Monday, February 13, 2006

Fernandes on Van Til

This is Phil Fernandes' summary of Van Til, with some fair and balanced responses.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Reppert,

Have you read actually Van Til? Certainly you wouldn't critique him or post critiques without showing at least some understanding of his method and teachings. After reading over your dialogue with Paul Manata and Steve Hayes, it seems that you do not understand the basics of Van Til.

In all honesty, your scholarship has been less than impressive on these Van Tillian issues.

One example, Dr. Fernandes writes, "They disagreed about the status and use of the law of contradiction. Clark believed that the law of contradiction flowed from God's nature. He taught that God is logic. Therefore, when he presupposed the Triune God who revealed Himself in the Bible, he also presupposed the law of contradiction. He would then use this law to destroy the belief systems of nonbelievers.

Van Til, however, believed this law to be a human limitation which Clark forced upon God. Van Til believed that Clark had subjected God to this law. Though Van Til would use this law to refute other belief systems, it was only because he chose to use the "enemy's own ammunition to defeat the enemy in battle." In fact, Clark's view of the law of noncontradiction is probably what caused the widest gap between the thought of these two men. Clark presupposed the law of noncontradiction when doing apologetics. Van Til refused to do so."


However, Van Til says, 'The law of contradiction, therefore, as we know it, is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God's nature [...] Christians should employ the law of contradiction, whether positively or negatively, as a means by which to systematize the facts of revelation.
(An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 11)

"God can reveal only that which is consistent with his nature as a self-identifying being. The law of identity in human logic must be seen to be resting upon the character of God and therefore upon the authoritative revelation of God."

Van Til did not view law of noncontradiction as being a "human limitation that is imposed upon God" as Fernandes states. This is a gross misunderstanding of Van Til.

If you don't want to take the time to understand Van Til, you could at least consult Bahnsen or Frame.

So, I am wondering how can you say that Dr. Fernandes had 'some *fair and balanced* responses when you obviously have not done your job of understanding those whom you critique or post critiques of? Is it a roll of the dice?

Victor Reppert said...

By fair and balanced I just meant that there was a balance between favorable and unfavorable comments. I found the material on the law of contradiction somewhat surprising. But what was the real issue between Clark and Van Til? I read a Van Til interview years ago in which he talked about his disagreement with Clark over the law on contradiction, so I know there were some differences.

I've read Frame and read some Bahnsen, though I've mostly heard Bahnsen on tape as opposed to having read him--I heard his debate with Stein and a tape on arguments for the existence of God. I also read A Christian Theory of Knowledge a very long time ago.

Frame, I think, blunts some of the distinctiveness of the presuppositional method, so that what makes it really different fro other types of apologetics is less then clear.

I have been defending two claims. 1) Even if Van Til establishes the claim that nonbelievers are suppressing the truth, it is still incorrect to say that someone like, say Russell, or Keith Parsons, is really a believer and not an atheist. Second, I have been arguing that the case for theism, including the argument from the incoherence and impossibility of atheism, is not so overwhelming as to show that atheists must be suppressing the truth.

I've also argued that presuppositional apologetics was made to look bad in the Drange-Wilson debate, based on attempts by Wilson to stay faithful to what he thought presuppositional apologetics is. I ought to go into more detail about what in my view went wrong there.

I'm not claiming to be a Van Til scholar, I have been defending specific propositions which conflict with what Van Til taught. If you want to say VT didn't take the positions I am criticizing, that would be a relief to hear.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Reppert,

You said, "By fair and balanced I just meant that there was a balance between favorable and unfavorable comments."

That's 'fair' :), so long as this is how you define 'fair and balanced' and there is not an evaluative judgment made concerning Dr. Fernandes' paper. However, 'fair and balanced' connotes that the positions were fairly represented and responded to, which they were not.


You said, "But what was the real issue between Clark and Van Til?"

There were several. Clark held to Scripturalism while Van Til did not. Clark disagreed with Van Til's use of 'analogical'in knowing by analogy. They also disagreed on the definition of presupposition. Bahnsen addresses many of their differences in Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis and in some of his audio lectures at www.cmfnow.com.


You said, "Frame, I think, blunts some of the distinctiveness of the presuppositional method, so that what makes it really different fro other types of apologetics is less then clear."

How? By not agreeing to the sole use of TAG? If so, many Van Tillians disagree with Bahnsen and Van Til on this point. I think one of the main distinctives is Van Til's notion of 'autonomy vs theonomy'.


You said, "I've also argued that presuppositional apologetics was made to look bad in the Drange-Wilson debate, based on attempts by Wilson to stay faithful to what he thought presuppositional apologetics is. I ought to go into more detail about what in my view went wrong there."

Well, I didn't see where you 'argued' this though you did state it. I am not sure why you don't use the same 'criticism' with this debate as you do with the Bahnsen-Stein debate. You have said several times in the past that Stein was not a good representative b/c he was not a 'real' philosopher. Why not attribute this same reasoning to Mr. Wilson, who is by no means a 'real' philosopher?

Nevertheless, I'm not sure of the relevance. Even if Wilson made presuppositional apologetics look bad, then so what? Does that mean that presupp apologetics is 'invalid', wrong, or weak? People make Christianity look bad everyday, does that mean Christianity is wrong?


You said, "If you want to say VT didn't take the positions I am criticizing, that would be a relief to hear."

If you are referring here to the above paragraph and not to Dr. Fernandes, then I think that Paul Manata and Steve Hayes have both addressed them quite well. Bahnsen addresses this also in Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis when talking about the sense in which the unbeliever deceives himself - the epistemological vs psychological dichotomy.

Anonymous said...

Dr Reppert,

I said, "By not agreeing to the sole use of TAG"

I don't think Bahnsen or Van Til *solely used* TAG either. This is evidenced by Bahnsen's use of evidence in his lectures on evolution. They both seemed to favor a reformulation of the traditional arguments into a transcendental type argument.

Victor Reppert said...

What I have been asking is how the Wilson's argument could have been improved by, maybe, Manata or Hays. How would you have proceeded?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Reppert,

You said, "What I have been asking is how the Wilson's argument could have been improved by, maybe, Manata or Hays. How would you have proceeded?"

I have yet to read this debate, but hope to one day get to it.

But my point is why should this be done though? Why spotlight this debate, esp since a 'real' philosopher was not involved on the theistic side, when there are so many other debates out there?

Victor Reppert said...

Because of all the atheist opponents in the presuppositionalism debate, Drange is the strongest philosophically. Martin never actually debated Bahnsen, but I don't think as well of him as I do of Drange. Not even close. So it was disappointing to see the presuppositionalist case let down.

I have gotten into an exchange with Drange in Philosophical Christi.

the metaphysician said...

A good resource for clearing up common misconceptions about VT is this:

http://www.vantil.info/articles/vtfem.html