Did Van Til set Christianity alongside other worldviews?

I was sent a link to some sort of “progressive” podcast, called “Homebrew Christianity”, with a guest named Peter Rollins. Mr. Rollins, supposedly, is a “Christian atheist”, in some existential sense. His self-description, frankly, was rambling, confused a host of categories, and was quite unintelligible. The host(s) were equally confused, rambling, and made a riproaring shambles out of every theological topic they touched. I’m more than happy to link to the podcast so you can see for yourself, being quite confident that the ideas expressed therein are self-refuting. Be that as it may, I was interested primarily because he mentioned Van Til and Schaeffer in passing at one point early on.

(13:46) “Christianity now has become a form of identity. In worldview Christianity, you see all these books of Cornelius Van Til, and Francis Schaeffer, this idea that Christianity is just one more worldview to set alongside other worldviews; there’s Marxism, there’s behaviorism, there’s Christianity, there’s x, y, and z. Rather than seeing Christianity as the breaking apart of all worldviews.”

Contra Van Til:
“It is this actual possession of the knowledge of God that is the indispensable presupposition of man’s ethical opposition to God. There could be no absolute ethical antithesis to God on the part of Satan and fallen man unless they are self-consciously setting their own common notions, derived from the folly of sin, against the common notions that are concreated with them. Paul speaks of sinful man as suppressing within him the knowledge of God that he has. How does he do this? he does this by assuming his own ultimacy. For with this idea of his own ultimacy goes the idea that God and man are aspects of the same reality. They are then a part of a reality that is on the one hand utterly discontinuous with itself, a reality in which chance is king, and on the other hand a reality that is in principle exhaustively determined by its own internal relations and is in principle exhaustively known to man and God alike. It is these notions of human autonomy, of irrational discontinuity, and of rationalistic continuity that are the common notions of sinful or apostate mankind. Or else what does the doctrine of total depravity mean? … [T]he natural man, using his principles and working on his assumptions, must be hostile in principle at every point to the Christian philosophy of life”.[1]

In Van Til, there are two worldviews. That which is analogical, Christian Theism; and that which is autonomous, non-Christian Theism. The two are opposed on every point whatsoever in principle, but not in practice, due to God’s common grace. CT is not one of many worldviews – it is the only true view of the world. It’s opposite, that which we argue the impossibility of, is the false view of the world; that of the self-proclaimed autonomous, natural man. Men are covenant keepers, by the grace of God, or they are covenant breakers. This is the antithesis which necessitates a “head-on collision” as the sole point of contact; that point of contact being the image of God in the unbeliever and believer alike. I don’t know what Mr. Rollins has read of Van Til – but his understanding is incorrect. I can go on for a considerable amount of time pointing out where his understanding is incorrect, should he so choose to respond, but this should suffice for now.

“Here we see that there is a fundamental conflict between ‘ the wisdom of the world’ and ‘the wisdom of God’… Paul is speaking … of a worldly wisdom which claims to be self-sufficient in itself, quite apart from God and his revelation. It is a kind of worldly wisdom which leaves God and his revelation out of the picture and thereby ends up with a completely distorted conception of reality.”[2]

Again, we see that there is not a multitude of worldviews seen to be in conflict – but two. God’s sufficient wisdom, graciously granted to man, and the self-sufficient “wisdom” of the natural man. Mr. Rollins’ understanding of what he calls “worldview Christianity” is exceedingly flawed. Schaeffer, I’m not as much concerned with – and I do believe that some of the followers of Schaeffer have imparted some idea similar to what Rollins tries to describe. However, Van Til, and to a lesser extent, Schaeffer, both taught clearly that the worldviews in conflict are that of the natural man, and the regenerate man. There is really no other way to read these two men. Therefore, along with the rest of Rollins’ incoherence, we can dismiss his “citation” of these two men. As someone in our chat channel commented – Van Til believed quite the opposite. The “variations” in the practice of these two worldviews are inconsistencies in the principles to which they adhere. There is no such silly thing as “worldview christianity” – or “progressive christianity.” As Reformed believers, we believe in the Reformed system of doctrine – covenantally, confessionally, and unapologetically. This is what we defend, and this is what we presuppose, that we might defend at all. The revealed worldview of the personal-infinite Triune God is set against the worldview of the natural man, as a complete unit – not as one of a plethora of possible worldviews. Mr. Rollins would be well-served by actually reading Dr. Van Til, and taking note of his positions.

For more reading see this post. For another explanation, see here.

  1. [1]Defense of the Faith (4th ed.), 190-191
  2. [2]The Great Evangelical Disaster, 26-27

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