Title:        When Black becomes White – On Some Footnotes of Greg L. Bahnsen
By:             Benjamin Wong
Date:         May 14, 2009

Outline

1.    Introduction
2.    The Logic of Van Til’s analogical knowledge
3.    Van Til picked a fight
4.    Why did Van Til picked a fight?
5.    Clark has an answer
6.    Shifting the ground of debate – 3 responses to Clark
7.    Bahnsen wrote a book
8.    Example 1: Why did Clark left the OPC?
9.    Example 2: Is the Bible the highest authority in Clark’s philosophy?
10.    Example 3: Bahnsen the revisionist
11.    Example 4: The two horns of a dilemma
12.    Example 5: When black becomes white
13.    Example 6: Saddling Clark with an error
14.    Example 7: Saddling Clark with another error
15.    Conclusion: My take of what happened

——————————————————————————————-

1.    Introduction

These notes are about the Clark-Van Til Controversy (1944-48).

In particular, they are about just one aspect of that Controversy –
the debate about the incomprehensibility of God.

The Controversy occurred in the 1940s in the Orthodox Presbyterian
Church (OPC).

The protagonists were Gordon H. Clark and Cornelius Van Til.

Since the theological and philosophical questions debated during the
Controversy are important in its own rights, it has been commented
upon by subsequent writers.

These notes were originally reading notes on (Bahnsen 1998).

I have subsequently posted some of them to an internet egroup.

I was very critical of Bahnsen’s handling of the Clark-Van Til
Controversy.

I still am.

But in rewriting those notes and posts into this essay, I have decided
to tone down the rhetoric against Bahnsen.

2.    The logic of Van Til’s analogical knowledge

2.1    There are certain questions any epistemological theory must answer:

(a)    What is the subject of knowledge? (That which knows.)

(b)    What is the object of knowledge? (That which is known.)

(c)    How does a subject acquire an object of knowledge?
(The mechanism of knowledge acquisition.)

2.2    The logic of Van Til’s analogical knowledge is rather simple.

The creator-creation distinction is an ontological distinction between
God and his creation.

Van Til’s applies the creator-creation distinction to all three
epistemological questions above.

Thus, for Van Til:

(a)    The creator-creation distinction implies that the subject of
knowledge is ontologically different: God is uncreated Creator
but human persons are created creatures.

(b)    The creator-creation distinction implies that the object of
knowledge is ontologically different between creator and
creature: The object of God’s knowledge is uncreated but
the object of human’s knowledge is created.

(c)    The creator-creation distinction implies that the mechanism
of knowledge acquisition is ontologically different between
creator and creature: The mechanism of knowledge
acquisition for God is uncreated but the mechanism of
knowledge acquisition for human persons are created.

2.3    As a good Reformed believer, Van Til also believes that human
persons are created in the image of God.

As an image-bearer of God, human persons as knower reflect God
as knower.

How do human persons reflect God epistemologically?

Van Til calls this relation “analogical”.

“Analogical” is meant to convey the idea that there are both
similarities and differences between God as knower and human
persons as knower.

There are similarities because human persons are created in the
image of God and therefore reflect God as knower.

There are differences because human persons are created in the
image of God and therefore there is an underlying ontological
difference between the creator and creature as knower.

3.    Van Til picked a Fight

The Clark-Van Til Controversy was started by Van Til and his
colleagues.

In 1944, Gordon H. Clark was ordained to the ministry of the
Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Van Til and his colleagues filed a complaint against Clark’s ordination.

Leaving the church politics aside, the main doctrinal issue was the
incomprehensibility of God.

The doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God is the claim that
human persons can know some, but not all, truths about God.

4.    Why did Van Til picked a fight?

4.1    Recall that Van Til applied the creator-creation distinction to
epistemology.

The creator-creation distinction is an ontological distinction.

One result of the application is that the object of knowledge for God
is ontologically different from the object of knowledge for human
persons.

Now Clark is an Augustinian.

For an Augustinian, the object of knowledge is truth.

Since Clark believes all truths are propositional, the object of
knowledge is a proposition.

For Clark, that the object of knowledge is a proposition is true of
both God and human persons.

For Clark, both God and human person knows the identical
propositions.

But for Van Til, who applies the ontological creator-creation
distinction to the object of knowledge, the proposition God knows
must be ontologically different from the proposition human persons
know.

For Van Til, God and human persons knowing the identical
propositions means violating the creator-creation distinction.

Clark and Van Til disagree with each other.

4.2    The document Van Til and his colleagues filed against Clark was
called [The Text of a Complaint Against the Philadelphia Presbytery
of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church].

The following is summary of [The Text of a Complaint] on the issue
of the incomprehensibility of God by Herman Hoeksema.

(Hoeksema [1940s] 1995, 7):

What, then, is the exact point of difference?

According to the complainants, it is this, that, while they hold that
the difference between the contents of the knowledge of God and
the contents of our knowledge is both qualitative and quantitative,
Dr. Clark insists that it is only quantitative. And here the complaints
mention three specific points of difference between Dr. Clark’s view
and their own:

1. According to Dr. Clark all truth, in God and in man, is propositional,
i.e., assumes the form of propositions (God is good, man is mortal,
two times two are four, the whole is greater than any of its parts,
etc. – H.H.). The complaints deny this, at least with regard to God’s
knowledge.

2. Dr. Clark holds that man’s knowledge of any proposition is
identical with God’s knowledge of the same proposition. Any
proposition has the same meaning for God as for man. The
complainants deny this. As an item of interest we may mention here
that during the examination of Dr. Clark by the Presbytery of
Philadelphia the question was asked him: “You would say then, that
all that is revealed in the Scripture is capable of being comprehended
by the mind of man?” And the answer was given by him: “Oh yes,
that is what is given us for, to understand it” (5).

3. Dr. Clark teaches that God’s knowledge consists of an infinite
Number of propositions, while only a finite number can ever be
revealed to man. And this shows that, according to him, the
difference between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge is only
quantitative: God simply knows infinitely more than man. The
complainants insist that it is also qualitative: It also concerns the
question as to the nature and mode of God’s knowledge and ours.

4.3    The doctrine at issue is the incomprehensibility of God – the claim
that human persons can know some, but not all, truths about God.

Both Clark and Van Til formally subscribe to this doctrine, but they
understand it very differently.

Clark believes that “man’s knowledge of any proposition is identical
with God’s knowledge of the same proposition. Any proposition has
the same meaning for God as for man.”

Van Til’s deny this.

Why did Van Til deny this?

It is because Van Til applies the creator-creation distinction to the
object of knowledge and concludes that the object of God’s
knowledge must be ontologically different from the object of
human’s knowledge.

