Thank You Reformed Fellowship Inc.!

Good news readers, Reformed Fellowship Inc. has given me permission to post articles by Dr. Van Til from their past issues of Torch and Trumpet journal! Dr. Van Til wrote quite a few articles for the Torch and Trumpet especially from 1951-1959. My sincere gratitude to the wonderful people of Reformed Fellowship Inc.

To read a little history about The Outlook (formerly Torch and Trumpet) please visit this page:

A HALF-CENTURY OF REFORMED PUBLICATION: TORCH AND TRUMPET, THE OUTLOOK 1951-2001

Also would like to encourage others to express gratitude in one way or another to Reformed Fellowship for helping to keep the works of Van Til relevant today and to aid future generations in defending the Christian faith and persevering in the faith.

God bless and Soli Deo Gloria!

PS – Keep watch as new articles will be added to the “Van Til Articles” section, and I might post a few into the feed.

DEBATE: Apologetics Methodology Presuppositionalism vs Evidentialism Pt. 3

Hello readers, the following is the third and final (for me, I will explain in a separate post) response from me in this little debate I agreed to. MK = Mark Kennedy = the person I have been debating.

 

Brother Mark! I would briefly like to note how up to post #5 (post #6 appears to be a different story) you have made it difficult for me to disagree (which I can appreciate on one hand). Up to this point, if this were a normal conversation, I would most likely not respond thinking to myself; “we agree more than we disagree, so no big deal”, no need to nitpick. However, a no response here would defeat the purpose of having a debate, so please forgive the nitpicking which follows and if I come across as overly critical. I think precision is important to most Calvinists, perhaps more so than for many others. Please consider this as iron sharpening iron.

 

MK: You brought up two principles, I’m summarizing as ‘presuppositionalism applied to Science’, and the ‘subjectivism of autonomy’. Science is a limited epistemology limited to the study of natural phenomenon, what presuppositions we bring to such experiments, theories and laws of science belongs to a larger epistemology known as metaphysics. Metaphysics isn’t the paranormal and supernatural included into our naturalistic thinking, it’s the study of first principles that transcend all reality.

 

About twenty years ago in a college course titled “Changing Universe” from our primary text “The Five Biggest Ideas of Science” I recall reading briefly on the history of Science, and historically the first Scientists, were Philosophers. And then I think about Philosophers like Aristotle and his work “Categories” and the role and influence of his works on Western Civilization. His work “Categories” is indeed a philosophical work and considered the first written textbook on formal logic.

Science as an epistemology is an incomplete epistemology. Every Scientist has an epistemology and for example must depend on transcendental laws of logic or laws of thought to interpret the phenomenon and conduct scientific procedures.

Science can be defined as:

“A branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged andshowing the operation of general laws” Dictionary.com

Epistemology can be defined as:

“A branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.” Dictionary.com

One branch of epistemology is the philosophy of Science, and I acknowledge the connections, however as you note, Science is limited to the natural, therefore the epistemology is limited to the natural, but at the same time is dependent upon transcendentals or metaphysics, another branch of philosophy. However there is a problem in all of this, a naturalistic epistemology presupposes autonomy which is at odds with transcendental realities or absolutes. So my contention here is that metaphysics cannot be justified or sustained without dependency on the supernatural.

Additionally, the reason Science is limited to naturalism is due to the Scientific Method, so it is not so much epistemology, as it is dependency on the predictability involved with test results through the five senses. The apologist who emphasizes experience though may point to the conversion testimonies of countless Christians throughout the centuries as evidence of the supernatural. The empirically verifiable differences in persons who experience Spiritual regeneration. Differences in thought and behavior and responses to external phenomenon.

In summary to this section of response, I agree Science and Evidential apologetics are categorically two different fields, and naturalistic Science defined as such indeed is limited, but the naturalistic presuppositions also reveal severe limitations of the evidential apologetic as a primary defense of….faith. We should embrace our Calvinism in every field, without a Revelational (Transcendental) Epistemology, we shall never pass beyond the natural to the supernatural, we shall never interpret the facts of Science as the God created facts in our interpretation of facts.

 

MK: Ubiquitous to reality is that God being self existing and self evident there is a light that shines for every soul that comes into the world, leaving us without excuse (John 1:9; Rom. 1:20). One of the things we presuppose is the existence of God, St. Thomas Aquinas describes five ways of proving God exists, argument from motion, efficient causes, possibility and necessity, gradation of being, and design (The Existence of God can be proved in five ways.). His conclusion to each arguments was that, ‘This all men speak of as God’.

