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.
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 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. 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”