Nah man. Without Scripture as THE rule, everything is reduced to “he said she said” subjectivism, and subjectivism is no ladder to objective knowledge.
Liberal Christian response: “Your reasoning is eccentric at best. I say that scripture is not THE rule of faith and you conclude that therefore I have asserted that one of “tradition” or “god told me” is THE rule of faith. Absolute absurdity on your part.”
To which I respond:
Absurd that I did not frame it with every possible variation or option? Now that’s absurd considering what I was responding to. So tell me what you think THE rule of faith is, nvm you’ll likely say Scripture + tradition, which is absurd. To elevate tradition on the same level as Scripture, just begs the question, which tradition, and how do you come to such conclusion?
Liberal Christian response: “The absurdity is that you respond to a statement negating one proposed source of absolute authority as if it were a statement affirming a single alternative as the one source of absolute authority. That’s where the eccentricity of your reasoning lies. But to make the matter clear I am saying that scripture is an authority and that other things are also authorities.”
To which I respond:
Without the primary rule of faith, there are no secondary authorities.
Let’s rewind this a bit, you said; “It [The Holy Scriptures] can’t be the rule of faith maybe a source of teaching but not THE rule of faith otherwise so many rules that oppose one another would not come from interpreting the same source.”
The Holy Scriptures are objective meaning they exist outside of our own existence, that is to say they are independent of our existence. In them God reveals Himself in objective visible and audible manners and manifestations. God the Holy Spirt, gives objectivism to knowledge in interpreting Scripture. God Himself is the source of absolute authority and in His wisdom has chosen the only means to justify obtaining objective knowledge of anything, which is through the Holy Scriptures and illumination of the Holy Spirit.
The absurdity come in when making statements like; “It [The Holy Scriptures] can’t be the rule of faith maybe a source of teaching but not THE rule of faith otherwise so many rules that oppose one another would not come from interpreting the same source.” because you totally undermine any authority given to secondary authorities! Without the absolute authority of Scripture, man has no foundation for knowledge no axiom or basis for knowledge claims, no rule by means of measure for the person who claims “God told me”.
Liberal Christian response: “Why? I have two parents not just one and both are authorities – or were authorities when I was a child – so is the law in my society an authority and school teachers, university professors, pastors, friends, foes, the background culture, scripture, natural laws, and many other things. None is primary and even if one (or several) were primary that would argue against your claim that scripture is THE authority.”
To which I respond:
Equivocation fallacy and failure to make distinctions of hierarchy. As if all of those listed were competing for Ultimate authority. What a hoot!
Liberal Christian response: “I use careful reasoning, scripture, natural laws, experience, and dozens of other things. Fortunately when testing truth claims in religion there is time to hear, reflect, and pray before deciding a matter and even after deciding it is still possible to come back and reconsider the matter.”
To which I respond:
God performed a supernatural work in my heart called regeneration, the new birth, otherwise I would be lost in secular autonomous methodology.
Liberal Christian response: You do know that the quote above really does come down to “god told me so”, don’t you?
To which I respond:
I know that apart from monergistic regeneration, a heart of stone cannot become flesh.
Liberal Christian response: “Isn’t Objectivism the name of Ayn Rand’s philosophy? Are you sure that the Holy Spirit gave that to anybody? Perhaps you meant to say “God the Holy Spirit gives objectivity to” now exactly what does “knowledge in interpreting Scripture” mean? My guess is that “knowledge” was superfluous in that phrase. So you’re saying that “God the Holy Spirt gives objectivity to a person’s interpretation of Scripture.”? But you can’t mean that since it just means “god told me so”. So what exactly did that sentence mean to you when you wrote it because it doesn’t support objectivity in interpreting scripture.”
To which I respond:
You’re ripping the word out of context, it’s obvious, I defined what I meant by “objective” and used the term “objectivism” in the same context. How ridiculous is your attempt to tie my use of the word into something that I have no part of. Use a dictionary next time, preferably a philosophical one. In secular philosophy it can actually be traced back to Plato, however my use of the term has absolutely nothing to do with Plato or Ayn Rand or the anything of the sort, only the basic philosophical concept which I provided. But I really did not need to explain any of this did I? Yeah I get what you’re attempting, when all else fails, try to discredit…
Liberal Christian response: “I suspect this will fall on deaf ears but here is a definition of objectivism from a philosophical dictionary – as you requested.
To which I respond:
So with the 2nd definition the next step is to look up objective. Have you never come across the phrase “objective truth”, as opposed to “relative”? Yes you have, and I’m onto your game.
Liberal Christian response: “Game? I am enjoying myself reading your posts. It is more a matter of entertainment than playing a game.
Wikipedia has this introductory material on Objectivism.
Objectivism is a philosophical system developed by Russian-American writer Ayn Rand (1905–1982). Rand first expressed Objectivism in her fiction, most notably The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), and later in non-fiction essays and books. Leonard Peikoff, a professional philosopher and Rand’s designated intellectual heir, later gave it a more formal structure. Peikoff characterizes Objectivism as a “closed system” that is not subject to change.
