Compromising the Authority of the Bible, by R. B. Kuiper (1935)


K. B. KUIPER, M.A., B.D.

[An address delivered at the Ninth Annual Convention of the League at Boston, Massachusetts, late in 1934.]
(and as published in The Evangelical Student, January 1935)

            Few men who lay claim to Christianity deny outright the authority of the Bible. Even the so-called advanced modernist hardly does that.

            Eventually the logic of the modernist’s position must drive him to the rejection of all external authority. Present-day liberalism is deeply indebted to Hegel. It is hardly an exaggeration to call him its philosophical father. But Hegelianism is thoroughly pantheistic. Did not Hegel style the human will a Wirkungsform of the divine will and boldly declare, “What I do, God does”? Modernism too is pantheistic. It reduces the difference between Christ’s Divinity and man’s to one of degree only. It gloats over the divinity of man. Recently a liberal minister preached on The Other Me, who turned out to be none other than God. But, obviously, thoroughgoing pantheism leaves no room for external authority. If I am God, I will majestically decline to take orders from another. If I am God, I am my own authority.

            If, on the other hand, I am merely a finite human being, it behooves me to give heed to the voice of the Infinite. And if I am not merely finite but also sinful, so sinful in fact, that I cannot possibly save myself from sin and its consequences, it emphatically behooves me to obey the orders which God gives me in the Bible for my salvation.

          Continue reading “Compromising the Authority of the Bible, by R. B. Kuiper (1935)”


The Church’s Call

Yet another article from THE EVANGELICAL STUDENT. Watch for more news about recent work with this publication.

by J.G. Vos
The Evangelical Student 1.2 (October 1926): 6-7.]

ERROR is always with us. It assumes many forms and makes various appeals. The systems of falsehood are almost without number. There are errors as old as the ages, and there are errors of recent origin. Errors appear, disappear, and reappear, while the truth of God abides continually. So sporadic, indeed, have been the errors, and so constant is the truth, that some have concluded that all error, because it is error, is about to die; and that all truth, because it is truth, is sure to survive.

This conclusion is certainly fallacious. It is true that error often dies, and that the truth usually survives; but the error does not die because it is error, nor the truth survive because it is truth. If error dies, it is because the Holy Spirit has used means to cut it off. If the truth survives, it is because the Holy Spirit has used means to ensure its survival. Continue reading “The Church’s Call”

Van Til Reviews Three Essays by Barth (1960)

COMMUNITY, STATE AND CHURCH — Three essays by Karl Barth — with an introduction by Will Herberg. Anchor Books, Doubleday & Co., Garden City, New York. 193 pp. 95 cents.

The Three Essays of Earl Barth comprising this book all deal with social questions.

In a long foreword Will Herberg, among other things, relates Barth’s views on social and political problems to his basic theological convictions. It was only gradually that Barth attained to a completely self-conscious Christological approach in his theology.

Similarly it is not till he wrote his “dear Christian brethren in Great Britain” in 1941 that he “urges his Christological foundation for political action.” A “large-scale police measure” against Hitler has become “absolutely necessary” “for Christ’s sake.” On the basis of the resurrection of Christ we know “that the world in which we live is already consecrated.”

Herberg gives these quotations from Barth because he is convinced that in his war-time writings “Barth is to be seen at his best as a Christian interpreter of the great historical crises of our time.”

But what has happened to Barth in recent times, asks Herberg. Discussing Barth’s attitude toward Communist tyranny Herberg says: “In a word, the man who once aroused the Church to action now urges it to turn away from political involvement and remain indifferent to political actualities.” Continue reading “Van Til Reviews Three Essays by Barth (1960)”

Christ Is Risen Indeed!

A friend asked a question recently about the Rev. Arthur J. Diffenbacher, a Grove City College and Dallas Seminary graduate who spent six years on the mission field in China and another two in Manchuria before WWII drove him from the field. After a time back in the States engaged in ministry, he entered the service as an Army chaplain in the summer of 1943. His approach to the chaplaincy was to be always with the troops in everything they endured. So it was perhaps not surprising when he became one of the early casualties of D-Day, dying on the battlefields of Normandy on July 5, 1944.

