Robert Reymond – Paradox As A Hermeneutical Category

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.

DCF 1.0Bible 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.

Second, while those who espouse the presence in Scripture of paradoxes are solicitous to point out that these paradoxes are only apparent and not actual contradictions, they seem to be oblivious to the fact that, if actually noncontradictory truths can appear as contradictories and if no amount of study or reflection can remove the contradiction, there is no available means to distinguish between this “apparent” contradiction and a real contradiction. Since both would appear to the human existent in precisely the same form and since neither will yield up its contradiction to study and reflection, how does the human existent know for certain that he is “embracing with passion” only a seeming contradiction and not a real contradiction?

Third (and related to the second point), there is the intrinsic problem of meaning in any paradox so defined. What can two truths construed as an unresolvable contradiction mean? What meaning would a four-cornered triangle convey to us? Wwhat meaning would a square circle have for us? David Basinger explains:

If concepts such as human freedom and divine sovereignty are really contradictory at the human level, then … they are at the human level comparable to the relationship between a square and a circle. Now let us assume that God has told us in Scripture that he had created square circles …. The fundamental problem would be one of meaning. We can say the phrase “square circle,” and we can conceive of squares and we can conceive of circles. But since a circle is a nonsquare by definition and a square is noncircular by definition, it is not at all clear that we can conceive of a square circle– that is, conceive of something that is both totally a square and totally a circle at the same time. This is because on the human level, language (and thought about linguistic referents) presupposes the law of noncontradiction. “Square” is a useful term because to say something is square distinguishes it from other objects that are not squares. But if something can be a square and also not a square at the same time, then our ability to conceive of, and thus identify and discuss, squares is destroyed. In short, “square” no longer remains from the human level a meaningful term. And the same is true of the term “circle” in this context.

But what if we were to add that the concept of a square circle is not contradictory from God’s perspective and thus that to him it is meaningful. Would this clarify anything? This certainly tells us something about God: that he is able to think in other than human categories. But it would not make the concept any more meaningful to us. Given the categories of meaning with which we seem to have been created, the concept would remain just as meaningless from our perspective as before.

Fourth — and if the former three difficulties were not enough, this last point, only rarely recognized, should deliver the coup de grace to the entire notion that irreconcilable (only “apparent,” of course) contradictions exist in Scripture– once one asserts that a truth may legitimately assume the form of an irreconcilable contradiction, he has given up all possibility of ever detecting a real falsehood. Everytime he rejects a proposition as false because it “contradicts” the teaching of Scripture or because it is in some other way illogical, the proposition’s sponsor only needs to contend that it only appears to contradict Scripture or to be illogical, and that his proposition is simply one of the terms (the Scripture may provide the other) of one more of those paradoxes which we have acknowledged have a legitimate place in our “little systems,” to borrow a phrase from Alfred, Lord Tennyson. But this means both the end of Christianity’s uniqueness as the revealed religion of God since it is then liable to – nay, more than this, it must be open to — the assimilation of any and every truth claim of whatever kind, and the death of all rational faith.

Now if one has already conceded that the Bible itself can and does teach that truths may come to the human existent in paradoxical terms, it begs the question to respond to this by insisting that one must simply believe what the Bible says about these other claims to truth and reject those that contradict the Bible. Why should either proposition of the “declared” contradiction be preferred to the other when applying Scripture to a contradicting truth claim? Why not simply live with one more unresolved antithesis? The only solution is to deny to paradox, if understood as irreconcilable contradictories, a legitimate place in a Christian theory of truth, recognizing it for what it is — the offspring of an irrational age. If there is to be an offense in Christianity’s truth claims, it should be the ethical implications of the cross of Christ and not the irrationality of contradictories proclaimed to men as being both true.

Certainly there are biblical concepts that we cannot fully understand. We may never be able to explain, for example, how God created something from nothing, how he can raise someone from the dead, or how the Spirit of God quickens the unregenerate soul (see John 3:8).  Such concepts are mysteries to us, but they are not contradictions in terms. Again, it is true that the living God, upon occasion, employed paradoxes (understood as apparent but reconcilable contradictories) in his spoken word. But he did so for the same reason that we employ them — as rhetorical or literary devices to invigorate the thought being expressed, to awaken human interest, to intrigue, to challenge the intellect, and to shock and frustrate the lazy mind. But the notion that any of God’s truth will always appear to the human existent as contradictory must be rejected. Specifically, the notion that the cardinal doctrines of the faith — the Trinity, the person of Christ, the doctrines of grace — when proclaimed aright must be proclaimed as contradictory constructs is a travesty.

Certainly it is possible for an erring exegete so to interpret two statements of Scripture that he thinks that they teach contradictory propositions. But either he has misinterpreted one statement (maybe both), or he has attempted to relate two statements that were never intended to be related to one another. To affirm otherwise, that is, to affirm that Scripture statements, when properly interpreted, can teach that which for the human existent is both irreconcilably contradictory and yet still true, is to make Christianity and the propositional revelation upon which it is based for its teachings irrational, and this strikes at the rational nature of the God who speaks throughout its pages. God is Truth itself, Christ is the Logos of God, neither can lie, what they say is self-consistent and noncontradictory, and none of this is altered in the revelatory process.

But does not the classical doctrine of the Trinity present, if not a real contradiction, at least an apparent one? The widely acclaimed “paradox” of the Trinity– namely that three equals one and one equals three — is in fact not one at all. If the numerical adjectives “one” and “three” are intended to describe in both cases the same noun so that the theologian intends to say that one God equals three Gods and three Gods equal one God in the same way that one might say that one apple numerically equals three apples and three apples numerically equal one apple, this is not an apparent contradiction or paradox. This is a real contradiction which not even God can resolve! Nor would he even try to do so! But this is not what the church teaches by its doctrine of the Trinity although this representation is advanced all too often not only by lay people but also by good theologians. For example, rejecting the traditional distinction that God is one in one sense (essence) and three in another sense (persons), Van Til writes:

God is a one-conscious being, and yet he is a three-conscious being… the work ascribed to any of the persons is the work of one absolute person…. It is sometimes asserted that we can prove to men that we are not asserting anything that they ought to consider irrational, inasmuch as we say that God is one in essence and three in person. We therefore claim that we have not asserted unity and trinity of exactly the same thing.

Yet this is not the whole truth of the matter. We do assert that God, that u, the whole Godhead, is one person … within the ontological Trinity we must maintain that Cod is numerically one. He is one person … Yet, within the being of the one person we are permitted and compelled by Scripture to make the distinction between a specific or generic type of being, and three personal subsistences.

But no orthodox creed has ever so represented the doctrine. In fact, it is apparent that all of the historic creeds of the church have been exceedingly jealous to avoid the very appearance of contradiction here by employing one noun –” God” or “Godhead” — with the numeral “one” and another noun –“persons” — with the numeral “three.” The church has never taught that three Gods are one God or that one person is three persons but rather that “in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 11/iii), the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that while each is wholly and essentially divine, no one person totally comprehends all that the Godhead is hypostatically. Certainly some of the divine attributes which insure the unity of the Godhead may be unknown to us. But when the Bible refers to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit it intends that we think of three persons, that is, three hypostatically distinct centers of self-consciousness within the Godhead, whereas when it employs the imprecise and flexible title “God” it refers either to the Godhead construed in their unitary wholeness (for example Gen. 1:26) or to one of the persons of the Godhead, specifically which one to be determined by the context (for example, “God” in Rom. 8:28 refers to the Father while “God” in Rom. 9:5 refers to the Son). Thus construed, the doctrine of the Trinity does not confront us with even an apparent contradiction, much less a real one. The Triune God is a complex Being but not a contradiction!

Similarly the Christian church has never creedally declared that Christ is one person and also two persons or one nature and also two natures. Rather, the church has declared that the Lord Jesus Christ, “being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two distinct natures and one person forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 21). Note again: Christ is one person possessing the full complex of divine attributes and the full complex of human attributes. Christ is complex, surely but he is not a contradiction!

Let no one conclude from this rejection of paradox (as Marston has defined it) as a legitimate hermeneutical category that I am urging a Cartesian rationalism that presupposes the autonomy of human reason and freedom from divine revelation, a rationalism which asserts that it must begin with itself in the buildup of knowledge. But make no mistake: I am calling for a Christian rationalism that forthrightly affirms that the divine revelation which it gladly owns and makes the bedrock of all its intellectual efforts is internally self-consistent, that is, noncontradictory. Christians believe that their God is rational, that is, that he is logical. This means that he thinks and speaks in a way that indicates that the laws of logic — the law of identity (A is A), the law of noncontradiction (A is not non-A), and the law of excluded middle (A is either A or non-A) — are laws of thought original with and intrinsic to himself.  This means that his knowledge is self-consistent.  And because he is a God of truth he will not, indeed, he cannot lie (see Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Accordingly, just because God is rational, self-consistent, and always and necessarily truthful, we should assume that his inscripturated propositional revelation to us — the Holy Scripture — is of necessity also rational, self-consistent, and true. That this view of Holy Scripture is a common Christian conviction is borne out, I would suggest, in the consentient willingness by Christians everywhere to affirm that there are no contradictions in Scripture. The church worldwide has properly seen that the rational character of the one living and true God would of necessity have to be reflected in any propositional self-revelation which he determined to give to human beings, and accordingly has confessed the entire truthfulness (inerrancy) and noncontradictory character of the Word of God. Not to set the goal of quarrying from Scripture a harmonious theology devoid of paradoxes is to sound the death knell not only to systematic theology but also to all theology that would commend itself to men as the truth of the one living and rational God.

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66 Comments on “Robert Reymond – Paradox As A Hermeneutical Category”


  1. Dear Sean:

    Your criticisms of Lane Keister deserve an answer by him. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  2. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’m not going to hold my breath Benjamin.


  3. Well….while we wait lets enjoy the horror of another popular theologian saying terrifying things about God’s revelation to man.

    Here is an article from R.C. Sproul that would “as the kids say” make baby Jesus cry:

    http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/divine-incomprehensibility/

  4. justbybelief Says:

    We steer clear of these errors when we understand that our language about God is built upon analogy… Historically, we see the vacillating between the two aforementioned errors in Protestant liberalism and Neoorthodoxy.

    Astonishing!

  5. James Says:

    JBB –

    Clark disposes of analogy (both Van Tilian and Thomist) here:
    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=258
    Note especially Clark’s points about the univocal point of coincident meaning.

  6. justbybelief Says:

    Thanks, James.

    How anyone could receive comfort from the scriptures without understanding the fact that God’s and my thoughts can and do coincide is beyond me.

    It is astonishing that Sproul, or anyone for that matter, has obtained the level of respect in the Reformed community with the view of Revelation espousesd. To borrow a term, it is incomprehensible in my mind.

    Eric

  7. justbybelief Says:

    The last sentence in Sproul’s work was rich:

    If you get rid of analogy, you end in skepticism.

