The Christian Theory of Knowledge (Part 2)

These are excerpts that I gathered from Chapter 2: The Christian Philosophy of Knowledge of R.J. Rushdoony’s book on Van Til’s apologetic entitled, By What Standard. I will be posting the excerpts of the entire chapter in separate posts.

“The Christian must maintain that created being has no meaning in itself and all attempts to understand it in terms of itself constitutes a rejection of true meaning. Neither can man have meaning in himself, because he too is a creature. Nothing can have meaning in itself or of itself becaue nothing exists in or of itself. “All things were made by Him,” and nothing has a valid interpretation apart from God and His creative and redemptive purpose. Thus every attempt of man to interpret his world of itself, or to attempt to interpret it in terms of his autonomous mind and its perceptions, is virtually a deliberate rejection of God and His interpretation. When men reject God they at the same time virtually reject the Creator’s and redeemer’s interpretation and purpose for their lives and for all creation. Thus, they cannot understand either themselves or the world they live in, although they use both, often with profligate proficiency. As Van Til has pointed out, if we say that the ‘natural man’ cannot truly know God, then we must also say that he cannot truly know the flowers of the field…

An objective revelation of God is given to man, both through the world about him and through his own created nature, upon which God’s impress is unmistakable. But this knowledge man seeks to suppress. Instead, in his starting point, method, and conclusion, man takes for granted his own ultimacy, insists on being his own god and interpreter, and as a result misinterpret all things, himself, the flowers of the field and Almighty God. Both in its existence and in its meaning, the whole space-time world is dependent upon God, who created it out of tnothing. Its life and meaning are derivative, and as a result “the meaning of every fact in the universe must be related to God.” It follows, therefore, that to know any fact truly, man must first presuppose the existence of God and His creative and redemptive plan. The facts can be related to laws, because behind facts and laws stands God, relating and giving meaning to both by His plan for the universe. Both the one and the many, the universals and particulars, are derivative and dependent upon the triune God, who is the original and ultimate One and Many. “If we are to have coherence in our experience, there must be a correspondence of our experience to the eternally coherent experience of God. Human knowledge ultimately rests upon the internal coherence wthin the Godhead; our knowledge rests upon the ontological trinity as its presupposition.” Because man is a creature, his knowledge cannot be exhaustive, but because he is created in God’s image, his knowledge is true.

For the non-Christian, true knowledge must be comprehensive. Because particulars and universals are ultimate for him, knowledge is true to the extent that it is comprehensive and exhaustive. Moreover, the non-Christian regards the mind of autonomous man as a valid interpreter and as ethically normal. The Christian, on the other hand, rejects the right of man to be an autonomous and ultimate interpreter and holds him to be ethically depraved, so that he wilfully suppresses true knowledge. Man’s sin is his desire to be his own god, determining on his own authority what is good and evil. He accordingly suppresses the truth concerning God, himself, and the world in order to buttress himself in his rebellion.”

(Rushdoony, By What Standard? 10-12)

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