The Christian Theory of Knowledge (Part 3)

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.

“Calvinism boldly accepts the relativism of man’s thinking. It clearly affirms the failure of reason, intuition, experience, and experimentalism apart from a guiding and valid faith. It declares that the history of epistemology, the theory of knowledge, shows that man is unable to account for even the normal everyday matters of experience by any of the multitude of philosophies he has developed. The only guarantee for the reality of our world and the validity of our consciousness and experience is an unreserved faith in God and His revelation, in the God of Christian Scripture and the authority and finality of the Incarnate Son and of His written Word. In such a faith, relativism disappears, and the problem of epistemology is answered. The subjectivism of man is offset of by the reality of God and of His created world. In creatureliness and rebellion our failure and sin are made both known and limited, and in His Triune Deity is a guarantee of reality and validity of our created reason.”

“True Calvinism, as it comes to maturity in Van Til, insists only on the surrender of reason as God and the restoration of reason as reason in Christ. Autonomous man has given to reason a finality and authority it does not possess. We have given it the right to sit in judgment on God Himself and to arraign the Trinity before the bar of reason. The true Calvinist answer to this is that reason is not God and possesses no such authority. Its judgments are based on the tenuous, sinful, and subjective pre-suppositions of a creature and are neither grounded in being or in truth. Reason can only establish a connection with being and truth insofar as it rests, not on its own mythical authority, but on God and His Word.”

“The Westminster Confession of Faith properly begins with the chapter on Holy Scripture and asserts, “The authority of the Holy Scripture… (or of its miracles) … dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or church, but wholly upon God, who is truth itself, the author therefore, and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.”

What depends on man and his reason or testimony, is less than man, and what depends on God is less than God. It is reason and man that depend on God, not God, His Word, or His miracles, that depend on man or reason.

It is significant that the Westminter Confession contains no chapter on man as man, but only on man in relationship to God, through his fall, and as called and redeemed. Man’s life and reason can be properly considered by a Christian thinker only in terms of the same relationship. Autonomous man is a myth, and reason as created reason is part of man’s relationship as creature to God, His world, and to other men. As such, it has a greater and invaluable role. In any other capacity, it is a hindrance anda stumbling block.”

“The essential issue is between the authority of autonomous man and of the Sovereign God. To allow God into the universe, provided that we open the door, is to say that the universe is our univere, and that our categories are decisive in human thinking. We can accept the Scriptures as inerrant and infallible on our terms, as satisfactory to our reason, but we have only established ourselves as god and judge thereby and have given more assent to ourselves than to God. But, if God be God, the the universe and man are His creation, understandabl only in terms of Himself, and no meaning can be established except in terms of God’s given meaning. To accept miracles or Scripture on any other ground is in effect to deny their esential meaning and to give them a pagan import.

Thus, the consistent Christian position must be this: no God, no knowledge. Since the universe is a created universe, no true knowledge of it is possible except in terms of thinking God’s thoughts after Him. This the natural man, being inconsistent with himself, does to a measure, using the ladder but denying its existence. In his practical reasoning and research he is semi-Christian. In his theoretical reason, he is insistently the autonomous man. The issue, therefore, is between reason as reason and reason as God. Man’s rationality, according to the Christian view, is part of man’s relationship to God, not a god in itself. But autonomous man, with his laws of contradiction and logic, demands that God must follow his rationality and his laws of logic. In other words, God must think man’s thoughts after him! This is the plain import of much ostensibly Christian philosophy. And against all this Van Til has raised an effective standard.”

(Rushdoony, By What Standard? 8-17)

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