Van Til’s Principles of Continuity and Discontinuity

Gary T. Waldecker wrote a helpful summary of Cornelius Van Til’s principles of continuity and discontinuity on pages 27 to 32 in his essay, “Van Til’s Presuppositionalism: Effectiveness and Sensitivity.” I constructed below an outline of his summary which will make it more easy to follow. It would be beneficial to read his essay segments on Van Til’s theory of reality (pg. 17-23) and knowledge (pg. 23-27) before proceeding with reading his explanation of the principles of continuity and discontinuity.

1. Christian Principle of Continuity: “God knows himself exhaustively because in him the one and the many are mutually exhaustive; and that God knows created reality exhaustively because he controls it completely by his plan.” (27)
2. Christian Principle of Discontinuity: “man must live by the authority of God’s Word because the created one and many are not mutually exhaustive, but receive their meaning in terms of their relationship to God and his plan, so that man cannot explain explain the facts of creation exclusively in terms of his logic (universal) and the facts of creation are not fully under his control. He has true knowledge and significant control over reality to the extent that he submits his reasoning powers to the authoritative Word of God, and thereby seeks to glorify God in his use of the facts of created reality.” (27-28)

1. Non-Christian Principle of Continuity (designed to replace the Christian Principle of Discontinuity): “the non-Christian asserts that the temporal one and many are equally and absolutely ultimate. In short, reality, including any God, is completely controllable by man. Man is now the one who has exhaustive knowledge and who controls whatever comes to pass.” (30-31)
2. Non-Christian Principle of Discontinuity (designed to replace the Christian Principle of Continuity): “man knows that he himself does not have exhaustive knowledge of the facts of reality. He has not yet unified the temporal diversity. But in order to admit this he must assert that no one else has exhaustive knowledge either. There must be an ultimate chance in the universe.” (31)

The Non-Christian principles of continuity and discontinuity are mutually dependent and mutually exclusive.

1. They presuppose one another
Non-Christian Principle of Continuity presupposes Non-Christian Principle of Discontinuity
“For man to know reality exhaustively, the facts of the universe, uncluding man himself, must not be pre-determined as to their meaning. If man were predetermined he would not be free. The facts must have their existence, but no essence. In this condition, they are perfectly pliable, and can be given their meaning by the mind of man. Therefore, there must be an ultimate chance in the universe since man knows that he himself does not yet control everything that comes to pass or have exhaustive knowledge.” (31)
Non-Christian Principle of Discontinuity presupposes Non-Christian Principle of Continuity
“On the otherhand, in order to maintain the idea of an ultimate chance, and therewith his own freedom as an individual, man must be sure that God does not control, or has not pre-determined, everything that happens. In order thus to exlude the God of the Bible, man holds that whatever is not exhaustively knowable by means of human logic does not exist.” (31-32)

2. They mutually exclude one another
Non-Christian Principle of Continuity excludes Non-Christian Principle of Discontinuity
“If it were possible for an man to attain exhaustive knowledge in order to be sure that there is not God of the Bible to hinder his freedom as an individual, his freedom and individuality would dissapear. Every fact, including himself, would be reduced to a logical relationship. They would all be stripped of their uniqueness. there would be no more ultimate chance. In his attempt to avoid being determined by God, man makes himself determined. All individuality is swallowed up into an abstract unity.” (32)

Non-Christian Principle of Discontinuity excludes Christian Principle of Continuity
“On the otherhand, if individuality is to be retained, unity must be excluded. Every must spring from an ultimate chance. In other words, in order to have true individuality, an object or person must have no meaning. As soon as it is said to be known, it loses its individuality. Therefore, all facts are completely isolated; and to the extent that a man seeks to become an individual apart from God, his existence becomes meaningless. Man tries to maintain both his individuality and his meaning by alternating back and forth between a meaningless individuality and a meaning that denies individuality.” (32)


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