    Clark turns the table:

    If God has the truth and if man has only an analogy, it follows that he does not have the truth. An analogy of the truth is not the truth; even if man’s knowledge is not called an analogy of the truth but an analogical truth, the situation is no better. An analogical truth, except it contain a univocal point of coincident meaning, simply is not the truth at all. In particular (and the most crushing reply of all) if the human mind were limited to analogical truths, it could never know the univocal truth that it was limited to analogies. Even if it were true that such was the case; he could only have the analogy that his knowledge was analogical. This theory, therefore, whether found in Thomas Aquinas, Emil Brunner, or professed conservatives is unrelieved skepticism and is incompatible with the acceptance of a divine revelation of truth.

  8. Steve M Says:

    This reminds me of the passage, “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is an analogy.”

  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sproul writes:

    Understanding that we relate to the Lord by way of analogy solves the problem. There is a point of contact between man and God. The Bible tells us that we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). In some sense, human beings are like God. That makes it possible for communication to occur. God has built this capacity for communication into creation. We are not God, but we are like Him because we bear His image and are made in His likeness. Therefore, God can reveal Himself to us, not in His language, but in our language. He can talk to us. He can communicate to us in a manner that we can understand—not exhaustively, but truly and meaningfully. If you get rid of analogy, you end in skepticism.

    This is hardly Van Til’s position and he is using “analogy” in a much more restricted sense in that man is “like” God since he is made in His image. Think of Cal Beisner discussion of VT’s famous two circles and the problem when VT’s illustration is applied to epistemology and not limited to ontology as would be proper. By extending the C/c distinction to epistemology VT unilaterally denied any point of contact between man and God — even as God has revealed himself to us in Scripture. Sproul does not.

    I have my problems with Sproul (his evidentialism for one), but they are nothing compared to the problems I have with VT who completely undermines any sound biblical epistemology by standing in opposition to the historic Reformed faith in his rejection of WCF 1 specifically 1.5.

    On another note, if anyone is interested in reading the David Basinger piece Reymond quotes from above, you can find it here:

    http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/30/30-2/30-2-pp205-213_JETS.pdf

  10. Sean Gerety Says:

    And, in case anyone is unfamiliar with Cal’s comments concerning the well known illustration Van Til used for his students to better understanding his concept of the Creator/creature distinction, this is what Cal wrote :

    What are we supposed to think the two circles represent? Knowledge content (that is, truths known), or knowledge mode (that is, the processes by which truths are known)? If the latter, then an overlap of the circles would indeed seem to imply a denial of the Creator/creature distinction. But if the former, it would not, at least not in the judgment of Reformed theologians who don’t subscribe to Van Til’s idiosyncratic development of that distinction.

    It is clear why overlap or intersection would deny the archetypal/ectypal (and hence the Creator/creature) distinction if what the circles represent is ontology, but it is not clear that it would do so if what the circles represent is epistemology, for then it must be asked whether, in epistemology, they represent truths known or the process (mode, manner, way) by which truths are known. If the latter, then the overlap would indeed jeopardize the Creator/creature distinction, since only God knows all things by knowing Himself, and hence the assertion that the creature knows things by the same mode God does would imply that the creature is God. But if the former — if the circles represent truths known (the content, not the mode, of knowledge) — then the overlap would not jeopardize the distinction, and indeed the lack of overlap would imply precisely the skepticism [Gordon] Clark said Van Til’s language implied, and that indeed some of Van Til’s language at least colorably could be understood to imply (e.g., Van Til’s denial that God’s knowledge and man’s “coincide at any single point”).

    The above is from an unpublished work “Critical Comments on John Muether’s (April 9, 2009) ‘Robert Reymond and Cornelius Van Til: Some Reflections,’” by E. Calvin Beisner. Used by permission. Beisner wrote the piece after Muether circulated a piece where he unsuccessfully lobbied to block Robert Reymond’s transfer to the OPC. FWIW Muether protested and Beisner took the piece down but not before I downloaded a copy.

  11. justbybelief Says:

    My error, I understand your point, Sean. Sproul seems to be saying that we can communicate with God because we are like God–we are God’s image. Thanks for the correction.

  12. Steve M Says:

    “Since both would appear to the human existent in precisely the same form and since neither will yield up its contradiction to study and reflection, how does the human existent know for certain that he is “embracing with passion” only a seeming contradiction and not a real contradiction?”

    Sean, your question is excellent (and remains unanswered by the proponents of biblical paradox).

    It is obvious that the only choices available to us are to either embrace both actual and apparent contradictions or shun them both, if we cannot distinguish them from each other. Embracing one and shunning the other is not even an option.

  13. James Says:

    The crux of Clark’s critique of analogy is that the point of contact between God and man (when it comes to Truth) must be a univocal point of coincident meaning; if not, skepticism results. This devastating critique applies to both VT and the Thomist.
    For an example of Thomist using the “likeness between God and man” routine to flatly reject univocal meaning – http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/alike-very-different/ according to Thomist we get Truth not via univocal meanings but via analogy (caveat: “if we use them appropriately”) etc…

  14. James Says:

    Sorry for the tangent – back to paradox

    Thx


  15. Dear James:

    1. Follow-up on your tangent a little bit and for all its worth, many heavy weights of contemporary Reformed Epistemology agree with Gordon H. Clark that human beings using human languages can “affirm something true of God by speaking literally.” (Wolterstorff [2005] 2010, 112)

    These heavy weights include William P. Alston, Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff.

    (a) (Wolterstorff [2005] 2010, 112):

    “In the 1980s, William Alston published a number of important papers in which he argued that it is possible to affirm something true of God by speaking literally.”

    “The topic was not one that just happened to pique his curiosity. What drew his attention to the topic, and made it important, was the fact that, as he put it in the earliest of the articles, ‘the impossibility of literal talk about God has become almost an article of faith for theology in this century.’ ”

    “I share Alston’s reason for regarding the issue as important. But I have a more specific interest as well. In my [Divine Discourse] I claimed that it is philosophical tenable to hold that it is literally true of God that God speaks – commands, asserts, asks, promises, and the like. What I had in mind by ‘speaking’ was the performance of illocutionary acts. …”

    (b) (Wolterstorff [2005] 2010, 115):

    “Before I turn to what Alston says in this article, let me quote a passage from an earlier article in which he helpfully distinguishes ‘various ways in which creaturely terms can be used in speaking of God.’ He distingusihes six such ways:”

    “1. Straight univocity. Ordinary terms are used in the same ordinary senses of God and human beings.”

    “2. Modified univocity. Meanings can be defined or ortherwise established such that terms can be used with those meanings of both God and human beings.”

    “3. Special literal meanings. Terms can be given, or otherwise take on, special technical senses in which they apply to God.”

    “4. Analogy. Terms for creatures can be given analogical extensions so as to be applicable to God.”

    “5. Metaphor. Terms that apply literally to creatures can be metaphorically applied to God.”

    “6. Symbol. Ditto for ‘Symbol,’ in one or another meaning of that term.”

    3. For Alvin Plantinga’s view, one can consult the opening chapters of [Warranted Christian Belief (2000)].

    Research questions:

    Which of the six ways of Alston’s (I suppose between 1 and 3) does Clark’s view falls under?

    Can Clark’s view fall under more than one categories of Alston’s six ways?

    Reference:

    Wolterstorff, Nicholas. [2005] 2010. Alston on Aquinas on Theological Predication. Reprinted in Inquiring about God, Selected Essays, Volume I, ed. Terence Cunco, 112 – 132. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    End.

  16. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sean, your question is excellent

    You mean Reymond’s question. 🙂

  17. Forrest Schultz Says:

    THANK YOU so much, Sean, for this!! I am so glad to see that Reymond in his systematic theology maintains the same position as in his Justification of Knowledge. AND thanks for your blog in general.

    Sincerely,

    Forrest

  18. justbybelief Says:

    James,

    (Another tangential follow-up)

    The issue I take with Sproul, if he is the author, in the link you’ve posted, besides what you’ve already written, is these statements, amongst others:

    “we can therefore speak meaningfully about [God],”

    “All language we use to speak about the Lord is indeed human language,”

    “When we speak about God, we speak analogically”

    He then uses this scripture passage as an example:

    “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Ps. 18:2).

    First, what I think Sproul misses, or doesn’t say, is that human language originated with God. Adam did not invent the language he used to communicate with Eve, or with God Himself, nor did the recipients of languages at the Tower of Babel invent their individual languages. Second, the above verse is God breathed, it isn’t “our” speaking about God, but God speaking about Himself, although, the words He uses–rock, fortress, shield–are analogical this doesn’t mean, thirdly, that all verses about God in the Bible are analogical. Is this what the Thomist believes, and is Sproul a Thomist?.

  19. Steve M Says:

    “You mean Reymond’s question. :)”

    Yes, my bad.

  20. Sean Gerety Says:

    Good to hear from you Forrest. It’s been a long time. I remember you were a regular on the old Van Til Yahoo groups list and one of the few Vantillians I had ever met that didn’t impute irrationality to God and His Word. 🙂

  21. Forrest Schultz Says:

    Yes, Sean, it has been a long time and I remember those days very well, but it seems like now there are no more Van Til or Clark email discussion groups any more. I appreciate your concern for fidelity to the Word of God and your criticism of the many people in the Reformed camp which are compromising. I would like to paste your entire quote from Reymond onto my blog — is this OK with you??

    Forrest


  22. Dear Forrest:

    Greetings. : – )

    Benjamin


  23. Dear All:

    1. A question that maybe appropriate at this time:

    What ought Lane Keister do in the face of Sean’s criticisms?

    To gain a different perspective by putting oneself in Lane Keister’s shoe:

    What ought I do in the face of Sean’s criticisms if I were Lane Keister?

    If the exchange between Sean and Lane Keister is a purely academic one, again:

    What ought Lane Keister do in the face of Sean’s criticisms?

    But the exchange is not a purely academic one.

    Since Lane Keister is a minister and the discussions center on theology that ought to be control by the Bible:

    What are the rules of exchange in this (churchly) setting between Sean and Lane Keister?

    2. I have been bothered by some Van Tilians, not just not answering criticisms of their positions, but not even acknowledging the criticisms.

    One example is Clark’s criticism of Van Til’s analogical knowledge:

    (a) If the portion of truth that God can express in propositional form never has the same meaning for man as it has for God, then every proposition that man knows has a qualitatively different meaning for God.

    (b) Man can grasp only an analogy of the truth, which, because it is an analogy, is not the truth itself.

    (c) Since man cannot know the truth itself, he is reduced to skepticism.

    One form or another of this criticism of Van Til’s analogical knowledge have been in existence since Clark replied to Van Til in [The Answer] in the 1940s.

    I think this is a very powerful criticism of Van Til’s analogical knowledge.

