“I would recommend that you read Augustine’s treatise called De Magistro. This is the original refutation of logical positivism and the language philosophies that are common today. Now, the first part of De Magistro is a little tedious. It is so elementary that most of you wouldn’t be interested. But by the time you get through you will see that ink marks on a paper, or sounds in the air, the noise I’m making, never teach anybody anything. This is good Augustinianism. And Protestantism is supposed to be Augustinian, and least it was in its initiation. And it was the most unfortunate event that Thomas Aquinas came in and replaced Augustinianism with Aristotelianism and empiricism which has been an affliction ever since. But the point is that ink marks on a paper, and the sound of a voice, this sort of thing never generates any idea at all. And Augustine’s solution of it is that the Magister is Christ. Christ is the light that lighteth every man that comes into the world. This is not a matter of regeneration. This is a matter of knowledge. And Christ enlightens the unregenerate in this sense just as well as the regenerate. If an unregenerate man learns anything at all, he learns it from Jesus Christ and not from ink marks on a paper.”
I recently came across an introductory lecture on apologetics by Dr. Cal Beisner given at Knox Theological Seminary. I only wish there were more seminary lectures like this one. And not just because of Cal’s obvious admiration for Gordon Clark. The irrationalism he references in regards to Vantilian presuppositionalism is pervasive in so-called Reformed seminaries that any view that defends Christianity as the rational faith is a breath of fresh air. The influence of Van Til and his followers is so bad that men coming out of these things don’t even know what faith is. When young men ask me which seminary they should go to, I generally suggest they don’t. Maybe there are a few exceptions, but I think this lecture is a rare find and is noteworthy for a number of reasons, but primarily because Cal goes to great pains to distinguish presuppositionalism of the Vantilian kind with the “classical presuppositionalism” of Gordon Clark. Frankly, and to be kind, he destroys Van Til’s presuppositionalism completely. In addition, I have never heard Clark’s presuppositionalism called “classical” before, but it is an excellent way to distinguish Clark from the sad and sorry majority position of Cornelius Van Til and his many followers.
While you can read the entire lecture here, to whet your appetite here are a few choice bits:
No apologetic method that begins elsewhere than in propositional truths is capable of interpreting the surrounding world and our experiences in it in a manner that actually establishes the truth of any conclusions.
Frame has an aggravating habit of qualifying what he says but not defining the qualifiers. For instance, he writes over and over again (not only in this essay but also elsewhere) of “human reason” and “human logic”–a habit that he shares with Van Til. “The content of faith, Scripture,” Frame tells us, “may transcend reason in these two senses: (1) it cannot be proved by human reason alone; (2) it contains mysteries, even apparent contradictions, that cannot be fully resolved by human logic. . . .” But what purpose does that modifier, human, serve in these statements? Is there some other reason or logic that is not human? Perhaps Frame means not reason or logic in the abstract but the attempt at reasoning by particular persons–though if that is what he means, we might plead with him to say so. But what is reason or logic other than the way God’s mind thinks? The logic humans use includes the law of contradiction; does Frame have in mind some logic that excludes it, a logic that he would describe as “nonhuman logic”? Would that even be logic? Until Frame specifies the axioms of a nonhuman logic, or of a nonhuman reason, his qualifying reason and logic with human is meaningless.
…. the defining marks of Frame’s presuppositionalism (and in them Frame accurately reproduces Van Tilian presuppositionalism) are circularity and a disdain for logic. Those are not high recommendations.
Unlike Van Tilian presuppositionalism, classical presuppositionalism will not argue, “God exists, therefore God exists.” It will not argue, “The Bible is the Word of God,therefore the Bible is the Word of God.” Those are circular arguments. They fail to recognize that an axiom by definition cannot be the conclusion of any argument. Indeed, by treating the same statement as both axiom and conclusion, they violate the law of contradiction, and it is precisely this contradiction that makes every circular argument fallacious. Every circular argument calls one premise of an argument the conclusion of the same argument, but by definition conclusion and premise are not the same. Every circular argument therefore violates the law of contradiction.
