The Neutrality of the Transcendental Argument

“Q: Okay. The first question: Aristotle and Kant both used the transcendental form of reasoning. This form of reasoning is not set forth explicitly in Scripture. Does this mean that Bahnsen and Van Til have conceded that this form of reasoning is neutral?

GB: Uh, I’m very glad for the question because it gives me opportunity to make a point. And I want you to remember this. I maintain that what I have presented to you, and what Dr. Van Til is [meaning] not every particular, but this general approach to apologetics—arguing for the impossibility of the contrary—is taught in the Bible. It’s found in the Bible. Now I could give you a number of illustrations, but just think of I Corinthians 1: “Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” Now that tells me that God says I can reason this way, that He’s the one who backs up this attempt and this line of argumentation. I can show the people rise up against the knowledge of God—if I don’t bring every thought captive to Christ, that may be cast down. It could be…made foolish. Now the Bible doesn’t tell me that I can persuade people to cry “Uncle,” and say, “Oh, we really are fools.” But we can, I think, metaphorically close their mouths by reducing to absurdity, to make foolish, the wisdom of this world. So I don’t think Van Til or Bahnsen have conceded that’s a neutral point. I believe that that comes from the Scriptures.

By the way, as a personal note about Dr. Van Til, he said to me, and I think others as well, and a couple points—wrote this toward the end of his life—he felt that if there was a major failure in his ministry as an apologist, it was not to have developed more the exegetical foundations for his approach to apologetics. Those of us who heard him preach or heard him teach—sometimes there was not a whole lot of difference between the two—knew that he had at least what he believed, biblical warrant for his approach. But he was sad that he never developed that. And that’s one of the motivation I have, somebody who respected him, the first thing that I published was a syllabus in having biblical introduction to apologetics. I’m sure it can be improved on, I may not have it all right. But there’s an attempt there—and a fairly extensive one—to go through a lot of important passages to show what they teach us about apologetical method, as well as attitude.

So, no, I don’t think it’s neutral, I think it’s biblically based. And I believe that Sunday School children can learn it, and I think Ph.D.’s and philosophers can.”

(Bahnsen, Answering Frame’s Critique of Van Til)


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