Since the objects of knowledge are propositions, the propositions
human knows cannot be identical to the propositions God knows.

The creator-creation distinction forbids this.

The proposition man knows, according to Van Til, must be
qualitatively different from the proposition God knows.

The logic of Van Til position is simple and clear.

5.    Clark has an answer

5.1    What was Clark’s answer to Van Til’s complaints?

Clark’s answer was that Van Til’s position would lead to scepticism.

5.2    Clark and his supporters replied to [The Text of a Complaint] in a
document called [The Answer].

In the following, Herman Hoeksema quoted at length from [The
Answer].

(Hoeksema [1940s] 1995, 9-10):

Let us learn, then, from [The Answer] just what is Dr. Clark’s view of
the incomprehensibility of God. We quote:

The view of the Complaint is that “God because of his very nature
must remain incomprehensible to man”; it is “not the doctrine that
God can be known only if he makes himself known and in so far as he
makes himself known.” Moreover, all knowledge which man can
attain differs from the knowledge of God “in a qualitative sense and
not merely in degree.” Thus God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge
do not “coincide at a single point.” A proposition does not “have the
same meaning for man as for God.” Man’s knowledge is “analogical
to the knowledge God possesses, but it can never be identified with
the knowledge” which God “possesses of the same proposition.”
“The divine knowledge as divine transcends human knowledge as
human, even when that human knowledge is a knowledge
communicated by God.” “Because of his very nature as infinite and
absolute the knowledge which God possesses of himself and of all
things must remain a mystery which the finite mind cannot
penetrate.” This latter statement does not mean merely that man
cannot penetrate this mystery unaided by revelation: It means that
even revelation by God could not make man understand the mystery,
for the preceding sentences assert that it is the nature of God that
renders him incomprehensible, not the lack of a revelation about it.
As the analysis proceeds, these quotations with the argument from
which they are taken will be seen to imply two chief points. First,
there is some truth that God cannot put into propositional form; this
portion of truth cannot be expressed conceptually. Second, the
portion of truth that God can express in propositional form never has
the same meaning for man as it has for God. Every proposition that
man knows has a qualitatively different meaning for God. Man can
grasp only an analogy of the truth, which, because it is an analogy, is
not the truth itself.

On the other hand, Dr. Clark contends that the doctrine of the
incomprehensibility of God as set forth in Scripture and in the
Confession of Faith includes the following points: 1. The essence of
God’s being is incomprehensible to man except as God reveals truths
concerning his own nature. 2. The manner of God’s knowledge, an
eternal intuition, is impossible for man. 3. Man can never know
exhaustively and completely God’s knowledge of any truth in all its
relationships and implications; because every truth has an infinite
number of relationships and implications and since each of these
implications in turn has other infinite implications, these must ever,
even in heaven, remain inexhaustible for man. 4. But, Dr. Clark
maintains, the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God does not
mean that a proposition, e.g. two times two are four, has one
meaning for man and a tentatively different meaning for God, or
that some truth is conceptual and other truth is non-conceptual in
nature (9. 19)

5.3    We will set aside the question whether there are non-propositional
truths since this question did not figure prominently in the
subsequent debates.

Granting that there are non-propositional truths for the sake of
argument, Clark’s answer to Van Til was clear and unambiguous:

(a)    If the portion of truth that God can express in propositional
form never has the same meaning for man as it has for God,

(b)    then every proposition that man knows has a qualitatively
different meaning for God.

(c)    Therefore, man can grasp only an analogy of the truth,
which, because it is an analogy, is not the truth itself.

Since human persons cannot know the truth itself, man is reduced
to scepticism.

Applying the creator-creation distinction to the object of knowledge
leads to scepticism.

5.4    I like to impress upon the readers that many of the phrases found in
[The Text of a Complaint] is a direct result of Van Til applying the
creator-creation distinction to the object of knowledge.

Van Til concluded from the application that the object of knowledge
for God must be ontologically different from the object of knowledge
for human persons.

(a)    The view of the Complaint is that “God because of his very
nature must remain incomprehensible to man”; it is “not the
doctrine that God can be known only if he makes himself
known and in so far as he makes himself known.”

Why, for Van Til, God by his nature must remain
incomprehensible to man?

Because of the creator-creation distinction!

God is ontologically different from human persons.

(b)    Moreover, all knowledge which man can attain differs from
the knowledge of God “in a qualitative sense and not merely
in degree.”

Why, for Van Til, that all knowledge of God differs
qualitatively from the knowledge of human persons?

Because the creator-creation distinction implies an ontological
difference between the object of God’s knowledge and the
object of human knowledge.

(c)    Thus God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge do not “coincide
at a single point.”

Why, for Van Til, God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge do
not coincide at a single point?

Because the creator-creation distinction implies an ontological
difference between the object of God’s knowledge and the
object of human knowledge.

(d)    A proposition does not “have the same meaning for man as for
God.”

Why, for Van Til, that a proposition does not have the same
meaning for man as for God?

Because the creator-creation distinction implies an ontological
difference between the object of God’s knowledge and the
object of human knowledge.

(e)    Man’s knowledge is “analogical to the knowledge God
possesses, but it can never be identified with the knowledge”
which God “possesses of the same proposition.”

Why, for Van Til, man’s knowledge is analogical to God’s
knowledge, but can never be identified with God knowledge of
the same proposition?

Because the creator-creation distinction implies an ontological
difference between the object of God’s knowledge and the
object of human knowledge.

(f)    “The divine knowledge as divine transcends human knowledge
as human, even when that human knowledge is a knowledge
communicated by God.”

Why, for Van Til, the divine knowledge as divine transcends
human knowledge as human, even when that human
knowledge is a knowledge communicated by God?

Because the creator-creation distinction implies an ontological
difference between the object of God’s knowledge and the
object of human knowledge.

6.    Shifting the ground of debate – 3 responses to Clark

I think Van Til and all who follow him felt the force of Clark’s
criticism.

And they responded differently.

I will now briefly survey three responses to Clark by the Van Tilians
before coming to Greg L. Bahnsen.

6.1    First, Van Til himself wrote a post-mortem to the Clark-Van Til
Controversy in “Chapter 13 – The Incomprehensibility of God” of
(Van Til [1949] 1978).

I owned a 1978 reprint of this book.

The specific pages dealing with Clark are from 167 to 173.

In them, Van Til made four points against Clark.

Of all people, John M. Frame has a point-by-point refutation of Van
Til in (Frame 1995, 108-113).

