Apologetics to the Glory of God

Van Til and starting with the self

I’m posting this here because the blogger I’m responding to has a character limit on his blog comments. The original post can be found here, and my initial comment can be found here. Here is my response.

“Yes, Van Til distinguishes between “mystery” of modernism and the “mystery” of Christianity.”

Then perhaps you should have made the separation clear in your conclusion. It didn’t seem to be clear – it seemed to be confusing “mystery in general”, and/or conflating them.

“Yes, to Van Til, the “mystery of modernism” is irrational, while the “mystery of Christianity” is rational.

So no disagreement on this.”

Then why wasn’t the difference made clear? Also, why wasn’t Van Til’s discussion of the irrationalism of ~CT addressed? If you can cite this section, surely you can cite where Van Til 1) addresses irrationalism in the non-Christian worldview, and why he says this. 2) Gives myriad reasons why this is necessarily the case. These comments are hardly made in a vacuum, contextually.

“The point of contention is that I am questioning how valid is Van Til’s reading of the “mystery of modernism” as irrational?”

Why don’t you deal with Van Til’s arguments for why this is so, then? He gives extensive argumentation to this effect in multiple published works.

“If he can allow the “mystery of Christianity” as rational, why can’t he also see the “mystery of modernism” as rational since the one who judge both and their relation to rationality is one who is limited and finite in rationality?”

He has reams of material to that effect. Why don’t you deal with it? This isn’t something that Van Til didn’t answer. This isn’t something that he doesn’t deal with. It’s not even something that isn’t a *common objection*! Do you really think that we are to be “neutral” in regard to Christianity vs. non-Christianity? I certainly hope not. The reason why he makes the distinction, and the antithesis plain, is argued all over his published work.

“To put it syllogistically:

P.1) Finite & limited rationality is not capable to decide whether mystery, be it of modernism or Christianity, is rational or not. (I take it as tautology that if finite rationality is capable to decide on whether a mystery is rational or not, then the mystery is not mysterious in the first place.)”

This is a fundamental denial of the revelational epistemology Reformed theology teaches, if it is to be advanced that this is the *only* way to decide such things. It is not the case that we are deciding anything on the sole basis of ourselves – our own rationality. To say that is to deny what Scripture teaches. To say that this even remotely follows from Van Til’s system is utterly absurd. In fact, it’s a bedrock-level denial of how we are to think of ourselves, as creatures, per Scripture. Hence, this isn’t even applicable to our position. It’s not even in the same zip code, since this is precisely what we argue against.

“P.2) Van Til is finite & limited in his rationality.”

Again, this is addressed in his writings, and in fact, by all of the great systematics and confessions. That Van Til is finite is both addressed, and uninteresting in respect to the argument he advances. This as an objection is itself an assertion of ~CT, not CT. It is undeniably the case, and refutes itself by virtue of the impossibility of justifying rationality thereby. This is what his apologetic addresses all over the place! Simply asserting it does not an argument make, nor is it especially interesting.

“C) Therefore Van Til is not capable to decide whether mystery, be it of modernism or Christianity, is rational or not.”

Naked assertion. You are addressing a single quote acontextually. You haven’t addressed what he has to say about *why* he says what he says – and you’re not addressing all of the corollaries of this position – what else is presupposed in order to say it. He is speaking from Christian theism *as a unit* – and you have to address the unit to address an element of the unit. That’s perhaps more fundamental to his apologetic than anything else – and it isn’t even given a passing mention in this discussion. This is highly problematic if one wants to be taken seriously in his critique.
Why does Van Til, or any Christian, for that matter, think he can know anything for certain? Answer: Sola Scriptura, and the correlating revelational epistemology. Address that, and you begin to answer Van Til. Fail to address it, and you fail to address Van Til.

“So with regard to your last sentence, I read Van Til and I got him right (as seen in our convergence of the two agreements above).”

Well, your statement of it was not clear – and it’s certainly not the case that you show yourself familiar with the arguments made for the position advanced in his quotes. While you might say that “Van Til is finite” – this is uninteresting – because Van Til doesn’t disagree with you. Van Til also doesn’t claim to be deciding what is rational or irrational of himself. It’s not even relevant, and you have to deal with more of Van Til than two quotes given sans context to make your point.

“My disagreement is not with you, but with Van Til’s proposition for a “radically opposed” relationship between the two mysteries. If he can decide which mystery is rational and which is not, then both are not mysterious in the first place.”

Then first, deal with Van Til’s argument from Scripture for antithesis, because that seems to be your real issue. Secondly, deal with his arguments for irrationality, and thirdly, deal with revelational epistemology. None of this is in a vacuum, my friend. If you haven’t read where he gives this argumentation, I can supply the page numbers. I can supply where in the Scriptures, and the resultant systematics and confessions of Reformed theology, where what he teaches is outlined, too. All I would ask you concerning the “how do you decide” assertion you make is Bahnsen’s infamous question – “where are you standing when you say that?”

As it seems to me, and to several other folks who teach the method regularly and are viewing this exchange, the issue is that you either 1) Don’t understand his position or 2) Haven’t read what his position is, in entirety. Or 3) Just flat out deny it, but aren’t telling us as much.

In any case, there is a LOT that isn’t being dealt with, and a superficial case such as the one you’ve given us doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and shouldn’t be given a free pass. If you disagree with my assessment of it, feel free to do so – but I’m speaking as someone who teaches this methodology to a wide variety of people on a regular basis. This is a _very_ common objection – and it is usually made from the standpoint of either 1) ignorance or 2) opposing theological assumptions. Which is it, or is it neither? In any case, this sort of superficial argumentation really doesn’t help a critique any. In fact, my last post was on the subject of superficial critiques. This might have been on that list, but I didn’t include it. Consider this a rectification of that problem ๐Ÿ™‚

Those are my 2 (or 25) cents.


10 responses to “Van Til and starting with the self”

  1. B.C. Askins Avatar

    “Iโ€™m posting this here because the blogger Iโ€™m responding to has a character limit on his blog comments.”

    This is the most revealing sentence in the post… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. RazorsKiss Avatar

      Are you saying that I’m long-winded? If so, you’re probably right ๐Ÿ˜›

  2. Lou Avatar

    Admit it, VanTil is your golden calf.

    1. RazorsKiss Avatar

      Why would I admit something that isn’t true? Admit it – you barely know anything about me, and your comment is amazingly arrogant.

    2. Resequitur Avatar

      Lou March 21, 2012 at 8:43 pm
      “Admit it, VanTil is your golden calf.”

      Admit it, you are your golden calf

  3. Lance Greer Avatar
    Lance Greer

    If I were to remake Lou’s point — VanTil wasn’t perfect, but you guys do spend an aweful lot of time defending him and his writings. Not sure if that is what Lou meant, but if so, I would say that it is possibly a weakness.

    1. RazorsKiss Avatar

      People spend an awful lot of time trying to rebut Van Til, instead of the Scriptural basis for the apologetic.

    2. C.L. Bolt Avatar
      C.L. Bolt

      Sure it “possibly” is a weakness. And you are possibly a bot. Or an idiot. Or a dog who was left alone with a computer long enough to hit keys so many times that he eventually posted a semi-coherent comment in English on a blog. I do not see any logical contradictions in any of the above scenarios. They are all possible. But they do not keep me awake at night or anything.

      1. JL Avatar

        I think you hit in on the head with your post “Stop answering us!”…it got me laughing.

        1. RazorsKiss Avatar

          Well, just for full disclosure, that was Chris, not me ๐Ÿ™‚ But thanks all the same!

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