Anti-theism Presupposes Theism

“It was useful to seek to apply the method of reasoning discussed in the previous chapters to the various schools of philosophy about us. However, since we have constantly sought to bring out that all forms of antitheistic thinking can be reduced to one, and since the issue is fundamentally that of the acceptance or the rejection of the concept of God, it may suffice to apply the analogical method of reasoning in an argument with those who hold to the “scientific method” of the day. That scientific method is agnostic. It claims to be willing to accept any fact that may appear, but unwilling to start with the idea of God.

Reasoning analogically with this type of thought, we seek to point out that it is psychologically, epistemologically and morally self-contradictory. It is psychologically self-contradictory because it claims to be making no judgment of any sort at the outset of its investigation, while as a matter of fact a universal negative judgment is involved in this effort to make no judgment. It is epistemologically self-contradictory because it starts by rejecting theism on the ground that its conception of the relation of God to the universe involves the contradiction that a God all-glorious can have glory added unto him. By this rejection of God, agnosticism has embraced complete relativism. Yet this relativism must furnish a basis for the rejection of the absolute. Accordingly, the standard of self-contradiction taken for granted by antitheistic thought presupposes the absolute for its operation. Antitheism presupposes theism. One must stand upon the solid ground of theism to be an effective antitheist.

Finally, agnosticism is morally self-contradictory since it pretends to be very humble in its insistence that it makes no sweeping conclusions, while as a matter of fact it has made a universal negative conclusion in total reliance upon itself. The “natural man” is at enmity against God.” Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, Table of Contents Chapter 16 A Sample of Christian Argument

 

Advertisements

The Bible Speaks of Everything

“If we are to defend Christian theism as a unit it must be shown that its parts are really related to one another. We have already indicated the relation between the doctrine of Christ’s work, the doctrine of sin, and the doctrine of God. The whole curriculum of an orthodox seminary is built upon the conception of Christian theism as a unit. The Bible is at the center not only of every course, but at the center of the curriculum as a whole. The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything. We do not mean that it speaks of football games, of atoms, etc., directly, but we do mean that it speaks of everything either directly or by implication. It tells us not only of the Christ and his work, but it also tells us who God is and where the universe about us has come from. It tells us about theism as well as about Christianity. It gives us a philosophy of history as well as history. Moreover, the information on these subjects is woven into an inextricable whole. It is only if you reject the Bible as the word of God that you can separate the so-called religious and moral instruction of the Bible from what it says, e.g., about the physical universe.

This view of Scripture, therefore, involves the idea that there is nothing in this universe on which human beings can have full and true information unless they take the Bible into account. We do not mean, of course, that one must go to the Bible rather than to the laboratory if one wishes to study the anatomy of the snake. But if one goes only to the laboratory and not also to the Bible one will not have a full or even true interpretation of the snake.” – Van Til, Christian Apologetics Chapter 1 The System of Christian Truth

Updates to Van Til PDF’s Section

Hello my peoples, thank you for stopping by this little blog. In honor of the anniversary of Van Til’s birthday this month (3rd) I’ve been working on a few updates. The update I would like to bring to attention here is in the Van Til PDF section. I have added more content to the unpublished manuscript section and changed the fonts in each document from Times New Roman to Siege UI (easier to read) and now there are spaces between paragraphs (easier to follow thoughts). I enjoy reading most anything written by Dr. Van Til. For probably a number of different reasons these manuscripts listed below were never published, and in reading them we should keep this in mind. These insightful documents cover a whole range of topics, from epistemology to theodicy to ethics to the free will debate to Science and facts. Time and again I am blown away by how relevant his writings remain today, and how he could in so few words get to the important issues. It is my hope people will find these valuable to the end of giving God the glory. Grace and peace. – calvinist4life

More updates to come, Soli Deo Gloria!