I must say that when I first read this portion of his book, I have
the greatest of admirations for Professor Frame.

Frame was a student of Van Til and then became one of his successor
at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Frame is probably the premiere interpreter of Van Til living.

Yet, Frame is not afraid to call a spade a spade.

Criticizing Van Til in a book dedicated to promote his thought takes
courage.

My hats off to Professor Frame.

6.2    Second, Gilbert B. Weaver wrote an essay “Man: Analogue of God”
(Weaver [1971] 1980).

Now, Weaver correctly noted that the creator-creation distinction
“raises the fundamental question of how the two levels of being and
knowledge are related. The answer to this Van Til calls analogy.”
(Weaver [1971] 1980, 324)

But Weaver analysis danced around the issue whether God and man
knows the identical propositions.

Does applying the creator-creation distinction to the object of
knowledge results in two different kinds of propositions?

Does Van Til’s analogy relate two kinds of propositions: one
uncreated (the object of God’s knowledge) while the other created
(the object of human knowledge)?

No answer.

Very disappointing.

6.3    Third, Frame made two proposals to resolve the Clark-Van Til
Controversy (Frame 1995, 104-108).

Frame labeled the proposals as:

(a) “contents” as experience, and

(b) “contents” as attributes.

Recall that Van Til applied the creator-creation distinction to
epistemology and deny that a proposition has the same meaning
for man as for God.

Since a proposition is itself the bearer of truth and meaning, denying
that a proposition has the same meaning for God as for man
amounts to denying that God and man can know the same
propositions.

Clark answered that if God and man do not know the identical
propositions but man only knows an analogy of what God knows,
then man does not know any truths.

Applying the creator-creation distinction to the object of knowledge
leads to skepticism.

Van Til felt the force of Clark’s criticism.

After [the Answer], the position of Van Til and his colleagues became
vague and ambiguous.

The reason is simple: Van Til has no case left against Clark.

Not willing to admit that they have made a mistake and withdraw
[The Text of a Complainant], the Van Tilians surreptitiously shifted
their ground.

That is how the term “content of thought” became the focus of the
later debate.

“Content of thought” has a clear enough meaning, but the term is
plastic enough that one can bend it and fill it with other meanings.

“Content of thought” is what a thinker of thought thinks.

It is an object of thought.

If the context is about knowledge, then the “content of thought”
is a proposition.

This is because a person knows truths and all truths are
propositional.

What a person thinks when he knows truths is a proposition.

Recall from the summary of [The Text of a Complaint] by Hoeksema
(see section 4.2 above) – at the beginning of the Controversy,
“content” refers to propositions.

What is Frame doing with his two proposals?

Frame is trying to filled “content of thought” with a meaning that
is different from an object of thought and unnatural in context.

Frame is trying to fill “content” with experience or attributes rather
than propositions.

Frame does so in order to resolve the Clark-Van Til Controversy.

I do not think the proposals work.

But rather than digress into a long explanation of why I do not
think Frame proposals works, let me note the following two
consequences of his proposal:

(a)    Frame has shifted the ground of debate of the Clark-Van Til
Controversy away from proposition (an object of thought)
to experience (of a subject of thought) and attribute (the
divine attributes);

(b)    Frame left the original question of the debate unresolved:
Does applying the creator-creation distinction to epistemology
results in two kinds of propositions – uncreated propositions
as objects of God’s knowledge and created propositions as
objects of man’s knowledge?

Frame himself note that “I am a bit amazed that with all the
intellectual firepower expended on this issue during the 1940s,
nobody made use of these or some similar formulations to bring
the parties together.” (Frame 1995, 107)

I am not amazed.

I am not amazed because the disagreements between Clark and
Van Til were substantial and not verbal.

Shifting the ground of debate does only that – the ground of the
debate has been shifted.

Shifting the ground of debate does not resolve the original
disagreements.

I appreciate Professor Frame’s irenic spirit.

But when there are real intellectual disagreements, it is better to
argue it out than to cover it up in the name of peace and harmony.

6.4    Van Til had a theory.

Van Til believes that applying the creator-creation distinction (an
ontological distinction) to the object of knowledge will result in two
kinds of propositions: one uncreated and one created.

When he filed [The Text of a Complaint], Van Til knew what he was
complaining about.

But Clark’s [the Answer] pointed out the skeptical implications of
this move.

Van Til did not have the courage to admit he made a mistake and
withdraw [The Text of a Complaint].

Thereafter, Van Til position became fuzzy.

Van Til position became fuzzy because he had to hide the fact that
he has no case left against Clark.

7.    Bahnsen wrote a book

Greg L. Bahnsen wrote a book about Van Til called [Van Til’s
Apologetic: Readings and Analysis] and was published in 1998.

Bahnsen showed insights into Van Til’s thinking’s.

Recognizing that Bahnsen’s book is about Van Til and not Clark, I
nevertheless find Bahnsen treatment of Clark and the Clark-Van Til
Controversy heavy-handed and very misleading.

8.    Example 1: Why did Clark left the OPC?

8.1    (Bahnsen 1998, 16-17):

Many well-known Christian scholars and teachers in America
studied under Van Til, including the popular apologists Edward J.
Carnell and Francis Schaeffer. During his career, Van Til also dealt
in a critical fashion with the apologists J. Oliver Buswell (an
inductivist) and Gordon Clark (a deductivist), both of whom were
at one time ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In the
mid-1930s, Buswell left that communion, subsequently taking issue
with Van Til’s consistent Calvinism and philosophical
presuppositionalism. In the mid-1940s, Clark became embroiled
in ecclesiastical controversy over his views of God’s
incomprehensibility, the primacy of the intellect, and other
matters, eventually leaving the denomination and severely
criticizing Van Til’s theory of knowledge.

8.2    Bahnsen description is formally correct but very misleading:

(a)    Bahnsen: In the mid-1940s, Clark became embroiled in
ecclesiastical controversy over his views of God’s
incomprehensibility, the primacy of the intellect, and other
matters …

But did Bahnsen tell his readers why Clark became embroiled
in ecclesiastical controversy?

It was because Van Til and his colleagues filed a complaint
against Clark’s ordination in the OPC!

(b)    Bahnsen: …eventually leaving the denomination and severely
criticizing Van Til’s theory of knowledge.

Here, Bahnsen gave his readers the impression that after
“leaving the denomination [OPC]”, Clark began to “severely
criticizing Van Til’s theory of knowledge”.

This is disingenuous and misleading.

(c)    Why did Clark left the OPC?

Clark left the OPC because after failing to defrock him, Van Til
and his colleagues than goes after Floyd E. Hamilton, a Clark
supporter during the Controversy.

