Monday, September 29, 2008

About Apologetics and Presuppositionalism.

About Apologetics and Presuppositionalism.

For those who may follow very closely the material I put up here at my blog, some may wonder why I recently provided space for the methods of Gordon Clark and also Bahnsen.

Bahnsen was a Van Tillian of sorts and of course Clark was not, so why do I link to both of these men?

Well, for starters, both men have much good to offer the body of Christ.


I do not see in Bahnsen the same errors of Van Til, even though Bahnsen was not as clear and logical as Clark, he presents a good way to reduce Non Christian thought to absurdity. I think he is much clearer than Van Til on this front!

Clark on the other hand is a true Theologian as well as a true Presuppositionalist, and I lean more to his way of thinking than Bahnsen and certainly over Van Til.

The Clark/Van Til controversy was a sad affair, and I agree with John Frame who likes to consider both men reconciled in Heaven over the whole matter.
For those who would like to get a more accurate fix on my views about these issues, I point you to the following article by W. Gary Crampton, who expresses so well where my thoughts lean on these matters.
See also this fine article by Daniel Chew which references the above by Crampton but more importantly, discusses the Gospel and it's proclamation.

I am neither a Clarkian or a Van Tillian, but rather a scripturalist regarding Apologetics and Presupositionalism, meaning the Bible is my ultimate authority and Divine revelation to the intellect (whole of man) is vital for true knowledge and understanding in the New Birth. Much more could be said, and if interested, drop me a line or make a comment!



Boanerges said...

Mark, any help with Clark and Van Til would be welcomed on my part. I have a few books by Van Til, but his writings never caused me much excitement so I put them down. I have listened to hours of Bahnsen’s MP3s, and I appreciated his teachings, but I have this nagging feeling that I really don’t understand much of what he was trying to communicate. I have also listened to Clark, and to me he is the most clear of the three, but for certain I do not understand what a scripturalist is. I have Googled the term and read all the simple definitions, but I am still lost.

All three men were excellent at explaining away things they did not hold to (empiricism?), yet I felt as if I was left without a valid replacement in all of their teachings. A key example to me was at the end of the Clark / Hoover debate. One gentleman asked Clark what was the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. All Clark could do was ask the gentleman what he meant by tree, I think Clark was trying to emphasize the failure of empiricism, but he left me believing he too was not much more than skeptic himself, which I know he was not. At least I think I know he was not a skeptic. I think.

Tartanarmy said...

Yes, some come to the conclusion that Clark's views would end up in skepticism, which Clark obviously rejected out of hand. I think that a refutation of empiricism should not leave us with bare skepticism, mainly because revelation itself deserves more than bare empiricism to make it cogent for us to grasp, namely something more intrinsic, perhaps to be found in the Creator/creature distinction IE the Imago Dei.

Not fully understanding these three men myself and the depth to which they go, I can grasp the epistemological basis for each of their views, and I see them as fundamentally in agreement, however, I think Clark is right when he takes the position that Scripture itself is our first axiom, being the primary means whereby truth is manifest.

I am not sure how secondary axioms come into play to some degree, but maybe I am not quite getting how revealed truth is received by us.
As far as I can tell, these three men were all presuppositional as far as scripture is concerned, but the difference lies in how we come to understand/receive revelation.

Personally, I think of where scripture says of the man who's eyes/mind/understanding were opened or rather where it says the "scales" fell off (Act 9:18). What is being communicated by that statement? Did the man somehow have access to empiricism as a first axiom before and after the revelation and hence it's validity, or was something other than bare empiricism at work?

Obviously more was at work and it is in that "more" where we are touching the foundation of how knowledge and truth is ascertained. I think Clark is closer to the truth than Van til at this point and by daring to go further he is most often ridiculed by Van Tillians sadly.

Much is made of the "antithesis" from Van Til, but fundamentally I see no difference between him and Clark as far as that is concerned, I just think Clark goes deeper.
Scripturalism seeks to understand all truth as propositional and interrelated to the laws of logic which come from God.

It is sometimes confused with "rationalism" but such confusion is from misunderstanding and sometimes misrepresentation of Clark's actual position.
I think some misrepresent Clark's position, not because of it's validity or logic, but rather because he differed with Van till as to the trancendency of proposition and logic over what Van till taught about the analogical nature of truth.

Do not forget, it was Van Til who said, "we dare not maintain that his [God's] knowledge and our knowledge coincide at any single point" (A Complaint, p. 5, col. 3).

That is an amazing statement, and together with his contradictory views upon scripture, I think it wise to show some caution with Van Til and even more so with his modern day followers who have an anti-Clark presupposition to begin with!

As an example, and concerning Clark, Van Til wrote:

In accord with this idea that man has within himself certain a priori principles by which he can reduce revelational content into a system penetrable by human logic. Dr. Clark thinks that Christians can solve certain "paradoxes" of faith. He thinks there is no mystery in the question of the relation of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The mystery is rather that the church has so long thought of it as a mystery

It appears, then, that Dr. Clark would appeal to certain broad a priori principles of reasoning apart from revelation in order by them to choose between "revelations." And this entails the idea that by means of these principles certain predication can be made about the nature of "God" apart from revelation. Dr. Clark appeals to Presbyterian tradition when he defends his a priorism. He says that "to repudiate all appeal to the a priori truths of reason is intolerable." An Introduction To Systematic Theology.

The rejection of the idea that the Scriptures present to the mind a logical or rational system of doctrines could hardly be any clearer and it is well known that Van Til and his followers attacked Clark viciously as a "rationalist" for claiming to have harmonized divine sovereignty and human responsibility among other so-called insoluble biblical paradoxes.

One could also look at the controversies surrounding the so-called "well meant" or "sincere offer" of the gospel, where God is supposed to desire and long for the salvation of those he has eternally decreed not to save as another example of the Vantilian rejection of "mere human logic" used in defense of unbiblical theological nonsense.

It should be obvious, even to those mired in personalities, that Van Til's rejection of the idea that "revelational content" is reducible to "a system penetrable by human logic" is a direct attack on the Confessional doctrine of Scripture.

Not only is this an attack on the idea that Christianity is a rational religion, but it ultimately reduces all systematic theology to a fools errand (which explains why so many modern Vantilians have rejected systematic theology in favor of the more pliable and manipulative fields of biblical theology and other "perspectivalistic" interpretative nonsense).

Tartanarmy said...

Here is a link to a lecture you may find interesting. Let me know what you think...