The following consists of Unpublished Manuscripts:

A Letter to Francis Schaeffer

An Uncertain Sound

Bernard J.F. Lonergan, S.J

Black Theology And Black Power

Boston Personalism

Christianity And Scientific Effort

Evil And Theodicy

God And The Absolute

Reformed Epistemology

The Ten Commandments

The Theology of C.S. Lewis

The Will In Its Theological Relations

Why Westminster Today

But Ye Are Rich an article for Thanksgiving

The following is an article/letter written by Dr. Van Til in 1933 during a period of time in America known as the “Great Depression”, for which “Black Tuesday” the stock market crash is also known. He wrote this around Thanksgiving, and so I present it to you near this Thanksgiving day. May God bless you readers.

But Ye Are Rich

 by Cornelius Van Til

Copyright © 1933, The Banner Vol 68, Christian Reformed Church in NA. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

On this Thanksgiving Day we rejoice with fear and trembling. The depression is still on. The economical situation has improved, some say, a little; others say, none. At best we feel quite uncertain about the future.

Not only is it that we as individuals, ignorant to a large extent of government affairs, feel uncertain. The government itself seems to be uncertain. Outspoken and honest men tell us that the government is experimenting. It has embarked upon a new program. This new program is, moreover, quite different from any other it has ever embarked upon before. How can it help but be uncertain as to the outcome?

Even the wisest counsel of the wisest economical experts does not relieve the oppressive feeling of uncertainty. The forces with which these experts deal are unwieldy. The factors that enter into the situation are so numerous and so diversified that men hesitate any longer to speak of economic laws. The law of supply and demand seems to some to have failed.

On Prayer Day and at other times we have prayed for an abundance of crops. The Lord has answered our prayers. He has given us plenty. He seems even to have given us too much. At any rate the government has destroyed thousands of pigs. So we seem even to be uncertain what to pray for, and what to give thanks for. A poor crop seems to bring better prices. Yet a very poor crop would certainly bring a shortage. Uncertainty seems to be written on the whole economic situation. How then can we celebrate Thanksgiving Day?

Remedies Offered

Some would seek comfort for all our ills in the power of science. The economic experts called in by the present government are bringing the insight of science to bear upon the task of government. But they only reflect the general attitude of science today. That attitude itself is one of uncertainty. Scientists used to think that they dealt with irrevocable laws. They used to think that all man needed to do was to discover these laws and live in accordance with them. Today science scarcely dares to speak of laws at all. It tells us that it deals with “contingencies,” that is, with uncertainties. The naive Marxian socialist, to be sure, exists, but he exists only because he has had no time to read what science says today. Science today says that it has “no pronouncement to make” since she does not know whether she is dealing with truth at all. Science professes to be working in a universe of chance. Uncertainty at best is the last word of science.

Others would search for a remedy in the field of philosophy. But philosophy can scarcely be distinguished from science today. Philosophy is so anxious to deal only with the “facts of science” that it does no more than make some generalizations on these facts. Philosophy has given up the “quest for certainty.” It no longer looks for eternal laws. It, too, deals with “contingencies.” It, too, deals only with chance. Uncertainty at best is the last word of non-Christian philosophy.

Still others would look for relief from uncertainty in religion. They think that religion somehow gives them the right to be certain where science and philosophy do not. But such comfort does not last long. It is bought at the price of inconsistency. If science actually teaches that there may or may not be a resurrection from the dead I cannot get rid of this uncertainty by an appeal to religion. If religion teaches something different from science both cannot be right. I must then ask which one is right.

Now modern religion, generally speaking, has taken for granted that what science teaches must be right. Accordingly it has also clothed itself in the garb of uncertainty. Modernists speak inbeautiful language about “spiritual values” and “abiding principles.” But this is only because they have not yet had time to read as fully as they should what science says today. Modernism wants to build its religion upon “scientific fact.” But according to science all values and all principles have come by chance. According to science today, the “spiritual” is derived from the physical and the “eternal” from the temporal. That all things flow and all things change is the highest wisdom of Modernism. There is no more certainty for the man dying in the faith of Modernism than there was for Socrates when he drank the hemlock cup.

Even would-be orthodox movements in religion partake of the gospel of uncertainty that science and philosophy teach. Frank Buchman thought it fine when his friend prayed: “O God, if there be a God, change Bill Pickle, Mrs. Pickle and the little Pickles.”