We have to read John W. Robbins (1986, 32-32) to get a fairer
picture of what happened:

Despite, or perhaps because of, their failure to defrock Dr.
Clark, the Van Til faction immediately brought similar charges
against one of the men who had been defending Clark. Rather
than face another three years of harassment, the defenders
of Clark left the O.P.C. in disgust, and Dr. Clark went with
them. Clark’s defenders saw no point in waging another battle
like the one they had just fought and won against a stubborn
faction of men who were less than enthusiastic about the
peace and purity of the church. The faction’s complaint against
Dr. Clark was described in 1948 by the Presbytery of Ohio as
“employing harshly unrestrained and rashly unqualified
language … to the defaming of the reputation of Dr. Gordon H.
Clark by unproven allegations of rationalism [and] humanistic
intellectualism …”

8.3    As Herman Hoeksema had written, the Clark-Van Til Controversy
should be an academic debate and not an ecclesiastical controversy.

Cornelius Van Til and his colleagues made it into an ecclesiastical
controversy.

Fifty years later, Greg L. Bahnsen sugar-coated the facts and gave
misleading impressions to his readers.

This to promote his mentor Cornelius Van Til.

This is not good.

9.    Example 2: Is the Bible the highest authority in Clark’s philosophy?

9.1    (Bahnsen 1998, 17 n.57):

See chap. 8.5 below. Clark’s own epistemology at first demanded
that the Bible be treated as a hypothesis that must pass the test
of logical coherence in order to be accepted. See “Special Divine
Revelation as Rational,” in Revelation and the Bible, ed. Carl F.H.
Henry (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 37; A Christian View of
Men and Things (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), 24-25, 31, 92,
147, 273, 318, 324. He claimed: “The attempt to show the Bible’s
logical consistency is, I believe, the best method of defending
inspiration” (“How May I know the Bible Is Inspired?” in Can I
trust My Bible? [Chicago: Moody Press, 1963], 23).

But Clark later went so far as to deny altogether that knowledge
is derived through sense observation – a position that has been
easily reduced to skepticism, since one must use one’s senses to
gain knowledge even from the Bible. See “The Wheaton Lectures,”
in The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark, ed. Ronald H. Nash
(Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1968), 23-122; cf.
Ronald Nash, “Gordon Clark’s Theory of Knowledge,” 125-75.
Though sometimes called a presuppositionalist, the later Clark
actually treated Christianity as an unprovable, fideistic first axiom,
which is merely chosen or posited (Three Types of Religious
Philosophy [Nutley, N.J.: Craig Press, 1973], 7-8, 104-7, 110).
In both his rationalistic and his fideistic phases, Clark fell
short of treating the Bible as the highest (self-attesting)
authority and as the basis for a transcendental challenge to
unbelief.

9.2    Bahnsen: “Clark’s own epistemology at first demanded that the
Bible be treated as a hypothesis that must pass the test of
logical coherence in order to be accepted.”

I believe coherence is a necessary but not sufficient condition
for the truth of a set of propositions.

Any set of claims that are inconsistent must contain one or more
errors somewhere.

If God reveals only truths and no falsehoods, and if the Bible is
the Word of God, then the Biblical claims must be consistent.

Any set of claims that contain inconsistency, therefore, cannot
be wholly the Word of God.

This is only simple logic.

It is only for the Van Tilian’s love for “apparent contradiction”
that Bahnsen can make an issue out of this.

9.3    Bahnsen: He claimed: “The attempt to show the Bible’s logical
consistency is, I believe, the best method of defending
inspiration”.

What is wrong with this?

I think this shows insight on Clark’s part.

9.4    Bahnsen: But Clark later went so far as to deny altogether that
knowledge is derived through sense observation – a position that
has been easily reduced to skepticism, since one must use one’s
senses to gain knowledge even from the Bible.

Clark denied empiricism, the claim that knowledge acquisition
begins with sensation and a blank mind.

If Bahnsen was careful in reading Clark, he should have noticed
that Clark never denied that our senses can play a part in
knowledge acquisition.

What Clark claimed is that the empiricist has failed to specify
the part play by the senses in knowledge acquisition.

There is a big difference between the two claims.

Bahnsen, being the scholar he was, should know better.

9.5    Bahnsen: Though sometimes called a presuppositionalist, the
later Clark actually treated Christianity as an unprovable, fideistic
first axiom, which is merely chosen or posited.

Some have observed that some Van Tilian attempted to prove
their first axiom or presuppositions.

One wonders what they are presupposing: their presuppositions
or what they used to prove their presuppositions.

Does Clark allows that the Biblical claims be refutable if false?

My opinion is that Clark does allow refutation.

That is one reason why Clark engaged in apologetics – to refute
the claim that the Bible contains falsehoods.

Maybe we can use the Popperian terminology and called a claim
that was tested but not yet falsified “corroborated”.

I think Clark’s philosophy allows for the “corroboration” of
Biblical claims.

9.6    Bahnsen: In both his rationalistic and his fideistic phases, Clark
fell short of treating the Bible as the highest (self-attesting)
authority and as the basis for a transcendental challenge to
unbelief.

This is not a fair statement of Clark’s position.

Can Bahnsen see that there is no inconsistency between the
following two claims:

(a)    Epistemologically, the Bible is the highest (self-attesting)
authority; and

(b)    Methodologically, the Bible may be treated as a posit or a
hypothesis.

Treating the Biblical claims methodologically as posits does not
imply that epistemologically, one has to doubt the truth of what
the Bible claimed.

As W.V.O.Quine has written: to call a posit a posit is not to
patronize it.

The fact that Clark treats the Bible as the axioms of his philosophy
speaks for itself.

One wonders why there are continuous acrimony between the
Clarkians and the Van Tilians?

Bahnsen, with his scholarly reputation, could have done something
to end the acrimony.

I do not expect Bahnsen to agree with Clark.

But Bahnsen could have helped end the acrimony by treating Clark’s
position fairly.

I am disappointed he did not.

10.    Example 3: Bahnsen the revisionist

10.1    (Bahnsen 1998, 227 n.152):

The vague expression “thought content” has played havoc in many
a theological and philosophical dispute, and its ability to generate
confusion was conspicuous in the Clark-Van Til controversy as
well. I believe that by “thought content” Van Til meant the thinking
activity in which the mind of God engages, which mental
“experience” (notice the very next sentence in Van Til’s text) is
metaphysically different from the operations of man’s mind.

