Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Saturday, June 21, 2008

    Excellent Worldview/Aplogetic Framework

    from this site: Van Til Diagrammed

    "It is exceedingly dangerous to confuse the orthodox concept of the incomprehensibility of God with the ultimate mysteriousness of the universe as held by modern thought. Modern thought in general, and modern logic in particular, holds . . . that God is, at most, an aspect of Reality as a whole. Hence, God is himself surrounded by darkness or mystery, just as man is surrounded by darkness or mystery. In other words, modern thought believes in an ultimate irrationalism, while Christianity believes in an ultimate rationality. It is difficult to think of two types of thought that are more radically opposed to one another. It is the most fundamental antithesis conceivable in the field of knowledge. . . . The very foundation of all Christian theology is removed if the concept of the ultimate rationality of God be given up."
    -- Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1995), p. 13

    I am just starting Bahnsen's Van Til's Apologetic - looks to be very edifying.


    August said...

    That is a powerful volume. I read it a few years ago, and then read a bunch of reformed philosophy from guys like Dooyeweerd, Stoker and Kuyper, and then read it again. Having the background from the other guys helped me a lot the second time round. It seems as if Van Til, and by implication Bahnsen, assume that the reader know quite a bit about the topic, it is not a layman's volume, or at least, it wasn't for me. :-)

    skeptimal said...

    A powerful volume? Van Till defines logic as agreement with his own viewpoint and calls everyone who disagrees with him "unreasonable."

    What's powerful about that? It's called "circular reasoning."

    Puritan Lad said...


    Since you reject Van Til's presumption that logic comes from God, I'd be interested in your definition of logic, and how you account for it. Tell me how the electricity floating around inside your accidental brain should have any value whatsoever, either to yourself or to another person.

    Perhaps you would do well to be as "skeptimal" of atheism as you are of faith.

    skeptimal said...


    Logic is a formal approach to reasoning. Van Til, on the other hand, defines logic as that which agrees with his understanding of god.

    Now that I think of it, though, maybe we've arrived at a new definition of faith. Faith is when you define logic as that which agrees with your point of view. That way, you can effectively disregard all the evidence against your faith, because you just label it illogical. It's kind of like when Stephen Colbert says that "reality has a well-known liberal bias."

    panta dokimazete said...

    That's the point, skeptimal, you have no origin for reason, we do.

    Our authority is the Christian God, what is yours?

    Anonymous said...

    We can't all think alike and agree to everything as one. Having different opinions is what makes us unique, and everyone is entitled to theirs.
    Laura Green

    Christian Drug Rehab

    Christian Drug Rehab/

    Puritan Lad said...


    From an atheistic standpoint, you didn't really answer the question. Let me ask it this way. Is logic something you can prove, or do you take in by faith? Remember, if your worldview is correct, then the human brain is merely a cosmic accident, and therefore universal laws of logic are a pipe dream. You have to somehow account for intelligible experience before you can refer to logic. Please deal with the rest of the question.

    "Tell me how the electricity floating around inside your accidental brain should have any value whatsoever, either to yourself or to another person."

    panta dokimazete said...

    Laura, I appreciate your comment and understand your POV, but the fact is Christians MUST think the same thing in areas of truth. We have been given the very word of God to guide our thinking and there are absolutes we MUST align with.

    It is a secular humanist philosophy that encourages us to be the center of our own universe in terms of truth - that is a lie straight from Hell.

    Objective truth exists if we put aside our pride and allow the Spirit to lead us into it.

    skeptimal said...

    Panta said: "Our authority is the Christian God, what is yours?"

    There are legal statutes, regulations, etc. I have a boss. I have a great country, whose laws I obey. There are laws of logic that I can ignore, but that would not make me correct. If there is a supreme being, then I live under whatever rules he or she set up as natural laws. If there isn't a supreme being, then I'm still limited by the laws of nature that pre-existed all of the gods created by men, including Jehovah, Zeus, Jesus, and Allah.

    skeptimal said...

    Puritan said: "Tell me how the electricity floating around inside your accidental brain should have any value whatsoever, either to yourself or to another person."

    I can't tell you how. Neither can you. It's amazing that it does matter, and I can see why you would see that as proof that there is a supreme being. What does that have to do with Van Til defining truth as that which agrees with his point of view?

    August said...

    Skeptimal, please define "truth" for us, and how you come to know it.

    skeptimal said...

    August said: "Skeptimal, please define "truth" for us, and how you come to know it."

    I'm not deeply philosophical. Truth = that which is true.

    Regarding the post on Van Til, I read the diagram on Van Til as saying that there can be no rationality without Christianity. Although truth is not a requirement for rationality, the statement by Van Til appears to mean you can not understand the truth without first being a Christian.

    The truth I understand us to be talking about here is whether there is a god, whether his name is Jesus.

    As for how we come to know truth, I'm going to need you to be more specific with the question. I'm aware that there are whole studies devoted to the philosophy of how (or if) we know what we know.

    August said...

    Skeptimal, on what basis do you then want to criticize Van Til?

    If "I'm not deeply philosophical. Truth = that which is true." then how is that not a tautology? You need to establish a basis for truth and epistemology if you want to say that Van Til is wrong with his statement. Actually you misread the diagram a bit, he is saying that you cannot be logical and reason without God. It is up to you to prove him wrong.

    How do you know what is true and what isn't? Ho do you come to know that which allows you to distinguish? I don't know what more specifics you want, since you are the one questioning the truth of God's existence or not. Before we can know whether that is true or not, we need to know what truth is and how we come to know it.

    skeptimal said...

    August said: “’Truth = that which is true.’ then how is that not a tautology?”

    I misunderstood the first part of your earlier question. When you asked “what is truth,” you were asking how we determine truth, and I thought you were asking for a definition. You’re correct, of course. If I said we know something is true because it is true, that would be a tautology.

    “Actually you misread the diagram a bit, he is saying that you cannot be logical and reason without God. It is up to you to prove him wrong.”

    I *think* I see the difference. You’re saying it is possible to reason without being a Christian, but if you’re going to be logical, you have to believe in the Christian god. In his diagram, then, Van Til is putting forth a model of his view of existence, not an argument for Christianity. I understood it to read that he was saying that we know something is true because it agrees with Christianity.

    That having been said, I guess I don’t understand where viewing God as an aspect of reality can be automatically viewed as irrational. Even if you believe otherwise, it’s a rational position to hold.