Nash on Van Til

From The Word of God and the Mind of Man by Ronald H. Nash.

“For twenty years or so, as a friendly critic of Van Til’s views, I have maintained that Van Til’s position entails scepticism. …” (p. 100)

“Only recently, however, have I come to understand that Van Til had developed his own version of the Dooyeweerdian Boundary between the human mind and the mind of God. To his credit, Van Til has not wavered from his earlier conviction that humans can have knowledge about God. Van Til has always contended earnestly for the doctrine of propositional revelation. His position has been that we can know only what God has explicitly revealed. I once asked Van Til if, when some human being knows that 1 plus 1 equals 2, that human being’s knowledge is identical with God’s knowledge. The question, I thought, was innocent enough. Van Til’s only answer was to smile, shrug his shoulders, and declare that the question was improper in the sense that it had no answer. It had no answer because any proposed answer would presume what is impossible for Van Til, namely, that laws like those found in mathematics and logic apply beyond the Boundary. Van Til rejects the presumption that a person might know something about the mind of God that was not the product of special revelation. Unlike Van Til, few Christians have any difficulty affirming the following three propositions: (a) 1 plus 1 equals 2; (b) God knows that 1 plus 1 equals 2; and (c) when a human being knows that 1 plus 1 equals 2, his or her knowledge is identical with God’s knowledge of the same proposition. It makes more sense to reject the sceptical premises of Van Til’s position than it does to deny any of these three claims.” (p. 100)

“At this point, of course, Van Til and his followers charge that my position entails a denial both of God’s sovereignty and His incomprehensibility. The charge is ridiculous. Like Gordon Clark, I am not moved by specious appeals to Scripture texts like Isaiah 55:8-9. … While obviously we do not know everything, what we do know must be identical with what God knows.” (p. 100-101)

“As one might expect, it is difficult for anyone holding a position like Van Til’s to be consistent. In A Christian Theory of Knowledge, Van Til warns that one must not take the biblical teaching about divine sovereignty and human responsibility as a logical contradiction. On page 38 of the same book, he admits that the presence of a logical contradiction in the Bible would count as evidence against the Bible’s claim to be the Word of God. In these passages, Van Til does what he himself says is impossible; he applies the law of noncontradiction on both sides of the Boundary.” (p. 101)

“In conclusion, one can ask how Van Til knows that no proposition can mean the same thing to God and to a human, that our knowledge and God’s knowledge do not coincide at any point. This very knowledge claim says something about what lies beyond the Boundary. While the assorted rejections of logic found in the writings of Torrance, the followers of Dooyeweerd, and Van Til are (because of their sincere motives) pious nonsense, they are still nonsense.” (p. 101)

6 thoughts on “Nash on Van Til”

    1. Yeah? I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment to verify that “They” is capitalized.

  1. There is this tension. I think I feel an antinomy coming on, or is that a Charlie horse between the ears? I need a rational massage …


  2. I can picture Jesus standing next to you and Van Til also smiling and, possibly, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, explaining what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

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