    Maybe I have missed it but not only have I not seen an answer to this criticism, I have not even seen Van Tilians acknowledging the criticism exists.

    There seems to be only collective silence.

    Yet the Van Tilians keep on parading analogical knowledge.

    I do not find this to be right.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  24. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Forest – feel free to repost whatever you like.

  25. justbybelief Says:

    Benjamin,

    What ought Lane Keister do in the face of Sean’s criticisms?

    Change his mind–repent.

    What are the rules of exchange in this (churchly) setting between Sean and Lane Keister?

    I’m not sure a blog is a “churchly” setting, but all those who profess the Christian faith are obliged to submit to truth. And all those who preach are to do it in love.

    Eric


  26. Dear Eric:

    1. You’re right in that a blog is not a church, so “churchly” is not the right word. : – )

    But I do not know the appropriate word to describe the setting.

    The exchange between Sean and Lane Keister is not a purely academic one.

    In an academic exchange, one need not believe in the position one argue for.

    One can just assume a position and develop it to the best one can (such as in an inter-collegiate debate).

    Similarly, in a court trial, a defense lawyer need not believe in the innocence of the defendant.

    The defense lawyer can just take the available evidence and argue for the innocence of the defendant as best as he can.

    This is not so with the exchange between Sean and Lane Keister.

    As you have observed, as professed Christians we are obliged to submit to the truth, and this implies that the rules of exchanges between Sean and Lane Keister is not the usual academic ones.

    2. I do not doubt the sincerity of Lane Keister in believing his position.

    But as Dr. Robbins has previously pointed out regarding the Van Tilians and now Sean has pointed out in the current exchange, peer pressure probably is part of the equation.

    I like Sean’s phrase “professional religious class”.

    3. Robert L. Reymond’s [A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd Edition (1998)] is indeed excellent.

    “Paradox as a Hermeneutical Category” is the heading for section 2 of Chapter 4.

    Numerically, the Van Tilians maybe the current mainstream of conservative Reformed and Presbyterian theology in North America; but historically they are not, as Reymond has observed in Sean’s quotation.

    On the issue of “Paradox as a Hermeneutical Category”, Gordon H. Clark and Robert L. Reymond stand with the mainstream of historical Christianity; Van Til’s theory of theological paradox is an historical aberration.

    Francis Schaeffer has traced the giving up of antithetical thinking (including the Law of Non-contradiction) to Hegel and the antecedent of Hegel is Kant’s antinomies in [The Critique of Pure Reason].

    Van Til has some very good criticisms of Kant in his writings but strangely, he succumbs to Kant’s antinomies with his theory of theological paradox.

    Reymond’s heading is very well chosen — “Paradox as a Hermeneutical Category”.

    We can all agree that there are Biblical passages we do not understand.

    What is so dangerous about Van Til’s is that he has developed a theory of theological paradox and raised it to a principle — “Paradox as a Hermeneutical Category”.

    Sean’s quotation is well-chosen.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  27. James Says:

    JBB –
    is RCSproul a Thomist?
    I will leave it to Dr. Robbins,

    “Demonstrating that Mr. Sproul’s philosophical position is Thomist would be like demonstrating that Calvin believed in predestination: gratuitous and superfluous.”*

    oh my, I am actually laughing – that’s a great quote 🙂

    * – See more at: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=144#sthash.pGjtonLO.dpuf

  28. James Says:

    Ben wrote
    I like Sean’s phrase “professional religious class”.

    One of Sean’s best is:
    “If there is no such method, what are the meaning and purpose of asserting that all Scripture is apparently contradictory? Does not such an assertion encourage laziness in Bible study, commend ignorance, and elevate clerics and academics, especially those of the Vantilian stripe, into a new priestly class who alone can peer into the Biblical stew of apparent contradictions, antinomies, tensions, analogies, and insoluble paradoxes and demand assent to their contradictory view of truth on the basis of nothing more than their own authority?
    – See more at: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=208#sthash.HFzavBjF.dpuf

    actually that review is quite relevant to this discussion and really goes to show that this has been gone over before – but is always good to keep fresh in our minds.

    Biblical stew! Nice!!

    also see Robbins:
    Now where have we heard this mumbo-jumbo about mysteries before? Sunday School? Seminary? Ah, yes. Now I remember. It was in the books and sermons produced by so-called Reformed and Protestant theolo-gians, who, like conservatives, hate logic and system, and want to maintain their control over the peasants by theological doubletalk. Theological mysteries, unlike a perspicuous written revelation, allow the upper classes (and how conservatives and medievalists long for those upper classes, and the distinctive clothing they wear!) to lord it over the peasants. Any Christian can read a perspicuous revelation, but paradoxes and mysteries always require expert interpretation. You see, dear reader, there is indeed an ecclesiastical motivation for the assertion of theological nonsense: dominion. The Romanists have known this for centuries. – See more at: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=115#sthash.T1xwRCrd.dpuf

  29. justbybelief Says:

    …and want to maintain their control over the peasants by theological doubletalk. Theological mysteries, unlike a perspicuous written revelation, allow the upper classes (and how conservatives and medievalists long for those upper classes, and the distinctive clothing they wear!) to lord it over the peasants. Any Christian can read a perspicuous revelation, but paradoxes and mysteries always require expert interpretation. You see, dear reader, there is indeed an ecclesiastical motivation for the assertion of theological nonsense: dominion.

    The mystery mongers have been revealed.

    Amen.

  30. Forrest Schultz Says:

    To Benjamin:

    Hello to you, also. I also remember you from those email disc gps.

    To Sean:

    Thanks! I will be posting it on my blog shortly and will credit you. Keep up the good work.

    Sincerely,

    Forrest

  31. Forrest Schultz Says:

    Hey, Sean!

    OK, I just now posted it on my blog, whose address is http://vantiltool.blogspot.com. Thanks again.

    Forrest

  32. Forrest Schultz Says:

    Dear Benjamin,

    My answer to your question in re Van Til is found in my Epistemology Position Paper which I posted on my blog http://vantiltool.blogspot.com on 10/20/05.

    Here it is:

    AN EPISTEMOLOGY POSITION PAPER:

    A RESOLUTION OF THE CONTROVERSY

    REGARDING THE THOUGHT OF VAN TIL

    AS IT PERTAINS TO THE CLARK CASE

    AND THE SHEPHERD CASE

    By Forrest W. Schultz

    Introduction and Scope

    The Clark vs. Van Til controversy is a complex one not only because of the nature of the epistemological issues it raises but also because of the related controversy of defining the exact position of each of these theologians and the related historical controversy concerning the events in the “Clark Case” which occurred in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the still later events which occurred in the handling of the “Shepherd Case” by the Westminster Theological Seminary. Since I do not consider myself sufficiently knowledgeable in the matters of the exact positions of Clark and Van Til here and of the historical events noted, I shall not deal with those matters here – I shall leave the resolution of those matters to the Van Til scholars, the Clark scholars, and the church historians and historians of theology.

    But I do have a very definite position on the epistemological issues involved and the scope of this paper will be confined to that.

    Orthodoxy and The Canon of Truth

    Of far great concern than the debasement of our nation’s coinage is the debasement of our theological vocabulary. A good illustrative example of this is the false meanings which are now given to the two foundational terms in our epistemology – orthodoxy and canon. The canon now is taken to mean the list of books which the church decided to include in the Bible, and a typical dictionary definition will say that orthodoxy means that which is customary, conventional, and traditional. To many people orthodoxy has also acquired such pejorative connotations as stodginess and closedmindedness.

    -1-

    Both of these foundational epistemological terms were coined and defined correctly by Irenaeus, a man of great brilliance and righteousness, whom God mightily used to defeat the onslaught of Gnosticism, and his ability to discern the true meanings of these terms was very instrumental in his ability to gain the victory he did.

    The term orthodoxy means “straight thinking”, which is not surprising because it is compounded from the Greek adjective orthos, meaning “straight”or “properly aligned” and the Greek noun doxa, meaning “thinking”. This is an excellent and most appropriate term to use in opposition to the sneakiness and crookedness of the Gnostics. The “straight” in this “straight thinking” had for the Greeks the same good connotations it has for us, which is found in such expressions as “give it to me straight”, “straight from the shoulder”, “straight arrow”, “ you need to straighten up”.

    The term canon is a transliteration of the Greek noun kanon, which was an instrument used to insure the proper construction of a building: e.g. a ruler is a kanon which is needed to insure that the boards are cut to the right lengths; a plumbline is a kanon

    which is used to insure that the walls are perpendicular to the foundation. Irenaus took this term and adapted it for epistemological purposes when he coined the term “canon of truth”. First of all, straight thinking, orthodoxy, means thinking which is done in accord with the canon of truth. And the canon of truth does not mean the books in the Bible; it means the Biblical thought-system, which means everything explicitly taught in Scripture, and everything presupposed by that teaching and everything deduced from that teaching. It is of utmost importance to note that this canon of truth is a thought-system which is only correctly interpreted in terms of the perspective of that system itself, and not of any alien perspectives.

    The Bible Does Not Contain Any Antinomies – Real or Apparent

    My approach to this subject is the same as that followed by Robert L. Reymond in his great epistemological treatise – The Justification of Knowledge. He gives Van Til well-deserved credit for developing the principles of what is now called The Van Til Perspective, an essential tool for learning and defending the Biblical world-view, but he also rebukes Van Til for teaching (or, at least seeming to teach) that the Bible contains antinomies. I follow Reymond in maintaining that any expositions of Scripture claiming to show that Scripture teaches an antinomy are based on faulty interpretation and are never due to the fact that the Bible’s authors (and esp. not The Supreme Author !) intends to teach an antinomy. In short, the antinomy is in the eyes of the interpreter, not in the Scripture itself.

    This is not the place to fully refute these antinomous interpretations but rather to point to the principle needed for that purpose. I shall give two quick examples of what I mean.

    -2-

    First, the clue to perceiving the harmony between divine sovereignty and human responsibility is to reject the false notion that divine sovereignty and human responsibility are to be placed “side-by side”, as many theologians have done. Rather,

    divine sovereignty is the context within which human responsibility functions, and in fact, as the Westminster Confession of Faith (III:1) puts it, it is the former which “establishes” the latter, which puts the whole thing into a radically different perspective than the “side-by-side” perspective. Now it is clear that the Scripture’s own perspective is that of starting with God and seeing everything else within the context of God’s plan. Any perspective which starts with man or which has two starting points – God and man – is false. So, the side-by-side perspective is clearly spurious. Now since God sovereignly established human responsibility and since man and his responsibility exist within the

    creation-system established and controlled by God, it is obvious that the

    sovereignty of God is not going to be in conflict with the human responsibility He established.