Objectivism’s central tenets are that reality exists independently of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness (rational self-interest), that the only social system consistent with this morality is one that displays full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform humans’ metaphysical ideas by selective reproduction of reality into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which one can respond emotionally.
Academic philosophers have mostly ignored or rejected Rand’s philosophy. Nonetheless, Objectivism has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives. The Objectivist movement, which Rand founded, attempts to spread her ideas to the public and in academic settings.
It really doesn’t look like anything that God the Holy Spirit gave to anybody. It does look more like something that might come from Satan. But most likely it came from Ayn Rand’s mind.”
To which I respond:
By your [subjective] reasoning Aristotle invented the laws of logic…but there is a massive problem with that line of thinking.
Liberal Christian response: “I see, so unless I adopt Cornelius Van Til’s notion of presuppositionalism I cannot have any knowledge of anything at all, right …
I do know that presuppositionalism is absurd.”
To which I respond:
You assume that there is original knowledge, as though all knowledge does not originate with God. Nobody in the history of mankind has truly had an original thought, it is only because mankind is made in the image of God, that he has the ability to reason, to make inductions. Though Van Til popularized and gave technical formulation to, he had many influences which led to the revolution in Christian apologetics. It is the only consistently Biblical defense of the faith in opposition to all forms of non-Christian worldviews. I would never say a Christian cannot have knowledge of anything, I would say a Christian can definitely be inconisist with his Christianity, and even non-Christians know, but not without borrowing capital from the Christian worldview, that is they are not consistent with their own worldview, specifically with their ultimate source of authority. For example, for the humanist, their ultimate source of authority is man, which is nearly the definition of autonomy, and the foundation of subjectivism.
Liberal Christian response: “It wasn’t a revolution in apologetics so much as a Calvinisation of the apologetic approach of some Reformed/Presbyterian Christians. The approach isn’t very wide spread outside Reformed/Presbyterian circles and even then the Reformed are more enthusiastic about Kuyperian apologetics than they are about Val Til’s approach.”
To which I respond:
Kuyperian apologetics? Umm…yeah…not so much. Kuyper had more to do with the development of thinking in terms of worldviews, along with James Orr. One of Van Til’s greatest influences was a man by the name of Geerhardus Vos. More enthusiastic? I guess you’re not familiar with Van Til’s more famous students.
Liberal Christian response: “At least you believe that God did what you say. May others also believe something similar. But it is very subjective isn’t it? It’s all about what you experienced. That is pretty much the exact opposite of objectivity.”
To which I respond:
The Holy Spirit is not subjective, and He works to remove hearts of stone and form hearts of flesh. Further you seem to forget a couple of things. Christianity is a revealed religion, God revealed Himself, God attested to Himself, authenticated Himself. The whole reasoning your way to God bit is not found in Scripture. Which is not to say that God has never said to His people “come let us reason”, as a matter of fact, logic is accounted for in the being of God. My experience with the laws of logic tell me they are objective, Aristotle thought as much, but he usually gets credit for being first to put them into writing.
Liberal Christian response: “Perhaps Aristotle did invent the laws of logic. They seem to fit many observations in nature but they do not always exactly fit. They may be little more than a not altogether accurate summary of observed natural things.”
To which I respond:
With that admission, there’s not much left to discuss. I may as well be typing lajovneowanveoeuoyen slieuyeoruresnoyehyhiosh soeuseuoeureouroennodiu.
1 Cor 1:20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
Apologies for the format and layout of the conversation, it may be slightly out of order. I hope it might have some value to someone, maybe someone struggling with the authority issue.
From time to time I enjoy posting on internet messageboards, and recently I got involved in a rather long discussion with a couple of people. One of them a friendly Lutheran. Deep into the discussion I share a thought with him concerning..
“the development of presuppositionalism … is based on a doctrine shared by Lutherans, Calvinistic Anglicans, Calvinistic Baptists, Calvinistic Episcopalians, Calvinistic Methodists, and Presbyterians. It is based on the implications of the doctrines of original sin and “total depravity”.
In a response to another person, the friendly Lutheran responds..
“My faith as an Evangelical Lutheran begins with the person of Jesus Christ as revelation.”
“We never begin with this notion that the Bible is just a priori truth.”
Which sparked the following response from me…
“From what is the Gospel of Christ known and preached that God uses to create a new clean heart? We have to begin with the Lordship of Christ, and this is known how?
As much as I appreciate the classical arguments, from reason, evidences, history, and science, for their ways of building up and strengthening believers and demonstrating to the world that Christianity is rational, evidences support Christianity, and so on, none of them leaves the non-Christian without excuse, none of them demonstrate that the God that exists is the God of Christianity. If there is even the smallest most remote back door, the non-Christian is outie like yesterday’s news. The method used by Van Til recognizes that the problem is not lack of reasoning, lack of evidences, lack of history, or lack of science, the problem is in the heart of man, all of the reasoning, evidence, history, and science in the world will never convert a man to Christianity, God and God alone can turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh.”