In short, classical presuppositionalism is an apologetic method that (a) asserts Scripture (which includes the laws of logic) as axiomatic, (b) attacks competing worldviews and propositions at the presuppositional level where appropriate, and (c) defends logic and Scripture (and thus the whole of the Christian faith) against attacks by using noncircular arguments that include some theistic proofs and evidential arguments. Because the specific definition of this view arises in the context of modern debates, it would be anachronistic to ascribe it directly to premodern thinkers. However, it is generally true that all those who tended to see reason as dependent on faith, who would say, Credo ut intelligam (“I believe in order to understand”), are representative of this view. The most important among them was St. Augustine, and perhaps the most important statement of his thought in this regard was his De Magistro (Of the Teacher), in which he argued that God’s imparting logos to man as His image and enabling him thereby to recognize His voice in revelation was essential to all knowledge. Leading modern adherents of this view have been Gordon H. Clark, Carl F. H. Henry, Ronald H. Nash, John Robbins, and Robert L. Reymond. Clark’s is the name most commonly associated with it, although, sad to say, his views often are lumped together with Van Til’s.
No argument containing one or more probabilistic premises can validly yield an absolute conclusion. There is nothing inherently wrong with probabilistic arguments; we make most of our choices, including life-and-death choices, on the basis of them. But they should not be confused with demonstrative proofs.
Categories: Doug Wilson, Jeff Meyers, Peter Leithart
Here’s an interesting blog post: PCA hotly debates delaying formal acknowledgement of racism and the end is EPIC. I’m not sure about epic, but what do you expect from a denom where the Moderator holds up his tie and explains that it was “made from the actual material of the elvin cloaks from The Lord of the Rings.” They spend hours in prayer and debate trying to repent for sins that probably not one of them ever committed, yet when formal overtures were made for the GA to direct the Standing Judicial Commission to retry the case exonerating Federal Visionist and false teacher Peter Leithart they are ruled out of order and not one TE or RE lined up to protest the trashing of Christ’s the Gospel. I don’t understand the PCA.
Categories: Gordon Clark
The following is from a recently discovered lecture Gordon Clark gave in 1974 on Augustine’s City of God. A few years ago I picked up City of God and made it about one quarter of the way through. I found it tedious, although I’m assured the later sections are worth the effort. I can’t say Clark’s lecture has inspired me to take up the tome again, but his review at least was not at all tedious.
One of the most widely known opinions is that space and time are infinite. There are some exceptions. The Stoics and Friedrich Nietzsche held that time was infinite but space is finite. So did Aristotle. Democritus and Plato, however much they contradicted each other in everything else, agreed that space and time are both infinite. This is also the common view of scientists today. But for Augustine, time has no infinite past. Aristotle held time to be infinite because motion can neither begin nor end, and time is a function of motion. But for Augustine time began because it is a function, not of physical bodies to be sure, but of created minds. Hence there was no time before God created. God is eternal, he is not temporal. Therefore, the original question, namely “what was God doing before he did anything” or “why did He not created sooner are inapplicable questions for the simple reason that this is no before or sooner. Augustine also mildly puts the pagans for not asking, “why did God create the here rather than there.” One question is as appropriate as the other. And Augustine’s answer is the same. There was no here or there before creation. Space, like time, is a function of created being. But while Augustine carefully worked out these philosophic, one might even say scientific, analyses of space and time he puts equals on the moral implications on repeated cycles in infinite time.
You can find the full review here.
Categories: Theology, Van Til
The following is taken from Robert Reymond’s excellent volume; A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith which is arguably the one systematic theology no thinking Christian can do without. I post the following in the hope to perhaps shake men like Lane Keister from their Vantillian slumber and as a warning to any young man considering entering seminary not to drink the Kool-Aid.
Bible students should be solicitous to interpret the Scriptures in a noncontadictory way; they should strive to harmonize Scripture with Scripture because the Scriptures reflect the thought of a single divine mind.