As I’ve recently been compiling an author-title index for THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, I came across an obituary for Rev. Dieffenbacher, published in the October 1944 issue of the BULLETIN. But I also noticed that just a few months earlier, in the April issue, there was published this short article by Rev. Dieffenbacher—

Chaplain Arthur J. Dieffenbacher

“Now is Christ risen from the dead.” — I Cor. 15:20.

What but such a miracle could cause pious Jews, with fifteen centuries of tradition and the command of God Himself, to cease observing the seventh day of the week, and suddenly begin to worship on the first day?

What but such a manifestation of power could transform the disheartened, fearful apostles into courageous, powerful protagonists of One Who had but a few days before died a shameful death on a cross ; and what else could produce similar transformations in heart-broken, wrecked lives for the last 1900 years?

What but such a victory over death could prevent that cross from being more than the final failure of another self-styled messiah, and produce a faith in millions, that through His death there is forgiveness of sins?

What but the actual event can keep Christ Himself, who offered only His resurrection as a sign and proof, from being a fake, or His apostles from being liars, who based their preaching on the fact that, contrary to their expectations and hope, they had seen Him after death, and talked with Him, and touched His nail-pierced, spear-riven body? What but the fact itself can prevent Christianity from being a colossal hoax?

What but the assurance that His resurrection is a sample of that of all who die trusting Him could cause martyrs to go to death for their faith in Christ, steady and unafraid, as they did in the days of the early church, in the middle ages, and as they do even today under the Japanese rule? And what but this could give hope to a soldier who dies on the field of battle trusting in Christ?

What but such a conclusive triumph of right can, in the midst of injustice, give the assurance held out in the Scriptures that Christ will yet reign in righteousness and peace on the earth?

An Old Threat That Never Really Goes Away

And as promised — As you read this, think to see if this isn’t remarkably in line with what Dr. Peter Jones has been pointing out in recent years concerning the ongoing cultural battle between what he terms “one-ism” and “two-ism.” While there clearly are differences between Jones’ thesis and the concerns voiced here in Greenway’s article, still I think there is also a relation connecting their separate concerns. Unitarianism is at root just another part of that broad spectrum of “one-ism” that fails to maintain the Creator-creature distinction.


The Camel’s Nose in the Church’s Tent

By Rev. Walter B. Greenway, D.D.

[THE PRESBYTERIAN (23 September 1926): 6-9.]


THE old Arabian story, variously told, is familiar to all. The camel plead with the Arabian nomad for permission to put his nose through the flap of the tent. Thinking this to ‘be harmless, the Arab consented. While the Arab slept, the camel pushed through his head, then his shoulders, finally his body, and when the Arab awakened from his sleep he found no room in the tent for himself, it being all but wholly occupied by the camel.

There was an evil camel’s nose that diligently sought admission into the Church’s tent at its beginning. It has been quietly but persistently working its body into the Church, until now it is head and shoulders within and it is high time we awakened, before our tent is wholly occupied. Modernism is the nose of the camel. The camel is Unitarianism. The nose, Modernism, is considered harmless by a large element in our Church to-day. This is because they fail to see the camel to which the nose belongs. The camel is that doctrine that robs the Son of God of his special divinity and brings him down to the level of man. The camel, Unitarianism, has always stood just outside the tent of the Trinitarian Church, seeking admission.

It appeared in the first century, when we find certain of the Jewish Church were attracted by the personality of Christ, and agreed to accept him as a leader, but would not recognize him as divine. In the second century there were those who were willing to recognize in Christ one superior to a man, a kind of a connecting link between God and man, but in no wise God. In the third century Ammonius Saccas and the philosophers of his day loudly proclaimed the beauty of his character, but declared him only a lovely man. In the fourth century, Arius of Alexandria went so far as to acknowledge the pre-existence of Christ, and even proclaimed that he would be the Judge at the end, but denied he was God. Continue reading “An Old Threat That Never Really Goes Away”

The Theory of Knowledge Again

Returning for a moment to the pages of THE PRESBYTERIAN in 1924, there is this brief article by the Rev. Albert Dale Gantz, who was at that time pastor of a church in New York City. Here Gantz accurately diagnoses the root problem of modernism as one of epistemology. With such diagnosis then, little wonder that rising seminarians like Clark and Van Til chose to focus on epistemology as that place where the battle was fiercest. 

