Intro notes to Bahnsen

One of my goals this summer was to do an analytical outline to Bahnsen’s Van Til reader.  That demands more energy than time left in the summer.  But I didn’t want the project to hang suspended between heaven and earth, so here you go.  Maybe this will help some seminarian or licensiate.

Van Til’s Metaphysics (58)

  1. Ontological, self-contained Trinity
  2. Predestinating eternal counsel
  3. Creation is the origin of all temporal facts
  4. Providence
  5. Miracles

Covenantal Knowing

The unbeliever knows God in unbelief and covenantal curse (42).  The covenant shapes everything.  In all things, all created facts, man is brought face-to-face with God.  There are only two types of men in the world: covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers (Bahnsen 66, CVT: Apologetics, 25ff).

Chapter 2: The Task of Apologetics

  1. Apologetics defends Christianity as a whole (Bahnsen 34).
    1. “To interpret a fact of history involves a philosophy of history,” but that involves a metaphysics (CVT: Apologetics, 23-24).
    2. Systematic Theology is necessary:  organizes our thoughts into an organic whole.  (JA: One could really develop some Vosian themes).
  2. We can’t make absolute separations between apologetics, evangelism, and theology.  Paul refuses to do so in Acts 17.
  3. The Aim of Apologetics:
    1. The Gospel as intellectual challenge.  1 Corinthians asserts the bankruptcy of Greek thought.

Chapter 3: A Simple Summary and Illustration

  1. Apologetics as a conflict between final authorities.
    1. Our reasoning is itself an ethical matter (Bahnsen 90).
    2. We all use some ultimate standard.  
      1. Not only do we say that reason isn’t neutral.  Appealing to reason is simply appealing to an abstraction.
      2. Who authorizes God’s authority (95)?  
  2. Implicit clash of worldviews (101).
  3. Refutation of the unbeliever’s presuppositions. We must remove the foundation of the unbeliever’s argument (108).

Chapter 4: The Epistemological Side of Apologetics

  1. Apologetics as epistemological disagreement.  We cannot appeal to “reason” since reason in the abstract doesn’t exist.  
    1. Epistemology is ethical in character: either we know as covenant-keepers or we know as covenant-breakers.
    2. Different theories of truth:
      1. Correspondence: usually emphasizes that the world is made of separate and discontinuous things. Thinking occurs in the mind (147). The problem is explaining how independent minds “correspond” with independently existing objects outside the mind.
      2. Coherence: usually emphasizes world as unity (of more or lesser degree).  Thinking as itself is the mind. The problem, however, is how a finite mind can have a wide enough system to include all (or a lot) of reality.
      3. The problem isn’t simply coherentism vs. correspondence.  You will find both covenant-breakers and covenant-keepers on both sides
      4. Van Til passage from Survey:
        1. Contra the Greeks, the idea of creation implies a certain concept of “being” and a certain concept of “becoming.”
        2. Eve in the garden: by not being committed to God intellectually from the outset, she granted Satan “equal ultimacy” (CVT 152).  To borrow the language of Heidegger, Even was already “thrown” (Geworfenheit) into a realm where God was ultimate.  It was sin to think otherwise.
      5. Van Til passage from Defense (154).
        1. We always deal with concrete individual men.  They are sinners.  They have an axe to grind.
        2. The work of Christ:  Christ’s work as priest, king, and prophet organically relates (157).
  2. Knowing as having belief, truth, and evidence.
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About Ephraim's Arrow

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism
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