But many of our finest modern evangelical scholars are insisting that even after the human interpreter has understood the Bible correctly, it will often represent its truth to the human existent – even the believing human existent [see Lane Keister – SG] – in paradoxical terms, that is, in terms “taught unmistakably in the infallible word of God,” which while not actually contradictory, nevertheless “cannot possibly be reconciled before the bar of human reason.” [R.B. Kuiper] It is commonly declared, for example, that the doctrines of the Trinity, the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, unconditional election and the sincere offer of the gospel, and particular redemption and the universal offer of the gospel are all biblical paradoxes, each respectively advancing antithetical truths unmistakably taught in the Word of God that cannot possibly reconciled by human reason. James I. Packer likewise affirms the presence of such paradoxes in Scripture in his Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, although h prefers the term “antinomy” to “paradox.” He writes:
An antinomy -in theology at any rate-is not a real contradiction, though it looks like one. It is an apparent incompatibility between two apparent truths. An antinomy exists when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both undeniable…. [an antinomy] is insoluble…. What should one do, then, with an antinomy? Accept it for what it is, and learn to live with it. Refuse to regard the apparent contradiction as real.
Cornelius Van Til even declares that, because human knowledge is “only analogical” to God’s knowledge, all Christian truth will finally be paradoxical, that all Christian truth will ultimately appear to be contradictory to the human existent.
[Antinomies] are involved in the fact that human knowledge can never be completely comprehensive knowledge. Every knowledge transaction has in it somewhere a reference point to God. Now since God is not fully comprehensible to us we are bound to come into what seems to be contradictions in all our knowledge. Our knowledge is analogical and therefore must be paradoxical.
While we shun as poison the idea of the really contradictory we embrace with passion the idea of the apparently contradictory.
All teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.
All the truths of the Christian religion have of necessity the appearance of being contradictory … We do not fear to accept that which has the appearance of being contradictory…. In the case of common grace, as in the case of every other biblical doctrine, we should seek to take all the factors of Scripture teaching and bind them together into systematic relations with one another as far as we can. But we do not expect to have a logically deducible relationship between one doctrine and another. We expect to have only an analogical system.
What should one say respecting this oft-repeated notion that the Bible will often (always, according to Van Til) set forth its truths in irreconcilable terms? To say the least, one must conclude, if such is the case, that it condemns at the outset as futile even the attempt at the systematic (orderly) theology that Van Til calls for in the last source cited, since it is impossible to reduce to a system irreconcilable paradoxes that steadfastly resist all attempts at harmonious systematization. One must be content simply to live theologically with a series of “discontinuities.”
Now if nothing more could or were to be said, this is already problematic enough because of the implications such a construction carries regarding the nature of biblical truth. But more can and must be said. First, the proffered definition of “paradox” (or antinomy) as two truths which are both unmistakably taught in the Word of God but which also cannot possibly be reconciled before the bar of human reason is itself inherently problematical, for the one who so defines the term is suggesting by implication that either he knows by means of an omniscience that is not normally in human possession that no one is capable of reconciling the truths in question or he has somehow universally polled everyone who has ever lived, is living now, and will live in the future and has discovered that not one has been able, is able, or will be able to reconcile the truths. But it goes without saying that neither of these conditions is or can be true. Therefore, the very assertion that there are paradoxes. so defined, in Scripture is seriously flawed by the terms of the definition itself. There is no way to know if such a phenomenon is present in Scripture. Merely because any number of scholars have failed to reconcile to their satisfaction two given truths of Scripture is no proof that the truths cannot be harmonized. And if just one scholar claims to have reconciled the truths to his or her own satisfaction, this ipso facto renders the definition both gratuitous and suspect. Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Heresies, John Robbins, Theology, Van Til
Since Lane Kesiter has so far refused to answer any of my questions and instead complained that I have misrepresented and mangled what he said and in the process distorted the teachings of his mentor and intellectual father, Cornelius Van Til (Keister said I did so it must be true), I hope to delve more into his non answers in a future post. I confess, it was intriguing to read him bemoaning my refusal to take his “no contradictions in the Bible” at face value. I mean, would he take Jeffery Meyers, James Jordan, Peter Leithart, Richard Lusk, Steve Wilkins (remember him), or Doug Wilson at face value when they all say they believe in justification by faith alone? I hope not. Oh, yeah, Keister did take Wilson’s claim at face value before reversing himself after it was too late.
Now, I sympathize with Keister. As I mentioned recently in one of the discussions on this blog, it is not easy for someone like Kesiter to come out publicly against the present irrationalism as it puts him at odds with the mainstream of modern Reformed thought. Could you imagine the fallout if he were to repudiate Scott Clark who thinks the teachings of Scripture presents to the mind of man a morass of “mystery of paradoxes”? Look at what Herman Hoeksema and Gordon Clark, not to mention John Robbins, all went through in opposing men just like Scott Clark. Just look at the amount of garbage being hurled my way for defending something so basic as justification by belief alone against the mystery mongers like Alan Strange, Ron DiGiacom, Reed DePace, Ron Henzel, Kesiter and the others at his blog.