A Diagnosis of Modernism
by Rev. Albert Dale Gantz

An analysis of symptoms is necessary to a diagnosis of the pathological condition. From a careful observance of the symptoms of so-called “modernism,” the conclusion has been borne in more and more upon my mind that the difficulty—the real source of infection is not so much in theology—our God-given knowledge of the Supreme Being, as with epistemology—or man-made philosophy of religious experience.

Modernists are cramped by a theory of knowledge which limits all religious knowledge to experience. They cannot admit any fact into their mind except through the single, narrow door of experience. They talk loudly about “the open mind,” when, as a matter of close observation, I find that their minds are closed to all truths which cannot enter in through the one narrow door of experiment. In other words, all knowledge is reduced to the terms of experience, and must be tested, so to speak, by the laboratory method, applicable only to certain branches of physical science ; and so by limiting themselves to one method of obtaining knowledge all truth not capable of treatment under laboratory methods is rejected. It is very easy to see, therefore, that the trouble with the modernists is with his epistemology. He has not yet perfected an apparatus for knowing truths in the vast realm where the test-tube and the Bunsen burner are inadequate.

To illustrate the inadequacy of knowledge that is confined only to what is discoverable by experience is not difficult. Take, for example, knowledge of God. The modernist cannot affirm the eternity of God or the pre-existence of Christ, because forsooth these great truths are beyond his experience. He is unable to affirm the creative act of the Almighty in bringing the cosmos into existence, because he cannot bring the mighty cosmic acts of omnipotence into the small door of his own personal experience. Likewise, because he has no personal experience of the mode by which the Supreme Being operates to create life, the modernist feels that he cannot accept any revelation on that matter. In other words, the modernist has set for himself such artificial and prescribed boundaries to the acquisition of knowledge that he has closed the avenues of his mind to those great realms of truth which are spiritual discerned, and has reduced all knowledge to that which is physically discerned. His limitations, therefore, are not in the realm of theology, but primarily in the realm of epistemology. He is cramped by a theory of knowledge. Continue reading “The Theory of Knowledge Again”

Clark Gets the Last Word

This is the third and last of Dr. Clark’s replies to Buswell’s review and critique of Clark’s work, A CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION. Buswell had begun with a review of that work, to which Clark replied, Buswell commented, and so on. As with the Buswell-Van Til exchange, in this exchange Buswell gives his opponent the last word (though in Van Til’s case, Buswell peppered CVT’s final reply with editorial comments. Clark at least faired better, in that regard.

System and Induction


This is the third in a series of short articles by Dr. Clark. The others, accompanied by argumentative editorial comments of my own, are found in the December 1947 and January 1948, issues of The Bible Today. The series was started off by my review of his recent book, A Christian Philosophy of Education, in The Bible Today for October, 1947.

I must confess that, as I see it, Dr. Clark fails in the present article to meet the issues. Rather than repeating, I suggest that the reader who wishes answers to what Dr. Clark says and to the questions he asks here, will find the answers in my editorials in the December and January issues. My arguments have not been answered.

(While searching, the reader might look for the alleged place where I have “admitted that the cosmological argument is a formal logical fallacy.” I haven’t found that place!) For the present then, I shall let Dr. Clark have the last word. I think you are making a great mistake, good brother. Ed.

A sound rule of Biblical exegesis is that the meaning of a crucial word should be determined by the context, the author’s usage, and his intent. For example, the meaning of the words faith, flesh, redeem, sin, life, death, are neither necessarily nor usually just the same in the New Testament as they are in pagan writers. To assume that the meanings are the same would reduce parts of the New Testament to absurdity. Similarly it is a sound rule for criticizing contemporary books to determine the meaning of the author. If one of his words interpreted in one way makes nonsense of some of his paragraphs, it would be wiser to seek another meaning than to jump to the conclusion that the author makes no sense. Furthermore, an author may use the same word in several senses. A critic cannot legitimately require a writer to confine himself to just one strict meaning.

