Quill and writing

Van Til Apologetic Chapter 3 – A Simple Summary & Illustration

3.1a What was the point of Bahnsen’s illustration re the Statue of Eros in London? 

The purpose of the illustration was to show how two different individuals with different ‘ultimate authorities’ might treat the same literary statement. In exactly the same way, covenant keepers reference the Bible (as a whole!) as their final authority whilst covenant breakers regiment their own independent thought (autonomous reasoning) as their final authority.  Whether we’re conscious of doing so or not, we all (ALL persons) do the same!  We each have a fundamental religious commitment to a final authority.  Recognising this is revolutionary, for in an instant we recognise, contrary to BBC political correctness, that we are all FUNDAMENTALISTS!!  Alas, only the covenant keeper is branded with the title pejoratively, the autonomous man slips neatly under the radar!

3.1b May we ‘address the epistemological question apart from the ontological question’ as Dr Singer suggests?  If not, why not? [page 96]

No we may not, for ‘knowing’ is a human activity and therefore it is something we do by virtue of the fact that we are CREATURES made in the image of God.  We KNOW because God, our Creator is a KNOWING being.  Therefore, the exercise of KNOWING must properly be undertaken in self-aware subjection to this realisation of WHO we are – i.e. ontology (the study of being).  We ought not to be surprised that God has constructed us as beings hard-wired to be dependent upon His revelation for comprehending any aspect of His creation.  VT examines closely the incident of Eve taking the forbidden fruit & shows compellingly that she sinned intellectually long before she ever reached out her hand.

3.1c What is monism?  Why is it pertinent to this discussion? 

Monism is that philosophical conviction that looks outward from itself and sees only ONE sort of stuff. More common in the ancient world has been ‘dualism’ – the differentiation of all entities into one of two categories: mind & matter.  But monism denies such a plurality.  Inevitably, what is lost in such an outlook is any distinction between CREATURE and CREATOR. Instantly, the playing field is levelled and man’s thought has assumed equality with anything God may have allegedly spoken.  We must beware of this as an underlying assumption in what we hear from the mouths of covenant breakers.  See below!

3.2 How does St Paul (Rom 1:25) summarily teach that there are essentially just TWO warring worldviews out there? Briefly unpack each.

St Paul affirms in what is surely a centrally important biblical passage relevant to VT, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who ….changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things… and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” Here, we see that there are just TWO ALTERNATIVE ultimate commitments: ONE that duly honours God as Creator & therefore makes His revelation the final reference point of all authentic predication (i.e. all affirmation); the OTHER that makes man (the creature) the principal reference point.  Thus, HUMANISM is the natural outworking of this religious commitment.  We will learn later that reasoning & thinking that occur without reference to God, VT describes as UNIVOCAL – i.e. unilaterally!  By contrast, reasoning & thinking that duly honours God & recognises that in Him alone lie all the treasures of wisdom, knowledge & understanding, VT describes as ANALOGICAL.  “…all the facts of nature and of history are what they are in accord with the comprehensive counsel of God.  All that may be known by man is already known by God.  And it is already known by God because it is controlled by God.” [VT p106]

3.3a How is ‘monism’ incompatible with proper reasoning? [p112/3]

According to monism, the “knower” is no different to anything else in his environment; he is not distinguished by a “mind” that has the self-consciousness and freedom to search for truth, evaluate options, and make intellectual commitments, for man has nothing more than a physical brain , which – like every other natural object – is subject to chemistry, biology & physics.  The “thinking” of this product of chance cannot warrant the notion of …causal connections or moral prescriptions.  Moreover, “facts” that man encounters are random & unconnected in any way that would justify categorization, laws, or predictability…. etc,.  [VT p112]

3.3b Which sort of reasoning (believer’s or unbeliever’s) involves the exercise of FAITH?

This is a trick question!  BOTH sorts of reasoning involve an exercise of faith.  However, the believer’s faith is explicitly or implicitly in God His Creator who has endowed him with the apparatus to make intellectual inferences within the strict limits of His authoritative Word – Scripture.  The unbeliever’s faith is implicitly (or explicitly!) in himself or some other creaturely authority.  Thus, humanism is, when all is said and done’ every bit as RELIGIOUS as Christianity. Van Tillian scholars aren’t afraid to identify as ‘religious’ but they are shrewd enough to point out that they are no more ‘religious’ than every other human being on the face of the planet!  Dawkins’ jibe that ‘scientists pursue evidence & reason in contrast to creationists who pursue (blind) faith is puerile in the extreme. Even his own followers who sit in ivory towers but who have some rudimentary understanding of philosophy acknowledge this fact!

3.4 Why is Ps 36:9 the quintessential proof text of VT’s distinctive apologetic?

Psalm 36:9 states that, “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.”  This text identifies the being of God with the source & substance of creaturely life.  It is echoed by St John in his prologue: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”  Covenant keepers – Christians!! – rejoice in this discovery. Repentance is the adjustment of our thinking from being autonomous & univocal to it becoming analogical – i.e. like God’s!  The only sure-fire way we can think aright is as we reference God’s word in all predication.  As Jesus (& Moses!) taught, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”.  Amen!

Steve Layfield – September 2018