October 14, 2014

Robert Reymond Against John Frame’s Revisionism of the Van Til-Clark Debate

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

Some of Van Til’s students have attempted to extricate their revered mentor from the serious difficulty in which he has ensnared himself. [Note: the difficulty was that Van Til’s “analogy of the truth” makes truth itself unknowable –CJE]. John M. Frame, in his monograph Van Til: The Theologian (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Pilgrim, 1976), argues that Van Til means nothing more by his denial of identity of content between the divine and human minds than that God’s knowledge, unlike human knowledge, is original and self-validating (21). It is true that Van Til does teach this, and with such teaching I have no quarrel.

But I have to agree with Jim Halsey who argues in his review article, “A Preliminary Critique of Van Til: The Theologian” (Westminster Theological Journal XXXIX [Fall 1976]: 120-36), that Van Til indeed intends, because of “ontological considerations,” to deny qualitative identity of knowledge content in the divine and human minds, and that Frame has missed Van Til’s point (128-31) and accordingly has not accurately represented his theory of knowledge (133). I suggest that the quotations from Van Til which I have already offered support Halsey rather than Frame.

Gilbert Weaver, both in Jerusalem and Athens, ed. E. R. Geehan (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971), 323-27, and in The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark (303-5), also contends that by “human analogical thought” Van Til only intends to refer to the “process of reasoning” in man and not to his knowledge content as such. If this is all that Van Til intends, one wonders what all the fuss was about back in 1945 between Van Til and Clark over the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God, since both agreed that the divine and human “reasoning processes” were different, God’s being eternally “intuitive,” man’s being in the main discursive.

Consequently, I do not agree with Frame or Weaver (neither does Ronald H. Nash), since Van Til himself says, as we have noted, that a proper doctrine of human analogical knowledge will deny all qualitative coincidence between the content of God’s knowledge and the content of man’s knowledge. But this is no longer analogy at all but a form of equivocality, which God, according to Van Til, chooses to call true although it coincides at no point with truth. This contention ultimately ascribes irrationality to God and ignorance to man, and hence has no legitimate place in a Christian epistemology.

Reymond, Robert L. (1998-08-09). A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith: 2nd Edition – Revised and Updated (Kindle Locations 23930-23946). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. [Paragraph breaks added]

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • Doug Douma

    Excellent quote. This has been my trouble understanding Van Til and The Complaint. It seems that he (they) mean different things at different times. Sometimes it is just the mode that is analogical, and sometimes the content of knowledge itself. Now, analogical content seems to be the center of Van Til’s doctrine and the reason for The Complaint. But, in the later 1948 OPC reports, and in order to avoid Clark’s critique of their skepticism, they change analogical to mean something more like mode. A large part of why I side with Clark is that he doesn’t change his view and I can understand it.