It seems to me that Dr. Buswell in his book review of A Christian Philosophy of Education and in his two Editorial Comments violates this principle of interpretation. He seems to insist, even in his January Editorial Comment, that system can mean only “a more or less consistent or inconsistent complex of thoughts.”

I defended the legitimacy of my usage of the word system by two citations. The first was from Brand Blanshard: The Nature of Thought. Dr. Buswell, it seems to me, confuses the isuue by first objecting to elements of Professor Blanshard’s philosophy. I too am in fundamental disagreement with that philosophy; but the point at issue was not certain phases of rationalistic idealism, but whether the word system can be used in the sense of a perfectly consistent series of propositions. Having thus confused the issue, Dr. Buswell continues by arguing that Professor Blanshard did not so use the word system. His reason is that Professor Blanshard uses the word system in the other sense also. If by “fragmentary systems, whose parts are connected by the most diverse relations” Professor Blanshard indeed means “more or less inconsistent complex of thoughts,” still it does not follow that he has not also used the word in the sense of a perfectly consistent series of truths. An author cannot legitimately be required to use a word in only one sense.

Webster’s Dictionary also, to which Dr. Buswell appeals, allows of several meanings. There is nothing in Webster that requires Dr. Buswell’s preferred meaning. In fact neither Webster nor Funk and Wagnalls even mention Dr. Buswell’s inconsistent complex. Continue reading “Clark Gets the Last Word”

Buswell Sees Progress!

Here are Buswell’s comments following Clark’s entry “Concerning System and Demonstration”. For the moment we’ve skipped over the article by Vernon Grounds that appeared in the midst of this series of exchanges between Buswell and Clark. That article will post later. And as is our habit, links to the entire series of articles can be found at the bottom of this post.

Editorial Comment

I DO feel that there is definite progress in Dr. Clark’s thought, or at least in his expression, from the book,[1] through his article in the December issue of The Bible Today, to his present article. The discussion of the word “system’’ grew out of material found on page 163 and following in his book quoted on page 71 in the December Bible Today. Dr. Clark’s statements there[2] “. . . there is no such thing as a common ground between Christianity and a non-Christian system,” led straight forward to his remarks on the way in which a “faithful Christian presents the Christian faith to an unbeliever.” Then followed his statement, “This is not an appeal to a common ground . . .” The word “this” refers directly to the presentation of the Christian faith “to an unbeliever.” It is the idea that we have no common ground when we present the Gospel to an unbeliever, which gave me such great concern.

Now, in this article on System and Demonstration, as well as in his article of last December, I feel that Dr. Clark has removed the “system” of unbelief so far into the abstract that it cannot interfere with evangelism. Thus my purpose is partly accomplished[3]

The readers who are not interested in logic will please doze off while I go on with the next few paragraphs. Those who are concerned about the basic logic of evangelism, the epistemology[4] of Christian evidences, may do well to read carefully, whether they wholly agree or not.

Our discussion of the word “system,” as I have said, starts from Dr. Clark’s words “a non-Christian system.” Naturalism, or anti-super-naturalism, which practically amounts to atheism, is the “system” which most conspicuously confronts us. In discussing such a system of thought, I should define the word “system” as I did in my editorial note in the December Bible Today, as “a more or less consistent or inconsistent complex of thought to which people adhere.” Thus Webster’s Dictionary gives the following to illustrate usage, “the theological system of Augustine; the American system of government; hence, a particular philosophy, religion, etc. ‘Our little systems have their day.’ “

In Robert Flint’s great worksAnti-Theistic Theories, and Agnosticism, he treats of such systems as materialism, pantheism, secularism, etc., showing inconsistencies in each. In a course in history of philosophy we take up such systems as idealism and realism; in history of Christian doctrine we take up scholasticism, Calvinism, Arminianism, etc. All of these “systems” are “more or less consistent or inconsistent complexes of thought.”

