Analogical Reasoning

“The Christian, on the other hand, has been saved by the blood and tears of Christ from this God-insulting and self-destroying methodology.

The two positions can be well illustrated by Descartes on the one hand and by Calvin on the other. Descartes starts with man as though he were sufficient unto himself and could make himself the final reference point in his interpretation of himself and the world. Descartes thought he had a clear and distinct idea of himself apart from his relation to God. It was after he had determined who he himself was that he sought to place himself in relation to the world and to God. These relations were therefore secondary relations.

In complete contrast with this approach is that of Calvin who also started with man—and who can help but do so?—but who started with man as set, from the beginning, in relation to his Creator and his Redeemer. After this establishment of a primary and immediate relation, Calvin proceeds to interpret himself and his world in detail. Seeing himself as redeemed by the blood of Christ, he knows that sin still remains within him. He still tends to fall back into his naturally autonomous ways. Calvin keeps telling himself and us, that all things (of nature as well as grace) must, from the outset, be seen in their relation to the story of God’s creation and redemption of the world. Since the Redeemer speaks to him, not through individual mystical insight but by the word that his Savior has given to his church in the form of Scripture, the believer will go to the record of that redemptive work which Christ has accomplished for the world. That record will shed light on every fact in every relation in the world. The record of the redemptive work of Christ is the record given by the Holy Spirit through the ministry of the prophets and apostles. God has not left man alone with the event of redemption, leaving it to man’s own sinful heart to interpret it. On the contrary, God has with the facts given the interpretation of the facts. It is the triune God that is active in saving the world. The Father sent his Son to secure objective redemption for it. Then the Father, with the Son, sent the Spirit to inspire his servants to interpret the facts of redemption. The one without the other is meaningless. It is the triune God who tells us what he has done for sinful man’s redemption. The final aspect of this redemption is that, by the regenerating power of the Spirit, sinful man learns to submit his own interpretation, once based on the idea of human autonomy, to the interpretation which the God of grace has provided for him in the Word through the inspiration of the Scripture. This is a truly biblical and therefore a truly analogical methodology.”

(Van Til, The Reformed Doctrine of Scripture)

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