Constitution of the Preconditions of Intelligibility

A question on what constitutes the preconditions of intelligibility and two helpful answers from apologetics e-mail group: 

I love Van Til.
I love Bahnsen. I love presup. I have listened to Bahnsen on TAG andread the relevant stuff by B. and Frame. I am going to try to make this simple: I understand that Transcendental Arguments seek to find the “preconditions of intelligibility.” From a Christian perspective, what constitutes the preconditions of intelligibility? The intra-Trinitarian structure?

It’s the Trinity, but more specifically, it’s the equal ultimacy of the one and the many as opposed to the one or the many being originally abstract from the other (think of subtracting unity from diversity or vise versa). The Trinity solves the problem because it shows that the ultimate being, God, is
both one and many, rather than a blank unity, or a diversity with no unity. Neither a blank unity nor a diversity with no unity (chaos) can be an object or source of knowledge.

Here is a passage where Van Til describes the consequences of a world in which pure diversity is ultimate:

It is clear that upon pragmatic basis, and for that matter upon antitheistic basis in general, there can be no object-object relation, i.e., there can be no philosophy of nature, so that the sciences become impossible, and no philosophy of history, so that the past cannot be brought into relation with the present nor the future with the present. Then there can be no subject-object relation, so that even if it were conceivable that there were such a thing as nature and history, I would be doomed to ignorance of it. In the third place, there can be no subject-subject relation, so that even if there were such a thing as nature and history, and even if I knew about it, I could never speak to anyone else about it. There would be Babylonian confusion.

(A Survey of Christian Epistemology, p. 217)

On the other hand, if the world were ultimately a pure unity, predication would be impossible as well. Since all would be One, you would have to “attribute white and black at the same time to the same subject in the same way” (SCE, 220). In math, everything would equal one. Nothing could be distinguished from anything else, like a night in which all cows are black (a phrase that Van Til borrowed from Hegel).

But the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that ultimate reality, which is God, is a unity and a diversity forever related to one another. Unity does not destroy particularity, nor does particularity destroy the unity, which makes predication possible.

I don’t know how much this helps. You’ll need to let me know exactly what part you’re having trouble with.

Yes, the ontological Trinity, but also God’s decree and covenantal Lordship. Since God has created and interpreted reality, it reflects Him-we know in terms of God’s (prior) knowledge. This is why Van Til stressed that there are no “brute facts;” God has already given them meaning (intelligibility, if you will).

Also, probing a little deeper, only the *Triune* God can account
for revelation, love, and order. Unitarian, pantheistic, and
polytheistic conceptions are inadequate.

A monad is alone and has no reason to reveal itself; “God is love” is a nonsense statement unless the Trinity is presupposed. Pantheism virtually destroys the idea of revelation (and experience, for that matter). And polytheism cannot account for a coherent, authoritative revelation-and it makes ultimate reality basically chaotic.

That is a little simplistic, but fundamentally sound, I think. Go
read/listen to VT, Bahnsen, Frame, et al. for much better expositions.


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