Thursday, December 10, 2009

Evidently Van Til Evidenced Appreciation for Evidences

In discussions over apologetic method, one of the arguments often put forward against Van Tilian, or presuppositional, apologetics, is that it disregards the use of evidences. Well I've been rereading John Muether's excellent biography on Van Til, and here is what Van Til himself says in response to that charge:
As to the point whether I can recommend Dr. Machen's works I may say that I can do so and have done so heartily. . . . The point . . . is not that factual apologetics is useless but that it alone and by itself is insufficient, if we are considering the question of a logically consistent and comprehensive apologetics. If I deny vigorously that you can run 100 miles I have not therein denied that you can run at all. Because I have said that factual apologetics is, say, half of the work, I have not said that that half is not important. If someone could prove that the human species has actually derived from animal species, Christian-theism would be disproved. It is therefore important to show that the facts do not warrant any such idea. But even when that has been done the whole work has not been done. A discussion of the philosophy of fact will have to accompany a discussion of the fact themselves. If Dr. Machen has shown that the resurrection of Christ is an actual historical occurrence he has done an inestimable piece of service. But if then the pragmatic philosopher comes along and says that this is an interesting item in this strange world but that it has no universal significance, the factural discussion is in itself for that man quite fruitless unless it is supplemented by a discussion of the philosophy of fact (p. 85-86).
From his statement, it is quite clear that Van Til acknowledges that defending the Christian faith does and should include discussing certain facts or proofs. However, it is important that we recognize that there are no such things as "brute" facts and that it is impossible to approach anything from a neutral position.

Everyone wears colored glasses through which the world and things are seen and interpreted. So when presenting a "fact" or "datum" it is also necessary to talk about the "philosophy of fact," or the way one approaches and interprets a fact.

Van Til supported the importance of evidences, but he also wanted to help Christians learn to consistently interpret and communicate those evidences in light of the real and true existence of God, rather than to try and present them apart from God, hoping they will lead someone to God. It doesn't make sense to act like God doesn't exist, in order to then provide some "fact" that somehow demonstrates that he does. The existence of God is not just an end in apologetics, it is also the starting point and the means that leads to the end.

Not convinced that Van Tilian apologetics values and utilizes evidences? Then check out Thom Notaro's work Van Til & the Use of Evidence.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, and a good balance to VT's apologetic approach. And, I love you Dave, and miss you, and am praying for you about future possibilities. And thanks for the promo of the contemporary version of Sinners. And you and Christy and Page and I need to get together, maybe for a James Taylor concert, or at least, a cup of coffee.