To understand Van Til, the reader must remember his resistance
to the notion of “abstract knowledge” or “abstract truth” – the
notion that there are ideas that exist in themselves, apart from
God’s mind and man’s mind, and to which both minds must look
(or conform) in order to possess the truth (knowledge). This is
not really idiosyncratic. The problems of “knowledge” are
construed in the idealistic tradition (within which Van Til
matured philosophically) with a concern for relating the subject
of knowing to that which is known; discussions of “the nature
of thought” take a special place, all of them focusing on
knowledge as an act of mind. Knowing is an activity relating a
mind to the truths known by it. Anyway, in Van Til’s perspective,
all cases of knowledge are concrete acts of knowing, either by
God or by man. For man to know the proposition that “2 is the
square root of 4″ or that “Mecca fell to the forces of Mohammed
in 630″ is to know something of God’s thinking. If these are
called “ideas,” they are ideas “in God’s mind” (about things that
are, nonetheless, not identical with God). God’s “thought
content” actively makes these things so (i.e., actively makes the
truth), while man’s “thought content” does not (being passive
with regard to the truth).

Gordon Clark unnecessarily cast Van Til’s terminology in a highly
negative light. Likewise, Ronald Nash deems “the most serious
objection” to Van Til’s position to be Clark’s criticism, namely:
“According to Van Til, God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge do
not (and cannot) coincide at a single point, from which it follows
that no proposition can mean the same thing to God and man”
(“Attack on Human Autonomy,” 349). Similarly, after expressing
extensive appreciation for the apologetical work of Van Til,
Robert L. Reymond says that, nevertheless, his major concerns is
with Van Til’s doctrine of “analogical” knowledge because by it
God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge do not “coincide” at a single
point “as to content” (The Justification of Knowledge [Nutley,
N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976], 98-105). But Reymond has
not taken the reference to “content” in the way Van Til intended
(namely, referring to the active experience of the mind’s knowing
something). This misreading is evident when Reymond, indicating
how he had interpreted Van Til, writes: “The solution to all of
Van Til’s difficulties is to affirm, as Scriptures teaches, that
both God and man share the same concept of truth and the same
theory of language” (p.105). But it is clear from Van Til’s own
words that “no coincidence” in “content” never meant a difference
in the knowledge, truth, theory of truth, meaning, or theory of
meaning regarding that which God and man both know.

10.2    In the beginning of the Clark-Van Til Controversy, the term “thought
content” has a clear enough meaning.

Recall from the summary of [The Text of a Complaint] by Hoeksema
(see section 4.2 above) – at the beginning of the Controversy,
“content” refers to propositions.

In the context of the object of knowledge, “thought content” refers
to propositions.

This is because a person knows truths and all truths are
propositional.

Thus the object of knowledge is a proposition.

What a person think about when he knows truths is a proposition.

Thus, in the context of the object of knowledge, “thought content”
refers to propositions.

10.3    As I have repeatedly indicated, in the beginning of the Controversy
Van Til applied the creator-creature distinction to the object of
knowledge.

And Clark has pointed out the skeptical implications of this move.

Van Til, unwilling to admit that he has made a mistake in filing
[The Text of a Complaint] against Clark, became fuzzy about the term
“thought content”.

Bahnsen picked up on that: The vague expression “thought content”
has played havoc in many a theological and philosophical dispute,
and its ability to generate confusion was conspicuous in the Clark-
Van Til controversy as well.

But in the beginning of the Controversy, “thought content” was not
vague.

“Thought content” refers to propositions.

It was only after Clark pointed out the skeptical implications of
Van Til’s position that Van Til began to fudge on this term.

Van Til became vague and ambiguous in order to hide the fact that
he has no case left against Clark.

In order to save the face of his teacher Van Til, Bahnsen made a
heroic effort by redefining the term “thought content”.

How does Bahnsen do so?

Bahnsen: I believe that by “thought content” Van Til meant the
thinking activity in which the mind of God engages, which mental
“experience” (notice the very next sentence in Van Til’s text) is
metaphysically different from the operations of man’s mind.

The natural meaning of “thought content” is an object of thought.

Now Bahnsen has to torturously redefine “thought content” as
“thinking activity” or “mental experience” in order to rescue Van Til
from skepticism.

Like Frame, Bahnsen tried to shift the ground of debate.

Frame does so to resolve the Clark-Van Til Controversy.

Bahnsen does so to cover-up for Van Til.

Bahnsen tried to shift the ground of debate from “propositions” (an
object of thought) to “thinking activity” (the mechanism of
knowledge acquisition) or “mental experience” (the subject of
knowledge).

10.4    I do not find Bahnsen’s redefinition convincing for three reasons:

(a)    Bahnsen based his redefinition on Van Til’s An Introduction to
Systematic Theology.

(The relevant section of Bahnsen’s book is “section 4.5
Thinking God’s Thoughts after Him” (Bahnsen 1998, 220-260).

Throughout this section, the main and earliest writing of Van
Til’s Bahnsen appealed to is An Introduction to Systematic
Theology.)

According to Bahnsen’s own “Bibliography of Van Til’s Works
Cited” (Bahnsen 1998, 737), An Introduction to Systematic
Theology was first published in 1949.

But the Clark-Van Til Controversy was ended before 1949!

How can Clark and his supporters studied a work published
after the Controversy in order to determine what Van Til
meant by the term “thought content” during the controversy?

This is patently unreasonable.

To be convincing, Bahnsen needed to quote from [The Text
of a Complaint] itself.

Van Til is notorious for leaving his key terms vague and
undefined.

If it can be done, let those who come after Bahnsen built
their case for Van Til against Clark from [The Text of a
Complaint]!

(b)    Bahnsen redefinition left the rationale for the Clark-Van Til
Controversy hanging in the air.

If Van Til meant by “thought content” thinking activity or
mental experience, then why did Van Til complained against
Clark?

Clark never denied that God and man have different thinking
activity or mental experience.

Bahnsen’s redefinition has left Van Til with no reason to
complain against Clark.

(c)    As we have already noted, John M. Frame in 1995 claimed to
make two original proposals to resolve the Clark-Van Til
Controversy:

(i) Contents as experience, and

(ii) Contents as attributes.

If Frame proposal in 1995 was original, then Bahnsen claimed
that in 1949 Van Til already meant “thought content” as
mental experience cannot be true.

10.5    The ambiguity associated with the term “thought content” was of
Van Til’s own making.

Van Til has to keep the term ambiguous in order to hide the fact
that he has no case left against Clark.

Bahnsen, anxious to save the face of his mentor, compounded the
ambiguity by redefining “thought content” as either thinking activity
or mental experience.