    Second, the clue to refuting the notion that the doctrine of the Trinity is an antinomy is by refuting the false individualistic notion of personhood and replacing it with the Biblical perspective, which entails the equal ultimacy of the unity and the diversity with respect to personhood. This means that in a community it is not just the individuals in it

    who are personal; the community is also personal. This must be the case for these reasons: 1. God is the Supreme Standard for all matters including the definition of the meaning of personhood; 2. since God is one personal community composed of three individual persons, this means that the community is personal as well as the individuals in the community. We must not look at God from the standpoint of a pre-established definition of “person” and then try to determine if God is personal or not. No! We must

    recognize the all important truth that the nature of God is the only true definition of personhood. And that divine personhood is not individualistic – the community of the three individual persons is also personal, and it has to be, lest we adopt the outrageous notion that the unification of God rests on some impersonal ground. In short, the equal ultimacy of the personal unity and diversity is derived from the very Being of God. What it means for theology proper is this: God is One Communal Person and Three Individual Persons. It would be an antinomy to say that God is both one individual person and three individual persons. But it is not antinomy to say that God is One Communal Person and Three Individual Persons. Note again, that the solution to this matter is only found on the basis of the perspective of Scripture, which is the canon of truth. Using any other perspectives leads to falsehood and confusion.

    -3-

    Now in both of these examples the problem is due to looking at the Scripture from an erroneous perspective. When the true perspective is used to examine the Scripture, the supposed antinomy is not present. Let me repeat that – the antinomy is NOT in the Scripture; the antinomy results from looking at the Scripture from an erroneous perspective. There is no antinomy when the perspective is right. That true perspective,

    that Scriptural perspective, is the canon of truth. And straight thinking means thinking in accord with it. I trust that the examples of this provided here will help the reader gain a better understanding of the meaning of canon and of straight thinking and how essential they are in clearing up matters such as the ones above.

    The “Antinomies-In-The Bible” Notion is Unvantillian

    Now what is very strange about this is that Van Til did not say what I have said above but appears to teach that the Bible contains antinomies – real or apparent. Why is that strange? I will tell you why. Look at the thinking I just showed you which is the clue to solving this matter. I LEARNED that kind of thinking from Van Til. That kind of thinking is one example of the tool involved in the Van Til Perspective. So, what I am saying here is that Van Til’s biblical-antinomies notion is due to the fact that in developing it VAN TIL DID NOT PRACTICE WHAT HE PREACHED.

    Now I have had many critics – both Vantillians and Clarkians – who claim that I have no right to call myself a Vantillian if I do not accept Van Til’s antinomies-in-the-Bible notion. And some of them get enraged at my supposed audacity in saying that this notion is Unvantillian – who am I to claim that something Van Til said was Unvantillian – isn’t that arrogance? No, it is not arrogance, and let me tell you why. I think very differently now than I did before I became a vantillian. I LEARNED this kind of thinking from Van Til. I did not come up with it myself, and therefore it WOULD BE arrogant if I were to call my position Schultzian, as some have suggested. What I have just done above is to use THE VAN TIL TOOL, i.e. the kind of thinking which Van Til taught, and showed that in a particular instance in Van Til’s writings that Van Til himself did NOT follow the principles he set forth in his teachings about Christian thinking. WHY Van Til did this I am not prepared to say because I do not know – I will leave that to the Van Til scholars and biographers to decide.

    -4-

    But what I do know is Van Til did indeed in this matter teach something that is out of accord with the Van Til Perspective which he labored so hard to establish and which has been such a blessing to those of us who know it AND USE IT. Frame pointed out a long time ago that few Vantillians actually use the Van Til Tool. Now anyone who does not actually use it may not even understand it and therefore will be unable to see how the antinomies-in-the-Bible notion is at odds with it. This may be why there seem to be so few who seem to be able to understand what I am saying here. Being a Vantillian does not mean reading his books and then simply mouthing what he says there. Being a Vantillian means understanding the principles of Christian thinking set forth in what we now call the Van Til Perspective. Now if anyone really understands them, then I do not see how he can fail to come to the conclusion I reached above. Now if what Van Til wrote about Biblical antinomies had not been known and if these writing were to be taken by a Professor and given to a Van Til student for critique with nothing changed except that Van Til’s authorhip were to be removed and the student told that they came from Barth, then how do you think the student would handle them? You see the problem here is that this garbage is something Van Til wrote and therefore the student figures it has got to be true and therefore must be part of Vantillianism.

    Now it is true that this Biblical antinomies notion IS found in the corpus of Van Til’s writings just like a cancer growing in a person is found in that person’s body. The cancer is indeed IN the person’s body but IT DOES NOT BELONG THERE !! So, just showing that some idea is found IN the writings of Van Til does NOT prove that it BELONGS in the Van Til Perspective. Anyone who really understands the Van Til Perspective should be able to see this just as any doctor who knows the human body will know that the cancer is both different from the cells in the body and is, in fact, harmful to the body.

    There Is A Coherent Thought-System In The Bible And The Master Concept Of That System Is God

    Both Van Til himself and his chief exponent John Frame are correct in stating that there is no master concept in Scripture – no FINITE master concept, that is, which I assume is what they mean. But what they do not say, insofar as I am aware, is that the reason for this is that the master concept is God Himself. It is not due the fact that there is no master concept at all.

    -5-

    The best discussion I have ever seen of this is, surprisingly, not in a theology book but in a speech given by a character in one of the best fictional writings ever written, That Hideous Strength, which is the third volume of C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy. In this story Lewis has one of the characters give a long speech about this in which he claims that because God cares about everything, each thing is central some times and in some respects and also peripheral some times and in some respects. You do not have the EXCLUSIVE centrality of a particular entity or idea or whatever, as is found in the typical master concepts. What you have is that each thing is sometimes central and sometimes peripheral. Another way of putting this is that the reason it seems so hard to find a plan is because everything is planned! And this, of course, is what we Calvinists believe, or say we believe, when we speak of the decree of God: it is ALL planned.

    The analogy which Lewis uses – a beautiful one – is that of certain dances which were popular on the American frontier, such as the Virginia Reel, in which for a while one couple is in the center of a large circle composed of all the other couples who dance in a circle around this central couple. Then, after a while, the couple in the center goes to the circumference and a couple from the circumference moves to the center. And so on until each couple has been in the center for a while and then on the circumference the rest of the time.

    Now, God’s plan is what it is because God is what He is. His nature determines and expresses itself in the plan. Now God is characterized by ALL the aspects of reality – in fact His aspects are the Supreme Standard and Archetype of what the aspects are. (In saying this I differ radically from Dooyeweerd, who did not believe God had the aspects. That was probably the worst error he ever made.) The reason men have all of these aspects – biotic, lingual, economic, epistemic, aesthetic, historical, familial, juridical, etc etc etc, is because man is a finite analogue of God, which means that each of our aspects are finite reflections of the corresponding aspects in God. Now the upshot of this is that GOD CARES ABOUT EVERYTHING !!! This is why any supposed “key” to understanding Scripture or history is false because all of these keys – all of these master concepts – are finite. They do not have it all together! Now since God cares about EVERYTHING, then His decree or plan for His creation has been established accordingly which means that everything is important and there is no EXCLUSIVE centrality of any one thing. Now since God really did decree all this, we can only conclude that GOD IS THE MASTER CONCEPT !!!

    -6-

    Man’s Analogical Nature Is The Basis For Man’s Ability To Gain Knowledge;

    It Is Not The Basis For Calling That Ability Into Question

    Van Til has become well known both for his emphasis upon the Creator/creature distinction and also for his magnificent phraseology concerning the greatness of man:

    “Man is the finite analogue of the Infinite God!” and “Man is the finite replica of the being of God insofar as this is possible for a creature”. Wonderful! Unfortunately, though, it is very sad to have to relate that he also made some ambiguous statements making it look like man’s analogical status called his epistemic ability into question. And that makes me furious. Let all theologians be required to adhere to this motto: “Say what you mean and mean what you say!” I will let give the Van Til scholars the unenviable task of trying to sort out what Van Til really meant.

    But let there be do doubt about this. The epistemology of the Biblical thought-system is clear in teaching that man is able to gain knowledge, and man’s being made in the image of God is the ontological basis which makes that knowledge possible. And there is no excuse for Van Til not to have said so and said so loud and clear!! He is to be rebuked for his lack of clarity about this all important matter. At any rate, the Van Til Perspective must in no way be associated with any confusion about this all important and fundamental epistemological matter.

    Man Is Capable of Acquiring Extra-Biblical Knowledge

    Now, we turn to Gordon Clark, and here our task is much easier because Clark is very clear in his position and that position is so clearly wrong it is nothing short of amazing that a man as astute as he was could believe such absurdities. Clark has written some works which are helpful and for that we can be grateful – although it was many years ago I still remember the enjoyment of reading A Christian View of Men and Things. However, his own position – that the only knowledge we can have is the Bible and its

    good and necessary consequences – is not only preposterous but is self-contradictory because the Biblical teaching is that man is capable of gaining ordinary knowledge, not just the knowledge in the Bible. Now Clark’s position on this has already been amply critiqued by others so there is no need for me to do so here. I have nothing to add to it.

    -7-

    I would just like to note that taking the Clarkian position seriously has consequences which some may not realize. In a Clarkian email discussion group recently I read email messages from a Clarkian who admitted that on the Clarkian basis one cannot know if he is converted or not. Since he is not mentioned in Scripture then the Clarkian conclusion must be that he cannot know anything about himself, including whether he is saved or lost. He says that all he can have is an opinion about this; he can have no knowledge of it. Now, to fully carry this out, he would also have to admit that he cannot even be sure he exists. Descartes tried to prove his own existence by his famous “I think; therefore I am”. The Clarkian, on the other hand, should say something like this: “I am not in the Bible; therefore maybe I do not exist”.

    The Purpose of Thought

    Another thing that needs no discussion here is Clark’s radical rationalistic reductionism, i.e. the outrageous notion that all that exists is thought. This too has been amply critiqued, thus obviating any need for me to do so. All I wish to do here is to emphatically disassociate myself from Clark’s rationalism and to mention a few things which may not have been mentioned in the critiques – it has been so long ago that I read them that I do not remember. The first of these is one of the greatest breakthroughs in philosophy in our day which occurred when Mortimer Adler made the profound observation that ideas are NOT what we know; they are the MEANS by which we know. In other words ideas are used to know reality. It is reality which is known by means of ideas. One must never say that all we can know is ideas, because then on that basis we can never know reality, which is indeed what some thinkers have said, i.e. that ideas or propositions can only be about other ideas or propositions, never about reality.

    Although we can engage in a second-order thinking, i.e. thinking about thinking, the primary purpose of thinking is knowing reality, and this direct knowledge of reality, this first-order thinking, is the main purpose of thought. Having made that point clear, I now wish to go on to amend what I just said to make it more accurate. Strictly speaking, thought cannot be separated from reality the way I just did because thought is part of reality! Thought is not in a realm separate from reality; that spurious notion is what has led to all the epistemological blunders since then. No. What we have is a multi-aspectival reality. Thought is one of the aspects of reality. It is that aspect which is responsible for knowledge – both knowledge of itself (by means of second-order thinking) and knowledge of all the other aspects of reality (by means of first order thinking).