The professional religious class is completely dominated by irrationalists.
For a guy like Keister to reject religious irrationalism parading as Reformed thought would threaten not only his standing among his peers, but his professional standing as well. And, I’m sure he wants to keep his job.
Concerning the Clark/Van Til Controversy Hoeksema observed:
However, even now one begins to wonder whether the real question in this controversy is not whether God, but whether his revelation to to us in the Scriptures, is comprehensible, that is, can be logically understood by the mind of man. Dr. Clark’s position is that all of Scripture is given us that we might understand it, that all of it is adapted to our human mind, so that, even though there be many things in that revelation of God which we cannot fathom, there is nothing in it that is contrary to human intelligence and logic. And the opponents appear to deny this [they do – SG].
And if this should be the real, underlying issue [it is – SG], if the complainants take the stand that Scripture reveals things that are, not above and far beyond, but contrary to, in conflict with the human mind [they do – SG], it is my conviction that the complainants should be indicted of heterodoxy, and of undermining all sound theology.
Either the logic of revelation is our logic, or there is not revelation.
This proposition I am prepared to defend at any time.
Sadly, and as an example of how bad things really are, all you need to do is look back at the Trinity Foundation’s founding document, The Trinity Manifesto: A Program for Our Time. John Robbins wrote about this very problem and fighting it is the reason the Trinity Foundation exists (much to the chagrin of the professional religious class).
Consider this from Robbins:
Contemporary secular intellectuals are anti-intellectual. Contemporary philosophers are anti-philosophy. Contemporary theologians are anti-theology. The irrationalism of the present age is so thoroughgoing pervasive that even the Remnant—the segment of the professing church that remains faithful—has accepted much of it, frequently without even being aware of what it was accepting. In some circles this irrationalism has become synonymous with piety and humility, and those who oppose it are denounced as rationalists—as though to be logical were a sin. Our contemporary anti-theologians make a contradiction and call it a Mystery. The faithful ask for truth and are given absurdity. If any balk at swallowing the absurdities of the antitheologians, they are frequently marked as heretics or schismatics who seek to act independently of God.
There is no greater threat facing the true church of Christ at this moment than the irrationalism that now controls our entire culture. Communism, guilty of tens of millions of murders, including those of millions of Christians, is to be feared, but not nearly so much as the idea that we, as Christian men, do not and cannot know truth. Hedonism, the popular philosophy of America, is not to be feared so much as the belief that logic—that “mere human logic,” to use the religious irrationalists’ own phrase—is futile. The attacks on truth, on revelation, on the intellect, and on logic are renewed daily. But note well: The misologists—the haters of logic—use logic to demonstrate the futility of using logic. The anti-intellectuals construct intricate intellectual arguments to prove the insufficiency of the intellect. The anti-theologians use the revealed Word of God to show that there can be no revealed Word of God—or that if there could, it would remain impenetrable darkness and mystery to our finite minds.
Nonsense Has Come
Is it any wonder that the world is grasping at straws—the straws of mysticism and drugs? After all, if people are told that the Bible contains insoluble mysteries, then is not a flight into mysticism to be expected? On what grounds can it be condemned? Certainly not on logical grounds or Biblical grounds, if logic is futile and the Bible mysterious. Moreover, if it cannot be condemned on logical or Biblical grounds, it cannot be condemned at all. If people are going to have a religion of the mysterious, they will not adopt Christianity: They will have a genuine mystery religion.”Those who call for Nonsense,” C.S. Lewis once wrote,”will find that it comes.” And that is precisely what has happened. The popularity of Eastern mysticism and of drugs is the logical consequences of the irrationalism of the twentieth century. There can and will be no Christian revival—and no reconstruction of society—unless and until the irrationalism of the age is totally repudiated by Christians.
John wrote the above in 1978. I was only a year out of high school and had first professed Christ around that time, but since then very little has change. And, as Keister has demonstrated so convincingly, it has only gotten worse.