Bahnsen even complained: Gordon Clark unnecessarily cast
Van Til’s terminology in a highly negative light. Likewise, Ronald
Nash deems “the most serious objection” to Van Til’s position to
be Clark’s criticism, namely: “According to Van Til, God’s knowledge
and man’s knowledge do not (and cannot) coincide at a single
point, from which it follows that no proposition can mean the
same thing to God and man” (“Attack on Human Autonomy,” 349).
Similarly, after expressing extensive appreciation for the
apologetical work of Van Til, Robert L. Reymond says that,
nevertheless, his major concerns is with Van Til’s doctrine of
“analogical” knowledge because by it God’s knowledge and man’s
knowledge do not “coincide” at a single point “as to content” …

Bahnsen complained that Gordon Clark, Ronald Nash and Robert
Reymond did not understand Van Til correctly.

But Bahnsen should have nothing to complaint about.

The muddle was of Van Til’s own making.

Van Til muddles the water in order to hide the fact that he has no
case left against Clark.

11.    Example 4: The two horns of a dilemma

11.1    Bahnsen: But it is clear from Van Til’s own words that “no
coincidence” in “content” never meant a difference in the
knowledge, truth, theory of truth, meaning, or theory of meaning
regarding that which God and man both know.

This concluding sentence of Bahnsen is most telling.

If Bahnsen is right, then one wonders what The Clark-Van Til
Controversy is all about.

If Bahnsen last sentence is right, then Van Til owed the whole OPC
an apology for starting The Clark-Van Til Controversy!

11.2    We have to understand that Bahnsen was caught up in a dilemma.

The two horns of the dilemma is this:

(a)    If Van Til believes that “the knowledge, truth, theory of
truth, meaning, or theory of meaning regarding that which
God and man both know” is the same, then Van Til agrees
with Clark.

This means Van Til has no cause to complaint against Clark.

(b)    If Van Til believes that “the knowledge, truth, theory of
truth, meaning, or theory of meaning regarding that which
God and man both know” is different, then Van Til is reduce
to skepticism.

Again, this means Van Til has no cause to complaint against
Clark.

So what can Bahnsen do?

What Bahnsen did was to cover-up that Van Til has no cause left to
complaint against Clark.

Bahnsen did this by re-defining the term “thought content”.

Instead of referring to an object of thought, “thought content”
now refers to either thinking activities or mental experience.

Bahnsen cover-up for Van Til by shifting the ground of debate.

11.3    With this switching of meaning in hand, Bahnsen even chided
Clark: “Gordon Clark unnecessarily cast Van Til’s terminology in
a highly negative light”.

Bahnsen chided Van Til’s critics for not understanding correctly
what Van Til meant by “thought content”.

But by any reasonable standard, the onus is on a writer to define
his terms.

A writer should define his term clearly and unambiguously so that
he can be understood.

Van Til failed to do so.

Van Til and his associates picked a fight and filed a complaint
against Clark.

Clark was forced to response to Van Til’s vagueness and
ambiguities.

Instead of chiding Van Til for his vagueness and ambiguities,
Bahnsen chided the critics.

How fair is this?

12.    Example 5: When black becomes white

12.1    I do not object to revising our opinions.

In fact, learning from mistakes implies that one has to revise
ones opinions.

But the important thing is that one must be up-front about
one’s mistakes and changes of mind.

12.2    But for one:

(a)    to make a mistake,

(b)    being point out by a critic that one has made a mistake,

(c)    change one owns position to accommodate the criticism,
but

(d)    turn-around and claim the revised position as one’s original
position, and then

(e)    accuse the critic of being unfair in characterizing one’s
“original” (really the revised) position

is most distasteful.

This, I am afraid, is what I think Bahnsen has done for Van Til’s
analogical knowledge.

12.3    What happened was that:

(a)    Van Til claimed that God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge
do not coincide at any single point.

(By now, the reader should know that this is a consequence
of Van Til applying the creator-creation distinction to the
object of knowledge.)

(b)    Clark pointed out that Van Til’s position would lead to
skepticism.

(c)    Bahnsen the revisionist came along and re-define “thought
content” as thinking activities or mental experience rather an
object of thought.

(d)    Bahnsen turn-around and claim his re-definition as Van Til’s
original position.

(e)    And Bahnsen then accused Gordon Clark and John Robbins
of seriously misconstrued what Van Til has taught.

This is most distasteful.

I would have to say this is also dishonest.

12.4    (Bahnsen 1998, 228-229 n.159):

In the 1940s dispute, the Clarkian opponents of Van Til seriously
misconstrued what he taught. The “Answer” to the “Complaint”
(against Clark’s views and ordination) charged the Van Tillians
with holding that “man can grasp only an analogy of the truth
itself.” Van Til did not teach that what we know is only an
analogy of God (or truth about Him), much less that univocal
predication regarding God must be rejected, but rather that we
know (as well as His creation) analogously to His knowing
Himself (and His creation). A few years following the dispute,
Gordon Clark again portrayed Van Til as holding that propositions
have a different meaning (equivocation) for God and man, and
that man is ignorant of the truth that is in God’s mind, possessing
only analogy of the truth rather than the truth itself. Thus he
charged Van Til with unrelieved skepticism and neoorthodox
existentialism (“The Bible as Truth,” Bibliotheca Sacra 114
[April-June 1957]: 157-70; see also Ronald H. Nash, “Gordon
Clark’s Theory of Knowledge,” in The Philosophy of Gordon H.
Clark, ed. Ronald H. Nash [Philadelphia: Presbyterian and
Reformed, 1968], 162). Clark acknowledged that his negative
characterizations of Van Til’s position were contrary to what Van
Til himself said, but he reasoned that the way Van Til expressed
certain things implied those characterizations – in which case Van
Til must have been “retracting” his affirmations of man’s
knowledge of the very truth in God’s mind. In other words, Clark
thought that Van Til was confused. A handful of contemporary
disciples of Clark have perpetuated this dubious line of argument.
For example, John W. Robbins has declared that Van Til was an
irrationalist who asserted “that we do not know the same truth
as God knows, but only an analogy of the truth” (letter to the
editor, Journey Magazine 3, no. 3 [May-June 1988]: 15).

13.    Example 6: Saddling Clark with an error

13.1    In (Bahnsen 1998, 228-229 n.159), Bahnsen claimed that Clark
seriously misconstrued what Van Til taught.

I have already quoted Footnote 159 in full in section 12.4.

I will now evaluate whether Bahnsen’s claim is correct.

13.2    If one just read Bahnsen and nothing else on The Clark-Van Til
Controversy, then one can be mislead into forming the opinion
that Clark misconstrued Van Til.