Yesterday, Today And Forever The Same

Where then shall we go? And for what shall we give thanks? Or shall we give thanks at all? Indeed, we shall give thanks. If ever, we ought now to go directly to the root and source of our comfort and joy. If in prosperous times there was danger that we should rejoice in the gift without the giver, there ought to be no such danger now. If ever, we ought now to realize that the Giver is himself the greatest gift. “I, the Lord, change not,” said God to Israèl, and we are by his grace the Israèl of God. In the midst of all the uncertainty that surrounds us on every side comes the same word of comfort and joy to us: “I, the Lord, change not.”

Before we think upon the sunshine and the rain, before we think upon the health of body and of mind that we, our loved ones, and our nation have received this year, let us think upon the changeless God. All the waves and billows of uncertainty cannot overwhelm us; He is the anchor of our soul. All the winds of chance cannot sweep us away; we are planted upon the Rock. He keeps us in the hollow of his hand; only if He could change would we have to fear.

Our Creator-God

God changes not. Hence he has made this world of change. God has made the “facts” of science. God has made these facts to work in accordance with laws. The “contingency” of facts is only apparent. Even the winds obey the will of God. When they bring the summer drought they are yet the messengers of God. His purpose is wrought out by them.

What is your only comfort in life and in death? The beautiful answer to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism tells us. That answer should mean more to the Church of God today than it has ever meant before. As Christians living in this age we have been more deeply immersed in what seems to be nothing but a universe of remorseless and meaningless chance than ever our forefathers have been. It is only God’s changelessness that keeps life from being anything but a farce and a puppet dance. It is only God’s changelessness that keeps life from being a shipwreck. All the powers of time and change are in his hand. Change is subordinate to the Changeless One. Thanks be to God, our Creator-God.

Our Provider-God

God changes not. Hence this world of change will change. This world will have a “new deal” yet. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. Paradise lost will be more than regained. At present the earth is cursed because of the sin of man. It does not naturally bring forth thorns and thistles. The world is abnormal now. It will get “back to normalcy” one day. Mere man could not change the world so as to destroy forever the purpose of God for a good and beauti-ful universe. The “change” that man has wrought will be used by God to make a change for the better yet.

Naive Marxian socialists still build utopias. They speak of progress. Other types of socialists, disillusioned to some extent though they are, also build utopias. Hence they are still more naive. There can be no real change for the better in a world of chance. Modernist preachers tell us there will somehow be peace and prosperity in the future. Will the generations of men take to the “spirit of Jesus” by chance? Socialists and Modernists are like children who dream sweet dreams and feel that “somehow” as by magic their dreams will come true. But we have a changeless God. We have a God who will yet show us good. The future is ours because it is our God’s. We are progressive. We lay plans for years to come. We lay plans for eternity. Our labors are not in vain in the Lord. The changeless God has a changeless purpose with the world, with us and with our children. He realizes his purpose though us. Will He not then provide? Thanks be to our Provider-God.

Our Savior-God

“For I, the Lord, change not; therefore ye, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” God upholds the universe in spite of the sin of man. But for the eternal mercies of God a sinful world could not exist for an instant. We are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. The evil that man has wrought could not undo the eternal purposes of God’s grace for his own. Our hearts adore his changeless grace. No one can erase our names from the book of life. Nothing separate us from the love of Christ. Thanks be to our Savior-God.

Our Creator-God, our Provider-God, our Savior-God, he is our God. We are the sheep of his pasture. He leads us beside the still water. He feeds us by day. He watches over us by night. “In peace will I both lay me down and sleep: For thou, Lord, alone makest me dwell in safety.”

Thanks Be To God

What more can we say? Nothing more. There is nothing more that we could desire. Instead of with anguish and fear our hearts are filled with confidence and joy. These things said the “first and the last” to the church at Smyrna, in the midst of its poverty, in the midst of its persecution, in the midst of its uncertainty. Did it appear to them as more theory? Did it seem to them that the ministers who brought this message that they were rich in God though poor in the world had no sense of the needs of men? It did not. It comforted them. It was the only message that really did comfort them. It gave them courage for the martyr’s death. It gave them strength to carry on with the daily task, disheartening as it would seem in itself.

