Clark vs. Van Til on why General Revelation is Not Helpful

In my post recent post on Clark and Van Til, I noted that Clark and Van Til have entirely different reasons for rejecting general revelation (GR) / natural theology as being an adequate source of knowledge.

Van Til, I noted, rejects GR because of the Fallen nature of man, the theological fact that man rejects God due to sinful corruption; that is, the noetic effects of sin.

Clark, on the other hand would say that even if “men were angels,” even if man was not fallen, even still General Revelation should not be accepted for epistemological reasons— empirical observation cannot result in propositional truth, the senses (non-proposition) cannot produce propositions. Only propositions beget propositions. And only propositions can be truth.

This point is important because I think it is representative of the core differences between Van Til and Clark beyond surface distinctions. When the Classicalists criticize presuppositionalists for rejecting General Revelation, they are expressing disagreement with the Van Tillian idea that man’s sin is the problem here. They claim that this undermines reason as a tool accessible to all men.

The Clarkian therefore is neither Classicalist nor Van Tillian. On the surface, he agrees with the Van Tillian that general revelation ought to be rejected as a source of knowledge– but his reason for doing so is categorically and epistemologically different. He is, like the Classicalist, critical of the Van Tillian’s reason for being against GR– the noetic effects of sin, according to Clark, don’t undermine the logical structure of man’s mind as God created him. In this way, the Clarkian is like the Classicalist in his embrace of reason as a tool accessible to all men (though, as I’ll get to in the future, reason means something different– more restricted to formal logic— to the Clarkian).

I whipped up a very simplistic table to capture all the above.

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