But if one read the other documents relating to The Controversy,
one cannot but felt how misleading Bahnsen is.

13.3    I will ask two questions regarding Bahnsen’s criticism:

(a)    Did Clark misconstrue Van Til’s term “thought content”?

(b)    Regarding human’s knowledge in relation to God’s
knowledge, did “Clark acknowledged that his negative
characterizations of Van Til’s position was contrary to
what Van Til himself said”?

13.4    Did Clark misconstrue Van Til’s term “thought content”?

If one accepts Bahnsen’s re-definition of “thought content”, then
Clark certainly did misconstrued Van Til.

But remember, Bahnsen based his re-definition on (Van Til [1949]
1978), a book published after The Clark-Van Til Controversy.

Let me re-phrase the question then: Did Clark misconstrues Van
Til’s “thought content” of [The Text of a Complaint]?

The following long quotation is from (Clark [1957] 1982, 30-31):

The professors above referred to assert that “there is a
qualitative difference between the contents of the knowledge of
God and the contents of the knowledge possible to man” (The Text,
p. 5, col. 1). That there is a most important qualitative
difference between the knowledge situation in the case of God and
the knowledge situation for man cannot possibly be denied without
repudiating all Christian theism. God is omniscient, His knowledge
is not acquired, and His knowledge according to common
terminology is intuitive while man’s is discursive. These are some of
the differences and doubtless the list could be extended. But if both
God and man know, there must be with the differences be at least
one point of similarity; for if there were no point of similarity,
it would be inappropriate to use the one term “knowledge” in both
cases. Whether this point of similarity is to be found in the
contents of knowledge or whether the contents differ, depends on
what is meant by the term “contents”. Therefore, more specifically
worded statements are needed. The theory under discussion goes on
to say: “We dare not maintain that his knowledge and our knowledge
coincide at any single point” (ibid., p. 5, col. 3); and the authors
repudiate another view on the grounds that “a proposition would
have to have the same meaning for God as for man” (ibid., p. 7,
col. 3). These statements are by no means vague. The last one
identifies content and meaning so that the content of God’s
knowledge is not its intuitive character, for example, but meaning
of the propositions, such as David killed Goliath. Twice it is
denied that a proposition can mean the same thing for God and man;
and to make it unmistakable they say that God’s knowledge and
man’s knowledge do not coincide at any single point. Here it will
stand repetition to say that if there is not a single point of
coincidence it is meaningless to use the single term “knowledge”
for both God and man. Spinoza in attacking Christianity argued
that the term “intellect” as applied to God and as applied to man
was completely equivocal, just as the term “dog” is applied to a
four-legged animal that barks and to the star in the sky. In such
a case, therefore, if knowledge be defined, either God knows and
man cannot or man knows and God cannot. If there is not a single
point of coincidence, God and man cannot have the same thing,
viz., knowledge.

13.5    Bahnsen alluded to Clark’s “The Bible As Truth” (1957) and claimed
that Clark has misconstrued Van Til.

That is, Bahnsen claimed that Clark has misconstrued Van Til
according to his (Bahnsen’s) own re-definition of Van Til’s “thought
content”.

Remember, Bahnsen’s re-definition used (Van Til [1949] 1978) as
his authority.

Now Clark did claimed, as Bahnsen puts it: “Gordon Clark again
portrayed Van Til as holding that propositions have a different
meaning (equivocation) for God and man … “.

But notice from the quotation in section 13.4 that three times Clark
quoted from [The Text of a Complaint] to establish what he
understands [The Text of a Complaint] meant by “content”.

Clark was very careful in being fair and accurate in stating his
opponent’s position.

Bahnsen relied on (Van Til [1949] 1978), a book written after the
Clark-Van Til Controversy.

Clark relied on the original source document [The Text of a
Complaint].

Who has the better authority?

Of course Clark did!

(By the way, this should already suggest to the reader that there
is something very wrong with Bahnsen’s re-definition. Either
Bahnsen did not understand (Van Til [1949] 1978) correctly, or Van
Til has shifted his ground in that book, or both.)

Not only did Clark have the better authority, but in his allusion
to “The Bible As Truth” (1957), Bahnsen never challenge Clark on
the ground that Clark has misread [The Text of a Complaint].

Why?

Because in re-defining “thought content”, Bahnsen was covering-up
for Van Til.

14.    Example 7: Saddling Clark with another error

14.1    My second question is:

Regarding human’s knowledge in relation to God’s knowledge, did
“Clark acknowledged that his negative characterizations of Van
Til’s position were contrary to what Van Til himself said”?

14.2    In answering this question, please keep in mind that we are
considering 5 different documents.

In chronological sequence, they are:

(a)    [The Text of a Complaint] by Van Til and his colleagues;

(b)    [The Answer] by Clark and his supporters;

(c)    [The Incomprehensibility of God] by A Committee for the
Complainants.

(d)    “Chapter 13 – The Incomprehensibility of God” of (Van Til
[1949] 1978) by Van Til; and

(e)    “The Bible As Truth” (1957) by Clark.

14.3    [The Text of a Complaint] is the document by Van Til and his
supporters that started The Clark-Van Til Controversy.

[The Answer] is the original response by Clark and his supporters
to [The Text of a Complaint].

In [The Answer], Clark pointed out the claim that “there is a
qualitative difference between the contents of the knowledge of
God and the contents of the knowledge possible to man” would
lead to skepticism for human knowledge.

I think Van Til and his supporters felt the force of Clark criticism.

But the Van Tilians did not have the courage to admit they were
wrong and retract [The Text of a Complaint].

What they did was they surreptitiously shifted their ground of
complaining.

For then on, the claims on the Van Til side became vague and
ambiguous and fuzzy.

[The Incomprehensibility of God] by A Committee for the
Complainants is a response by the Van Tilians to [The Answer].

“Chapter 13 – The Incomprehensibility of God” of (Van Til [1949]
1978) was Van Til’s post-mortem of the Controversy.

“The Bible As Truth” (1957) was Clark’s post-mortem of the
Controversy.

14.4    The following quotation is from Clark’s “The Bible As Truth” (1957).

This paragraph follows immediately the paragraph I quoted in
section 13.4.

