Monday, June 19, 2006

More on Van Til's Apologetic


Since my last post on this subject, there has been a lively discussion concerning presuppositional apologetics over on SharperIron. I honestly don’t understand the antagonism directed toward Van Til and his apologetic. Many who are arguing against the presuppositional method would do well to read Bahnsen’s book. I think they would find that either (1) they don’t understand the method, or (2) their objections have already been sufficiently addressed.

As I mentioned in my previous posting, I would like to provide several more quotes from Bahnsen’s book. Some of these will be Bahnsen himself; others will be Bahnsen quoting Van Til:


“After all I am only asking you to see what is involved in the Christian conception of God. If the God of Christianity exists, the evidence for His existence is abundant and plain so that it is both unscientific and sinful not to believe in Him.” (Bahnsen, p. 128)

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“Take now the four points I have mentioned – creation, providence, prophecy, and miracle. Together they represent the whole of Christian theism. Together they include what is involved in the idea of God and what He has done round about and for us. Many times over and in many ways the evidence for all these has been presented. But you have an always available and effective answer at hand.127

127 “Proofs of God and evidences for Christianity can always be countered by the unbeliever’s controlling presuppositions or worldview. That is why the presuppositional approach to apologetics teaches us to be prepared to argue with and refute the underlying philosophy that the unbeliever used to evade the force of the evidences and proofs.” (Bahnsen, p. 136).

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“The narrative of the fall of many may illustrate this point. Adam and Eve were true theists at the first. They took God’s interpretation of themselves and of the animals for granted as the true interpretation. Then came the tempter. He presented to Eve another, that is an antitheistic theory of reality, and asked her to be the judge as to which was the more reasonable for her to accept. And the acceptance of this position of judge constituted the fall of man. That acceptance put the mind of man on an equality with the mind of God. That acceptance also put the mind of the devil on an equality with God. Before Eve could listen to the tempter, she had to take for granted that the devil as perhaps a person who knew as much about reality as God knew about it. Before Eve could listen to the tempter, she had to take it for granted that she herself might be such an one as to make it reasonable for her to make a final decision between claims and counter-claims that involved the entire future of her existence. That is, Eve was obliged to postulate an ultimate epistemological pluralism and contingency before she could even proceed to consider the proposition made to her by the devil. Or, otherwise expressed, Eve was compelled to assume the equal ultimacy of the minds of God, of the devil, and of herself.” (Bahnsen, p. 152)

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“If he is asked to use his reason as the judge of the credibility of the Christian revelation without at the same time being asked to renounce his view of himself as ultimate, then he is virtually asked to believe and to disbelieve in his own ultimacy at the same time and in the same sense.” (Bahnsen, p. 156)


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If all things must be seen “in God” to be seen truly, one could look ever so long elsewhere without ever seeing a fact as it really is. If I must look through a telescope to see a distant star, I cannot look first at the star to se whether there is a telescope through which alone I could see it. If I must look through a microscope to see a germ, I cannot first look at the germ with the naked eye to see if there is a microscope through which alone I can see it. If it were a question of seeing something with the naked eye and seeing the same object more clearly through a telescope or a microscope, the matter would be different. We may see a landscape dimly with the naked eye and then turn to look at it through a telescope and see it more clearly. But such is not the case with the Christian position. According to it, nothing at all can be known truly of any fact unless it be known through and by way of man’s knowledge of God.” (Bahnsen, p. 170-171)

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“Seeking to suppress his knowledge of the truth about God, the unbeliever’s professed wisdom is reduced to vain reasoning and foolishness (vv. 21-22). When men deny having this knowledge, their thinking and attempts to gain knowledge can be reduced to absurdity. This biblical insight is at the heart of Van Til’s presuppositional defense of the faith.” (Bahnsen, p. 182).

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“Therefore also, on its authority alone do we believe what the Scripture says about itself. 112

112”The alternative to this is theologically and epistemologically unacceptable. The teaching of Scripture about itself is the source and authority for our doctrine of Scripture, just as much as it is for any other doctrine. Anybody who advocates the inerrancy of Scripture must recognize this, since nobody can corroborate each and every claim made in the Bible. If Scripture is not presented as self-attesting in some apologetical methods, then the unbeliever has every right to hold that the other doctrines of Christianity need not be accepted on Scripture’s say-so.” (Bahnsen, p. 212.)

6 Comments:

At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

Thanks for this, Andy.

 
At 11:24 PM, Blogger lilrabbi said...

"And the acceptance of this position of judge constituted the fall of man."

Is this original with Van Til? This idea that man's fall was because assumed the 'position of judge' - I'm not sure I've heard of it anywhere else. Isn't the role of our intellect to judge and discern and all that? God made us with the ability to judge. I always thought Eve's sin was that she judged wrongly out of a heart that loved God all too little. I didn't think her sin was that she judged. What if she had judged that the Serpent was full of it? Would that have been a sin too?

 
At 9:22 AM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

Jesse,

She took it upon herself to become the ultimate authority. God had already spoken and revealed His will. Instead of submitting to that will, she decided that she needed to put God's statements on trial and see if they measured up to her ultimate criteria. The problem is that she raised some other criteria above God's revealed word. The only God glorifying way to judge "that the Serpent was full of it" would be to base that judgment on what God said.

 
At 4:44 PM, Blogger lilrabbi said...

What can we know that isn't in the Bible? Anything? How do we come to terms with the Bible says?

 
At 4:48 PM, Blogger lilrabbi said...

Sorry, that wasn't quite to the point. The problem I'm having is that it is usually "logic" that is pointed out as being that "some other criteria". Was it simply her evil desires? Or was it her nasty human logic? My problem with what McCune says (and what it seems Bahnsen says), is that without that dirty human reasoning, Even would have never known what God wanted in the first place.

 
At 12:54 PM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

Logic is not the problem, nor is reasoning. Obviously God expects us to use both logic and reasoning. The problem comes in when one’s logic or reasoning fails to accept God’s revealed Word as ultimately authoritative. There would have been no problem if Eve had reasoned from that authoritative basis.

 

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