    -8-

    I want to say just one thing more to drive this home. Thought would make no sense if there were not something out there to think about. This is true of each aspect. For example, the main purpose of language is talking about what is out there, not about language itself. Beauty has no meaning unless there are things out there to be beautiful. Energy makes no sense unless there are objects which can have energy – energy is not something floating around – it always possessed by some object or system of objects. With no objects at all in the universe there would be no energy. The same is true with space. Space refers to the spatial aspect of objects and of distances between objects. If there were no objects there would be no space.

    The Shepherd Case and the Rise of False Views of Justification in the Reformed Camp

    I assume that the reader is aware of the alarming rise of false views of justification which have been spreading through the Reformed camp and that, although most of these views are not identical to those of Norman Shepherd, that it is Shepherd who is usually credited with being the originator of this trend toward these false views. Now what the reader may not be aware of is the recent allegations that the influence of the thought of Van Til is responsible for the defection of Norman Shepherd. The most recent example I have seen of this allegation is a paper entitled “The Evisceration of the Christian Faith” authored by Sean Gerety and published in July 2005 by the Clarkian organization called The Trinity Foundation and available in the archive on their website. In it he dubs Van Til as “The Father of Norman Shepherd”. Now let us look at why he says this and how we should reply to his allegation.

    You will recall that I referred to Van Til’s fallacious notion of Biblical antinomies as a “cancer” in the body of the Van Til Perspective. It is in the writings of Van Til but does not belong there because it is radically at odds with the Van Til Perspective. Now my analogy of a cancer has proven to quite appropriate because cancers grow and the more they grow the more of the good cells of the body they destroy. John Frame has admitted in his very important book Van Til The Theologian that the notion of antinomies, which he calls paradoxes, do not just apply to the two subjects I dealt with in refuting the Biblical antinomies notion (i.e. The Trinity; and the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility), but that it also applies to the doctrine of justification. So, you see the cancer of antinomies has now grown to gobble up the doctrine of justification, thus showing the aptness of the cancer analogy. So, if antinomies can involve justification, then all kinds of stuff can be said about justification, which is what is now happening. This is one more reason why it is imperative for Van Tillians to disassociate themselves from the Biblical antinomies (or paradoxes). If Biblical antinomies and paradoxes are Vantillian, then the Van Til

    Perspective would indeed be responsible for the false views of justification, as Gerety alleges. This is why it is so important to carefully distinguish between the Van Til Perspective, which is true, and the notion of Biblical antinomies, which is false.

    -9-

    To repeat, Van Til personally bears some responsibility for the origination of the false justification views. But it does not logically follow from this that the Van Til Perspective is false, because this Biblical antinomies notion does not belong in the Van Til Perspective, just like a cancer does not belong in the body.

    Is Clark vs. Van Til Debate Relevant Now?

    In a recent post on a theology email discussion group Calvinists were attacked for

    spending time in debating Clark vs. Van Til because that is an old debate and instead we ought to talk about what is happening now. I do not agree with that assessment. The Clark vs. Van Til Debate deals with extremely important matters, which need to be properly understood and handled. What is dealt with there are matters of eternal relevance not something that was only relevant when it happened.

    Look at the questions discussed here; they are extremely important. It is important to know whether we can know anything, and if so, whether all we can know is what is in Scripture or not. It is very important to know whether it is possible for the Bible to contain antinomies. And it is very important to distinguish between the great truth Van Til discovered – the Van Til Perspective – and the radically false cancerous notion of Biblical antinomies.

    That is all I am going to say. It is obvious what we must do. To add an exhortation would be superfluous.

    -10-

    I hope that answers your question.

    Forrest


  33. Dear Forrest:

    Thank you for the response.

    1. Sean wrote: “I remember you were a regular on the old Van Til Yahoo groups list and one of the few Vantillians I had ever met that didn’t impute irrationality to God and His Word.”

    Let me second that. : – )

    2. Before responding to your post and since you are a Van Tilian, a note of appreciation regarding Cornelius Van Til:

    Cornelius Van Til’s doctoral degree is in philosophy from Princeton University and the background of his philosophy is Idealism.

    The mainstream of contemporary Anglo-American philosophy is analytic philosophy.

    So although in theology the Van Tilian School is numerically the mainstream of contemporary North American conservative Reformed theology, yet it is out of step with the mainstream of contemporary Anglo-American philosophy.

    You wrote: “Unfortunately, though, it is very sad to have to relate that he also made some ambiguous statements making it look like man’s analogical status called his epistemic ability into question. And that makes me furious. Let all theologians be required to adhere to this motto: ‘Say what you mean and mean what you say!’ I will let give the Van Til scholars the unenviable task of trying to sort out what Van Til really meant.”

    Analytic philosophers pride themselves in their clarity of statement and cogency of reasoning.

    Cornelius Van Til seldom define his terms and many of his reasoning’s are although suggestive, impressionistic.

    Many times, one has to restate Van Til by filling in the gaps in his reasoning.

    Yet I find Van Til useful in relating Reformed theology and philosophy to contemporary Chinese philosophy.

    The reason being that contemporary Chinese philosophy is idealistic to the core.

    The contemporary Chinese philosophy I have in mind is not the Marxist variety that used to dominate mainland China, but New Confucianism and Chan (Zen) Buddhism.

    Two of the better known second generation New Confucianists are Tang Junyi (1909-1978) and Mou Zongsan (1909-1995).

    3. Regarding Van Til’s theory of paradox, you are one a few Van Tilians that takes Van Til to task in this area.

    Unlike you, James Anderson makes a virtue out of Van Til’s theory of paradox.

    You called Van Til “unvantillian” in advocating “Antinomies-In-The Bible” and I applaud your courage in doing so.

    It is not so easy to stand up to peer pressure.

    Yet what you have not said is *why* Van Til comes to this conclusion about paradox.

    My understanding of the root cause is that Van Til fallaciously extends the Creator-creation Distinction from ontology to epistemology — that we are creatures entails that we cannot think the numerically identical thoughts that God think.

    Van Til’s analogical knowledge and theory of paradox is part of his fallacious application of the Creator-creation Distinction to epistemology.

    An aside: To borrow a term from mathematics, there is an “isomorphism” between the argument structure of Van Til and Kant.

    Kant applies the Noumenon-Phenomenon Distinction to epistemology and establishes the boundary condition for human knowledge but that results in antinomies.

    Van Til applies the Creator-creation Distinction to epistemology and establishes the boundary condition for human knowledge but that results in paradoxes.

    There is a similar “isomorphism” with Herman Dooyeweerd and it was Ronald Nash in [The Word of God and the Mind of Man (1982)] whom first noted this parallel.

    3. You wrote: “Man Is Capable of Acquiring Extra-Biblical Knowledge. Now, we turn to Gordon Clark, and here our task is much easier because Clark is very clear in his position and that position is so clearly wrong it is nothing short of amazing that a man as astute as he was could believe such absurdities.”

    I agree with you that Clark is very clear in his position about extra-Biblical knowledge but I disagree with you that his position is clearly wrong.

    The reason being that Clark is using the term “knowledge” in a technical sense.

    Clark’s technical sense of “knowledge” partially overlaps the common usage of the word but they are not the same.

    The issues are very involved and there is nothing absurd about it.

    It is suffice to note that after twenty-five centuries since Plato, philosophers have yet to come up with an agreed upon definition of “knowledge”.

    The most famous contemporary development probably is Edmund Gettier’s refutation of “knowledge” being adequately analyzed as justified true belief in 1963.

    Personally, despite thinking on and off again on this issue for many years, I still cannot come to a conclusion.

    Of course, that one doesn’t “know” in the technical sense does not preclude one possessing true belief about many things, including assurance about one’s salvation.

    “True belief” is epistemically weaker than “know”.

    4. You wrote: “Another thing that needs no discussion here is Clark’s radical rationalistic reductionism, i.e. the outrageous notion that all that exists is thought.”

    Gordon Clark never teach that “all that exists is thought”.

    Forrest, I remember asking you, many years ago, to give a citation from Clark’s writings to substantiate this point.

    You were not able to.

    You should revised your essay to amend this point.

    There is no need to further unnecessarily inflame the polemics between the Van Tilians and Clarkians.

    5. You wrote: “All I wish to do here is to emphatically disassociate myself from Clark’s rationalism and to mention a few things which may not have been mentioned in the critiques – it has been so long ago that I read them that I do not remember. The first of these is one of the greatest breakthroughs in philosophy in our day which occurred when Mortimer Adler made the profound observation that ideas are NOT what we know; they are the MEANS by which we know.”

    I think it is very safe to say that Gordon Clark would have agree with you that “ideas are NOT what we know”.

    Anyone with a modicum knowledge of Clark should know that for Clark, the object of knowledge is truth.

    Truth is what we know, not ideas.

    (Again, Mortimer Adler is using “ideas” in a technical, philosophical sense.)

    6. Regarding the Trinity and Incarnation:

    I do not interpret Gordon Clark as a Social Trinitarian and I do not think Clark is a Nestorian.

    (In a discussion group in 2010, I have presented “A Simple Tri-Core Model of the Trinity” and
    “A Simple Dual-Core Model of the Incarnation” which was, in a preliminary way, my understanding of Clark on these two doctrines.)

    Also, following the Creeds I would not call the Godhead a single person.

    It is good to be able to interact with you again. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  34. A Reference for “Ideas”

    For those who are not familiar with how “ideas” function in the history of philosophy, a very good introduction is:

    Hacking, Ian. 1975. Why Does Language Matter to Philosophy?. Cambridge: Cambridge University.

    This book is consisted of three parts and thirteen chapters.

    The three parts are:
    A. The heyday of ideas
    B. The heyday of meanings
    C. The heyday of sentences

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  35. Steve M Says:

    When someone contradicts himself as much as Van Til does, a good portion of his thought is going to be unvantillian. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine which portion it is.

  36. justbybelief Says:

    Everything that Van Til wrote was analogy and apparently contradictory. If God cannot get a point across to men, surely Van Til cannot.

  37. Forrest Schultz Says:

    Dear Benjamin,

    In re Clark’s REAL position in re rationalism, frankly I am not going to be dogmatic on this, and even Clarkians do not agree among themselves about this. Some of them have objected to what I said just as you did. But, one time on a Clark email discussion group a Clarkian stated that Clark’s postion was indeed that all that exists is thought and he even tried to talk me into asking if I had ever seriously considered that I was nothing but thought!!

    Although Van Til was not a rationalist (in this sense) both he and Clark, as you note, were very much influenced by Kant, whom I abhor — I made a joke about this. Speaking with a British accent (remember that the British pronouced “can’t” that same way as “Kant” — I said Kant’s epistemology can be summed up by saying, with this British accent, “We really Kant know anything!!”, An excellenrt mnemonic device!

