QOTD: What if Christians Argued for the Faith this Way?

“To begin with then I take what the Bible says about God and his relation to the universe as unquestionably true on its own authority. The Bible requires men to believe that he exists apart from and above the world and that he by his plan controls whatever takes place in the world. Everything in the created universe therefore displays the fact that it is controlled by God, that it is what it is by virtue of the place that it occupies in the plan of God. The objective evidence for the existence of God and of the comprehensive governance of the world by God is therefore so plain that he who runs may read. Men cannot get away from this evidence. They see it round about them. They see it within them. Their own constitution so clearly evinces the facts of God’s creation of them and control over them that there is no man who can possibly escape observing it. If he is self-conscious at all he is also God-conscious. No matter how men may try they cannot hide from themselves the fact of their own createdness. Whether men engage in inductive study with respect to the facts of nature about them or engage in analysis of their own self-consciousness they are always face to face with God their maker. Calvin stresses these matters greatly on the basis of Paul’s teachings in Romans.”

Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955).

0 Replies to “QOTD: What if Christians Argued for the Faith this Way?”

  1. It’s a good question, Scott. I’ve tried to get my brain around van Til’s apologetic response. If I begin by the Bible in my context, typically people respond by saying, “Woah now, I reject the Bible,” and I’m back in to the basic question of God, back where I began.
    Just my though.

  2. I’ve been a Van Tillian for awhile. His basic thrust is, if Biblical Christianity is true, then what it says about unbelievers is true too: they are blind, fools, suppressing the truth; their thinking is invalid. He doesn’t discourage dropping this stance “for the sake of argument” but never allows that this position be dropped in reality. To do so would be to fall into natural theology, using a fallen mind to create a fallen argument while hoping to eventually end up with the God of the Bible. Being a Calvinist, he would see this as impossible. So when people say, “I reject the Bible,” he would understand this as tautological and unnecessary.

  3. Thanks for the tip, Scott. I’ll check out the Ezra Institute in detail, but I’m really lots in the Land of Tautology. Since we are all fallen, in the Calvinist understanding, the only way that we can assert that we ourselves have understood revelation properly is to assert that we are redeemed, which I don’t think we can have a case for asserting from that same Calvinist perspective. Pastorally, we trust in just this idea. But philosophically, if the damned are invisible, so are the elect. Therefore our own thinking about validity and invalidity is invalid.
    How do they move past that?

  4. I hear what you’re saying, Brent, and I think the answer to much of the Arminian/Calvinist debate is to go back further than our recent history. In the past few years I’ve been reading some of the English Puritans, Edwards (well, English speaking), Owens, Baxter, Henry, and others, plus Packer and Lloyd-Jones on their understanding of that movement. I have only scratched the surface, and will not live long enough to get at much of what they’ve written. But I do find that their Calvinism is extremely practical; I would even say strategic, in their understanding of the Christian life, grace, and assurance. I think they argue well that the elect are visible in their works, love, fruit, and struggle against sin. The puritans were said to be “precise,” which to the modern mind seems nit-picky and obsessed with irrelevant detail. But on the other hand, they were developing a radical Christian worldview that worked its way through all the details of life, thought, and culture.

    I don’t find in Calvinism an inability to be assured, only an inability to be assured apart from a struggle against sin and for holy living.

  5. I agree about that stream of Calvinism–Packer was one of my teachers and I discovered much about my limits in thinking under him. I learned that Calvinism had this idea that God was strong, even when I wasn’t.
    I’m certainly not anti-Calvinistic, but I can’t get past the circularity of Van Til’s apologetics.

    1. I know about the circularity thing. Even Sproul said, in referring to Van Til in particular and presuppositionalists in general, “They only travel in the best of circles!” Which is a true statement, unless, however, Van Til be correct.

  6. Yeah, it sounds like a bit of a wager. but it brings apologetics to non-apologetics–we can’t argue because they can’t hear so we don’t argue so they don’t hear. Grant that Van Til is right, how does it work? We say to a non-Christian, “you have to grant the Bible.” That non-Christian must have a softened hard to do so–softened by the Holy Spirit in Van Til’s beliefs, right? So we are just preaching to the pre-converted.
    I will stay among the margins and imagine everyone to be pre-converted, I guess. For me, here is my thought on apologetics: http://apilgriminnarnia.com/2012/01/27/antony-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest-a-personal-reflection-on-there-is-a-god-and-apologetics/
    Basically, the Word became flesh, so if we make the Word word again in our flesh-less conversation it will never ring true.

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