“The Bible As Truth” (1957), pages 31-32:

After these five professors had signed this co-operative
pronouncement some of them published an explanation of it in
which they said: “Man may and does know the same truth that
is in the divine mind … [yet] when man says that God is eternal
he cannot possibly have in mind a conception of eternity that is
identical or that coincides with God’s own thought of eternity”
(A Committee for the Complainants, “The Incomprehensibility
of God”, p.3). In this explanatory statement it is asserted that
the same truth may and does occur in man’s mind and in God’s.
This of course means that there is at least one point of
coincidence between God’s knowledge and ours. But while
they seem to retract their former position in one line, they
reassert it in what follows. It seems that when man says God
is eternal he cannot possibly have in mind what God means
when God asserts His own eternity. Presumably the concept
“eternity” is an example standing for all concepts, so that the
general position would be that no concept can be predicated
of a subject by man in the same sense in which it is predicated
by God. But if a predicate does not mean the same thing to man
as it does to God, then, if God’s meaning is the correct one, it
follows that man’s meaning is incorrect and he is therefore
ignorant of the truth that is in God’s mind.

14.5    Regarding human’s knowledge in relation to God’s knowledge,
Bahnsen claimed that “Clark acknowledged that his negative
characterizations of Van Til’s position were contrary to what
Van Til himself said …”.

Did Clark make such acknowledgement?

Did Clark misread [The Text of a Complaint]?

Bahnsen gave his readers the impression that Clark knew that his
characterizations of Van Til’s position were contrary to what Van
Til himself said, but Clark did it anyway.

Is that what Clark did?

Now that the relevant paragraphs from “The Bible As Truth” (1957)
have been quoted in full, the reader can see that Clark was
commenting on two different documents.

Three times Clark quoted from [The Text of a Complaint] to establish
his understanding of Van Til’s “thought content”.

Then Clark quoted from [The Incomprehensibility of God] by A
Committee for the Complainants to show that there is a shift in Van
Til’s position.

Did Clark knowingly characterize Van Til’s position contrary to
what Van Til himself said?

The answer is an emphatic no.

To make his mentor Van Til looks good, Bahnsen has to conflate
Clark’s comments on two different documents in order to come up
with that suggestion.

How fair is Bahnsen to Clark?

15.    Conclusion: My take of what happened

(a)    When Van Til first filed [The Text of a Complaint] against
Clark, Van Til meant by “thought content” an object of
thought.

When the object of thought is also an object of knowledge,
“thought content” refers to a truth or proposition.

If by “thought content” Van Til meant a proposition, then
there is a genuine difference between the position of Van
Til and Clark.

If by “thought content” Van Til meant a proposition, one can
understand why Van Til would file a complaint against Clark.

(b)    In [The Answer], Clark pointed out that if the object of God’s
thought and the object of human thought do not coincide at
any single point, then human persons is reduce to skepticism.

(c)    Van Til felt the force of Clark’s criticism.

But Van Til did not have the courage to admit that he made a
mistake and retract [The Text of a Complaint].

What Van Til did was that he surreptitiously shifted his
ground by being vague and ambiguous about what he meant
by “thought content”.

This can be seen in [The Incomprehensibility of God] by A
Committee for the Complainants.

(d)    Van Til’s main post-mortem of The Controversy was “Chapter
13 – The Incomprehensibility of God” in (Van Til [1949] 1978).

(e)    Clark’s main post-mortem of The Controversy was “The Bible
As Truth” (1957).

(f)    Bahnsen defended Van Til against Clark.

But Bahnsen was not able to build a case against Clark from
the source document [The Text of a Complaint].

And Bahnsen also felt the force of Clark’s criticism.

What Bahnsen did was he used (Van Til [1949] 1978) to help
built a case against Clark.

But Van Til, whom also felt the force of Clark’s criticism, has
already surreptitiously shifted his ground in (Van Til [1949]
1978).

Instead of frankly admitting that Van Til has made a mistake,
Bahnsen perpetuated Van Til’s mistake by re-defining “thought
content” as thinking activities or mental experience.

Since Clark never denied that either the thinking activities or
the mental experience of God and man are different, the
up-shot of this cover-up is that Bahnsen has left Van Til with no
cause to complain against Clark.

Bahnsen has left the rationale for the Clark-Van Til Controversy
hanging in the air.

And given Bahnsen popularity as a writer, he perpetuated the
cover-up to the next generation of readers.

(g)    Now contrast how Frame and Bahnsen understand Van Til’s
application of the creator-creation distinction to the object of
knowledge:

(i)    (Frame 1995, 89):

Van Til sums up these emphases in the term analogy.
Human knowledge is “analogous” to God’s, which means
that it is (a) created and therefore different from God’s
own knowledge, and (2) subject to God’s control and
authority: …

(ii)    (Bahnsen 1998, 227 n.152):

… But it is clear from Van Til’s own words that “no
coincidence” in “content” never meant a difference in
the knowledge, truth, theory of truth, meaning, or
theory of meaning regarding that which God and man
both know.

We can see that Frame is faithful to Van Til’s application of the
creator-creation distinction to the object of knowledge.

According to Frame, for Van Til, human knowledge is created
and therefore different from God’s own knowledge.

Bahnsen take the contradictory position.

Bahnsen denied the application of the creator-creation
distinction to the object of knowledge.

Recall that a proposition is itself the bearer of truth and
meaning.

In denying that there is a difference in the truth and meaning
that God and man both know, Bahnsen denied the application
of the creator-creation to the object of knowledge.

Bahnsen saved Van Til from the criticism of Clark, but at the
expense of surreptitiously surrendering to Clark’s position.

For those of us who are sympathetic to Clark, we can take
comfort in Bahnsen’s statement: But it is clear from Van Til’s
own words that “no coincidence” in “content” never meant a
difference in the knowledge, truth, theory of truth, meaning,
or theory of meaning regarding that which God and man both
know.

For in making this statement, Bahnsen has conceded the Clark-
Van Til Controversy to Gordon H. Clark!

REFERENCE LIST

Bahnsen, Greg L. 1998. Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis.
Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing
Company.

Clark, Gordon H. [1957] 1982. The Bible As Truth. Reprinted in God’s
Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, 24-38. Jefferson, Maryland: The
Trinity Foundation.

Frame, John M. 1995. Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought.
Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing
Company.

Hoeksema, Herman. [1940s] 1995. The Clark-Van Til Controversy. Hobbs,
New Mexico: The Trinity Foundation.

Robbins, John W. 1986. Cornelius Van Til: The Man and the Myth. Jefferson,
Maryland: The Trinity Foundation.

Van Til, Cornelius. [1949] 1978. An Introduction to Systematic Theology.
Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing
Company.

Weaver, Gilbert B. [1971] 1980. Man: Analogue of God. In Jerusalem and
Athens: Critical Discussions on the Philosophy and Apologetics of
Cornelius Van Til,     ed. E.R. Geehan, 321-327. Phillipsburg, New
Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

End.

Advertisements

Hello world!

May 16, 2009

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!