    You are right in re the influence of idealistic philosophy upon VT, but it should be pointed out that his chief exponent, John Frame, who was a teacher and my thesis advisor at WTS, was at that time studying analytic philosophy, and the influence of that became clear in his writings. He looked at the task of theology the same way the analytic philosophers looked at the task of philosophy, namely the clarification of language, and not as the construction of a theological system, and on this I very much disagree with Frame, although his analysis of many things is quite good. And, like the language analysis guys, he just talks about how different people have different perspectives but there is no way of getting at the underlying truth so as to come up with a system. What I said in my epistemology position paper shows how I respond to this and that is that God is characterized by the modal aspects — the reason we have the aspects is that we are made in Him image — and He relates to us and the rest of creation accordingly, e.g. as father, as employer, as teacher, as Saviour, as lawgiver and judge, as artist, as communicator,etc. I.e. according to all the aspects.

    In re the Trinity, I thought I made it clear that my position is that God is Three Individual Persons in One Group (or Communitarian) Person. And that neither this unity nor this diversity can exist without the other — there is a mutual interdependency. For example, in a family there can be no such thing as a father and a son without the concept of a family, and there can be no family without the concept of fatherhood and sonship — the unity and diversity are interdependent and each is needed to define the other. The reason this point is hard for most to grasp is that today we have an individualistic concept of personhood.

    One thing I wish to strongly stress is that it the very fact that man IS the creaturely analogue of God that is the very BASIS for man’s ability to know; it is not the basis for calling that ability into question.

    Another thing to stress — as Frame pointed out long ago [in his essay in The Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in the Van Til Perspective], it is that the Reconstructionists who have done the most in USING the Van Til Tool to discover the truth about different aspects of reality. That is how you really know what the VTP is all about. Actually there is really no point in being a Vantillian if you do not USE the VTP, as Rushdoony did.

    Sincerely,

    Forrest

  38. Steve M Says:

    “Actually there is really no point in being a Vantillian if you do not USE the VTP, as Rushdoony did.”

    Forrest, without you there to help, how would one be able to avoid using Van Til’s “unvantillian” notions to discover the “truth about different aspects of reality.”

    You seem to distinguish truth from reality. Could you please explain what the difference is between truth and reality in your view?


  39. Dear Forrest:

    1. You wrote: “In re Clark’s REAL position in re rationalism, frankly I am not going to be dogmatic on this, and even Clarkians do not agree among themselves about this. Some of them have objected to what I said just as you did. But, one time on a Clark email discussion group a Clarkian stated that Clark’s postion was indeed that all that exists is thought and he even tried to talk me into asking if I had ever seriously considered that I was nothing but thought!!”

    (a) Regarding Clark’s “rationalism”.

    I am really apprehensive about using the word “rationalism” without defining it.

    “Rationalism” means so many different things to different people in different context that without defining what you mean, the term conveys close to no meaning.

    (b) I am very glad that you are “not going to be dogmatic on this”.

    But my criticism still stands.

    You attribute the view that “all that exists is thought” to Gordon H. Clark, not to some unidentified Clarkian, which is false.

    Even if you attribute the view to Clarkians, please be careful to qualify the statement with “some” in front of “Clarkians”.

    2. I believe the view that “all that exists is thought” is false.

    But let me briefly speculate about one possible motivation lurking close to this false view:

    “God created the world according to His plan.”

    Three doctrines are implicated in this single sentence:

    (a) The doctrine of God.
    (b) The doctrine of Creation.
    (c) The doctrine of the Eternal Decree of God.

    The doctrines of God and Creation together further implied the ontological Creator-creation Distinction.

    What is God’s plan from which He created the world?

    God’s plan from which He created the world are His eternal decrees.

    One very interesting way to unpack God’s eternal decrees is to treat them as God’s truths.

    All truths are determined by God and all truths are propositional.

    Thus, a true proposition is true because God from eternity has determined that proposition to be true.

    A false proposition is false because God from eternity has determined that proposition to be false.

    Truths or propositions, being God’s thoughts, are essentially mental.

    God’s eternal decrees are God’s truths which are His thoughts from which He created the world.

    For example, [Genesis 1:3 HCSB]: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

    In commanding that there be light, God is “executing” His plan by bringing actual states of affairs from the truths He has determined to be true.

    Thus, lurking around the false statement “all that exists is thought” is the true statement “all creations exist as God’s thoughts (before they were created by God)”.

    3. You wrote: “Although Van Til was not a rationalist (in this sense) both he and Clark, as you note, were very much influenced by Kant, whom I abhor …”.

    I think neither Clark nor Van Til are “Kantian” in any proper sense of the term.

    Further, I think Clark’s epistemology do not fall prey to Kant’s Noumenon-Phenomenon Distinction precisely because we can think the numerical identical thoughts God think and because God has revealed truths to us in the Bible.

    I have presented “A Clarkian Epistemological Model” as an essay in my Blog dedicated to Gordon H. Clark.

    When I revised that essay in the future, I hope to explain in some detail why Clark has overcome Kant’s problem.

    4. It was heady days when you attended Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in the 1970s.

    Did you have Norman Shepherd as a teacher?

    I have respect for John Frame and judging from what I have read of him, I share a lot of the same intellectual interests in theology and philosophy with him.

    You wrote: “And, like the language analysis guys, he just talks about how different people have different perspectives but there is no way of getting at the underlying truth so as to come up with a system.”

    I was slow in picking this up about Frame: multi-perspectivalism is being used to deny truths.

    It was an eye opener last year when I followed Sean’s link (dated February 19, 2014) and read T.J. Chantry’s “Re-Framing Reformed Baptist Doctrine”.

    Chantry was a student of John Frame in Westminster Seminary in California during the 1990s.

    Although I have read certain sections of Frame’s [Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (2013)], I have yet to read the whole book.

    I hope to have time during this summer to study Frame’s [Systematic Theology (2013)].

    5. You wrote: “One thing I wish to strongly stress is that it the very fact that man IS the creaturely analogue of God that is the very BASIS for man’s ability to know; it is not the basis for calling that ability into question.”

    I could not have agree more. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  40. In re the remarks above by Steve M and Benjamin,

    Concerning God’s design and creation of His creatures and of history, God is not only a Mind thinking thoughts, He is a Whole Person, having all the aspects. Just as a novelist creates his story in his mind but is not pure mind but rather a whole person, so with God. Therefore truth and reality are not identical terms. Truth is primarily truth about all the other aspects of reality and secondariy, truth about truth itself, i.e. the epistemic aspect. Can you see now that man’s analogical relationship with God HELPS us to understand this; it does not cloud it like the idealistic notions do! Although everything God does is planned by His mind, this does not mean that God is nothing but mind! I remember a remark on a similar subject a long time ago but a twentieth century scientist about this” “Only someone with a long training in absurdity would think so!!”

    In re why the VTP is so little used, there are two villains here, which first really came clearly to my attention while I was writing my Th.M. thesis, which is on the Biblical view of ecology. First of all, prior to that almost NO Reformed study of ecology had been done. And, Frame noticed this also and remarked about it to me. It was so exciting being able to do something like that, which is so different from the usual thesis where you need to spend a whole lot of time discussing all the stuff done by prior studies. Another comment Frame made was his reaction to my taking a very firm creationist stance — he said, “Wow! That’s controversial !!”. Yeah, it was but it should not have been and it should not be. Just as there should not have been a lack of concern about ecology. The reason for the latter is the continuing (though now somewhat diminishing) influence of Platonist thought upon all theology, including Reformed theology. AND, here is what is really interesting about this. This goes all the way back to Augustine, whom Calvin quoted more than almost any other thinker. Augustine’s two weaknesses were his compromise with evolution and his Platonoid thinking, which led him to a revulsion against nature. You see what I experienced at WTS shows that we still have not overcome this — Reformed people still are confused about creation and still have not overcome the Platonic influence. OK, THAT needs to be overcome before anyone is going to be serious about using the Van Til Tool to discover the Biblical view of all aspects of reality.

    God has ALL the aspects (at the divine level), and His creation has all the aspects (at the creaturely level),which means that GOD CARES ABOUT EVERYTHING!!!! OK?? So, if God cares about everything, we should also and therefore we should be studying everything and should be concerned about God’s principles and laws for everything. AND God has equipped us with the epistemic abilities to do so. SO, grass looks green because it really IS green!! I call this the Greening of Epistemology. And, any kind of philosophy which denies, doubts, or obfuscates this thereby shows itself to be false, whether it calls itself rationalist or idealist or whatnot.

    OK, got that?? OK, now here is another, closely related matter — God Is Interesting!! Did you know that?? Oh, yes!! But, and this is meta-interesting, namely that no systematic theologies I have read say this!! [You will not find it in Gill or Hodge or Strong or Shedd or Berkhof!] This is why lots of times it is made to appear that the Devil is more interesting than God!! I did not figure that out until 2002 when God brought to my attention the HUGE HUGE HUGE number of interesting things in all different fields — the only explanation can be that God Himself is interesting. How could someone uninteresting create a creation and a history chock full of interesting stuff?? Ah, yes, here again the analogy HELPS, not hinders learning about God!!

    OK, now lets get back to Rushdoony and Reconstruction. Rushdoony is both a militant opponent of Platonism (and its horrible influence on Christianity) and he is a staunch creationist. He was a friend of Henry Morris, from whose “Genesis Flood” I quote in my Thesis. And Rushdoony was the one who persuaded P & R to publish Morris’s book. And Rushdoony is concerned about the contemporary applicability of Biblical Law, including dietary law, because, like God, he cares about nature and health and the body. Now in order to use the VTP to discover truth about the aspects you need to get it straight that God cares about them and that there is truth in Scripture about them.

    Got that?? OK, just go with that and forget about the exact definition or idealism or rationalism or empicism etc etc The truth is a lot simpler than sometimes supposed — grass really is green and a sunset really is beautiful.

    OK, one more thing. You asked about Norman Shepherd. Shepherd was there when I was but was on Sabbatical Leave, which is why Frame was my thesis advisor instead of Shepherd and why I never had Shepherd as a teacher. But Shepherd was still the Dept Head. Oh, and this was before the Shepherd controversy erupted, which was several years after I graduated (in 1971)

    Sincerely,

    Forrest

  41. Steve M Says:

    “SO, grass looks green because it really IS green!!”

    Forrest, grass doesn’t always look green and to some people it never looks green. If grass doesn’t look green, does that mean it is not green. Is truth derived from sensation? Is reality a product of sensation? Is any “aspect of reality” not also an aspect of truth?

    Your posts are very long winded, but for me they do not contain many answers. They generate more questions.


  42. I was not refering to grass when it is cut and becomes hay, and I was not refering to people who have vision defects and I was not refering to a viewer who is “high” on LSD, etc etc. If I had to stop and interject all kinds of qualifiers like this, which is often thought to be necessary in erudite discouse, then it would really be long-winded!