Of course my definition (and Webster’s) supported by usage as it is, does not exclude the perfect system of truth as God sees it; nor does it exclude the system of revealed truth. Dr. Clark’s error in citing Presbyterian usage is in his failing to mention that before the statement accepting the Westminster standards “as containing the system of doctrine taught inthe Holy Scriptures,” every Presbyterian minister was required to declare that he believed the Scriptures to be “the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” A “system” may be “more or less consistent or inconsistent”; a “system” taught in an “infallible rule” must be perfectly consistent[5]

I am interested in Dr. Clark’s reference to Prof. Brand Blanshard’s views on “system.” I had said I doubted if any writers in this field ever use the word “system” as meaning “the definitive element as such in a complex of thought. ‘

But this is not Prof. Blanshard’s view at all. He would agree with Dr. Clark and me that the truth is a perfectly consistent system. In the passage to which Dr. Clark refers, he says:

If the end of thought is truth, what is truth? It lies, we shall hold, in system, and above all in that perfect type of system in which each component implies and is implied by every other.

Blanshard is a rationalistic idealist. Dr. Clark is not. I should accept the proposition that the truth is a perfect system, but I deny that the truth “lies [or consists] in system.” Rather, it may be checked by its integration as a criterion. It is true because it is there and because it is so. (Dasein und Sosein). Continue reading “Buswell Sees Progress!”

Clark Elaborates His Approach

Clark now replies with some elaboration of his apologetic approach.

Concerning System and Demonstration


Dr. Clark very kindly gives us here a clarification of his use of the word “system”, and further comment on so called “isolated facts”, “neutral facts”, and geometrical “demonstration.” Editorial comment follows his article; see page 114 and following.Ed.

Since the philosophic problems of evidence are of such great importance for the effective presentation of the gospel, I greatly appreciate the generous invitation of Dr. Buswell’s Editorial Note (December 1947) to discuss briefly the notions of “system” and “demonstration.” As an introduction to this matter, I should like first to repeat something from my Comments and place it beside a part of Dr. Buswell’s Editorial Note.

In the Comments I pointed out that the book, A Christian Philosophy of Education, denied a common ground between Christian and non-Christian systems, but it did not deny a common ground between regenerate and unregenerate individuals. Dr. Buswell, quoting the paragraph in his Editorial Note, prefaces the quotation with the statement, “he has made important concessions to the point of my argument.” And he also speaks of “The distinction which Dr. Clark’s reply now makes between a non-Christian system and non-Christian people . . .”  This distinction, Dr. Buswell continues, “seems to me to involve and lead up to a complete surrender of his position.”

To this I wish to repeat that the distinction was not made just “now” in the Comments. It is not at all a “concession” to Dr. Buswell’s review, but on the contrary it is found explicitly in the book itself. Nor is the idea of a system confined to the one paragraph Dr. Buswell quotes. The first chapter of the book virtually defines educational endeavor as the striving toward a system; the argument of the second chapter, involving the criticism of the traditional proofs of God’s existence, depends on the notion of system (cf. pp. 48, 49 and passim); the several chapters against neutrality have the same basis; and in short the notion of system rather permeates the book. I am therefore forced to conclude that Dr. Buswell has viewed as a “concession” what in reality is his own better understanding of what I explicitly said.

In order further to elucidate, I must ask agreement to the proposition that all men are more or less inconsistent. The fact that you and I are born again Christians does not mean that everything we think is Christian truth. This should be obvious because we sometimes contradict each other. If you are right, I am wrong; and in this case what I believe is not a part of the Christian system. Hence clarity requires a sharp distinction between what a given person thinks and what the system really is.[*] If there were no such distinction, the beliefs of anyone who called himself a Christian could be taken for Christianity. Indeed, this is the point of view that Modernism with its anti-intellectualism actually adopts. To define Christianity the modernist does not determine the exact meaning of what the Bible says; he simply notes what ideas happen to be popular in his ecclesiastical fraternity. Accordingly the point must be emphasized that a Christian, even a true Christian, and Christianity are two different things. The Christian is inconsistent. Christianity is the whole consistent truth. Similarly an atheist and atheism are two different things. Atheism, a system, is as consistent as any false system can be. But an individual atheist not only may, but does believe propositions inconsistent with his professed atheism.

