Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Friday, May 22, 2009


What Is The "Van Til Tool" ??
By Forrest Wayne Schultz
I was recently asked this question by someone interested in this blog. Here is my answer.

I believe that the best way to answer the question is by providing an example of one of the most recent times I have used it (which you will find here in my entry entitled "A Critique Of The So-Called Emerging Church").

I recently wrote a book review of efforts by a group of scholars to combat ideas that are being propounded by people who are called by such names as "emerging church" or "postmodernists". These scholars, though well intentioned, failed to realize that their opponents were misdefining various terms such as foundation and context, and were consequently imagining a conflict between foundation and context. This is because neither they nor their opponents were starting with God and allowing God to define these terms.

When you start with God and allow Him to define the terms, it is clear that God is His own foundation for Himself as well as being the foundation for His creation; and that He is His own context for Himself as well as being the ultimate context of His creation. That is point no. 1. Point no. 2 is that God is intra-harmonious, i.e. all of His aspects are in harmony with each other, from which we conclude that there is no disharmony between His being the self-foundationalizing ultimate foundation and the self-contextualizing ultimate context, which means that there is no inherent conflict in reality between foundation per se and context per se. So the whole notion of a supposed conflict between foundationalism and contextualism is thoroughly spurious. Now it is true that according to certain conceptions of foundation and context, that there is a conflict between the two. But there is no conflict when God is the one defining the terms.

Now what I just said above is an example of thinking like a vantillian. It is using the Van Til Perspective as a tool to straighten out our thinking about matters like this. There are other factors involved but these are two of the most importan: (1). getting your definitions straight -- do not let your opponent give false definitions to the terms; and (2). starting with God and letting Him define the terms and letting Him show you the perspective in which to look at things. Also, you need to be careful of presuppositions. Find out what the other guy's presuppositions are and whether these presuppositions are true or not. If they are not true, then you must not argue in terms of them, but must show that the preuppositions are false and therefore any system built on them will be false. You cannot argue rightly against an opponent if you do so in terms of his false presuppositions.

Now Van Til was not the only one to see and use these principles. Another thinker who did so was C. S. Lewis. He not only wrote great fiction like his space trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia, he also wrote some very insightful essays, one of the most important being "God In The Dock". The great majority of Christians do not follow the advice given by Lewis in this essay. Now if God is what He says He is, then He is the Supreme Judge of all matters: He judges us; we do not sit in judgment upon Him. Now what Lewis says has happened is that the modern man has inverted this situation by arrogating to himself the right of supreme judgment so that he ascends up to the judge's seat and pushes God off and puts Him down in the dock and calls Him to account. Now the typical modern christian does not have this perspective on what has happened, so that whenever he sees God being attacked he tries to outargue the men sitting up there on the judgment seat. Anyone who does so is a very poor attorney, because he has failed to proclaim the all-important point that such a court is not a legitimate court -- this humanist court has no jurisdiction over God. If ever a defense attorney finds his client being hauled into a court which has no jurisdiction, he should NOT argue a case in that court because he is thereby granting it a validity it does not have. Rather he should challenge the jurisdiciton of the court. This court has no right to sit in judgment upon God; therefore it is an illegitimate court. But because of the shallow education given by churches today, few realize that the humanists have, as C .S Lewis showed, "put God in the Dock", thereby showing they are conducting an illegitimate court.

OK, that, in a nutshell, is the VTP. I use it as a tool, which is how I got the name for my blog. You need it for sophisticated stuff like challenging false definitions and false presuppositons. You do not need it for refuting simple stuff. (This is why I did not bother refuting the stuff in The Shack. You do not need to be a vantillian to do that; I just quoted from an ordinary christian blog.)

Let me give you one more example and this pertains to the arts. God created everything. In order for Him to do that, He would have to be creative; ergo He is creative. A creative person can be expected to create because He likes creating. So there is the reason why God created. There is mystery in HOW God creates, but no mystery as to WHY God creates. A creative person likes to create and does create. Now there have been many philosphers and theologians who have actually regarded it as a PROBLEM that God creates!! Can you imagine that?? They really have -- no joke. Some of them have gone so far as to create two gods or two levels of god -- the deus revelatus (revealed god) and the deus absconditus (the hidden god). The reason for this is that they have a FALSE concept of God's nature!! They think that God's NATURE is NON-PERSONAL, i.,e. that God is an ideal or a realm of laws or principles or ideas. They get this idea from thinkers like Plato and Aristotle. Such a god DOES NOT and CAN NOT create. In fact, Plato's god and Aristotles's god do not do anything -- Aristotle actually says that production would be unworthy of god!! Anyway, what a lot of christian thinkers have done is to suppose that God has an impersonal nature, which makes it impossible for him to do the works the Bible attributes to Him. So, they have this conflict between the nature of God and the works of God. The answer is easy -- their conception of the nature of God is false. God is a person, and persons do things. God is creative, so this is why He does creative things. He has a great imagination and loves variety, which is why there is so much sophistication and variety in nature. He loves beauty, so He made nature beautiful. He is interesting, which is why there is so much interesting stuff in science and in history.

There are some people who think I am real smart. I am not. I have the RIGHT TOOL !! Unfortunately, today few people receive this tool in their education. Anybody who has it can see thru false stuff, not because they are smart but because they are using the right tool. By the way, this is really not anything new. Irenaeus know it in the second century A.D. which accounts for his success. He knew what straight thinking was. In fact, the original meaning of the term orthodoxy (which he coined) meant "straight thinking" -- it was an objective term which did not mean what it does now, i.e. what a church decided to believe. (See my review here of Pagels book). But in the third and fourth century the church turned away from Irenaeus and started following Origen, who tried to synthesize christianity with Plato. We have yet to fully recover from that result, that platonoid theology.



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