    I will be glad to listen to any questions you may have.

    Forrest

  43. truthitself Says:

    Forrest, is truth derived from sensation? Is reality a product of sensation? Is any “aspect of reality” not also an aspect of truth?

    I went out in my yard last night and my grass did not look green. It had not been cut, I am not color blind and I was not high on LSD, etc etc.


  44. Dear Forrest:

    1. You wrote: “Concerning God’s design and creation of His creatures and of history, God is not only a Mind thinking thoughts, He is a Whole Person, having all the aspects.”

    I agree entirely.

    I picked up this point from Francis Schaeffer’s [He is There and He is Not Silent (1972)].

    In terms of ontological distinctions, personal vs. non-personal is more basic than mind vs. matter.

    2. You wrote: “Therefore truth and reality are not identical terms.”

    Again, I agree entirely.

    Permit me to expend a little.

    I learn the importance of truth from Gordon Clark and I pick up possible world talks from Alvin Plantinga.

    Two basic ontological categories that I am working with is “truth” and “state of affairs”.

    Putting necessary truths and non-contingent states of affairs aside and addressing contingent truths and contingent states of affairs for the moment:

    A proposition is true because God from eternity has determined that proposition is true.

    A proposition is false because God from eternity has determined that proposition is false.

    These are just implications of the doctrine of God’s Eternal Decree if we treat God’s decrees as truths he has determined to be true.

    Two nontrivial implications of the doctrines of God’s Eternal Decree and Creation are:

    (a) False contingent propositions are identical with non-actual contingent states of affairs.

    (b) True contingent propositions are *not* identical with actual contingent states of affairs.

    It is the doctrines of God’s Eternal Decree and Creation that differentiate contingent truths from contingent actual states of affairs.

    God created the world according to His plan: Actual states of affairs are brought about from the truths God has determined to be true.

    False contingent propositions refer to states of affairs that God has decided not to bring about, so they remain non-actual.

    That is why false contingent propositions are identical with non-actual contingent states of affairs.

    (I will leave necessary truths and falsehood and non-contingent states of affairs for another day since there are some details I do not yet understand.)

    Everything is real, even the square root of -1.

    They are real because they exist as objects of God’s conceptual thought.

    Not everything is actual, because God has decided some propositions to be false and will not bring about their corresponding states of affairs.

    So I agree entirely with you that “truth and reality are not identical terms”.

    3. Forrest, another question:

    Did you learn to talk about “aspects of reality” from Herman Dooyeweerd?

    I learn from John Frame’s [The Amsterdam Philosophy: a Preliminary Critique (1972)] that students influenced by Dooyeweerd were, according Frame’s point of view, making disturbances in WTS Philadelphia in the 1960s.

    4. I am not conversant with ecology apart from what I have picked up in the general press.

    I am more positive about Plato and Platonism than you — not that I agree with many things Platonian.

    Of course, we Christians cannot agree with Plato about the existence of an autonomous realm of abstract entities independent of God.

    Gordon Clark is among those whom, by treating truths as God’s thoughts, has differentiated himself from Plato.

    I entirely agree with you that God is most interesting.

    Not only is God interesting, He is to be enjoy forever per Westminster Shorter Catechism 1.

    Regarding Rousas Rushdooney: I have not read enough of him to form an independent opinion.

    But of the criticisms of the Theonomic Thesis that John W. Robbins has made in more than one issues of The Trinity Review, I agree.

    Thank you. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  45. Steve M Says:

    “Therefore truth and reality are not identical terms. Truth is primarily truth about all the other aspects of reality and secondariy, truth about truth itself, i.e. the epistemic aspect.”

    Forrest, aren’t truth about truth itself and truth about “other aspects of reality” both truth? What exactly are these other aspects (not truth) of reality?


  46. Let me begin with Steve’s post.

    Yes, they are both truth. And truth is part of reality, not in a separate level above reality. God is a Person, characterized by the entire cluster of personal aspects (familial,legal,economic, educational, artistic, etc.) one of which is the epistemic aspect. God is Truth but He is not just Mind, as in for example Aristotle’s conception of God as Thought-Thinking-Thought. In case you do not know what this means, Aristotle made it very clear: he said very plainly that God does not DO anything (except think); he said that “production would be unworthy of God”. So God is not Creator — that would be beneath His dignity. This is a good example of a man creating God in his image — the Platonic and Aristotolean philosophers were intellectuals, who looked down on manual labor so they thought that “God was one such as they”.

    I think it would be helpful to use the hierarchy of statements concept to clarify this. On the bottom are what are usually thought of as statement, such as “My dog is a Collie.” One the next level up are statements about other statements, which are designated as “meta-statements”. For example, if your statement refers to another statement, it is a “meta-statement” . For example, statements about the truth or falsity of another statement are meta-statements. The next level up is meta-meta-statements, etc etc

    Now, in re Benjamin’s questions.

    3. Yes, I learned about the aspects from Dooyeweerd BUT I am NOT by any means a Dooyeweerdian — my view differs radically from his — his whole horizon conception is false. There are ONLY TWO levels — God and Creation. And at each level you have the being of that level and the aspects of the being of that level. So, on the top is God and God’s aspects: The Divine Level. Below is creatures and the aspects of creatures: the Creatural Level. Dooyeweerd fails to see that God has the aspects, which is probably his most outrageous error. And the aspects are aspects of Reality or Being, not aspects of law or meaning. The title of my magnum opus is “The Aspects of Reality: The Fields of Study of the Sciences”. Those are the main differences but there are MANY others, e.g. Dooyeweerd omits the Chemical Aspect, and he fails to see that all of the personal aspects are on the same level, not one above the other as in the aspects below them. These are all very serious errors, but I guess the most egregious of all is his notion that theology is a study of the faith-function of man, and there is no need to critique it here — it has been abundantly critiqued.

    I knew most of the Dooyeweerdian students at WTS when I was there — from 1969-1971. They were very diverse. Some were Reformed and others were not. I remember one time at a meeting of their campus group (which they called The Kuyper Club) one student read a paper which had some clearly Arminian statements. At that time I was a brand new Calvinist so I did not want to sound dogmatic, so I told him that it sounded Arminian, and he said “So What!!”. AND the head of the Kuyper Club was an outright liberal and he made no bones about it — he came right out and said it. And one time in the student lounge he went up to a black student and said, “What are you doing here — don’t you know that Calvinism is White!!”. Now this is actually hilarious because Calvin quoted more from Augustine than anyone else, and Augustine was not a European but a North African, AND, get this, his opponent Pelagius was British. So you could say that Pelagianism was white!! OK, now let me say a good word about these students: they informed us of meetings in Philly of national Dooyeweerdian organizations which had some good speakers. The two I remember were the National Association For Christian Political Action and the Association for the Advancement of Christian Scholarship. I went to these meetings and learned a lot, although they had some speakers who said false things, e.g. one guy defended Bultmann, who was ultra-important back then, although now nobody talks about him any more.

    4. In re Robbins, he was correct, and I told him so, in saying that Greg Bahnsen’s first book sounded like it contradicted itself. I noticed that when I read it and was really mad at Bahnsen for being so careless. So I agreed with Robbins when he pointed that out, but this did not refute theonomy. Theonomy logically follows from the aspects of God and that God cares about everything. And, contra to what most people think, Rushdoony made it plain that Biblical Law can NOT be imposed, it must be embraced. But, unfortunately, few Reconstructionists put any stress on that. What we should be doing is praying for God to convert the whole population and abolish our sin nature NOW — that is what is needed for Biblical Law to be obeyed fully. Frankly, until that is done, Biblical Law remains an ideal, not something that will happen any time soon.

    Sincerely,

    Forrest

  47. Steve M Says:

    Forrest, is truth derived from sensation? Is reality a product of sensation?


  48. Dear Steve,

    Sensation is not the derivative of truth but the conveyer of truth from the object to our mind. Let me give you an example. If you are listening to music on your radio, the radio waves are not music but they convey the music to your mind. Sensory perception is a divinely arranged means of conveying truth about an object to our minds. OK, let me give you another e.g. The words on the page of a novelist’s story are not the story — they convey the story to the reader. The story proceeds from the mind of the author through his words to the mind of the reader. So the truth about the greenness of the grass proceeds from the mind of God through our visual perception to our mind.

    In conclusion, reality is not a product of sensation nor is truth derived from sensation. Sensation merely communicates the truth from the object to us.

    Dear Benjamen,

    I would like to add some further elaboration on the nature of the Dooyeweerdian students at WTS while I was there. This was during the time when there were a lot of hippies. Some people remarked that these Dooyeweerdian students were sort of like Calvinist hippies!! Sounds really funny, but if you had seen and known them you would know what I mean.

    In re Norm Shepherd, while thinking of this yesterday I remember him being present in the audience at one of these meetings of a Dooyeweerdian organization when he kept objecting to the speaker’s ethical views as “contentless norms” — he kept saying that over and over: contentless norms. Later someone remarked that Norm Shepherd was very concerned about norms!! Another funny thing at one of these meeting was this Dutch Calvinist newspaper they had there which had an advertisement for a cigar!! It looked so funny — a christian paper with a cigar ad!!

    To return to a serious note, I really appreciated the concern of most of these Dooyeweerdians for justice and righteousness in society but am so sad because they had only a glimpse of the answer because they were not Reconstructionists. I myself was still pretty confused then because I did not become a Reconstructionist until 1977.

    Sincerely,

    Forrest

  49. Steve M Says:

    “Sensation merely communicates the truth from the object to us.”

    Does sensation always communicate truth? Does it ever communicate falsehood to our minds?


  50. Dear Steve,

    Sensation, like everything else that is finite, is not perfect. Examples of imperfections in sight are colorblindness, optical illusions, brain diseases, etc. The wise response to these imperfections is not to rail against sensation, but to make the necessary corrections.

    OK, here is something else to consider in re when information is communicated to us via sight. We can only see an object if there is light, because it is the light waves which shine on the object, bounce off of it and then enter our eyes. In darkness we cannot see the object. The same principle holds for spiritual sight. Christ is the Light and unless He is shining into our hearts we are walking in darkness and we cannot see spiritual truth. He is the intermeidary between our minds and spiritual truth just as the light of the sun is the intermediary between our eyes and the object upon which the sun shines. Now, please note this. Christ can only be called the Light for spiritual truth if the light of the sun is the carrier, the intermediary for physical truth. Tell me this, would God use a false analogy??!! NO!! If the light bouncing off the object and into our eyes is not carrying the truth about the object, then how can Christ be said to be the Light for spiritual truth???

    We do NOT see spiritual truth directly, but only thru Christ just as our eyes do not see the truth about the maple tree in my yard unless the sun shines on it and its waves bring the truth of it to my eyes and brain.

