Continuing our series on the 1948-1949 exchange of articles between J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. and Cornelius Van Til, Dr. Van Til at last steps to the plate in defense of his apologetic approach. This series of articles began in March of 1948 and prior to Van Til’s reply in April of 1949, there had been three articles of some length by Dr. Buswell, plus one article each by Francis A. Schaeffer and G. Douglas Young. In review, here is a summary of all the articles in this series:
Series Articles :
1. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “The Arguments from Nature to God: Presuppositionalism and Thomas Aquinas—A Book Review with Excursions,” The Bible Today 41.8 (May 1948): 235-248.
2. Schaeffer, Francis A., “A Review of a Review,” The Bible Today 42.1 (October 1948): 7-9.
3. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “The Fountainhead of Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.2 (November 1948): 41-64.
4. Young, G. Douglas, “Dr. Young’s Letter”, The Bible Today 42.2 (November 1948): 65.
5. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “Warfield vs. Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.6 (March 1949): 182-192.
6. Van Til, Cornelius, “Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.7 (April 1949): 218-228.
7. Anonymous, “Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.8 (May 1949): 261.
8. Van Til, Cornelius, “Presuppositionalism Concluded,” The Bible Today 42.9 (June-September 1949): 278-290.
A Reply By PROFESSOR CORNELIUS VAN TIL, Ph.D.
Though Professor Van Til’s reply is lengthy, we hope to be able to include it all, word for word just as he has written it, in this and the next two issues. My comments are given in footnotes followed by my initial, “B”.
Dr. Van Til used no footnotes in this article. Ed.
Dear Dr. Buswell:
Allow me to thank you first for the courtesy extended in permitting me to make some remarks on your recent review of my booklet on Common Grace (See The Bible Today, November, 1948). I shall try, as simply as I can, to state something of my theological beliefs and my method of defending them. In this way I can perhaps best reply to your charges that I do not hesitate to make declarations flatly contradictory to the Reformed Standards and the Bible.
The Bible Is Infallible
My primary interest is now, as it always has been, to teach what the Bible contains as the infallible rule of faith and practice in the way of truths about God and his relation to man and the world. I believe in this infallible book, in the last analysis, ‘because “of the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in my heart.” Your readers may obtain a little pamphlet Why I Believe in God in which I have set forth my views in popular form, from Rev. Lewis Grotenhuis, Rt. 2, Phillipsburg, New Jersey.
The God of the Bible Differs From All Other gods
In speaking of the God of the Bible it is; I believe, of the utmost importance that we speak of him first as he is in himself prior to ‘his relation to the created world and man. Reformed theologians therefore distinguish between the ontological and the economical trinity, the former referring to the three persons of the Godhead in their internal relations to one another, the latter referring to the works of this triune God with respect to the created universe. With respect to the ontological trinity I try to follow Calvin in stressing ‘that there is no subordination of essence as between the three persons. As Warfield points out when speaking of Calvin’s doctrine of the trinity “. . . the Father, the Son, the Spirit is each this one God, the entire divine essence being in each;” (Calvin and Calvinism, p. 232). In the syllabi to which you refer and with which you are familiar, I have spoken of the equal ultimacy of the one and the many or of unity and diversity in the Godhead. I use this philosophical language in order the better to ‘be able to contrast the Biblical idea of the trinity with philosophical theories, that are based upon human experience as ultimate. When philosophers speak of the one and many problems they are simply seeking for unity in the diversity of human experience. In order to bring out that it is Christianity alone that has that for which men are looking but cannot find 1 use the terminology of philosophy, always making plain that my meaning is exclusively derived from the Bible as the word of God. “In the Bible alone do we hear of such a God. Such a God, to be known at all, cannot be known otherwise than by virtue of His own voluntary revelation. He must therefore be known for what ‘He is, and known to the extent that He is known, by authority alone” (Common Grace, p. 8 )
Take now these two points together (a) that I ‘have consistently stressed the necessity of asking what God is in himself prior to his relation to the created universe and (b) that I have consistently opposed all subordinationism within the self-contained trinity and it will appear why I have also consistently opposed correlativism between God and the universe and therefore correlativism between God and man. By correlativism I understand a mutually interdependent relationship like that of husband and wife or the convex and the concave side of a disk. I know of no more pointed way of opposing all forms of identity philosophy and all forms of dialectical philosophy and theology. I have also spoken of this self-contained trinity as “our concrete universal.” Judging merely by the sound of this term you charge me with holding Hegelianism. I specify
clearly that my God is precisely that which the ‘Hegelian says Cod is not and yet you insist that I am a Hegelian.
I have further said that in God, as He exists in Himself, apart from his relation to the world, thought and being are coterminous. Are they not? Is God’s consciousness not exhaustively aware of His being? Would you believe with Brightman that there is a “given” element in God? God is light and in him is no darkness at all. Read the rest of this entry »