[*] Dr. Buswell doubts that the word is ever so used; but cf. Brand Blanshard, The Nature of Thought, Vol. I, p. 78.  Continue reading “Clark Elaborates His Approach”

Van Til Concludes His Rebuttal

This concludes the series on presuppositionalism as published in THE BIBLE TODAY between March 1948 and September 1949. Dr. Cornelius Van Til finishes his rebuttal to Dr. Buswell’s critiques, though in the endnotes, it might be said that Dr. Buswell had the last word. However, the substance of that last word, lest you miss it at the end of the article, should be carefully noted:

May I say in closing that I trust that the readers realize that this is a serious and important argument between Christian brethren who are personally the best of friends.

Christians can have serious differences, can discuss those differences plainly and openly, and yet remain steadfast brothers in Christ, the best of friends. This exchange between Buswell and Van Til stands in good evidence.

June-September 1949

Presuppositionalism Concluded

Prof. Van Til’s Reply continued from the April Issue

We remind our readers again that according to the theory which we have called Presuppositionalism, there is no common ground in reason upon which we may deal with lost souls who are in a state of rejecting Christian presuppositions. We feel that this theory is very harmful to the cause of Christ and we regret that it is held by conscientious and sincere Christian persons like Prof. Van Til. With this Issue we are printing the remainder of his reply in full. We trust that the reply itself, even without the footnotes, will be its own refutation. Ed.

You assert that my “unqualified[12] statement that ‘Christ has not died for all men’ is intolerable” (p. 47). But I was again simply reproducing Calvin’s argument against Pighius. Pighius had argued that one who believed in the doctrine of election could not consistently also believe in the genuineness of the general offer of salvation to all men. Calvin replies that he believes in both. Moreover, he offers his distinction between remote and proximate cause as the reason why he can hold to both without contradiction. Christ has not died for all men, in the sense of intending actually to save them all. But the “special reference” of Christ’s work (as Charles Hodge calls it) with respect to the elect does not make void the general call to repentance. From the immediate context of the words you object to it appears that as Calvin argued against Pighius I am arguing against those who deny common grace for the genuineness of the general reference of Christ’s work. My statement therefore is (a) not unqualified, (b) is part of an argument which defends rather than rejects the importance of what Hodge calls the “merely incidental” effects of Christ’s work, (c) is designed to oppose the idea that the doctrines of Christianity which seem to unbelievers to be contradictory are really contradictory. If my position is intolerable to you that of Hodge must be also.


Coming now to a brief statement of the method of defense that I use for the propagation of what I believe and how it differs from the traditional method I may note first that you have not, for all the length of your article,, anywhere given a connected picture of my argument. Yet you at once characterize it in contrast with your own as being “negative and universal.” Without the least bit of qualification I am said to deny “that there is common ground of reasoning between those who accept Christian presuppositions and engage in the spread of the Gospel, and those who- do not accept Christian presuppositions and reject the Gospel” (p. 41). The facts are far otherwise.

I am, to be sure, opposed to the traditional method of apologetics as this has found its most fundamental expression in the Summae of Thomas Aquinas the Roman Catholic and in Bishop Butler the Arminian.[13] I seek to oppose Roman Catholicism and Arminianism in Apologetics as I seek to oppose it in theology. Does that make my main thesis universally negative? I think there is a better and more truly biblical way of reasoning with and winning unbelievers than the Romanist Arminian method permits.

To begin with then I take what the Bible says about God and his relation to the universe as unquestionably true on its own authority. The Bible requires men to believe that he exists apart from and above the world and that he by his plan controls whatever takes place in the world. Everything in the created universe therefore displays the fact that it is controlled by God, that it is what it is by virtue of the place that it occupies in the plan of God. The objective evidence for the existence of God and of the comprehensive governance of the world by God is therefore so plain that he who runs may read. Men cannot get away from this evidence. They see it round about them. They see it within them. Their own constitution so clearly evinces the facts of God’s creation of them and control over them that there is no man who can possibly escape observing it. If he is self-conscious at all he is also God-conscious. No matter how men may try they cannot hide from themselves the fact of their own createdness. Whether men engage in inductive study with respect to the facts of nature about them or engage in analysis of their own self-consciousness they are always face to face with God their maker. Calvin stresses these matters greatly on the basis of Paul’s teachings in Romans. Continue reading “Van Til Concludes His Rebuttal”