    Dear Benjamin ( and anyone else interested),

    I would like to suggest that we look at God’s sovereingnty not just thru its legal aspect (i.e. God issuing decrees that have to be followed) but also thru the aspect of storytelling (God as author of the drama of history). God is the novelist and we are the characters in His story. Now if you know anything at all about story writing(and I do, because I have written 40 short stories) you will know something about the relationship between the freedom of the characters you create for the story and your sovereignty over them as author. For a good discussion of this I would like to suggest an excellent book written by a brilliant Christian, Dorothy Sayers, called The Mind of the Maker.This book really delves into this and can provide some help in shedding some light on this matter, and also on the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Sincerely,

    Forrest

  51. Steve M Says:

    Steve M: “Does it (sensation) ever communicate falsehood to our minds?”

    Forest Schultz: “Sensation, like everything else that is finite, is not perfect. Examples of imperfections in sight are colorblindness, optical illusions, brain diseases, etc. The wise response to these imperfections is not to rail against sensation, but to make the necessary corrections.

    OK, here is something else to consider in re when information is communicated to us via sight. We can only see an object if there is light, because it is the light waves which shine on the object, bounce off of it and then enter our eyes. In darkness we cannot see the object. The same principle holds for spiritual sight. Christ is the Light and unless He is shining into our hearts we are walking in darkness and we cannot see spiritual truth. He is the intermeidary between our minds and spiritual truth just as the light of the sun is the intermediary between our eyes and the object upon which the sun shines. Now, please note this. Christ can only be called the Light for spiritual truth if the light of the sun is the carrier, the intermediary for physical truth. Tell me this, would God use a false analogy??!! NO!! If the light bouncing off the object and into our eyes is not carrying the truth about the object, then how can Christ be said to be the Light for spiritual truth???

    We do NOT see spiritual truth directly, but only thru Christ just as our eyes do not see the truth about the maple tree in my yard unless the sun shines on it and its waves bring the truth of it to my eyes and brain.”

    Steve M: I’ll take that for a “yes”.

  52. Steve M Says:

    The “wise response” to the fact sensation does not invariably communicate truth is not to “rail against” it, but rather to “make the necessary corrections”.

    When sensation has demonstrated that it is unreliable as a source of truth, wouldn’t the “necessary correction” be to not rely upon it as if it were a reliable source?


  53. What I say is that it is possible to receive wrong or misleading information for the reasons I mentioned, e.g. optical illusions, colorblindness, etc. But it must be remembered that it is also possible to misunderstand information communicated to us through the Bible. The conclusion from that is not that the Bible should be rejected but that we need to be more careful in reading and interpreting it. We also need to remember that we receive the information from the Bible via sense perception: either by reading it or hearing it read to us.

  54. Sean Gerety Says:

    You’re wrong Forrest, we don’t use sense perception to “receive the information from the Bible.” Paul said; “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”


  55. I fully agree with you, Sean, about that. But it is also true that God uses sensory perception to communicate the words of the Bible to us. Then the Holy Spirit enables us to discern their meaning.

  56. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t know that it is true at all that God uses sensory perception to communication the words of the Bible to us. I would perhaps agree that the Bible might provide an occasion by which the Holy Spirit impresses His truth on our minds, but I’ve known scholars who have studied the Scriptures, and whose eyesight is arguably far superior to mine, but yet have never come to even a rudimentary a knowledge of the truth. Actually, some of those men are openly hostile to the truth and arguably have a better grasp of the biblical information than I ever will. It seems without the immediate work of God the Holy Spirit sense perception is overrated. FWIW Edwards said:

    The Scripture also speaks plainly of such a knowledge of the word of God, as has been described, as the immediate gift of God, Psalm 119:18: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” What could the Psalmist mean when he begged of God to open his eyes? Was he ever blind? Might he not have resort to the law and see every word and sentence in it when he pleased?

  57. Steve M Says:

    Forrest: “Sensation, like everything else that is finite, is not perfect.”

    Me: Truth, on the other hand, is perfect.

    Forrest: “We do NOT see spiritual truth directly, but only thru Christ just as our eyes do not see the truth about the maple tree in my yard unless the sun shines on it and its waves bring the truth of it to my eyes and brain.”

    Me: You seem to posit two types of truth; spiritual truth and physical truth (the truth about the maple tree in your yard). I believe in one truth just as I believe in one God. Apparently it is your position that we do not see spiritual truth with our eyes, but physical truth we see with our eyes provided the sun shines on it. This physical truth travels in the form of light rays to our retinas and in some other form from our retinas to our brains. I will not put words in your mouth, so I have questions. Is the brain, for you, the same thing as the mind? Is the truth relayed to your brain something physical (i.e. electrical impulses and chemical combinations)?

    I want know more about physical truth. I believe that truth is non-corporeal. I believe that truth is a property of propositions only. You contend there is a non-propositional physical truth as well.

    If God is Truth Itself as the WCF identifies Him, is the creation also truth itself? If so what ever happened to the Creator/creation distinction? Are there two types of truth; one eternal and the other temporal and, therefore, two sets of the laws of truth (two logics); one eternal and one created? These are questions to which I can never receive straight-forward answers from Van Tilians.


  58. All truth is in one unified system in the Mind of God. There is therefore no dichotomy of one realm of spiritual truth and another realm of physical truth. An important truth about truth! Amen to that!

    Sean, I am sorry I did not make myself clear — I did NOT mean to say that just seeing the words of the Bible is sufficient to understand the truth these words convey. You are right in maintaining that ONLY God can show you what they mean. AND, do you know that this is ALSO the case with the principles of math and physics and all other things!! I have known many students, some who even got high grades, who did NOT understand the subjects we were studying — they just memorized a formula, such as F=ma in physics or a principle of economics or whatever without understanding what it really means. I have come to the conclusion that it is not only truth about spiritual things but truth about ANYTHING at all that can ONLY be understood if God grants you the ability to understand it!! That is very humbling indeed!! We not only need to thank God for enabling us to understand spiritual truths but also for understanding any truths, such as those about math and physics!! We will ONLY understand these truths if He enables us to do so.

    OK, now to get back to the specific matter of words of the Bible. Although it is, of course, true that God can let you know a spiritual truth without reading it in the Bible, the usual way is to read the Bible and then God grants you the ability to understand it. It is not the mere seeing of the words with your eyes that gives you the understanding of what you are reading — NO, only God can do that. BUT it is also the case that without sense perception — either seeing the words of the Bible or hearing them read to you or feeling them thru Braille — that you would not KNOW what these word were unless God were to supernaturally tell them to you. That is the point I was trying to convey.

    And, Sean, I wish to thank you for your blog and the opportunity it provides us to discuss important matters such ats these.

    And for your intense concern for the truth. It seems that today there are so few, including Christians, who have this kind of concern!

    Sincerely,

    Forrest

  59. Steve M Says:

    Forrest: “Christ can only be called the Light for spiritual truth if the light of the sun is the carrier, the intermediary for physical truth.”

    “All truth is in one unified system in the Mind of God. There is therefore no dichotomy of one realm of spiritual truth and another realm of physical truth.”

    Me: Have you changed your mind (or brain) between these two quotes or am I just missing something? I agree that “All truth is in one unified system in the Mind of God”, but it seems to me that all truth is, therefore, spiritual truth.

    I asked you, “Is the brain, for you, the same thing as the mind? Is the truth relayed to your brain something physical (i.e. electrical impulses and chemical combinations)?” I don’t think you answered.

  60. Steve M Says:

    Spiritual truth: The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

    Physical truth: The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!

    When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

    Luckily for Eve the sun was shining on the tree (just like the maple tree in someone’s yard) so she was able to see that it was good for food etc..

    As it turned out, the serpent was right. She didn’t die in the day that she ate from the tree (at least not physically). What the serpent told her was the physical truth. What God told Adam was the spiritual truth. Adam and Eve died a spiritual death in the day they ate from the tree.

    That is what I have to say about physical truth versus spiritual truth.


  61. Dear Steve,

    WHEW!! You have a weird conception of physical truth: what the serpent said to Eve was NOT TRUTH at all — it was a LIE to say she would not die!!!

    By physical truth I mean TRUTH about physical matters, such as light, gravity, electricity, kinetics, etc., the various divisions of the science of physics.

    in regard to light, we can see something when light shines on it — we can see its color, shape, etc., truths we cannot see if the room is dark. Scripture calls Christ The Light because from Him we learn spiritual truths thru the words He speaks about various subjects just as we learn physical truths about objects when the physical light shines on them. Now if light shining on an object did not tell us truth about this object, then the Bible would not refer to Christ as the Light. It is BECAUSE physical light shows us these facts about physical objects that the Bible calls Christ The Light because it is only thru His “light” that we know of spiritual truths. If physical light did not have this epistemic quality, the analogy could not be drawn.

    Sincerely,

    Forrest

  62. Steve M Says:

    “All truth is in one unified system in the Mind of God. There is therefore no dichotomy of one realm of spiritual truth and another realm of physical truth.”

    In spite of writing the above, you still seem to be dividing truth into two distinct categories; physical truth and spiritual truth.

    “You have a weird conception of physical truth”

    I am not the one positing the existence of physical truth. You have obviously missed my point. You still contend that truth (physical) is obtained through sensation. I am the one contending that truth is non-corporeal. Truth has no color, odor, sound, taste or feel to the touch any more than God does. All truth is spiritual truth. God is spirit.

    Truth (or falsehood) is a property of propositions only. You will notice that God communicated his warning to Adam via a proposition. The serpent also communicated his contradiction of God’s warning to Eve via a proposition. Eve relied upon sensation to determine which proposition to believe.


  63. OK, I see now what you mean. THAT is NOT at all what I was talking about!! Obviously truth itself is true statements about all kinds of things, some of which are physical things. Truth itself, of course, is not physical but mental.

    AND, we are always to accept as true what God tells us, whatever it happens to be about. I was in NO WAY arguing against that.

    One of the biggest problems in discussing this stuff is finding good terminology which will be understoond, rather than misunderstood by the hearer.

    Forrest

  64. Steve M Says:

    Forrest
    I agree that sometimes it is the terminology that gets in the way in these types of discussions. I was trying to be certain of whether you were proposing a non-propositional form of truth. Apparently you were not. That is a good thing. I completely agree that propositions concerning physical things may possibly be true, but the truth is a property of the propositions not of the physical things. I think maybe we agree on that.


  65. Dear Steve,

    Pardon the tardiness of my reply. Yes, of course, truth is propositional, and I am sorry if I gave anyone the idea that it was not!

    Dear Sean,

    Once again, thanks so much for your post. I hope some day soon to get the opportunity to read Reymond’s book.

    Sincerely,

    Forrest

  66. Steve M Says:

    Forrest
    I am glad to hear you confirm that truth is propositional. I thought we agreed on that, but I wasn’t absolutely sure.


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