 

Unfortunately the natural theology of St. Thomas Aquinas did not go far enough; if we stop there we have not even proven that the God who exists is the God of Christianity. However even what is called natural theology presupposes the Scriptures, and apologists appealing to natural theology should acknowledge their Christian presuppositions beforehand. The non-Christian will deny they are made in the image of God, and deny the law of God written on their heart, because all men are sinners and men in bondage to sin suppress the truth of God.

 

MK: The court in Dover dismissed this argument as absurd and said, just a Thomas Aquinas, was that the designer was clearly and obviously God. For the apologist, especially the Calvinist, it is already presupposed that you are aware of the divine attributes of God and his eternal nature. That’s what I like about Presuppositional Apologetics and what I don’t like, is it need not stop there. That’s a given, an axiom of Christian theism that all men know. We do well to emphasize that point since God has made it clear to them.

 

And it does not stop there, apologists with a Biblical anthropology need to recognize the antithesis between the regenerate man and the man dead in sins and trespasses, the regenerate conscience and the seared conscience, the renewed mind and the carnal mind. We can appeal to what men know all day long, but can it avail when men suppress the truth of what they know?

 

MK: Questions:

How are we bringing the non-Christian to confrontation with the Gospel if we’re only holding them accountable in a Romans 1:18-20 way?

Frankly, we can’t, God alone has the power to reach men with the lesser light of revelation in the things that are made, and no one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44).

 

I agree God alone has the power to reach men, but he has chosen to reach men with the greater light of the Gospel of Christ. How can men come to know Christ except by the Scriptures? The things that are made declare the existence of God, but do not declare the Gospel of Christ.

 

MK: What we can do is a due diligence with regards to knowing our own history found in the pages of Scripture. We have a witness there that spans human history, past, present and the very near future. At a minimum we can affirm the tradition authorship and if given to Christian scholarship, learn the intricacies of traditional authorship and the unique preservation of our sacred texts.

 

I love Bibliology and it is of great value to the Christian, however from the perspective of the non-Christian, even if and when they affirm the historicity of Biblical tradition, people, places, and things, the buck stops there and at best they approach the enlightenment of Deism. It is one thing to look at the Bible as literature and another to affirm it is of Divine origin.

 

MK: The epistemology related to the historicity of an event, certainly the epic miracles surrounding the Exodus and the resurrection are formidable tasks, given the high degree of skepticism even in our own seminaries.

 

Formidable is saying it lightly, apart from the miracle of monergistic regeneration in the heart of the non-Christian, they will always exit out the back door in retreat to their most basic presuppositions of their worldview.

 

MK: But time and time again, even in the wildness of the creation/evolution controversy I’ve seen well read, hard core skeptics, silenced by a formal presentation of the facts.

 

Certainly I too believe there is great value in silencing critics and skeptics for the sake of the faithful, for the sake of the layman, and the believer struggling with doubts.

 

MK: Evidential apologetics is indispensable to Christian scholarship, the transcendent principles Presuppositional apologetics are not in conflict with that, but rightfully should be in concert with evidential apologetics and epistemology.

 

Without a transcendental Revelational Epistemology, Evidential apologetics is limited to naturalistic epistemology of the Scientific method, and Supernaturalism is out of question, and likewise justification for metaphysics without supernaturalism is a lost cause. So evidential apologetics without Presuppositional apologetics is an exercise in futility.

 

MK: Adam was created from the dust of the earth, created from the earth for the earth. Even though he was more then that, we all exist on an earthly plane. Is it somehow surprising that men in their natural selves can only see the natural plane? With miracles abounding the children of Israel turned in their hearts back to Egypt, they stoned the prophets and crucified the author of life. How do we bring them to a supernatural worldview? God alone can pierce that darkness and we should have every confidence he can and does.

 

Exactly, God alone by a sovereign supernatural mongeristic work of the Spirit in regeneration.

 

MK: We have a well developed soteriology but I’m not quite sure that anthropology is often revisited in our apologetics.

 

Ahh now you’re approaching the historical problem of traditional apologetics, without a Biblical anthropology, traditional apologetics alone are not sufficient nor thoroughly Biblical to be;

 

“casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

 

SOLI DEO GLORIA!