That gospel of a changeless God we have been allowed to preach in our churches. That gospel of a changeless God we have been allowed to teach in our schools. That gospel has led our aged loved ones in comfort to the grave. That gospel has strengthened us for every task, upheld us in our every weakness, and prepared us for our every emergency. That gospel we have brought to others. That gospel we may still bring to others. It is the everlasting gospel. It is the gospel of the changeless God. Though our hearts should be tempted to enumerate the difficulties, the privations and visitations of these lean years, though we should look around and find that naught but the message of fear comes to us from every side, and though the “fact” should seem to indicate and the “experts” should seem to corroborate that all is uncertain ahead, yet will the Spirit testify to the truth of his Word and interject, subdue and control with the words, “But ye are rich.”

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.
.
 
.

Van Til interacting with Bavinck and Calvin on Natural Theology

Herman Bavinck
Herman Bavinck

According to Bavinck apologetics cannot precede systematics. A true apologetics, he says, presupposes dogma. 5 There is in Christian dogmatics no place for reason as an agency by which, independently of the truth of Christianity, a natural theology may be established. The Roman Catholics are mistaken when they seek to work out a natural theology independently of Scriptures. There was a time, says Bavinck, when Reformed theologians also fell into this mistake. So, for instance, S. Van Til divided his work on theology into two parts, one dealing with natural and one with revealed theology. 6 But all this, says Bavinck, was due to false philosophical influences upon theology. He wants to return to the position of Calvin for whom Scripture was the eyeglass through which the Christian should read the book of nature. 7 “Originally natural theology did not serve the purpose of gradually leading up to revealed theology. In studying natural theology, theologians did not provisionally adopt the position of reason in order by reasoning and proof to climb up to the position of faith. On the contrary, the theologian stood upon the position of faith and in the attitude of faith looked upon nature, and thus with his Christian eye, and by means of Scripture, he would find traces of that God which from the Scriptures and through Christ he had learned to know as his heavenly Father.” 8 To this he adds: “Even if there is a knowledge of God through nature, this does not mean that there are two principles in dogmatics. Dogmatics has only one principium externum, namely, the Scriptures, and only one principium internum, namely, the believing reason.” 9 – Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, Chapter 5, A. The Position of Herman Bavinck

5 p. 38.
6 p. 95.
7 p. 73.
8 p. 74.
9 p. 74.

The Sovereignty of Grace by Cornelius Van Til

G.C. Berkouwer
G.C. Berkouwer

In 1969 P&R published a relatively short  booklet by Cornelius Van Til entitled “The Sovereignty of Grace: An Appraisal of G. C. Berkhower’s View of Dordt”. For thought, the following quote is part of the conclusion:

“Berkouwer was therefore leading us forward when, in his earlier works, he constantly pointed out that the Reformed doctrine of Scripture and the Reformed doctrine of salvation by grace alone as involved in one another stand alone in their final opposition to those who start from human subject as though it were autonomous.

In his later works, however, Berkouwer is making an alliance with those whose theology is, in the last analysis, based on the assumption of human autonomy. Admitting that Barth’s “revised supralapsarianism blocks the way to ascribing decisive significance to history,” Berkouwer none-the-less insists that his “main concern is in speak of the all-conquering grace of God in Christ Jesus.” Barth denies, as basically destructive of the gospel of free grace, that which Berkouwer, in his earlier work, stressed as being foundational to all true theology, namely, the direct revelation of God in history through Scripture and the step-by-step redemptive work of Christ in history. Yet, Berkouwer now considers Barth as a fellow-defender of grace.

Not only this. Berkouwer now advocates principles similar to those of Barth and of neo-orthodoxy as though through them alone we can defend the teaching of free grace.

Yet Berkouwer appears not to be certain of himself in his advocacy of the neo-orthodox pattern of thought, as a new and better way. Committed as he is to the historic Christian position of salvation through the work of Christ in history, he halts and objects when Barth goes too far in rejecting this.

When Reformed Christians today read Berkouwer, they should realize that there are two mutually destructive principles operative in his theology. There is the position of the historic Reformed Faith and there is the position that would go beyond the first position by means of a modern existentialist pattern of thought. The first position is now gradually being snowed under. It is now said to be formalist and determinist.”