Wrongly, Plantinga

According to John Calvin, “As soon as ever we depart from Christ, there is nothing, be it ever so gross or insignificant in itself, respecting which we are not necessarily deceived.” Perhaps Calvin means only what we have already noted: one who doesn’t know God fails to know the most important truth about anything else. He may mean to go even further, however: perhaps he means to say that those who don’t know God suffer much wider ranging cognitive deprivation and, in fact, don’t really have any knowledge at all. (This view is at any rate attributed (rightly or wrongly) to some of his followers, for example, Cornelius van Til.) That seems a shade harsh, particularly because many who don’t believe in God seem to know a great deal more about some topics than most believers do. (Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, 217)

The first objection that suggests itself may be expressed in the rhetorical question, Do you mean to assert that non-Christians do not discover truth by the methods they employ? The reply is that we mean nothing so absurd as that. The implication of the method here advocated is simply that non-Christians are never able to, and therefore never do, employ their own methods consistently. (Van Til, Defense of the Faith, 125.)



I apologize in advance if I have misread the intent of this post.

I am a bit confused as to what the point is here. I am assuming that you mean to say that Plantinga has misrepresented Van Til. If so, the relevant sentence in the Plantinga quote must be this:

“(This view is at any rate attributed (rightly or wrongly) to some of his followers, for example, Cornelius van Til.)”

If this is the case, I do not see how Plantinga has done so. First, he only says that the view in question is *attributed* to Van Til – which it no doubt sometimes is. He is not making a claim here about what he thinks Van Til’s view was; rather, he is merely stating that this is what some people think his view was.

Furthermore, I think that the phrase “rightly or wrongly” indicates even more strongly that he is offering no interpretation of Van Til’s work (at least not in this quote), but is stating a fact – that some people think his view was that non-Christians cannot know anything, and this may or may not be a correct interpretation of Van TIl’s work.

If your goal here was not to correct a perceived mistake on the part of Plantinga, but merely to point out that the view in questions is in fact *wrongly* attributed to Van Til, why include the Plantinga quote at all?

Twitter Trackbacks for Wrongly, Plantinga | Choosing Hats [choosinghats.com] on Topsy.com

[…] […]

C.L. Bolt

The only kind of “mistake” I would attribute to Plantinga here is not going directly to Van Til’s writings to see for himself what Van Til believed rather than alluding to secondary sources that he does not cite. Aside from that I am in complete agreement with you.

Plantinga is the one who brought up Van Til’s name in the context of the topic which implies that the two are somehow actually related when in fact they are not. Thankfully as you correctly explain above he did not go as far as the secondary sources did. Presuppositionalists unfortunately see the view in question falsely attributed to Van Til over and over and over again when his position should be clear to someone who actually reads what he has written. Frankly it is sloppy scholarship.

So I do not think I am misreading Plantinga but I am perhaps helping him out with his curiosity. He reads this site afterall.

Ha! 😉

C.L. Bolt

If Plantinga somewhere else goes into further detail on this then I will of course correct what I have written. I thought I remember him saying something more elsewhere but cannot seem to find it so I am probably not remembering correctly.

Van Til taught Nonbelievers cannot know anything | defectivebit

[…] have addressed this as well, namely Dr. James Anderson and Chris Bolt with some other great […]

[WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP ( doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP ( and so is spam.

Van Til taught that nonbelievers cannot know anything | Choosing Hats

[…] have addressed this as well, namely Dr. James Anderson and Chris Bolt with quotes of Van Til in his various works. Blog this! Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post […]

Leave a Comment